Author's note: This is part of a very large story detailing the life and times of Willow Faramir Half-elven, a woman of the late Third and early Fourth Age. This story is taken out of context, but all you really need to know about Willow is that she is cousin to Elladan and Elrohir, though Aragorn does not know this. She is a warrior, and Elrond is tutoring her in healing; she has an affinity for birds, and she and her horse, Silverwind, who has an evil sense of humor, share a close bond.
It was October. The trees of Rivendell garbed themselves in flame, their leaves brilliant red, yellow, and orange; piles of brown leaves dotted the Last Homely House. The air was cool, with the beginnings of the sharp bite that would herald winter's arrival. Mortals would have found it chilly, but the elves found it refreshing. They walked to and from their tasks with renewed vigor. It was a day for doing things.
But not, perhaps, for a certain two elves who were sitting with their backs to giant oak trees, doing nothing more than watching the leaves drift down from the trees. One of them followed the path of a single voyager through the air and to the ground, then looked more closely at his companion. "I haven't seen such a smile on your face in a long time," Elrohir said to his twin. "What brings it?"
"Estel has been downtrodden lately," Elladan replied, not taking his eyes off of a solitary figure in the distance. "Even in the company of our sister."
Elrohir turned to watch the mortal. "And this makes you smile?"
"No," his brother said. "Contemplating the kind act we will do for him, to relieve his grim spirits, makes me smile."
Elrohir raised an eyebrow at his twin, then grinned.
"It's him," Elladan said quietly, peering down from his perch in a tall maple.
"Are you sure?" Elrohir said, looking in the same direction.
"Tall, slender, short dark hair," Elladan said. "Walks like a human, and is wearing a cloak. It's far too warm for any elf to need a cloak. Who else could it be?"
"Won't he suspect something?"
"Elrohir, we laid that trap with so much cunning that you almost stepped in it. Now--"
"Hst!"The dark silhouette stopped, and looked around. The twins waited, their hearts beating with anticipation. The figure shook its head, continued forward-- and plummeted through a thin layer of leaves, into the depression below. It wasn't a deep pit. Estel dropped only a foot. But it was wide, and the Ranger stumbled and fell, landing squarely in the pitch pine below.
Elladan choked back a snort. "We should go before he sees us. He's going to be suspicious."
The two elves had hoped to have a chance to observe the results of their handiwork firsthand, but Aragorn did not leave his rooms all night.
"You don't think he's seriously hurt, do you?" Elrohir said, concern tinging his handsome features as they walked down the halls, Elrohir on the left, Elladan on the right, as always.
"No," Elladan said firmly. "We've played plenty of practical jokes on him before, and he's never been hurt. Remember the time with the snowballs?"
"And the time with the fish?"Elrohir said, a smile tugging at his lips. "Father was furious."
"I was what?" Both brothers jumped as their father appeared from a cross-corridor.
"Uh-- waiting," Elladan said. "We were just on our way to join you for breakfast."
Elrond nodded, though his sons had no doubt he was not taken in. Not for nothing was he Master of Rivendell. "How kind of you." He fell into step with the other two, hiding his smile.
"Have you seen Estel today?" Elrohir said casually as they entered the large room in which the elves took their meals. "We've been looking for him."
"Aragorn? No, I haven't," Elrond replied. "He said something about riding out yesterday."
The twins exchanged conspiratorial looks. "If you seem him, could you send him our way?"
"Of course," their father said. "Tell me how you have been spending your days."
"We went riding yesterday," Elladan began, "down to the Fords. It's clear. Neither orcs nor traces of them. Then, one of the scouts reported that he'd seen..." he frowned. "Was it one or two? 'Ro?"
His brother didn't answer. He was wrinkling his nose. "What is that smell?" Indeed, a sharp, pungent odor was perceivable. "Has Willow left one of her messes on to boil again?" He stood-- and stopped, as the chair remained firmly attached to his rear. He tried to pry it off-- but stopped again, when he realized that his silverware was sticking to his hands.
Elladan was making similar discoveries. "Aragorn!" he shouted, his face red. He scanned the hall, where most of the occupants of Rivendell were gathered, watching with ill-concealed grins. The Ranger was not there.
"This means war," Elladan said through gritted teeth as he scrubbed his hands, trying to remove the last traces of the sticky glue.
"You did want him to cheer up," Elrohir pointed out. "He appears to have done so with remarkable alacrity."
"Yes, good," Elladan said shortly. "Now he suffers."
Elrohir hid a smile. "What do you suggest, my brother?"
Elladan half-turned from the basin. "Do you remember what Estel used to be afraid of?"
Elrohir raised an eyebrow. "You wouldn't."
"I would," said Elladan. "And you're going to help."
Two conspirators crept silently through the dark halls of Imladris. "You're sure he's gone?" Elladan whispered.
"He's with Arwen," Elrohir whispered back. "In the gardens."
"Alright, then." Holding a thick bag at arm's length, Elladan sped across the corridor and into the Ranger's room. Elrohir followed.
"Elladan, do you really think this escalation wise?" Elrohir said. "Pitch pine is one thing. Snakes are quite another."
"They're harmless garden snakes," Elladan replied.
"I know they are," Elrohir said. "That's not the point. He'll be mad."
"He might use a more permanent glue next time," Elrohir pointed out.
"We messed up once," Elladan said. "Do you really think we cannot outthink Estel? We've done it many times before." He held up the bag, which was wriggling. "Besides, these took a long time to catch." He loosened the mouth of the bag and laid it on Aragorn's bed, under the sheets.
"Someone's coming," Elrohir hissed, and the twins disappeared.
Aragorn entered his room, and froze. From the direction of the balcony, there was a soft thump! He crossed the room in two steps and looked down.
No one was there, but he heard a soft laugh in the shadows. Sighing, he pulled his tunic over his head and crawled into bed.
"Did the two of you ever find Aragorn?" Elrond inquired over breakfast the next morning. They were eating in his study, not in the larger hall, because Elrond had wished to discuss scouting patterns with his sons. That business being over, they talked of pleasanter things.
Or tried to, anyway. Elladan pretended to choke on his drink in order to hide a snort, then really did choke. Over his brother's coughs, Elrohir merely said, "We were not so lucky."
"And did you find out who put the, ah, glue at your place settings?" Elrond asked, a small smile tugging at his mouth.
"No," Elrohir said, as Elladan rasped, "Yes!"
Their father looked from one twin to the other.
"That is," Elrohir amended, "we have our suspicions, but we can't prove them."
"I see," Elrond said, not trying to hide his amusement. "You might ask Willow about that glue. She could probably tell you what's in it."
"Indeed," Elrohir said thoughtfully. "Our cousin grows skilled in her herbcraft." He looked sharply at his father, mirth gone. "You encourage this."
"I would not see her spend all her time with a sword in her hand," Elrond replied. "We will need warriors for the battles to come, yes. But afterwards, we will need healers."
"Father," Elladan interrupted. "You taught Willow eveything she knows. Why can you not tell us what was in the glue, so we can find out where the ingredients came from and who gathered them?"
"I believe I'll let this play itself out," Elrond said, the smile returning. "It promises to be interesting."
"You know who put the glue on our chairs?" Elrohir said.
"Of course," replied his father, nearly grinning.
"Well, so do we," Elladan muttered darkly. "And a certain Ranger has a debt to pay..." Elrond merely laughed.
"I'll talk to Glorfindel about this," Elrohir said, holding up the parchment scroll on which was recorded their decisions. "He'll know better than us which elves would prefer which route."
Elladan nodded. "And I'll ask Willow if her birds have told her anything."
"You could ask them yourself," Elrohir suggested, grinning.
Elladan glared at his sibling. "Not funny." He fingered the scar on his neck. "That eagle tried to eat me."
"Sorry," his brother said, with an unrepentant expression that suggested he was anything but. They bid goodbye to their father, then stepped out into the corridor. As they did so, two buckets which had been precariously balanced above the door tipped and spilled their contents. Elrohir was drenched with water; Elladan, however, only received a few drops.
"That's quite odd," Elladan said, frowning. "Maybe the bucket leaked."
"You know what else is quite odd?" Elrohir said.
"You're wet, and I'm not." The sopping elf gave his brother a warm-- or rather cold-- hug. "There. Problem solved."
"Aragorn!" Elladan shouted.
Aragorn was standing in the shadows of the stables, frowning. An elfling had given him the message that Arwen wanted to meet him here, but the stables were deserted.
"Aragorn!" He jumped, angry for letting someone sneak up on him. Two someones, in fact, his foster brothers.
"Elrohir, Elladan," he said, nodding. "Good evening."
Elladan raised an eyebrow. "Is that all you have to say to us?"
Aragorn frowned. "I believe so, unless you know something I do not."
"Come, I must congratulate you on a game well-played, Estel," Elladan continued. "Though you erred; my bucket was not full. Do you wish to call a truce, or shall we continue?"
"You think he deserves a truce, brother?" Elrohir grinned. "That glue was awfully difficult to remove."
"Game? Truce? Glue?" Aragorn looked from one grinning face to the other. "You think I had something to do with that?"
"No," said Elladan. "We know you had everything to do with it. Tell me, did you enjoy the snakes?"
"Snakes?" Aragorn was not used to being caught flat-footed like this. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"You don't honestly expect us to believe that, do you?" Elrohir said.
"He's telling the truth." All three men looked up, startled, to see Willow standing in the aisle. She had obviously just returned from a ride; her left hand rested on the back of her horse, Silverwind.
"Hello, c-Willow," Elladan said, catching himself. Then her words caught up with him. "What do you mean?"
"He's telling the truth," she repeated. "He never saw the snakes."
Elrohir frowned. "How do you know about this?"
Aragorn's eyes widened in comprehension. Not two thumps, not two laughs, but one. "It was you who jumped from my balcony."
"I was careless," she said. "You should not have noticed me. But I was distracted by the snakes."
Elladan's eyes widened. "What? You-- how? Why--"
His queries were cut off as Willow silently held up a piece of cloth. Elrohir took it, frowning, and looked at it as she crossed her arms over her chest. It was a shirt, dark grey, and it was covered in pine pitch.
Comprehension dawned far too late for the twins. "You," Elladan breathed. "It was you!"
"It was indeed," Willow said, grinning a little.
"But-- how could we mistake you for Aragorn?" Elrohir said, and then winced as he remembered. "Tall, slender, walks like a human, wearing a cloak." Willow nodded. "But the hair--" he frowned at Willow's dark braid. She undid it and tucked her long hair into her shirt. Against the light-colored fabric, it did, indeed, give the impression of short hair. Elrohir buried his face in his hands.
"I must admit to some confusion, lady," Aragorn said, his grey eyes glinting with amusement. "But it appears you have saved me from more than one ignoble fate, and I thank you."
"You're quite welcome," she replied.
"But it also appears that these knaves--" he glared at his brothers-- "sought to do me harm, and for that they must suffer the consequences of their actions."
"By all means," said the half-elf. "Please, let me know if I can be of any use to you in this."
"I suppose the glue was yours?" Elladan sighed. "Ask Willow, indeed," he muttered.
Willow nodded to confirm his guess. "And the buckets," she smiled.
"Quite clever of you, to ambush us as we came out of Father's study," Elladan said. "But you messed up. There was no water in my bucket."
"Messed up?" Willow said, smiling. "I think not. I had something else in mind for you." She grinned broadly.
Elladan frowned, not understanding. "Like what?"
Willow moved her left hand, subtly, but he noticed. Her left hand. The hand which had been resting on the horse.
Something warm touched the back of his neck, and he flinched as horse drool cascaded down his shirt. "Silverwind!" he cried, stepping forward to avoid the mare's attentions. She followed.
"Clean water was too good for you," Willow said. "I wanted something better." She laughed, and turned to go.
Silverwind took a mouthful of food delicately from her feed manger, chewed it thoughtfully, and then spat the slurry down Elladan's tunic. "Willow!" he called after his cousin. "Do something about this horse of yours!" The only reply he received was a low chuckle.
"Farewell, brother," Aragorn said solemnly. "I go to plot my revenge." Elladan glared as Aragorn vanished. Silverwind drizzled more chewed oats down his neck.
"Brother, help me get this horse on her stall," he scowled.
Elrohir grinned curiously. "Would it be proper of me to interfere with my cousin's revenge? She has forgiven me, has she not? Good night, Elladan."
"ELROHIR!" Elladan shouted after his retreating brother, but the figure did not stop. He took a step away from Silverwind. She followed. Two steps. She still followed. He walked into her stall, and slammed the gate shut when she followed. Then he scrambled over it and fled, congratulating himself on his speedy escape.
That is, until he lay down to sleep and found his bedfellows.