Celeborn had to admit he was surprised at the musical talent in the Shire - yet another area in which he had underestimated hobbits, he thought wryly. He and Glorfindel had finally settled on a simple hymn to Elbereth, but they were waiting for the next break in the performance to discuss who was to take which parts of the harmonies. He was actually a little nervous about singing in front of the several hundred hobbits gathered to watch the competition. This might be the only time many of these mortals met an elf, and he wanted it to be a pleasant experience.
An unnatural shriek split the air.
The music stopped instantly. Then there were distant screams and suddenly everyone was looking to see where the sound had come from. His elven hearing allowed Celeborn to pin-point the sound immediately. A small pavilion some distance away was on fire, flickering and fizzing with eerie green flame. Five small figures spilled out of the tent.
With their longer legs, the elves reached the fire first. The flames had begun to resolve themselves into natural yellow and the fabric of the tent was gradually disintegrating. "Theo's still in there," gasped out a terrified Merry Gamgee.
Celeborn strode into the collapsing pavilion. What was left of it was filling with smoke. He could just make out the little hobbit curled up on the floor behind a stack of burning boxes, motionless. There was no clear path, so he began grabbing the flaming boxes and throwing them out of the way.
A few seconds later, though it felt like far longer, he reached the child and scooped him up in his arms.
"He's not breathing," said Celeborn placing the child at Glorfindel's feet as the pavilion behind him crumpled into ashes.
Glorfindel vaguely heard Merry and Estella's anguished cries as he dropped to his knees. He blocked out the sound, preparing himself for the task ahead. He took Theo's right hand in his own and placed his left palm on the child's brow.
It would be difficult to explain elvish healing to anyone who was not themselves an elf, but however exactly it worked, Glorfindel called on all his resources now. The child's spirit was almost gone, was loosening its ties to the tiny choked and injured body.
Mortals. Don't befriend them, don't enjoy their company, certainly never love them - they all die in the end and some die sooner than others. They were the lessons of his long ago youth, lessons he had accepted until he wound up living in Imladris, where there seemed to be a constant stream of orphaned mortal children or visiting dwarves.
He had learned to accept grief, had learned in some degree why death might be called the Gift of Men, had even come close to understanding why Arwen might choose to take that doom upon herself.
But there was no way he was going to accept that this little one's time had come. Theo Brandybuck, whose heart was filled with nothing but love and joy and mischief, was not going to die over something so stupid.
The elf reached out with his own spirit and offered his strength, all of it, whatever was necessary. At first it seemed as if Theo's spirit simply retreated further, then slowly Glorfindel felt the child's tentative answer.
As if from very far off, he heard a rough, weak cough. The rest of his senses returned in a dizzying whirl. He saw Theo's ash-smudged nose wrinkle as the youngster opened his eyes, heard sobs of astonishment and relief all around him.
Everything swayed. No, he corrected himself, he was swaying. He shifted his weight a little so that he would not pitch forwards onto his recovering patient, and therefore crumpled sideways as the darkness claimed him.
As Glorfindel collapsed to the ground and Merry and Estella swept their coughing son into their arms, Celeborn tried to lift his hands out of the cold water. Diamond and Elanor tut-tutted him and held tighter to his wrists.
As soon as Celeborn had placed Theo on the ground, Diamond had seen the burns on the elf's hands. Hobbit healing being far more practical than the elf-kind, she had called for Elanor's help and they had dragged the pain- dazed Celeborn over to a barrel of cold water and instructed him to plunge his hands in.
It wasn't very dignified, to be nursemaided by these two insistent hobbits, but it wasn't his dignity that made him impatient with his blistered hands. He wanted to be helpful, not helped. He could see Elladan and Elrohir standing worriedly over the prone form of Glorfindel. Tearful and scared hobbit children milled around, with not quite enough parents to comfort them all at once.
Then he looked back at the Brandybuck family. With typical hobbit resilience, Theo was already getting to his feet, if a little uncertainly. His parents, their faces streaked with happy tears were holding onto him tightly and the tiny Kali was also swept into the family cuddle.
And suddenly he missed them terribly. His own family; Galadriel and Celebrian. Tears welled in his eyes, where they were spotted by Diamond.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
He glanced across at his two grandsons who were trying to make the unconscious Glorfindel more comfortable and smiled to himself. He was surprised. In the end, it hadn't been a difficult decision at all.
"Nothing's wrong," he murmured tearfully. "I'm going to see them again. I'm going to see them all again."
Elanor took a handkerchief from her pocket and gave him a stern look as he tried to take his hands out of the water to accept it. She dabbed at his face a little, smearing her white handkerchief with soot.
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.