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Heart of a Warden

Chapter 10: Chapter 10

by aimless

Heart of a Warden

Chapter 10

Rúmil stood waiting for the outrider to approach. It did not take long for him to see the rider heading through the trees. He felt an overwhelming sense of relief that Dara would soon be under the care of the healers. All he had to do now was get her safely back to Caras Galadhon. He recognized the outrider right away he was a warden by the name of Erundil. He was a veteran and had guarded the borders for a millennium. The rider dismounted and hurried to speak to the other warden.

“Rúmil have you any word of warden Elendara? She was due back in the city and never showed up. I searched a bit on my way here but found no trace of her.”

Rúmil clasped hands with Erundil and led him towards the flet.

“She is still here, I found her wounded and sick with fever. I have to get her back to the city to the healing halls.”

“I could take her; this was my last outpost before heading back to the city.”

“No! I have to be the one. I mean, I am her friend and would see her safely back if it was agreeable to you. I believe she would be more comfortable with me as an escort.”

Ah, so that was the way of things Erundil thought, as he observed Rúmil’s panic at the thought of not being able to see Elendara safely home.

“Then I will take your place on the border. Tell me, how was she wounded?

Rúmil sighed in relief and told Erundil how Dara was wounded.

“So this band of orcs that you followed; do you think they will be an immediate threat to the border?”

“It is a sizeable force and we will need to eradicate them as soon as possible. Once I return to the city, I will make sure it is taken care of. Haldir will want to know of this and he will see to gathering the forces needed.”

“Let us see to our wounded Warden then and you and she can depart.”

The next few hours were ones that Dara would prefer not to remember if she had a choice. Erundil and Rúmil returned to the flet and the outrider also checked her wounds. She was tired of being fussed over and wanted to just get it all over with. Rúmil’s soothing words and Erundil’s calm acceptance of the situation only irritated her more.

Rúmil gathered their belongings and took the packs to the waiting horse. Erundil made sure that the horse was cared for and ready for the return trip. It took both of them to get Dara down the ladder. They lay her down on the soft grass beneath the tree. Dara was ashen faced and she had bitten her lip to keep from crying out. She grabbed Rúmil’s hand and pulled him down to her and through clenched teeth exclaimed.

“I can’t...I can’t do this. It hurts too much. I fear in my present condition I will not be able to ride.”

“Dara this is the quickest way back; I wish there was some other way, but there is not.”

Dara thought for a few moments and came to a decision. It was the only way she would be able to make the trip. “I may know of a way I can make the trip easier on myself. There is a plant that grows near the pool where we bathe. It has fern like leaves and dark blue bell shaped flowers. It is the roots I will need. It will make a sleeping draught that should render me unconscious for the trip.”

Rúmil looked at her in consternation “Are you sure it is safe? You are weak and still sick. I am not sure it is a good idea.”

Dara grew a bit vexed at his hesitation. “Will you trust me? I have had herb lore and I know what I am doing. It will send me to sleep for the duration of the trip back and no more than that.”

“Very well, I would not have you suffer unnecessarily on the trip back. We will do what you think is best. I will go and find the plant you spoke of.” Rúmil then left and headed into the wood.

Dara wearily closed her eyes and rested a hand on her forehead. Her closed eyes did not keep her from noticing Erundil’s approach. She opened her eyes and looked at him as he crouched beside her. She knew him only vaguely and had stood border watch with him on only a handful of occasions through the years.

“You wanted something Warden Erundil?”

“You play a dangerous game with your health, I know of the plant of which you speak. It is a potent drug and its use should not be taken lightly.”

She frowned at him. “I know this, but I also know it is the only way I can think of to be able to bear the stress of the journey. I am aware of the risks and I accept them. Please do not tell Rúmil as he will never agree to use the plant if he finds out about the potential dangers.”

“It is against my better judgment but I will acquiesce to your request. You are an elf long past your majority, so if you deem it your only choice, who am I to argue? I wish you well and will ask a blessing for your recovery.” He placed a hand on her shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze and then rose to his feet to await the return of the other Warden.

Dara rested as much as she was able to and looked over as she heard Rúmil approaching. He had several of the plants in question, roots and all.

“I have the plant you asked for. Now what do I do with it?”

She looked at the plant and made sure it was the one she had requested.

“Take the roots and score them with your knife, a milky fluid will drip out. Gather this fluid and add it to some water. I guess...oh, about twenty drops for a cup of water should do it. Then I will drink it, the amount should be sufficient to keep me asleep for the entire trip.”

“All right, I just hope you know what you are doing.”

Rúmil did as he was instructed and knelt down and held the cup to her lips. Dara quickly drank the bitter liquid before she thought better of her plan. Soon she felt a great torpidity wash over her and she fell into a deep slumber. Rúmil watched over her till she succumbed to the drug.

Rúmil secured the packs to the horse and climbed into the saddle. “Hand her up to me and I will be off, I will be sure and deliver your border reports to Haldir as soon as I have seen Dara to the healers.”

Mindful of her leg they got Dara settled in the saddle in front of Rúmil. He had one arm firmly around her waist and nestled her head on his shoulder. He took a moment to place his hand to her neck to check her pulse. It was a bit too slow for his liking but he figured it was due to the drug.

“Safe journey to you Rúmil, I know you will take good care of her.”

“Thank you Erundil, guard the border well. A force will return soon to dispatch the orcs.”

They nodded to each other and Rúmil grabbed the reins and they rode off towards home as fast as he dared.

Dara remained totally limp in his arms, unaware of the journey or of her companion’s ever growing worry. She had developed a slight fever again and he feared it would develop into the raging inferno that had almost claimed her life. He rode fast and hard and blessed the Gods for the stamina of an elvish-bred horse. Even so he was forced to rest the beast half way to his destination. He did not allow himself the same luxury; he did eat a little way bread and drink some water. His friend was still deeply unconscious and though her fever grew no worse, he greatly feared for her safety with each passing moment. The second half of the trip varied only in that he had to rest the horse more frequently the closer they got to their goal. He had never, in all of his years, ridden a horse to the point of foundering, but he came close as the city finally came into view. It was with a profound sense of relief when he rode through the gates. He left the poor exhausted beast with the stable master and swiftly carried Dara to the halls of healing. The journey had been a long one and his nerves were frayed and his heart ached.

Rúmil felt a keen sense of loss as the healers took Dara from his arms. They assured him she would receive the best of care. He slumped against the wall, staring out of the bank of windows that let in the late afternoon sunlight. He was weary beyond belief since he had not had any real rest for almost four days. He wanted to be in there with her and the wait was almost more than he could deal with. He was seriously contemplating barging into the examination room when he heard the door to the outside open and someone step into the room. Rúmil glanced at the newcomer who had joined him at the window. It was his eldest brother Haldir.

He did not look up as he felt a hand on his shoulder.

“I was informed that Dara has been injured, tell me what has happened.”

Rúmil continued to stare out the windows. He felt another hand on his opposite shoulder and he was turned around to face his brother.

“Rúmil, talk to me. I need to know what happened. I can see that you are upset, but you have to put aside your feelings for now and make a report.”

Haldir was a bit alarmed to see the pained expression in his brother’s eyes; he wondered just what had happened since he had left for the border. He guided his brother over to a bench and made him sit.

Rúmil took a deep breath and spoke.

“I arrived at the watch post on the second day after I left the city. Dara did not answer so I climbed up. She was delirious with fever and there was a large knife wound in her thigh. I saw that her sword was stained with orc blood. I cleaned and checked the wound but I could not bring down her fever.”

Rúmil rested the heels of his hands against his eyes and rubbed at the grittiness. Then continued his narrative.

“ I stayed with her all through the day forcing liquid down her throat and trying to keep her cool. When night fell I slept nearby and towards dawn…. She got so terribly sick, her fever was burning her alive. I did what I could…but I...it was not enough, Dara stopped breathing. I was so afraid she was dead…”

Rúmil’s head dropped to his chest. It discomfited Haldir greatly to see his normally carefree brother so distraught. He put his arms around him and held Rúmil like he used to do when he was an elfling. They both looked up as Orophin burst into the room. He saw Haldir with his arms around a very upset seeming Rúmil and feared the worst.

“Dara, Is she…I heard she had been hurt. I got here as quick as I could.”

Orophin sat on the other side of Rúmil and embraced him as well. Rúmil, comforted by the nearness of his brothers continued his tale.

“She is still alive…. at least I think so. She was when I brought her in. She did not fare well on the ride to the city. The healers have not been back out, they will tell me nothing!”

Haldir gave his brother a reassuring squeeze and bade him to continue his report.

“I am sure she will get the best care, they would have told us if she had worsened. Tell us the rest of what happened.”

Rúmil, closing his eyes at the memory, once again began talking.

“As I said, I feared Dara had died, I felt as if a sword had entered my guts. I could not think. It took me a moment to realize she yet lived. Her body had finally managed to conquer her fever. I made her comfortable and we both slept till past sunrise. When she awoke I was able to get the story of what happened. She had spotted smoke and went to investigate. She found the ruins of a caravan, traders most likely. A lone straggler that had been abandoned by the other orcs wounded Dara. It took her by surprise. The blade was poisoned. She managed to make the trek back to the flet and see to her wounds before she passed out.”

“Were there any signs of survivors? Could she tell how big a force ambushed the travelers?” asked Haldir with a frown.

“No survivors, she was wounded before she got the chance to do much scouting. I made her as comfortable as possible then I went and check out the ambush site. It was as she described. The orcs were easy to track into the hills; it seemed to be a pretty sizeable raiding party. I stopped when I got to a network of caves it would have been unwise to go inside. The hour had grown late and I wanted to get back and check on her. The next morning Warden Erundil arrived. He helped me get Dara down to the horse. She was in so much pain she suggested some herbs to send her to sleep. She was out for the whole trip. I have a bad feeling that what she told me to give her was not the best choice. Erundil stayed behind to take my place on the border.”

“We will have to go back and hunt the orcs down, we cannot have them raiding and multiplying so close to the western border. Can you lead us back there?”

“Of course I can Haldir, I would like nothing more than to see those orcs dead. What is taking them so long? I’m tired of waiting, I am going in there!”

Haldir and Orophin laid restraining hands on Rúmil’s shoulders as he attempted to get up and barge into the room where Dara was being treated.

Orophin had never seen his brother this unsettled. They all cared about Dara and were concerned about her injuries but Rúmil seemed obsessed. He wondered if something else had happened. He looked at Haldir and noticed the same troubled expression was mirrored on his brothers’ face. He too knew that there was more to Rúmil’s distress than met the eye.

“What else is troubling you brother? It is easy to see you are very upset, can you not tell us?”

Haldir and Orophin did not stop Rumil from getting up this time and watched him as he went to the window. He looked out for a moment and then with a weary sigh he rested his head against the window frame. They waited until he decided to speak.

“You are right Phin, I am troubled about something. I am hesitant to speak of it. I am not sure I even know my own feelings.”

Haldir studied his brother but had no idea as to the nature of Rúmil’s turmoil. He went to his brother and rested a consoling hand on his shoulder.

“You can tell us. We will help you in whatever way we can. This has something to do with Dara, does it not?” Haldir asked.

Rúmil nodded affirmatively and contemplated what he would tell them.

“I really do not know how it happened, I mean I’ve always held her in the highest regard. You know that. There have been times over the years when those feelings passed beyond friendship. Oh, I was quick to rationalize them away and was content to let our relationship stay as it was. Until three days ago. Something changed; I tried to ignore what I was feeling, I really did. Dara almost died in my arms; in fact I thought she had. I’ve never felt pain like that before. It made me realize that she was precious to me. I guess this has been building up for some time. I do not know if I can go back to being just her friend.”

Orophin did not look too surprised at his brother’s confession. He had been suspicious of his regard for Dara for years. Haldir did look a bit stunned at the news; he had always thought they were just the best of friends. He had some questions he needed to ask his brother.

“ Does she know how you feel? Have you told her?”

“ No, I have not. It seems she is not looking for that type of a relationship. She told me of Warden Amros’s advances over the years and clearly stated her lack of interest.”

“ I cannot help but think that your having feelings for Dara is unwise. If, as you say, she has no romantic feelings for you Rúmil, you are setting yourself up for heartache.”

“You think I do not know this? I had a lot of time to think about it on the ride here, I cannot help how I feel. I decided to avoid her at one point, but I cannot do that to her. She is still my friend even though I wish it were more. I will just have to deal with it; I will not abandon her because my feelings have changed.”

“Nor would I expect you to, but will you be able to work with Dara and keep your feelings hidden? Or will your feelings for her serve as a distraction?” Haldir asked.

“I do not see that I have much of a choice. I will not let this jeopardize our statuses as Wardens.”

Orophin looked at the miserable expression on Rúmil’s face and contemplated his brother’s future happiness.

“Do you think you have no chance with her? Are you not even going to try?”

“I do not want to wreck our friendship. You have seen how she avoids Amros. I could not stand for her to treat me that way.”

“It is not like you to give up brother. What if there was a chance that she could see you as a suitor? You are friends already, which could be a mark in your favor. She seeks you out more often than me it seems. In fact whenever the both of you are in the city, usually she can be found in your company. Could it be that Dara just does not recognize an attraction for you? Perhaps I should tell her.”

“You do and I will string you up naked from the tree in the middle of the marketplace with a “For sale cheap” sign hung around your neck.

Haldir looked at both of his brothers and sighed. He did not think they would ever tire of arguing.

“I think that is quite enough. Let Rúmil handle this in his own fashion. It is his choice to tell Dara or not. Right now all we need to be concerned about is her health.”

“Very well Haldir, I will let Rúmil deal with it his way,” For now. He added to himself.

All three brothers looked up as the door to the examination room opened.


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Chapter name
Chapter 10
28 May 2004
Last Edited
28 May 2004