When Glorfindel returned to Rumil’s rooms one hour later, he leaned against the doorway and smiled warmly. Elrohir was stroking Rumil’s hair and Elladan had actually managed to fall asleep. “You look comfortable,” teased Glorfindel.
Elrohir pleadingly raised his eyes and met Glorfindel’s gaze. “Will you now have mercy on us?”
Glorfindel smiled, sitting down on the edge of the bed. “It is time for Rumil to wake up and eat and drink.”
Their voices woke Elladan, who wanted to stretch, but found someone was holding him tight. “Rumil,” he whispered softly.
Hearing his name made Rumil stir from his sleep. Waking slowly, he was startled to find another stranger in his arms. “Who are you?” And where was Glorfindel? Or Celeborn, for that matter?
“I am called Elladan and my brother Elrohir is right behind you.”
Rumil’s eyes widened, feeling another body behind him. Looking over his shoulder, he stared at Elrohir, finding his features identical to Elladan. Then he remembered; Elrond’s twin sons.
“It is about time you woke,” said Glorfindel, drawing Rumil’s attention to him.
Rumil felt relieved at seeing Glorfindel. “Why are you here?”
“We are watching over you,” explained Glorfindel in a kind tone.
Rumil blushed weakly. The only ones ever to watch over him were Haldir and Orophin, but his brothers were gone. Dead. His heart missed a beat as sorrow washed over him.
Elrohir felt Rumil tense up and whispered into the Elf’s ear, “You are very strong and brave. Do not drown in your sorrow. Elladan and I will help you fill the void in your life.”
Rumil was about to sneer at Elrohir when he suddenly realized how hurt one twin would be if the other died. Maybe they understood his pain just a little.
Glorfindel uncovered the glass flask filled with miruvor, which he had fetched from Elrond’s study. “This should help rebuild your strength.”
Aided by Elrohir and Elladan, Rumil managed to sit upright, and the oldest twin pushed a pillow behind his back. Rumil felt miserable, still wishing Elrond had let him go. His shaky fingers reached for the flask, realizing arguing with Glorfindel would get him nowhere.
But Glorfindel didn’t release the flask and steadied Rumil’s hand when the Elf swallowed his first mouthful. “And again,” he said encouragingly, watching Rumil swallow more of the sweet liquid. “And you should eat something as well.”
“I will fetch something from the kitchen,” offered Elladan, who slowly rose to his feet. After leaving the room, he briefly leaned against the wall, thanking Elbereth that Rumil had survived. Then he headed for the kitchen.
Glorfindel studied Rumil closely. “Some fresh air would do you good.”
Elrohir nodded his agreement. “I will move one of the chairs onto the balcony.” He also left the bed, finally realizing Glorfindel’s interest in Rumil. He chuckled privately, wondering if Glorfindel knew he was falling hard for the ‘Lorien Elf. Looking over his shoulder, he watched the two Elves; they looked good together.
Rumil sighed nervously. “Instead of one baby sitter I now have three?”
“Four actually,” said Celeborn entering the room. “Aiya, ion-nîn, I was afraid I would never hear your voice again!” Relieved at finding Rumil sitting up and talking to Glorfindel, Celeborn seated himself on the other side of the bed and enfolded him in a warm embrace. “You scared me, Rumil.”
“I am sorry,” whispered Rumil ruefully, “I never wanted to worry you, but…” His voice faltered. “I miss them so much.”
“So do I,” Celeborn assured Rumil. “But you cannot give up like that. Haldir and Orophin would want you to live.”
Deep down inside his heart Rumil knew Celeborn was right, but admitting it was hard. “I will try, but I feel so lost.”
“I got the food!” Elladan enthusiastically placed a tray on Rumil’s lap. “Eat!”
Rumil sighed; he wasn’t hungry at all, but he would eat to please them. Tentatively, he ate some lembas and cheese. Celeborn told him to drink the tea, and he complied.
Elrohir returned from the balcony. “The sun is warm and pleasant and will do him good.”
Celeborn urged Rumil to finish the lembas, which he did, and then fussed over the younger Elf, whilst helping him to his feet. “You are much too thin, Rumil.”
Rumil was too busy concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other to comment. Suddenly, a strong arm wrapped itself around his waist, and he found Glorfindel at his side. The blond’s expression was worried.
“Uhm, Ata’da? Glorfindel? Do you still need us?” Elladan and Elrohir looked at them. “We are quite hungry ourselves, and—“
Celeborn nodded his approval. “Off you go then, but join us for dinner later.” Celeborn smiled after them when the twins left. Their company had done Rumil much good. Glorfindel was now leading Rumil to the chair.
Celeborn leaned against the railing, watching the two of them, and liked what he saw. Realizing he wasn’t needed, he left the balcony and prepared to contact his wife. Galadriel would want to know how Rumil was doing
Rumil collapsed onto the chair and shivered. Glorfindel clasped the younger Elf’s hand in his, sitting cross-legged on the floor. “Those chills won’t go away for another few days.”
“How do you know?” Rumil looked curiously at Glorfindel and then remembered that the blond had been at Mandos himself. “What was it like for you?”
“Cold and lonely,” said Glorfindel in a pained tone. Pushing his memories away, he looked up at Rumil and caught another shiver. “I am glad you returned to Arda.”
Rumil blushed weakly at hearing that admission. Lost for words, he smiled at Glorfindel, but suddenly images of Haldir and Orophin’s corpses made him whimper softly. His eyes widened, tears flowed from the grey eyes, and he wrapped his arms around his waist, rocking back and forth.
“Aiya, Rumil.” Glorfindel gently lifted Rumil in his arms and held him tight. Sitting down on the floor, he cradled Rumil against his chest and sat quietly while the younger Elf sobbed. He stroked the hair, and noticed that silver was returning between still grey locks. “Being able to let go of your pain like that will be your salvation.”
Rumil raised tear-stained eyes, staring at him questioningly. Glorfindel’s heart broke, seeing the desperate expression in them. “Their deaths will haunt you for a long time.”
Rumil nodded, and violent tremors shook his body. “I cannot forget the look in their eyes when…“
“When they died,” said Glorfindel softly. “Child, you saw too much.” If only he could take away the ugly memories, soothe the pain. “Hold onto me. I will keep you safe.”
Another wail left Rumil’s lips as his fingers clawed at Glorfindel’s shirt. He buried his head in the soft, golden locks and held on to the blond for dear life as memories and pain ripped through him. “Do not leave me alone… Do not leave me… Stay…”
“I will stay. I won’t leave you,” promised Glorfindel passionately, hoping he could keep his promise.
Elrond released an angry growl when the Orc threw him onto the floor. Erestor landed hard close to him and Elrond glared at the Uruk-Hai, who now closed the oak door behind him. Alone, the two Elves exchanged a look.
Erestor immediately recognized the fury in Elrond’s eyes and said defensively, “I did not have a choice! My first duty is to protect you!”
Growling softly, Elrond tried to calm down. “I cannot believe you did that! Do you realize what will happen next? They will question you… hurt you,” he added in a softer tone. “I do not want to see you hurt!”
Lowering his gaze, Erestor stared at the floor. “I could not risk them questioning you. I do not doubt that you will keep quiet about Imladris’ defenses, but they would hurt you! I would rather have them hurt me instead.”
Elrond brushed the dirt from his tunic and sat down next to Erestor, who still refused to meet his gaze. “You should not have done that.” Elrond grew quiet, wondering why Erestor was this determined to protect him. How many pieces of the puzzle was he missing? “Erestor, why did you do it?”
“I already told you. My first duty is to you.” Erestor didn’t dare look Elrond in the eyes, afraid that the half-Elf would see behind the mask.
“You will tell them you lied when they return.”
“They won’t believe me.” Erestor drew in a deep breath, trying to mentally prepare himself for the grueling hours to come.
The shivers that ran down Erestor’s spine made Elrond fold an arm around his advisor’s shoulders. To his surprise, Erestor jerked away from him, staring in shock. “Mellon-nîn?” Who would Erestor shun his touch?
Erestor flinched at seeing the hurt expression in Elrond’s eyes. “I am sorry,” he whispered, wishing he could give in and enjoy Elrond’s comforting touch, but he did not dare let down his guard.
Elrond was about to reassure him when the door abruptly opened. Two Orcs, and the Uruk-Hai who had been in charge earlier, entered. “You,” the Uruk-Hai growled, pointing a claw at Erestor, “You’re coming with us to answer some questions.”
“I won’t tell you a thing,” said Erestor calmly, but he trembled when the two Orcs hauled him to his feet.
“Leave him alone! It is –me- you want! –I- am Elrond Half-Elven!” Elrond jumped to his feet, trying to push the Orcs away from Erestor, but the Uruk-Hai stepped forward and shoved him hard against the wall. A knife was pressed against his throat and Elrond glared at his enemy. “Leave him alone,” he hissed. A loud roar rang in Elrond’s ears and the knife pressed into his flesh, drawing blood.
The Uruk-Hai cocked his head and glared at him. “You are expendable, Elf. I will kill you if you give me any trouble.”
Elrond wasn’t going to antagonize the creature any further, wanting to stay alive so he could help Erestor later. His gaze shifted from the Uruk-Hai to Erestor and he caught a ripple of fear in the large brown eyes. “Please do not do this,” he said in a pleading tone. Growing quiet, his eyes begged Erestor to reconsider.
Erestor shook his head. “I must.” He went willingly when the Orcs led him out of the room. Looking one more time over his shoulder, he imprinted Elrond’s features in his memory, not sure he would ever see the half-Elf again.
Elrond’s heart missed a beat, seeing the determined expression in Erestor’s eyes. The Noldorin Elf would not break, would not tell the Uruk-Hai what he wanted to know and endure all pain. Elrond’s head slumped forward in defeat as he waited for the screams to start.
Elrond was furious. For the last hour Erestor’s screams had echoed through the corridor and Elrond banged a fist into the wall, blaming himself for getting them in this situation. Why had he suggested joining the patrol? Erestor should be safe in Imladris, not being tormented by these foul creatures!
The pain-filled screams slowly faded away and Elrond’s jaw was set firmly, hearing footfalls in the corridor and a strange scraping sound. Elrond swallowed hard, realizing Erestor was being dragged toward their cell. Had the beasts injured his friend that badly?
Elrond stayed clear of the door. The Uruk-Hai had warned him earlier and he would do nothing to cause the creature’s wrath. Erestor needed him alive, not dead or severely injured!
The door finally opened and Erestor was dropped unceremoniously onto the cold stone floor. Elrond glared at the Uruk-Hai in hate, but when the door closed, he concentrated on Erestor.
Erestor’s face was badly bruised and he sported one black eye. Blood showed at the hair roots from when they had pulled his hair out and a few bald spots showed between the black tresses. Erestor’s breathing was shallow and wheezing. A closer examination showed a bruised, maybe even broken jaw. Elrond cradled Erestor’s right hand in his and whimpered softly, encountering broken fingers and bleeding fingertips. Had those monsters actually pulled Erestor’s nails?
A furious howl started deep in his throat and Elrond groaned, finding more injuries when his fingertips slipped inside the tunic. At least one rib was broken, maybe even more! “They will pay for what they did to you,” vowed Elrond in an icy tone. His heart fluttered when Erestor’s unfocused gaze locked with his. “This must stop.”
Erestor tried to smile to reassure Erestor, but his jaw hurt too much and it turned into a grimace. “I… won’t… tell them,” he stuttered in a weak tone. He almost raised his left hand to caress Elrond’s face, but he stopped himself just in time. “Help… will arrive… shortly.”
Elrond shook his head, saddened. “It will take a while before Glorfindel realizes something is amiss. The patrol is not supposed to return to Imladris until late tonight.” Carefully, he brushed some long, bloodied locks from Erestor’s face, which was becoming black and blue. “I can lessen the pain.” He wanted to place his hands on either side of Erestor’s head to start the healing process when his friend weakly shook his head. “You do not want me to help?”
“You will need… your strength… later. They might… resort… to tormenting you… when I do not break.” Erestor’s eyes closed momentarily. He was trying hard to not breathe too deeply, for his chest hurt. “I still think that… I did the right thing.”
Elrond tenderly caressed Erestor’s hair, cringing at the bruises that were still forming on the Elf’s face and throat. “You –“ Lost for words, he moistened his lips. “Erestor –“
Erestor raised his left hand to stop Elrond. “The only thing… that matters… is that you survive… Your children… need a father…”
Elrond’s features contorted in agony. “But I need you too.”
Erestor’s weak smile returned. “You do not need me… You never did.”
“But I do! You are so wrong!” Elrond’s eyes widened. “You are important to me, very important!” The expression in Erestor’s eyes changed, and Elrond involuntarily held his breath. “What is it?”
Erestor flinched, hearing footfalls return to the corridor. He was about to confess his love when the Uruk-Hai flung open the door and entered. Cringing, he gathered his strength and courage, realizing the questioning was about to continue.
“You cannot have him!” Elrond carefully lowered Erestor’s battered form onto the floor and stood protectively in front of the Elf. “I won’t allow it!”
The Uruk-Hai laughed loudly, raised a hand, and at his sign three Orcs marched into the room, pushing Elrond against the wall, keeping him in place. “Don’t defy me, Elf. The only reason you are still alive is because I might need you later. Maybe hurting you will loosen Elrond’s tongue.”
Erestor’s lips were a straight line when the Orcs dragged him into the corridor, never releasing a groan. Unable to walk unaided, he hung limply in their hold.
Elrond’s anger amused the Uruk-Hai. “I might torture you later, just for the pleasure of it!” Turning about, he left the cell. The Orcs released Elrond, who shook them off. Laughing, the Orcs left as well.
Dropping to his knees, Elrond glared at the door. A moment later, the screams started all over again.
Elrond stood frozen in the corner of the cell. Erestor had stopped screaming some time ago, and that worried him most. /Elbereth, please let him be alive./ In all those millennia he had never thought he could lose Erestor. The Noldorin Elf had become his other half without him noticing it.
He raised his eyes, hearing footfalls in the corridor. His body was tense like a bowstring, ready to fling himself at their capturers, but when the door opened, he whimpered in shock.
Erestor was thrown into the cell and Elrond caught him quickly, cradling him in his arms and lowering him onto the floor. “By Elbereth, what did they do to you?” Choking with emotion, he smoothed back the dark hair. Erestor’s bruised face and bloodshed eyes made him cringe and he gently buried his friend’s face against his chest. “Do not die on me, Erestor.”
Erestor’s eyelids fluttered and it took him most of his strength to look at Elrond. There was no place that didn’t hurt and the metallic tang of blood in his mouth told him they had hurt him so badly that he was bleeding internally. They had beaten him for what seemed hours. But had it really been hours or just minutes? He had lost all track of time.
Looking into Elrond’s eyes, he saw tears in them. “Do not…cry for me…” The pain in his jaw had worsened and he tried to speak or move as little as possible, but there was one more thing he had to say. His chances at survival diminished with every beating and he doubted he would survive another one. He wanted to unburden his soul before traveling to Mandos.
Elrond caught Erestor’s good hand in his and squeezed it gently. “Do not speak. Do not tire yourself. Help will arrive shortly.”
“It won’t,” whispered Erestor exhausted. The pain was growing worse and he was worried he would lose consciousness before admitting his feelings. “Elrond?”
Elrond leaned in closer, pulling Erestor close to his chest. “What do you want to tell me?” Seeing Erestor in this much pain tore his heart in two.
Erestor moistened his lips, tasting dried blood. “I love you, Elrond… I never wanted… you to know…but now that…” Agony coursed through his body and he tensed in Elrond’s arms, trying to hold onto consciousness a little longer. “Loved you… for so long…”
“How long?” A lump formed in Elrond’s throat at hearing Erestor’s unexpected admission. Finally he had found the missing piece of the puzzle.
“For… millennia…” Erestor’s eyes suddenly rolled back until only the white showed.
Elrond whimpered softly. “Do not leave me!” Pulling Erestor close to his chest, he fought back his tears. This was not the time to give into despair. “I cannot believe you never told me. So this is why you always hid behind a mask, never showing your feelings. You loved me for millennia and never told me.” Cautiously holding the raven haired Elf, he hoped Glorfindel had realized by now that something was amiss.
“My lord Celeborn?” Glorfindel urgently signaled for the silver haired Elf to enter. He had managed to move Rumil back to the bed, but the younger Elf still clung to him, making it impossible for him to carry out his usual duties. “I need your help.”
Celeborn nodded once, pleased that Glorfindel was still at Rumil’s side. He knew his youngest well enough to realize that Glorfindel would be stuck with Rumil for some time. Apparently he had chosen Glorfindel as his lifeline.
“One of my men told me that today’s patrol has not returned yet and I am worried something has happened to Elrond and Erestor.” Glorfindel bit his bottom lip, angry with himself for not noticing earlier, but it was hard to keep on top of things with a ‘Lorien Elf stuck to you. “Would you ride out, with an escort of course, to see what happened?”
Celeborn frowned deeply, worried as well. “Elrond and Erestor might be in danger, then.”
“I should not have allowed them to join this patrol! What was I thinking? Endangering them like that?” Guilt showed on Glorfindel’s face.
Celeborn headed for the doorway, eager to check on his son-in-law and his advisor.
Glorfindel swallowed hard. “What if they ran into Orcs? He was mad with himself for not thinking this through. “Forget it, I am riding out myself. Here, take Rumil.”
But Rumil had other ideas. In his sleep, he refused to let go of Glorfindel and tightened his hold until it became hard for Glorfindel to breathe properly. Only when he stopped trying to move away did Rumil relent somewhat.
“Stay here,” said Celeborn in a firm tone. “Rumil needs you. I will ride and secure Elrond and Erestor.”
“I will never forgive myself if someone happened to them!” Glorfindel stared hard at Celeborn. “You must find them!”
“I will.” Celeborn marched into the corridor, headed for the twins’ rooms, knocked, and waited for them to appear. Apparently Elrohir had already been asleep, because the eyes that met his were still heavy with dreams. “Get dressed. We are riding out.”
Elrohir instantly fully awoke. “Elladan, we are leaving!’
Elladan joined them. Seeing Celeborn’s worried expression, he raised an eyebrow questioningly.
“It is your father and Erestor. This morn’s patrol has not yet returned.” Celeborn’s heart twisted in his chest when he saw realization dawn on them.
“Then what are we waiting for?“ Upset, Elrohir grabbed his cloak and boots and pulled Elladan along as he headed for the stables. “What if they met with Saruman’s creatures? By Elbereth, Ada and Erestor are no match for them! I knew it was folly to let them go!” His stallion was already saddled and he mounted quickly, followed by Elladan and Celeborn. Looking about, he noticed twenty of Glorfindel’s men had joined them. Apparently Glorfindel also thought something terrible had happened!
Elladan sensed his brother’s anxiety and mounted as well, riding behind Celeborn who led the patrol. His hands were clammy and his mouth awfully dry. He didn’t dare think of what could have happened to his father and Erestor!
“We will find them,” said Celeborn in a reassuring tone, but privately he worried as well. He should have kept an eye on things now Glorfindel was taking care of Rumil. He was to blame for this!
Elrohir urged his stallion to greater speed and scouted ahead. When Elladan broke free of the escort to join him, he looked at his twin. “We must hurry. Every moment might count.”
“What possessed us to let them go?” Elladan’s dark eyes simmered with emotion. “We should have stopped them from joining that patrol!”
“It is too late now,” said Elrohir softly. “They left and all we can do now is hope we will find them quickly.” Suddenly Elladan released a distressed whimper and Elrohir immediately followed the direction of his twin’s gaze. On the ground, partly hidden by fallen leaves, was one of the Elves that had been part of Elrond’s escort.
Shaky, Elrohir dismounted to check on the Elf. “He is dead,” he whispered, saddened, and raised the sword that lay next to the Elf. “Orcs.” It was one of the dark blades forged in the pits of Isengard.
“Ada...” Elladan’s voice faltered. “Where is he? And what about Erestor?”
Elrohir studied the tracks on the ground, thankful that Estel had taught him how to read them. “Someone struggled here…”
“Ada and Erestor. Follow those tracks, Elrohir.” Elladan signaled Celeborn and their escort to join them. His burning eyes locked with his grandfather.
Celeborn paled, seeing the dead Elf near the tree. His worst fear was quickly becoming true! Realizing Elrohir was walking away from them, they followed the half-Elf.
Elrohir mounted again, urging his stallion into a gallop. “This way!” Elrohir signaled for them to follow, which they did. “There are ten Orcs at least and one larger set of footsteps. There might be Uruk-Hai as well.”
“I am ready for them,” hissed Elladan; the hate in his voice was palpable.
Celeborn’s sharp eyes made out a small cottage in the distance. Men once settled at the Northern borders.
Elrohir bared his teeth. “I will kill them one by one. Slowly, if they have hurt Ada.”
Celeborn shivered at his grandson’s tone, but understood perfectly.
Beta read by Ilye, thank you!
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