Nostariel looked up from her work, emptying a handful of little paper shavings in the the basket set between her and her daughter. “What is it, dear one?”
Artistuion, now having finally grown, frowned down at the several yards of lacy paper cut-outs displaying uilos. Ada was away on business, and instead of translating the text he had left for her, the young elleth had spent the afternoon carefully ruining a perfectly good blank scroll. Even better, her mother had sat with her and helped. “The humans we saw….”
Nostariel gave her a curious look. “The ones we saw in Ered Luin? Artis, that was months ago.”
“I keep thinking about them,” she admitted quietly, carving out a trail of leaves upon the parchment. “They were sick, weren’t they?”
A minute passed before Nostariel nodded. “They are.”
The elleth’s frown deepened, and she looked up to search her mother’s sliver eyes. “They were in pain, naneth. I could see it. Ada wouldn’t let me help them. I tried to, but… why? Why would he not let me?”
Sighing softly, Nostariel reached over the confettied floor between them to cup her daughter’s cheek. “It is not just the remnants of Cardolan, but most of the human world, dear heart. Heal one, and there is not guarantee that he would not get sick again and die.”
“That does not make it right.”
“Death is a part of their world, my little light, as is sickness, but the latter does not always mean the other. And he was right to stop you. You would feel their pain and the suffering that comes with the fires of fever and draining of life, and you have no need to endure such a thing.”
Artis diverted her gaze, looking down at the delicate visage of a flower she had never actually seen. “Yes, naneth. I understand,” she replied quietly. She did not say how her father had been angry. She had never seen him angry, and never imagined it would aimed at her. Or was it at her? In any case, the elleth was sure that he had never intended his reaction to convict her, making her want to help the mortals that much more.
Nostariel smiled softly, a warm smile that reached into her youngest and lifted away the burden of doubt. “Do not let it weigh on your heart,” she assured her, kissing Artis’ forehead. “They will survive.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
It was not the path into the Misty Mountains that kept sleep at bay. Unlike the previous week that had been filled with exceptionally restful nights, Eruviel sat up in the dark, a pang of worry twisting in her chest.
He will survive, she repeated to herself. Every human falls ill. He will be fine.
What could it be, really? Durrow was one of the cleanest homesteads, and certainly more so than Bree-town. Children often got sick. It made them stronger in resisting such things as they grew older, yes? But a summer cold, she was certain, would not warrant Abiorn writing to Rivendell to call Eirikr home.
Quietly she passed through the camp to where Voronwen stood dozing above a half-eaten tuft of grass. A few whispered words in Sindarin, and the animal’s ears twitched in acknowledgement. Starlight streamed through the trees as she took out a curry comb and body brush from one of her saddle bags, and Eruviel drank in the cool light that pooled around her as she busied herself.
It helped little. She brushed Voronwen’s neck and remembered seeing Eboric sleeping in his crib for the first time. Eruviel brushed the horse’s shoulders, back, haunches and flanks, and all she could think of was late nights when he knew making noise would draw her out to give him attention. Eruviel thought of the first time he splashed in a puddle, of games, and cooking lessons (messes), and lazy afternoon naps. She thought of his screams the first time she had held him, her hands covered in blood.
Wiping her eyes, Eruviel shook her head at Voronwen’s concerned look, and set to brushing the animal down with the body brush. She had always prayed. It came naturally and nearly always unspoken as she went about her day, like talking to a distant friend. Now her lips moved without sound, and some semblance of peace that matched her carefully set expression slowly warmed her core. So many miles between her and home, what else could she do? She pleaded for Irmo to give him peace in spirit and in dreams, and for Estë to heal him. She entreated Oromë to give strength to the others, and to Elbereth who’s light was already there. For if there was hope of anyone hearing the elf’s prayers it was her.