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If you don’t mean it, don’t say it! by Laikwalasse

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If you don’t mean it, don’t say it!

A tranquil silence lay over the valley of Rivendell. It was a sunny day with a near incredible clear blue sky and no sound disturbed the peace.

Two Elf-Lords took advantage of this time and sat lazily in comfortable chairs on the balcony of Lord Elrond’s study discussing matters often neglected. Not the very important matters but things put aside due to lacking time.

The Lord of the house looked up from the quiet conversation with his golden haired seneschal, when he heard a knock on his study door. Arching an annoyed eyebrow at the interruption he stood unwillingly and shook his head. Could the peace not last a bit longer?

Before, however, he had the chance to invite the visitor, the door opened and a dishelved and breathless young elf appeared in the doorframe. Instantly the sarcastic thoughts vanished from his mind, seeing the worry on the younger elf’s face.

“I beg you pardon, my Lords,” the fair haired messenger spoke up, inclining his head toward Elrond and Glorfindel, “but I have an urgent message.”

The dark-haired Elf-Lord and his golden-haired advisor exchanged a quick glance and a frown appeared on both faces.

“What happened?” Elrond asked carefully controlled but worried, looking at the pale face and the desperate expression in the young elf’s eyes. A very bad feeling began to spread in his stomach. If someone stormed into his study in this manner something important must have happened.

Automatically his thoughts turned toward his sons. Estel and the twins were out on an errand to meet Rivendellīs foresters and were spent a few days with them discussing the management of the great forest surrounding and protecting the hidden valley. They were due to arrive home in a few days.

He didn’t remember the young elf’s name, but he knew he was one of those foresters his sons had joined this morning.
Taking a deep breath and not able to meet the Elf-Lord’s eyes the young elf shuffled uneasily not really knowing how to start. He had repeated the words he wanted to deliver over and over in his mind but now all words had vanished.

Seeing the other’s discomfort Glorfindel stood and forced the young elf to sit in a nearby chair, by laying his hands on the other’s shoulders and gently, but firmly pushing him down.

Too distressed to recognise the gesture, the messenger raised anxious eyes to eventually meet those of his Lord.

“A large orc-band attacked our group shortly after your sons had arrived. They came out of nowhere. We didn’t recognise the danger, until they were upon us. Three foresters were killed and one of your sons is badly wounded.”

Now it was said. The young elf hung his head. He had dreaded this moment all the long way home. Now some kind of relieve floated through him: the responsibility now lay on other, much more capable shoulders.

Elrond’s eyes had narrowed in worry and shock at the news and he quickly took a calming breath. He closed his eyes while searching for the bonds connecting him with his sons and sighed inwardly. They were intact.

Therefore at least the twins were alive. This connection of course expanded not to Estel.

Nonetheless something was not right. Something felt out of place. Now he could feel it clearly, it disturbed him.

He looked at Glorfindel and saw an equally worried face. He did not have to be a mind reader to know what the Balrog-Slayer was thinking. He loved the twins like his own, and the same was true for the young human.

Taking a deep breath Elrond shook his head.
This could not be. This should be a simple errand. Nothing important, nothing dangerous… but the young elf’s words had just confirmed the opposite.

Glorfindel also shook his head in disbelieve. Not at the other’s words, but at the unexpected happenings.

The forester’s camp was no more than half an hour away from Rivendell and quite within the range of the border guards. No orc should have been able to breech the border.
“It cannot be. Orcs within our borders and so near Rivendell. What new devilry is this?” he muttered more to himself, not really expecting an answer.

When Elrond had regained a bit of his composure, he addressed the young elf again. “Which of my sons is injured and how many others?”

Not really understanding this question the young elf raised puzzled eyes at his lord. What did it matter who was wounded?

Seeing the confusion in the other’s eyes Elrond sighed inwardly.
“I must know, is it Estel or one of the twins, because I need different supplies to help adequate and …..enough of them,” he said calmly.

Now understanding the young elf winced. “I’m sorry my Lord, I haven’t seen it myself, I was only informed briefly and urged to fetch you.”

Staring at the floor again the young elf began to tremble slightly.

“I failed you in not bringing detailed information, I’m sorry,” he stuttered not knowing how to solve the tense situation.

Elrond quickly stepped forward and laid a gentle hand on the youngster’s shoulder.

“No, it is I who must apologize and there is nothing to be sorry for,” Elrond said gently, “I’m glad that you have brought the message so quickly. I will need my big pack anyway, I fear.“

Nodding and raising careful eyes the young elf sighed and stood. Knowing that he was excused he bowed quickly, turned and fled the room to get away from the gloomy atmosphere.

The paralysis in the room, however, lasted only a few seconds.
As if someone had called a command to him, the Elf-Lord whirled around, all lethargy gone.

Looking at Glorfindel, he requested. “Please order all necessary, I will join you in a few minutes.”

The order not really necessary the blond warrior turned and was already on his way to prepare their departure. No one could have stopped him anyway if he could help the youngsters.

Elrond sighed and sent a silent prayer to every Valar listening, to spare the life of his son, whoever it might be, for another time.

Entering his chambers, he quickly changed his long robes for more suitable riding attire. Then he hurried down the long corridor into the first healing chamber he came across. Ignoring the inquiring looks the other healers gave him, he grabbed a bag and stuffed all kinds of healing supplies he thought necessary into it, nonetheless careful not to leave anything important behind. Sensing that something important must have happened and that now was not the time for questions the healers assisted their Lord as well as they could.

When the Elf-Lord turned, he nearly collided with Erestor suddenly standing in the doorframe.
“Would anyone be so kind to inform me what the cause of all this hurry is?” the dark haired advisor asked jokingly. Then seeing the worried expression on his friend’s face he stopped. He quickly stepped closer and grabbed the Elf-Lord’s arm.

“Elrond, what in the name of the Valar happened?”

Taking a deep breath Elrond looked at his friend.
“Erestor, some orcs have attacked the foresters’ camp. I must hurry, there are many wounded.”

During the short speech Erestor had paled. Orcs this close to Rivendell?
Knowing his Lord and friend for so long, Erestor however refrained from delaying the hurried departure with unnecessary questions.

This could wait until later. He only laid a steadying hand on the dark haired elf’s shoulder and nodded. He knew that it was fruitless to advise his friend not to worry.
“I will order what is necessary and will take care of the household, hurry and bring the young ones home.”

Words not really necessary between the long-time friends Elrond smiled gratefully and hurried past Erestor. Arriving at the courtyard shortly there after he found Glorfindel waiting for him with a group of guards and five other healers ready to depart. Gratefully, he recognized that Erestor had once again outdone himself and equally arranged all.

With a thankful nod and a deep breath, Elrond took the offered reins and after securing his big packs on the animal’s back mounted.
After a quick look around Elrond nodded, satisfied that Glorfindel had just selected the right amount of guards and the best-trained healers.

After a sharp command from Glorfindel the troop galloped through the gates determined to reach their destination as quickly as possible.

--------------------------------------------------------

With a shaky hand, Estel gently stroked the face of his elven brother. Silent tears ran down his cheeks, as he looked at his brother’s much too pale face. Nothing stirred, no one moved. Even the world seemed to have ceased it’s movements. Obvious to the unnatural silence around him, he pressed another thick patch of bandages on the deep wound in the older twin’s side and groaned because the blood flow refused to stop, it would not even slow down.

Not even daring to lift his gaze, fearing he would look in the angry face of the younger twin, he pleaded with all the Valar to spare the life of his brother.

“What is taking them so long,” he hissed after another while. Not really expecting an answer, he felt more helpless tears run down his cheeks. He was out of his mind with worry and he was angry. Angry and frustrated not to be able to help his brother, not to be able to prevent him from harm.

Then he laughed without joy. Elladan was always the overprotective one and now he was lying on the ground, pale, unmoving with a deadly wound in his side from a poisoned orc-blade.
And the worst of all: this was all his fault.

Sensing the young man’s inner turmoil Elrohir reached out and laid a gentle hand on his younger brother’s forearm. Angrily Estel shrugged the hand off, knowing that he was not worth the comfort.

Elrohir withdrew his hand and sighed, looking into the direction the help they sent for would arrive.

After what seemed an eternity with Elrohir nearly reaching the limit of his patience, he suddenly heard hoof beats coming closer and jerked his head up.

Not able to detect what had caught his brother’s attention Estel looked at the dark haired elf carefully. “They are coming,” Elrohir only whispered.

The young man sighed audibly, knowing that competent help was finally arriving. Indicating that he should stay with Elladan, Elrohir jumped up; turned into the direction of the oncoming riders and waited impatiently, until he spotted his father riding in front of the group. Anxious and relieved at the same time Elrohir stood there willing the horses to go faster.

Reaching the clearing the Elven Lord felt a tight knot building in his stomach, seeing the pale and tear streaked face of Elrohir. Knowing his sons all too well, he realized two things at once. One, it was not Estel lying injured, otherwise Elladan would stand there. Two, the look on Elrohirīs face confirmed his worry that something very bad must have happened to Elladan.

Looking thoughtfully at Glorfindel, Elrond dismounted and quickly closed the distance to his son. Wordlessly he embraced the shivering frame. “I’m here now.” he whispered gently.

Briefly melting into his father’s embrace, the younger twin sobbed, not able to form a coherent sentence. Remembering, however, their need to hurry, he stepped back and turned, pleading his father with his eyes to follow.
Understanding the silent plea the Elf-Lord followed his son and entered the small clearing.
The grief and despair there hit him like a physical blow. With a trained eye he looked around and saw at least five wounded and three dead lying on the ground wrapped in spare blankets to provide the smallest of comfort or cover the unfortunate.
He turned to instruct the others, but saw that this was not necessary. Glorfindel had already taken action and issued orders.

Feeling the intense gaze of the younger twin he knelt down at the side of his eldest. More than the pale face, the total lack of response from the older twin shocked him. He could barely register the shallow rising of the chest. His human son made no gesture to let him know that he had recognized his arrival.

He took a deep breath and laid his hand over that of the young ranger. “Let me see Estel,” he whispered. “I’m here now, let go.”

Not hearing his fatherīs request the young man refused to let go of the bandage patch. Elrond sighed and tried again, knowing that yelling or forcing the young man would snap the thin barrier of composure he was clinging to.
Closing his hand around the bloodstained hand of his adopted son he gently but firmly pried the clenched fingers loose. “Please Estel itīs alright now, let me see.”

This time the gentle voice seemed to penetrate the stupor the young man was in and Elrond could remove the hand.
Instantly the wound started bleeding heavily again and before he could get a proper look the healer was forced to press another roll of bandages against the hole.

He inhaled sharply as he imagined and felt with his senses for the deep wound. He had seen many wounds in his life, but he knew how this one looked: deadly.

He tried to calm his panicking nerves and slipped in his role as a healer, the only way to blend out all thoughts and do what must be done.

He took a quick look around the clearing again, realizing with relief that Glorfindel and the other healers had the situation under control. Now he could fully concentrate on the young elf before him and this was more than necessary.

Looking at his forster-son the Elf-Lord paled. Estel was as pale as Elladan and stared straight at him, without really seeing him. “Estel, are you injured too?” Elrond asked worriedly, but got no answer.

Instantly recognising the danger the young man was dragging himself into, Elrond slapped his human son across his cheek.
With a surprised yelp, the human returned to reality. He blinked confused and looked straight at his father’s grey eyes.

“I need your help here, Estel!” Elrond said softly, yet with a hint of command to prevent the man from sliding back into his shocked state.

Not able to follow his father’s request, Estel dropped his gaze.
“It was all my fault,” he whispered, no longer caring about the tears running down his face. The Elf-Lord frowned and looked questioningly at the younger twin who only shook his head.

Elrond sighed. This was Estelīs way to cope with such situations.
He always blamed himself entirely for what happened.
Elrond reached out and laid a hand on the young man’s forearm.
“Estel, we will speak about this later, now would you help me to tend to your brother?”
This time Aragorn swallowed and nodded.

Elrohir gave his father the poultice he had prepared in the meantime.
Elrond carefully applied the healing herbs over the wound, hoping that they would do their work and stop the bleeding; otherwise, he would not be able to stitch the wound.

After what seemed like an eternity, the blood flow lessened and Elrond began closing the long gash. The healer knew that this was only the first step, because the poison still raged in the young one’s veins. But one step at a time. Now the most important step was to stop the bleeding, otherwise they would no longer have to worry about the poison.

Meanwhile Glorfindel and the other healers had organized the transport back to the house of the other wounded and dead. Elrond was so absorbed with his work that he failed to notice much of what happened around him.

When he had finished closing the wound, he sighed tiredly and sat back on his heels. Elrohir carefully wrapped his brother in an extra cloak and pillowed his head in his lap. Elrond looked at the younger twin with worry. He had barely spoken a word since his arrival.
Elrond could clearly see the fine lines of pain in the younger twins face. As always when one of them was injured, the other twin tried to take away as much pain from his brother as possible.

Against this kind of pain however Elrond was powerless. If he wanted to help Elrohir, he first had to help Elladan.

A second later Glorfindel crouched down next to Elrond. “How is he?” he asked.
Elrond answered without looking up. “He has lost much blood and the wound is very deep. The poison didn’t help either. There is no chance of moving him now.”

Glorfindel nodded, not having expected an other answer.
“Then I will make camp for tonight.” Looking up, he addressed the young man. “Estel will you help me?” he asked.

After a brief hesitation the young human nodded and stood wordlessly.
Elrond nodded gratefully at his blond friend for his attempt to distract the human.

After that Elrond looked back at Elrohir. The younger twin looked as pale and fragile as his brother. He had closed his eyes and pressed his mouth into a thin line.

Elrond deepest worries crept back to the surface of his mind, as always in such situations.
To lose one twin means to lose both. He desperately shook his head. No, he would lose no one this night and surely not both of them, not if he could help it.

Making sure that Elladan at least lay comfortable and warm, Elrond stood and made his way to the nearby campfire Glorfindel had kindled in the meantime.

He gratefully accepted a mug of steaming hot tea Glorfindel offered him.
After a short time of awkward silence, Elrond looked up at Estel, who sat opposite of him, still avoiding his gaze, staring forlorn at the flames.

“Estel,” the Elf-Lord said quietly, “Estel look at me.”
The young man looked up and Elrond saw silent tears full of grief and guilt run down the young man’s cheeks.
Glorfindel moved closer and wrapped an arm around the youngster’s shoulder.

“Estel, tell us what happened,” the golden haired warrior inquired softly.
Despite the loving gesture, the young man shivered even more. “I cannot!” he whispered. “If you know the truth, you will hate me.”

Elrond’s concern increased. The young man always blamed himself for things that happened to his brothers or friends, but this was different. What could possibly have happened this time ?

He rounded the fire and sat next to Estel on the log. He took a cold and pale hand into his, until the young man finally looked up.
“Estel what ever happened was not your fault and regardless of what will happen you are my son and nothing, do you hear me, nothing will change that.”

Barely noticeable Estel shook his head. “No, Ada, this time it was my fault and I do not know how to live with it. “
Without a word Elrond opened his arms and the young man moved only too willingly in the loving embrace of his father.

Instantly the barely restrained tears begun to fall and sobs wracked the shivering body.
As Elrond whispered soothing words into his son’s ear, the young man clung even more tightly to his father and with a broken voice he began to speak.

-------------------------------------------
a few hours before

The two elves and the young human arrived at the foresters’ camp at midday and quickly discussed the topics at stake. The foresters invited them to their evening meal. Gladly the three brothers accepted.

“I will try to find something to add to our provisions,” Estel said and grabbed his quiver, ready to depart.
No sooner had Aragorn uttered the words, Elrohir cringed, knowing exactly what
Elladan would say.

“Be careful Estel, perhaps you should not go alone; we are not far from the borders.”
This was certainly the wrong thing to say, and Elrohir saw his younger brother stiffen.

For days, Elladan had hovered over Aragorn and constantly ordered him around. Elrohir didn’t know what had caused this overprotective behaviour all of a sudden. Elladan seemed to have completely forgotten, that Aragorn was a grown man now. He was always very protective of his younger brother, yes, but lately he really exaggerated a bit.

Before Elrohir had the chance to interject, Aragorn whirled around and glared at Elladan.

“Stop it! Please stop it Elladan. I’m not a child anymore. I’m perfectly able to look after myself. I don’t need your constant hovering over me. You are suffocating me, all of you. You never accept me for who I am. I am an adult now not the child that you still see in me!”

Without another word the man turned on his heels and disappeared into the underbrush, an angry scowl on his face.

The younger twin sighed. This had been going on now since a few weeks and he didn’t know how he could stop it; but when Elrohir looked at his brother, he paled.

He had not seen such a hurt and sad expression on his face since….since
He knew perfectly well since when. Since they came to late to save their mother.

Back then Elladan had vowed to himself, that he would never let come harm to someone he loved and cared for. Perhaps he had overdone it a little in the past few weeks, surely due to Estelīs coming of age. However, it had never been worse then today and Estel had assumedly overreacted, because Elrond had forbidden him to join a few warriors leaving to visit the Grey Havens this morning.

In addition, Elladanīs words had been adding to Estelīs feeling of containment.

Elrohir moved to his brother and laid a comforting hand on his shoulder.
“Don’t be angry with him, he didn’t mean what he said. No later than the evening, he will regret his words.”
Elrohir chuckled. “He’s a child after all.” Elladan only nodded.

Elrohir frowned. Perhaps Estelīs words had stung more that he had thought. On the other hand, Elladan had to realize that Estel was stretching his wings and no matter how much all of them would like it, they could not protect him forever.

Before Elrohir could say anything more they heard Estelīs scream.

------------------------------------------------------------

With a grim expression on his face, Aragorn followed the rabbit trail he had spotted.

He was angry. Angry with Elladan, but most of all angry with himself, that he had snapped at his brother like this. He would apologize to him when he returned. But he was right after all. He was an adult now and could not stand the permanent pampering any more. How could he learn, when no one let him experience things for himself? How could he learn from his mistakes, when he never got the chance to make them?

The thought that some mistakes could turn out deadly never crossed his mind and that Elladan did not restrain him to subdue him, but to protect him, he failed to notice.

Trudging along in his anger the young man forgot one important lesson his older brother had told him countless times before. Never to let your guard down.
He was so wrapped up in his self debate, that he missed the cowering rabbit completely and stumbled headlong into trouble.

Suddenly the forest grew silent, so silent that even Aragorn could hear it. And then from one moment to the other it darkened completely and it became very cold.

Without any warning, many orcs appeared at the little clearing out of nowhere. Before Estelīs brain had comprehended what just had happened, the orcs attacked with a ferocity he had never seen before.

Had he not been trained by elves he would be dead by know. Gathering his scattered thoughts quickly he defended himself, but not fast enough to avoid the scimitar that came crushing down.

He let out a painful cry as a sword sliced his upper arm and left a long bleeding gash.

He had barely uttered the cry, when two dark-haired elves entered the scene with a speed and agility, Estel could only stare at.

Before Aragorn could blink twice, the twins were on his side and charged the orcs. All anger was forgotten, as Elladan fought beside his little brother against the foul beasts.

Briefly locking eyes with the older twin Estel inclined his head gratefully, knowing that he would be dead by now, had the twins not acted so quickly. Shame and guilt blossomed in his heart, when he saw the open worry in his brother’s eyes. He had not meant what he had said earlier and he would apologize as soon as the situation allowed it. Again, the man was too wrapped in his thoughts to recognize the danger he was in.

An orc sneaked up behind him, and would have landed a lethal blow to his head, had the older twin not shoved the young man aside and charged the orc. To late to parry the blow, the scimitar sank deep into the elder twin’s side. With horror, the young man watched his brother`s face lose all colour and the body crumbled to the ground as if he was already dead.

Elrohir paled as well, seeing Elladan fall. Quickly he killed the last remaining orc and ran to his brother’s side.

The young man stood there as frozen. All seemed so surreal and all happened in slow motion. He was not able to move, he was not able to breath. How could this have happened? Only minutes ago he was complaining over something now completely unimportant.

Now his brother laid there, maybe dead by now and he had not the chance to say that he was sorry.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Aragorn’s last words were a mere whisper and he could not avoid the tears running down his face anew.

Trying to take a shuddering breath, the young man looked up, but he was not able to stand the gaze of the elves for long.
“It was all my fault, how can I ever look him in the eye. If he dies how can I live with this guilt?” Aragorn sobbed.

Elrond sighed deeply, while the shock still cursed through his body at Estelīs description and exchanged a quick glance with Glorfindel. To more or less guess what had happened was one thing, but to actually hear the gruelling details was a completely other thing. Nonetheless he pushed his worries back and leaned toward his youngest son, who now shivered violently, lost in his misery.

He gently lifted the chin of his human son with his finger. He waited until the young man had raised his eyes and looked at him. With a gentle voice, he began to speak.

“Estel you must understand that Elladanīs reactions concerning you are the result of his past experiences. When he lost his mother, he blamed himself for not being able to rescue her in time and nearly faded. As you know, he and his brother, but especially Elladan spent hundred of years venting his anger in killing every orc he could get his hands on and nearly lost himself in this process. He sold his soul for vengeance, all the time knowing that these actions would lead him to nothing, least of all to change past things that already had happened.
It took the strength of the entire family to convince him to stay alive and not take the blame. His destructive life however changed completely when you entered our family. Then he made a vow to himself that such a terrible thing would never happen again and that nobody under his care would be hurt again.
Through his cheerful act, he is able to hide perfectly his constant fear that he would not be able to protect someone he loves a second time.
Sometimes he oversteps his limits and runs past his goal, yes, but he always does this out of great love and care for you.”

When the Elf-Lord had ended a heavy silence lay over the three beings, sitting around the fire and when Aragorn had fully realized the Elf-Lord’s words, he felt even guiltier for the harsh words he had fired at his brother.
Seeing the man’s inner struggle the Elf-Lord sighed again.

“You should rest, Estel,” Elrond said, unable to spent more words of reassurance right now, because he himself didn’t know yet, if Elladan would survive the night.

Thinking about this the Elf-Lordīs worry raised another notch.
If the unbelievable happened and Elladan would die, Aragorn would be devastated. A sharp pain stabbed at the Elf-Lord’s heart. This might mean he would lose all three of his sons; a loss that he would not survive either.

Later that evening, Glorfindel had managed to calm the distressed youth a bit and convinced him, that even as he could not sleep he should at least lie down and rest.

Meanwhile Elrond checked the bandages tightly wrapped around the older twin’s abdomen again.

He sighed frustrated, seeing the fresh blood on the white linen. The wound refused to stop bleeding, surely a testimony to the poison still coursing through the younger elf’s body.
Carefully he replaced the soiled bandage and wrapped his son in another blanket to at least keep him warm.
The slender body shivered despite the warmth he emanated. Odd enough the body burned with fever, but felt at the same time the coldness that crept into every bone.

Wordlessly Elrohir lifted the body of his brother and carried him nearer to the fire. The younger twin was so wrapped up in his worry that he did not even notice what was happening around him.
He lay down right beside his brother, weary and exhausted and Elrond spread a blanket over them both, not even acknowledged by the younger twin in the slightest. Totally focused on his brother he didn’t recognize the outer world any more.

Gently Elrond stroked Elrohorīs forehead and looked in terrified and painful eyes.
A chill ran down the Elf-Lord’s spine. If Elrohir showed such sign of discomfort then Elladanīs condition had to be really bad.

--------------------------------------------------------

“Ada!”
Elrond awoke with a start at the shout, not even knowing when he had fallen asleep.
He blinked confused, but knew instantly, that something unexpected must have happened. The terror filled voice of his youngest son still rung in his ears.

In a flash he was on his feet, seeing his human son hovering over the twins. Crossing the short distance of the clearing by a dead run, he sank to his knees beside his sons and recognized instantly that something was very wrong.
The young man’s hands were shaking badly and his face was pale as a ghost.

“Heīs not breathing, Ada,” the young man cried, his voice nearly hysterical.
Freezing but for only a second, Elrond gently shoved the young man aside, rolled Elladan onto his back and brought his ear to the older twin’s mouth. He needed only two seconds to know that Estelīs examination was correct.

īValar, no!`, he thought as he quickly took a deep breath and covered the mouth of his oldest with his mouth to breath for him.

Glorfindel, also brought to full alertness by the man’s shout, knelt beside the three brothers and took the younger twin, who was as lifeless as his brother, into his arms.

Between the attempts to catch his breath and pressing as much air as possible into his son’s lungs, Elrond looked at the other twin to determine the source of his stillness.
Desperation begun to take a hold of his heart. He could not be in two places at once, but then the calm reasonable part of his brain registered that if he wanted to help Elrohir he first must rescue Elladan.

As he once again pressed his mouth over Elladanīs mouth, Estel let out another cry.
“I can’t feel his pulse,” he sobbed.
Elrond stopped in mid-motion, not believing what his youngest just had said. He pressed his fingers against the older twin’s neck and again the young man was right.

For a second the Elf-Lord felt panic try to drag him under, but then his long years of practice won out.
He quickly opened the older twin’s tunic and revealed his bare chest. With practised movements he positioned his palms right over the younger elf’s heart and squeezed the ribcage several times to animate the heart to function again.

Then he stopped and again pressed air in the lifeless body.
This routine he repeated countless times until he nearly doubled over from exhaustion.
He didn’t notice that Elrohir had fallen unconscious in Glorfindelīs arms.
After several more attempts without success, the Elf-Lord’s movements grew frantic, knowing that every passing second would reduce his son’s chance to live. He hit his fist forcefully at Elladanīs ribcage exactly over the heart not caring that he would leave a painful bruise there and he didn’t care anymore that tears ran freely down his pale face.

“Don’t do this to me. Elladan, come on,” he shouted.
Equally shaken by the dreadful scene in front of him Glorfindel observed with watery eyes. He had absolute faith in his friend’s abilities, but even the mighty healer had his limits. Elrond did all what he was capable of, but even he could not rival against the laws of nature.

Estel was beyond hysterical now. He sat nearby only staring blankly ahead and murmuring something like had he lost his mind. He was ready to accept fate when he heard a cough and saw the body of his brother convulse. Suddenly looking very alert, he couldn’t believe the sound he had just heard. The golden warrior was also stunned silent and didn’t know if he should laugh or cry, still holding the motionless body of the younger twin in his arms.

“That it is, Elladan, don’t give up,” Elrond cried and stroke the pale face of his oldest, all the while monitoring the weak struggle to return to life.

After a while, Elrond leaned back on his heels and let the relieve flood his body to wash away the panic. He didn’t however let go of the younger elf’s hand afraid that the loss of contact would recreate the disaster.
Then Elrond rebandaged the younger elf’s wound, bleeding again after the harsh treatment.

The Elf-Lord wrapped Elladan once more in a blanket and Glorfindel did likewise with Elrohir.
After long minutes, the tension in the camp eased somewhat.
Not so for Elrond. He knew that this time it was a near thing. He didn’t know if he would be able to do this again. With still shaking hands he lowered Elladan next to his brother near the fire, knowing that he could do no more at the moment.

Then he looked at the forlorn figure of his human son. Without a word he embraced him and for long moments they held each other in silent comfort.
Finally Glorfindel laid a hand on both shoulders. “We must cling to hope,” he whispered. “They need our strength now.”

Elrond nodded and accepted the outstretched hand to stand up. Estel remained sitting beside his brothers, not willing to give up his vigilance.
Elrond took a cup of steaming hot tea from Glorfindel and sipped carefully, staring at the flames.
“In the morrow we will break camp. We cannot remain here any longer. Here I cannot treat them properly and if they are… ” Elrond trailed off.
Glorfindel, perfectly aware of what his friend wanted to say laid a hand on his arm.

“Elrond do not…,” he started, but the Elf-Lord shook his head. “If they are going to die, then it should be at home.”
The golden warrior only nodded unable to find the right words. He could not give reassurance when he himself felt none.
The night passed uneventful but too silent for Elrondīs liking. He would have been glad for any life signs of the twins but they remained still und unconscious. Not that he had expected otherwise.

Estel had finally lost the battle with his body and had fallen asleep beside his brothers. Elrond had remained awake and had forced Glorfindel to take a few hours much needed rest.

Too tired to argue with his Lord he had relented, knowing that his strength would be needed the next days to come.
When the first rays of the sun touched Elrondīs face he closed his eyes, but a moan from Elrohir jolted him back to full awareness.

He was surprised to see Elrohir awake but looking at the glazed eyes, he saw that they were unseeing and distant. He laid his hands on each forehead and poured once again his strength into the weak bodies. As a gentle hand shook his shoulder, he awoke from his healing trance to look in Glorfindelīs concerned eyes.
“We are ready to depart.”

Elrond blinked confused. How long had he been in trance? Glorfindel had made a makeshift litter and had it attached between Elladanīs and Elrohirīs horses. Estel stood waiting, holding the reins and the ten guards only waited for the command to move on. When had the guards arrived?
Elrond accepted his friend’s outstretched hand once more and rose to his feet.

He swayed slightly but was able to steady his stance.
Glorfindel had lifted first Elladan then Elrohir into the litter and covered them with a heavy blanket.
After Elrond had checked on them, he moved toward Estel and looked at him.
“Don’t worry, Ada, I’m alright!” the young man reassured his father feeling uneasy under the close scrutinity. Elrond nodded, not in the slightest fooled by his son’s statement. Nonetheless he turned, mounted his horse, as did Glorfindel and gave the sign to move on.
He winced when he saw the jostling of the litter by the horseī movement and knew, what this would do to his son’s injuries.

-----------------------------------------------------------


The journey home could only be described as a nightmare. Not only that the road seemed never ending, but also the terrain appeared the rockiest Elrond had ever seen.

Just imagination, off course, but a worried and tired brain never recognized that. Rivendell could be not that far off?
After endless hours the Elf-Lord doubted that he had ever travelled this road and would reach home in time.

Every time the horses took a misstep, Elladan moaned and the Elf-Lord dismounted and checked on him, until he was to weary to remount again. He trailed beside the litter yet unwilling to stop not to lose more precious time. Ignoring the stern glance Glorfindel shot him, he set his jaw and focused his sight into some sort of tunnel, with the only purpose to reach his goal.

Estel, as weary as his father by now, rode behind the litter after Glorfindel had taken the reins, more able to navigate the horses smoothly over the uneven ground.
Estelīs gaze was fixed on the pale faces of his brothers, and so he overheard only a fragment of a comment the guard riding behind him had whispered to his companion.

“… disobeying orders and incompetence leads always into disaster.”

Estel hung his head. To weary to answer anyway, he knew they were right.
The mess they all were in was his fault.

Had he not argued with Elladan they certainly had recognized the orcs in time. Had he followed his brother’s advice, Elladan would not have to step between him and these damned orcs to protect him.

He swallowed the lump building in his throat. The old fear, not to be accepted among elves and judged as the weak human he was, crept back to the surface of his mind.
He had tried so many years to act and behave like an elf, that he sometimes had forgotten he was none.

Elladanīs permanent hovering over him constantly reminded him of this fact he so desperately tried to ignore.
What his mind did not recognize, was the fact that no one expected from him to be more than he was - a human.

Moreover, the twins’ over-protectiveness came exactly from that reason. To protect a beloved brother who could not act as swift and strong as an elf because he was none.
They had no intension to disgrace or humiliate him or forestall his efforts, they only wanted to keep him from harm.

And he always pushed them aside. His father, his brothers, Glorfindel, Erestor.
But most of all his brothers. How could he not have seen it until now ?

And now it was probably too late.
His train of thoughts was interrupted when Elrond, walking in front of him, stumbled in the growing dark. Aragorn had not really seen the accident, it was far too dark by now for him to see anyway, but rather heard the more angry than surprised yelp of his father.

The young man dismounted quickly to come to his father’s aid.
Before he was able to lend a helping hand, the Elf-Lord regained his balance and brushed off his hand.
“I’m fine Estel, stay mounted, you are weary,” was the harsh reply.

Without another word Elrond turned and checked again on the twins.
Estel stood there shocked. Another rejection.

During the following hours, the young man was so wrapped in his destructive thoughts that he didn’t realize that they had finally had reached the valley.
Completely exhausted he sat on his horse, as if the hectic activity around him didn’t bother him at all. Really detached he watched as more healers came running into the courtyard and helped their Lord to carry the injured brothers into the healing wing of the house.

When Elrond and Glorfindel had brought the twins inside and the flurry of movement had abated somewhat he slipped from his horse and handed the reins to a stable hand, still there to take care of the wearied horses.

Seeing the deep lines in the young man’s face the elf stepped closer.
“Estel, are you alright?” he asked, but the young man didn’t really hear him. Looking at the groom, as if he had never seen him before the young ranger trudged toward the house, leaving a confused friend behind.

Slowly he mounted the steps to the main house, knowing full well that he could not see his brothers right now, because Elrond certainly was very busy and didn’t need any disturbance.

Nonetheless, he trudged toward the healing wing and stopped dead in his tracks, hearing the soft-spoken words of two members of Elrond’s staff standing outside the doors leading to the healing wing.

“I never understood why Lord Elrond had taken this human in. He always produces trouble and now he is responsible for this mess here.”
“Nonsense,” the other replied, “it was an accident and…..”

At this time the door opened and a healer hastened past them. The two servants stopped abruptly, surprise and guilt on their faces.
Aragorn had no eyes for the healer or the heart to ask the most urgent question, but stood frozen to the spot.

They blamed him for this situation and they were right, and there was only one route he must follow now. Enough was enough. At this point the last sane shreds of his mind snapped and the long held tears begun to fall. He knew exactly what he must do now.

He had to get out of this house and far away from this valley not to cause any more harm.

His father would understand this. No, he would be glad to be rid of him. He had always known it; he attracted danger everywhere he went.

In the twilight of the new day the young man slipped unnoticed outside and was gone. No one had seen him, no one had even noticed what drama had taken place and according to Estelīs opinion, no one cared.


------------------------------------------------------

Elrond wearily leaned back in his chair rubbing his temples with his fingertips to chase away the headache that had taken permanent residence there.
He looked at the large bed occupied by his sons and if he hadn’t known better, the scene looked almost peaceful. The twins lay side-by side and slept, but the Elf-Lord knew that the sight was deceiving.

Elladan was deeply unconscious and already on his way to Mandosī halls, if no miracle happened and Elrohirīs, condition wasn’t any better.
The close bond they shared dragged Elrohir down the dark path his brother walked on.
One face was as pale as the other and their eyes were disturbingly closed.
During the last hours, Elrond had done all in his power and more to save the life of his sons but all efforts seemed fruitless.

Elladanīs injury was severe and he had lost so much blood already that Elrond wondered how it came to be that he was still alive.
The fate of his sons lay once more in the hands of the Valar.

Elrond looked up when he heard someone opening the door. Full expecting his youngest son to enter, he was surprised to see Glorfindel slip silently into the dark room, worry and concern still etched on his face.
“How are they?” he asked silently.

Elrond sighed. “They are still alive, and that’s the good news,” he said, despair lacing his voice. Glorfindel knelt by his friend and looked straight into the grey eyes.

“As long as they live, there is hope. You should not give up on them. Come you should take a break. I have prepared something to eat for you and you should look after Estel. I haven’t seen him since our return. I think he needs a little comfort.”

First Elrond wanted to protest, but then he realized that his friend was right. Too weary to resist anyway, he took a last look at his sons and slowly rose to his feet. He should take a short rest, if he collapsed now, he would help no one.

“You are right. Inform me if anything changes. I will go and find Estel. I have neglected him far too long,” he said with guilt in his voice.

Glorfindel only smiled confirming his friend’s request and he took the vacant place.

When the dark haired elf had closed the door behind him, he took a deep breath and leaned his head on the cool wall to compose himself. His youngest needed comfort, but would he take some?

After a while, he walked down the hallway, one part of him relieved to escape the despairing atmosphere of the room, the other part never willing to leave his sonsī bedside.

Taking another deep breath he knocked on Estelīs door. He listened intently but no response came. He carefully opened the door, not willing to disturb his youngestī sleep.
Slipping into the dimly lit room, he recognized that the room was empty and the bed untouched. Not a single sign indicated that the young man had been here recently.

Elrond sighed and closed the door. He hurried down the corridor, hoping to find his youngest in the dining room, but this room was empty as the one before.
His frown deepened. Where could he be?

Suddenly Elrond realized that Estel had not once asked about his brothers. Usually the young man was permanent hovering if one of his brothers was hurt, but this time…..Elrond suddenly shivered. Something was wrong. He could feel it.
When he rounded the corner to check the Hall of Fire he nearly bumped into Erestor, carrying a tray with food.

“I’m sorry Erestor, but have you seen Estel?” Elrond asked the dark-hair elf in front of him.
After Erestor had managed to steady the swaying tray, he shook his head.
“No, in fact I haven’t seen him since your arrival. I’m already on my way to bring him this.“ He indicated at the tray.
“You can save your way, he’s not in his room, and I can’t find him anywhere,” Elrond answered his stomach now knotting into a tight ball. What has happened to Estel?
Erestorīs softly spoken words ripped him out of his dreadful thoughts.

“Then I will help you search. The house is great, but not so great that we could not find this wayward son of yours.”
Elrond smiled gratefully already on his way down the long corridor.

--------------------------------------------------------------


After two hours of fruitless searching, it was clear that the young man was neither in the house nor in the near surroundings of Rivendell.
As Elrond received this message his worries and concerns mounted into fear.

No-one had seen or spoken to Estel since their arrival yesterday evening.
All attention was fixed on the twins. Elrond’s guilt for not looking after his youngest intensified and stabbed at his heart.

Then he sighed in frustration. The young man was certainly so wrapped in blaming himself that he had seen no other way but running off. Elrond was nearly sure that this was the reason for the young man’s disappearing.

Elrond hung his head. He had failed in comforting and reassuring his youngest and now he was gone. He was about to lose his twin sons, but he was not willing to lose Estel as well, but what could he do right now? Where might the young man have gone?

He had left all behind: his pack, his weapons, provisions, and his horse.

Elrond was torn. One part of his heart demanded to remain at the twins’ side the other part cried out to go after Estel and to make up for his failure the day before.
As if sensing the indecision, Glorfindel laid a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “Take care of the twins, I will search for Estel and bring him back to you.”

Elrond raised grateful eyes to meet this of his long-time friend. If anyone was able to find the young man, it was Glorfindel

-----------------------------------------------------------------

The young man stumbled and fell to his knees never knowing how long he had run. He had long lost any sense of direction. The only thing he knew was that he was too weary to rise again.

He scrambled on all fours to a nearby oak and curled himself up into a ball, blocking out the world. All he wanted was to simply lay here and never move.
Tears ran down his cheeks and he shivered in the chill morning air. His mind was spinning and he couldn’t catch a coherent thought. He had left the only place he ever called home and all the people he loved, but he didn’t know how to go on.

If his brothers died he wouldn’t be able to look into his father’s eyes and the Elf-Lord certainly wouldn’t want him around anymore. His world only existed of misery. The only thought having taken hold of him was that of despair. He closed his eyes pretending that when he did so his misery didn’t exist, but it didn’t work, of course and so, he lay there, not paying any attention to his surroundings.

-----------------------------------------------

Legolas increased his pace, willing to reach his destination before nightfall. Not yet knowing what ill had befallen Rivendell, he listened happily to the song of the trees, but suddenly the song changed and became mourning and restless.

Straining his senses, he felt that there was no danger lurking, but nonetheless something was wrong.
His senses on full alert now, he walked on, ever wary of his surroundings. What could possibly have happened in the tranquil valley?

He looked so intently at the trees, every minute awaiting an evil to materialize there, that he nearly stumbled over the hunched figure on the ground. He quickly regained his balance and knelt carefully beside the motionless figure beneath the old oak.

Resheating his quickly drawn knives he reached out to the fallen man, sensing that no evil came from him.
His eyes grew wide when he recognized who was lying there.
His blood run cold and his heart begun to beat furiously, as he shook the young man carefully.

“Estel can you hear me?” he asked with a shaking voice. Getting no reaction the fair haired elf turned the young man on his back, feeling the clammy skin and seeing the tear streaked face. He let out a relieved breath. Praise the Valar, the man was alive.

He quickly searched the body for injuries, but to his puzzlement he found none.
With a pleading voice he took the pale face into his hands and shook the man again gently. “Estel please wake up, my friend.”

His heart nearly jumped with joy as he heard a moan and saw that the closed eyelids fluttered. Aragorn blinked and looked confused at the figure hovering over him. “Legolas?” he asked unbelievingly. Quickly masking his fears and worry, the blond elf smiled and helped the young man sit up.
“Yes my friend, it’s me. What are you doing here all alone?”
Legolas removed his cloak and slung it around the shivering shoulders. Then he gazed intently in his best friend’s eyes surprised that the man avoided his gaze.
“Estel, what in the name of the Valar happened?”

Since the man still didn’t answer only stared right through him, the elven prince was at a loss how to react. And his worries mounted a notch. What had caused the distress the young man was lost in?

Feeling worried, the prince wrapped the man into a gentle embrace and whispered in his ear.
“Estel, please tell me what happened, you frighten me. I’m worried about you.
Nothing can be so bad that you cannot tell me and then let us return home, your father certainly….”

At that moment, the young man tensed and jerked away.
“No, no,” he muttered. “I cannot go back, I never can.”

Legolas, now sitting on his haunches, looked at his friend with shock. Never had he seen his best friend in such a despaired state. His heart constricted. What had happened at Rivendell?

This was the only place Aragorn could always go to, but now it seemed that he only wanted to be away from there.
Legolas was surely no healer, but even he realized that the young man was near a mental breakdown.

A very bad feeling begun to build in his stomach and the elven prince was nearly afraid of his next question. But he had to know.
“Estel, please tell me, why you can’t go back home….”

Legolas paled and trailed off as the young man jerked up his head and stared at him with such guilt in his eyes that it nearly hurt physically.

“Do you not understand, Legolas? I killed them. I’m responsible for their death, because I was stubborn and thick-headed, as always. I cannot go back, because they would throw me out, as they should have done a long time ago.”

Legolas ears rung from Aragornīs shouting, but much worse was the pain in his heart when he realized what the young man just had said.

“Your brothers? You speak of your brothers, Estel?” he asked, although he knew the answer already.

The man raised his eyes again and calmness had suddenly spread over his features; that frightened the elf more than the despair before.
“Yes, I speak of my brothers. They are dying or already dead by now because
of me!” he said so emotionless, that Legolas had to blink, to make sure it was still his best friend before him.

He reached out with his hand to comfort the man, but Aragorn backed away.

“Estel, please, I cannot believe that it was your fault whatever happened and certainly no-one would blame you……”

The man yelling at him interrupted a second time Legolas.

“They have already done it, Legolas, but anyway, I cannot live with this guilt any longer.”
Legolas was shocked, at a complete loss of the right words, as the man scrambled to his feet and ran into the undergrowth. Before the elf could even blink he was out of sight.

---------------------------------------------------------------

Glorfindel stepped into the twins’ room and closed the door silently. A cold hand gripped at his heart, seeing Elrond leaning over the bed with tears running down his pale face.
“Elbereth, no,” he thought as he stepped closer, fearing that Elrond had lost the battle.

Since their arrival two days ago, Elrond had done all in his power and beyond to save Elladanīs and with it Elrohirīs life, but nothing seemed to show any success.
Elladanīs injuries were too severe and it seemed he was beyond helping.

Elrond had pored so much healing energy in the weak bodies that he hadn’t much left for himself. Two times Glorfindel had witnessed his friend’s near collapse but he knew that Elrond wouldn’t stop until he either had saved, or forever lost his sons.
The golden-haired Elf-Lord was wrenched from his thoughts when he saw that Elladan was awake. He blinked to make sure that what he saw was right.

Elladan definitely looked at his father and tried to say something, but Elrond laid a gentle finger on his son’s lips.
“Don’t speak, Elladan,” he whispered, “You must save your strength.”

Elladan closed his eyes, but opened them again when he felt his father’s hand on his forehead. With effort the young elf turned his head to the side and looked into his brothers pale face.
“Don’t worry, Ada,” the older twin whispered and squeezed his father’s hand, “we will be fine.”
Elrond not able to say anything right now only nodded.

Elladan closed his eyes and fell back into a deep sleep but this time it was a good state.
Elrond silently rose and placed a kiss on each forehead. Then he gazed at his advisor, relieve clearly visible on his face.

Glorfindel laid a comforting hand on his shoulder. “See,” he said, “no shadow can last forever. And now I will depart, to find that human child of yours. I think this news will do him good.”
--------------------------------------------------------------------------

Before Legolas had a chance to react, the man was gone.

He quickly gathered his belongings to follow the man, because he knew, if Estel wanted to disappear, he would and then it would be hard to track him, even for an elf.

Legolas on the other hand doubted the man’s abilities at the moment due to the state he was in.
About to sprint after his friend, he heard hoof beats coming closer.
Wonderful! This was just the kind of distraction he needed right now.
Quickly he crouched behind a tree and carefully watched the path coming from the hidden valley.

Seeing who was approaching, he heaved a great sigh of relieve. First, because he was not forced to fight and second because the golden-haired Elf-Lord was exactly the person he needed right now. When Glorfindel neared his hiding place, he stepped around the tree and laid his hand over his heart.
“Mae govannen, Lord Glorfindel.”
Glorfindel rained his horse and dismounted, surprised to see the prince of Mirkwood so near Rivendell.

“Mae Govannen, Legolas Thranduilion. I’m glad to meet you. I’m in search of young Estel. Have you seen him around here?”

Legolas nodded and raised concerned eyes at the Elf-Lord.
“Indeed I have, my Lord. Only a few minutes ago albeit…..”

Frowning the golden warrior laid a reassuring hand on the younger elf’s shoulder.
“What happened, Legolas?”
With a few words, the wood elf told how his encounter with his best friend had shocked him and what Estel had told him.

Glorfindel sighed and indicated the young elf to follow him.
“Two days ago Elladan, Elrohir and Estel were involved in an orc fight. Elladan was wounded badly and Estel blamed himself, because he didnīt follow Elladanīs advice.”

Legolas shuddered hearing the bad news. Now he could understand the man’s irrational behaviour.

Only now did Legolas realize the consequences of the information Glorfindel gave him.
If Elladan was gravely, or in the worst case, deadly wounded, then Elrohir would follow his brother to the halls of Mandos soon. A great wave of despair washed over him.
Feeling the strong emotions, Glorfindel stopped and wrapped an arm around the distressed elf’s shoulder.
“Don’t worry, Legolas. Elladan has woken before I left and it seems he will recover.”

Surprised and deeply relieved Legolas closed his eyes momentarily.
“Come on, young one,” Glorfindel urged him, “let us find that stupid youngster and tell him that he has no reason to run off.”

Legolas didn’t move as a sudden memory of what Estel had said came back to him.
“What is it?” Glorfindel frowned.
“Someone must have blamed Estel. I think that is part of the reason why he run off,” Legolas whispered.
Glorfindel stared at the blond elf unbelievingly.
“No-one would blame Estel for….”, he trailed off, suddenly not so sure what he wanted to say.
A thoughtless spoken word at the wrong moment could do enormous damage.
Estel was always full of self-doubt and if someone unintentionally or on purpose had said anything wrong….

Glorfindel swallowed.
“Hurry up, Legolas. We must find him.”

------------------------------------------------------------------

Elladan opened his eyes and looked at his mirror image, lying right beside him. Elrohir had his eyes closed and looked as weak as Elladan felt.

He brushed his finger lightly over his brother’s cheek and smiled as Elrohir wrinkled his nose, to get rid of the irritation.
Finally the younger twin opened his eyes and looked deeply into the grey eyes of his brother.
“Iīm glad you are back,” he whispered, returning the loving gesture.
Elladan smiled. “Thank you for going the way with me.”

The door to their chamber opened and Elrond slipped inside, a smile instantly on his lips as he saw both of his sons awake.

He sat down on the edge of the bed and checked both foreheads with his palm.
“Welcome back, my sons. How do you feel?” the Elf-Lord asked gently.
“We are fine, Ada,” said both in unison.
“Yes, of course,” Elrond smiled but refrained from telling them how he saw this.
“There is a long way ahead of you both but for now you should rest.”

Elladan closed his eyes to weary to argue with his father right now, but Elrohir looked around, as if searching for something.
“Where is Estel, Ada?” he asked.

The Elf-Lord couldn’t mask his worry quick enough and Elrohir recognized it immediately.
“Ada, where is he?” he asked alarmed.

Alerted by his brother’s voice Elladan opened his eyes again and looked at his father too.
Elrond sighed, knowing that he could not get away with it.
“Estel has run off, because he blamed himself for what has happened.”

“What?” Elladan all but shouted and tried to rise, wincing as the harsh movement stabbed into his injured side.
“Calm down, Elladan”, Elrond adviced sternly seeing the pain in Elladanīs face.
“Glorfindel is out there searching for him. Please try to rest, you are far from healed at the moment. The same for you Elrohir!”
Elladan opened his mouth to protest but saw in time the warning glare of his brother and the tired and worried face of his father.

He took a deep breath.
“Please find him so I can kill him,” he murmured half asleep by now.

Elrond smiled as both young elves had closed their eyes and even breathing told him that they were asleep. Some things never changed.
------------------------------------------------------------

Estel sank to his knees, to weary in mind and body to rise again. He knew Legolas would soon catch up with him, but he didn’t care anymore. His mind was beyond reasoning.
The only thing he wanted was to end his misery right here and now.
He pulled his dagger from its sheet and placed it over his heart.

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” he whispered, tears blurring his vision completely.

Legolas froze, as he saw the upraised dagger in Aragorn’s hand. Glorfindel raised his bow to prevent this mad intention. But before he could release the projectile he heard the young elf’s cry. No longer able to make out a clear target the golden warrior lowered his bow.

“Estel, no!” Legolas cried and leaped forward to reach his friend.

Before Aragorn could blink, Legolas was upon him and hit the dagger out of his hand and reach. Lying on top of the violently shaking young man, Legolas looked shocked into his best friends clouded eyes.
No longer able to contain his anguish Legolas grasped the young man’s shoulders. “Are you completely mad?” he yelled at the man lying beneath him.

The young prince shook his friend violently, not realizing that Estel had ceased his movements completely. Too angry, frustrated and sad, Legolas was unable to sort through his feelings

After regaining his own composure Glorfindel rushed toward the struggling friends on the ground.

He laid a comforting hand on Legolas shoulder. “Calm down, young one, it’s over.”

Legolas removed his still shaking hands from the young man’s shoulders and sat beside him on the ground. He could not grasp what he just had witnessed. Elves treasured life too much to throw it away, but what his shocked brain did not register was the fact that humankind did not have the opportunity to fade or go to the blessed realm to be healed from their soul-hurts. They must live with their grief with no chance of healing.

Glorfindel helped Estel into a sitting position and embraced the motionless man gently.
“Sht Estel, it’s alright. Calm down, all will be well.”

Now the young man again began to tremble violently and that was the moment all restraints broke. He cared no more who witnessed his breakdown.

“Nothing is alright and will never be,” he choked out nearly unable to speak. He clung on Glorfindelīs shoulder and soaked his tunic with his tears.

Glorfindel sighed, released his hold on the young man and took his face between his hands, to gently force the man to look at him.

“Estel,” he said calmly. “Child listen to me. You have no reason to run off. No one blames you, for what has happened. In addition, if you allow me one more sentence to say: Elladan woke up this morning and he and Elrohir will recover.”

Still in too much turmoil, the young man shook his head, not able to comprehend what the golden elf had just said. After a while, Estel looked at Glorfindel, as if the Elf-Lord had spoken in a language he didn’t understand.

It needed a couple of moments more until the words had penetrated his grief-numbed brain.
“Really?” was the only word he was able to utter.

Glorfindel smiled. “Yes, Estel and now let us go home, your father is nearly mad with worry about you.”

The young man hung his head.
“I’m sorry I’m a big oaf,” he muttered, not able to look at his friends.

“That you are,” Legolas retorted as he stretched out his hand to help the young man stand.

As Aragorn stood on wobbly feet Legolas embraced him fiercely.
“Don’t do this ever again,” the blond elf whisper into a rounded ear.

As the young man only nodded, Legolas released him.
“Thank you”, the man whispered, yet in his eyes was more gratitude then words could have expressed. Legolas embraced the young man again and held him close until both had regained a bit of their composure.

---------------------------------------------------------

Elrond stood impatiently on the steps of his house gazing intently toward the gates. A guard had brought the message only minutes ago that Glorfindel, Estel and Legolas were on their way back home.

The Elf-Lord smiled. The young prince of Mirkwood had an unmistakable sense of foreboding. He was exact the person Estel needed right now.
Indeed he did not know what happened but he could guess pretty well.
Elrond rubbed his weary eyes. He would find out and then he would do what he ever could. Talk, comfort and be there for his young ones.

Only minutes ago, he had fought a quarrel with Elladan about their different opinions of how long he was to stay in bed. Elrond smiled. It was a fight he and the young ones always had.

Elladan was obliviously in pain and even Elrohir was far from healed, so Elrond had ended the discussion quickly.

Left was the worry about Estel.

Elrond looked up as he heard hoof beats nearing the courtyard. His smile faded when he took in the sight before him.
On Glorfindelīs horse sat the Elf-Lord, Legolas in front of him and in his arms was Estel.
His worry increased as he saw the man’s closed eyes and the bobbing of his head with the movements of the beast.

As the horse stopped in front of him Glorfindel dismounted lightly.
Seeing the growing frown on his friend’s face, the blond warrior quickly stepped closer.
“Don’t worry, Elrond. He’s alright. He’s asleep and totally exhausted.”

Elrond sighed relieved, yet, looking in the blond warrior’s eyes he knew there was more to this story and he was very intent on finding out.

He received the sleeping man from Legolas arms. “Mae Govannen Legolas. I’m glad to see you.”
Legolas smiled back as he handed his sleeping friend into the Elf-Lord’s arms.

“Mae Govannen, Lord Elrond. I’m glad to be here, too.”

With a nod of thanks toward the two golden haired elves, Elrond hastened up the stairs to grant the man a proper rest. After he had removed his clothes and had
tugged the young man in, Elrond poked the dying fire to new life and sat in a chair standing beside the bed.

A long time he sat there only watching his son sleep. Hours later, hearing a soft noise, the Elf-Lord opened his eyes, not knowing when he had finally fallen asleep. A smile spread on his face when he saw his youngest awake.

He rose from his chair and sat on the edge of the mattress. He simply opened his arms and embraced the young man, shuddering again, as he remembered the story Glorfindel had told him about what had happened in the forest.

Estel melted in his fatherīs arms only too willingly and silent tears shook his frame.
“I’m so sorry, father. Sorry for all the worry I caused you. I never intended to,” Estel sobbed into the soft robe.

Elrond broke the embrace after he had steadied himself to speak and lifted the young man’s chin with his finger.

“Estel, it is I who must apologize. I’ve not seen the grief building up in you, but you must promise me one thing. If there is ever again a problem you cannot handle yourself, please talk to me. We will solve it together and regardless what others say, you are my son and I love you with all my heart, no matter what happens and nothing can change that. Please never try such a foolish thing as yesterday again. Some people are jealous and speak mindless some times, but you have a place in my heart that cannot be replaced. Be only who you are and all will be well.”

“I promise”, was all the young man could whisper, not trusting his voice right now.
After a while Aragorn looked at the Elf-Lord.

“I want to visit Elladan and Elrohir. I think we have much to talk about, or do you think he will not speak with me?” Estel asked anxiously lowering his eyes again.
Elrond sighed and smiled.
“Go, Estel. Ever since he woke up, he is eager to speak with you. Only the worsest threat has kept him in bed.”
Estel smiled. That sounded like his older brother. Content for the first since a long time he left the room.

-------------------------------------------------------------------
The young man stopped outside his brother’s room hesitating as he heard low voices. He could clearly recognize Legolasī.

All right, he thought. So be it. He was here to make up and here was the chance to get them all at once.

He opened the door slightly, not wanting to disturb the quiet conversation, but as always he was not that lucky.

An awkward silence extended as he stood at the threshold until Elrohir sprung up and embraced his little brother. “Estel, you are awake, we are so glad that you are alright,” he whispered in the young man’s ear.

Estel stood for a moment shocked. He had expected reservations and reproach but not this overjoyed reaction. He relaxed in his brother’s embrace, until he saw Elladanīs controlled face on the bed.

Elrohir released him and looked at him surprised, clearly feeling the sudden tenseness.
After what seemed an eternity Elladan sighed.
“Estel, will you come over here please, that I can hug and then kill you?” he said.

The young man walked over to the bed as drawn on an unseen string.
He winced seeing the pain on Elladanīs face, when he tried to sit up.

For some incomprehensible reason Aragorn wasn’t able to assist his brother. He was afraid of touching him.
When Elladan had managed to sit up, he sensed the man’s uneasiness and took his hands.
“Please, Estel,” he said in a pleading voice, “Talk to me. Tell me what bothered you so, that I can help you.”

Not relaxing in the slightest the young man raised his eyes to meet those of his brother.
“That’s exactly the problem, Elladan. You always want to help me and I push you away out of stubbornness and other stupid emotions. And now you nearly died, because I couldn’t control my pride and maturity.”

Estel looked at Legolas meeting the blue eyes of his best friend hesitantly. “The same goes for you. One day, one of you will be killed because of me.”

Elladan sighed and took a firmer hold of the young ranger’s hands.
“Oh, Estel. It is I who should apologize. I always forget that you are a man now, and I always want to protect you. I could not live with the fact that you were killed because I was not there to protect you, but I will work on myself.”

Estel swallowed but before he could repeat anything, Legolas sat on the other side of the bed.
“The same for me, Estel. If I have hurt your feelings in hovering over you, then I’m sorry. My intentions are the same as Elladans. I want always only protect you.”

Now they had done it.

The with much effort erected composure crumbled. The young man hugged Elladan and Legolas at once and let his tears run freely.

“Stop this, please. I want you exactly as you are. I was blinded and thick-headed, please forgive me.”
Elladan embraced the man with tears in his eyes, Elrohir nodded relieved and Legolas smiled.
----------------------------------------------------------


Two days later the three brothers and the wood-elf sat in the garden loudly planning their next mischievous enterprise.

Glorfindel smiled at them from the corridor-window above and was about to enter Elrondīs study when he heard his friend’s raised voice. He entered and saw a staff member, standing in front of Elrond’s desk.

“…… and if you have any problem with my son being a human or his stay here then I advice you to keep your mouth shut or come to me. Have I made myself clear?”
The dark-haired Elf-Lord fixed the guilty looking figure in front of him with a calm faįade, but Glorfindel knew it was only a mask.

Under the surface boiled a vulcan, ready to erupt.

Finally the elf raised his eyes. “I’m sorry, my Lord but I didn’t mean what I said, and it was rather mindless”.

Elrond sighed. “That is was. If you don’t mean it, don’t say it! You are dismissed.”
The elf bowed and left quickly.

The anger in Elrond’s eyes disappeared as quickly as it had come. “Glorfindel, I think I’m too old for this,” he murmured.

The golden haired warrior raised an eyebrow in mock annoyance. “If you are too old, what about me then?”

Elrond only smiled at his long time friend.

He was pouring two cups of wine when he heard a shout from the garden.

The two Elf-Lords walked over to the balcony and looked into the garden below.
They saw a pile of arms and legs rolling on the ground.

Elrond quickly left the balcony shutting the door.
“No, they do not belong to me, at least not all of them!”, he declared.

Glorfindel laughed.

“Remember what you advised your servant a short time ago?” he asked with a grin.

“If you don’t mean it, don’t say it!”

end