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Special thanks to daw the minstrel for beta-reading this chapter; and to Jaded Scorpio for the information on ponies.
Chapter 10: Daerada holds forth
Cries of delight broke the calm of the morning as Elladan and Elrohir raced out the front door to the porch, jumped from the porch to the ground, and then ran for the stables.
Celebrían was just beginning to call them when she felt her mother take her arm. "Let them go. They will wear off some of that energy by the time we reach the barn," Galadriel advised.
"Yesterday they jumped from the top of the porch rail to the ground. When I asked them why, I was told it was necessary to jump that far to get orcs sometimes," Celebrían explained.
"Well, of course it is," Galadriel agreed. "Jumping out of trees is an integral part of warrior training. I recall a certain young elleth who insisted on jumping from trees, out of windows, off the bed. . ."
"Naneth, I fail to recall any such events," Celebrían argued. "Adar always said I was the perfect child, therefore I must have been."
Celeborn, walking on the other side of his wife, remained wisely silent.
"Nana, hurry!" Elrohir stuck his head out from the barn. "You have to see them!"
They entered the barn, the darkness cut by the rays of sun streaming in through the eastern walls. The twins were hanging over the lower rung of the gate to the stall where the ponies stood quietly; above them, Glorfindel sat perched on the stall wall.
"Daernaneth, may we give them the apples?" Elladan asked, the small wrinkled apple in his hand obtained from the remnants of the cellar stores. He had begged it from the cook who never could say no to big elfling eyes.
Galadriel nodded, and each child slipped the apples through the gate, the ponies taking them docilely.
Celeborn leaned against the edge of the stall wall, giving it a hard shove and smiling innocently when Glorfindel had to check his balance with a hand to the gate. The golden haired elf braced his position before looking down at the head of the Sindar elf. In his hand he held several pieces of straw that he carefully pulled into tiny pieces, then let sprinkle down into the silver hair below him. Celeborn felt the pieces settle into his hair, and with one swipe brushed them to the ground, never looking upward or giving any satisfaction to the one sitting above him.
Galadriel's eyes met Elrond's and she nodded for him to open the gate. He did so, to the delight of his sons, and Galadriel led the ponies from their stall. She put the reins of the first pony into Elladan's hands and the other into Elrohir's, and motioned for them to lead the animals out into the open air.
"Daerada, look! He is small like us! I can touch his head!" Elladan was dancing around the pony. The pony regarded him with amusement, finally butting the small hand away from his head and snuffling his nose into the chest of the elfling.
"It tickles!" Elladan giggled, both hands coming up to touch the pony on the nose. He gently brushed the velvety hair between the pony's eyes. Warm brown eyes met his, and the pony whinnied.
Elrohir had made it to the yard, the pony he led following each step he took. He felt a tug on his hair, and he turned his head cautiously to the side to find the pony with one braid between his lips. He tugged on his braid and the pony let go, and then lowered his head, butting the elfling in the lower back, nearly knocking him to the ground. Elrohir ran a few steps, a look of near panic on his face when he heard the hooves of the pony following closely on his heels. He whirled around and faced the pony with his hands on his hips and a stern look on his face.
"Pony, you stop that," he commanded, his demeanor a perfect mimic of his father.
The pony stopped and made a low sound, stomping one leg in the dirt of the corral, then tossing his head to the side.
"What do you want?" Elrohir questioned the pony. He stepped closer, the sad eyes playing upon his soft heart. He put his hand on the pony's nose and began to stroke it gently. He ran his fingers through the dark mane of the beast and the pony nudged his stomach, snuffling warm breath through his tunic. He finally wrapped his arms about the neck of the pony and hugged it.
"You were sad. I think you just needed to be hugged. My nana says everyone needs to be hugged, pony. You would like my nana and my ada," Elrohir continued to talk softly to the pony. "Do you have a family? Do you have a nana somewhere?"
Elrohir led the pony to where his parents and grandparents stood watching.
"Daernaneth, this pony is sad," announced Elrohir as he leaned into the pony, one hand patting the animal's chest.
"Is that pony sad, Elladan?" Galadriel asked the other elfling.
"No," Elladan giggled as the pony continued to snuffle him, this time in the back of the neck. "He just needed someone to play with."
Galadriel appeared to ponder these concerns deeply, her hands clasped behind her back. She bent over the ponies and looked into their eyes, seemingly communicating with them. She stood back and looked down upon her grandsons, who were watching her carefully.
"I see only one possible solution to this problem," she finally said. "I think I must give the ponies to you."
"Daernaneth!" Both elflings wrapped their arms about her as she knelt down by them. "Thank you, Daernana! We will take good care of them. Ada will help us and Glorfindel will help us…"
Galadriel smiled. "These gifts come with responsibility. I expect that you will provide most of their care."
"Yes, Daernana, we will," both elflings promised.
Galadriel picked them up in turn and sat them on their ponies. Both had ridden horses before, but never on an animal the right size for them. They walked them around the yard, warming them up, then allowed the ponies to canter about the corral.
"Ada, can we take a trip with our ponies?" Elladan called out suddenly.
"And sleep under the stars by a campfire?" Elrohir added.
"But only pretend to fight orcs," amended Elladan.
Elrond laughed as he strode into the corral, both sons stopping near him. "I will discuss that with your naneth. First, though, I think these ponies need names."
Elladan leaned forward over the pony, hugging its neck. "He shall be called Thinde."
"And mine shall be Mithren," decided Elrohir.
Elrond laughed at their choices, for both names meant the same thing: grey. While he stayed to supervise their riding, Glorfindel went to find the stablemaster to make arrangements for the ponies to stay and for the twins to be allowed to come care for them.
"We could take them on a small trip," said Celeborn as he leaned against the corral fence next to Elrond. "We would not need to go far. "
Elrond smiled. "They would like that very much. You are sure you do not mind going so soon after arriving?"
"I do not mind sleeping under the stars," he replied. Glorfindel approached them from the barn. "I suppose we must bring Glorfindel?"
"Someone must protect you," answered Glorfindel amiably. He turned to Elrond. "Where are we going?"
Elrond laughed. Celeborn and Glorfindel had amicably sniped at each other for the whole length of time that Elrond had known them both. He had no idea what was between them, if anything. They were gold and silver, both ageless and wise. Glorfindel served and protected those whom Celeborn held most dear, which gave them common purpose. Common purpose, however, had not caused them to cease annoying each other.
"We are taking the twins on a small journey with their ponies," Elrond answered, smiling anew at the light that shone in Glorfindel's face at this news. "We shall stay overnight, for they wish to sleep under the stars near a campfire."
Glorfindel nodded and disappeared.
"Where did he go? And why does he do that?" Celeborn asked in exasperation.
"He will plan and map the journey, obtain provisions, pack the bags and ensure the patrols secure the area before we arrive," Elrond answered, one eyebrow raised as he studied the elf next to him.
"Pretentious Vanyar elf," Celeborn muttered under his breath.
Elrond threw back his head and laughed, the sound so rare that his children and all the elves near the stables turned to the source of the sound. He clapped Celeborn on the back, ignoring the grimace from the stately elf for the humor at his expense.
"Ada, what are you laughing at? Are you laughing at Daerada?" Elladan and Elrohir trotted over on their ponies.
"I am laughing at something your Daerada said," Elrond clarified. "Come, I will show you how to brush down your ponies and then you can feed them and muck out their stalls."
* * *
Glorfindel was finishing packing provisions when he heard elfling feet pad lightly into the room. He smiled as the twins approached him.
"Glorfindel, will there be orcs?" Elladan asked without preamble.
"No, Elladan. Those who guard Imladris keep the orcs far away," Glorfindel reassured him.
"Will there be wild animals?" Elrohir asked.
"There might be," Glorfindel replied. "But I do not think we will see any dangerous animals." He smiled at the crestfallen look this news brought. No orcs brought relief; no wild animals brought sadness. "Although I did once see a bear in the area where we will be camping," he added after a moment.
Elrohir perked up at this. "Ada says we can bring our swords, so we can fight it if it comes too close."
"What are you packing?" Elladan was peering in the packs.
"Food, a change of clothing, first aid supplies, and blankets," Glorfindel checked off his list.
Elrohir looked at him sheepishly. "Can we bring some…well, things that are just for us?"
Glorfindel smiled and tugged on the black braid the elfling was chewing on. He had tucked in these two enough times to know that certain nighttime companions were still brought out on dark nights and safely returned to their hiding places by daylight. "Yes, there is room for some special items."
"Glorfindel, is Erestor coming with us?" Elladan asked.
Glorfindel smirked. "No, Erestor will be staying at the house."
"So then you can't be foolish with each other?" Elrohir inquired innocently.
Glorfindel picked Elrohir up and sat him on the table next to the packs. "Who says we are foolish?" he asked, eyeing the little elfling while suppressing the smile that tugged on his lips.
"Um…no one….I guess," Elrohir refused to meet Glorfindel's eyes and tried instead to slip off the table. He had forgotten that he heard that information accidentally.
Glorfindel poked him softly in the belly and Elrohir laughed. Long fingers danced up the elfling's side, under his arms and down his back; Elrohir giggled as he tried to escape the questing fingers. "Hmmm…..who did you say said that?" Glorfindel tickled under the elfling's chin as he lifted the face to his own.
"Ada did! Ada did!" Elrohir giggled, giving in easily as he twisted and squirmed. "He said you were up to follies."
Glorfindel grinned as he shooed the elflings out the door, final tickles sending them off with squeals and giggles. Driving Elrond mad with worry over what he and Erestor might do was more amusing than actually doing something.
* * *
The ponies and horses were ready, bags slung over their sides, as the sun rose the next morning. Glorfindel was reviewing their plans with the head guard at Imladris and Erestor, on the off chance that someone might need to reach them. The patrols would also know of their location and surreptitiously avoid the area while safely guarding it.
Celeborn and Elrond were dressed for riding in comfortable tunics and trousers, swords at their hips and bows slung over their backs with quivers of arrows. While they were not leaving the boundaries of Imladris, they still would be fully prepared for any enemies that might appear.
"Ada, can we wear our swords?" Elladan eyed his father's sword, his eyes shining in anticipation.
"No, Elladan, it is attached to your pack," Elrond answered as he smoothed back black hair behind a small ear, easing the disappointment on his son's face. "Let us say goodbye to your nana and daernaneth."
Elladan and Elrohir ran to stand before Celebrían and Galadriel, barely holding still for goodbye hugs and then they were racing back to mount their ponies. Glorfindel swung them up and settled them, and it was he who led them away from the Last Homely House. They followed the path across the tributary of the Bruinen and then headed north into the low hills to a favorite location of Glorfindel - a glade next to a stream, a waterfall just north of the clearing, and shallow caves for protection in the western edge of the hills. Here the youngest of novices had been trained in everything from survival in the wild to weapons use with simulated orc attacks from the caves. It was a safe location in that it was within the borders patrolled by Imladris' guards, an easy day's ride from the house, and yet it was wild.
* * *
"Daro!" Glorfindel called from his position at the head of the group.
Elrond immediately stopped, reaching for the reins of Elladan's pony at the same time. Behind them, Celeborn did the same, halting Elrohir's pony with his own horse.
"Ada, why is Glorfindel stopping us?" Elladan asked, craning his neck to see where the elf had gone.
"Glorfindel is checking to ensure that the passes are all open," Elrond explained. "Remember the rangers? They were trapped in a rock slide in a mountain pass on the other side of the mountains." Elrond smiled to see Elladan's face light up at the thought of danger. "A rockslide is not very likely in these hills, but Glorfindel is very cautious."
A whistle was heard, indicating that the way was clear, and Elrond nudged his horse forward. "Elladan, stay by me," he commanded as Elladan had the pony trotting ahead.
Elladan grinned impishly, but immediately slowed until his father was again at his side.
They broke for lunch several hours later, near a small stream in the hills, resting the horses and the elflings. Both children had dismounted carefully, and were walking slowly. The walked for a bit, oblivious to the amused looks of the adults, then settled themselves on the ground, legs straight out in front of them, as they leaned against some large rocks. Elrond brought their food to them, and then sat down on the rock that Elrohir was leaning against.
"Ada?" Elrohir said softly, tilting his head back so he could see his father. "I am sore."
"I thought you might be," Elrond replied. "You are not used to riding for this long. Finish eating, then we will do some stretches and you can run around some. That will help."
Elrohir smiled, his confidence unshaken. Ada did know everything.
Celeborn and Glorfindel sat upon the rocks and watched in amusement as Elrond led the elflings in stretching their legs and backs. They mimicked his every movement, lying on their backs and stretching their legs high in the air, then standing and bending to touch their toes, and finally running up and down the path several times. The elflings then began to chase each other in a circle in some game only they understood.
"Ada, you have to run too!" Elladan grabbed his father by the hand and soon both father and sons were running in circles, finally collapsing on the ground, dizzy and in giggles.
"Ada, I am not sore anymore!" Elrohir announced.
"But now I am dizzy," giggled Elladan.
Elrond lay on his back, his sons sprawled half on top of him, half on the ground, listening as their breathing slowed and they relaxed. Elrond finally sat up, elflings tumbling to the side.
"Shall we continue our ride?"
"Yes, Ada!" Elladan leapt to his feet and ran to the pony. Glorfindel swung him back up on to the animal while Celeborn helped Elrohir remount, then Glorfindel led them forward again for the remainder of their journey.
* * *
"Is this going to be our camp?" Elrohir cried in wonder.
"This is wonderful!" Elladan added.
They both dismounted in the grassy glade, and quickly rushed to the stream. Looking north they could see the mist rising from the waterfall and hear the roar as it crashed to the rocks below.
"Elladan, Elrohir, you must care for Thinde and Mithren before you start exploring!" Elrond called them back.
The twins quickly ran back, freeing the ponies of their reins and packs, and then began brushing them down. Both animals whinnied in delight and nuzzled their small elflings, grateful for the attention. The twins then let the ponies go free, and both animals made for the stream to drink their fill.
"Now, Ada? Now can we go exploring?"
"I have something you might wish to see first," Celeborn said quietly. He had one arm behind his back, and the twins rushed to him.
"What do you have, Daerada?" Elladan asked, trying to see around his grandfather to what he was holding.
Elrohir was slightly more patient; at least he did not try to see what his grandfather was withholding from them. "Daerada, what did you bring?"
Celeborn produced two small bows and quivers, his own face lighting up in a smile at the delighted reactions from his grandsons. He was hit a moment later when small arms wrapped about his legs and he knelt down to let them hug him.
"Thank you, Daerada!" they chorused. "Will you teach us to shoot? Ada says you are one of the best archers ever!"
Celeborn glanced at Elrond after that comment, and saw eyes deep with emotion and paternal pride watching the elflings at his side. Elrond met Celeborn's glance, and though words were not spoken, Celeborn was touched that one he thought of as a son would speak highly of him to his grandsons.
"Yes, we will teach you to shoot," he answered kindly. Celeborn stood and was eyeing the surrounding area to determine the best spot for archery practice, when he saw Glorfindel already setting up targets and markers.
"Does he anticipate everything?" Celeborn asked Elrond.
Elrond laughed. "Just about. He brings all the young elves here for training. He stores a number of training items in the caves."
Celeborn had his own bow in hand, and an arrow nocked. He looked at his grandsons and Elrond for a moment, then called, "Glorfindel, do not move."
Glorfindel froze, knowing what Celeborn was going to do, and found himself looking at the dead center of the target he had been placing. The first arrow hit directly above his head, followed in quick succession by hits outlining his head. He heard the intake of breaths of the twins when the first one hit, and knew it was safe to move again when he heard the commotion behind him.
"Daerada, you are very good!" Elladan cried.
"Ada, did you see what Daerada did? Are you very mad at him?" Elrohir questioned.
Glorfindel retrieved the arrows from the target before rejoining the others. Elrohir flew at him, and he caught the elfling in his arms. Elrohir ran his hands along Glorfindel's head and face, his eyes still wide in fear and awe. "Glorfindel, were you scared?"
Glorfindel grinned. "No, elfling. Your grandfather is one of the best archers ever," he repeated the elfling's own words. He walked to where Celeborn stood, calmly dumping the arrows back into the quiver. Their eyes met and Glorfindel read many things in the Sindar elf's expression: trust, respect and challenge. He set Elrohir down, and helped him put on the straps that would hold the quiver in place on his back. "There, now you are ready."
Elrohir picked up the bow he had dropped when he had rushed to ensure his friend was uninjured. Elladan was ready as well, his eyesight enough to determine that Glorfindel was unharmed and his greater desire to someday shoot as well as his daerada prompting him to stand at attention.
Celeborn herded the elflings to the target, with one last glance at Glorfindel. He grinned when Glorfindel winked at him. He also caught the raised eyebrows of Elrond and felt a tiny glimmer of regret.
"You have to be an expert archer and more than 10000 years old to try that," Celeborn explained to the elflings. He grinned as Elrond rolled his eyes. He had enjoyed 'pinning' Glorfindel; even if it meant he might get the 'impressionable elflings' lecture from the elflings' father. He nearly laughed aloud. Better from Elrond than Celebrían.
Elrond and Glorfindel set up the camp while Celeborn worked with the elflings. They heard the twins cheering each other on when they hit the target and groans and giggles when they apparently shot astray. Elrond found a spot in the sun and lay down, closing his eyes and allowing his ears to enjoy the sounds of the glade. The roar of the water in the distance and the cacophony of the calls and squabbles of the birds mixed pleasantly with the voices of his sons. The voices of his elflings ceased; their absence mixed with the light footfalls of small elves warning him that he was about to be pounced upon. He tensed his muscles slightly in anticipation, but allowed them this victory.
"Ada!" The shout in his ear occurred at the same moment that two small bodies landed on him. He immediately pulled them close, and they quickly gave way to affection in lieu of conquering him.
"Ada, I hit the target three times!" Elrohir said proudly.
"And I hit it four times!" Elladan added.
"Daerada says we will be as good as him someday," Elrohir announced.
"But now we are hot! May we go to the stream, Ada?"
"There is a nice pool for swimming just beyond those trees," Glorfindel reminded Elrond.
At the nod from their father, the twins took off in the direction Glorfindel pointed, the adults not far behind them.
"This water is cold!" declared Elladan as he waded in barefoot.
Glorfindel jumped across a few rocks and, kneeling down, felt the water. "This spot is not so cold." He motioned the elflings over to the small pool. "This is shallow water, and it collects the warmth of the sun well."
The twins knelt down to feel the water for themselves, smiling at the warmth. Glorfindel helped them get their tunics off and they stripped the rest of the way, leaving their clothing on the rocks and wading into the warmer water. He tossed them a piece of soaproot. "Wash yourselves well," he admonished them.
Glorfindel waited until Elrond was near, towels and clean clothing in hand, before heading back across the rocks. He saw Celeborn perched on a rock above the deeper cold water, and without hesitation he launched himself at the unsuspecting elf.
They landed in the cold water, surfacing together and shaking the cold water and hair from their faces. Glorfindel's merry blue eyes met Celeborn's and they both grinned.
"I thought you might need to cool off," Glorfindel explained smugly.
Celeborn pushed the elf back under the water before swimming to the shore. He stripped off his sodden clothing, grabbed soaproot from his pack, and then dove back into the cold water. He swam underwater to where he saw Glorfindel, and then grabbed the cloth of Glorfindel's trousers and yanked, pulling them off the elf as well as pulling the elf under the water. Celeborn tossed the clothing on to the rocks, and when Glorfindel surfaced, sans tunic as well, he handed him some of the soaproot.
They bathed in silence, listening to the voices upstream as Elrond and the twins splashed in the warmer water of the shallow pool. Celeborn left the water first, drying off and dressing in fresh clothing. He hung up all the wet clothing in the lower tree branches, and then returned to the camp. Once there he found Glorfindel's pack and returned, tossing it on to a nearby rock, before returning to the perch he had been sitting on prior to being pushed in the water.
The sun was setting when Glorfindel finally got out of the water. He stood in the fading sunlight, enjoying the remnants of Arien's warmth. He opened his bag in search of a towel and dry clothing.
He stood in silence at what fell out of his pack.
Celeborn saw Glorfindel's consternation and noting that the elf was still dripping and naked, slid down from the rock and joined him. He burst into laughter and knelt down in front of the pack.
"Glorfindel, I never knew you had such…..interesting…taste in clothing," Celeborn laughed heartily as he pulled out she-elf lacy undergarments and a rather fetching gown of silver. "These do look a little small for you, although you could try them on and see." He glanced at the fuming elf. "No? Well, let us see what other lovely things you have packed." He pulled out a small vial of fragrance and unscrewed the lid. "Such a seductive scent… . .I have not noticed you wearing this before. Is it new?" he mocked. He drew out pink hair ribbons. "These will look quite enchanting with your golden hair."
Elrond had joined them, shooing the children back to the camp as soon as he saw the lacy undergarments being held up by Celeborn. He pulled a towel from his own pack and tossed it at the irate elf-lord. Glancing into the tree branches he saw the drying clothing. He dug into the pack himself, noting that all of the clothing was feminine.
He grinned. "Erestor?"
Glorfindel frowned, confused. "I packed all the bags myself. He was never near them - I made sure of it," he answered, speaking more to himself than Elrond. He turned his glare upon Celeborn, but the absolute glee in that one's face bespoke only of enjoying the situation, not having caused it.
Elrond dug around in his pack, finally pulling forth a tunic. He tossed it at Glorfindel. "Here - I have an extra tunic."
Celeborn howled with laughter as he beheld the elf wearing the tunic, a towel about his waist, and his boots. "My own clothing is wet because someone pushed me into the stream, so I have nothing extra to share with you, but I am sure you can wear your cloak until your clothing dries!"
Glorfindel stalked back to camp, ignoring the laughter that followed him. He was caught up in planning his own revenge while retracing every movement of the packs to determine when Erestor had bested him.
* * *
Dinner had been cooked and eaten, and the bedrolls laid out near the fire. Elladan and Elrohir had crawled in without question as the air grew chilly, and they lay watching the stars as they began to appear in the night sky.
"Look, El, there is Daeradar," Elrohir pointed into the sky as the star of Eärendil.
Elladan rolled to look at their other daerada. "We have both grandfathers with us tonight. Daerada, are you going to continue Ada's story?"
Celeborn looked up at the stars for a moment, and then at the twins. "Oh, you mean me." He smiled as they giggled. "Yes, I will continue your Ada's story." He settled himself more comfortably on the ground. "Círdan and Gil-Galad sailed into Sirion just after it fell…"
~ ~ ~* * *~ ~ ~
"We are too late," said Ereinion.
Círdan shaded his eyes against the morning sun. "The attack must have been recent. Fires still burn. Look - ships are still docked. It looks as if they did not get any ships out."
"Which must mean they were surprised," Ereinion surmised. "Look at the eastern end - those ships have all burned. Those at the main port are from Balar."
As the ships pulled into their moorings, elves began flocking to the docks to greet them. Their faces were sad, the grief deeply etched, and the pain in their eyes visible. Círdan descended, his eyes seeking the shipyard master. The elf appeared; he was walking with a crutch and one arm bandaged against his side.
"Cairsan," Círdan greeted the elf. "What has befallen Sirion?"
The elf let forth a low keening wail and tears formed again at the horror. "Maedhros surprised us - we had no warning. There was no time to prepare, no time to defend ourselves. So many dead…most are dead, Círdan."
"When? What of Elwing? What of the Silmaril?" Círdan questioned.
"Two days ago they attacked. Elwing is gone. Witnesses from the shore say she cast herself from the cliff there." Cairsan pointed at the cliff just north of the harbor. "She was wearing the Silmaril."
Cirdan grimaced, his thoughts drifting to Eärendil. "Has her body been recovered?"
"No, Cirdan. Here the tale grows strange. 'Tis said she changed into a bird and flew away, out of reach of those who wished to harm her," Cairsan's voice faded as he finished.
Círdan and Ereinion exchanged glances, unsure of what to make of this news. "Eärendil has not returned?" Ereinion asked.
"No, we have not seen Lord Eärendil in many months," Cairsan answered. He turned his eyes to the weathered, bearded face before him. "Messengers were sent to you, but Maedhros struck early - before the message could have reached you."
"I am sorry, my friend," Círdan grasped the elf's good hand. "I must learn the state of the city - who is dead, who is wounded. Where is Eregdos?"
"Eregdos died defending Elwing," Cairsan answered softly. "Lord Celeborn lies gravely injured. Our forces were decimated. Few remain who can fight."
Círdan turned to Ereinion. "Send word to Balar that all the living of Sirion who so choose will be moved there. Make the necessary preparations for shelter, food and care. I will see what I might learn in the city." He turned again to Cairsan. "Where is Lord Celeborn?"
Cairsan turned and began the walk up the hill into the town. "All the injured are in the Great Hall. Lord Celeborn is in Eregdos' old office." With that he slowed and waved Círdan on ahead.
Círdan walked the short distance up from the shore to the Great Hall, taking in the scenes of carnage all about him. Memories of the destruction at the Havens of the Falas entered his thoughts - the fires, the dead in the streets, the lament of the living and the dread of knowing that once again a much smaller number of them would need to regroup and face an uncertain future. As he continued up the road to the Great Hall he watched as elves removed the dead. He saw many of his own people come from Balar to render aid. They greeted him with weary voices and grief-stricken eyes.
He entered the dim light of the Hall, the sound of a minstrel strumming a harp to soothe the injured and the dying. Healers moved quietly from pallet to pallet, giving aid where they could; merely sitting with those who would soon depart for Mandos' Halls, in the hopes of easing their passing. Círdan continued on, weaving through the pallets, occasionally slowing to grasp a hand or touch a head of one he knew. He reached the office of Eregdos and entered to find the Lady Galadriel tending to her husband.
She looked up at him as he entered, grief and pain visible in her eyes - but also a flash of fire and anger. Círdan knelt across from her, grasping one of Celeborn's hands in his own; his other hand touching the forehead as he smoothed back silver hair. He sensed the damage to the body, the weakened feä. Celeborn's eyes were closed and he was in deep sleep.
"How does he fare?" inquired Círdan softly.
Galadriel pulled back the light blanket covering her husband, allowing Círdan to see the wounds upon his torso. A long gash ran diagonally along the abdomen, the wound deep. Círdan could feel the stitches deep within the tissue that had been required to close the wound. He slowly moved his hands across the injured body, noting the break to the forearm and the penetrating wounds to the shoulder and thigh.
"He will recover," stated the Shipwright calmly. He laid his palm along Galadriel's cheek "And you, Lady, do you recover as well?"
Galadriel's eyes flashed fire. "I am uninjured."
"That is not what I asked," Círdan replied gently yet sternly.
Galadriel focused on Celeborn for a moment, gathering her thoughts. "I am recovered. I recovered at Alqualondë and at Doriath; I am recovered here. My kin slay my kin for a precious jewel - a hallowed jewel - but one that not even the Valar would risk one life for. Yet even from this we shall recover."
She sat back, resting against the wall. "I know he will recover. For two days I doubted. For two days I have thought he should see Valinor without me, ere I too was slain."
"Sirion is destroyed and her people leaderless." Círdan continued after a moment. "Gil-Galad readies Balar to receive any of her people who wish to come. Will you aid me in sending word of this to the remnant of the city that survives?"
Galadriel rose with Círdan and faced him. "Aye, Círdan. Let us start with Celeborn and these other injured. Make the ship ready, and I shall have them prepared."
Círdan smiled and grasped her hand. A Galadriel giving orders was a useful Galadriel. "It shall be done."
* * *
"Lord Gil-Galad, there is an injured she-elf asking to speak with you," the young healer bowed before her king as she spoke. "She is quite restless, my Lord, and says her request is urgent."
Gil-Galad smiled at the healer. "Take me to her."
The healer threaded her way through the pallets of the recovering injured, all moved to Balar in the last few days from Sirion. Those who had been thought unlikely to recover had already passed to the Halls of Mandos, and now only those expected to live remained. She led Gil-Galad to a pallet in the corner where a she-elf sat propped against pillows. The injured elf took his hand in relief and bowed her head.
"My Lord, thank you for coming," she said gratefully. "I am Liriel, nurse to Elrond and Elros, the sons of Lady Elwing. Please, have you any word on the children? Did Maedhros harm them?"
Gil-Galad sat down beside her, a frown on his face. "Lady Liriel, in the confusion I have not heard of the fate of the children. Tell me what you know, that I might further what information you already have."
Liriel's eyes filled with tears. "Maedhros and Maglor were chasing Elwing. Eregdos fell defending her, but she gave both children to me and told me to the head for the shore, that she would lead them away from us. I heard Maedhros say she cast herself into the sea; then they were upon me. I had been shot, and I fell with the children into the reeds near the shore." She paused as the memory returned to her. "I begged them not to hurt the little ones, to take them to the shore where Elwing's people would care for them. But Maedhros said they were taking them. It is the last I saw of them. No one here knows their fate."
Gil-Galad comforted the she-elf, his thoughts racing. He and Círdan had assumed the children dead. He wondered for what purpose Maedhros would wish to keep them. "I will speak to Círdan and learn what we can. Take comfort if you can, and hope that they are well. If possible, we will find them or learn of their fate."
"Gil-Galad, Celeborn has awakened," the same healer took the young king in hand and led him to the room where Celeborn was being treated.
There he found Círdan and Galadriel sitting with Celeborn, who was asking his own questions and gaining as much news of the last few days as he could process.
"Have all come to Balar?" Celeborn asked.
"Yes, all are here and being settled," answered Círdan.
Círdan filled in all the gaps in Celeborn's memory since his own arrival at Sirion, then listened as Celeborn told him of the events leading up to that day.
"It was barely a fortnight from the sending of the last letter that Maedhros attacked. He could not have sent the missive from Himring, regardless of what was written on the parchment. They came in quietly at night and rushed Sirion from both sides the next day. Even had we been prepared, we could not have bested them. We were sorely outnumbered and we had our families to protect as well." Celeborn stopped and surveyed the faces watching him. "What is the fate of Elwing and the Silmaril? Did Maedhros recover the jewel?"
"No, he did not," Galadriel answered. "Elwing cast herself and the Silmaril into the waters off the high cliff. Those who witnessed the act claimed she was made into the likeness of a bird and flew off over the sea, the Silmaril at her breast."
"Ulmo could well do such a thing," added Círdan evenly. "He has pleaded on our behalf to Manwë and perhaps has a plan for Elwing and the jewel."
"The nurse to Lady Elwing's children is in the ward," added Gil-Galad. "She has told me the children were taken by Maedhros and Maglor."
"Then we must go after them." Celeborn tried to rise, but Círdan easily pushed him back down.
"Maedhros does nothing without a purpose," said Círdan thoughtfully. "We will send searchers to inquire after them, but we must consider for what purpose the sons of Fëanor keep the sons of Eärendil. It is not out of pity."
"Ereinion, will you arrange for searchers to follow the trail left by Maedhros?" Círdan asked. "They may have returned to Himring."
"Aye, Círdan," answered the young High King of the Noldor, already on his feet and heading out the door.
Círdan watched the young elf go with an amused paternal glance. "He will be a great king one day."
* * *
"Círdan, the Alphiel docked a month ago with strange tidings," said Gil-Galad as he stood in the door to the shipwright's office. "They reported a lookout in the tall beech on the point of Cape Balar. I sent scouts to the area, and they have reported there is an encampment inland." He paused. "One slipped close enough to see the banner of Maedhros of the house of Finwë."
Círdan took in the news with careful consideration, but could not help asking after the stealthy elf who garnered this information. "The scout is one of the green elves?"
Gil-Galad smiled. "None other could come so close without detection."
"Perhaps it is time we paid a visit to Maedhros," decided Círdan.
"I would be glad to do so," a quiet but powerful voice spoke from over Ereinion's shoulder. Celeborn stepped into Cirdan's office.
Círdan and Gil-Galad exchanged glances. "As kin, it is your right," Círdan answered. "I suggest you take the green elf. He blends into the trees and may be able to see further while you converse with the kin-slayers." The contempt in Círdan's voice at his reference to the sons of Fëanor was unmistakable.
"I shall leave on the morrow," Celeborn replied.
~ ~ ~* * *~ ~ ~
"And that is how I came to be at the camp where your Ada and Uncle Elros were being kept," finished Celeborn. He smiled at the sleepy elflings cradled in each arm. They had moved to hug him when he was injured in the story, and he was touched by their sincerity and tender innocence.
They were drifting into elven dreams as Elrond took one elfling and tucked him into his bedroll and Celeborn tucked the other twin in close by. It was Glorfindel who placed their special nighttime companions in their arms, and covered them with blankets.
"I will take first watch," Celeborn said as he resumed his seat on the rock, nodding that he would wake Glorfindel at the appropriate time.
Elrond settled himself in next to his sons, and Glorfindel, now in dry clothing, slid into his bedroll. He dug into the blankets and pulled out that which his foot had just kicked. He grimaced at the furry pink slippers as he muttered "How does one get fur that color?" while Elrond and Celeborn suppressed their chuckles. Glorfindel glared at them, launching the furry projectiles at each of their heads while silently cursing Erestor.
* * *
"Erestor, I am sure that the smell of moldy corn flour does wear off in time," Celebrían argued with her husband's advisor as he moved to sit in the window. She found herself grimacing at the smell, nonetheless.
"He was the only one who knew I planned on going through that cellar and assessing what damage was done by the spring rains that seeped in," Erestor ranted. "That he did this and left is the only surprise. Of course, I may still smell by tomorrow night when they return and he can enjoy himself then."
"Naneth says a little vinegar in the bath water will lessen the odor," Celebrían said helpfully.
Erestor snorted. "I am retiring for the evening. Please excuse me, Lady Celebrían." With that, the irate elf stalked off to bed.
* * * * *
A little history on Ereinion Gil-Galad: He was born in I 445. Ereinion was fostered to Círdan at the age of 10 years, during the Dagor Bragollach, where his grandfather, Fingolfin died. His father, Fingon, died in I 471 during the Nirnaeth Arnoediad. When Gondolin fell in I 510 and King Turgon died, Gil-Galad was named High King of the Noldor. He would be a very young king - only 65 years old - and since an elf didn't reach adulthood until about age 50, you can sense how young he was. At the time of this story Gil-Galad would be in his late 80's or early 90's - still very young for an elf.
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