Author’s Note: Many thanks to Khylaren for her assistance with this story.
The Yellow Bird, part 1
for wildecate on the occasion of her birthday
Orophin was unable, for the greatest part of the day, to understand why he was so out-of-sorts. As his begetting day—his 2,019th to be exact—one might have expected him to be in a better mood. There was a feast, for one thing, and gifts, for another. Both his brothers were there instead of at a far-off border guarding their home from the fell creatures that stalked the land, and the Golden Lady and Silver Lord themselves graced the home he shared with Haldir and Rùmil with their presence on this day honouring the occasion of his birth.
It was not until after all their guests had departed for the evening, and his arms were loaded with the gifts en route to his bedchamber, that Orophin realized the reason for his less-than-stellar mood.
One gift was missing.
It was not a case of the gift being there earlier, and now being gone; no, it had never been there to begin with.
For the last eighty-two years, without fail, Orophin had received a drawing. The artist was always the same, although the skill had improved with each. Invariably, the drawing was of him, usually in some mundane situation that the artist had managed to make worthy of being immortalized by sheer skill alone. Him on the archery range, him sharpening a dagger, him standing watch on a lone flet.
He wondered who the artist was, and had made numerous, discreet inquiries among his friends, but so far, no one had come forward. It was obviously someone who knew him – the drawings were too well done, the poses they captured done by an artist quite familiar with their subject and his habits, for it to be otherwise.
Rúmil had enjoyed teasing Orophin about his mysterious admirer, though he had denied any knowledge of the artist’s identity. Haldir, thankfully, was not prone to teasing, but he had not known who the artist was either. Over the years, Orophin realized he looked forward to his begetting day and receiving a new drawing to add to his collection. That he did not know the artist’s identity made it all the more enjoyable.
The absence of the drawing explained Orophin’s mood, but he not could explain why receiving it meant so much. After the last gift had been placed on the small table in his room, he went to the window and stared out over the city. Somewhere, in one of the telain that glowed softly with lamplight, was someone who felt strongly enough about him to create such marvelous pieces of art for nearly a century; somewhere out there, this individual had decided that he or she no longer wished to continue the tradition.
What had changed? Had he unwittingly offended the artist? He turned his mind to remembering the past year, but could not recall anything he had done different from any of the other years. With a sigh, he turned from the window and decided he was weary. Undressing, he slid into the bed, but sleep would not come.
~ * ~
Orophin was awoken the next morning by his brother’s hand on his shoulder. “Arise, muindor,” Haldir said. “Word has just come. There was an attack upon Fennas two days ago. We must go.”
He was on his feet in an instant, and dressed and armed in another. Besides himself, Haldir, and Rùmil, there were three others, one of whom was the sole elf who had managed to run for assistance. Even slightly injured as he was, the young Filig had fled to Caras Galadhon, refusing to allow his exhausted body to collapse until he had relayed the need for help. He had taken only a few hours to recover, impatiently permitting the healers to bind his minor wounds before leaping up and insisting they be off.
“Our lives revolve around the Great River,” Filig explained. “We had just begun our day. Some fished for the noon meal whilst others washed clothing and pots. They… the yrch… came from the woods behind us, keeping us from finding shelter in the trees. There were but six of them, and seven of us, so it did not last long, but we were unprepared. Once it was over, it was clear I was the least injured, so it fell to me to fetch help.” He paused to drag in a breath. “I hope all will last until we can arrive.”
They left as soon as they felt Filig could bear the strain of traveling at such speed as they needed, their elven feet swift and silent as they jogged northwards through the mellyrn. They did not stop to rest, but ate and drank whilst running, and made the two-day journey in less than one. The site of the destroyed outbuildings was disheartening, and Orophin found himself holding his breath in anticipation of horror, but the voices calling out to Filig from the talan above filled him with relief.
“All are well,” stated an elf who crept slowly down the ladder, gladly accepting the strong arm Rùmil offered to lean on. ““I am Heletir, and very glad to see you.” His affectionate gaze rested a moment on Filig. “Please say you have brought healers; all have sustained injury and I fear for my brother’s wife; her head struck a stone in the river, and she breathed in much water. She has held on to life by a mere thread, these three days.”
“Naneth!” Filig cried, and rushed to the ladder, darting up with a speed that belied his fatigue from running for a day.
“We are healers,” said Nestad, one of the two other elves who had accompanied the three brothers and Filig, and shrugged from his back the pack of medicines and bandages he’d borne from Caras Galadhon. “What are the other injuries?” He observed Heletir with a critical eye. “You have cracked at least one rib, if I am not mistaken.”
“Aye, and there is aught wrong with my knee as well,” Heletir admitted. “But treat the others first; mine are the least serious of the lot.” Slowly, painfully, he led the way up the ladder to the talan. It was clear this living space was not meant to house seven for days; it was crowded, and the odour of illness permeated the place in a way that even the fair breeze of Lórien could not disperse.
Heletir led them to the first bedroom, in which was a husband and wife. Nestad went immediately to the ashen-faced elleth who lay frighteningly still upon the bed. “Aiwë,” said the elf seated beside her, clasping her hand tenderly in his own, “Aiwë, help is come.” But there was no response, and his dark eyes were bleak when he listed them to the newcomers.
“Be at ease, Tavor,” Nestad told him soothingly. “Your wife is not yet in Mandos’ halls. Go and rest a moment, and have a bite to eat. When you return, you will help me mend her.” Tavor rose reluctantly and followed the others from the room.
Iaun, the other healer, poked his fair head into one of the other chambers leading from the main room. Inside were two elleths, young and comely. Both were freshly attired, their faces and hands clean. One sat behind the other on the bed, braiding her dark hair into an elaborate crown.
“Dúlinn!” exclaimed the one who was braiding, and the one to whom she ministered opened her eyes. The first was pretty in the typical elven way, but the second, Dúlinn, was absolutely lovely, and Orophin found himself staring, only averting his gaze when Rùmil smirked in his direction and nudged him with an elbow.
Dúlinn slowly stood from her perch on the bed, smoothing her skirts with hands that were unusually graceless for one of the Eldar, and Orophin saw that there was a bandage on her shoulder, causing the arm of her gown to bulge misshapenly around the fabric. “You are come to help?” she asked, and her voice was a melody lacking only the music. “Best you should see to my sister, Emmelin, as we two are well enough,” she said when the brothers and Iaun nodded, seemingly mute at the sight of her, and gestured to the other elleth. “Merelind has but that scratch on her face, and I but this wound in my shoulder; already it mends.” She tried to lift her arm and thus prove her statement, but it clearly caused great pain and as they watched, blood spread through the bandage to stain her gown.
Paling, she swayed on her feet, but Haldir was there before she could fall. Lifting her gently, he carried her the few steps to the bed and lay her down, then stepped back as if the touch of her scorched him.
Merelind shot a knowing smile in his direction and moved forward to straighten her cousin’s skirts properly. “She is not as well as she would like you to think,” Merelind murmured. “But indeed, we are better than poor Emmelin.” Her eyes were pleading as they rested on each Lórien elf in turn. “Please, go to her.”
Iaun nodded briskly. “Haldir, Rùmil, your healing skills will be adequate for the injuries of these two. Orophin,” he addressed the last, smiling faintly to take the sting out of the unintentional insult, “you are with me.”
They went to the third bedchamber to find two more elleths, one laying limply against the pillows, her dark hair unbound and streaming across the sheets, whilst another sat close by, singing softly in the ancient tongue of Quenya. At their entry, she left off her song. “My daughter, Emmelin,” she told them, gesturing to the bedridden one, and rising. “I am Tuilinn.”
“Iaun, and Orophin,” the healer said, making his way to Emmelin’s side. “What ails her?”
“Her hand and arm were damaged, broken, I believe,” Tuilinn replied, but her eyes were fixed on Orophin. “Her wounds are of the spirit, for she fears the loss of their use.”
Iaun examined the unconscious elleth’s arm, his hands gentle and practiced. “There is a break in the upper arm, and two of the small bones of the hand,” he confirmed. “They are clean breaks, however, and will heal well.” He lay Emmelin’s arm back at her side. “Orophin, Tavor is a carpenter. Ask him for two straight, narrow pieces of wood.” He turned to Tuilinn. “Why does she fear the loss of use of her hand?” Iaun continued as Orophin left the room.
Tuilinn waited a few moments before answering. “She is terrified she might never be able to draw again,” she replied at last, her voice low. “Emmelin is an artist.”
Orophin soon returned bearing the wood the healer had requested. He knelt beside Iaun, holding Emmelin’s arm straight and still as the healer bound the wood on either side, effectively immobilizing the broken bone. Iaun finished tying a knot in the strong cord, and indicated with a nod that Orophin should release his hold on the elleth’s arm. As gently as he could, he laid Emmelin’s arm at her side, and watched as Iaun examined the two, broken fingers on her hand.
Using strips of hide, softened in water, Iaun bound the two fingers together, holding them carefully until the hide began to dry. As it dried, the hide stiffened, and held the broken fingers straight and immobilized them. Satisfied that the casting would hold until he could manufacture a splint, Iaun leaned back on his heels.
“I have some herbs that can be taken to ease the pain as her bones heal,” he said quietly, reaching for his pack. “They will make her sleepy.”
Tuilinn nodded, accepting the packet he handed her and bowed her head. “I will share with her your words, for she will be greatly relieved to hear them.”
Iaun rose to his feet, shouldering his pack. “She should remain in bed for at least two days, and she should limit any use of that arm as much as possible. On the third day I will want to examine her injuries again.”
“Hannon le,” Tuilinn replied, bowing her head once more.
Orophin found his brothers deep in discussion with Heletir and Tavor and joined them, silently taking his place at Haldir’s side.
“You cannot remain here,” Haldir said, shaking his head firmly. “It is no longer safe for you to live outside the protective borders of the city. As soon as your injured can travel, we will escort you to Caras Galadhon.”
Heletir frowned, turning his gaze to Tavor. “I hate the thought of leaving,” he said. “We have worked hard to make this place our home.”
Tavor nodded. “Aye, muindor, yet Haldir has said this is not the first of such attacks on the outer settlements. Something has stirred the yrch; a shadow grows in the east. Have you not sensed it?”
“Aye,” Heletir replied reluctantly, his face darkening with worry. “I have.”
“There are not enough of you to defend your homes from another attack,” Haldir said, shaking his head again. “I will not leave you and your families here in such an unprotected state. The Lady would never forgive me.” He smiled faintly to soften his words.
Slowly, Heletir nodded. “Aye. You are right.” A long, defeated sigh escaped him. “We will leave as soon as we are able to travel. To be honest, I am grateful for your offer of escort, for we would not hold long against another attack.”
Haldir inclined his head. “I am relieved. How many days before the wounded may travel?”
“Iaun has said that Emmelin must stay abed for two days at least,” Orophin answered him.
“Nestad is confident that Aiwë will recover, but she also must remain abed for at least three more days,” Tavor said, his relief apparent to all.
Haldir turned his gaze to Heletir. “What of your injuries?”
“My ribs and knee will not keep me from walking,” Heletir replied with a wry smile. “I will be ready.”
Hannon le = I thank thee (formal)
muindor = brother
Fennas = a hamlet on outer boundaries of Lothlórien.
mellyrn = pl. of mallorn
yrch = orcs
telain = pl. of talan