It was an odd day Elrond decided as he lay in bed that winter morning. He would remember it later. A distant clatter of hooves had woken him, but being cold outside and warm inside that had not been enough to stir him from his bed. There were elves enough in Rivendell to deal with whatever tradesman had come to call.

And yet, he could not sleep. Maybe it was his own anxieties, his imagination playing on his fears. His sons had been due back days ago, and while their lateness in itself had not been unexpected, in fact he mentally added two weeks to whatever date his eldest may name, the feeling of fear had been. It would be a relief to have his boys back where they belonged.

It would have been a relief, he reflected ruefully, to have the two tiny boys tucked up with their parents, as they had once been apt to do on cold winter mornings. Elrohir curled up placidly sucking his thumb and Elladan wriggling and scrambling into cuddles and exploring the bedclothes.

But he had no cause to be so worried. He had watched his sons grow into leggy young men, eager to train and learn. He had watched them bid farewell to their mother. Elrohir sobbing, but Elladan standing stern, his jaw set. He had seen a different side of Elladan that day. More of the man he would become than the child he had been. For they were fully-grown now, elf lords in their own right. And he had seen that same look on Elladan's face many a time now as he led Orc hunting parties or others into battle. He was a good warrior, a good leader. More than capable of making the decisions that went with the role. Strong, determined and headstrong Elladan would never let anyone on his team come to harm while it remained in his power to do so.

Elrohir too was a good fighter, but his talent was not on the battlefield. Elrond's sensitive son had grown up into a mature and sensible adult, one who had a way of dealing with people at home that made Elladan laugh, declaring he always got his own way. Elrohir led people not armies and Elrond had spent many happy hours instructing him in the library whilst Elladan dreamt of battles and victories.

Then, cutting across his thoughts, there werevoices outside his room. Argumentative voices, refusals to enter. Elrond was about to get out of bed to see what was happening, when the door swung open and his eldest son barged in.

But he had known it would have been Elladan. Only he would have walked through the protests and marched into the Lord of Rivendell's room at this time in the morning. A time when all those with sense are fast asleep.

"Father!"

He is Elladan, standing tall in mithril armour, one arm resting on his sword and his hair braided back over his clock. As ever he is paying no attention to the vast quantities of mud his boots have tracked in. His face is tired, he has been riding through the night. But there is something else in those eyes. More reminiscent of younger times, when gathering courage to report some small misdemeanour; such as throwing toads, or breaking a pot. But, he is waiting to speak.

"Elladan."

Elrond sat up in bed hastily throwing a gown over his night things. Elladan appeared upset, struggling to get the words out. He could feel the panic rising inside him.

"Elrohir?"

"Oh we are well, father. I believe he has gone to change."

Elrond narrowly avoided smiling. It was still beyond Elladan's comprehension why anyone would change before dealing with business, even if it involved wearing filthy clothes into the most inconvenient of situations. But there was still hesitation. Elladan's fists were balled as if to summon up courage.

"Father."

"Elladan?"

"...I have failed. Arathorn was with us, and I... I looked away, I left him alone."

Elrond closed his eyes as his son continued.

"He took an arrow through the eye, father. It was quick. We killed them all."

So like Elladan, quick to anger, quick to revenge.

"The child?"

"We have escorted the wife and child to safety here, father."

Elrond opened his eyes. Elladan was standing in front of him looked tired, defeated, unsure. Elrond hugged him before guiding him to the door.

"Go and sleep, Elladan!"

He dressed quickly, wanting time to think before duties called. If he remembered correctly the heir of Isildur was now but two years old. Hardly old enough for the sort of training arrangements that had been used for his predecessors.

But he had hardly time to sit and ponder when Elrohir walked in unhindered after knocking gently. He looked less tired, but then Elrond was almost sure Elladan had kept watch every night since the death, eager to assure the safety of the team he felt he had failed.

Elrohir sat down beside him, deep in thought.

"The child is very small, father."

"I know Elrohir. Too small. He must be protected."

Elrond sighed, he just hoped he wouldn't get too attached to the child. Men passed so quickly.