Kinder, Gentler Denethor, A

In Dreams

8. Chapter 8

   
Author's Note: There's a lot I'd like feedback on in this chapter all of which will be posted in my discussions. Aragorn frowned stepping into the quiet chaos of his Adar's study. The Elf Lord was not where his son expected him to be, where he always was at this time of day. "Ada?" He called softly. "On the balcony, Estel," the voice came, soft, weary but Aragorn never doubted the power there. Aragorn shivered, stepping through the doors that had been left just slightly ajar. It was winter in Rivendell and it was colder than normal. A light dusting of snow had began to grace the valley. The Elves seemed to enjoy it. It made Aragorn's arm ache. Elrond looked up at his foster son and gave him a smile tinged with sadness. "There is a cloak by the door." Aragorn disappeared momentarily, gathering the soft warm folds about him before rejoining his adar. Despite the cloak he felt the chill of the stone bench immediately when he sat. He shivered once. "Ada?" Elrond smiled, still sad and vague. He said nothing, but his smooth fingers moved to touch his son's hair at the back of his neck in an absent fashion. Aragorn waited with a patience that most did not have. Most, of course, had not been tutored by the Eldar all their lives. The chill in the air had a sharper bite than was normal, though Aragorn knew he was likely the only resident who felt it. Elrond wore the same robes he would have had it been the peak of summer and even the tips of his fingers remained warm. After a time the cold began to seep back into Aragorn's body, despite the cloak. His teeth chattered momentarily before he forced the reaction under tight control. Elrond blinked, his eyes focused, and he frowned, looking at his foster son. "You are shivering," Elrond noted and his hand traveled to Aragorn's shoulders. "The cold is not good for that arm. Inside with you immediately." As his adar was standing to join him and ushering him quickly inside and into a chair by the faltering fire before shutting the doors tight behind him Aragorn did not protest. Elrond did not feel the cold, no Elf did, but it continued to unnerve Aragorn to see him sitting there without so much as a shiver in considerably cooler clothes than Aragorn himself wore. Elrond poked the fire into life and crouched in front of his foster son, examining the bound arm. He raised an eyebrow at Aragorn. "It aches a bit," Aragorn admitted. His arm was broken. A clean break and it would heal, but it ached, especially in the cold, and it meant he was in Rivendell for the winter at least, maybe longer because he doubted greatly his father would let any patient, let alone his son, go off into the wild with a broken arm. "You will be the cause of my grey hairs," Elrond muttered. Aragorn laughed, wincing as heat began to flood back into his body. "Elves do not get grey hairs." "If there is a way for it to be done I have no doubt you will be the cause," Elrond replied, and a look stopped any thought of protest when a blanket was tucked about him. "Are your brothers not about for you to pester?" "No, they left before I woke this morning," Aragorn replied, untucking the blanket a little as Elrond put a kettle over the fire. He kept one in the study, it was easier than summoning a servant or going to the kitchen every time he wanted a cup of tea. "I believe they are getting rather sick of me." Elrond snorted elegantly. Aragorn thought it was entirely unfair that Elves could snort elegantly. "You have been restless lately." "That happens when I can do nothing," Aragorn replied. Elrond smiled but it was a bit vacant again. He sunk into another chair and back into silence. Aragorn nearly recognized the look in his eyes, for Elrond had the gift of foresight, and yet... It was not that. The distance was there, yes, but there was none of the vacancy that suggested Elrond had dropped into a vision. "Ada?" Aragorn asked, digging his good hand up from under the blanket. "Are you well, ada?" Elrond's eyes focused. If Aragorn did not know better he would have thought his adar had fallen asleep but... no, that was not it either. Aragorn leaned forward. "What is wrong?" "When I have deduced it I will inform you," Elrond replied quietly. The shrill whistle of the kettle registered to the Elf Lord and he busied himself pouring two cups of tea, setting one by his foster son and indicating that it would be consumed whether Aragorn wanted to or not. "Just a feeling then?" Aragorn continued, picking up the cup and sniffing the liquid. His adar was not above drugging him when he needed the rest. "Yes, a feeling," Elrond told him. "Something is going to occur... And there will be consequences. That is all I can tell." Aragorn raised an eyebrow and it was not so formidable as his adar's but it made Elrond chuckle to see it. "That is ridiculously vague, ada." "I know," Elrond replied. "It troubles me. I do not know why only what it causes me to feel." "Which is?" Aragorn encouraged. "Sorrow, longing, vaguely, that it did not have to be so, for I feel, perhaps, it must be." Elrond shook his head and blinked at the frost that had crept over the windows. "I think perhaps the weather is following my mood." Elrond did not stir, but Aragorn knew of the ring he guarded, the ring of his King, and was reminded, suddenly, of all that his adar had lost. He thought of the winter, bleak, cold, barren, and looked worriedly at his adar. Elrond caught his gaze, tilted his hand and smiled just slightly. "Ion-nîn, no fretting, this is a place of peace, you may recall." "Yes, ada," Aragorn replied with a hint of a smile. "It has not snowed in Rivendell for..." "Not since you were a boy," Elrond replied and his lips curved further upwards. "That was done for you, did you know that? You always loved it so. I forgot, one year, and those who knew were on my door before the week was out, demanding to know why the leaves had not yet fallen. When you grew, I fell to forgetting about it." "So why does it snow now?" Aragorn asked. "Erestor has been bothering me about it," Elrond told him. "He seems to believe we have gone too many years without some kind of winter festival that involved actual snow. Perhaps I should find more work for him. This indicates to me he is becoming bored." Aragorn chuckled and gazed at the frost patterns curling over the windows. Most of Rivendell was not covered in snow, only parts. It was something of a novelty for many and only repeated every so often. He tilted his head to the side and his voice quieted. "The snow reminds me of my mother." Elrond reached and gathered his grown son into his arms. Aragorn did not protest, thought his Adar might need someone to hold for awhile. ***** "There you are!" Faramir turned to see his brother's grinning face and forced himself to smile in return. He could not show weakness, he could not... "You have escaped the healer's clutches again!" Boromir laughed, such a joyful sound that it buoyed Faramir's spirits to hear it. He came forward, still limping, and without further words enfolded his brother in a bone crushing embrace. It surprised Faramir but he returned the embrace with just as much vigor. "I have missed your company, brother," Boromir murmured. "I thought I would see more of you while I was in the city but I have scarcely seen you at all." "I apologize," Faramir said, blushing faintly. "I..." "Father," Boromir said, his voice sharp, "has been taking up much of my time." Faramir hung his head. They never spoke of this, not anymore. Boromir lifted his chin, frowning to see the grey eyes glistening. "Brother-mine..." Faramir was already wiping furiously at his eyes, muttering, "Sorry, sorry." Boromir frowned and caught his hands. "Faramir, stop, stop." Faramir did and looked miserably up at his older brother. Boromir was still frowning and suddenly reached out to touch his dark hair with gentle fingers. "We need to talk, brother-mine, but shall we sit down? This leg of mine..." Faramir jerked and made as if to support his brother then paused. "I thought the healers said..." Boromir laughed again. "I cannot trick you, can I? It works so well on f–most others." Faramir's smile faltered but he masked it well enough. Boromir's hand landed lightly on his shoulder. "Come, let us find the bench among these wild flowers." They found their way to the lonely stone bench amidst the untamed garden. Weeds ran rampant, their buds have long taken over the flowerbeds. There was, Boromir knew, once a pond near the bench but it to seemed to have succumbed to the vines and wild grasses. "The master at arms tells me you have greatly improved with a sword," Boromir said. "And that you excel at archery to the point he thinks you should consider applying to be one of the Rangers of Ithilien." "I am adequate," Faramir murmured, blushing faintly. "It is high praise," Boromir corrected gently. "I am very proud of you, brother-mine, I know it is not something you enjoy greatly." "Practice is not so bad," Faramir said. "I would prefer to spend my time otherwise but I do not mind weapons practice. I...." Faramir ducked his head shyly. Boromir frowned at the gesture, reaching out to squeeze his brother's hand. "Tell me what troubles you, little brother." Faramir sighed and looked at his brother with sad eyes. "It is only... Soon I will be leaving for officer training and then I shall be assigned and then..." Faramir swallowed, looked away. "And then it will no longer be practice and I shall be a soldier and have to kill." "Ah, brother..." "I know I have to," Faramir interrupted with a dark glare. "But I do not want to. I will, I have no choice, but I do not have to enjoy it." "I should hope not!" Boromir exclaimed. "Brother, so long as you do not question yourself thusly in battle, so long as thinking so does not endanger you there is no wrong in pondering such things. You sometimes think overmuch and you cannot afford to, not in this case. The best of us question when wiping the red blood of another man from our swords." "You do?" Faramir asked in surprise. "You love being a soldier." "I do. It is not so much a matter on my conscious we battle Orcs, those I have little pity for, but we do fight men, at times, whose blood is as red as your or mine. They I can feel pity for, when the battle is done, for they are soldiers as I am," Boromir told him. "But you, and you especially, must not dwell over much on it, not before or during battle. To show such hesitation on the battlefield is to lose your life and those of your fellows and that you must not do, Faramir." Boromir looked at his little brother, who was the picture of misery, and pulled the lanky youth close. "You have a kind heart, brother-mine, a good heart and I would not change that for the world but I would not lose you either." Faramir pressed his face against his brother's tunic and screwed up his courage. "What is it like?" Boromir sighed and fiddled with his brother's dark hair. "It is not something that is spoken of so I can only speak for myself and I would not advise you to ask others but... I took my first life in battle and so my second I took quickly after and thought not of the man beneath my blade, only keeping myself from falling under his. It was... terrifying and nauseating and exhilarating." Boromir's hands kept petting his little brother's hair. Faramir wasn't overly fond of the action, it made him feel childish, but Boromir gained comfort from it, he knew that, so he said nothing. "After the battle you have time to brood on it, you likely will too much, but nearly all do, at least at first. Then there are so many feelings I could barely process them." "I was horrified. I retched after my first battle and could not dwell on it long for it made me tremble. I... There is no sense lying to you, there is a thrill to it, there is an enticing sense of power, knowing you have the power to take a life, be the victor." Boromir shuddered. He felt Faramir's eyes upon him and wondered what his little brother saw, looking into his pale face, wondered what he thought of him. "The feeling of satisfaction... it sickens me further. It is a horrible, terrible feeling, worse than the initial sickness from that killing blow. It does... dull with time and becomes more, Valar forgive me, routine. You should never forget what you are doing, it should never stop repulsing you but if you are not desensitized to it after a time you will not be able to stand it." Faramir was silent as his brother's voice trailed off. When he was finished, Faramir wasted no time in hugging his brother hard. Boromir stiffened but could not remain so in the face of his brother's compassion. "Thank you for telling me," Faramir murmured. Boromir's arms wound around him, his hand coming up to cradle his head. "Do not dwell on it overmuch, Faramir, do not. It is horrible but if you think to much on it you will surely go mad. You have years yet; there is no sense in wasting them." Faramir squeezed his brother with all his strength before drawing back. Boromir put a gentle hand on his cheek, studying him carefully, memorizing the changes their time apart had wrought in the rapidly growing youth. "I am a soldier, little brother, and I am proud to be. That, too, you must remember," Boromir told him. Faramir sighed. "I know. The master at arms has talked with me before." "He is a wise man, Faramir," Boromir told him. "You do well to listen to him." "I know but..." Faramir hesitated. "It is different, coming from you." "That I can understand," Boromir said, reaching down to push back Faramir's hair. This time Faramir batted his hand away. Boromir laughed and Faramir smiled. They leaned against each other, shoulder to shoulder. Boromir waited, letting a few comfortable, silent heartbeats pass between them. "And now, brother-mine, perhaps you could enlighten me as to what is wrong between you and father?" Faramir stiffened but did not pull away and begin to pace, which Boromir took to be a good sign. He shrugged, misery back in his eyes. "I do not truly know. I do not know what I have done now to displease him only that I surely have for he cannot stand my presence." "Yes, I have noticed that you can scarcely breathe without displeasing him in some way," Boromir frowned. "Which confuses me greatly. I hope you do not believe all of his criticisms for they are harsh and a fair few are unjust. You have done much he should be proud of; that I am proud of." Faramir turned his head and stared at his brother. He had never heard Boromir say anything against his father before. Boromir chuckled at his expression and put and hand on his chin to close his gaping mouth. "I am not saying you should not listen to father but... know he, nor anyone, is not always right." "It is hard to think otherwise, sometimes," Faramir admitted. "He will be so kind to me, like when you were so badly hurt, but then he will ignore me for weeks; I will not see him at all, not even at meals! Or he will see me and say cruel things and I will be able to do nothing right in his eyes!" Faramir looked away, angry, frustrated. "I do not know what to do to please him anymore! I do not understand it! He never used to be like this." Boromir said nothing but his hand stole around his brother's shoulders. Faramir turned and shoved his face against his brother's chest; he did not want his big brother to see that he could not hold back his tears and wept a little against his tunic. Boromir's arms closed around him, one across his back, pressing his brother's whip thin body close against him; the other strayed to his neck, rubbing gently to sooth. He did not let go, even when Faramir's tears halted, for Boromir knew he had been crying, and he stopped shaking from anger and sorrow. He did not let go even when Faramir wriggled a bit, only shifted so they were both more comfortable. Faramir allowed it, resting his head against his brother's shoulder, face flushed red with embarrassment, sure he would see scorn in his brother's eyes as he so often saw in their father's. He knew, though, that he would have to meet his eyes so he swallowed and did so. Boromir looked concerned, and possibly also a hint indulgent, but not scornful nor disappointed. Strong fingers wiped at the wetness on his cheek. "Feel better now?" Faramir freed his hand and scrubbed at his face. "A little." "Sometimes a good cry is needed," Boromir said sagely. "Only make sure it is done before the right person. You never need to fear weeping before me, nor shall I fear to do so before you, and I think you have been waiting to do that for a long time." "You have been gone a long while," Faramir murmured. Boromir's hand stilled against his neck and Faramir jerked in alarm. "I did not mean... Brother, I did not mean it negatively..." "I know," Boromir said, hand quickly resuming it's motions. Faramir pulled away and grabbed his brother's hands in his own, noticing the size difference between them had almost disappeared. "I know why you have been away. I understand it, you must be away. Please do not think I... somehow resent you for your duty," Faramir told him. "I would wish it otherwise, but I would wish that we need not face this evil at all, not that you would not fight it to take care of me, leaving another to go in your place." Boromir sighed, wanted to gather Faramir close but refrained. Faramir kept taking steps for equality between them and he was not about to crush any awkward steps on the troubled path from being a boy to being a man. Instead he gripped his hands firmly. "You and I," Boromir told him, "must always rely on each other: we gain strength in this. Never think that I am not with you for I always am, no matter what distances lay between us." Faramir swallowed and nodded. Boromir's smile was bittersweet. "I do not know how to explain our father's actions nor can I think of how to improve them. I suspect it shall make things worse to speak with him of it." Faramir nodded. "I agree. I do not believe he would become angry with you but..." "He would take it out on you. Yes, I have to agree, unfortunately, but I believe the diversion of anger may have something to do with my injuries. He is terrified of losing us, did you know that?" Boromir continued. "Though... I, too, have noticed that his praise of me grows with the years while his praise of you declines." "Perhaps he wishes me to be more like you," Faramir suggested, frowning. He had considered such things before many times. Boromir snorted. "That would cause no end of problems. I am certainly glad you are not so similar to me. We have enough arrogance in this family already. I suspect we would not love each other so if you were much more alike to me. Our strength is borne in the complimenting of our strengths and weaknesses." Boromir grinned and pressed his forehead against Faramir's. "You and I together, little brother, are unstoppable." Faramir could not help but smile in the face of his brother's enthusiasm. Boromir believed it, believed it with all his being, and Faramir found he did too. His grin grew and Boromir chuckled, giving him a tight squeeze. "I may not be able to talk of his treatment of you outright to father but I can be subtle about it," Boromir told him. Faramir gave him a look and Boromir laughed. "Have faith in me brother! I can be subtle at times!" Boromir gave him a glance that was half appraising. "It will soon be time for the company reviews and I know the Lieutenant coming from the rangers. Shall I ask him to give you some pointers? Perhaps spend some time with you to see if the company shall suit you? I think it shall." Faramir thought a moment and nodded slowly. "Yes, I think I would enjoy that." ***** Elrond closed the window, his ink was slowly freezing as the fire had gone out, but he remained there, looking out at the still, frozen night. He rested his forehead upon the glass, fingers against the cold window. There was a deep pang of grief and longing inside him and he missed his brother very strongly at that moment. Elrond let his ageless fingers trail over the glass. He knew it cold but he did not feel it. For a moment he wished he could. He drew his hand away and tucked it into the smooth folds of his robes. He could not feel cold but he knew it, remembered it. His children, the twins and Estel, were in the Hall of Fire. Estel, he suspected, was seated close between the twins. They were very protective of their human brother. When Estel had first come home with his arm broken, first had it reset and properly tended to, Elladan had spent the night by his bed, keeping him from nightmares. Elrond shivered. He remembered waking, dazed and trembling, in the home of those they could not help but love but were later often made to feel they should despise, and finding solace offered in the strong and ready arms of his brother, younger by a few moments. Then his foster ata would come and... He missed him, them, wondered if they were to ever meet again, even passed the ending of the world. Yes, he knew cold and would rather feel warmth. He set his pen aside and went to join his children. ***** "Faramir?" Boromir called into the quiet chambers. "Are you in here?" "Here, Boromir," came the soft voice. "Well, that was a thoroughly unpleasant meal," Boromir commented. "Father should indulge in the wine more, or perhaps that is his problem?" "Nay, father rarely drinks," Faramir replied dully. "I thought perhaps that wonderful bruise you are wearing would lighten the mood. Oh, there you are," Boromir held up the lantern and smiled at his brother who was leaning against the half collapsed desk. "Let me see it." Faramir tilted his head back and Boromir swiped away a few strands of falling hair. He had a spectacular black eye that trailed halfway down his cheek. Boromir chuckled, shaking his head, "And to think you were the victor! Does it hurt still?" "A little, not much," Faramir said, smiling faintly. The master at arms had recruited a couple soldiers on leave from the garrison at Osgiliath to go against the cadets, with specific instructions to fight dirty. The men were broad set, save one wiry fellow who bested all who went against him, with at least five years service under their belts. Faramir had been the second to spar and the first of three cadets to come out the victor, all by a slight margin. The elbow that had caught Faramir's face had not phased him enough to lose the bout. Boromir had thought their father would be impressed. He had not thought it would garner Faramir more criticism. It made little sense. Faramir had thrown himself into war sports out of duty and to please their father when being himself did not but it had not worked and Boromir could not blame his little brother for being moody about it. Boromir sighed, said nothing but gazed around. He smiled in the dim light of his lantern and Faramir's candle. "You still come here." Faramir looked at him and nodded, his arms folding around his knees, resting his head atop them. "When I wish to think or..." He flushed and looked away embarrassed. Boromir smiled and touched his hair gently, smoothing it back. "Or?" Faramir looked at him again, hesitantly. "Or when I wish to be close to you. Father shuts up your rooms when you are away and even if he did not I doubt he would permit me to enter them." Boromir chuckled and pushed his forehead against his little brother's. "We must be sure not to be caught here either. He would think us ambitious or acting above our station or some such nonsense." Faramir smiled. "Yes, what would the Steward think to know his sons used the King's office as their hideaway when they were children?" Boromir snorted and looked about the shadowy room. It had long since fallen to disarray. Once it had been kept up but years and other concerns took Gondor and it was abandoned by all but the Steward's son if the dust was anything to judge by. Boromir doubted any others had ventured in during their lifetime; the remnants of their old forts and games were still scattered about. "I wonder..." Boromir mused aloud, a memory coming to him. He turned and with some effort opened a drawer of the desk. He laughed and reached in to pull out a drawstring bag full of wooden toy soldiers. "If the King ever returns he shall get a study full of surprises," Boromir chuckled, tipping the soldiers out. He selected one on impulse, a banner carrier, tiny sword chipped as the end where it was not protected by the bulk of the carving. The banner remained intact. He passed it to Faramir. "Here, keep it close and then you shall always be close to me," Boromir offered. Faramir quirked an eyebrow at him. Or tried to. He had not quite mastered it. Boromir ruffled his hair and smiled at the scowl it earned him. "Indulge me brother! I know something of homesickness, even if it is for a person." Faramir wrinkled his nose but nodded and held the small toy tightly. "Fine but you must take one from me as well." "Which shall you choose?" Boromir asked, holding his hand out with a few. Faramir considered them and finally his fingers lingered on one with no helmet and a tiny bow, carved down so the arrow did not point out. Boromir took it as his selection and dropped the others back into the bag, returning them to their drawer. "Your future posting," Boromir murmured. "Father will see me in the guard," Faramir told him quietly. "By the time you enter into active service I shall be Captain General and I shall see you into where ever you fit best," Boromir said confidently. "And it will be my decision, as it will be for the other graduates from officer training. Mind, if you would best serve in the guard then that is where you shall go, but only if that truly suits you best." "Has father told you he is announcing your appointment then?" Faramir asked. Boromir nodded. "I start my duties next week but I will not be officially appointed until the new year." He grimaced. "Father says I must take more of a liking to paper work between now and then." Faramir laughed. Boromir dropped an arm around his shoulders, chuckling. "Laugh now, brother. When I am Steward you shall be my chief counsel and do all my paper work for me!" Faramir smiled, shook his head and looked up at his brother with glad eyes. "And will we sneak off here to avoid all the courtesans?" "No," Boromir said, hugging his brother tight, pressing their foreheads together. "This is where we will bring our children to tell them ghost stories!" ***** Elrond paused, watching the candle flicker. He rose slowly to close the window and paused to look out upon the snow. He frowned and pressed two fingers to his temple, closing his eyes and exhaling slowly. A steady beat thrummed at his temples. He knew what it heralded and felt this was a vision he did not want. But he could push it away no longer, as he had been doing all day. He just... He felt a stirring of what the vision would be and did not wish to see it. Not now. The vague unease he had felt... he did not wish such pain to accompany it, as it always did with these visions of the past. It would not be thwarted though and he made his way to a chair by the fire. He grasped the blanket that Estel had used earlier tightly about him, resting his elbow on the plush cushion of the arm rest and resting his head on his hand, his gaze not quite focused on the flames before him. He shuddered and let the vision overtake him. ***** He raced through the forest until his lungs burned for air and his sore legs were trembling with strain, ready to give out on him. The whips of young branches against his face did not deter him, pulling his hair by their wooden hands. His world reduced to the sickening snap of a bone splintering and then the overwhelming need to escape as his throat closed with nausea and tears. He ran before any of the Elves could react. But he could not run any longer because he could no longer breathe. A root came into his weaving path, tripping him. He fell, tumbling on the slow incline and came to an abrupt thudding halt, gasping at air that would not fill his lungs and suddenly aware of just how much he hurt. He could not think, lay conscious but insensible for long moments. Then the sound of hooves and voices made their way into his hazy mind. A hand touched him, the garbled voices beginning to make sense and his eyes found a point of focus. "Are you trying to run away?" Maedhros stood over him and though he tried to keep his tone light, almost teasing, Elrond supposed, he heard the edge beneath it. They were not allowed to leave, they would be prevented from leaving, though Elrond did not know what that might entail. They were hostages. They were hostages not... not... A spike of pain shot through him. He did not want to think about that. He knew it was true but it hurt so to think of it, that they were only hostages in the end and now... He struggled to turn to his side, flailing so as to avoid Maedhros' boots as he retched. He lay shivering, only half hearing the noises about him, and then hands were lifting him. They placed him onto a horse, the buzzing of words floating around him, and he felt an arm wrap around him to steady him. "Time for you to go home," Maedhros told him. He was neither rough nor gentle but it meant something that he was carrying Elrond before him for it was not easy for him. Elrond remained nearly limp against him, no coherent words passing his lips only deep nearly inaudible whimpers. Maedhros did not know what to make of it. He was no father. He assumed the child had not been trying to escape because his twin was not with him and the two were all but inseparable. Maglor, he knew, often found them curled up in one bed together and tried to discourage that by giving them separate rooms. He frowned, his brother never forbid it though, because the twins still had nightmares from what they had seen of battle and slaughter. Being together seemed to ease such pain and terror for them and Maglor had it not in his heart to deny them that. And Maglor was raising them, truly seemed to be, and so long as he did not let them go Maedhros cared not. He did not know what had happened to the Elfling whimpering against him, nor did he know how to deal with it. He would let his brother take care of it. He was not sure what he had expected when he arrived at his brother's home. Not his songbird brother preparing to lead what appeared to be a search party, though he could not say he disapproved. "Have you lost something, brother?" Maedhros asked, for Maglor was not facing him. His brother turned but his face was indecipherable as he held out his hand for the child and Maedhros passed him down to him without comment. Elrond was trembling terribly and when Maglor's arms closed around him his fragile restraint gave way and he began sobbing near violently. Maglor knelt so to hold him properly and did so tenderly. Maedhros frowned, dismounted, and gave quick orders for those gathered to depart to their duties. Maglor ignored all but the small body cradled against him, who he tried to soothe with soft song. Elrond's hands curled tightly into the fabric of Maglor's tunic, his face pressed hard against his shoulder, unseen for the veil of dark hair covering it, dark hair that Maglor stroked with great gentleness. He was murmuring words, though they were mostly lost in his gasping sobs, but Maedhros' caught a few, "'M sorry...did not mean to...ata..." repeated over and over again. Elrond's tears were exhausted quickly, he was too tired for so violent a reaction, and he crumbled further against his foster father and keeper. Jailer, Maedhros reminded himself. He doubted any but of this house remembered and even he found himself forgetting. Maglor rose, the child still in his arms, and arched an eyebrow at his brother. He turned and took his charge inside. Maedhros sighed, shook his head, and followed. Maglor sat Elrond upon a soft chair in a quiet room and bathed his face with cool water before tending to his cuts and scraps. Elrond was still sniffling but had calmed enough. Wide eyes raised hesitantly to looked at the one who had become his foster ata. "'M sorry, ata." "I know," Maglor told him quietly, calmly, drawing the still trembling child close. Elrond rested his head on the offered shoulder and curled his fingers in the soft hair. "I did not mean to run away. I was not running away from you." "I know you were not," Maglor said again, finding his brother's eyes. Maedhros stood in the doorway, watching. "You know better. Do not worry of it now, it was a reaction, and we shall not speak of it until later. I would take you to see your brother now." Elrond shivered and pushed his head further into the comfort of Maglor's presence. "I did not mean to. I did not!" "I know, I know, hush, star child," Maglor soothed, ignoring his brother's deepening frown. "It was an accident. He is well. The arm will heal. He asked for you earlier. May I take you to him now?" Elrond hesitated but Maglor felt the slow nod against his shoulder. Maglor picked him up again, glaring at his brother to remained silent. Maedhros dipped his head ever so slightly in agreement and moved aside to let him pass, following close behind. Elrond's face had appeared by the time they reached his brother's room, with curtains drawn and darkened. Maglor held him awhile longer. Elros, under the influence of a strong draught they had used when resetting his arm, did not wake to his visitors. "You must not jostle him overmuch," Maglor told Elrond quietly. Elrond nodded even as his eyes were fixed on his brother. "But he needs you with him." Elrond held tighter to his foster ata for a moment, eyes on Elros' bound arm. He looked suddenly at Maglor. "I want to do that." "Break your arm?" Maglor asked. "No, I want to help," Elrond murmured. He let his head rest on Maglor's shoulder a moment. "I want to be able to heal." Maedhros watched as his brother stood very still before saying quietly. "That is a noble thing. We shall see, but let those who are full healers attend your brother now. Do not try to yourself." "Yes, ata," Elrond replied. Maglor set him down, carefully, next to his brother on the bed. Elros stirred, woke a little and the twins curled up together without speech, adjusting because of Elros' arm. Maglor bent, kissed both dark brows, pausing to brush his fingers against Elrond's and offer a soft smile, before turning to his brother and indicating they would leave the room. As the left Maedhros heard the injured child murmur, "No leaving me, El. You are not allowed to leave me." The door closed, the twins were left together, Elros drifting and Elrond wide awake. He looked at his brother, whose eyes were closed as that was how he slept, and whispered, "No. I will not leave you 'Ros. You will leave me." "Will not," Elros muttered sleepily. "And we have ata." "Yes." Tears spilt unnoticed down Elrond's pale cheeks. "For now, we do." On the other side of the closed door the two sons of Fëanor heard not the conversation of the sounds of Eärendil. They may have, had Maedhros not quickly said to his brother, "You love them." Maglor did not reply to the statement, instead explaining. "They were playing, scuffling though good naturedly, and Elrond shoved his brother in jest, only he is stronger than he appears and Elros fell down the stairs. Elrond raced away before I could follow and, in truth, I was more worried about Elros. It was luck that he was not injured worse. A broken arm will mend easily enough." "You love them, brother," Maedhros repeated, ignoring the other words. They did not concern him so much. Maglor nodded once. "I do." Maedhros shook his head. "And if we must use them as hostages?" "I beg you do not ask that of me," Maglor said. "If we do, brother?" Maedhros repeated. Maglor looked down, his voice near silent. "Then we must but I beg you do not ask it of me for, yes, I do love them." Maedhros smiled very slightly. "And they you, it seems." Maglor looked up almost shyly but with pride. "They call me ata of their own will." "Fatherhood looks well on you," Maedhros commented. He came forward and embraced his brother as tightly as he was able. "Only if we must, songbird, and only if there is no other path left. I will not take them from you, nor speak of this again." "Thank you," Maglor replied, barely audible as he hugged his brother back. Maedhros did not stay long and saw little of the twins, for Elrond did not leave Elros' side before he left, and Maglor was not allowing Elros to do much. He returned later, and they had grown some, and Elros' arm had taken no lasting damage nor were the twins never seen one without the other any longer, though they were still often found side by side. He found Elrond one night outside, his head tilted to watch the stars, for which he was named, dark hair trailing long down his back. Elrond turned at his approach and did not react. Maedhros knew, though, that the half-Elven child saw him clearly and felt something akin to gladness to see he was not frightened. Elrond rose as he grew closer and it became clear his intent was speech with the elder of the two twins his brother had taken as his own sons. Elrond gave a dip of his head in greeting, being respectful. "I have found something that might interest you," Maedhros said without a formal greeting. He held out a slim book, which Elrond took with another slight bow. "It will aid you in your studies." It was a book on herbs and herb lore, Elrond saw and he smiled at the tall Elf. "Thank you, uncle." Maedhros was not sure what to think of that name. He would have to speak to his brother, but he nodded. "You still intend that path?" "Yes, sir," Elrond told him. "I do." Maedhros nodded, turned to go but turned back and regarded the son of those who had thwarted him from fulfilling his dreadful oath and casting off some of his burden. Elrond was older, but a child still and Maedrhos smiled slightly, but genuinely at him. "It is a noble thing, as my brother says." He turned and disappeared. All faded into starlight. ***** A new flash rose up before him, trailing on the familiar vision. It was one he had not looked upon before and made him feel ill to see even as he rose out of the vision with a soft moan and a shiver. A hand pressed against his forehead and he focused on a pair of concerned grey eyes. Elladan murmured, "Ada..." A flask was pressed against his lips and he drank slowly until he could raise his shaking hand to support it. Glorfindel's concern mirrored Elrond's eldest son. He tipped a trickle more miruvor into his mouth and swallowed it before managing to force himself into full awareness. Glorfindel frowned. "Elladan, go fetch a bottle of good strong wine and some food. I shall stay with your father." It was an order, not a request and Elladan frowned but complied. Once he was gone Glorfindel pulled a chair closer to Elrond and took a slim motionless hand in his own. He asked quietly, "Was it Ereinion or was it them?" There was a flash in Elrond's eyes. "They have names." "And at times to hear them pains you still," Glorfindel said without anger. "An easy enough thing to understand. The parting was difficult." "The relationship was difficult, though there was great love there." Elrond exhaled and squeezed the hand that held his tightly. "You know well my heart, mellon-nîn." Glorfindel smiled sadly. Being confidante of the Lord of Imladris was a job he inherited from one he too had greatly loved. "Someone needs to take care of you, Elrond, for you so often find yourself far too busy taking care of others to do so. There are few visions that garner such a reaction from you. One is memories of your foster atar; the other is the memory of our King and the fire..." Elrond shuddered, the simple words calling up another such vision that of his beloved King, his closest friend, being burned alive before his eyes, falling to his knees, desperate to heal the smoldering form even though he knew it was too late, that his hands would fail, that exhaustion would overcome him and bring about his own collapse. His own scream echoed in his ears from life ages past. Both of Glorfindel's hands tightened around his wrists and his eyes cleared. Elrond trembled, swallowed and met his friend's worried eyes. Glorfindel's hands moved gently up his arms. It was unusual for two such visions to play before him so closely together. "I have been in a fey mood all day, mellon," Elrond murmured. "Why, mellon-nîn?" Glorfindel asked in concern. Imladris' lord could not be so susceptible to visions that left him shaky and heartsick. "Something is to happen," Elrond said in a low voice. "Something that must be. Something that must happen for all to unfold as it should but it is not right!" Glorfindel frowned. "What have you seen?" "It is more of a feeling," Elrond answered. "But there was a flash, at the end of the vision, which is one I have had before, part memory, part... I see more than I did then. It was but a moment. A boy crying and red blood on a white quill, but the boy is familiar to me, I have seen him once before." Elrond shook his head. "I know this must happen, that much depends on it, but I wish it were not so. It is not deserved. It is an evil thing that it must be so!" "We live in evil times," Glorfindel said softly. Elrond shivered and saw for a moment a flash of haunted eyes and felt a gentle hand, a hand calloused by a sword that had been stained by much blood, touch his cheek. His throat burned as it had then and he gave a soft gasp as he tried to draw in breath. Glorfindel gripped his forearm and pressed the flask to his lips again. Elrond took several gulps of it this time. "Speak to me of other things. Speak to me of Ereinion and the good times we shared for my mind seems bent on the past this night. If such memories must take me let them be of our choosing." Glorfindel did not question but began to speak of Lindon and its Lord, their high King. Elrond called to mind his booming laugh and his face made perfect in memory. Glorfindel knew from experience the trick of such things was to wait them out. He had seen Elrond thus a time or two before though the trigger was less understandable this time. ***** Elrond sought his bed late. Visions pressed against his mind. They would not leave him. Glorfindel was concerned, though Elrond had tried to explain. "The future is being shaped," Elrond had murmured as Glorfindel and his eldest son coaxed food and wine into him, which he did not refuse. "What shall happen makes much fall into place for the future. Time waits with impatience for a while longer. It brings the past very close" Glorfindel had frowned. Elladan had moved close to his father and rested the Elf lord's weary head upon his shoulder. Eventually, when the touch of past and future and present refused to lift, waiting, as Elrond said, for something before it relented, they gave up trying to wait them out. Elrond needed rest, though sleep more than anything else brought on such visions. And Elladan refused to leave his father's side, even when Elrond was curled in his vast bed, open eyes glazed with sleep. His father made no sound in sleep nor was there any flicker behind his eyes but Elladan knew he was dreaming and that he dreamt through as he walked the dream scape. ***** They festivities had ended. They were alone now and Elrond turned to his Lord and dipped his head slightly. "My King." Gil-Galad chuckled, moved forward two strides and enfolded the younger, slighter Elf into a tight embrace. Being slighter than Gil-Galad was an easy feat, he was of a more solid girth than any other Elf Elrond had ever seen. "My friend, I have missed you." "So have I, Ereinion," Elrond told him, hugging back. His hand remained on Gil-Galad's arm. "Come, I shall pour some wine and then I expect to hear all the news from Lindon. Your cook is the biggest gossip in all of Arda, that is why you still employee her. I wish to hear everything." "You always did. I was never surprised you chose the immortal life of an eldar. It shall take that long for your curiosity to be fully sated," Gil-Galad said, excepting the offered glass of wine. Elrond chuckled and poured his own. He glanced up to see Gil-Galad regarding him seriously over the rim of the wine glass. He arched an eyebrow at him. Gil-Galad turned his gaze to his glass, twirling the deep red liquid slowly before his intense gaze returned to his friend. "We must talk now, mellon-nîn, of serious matters before we find merriment in our shared company." Elrond sipped his wine slowly, his gaze never wavering from that of his King. "What must we discuss?" "The future," Gil-Galad replied and was silent for a long time. He roused himself, saw Elrond still watching and smiled briefly. "I have recently come to a decision. You know I have no Heir and that I am unlikely to... remedy that situation." Elrond tensed and Gil-Galad smiled softly. They had spoken of this before. Elrond had no desire for power and though he would do all for his King it was not something he wished to be named, though Gil-Galad had considered it for a time. "No, Elrond. That is not something I will ever ask you," Gil-Galad said quietly. "Build this, your sanctuary for others, see it flourish as I knew it will. Heal, teach, learn as I know is your wish." A hardly discernable blush stole high over Elrond's cheeks and he relaxed again. "You know I would do aught that you asked of me my King..." Gil-Galad waved his hand. "I know, Elrond. It is not what I wish of you. I have ever wished to see you happy. I fear, though, that the task I will am going to ask of you will be no more to your liking." "I fear what the future may bring for us, mellon-nîn, and it is time for me to pass something important on," Gil-Galad said, his eyes distant. "And I know that there are no safer hands in all of Arda." Vilya, ring of Air, greatest of the Three, was revealed to him, offered up between Gil-Galad's fingers. Elrond took a step back, shaking his head in a desperate fashion. "No." "Dear friend..." Gil-Galad began. "No, do not ask this of me," Elrond said flatly. "Ereinion, you of all beings must know... This is not something I would accept. I shall carry no trinkets such as this." Gil-Galad's face softened. "I know what you fear, Elrond, but I must pass this on and I will entrust it with no other." "I do not fear but that I cannot bear the weight of such a thing," Elrond told him. "Please, Ereinion, do not ask me." "I do ask you," Gil-Galad said sadly. He slipped the ring into his pocket and came to Elrond, framing his face with gentle hands. Elrond met his eyes without hesitation. "Speak to me." "Trinkets, jewels, have had enough influence over my life," Elrond swallowed. "You of all remaining know the cost of carrying such things, of what the cost will be to me. My nana and adar were taken from me for the sake of a jewel. My nana abandoned me and Elros to the mercies of those who were kinslayers for the sake of a jewel which meant much, not unlike that ring you wish for me to carry. That they were kind to us was luck; that he came to love us and we him was a blessing but could easily not have been so. Do not ask me to carry such a weight." "Elrond, your mother..." "Nay, nay, I need not to hear it. I understand, now, but then I did not and the hurt of that child still lingers in my heart, I fear. For the sake of a Silmaril I was twice abandoned; both partings were painful and now you ask me to bear this ring? What shall I have of sacrifice to keep it safe and secret?" Elrond asked. "How shall it be different? Tell me, Ereinion! Tell me why I should bear this?" "Because you, of all others, can. Who better knows the consequences of bearing such things? Who is better forewarned than you? For all the Silmarils touched your life did they ever once touch you? Did you ever desire them? Having seen them as a child and being raised in the house whose downfall they brought about? Elrond, you have such strength! Who else would I entrust this task to?" Gil-Galad paused, came forward and took Elrond's hands in his own, finding his haunted eyes. "Dear friend, I ask you this not to hurt you, but because there is no other I so trust, no other I will give this task, save you. Please, Elrond son of Eärendil, son of Maglor, I ask you to guard this for me." Elrond jerked, looked away, pulled away. He took a few steps, unsure where to go, turned to his bookcase. His hand lifted for a moment, fingers twitching, but the book he sought was not there, had been lost long ago. His hand fell limply to his side and he bowed his head. Gil-Galad saw his lips move but heard not a word pass them. Elrond turned back to his King, posture heavy with all his age. "I will bear this burden for you." Gil-Galad nodded once and came forward. He took Elrond's hand, turned the palm upward, and placed Vilya into his palm, curling his fingers around it. Elrond swallowed, his eyes closing as if he was in pain. His hand shook as he felt this new burden for the first time. "It is yours now," Gil-Galad whispered. He did not open his eyes as Gil-Galad opened his palm again and moved the ring. Elrond soon felt the brush of metal against his neck, felt his King fasten a long, thin mithril chain around his neck, the ring dangling from the end. "When you have become used to the power and can shield yourself from its darker edge wear it upon your finger. It will give you more control. Do not fear to use it to make Rivendell a true sanctuary when you feel you are able." Elrond exhaled and opened his eyes, meeting those of his King as Gil-Galad fastened his robes again with nimble fingers. "This shall change me." "All things do, be they good or ill," Gil-Galad murmured, smiling sadly. "The past can hurt, and for you it is most painful, but it is those events that shape who we are and so it must be, though it makes me heartsick to believe so." Gil-Galad pressed a hand against Elrond's chest, where Vilya now lay beneath his clothing, heavy against his skin. "This will change you. I grieve for it but it must be so and I know you have the strength to become all the more noble with that change." Gil-Galad let his hand drop. "If this... duty I ask of you causes your feelings for me to sour I will understand it." Elrond's eyes flew open, he began to speak and thought better of it, instead throwing his arms around his King. Gil-Galad exhaled. He had feared that, feared asking Elrond for the cost of their friendship but knew, in the end, that he must even if that should be the cost. "Fool," Elrond told him. "There is none dearer to me in this world. You shall ever have my love, my King." "As you have mine," Gil-Galad told him. "Though my rank in your heart may change if the fair daughter of Galadriel has her way!" Elrond laughed and the release of it forced tears to spill down his cheeks. Gil-Galad wiped them away with a tender hand. He pressed his forehead against Elrond's. "I think it is time we both indulged in a glass of strong spirits. This night was to be joyful."

This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

   

In Challenges

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Author: Jacks

Status: Beta

Completion: Work in Progress

Rating: General

Last Updated: 11/29/04

Original Post: 05/20/04

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