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Special thanks to daw the minstrel for beta reading this chapter.
Chapter 4: Orders and Oaths
Glorfindel arrayed his equipment on the lawn near the training shed. He had small brightly colored bags of beans and small painted wood stakes that he was lining up in various patterns and designs on the grounds. He heard the approach of elflings before he saw them.
"Glorfindel! What is this?" Elladan was already reaching for a bright blue bag.
"Do not touch!" Glorfindel called. A smile tugged on his lips as the child withdrew his hand as if burned.
"Because I said so."
Elladan and Elrohir stood silently in front of him, words having escaped them.
"Glorfindel?" Elrohir ventured.
"Are we in trouble?"
"No, Elrohir," Glorfindel replied. "Today we are having a different kind of lesson." He sat down on the ground in front of the twins, motioning for them to sit too. "Being a warrior means more than knowing how to shoot an arrow or fight with a sword or ride a horse. One of the most important things a warrior must learn is how to follow orders. Do you know why it is important for even warriors as small as you to follow orders?"
Both children pondered the question; Elrohir answered first. "So that when you tell us to do something you know that we will do it?"
Glorfindel nodded, then looked at Elladan.
"So that when you tell us not to do something you know that we will not do it?" Elladan blushed as he answered.
"Yes," Glorfindel answered seriously. "Swords and bows and knives are necessary weapons. We use them to defend ourselves, and they may mean the difference between life and death for ourselves or for those we defend. It is very important that you follow orders when you are learning to wield them so that you do not get hurt, and so that you do not hurt others. Are you ready to learn to follow orders?"
"Yes, Glorfindel!" both children replied together.
Glorfindel stood and the elflings quickly followed him. He noted immediately their serious demeanor - backs straight, heads held high, expressions intense - as they fell in line behind him. He stopped at the beginning of the pattern and turned to face his small soldiers.
"Elrohir, may I see your arm?" Glorfindel asked.
Elrohir pulled up the sleeve of his tunic to reveal his black, blue and yellow upper arm. Glorfindel gently smoothed his hand over the skin, noting the flinch of pain. He raised the arm and rotated the shoulder slowly, noting the body language that bespoke of pain while the little warrior bit his lip.
"When warriors train we adjust their lessons to accommodate injuries, for we do not wish to worsen an existing injury," Glorfindel explained. "I am assessing what you can do and what you cannot."
"I can do everything Elladan can do!" Elrohir protested.
"You can do everything; however, it is not wise for you to do everything," Glorfindel explained. He caught the look shared between the twins - Elladan's eyes pleading again for forgiveness and Elrohir's showing his frustration at the topic being raised. Glorfindel smiled inwardly. A tough lesson learned - there are consequences for actions and those consequences sometimes exist after forgiveness is granted. Forgetting could not occur until the wound was healed.
"Stand here," Glorfindel ordered, ignoring the silent communication occurring between the younglings. "When I say 'start', you may follow the path set up with the wooden stakes. Elladan, you are to follow the red stakes and pick up all the green bags you see. Elrohir, you are to follow the blue stakes and pick up all the yellow bags. You must listen to me, for I may change the directions at any time."
Elladan grinned at Elrohir. "This will be fun."
"Start!" Glorfindel called and watched at the elflings ran forward. Elrohir began more cautiously than his brother, following the stakes and being sure to grab every yellow bag he could. Elladan moved faster, occasionally missing a green bag, but moving further ahead. "Elrohir, follow the green stakes now, and pick up red bags."
Elrohir switched immediately, while Elladan stopped and looked expectantly at Glorfindel. When Glorfindel said nothing, Elladan resumed his course. He was just approaching the edge of the clearing when Glorfindel called, "Elladan, follow the yellow stakes and pick up the blue bags now!"
Elladan hesitated for only a moment. There was one more red bag in the tall grass, and he wanted to get it. He reasoned that grabbing the one bag would not take that much time, and then he could switch colors. He ran into the tall grass. . . . and promptly sank into the marshy ground. His momentum carried his body forward, even as his feet mired in the muck. A squeal escaped him as he landed sprawled face first in the mud.
"Elladan!" Elrohir called. He started to run, then remembered his orders. He watched as Glorfindel calmly walked over and picked up the errant elfling by the back of his tunic and set him on his feet. Elrohir's lower lip quivered as he wanted to run comfort his brother, then Elladan turned to face him.
"El, you. . .you . . you are a mud monster!" Elrohir burst out laughing.
Elladan glared at his brother, then looked down at the front of himself. Very white teeth appeared in a grin on his blackened face. "I should go scare Nana! She said there were no such things as mud monsters!"
"Ahem," Glorfindel cleared his throat. "Master Mud Monster, why are you covered in mud?"
Elladan bowed his head slightly, hiding his smile. "Because I did not follow orders?"
"Correct," Glorfindel replied. "If you had stopped when I told you, you would have avoided the mud altogether." Glorfindel walked to the spot in the course where he had Elrohir change course. "Elrohir, come here."
Elrohir walked to Glorfindel, and squatted down close to the ground. "Glorfindel, these are the first snowdrops of the year!" Elrohir delicately traced his finger along a petal.
"Indeed they are. I am sure your Nana will be glad to hear it, too. What would have happened, Elrohir, if you had not followed orders?"
"I would have trampled the flowers," Elrohir said simply. He knew how much his Nana treasured the first snowdrops.
"Let us put away the bags and stakes, and then we will get you cleaned up, Elladan," Glorfindel tousled Elrohir's hair as he stood. "Normally we dunk the mud monsters in the pool, but I think it is a little cool for that today."
Elladan was already shivering. He warmed up with the motion of pulling up stakes and picking up bags and returning them to the armory, but was feeling most uncomfortable as the mud dried on him as they returned to the house. They had just reached the back porch when Erestor and Celebrían appeared.
"Nana, I am a mud monster!" Elladan called in glee as he started to run forward. Glorfindel caught him by the back of the tunic again.
"No mudding your mother!" Glorfindel laughed.
Celebrían eyed her little mud monster up and down, and then turned to Glorfindel. "What happened?"
"I fell in the mud!" Elladan answered.
Erestor caught the twinkle in Glorfindel's eye. "Ah, the famous learning to follow orders lesson, I presume?" When Glorfindel nodded, he continued, "Well, we are quite busy with planning, so we will leave it to you to clean him up and get him into clean clothes. Oh, and you should get that mud out of those clothes soon or it will never come out." Erestor deftly steered Celebrían off the porch and away from the mud. "I suggest you carry him so that he does not get mud on anything in the house!" he called over his shoulder.
"Erestor, we should help him," Celebrían admonished the advisor.
Erestor's eyes twinkled merrily. "Lord Glorfindel is famous for making messes; I think he can determine how to clean one up for a change."
"Nana wait! You have to come see the first snowdrops!" Elrohir ran after his Nana, taking her hand and pulling her most persuasively back to the training field. "I will be right back, Glorfindel!"
Elladan stood before Glorfindel, who grinned suddenly. He went inside the house, and grabbed Erestor's cloak from the hall. He held it around Elladan while the child stripped, and then he bundled the naked elfling into the cloak and carried him to the baths. If a little mud happened to get on the cloak. . . . .
"Glorfindel!" Elladan grinned at him conspiratorially. "Erestor will be mad!"
Glorfindel merely smiled and began to hum a merry tune.
* * *
A few brilliant smiles later and Glorfindel managed to avoid cleaning both clothes and baths as the house staff stepped in to complete the tasks. Elrohir rejoined them, and with an elfling on each side Glorfindel retired with them to his study. An additional brilliant smile and gracious thank-you brought them cool drinks and snacks.
"Tell me what you learned today," Glorfindel settled the elflings on either side of him on the comfortable couch.
"If you don't follow orders you get covered in mud," Elladan replied.
"Or you trample the flowers," Elrohir added.
"Mud and flowers are meant only to be examples of things that can happen when orders are not followed," Glorfindel explained. "Mud symbolizes any bad thing that might happen, any danger that we might get into that we could have avoided. Flowers symbolize the innocent and good things that might get hurt by us when we don't listen. There will be times when bad things happen and good things are hurt even when we DO follow orders, for we cannot prevent everything. But those that we can prevent, we should. A warrior is bound by honor to this."
Both elflings nodded, and Glorfindel hoped this time-honored lesson would be remembered.
"Are you ready to continue the story?"
"Yes, Glorfindel!" Elrohir cried. "You left off where Ada was born and his ada was off in a ship and his nana was sad because of it!"
"So I did," Glorfindel replied. "Now, do you remember that your grandmother Elwing still had one of the Sillmarilli?"
Both heads nodded.
"Fëanor and his sons had sworn an oath to recover the Sillmarilli from any who would keep the jewels from them. They killed Teleri elves for their ships that they might follow Morgoth to Middle-Earth to recover them. This was the….
". . . first kin-slaying," Elrohir finished triumphantly.
"Exactly. Now Fëanor was killed fighting Morgoth right after returning to Middle-Earth. But his sons were still bound to the oath they had taken, to recover the Sillmarilli at any cost. They attacked Doriath in the second kin-slaying. Three of Fëanor's seven sons died there. But they still had not recovered any of the Sillmarilli. Morgoth had two of them, and Elwing had the other.
"Maedhros was the oldest son of Fëanor, and he had led many battles against Morgoth. His guilt weighed heavy on him over what he had done at Doriath, and especially that he had abandoned your great-uncles, who were just small children, to die in the forest. So even after he knew that Elwing still had the Silmaril in Sirion, he did not act. But he was tormented by his oath. . . . ."
~ ~ ~ * * * ~ ~ ~
FA 534 Himring
Maedhros sat in silent contemplation, a scrap of parchment resting on the ground near his feet where it had fallen. He stared at the stars just peeking out through the growing darkness of night and his mind was drawn back to Valmar and life in Aman. In the distance he could hear his brother Maglor singing mournfully, and the words drew forth memory. A long list of his life's misdeeds scrolled before his mind's eye, all ascribable to an oath sworn in loyalty to his father, the consequences of which were not considered or weighed by reason. Swearing the oath had been a rash act that had borne bitter fruit. In their anger and self-righteousness they had battled and killed their Teleri kin at Alqualondë for their fine ships, then betrayed their own Noldor kin and left them to cross the grinding ice of the Helcaraxë on foot, where many had perished. They had killed kin again at Doriath; Dior and Nimloth falling and their young sons abandoned to starve. He had regretted that cruel act against children, attempted to right that wrong, but the Valar were right - all he touched was accursed.
For the lust of the Sillmarilli much blood had been spilled. Who would have thought that crafted gems could have led to such treachery and evil? The Sillmarilli had led to distrust between the Noldor and the Valar; the leave-taking of Aman; the return of Morgoth to Middle-Earth and the endangerment of those living in those lands. For lust of the Sillmarilli his grandfather was murdered; his father killed and most recently three of his brothers slain as they pursued recovery of one of the Sillmarilli from Doriath.
Morgoth. He still held two of the Sillmarilli in his stronghold of Angband. Maedros unconsciously rubbed the stump of his right arm. His memories of being cuffed by his right hand to the wall of the cliffs of Thangorodrim - the stronghold of Morgoth - were strong. Phantom pain plagued him, the pain commensurate with his memory. His cousin Fingon had risked much to rescue him; Fingon would have ended his life as he had pleaded if the Eagles had not intervened. The eagles had lifted Fingon to the cliff; where, unable to remove the cuff, Fingon had sliced off his hand to free him. In this act their houses, which were sundered in the treason at Helcaraxë, were reunited.
Yet the oath still stood.
Word had reached him that Elwing of Sirion yet held the Silmaril won by Beren. It had been brought out of Doriath with her, providing protection and prosperity for those elves living at the Havens of Sirion.
He had sent tidings of friendship to Sirion, friendship that should lead to the return of the jewel, based on the claims of the sons of Fëanor to the Silmaril.
The claim was denied.
He had foresworn his oath after the horrors of Doriath - he did not wish to fight anymore!
Yet the oath held him in torment. A promise made to his father; a promise sworn on the name of Iluvatar -sworn with Manwë and Varda as witnesses! How could he not fulfill the oath? He clenched the fist of his left hand. Honor and loyalty to his father still drove him; the oath still bound him. He had presented his case to the Sirion elves, plainly explained his right - the right of Fëanor - to the jewel!
His plea was rejected.
He picked up the parchment and reread Elwing's words. Their Lord was at sea; no decision could be made in his absence. He crumpled the missive in his hand, his head bowing to touch the paper. He was bound by his oath. He would reclaim the Silmaril. If Sirion fought, their blood would be on their own hands.
He would send one more message, try one last time.
He heard Maglor's voice fade as he finished the haunting verse of the Noldolantë, the lament of the Fall of the Noldor. Fall they might, and as Fëanor had sworn, their deeds would be sung in tales until the end of Arda. Aye, their deeds of great evil, for as Manwë had prophesied all they began, even as good, turned to evil.
Maedhros felt rather heard his brother's approach, and he leaned into the touch of his brother's hand as it brushed his hair back and lifted his face. Maglor smiled at him, and took the crumpled note from his hand. Seating himself next to his brother, Maglor straightened the paper and read Elwing's words for himself.
"She knows the oath we have sworn, knows the words that bind us. Why does she not give up the Silmaril and save herself and her people?" Maedhros asked softly.
Maglor was silent for a moment, then responded, "You mean to attack Sirion."
Maedhros slammed his hand on to his thigh. "For many years they have prospered and grown, and we have let them! We did not chase them to the sea. We have waited; we have offered friendship and laid forth our claim! She denies me with platitudes and excuses that their Lord Eärendil is not present. The Sindar have withheld from us what is rightfully ours for too long!"
There was silence after Maedhros' outburst, as even the night sounds had subsided in submission to his anger. Maedhros clenched his thigh with his left hand, stopping the trembling that appeared whenever this torment overcame him. "I will send one more missive. I will word it most strongly." Maedhros eyed his brother. "But it is time to gather our peoples and our brothers together, for we will act swiftly at the appointed time."
Maglor nodded, his heart heavy. He had little hope that the Silmaril would be surrendered peacefully, yet he too experienced the torment of the knowledge of their unfulfilled oath. And he wondered if ever he would find peace.
* * *
Elwing sat in the window seat of the nursery listening to the roar of the waves as they crashed upon the rocks below her. Tirion cast the light of the moon upon the water and stars twinkled in the sky, and she drew comfort that Eärendil gazed upon the same stars under the same moonlight. A soft sigh and the rustle of bedclothes brought a smile to her lips as she gazed upon the twin sleeping forms of her sons. Elros squirmed in his sleep, kicking the blanket from him and freeing small legs to stretch without restraint. He rolled to his stomach, tucking small legs underneath him. His thumb found its way to his mouth, and he sucked contentedly. Elrond lay peaceful, as always, his blanket tucked neatly around him and one tiny hand in contact with his brother.
"Your father will hardly recognize you," she murmured, pulling the light blanket back over Elros. "Even I am amazed at how much you have grown. It has been long since he has seen you." She paused, her eyes drifting again to the window and the sea. "I miss him so, little ones. I wish he were here to see you grow."
Elwing turned to the vague form in the shadows. "Liriel?"
"My Lady, a messenger has arrived," Liriel spoke softly. "You are needed."
Elwing closed her eyes for a moment, drawing in a deep breath to calm herself. She leaned over the bed of her sons, kissing the soft hair of each precious head. "Please stay with them, Liriel. I will return as soon as I may."
Elwing spared one more glance out the window before gathering her shawl closer about her shoulders and leaving the sanctuary of the nursery. She hurried down the stone hallways to the main hall, nodding to the guard at the entrance before entering. A flurry of activity greeted her.
"Lady Elwing!" Eregdos called. "A messenger has arrived from Himring."
"Maedhros?" Elwing asked.
"Yes, My Lady. He is urging you to reconsider your position and his claim upon the Silmaril," Eregdos answered gravely. "This message is worded most strongly."
Elwing took the parchment in hand and read through it slowly, for as much was written between the lines as could be read in the bold strokes of the son of Fëanor. "The tone has changed again," Elwing said quietly. "He is on edge, more demanding than before." She was silent for a few moments, walking to the window and gazing again to the sea. Eärendil, I need you here, she thought, as she had so many times in the last months.
"Eregdos, I believe we need to answer this request, at least to buy us more time," she finally turned to her chief advisor. "I believe a message should be sent to Cirdan as well. I fear we may need him."
"Your thoughts are my own," Eregdos responded, his eyes resting on the slight form before him. He had protected her as a child. He had carried her from Doriath and stayed by her side as she grew. Her wisdom was sound, yet he feared treachery lurked closer than even she imagined. "I shall send word to Cirdan this eve. Do you wish to compose a letter to Maedhros yourself, Lady Elwing?"
Elwing studied him for a moment. "Let us compose this together. Our choice of words is most important."
"Your last note was worded well," Eregdos replied, his heart heavy. "However I am not sure you are corresponding with one of sane mind. Nonetheless, we will try again."
Elwing set herself to the task of drafting the response to Maedhros while Eregdos composed messages first to Cirdan, calling upon him to return to the Havens in their defense, and his own note, shorter, to Celeborn to inform him of this latest demand. They had fought Maedhros and his forces before, losing their homes and many of their people but not the Silmaril. Their prosperity in the combined remnants of Gondolin and Doriath was surely attributable to the Silmaril.
Messengers were sent a short time later, one to Himring and another to locate Cirdan. Eregdos sat alone with his thoughts and worries, for he knew the sons of Fëanor would not be put off for long. Both Elwing and Eärendil were so young - too young perhaps for the burden placed on them. Yet through them the remnants of Noldor and Sindar had united and the Havens were prospering. But they knew of the treachery of these Noldor only through stories and his heart warned him that tragedy would strike them yet again. This foreboding weighed heavy upon him that he would not be able to protect her much longer.
Elwing returned to her chambers, where she again took up watch upon the window-seat that overlooked the sea.
~ ~ ~ * * * ~ ~ ~
Glorfindel stopped as his eyes rested upon Elrond, who had slipped in midway through the story with Istuion in tow. He felt the confusion that he only rarely now sensed in his friend as Elrond relived his own memories of Maedhros and Maglor, and struggled to remember the loving face and hands of his mother. Glorfindel's observation was interrupted by small hands tugging at his tunic, and he turned to the wide eyes and small faces that waited expectantly for him.
"Glorfindel, did Maedhros and his brothers have to fulfill the oath?" Elladan asked, his brow knit in a way very reminiscent of his father.
"That depends on what you mean by 'have to'," Glorfindel forced his thoughts away from Elrond. "In their minds they had to, but those that could hold them to the oath were either gone - like their father Fëanor, whom they had sworn the oath with - or would not want them to hold to the oath - like Manwë, Varda and Ilúvatar. They may have felt they could not be released from their oath, but their minds were lacking wisdom and insight."
Elladan stared at Glorfindel doubtfully, and Elrohir appeared equally confused.
"Come here, ion-nín," Elrond beckoned to them. He drew them both on to his lap, then leaned back against the comfortable couch as he considered his words.
"Elrohir, here is a gold piece that I would like you to hold. It is very valuable, and has great meaning beyond even it's worth to purchase things," Elrond explained, placing the gold piece in Elrohir's hand. "Glorfindel desires the gold piece greatly."
Elrohir turned to Glorfindel and smiled.
"As a matter of fact, Glorfindel has sworn to retrieve that gold piece at any cost. He has sworn it to me that he will do this."
Glorfindel had dropped to the floor and with cat-like movements begun stalking towards the children. Elrohir squealed in delight while moving closer into his Ada's protective arms.
"Glorfindel wants that gold piece back, for though it is not his, he did once possess it."
Glorfindel was closer now, his long mane of golden hair falling about his face like the mane of a mighty feline, his eyes wide and low growls emanating from his throat. Elrohir and Elladan were now standing on the couch, clinging to Elrond, as the great elf-cat was nearly in paw-swiping distance of their legs.
"His every thought is bent on it."
Glorfindel raised his arms to the couch, and Elladan squealed and crawled over his ada and joined his brother.
"He has you in his grip. . ."
Glorfindel pounced, grabbing both elflings and wrestling them to the floor. Elrohir screamed and giggled as he clutched the gold piece tightly, trying to protect it while defending himself against tickling fingers. Elladan was tickling back with both hands, their giggles nearly drowning out their father's voice.
". . . and only two things can save you. You can give up the coin . . ."
Elrohir squealed again, holding the coin in his outstretched hand as far above his head as he could reach.
". . . but it has a great worth, a worth you do not yet understand - you just know you should not let him have it. . ."
Glorfindel had both elflings on their backs, one hand holding each tiny body down as he gently tickled them, and his teeth were in a tug-of-war with Elrohir's fingers for the coin.
"Ada, help!" Elladan called between breathless giggles.
"Help do what?" Elrond called back.
"You are bigger than us!" Elladan gasped. "You come fight Glorfindel!"
"I can not," Elrond replied. "I have sworn never to fight Glorfindel."
"Ada!" Elrohir squealed again.
"Yes, Elrohir?" Elrond smiled as he called back.
"Tell him to stop!" Elrohir yelled.
"Glorfindel, stop," Elrond nudged the elf-lord-cat.
Glorfindel settled enough to turn his head slightly to Elrond. "No."
"Glorfindel! Ada told you to stop!" Elladan was aghast through his laughter. "You are going to get in trouble."
"I swore an oath," Glorfindel growled around the coin in his teeth, "with your ada as witness. I hold to the oath." Glorfindel began to shake his head, shaking Elrohir's arm gently in the process, and his golden mane swept the elflings across their faces bringing forth new giggles.
"Ada," Elladan called, "release Glorfindel from his oath!"
"Glorfindel, I do not hold you to the oath. I never have," Elrond nudged the elf-Lord again.
Glorfindel stopped shaking his head and tickling the elflings, but did not release them.
"I do not have to do this?" he asked, one eyebrow raised at Elrond.
Elrond shook his head.
Glorfindel released the elflings and gracefully rolled over to lie on his back next to them. "Tis good, for I am tired!"
His rest was momentary at best, for two small bodies landed on top of him in quick succession and he found himself being tickled by four small hands. After a few moments of allowing the elflings to be victorious in their attack, he leapt to his feet with all the grace of a big cat and settled himself next to Elrond with a child on each knee.
It took several moments for the twins to regain their breath.
"Ada, why did Maedhros not ask to be released from his oath?" Elladan finally asked.
"He was unable to ask Iluvatar or Manwë directly; but more than that his heart was so unclean from his deeds that he would not have accepted their release; indeed, they had never held him to the oath at all. Maedhros and his brothers were blinded by their greed," Elrond explained. "They could not see the truth in their blindness."
Elladan and Elrohir were quiet for a few moments as they pondered their father's explanation. Elrohir picked up his father's hand and placed the gold coin on his palm, then pressed his father's fingers closed around it and patted them gently. Then he turned his attention back to Glorfindel.
"Glorfindel, can we do that again?" he asked brightly.
Both elflings felt the deep growl rumbling from the big cat before they heard it, and with squeals of delight they slid to the floor and ran for the door, shrieks of delight erupting from them as they heard a thud behind them and the big cat resumed the hunt.
Istuion watched them go with a solemn expression. Elrond stood and caught the young tutor's eye.
"Does Lord Glorfindel have any stories that help them learn numbers?" Istuion ventured.
* * * * *
A/N: The Silmarillion does not say whether Celeborn was at the Havens of Sirion when they were attacked. There is a passage in the FotR indicating Galadriel may not have been, but that depends on how one interprets the mountains referred to in the passage. For this story, they are in Sirion.
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