Kind as Summer
Disclaimers:Middle-earth, etc, and all its inhabitants belong to J.R.R. Tolkien and his estate. I am making no money from this, and intend no infringement of copyright.
Summary:The Lord of Imladris does battle with an intruder who wants to wrest the haven from him: Evil!Elrond. Yes, the same Evil!Elrond who is so beloved of a certain type of fic writer *cough*Mary-Sue*cough*. Exaggerations and silliness, of course.
Feedbackis very, very welcome.
And thanks to Nemis for betaing this. *sends cookies*
Elves thronged the Hall of Fire, packed from wall to wall, craning their heads at exceedingly odd angles to see round elegantly pointed ears that were obscuring their view. Elflings defied their parents' intentions to shield their innocent eyes, peering over shoulders and between legs. All was silent, all still. The peredhil twins stood frozen in place, one on either side of Glorfindel of the House of the Golden Flower. The most noble and valiant Balrog slayer himself looked as if he had been slapped around the face with a soggy and extremely irate goose.
Unseen, unheard, a slender silver shadow slipped between the crowded figures, managing somehow to do so without ruffling a single skirt or robe. Her parents and Sindar kin would doubtless have been very proud. As it was, she was simply grateful not to find a throwing star buried in the back of her exquisite head. Mayhap, all unaware of themselves, the inhabitants of the haven moved like leaves in a soft breeze to shield her. She was, after all, their lady. And very, very annoyed.
The Lord of Imladris stood tensed and ready, poised on the balls of his feet, his fair face as set as a badly prepared custard. Only those who knew him very well indeed would have been able to detect from the fixed quality of his fine jaw how furious and afraid he was. And the other figure... Well it would be kinder not to describe him but we shall do so anyway because kindness is such a tedious thing in storytelling. Maglor's Noldolantë would have sold approximately three copies if he had been kind.
This other personage may well have been an Elf. Perhaps one of Ilúvatar's failed trial runs or a clone of Eöl the Dark Elf. He was tall and broad-chested, yet somehow managed to be shrivelled and twisted to the stature of a very unlucky Dwarf. Even more startlingly for an Elf, he was wrinkled and aged like a three thousand year old prune. He was so very old that even the Valar would have turned away in disgust. Madness flickered in that grotesquely deformed face, further creasing the brow deeper than the deepest caverns of Khazad-dûm, drawing the thin whisps of hair forward. The eyes might once, a long time ago, have been grey. In a favourable light. With a following wind. Now they were mainly red, wildly staring. He was frothing at the mouth.
"I am Elrond Peredhil, Master of Rivendell." He threw back his head and bellowed with the obligatory evil maniacal laughter. The massed Elves noticed that his mouth was filled with row upon row of needle-sharp teeth. They looked from the cackling lunatic to their lord and then back again. There was a certain limited resemblance: roughly the same height, the same heavy burgundy robes, the same high forehead and strong bone structure under ruinous wrinkles on one hand and an exasperated scowl on the other.
One small child, convinced that the kindly elf-lord with laughing eyes who had fished him out of the Bruinen only the previous week had metamorphosed into this terrifyingly weird monster who looked like he was accustomed to eating half-drowned elflings for breakfast, burst into uncontrollable tears. A self-congratulatory smirk plastered itself across the impostor's face and only the child's parents, pointing out that the original was still very much alive and well and standing right in front of him, unchanged, prevented the elfling from turning blue in the face and passing out.
Master Erestor so far forgot himself and his reputation for peerless caution and reserve as to guffaw loudly at the outrageous claim. The impostor looked rather less impressed by this reaction, although Elrond himself shot his friend a thankful look.
"Do not be ridiculous," Elladan growled, his hands balled into tight fists. His face, although not yet rid of the uncertainty of youth, appeared very much like that of his father. His twin placed one hand on his elbow in tacit support.
"Thank you pen-nín tithin." Elrond smiled at them, his eyes momentarily gentle. "Your expressions of support, while, I hope, unnecessary, are most welcome." He turned back to the intruder, once more the steely warrior of old, the descendant of the line of kings. "And yet, as I find that I am still myself, I must reiterate their statement: you are not Elrond Peredhil, nor any Elf nor Man of whom I know." Perhaps it was the heritage of Melian the Maia, or perhaps it was the awareness of the blindingly bloody obvious that led him to conclude that the stranger was no mere raving madman to be pitied and cared for, but a very dangerous creature indeed. The way the bloodshot eyes bulged and seethed at his words made it pretty obvious.
"Come, come now." With an effort, the monster controlled himself, stroking and caressing his flowing velvet sleeves as one would a cosseted pet. Incongruously, his voice was suddenly as soft and warm as silken draperies. "Let us not mince words. I am Elrond Half-elven and you are but a nothing, a nobody, a dross-drenched rag on the scrap-heap of eternity."
The voice of the Half-elven, when finally he spoke, was low and cold and harshly furious. And, for a second, for the merest fraction of a heartbeat, the crowd almost imagined that in the newcomer they had found their true lord, such was the contrast. Almost, but not quite. "Indeed. Let us mince no words. Who are you? What business brings you to Imladris?"
"I am wearied beyond belief by this... this kind as summer nonsense. Long have I hidden in the nooks and crannies of the Misty Mountains; long years have I watched and waited, espying from afar your contemptible weakness of the heart, the sickly sweet depths of your love and devotion. No more. On this eve I shall take what should be mine, create anew the life and reputation of the lord of these lands." He capered around the room, but stopped abruptly when it became abundantly clear that no one was much disposed to accompany him with music. He stamped heavily, and an ornament fell from the mantelpiece, shattering into a thousand fragments on impact with the floor. Elrond barely spared it a moment's notice. It had been a loathsome monstrosity of pink china gifted to him by some hopeful maiden. Not only would it no longer clutter up the spacious lines of the Hall of Fire, but also he would no longer be obliged to bear with fortitude Celebrían's disgruntled glares whenever she clapped eyes on it. A small smile of tenderness curved the corners of his fine mouth at the memory of his wife's most uncharacteristic and unneeded response. The next moment it was banished from his face as effectively as a warm soapy cloth scrubbing elflings' sticky, jam-soaked fingerprints from a priceless statue.
Circling closer, a grin adorning his face similar to that of Morgoth when he realised that he'd managed to lock himself out of Thangorodrim clad only in his underpants, only crueller and more angry, the impostor whispered, "Then I shall take your beautiful wife, although I love her not and desire her but little, and I shall make her mine. You would have had a daughter born of this night's sport, but she shall be the child of my accursed flesh, just as Imladris shall be and..."
He trailed off rather abruptly due to the long slender fingers wrapped around his throat in a choking grip, turning his wizened face a particularly unbecoming shade of puce that clashed repellently with his robes, dazzling the onlookers. Alas for our hero, as for the visual sensibilities of the folk of Imladris, his infamy, worse even than that which had inspired Gothmog's Bumper Book of Practical Tricks to Play on Sleeping Valar, was not yet done. From somewhere about his gnarled person, he produced a slim-bladed dagger. For the first time in his long life, Elrond had reason to give thanks for the social modes which seemed to find voluminous robes necessary for one of his station. To be sure, they were distinctly impractical when one found oneself locked in a storeroom with one's new wife, but they were almost as effective against sharp objects as mithril mail. Well, almost. The knife glanced off layer after layer of cloth, and then, still not quite at a standstill, skittered in a long line across unprotected flesh. The elf-lord gasped, more from surprise than from anything else, and automatically clutched at his wounded torso with one hand. The impostor, suddenly freed, jumped away hollering and shrieking like an Orc on hot coals. A happy Orc on hot coals.
"See? See?" he bellowed, mooning Glorfindel, who promptly began to try to knock himself unconscious with a spare bread roll and a length of curtain tassel. As he began to succeed, as pale as an iceberg with a hangover, the twins, grappling desperately with his flailing arms, looked at their father beseechingly.
Alas, pseudo-Elrond saw this exchange. "Noo!" he cackled, swinging from the chandelier and concussing Glorfindel conclusively with his kneecaps. "Your father shall be no aid to you, peredhil. He should hate you as I do, and rejoice when you tread in danger's way, hoping that each new dawn may bring word of your ending. Anyway, it matters not," he added, almost as an afterthought, "for this night I shall kill him."
The peredhil twins started forward to their sire's aid, but he warned them off with an upraised hand. "Nay, gwanun-nín. This I must do myself." Exasperated and overtaxed, he felt laughter brewing within him, insatiable mirth bubbling up through his lungs into his throat, filling his eyes to overflowing. 'Twas all so ridiculously simple in the end. "Tell me, Elrond-who-is not, what knowledge will you set against me?"
"A fig for knowledge." The stranger clicked his fingers and struck a pose. "I am Elrond Peredhil, mighty in myself. I have no ancestors to give me wisdom, nor need for them."
"A pity then," Elrond said calmly, his eyes glinting with unholy humour, "for if you had not so unwisely disposed of your fig, you would mayhap read of the fate of Fëanor, and learnt that it is not wise to underestimate one's enemies." He dealt the first blow, a backhanded slap to the face. Pseudo-Elrond came up spitting teeth, but then again he did have plenty to spare. "And if you had read the wise words of Maglor his son, you might have learnt that sorrow repays sorrow." He prudently chose not to mention the kinslaying minstrel's book of hangover cures which, while equally useful, was perhaps a less morally edifying piece of literature, concluding as it did with the words 'Mandos take these wretched cures; just keep on drinking.'
Pseudo-Elrond tackled him round the ankles, biting him in the shins with all the venomous hatred of a small yappy lap dog with persistent fleas. They tumbled to the floor in a whirling, cursing bundle of peredhel and non-peredhel. The curses would have scorched the ears of Eru Ilúvatar himself and caused Aulë to drop his great hammer on his own foot while trying to cover his ears. Somewhere, an elfling began to cheer loudly, thankfully for the right side. Bets were taken. Erestor occupied himself with an excessively large bottle of brandy to ward off thoughts of how much damage was being done to the fabric of Imladris.
Unseen, unheard, the silver shadow slipped back through the crowd, clutching a smaller silver shadow to itself. If any noticed, they were wise enough to say naught. The smaller silver shadow was of an unmistakeable shape, and the larger was still very, very annoyed.
The dusty tangle resolved itself into its component parts, breathing heavily and bleeding from myriad tiny cuts. It was particularly notable that the lord of the haven was kneeling on his rival's chest, flushed and triumphant.
"Strength is nothing without knowledge."
"My magic will smite you down." The ... thing smiled unpleasantly. Bile was visibly oozing from his pores. He raised his hands and his voice in a chant, an incantation to summon something vile. Whatever it was, it was not of Arda, and probably counted giant space-faring slugs as ancestors. It appeared to be composed entirely of leftovers; a brussel sprout here, half a bowl's worth of cold semolina there, an ancient sausage roll atop its head. It towered over them all, menacing and really quite revolting. The elflings began to scream and even Elladan and Elrohir paled noticeably. All the stories that their parents had told them of what would happen if they did not eat everything on their plates had come true at once.
Elrond alone smiled, despite some rather unfortunate memories of shunned cabbage bothering him. On his hand, he could feel his ring pulsing with awakened power, thrumming against his skin. He could see, as if before his eyes once more, Celebrimbor's mutilated body at the front of Sauron's army. And, in the back of his mind, he was sure that he could hear Vilya giggling and chortling merrily, far more eager than he for this confrontation. For a moment, he considered the Bruinen but decided against it. Simple though it might be to watch and wave as this raving lunatic floated off towards the Sundering Seas, he found that he had not much taste for watching his friends, sons, possessions and wife do likewise.
This was to be no triumphal exercise of the power he could feel building within him. He lifted his left hand, the ring glowing like an over-emotional nebula, seeing the world as if through a faded blue haze, and pushed. He exhaled in relief, watching through other eyes as the deep corona of power bubbled outwards. Whatever happened now, Imladris would be safe from the machinations of this creature who clearly had a fly-wheel loose somewhere in his brain. He permitted himself a small smile; the leftovers monster was shying away from the expanding sphere of power, and pseudo-Elrond looked decidedly unhappy at this turn of events, trying to prod it forward with a sheet of music. The beast was having nothing of this. It might be an amazingly stupid creature of the darkness, but it was not quite that stupid. It snarled grumpily, and, turning, took a sizeable chunk out of the impostor's forearm. The Imladris twins took advantage of the lapse of attention that this assault occasioned and attacked the creature with cutlery. It fled wailing and whimpering into the night, chased beyond the boundaries of Imladris by Vilya's pervasive power, which sought to preserve the haven against it. And by a matching set of rather over-enthusiastic young peredhil warriors. Long and far it fled, high into the Misty Mountains, where it found a nice cosy cave to curl up in and lick its cutlery-inflicted wounds. Alas, there was another who also thought that the cave was nice and cosy. Now, Balrogs are not particularly fond of house-visitors, or of sharing things in general. And this one hand a migraine induced by one too many Orcs for breakfast. In the end, the fearsome, or at least icky, monster was no more than a small, damp mouthful.
"You have neither true power nor any semblance of knowledge. Go now from this place, and never return." The great and noble elf-lord quashed the desire to poke his great and noble tongue out at his opponent only with a steadfast effort of will.
"I am the all-powerful, the terrible Lord Elrond, born of a human mother and an Elven father," the other boomed. His desired effect was somewhat damaged by his voice which had begun to crack and screech like ... well, a Screech Owl under the burden of his monumental ego. However, his resolve was cracking almost as badly as his voice and, at heart, he was a coward. He wavered on the brink of fleeing. Perhaps it would be easier to forget this Imladris lark and find a nice inn somewhere to get riotously drunk in, start brawls and feel up the barmaids.
Elrond rolled his eyes at this mangling of the peredhel genealogy.
The lunatic's toes were already twitching towards the door, and his patented put-upon look was settling over his face when he stopped in his tracks. She was there, just behind the half-elven. The elf-maiden whom he hated more than anything else in the world, despised his opposite for loving.
Celebrían grinned back at him, slipping one hand into the crook of her husband's arm. Elrond himself was torn between the desire to see if she glowed green like her mother and concern as to what this would do to the valley. In the end, he decided that it would be worth any damage.
Pseudo-Elrond snarled, his lips pulled back from his teeth like some rabid animal - which may well have been the case. Then, with a ravaged howl, he threw himself bodily at the couple. Elrond sidestepped neatly, shielding Celebrían with his body. The creature landed with a thud on the sprawled and drunken heap that had once been Erestor. With a groan like a wounded mumâk, he lumbered to his feet and was upon them once more, all talons and teeth and hidden daggers. His face was scarlet with rage and loathing, in stark contrast to his opponent, who was almost painfully white. While no coward, this was still a difficult situation. However, he had not counted on all his resources.
"Here." Celebrían tugged sharply on his sleeve.
He raised one eyebrow quizzically. "Brí..."
But before he could get any further, she presented a sword to him, the hilt laid along her arm with formal ceremony. His sword, to be precise. "Forgive me, meleth-nín." He raised her hand in his, brushing her fingers to his lips. "I underestimated you."
"Make it up to me later," she said softly, caressing his jaw, and then shoved the sword into his hand. Evil, in this instance, had little respect for narrative sentimentality, and was only delayed in his attack by the weighty decision of which of them to kill first.
Elrond hefted his sword high, revelling in the perfect balance. There were, he noticed, the traces of small grubby handprints which had been hastily wiped from the blade. He sighed and resolved to keep it out of the reach of inquisitive elflings in future.
The battle was short, and the outcome really very predictable. Years of battle-honed reflexes, of study, ultimately outweighed vicious anger against the world. It was almost with sorrow that the elf-lord parried a hastily thrown dagger and slid his blade into heaving chest of his opponent. Mad sludgy red eyes widened in shock as pseudo-Elrond, for the first time in his existence, considered the possibility that he might not be infallible. Blood, an odd beige colour, trickled from the corner of his mouth, carrying with it several more teeth. Melodramatic as always, he tottered on his feet, clutching the hilt of the sword, and then collapsed to the ground.
Elrond knelt beside him, checking for a pulse, and then he sighed, eyes flickering briefly closed, head bowed. Sighing again, he rose to his feet, extracting his bloodied blade from the corpse. Lightly, Celebrían rested one hand on his shoulder and he leant gratefully into her touch. "Bed, El-nín. You have been wounded."
"Bed. How wise you are." He lowered his lips to hers.
"Not like that." She pretended to swat him away, but her heart was not in it. "You need rest before..."
"I assure you that I need no rest to be ready..."
"Excuse me." There was a very proper cough from just behind Elrond's left shoulder. He turned tiredly and then fell to his knees.
The Doomsman of the Valar looked rather bemused by this - although this was nothing to his wife who looked fit to explode from mirth.
Finally, the Valië managed to choke down her giggles. "We have come for the creature that has caused much tumult and sorrow in the vale of the cleft this eve." Normally, her voice was beautiful, light and fair and majestic. Now it just seemed a little strained by her effort of will.
"Thank you." Elrond scrambled to his feet, dusting his knees off. "Might I be permitted to know what manner of creature it was?"
"'Twas the product of a diseased imagination." Vairë shook her head sorrowfully at the flagrant abuse of a craft so closely allied to her own. "It had no fëa, and thus it is that the Lord of Mandos and I must share jurisdiction, he to make sure that its empty shell cannot return to trouble you further, and I to make sure that the warp and weft of Arda is nevermore disturbed in this way. May we count upon your vigilance, Elrond son of Eärendil?"
"Of course, my lady."
"Then all will be well."
There was a blinding flash of light and the Valar were gone, along with their rather less divine and rather more dead passenger. Only Mandos' voice lingered, casting scorn upon those who would prophesy good, and Vairë's tart response which involved the possibilities of cold beds.
Elrond decided that he would leave this tangled web to the morrow. For tonight, his wife's arm warm around his waist promised other pleasures. And there were those enigmatic remarks about activities leading to the production of small Elves...
And there was that small pot of honeyed cream...
Pen-nín tithin – my little ones (in this case, an endearment).
Gwanun-nín – my sons.