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Hope in the Healing (PG-13) Print

Written by Susana

14 February 2011 | 36497 words | Work in Progress

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Title: Hope in the Healing, Part I
Author: Susana
Series: Desperate Hours, Tales of Hope’s Youth
Feedback: Please use the form below
Rating: PG-13, to be safe.
Warning: Desperate Hours AU.
Beta: Thanks to Holly for kindly corresponding about Erestor and Melpomaen. Thanks to Kaylee for a great idea about Erestor’s parents, and for help with Sindarin and Quenya, and for reading over several parts of this draft. Remaining mistakes are mine.
Disclaimer: All recognizable elements are Tolkien’s.
Summary: Aragorn and Arwen are celebrating their first Yule in Minas Tirith with their family and friends, and circumstances conspire to cause Lord Elrond to recall the first Yule he spent with the twins and his youngest foster-son in Imladris, when Aragorn was first Estel. In the days when Arathorn’s death was a tragedy for Gilraen and Aragorn. But it was also a tragedy for the rangers, and for their comrades in arms, the Lord Elrond’s twin sons.

Third Age 3019, Yule, Minas Tirith, the King’s Apartments in the Citadel

A cheerful fire burned in the long gallery of the King’s apartments, where Aragorn, the new King, called Elessar Telcontar by his people and Estel by his foster-family, had gathered one cold Yule morn. The first Yule since the one ring had been cast into the flames, and the new King was quite happy. His wife kept him company, and her father and brothers, who had raised him. Their cousin the Prince Legolas of the Greenwood had delayed his own journey home yet again, returning to Minas Tirith after traveling with his friend Gimli to the glittering caves. Also present was the Wizard Gandalf, until he excused himself with a flimsy excuse about research.

“Fireworks?” Aragorn asked with a grin.

“Fireworks.” Faramir affirmed, with an answering, but more shy, smile. “I am glad we cleared the snow from Amon Tiritho Lango this morn.” Faramir was referring to the look out point, or keel, of Amon Tirith, that jutted out from the fifth level of the city. It would make an admirable place for a fireworks display, but would have been dangerous if still covered by snow and ice.

Aragorn’s unofficial family was there as well, and that certainly included the new Steward of Gondor, and his extended family. Aragorn was not entirely sure how Arwen had convinced Faramir to join the family group without further persuasion from himself or Legolas being needed, but he was glad that Faramir was here. And Faramir’s family, as well. His younger Dol Amroth cousins, who had made their surprise appearance in the crux of the winter storm season by ship, smiles on their faces, and also Faramir’s unofficial family, his dead brother Boromir’s friend, Nessanie Saelasiel and her son, Tavan.

Aragorn’s unofficial family also included most of Elrond’s household from Imladris, brought by Gandalf to assist in research he felt must be well on its way before he sailed. Lord Erestor Arandilion and his adopted son Lord Melpomaen would have been two of the elves, besides Aragorn’s foster-father, whom Aragorn would have selected for aiding in esoteric research of other mischiefs Sauron might have authored before his end came. So Aragorn entirely understood why they were here. Why Glorfindel had come, Aragorn was not exactly sure, but he was glad to see his first arms-master, the great Balrog Slayer, nonetheless. Even if Glorfindel was driving Magordan and Orohael, the Captain and second-in-command of Aragorn’s royal guard, completely crazy with additional practices and modifications to their operating procedure. Actually, Aragorn found that rather amusing. Magordan and Orohael were usually driving him crazy.

“No, no, Prince Legolas.” Princess Lothiriel of Dol Amroth shook her blond curls becomingly, a smile on her lovely face. “Faramir was always nice to me, growing up. But,” Liriel, as her family called her, looked carefully around to make sure Faramir was intent on a conversation with Lord Elrond over a valuable book he had been gifted with by the Queen’s father, before continuing, “ Boromir could be a bit of a tease. Never malicious, but he loved to pull my braids, or…or dip them in ink, or tell me my new gown made me look a sea cow, that type of thing. But he always stopped, if I got too upset. And usually managed to jolly me into giggling. He was a bit of a bully, but a kind-hearted one.”

Legolas smiled. “I could see that, Princess. He was a great man, Boromir, but he loved a good joke.”

“Or even a bad one.” Prince Amrothos added, “Though Lothiriel used to start crying sometimes, just to get Brom and Chiri in trouble.”

Lothiriel laughed. “I did, but it usually got me into trouble, too, at least once Ada and Mama realized I had mastered crying on cue. Though I think it was Daerada, who told them.”

“Really,” Legolas asked with an intrigued smile, “What was Prince Adrahil like? One hears the most fantastic stories…”

Lothiriel and Amrothos exchanged amused looks. “Fara,” Amrothos called. “Prince Legolas wants to know what Daerada Adrahil was like – what do I say?”

Faramir looked up from his conversation with Elrond and all three of his sons with a grin. “Daerada was…a character. He knew what any of his grandchildren, and any of our friends, were up to, generally before we did, because he’d done it all, in his youth.”

“Mix Faramir’s stubbornness and ability to get anything done, with Amrothos’ charm and ability to get anyone to go along with it.” Lothiriel added, “That was Daerada, and he’d had over a century of life experience. No one got anything over on him that I ever knew of, but he said that if anyone ever did, he suspected that it would be Faramir and Amrothos together. And that Telemnar would be involved.” Telemnar was the brother of Imrahil’s dead wife, and an Admiral in Dol Amroth’s navy. It was his ship that had dared the winter storms to bring Lothiriel and Amrothos to Minas Tirith for Yule.

Telemnar chuckled, but otherwise did not look up from reading a story about pirates to Nessa’s son Tavan, with appropriate voices.

Aragorn gave his Steward a fond but somewhat frustrated look. “So Imrahil was not joking when he said I should avoid having having you, your youngest cousin, and the good Admiral ever together in the same chain of command.”

Faramir coughed, seeming uncomfortable. “I wasn’t aware that Uncle Imrahil had mentioned that.”

Aragorn grinned. “It was on the way back from the Black Gate. You were supposed to have been resting and recovering from your injuries, but you were probably running around the city, stopping riots, planning new laws, and generally being stubbornly competent and capable, but not about your own health.”

Lothiriel laughed gaily, and embraced her closest in age cousin, who had ducked his head and smiled. “That’s our Faramir, exactly, Sire. You know him well.” Lothiriel commented.

“I am coming to.” Aragorn said, with an indulgent yet slightly reproving smile for his Steward, “though we would all like to know him better, which would be easier, if he would accept our invitations to join us for dinner more than twice a week.”

Faramir blushed, but wore on his face that quietly determined expression that Aragorn had come to know and alternatively dread or welcome, depending upon whether he wanted his younger friend stubbornly persistent, or was trying to get Faramir to go along with a different idea. “I don’t want to intrude on your time with your family, Aragorn.” Faramir protested.

“Don’t be silly, Fara.” Lothiriel scolded. “Obviously they think of you as family, just like we think of Golasgil as family, or Nessa as family, though they are no relations of ours.”

Aragorn smiled, remembering how Adrahil had always treated Telemnar and Lorias, Lothiriel and Amrothos’ future mother, as family, even before Lorias wed Imrahil. Aragorn thought Lothiriel probably had not only a point, but a good argument to use with his stubborn Steward and friend. Aragorn would have to remember this one.

Arwen smiled as well. “Yes, Faramir, please do join us more often. And bring Nessa and Tavan as well. Having an actual child around gives Elladan and Elrohir someone to entertain, in lieu of acting like children themselves.” Arwen gave Lothiriel a special grin. While Arwen too had been appalled at the risk Admiral Telemnar had taken in sailing the youngest Prince and Princess of Dol Amroth to Minas Tirith in the midst of the winter storm season, the presence of Lothiriel in particular had made Arwen’s life easier. The Queen had planned to have Faramir spend Yule with her family anyway, but she had expected to have to manipulate him into accepting. This way she was able to invite Lothiriel, who had been delighted to accept on Faramir’s behalf, provided that Nessa and Tavan were invited as well. Everyone had been quite pleased by the resulting large, pleasant group, and by having a genuine child opening gifts amongst them.

Still, Elladan, in particular, had been annoyed at the risks Imrahil’s younger children had taken to get there, and seemed to feel the need to say so again, at hourly intervals. Lothiriel, who did not know Elladan well, looked upset by his current lecture. That would not do. Arwen looked to her father in appeal.

Elrond nodded. “Hush, Elladan.” He commanded with a friendly smile for Lothiriel, who reminded Elrond of her many times great – grandmother Mithrellas. “I have no trouble remembering a time when two other young beings of whom I am quite fond risked a great deal to be home for Yule, themselves.”

Elladan flushed, but he did stop bothering Lothiriel.

Elrohir gave his father a mildly admonishing look. “We weren’t that young, Ada.”

Elrond smiled. “Well, you are thousands of years younger than I. I think that will always give me leave to call you young.”

Arwen, now coming to her brothers’ rescue, laughed lightly and pleaded, “Don’t be that elf, Ada.”

“What do you mean by “that elf,” iel-nin?” Elrond asked his daughter, confused.

Mel smiled. “I think she means the annoyingly smug elder elf, who absent-mindedly refers to all elves as young children. Like the forgetful uncle in the “Little Elfling’s Adventures” series.” Arwen hid a laugh. Mel, Arwen and Elladan knew, but their fathers did not, that Elrohir was the author of that popular series of children’s books, and that “Uncle Grumbles” was actually based on a compilation of Cirdan, Celeborn, Glorfindel, and Elrond in his superior moods.

Elladan added, as Elrohir’s attention turned back to Faramir, now showing Tavan how to properly draw a bow, “Or like Uncle Cirdan, who calls even you and Erestor “elflings,” Ada.”

“Or like my Daerada.” put in Mel with a daring grin.

Erestor gave Mel an odd look, as well as a biscuit, a cup of cider, and a one armed hug. “My father is not like that at all, ion-nin.” Elrond’s Chief Adviser reproved lightly.

Mel accepted the food absent-mindedly. “No, not your Ada, Erestor, his Ada.” Mel clarified with a grin.

“Oh.” Erestor chuckled, before being forced by his honest nature to agree. “Yes, there’s a bit of a resemblance. Not that I think it would be appropriate to lampoon such an honorable elf, of course.”

A moment later, Glorfindel himself entered the long gallery in the King’ s apartments, accompanied by Captain Magordan and Lieutenant Orohael of the King’s Guard, prompting Arwen, Aragorn, Elladan, and even Erestor and Lord Elrond to break into laughter.

“What’s so funny?” The Balrog slayer asked suspiciously

“Oh, nothing, Glor.” Aragorn assured him, “We were just saying that perhaps the elf who writes “Little Elfling’s Adventures,” might have based “Uncle Grumbles” on you.” Glorfindel raised an eyebrow at his former pupil, and Aragorn grinned back impudently at him.

“Just because you’re the King of Men…” Glorfindel began sternly, though he was smiling.

“Doesn’t mean I’m wrong.” Aragorn finished for him, then laughed as the balrog slayer pretended to take offense and began to chase after him.

Elrond smiled to see his youngest son relax and forget about being King for a few moments, though he called out, “Mind the furniture, you two, and try not to set too poor of an example for young Tavan.”

Prince Amrothos smiled as well, and asked “ Lord Elrond, would you please tell us the tale of your older sons coming home for Yule, that year?”

Elladan looked with disfavor upon the youngest grandson of his old friend (though no one but Faramir knew Elladan had been acquainted with Adrahil). Amrothos truly took after his clever, manipulative, grand-sire, and it made Elladan want to lock the young, red-headed, mischievous Prince up somewhere safe, until he attained an age where he might see reason. In Adrahil’s case, that had been at about 80 years of age.

Elrond chuckled. “I have to live with my sons after you go back to Dol Amroth, son of Imrahil.” He answered lightly. “I am not sure if that story really need be told. Besides, you and your sister and the good Captain seem plenty capable of coming up with terrible ideas on your own, without any outside inspiration.”

Confident that his past indiscretions were safe, Elladan’s handsome face acquired a cheerful, teasing expression, and he nodded to his brother in a way that apparently meant, “Come along, let’s go help Glor play “Chase Estel,”“ as that was what the twins then did. The rambunctious foursome, with the King of Men in the lead, disappeared out a door and down the hallway.

Amrothos laughed heartily at the antics of Elrond’s sons and Captain, before turning to the Lord of Rivendell with a no-hard-feelings expression on his handsome, impressively red-bearded, face. “Well, that’s true enough. Though to be fair to Liriel, all she said was that it was very sad Faramir would be alone, this Yule. Actually coming to Minas Tirith was my idea. If we’d known you lot had all but adopted our cousin, I don’t know if I would have been able to convince her to convince Uncle Tel to sail us here. ‘Twas fun, though.”

His sympathy engaged, Elrond looked on the twenty-nine year old Prince more kindly. “It was a kind thought, young Amrothos. But if you had asked your father, he would have been able to tell you, that we consider Faramir one of our own.”

“He did say so.” Amrothos acknowledged, his eyes seeking out Faramir, who was gently correcting Tavan’s stance as Legolas showed him a trick for pulling back a bow string without hurting his fingers, under Nessa’s somewhat skeptical maternal eye. “But the question is, does Faramir know that. Faramir has always been the most reserved out of the six of us. And he is hard to read, until you know him. All this talk of duels and assassins in the King’s letters to my Ada – I’ve been worried about Fara. Only Boromir and Daerada ever really knew how to get through to him, growing up. I’m … glad, truly, to see that Faramir minds your foster-son as well as he does, that Aragorn is so good with him.”

“But you had to see it for yourself.” Queen Arwen realized aloud, becoming even more fond of Prince Imrahil’s youngest son. Faramir had been the one to help Arwen find a way to keep herself occupied and happy, organizing housing and food for widows and orphans, and educational opportunities for young and old alike. And it was Faramir who helped Aragorn as well, willingly trying his hand at any task Aragorn asked of him. Too willing, in fact, in that he had allowed himself to become so sad and distressed, hiding his grief in over-work, before Arwen and her husband had truly realized the depth of their young friend’s distress and weariness. Amrothos’ concerns, several months ago, had come near enough to coming true. After that, Aragorn and Arwen had come to know Faramir better, and had become more careful to include themselves in the young Prince’s life, encouraging him to care for himself as well as his many responsibilities.

It had been no burden to the King and Queen; both had come to love Faramir. And Faramir was stubborn; he had finally agreed to call King and Queen by name outside of his official duties, but he had still found it very difficult to come to them with concerns outside of those relating to his official duties. Thank Eru, thought Arwen, for Melpomaen. Melpomaen had been a great help, in getting Faramir to understand what being a part of their extended family meant. Erestor’s adopted son had a gentle, quiet way about him, and he and Faramir had become fast friends. Mel had volunteered to assist the Steward after Aragorn had co-opted part of Faramir’s staff following the discovery that several members of the King’s staff had been unknowingly giving information about the goings-on at the Citadel to men attempting to hide a conspiracy to kidnap and enslave citizens of Gondor, under the guise of “orc” attacks. Those same men had plotted to kill Faramir, as the Steward, together with Arwen’s brothers, had been narrowing down on these false “orc” attacks. The twins knew orcs; and Faramir knew when something was not right.

Elrond himself had been worried over his foster-son’s Steward and friend, during these past months when Faramir had pressed himself beyond his limits trying to outwork his grief, then gotten into himself involved in a duel out of grief-stricken guilt, then gone running about the city unescorted after they had been warned of the assassination plot against the Steward. Elrond had been concerned, worried, and occasionally furious. But Aragorn had handled Faramir well, firm but caring. Elrond had been impressed again by the man he had helped to raise, awed as any parent is, though wistful that Gilraen and Arathorn had not lived to see the leader their son had become. Now the young Steward would come to them when his gentle, valiant spirit felt oppressed, instead of seeking solitude or a new task, even if Faramir could not yet speak of his pain. Elrond, Mel, and Elladan had the surest touch for engaging Faramir’s mercurial interest in some project or another. But Aragorn was the one who could tell when Faramir was upset, who somehow knew what to say to calm him. It amazed Elrond at times, the bond between his foster-son and the young Steward.

Amrothos gave Arwen a self-conscious grin in response. “I did need to see for myself, that Faramir was…becoming whole again, despite his losses.” I’m sorry for worrying my older brothers our Ada, as well as Fara and our friends here, but I had to know he was getting on alright. Just because you’ve convinced Fara to come to you with his problems once, doesn’t mean he stays convinced. Sometimes it takes…repetition.” Amrothos explained, his grin fading to a solemn expression, as he looked at his cousin in worry.

Faramir looked up at frowned at Amrothos’ concerned expression, but subsided at Amrothos mouthing “Ada…Dol Amroth,” believing that his cousin was merely justifiably worried about Imrahil’s reaction to his youngest children’s jaunt. Faramir smiled reassuringly, and offered, “Legolas and I have convinced Nessa that it would be acceptable to let Tavan try out his new bow in the indoor practice yards, which are likely to be empty today. By your leave, Arwen?”

Arwen smiled and nodded. “That sounds fine, Faramir. Have a care for the ravening horde in pursuit of my husband – perhaps you should post a look out, that they do not barrel into the impromptu archery lesson.”

Lothiriel giggled. “I’ll come with you, and stand by the door to warn the King and his brothers and the Captain, should they chance in our direction.”

“Thank you, Liriel.” Faramir said gratefully. “Would anyone else like to join? ‘Rothos, you’re not a bad archer, for a Swan Knight.” The Prince of Ithilien teased his youngest cousin.

Amrothos made a rude noise, prompting his sister to scold him. “‘Rothos, you’re setting a terrible example for Tavan!”

Tavan smiled shyly. “Its ok, Princess Liriel. Brom used to say worse things all the time, and I was really good at not repeating them, just like he asked.”

Lothiriel, charmed by the odd combination of her formal title and her short-name, smiled at the little boy, whom she had met on several past visits to the White City, when Boromir had still been alive. “Oh, he did, did he? I can easily believe that. And aren’t you a clever and kind young man, to have been so mindful of what not to say, to keep our Boromir out of trouble? I would be honored if you would call me Liriel, Tavan. Boromir considered you and Nessa his family, and so, too, do Amrothos and I.”

Tavan smiled and nodded shyly, thrilled beyond measure to have a real bow at last, and to be getting to practice it with Brom’s and Fara’s lovely cousin in attendance. Tavan missed Brom more than anything in the world. He knew he was not really Boromir’s son, that he was the son of Captain Tavasond, who had been Boromir’s friend and his Nana’s first husband. That Tavasond and Nana had been married at all was a secret that Tavan must not speak, as everyone believed that Nana, a commoner, had only been the mistress of the heir to the Lord of Lebennin. Nana said the secret marriage was “leverage,” and Fara said it was a very important secret, that Tavan must bear the taunts of other children who called him bastard as if was a badge of honor, for keeping the secret of the marriage kept Tavan and Nana safe from Lord Tarsten. Tavan didn’t know his grandsire Lord Tarsten, but he didn’t think he liked the man, if Fara thought he would try to hurt Tavan’s Nana to keep Tavan from inheriting his Lordship. Tavan didn’t even want to be a Lord. Being a Lord meant lots of responsibilities, and Tavan had enough to do, what with planning to become a great soldier and a great minstrel. Tavan didn’t have time for the endless paperwork that Brom had always disliked, and that Fara’s friend the new King complained about all the time. Tavan was going to have adventures.

The happy group of Tavan, Nessa, Faramir, Legolas and Lothiriel left the sitting area in the long gallery near the crackling fireplace and decorated tree, leaving Elrond and Arwen alone with Telemnar, who was taking a nap, and Mel and Erestor, who were playing a word game, and not paying much attention to anything else going on.

“Thank Eru for Nessa and Tavan. I’m glad you lot don’t buy into all of that nonsense about royalty and nobility not mingling with commoners. Nessa’s as good a lass as you’ll find, and Tavan is a wonderful boy.” Amrothos said fervently, when the archery party had left the room.

“We agree.” Arwen said, “and it was we who insisted Faramir bring Ness and Tavan here, instead of keeping his private life entirely separate from his duties at the Citadel. I must say, your cousin is not an easy man to get to know, Prince Amrothos.”

Amorthos chuckled. “You’re a perceptive lady, my Queen. Most people think Faramir easy to figure out, but in truth he is kind to all, but has few true friends, folk he trusts to do for him as well as he will do for them, outside of his family.”

Elrond raised an eyebrow, realizing that Amrothos had a unique insight on Faramir, one they might do well to learn. “Amrothos, it occurs to me that perhaps we should talk, about your cousin, you and I and Estel, before you leave to return to Dol Amroth.”

Amrothos nodded, his expression sincere but… careful. “Boromir and Faramir, Faramir especially, did not have an easy childhood. I will tell you a little of it, as I can see you have come to care for my cousin greatly.”

Elrond, too, spoke carefully. There was much they did not know of Faramir’s childhood, despite Aragorn’s best efforts, and even Ethiron’s. Denethor’s household had been a quiet one, and most of those who yet lived, if they knew of what Faramir might have endured there, were unwilling to speak of it. From one instance and another, Elrond and Aragorn had been able to discern that there had been great neglect of Faramir as a child. That alone would account for much of his reluctance to trust, especially men in positions of authority over him. “We know that Denethor was…often too busy with his duties as Steward, to take much note of Faramir. And that he resented his poor younger child, for having been the unwitting cause of your aunt’s final illness.”

Amrothos appeared pensive for a moment, then appeared to come to some sort of decision. He explained softly to Elrond and Arwen. “There were reconciliations, you know. Between Uncle Den and Fara. Then Uncle Den would get some bug in his brain, and he would say Fara was weak and unworthy of his time, and he would ignore Fara, more or less, until he had need of a second son.”

Elrond felt sick to his stomach, half-elven though he was. “And that happened more than once…”

Amrothos nodded solemnly, looking upset himself. “Yes, at least four times, that I know of, from Fara or Brom. And at least the first two times, Faramir believed that things would be better, that his father had come to love him, and would not reject him again. It was…devastating, for Fara.”

Arwen was nearly in tears. “What kind of father would do something like that?”

Elrond embraced his daughter, “Shh, iel-nin. I know, it was a terrible failure on Denethor’s part. Denethor had been influenced by the dark one for many years, he was not in his right mind. Shh, my beloved daughter. We will take better care of our dear young Steward, but you must calm yourself. Faramir will soon be back with Tavan and the others from the indoor practice courts where they have gone for Tavan to shoot his new bow. You do not want him to see you so upset, nor Estel neither, if we want this day to proceed without… disruption.”

Arwen took a deep breath, heeding the wisdom of her father’s words. Aragorn, if he learned of this today, would have trouble enjoying the rest of the holiday. He would want to discuss the matter with Faramir, but Aragorn would know Faramir was not ready, so Aragorn would be conflicted all day. She would tell Aragorn tomorrow. “Thank you, Amrothos. I will write your father and tell him that we were very glad for your company, and that you were of great aid in making our first Yule in Minas Tirith a happy one.”

Amrothos looked surprised. “I …thank you, my Lady Queen. I did not expect such aid in exchange for my intelligence, that is not why I shared this with you and your father.”

“We know.” Arwen grinned, her knowing, sympathetic, sisterly smile. “But I think it might carry some weight, with your father. I will ask my husband to write with his thanks, as well.”

“And I will add my own.” Elrond put in. “Your voyage was dangerously reckless, but good-hearted. And you have proved yourself a friend to your cousin, by your actions these past days.”

Amrothos smiled, and then shook his head ruefully. “And I shall pay for it dearly when we get back to Dol Amroth. My Ada will not be confused for a moment as to whose idea this was.”

“It was not a good time of year to sail, Prince Amrothos.” Elrond’s old friend and adviser Erestor advised gently, having gracefully conceded the word game to his son with a proud smile. “I am surprised that Admiral Telemnar was willing to approve it.”

“That’s only because you don’t know him.” Prince Amrothos explained with an engaging grin. “Telemnar is absolutely insane, in a good way, though.”

“That’s quite a way to talk of your uncle, nephew.” The Admiral himself scolded, having awoken from his nap. “After I brought you all this way, and will myself be in your father’s sights when we return home.”

“Oh, he’s given up on you. He still considers me “teachable.”“ Amrothos made a face, and Telemnar chuckled, helping himself to a steaming cup of tea from the sideboard.

“I don’t know about that, he was angry enough with me after the incident with the carnival folk, the kracken, the sargasso sea, and Trouble the cat.” Telemnar reflected, “But perhaps you’re right. I’m much older than Imrahil, after all.” Good spirits restored, Telemnar added a splash of whiskey to his tea.

Elrond suppressed a smile. Faramir’s Dol Amroth kin and friends were very appealing, entertaining folk, as well as making shrewd and capable allies. They all reminded Elrond fondly of Imrazor, as well as Mithrellas. The Lord of Imladris felt Elendil had been wise to grant Imrazor the unprecedent honor of a princedom, as Dol Amroth had always proven itself the staunchest support of Elendil’s descendants in Gondor. Elrond hated the idea of leaving his children, but the sea-longing upon him had grown strong in the months since the one ring was destroyed, and Gandalf and Galadriel both thought it best for the living ringbearers to depart Middle Earth within the year. The letters from their dear friends in the shire suggested that Frodo would be ready soon, and they would not bide long. Elrond felt it was well that Arwen and Aragorn, and the twins, would have such friends as Faramir and his kin. For who were Faramir’s family became Imrahil’s, and vice versa. It was also a pleasant parallel to the past friendship between Imrazor and Elendil’s heirs, this friendship between Aragorn, who was Elendil’s distant heir, and Faramir and Imrahil, who were Imrazor’s long-sons.

Amrothos, too, appeared amused, but that seemed almost his default expression, though he was a stalwart young warrior as well. Elrohir himself had sung the youth’s praises after the Battle of the Black Gate.

“My Queen, Lord Elrond? That incident, with the sargasso sea?” Amrothos said idly, “That was the adventure that convinced my father to do his best to never have Faramir and Telemnar in the same place at the same time. It was entirely by accident that Fara and I were on Telemnar’s ship when pirates attacked us on the way back to Minas Tirith several years after that. We were badly outnumbered, so we convinced the pirates we were on their side until we ran into the rest of the navy. That was the time that convinced Ada not to have the three of us in the same chain of command, again, if he could avoid it.”

Elrond raised a startled eyebrow, and Arwen leaned forward, clearly intrigued. “I would love to hear those stories, dear Prince. I would also be pleased to have you call me Arwen, or my Lady if Arwen is too challenging, as it was for Faramir, at first.” Arwen smiled charmingly. Stories about Faramir as a child were few and far between, and Arwen wanted this one.

“And I would like to hear the story of how Lord Elladan and Elrohir once made a similarly treacherous journey to be home in time for Yule.” Amrothos replied, equally charming.

Elrond and Erestor both laughed. “Son of Adrahil, indeed.” Erestor said, remembering well how tricky correspondence about the prices of trade goods had been with the old Prince of Dol Amroth, though Adrahil had, on more than one occasion, been willing to send medical supplies for reasonable, even discounted, prices.

Arwen laughed as well. “I regret to say that I have not actually heard that story,” Arwen explained, “so I cannot tell it to you. I can prevail upon Ada, but I must warn you, when he has made up his mind, he is hard to budge.”

“Even I fear to incite the wrath of my twin sons over idle curiosity,” Elrond said with cheerful regret, “I am afraid I must again deny you, Amrothos, though I am sorry to do so.”

Amrothos shrugged. “You win some, you lose some. If you want to see an interesting blush, ask my brother Chiri – Erchirion, the Admiral – someday about the carnival, the kracken, the sargasso sea, and Trouble the cat.”

Telemnar shook his head. “Chiri takes himself entirely too seriously. The short cut through the sargasso sea worked out just fine, and he only fell in twice, and the kraken wasn’t even really interested in him.”

Amrothos smiled. “I know, right?” The two began to engage in an in-depth discussion of the flaws in Amrothos’ middle brother’s character, which seemed to Elrond to dwell mainly on Erchirion’s not recognizing a good idea when it came from Amrothos, being excessively over-protective of Amrothos, not recognizing the many fine qualities of Amrothos, and also being reluctant to trust Telemnar’s word on something when Telemnar had been wrong once before on what might have possibly been a slightly related issue, but only one ship had been destroyed and it hadn’t even been a particularly sea-worthy one.

The elves exchanged amused glances until the noise of many feet alerted them to the archery party’s return, apparently augmented by the balrog slayer, and the sons of Elrond.

Arwen stiffened in concern, as Glorfindel had returned carrying an annoyed Faramir. Several months ago, Arwen would not have picked up on the annoyance. Faramir’s expression seemed pleasant enough. But there was a tension to his shoulders that meant he was irritated.

“I told you two not to set a bad example.” Elrond scolded Aragorn and Glorfindel, but with no heat. He could tell Faramir was not badly hurt, as Aragorn did not look worried.

“It was not me.” The balrog-slayer reproved his Lord and friend, gently laying Faramir on a settee. “Your sons turned on me, as they so often do.”

“We do not.” Elrohir denied.

“Estel asked for mercy, and Glor kept tickling him, so we decided it was time to chase Glor instead.” Elladan explained.

“That makes perfect sense to me.” Amrothos nodded sagely. “In fact, I heard the same excuse from my page last week. Of couse, he’s ten, but ten years old, almost 3000 years old, I suppose its all the same.”

Elladan ignored the youngest son of Imrahil in favor of looking at the annoyed Faramir’s ankle.

“It’s fine, ‘Dan. Its just a twist, not even a sprain.” Faramir protested. “And may I please have my other boot back, Aragorn?”

“No.” The King said shortly, also running gentle fingers over his Steward’s slightly swollen ankle. “Ada, I think Faramir is right, but would you take a look as well?”

“Of course.” Elrond replied, “my fingers may be cold, Faramir, I apologize.”

Faramir nodded in thanks, and Elrond confirmed Estel’s diagnosis of a twisted ankle, or maybe a very mild sprain. “Its hard to tell until the swelling goes down, or doesn’t.” Elrond explained.

“I know; I’m fine.” Faramir reiterated, smiling slightly, but, to those who knew him well, definitely annoyed.

“You’re off your feet, for the rest of the day.” The King corrected, his tone gentle but implacable.

“Aragorn, that’s …”

“Kind, caring, kingly?” Aragorn offered, a sympathetic but teasing smile on his face.

“I was going to say unnecessarily dictatorial, but I am your obedient servant.” Faramir replied with a sigh.

Aragorn chuckled, and patted the younger man’s cheek gently. “Cheer up, we’ll wait on you hand and foot. Especially Elladan, who fell into you trying to corner Glor, and caused you to injure your ankle.”

“That’s not necessary, really.” Faramir protested, as Elladan went to go prepare him a plate of his favorite foods.

“Oh, but it is. As you’re not to walk around yourself, remember? I just said so.” Aragorn reminded his Steward.

Faramir sighed, “Yes, Aragorn.”

“Do you agree not to walk about, today?” Aragorn pressed.

“Yes, Aragorn.” Faramir promised reluctantly.

“I thank you. I would hate for you to worsen an injury incurred as a bystander to a rousing game of chase-the-balrog-slayer.” Aragorn said, patting Faramir’s shoulder as he arose to greet Legolas and Lothiriel.

“We asked Castellan Belecthor to have the broken window taken care of, and the arrow retrieved from the snow.” Legolas told Aragorn.

“I’m so sorry, Aragorn, Fara!” Tavan cried, looking very upset.

“It is no matter, young one.” Glorfindel observed gravely, but with a twinkle in his eyes. “You did well to aim the bow up out of the way of the cavalcade, when we surprised you by coming through that passage way.”

“Perhaps we could go build snow-men?” Offered Princess Lothiriel.

“Can we build snow trolls?” Tavan enthused, upset over the broken window quickly forgotten, since the great Balrog Slayer had not thought it so dreadful.

“I suppose so.” Legolas joked, “Elrohir could model for one.”

“Mel is the troll expert.” Elrohir commented dryly, marking Legolas for later retribution.

Glorfindel glared at Mel. “After all these years, you still do not recognize the signs of trolls before you come upon them…”

Erestor interrupted, “We do not need to do this today.”

Glorfindel harrumphed. “He needs more training.”

“Fine. Train him, but it does not need to be today.” Erestor stated, his tone polite but very firm.

Faramir, from the settee beside Aragorn, murmured something just loud enough for the King to hear. Aragorn grinned.

“You know,” Aragorn then put in, amused and sympathetic, for Mel was a fine warrior, for someone who preferred scholarly pursuits, “Talking about a younger elf as if the younger elf is not present is a distinct trait of “Uncle Grumbles,” Glor.”

Glorfindel’s glare transferred to his Lord’s youngest foster-son.

Elladan chuckled, and came to his baby brother’s support. “Care to defend your honor in the ancient and honorable tradition of the snow ball fight, Glor? I’ll even let you have ‘Roh on your team.”

That was acceptable to the Balrog slayer, so everyone except Faramir, Arwen, and Elrond left to collect warm clothing for playing in the snow.

Arwen shook her head, ever so slightly, so that Amrothos would know not to leave. Arwen thought, if the twins were to leave the room, and if Faramir were to ask Elrond to tell the story, her father probably would oblige him. Since Faramir had become Elrond’s student in the art and mental disipline of prophecy, Elrond had come to treat Faramir even more indulgently than his own children, at times.

“I think I know what would make you feel better, Faramir.” Arwen said sympathetically.

Faramir, about to say he did not feel that bad, saw Arwen’s hand, out of Elrond’s sight, flash him the “time to hunt” sign, from ranger speak, followed by the “act like a hurt bird,” sign. Faramir obediently changed his planned response. “I…feel fine, Arwen. This is just a minor inconvenience. There will be other years to build snowmen with Tavan, or to have snowball fights in the courtyard.”

Faramir had managed just the right note of stoic wistfulness. Arwen and Amrothos were impressed.

Elrond, who did not know the game was afoot, frowned. Faramir had been in such high spirits before this little accident.

“I know, dear one. But I think a story about Elladan and Elrohir’s earlier misadventures might make you feel better, after Elladan has knocked you over, and Elrohir kept you practicing your broad sword drills until nearly midnight.” Arwen commiserated, with an appealing look to her father.

“Midnight?’ Elrond asked, annoyed again with his oldest son. He knew Elrohir was still upset about Faramir’s having gotten involved in that duel, and not having invited Elrohir to lark about the city with him during the mess with the assassins, but really. Working Faramir into the ground was an inappropriate and unfair response.

“No, that’s allright. I wouldn’t want to pry, it seems like a family matter.” Faramir said softly. Faramir was actually serious, but Arwen suppressed a nod of approval. This was exactly the right tactic to take with her Ada.

Elrond turned to his new, and probably last, pupil with an indulgent look. “I will tell you the story, Faramir. If the twins complain, I will remind them of the trouble they have put you through recently.”

Amrothos stifled a grin. He was annoyed with the twins, too. Well, not reallly with Elrohir. Amrothos was glad that Faramir’s swordsmanship had vastly improved, which was, apparently, in large part Elrohir’s doing, but Amrothos thought someone might have warned him of that fact before he bet on the other guy, during the impromptu tournament yesterday. But Elladan…the younger twin had really been annoying. Amrothos and Lothiriel knew they would be in big trouble with their father for this unauthorized trip to Minas Tirith. They certainly didn’t need Elladan to remind them, every hour on the hour they spent in the elf’s company.

Third Age 2934, Two days before Yule, Imladris

“If you’re going to bid, ion-nin, then bid.” Erestor teased his adopted son gently.

Melpomaen suppressed a smile, before saying confidently. “I’ll raise it to three. Gilraen, its your contract.”

Glorfindel raised an eyebrow. The balrog slayer had, over his centuries of friendship with scholars such as Erestor and Elrond, learned any number of complicated card games for passing the winter months. This was one of the most complicated, and the reborn elf did not expect the young, human Gilraen to have any idea of how to handle such a difficult contract. If Glorfindel had been in Mel’s position, he would have taken control of the contract, no matter that his human partner had the better hand.

Gilraen frowned in concentration. And then she slaughtered Erestor and Glorfindel. Mel clapped in delight.

Elrond, returning from a walk with Estel riding on his shoulders, and Estel’s puppy Huan tagging along at his heels, asked, “Erestor and Glorfindel actually lost a set, and it wasn’t to Elrohir and I? Estel, what did I tell you to say if that happened?”

Estel looked at his mother and smiled a little. “‘S a miracle.” He repeated dutifully. Gilraen laughed a little, one of the first times Glorfindel had heard her laugh. Perhaps it had been worth the lost game, even though Elrond would tease them for it, for centuries.

Erestor and Glorfindel were normally unbeatable unless one’s partner was Elrond, but Melpomaen had had a feeling they would understimate Gilraen, and no one should underestimate the daughter of Dirhael and Ivorwen, in Mel’s opinion. He had come to have a great deal of respect for Arathorn’s widow, in the year and a half since she had come to Imladris with her tiny son.

Estel reminded Lord Elrond of the twins as tiny elflings. Mel had never known the twins as tiny elflings, he had come to Imladris when he, and they, were teenagers. But Estel, now that he was coming out of his grief, reminded Mel very much of a more mischievous version of Belemir, Elrond’s younger son, whom Mel had known from his birth, through his death fighting the Witch-King of Angmar in defense of the King of Arthedain. Elrond had fostered many of the Dunedain Chieftains, his distant nephews, and his lost son’s distant nephews as well, by Belemir’s marriage to a daughter of Arvedui and Firiel. But the Dunedain who had come to Lord Elrond for fostering had mostly been teenagers. Estel was different. Mel couldn’t wait for the twins to meet this child again, and to truly see him, and not his father’s ghost. It would happen, in time. Mel had faith in his gwedyr. But it would probably not be this winter. A storm was coming, and a harsh winter portended. The twins were old hands at traversing these mountains, so it was unlikely they would risk the trip. They were probably wintering with one of the Dunedain settlements.

The twins had not been at Imladris for more than a change of mounts and a quick report to their father, since bringing the tiny, grief-stricken Estel and his mourning mother to Imladris. Some of that was guilt, Mel knew. The twins had been on the patrol with Arathorn when it was ambushed, and they thought they should have been able to save their friend, though no one else blamed them. Put yourself on the front lines often enough, and sooner or later your enemy will manage to surprise you. A tragedy, that it had been that day, that man brought down by an orc arrow. But not the twins’ fault. Still, Elladan and Elrohir had loved Arathorn, had called him gwador, and losing Arathorn brought back the tragedy of Belemir’s death. The twins couldn’t have prevented that, either. Nor their mother Celebrian’s and younger sister Andreth’s capture by orcs, resulting in Andreth’s death, and Celebrian’s departure for the West. The twins and Mel had rescued Celebrian, but they had been too late to save Andreth. Arathorn’s loss, so young, had been difficult, on top of all of these other losses.

But mostly the twins were gone because they were needed elsewhere, helping Dirhael to hold the rangers together. The orcs and Saurons’ other minions had been emboldened by the death of Arathorn, and meant to make an end of the Dunedain in what had once been Arnor, for good. Mel knew the twins had had to go; but there had been a battle to be won at Imladris, as well.

Estel had at first refused to eat, convinced that they could produce Arathorn if he just forced them to it. Elrond had been stricken, and Erestor had later told Melpomaen that Elros had tried a similar tactic, when he and Elrond had been children, after the attack on the Havens of Sirion.

Then, after Estel had given up on protest by starvation, he had stopped speaking. That one had stunned Elrond again. Mel’s Daernana, Erestor’s mother, had once told Mel of how Elrond and Elros had done a similar thing, but those earlier twins had at least still had one another to talk to.

Everyone had worked hard to get Estel to eat. But the rest of the Last Homely House had been willing to let the little boy use gestures and pointing to convey to them what he wanted. It had been Gilraen who had fought, and won, the battle to get Estel to speak again. Mel had gained a lot of respect for Gilraen; for all mothers, really. But Gilraen was impressive. Elrond and Glorfindel and Erestor all agreed that she reminded them of Queen Kiiriel, Isildur’s wife, Valandil’s regent. The only Queen Regnant of Gondor or Arnor, though she had never claimed that title. Gilraen was a bit quieter, the elders said, but then Gilraen had not had to contend with Elendil’s large, noisy family.

Mel had volunteered to help Gilraen and Elrond with Estel. Mel remembered clearly losing his own mother when he had been not much older than Arathorn and Gilraen’s son, and those memories enabled him to provide the quiet, caring company that the young child grew to trust. Mel would not press Estel to eat, or to get involved in one activity or another. Mel knew that there were others who were taking those roles. But when Estel grew curious as to what Mel was doing, Mel was happy to share the brightly illustrated children’s books he had taken to reading around Estel. And when Estel wanted to know what the fruit pie that Mel was eating tasted like, Mel was happy to share.

Once Estel had gotten a bit better – still quieter than he had once been, but eating again, playing again, Gilraen had begun to take note of the …irregular…routines, of the last Homely House. And Arathorn’s wife, the regent of the Dunedain during her husband’s frequent absences, had not been impressed. She had come to Melpomaen to explain that, while elves might be fine with no set meal times except on high holidays, she wanted her son to learn to eat with people at regular times. Mel had cursed himself for a fool, and had taken Gilraen directly to Elrond to discuss the problem. Imladris’ last chatelaine had left a few decades ago, and they had never managed to replace her. And the scientists, artisans, smiths and scholars who populated Imladris were not the best at organizing day to day routines. It was decided that Gilraen would take over as chatelaine of Imladris, though additional assistance was brought on in order to allow her to still have enough time for Estel.

Imladris’ last chatelaine, a daughter of Mel’s old arms master and a friend of his, Eilunwen, had left Imladris to marry Orophin, one of Elrond’s wife’s adopted brothers. Elrond had complained that he always trained excellent heads of staff only to lose them by marriage to his brothers from Lothlorien. Once, Celeborn or RĂºmil would have teased that it was only right, as Elrond ahd married Celebrian and taken her from Lothlorien, but no one teased Elrond about Celebrian anymore. Ever. Elrond had become much less light-hearted since his beloved wife’s torment and sailng, and Mel sometimes thought it would be better if more elves felt brave enough to tease the great Lord Elrond Half-elven. Even Mel’s adopted father Erestor and the balrog-slayer Glorfindel, Elrond’s oldest friends, handled their Lord with kid gloves, most often. But Estel had begun to bring Elrond out of his shell, a little. Estel was that kind of child- the kind one couldn’t keep up with if one didn’t commit, heart and soul.

As Mel finished his musing and prepared to bid in the next round, Elrond was reading to a happy but tired Estel. It was a pleasant, comfortable evening, with the fire burning in the grate, and the clean smell of evergreens from the branches Gilraen and Estel had brought in to celebrate Yule. Melpomaen missed the twins, and Arwen, but his father caught his eye, and winked. Melpomaen was not alone, even though his age-mates were still away. Life went on, and was still sweet, even though all of them had lost friends and loved ones whom they would never see again. Even when the elves reunited with Celebrian and with Elrond’s older daughter Andreth in the West, they would not see Arathorn, or Belemir, again. Belemir had made Luthien’s choice, a choice the twins might still make, Arwen might still make. Melpomaen would miss them forever, but he would never deny Arwen or his best friends the bright, luminescent joy that Belemir had known in his few short years with his wife.

A knock on the door interrupted the cozy scene, and one of the elven soldiers who had been standing guard at the gate entered, bringing the scent of snow, and glad tidings. “My Lord, your sons are home!” He called to Elrond.

Elrond handed Estel to Gilraen, pausing to kiss the boy goodnight, before heading down to the stables in a daze. He knew the twins would be with their mounts- they were diligent warriors, and cared for their horses as good soldiers should. Surely enough, his first-born sons were in the stable, talking softly with grooms as they saw to their steeds’ comfort. Elrond’s heart clenched. Estel he could hold safe, for these few brief years. Elrohir and Elladan insisted on going into danger, again and again. His bold, brave, knights errant, his beautiful first born sons. The wind-blown twins noticed him at the same time, which was strange. Normally, in the safety of Imladris, Elrohir was still preternaturally observant, but Elladan could walk right past Elrond without even noticing him.

“Ionnath-nin.” Elrond greeted, holding his arms open. The twins dropped curry brushes and oats and ran to him. As Elrond embraced his two oldest sons tightly, he rejoiced in their unique scent, mixed with the smells of snow, and pine, and elf too long in the saddle. One of Middle Earth’s legendary figures rejoiced to have his dear boys home safe, in his arms, again.

“We missed you, Ada.” Elladan said softly, face against his father’s.

He missed civilized comfort, Ada.” Elrohir teased his brother lightly. “I missed you.”

“And I missed you both, terribly.” Elrond replied, gently pulling the twins away, but only far enough to look them over carefully. They were in as rough shape as he remembered ever having seen them, clothing patched here and there, and slender from too long on field rations. Elrond could see no obvious injuries or lingering soreness, but both his older boys were stoics, to one extent or another. Annoying children, to a father who was a healer. It would ease Elrond’s mind to be sure that they were whole, unharmed. “You shall both have civilized comfort, come, I will draw you a bath.”

“Can we have food, first?” Elladan said wistfully. “Do you think Siana would open the kitchen? I’ve been day-dreaming of hot cider and warm buttered bread.”

“Estel and I just had a snack there, I’m sure we can find something to warm up two cold warriors.” Elrond said with a smile.

Melpomaen walked up just as the Lord of Imladris and his sons were preparing to exit the stables. Mel had been helping Gilraen to put Estel to bed. Upon catching sight of him, the twins embraced their gwador with happy whoops of greeting.

“Dan! Roh!” A delighted young voice caroled. The elves turned around to Estel in surprise. The little boy had run barefoot through the snow in his nightshirt. A part of Mel wondered how it was that there were hundreds of adults in Imladris, a solid dozen of whom viewed Estel as some form of their own personal responsiblity, yet the lone three year old routinely left them all feeling outnumbered and surrounded. Another part of Mel marveled at Estel’s memory, that he had last seen the twins over a year ago, yet still remembered them. “Oh no,” Mel wondered in horror, “did that mean Estel expected the twins to be in company with Arathorn?”

The twins were shocked. “Hello… Estel.” Elladan remembered the correct name for the little boy at the last minute. “It is good to see you.”

But Estel was looking for someone else. “Ada?” he called, a note of desperation in his voice that Melpomaen had not heard in months.

“I am right here, Estel.” Elrond assured. the boy.

Estel glared at Elrond. “Not you, Ada el. Ada Ada. Where is Ada Ada? Dan and Roh are here. Where is Ada Ada? Why did they not bring him here? Ada Ada Ada Ada.” The boy wailed. Mel winced. “Ada Ada” was Estel’s term for the father who had died; He had not, at two, been able to say Arathorn’s full name, and since his father’s death, no one had spoken it around him. It was for his own safety, but it was still terrible.

“Ai, Elbereth.” Erestor murmured softly, arriving at the stables at last, a worried Gilraen in tow.

Gilraen went to her small son, who was screaming in protest, flailing his little limbs and calling for his father. “Shh, most beloved,” the raven haired beauty soothed, “you are not alone, shh, my love.” The young mother lifted Estel into her arms, not caring that he was covered in melting snow, and that she was in a thin shift with an overrobe hastily donned over it. Estel went limp in her embrace, though his heartbroken sobs continued as she carried him back to his room, trailed by Melpomaen.

“I should mix him a soothing draft.” Elrond murmured sadly.

“Ada, I can do that, you may go to do what you might to comfort poor Estel.” Elladan offered. “I even have chocolate, bought off a trader from Mithlond. It will cover the bitter taste of the sedative.”

Elrond nodded, and turned to follow after his youngest son after a last embrace for each of the twins. Elladan knew the correct amount of the bitter sedative to mix in for the child’s small size, none better. It had been Elladan who had first learned that Estel was violently allergic to the sweeter poppy-based sedative that most healers normally would have used for such a young child.

Elladan turned to Erestor in dismay. “We did not mean to cause poor little Arag…Estel, such distress.” Both twins were heart-sick at having caused their dear friend’s little son, their distant cousin and new foster-brother, such a trauma. In happier days, the twins had delighted in playing with their gwador Arathorn’s lively, clever child.

“It was not your fault, my dear sons of the heart.” Erestor assured them gently, pulling both twins into a hug. “It would have happened whenever you came home. Estel’s memory is phenomenal, even when he appears uninterested. And he has never understood his father’s death. In time, even he will come to forget, until he comes of age and we must tell him the truth, that he might take up his inheritance.”

Elladan nodded, still troubled. “I will go to the stillroom to brew something to calm him, poor child.”

“I will finish with putting our belongings away, muindor.” Elrohir offered. “Meet me in the kitchens after you are finished. You are still too skinny.”

Elladan shook his head in mild disgust at Elrohir’s annoying older brother act. “We look exactly like eachother.” He complained to Erestor, who was keeping him company on the way to the still room. “Therefore, he is too skinny as well.”

“You could both use a few good meals.” Erestor noted in slight concern, “May I add that I hope you both will stay home long enough to lose the war-shadows from your eyes, and remind your father that he still has two grown sons? Not to mention my son has missed you, as well.”

“We’ll stay as long as we can.” Elladan promised. “And the orcs have more or less given up on the full-out attacks, settling back into a pattern of nasty, random, small-scale raids.”

“Hmm.” Noted Erestor mildly. “Yes, we had received word of that from Dirhael’s messenger. He also explained what happened, to terrify the orcs into that renewed discretion.”

Elladan, to Erestor’s interested surprise, didn’t even blink. “Oh, good. That will save time.”

“Undoubtedly.” Erestor said dryly. “But not your hide, nor Elrohir’s. Your father was worried and furious when he heard, and Glorfindel swore that no lieutenant of his would behave so recklessly without being called to account.”

At that, Elladan did wince, though his hands remained steady, mixing sweet milk with crushed herbs, and chocolate and cinnamon. “Well, we’ve given up on expecting Ada not to find out everything that happens anywhere in Middle Earth, Elrohir, Arwen, and I.” Elladan smiled a little, though he was not looking forward to his Ada’s reaction to that particular stunt, nor the reaction of the Captain of Imladris. “And we had long, long since given up any hope of Ada not sharing any information of import with you and Glorfindel. I think young orcs in training paint pictures of the three of you, and learn to shoot arrows by aiming at your faces.”

Erestor, ever amused by Elladan’s odd imaginings and mercurial attention span, chuckled. He stifled an irrelevant question as to whether orcs would ever really paint anything, and instead gently admonished, “Please be more careful, in your future attempts to replace us as the most hated enemies of orc-kind.”

Elladan grinned, and countered. “Don’t you have your own son to admonish?”

“I do, and I have.” Erestor replied evenly, eyes darkening at the memory of Mel’s last return home from a sojourn with the twins and the Dunedain, injured from a fight with trolls.

“Have you and Glorfindel satisfied yourselves that our gwador will not make the same mistakes again, ‘Ressor?” Elladan asked, curious but sincere.

Erestor smiled at the younger twin gently. Elladan’s exhaustion was betrayed by his use of the twins’ childhood nickname for Elrond’s own gwador, and chief advisor. “More or less, why, Elladan?”

“We want to know if Mel can come out and play, when next we go to hunt orc again.” Elladan’s voice was teasing, but his eyes were fierce.

Erestor didn’t bother to hide his wince. “I hate having the two of you off fighting, Elladan, even when Mel is safe here with us. Having all three of you at risk makes my blood run cold.”

Elladan finished his mixing, and poured the frothy liquid into a ceramic cup for Estel. “But that’s not a no.” Elrond’s second son observed astutely.

Erestor favored the twin with a look of gentle reproach. “It is not. Glorfindel may object, because he, um,…”

“Is an overprotective prat.” Elladan offered irritably.

Erestor, with great effort, suppressed a laugh. “I wouldn’t put it that way. And normally, I would never dream of over-ruling Glorfindel’s judgment on an elf’s fitness to return to soldiering, but his judgment in Mel’s case is…ah,”

“Mel’s his precious inyo’s baby, and he knows you don’t want Mel in danger, so Glor’s dragging his feet on approving Mel to return the field.” Elladan complained, with a roll of his eyes. “Plus, Mel probably keeps avoiding Glorfindel’s “let’s go into the woods and I’ll set traps and you have to find your way around them,” training trips on how to properly track and evade pursuit.”

Chuckling a bit at how well Elladan knew Melpomean and Glorfindel, despite his worry at the thought of Mel joining the twins fighting orcs, Erestor added, “That’s about the size of it, more or less. Mel often has excellent excuses for avoiding Glorfindel’s little excursions, such as “Lord Elrond told me he needs me to finish this analysis tonight, Lord Glrofindel. But I would be happy to ask him if I should instead go play war games with you in the woods?”

Elladan laughed aloud. “And I can just imagine my Ada’s answer when Glorfindel goes to ask him that question. “No, vorondanya, I know that Mel will be up late tonight completing this work I need done for tomorrow, why would I have even asked him to do so if I did not need it immediately? You may not pressure him to accompany you on your trip, nor may you get him drunk and elf-nap him in the early morning hours when he is sleeping.”

Erestor did burst out laughing at this. He would have to tell Elrond that Arwen was right, Elladan had indeed achieved a spot-on impression of his father in Elrond’s best “Much-put-upon Lord of Imladris” mood. The younger twin had always been a talented mimic. Quickly sobering at the thought of what Elladan had asked him, Erestor sighed. “I will intercede with Glorfindel on Melpomaen’s behalf, should he desire to accompany you, which he doubtless will. Though I would ask of you something.” Erestor said softly.

“Of course, Erestor.” Elladan replied, mindful of Erestor’s great worry every time that Melpomaen, Erestor’s only child, accompanied he and Elrohir on their knight errantry.

“I would ask,” Erestor said carefully, “that you and Elrohir take into consideration the scope of Melpomaen’s duties here. Your father’s attention is increasingly on Sauron’s ever-expanding activities. That means that more of my attention is required for the running of Imladris and the assistance of your father. Elrond trusts few enough elves outside of his family these days, so Mel ends up doing a great deal of the work that Elrond and I do not have time for, in addition to which my son has become a fixture in young Estel’s life. It is not a good time for Estel to lose another friend, Elladan. And I am not sure how we would manage without Mel, though we could figure that out if we had to.”

Elladan, looking pensive, nodded. “We will consider that, Erestor. We plan to stay until spring, at least, so its not immediately relevant.” As they passed the kitchens, the younger elf’s stomach gurgled.

Suppressing a smile at that reminder of the twins’ long-ago days as bottomless pits, when they had been teenaged elflings, Erestor offered, “I will take the drink to Estel, you go eat something.”

“Thanks, ‘Ressor.” Elladan said, with a yawn, as he handed Erestor the cup. “Can you ask Mel to come meet us in our rooms, whenever he’s done reading, “Little Elfling Loses a Friend,” to Estel?”

Erestor paused, “How did you know that is what he would be doing?”

“I know Mel.” Elladan replied, “and Estel is hardly the first child we’ve loved who has lost a parent or relative under terrible circumstances. Its what Mel does.”

Erestor sighed as he contined towards Estel’s rooms. The twins and Mel were like a three-legged stool. Oh, the twins were eachother’s best friends, but Mel was their foil, like another brother to Elrond’s oldest sons. And Mel would be terribly torn, if the twins asked him to leave Imladris in the spring. Erestor hoped it would not come to that; that somehow, they could convince the twins to stay.

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1 Comment(s)

NB: Comments span all chapters and may contain spoilers!

I really enjoyed this fic. I stumbled across it completely by accident when looking for a translation for “mellon muin nin” (which incidentally I read in another of your fics) The first chapter was my favorite because Faramir was in it. I LOVE your characterization of Faramir. I have been reading all your stories that contain Faramir over and over since I first discovered them last week.

One thing I think that you could do to make them better is to translate any elvish you use at the end of your chapters or at least put a glossary of terms somewhere. I don’t know about your other readers but I am not all that familiar with elvish. I can recognize a very few words and even those confuse me when they are used outside of the context with which I am familiar. I really want to know what all those terms of endearment mean exactly. :) Other than that, I love your stories and I love that you update so often! I can’t wait to read the rest of your series. (especially the stories about Faramir)

— firstar28    3 September 2011, 04:39    #

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