The Woodland Realm; 7th of February, 2942, T.A.
The Elvenking knew, of course, that children of Men were fragile and susceptible to sickness, but seeing it for himself frightened him. As he walked through the Palace, he saw some children sneezing, and coughing, and that was bad enough, but when his own child became ill, he found it impossible to control his apprehension.
On the 31st of January, Sigrid’s birthday, Tilda was a little tired and cranky, so he had Daeron and Hilda carefully look her over, and tried not to be concerned.
When she started to sniffle and cough a bit, a few days later, he became nervous, but Hilda did her best to reassure him.
“It happens, Thranduil. Kids get the sniffles and colds, and she’s hardly doing that, so this is nothing to worry about. She has no fever, and nothing hurts.”
He felt terrible. “We should not have taken them outside to play in the snow,” he said, for the sixth or seventh time.
Hilda put her hand on his arm. “No, Thranduil, stop that. All those children are healthier now, thanks to you, dear. Your folk have made sure they’re eating good, healthy food, that will build them up. They can fight off diseases so much better now. Do you remember when you first came to Dale, and went to the Children’s Tent? Don’t you remember all those pale, thin faces and hollow cheeks? Those parents did their level best by their kids, but they had barely enough. Percy and I were happy to help Bard make sure his own were fed, but we struggled. Too many others weren’t so fortunate; they often went hungry.
“And now, look at all of them! They’ve filled out and they've got roses in their cheeks, even Tilda. They have good vegetables, and fruit and meat, and you’ve given them all a place where they can run and play and get strong, now. You and your Elves did all that!”
“But they are still getting sick!” Thranduil said, worried.
“Aye, that’s true, and they will get sick, Thranduil. Children all over Middle Earth catch colds this time of year, and it’s usually gone in a week or so.”
“Are you sure?” Thranduil asked.
“Look, Tilda’s not feverish, so, we’ll watch her closely and make sure she gets enough rest. Then see what happens, all right? It’s all we can do.”
“I will have Daeron examine her daily.”
“If it would make you feel better, do just that. In the meantime, make sure she gets good naps, and we’ll give her plenty of chicken soup, and tea with honey to help with her cough. It will help her throw this off.” Hilda assured him.
Thranduil sighed, and gave her a sheepish smile. “I am not used to this, My Lady. I want to take excellent care of them."
“Of course, you do." Hilda smiled, and patted his cheek. “I tease you, yes, but I know it's hard. You love them, Thranduil; anyone with eyes can see that.”
The Elvenking nodded.
“So, no worries?”
Thranduil couldn’t say that. “What if she gets sicker?”
“If she does, or if any of the children do, they’ll get the best care they’ve ever had. Tilda’s always been a bit delicate. But we’ll do our best, and take things as they come. Percy likes to say, ‘One foot in front of the other,’ and he’s right. It’s all we can do.”
So, they kept a close eye on his Tithen Pen. It still seemed like a minor cold, according to Hilda, to Daeron, and even to Elénaril, when Thranduil insisted on taking her to the Healing Hall after the third day. Tilda blew her nose, sneezed, and coughed, but she had no fever. Esta, ever the good nurse, camped out on her bed, and kept a close eye on her.
Still, the Elvenking worried. When she began to cough, Thranduil told Galion to have her things moved from the next apartment, and into the room adjoining his bedchamber, where a large bed had been set up. It had originally been Legolas’s nursery, and had been used as his art studio for many years but within an hour, it was all set up for his Tilda, complete with a double bed. He told himself it was only so her cough wouldn’t keep Sigrid awake, but really, he couldn’t fight the urge to have her close, so he could watch over her. He kept her home from school the last couple of days, and did his work from his chambers.
Whenever Daeron came to get the boys and Sigrid, he would examine her, but didn’t find anything besides a regular cold.
On the 4th of February, Daeron prescribed Willow Bark tea, to help her fever, and the body aches she had developed. Tilda hated it, but honey made it palatable. He and Hilda tried to keep Thranduil calm, reassuring him that this often happens with a cold.
On the 5th of February, she developed an earache, so they treated it with Garlic Oil and Lavender Salt. It seemed to help.
On the 6th of February, her cough was worse, but her mucus was clear, and so was the phlegm she coughed up, so they decided it was just part of her cold.
On the 7th of February, it wasn’t just a cold anymore.
It was the middle of the night, and Thranduil had finally drifted off, after hours of listening and worrying. He was deeply asleep from fatigue, when Esta leapt onto his bed and barked at him, frantically. He blinked, and sat up, confused for a second or two, then looked at the doorway to Tilda’s room. The dog grabbed the sleeve of his night shirt and pulled, wanting him to come, quickly. He pain of her teeth sinking into his wrist through the fabric brought him to alertness, instantly. Thranduil lurched out of bed, and ran into the nursery to find the little girl sitting up, coughing so hard she vomited all over herself.
He ran over to her and felt her forehead and face, in a panic. She was burning up; her cheeks were deeply flushed with fever and her eyes were glassy. She coughed a few more times and started to cry.
Esta whined loudly with concern.
“Thozyan sen, Esta. Samis mauré enwinyatiewa.” He told the dog in Quenyan. She went to the other side of the bed, put her front paws up, and watched Tilda closely.
Tilda, still crying, had another coughing fit. “I made a mess,” she croaked, her voice was now a deep, terrible rasp. “Daisy’s all dirty.”
“Oh, do not worry about that,” he soothed her. “Let us get you cleaned up, and I will make sure Daisy and Charlotte are taken care of.” He grabbed a handkerchief from the pile on her bedside and wiped her face and gave her a sip of water.
“Can you tell me if you hurt anywhere?”
“It hurts all over,” she wheezed, and rubbed her chest. “It feels bad really here... I want Da!” she wheezed and cried. She began another coughing fit, so he held the kerchief against her mouth. When he removed it, the handkerchief had rust-colored spots, with streaks of fresh blood.
Oh, no… Oh, Valar, no, please… Thranduil’s heart lurched in his chest, painfully. This is what he had foreseen; this is what he had been afraid of. Please…no…
He quickly helped her get her soiled nightgown off, got her into a new one, then wrapped her in a blanket and took her into the Hall.
“Get Daeron up and tell him to meet us in the Healing Hall,” he said to the guards. “Have someone change all the bedding in Lady Tilda’s room immediately, and make sure her stuffed toys are taken away and cleaned. Wake Lady Hilda and tell her to join us, as soon as she can.”
"Yes, My Lord." Ivran and Ruvyn saluted, and quickly got to work.
Thranduil carried the sick child through the Palace, whispering words of encouragement, as she cried and wheezed and lay her hot little head on his shoulder, too weak to even put her arms around his neck.
Once in the infirmary, he rushed past the nighttime attendants, and took her into a treatment room. The little girl began to cough again, so he held the kerchief to her mouth, and grabbed a basin for her, in case she became sick again.
Thranduil looked down at her dazed eyes and red cheeks, and stroked her hair, as his stomach churned with worry. He knew so little about sick children, and this was his Tilda, his Tithen Pen! He tried to lay hands on her, to look for what exactly was wrong, but she couldn’t stay still enough for him; it didn’t help that he was too frightened to really concentrate, but he had to try something.
Tilda was almost hysterical, and every time he loosened his grip on her, she thrashed around and started to cry again. Daeron came rushing in, still pulling his tunic down. “Aran nîn— ai gorgor...”
The Guard’s eyes widened, as he took in the sight before him, how sick the little girl was, and the terrified look on his King’s face.
“De nathathodh?” Thranduil asked him, pleading, “Dhen iallon!”
Daeron swallowed, then did his best to compose himself, as he approached them. “Hello, Lady Tilda,” he said in a soothing tone, as he felt the little girl’s face. “You look very unhappy.”
“I really really want my Da…” The little girl buried her face in Thranduil’s tunic and cried between deep coughs. “Where’s Da?” Each breath was a struggle, and the coughs tore at Thranduil’s insides.
“She hurts everywhere, and you can hear how bad her lungs sound.” The Elvenking shook his head, as he stroked the back of her hair. He handed Daeron the handkerchief to show him what she was coughing up.
Daeron looked at the rusty, bloody streaks and gasped in alarm. He tried to examine her, but Tilda kicked her legs and tried to bat his hands away. “I just want my Da! Get my Da!” She croaked and coughed. “My head hurts!” She didn’t seem to recognize her surroundings.
Then Hilda hurried in, wearing her thick robe with her braid falling down on one shoulder.
“Oh, no… Oh, Beanie…” She breathed, as she went over and felt the little one’s forehead. “Auntie Hil is here, sweetie, and we’re going to get you better. All right? Now you do everything Daeron tells you, so we can find out what’s wrong.”
The little girl squinted her eyes at Hilda, who gently stroked her forehead to calm her. “It all hurts and I threw up and I can’t breathe.” She whispered.
“Oh, lovey, I know; you just let your Ada hold you tight, and you look at me, so Daeron can check you, all right? You just look at me, yeah? Can you do that for Auntie Hil, sweetie?”
Tilda nodded and kept her eyes on Hilda, as she wheezed.
Thranduil held her against his chest, with his hand on her head, so Daeron could finish looking her over. As the Elven Guard checked her out thoroughly, Tilda never let go of Hilda’s hand, and would only lift her head off her Ada's chest, so he could check her ears.
“That is very good, Lady Tilda; now take your finger, and point to where it hurts. Can you do that for me?”
The little girl just scrunched her eyes tight, and buried her face in Thranduil’s chest and wheezed and coughed.
“Does the light hurt your eyes, Tilda?” He got up and turned down the lamps. “Does that help?”
She nodded and turned toward him, slightly.
“I understand. Let us see if we can make it not hurt anymore. Can you be still for just a little while longer, for your Ada and me? Keep looking at Lady Hilda.”
She nodded, and rested her cheek on the Elvenking, still coughing.
“Daeron gi nathad, Tithen Pen.” Thranduil whispered, stroking her hair.
Daeron placed his hands over the little girl’s ears, and began to sing, then he moved to her forehead, her throat and her lungs. Her cough settled down, for the moment, and she relaxed.
“Is that better, love?” Hilda asked her, still stroking her brow.
“I don’t hurt so bad,” she said, in a thin voice. “But I really need my Da. Can he come? Please?” and she began to cry, again. As she inhaled, there was still a terrible rattle in her chest, and Thranduil felt like his own heart would stop every time he heard it.
He looked over to Hilda, and they both nodded to each other, but didn’t say anything.
“Can you breathe easier?” Daeron asked.
“It doesn’t hurt as bad.” Her cheeks still looked flushed, and her eyes still had that faraway look.
Thranduil looked down at her. “Can you sit with your Auntie Hil for a moment, Tithen Pen? Daeron and I need to speak, but we will be right back. Can you be brave for me?”
Tilda nodded and reached for Hilda, who sat down next to Thranduil to receive the child. Then she cradled her and began to sing and rock her, in a soothing tone. Thranduil and Daeron stepped out into the hall, to confer.
“What is the matter with her?”
“My Lord, she has Lung Fever - a very bad case of it. Both of her ears, as well as her throat are infected, and there is a dangerous amount of congestion in her chest. She said she had a headache, so I have treated the inflammation in her sinuses, so that should help. She is more comfortable for now, but I have not been able to eliminate her fever, and we need to get the fluid out of her lungs as quickly as possible.”
“How do we do this?” The Elvenking asked.
“Steam. We need loosen things up, so she can cough it out.” Daeron told him. “I wish we could put her under a losta-luith, but she needs to be awake to cough up all the infected material. I warn you, My Lord: it will be very unpleasant for her, but it is the best way.”
“I hate to put her through something like that, but if you say it will help her... Can you do this here?”
“We should set her up in your bathing room, and fill the bath with hot water. There are several oils I can put in the water, and rub into her chest that will give her ease. I need to prepare mint tea help her nausea, and add willow bark, to treat her pain and fever.”
Thranduil went back and repeated the diagnosis to Hilda in hushed tones. “I must take her back, and wash her more thoroughly, so she can be comfortable. Would you please come with me, and help? Once we get her dressed again, I need you to remain in my chambers in case the other children need anything.”
“Absolutely.” The woman stroked Tilda’s hot forehead. “Let’s go get you washed up, Little Bean.”
As they made ready to leave, Daeron said, “I will be there as soon as her medicine is ready. Please have the servants put the hottest water possible into your bathing pool, and tell them to continue to do so. They need to set up a small table and chairs for us, so we can take turns with Tilda in our lap.” Daeron looked into Thranduil’s eyes, with a determined look. “Athon de nathad, Aran nîn.”
“De vilui, Daeron.”
“We have a very long night ahead of us, so please do not thank me just yet.” Daeron admitted. “I wish I could tell you something better, but I must be honest.”
“I understand.” Thranduil stroked Tilda’s hair.
He felt terrible. He should have seen this coming; he should have known! But he did know. His foresight warned him, but what else could they have done to prevent this? Thranduil had done everything in his power to look after her...
The Guard must have read the look on his face, because he said, “My Lord, you could not have predicted this; no one could have. Small children get sick very, very quickly. You neglected nothing, you missed nothing. It was good that you moved her room nearer to you.”
“It was Esta who woke me.”
Daeron said, with all seriousness. “That dog most likely saved her life.”
Thranduil looked at him for a long moment, and tried to stem the tide of panic that threatened to cripple him.
“I cannot lose her, Daeron. I… cannot." Nothing seemed real or right, and if his Tithen Pen died, nothing could be good again.
Daeron looked at him with determination. “We will do our utmost, Aran nîn. We must be brave, for her."
Thranduil stood up with the little girl in his arms, and he and Hilda walked back to Tilda’s room. The servants had changed out all the bedding, and the toys had been taken away, so Thranduil sat with her on the chair, until Hilda came back with a basin of water and soap, and several towels. Together, they got the little girl’s sweaty and soiled body washed thoroughly, as Tilda remained limp, too sick to care what was happening. Hilda re-braided her hair up and out of the way, and they got her into fresh clothes.
Once cleaned, Thranduil laid her on the bed and asked her, “Tithen Pen, can you rest here, while we get the bathing chamber ready?”
“Why?” she said, weakly.
“We are going to help you breathe better, Hênig. I just need to step out and speak with your Auntie Hil, then I will be back in a moment. Close your eyes, all right?”
Hilda propped her up with pillows. “It will help you breathe, Beanie, if you sit up more.” She kissed her head. We’ll be right back.”
Tilda nodded, and closed her eyes, wheezing.
They stepped out to confer, and Thranduil told the older woman, “My Lady, it will be six hours until dawn. If you wish, you may take my bed, until it is time to wake the children for school.”
“I’ll be fine on one of the couches, Thrandiul. It’s closer to the children, so I can hear them. What are you going to tell Bard?”
Thranduil quickly stepped over to his small desk and moved Legolas’s book out of the way. He penned a short note, used the flame from the lamp to seal it and gave it to her. Then he wrote another small note, with his signature.
“Send this with one of the Guards to the barracks. They will take it to Bard at first light. I am hoping by the morning, she will improve, but I think the child will do better with Bard here. Do you agree?”
Hilda nodded. “She needs him.” Her voice shook. “Thranduil, I’ve never seen her so sick!”
This did not help Thranduil’s nerves at all, and he scrubbed a trembling hand over his face. “There is no moon tonight. I would send messengers, but the horses cannot see... I… What if..he cannot get here in time?”
Hilda reached up and took the Elvenking’s face in her hands, and did her best to sound sure and confident. “You listen to me, love,” she told him, looking him straight in the eyes. “Nothing bad is going to happen, because we won’t let it! I know you’re scared, and I am, too, but we must be brave. That little girl needs us to be strong for her, so that’s exactly what we’ll do! We’ll be everything that child needs right now, and we can fall apart later; do you hear me?”
Thranduil nodded, unable to speak, as he looked at her, but her words helped. He took a deep, cleansing breath and stood straighter with his shoulders back.
“Do you want to take turns in there?” She pointed to the door of the bathing room, where servants were setting up. Just then, Daeron entered the apartment with a mug of tea and several small glass bottles.
“The child is resting in her room for the moment.” He took the cup from Daeron. “Please go get the water ready, and I will have her drink this.”
Before Thranduil did that, though, he brought Hilda out an extra blanket and pillow. “Here, please rest. You have just recovered from exhaustion, My Lady. If you change your mind, please do not hesitate to take my bed.”
Hilda promised she would, and for now, at least, settled on the couch. The Elvenking went back into the small girl’s room.
“I told you I would be right back, did I not?” Thranduil put on a cheery face for her. “Now I have some Willow Bark tea, and this will help with pain and your fever. Can you drink this for me?”
He helped her drink the mixture, and she made a sour face. “I don’t like it.”
“I understand, but at least there is honey in it. There is also mint; that will help your stomach feel a little better. Medicine rarely tastes good. But I am proud of you for drinking.” He stood up, and scooped her off the bed. “Come with me, my pînig. We are going to help you breathe better.”
She nodded against his shoulder, and closed her eyes.
8th of February, 2942, T.A.; early hours of the morning
Thranduil carried Tilda into the bathing room, and the pungent odor from Daeron’s oils filled the air.
Galion was there, arranging a chaise lounge, a chair, and setting a pitcher of water and some cups on the table, next to some towels. The Chief Aide must have hurried here, because he still was dressed in his night clothes and robe. Thank the Valar…
At the sight of him, Thranduil sighed with relief, and he felt some of the tension loosen in his chest. He could endure this, if he knew Galion was near.
“I am so glad to see you.” He said to his Aide in a broken voice, as he nestled Tilda close. “I am sorry I did not wake you myself, but things happened so fast…”
“Ivran woke me.” The Aide smiled fondly at the little girl. “Anything that is in my power to help...” His put a hand on Thranduil’s shoulder.
Then Galion added, “Feren is visiting the Palace this week, and I sent word to him as well. He is available if you need him, and he and his family are praying earnestly for her. I am here, for as long as I am needed.”
“I did not even notice who came with the wagons, but I am glad he is here.” Thranduil said, in a far-off voice. He knew nothing right now, except what was happening in this room.
Galion squeezed his shoulders, and spoke in soothing tones. “I will remain, and look after all of you.” He steered Thranduil over to the chaise. “This is more comfortable than a chair, and you can keep her sitting up, which is what Daeron said would help. Now, and let me help you get arranged.” Between the two of them, they settle her into his lap. “I will get you and Daeron some tea, and bring some fresh water and cups.”
Galion bent down to kiss the little girl’s hair, and then smoothed the hair away from her brow. “Fer-nesto im, hênig.” He whispered, and left the room.
Daeron entered, and shut the door behind him, and sat down in the chair beside them. He uncorked a small bottle, and rubbed it on her chest, and under her nose. Thranduil felt Tilda stir, and he looked down at her, as she was wrinkling her nose.
“It smells funny.” She wheezed. There was a slight bluish tint to her lips.
Daeron smiled down at her, as she settled into Thranduil’s lap and lay her head against his chest. “What you smell is eucalyptus, My Lady. I have also added Athelas and some other herbs to the water and they will help you to breathe, as well.”
“Will I stop coughing?”
“I am afraid not. In fact, Tilda, we need you to do something very important.”
Tilda weakly lifted her head. “What?”
“You need to cough, hênig, because you have material inside you that is making you very sick. And when you cough, and stuff comes out, you must not swallow it - you must spit it out, either into a towel, or in that basin. The fumes from the smelly oil, is medicine, so you must take deep breaths, and the steam will push all that good medicine inside you. We cannot get you better, until your lungs are clear, do you understand?”
The little girl frowned, “Will it hurt?”
Daeron hesitated. It would likely hurt a great deal. “If it does, you must tell us right away.”
Thranduil kissed the top of her head. “I will help you, Tithen Pen. Will you do as Daeron asks, and take nice deep breaths?”
“I’ll try.” She said. "I'm scared, Ada."
Daeron stroked the little girl’s cheek, and gave her a confident smile. “We will be with you the entire time, and we will help."
“Can't Da come?” Tilda asked in a small, thin voice, and began to cry again. “I really, really need my Da…”
Thranduil wrapped his arms tighter around her. “We are sending for him the moment it becomes light again. It will take a while, but he will get here as soon as he can. Does that make you feel better?”
She shook her head, “No! I need my Da now!” She cried harder, and began to cough, which sounded more like barking.
Thranduil smoothed down her hair. “I know, my little love. But we must do the best we can, and you must help us clear your lungs. He will come tomorrow, and you want to be better when you see him, do you not?”
He felt her head nod up and down.
The Guard took one of her hands. “Now, Tilda, take some deep breaths. Here; I will do it with you.” Daeron encouraged her. “Push that medicine inside…”
They did it together, and Tilda barked at them for quite a while, but then they changed to horrid, wet sounds. Having her spit into the basin didn’t seem to work so well, so Thranduil was at the ready to wipe out her mouth. At one point, she vomited again, but they managed to keep her clean. Galion stepped in quickly and put down a clean basin and and a soapy towel.
Her coughs still produced the terrible rusty color, and she kept trying to catch her breath, between cries of misery. In spite of their efforts to ease her pain, she became combative.
“No! You’re hurting me!” she kept saying, and hit him and kicked her legs, as they struggled to keep her in his lap. “I don’t like it! I want Da! It hurts!" She cried gasped and coughed and thrashed around. "Stop! You're hurting me!"
In a gruesome way, her activity helped, despite the agony Thranduil felt watching it.
“Can we not ease her?” He asked, with tears filled his eyes. “She is in torment!”
“We cannot, My Lord. I know this is cruel, and I am sorry for it, but her her vigorous movements help and her gasps are pushing the medicine into her, and will help her cough it up. We can ease her a little, but it is better if she keeps moving.”
Thranduil looked at the Guard, furious, ready to shout at him; to strike him, even, but he saw the stricken look on the Guard’s face, and know it it mirrored his own.
“I am sorry, My Lord; if there were any other way…”
The Elvenking nodded, as they continued to hold her as she writhed and coughed, and cried. When he wiped her mouth again, he said. “I would rather face ten thousand Orcs, than see her suffer like this.”
Throughout the night, the two Elves worked together, as Tilda’s lungs took in the humid, medicated air and cleared out some. At this point, she was beyond exhausted, and only woke up to cough. They had her sip lots of water, and Daeron left twice more to make the tea to help her fever. Galion would step in frequently, to change out the small cloths and lay clean ones down, and to make sure they all had fresh, cool water. He brought cups of tea for both Thranduil and Daeron, and anything else they might need.
Daeron soaked some small cloths in the cold water and placed one on her head and in her armpits, in another attempt to bring down her fever. They had tried this earlier, but her constant movements made it unsuccessful.
Thranduil never let go of Tilda once, and held her however she wanted, even holding her in the necessary, where, with Hilda’s help, things were taken care of, so she could go back to the steam. Thranduil felt drained, and shed a few tears, as she coughed, because her chest and throat were terribly sore, and it was becoming more and more difficult to ease her pain.
Dawn came and went, and still Tilda wheezed and coughed, although her breathing was a little better. She had expelled an astonishing amount from her lungs, but she was not out of danger. Her fever still raged; in fact, it climbed even higher! Her eyes lost their focus, and she wasn’t aware of her surroundings, anymore.
At this point, Thranduil and Daeron switched places, and the Guard held the girl closely, while Thranduil centered himself to lay hands on her.
Thranduil closed his eyes and connected with her little body. Daeron was right; there was a limit to what he could do for illnesses, even as powerful as he was. Injuries, even severe ones, could be fixed, but this… He could help the effects of the sickness, but the cause... how to fight an unseen enemy such as this?
No. No, he told himself. Calm, centered, peaceful…
He tried again, chanting the words in Quenya, trying desperately to find something in her that he could fix, and make all this go away. Her throat was calling out to him, so he took care of the redness and inflammation. He moved his hands to her chest, and saw her lungs. He reduced the swelling in the tissue and saw the muscles were also angry, so he soothed them, with much better success. He could see the fluid and phlegm in the lungs, heard that terrible whistling sound, and tried to make that disappear. Could he loosen things, to help her? He tried, but had very limited success.
And she was still so hot!
Oh Stars… his little girl could die, and he didn’t know if he could save her!
As soon as he opened his eyes, Tilda began another coughing fit, which took care of some more congestion. As he wiped her mouth and washed her face, Daeron met his gaze, with worried eyes.
“I am sorry, My Lord. As you can see, this is not something spells can fix entirely.” The Guard moved his legs, and shifted the little girl in his lap, so the Elvenking could sit down on the end of the chaise lounge.
“Daeron, you must be completely truthful. Will she get better?”
“The next several hours will tell us.” The Guard’s eyes filled with tears. “I wish I could give you a better answer…”
Thranduil got up, his face was a calm mask. “Would you excuse me for a moment?”
“Of course, My Lord.” Daeron made the sleeping little girl comfortable. “I will call for you if I need you.”
The Elvenking left the bathing chamber, and heard the voices of the older children getting ready to leave for school. Hilda was talking to them in soothing, but cheerful tones, not letting on how seriousness of the situation. She and Galion were right to send them. They needed to be kept occupied; sitting around would only upset them more, especially when there was nothing they could do. If they were needed, Hilda would send for them immediately.
It was selfish, he knew, but Thranduil couldn’t cope with them, just then, so he hung back in the hallway. His strength and focus was hanging by a thread, and if he lost it, it could mean Tilda’s life.
He used the necessary, then waited until the children left, before he wearily stepped into the front Of the apartment.
Hilda and Galion looked at him in alarm. “What is it? Is she…” Hilda put on hand on her chest.
“She still breathes the fumes and the steam. She has coughed up much of the congestion, and her lungs are clearer, but,” Thranduil's voice became hoarse. “Her fever burns, and we try to stop it, but...” his composure crumbled, and he covered his face. “Forgive me; I...I do not know what to do, anymore.”
Hilda took the tired, frightened Elvenking in her arms and they held each other for several minutes. There was nothing they could say. Galion put his hand on Thranduil’s arm, and gave him an encouraging squeeze.
“My Lord!” they heard Daeron shout, with urgency.
They all went running into the bathing chamber.
“What’s happened?” Hilda shrieked.
“She has lost consciousness. I cannot wake her up!”
Hilda lurched forward to kneel beside the child. “No, please… " she wept and begged.
Galion touched Thranduil’s sleeve. “Should I get the children?”
City of Dale; 8th of February, 2942, T.A.; Mid-day
Percy was finishing up his shift in the kitchens after lunch. He was hanging up the towels and getting ready to empty the soapy water, when he saw one of the big doors slam open, and an Elven messenger rushed in, followed by three soldiers.
Percy’s stomach sank. The supply wagons weren’t due for another four or five days. There was news, and from the look on the Elves' faces, it wasn’t good. He lowered the partition to the pass-through window, exited through the door into the Hall, and quickly went over to the messenger.
“What’s going on?” he asked him.
“I have an urgent message for King Bard, Lord Percy. Do you know his whereabouts?”
“Good thing you came when you did; he’s just getting ready to leave for the construction sites. Come on.” Percy knew better than to offer to deliver it for him. Thranduil always required his couriers to place the message directly in the recipient’s hands, or take it back.
On their way out of the Hall, Percy gave orders to one of the men to get Tauriel, and hurry.
They made their way to the back of the Hall and towards the corridor housing Bard and the City of Dale’s administrative staff. At the end of the hallway, Bard was just shutting the door to his room, with Thangon beside him, when he turned and saw the Elves and Percy. Thangon began to whine.
Bard looked down at his dog, and met their gaze. “What is it?” He asked solemnly.
The Messenger saluted. “Dhe suilon, Aran Bard,” and handed him the message.
“Thank you. Stable your horses, and tell the cook to get you all a hot meal,” he said, as he read Thranduil’s handwriting, and turned the envelope over.
The Elves saluted again and left, as Bard broke the seal and read the message.
“Oh... oh, gods, no...” the Bowman whispered, in a tone of voice Percy hadn't heard since the night Mattie had died. The color left Bard’s lips, and his face turned to ash.
He stepped forward, his stomach in sudden knots. “What is it, son? Tell me.”
Bard looked like he was going to pass out, so Percy grabbed his arm, looked over his shoulder, and read what Thranduil had written, with his heart in his throat:
Tilda is terribly ill with Lung Fever. We are doing all we can, but she needs you. We all need you. I’m so very sorry, Meleth nîn. You must come, right away.
Percy gasped, “No..."
Bard looked into his eyes, pleading for this not to be true.
Percy got himself together quickly, and put his arm around Bard’s shoulders. “We’ll get you there, do you hear? You go right back in that room and pack what you need to take with you, and I’ll get your horse saddled and get you something to eat on the way.”
“I may already be too late.” Bard whispered.
“Don’t talk like that!” Percy said firmly. “Don’t you dare! Tilda's in the best place she could possibly be, yeah? So, none of this talk, you hear? Now, go get your things together.” He opened the door to Bard’s room and shoved him inside. “Go!”
Percy ran back into the kitchen, and tried to put a bundle together, but he couldn’t see through his tears, and began to fumble and gasp for breath.
Tilda was their baby! Gods, what Hilda must be going through… and the kids…
A hand was on his arm. Alun had followed him into the kitchen and found him in despair, so he stepped up, and gently took the plate from Percy. “Here; let me. We’ll get Bard to the Palace, all right?”
Percy did his best to calm down, and cleared his throat. “It’s just that…”
“I know.” Alun smiled. “It’s not always easy to be the strong one, but we’ll think good thoughts, and keep believing. Anything else, we’ll take it as it comes.”
“Aye,” Percy whispered in shaky voice. “One foot in front of the other.”
Bard stuffed only a few items in his bag. He had everything he needed as far as clothing or grooming items in his rooms at the Palace. His heart would not stop pounding; his stomach was beginning to churn and his chest hurt. He did his best to concentrate on the task at hand, then threw the bag over his shoulder and opened his bedroom door.
"Bard!" Tauriel was in the corridor, and ran up to hug him, tight. “I was in the Marketplace when I heard. I am so sorry, Bard.”
Bard hugged her back, and said in a shaky voice, “I’ll send word as soon as I can.”
"I know. Now, let’s get you dressed. Your horse and your escort will be ready in a few minutes.”
The Elf wiped her eyes, and helped Bard into his riding coat and cloak, hat and leather riding gloves. She took his arm and led him through the Great Hall, and everyone he passed wished him a safe journey. A big crowd followed him into the courtyard, where Fînlossen stood, saddled and bundled, and ready to go, along with his Elven escort. The white stallion threw his head and neighed loudly, as eager as Bard was to get going.
“Look after Thangon, and everyone here.” Bard told Tauriel. “Between Percy, you and Alun, you should handle things, but send a message to King Dáin right away. For now, I’m officially putting him in charge of Dale, should anything huge happen.” His voice wavered. “I don’t know how long I’ll be…”
She gave him a brave, teary smile. “King Dáin will be told, and I am sure he will add his own prayers to Mahal. He will oversee things. You must hurry, now.”
Tauriel was doing her best not to cry, and she bravely saluted. All Percy could manage was a nod of his head.
Bard, at this point, couldn’t talk, either.
He got on his horse, and galloped off with the four Elven Guards with his eyes burning, and it wasn't from the wind.
“Are you warm, Lord Bard? Do you need more covering?” an Elf asked, as they rode. They were about two hours into the trip.
Bard never thought about it; his mind was still reeling over the morning’s events. He really wasn’t cold. At all! By all rights he should be; it was bitter out and the horses were bundled up, with their cannons and fetlocks wrapped warmly, and large, woolen blankets around their chests and over their withers.
Bard felt no chill in his hands or feet, like he normally would, during the winter. This must be another side effect of his marriage.
He couldn’t care less. Nothing meant anything, if he lost Tilda. Nothing mattered, except getting to his baby.
Some men, he supposed, would feel resentful of a child whose birth caused their mother’s death. He’d seen that happen sometimes. Thranduil felt that pain when he was with Legolas, and distanced himself, though he despised himself and tried not to.
But not once, not even for a second, did Bard think that way about his Little Bean. The moment she was put into his arms, when she looked up at him with her huge eyes, and sucking on her fingers, he fell hopelessly in love, just as he had with Sigrid and Bain.
Maybe it was the force of Hilda’s personality that kept Bard from seeing Tilda as the cause of his loss. She would never have allowed him to do something he would regret. Regardless, he always thought of Mattie’s death as something her own body had caused, and nothing that could be prevented.
Tilda was a ray of bright sunshine in all their lives. She loved to smile and laugh and be tickled. Though Bard never quite felt the contentment he’d known with Mattie, Tilda helped coax Bard into living again.
It was Bain who first gave Tilda her nickname. He had seen her all swaddled in a light brown blanket, and said she looked like one of the beans Auntie Hil puts into soup. And the name stuck. From then on, she was their Little Bean, and she brought joy to a grieving household.
Many nights, when Bard couldn’t sleep, he would go pick her up and just hold her, finding serenity in the little face. Sometimes, she would open her eyes for a moment and give him a wide, toothless smile, before drifting off again. He watched her sleep, loving how her long dark lashes fanned out against her cheeks, so like her mother. Tilda helped him learn to feel again, with her innocent smile, trusting blue eyes, and dark baby curls. She was such a beautiful child, inside as well as out. And he needed her. They all did.
So many moments with Tilda began to rush to the forefront of his thoughts, as Fînlossen took him to her, as fast as he could:
There was Tilda, at ten months, her fists waving in the air to help her balance, as she took three steps into her father’s arms.
She loved the sea gulls, when she was a baby. For some reason, she thought they were hilarious. Her first word was “Gaw! Gaw!” when she pointed to them, and she turned to Bard, grinning and laughing at her brilliance, displaying her new teeth. And Bard laughed with her - the very first time he had done so, since his Mattie had died.
She was so small; Hilda loved to say she was “no bigger than half a minute.” Tilda would always be tiny, like Bard's mother had been, and her petite size only made those around her more protective.
How many times had she crawled into his bed at night, with Charlotte, only to kick him in her sleep, all night long?
She loved the color pink, hated light blue with a passion, but liked dark blue.
She adored strawberries, but never wanted to eat them; Sigrid was allergic, and Tilda didn’t want to make her big sister feel bad.
In the summer, he would sometimes take her on his trips up the River. At night, she’d snuggle beside him, as he taught her the constellations, just as his own father had done with him. He’d look over at her and smile, as he saw the stars reflected in her small, blue eyes.
Even after all these weeks alone in Dale, he still sat up in the middle of the night, ready to go pull up her covers, then slowly lie back down, hating that she wasn’t there.
She loved Charlotte and went into fits, if the doll was misplaced. She’d wail at the top of her lungs, running in place, while everyone dashed around to locate her. As soon as the doll was in her arms, she’d quiet down instantly.
She liked to point at a Crescent Moon, and say, “Look Da! Ulmo's thumbnail!”
When it rained, she decided the Valar were watering their flowers. When there was thunder, the Valar were rolling wine barrels (that one Bard taught her, and it made her laugh). When it snowed, the Valar were having a huge pillow fight in the clouds...
There were a thousand little things that added up to a life with his little girl, and he couldn’t accept it might be over.
No! Bard became angry. He did NOT want to "remember her life," dammit! He wanted her to keep living it!
She can’t leave him. She just can’t; he wasn’t ready to let her go.
The trip continued, at a brisk pace, but still, minutes had turned into hours.
He had to get there in time…
In time for what?
Don't think that way!
At long last, the Main Gate to the Woodland Realm was in sight, and Fînlossen, bless him, ran to it with everything he had. The horns sounded as Bard raced across the wide bridge - they had been expecting him. The horse raced on, barely waiting for the big doors to open, and only stopped when he brought Bard through.
He leaped off the big stallion, without waiting for someone to take his reins.
There was Feren, running to greet him. He grabbed Bard’s arm, and pointed him in the right direction, saying quickly: “All I know, is that she is in King Thranduil’s chambers. The guards will clear the paths for you; I will take care of your horse and bring your things. Go, mellon nîn, with all my hopes. Go!”
The blood pounded in Bard’s ears, as he raced through the halls and walkways. He didn’t hear the Guards call for the others to get out of his way. With his heart in his throat, he finally, finally made it to the Royal Wing, and sprinted down the wide endless hallway, and skidded to a stop in front of the last doors to the right, and the guards quickly opened them for him, with concerned faces.
There, on the couches, he found Hilda and Sigrid embracing, both sobbing uncontrollably, and Bain was crying, too, along with Galion, who had his arm around the boy. Rhys was sitting next to Bain, his hand on his friend’s arm.
Oh, no... no...
Bard rushed past them toward Thranduil’s bedchamber. It wasn’t until he reached the doorway, that Hilda even noticed he was there.
“Bard - “ He heard Hilda’s weepy voice behind him…
But he paid no attention; he was frantic with fear.
He knew he might be too late, but he had to see…
He went into their bedchamber, shaking.
No one was there, and the big bed was empty.
Bard looked around, helplessly.
A door was opened, off that room to the right. Tilda had been moved into Legolas's old nursery. A lamp was burning in there, but it was so quiet.
He went in, and saw his baby girl, lying her back, so still, with her eyes closed. His husband was sitting beside the bed, holding her tiny, limp hand in his, and covering his eyes with the other.
No no no no no no...
Wordless, inhuman cries erupted from Bard, as he collapsed to his knees. He wrapped his arms around his stomach, and shriveled into himself, as the terrible sounds came out.
He didn’t see Thranduil turning his head and look at Bard with a startled expression.
Bard couldn’t see anything; his eyes were shut tight, so he couldn't see that his baby was gone.
Suddenly, strong hands grabbed him, and pulled him up to a sitting position. It was Daeron. He was talking; saying words, but Bard couldn’t understand them.
Bard tried to form words, but his mouth opened into a silent scream; he couldn’t even breathe. He dug his fingers into his chest, as Daeron held him up. The room tilted almost sideways, and he couldn’t hear anything above the roar in his ears, so he covered them with his hands. He couldn’t let himself hear the words he knew were coming; they were going to tell him his baby was dead.
No no no no no...
It was just like the night Mattie had died. It was just like that, and he’d have to try and survive it all, again.
“My Lord!” He finally heard the loud voice in his ear, and his vision cleared. He saw Thranduil still sitting by Tilda with his mouth open, too shocked to move.
His husband looked terrible. He was almost unrecognizable from anguish.
And Tilda was so tiny, so still, in that big bed…
Oh, Valar… I can’t do this again. I can’t. Please…
Daeron put his arm around Bard to steady him, and was speaking to him, again. He looked blankly at the Guard, because his mind couldn't register. He could only say one thing, and that word came out in an agonized moan.
“No... No... No...”
If he refused hear the words, he could be spared the agony that was to come.
Suddenly, Thranduil was there kneeling beside him, gathering Bard into his long, strong arms.
Thozyan sen, Esta. – (Quenya) I am worried about her, Esta.
De nathathodh? Dhen iallon! – Will you help her? I beg of you!
Daeron gi nathad, Tithen Pen – Daeron will help you, Little One.
Athon de nathad, Aran nîn – We will help her, My King
De vilui, Daeron – Thank you, Daeron
Tithen Pen – Little One
Tithen Melin - Little Love
Hênig – My child
Ion-nauth nîn – Son of my heart
Fer-nesto im, hênig – Feel better soon, my child
Dhe suilon, Aran Bard – I greet you, King Bard. (formal)
Lung Fever – older term for pneumonia
- I am not a medical person, and Tilda’s illness is mostly contrived from my own sadistic imagination, but it resembles diseases we have. Pneumonia is often accompanied by the horrid color coming from Tilda’s lungs, and often leaves a lovely parting gift of chronic asthma (Ask me how I know this. *eyeroll*).