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History Lessons  by Nilmandra

Chapter 19: Making Plans

Elrohir awoke in the pre-dawn quiet. He sat up noiselessly, looking at his still slumbering twin and then at the moonlight that was peeking in through the sheer curtains blowing gently in the breeze at their window.  He sighed audibly. It would be hours before daylight and his parents awoke.

He flopped back down on his pillow, exasperated.  Why did he wake up so early?  It certainly made more sense if one managed to stay sleeping until the last moment, because then if you were looking forward to something, it would happen all that much faster. Elrohir pondered his logic for a moment.  Well, it sort of made sense.

He slipped the sheets down over his casted foot, and crawled to the end of his bed.  He managed to reach over, unlatch the chest and raise the lid, having practiced the awkward movement on more than one occasion.  The lid flopped quite far back, and he slipped his hand in from the side, feeling for the leather scabbard.  It was exactly where he had put it – right where he could reach it, without even needing to see it.  He slid it out of the chest and shut the lid as silently as he could.  It made a dull thud as it closed, but he knew Elladan would sleep through that small noise.

Settling back on to his bed, leaning against his headboard, he laid the sword in his lap and ran his hands over the pattern of the scabbard.  He very much wanted to pull the sword out of its sheath, but he had promised Ada he would never draw the sword in the house.  He knew that he really could not hurt himself while sitting on his bed with it, but a promise was a promise.

He swung the sheathed sword above him, smiling at the swishing sound it made as it sliced through the air. How he had missed sword practice!   And they had only had one lesson with Daerada with their new bows before being hurt!  He bounced his casted foot on the bed. 

“Today you are coming off,” he whispered to the cast on his foot.  “I will save you forever, but you will sit on a shelf after today.  I want to run and shoot arrows with my bow and dance with a sword, and I cannot do any of those things with you attached to me.”

The cast remained silent. Elrohir sighed.  He fingered the buckle that held the sheath in place on the sword, then flicked it open.  He pulled lightly on the sword, until he could just see the shine of the metal.  He stared at it for a moment, as if mesmerized.  His words of promise came back to him. Guilt flooded through him, and he quickly pushed the sword back into the sheath and fastened its buckle.

“You are too much of a temptation for me,” he told the sword, rather dramatically.  “I shall put you away and get up, so I cannot be tempted by you again.”

With that he rose and readied himself, putting on clean clothing and washing his face and hands.  Elladan slept on as Elrohir slipped from the room and moved quietly down the darkened halls. He had not been up this early in the morning before, and he was fascinated by the slight echo that interrupted the silence each time his cast touched the wood floor.  As he neared the Hall of Fire he heard the slow, low tones of a ballad being sung. He crept near to the door, surprised to learn that some elves really did stay up all night. The song made him melancholic, not sad but thoughtful, and he slipped through the open doors so that he might hear better.  A small group of elves was gathered in the middle of the room, seated on cushions and rugs, and some had lutes and harps and other instruments.   Some were strumming their instruments while others sang. Elrohir had heard such music before, but for some reason it seemed different to be hearing it in the twilight.  Starlight and moonlight twinkled in through the large open windows that ran nearly floor to ceiling, shining on the elves as they sang, and enhancing the glow of the singer.

Elrohir entered, willing his cast to silence, and crept as near as he dared, shielding himself behind the low couches and benches that ringed the room. He slid a cushion from the bench in front of him, and lay down on it, his chin resting on his crossed arms, allowing him to watch the singing elves from behind and beneath the bench.  He closed his eyes and allowed himself to drift with the crescendo of the music, feeling it flow through his body and make him feel as if he were riding in the air with the notes.

Lost in the music, he jumped when a large warm hand came to rest upon his back. He turned his head slightly, his face burning, to see who had caught him in this place he did not have permission to be. It was Glorfindel.  He smiled wanly.

To his surprise, Glorfindel smiled back, pulled another cushion from the bench and laid it next to his, then lay down so their heads were nearly touching.  They spoke no words as Lindir continued his haunting ballad, and several times Elrohir stole a shy glance at Glorfindel, surprised to see his eyes closed.

Lindir finished, and there were low murmurs from the elves as they discussed the next lay they wished to sing. Glorfindel rolled to his side, facing Elrohir, and tucked the elfling’s loose hair behind his ear.

“Why are you up so late, Elrohir?” he asked.

Elrohir opened his eyes wide in surprise.  “I am not up late; I am up early,” he whispered.

Glorfindel laughed lightly.  “At this time of the night I suppose one is as accurate as the other.  Did you have a bad dream?”

“No,” Elrohir answered, shaking his head.  “I was too excited to sleep.”

“Excited for what?”

Elrohir rolled on to his back and lifted his cast in the air. “I get this off today!” he exclaimed softly. “Then I can run and practice swordplay and use my bow.”

Glorfindel nodded knowingly, and Elrohir smiled.  He knew Glorfindel would understand.

“I tried to lie quietly in my bed,” he confided, “but I was tempted by my sword, and I did not want to wake Elladan.”

“Swords can be a great temptation,” Glorfindel agreed.  He studied the child for a moment. “I think that couch would be more comfortable than this floor.  Shall we sit there and listen to the music?”

Elrohir smiled, surprise then joy evident in his eyes at Glorfindel’s suggestion.  He sat up and put his cushion back on the bench, then took Glorfindel’s proffered hand and walked with him to the couch.  They settled upon it, Glorfindel placing a pillow in his lap, and Elrohir sprawled out next to him, his head on the pillow and his eyes on the musicians.  Several of the elf maidens rose and began to dance as another song was begun, and Elrohir was entranced by the grace and beauty of their movement as they twirled slowly around the outside of the small circle. Their hair was loose, swirling about their shoulders and swinging freely as they dipped and swayed. Elrohir was amazed, for they seemed to be part of the music, as if it flowed through their bodies and controlled their movements.  He found himself relaxing under Glorfindel’s soothing hand, which gently stroked his hair, and soon fell fast asleep.

* * *

Celebrían entered the Hall of Fire quietly, the soft swish of her skirts the only noise in the now silent space.  The musicians and dancers had departed, leaving only the sleeping elfling and his keeper on the comfortable couch.  Glorfindel had sent word to her that Elrohir was in the Hall with him.  She approached them silently, the sight of one of her sons deep in slumber a cherished vision to her mother’s heart.  He looked so innocent, and she was grateful for these years of carefree childhood.

She smiled at Glorfindel as she knelt down at his knee, her hand reaching immediately to stroke her son’s dark head.

“Thank you for watching over him,” she said quietly.

Glorfindel returned her smile.  “He could not sleep, he said, for he was excited about his cast coming off today.  I hope for his sake that Elrond determines it can be removed.” His long fingers reached over the cast, rubbing lightly over the scene with the gown hanging from the tree branches.

Celebrían’s smile widened as her gaze followed his fingers to the cast. “Lessons of patience are lost on young ones,” she agreed. “My father will be pleased, as he has been looking forward to teaching them archery, and they so enjoy their sword lessons with you and their father.   They will be glad when they can again do all they wish to do.”

Glorfindel appeared thoughtful for a moment. “Their childhood is idyllic in many ways.  I am glad they are growing up at a time when shadow has been vanquished, at least for a while.”

“They shall remember their trip to the waterfall fondly, for the joy they had before the accident, but as time passes they will also come to realize the sacrifices made for them that day,” Celebrían replied, her own fingers now tracing the scenes painted on the cast.

Glorfindel grinned slyly. “Of their mother’s deed they know not, for their father sent them off when the items were discovered.”

Celebrían sat back on her heels, an eyebrow arched in a look she had borrowed from her husband.  “Of what deed do you speak, dear Glorfindel?”

Blue eyes sparkled with mirth as they met hers steadfastly.  “You know of what I speak, dear Lady.”

Celebrían’s eyes twinkled merrily in return. “Do tell, my Lord.”

“Nana,” yawned Elrohir sleepily, interrupting them.  A slow grin spread across his face and he stretched, raising his arms.  Glorfindel caught his hand before it struck him, and Elrohir suddenly realized where he was. He sat up, leaning against Glorfindel’s side. “Is it morning? Is Ada awake?” he asked, excitement in his voice.

“Yes, Ada is awake,” answered Elrond from the door. He entered the room, coming to stand before his small son.  “Why are you not in bed, Elrohir?”

“I could not sleep, Ada,” Elrohir replied solemnly.  “Please, Ada, will you take it off today?”

Celebrían laughed aloud as she saw Elrond pondering whether to point out to Elrohir that he had been sleeping.  Instead a smile crossed his face and he answered, “I will look at it after breakfast.”

Celebrían laughed as Elrohir clapped his hands and slid from the couch.  He took the hand she held out to him, and with a wink at Glorfindel, she led her son from the room.

Elrond stood with arms crossed over his chest, staring silently at the powerful warrior seated before him.  A smile tugged at the corner of his mouth as he looked upon the suddenly innocent countenance of his good friend.  He sighed, and sat down next to him.

“Thank you for watching over Elrohir this morning,” he said graciously.

Glorfindel nodded.

“You were in discussions with Lady Celebrían,” Elrond prompted him.

“Yes,” Glorfindel answered.

A long moment of silence stretched out between them.  Elrond finally clapped Glorfindel on the knee and stood.  “My beloved wife I treasure and would protect from any misdeed. We are fortunate to have your loyalty, for I know that you too would keep any harm, large or small, from touching a hair of her head.” He smiled and nodded at the golden one, and then left the room.

Melodious laughter floated from the room behind him, and he knew his message had been understood.

* * *

“Albast, today I get my cast off!” Elrohir announced as he entered the healing rooms.  He moved quickly, the cast making its slight thumping noise as he made his way quickly to where the man reclined on a couch.

“That is good news, Elrohir!” Albast replied with a smile, as clasped the hand of the child.

Elrohir sat down cautiously next to the man, and studied him quietly.  The man’s face was ashen, and he looked ill.  Elladan skidded into the room and ran to join them, but he stopped suddenly as he saw his twin looking so grave.

“Albast, are you sick?” Elladan gently touched the man’s arm.

“I am feeling better than I was during the night,” Albast reassured them.

“I am going to get Ada,” Elrohir decided.

“I will go,” Elladan said, jumping to his feet.  He looked apologetically at his twin. “You will be able to run later today.”

Elladan reached the door just as Elrond entered. “Ada! Albast is sick.” He grabbed Elrond’s hand and pulled him to the couch.

Elrond’s gaze settled on Albast, and he quickly evaluated the man’s condition.  Other healers were hovering near, having tended him during the fitful night. He moved to the man, resting his hand upon the man’s forehead, then ran long fingers down the man’s face, feeling beneath his chin and down to the pulse point of his neck. He smiled with reassurance at his patient, but his eyes were masked and to those who knew him, his impassivity suggested deeper concern.

Albast had taken a turn for the worse two days earlier when a fever they had thought defeated returned during the long watch of the night. Elrond had tended him and had his sons kept away. The man had improved some during the day, but this second difficult night concerned Elrond. He finished his examination, his warm hands imparting strength and comfort to the man’s body and soul.

“We shall remove this cast,” Elrond told Albast as he ran his fingers lightly down the plaster. “I believe the wounds to your leg are the source of your illness now.”

Elrohir squeezed Albast’s hand.  “I am sorry we did not get to paint it for you,” he said sadly.

“I am glad you did not,” Albast answered sincerely. “For I would be reticent to ask you to paint another one, and I am sure my leg will eventually need another cast, one that will stay on for a longer time.”

“Yes, indeed,” Elrond replied with a smile.  “This is a temporary removal.”

Elrohir grinned happily then.  He turned to his father.  “Ada, I think you should take off Albast’s cast first.  I can wait.  My leg is not the source of any illness for me.”

Chuckles were heard throughout the room at Elrohir’s choice of words, but Albast squeezed the small hand tight, gladness in his eyes for this young one’s concern.  Elrond’s eyes shone with pride, for his son had thought of another’s needs before his own, and this type of behavior he wished to encourage.  But Elrond had to turn away to hide his emotion then, for Elladan had taken a damp cloth from the healer, and placed it gently on the man’s fevered forehead, his small fingers smoothing the man’s hair away from his face as he listened to the plans for his friend.  Elrond felt joy that his sons’ presence brought comfort to the man, but also fear, for Albast’s condition was worsening and his sons had never known grief.

“Albast first, and then Elrohir,” Elrond agreed. 

He nodded to Glorfindel, who had joined them, and then went to prepare his tools while the strong warrior gently lifted the feverish man and carried him to the padded table where Elrond would work. Elladan and Elrohir immediately moved to join them.

“Why don’t you two go play, and I will come for you when it is Elrohir’s turn,” Elrond said gently.

Elladan took Elrohir’s hand and pulled him close.  “Oh, no, Ada,” Elladan began resolutely and Elrohir finished the sentence, “Albast needs us.”

Elrond stepped back and drew them to him, bending down to meet their eyes.  “If I ask you to leave, you must go without question.  Will you promise me that?”

“Yes, Ada,” they replied in unison, and though their eyes questioned what they might see that would cause their father to send them away, their voices did not lend words to their thoughts.

Glorfindel situated the twins near Albast’s head, allowing them to hold his hand and keep him company as Elrond worked.  He kept a close eye on all involved – watching to see if Elrond should need aid removing the large plaster cast, if Albast should show signs of distress, and if the twins should see something that necessitated their removal.

After Albast winced twice at the slight jostling of his leg, Glorfindel held a cup to his lips and the man swallowed a draught of medication to numb his pain.  Elrond waited for the effects to be felt, and when he resumed his ministrations the man lay still and quiet.  He pulled the plaster carefully from the leg.  A putrid smell filled the air, causing the twins to both wrinkle their noses, but both leaned near to see the pus stained bandages that had been uncovered.  Elrond dampened the bandages, allowing him to free them, and it became quickly obvious that the wound, which had been nicely healing, was now grossly infected.  A warm compress over the old wound released more blood and pus, and the sickly sweet and metallic smell permeated the room.

Elrond examined the leg, his sure fingers discovering that the bone itself appeared to be knitting well, but the tissues and small blood vessels held infection.  He silently thanked the Valar, for if the bone became infected he feared they would lose the man to death. He flushed and cleaned the wound as gently as possible, then packed it with healing herbs and wrapped clean bandages about it.  He reattached the skeleton of a splint that would protect the healing bones, and then bound the whole leg in linens.

He had glanced at his sons several times, but they appeared curious and unfazed by the smells and sights they had witnessed. Elrohir continued to hold Albast’s hand, and Elladan stroked his hair and placed fresh cool cloths on his forehead as the healer handed them to him, throughout the entire procedure.

“Finished,” Elrond announced softly.  Albast only nodded to him, the medicine making him too sleepy to speak.

Glorfindel lifted the man with the same ease he would a small child and carried him back to his couch, settling him carefully amid the blankets and propping his leg on cushions. With a gentle touch he covered the man’s forehead with his own hand, and felt him relax again.

Elrond held out his arms to Elrohir.  “Are you ready?”

“Yes, Ada!” Elrohir cried.  He wrapped his arms around his father, squeezing him tightly, and as Elrond sat him on the high counter, he whispered in his father’s ear, “Thank you for taking care of Albast, Ada.  He is our friend.”

“I know,” Elrond answered. 

Elladan was quickly at his side, and Elrond lifted him to the counter as well.

“Now, how are we going to remove this so that we don’t damage the cast?” Elrond asked with a smile.

“I thought we were going to use this?” Glorfindel brandished a club over his head, causing the elflings to squeal with delight and pretend fear.

“No, Glorfindel!  You would break my foot all over again, with the cast!” Elrohir cried.

Glorfindel gently tapped the club against the cast.  “I would be gentle.  Truly, I would,” he tried to convince the child who vehemently shook his head at the statements while Elladan giggled.

“Ada, I think you better do it,” Elladan decided.  He whispered to Elrohir, who whispered back.  “We think Glorfindel is overzealous with that thing!” Elladan finished triumphantly.

Groans and snickers filled the room, and Glorfindel shook his head at Elrond.  “You must speak to that tutor of theirs. . . do you really want them sounding like a vocabulary text?”

“I can explain the words to you, if they are beyond your comprehension,” said Celebrían as she breezed into the room.  She hugged her sons and kissed her husband, then winked at Glorfindel before heading over to check on Albast.

Glorfindel scowled at her, then hissed in Elrond’s ear.  “It is not the hair on her head that needs harming, but her teasing tongue!”

Elrond laughed, delighted.  “I love that tongue,” he whispered playfully.  “Your loyalty must protect that as well.”

Glorfindel rolled his eyes, but laughed good-naturedly, and they set about the task of removing the cast with as little damage to it as possible. Elrohir sat patiently throughout the process, holding his breath at times, as Elrond painstakingly cut through the plaster until it could be removed from his foot.

Glorfindel took up the cast, eyeing the edge carefully.  “I will seal the edge back together, and you will hardly be able to tell where the cut is,” he announced with a smile.

Elrond was already busy examining the foot, washing it and gently manipulating it in all directions.  Elrohir was grinning and gave no sign of discomfort at any of the movements.  He pressed down on his father’s hand and provided resistance when Elrond pushed up on the sole of his foot, and the smile grew wider and wider until Elrond set him on his feet.

Elrohir took a few tentative steps on his foot, and then ran a few steps, finally turning in a circle and running back to throw himself at his father.

“Ada, I am healed!” Elrohir’s flare for the dramatic led to general laughter in the room; even Albast watched him from his couch with a smile.  He ran about the room, grinning at all who congratulated him and bestowing hugs on his mother and Glorfindel.

“Nana, where are Daerada and Daernaneth?”  Elrohir asked breathlessly. “I must go show them!”

“They are in the garden,” Celebrían replied, laughing as Elrohir grabbed Elladan by the hand and the elflings flew from the room.

“Lady Celebrían,” Albast spoke softly, gently kissing the back of her hand as she still held his, “your sons are a delight and a credit to this house.  They have aided my recovery immensely, as I believe Elrohir would say.”

Celebrían softly touched the man’s cheek, then leaned forward to kiss his brow.  “Your words are as music to my mother’s ear, for they are my pride and my joy. Thank you.”

She stood and with a final smile at the man, followed after her children.

Glorfindel snorted. “She glows, and he swoons at her kiss,” he complained.  He turned on Elrond.  “And you let her . . be her!”

Elrond laughed, the sound pure and lovely. “Come, mellon-nín, let us go join Celeborn and Galadriel in the garden.  A little tea will refresh you.”

Glorfindel scowled again outwardly, even as he delighted in the sound of Elrond’s pure laughter, and they left the room, Elrond stopping to assure Albast he would check on him later.

* * *

“Albast is a Man, and Uncle Elros was his first King,” Elrohir explained to his grandparents. “He especially liked hearing the parts of Ada’s story when Elros was in it.”

“How is Albast today?” Galadriel asked, as Elrond and Glorfindel entered the room.

Elrond’s face reflected the gravity of the man’s condition, even if his words remained neutral.  “We have drained the infection, which does not appear to be in the bone.”

“Is Albast a descendent of Uncle Elros?” Elladan spoke up.

“I do not know how direct of a descendent he may be, but in some ways you can say that nearly all of King Valandil’s people are descendents of Elros, as are the people of the Kings of Men in the south,” Elrond answered.

“So, that makes them related to us,” Elrohir surmised.

“Distantly, yes,” Elrond laughed.

“Ada, why did you choose to be an Elf when Uncle Elros chose to be a Man?” Elladan asked.

There was silence in the small garden, and all eyes were turned expectantly to Elrond.  He paused for a long moment before answering.

“I do not know that I considered my decision as a decision, but as a foregone conclusion, Elladan.  It was not something I thought about when the Valar told us we must choose. I was an Elf,” he replied.

“As Elros was a Man,” said Galadriel softly.

Elrond’s eyes flashed in a mixture of defiance, anger and disbelief at her words, for his heart refused to believe they were true, but Galadriel held his gaze unflinchingly.  Gradually his face softened, and he lowered his eyes from hers. He felt Celebrían’s arm wrap through his, and he allowed her into his heart. Her presence upon his mind was calm and tranquil, and as he let her feel his emotion he was surprised to feel her strength.  She rode the waves of confusion and anger, gradually calming the storm and easing his pain. He turned and met her eyes, and the love he saw there suddenly knocked down some of the barriers that had been constructed about his heart in his childhood years as if they had been made of straw.

“Tell me more about Elros,” she said softly.  “Tell me what it was like to live in those days before and during the War of Wrath, and to stand before the Valar and make your choice.”

She held his gaze, and she held his heart.  He twined his fingers with hers, and kissed her fingertips. “It was Círdan who first knew that change was coming to Beleriand. . .” he began, smiling at the delight on his sons’ faces.


~ ~ ~* * *~ ~ ~

“I need wood and workers,” Círdan announced gruffly.  “Ereinion, give me Elrond for a few days.  He can organize my plans and get the work started.”

Gil-Galad finished chewing the broiled fish, savoring the meaty flavor, before answering.  “Where is Elros?” he asked.

“At sea for at least another week,” answered Círdan. “But I want Elrond regardless.”

Elrond watched the exchange with curiosity.  Gil-Galad had him working on several projects involving defense of the isle, and he spent a fair number of hours in the healing houses as well.  He knew that Gil-Galad would send him to help with whatever Círdan wanted, but he would eventually get the information out of the old mariner that he wanted as well.

“I am sure we can arrange something,” Gil-Galad answered agreeably.  “What will he be doing?”

“I need wood to build more ships.”

“What will you use these ships for?” asked Gil-Galad, his curiosity truly piqued.

“Moving people and things,” Círdan answered, not looking up from the table.

Gil-Galad and Elrond exchanged glances, slight smiles on their faces.  When Círdan would not meet the eyes of those he conversed with, a mystery was at hand.

“Are there elves moving here?  Or away from here?” Gil-Galad queried.

“What kinds of things?  Animals?  Household goods?” Elrond quizzed him.

Círdan clapped his hand loudly on the table, and then tossed his napkin on to his plate.  Without meeting their eyes, he commanded, “Elrond, meet me here in the morning.”

Gil-Galad grinned devilishly. “Elrond is not available tomorrow.  He is meeting with the advisory council to go over the defense plans being implemented by the military council.”

Círdan snorted.  “These plans are more important than anything your councils have ever devised.”

“What word have you received, Círdan?” Gil-Galad finally asked, his tone serious and respectful.

Círdan sighed audibly. “The word to build more ships.”

Elrond moved to sit closer to Círdan, who eyed him suspiciously.

“Do not touch the beard,” he growled.

Elrond laughed.  “I have not done that in twenty years, Círdan.”

“You thought about it for long after that,” the old mariner groused.

“Are they coming?” Elrond asked softly.

“Of course they are,” answered Círdan, his eyes blazing.

“You have told me they would, ever since I lived here,” Elrond agreed. “You said that my father went to ask for aid from the Valar, and you told me the Valar would come.  But have you received new word?”

Círdan met his eyes steadily. “I have received word to build more ships.”

“Then Elrond is at your disposal,” Gil-Galad said soberly.

* * *

Elrond looked at the vast array of sketches and designs laid out on the table.  His eyes widened as he considered how long Círdan must have been working on the plans, and he studied the elf, fascinated.  Círdan looked old, something Elrond had never really seen in an elf before, but not as old as Men he had seen.  Yet he was hardy and hale, able to captain a ship, climb nimbly about in the rigging, and wield a sword as he must have in younger days.  Elrond clasped his hands behind his back as Círdan sat down next to him, for he had to admit that the beard was tempting to touch.  He had loved the few times that Círdan had held him as a child and allowed him to touch his beard.  It was not as soft and silky as the hair of elves, but coarser, more like what the hair of men felt like, but not as coarse as their beards. 

It was a difference between men and elves that Elrond had noticed as he grew older and spent more time with Men.  He had first cared for injured Men nearly five years earlier, and since had seen and treated injured humans often.  The adult males grew hair on their faces, chests, nether regions, and even their backs.  Elrond had noticed that he and Elros, having some mortal blood, had some hair on their bodies, unlike the elves, who were smooth all over.  Except for Círdan, elves only grew hair on their heads.

The sound of Círdan clearing his throat caught Elrond’s attention, and he raised his gaze to find Círdan glaring at him, but there was a twinkle in his eye.

“What fascinates you so, Elrond?” Círdan asked, his tone gruff but his demeanor honest.

“Men have hair more places than elves do.  They have hair on their faces, their chests, their groins, and some even on their backs.  Elves do not,” he explained, adding hurriedly, “well, except for you. But your beard is different from theirs.”

“How so?” Círdan asked.

“It is not as coarse,” Elrond explained.  His hand moved unconsciously to the long white hair, and he touched it gently. “Men’s beards are very coarse, and curly,” Elrond broke off as he heard a low growl emanating from the old elf.  He quickly let go of the strands he had been holding and folded his hands in his lap.  His face burned and he turned away, unable to believe he had touched Círdan’s beard without permission.

 He heard a deep chuckle, and the sound rose, finally bursting forth as Círdan laughed out loud.  Elrond watched him, his eyes again wide, and to his disbelief, Círdan put an arm about his shoulders and hugged him.   The old elf laughed deeply, his eyes twinkling, and he pulled Elrond’s dark hair back from his face and, looking him in the eye, roared with laughter again.

“You are a healer, Elrond, and have good powers of observation,” Círdan said through his laughter.  “It is why I want you to work on this project.  But for just a moment you looked just as you did when you were five years old, and I held you in my lap and you stroked my beard.”

With that Círdan squeezed Elrond tight, and Elrond felt the softness of that beard against his cheek.  He immediately noted the thickness and texture and stored that information away in his mind, for he did not know if he would ever have the opportunity to touch it again. And then he laughed, for by the final roar of Círdan’s laughter, he guessed the old elf knew exactly what he was doing.

“Now, pay attention,” Círdan commanded.  “We are building ships to hold all the people of Balar and possibly others.  I do not know what ‘others’ so do not ask.  The ships should be entirely sea worthy, able to go long distances, although I do not know if they will go anywhere.  We must all be able to live on them, but I do not know for how long.  These designs show measurements for length, height and width, and general requirements on the materials we need to build them.  I have also listed here what types of materials we need to finish the insides.  I do not know how these ships might be used, so I do not know if we will have time to furnish them completely.  We must plan for some necessities, like food, as if we were under attack.  I have estimates here of the number of ships we need to build.  Do your own calculations and list your assumptions, and I want to know what we need, how much of it, and where you think we can obtain it.  I will be at the shipyard.”

The words had rushed from Círdan like the sea coming in at high tide, and Elrond was still taking in the information as Círdan rose, clapped him on the back, and walked out the door. He stared after him in disbelief as the door slammed behind him, and then turned back to the array of designs and numbers spread out over the table.

“It must be a confusing thing to receive word from the Sea to build ships, and know not why,” he said softly. He turned back to the plans, his mind already whirling with numbers and assumptions and ideas for where to obtain information. His eyes gleamed with excitement for the challenge set before him.

* * *

Elros sang a ballad of the sea as he walked up the beach to the house.  He still preferred this route, rather than following the streets of the village from the shipyards and docks to the street on which they lived.  He was barefoot and shirtless, his pack slung over his back and his shoes tied to the strap.  He enjoyed the feel of the sand on his bare feet, and the light salt spray against his bare skin.  His skin was bronzed from the many hours he spent on the deck of a ship, tanned much deeper than any of the elves he knew. 

He slipped his shoes on and began to climb up the rocky path to the house.  Instead of heading for the back door, as he usually did, he dropped his pack and walked out to the cliff that faced westward over the sea.

Círdan stood there, deep in contemplation. Elros waited for his mentor to acknowledge his presence.  It was several minutes before Círdan spoke, and he did not turn his gaze from the sea.

“You will go on the Alphiel next week, following the coast towards the Falas, much the same route as we took five years ago.”

“What should we expect to see?” Elros asked.

“You will tell me what you see,” Círdan replied.

“I have never seen so much activity in the shipyards before,” commented Elros. “Why are you building more ships?”

Círdan finally turned to look at him, but his face was unreadable.  “More ships may be needed in the future,” he replied.  “Would you like to learn to build them?”

Elros smiled broadly.  “Yes.”

* * *

Elros walked the perimeter of the room, looking at the maps and drawings that covered the walls of the chamber that Elrond had claimed for his workspace.  The locations and specialty of each craftsperson on the Isle were marked, along with their potential output of labor.  The coast near Sirion was plotted, from the River Sirion to Cape Balar, with the types of wood present and the quantities.  The amount of wood, and the labor and equipment that would be needed to transport the wood to the Isle, were documented near each grove of trees.   Diagrams and sketches of the ships and their interiors were also laid out, with lists of goods that would be needed if the ships were occupied.  On the table was Elrond’s plan, with markings added by Gil-Galad and Círdan where they added their assumptions or corrected his.

Elros plopped into a chair at the worktable and skimmed the lists on the tablet of paper. 

“What do you think Círdan is planning for?” he finally asked his twin.

Elrond looked up from the list of names he was creating: a population list of Balar, mapped by house or residence.  He was preparing information that would be collected about each household: the number of elves residing there, their abilities or trade, and their realm of origin, although he did not know why Círdan wanted this information.

“I do not know,” Elrond replied honestly.  “I do not know if he knows.” He paused for a long moment. “I think he has received some foresight, or word from the Sea, but if the message is more than ‘Be prepared to all board ships,’ he has not told me.”

Elros was silent as he looked again over the lists. “There is a village here, near the Cape of Balar, and another near the Havens of Sirion.  The men might help cut the wood.”  He too grew silent, then suddenly asked, “If the elves have to leave suddenly, what of the Men? Are they preparing?”

“Círdan said the ships would be used for the elves and possibly ‘others’ but he did not know who the ‘others’ might be,” answered Elrond.  “Perhaps it would be for Men.”

“Are you mapping their villages?” Elros asked.

“I have mapped where they are, since we may be taking timber from near their homes, but I was not asked to map their populations or anything similar,” Elrond replied, noting the fire in his brother’s eyes.

“I am being sent on the Alphiel next week, for a run up the coast.  Perhaps there is fear of an attack, a large attack, from Morgoth, and we are being sent to look for signs,” postulated Elros.

“Many scenarios have run through my mind in the last week,” confided Elrond.  “I have to push them aside, or I will not be able to do the work Círdan and Gil-Galad have set before me.”

Elros raised an eyebrow.  “Gil-Galad is involved in this too?”

“Yes,” replied Elrond.  “Whether he knows something or merely trusts that Círdan is right, I do not know.  But remember, brother, that Círdan is among the oldest of the elves.  He awoke at Cuiviénen, and met the Valar when they enticed the elves to Aman.  He speaks to Ulmo and Ossë.  He has seen much that we cannot comprehend.  Perhaps the King believes that too.  He must, for he believes what Círdan says.”

Elros knocked on the side of his brother’s head, laughing.  “There is enough in your head for us both, little brother.  Do you remember all the stories told?”

Elrond slapped his brother’s hand away and mussed his hair in retaliation.  “Do you recall the names of the stars and which sail to move when the wind drops and the schedule of the tides?”

“Yes, and you probably know all that too!” Elros laughed as he smoothed his hair down.  “Although I do not think Círdan will allow you to sail his ship.”

“Not unless he wishes it dashed upon the rocks,” agreed Elrond.  “Let us go eat; Cook has fixed a massive plate of fish and baked fresh bread in triple quantity, just for you.”

Elros extinguished the lantern as he rose, and with a final glance at the maps hanging from the walls, he followed his brother to dinner.  Something was about to happen; it seemed the only question was when.

* * * * *

A/N: This ‘chapter’ will be broken in half, or maybe even thirds.  The next chapter will resume in the first age, and possibly stay there the entire time.  I will footnote the end with my assumptions about the War of Wrath.  The Silmarillion and HoME give very little information about it, and yet there were some interesting considerations to deal with and think though.  The third age part of this chapter is a little long and fluffy, but it has a point I hope is sort of obvious (the contrast) but will become more so as we go.

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