Elrohir walked slowly along the woodland paths, and looked down at the young boy skipping at his side, clutching his hand. "Slow down, Estel! There is no rush – the meadow will still be there. Be patient."
"But I want to see now!" Estel demanded plaintively.
Elrohir smiled. "Very well. Run ahead – but not too far! Wait for me. Go no further than the edge of the trees." To his surprise, Estel did not immediately run on, but hung back, still close to his side. "Well?" he asked his brother. "What now?"
"I can't see," Estel muttered. "It's too dark!"
Elrohir felt guilty. He sometimes forgot that his little brother did not have the night-sight of elves – even three-quarter elves. Estel was so much a part of the family that his human blood was often overlooked. He laughed, and swung Estel into his arms. "Then shall we run?" he asked. "Together?"
They ran along the track to the edge of the wood, and emerged onto a meadow that led down to the Bruinen. Setting Estel on his feet again, Elrohir led the way to the centre of the meadow, and spread the blanket he carried on the ground. "Lay down," he instructed, "and look up."
Estel obeyed, laying with his hands clasped behind his head, gazing at the night sky. The night was cloudless and moonless, and the stars shone brightly against the darkness. Elrohir joined him, and they lay in a companionable silence for a while, listening to the quiet sounds of the night. Before long however, Estel stirred restlessly, and turned his head. "Well? Tell me about the stars!"
Elrohir laughed quietly. "Very well," he agreed. "Look there." He pointed to a reddish-coloured star. "That is Borgil. And there – " he pointed again – "is Menelvagor. Do you see the sword hanging from his belt? Legends tell that he was a very great warrior; so great that when he finally fell in battle the Valar honoured him by making him a star to guard the skies."
"What is that star?" Estel asked, indicating a brightly shining star low in the sky. "Is there a legend about that as well?"
"That is Eärendil," Elrohir replied softly. "There are many legends about him. He was a sailor, sailing the seas off Arvernien. He built a wonderful ship named Vingilot, and sailed far and wide, exploring many strange and wondrous lands. He married a maiden called Elwing, and they had twin sons."
"Like you and Elladan!" Estel exclaimed.
"Yes, just like us," Elrohir agreed. His voice fell. "But war came, and they were separated – Eärendil from Elwing; Elwing from her sons. Eärendil sailed across the seas to beg the Valar themselves for aid. They did indeed help, and evil was overcome – but at a great price. Eärendil could not return to Arda, and instead was set to sail the heavens in his ship, lighting the evening sky."
Estel was silent for a while. "What a sad story," he said at last. "Poor Eärendil – he lost his wife and his children. Did they all die?"
"No. His sons were not slain, as he must have feared. They lived, and grew strong, and their descendants live to this day. And Eärendil watches over them all, keeping them safe." Elrohir paused. Now was not the time to explain just who Eärendil's sons were; that he and Estel themselves were both descendants of the legendary mariner of the skies. That was a tale to be told another day.
Estel smiled. "I like that part better. I like the idea of Eärendil watching over everyone." He yawned suddenly, and Elrohir got to his feet, pulling his brother up.
"Come, little brother. It is time for bed. Father will have my ears if I keep you up too late!"
Estel laughed. "I like it when you call me 'little brother'. It's what Elladan always calls you!"
"Aye." Elrohir smiled. "When he wants to annoy me – he thinks I do not like it. In truth, I do not mind at all. But keep that a secret between us, I beg of you! Now come, little brother – to bed," he added firmly.
With the blanket draped around Estel's shoulders against the slight chill of night, Elrohir led the way back through the woods to the brightly lit, welcoming house that was home to them both.