Remember Today, Brother|
"No, Elladan, the spiders are much worse than the last time you visited." Legolas said earnestly.
"But surely they cannot have grown that large!" Elrohir interjected. "As big around as I am tall?"
Legolas grimaced. "Some even larger than you, mellon." He sighed. "They come from the Southern reaches of the forest."
Elladan hunched his shoulder. "By Dol Guldur, you mean?"
"That is what I suspect," Legolas replied. He leaned forward in his chair to rest his forearms on his knees. "It has been many years since you have visited Eryn Galen," He looked from one twin to the other. "Perhaps it is time for you to join me in a spider hunt."
Elladan sat up from where he had been lounging on his bed, now mimicking Legolas' position as he sat. "Is it really getting that bad, Legolas?" he asked his friend.
Elrohir looked down from the windowsill he was sitting on, searching Legolas' face.
Legolas frowned. "We've pulled all the southern settlements, as you may know."
"You were considering that when we last visited," Elrohir said, pulling his knees up and wrapping his arms around his legs.
"The Shadow on the Southern forest has grown. The trees sicken and speak to us no more. There is a darkness in the South," He shook his head. "The spiders come closer. This year has been the worst so far."
"From the way you describe them they sound like the ones from the stories Ada used to tell us when we were elflings," Elladan said.
"I wish they were just stories," Legolas replied. "I would like to take patrols south to the mountains, to find and destroy their breeding grounds. But Ada won't allow it." He looked at his friends and raised one eyebrow. "But maybe if you came for a visit. . ." he finished hopefully.
Elrohir laughed and Elladan shook his head. "I doubt your father would let us venture south of the mountains--he knows what happens when you travel with us."
Legolas shrugged. "There was no predicting that spring storm would come upon us and cause that rockslide."
Elrohir laughed again. "Your father said he would have to find more beds for the infirmary if we ever went on patrol with you again."
"Adar worries too much," Legolas answered sharply, narrowing his eyes as he frowned.
"Well at least he lets you come visit us!" Elladan said, reaching over to buffet Legolas on the shoulder.
"There is that," Legolas leaned back in his chair again and smiled at the twins. "It's a sight better than Laketown. That's the only place he lets me go other than patrols."
"You couldn't have come at a better time," Elrohir said. "Spring in Imladris and maybe some patrols to the Downs with us."
"Or North to the Ettenmoors," Elladan added.
"Anywhere!" Legolas said with a laugh.
A high pitched wail sounded from outside. Legolas was on his feet instantly. "If I didn't know better I would say that was a child," he said to his friends, as he crossed Elladan's room to reach the balcony. "You've not got mountain lions here last I checked, nor children, as I recall."
Elrohir exchanged a rapid look with his brother then slid out the window, grasped the tree branches outside and climbed down to the garden below. Legolas had already jumped onto the balcony railing and now swung onto the nearest tree branch, swiftly climbing down to join him, Elladan following just behind.
The howling continued and they soon found the source.
Seated on a bench in the garden was a young woman with dark hair, a small child in her arms. He was the source of the wailing.
"Hush, Estel, hush." she murmured into his hair. "The flowers are to look at, not to pick."
"Is all well, Lady Gilraen?" Elrohir asked her, as they approached.
Gilraen started. Those silent Elves, she said to herself, feeling her face flush. She looked up to see the matching faces of the sons of Elrond and a fair-haired companion who was unfamiliar to her.
"All is well, sir," she answered formally. She paused, then added "Estel tried to pick a rose for me."
"And no doubt became acquainted with the thorns," Elrohir responded.
Gilraen nodded. The child in her arms had quieted at the sound of new voices. He looked up at the newcomers with wide gray eyes, tears still tracking down his flushed cheeks, his chest hitching from his sobs.
Elrohir went down on one knee in front of the bench. "Estel, may I see your hand?" he asked in a gentle voice. The child looked to his mother, who nodded, then he gave his hand shakily to Elrohir.
Elrohir bent over it studiously, pulling a scrap of cloth from his pocket as he did. "Pretty flowers for a pretty lady, eh lad?" he asked the boy.
Estel nodded. Elrohir smiled at him. "Don't let appearances fool you, little one. Danger can lurk in even the loveliest of places." He winked at Estel as his hands moved gently over the boy's hand.
Estel jerked and seemed about to cry again then looked down at his hand, rapidly being wrapped with the cloth by Elrohir.
"It's out, little one," Elrohir smiled, showing Estel a thorn in the palm of his hand. Estel looked from the thorn to Elrohir then gave the Peredhel a small smile.
"Thank you, my lord," said Gilraen, hugging Estel close.
Elrohir rose and rested a hand on Estel's head. "It was nothing, my lady." He bent down, face to face with Estel. "Next time watch out for the thorns," He winked at the child again.
Estel reached out his arms and Elrohir picked him up as the boy hugged his neck. Laughing, Elrohir spun him around before putting him back on the ground, both of them laughing now. Estel smiled up at the tall Elf who ruffled his hair again.
She looked from him to his twin and at the fair elf she did not recognize.
Elladan stepped forward. "Lady Gilraen, may I introduce our friend Legolas, of the Woodland Realm."
Legolas nodded his head and gave Estel and Gilraen a small bow.
"The Lady Gilraen and her son Estel," Elladan continued.
"Well met, Lady Gilraen," Legolas said. "Mae govannen, Estel," he smiled at the child.
"Your hair is pretty," said Estel.
Elladan burst out laughing and clapped Legolas on the shoulder.
"Estel!" Gilraen admonished.
Legolas narrowed his eyes at Elladan and then squatted down in front of Estel. "Why thank you, Estel. I can't recall anyone saying that to me before."
"Pretty braids," Estel said.
Elrohir snorted. Legolas shot him a glare as Gilraen hushed Estel again.
"In the Woodland Realm these are known as warrior braids. They keep my hair from getting tangled in my bow," Legolas explained to Estel.
Estell smiled at Legolas but then his face clouded and he frowned as he looked from Legolas to Elladan and Elrohir.
"You should have pretty braids," Estel said to Elladan. "'Dan and 'Ro are warriors too," Estel informed Legolas, with a very serious expression on his face. "They should have braids," he continued, his eyebrows drawing together to frown at the twins.
"You are right, little one," Legolas agreed gravely, only his eyes betraying his amusement. "I will see to it immediately."
Estel grinned at him now. "'Dan and 'Ro need pretty braids!"
Elladan groaned. Legolas patted Estel's head and tousled his hair. "I'll show you how to do it, Estel," Legolas said, sitting down on the bench next to Gilraen. "With your permission, my lady," he whispered to her, as he seated himself. Gilraen nodded at him, a slightly puzzled look on her face.
"Elrohir!" Legolas commanded, pointing to the ground in front of him. "Sit. Estel needs a lesson in warrior braids," Legolas shot a triumphant smile at his friends.
"Valar above," Elrohir swore, looking from Estel to Legolas. They both had huge grins on their faces. "Fine," he huffed as he threw himself cross-legged on the ground in front of Legolas.
Elladan leaned against a tree, a smirk on his face.
"You're next," Legolas said to him, raising an eyebrow. "I'll show Estel here with 'Ro and then we'll let him try to do yours."
Elladan's eyes widened and he started to protest but Legolas tilted his head towards Estel and Elladan subsided, still grumbling under his breath. "Blasted Sindar!"
"Language," said Legolas primly, tilting his head at Estel, as he glared at Elladan again.
Gilraen stared at the blond Elf next to her, blithely braiding Elrohir's hair. She had an urge to laugh, a feeling she hadn't had in all the time she had been in Rivendell. She put her hand to her mouth to stifle it.
Elrohir yelped. "Are you braiding it or tearing it out, Legolas?" he complained.
"One would think you Noldor would be more fastidious about tangles in your hair," Legolas retorted. "Estel, listen to your mother and brush your hair otherwise you will end up looking like Elrohir and his rat's nest."
Elladan snorted and Gilraen could not hold back her laughter anymore. Legolas gave her a sidelong look and a wink. "Elladan's is worse," he confided, which made her laugh even harder.
Estel beamed at his mother. He had never heard her laugh like this. He studied the blond Elf who had gotten this reaction out of his mother. He hoped he was going to stay for a long time. He liked the sound of his mother's laugh.
Elrond watched them from a balcony above. He smiled as he heard GIlraen's laugh and watched Legolas tame Elrohir's tangles.
The scene in front of him faded as long-ago memories filled his mind.
"Elros, hold still! Maedhros, help me with this!"
Maedhros smiled at his brother, watching as he struggled with the Peredhel seated in front of him. Elros was twisting back and forth, trying to see what Maglor was doing with his hair.
Maglor looked at his brother again imploringly and Maedhros held up his right arm. "Sorry, not much help with braiding hair anymore." Maglor shook his head and returned to the task in front of him.
"Try to hold still, Elros,” Maedhros said to the child. "Maglor isn't very good at this and he'll have your hair in knots if you keep this up."
"Elros, wait," Elrond leaned down to his brother. "You can't watch what Maglor is doing to your hair but you can watch me while I braid Maedhros' hair." He looked at Maedhros with a smile. "Can I, Maedhros? Please?"
Maedhros sighed. He stood up and moved in front of Elrond, planting himself on the ground just ahead of Elros, so the boy could watch. "So help me, Elrond, if you leave me in tangles you will get no dinner tonight!" he warned, smiling despite his words. Elrond laughed and hugged Maedhros around the neck.
"I won't get you tangled. It would make Maglor cross, for he would have to fix your hair then too !" Elrond replied, taking up the dark red hair and running his fingers through it in preparation.
Maedhros laughed. "We certainly can't let Maglor be cross!" He looked over at his brother and smiled.
Elrond gripped the balcony railing and closed his eyes. He felt a wave of grief wash over him. It had been so long. But he missed them still, so much.