Elladan, Celeborn and Elrohir looked up when Elrond and Erestor entered.
The first thing that struck Elladan was the fierce glow in Erestor’s eyes. Something had upset the advisor, which surprised him. He hadn’t known it was actually possible to shock the Noldorin Elf, who always appeared to be in complete control.
“Rumil is doing better,” said Elrond as he seated himself. A maid appeared to serve breakfast and Elrond ate with appetite, knowing he would spend the rest of his day in the open air, riding his horse.
Celeborn eyed his son-in-law closely, wondering what had changed since the last time they talked, but he couldn’t label the feeling. “Glorfindel told me what you did for Rumil and I want to thank you for that.”
“It was nothing,” said Elrond dismissively. “The hard part is still to come. His soul may have joined us again, but we must give him a reason to live or he will give in to the call of Mandos eventually.”
Elladan cleared his throat. “We would love to spend some time with him, but this morn’s patrol—“
Elrond cut his son short. “Erestor and I will join the patrol.”
Elrohir’s knife dropped onto his plate with a metallic thud. “Erestor and you? But Ada, respectfully, it has been centuries since you last wielded a sword - and what if you run into Orcs?”
Elrond studied his sons, realizing they had hoped to join the patrol. “Do you think I am no longer capable of defending myself?”
“Ada, I did not mean it like that, but –“ Elladan cringed, seeing the annoyed expression in his father’s eyes. “Aye, you might be able to fight off an attacker, but what about Erestor?”
“What –about- him?” said Erestor in a calm tone. He was annoyed that Elladan thought he couldn’t hold his own in a fight! But that was probably his own fault. The twins had never seen him wield a sword or shoot an arrow; they only knew him as a scholar.
Elrond grinned at seeing the very real emotion in Erestor’s eyes. “Elladan, Erestor fought at my side at the Last Alliance. He is a very skilled swordsman and his archery skills were legendary.”
“I may have neglected maintaining those skills,” said Erestor ruefully.
Elrohir watched the scene unfold with amusement. “Elladan, we should not begrudge them this chance at reliving the past.”
Elrond now also glared at his sons. “Reliving the past?” That made him sound ancient!
Celeborn raised his hands, trying to pacify everyone. “Elladan, Elrohir, we will spend the day with Rumil, whilst your father and Erestor lead today’s patrol.”
The twins agreed reluctantly. “But tomorrow it is our turn.”
Elrond’s glare changed into an amused glance. “We will see about that.” Exchanging a glance with Erestor he encountered a thoughtful look on his friend’s face.
Erestor quickly averted his eyes. He suddenly had second thoughts about accompanying Elrond. What if his mask slipped and Elrond realized the truth? He had to be extremely cautious.
Glorfindel involuntarily held his breath when the vacant expression in Rumil’s eyes changed to awareness. The younger Elf was waking up! What would Rumil’s initial reaction be like?
Rumil blinked several times, trying to establish where he was. Then the horrid memories flooded his mind and he wailed terrified, reliving his brothers’ deaths. “Hal…dir! Oro…phin!” His voice shook violently and his eyes filled with tears. He had lost his brothers! They were dead and he was alone now! Why hadn’t he died as well? He didn’t want to live like this!
“Shush now, Rumil, I cannot imagine your pain, but you do not have to bear it alone.”
At hearing the strange voice, Rumil’s eyes widened. Gradually he became aware of the fact that he wasn’t alone. A strange Elf was holding him close, stroking his hair. Still trembling, he blinked one more time. “Who… are you?”
“My name is Glorfindel and you in Elrond’s Last Homely House.” Glorfindel took pity on the younger Elf and explained, “Celeborn brought you here. He is extremely worried, you know.”
Rumil could only stare at the blond vision of beauty in front of him. “Glorfindel of Gondolin?” Haldir had regaled him with stories about the Balrog slayer when he had been little, and he had never thought he would ever meet Glorfindel in person.
The haunted expression left Rumil’s eyes. /Distract him! Keep him from reliving the past!/ Glorfindel slowly nodded his head. “One and the same.”
“Hal…” Rumil choked on his brother’s name. Haldir had always told him stories when he was little and now the emotional pain instantly returned. “I miss him… and Oro…” His voice faltered again and he buried his face in Glorfindel’s shirt, uncaring what the skilled warrior thought of his behavior. His heart was grieving, and the pain needed a way out.
Glorfindel tightened the embrace. “Let it out. Keeping the pain inside does not help.” His heart went out to Rumil, who sobbed in his arms. “It is the first step toward healing.”
“Who says… I want to… heal? I want to… die!” Rumil stuttered, his emotions getting the better of him. “I was almost there! I… could sense… them and then… Who pulled me… back?” Sobs wracked his body and he defiantly raised his eyes to stare at Glorfindel. “Who?”
“Celeborn asked Lord Elrond to bring you back,” said Glorfindel softly. “You must understand how worried Celeborn was. He refused to let you go after already losing Haldir and Orophin.”
“He should have… Let me go,” stuttered Rumil in an upset tone. “I am all alone now.”
“You are not. Celeborn loves you dearly, and Lord Elrond’s sons are eager to meet with you. And you also have me.” Glorfindel added that last sentence in a barely audible tone. By Elbereth, when had he felt like this for the last time? Could it be that he was falling in love?
“You?” Rumil looked at Glorfindel with a saddened expression in his eyes.
“Aye, me.” Getting nervous, Glorfindel opted for a change of subject. “Are you hungry? Thirsty?”
Rumil shook his head. “I do not care about food.”
“But you should! You need to regain your strength!” Glorfindel realized he was in for a fight. Rumil had a stubborn streak about him. “Let me send for some food.”
“I will not eat it.” Rumil stared chillingly at Glorfindel. “I do not want to live!”
Glorfindel sighed, deeply. “Rumil, it is not your time yet to dwell in Mandos.”
“How would you know?” Rumil screamed at him. “I am not supposed to be left behind! We belong together!”
“Rumil, I have been at Mandos and the Valar decided I was to go back and live again. They won’t allow you entrance.”
“But I was almost there! If only Elrond had not pulled me back, I would—“
Glorfindel cut him short. “The Valar would have turned you away.”
“Rumil, you must face life.” Glorfindel’s voice softened. “I know Arda holds little for you to live for, but believe me when I say that your place is here, not in Mandos.” Rumil’s glare made Glorfindel cringe. “You will understand in time.”
“You did not change my mind!” Rumil suddenly realized how tight his hold was on Glorfindel; he was holding onto the blond like Glorfindel was his lifeline. He tried to let go, but Glorfindel’s hold on him was strong as well and he resigned himself to the situation, growing silent instead.
Glorfindel’s heart broke at seeing the expression in Rumil’s eyes. “I am so sorry, Rumil, but we cannot let you leave for Mandos. Too many of us care about you and we will not let you go.”
Rumil remained silent. He wanted to be furious with Glorfindel, but couldn’t. He felt lonely and lost, and the blond was the only one he could hold on to. Involuntarily his hold tightened and more tears surfaced from the depths of his eyes. /Aiya, Haldir, Orophin, I miss you so much! Why did you leave me behind?/
Tremors coursed through Rumil’s body and Glorfindel returned to stroking the long hair. “Cry, Rumil, let go of the pain.” The younger Elf didn’t reply, but Rumil’s shoulders shook with violent sobs. Glorfindel whispered reassuring words into Rumil’s ear, kept on the caresses to the grey hair, and held him until the sobs died. Looking at the ‘Lorien Elf, he found Rumil’s eyes empty again. “Good, sleep. Time heals all wounds, even the mortal ones.”
Erestor shook his head at seeing his reflection in the mirror. He had exchanged his robes for a brown tunic and black leggings. At Elrond’s request he was also wearing a sword.
Recalling breakfast, he was still annoyed that the twins thought he couldn’t hold his own in a battle. /I have buried myself in books, and although I love to study, I should not have neglected my fighting skills. I hope we won’t encounter any Orcs or Uruk-Hai./
After gathering his courage, he draped a brown cloak across his shoulders and stepped into the corridor, heading for the courtyard where Elrond was already waiting for him to join them.
Elrond, already on horseback, approached. “Erestor! Hurry, we are ready to leave!” He was actually looking forward to inspecting the northern borders today.
Erestor mounted and steered his stallion closer to Elrond’s. Elrond looked breathtaking in his black tunic. A sword hung from his hip, and a quiver with arrows and a bow was on his back. “It almost looks like you are hoping we will run into Orcs.”
“You are right; I would not mind running into them.”
“I rather enjoyed the peace and quiet,” said Erestor, calmly.
Elrond blinked. /Is he teasing me?/ Riding out together was proving to be an excellent idea.
Erestor stayed at Elrond’s side when they left the courtyard and headed for the northern borders. Occasionally, he peered at Elrond, who seemed content and confident. /I love him so much, but I can never tell him./ Sorrow drowned his heart and he barely refrained from releasing a distressed sigh.
Elrond glanced at his friend and wondered about the distant expression in those dark eyes. /What troubles you, Erestor? And why won’t you tell me?/
Glorfindel had to go to the bathroom. It was as simple as that, but Rumil’s possessive hold made leaving the bed impossible. Growing nervous, Glorfindel began to stare at the doorway, hoping help would miraculously appear. Just when he was about to give up hope, Elladan and Elrohir entered. Signaling for the twins to approach, he whispered, “Help me. I need to visit the bathroom and he won’t let go.”
Elladan reached the bed first and managed to disentangle them. Elrohir rolled Rumil onto his back and suddenly found himself wrapped in long arms. “Help!” he squealed in turn when Rumil pulled him down.
Elladan chuckled softly, and was reaching to help his brother when Rumil grabbed his wrist, pulling him down as well. Elladan yelped softly when he collapsed on top of his brother. Rumil had succeeded in folding one arm around each of them and was now holding them close.
Glorfindel quickly got to his feet and laughed warmly. “I will be back to help you... in due time.” Hearing the twins curse softly, he entered the bathroom, relieved himself, washed his hands and returned to the bedroom. Once, long ago, he had seen the sea and an octopus; Rumil reminded him of that creature. “It almost seems like he has eight arms instead of two!”
Elladan scowled at Glorfindel. “Help us escape! He is squeezing the life out of us!”
But Glorfindel shook his head, amused. He sat down in a chair and watched the three of them. “Cute,” he decided, and smirked. “He has caught you.”
Elrohir released a resigned whimper, knowing Glorfindel would make them suffer for all the stunts they had pulled on their former mentor in the past. “Have mercy, Glorfindel!”
“Not yet,” said Glorfindel, jokingly. “First I am going to eat lunch and take a stroll in the gardens. The weather is lovely.” He would take pity on them in a few hours. Until then, Rumil was in good hands, and he could stretch his abused limbs; Rumil did have a strong hold.
“Glorfindel, please!” begged Elladan, but Glorfindel rose from the chair and left the room, chuckling softly. “I cannot believe he left.”
Elrohir glanced at his twin. “But he did and we should work on attaining a more comfortable position.” Elladan’s weight was pressing him down and he wiggled until Elladan managed to lie down on his side. Rumil immediately rolled onto his side as well and wrapped his legs around Elladan, making sure he couldn’t leave.
Elrohir lay now spooned behind the ‘Lorien Elf and resigned himself to the situation. “I am not sure I would be as strong as Rumil.”
Elladan looked at his brother questioningly. “Meaning?”
“I am not sure I could go on after losing you. You are so important to me, Elladan. I feel incomplete when you are not close. And Rumil lost two brothers, not just one. He must be hurting terribly.”
Elladan nodded. “Aye, he is very brave.” He paused, and eventually added, “I am not sure I could survive losing you either, Elrohir.”
“Let us hope we will never be put to the test,” Elrohir whispered, suddenly stricken at the thought of losing his brother.
Looking at each other, a weak smile surfaced on their faces. They would keep a close eye on each other and make sure they survived any danger they encountered.
Elrond stood in his stirrups, studying their surroundings. He had sent their escort into the opposite direction so they could check beyond the hills for intruders. Elrond judged it safer to remain back with Erestor, unwilling to expose his friend to any unnecessary danger.
“It does feel invigorating to be in the open again, does it not?” said Elrond, pleased, “We lock ourselves away in our studies too often.”
Erestor nodded once, enjoying the warm beams of the sun caressing his face. “It is a beautiful day,” he agreed. Locking eyes with Elrond, he was stunned to find the blue orbs radiating warmth and energy, and it made him fall in love with Elrond all over again.
Noticing the strange expression in Erestor’s eyes, Elrond leaned forward in the saddle. “I have been meaning to ask you if anything troubles you, mellon-nîn.”
“I am fine,” said Erestor quickly. “There is nothing for you to worry about.”
Elrond didn’t quite believe him and was about to question Erestor again when load roars echoed through the sky. “What?” Looking over his shoulder, he found that one of his archers was being chased downhill by a hoard of Orcs and Uruk-Hai.
“Lord Elrond, alert the others!” called out the archer, panting hard.
Elrond sucked in his breath when the Elf’s back was cleaved open by sword. Several of the feral creatures were heading their way, carrying the heads of their Elven escort on the tip of their swords.
Acting instinctively, he slapped the back of Erestor’s horse, and as it galloped away, he quickly followed, shooting arrows at the group of Orcs and Uruk-Hai. /I was careless! I should have been more alert!/
Erestor drew his sword, finding that more of the creatures were headed their way, this time closing in on them from the right. “We cannot outrun them!” He raised his sword, decapitating one Orc, but that only served to enrage the others.
Elrond’s breath caught, seeing one Orc launch himself from a branch. “Look out!” But his warning reached Erestor too late. The Noldorin Elf was knocked out of his saddle, and tumbled from his horse, still fighting off the Orc. Several others joined and began beating him.
Elrond stopped his horse, turned it around and charged. Wielding his sword, he managed to take down quite a few of the monsters, but in the end he was pulled from his horse as well and thrown onto the earth, receiving his share of the blows.
Suddenly the pummeling stopped and his eyes sought out Erestor’s. His friend maintained a calm posture, but he could see Erestor’s hands shake with anger at being a prisoner.
One Uruk-Hai, still carrying the white hand of Saruman on his face, stepped up in front of them. He spat onto the ground, and then eyed them closely. “Which one of you is Elrond, the ruler of Imladris?”
Elrond’s heart thundered in his chest. “Why do you want to know?”
The Uruk-Hai laughed. “Because I want to raid Imladris and ravish its beauty. But first I need to know about its defenses, and I am sure the ruler of Imladris can explain them to me!”
Erestor froze, realizing the Uruk-Hai’s intention. The foul creature would stop at nothing to retrieve the information it needed. “I am Elrond,” he said, ignoring the shocked expression in Elrond’s eyes. “I am Elrond Half-Elven.”
“No,” exclaimed Elrond in a shocked tone. “He is not!” What was Erestor thinking? He couldn’t let his friend do this! “I am Elrond!”
“Nice try,” spat the Uruk-Hai at Elrond, “but I don’t believe you.”
Erestor sighed relieved. The Uruk-Hai believed him to be Elrond, which meant the half-Elf was safe. “But I won’t tell you a thing.”
“We will see about that,” said the Uruk-Hai menacingly. “Take them to our shelter and make sure they don’t escape.”
Elrond was still staring at Erestor in disbelief when they were bound hand and feet. “Why did you do that?”
An Orc hauled him onto his feet and then slung him over his shoulder. “No talking, Elf,” he warned.
Elrond’s eyes fastened on Erestor. A Uruk-Hai draped the advisor over his shoulder and Elrond stared deeply into Erestor’s eyes. /Why?/
Erestor shook his head and closed his eyes. /Because I love you and do not want you to get hurt./
Beta read by Ilye, thank you!
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