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Chapter 17 Men and Elves
Glorfindel folded the gown over his arm and tucked a thin blanket over it and the small bag of accessories hanging from his wrist. He opened the door to his chamber quietly, peering out into the corridor to ensure it was devoid of people before venturing out on his errand. Once sure the hallway was clear, he moved swiftly towards his destination. He heard a noise as he started to turn the corner, but was unable to avoid the ensuing collision.
The blanket, bag and gown fell as he caught the elf who had collided with him, one arm wrapping about her waist and pulling her to his chest as the stack of garments she had been carrying scattered across the hallway floor.
"Lord Glorfindel!" she cried in dismay.
Glorfindel cast an amused glance at the young female elf in his arms, her cheeks reddening in embarrassment when she looked up and found herself within inches of the elf-lord's face. She squirmed away from him, jumping back as if burned.
"I am sorry! I did not see or hear you coming," she said, the horrified look still upon her face. She dropped gracefully to her knees and began gathering up the fallen items.
Glorfindel laughed. "It is as much my fault as yours, my Lady," he answered gallantly. "Please, allow me to assist you."
He reached to pick up the item closest to him, but heard her gasp and felt the item ripped from his fingers an instant later. He looked at her in surprise and saw her frantically stuffing the garment, a lady's shift, into the bottom of the pile she was forming. Unwilling to cause her more distress, he stepped back a few paces. He watched her for a moment, then recalled her name, for he had seen her about the house.
"Amariel? Is that your name?" Glorfindel asked kindly.
Color rose in her face as she slowly looked up at him. "Yes, my Lord."
"I apologize if I have caused your further distress," he said as he reached to gather up the blanket covered gown he had dropped.
Amariel grabbed the bag that had landed near to her items, but it opened as she lifted it and the contents spilled out on to the floor. Her eyes widened in surprise, and then she cautiously lifted the pink hair ribbons.
"I am returning those to their proper owner," Glorfindel attempted to explain himself. He reached for the bag, causing the blanket to shift across his arm, exposing the fabric of the gown. To his surprise, Amariel pulled the dress from his arm, and then flew to the opposite wall.
Glorfindel watched as she held up the gown, turning it around and then opening the lacings to look at the workmanship inside. She dove for the bag of accessories and gathered them to her, sorting through them quickly. When she next looked at him, her eyes were filled with righteous indignation.
"You!" she said, as she rose to her feet. "Why did you take my things?"
"No, you misunderstand me. . .," Glorfindel tried to explain as he felt his own face flush.
She gave him no chance to explain himself. With an inarticulate cry, she flung the items on top of the pile of clothes she had been carrying, and scooped them up into her arms. With tears in her eyes she hurried off down the hall, not once looking back. Glorfindel could see the slight shake of her shoulders and heard her sob once before she disappeared around the corner.
"Do you often make the house staff cry with your insensitivity?" asked Erestor as he approached Glorfindel from behind.
Glorfindel sighed and then turned to face him. "You know I did not take those things!"
"Perhaps not, but she thinks you did," answered Erestor with a frown. He paused for a moment. "Celebrían would never intentionally cause distress to one of the young maidens. She is so kind to them. . . maybe she is not the one who put those things in your pack."
Glorfindel's eyes narrowed and he clenched and unclenched his fists. "No, but I could think of some others who might enjoy playing me for a fool regardless of the feelings of a young maiden like Amariel," he growled.
He grabbed the blanket from the floor where it had fallen when Amariel grabbed her dress and tossed it on to a nearby bench, then strode out the front door of the house.
* * *
Amariel pushed open the door and dropped the load of clothing on to a chair, one more sob escaping her as the door closed behind her. She then collapsed in giggles on the couch next to Celebrían.
"Did you hear all of it?" she asked, finally ceasing her laughter to draw in a breath of air.
"Oh, you were perfect, Amariel!' Celebrían managed to say, before laughter overtook her again. "He was mortified! The poor dear. . . . if it were not so amusing to see him finally on the receiving end of a foolish prank, I would feel quite bad for him!"
Amariel bounced to her feet and grabbed her gown. "So, do you think I should wear it to the Hall of Fire tonight?" she asked, her eyes sparkling.
"No, my dear," Celebrían sighed contentedly. "This is enough Glorfindel torment for one day." She patted Amariel on the arm as the maiden sat back down next to her. "He is really very kind and will now wish to appease you. I expect you will receive flowers or he will ask to escort you on a walk about the grounds where he can apologize formally. He had nothing to do with your clothing, but he will be quite distressed that you were upset." She looked slyly at the young elf. "He is quite charming. . ."
Amariel blushed. "I would truly be embarrassed if he asked me to walk with him, but I would accept a bouquet of flowers."
Celebrían laughed with delight. "Well, accept gracefully, but do not cause any hurt feelings with that handsome young guard who sits at your side most evenings in the Hall."
"Sorontur is very handsome, and he is also very kind," replied Amariel, suddenly becoming serious. "We are in love, Lady Celebrían," she confided. "Sorontur was trained by Glorfindel. He said that Lord Glorfindel praised his skill with the bow, and might have him help teach some of the younger warriors."
Celebrían smiled and encouraged Amariel to tell her all about her love, while inside she laughed still at the golden warrior who charmed everyone around him. Eventually she might have to confess. . . but for now she was enjoying seeing the delight of the challenge in his eyes as he attempted to unravel the mystery.
* * *
Elrond picked Elladan up and sat him on the examination table, stacking several cushions into a pile for him to rest his arm upon. The child flinched slightly when he touched the pins holding the wrapping in place.
"There will be no pain, Elladan," he reassured him.
Elladan's eyes flashed and he sat up straight, then slouched slightly when he saw his father and Elrohir watching him. Elrond smiled; his Elladan was tough and had been about to protest that he was not scared, but then saw no need to impress his father or brother.
Elrond unwrapped the bandages and removed the splint, cradling the pale and slightly shrunken arm in the palm of his hand. He wiped a cool cloth over the skin, then began to gently massage the limb, feeling each muscle and tendon and bone beneath his sensitive fingers. He manipulated the wrist and each finger, and was pleased when Elladan squeezed his fingers with appropriate strength.
"Your arm has healed well," he pronounced.
Elladan grinned as he lifted his arm, and began to twist it and move it all about. He slid to the floor and did a silly dance as he bent his wrist and waved, smiling from ear to ear and humming a little tune.
"Ada, me too?" Elrohir looked imploringly at his father.
Elrond smiled and lifted Elrohir into his arms, kissing his forehead and then replying, "Not yet, Elrohir. Your foot needs a few more days in the cast."
Elrohir looked crestfallen as he watched his twin dance about the room. He sighed and rested his head against his father's shoulder for a moment, his fingers idly twisting the fastenings of his father's robe. He perked up when he saw the Man watching them from across the room.
"Ada," Elrohir tugged on his father's sleeve. "May we go visit Albast?"
"Albast! Ada took my splint off!" called Elladan when he saw the man reclined on a low couch, smiling at Elladan's antics.
Elladan looked to his father for permission, and when Elrond nodded he raced across the room to show Albast his arm. Elrond carried Elrohir to join them.
"Your arm looks as good as new," Albast agreed as he inspected the wrist the child held out to him in joy.
Albast looked up as Elrond approached, and Elrond saw the man's gaze rest on Elrohir. The man patted the couch next to him.
"Come sit with me, Elrohir, while we watch your brother dance," said Albast kindly. He tapped the bindings on his own broken leg. "Our casts can keep each other company."
"You have a cast now too!" Elrohir said suddenly. "When did you get that? Did you get hurt again? Did you try walking on it too soon?" He squirmed a bit in his father's arms, and Elrond set him down near the couch. Elrohir reached out to touch the cast, then stopped and looked at the man for permission.
"You can touch it," Albast assured it. "It does not hurt anymore."
Elrohir ran his hands down the cast, much larger than his own for it ran nearly the length of the man's leg. His curiosity piqued, he pulled himself up to sit next to the man.
"How did you hurt it again?" Elrohir repeated his question.
Elrond sat down on the edge of the couch and folded the thin blanket up, uncovering the man's legs. Elladan drew close to look and Elrohir leaned forward to watch their father as Elrond gently bent Albast's good leg.
"Albast was very badly injured in the rock slide," he explained, watching as Albast relaxed beneath his touch, and his sons focused on his motions and words. "These bones in that leg were broken," he explained as he ran his hands over the unbroken but battered leg, "and only now is the swelling reduced and the wound healed enough to cast the broken bones. Albast has not reinjured himself; he has healed enough that we are ready to move on to the next stage of healing."
"But, Ada, Albast was hurt before us," Elladan said, confused.
"He was hurt first, but his injury was worse than yours," explained Elrond. "Also, you are an elf, Elladan. You heal very quickly. Albast will heal well, and he is healing fast given the severity of the injuries, but Men heal more slowly than Elves."
"How long does Albast have to have this cast on?" asked Elrohir, unconsciously wrapping his hand around the man's in comfort.
"In several weeks I will check his leg and perhaps change the type of cast to one he can walk on a crutch with," Elrond answered. He noted that Albast's eyes had closed and the man made low noises of satisfaction as Elrond massaged the muscles. He knew that the other healers did this several times a day as they helped Albast move and strengthen his unbroken limbs.
"Oh," answered Elrohir softly, and Elrond knew that suddenly his little one did not feel so bad for having to wait several days to have his own cast removed. Elrohir lifted his casted foot and carefully set it down next to the man's leg. Albast opened his eyes and regarded the child with a smile.
"I would like it if you two were to paint my cast," said Albast, "if your father agrees."
Elladan and Elrohir both turned to their father expectantly and he laughed at the excited looks on their faces. "Yes, they may, but it will be different than painting Elrohir's cast," Elrond warned them. "You cannot move Albast's leg, or twist or turn it or have him lay at funny angles."
"We could ask Glorfindel and Erestor to help!" Elrohir said excitedly. He turned to Albast. "They are very good artists."
Albast grinned and squeezed the small hand that still held his. "I would rather it was just you two who did it. I will show it to my nephew when I return home."
"No painting today, though," Elrond decided. "Not until tomorrow or the next day, after the cast is completely hardened."
"Ada, when did you learn to be a healer?" Elladan asked suddenly.
"I started to learn about the healing arts when I first served in King Gil-Galad's court," Elrond answered thoughtfully. "We were taught many things, about lore and history, but also about all living things."
"Did you heal Men and Elves?" Elrohir added.
"Yes, some of the first people I ever treated were men," Elrond answered as he thought back to that time. "There had been an attack on one of the settlements of men on the coast of Beleriand. My brother Elros helped to fight off the attackers."
"Ada, will you tell us the story?" Elladan and Elrohir asked together.
Elrond was about to answer 'not now', that he would tell them later, when Albast spoke.
"Master Elrond, I would like to hear the story too, if you would allow. We learn of our history, but you were there. You are the brother of my first King."
Elrond heard the awe in the Man's voice, and thought again of the tapestry of threads that wove his life - and those of his sons - to these Men of Westernesse. Elros' blood flowed through their veins; the blood of his beloved brother long since dead and passed beyond the circles of this world. Yet in these Men Elros still lived, his blood thinned and weakened perhaps, but still with the legacy of a promise that remained unfulfilled.
"As you wish," Elrond answered. "Elros and I were about twenty years old, nearly full-grown, as is the way with men, and Círdan and Gil-Galad had taken us to sea. . ."
~ ~ ~* * *~ ~ ~
Elrond's sharp eyes took in the remnants of the stone quays and brick buildings that lined the waterfront of the destroyed sea village as Círdan maneuvered the ship into the bay where the waters of the River Brithon emptied. Elros jumped at the call of an order, leaving the rail instantly. Elrond watched his brother climb into the rigging and raise and fold the sail, his hands moving so quickly and deftly that Elrond could not follow the precise motions of the maneuver. Elros then slid down the mast and jumped to adjust a smaller sail.
"He will sail his own ship one day," said Gil-Galad as he rested against the rail next to Elrond.
Elrond turned to look at Gil-Galad for a moment. The King's eyes were twinkling but he appeared impressed as he watched Elros perform his duties on the ship. Elrond turned back to study Elros again, listening to his brother's easy banter with the other sailors and watching the combination of grace and strength of movement as he climbed the masts and maneuvered in the rigging.
"I was ten years old when I was sent to live with Círdan at Brithombar." Gil-Galad had turned to face the ruins of the havens. "My grandfather Fingolfin had great friendship with Círdan, and his people helped the elves of the Falas to wall and fortify their cities after they first arrived from the west. The stonework you see was created by the hands of the Noldor exiles."
"How did Círdan know he could trust any of the Noldor?" Elrond asked, his eyes roaming over the quays and buildings as they sailed slowly by. He watched as seagulls circled a broken pier, diving and swooping to the water amidst the stone pillars remaining near the shore.
"Círdan had no reason not to trust the Noldor when they first arrived," Gil-Galad answered. "They did not speak of their reasons for leaving Aman, nor did they tell of the kinslaying or the curse and doom laid upon them. Those living here in Middle-Earth had been assailed by Morgoth upon his return, and only the Falas and Doriath were safe. Fingolfin and his sons, including my father, and the sons of Finarfin fought against Morgoth, as did the sons of Fëanor. They were united against a common enemy."
"King Thingol did not trust them," Elrond stated, but his voice betrayed his confidence and his statement sounded more like a question.
"Celeborn lived in Doriath, and Galadriel came to dwell there also, for King Thingol was kin to her mother. Ask them your questions, Elrond. They will tell you with honesty what happened in Doriath," Gil-Galad encouraged him. "I do not believe that Melian trusted the sons of Fëanor and she advised Thingol of her distrust."
Elrond was silent for a long while as they passed the length of Brithombar. He could hear Círdan pointing out landmarks, explaining the trade and industry of the Falas, what certain buildings were used for and the great battle that eventually destroyed the city. He had heard of the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, the Battle of Unnumbered Tears.
"The city was so great in size!" one elf exclaimed. "Where are your people? How comes it that there are so few in Balar?"
Elrond recognized the elf as one who had come from Gondolin, part of the small remnant that had escaped with his father, Eärendil, and grandparents Tuor and Idril.
"They are gone, dead or enslaved," Círdan answered quietly. "The might of Morgoth came with fire and engines that prevailed against the great stone walls. Only a remnant of the Falathrim escaped by ship. As with you of Gondolin, Dúilinn, few survived the fall of the city."
"Did you know King Turgon?" Elrond asked Gil-Galad.
"No, I never met him. One did not come and go from Gondolin," Gil-Galad replied. "My uncle's law did not allow for visitors, for his hope of safety lay in secrecy. Few knew where the entrance to Gondolin lay. My father died in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, when I was a child of twenty-six, about half the size you are now. The Kingship of the Noldor passed to Turgon at that time, and when he died in the Fall of Gondolin thirty years later, the Kingship passed to me. All of the sons of Fingolfin and Finarfin were dead. Only Galadriel of that generation yet lived; and of mine, only myself and my cousin Idril, your grandmother.
"So the curse is real," Elrond murmured.
"Yes, the curse is real," Gil-Galad agreed. "Those of us born in Middle-Earth face the same penalty as our parents and grandparents; should we have children they will also live under the curse and doom of the Noldor."
Elrond again fell silent, his keen mind sorting all the names and places and facts carefully for future reference.
"Do you wonder where you should swear your loyalty?" Gil-Galad asked.
Elrond looked up in surprise. "No, you are my King," he answered solidly.
"I was not seeking your favor," Gil-Galad answered with a laugh. "You have a mighty heritage, Elrond. King Thingol was your great-great grandfather; Melian the Maia your great-great grandmother. King Finwë of the Noldor was your great-great grandfather as well. You descend from the three mighty houses of the Edain. You are a mixture of many bloods and kinships. You may claim all, and all may claim you."
Elrond stared out at the sea, noticing that the sails were fully catching the wind and they were now well underway again, heading down the coast, as planned, to see the fallen tower of Barad Nimras and then Eglarest, the other fallen city of the Falas.
"I had not considered that any might claim me, nor that any would have purpose in doing so," he finally answered. "All of the elves living now in Beleriand call you King, and to you I do swear fealty, whether you seek my favor or not."
Gil-Galad's eyes shone with pride in his young charge. He would have expected loyalty from one raised within his house, but more importantly, Elrond's wisdom and modesty regarding his own heritage pleased him. He did not judge one kin more harshly then another, and instead looked to a common purpose instead of blood to decide where to place his loyalty.
"My grandfather built Barad Nimras as a lookout to watch for the approach of Morgoth," Gil-Galad pointed down the coast to the cliff where the remnants of the tower stood. "It was destroyed with the Falas. Morgoth has never yet attacked from the sea, but I do not want us lulled into a false sense of security on the Isle of Balar."
Elrond pondered this for a moment as he pictured the geography of Beleriand in his head. Many hours he had spent pouring over maps in Gil-Galad's study and learning of the tactics used by the enemy. The enemy drove the Men and Elves to the sea, but they did not use it to their advantage.
"When did Círdan build on Balar?" he asked suddenly.
Gil-Galad smiled. "He did not build there originally," he informed Elrond. "Fingolfin built up Balar as a last refuge for the elves. He did not live to see it used. Círdan completed the building when the remnant of the Falathrim escaped there after the Nirnaeth Arnoediad."
Elrond saw the pride in Gil-Galad's eyes. "Your grandfather was very wise."
Gil-Galad laughed with pleasure. "So was your great-grandfather."
Elrond pondered the statement for only a moment before laughing with Gil-Galad. "I wish I might have known our common ancestor," he said wistfully.
"And I as well," Gil-Galad agreed with him. "I wish you might have known your father, Elrond. He would be pleased with his sons."
Elrond nodded seriously, his gaze turning again to seek his brother. "Elros especially."
"Eärendil and Elros share a love of sailing and the sea, and they are similar in temperament," Gil-Galad followed Elrond's gaze to Elros, who waved at them from his spot in the crow's nest of the rigging. "But Eärendil would take great joy in you as well. He would have found, as I have, that your mind is keen and wise, and seeks knowledge and truth. And you aren't bad with a sword."
Elrond laughed again, but treasured the praise for both his mind and his growing skill with the blade. He had worked long and hard to develop the grace and strength that seemed to come naturally to the elves in his group.
"I was but a child when the Falas were destroyed," Gil-Galad was serious again. "We escaped Brithombar as the walls fell. Many a brave elf paid for our escape with their lives. Many of my friends escaped, but lost their fathers and grandfathers and uncles. Others I knew did not survive. I saw houses burn, elves killed by the wicked scimitar of the orc and the flames of the dragons. We passed Eglarest, where even fewer escaped. We could see the flames from the ship far into the night." Gil-Galad paused. "Círdan watched it all. He was stoic, watching his people die. Never had he lost so many; never before had the walls of his Falas been breached. One of the mothers tried to pull me from the rail, but Círdan let me stay at his side. He seemed to know that the day would come when all of the Noldor would fall and I would be named King. He raised me to remember that responsibility. He did not shield me that day from the horror of our utter defeat."
Elrond had watched Gil-Galad's face as the King stared out over the water, his eyes fixed on the ruins of the tower that they were passing. He saw the grief and sorrow on his face, felt the deep emotion in his spirit as he remembered those who had died. Unconsciously his hand slid to cover Gil-Galad's and he focused his energy on that deeply held sorrow.
Gil-Galad had flinched slightly when Elrond's hand covered his own, but he did not withdraw, and Elrond closed his eyes as he instinctively gave comfort to his guardian. He felt a strange tingling through the contact of their skin and felt the song of the sea weaving into the melody he felt between them. He smiled as he felt Gil-Galad relax beneath the touch and some of his sorrow drift away. When he opened his eyes he found Gil-Galad staring at him curiously.
"Elrond, what just happened?" Gil-Galad asked softly. "What were you trying to do?"
Elrond jerked his hand back, but Gil-Galad caught it in his own and held it. He turned the palm up, as if expecting to find something hidden there. He looked at Elrond expectantly.
"I do not know, exactly," Elrond answered truthfully. "I wished to take away some of your sorrow, but when I touched you it was as if there was a connection in the spirit, in the melody of our songs."
"When you were small and in captivity with Maglor and Maedhros, we had a spy that watched you and learned much of your treatment in their hands. He said that Maglor had such a touch that he could strengthen you when they feared you would fade."
Elrond's eyes darkened and narrowed at the mention of the brothers. He started to speak, but Gil-Galad interrupted him. "Maglor offered his own life to his brother in payment for releasing you."
Elrond's anger turned to surprise. "He did?" he asked in disbelief.
"Maglor sent a messenger under a flag of parley to the Havens while he himself hid you and marked the location so that we could find you. Celeborn led his troops to meet Maedhros, and it was Maglor that rode between them and offered himself in forfeit, on the condition that no more blood would be shed," Gil-Galad explained. He watched Elrond closely. "He loved you enough to die for you."
Elrond found himself speechless and turned his gaze out to sea, as Gil-Galad had done earlier. His momentary rise of anger dissipated as quickly as it had come. "I do not know what to say," he finally responded, his eyes fixed firmly ahead.
"Your mother put you and Elros into the hands of your nurse before taking the Silmaril and leading the attackers away from you. She knew she could not give up the jewel, so she cast herself and it into the sea. Her choice can be seen as placing the Silmaril above all else, but her actions also saved your life."
"Why are you telling me these things?" Elrond finally asked.
Gil-Galad laughed. "I do not know. You just diminished my sorrow and I felt your spirit sing with mine, Elrond. It is rare even in a healer to have such a touch. Perhaps I am just searching for reasons why you would have developed such a gift, or maybe I am seeing what has been poured into you through the sacrifice of others. "
"I had not thought of it that way before," Elrond admitted.
"Many things in your life have not been ideal," Gil-Galad said, and Elrond thought he flinched at his choice of words. "You are of mixed race, and there has been much uncertainty and even mistakes made in your upbringing because we did not know how to adjust for your development. You were slow to speak and trust adults, because adults in your life had not proven trustworthy. Your family is mostly gone, killed by kin and evil. But do not doubt that there have been equal measures of sacrifice and love given to you. You have but to look for them."
Elrond smiled as he felt Gil-Galad's strong hand close around his. While the touch was not healing in the sense of what Elrond had just imparted to his guardian, it was the familiar touch of one who had poured large measures of love into him.
"I will not forget," Elrond promised.
Elrond turned at the call of his name and glimpsed his brother again in the small lookout in the rigging. Elros waved, motioning for Elrond to join him. Elrond turned to Gil-Galad, who grinned and nodded towards the sky. Elrond whooped in return and made his way to the mast. He quickly gained his footing and scaled the rigging, climbing the last feet carefully, before settling next to his grinning twin.
"Getting more lessons in the history of Beleriand?" Elros asked as he pulled Elrond on to the small platform next to him. He looped his arm through Elrond's, conscious that his brother was not used to climbing about the sails and rigging.
"Gil-Galad was speaking of his grandfather, our great-grandfather," confirmed Elrond as he looked out over the land to their north. He drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly. "You can almost see forever from here."
"I love being up here," agreed Elros. "Sailing should be smooth to Eglarest. We can stay up here until then. This is the bird's nest, and sometimes when the ship is in port the birds will roost here. When we are at sea, this is called Elros' nest."
Elrond laughed and leaned against Elros, allowing his brother to play protector to him while in his nest. Elros loosened his hold slightly when Elrond relaxed against him.
"Tell me about your sword training. I have heard you are becoming quite good," Elros said, squeezing Elrond's arm in several places. "You're finally developing muscles, little brother!"
Elrond laughed good-naturedly at the ribbing. Elros had surpassed him in height and strength quite early in their childhood and had pointed out his own physical superiority at every opportunity. Of course, he also had no qualms about using that strength to Elrond's benefit either.
"We have been learning defensive techniques against the curved scimitar of the orcs," Elrond answered. "Do they teach you this?"
Elros laughed. "Long ago we learned that. Many of the sailors on this ship sailed with Círdan when he would launch attacks against Morgoth's forces. They would land and strike, then return to their ships knowing the orcs would not follow for they feared the water. Some fight with pleasure, for nearly all have lost family to the orcs." Elros pointed to a sailor standing near the prow of the ship. "He has taught all of the younger sailors. Perhaps he will spar with another or me later, and you can see his skill. He even taught Gil-Galad."
Elrond listened as his brother pointed out different elves and told of their strengths and their families, why they sailed and where they were from. Most of the sailors were Círdan's people, but survivors of all the realms seemed to be represented. Elros then told him of the ship and the sea, his excitement both palpable and catching, as he spoke of currents and tides, sea villages he visited, peoples he had met on landing, and the different types of ships they sailed. Elrond found himself pleasantly comfortable in his brother's presence - his brother's arm yet wrapped about his own, his pleasing voice describing so vividly all his adventures, and the sound of the sea adding its own harmony to the words. Elrond knew that little of his life of study would hold Elros' interest, but that if he wished to speak of it Elros would listen for as long as he wished to speak, and even help him to think through problems and issues. But here at sea he found that Elros' voice complemented the sea best, and he allowed their song to wash over him as the voice of the wind blew through the sails.
* * *
"He is asleep," Gil-Galad said incredulously.
Círdan glanced up at the nest and met Elros' eyes. "Elros will not let him fall."
Gil-Galad turned an exasperated look at Círdan. "I know that Elros will not let him fall. Elrond wished to see the coast of Beleriand, though, and now he is sleeping through it."
Círdan smiled as he watched the brothers together. Elros was at home in his nest high above the sea, but to his surprise Elrond appeared nearly as comfortable as he swayed slightly with the rocking of the ship and the caress of the wind upon him. "Elros will wake him when there is something to see." He watched as Elros shifted, allowing Elrond's head to rest against his shoulder. Círdan heard the familiar voice of the sea speaking to him, the whispered words of great joy and great sorrow that would separate the children of Eärendil one day to the fates appointed to them. He forced his gaze away from the young peredhil above him and turned his ancient eyes westward, for the sea also promised that the hope and future of all the children of Ilúvatar lay far from the shores of Beleriand.
* * *
Elrond awoke with a start and would have sat up abruptly if not for the restraining arm of his brother. He turned his head to look at Elros and felt the blood creep into his face even as Elros grinned merrily.
"So my voice puts you to sleep, little brother," he teased. "I am still deciding if I should be offended."
When Elrond tried to speak, to apologize, Elros just shook his head and tightened his arm about his twin. "Do you see why I love it up here? The wind and the waves soothe the body and spirit," Elros explained. "Sometimes I tether myself to the mast and sleep up here." He grinned suddenly. "It is why I called you up here."
"So I could fall asleep and nearly make a fool of myself tumbling to the deck below?" Elrond grumbled half-heartedly.
"So you could hear and feel the sea and the wind all about you and in you. So it could wash over you and remove the tension that was all about you when you boarded the ship," Elros answered, refusing to be baited. He smoothed his brother's hair back from his face. "And because I have missed you." He tugged on the hair. "And because now you owe me your life for not letting you fall to an embarrassing death at the feet of your king."
Elrond leaned over and looked down to see Gil-Galad watching them with an amused look. He sat back upright and leaned against Elros. "He still thinks I am a child and now I have it proved it so," he muttered.
Elros laughed merrily and hauled his brother to his feet as he stood himself. They clung to the mast, and looked at the ruin of Eglarest that was fast approaching on their port side. The scene was much as they had seen in Brithombar, with crumbling stone and brick walls overgrown with weeds and grasses, the quays with gaps missing where the engines of Morgoth had broken through the stone.
Elrond felt Elros grip his arm tightly and he looked up, following his brother's gaze further down the coast. "Smoke," Elros said. "Fire!"
Elros yelled the last word, gaining the attention of all on board. He pointed down the coast to where a growing plume of smoke was rising in the air.
"All hands to arms!" Gil-Galad shouted.
"What is it?" Elrond turned to Elros and saw the combination of eager anticipation and anger crossing his brother's features.
"Listen," Elros replied as he stepped into the rigging, pausing for just a moment as he waited for his brother to hear the faint sounds. "Battle. That is a sea village of men. They are under attack!"
Elros slid quickly down the mast, watching to make sure his brother could follow with ease as Círdan swiftly turned the ship to race to the beleaguered village.
Elrond felt the deck beneath his feet, and then Gil-Galad was thrusting his armor and sword into his hands. He felt his training take over as he quickly fastened the straps and ties about his chest and abdomen and then slid the arm and leg coverings on and tied them in place. He tied his sword belt about his waist, and felt the comforting weight of his sword come to rest against his hip. He looked up to see Elros similarly outfitted and standing at the prow of the ship, as if wishing the vessel to reach her destination faster.
"Take this." Elrond took the chest of herbs, bandages and surgical supplies that Gil-Galad thrust into his arms. "You are to stay to the rear and help the wounded. Fight only if you need to."
Elrond opened his mouth to protest, but Gil-Galad cut him off. "You have no battle experience, Elrond. And right now I do not know if we shall be outnumbered or if this is a small band that we will slaughter. If it is possible to do so, I will bring you up to gain some experience. But your healing abilities may be of greater value to us than your sword."
Elrond turned his head at the sound of shouts and realized they were already nearing the small village. The docks were too small to allow their ship berth, and he watched as small boats from their ship were lowered to the water, and others were being rowed towards them from the dock. Women and children were crowded at the water's edge, many already in boats, and up the small hill from the shore he could see orcs and men in battle, their cries and the sounds of metal hitting metal drowning out all other sound around him. He watched in fascinated horror as he saw an orc cut down, its black blood gushing from a mortal neck wound.
"Come!" Gil-Galad grabbed him by the arm and pulled him to the rail. Elrond leapt nimbly down into the boat, the chest secure in his arms and his sword at his side. His eyes were fixed on the shore as he realized he was about to enter into his first real battle.
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