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Chapter 11: Rescuing elflings
Elrond awakened at dawn, Elladan curled against him and Elrohir spooned with his twin. The morning air was cool, and Elrond spread his own blanket over his sons as he rose. On the other side of the dying fire, Celeborn still wandered in elven dreams. Glorfindel sat atop the fallen tree that bordered their small camp, his face turned to the golden sun as it broke the horizon.
"You did not wake me for my watch," Elrond chastised the smiling elf.
"You were occupied keeping elflings warm," Glorfindel replied, a twinkle in his eye. "Besides, Celeborn star-watched far longer than he needed to."
Elrond smiled as he walked to the stream for his morning ablutions, laughing inwardly at the two elves. Far be it from Glorfindel to allow Celeborn to take a longer watch than he! That they might have planned the watches to allow him to sleep through the night did not occur to him.
When he returned to camp he found Glorfindel building up the fire and Celeborn preparing breakfast. The horses and ponies had grazed and spent the night in the meadow, but now Elladan's pony, Thinde, sauntered towards the camp. The three elves watched in amusement as the pony ambled his way around the fallen log and to the sleeping elflings. Lowering his head into the nest of the small elves, the pony whinnied and snuffled his nose into their blankets and bellies.
The twins woke with a start, shouts and squeals accompanying their quick movements to get away from their attacker. Elladan finally caught the pony's nose between his hands.
"Thinde! That was not nice!" he scolded.
Elrohir was somewhat more direct. "You are a bad pony!" he shook his finger at the pony, then turned to his brother. "Your pony is not well behaved!"
Thinde snorted and snuffled Elladan again, earning his complete forgiveness as evidenced by the arms that wrapped around his neck and hugged him.
"Oh, he just wants to play," Elladan explained with a grin.
Elrohir stood, shaking off the blankets, and turning to the three laughing adults. He did his best 'annoyed' look, perfected from mimicking Erestor, and then turned his back on them and stalked off to the stream. Mithren had followed Thinde from the field and now shadowed her elfling's footsteps. Elrohir swung around to scold his pony, but one look into the sad brown eyes changed his mind.
"Oh, Mithren. At least you do not wake me by slobbering all over me." Elrohir reached up to pet the pony's nose and was met instead by a slobbering nose lowering and butting against his belly. The pony snuffled against him, pushing him back slightly. "Pony!" Elrohir scolded as Mithren stomped his foot and tossed his head. He gave in with a sigh and hugged the pony, petting his nose and combing the shaggy mane with his fingers.
When the ponies were satisfied with the attention received, they trotted back to the horses and resumed their important morning routine of grazing and rolling on their backs in the wet morning grass. Elladan joined his brother as they watched the ponies frolic and together they walked to the stream to wash their faces and hands.
"Breakfast smells good!" Elladan called as he raced back to the fire. He landed soundlessly next to this father and with a smile of thanks accepted his plate of food.
Elrohir walked back slowly, calling back to the birds as they sang and twittered amongst themselves. He approached the fire and smells with an appreciative sniff of the air, then leaned against his father for a quick hug before taking a plate from Glorfindel.
"Elrohir, do you still like your pony this morning?" Celeborn asked mischievously.
"Daerada, he is incorrigible," Elrohir answered with an exasperated shake of his head.
Elrond choked, Glorfindel howled and Celeborn grinned, as they all refrained from making any comparisons to the elfling's observation.
* * *
"Glorfindel, would you help set up more targets?" Celeborn called.
Glorfindel stopped strumming on his small harp and glanced up at the silver haired elf. "No," he answered with a grin, the sounds of music filling the meadow again as his long fingers resumed their dance over the instrument's strings.
A feral grin crossed Celeborn's face. "Are you afraid?"
Glorfindel smiled, refusing to be baited. "No."
"Daerada, watch!" Celeborn turned to watch Elrohir loose an arrow and hit the outer edge of the target. He watched as the small elf raised the bow in the air in triumph.
"Good hit, Elrohir!" Celeborn congratulated him. He turned again to Glorfindel, but the elf shook his head. He started to say more, but another call from his grandson caught his attention.
The twins were tired and rubbing sore arms after their archery lesson. They drank all the water in their water skins, and plopped down in the grass by Glorfindel. They lay quiet for some time, watching the butterflies and bumblebees and listening to the murmur of the wind in the trees.
"Glorfindel, can the wood elves really talk to the trees?" Elrohir asked.
"They can, but not with words such as you and I use to speak," Glorfindel answered.
"What do they say?"
"They warn of danger and tell of good tidings," replied Glorfindel. "When the wood-elves walk in the trees, the trees move their branches to help give them the best passage."
There was silence again as the elflings pondered this information. Glorfindel resumed softly playing the harp.
"Glorfindel, where is Ada?"
"He followed the stream down a short ways in search of a healing herb that he was hoping to find," explained Glorfindel.
"Glorfindel, where were you when Círdan and Gil-Galad and Daerada were searching for Ada and Uncle Elros?" Elladan asked.
Glorfindel stopped playing momentarily as his mind drifted. The memories of that time remained unclear, as if he were seeing through a cloudy glass or listening through heavy curtains that muffled sound.
"I was in the Halls of Mandos," he finally answered.
He felt small fingers grasping at his leggings, and looking down he saw Elrohir had scooted closer, pillowing his head on Glorfindel's thigh.
"Did you meet Manwë?" Elrohir questioned.
"Yes, and Námo and Varda and Estë, and other Vala and Maia too."
"Why did Manwë send you back to Middle-Earth, Glorfindel?" Elrohir asked.
Glorfindel smiled down at the curious faces watching him. Intent on the children, he had not noticed that Celeborn sat nearby. The Sindar's face was impassive. Glorfindel returned his attention to the children and the harp.
"I had some important unfinished work left to do," Glorfindel replied gently. "Are you ready for your sword lessons?" he blithely changed the subject.
The lack of movement at his legs indicated not. Glorfindel turned to Celeborn. "Lazy elflings. Shall we show them a proper match?"
The feral gleam returned to Celeborn's eye at the suggestion, his enthusiasm matched only by the cheers from his grandsons.
The two elf-lords stretched and prepared before facing each other in the open field. Each had his sword drawn, raised in front of his face. At Celeborn's nod they began with a mighty clash of steel.
The twins watched in awe as the two elf-lords sparred. The sun reflected off their blades as glints of white light, and their gold and silver heads shone under Arien's rays. They danced through the meadow, their light feet and agility allowing for spectacular spins and jumps. The twins both caught their breath when their grandfather leapt into a tree, then somersaulted out, landing behind Glorfindel, who still managed to spin and block the thrust. Glorfindel then began an aggressive offensive attack, causing Celeborn to focus solely on his defense. He parried blow after blow, the sweat beginning to break out upon his brow, as Glorfindel forced him further into the meadow.
"When are they going to stop?" Elrohir asked Elladan.
Elladan shrugged. "When one of them wins."
"We might be here all day!" exclaimed Elrohir.
Elladan frowned. "Then we might never get our turn."
"How do we make them stop?" Elrohir wondered. "Ada told us never to interrupt warriors when they are fighting because they can get hurt if they are distracted."
The elflings fell silent as they pondered the problem. Glorfindel and Celeborn continued to fight, their chests rising more noticeably with each breath and sweat becoming obvious on them both. A voice spoke behind them.
"How long have they been sparring?"
"Ada!" Elladan and Elrohir cried together. The jumped to their feet and threw their arms about his legs.
"They have been….."Elladan began
"….fighting for a long time," Elrohir continued, "and we don't know how …."
"…to make them stop!" Elladan finished.
Elrond left his sons where they had been watching and moved closer to the two combatants. He watched them battle, and it became quickly obvious that they did not intend to stop until one of them dropped. To Elrond's trained eye, Glorfindel was winning. He grimaced, for he did not wish to be around Celeborn should that happen. He drew in a deep breath and in his most commanding voice called, "DARO!"
The swords clanged a last time as they met in mid-air. The two elves stood frozen, each staring at the other, their swords remaining high and between them. Long moments passed until finally Elrond walked between them, and gripping each elf by the sword arm he lowered their blades.
Glorfindel's blue eyes danced merrily, while Celeborn's gleamed with passion.
"Daerada! Glorfindel! That was incredible!" The voices of the twins broke the silence and the tension, and soon the elflings were fingering the heavy swords, asking questions and begging to be taught the moves they had seen.
Elrond wisely decided it was time for the elflings to eat and the elf-lords to cool off. "Sword lessons after lunch. Elladan, Elrohir, please go fill all the water skins." He waited until the children had run to the stream before turning back to Glorfindel and Celeborn. To his surprise, they were walking back to the campsite together, shoulder to shoulder, and he was sure he heard laughter. His brow furrowed in confusion as he watched them. He finally shrugged and followed them.
* * *
The afternoon sun was quite warm and the campsite was quiet as the elves lay in the dappled shade of the trees. Glorfindel still absently strummed his harp, the notes blending in seamlessly with the buzz of insects and the chattering of the birds. Celeborn appeared to doze, while Elrond sorted through the herbs he had found, packaging them in separate small containers and labeling them appropriately.
The elflings lay on their backs, watching the fluffy clouds drift across the otherwise clear, blue sky.
"That one is a house."
"No, that is the barn, silly."
"There is a horse. I think it is your pony."
"Why is it not your pony?"
"My pony has more gray than that."
Elrond listened to their low chatter, whispers really, sometimes not even differentiating which of his sons was speaking. They tended to complete each other's sentences so often that even he and Celebrían lost track of which one was speaking at times.
"Daerada, will you continue your story?" Elladan's voice rose above the whisper he had been using to communicate with his twin.
Celeborn's eyes focused and Elrond knew that that the elf had indeed been sleeping. He smiled as he ducked his head. He knew that Celeborn would never admit that he was tired after his match with Glorfindel. Glorfindel had incredible stamina, something he had said developed after his time in Mandos' Halls. Even now he did not appear particularly tired.
Celeborn rose and moved to recline between the elflings, resting against their packs, which he piled behind him. The twins cuddled up on either side of him, using his legs for pillows as they situated themselves so they could see his face.
"Now where was I?" he mused.
"You were at the camp of Maedhros to rescue Ada!" Elrohir reminded him.
"So I was," Celeborn answered. "I did take the green elf, as Círdan suggested……"
~ ~ ~* * *~ ~ ~
"Lord Celeborn," the green elf whispered into his ear. "Children reside in this camp."
Celeborn nearly started in surprise. Calendîn truly was the most stealthy elf he had ever met. He had neither seen nor heard the elf approach him. "Have you seen them?" he whispered back.
"No, my Lord," Calendîn answered. When Celeborn arched an eyebrow at him in the brief silence that followed, he continued. "I have heard the sound of young voices. I also obtained this." A small, carved animal appeared in Calendîn's hand.
Celeborn took the wooden horse, turning it over and inspecting the workmanship. It was rough work at best, carved by a dagger or small knife. Whoever had crafted the toy had done so without proper tools. He handed it back to Calendîn and watched as the elf disappeared into the trees. He knew the green elf would return when he had more news to report.
Celeborn returned to the small contingent of elves he had led to the encampment of Maedhros and Maglor. Narthan, a young Noldor elf who had survived the fall of Gondolin and been a friend to Eärendil, was preparing himself to deliver a message to the sons of Fëanor. He was simply dressed and unarmed, carrying only a small flag of the house of his King, Gil-Galad. He approached Celeborn with a slight bow.
"Lord Celeborn, with your leave. I shall return as soon as I may," Narthan stated.
Celeborn nodded for the young elf to go and seated himself again with the scouts who had mapped the camp with the limited information provided thus far by the green elf.
* * *
"What is your intent?" Maglor questioned.
Maedhros paced the length of his tent. "The sons of Eärendil may still be of value to us. I shall not release them."
"Will Celeborn attack if you refuse?" asked Maglor.
"His blood and the blood of his people will be on his hands, should he attempt such folly," Maedhros answered coldly. "They may produce the Silmaril; for this I will barter the children of their Lord."
"And if they do not have the Silmaril to barter?"
"Then the children shall await one who does," Maedhros answered without remorse.
"Will you meet with Celeborn?"
"Yes. On the morrow, on the cape. Keep the children within the security of the camp, muindor. The Sindar's spies are sure to be watching," Maedhros said grimly.
* * *
Celeborn arrived with Narthan to find Maedhros present with one guard, as agreed. Each knew that the other had warriors at the ready; Sindarin archers sat high in the trees with arrows nocked in their bows, while those loyal to the sons of Fëanor remained just out of sight with their swords ready.
"Celeborn," Maedhros acknowledged the Sindar elf.
"Maedhros," Celeborn's face was expressionless.
"Do you come bearing the Silmaril?" Maedhros struck to the heart of the matter.
Celeborn's eyes narrowed. "You know better than I the fate of the Silmaril."
"It is the only token of value to this parley," Maedhros informed the elf imperiously.
"The Silmaril is not in our keep. I am here, as stated in the message, to obtain the safe return of the sons of Eärendil," Celeborn's steady voice was belied by the steely glint in his eye.
"The only token acceptable in barter for the sons of Eärendil is the Silmaril that their parents withheld from us," Maedhros' tone remained cold and hard.
"Then you admit you have the sons of Eärendil," Celeborn pushed.
"I have no need to admit or deny any charge from you," Maedhros replied. "Their fate rests on the return of what is rightfully ours."
"The Silmaril is not ours to return," Celeborn took a step towards Maedhros, his fist clenched at his side. "You witnessed Elwing's choice. The Silmaril resides in the sea or beyond the reach of us all." The two elves stood now within inches of each other. " I cannot make appear what is no longer present."
"Then you forfeit their lives," replied Maedhros cruelly.
Celeborn raised his arm, only to have it caught in the strong grip of Maedhros' left hand. He considered pressing the advantage he had over the one-armed elf, but restraint prevailed and he lowered his arm.
"Return to me when you have what I seek," Maedhros spat as he thrust Celeborn's arm the rest of the way down, releasing it. He turned on his heel and strode away from the cape towards the encampment.
Celeborn breathed in and out several times, deep cleansing breaths as he unclenched his fists and stretched out his fingers. He watched with malice until Maedhros had stridden out of sight.
"Come, Narthan," Celeborn ordered. "We are not finished here yet." The two elves were quickly surrounded by archers dropping from the trees, and they returned to their own camp.
* * *
"Elros!" Hathel called as the small child dodged behind a tree. "Come and sit."
Elros popped his head out from around the tree, a grin appearing as he watched Hathel walk towards him. His eyes lit up with glee and he turned to flee again, only to run smack into muscular legs. He stumbled, but quickly caught himself. The laugh on his lips disappeared as he looked up and realized who stood before him. The child turned to run towards Hathel but was tripped by the boot that rose to impede him. A look of terror crossed his face when a handless arm slid beneath his belly as he sprawled in the dirt and scooped him off the ground. A sharp slap to his bottom brought tears to his eyes, but he did not cry out.
"Do as you are told, peredhel, or I will not stop at one next time," Maedhros hissed into the elfling's ear. He released the child, dropping him the last foot to the ground and watched as the child scrambled to his feet and flung himself at Hathel, who caught him up.
Elros grabbed Hathel's tunic, winding his little fists into the fabric, as he buried his face into the elf's neck and hair. Silent sobs shook his small frame. Hathel turned from Maedhros without a word and took the child back to Maglor.
Maglor sat in front of the tent, the evening meal prepared and waiting only for small elves to be rounded up. Hathel loosed Elros' hands from his tunic and gently dumped the child into Maglor's lap, and then he turned to find the other wayward elfling before Maedhros did.
He did not have to go far. Elrond had planted himself in the path between where his brother was being consoled by Maglor, and Maedhros. His arms were crossed over his chest and he glared at Maedhros in defiance.
"Go sit and eat," Maedhros ordered.
Elrond did not move.
Maedhros scowled and moved forward menacingly. Elrond gave a cry of anger and flung himself at the legs of the elf who had hurt his brother. His small fists beat at hard thighs and Maedhros might have found the incident amusing if not for the anger he still held after meeting with Celeborn. He reached down and grabbed the elfling by the hair and back of the tunic with one hand, lifting him to eye level.
Elrond's shriek of pain at having his hair harshly pulled caught the attention of every nearby elf. Maglor had already thrust Elros back into Hathel's capable hands, and was nearly to his brother when Maedhros lifted Elrond from the ground. He was not in time to stop Maedhros from dropping the screaming elfling over his arm and delivering three solid hits to the child. The first caught the child along the upper legs and buttocks; the second landed on his upper back as he slid down the arm he was flung over; and the third was delivered to the ears and head. Maglor caught the child before he hit the ground.
"Maedhros, stop!" Maglor hissed loudly as he turned slightly to put his own body between his brother and Elrond and pulled the screaming child close to his chest. Maedhros' booted foot caught him in the back of the leg, but he managed to retain his balance and lightly stepped out of his brother's reach.
Maglor watched Maedhros react as if fog was lifted from his eyes and he realized he was raising his hand to strike his own brother. Maglor had lifted one arm defensively as his brother charged at him, disbelief in his face, while he used his body and other arm to protect the child. Maedhros quickly stepped back, his hand falling to his side and an expression of disbelief crossing his own face, a match to his younger brother's.
Maglor glared at him and turned away, lowering himself to the ground and pulling the screaming child from his body that he might inspect the injuries inflicted on him. Elrond held one hand to his head, covering his ear, which was bright red. A few drops of blood seeped from his scalp where his hair had been nearly torn from his head. Pulling up the child's tunic he saw bruises already appearing on his upper back and across his buttocks. Maglor began to croon to the child, again releasing some of his own healing power through the threads of the song he created and wove into the child's own song. He continued to feel the wounds, but he sensed no broken bones or serious injuries. Elrond continued to cry for some time, Malgor holding and singing to him until he calmed.
Maglor continued to sit, holding the little elf against his chest until he cried himself into an exhausted sleep. He rose and returned to his tent, where Hathel held a sleeping Elros, his tearstained face indicating he also had cried himself to sleep.
"Is he injured?" Hathel asked warily.
"Bruised and scared, but no serious damage," Maglor replied as he laid a hand on Elros' back, lending again his own healing energy to the traumatized elfling. He laid Elrond in his bed, then taking Elros from Hathel, tucked him in next to his twin. The two immediately curled about each other, but this time it was Elros who took the supportive position, pulling Elrond in against his chest and patting him on the arm. "Stay with them; I do not want them to wake alone. I am going to speak to Maedhros."
"I am here," Maedhros answered from the tent's opening.
Maglor nearly pushed his brother outside, and then herded him away from the tent. He led him into the trees, away from listening ears.
"Touch them again…." Maglor began angrily, but he was interrupted.
"I am sorry, muindor," Maedhros apologized, grief evident in his voice. "Is Elrond badly hurt?"
"Nay," Maglor sighed, feeling his anger depart. "He is bruised and scared, but he will heal." He paused and looked his brother in the eyes. He could see the hurt and grief over the acts he had just committed. "How could you do that, Maedhros? They are not the enemy. How could you strike children?"
Maedhros could no longer meet his brother's eyes, and he turned away. "I met with Celeborn."
"What did he say?"
"He wants the children returned to him. I told him the only way such a trade would occur is if they returned to us the Silmaril," Maedhros answered. "They claim not to have it; that it resides with Elwing in the sea or beyond the reach of Middle-Earth."
"We saw her fly, muindor," Maglor reminded him.
"And we wait for her return," Maedhros' voice grew harsh again. "Until then we hold the only things of value that she might exchange for the Silmaril."
"Or what, Maedhros? For how long do we keep them? What if she does not return?" Maglor asked angrily.
Maedhros did not answer immediately, and Maglor grasped his arm. "What did you tell Celeborn?"
"That their lives are then forfeit," Maedhros answered hoarsely.
A terrible fury rose in Maglor's eyes and he backed his brother into a tree, one hand still holding his arm, the arm pressing against Maedhros' chest. "You will not harm them again, Maedhros." Maglor commanded, incensed. "Their blood will not be on our hands."
Maedhros' eyes flashed briefly, but he quickly relaxed and nodded. Never before had his brother been so angry with him or physically restrained him in such a manner. Maglor released his hold and without another word turned and walked away.
Maedhros slid down the tree, sitting at its base. He listened as Maglor's voice rose in song, the volume faint but the melody unmistakable. It was strains of the Noldolantë mixed again with verses of strength and healing, as Maglor again strengthened small souls.
* * *
Calendîn listened carefully to the conversation, then moved silently through the beech trees until the song of the minstrel faded from his hearing.
~ ~ ~* * *~ ~ ~
Celeborn finished as tears streamed down the faces of both of his grandsons. He had not meant to make them cry, but the story was what it was. He could not change that because their Ada was the elfling in the tale. He glanced up to meet Elrond's eyes, and noted the strange expression on his face.
"I did not know you knew what happened," Elrond said softly, his eyes fixed on Celeborn even as his sons wrapped their arms around him.
Celeborn smiled. "Green elves."
"Calendîn never told me," Elrond answered. He hugged his sons and stroked their backs and hair, and was surprised to feel small hands patting his back and stroking his hair. He looked down at the dark heads and realized they meant to comfort him.
"Thank you, Elladan and Elrohir," he murmured softly. "That was the only time Maedhros did that," he reassured them. He met Celeborn's eyes again, and Celeborn nodded.
"Now, shall we swim first or have sword lessons first?" Elrond asked them.
"Swim first!" Elladan cried. He jumped to his feet, his brother close on his heels, and they ran for the pool.
Celeborn rose as well and reached a hand down to Elrond. Elrond took the proffered help, letting Celeborn pull him to his feet and surprisingly, into an embrace. Celeborn held him close for a moment, seemingly remembering a small elfling, and then they turned and followed the twins to the pool.
Glorfindel had been lightly strumming the harp throughout the story. He tucked it carefully into his pack and then followed Elrond and Celeborn. A pleased smile spread across his face as he noted that Celeborn kept a fatherly arm across Elrond's shoulders.
* * *
"Ada, can we go to the waterfall?" Elladan called.
"Aye, Elladan, but wait for us," Elrond called back.
The adults had reached the waterfall and the pool at its base as the elflings began their climb up the rocks to where the stream poured through hollowed channels, cascading to the pool below. The rocks at the base and sides had been worn smooth over the years, and provided an easy climb to the top.
Elladan and Elrohir had stripped off their tunics, but left on their leggings and soft shoes, just in case they decided they would attempt to slide down the smoothed rock on a small stream of water to the side of the main waterfall.
"Ada, the water is really cold up here!" Elrohir called down. "There are some pretty stones. Look at this blue one!"
Elrond nodded and watched as the two picked their way across the rocks, stopping every so often to pick up another stone that caught their fancy.
"Ada, there is a hole in the rocks!" Elladan yelled.
Glorfindel started at this; he knew the rocks and the waterfall, indeed this whole area, as well as he knew the familiar halls of Imladris. He was on his feet and walking to the rocks even as Elrond called to Elladan to stay away from the spot.
"Ada, the rocks are all loose here!" Elrohir called, panic in his voice.
Glorfindel, Celeborn and Elrond were all racing for the waterfall and climbing the rocks when the elflings disappeared from sight with screams of fright.
Glorfindel reached the area first and, to his amazement, found the rocks had broken loose and water poured into the darkness below. He saw fingers hanging on to the edge of the rock and moved carefully so as to not dislodge any loose stones into the hole. He laid out flat on his stomach and felt strong hands gripping his feet. He inched forward until he could finally see the small hand. Just as he reached for it, the rock gave loose and they heard Elrohir scream as he plunged into the darkness of the hole.
"Elrohir!" Elrond screamed. He crawled to the edge of the hole and began to lower himself in by the arms, loose stones giving way as he did so. "Elladan!" he yelled. He heard no clear answer, but he did hear something. "I can hear them!"
He began to lower himself into the hole, Glorfindel holding his legs as he delved further in. There were roots of the tall trees hanging down, and he grabbed one. He felt it hold and called, "Let go."
"No, Elrond!" Glorfindel peered over the side. "I have rope. Let me get it and then we will go down and get them.
"Ada!" a small cry sounded from the depths of the hole. "Ada, help me!"
Elrond's pace quickened as he called to his sons. He continued to lower himself, and Glorfindel edged closer, feeling Celeborn grab his feet.
"Can you see them?" Celeborn shouted.
"No," Elrond called back. "This root will hold. Let me go!" He twisted and kicked at Glorfindel until Glorfindel felt him begin to slip through his fingers. He grabbed one last time at the boot, and felt it release from the one wearing it. Celeborn pulled him back with the boot in hand. They both stared at it in shock.
"Elrond!" Glorfindel shouted. He could not see anything in the blackness and there was no answer to his call. His mind raced as he recalled the layout of the caves in the cliffs around them. Jumping to his feet, he leapt nimbly down the rocks with Celeborn close behind.
Glorfindel raced to the cave where he kept supplies, quickly finding blankets, torches, rope and a pack with first aid supplies. The nearest cave to the waterfall was beyond it to the west, and into the north wall of the rocks behind it. Glorfindel shoved some of the equipment into Celeborn's arms and they raced back past the waterfall.
"There is a pool in the cave. Its source has long been thought to be a spring, but perhaps the stream has really fed it from an underground passage," Glorfindel quickly explained as they ran. "The passage is low - if the hole they fell into is connected to this pool, we will have to swim underwater to get them out."
They entered the darkness of the cave, Glorfindel stopping and lighting a torch for Celeborn and then one for himself. They both caught their breath at what they saw in the sudden light: piles of rock and dirt that had caved in from above.
"The roar of the water has never been heard so loudly in here before," Glorfindel said as he quickly inspected the edges of the cave in. He felt the loose dirt and rock of the wall. "This could all cave in."
The two elf lords exchanged glances. "Dig or go back up with rope and see if we can pull them out?" Glorfindel finally asked.
Celeborn shook his head. "Dig. That edge will never hold us pulling them up and we have no time to stabilize it."
Glorfindel nodded and they both lodged their torches into cracks in the cave wall, and began the arduous job of digging and moving out rock. They worked frantically, rolling the larger rocks out of the way and using their hands to pull the smaller ones to the side.
"There is the pool," Glorfindel said as he felt the water lapping at his fingers.
Celeborn reached over the water and felt the cave wall on the other side
"How deep is it here?"
"I do not know," Glorfindel admitted. "We have never explored the pool."
Celeborn lowered himself into the water and found he could not touch the bottom with his head above water. He felt under the cave wall edge, but felt rock the whole length of his arm. He looked solemnly at Glorfindel. "I will see how far I can make it."
Glorfindel nodded as he quickly wound rope around Celeborn's chest and knotted it. He attached the other end to a large rock. "When you make it to air again, tug on the rope and I will follow. If you cannot make it to air, tug twice and I will help pull you back as swiftly as I can."
Celeborn nodded, then took several deep breaths, holding the last one as he plunged under the water. Glorfindel fed the rope in for what seemed an eternity, counting the seconds. The adults could hold their breath for extended periods of time; the elflings could not. Just when he had determined that Celeborn would have to be pulled back, he felt a single strong tug on the line. Celeborn had made it to air.
Glorfindel slipped into the water and drawing in several deep breaths, held his breath and plunged below the surface. He followed the rope with one hand and felt Celeborn keeping it taut. Suddenly he felt a hand grip his and pull him up sharply into the air.
He drew in a deep breath as his eyes adjusted to the darkness. There was light filtering in from somewhere, and he could see the large open space above his head. He finally focused on Celeborn, who had one hand resting on a small outcropping of rock while he held Glorfindel with the other.
"This is deeper than I thought," Glorfindel began to tread water on his own now that he had air in his lungs again. "Colder, too. Are they here?"
Celeborn released him and called, "Elrond!" He turned to Glorfindel. "No answer yet - I have tried several times. How much more rope is there?"
"Another few lengths is all - it will take us only a short ways further," Glorfindel answered.
Celeborn took out his knife and pinned the rope into the softer dirt and shale above the water line. The two began to swim in the freezing water, following the light as it grew brighter. They seemed to be following an arc of sorts and as they rounded a passage that forced them down in water up to their noses, they entered another large chamber with a dripping hole at the top.
"Elrond!" Celeborn called again.
"Here," Elrond answered weakly from the side of the cave. Both swam to the sound, to see Elrond treading water with all his strength while holding as much of his sons out of the water as possible. They were perched one on each shoulder, blue with cold, and nearly unconscious.
"Be careful of Elladan's right arm - it is broken," Elrond instructed as Celeborn pulled the stiff elfling from him. "Elrohir hit his head and I think his ankle is broken," he said weakly to Glorfindel.
"Elrond!" Celeborn reached with one arm to shake him. He had watched as Elrond had begun to slip into the water now that he knew his sons were safe. Elrond kicked once and opened his eyes. Glorfindel took Elladan as Celeborn pulled Elrond to him.
Glorfindel turned onto his back, pulling the elflings on top of him, their heads in the crook of his elbows and supported above water, and he began to kick as powerfully as he could back to the previous chamber. He nearly scraped the elflings foreheads as he kicked through the chamber, but finally made it through. He continued kicking through to where the rope hung, hearing Celeborn behind him, but knowing even if he did not he would have to go on alone.
The twins were silent and cold, but they still breathed and he could feel the weak beats of their hearts. He reached the rope and waited for Celeborn. "I will take Elladan first and then come back." Celeborn nodded, and pulled Elrohir into his left arm, resting his elbow on the sharp ledge that was his only support in the deep water as he held up Elrond with his other arm.
Glorfindel took in as much air as he could; then he pulled Elladan close against him, holding him with his arm and using his hand to cover Elladan's mouth and nose. He grasped the rope with the other hand and kicked as hard as he could. Twice he blew breath into Elladan and finally they surfaced in the cave. He pulled Elladan out and covered him with a blanket, then plunged back into the water and swam back to Celeborn. He glanced at the silver haired elf and noticed he was shaking. Glorfindel had the advantage of not having stopped moving since he entered the water.
"Will you make it?" Glorfindel asked. Celeborn nodded and thrust Elrond and Elrohir into Glorfindel's arms. He kicked and moved his arms vigorously for a few moments, then taking Elrohir he drew in a deep breath and, covering the elfling's mouth and nose with his hand, he swam into the passage.
Glorfindel waited until Celeborn had a good head start and then he shook Elrond.
"Elrond!" He slapped the elf lightly across the cheeks to rouse him. He smiled when Elrond opened his eyes finally. "The twins are through. It is your turn. Take a deep breath when I tell you and then hold it. I will give you air if you need it - just pull on my sleeve." Glorfindel took hold of the rope. "Ready? Now!" He saw Elrond take in a small breath, and he clamped his hand over the elf's mouth and nose and dove under the water. He was midway through when he felt Elrond go limp. He bumped into another body as he reached the end. He felt arms pulling Elrond up, and then he surfaced.
Elrohir lay at the side of the pool, and Celeborn hung over the edge. Once Celeborn had Elrond in hand and was assured he was again breathing, Glorfindel climbed from the pool. He lifted Elrohir and laid him next to his brother, covering him with the same blanket. He then dragged Elrond from the pool, and finally helped Celeborn from the water.
"Silver hair and blue lips make for an interesting combination," Glorfindel noted.
"Aye, and I have never seen an elf with lips to match his eyes, either," Celeborn retorted.
"Let us get them into the warm sun," Glorfindel attempted to pick Elrond up, but could not do it. Celeborn joined him and together they dragged Elrond out into the sunlight, then covered him with a blanket. They each picked up an elfling and laid them on either side of their father, then collapsed together in the bright afternoon sun.
They lay there for some minutes, shivering. Glorfindel finally rose and stumbled to the cave to bring out the torches, first aid pack and the rest of the blankets. He tossed the blankets to Celeborn and began to strip. "Get out of the wet clothes, then get them undressed too."
Glorfindel wrapped himself in a blanket and then began to collect wood that could be used for a fire. A dead tree nearby provided plenty of wood, and with some effort Glorfindel collected an armful and staggered back to the others. He arranged the wood and tossed the torches on top, thanking the Valar when the dead wood easily caught fire.
Celeborn had finished undressing both elflings and wrapped them both in blankets. He gently laid them as close to the fire as he could without singeing their hair.
"Have your knife?" Celeborn asked Glorfindel wearily.
Glorfindel crawled over with the blade, and seeing Celeborn's intentions, began to help. They were both too tired to lift him, so they cut Elrond's soaked clothing from him, rolled him in a blanket and then dragged him to the fire. Glorfindel lay down behind the twins, pulling them close. Celeborn did the same for Elrond, sharing what body heat he had.
Celeborn felt Elrond stir against him, and begin to struggle against the restraint of the blankets. "Elrond, the twins are safe. You are safe," he murmured softly. Elrond opened his eyes and stared dumbly at his father-in-law.
Celeborn gently turned his head and pointed to where Glorfindel was warming the twins and assessing their injuries. He was already splinting Elladan's broken arm. "They are alive."
"Elrohir hit his head. Has he woken up yet?"
Celeborn shook his head. "Not yet." He looked at Glorfindel who carefully checked both of the elfling's eyes and then nodded at him. "But his eyes are fine, responsive to light. He will wake up soon," he reassured him. He felt Elrond relax against him again and fervently but silently called upon Elbereth for it to be so.
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