Two and One
Elrond's skill and Elrohir's desperate instincts meshed seamlessly, feeding strength and life into the small white body in the bed. They did not notice as Celebrian came in with healing supplies wrapped in the skirt of her night-dress, and she had to lay a hand on her husband's shoulder to get his attention.
With feverish intensity, Elrond worked over his young son. All through the hours that passed, Elrohir held his brother's hand and looked into his pale face, giving him all the hope and strength he could give. The fear he had felt at first was gone; there was no part of his mind that was not trained on Elladan, and that left none of him to feel frightened.
There were many times during that dark night that Elrond was sure Elladan had taken his last painful breath; but somehow, some way, he always managed just one more. Guards came to remove Mara's body; and blazing torches were brought in and placed in their holders on the walls to light the room; then replaced when they burned out. Celebrian silently handed her husband the supplies he needed, and sent servants for more. And still, Elrohir stayed with his brother, his small face now almost as pale as his twin's.
It seemed an eternity passed; or no time at all; but presently the sky outside grayed slightly, and was touched with purple, then orange. The sun rose; and it was dawn.
Sunlight fell through the window, onto the tired faces of those in the room, just as Elrond finally stepped back from the bed.
"I can do no more," he said. "Whether he will live is in the hands of fate."
And, indeed, the elfling lying there was barely alive. Elrohir, collapsed by his twin's side and still clasping his hand, was little better off. Elrond realized that, with their bond, the death of Elladan might mean the death of both.
Elrohir, sensing his father's thoughts, raised his head from the bed. "Please," he whispered, "let us stay together." Though he did not speak it aloud, his father knew he meant, "Even if it means we die... let us stay together."
Elrond paused, love for his sons filling his heart and tears filling his eyes. He remembered his own twin, Elros; and their deep bond; and he saw that his sons shared an even deeper bond... They were one, more truly than any other pair of brothers... one spirit in two bodies.
If one died, the other would not be long in following him, whether he poured his life's strength through their bond, or simply died of a broken heart.
"All right," Elrond said slowly. "You may stay." His voice quavered, and the tears spilled down his cheeks.
New blankets and sheets were brought to replace the blood-stained ones; and all through that day and the next, Elrond and Celebrian sat by their sons' bedside. Elladan breathed shallowly, his labored gasps in perfect synchrony with Elrohir's. For two days, as Elrond changed bandages and spooned water into the elflings' mouths, Elrohir held his brother's hand; and for two days, Rivendell lived in a hush while both lives hung in the balance.
On the dawn of the third day, Elladan and Elrohir opened their eyes.
"Ada," whispered Elladan.
"My son," was all Elrond could say, as he stroked the small elf's forehead.
"'Ro saved my life," whispered Elladan.
Elrohir, as exhausted as his brother, managed a smile. "Told you I was going to be a great warrior," he said.
"You are," Celebrian was crying. "You are."
Elladan had a long recovery ahead of him; few warriors received the injuries he had taken and lived to tell about it. But, somehow, Elrond knew the young elf would live. His brother's love was too strong to allow him to do anything else.
The twins had won this battle, as they would win so many others, together.
Elladan's injury had weakened his twin, and sapped his strength; but Elrohir's injuries were not physical, and he recovered long before his brother. During the days that followed, Elrohir refused to be parted from his twin. After the elfling could not be persuaded, for the second meal in a row, to leave his brother's side, Elrond gave up and had a servant bring the food to the boys' room.
Elrond and Celebrian spent much time in the sickroom, reading to their sons from the big books in Elrond's library. And, as he listened to the stories of the heroes of old--stories which he usually greeted with enthusiasm--Elladan would have a rather thoughtful expression on his face, often asking why this Elf or that Man had made the decision to do what he had done.
During the day, Elrohir was his brother's chief supporter, joking and laughing when his brother felt well, and comforting when his injuries pained him. But in the night, it was different. Elrohir whimpered in his sleep, unable to shake the nightmares that plagued him. More than once, Elrond looked in on them to see Elladan with his arms around his twin, keeping the dreams at bay.
Finally the day came when Elladan was well enough to go outside. Supported by his brother, the recovering elfling made his way down the hall into the garden. There, they sat under the big willow tree that grew next to the waterfall; and presently, Celebrian came out with a tray of sandwiches, milk, and raspberry tarts; so they spread a blanket and had supper.
As the sun moved down to the horizon, Celebrian could see Elladan becoming tired; and eventually, she carried the protesting elfling back inside.
As Elrond moved to follow, Elrohir caught his hand and held him back.
"Did I... did I do the right thing, when I shot Mara?"
Elrond looked down at his son. He was so young to be asking these questions; but they would have to be answered.
"Yes, my son. You did the right thing, the only thing you could have done. You saved your brother's life."
"But Mara... Elladan says she was so very sad that she could not help being evil. Could she not have been made happy again?""Sometimes," Elrond said, "when grief and madness overcome a person completely, there is nothing that can be done for them. I think perhaps Mara was like that."
Elrohir wrinkled his forehead, trying to understand. "But how does a person know? I have always heard the old stories; of how warriors killed their enemies and saved the innocent; but how can we know what is right to do, when it is right to take life?"
Elrond placed a hand on his son's back. There were no easy answers, he knew; and he would not deceive his son. "You cannot know," he said. "You can only do what you believe is right, and trust that Good will win."
Elrohir nodded slowly. "I shall, then," he said.
Neither of them said anything, both deep in thought. Finally, gripping his father's hand, Elrohir smiled. "Come on," he said, "let's go back inside. I promised Elladan I would show him the arrows I made while he was asleep."
Father and son, old warrior and young hero, turned and walked back indoors. Behind them, the sun set, and the stars shone, casting the garden in silver beauty. And somewhere, far away, a mother and her black-haired daughter looked down on it and smiled.