Strange Tales, Or Myths And Misconceptions
Elladan and Elrohir reached the rangers' encampment in the Angle shortly before dusk. A fire blazed brightly in the centre of the camp, and a haunch of roasted venison dripped succulent juices into the flames.
"Come, join us!" Haldan called.
Elrohir settled by the fire as a mug of the rangers' home-brewed ale was thrust into his hand. He raised the mug in salute and drank deeply. The rather bitter ale was not really to his liking, but he had learned long ago that a taste for wine was regarded as somewhat effeminate among the Dúnedain.
"Venison, sir?" an unfamiliar voice asked.
Elrohir looked up at one of the young rangers, a new recruit clearly on his first foray into the wild. Taking the plate offered, Elrohir nodded at the lad. "My thanks."
As he ate, Elrohir felt eyes on him, watching. From the corner of his eye he could see the young ranger – no more than a boy – watching surreptitiously. He seemed nervous, and kept casting sidelong glances at the twins, then looking away before he caught their eyes.
Elrohir nudged Elladan and gestured silently at the lad. Elladan shrugged, and shook his head ruefully. This was a scene they had grown familiar with over the years – whether in Bree or small unmapped villages, whether with the rangers or chance-met caravans of traders. The reaction was the same everywhere. Men, for some reason, found their identical appearance fascinating but uncanny, and they were met with equal amounts of curiosity and unease.
He set the plate aside, then beckoned to the boy. "Come here, lad," he said. "What is your name?"
"Hirgon, sir," the youngster replied. "Are you The Twins?"
Elrohir could hear the capital letters in Hirgon's query. "Yes, we are twins," he agreed. "I am Elrohir, and my brother is Elladan. Why?"
Hirgon took a gulp of his ale. It seemed to give him courage, and he dropped to the ground next to them.
"I see strange tales are woven about you." The young ranger looked curiously from Elrohir to Elladan, and back again. Then he looked at them a second time, and shook his head in disbelief.
"What sort of tales?" Elrohir asked in resignation. He ignored Elladan's amusement – they had heard similar questions many times before, and he could easily guess at least some of the tales. Rather wild myths and rumours abounded about them. Some were understandable, some were unusual, and some were jaw-droppingly bizarre.
"That none can tell you apart. That you are inseparable. That you can read each other's minds, and feel each other's pain." Hirgon flushed, looked away, and then plunged on: "Is it true?"
"Our parents, and those close to us can tell us apart easily," Elrohir began to explain patiently.
"Most of the time," Elladan interrupted.
Elrohir nodded. "Very well, most of the time," he agreed. "There are times when those who should know better still get confused between us." He reflected that even Celebrían had called him Elladan, just the previous week. It would probably be better not to mention that before young Hirgon, though. He moved on to another of Hirgon's questions. "And of course we cannot read each other's minds."
Elladan raised one eyebrow in a gesture that clearly said, 'Why would I want to?' Elrohir nudged him with his foot. "Shut up, El!" Some of the other rangers laughed, and Elrohir realised that the comment did little to prove his argument for individuality. Elladan was not helping either, and seemed to be enjoying himself. He frowned, and continued. "Of course we are not inseparable – there are many things I do that Elladan does not."
"I have never seen you apart," one of the other rangers commented.
Elrohir sighed. "We travel together in the wild for companionship and safety –"
"– but it does not make us inseparable," Elladan continued.
"So when was the last time you travelled alone?" Haldan insisted with a grin.
Elrohir thought back. It had been several years, to be true, but it was ridiculous to suggest that he and his twin were inseparable just because they chose to work together. There had been many occasions when they had journeyed alone. Surely there had been?
"Lórien," Elladan suggested. "You went to Lórien once – "
" – while you stayed at home," Elrohir agreed.
Haldan nodded knowingly. "And when was that?" he asked.
Elrohir shrugged. "About –
" – fifty years ago."
Hirgon grinned. "It is also said that you speak as one," he added slyly, to a background of chuckles.
Two voices spoke as one. "Never," they chorused firmly.