24. Chapter Twenty-Four
Elladan and Elrohir helped Estel settle Thurin onto the soft bed. Ro removed his boots, while Dan helped Estel remove his jacket and shirt. They worked quietly, each knowing what the other needed before it was voiced. Once Thurin's boots and clothes were removed, Strider shooed the twins to the kitchen, where they prepared water for boiling, the herbs he had shoved into Ro's hand and food.
Strider slit the bindings from around Thurin's chest and slid them out from under his body. Sighing, he tossed them to the floor. The bandage around his leg was next.
"Here…use this," Dan said, easing a warm cloth into his hand. "The wound's been bleeding for the last day. I am sure the bandage has stuck to her wound."
Strider glanced at him, unspoken gratitude in his eyes. Gently, he soaked the bandage until it pulled away from the gash. It was still bleeding and looked like it might need stitches.
"Here…I sterilized it in the fire then in the poultice I made with the herbs in your pouch," Elrohir said, handing him a needle and thread.
Strider nodded silently. As often as they had helped Ada patch him up, they knew what they were doing. He washed away the blood and began stitching the long gash. She hardly moved, barely moaned in her fevered state.
"Tell me what happened, Dan. How did she get hurt?"
"We were heading to Anthatal, having run into a patrol several weeks ago. We had been in the south and had decided to check on the Shire as we traveled north. Ada is so secretive about the Shire, yet he wants to be sure there is no trouble. We found all quiet and headed north," Dan began.
"We were traveling fast, hoping to catch up to any patrols in the area. We had just arrived as the battle between the rangers and Orcs began. We saw young…well, he's not Thurin, now is she?" Elrohir said.
"Her name is Laeriel. Thurin was her brother. But please, continue," Strider said, after he finished the tight stitches. He was reaching for the poultice and bandages as Elladan continued.
"The rangers were outnumbered by two, which thanks to Laeriel's fine aim with a bow, was not a disadvantage. They took out the band easily. Unfortunately, the Orc she battled with caught her alongside the leg. I don't think she knew. One moment she was turning toward us, signaling she was fine and the next…"
"And the next she was crumpled on the ground, blood flowing freely from the wound. We knew she needed your help, Estel. We are fine healers, Ada taught us all he knows, but you have a talent neither of us have," Elrohir finished.
"She's so pale. She's lost a lot of blood. Tell me, how long has she had this fever?"
"Several days. That's why it took longer to get here. We had to stop to let her rest. The fever sapped her of all her strength."
"Thank you, for saving her."
Strider pulled the blanket up over her, tucking it in around her shoulders. Even with the fire in the grate, it was chilly in the room. He gathered his supplies, and cleaned up, knowing that she would sleep for a while. Between the athelas and the cascara, she would sleep deeply for some time. And the goldenseal poultice would speed up the healing.
"It seems you have a tale to tell, brother. When did you figure out her secret?" Elrohir asked.
"And why have you kept it?" Elladan added.
Strider sighed. He knew this was coming and he had dreaded anyone finding out. It had been bad enough that Ivorwen had figured it out, now his brothers. It was going to be harder to keep her secret with so many knowing.
"We bunked together at the Inn in Bree. I didn't know then, but after a prank gone wrong, Balharn, Thurin and I headed out before the rest of the rangers. We found ourselves well ahead and decided to stop and test our skills against each other. Seems there had been talk that we were well matched."
"And were you?" Dan asked.
"Yes…and I believe we still are."
"So, how did you find out her secret?" Ro asked.
"We had delayed too long and took a short cut Balharn knew of to get to the rendezvous point. We were attacked by a pack of warg."
"Warg! This far west?" Elladan cried.
"We took care of some of them, but Laeriel and I were both hurt. Balharn was killed. That was how I found out. Laeriel's left shoulder was nearly torn in two by the jaws of a warg. I had to stitch her up then too."
"You said you were injured too," Elrohir said. "Was it bad?"
"Clawed along the ribs. Nothing broken, but it was deep and sore for some time. We had to stay in a cave until we healed. After a week, we left to come north. We ran into that warg pack again. But we had help. A friend of the family, as a matter of fact."
"Really? Who?" Elladan asked.
"Legolas. He was out hunting giant spiders and followed the warg pack all the way from Mirkwood with a patrol. We separated at Deadman's Dike."
"Seems you have had quite the adventure, little brother. Are you sure you don't want to come home for a while? You could bring Laeriel."
"Ro…you know I can't come home right now."
"But you will come home soon? Ada misses you."
Strider smiled. He had only been gone a few months. The last time he had gone out hunting with Dan and Ro, they had been gone for nearly six months. Ada was not the only one that missed him. He would lay bets that the twins missed him too.
"I will come home as soon as I am able. Right now, I have much to learn. So, are you staying long? We have much to catch up on.
The three brothers talked well into the night, catching up on each other's exploits over the last few weeks that they had been separated. Strider would have talked longer, but Elladan noticed him hiding a yawn behind his hand and made him lie down in front of the fire.
"Rest, little brother. We will watch over Laeriel," he said, pulling the blanket up over his brother's shoulder.
Strider jerked awake, the gentle hand on his shoulder pulling him from a restless sleep. He looked up and found Elladan kneeling over him.
"Laeriel?" he asked, concern laced through his half-asleep voice.
"She's restless…I am afraid she will pull the stitches from her leg. I thought maybe there was more we could do. I did not want to wake you…"
"No…I asked you to, if she needed me," he said, rising from the hard pallet of his bed.
Strider moved to the bed, noticing that Laeriel had tossed and turned so much that the bandage on her leg was soaked in blood. Alarmed, he placed a hand on her forehead. She was burning up.
"Dan…I need hot water, more bandages, another poultice made. Ro…can you go find more athelas? I think we used the last of what I had on hand. I have to get this fever down."
The twins rushed to do as he asked while Strider tossed the sheet aside. He was unconcerned with her nakedness; he had to break her fever. Quickly, he removed the bandage, inspected the stitching and determined that she had pulled them in her restlessness, but had not torn the wound open.
Elladan brought him the hot water to cleanse the wound, along with clean bandages and the poultice he needed. Between the two of them, they got the wound cleaned and rewrapped. Elrohir had returned with the athelas and had it steeping in more hot water, the sweet aroma filling the room.
"Cool water, Estel. You need cool water to bathe her," Elrohir reminded him.
Strider shook his head. He had seen this fever before. The only thing that had broken it before had been the sharing of their body heat. He had taken her burning body and wrapped his around it, absorbing the fiery heat.
"No…I have seen a fever similar to this take her before. Bathing her with cool water does not bring it down fast enough. I need to share her heat," he said, shedding his clothes.
Elladan cocked his eyebrow. He had heard of this method before, but had not seen it used. He motioned to Elrohir to move the bowl of athelas closer. He would do whatever it took to help Estel.
"You will need to place more wood on the fire, Dan. It will be hot in here, hotter than either of you need to deal with," Strider said, easing into the bed beside Laeriel.
Dan nodded, helping Estel pull the blankets on the bed up over him and Laeriel. Ro placed another two logs on the fire, poking it until the flames licked at the added wood. Already the room was heating up; it would only be a matter of time before it was stifling.
"We will be just outside, if you need us, Estel."
Elladan pushed Elrohir out the door and closed it softly behind them. They settled on the ground, their backs against the side of the house. Suddenly, Elrohir chuckled.
"What is it?" Dan asked, frowning in the dark at him.
"Estel is going to get a taste of what Ada has felt these past three years every time he came home with a new injury that Ada had to patch up. I just find it somewhat amusing."
"You do realize that Estel loves her? I don't think he is going to say a harsh word to her…"
"At least not until he knows she is going to be okay. That's the way Ada always was too."
Dan smiled. Elrohir was right. Ada was all love and concern right up until he knew you were going to pull through whatever malady you found yourself in, then he went school teacher on you, lecturing you about the folly of your ways. He was quite sure that Laeriel was going to get an earful once she was on the mend. After all, Estel had heard enough of those lectures to recite one of them in his sleep.
Strider held her in his arms, his head resting against hers. He could feel the burning heat of her skin on his and yet she shook with chills. He knew that the fever was dangerous, even if her wound was not. The longer it took to break the fever, the more it would sap her strength.
"Laeriel…please…for the love of the Valar, please. I can't lose you."
Silent tears slipped down his cheeks. He had wanted to cry before, but his brothers had been in the home. He didn't want them to see his weakness. Didn't want them to see how much he cared for this woman. He didn't want them to see how much he loved her, how vulnerable she made him.
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.