This is a snippet of a larger female!Elrond AU that is currently making itself at home in my brain, drinking all my mental tea and hogging my workspace. You may or may not see more, but in any case I figure this bit stands on its own pretty well.

Warning: disturbing talk of violence and (canonical) character death, not particularly graphic.

One day, Maedhros says he will teach her to fight with a knife.

To Elrin it's a day like any other, but she expects Maedhros has a reason for picking today. Perhaps he feels that now she's old enough. Perhaps the Orc patrol they almost ran into last week made him decide it's too dangerous to delay. Or perhaps now he feels certain she won't put the skills to use against her-


(Both Doriathrin and Quenya are missing words for that strange place between captors and parents, the part of Elrin that will be a loremaster one day whispers.)

Elrin doesn't ask him which it is. Asks, instead, about something different.

"You're right, of course," Maedhros tells her. "It isn't customary for Noldorin women to learn to fight. They are our precious jewels, you see, and it is the duty of men to protect them." There's something faintly mocking in his voice. "It turns out that is a bad attitude to take, in Beleriand, in Arda Marred. Not if you want to survive. You may have noticed there are no other women in the camp."

Not so faintly mocking, now. He cannot possibly imagine Elrin to be unaware of it.

"They... died?" she asks.

"Most likely there are some remaining with Gil-galad. Hopefully they have learned better by now. And I believe my cousin Artanis still lives, although I couldn't tell you where. But as for us - there were never many women among our people, and those that were have long since fallen."

His eyes narrow, he draws an air of power around him like a cloak. For an instant, Elrin can almost see the crown he once bore resting on his brow. "I refuse to let you die like they did."

Elrin shivers.

Maedhros' expression softens. He reaches out and tugs gently on one of her loose braids, tucks it behind her ear.

"Sindarin women, now... they told us at the Mereth Aderthad that knife-fighting is a tradition among the women of the Nandor and southern Sindar, passed down from mother to daughter. I don't think we fully believed them at the time." His voice is changing, becoming light, almost dreamy. "Your grandmother Nimloth killed my brother, did you know?"

This is the point at which Elros would run off, Elrin thinks. Ironic - the brother who had hissed traitor into her ear when she told Maedhros their names that long-ago, terrible day, who had accused her of abandoning Mother the first time she'd asked Maglor for a story, now cannot bear to hear of their deeds. She expects he'll call Maglor Father one of these days.

Elrin forgives, Elros forgets. It remains to be seen which of them will end up happier for it.

Maedhros has paused, as if waiting for her to flee. Now he continues. "She gutted him like a fish before he knew what happened. Moryo always did have a tendency to underestimate women. Curvo fought her after, managed to kill her in the end but she'd wounded him so badly the next elf he met finished him off. So really, you could lay the deaths of two of my brothers at her feet. No doubt the historians will claim your grandfather Dior did it all." He turns his fiery-eyed (lachend, some dim memory whispers) gaze on her.

Elrin hates the way Maedhros looks at her and Elros sometimes, as if they are part floating branch to his drowning man (his only hope of redemption), part Belain come from the West to pronounce judgement on him. It makes her want to stand up and shout look at me look at me look at me, I am Elrin who you taught to set snares under the eaves of Taur-im-Duinath and name the stars above the cliffs of the Andram and read Tengwar in the ruins of Nargothrond, I am the one standing in front of you right now so look at me until his eyes clear and he stops seeing her mother, her grandmothers, all those he has killed and everyone he has ever wronged in her place.

"Can you teach me to fight like her?" she asks instead.

Maedhros blinks, then barks a laugh. He looks surprised, as if he had not known he could still make such a sound. Elrin hugs the moment to herself as she would a fire-warmed stone in her bedroll on a cold night.

"No," he says, still smiling. "Not in the style she used. But I can teach you to fight as well as she did."

And then, so quickly she barely catches his movement, he bends down and presses a kiss to her forehead. In gratitude? As apology? Out of love?

Perhaps all three.

I would quite like to know what's up with Maedhros teaching Elrin to read Tengwar in the ruins of Nargothrond. I think there's a story there.

Linguistic notes:

Moryo is short for Morifinwë, Caranthir's Quenya father-name.
Similarly, Curvo is short for Curufinwë, i.e. Curufin.
Artanis is Galadriel's Quenya father-name.

Elrin and Maedhros are speaking Quenya here. In the narration, however, she is clinging to her mother's Doriathrin dialect of Sindarin with no Quenya loanwords - hence her using the term Doriathrin instead of Sindarin and Belain rather than Valar. Lachend is a (possibly perjorative) Sindarin word for a Noldo, meaning "flame-eyed" - referring to the light of the Two Trees visible in the eyes of the Noldor who came from Aman.

I did a lot of playing around with the Sindarin name generator on Elffetish to figure out what f!Elrond's name would be, and am still not entirely happy with the result. Elrin uses the suffix -rin, meaning (I am told) "crown", versus the canonical -rond meaning "cave" or "dome". Discarded options included Elthelu, Elrendis and Elríwen.