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Brotherhood  by Bodkin


Gilraen finished the tale – the bold Ranger escaped peril and made it home safely to his loved ones – purely for her own satisfaction, as her son had collapsed into the boneless sprawl of the sleeping young before she was halfway through the story.  She drew the covers over the child and ensured that he was warm – an effect of the wide windows and the elves’ indifference to temperature was that Imladris, although beautiful, tended to be cold – and smiled wistfully as he wrinkled his nose and turned to burrow into his pillow.

‘Sleep well, my little one,’ she murmured, before turning to leave the room. 

One of Elrond’s sons was standing in the doorway – which, she was unsure.  She could now, she thought, tell them apart when they spoke – there was no denying that they were very different, for all they looked identical – but at first meeting, she still found herself straining for clues.  It must be irritating for them, after all, to have people constantly asking for identification.

‘I was enjoying the story,’ he said with a slight smile. Elladan, then. At least, she thought so. 

‘I did not make it up,’ she apologised.  ‘It is just a variation on one my mother used to tell me – and, I suppose, that her mother told her when she was small.’

‘Most stories have their roots in the same hopes,’ he said softly.  ‘That the heroes win through and everyone lives happily ever after.’

‘That and the talking animals,’ Gilraen said dryly.

Elladan flashed her a smile of such brilliance that she blinked.  ‘There are always the talking animals,’ he agreed.  ‘Our favourite was a friendly dragon named Smudge who could not breathe fire like the other dragons.’  He offered her his arm to provide a formal escort to the sitting room in this family wing.

Gilraen hesitated.  While she was more comfortable here than she had been, she still felt that she was imposing an unwanted presence on Lord Elrond’s family in their private time.

‘Please,’ he said, sensing her unease.  ‘Adar requests that you should join us – and we will not be so far from Estel’s room that we will not hear him if he wakes.’

You might hear him,’ the boy’s mother pointed out.

Elladan grinned.  ‘I promise we would let you know instantly,’ he said.  ‘We are most definitely not prepared to deal with a wailing child when his naneth is available to rush to his rescue.’

A pair of dimples suddenly made Gilraen looked as young as she truly was.  ‘You will have to learn one day,’ she retorted, more boldly than she would have imagined relatively few months before.

‘Possibly.’  Elladan opened the polished door and ushered her through in front of him.  ‘But not for a long time yet!  I am not ready for the responsibility.’

‘I have been using that argument for years.’  Glorfindel rose and poured two more glasses of wine.  ‘But your adar has refused to pay any attention to my wisdom and insisted that you should shoulder it anyway.’

Elladan grinned in acknowledgement, clearly completely accustomed to his mentor’s insults, and turned to Gilraen.  ‘That tale you were telling,’ he said with unexpected seriousness. ‘Could you repeat the start for me?  I think…’ He hesitated.  ‘It seems familiar.’

Eyes wide, the woman recited the opening phrases of the story.  Elladan’s face sobered and he sat down shoulder to shoulder with his brother.

‘Some of the details…’ Elrohir met his twin’s eyes.  ‘Aragost was Chieftain then, was he not?  And – who was it?  Iandúr?’

‘I think so.’ Elladan sounded contemplative.  ‘I wonder if all such stories have a base in truths long past.’

Gilraen suddenly found it difficult to breathe.  She had come to think of these elves as young – much as everyone else in Imladris did – but they were, of course, nothing of the sort.  ‘You knew Aragost?’ she squeaked.

‘Not well,’ Elrohir assured her – as if that would make any difference.

Elrond stretched his hand out and rested it on hers.  ‘It makes no matter,’ he said earnestly.  ‘Pay attention to here and now.  We cross each other’s paths only briefly – and what is important is to make the most of the time we share.’

She attempted to smile.  She had known, after all, that these elves had seen whole ages pass before them. ‘Well – at least I suppose you will have no difficulty in teaching Estel the history of his people – since you have been there throughout it all.’ 

‘I am sorry,’ Elladan apologised.  ‘I did not mean …’  He smiled.  ‘It is a token of how well you have settled among us,’ he said lightly.  ‘I had not thought that it might disturb you to have us speak of past centuries.  I will not do it again.’

‘No!’ she protested.  ‘I will grow accustomed.’  She inhaled deeply. ‘And I would like to hear tales that have not been told in many years.  They should not be forgotten.’

‘They will never be forgotten.’  Glorfindel’s eyes looked distant, as though he was looking into a past that only he could see.  ‘Not while the elves remain to remember them.’

Gilraen raised her chin.  ‘And if, at the same time, you could be persuaded to reveal the history of your friendly dragon…’ she said with determined cheerfulness, ‘I could always do with a bigger store of stories about talking animals!

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