Elrond stood, completely stunned by what he saw. His loyal military advisor, Glorfindel, had killed Rain.
"Ada," came a gurgled cry. This one was weaker than the last.
"Glorfindel, get Vilya and the antidote. I'm going after Estel." With that, Elrond removed his outer clothing and dove into the cold water, intent on reaching Estel.
Glorfindel nodded and began searching as his Lord splashed into the freezing water. The blood loss from his wound nearly stole his consciousness once more, but the golden haired elf fought against it. Having had enough, he tore his favorite cloak in half and wrapped it tight around his abdomen, where the stab wound bled ceaselessly. He senses slowly improved as the fabric helped stem the bleeding. Slowly, he staggered towards Rain's lifeless body and fell to his knees at the man's side, frantically searching for Vilya and the antidote. Mud clung to his fingers, making them slippery and hindering his efforts.
At last, he found the ring near the fallen man's hand. His fumbling fingers tried to clear the mud away, but instead they merely smeared it. After recognizing the ring for what it was, he quickly pocketed it and began his search for the lost antidote.
Elrond fought the strong current that threatened to pull him out of the cave. Before long, he made it to the other side of the tunnel. Tilting his head back, he greedily gulped in several lungfuls of air. Somewhat refreshed, he glanced around – the inside cave was bigger than he had originally thought. The inside was almost completely full of rain and river water, all except for a thin ledge that circled along the wall. A large hole in the top of the cavern allowed one to see the night sky, but there was nothing; only the rain clouds and the water that fell onto a nearby rock where he saw him. Tied to the very rock that had fallen and allowed the hole in the ceiling was little Estel, struggling to keep his head above the rising water. His hands were tied together and attached to a spike that had been driven in the stone above the boy's head.
"Estel," whispered Elrond. He swam toward the boy as quickly as his numb arms allowed.
Elrond fought the ropes with his numb fingers. It was not as easy as expected; the water was freezing, the ropes were far above the water, and Elrond's right – and dominant – arm was wrapped protectively around his youngest. Estel was also kicking and trying to help, but due to the long exposure to the cold water his movements were slow and caused more trouble than good.
Rain could tie a good knot Elrond would give him that. He was having more trouble with untying the knots than he was trying to keep them both afloat. Every knot he loosened would tighten another vital knot; he needed both hands to undo the bonds, but if he did that then Estel would drown before he finished. He would just have to keep trying. If only he had a knife, or something sharp…
'Glorfindel's knife,' he thought. Glorfindel had killed Rain with a throwing knife. Looking at Estel, he spoke quickly to the frightened five-year-old.
"Estel, I have to go back and get something that will help. I need you to be strong and stay above the water as long as you can."
Estel looked at his father with big watery eyes he tried to wrap his small body around the elf's. "No! Ada I don't want you to go!" he cried frantically.
"Estel," said Elrond as he tried to soothe his frightened child.
"No! No, please don't leave me Ada! Please don't go!"
"Estel, I must. I promise I shall return as soon as possible." Elrond detached himself from the child and swam back out of the cave, leaving a sobbing Estel still tied to the rock behind the falls.
Above the waterfall, Glorfindel fumbled about, trying desperately to find the missing antidote. So far, he had found nothing, and as the rain pelted down against his back, he became dizzy. The blood loss was becoming too much for him, combined with the cold wind the storm brought with it. He would not last much longer without treatment. He covered his eyes with a muddy hand as if to ward away the dizzy feeling stirred up by a sudden gust of wind. Standing up, he noted that the wind was picking up slightly and the rain was lessening some. The storm was almost over. Walking a short distance, he felt something under his boot roll out from under him causing the elf to fall to the ground. Looking up he realized how close to the edge of the waterfall he really was. If he hadn't slipped, he would have been speaking with the fishes; but what caused had him to fall?
Watching the water below with dulled fascination, he saw a shadow moving beneath the dark blue liquid. Squinting his eyes, he watched as Elrond's head emerged.
Elrond shook the water from his eyes and his hair out of his face. He needed to get the knife Glorfindel had used. Swimming around he looked for the blond elf; he spotted him gazing over the cliff.
"Glorfindel!" he yelled, "I need the knife you used to kill Rain. Estel's tied to a rock and I can't get him loose."
Glorfindel nodded. Standing straight, he pushed back the dizziness he felt and quickly retrieved the throwing knife from Rain's chest. Tossing it over the side of the cliff he yelled, "catch!"
Elrond swam to where the blade came down and caught it before it touched the water. He quickly scrubbed it clean of the sticky blood; it would frighten Estel. Securing the knife in place behind his belt, he swam back behind the falls. Looking up through the hole in the ceiling, he felt relieved. The rain was slowing down, and would soon stop; at least something good was happening.
The child had yet to notice his father's presence as only his upper face was above the water level – from the cheek down was underwater.
"Estel, hold on to me." The five-year-old opened his eyes and was happy to see his father had indeed returned.
"Ada!" he exclaimed as Elrond once more wrapped a secure arm around his son, working on the ropes with the knife. He glanced down every once in while to make sure Estel wasn't falling into hypothermia; the water felt cold to him, and if he felt it then he knew Estel was absolutely frozen. Elrond hugged him tighter as the bonds came loose, trying to keep him warm.
On the surface, Glorfindel searched everywhere for the hidden antidote: on Rains' person, in every mud puddle, between blades of grass; even under rocks. The Balrog slayer was becoming frantic. He was about to search on the banks of the waterfall when a glint among the boulders, near where he had slipped, caught his eye. Looking back, he sighed in relief.
He had found the antidote; now all they needed was Estel and they could be on their way. Glorfindel placed two fingers in his mouth and let out two sharp notes. He listened as two horses answered in the distance. Their mounts were on the way; now all he had to do was wait. The hardest thing the mighty Balrog slayer had ever done in two lifetimes was wait. He could not stand it, but what else was he to do? He climbed down the moss and wet grass on the cliff face to the ground below, ready and waiting to aid his friends when he was needed.
Finally the rope had come loose and Elrond was able to swim out with his boy held tight in his arms.
"Estel." The child's eyes met his. "When I tell you to, take a very deep breath." Estel nodded, but his eyes were questioning. "We are going to swim under the falls and unless humans can breathe the water as fish do, then you need to hold your breath." said Elrond, trying to lighten his youngest's mood. Estel snuggled closer to his foster father, clutching at the elf's clothes so tight that his knuckles turned white.
Estel nodded and took as deep a breath as his small lungs allowed. As they dived under Elrond pushed off one of the nearby ledges to give himself a boost of speed to get to the other side. He would have to swim very quickly, as child's lungs were neither as strong nor as large as an adult's, and could not hold air for very long. He monitored his son's progress during the whole swim, watching as the boy's cheeks bulged from the air he held in. The child's cheeks began to change colors, from pink to red, red to a brighter red. They broke the surface of the water when Estel was about to pass out.
Estel gratefully gulped in every drop of air he could get. His heart and lungs hurt from the strain he had put on them. As he got his fill, he felt a large set of hands pull him from the water and wrap him in a several-sizes too large cloak. Looking up at the one who now held him, he smiled. Glorfindel clutched the young pup tight against him, trying to warm him while Elrond leapt onto his horse. Soon they would be off.
Glorfindel could not believe how cold Estel was. The boy was almost frozen; his skin had taken on a light purplish tinge to it, while his lips were almost a dark blue-purple. His teeth were chattering and he shivered fiercely in the elf's grasp. Glorfindel gently rubbed the boy's hands and arms, trying to help warm him some.
When Elrond was ready, he reached out his hands, anxious to hold his little Estel close. Tears of joy and happiness filled his eyes as he cuddled the young one. Finally, he could rest easy knowing his children were safe. Now if he could only make it back home in time to save Elladan and Elrohir. Elrond glanced up at the now clear night sky, where he saw a horrible omen.
Glorfindel looked up to see what had taken his fiend's attention. "What is it, Elrond?"
"I…" the Elf Lord swallowed loudly, "I saw two stars fall."