Ceranos smiled inwardly as another one of the servants passed by him without taking any notice of him. It seemed that everyone was too absorbed on his own duties to pay attention to a wanderer in the halls, no matter how wan his face was or how tiredly he walked. Moreover, Ceranos discovered something intriguing considering his hair. Though he thought of it quite short, it was of the same length as a Gondorian's was. And, if he placed his strands in a way that it covered his leaf-shaped ears, he could pass as one of them. Pleased with himself, he decided to use this to his advantage and so walked in every inch of the palace, observing the people and taking in any information he wanted.
He never expected it, but he liked what he saw. He had feared to discover that life was no different than in Rhûn, yet the city and its people seemed prosperous and, more importantly, peaceful. In fact, he could picture himself living here and be content.
Yet what am I to do here?
That thought landed him again into harsh reality. What kind of service was he to offer to a city of Men? If he had learned anything well, it was that no one offered anything without expecting something in return. Lord Elessar's offer could not possibly be an exception; so what could the king possibly want from him? Could it be his experience as a warrior? Ceranos shook his head, smiling grimly. Minas Tirith had more than enough soldiers; one more wouldn't make the difference. Even if Elessar wished him indeed to stay for that reason, Ceranos would have to decline. He had grown tired of fighting.
A flash of green made him turn and look through the window he was now passing by. He leant against the frame, admiring the beauty of the garden that stretched in front of him; he couldn't even remember the last time that he had seen anything so beautiful. As he still looked outside, he was surprised to feel the cold in his skin crawling away and his muscles tingling to life. Before he could help himself, he had sat on the frame with stretched arms and legs and his eyes closed, savouring the warmth of the sunrays as they showered him dotingly. Sighing, he let himself be lulled almost to sleep by the rustling of the leaves and the sharp chirping of the birds.
Then the sound of talking made his ears twitch. He snapped his eyes open and, sitting up once more, he listened intently at the direction of the garden. It was then that he saw them: the blond Elf-archer and the Dwarf, and they were not alone. Two other Elves, dark-haired, were accompanying them.
Ceranos's first thought was to leave before he was being noticed; only to see that he couldn't – or rather, he didn't want to leave. His eyes locked onto the Dwarf and one of the black-haired Elves as they now stood side by side and conversing with many a jest. He bit his lower lip as the thought occurred to him: the Dwarf looked very much like Náin, whereas the Elf looked too much like…
Memories of old pierced his mind, their burden making Ceranos slide down on the floor. He embraced his legs and let his head rest on his knees as he unconsciously contemplated his life again.
I am alone.
It was then that a tingling sensation crawled down his spine. Ceranos snapped his head up to see another Elf was standing next to him, merely a few inches away from him. Ceranos almost jumped, startled. Why didn't he sense the Elf approaching him sooner? He hastily started to rise to… greet? Run off? He would decide once he was on his feet again.
Another pang of pain within his heart coursing through him stopped him. Stunned, he collapsed on the floor with a heavy thud, whereas tears sprang up involuntarily as he felt like he was torn in pieces from within. He didn't even have the chance to be ashamed for proving such a poor sight to the Elf. All he could do was clench his jaw, keep himself completely still and breathe heavily in an attempt to ease such a crisis. He couldn't even afford to flinch as a pair of hands caught him gently, helping him up to a sitting position.
Ceranos found himself obeying to the softly spoken command and suffering the aid given. A warm hand held firmly the back of his head, whereas the other rested against his chest, close to his heart. In a matter of moments, sweet, familiar warmth resided and the pain was gone. Relieved, his eyes locked on the Elf's grey ones.
"You are welcome," the Elf said always in the Elven-Tongue, smiling; then his eyes locked on his bandaged shoulder. "Will you tell me who decided you could get out of bed when your body is clearly still on the mend?"
Ceranos cringed. How was he to explain this? In the end, deciding that the best way was to be honest, he pointed at himself. All the blood in his body rushed to his face, flaring it as he grinned sheepishly. To his surprise, the Elf simply laughed.
"I should have expected this," he said. "May I sit next to you?"
Ceranos's eyes widened with disbelief. On the floor?!
"It is best that you did not get up yet, and you can hardly expect me to stoop the whole time I am speaking to you, young one, can you? I am older than I seem," he noted, his lips tugging to a small smile.
After a moment of consideration, Ceranos finally consented. The Elf gathered his robes about him and sat, resting his back against the wall.
"Now, can you tell me why you left your room? Do not fret, I was told of your story and what happened to your voice. Explain things the best you can."
Ceranos was hardly reassured though. Though he was saved the trouble of speaking about things that made him feel uncomfortable, he was still not certain if the Elf would understand him by using gestures. Seeing that he didn't have any other choice though, Ceranos used the appropriate signs slowly and mouthed their meaning.
I wanted to see the place.
The Elf nodded his understanding. "What you did was rather foolish though. You should have waited till you had gained some more strength and then you could have asked someone to show you Minas Tirith."
There was no rebuke in the Elf's voice, nor anger or annoyance, yet Ceranos still felt guilty for what he had done. He bowed his head so as not to look at the stern face he was certain the Elf had.
The Elf, however, prodded Daurir to face him once more.
"That does not mean I do not understand," he said, the same small smile appearing on his lips. "My sons can prove much worse and they are supposed to be knowledgeable to the arts of healing."
His sons? Ceranos's mind strayed to the black-haired Elves he saw only a few moments ago and recalled the family resemblance.
"You know of whom I am talking about then?" asked the Elf.
Ceranos pointed outside, where he could still hear the other three Elves and the Dwarf talking. He couldn't help but wonder at how well he managed to keep a conversation with the elderly Elf. Am I really so easy to read? He didn't know if he should feel happy or embarrassed.
The Elf looked out and his smile broadened.
"Yes, that is them." He beckoned Daurir to look out with him, offering his arm for support. "The one on the left is Elladan and the one on the right is Elrohir," he said, once the young Elf steadied himself.
Ceranos pointed at them again and traced with his hand his face, mouthing the word 'same'.
"Of course they are the same, they are twins. That does not mean you cannot tell them apart if you look closely. And if you get to know them, you will realise that their character is rather different. Elrohir is more cautious in his words and actions, whereas Elladan is straightforward and stubborn. Of the two, Elladan was the worst when he was supposed to be healed after some misfortune or other. Once, he had broken his leg and was attacked by Wargs, leaving him in such a weak state that everyone doubted he would recover any time soon. Yet in two days Elrohir was chasing him around the halls to make him stay in bed. It is intriguing how fast an Elf with crutches can move."
Before he realised what was happening, Ceranos felt his lips tugged forcefully upwards and his breath coming out in a series of gasps that, though there was no sound uttered, could still only resemble… laughter! He immediately covered his mouth and stopped, his eyes widening in shock.
The Elf regarded Daurir for several moments and then clasped his hand on his shoulder solemnly.
"Young one, you merely laughed. No wrong ever came out of that. Indeed it is times like these that we are reminded we are alive. Such a gift should be cherished, not regarded as something shameful."
But Ceranos only shook his head. Why should he be reminded he was alive, when he should have perished with his family? If anything, this now seemed an even greater torture.
Again the Elf prodded him to look at him, and he looked deep into his eyes. It was strange but, though the gaze was piercing, Ceranos felt he could trust this Elf. There was a kindness within those grey eyes that he had yet to see in anyone.
"There is no clear answer to the questions you seek," the Elf said then softly, clearly seeing through Ceranos's anguish. "I could easily say that it is a way for the Valar to test us, yet it would not be true. The Valar have always loved the Firstborn, and when one loves he does not make his beloved suffer. They can, however, lighten our path and give us strength when our faith is swaying and ready to crumble – especially in war, where not even another one's life is respected as something sacred. As to why it is that some of us seem to be chosen for that kind of burden while others die, I can only answer from my own experience, though the answer can differ in each and every person. Whoever survives, for good or for evil, means he has something yet to offer in this world, and he has to find what that is in order to honour those who have completed their circle in life with their death. Do you understand, young one?"
Though Ceranos nodded, it was clear that he wasn't certain of what he was told. He had lost himself in thought in an attempt to ponder on this, when footsteps echoed down the hallway. He swallowed hard. Were they looking for him?
"Do not fret, I know who they are," said the Elf. "Elladan! Elrohir! Come here a moment, please, and bring Legolas and Gimli with you!" He pretended not to notice Ceranos signing to him frantically to keep his voice down, and he simply stepped aside when Ceranos tried to hide behind him.
Soon enough, Elladan, Elrohir, Legolas and Gimli had arrived.
"You called for us, father?" asked Elladan in the Common-tongue so Gimli could understand as well; then his eyes locked on the short-haired Elf who was doing his best to look away, as though thinking that, if he didn't pay any attention to the newcomers, they wouldn't notice him either. "Is that who I think it is?" he exclaimed.
Elrohir approached, his curiosity evident in his eyes; then extended his arm. "Hello. Estel told us of you and we have been meaning to make your acquaintance."
Daurir looked at the hand stretched in Elven greeting, clearly indecisive since he didn't understand why would anyone wish to make his acquaintance. In the end, however, obviously realising that the least he could do was return the courtesy, he imitated the greeting, his eyes always on the twins; then repeated it towards the blond archer, even though more stiffly.
"I am sorry for your injury," Legolas said, understanding the reason for this. "I had to protect my friends."
Daurir nodded and raised his hand in peace, mouthing with a small reassuring smile the word I understand. Lastly, Daurir approached Gimli, who was waiting rather uncomfortably a little further away, and bowed low in the customary manner of the Dwarves.
Everyone stared in amazement, for clearly none of them expected Daurir to accept a Dwarf's presence without so much as a second thought. "You're acquainted with Dwarves," Gimli faltered, just as dumbfounded.
"It seems that our acquaintance has more in him than meets the eye," commented Elrond, his gaze locked on Daurir thoughtfully. "Stay with him, all of you, and keep him company. Meanwhile, I will go tell the healers I have found their missing patient."
"As you wish, Father," said Elrohir.
"It will be good to get acquainted with him, Lord Elrond," said Legolas courteously.
At once Ceranos felt like stunned. He had been conversing all this time with Elrond Half-Elven? The same one who raised Aragorn, the only Man Ceranos had come to consider a friend? What is he doing here, of all places?! Before he realised what he was doing and his curiosity proving stronger than courtesy towards as Elf so powerful, he had caught Elrond by the arm and tried his best to show him that he wanted him to stay. Ceranos meant to ask him so many things, he didn't even know from where to begin!
Elrond, however, only smiled as he released himself gently from his grip. "It has to be done, young one. The healers have every right to know where you are and then decide whether they should let you be or return you to your bed. Farewell for the present." And with no other word, he left.
"Do not worry," Elladan said encouragingly as Ceranos kept shaking his head. "Father will see to it that you can stay with us a little while longer."
Ceranos huffed, frustrated. He wasn't concerned about the healers anymore, didn't any of them understand? He wanted to learn tidings about Aragorn, even if it meant to confirm what he had been suspecting: that, bound by the fate of his race, Aragorn was long gone.
Control yourself! You will be with his sons, so you can ask them. Taking heart, Ceranos finally nodded his defeat.
"I do not see why we should stay in the corridor," Elrohir said then. "Daurir should not be standing if he can help it."
Ceranos kept himself from cringing at the sound of the false name. He hadn't been called by any of his new acquaintances thus before, and he was hoping he never would.
"But where should we go?" asked Gimli.
"I suggest we all go to my quarters," said Legolas. "They are the closest, and I even have some extra pieces of parchment that Daurir can use if he wants to tell us anything. If it is all right with him, of course."
"Well, you get to have the final word, Daurir," said Elladan, smiling. "Do you think you can cope with us and keep us company?"
Ceranos straightened. The way Elladan spoke the last words were as though he was challenging him. Immediately he nodded, wishing to prove himself.
"Let us go then," Elladan said, smiling meaningfully to the others. He had managed to make Daurir stay with them.
Hundor wiped the sweaty beads of his face and resumed again his work. He was still one of the finest blacksmiths in Minas Tirith, in spite of his old age, and when the manservant told him about King Éomer's horse, he had immediately taken up the task. After all, though he had too much work to do already, what with his apprentice gone to open his own forgery in Emyn Arnen, he didn't feel he should deny working on the hooves of a King's horse.
Again he threw at himself some cold water to cool himself. He had been working since dawn, and the furnace had been making the heat in the room unbearable for quite some time now. It couldn't be helped though. He didn't have much time in his hands if he wanted to catch up with all the work he had planned on doing today, so he used the bellows to make the fire in the furnace even stronger to melt the iron more quickly; whereas in the meantime he tapped and scraped another long piece of iron in the shape of a sword meant for a young squire.
He rubbed his forehead again as he noticed dismayed that for some reason he couldn't concentrate on his work. Restlessness settled within him and his breathing came out more difficult now. Instinctively he knew that he should go out and have some fresh air in order to clear his mind, but he couldn't bring himself to put a halt to his work at this time. Gritting his teeth he kept working, until weakness swept through him and made him drop the half-finished sword.
Only then did he finally admit to himself that he had to stop. He rose, wondering at his light-headedness and nausea; then collapsed on the floor, knocking down everything that was on the table, including a small lantern.
Legolas opened the drawer of his nightstand and, after finally finding what he had been looking for, took the piece of paper and placed it on the table, next to Daurir.
"Here is also a pen and some ink," he added, handing the items to the shorthaired Elf. "I hope they will suit you."
Daurir didn't make any attempt to answer at once, something that surprised the rest of the Elves and Gimli. They all watched in wonder as Daurir felt the pen in his hands almost reverently; then, gripping the pen in his fingers so gently that it seemed he was afraid to break something precious, he wrote with a clear, handsome writing:
Thank you. It writes wonderfully.
Legolas couldn't help but smile at the compliment. "It is my father's. He gave it to me in order to write to him of tidings whenever I have the chance."
"It was not always your father's though, if my memory does not deceive me," Elladan noted, his gaze locked on the pen.
Legolas laughed. "No, your memory still serves you well. It was indeed Lord Elrond's. He gave it to my father as a token of friendship."
"I remember. It was a return gift for the bow Lord Thranduil had sent to Rivendell. It is good to see that you still have it with you intact – unlike us, because of someone I know." Elladan glared at his twin.
Elrohir's own glare, however, easily matched his brother's. "I have already apologised enough times for it!"
"Yes – seventy years ago; whereas you broke it on the day of our coming of age!"
Legolas's couldn't help but laugh again. "You do not intend on letting this matter rest, do you?"
"No!" cried both Elladan and Elrohir, one with indignation and the other with stoic patience.
All three Elves turned at Gimli, since they all noted the urgency in the Dwarf's voice. Gimli handed the piece of parchment to them.
"Daurir asked me if you are indeed the son of the King of Mirkwood Forest. When I said yes, this is what he wrote."
Legolas read the parchment; then looked with surprise at Daurir. Without much thought, he gave it to the twins and, as they still read, he sat next to the shorthaired Elf. The twins also raised an eyebrow at what they saw.
If I was rude before, my apologies. I did not know I was speaking with the son of an Elf who only struck me as honourable and noble when I met him.
"How did you come to know my father?" asked Legolas, his gaze locked on Daurir. "The only explanation I can give is that you served him, yet your features do not mark a Woodland Elf."
Daurir beckoned Elladan to hand him the piece of parchment, so he could write again.
I met him once, not long ago.
"When?" asked Legolas again.
During the War.
That was all he wrote; his writing was become noticeably shaky. And everyone saw that Daurir's jaw had clenched tightly.
"I apologise, Daurir; I should have realised this conversation would make you uncomfortable."
Do not call me like that.
Daurir faced Legolas, and the desperate pleading reflected in the dark eyes made Legolas's heart wrench with sympathy. He looked at the twins and Gimli for some help.
Knowing what to do, Elladan found a blanket and placed it over Daurir's shoulders to offer comforting and soothing warmth.
"What do you wish us to call you?" he asked, using his healing skill to rub some of the tension off Daurir's back.
"Or, even better, what is your real name?" asked Gimli expectantly.
Daurir's eyes darted to Gimli and he remained gazing at him for several moments, his expression pained. Yet it was clear that he was in the brink of finally revealing his secret, so Elrohir placed his hand over Daurir's and squeezed it gently in encouragement.
"Gimli is right. Since Daurir must be a name given to you in hatred and fear, we should call you by a name that can only show you our friendship. What more suitable name then than the name your parents gave you?"
Daurir pondered on Elrohir's words for a while. Finally, his eyes shining with determination, he gripped the pen again and dived it into the ink. He was about to wipe off the excess ink and write, when suddenly cries filled the air.
"Fire at the forgery!"
Everyone rushed at the window and saw the black smoke rising in the courtyard. A series of neighs filled the air.
"The stables are near!" exclaimed Elrohir.
"There is no time to lose then! Hurry!" Legolas jumped out of the window and landed on the roof a few feet below; then jumped on the ground with the natural ease of a cat. Elladan and Elrohir followed his example and they were soon on the ground as well, hurrying towards the burning forgery.
"The long way around for me then," muttered Gimli as he burst out of the room.
He didn't see Daurir still standing by the window, his body rigid and his hands grabbing the window frame, struggling to decide.
Arod was the first to be guided out of the stables, followed soon by Elladan and Elrohir's horses. Tethering them at a safe distance, Legolas and the twins went back into the stables and finally got all the horses out. They had started helping the men to put out the fire, when Aragorn appeared running still in his official clothing, followed closely behind by Gimli and Éomer.
"Is anyone inside?" he cried, seeing the forgery wrapped in flames, just as the head servant had told him.
"We cannot tell, my Lord; there is too much smoke!" answered Iorlas, his face sweating as he carried another bucket of water.
"Then one of us has to go!" said Legolas. "I can see through the smoke."
"So can I," said Elladan. "We will both go."
"Are you both mad?" cried Éomer. "If the smoke will not blind you, the heat will kill you."
Gimli nodded. "And the furnace will not help matters."
"So we have to be swift," said Legolas. "Throw some water over us."
Gimli didn't do anything, clearly indecisive; then got ready to empty the bucket on Legolas and Elladan.
"Wait! Look!" shouted Aragorn.
Everybody turned and saw it, too: a tall form, using a wet blanket as cover, was carrying on his back the body of Hundor. His legs almost buckled at the weight, it was obvious that the burden was becoming too difficult for him to handle; yet Daurir still pressed on. Everyone watched with bated breath as Daurir took one forced step after another. He could be seen clearly now. A couple of steps more and he would be outside.
It was then that the roof collapsed and the two forms vanished beneath the falling debris.
As though strung and knowing there was not time to be wasted when two people were to be saved, everyone snapped into action once again. While most of the people were throwing water, Aragorn, Legolas, Elladan and Éomer rushed inside. In a matter of moments, all four were out again, dragging Daurir and Hundor and laying them on the ground.
"Are they alive?" Éomer asked worriedly.
"Hundor is breathing," answered Aragorn with relief. He turned to a couple of soldiers nearby. "Take him to the Houses of Healing." The soldiers obeyed, and Aragorn turned then to Daurir to see how he was faring.
The sight shocked him. The shorthaired Elf had curled to a ball on his side, rocking back and forth, his arms covering his face as though he was shielding himself. And though Elladan did his best to calm him, Aragorn could see the horror in Daurir's eyes as they stared into the void.
*Sedho, erneth: Hold still, young one (Sindarin)
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.