|About Us News Resources Login Become a member Help Search|
‘This is not a good idea,’ Eleniel murmured to Elrin, who was, she considered, the only one of this group of friends to have any sense of self-preservation.
‘Do you think we stand any chance of stopping them?’ he asked her. ‘We will be bound to share the blame whatever happens, so we might as well take part. At least we will be there then if they need to be fished out of any mess.’
He seemed rather resigned to ending up in trouble, Eleniel thought. She supposed that, as older cousin to the most heedless pair of ellyth living, he must be used to it. She looked at him compassionately. Her own twin was constantly in the middle of some activity that usually turned out to be disastrous, but at least no-one expected her to be able to do anything to control him.
‘How do they think they have any chance of getting away with it?’ she asked. ‘They did not last time, or the one before. Why should anyone be less suspicious this time?’
He grinned and pushed his dark hair behind his ear. ‘They are very optimistic,’ he said. ‘The best we can hope to do is tone them down a bit and get them back safely, so that we will not be confined to our rooms for too long.’
‘Why do you want to go into the forest in the middle of the night?’ Eleniel asked Aewlin, who always seemed the less reckless of the two. ‘What can you do at night that you cannot do during daylight hours?’
Aewlin glanced triumphantly at Nimloth. Now Eleniel was showing interest they stood a much better chance of convincing Elrin to come with them. ‘There is a magic pool,’ she told the older elleth. ‘In the middle of a small glade. You have to go there at if you want to see anything.’
Eleniel closed her eyes briefly and sighed. There was no question about it, both Aewlin and Nimloth were mad. ‘Does your naneth not bar your door at night to keep you in?’ she marvelled. ‘These woods may be well-intentioned towards us, but there are still bears and wildcats and other creatures of the night that might decide that you would make a pleasant snack.’
Aewlin looked at her scornfully. ‘We have been out at night many times, Eleniel. We have never yet come to any harm.’
‘Until after you have returned home,’ Elrin commented.
‘Galenthil!’ Nimloth grabbed his arm. ‘You are not going to let Eleniel spoil this, are you? She can stay at home like a baby if she likes, but make her promise not to tell.’
Flicking his soft fair hair over his shoulder, Galenthil detached Nimloth’s grip on his sleeve. ‘Eleniel will say nothing,’ he grinned. ‘She is very good at keeping secrets.’ He looked at his sister. ‘Better than me,’ he admitted.
‘I am not going to be the only one left behind,’ Eleniel said in alarm. ‘I do not intend to be around to face questioning from all our parents. If you have to do this, I will come too – but I still think it is a stupid thing to do.’
Nimloth smiled brilliantly, her face glowing beneath her silver-gilt fall of hair. ‘I knew we could rely on you, Eleniel,’ she said warmly.
Eleniel flicked a quick glance at Elrin and met his rueful eyes. ‘She manages it every time,’ he muttered, shaking his head. ‘And Aewlin can be even more convincing.’
‘So what do we have to do?’ Galenthil asked practically, helping himself to an apple.
‘You look tired, Sirithiel,’ Elerrina said with some concern. ‘Are you well?’
Sirithiel shook her head and smiled. ‘It is nothing,’ she answered softly.
‘Nothing we appear to be able to improve,’ Elrohir added ruefully, accepting the goblet of wine his brother handed him.
Elladan place a comforting hand on his twin’s shoulder. ‘They will grow more sensible as they grow older,’ he offered.
‘Ah,’ Legolas nodded understandingly. ‘The joys of being the exhausted parents of twins. You have my sympathy.’
‘They are not that bad!’ Elerrina interjected indignantly. ‘They are generally. . .’ Her voice trailed away as her husband’s eyes met hers. ‘Well, sometimes,’ she shrugged, ‘Eleniel can be quite sensible. And Galenthil’s teachers say he is good for his age.’
‘It does not mean quite the same thing, though, does it?’ Legolas smiled. ‘He wields a sword well for his age – but that does not make him reasonable. He has a good knowledge of history and his mathematical ability is better than mine ever was – but that did not stop him making a slide in the hayloft that ended up with him falling through the trapdoor and breaking his leg.’
Elladan laughed. ‘It is normal, though. If ellyn behaved like adults, there would be something wrong with them.’
Elerrina giggled. ‘Eleniel decided to bring in one of the stable cats – which then had kittens in the bottom of her clothes cupboard. She was most indignant when I objected – and then even more indignant when the cat brought in a bird and shredded it, scattering feathers all over her floor.’
‘And most indignant of all when she was called upon to clear up the mess,’ added the adar of the elleth in question.
‘It is not so much those kinds of incidents,’ Elrohir sighed, ‘although they do things like that, too. It is never knowing if they are going to be in their beds – despite checking them a dozen times a night. It is deliberate mischief – playing tricks on people, hiding their possessions, putting revolting additions into food. And they are manipulative – they gang up together to push others into doing their will.’ He glanced at Miriwen. ‘They make Elrin help them – and then he ends up with the greater share of the blame,’ he said apologetically.
‘He is old enough to know better,’ Miriwen said calmly. ‘He does not have to allow them to lead him into mischief.’
‘He is only trying to protect them,’ Sirithiel protested. ‘Most of the time he deserves to be rewarded rather than punished.’
‘I have to keep reminding Elrohir that we were pretty awful as elflings,’ Elladan sipped his wine reminiscently, ‘but we improved as we got older. Although Naneth and Adar’s stories are not exactly encouraging Sirithiel to look forward to the next few years – and our parents did not know the half of it.’
‘Do you think we should confess to some of those unsolved mysteries, my brother? It is probably too late now for Adar to demand retribution.’ Elrohir rested his head against the high back of his chair and looked up at his twin, standing with one elbow on the mantelpiece.
‘I was thinking more of the things we did of which they have no suspicion at all,’ Elladan returned. ‘Like the time we climbed the rock stack after eagles’ feathers. Or the time we lit a fire on the ice when we were skating, because it was cold, and barely escaped a wetting.’
‘Do you remember the time we – ah, borrowed – Glorfindel’s dagger and then accidentally dropped it into the cleft in the rocks by the waterfall? We sneaked back at night and climbed down the rock chimney to retrieve it, so that we could put it back before he noticed it was gone. It is just as well we were scrawny ellyn – no adult could ever have squeezed through that gap to fish us out.’
Legolas shuddered. ‘It makes me feel unwell just thinking of it – although I can probably come up with a dozen similar stories from my own youth.’
‘We cannot be everywhere,’ Miriwen shrugged philosophically. ‘We do our best to keep them safe and point out dangers they may not have considered, but we have all done foolish and dangerous things, yet lived to tell the tale. It is part of growing up.’
‘That is all very well for you to say,’ Sirithiel retorted. ‘Your son has enough common sense to come in out of the rain, whereas my daughters would consider the middle of a storm to be the best possible time to fly a kite.’
Elrohir shook his head. ‘They have a keen sense of self-preservation, my love,’ he told her, ‘if little sense of any other kind. They will survive – although I am not so sure that I will.’ He grinned ruefully at the others. ‘Enough of them. They are tucked up safely in their beds for tonight. Let us talk about something else.’
The elflings froze at the bottom of the stairs as a crack of laughter sounded from behind the door to the sitting room.
‘Be quick,’ Aewlin whispered, as, boots in hand, she slipped past into the corridor that headed to the side door.
Eleniel briefly considered tripping against the door, but decided, sighing, that even if Aewlin and Nimloth did not suspect that it had been deliberate, Galenthil would know. She preferred to avoid confrontation where possible, seeing little point in deliberately annoying those who controlled her life, but nothing would make her betray her own twin and he wanted to take part in this trip to see Aewlin’s magic pool. She tiptoed along behind the others as quietly as a ghost, surprising Nimloth as she turned to check on the older elleth’s whereabouts.
‘This should be fun,’ Galenthil grinned at her. ‘Relax and enjoy it, Eleniel.’
Elrin lifted the latch with practised caution and the four younger elflings moved into the starlit night like shadows, leaving him to close the door behind them. Using the shrubs as cover, they reached the trees and gathered behind a close-growing thicket of hazel.
‘Which way now?’ Elrin asked patiently.
‘The world looks different at night.’ Nimloth stared up at the gleaming mithril of the stars in the dark velvet sky. The trees rustled in a soft breeze and the elleth rubbed at her cheek to push back the silvery-fair hair. Her eyes took on a dreamy look and she stepped forward to get a better view of the heavens.
Galenthil grabbed her arm. ‘Not here,’ he said with alarm. ‘Keep out of sight. We might have escaped our parents, but I am sure your daeradar will have other people watching in the woods.’
‘Do you think so?’ Aewlin looked at him sharply. ‘That could account for why we always seem to get caught,’ she admitted. ‘How do you know?’
‘I do not, of course,’ he returned, ‘but I know that our daeradar has guards keeping an eye on the surroundings of our home. They do not stop us going out – not unless they have been told to – but we will feature in their report. It is very irritating,’ he added. ‘We often think we have escaped without having been noticed, but we rarely have.’
‘Yet it has never occurred to you to give up?’ Elrin asked.
Galenthil grinned. ‘Where would be the fun in that?’ he answered with a query. ‘We do work to avoid repeating ourselves,’ he remarked. ‘I am getting better at coming up with ways they have not thought to cover.’
‘And you go with him?’ Elrin asked Eleniel in some surprise. ‘I would have thought, from what you said, that you did not much enjoy being in trouble.’
‘I do not,’ Eleniel replied truthfully, ‘but it is better than standing in front of Ada or Daerada being asked to tell what I know about Galenthil’s plans. It is very hard to remain silent when they are making me feel that my twin is in danger. I would rather be with him and know that he is safe.’
‘This way,’ Aewlin interrupted, growing tired of the conversation. ‘If there are guards, then the sooner we get on our way, the better.’
Elrin kept to the back as they used the shade of the trees to conceal them as they passed through the woods. His senses told him that the forest was calm in the soft dark of the moonless night, but he did not feel that he could relax as he kept his attention on the younger ones. The outing seemed straightforward enough, but he had discovered long since that his cousins’ plans often spiralled out of control and it was up to him to see that Galenthil and the ellyth returned home safely.
‘I am sorry, my lady,’ the guard said stolidly, his eyes sliding to meet those of Lord Elrohir. ‘We have not been told to challenge the elflings if they wander at night. As it is, Domenion exceeded our orders in following them.’
‘Never mind, Calenlith,’ Elladan intervened. ‘You did well to keep them in sight – and to come and tell us. You had best return to your watch now.’
‘My lord.’ The guard bowed and withdrew, glad to leave a situation that was clearly brewing into a storm.
‘I thought we had put a stop to night-wandering,’ Elerrina said thoughtfully, as she watched Elrohir speak softly to Sirithiel.
‘Or, more likely, they have simply evaded capture recently,’ Legolas suggested lightly.
‘It is not so much that they are at risk,’ Miriwen sighed. ‘It is the principle of the thing. They need to learn to do as they are told.’ She frowned at Legolas’s grin. ‘And that is nothing to laugh at, my prince. Your adar would not have tolerated such behaviour from you.’
Legolas laughed outright. ‘That is true enough,’ he admitted. ‘Although he did not always find it easy to keep me in – despite our living in a stone stronghold that was lacking in such conveniences as windows. But we live now in other times,’ he added. ‘It is difficult to convince them that the night contains perils in the absence of venomous spiders and marauding orcs.’
‘There is more to danger than the creatures of the Dark Lord,’ Sirithiel snapped with unusual ferocity. ‘Do not allow yourself to be lulled into complacency – there are still wild animals, cliffs, bogs, rivers, pot-holes dropping into the depths of the earth. A fall will still kill an elfling and so will a bear’s claws or a wolf’s teeth.’
‘It is true that you elves of Arda tend to take the perils of life in the Blessed Realm for granted,’ Elerrina agreed calmly. ‘You treat these lands as if they are some kind of playground, where there is nothing that will do you any harm.’
The four who had grown to years of discretion in a land where active malevolence targeted the elven havens looked wide-eyed at Elerrina and Sirithiel.
‘It is not that we do not recognise that there are hazards of which the elflings are ignorant,’ Elrohir said in a conciliatory tone. ‘And of course they should be kept safe.’
‘But it is not as it was when you were their age,’ Sirithiel snapped. She blushed as a wary silence fell. ‘I am sorry,’ she apologised. ‘I did not mean to . . .’
Elrohir took her hand. ‘Yes, you did,’ he said. ‘And you are right – we are too inclined to dismiss any dangers. And Miriwen is right, too. They must learn that disobedience is followed by unpleasant penalties.’
‘Telling them not to wander is clearly ineffective,’ Elerrina mused. ‘Perhaps we should insist that they spend time outside at night.’
‘They are doing that without our consent,’ Legolas pointed out. ‘Surely granting them permission to do that which they are doing in defiance of their parents will not teach them to conform to our rules.’
‘Not if their time under the stars is made a part of their education,’ she suggested. ‘Their tutors could add several hours of tuition each evening to their usual lessons – the stars, for example, or perhaps night’s creatures, with their learning and application to be tested regularly.’
‘If they are to have to work at their lessons after dark,’ Elladan added, ‘their tutors can spare them for an hour or two in the morning to perform tasks that will remind them of their duty to obey.’
Elrohir grinned. ‘Do you have in mind what I think?’ he asked.
‘There is plenty of work to be carried out in the sculleries in the mornings,’ his twin grinned back, ‘and it will do them no harm at all to have to get their hands dirty as they serve the household in a practical way.’
‘They are going to wish they had stayed in their beds,’ Legolas laughed.
‘Although I have to confess,’ Elladan added, ‘that any effects of Adar’s wrath tended to be fairly transitory, for we were regular visitors to his study over a considerable number of years.’
‘Perhaps we should go and retrieve our offspring,’ Elrohir suggested. ‘I am sure that Domenion would be relieved to have the responsibility removed from his shoulders before they have a chance to endanger themselves.’
Sirithiel held him back briefly. ‘We will all work together?’ she asked. ‘Perhaps our words will have more effect if they can see that we are all of the same opinion.’
‘Let them wait until the morning to meet retribution,’ Miriwen said briskly. ‘We will put them to sleep in separate rooms and leave them to worry about their fate for a while. Have them promise not to speak to each other until after we have finished with them – my adar always found that an excellent way to make us more receptive to his words – and then come back here so we can agree a plan.’
Elladan bowed. ‘To hear is to obey, my lady,’ he grinned.
As he led Elrohir and Legolas from the room, he heard a comment, voiced softly but intended to reach their ears. ‘You see, they can be trained,’ Miriwen said clearly, ‘if one is prepared to be both patient and persistent.’
Aewlin moved swiftly and confidently, weaving her way between the straight trunks of the mature trees and ducking below the thin branches of spindly saplings seeking a gap in which to grow.
‘Would it not be wiser to follow the path?’ Elrin grabbed her. ‘The ground is uneven and there are roots hidden beneath the leaf litter.’
‘That is the long way round,’ Nimloth told him, pushing past. ‘You do not think we are about to get lost, surely?’ she added scornfully, veering to her right and reaching out to caress the bark of a sturdy oak as she passed.
‘There are times,’ Galenthil said quietly in Elrin’s ear as Aewlin pulled out of his grasp to follow her twin, ‘when I am very glad that I only have one sister.’
‘It is not the number,’ Elrin sighed, ‘but the quality. I would not mind at all if Eleniel was my cousin, but there are times when I would happily give Aewlin and Nimloth away to anyone who wanted them.’
‘They would soon be given back,’ Galenthil informed him. ‘I am not sure even Daeradar would be willing to take on the terrible twins – and he is almost putty in Eleniel’s hands.’
‘I cannot say that I had noticed,’ his sister said. ‘And you might recall that he did not make any difference between us last time he was called on to discipline us.’
‘He would not do that,’ Galenthil agreed. ‘It would not be fair. You work on him best before we get into trouble.’ He looked at the two more reluctant adventurers. ‘We had better hurry,’ he said. ‘We would not want to lose sight of the twins.’
Domenion looked down from his vantage point in the oak and sighed. If the two groups of elflings got much further apart, he would have to decide which of them to follow. Instinct told him he would be wiser to keep within easy reach of Lord Elrohir’s daughters – but the Prince’s twins were guests. Should he let that take precedence? He thought probably not – experience showed that trouble was most likely to be found within arm’s length of the youngest two. At least they were not heading towards the river, he thought with resignation, as he eased himself quietly into the next tree as subtly as a shifting of the shadows, so he would probably avoid an unnecessary bath.
Looking up sharply, Galenthil scanned the canopy.
‘What is it?’ Elrin asked as they headed after the younger twins.
His friend shook his head. ‘The trees are aware of us,’ he replied. ‘And I thought for a moment that I felt something else – but I am not sure. It was probably nothing.’
Ahead of them, Aewlin grasped her sister’s arm. ‘We had better wait,’ she insisted. ‘If we get too far ahead, it is not impossible that Eleniel will persuade Elrin to go back. I do not care if we are caught after we have been to the pool, but I want to see if what Eirien said is true.’
Nimloth’s eyes gleamed in the silver light. ‘I am sure it must be,’ she said enthusiastically. ‘Why would she make it up?’ She glanced up at the sky briefly. ‘It is a full moon, just as she said, and we have what she told us to bring.’ She turned to look for the others. ‘I wish they would hurry up – we have to be there before the moon is at its highest and we are running short of time.’
‘There they are!’ Aewlin said with relief. ‘Come on – we want to keep just far enough ahead that they cannot ask us what we intend to do.’
The glade for which they were heading was small, surrounded by a ring of trees that seemed ready to defend it from invasion, but they let the two ellyth through without objecting to their presence. Aewlin stilled at the edge of the open lawn, studded with tiny white flowers that caught the moonlight and glowed like stars fallen to earth. Just beyond the middle a small pool lay like mirror glass cupped in a frame of green. The water was motionless, untouched by even the faintest ripple and it shone in the moonlight.
‘Come on,’ Nimloth said, pulling her sister towards the pond. ‘We can do it before they arrive and decide to stop us.’
As they stood with their toes just clear of the water, Aewlin drew a handkerchief from her pocket and untwisted the knot in the corner. ‘I have brought what Eirien said. Rosemary and bay, heartsease and lavender. Do you remember the words?’
‘Of course,’ Nimloth told her absently as she stared intently at the still water. ‘Do we both scatter the herbs?’
‘Yes,’ Aewlin said with decision. ‘And we say the words together.’
Two small hands dropped their drooping collection of leaves and petals as the hurried round the margin of the pool, before they knelt at the point where they had started.
‘Together, then,’ Aewlin murmured, and she and Nimloth began, ‘Silver mirror of the night, give to me your special sight. . .’
‘What are they doing?’ Galenthil puzzled from the edge of the glade.
‘Trying out a magic charm,’ Elrin said impatiently. ‘Only they could believe in that sort of nonsense.’
‘I wonder who told them of it,’ Eleniel mused. ‘Do you think they will go back to their friends and admit that the magic pool was a disappointment, or whether they will decide to tell a more exciting version of events?’
The younger twins finished their incantation and leaned forward to stare into the silver depths of the water.
Elrin was not quite sure when he knew that something had changed. The innocent eagerness of his cousins, the soft rustling of the trees, the feeling of expectation in the glade: somehow they became shadowed and, in an instant, the peace of the forest night was tinged with an echo of some ancient evil.
Before he had a chance to move, Domenion dropped from the tree behind them and leapt towards the frozen figures of the twins. ‘This must be stopped,’ he said urgently and, the deadlock broken, Elrin led the other two in their rush to deal with whatever it was that had touched his cousins.
Aewlin had not really believed that anything would happen. Eirien’s tale of the magic pool in which you could see your future had given her a delicious shudder of excitement and fear and she had been determined to try it out at the first opportunity. Her twin had been sure that it would work and they had spent days discussing how they could get into the woods at night, and how they could get to try out the charm before Elrin stopped them. The last thing Aewlin had expected was that, as she leaned over the water, the unmarred surface would begin to swirl as though the clouds above them were twisting in a high wind. She had been unable to move, unable to speak, unable even to clutch at her sister’s hand as a series of images, each even more horrific than the last, had thrust themselves at her: a burning eye, seeking for something; Daernana, blood-stained and desolate, huddled in dark corner; her daeradar, filthy, exhausted and despairing, his face lit by a fiery glow; a city on fire; Anana, the gold of her hair the only warmth in an endless sea of ice. The pictures had passed before her rapidly, but each one etched itself into her memory, so that, by the time she was pulled away from the water, she was unable to deal any further with the horror she had seen and she was relieved to abandon herself to the blackness of unconsciousness.
With a desperate cry, Nimloth flung herself on her sister and held her.
‘What did you see?’ Elrin asked urgently. ‘You must tell me, Nimloth.’
‘Horrible things,’ his cousin sobbed. ‘Monsters and battles and people being killed. I do not want to think of it.’
Elrin reached out to hold her and stroked her hair soothingly. ‘I do not believe you have a choice,’ he said sadly.
Legolas drew in a deep breath of the night air. ‘I suppose we should feel annoyed at being dragged out to seek our disobedient offspring,’ he said, ‘but, actually, I am quite pleased to have the chance to wander the woods at night.’
‘Do you think she meant me?’ Elladan was still quite indignant at Miriwen’s parting comment. ‘Do you think she has got me well-trained?’
‘Of course she meant you, my brother,’ Elrohir told him gleefully. ‘And I would say she had the right of it. You are like a dog who knows his master’s voice.’
Legolas aimed a friendly punch at his shoulder. ‘She was teasing,’ he told Elladan, ‘as you know perfectly well. Talented as she is, training you is beyond her powers. And if she had wanted an easy life with a compliant husband, she would have chosen someone rather less – volatile.’
‘I will make her pay for the insult,’ Elladan vowed. ‘Just let her wait until we are alone.’
‘I should think she is counting on that response,’ his twin laughed. ‘But first let us catch our prey and incarcerate them safely.’
‘And I am not volatile,’ Elladan objected. ‘I just – respond quickly to different situations.’
‘True,’ Elrohir agreed. ‘Impulsive is a much better word.’
‘I will bear that in mind for the future,’ Legolas said with a straight face. ‘Not volatile, but impulsive. I understand.’
Elladan sniffed disdainfully. ‘You are the Wood Elf here, Legolas. Take your mind off my faults and put your attention to seeking out the brats. If you get the trees to help us, we will be able to get them back to their beds before I have lost the desire to tickle Miriwen until she is helpless and begging me for mercy.’
‘They went that way,’ his friend said mildly, nodding towards the woods.
‘We knew that much before we left the house,’ Elrohir commented. ‘Oh well – to business, my friends.’
The elflings proved easy to follow. Any attempt they had made to conceal their passing had been spasmodic at best – and Nimloth seemed to have gone out of her way to touch every tree she had passed. Their adars moved briskly, but made no effort to hurry, knowing both that their youngsters were not in danger, and that they were under the eye of one of Elrond’s best scouts.
Nimloth’s sudden terrified wail galvanised them into action. Without even looking at each other, Legolas and the twins automatically spread out, so that any challenge would not be able to meet them all head on, and they readied weapons that even years in the Blessed Realm had not persuaded them to leave behind.
‘Legolas,’ Elladan hissed and indicated the trees.
The Wood Elf nodded and leapt into the branches so that he could approach the danger area under cover.
Elladan increased his pace. One of them needed to get beyond the glade from which the sound had emerged – he could not expect it to be Elrohir, who was too anxious to get to the aid of his frightened daughter.
‘Do not take risks, my twin,’ he thought anxiously. He had not expected to have to take their wives’ words seriously in their search for the elflings – but it took a lot to scare Nimloth. This was not the moment for Sirithiel and Elerrina to be proved right, he decided. He would be able to tolerate any smugness much better if it were not over the body of an injured child.
Domenion lifted his head and narrowed his eyes, judging the movement of the night air and the rustling in the trees. ‘Your adas are coming,’ he said with relief. ‘Let them see you are safe, but do not run towards them yet – they might hurt you by accident,’ he warned. He continued to monitor the fair elleth sprawled so close to the pond that strands of her long silvery hair were floating on the surface of the water. She was breathing steadily, he noted, but showed no signs of returning to consciousness.
Nimloth was whimpering, like a hurt puppy, with one hand pressed over her mouth. Her eyes were huge and dark as she stared at her sister as if afraid that, should she remove her attention for a moment, Aewlin would cease to be there. Even when Elrohir snatched her from his nephew and held her in a hug so tight as to be painful, she kept her head turned towards the still figure of her twin.
‘What happened?’ Elrohir asked brusquely. ‘And what is the matter with Aewlin?’
Elladan, entering the clearing fractionally behind his brother, realised instantly that any danger that had threatened the elflings was of their own making and he dropped to his knees to attend to his niece. ‘Elrin?’ he enquired gently. ‘Can you tell us about it?’
Domenion looked up as Aewlin began to moan in her uncle’s arms. ‘They used the pool as a scrying tool,’ he said. ‘And it acted for them as a window into another world.’
Holding his children close, Legolas freed a hand to rest it on Elrin’s shoulder comfortingly as he shuddered. The Woodland Prince frowned. ‘Like Galadriel’s mirror?’ he questioned. ‘I thought that she had studied for centuries so that she could use her pool to extend her sight.’
‘She had,’ Elrohir said slowly, ‘but perhaps natural talent is also required.’
Nimloth burrowed her head into the security of her adar’s chest and breathed in his reassuring scent more deeply as her sister sat up and clutched frantically at her uncle.
‘I want to go home,’ she said and the unsteadiness of her voice reminded the adults that, no matter how determined she appeared, she and her sister were young, even for elflings. ‘I want Nana.’
‘I think that can be arranged,’ Elrohir said comfortingly. ‘You can tell us all about it once we have you tucked up with your Nana and a glass of warm milk.’
‘Can we sleep with you and Nana tonight?’ Aewlin pleaded. ‘I do not want to be on my own.’
Elrohir glanced at his brother. ‘It is not quite what we had in mind,’ he said, ‘but I think it might be as well if we do not want to spend the night dealing with tearful ellyth.’
The wood had changed, Eleniel thought, as they trailed back the way they had come, her hand held firmly in her adar’s. It was no longer a place where anything could happen, but an extension of home. Well – she glanced at the younger twins, each sniffling slightly in the protective arms of adar and uncle, perhaps that was not strictly true. She had herself seen nothing but a patch of water reflecting the silver moonlight, but to Aewlin and Nimloth the forest pool had clearly become something else, something much more alarming.
‘It is my fault,’ Elrin muttered to himself, more than for anyone else’s ears. ‘I should have stopped them.’
Legolas’s hand turned the ellon so that he looked into the serious grey eyes of his nephew by affection. ‘You cannot blame yourself,’ he informed him, ‘for anything other than a misjudgement.’ He cupped the back of Elrin’s head and stroked his wild black hair. ‘You must accept your limitations,’ he said softly. ‘You do your best to shield those in your care, but you cannot do everything.’ He held the ellon’s gaze and was conscious of a clenching in his belly. How was it that this elfling, divided by some thirty generations from the descendants of Elros, could be so like the youngster he had first come to know in Imladris? ‘I have little doubt that you were not informed of your cousins’ intentions – and neither would they have expected what actually happened.’
‘They said it was a magic pool,’ Eleniel intervened. ‘I think they expected it to grant them wishes.’
‘They certainly,’ Legolas told Elrin with conviction, ‘did not expect it to become a window into events and stories they are too young to understand.’
‘But,’ Elrin looked at him intently, and hesitated.
‘You should have refused to let them leave their beds,’ Legolas conceded, ‘and, when they ignored you, you should have come and told us what they had done.’ He grinned at the ellon reassuringly. ‘Although I know that, at your age, I too would have considered that to be treachery of the worst sort.’
‘Ada,’ Galenthil said, pulling at his sleeve, ‘we are getting left behind.’
Legolas glanced up at Domenion and smiled before turning to his son. ‘We are safe enough,’ he said. ‘After all, we have our own guard with us.’ He patted Elrin’s shoulder. ‘Come,’ he commanded. ‘Let us get you back to your naneths. I believe they have things they wish to say to you.’
Sirithiel seemed even wearier when she returned from tucking her daughters into her and Elrohir’s big bed.
Her husband opened his arms to her and drew her into his lap, tucking her fair head into his shoulder and stroking her hair comfortingly. ‘Bad?’ he asked.
‘Bad enough,’ she sighed. ‘They are tangled together like puppies – they asked how long we would be before they fell asleep, but I do not think they will wake now.’
‘I dosed their milk,’ Elrohir admitted. ‘They do not need to think about what they saw until it is light and the shadows fade.’
‘Galenthil asked to spend the night with Elrin,’ Legolas said, ‘and I agreed. They were both a little shaken by the twins’ reaction – and Elrin is, of course, wallowing in guilt.’
‘So unlike his adar,’ Miriwen observed.
‘I never saw much point in it myself,’ Elladan commented. ‘Better to think ahead than have to feel bad about what it past. He would be better chalking it down to experience and moving on.’
Five pairs of disbelieving eyes focused on him.
‘You were centuries older than Elrin before it even occurred to you that a concept like ‘thinking ahead’ existed,’ his brother objected.
‘Who are you to insult me?’ Elladan enquired mildly. ‘You were every bit as bad.’
‘Which is how I know,’ Elrohir said firmly.
‘Is Eleniel all right?’ Sirithiel asked Elerrina. ‘I would have put her in with Aewlin and Nimloth, but I did not believe it would be helpful.’
‘I suspect she might join us later,’ Elerrina sighed. ‘She asked me if it would have made any difference had they not visited the pool when the moon was high – or if the ellyth had refrained from using their incantation. I told her that I thought not – I hope I convinced her. She was tired enough then to go straight to sleep – although she was clutching at the stuffed cat that she normally claims to be no more than an ornament.’
‘What are we going to do with them?’ Miriwen asked in a voice that combined amusement and despair. ‘They do things that it would never occur to reasonable parents to forbid. Who would have thought we should already have suggested to the descendants of Galadriel and Elrond that it was not a good idea to play with the ideas of prophecy and long sight? It might have come into their education in about twenty years from now, but it should have been a century or more before there was even a suggestion that they could develop the power.’
‘It raises alarming possibilities,’ Elrohir sighed.
‘But reinforces the need to make them accept discipline,’ Legolas added mildly. ‘Self-discipline and education.’ Miriwen suppressed a giggle and the Woodland Prince looked at her reprovingly. ‘How do you think I know?’ he said.
‘So we will stick to our decisions?’ Elladan asked. ‘Extra lessons and some physical labour?’
‘It will take their minds off what happened,’ Sirithiel agreed, ‘and, hopefully, it will make them think twice before repeating their actions.’
‘And in case it does not,’ Elrohir added, ‘I am going to see to it that we employ a guard whose duty is to serve as nightwatchman – and keep the elflings in his sight should they escape our care.’
‘I think, too,’ Miriwen said, ‘that we need to speak with Elrond and, perhaps, your Daernaneth. If Aewlin and Nimloth can do this at their age, with no training, it might be that they need to be taken in hand sooner than would be expected.’
They sat for a time in the flickering firelight, considering the wholly unexpected pressures of parenthood.
Elrohir groaned suddenly. ‘I have just thought, ‘he said, ‘of what Aewlin and Nimloth might become when they are grown, if they show such signs of power now. It is a very frightening picture. I do not know if I will be able to deal with it.’
His wife patted his cheek consolingly. ‘You will,’ Sirithiel said, ‘you will.’
|<< Back||Next >>|
|Home Search Chapter List|