Tittlepin by elwen of the hidden valley

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It was Elrond who took the lead now, pausing occasionally to thrust his hand into the stream before running on.  They passed several bits of debris, still floating in the swift flowing water and Gilraen fought to keep her mind on the fact that Elrond continued to maintain that wherever Estel was, he was alive.  Then she heard it . . . faint but definitely her child’s voice.

“Ada.  Mama.”

Elrond leapt into the water and, despite the fact that it was freezing, Gilraen followed him.  Her eyes followed him as he splashed to toward a shingle beach on the other shore, where a small pile of broken branches had snagged around a rock.  She was almost upon it before she saw the pale features of her son floating on the surface and was only peripherally aware of others following as she fell to her knees at Estel’s side.

“Come here and support his head, Gilraen.  Speak to him.”  Used to having his orders obeyed without question Elrond too knelt at Estel’s side and began to run his hands over little limbs almost invisible beneath the muddy water.

Gilraen pushed her annoyance aside as she removed a log from beneath her son’s head and slipped her knees beneath him instead.  Gently she bent to kiss his brow, brushing strands of wet hair from his face.  “Hello, Sweetheart.”

Grey eyes opened and tried valiantly to focus on her.  “Mama?”

“Yes, Sweetheart.  Mama is here now.”  She stroked his brow, feeling the icy chill of his skin.

Elrond ran assessing hands down Estel’s legs, reaching around the heavy branch that pinned one of them.  “Elladan, Elrohir, come and lift this off him.  Carefully.  Try not to jostle the leg beneath.”  The twins moved to obey at once as Elrond beckoned to some of the healers, who ran forward with dry blankets.  Gilraen was worried when Estel’s only reaction to the undoubted jostling was a small whimper and more worried still when she saw her own concern mirrored in Elrond’s usually calm face.

Needing no instruction, Erestor took a group of elves onto the beach where they collected dry wood and set a fire.  Others collected leaves and spread a blanket atop them near the infant blaze.  Soon a pot of water was hanging over the fire and Elladan gently scooped his little brother from the chilled water, one of the healers instantly stepping in to swaddle both in a thick blanket.

Elrond waited by the fire, a satchel of supplies and one of the healers at his side.  Elladan laid his precious bundle on the makeshift mattress and Gilraen pushed him aside in her eagerness to be at her son’s side.  Elladan took no umbrage, only moving away to speak with his twin.  Elrohir ran back upstream at once and was soon lost to sight.

“Scissors.”  The healer placed a pair in Elrond’s hand and he began to cut away Estel’s soaked clothing.  The healer took a wicked looking knife and began to cut away little boots.  Gilraen helped where she could, turning small limbs, drying pale flesh and murmuring endearments to her worryingly quiet child.  She tried not to look too closely at the bloodied right leg, where a quick glance showed her the white ends of broken bone protruding from previously flawless skin.  In her nightmares she imagined her son being injured by arrows or sword but never had she considered he would be hurt by a simple misstep, or so young.

Once Estel was dry and clean they covered him with blankets that had been hung by the fire to warm.  Gilraen worried when he began to tremble but when she glanced aside at Elrond he only smiled reassuringly.  “It is a good thing.  It shows that his body is making an effort to warm itself once more.  He has been in the cold water for too long.  But now we must straighten the limb as quickly as possible.  There may be damage to blood vessels and nerves and if we do not correct the alignment soon it will be irreversible.”

Gilraen stroked her child’s brow.  “Will it hurt?”  She knew the answer, had seen enough warriors returning with such injuries to know that she was trying to hide the truth from herself.

Elrond stroked her back.  “It will.  But I can give him a herb to ensure that he does not remember the pain.”

She met his eyes, seeing the truth of his assertion.  Still she asked again, “Is there no other way?  He is so little.”

Elrond only shook his head, signalling for one of the healers to feed Estel the necessary tincture.  It did not take long for it to take effect and Gilraen held back her tears as she felt her son’s limbs relax, his face growing peaceful.

Gently but firmly the assistant placed his hands about Estel’s limb, just below the knee.  The leg was so small that his hands easily overlapped.  Elrond took the foot and, at some unspoken command he pulled, firmly but steadily. 

Estel screamed and Gilraen fought the urge to cover her ears and run.  But this was her son, flesh of her flesh, so she kissed his brow, powerless to prevent her own tears too.  “It will be over soon, Sweetheart.  I promise.  It will all be better soon.” 

The screams seemed to go on forever, until she began to doubt her own and Elrond’s promises.  Then she caught some movement at the corner of her eye and looked up to see the assistant placing a dressing over the now straightened limb.  Estel’s cries faded to whimpers.  Elrond continued to hold the little foot in his hands as his assistant placed pads and then some smoothed pieces of wood on either side of the limb from ankle to thigh, bandaging them firmly in place.

“Mama?” 

Gilraen swiped tears from her cheeks before bending forward to smile down at the little face cradled in her lap.  “It’s all over now, Sweetheart.”

“I got my new clothes dirty.  Sorry Mama.”

“Hush now,” she murmured.  “We can wash them easily enough.”  She looked up in time to see Erestor throw the remnants of Estel’s new play-clothes and boots on the fire.  She could make some more.  It seemed that the fabric would meet a warrior’s need but could not so easily withstand the onslaught of a determined healer with a pair of sharp scissors.  Estel’s eyes slid closed on a sigh.

At that moment Elrohir returned at the head of a group of riders, leading several spare mounts.  He ran to the little group by the fire at once.  His face clearing as soon as he saw his newest little brother peaceful and resting in the care of his mother and adoptive father.  “The limb is set?”

Elrond stood and Erestor began to supervise the dismantling of the little camp.  “Yes.  He will sleep for a few hours now.”  He touched Gilraen’s shoulder and she looked up at once.  “He will remember nothing of the past few minutes and the pain from the break should be greatly reduced when he awakens.  We must continue to watch him carefully, however.  I sense no breaks in the major blood vessels but the muscles of his leg were compressed for some time.”

Gilraen could only nod.  Her memory brought to mind an uncle who had been trapped beneath a rockslide when she was just a girl.  His arm appeared to be undamaged when they released it, aside from some bruising.  But then the pain and swelling had started and within a couple of days the arm had to be amputated.

Even as her mind spun through various horrific scenarios for her son, Elrond knelt at her side once more, drawing her gaze back to him by the simple expedient of cupping her cheek and turning her face to him.  “He is young and strong and I have many years experience in treating injuries like this.  If there are no further symptoms within a couple of days he will recover fully.  All he requires now are a few stitches, lots of rest and his mother’s love.”

The search party were now leaping onto their mounts but when Elladan would have handed Estel up to his father Gilraen objected.  “I want my son close.”

Elrond made no comment, merely dismounting to show her how to arrange her son in her lap to ensure his leg was not jostled and remained below the level of his heart.  When he was certain his charge was correctly disposed he leapt upon his own steed and, taking her horse’s reins, led the way back to the house. 

On horseback the return journey took only minutes and soon Estel was settled in his own bed, propped up on soft pillows, his leg stitched, padded and re-splinted by Elrond himself.  As soon as he left Gilraen took his vacated seat.

 

-0-

 

“Mama?”

Gilraen looked up from her sewing and smiled at her sleepy son.  “Hello Sweetheart.”

Estel blinked, looking about their shared room and smiling when he saw Faerwen sitting by the hearth.  “Good morning, Lady Faerwen.  You’re early.  Where’s breakfast?”

Faerwen’s tinkling laugh seemed to draw sunshine into the room.  “It past teatime, Sleepyhead.  Are you hungry?”

Gilraen studied her son’s face intently.  In truth, she had done little else for the past few hours.  “Does your leg hurt?”

“I am hungry,” was Estel’s first reply.  Then he frowned as he tried to move his legs, letting out a small, “Ouch.”

Gilraen stayed him at once.  “Do not move it too soon.  You have broken it but Lord Elrond says it will heal well.”  She fixed him with her sternest gaze.  “As long as you do as you are told!”

Estel frowned.  “But can I still have my tea?”

“I will fetch something, Lady.”  Faerwen departed, no doubt pausing to advise Lord Elrond on her way to the kitchens.

Estel tried to push aside the blankets and Gilraen stayed him before he could do any more damage.  “Let me.”  She twitched aside the bedding to reveal the small splinted leg.

Her little son’s eyes widened but instead of crying he grinned.  “I’ve never seen a broken leg.”  His smile faded.  “It’s not a funny shape.  Cousin Adwin said his papa’s leg was bent when it broke.”

Gilraen rolled her eyes as she tucked in the blankets once more.  “Yours was a funny shape.  Adar Elrond fixed it while you were asleep.”  Her stomach, which had been churning ever since she heard her son’s first wail of pain, now finally settled.  It was clear that Elrond had been correct and Estel remembered nothing of his treatment.  Relief flooded in.

It seemed Estel was remembering something, however.  “I’m sorry, Mama.  I got my new suit dirty.  I didn’t mean to.  I slipped.  Can you fix it?”

Relief expressed itself in a flash of anger.  “No, I cannot fix it.  We had to burn it.  Whatever made you run off without telling anyone?”  She regretted her ire immediately, as Estel’s face crumpled.

“I’m sorry, Mama.  I can help you make some more clothes.”

Gilraen bent down to gather him into her arms at once, scattering kisses on his cheeks and brow.  “Oh, Sweetheart!  Hush now.  I am not really angry with you and Faerwen is already making you some new breeches.”  She pulled out a hanky to dry his cheeks.  “But you should have told someone where you were going.  You know that.”

Estel settled back.  “I wanted to see what Dan was doing.  I was going to ask him if I could come but he was too fast.”  He sniffed and his mother pinched his nose with her hanky.

“Blow.”

Estel obliged and she wiped.  “Why did you not call to him?  He would have waited.”

Estel lifted a thumb to his mouth and Gilraen had not the heart to prevent him on this occasion.  “I wanted to make him jump.  I took a short cut but my feet slipped.”

“Please do not do that again.”  Both turned to see Elrond holding the door open for Faerwen, who was carrying a tray.  “You are fortunate to have any tea.  A batch of bread was burned when the cooks left their posts to search for you.”

Estel pulled his thumb from his mouth and looked suitably contrite as Elrond came to stand at the foot of his bed. 

Gilraen slipped extra pillows at her son’s back and Faerwen set a little tray on its own legs, over his lap.  Estel’s face lit up.  It was clear that the cooks had managed to recover from their little mishap for there was food aplenty and Estel grinned broadly as he tried to decide what to try first.

One boiled egg sat in a little wooden cup, its cap already removed to reveal a shiny yellow yolk.  Arranged around it on the plate was a sunburst of soft buttered bread fingers and he dipped one in the yolk and ferried it to his mouth at once.  His mother rushed to spread a linen napkin over his chest just in time to preserve the bedding.

There was also a dish of apple slices and sweet red grapes, a bowl of cool, creamy rice pudding dressed with a swirl of honey, two little flower shaped biscuits with current eyes and jam lips, a small piece of cake topped with butter-cream icing and a large cup of milk nestled in its own bowl of chipped ice.

Gilraen smiled as she saw her son tuck into the repast with some gusto.  “I see the cooks managed to bake another batch.”

Elrond smiled and he turned to place a small vial on the table.  “Over the years they have learned to be resourceful.  One never knows who will turn up at the gates.”

Feeling lighter now that her son was well enough to eat, Gilraen could not resist a jibe.  “I thought you said that nobody entered the valley without your knowledge.”

Elrond’s brow quirked, his eyes shining.  “That does not prevent them knocking at the gates.”

Estel swallowed a mouthful of apple.  “Do you have gates, Adar?  Where are they?”

Elrond considered his reply for a moment.  “There are several gates, but they are magical and invisible.”

Estel did some considering of his own as he chewed a grape and then, “If they’re invisible, how can people see them to knock?”

Gilraen enjoyed watching the mighty Lord Elrond lost for words for several moments and she had to swallow a giggle as he replied, rather lamely in her opinion.   “That would be telling.  We elves must keep some secrets.  Perhaps I will tell you when you are all grown up.”

Leaving her son to demolish the contents of his tea tray Gilraen moved to the table to examine the vial.  Helpful as always, Elrond had labelled it in Westron.  Gilraen’s Sindarin was sufficient for conversation but she still struggled with the written word.

“Pain relief.  Two drops to be taken as required.   No more than eight drops in one day.”

Gilraen turned to watch he son, who seemed to be in no pain at present.  “Do you think he will need this?”

Elrond moved closer, dropping his voice.  “At present the tincture we gave him in order to set the leg is still in his system.  When it wears off he may develop a slight fever and experience some pain.  That is why I asked Faerwen to bring him some food now.  He may not feel much like eating in a couple of hours.”

Gilraen replaced the vial.  “Will he be alright, do you think?”  Her heart broke anew to think of her child experiencing yet more pain.

Elrond squeezed her hand reassuringly.  “We cleansed the wound thoroughly and applied a poultice.   I sense no mortification.  As for the other complications, only time will tell but from his progress so far I am hopeful.”

“Adar?”

“Yes, Tittlepin?”

Gilraen felt a glow of pride in her son when he said, “Please tell the cooks I’m sorry I made them burn the bread?   I won’t do it again.” 

Elrond crossed to the bedside and bent to kiss Estel’s brow.  “I shall tell them although I know that they have already forgiven you.  I am pleased to hear that you will be more careful in future, however.”  He lifted away the now thoroughly denuded tray, handing it off to Faerwen before re-arranging the pillows and encouraging Estel to scoot down.  “And now I think you should take a little nap.  Your Naneth will stay with you and I shall be just down the hallway.”

Indeed, Gilraen had already reclaimed her seat at the bedside and she too bent to kiss her son before tucking the blankets beneath his chin.  Estel was sleeping peacefully before she had picked up her sewing.

 




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