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The Healer’s Journey
With grateful thanks to Raksha and Virtuella.
Part one - Estel
Estel hurried to the healing rooms with the sprigs of fresh athelas that Master Elrond had bidden him to gather that morning. The boy could see that something was wrong, as a general atmosphere of bustle had replaced the usual prevailing calm of Imladris. Elves hurried hither and thither tending wounded Men and Elves.
“What has happened?” Estel asked.
“There has been a battle; Orcs attacked one of the Edain villages,” said Erestor. “This is no place for you, child. You should return to your chambers and bear your mother company.”
“Master Elrond wanted these herbs.”
“Well, take them to him and then go. He is in the herb room.” Erestor hurried off before Estel could question him further.
The boy was in no hurry to obey. He looked around him, at first anxiously, in case any of his friends were amongst the injured Elves. He then studied the wounded men curiously. He knew little of his lineage, but he did know these were his mother’s kin; tall, dignified and courageous fellows who were making light of their wounds and comforting each other while their gashes were stitched and bandaged.
Elrond had several chambers in this wing of the Last Homely House; a room in which he mixed herbs, a book lined study, and a room where he tended the most seriously sick and wounded. Estel loved learning herb lore in this chamber and watching Master Elrond mix healing brews. It was here that the boy found him; together with a curly haired man who looked close to death, his face as ashen as the bandages that swathed his body. Elrond held the wounded man’s hand with one of his own hands while the other he had placed on the sick man’s brow. On a table beside the bed the scent of athelas rose from a bowl of steaming water. Elrond’s usually peaceful countenance looked drawn and his complexion was tinged grey.
“Master Elrond, are you well?” Estel enquired anxiously.
Elrond gave no indication of having heard him.
Estel instinctively placed his hands over those of his foster father, hardly knowing why he did so. To his alarm the room spun around him and he felt as if he were being pulled along a long dark tunnel. Stones were under his feet and the air was close and stuffy. He had no idea where he was. Never before in his young life had he been so afraid.
The tunnel ended abruptly and Estel found himself on a precipice together with his foster father and the injured man, though now no wound was visible upon him. The wounded man was clothed in a grey cloak secured by a brooch shaped like a star. He was hanging from the cliff edge by his fingertips. Master Elrond frantically grabbed his hands, but he appeared to be sliding towards the edge together with the curly haired stranger. Estel lunged to save his foster father. Then everything went black.
Estel gradually became aware of familiar voices and realised he was lying on his own bed. The scent of athelas pervaded the room. He felt very tired and neither stirred nor opened his eyes.
“It is a remarkable gift in one so young,” said Master Elrond. “I always suspected he was a born healer, but this kind of power I have not seen for many generations.”
“What he did today could have killed him!” Estel had never heard his mother sound so angry before.
“You told me yourself that he could use athelas to ease pain from a very young age,” said Elrond.
“It is a very different matter from utilising herbs to allow his soul to wander,” Gilraen retorted.
“Lúthien’s gift is strong in him. He might well grow to have the healing power of the king.”
“He is but a child! Our days of glory are long gone.”
“A child he might well be, but he helped me save Gilmir’s life today. I was losing him when Estel aided me.”
“You should never have allowed it!” Gilraen snapped. “There are trained healers aplenty here in Imladris.”
“I did not permit it, your son simply acted. He needs training how to use his gift, but the ability is natural to him.”
“I don’t want to do it again.” Estel opened his eyes and regarded his mother and Master Elrond. “It scared me. Where was I?”
“You connected with Gilmir’s wandering spirit in a healing trance. He was very close to death and you helped me save his life,” Elrond explained gravely. “It was a great deed, Estel, but a dangerous one. You have a good deal of studying to do before you can attempt it again.”
”I should like to be a healer,” said Estel. “But the healing trance frightened me.”
“We will speak no more of it now,” said Elrond, as much in response to a glare from Gilraen as to the boy’s words. “How do you feel, child? You gave us cause to fear just then.”
Estel tried to sit up. “ My head is spinning!” he cried.
“My son!” Gilraen exclaimed anxiously. She enfolded the boy in her arms.
“It will soon pass now he is awake,” said Elrond. “It is best that he remains in bed for the rest of the day.”
“But I have sword practise with Glorfindel!” Estel protested.
“There is always another day,” said Elrond. “I will see you in the healing rooms tomorrow to begin your studies.”
“What did Master Elrond mean about Lady Lúthien and kings?” Estel asked once he was alone with his mother.
Gilraen hesitated as she often did when her son asked her questions. ”They are old stories from another age of the world, child,” she said after a few moments’ thought. “Lady Lúthien was Master Elrond’s foremother and our people are distantly akin to him.”
“And what of kings?” the boy insisted.
“Our people had kings long ago,” said Gilraen. “Then as time passed, they dwindled and were led by a chieftain, but now even that office has fallen into abeyance. One of my forefathers many centuries ago was Aranarth; son of the last King, so I think that Master Elrond believes you could have inherited your healing gifts from him. Folk always told me when I was a girl that I had the ability to ease headaches using athelas.”
“So we have royal blood, mother?” Estel’s eyes grew bright.
“It is only counted from father to son here in Arnor,” said Gilraen.
“They had Queens in Númenor,” said Estel. “Master Elrond has made me learn all the history.”
“That was another age of the world too,” said Gilraen. “Since then the world has become too violent for any save a warrior to rule. Now enough of ancient tales, would you like something to eat?”
“Could I have some cake?” Estel asked.
“I think broth would be better,” said Gilraen. “You have had quite a shock.”
“Master Elrond told me sweet things were good for you after a shock,” said Estel.
Gilraen laughed and despatched a servant in search of cake.
The next day Estel’s training as a healer began in earnest. The boy learnt how to distinguish between different herbs and their uses, how the parts of the body worked and were connected together, how to bind up wounds, diagnose fevers, and the skills of Elven healing touches, which soothed and stimulated the body to heal itself. He studied how to hold his hands over a hurt and direct healing energies into it, how to mend broken bones, and as a very last resort, how to amputate a diseased limb. He learnt too how to enter a healing trance and seek out a wandering soul, but this was the one skill he never practised.
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