The Hands Of The King Are The Hands Of A Healer by elwen of the hidden valley

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This is fanfiction based on the works of JRR Tolkien.  I do not own any of the characters or settings.

The Misty Mountains were living up to their name that morning, as the trio stood before the house, making last minute checks to saddle bags, stirrup and girth.  In the deep, water laden, valley of Rivendell early morning mist was a common occurrence, especially on summer days such as this. 

From a distance you could be forgiven for thinking them three elves but, in fact, the still unrevealed heir of Isildur was a mortal.  All three were tall, with dark hair and piercing grey eyes, their bodies, slender and straight.  But within a couple of years Estel’s shoulders would broaden and his beard become more obvious, as his face took on the more angular planes of manhood.   At least, growing up amongst elves, he had learned to move with the catlike grace of his foster brothers and had none of the gawky awkwardness of other mortals of his age.  

All were dressed in comfortable, worn and unobtrusively coloured, riding gear but none had bothered to don cloak to protect them from the dawn chill.  Elladan and Elrohir needed no protection from the cold for, as elves, only the most extreme of temperatures would cause them any discomfort.  The young man however was very definitely feeling the cold although pride would not permit him to admit to it openly before his foster brothers.  Elladan smiled softly and shook his head at the folly of youth as he saw the man lean in closer to Haranvarni, adjusting the girth for at least a third time, in an attempt to share some of the horse’s body heat.  For his part, the horse took the fussing stoicly.

From the gate leading to the stable yard behind them the light clip of another horse was heard.  The elven twins turned first, with Estel was only a split second behind them, but all three faces registered surprise at about the same time.  Wearing his old soft grey riding leathers and leading Haranfaana was their lord and father, Elrond; his eyes wide, in mock dismay at their expressions.  As he drew closer he reached out one gloved hand and placed a finger beneath Estel’s chin, pushing gently upwards until the jaw closed with an audible click of teeth. 

“Close your mouth, Estel.  Such a look of open surprise is most unbecoming.”  The corners of his own mouth twitched a little.

Elladan was the first to recover his composure, nudging his twin as he spotted the tell tale signs of his one of his father’s rare bouts of merriment. 

“Good morning, Ada.  Will you be joining us?”  He had already noted that his father carried no sword and only the lightest of saddle bags, whilst they carried both sword and bow and their own bags were stuffed with all the equipment needed for a long journey away from the comforts of the house.  Elrond allowed himself a small smile but his eyes did not leave those of his young foster son.

“It is a beautiful morning and I have been closeted too many days with book and pen so, yes, I shall be travelling with you.” 

Behind Estel, Elrohir’s hand flew to his mouth to prevent his laughter escaping, aware that Elrond had been out riding only the previous evening.

The still innocent face of the young man before him revealed too easily the emotions roiling in his mind.  Disappointment.  This was to be his first expedition with the Border Guards and he felt overly coddled as it was, with both Elrohir and Elladan as company.  They may be foster brothers but he recognised that, on this first journey at least, they were there for his protection, not just to provide pleasant company. 

Anger.  His foster father obviously did not trust him to take care of himself.  The elven lord had taught him to ride and fight and knew all of Estel’s strengths and weaknesses.  Elrond had made no secret of his concerns about his foster son’s readiness to leave their fortress home and had finally agreed to the compromise of allowing Estel to patrol the border between valley and wilds. 

Resignation.  This elf was the only father he had ever known and was considered one of the wisest Elven Lords in Middle Earth.  If he had changed his mind and decided that Estel was not ready to travel without his protection the youth would have to respect that decision. 

Elrond waited patiently for all the expressions to run their course and then decided he had teased enough.  “But, I do have a meeting with Rivan to discuss the accounts this afternoon so I shall be accompanying you only as far as the ford.  I trust that you will bear my company thus far?”  He addressed his final comment directly at Estel and used centuries of practice to hide his amusement when he saw relief flooding the boy’s features. 

To his credit, Estel recovered quickly.  “We would be honoured, Ada,” he smiled.

Elrond could not resist one final dig, however and pulled Estel’s cloak from where it was tied, behind the young man’s saddle.  “I suggest you put this on, Estel. You are shivering.”  Pride was a good thing, but only in its place.  “Cold muscles are a disadvantage if one has to fight.”  Whilst the likelihood of any fighting within the borders of the valley was most unlikely, Elrond knew that these sorts of considerations should become second nature to a soldier.  

Estel took the garment wordlessly and fastened it about his neck, blushing when he heard Elladan and Elrohir’s suppressed laughter behind him.  It seemed to Estel that, still, at over two and half thousand years of age, there were times when the twin’s behaviour was younger than his own.

Within an hour the summer sun had driven away the mist and Estel shrugged off his cloak, retying it across the back of his saddle with his blanket.  For the most part they travelled in silence.  Elrond was not noted for his garrulous nature and all three of his sons had acquired the same trait of quiet thoughtfulness from him. 

As they did not have to reach their rendezvous point with the current patrol until the following morning Elrohir suggested that they take the longer, steeper and less travelled route through the valley.  Not an easy path, it was infrequently used by either walker or rider and meant that they would probably be undisturbed; besides, the deeper shade of the trees was a welcome relief on such a warm day. 

His father hesitated, pointing out that Haranmorne was still inexperienced and would be wary of the steep track but Elrohir had insisted that the young horse was ready.  Elrond bowed to his son’s experience with animals and let him have his way.  From an early age the twin had lived up to his name and had an easy way with the training of horses that made his father quite proud.  Elrond’s own horse, Haranfaana, was an elder sibling of Haranmorne; a gift from his son only three years earlier and the Lord of Imladris could not remember ever owning a more spirited yet biddable mount.

After a while the track narrowed as it switched back and forth up the valley side with a rock face to their right and a sheer drop to the lower switchback on their left.  It was a credit to the aura of the valley and the elves that tended it that even here trees had managed to find a purchase, forming a green tunnel through which the four rode, single file, and dappling the path with cool shade. 

As they rode Elrond made mental note of trees that needed tending and his brow creased as he saw the crumbling edges of the trail.  In places the horses had to pick their way through uncleared screes washed down by the spring rains.  The stewards had apparently not been this way for some time and he intended to have a few strong words with them when he returned to the house.  There would be just enough time before his meeting with Rivan.

Elrohir’s shout jolted him back to the present.  Elrond was travelling at the rear of the party and, for a moment, he could not see what was happening; his view blocked by Estel and Elladan.  There was the alarmed shriek of a horse and then, to his left and ahead, the Lord of Imladris watched in helpless horror as the night black shape of a horse tumbled off the track and disappeared down the mountainside, followed by the flailing, dark haired form of his son. 

For a few minutes confusion reigned as the three remaining horses took fright and tried to turn and run back down the narrow path, only to find that there was no space in which to do so.  As he fought to bring his own skittering mount under control Elrond saw, out of the corner of his eye, Estel’s horse sidestepping towards the crumbling edge.  Finally regaining control Elrond edged his own mount forward, using Haranfaana’s nose to crowd Haranvarni’s rump back against the cliff wall.  He tore off his glove and stretched forward to place his hand upon Haranvarni’s hindquarters, sending thoughts of calm into the snorting animal.  Up ahead he was aware that Elladan had regained control of Haranwinde, although the horse’s eyes still rolled alarmingly.  With the combined efforts of Elrond and Estel, Haranvarni finally stilled, pushed hard against the cliff wall and still shivering, as Estel patted his neck and murmured words of reassurance.

With a pat of Haranfaana’s neck Elrond leapt down and ran to the edge of the track, wary of its fraying borders.  Through a gap in the canopy of trees below he could see the dark shapes of horse and elf.  Even with his keen elven sight he could not tell whether Elrohir was breathing but one arm lay at an unnatural angle and he was making no attempt to rise.  It was very clear, from the position of the unfortunate horse’s head, that Haranmorne was dead.  Elladan and Estel joined their father and stood surveying the scene in silent horror.  Elrond was the first to gather his wits, pushing aside his feelings as a father and drawing upon his resources as a warrior and healer.  He pulled on his glove and smoothed the leather over his knuckles.

“Elladan?”  The twin did not move or acknowledge him.  Elladan had seen his share of death but Elrond noted that he was pale and shaking and worried that he may be feeling some of his twins’ distress through the strange link that the two shared.  To Elrond’s surprise, it was the inexperienced Estel who recovered first and caught his foster brother’s shoulder. 

Elrond tried to push through to his son’s shock once more, setting a deliberate edge of command to his voice.  “Elladan?” 

The younger elf’s anguish filled eyes focussed dimly on his sire.  “Yes, Ada?”  There was a slight tremor in his voice and it was too quiet.

“If I remember this trail aright, there is a place just beyond the turning, there,” his father pointed to where the trail disappeared around a rocky outcrop, “where there is sufficient room to turn the horses.  Do so and then bring them back to join Estel and me.  We will go down to tend Elrohir.”

Elladan looked as though he was about to argue but his father cut him off.  “Use the time to compose yourself.  Elrohir will need all of us to have full command of our wits.” 

Elladan swallowed and nodded but his father did not wait for any acknowledgement.  He had already turned and now set off down the trail with a fleetness that only an elf could have managed.  With a sympathetic slap on his foster brother’s back Estel ran after Elrond, who was, even now, disappearing from view.

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