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To Light the Solstice Fire by elfscribe

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Story notes:

Disclaimer:  I don't own the characters nor do I profit from borrowing them.
Thanks so much to Ennorwen for beta and to Mal for Quenya help. Smooches.
For Minuial who asked for twins.
This is a modified version of the story published on LJ: 1/06/08

302 in the Third Age of Middle Earth

There was a knock on the door and Elladan hastily shoved aside the letter he was writing.  He had managed only, ‘Dear Grandmother, I have long considered how to express myself on a certain issue,’ before he had frozen entirely. With a sense of trepidation, he called, “Come.”

The heavy oaken door swung open, admitting an elf wearing the dark blue and grey livery of the runners. He was struggling under the weight of an ominous parcel wrapped in red cloth.  After a short bow, he said, somewhat breathlessly, “Híren, the Lady Galadriel bid me convey this to you. She said it would give her great pleasure to see you wearing it this evening.”

“Did she now,”  Elladan said. There was a moment of silence during which the package slipped downward in the elf’s arms. “Very well, please set it on the sideboard, Tavor.”

The runner dropped the package on the table with a soft thump.  He turned and grinned at Elladan. “Do you think it will be as . . . uh . . . colorful as last year’s breeches?”

“Valar, I hope not,” Elladan said in despair.  He flapped his hand.  “Be off with you.”

With a most annoying chuckle, Tavor departed.  Elladan wondered what the bet was among the household about the package’s contents.  He eyed it balefully.

The first year after Arwen’s coming of age celebration, Grandmother had arrived in Imladris with a strange costume for him to wear on Ceuranar eve, the time of the winter solstice.   In the decade since then, even though Grandmother had not come personally to Imladris, she had always sent some strange get-up by courier.  Her taste seemed to have been formed sometime during the First Age amongst some weird clan of elves with absolutely no fashion sense.

Elladan wanted to write her that dress styles had changed quite a bit since then, but he had yet to do it.  There was just something about Grandmother that brooked no dissent.  Attempts to complain to his parents were met with an unhelpful, “Please humor her, Elladan, just for the one night. You know how she can be when crossed.” Since Grandmother had not been present in the past decade, he had gotten away with a brief showing at dinner to a select group of family and friends, so the distress was confined to a minimum, mainly the walk downstairs - a walk that seemed to attract the entire household.  But this year Grandmother had made the difficult journey north and there was no escape from a long evening of festivities and ritual obligations with plenty of time to be gawked at by all in residence, including the delegation from Lothlórien.  If her gift held true to past years, he knew he would hear about it for weeks.

At that moment the door flew open with a resounding smack against the wall.  It was Elrohir.  With open arms, he declaimed, “Brother, I am here forthwith.”

“I am thrilled beyond measure,” Elladan said.

“Rumor has it that your Ceuranar attire has arrived,” Elrohir continued unabashed.  He bounded into the room, shutting the door behind him.

“Rumor has gone apace.”

“Well, are you going to try it on?”

“Are you here merely to gloat?”

“Assuredly.”

“Then, you are a bastard.”

“If so, what does that make you?” Elrohir replied.

There was no point to pursuing that argument. Elladan asked, “Is that what you are wearing tonight?”

“Indeed. What do you think?” Elrohir executed a complete and enthusiastic spin.  Elladan took in the black velvet tunic, embroidered with tiny silver stars.  It had elbow-length sleeves, was cinched in tightly at the waist emphasizing broad shoulders, flared in soft folds over the hips, and ended mid-thigh. The under-tunic was a richly figured silver-colored silk, laced from wrist to elbow. His legs were encased in sleek black leggings and soft suede boots.  Strands of hair were pulled back from his temples, braided with silver twine, and tied behind his head in an elaborate knot. The rest of his hair hung loose about his shoulders. About his brow was a silver filigree circlet with a sapphire burning in the center. It brought out the brilliant silver-grey of his eyes.

“You look . . . good,” Elladan said.  There was nothing wrong with his apparel.  It was attractive, understated, not at all like his grandmother’s usual choices, and in fact, showed Elrohir’s figure to good advantage.  “Did Grandmother give you that attire?” he asked, with sudden hope.

“No, Mother had it made for me. But since you are the eldest, you carry the burden of lighting the fire and of wearing whatever vestments Grandmother deems fit to perform such a task.”

“It is hardly fair.  I am the eldest merely by a few moments.”

“And on this night alone are those moments to my advantage,” Elrohir grinned. “I swear, ‘tis the only time I’ve ever heard you bemoan them. I’m giddy with my lack of authority. Enough delay, brother.  I’m desperate to find out what she sent.”

“And I am desperate to remain ignorant,” Elladan replied.

Elrohir flopped down on the bed and grinned up at Elladan. “I hardly need answer that. With you, ignorance is a permanent state, brother.”

Elladan didn’t even have the heart to jibe back.  He sighed. The moment of truth had come. He might as well have it over.  He picked up the surprisingly heavy bundle and carried it over to the bed. Dropping it next to his brother, who was wriggling like a puppy with anticipation,  he undid the knots, and pulled the cloth covering apart.  His mouth dropped open in horror.

It was hideous.

His first impression was of bedraggled white feathers and gold tassels.  He picked up the robe, shook it out, and held it up against himself. It was an overcoat of fine wool in a bizarre pattern of large pinkish and pale green chevron shapes that looked rather faded with age. The shoulders had been extended with padding a good three inches beyond the natural shoulder line and had a three-pronged extension made of starched board. The coat was sleeveless, trimmed with feathers along the neckline and around the armholes and shoulder seams from which also hung a series of gold tassels. “Ai gods,” he said, “it looks like a pigeon flew at high speed into a set of draperies and exploded!”

Elrohir’s shoulders began to shake. He bit his lip.“Where’s the rest of it?” he asked in an unsteady voice as he dove into the parcel. He pulled out the under robe which was a rich deerskin-colored silk with scattered gold threads.  “At least this has a nice feel,” he said. “And the color is handsome, although it doesn’t look well with that outer robe at all.”

Elladan threw the befeathered monstrosity on the bed and snatched the garment away from his brother.  It did have a pliable silky feel.  But what was that with the upper arms?  They were huge and padded so they would bell out.  And when he held the robe up, it appeared to be too long for him, with a train in the back.

“This is by far and away the worst thing Grandmother has ever come up with,” Elladan said. “There is no recovering from this humiliation.”

“Perhaps it won’t look so bad on,” Elrohir suggested, barely containing his laugher. “Come, off with your tunic and we’ll see.”

When Elladan was slow to comply, Elrohir leapt up, took the robe from his hands and set it on the bed, then began pulling his brother’s tunic over his head.

“Easy, easy,” Elladan said, from behind a wad of cloth. 

Elrohir pulled the tunic and undertunic off completely, threw the garments on the bed, then began pulling on his leggings. 

“Fah, away with you," Elladan said, pushing him off.  “If you wish to act as my attendant, have a little respect for my person, and hand me that under robe.”

With Elrohir’s help, he was soon arrayed and looking with utter dismay into the glass.  The robe was indeed too long and fit too snugly about his legs, limiting his stride.  The sleeves hung over his hands so that he appeared not to have any, and they swelled into a ridiculous bell-shape around his biceps.  The coat with its chevron pattern, tassels, and feathers was something out of a nightmare.

“I look like an insane wizard who has been practicing magic in a chicken coop to the detriment of the chickens,” Elladan said mournfully. “What in the name of all the Valar am I supposed to do in this thing?”  He heard a muffled explosion behind him and met Elrohir’s amused eyes in the mirror just as he burst into laughter.

“Very funny,” Elladan growled.  He came forward to swat at his brother who, still laughing,  retreated towards the bed.  Elladan came after him but he stepped on his trailing robe and had to grab the bed post to keep from falling over.  He heard a slight tearing sound.

By this time Elrohir was rolling back and forth on the bed, holding his sides and kicking his legs. “Oh gods, oh merciless gods,” he was saying and other words besides, made incoherent by mirth.

“If you don’t stop, I shall have to hurt you,” Elladan said, but the merriment was catching and he felt laughter tickling its way upward from his gut. In the next moment, they were clutching each other and howling insanely.

That is how Arwen found them when she opened the door. “What in the name of Varda is going on here?” she asked.

Elrohir merely pointed at Elladan and went off into another fit of hysterics.

Sitting up, Elladan wiped his eyes with his hanging sleeve. “What are you doing here?”

“Grandmother sent me up with your hat.”

“There’s a hat?” Elladan asked in disbelief. He looked at his twin and they began crying with laughter again.

“A hat,” Elrohir howled.  He leapt up and fairly flew over to Arwen. “Give it over. We must see it at once.”

Arwen brought out a furry, bony something from behind her back.  Her lips quirked as she looked at Elladan. Elrohir tried to grab it and she whisked it sideways.

“No, Grandmother gave it to me and I'll put it on him,” she said.

Elrohir bowed and swept his arm outward towards his brother.  Arwen set the cap on Elladan’s head and tied the thongs under his chin.  Elladan rose and stumbled over to the glass to contemplate this new development.  It could hardly be possible, but the effect was worse.  It was a two-prong set of deer horns affixed to a cap of hide trimmed with fur.  His mood was not improved when Elrohir burst anew into laughter, joined by his sister.

“I wonder if that was all the rage in King Finwë’s time,” Elrohir said, between hiccups of laughter. “And the robe must have been made for someone taller than you.”

“I hope no one wore this hunting,” Elladan said cynically.  “You could get yourself shot in this.”

“Most easily,” Elrohir agreed.  “I’d shoot you myself.  By the Valar, I’d say to myself, now there’s a beast that deserves a swift death.”

“It would be a kindness,” Elladan agreed.

“Grandmother said the cap was an ancient symbol of the new year among the Eldar,” Arwen said.  “But really, that whole outfit, Elladan is, well. . .  just such an unfortunate combination.”  She was giggling like a pot boiling on the stove.

“I don’t remember seeing this kind of costume in any of my picture books,” Elladan said. “We’ve always known Grandmother was a bit fey.  Now I fear she’s gone mad as a hare. And she’s trying to make me crazy as well.  That’s the only explanation for this.”

“My sides are hurting,” Elrohir hooted.

“Yes.  All very amusing for you two,” Elladan with as much dignity as he could muster.  “You don’t have to wear this thing tonight.  I’m the one doomed to go down in Imladris history as a complete and utter fool. Well, I’ve decided. I will not do it. No one can make me, not even Grandmother.”  He looked out the window.  It was near noon.  If he got a horse now, he could be well on his way to his and Elrohir’s secret cave far up in the pines and away from the smirking faces of all his kith and kin.  The family would be furious at him for a while, but he could put up with that.  They had to forgive him, eventually.  Didn’t they?   He shrugged out of the outer vestment and threw it on the bed where it lay crumpled, exposing a rich crimson lining, like a smear of blood.

“Oh, I nearly forgot,” Arwen said, “Grandmother gave me this letter for you, just in case you were proving difficult.”

“Proving difficult?” Elladan nearly shouted. “However did she guess I might be difficult about this?  That’s the first sane thing she’s said in this whole sorry business!”  Elladan snatched the note. Ripping open the seal (which he noted was indeed Grandmother’s, the moon reflected in a basin of rippling water), he held it up to the light from the window.

Meanwhile, Elrohir had picked up the robe, running a hand over the rich silk lining.  “A shame you couldn’t wear this inside out,” he said.  “It’s actually handsome on this side.  Look at all this embroidery - suns and stars.”

“It’s a shame that I can’t turn the entire thing inside out and put a sack over my head so no one recognizes me,” Elladan said.  He looked at his brother. “Come to think of it, they would never know if we exchanged places, now would they?”  With menace, he advanced on Elrohir, who backed away with his hands held out like a wary crab.

“Not a chance, brother. You’ll have to gag me.”

“That can be arranged,” Elladan said. “Grandmother didn’t say I had to be able to talk for this ceremony, did she?”

“Cease this, you two.  It doesn’t help,” Arwen said, ever the practical one. “What does the note say?”

Elladan looked at it again and read, ‘To my darling grandson. Ceuranar is a time in between time: when we remember the darkness and celebrate light; when the old is cast out and the new welcomed in; when the sun wheel pauses before ticking back north along the horizon; and the wisdom of the Valar is made manifest. You, my eldest grandson, hope of our house, have been entrusted with the responsibility of rekindling the fire as we sing Anor back to grow the days once more. I have gifted you with suitable garments for the task.  I know you will make me proud.  All my love, Grandmother.  P.S. There are guards at all the doors.’”

“She is wicked!” Elrohir exclaimed.  “And quite abstruse, as usual.”

“I swear she knows everything,” Elladan said in despair. “I suppose there’s nothing for it but to bite the strap and bear this one out.”

Arwen said, “Grandmother never does anything without a purpose. Even if we don’t understand it.”

“Well, I fail to see the purpose behind humiliating me. Unless she thinks I am too proud,” Elladan said with a haughty toss of his head. “That must be it.  She thinks I need taking down a peg. It can’t be because of that incident with her Marchwarden last time I was in Lothlórien, could it?” He took another step and the sound of ripping material was heard across the room.  He looked down and swore. “Mandos in flames!  Now what am I to do?”

“Are you handy with a needle and thread?” Arwen asked sweetly.

“No,” Elladan said.  “But you are.”  He smiled at her.

“Why should I help you out of this fix?”

“Because you are a good and dear sister and because I’ll hang you upside down in the privy if you don’t,” Elladan said.  Elrohir began chuckling again.

“Threats will not get your robe mended.” Arwen folded her arms.  “Besides, you can’t even run in that thing, so you’ll never catch me.”

Elladan went down on his knees, accompanied by discordant sounds of ripping cloth.  “Please, please, darling sister. I’ll owe you a favor. I promise to give you my dessert cakes for a month.”
 
“Ah, better,” Arwen said with a grin. “All right, then.”

Elladan considered the situation for a moment. “It will just rip again when I try to walk downstairs, and with the sleeves like this,”  Elladan pushed the sleeves up his forearms and the silky material immediately slid down again, “I’ll never be able to pick up a torch without lighting myself on fire.”

A snort escaped Elrohir. “At least that will be memorable.”

“Dearest brother mine, perhaps instead of mocking you could remember that I am stronger than you,” Elladan said, making a grab for his legs.  Elrohir stepped neatly out of the way and Elladan grabbed air.

“Yes, but I’m quicker,” Elrohir said.

“Don’t you two ever stop?” Arwen asked. “Get up, Elu.”  The name she had given Elladan when she was a baby always disarmed him.  He hauled himself up by a bedpost while she knelt down and examined the garment.  “I can hem it up,” she said.  “The sleeves too.  And, in fact, I can split this into a fishtail and gather it on the sides, make it more fashionable and give you room to walk.  All you have to do is wear your leggings under it.”

“That’s right,” Elrohir cried, his face alight with sudden inspiration. “We can remake this, Elladan.  You could wear the outer robe inside out.  Why not?  She never said exactly how you had to wear this.”

“In fact,” Arwen said excitedly, “she quite gave you permission to alter it.”

“How?”  Elladan asked.

“She said, ‘when the old is cast out and the new welcomed in.’  If she complains that we altered the robe, we shall say we thought that’s what she was telling us.”

“Yes! We could!” Elladan said, and a profound sense of relief broke over him.  “You, my siblings, are brilliant.  Even if she objects, it will be too late. So, how do we alter it?”

“I can cut out those bulging upper arms and pull the whole sleeve up,” Arwen said.

“We can cinch in the waist with a belt,” Elrohir added.  He threw open one of Elladan’s trunks and began pulling out belts until he found one made of black leather decorated with gold fittings.  He buckled it around Elladan’s waist, pulled it up tight, and bloused the robe over it slightly.  “It wouldn’t hurt to carry your sword either,” he said, as he lifted Sador off the wall. “That, at least will give you some authority. No one would dare giggle, at least to your face, unless of course you trip on your robe and fall flat.”

“Thanks, brother. You are filling me with confidence,” Elladan said dryly.

“I’ll run and get my kit,” Arwen said. “Don’t worry. We’ll have you looking fine by tonight, Elu.”  She pelted lightly out of the room, her long black hair flying behind her.

“She’s not so bad sometimes,” Elladan said. “For a runty little sister.”

“Not by half,” Elrohir agreed.  He turned to his brother with a grin.  “Your leather boots, I think,” he said, and went to the wardrobe for them.

Arwen soon returned carrying a small sewing casket. After four hours of cutting and stitching and arguing and laughing, Arwen and Elrohir stood back to look at what they had wrought.

“What do you think Roh?” Arwen asked.

Elrohir cocked his head.  “I think we pulled the fat out of the fire!” he declared.  “Come look, brother.”   He took Elladan by the shoulders and steered him over to the glass.

Elladan looked, stunned.  The elf that met his eyes had been transformed from an object of ridicule to an imposing warrior from a mythic age.  Arwen had shortened the tan robe to mid-calf and split the front from the top of the thigh down into overlapping panels, allowing a full stride and showing his tall leather boots.  The wide belt cinched in his waist becomingly.  She had shortened the sleeves to elbow length, and trimmed them with some of the gold braid from the tassels. Elrohir had loaned him some black leather bracers etched with gold designs for his forearms.  The outer coat had been relieved of its padding, turned to reveal the bright crimson silk lining, and shortened to mid-thigh. A heavy golden chain attached to a broach at each shoulder of the coat hung across his chest over a black leather jerkin stitched with gold designs of the two trees. They had plaited many thin braids threaded with gold twine into his black hair, some of which hung forward over his shoulders and the rest fanned heavily down his back. The horned cap was now tied at the back of his head, the thongs hidden in his thick tresses.

“You look like Oromë,” Arwen said, “like a picture I saw of him in one of my books.  All you need is a horn.”  

“It’s remarkable,” Elrohir said. “When I first saw those garments, I never would have thought they could turn into something presentable.”

Elladan breathed a sigh of relief.  It was an amazing change.

“I know what will complete the effect,” Arwen said with a laugh. She went to her casket and took out a kohl wand.  With a look of supreme concentration, she held Elladan’s cheek with one hand and painted dark lines along his eyelashes with the other.  She smudged them a bit with her finger, then drew back to inspect her handiwork.  “Now you look wicked and otherworldly. So handsome,” she said.  “If you weren’t my brother, well. . . ” she laughed softly. “For sure the other ellith will be flocking about you tonight.”

 “You are a jewel among sisters,” Elladan said. He gathered Arwen into his arms and hugged her, kissing the top of her head. “Thank you.”

“Remember those cakes you promised me,” Arwen said.  She stepped back and gave him a final once-over, pulling some fabric here and there to improve the draping.  “Good.  Now I had better get dressed myself.  I don’t want to miss the looks on all the faces when they see you. Most especially Grandmother’s.  I’ll bring up some dinner so you don’t have to make an appearance until it’s time. More dramatic that way, don’t you think?”

“Fine,” Elladan said, although the mention of Grandmother’s reaction had him worried. Elrohir winked at him. Arwen gave them both a conspiratorial grin and left.

Elladan had a moment to reflect on what a gift the afternoon had been for the three of them. Something unexpected and memorable.  Rarely had he interacted with his sister as the adult she now was.  It made him feel warm inside, as if he could take on anything. Elladan looked into the mirror again.  The kohl really made him look different, like a foreign prince. It emphasized the silver light of his eyes.   
                    
Elrohir came up behind him. “As Arwen said, you look wicked and otherworldly. The way you look now . . .”  Elrohir reached up to run a finger along one of the ivory horns on Elladan’s head. “This is incredible - like some ancient fertility god.”

“I don’t know.  I still feel stiff and weird, especially with these things on my head.  I don’t know if I can bring this off. What if Grandmother has a fit?”

“You need to banish the fear.  Take on the attitude of a stag - a king of stags.  Dare them to hunt you,” Elrohir said.  “Here, walk a little for me.”

Elladan strode across the room.  The boots made a strong clicking sound and the red coat billowed gently behind him.

“Like you own the world,” Elrohir said.  “Again.”   Once more Elladan paced the room.

“You look fine, brother,” Elrohir said, laughing a little. “But you need to add more aggression to your stance. 

He moved away with a mischievous glint in his eye. “By the gods, Ladan, you look positively horny.”

Elladan chuckled. “Very funny.”

*************************                   

Dinner was a rather strained affair since Elladan had refused to come down for it.  Elrohir conveyed the message that his brother felt ill.  Arwen had attested to his weakened state and taken up some soup and bread and a fortifying flask of wine. After that, Elladan had bolted his door and flatly refused to see anyone else, even his mother.  Celebrían had tried coaxing, then came back downstairs, looking worried.

“It’s that costume you’re making him wear, Mother.  I know it,” she said to Galadriel.

Elrohir was sitting next to his sister and the two of them tried to look innocent and vaguely concerned while poking each other under the table.

“Has he worn what I’ve sent every year?” Galadriel said in dulcet tones.

“Yes,” Celebrían replied.

“Well, I hardly see the problem then,” Galadriel said.  She smiled graciously at the elf serving her the capon.

“You have to know what a trial those get-ups have been for him,” Celebrían continued.

“A trial?” Galadriel raised an eyebrow at her.  “Nonsense, my daughter, they’ve all been perfectly acceptable attire, proper for a young lord to light the solstice flame.”  She turned to Elrohir and Arwen.  “Didn’t he clothe himself in the robes I sent him today?”

Elrohir noticed that all the company around the long table were straining to hear the answer, including the servers. “Indeed he did,” Elrohir responded loudly. “He will come downstairs to light the fire.  You can be assured of it, Grandmother.”

Galadriel looked at him sidelong.  “Mmm,” she said.

“I think, Mother, that this quaint idea of yours has run its course,” Celebrían continued in a scolding tone.  “You must know how . . .  unusual your choices for this have been.  To say truth, I’ve never seen their like, and to a young ellon, it is a trial to wear something so . . . different from his normal attire. Don’t you think so, Elrond?”

Elrond nearly choked in the midst of drinking his wine.  He raised his hand, palm out.  “I never presume to interfere with your mother’s prerogatives,” he said.  Celebrían looked daggers at him.

“‘Tis for one night alone,” Galadriel said, “and being singled out as different is good for a self-conscious young elf.  Don’t you agree, Elrohir, my dove?” Her voice was deep, rich as honey-mead.  She turned that piercing gaze on him.

She had caught him, nailed him in fact, as he had been exchanging knowing glances with his sister. “Er, yes, Grandmother,” he said. 

“Good. Then perhaps next year it should be your turn to light the fire,” Galadriel said with an amused gleam in her eye.

“Next year?” Elrohir looked at her, trying not to cringe at the thought of taking on his brother’s burden.  Was she teasing?  Or did she mean it?  Well, this time they had a surprise for her.  No meek acceptance of their fate. He could not wait for her to see his transformed brother.  And unlike Elladan, he had a less highly developed sense of duty.  “I’d be honored to do it next year, in exactly the same vestments,” he said as he parried Arwen’s kick.

Galadriel regarded him thoughtfully. “To the elves, both blessed and cursed with immortality, the days can slide unremarkably one into the next, unless there is something unusual, something memorable to distinguish them, and thus we invent ritual and then use it to celebrate change. Wouldn’t you agree, my husband?”

Now it was Grandfather’s turn to be put on the spot.  “As ever, you are wise, mírenya,” he said.

************************
Elrohir could sense the rising anticipation in the crowd that had gathered in the Hall of Fire.  The light was dim - the shining dark marble of the floor and pillars lit only by small candles in wall sconces.  There was a large, artfully arranged stack of wood in the central fire pit awaiting a burning brand.  Elves were milling about, calling to each other with soft voices, drinking from silver goblets or browsing on dainties set on tables along the wall.  Here and there would come a snatch of song or the sound of instruments tuning, a discordant and yet remarkably harmonious noise. 

There was a stir by the door.  His grandmother, the Lady Galadriel, appeared, her long silver robes shimmering faintly as with their own light. Celeborn was at her side, attended by guards from Lothlórien.  And behind them came Elrond and Celebrían and other lords of the house, including Erestor and Glorfindel.  They came into the center of the room near the fire pit, and the room went silent.

Galadriel lifted up her smooth, white arms and stood there for several moments.  Elrohir had time to reflect that his grandmother definitely had a dramatic side to her nature.   Then she intoned, “We are gathered together once more to celebrate the long, star-lit nights that remind us of Cuivíenen, and to welcome Anor’s walk back towards the north to bring the warmth and gladness of spring.  Let us be joyful.”  And she broke into a song of the solstice.

Her voice shivered the air, silver and golden, and Elrohir wondered at her power.  Maybe it had been unwise to risk crossing her.  He bit his lip in anticipation. Celeborn’s deeper tones joined hers.  They clasped hands and looked into each other’s eyes with deep affection.  Then all of them began to sing, blending in dozens of harmonies and counter-melodies. It was an ancient song that Elrohir remembered from his earliest days. Elves began playing instruments and drums.  Elrohir sang along with the rest.  In song there is power, he thought.

When the song ended, there was a brief silence.  A dark figure appeared suddenly at the entrance of the hall, carrying aloft a fiery torch.  It lit up the room, throwing red reflections about the walls and pillars.  There came a soft ‘oh’ of many voices sighing in surprise. Elrohir found himself sighing with them.  There was his brother, striding confidently into the hall crowned as a young stag, verily looking like one of the ancient gods, fair of face and form, powerful and potent.  The torch in his hand fluttered and writhed like a living thing.  He came straight up to his parents and grandparents and bowed low, then addressed Galadriel.  “I am here to do thy bidding, esteemed lady, mother of my mother.  Thou hast but to give the word.”

Elrohir was watching his grandmother’s face, clearly visible in the torchlight.  At first she appeared as surprised as the rest, then she smiled behind bent fingers, and her features quickly schooled themselves.  “Blesséd Grandson.  I do believe thou art come as the very soul of the solstice,” she said.  “Go, therefore, and light the fire of renewal.”

Elladan bowed again, turned and set his torch to the woodpile, touching it here and there until the wood spluttered and caught and a bright flame leapt up.  At that, as with one breath, all the elves cried out, “Galu Anor!”

Elladan threw his burning brand into the fire, then gestured at the musicians to begin the dance.  He came over to Grandmother and gallantly held out his hand to her.  With a little smile, she took it and they led a double line of dancers, weaving and whirling about.  For a moment, Elrohir stood on the sideline, clapping and singing with the rest until Arwen came up to him.  Laughing, she took his arm and they joined in.

“What an entrance,” Arwen said to him, her lovely eyes alight as they turned to face each other, palm to palm.  “I almost didn’t believe that was my big brother.”

“Nor I,” said Elrohir.

“Didn’t he look fine though,” Arwen said, dipping in time with the music.

“We did well by him, you especially. I wonder what Grandmother will say about it?”

“She didn’t seem to take it too ill,” Arwen replied.

When the dance was over and a new one beginning, Elrohir saw his brother lead Grandmother to the side, then bow and kiss her hand.  She looked at him sternly and said something. Elrohir pulled Arwen along with him through the crowd as they sidled up close to listen.
 
“ . . . altered the garments I sent you,” Galadriel was saying in an imperious tone.  “Why?”

“I believe you said in your note, Grandmother, that the old should be cast out and the new welcomed in.  That is exactly what I did.  Did I do something amiss?”  Elladan's expression was so genuinely innocent that Elrohir had to stifle a snicker.  He was amused to see the grins on both his father and his grandfather’s faces as they also listened.

“Turn around,” Galadriel said.  She inspected the changes, fingering the hems, and pulling the coat away from his body to look at the miserable interior, which was supposed to be on the outside.  “Hmmm,” she said in a tone that could not be read. “Did you do this alone?”

“No,” Elladan replied.

“Who helped you?”
                                     
“I’d rather not say just now,” Elladan said.

“I can guess,” Galadriel said, as her eye lit upon Elrohir and Arwen.

Elrohir came forward.  “Yes, Grandmother, I helped him.”

“And I,” said Arwen.

“‘There seems to be a conspiracy among my grandchildren,” said Galadriel.  “I must confess it is beautiful work, by a skilled seamstress.” Here, she looked at Arwen. “But still, I want to know why you felt it was necessary?”

Elladan replied, “I believe you yourself once said that we should not submit to the tyranny of authority.  So we didn’t.  I am sorry if we disappointed you, but the clothes were abysmal, and wearing them as they were could not be borne. There, I have spoken plainly on the matter.”

Galadriel seemed to be trying to look stern but her eyes twinkled. “You have not disappointed me, child.  In fact, you have shown some backbone which I had found lacking in the past.  And I must say that the image of you as you came into the room bearing that torch will be with me for a while.  It was perfect.  Now, the night is yet young and good for merry-making. There appear to be some young ellith that need dance partners.”  She gave both Elladan and Elrohir a searching look, then waved them off.  They bowed and Arwen made a courtesy.

As they moved away through the crowd, Elrohir heard Galadriel remark to his mother, “I do believe you’ve raised them well, Celebrían. They are learning to follow their own instincts.”

“Sometimes having headstrong children is good,” Celebrían said with a laugh. “Sometimes not.”

Elrohir caught up with his brother and said in his ear, “All’s well, then.  She didn’t kill us. Are you relieved?”

“Immensely,” Elladan laughed.  “Thanks to you and Arwen.  Perhaps we should get a bottle of wine and invite her to watch Ithil set with us."

"Sounds like a plan," Elrohir said.  "Lead the way, brother."

                         

The End

Chapter end notes:

*híren - (Sindarin) my lord
*Ceuranar -  (Quenya) new sun after the solstice
*ellon - (Sindarin) male elf
*mírenya  - (Quenya) my jewel
*Galu Anor - Blessed be the sun
*ellith - (Sindarin) female elves                       
*Uthaes nîn - (Sindarin) my temptation

Author’s notes: Thanks to Malinornë for the term “ceuranar” meaning “new sun after solstice” or “renewed sun” in Quenya.  I had previously used Mettarë which is the elvish term for the last day of the year.  In Númenor, it corresponded with the winter solstice, but according to the Encyclopedia of Arda, the elves celebrate year’s end in spring -  the last day of March.

Attire means clothing, particularly fine or elaborate garments. Curiously, it also means the antlers of a deer.  Just a bit of interesting trivia.
Also thanks to Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman’s Fall of the Kings for providing solstice-related inspiration.