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Hope in the Healing (PG-13) Print

Written by Susana

14 February 2011 | 36497 words | Work in Progress

Cast of Characters in Hope in the Healing

Author: Susana
Series: Desperate Hours; Young Estel story
Feedback: Please use the form below
Warning: AU.
Beta: None, but thanks to Kaylee for helping me with character names, and to Kaylee and Emma for talking with me about the elves who would inhabit a city like Imladris.

Disclaimer: All recognizable elements are Tolkien’s.

Summary: Cast of characters for this story, although not all of them get speaking roles.


Imladris Residents, End of the Third Age (all elves unless otherwise stated)

Lord Elrond Earendilion — ruling lord of Imladris, master healer

Lord Elrohir Elrondion — Lord Elrond’s first son and heir, Lieutenant in Imladris’ Guard, Knight of Arnor, and Captain of the Northern Dunedain, author, investor, healer, apprentice weapons smith (when he has time) etc.

Lord Elladan Elrondion — Lord Elrond’s second son, Lieutenant in Imladris’ Guard, Knight of Arnor, and Captain of the Northern Dunedain, senior healer, master alchemist, etc.

Lord Erestor Arandilion — Chief Advisor, gwador, and sometime-regent to Lord Elrond

Lord Melpomaen Erestorion — Lord Erestor’s only son, gwador to Lord Elrond’s twin sons, Knight of Arnor, Advisor to the twins and to Lord Elrond.

Lord Glorfindel — Captain of Imladris’ Guard. Grandfather of Lord Erestor, although both are fairly quiet about the relationship, as Glorfindel is of the opinion that Sauron has enough good reasons to want to kill him or Erestor; why give the Dark Lord a reason to know they can be used against eachother.

Lady Gilraen — technically, the Lady of the Northern Dunedain, but in hiding. She is serving as the Castellan of Imladris (basically, the person in charge of making sure the house runs smoothly. In a more formal home, she would be Elrond’s hostess as well since his lady has sailed, but Imladris simply isn’t that formal). On the council, Gilraen speaks for various concerns of the household. The elves who had been stuck with this job previously find working with Gilraen a lot easier than working with Elrond.

Estel — Lady Gilraen’s son, the foster-son of Lord Elrond. Technically the Chieftain of the Northern Dunedain in hiding.

Mistress Siana — the Chief Cook, who was the cook in Melpomaen’s birth father Edrahil’s home, in Lindon, when Mel was small.

Lieutenant Drystan — Captain Glorfindel’s second in command; Mistress Siana’s husband; gwador to Elrond’s foster-brother Ereinion Gil-galad, until his death at the end of the second age.

Mistress TaurielChief Groom — great-great-niece of the former Chief Cook of Imladris, Lord Carmave. An elflinghood friend of the Elrondionnath, and a gwathel of their sister Andreth.

Master Sculptor Samnolas — a sculptor, but currently representing all of the visual artists of Imladris on Imladris’ council, which includes the sculptors, painters, muralists, and sometimes the glassblowers. The sculptor involved in the twins’ infamous “ice horse” prank.

Mistress Gailest — a master painter, wife of Master Healer Moicasion, mother of Lieutenant Thenithol and Healer Ceredithlas. Normally Gailest is the representative of the visual artists on Imladris’ council, but she is also one of Estel’s favorite babysitters.

*Master Healer Moicasion- a healer and former adversary of Elrond’s, who is now more or less in charge of Imladris’ healing ward, although he defers to Elrond (not without argument) on many occasions. Husband of Master Painter Gailest, father of Lieutenant Thenithol and Healer Ceredithlas. Moicasion doesn’t usually represent the healers’ on the council; he has no fondness for administration.

Lieutenant Thenithol Moicasionchil — a young officer, born in Imladris near the end of the second age. A friend of the twins and Mel.

Healer Ceredithlas Moicasiel — a young healer, born in Imladris near the end of the second age. A friend of the twins and Mel. Ceredithlas usually attends council meetings on behalf of the healers.

*Master Hisilr- a minstrel, the representative of the musicians and singers on the Council of Imladris

Master Sirefuiona weapons smith — represents the smiths on the Council of Imladris

Master Olthavrona carpenter — represents the carpenters on the Council of Imladris

Master Alastaronan architect and engineer — represents the architects on the Council of Imladris

Lady Ambaraxielengineer — represents the architects on the Council of Imladris

Master Gerrold — a human alchemist, who normally represents the alchemists on Imladris’ council, as Lord Ingloren, the Master Alchemist, hates meetings.

Lord Ingloren — the master alchemist in charge of the alchemists at Imladris, also Elladan’s mentor

Master Faelchannasarchivist — the archivist on the Council of Imladris. Also Melpomaen’s elflinghood tutor

Mistress Saelestiela weaver — the weaver (also representing the seamstresses and fine embroiderers) on the Council of Imladris

Northern Dunedain Rangers (only mentioned; do not appear in story)

Lord Dirhael — Former spymaster of the rangers, current regent for the absent infant Chieftain. Father of Gilraen.

Lady Ivorwen — wife of Lord Dirhael, mother of Gilraen.

Captain Daeron — the senior captain of the rangers

Captain Oskari — the current spymaster of the rangers, a replacement for Dirhael’s son, the former spymaster, who died relatively recently.

Captain Aratan (deceased) — the former spymaster of the rangers, Dirhael’s son.

Lieutenant Egalmoth — a young officer in the rangers

Trainee Magordan — a teenager who is training with the rangers

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 Rúmil 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.

Hope in the Healing, Part II

Third Age 2934, Three days before Yule, Imladris

Elladan followed the familiar voices, and the rich smell of stew simmering, into the warm, well-lit kitchen of Imladris. His twin, dipping fresh-baked buttered bread into a bowl of venison stew, acknowledged him only with a nod, which made Elladan smile. Siana, the mistress of the kitchens, greeted Elladan with an exuberant hug, and the same hearty fare she’d already put in front of Elrohir. Siana then kept up a pleasant mostly one-sided conversation while the twins ate, also providing Elladan with mulled cider and Elrohir with hot spiced milk.

“I’d heard you two had returned from the wars, my lads.” The deep voice of Drystan rumbled. Elrohir grinned, and swallowed quickly, greeting Glorfindel’s second-in-command with a cheerful, saucy, “We heard that Glorfindel was desperate enough to send you out on long patrols. We knew then that we had to come home, you like the comfort of your fine wife and fire too much for that!” Siana laughed and blushed, pouring her husband a cup of mulled, spiced wine to warm him.

The light haired Drystan guffawed merrily, slapping Elrohir on the back. Elrohir, who had been expecting just that display of affection, didn’t even blink. “Fine living has weakened you, old friend.” The older twin jested merrily.

“And living from camp to camp with the remains of Aranor’s Dunedain has left you both rather scrawny.” Drystan criticized.

“Not so scrawny as Mel, when he comes with us.” Elladan pointed out, shaking his head at the display between Drystan and Elrohir, which he found ridiculous. Elladan missed Mel’s company on their sojourns, as Elladan alone had a much harder time convincing his twin of the absolute vitality of patronizing several of the Dunedain villages with better inns, for palatable food, during their excursions. Also, Elrohir easily embraced the occasionally rough-and-tumble humor of their warrior friends amongst the Dunedain. Elladan’s sense of humor, like Mel’s, tended to be more refined.

“True enough.” Drystan agreed, “but then Mel grew up on my Siana’s cooking, and its hard to eat camp fare after that beginning.”

Siana smiled warmly at her husband, before looking to the twins and sighing. “You mean to take my elfling with you, when you leave us in the Spring?” She asked them sadly.

“Aye.” Elrohir said, unwilling to lie to the elleth who had been, essentially, Mel’s second mother. “We’ve missed him with us, and there are several slight and clumsy but otherwise promising youths amongst this season’s group of trainee rangers. Mel has the surest hand, with training such youths.” Elrohir did not say so, but there were also several villages of Dunedain whom the twins had needed to help move, lock, stock, and all, following aggressive attacks by the orcs, prior to the fireboat incident which might have enraged Lord Dirhael (because the twins and several Dunedain had nearly died as well), but had neatly discouraged the orcs, for at least this season. Unfortunately, the villages had lost, in one case, the woman who had kept the bloodlines, such that her daughter still had her book of who was related to whom, but did not understand the abbreviations, and in the other sad case, both book and matriarch. Mel had the best memory for reconstructing that information, and was their best chance at helping the new matriarchs to decode the entries in the remaining book, for it had been Mel and Elladan together who had designed the mostly oral system for recording the genealogical history of the Dunedain, with the coded books as backup. The books had to be coded, because many of the Dunedain were related to the Kings and Queens of old Arnor. And no one wanted to give the orcs and other agents of Sauron a “Who’s who list” of humans to kill, to please their master Sauron. But the Dunedain needed such records, so that their village elders could make sure that young ones who were courting were not eachother’s near kin.

Siana and even Drystan nodded, though neither looked particularly pleased. Siana, who had once been Melpomaen’s parents’ cook in Lindon, brought out some pie and sweet cream for the twins and her husband, and then bid them good night.

“Lads,” Drystan begun, for the twins were less than half his age, and had been teenaged elflings when first Erestor had hired Mel’s former armsmaster and his wife the cook away from Mithlond, “The Dunedain have needed you, these past seasons since their Chieftain was killed. But no matter how many orcs you kill, ‘twill not bring back Arathorn your gwador, nor your siblings or Nana.”

Elrohir was quiet; he’d not spoken Arathorn’s name beyond absolute necessity since their friend’s death.

Elladan ventured into the silence, “We know that, Drystan. But it has to be done, and we are some of the only living Knights of Arnor, us and Melpomaen. Well, Glorfindel as well, but, ah, Ada needs Glor here.”

Drystan snorted. “You mean Glorfindel has not forgotten who Sauron views as his greatest remaining elven foes, with Elrond vying for the top of that list. Right below his formidable mother-by-law, and your cousin the King of the Greenwood not far behind them.”

The twins smiled at that mention of their Daernaneth Galadriel, who to them was Daernana, a pleasant, beautiful elleth who had given them sweets as elflings, and sharp, blessed swords and protective cloaks as mature ellyn. Drystan remembered the fierce and ethereal warrior Galadriel, from the War of Wrath, and had taken centuries to be able to relax in her company. Drystan and Elrond both said Galadriel had mellowed; the twins, and once their mother, had merely shrugged. Galadriel had always been a maternal figure to them, instead of a mythic one. An….odd, unique maternal figure, but a mother and grandmother nonetheless. Arwen, these days, serving as Galadriel’s chief handmaiden and deputy, saw her Daernaneth more clearly. But Arwen, as well, had rarely viewed Galadriel with the awe of most elves. The twins found Drystan’s silent respect-bordering-on-fear of Daernana Galadriel particularly odd, as they tended to find their father more intimidating, when Elrond was in his protective-Ada moods, and Drystan was not at all intimidated by their Ada. Oh, the old soldier elf showed Elrond proper respect as the Lord of Imladris in any official setting, but he had known Elrond, and his twin brother Elros, as tiny children tagging along after their elder-foster brother Ereinion, who had also been Drystan’s gwador. And Aran Ereinion Gil-galad, the last great King of the Noldor on Middle Earth. Drystan had barely survived Ereinion’s death without fading, and it had taken him over a century, and meeting Siana, to sober up and stop grieving. Drystan could see Melpomaen off to accompany the twins in part because of that; his guilt at having been unable to save Ereinion was terrible, but how much worse would it have been, if he had not even been there to try to save his King?

Drystan looked at Glorfindel’s two itinerant lieutenants sympathetically. “The orcs seem to have been discouraged by your, ah, innovative tactics. At least for this next season. Perhaps you could stay here for awhile, and share some of that creativity with your father, as he assists the old Wizard with coordinating opposition to the rising activity out of Mordor. We – Captain Glorfindel and I – could use your assistance, having so many more messengers coming from one quarter and another, and needing to assure them all safe passage.”

Elladan paused in his enjoyment of pie to ask, “Where is Glor, anyway? Normally we get in, and he’s right behind Ada, Mel, and Erestor.”

“He stopped by, gwanur.” Elrohir explained softly. Glorfindel had come to their room while Elrohir was dropping off bags. Imladris’ captain had helped his most gifted and determined pupil of the fighting arts to quickly sort through the twins’ travel bags. Elrohir had told his mentor that he had felt the twins were being followed for the last leg of their journey. Elladan had not had the same feeling, but he was too accustomed to his twin’s curious, near preternatural tracking sense to raise an objection when Elrohir determined to mention the matter to their military superior. Glorfindel, who knew Elrohir almost as well as his twin, had nodded and collected several guardsmen to go search the twins’ trail. But before he left, he’d said something that led Elrohir to believe their Captain knew more about their recent activities with the Dunedain than the twins might have deemed desirable. “He said he’d see us tomorrow, ‘Dan. It sounded like a threat.”

Drystan chuckled. “Oh, he wants to have a few words with the two of you, about your “innovative tactics.”

The twins winced. Elrohir sighed. Glorfindel would undoubtedly say, as he had said in the past, that he expected this kind of idiocy from Elladan. Elladan was like a younger version of Lord Elrond, without having had Elrond’s tempering experiences during the War of Wrath at an early age (what this said about Elrohir’s father, Elrohir wasn’t quite sure). But Glorfindel expected Elrohir to tell his twin “No,” when Elladan came up with these ideas. Only, Elrohir had been really frustrated with the orcs thinking that just because Arathorn was dead, and his heir disappeared, the Dunedain of Arnor were ready to roll over and play dead. And Elladan’s ideas often worked…

Oddly echoing the older twin’s sentiments, Drystan said, “Sure, and your ideas have often saved the day for us, and no mistake. The siege of Imladris, well, we might have fallen, were it not for you two.”

“And Nana.” Elladan spoke up loyally, “And Carmave and Caradhon.”

The elves all paused a moment to remember their fallen friends. Lady Celebrian had survived the siege of Imladris, but Carmave, Imladris’ former chief chef, pastry chef, and axe-wielder, had not. Nor had Glorfindel’s former second-in-command, Caradhon, a friend and comrade-in-arms to all three soldiers.

“Why all the glum faces?” A sprightly voice called out, as Tauriel, Carmave’s great-niece, Imladris’ head groom, and a good friend of the twins’, entered the kitchen.

“Just memories.” Elrohir answered with a smile. Tauriel had come to Imladris as an orphaned elfling, and the twins and Mel had enjoyed playing with her and indulging her. As she grew up, age-mates with Siana and Drystan’s daughter Eilunwen, Tauriel and Eilunwen had become Andreth’s favorite babysitters, and honorary older sisters. During the siege of Imladris, the twins’ sisters, and Tauriel and Eilunwen, had numbered among the younger elves who would often side with the twins, in favor of one of their crazy schemes.

Tauriel helped herself to the other half of Elladan’s pie, guessing accurately at the cause for her friends’ sorrow. “The siege? I still miss them, too. But more of us would have died, if we hadn’t managed to discourage long-range catapult building with that last sortie. Having their fortifications turn into fireballs really discouraged the Witch-King and his merry marauders.”

“Hmm, Elladan, you really do have quite a fondness for fire.” Drystan teased gently, “Imladris’ own pyromaniac. No wonder you’re always bothering Gandalf for hints, the two of you trying to figure out how to make fire fly further through the sky.”

Elladan smiled. He was pleased to have them think that’s why he spent so much time with Gandalf. The truth was the only secret of any import he’d ever kept from his twin, and it would not be good, to have it be learned. Gandalf might need him again, someday, after all. Now if only he could avoid taking Mel with him in the future….Lord Elrond still had more than one son to lose, and Elladan was not his heir. But Erestor had only Mel. Unfortunately, Melpomaen had found that logic remarkably unpersuasive. If it wasn’t too dangerous for his Lord’s son, then it wasn’t too dangerous for Mel, either, according to Mel. Sometimes having loyal retainers was quite a trial, Elladan thought.

“Its nice to have you back, ‘Dan.” Tauriel enthused, “this way we will have fireworks for Yule. Gandalf left some for you, but I do not think your father would set them off, if you were not here.”

Drystan nodded. “You two are our light in the darkness, in many ways. Like a fire lit in the coldness of a midwinter day. Your uncle had something of that, as well.”

Elrohir smiled appreciatively. Drystan had been an excellent source of stories about Uncle Elros, and their father when Elrond had been young. Then he suppressed a yawn. It had been a very long day… a long year, in fact.

Elladan was less successful in concealing his yawns, so Drystan and Tauriel urged them to go to bed. The twins were only too eager, but their father reached their rooms just as the twins did, and insisted on running them a bath.

Hope in the Healing Part III

Third Age 2934, About two days before Yule, Imladris

“A good relationship has a pattern like a dance and is built on some of the same rules. The partners do not need to hold on tightly, because they move confidently in the same pattern, intricate but gay and swift and free, like a country dance of Mozart’s. To touch heavily would be to arrest the pattern and freeze the movement, to check the endlessly changing beauty of its unfolding. There is no place here for the possessive clutch, the clinging arm, the heavy hand; only the barest touch in passing. Now arm in arm, now face to face, now back to back — it does not matter which. Because they know they are partners moving to the same rhythm, creating a pattern together, and being invisibly nourished by it.

The joy of such a pattern is not only the joy of creation or the joy of participation, it is also the joy of living in the moment. Lightness of touch and living in the moment are intertwined. One cannot dance well unless one is completely in time with the music, not leaning back to the last step or pressing forward to the next one, but poised directly on the present step as it comes. Perfect poise on the beat is what gives good dancing its sense of ease, of timelessness, of the eternal.”

Anne Morrow Lindbergh, in Gift from the Sea

“If you think you’re being sneaky,” observed Elladan with some asperity, “Helping us to bathe that you may see we conceal no wound or new scars, well, you’re not.”

“Calmly, ‘Dan.” Elrohir soothed, “If Ada means to talk of why the orcs have decided to decamp, we’ll need the bath. And the salve.”

“Not tonight, ionnath-nin.” Lord Elrond reassured them gently, as he turned the knob to set the level of the water in the bathtub, which was closer to the size of a small pond. The same human engineer who had once designed the famous baths at Osgiliath had assisted the elves of Imladris to re-design their plumbing system, so that the nearby hot springs ran through most of the dwellings in their valley. The bathtubs were built into pipes carrying a circular flow of water from the hot springs, such that clean hot water kept flowing in, and old water flowing out, constantly. The knobs were used first to start the water flowing, then to set the level.

The twins shared a six room suite in their father’s home, and had since they first came of age, although the configuration of the rooms had changed several times. Now and for the past several centuries, the two shared a bedroom, the large bathing chamber, a privy, and a sitting room, but each had their own study. They had found that they preferred to have their own individual work space to retreat into, though Elrohir also frequently worked in the map room of the archives, and Elladan in the labs with the alchemists and engineers.

“You are angry, though, aren’t you, Ada?” Elladan asked softly. He didn’t explain further; if Erestor and Drystan knew about the fireboat incident, then their father surely did as well.

“Not angry. Worried, relieved, frustrated… maybe a little angry.” Lord Elrond explained, embracing his more verbose son, and then helping first Elladan and then Elrohir to strip off their sweat-soaked riding leathers. “But there shall be no unpleasantness tonight, ionnath-nin. Tomorrow is soon enough to talk of such matters.” Lord Elrond smiled wryly, “As a yule-tide gift, perhaps we should talk of your inability to not do things which terrify me after the council meeting.”

Elrohir snorted in laughter, then smiled. “That would be preferable, certainly.” The meetings of Imladris’ council did not last so long as those of Lothlorien’s rulers and their advisors, or anywhere near so long as those of Aran Ereinion had when Elrond had been younger, but they were long enough, if one were sitting on a sore bottom.

Elrond helped his exhausted sons into the deep bathing pool, and then helped them to wash, first Elladan, who hated to be dirty, and then Elrohir, who normally didn’t much care. Elladan pulled himself onto one of the carved stone seats on the inside of the pool, sighing in bliss as he relaxed, water nearly up to his chin. “I’ve missed this. Lord Dirhael’s house is comfortable enough, but we were mostly in the forest, or in the smallest and most poverty stricken of villages.”

Smiling at playing squire to his own sons, Elrond offered, “It gives me great joy to have you home as well,” then teasingly, “even if you are happier to see your bathing chamber than your Adar.”

Elrohir laughed. “Ha. I said so, did I not, Ada?”

Elladan idly splashed warm water at both of them. “Just because you’re a heathen, gwanur, is no reason for me not to enjoy life’s civilized pleasures.”

Elrond shook his head, enjoying the tired banter between the twins, a predictable, soothing patter, like gentle rain falling onto new leaves. It was amazing to Elrond to have them home again, his elflings, his knights errant. He was sad to see them so slender and tired, though they were otherwise in good health. And they were not as slender as Mel frequently came home from such field excursions- neither Mel nor Elladan thought much of field rations. Elrohir, so far as Elrond could ever tell, had the impressive digestive capabilities of a goat.

Elrond frowned as Elladan raised an arm above his head, making a rude gesture at his brother. “Where is that scar from, ion-nin, on your chest?” He asked Elladan worriedly.

“That was from awhile ago,” Elrohir answered for his twin, who had slid under the water to rinse his hair again. “From when he and Mel were coming back from lake Evendim, when I was in Greenwood. They ran into bandits, and ‘Dan took a slash.”

Elladan nodded, yawning. He was glad his brother had volunteered that information. Elrohir was a poor liar, and their father knew that. Just as he knew that Elladan could lie to his face, and get away with it, at least for awhile. That scar was actually from the first errand Elladan had run for Gandalf, before Mel joined him. But Elrohir had told their Ada the story that Elladan and Melpomaen had agreed to, so Elrond never suspected a lie.

Having finished scrubbing Elrohir’s back, Elrond quickly washed himself for the third time that day – the joys of having a toddler about – and then joined his sons, relaxing in the warm, flowing water. For a time, all three dozed, happy to be together again.

Elrohir opened one eye a slit as the door to the bathing chamber opened and closed, to admit his golden-haired honorary grandfather, or great-grandfather, depending on how old Glorfindel was feeling on any given day.

Glorfindel, observing his young Lord and his sons, thought for a moment that they looked almost the same. Elrond did look a bit older, having more human blood, and being twice the twins’ age. But all three were marked by many scars, evidence of a life lived in opposition to Morgoth, and then Sauron his servant.

“Its nice to see the three of you not getting into trouble.” Glorfindel joked, as he stripped and joined them, splashing Elrond in the process.

Elrond merely sighed. Such a small, mild attempt to provoke a response was best ignored. He watched, as Elrohir raised an eyebrow at the balrog slayer. Then Elrond blinked, because in that moment Elrohir had looked very much like an older version of Elrond’s twin brother Elros.

Glorfindel nodded in reply, causing Elrohir to nod in satisfaction, and Elrond to sigh in a mixture of relief and wistful resignation. Glorfindel and Elros would have gotten along like a house afire, and Elrond when that occurred to him, experienced both relief and regret that the world had never had to deal with the two of them together. Raising his own brow at his Captain and his heir, Elrond asked, “translation?”

“The wargs that were following your sons are dead.” Glorfindel said with a proud, tight, grin.

“You’d better have taken several guards with you, vorondanya.” Elrond said, in a light, mostly teasing threat. He was about 93% percent sure Glorfindel had, but the balrog slayer was a remarkably poor liar. If he’d gone off to kill wargs himself, it would be obvious.

“Of course I did.” Glorfindel responded, not even opening an eye. “I’m not an idiot, Elrond.”

“Hmm.” Elrond replied, a teasing smile playing about his lips.

“That means sometimes he thinks you are, Glor.” Elladan translated, helpfully. Elrohir shook his head, smiling. His twin loved causing trouble amongst the elder elves.

“Sometimes I think you have too much time and energy on your hands, Elladan.” Glorfindel said, opening one eye to glare at the younger twin. “I also think you don’t practice enough singly, without your twin. Maybe we could get up early the day after Yule, you and I, and every morning therafter for the winter months, and spend several hours each day rectifying that?”

Elladan made a face, and created a diversion. “I can’t believe Ada called you an idiot, Glor. Shame on you, Ada.”

“Keep me out of this, ion-nin.” Elrond lectured gently, as Glorfindel’s eagle eyes turned to his lord.

“You know, Elrond, you could stand to get a real night’s sleep on a regular basis, and to spend more time outside.” Glorfindel said critically, although his eyes twinkled.

“More time outside? Its winter, you daft elf.” Elrond disagreed fondly, shaking his head, “and I’m fine.”

Realizing that he had been distracted from lecturing Elladan by a clever verbal ploy, again, Glorfindel sighed, and directed a comment to both of the twins. “Sometimes I think the two of you may be the best in Arda at whatever it is that you do.”

Elladan, who could not bear to not understand what was going on, wrinkled his nose. “What does that mean, Glor?”

Elrohir frowned. “It means we’re really, really annoying.”

Glorfindel grinned cheerfully at them. “But no one wants to be your enemy, oh saviours of Bree, heroes of the second siege of Imladris.”

Elladan preened while Elrohir sighed. The older twin preferred to win acclaim through brave feats of arms, and it had been more Elladan’s cleverness in the chemistry lab and with discouraging tactics that had helped to foil the Witch- king’s forces during that siege. Still, Elrohir suppposed, a win was a win, and their enemies hardly ever anticipated his twin’s schemes.

Demonstrating this, Elladan frowned, looking concerned. “Ada, are you sure Glor isn’t right, about you not getting enough sleep? You do look tired.”

“I’m fine, Elladan.” Elrond said warningly. He was very proud that his second son had become one of the healers Elrond was most willing to trust to take over his own patients, if Elrond could not care for them, but sometimes Elladan-the-healer was more than Elrond could take.

Glorfindel got out of the pool, pausing to to shove the younger twin under the water, and then to press a gentle, fatherly kiss to the top of Elrond’s dark head, murmuring softly in Quenya, ““Fine,” of course you are, my stubborn elfling Lord,” before picking up a towel.

Elrohir chuckled, then explained what Glorfindel had said to Elladan, who knew Quenya scientific and medical terms backwards and forwards, but routinely forgot other vocabulary and mangled grammar beyond all recognition.

A quiet knock sounded, and Erestor entered, trailed by Melpomaen, at Elladan’s soft call of “Come in.”

“Sorry to bother you, iaur gwador, but Estel has awoken again, and now he wants Ada El.” Erestor explained to Elrond.

“Ionnath-nin,” Elrond excused himself, getting up, “I must…”

“Go to Estel, Ada.” Elrohir urged. “It is allright. We understand.”

“Come, my elflings.” Glorfindel called, collecting Erestor and Elrond. “Inyo,” he told Erestor firmly, “You should sleep, and Guren,” this to Elrond, “You should take something yourself, if you cannot sleep, once we have our Estel settled again.”

“Yes, Glor.” Elrond agreed meekly.

“Ada must be tired,” Elrohir noted, concerned.

Melpomaen snorted, “He is tired. But he’s also humoring Glor.”

“Its the only way.” Elladan said sagely. Then Elrond’s heirs and Erestor’s grinned at eachother, happy beyond words to be reunited.

Title: Hope in the Healing, Part IV
Author: Susana
Series: Desperate Hours; Young Estel story
Feedback: rosasusana7@…
Rating: PG-13, to be safe.
Warning: AU; discussion of a future spanking.
Beta: Thanks to Holly and Kaylee for their kind assistance, and thanks to everyone who has reviewed earlier parts. Remaining mistakes are mine.
Disclaimer: All recognizable elements are Tolkien’s.

Summary: 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. In this part, Melpomaen and his newly-returned friends discuss their plans for the immediate future.

A/N: Part I of this story is 26803, Part II is 27521, Part III is 27524. Several parts of this story also indirectly refer to events referenced in Counting by Nines, 25082. Estel reappears in the next part, the twins’ first morning back at Imladris.

Part IV

Third Age 2934, About two days before Yule, Imladris

Melpomaen joined his gwedyr in the bathing pool, and the three spoke of very little, for a short time. They often didn’t need to speak, amongst one another, so long had they been friends. Elladan was a chatterbox, Elrohir quite a talker himself when he was in a mood, and Mel could rival Erestor for speed of speech when he was interested in something. But between the three of them, so many conversations had already been held, that they knew what one another would say, more often than they didn’t. There was no need to say anything aloud, when the twins were so tired. The three of them had been friends for the better part of three thousand years, and it showed. If the twins were to die, Mel did not know how he would go on living. Knowing that Drystan had once been Aran Ereinion’s gwador, Mel did not know how Drystan had survived Gil-galad’s death. But Mel was grateful he had, and that he had later married Siana, and helped to save Mel from an increasingly precarious situation in his grieving, mind-sick biological father’s home. And fathered Eilunwen, one of Mel’s best friends.

Mel did end the silence to advise the twins that, based on his experience with the trolls, it might be best to just tell their father everything about the fireboat incident from the beginning. Erestor had not been best pleased to learn that Mel had been purposely attracting the trolls, to distract them from the wounded Dunedain. Glorfindel had thought it was a sound enough strategy, but maintained that Mel should have realized how close they were to the troll, much sooner.

“You’re annoyed with us, too.” Elladan made a face and flicked water at Melpomaen. “The burning bridge was a good idea, Mel, really it was.”

Mel looked heavenward and was silent for long enough that Elrohir thought he was probably appealing to Eru and the Valar for patience. “It was very…you, Elladan.” Mel supplied at last, “And I did worry for my tithen gwedyr, when I heard. But I know how capable you two are, and we’re of an age, so you’re not my elflings, the way you are our fathers’ and Glor’s.” Mel gave his friends a sympathetic look, “And I know that they are going to make their disapproval quite clear to you.”

“After the council meeting tomorrow.” Elrohir supplied softly, “so we’ve some grace period. ‘Twill be nice sleeping without a sore backside tonight, our first night in weeks in a warm bed instead of a cold camp.”

Elladan disagreed, “tonight we would have hardly noticed it, we’re so tired. Its their cruel plan to make us wait until tomorrow, when we’re better rested, and will lie awake cursing our fate.”

Elrohir rolled his eyes at his twin’s over-dramatic wording, and called him on his accusation with a chuckle. “‘Dan, I’m sure if you had asked Ada to please spank you tonight, he would have obliged you.” Elrohir tried to be fair to his father and Glorfindel, most of the time, anyway.

“After the council meeting should work well enough.” Melpomaen commented sympathetically but somewhat absently, thinking more of Estel’s normal schedule, “It will be good to have it over, and you two will have the chance to see Estel in the morning, and again at dinner, even though the council meeting and those discussions will take up the better part of the afternoon.”

Elladan winced. He did not like the idea of sitting through their first dinner back at Imladris after facing a session over their Ada’s knee and their Captain’s desk. Squirming like naughty elflings at the table would be embarrassing enough, but only those elves who knew the twins were in trouble, and why, would suspect the reason for their discomfort. Given how much danger the twins had been in when the explosives did not alight promptly, and that they had needed to go closer to the trap in order to spring it, Elladan was somewhat concerned that they would not even be able to sit for dinner. There was nothing worse than standing at the table, for that usually made it quite obvious what had happened to the poor blushing elf in question.

Elrohir had already accepted that their fate would be whatever their father and Captain decreed, his concern had moved on to another issue. “Ada has taken Estel to his heart, has he not?” He said, not really asking. Elrohir could see that it was the case.

Elladan seemed confused. “Of course he has, gwanur-nin. Aragorn…Estel, is a lovely child. Ada is very fond of children. Why would he not?”

Mel and Elrohir exchanged a look. Sometimes Elladan missed things. Mel started, “Lord Elrond is treating Estel like a son in fact, rather than a favored fosterling, ‘Dan.” He explained gently.

“Oh, my.” Elladan said, realizing that such was in fact the case, just from the little interaction he had seen between the two that night. “Oh, Ada has such…such, troubles, when those he loves leave, as all humans must, within not much more than a century’s time. It is good that he is acting as father in truth to our lost Arathorn’s child, but,” Elladan did not finish, but they all knew. Oh the price Lord Elrond would pay, when Estel passed on.

Melpomaen sighed, before adding. “There’s another thing that has me worried.You should ask him, tomorrow, but I think there’s something your Adar isn’t telling us, about Estel. That we are closer to the end of this age, and whatever confrontation looms before us, than we realize, and that Estel is part of all of that.”

The twins exchanged serious looks. Those amongst the Dunedain with the gift of sight had been prophesying similar things. If Lord Elrond thought so, too, then the beginning of the end might truly be upon them. But Estel was still just a child.

“He’s a small child.” Elrohir remarked, “not a vessel of prophecy. I do not begrudge him our father’s love,” which was true, the twins had happily shared Lord Elrond with Andreth, Belemir, and Arwen, as well as their distant cousins the Dunedain fosterlings, for many years, “but we must needs be about our duties, in the spring. And we want you to come with us, Mel. Erestor and Glor have had enough time to sulk about the troll incident.”

Mel paused a moment in thought, and pulled himself out of the tub, wrapping a towel around himself, and grabbing several for the twins, before answering, “No,” in a soft and regretful, but nonetheless firm, voice.

Elrohir paused a moment in silent shock. Mel was their gwador, their own sworn retainer, and, Mel has never said no to us before, and meant it, like this. He signed to Elladan.

Elladan shrugged in silent resignation, explaining He has to me. He told me no, I could not go about my knight errantry alone, when you were in Greenwood.

Elrohir gave his twin an annoyed, concerned look. Well, good. At least Mel has some sense, and you the sense to heed him. Honestly, Elladan.

Elladan rolled his eyes at his brother. I knew you’d say that. I don’t know why he won’t come with us, though. Aloud, Elladan asked, “Why not, iaur gwador-nin?”

Mel handed Elladan a towel, “I will if you or Elrohir order me to, or if you really need me, for you are my Lords as well as my gwedyr. I will even agree to come for short trips, without that. But I am needed here, tithen-gwedyr-nin. Your little foster-brother Estel needs me right now, more than you do. And he could use your companionship and tutelage as well. I think…I think it may be more important, that Estel has the benefit of every advantage we can give him, growing up, than that we spend all of the fighting seasons with his people the Dunedain, during these upcoming years.”

Elrohir and Elladan exchanged a confused look. Of course Isildur’s heir would play a role in whatever confrontation was coming, when that time arrived. But surely others would play a role as well. Still, Melpomean’s judgment was generally sound. Elrohir frowned, “Why do you think so, Melpomaen?”

Mel struggled to put his thoughts into words, as he gave Elrohir a hand to help him out of the water. “Estel is … he’s, there’s something…more awake, aware, about Estel, than any human or elf I’ve ever known. He’s special, but he’s hurting. My life has been the richer, for having become your friend. I might even call becoming your friend the best thing that ever happened to me, because without having become your friend, I don’t know if I would have had the courage to say yes, when Erestor asked me to be his son. I think Estel needs you, in these years, more than his people. I think – I think if Estel could, he’d make all of us his people. Humans, elves, everyone.”

The twins were quiet at first, thinking over their advisor’s words. Then Elrohir sighed and signed to Elladan, We’ll need him for at least helping the Dunedain reconstruct the books keeping their bloodlines.

Elladan nodded, silently elaborating, Yes, but perhaps you can stay, to help Ada and Estel, whilst Mel and I visit those resettled villages.

Elrohir frowned. He didn’t like the idea of sending Elladan and Mel away from Imladris on that mission without him. They were both capable warriors, and Elladan’s latest injury, the one their father had learned of that night, probably would have happened even if Elrohir had been there. After all, Mel had once been terribly wounded, protecting Elrohir. Still, though, Elrohir did not like it. He was the most vigilant, of the three of them.

Mel waited patiently as the twins dressed and talked, accepting a borrowed nightshirt of Elladan’s and a red robe of Elrohir’s. Mel and Erestor suspected that the twins actually communicated mentally, much as Glorfindel could with Erestor and Elrond. Some elves, Mel knew, such as Lord Elrond and Lady Galadriel, could use the mindspeech, called osanwe, with even those who they did not know, but most elves, even powerful elves, could use it only in between close friends and family. Though they were probably speaking mind-to-mind, the twins also made somewhat standardized gestures to one another, whether or not they actually needed them to “speak,” and Mel understood a good share of those gestures, after three thousand years with the twins. So he understood the gist of most of their private conversations, but he was a patient ellon. It didn’t bother him to wait, while the twins worked through their thoughts.

It was Elrohir who replied at last “Your friendship may have been the best thing that ever happened to us, too, Mel.”

Elladan, with a crooked grin, added “Without you, we wouldn’t have survived Bree, I don’t think.”

Elrohir, thinking, added “Or been successful in any of a number of endeavors.”

Elladan concluded “In short, if you think we need to stay, we’ll think on it.”

Elrohir further concluded, “We value your advice like Ada values Erestor’s.”

Mel smiled, wryly, but gently, as he was not upset “Even if you think I’ve just gone gooey over a cute little face, this time.”

The twins chuckled, and Elladan replied “We didn’t say that.”

Elrohir, grinning gently, “And we’ll try to keep an open mind.”

And just like that, all was right again between the twins and their gwador. In a friendship like theirs, there was room for disagreement, and thinking the other friend was wrong. Just as during the first few weeks they’d known one another, the three ellyn found some of the same things funny, even in their disagreement, and harmony was restored. After all, what in the end, does love come to, but this – being able to admit to disagreement, and move on to laughter and joy in your reunion, and knowing that, when with one another, you have come home. No matter where you are.

“Stay with us, tonight?” Elldan asked lightly.

“Of course.” Mel replied, pleased to agree, happy to be held by his best friends and to hold them and know they were truly home, safe and sound. The relationship between them was a brotherly one, not romantic love, but the three elves still found it comforting, to fall asleep safe in oneanother’s embrace. None of the three younger Lords of Imladris had yet found love. The twins had been focused on war, especially since their mother’s death. Mel was very busy with being the twins’ advisor and business manager and Erestor’s and Lord Elrond’s assistant. Mel, who had found brothers and a father and a large extended family so unexpectedly in Imladris, would not have turned away from romance if he found that too, but there were few enough ellith of an age young enough not to be Melpomaen’s grandmother, and he was not activley searching. As a general rule, where the twins went, so too would Mel, and that would have made marriage difficult, at least.

Elrond, checking on the twins after Estel was back abed, smiled, and went to fetch his gwador and Captain. “Come, you must see this, “ Elrond told them.

Erestor and Glorfindel as well smiled to see the three younger elves all curled up in the same bed, walking the path of dreams together. Elrohir slept on the side of his bed nearest the door, with an arm flung around Melpomaen, and Elladan on the far side, his raven head on the sleeping Mel’s chest. Elladan’s bed lay empty beyond them.

“We are lucky in our sons, mellon-nin.” Erestor commented softly.

“We are, though mine may yet drive me to heart failure.” Elrond commented, sighing.

Glorfindel snorted. “I survived, you will too, Guren.”

Title: Hope in the Healing, Part V
Author: Susana
Series: Desperate Hours; Young Estel story
Feedback: rosasusana7@…
Rating: PG-13, to be safe.
Warning: AU.
Beta: Thanks to Holly and Kaylee for their kind assistance, and thanks to everyone who has reviewed earlier parts. Remaining mistakes are mine.
Disclaimer: All recognizable elements are Tolkien’s.
Summary: In this chapter, the twins and Estel become reacquainted.

Part V

Strategy is a system of expedients; it is more than a mere scholarly discipline. It is the translation of knowledge to practical life, the improvement of the original leading thought in accordance with continually changing situations.
~ Helmuth von Moltke the Elder

It is the child in man that is the source of his uniqueness and creativeness, and the playground is the optimal milieu for the unfolding of his capacities.
~ Eric Hoffer

This was the first morning in many months that the twin sons of Lord Elrond were home at Imladris to take breakfast in the great hall. Siana had a special breakfast prepared in their honor, and many of the elves of the city came to greet their young Lords. Elrohir and Elladan had many friends in Imladris. Not only because they were the heirs of Imladris, but because they were kind, and fun-loving, and always ready with a joke or a plan. Life was just more interesting with the twins about.

Gilraen had greeted the twins, who were friends she had known since she was a small child, and later close companions to she and her husband. But she was distracted with supervising her son’s breakfast. Estel had not slept well, ending up spending part of the night in his mother’s bed for the first time in months. Her little Aragorn, now Estel, seemed to have finally realized that his father Arathorn was never coming home, if the twins were back, and his Ada was not. It was a hard lesson, and Gilraen found it difficult to blame her son for being less than his normally cheerful self this morn. Which didn’t make the morning less difficult, but at least her little son wasn’t in a sour mood without clear cause, as was sometimes the case with any toddler.

Estel frowned at the spicy sauce covering the eggs, and the onions and tomatoes and herbs mixed into the bread rolls. He didn’t particularly like spicy foods, although everyone from Ada El to his Nana and Samnolas the sculptor assured him he might when he was older. Even Siana the cook said his taste had yet to fully mature, but she said that with a smile, and she always made Estel a special egg, with no spices, just for him. But this morning, she’d forgotten.

“Here, ion-nin.” His mother offered, “Have some bacon, and some sausage and apples. You like those.” Estel accepted the bacon, and chewed on it with a sigh. He wanted eggs, but not these spicy eggs. He wanted bread, but not this bread. Estel’s head ached, and he felt upset. He wanted to go back to yesterday, when he had still thought that Ada Ada might be coming back, someday. He knew it wasn’t Elrohir or Elladan’s fault, but he was upset with them anyway. Upset that they were here, and Ada Ada wasn’t. Upset that Siana had made them their favorite foods, and forgotten his. Just upset.

Melpomaen smiled consolingly at Estel. “How about some fresh fruit, tithen-pen?” He offered, giving Estel some of the fruits grown in the famous hot-houses set on Imladris’ gardens.

Elladan observed Estel for a few moments, before commenting. “He should drink water.”

Preparing himself for one of those moments when he would both want to strangle his younger (by nine minutes) gwador, and simultaneously thank him, Melpomaen asked, “Oh?”

“He’s dehydrated, probably from too much crying last night. He has a headache from that.” Elladan explained, not noticing as almost every member of his family turned to glare at him for being insensitive, although Elrond looked more annoyed with himself, for not having realized that was what was making Estel feel poorly this morning.

Estel, who was not deaf, also glared at Elladan. He wasn’t sure what it meant to be dehydrated, but he most certainly wasn’t, whatever it meant. And he wasn’t going to drink water, or do anything, just because Elladan said he should.

Elrohir, who had had over three thousand years to become accustomed to his twin, didn’t even sigh. “Estel, I can drink my water in less than a minute. All of it.” Elrohir proceeded to prove that he could, indeed, do so, before asking, “Can you drink yours faster?”

Estel, distracted, thought he probably could, and rose to the challenge. Gilraen winced, but decided she could tolerate gulping water at the breakfast table, this once.

“Well done.” Elrohir complimented, before offering, “I know a way to make the eggs taste less spicy.”

Estel leaned over in interest as Elrohir sliced the top layer of sauce and egg away, and then applied a liberal amount of sweetcream butter and mild cheese.

“Here,” Elrond’s heir offered, “try it now. But have more water or juice ready, in case you still don’t like it.”

Gilraen, who normally tried to restrict Estel’s consumption of butter to a reasonable amount, winced again. But Estel was eating, and seemed to be feeling better already.

Elladan reassured her absently, “Its good for his growing mind, Gilraen. We’ve actually observed that…”

“Elladan.” Melpomaen interrupted sharply. When Elladan looked up at him, surprised, Melpomaen admonished silently, Gilraen is human, and may take offense to your talking about different human customs concerning the consumption of fat by young children, and how it affects their ability to learn quickly as adults. Perhaps you could save this lecture from some other day, and not at the table?

Elladan sighed, because he felt strongly that no one properly appreciated his efforts to understand how the world worked, but conceded the point. Instead he started mixing sweetened milk and cinnamon into coffee, which he then handed to Elrohir, who gently encouraged Estel to drink the concoction.

Gilraen raised an eyebrow, but Elladan explained before she could object, “Normally I wouldn’t give a child his age this much caffeine, but it should help with the headache. Coffee is at least as good as willowbark tea for curing headaches, and the taste is less objectionable.”

Elrond watched his sons interact smoothly, the one identifying himself as the “bad elf,” the other as a the “good elf,” and between them managing to convince Estel to eat a full breakfast, and sighed. He remembered, long ago, his twin sons using a similar routine, complete with drowning unacceptable foods in butter and cheese, to convince a young cousin Legolas to eat, after the death of his mother and siblings. Normally, it was Elrohir who was the more fierce of the twins, but with small children and animals, his heir had a softer way about him, and it was Elladan who played the “bad elf.”

Even with eating a full breakfast, Estel was done before anyone else. Melpomaen left his breakfast and took the little boy to play with his toys in the long gallery, so that Gilraen had a chance to eat and enjoy her tea. The twins excused themselves not long after, to follow their gwador and their young foster-brother.

Mel had finished helping Estel set up his toy soldiers, obediently following the little boy’s directions, amused by how definite the child was as to how the little wooden and metal men and women should be arrayed. Estel’s toy soldiers, the oldest of them, had first belonged to Amroth, son of the old King Amdir of Lothlorien. Amroth, when King of Lothlorien, had given his toy soldiers to his friend and adopted cousin Haldir’s younger brother Rúmil. The collection had expanded greatly when in Rúmil’s custody, as Haldir enjoyed whittling toys for his brother, and Orophin could be persuaded to paint them. Then, when Celebrian gave birth to the twins, her brothers sent the toy soldiers to Imladris, and they came into the custody of the twins, which most of them survived.

The collection actually grew to the size of an army while in the care of the twins, as Haldir was just as indulgent an uncle as he had been an older brother, and the elves of Imaldris could not be outdone by a Lothlorien soldier who was not an artisan by trade, even if he was their lady’s adopted brother. The twins received dozens of new soldiers each year from the elves of Imladris, until they were old enough that the new soldiers went onto a shelf for display, and then into boxes for storage. When the twins’ younger brother Belemir was several years old, the toy soldiers came out of storage, and little Belemir would spend hours setting them up and waging large-scale mock battles, often in the company of Glorfindel. Then Arwen came along, and she would play with Belemir, but Arwen demanded lady soldiers, and toy soldiers representing her brothers and friends. And the elves of Imladris obliged. After Arwen and Belemir were grown, the toy army was consigned to boxes for many years, until Elrohir sent them to Greenwood, for the young Legolas. When Legolas became a soldier himself, he sent the toy soldiers back to Imladris. Last Yule, Melpomaen had rescued Amroth’s Army, as the family called it, from its boxes again, for Estel to play with.

“Amroth’s army marches again.” Elrohir noted with approval.

“What a good idea, Melpomaen.” Elladan added.

Melpomaen and his gwedyr talked softly about the twins’ various mercantile and other endeavors, as well as the upcoming council meeting, while Estel played quietly with his soldiers. Melpomaen returned, silently, to his point that Estel was an exceptional child, and that something was going on. The twins listened, but appeared skeptical. Estel was more or less ignoring the twins, although he would ask Mel to help him reposition one platoon or another, from time to time. Melpomaen, quietly stubborn, showed the twins some of Estel’s schoolwork, from days when the little boy had actually been paying attention. When Estel wasn’t minded to be in lessons, he still appeared to learn, but his written work was, well, unremarkable.

Estel advanced a company of orc, as Melpomaen insisted, silently, Estel is different. Your father knows something he hasn’t told us.

He’s just a clever, attractive, little boy. Elladan argued.

Elrohir, in complete agreement with his twin, added, He’s a toward child, for his age, but Arathorn and Arantar were much the same.

He has a name, Mel retorted, annoyed.

Elladan sighed, and knelt to greet the child. “Hello, Estel. That’s an impressive battle you have going on – who are your knights fighting?” The younger twin inquired.

Elrohir’s face stiffened in incredulous surprise as he took a closer look at the way Estel had Amroth’s army arranged. “That’s…that’s the way that the Witch King’s forces were arrayed against us during our last foray prior to the siege of Imladris. In almost perfect miniature.” Elrohir leaned down to get a better look at the toy soldier Elrohir, leading a line of mounted elven toy soldiers. Ignoring Estel’s yip of protest, Elrohir picked up the figure of himself, and the one of the Witch King of Angmar, fixing their positions, as he recalled that the Witch King had not been in his direct line of sight. Not that it had mattered, as the being had later proved impervious to arrows.

Estel yelled something angry and incoherent, before snapping “Mine!!” at Elrohir, and snatching first the toy Elrohir, then the toy Witch-King, back.

Melpomaen had been waiting to see how this went, and now sighed and turned to his young friend, glad Estel’s self-control had improved enough over the past year that he had only yelled and snatched, rather than hitting Elrohir to express his displeasure. “You must share your toys, Estel, even though Elrohir did not ask, first.” Melpomaen instructed gently, but firmly, taking the toys from Estel’s grasp and handing them to the surprised Elrohir.

Estel yelled in angry protest. To the twins, it sounded like Estel said, “No. Isdertis.” The little boy’s cheeks were flushed, and there were tears in his eyes. Elrohir would have given the toys back, to avert the upset, except he remembered something faintly from Belemir and Arwen’s elfling days, about not encouraging this sort of behavior.

But Melpomaen seemed to understand Estel’s garbled complaints, as he lectured soothingly, “I know it is your soldier, not his. But even so, we do not yell incoherently and snatch toys away from our playmates, Estel. It is not nice.” Estel glared at Elrohir, his little fists balled at his sides as he sobbed. Mel sighed. “Do you need some time in your room to calm down, tithen-pen?” Mel asked gently, adding “Sometimes I do.” Mel meant that sincerely. He loved the twins, they were his best friends, like his brothers. But they could be really annoying. Sometimes Mel wished he could have a time-out. Or give the twins one.

“No, hesta not me! Mine!!” Estel babbled firmly, around tears.

Mel again seemed to understand what Estel had said, as he replied. “I know, Estel, he started it. Elrohir should learn to ask permission to play with someone else’s toys. He is still working on his manners as well.”

“Elrohir can be very abrupt.” Elladan confided to Estel. “He’ll give your toys back once he is done admiring them. In the meantime, what say we add a handful of battle-trained oliphaunts to the Witch-King’s line of battle?”

Estel, distracted, frowned thoughtfully. “The Witch-King didn’t have oliphaunts.” He sniffled.

“That’s one of the best ways to learn how a battle might have gone differently, by adding something new, or changing the mix of forces.” Elladan explained, as Elrohir rolled his eyes and muttered, “Oliphaunts, again, Elladan?”

Estel nodded perceptively as he calmed down, now more intrigued than upset. “But I don’t have any oliphaunt toys.” He said sadly.

Elladan snapped his fingers and ran off, explaining that he would be right back.

Estel, confused, looked to Elrohir and Mel. “I have no idea.” Melpomaen said.

“He’s gone off to find you an oliphaunt or two.” Elrohir explained, “There used to be several, in Amroth’s army, but they were Elladan’s favorites, and he kept them on a shelf, when the rest went into storage. In the meantime, Estel, let me show you how the Witch-King was actually positioned, relative to me. I recall it quite clearly, because I did not have a clear shot at him, but Glorfindel did. ‘Twas how we learned he could not be killed with arrows, even Elladan’s special fire arrows.” Estel cocked his head in interest as Elrohir explained, earlier upset forgotten.

Elladan returned with two carved wooden oliphaunts, one soft stuffed oliphaunt, Lady Ambraxiel’s little dog Tangent, Estel’s puppy Huan, and Erestor’s black cat Gailchend.

Estel giggled merrily, and Elrohir and Melpomaen laughed as well, as Elladan and the twins played out how a poorly trained squad of oliphaunts (Huan, Tangent, and Gailchend) would have been more of a disaster for the Witch King than the brave defenders. After Elladan’s live conscripted “oliphaunts” had escaped, the twins and Estel played through more seriously how well-trained oliphaunts (the toys) might have assisted the Witch-King to breach the defenses of Imladris.

Estel was having a wonderful time. It was an unexpected bright point, in a day which had begun so poorly. “You’re good at playing soldiers.” He complemented Elrohir and Elladan. “I wish you could play with me all the time.”

The twins exchanged unreadable looks. “Why do you say that with such resignation?” Elladan asked.

Estel frowned, not understanding the question.

“So sadly, he means.” Mel interpreted softly.

“Oh.” Estel replied, “Well, I’m not going to get used to having you two around to play with. You’ll just go away again because I make you sad.”

Estel went back to playing, as he couldn’t read the twins the way Mel could. The twins were both saddened and boggled by the boy’s perceptiveness.

“It’s not you.” Elrohir offered. Estel frowned and turned away, putting the toy oliphaunt aside.

Elladan sighed again. Too perceptive by half. “Estel, its connected to you, but its not you, ok?”

The boy looked back at them, and nodded finally. When Gilraen came to collect him, he was back to mostly playing happily with the twins, though he was more reserved than he had been when Elladan first brought the oliphaunts and dogs and cat.

Title: Hope in the Healing, Part VI
Author: Susana
Series: Desperate Hours; Young Estel story
Feedback: Please use the form below
Rating: PG-13, to be safe.
Warning: AU.

Beta: Thanks to Kaylee, for help with Quenya and Sindarin (without you, there would be so many more mistakes and so much less proper use of the elven languages!) Thanks to Holly and Kaylee for their kind assistance with characterization of the Imladris elves. Thanks also to everyone who has reviewed earlier parts. Remaining mistakes are mine.

Disclaimer: All recognizable elements are Tolkien’s.

Summary: In this chapter, there is a meeting of the Imladris Council, or as Aran Ereinion once described them, the artisans, lore masters, and scientists who decide to meet every so often for coffee and conversation, and once in a blue moon, to govern. Also, Elrond discusses with his sons what he thinks of their recent tactics in the field.

Part VI

Erestor cast his gwador a fond but exasperated look, as Elrond reviewed a variety of notes in preparation for the quarterly meeting of all of Imladris’ heads of staff, called Imladris’ council. Elrond’s cousin and older foster brother, the former High King of the Noldor on Middle Earth, had irreverently observed that the “council” which served his baby foster-brother’s settlement was more like an academic discussion group than any kind of governing body. Elrond had smiled and said that it worked for Imladris, and that Ereinion was just jealous because he wished his council only met once every four months. What had followed was a brotherly squabble that Cirdan, Erestor, and Glorfindel had all declined to referee.

Becoming Elrond’s friend, and then his gwador, had taken Erestor down many strange roads. Erestor had known Elrond since Erestor had been but an elfling himself. Elrond had, in fact, been the healer who presided at Erestor’s own birth. Erestor’s parents, Arandil and Elain, had been personal friends of Aran Ereinion Gil-Galad, as well as his valued advisors. Ereinion’s personal friends all had known Elrond, as he was the King’s foster-brother and cousin as well as his heir. In the first centuries after Elrond’s twin brother sailed to Númenor, Ereinion had ordered that Elrond accompany him to informal get-togethers, if Elrond proved otherwise unamenable to attending them.

As an elfling, Erestor had not know that the King’s quiet young cousin was there under polite protest. He had only known that Elrond was happy to listen to him describe the books he had just read or what he was learning in lessons or the story he had made up, for as long as Erestor wanted to talk. Erestor’s childhood memories of Elrond were mostly faint impressions of a kind but sad elf, who was often in the company of his merry cousin the King. Erestor also had a few memories of Elrond treating his childhood scrapes, when Erestor’s mother Elain, also a healer, had been otherwise occupied. But Erestor had been a busy and happy elfling, and Elrond had been Aran Ereinion Gil-galad’s heir and advisor, a healer, and also a Captain in the Aran’s army. The paths of Ereinon’s heir and Arandil’s elfling had simply not crossed that frequently.

Then Erestor’s parents had left Lindon to be Gil-galad’s ambassadors to Eregion, when Erestor had still been quite young, so his childhood memories of Elrond were somewhat hazy. Although Elrond (and sometimes Ereinion, in Elrond’s name) had never forgotten to send presents for each of Erestor’s begetting days, as well as the begetting days of Erestor’s best friend in Eregion, Celebrian Celeborniel.

When Erestor returned to Lindon as a young archivist, just of age, he had been far too junior to run in the same circles as his parents’ old friends. Nor had Erestor been aware, at that point, that his parents had been friends and mentors to Elrond himself, in Elrond’s youth. In fact, it had been a matter of chance that Elrond was the senior healer on duty the day when Erestor had walked into the healer’s wing at the King’s palace in Lindon on behalf of a fishing hawk. Neither Erestor nor Elrond had known that they were beginning on a path that would lead them to follow a family tradition.

Elrond had already been a senior healer in service to the Aran, and the Aran’s own heir, when Erestor first met him again as an adult, that long ago day. Being Elrond’s friend had brought Erestor into close association with Aran Ereinion, who had made Erestor one of his advisors, when Erestor had been scandalously young for such an honor. Since year 1700 of the Second Age, Erestor had pledged his loyalty to Elrond, as Aran Gil-galad’s deputy in Eriador, at Imladris. Since Aran Ereinion’s death at the last battle of the Last Alliance, at the end of the Second Age, Elrond had been by right Aran Golodhrim in Endore, High King of the Noldor elves on Middle Earth. It was a title Erestor’s gwador had never claimed, though he did occasionally take advantage of its prerogatives. Some might have wondered how the … lamentably clever, twin sons of Lord Elrond, had come by some of their personality traits. Erestor and his family did not have to wonder. They had known Elrond in his younger days, and Erestor’s father had known Elros, as well.

Thinking of the twins brought Erestor back to the reason for his exasperation with his gwador Elrond. “You know,” Erestor ventured, “I think you should ask the twins to stay, and help you with the raising of Estel, and other preparations for the approaching crisis.”

Elrond looked up at Erestor, and frowned. A very older-brotherly, I-am-the-Lord-of-Imladris-and-I-know-best, expression.

It did not intimidate Erestor. “Anatar agrees with me.” He related, undaunted.

“He would.” Elrond said with a sigh, “He took my irrepressible sons into his guard more than a full decade early, did he not?”

“He had your permission.” Erestor defended Glorfindel with a half smile.

“He had my horrified acquiescence.” Elrond disagreed, but a faint smile was tugging at his lips. “That is somewhat different than my permission. But, please, tithen-gwador, do elaborate.”

Erestor took that opening. For Elrond, it was practically an admission that Erestor was right, and Elrond wrong. “With Sauron’s allies increasing their activities, more of the work of opposing them is going through Imlradris. It is too much for us to deal with, at the same time that we are preparing this most important of Isildur’s heirs.”

Elrond shook his head, appearing troubled rather than decisive. “I am proud of what the twins have been doing with the Dunedain. I do not want them to have to choose between the duties they have chosen, to our human kin, and what should properly be my duties, here.”

Erestor sighed, wishing he had written down certain conversations that Ereinion had once had with Elrond, so that Erestor could now rub his gwador’s face in the fact that Elrond had practically turned into his elder cousin, some days. “They’re your sons, gwador.” Erestor pointed out gently, “If they feel they cannot be spared by their human allies, they will not say yes. But, when Ereinion had problems, did you not want to know, as his heir, and his kinsman, and his friend?”

Elrond frowned again, but long experience with his friend allowed Erestor to read it as thoughtfulness, rather than disagreement. “I am not a King, Erestor. My problems are not so great as Ereinion’s once were.” Elrond argued. Elrond thought it was a very great distinction, that he was not a King as Ereinion had once been.

Erestor asked the Valar for patience, before commenting neutrally, “Mmm-hmm. And who coordinates the communication between here, Greenwood, Lothlorien, and Mithlond, as well as a number of human cities, regarding our opposition to Mordor?”

Elrond snorted, before retorting. “You do.” Then, more honestly, “Well, I do, but you help a great deal. As does Melpomaen, and Glorfindel, provided we do not require him to write anything personally.”

Erestor shuddered. Normally Galadriel and Glorfindel got along quite well, but that last letter Glorfindel had sent, after the twins ran into trouble near Lothlorien, had been bluntly enough worded to anger even Elrond’s doting mother-by-law and kinswoman. Putting that unfortunate memory aside, Erestor returned to his argument, “My point is, you’re doing the twins a disservice. And my son their advisor and gwador, as well.”

Elrond sighed, and offered Erestor a small smile of apology. “I suppose you are right, Erestor, as usual. Perhaps I will ask for their assistance. But I would have to tell them everything.”

Erestor nodded. That was undoubtedly true. The twins with half of a story were like…a cat, who could see the end of a ball of yarn. “Probably it is time for that, anyway.” He related tactfully, adding, “I think Mel may have guessed something, and whatever he guessed, he’d have told the twins. They probably already know something is up.”

Elrond came to a decision, and asked a passing messenger, busy on this day of the council meeting, to fetch his sons, and Lord Melpomaen as well. Erestor asked Glorfindel to join them, and within a dozen minutes, the two elves had become six. The older triumvirate who ruled Imladris, and the younger triumvirate who went out into the world, and who felt rather than saw the tides of change approaching. Between the six of them, they had enabled the elven city to ride out the storms of the past several thousand years, and at the same time remain true to the heirs of Isildur, Elrond’s distant nephews, the twins’ first cousins of increasing generations removal.

Considering his sons and his gwador’s son, Elrond mused that the relationship between the two triumvirates was not an exact parallel, though those who knew them well but not intimately normally equated Elrohir with Glorfindel, Melpomaen with Erestor, and sometimes Elladan with Elrond.

And Elrohir was a military prodigy, no one had questioned that since Elrond’s heir’s earliest elfling days. And Elrohir and Glorfindel did often side together on issues pertaining to security and arms training. But Elrohir often sided with his father as well, as he was the more…responsible, in some ways, of the twins. Though he was also the most likely to suddenly decide to take physical retribution on some elf or human (who usually deserved it, but not perhaps to the extent Elrohir thouht appropriate), which made him again like unto Glorfindel. Melpomaen usually sided with Erestor, and the two of them were perhaps the closest parallel, of the six of them. Erestor, like Melpomaen, rarely put his foot down, but when he did, his friends listened seriously, and often did as he had asked.

Though even between Elrond’s gwador and his gwador’s son, there were differences. For instance, Melpomaen had adopted more of a humor and handle strategy with the twins, rather than the sometimes loud lectures that Erestor bestowed upon Elrond, when he thought his gwador was being particularly wrong-headed. But Melpomaen was actually nine years older than the twins, and the three had grown up together, from their adolescence. That was a very different start than the relationship between Elrond and Erestor. Elrond had been a centuries-old war hero, a council Lord, and a senior healer, by the time he had become friends with the fifty year old junior scribe Erestor.

More, Elrond had literally been the healer in attendance at Erestor’s birth. The junior healer, but it had been Elrond who had fought – and convinced – the senior healers to have Erestor’s mother Lady Elain drugged to induce early labor, so that Erestor would be a smaller than normal baby when they had to manipulate his tiny form from its breech position safely into the world. Elrond had seen similar techniques prove successful, working with healers amongst his human kin. Lady Elain and Lord Arandil, with even the most senior master healers predicting a dangerous birth, had been willing to try Elrond’s crazy idea. It had been one of the five or six most excruciatingly difficult births Elrond had presided at in six millenia, that had still turned out well. Not so, unfortunately, with the birth of Erestor’s own first son.

So, there were reasons why Mel, who was actually nine years older than his sons, could handle the twins on a more even footing. And reasons why Erestor had to speak more sharply to be listened to by his gwador Elrond, who was at times protective of his much younger gwador, whose wife and first child Elrond still mourned he had not been a great enough healer to save. Erestor’s perspective on this, which Elrond knew because they’d been drunk enough to discuss it on several occasions, was that Elrond’s tragic childhood had left him with severe trust and abandonment issues, whereby the twins had been raised by two loving parents and a caring extended family, and were just more sane. This was what Elladan thought, as well, but Elrond was too set in his ways to change completely, though he appreciated that his family cared enough to point out his flaws and irrationalities. Repeatedly, in fact, and without much in the way of encouragement from Elrond.

And Elladan…Elladan was Elrond, with less tact and more boldness and creativity. Elladan was, alternatively and sometimes all at once, a disaster, a catastrophe, and a miracle. What frightened Elrond was that Elladan could be careful, subtle, and discreet, when he really wanted to be, though it did not come easily to him. Elladan was Elrond if he had been bolder, and had not learned caution and quiet from such a harsh school. Elrohir wasn’t Elros, and Elladan wasn’t Elrond. But there were times when the parallels were too close for Elrond’s comfort.

“Ada?” Elladan questioned, echoed by his twin, both surprised to have been summoned before the council meeting. It was not unusual for Elrond to have a pre-meeting with his closest advisors, but it was unusual for it to be unscheduled. The twins knew their father well, and he was an elf who did not like departures from the routine.

“My Lord?” Melpomaen asked, only to wince as Lord Elrond shook his head at his honorary nephew’s formality, and then to yelp “Ow!” in surprise as Glorfindel kicked his shin. Glorfindel had not given up on trying to get his great-grandson to relax and feel more like family amongst them, and Glorfindel was comfortable enough with Melpomaen at this point to express that opinion as he would with Erestor or Elrond. Forcefully.

“Anatar, really.” Erestor reprimanded his grandfather gently.

Glorfindel patted Mel’s shoulder and apologized, though he gave his Lord and his grandson an aggrieved look. They had thought nothing of kicking him when they had all three been members of Ereinion’s council, and Glorfindel had looked ready to express especially honest opinions.

Elrond, for a change having the opportunity to shake his head at the antics of his gwador’s family, gestured for his sons and advisors to take a seat at the round table in the small council room adjoining his study.

“Ionnath-nin, Melpomaen, I have asked for speech with you at such short notice because we have decided that you should be aware… Galadriel has seen, and I have seen, that the end of this age approaches us. The increased orc activity the Dunedain have been frantically countering is not an isolated incident. Slowly but surely, Sauron’s lieutenants are gathering his forces, and for a certainty it must be at their master’s order. Sauron’s gold and other, darker bribes flow through the south lands and the lands of the Easterlings again, and the orcs and spiders grow bolder in the Greenwood.”

The twins appeared unsurprised but thoughtful, more elves who had heard something confirmed which they had already suspected, than the recipients of a grand revelation. A quick look passed between them, and Elrond reflected with some amusement that the younger three elves had a fairly regular if fluid system of decision making. All three contributed ideas, though Elladan contributed the most. So far as Elrond had been able to observe, they actually took action on an issue when (in order of frequency) (a) Elrohir decided that they would; (b) Melpomaen really wanted to; or © Elladan proved completely undistractable from whatever it was that he had his heart set on.

Melpomaen and Elrohir and Elladan, between the three of them, exchanged a final look, which apparently elected Elladan as their spokesman. “Ada, we should invite Lady Ambraxiel and Lord Ingloren to join us, in the discussion of military matters. As well as Lieutenant Drystan, and perhaps…hmm, Lieutenant Thenithol, as well.”

Elrond considered that for a moment. Ambaraxiel and Ingloren had both come from the undying lands with the Host of the Valar to fight in the War of Wrath, and then had decided to stay on Middle Earth, each for their own reasons. Although they were not as mighty as the reborn Glorfindel, or as the ringbearers Elrond or Galadriel, Ingloren and Ambaraxiel were still quite powerful. More, they were among the wisest of elven kind on Middle Earth, Lords of the Eldar from beyond the furthest seas.

Elrohir had grasped the strategic ramifications of Elrond’s explanation immediately, and then moved beyond them in a direction Elrond hadn’t yet contemplated. “Ada, we should also inform Lady Ambaraxiel for another reason, so that she can have the head engineers start working on possible defenses to Mordor’s current weaponry, and siege arsenal.”

Elladan added, “And we should coordinate with the Gray Wanderer, to see what he knows of Mordor’s activities. As well as the alchemists here under Lord Ingloren, to counter those weapons of Mordor’s which are more chemically based, and concoct antidotes to Sauron’s current arsenal of poisons and drugs. And I assume you’ve already been in communication with our daeredhryn in Lothlorien?”

“And Cousin Thranduil in the Greenwood?” Elrohir added. He and Thranduil had always gotten on quite well. Thranduil loved all of Elrond’s children, but he was still somewhat cautious of having both of Elrond’s twin sons in his Kingdom at the same time, as a result of an incident which had occurred some centuries ago.

Elrond paused to admire his sons’ nimble and clever minds. Still, despite that, the twins were not conceited, although they had been well on their way to thinking themselves the smartest elflings on Middle Earth, when the Valar (by the means of Elrond’s own foster-father Lord Cirdan) had sent Melpomaen to Elrond’s house when his sons had been teenagers. Mel was Erestor’s son in every way that mattered, and he had quickly become the companion of Elrond’s sons as Erestor had been Elrond’s, Arandil had been Earendil’s and then Ereinion’s, and Glorfindel had been Turgon’s, and Idril’s as well. Vorondanyar, the most faithful, the family of Glorfindel and Laureamoriel, and their kinsmen and descendants.

Elrond’s family had been lucky indeed, that one day long ago in Tirion, when Lord Turucano (who became King Turgon) had first befriended the young warrior Laurefindil (who became Lord Glorfindel). Loyalty to Turgon was what had brought Glorfindel to Middle Earth, to Gondolin. Loyalty to Turgon’s daughter Idril and her young family was what Glorfindel had once died for. Glorfindel’s son had been badly wounded defending Turgon during the Fall of Gondolin, but he had survived, to later become Earendil’s, then later Elros’ and Elrond’s, tutor, guard, and friend. And the father of Elrond’s best friend Erestor, as well. Erestor, who had in turn adopted Melpomaen, the best friend and companion of Elrond’s twin sons.

Melpomaen, a few beats behind the twins as he remained the quieter of the three of them, waiting to voice a thought until he had realized that no one else would, added, “It may well be worth talking to Master Hisilr and the minstrels, those who write songs which they are accustomed to sharing with human friends and students, in particular. Songs which remind the humans that we elves have long been their allies, and which speak of the influence Mordor can have over the minds of men, and how to weaken it.”

Erestor shared a knowing grin with Glorfindel. Elrond gave them both a look. Yes, you were right. It was right to tell them today. I should have told them, earlier. But the fewer beings who know of Estel’s likely fate, the better.

Right on time, Elladan, Elrond’s most lamentably perceptive child excepting only perhaps Arwen, asked, “Ada, what does that mean, for Estel?”

Three sets of young eyes moved intently to Elrond’s face. “It means he is the last heir of Isildur, unless Sauron is defeated.” The Lord of Imladris related gravely, worried for his newest child, the human one, the one whose life was so endangered.

The twins’ faces stiffened in fear and defiance. “Well, then, we’re just going to have to see to it that he is.” Elladan said.

“We’ll help you to train Estel, staring even earlier than we did with his…father.” Elrohir added, and Elrond sighed to himself to realize Elrohir was still having trouble even saying Arathorn’s name.

“Should we send for the military council, my L…Uncle Elrond, and discuss with them how best to precede, before the larger meeting?” Melpomaen asked quietly. Glorfindel didn’t comment, but his eyes twinkled in approval.

Elrond sighed again, this time less heavily, as Erestor’s eyes twinkled. Elrond wasn’t going to hear the end of how he should just have listened to Erestor months ago, not for some time. “Yes, Melpomaen. But not the whole military council…only Ingloren, Ambaraxiel, and Drystan. And Gilraen, as well.”

Melpomaen merely nodded and went to make the arrangements, but Elrohir asked, “Adar, I understand why not the whole military council, but surely we can extend our trust to Thenithol.”

Elrond shook his head, “Elrohir, I do not wish to argue over this with you. Thenithol is indeed trustworthy, and I trust that he will do as you and your brother ask without having to be told why. I am sorry as it is somewhat unfair to ask him to, but,” Elrond paused, seeking for the best way to explain this to his children. Oddly, it was Elladan who assisted.

“Glorfindel and Erestor agree with Ada, ‘Roh. Glor remembers the Fall of Gondolin, from inside, from treachery. It was Maeglin alone who was untrue, but Maeglin knew watch schedules in part because there were elven soldiers who did not know better than to tell the King’s nephew when they would be on duty.” Elladan pointed out.

“And then there was Eregion.” Erestor added gently, knowing that Elrohir had studied with Melpomaen and his twin how Sauron had infiltrated that city, and used its talented smiths for his own evil plans.

Elrohir still looked unhappy, so Glorfindel added, “And we all remember Annuminas, and how we might have lost Arnor’s royal line earlier in this age, had it not been for clever Arwen.” And Belemir, but out of respect for Elrond’s grief, Glorfindel left Belemir’s name unsaid. Keeping Elrond and his line safe was Glorinfindel’s divinely-given charge, but besides that the reborn elf loved Elrond and his children like they were Glorfindel’s own grandchildren. And Elrohir was Elrond’s son in this matter, Glorfindel knew. Elrond did not speak of Elros, Celebrian, Andreth, or Belemir, if he could possibly help it. Nor the unborn grandchild they had lost when Belemir’s human wife had died at sea.

Elrohir reluctantly nodded, but still seemed torn, so Melpomaen added gently, “Its not Thenithol himself, ‘Roh. Its just that the only way to protect some information, is to keep it as close as possible. Sauron is very clever, and will often recruit to his service men who can pass as honest and good amongst other men and even elves. Ingloren and Ambaraxiel survived the War of Wrath, and both recognized Annatar as untrustworthy when he came to Eregion, so your Adar feels he can trust their judgment. Ingloren recognized Annatar for what he was and left Eregion when your daeredhryn did, and Ambaraxiel stayed to help my daeredhyrn stay as long as Ereinion allowed them, keeping the lines of information open between Eregion, Lindon, and Lothlorien. They have aided Ada before, and he trusts not just their loyalty but also their judgment and discretion, in the most impossible of circumstances.”

“And Drystan was my own foster-brother’s gwador, and often privy to confidences that I know he kept to himself.” Elrond said gently, putting a hand on his heir’s shoulder. “Do you have any further objections, Elrohir-nin? If so I will hear them, though I doubt I will change my mind.”

“Nay, Ada.” Elrohir said with a sigh, accepting his father’s judgment. “I would choose differently, but I respect your decision. As Daernana told us, Nargothorond may never have turned against its master, if great-uncle Finrod Felagund had not trusted his cousins Celegorm and Curufin, and admitted elves to his councils who gossiped freely with them.”

Elrond squeezed his son’s hands, reflecting to himself that he was somewhat surprised Galadriel had shared that story with the twins, but glad for it.

Then the elves who had been called arrived, as well as Gilraen, and the ten of them moved to the larger council room, and set about figuring out the best ways to prepare for the forthcoming intensified struggle against their ages-old Enemy. Gilraen’s pretty face whitened to hear Elrond tell her so bluntly of her son’s danger, but she was otherwise composed. “My mother Ivorwen saw some of this.” Gilraen related, tone carefully controlled. “It does not come as a complete surprise, and it is part of why I sought sanctuary, here.”

As the discussion continued, Elrond reflected on how grateful he was to have such valuable assistance, if they must face the dark one again. He also hid his amusement at his fellow elves’ growing respect for Gilraen, as she helped them determine how best to enlist the aid of her people. Elrond was not surprised. Gilraen was very much Imrazor’s many-times great-niece, and it had been Imrazor who had been instrumental in catching one of Elendil’s captains, who had been subverted by the enemy, during the War of the Last Alliance.

“I think that the situation merits continuing with the charade that you and Thranduil are on the outs, Elrond.” Erestor commented quietly, when the topic turned to their own counter-intelligence measures.

“Yes, I agree. Though Thranduil is enjoying this entirely too much.” Elrond said, with a rueful smile. His younger cousin the King of the Greenwood was quite an actor.

“Yes.” Erestor agreed, hiding his own smile, “But it does seem to be effective, as Sauron has pretty much stopped his efforts to turn the elven realms against one another, believing that task already complete.”

“Still,” Elrohir added with some concern, “That means we can’t recall Arwen, unless Ada and Glor have changed their minds about it being too dangerous to have we younger elves serve as unofficial messengers and envoys, as we had been doing previously?”

Glorfindel shook his head, “I am sorry, guren. It is too dangerous. Despite Sauron’s not realizing, so far as we can tell, at least, that you were serving as your Adar’s envoy in Greenwood and Elladan in Lothlorien, he does realize that you and your twin, all of you, really, would be valuable hostages. To use you as routine messengers for sensitive matters, when Arwen can hear Elrond from Lothlorien and Orophin can hear Lady Galadriel from Thranduil’s hall, well, it is not worth the risk.”

At the end of the meeting, the discussion again turned to Estel.

Elrohir commented quietly, “I’m no expert, but that’s not normal, is it, for a child to be setting up a scale reenactment of a battle, accurately, at age three?

Elrond considered that, “No, not to my knowledge, ion-nin, although I do recall Elros would accomplish similar feats, with my father and Arandil’s sand table.”

Gilraen shook her head, “I do not know if it is normal, or not. I was not much around children, before my own son. It is normal for Estel.”

“Kids do all sorts of strange things, it is well he shows talent for what he’ll have to do someday as chieftain.” Elladan commented blandly.

Elrond eyed his second son intently, but let the issue settle. It was almost time for the larger council meeting to begin, and he wanted a private word with his sons. Pulling them aside into his office, Elrond quickly assured them, “I am still planning to discuss the other incident after the meeting, but I have a request to make of you.” Elrond paused, having trouble asking for help, even from elves he trusted as much as he did his sons. “I would like the two of you to stay here, instead of returning to the Dunedain, in the spring.” He said at last.

Elrohir’s eyes widened, as did Elladan’s. Their fingers flickered and their eyes met as they spoke between themselves for a moment. Finally, Elrohir said, “We will consider it very seriously, Ada.”

“And we will, if you truly need us, or if you make it an order.” Elladan added, “But we have responsibilities to the Dunedain, as well.”

“I know you do, ionnath-nin. And I am proud of you, I honor you, in fact, for the responsibilities you have taken on to your distant cousins’ men.” Elrond said gently. “And I will not make it an order. I understand that you are torn, and I will respect your decision, whatever it may be.”

The twins nodded, and Elrond embraced them both before taking a deep breath, and going to deal with his council. Who were, as councils went, fairly non-objectionable, but it was still not the loremaster’s favorite day of the quarter.

One thing that had to be understood about Imladris, was that it was neither a settlement nor a city in the normal meaning of such words. It was more like a university. Oh, it was true enoguh that Imladris was a city, in that it was about the size of a large human town, though far more intricate in some ways. But the day-to-day matters of Imladris ran more in spite of itself, than as a matter of course. The elves of Imladris, and the humans who came to live with them, were more interested in the accumulation and advancement of knowledge, and the advancing of technologies and the arts, then in making sure that they had enough food to eat or were properly prepared for the various formalities of elven life.

In fact, Aran Ereinion Gil-galad had once thrown his hands up in amused despair at how his little foster-brother’s refuge failed to even have the most basic operating council, but somehow still functioned. “I think you should have a candle-maker on your council too, pityahano. After all, you have the tailor and the baker.” Elrond could recall Ereinion telling him wryly, right before they left Imladris together with the armies of the Last Alliance. Elrond had replied seriously that the chief cook (who had then been a certain pastry chef familiar to both of them, one Carmave, brother of Nallos) was also representing the candle-stick makers, and Imladris was mostly using lanterns, rahter than candles. Ereinion hadn’t grasped that Elrond was purposely missing his sarcasm, and had given up. Elrond wished, now, that he had risen to that jibe, had given Ereinion the pleasure of having once again flustered his younger foster-brother. But there were no do-overs in life, and if the Valar were kind, Elrond would see Ereinion again, one day in the West.

One of Lady Celebrian’s handmaidens had been horrified that Elrond’s heads of staff included not a single elf with any common sense (in her opinion), and met on average only once a month. Elrond had invited that handmaiden to join the council, and eventually to become his castellan. And she had proven to be the most efficient and capable administrator who had ever served Imladris in that position, though she had changed her title to something else. But Elrond hadn’t cared what she called herself, and thinking of her was still too painful, as she had also been Celebrian’s shadow. And Elrond missed his wife, at least as much as he had once missed Elros.

Elrond was interested to observe that his old friend and sometime-rival Moicasion was attending, as well as his daughter Ceredithlas, who usually handled administrative matters for their Healing Ward. Amused and touched, Elrond resolved to Moicasion aside after the meeting, to thank him. And to talk to Erestor and Glorfindel, about perhaps inviting Moicasion to join the smaller privy council. Moicasion’s discretion was absolute, and his judgment sound.

During the first part of meeting, the twins were quieter than normal, as they’d been more or less absent the past few years and had fewer suggestions regarding the day-to-day running of Imladris than they had had at other points. The main topics of discussion surrounded the need for increased provisions and guards. More elves were sailing for Mithlond from Greenwood or Lothlorien, and since Imladris was the only elven outpost inbetween those lands and Mithlond, that meant they more frequently had elven guests. There were also an increasing number of human messengers from Gondor, Dol Amroth, and other more far-away lands, as well as the Arnor Dunedain.

During the meeting, Elrond observed with interest that the twins just backed Melpomaen’s recommendations, and cast their votes as he did. When the twins had been in residence, they were more likely to make their own suggestions, and to take differing positions. Elladan, in particular, possessed Celebrian’s charm, and even her tact, on the rare occasions he deigned to exercise it. More, he had a gift for team-building. Elrohir was a respected leader amongst the younger elves, but except for his twin and his gwador, and rarely a few chosen protegees such as their cousin Legolas, Elrohir rarely drew other elves into their confidence, preferring to let Elladan figure out how it would be best to do so. But both of his sons followed Melpomaen’s lead without question or qualm, since their absence meant they were not abreast of current issues.

In some ways, Elrond actually envied his sons’ relationship with Melpomaen. Between Elrond, his gwador, and his gwador’s grandfather, Elrond had always been their sworn Lord. Fortunately, Erestor and Glorfindel were not respecters of rank and title most of the time, but it was still there. And Glorfindel was thousands of years older than himself or Erestor. He was their friend, yes, and even their drinking companion, but he could go from friend to grandfatherly authority figure in the blink of an eye when he chose. And Glorfindel, though he was kind and loved them all dearly, just was not the indulgent, doting, type of grandfather. To be fair to Glorfindel, he was normally not the kind of elven elder who regularly uttered idiotic platitudes such as “in my days, young elves like you..etc.” But sometimes, he was. And Glorfindel was an elder, Erestor’s actual grandfather, and a contemporary of Elrond’s great-grandfather. It gave the balrog-slayer a certain authority in their relationship, though he was Elrond’s vassal, and cheerfully admitted to being the inferior of the three of them when it came to patience, off the battlefield. How Glorfindel could wait with perfection patience for a strategy to ripen, or even for a fine stag to tip toe exactly into position, Elrond did not know. Glorfindel certainly had no patience for paperwork, or for discussions, once they veered off topics of his interest. As a matter of fact, Glor, vorondanya, pay attention, please. When we don’t pay attention to Elladan and the alchemists, we always end up regretting it.

Glorfindel frowned, Name once, other than the siege, and surely they’d not do something like that again without prior notice…..

Elrond suppressed a smile, The great spider incident, though that was in Greenwood. The Ice Horse incident. The …

Glorfindel waved Elrond to silence, startling some of the elves who did not know they had been conversing, and paused to glare at Elladan, who inched closer to Melpomaen. But Glorfindel did pay closer attention, for the rest of the meeting.

As the meeting concluded, Moicasion approached Elrond, “My Lord, if I may have a moment of your time?”

Motioning for Erestor and Glorfindel to join him, Elrond agreed, “Of course, Mo. We can discuss this in my office.”

Melpomaen and the twins observed this, Melpomaen with a profound sense of relief that Elrond had agreed to trust someone else. Moicasion had a fine enough hand for a healer, and might well be willing to assist with some of Elrond’s confidential correspondence. Melpomaen looked with some sympathy to his gwedyr, who he knew were staying to speak with their Adar, after. “Unless you want me to stay, I’ve work to do for your Adar, and my Adar, and the two of you.” Melpomaen told them gently.

Elrohir blinked. “For us?” He asked, confused.

“Your new inks and scrolls will not order themselves, Elrohir.” Melpomaen pointed out good-humoredly, “And I need to correspond with the blacksmith’s guild in Minas Tirith, the swordsmiths in Dol Amroth, and the dwarven smiths in Erebor, on your behalf, concerning the changes to armor and offensive weaponry that you think would be effective against the new curved blades some of the orcs are carrying.”

“Oh, and don’t forget to order those chemicals we spoke of.” Elladan added. “I need a better accelerant- one that can be timed more exactly.”

Elrohir looked at his twin incredulously We have not yet finished paying our loved ones for the last time you wanted to set something large on fire, and here you are planning to do it again?

Elladan wiggled a finger, indicating “No,” before continuing in osanwe, I want to do it better, gwanur. To be able to, at least. Maybe they’re right, and we should not have set those orcs on fire. Maybe the situation was not yet that desperate….I am not sure. I do not regret the price we must pay, if it saved even one of the Dunedain who would have died over this winter and next spring, with the orcs unabashed. Images passed between the twins of Lord Dirhael, slowing down in his increasing age. Of the new spymaster, Captain Oskari, earnest and true, who had taken on a job he was unsuited for, because the Dunedain had lost their young spymaster when they lost their young chieftain. And of trainee Magordan, so young and promising. Perhaps it had been worth it, after all, Elrohir considered. And even it wasn’t, Elladan continued, What if we need to set something on fire and blow it up at a set time, someday? Or one of the Dunedain rangers does? Its a worthwhile line of inquiry, gwanur.

Elrohir sighed, and almost shrugged before he caught himself. Lord Elrond was in the room again, bidding farewell to Mo and Erestor. And Elrond viewed shrugging as vulgar, the non-verbal equivalent of a grammatical error. Elrohir didn’t fear his father, but there was no need, at this particular moment, to annoy Elrond any more than necessary. You win. He told Elladan, following it with, but don’t mention it to Ada or Glor until later, if you can help it.

Ellaan rolled his eyes. I’m not an idiot.

Mel chuckled, lending weight to Elrohir’s theory that sometimes, their gwador heard them just fine, no matter how they communicated.

Then the twins were alone with their father and their Captain.

“I’ll wait for you two in my office, Lieutenants.” Glorfindel cautioned his unhappy former students, pausing to embrace them again. “I am glad you are home safely.” The Captain assured the talented younger warriors who were like his own great-grandsons, stroking Elrohir’s soft cheek, and smoothing the dark flyaway strands which always seemed to escape from Elladan’s warrior’s braids, but never from Elrohir’s.

Elrohir stepped on his brother’s foot before Elladan could ask “Glor” to please show his welcome by not blistering their backsides. Captain Glorfindel had been known to add extra strokes for malingering and attempting to avoid punishments.

When they were alone, Lord Elrond raised a brow at his sons. “Well, ionnath-nin? Swinging over a watery chasm after setting a boat full of orcs on fire? Was that really the best way to go about encouraging them not to return?”

Elladan sighed, and side-stepped Elrohir’s foot, which was again aiming for his twin’s.

Elrohir gave his father a contrite glance, before saying. “We were very frustrated, Ada. But we should have come up with a …less reckless plan, you are right.”

“Or at least out-waited the down-draft.” Elladan commented honestly, prompting a sigh of aggravation from their father, and a glare from his brother. “Oops.” added Elladan. “Sorry, Ada, I did not mean to mislead you, or give you more information than you need, and sometimes it is a fine line.”

“One on which you should always err on the side of more information.” Elrond advised gently, arising from his seat behind the desk to embrace both twins, still basking in the joy of having them home, safe, again.

“That’s not what you said after we came up with those chemicals to hurl at the Witch-King during the siege, Ada.” Elladan commented, dancing eyes alight.

“True enough, Elladan. But when your safety or your twin’s is at issue, I would prefer to know more rather than less, hmm?” Their father clarified, looking with pleasure at his handsome, capable sons, and regretful that he must take them to task. But determined that they would learn to value their own safety, even if it meant he must belabor the point on their poor backsides throughout all of the ages of time. “Are either of you in any doubt as to why I am about to call you to account?”

The twins shook their heads sadly. “No, Ada.” Elrohir answered for both of them.

“For recklessness in the fireboat incident.” Elladan clarified.

“That, and for riding throguh the pass though the snows had already started. You both know better, ionnath-nin. Whole armies have been lost in these mountains in winter.” Elrond himself had in fact once arranged for that to be so, during the times Imladris had been under siege.

“But we know these mountains, Ada.” Elrohir protested.

“Besides, are you not happy to have us home for Yule?” Elladan added.

Elrond pulled his oldest children close to him again, pressing a kiss to each of their brows. “Of course I am. We all are. But I would rather have had you winter again with the Dunedain, and missed you terribly for another season, then had you risk your lives to be home by Yule. Deliriously happy though I am to have you both home with me.”

“And you are going to punish us for that?” Elladan observed in unhappy surprise. “Ada, that is not logical.” He complained, before bargaining “Besides, Captain the Lord Dirhael already birched us for the fireboat incident, so perhaps we could just… no, no I suppose not.” Elladan concluded sadly, at his father’s raised eyebrow.

“I am glad that Dirhael took you to task, as was his right as your commander at the time.” Elrond said gently, knowing it must have been embarrassng for the twins to be birched by the commander of the Dunedain, as they had once taught the young Dirhael when he had been a fosterling at Imladris. “But I am your father, and Glorfindel is your permanent commander, and we both get a piece of your hides, as well, ionnath-nin.”

“Your turn to go first, ‘Dan.” Elrohir commented softly. “Best to get it over with, muindor.”

Elrond nodded encouragingly. Unless one twin had been obviously more at fault for a given incident, he and Celebrian had always had them take turns in being the first to receive a punishment. Elrond had clear memories of Elros’ resentment that Elrond had always been punished second just for being the younger twin, and he had wanted to avoid that small inequity between his own twin sons. Elrond was surprised the twins remembered whose turn it was to take the unenviable position over their father’s knee first, as it had been some decades since they had last managed to upset or worry him enough to bring him to punish them in this manner. But that occasion had probably been just as memorable for them, Elrond reflected, as he opened one of his desk drawers and pulled out a replica of the paddle he had once made, long ago, at Ereinion’s order.

“Come here, Elladan.” Elrond prompted his less stoic son gently, as he took a seat on an armless chair. “It will be over soon, ion-nin.”

Elladan gave his father a wide-eyed, sad look, before gracefully walking over, loosening the ties to his green leggings, and bending over his father’s lap. Elrond put the paddle on the edge of the table and gently adjusted his son, so that Elladan’s muscular, pale bottom was well positioned for the sound spanking he was about to receive.

“Are you ready, ion-nin?” Elrond asked, resting his hand gently on his son’s backside.

Elladan always thought that was a stupid question, but he did want to have it over with, so he softly replied, “Yes,” fighting not to clench his muscles in anticipation of the first hard smack of his Ada’s hand. He did not have long to wait, Elrond quickly and firmly began expressing his strong disapproval of the twins’ recent antics, with a series of sound smacks to Elladan’s upturned bottom.

Elladan closed his gray eyes and tried to hold still, and to not cry out. Lord Elrond was a kind, understanding, and loving father, but he had a very hard hand. Which Elladan, trying to distract himself, decided made some sense. After all, his father had centuries of experience at disciplining the elves under his care, including his five children. While Andreth and even to some degree Arwen had not required as much of their famous father’s hands-on attention, he, his twin, and even their younger brother Belemir had been quite a handful. Elladan hissed and groaned a little bit as his father’s hand began its obsessive (in his opinion) focus on his sit spots. “Ada,” Elladan called out in protest, as his entire bottom already felt like it might spontaneously combust, “why… must you… be… such an… oww… overachiever… at… oww!” Elladan was very much regretting that his father was the type of elf who was determined to do everything thoroughly and well, including spank his erring sons.

“Why do you have to talk so very much?” Elrohir murmured to his brother, walking over and kneeling to clasp Elladan’s hands tightly. Elladan squeezed back, gladly, meeting Elrohir’s caring, concerned, sympathetic, amused, and loving eyes. Sometimes “big brother twin” was hard to take; other times, Elladan was glad for him. Some centuries ago, their father had stopped requiring corner time before every punishment, which generally left his sons free to comfort eachother. I always forget how much this hurts. Elladan thought to his brother, their normal communication of gestures currently unavailable, as he was twitching, wriggling, and gasping over his father’s knees. Elrohir nodded; he knew. Both twins had endured firmer punishments than being bare-bottomed like elflings over their Ada’s knee, his firm hand burnishing their buttocks until they were rosy and pleading. But there was something about this type of spanking that had them back to their elfling days, each of them.

Elrond watched his dear son’s reactions carefully, as well as the level of color showing as he spanked Elladan’s backside rhythmically, as it progressed from light pink, to a rosy pink. When Elladan’s entire bottom had reached a shade of deep pink, and his brave knight errant son of many centuries had begun whimpering and squirming, Elrond paused. “It is time for the paddle, ion-nin. Six swats; that is all. I know you still have your captain to face.”

Elladan groaned at that reminder, but managed to keep from crying aloud as the paddle impacted on first his right buttock, then his left, then smacked down in the middle of his backside.

As Elrond prepared to finish this unpleasant task as quickly as possible, he reminded his son lovingly, “I do not think less of either of you for crying out. I know this hurts – I must show you that I feel your actions were unacceptable, but I do not begrudge either of you a reaction.” Elladan nodded tensely, and Elrond brought the paddle down, firmly, on each of his son’s sit spots, and once on the under-curve of Elladan’s red backside.

Elladan yelped loudly at the last. Elrond gently righted his son’s clothing, and pulled the younger twin into his arms, to comfort him, careful not to put Elladan’s sore bottom in contact with anything. “Sorry, Ada, sorry.” Elladan said sincerely, in between sniffles.

Gently pressing a kiss to his son’s forehead, Elrond said gently, “You are forgiven, ion-nin, of course, but please, learn to have greater care of your own safety, hmm? You and your twin will be my death through worrying over you, ‘else.”

Elrohir forbore to say that this particular plan had been all Elladan’s idea, in part because the twins did not tattle on eachother, and in part because he had thought it a good one, at the time. After a few more moments of comforting his sore, sorry, and teary-eyed brother, his father stood Elladan gently on his feet, and bade Elrohir approach him. Elrohir did so, reluctantly but obediently doffing his leggings, and taking Elladan’s former position over his father’s knees. Elladan, kneeling carefully, took Elrohir’s hands in his own, though Elrohir did not need the comfort, yet. But Elrohir did not reject his twin’s kind gesture. Elladan was more…tactile, of a elf, than he. Sometimes it annoyed Elrohir. But not now. Neither twin liked having pushed their father to this extreme, and Elrohir would not push his twin away at a time that was so difficult for both of them.

Elrond settled Elrohir over his lap, pulling up his son’s gray tunic. “Are you ready, ion-nin?” Elrond asked his heir.

“Aye, Ada.” Elrohir said, sighing. He did not wince at all as his father’s hand began falling firmly on his backside. He barely gasped, even when Elrond’s hard hand attended to his sit-spots.

Elrond spanked Elrohir just as he had Elladan, well attuned to his son’s state of mind, and careful not to be too firm, as he knew his boys still had Glorfindel to answer to. Elrond stopped spanking Elrohir when his heir’s bottom and undercurves reached the same deep pink shade as Elladan’s had been, rather than waiting for some further reaction from his eldest. Elrohir was a stoic, it was just how he was. He did not show hurt or emotion easily, and it required a much harsher punishment than his father was usually willing to give to the twins, or great guilt, for him to do more than hiss or gasp in reaction. Elrond warned his son, then applied the paddle exactly as he had with Elladan. And Elrohir did hiss, and hold his brother’s hands more tightly, but little more.

“All over, ion-nin, from me.” Elrond soothed, offering Elrohir aid to stand. His elder son liked to right his own clothing and return to his feet immediately after a punishment, so Elrond let him, before offering an embrace, which Elrohir accepted. “I forgive you, and I love you.” Elrond crooned to his eldest son, “Please do not worry me so again.”

“I…will try very hard not to, Ada.” Elrohir assured him. After a few moments, Elrond pulled Elladan into his arms as well. “Now, do I have to walk you to your Captain’s office for your punishment with him, as I did when you were elfling trainees?” The Lord gently teased his grown sons.

Elrohir chuckled a bit in memory of what fools they had been as elflings.. As if disappearing ever made things easier. “Nay, Ada.”

Elladan agreed, “I don’t know any elf who would be foolish enough to hide from the Captain at this kind of time. Well, more than twice. Or was it three times?” Elladan pondered that, having trouble remembering their elflinghood folly, after so much time.

Elrond chuckled, and embraced his sons a final time, before they left his office to find their Captain. Elrond had complete confidence that Glorfindel would not be too firm with his beloved sons, though he knew from personal experience that the Captain had a very hard hand, and that Glorfindel was not opposed to using more, to apply a lesson, if he felt it necessary.

Title: Hope in the Healing, Part VII
Author: Susana
Series: Desperate Hours; Young Estel story
Feedback: Please use the form below
Rating: PG-13, to be safe.
Warning: AU.
Beta: Thanks to Kaylee, for help with Quenya and Sindarin (without you, there would be so many more mistakes and so much less proper use of the elven languages!) Thanks to Holly and Kaylee for their kind assistance with characterization of the Imladris elves. Thanks also to everyone who has reviewed earlier parts. Remaining mistakes are mine.

Disclaimer: All recognizable elements are Tolkien’s.

Summary: 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.

A/N: I realized that I have a few very brief and non-specific references to Legolas’ elflinghood in Greenwood below. Those references (except for Ecthelion and Thalion, who are my own OCs) are to Emma and Kaylee’s Greenwood OCs. Please note that this is not a preview of what Emma and Kaylee’s elves will be like in the Thrid Age. Emma and Kaylee haven’t reached that point in their story line, and my storyline is AU, so their Greenwood and characters may be very different, for any number of reasons.

Part VII

The twins walked slowly and carefully down the hall to their Captain’s office. Then Elrohir bravely knocked on Glorfindel’s office door, and both elven twins entered and saluted at the balrog slayer’s call of “Come in!”

To the twins’ surprise, Glorfindel had set up on the sand table in his office a scale model of the river where the twins had sent the yrch to their fiery death, complete with the bridge which became a trap, nearly for the twins and several dunedain as well as the orcs. “Let’s walk through this, Lieutenants.” Glorfindel commanded, eyes stern but kind.

An hour later, with their Captain’s help, the twins had identified several change that they could have made to keep themselves and the Dunedain safer, but the biggest issue had been that the damp weather had affected the explosives.

Glorfindel leaned against his desk, and pinned his two must challenging and talented lieutenants with an eagle-eyed glare. “By rights, I should strap you both soundly, for having decided to proceed with this delicate scheme in adverse weather conditions, and with insufficient practice.”

Centuries of self-control kept the twins from wincing. That was basically the punishment they had both expected to receive from their Captain, who did not have patience for almost losing officers, or any soldiers, when it was unneedful.

“However,” Glorfindel continued, voice warming fractionally, “I have decided that some leniency is in order, as you were both under a considerable strain, as were your comrades in arms.” Glorfindel’s voice gentled still more, “Having this winter to spend with their families, without having to keep the same level of force on the borders, is a gift beyond compare for the Dunedain. I’m not blind to that. That being said, you should have practiced more thoroughly how that maneuver should work, before trying it. Perhaps even saved it for the beginning of the spring, when it could have caught even more orcs.”

The twins nodded, more or less agreeing, even Elladan, that Glorfindel had the right of that. They weren’t sure what he meant by leniency, but as they were both still quite sore from their discussion with their father, any type of leniency would be very much appreciated.

Glorfindel shook his head, “I can’t believe you two were this reckless.” The Captain then moved his desk chair to the middle of the room, and pulled out a well-worn strap from his desk drawer. It was not the strap used for serious military discipline; it was merely the two tailed, slender, semi-stiff length of leather used for disciplining teenaged elflings. Well, that Glorfindel had used, although the twins’ father, and Erestor, rarely ever had. But it was enough to impart a ferocious sting, particularly on a bottom that had already been spanked once this day. Glorfindel turned to regard the younger twin, “Elladan, as I am sure this was your idea. I’d like you to go to the corner now, and think about how you might more accurately assess and explain the risks of such an idea in the future.”

Elrohir noted absently that evidently it was Elladan who was in more trouble this time. Glorfindel usually punished the less guilty party first, and made the twin who was more at fault wait for his punishment.

Elladan took a deep breath and answered, “Yes, Captain,” horrified that it had been another one of his ideas that had nearly led him and his beloved brother, as well as several dear friends, to their deaths.

Seeing the horror, Glorfindel reached out and caught Elladan gently by his shoulder, and comforted “All will be well, guren. You meant well, and even came up with a very good idea. Everyone on our side survived. You just need to take more time and prepare more thoroughly between concept and execution. This will be over soon, and you will be forgiven.”

Elladan nodded his thanks, and went to face the corner as Glorfindel called, “Elrohir, to me.” Elladan looked at the wall of Glorfindel’s office unhappily. He hated worst of all listening to Elrohir receive his punishment, and not being able to comfort his brother. But Glorfindel was an elder elf, and a bit of a traditionalist about corner time for such major offenses, even though the twins were well into their adulthood.

Lowering his leggings, Elrohir bent over the balrog slayer’s lap with great trepidation. Glorfindel rested a hand very gently on Elrohir’s still pink bottom, and asked exasperatedly, “Well, my student? What made you decide to throw caution to the winds and let Elladan go ahead with his plan before nailing down the particulars, this time?”

Elrohir winced. Whenever Glorfindel said, “this time,” in that tone of voice, it meant he thought he was imparting a lesson the unfortunate elf over his knee had already failed to learn at least once before. “I was frustrated and angry and it made me careless.” Elrohir answered, “I will not be so foolish again.” Elrohir knew that it had been, in part, grief over Arathorn’s death. He thought Glorfindel probably knew that, as well.

Glorfindel snorted. “I very much hope not, as I know your father and my family do as well.” He stated firmly, other hand coming up to stroke Elrohir’s back before he gently cautioned, “Deep breath, guren. This will not be easy.”

Elrohir obeyed, and reluctantly accepted that he might need to hold onto his Captain’s leg, to keep himself in position. To his relieved surprise, it was only Glorfindel’s hand that came down on his bottom, but Glorfindel’s hand was famously hard, and soon enough even the most stoic of Lord Elrond’s sons was gasping and whimpering as his honorary grandfather and captain imparted a brisk, firm lesson.

The balrog slayer’s hand spanked Elrohir’s bottom as steadily as a metronome, and Glorfindel waited until Elrohir was yelping at each firm swat before pausing. By that point, his protege’s bottom was a deep, bright red, from top to undercurve. Glorfindel gave Elrohir a few moments to catch his breath, before picking up the strap he had laid on his desk, and bringing it down sharply on the fullest part of Elrohir’s bottom. Two more strikes of the strap landed in an overlapping pattern, but before Glorfindel reached the tender undercurve where Elrohir was most dreading the strap’s fall, he stopped.

“It is done, guren.” Glorfindel’s deep voice rumbled reassuringly, as he righted Elrohir’s clothing and pulled his sore student gently and carefully into his lap. “You are forgiven, and shall face no further consequences for this folly. We love you well, and it would please us if you exercised greater caution, both for you and your brother, hmm?”

“Yes, Captain.” Elrohir agreed, relieved that this punishment had in fact been relatively lenient, for Glorfindel. His bottom still throbbed, but there was enough time between now and dinner that he should be able to sit for the occasion, if only with great discomfort. Elrohir leaned his head against his Captain’s chest, listening to the reborn elf’s heartbeat for a few moments, before extending a hand to Glorfindel to help him up.

The Captain pulled his most dedicated pupil into a caring embrace, and pressed a fatherly kiss to Elrohir’s forehead, before commanding. “Switch places with your brother, Lieutenant.”

The twins obeyed, Elrohir stopping to grasp Elladan’s hand for a brief moment, worried a bit by Elladan’s sadness How many fights have I gotten us into over the ages, and you always backed me up and never told whose fault it was? Elrohir reminded his brother.

Elladan, who was feeling guilty, shrugged, I don’t know. But I nearly get us killed.

Elrohir shook his head faintly, My decision, too. Let Glorfindel deal with your guilt, gwanur-nin, and let it go. I do not blame you. And I’ll let Ada know if you keep blaming yourself.

Elladan stuck his tongue out at his brother.

“Elflings, anytime now, really.” Glorfindel scolded his lieutenants lightly.

The twins flushed, and Elrohir went to the corner while Elladan came to stand before Glorfindel. “I should be punished more severely than Elrohir.” He stated.

Glorfindel rolled his eyes, then asked, “Are you trying to dictate to me how your spanking should go, again, Elladan?”

Elladan winced. “Ah, no, Sir. I just…I’m the alchemist, and I didn’t explain all the risks well enough. So that part, that was my fault.”

Glorfindel nodded solemnly. “That part was, and I am aware of it. I will deal with it, and you will be forgiven. Now, do you trust me, guren? To deal fairly with you, in calling you to account for your mistakes?” He asked gently.

Elladan took a deep breath and nodded mutely, before pushing his leggings down and taking his place over his Captain’s lap, grasping Glorfindel’s leg from the start.

Glorfindel stroked Elladan’s back gently, waiting for the younger twin’s breathing to slow to something approximating normal, before giving Elladan the same spanking he’d given Elrohir. The same force, the same approximate number of swats, but Elladan being Elladan, the younger twin yelped loudly from the very start, and was sobbing and nearly howling by the end. Pausing to stroke Elladan’s back again, Glorfindel sighed, and called quietly, “Elrohir.”

The elder twin came and knelt by the younger, wincing as the position hurt his own sore bottom. “Shh, ‘Dan, its ok. Its almost over, hold onto my hands. You’re not alone.”

Elladan’s red-rimmed, tear-filled eyes met Elrohir’s, Almost done…but the strap is left. And I’ll get more than you did.

I know, gwanur-nin. But I am here, and you are not alone. We’re never alone, you and I. We don’t get into trouble alone, and we didn’t this time either. I’m with you. I love you. You’re not alone. Elrohir promised silently, squeezing Elladan’s hands gently.

Elladan looked away, breathing deeply, before meeting Elrohir’s eyes again, Love you too, gwanur-nin.

Glorfindel again waited for Elladan’s breathing to calm, before resting the strap against the younger twin’s bright red bottom. “Six, guren.” He told the younger twin gently. “As you said, Lieutenant Elladan, you’re the alchemist. You need to explain the dangers of your plans better to your brother. And I know you’re an optimist, but you have to take worst case scenarios into account. Being clever will not always be enough get you out of whatever mess you are in.”

Elladan nodded mutely, which Glorfindel took as agreement enough. He knew that the younger twin felt guilty, and did not feel the need to lecture further. Glorfindel brought the strap down six times in rapid succession, covering Elladan’s already red bottom with six darker red overlapping stripes, running from the top of his cheeks to the top of his thighs. Elladan howled, and Glorfindel felt terrible, but this wasn’t the first time Elladan had talked Elrohir into some half-cooked, half-brilliant plan, which had nearly killed both of them and everyone around them. It wasn’t even the second time, as a matter of fact it was closer to the tenth, or the twelfth. So Glorfindel laid down all six stripes, before stroking Elladan’s back gently. “All done, Elladan guren. You were very brave, and you are entirely forgiven. Trouble yourself no more, over this, save to be more careful, hmm?”

Elladan sobbed an affirmative, and Glorfindel very, very carefully pulled the younger twin into his arms, careful not to rest Elladan’s doubtlessly throbbing bottom against any surface at all. Stroking the shuddering twin’s hair as Elrohir, standing now, rubbed his brother’s back, Glorfindel waited for Elladan to finish calming.

“I just thought it would work.” Elladan murmured at last.

Elrohir groaned, but Glorfindel laughed. “I must say this for you, guren. You hardly ever try things when you don’t think they’ll work. And if events break right, or even half right, your crazy ideas tend to work.” Glorfindel handed the more fastidious twin a handkerchief, thinking that it was a good thing, too.

Elladan wiped his eyes and face, then blew his nose. Stuffing the damp cloth into a pocket of his tunic, Elladan offered with a self-conscious smile, “And your job is to make sure I think through things all the way…poor Captain Glorfindel.”

Elrohir mentally seconded that thought, but Glorfindel only smiled, tapping Elladan gently on the nose. “Nay, Elladan. On the contrary, I am honored to be here, and having the teaching of your twin and yourself has been one of the greatest joys in my long life.”

Elrohir stood a bit straighter, and Elladan, standing with his twin’s aid and wincing as he set his clothing to rights, shook his head a bit incredulously, “From how much we’ve frustrated you over the years, including just recently, I would really not think that, Captain.”

Glorfindel stood as well, and shook his head, before offering each twin one of his arms, in a warrior’s clasp. They stood like that for a moment, and he met both of their eyes, two sets of pearlescent, smoky gray orbs, like their Adar’s. When he could tell both twins were paying attention to him, Glorfindel said with great sincerity, “Never doubt that being your trainer and Captain, and your friend, has been my honor and my pleasure, Elrohir and Elladan Elrondion.”

The twins nodded slowly, hearing his words and knowing them to be true, as they were not only of elven heritage, but also the sons of Elrond Peredhel, and knew truth when they heard it. “The greatest source of frustration, in your life, as well, though, Captain.” Elrohir said with sad certainty.

Glorfindel tugged lightly, pulling both the twins into his arms. “Daerionnath-i-gur. Your great-great-grandfather Turgon, were he here, would not only be jealous of me for having the two of you as students, but he would also say that I richly deserve you both, for all the frights I gave him. Yes, your carelessness frustrates me, greatly, because I love you, and wish you to live. But, were I to be honest,” Glorfindel gave them both a rueful smile, “As a much younger elf, I would have thought a burning bridge of yrch, however imperfectly planned, quite a fine thing indeed.”

The twins smiled tentatively at their honorary grandfather and military superior, and Elladan, who never knew when to stop, asked, “Would you tell us a story of you, as a younger ellon, Glor?”

Elrohir stepped on his twin’s foot, wishing he had been a little quicker, as Glorfindel’s face went from loving to greatly saddened.

“Not today, Elladan guren.” Glorfindel said softly, squeezing Elladan’s shoulder to show he meant no offense, “I have much to get done yet today. Perhaps another time, and when Melpomaen is present as well? And even your edair.” Glorfindel knew that Erestor and Elrond both enjoyed stories of when Glorfindel had been young, for they were not often something that Glorfindel felt up to sharing. And there were things that Glorfindel had to be careful about, details he was not to mention, even to those who were his family. And Glorfindel was not a careful ellon, by nature. Being careful was something it had taken him years to learn.

“Melpomaen should be there.” Elladan agreed, moving his foot away from his twin’s. “But for now, um, do we have your leave to depart, sir?”

Elladan was not normally so formal, so Glorfindel stroked the younger ellon’s hair gently again, before ushering the twins before him in the direction of their room. If his lieutenants had needed more time to compose themselves, Glorfindel would have granted it, but the twins both looked relatively composed, just wrung out. Sleep would be the best thing for them, and they had time for a decent nap, before dinner. Glorfindel decided to walk them to their door, just in case. Any sensible elf, having been punished so soundly, would know to go to sleep. But the twins sometimes would decide it was the appropriate time to replenish the stillroom (Elladan), learn a new sword-drill (Elrohir), or take up an entirely new area of study (usually Elladan, but sometimes either or both).

“Ah, Captain, we do know where we live.” Elrohir pointed out, a hint of a laugh lurking in his gray eyes.

“You don’t have to walk us to our rooms. We’re not idiots, we’re going to take a nap.” Elladan yawned, politely covering his mouth. It had already been a long day.
Glorfindel rolled his eyes tolerantly. “You could have fooled me, elflings muin nin, as little as you’ve been home these past few years. Do we need to have another little discussion about inappropriate guilt?”

Correctly understanding that Glorfindel was referencing the death of Arathorn, the twins hastily assured him that another discussion would not necessary, although Elladan kept the idea in mind, as something he thought his twin might need, in a few months, if Elrohir hadn’t managed to grieve for Arathorn. Elladan was not going back into the field, with his twin still so messed up about that. And Elladan was not above snitching to Glorfindel or their Adar, not for something this important. Though he’d probably try to have Melpomaen do it for him.

Glorfindel, his voice softening, continued, “I know our human allies have needed help, and I’m proud of you, and I know your father and my grandson are as well, for the way you’ve protected the Dunedain over the centuries. In fact, it reminds me of how your father used to champion the Númenorean settlements in Lindon, in his younger years, Erestor tagging along with him. But your Ada needs you here, too.” Glorfindel wondered at the oddity of giving this lecture to Elrond’s sons, when once he had been giving it to Elrond. Though Elrond had been a great King’s heir, as well.

Melpomaen, Adar, and now Glorfindel. We should at least consider it, ‘Roh. Elladan pointed out. Really, Melpomaen would have been enough, for the twins to have considered it. Such was the relationship between the three young Lords of Imladris.

“We shall consider it, Captain.” Elrohir replied softly. “But we have responsibilities to the Dunedain, as well.

“Think on it, guren.” Glorfindel said softly, “I’m not asking as your Captain, I’m asking as your Adar’s friend.”

Elrohir nodded, and Glorfindel walked with the twins the rest of the way to their room, intending to see them cared for and tucked in for a nap. But when they got to the twins’ sitting room, Melpomaen was already curled up on a settee marking up correspondence, salve and massage oils on the table beside him.

“Hi Daerada, I was just…” Melpomaen began awkwardly, and Glorfindel smiled at him gently, waving away his explanations.

“It is well, daerion-nin.” Glorfindel replied gently, “I had intended to see our young lords similarly cared for, but I will leave them in your capable hands.”

The twins smiled sheepishly at Mel, who waved them towards their bathing chamber, where he’d put oils for relaxing and healing into the bath he’d already drawn. The twins disappeared gratefully, and Melpomaen, drawing on his endurance and his courage, asked, “Those training trips that I keep, um, not having time for? Maybe we could do them, after Yule, and before the spring?”

Glorfindel gave his much-loved great-grandson an incredulous look, “After literally years of not finding time for this, now, during the most bitter winter we’ve had in the last twelve-year, now, you want to review how to recognize the signs of trolls?”

Melpomaen winced. “Well, want, no.” He answered honestly, “But the twins want me to go with them in the spring, and I want, well, I want to learn, or review, all I you think I should, to be ready for that.”

Glorfindel sighed, and pulled his great-grandson into a hug. He was glad that Melpomaen was asking for help, glad that his daerion always took his lessons seriously. But he did not like the thought of sending his beloved grandson Erestor’s only child into danger again. No more than he liked sending the twins. “I am always happy to aid you in any endeavor, daerion-nin.” Sighing again, “And I will consider your request, to go with our young Lords.”

With that, Glorfindel took his leave, and Melpomaen joined the twins. Whistling in sympathy as he tossed Elladan a soap with soothing properties, Melpomaen commented, “I think they must have taken into account, with me, that the troll incident was more-or-less an accident.”

Elladan made a rude face, and gave some thought to pulling the gently teasing Mel into the bath after them, and perhaps giving their dear friend and advisor a mostly play spanking over his wet leggings. A few swats might well be in earnest, for Mel looked more tired than he ought. But Elrohir splashed Elladan, reminding the younger twin that Mel was doing them a favor, so Elladan contented himself with scolding, “You’re over-working yourself again gwadar-nin.”

Melpomaen, indignant, retorted “I am not.” Then, pausing to think about it, he added honestly “Well, maybe I am. It’s always busy, this time of year, and I’ve been helping Gilraen amuse Estel, as well.” Making a face himself, as one of Erestor’s pet annoyances was Melpomaen overworking himself, the twins’ best friend pleaded, “Please don’t say anything to Ada – I’ll tell him I’m feeling over-tired myself, and ask for tomorrow morning off.”

“The whole next week of mornings off.” Elrohir countered immediately, getting out of the water and accepting a towel from Melpomaen.

“You are ridiculous.” Melpomaen countered, huffing a laugh.

“No, but its just as easy for me to mention to Ada Erestor at dinner that you look tired.” Elrohir replied, half-teasing, half-serious.

“Very well, the next three days.” Melpomaen countered. As often with his best friends, his pseudo- younger brothers, Melpomaen was not sure whether to be annoyed or appreciative that they cared so much.

“Deal.” Elrohir agreed, helping Elladan out of the bath and handing him a towel.

“Deal, only if you swear you won’t forget to ask Erestor for time off.” Elladan added, “Don’t forget, we know you, too.”

“I won’t forget, unless its unavoidable.” Melpomaen said sincerely. At the twins’ unimpressed looks, he snapped, “Look, if we’re dealing with another crisis I’m not going to leave our edair buried just because I’m tired.”

“Ok, but if its “unavoidable” that you work yourself to the ground, tell us, so that Elladan can help.” Elrohir offered.

Elladan nodded. He didn’t mind helping. But Elrohir’s handwriting was such that it was better all around if the elder twin was not involved.

Melpomaen’s expression softened, and he smiled. “Deal. Now you two go lay down, and I’ll try to make you as comfortable as possible before you sleep.” Melpomaen didn’t mind tending to his gwedyr. After all, they’d done the same for him, after the troll incident, and on numerous other occasions. Far fewer than he’d provided salve and comfort to them, but more than enough.
Glorfindel left the twins’ room with a sigh. The twins and Melpomaen would help eachother, they always had. Glorfindel himself now had to go deal with a much more obstreperous elfling…though to be fair, Elrond had not only had ages longer to practice being difficult, he’d also spent crucial years as an elfling bereft of parental counsel, save from Maglor and Maedhros, whom Glorfindel remembered from Tirion, before any of the kinslayings, as having being all right enough elves, but not the world’s most responsible elder brothers. They’d had many younger brothers, but Feanor and Nerdanel had been royalty, and all of their sons had had nursemaids then valets and guards. To be fair to Maedhros and Maglor, perhaps they’d simply lacked opportunities to practice…or perhaps grief for Ambarussa had made it difficult for them, to keep and care for Elwing’s twin sons. Or perhaps occasionally organizing mass slaughters of innocent elves, however reluctantly, had made it difficult for even the most decent sons of Fearnor to raise elflings, who knew? Either way, Glorfindel was quite sure that Elrond and his twin had made a good decision, convincing the Feanorions to send them away, when they did.

Elrond still seemed like a man of middle-age, to a human, but four millenia as a ring bearer had weighed upon him. Only Glorfindel knew of the extent to which his Lord’s mostly mild aches and pains had affected his prowess on the field, but to Elrond, it was telling. And Glorfindel was worried too, and this afternoon, after the council meeting but before dealing with the twins, Erestor had picked up on that, and Glorfindel had confessed.

Glorfindel arrived at Elrond’s office, at the same time as Erestor, who had a confused Healer Moicasion in tow.

Elrond looked up from his work, and smiled knowingly at them. Glorfindel closed the door, and prepared to watch as his inyo gave Elrond the lecture of a lifetime.

Erestor glared at his iaur gwador, “Of all the stupidity, gwador. Anatar finally told me, just an hour ago, why he alone has been partnering you at morning practice, these past months. How dare you hide from me that you are in so much pain?’

Elrond held up a hand, which would normally give Erestor pause, but not in this moment. “I don’t think so, gwador. Moicasion will look you over now, and try to find the source of this phantom pain that is like but unlike to the human arthritis. Or you will spend this afternoon in a similar state to your sons.” Erestor threatened in a dark tone of voice. Glorfindel suppressed a feeling of pride, though the situation was quite a serious one.

Elrond couldn’t stop a chuckle, and Moicasion was smiling a bit, too, albeit sadly. Erestor’s eyes narrowed, and Elrond allowed Moicasion to explain, “I have been treating Lord Elrond since only a few weeks after he first noticed the pains, Erestor mellon-nin.”

Erestor visibly relaxed, though it was clearly evident that he was still quite unhappy with his gwador.

Glorfindel, relieved, commented, “Well, thank goodness you are not as stupid and heedless as I had thought, Elrond guren.”

When Elrond, Erestor, and Moicasion had all turned around to stare at him, Glorfindel winced. That had been a bit tactless, even for him. “Sorry, Hir Nin.” He apologized sincerely to Elrond, “I just meant that a thousand years ago, hiding it is exactly what you would have done.”

Elrond shook his head, “A thousand, I think not. An age ago, though, I most certainly would have. But others’ lives now depend on my well-being, and I could tell this was no passing ache. Sadly, Mo is just as in the dark as I am. We think it must have something to do with being a ring-bearer, and part human. But we are not sure. We have found some medicines that help to alleviate the pain, but the effects do not last.”

Erestor, his first anger passing, asked pointedly, “What about your Naneth Galadriel? She’s a ring-bearer. Or Master Isyatur who trained both you and Moicasion in the arts of healing, or your Atar Cirdan, for that matter?”

Elrond looked abashed, and Moicasion triumphant, “I recommended that Elrond contact them, but Elrond felt it unsafe to spread the knowledge that far…”

“Write the letters.” Erestor said firmly to Moicasion. “I will encode them myself, and send them in the next dispatches. I do not trust Elrond not to downplay the symptoms, in his contacts with Arwen.”

Moicasion nodded, and bowed respectfully to Erestor. Then he met Lord Elrond’s eyes, over six thousand years of complicated history between the two healers. Respect was certainly there, and even love. And compassion, for a fellow healer who was suffering. And shame, that Moicasion, one of the greatest healers who had ever walked Arda, though he had long been overshadowed by his Lord’s larger-than-life- reputation, could not heal Elrond, when the younger healer had need of him. And even frustration and irritation at that last, as well. Any healer hates an undiagnosable or uncurable condition.

“It is allright, Mo. The best of the painkillers for these phantomn pains were your concoction, and just having someone to discuss it with helped. Write the letters, and Erestor can,” Elrond paused and gave a half-amused, half-exasperated smile, “supervise as I review them, and add any additional details I may be able to think of. Thank you, for…well, you know.”

Moicasion nodded again. He did know. “Very well, my Lord.” he bowed to Elrond, and took his leave.

Erestor picked up a ruler and asked Elrond, “Does your hand hurt today, gwador? And Eru help you if you lie to me…”

Elrond shook his head, but his eyes met Erestor’s, No. I have little pain today, and what there is of it only in my legs. Its like that…it comes and goes, different places. I am sorry I did not tell you, but, Sweet Arda, Erestor, you are the worst of elves at keeping a secret that has to do with my well-being…you’ll be solicitously asking how I am, constantly, now.

Erestor’s eyes narrowed again, That may be so, but if I had kept such a condition from you….

“I’ll leave you two to discuss this.” Glorfindel said quietly. “I, after all, knew, and you have taken more care of yourself, in consulting with Master Moicasion, than I had expected, Elrond.” Elrond stood, and Glorfindel embraced the younger elf, We love you, guren. You are more than just our Lord; you are like my other grandson, and his only brother. Do not keep something like this from him again. It wounds him, on the inside. And he has always been solicitous of you…I doubt anyone will notice.

Elrond nodded, sorrow and apology in his eyes. I know. I will.

Glorfindel nodded, and gave his young Lord a paternal kiss on the brow. Then he hugged his angry inyo, adding, Do not be too hard on him, Erestor-nin. It was very hard for him to admit this at all even to himself.

Erestor sighed, and nodded. I know, Anatar, but honestly, Elrond can be so careless of himself at times…

He comes by it honestly, remember. Glorfindel said, projecting images of Turgon, bleeding from several wounds, refusing his healer’s orders to even pause to have them bound before returning to the fray. Of Fingolfin, challenging Morgoth.

I know. Erestor agreed, dark eyes serious, But I want a happier fate for Elrond. He may be the iaur gwador, and I am most certainly answerable to him. And answer to him I would have, had I concealed a hurt of any magnitude. But he is also answerable to me, because I will not lose him, not for something we could have fixed.

Glorfindel squeezed his grandson tightly, then gave Erestor a kiss on the brow, projecting Very well, inyonya. Do not leave him too sore to write, considering the letters he may need to add to.

Erestor looked over at Elrond, who had returned to scribbling something in the margin of parchment he had been writing on. It might do him good, silly iaur gwador. But allright.

That night, at dinner, the twins were relieved to find that they were not, in fact, too sore to sit. If they had been, they could have taken a tray in their rooms, and no one would have thought less of them for it. Not even their Captain, they knew, for Glorfindel himself had been in a similar situation, after he’d helped them to save Bree. But Elrohir and Elladan were glad to be able to join their friends for dinner. They were uncomfortable, but it was good enough to be home again, that they thought little of it.

After dinner, the twins helped Estel to set up his siege reenactment again, this time playing it through as if Imladris had had mangonels inside the walls. When Gilraen murmured something about calming Estel down before bed, the twins and Mel helped Gilraen read, “Little Elfling and the Scary Wizard,” to Estel, complete with voices.

“Little Elfling and the Scary Wizard” was the first of a series of books that had been written for a young Legolas, although for some reason that escaped Melpomaen, only Thranduil and Arwen had realized that the books were not only gifts from Elrohir to Legolas, they had been specifically written for Legolas, by Elrohir. The main character of the series was a young elfling of approximately 20 years of age, the equivalent of a human of about eight and a half, the same age at which the twins and Legolas had shared a memorable adventure. The young elfling was very simply called “little elfling.”

The books also featured a wise and strong elf who was little elfling’s cousin, called Golwembel (who was more or less based on Elrohir); an Ada elf (fairly clearly wriitten as Thranduil), an annoying elder elf (called Uncle Grumbles, and loosely based on a compilation of Cirdan, Glorfindel, Galadriel, and Celeborn and Elrond in their most superior moods), an elf who essentially served as a surrogate great-grandmother to Little Elfling (loosely based on one of Thranduil’s family friends); a healer elf (based on a compilation of Ecthelion of Greenwood, a young healer who was a friend of Thraduil’s and Legolas,’ and on Elladan); and several soldier elves, one of them who was called Lieutenant, and who was more or less based on Lieutenant Thalion, Legolas’ much older foster-brother. Various other characters were featured in one or several books within the series, including a Wizard, the “Scary Wizard,” of this book’s title. The Wizard was loosely based on Mithrandir, who had visited when Legolas was little, and who had apparently frightened Legolas rather badly by accident, the first time they had met. Melpomaen, as the illustrator and author’s agent, of course had a complete set of the books, which he happily shared with Estel. Then Gilraen took Estel to bed, and the twins and Melpomaen retired not long after. The three of them fell asleep together, discussing old times. Only Melpomaen was really aware that Estel had joined them during the night, at least at first.

Later in the night, but well before dawn, Elladan awoke to a slight discomfort. Nowhere near the unpleasantness of waking up to a cold drizzling rain while trying to sleep on the cold, hard ground, but less than the comfort he was accustomed to, here. That, and a scent that would awaken the healer in Elladan anywhere- the smell of fear, tears, and urine, like he had smelled in a thousand different places, caring for the wounded – and a warm, shaking body between him and Melpomaen. Estel.

Elladan scooped up the child, soothing him. “Do not fret, do not be upset, Estel-nin. It is perfectly normal. I did the same thing when I was young after an upset like you had yesternight. Come, tithen-pen muin nin, help me to run a bath. Then we’ll wake the sleepy heads, and all four of us will have a nice, quick soak, put on new clothes, and we’ll go get into the other bed – that’s one of the nice things about being twins, having two beds handy for times like this.”

Elrohir and Mel, after being awoken, made similar reassuring noises. Elrohir even recalled a funny story about Belemir- well, the first part hadn’t been funny. An assassin had attacked the young elfling while he had been visiting Annuminas with his family. Estel didn’t need to know all of that, so Elrohir just explained his little brother had suffered a fright, and that “Belemir had always felt safest with Glorfindel,”

“No accounting for taste,” Elladan murmured, before his twin and Mel both shushed him.

Elrohir continued, “So Glorfindel was the one to wake up to wet bedsheets and distraught child.”

That story, told as he was warmly re-dressed in one of Elladan’s night shirts, made Estel giggle sleepily. He fell right back asleep, as did his foster-brothers and their gwador. All four slept soundly until morning, when Gilraen, seeking her wandering son, retrieved Estel with a smile to dress him for breakfast, having been assured by the just woken sons of Elrond and Erestor that Estel had been “no problem at all,” and was always welcome. Gilraen found the elves, with their more physically demonstrative shows of affection, to be somewhat odd. But she understood from what Arathorn had taught her of his distant cousins that elves were just a bit different. Besides, it seemed to give Estel comfort, to be near his father’s friends of a night. And Gilraen would not deprive him of such comfort, if it did not bother Elladan nor Elrohir, anymore than it had bothered Melpomaen or Elrond these past months.

After Gilraen had collected Estel, Elladan murmured pensively, “I think I should get “that book” back from Daerada Cirdan.”

Melpomaen made a face. “I don’t recall that it had chapters on small elflings, Elladan.”

Elladan murmured distractedly, “That one didn’t, it was the second in a set. I didn’t show you the one with chapters on small elflings. I have some tact, Mel.”

Melpomaen nobly forewent any one of a hundred possible replies to that statement, and instead said only, “It is a good thought, ‘Dan. I’m sure your father – all of us, reallly – could use the guidance.”

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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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