Standard disclaimer:  All the characters, locations, some quotes, and the initial conception of this world belong to J.R.R. Tolkien, whether it be from Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, or The History of Middle-earth Volumes I-XII.

Games of Innocence

            Celebrian came over to where Elrond was standing at the edge of the balcony that overlooked the northern gardens.  She slipped her hand in his and peered down at their sons.  It sometimes disturbed her that she could barely tell the difference between them, so alike were they in mood and face.  The boys were running around with sticks in hand, waving them in the air and shouting at imaginary enemies.

            "Are they slaying Orcs again?" Celebrian asked.

            Elrond was quiet for many long moments.  Then he said, "So it would seem."

            Celebrian smiled and leaned her head on his shoulder.  "Though Sauron has been defeated, you have said it will not be the end.  I fear the day when they will choose to ride into battle against real Orcs, but I cannot help but to find joy in watching them delight in pretending to be legends of old, brave warriors like their father."

            Elrond put his arm around Celebrian and drew her close, but he said no word and watched as the twins played.

---

            Elladan pointed at one of the bridges that crossed the golden carp stream and cried, "We must protect our kin!"

            Elrohir drew his sword and hurried after his brother.  They fought the Teleri back until all of the ships had passed safely under the Arch of Living Stone.  The battle was long, and the Teleri drove them back three times, but they had the victory.

            When the battle was over, Elrohir dropped his sword to the ground and fell to his knees.  He covered his face and bemoaned, "What have we done?"

            Elladan put a hand on his brother's shoulder.  After a moment, he said, "Come.  We must go on."

            Elrohir took his brother's hand, and Elladan helped him back onto his feet.  Together, hand-in-hand, they crossed the bridge to Middle-earth.

---

            Elrond came across the twins splashing in a fountain under the warm summer sun.  They resembled their father strongly; they resembled their uncle strongly.  He watched them silently from a distance before approaching them.  "My sons, what are you doing in the fountain?"  Elladan and Elrohir looked up simultaneously.  They cried out happily and ran to their father.  "I'm still waiting for an explanation."

            "You said we couldn't swim alone in the lakes and ponds, so we decided to swim in the fountain," Elladan said in his most sensible tone.  Unfortunately, the reasoning of young children were often lacking in logic.

            "The fountains aren't for swimming."  Elrond pulled them out, one in each arm, and set them at the fountain's edge.  "Next time you want to swim, call for someone."

            "We would have, but we were alone in the woods."  Elrohir gestured at the fragrant orchids nearby.  Elrond was relieved to see that they hadn't damaged any of the orchids in their games.  Elrond gestured to a servant, who brought him two clean towels.

            "So what were you doing in the woods?" Elrond asked as he patted Elrohir dry with one of the towels.

            "We were hunting in East Beleriand," Elrohir supplied eagerly.

            "Hunting again?"  His sons were quite fond of hunting.  "Orcs?"

            "Rabbits this time."

            "The lands of East Beleriand are very fair for hunting," Elladan piped in.

            Elrond smiled, draped the towel about Elrohir's shoulders, and turned to drying off Elladan with the other towel.  "They are indeed.  Finrod was hunting there with Maedhros and Maglor when he first met Men."

            "Beor's people!" Elladan and Elrohir said in one voice.

            "Yes, Beor's people."

            "Tell us about Finrod and Beor," Elladan begged.  His eyes were large and luminous as he looked expectantly at his father.  How could Elrond resist the child's charm?  They loved to hear tales of old, especially those of Elves and Men.

            "Very well," Elrond agreed.  He led the twins to one of the marble benches surrounding the fountain and settled a damp boy on each leg.  "I will tell you the tale of Finrod and Beor if you promise not to play in the fountains again."

            "We promise."  They were good boys; Elrond knew they would not do it again.

---

            "I'm tired," Elrohir said to Elladan.

            "Me too," Elladan agreed.  He peered around the tree to the amber waves of grain nearby.  "Do you really think they have the Silmaril?"

            Elrohir peaked out from the other side of the tree.  "I don't know," he said at last.  He shook his head gravely and then said again, "By the stars above Cuivienen, I do not know."

            "Maedhros has foresworn his oath."

            "I know."  Elrohir hid behind the tree trunk again.

            After a moment, Elladan stopped looking at the Havens of Sirion too.  "Everlasting darkness!" he hissed at Elrohir.

            "I know."  Elrohir frowned.  "If it's true that they have a Silmaril, the Dark Lord will try for it.  If we don't get it, he will."

            "Then all hope really will be lost," Elladan said solemnly.

---

            Elrond was holding counsel with Glorfindel when Celebrian came in hastily without knocking.  She would not have done so at such a moment unless the matter was urgent.  Elrond began to worry even before Celebrian spoke.

            "I'm sorry to interrupt you, my Lords," Celebrian said.

            "No matter."  Elrond waved off her apology.  "What is it?"

            Celebrian shook her head and tears welled in her eyes.  "You have to see for yourself."

---

            Elladan lay very still on his back upon the green hill.  He held his breath as long as he could and kept his eyes closed.  When he couldn't stand it anymore, he took a quick, shallow breath and tried to move as little as possible in the process.

            "I saw you move!" Elrohir cried.  Elladan ignored him.  Saying something in response would've been even worse than moving.  Elrohir shook Elladan.  "Come on, Elladan!  I saw you move!"  Elladan continued to ignore him and tried to stay perfectly still.

            Finally, Elrohir tickled his brother.  Elladan squeezed his lips together.  He tried his hardest not to laugh, but Elrohir knew exactly where he was most ticklish.  At last, Elladan couldn't hold it in anymore and burst into giggles.

---

            Celebrian stopped just outside the entrance of the western gardens.  She motioned Elrond forward but would not go forth with him.  Elrond entered the hedges of rosebushes and saw Elrohir sleeping on a knoll of grass and Elladan trying to rouse his brother.  Elrond moved soundlessly closer until he could hear Elladan's words.

            "Come on, Elrohir!  That wasn't fair."  Elladan tried to tickle his brother, but Elrohir didn't move.  "Elrohir!  This isn't right!  I'm older."

            Elrond shuddered involuntarily.  It was as if his body had suddenly become cold and numb.  "Elladan," Elrond called out in a voice scarcely louder than a light breeze, "what are you doing?"

            Elladan turned, and Elrond saw that there were tears in Elladan's eyes and a pout on his lips.  "Elrohir's dead.  He chose to be accounted among Men.  It's not fair!  I'm older.  I should be the one to die!"

            Elrond took an unsteady step forward toward his twin sons, but the world spun quickly out of control, and he blacked out.

---

            Glorfindel, who had followed Elrond into the rose garden, caught the Lord of Rivendell as he fainted.

            "Father!" Elladan screamed.

            Elrohir opened his eyes and shrieked when he saw Elrond's unmoving body.  "Father!"  The twins ran to Glorfindel and Elrond.

            Celebrian appeared when she heard the commotion.  "Elrond…"

            "What happened to Father?" the twins begged in one voice.

            Glorfindel shifted slightly and then hefted Elrond into his arms.  He looked to the twins, first at Elladan, then at Elrohir.  Then he looked again at Elladan and Elrohir and wondered if he'd confused the two again.

            "I'm going to take your father to his room to rest," Glorfindel said.  "When I come back, we will talk about these games you play."

            The twins, sensing that this was somehow their fault, burst into tears, and Celebrian knelt down to console them.  Glorfindel knew that he shouldn't have taken such a harsh tone with the boys.  They were young, and they couldn't know what their games meant.  Yet for Elrond's sake, Glorfindel couldn't find it in himself to forgive them at the moment.