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A Winter Tale.

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This story is No. 5 in the series "Return of The Key.". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Just over a year after Dawn/Tindómë returned to Middle Earth, through the portal between Sunnydale and Ithilien, she travels with Legolas to see his father for Mid-winter...COMPLETE.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Lord of the Rings > Dawn-Centered(Recent Donor)curiouslywombatFR181142,77863713,28326 Dec 096 May 10Yes

NOTE: This chapter is rated FR13

Chapter Two.

Almost as soon as she saw the large tree approaching the raft, on the swift flowing river, Tindómë knew somewhere inside, as if it had been her own thought, how the ellyn would deal with it. They would release the hithlain rope on one bank, to reduce the force of the impact, and this would lead to the raft floating some distance downstream before the other rope tightened. She knew, too, that Rumil was going to take Haldirin, even before he reached for him, and that Rumil intended to step off and keep hold of the guide rope.

As Rumil yelled “Hang on!” she almost burst out laughing. Onto what? The saddle bags? Lithôniel? Certainly there was no part of the flat craft that could be gripped securely.

The raft pitched, and swung around, as the tree hit it and the current took it at almost the same time. She flattened herself against the wood and held onto the cracks between the planks with her finger tips. Galanthir also lay prone, holding onto the end of the raft, and over him she saw the horses all wide-eyed; they would make their own way to the bank.

The other ellon who had also been standing, to more easily use the guide rope to propel the raft across the Anduin, seemed to have done the same as Rumil – held onto the rope and let the raft go out from underneath him.

A saddle-bag slid past Tindómë as the tree buffeted the raft. Then something heavier. From the corner of her eye she saw a boot go past her. Lithôniel must have decided to try the same thing as Rumil and the other ellon.

She turned her head a little more. Lithôniel was going off the downstream edge of the raft, already too far from the guide rope, and she caught sight of Lithôniel’s face. Blood covered it and her eyes were unfocused.

Orophin’s girlfriend fell, unconscious or worse, into the fast flowing river.

Without pause for thought Tindómë let go of the raft and rolled after Lithôniel. As she went over the edge her cloak, forgotten in the heat of the moment, snagged on something and for a second she thought she would strangle or drown. She fumbled at the fastening, managed to undo the large clasp, and suddenly she was free of the raft and being pulled by the current.

‘Swim, elleth!’ she mentally screamed at herself.

She struck out, trying to swim with her head out of the water, searching for Lithôniel. It took a few seconds, which felt like hours, and then she saw the other elleth floating. Face down.

‘Please don’t be dead, please don’t be dead,’ she chanted in her mind, kicking her feet as hard as she could, stretching with each arm stroke.

…………………………………………………………….

A little away from the river bank, in the act of pulling on his boots, Orophin was suddenly conscious of tension amongst those at the water’s edge. By the time he could see what was happening the tree, roots first, was almost on top of the raft. Rumil had Haldirin on his shoulders – the elfling would be safe with his father. Galanthir was holding to the back of the simple vessel and reassuring the horses, the other ellon had a firm grip on the guide rope, and the two ellyth were right in the centre of the raft – they should be able to stay in place as it jerked, and swung, when the tree made contact.

He prepared to move, to help Rumil, or to haul the raft back using the hithlain rope held on this bank. As the tree’s heavy roots slammed into the raft he was momentarily disconcerted to feel a stab of pain and then a sensation of dizziness. He shook his head and focused on the scene in the river.

The raft was tipping as some of the roots caught underneath it and… what was Lithôniel doing? She was slipping down the sloping surface towards the water. Then he realised that there was blood on her face and she was slipping because she was not conscious.

It seemed to Orophin afterwards that all his thoughts were simultaneous: ‘I felt that! I have thought it possible that our fëar were beginning to sing together, and now I know it when it might be too late…’ ‘How can I face her parents if we are returning a body?’ ‘It is quicker to run down the bank than to dive into the water…’

He ran down-stream. As he looked to the river he saw Tindómë roll down the sloping raft, and for a second he thought she, too, must have been hit by a root. She seemed to be caught, her cloak strangling her; his heart lurched. Which elleth should he try to save?

Then he realised Tindómë was in control of herself, she had freed herself from the cloak, and she was striking out away from the raft and swimming towards Lithôniel. The river was flowing very swiftly and already the two ellyth were approaching rocks in the river. Branches were caught in places between them – he didn’t know if he wanted Lithôniel to be caught like that too, keeping her within reach, or whether it would further injure her.

He was ahead of the two in the water now. He could hear other feet behind him but didn’t turn to look. He plunged into the river just as he realised that Tindómë had reached Lithôniel and had rolled her so that she was face uppermost; Tindómë was now supporting the other elleth’s face above the water but didn’t seem able to make much headway against the current.

He waded out until he was in the water up to his hips and then began to swim towards the other two.

…………………………………………………………….

As she reached Lithôniel Tindómë tried to remember lessons from when she was Dawn in Sunnydale. She tried to tread water, and to roll Lithôniel face up, but it was much more difficult in a fast-flowing river than it had been in a swimming pool. Eventually she got her friend’s head onto her own shoulder, her hand under Lithôniel’s chin, and tried to swim on her back towards the bank. It was simply too hard. Bits of branches were catching in her hair and her clothes, her legs kept catching on rocks in the water, and all she was able to manage was to keep Lithôniel’s face out of the water.

‘Don’t panic,’ she told herself, ‘someone will be here to help soon. Someone will be here to help soon…’

Then there was someone else there. Orophin. With his strength he was able to start pulling Lithôniel towards the bank, and soon other hands were also there, pulling both ellyth out of the water.

Tindómë stood, hands on her knees, bent forward, trying to get her breath. Someone was holding her arm for support. Orophin had rolled Lithôniel onto her stomach and pushed down between her shoulders – he must be clearing the water from her mouth and windpipe.

It occurred to Tindómë that she had no idea if elves knew CPR.

She moved as quickly as she could, to where Orophin knelt over Lithôniel, and gasped out, “Roll her over, now!” He looked surprised but did it without question.

She knelt on the ground to Lithôniel’s other side and tipped the elleth’s head back. The teacher’s voice, from long ago, called out in her mind ‘Lift the chin to clear the airway’.

Lithôniel wasn’t breathing.

“Is her heart beating?”

“I know not.” Orophin put his head onto Lithôniel’s chest… “Yes, but not properly. Her fëa is still with her.”

‘M’kay, just get her breathing,’ Tindómë thought and, pinching Lithôniel’s nose, she brought her mouth down and breathed as deeply as she could into the other elleth’s lungs.

‘One, one thousand, two, one thousand, three, one thousand, four, one thousand, five, one thousand, breathe. One, one thousand, two, one thousand, three, one thousand, four, one thousand, five, one thousand, breathe …’

“I understand,” Orophin said, “I will do it.”

He took over as Tindómë got her own breathing back into a more normal pattern.

Tindómë was aware of other people around them but concentrated only on Orophin and Lithôniel. It seemed like an age, but was probably only eight or nine breaths after Orophin took over, before Lithôniel coughed.

Orophin stopped the rescue breathing and cocked his head – yes – Lithôniel’s chest rose a little and she coughed again. Without any prompt from Tindómë he rolled the unconscious elleth onto her side.

Suddenly Tindómë felt too weak to even stay kneeling, she felt her head swimming, and dropped down until it was between her knees. She was wet, cold, her hair had water streaming off it, she ached or hurt in more places than she could count at the moment; that would be more than two, then, she thought inconsequentially.

Then someone wrapped a cloak around her and held her close. Not Rumil. She couldn’t immediately identify who it was, and so, not Rumil. But Rumil was close, and worried, and his mental touch echoed inside her; ‘Meleth, oh meleth!’

The arms belonged to Legolas. He was speaking.

“Well done, nethig. Rumil, you are both just as wet – see to Haldirin first, Tindómë will be well when she has her breath, and her strength, back. Lithôniel lives, but Orophin may also need your support…”

His voice continued; giving instructions to try to retrieve the bags lost when the raft tipped, to organise getting the others over the river, to find a suitable building on this side into which to move the still unconscious Lithôniel. All the time he held Tindómë firmly and, slowly, she stopped shaking.

Then Legolas said “Do not hug Nana just yet, Haldirin, or you will get all wet again.”

She turned her head to look and saw her son approaching with a worried expression on his face – she must look a total mess, she realised; hair wet and tangled, leggings ripped, and face scratched.

“I’m fine, baby, just wet and cold. Honestly.”

“You will probably be bruised by tomorrow, though.” Her gwador’s voice was soft in her ear.

“Let us show Nana where Nilariel’s Ada has lit the fire,” said the elleth who had Haldirin by the hand – Lúthwen, Nilariel’s mother.

They must have the raft crossing properly again. How long had it been since Legolas had wrapped her in his cloak? Where was Rumil? She was aware of him being vaguely worried.

Legolas must have realised who she was looking around for, and he answered her unspoken question. “Rumil is helping to carry Lithôniel to the building, nethig. It would be best if you go too, now, and get properly dry.”

He carefully helped her to her feet.

“Well done, Tindómë. Without you I would have been preparing to face Lithôniel’s parents with a corpse.”

Tindómë wanted to ask if Lithôniel would definitely survive, but there was no point – Legolas would know no more than she did. She put her hand out to Haldirin.

“Show me where the house is with the fire in, Haldirin,” she said.

Tindómë could feel Rumil’s presence inside the building. He was worried.

As they walked through the door he turned from where he stood, by Orophin, over the still form of Lithôniel. There was quite a lot of blood.

“Meleth.”

The word held all his emotion, it caressed her as if he held her, but he stayed with his brother.

“You need to get dry, meleth.”

“Here, Tindómë,” Lúthwen said as she pulled Tindómë towards the fire, unwrapped her from Legolas’ cloak, and waved towards some clothes put ready.

“Haldirin,” Rumil called to their son, “come here and watch how Uncle Orophin will sew up the cut in Lithôniel’s head.”

Tindómë was used, by now, to the Elven way of showing elflings things from which the humans back in Sunnydale would have shielded their children – even though, to start with, it had weirded her out.

Her first thought, therefore, was ‘Orophin will stitch it?’

It made sense – Lithôniel was the person most likely to do the stitching, or other minor healer work, in this group and so someone less obvious would have to wield the needle. Most warriors carried a ‘first-aid’ pack and in all likelihood Orophin would have done it before.

She let go of Haldirin and he went to Rumil.

As she stripped and changed she could hear Rumil calmly explaining to Haldirin, “It would hurt when the needle goes in if she was awake. We would put special salve on it, but it is still not comfortable, and so it is well that she is still asleep from the tree hitting her.”

Put like that Lithôniel’s continued unconsciousness seemed a good thing.

From her place near the fire, while she pulled on the dry clothes, Tindómë watched Orophin. Lithôniel’s face screwed up slightly as the needle pierced her skin. Tindómë felt Rumil relax and she was aware of shared relief – somewhere in the back of her mind, from a lesson somewhere, was the memory that ‘reacting to painful stimuli’ was a good thing.

As Orophin continued to stitch, carefully, Lithôniel’s fingers fluttered a couple of times – almost as if she was trying to stop him, but she remained unconscious.

…………………………………………………………………..

It was hard to be sure just how much time had passed since they began to cross the river; it felt like half a yén and yet the sun had not yet set.

“She will awaken, Orophin,” Legolas’ voice broke into his thoughts.

“We have both seen warriors who have had injuries to their heads and they sleep this way for hours or days. Tindómë slept like this for… how long? As Lithôniel did not drown – thanks to both Tindómë and yourself – she will awaken eventually.”

“I know, but I want to be at her side when she does awaken.”

What he did not say was that he wanted to know if she would know him straight away. He had seen warriors who took days to remember who they were themselves, when they awoke from such an injury, let alone who was sitting beside them.

He had taken time to dry his hair and change into dry clothes – now it was time to wait.

The sun was setting. Rumil brought a bowl of food.

“Eat, brother. You can move if you need to – there are some here Lithôniel has known for many years longer than she has known you – she would recognise them as easily.”

Orophin wanted to hold the knowledge that her fëa had called out to him close to himself as if it were a treasure. But this was Rumil, and even whilst he wanted to keep it secret, yet he also wanted to shout it out.

“I… I want to know if she feels that it is me even before she opens her eyes,” he finally admitted.

Rumil nodded slightly. “Tindómë would know if it was me. She knew even when she was in that room in the King’s House in Minas Tirith…”

“I felt the pain when the root hit her… even though I knew not what it was…”

Rumil nodded again – there was no need for further words. If anyone understood exactly how Orophin felt, it was his brother. ‘Been there, seen it, done it,’ as Tindómë would say.

…………………………………………………………………..

Almost all the bags had been recovered, clothes hung out to dry, bed rolls likewise.

“We will stay for a few days,” Legolas announced, “we have plenty of time, and there should be ample fish and game. It will be a good place to have a break in our journey.”

The elves lit fires in two of the other buildings, divided everything out, and made themselves at home.

Lithôniel now lay on a bedroll; Orophin sat beside her. Fish was cooking, someone was singing, Rumil was sitting with Haldirin on his knee and telling him a story.

Tindómë went to Orophin and laid a hand on his arm. “I will sit with her for a little if you want.”

“No, I am happy to stay.”

“Galanthir, Lúthwen, Legolas, or one of the others who have known Lithôniel for a long time – they’d all be happy to give you a break.”

“I know – but I would stay myself.”

During the afternoon Tindómë had spoken to both Rumil and Legolas to ask if they knew of any warrior who had survived a head injury but not regained consciousness. Both had said they not heard of such a thing – although if it was clear that the skull bones were damaged a warrior might not survive more than a day after the injury…

Lithôniel’s skull appeared to be intact, and she had reacted to the stitching, and both thought she was in what they called ‘healing sleep’. Both, again, credited this to Tindómë. Others had come up to her during the day and said a few words acknowledging that she had saved Lithôniel – she felt quite embarrassed about it.

The usual watches were set but Orophin was excused. Tindómë settled Haldirin down and, before joining him, sat with Orophin for a time.

“Phin…” She used his childhood name, only heard rarely between the brothers for comfort.

“Phin… She means a lot to you, doesn’t she?”

He didn’t answer, but nodded slightly. She waited; her hand gently on his arm.

“More than I had realised, little brother-wife. But I do not know if Lithôniel also feels that our fëar begin to sing together… and I do not know how to ask her… even when she awakes.”

“Scary much, eh, warrior?”

Orophin smiled slightly. “It is. It is almost as if I am a novice again.” He paused for a moment or two before continuing.

“But this morning I was your novice, and if you had not shown me how to breathe life into Lithôniel’s hroar then I would not need to wonder how to ask her if she also hears the song… thank you, Tindómë, from the bottom of my heart I thank you.”

She leant forward a little so that their foreheads touched. She said nothing for a little then…

“Phin, you do not need to thank me – how could I have not done what I did? I know that if her fëa had not been able to stay, if she had gone to Mandos Halls, that you would have met again in Valinor – but I wouldn’t want to lose her from being my friend here; or for you to be unhappy and lost like you were without Haldir to start with.

“And, as for the other thing, I don’t think you need to worry about the right words, honestly.”

…………………………………………………………………..

Throughout the night one or another elf came and sat, with Orophin, at Lithôniel’s side. A few times the elleth screwed up her face, or tossed in her sleep, and each time Orophin would gently touch her face and he and his companion would quietly sing until she looked peaceful again. Then, just as the first rays of grey light came in through the open widows and Rumil was back at his side, Orophin saw her eyelashes flutter.

He touched her cheek with one hand, and took her fingers in his other.

Then her lips moved.

“Nana?”

For a split second Rumil’s face broke into a grin – both had heard the strongest of warriors say exactly the same thing as they returned to consciousness.

Then Lithôniel’s fingers curled in Orophin’s own, and she spoke again.

“Orophin?”


…………………………………………………………………..
Odd bits of Sindarin

Nana - Mommy
Gwador - sworn kinsman.
Fëa - spirit. Fëar is the plural.
hroar - outer body.
…………………………………………………………….

The BtVS characters do not belong to me, but are used for amusement only. All rights remain the property of Mutant Enemy, Joss Whedon, and the original TV companies. The same is true of the LotR characters for whom all rights remain the property of the estate of JRR Tolkien and the companies responsible for the production of the films.
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