*horrible singing can be heard, coming slowly but surely closer*

Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Biiiiiiiirthday, dear Kaeera, Happy Birthday to youuuuuuuuuu!!

*bows to cringing readers* Thank you, thank you! And now, let's all sing this wonderful song for Kaeera because (Duh!) it's her birthday! *Kaeera screeches in fear and runs off* Ah well, nobody appreciates true art anymore, it's really sad... *g* Okay, whatever. I'm a little weird today, pay me no heed.

As most of you know, this is Kaeera's little birthday-twins-story. In comparison to my other stories, it's very short, only five chapters. There will be NO Aragorn or Legolas in this story, only the twins, Elrond and various other Imladris elves, including Erestor and Glorfindel. The whole story was inspired by an meagre little sentence in my second story, "The Heart of Men". It was just an innocent comment on my part, really, but Kaeera wanted to have a little background story and kept nagging me about it, so here it is. *g*

First I wasn't all that happy about the story, to be honest, but the more I wrote the more I came to like it, and now I am quite fond of it even though I'm afraid that it's more of an Elladan-story than (as demanded by the birthday girl) an Elrohir-story. *shrugs* That happens when the latter is unconscious all the time. *evil grin*

Okay, so once again: Happy Birthday, Kaeera! I really hope you'll enjoy this little story which is a bit angstier than my others but just as weird! *huggles her*

Very well, enough of the ranting and on to the story!

Straight Paths

By: Nili

Rating: PG-13. I think I am unable to write anything below that rating. Sad, but true. *g*

Well, since this story was inspired by a single paragraph in one of my previous stories, "The Heart of Men", I suppose there are spoilers for that story in here, at least for chapter 2. There also may be some spoilers for my current story, "To Walk in Night", even though these passages are not even written yet. I know, it's hard to understand, but there may be some in it eventually. I'm not sure yet, but it's possible.

I do not own anything in Middle-Earth, every recognisable character, setting, place and so on belongs to J.R.R. Tolkien and his heirs. The rest (places, characters etc.) belongs to me, and I tend to react violently when I find that someone has kidnapped one of my characters or something of that sort. I do not have permission to use any of the above, but I do so anyway. Evil, hmm? And yes, this story was written just for fun, and I certainly will receive no money for it, which would be a great way to earn my living on second thought, though. Please do not use any of my original characters without asking me first. Thanks a lot.

On their way to meet with the Rangers, Elladan and Elrohir get involved in a fight with orcs. The decision to fight the dark creatures soon backfires, leaving both of them injured and Elrohir's life hanging by a thread. With his twin's life at stake, Elladan must get both of them back home, but the twins soon have to realise that they must not only fight their unhospitable environment but a darkness that has been growing inside of them in the past hundred years if they wish to make it back to Rivendell alive.

Well, it technically belongs to my mini-series, which doesn't have a name and will never _get_ one I think, but it takes place long before my first story. So, this is my forth story, after "An Eye For An Eye", "The Heart of Men" and "To Walk in Night", taking place in III, 2642, roughly three-hundred years before "An Eye For An Eye".

Additional Notes:
This story is a birthday present for Kaeera, a fellow ff.net author, who is slightly obsessed with the twins and especially Elrohir and got bitten by a plot bunny some time during my second story after having read a part that I thought to be rather innocent and lacking any angst-potential whatsoever. So, essentially she bugged me until I caved in and promised to write a little background story for her, and voilà, this story was the result.

I must state here that I am aware of the fact that I am not Tolkien, and therefore do not even begin to sound like him, something that can only be commented with "Duh!" in my opinion. I could never write as well as he does, so well, you will have to bear with me.

Another little note about the Elvish (only Sindarin this time) used in this story: I have lately started to really look into both languages, and am now deeply ashamed of the "Elvish" I used in my first and partly also in my second story. So, for example, this is the first story in which I use "mellon nín" instead of "mellonamin". There is another version, "mellon nîn", which is also correct as far as I know, but my dictionaries consistently state that the possessive pronoun only has a simple accent, so I chose this one. *shrugs* I guess you can use both.

And last but not least: Most of you will know that English is not my first language, and not even my second now that I think about it. *g* So please, tell me when you find a blatant and horrible mistake somewhere - and you will, trust me. Pointing them out to me doesn't bother me at all and really helps to improve my English. Thank you!

Chapter 1

It was a sunny, beautiful morning, one of the mornings that were so glorious that they awoke in one either the urge to sing and thank Ilúvatar for things such as these, or the urge to turn over, pull your blankets over your head and never again to emerge from that dark, peaceful place that was your bed.

While the sun was making her way across the sky, her light beaming down on the elven refuge of Imladris, one of aforementioned elven refuge's inhabitants experienced the latter urge, and with an old, rather vicious curse he burrowed his head in his pillows, golden hair all but disappearing under his blankets and cushions.

It was of no use, the golden haired elf decided after a few more minutes, he was awake, and wouldn't be able to go back to sleep in the near future either. He tentatively freed his head of the covers he had pulled over it to protect himself from the sun's harsh glares and carefully opened his eyes he had clamped shut because of the same reason, deciding that he must have been insane agreeing to return from the Halls of Mandos for this.

Lord Glorfindel of Imladris, formerly of Gondolin, slayer of a balrog, survivor of more than his fair share of wars, battles and challenges, including helping to raise a pair of exuberant, very, very energetic elven twins, fierce and fearless warrior and friend and advisor of Lord Elrond Peredhil of Rivendell, looked up at the ceiling of his bed chambers for a few moments and asked himself why in the name of the One he had let Erestor talk him into their little drinking contest yesterday.

He scowled slightly and decided that the dark haired elf was far too sneaky for his own good. Glorfindel had known the other elf for a long time, ever since he had returned to Middle-earth to be exact, and, after some centuries, had come to the conclusion that Erestor was as stiff as a stick nine tenths of the time, but that it was dangerous to be anywhere near him during the tenth tenth. Because then, all of Erestor's thirst for adventure and mischief came into the open, all in a span of a few months.

It was a time Glorfindel usually tried to spend in the slightly boring but incomparably safer woods of Lothlórien, but this time Erestor had somehow managed to surprise him, and now here he was, lying in his bed and feeling as if someone had filled his mouth with rotting moss and his head with sharp stones that insisted on grinding against each other.

He threw back the light covers and slowly sat up, inwardly cursing Elrond for building a house whose walls moved and swayed back and forth. While Glorfindel struggled to his feet, he decided that all this was Erestor's fault. He had started the last evening peacefully, and had just sat down with a bottle of Dorwinion wine to watch the autumnal storm that raged outside the safe borders of Imladris but was still plain to see for his firstborn eyes when Erestor had shown up, wearing a smug, annoying grin and holding an obscure, rather large bottle in his hands.

'I should have known better,' the golden haired elf decided as he slowly and carefully made his way over to the bowl filled with cold water, 'Ever since that incident with Elrond, Thranduil and him I really should know better than to drink anything in his company…'

Something was missing though in his memory, something important, and Glorfindel tried to remember what it was while he washed and then clothed himself. There had been a reason why he had drunk that wine in the first place; it was not the thunderstorm that had made him want to drink some of the rather potent, albeit excellent red wine his lord treasured so much – even though not nearly as much as King Thranduil…

Suddenly, the missing piece of information found its place in his head, and the elf let himself sink back onto his bed with a groan. Yes, of course, there had been a reason why he and Erestor had decided to drink, even though it was still all the other elf's and that accursed liquid's fault he had brought with him: Elrond's twin sons were to depart today, and if he was judging the position of the frightfully bright sun correctly, they would be leaving in about half an hour.

Glorfindel slowly and carefully burrowed his head in his hands, suddenly wishing he had drunk even more so he would still be asleep. Yes, that had been the reason why he had felt that he needed some cheering up in the first place: Elladan and Elrohir were due to leave today to ride with the rangers for a year or two, an occurrence that was not seldom anymore.

The golden haired elf slowly got back to his feet, telling himself to start behaving like the elf lord he was. Hiding in his room like a scared elfling would solve none of his problems; besides, it was most unbecoming an elf lord, especially one that had slain one of Morgoth's fire demons and survived the destruction of Gondolin – in a way, at least.

While he was fastening the bindings of his dark blue robe, trying very hard to ignore the fact that his brain was trying to part company with the rest of his body by squeezing out through his ears, his thoughts returned to the twins. He shook his head sadly; it was so hard to recognise the cheerful elflings with the easy smiles in the hardened, emotionless warriors they were now. "Riding with the rangers", that was a term that usually meant "Killing every orc they could possibly get their hands on", and risk far more than they should in the process. Both of them had always been rather reckless, especially the older one, but never like this. He had long ago lost count of how many times he had seen these two in the healing wings in the past century, ever since…

Glorfindel stared at his reflection in the looking glass and lowered his eyes when he finished the last thought. Ever since their mother, Lady Celebrían, had left this world to find healing in the Undying Lands, healing from what had been done to her during her brief captive among the orcs. The elf shook his head, gripping the brush with which he had tried to untangle his exceptionally stubborn hair. The lady's captivity had been relatively brief indeed and the twins had freed her soon after her capture with a host of warriors, slaying every single one of the foul beasts that had dared lay hands on her, but it had been too late.

What had been done to Celebrían's body had not been incurable, but the wounds to her spirit had been nothing even the best healer in all of Arda could heal, and the Valar knew that Elrond had tried. Glorfindel shuddered slightly at the memory. It had been nearly exactly 132 years ago, but he could still remember the despair and helplessness on his best friend's face when Elrond had realised that nothing in this world, not even his love or that of his children or parents-in-law, would be enough to keep his wife with him.

He could remember as if it had happened yesterday how they had stood on the pier in the Grey Havens, watching Celebrían's ship disappear in the distance. Arwen had clung to him, sobbing openly, but Elrond and the twins had just stood there, grey eyes fixed unwaveringly on the vessel that took away their wife and mother, nothing on their faces, no emotions, no pain, no sadness, nothing.
Only when his lord had turned Glorfindel had glimpsed some of what was going on behind that stoic exterior, and the expression of utter hopelessness had been enough for his heart to almost break in his chest. Losing yet another one he loved had almost been enough to break the Lord of Imladris, and for a long time Glorfindel and many others in Rivendell had silently feared that he would either die of grief of leave for Valinor as well.

The golden haired elf sighed softly, gratefully noting that his headache had receded to bearable levels; it appeared that, finally, his elven regenerative powers had decided to make an appearance. That outward hopelessness and coldness still hung over the remnants of the family that had been torn asunder by the dreadful happenings more than a century ago. The Evenstar spent now more time in Lórien with the Lord and the Lady than here in Rivendell, and Elrond had buried himself in his work so that one hardly saw him anymore. The twins rode with the rangers as often as possible, trying to soothe their hurting souls on their unrealisable crusade to kill every orc ever spawned in their attempt to avenge their mother.

And that, Glorfindel decided with another small sigh, had been the reason why he had decided to cheer himself up with a bottle Dorwinion when Erestor and his human brandy had shown up and the whole thing had descended into a drinking contest that would have killed any being not of the firstborn race.

The twins always managed to get themselves almost killed while hunting orcs, and it always was his duty to gather a small host and drag what was left of them back to their father so he could try and patch them up. That in combination with the fact that he was stuck here in Rivendell with an Erestor that was having his adventurous and reckless time of this yén was enough to make even the strongest warrior despair, and Glorfindel was, after all, only elven. Not even he was unaffected by impending doom, and the look Elrond would give him when he brought the elf lord's sons back home half-dead once more classified as exactly that.

Glorfindel stepped out of the Last Homely House, finding himself wishing that the sun would fall out of the sky or simply vanish. He didn't really care, as long as the end result was that it was nice and dark and cool for a while. When he realised that nothing of that sort would happen, he gave a hopeless sigh and went in search of his lord. If he knew Elrond at all he would be in the gardens, looking at the roses Celebrían had loved so much and trying to come up with a way to convince his sons not to go.

Not that Elrond stood the slightest chance, Glorfindel shrugged inwardly, Elladan and Elrohir were the Lady Galadriel's grandsons after all, and none except perhaps Arwen were as capable of reasoning their way out of almost every situation they encountered as those two. The Lady of the Golden Wood's way with words was fabled among the firstborn, and more than once he had heard someone say that Lady Galadriel could convince a dragon to become a vegetarian, a wish that the beast would probably have satisfied without needing to be convinced because it was so enchanted by her beauty. Especially Elrohir seemed to have inherited her talents, and his lord had no chance against someone who was a blood relative of the Lady of Lórien.

Not that Glorfindel expected the twins to listen to the voice of reason in the first place. That was yet another thing that had happened ever more often of late: They didn't listen. They didn't listen to advice or orders or anything else that might interfere with their self-appointed mission, and that was something that was beginning to scare the blonde elf and he knew that his lord felt the same. If the twins were not careful, they would get themselves killed, rather soon, by rather ugly means, and he didn't even want to think what that would do to Elrond.

He was still contemplating what the family of Lord Elrond Peredhil had done to the Valar to deserve this kind of punishment when he rounded a large tree that was had grown onto the path and stopped dead in his tracks when he almost ran into the elf he had been looking for all the time. In front of him stood his lord, clad in robes the colour of the wine Glorfindel had consumed in such large quantities the night before, and the sight alone was enough to make his head start throbbing again.

Elrond looked at him with a raised eyebrow, grey eyes travelling over his pale and slightly dishevelled looking advisor.
"I would wish you a good morning if not for the fact that it is nearly midday."

"How kind of you to remind me, my lord," Glorfindel grumbled in mock irritation.

The dark haired elf simply raised the other eyebrow, a decidedly smug expression stealing over his face.
"A long night, I presume?"

Glorfindel looked at him accusingly while they were slowly walking back the way he had come.
"Erestor told you!"

"Indeed," the Lord of Imladris smiled, the superior smile of the ones that always know everything that is going on around them. "I stumbled over what is left of him earlier this morning." He gave his friend an admonishing look. "There was no reason to write that particular word on his forehead."

Glorfindel ducked his head.
"No, my lord."

Inwardly, the golden haired elf had absolutely no idea what his friend was talking about. What word? He hadn't written anything on Erestor's forehead, had he? Of course there was no way he would admit that he didn't know what Elrond meant, for elf lords do not appear clueless in public. Under very nearly no circumstances, and he would not appear clueless in front of his half-elven lord.

"And I expect more mature behaviour from both of you from now on."

"Yes, my lord."

"And I never want to hear that song again."

"No, my l… What song?"

Elrond arched a dark eyebrow, eyes narrowing slightly as he looked at the confused face of his friend and advisor.
"You mean that you were too drunk to remember the song the two of you were singing for most of the night?"

Glorfindel looked back at him, mortified, inwardly vowing to do something horribly painful and embarrassing to Erestor in the near future.
"It wasn't … it wasn't that song, was it?"

"Oh yes," Elrond muttered darkly, stopping at the entrance to the gardens and looking around for his sons, "It was. The one and only."

A small noise, sounding suspiciously like a whimper, escaped Glorfindel's throat, but it wasn't a whimper of course, since elf lords do not whimper. They had sung that song? The song King Thranduil – no, he had been Prince Thranduil then – had taught all of them when he and his father had visited Rivendell about two millennia ago and they had… Glorfindel ended that train of thought abruptly. He wouldn't think about that, nor about the faces of King Oropher and the High King Gil-galad when Elrond, Thranduil and he…

The blonde elf's pale face turned even whiter. On unspoken agreement the four of them had never again spoken about that night or the song they had sung for most of the time, and for two thousand years he hadn't thought about it. Whatever had possessed him or Erestor to sing it again was beyond him.

"Oh," he said faintly, looking at the stern face of the dark haired elf, "I am sorry, my lord. I don't know how it happened, but be assured that I will find out and then…"

Elrond who had kept a straight face suddenly grabbed the other's shoulder and began to chuckle loudly. The chuckling grew louder until the Lord of Imladris was very close to a hysteric fit, and all Glorfindel could do was stare wide-eyed as his friend nearly collapsed onto the ground.

"Don't be," Elrond ground out in between waves of mad chuckling, "Oh, the sight of Erestor with that … that word on his forehead was priceless…"

Glorfindel's first reaction was indignation, and a part of him decided to find out whatever that word had been, and if he had to get it out of Erestor himself. After a second the indignation turned to surprise and a quiet joy however when he realised that Elrond was laughing. He hadn't seen his lord so carefree and lighthearted for a long, long time, to be precise ever since a certain silver haired lady had left for the West. The sound of his friend's laughter was something he sorely missed, and he hoped with all his heart that at some time someone or something would be able to give back Elrond the hope and joy he deserved so much.

"I am so glad I can amuse you, my lord," Glorfindel said wryly, smiling at his friend who was slowly regaining his composure, "Whatever would I do if I weren't laughed at once a day? I would surely miss it."

"It's your own fault," Elrond shook his head, fighting off the waves of laughter that were still threatening to overcome him and reminding himself to act serious like an elf lord should, especially in front of his golden haired advisor. "You really should know better than to get drunk with Erestor when he's like this."

"I didn't want to get drunk!" Glorfindel protested, rather lamely. "I was perfectly happy with my bottle of Dorwinion when he and his brandy made an appearance…"

"You mean my Dorwinion?"

"Uhm," Glorfindel made, trying not to look at the other elf and at the same time deciding that he was making a lot of very un-elf-lordly noises today. "There they are!"

He pointed to the left where two dark haired elves were appearing, leading their horses behind them. Both of them were tall and lithe, with grey eyes and long hair that was braided to keep it out of their eyes, and if one didn't know them it was impossible to tell them apart, especially when they were clothed alike as they were now. The two of them wore simple, yet elegant garments in the soft grey that was the traditional colour of the clothes the Elves of Rivendell made, and packs and bags could be seen on the backs of their horses. Both were armed with sword, daggers and quiver, the weapons gleaming brightly on their belts.

"Yes," Elrond agreed softly, "Here they are."

Elladan and Elrohir were quietly talking among themselves and slowly came closer, and the Lord of Rivendell shook his head, turning back to his friend.
"I wish wine would cure it, Glorfindel. I really do."

Glorfindel inwardly shook his head, once again amazed that Elrond always seemed to know what he was thinking or why he was doing certain things.
"They will be alright, Elrond," he tried to reassure the younger elf. "They are old enough to take care of themselves, and they have always returned in the past, have they not?"

"Aye," Elrond nodded, his eyes fixed on his twin sons, "They have. But only barely, mellon nín, and you know it as well as I do." He raised his eyes to meet his friend's, the grey orbs seemingly boring into the other's soul. "If nothing happens, the day will soon come when they will not return, and Arwen and I will have lost all three of them."

He shortly closed his eyes, pain clear to see on his face.
"The Dark Lord's creatures will have succeeded in taking all those I love. First my king, my friends, my wife and then my sons. I understand their anger and despair; they are still young and easily enraged, but it will kill them. No," he corrected himself, looking at the two young elves that had stopped to speak to a stable hand a few dozen yards away from them, "It is killing them already. For nearly a yén they have ridden out to hunt orcs, and it is killing their souls, bit by bit. They are not the cheerful elves they once were."

Glorfindel tried to find something to reply, some argument that would invalidate what his lord had just said, but he could think of none. Elrond was right, he decided as he watched the younger elves come closer, their hate and despair were killing them, slowly and bit by bit. The twins' eyes were no longer bright and cheerful, and long had it been since he had heard them really laugh or witnessed them pulling one of their unmatchable pranks on some poor, unsuspecting elf. The joyful elflings he had taught and watched grow into joyful adults were gone, destroyed in the one moment their mother had been taken in the mountains, and in their stead there were emotionless warriors that were bent only on killing as many of their mother's tormentors as they possibly could.

It wasn't that they were cold and removed from what was happening around them, he thought as he watched Elrohir smile about something his brother had just said, but the merriment never reached their eyes, and as soon as they sat still for longer than a few minutes a far-away expression stole over their faces, as if they were thinking of how many orcs they could have killed weren't they at home doing nothing.

The golden haired elf bowed his head to hide the sorrow in his eyes. His lord was right; his two most annoying and at the same time brightest and most promising pupils were slowly succumbing to the hatred that destroyed their souls, and he was powerless to stop it. Powerless – that was a word that the elf lord did not like at all. He raised his head again, darkened blue eyes determined.
"There must be something we can do!"

"Nay, my friend," Elrond shook his head, "There is not, or I would have done it long ago, believe me. It is like a wound that is festering in their hearts, and not even I or their sister can help them overcome this. It is something they must do on their own, and no-one can aid them in it. They must let go of their despair if not of their hatred, and they must do it alone. I wish to help them of course, but…"

"…they do not listen," Glorfindel nodded sadly. "I know, my lord. I know all too well."

"You know what all too well?" Elrohir questioned as he stopped in front of them. "You are not keeping something from us, are you, dear friend?"

Before Glorfindel had had the chance to answer, Elladan spoke up, a dark eyebrow arched in amusement.
"Is it true?"

"Is what true, Elladan?" Glorfindel asked with a hard look at the younger elf that had stopped even the balrog for a short time.

The older twin's lips twisted into a smile that looked more genuine than anything Glorfindel had seen on his face in the past fifty years. He was apparently not very impressed by the older elf's glare.
"That you and Erestor got so drunk that you sung a very annoying song all night and that you wrote … a particular word on his forehead?"

The golden haired elf suppressed a wince and decided that there was no honourable way out of this situation.
"It appears so."

The smug grin that spread over their identical faces was something Glorfindel had never wanted to see directed at him. The twins would never let him forget this little incident, never, or only for the right price, such as help in one of their endeavours. He resisted the urge to hang his head. Elf lords did not hang their heads in public, especially not in front of their half-elven lords and said half-elven lords' half-elven offspring.

Elrohir exchanged a wicked look with his brother, a look that reminded their father very much of his own twin brother all of the sudden. He and Elros had been able to do the same, to look at each other and convey more with a single glance than most people could with many words. It was something that twins could do, and elven twins especially, and it once again brought back painful memories of his beloved brother, dying in front of his eyes some hundred years after he had accepted the Gift of Men.

Elrond looked at his sons that were undoubtedly just planning something he really didn't want to know about and narrowed his eyes. He had already lost so much, his parents, his brother, countless friends and his wife; he would not allow his sons to leave him as well.

"How long are you staying?" he asked, resisting the urge to take them by the ears and lock them in their chambers like disobedient elflings. They were adults and making their own decisions, and if he insisted on treating them like children they were not, he would simply make everything even worse.

"For a few months," Elladan shrugged nonchalantly. "We'll be back for Winter Solstice, but I think we'll return after that. Is Arwen coming home this year?"

"No," Elrond shook his head, "A letter arrived yesterday from the Golden Wood. She bids me give you her love and asks us to understand that she would rather stay with the Lord and the Lady than travel at this time of year. The winter promises to become a vicious one and storms are already raging outside Lórien."

The twins nodded seriously, a strange gleam once again kindled in their eyes.
"We understand," Elrohir added softly, "It is better for her to stay with grandmother anyway; there is nothing for her here since…"

He fell silent and looked at the ground, studying the mud on which he stood lightly with fascinated interest. No, indeed, what was there here in Rivendell since their mother had left? Nothing but sorrow and pain and anger; nothing a being like his sister needed. They hadn't been able to give her the comfort she was so desperate for, and it probably really was better that she spent most of her time in Lothlórien. Hot anger once again raced through him, and he felt a renewed urgency to be off. He couldn't stand the sight of his home any longer; it was reminding him of too many things he didn't wish to remember now. Elladan and he would ride out and kill those who had brought all this upon their family, and, perhaps, it would be enough this time.

"Forgive me, ada," he said softy. "I should not have spoken of it."

Elrond only shook his head sadly, inwardly praying to Elbereth and all the other Valar to let his sons understand and give them peace. He missed Celebrían as well, Ilúvatar, he missed her so much that it hurt him physically from time to time, but he wasn't as filled with anger and despair as the twins. They blamed themselves for what had happened, blamed themselves for letting their mother be taken and for not coming to her rescue sooner, and this guilt was the one thing that slowly but surely destroyed his sons from within.

He took a step forward and took his younger son's chin, raising his head until their eyes met.
"Do not be sorry, my son. You are right. Your sister is much happier in Lórien than she could be here." He looked at both of them, seriously. "You know what I think about this."

Elladan nodded, not intimidated by his father's hard look.
"Yes, father."

Elrond shook his head in dismay, once again cursing the Valar for gifting him with sons that were every bit as stubborn as he had been when he had been younger. Glorfindel of course insisted that he hadn't changed in the slightest, but that was not true. Elros and he had been much worse when they had been elflings. He gave his sons a sad smile and stepped back again, inclining his head.

"May the Valar protect you then. Give my regards to Aravorn and tell them that we are expecting his grandson when he feels he is ready."

Elladan and Elrohir nodded. Aravorn was the current chieftain of the Dúnedain of the North, who had been fostered in Rivendell like all of Isildur's heirs before him. His son Arahad and his wife had been gifted with an heir not too long ago, and soon it would be time for the boy to spend some time in the elf-haven of Imladris like all of his line had.

"We will," the younger twin assured his father. "Hopefully Arahad has got over the shock of being a father now; the last time we met he couldn't say anything but 'son', 'beautiful' and 'perfect'."

"That is not true!" Elladan exclaimed, obviously intent to defend the chieftain's son. "He could also giggle uncontrollably for a very prolonged amount of time."

"Oh," Elrohir shrugged with a slight grin. "That too, I forgot."

Glorfindel grinned, glad that the mood had lightened somewhat.
"That is nothing unusual, young ones. When a man becomes a father for the first time he is bound to react rather irrationally. The same goes for the firstborn, though, did I ever mention what your father did when you were born?"

Elladan grinned at his brother, interest appearing in his eyes.

"Well," the blonde elf began, "After he had annoyed your mother so much that she threw him out of her chambers, he…" He noticed the threatening look Elrond gave him and interrupted himself, swallowing quickly. He probably shouldn't stress his luck with the half-elf today. "I will escort you to the gates, my lords."

He quickly walked a few paces into the direction of the main gates to give the three dark haired elves the chance to say good-bye in private. After a few moments the twins joined him, and they made their way over to the gates in silence. When they had reached the gateway, he turned back to the younger elves, looking at them seriously.

"I do not expect you to listen to me," he shook his head sadly, "For if you do not even listen to your own father, then why would you listen to me?"

Elladan shook his head unwillingly.
"Please, my friend, not you too."

The golden haired elf's head whipped around, blue eyes blazing in his fair face.
"Yes, me too, Elladan! I do not have your father's patience, and I tell you now that what you do is foolish! Do you expect me to watch the two of you destroy yourselves and stay silent?"

"No," Elrohir shook his head, always the more diplomatic one. "We do not. But we do not expect you to understand either."

"I do!" Glorfindel exclaimed, resisting the urge to grab the twins' shoulders and shake some sense into them. "I do understand you! But it is still wrong! Would the Lady Celebrían have wanted you to succumb to hatred and darkness? I have known her longer than either of you, and I tell you that she would not!"

At the mention of their mother's name both brothers winced slightly, but the stubborn expression in their eyes did not diminish. Glorfindel sighed inwardly. Accursed be the stubbornness of Eärendil's entire line!

"Very well," he sighed as he shook his head. "If you truly believe that this course of action will help anyone, you are very welcome to get yourselves killed. But," he looked up at them, all the wisdom of the ages in his fathomless gaze, "But stop at least one second to consider what your deaths would do to your father, to all of us. Do you really believe that he could cope with yet another loss?"

The twins avoided his gaze and he continued, his voice insistent and calm.

"No, he could not." The golden haired elf shook his head again. "It would destroy the last bit of hope and will to live in his heart, and this time no-one would be able to hold him in this world. He would either follow you or journey to the Havens, and what then? What if he leaves Middle-earth before his time? I do not possess your father's fore-sight and I have thanked the Valar for that many times in the past, but even I know that the consequences might prove disastrous should he pass into the West now, while the Shadow is not yet mastered. And what about your sister, what about Arwen? What about your friends?"

Glorfindel paused and waited until the younger elves looked up at him.
"Think about that for a moment before you make rash decisions. Think about it before you rush into situations you cannot escape on your own; think about it before you let your hatred and despair define your actions. Do it for your father and all who love you."

The twins did not answer, and he added, so softly that one could hardly understand him,

"I love Elrond like a brother, and I love you like my sons. Seldom do I beg for something, but I will beg you for this if I have to."

After a moment, Elladan nodded, eyes serious.
"We will remember your words."

Glorfindel very well knew that this was not exactly what he had been asking for, but knew just as well that it was the biggest admission either of them was willing to make. He watched how the twins mounted their horses, trying to suppress the distinct feeling that he would never see them again.

"May Elbereth watch over your paths, young ones. Come back to us in the spring, and I hope to see yet another one of your distant cousins soon." He smiled slightly. "Arahad was bad enough already, I hardly dare to imagine what his son will be like."

Elrohir returned his smile tentatively.
"They get worse from generation to generation, I am sure about it. One is more reckless and stubborn than the last, and one would think that these qualities would diminish with time."

The twins spurred on their horses, but Elrohir turned back after a few yards, reining in his steed. Grey eyes met blue ones, locked together for a long time.

"We will not go looking for death, mellon nín," Elrohir said, a hopeless and at the same time determined expression on his face. "That I promise you. But this is the only way, and no-one can stop us from following this path. Not even ada or you." The younger elf inclined his head, breaking the eye contact. "Namárië."

He turned his horse and followed his brother, leaving the golden haired elf behind. Glorfindel remained standing next to the great wooden gates, looking after the young elves he had helped raise, and a sudden wave of anger swept over him, anger at a world that had destroyed the lives of a whole family in a single moment.

Glorfindel's keen eyes followed the two small figures as they sped away into the direction of the Bruinen until they disappeared from sight.
"You may not go looking for death, young ones," he murmured as he turned back into the direction of the Last Homely House, "But death may very well go looking for you."

The blonde elf shook his head sadly once again and slowly walked back the way he had come, deciding that, suddenly, the sun didn't seem to shine so brightly anymore.

Elrohir's thoughts were in turmoil while he and his brother were making their way west, into the direction of the Trollshaws. They were due to meet with the dúnedain tomorrow at noon, at the Last Bridge that crossed the river Mitheithel, or the Hoarwell as the humans called the stream. The rangers had one of their temporary camps in the vicinity of the bridge, and would stay there for another four or five weeks until it became too cold and chilly and they retreated into the safety and comfort of their permanent settlements.

They were making good time and would be able to camp just outside the Trollshaws when night would finally be upon them, but that pleasant fact did nothing to cheer him up.

'Would the Lady Celebrían have wanted you to succumb to hatred and darkness?' … 'Do you really believe that he could cope with yet another loss?' … 'And what about your sister, what about Arwen?'…

His old teacher's words seemed to ring in his head, resounding and growing louder by the minute. Indeed, what would his mother say if she could see him now? 'She wouldn't even recognise you,' a soft voice in his head stated, no matter how hard he tried to suppress it. 'You have changed, both of you, and she would weep for what you have become if she knew…'

With an angry shake of his head the younger twin tried to silence that voice; what did it know? He could still remember the sight of his mother's broken body when they had finally found her or the sound of her cries that had echoed through the mountains when they had ridden to her aid. The screams haunted him more than anything else; hardly did a night pass in which he was not forced to relive that particular moment. He knew that Elladan was experiencing similar things, even though his older brother had never talked about it, and it only fortified their resolve to kill all those who had hurt her.

Elrohir shook his head again. How could Glorfindel and especially their father expect them to stay at home when the creatures that had broken the Lady of Rivendell's body and poisoned her soul still roamed these lands, doing the same things they had done to her to other innocent people, humans, elves and hobbits alike?

No, as long as a single orc still lived they could find no peace, and if he had to die avenging his mother, then so be it.

But still, a part of him was not satisfied with that reasoning, using Glorfindel's and his father's words to mock him by repeating the same words over and over again. It was a part of him from before, from before their entire existence had narrowed down to the one purpose, the one goal that determined their every waking moment: To kill orcs, and to kill as many of them as possible, no matter the cost.

He hardly heard his twin's serious voice, so focused was he on his musings.

"We should stop for the night in an hour. The sun will set soon, and it is dangerous to travel in the dark so close to the Trollshaws."

Elrohir nodded, mumbling an affirmative. Elladan looked at him, an eyebrow arched high.
"The moon will turn purple as always."

"Yes," his twin murmured softly, clearly not paying attention to what the other elf was saying. "You're right."

"Since we haven't caught any dinner yet I thought I would skin you and roast you on a spit."

"Oh, that is well."

"And I think I will use your bow for firewood…"

"That's a good ide… what??"

Elladan's last statement was enough to bring the younger twin out of his thoughts, and he turned to look at his brother, slowing his horse's gait to a trot.
"What did you say?"

"Oh, nothing," Elladan grinned at his brother.

"I seem to remember something else," Elrohir grumbled, but let it be. He knew that Elladan had been right to tease him; it was him who had been so deep in thought that an orc could have asked him for the time and he wouldn't have thought it one bit peculiar. An attitude that could get you killed very quickly if you weren't careful.

"I've been telling you for years that there's something wrong with your ears, brother," the older twin retorted, enjoying the lightheartedness of the moment more than he cared to admit. Moment like these had been an every day occurrence some years ago, and they had often spent a good part of the day teasing each other and bickering among themselves, nearly driving their poor father to the brink of madness, but no more. Long gone were the times when all they could think of was how to annoy the other most effectively, and a part of Elladan feared that they would never return.

"Nothing would be wrong with my ears if you didn't insist on talking the most ridiculous things," Elrohir said, a smile slowly beginning to lighten his stern countenance. "If you don't get that under control soon, the rangers will think you are possessed by one kind of Sauron's demons or another and will kill you where you stand."

"That doesn't concern me in the slightest," Elladan shook his head. "I know that you would protect me. Besides, they're our kin, however distantly. They wouldn't harm their own kin, would they?"

"If they have any sense left, they will."

Elladan looked at his brother in mock horror.
"Brother, I am hurt! How can you say such a thing?"

"It is quite easy, brother. I open my mouth, and behold, the words can be heard…"

Elrohir interrupted himself in mid-sentence, his eyes fixed on the ground. Elven eyes pierced the falling darkness effortlessly, and soon Elladan also saw what had caused his younger brother to rein in his horse: A broad track that ran from left to right, straight over the road the two of them were following. It was clear that many feet had trampled it, and even if the shape of the footsteps were not enough proof already, the lingering sense of evil was almost tangible for any creature that came this way.

"Yrch," the oldest son of Elrond hissed, one hand unconsciously straying to the hilt of his sword.

Elrohir merely jumped from the back of his horse and knelt down next to the aisle of destruction that cut across their path. The fury in his heart went up another few notches when he saw the destroyed plants and trees next to the tracks; the orcs had apparently cut down young trees and even a few older ones just for spite.

"They came through here only half an hour ago, I think. The sun is already low in the sky, and they will be planning to raid a few farms to the North and will have left their hiding places early."

Elladan nodded, trusting his brother's words inexplicably. Both of them had learned much since they had started to hunt orcs with the rangers, and if Elrohir said they had come here thirty minutes ago, it was true.
"How many?"

Elrohir wrinkled his brow, frowning slightly. He ran his hands over the churned up earth as if it might help him determine how many enemies they faced.
"About twenty, I think. It is hard to tell on the stones here, but there may also be a few wargs with them."

"As always," his twin nodded grimly. "Come on, then."

"You mean to follow them?" Elrohir asked, quickly walking back to his horse.

Elladan looked at him with a raised eyebrow, looking very much like their father for a moment, if one didn't look too closely at his eyes. While they were of nearly the same colour as the Lord of Rivendell's, his held a decidedly bloodthirsty gleam that none had seen in the older elf's eyes since the last great war.
"You mean not to follow them?"

Elrohir looked back at him, in his heart already determined what to do, but the small, persistent part of him that had been nagging him since the conversation with Glorfindel caused him to argue anyway.
"We are due to meet with the rangers tomorrow. If we are delayed they will come looking for us, and you know how well father would like that."

"Elrohir," his brother began with an impatient jerk of his head, "That is the reason why we have to follow them. There are no rangers here at the moment, and if we don't stop them, no-one will. There are two human villages not far from here, and they will pillage and burn and kill, just as they always do, and no-one will stand in their way." He looked at his twin seriously. "We can save these humans, gwanur nín."

His younger brother averted his eyes to hide the pain and despair that welled up inside of him at the other's words. Elladan didn't need to say what both of them were thinking: They had not been able to save their mother, but they could save others from suffering the same fate as she.

Elrohir looked up again, his eyes hard and steely grey as he suppressed the voice inside of him that begged him to reconsider, to take the way of caution and come back with a group of rangers to deal with this orc horde.
"You are right, we can."

He quickly mounted his horse and flashed his brother a grin.
"Lead the way, my brother."

Elladan returned the grin, and together they spurred on their horses and quickly disappeared eastwards into the direction the orc tracks led them, stealthy and grey against the falling darkness like two dark shadows bent on vengeance, an impression that was accurate in more aspects than one.


mellon nín - my friend
yén - elvish unit of time, equivalent to 144 years
ada - father, daddy
dúnedain - 'Men of the West', rangers
yrch (pl. of orch) - orcs, goblins

gwanur nín - my (twin) brother

To borrow one of Gandalf's wonderful idioms: The board is set, the pieces are moving. *giggles* Oh, I've always wanted to use that quote. Well, it's fitting, isn't it? Since this is only a short story, the next chapter already sees our intrepid duo getting into deep, deep trouble, Glorfindel and Elrond have a little discussion and ... I already mentioned the trouble, didn't I? *g* Okay, I'll update this more frequently than my other story since this one is already finished, so I guess the next chapter will be here either Wednesday or Thursday. Reviews always help to get updates faster. Really. *g*