Part 5 - The River Bruinen
“Elladan, Elrohir, you may play until dinner, but do not stray too far.” Celebrian, Elrond, Lindir and Erestor had taken to the gardens to enjoy the beautiful sunlit afternoon.
The twins expectedly looked at each other. They had turned twenty-five a few days ago and were full of mischief, as youngsters usually are. They were determined to visit the Bruinen, for it was the one place their father had forbidden them to go.
“Come on, Elrohir. They are not watching us!” Elladan, slightly bolder than his younger brother, pulled Elrohir with him.
“Remember! Stay close!” called out Elrond after them. He leaned back into the chair, watching Celebrian play with Arwen, who had curled up in her arms. Life was perfect.
“Someone should keep an eye on them,” mumbled Erestor, still peering after the twins. “I could go if you want me to.”
Elrond smiled warmly at Erestor, who now was one of his trusted advisors. No longer an Elfling, Erestor had become a cunning and handsome Elf. But Elrond still felt worried. During these last twenty-five years Erestor had built a reputation of being cold, distant and emotionless. He had seen it happen, but had been unable to prevent it. The only time that the mask slipped was when Erestor spent time with the twins or talked to Celebrian. At times Erestor would even act reserved toward him, which completely unnerved the half-Elf. It almost seemed like that mask had become a permanent part of Erestor. “Be at peace, mellon-nîn. They can be left alone for a few minutes.”
/I hope you are right,/ thought Erestor, worried. He might no longer show his affection and concern openly, but he didn’t like the idea of the twins being unsupervised. Elladan especially got himself into trouble regularly. He still searched for the twins, but trees hampered his sight. Frustrated, he busied himself with his tea, sipping occasionally.
He liked spending time with Celebrian and Elrond. And he enjoyed Lindir’s company as well, but he still maintained an emotional distance when it came down to all three of them. He could only let go when he was near the twins and now that they were growing older, he felt like that he couldn’t show his feelings like he used to when they were babies.
Celebrian convinced her husband to sing for them and smiled when Arwen cooed along with Elrond’s voice. It was such a lovely moment and she felt completely happy. Nothing bad could happen to them now.
“Do not be a spoilsport, Elrohir! Come play with me! It is only water! We bathe in it all the time!” Elladan had crossed his arms in front of his chest and impatiently tapped his foot. “Come on! It is only water! Don’t be a baby! We are older now!”
Elrohir still wasn’t convinced. Sucking on his thumb, he stared at the frightening mass of water.
“And do not put your thumb in your mouth. You know Nana does not want you to do that!” Elladan grabbed his younger brother’s arm, and forced Elrohir to stop sucking on his thumb. “I want to play in the river!”
“Ada told us to stay away from the river,” said Elrohir in a berating tone. “The water is dangerous and we are much too little to play in it. Not even Ada, Nana or Erestor play in the river because it is dangerous.”
“Elrohir, I want to play in the water!” Elladan pouted angrily, staring at his younger brother. “Please? We will be careful.”
Elrohir shook his head. “We should not do this…”
“Please?” Elladan cocked his head and pleadingly stared at him. “Because I love you?”
Elrohir sighed, giving in. He couldn’t deny his brother when Elladan reminded him of his love for him. “But be careful.”
Elladan smiled triumphantly. “Hurry!” Arien was still blazing and the water would be warm, if they got in now!
Still reluctant, Elrohir followed. “Elladan, the water will be cold.” He really didn’t want to do this. Why did he always let his older brother talk him into these things? But as long as he was close, he could keep an eye on his twin.
Elladan took Elrohir’s hand in his and then waded into the water. He flinched momentarily. The water was colder than he had thought, but he didn’t want Elrohir to know he had been right… again. He always was. Pulling him along, Elladan gasped when his feet no longer encountered any ground. Elrond had tried to teach them how to swim, but it had been awkward and they hadn’t mastered it yet. Suddenly he realized Elrohir had been right. This was stupid; even worse, it was dangerous!
Elrohir released a strangled whimper when Elladan unexpectedly released him, even pushing him back toward the riverbank. Elladan cried out, helplessly, when the river pulled him further in, pushing him into a violent whirlpool.
“Elladan!” Elrohir cried out in shock, feeling his brother’s hand slip out of his. “No, Elladan, no! Come back to me! Eeeeeellaaadan!” His brother struggled against the whirlpool and he even considered jumping in after him, but he was alert enough to realize he couldn’t help Elladan; he wasn’t strong enough. Shocked, the only thing he could do was cry.
Elladan struggled against the water, which now closed over his head. He lost his last breath and everything became dark around him as the water pulled him toward the bottom.
Erestor was growing increasingly restless, and although he couldn’t quite explain the feeling, he felt like checking on the twins. He just couldn’t shake the feeling that Elladan had gotten himself into trouble again. Rising to his feet, he excused himself, telling Elrond and Celebrian that he was going for a walk. He could see Celebrian’s disappointment at the thought of him leaving them, but he didn’t share their carefree nature. He needed to keep an eye on the twins.
After smiling at Arwen, who was playing with Elrond’s finger, he headed for the trees, the same direction that the twins had disappeared in. His speed increased when a sense of foreboding slid through him and he broke out into a run, hearing a cry in the distance. He knew he should alert Elrond and Celebrian, but time was of the essence and he couldn’t waste any!
Approaching the river, he immediately noticed Elrohir, standing frozen with his feet still in the water. The ends of the youngster’s hair were wet and he shook with fear. Letting his gaze sweep further, he saw dark hair floating on the water. “Elladan!” Seeing the oldest twin struggle against the water, he shrugged off his cloak and dived into the water, heading for Elladan.
”Gwador, help him!” Elrohir, still sobbing with fear, now stilled, watching Erestor’s valiant attempt to rescue his brother. His eyes widened as the dark hair slipped beneath the water. Erestor drew in a deep breath, dived, and came back up again with Elladan in his arms. Elrohir, finally finding his voice again, began to call out. “Nana! Ada,” and then, “Gwador, help him! Elladan!”
Elrond, who had followed Erestor out of curiosity, felt how his heart stopped to beat momentarily, seeing Elrohir standing in the water. Running toward him, he pulled his youngest son out of the river and sat him down on the grass. “Stay here!” He dropped his cloak onto the ground and waded into the water, heading for Erestor, who was now swimming toward him. “Give him to me!” Panicking, he took hold of Elladan and carried his son onto the riverbank, where he lay him down next to Elrohir, who was staring at his brother in shock.
Elrond calmed slightly when he saw that Elladan was still breathing. The oldest twin now spat out the water and pulled a face at the awful taste. Elrond didn’t know how to react. He wanted to be cross with his children, but he was too happy to know them alive. “What did you think you were doing? Putting yourself in danger like that! Can’t I ever leave you alone? I told you to stay away from the river!”
Erestor, who had reached the riverbank as well, sank onto his knees, his heavy robes pulling him down. One look at Elladan told him the youngster was quickly regaining his breath and he thanked Elbereth that he had been in time to pull him from the treacherous river.
“Oh, my babies! Elladan, Elrohir!” Celebrian, balancing Arwen on her hip, appeared as well and immediately knelt next to her sons, pulling them toward her. “Oh, to think I could have lost you!”
Elrond, still on his heels, looked at the two boys and saw a definitely guilty expression in Elladan’s eyes. There was no need to question them about who had instigated this. “Elladan, we will talk later. Now go home with your mother and behave.” Elrohir gave him a heartbreaking look and he quickly hugged the youngest twin, suspecting Elrohir had tried to stop his brother from carrying out this folly. “I am not cross with you,” he whispered into Elrohir’s ear. “Lindir?” Signaling for the white-haired Elf to approach, he placed Elrohir’s tiny hand in Lindir’s. “Take good care of him.”
Lindir lifted Elrohir in his arms and settled the little one safely in his arms. Then he pulled Elladan to his feet, and finding them shaky, he lifted the oldest twin as well, letting him sit on his shoulders.
Celebrian, fussing over her sons, now exchanged a glance with Elrond and then looked at Erestor. She knew why her husband wanted a moment with Erestor; he wanted to thank the Elf for saving Elladan’s life. Walking away, she continued to chide Elladan, who was now sulking.
Elrond turned to face Erestor and gave him a thankful look. “If it had not been for you I would have lost my firstborn.”
Erestor got to his feet. Water dripped from his hair and robes, but he didn’t feel the cold or the wet clothes clinging to his body. “He is alive.”
Signaling for Erestor to fall in step beside him, Elrond studied his friend’s face. “What made you come here?”
“Instinct?” Erestor wasn’t sure. “Does it matter?”
“I suppose not,” said Elrond thoughtfully. “I do not know why I let them wander off alone. I was wrong to not supervise them. Sometimes I forget what children are like at that age. I am immensely thankful you were in the right place at the right time”
“So am I.” Erestor gathered his wet robes around him and answered Elrond’s gaze. Both of them realized how close they had come to losing Elladan and were determined to keep a closer eye on the oldest twin.
Elladan shivered; he couldn’t believe he had caught a cold. It was unheard of among Elves, but then again, he was only half-Elven, like his father. Trembling, he clutched the warm blanket closer to him.
Celebrian and Lindir had put him and his brother in a tub filled with hot water, trying to warm them up. Elrohir, who was now placed beside him on the large towel, opened his arms and wrapped them around his waist. “I am sorry,” whispered Elladan in a guilty tone. It was bad enough that he had almost drowned, but even worse was that he had endangered his little brother. “I should have listened to you. The river is too dangerous; you were right.” Returning the hug, the two children held each other close. “I am so sorry…”
Elrohir sensed his brother’s sincerity and rubbed his back. “Don’t go back into the river ever again, Elladan. I was so scared when you went under.”
Nodding, Elladan knew very well that he could have died. “I will never do something like that again.” He didn’t want to see his younger brother distressed ever again, just because he had been too stubborn to listen.
Celebrian sat down behind her sons and pulled them close. The three of them remained like that, finding comfort in the embrace. They looked up when Elrond entered the room.
“Ada…” Elladan didn’t dare meet his father’s eyes. “I was so stupid.” Elrond was a loving and caring father, but always lectured him when he had done something stupid. “I won’t ever do it again!” Eventually he looked at his father. “I am so sorry.” If it hadn’t been for his father he would be dead now. He vividly remembered the dark hair fanning around him when he had been pulled to the surface.
Elrond, who had planned to be stern, suddenly sighed and sat down cross-legged, catching Elladan in his arms when the older twin flung himself into his arms. Elladan sobbed, clinging tightly to him and continuing to say how sorry he was. Elrond smiled, saddened. “I hope you learned your lesson today.”
“I did.” Elladan raised teary eyes at his father, his hero who had saved him from the cruel, dark river. “I will never be that stupid again.”
Elrond hugged Elladan close, exchanging a look with Celebrian. They hoped Elladan would be more careful in future. Now that Elladan was calming down, he handed his son to Celebrian, who rocked him soothingly. Next was Elrohir, walking toward him and nearly stumbling on a corner of the blanket he was wrapped up in.
Enveloping Elrohir in a warm hug, Elrond stroked his son’s hair. “You tried to stop him, didn’t you?”
“Elladan never listens,” said Elrohir in a serious tone. “I wish he did.”
Elrond marveled at his youngest. Even at this tender age Elrohir was exceptionally wise. It was very probable that Elrohir would have to keep his brother away from trouble for the rest of his life. His sons couldn’t be more different, but he loved them both unconditionally. “Maybe one day he will.”
Erestor exited the bathroom, wrapped up in warm towels and collapsed on his bed. Curling up, he tried to banish Elrohir’s desperate cries from his mind. But then another image appeared; Elladan, drowning in the river. By Elbereth, if he had been a moment later the youngster would have died!
/Died, death… Murderer!/ After having been silent all these years his father’s voice suddenly yelled at him. His birth had demanded his mother’s life in return… Had he now made up for it by rescuing Elladan? Had he finally redeemed himself?
But no, saving Elladan didn’t bring his mother back.
Closing his eyes, he sighed deeply and curled up on the bed. He loved the twins dearly and couldn’t imagine what life would be like if Elladan had died. “Elbereth, thank you for sparing his life.”
“Erestor, I asked you to join me for two reasons,” started Elrond, seated comfortably behind his desk in his study. Erestor now sat down opposite him, his arms crossed in front of his chest and letting his hair obscure part of his face. “First, I want to thank you again for saving Elladan’s life.”
Erestor felt strangely shy. “I acted instinctively.”
Elrond nodded. “I will never forget what you did.”
Erestor blushed and squirmed in his chair. “What other matter did you want to discuss?” The thankful look Elrond was giving him made him uncomfortable.
“I want to inform you of an addition to the household. Tomorrow Glorfindel will arrive. He will educate the twins in warfare, diplomacy and weapons' skill when they have reached the appropriate age. I want you to show him around, tell him what he needs to know. The two of you will work very closely together during the next few decades.”
Erestor swallowed hard; he never got along with strangers. “Glorfindel? Is this the reborn Glorfindel from Gondolin? I heard he had been granted a new body and was returned to Arda by the grace of the Valar.”
Elrond nodded. “Aye, that is the Glorfindel I am talking about. He should be an excellent seneschal and tutor. I want you to incorporate his teachings into the lesson plan for the twins.” Erestor had been in charge of the twin’s education for years now.
“I will adjust their lesson plan,” said Erestor, regretting he now had to share the twins with this intruder. But he also knew that Elrond was right. These were skills he couldn’t teach the boys. He hoped he would get along with the fabled Glorfindel.
Erestor watched the blond closely when Glorfindel dismounted. The Elda was a stunning sight. Long, flaxen hair reached his delicately curved hips and sea-blue eyes twinkled with life and energy. The blond was a divine vision and he quickly locked away his heart, knowing he was in danger of losing it.
Elrond smiled warmly at Glorfindel and inclined his head in greeting. “Welcome to Imladris, Glorfindel.”
“Thank you for your kind welcome,” replied Glorfindel in a formal tone.
Erestor’s heart strained against the bars of its cage, but the lock didn’t bulge at hearing the enchantingly soft tone. Glorfindel was an ethereal, magical creature and he quickly hid behind his cold appearance, glaring at the blond.
“Glorfindel?” Elrond signaled for the blond to follow him as he led the Elda over to where his wife was standing. “This is Celebrian, my beloved wife.”
Glorfindel bowed respectfully, charmed by her beauty. “My Lady, your star shines as brightly as Ithil during a full moon.”
Celebrian gracefully accepted the compliment. “Welcome, Glorfindel. And these are my children. Arwen is the youngest, my dearest daughter.” Arwen cooed at the blond when Celebrian continued, ”And these are the twins. Elladan is the oldest, and Elrohir the wisest.”
The two boys stared at Glorfindel in amazement. They had never before encountered an Elf who radiated as much warmth and beauty as Arien herself.
Amused with their reaction, Glorfindel sat on his heels and ruffled Elladan’s hair. “It is good to meet you. We will be spending a lot of time together.”
“Will you teach us how to ride a horse?” Elladan eagerly shuffled his feet. “And how to use a sword? And A bow?” He was literally jumping up and down with excitement.
Glorfindel laughed warmly at Elladan’s enthusiasm. “All that and more!” His gaze shifted to Elrohir, who stared him earnestly. “And you are Elrohir.” The boy nodded and then Glorfindel continued, “You look very serious for someone as young as you are.”
“Someone must keep Elladan out of trouble,” replied Elrohir calmly.
Glorfindel smiled warmly at the youngest twin. “And do you want to learn to ride a horse as well?” Seeing the youngster hesitate, he followed Elrohir’s gaze, which was directed at a dark-haired Elf. The first thing that struck him was the haughty expression in the dark eyes and he instantly disliked the other Elf.
“I like to study with Erestor,” said Elrohir eventually.
“Erestor?” repeated Glorfindel, puzzled.
Elrohir clutched his mentor's hand. “This is Erestor. He is my friend.”
Erestor had a hard time maintaining his cold composure at hearing Elrohir’s words. There was so much trust, so much love that sounded in that young voice, that it nearly caused his mask to crack in front of everyone.
Glorfindel got to his feet, straightened out his shirt and advanced on Erestor. He forced himself to nod in greeting. The cold expression in the nearly black eyes made him wonder why the boy liked his cold-hearted tutor. “Greetings, Erestor.”
“Greetings, Glorfindel,” replied Erestor in a clipped tone, but then Elrohir’s fingers tightened around his, tightly holding onto his hand, and he instinctively returned the hold.
Glorfindel missed it however, and turned away from Erestor to face Elrond. “I am looking forward to teaching your sons.”
“Good,” said Elrond, pleased. He had noticed the tension between Erestor and Glorfindel, but didn’t address it. “Erestor, will you show Glorfindel to his rooms?” He hoped the two would get along once they got to know each other.
Erestor nodded and signaled for the blond to follow him. Elrohir reluctantly let go of his hand and he gave the boy a warm look, hoping no one else had seen it.
Glorfindel followed Erestor through the long corridors, trying to memorize the route they were taking. “I hope that we will find a way to optimize the boys’ lesson plan.”
Erestor drew in a deep breath, trying to remain calm. He would never show how much Glorfindel’s arrival distressed him. He had seen the instant admiration in Elladan’s eyes and realized that he now had to share the twins’ love and affection with the blond, who would quickly become their role model and hero. /I cannot teach them how to ride a horse, shoot an arrow or wield a sword./
“I am confident we will find a way to adjust their lesson plan,” said Erestor in a neutral tone when they reached Glorfindel’s quarters. “I hope your rooms will be satisfactory. If they are not, please let me know.”
“Thank you.” Glorfindel’s eyes narrowed when Erestor began to walk away from him. Never before had he met an Elf that intrigued him right from the start. He could tell working with Erestor would be difficult at best, and getting along would be even harder, but he enjoyed a challenge.
Opening the door, he stepped into luxuriously furnished rooms. He headed for the bed and let himself fall onto it. Arms spread wide, he smiled. He had instantly liked his pupils and Elrond and Celebrian seemed very friendly. If only it weren’t for Erestor’s depressing presence!
“Well, I will just have to hope for the best!”
Beta read by Ilye, thank you!
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