Elros poised on the edge of his chair, leaning forward slightly, obviously listening to Maglor. Elrond on the other hand had slouched so low that he practically balanced himself on the middle of his spine and stared out of the window. A few low-hanging clouds moved almost imperceptibly across a leaden sky. The only thing that could be more dull than reading about thousands of years of nothing happening, while the Eldar moved farther west, were the ridiculously detailed descriptions of how they began, ever so ponderously slowly, to separate and assume unique cultural and physical traits.
Off in the distance, over the water, some seabirds circled. They probably had spotted a school of fish. Immediately next to the window, a sparrow hopped from one branch to another. Dull, annoyingly cheerful birds. Maglor asked Elros another question. Irritation had ratcheted Maglor's voice higher. Elros stammered for a second in his response, until he realized that it was Elrond's inattention that caused Maglor's frustration and nothing he had said.
Sensing his foster-father's eyes on the side of his face, Elrond rubbed his cheek and yawned. Had the prickling of his skin resulted from overactive imagination and knowing Maglor must have noticed his inattention or had Maglor actually caused it?
Elrond glanced around in time to notice that the tension in Maglor's voice had stopped Maedhros in his tracks just outside of the door. Maedhros backed up and frowned into the room. Elrond thought, here comes trouble.
Maglor released a drained sigh, dropping his shoulders and pinching the bridge of his nose. "Thank you, Elros. You covered all of the major events. I liked the way you noted the shifting alliances among the different branches of the Eldar during that period. Your writing is improving as well, more concise and better organized. Good work." He glared at Elrond. "Did you begin your paper yet? Have you even read the book?"
"I'm almost through it. He's an impossible writer. It's torture reading him." Elrond sighed deeply, shooting a glance at Maedhros looming tall and regal in the doorway. He decided that to put on a show of good behavior because Maedhros was listening would be completely cowardly and dishonest.
Elrond could read Maedhros's displeasure in the tightening of the muscles around his mouth. He was certain to intervene. He probably wanted to jerk him up into a proper sitting position by the back of his shirt and thump him on the head, the way cook sometimes did. Of course, Maedhros would never do that. But Elrond knew he had a temper.
"Good afternoon," Maedhros said, formal, almost courtly in demeanor. "Cook is holding lunch for the three of you. Macalaurë, why don't you and Elros go ahead. Elrond and I will be along in a moment."
Finally pulling himself into an outright position in his chair, Elrond looked at Maedhros, undecided whether to resort to humor and charm or capitulate outright and make a straightforward apology.
He took a middle ground and, sighing again, said, "I know what you are going to say."
"Oh you do, do you? I wonder. Let me see the book, please." Maedhros held his hand out. Taking it, he turned the bound volume over and looked at the spine. "Excellent source. He knew his material. Much of it first hand and he knew whom to consult to verify the rest. He traveled widely both in Aman and here."
"Knew?" Elrond asked, intrigued.
"Yes. Past tense. He was killed in an ambush by orcs, the next thing to a freakish accident, several decades ago. A great loss."
"I'm sorry," Elrond said, sincere. "Did you know him well?"
"No. Only by reputation and his work. I met him briefly, maybe twice, in Valinor."
"He certainly was not a poet."
"No. And his manner was as colorless as the way he wrote. But he was a fine historian. Able to look at more than one side of a question. Macalaurë, on the other hand, is a poet. And, even more so, an astonishing musical genius. I am sure you, young as you are, recognize that. He composes far less these days than he would like. Macalaurë is not a schoolmaster. Yet he divides his time between helping me with various administrative tasks and ensuring that you and your brother have an education equal to that of those schooled in Tirion under circumstances much more advantageous to study."
"Yes, my lord." Elrond felt his cheeks burn with shame.
"My lord?" Maedhros laughed. He didn't laugh often, but when he did, Elrond appreciated why he was considered to be so comely.
"So you understand my points?" Maedhros pursed his lips together in order to restrain a grin.
"Absolutely clearly. Don't judge a scholar by his pedantic prose. And stop being an arrogant, inconsiderate ass with Macalaurë."
Maedhros startled him by grabbing his upper arm and pulling him out of his chair and onto his feet. Cocking his head to one side and studying him as though he tried to read straight into his heart, Maedhros at last said, "You'll be fine, Elrond." He pulled Elrond into his arms like he so often had when he was a mere child, ruffling his hair in the same annoying way, oddly comforting though. "Actually, you often remind me of Macalaurë when he was young. Although your harp playing is crap and you haven't much of a voice. Perhaps if tedious writing bothers you so much, you might consider working at becoming a decent writer yourself."
"I like to write."
Maedhros raised an eyebrow, in skepticism or amusement Elrond was not sure. "Maybe I'll take on the two of you for history for a while. Don't repeat this, but it was never Macalaurë's best subject. I really do not have his patience for nonsense though, I warn you."
"Would you?" Elrond cringed inwardly at how his voice squeaked in obvious enthusiasm. Some of the most compelling histories they had read, had been written by Maedhros himself in Tirion, before his self-imposed exile, before he became a warrior and a dispossesed wanderer.
"Come along. They must be hungry."
That had not been so bad, Elrond thought, as they walked down the hall together, easy and relaxed. Then Maedhros paused and faced him. "One last thing, Elrond, you are not brighter than your brother either. He simply approaches tasks differently than you do."
"Thanks," Elrond answered. Stunningly inarticulate, he told himself, while realizing he truly was grateful and hoped that Maedhros knew that.