5. Chapter 5
- Chapter 5 -
'He's a liar, you know.'
The elves spun around to see an old man lounging against the tavern wall for support, obviously drunk. 'Always was a foul son of a bitch.'
Elrohir cocked an eyebrow. 'The tavern owner?' The man had not struck him as mean, but not particularly bright and officious, especially if he hoped there was a coin for the information.
The drunkard shook his head. 'Lachlan. The guy in the back.' Elrohir almost growled at the mention of the wretched creature.
He drew back as the old man leaned towards the group, confiding in what he thought was a conspiratorial whisper: 'Been spreadin' lies about that poor girl… I'll tell you the truth, good sirs, the honest truth…' He grinned, revealing black, rotten teeth. 'For a little reward, good sirs? Hmm?'
Elrohir fought the urge to grab the man and shake him until he spilled everything he knew, but Glorfindel pulled out a golden coin from his purse. 'This should suffice,' he said coldly. 'Now speak.'
The drunkard snatched the coin away, staring at it in awe as it shone in his dirty palm. Finally, he glanced around to make sure no one saw him pocket it. 'Yes,' he nodded, 'The poor girl. A nice one, she is, kind and all… But just as sane as you or me.' Elrohir was not certain he liked the comparison, but he gestured for the man to continue.
'Her mother died just after her birth; father was gone, an' she had no money. Begged Lachlan for some, an' he said he'd give her…' - the man wiggled his eyebrows suggestively, and Elrohir repressed a grimace of disgust – 'For her love…'
'A kind woman she was, Yelena…' The drunkard stared dreamily into space. 'And then Owain came back, an' learned of his wife. He went mad, almost did the bastard in – only for his daughter did he stop, so she'd not be an orphan…' The man looked Elrohir in the eye, and suddenly he felt that the drunk's mind was not as blurred as it seemed to be. There was sadness there, drowned away by alcohol. Did he grieve the passing of the mother, or only his long lost childhood innocence, his shattered dreams that he saw reflected in Wyn like in a mirror?
'The grandmother used to tell her stories of the fair folk, and dragons… You know… Mighty heroes… What harm, for a child, I ask you? But Lachlan only saw malice in that family, since Yelena's death.'
Elrohir thought he had heard enough. 'Come,' he muttered, gesturing for the others to follow.
But Elladan ignored him. 'What happened to her?' he asked.
Elrohir flinched at his brother's words, remembering that fateful night when he took an innocent being's life – little did it matter that she lived still.
The drunkard shrugged. 'No one ever knew what happened. The girl was five when she slipped out one night, mayhap in search of those elves of hers… But she was found in the morning, trampled and almost dead; she's been walkin' funny ever since.'
Clenching his teeth against the overwhelming feeling of dread and guilt, Elrohir tried to fight back the images of a little girl, sprawled out on the ground, bloodied and cold in the middle of the night, her sobs of pain muffled by the mud. A knot formed in his throat, tightening still and threatening to choke him. He had often imagined what it must've felt like, painting the picture as black as he could, but to hear the truth was a thousand times more painful. He pulled out another coin, and slipped it into the man's hand. 'Thank you,' he whispered hoarsely before turning away.
Even with his eyes closed could Elrohir recognize his brother's step, as he lay down beside him. He felt the sun on his face; it painted the inside of his eyelids with the red of his own blood.
'Will you not leave me alone?' he muttered.
Elladan remained silent, and the only answer he got was a soft sigh, as his twin settled more comfortably beside him. The stones had been warmed up by the sun, and with Imladris almost empty, there was no one who would reproach them for the indignity of lying in the middle of a bridge. It was like doing whatever they wanted, their constant dream as elflings, but almost three thousand years too late.
'You are difficult to miss,' replied Elladan eventually. 'If you wanted privacy, you shouldn't have chosen the main entrance for your nap.' As Elrohir remained stubbornly silent, he shifted again, and spoke: 'I find it interesting that you have been watching the girl for this long, without taking any action.' Elrohir stiffened. He felt that Elladan was digging for the shameful truth, and that he was close to finding it.
'Twenty years,' continued his brother. 'I can imagine that love drove you to the village during these last months, but I keep wondering why you started your courtship so early. Being overly cautious, perhaps? I think not.'
Elrohir growled. 'Careful, brother. You're digging too deep; beware of the shadows.'
'The only explanation I can see is that you feel some duty towards that girl,' continued Elladan, ignoring his warning. 'A debt.'
Elrohir's eyes shot open, and he leaped to his feet. 'Enough,' he hissed. 'My conscience is none of your concern. You've meddled enough with my feelings; why don't you stick to that?' His fists clenched in annoyance and he spun on his heels.
'I remember that night.'
'Your solo patrol at Amon Sul, if I am not mistaken. You had been attacked, and gravely wounded. I recall that Sídhguil barely managed to patch you up.' Elrohir turned around slowly. All these years he had believed that the memory of that fateful night had been kept by him alone. All these years he had carried the secret…
'Himdal's hide and hooves were full of blood. Until yesterday I had believed it to be yours.'
'It wasn't.' Elrohir's voice was thick with guilt and contempt. 'Truth is, I don't recall anything of that night, after I somehow managed to get on Himdal's back. I had urged him to get me home...' Elrohir sank to the ground and buried his face in his hands. 'But I kept dreaming this one dream: darkness, darkness all around, and a blood-chilling cold. And a child's face, twisted in terror. Once healed, I retraced my steps, down the Bruinen and into Hoarwell's valley. To Black Oak. And I learned that a small girl had been trampled by some stranger who had rushed through the village in the middle of the night.' He looked at his brother. 'I almost killed her, Elladan. And I have destroyed her dreams.'
'Dreams can be rebuilt, brother,' Elladan said from his position on the ground. His eyes were closed, and he was enjoying the sunshine as had Elrohir moments before. 'You could paint her new ones, if she is willing.'
'She will never forgive me.' Elrohir sat down, discouraged.
'And this is why I have advice for you: do not tell her.'
Elrohir frowned. 'You are advising me to lie?'
Elladan shrugged. 'If necessary. Of course, it depends on your goal' he said coolly. 'If you wish only to clear your conscience, by all means, go ahead. But if it is your happiness, and more importantly, hers, then keep the secret to your grave.' He opened an eye lazily, as if they were discussing some trivial household matter, and sheltered it from the sun with a hand. 'After all, how do you know she even wishes to know the truth?'
Elrohir was puzzled. 'Who wouldn't?'
'Someone who yearns for peace of mind,' countered his twin. 'She wants love, Elrohir. Your love, mayhap. Not your nobility and pristine conscience. How do you think she would react if she learned that her husband is the one who crippled her, even though it was in an unconscious moment?' he closed his eyes again. 'If you love her, make her happy. Lie.'
'I will not build a relationship on a lie,' Elrohir said, crossing his arms stubbornly.
'Then you are condemning it,' his twin snapped. 'By the stars, Elrohir, can you not see I am trying to help you? I don't approve of what you are about to do, this I have made clear. But if you must die, if this is truly your choice, then I'll see you happy in it.' His eyes, blazing with anger, softened. 'Even though it'll bring me great pain.'
Elrohir was struck by the momentary expression of intense suffering on his brother's face. But Elladan shook his head, regaining his cheerful and relaxed manners with bewildering speed. 'But enough of that,' he declared. 'So, tell me, brother. How do you envision courting her?'
Elladan reached out to pat Elrohir's shoulder. As soon as his hand made contact, he jerked it back as if he had been burned, and stared at his brother in fear. 'Elrohir,' he murmured. 'You are dying!'
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.