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For Disclaimer and Summary, check in previous chapters.
Galdor was finding it increasingly difficult to follow the tracks of Glorfindel's horse. Here in the forests, the traces were increasingly erased by new layers of snow. He motioned for the elves with him to pause for a quick rest. They would continue on foot to better discern what was left of the tracks.
He had no intention to disappoint the king. When they had set off, the king's expression was more binding than an order. There was no way he could return if he had nothing to report.
But thus far, they had seen nothing. No sign of the elf nor of the elfling. Galdor was not at all worried about the Balrog slayer but he would do anything to have news of the elfling. They were in Mirkwood. The Prince was not likely to lose his way or wander off without informing anyone. The longer they took to reach him, the more danger he would be in.
Meanwhile in the healer's room…
Estel was displaying symptom after symptom and Elrond was increasingly worried. The boy was still shivering and he had begun coughing. Previously, he had been alternating sneezes with a runny nose. But now he was in restless sleep. Occasionally, his lips moved as though he was mumbling.
Elrond placed his hand on the boy's forehead. It was far too warm, like dragon fire. He frowned in anxiety, running his hand down the boy's cheek. He was at the limits of his medicinal knowledge. He had heard that the human race was especially vulnerable to the cold but what could he do?
Elrond tucked the layers of blankets more securely around the boy. Yes, Estel was only a boy. It was too soon for his life to be taken from him. Elrond sighed. He turned to his herbs. There had to be something that would help.
There was a shadow in the doorway and Elrond looked up, relaxing as Thranduil entered.
"How is the boy?" Thranduil asked. He must have noticed his friend's concern.
"I fear for him," Elrond answered briefly. "He is not my son by birth, and yet, I feel for him."
"He shares your blood," Thranduil reminded him. "He has Elros, your brother, as ancestor."
That was true. Elrond sighed. Elros… Countless decades had passed but it was still so recent.
Thranduil interrupted his thoughts. "But, my friend, you did not answer my question. How is Estel?"
Elrond swallowed, composing himself. His emotions could wait. After his son recovered. He turned to the boy, nodded gravely, then replied, "He has a fever, totally unlike what he used to have at Imladris. I can feel that it is much worse and I hope that these herbs would bring the right remedy."
"I do hope so too, my friend. The boy is like Legolas's brother," Thranduil smiled in spite of himself. "I just pray for one more time…"
"Don't, Thranduil, it doesn't work," Elrond interrupted his friend, while he continued his work with the herbs. They were almost ready.
"What doesn't work?" Thranduil asked his friend.
"Praying. I stopped a good while ago," Elrond replied. He looked up at his friend, saw his confused expression, and finished with a wry smile, "I started begging the Valar."
Thranduil laughed lightly and watched him at work. Perhaps Galdor would have found his son in the meantime.
"They will find him, my friend," Elrond said softly. "It will all be well."
Elrond looked at the boy. His eyes were closed, his eyebrows deeply knit. Elrond leaned over. He ran his fingers through those light curls, then planted a gentle kiss on the boy's forehead.
Beside them, the herbs bubbled softly and a faint sweetness diffused within the room. In the distance, flames licked at the fireplace with its crackling rhythm. Beyond those walls, snow was drifting in a white landscape.
End of Chapter 5.