His Life in Their Hands
Disclaimer: If I owned them, my life would be......sweet Eru.......a real mess. Middle-earth is just my playground. JRR Tolkien created the elf and the ranger. I promise to give them back (almost) unharmed. Written for Teitho Contest October ("Healing"). It won second place.
Warning: Graphic medical detail (I researched the topic and added some real historical explanation) and a suffering elf. Do not read if you can't take.
Rating: K +
Summary: Follows book chapter "Many partings/Return of the King". When the great and fair company travels north from Minas Tirith to bring Théoden King's dead body home to Edoras, all seems to be well - but not entirely for Legolas. As they pass into Anórien and reach the Grey Woods under Amon Din, Aragorn is the one to find out his friend is not as well as expected.
Author's notes: This is a gapfiller - well, sort of an AU gapfiller. PoV would switch a few times, but since there will be paragraph breaks, it won't be hard to notice.
Historical medical details at the end of the fic. No one ever told us about the specific differences in the anatomy of elves and men. Therefore, I feel free to play along with this little issue.
"He's got eyes of the bluest skies as if they thought of rain; I hate to look into those eyes and see an ounce of pain"
(literally: Sweet child of mine, G n R)
Anórien, the Grey Woods under Amon Din,
Late Spring, 3019 T. A.
Without haste and at peace they passed into Anórien, and they came to the Grey Wood under Amon Din; and there they heard a sound as of drums beating in the hills, though no living thing could be seen. Then Aragorn let the trumpets be blown, and heralds cried: "Behold, the King Elessar is come! The Forest of Drúadan he gives to Ghan-buri-ghan and to his folk, to be their own for ever and hereafter let no man enter it without their leave!"
Then the drums rolled loudly, and were silent. (1)
They decided to make camp overnight, at the edge of the Grey Wood - always a process of extraordinary charges and effort because not only fair was the company, but great of number also. Aragorn watched as Gondor's knights and some elves of Imladris put up the tents. His eyes fell on both his brothers leaving the camp to go out hunting - it was a real task feeding those many members of the travelling company and he was thankful he could trust on his family's aid, undemanded and without asking, as always.
Aragorn's senses were alert and keen still, but since the Ringwar was over he could detect no pursuit, and so he allowed himself to relax for a moment.
His gaze fell on the elf and the dwarf in some distance. Obviously, Gimli had begun one of their friendly banters concerning warrior's antics. The king smiled about the not too similar pair. But elf and dwarf were both laughing and while Gimli headed to help with the tents, Legolas lead Arod to the horse paddock, the elf's gaze wandering the trees and bushes; green and alive again now that the warm days told of the changing season.
Those glorious spring days brought to life all that had been dormant during the long, cold winter; a winter not only caused by the forces of nature but by the dark forces also - bulbs and buds, younger and older trees, burst out with fresh and almost contagious spirit. While most of the men were occupied, Aragorn observed Legolas who was studying a wild grown very old maple tree some distance away from the camp. He seemed to marvel at its branches, covered in enormous white-and-purple blooms, stretching upward, into forever. Aragorn expected his friend to reach up, grab one of the branches and disappear into the foliage in the blink of an eye, but he looked stunned and surprised as Legolas only stood there, watching. The elf seemed uneasy, as if he weren't feeling well. To Aragorn, it was the first time that his movements occurred awkward, not as graceful as they would normally appear.
Legolas laid his hand on the tree trunk, his face remaining perfectly neutral. He closed his eyes. Slowly, he seated himself beneath the tree, eyes still closed, his face a mask of elven pride and stubborness. Aragorn knew that look well; the look of one painfully trying to hide something. Oh, how he knew Legolas and his pride - the elf would have claimed he was feeling fine even if he were skewered by an Orc sword.
'He looks..........tired? Sad or - perhaps - ill? But since elves did not suffer illness, he couldn't be sick, could he?' Aragorn's argument with himself did not lead to a conclusion. Quietely, he wandered towards the wild maple tree and the elf obviously drawing strength from it.
Aragorn looked down at the resting elf. Legolas - sleeping? Fast asleep within mere seconds? In the bright daylight, next to a noisy camp place? With his eyes closed? This was not right. Aragorn knelt down next to his friend and his experienced healer's eyes scanned the still face of the elf. It had him worried that he had made it so close to the prone figure without being noticed. For once, he was taking no pride in being able to draw near unheard. Aragorn found the fact alarming that there was the tiniest bit of perspiration on the prominent cheeks. He thought about looking for his foster father but tried the straight path first and whispered his friend's name.
"Legolas?" The elf opened his eyes, he looked surprised and seemed to try and focus his gaze upon Aragorn. He did not answer.
"I am sorry to disturb you, but.....is anything.....amiss? How do you fare, my friend? It is only afternoon, all men and elves are busy building up camp and you are merely.........sleeping? That is not like you, Legolas. And, please, do not tell me you were just tired and needed rest because I have watched over your sleep those last days - it was deep and undisturbed. So tell me. What ails you? Is it.......the sea longing? For if it is, we should tell my father, he might be able to ease your suffering," Aragorn offered.
Legolas listened, too weary to answer. Truth to be told, he did not feel well, not at all. It had already started ere the company had prepared leaving the White City. First, it had only been a slight tingle in his belly, inside his gut; a strange feeling like a constant tearing at his innards. The first day away from Minas Tirith brought another sensation: Pain. Every step Arod took, everytime Gimli grabbed his cloak or hip to steady himself on the grey mount sent waves of white hot pain through his abdomen. Legolas had ceased eating first, since in a quiet and undisturbed moment, he had found himself retching and throwing up heavily.
So no nourishment had entered his stomach for days. When Aragorn and his friends met to share their mealtime at camp, Legolas would excuse himself, pretending to care for the horses or rejoice in those quiet days of a beautiful spring. Always, his friends would send him a look, suspiciously at best, but Legolas' smile had eased their minds, since he had promised he would eat when he were hungry.
He knew, after all those years with Lord Elrond and his sons, he should muster the pride and honesty to reveal his shape to the healers. But strange illness beckoning was too improbable a condition that he simply didn't find a way to collect himself and do so.
The pain itself seemed tricky and delicate. As if it longed to break him. Legolas knew it was of no use; he had to tell. And he had better do it now, before those waves of cruel ailments would crush him entirely. He could and should trust his friend. With a voice almost as small as an elfling's, head bowed, he began his explaining. He told of the sharp pain in his gut, a pain so fresh and new it would almost bring him to his knees. "There is no way, Aragorn, I shall understand this suffering myself. Poison, perhaps? But how so?" he nearly whispered.
Legolas felt that Aragorn was alarmed in some way, but he figured the king would try and keep his calm exterior. 'As a healer, he should know about all those different outcomes,' the elven archer thought. He tried to brace himself, for he knew what was going to come. One look at Aragorn's conflicted and not at all calm face was enough.
"Legolas, it is only a request, but would you please come with me, follow me into my tent? There I shall examine you together with Lord Elrond. I guess I know what ails you but must confirm this." He offered a hand to the sitting elf and Legolas took it, trying to stay as composed as possible on his way to the king's tent. He had known Aragorn was going to ask this of him. The elf sighed. He never liked others touching him in case of an injury or yet, a strange ailment, even those as trusted as Aragorn. Even if they had known each other for many decades, Legolas still felt ashamed in the light of an illness or injury. As an elf, he was not supposed to be ill. It annoyed and disgusted him. As they reached the king's tent, Aragorn directed him to take off his tunic and under shirt and while the elf sat down on a heap of bedrolls and blankets, Aragorn moved to summon his foster father. After a few moments, an almost astonished Lord of Imladris drew back the tent flap. Legolas closed his eyes in shame and dismay.
The elven Lord spoke, but the blonde elf's eyes remained closed. "Estel tells me you have been feeling ill, Legolas. He also tells me about his presumptions. I am sorry, but I must ask you to lay down, flat on your back, so we can begin our examination. I know you do not like being in this position, Legolas. Estel and I, we both know that your elven pride runs deep. But I bid you trust us."
Without a word, Legolas nodded and did as he had been asked. Laying on the bedrolls and blankets, shivering, he felt Estel's hands unlacing his leggings, so he could draw them down to rest below Legolas' hips. Suddenly, the elf felt exposed, vulnerable in a way he had rarely experienced before. There was nowhere to hide and he could not help it - a lonely tear of shame ran down his cheek and his friend, who had turned to the elf's face again, caught it with his finger.
The king of Gondor and Arnor knew that he was being granted a rare view into the childlike soul which the proud son of Thranduil kept carefully hidden behind his elven pride and stamina. Encouraging words, spoken in the Mirkwood prince's native tongue, found their way into Legolas' ear and he seemed to relax. But there was no time. If Aragorn was right and Legolas "illness" turned out to be what he feared, then they had to act quickly, before his friend's condition became worse. He had once seen a young girl die of this ailment and this memory and fear troubled him greatly.
Aragorn sighed as his cool fingers detected the fast and unsteady pulse on Legolas neck, the elf's skin felt warm and feverish under his fingertips. Rare was it that he experienced a moment like this, his friend so vulnerable and dependent on the help of others. He was aware of the fact that Legolas simply abominated this situation. But he had no choice. Legolas' life was in their hands now. Strange it appeared that the elf had been so fortunate as to go through the Ringwar almost unscathed and now after all those fierce battles, here he was, tormented and in pain. It hurt seeing a friend closer as a brother suffering so.
Lord Elrond's skilled fingers were on the younger elf's abdomen already. And even if Legolas tried to put his racing mind at rest, his face did not stay calm at the touch. As Elrond's elegant digits moved over the hot flesh, pressing one particular spot between the blonde archer's right navel and hipbone, red hot fire blossomed from Legolas' side, skittering through his body and into his very fëa. The pain! Ai, the pain! Legolas, always so proud and fair, was powerless to stop himself from yelling. Each part of his being foundered in soul tearing terror with nothing to cling to. But there was Aragorn. Almost immediately, his friend's soft voice in his ear started whispering the Grey Tongue to offer relief. It was of no use; Legolas had barely enough strength left to bite his lower lip and keep himself from crying out again.
Through a wall of pain and suffering, he heard Elrond's clear voice, comforting, determined: "Child, I am truly sorry I have to put you through this, but know that we have found the illness that ails you. It is not even an illness itself, for it can happen to elves as to men. But it can be cured. Completely. Only be aware that there is not much time left. I will tell you this: There is a small part in your gut, a small and useless appendix, in which something you ingested got stuck. This small part of your innards, only as long as my thumb, is highly inflamed and we need to......remove it. Quickly. Do you trust me, Legolas?"
The younger elf finally opened his eyes and a cerulean blue, pain clouded gaze found Estel's assuring and warm grey eyes first and, hereafter, Elrond's proficient and soothing glance.
"I.....do trust you. As always, my Lord. It is not the first time you are compelled to heal my body. Aye, I trust you. All of you. Do as you must." Subtly, the elf's fingers sought out the ones of the king and ranger; an act of friendship, born of courage and confidence. "Estel," his condition made him use his friend's childhood name, "would you please tell Gimli about my whereabouts? He would need to look after Arod for me."
Aragorn squeezed Legolas' hand, chuckling: "It is as it has always been; the others are more important to you than your own life. Worry not, Arod will be taken care of. You know that Arwen likes tending to him, since she has always loved grey horses. But I will summon Gimli so we can be at your side. The both of us."
The elf tried and bowed his head in a thankful gesture, but agony forced his eyes shut again. All his eyes could see, regardless of will or power, was scarlet pain.
Evening mood had replaced the busy afternoon at camp; men and elves were sitting around campfires, the wood crackling in the flames. They were eating, talking and laughing, telling tales about battles which had come to pass. It was the hour ere Forest owls and owlets would start their lonely calls. Elrond did not like to tend Legolas and perform the needed procedure given the fading daylight, but preparations had taken their time. Furthermore, they had been waiting for the twins to return from hunting. Now the healer himself and his three sons were in Aragorn's tent with Legolas. Gimli was sitting next to his elven friend, holding one of his hands. Small torches and candles had been brought near, many of them, so the light would be sufficient. Elrond and his sons were washing their hands in a bowl of warm water prepared for just that purpose. Elladan was the first to finish cleaning his hands and almost solemnly, he went to the kettle sitting on the fire, preparing the needed sleeping herbs.
The smell of the red poppyseed draught was not new to Legolas and in times of agony, it seemed a blessing, even to him. As Elladan helped him drink the amount ready to send an elf of Legolas' weight and condition into oblivion, he almost greedily accepted the medicated tea.
"Legolas, listen to me," Elrond's soft voice spoke from somewhere above him "this is not only poppyseed. I added some other herbs to losen your muscles while you sleep and to help with the breathing. Be still and let sleep overcome you. Relax and rest, child. Do not fight it, even if you will experience some uncomfortable moments now. Please?"
"Aye....." the blonde elf heard his own voice sounding unfocused already and soon, unending but sweet darkness beckoned. His hold slipped and he sank into blackness once more. But a tiny part of his fleeing conscience remembered Elrond's words and suddenly, icy fire crawled through every part of his body until it grasped at his mind, heart and every sense he clung to. Legolas did not feel the pair of hands cradle his tense shoulders through the imaginary fire. He did not feel as Elrohir took the last garments off his body, he did not sense as hot, herb scented water cleaned his now naked body and limbs. The only thing he still heard was a steady flow of Sindarin that struggled into his failing ears. He knew not who spoke the words, which comforted him; but it mattered not. They promised hope, light, warmth, trust - and Legolas let go, his mind and fëa seeking refuge somewhere else until the storm invading his body was over.
(1) JRR Tolkien, The Return of The King: Many Partings
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