For Alassante for her birthday With so many thanks to RiverOtter for the beta.
Elrond watched the arrival of his guests with a mixture of excitement and discomfort. Elendil and those who guarded him he recognized well enough, for he had hosted them frequently enough in the past century or so, since they had arrived in Eriador, driven from the ruins of Númenor on the wings of the storm. But the one who rode by Elendil was one he’d not yet seen, this grim figure followed by four others, two of whom resembled him closely. From the descriptions of the beardless face he recognized this must be Isildur, Elendil’s elder son; and the three males who rode behind him must be his own sons. The fourth rider was a woman, and definitely an attractive one in spite of her obvious maturity. Isildur’s wife, perhaps? And the oldest of the sons had, riding before him, a solemn boychild of perhaps ten years according to the count of Men, if Elrond was correct. But it was to the one before whom the child rode Elrond’s attention was drawn most strongly. Beardless as his father, this one’s visage caught at Elrond’s heart, so closely did he resemble Elrond’s own brother Elros, long-father to all of these. There was the Elven-light in this one as there was in Elendil himself, and as there was not within the father he followed.
It was this, Elrond realized as he nodded to his bride and together they stepped forward to greet the newcomers, that caused him the discomfort. Elendil the Tall sported a beard in keeping with his Mannish nature; the face of his son, although as beardless as that of any Elf and in spite of its fair and obviously noble features, yet had a smoldering darkness behind it, somehow a shadow to it that made the Lord of Imladris feel defensive.
It wasn’t until these descendants of his brother from Númenor began to dismount, however, that he realized that Isildur was wounded, as the son before whom the child had ridden moved to help his father from his horse as the boy turned to the woman’s side. As he alit upon the ground the Man almost stumbled, and the beardless son immediately interposed his shoulder for his father to steady himself upon.
Elendil was smiling with obvious approval at this young Man, and was coming forward to Isildur’s other side. “Here, ion nín--lean on myself and Elendur,” he was saying as he put his right arm about his son’s back. He gave a look over Isildur’s head at the child. “You are by your naneth, Valandil? Good.”
As several Elves went forward to remove personal belongings from the horses while others came to lead said beasts to the stables once they were unburdened, Elendil drew his son and grandson forward. “My son, Lord Elrond,” he said in greeting. “My son Isildur of Gondor, come this day to bring the petition of the south kingdom before you and all who might aid us against Mordor and its dread lord.”
“Celebrían and I greet you to our home here in Imladris, and will hear your petition in good time. However, it appears that it is more as healer than host I am needed first. Come within--we will go to the healing wing. Tell me as we go how it is you have been injured, Lord Isildur? Here, Elendil my friend--you are too tall to be fully comfortable in supporting your son so--let me take your place. Erestor, if you will go before us and see the curtains drawn wide and the lamps lit? My lady, my wife shall lead you and your younger sons to the rooms prepared for you.”
It was a common enough tale--two days ago, while riding from Annúminas, Men from the north assisted by yrch from the Mountains of Mist had assaulted the company escorting these two kings of Men; and although they had been victorious against the ambuscade, Isildur had taken a wound to the thigh as he defended his wife and youngest son. “I doubt it is all that serious,” he explained.
Elendur sighed. “You ever say that when you are wounded, Ada,” he said. “As it was an orc’s blade that took you, I doubt it is merely a scratch as you would have us believe.”
Nor was it merely a scratch. Yes, the blade had been smeared with filth, although the Man’s hardy constitution had not yet much succumbed to the contamination. Elrond signed to the other healer Elves to bring screens to place about the padded table on which he had the Man sit. “We will need for you to disrobe completely, my Lord Isildur, so that I can follow the lines of your vessels to see how far the infection has spread. Meliangiloreth--if you will bring heated water and athelas as well as Beren’s wort and comfrey? Eglarón, please prepare a surgeon’s tray. We will wait until you tell us when you have disrobed, my lord. You may wrap yourself with this light blanket when you are done--you will find it proof against any chill.”
So saying he withdrew, leaving Elendur to aid his father, stepping out to where Elendil waited, his face drawn with the worry he had refused to show before the younger Man.
“He is a stubborn one, my elder son,” Elendil commented in a soft voice. “He has not allowed me to examine him for fear I would not permit us to come this far ahorse. He would allow only Elendur to touch him, and then only to bind the wound with athelas against it.”
“I am glad for that,” Elrond replied. “Had it not been for the athelas I suspect the wound would be far worse than it is.”
It was not long before a muffled voice behind the screens indicated that the Man was now undressed and wrapped with the blanket. Two stepped forth to remove the screens closest the windows and to arrange the lamps to best effect. Once they had stepped back, Elrond came forward to pull open the blanket where its edges overlapped on the wounded side. At first he worked to cleanse the wound’s edges, peering closely to see how deep the sword thrust had gone. He irrigated it with water in which athelas and comfrey had been steeped, and carefully pressed from its margins what matter could be found. “It might be stitched,” he commented, “although that would have been best the first day. However, it was wise not to do so until all contagion might be flushed from it. But I like not this,” he went on as he ran his finger along the line of red running up from the wound toward the Man’s ribs. He drew the blanket back some more----
----And revealed a mass of scarring, indicating Isildur had been grievously wounded there before, what appeared to be a spear thrust that had entered from behind and to the side, going through his body. Elrond paused, his eyes rather wide with surprise and dismay at this evidence of a terrible wound once endured by the Man.
Isildur had been sitting forward on the table, grasping it with the near hand between his legs, looking stoically at the view out the window where the gardens were ordered. Realizing that Elrond had stopped his examination, he turned his face toward the Elf, then gave a glance at the place on his forward abdomen where it appeared the spear’s point had protruded. “I was wounded there, long ago, when I went with a companion to fetch away a fruit of Nimloth the Fair,” he said quietly. “I will admit I nearly died then, and particularly as the Betrayer had come forth himself to seek to claim me, and his breath fell on it ere we won free. It is often cold, there where I was wounded. However, in this case I suspect it shall work for us. Although then I nearly fled this life due to the wound, yet the blood does not move easily through the scarring, and so it has helped keep the contagion from spreading further.”
Elrond searched the Man’s face, realizing that Isildur, too, had in his time received the training necessary to help him use the gift of healing that so often occurred in his brother’s descendants. And, for the first time he saw Elros’s likeness impressed on Isildur’s features, saw the traces of his brother’s spirit echoed in this Man’s fëa.
He looked back to the wound and followed the red lines of infection up to the site of the massive scar, where those lines stopped. Beneath it he sensed a pocket of infected matter. He had noted darkness within Isildur not seen in his father or sons? Now he understood.
“Sauron left you marked,” he said quietly as he carefully lifted the cloth that kept his surgical instruments clean and chose a fine blade. “But in this you are right--the scars his people gave you in this case work against his intent.” He nodded to Eglarón, who held out a strap of leather for the Man to bite upon to protect his cheeks and tongue. “I fear much of this will hurt, but then you are aware of that, I am certain.”