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Chapter 15: Peredhil
"You have to keep your foot still, 'Ro," Elladan reminded his twin for the third time in as many minutes.
"But I cannot see what you are doing," Elrohir complained.
"I am not doing anything because you keep moving," said Elladan, exasperated.
"I think you cannot paint with your arm in a splint anyway," Elrohir argued.
The twins were staring at each other, frustrated, when laughter from the doorway distracted them. Both heads turned to see Glorfindel casually leaning against the doorjamb as he watched them. Elrohir's eyes widened as he turned back to his brother, and Elladan attempted to surreptitiously push the palette of paints behind himself.
Glorfindel laughed so merrily that Elrohir finally broke into a smile and he laughed back. Glorfindel strode into the room and like a big cat, languidly stretched out on the floor next to the twins. He inspected Elladan's work, then picked up one of the brushes and dipped it in the blue paint. With a few deft strokes he had painted the waterfall and the stream leading away from it.
"Glorfindel, that is good!" Elladan cried. "You made the water flow right down the cast!"
"Let me see!" Elrohir attempted to move his foot, but Glorfindel held it firm.
"I have a better idea," Glorfindel informed them. "Elladan, go ask Erestor to join us."
Elladan frowned. "Erestor?"
"Yes, Erestor," Glorfindel chuckled.
Elladan stood but did not move towards the door. "He will be mad about the paints," he said finally.
"No, he will not," laughed Glorfindel. "Besides, he is a very talented painter." He motioned Elladan to go. "Trust me."
Elladan grinned suddenly. Trusting Glorfindel at times provided great amusement. He scurried off to find Erestor.
* * *
Celebrían found her father and her husband deep in discussion in Elrond's study. She cleared her throat once, then a second time before they noticed her presence. When Elrond held his arm out to her, beckoning her in, she moved to his side and kissed him on the cheek.
"Have you seen our sons this morning?" she asked.
"Not since breakfast," replied Elrond with a frown. "Elrohir has learned to move entirely too well on that cast."
Celebrían kissed him again and rose. "I will leave you to your discussion and ask Erestor to aid me in finding them. They surely cannot have gone far."
Celebrían left the study and checked the twins' room again, but they had not returned there. She looked in her own chambers and study, Erestor's office, the children's classroom, and even Glorfindel's quarters without success. The kitchen staff had not seen the children, Glorfindel or Erestor.
"Perhaps the library?" suggested one of the cooks.
Celebrían smiled her thanks and headed for the library. She opened the door silently, thinking that perhaps they were studying together, but the only one present was her mother, who was reading.
"Naneth, have you seen Elladan, Elrohir, Glorfindel or Erestor?"
Galadriel shook her head, deeply engrossed in the book she was reading. Celebrían sighed and exited the room silently. She stood in the middle of the corridor, pondering where to look next, when she heard laughter. She followed the sound, unable to pinpoint its source at first, then realized she was hearing it from the outside. She looked out the nearest window, but did not see anyone outside. A slow smile covered her face, and she moved to the stairway that led to the cellars and storerooms. The sound of laughter grew louder, and Celebrían realized she had been hearing sound escaping out the small window of the storeroom and entering through the ground level windows. She moved soundlessly to the source of the merry chatter and laughter, finally stopping in the doorframe of a small office used for inventory and recordkeeping purposes.
Elrohir lay on his back on the table, his head cushioned on a pillow and a glass with a straw at his side. In his hand he held a mirror, which he held at different angles to watch the progress being made on his cast.
His casted foot was propped up on several cushions that were covered with a tarp, with Glorfindel working on the left side of his foot, Erestor on the right and Elladan on the bottom, as they recreated scenes of their camping trip on the plaster.
"I am putting a worm on the bottom of your foot," Elladan announced.
"Paint a bear by the waterfall, Glorfindel," Elrohir begged.
"There was no bear at the training site," Erestor snorted.
"Glorfindel said he saw one once," Elladan defended his brother. "So there could have been and we just did not see it."
"I will paint a doe and a fawn on this side, Elrohir," Erestor offered. "Should the fawn have spots?"
"Yes!" Elrohir agreed. "Make twin fawns. What are you painting, Glorfindel?"
"Birds," replied Glorfindel quietly, deep in concentration as he painstakingly painted tiny birds into the trees. "Do you recall their songs? They were telling all their friends we were under their tree that day."
Celebrían entered the room silently, watching the production with a mixture of amusement, pride and love.
"Nana!" Elladan caught sight of her first. "Come see this!"
Celebrían circled the table, stopping first to kiss Elrohir on the forehead and accept a hug from him, then to inspect the work of each of the artists.
"Erestor, I had forgotten your considerable talents," she murmured as she watched the doe come to life before her eyes. Erestor smiled briefly at her, then resumed his work adding expression to the eyes of the deer.
"Elladan, did you draw these bugs?" she wrapped her arms about his small body as he stood on the end of the table. "And with your left hand, too!"
"Look, Nana, this worm is smiling!" Elladan pointed to his creation.
Celebrían moved on to look over Glorfindel's shoulder as he was painting their campsite. She looked closely at the detail, her silver hair falling in Glorfindel's way as she leaned in close to inspect the work. "The campfire, bedrolls, packs - you even have clothing drying in the lower branches of this tree!" she said, amazed. She moved back slightly to allow Glorfindel to resume his work, noting the intense concentration on his face. "Do not forget to add your pretty clothing," she whispered in his ear.
Glorfindel's paintbrush froze in mid-air and he turned his head fractionally to look at her.
"How do you know about that?"
Celebrían laughed, the sound like that of bells chiming softly on a clear day. She pointed to a tiny yellow finch sitting in the tree he had painted. "A little bird told me."
She laughed and glided away from him, sitting down in a chair near Elrohir's head.
"You, muin-pen, are going to have the most elaborately painted cast in all of Arda," Celebrían tweaked his nose and laughed as a huge smile covered his face. "Now, you have drink, but are you hungry? Shall I have lunch brought down for you all?'
"Yes, Nana," agreed Elladan readily, his belly growling. " 'Ro has to stay still until we are done."
Celebrían nodded sympathetically at Elrohir. "It is trying work, being the model for these artists. I will be back shortly with lunch for all."
Glorfindel watched the Lady of Imladris glide gracefully from the room, his look intense. When she had gone, he turned to meet Erestor's eyes. "You do not suppose Celebrían…."
"No, certainly not," Erestor interrupted hastily. "Celebrían would never… would she?"
Glorfindel's eyes narrowed and a playful grin appeared on his face. "I intend to find out. Somehow."
* * *
Elrond and Celeborn answered the summons for lunch and arrived in the dining area of the Last Homely House to find many members of their house already eating and certain other members missing. When none seemed to know where his wife, children, advisors and mother-in-law were, Elrond finally decided to ask the cook, who seemed to know where most people were at meal times.
"The Lady Celebrían came for a tray for five and her mother, the Lady Galadriel, said to make it for six and then helped her to carry it away," the cook informed him with a chuckle. "Where they have gone, I do not know."
"What endeavor would be so pressing as to keep them all from lunch?" Celeborn asked. "They did not even send word."
A search of the main floor of the house failed to disclose the whereabouts of the missing elves, until Elrond, too, passed near the windows in the corridor by the library and heard voices outside. His keen hearing led him also to the cellars and storerooms, and he thoughtfully retrieved Celeborn from his own search before investigating further.
"Tis for this they have disappeared?" Celeborn whispered. "To paint a child's cast?"
"Aye, it appears so," Elrond agreed.
They watched the progress for a few moments, Galadriel and Celebrían inspecting the work and suggesting improvements as the artists finished their repast. Celeborn sniffed disdainfully. "I can not believe that this is how the morning has been spent," he finally said.
Elrond suppressed a laugh. "You are only miffed because you were not invited."
"Ada! Daerada!" Elladan called to them. "Come see what we have painted!" His eyes were lit with excitement as his naneth and daernaneth aided him in painting a whole colony of insects upon the bottom of his brother's foot, complete with tunnels and small hovels.
Celeborn and Elrond entered the room, joining the artists and critics at their work.
"I would make this fawn just slightly lighter than the other, as he is not as hidden in the shadow of the trees as is his brother," Elrond suggested to Erestor.
"This is tolerable work," Celeborn acceded to Glorfindel as he took in the campsite. "Are you not forgetting to show the clothing you brought along?"
Glorfindel scowled and Erestor laughed and finally Elrond heard a small voice calling over it all.
"Ada!" Elrohir pleaded.
He raised his head to look at the small child attached to the cast that so many were hovering about, and saw a look of near panic in the child's eyes. He moved quickly to his child and bent down.
Elrohir pulled his father's head close and whispered frantically in his ear.
"Daro!" Elrond ordered authoritatively.
His call was loud and strong, stern and unyielding. He had, after all, been the herald of Gil-Galad. When he spoke, people listened. As paintbrushes were raised and everyone stood upright to face him, he spoke again. "Elrohir will return shortly. Please take a short break."
With that he scooped the elfling up in his arms, careful to keep the cast from brushing against anything, and carried him from the room. He made a beeline for the nearest water closet, and held his son in a most unusual position, keeping the cast undisturbed and untouched, as the elfling relieved himself.
"Ada, thank you," Elrohir breathed a sigh of relief. "I thought for sure I would embarrass myself immensely. I am so glad you came."
Elrohir's eyes met his and he nodded solemnly. "I know, Ada. But I wanted you to help me. I knew you would understand."
Elrond did not know why such a silly thing would touch him so, but he hugged the little body close for a moment as a wave of emotion rolled through him. "I love you, Elrohir," he whispered in his son's ear. "Let us get you back to your adoring artists."
Whistling a jaunty tune, Elrond carried Elrohir back and laid him on the table. He tucked the pillow comfortably behind the child's head and situated his foot just so, then turned to the silent onlookers.
"You may resume," he informed them, his eyes twinkling.
* * *
Elladan and Elrohir swayed lazily in the porch swing, the sun shining brightly upon them as they gazed out over the grounds of their home.
"There are so many things we cannot do because of our injuries," sighed Elladan.
"No riding our ponies, no practice swordfighting," Elrohir listed sadly.
"No archery, no playing in the stream," Elladan added.
They fell silent again, the swing slowly rocking as Elladan occasionally pushed off from the floor with his feet. The only noise was the buzz of insects and the songs and calls of the birds. Elladan leaned his head back and closed his eyes, enjoying the rocking of the swing. He moved his hand and accidentally bumped Elrohir's cast. Opening his eyes, he looked at the work of art next to him. He tugged gently on his brother's foot, until Elrohir shifted and allowed him to pull it into his lap. He traced his worms on the bottom of Elrohir's foot, tickling the bare toes that peeped from the front edge of the cast.
"That tickles," Elrohir giggled.
"That was a really good trip until the accident," Elladan thought aloud as he studied the paintings.
"Do you think Ada will take us again sometime?" Elrohir yawned sleepily in the sun.
Elladan nodded. "He will, or Glorfindel or Daerada. I wonder if Ada can get this off your foot without ruining it."
Elrohir sat up straight and, bending forward, fingered the edge of the cast, scratching the skin just below the edge of it. "Ada will figure out a way. He can do anything," he answered confidently.
There was another long moment of silence as Elladan studied the pictures on the cast, turning his brother's foot back and forth as Elrohir tried vainly to scratch the itch with a small twig he was jamming down the inside of the cast. "I wish I had a cast."
Elrohir stopped scratching and looked at Elladan's simple splint. "Does your arm hurt?"
"No," Elladan answered. "But you will have this forever."
"Oh," Elrohir shrugged as he settled back against the swing back. "We will have it forever. It's for both of us."
"What if we aren't together forever?" Elladan asked with a frown.
"We are twins," Elrohir laughed. "We will always be together, forever and ever."
Elladan pushed off the floor again, setting the swing back into motion. He leaned back against the cushion on his end of the swing, Elrohir's foot still in his lap. He was just dozing off in the warm sun when Elrohir spoke again.
"Ada and Uncle Elros are twins. How come they aren't together?"
Elladan pondered that for a moment. "Uncle Elros must have died and gone to Mandos' Halls," he finally surmised. "So they will be together eventually."
"If one of us goes to Mandos' Halls, the other one will keep the cast until we are together again," Elrohir decided.
The front door of the house opened and closed, and the twins saw the elf from the infirmary join them. He stood in front of them, blocking the sun, smiling at their sleepy faces.
"Albast is awake and asking if his two young friends have forgotten about their promise to visit him," he said kindly.
"No!" Elladan got up abruptly. "He was sleeping when we stopped by earlier. We will come right away!"
"I thought as much. Master Elrohir, may I provide you passage?" The elf bowed with a flourish and laughed as Elrohir grinned and agreed to be carried. "And such art! You will be able to tell Albast the story of your journey right off your foot!"
Albast was resting upright on the couch when the elflings were escorted in, and his face brightened with pleasure to see the dark-haired youngsters again. The healer settled Elrohir on the end of the couch, that Albast might see the cast easily, and left the elflings to entertain his patient.
"Who did this?' Albast asked in wonder as he stared at the detailed painting on the plaster.
"Glorfindel and Erestor and Elladan, and my naneth and daernaneth helped some too," Elrohir answered proudly. "Our Daerada told Glorfindel what to do some, but Glorfindel was mostly done by then anyhow."
Albast laughed. "I did not think anyone told Lord Glorfindel what to do. He seems rather . . .." he paused.
"Intimidating?" Elrohir finished the sentence.
A few laughs were heard in the infirmary at that, but Albast merrily agreed. "Yes, intimidating."
"You have to meet our daerada and daernaneth then. They are too," Elladan added.
"When I am stronger, perhaps," Albast muttered under his breath. "Tell me about your trip, which I see painted here like a story, and how you got hurt."
Elladan started the story, showing the tiny ponies Erestor had drawn, and then two tiny elves and one bigger elf practicing archery. "And this is where are our daerada pinned Glorfindel. I would not do that to Glorfindel. He did not like that daerada reminded Erestor about that and then Erestor painted it here, and I think they were going to do follies again."
"Here we are swimming and our clothes are hanging up here to dry while daerada told us a story," Elrohir pointed to another spot on the cast.
"Did you have a girl with you?" Albast chuckled.
"No, and Glorfindel will not tell us why Daerada painted a gown on here. I don't like it," Elladan frowned. "But Ada said to humor them."
Low ripples of laughter were heard throughout the infirmary at the twins' answers to Albast's questions, and Albast found himself biting his lip to keep from laughing aloud.
"But then everything went wrong here," Elrohir pointed to the waterfall. "It looks like a nice waterfall, but it is not. We fell here, and I got knocked nonconscious and Elladan saved me but he had a broken arm and I broke my foot but then Ada came in and saved us both."
"Glorfindel and Daerada raced up here," Elladan traced a path up Elrohir's leg. "They had to dig through a rock slide and then swim underwater for a long time and finally they found us. But we were almost dead. So then they had to take us back underwater and breathe for us and finally they dragged us out. This is us afterwards," he pointed to two small elves and three big ones lying around a campfire. "We had hypthermia …um-we were really cold - and they had to warm us up and Daernaneth had a foresight about it and sent Erestor to help us. This is Erestor and the guards helping us home."
Albast looked at the two small elves gravely. "I did not realize that you nearly died. I am more glad now to know that a broken arm and a broken leg and a bad bump on the head are the only lasting injuries you had."
"You were hurt much worse," Elrohir patted the man's hand. "We are glad your men saved you too."
"It will be a shame to wreck this cast when it is ready to come off," Albast said thoughtfully as he studied again the minute detail.
"We have a plan," Elladan said confidently. "Ada has to get it off without hurting it and then we are going to keep it together forever."
"But if one of us goes to Mandos' Halls, the other one will keep it until we are together again," Elrohir added.
Albast smiled at the twins. "I hope that neither of you goes to Mandos' Halls."
"We hope you don't either," Elladan said solemnly.
"That such would be the fate of men," mused Albast. "To go and be reborn, to live forever?"
The twin faces that were watching him appeared confused. He waved at them. "Forgive the musings of a mortal man. Tell me about learning to shoot your first bow. Did you do well?"
Elrond wandered through the infirmary late in the afternoon, listening to the sounds of his sons' voices as they told stories to the man and answered his questions. He smiled, for it was good medicine to see the minds of all three engaged even as their bodies healed.
* * *
"Ada, where is your twin brother. Where is Elros?" asked Elrohir as his father carried him to bed.
Elrond was silent for a few moments as he continued to walk to the twins' room. He entered and set Elrohir down on his bed and waited until Elladan had joined him.
"Elros died," he finally said, amazed at the pain that still flickered through him merely from saying the words.
"So he is waiting in the Halls of Mandos?" Elladan asked.
"I do not know," answered Elrond truthfully. He looked at the confused faces of his sons and knew he was going to need to provide a better explanation than what he was doing. He had known the day would come when they would ask this question. He had known it would be difficult to answer. He had not expected, however, for the pain in his heart to assail him as if it were only yesterday that his brother had passed beyond the circles of Arda.
"Elves are bound to Arda; we will exist as long as Arda exists. Even if our bodies die, our feär go to Mandos' Halls to reside until Mandos determines we can be given a new body. This is not the fate of mortals. Even the Valar do not know, or if they do know they will not say, what happens to mortals when their bodies die. It is said they pass beyond the circles of the world," explained Elrond.
Elrohir tucked a hand inside his father's and squeezed it. "So Albast, if he had died in the rock slide, would not have gone to the Halls of Mandos?"
"I do not know," answered Elrond again, to his own chagrin. "I do know he would not go where the elves are waiting."
"Ada," asked Elladan hesitantly, "what about Uncle Elros?"
"Do you remember why my father, Eärendil, was able to stand before the Valar and ask them to come to the aid of Middle-Earth?"
Elladan looked at Elrohir, who always remembered such things and could say them better.
"You told us that one had to stand before Manwë who could ask for help on behalf of both men and elves. You said that there were only two people in all of Middle-Earth who could do that, and that was your nana and your ada, because they were of both man-kind and elf-kind," Elrohir said slowly, recalling what he had learned.
"Correct," replied Elrond, smiling at how Elrohir's brow had furrowed as he had thought. Celebrían always said it was an exact reproduction of how he looked when thinking deeply. "That means that Elros and I were also of both man-kind and elf-kind. I am called Elrond Peredhil for this reason."
The twins both nodded at him and waited patiently for him to continue.
"When we were grown up, there was a great war, called the War of Wrath, when the Valar and the Maiar and the elves of Aman came to Middle-Earth and fought Morgoth. Many of us fought as well - Círdan and King Gil-Galad and Elros and I. When it was over, many things happened, which I will not try to explain tonight. But one thing I will tell you a little about is this: Elros and I were called before the Valar. We were the only Peredhil in Middle-Earth and we had to choose if we were to be judged as the First-Born - the elves - or as the Second-Born - the men."
"You are an elf, Ada," Elladan clutched at his father's hand and Elrond could feel a fear rising from him.
"I chose to be judged as one of the Firstborn. I will live as long as Arda exists, as do all the elves," Elrond reassured his sons. "But my brother made a different choice. He chose to be judged as those Second-born - as a man."
Elrond let out his breath, relief that he had finally said the words. He remembered the bewildering pain and confusion he had felt when Elros announced his choice, how his brother had refused at first to look in him the eye afterwards.
"Men are mortal. Their bodies age and grow old, and they die. I do not know where their feär reside; only Eru knows his own plan for them. Elros was given long life for a mortal man. He lived to be five hundred years old before he died."
Elrond watched as his sons moved closer together, unconsciously, he thought, as they considered his words. He had confused them and brought instability to their world, but he would not lie nor hide the truth from them. He had determined with a paternal fierceness that some information would not be given unless the right questions were asked, but already the sharpness of their young minds was showing, and he knew in time they would ask the question he truly dreaded.
He stood and moved silently to the wardrobe, pulling out two night tunics and handing them to his sons. They undressed quietly, Elrohir deftly managing his clothing around the cast and Elladan nimbly using his teeth where a second hand might have been useful.
"Ada, did the Valar only let you choose one time?" Elrohir asked unexpectedly.
Elrond smiled reassuringly at his children. "Only one time, Elrohir. I will not change my mind."
Elrohir let out a sigh of relief, and Elrond noted that they both seemed to relax some.
"Ada, tell us a story about you and Elros when you were our age," Elladan suggested.
Elrond's eyes twinkled as he thought of Elros at that age. "Just thinking of myself and Elros at your age is enough to make me pity Círdan and Gil-Galad," he laughed. "Elros was rather creative. . .
~ ~ ~* * *~ ~ ~
Elrond glanced up at his brother and smiled at the look of intense thought on his face. He could see the ideas racing through his twin's mind as he contemplated how he could achieve his latest goal.
"I cannot flap my arms hard enough. Even if I tie my cloak to my wrists and let them be as wings…," mused Elros aloud.
"You will need a sail, but one that catches the wind from below, not from the side," replied Elrond, his head already buried back in his book.
Elros bounced to his brother's bed. "What do you mean?"
Elrond turned his book so Elros could see it too. "Look at the sail. Círdan is building a ship like this one; look how the sails are positioned to catch the wind. If you were to turn them up this way and then catch the wind below it, you could ride the wind for as long and as far as it would take you.
"Different than a bird, more like a flying ship. A ship is too heavy, but I might not be," pondered Elros. He jumped up and grabbed his brother by the arm. "Come on, Elrond!"
Elrond allowed himself to be dragged out of the room, grabbing his shoes as Elros propelled him out the door. They ran down the hallway, unmindful of Círdan's admonitions about running in the house, and exited out the back door. Elros waited impatiently as Elrond slipped on his shoes and then the two ran off down the path to the beach and followed that around to the shipyards.
They arrived barely winded from their long run in the sand, accustomed to the trail as one they often took, for it was shorter than weaving through the streets of the town. Elros went immediately to the building housing the supplies for making and repairing the ships and pulled out a length of canvas. "We need rope and something to brace it with, like a bird's wings or the mast on the ship."
Elrond was searching through the stacks of wood and finally produced several strong but flexible boughs of young trees, recently strewn about the shore after a powerful storm. He and Elros had helped collect them from along their beach and stack them for use in the shipyards. He grinned at his brother. "These are perfect."
Elros whooped with excitement. "Let us build it at home. Come on!"
The two walked home at a more sedate pace, the long pieces of wood making running impractical. Elros was chewing his lower lip as he thought, occasionally mumbling and making motions with his hands. They reached their own beach and Elros carefully laid out the canvas on the sand and Elrond began placing the boughs at various intervals. They measured and cut, tying knots and binding the pieces together. They spoke little, communicating silently or with motions, but worked very much as a team, in harmony, each sensing the actions and needs of the other.
"I think we are ready to try it," Elros said confidently. He watched his twin double-checking each knot where the rope bound the boughs to the canvas. "After lunch."
"I bet cook will give us sandwiches to eat out here," Elrond replied with a grin.
"You go ask. She will give you anything you want," laughed Elros.
"That is only because I do not snitch from her," retorted Elrond with a grin.
"I am growing," protested Elros. "I need to eat."
Elrond laughed again, but there was truth in Elros' words. Though twins and like in face, they were becoming different in body. Already Elros stood taller, with broader shoulders and a heavier structure to his frame. Elrond was slightly shorter, leaner and built more in the classic form of the elves. Elros needed to eat constantly, whereas Elrond was content with less.
"I will go ask," he agreed readily.
"I will prepare for the first test. Off that cliff?" Elros pointed at a cliff a short distance to the north.
"Not too high for the first one. We don't want to have to start over if everything breaks apart," Elrond said after a moment's thought.
* * *
Gil-Galad entered the dining room to find Círdan already seated and the table set for only two. He sniffed appreciatively at the biscuits and steamed fish before heaping his plate full.
"Where might your young charges be?" asked Círdan as Gil-Galad raised his fork.
"I do not know where your younglings are," he answered in surprise. He put his fork down and glanced around. "Their places are not set, which means they informed someone of their plans."
"Aye," said the cook as she bustled into the room, "young Elrond came and asked for sandwiches they might eat down on the beach. Such a polite one, he is."
"Elros was not with him?" Círdan asked suspiciously.
"No, but I made enough for four, so even he should be satiated," laughed the cook. "They have been out of the house all day, down at the beach."
Círdan fixed Gil-Galad with a glare. "They are up to something."
Gil-Galad laughed, his head thrown back and a twinkle in his eye. "It is most likely you are right. What do you supposed Elros has concocted this time?"
"Do not blame him alone. Elrond aids him," snorted Círdan.
"Elrond helps ensure that Elros' plans are successful. He sees how to obtain the goal, but it is Elros' ideas and cunning that achieve it," theorized Gil-Galad. He laughed again at Círdan's expression. "And 'tis another fine example that he is far more incorrigible than I at that age."
"Peredhil means they grow faster," Círdan replied. "You, at least, I could still tuck under my arm and put you where I wanted at that age."
"Elros outgrew that leash in short order," agreed Gil-Galad. "He seems to grow as do the Edain, and Elrond only slightly more slowly. I do not know how Edain parents keep their children clothed."
"Or fed," muttered the cook as she cleared dishes.
Gil-Galad's laughter filled the room again, as often was the case since the young Peredhil had come to live in the house. He enjoyed their liveliness, their questions and especially Elros' many schemes and designs. "I shall go see what they have devised this time."
He left the house through the back door, following the footpath through the gardens as it wound down to the beach below. He saw evidence the twins had been there, for their lunch supplies and tools were neatly arranged for return to the house. But he did not see them. He followed their footprints northward and a shout caught his attention. He felt his breath catch as he looked upwards.
On a low cliff, approximately twenty feet or so above the sea, he could see Elros holding on to a sailing contraption. Elrond was steadying him and keeping the wind from blowing the canvas away. To his horror, he saw Elros move to jump off the cliff edge.
"Elros!" he shouted as the child leapt nimbly off the cliff.
He watched as the sail caught the wind and slowed the descent, and then Elros began to glide at what seemed a rather fast speed over the water and neared the beach. He saw Elros tugging on the side of his contraption, lowering the sail slightly, which led to a change in his direction and speed. A gust of wind blew in from the sea, pushing Elros back towards the cliff. Gil-Galad could see Elrond gesturing madly to Elros while yelling instructions. Elros managed to turn slightly and head towards the beachhead instead. His speed was still alarming as he approached ground, the wind negligible in the small cove and even as Gil-Galad began running towards the child he saw Elros crash into the ground, rolling over and over in the contraption.
Elrond was racing to the crash, but Gil-Galad arrived first. "Elros!" he called as he began pulling the canvas aside. He was surprised to hear laughing from beneath it and he thought the child might be hysterical. He pulled the twisted canvas and boughs aside.
Elros was breathing heavily, his face flushed and his eyes dancing with glee. He was laughing, which was not helping him catch his breath. He looked up at Gil-Galad. "I did it, Ereinion! I flew like a bird!"
Gil-Galad sank to the ground next to the mess as Elrond came running to them.
"Ai! Elros! You did it!" Elrond tumbled to the ground by his brother. "I thought you were going to crash in to the cliff. Are you injured?"
Elros continued to laugh for another few moments, then took several deep breaths and controlled himself. He sat up and moved his arms, but winced as he straightened his leg. "Maybe a little," he finally answered.
Gil-Galad knelt beside Elros, whose dancing eyes now held pain. He gently felt the child's lower leg, running his fingers down from knee to ankle. "Foolish child," he gently scolded. "You have broken your leg. Did it not hurt?"
Elros shook his head, biting his lip to hold back the tears that threatened to spill from his eyes as Gil-Galad examined him. Elrond had slipped behind him, supporting him, his own face mirroring the fear and pain in his brother's.
"Elrond, clean up this mess and return everything to where it belongs. I will speak to you later. Elros, I am going to carry you back to the house. Wrap your arm about my neck," he instructed the child as he gathered him in his arms and then cradled him to his chest. He softened his angry tone when he heard Elros gasp from the pain of being moved. "Soon you will be too big to be carried like this," he informed Elros as he easily lifted him, glad to see a slight smile tug at the corner of the pained face, for Elros was glad he was bigger and stronger than other children.
Gil-Galad carried Elros to the house, leaving Elrond to disassemble the flying contraption, and leaving him with his guilt, easily read upon his countenance.
* * *
Elrond folded the canvas and laid it with the stacked poles and neatly wound rope. He knew he had to return it to the shipping storehouse, but he wanted to see Elros first. He picked up the lunch basket and their tools, and walked slowly up the path to the house. Cook was in the kitchen, and tousled his hair and smiled at him as she took the basket. He kept his eyes downcast, and heard her sigh as he left the room.
He went next to the room he shared with Elros, but Elros was not there. He thought for a few moments, and then moved to the other side of the house, to the small infirmary near Círdan's quarters. It was seldom used, but Elrond knew Elros was present for he saw the bustle of activity. He sat on a bench in the hallway and waited.
* * *
Círdan saw the small figure sitting dejectedly on the bench outside the infirmary. The child's head was bowed and he was slumped forward in a way Círdan had not seen before. He approached the child silently and sat down next to him, but Elrond did not even look up at him. Círdan smiled and felt a certain tenderness despite having wished to throttle both of the Peredhil only moments before.
"Elrond," he said gently, surprised when the child drew away from him. He raised his hand and stroked the dark head, glad when the child neither flinched nor pulled away. "The healer is nearly finished. The break was not severe and he will not be immobile for long."
He both felt and saw relief flood through the child at his side and then the young one was scrubbing at his eyes with his fist. Círdan pretended not to notice the tears.
"Your brother is full of adventure, Elrond," Círdan continued. "I think he will come up with one wild scheme after another. I think I shall put him to work in my shipyards soon, to direct some of that energy." He paused and considered the one next to him. "You are not responsible for Elros' choices, Elrond. But you must think through what might happen if you participate with him. What he tried today was dangerous. He might have been killed."
At this declaration, a small sob broke forth and hiccupped from the child. Círdan wrapped his arm about the child and hugged him briefly. "You are perhaps wiser than Elros and will need to help him think through the consequences of his actions. He may not always listen. You must at least make wise decisions yourself. Do you understand, child?"
Elrond nodded, and Círdan knew he was unlikely to get more of a response than that. Despite his declaration at lunch that Elrond shared in the blame for aiding Elros in his schemes, he did not wish to impose more guilt upon the child than he had already placed upon himself.
The healer came out then, laughing. "You may see him now. He is a most delightful child."
Círdan and Elrond entered the room to find Elros lying comfortably upon a bed, his leg neatly bound and splinted and a smile upon his face. He looked tired, and Círdan knew the healer had given him herbs to ease the pain as they set and wrapped the broken bone. Gil-Galad sat nearby, a bemused expression upon his face that softened further when he saw the agony in Elrond's.
Gil-Galad looked at Círdan, who shrugged in response. Gil-Galad had been both concerned and angry when he had brought Elros to the house. Elros' pain, combined with his excitement at having done what he had set out to do, had tempered Gil-Galad's anger over the child having been so foolish as to try such a thing. He had found himself laughing with Elros as the healer cared for him, to help distract him but also because the child was charmingly funny.
His anger at Elrond had not dissipated, though, until he saw the child. He considered Elrond the wiser of the two, and placed more of the blame on him for abetting his brother's folly. He could tell from Elrond's expression that the child agreed with him and suddenly Gil-Galad felt he had been too harsh with him on the beach.
Both elves stood back as Elrond approached the bed and sat by his brother. They sat silent for a moment, communicating without words as they often did.
"Do not feel bad, Elrond. I would do it again," Elros whispered.
Elrond shook his head. "I would not help you again, Elros. I cannot bear seeing you hurt. Círdan said you might have been killed."
Elros gripped his brother's hand. "I flew, Elrond, flew! I felt so free! I want to sail, like Círdan," he whispered, excitement evident even through his slightly drugged state.
Elrond did not respond, but sat at his brother's side until he was asleep. He stood then, and approached Círdan and Gil-Galad who had sat silently together throughout the exchange. His grey eyes were deep with emotion, but showed self-control and wisdom beyond his young years.
"I will go, with your leave, and return the canvass and rope to the shipping storehouse. I will come to you when I return and you may discipline me," he said, looking to Gil-Galad as he said the last words. He was silent for a moment. "I wish to be allowed to care for my brother, if the healer will show me what to do."
"You may go," Gil-Galad said quietly. "We will talk when you return."
Both watched as the child left the room, this time with his shoulders squared and head held high. His posture clearly spoke for him: he would accept whatever punishment they deemed appropriate and do so with dignity. Círdan began to laugh, quietly, so as to not awaken Elros. Gil-Galad glanced at him.
"Why are you laughing?"
"That child never ceases to amaze me. He will grow to be counted among the wise one day, Ereinion. Do not be too harsh in your punishment," he chuckled as he stood and, still laughing, left the room.
* * *
Elrond walked down the beach towards the house, kicking at the sand as he went. He had returned all the materials to their rightful places as he had said he would do, but he was dreading returning to the house. He did not fear punishment, for he had seldom been punished. He only vaguely recalled being struck by Maedhros, for he had been very young. He did not think Gil-Galad would strike him. But never before had he felt such disapproval from his guardians. Never had Gil-Galad's anger been directed at him before. Círdan seemed to have forgiven him, but had left his punishment to Gil-Galad. Elrond sighed. He would accept whatever punishment Gil-Galad gave him. He just wondered what it would take to earn his favor again.
He climbed the path to the house and entered through the back door, careful to remove his shoes and not track sand throughout the house. He washed his face and hands in the anteroom, then moved quietly down the hall to the infirmary. He pushed the door open quietly, and peered in to see Elros still soundly sleeping, the shades in the room drawn and a light coverlet spread over him. He drew in a deep breath as he slipped from the room, and marched to Gil-Galad's study. He raised his hand to knock on the door and held it there for a moment, trembling. He heard footsteps behind him and closed his eyes, willing the person to go away. The footsteps stopped and he could sense someone tall standing behind him.
"Are you going to knock?" he heard Gil-Galad's amused voice.
He drew in a sharp breath in surprise and heard laughter as Gil-Galad covered his still-raised hand with his own and lowered it. "Elrond, you are trembling." Gil-Galad opened the door and nudged him inside. "Come inside. You know I do not bite."
Gil-Galad moved around him and sat down on a comfortable couch. He looked at Elrond, and Elrond saw kindness in his eyes. He let out his breath, which he had been holding. Gil-Galad beckoned to him, and Elrond moved forward obediently to stand before him.
"Elrond, are you frightened?" Gil-Galad asked, surprise in his face.
Elrond shook his head.
"Why were you shaking so?"
Elrond looked down, unable to meet Gil-Galad's eyes. He thought for a moment, knowing he had to answer as Gil-Galad awaited his reply.
"I am not afraid of my punishment, even if you have to hit me," he finally said bravely.
Gil-Galad's face registered his shock. "Elrond, seven years you have lived in our care and never have I struck you. Why do you think I would do so now?"
"I did not think you would, but you may, if that is a fitting punishment," replied Elrond, now trembling again and staring at the wall beyond Gil-Galad's head, not at his guardian directly.
"Elrond, I was very angry and scared on the beach, for I knew Elros could have died or been seriously injured. But I would never strike you," explained Gil-Galad.
Elrond nodded, his hands tightly clenched behind his back. He felt Gil-Galad watching him and kept his eyes averted, unable to meet his gaze. He heard Gil-Galad sigh.
"Go to your room and rest, Elrond. It has been a trying day for us all. I do not think Elros will wake for dinner. I will move him back to your room this evening, so you can be near him," Gil-Galad directed him, his voice impassive.
Elrond nodded again and turned to leave. He stopped at the door, his hands still clenched so tightly behind his back that he had to force his fingers apart that he might lift the latch. He slipped from the study and moved swiftly to his room. Once in its safety, he allowed the day's fears and frustrations to overcome him and lay on his bed with his face buried in the pillows. He allowed no tears to fall, but clenched his jaw tightly and held his breath at each sob that threatened to escape until he too fell asleep, exhausted.
* * *
Gil-Galad sat silently in his study long after Elrond had left. He had not seen the child so tense in years, not since they had rescued him. It had taken time for the child to be comfortable with the adults, much longer than his twin. Elros had thrived almost immediately, whereas they had had concerns about Elrond fading for the first several weeks. Círdan had been convinced it was the tie to his brother that saved Elrond from such a fate. Elros' excitement and enthusiasm over all he saw and could do had drawn Elrond in, for in many ways Elros needed Elrond too. Elrond tempered his impetuousness and supported his zeal. Círdan had been right to blame Elrond at lunch for abetting Elros' schemes, but Gil-Galad knew that Elrond's cautiousness also prevented many a disaster too.
He sighed, frustrated, at the fear Elrond had shown. He had been angry at them both, but he did not think he had given the child reason to fear him. He had not even promised punishment, only that he would speak to Elrond later.
"So, were you just in your discipline?" Círdan's voice startled Gil-Galad from his thoughts.
"The child was afraid of me," Gil-Galad said quietly. "He gave me permission to strike him, if I thought I should."
One brow on the old elf's face arched into his white hair. "Were you so harsh on the beach when you found them?" inquired Círdan.
"Nay, I merely told him to return everything to where it belonged and that I would speak to him later," explained Gil-Galad.
"Then the child is creating his own fears in his mind," surmised Círdan. "Do not underestimate the power of emotion to do so. Their mortal blood and early trauma show at strange times, Ereinion."
Gil-Galad sat up straighter, interested. "Then what does he fear?"
Círdan pondered the question for a long moment. "Your rejection, perhaps. He is a child who seldom needs discipline and never has he faced it alone. Elros has usually been the one to need direction and if Elrond has been scolded, it has been with his twin."
"He has punished himself worse than I ever could," Gil-Galad laughed quietly.
"Elros' punishment is his pain and immobility. He will drive us to distraction as he heals, and I imagine he will heal as the Edain do - well, but slower than we might be accustomed to," predicted Círdan.
Gil-Galad chuckled. "I do not think it Elrond's intention when he spoke, but I believe his punishment shall be what he himself has suggested: he shall care for his brother."
"Very fitting," agreed Círdan. "When Elros is well, I intend to put him to work in the shipyard. He will thrive learning to build and sail the ships. It is his desire."
"And Elrond?" Gil-Galad asked.
"He is for you to decipher. They are half grown, these Peredhil children. It is time to set them on a course that will prepare them for their future. Young Elrond's course will be far different than his brother's," answered Círdan without further explanation. He left the room as silently as he had come.
Gil-Galad pondered Círdan's words for some time, then rose and went to the room the twins shared. He knocked quietly on the door and entered when no response was forthcoming. His heart was torn by the child sprawled upon his bed, asleep, but tense even in what should have been rest. His fists tightly clenched the sheets, and his face was half buried in his pillow. No tear marks stained the face, and Gil-Galad could see the effort this restraint had cost him. He sat down on the edge of the bed and thought of the first months the child had lived with them, how easily Elrond had allowed him to hold and comfort him.
"Elrond," he gently shook the child.
The eyes that met his were the ones he remembered, the eyes that looked upon him with love and near-worship. He smiled, but the smile was not reflected back immediately, as memory took over and the child seemed to recall their last conversation.
"You forgot to punish me," whispered Elrond.
Gil-Galad stroked the dark hair, and massaged the tense shoulders as he answered, "I did. I have thought long and hard about it and decided that your punishment shall be caring for your brother until he heals."
Gil-Galad felt a moment of triumph at the combination of surprise in Elrond's eyes and the relaxing of the muscles in his neck and shoulders.
"But I want to do that! It is my fault he is hurt!" Elrond exclaimed.
"So then you want your punishment. It is still just in my eyes, for Elros will be nearly impossible as soon as the pain diminishes. I will not envy you your job," Gil-Galad laughed. "I think we will not talk about who is at fault, though. Elros bears most of the fault on his own shoulders, and he would not argue with that."
"I should have stopped him. I should have thought about the wind changing and that he could be hurt," said Elrond contritely.
"You will not be able to stop your brother from doing many things. He is headstrong and full of adventure. You must learn to give good counsel, but you cannot make him take it," answered Gil-Galad wisely.
"How do I learn to give good counsel?" Elrond asked as he sat up.
Gil-Galad smiled. "Elros is going to apprentice in the shipyards. I think we should find a path for you that will teach you wisdom. We will advance your studies and have you come to court, to improve upon what already seems to come naturally to you."
Elrond smiled back. "I would like that."
Gil-Galad tousled the long black hair that had loosened from its clips. "Let us have dinner first. I am hungry."
Elrond nodded and stood, but as Gil-Galad reached the door he heard the child speak again. "Gil-Galad, does this mean you are no longer angry with me?" He turned to face the child and reminded himself again that the Peredhil were the size of mortals, that this was not a much older elf in the body before him.
He pulled the child into an embrace.
"Elrond, I was angry at you for but a moment. I was angry because you and Elros had placed yourselves in danger and I feared losing you. I can promise I will be angry if you ever do anything like that again. But I will still love you."
He released the child and beckoned him to follow. "Come, you need to eat to keep up your strength so that you may wait on your brother hand and foot for the next week."
Elrond grinned, the glint of joy back in his eyes. "I can handle Elros."
~ ~ ~* * *~ ~ ~
"Ada, was Uncle Elros nearly impossible?" Elrohir asked.
Elrond looked at his sons sitting before him at rapt attention.
"He was entirely impossible," he laughed. "But I could not complain, for it was my punishment. I was very glad when Elros could walk again."
Elrond tucked his sons in bed and damped the small lantern that sat between their beds. He stood in the shadows, listening as they drifted into sleep.
"El, we are going to be together forever, aren't we?" Elrohir asked sleepily.
"Yes, 'Ro, forever," Elladan answered.
* * * * *
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