Alright, first things first: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MARBIENL!!! huggles Marbienl
So, for those who hadn't guessed it already: This is Marbienl's little birthday-trolls-story. It's rather short, especially if you compare it to my last story - only five chapter, just like the last short story. I'm sensing a pattern here. g I have decided to list Aragorn and Legolas as the main characters, but there are several other elves who will be making an appearance, for example the twins, Erestor or Elvynd who got to speak about two sentences in "An Eye For An Eye". Glorfindel and Elrond, however, are just as important as the reckless human and the stubborn elf this time, and will get quite a lot of attention. (Glorfindel/Elrond: Oh, isn't that nice? sarcasm)
This story was inspired by a few rather innocent remarks about Aragorn's and Legolas' encounter with some hill-trolls, and Marbienl nagged me until I agreed to write a little background story. She also fed me the Glorfindel-plot bunny, so it's safe to say that all this is at least partly her fault. I decided to combine the two plots, both to save time and to get them out of my head. g
Oh, one last thing: Please note that I assume that Gondolin was destroyed on Midyear's Day. I haven't found any precise date for the "Gates of Summer" - the date which is given in the Silmarillion (Chapter 23, Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin) - but I think that it would either be Midyear's Day or Midsummer's Day (which is celebrated either on the same day or on the 24th of June). Considering that the festival was called GATES of Summer, I think Summer Solstice is more likely, and therefore this story takes place on June 21st and June 22nd. If you have any proof that I am wrong, please don't hesiste to let me know. g
So, once again: Happy Birthday, Marbienl! I hope you'll enjoy it, even though there's quite a lot of angst in here later on. Then again, I don't really think that that will bother YOU... g
Okay, that's it. Enough of the rambling and on to the story!
Rating: PG-13. One day in the future I WILL manage to write a story with another rating, though. One day. g
Spoilers: Several, actually. There are rather heavy spoilers for the "Silmarillion" in here, I think, and some small ones for the appendices of "The Return of the King". This story was inspired by several small remarks in my first story "An Eye For An Eye" (please don't ask me which chapters, because I honestly don't know), but I really don't think that it is necessary to have read it. You should be fine either way. If you, however, are still wondering if Morgoth captures Gondolin or not and are still of the opinion that the sons of Fëanor are really nice, reasonable chaps, you might not want to read this.
Disclaimer: I do not own anything in Middle-earth; every single recognisable character, setting, place, event and so on belongs to J.R.R. Tolkien and his heirs. The rest, however (places, characters, etc.) belongs to me, so please don't kidnap any of my characters. They might be rather happy to get away from me, but I won't be. I do not have anyone's permission to use any of the above, but I do so anyway. I'm not a very nice person, I know. And, finally, this story was written just for fun, and I will most certainly not receive any money for it. It would be a wonderful way to earn my living, but you can't have everything, I guess. Please do not use any of my original characters without asking me first. Thank you.
Summary: While Legolas is visiting his friends in Rivendell over Midyear's Day, a short hunting trip takes a turn for the worst when they unexpectedly encounter a group of orcs. In order to save their lives Legolas, Aragorn, the twins and the rest of their party have to split up, a decision that soon backfires and leaves not only one, but two lives hanging in the balance. While the elven prince and the ranger must try to make it back to Rivendell on their own, Elrond is reminded of the fact that darkness does not always threaten from without but rather from within and that, sometimes, surviving is the greatest tragedy of them all.
Series: This story is, once again, part of my mini-series which still doesn't have a name, poor thing. It takes place a while before my first story though. So, this is my ... counts on her fingers ... fifth story, I think, after "Straight Paths", "An Eye For An Eye", "The Heart of Men" and "To Walk in Night", taking place in III, 2952, about 16 months before "An Eye For An Eye".
Additional Notes: This newest bit of madness is a little birthday gift for Marbienl. She is ... well, let's say ... "slightly" obsessed with Aragorn H/C, Angst and everything else that looks remotely like it. Don't ask me why, but she has been nagging me about writing Legolas' and Aragorn's encounter with the hill-trolls which I mentioned only very briefly in my first story. I hadn't really thought about it, to be honest (I wrote that about 1 ½ years ago, after all!), but since she has been asking so nicely I did and voilà, this is the result. So, blame her, not me. g
I have long ago decided to follow Cassia and Sio's lead and pretend that Gilraen was killed with Arathorn, and it's not because I don't like her, no. It's just that I have started this way because it was easiest. I think it's hard to integrate her into Rivendell-life realistically, and now that I feel confident enough to have a go at writing her, it's too late. g I hope you - and her - will forgive me for this not so little detail.
Some people have therefore told me that my whole concept is an AU, and I think they are correct, in a way. I totally ignore the fact that Aragorn's supposed to have met Arwen just after he had been told of his heritage, and 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, which means that you will have to bear with me.
A small note concerning the Elvish used in this story (this time, both Quenya and Sindarin): I am a follower of the "mellon nín" variety. If you like the undoubtedly equally correct "mellonen" better, bear with me. As far as I know, you can use both versions.
And, last but not least: It is not a secret that English is not my first language. It is, in fact, my third, but that's beside the point. g So please, tell me when you find a blatant and horrible mistake somewhere - and you will, trust me. Some of them always manage to sneak their way into the stories no matter how hard I try. Pointing them out to me doesn't bother me at all and really helps to improve my English. Thank you!
The first beams of light were slowly filtering through the heavy drapes in front of the carved windows, doing their best to find their way past the folds of thick cloth. It was still early in the morning, so early in fact that even the birds had woken only a few moments ago, but it seemed that the little animals were more than ready to make up for that fact by chirping even louder than usual.
There was only one person in the dark, silent room, lying on a large bed with a beautifully carved headboard. Even though he lay quite motionless beneath the light covers, he was already awake and had been for some time, even though not even the sharp eyes of an elf would have been able to detect that fact with absolute certainty.
That had several reasons, actually. One was that there was a whole family of thrushes outside his windows, making such a racket that it would have woken even the dead themselves. It had all started rather harmlessly a few months ago, namely with a single thrush which had even been quite trusting and nice. Then, however, that thrush had found a mate, and in a matter of weeks there weren't only two thrushes, there were nine. He was starting to suspect that his brothers had encouraged the noisy birds to breed in the tree right next to his balcony, which would be just the kind of thing the two dark haired elves would find amusing.
But it didn't end there, of course. There was another reason, and a far more serious one at that. Said reason could be quite concisely be summed up with the words "Only an insane person slept late when Legolas and the twins were after his or her blood".
Aragorn grinned and resisted the urge to stretch lazily, still dividing his attention between the door, the windows and the curtains that hung in front of his balcony door. To a casual observer it would appear that this behaviour was paranoid or at least exceedingly cautious, but he knew better. Legolas and his brothers would be coming for him, and he couldn't afford any incautiousness at all – at least not if he wanted to greet this coming dawn with all his limbs firmly attached and/or in the same state as they were now.
The young man's grin widened even more. He didn't really know whether or not the twins had always behaved like this or whether he had rubbed off on them during his rather reckless childhood and youth, but they were behaving rather childish and vengeful lately – unlike him, of course. He was behaving like it befitted a young lord of twenty-one years, even though he was willing to admit that he was suffering some relapses from time to time.
Then again, Aragorn thought smugly as he watched the sunlight that filtered through the heavy drapes, Legolas and the twins might see this a little differently; they usually did. He didn't really know how Legolas would call this latest … incident, but he was sure that the twins would call it at least a humiliation – if not a mortal offence.
The ranger winced slightly, the first open sign that he was indeed awake and aware of his surroundings. The words "mortal offence", which his brothers had indeed mumbled once or twice if he wasn't very much mistaken, were quite a serious overstatement in his opinion. He hadn't truly done anything, after all, and if Legolas and twins were to pause the tiniest bit and actually thought about the entire situation for a moment, they would come to the exact same conclusion…
Aragorn was still dwelling on this particular subject when a soft, almost undetectable noise caused him to narrow his eyes and turn to the right, into the direction of the windows and the balcony door. The man held his breath and listened intently, trying to pinpoint the noise's source, and just when he was thinking that he had probably imagined things, another small noise could be heard, this time definitely from the balcony.
The young ranger grinned as he silently pushed back his covers and stood up, wincing slightly when his bare feet touched the cold stone floor. Even though tomorrow was Midyear's Day or Loënd, the feast which the Halflings and Men also called Summer Solstice, it hadn't been exceedingly warm until now, and this early in the morning the stone tiles beneath his feet were so cold that he was actually willing to bet that he would freeze to the ground if he didn't keep moving.
Taking his mind off the cold floor, Aragorn walked quickly over to the wall, keeping his eyes fixed firmly on the balcony door. Elladan and Elrohir were beginning to get rather predictable, even though that was something he wouldn't tell the two elves. He had known they would use the balcony! For a moment he regretted not having left a little surprise on the small platform outside his room, but then he shrugged inwardly. It was most likely for the best; he very much doubted that their father would be happy if he caused the twins to fall off his balcony and straight into the Bruinen.
Judging by the soft conversation that could be heard from outside, however, it appeared that the two of them were doing quite a good job at that themselves.
"Take my hand," a voice coaxed softly, sounding torn between concern and the urge to laugh. "Come on, brother, it's only a few inches."
"These 'few inches', Elrohir," an almost identical, rather pressed voice ground out, "are more like half a metre."
"Mere details," the younger twin brushed his brother's words aside. "Come, take my hand. I really don't want to explain to ada that you fell off a balcony and broke every bone in your body. I don't think even he has that many splints at hand."
"Most … likely not." By the sound of it, Elladan was making a grab for his twin's hand. "And who am I to inconvenience our lord and father?"
"For one, not brave enough," Elrohir retorted, and Aragorn could all but see the smirk on the dark haired elf's face. "And, as unhappy as I am to admit it, not stupid enough, either."
A soft grunt could be heard next, quickly followed by the sound of rustling clothes. It appeared that the younger twin had managed to pull Elladan up and over the railing of the balcony. The man's guess was quickly confirmed when his younger elven brother's voice could be heard, causing Aragorn to lean against the wall with a broad grin on his face.
"You could thank me for saving you from a potentially deadly fall, dear brother."
"Thank you?" Elladan's hushed voice sounded somewhere between outraged and amused. "Thank you? This was your idea in the first place! Why should I thank you for very nearly getting me killed?"
"Oh, please," Elrohir obviously rolled his eyes, even though Aragorn could still not see his brothers because of the curtains that moved gently in the morning breeze. "We've done this a thousand times, and have never fallen or something like that! You act as if I have lured you into mortal peril!"
"Keep your voice down!" the older twin told his brother sternly. "And I still say we should have used the door."
"And walk right into one of his traps?" Elrohir retorted contemptuously. "I don't think so."
Elladan said something, his voice just audible through the heavy material that separated the twins from their human brother, but Aragorn was listening only with one ear. He knew the two of them, very well at that, and this was far too easy. They had been making far too much noise, and were still conversing in voices that could be heard not only by him, but surely in the next room as well.
Aragorn frowned, his attention still on the softly swaying curtains in front of him. If the twins were behaving like this, it could only mean that they wanted him to hear them. And if they wanted him to hear them, then they…
A small noise behind him was all the warning he received, and while he was still turning around – moving with rather impressive speed for a human – he realised that he would be too late. A moment later all thoughts were driven from his mind by a wave of ice-cold water that drenched him from head to toe in a matter of half a second that gave him the distinct feeling that his body had just been plunged into an icy lake.
The sudden cold thoroughly shocked him, and he couldn't suppress an indignant splutter of surprise. By the time he had regained his senses and had wiped wet strands of hair out of his eyes, the twins had poked their heads through the curtains in front of the balcony door, both wearing identical expressions of amusement that incensed the soaked ranger even more.
"Did you get him?" Elladan asked eagerly.
"Oh yes," the blond elf in front of Aragorn answered, dangling a very large, very empty bucket from one of his hands in an unbearably smug gesture. "I most definitely did."
Aragorn needed a few seconds to regain his ability to speak, and a few extra seconds to decide whether he wanted to glare at the twins or the elven prince in front of him. Finally he raised a hand, shook it slightly from side to side to shake off the water that covered even his fingers and pointed it at the fair haired elf.
"You," he accused him in a rather dangerous voice, "used the window."
"Indeed," Legolas grinned at the dripping man.
"And you never suspected a thing," Elrohir grinned as well, pushing the curtains to the side and giving the sunlight unhindered access to the airy room. "Our dear Legolas is rather stealthy, isn't he? For a wood-elf, I mean."
"In light of our successful operation I will ignore that comment," the blond elf stated loftily and let go of the bucket, either because he had no further use for it or because he had noticed the deadly glares Aragorn was shooting him.
The wooden pail dropped to the floor with a small thud, and a moment later Legolas had grabbed a towel from the windowsill next to him and tossed it at the drenched human in front of him. Aragorn caught it automatically, still glaring at the three young elves.
"That was a totally unprovoked attack!" he complained while he peeled off his soaked shirt and let it drop to the floor. "Do you want me to catch a cold and die?"
"Oh, stop overdramatising everything!" Elladan told him as he pushed back the curtains in front of the window. "Humans very seldom die from colds. You can count yourself lucky that you got off so lightly."
"Lightly?" Aragorn repeated and grabbed another towel Legolas offered him, glaring daggers at the grinning Silvan elf. "Whatever did I do to merit such ill treatment?"
"He asks what he did to merit such ill treatment!" Elrohir sighed and covered his face with a hand in a dramatic gesture. "Tell him, Legolas."
Legolas smiled at the twin's antics and turned to his human friend, who was currently busy trying to dry his shoulder-length dark hair that was now more or less plastered to his skull.
"Do I really have to tell you? You know well enough what you did!"
Aragorn stopped towelling his hair and did his best to look sincere and innocent, something which nearly always failed. After a few moments he couldn't keep a straight face anymore and began to grin broadly.
"Come now, my friend, 'twas only a joke!"
"Ah," Elladan said and waggled one long finger from side to side, "If you tie someone's shoelaces together, that's a joke. If you hide someone's favourite book, that's a joke. If you, however, take someone's weapons and paint little flowers onto them, it's not a joke!!"
Aragorn's grin widened even more as he remembered yesterday's weapon practice. The look on the twins' and Legolas' faces when they had drawn their swords – or, in Legolas' case, his knives – only to discover, in front of about twenty novices and a rather large number of captains, that their blades were covered with a multitude of painted flowers was not one he would forget any time in the near future. The man chuckled inwardly. Or ever.
"The paint was easily removed with a bit of hot water; I really don't know why you are making such a fuss about it."
"Yes," Legolas nodded, looking eerily like a warg before it jumped at you. "It was, which is the only reason why your brothers managed to convince me not to drown you in one of the pools."
Aragorn blinked, not entirely sure if he should take the elf's words seriously or not, but then he turned around to his far-too-smug-looking brothers and gave them a curt nod.
"It appears that thanks are in order, then."
"They are indeed," Elladan nodded with a magnanimous gesture. "As much as I would have liked to watch Legolas try to drown you in the Bruinen or one of the pools, I really think that it would have displeased ada, only the Valar know why."
"Who says I would merely try?" Legolas asked darkly, apparently still severely displeased about the man's attempt to … what had he called it once he had stopped laughing and had consented to climbing down from the tree in which he had cowardly taken refuge in face of their fury? Oh yes, the elven prince nodded inwardly, to embellish them. "I would most certainly have succeeded if I'd put my mind to it."
"Of course," Aragorn grumbled under his breath, but the slowly spreading smile on his features belied his gruff tone of voice. "The mighty Prince of Mirkwood succeeds in every task to which he addresses his noble personage."
"Precisely," Legolas nodded graciously as he leaned back against the windowsill, apparently not at all bothered by the human's sarcastic words. "I couldn't have put it better myself."
"Then, mellon nín, you are in desperate need of expanding your vocabulary," Elladan announced with a wicked glint in his eyes.
The grin on the older twin's face lasted for mere moments before he had to duck rather suddenly to avoid two wet towels that were flung at him, one by Legolas and one by Aragorn. Before either his friend or his brother had the chance to get their hands on any more wet or maybe even sharp objects Elladan had rushed out of the room, quickly followed by his twin who gave the two dour-looking beings a quick, half-smug and half-apologetic shrug.
Legolas reluctantly put down a rather heavy wooden sculpture that had been sitting on the table next to the window, realising only now that Lord Elrond would have killed him if he had actually thrown the carving. He was no expert, but he was indeed rather sure that the small object in his hands was Númenórean in origin, and therefore hardly something you could easily replace.
Aragorn seemed agree and gave him a wry grin while he dropped the wet towel he had wanted to throw at his brother to the ground and walked over to a large chest of drawers to get himself a clean and, most importantly, dry shirt.
"You're lucky you didn't throw that," he told the elf with a nod at the small sculpture which Legolas was still holding. "Father would have skinned you alive."
"Oh?" the elf asked somewhat anxiously as he carefully put the carving back onto the table. "Is it that valuable?"
"No, at least not in a monetary sense," Aragorn shook his head. "It's something like a family heirloom. If my memory serves me right, it was made by Tar-Elendil when he was still a boy. He gave it to Elrond during one of his visits in Armenelos, Númenor's royal city."
"Tar-Elendil," Legolas frowned softly, deciding not for the first time that there were some areas his tutors had neglected during his education, among them the history of Men. Or the history of the Dwarves, for that matter, but that was something he did not lament in the slightest. "Which one was he?"
"Elros' great-grandson," Aragorn answered promptly. "And therefore the fourth king of Anadûn – at least if you count Vardamir, Elros' son. He never accepted the kingship and abdicated in his son's favour."
The man's quick answer and the softly spoken Adûnaic word once again brought Aragorn's heritage to the elf's mind, which the man had accepted so unwillingly. For a few moments, Legolas was silent while Aragorn selected a shirt and tunic and began to rummage through a nearby closet for a dry pair of breeches.
"You know much about your ancestors' history, my friend."
"Oh yes," Aragorn nodded grimly. "Quite a lot actually. But perhaps I shouldn't have used that particular name for their home? There is one much more fitting one: Atalantë. Is there not?"
Legolas gave the man an emotionless look. That was a name for the isle of Númenor that he, too, knew: The Downfallen, a name that had been used after the island's destruction at the end of the last age.
"This is not what I meant," he explained evenly. "I merely…"
"I know," Aragorn turned around with an apologetic smile and nodded at the elf in front of him. "I know what you meant. I guess it's just that being woken by ice-cold water did not really improve my mood."
Legolas was old and experienced enough to recognise an attempt to change the topic when it jumped into his face and grabbed him by the throat, but he merely put on a look of mock indignation and allowed this particular matter to drop. It was obvious that Aragorn didn't want to talk about this now – which was just fine with him. They'd talk about it later then.
"You deserved it," he told the man haughtily. "Nobody takes a wood-elf's weapons, tampers with them and gets away with it. I think that is something you ought to remember, young one."
Before the elf could react or even blink, something rather wet hit him in the face, making him stumble backwards. A part of him was rather impressed that a man could move so fast, but that part was swiftly being dwarfed by growing indignation and quite a bit of embarrassment. As graciously as he could he reached up and removed the wet towel that had wrapped itself around his head in a way resembling a persistent octopus.
"That," he told the broadly grinning ranger in front of him, "was uncalled for. And a mistake."
"You called me 'young one'," Aragorn shrugged, apparently quite unimpressed by the elf's thinly veiled threat. He had, after all, heard much worse from his brothers.
"And that justifies this?"
Legolas merely commented this with a snort and tossed the towel into Aragorn's direction, which the man ducked easily however, already having expected such a reaction from the elf.
"Get dressed then," he told him darkly, but with a small sparkle of amusement in his eyes. "I don't kill half-dressed children."
"So you only kill fully dressed children?" the young man shot back quickly.
"Oh yes, of course," Legolas grinned before he turned around and walked over to the door. "I'm a wood-elf. Haven't any of Imladris' inhabitants told you about our favourite pastimes?"
"Now that you mention it, yes, they have," Aragorn told the elf's retreating back, dropping the dry shirt and breeches he had chosen onto the now also rather wet bed. He grinned at the elf who had reached the door by now and was just turning back around to look at him. "Among the main characteristics of the common wood-elf," he recited in a way that sounded remotely like Erestor when he was talking about the common linguistic roots of Quenya and Sindarin, "is the urge to drink vast quantities of wine…"
Legolas merely leaned back against the doorpost with an apparently benign smile on his lips that, on closer inspection, looked a little more like a forming snarl. Aragorn was either unaware of it or simply didn't care and just went on, a wicked glint in his eyes.
"…to exceedingly indulge in something called 'merrymaking', something that is closely connected with the urge to consume countless pints of alcoholic beverages, further to abduct Men and Dwarves to drink their blood, to practice dark magic, to try and get their hands on any glittering objects and generally behave like overgrown magpies and to – put down that carving, Legolas!"
Legolas had taken two quick steps forward and had seized the first projectile he had laid eyes on, namely the Númenórean sculpture. Only now did he seem to realise what he was doing, and with a frown that merely deepened the annoyed grimace on his face he slowly returned the carving to its place. After making sure that it looked just like when he had picked it up he raised his eyes and looked at the broadly grinning man.
"Are there any more insults you wish to heap on my people, adan?"
The thus addressed ranger wrinkled his brow in thought and finally shook his head.
"No, I don't think so. Those were the more interesting ones, I believe."
Legolas contented himself with glaring darkly at the man, but it appeared that he had to consciously stop his hands from moving once again into the direction of the wooden sculpture.
"You should be grateful that Lord Elrond is such an art lover, ranger. Very, very grateful."
"Yes," Aragorn grinned and made a quick movement with his hand. "Get out. If I don't get dressed now, I'll be too late to get anything to eat. If I don't get anything to eat, I will have to pester the kitchen staff, and if I have to pester the kitchen staff, we won't be able to leave on time with the rest of the hunting party. And that, mellon nín, will annoy Glorfindel, and believe me when I say that you don't want to see him when he's seriously displeased."
The blond wood-elf seemed torn between the urge to harm the man in front of him and to heed his warning, but in the end common sense or his own experience with Lord Elrond's golden haired seneschal won out. No, Legolas thought, Lord Glorfindel was indeed not someone he would want to anger deliberately.
With a last, dark look at the smirking human he turned back around and disappeared out of the door, only to poke his head back into the room a second later.
"You forgot something, Estel," he told the dark haired man in a friendly manner. "We Wood-elves do not only practice dark magic and drink men's blood, we also like to roast those who wrong us in any way on spits and eat them bit by bit while they're still alive." He gave the slightly wide-eyed man another bright smile. "I'll see you at breakfast then, yes?"
A moment later he was gone, and Aragorn slowly redirected his attention from the now empty spot at the door to his clothes, making a mental note to keep an eye on Legolas for the next few days, just in case the elf displayed any signs of cannibalistic tendencies. Remembering that there was a herd of deer just waiting to be hunted and that he would be too late if he didn't get a move on soon, he grabbed his shirt and tunic and snorted softly.
"Actually," he told his dark green hunting shirt while he was pulling it over his head, "I think that explains quite a lot."
He really didn't know why he was going along with this. It could end only in pain, disaster, death or blood, or a combination of all four. And, knowing his sons' and the prince's luck, it also would end in pain, disaster, death or blood.
Elrond sighed deeply and did his best to forget his troubled thoughts, which was rather hard since he could almost see the dark clouds of doom gather on the horizon. It wasn't exactly a premonition or a vision that told him that it was not a good idea to let the four of them go anywhere together, but then again, you didn't really need to possess the gift of foresight to predict an unfavourable outcome to any excursion his sons and the Prince of Mirkwood undertook.
Oh no, the Lord of Rivendell thought sarcastically, you didn't need to be foresighted to realise that. All you needed was a bit of common sense and a memory of average efficiency, and you reached that conclusion all by yourself in a matter of moments. Elrond frowned darkly. Elladan and Elrohir together equalled trouble. Elladan and Elrohir and Aragorn equalled even more trouble. Elladan and Elrohir, Aragorn and Prince Legolas equalled a catastrophe.
The only thing that was stopping him from packing his bags to leave for Lothlórien in an attempt to avoid being drawn into this newest disaster that was surely to come was the fact that Glorfindel and a few other warriors would accompany them. No, Elrond thought darkly a moment later, that was a thought that would usually have cheered him up and comforted him – today, however, it did anything but.
There were two main reasons for this, the dark haired elf lord mused, still not moving from where he was standing on one of the terraces that overlooked the lush valley that had been his home for more than thirty yéni now. One of them was of course that, even though the added company meant that his sons and Legolas wouldn't be alone and would therefore have at least a small measure of assistance and protection in whatever mad scheme they would get themselves involved in this time, it also meant that they would have the opportunity to drag their escort down into danger and doom with them. He really didn't look forward to treating even more patients than he inevitably would have to anyway.
The more important reason, however, was that Glorfindel wasn't himself, something that was beginning to seriously worry the Noldorin lord. He had known the golden haired elf for a long, long time, and was maybe in fact one of the few people on this side of the Great Sea that could claim that they actually knew Glorfindel. Even despite his open and merry nature the ancient elf very seldom allowed anyone a glimpse of his true thoughts and feelings, and it happened even more rarely that he actually confided in someone.
And that was the most annoying thing, Elrond thought indignantly. That stubborn elf simply wouldn't talk to him! He had tried everything but violence and a direct order to make his friend tell him what was wrong, or at least to sit down and talk to him for longer than a few minutes. He would have liked to believe that Glorfindel was avoiding his presence and counsel because he didn't wish to speak about whatever it was that was troubling him, but Elrond was slowly beginning to think that that might not be the only reason why he was more or less openly shunning him.
The half-elf's grey eyes darkened slightly, lending them the appearance of a cloudy sky. He had never thought that he would say this, but he was beginning to hope that Glorfindel simply didn't want to talk with him. In reality another belief was spreading inside of him, namely that the other elf wasn't avoiding his counsel, he was avoiding him.
Elrond sighed again, not even noticing that he was earning himself a strange look from a passing couple that could clearly not see what was so depressing about the beautiful, green valley at which their lord was staring. He had been trying to remember if there was anything he could have done to offend his fair haired friend, but try as he might, he couldn't think of anything that might have provoked such a reaction. And yet the fact remained: Every time Glorfindel looked at him an almost pained expression flittered over his face and his eyes darkened, and a moment later he sought excuses to leave his company.
He was running out of options, Elrond concluded solemnly. If he had thought that openly confronting his fellow lord would gain any results, he would have done so a long time ago. It would not, however, and he was perfectly aware of that. It never helped to press Glorfindel in such matters; if confronted with such an accusation, he would flatly deny everything. If the golden haired elf lord wanted to talk to you, he would, and if he didn't, it would take far more than the word of Lord Elrond Peredhil to make him break his silence against his will.
A command from the Valar might do it, though, the dark haired elf thought half-ironically and half-desperately. Maybe he could pretend to be Manwë … no, that would be rather impossible, what about Aulë? Ulmo would be possible as well, and if everything else failed, even a Maia might do, Elrond decided a moment later. It would have to be a powerful one though, maybe he could convince Glorfindel that…
"Good morning, my lord."
Elrond's thoughts about which of the Maiar would be terrible enough to prompt Glorfindel to actually start talking to him (Mithrandir, he decided inwardly, would definitely make the bigger impression, even though Curunír would be more eloquent by far) were rather abruptly interrupted, and he had to stop himself from startling visibly at the unexpected words.
The elf lord willed himself not to jump and slowly turned around, hoping that he didn't show how surprised he really was. After all, a small voice at the back of his mind provided wryly, elf lords never allowed themselves to be startled by their people. He could almost hear Glorfindel's voice at that thought, lecturing him about all the things a proper elf lord did and did not do, and instead of the good-humoured annoyance he usually felt a small stab of sadness went through him.
Elrond forced these thoughts to the back of his mind and inclined his head at the dark haired elf that was standing in front of him, and unreadable expression on his face.
"Good morning, my Lord Erestor."
The other elf lord returned the nod and stepped next to Elrond, a faint sparkle of amusement in his eyes as he gazed at the beautiful sight that was spreading out in front of them.
"Is there something amiss, my lord?" he asked. "Has something befallen our fair valley and no one thought it important enough to inform me?"
"No," Elrond retorted darkly. "And you know that very well too, my friend."
"Maybe," Erestor answered with a slight bow. "But if there has been no orc invasion, no forest fire, no flood, no storm and no invasion of three-headed ravenous flesh-eating squirrels, then why do you look so sad, my lord?"
Elrond ignored the other elf's question and merely stared at him with a raised eyebrow.
"'Three-headed ravenous flesh-eating squirrels'?"
A small smile spread on the advisor's usually so reserved face.
"I am merely quoting your slightly unstable seneschal, my friend. I do not presume to understand everything he tries to tell me, nor how his mind works."
Erestor's sharp eyes missed little, and the shadow that fell over the other elf's face at the mention of their fellow lord was as easily visible as the light of day. He frowned and cocked his head to the side, studying his lord with sudden intensity.
"So it is Glorfindel who has put you in such a mood?" he asked softly. "Well, I can understand you perfectly well if that should be the case."
"No," Elrond shook his head. "He has not. And yes," he added, to Erestor's obvious confusion, "he has."
"He either has or he hasn't, my friend," Erestor pointed out calmly. "Not even Glorfindel can do both."
Elrond smiled slightly at his friend and advisor.
"It is nothing he said," he clarified. "It is what he does not say. There is something wrong with him, and has been for some time, and instead of allowing me to help him, he avoids me and seeks to flee my company. I do not know what I have done to him."
"Nothing," Erestor shook his head evenly. At the confused look on the other elf's face he added, "Tell me, my lord, what time of year we have?"
Elrond shot him a look that very clearly told him that he knew very well what date it was and that he should better get to the point if he valued his life, but when Erestor merely returned the look emotionlessly, he conceded defeat with a small sigh.
"The thirty-first day of Lairë," he finally answered curtly. "Or, if you follow the calendar of Men, the last day of Nárië. Tomorrow will be Loëndë, or Summer Solstice. But I don't see what…" Elrond trailed off as sudden understanding began to spread on his face. "Oh, I see. Gondolin."
"Yes," Erestor nodded softly. "Tomorrow it will be 6466 years that Gondolin fell, and with it Glorfindel."
"But he has never behaved like this before!" the other elf shook his head and turned back to the valley, as if hoping the sight would offer him some solitude. "You have seen it happen as often as I have. Around Loëndë he gets a little withdrawn and taciturn, but that passes soon enough – or it usually does. He is behaving very strangely."
"Stranger than usual?" Erestor asked, quirking one of his eyebrows in faint amusement.
"Yes," Elrond smiled slightly. "Stranger than usual." He looked at the other elf, narrowing his eyes slightly when he saw the hints of uncertainty and worry on Erestor's face. So he wasn't the only one who had noticed Glorfindel's unusual behaviour, which was something that both scared and relieved him. "He has never behaved like this, has he?"
"No," Erestor admitted softly. "He hasn't. First I thought that I was imagining things, but it appears that I was not. He and I may not agree on many things, but I still know when there is something wrong with him."
Elrond would almost have smiled. To say that Erestor and Glorfindel didn't agree on many things was like saying that Morgoth had been mildly displeased after the Valar had cast down his fortress of Angband. They were simply too different to get along easily, but that didn't stop them from being good friends during the time they didn't want to kill each other.
"At least I am not imagining things then," Elrond muttered disheartened. "He is avoiding you as well?"
Erestor looked at his dark haired lord, inwardly debating whether or not he should answer that question truthfully.
"No," he finally shook his head. "He is simply not talking to me and is behaving much too seriously, even when the twins or some of the other young ones are around. But no, he is not avoiding me, but I think that he is counting on his inhospitable attitude to keep everyone at a distance."
"Then he has some quarrel with me of which I am unaware," the other elf lord sighed.
"Why don't you simply ask him, my lord?" Erestor wanted to know.
"Ask him?" Elrond arched an incredulous eyebrow. "Glorfindel? About things he does not wish to discuss?"
"Perish the thought."
"Indeed," Elrond agreed darkly. "But I think I will ask him tonight, no matter whether he wants to talk to me or not. Perhaps he'll be in a more amenable mood after having spent a day hunting."
"Yes," the other elf nodded, doubt visible on every bit of his face. "Perhaps. And perhaps not."
"No, perhaps not," the Lord of Rivendell sighed. "I very much doubt it myself; I'll admit that." He gave the valley that was stretching out in front of them a last look and straightened his shoulders, his muscles beneath the embroidered robes still tense with worry and suppressed nervousness. "Speaking of which: When are they leaving?"
Erestor watched the calm mask slip over the other elf lord's face and sighed inwardly. He would have liked to help his friend, but it appeared that they both had no idea why Glorfindel was behaving so curiously. He had tried to tell himself that it was because of the date, because of the golden haired elf's memories of what had happened all these ages ago, but Elrond was right; it didn't truly fit. There was something wrong, and he had no idea what it was and how to make it right, and that was a situation the advisor did not appreciate in the slightest.
A moment later he realised that his lord was still waiting for an answer, and he forced himself to return to the present.
"In a few moments," he answered, not needing to ask to whom the other elf was referring. "They wanted to leave as soon as possible so they can return today before nightfall. They don't want to miss the festivities."
Elrond's mood dropped to new, unheard-of levels. The Midyear's Day Feast – he had almost forgotten about it. It was a long-standing tradition among his people to celebrate the longest day of the year with a great feast that would start this evening and would last at least until tomorrow afternoon. He – just like about everyone else – had always loved this particular celebration, for it was a merry, cheerful feast, but right now he did not exactly feel like celebrating. And he was willing to bet any of his favourite books that he would be in an even less festive mood this evening, because the chances that every member of the hunting party returned unscathed were more than slim.
"I see," he retorted as evenly as he could, doing his best not to let his dark mood show. "Well, then we should see them off, shouldn't we?"
Erestor wordlessly inclined his head and followed his friend into the direction of the courtyard. To get there took them quite a bit longer than it usually would have, because a multitude of elves were busy decorating the halls and grounds of Rivendell for the upcoming celebration. After avoiding about the third near-collision this day, this time with a young elf who was busy pinning garlands to the many pillars of the entrance hall, they managed to reach the courtyard that was bustling with people.
The two elf lords stopped for a moment, and Erestor asked himself just why the time before a feast, be it Midyear's Day or Winter Solstice or any other holiday, had to resemble complete and utter chaos. He did not like chaos, not even when it was of the perfectly peaceful and harmless sort which filled the space in front of them. In fact, the dark haired advisor mused while his eyes wandered over the elves that were hastening from one end of the courtyard to the other, laden with lamps and flowers, the most dangerous thing that could happen to you today in Imladris was that you strangled yourself with a wreath of flowers.
The elf's face froze slightly as his eyes came to rest on the group of people – on the only group of people, he corrected himself quickly – who would manage to do just that. Erestor's eyes narrowed as he followed his lord who had begun to walk over to the small group of people that were crowding around a few horses. Yes, if there was anyone at all who could possibly strangle himself with garland, it was the twins, Estel and Thranduil's son. The mere thought of them going anywhere together sent cold shivers of dread down Erestor's spine, and he was sure that Elrond was feeling the same.
The Lord of Rivendell was indeed feeling the same, and yet he could barely suppress a smile as he looked at his sons and their friend. He had of course heard about the little joke which Aragorn had played on his brothers and the young prince, and only an hour or so ago the halls had buzzed with rumours of what the twins had done as retribution. Right now Aragorn was glaring at his elven brothers who were pretending to shake with fear at his wrath, while the Prince of Mirkwood was barely keeping from laughing.
Elrond shook his head and stepped closer, doing his best not to let his amusement show on his face. If the twins had poured ice-cold water over their brother in the winter, he would most likely have been severely displeased, but in the summer it had most likely not done any harm. The three younger elves and the ranger fell silent as the Lord of Imladris stopped in front of them, Erestor only a step behind him.
The twins ignored their human brother's dark looks and smiled at their stern-faced father, trying to look as innocent as possible. They didn't really know if their father was angry with them, but there was no reason not to try and at least look innocent of all transgressions.
"Good morning, ada," Elrohir smiled at his father.
"Don't try this look on me," Elrond shook his head, but there was an amused sparkle in his eyes. "I know what you did." Aragorn shot the twins a nasty look and opened his mouth to speak, but before the man could say a single word, Elrond cut him off. "And I won't get involved, not for all the mithril in this world, so you can stop looking at me like that, Estel." He gave his three sons and the far too innocent-looking blond wood-elf next to them a stern look. "Do you have bandages?"
Elladan nearly rolled his eyes.
"Herbs? Crushed roots? Needles?"
"Ada!" Aragorn exclaimed, indignation on his face. "We are going on a hunting trip! The most dangerous thing that can happen is that Elladan falls off his horse again and scares the game away."
"I do not fall off horses!" Elladan protested outraged.
"I seem to remember something else," Elrohir grinned at his incensed twin. "For example the one time you…"
Elrond blinked twice, realising that he was beginning to lose control of this conversation.
"Ah," he raised his hand, "stop this. Are you sure you have everything you need?"
"Yes, father," Elrohir nodded earnestly, taking his eyes off his furiously grumbling brother. "In the highly unlikely case," he ignored Erestor's muffled snort, "that something does indeed happen, we have everything we could possibly need. Ever."
"Besides," Aragorn added, "we won't be alone. Glorfindel will accompany us, and so will Elvynd and his men. We will be perfectly safe, and back before the feast even starts."
Elrond bit back a number of incredulous and/or sarcastic remarks and slowly let his eyes wander over the small group of warriors that were waiting some paces to their right, looking not very happy about the situation they were finding themselves in. In fact, a small voice inside his head noted dryly, they were very much looking like elves who had just been condemned to a slow, painful death.
A dark haired elf standing at the front of the small group raised his head, swallowed rapidly and gave his lord a quick, faint smile that looked more than a little bit insincere, and Elrond turned back to his sons and the prince, a small scowl on his face.
"Promise me to be careful, all of you. If you encounter orcs or anything else that could be dangerous in any way, I want you to turn around and run."
"We do not run from orcs," Elrohir scoffed.
"Oh yes, you will, or you won't be leaving," Elrond retorted in a steely tone of voice. "I don't want to spend Summer Solstice patching all of you up. If you get involved in any fighting, you will wish you hadn't come back once you do."
"No fighting, my lord. You have my word," Legolas nodded quickly, recognising that particular tone of voice. It was the same as the one his father used every time before he lost his temper. "I will look after your sons, and I promise that we will not seek out any of Morgoth's creatures."
Elrond nodded slowly, realising very well that this promise wasn't exactly what he had been asking them of them, but knowing just as well that it was all he was going to get. The twins and Aragorn were still nodding approvingly at their fair haired friend when a movement to their left caught the elf lord's eyes, and he turned to lay eyes on Glorfindel who was just entering the courtyard, his bow and quiver slung over one shoulder.
The dark haired lord left the young ones to their soft conversation and took a few steps away from them, his eyes not leaving his golden haired friend. The other hadn't seen him yet, but even now his face was strained and too pale. If Glorfindel had been mortal, he would have thought that he was ill or suffering from some kind of sickness, but he was not mortal. He was an elf, and elves didn't get sick. There was nothing wrong with his friend's body unless he was suffering from some sort of hidden poison, so there had to be something wrong with his spirit.
Elrond was still studying the other elf when Glorfindel's head came up and his eyes locked with his lord's. Something appeared in his eyes, something that the dark haired elf couldn't identify in the few seconds that it was visible, but at least he didn't wince when he saw him. It was something that filled him with a sort of mild relief, but not nearly enough to dampen the sadness and worry in his heart. The small sparkle in the other's eyes disappeared as quickly as it had emerged, and Glorfindel walked over to him, a rather blank expression on his face.
"My lord," he nodded when he had reached the spot where Elrond was standing, still watching him.
"Glorfindel," Elrond nodded back. He wanted to say more, but for once in his life he was at a loss for words. After several moments he simply added, "Try to bring them back in one piece, will you?"
The blond elf smiled slightly, a smile that did not reach his serious eyes.
"I will do my best."
"I know you will," Elrond smiled as well. "I really would like to spend this Midyear's Day in relative peace and quiet."
That had apparently not been the right thing to say, and the dark haired elf watched with an inward, weary sigh how the emotionless mask attached itself even more firmly to his friend's face. Every single bit of what had been still visible of Glorfindel's feelings disappeared behind a blank wall that seemed to slide over his eyes, and Elrond felt how his frustration even mounted. He really had enough of this now.
"We will be back before the sun has set, my lord," Glorfindel promised tonelessly.
"Good," Elrond nodded curtly. "We have to talk."
"About what?" the other elf asked, apparently greatly surprised.
"You know about what, or your mind isn't as astute as everyone else believes it to be, my friend. As soon as you're back, we will talk."
The blond elf opened his mouth to say something, apparently to deny knowing about what the younger one was talking, but then he closed it again without uttering a sound. For a few moments the two elves merely stared at each other, but then the fair haired lord inclined his head slightly, a weary smile flittering over his face.
"Is that an order, my lord?"
"If it has to be," Elrond nodded again, flinty determination in his grey eyes, "Even though I would prefer it if it were not."
Glorfindel smiled again, this time a little more genuinely.
"Then we will talk once I get back."
"I will be here," the other elf inclined his head.
Glorfindel returned the nod before he turned around and began to walk over to the other elves who were still waiting patiently behind him. It took him only a few moments to urge the twins, Aragorn and Legolas to stop quarrelling among themselves and to mount his horse, and soon the small group of people were disappearing through the gates amidst laughter and glad shouts.
Elrond remained where he was, looking after the hunting party, his sons' laughing promises to be careful still ringing in his ears. The last horse soon passed out of sight, but still the elf lord did not move, somehow feeling even worse now than he had before. With a deep sigh he finally turned around, forcing himself to try and let himself be cheered up by the festive mood of the elves around him.
He hadn't taken more than two steps when Erestor appeared at his side, moving as soundlessly as a wraith in the night.
"Later?" was all he asked, concern shining brightly in his eyes.
"Later," Elrond affirmed softly, once again turning back into the direction where he had last seen his sons, Glorfindel and the others. "If I can corner him or tie him to something unmoving."
"Good luck then, my lord," Erestor said seriously, and a moment later he was gone, disappearing in the mass of busy elves that were hastening to and fro.
Elrond looked after his advisor with a small smile on his lips, and when he turned back toward the main entrance of the Last Homely House he agreed silently that luck was something he would most likely need in abundance.
Loëndë (Q.) - "Year-middle", Midyear's Day, also called Summer Solstice. On a modern calendar, it falls on the 22nd of June
ada (S.) - father (daddy)
mellon nín (S.) - my friend
Anadûnê (Adûnaic) - Westernesse; another name for the Isle of Númenor
adan (S.) - human, man
yéni (pl. of yén) - elvish unit of time, equivalent to 144 years
Lairë (Q.) - 'Summer', the time between the (modern) 22nd of May and the (modern) 1st of August
Nárië (Q.) - the sixth month of the year according to the Stewards' Reckoning. On a modern calendar, the time between the 23rd of May and the 21 of June
Poor Elrond. One would think he would have learned to listen to his premonitions of doom, wouldn't one? shakes head Honestly. Well, he'll be shown that it would have been easier for everyone involved if he'd just locked all of them into one of the cellars and thrown away the key. g Be that as it may, I usually say "Review, please" or something like that here. I'll try to update ... hmm, let's see ... on Saturday or Sunday, I think, and reviews generally help with that. Yes, I have finished the story already, but they'll help nonetheless. Honestly. So: Review, please! g