It was a long ride from Imladris to Caradhras. The large party of Elves gone after Lady Celebrían and her daughter rode hard for an entire day, stopping only when their horses needed a rest, even eating on horseback. The second day dawned on an anxious camp, and as soon as the sun showed its first signs of rising, the Elves set off once more. On the third day, desperation could be tasted in the air.
Finally, Caradhras was in view, and to the dismay of the Elves, dark forms littered the ground. Alarmed, Elladan and Elrohir dismounted their tiring horses and sprinted to the sight.
Ten Elves had gone with the Lady Celebrían and her daughter, bringing the total to twelve, and all were trained warriors. Even Celebrían and Arwen had skill with the blade and the bow, having been instructed by their male family and protectors. However, netiher Lady would have long been able to defend themselves against more than a few Orcs, and ten warriors were too little to protect against such a large party as they had been informed of.
As they approached, the twins could see at least thirty bodies, as well as all fifteen horses that had gone with the Elven party. Elladan's heart raced, pounding in his ears; Elrohir's breathing was becoming increasingly audible. Any Orcs left in the area would have had no difficulty detecting them; fortunately, or unfortunately considering the circumstances, there were no Orcs anywhere near the Elves.
Dashing between blood-covered corpses, trying to find their own, Elladan and Elrohir were soon joined by Glorfindel and several other Elves from their search party. Within moments, a few Elven bodies had been discovered and removed from the scene.
"Elladan, Elrohir!" came a quick, sharp cry. Glorfindel stood several yards to the left of the twins, stooped over a seemingly lifeless body. The body in question was not fully visible to the pair, but as they hurried closer, they realized that it – she- was dressed in the same clothing their sister had packed.
"Arwen…" Elladan murmured. Fear was evident in his eyes, and pain. "I should never have let them come."
"Elladan, she lives yet, but I fear she is treading closer and closer to the very edge of our world," Glorfindel said gravely, tilting the young Elf Maid's head to check the bloody gash running across the side of her head. The deep incision was still oozing blood, albeit very slowly, and ran from her right temple to the back of her head, a length of six inches. "Apparently, the Orcs took her for dead. She needs your father, as soon as we can return her."
"I shall ride back with her immediately," Elrohir said firmly. Worry and panic tainted his voice and it was obvious the Elf was terrified. He knelt, shaking, on the stony ground and prepared to lift his sister to a safer place to treat her as best he could. Glorfindel stopped him, stating that he was one of the finest archers among the company, and he would certainly be needed before the end. Elrohir was not so easy to convince, but after a few well-directed arguments, he finally gave in.
"Fine, Glorfindel, I shall stay with the main party while another takes Arwen home. However, she needs medical assistance NOW or she won't REACH home!" his voice shaky, and with that, he swept her prone form up, wincing at the obvious break in her lower leg. Anguish swept through his heart and he found himself blinking back tears at the thought of his wonderful sister attacked and left for death. Hatred burned in his veins, poisoning his mind with thoughts of revenge.
Within a few moments, Elrohir was given another patient. He had been cleansing Arwen's head wound when the others had shouted, stating they'd found a live Elf, but he was badly hurt. It was Calilmal, Lady Celebrían's personal servant. He would have given his life for his Lady; obviously, he had almost succeeded. The Elf bore several long, shallow cuts, and a gruesomely split temple where he had been tapped with the pommel of a knife or dagger. One cleanly sliced cut ran from his left ear to his right shoulder. It had missed his jugular by a hair.
Elrohir yelled for aid and another first aid pack; he felt two skid into his leg within seconds, and his brother joined him kneeling on the hard, uneven rock of the mountain path. He had mixed up all the herbs he could for Arwen that didn't require hot water, and there was a pot on a small, hastily kindled fire, just beginning to boil. He would need much more for Calilmal, however.
Hastily but carefully winding the bandage about his sister's head, Elrohir took a deep breath before he turned to Calilmal. The Elf-servant did not look well at all. His breathing was shallow and infrequent, and his pulse too slow. Elrohir doubted for a moment as to whether he could be saved, but all thoughts were quickly pushed to the back of his mind. Neither twin had their father's skill in healing, but they were still more than competent, and both had their mother's stubborn streak. They would not give up.
The open wound on Calilmal's temple proved to be the most serious; a hairline fracture was visible through the torn skin. The long gashes would need to be stitched, but not because they were deep; rather, they were so long that they pulled themselves open wider. Calilmal was a skilled fighter, having fought in the Last Alliance with Lord Elrond before dedicating himself to his lady. He looked as though he had been concentrating deeply, and simply not stood still long enough to become a functional target. Each slash made at him resulted in a miss, or perhaps a foot-long, shallow cut as he whirled out of the way. The twins admired the Elf's skill, honed over several thousand years.
As Elladan began working on Calilmal, carefully cleaning, stitching, and bandaging the head wound before he turned to the cuts, Elrohir returned his attention to Arwen.
Her lower leg was swollen so badly that her slender calf was almost the size of her thigh; it was bent at an odd angle, and her toes rotated inward almost completely. It was too swollen to get a good enough feel to set the bones; still, Elrohir had to try if she was to be moved. He manipulated her foot and ankle until they looked as though they were in line with the rest of her leg, and he could no longer see the bulges from the broken bones. He felt once more along where the fracture was, listening for the soft crackle of the bones grinding and hearing none.
Satisfied but still worried, Elrohir splinted and bound Arwen's leg, checking her over for any more injures. He found none, save uncounted nicks and bruises. Sighing, he reluctantly picked her up and placed her on the back of a silver-white mare whose Elf was already waiting to receive his sister. As he took his hand off of Arwen, he heard his brother curse repeatedly.
Calilmal had succumbed to his injuries.
Nine other bodies were found, and laid in a small, sheltered cave, which was barricaded against roaming scavengers. It appeared as though all of the Elves with the Lady of Imladris had been slaughtered, save Arwen. The Lady herself was still missing.
With grim faces, fifteen warriors, homeward bound, rode out. They stayed in formation around Arwen, moving slowly enough so as not to further her injuries. As they left, the twins gathered the remaining forces – still a sizable group – and led them down a path covered in vague but fresh Orcish footprints. The sun was low overhead, casting a blood-red glow on all those present.
"This is an ominous show of color," Elladan remarked dryly, gazing at the dirt of the path. He had been unusually silent and steely since the men had arrived in Imladris; the fire in his eyes was even greater than usual. Elrohir was even more striking; the quieter, more subdued twin currently matched his brother in intensity. It was a rare thing to the younger Elf to get agitated enough to be rash, but he looked as though he were almost there. Glorfindel sighed quietly; he would have to contain not one, but both of them if he was to fulfill Elrond's request.
Within two hours, the party of Orcs had been found. The number was estimated at around fifty, though more had obviously bene present when first the men, then Lady Celebrían and her party, were attacked. Around twenty men were visible in chains in the camp; five or six were already dead, and another four were well on their way. The rest would make it, if given aid soon enough.
One area of the camp seemed to be particularly populated; Orcs gathered next to the largest fire in the small, sparsely wooded glen on the mountainside. Staring intently, Glorfindel could barely make out the figure of a female, the firelight and final rays of the sun reflecting brilliantly off of her golden hair…
His heart nearly stopped. He immediately thought of the oath he had taken so many years ago, upon his return to middle earth: he had sworn to protect Elrond, son of Eärendil, and his family. Currently, he was failing that oath; it did not require much of his hearing to hear the snap of the whip and the soft cry of the Lady. She was strong – she would not scream – but the Orcs had given themselves the task of torturing her until she broke.
Swiftly retrieving the rest of the Elves from several meters away, Glorfindel quickly formed a plan. They would be outnumbered at least two-to-one, but it was their only chance to save Celebrían.
Elladan had remained startlingly impassive when he heard his mother's cries for the first time. Elrohir, on the other hand, had been enraged, almost dashing in on his own.
"NO! Elrohir, we cannot afford to spoil this! This will be our only chance; we cannot afford to have you taken, and the rest of us found and killed! Restrain yourself, before I am forced to!" Glorfindel whispered vehemently, using an incapacitating pressure point on the back of the younger Elf's neck to hold him still.
Once Elrohir settled a bit, the group tensed. "Three...two...ONE!" Glorfindel whispered, and the Elves rushed forward silently, catching the Orcs by surprise.
"ATTACK!" a small Orc in a tree, apparently a scout, yelled, jumping on one of the Elves. The Elf fell to the ground, and was dead before he knew it.
The rest of the Orcs were soon at attention. With a great cry they hurled themselves at the Elves, who fought valiantly, though they were outnumbered. It was not long before bodies littered the ground, both bodies of Orcs, and of some few Elves who had fallen.
"Ammë!" Elrohir shouted as he and his brother shot the final two Orcs. He dropped his bow and ran to her side...the first part of the battle had been won.
"Elrohir," Celebrían breathed, her eyes wide. She had been taken around noon; it was now dusk. How had her sons known she was in trouble so soon? How had they gotten to her so quickly? It had taken the Orcs until late afternoon to get to where they were now. Having no reason to believe they were being trailed, they had moved at a leisurely pace, and the battle in which Celebrían had been captured had taken an hour or two. They had barely had time to begin tormenting her!
Ilúvatar must be watching over me, she thought as her sons began to untie her. Though there had not been much time, Celebrían still had many wounds. Several lacerations decorated her torso and arms where they had sought to bring her down during the battle, and whip-marks graced her back and sides. Her dress had been shredded, but overall, she was in fair condition. No poison had been found, and her wounds could be treated with relative ease...
...Unnoticed, a small group of Orcs made its way down the mountainside, towards the twenty or so Elves gathered around the dying fire.
Nolaquen raised his hand, singling the Elves under his command to stop. Carefully handing Arwen down to a waiting warrior, he dismounted and gave orders to make camp in a clearing. Arwen had begun to stir, but her head wound was severe and would require much more attention to fully heal.
They had gotten far in the last few hours, away from Caradhras. The day was living its final moments, now, giving way to night.
For a moment, sitting next to Arwen on a cloak on the ground, Nolaquen wondered about the rest of the Elves, the ones they'd left behind. Had they found the Lady Celebrían? Or the Orcs? Were they even still alive? His spirit was ill at ease; something was not right, though he could not tell what.
Elrond stood on his balcony in the red sunlight. He had barely slept in the last three days, devoting his time to caring for the injured men instead. He had just taken his leave of them, starting to eat a bit, when an alarm went off in his head; something was wrong, he could feel it. He could only hope it was not his wife or children who were in such absolute, immediate danger.
Elbereth, hear me, watch over them, please, he silently prayed with all his might, releasing his cry to the stars. He turned to go back inside, stopping to watch his father's slow progress across the night sky. Ada, protect them.