Happy New Year! Thank you all for the kind reviews on the last chapter, and thanks as well for those who followed and favorited One By One; it seems that not everyone has abandoned this story completely, and for that, I thank you.
Chapter Seven: Saturday
A quiet one, in which Erestor begs for mercy and Glorfindel realizes that his term as caretaker is drawing to a close.
Glorfindel laid still in his bed, hands clasped behind his head, breathing in and out, in and out, in and out. Pale grey light swam in through the windows, and he could hear birds chirping and whistling outside the window. The window was cracked open; the scent of damp earth and plants after last night's storm lingered in his nostrils.
Something moved against his side; he blinked, yawned and looked down at his side.
Elladan shifted again and stretched a little from the ball he had been curled into, head propped against Glorfindel's chest. Elrohir, on Glorfindel's other side, remained still as a sleeping cat. Glorfindel looked at their sleeping faces; there was a feeling that he couldn't put into words about the way sleeping children looked. He had babysat cousins, nieces, nephews, and the children of his good friends throughout the years, and for a unexplainable reason, he loved the remarkable peace that he found on their small faces in their slumber. There was light and joy and mischief during the day, but when they slept, they looked so blissful and angelic. Innocent. Untroubled by the world.
A knock sounded at his door, and carefully, so as not to disturb the sleeping twins, Glorfindel extracted himself from his bed and made his way to the door as whoever it was out there knocked again.
"I'm coming, I'm coming," he muttered. Opening the door, he was presented with the still-comical sight of Erestor, lime-green hair and all. "'Morning, Erestor. What can I do for you?"
Erestor frowned at him. "Were you sleeping?"
"Why are you wearing clothes?"
Perhaps to an outsider, one who was accustomed neither to Erestor's friendship with Glorfindel nor the previously-golden-haired elf's sleeping habits, this would have been a highly inappropriate question, but to both elves, nothing could be farther from normal.
"The boys slept with me last night," Glorfindel responded. "I was hardly going to– actually, I'm not even going to go there. Our of context, that's a risky thing for someone to overhear. What brings you by here so early?"
"Early? The sun rose almost an hour ago, Glorfindel," Erestor said, raising an eyebrow, "and some of us, that means it's time to get on with what we're supposed to be doing today."
"And maybe for the rest of us," Glorfindel said, raising his arms above his head to stretch a knot out of his back, "the suns' rising doesn't herald popping out of bed and faceplanting into books. I can't 'get on with what I'm supposed to be doing to today' until the twins wake up anyways, so…"
Luckily for Erestor, the twins chose that moment to awaken.
Glorfindel gave Erestor the pettiest, most immature look he could muster in response to the other's smug expression, and turned around, leaving the open for Erestor to walk through and join him.
"Elrohir, did you sleep well?" he asked. Elrohir nodded, rubbing an eye with a small fist. Elladan was awake, but still curled under the blankets. Glorfindel could see his eyes, cornflower-blue, shining brightly.
"I'm hungry," Elrohir said, looking up hopefully at Glorfindel as if the tall elf might suddenly turn into breakfast. Elladan sat up.
"I'm hungry too," he said, echoing his brother. Glorfindel smiled.
"Well, I suppose the only thing that's to be done about that is to go get some food, isn't it?"
Dressing the twins for the day, however, took longer than expected. Each of the twins had different ideas about what colors they wanted to wear today ("I can't wear blue, Gah-lor-uh-fun-del! my hair is blue!") but after a little coaxing and promise-making, Glorfindel managed to get the hungry elflings down to the kitchen, where he and Erestor made them eggs and sausage, sided with fruit, a luxury provided by the late summer.
He nibbled on his own breakfast as well, as did Erestor. They munched on what the twins did not eat while the elflings chattered excitingly about nothing and everything at the same time. Erestor cleared his throat quietly and Glorfindel looked over at him, surprised at the slightly apprehensive expression on the other's face.
"Glorfindel," Erestor said quietly, "listen. I know you're having fun with the twins, playing their games and getting in on their jokes, but enough is enough, don't you think?"
Glorfindel looked around at him.
"Everyone is living in fear, Glorfindel," Erestor said earnestly. "When it's just the twins playing practical jokes, it's always harmless. For fun. But when you get involved, well… You can think up things that actually affect the way that we live our lives. Like this thing with the hair. Glorfindel, King Thranduil is bringing his wife and sons here next Friday for a late summer gathering. We'll be laughed from Arda, and then from Valinor as well!"
Glorfindel wished he had known that before he had urged the twins to dye everyone's hair. Guilt pricked at him.
"I'm sorry Erestor. Of course you're right. I'm sure Elrond can do something about the hair; I for one will not be spending the rest of immortality with hair like this." He lifted a strand of his hair and let it fall through his fingers. "I'll see to it that we don't
"Gah-lor-uh-fun-del?" Elrohir said suddenly, "can we have a picnic today?"
"Yes!" squealed Elladan, "can we? Can we?! A picnic! A picnic!"
"I suppose," said Glorfindel, after a moment's hesitation. "I don't see why not. It's looking to be a beautiful day, after all."
The twins erupted into screams of delight, clapping and laughing.
"Wait, Gah-lor-uh-fun-del," Elladan said, "wait, wait, can Erestor come with us?"
Elrohir said nothing but turned to stare at Erestor with wide, hopeful eyes. Glorfindel raised his eyes to meet Erestor's. He lifted an eyebrow.
"Well? Can Erestor come with us on our picnic?"
Erestor hesitated for a moment, then nodded. "Certainly I can. I'll just need to let Indilwen and Erethien know that I won't be in today. They can manage without me for a day."
An hour later, the four elves, two very small, with respective orange and blue hair, one very tall with cherry-coloured tresses, and one a little shorter with lime-green locks, were walking down the steps of the Last Homely House. They would have been out the door sooner if it hadn't been the the debacle that was packing their picnic. Elladan wanted sandwiches, and Elrohir wanted dried fruit and nuts. Then Elladan wanted porridge, until Glorfindel explained that porridge didn't travel well, at which point he decided he wanted to go fishing and catch their lunch. Elrohir chipped in with a suggestion of hunting their meal. Glorfindel was at the point of eye-rolling, hair-pulling-out frustration when Erestor calmly suggested bringing a sandwich for Elladan and dried fruit and nuts for Elrohir, and Glorfindel nearly kicked himself for not thinking of that solution before.
They began to walk along a path. Glorfindel, perfectly acquainted with the forests surrounding Imladris, decided to take a wide, well-traveled path that did not stray far from home. It looped around for a mile or so, just far enough for a couple of small elflings and their caretakers to wander for a few hours before they decided to call it a day.
Going was slow; Elrohir and Elladan wanted to stop every five feet to examine a stump or a rock or a worm or something. A few times they found mud puddles left over from last night's rainstorm, and each time was as if they had never seen such a wonderous thing before. It was Erestor and Glorfindel could do to avoid the twins getting completely covered in mud from head to toe. Eventually, Glorfindel gave up and joined them in the puddles as they stumbled upon them, stomping merrily into muddy patches and lifting the twins out of them when they waded to far in and got stuck. Erestor staunchly refused to stoop to such levels as puddle-jumping.
They stopped for lunch a little while later. Elladan and Elrohir were miraculously still satisfied with their choices for lunch. They spread out a blanket and set up their little picnic. Elladan and Elrohir chattered constantly about the sun, the trees, the sky, Glorfindel's hair, Erestor's nose, Elladan's shirt, Elrohir's hand, bugs, birds, cats, dogs, horses, and even Greenwood the Great (which at this time was nothing more than a faraway fairytale land to the young elflings).
Erestor, far from Arda's most outdoorsy elf, was looking around with slight bemusement on his face as he simultaneously took in the sounds and sights of nature and listened to the twins' never-ending flow of talking, while Glorfindel laid back on the grass and closed his eyes, letting his charges' chatter flow around him.
Saturday. One full day left of taking care of the twins. He could scarcely believe that it had been almost a full week already.
We should plan one last perfect prank, he thought. One that we can get away with. Not like the hair, but something better. Something more… clever, more well-thought out.
He tried to remember the stories he had heard throughout his life of the best pranks, practical jokes and mischief from his friends and family members, but the life of a twice-born elf is long, and after several thousand years, some memories do tend to blur together somewhat.
Was it Illiri who painted a pig and let it roam the halls? No, wait, or was it a cat that was painted? A sheep? No, the sheep was shorn and… What ever happened to the sheep? Did Oroniel ever figure out how to get the chickens out of the ceiling? Or was that Thirien? No, Thirien propped buckets of water on doors. He was a terror for a while, but then Unoeth decided she could outdo him, and between waxing the floors and greasing the stairs, she almost killed everyone doing so…
He sighed and chuckled at the mixed memories that floated back up to him, swimming through thousands of others. His cousin Unoeth's pranks had been hilarious to watch but painful to experience firsthand, and Thirien's were harmless but also too passive to merit any real fear. He would have to think more to come up with a prank that would leave every member of the House of Elrond quaking in their shoes and flinching at rays of sun.
After a while, Elladan and Elrohir began to yawn and threaten falling asleep outside, so Glorfindel and Erestor packed up the picnic, and, each nestling a sleepy elfling over one of their respective shoulders, carried their small charges back to the house.
After the twins were asleep (in Glorfindel's bed; they refused to sleep anywhere else), Glorfindel walked with Erestor to the library, wanting to see his friend safely back in his element among books and scrolls.
"Can't see why you enjoy being trapped by paper, Erestor," said Glorfindel, propped in the doorframe.
"Shut up, Glorfindel," said Erestor absently.
"Say, Erestor," Glorfindel asked nonchalently, "you don't happen to have any old records of various activities around here, do you?"
"There are the ones that Taurîen used to keep," said Erestor slowly. "He was the old scribe here before he sailed."
"Are they thorough? Detailed?" Glorfindel tried to keep his motives shielded. "Would they have information about past– ah, things like parties, and guests, and– misdemeanors and the like?"
"The ones I'm thinking of painstakingly chronicle every little thing that happened here," Erestor chuckled. "They are the ones that make me look as lax and lazy as a cat in the sun. I swear to you, that elf was more uptight about keeping records than I could ever hope to be. I hate to think what he would say if he suddenly returned from across the sea to check on the goings-on here." He laughed again. "Sure I have them. They're right over here."
He led Glorfindel to the back of one of the towering shelves of books and scrolls, where the oldest manuscripts were kept.
"I think… ah, yes, ehre you are. Daily Records of Events and Activities at the Last Homely House. Here's Volume I."
"And," Glorfindel said, peering down the shelf, "volumes two through… ah, what's that one say? What?! Holy– nine hundred and ninety six?!" He gaped at a laughing Erestor. "There are nine hundred and ninety six volumes of this stuff? All the same records?"
"Aye, they are. I said he was thorough, did I not?"
"You are thorough, mellon-nín. This Taurîen fellow, he is insane! Almost a thousand volumes–" he picked one of the books off the shelf and showed it to Erestor, "–each at least a thousand pages themselves? This isn't being thorough, this is being crazy!"
"You did ask," Erestor reminded him. "What do you need these for, anyways? You've never been interested in history for your pleasure reading. You like the sword-fighting high adventures."
"As much as you like history," Glorfindel responded. "And I was just wondering about a few things, but if it means I'll have to sort through a couple hundred thousand pages of–" he cracked open the book– "yes, tiny, tiny handwriting, then perhaps I'll stick to my usual stuff."
Chuckling, Erestor turned and bid him good luck on his quest. Glorfindel slowly let out a breath of air.
Dear Valar, he thought. Is a good prank worth this much reading? He rolled his eyes, though in a humorous way. If it's a really, really, reeeally good one, yes.
He wondered where in all of Arda he was supposed to start.
"Does it matter?" he muttered, nestling the one he already held, Volume Seventy-Eight, against his chest and pulling a few more off the shelf at random. It was a pet peeve of Erestor's. He could hear the librarian's voice in his head already: "Glorfindel, if you take one more book off the shelf and put if back somewhere it does not belong, I will skin you!"
He chuckled and started reading.
Oh boy oh boy. This next chapter is going to be a fun one. Watch out, Rivendell.