There Are Many Paths To Tread by elwen of the hidden valley

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Story Notes:

This is (not for profit) fanfiction based upon the works of JRR Tolkien in his Lord Of The Rings universe. It is based upon the information from the appendices in Return Of The King.


I have adjusted the season in which Aragorn and Arwen meet to suit the timeframe of my tale.

“Adar!” Elladan’s voice echoed through the hallways of Imladris, drawing many from their chambers. “Adar!” The warrior’s voice grew more strident, concern lending it volume and urgency.

From a doorway ahead Elrond of Rivendell appeared, book in hand. He frowned when he saw his dishevelled son running down the hallway towards him.

“Elladan! Enough! You have been among mortals for too long, it seems. There is no need to disturb the entire household.” His words were delivered in a voice that carried no further than his son’s ears but Elladan skidded to a halt, a blush just visible through the grime on his face.

“I apologise, Adar. But Estel is hurt. We were beset by orcs upon the high pass. You must come at once for I fear he is gravely wounded.”

Elrond paused only long enough to set down his book before waiving on his son and following him to the porch. The occupants of the Last Homely House were treated to the unusual spectacle of the Lord of Imladris running and several turned out, just to be able to say in future years that they had seen it.

By the time they reached the porch Gilraen was kneeling at her son’s side. At the soft sound of elven feet she turned a tearstained face to Elrond. “Help him,” she pleaded quietly.

Elrond dropped lightly to one knee, touching fingers below the youth’s jaw to test the pulse of blood there and finding it was weak and racing. His expert gaze took in the movement of Estel’s chest, attesting to the fact that he still breathed at least. Other than that it was difficult to tell what injuries he had sustained for he seemed to have been bathing in blood; the original colour of his clothing unidentifiable. He ran practiced hands over Estel’s body then thumbed up each eyelid, moving his hand to block the sun from them and frowning at what he discovered.

Two of his healing assistants appeared with a stretcher and Elrond helped them lift Estel onto it. That the young mortal made no sound of protest worried Elrond but his calm demeanour did not betray his concern.

“Elladan, you will accompany me. I require more information from you regarding the circumstances of Estel’s injuries. Where is Elrohir?” Elrond’s keen gaze scoured the elves milling in the courtyard, noting some minor injuries to riders and horses, even as he assisted Gilraen to rise; shepherding her and his son behind the stretcher and into the house.

“Elrohir is unhurt but there are injuries amongst the horses. The orcs sought to detain us by targeting our mounts. He is assisting in the stables. Some animals may be saved but I suspect that others will have to be put out of their misery. We lost three on the pass.”

Elrond nodded. “I noted some injuries amongst your companions. Were any seriously hurt?”

“No Ada. There is nothing that your assistants cannot attend. They can make their own way to the infirmary.”

Elrond continued to steer a white faced and silent Gilraen, making a mental note to attend to her needs once her son was out of danger. He did not allow himself to consider for the moment, the possibility that Estel would not survive.

“And you?” he asked, making a swift visual inspection whilst never slowing his pace.

“I am unharmed, Ada. A small cut on my thigh. I will have it attended to later,” replied his son, waiving at a makeshift bandage, blood stained to almost the same colour as his dark breeches.

By now they had arrived at Estel’s room and Gilraen rushed ahead to spread a clean sheet over the bed. Once more, Estel made no protest at being transferred and Elrond’s concern grew.

More assistants entered as the stretcher bearer’s left, bringing water, bandages, Elrond’s herbal and his surgical kit. Deciding that Estel’s mother would probably feel better were she given a task, Elrond handed over a pair of scissors and signalled for her to start cutting away her son’s clothes, with the injunction to avoid moving their charge.

Elrond took another pair and started at the other side. “Now, tell me what happened, Elladan.”

By now Elladan was favouring his leg so he dropped into a nearby chair. He did not protest when, at a signal from Elrond, an assistant knelt at his side, cutting away the bloodied bandage and the leg of his breeches to treat the wound beneath.

“You know that since Prince Legolas’ incident we have been avoiding the entrance from the High Pass. The orcs are too numerous and several exits from their foul nests now open directly onto the trackway. But that is still the swiftest way out of the valley if one wishes to travel to the east.”

The elven lord who had established Imladris gave short shrift to this information. “Thank you Elladan. In all the centuries I have resided here that fact must have completely escaped my notice.” Elrond and Gilraen were cutting away Estel’s boots and the leather was proving difficult. “Lady Gilraen. You start on his clothes.”

Elladan blinked as his father withdrew a wickedly sharp knife from some hidden sheath in his sleeve and for one split second he was fearful that Elrond was just angry enough to use it upon him, son or not. He breathed once more when it was applied to slice cleanly through thick boot leather. Sometimes it was easy to forget that his father had been a very capable warrior. Upon other occasions it was not so difficult after all.

“I believe I advised you to leave that matter until the spring. The winter snows will be arriving soon, making that pass unusable by anyone, orc or elf, until after Yule at the earliest. We have time enough to form a strategy to deal with the orc problem.” Elrond made the last cuts and slid away the remnants of Estel’s footwear, wrinkling his nose at the resulting odour before returning to the use of scissors on the rest of his clothing.

Elladan hissed as his wound was cleansed a little too thoroughly by an apprentice healer. “We thought we knew all the egress points and intended to block each with controlled collapses within the tunnels. Curunir provided us with the means.”

Before Elrond could berate his son for such a rash action Gilraen rounded on Elladan. “You included my son on such a dangerous mission? He is little more than a youth! Have you any idea what his death would mean to our people, if not to me?”

Elladan noted that his father did nothing to halt her tirade and that, if nought else, indicated that he was of like mind. It was with some relief that Elladan noted Elrond distracting Gilraen. He lifted Estel carefully while she pulled away the last of her son’s ruined clothing. “Elladan, at some future date you and I will discuss the wisdom of your tactics and ethics. For the present please continue your narrative.”

Wincing as the apprentice set his first neat stitch, Elladan obeyed. “We had blocked three tunnels and set black powder in the fourth when we were surprised by a party of orcs. I think they may have been investigating the noise from our previous explosions and were unaware of our presence in that particular tunnel. Most of us managed to escape to the path but Estel was at the rear. Unfortunately one of our pursuers bore a torch.”

Now it was Elrond’s turn to wince as he imagined all too clearly what happened next. “It ignited the powder?”

Elladan nodded, then verbalised his reply when he realised that his father’s attention was elsewhere. “Yes. He was not struck by any debris . . . at least any large debris . . . but he hit his head as he was blown clear.” He shifted uncomfortably, earning a glower from the healer placing stitches across the long but relatively shallow gash in his thigh.

Gilraen began to gently wipe away the gore from her son’s wiry frame and now Elrond bent to examine Estel’s skull. Long and gentle fingers cupped his foster sons head, methodically searching every inch of skull and neck. He paused when he reached a spot on the left side and drew his hand away, finding it bloodied. Gilraen met his gaze for a moment. Her eyes stating only that she expected him to make this right, before she returned to cleansing her son’s battered body.

Elrond frowned as her work revealed no cuts, although a great deal of bruising was appearing on the chest and right arm. His hands followed hers, assessing more carefully for broken bones, finding one broken rib and a clean break to one of the bones in the lower arm. “Continue, Elladan. You have not told all.”

His son took a deep breath, only too aware of his father’s skill at deductive reasoning. “We managed to get him onto his horse and made our escape but one of the orcs must have sent word and we were attacked again just before we reached the overhang. They were not numerous but like a swarm of angry hornets. That is when most of the injuries to our horses occurred. They cut down Estel’s mount and Brethel trapped him beneath her. The blood is hers.” Elladan sighed in relief as the healer spread a cooling salve on his hurt and began to bandage.

Gilraen spoke at last, her tone sorrowful. “He loved that mare. He will feel her loss.”

“As will Elrohir. He raised her from foal especially for our little brother.” Elladan ran a shaking hand over his face. “Please accept my apologies, Lady Gilraen. The fault was ours. He was insistent upon joining us, but we are older and supposedly wise enough to deny him.”

Elrond spoke before the lady could reply. “Elladan. You are injured and beginning to exhibit signs of shock. You will accompany Erestor to your room where he will assist you to bathe and administer a sedative.”

If Elladan considered objecting his words were stopped when he arose on trembling legs and began to sway alarmingly. Erestor draped the twin’s arm about his shoulders and had no difficulty persuading him to leave.

Elrond did not need to watch, knowing that Elladan would recover swiftly. All his attention was needed for the injured mortal in his care. He rolled Estel’s head to the side and began to gently cleanse the blood matted in his dark hair. “Nearly three thousand years of age and they may as well be children when it comes to avenging their mother’s hurt. It is time this hatred ceased. They cannot kill all the orcs in Middle earth,” he muttered in a rare display of annoyance. He took up his scissors and began to cut away the hair around Estel’s injury to establish whether stitches were required.

“And yet to ignore evil is to allow it to flourish.” Assisting in her son’s care had provided Gilraen with the necessary time to regain her composure. She washed and dried her hands before selecting a nightshirt from the wardrobe. “You cannot keep them as your children forever, Elrond. They must make their own way.”

Elrond allowed himself the ghost of a smile. “You sound like their grandmother.”

"I am flattered you should think so.”



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