Disclaimer: Lord of the Rings isn't mine. I really don't think it can get more plain and concise than that.

Rating/Warnings: Teen. Rated Teen for violence, and mild peril.

Time frame: Second Age, 1697, less than a month since Imladris was founded.

A/N: Hmm...well, that happened. I'm not entirely sure what I think about this piece. I either really like it, or really don't like it. Haven't quite made up my mind yet. Seeing as this was written (for the most part) after midnight (on two different days), I'm a little worried that it doesn't really flow as well as what I would normally write. Anyway, I really shouldn't be complaining or whining or any somesuch :P But please, I would love it if you would leave a few words in response, telling me what you thought. I can only improve on it if anyone tells me what's wrong with it. Most importantly, though, I hope that you enjoy reading this :)

Dedication: For Crookneck, who is a very awesome person, and who I thought needed something in her inbox to cheer her up. I just hope it succeeds! :)

The Guardian

Elrond sighed and let his quill fall to the desktop, not even caring as a blob of ink splattered across the parchment. He gently massaged his temples, leaning forward and bracing his elbows on the wood surface of his desk as he did so, his eyes closing. Nary a sound escaped the elf lord's lips, and outwardly he appeared both calm and at ease. Yet within his mind, that was as far from the truth as night is from day.

How? How could he ever hope to cope? It was all just so overwhelming, all of these seemingly menial tasks. Elrond's eyes opened slightly and he allowed himself to glare at the ledgers stacked neatly on the edge of the desk, as well as the four dozen or so pieces of paper still sitting neatly atop the stack of 'unread'.

It should not be this hard, Elrond berated himself, ordering his hand to move, to pick up the quill, whose tip was hardening with drying ink. If he did nothing soon, the quill would be next to useless, at least until he found the time to properly trim it. Elrond snorted at the thought. And since when have I had time to simply sit about and trim my quills? he asked himself. He could not quite overlook the bitterness he sensed in the thought.

"Just finish already," Elrond told himself sternly, attempting to goad himself into action. He hesitantly reached for his discarded quill, gingerly picking it up with the tips of his fingers.

A growl tore from his throat and Elrond stood abruptly, flinging the quill back down onto his desk.

"You can go rot in Angband for all I care," Elrond snarled at the innocently bystanding paper, and then stalked out of his quarters-turned-study.

Imladris, as it had come to be called, was yet a new settlement; in fact, it was hardly more than a collection of roughly and swiftly built buildings meant to shelter the refugees until the walls and roof of the larger and much more permanent Main House had been built. Even so, Elrond found himself being inundated by seemingly pointless and inconsequential paperwork – troop placements, resource distribution, work details, and supply lists – and that was only just the beginning!

Why? Elrond asked himself, why do I do this? Why do I try to do this, he amended bitterly.

Elrond quickly exited the low-ceilinged barracks, pausing a moment as he stepped through the doorway to enjoy the feel of the sun on his face. Slowly his headache began to ease, receding into its normal dull throb. He had spent far too long cooped up, he decided – that was why he was being so irritable. At least, he hoped that the answer was as simple as that.

Elrond began walking. He had no particular destination in mind; he simply wanted to be moving. So move he did, his feet carrying him away from the raw-looking timber walls of the barracks and the mess hall, stepping lightly over the churned mud and nimbly avoiding the pools of stagnant water trapped in the furrows.

No grass will grow within the walls of Imladris for at least a year, Elrond thought sadly. It had all been beaten and trampled to death.

Rows of tents sprawled out beyond the small clustering of buildings, tents that housed the many refugees who did not, as of yet, have a space built for them. It was hoped that the final two barracks would be finished by first snowfall, before the nights became achingly cold – cold enough to affect even the elves.

Elrond found himself wandering down toward the tents, and within a moment he was among them, the smell of smoke from the open fires thickening as it was trapped between the cloth walls. For just an instant, Elrond could not breathe, his throat constricting at the acrid taste in his throat and nose. But then the feeling was gone, and his eyes ceased to sting.

The inner camp was mostly silent, as most of the inhabitants were away working. And here you are wandering around like an old fool, Elrond thought scathingly. He huffed, but then put the thought forcefully from his mind. He needed air, he told himself, needed to relax.

A small shape suddenly appeared around the edge of one of the tents, little legs flying. Not looking where they were going, the elfling nearly ran directly into Elrond.

Acting quickly on instinct, Elrond reached down and scooped the little one up into his arms, arresting her flight and ensuring that she didn't trip over him. The elfling gave a small squeak of surprise and fear, and whipped her head around to look at Elrond.

"Easy there little one, what are you running from?" Elrond asked, settling the little girl against his hip.

The little girl squirmed, frantically trying to break free of Elrond's hold. Elrond automatically held her a little tighter, not wanting her to wriggle her way free and fall to the ground, an endeavor which would more likely than not leave her injured.

"Easy little one," Elrond soothed, "You are safe with me." He did not know precisely why he did not simply put her down and allow her to run on her way. Under any other circumstance, he most assuredly would have, not being in the habit of detaining young children if they wished not to be. Yet something stayed Elrond's actions, kept him holding the girl. Perhaps it was the strange echo of fear in her wide grey eyes, or perhaps it was the feel of her quivering in his arms. Whatever the reason, though, Elrond did not let go.

"Hush little one," Elrond murmured, imparting just a little of his own warmth and strength in the hopes that it would calm her somewhat. "You are safe with me," Elrond repeated. Slowly the girl's trembling ceased, although her eyes remained wide and fearful.

"Would you like to tell me your name?" Elrond asked gently. Although he knew almost all of the elves among the refugees, he could not for the life of him recall to mind this elf-child. Slowly at first, then with increased vigor, the girl shook her head, then stilled once more, her piercing gray gaze settling once more firmly upon Elrond. "All right," Elrond acquiesced, "then how about I tell you mine. I'm Elrond," he said, smiling softly at her.

The girl regarded Elrond for a long moment, and then seemed to come to some sort of conclusion. Without a sound, the little girl leaned against Elrond, wrapping her arms around his neck and melting against his shoulder.

Surprised by this sudden and unexpected move, Elrond instinctively shifted his hold on her, wrapping one arm around her back the more securely to hold her against his chest.

"'Tis nice to meet you as well," Elrond murmured. And then he realized that she had fallen fast asleep, her mouth open slightly, and her eyes glazed over.

"My, little one, you were exhausted," Elrond mused, although quietly so as not to awaken his companion. "But now what am I to do with you?" he asked rhetorically. "Surely you have someplace that you belong?"

The sound of pattering footsteps reached Elrond's ears, and he looked up as another figure dashed around the same tent corner. This time, however, the newcomer saw Elrond in time, and slid to a halt.

"Oh!" the young boy exclaimed, catching sight of the girl slumbering on Elrond's shoulder. Then he seemed to realize just who it was holding the child, for he jumped a little, then bowed.

"My lord," he murmured respectfully.

"No need for that," Elrond told the lad, and the boy straightened, albeit slowly. "What is your name?" he asked.

"Aduluth," the boy replied, and then glanced once more at the girl in Elrond's arms. He fidgeted slightly.

"Do you know her?" Elrond asked Aduluth, indicating the girl. The boy nodded.

"My mother and father took her in after both of her parents were slain," Aduluth mumbled. "I was supposed to be watching her, but she ran away," the lad confessed. "She's always running away," he added sourly.

"Well, could you bring me to your tent perchance?" Elrond asked, shifting the slumbering girl slightly. She was dead weight, and was beginning to get a bit heavy.

"Of course," Aduluth replied, and seemed to brighten a little. "This way."

He led Elrond through the camp, twisting between tents and fires with ease. Before too long, he was halting, and drawing open a tent flap.

"Naneth, I found Cuilnoth," Aduluth announced, disappearing into the tent. Elrond followed, still carrying the girl.

The inside of the tent was rather small, although surprisingly cozy. A cot stood in one corner, and two bundles of blankets in another. A comfortable carpet separated the floor of the tent from the cold, muddy earth below, and crates were pushed against the walls to form stands and tables. A lantern burned brightly on one such box, lighting the room with a warm yellow glow.

"My lord Elrond," a woman exclaimed as Elrond entered, and she stood quickly. "What brings you…" she trailed off, catching sight of the child that Elrond carried.

"My lady," Elrond acknowledged, smiling and bowing his head formally. Although the people seemed to have claimed him as the lord of the settlement, he was still in her home.

"I am sorry to intrude," Elrond said, "But I believe I found someone who belongs with you." He stepped a little farther into the tent, the lantern light basking him with its soft glow.

"Cuilnoth," the lady gasped, and hurried forward, worry filling her face when she saw that the child was not moving.

"She is merely sleeping," Elrond reassured her.

The lady halted for an instant, then began to approach again, although much more slowly and softly. When she finally caught sight of Cuilnoth's face, however, a gentle smile alit in her eyes and graced her lips.

"She has not slept peacefully since…in many months," the lady murmured, altering what she had been about to say halfway through, and reached out to brush a stray lock of raven hair off of the child's cheek. The child did not even stir.

"Is there some place I can lay her down?" Elrond asked. "I think she would sleep more soundly."

"Of course," the lady exclaimed, and turned to lead Elrond toward the blankets in the corner.

When he knelt, Elrond discovered that there was a soft mattress, as well as a small pillow hidden beneath the blankets. As carefully as he could, Elrond lowered the girl down to the bed, snuggling her among the nest of blankets, and gently placed her head on the pillow.

"Sleep well, little one," Elrond whispered softly, his hand lingering on her arm for a second longer after he pulled a blanket up over her still form. And with that last touch, he pushed her deeper into slumber, filling her with a peace that would banish all nightmares that would attempt to assault her – or so he hoped.

Elrond stood and turned to go, and was surprised when the lady halted him.

"Wait," she begged, and touched his elbow. Elrond turned to her questioningly. "I never had the chance to thank you," the woman said.

"You are welcome," Elrond replied, bowing his head slightly. "It was the least I could do." And yet, as he stood there, Elrond felt as if there was something that he was missing – that the woman had meant something else, something deeper, than merely thanking him for returning her wayward charge.

Elrond smiled, attempting to mask his sudden confusion, and turned to go. This time, the woman did not stop him, and Elrond hurried out into the sunlight.

As Elrond made his way back toward the barracks, his thoughts were troubled. He felt as if there was something that he was forgetting, and his resurfacing headache was doing nothing to aid him.

The acrid taste of smoke choked the air, making it nearly impossible to breathe except in short, shallow gasps. The lurid red glow of a hundred devouring fires filled the night with an intense, hellish glow, and shadows danced wildly in the streets, many of them howling and brandishing gore-stained blades.

Elrond staggered, one hand pressed against the side of his head, as memory assaulted him. He took a deep, shuddering breath of clean, fresh air untainted by the smell of smoke.

He was running, booted feet pounding against cobblestones and armor clinking as it was jostled. He could hear others behind him, the light tread and soft breathing him telling him that it was elves, not orcs, who were following him.

He burst out of the narrow side street and onto a much wider thoroughfare. Fire licked hungrily at the houses on either side, and the stench of blood and orc coated the air, mingling with the already noxious scent of smoke. He did not hesitate, ruthlessly pushing away the nausea that tightened his stomach, and tightening his grip on Hadhafang. Bands of orcs roamed down the street a few hundred paces farther down, laughing and jeering as they feasted.

"Find any survivors," he ordered those behind him, "And hurry. We move on in in five minutes."

He did not wait to see if the others obeyed, but sprinted toward the nearest house, vaulting the low wall in one fluid jump. He landed in a crouch, but in an instant he was up and running once more.

The front door was either locked or blocked, for when he attempted to push it open, it refused to budge. He glanced to either side, looking for an easily accessible window, but to his dismay, he found none. He turned back to the door and, praying that the door was merely locked, sent his foot smashing against the latch.

Wood cracked and splintered, and the latch listed to one side. He rammed his shoulder against the door and to his relief, he felt the wood give. One more shove and the door swung open, the wood cracking as it was forced open around the lock. He darted inside, listening intently.

A scream rent the air, followed by the sound of breaking glass and a sickening howl. Without a second thought, he ran toward the sounds, lifting his blade as he did so.

Skidding around a corner, he came upon a terribly scene.

What had once been a beautiful, cozy sitting room was in shambles, blood splattered across the walls and soaking the carpets. Most of the furniture had been destroyed in one way or another, and corpses lay amid the debris, their eyes open and lifeless. Most of them were orc, yet as he took in the scene with a hurried glance, he caught sight of the dark hair and pale skin of at least one elf.

The room was filled with a half a dozen orcs, and they were swarming around a lone elf who was making a valiant, yet hopeless stand against them wielding only a small dagger used as a letter opener. The elf was bleeding heavily from a deep wound in his side, and one arm hung uselessly at his side, bone visible even through the blood.

Elrond attacked, cutting down the first orc before they were even aware of his presence. Hearing the gurgling scream of their dying companion, the others whirled, snarling. With a howl, they attacked their new adversary – one who was infinitely more dangerous than their previous opponent.

He knocked aside a blow from the first orc, and ran the creature through. Twisting, he yanked his blade free of the corpse, and cut downward, slicing through mail and skin alike. The second orc fell with a scream, clutching his torn-open chest and trying to hold the skin together, even as he bled out.

Elrond bit back a cry as a line of fire crossed his forearm, and ignored the feel of blood as it dribbled out of the new wound and down to his wrist. He whirled, hacking through bone as he swiftly decapitated the orc that had just wounded him.

The two remaining orcs attacked simultaneously. He parried the first blow and ducked the second, allowing the orc's weapon to cleave the air over his head. Elrond stood, putting all of the power he could behind the blow, and rammed Hadhafang through the gut of the orc in front of him. His blade punched through the armor, the tip exiting the orc's back a few inches beneath its neck.

He felt, rather than saw, the other orc lunge toward him, blade ready to skewer him through. He instinctively twisted, yet even as he moved he knew that he had been too late. He tensed, waiting for the bite of the blade and the searing pain. It never came.

A battle cry rang through the air, followed by a wet thud followed by a gasp, and then a bestial, gurgling scream.

Elrond turned just in time to see the other elf and the final orc falling together, locked together in their final struggle. The orc blade protruded from the elf's back, crimson blood dripping from the two feet of iron. The orc's throat was sliced wide open, black blood spurting out as its heart continued to attempt to pump blood through the arteries and to the brain.

Elrond hurried forward and dropped to his knees beside the fallen elf, breaking the orc's death grip on the hilt of the sword, and rolling the elf over onto his side. He had been stabbed clean through, the hilt a mere finger-length from his chest.

The other elf coughed, blood dribbling out of the side of his mouth, and his grey eyes opened slightly, drifting toward Elrond who was kneeling beside him. His mouth opened and closed, as if the dying elf were attempting to say something. Desperation filled the pained gaze, and he clutched for Elrond's hand.

Elrond grasped the weak wrist, imparting what strength he could. "Lie still, or you shall make it worse," he ordered, even though he knew that no matter what he or the other did, death was the unquestionable end.

"My lord," the dying elf gasped, his voice weak, "You came. Please…"

The elf fell still, the breath stealing away from his body and his body going limp, whatever he had tried so hard to say lost for eternity.

Elrond bowed his head and closed his eyes for an instant, whispering a prayer to Mandos to accept the dead elf's fëa and shepherd him to the Halls of Waiting peacefully. Then he reached down and gently closed the dead elf's eyes.

Something suddenly dashed forward, seemingly appearing out of nowhere. Elrond leapt to his feet, brandishing Hadhafang as he prepared for another assault. None came.

A small figure careened to its knees beside the dead elf. A shaft of firelight fell across the small being, illuminating the pale and terrified face of a young girl.

"Ada!" the girl wailed, wrapping her fists in the dead elf's tunic and shaking him frantically. "Ada, wake up!" she cried, shaking him a little harder. She was completely ignoring Elrond, her focus solely fixated on her dead father.

Elrond knelt, putting his sword down on the floor beside him in easy reach.

"Come now, little one," he said softly, reaching out to pull the child away from her father's corpse. "He is not going to awaken," he told her as gently as he could.

She screamed as his hold tightened on her shoulder, and fought him as he drew her away.

"No! No!" she screamed, clawing and biting at his hand. "Ada!" she wailed, reaching toward her father.

"Your father cannot hear you," Elrond said, loathing himself for saying such harsh words. Yet he needed the child to stop screaming, needed her to be willing to leave her father. "Listen to me, little one," he pled, and she stilled her struggles for an instant, looking up at him with tear-filled eyes.

"Please, little one," he begged, "We must go. Your father is beyond our reach now." The girl's lip trembled, and tears spilled down her cheeks, cutting tracks through the grime coating her face. "Please, little one, come with me. I will keep you safe now," he promised.

"Ada and Nana said not to go with strangers," the child whispered. And Elrond felt as if his heart broke – despite all that had she had witnessed, despite the pain of seeing her father dead, she was still holding on to what they had taught her; she was still so innocent.

"My name is Elrond," he said, pushing away the sick feeling in his heart. "What is yours?"

"Cuilnoth," the girl replied shakily.

"There, now we are no longer strangers," he said, forcing himself to smile. He held out a hand.

Slowly, the girl reached out and took his hand, allowing him to pull her toward him. She glanced back at her father one last time, one single sob ripping through her. And then she fell silent.

Ellrond held her hand in one of his, and with the other, he picked up his sword.

"Come, we must hurry," he said, and guided her back toward the front door.

They neared the entrance swiftly, footsteps echoing loudly in the death-filled house. Yet as they neared the broken door, new sounds began to filter in – the screams and cries of battle, and the clang of metal upon metal.

He halted suddenly, drawing Cuilnoth against him protectively as he caught sight of the street outside. It was a seething mass of bodies, all locked in a deadly dance of flashing steel. His first instinct was to join the battle, to go to the aid of his brethren. But then he felt Cuilnoth tremble against him, and knew that that no longer was his main priority – now, first and foremost, his duty was to get the girl to safety.

"Back," he hissed, pushing Cuilnoth in front of him. She stumbled, and he caught her, pulled her upright. They retraced their steps to the back of the house, where he had noticed a number of windows overlooking a back garden.

The sound of glass shattering came from the room in front of them, and he froze, once again pulling Cuilnoth against him. Orc speech drifted into the house as the beasts forced their way into the room, their boots loud as they landed heavily on the floor.

He felt trapped, as a blade between a hammer and an anvil. They could forge ahead, and he could fight his way through this new band of orcs, or they could retreat to the street and attempt to sneak through. Neither choice was good, and either could lead to the death of both him, as well as his charge. If he made the wrong decision…

But he had to do something, or else he would be frozen here, and the choice would be made for him. Without a second thought, he hoisted the child up into his arms, and turned to sprint back toward the front door. He would risk the battle outside, and hope to manage to slip around or through unnoticed.

Within seconds they were out the front door, and he was racing across the grass. He leapt toward the wall, using a slightly projecting stone to give him the needed boost up to the top. Just as quickly he had dropped down the other side.

Orcs were all around, pressing toward the nearest scent of elf-flesh with jaws dripping saliva and a manic glint in their eyes. Two of the crowd sensed his sudden appearance, and turned toward the two elves.

He cut them down before they could raise the alarm, and was already moving on by the time their bodies had hit the ground. Cuilnoth turned and buried her face in his shoulder, blocking out the grisly sight of the battle, and locked her arms around his neck.

Elrond kept to the edge of the street and never stopped moving, cutting his way through the orcs who saw him and attempted to block his path.

The mouth of a side street yawned darkly just ahead of him, and he made for it, praying that there would be nothing unpleasant waiting within the shadows.

All seemed to be still and silent among the shadow; nothing moving but for the writhing flames above. Risking one final glance behind him at the battle, Elrond crossed into the side street, all the while praying that he was making the correct decision.

For the first hundred paces, all was indeed still and silent and he began to hope that they would make it through the street and out onto the other side unseen. And then his hopes were cruelly dashed against a dozen blades.

"Where do ya think yer going elf," an orc hissed, stepping up to block his path. Surprised by the beast's sudden appearance, Elrond only just had time to knock aside the orc's stab. It was followed almost an instant later by a vicious chop by a second orc, and Elrond felt his grip on the hilt of his sword loosen as he awkwardly twisted to block that blow as well. Another strike at an even more impossible angle a heartbeat later sent his sword clattering to the ground. One of the orcs kicked the weapon away to the edge of the street and out of reach.

Elrond cursed and quickly drew his knife, tightening his hold on Cuilnoth at the same time. His chances of making it out of this fight alive were slim and growing fainter by the second. Four more orcs stepped out of the shadows, leering unpleasantly at their prey.

He saw only one option that had any chance of success.

Without warning, he struck, lunging toward the first orc with knife blade flashing. The orc fell with a gurgle, throat slashed wide. And then Elrond was running, feet pounding in time with his heart, his breath coming in gasps as the smoke-choked air burned his lungs.

Something struck him in the back of the head, hard, and he staggered, then fell to his knees, his vision going in and out of darkness. Vaguely, he could feel blood running down his neck, yet strangely he could feel no pain. Not at first.

And then the pain washed hit him like a wall of solid stone. The knife fell from suddenly numb fingers, clattering as it hit the cobblestones, and it was all he could do not to black out. Yet in the same instant, his hold on Cuilnoth tightened, and he drew her to him with both arms, holding her to his chest.

"Thought ya could get away, didja?" one of the orcs cackled, coming up behind him. Elrond struggled vainly to get to his feet, but his body seemed to have locked down, the pain and shock freezing his limbs.
"Stupid elf," another spat.

The orcs laughed delightedly, and one of them grabbed him to make sure he didn't try to rise again, and succeed.

"Wha do we do wiv it?" one of the orcs asked. "Can we eat it?" it put in hopefully.

"Wait," the first orc barked, coming around to peer into his face. "I know this one…His face, it's familiar some'ow." He was silent for a moment. Then he hissed venomously, recognition sparking in his gaze. "Elf lord," he spat. "The Master will want this one alive." One of the orcs grumbled.

"Wha about de other one?" another asked.

"Jus' a kid. We can kill it I s'pose," the orc said finally, and proceeded to nonchalantly draw a long knife from his belt.

Elrond reacted instinctively, the drive to protect the child overcoming all else. He surged upward, breaking the orc's grip. And then something smashed into the side of his head, sending him crashing back to the ground.

Everything went black as his vision was lost, and he did not feel as Cuilnoth was torn from his grasp. Slowly he fought his way back to consciousness, and his sight returned for just an instant. He watched as Cuilnoth was hauled upward then sent crashing back to the street, her screams of terror and pain piercing the fog that held his mind in a pained stupor.

Flashes – flashes of sight, then flashes of darkness. He knew he was moving, but he could not see what he had done. He could see blood on his hands, but could not tell if it was his or theirs. He could hear shouts and screams, but it was as if they were coming in and out of existence, cutting off and cutting back in in the space of seconds.

He came to himself one final time, and he found himself staring at a scene of carnage, blood filling the cracks between the cobblestones. Cuilnoth was sitting in the center of it all, her head buried in her lap, rocking back and forth and sobbing silently with terror.

He staggered over to her and knelt heavily, before reaching out to touch her on the shoulder gently.

"Come little one," he rasped, and opened his arms. She looked up, and then leapt to her feet and ran to him, sobs wracking her small body. He pulled her into his embrace, holding her close.

He tried to stand, the only thought now to make it to the end of the street and find his people. He did not even make it all of the way upright.

Darkness crashed over him, stealing away his senses and sending him tumbling back to the ground. He was unconscious before he hit the stones.

Elrond gasped, his eyes opening. He blinked as his eyes were painfully assaulted by the bright sunlight, and fought back the watery tears. His head pounded, and he realized that he was clutching it between both his hands now.

Elrond slowly forced his hands away from his head, relaxing until they were hanging limply by his sides. In, out, in, out. His breathing steadied slowly.

He had forgotten much about that night – that final, crazed battle in Eregion, just before they had fled – and most of what he could remember he had in snatches and glimpses. The squad who had found him had led him, still only partially conscious, to the edge of the city.

Yet Elrond could not, for some reason, bring to mind the sight of Cuilnoth. What had happened to her? She was alive, obviously, and for that Elrond was exceedingly thankful. Yet he could not find within his memory a glimpse of her, not since he had fallen unconscious until he had just met her in the camp.

Elrond finally abandoned the issue, at least for the time being. For an instant, he nearly turned back to the tent where he had just left the child. But then he thought better of it. She was sleeping peacefully, and he did not wish to disturb her. Also, his head ached terribly, and he truly did need to attend to the remaining paperwork.

Ai, Elrond grumbled to himself, even as his feet began to carry him on his way toward the barracks.

A sudden realization struck Elrond as he climbed the small hill that separated the tents from the buildings. And he found that he knew the answer to the question he had asked himself earlier.

Why do I do this? Elrond smiled. I do it for them, for everyone that I need to protect. It may not be fighting for them, or sacrificing myself for them, yet this is protecting them all the same. I am doing it for my people.

My people. The words echoed strangely in Elrond's mind. And yet he could not help but smile a little wider. My people. Yes. They were his people now. And he would do anything for his people.