Playing Games by Maranwe|
Summary: Light hearted games lead to darker discoveries.
Disclaimer: I don’t own them. I’ve never owned them. I never shall own them. Now leave me alone, I’m depressed enough!
Rating: G, maybe PG
Warning: Um… there’s no blood. Angst.
A/N: This is actually my third idea for this challenge. The first one confused even me. The second one was cruel, intense, and bloody—I pictured it with a rating of R and threw it out. This one evolved a little more than I intended, which means it’s a little longer than I intended, and I hope you enjoy it.
Spring lay over the lands, still fresh and new after the cold of the winter months. Green leaves now decorated the once barren limbs of tall trees, and buds formed on plants that would soon bear flowers of every color. Birds flittered from tree to tree, soured across the sky, and sang their joy to the heavens. Something about the day encouraged one to go slow, and the two beings following the path to Imladris obliged.
Both were dressed in dark clothes, their attire a mix of hunter brown, grey and midnight blue with black cloaks slung across their shoulders. Their hoods were thrown back, revealing raven-colored hair and keen grey eyes. Swords hung at their waists, and they rode easily atop nearly identical chocolate brown stallions, comfortable with their position and watchful of their surroundings.
To the casual eye, they were warriors, ready and able to face whatever threat might happen shatter the natural order of the day. Only a closer examination would reveal the dirt that clung to their clothes and smudged their faces or the slight slump that graced with proud shoulders, evidence of a long and weary fight in the Wilds. Only one who knew them well would find the fatigue in their eyes, the pain that yet dwelt behind the pretense of ease. Twins, and long each other’s only close companion, they needed no words to know the other’s thoughts.
Three long months had passed since they set out to join the Rangers. Many orcs and other fell creatures had perished in that time, never to trouble the residents of Middle-earth ever again, but that did not make the wear of time and battle easier to bear.
“Father will be pleased,” one of the riders commented.
The other snorted. “Father won’t be pleased until we agree to stay an entire year.”
Elrohir looked at his brother, frowning ever so slightly. “He worries about us.”
“He need not. We are much more careful than we used to be.” Elladan scanned their surroundings intently before returning his gaze to his brother. “Besides, we aren’t gone that long.”
“It feels like a long time,” the younger one sighed. “I swear time passes faster among humans.”
The other laughed. “By that reckoning, brother, it would still be winter in Imladris!”
“Please, no! I never want to see snow again.”
“You plan to sail west this summer, then?” Elladan teased lightly.
“Nay,” his brother replied. “I thought to go to sleep now and not stir again till *next* spring.”
“Cowardly of you, brother.”
Elrohir smiled wryly. “Nay, brother: indulgent. I fear that shall be how long it takes to rid the ache from my bones.”
Elladan echoed his twin’s smile. “Sleep, then,” he answered. “For myself, I will spend the intervening time in a bath of hot water. We will see who fares better when time is up.”
“Or we could go visit Arwen in Lothlorien,” the younger said. “It has been years since we last saw Little Sister. I’m sure she would love to see us, and the Golden Wood is delightful this time of year I’m told.”
“Oh, aye; but you’re forgetting something, brother.”
“The Lord and Lady of said wood.”
“Too true.” Elrohir paused thoughtfully, his lips pursed as his mind traveled back several years to their last visit. “Perhaps we should wait several more seasons. Like a dozen.”
“Or two,” Elladan finished. “I agree.”
“Besides, it would be a shame to travel again so soon after returning home. Father would be most displeased.”
“And it is not wise to displease the Lord Elrond of Rivendell.”
“Do you suppose he would forgive us if we returned again uninjured?”
“El,” the elder answered. “All I want to suppose right now is how that water is going to feel when I lay down in it and can finally be wholly and truly clean.”
“You and me both, brother. You and me both.
All was quiet. His footsteps did not make a sound as he crept through the tunnel, making sure to hug the walls. Orcs were here.
He slowed as he reached the corner where a new passage crossed his. Carefully, he glanced to the far-side, looking for any beasts that might give away his presence. None appeared and he eased his eyes around the corner at his back to check the other way.
He saw movement and pulled back quickly, pressing firmly against the wall and resting his hand on the hilt of his sword while he listened for the thing’s footsteps. He imagined he heard them passing into another tunnel and after a few minutes dared to look again.
The way was clear.
Half-crouched, he sprinted across intersection and pressed his back to the wall once he reached the other side. He listened for signs that anyone had seen him. But footsteps did not approach him, nor was any cry raised. A smile crept across his lips. He could do this.
The orcs, he knew, were in the cavern at the end of the tunnel. They had taken an elf-maiden hostage and were set to do horrible things to her. What, exactly, he did not know, but he knew it would be bad and it was his duty to stop it from happening—which was why he was here. He would save her.
He darted from shadow to shadow and paused behind boulders and pillars before flowing around them and continuing on. No one hindered him. The sentry he silenced with a well-thrust sword before it could alert its friends. He left it slumped by the door.
Holding his sword ready at the entrance, he peeked around the edge. No orcs were immediately visible, so he slipped inside, very careful not to make any sounds.
When he made it fully inside, he saw them. They crowded around something on the floor, and by their speech he knew they were playing a game. The elf-maiden was nowhere to be seen. He glanced at the only other entrance, a closed door, and knew that was where they kept her. She would be waiting fearfully for them to return. He would ease her fears.
Moving with a silence only the eldar could manage, he came up behind the foul beasts—and struck. He cut off heads and stabbed chests, employing the graceful spins and stunning flourishes he had seen his brothers use in their sparing matches against each other. The orcs never knew what hit them. In moments, with the aide of his trusted sword, they were all dead.
He stood back and was just about to return the blade to its sheath when the other door opened. He jumped back and raised his sword as it swung open, then smiled when he saw who entered.
“I saved you, Mailawen!” he announced happily.
The elf-maiden paused in the doorway and regarded the six-year-old boy with surprise. Dressed in dark blue pants with brown boots and the grey shirt with blue rings on the arms, he had his quiver strapped to his back with the bow sticking out of it and a miniature sword with sheath to complete the outfit. She blinked, then recovered herself and smiled. “Oh, thank you, Estel!” she exclaimed.
He bowed as he had seen his brothers do and tucked his sword back into its sheath. “There were lots of them, but I could not let them hurt you.”
“My hero!” she laughed, closing the distance between them so she could hug him. “Whatever would I do without you?”
“I don’t know,” he answered solemnly. His silver eyes were wide as he looked at her, perhaps trying to imagine that very event.
“Well, now you have saved me, what shall you do, oh brave warrior?”
The boy frowned slightly. “Do you think there are anymore Orcs?”
“I think you have slain the only ones for miles,” she answered.
Estel took a deep breath and let it out slowly, the nodded his head decisively as his idea took hold. “Then I think I shall go outside and visit the trees. Do you think they are lonely?”
Mailawen smiled gently. “I don’t think they could have a better friend than you. Now, go, little warrior! You mustn’t keep them waiting!”
He smiled brightly at her before running out the door and quickly retracing his steps. Nimbly, he avoided colliding with any of the other elves as they moved about the house, and their exasperated glances followed him to the front entrance.
Upon reaching the steps, Estel’s happiness swelled. He never got to go outside this early. Usually, he was in classes with Glorfindel, learning sums or history or language (which was actually two classes because he had to learn both Elvish and Common—Ada said so). It was only after lunch that he was taken outside to learn sword-fighting and play.
But Glorfindel had left two days earlier on a very important errand, and a paper crisis had called pretend-tutor Erestor away, and Ada never had time to do anything with him after breakfast or before lunch, so he was left to his own devices. This prospect excited him so much, he paused atop the steps unsure what do. What did one do for an once-in-a-lifetime free morning?
Estel frowned as he surveyed Rivendell from his perch. He thought it should be something spectacular, something he never got to do, but what? Wandering the woods and speaking to the trees did not seem worthy enough an expedition anymore, now that he had had time to think about it. He could go riding, but Ada had already told him they would do that after lunch and he was not allowed to ride on his own.
The youth was still puzzling over this dilemma when the sounds of hooves reached his ears and drew his eyes down the path toward the gate. There he could see two figures riding towards him. It did not take long for him to figure out who they were.
“Elrohir!” he shouted, starting down the steps as quickly as his little legs would carry him. “Elladan! You’re home!” A delighted grin split his face.
The twins saw their little brother racing towards them and exchanged exasperated glances. Neither had expected to find the human child waiting for them. He was supposed to have lessons in the morning. Where was Glorfindel? The boy looked to be quite alone.
Elrohir dismounted just in time to catch the young human before he bowled into his legs, managing to hug him before the boy pulled from his grasp and attacked his twin. “Estel! What are you doing out here? Where’s Glorfindel?”
The dark-haired child looked up at them happily, one hand holding Elladan’s. “I was gonna play ‘cause Glorfindel’s not here to teach me stuff and Erestor’s too busy, but now that you’re here, you can play with me!”
“Can we play hide-me-seek-me? Can we? Please, please, please, Elrohir?”
“Please? I’ll be good. I promise.” Silver eyes looked up at them hopefully, aided by a pathetic pout.
Elladan and Elrohir exchanged helpless glances, each hoping the other would have a plan to get them away from the tenacious and energetic child, and each coming up short in the face of the youth’s pleas. Both could see their baths, and clean, fresh clothes slipping from their grasps.
Elrohir sighed. “Oh, alright—“
“Yay!” Estel cheered, jumping up and down ecstatically. “I’ll be It.”
“Ok,” Elladan agreed. He knelt next to the boy. “How about we make it more fun?”
The child stilled, his interest piqued. “How do we do that?”
“Glorfindel’s been teaching you how track, hasn’t he?” the elder twin asked. Estel nodded eagerly. “Well, hide-me-seek-me is the best game to play while you’re learning to track, and it’s more fun. Me and Elrohir used to do it all the time.”
“Really,” Elrohir chimed in. “We had the most fun following each other’s tracks through the woods around Rivendell.”
“But it also requires lots of patience, Estel,” Elladan cautioned. “You may not be old enough yet.”
“I’m old enough!” the boy objected predictably. “I can be patient!”
Elladan smiled. “Alright, then. Pick a base.”
The twins followed more slowly as Estel ran across the grounds towards the first of the trees. “Trail and bail?” Elrohir asked quietly.
The other nodded. “It’ll take him hours to follow our trail. We should be able to change and get back out here before he realizes we’re gone.”
“Here!” Estel interrupted from yards away, his hands pressed against his chosen tree. “How’s this one?”
“It’s perfect, little one!” Elrohir called back. “What will you count till?”
“Alright. Close your eyes and count really loud. . . .”
Obediently, the human child turned his face to the tree, closed and covered his eyes, and started counting. “*One* . . . *two* . . . *three*. . . .”
The dark-haired elves started running, darting between the first of the trees and making sure they left enough of a trail for the six-year-old to find. They knew he had been taught the basics but they had no idea how far past that he had progressed. Whether or not he would be able to follow their trail was a matter that held little concern for them. When they were finished with their bath, they would eventually find him.
“*Eleven* . . . *twelve* . . . *thirteen*. . . .”
After they had run straight back a good ways, they shift course and started heading to the north, thinking to circuit the Last Homely House as a means of keeping the child from harm.
They ran until they were sure Estel had stopped counting, then stopped and made a beeline for the house. They would be done long before they were missed.