3. Out of Doubt, Out of Dark, to the Day's Rising
Several long June days went by, while Arwen and Elrond continued to watch and work over Rowanna. Arwen sometimes managed to trickle water or broth into her mouth, as Dirgon had done on the long journey north, to nourish her body at least a little. Her chill and her ragged heartbeat Elrond could treat; but these, he guessed, were only the outward signs of a deeper and less physical ill. Arwen's soft singing and gentle words seemed to reach her, and she would sometimes stir a little at the Evenstar's voice, but no other response came.
Béodred and Dirgon fretted, somewhat astray in this strange place. They could make themselves understood when they needed anything, for most of Master Elrond's folk seemed able to use the Common Speech, and in the stables they were always welcomed cheerfully enough by the grooms, who knew fellow horsemen when they saw them. Yet they felt very much apart; and although one or other of them often sat with Rowanna for part of the day, they were uneasy.
"Master Elrond's healing does not seem to me to be getting us anywhere much!" Béodred muttered to Dirgon in the privacy of their own room. "Oh, I know he seems able to warm her and steady her, but most of the time he just looks! And the Lady Arwen" - he sighed deeply - " she is kind, and very fair, but what does she do? Sings to her!"
Dirgon shook his head, doggedly patient. "Leave it, boy. I reckon they know what they do."
"I hope so!" Béodred heaved another gusty sigh. "Just as I hope we have not done ill to bring her here!"
It was well past midnight on a sultry, sticky night. Thunderclouds rumbling up from the South veiled the stars, and the setting of the sun had brought little relief. Pacing the corridors of the House restlessly in a vain search for a cool corner, Elladan stopped abruptly before Rowanna's door. To his surprise, his sister sat not within, but outside the door as though on guard.
"Arwen! Exiled to the hallway?"
"Father is with Rowanna." Arwen's fingers, Elladan noticed, were compulsively twisting and untwisting a hair-ribbon in her lap. That departure from her usual profound stillness, more than her words, brought him up sharply.
"He sent you out? How long ago?" His voice was as hushed as Arwen's, but his tone was urgent.
"These two hours and more. I offered to stay, to aid him, but he insisted he must work alone and would call me only if there was need."
"He's - trying to bring her back?"
Arwen nodded. Rising from her seat, she paced slowly to and fro.
"You know how it has been with her these last few days. During the day she has had some colour in her cheeks, and seems to sleep naturally; but always after sundown she grows restless, and murmurs, and is deadly cold however warm we keep the room." Over and over went the ribbon in Arwen's fingers. "Father thinks that the black horse she tried to command was no common beast. That it was a creature of Mordor, a servant of... Him. And that since it struck her, though only a glancing blow, Rowanna is tainted by the Shadow."
Elladan grimaced. "I feared as much, when Elrohir first told me the tale. So no healing of the body will suffice. Father must reach into her mind, and do battle with the darkness." Though he lounged with apparent nonchalance against the wall, Elladan bit his lip. "I wish he would have one of us with him..."
"You know what he says." Arwen dropped into her seat again with a sigh, pushing damp locks of black hair back from her brow. "To enter someone's mind is a work far more intimate than to look upon their unclothed body, and therefore he must work in private, unless there is great need to the contrary - "
She broke off, as both caught the faint sound of movement within. Arwen rose, but Elladan was before her, pushing the door soundlessly wider. Elrond stood in the centre of the room. There was weariness in his eyes; yet a smile played about the corners of his mouth.
"Arwen, Elladan. Come in."
"All is well?" Arwen's grey eyes were wide. "Father, you look tired..."
"You should not do these things alone, Father!" Elladan broke in. "What if something went wrong? " Elrond turned on him sharply, frowning.
"You know my reasons well enough, my son. And if you showed any sign of working seriously at the healing arts instead of forever gallivanting off with the Dúnedain, then I might allow you to question my judgement!"
Quelled, Elladan stared at the floor. Arwen, well used to such exchanges and unperturbed by this one, moved towards the bed.
"You reached her, Father?"
"I did." Elrond sighed heavily, moving to the bed's other side and dropping into a chair. "As we thought, daughter, she was far gone, retreated into the very depths of her mind. And the darkness fencing her in was strong. But she was still there, and she had not yielded. When I told her Dirgon and Béodred had laboured for weeks to save her, and still hoped for her healing, she drew on every ounce of strength she possessed to make her way back to us." He passed a hand wearily over his eyes. "I will confess, children, that I am weary. And Rowanna should not wake the rest of the night. I have left her in deep sleep, for although she is out of danger now, her efforts will have exhausted her. I will go to my rest for a few hours, I think, and so should you."
"I would rather not leave her, Father." Arwen shook her head. "I would hate for her to wake earlier than we expect, in the dark, with no-one by. I can rest here well enough and yet know when she wakes."
"I'm not tired; it's too hot to sleep," Elladan declared, curling himself up cat-like in the window-seat, where he might find some breeze. "I'll watch with you, Sister, and fetch anything you need."
Arwen turned a surprised and grateful gaze on her brother. "That's good. There, you see, Father, you can go to your rest with no fears for your patient. We will see you at dawn."
Elrond rose, touched a finger once more to Rowanna's forehead, and nodded. He leaned over to kiss Arwen's brow. Then, much to her amusement, he crossed the room to do the same for Elladan.
"Thank you, my children. Goodnight." With that the Master of Rivendell moved slowly to the door, and with a last rustle of silken robes was gone. Behind him, Arwen and Elladan smiled across the room at each other, and settled down to wait.
The air grew closer and heavier as the night drew on. Arwen watched Rowanna anxiously; but the dark head on the pillow remained still, with none of the restless tossing and turning of past nights. At last, with a shuddering crash of thunder, the storm broke and the rain came. Elladan heaved a sigh of relief and leaned from the window, turning his face happily up to the downpour. Some minutes later he ducked back in, shaking the drops from his black head, and stretched out again in the window-seat.
"I can feel the air cooling already! Now perhaps for some sleep..." Letting his gaze slide up to the flowing patterns of the carved ceiling, Elladan slipped into dreams.
When Elladan next stirred it was to hear the first sounds of birdsong drifting from the forest. Glancing from the window, he saw only the faintest traces of pink and gold tinting the sky in the east. The sun was not yet up, but the room was slowly growing light. Arwen still sat by the bed, head pillowed on her hand. Sliding from his alcove, he moved noiselessly towards the bed; Rowanna had turned in her sleep and lay now on her side, dark hair tumbled all about her. Elladan reached to brush the thick waves back from her face, noting the warm colour in her cheek and the healthy glow of her skin. At his careful touch, she stirred and sighed.
Elladan looked up quickly at his sister; she had roused instantly at the slight sound, and was leaning over the bed.
"I told Father we should not leave her alone," she murmured. "Rowanna? My friend, wake up..."
The woman in the bed half-turned again and muttered something. Her eyelids flickered, then slowly opened. Dark eyes, at first unfocused, blinked once or twice and gradually centred on Arwen, who broke into a delighted smile.
"Good morning!" she said softly. "I'm so glad to see you awake..."
Rowanna's dry lips parted. But her rusty throat could get no words out. Swiftly, Elladan moved to pour water and pass the cup to Arwen, who slid a gentle hand behind Rowanna's head and helped her sip. At first she choked, but as Arwen steadied her, her lips and throat worked more smoothly and she swallowed carefully. Her gaze sharpened and became aware - and confused.
"Wha - where...?"
"Don't be afraid. You are among friends," Arwen assured her, holding her gaze and reading her face. She reached behind Rowanna to pull the pillows forward, raising her a little so that she could look around her. "You have been very ill, but now you've awoken, I know you will soon be well!" She raised the water-cup again; Rowanna drank more this time, which seemed to waken her further. She looked around the room, across at Elladan, and finally back to Arwen with an increasingly puzzled expression.
"Where am I? What is this place?" Her voice was low, and hoarse from disuse.
"You are in the House of Elrond, in Rivendell."
Rowanna's eyes widened, flickering again between the two children of Elrond with complete bewilderment.
"R-Rivendell? Elrond? Then - you are - Elves?.."
"Half-Elves, to be precise," Elladan broke in with a broad grin, moving to sit on the edge of the bed alongside his sister. "This is Arwen, daughter of Elrond Half-Elven, and I am her elder brother Elladan. My miscreant twin is Elrohir, but he doesn't seem to be about at the moment. Have no fear, you'll encounter him soon enough."
"Peace, Elladan!" Arwen's peal of laughter filled the room. "Our poor guest has only just awoken - have some mercy on her and do not over-burden her with introductions all at once! If you wish to be useful, go and send for Father, and tell him Rowanna is awake." As her brother vanished, Arwen, still chuckling, turned back to the bed. "Take no notice of Elladan, Rowanna. There will be all the time in the world to explain who we are, and how you come to be here. All you need do for now is rest, and sleep, and get well."
Rowanna nodded slowly. Yet she was still gazing at the lovely face before her, now lit by the rose glow of the rising sun, as though trying to remember something.
"What is it?"
"I remember... singing. In the darkness, a voice that sang to me... a voice like yours, like a cool stream flowing. Did.. did someone sing?"
Arwen reached for her hand among the sheets and squeezed it gently. "Could you hear me? I hoped you could. Yes, I was singing to you. I wanted you to know you were not alone."
Rowanna nodded, as though a small mystery had been solved. "Thank you," she murmured. Hearing the hoarseness still in her voice, Arwen poured more water, and was helping her drink again when there was a sound from the corridor and the door swung wide open.
Rowanna looked up and breathed in sharply. For a moment Arwen saw her father through the mortal woman's eyes: a tall, dark Elf whose air of authority seemed to fill the room before he spoke a word. Rowanna looked at him, and then at Elladan following deferentially a pace behind him, the finely sculpted features of the one mirrored in the other, opened her mouth as if to speak, and then gave up.
"Lady Rowanna. Now that you are awake to receive it, I bid you a most heartfelt welcome to Rivendell, to the Last Homely House. I am Elrond, called Half-Elven." He moved to the bedside and with a brief "May I?" placed long fingers across Rowanna's wrist, and then to her forehead. After a long moment, he withdrew, and in response to his daughter's anxious look, nodded.
"Good," he said. "You do very well. How do you feel? Are you in any pain?"
I suspect the poor woman is utterly bewildered, Father, Arwen thought, as well as barely half awake!
Rowanna, however, managed to croak, "I - no, thank you, Master Elrond, I am comfortable."
"I am very glad to hear it; and now that you have woken, we can begin to nourish you, and build your strength." Elrond nodded to Elladan, who vanished out of the door and could be heard giving instructions in the hallway. "But we must take great care in what we can offer you at first; you have gone some time without solid food, and only gradually will your body reaccustom itself to eating." He moved to the small table under the window, checking the levels of liquid in several small vials which stood there, then turned to his daughter.
"Arwen, my dear, I must ask you to keep Lady Rowanna company at her breakfast, for a good deal of business attends me this morning." Arwen suppressed a smile at the resignation in his tone. More dispatches from the Dwarves of Dale to deal with?... "Our patient can take broth and perhaps a little crushed soft fruit, and thereafter must rest, but she may receive visitors this afternoon if her strength permits. A little of the goldenroot tonic, I think, with each meal." Arwen nodded her agreement. Elrond directed his attention to Rowanna once more, his cool sea-grey gaze washing over her for an instant before he gave her a slight bow.
"I must ask you to pardon me for this morning, my child. I shall greatly look forward to talking longer with you when you are more rested. Until then..."
He turned on his heel and was gone. Rowanna let out a deep breath.
"Are you well?" Arwen enquired gently, offering her another sip of water.
"Y-yes, I think, well enough.." Rowanna coughed, and then recovered herself; "but.. am I really awake, or still dreaming?"
"Awake, I assure you," Arwen's laughter bubbled like a stream. "But what makes you say so?"
"Rivendell… the Last Homely House… they were my childhood fairy tales! The stories Mother passed down from our Northern ancestors… she used to lull me to sleep with accounts of Master Elrond, the great healer, and the house of the Elves in the hidden valley…"
"And now you feel as though you have woken up in the midst of legend?" Arwen smiled, understanding. "You are far from the first mortal to feel that way, I assure you! Do not worry – all will begin to feel far less strange ere long."
As if to confirm this the next arrival at the door proved to be Elladan, followed by another Elf, both bearing trays with covered jugs and bowls. As they advanced to set their burdens down on either side of the bed, Rowanna glanced up into their faces and became thunderstruck once again, looking from one to the other as though she feared she were seeing double. Arwen caught her bewildered expression, and chuckled.
"Elladan did tell you he was a twin! This is indeed Elladan on your left, whereas this - " she turned to the Elf on the right, who flashed Rowanna a wicked grin - "is my second brother, Elrohir."
"Your servant, rohíril." Elrohir sketched an ironic bow.
"You may find you can tell us apart more readily by hearing than by sight," Elladan put in helpfully. "Elrohir drawls –"
"I do not!"
"– and my voice is generally held to be deeper," Elladan finished, cheerfully ignoring his twin.
"M-my name is Rowanna," the mortal woman protested faintly, "not Rohíril…"
"Rowanna your name may be, but a rohíril you undoubtedly are, in my tongue," Elrohir countered. "From what I am told of your exploits and talents, madam, never was a horse-lady more truly titled - and I should know, for I am named for a horse-lord myself!"
"Enough nonsense, the pair of you," Arwen said firmly. "Rowanna, take no notice, they are always thus, I fear – now, let us see if you can stomach a little of this."
To begin with Arwen carefully spooned the nestadren broth, made up to Elrond's precise instructions, into Rowanna's mouth; after a few mouthfuls, however, Rowanna took over the spoon herself.
"Take care, and do not try to eat too much yet," Arwen warned her. "You have had no solid food for some weeks -"
"Weeks?" Rowanna stopped dead with the spoon halfway to her mouth, her face full of shock. Oh, you fool, Arwen castigated herself. You do not think – do not frighten her! "For some time, at any rate," she amended hastily. "Now - Father instructed me to give you a tonic; here we are..."
For the remainder of that day, Rowanna dozed and woke by turns. Arwen did not leave her side, and during her waking hours talked gently of Rivendell, its folk and its surroundings, so that Rowanna might feel less bewildered and astray. Each time Rowanna awoke, she seemed to have pieced together a little more of the world around her, and asked more pertinent questions: how had she come here? How long had she been out of her senses? Arwen's gentle answers drew her slowly back into the present. It was Béodred and Dirgon who had brought her, over many leagues and many days. She had been asleep all that time, and for some time before that. Arwen and Elrond had watched over her, and Elrond had succeeded in healing her sickness. And at last -
"Arwen - what happened to me?"
The daughter of Elrond sighed. Her clear, honest gaze searched Rowanna's face carefully. "You remember nothing?" Rowanna shook her head. "What is the last thing you recall?"
"The - the farmstead. Working with Aelstan - Béodred's uncle - and our horses, as usual." She frowned and bit her lip. Cautiously, Arwen prompted:
"There was an accident, with a horse astray. Do you remember that?"
Gradually, Rowanna traced a path back through memory as far as the muster on that fateful day. She recalled riding out, and why they had done it; but beyond that her recollections petered out, a stream vanishing into sand.
"Fear not," Arwen comforted her. "You will remember gradually. Each time you wake I think you are a little more yourself." Rowanna gave a throaty chuckle. "That's a glad sound!" Elrond's daughter smiled. "But what is amusing?"
"I was wondering how," her mortal companion demanded, "you would know what might constitute being more myself, since this is the first day you have been in my company while I've been in my senses?"
"A good question!" Arwen acknowledged, laughing in her turn. "But you are not such a stranger as you think, my dear. Many hours I have watched over you in your sleep, and Elves do not keep vigil idly. Besides, Béodred has told us much of you!"
"Béodred!" Rowanna exclaimed. "Poor lad, he must have been frantic! I still cannot take in what he and Dirgon did for me. To bear me for hundreds of leagues with little idea of whether they would ever find the place they sought, and all for my mother's urging! Do they know I am awake?"
"Elrohir took the news to them straight after breakfast, I believe. They are waiting till you feel well enough to receive visitors - shall we send for them?"
Rowanna's rich chuckle came again. "I think it is the least we can do after all their efforts! Will you help me sit up to receive them?"
Arwen obliged. "Would you like to wash your face?" she enquired, proffering a basin. Rowanna sighed with relief.
"Yes please – and do you have a comb?"
"I can find one. Do you want a mirror too?"
"Oh – no, worry not for that. I just want to be clean and free of tangles!"
Rowanna washed her face gratefully, before Arwen carefully combed out her dark hair for her.
"It's beautifully thick," she observed admiringly as it flowed between her fingers. "I thought to begin with it was blue-black, like a Dúnadan's –" she smiled for a moment – "but here where the sunlight's catching it, see, there are tints that are almost red. There we are..." Smoothing out the last tangles, she braided it loosely behind Rowanna's head, plumped up her guest's pillows, and when satisfied with her, went to the door to call for Béodred and Dirgon.
Béodred appeared in the doorway so quickly that Arwen strongly suspected he had been lurking hopefully in the hallway for some time. Furthermore, he was spick and span in what she thought must be a borrowed shirt, dark green with tendrils of embroidery about the neck and cuffs. As his eyes fell on Rowanna, his face took fire until it could almost have warmed the room.
Ah, noted Arwen, I thought as much. But I wonder how your lady feels towards her faithful protector? She retreated towards the door, wondering if she should let the two be private, but had not got to the threshold when Rowanna called from the bed for her to stay. Well, my friend, I think perhaps you answer my question already! She curled herself into the window-seat instead, observing the Rider's hesitant approach. A great blond giant of a horse-lord, suddenly as gauche as a colt that can barely manage its long limbs! Ai, poor lad indeed...
"Rowanna!" he murmured. "H-how are you?"
"Lord Elrond tells me I am doing very well, Béodred, and it is all thanks to you, my friend. I can scarcely believe that you and Dirgon brought me on horseback all the way from Edoras! Let alone how you knew the way. Tell me of the journey! I still barely understand how I got here..."
Hardly a lover's greeting, Arwen mused as the two talked. What the mortals' true ages were she did not know, but it seemed as she watched them that Rowanna treated Béodred with the familiar and slightly indulgent affection she might have shown a younger brother or cousin. And I do not think cousinly affection is what he would have from you, Rowanna. But I think also that you know that all too well, and are quite able to deal with Béodred even from a sickbed! Before she could reflect further on these speculations, however, Dirgon was standing shyly in the doorway, and had to be gently urged to enter and receive Rowanna's heartfelt thanks in his turn, blushing at being thus the focus of attention.
After Dirgon and Béodred had departed Elrond himself returned, his business done, to inspect his patient. Arwen was pleased to see that Rowanna had gathered sufficient of her wits by now to be a little less amazed by the Master of Rivendell. He carefully established just how much of the cause of her grave illness his guest could remember. While assuring her that he believed her fully healed, he insisted that it would take some time to regain her strength, and that she must remain in the Last Homely House at the very least for some weeks.
"We can consider in a few days how we may send word to your mother at Edoras of your recovery," he suggested, forestalling Rowanna's protests. "In the meantime, you must rest; you will probably find that you sleep a great deal for several days, and that will be all to the good. In particular, my child, I wish to know at once if you are troubled by nightmares, or by waking dreams of any kind."
"I've never had bad dreams in my life, Master Elrond," Rowanna protested; "I just drop on my pillow and sleep like a log! But –" as Elrond raised an eyebrow – "if that changes, I will tell you, I promise."
Content, Elrond took his leave, and Arwen made sure that her friend had all she needed before going to her own rest.
"I will be in the next room," she assured Rowanna, "and will know at once if you wake or need anything - Elves have keen ears, and Half-elves too! So have no fear, and sleep well."
Rowanna lay awake for some minutes, gazing at the patterns of the vaulted ceiling; and so she might, reflected Arwen, with all that she must be trying to make sense of from the day! So weary was she, however, that she did not hold out long before slipping once more into deep, untroubled sleep. Arwen noted this with a pleased glance from her doorway, and went to her own bed, leaving the glow of one small lantern to hold back the shadows in the corners of the room.
Elrond's healing of Rowanna's mind was partly inspired by Elrohir's fetching of Hethlin from the Grey Lands in Isabeau of Greenlea's Captain my Captain. I also drew on the effect of the Shadow on Merry and Eowyn after the battle of the Pelennor in RoTK, and on Aragorn's healing of Faramir and his calling of Eowyn back from the dead.
The nickname with which Elrohir dubs Rowanna, rohíril, literally means "horse-lady" in Sindarin, as rohir means "horse-lord" (híril being the feminine of hîr, according to the Appendix to the 1977 edition of the Silmarillion). According to JRRT''s Letters, Elrohir translates "Elven-knight" (literally, "Elven-horse-lord) (El plus rohir).
Goldenroot (Rhodiola rosea) is a herb which has traditionally been used to treat depression and anxiety as well as to reduce fatigue.
Nestadren - healing.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.