Elladan was waiting for him when Elrohir, having delivered Estel into his mother's arms and sworn up and down that his younger brother was innocent of all the nefarious plots a twelve year-old might possibly conceive, escaped to Arwen's gardens beneath her windows. It was rare that he went there in her absence, for he always remembered that patch of well-loved ground with her standing in its midst, and the gardens needed her voice and laughter to feel truly complete. Despite that, he was not surprised to see Elladan stretched out comfortably on a low-hanging branch, and his twin turned a knowing look upon him, smiling in the lamp-lit darkness. As he approached, Elladan sat up and tossed something at him. Elrohir hastily reached out to catch the mysterious object as it tumbled through the air. Coming to stand before his brother, Elrohir opened his cupped hands and then gave a soft laugh when he beheld the gift: a morning glory, its deep purple petals still furled. "Do I not guess rightly what brings you hither, brother?" Elladan asked.
"Man is a transient being," Elrohir sighed, holding the blossom up before his eyes. "Short are his years, and brief his glory, even as his namesake!" For among Elves, the flower was not uncommonly called danloth.* And this one has not yet bloomed, even! Elladan, ever conscientious and faithful to the finer nuances of symbol and saying, knew well how to make even a humble, sleeping flower speak to the point.
"How fares Estel this day?" His twin stretched out a hand to help pull his brother up beside him, and then he leaned back against the bole of the tree, gazing intently at Elrohir.
"Well enough, I should say. Better than I!" he replied in a low voice, studying the bud with that elvish intensity that seems to outsiders absent-minded. A moment, Elladan said nothing, only regarded him closely, and then:
"He knows?" And Elrohir had to smile for the touch of alarmed incredulity in his twin's voice. "But how?"
"I did not ask him that," he responded. "But unless I am mistaken, he told me himself: Gilraen weeps every year on this day. Even a dull child might begin to wonder why, and Estel is hardly imperceptive. I should have suspected when he begged me to go with him last night!"
"Neither of us guessed his motives," Elladan replied, and grimaced. "I am as much to blame!"
"Nay, say not so, for you know not everything yet," admonished the other softly, and Elladan, frowning, leaned forward once more, reaching out to lay a hand to the side of his brother's face. Obedient to the summons in that touch, Elrohir turned his head to gaze into his twin's quicksilver eyes, awaiting his judgment.
After a lengthy pause, the other sighed gently himself, and asked, "How much did you reveal?"
"Estel knows now the name of Arathorn. And he knows that we were at his father's side ten years ago this day." Elladan closed his eyes, and Elrohir felt his twin's pain at the memory, for Arathorn's death had wounded them both. The hand upon his cheek dropped to his shoulder, slid down his arm to grasp his hand and squeeze hard by way of comfort. "I could not refuse him that much, Elladan, not after learning of his doubts. Do you know, he thought there might have been some cause for shame in Arathorn's death, that no one spoke of his father to him?"
"Elbereth Gilthoniel!" Elladan hissed, shaking his head. "Never that! I wonder that he should ask, for I did not think of that myself!"
"Nor I, but perhaps that is only because we knew him, and would never believe that any but an enemy could think ill of him," Elrohir replied. "Or else we thought too little of our brother when we promised to hide his lineage from him."
"Hard words, Elrohir," Elladan murmured, raising his brows in a worried, questioning look. "To say so is to condemn father's judgment along with our own, not to mention Gilraen's!"
"Such considerations would not undo the truth, if truth it be. And to think, 'twas a boy who has lived not a quarter of a century who taught me to judge so! Truly, I should be ashamed," he said, ruefully.
"Say rather 'we,' brother, for say whatever else you will, we are all at fault here. Perhaps you are right, and we thought not overmuch of Estel… or rather Aragorn… when we made our vows. But should we not accept that we must wound him a little to save him worse pain in the end? How, if the Dark Lord should somehow learn of him? The mountains grow more dangerous each year, and Sauron–curse him!–knows well where lies Imladris. And Isildur's heir cannot stay in this valley to the end of his days."
"I know, and you know well that I would do all within my power to protect him. Nor do I disagree that secrecy is needed, but as you say, one day he shall go forth from Imladris, and I doubt not that others will know him for who he is. He has too much of his father in him, and all in the Angle know well that Elrond has but two sons and a daughter." Elrohir paused a moment, ere he said slowly, "I mean only to say that perhaps we ought to trust Estel more. He startled me today, and that is a feat for one so young! Mortal years wear swiftly away, but Men live more swiftly than do Elves, having more to learn in the brief time allotted them. Perhaps, Elladan, they spend those first years better than do we. In a century, we may learn more than any Man could ever dream of a single rose, but still, a Man will grasp the heart of the matter in a day and be content. For Men know that their time upon Arda is short, whereas we have the leisure to pity them over a span of generations!"
Elladan listened in silence, reading how troubled was his brother at heart, and wondering how much of his twin's turmoil Estel had gleaned. Enough, doubtless, he thought, For though Elrohir is a fine actor when need demands, he is right: Estel is not imperceptive. We may have taught him more even than we knew over the years. And who knows how deeply we may have hurt him without ever intending it! Elladan sighed softly, and reached up to tuck a lock of his brother's hair behind his ear, the better to see him, and he slipped an arm about Elrohir's shoulders, unable to bear his twin's unhappiness. If only to ease his guilt, I would tell Estel all! But I love him too, and that would solve nothing. Or it might solve more than we wished, and then where would we be? The Dark Lord suspected too much, even in Arador's day. Two chieftains in four years! Never has such a thing happened before! We must at all costs keep rumor of Isildur's line quiet, and let the Dark Lord think that he has succeeded. Aloud, he said, "He is still a child, Elrohir, though he has grown and already has learned something of wisdom. What he knows now is little enough, but is he ready to face the darkness without? Should he learn of our fears, that the Dark Lord or his agents sought to murder his father for the blood that is in him, and not simply because he was an enemy who fought at our side?"
With a shake of his head, Elrohir glanced up at the night sky, and replied, "Of course not. But we must make it clear to him, ere he utterly lose faith in us, that what we do, we do for his sake."
"So we make of him a willing conspirator in all things, eh?" Elladan chuckled softly.
"Ironic, is it not? But I think it is necessary, and our father must know of this as well. I cannot think he meant for this to happen, and he, no less than we, would avoid awkward questions for a time, I am certain of it!"
"Can you imagine what will befall when he must tell Estel that he has a sister as well?" Elladan demanded, and the twins shared a look of wicked amusement at that. "Well, that will come. For the moment, we must convince father to conspire with us anew. Come!" Elladan said, shoving off of the branch. Elrohir dropped down easily at his side.
"Have you any thoughts as to how we shall accomplish that?" he asked.
"The truth will have to do," Elladan shrugged, then shot a rather mischievous look at his brother. "We may have to thank Estel, you realize that?"
"Father has grown too accustomed to our good behavior of late. It has been more than a century since last we two gave him cause to sigh," Elladan replied, which earned him a cuff from his twin, though Elrohir laughed as Elladan gracefully dodged.
"Too true! And now you propose to add a third to our company. Yes," Elrohir shook his head, feeling his spirits rise in response to Elladan's sudden good humor. "I am certain father will have many words for us, and none of them thankful. I shall be hard pressed now not to laugh!" And as he watched Elladan fall in at his side once more, he said softly, "Perhaps it is for the best. Could we wish in earnest that Estel were less observant? Let him learn caution and reserve as well, while there is still time and safety enough to do so." Elladan nodded his agreement, and together the twins made for the edge of the garden. But ere he crossed the threshhold, Elrohir paused and turned back. Surveying the sleeping plants and trees, he smiled slightly and murmured, "And to the fourth of our company, many thanks for gifts given unwittingly!" Beside him, Elladan smothered a laugh, for the brothers had played many a prank on their good-natured sister. But Elrohir simply bowed and ceremoniously tossed the morning glory beneath Arwen's window with his blessing, and then, catching his brother's arm in his, turned away into the night.
Had he known then what the future held, perhaps he might have thought better of his actions. But when, many years later, he thought of that strange night when his world had begun to change, he found it not unfitting that from that shorn blossom and his good will came a beautiful profusion of purple buds that grew but beneath that window, Evenstar and morning glory forever bound together by love.
*danloth= "Man-flower", "mortal flower"