Glorfindel knew that Erestor was one of the lucky ones. He constantly thanked the Valar for his return and yet he wondered at the psychological damage that he had endured. All the physical injuries were healed, but the effects on the dark elf’s mind were far more overwhelming. He was formulating a plan to entice or even force Erestor to go outside the house and hoped that he would not be forever mistrusted or even hated because of it. His soul mate had to move forward and he was not managing to do so, on his own.
When the burns started healing, Erestor was moved away from the field hospital to a rest camp. Because he had been injured in the blast, it was suspected that his inability to speak or hear and his blinded eye might be because of physical injury rather than any nervous disorder, although this diagnosis was not completely discounted because of his shaking hands and continual headaches. This meant that he would not be sent back to the front and so he was dispatched to Craiglockhart War Hospital, near Edinburgh in Scotland. His doctor practised a primitive form of cognitive psychotherapy rather than the behavioural therapy so beloved of the majority of those practitioners who sought to cure shell shock. The standard treatment of electric shocks, shouted commands, isolation, humiliation, shaming, physical re-education and restricted diet were deemed inappropriate where Erestor was concerned as he was wounded in action as opposed to suffering from a nervous complaint. He was treated with a more humane therapy acknowledging the events that caused the trauma and how they influenced the worldview, assumptions and beliefs of the one who had lived through them.
Erestor visited his doctor, for an hour a day, to explore and relive his experiences. Together they attempted to work out how living through the war, and the subsequent experience of being injured, affected his pre-war expectations and his assumptions about his future. He was also persuaded that his experiences could never happen to him again and that any flashbacks or memories, that tried to surface, were a fear of history repeating itself. The rest of the time was spent filling his time up with various activities, including working in the vegetable gardens, writing, taking walks and participating in sporting activities. The nighttime was when the screams could be heard throughout the building, as men woke from their slumbers in the grip of murderous dreams awash with blood. Erestor did not dare sleep; he saw the battlefields of the Somme and the decaying corpses littering the ground in No Man’s Land. Somehow, the dreams were mixed in with the epic battles of the elves many millennia before and so when a gas bloated and blackened corpse turned its eyes to look at him and asked why he was not dead too, he saw the face Of Oropher, or of Ereinion, before it changed back to one with a more contemporary identity.
It was all very tiresome but it was not to last forever. Glorfindel the explorer had come back home after three years exploring and was feted for his discovery of several new species of insect and a previously unidentified subspecies of orchid. The Royal Botanical Society featured their young explorer in their latest publications but that had not been the real reason for his time abroad. He was employed by the British Government to make contact with native dwellers to identify quick acting and painless poisons that left no trace and an alternative source of opiates, as the stocks of morphine, once plentiful, were drying up as the supply lines were disrupted through enemy action. He had not disappointed them and Glorfindel persuaded the reluctant officials to give him a year off to regain his strength after apparently suffering a debilitating tropical disease caught whilst travelling through the darkest parts of the rainforest. It was a simple matter to fake illness with the tree extract that the village dwellers in one of the forest settlements had given him. He simply took some and looked extremely ill whenever he had to meet with officials.
“My illness comes and goes and is of the undulating type,” he told them, when government officials suggested that he now join the army and serve at the front as an inspiration to all those fighting there. Happily, no doctor knew enough about tropical disease to make a firm diagnosis. Fin the brave explorer had always loved his country, there was no doubt about that, but to send him to the front whilst recovering from what must have been a near death illness, seemed foolhardy indeed. His accompanying team also displayed the same symptoms, reinforcing the lie. After the desperate and dangerous privations of the jungle, where they endured considerable mental and physical discomfort, none were prepared to go into action as soon as they reached home.
The year off started with Glorfindel visiting Erestor in Scotland. He knew that he was being observed as to whether he really was ill or not and so he secreted some of the extract in his cup of tea, which he drank down to the bottom leaving none for any possible analysis. After an hour of sitting in the library with the dark elf, he started to sweat, dark circles appeared under his eyes and his skin turned yellow.
“What is the matter with you,” Erestor asked with concern on his face although he already knew that Glorfindel suspected he was being observed and his methods to counteract it. They had walked before outside in the gardens before tea and the secret of sudden illness had been whispered to him.
“I will be all right,” Glorfindel said with a smile only for the dark elf. The pain racked through his being and his teeth chattered with the extract induced fever.
Erestor did not see the soldier looking his way, studying the famous explorer but Glorfindel did. He had followed him all the way from London. A doctor was called for and the blond elf was examined. “He is obviously in the throes of an undulating type of tropical fever,” the doctor barked at the soldier, who had pulled him to one side and after introducing himself, asked if the illness was genuine because it was suspected that the supposed victim was a malingerer. “I have never heard a postulation so stupid in all my years; of course it is not fake.” The doctor boomed with no small measure of contempt. “Now do you have any business here or are you simply making a nuisance of yourself?”
“Well sometimes he looks very healthy indeed,” the soldier remonstrated.
“Well that is why we call it an undulating type of fever,” the doctor said with sarcastic slowness. “That is what it does, it comes and goes and this is classic.”
“How long does it last?” the soldier asked in almost a whisper as the glares of Erestor and the doctor ate into him.
“It might never go,” the doctor replied. “Now get out.”
Glorfindel was helped to the doctor’s office and he examined him. “I am confused by this. You seem perfectly healthy but you are obviously not. Care to elucidate?” he waited for an answer from the shocked elf.
“Our party explored the jungle and we were all subject to tropical diseases,” Glorfindel said picking his words carefully. He had been subject but had not suffered from any of them; he was not going to say anything about that though. “We were shown a tree extract that could make one feel very good and appear healthy. I wanted to give Erestor heart, so that he would not worry but the extract wore off and now I am back to normal. I only had a small amount left and it seems that it was not enough.”
“You should be in the infirmary,” the doctor said. “I will make the arrangements.”
Glorfindel unwittingly ended up in the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh where they kept him until they decided he was better. He found it most embarrassing; however, it reinforced the idea that he was not well enough to go to the front and when he arrived at his rooms in one of London’s more salubrious districts, a letter was waiting for him informing him of the decision to give him a year to recover and he would be re-evaluated then.
The first thing to do was move to an out of the way, peaceful village so that he could collect Erestor, who looked as though he would be permanently invalided out of the war as his progress was not as well as could be expected. The house agent sent the details of several properties, but the one that caught his eye was a large thatched cottage in an acre of unoverlooked grounds. It would be perfect. He travelled up to see Erestor and asked the board of directors and his doctor if his cousin could come to stay with him. There was some consternation, especially as he had been so visibly ill on the last visit. Glorfindel showed them the cottage and explained that it was on the outskirts of a peaceful village and that he felt much better; they relented slightly but not enough to agree. He then told them that he was also an anthropologist and the doctor on the last exploratory mission into the jungle; they raised their eyebrows and asked why he had not told them of his medical training before.
“You did not ask,” Glorfindel replied, “and it never occurred to me that I should say anything about it.” He thought it imprudent to tell them that most of his surgical training had been under the tuition of Galen in the second century or that the last time he had practised medicine was in the seventeenth century at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. Still they never asked and he did not tell them. In truth they were glad to be able to move Erestor, whom they suspected might never be able to live on his own.
Erestor got into the back of the motorcar ready for the long journey. He shook with fear and tears ran down his cheek. “I want to leave but the outside world scares me,” he said by way of explanation. “Supposing we have an accident or supposing bad things happen to us because it is night time?”
“We will be all right,” Glorfindel said with a jolly air and urged Erestor to wave goodbye to everyone.
They drove out of the grounds of the hospital and made their way along the country roads. After an hour when he was sure that they were completely alone, Glorfindel stopped the car and looked in the back seat, Erestor lay curled up in a ball, fists clenched, eyes tightly shut and counting compulsively. He shook the dark elf’s shoulder and said his name. There was no response except for a slightly louder and more determined counting of numbers.
Glorfindel arrived back from the village and joined Erestor as he finished his painting.
“You paint superbly,” Glorfindel breathed into his mates ear, causing the dark elf to smile. “How about some lunch and then we could go to the beach…”
Erestor stood up and screamed whilst attacking the painting. He slashed at it with the palette knife and destroyed it, so that it lay on the lawn damaged and fit only to be thrown away. Then he attacked the solid wood pergola, The skin on his knuckles ripping as they punched against the edges of the unfinished wood.
Glorfindel left him and went into the house where he pulled a large brown bottle out of a locked cupboard. He put a few drops on a cotton pad and walked back out into the garden. Erestor was still screaming at the top of his voice, hitting and kicking the wood in front of him. The fluid soaked material was held against his mate’s nose and mouth, whilst he struggled, before passing out. It was not the first time Erestor had done this and he doubted it would be the last; however, Glorfindel determined that it was the ideal time to carry out the next part of his plan.
A quick wash saw Erestor looking clean and his hands were washed and bandaged. Glorfindel packed a hasty picnic, carried his lover out to the motorcar, and drove away from the house. If Erestor could not leave the grounds voluntarily then he would have to be forced; he saw now that he had been too soft and indulgent towards him.
The section of beach that he chose would be deserted. It was a way from the towns and villages and so Erestor would not have to talk to anyone. Small steps first, Glorfindel thought, and then considered that this was the most major step he had taken for the past few weeks.
Erestor stirred and his eyes shot open when he saw where he was. Glorfindel held onto him and clamped his hand over his mouth as he attempted to scream.
“I swear,” Glorfindel said with an angry face. “I will keep knocking you out with chloroform until you learn to stop screaming. You cannot hide forever and I am not going to let you.” Erestor held onto his mate and buried his head in his chest, shaking violently as he did so. “Sweet one, you are all right, I won’t let anything harm you.” Fingers stroked the dark hair in a regular and soothing motion. “There is no one around and we are all alone.”
“I am scared,” Erestor said, his voice muffled as he spoke against Glorfindel’s chest.
“I will not let anything hurt you, meleth,” Glorfindel said in the same soothing voice. “I love you.”
“It doesn’t feel like it,”
“If I did not love you then I would let you hide from the world forever and you would never get better,” Glorfindel soothed. “How can we sail if you cannot leave the house, my only one?”
Erestor seemed to calm a bit and then looked at the sea after much persuading from Glorfindel.
They sat looking out to sea, Erestor tightly clutching onto Glorfindel who attempted to lay out the picnic.
“We have crabmeat and lettuce sandwiches with anchovy mayonnaise, Victoria sponge cake and ginger beer,” Glorfindel smiled and gave the dark elf a kiss on the head. “We will be coming here every afternoon until you become used to being here,” Erestor started but was held firm. “I am losing patience meleth; I am quite prepared to put you in an asylum if you keep this behaviour up.”
“I cannot help it,” Erestor retorted. “How would you like it if…?”
“You either help me to help you or else I take you there and leave you. I will sail west and you will not see me again.” Glorfindel was firm and handed a sandwich to the dark elf. “Now eat.”
“How can you be so cruel?” Erestor asked in a soft and low voice.
“Because I am at my wits end and I cannot take anymore,” Glorfindel said angrily. “I love you too much to let you keep hurting yourself. Maybe putting you in a secure unit would be the best solution; at least you will not be able to hurt yourself.”
“Please do not put me away,” Erestor cried. “I will try my hardest but you will have to bear with me.”
“I will bear with you so long as you do try your hardest. I cannot do this for you.” Glorfindel felt emotionally drained and unhappy. He was upset that he had to do this to the one he loved, just to get him to cooperate and hoped there would be no repeat. Of that, he was not hopeful, but he had to try.
They sat for a while eating their sandwiches and Erestor’s grip relaxed slightly. “Glorfindel I do not want people asking me about what happened to me.”
“I know sweet one.” Glorfindel kissed his lover’s cheek. “So far the villagers have only enquired about your forthcoming exhibition at the Tate. They are very excited about it.”
“I do not want them asking me what happened,” Erestor’s earnest eyes touched Glorfindel’s heart and he pulled him close. “I do not want to go blind and deaf or not be able to speak again. I do not want my hands to start shaking again either.”
“They will not,” Glorfindel soothed. “We will go forward but not so fast that you become too scared to do anything. All right?”
“When I was at Craiglockhart, some of the doctors called the patients malingerers and cowards. Then they would point to me and say, “You see him? Well he was wounded in action; he has more right to be here than you. At least he is not here under false pretences.”
“How awful,” Glorfindel said and waited for the rest.
“I was made to wear a wound stripe to mark me out as one of the ‘honourable wounded’. Luckily most of the soldiers knew that I felt just as uncomfortable about it as they did, but there were some who tried to make my life hell because of it.” Erestor hesitated. “I was working near the front gates, clipping one of the hedges and a woman in a long white dress and a parasol called to me through the gates. I ignored her at first and carried on clipping but she called again.” He took a deep breath. “I walked over and was perfectly polite to her. She said that there was a special place in Hell for cowards like me.”
“What did you say to her?” Glorfindel asked softly.
“I replied that Hell had a special place for whores as well.”
Glorfindel laughed loudly, “I would say she deserved that one.”
“She angrily told me that she was not a whore but a Lady and I told her that I was not a coward and looked at her to make sure my meaning was clear. I tell you, my love I so wanted to hurt her. It was lucky a pair of heavy, locked iron gates were between us because I think I would have done.”
“Maybe you should have shown her your wound stripe.”
“Why should I? Why should I have to prove anything to someone who has no idea of what they are talking about?”
“Is that why you cannot face the people in the village?” Glorfindel asked.
“It happened several times to the soldiers in there. Only once did it happen to me but I saw it happening to others.” Erestor looked down and increased his grip on Glorfindel’s hand. “You do not think me a coward do you?”
“No, of course not! Why would you think such a thing?” The shock on Glorfindel’s face momentarily scared Erestor when he looked up at him.
“I am sorry; it is hard to know what to think anymore. You might not think that, but everyone else will, even in your wonderful village. I can tell you now they will think I am a coward.”
“They call you a war hero and they saw in the papers that you were invalided home.” Glorfindel kissed Erestor’s cheek as they both looked out to sea.
“Then they will still ask me questions of a different nature and I will still be unable to cope with them. I want to forget everything. I want the nightmares to stop and I want to be able to control my anger.” Erestor turned to face his lover. “I want everything to be as it was.”
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