Bedtime Story by admin
by Sister Sárie
A/N: I’ve always imagined that the library of Rivendell was very, very high. I don’t know why, maybe it’s just my mad and sensation-searching imagination. You might know what I mean if you think about the library in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, you know, the one which the Beast shows to Belle, where the shelves seem to go on forever upwards, and you start wondering how anyone gets the books down safely. Maybe they call the fire-brigade and ask them to bring a sky-lift… Except that I’ve always imagined elves were a bit smarter than that, and had these platforms and solid staircases build along the shelves, so that they didn’t actually end up balancing on the top of a half a mile long ladder… anyways, along with the story!
Rivendell, summer 2613 T.A.
The large library of Rivendell bathed in the light of the setting sun. The shelves seemed to be reaching skies, and a few elves moved quietly along the pillar-supported platforms and elegantly curving stairways. Lord Elrond sat by an open window, munching an apple and sorting out a pile of papers. A small sparrow landed on the window sill and chirped happily. Elrond smiled to him.
He turned his attention back to the papers and frowned. This could not be right… he stood up and strode purposefully towards one of the bookshelves. He climbed a staircase up and made his way down a platform, picking up a ladder on his way. He stopped about a halfway down the platform, and looked up. Right where he remembered it was.
He positioned the ladder against the shelf, climber gingerly up and picked up a book from the upper shelf. When he turned around to return to his paperwork, he suddenly saw a small figure peering around from behind a shelf down on the ground level.
A small child, only about 10 years old. Elrond knew her to be Brithla, the little daughter of Anion and Annoderu, who had recently returned from Lothlórien, where they had spent some 50 years with Annoderu’s parents. And brought a new life with them.
Elrond smiled, and slowly descended to the ground level. The child had disappeared between the shelves, and he followed her path.
He found her standing her back towards him in the center of one of the library halls, staring up in awe.
“Can I help you?” he asked gently.
The child spun around, startled.
“I was only looking!” she said hastily, “I was not going to touch anything, I swear!”
Elrond smiled at her kindly.
“All is well, child”, he said, “These books are here for everyone, you can read them if you wish. Just be careful with them, that’s all”.
The child cheered up instantly. Elrond observed her bright smile, and decided his paperwork could wait.
“Now what would you like to read”, he began and looked around the shelves surrounding them.
Elrond was good in matching people with books. He always seemed to know what everyone would enjoy reading the most. A bit like an undertaker, who can guess the heights of people. It was an instinct.
He leaned down towards Brithla, and looked at her carefully.
“I know just the book!” he exclaimed after a moment’s careful consideration. “Follow me!”
He offered a hand to Brithla, and together they made their way up a whole total of three staircases. They stopped in front of a shelf, and Elrond carefully pulled out a small book.
“I believe this would be to your liking”, he said, offering the book to the child.
Brithla took the book carefully, like a sacred object, and read the words on the cover slowly.
“The Farmer and the Magic Well”, she read, “Thank you! This is one of my favourite stories! My grand-mother used to read it to me in Lórien!”
Elrond laughed at the excitement of the child.
The little girl suddenly turned serious.
“Would you read it to me?” she asked sheepishly, “My grand-mother only just taught me to read, and I’m not very good at it yet”.
“Of course I will”, Elrond promised, “Let us go down and find a comfortable place to sit”.
The child laughed with joy, and took his hand again. Together they returned to Elrond’s original place next to the window, and sat down on a bench.
“Once upon a time…” Elrond began.
The sun set slowly behind the mountains, the shadows lengthened, and Mistress Sárie walked around the library lighting up carefully positioned lanterns. Carefully positioned indeed; you could never be too careful when combining fire and paper, and the elves made sure the lanterns were as far away from the actual bookshelves as possible.
They had gotten about a half-way through the story, when Elrond stopped and looked up. Another elf appeared from between the shelves.
“There you are!” she cried out loud, “I’ve been looking for you from everywhere, Mistress Sárie finally told you were here”.
“I’m sorry mother”, Brithla was hanging her head.
“No, it was my fault”, said Elrond, “My apologies, Mistress Annoderu, I did not realize the hour was so late”.
Annoderu seemed to notice the other elf just then.
“My Lord Elrond! I do hope my daughter has not bothered you”, Annoderu looked rather worried.
“Not at all, my lady”, assured Elrond, “It was my idea to read, and my pleasure”.
“You are Lord Elrond!?” Brithla’s eyes went wide. She stood up and curtsied, looking a bit scared.
Elrond frowned at her.
“There’s no need for that, Brithla, surely I am not that intimidating”.
“No you were very kind!” Brithla looked sheepish now. “It’s just… I was told you were a mighty elf-lord…”
Elrond laughed out loud. The child turned even more embarrassed, and gave a careful look to her mother, who was blushing.
Elrond felt sorry for the child. She had lived her whole life in Lothlórien, how was she supposed to know anything about him or Rivendell?
He leaned closer. “I’m in disguise”, he whispered to the child, and gave her a conspiratory wink.
A smile appeared on Brithla’s face. Then she turned serious again and nodded understandingly. Annoderu looked relieved.
“You can take the book with you and finish it with your mother”, Elrond said, straightening up.
“Oh, thank you Lord Elrond! Thank you so much!” Brithla exclaimed happily.
“Yes, thank you for your kindness, my lord”, agreed her mother.
“Now, perhaps I should finally allow you to go to bed”, said Elrond, “Good night!”
Brithla and her mother bid him farewell and exited the library hand in hand.
Elrond looked down to his forgotten paperwork and sighed. This would keep him up half the night. Oh well, it had been worth it, making the child so happy.
In the next morning Elrond was standing in the Main Hall, talking casually with Glorfindel, when suddenly a loud rumble echoed through the Last Homely House. Everyone froze, startled.
“The library!” shouted Elrond and took off without a further explanation, and every elf in the vicinity started to run towards the said place after him.
Elrond stopped in the main doorway to the library, and observed the destruction inside. The stairway to the same platform he had been standing on the previous night with young Brithla had collapsed, taking down the two lower platforms with it.
His first instinct was that of a healer:
“Is anybody hurt?” he shouted to the landing dust.
“No”, came the voice of Mistress Sárie from behind him. “I was all alone in here when it happened”.
Elrond sighed from relief, and walked carefully towards the remains of the stairs. He looked up to the platform that had stayed up because of the two supporting pillars and the fact that it was attached to the shelf itself.
He reached out towards one of the stone pillars. It was cracked.
“This will not hold for long”, he muttered to himself, running his fingers along the crack.
He turned around. “Is master Tórion here?” he asked from the crowd.
A few people shifted, and the wanted elf came to his lord. Elrond knew him to be a skilled builder and a carpenter.
“Tórion”, he said, “We must get more supports for the remaining platform immediately and start mending the damage. Will you assist me?”
“Of course I will, my lord”.
“No-one is to enter the library without my permission before we have fixed this, I don’t want anyone to get hurt!” he ordered to the crowd.
People started leaving in good order as their lord had wished, and Elrond walked away with Tórion, deep in discussion.
A group of elves spent the day in hard work, clearing away the remains of the collapsed structure and adding wooden supports below the existing third-floor platform. A task which turned out to be extremely difficult because of the height in which the platform was.
When the sun was finally setting again, Elrond wiped some dust off of his dress, and told the others to get some well-earned rest. They would continue tomorrow. He himself walked to a nearby study and started to give some thought to the new designs. Making the platform safe and getting new stairs was their main goal, but once that was accomplished they should also make the new structure beautiful.
He reckoned master Tórion already had some designs in his mind, the elf was an artist in his own way. Elrond did not want to disturb his creativity, but thought he could be allowed to make some suggestions.
He took an apple from a bowl on the desk, and started to munch it while staring at a blank paper. After some thought he reached for a quill, and slowly started to sketch some elegant patterns to the paper.
Once he had finished the apple he looked up. He remembered he had not eaten anything for the whole day. Glorfindel would have a thing or two to say about the matter again.
As if he had heard Elrond thinking his name, the blond elf suddenly opened the door and stepped in. Glorfindel had been out in the forest all day, getting more wood for the construction with another group of elves. He knew the habits of his friend well though, and now he laid a small tray containing a bowl of soup in front of Elrond.
Elrond was actually grateful for the food, for once. Besides, arguing with Glorfindel would have been waste of time.
“Thank you”, he simply said, and lifted the spoon.
Glorfindel looked surprised, and Elrond felt he had just won a round in some secret game.
Elrond swallowed, and turned to his friend. “And how was your day?” he asked.
“Busy” sighed Glorfindel, “But I think we got all we need. We’ll go up to the mountains tomorrow and start getting the stone we need”.
“Excellent”, Elrond smiled, “Thank you Glorfindel, you are a treasure!”
Glorfindel’s smile suddenly turned into a yawn, and Elrond frowned.
“You should go to bed”, he told his friend.
“So should you”, replied Glorfindel.
“I will, in a minute”, Elrond said. Glorfindel raised an eyebrow to this.
“You brought me the food, surely you want me to finish it too!”
Glorfindel saw the logic in this and stood up from the chair he had collapsed in when he first came in.
He encircled the desk and gave Elrond’s shoulder a squeeze. “Promise me you’ll rest”, he said.
“I will, Glor”, Elrond smiled to his friend reassuringly. “Good night”.
“Good night, El”, said Glorfindel, and left the room.
A small figure reached for the door-handle and turned it. The door opened silently, and the figure peered in to the now dark library.
Brithla’s mother had finished reading The Farmer and the Magic Well with her, and tucked her into bed, but after she had left, Brithla had turned restless.
She had been greatly impressed by the kind Lord Elrond, and did not want to keep his book. Lord Elrond might want to read it himself!
She sneaked into the library, squeezing the book to her chest, and suddenly stopped. The stairs were gone!
She looked around. Yes, this was the place where she had been with Lord Elrond, and that was the shelf where he had taken the book from.
She was depressed. Her mother had given her a long lecture about behaving in the library. Lord Elrond had told her she could read the books, but she must always put them back to the same place she had taken them from.
Despite Lord Elrond’s kindness, Brithla was still slightly intimidated by his reputation as a great lord and noble warrior. She did not want to disappoint him. The thought that she could just leave the book on a table, which would have been obvious to an adult, never even crossed her mind.
Brithla was a bright young elf, and with the wonderful logic of a child she now started to think how to get the book back to its right place.
Brithla had been born and raised on a talan in Lothlórien. Climbing was in her blood. She started to look around in the moon-lit library.
Now, if she climbed to that platform over there… and then jumped on that shelf… and tied a rope to that ornament over there… yes, she could easily make her way to the platform, and then just swing herself down using the rope!
Still squeezing the book, she ran out of the library and along the corridors to her family’s chambers, and to her parents’ sitting room.
The room was dark, and the door to her parents’ bedchamber was closed. She walked quietly to a chest in a corner, and opened it. That was where her mother had packed away the equipment they had used when travelling back to Rivendell over the mountains.
She put the book into a small bag, and swung that over her shoulder. Then she lifted up a neatly coiled rope, and closed the chest silently. She did not want to wake up her parents. They would only make her go back to bed, but she felt the book could not wait until the morning. She wanted to give it back to nice Lord Elrond.
Brithla turned back to the door, but hesitated. After a moments consideration she picked up a lantern from a table, and lit it up from the still-glowing ashes in the fireplace.
The Last Homely House was a bit of a maze. It was beautifully constructed, sure, and the builders had been good planners, no doubt, but the truth was that originally the elves had been forced to put it together rather hastily, and in the early years Elrond had found he always needed more room for new arrivals. The settlement had grown on its own, and though the original structures had been mended during the years, the original lines were still there to be seen. It was a maze.
Brithla made her silent way down the elegant corridors until she arrived back to the main doors of the library. She took a deep breath, and started to go along with her plan.
Elrond put the empty soup bowl back on the tray, and picked it up to take it back to the kitchen, when suddenly an alarmed cry pierced the silent night. Library!
The tray fell to the floor and the bowl broke to thousands of pieces, but Elrond did not even notice. He ran towards the library as fast as his legs would carry him.
The sight at the library made him gasp. A rope was lying on the floor below the broken platform, but Elrond’s attention was focused to the small form of Britha, who was hanging from the platform three stories above the ground, gripping its edge for her dear little life.
And then she lost her grip.
Elrond had never moved so fast since that horrible moment over two thousand years ago when Elrohir had suddenly ran inside, screaming that Elladan had fallen into the river.
He made it under the platform just in time, and fell to the floor holding the small child in his arms. Brithla was wailing, and he held her tight for a moment. Then he loosened his grip, and tried to push the child away to look at her and examine her for injuries. The girl, however, refused to let go of him.
He held her close for a long time, rocking her gently and whispering soothingly to her ear. Finally the child calmed down a bit.
“Brithla”, whispered Elrond, “Let me take a look at you, I want to make sure you haven’t broken anything”.
Brithla nodded, and Elrond examined her carefully. Finally, when he was convinced the child had escaped the incident with nothing but a scare, he spoke up again:
“What were you doing up there?” he asked.
“I wanted to bring back your book”, the child sobbed, “But the stairs were gone!”
Elrond frowned. “But surely you could have just given it to me. I’d put it back once we got the new stairs”.
Brithla looked embarrassed. “I didn’t want to bother you…” she said quietly. “I’m sorry, I really did not want to bother you”.
“It’s alright”, Elrond smiled to the child. “I don’t mind at all”.
Then he turned serious again. “Brithla, there is no problem too small for me. I want you to know that you can always come to me, no matter what. That’s why I am here. Don’t try to do things on your own, I don’t want you to get hurt!”
Brithla nodded obediently, and Elrond relaxed.
“But tell me, how did you get up there?” he asked. “That’s a long way to climb!”
“Oh, I didn’t climb!” Brithla brightened up again, Lord Elrond’s voice had sounded quite impressed.
“First, I went up those stairs over there, and jumped to that shelf over there”, she began. Elrond’s gaze followed her pointing finger across the library, until they got to the part where she swung herself to the platform on top of the ruined stairs.
“I got a hold of the railing with my leg, and put the lantern down from my free hand. You see, I needed both of my hands to climb over the railing…”
“Why did you bring the lantern in the first place?” Elrond interrupted. The story had his full attention, it was even better than Lindir’s songs, “Would it not have been easier to swing yourself across the abyss without it?”
“It was too dark”, Brithla explained, “And we carried lanterns all the time in Lórien, it’s not hard”.
Elrond shook his head in wonder. This was one amazing child! He asked what had gone wrong in the end.
“I tied the rope badly. I can’t believe I was so careless!” Brithla looked ashamed of herself. “It came loose just when I had my leg around the railing, and I started to fall. I managed to get a hold of the edge of the platform, but it was really slippery. I tried to reach the railing with my hand, but then my other hand slipped and I fell”.
New tears started to run down her cheeks, and Elrond took her to his arms again.
“Shh”, he whispered, “All is well now. That was quite an adventure you had, but the ending was happy”.
He stood up, and Brithla wrapped her arms around his neck.
“Shall we get you back to your parents and your bed?” he asked, and started to walk out.
“They will be so angry”, Brithla muttered.
“Oh, I doubt that”, replied Elrond, “I very much doubt that. They will be glad to know you are unharmed”.
Annoderu and her husband woke to the gentle knocks at the door that led to their chambers.
“Who can it be at this hour?” muttered the he-elf and climbed out of the bed.
He made his way from the bedchamber through the sitting area to the door, and opened it. His surprised yelp made his wife, who had sat up in their bed, to jump out of it.
“What is it, Anion?” she called out, while pulling a robe over her shoulders.
“I am sorry to wake you up”, she heard a familiar voice say, and walked hastily to the next room.
“Lord Elrond..? Brithla! What’s happened!?”
Lord Elrond was standing in the doorway, holding her daughter.
“I’m alright now mother”, said Brithla cheerfully, “Lord Elrond rescued me!”
“Rescued… rescued from what…” Annoderu’s voice sounded weak.
“Perhaps we should all sit down”, suggested Elrond, “And we will tell you all about Brithla’s little adventure”.
It took quite a while for Elrond and Brithla to explain all that had happened, and in the end her parents were both alarmingly pale and their eyes looked a bit brighter than normal. Elrond understood perfectly what they were going through. Every time he thought about Elladan and the thin ice of the river on an early spring day, he shivered. It was not easy to be a parent.
Anion swallowed hard, and looked his lord deep in the eyes.
“You saved the life of our child”, he said quietly, “We will be eternally grateful”.
Elrond was about to reply, when his eyes suddenly widened. All this time something had been bothering him, but he had been first too scared and then too relieved to really register it. Now he remembered what it was.
The sight of a lantern, sitting on the platform under the wooden railing, slowly heating the ancient wood.
He heard Annoderu call his name, and looked up.
“I am sorry, I just remembered that we left the lantern to the library”, he said, trying to sound calm. These three had had enough shocks for the night, there was no need to alarm them anymore when he could handle the situation alone.
“I should let you all go to bed again, you all need some rest after this”, he continued, “The lantern is on the platform, I shall return it to you in the morning”.
He stood up, and accepted the thanks of the grateful mother and father once more. The family walked him to the door, and after bidding him good night the frightened parents took their precious child to their arms, and carried her to the warmness of their bed.
Elrond, on the other hand, rushed down the corridors towards the library again. He practically kicked the doors open, and jumped inside, directing his gaze to the platform again.
All was peaceful. The lantern burned innocently in the same place where Brithla had left it. But Elrond knew it had only been a matter of time. In his mind, he could see the wooden railing heat up, and finally start to smoke. Lots of wood. Lots of books. Fire and paper made a bad combination. All of his people, sleeping calmly in their beds, unaware.
He had seen many fires during his long life, especially during the wars. He could see orcs running around with their burning torches, and hear the panicked screams of the people. He shivered.
But he had arrived in time now. He looked around the library, and quickly learned that Brithla’s way was indeed the best to get to the platform. He picked up the rope, and got to the work.
He tied the rope carefully to the ornamental decoration. One must learn from the mistakes of others’. He swung himself across the emptiness below with a whoosh, and landed against the railing of the platform he had been aiming for. He climbed over the railing, tied the rope to it, and turned to pick up the lantern. He put his hand briefly against the railing above the fire, and noticed it was hot. He shivered again, pushing back the memories about screaming people, running around.
He put off the innocent looking but so dangerous flame, and sighed from relief. Then another sound made him stiffen and turn around, very carefully. It was the small hiss of a rope that had somehow been untied on its own, and slid down from the railing.
The impossible had happened.
Elrond simply stood there, completely still, holding the lantern and staring at the empty space where the rope had been only a few seconds ago. In his experience world did not work this way. Then he thought about this for a moment, and realized that actually it did. This was just the kind of stupid thing that would happen to him tonight.
He found the thought consoling. It had probably been unavoidable.
He peered to the darkness. Somewhere across the empty space the other end of the rope was still hanging smugly from the ornament, but that did not help him now. There was nothing he could do but sit and wait for the others to wake up.
He looked at the lantern in his hand. He suddenly wished he had not blown the flame off after all: he was surrounded by one of the largest collections of books in Middle-Earth, and it was too dark to read. It was going to be a long night.
The new dawn started to brighten the sky. The first rays of the rising sun found their way to the library, and straight to the face of a sleeping figure on one of the platforms. Elrond stirred, feeling the warmness on his face, and un-curled himself from the ball he had curled into while sleeping on the cool floor.
He blinked and sat up. He could hear the distant voices of elves eating their breakfast, and considered shouting for help. He rejected the idea fast though. He had been here all night, there was no need to rush people now. Let them eat their food, the group of builders would be in the library soon enough. Besides, he felt ridiculous enough as it was. He really did not need to drag half of Rivendell to the library with his calls of help.
He leaned back against the railing and closed his eyes, letting the sun warm him. The night had been surprisingly cold. Autumn was coming again.
A strange sound made him open his eyes again. A screech of some kind. It took him a moment to realize what it was. He jumped up and leaned against the railing, and looked down just in time to see the small crack in one of the two supporting pillars widen.
He watched as in a dream how the ancient pillar started to tilt below him, and finally collapsed with a sound like the thunder. Dust started to fill the air again, and Elrond had just enough time to think “Everything that possibly can is going wrong with this library” before the disaster began.
The platform shook when it lost the support of the stone pillar, and landed heavily against the wooden structures they had put up hastily the previous day. The wood could not, however, take the weight of the platform, but instead started to break also. The sound of the platform breaking loose from the shelf to which it had been attached was mixed to the tortured sounds of the failing supports.
Elrond leapt towards the shelves, and managed to get a hold of the highest shelf just when the floor disappeared from under his feet. The whole library seemed to be shaking, and Elrond decided this was an appropriate time to scream.
A group of builders was just finishing their breakfast and getting ready to head towards the library, when the end of the world seemed to begin. The floor was actually shaking, and the sound was unbelievable.
Someone yelled it was an earthquake, and someone else started to scream, but most of the people simply stood still in shock. Just when it began to look like the rumble would never stop, it did. A few final thuds and clangs, and everything was quiet again. Except for one sound: the person who had originally started to scream had fallen silent with everyone else, but now another panicked cry appeared to be replying.
Glorfindel was leaning against a wall, his eyes wide and his mind in turmoil. Slowly his brain started to work again though.
“Library!” he yelled, just like Elrond had done the previous day, and – just like then – everyone was suddenly rushing towards it again.
This time Glorfindel was on the lead though, and arrived to the doors first. Elrond had thought the destruction was complete before, but it had been nothing compared to what the elves saw now.
The inner structures of one of the outer walls of the library seemed to be completely gone, except for the top four shelves up near the ceiling. Elrond was hanging from these shelves. He had stopped screaming, and was now concentrating all his strength to his arms and legs, trying to maintain his loosening grip.
“Elrond!” it was Glorfindel’s time to scream, while he ran up the pile of broken stone, wood and books.
He reached the spot below Elrond, and lifted his arms.
“Elrond, you must jump! I’ll catch you!”
“Are you crazy!?” Elrond shouted back, “I will not jump, we’ll both get hurt!”
The crowd stirred. Master Tórion had recovered from his shock, and started to shout instructions to people. They soon discovered though, that building any type of ladder long enough to reach Elrond would take too much time.
Someone suggested they should get a large sheet, and put a few people to hold it stretched so that Elrond could jump. This idea seemed like it might work, and Mistress Sárie rushed off to find some strong linen.
Elrond did not pay much attention to the conversation below. He could feel his fingers cramp, and closed his eyes.
Glorfindel still stood below him, shaking to the bone.
An all-too-familiar-by-now sound caused Elrond’s eyes to fly open. Screech!
The last three shelves had started to give up.
The crowd screamed again in unison, as if they had been practising for the occasion, and so did Elrond. His fingers finally let go of the shelf, and he fell down towards the pile of rubble.
A second later he smacked into Glorfindel, and both elves fell to the ground. Another second later a pile of books followed the elf lord. Elrond and Glorfindel both lifted their hands to protect their heads, and lay still until the rain of books ceased.
Finally Elrond judged it safe to open his eyes again, and looked up towards the last four shelves. The bottom one, which had gotten loose and spread all its books on them, was now hanging from its final support.
“Glorfindel”, began Elrond slowly, “Why are you lying on top of me?”
The blond elf lifted his eyes to meet the other’s.
“I was trying to protect you from the books!”
“I see”, said Elrond, and continued to stare at the shelf hanging over them.
He felt rather dazed. He probably had a concussion or something, he thought light-headedly.
He also had a vague feeling he should do something. It had something to do with the shelf above…
Then it hit him.
“Watch out!” he yelled, and rolled Glorfindel off of him, and away.
The heavy shelf above them finally lost the battle against gravity, and smacked down to the spot where they had been only a few seconds ago.
Another chorus of screams could be heard, but Glorfindel ignored it and ran to Elrond, who was still lying on the floor, staring at a large splinter only a few inches away from his face with wide eyes.
He then noticed his friend leaning over him with concern in his eyes, and blinked.
“Are you hurt?” he asked in a small voice.
“I was just about to ask you the same thing”, said Glorfindel, “There’s blood on your sleeve”, he continued.
Elrond tried to look down. His right arm felt numb, but there was no pain. Did that mean it was not serious? He should have known, he was the healer in here. He found it hard to concentrate though.
Glorfindel started to roll up his sleeve, when Elrond suddenly screamed. Now there was pain.
Glorfindel stared down in shock at the broken bone that arrogantly pointed out of the wound.
“A Elbereth Gilthoniel!” he whispered.
Elrond’s mind decided enough was enough, and that the right course of action now was to pass out.
Glorfindel carried his friend carefully through the shocked crowd. He could hear someone sobbing, and a shaky voice wanted to know if Elrond would live.
Mistress Alyssa, a healer, was by his side, leading him towards the Hall of Healing.
“He will be fine”, she said in her stern voice, “Now get back to your work! This library needs some attention, I should imagine!”
Tórion made some hesitant gestures that suggested he was pulling himself back together, and would soon start to order people to work.
They left the people behind them, and the last thing Glorfindel noticed before he walked through a doorway that lead towards the Hall of Healing was a crying little girl who was leaning against a she-elf, presumably her mother.
Glorfindel forgot them in a second though, and followed Mistress Alyssa.
Elrond’s mind returned slowly to his body, and regretted doing so instantly. He moaned quietly, and opened his eyes. The blurred image of Mistress Alyssa appeared, looming above him.
“Drink this” she ordered, and lifted a hand holding a cup.
Elrond had always thought her bedside manner left something to be desired. He tried to reach out for the cup, but found he was unable to move his right arm. And the pain was intolerable.
“What…” he began in a shaky voice, but was instantly silenced.
“You will be alright, just a broken arm and a concussion”, told Alyssa. “Now drink it up!”
She put an arm around Elrond’s shoulder, and lifted him a bit. The cup was pressed against his lips, and a foul-tasting liquid was more or less forced down his throat.
Elrond shuddered. He usually took some time to add honey and sweet herbs to his concoctions, relying on a compassionate view that injured people should not be made to suffer any more than necessary.
Mistress Alyssa, on the other hand, seemed to believe that it was everybody’s own fault if they got hurt, and the faster they were up again, the better. Elrond suspected people healed just so that they did not have to drink her concoctions anymore. It would have interested him to know, that in fact Mistress Alyssa believed so too.
This drink was record-breaking though. Elrond could taste the disgusting bitterness of worm weed. And below that, something else… He wondered why Mistress Alyssa wanted to give him worm weed. Well, it was good for nausea, and he definitely felt a bit weak, but still, there were better alternatives.
Suddenly the realization dawned, and his sluggish mind made the connection. That taste, almost – but not quite – covered by the horrible bitterness of the worm weed.
All he could think before the darkness engulfed him was “Damn!”
“He’s sleeping”, said Mistress Alyssa without turning.
“He doesn’t like being put to sleep during medical operations”, came the reply of Glorfindel from behind her.
“I know that. Why do you think I did not tell him what was in the cup”.
Glorfindel shook his head. He was glad he had survived with only bruises. He had been treated by Mistress Alyssa before, when Elrond had been away, and did not want an encore.
“Now”, continued Alyssa in her cool voice, “I must ask you to leave”.
Glorfindel knew better than to argue with the healer. He stepped outside just when Mistress Sárie came in with some clean bandages.
Glorfindel was slightly startled when he discovered the best part of the population of the valley huddled to the small corridor and the courtyard where it led to. Some people were still crying, despite Mistress Alyssa’s promise that their Lord would be well.
“He will be fine”, he said to them all. He could sense some kind of a collective sigh of relief emanating from the crowd.
Then he saw the little girl and her mother again.
They were standing next to a statue in the middle of the courtyard. Without knowing the actual reason, Glorfindel made his way to them.
He was about to speak, but the child was faster:
“I’m sorry!” she cried out.
Glorfindel’s brow wrinkled in confusion. “About what?”
“About the lantern!” streams of tears ran down her cheeks, and her mother wrapped her arms around her again. The older elf was also crying.
“I should never have gone to the library! I should just have given him the book in the morning like he said! I just didn’t want to cause any trouble. And now he’s dying because of me!”
The girl hid her face to the fabrics of her mother’s dress and started to wail.
“He is not dying”, Glorfindel said gently. “I promise you, he will be fine”.
He sat down under the statue, and looked at the child.
“What is your name?”
The girl looked up, but did not answer.
“Nobody is angry with you”, told Glorfindel, “But I would like to know what happened”.
Slowly, and after a lot of gentle persuasion, the child told Glorfindel, and the gathered crowd, about the previous night.
“He thought the lantern might start a fire”, guessed Glorfindel when Brithla had finished. “That is the only explanation to what he was doing up there all alone. He knew the structure was not stable; he should have waited ’til the morning”.
Then he frowned again in confusion.
“But what was he still doing there in the morning? You told me it all happened before midnight”.
“Maybe the rope came loose again”, suggested Brithla, “That’s how I ended up hanging in there in the first place”.
Glorfindel tried to imagine his friend hanging from the platform all night. It did not sound likely.
He shook his head. “I’m sure he will tell us all when he wakes up”, he said, and gave the little girl a reassuring smile.
The child wiped off her tears, but there were still some new ones developing in her eyes. Glorfindel wished – quite illogically – that Elrond had been there. He was always good with children.
Then Mistress Sárie appeared from the corridor and told Glorfindel that Mistress Alyssa would allow him to come back inside now. Glorfindel gave her a puzzled look, and then turned his gaze towards the sun. He was surprised to discover it was well past noon already.
He thanked Mistress Sárie, gave another reassuring smile to the child and returned to the Hall of Healing.
He found Elrond from a small room just off the main hall. He looked so small and vulnerable lying there with his eyes closed. Mistress Alyssa was standing by the window, looking outside.
“Don’t they have anything better to do?” she muttered when Glorfindel stepped in and closed the door.
“They’re just worried”, he replied, “They all care about Elrond very much”.
Mistress Alyssa did not turn. Suddenly Glorfindel realized that beneath her hard exterior was still an elf. She must have been scared this morning too. She hid it well though.
Glorfindel’s thoughts were interrupted, when Elrond suddenly stirred and whimpered quietly. Both he and Alyssa rushed to the bedside.
Elrond was slowly coming back to his senses. Very slowly. His whole body seemed to be in flames, and he felt slightly nauseous. Where was he and why? He had a vague feeling that something bad had happened, but had no idea what it was. Then again, he could have guessed that from his current state anyway. People who were alright and enjoying their lives did not feel like this.
“It’s the sleeping potion”, he heard a female voice say, “It always makes them disorientated”.
Them? Who were them? Was he a prisoner of someone’s? Was he not in Rivendell? What had happened in Rivendell? Suddenly an icy fear took his heart to its grip: where were his children? Where were his children!?
He moaned quietly, and tried to shift. The pain shot through his right arm when he tried to move it. He tried to open his eyes, but his eyelids felt so heavy…
That voice… it was familiar. He knew he should have recognized it. Who?
He felt something move, someone was leaning closer, and then a hand was placed on his forehead.
Another voice spoke up: “Elrond?”
This voice he knew: Glorfindel! His friend was here with him!
Then he was able to place the other voice to a face too; that had been Mistress Alyssa. Slowly he forced his eyes open. The light hurt at first, and everything was blurry, but finally he was able to focus enough to realize he was in the Hall of Healing. He curtains were open, and he saw a familiar statue out in the courtyard. And his children were visiting their grand-parents in Lórien; they had been there for three months. At least to his knowing, how long had he been unconscious?
Waves of relief, confusion and new fear washed through him, and suddenly he started to sob. Glorfindel leaned closer, and started to speak to him soothingly and smooth his hair.
Mistress Alyssa took his left hand, and started to check his pulse. After a moment she put it down again, and pulled the covers over him.
“He’ll be alright now”, she said. “I know you can look after him”.
Glorfindel nodded. Alyssa moved to close the curtains.
“The light probably hurts his eyes”, she explained.
She motioned to a bottle on the table. “Do not give him anything to drink for an hour. He’d just vomit it all up again. After one hour, give him the potion from that bottle. I’ll come to check on him again after a couple of hours”.
Glorfindel nodded again, and thanked the other elf. With that, Mistress Alyssa strode off to intimidate another unfortunate elf, whose axe had accidentally slipped to his own leg yesterday. Glorfindel wondered if he had heard about Elrond’s accident yet. Probably so. Hopefully so, otherwise seeing the tight-lipped face of Mistress Alyssa instead of the gentle and compassionate smile of Elrond would be quite a shock.
Elrond was still sobbing. Glorfindel sat on the edge of the bed, and wiped some of the tears from his cheeks.
“Hush now”, he whispered, “It’s alright”. He started to smooth the other’s hair again.
Elrond tried to look at him. His eyes still seemed a bit unfocused.
“What…” he began, and then coughed. His throat was awfully dry.
“Shhh”, Glorfindel took his left hand into his own. “There was an accident in the library. The broken platform fell down… and so did you”.
Elrond closed his eyes and tried to remember. Glorfindel’s quiet voice started to calm him down. Of course, the library… Memories started to come back: Brithla, the lantern, the breaking of the pillar and the unbelievable collapse of the wall that followed that. Elrond thought he was lucky to be alive.
“It’s just a concussion and a broken arm”, Glorfindel’s voice continued, “You’ll be as good as new in no time”.
Elrond opened his eyes and managed a tiny smile to his friend. Glorfindel just smiled in return, though what he actually wanted to do was jump up and down with joy. He started to realize only now how close it had been. He swallowed hard, and hoped his hands were not shaking. He did not want to frighten Elrond again.
He could have lost Elrond today. What would he do without him?
Elrond’s eyes were closed again, and Glorfindel saw he had fallen asleep.
He pulled himself a chair from the corner and sat down, patiently watching over his friend’s sleep.
Elrond felt much better the next morning. The first thing he saw when he woke up, was Glorfindel still sitting on the chair, now deep in sleep. Elrond knew he had been here all night, looking after him. He smiled, and tried to sit up. The pain in his arm caused him to let out a small cry, and Glorfindel was up and by his side in what seemed like only a second.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you up”.
“Don’t be silly”, replied the blond elf, “Let me help you”.
Elrond was so touched by the caring of his friend that did not even argue. In general he hated being looked after, but he also knew how lucky he was to have such a friend.
When Elrond was sitting up in his bed, he directed his gaze to the closed curtains. He could see sun shining outside.
“Glorfindel?” he asked quietly, “Could you be so kind and open the curtains?”
“Of course”, Glorfindel walked to the window and started to pull back the curtains. Suddenly he let out a surprised cry.
“What’s the matter?” Elrond tried to lean forward to see outside, but his arm protested again.
“Nothing to worry about, my friend”, replied Glorfindel, “It’s just the girl… she’s already up and in the yard, she was really worries about you yesterday”.
“Girl… What girl?” Elrond’s forehead wrinkled in thought, “You don’t mean Brithla, do you?”
“Yes, that was her name”, came the reply.
“She was worried?” Elrond sounded rather concerned himself now. “She’s outside now?”
“She is, poor thing”.
“But it’s early still! Glorfindel, you’d better go and get her here”.
Glorfindel gave his friend a careful look. “Are you sure? You still look pretty tired”.
“Please, Glor”, Elrond looked at his friend pleadingly.
Glorfindel shook his head, and left the room. So my friend has taken yet another little one under his wings, he thought.
Brithla looked utterly surprised when Glorfindel invited her in. She was clearly worried too, and managed to ask about the condition of Lord Elrond the whole total of three times before they reached the bedroom door again.
“See for yourself!” Glorfindel finally said with twinkling eyes, and opened the door.
“You’re alive!” exclaimed the child, and ran to the bed. Glorfindel rolled his eyes, and Elrond laughed.
“Of course I am, little one. It takes more than a few badly-aimed books to kill me”.
Brithla observed the pale and tired looking elf lord. “You look pretty awful though”.
“Thank you”, Elrond replied dryly. Now it was Glorfindel’s turn to laugh.
The child looked down, and started to fidget with the edge of the blanket that covered Elrond. The older elf looked at her calmly and waited. Finally he touched her chin lightly with his healthy left hand, and lifted her head up.
“I think I know what is bothering you”, he said softly.
Brithla’s lower lip was shivering, and tears started to form in her eyes again.
Elrond pulled her closer and wrapped an arm around her, ignoring the pain.
“It was not your fault”, he said.
“But…” began the child.
Elrond shook his head. “It was not your fault”, he repeated. He waited a moment, and continued: “Actually, if I hadn’t been stuck up there, I’d probably dragged the other elves back to work by that time. I dread to think what may have happened then! I much prefer that I was the only one hurt, someone else may have been killed! So… If you look at it that way, you actually made a big favour to Rivendell”.
Brithla tilted her head, and considered this for a moment.
The she laughed and wrapped her arms around Elrond’s neck. “I’m just glad you’re alright, Lord Elrond”.
Elrond smoothed her hair with his good hand. After a moment he pulled back, and looked at the girl. “But you must be hungry”, he said, “And your mother is probably looking for you again”.
Brithla looked a bit guilty now.
“I also feel a bit tired again”, continued Elrond, “So perhaps you should go and have some breakfast with your parents”.
“Father is probably already at work in the library, but mother really does worry”, Brithla agreed. “So I will let you go back to sleep”.
Elrond leaned back a bit, and suddenly Brithla grabbed the edge of the blanket and pulled it up to cover him better. Elrond imagined she had seen her mother do the same thing to her a thousand times and smiled again. It was impossible not to smile in the company of this girl.
“Thank you”, he said quietly.
Brithla made her way out of the room as silently as possible. At the door she stopped to look back one more time.
“Tell your mother everything is well again”, Glorfindel whispered to her ear, and she nodded understandingly.
Glorfindel closed the door and turned back to face Elrond, who was shaking from silent laughter.
“She might make a good healer”, Glorfindel mused, “At least she smiles!”
Elrond was not looking at him anymore though. Glorfindel started to follow his gaze, and turned around carefully. He swallowed hard. Mistress Alyssa had just entered the room.
She was not smiling.
Two days later Elrond was back on his feet again. His arm was still on a sling, but it was healing fast. He walked slowly to a distant corner of the library, where his people had piled the ruined books. Many of them were beyond repair with torn covers and broken backs. He sighed. There were hundreds of them, how long would it take to re-write them all? Well, at least there would be something to do during dark winter evenings…
Soft footsteps made him turn around. A familiar little figure had appeared from between the shelves again. She was squeezing an also familiar book against her chest.
“I forgot to give it back to you”, Brithla said, offering The Farmer and the Magic Well to him.
Elrond took the book, and looked at it for a while. Then he offered it back.
“I think you would enjoy it more than I do”, he said.
Brithla’s eyes widened. “You’re giving it to me?”
“I am”, he replied, “That way your mother can read it to you every night, and you never have to worry about returning it again”.
“Oh thank you lord Elrond”, Brithla gave him another one of her hugs. “Thank you so much! It always was my favourite bedtime story!”