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Special thanks to daw the minstrel for beta reading this chapter.
Note: Arien is the Maia that guides the vessel of the sun, Anor, on its daily journey. Tilion steers the island of the moon, Ithil.
Chapter 7: Swords and the flight from Sirion
Glorfindel awoke just as Arien began her ascent and dressed quickly. He took careful note of his tidy quarters, and when he left, he closed the door carefully, marking the latch with a small amount of soft wax. He knew the house staff would not enter his room until later that morning.
Many of the warriors who served Imladris were already present on the practice field, and Glorfindel warmed up with them before joining them for a conditioning run that led along the terrace path, following the Bruinen to the Stone Seat, and finally wound its way up the steep cliffs that hemmed in the valley in which Imladris was located. Reaching the top of the cliff, Glorfindel paused to survey the breathtaking view that never ceased to awe him. Directly below him, still in the shade of the trees and hills, Imladris lay quiet, wisps of smoke rising from her chimneys. Dew hung heavy on the grass and trees below, glistening as the rays of the sun chased away the misty fog that hovered just above the ground. Anor was a cheery ball of yellow, and from his position atop the cliff he appeared to be standing on an even plane with the flaming orb. Sometimes he imagined that, if he looked close, he would see Arien appear from the fire.
For those who were watching from below, the golden-haired warrior radiated the sun's light as her beams caught him on the edge of the cliff, while the entire valley below him lay still in shadow. An imposing figure in person, here he loomed larger than life.
After a few moments' pause, Glorfindel joined the other warriors as they began their descent. The path was well traveled, but steep, and the fine balance and light feet of the elves served them well as they descended without mishap. Indeed, they were used to this run, and there were some who bragged they could complete it with their eyes closed. Reaching the bottom of the cliff, the warriors followed the path through the trees, finally arriving back at the training fields.
Glorfindel required this run of all novices and new warriors, but he went nearly every morning himself, as did many of the older warriors. Many an elfling who dreamed of being a defender of Imladris watched the warriors make their daily trek, imagining their own bodies disciplined and strong, and able to withstand the rigors of training and battle.
The warriors finished their exercises, some moving to the archery fields, others to the sword-masters. A light breakfast would be served at the barracks that housed the warriors in training. Glorfindel partook of the baths with his warriors, the warm pools and cool rinses soothing well used muscles. For breakfast, though, he would join Elrond's family in the house.
He finished his bath, and wrapped in a robe, he returned to the house, entering through the back door, and climbing the back stairs to his room. He carefully checked the hall before entering, ensuring no one else was present. At his door he examined the wax on the latch. He grinned, for it had indeed been disturbed. He removed his evidence carefully and entered the room slowly.
The room appeared undisturbed, but this did not concern Glorfindel. It was clear Erestor had been here, and the elf was only so creative. He had yet to be bested by the advisor and did not plan on today being the first occasion.
He entered his chamber and let his eyes slowly roam about the interior. Nothing appeared out of place. He stepped into the bathing alcove, quickly surveying the soaps and roots used for bathing the skin and hair. He opened the small jar that held the concoction used on the hair and immediately noted the slight difference in its fragrance. A grin slowly spread over his face. That which had been added to this vial had once been added by accident to a whole lot, and the few golden and silver haired elves residing in Imladris had sported green tinged locks for a day or so. Fortunately this had not included Lady Celebrían. Glorfindel had been on patrol when this occurred, thus sparing him as well. The mistake was easy to make, for the roots looked much alike.
Glorfindel smiled. This particular root had little effect on dark manes, but he was aware of one that tended to streak midnight tresses slightly. . . orange. It had medicinal properties and thus was kept in some abundance in Elrond's own stores. A little trip to the herb closet was added to his personal agenda for the day.
* * *
Elrond awoke feeling more refreshed and relaxed than he had in many a week. Celebrían was curled warmly against and on top of him, her head nestled into his shoulder, silver hair the only covering over the unmarred bare skin that wrapped around him, her legs tangled with his. They had latched the door from the inside, ensuring no small intruders would interrupt their evening, or morning, and Erestor had promised to see their sons properly awakened, dressed, fed and delivered to Istuion.
Tucking strands of silver hair behind her ear, he delicately traced its leaf-shaped outline, smiling as she shuddered ever so slightly in her sleep. He let his finger continue, barely touching the skin, down her cheek to her mouth, then following her neck to the collar bone and lightly tracing down her arm to her fingertips. Lifting her hand, he brought her fingers to his lips and kissed them gently.
"Elrond Peredhil, you remain in my bed when the dawn has already come?" Celebrían murmured sleepily as she twisted slightly to catch his lips with her own.
"Aye, my lady. Do you wish me to be about my tasks so soon?" Elrond smiled as his wife twisted further, until she was lying nearly atop him
"Nay, my lord," she whispered. "Your first tasks of the day are assigned to this chamber."
Elrond deftly rolled them both until she was on her back and he braced over her. "I fear I have been remiss in my duties of late. May I redeem myself at this late hour?"
Celebrían wrapped her arms about his neck and pulled his head down to her own. "It may take some time, for you have been negligent," she spoke between kisses.
"Then we had best begin," he answered, and he deepened the kiss, ending the need for further words.
"Let us go show Nana!" Elladan called to his brother. Carefully cupping the tiny kitten in his hands, he turned towards the hall that led to his parents' room.
Erestor caught the elfling in two steps and turned him back into the kitchens. "I think that kitten should stay with his naneth for a while longer," he directed the elfling back to the wooden box in the corner of the kitchen. "The mother-cat does not mind you holding her babies, but she would not like you running off with them."
Elrohir still knelt by the box, one finger gently petting one kitten after another. Elladan placed his kitten back in the box.
"Where are Ada and Nana?" asked Elladan impatiently.
"They are busy this morning and will not be joining us for breakfast," answered Erestor. "Come, you need to eat so you may arrive at your lessons on time."
Elladan and Elrohir reluctantly left the kittens and started for the dining hall. They exchanged a glance, grins spreading across both their faces. They broke into a run at the same instant, bypassing the dining room and heading back toward their rooms.
"Elladan! Elrohir! Come back here!" Erestor scrambled after them.
"We are just going to say good morning to Nana!" Elrohir called back over his shoulder.
The twins had just rounded the corner, giggling and unmindful of what lay ahead of them as they were watching over their shoulders to what chased them, when they were caught in the grasp of powerful hands, lifted from their feet, and then neatly tucked under strong arms.
"Glorfindel!" they cried in unison.
Glorfindel looked down at one and then the other. "Yes?" he responded.
Elladan giggled. "We are going to see Nana!"
"We are running from Erestor!" Elrohir laughed, honest even in his misdeeds.
"Both worthy endeavors," Glorfindel replied, eyes twinkling. "However, your nana is not available to see you at the moment and you two are late for breakfast."
Erestor breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of Glorfindel with an elfling under each arm, but couldn't help the drift of his eyes to inspect the warrior's golden mane. He was not surprised at the lack of results, for he knew that some mornings the seneschal bathed at the warrior's barracks. He could wait for another day.
Taking Elrohir in hand, Erestor led them in for breakfast and afterwards escorted both children into Istuion's care. The cries of delight as the twins beheld the experiment for the day, a grooved board propped on a chair with a complete loop at the bottom, on which a four-wheeled cart was set to plunge, ensured they would not be tempted to bother any adults except Istuion for a while.
Erestor turned his attention to his day with a sigh of relief that he was no longer responsible for the twins, refusing to admit to himself that it had really only been for two hours that he had had to watch over them. Each minute surely counted for ten.
* * *
Angren laid the two swords in their sheaths on the table, the scabbards of oiled leather carved and dyed in an intricate design with the Star of Eärendil obvious near the top of the sheath. Glorfindel and Elrond each picked up one, carefully inspecting the workmanship of the sheath before withdrawing the small sword.
Elrond held the sword upright, feeling its precise balance and noting the carving and words of protection etched into the blade near the handle. He swung the blade quickly, listening to the swish as it cut the air. He placed it carefully back into its sheath and exchanged it for the one Glorfindel held. He performed the same maneuvers and inspection on the second blade, finally laying it down on the table again.
"They are beautifully crafted, Angren," Elrond praised the ironsmith. "They will serve my sons well."
Angren beamed at the words of praise spoken by his lord. "Thank you, my Lord." He turned to the children, both waiting as patiently as they could to see their swords. "Care for them well, little masters, and return them to me should they sustain injury."
"Yes, Master Angren," Elladan and Elrohir replied in unison, but their eyes were on the scabbards.
Glorfindel tucked both swords under his arm, and they departed the smith's forge. Glorfindel smiled as the twins ran for the training field, their excitement palpable. They reached the field first and waited with breathless anticipation until their father and Glorfindel finally arrived. Elrond took the swords from Glorfindel and knelt down before his sons. He looked at them solemnly, but his eyes were dark with love as well.
"Elladan and Elrohir, receiving your first sword is an occasion of both great excitement and great responsibility. Are you prepared to accept the responsibility that comes with bearing such a weapon?" Elrond asked them.
"Yes, Ada," Elladan and Elrohir spoke as one, their eyes still shining but their demeanor and words reflecting their father's seriousness.
"With these swords you will learn to defend yourselves and our people," said Elrond slowly, letting the impact of each word sink into willing vessels. "You must care for your sword properly, so that it will always be in the finest condition to serve you. You must be disciplined in your use of this sword, so that you never hurt anyone due to carelessness or misplaced anger. You must be responsible to learn all that we have to teach you and to use your skill wisely. Do you agree to all of these things?"
"Yes, Ada," Elladan answered first when his father met his eyes.
"Yes, Ada," Elrohir answered in turn.
Elrond motioned for them to sit and then presented Elladan's sword to him.
"May this sword serve you well, Elladan, and may the Valar guide your hand and protect you when you bear it."
Elladan nodded, speechless.
Elrond presented Elrohir's sword to him. "May this sword serve you well, Elrohir, and may the Valar guide your hand and protect you when you bear it."
Elrohir took the sword and met his father's gaze. "Thank you, Ada."
The elflings carefully fingered the scabbards, tracing the designs in the leather, then withdrew the swords and inspected the metal. Elrond demonstrated the sharpness of the blade by easily cutting a twig in half.
"These will serve you well for several years, until you are much bigger. We will practice with these once you have mastered the movements with your wooden training swords," explained Elrond.
"Ada, may we keep these in our room, instead of the armory?" Elrohir asked with wide eyes, enthralled with this gift.
Elrond thought for a moment. "You may. But you are never to take it out of its sheath while in the house. Do you promise me this?"
"Yes, Ada," Elladan answered. "I do promise. I will never take it from its sheath in the house."
Elrond smiled inwardly. Elladan was impetuous and a bit hotheaded at times, and Elrond was pleased he understood the seriousness of this promise enough to repeat it and show his understanding.
"Yes, Ada," Elrohir answered, his sword clasped to his chest.
Glorfindel had stood aside and watched the ceremony with pride, both in Elrond and in the children. Now he stepped forward.
"Are you ready for your lessons?"
"Yes!" And the elflings were on their feet and in position in the blink of an eye. Glorfindel paired with Elladan and Elrond with Elrohir, and they resumed where they had left off the day before.
* * *
"Ada, you must continue the story today!" Elrohir was adamant. "You and Uncle Elros were taken by Maedhros and Maglor, and you promised to tell us about them."
Elrond smiled at the elflings watching him with eager faces. Glorfindel made room for Celebrían to sit beside him, and Istuion slipped into a corner. He had enjoyed hearing the stories as more than just a lesson on how to teach children. Elrond glanced only briefly at the adults in the room, and then returned his attention to his sons.
"Maedhros was angry that the Silmaril had slipped from his grasp again, whereas Maglor was in awe that the mighty Vala, Ulmo, had saved Elwing and the Silmaril. I think that if Maglor had been alone he might have just given us over to the elves of Sirion who had gathered near the shore, but Maedhros had other ideas….."
~ ~ ~* * *~ ~ ~
Maglor could feel the weight of the child he carried shift, and glancing to the side he saw the child stretch out his arms to the she-elf they had just left to die in the reeds. He quickly caught up to his brother, who held the squirming and crying replica of the child he carried.
"Maedhros, what do you intend to do with them?" Maglor demanded.
"They come with us," answered Maedhros shortly. He continued with long strides up the hill to the road, ignoring the howls and kicks of the child in his arms, until he came upon part of his force. He mounted his horse quickly, using his knees to guide the animal as one arm was in use holding the child and the other in holding his sword.
"To me!" Maedhros shouted. "Ride west!"
Warriors scrambled to follow Maedhros, ceasing their fighting and redirecting their swords to the defense of his back. Maglor quickly mounted his horse as well and followed, several times looking back to the shores. The Sirion elves fell back, allowing the Noldor attackers to leave without interference until one spotted the child in Maedhros' arms.
"Those are the sons of Eärendil!" one Sirion elf cried as the forces of Maedhros rode by. He stepped forward in front of Maedhros' horse. "Leave the children here!"
Maedhros maneuvered his horse deftly to the side, and with one vicious swing of the sword, parted the elf's head from his body. Nudging his horse to a gallop, Maedhros swiftly led his forces to the northwest out the walls his younger brothers had breached before dying themselves.
Once clear of the Havens, Maedhros sheathed his sword and slowed his horse and Maglor drew up next to him. Maedhros still gripped the child tightly with his handless arm, and when he loosened his arm slightly to allow the child to slip down and sit before him he noted the bruising about the child's arm. Lifting the child's tunic he saw that the bruising extended across the abdomen. Elros had ceased squirming or fighting, and instead seemed rather limp.
In Maglor's arms, Elrond remained mute and clung to his captor, his eyes fixed on the Havens, the city shrinking in the distance as they drew away from it.
"This child is injured," Maedhros said, no remorse in his voice.
"You have nearly suffocated him." Maglor stopped his horse next to Maedhros and looked carefully at the child. "He cannot breathe if you press him into your tunic like that. Let me have him."
Maedhros relinquished the child without hesitation, but was surprised when Maglor did not give him the child he carried.
"Give him to me while you tend that one," he ordered.
"I don't need them both injured," replied Maglor, exasperation touched with defiance in his voice. He tugged Elrond down so the child was sitting before him, and then laid Elros in his twin's lap, both children supported in the crook of his arm. "Get me a light blanket."
A piece of torn fabric appeared from behind him, and he fashioned a bit of a sling to help hold the children to him. He opened his water skin and poured a few drops of water into the mouth of Elros, which seemed to revive him. The child tried to sit up and cried out in pain, his breaths coming out in short gasps. Maglor felt the child's abdomen gently, careful not to further injure the already bruised skin. Elrond held his brother's hand, his other arm wrapped around his brother's shoulders, holding him in place.
"Thank you for helping, Elrond," Maglor whispered. "Elros, I am sorry this hurts. I will try to lessen the pain."
Maglor turned to his brother and found him already walking his horse further ahead as he spoke to several of his men. "Maedhros!" he called. "His ribs are broken. I need to stop and bind them."
"Tonight," answered Maedhros shortly. "We will stop in a few hours, and you may tend him in the camp."
"I am stopping now to tend him. You may wait or I will catch up with you later," Maglor replied coldly.
Maedhros stopped and looked back at his brother. He had the two children before him on the horse, water skin in hand and one of the most intense looks on his face that Maedhros had ever seen. Maedhros gripped the reins tight, anger welling within him. His eyes narrowed and darkened. He rode back to Maglor.
"Do not defy my authority in front of my warriors," he hissed.
"Do not force me to do so by being cruel to these children," Maglor hissed back. He motioned to Elros. "His ribs are broken, and he is in pain. I am going to wrap them and try to find something to give him for the pain. He does not need to suffer so."
Maedhros looked at the two solemn and scared children. He was not moved by the innocence of children, particularly these that belonged to the woman who had removed the Silmaril from his grasp. Yet he did not desire to fight with his only remaining brother.
"Be swift," commanded Maedhros.
Maglor slid carefully from the horse, and motioned for one of the warriors to aid him. The warrior Hathel spread a blanket upon the ground, and Maglor laid the children upon it as gently as he could. Elrond still held Elros, and when Elros cried out from the change in position, tears slipped silently from Elrond's eyes.
Maglor sent Hathel in search of a healer or at least the supplies of a healer, while he gently pulled up the child's tunic. Using a sharp knife, he cut a strip of cloth from his own under-tunic and bound the child's ribs. Elros seemed to have discovered that moving and crying caused pain, and he ceased doing both. Hathel returned with a healer's supplies, and Maglor quickly mixed up a sleeping draught, guessing to use about one eighth of the amount used for an adult. Elros drank it without question.
"Would you like a drink of water?" Maglor held out his water skin to Elrond.
The child took it, but when he tried to lift it to his mouth, some of the water spilled and Maglor quickly grabbed the skin and held it for the child.
"What is his age?" Hathel asked. He had children, and when they were of this size they could certainly drink from a water skin.
Maglor was silent for a moment. "If he had only elven blood I would say he was conceived perhaps seven summers ago. But he is half-Edain and they grow faster. He is likely younger than he appears to us."
Elrond looked at the elf seriously, and then held up three fingers.
"You are three?" Maglor asked.
"Do you talk yet?" Maglor asked.
"Can you tell me your name?"
Elrond merely stared at him, then returned his attention to his brother, patting the small hand and stroking the dark hair.
Hathel shrugged. "Perhaps he will speak when he is less scared."
"Help me to get them back on the horse," Maglor instructed. He reached to pick up Elros, but Elrond would not let go of his brother. With a sigh he instead secured them together and then wrapped the cloth around himself, and allowed Hathel to help him on to his horse. Hathel tucked the blanket between the horse and the children, raising them to a height where Maglor could comfortably carry them, and then mounted his own horse.
Maedhros had been watching from a distance, and when he saw his brother back on his horse, he led the party westward again. They rode for several hours, finally making camp in the fleeting evening light.
Hathel again helped Maglor, aiding his dismount and spreading the blanket out near to where the fire would be built. He refilled the water skin from the nearby creek, and placed it near Maglor.
Hathel looked upon the children, one in an induced sleep and the other finally asleep from exhaustion. "What will we feed them?" he whispered to Maglor.
Maglor considered the dried provisions set before them, and then the children. "Heat some water, and we will try softening the meat," he finally said.
Hathel did as instructed, and when the meat was warm and soft, Maglor awakened Elrond.
"You need to eat, child," Maglor placed the small plate in Elrond's hands.
Elrond looked at the food, then set the plate down and curled back around his brother protectively.
"He will eat tomorrow," Hathel said confidently. "He is just tired and scared."
Maglor covered the twins with a blanket and ate his own dinner in silence.
* * *
The children were awake but had not moved when Maglor checked on them the next morning. He lifted Elros and the child whimpered. The child did not need to relieve himself, and Maglor tried to encourage him to drink more water. He would take no food and little water, and Maglor finally dosed him with another draught to take away the pain.
Elrond would not leave his brother willingly, and Maglor was unwilling to force the issue. He did relieve himself just beyond the edge of the blanket and took a few sips of water. He also would take no food, and as soon as left alone, he curled around his brother again. Maglor wrapped them in the cloth and secured them to himself, then allowed Hathel to assist him on to his horse and the children into position.
Maedhros had stayed far from Maglor in camp, and as the ride began he again took the lead. Maglor's ire was raised; why Maedhros wanted the children, and why they had headed west and not east yet remained a mystery to him. He would not accept his brother's sullenness much longer.
They rode the day in silence, taking only brief respites for the horses, and camped again. The children did not eat and lay as if they were just dolls, unmoving, without any sound. They both took sips of water when offered but did not ask. Maedhros avoided Maglor again, and Hathel, who had appointed himself aid to Maglor, grew more concerned for the young ones.
Maglor spread his bedroll next to the little ones again that night, and slept with them between his own body heat and that of the fire. The night air was chilly, and a light rain fell, soaking them. The elves were not bothered, but Maglor noticed the small figures shivering. He moved closer to the children, and drew them into his bedding, covering them with his outer tunic and placing his blanket over the one already covering them. He smiled gratefully when Hathel added his own blanket, and returned minutes later with another. It was some time before the bodies stopped trembling and teeth chattering, and the sons of Eärendil finally fell back asleep.
~ ~ ~* * *~ ~ ~
There was silence as Elrond stopped his tale; then Elrohir climbed into his ada's lap and hugged him tight. Elladan joined him, and whispered, "Ada, I think Maglor was nice for making you warm again."
"Yes, he was nice for doing that," agreed Elrond. He kissed each dark head. "Now go wash your face and hands for dinner."
Elladan and Elrohir departed, Istuion following silently after them. Celebrían joined Elrond, seating herself in his lap. She kissed him and then rested her head on his shoulder.
"Oh, a message came while you were out on the training field!" She laughed with delight as she drew the parchment from the pocket in her gown. She opened it and handed it to her husband, re-reading it as he perused the contents.
"Your parents will arrive within the week," Elrond said for Glorfindel's sake. "Ah, and your father is bringing the bows."
"Can you tell how excited he is that you asked him to teach the bow to Elladan and Elrohir?" Celebrían asked.
"Your father is one of the best archers I have ever known," Elrond answered.
Celebrían beamed. Sliding off his lap, she kissed him again. "I must see to their rooms."
Elrond laughed as she gracefully exited the study, her excitement at seeing her parents again equally obvious. She enjoyed their visits to Imladris immensely.
* * *
Elrond quietly opened the door to the room the twins shared, checking on them as he did each night before retiring himself. Both elflings were sound asleep, peaceful in the moonlight that shone in from the balcony. With a smile he noted the sheathed swords the children had cuddled with after he had tucked them into bed. He carefully extricated the scabbard from Elladan's grasp, and then did the same with Elrohir, returning each sword to its rightful place in the chest at the end of each bed. He would need to add the rule that swords were not to be slept with either. He kissed them each again, then silently slipped from the room.
* * * * *
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