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Elflings 7: Seventh Heaven
Elrin sighed as his cousins appeared, one on either side of him. ‘Do you have to follow me everywhere I go?’ he asked impatiently.
‘We are not.’ Aewlin responded with cool precision. ‘If we were following you everywhere you went, you would not get so irritated when we turn up.’
‘I have just finished training, Aewlin,’ Elrin informed her in a long-suffering tone. ‘I am hot and sweaty and I want to go and bathe. If you have so little to do that you can chase me down on my way back to the house, then I shall tell uncle that you clearly need more lessons.’
‘We need nothing of the sort,’ Nimloth sniffed. ‘We have just finished a hour of extra sewing, because Naneth was cross with us for getting grass stains on our new dresses – and we still have to spend time tomorrow with Iavas learning how to remove the marks from fabric. We are lessoned out, Elrin. We need some fun.’
Their cousin grinned. ‘You would not get in so much trouble if you spent rather less time looking for fun, Nimloth.’
‘You can be very dull at times, Elrin,’ Aewlin told him, wrinkling her nose. ‘I sometimes wonder how you can be so unlike your adar. He still gets in trouble.’
Elrin cast his eyes up to the clear sky. ‘He does not do it on purpose, though. His horse slid in the mud and fell on his leg. And now he is pinned to a chair on the terrace in a splint until it mends. I doubt that is the kind of trouble for which you are looking.’
‘Daernana said that at least she will know where he is when your brother decides to arrive,’ Nimloth observed. ‘And she will not have to chase off into the forest to look for him. And Daerada said that she should not count on it, because Elladan was very good at being in the last place you expected him to be.’
‘Tell me what you want,’ Elrin demanded. ‘Then I can go and get ready to eat. I am hungry.’
‘Ellyn of your age think of nothing but their stomachs,’ Aewlin said. ‘That is what your naneth said this morning. And Daernana told her to be thankful for it, because once you started thinking of other things she would wish that she had you back at the stage when she could know that you would always appear at the ringing of the dinner gong.’
‘You two spend far too much time listening to other people’s conversations,’ their cousin remarked disapprovingly.
‘Well, that is not our fault,’ Nimloth defended herself. ‘If they did not make us sit and embroider stupid samplers, we would not be there to hear them. And they spend enough time telling us what we are doing wrong and snipping our stitches out to make us do them again that they cannot have forgotten that we are in the room.’
Elrin folded his arms and lifted an enquiring eyebrow at the fair-haired twins.
‘Ride with us!’ Aewlin capitulated. ‘You can eat first, but then ride with us in the forest. We need to do something.’
‘Why do you need me to go with you?’ he asked suspiciously.
‘Ada said that we may not ride alone,’ Nimloth admitted reluctantly. ‘Not until we have learned to return on time. We have to have someone responsible with us.’
‘That rules me out then,’ their cousin said with relief. ‘I am far too young to be considered responsible enough to deal with either of you two.’
Nimloth grinned triumphantly. ‘Now that is where you are wrong,’ she announced. ‘I asked particularly. And Nana said that it hardly seemed fair to give you so much bother, but that, if you were willing, you would do.’
‘And what makes you think that I might be willing?’ their cousin asked. ‘Do you think I am stupid?’
‘We will promise to do as you say,’ Aewlin told him hopefully. ‘And you are much more fun as a companion than Calenlith or Gwathor. They will just expect us to jog along at a pace no faster than a sedate canter for an hour or so and then come straight back.’
‘Excuse me if I am wrong,’ Elrin piled on the sarcasm, ‘but I thought that was what was meant by a ride.’
‘Stop being silly.’ Nimloth wound her arms round his. ‘We want to ride somewhere and then stop and pick berries or climb a tree or – do something before we come back. You know perfectly well what we mean. Ada cannot come – he is too busy carrying out your adar’s tasks, and we want you.’
‘Look at them.’ Celebrían indicated her three grandchildren. ‘I am afraid poor Elrin has little chance of escaping the whiles of those two little besoms.’
‘He is not as helpless as he would have you believe.’ Miriwen smiled affectionately down at them, leaning back against the window frame as she rubbed her hand rhythmically over her large belly. ‘He is quite capable of managing the pair of them without them even realising it. He has his adar’s charm and his daernaneth’s ability to make everyone feel that he is doing them a favour by letting them carry out his wishes.’ She watched as Nimloth rested her head on her cousin’s arm and rubbed, like a cat attempting to convince the cook of its affection. ‘And he loves them dearly – even though they seem to have your sons’ talent for tumbling headfirst into adventure.’
‘They are getting better,’ Sirithiel said hopefully. ‘They seem to have more idea of how their behaviour affects others now.’
Celebrían turned impulsively and gave her a quick reassuring hug. ‘If you had known the twins when they were small,’ she laughed, shaking her head. ‘You have nothing to worry about, my dear one – Nimloth and Aewlin are emerging from their twin isolation much more quickly than their adar and uncle did. I was deeply grateful that I had Elrond to persuade me that it was normal for my sons to behave as they did, for otherwise I would have thought that there was something wrong with them.’
‘They seem to accept now that they are not the same.’ Miriwen observed, as Elrin pulled away and made a run for the house, pursued by a giggling Nimloth. Aewlin shrugged and followed them more slowly. ‘Nimloth seems happier now that her healing gift is known – and she is working harder on the studies that her daeradar sets her.’
‘Aewlin found that difficult, I think,’ Sirithiel sighed. ‘Nimloth wanted to share the studies with her sister, but Aewlin did not want to involve herself at first – until Lady Galadriel took a hand.’
‘There are times,’ Miriwen confessed, ‘when I am still rather frightened of Elladan’s daernaneth.’
Her naneth-in-law grinned mischievously. ‘Well, of course there are, my daughter – that just goes to prove that you are not stupid. There have been times when I have been rather frightened of her myself.’
‘I have no idea what she said to Aewlin,’ Sirithiel admitted. ‘I thought it better not to ask – but Aewlin emerged red-eyed and much happier. And she is willing to work on learning healing skills without worrying that Nimloth has an instinctive understanding of matters she has to learn.’
‘Aewlin has always been cleverer than her sister,’ Miriwen reflected. ‘More understanding, too, and less impulsive. I can understand how she would find it difficult to have Nimloth pass her.’ She smiled. ‘I remember when it became clear that my little sister would be able to weave far better than I ever would – I was outraged, even though I hid it well. It was a long time before I picked up a shuttle again. Not until after we sailed, really – when I realised that what mattered was doing the best I could and that she and I were not in competition.’
Celebrían smiled wryly. ‘It is one of the hardest parts of being a parent – standing back and letting your children learn painful lessons. And I suspect,’ she added, ‘that, like their adar, Aewlin and Nimloth will put themselves in the position of acquiring much wisdom in that way.’
Miriwen shifted uncomfortably. ‘It is not something you outgrow, either,’ she sighed. ‘You think I would have remembered how unpleasant it is carrying a child through these last few weeks – and refrained from repeating the experience.’
Sirithiel and Celebrían exchanged a knowing look.
‘I know,’ Miriwen said pettishly. ‘I do not know I am born. Carrying twins is far worse – delivering them is intolerable – bringing them up is ten times as demanding as looking after a single elfling.’
Her naneth-in-law laughed. ‘I felt just as bad with Arwen as I did with the twins,’ she admitted. ‘And I believe my temper was even worse. My naneth was gritting her teeth by the time came for her to be born, and I had driven Elrond from the house – yet, I promise you that within moments of her birth I would have agreed that, some time in the future, I would happily repeat the experience.’
‘Perhaps you would feel better if you were to go and torment your husband,’ Sirithiel suggested, eyes twinkling. ‘You could make him feel guilty for putting you in this situation in the first place – and then tease him further for not being able to jump to your bidding through his own folly.’
Miriwen smiled reluctantly. ‘It might be amusing,’ she agreed, ‘but he would take me too seriously. I would not want to distress him. He feels foolish enough as it is.’
‘You are good for Elladan,’ Celebrían told her. ‘Although, as his naneth, I cannot help but feel that he deserves his good fortune.’ She glanced at Sirithiel. ‘As does Elrohir.’
A door slammed down the corridor and three young voices disturbed the tranquillity of the house. ‘I think it will be for the best if they spend most of today’s daylight hours out in the forest,’ Miriwen mused. ‘But first, let us feed them before we set them free.’
Elrohir stretched out in his chair and closed his eyes. ‘I am less than impressed, my brother,’ he said. ‘You are just about to descend into mindless infant worship anyway. You could at least have retained full use of your body until your wife had need of your support.’
‘Anyone would think I did it on purpose,’ his twin complained. ‘Even my son is looking at me with a cynical gleam in his eye.’
‘He takes after his daeradar,’ Elrohir said with fraternal ruthlessness. ‘Do you remember when we unable to go with Naneth and Adar to Mithlond, because you had fallen from the stable loft and concussed yourself? I know Adar thought we had done it on purpose.’
‘I did not concuss myself,’ Elladan objected. ‘The yard did that for me! And, as I recall, I did not fall from the loft so much as a certain elf not too far away from me knocked me through the opening.’
Elrohir waved his hand airily. ‘The point is that Adar had exactly the same look in his eyes that Elrin shared when Legolas and I carried you in.’
‘My son is occasionally too sober,’ Elladan conceded. ‘I think we should make a point of offering him more opportunities to enjoy himself.’ He grinned wickedly. ‘I know your daughters do their best,’ he said, ‘but I am of the opinion that they cause him more anxiety than entertainment.’
‘Would you like me to remove your leg support?’ Elrohir enquired. ‘And take away your crutches?’
‘No need,’ his brother told him ruefully. ‘Adar did that himself. He did not want me attempting to walk, he said, and he could think of only one way to ensure my cooperation.’
‘Unimaginative of him,’ his twin commented. ‘I can think of plenty of ways.’
‘Only I believe he wished to spare me pain, elfling,’ Elladan sniffed.
‘Does it hurt, Adar?’ Elrin sounded concerned. ‘Would you like me to fetch Daeradar?’
Elladan turned as much as he could while pinned to a cushioned chair with his leg supported. ‘No, my son, I am fine. Elrohir can offer any assistance I need – he has not yet lost possession of all his faculties.’ He grinned at the pair of ellyth behind their cousin. ‘What have you planned for the rest of the day?’
Elrin looked at the ellyth, then, as they remained silent, heaved an exaggerated sigh. ‘Aewlin and Nimloth wish to ride,’ he told his uncle, ‘and they assure me that I am considered a suitable companion.’
Both of Elrond’s sons laughed. ‘And you thought it wise to check that that is not only what I said, but also what I meant,’ Elrohir guessed. ‘You are very young to be so suspicious – although I am aware that you have reason!’ He looked at his daughters. ‘You will do as your cousin bids you,’ he said seriously. ‘I do not want to discover that you have caused him any difficulties. And you will keep away from the rivers – there has been too much rain recently for them to be safe.’
‘We will behave,’ Nimloth promised. ‘We may go then?’
‘Return in time for supper,’ Elrohir instructed, ‘or you will be back to riding with a guard again.’
‘Yes, Adar,’ the ellyth chorused, dragging the cousin to the steps down to the garden.
‘Elrin!’ Elladan called.
‘Leave word where you intend to go,’ he said, ignoring the ellyth’s frown, ‘in case we want to get you swiftly.’
The young elf looked at him keenly. ‘We will go to the big beech beyond the meadow, Adar,’ he said readily, ‘and spend some time in its branches before we return.’
Aewlin scowled as they headed towards the stables. ‘Why do they want to know where we will be?’ she asked. ‘They pretend to accept our promise, but they still do not trust us!’
‘It is not about you at all,’ her cousin said mildly. ‘Adar wishes to know where I will be – in case Naneth wants me.’
‘Oh.’ Aewlin flushed slightly. ‘I forgot.’
‘Will he arrive today?’ Nimloth sounded surprised.
‘Possibly.’ Elrin grabbed his tack and disappeared into his horse’s stall. ‘But babies can be a bit unpredictable at times. At least, that what Naneth said.’
The twins prepared their ponies quickly and led them into the yard to mount up. ‘Come on, Elrin,’ Nimloth said impatiently. ‘We will not have enough time even to get there at this rate.’
‘Keep an eye on the sun,’ the groom who supervised the care of their horses told them, squinting at the sky. ‘Do you know when to return?’
Aewlin nodded. ‘Yes,’ she said, ‘Daernaneth told us what to look for.’
They moved off sedately, holding their mounts in until they had moved beyond the areas likely to be populated by walkers, but as soon as the entered the green avenue beyond the last cottages, Nimloth allowed her restless pony to increase his pace. ‘Come on,’ she yelled. ‘Race you!’
‘Cheat,’ Aewlin shouted, urging her mare to chase after her sister. ‘You got a head start.’
Elrin waited until the two were half way down the grassy track before allowing his gelding to leap into a swift canter, but it ate the distance between him and the ponies. The ellon laughed as his hair blew back from his face. His promotion from pony to horse was still recent enough for the increased power and speed to be exciting. He passed Aewlin easily and leaned forward, urging Tindu on in his determination to beat Nimloth. The gelding’s step lengthened and his speed pushed him past the elleth less than two lengths before the end of the unofficial race track.
‘Not fair,’ Nimloth pouted. ‘Tindu is bigger than Ascar.’
‘Gruin is the same size, though,’ Elrin pointed out. ‘So perhaps you should have waited for Aewlin to start with you.’
‘It does not matter,’ Aewlin shrugged. ‘It was only in fun – we were not really racing.’
‘Come on.’ Nimloth dropped the subject and led the way confidently between the trees, closely followed by her sister.
The torrential rains that had kept them indoors through much of the previous month had passed, leaving the fresh shades of the forest to flourish in the mild freshness of late spring. Elrin drew in a deep breath of the green scents of opening leaves and bruised grass. The path to the big beech was well used and he knew that, given a reason to co-operate, his cousins were unlikely to cause deliberate trouble, so he did not hurry after them, but dawdled, enjoying the peace of the afternoon.
It would be soon now, he knew, if his naneth wanted to be able to retrieve him quickly to meet this new brother – but he found he was not really sure that he was looking forward to the experience. He recalled little of the twin’s early years: the only memory that stood out was of having to be good and quiet so as not to disturb the fair-haired elflings – and of those he loved most ignoring him in their favour. He knew – intellectually, at any rate – that it had not been so, and that he had continued to receive as much attention and adoration as was good for any ellon, but there was a tiny part, deep inside him, that whispered that now he was no longer small enough to be appealing, he was being replaced. He had squashed it down hard and almost forgotten its presence, but now that his brother’s birth was so close, the misgiving was eating at him.
Aewlin was waiting for him as he arrived in the wide glade that was dominated by the enormous beech and, as he released Tindu to wander and feed, she slipped her hand in his. Perhaps having a younger sibling would not be bad, he thought. There were times when he rather wished that the twins were sisters rather than cousins – although, equally, there were times when he was more than happy to be able to distance himself from them.
‘We are waiting for you, ’Rin,’ she told him. ‘You are so slow at times. Anyone would think you were old!’
‘Have you also been forbidden to climb without supervision?’ he asked warily.
‘I am going to feel sorry for your brother,’ Nimloth announced. ‘You have a nasty suspicious mind, cousin. We will have to teach him ways to evade your surveillance or he will never have any fun.’
‘That does not answer my question,’ he commented dryly.
‘Adar has not actually forbidden us to climb,’ Aewlin admitted, ‘and we do not want him to do so – we would be forced into being disobedient and then everyone would jump on us with both feet. We are being cautious.’
Elrin staggered back and put his free hand to his heart. ‘Could you repeat that?’ he croaked. ‘I must be hearing things.’
‘Slapping someone is a recognised treatment for shock,’ Nimloth told him, her eyes narrowed. ‘No-one could hold it against us.’
‘Do not count on it,’ her cousin warned her. ‘I could. Especially if I am to be the victim.’
‘We brought some food,’ Aewlin said, losing interest in the debate. ‘Let us climb into the nest and eat it and talk.’
The beech was a popular destination for young elves, providing a climb that was difficult enough to keep away the youngest elflings, while its broad branches offered plenty of comfortable places for them to recline beneath its spreading canopy of rich green leaves. Its aged voice soothed them and its song was calm and powerful.
‘I love it here,’ Nimloth said finally as she stretched out full-length, with her eyes unfocused and her voice deeply peaceful, her old tunic and leggings of greyish-green matching the bark so that she looked like an exotic moon-flower growing out of the tree. ‘I feel different when we are in the forest.’
Elrin gazed absently on his cousin. It was true, he realised with some surprise. Keeping the twins detained in the house – a regular occurrence, as their tendency to wander had long worried their parents and keeping them firmly under a parental eye seemed only sensible in response – only ever made them worse. ‘Perhaps your adar should confine you to a tree when you misbehave,’ he suggested. ‘Like Elu did Lúthien.’
Aewlin laughed. ‘I cannot see Adar doing that,’ she said. ‘He would be afraid that we would fall out.’
‘Or get wet when it rained.’
‘Or escape – and run away to live in the forest with bears.’
‘Or find some hideous monster with two heads and poisonous fangs, and bring it home.’
‘And insist on marrying it.’
The pair of them dissolved into giggles.
‘You probably would,’ Elrin told them. ‘Just out of sheer cussedness.’ He shifted slightly, suddenly aware of a feeling of restlessness. ‘How long do you intend to stay here?’
‘All night would be my choice,’ Nimloth sighed, looking at the glimpses of sky visible between the leaves. ‘Do you think our adar and yours – and Eleniel’s – will take us camping again soon? I long to spend nights under the stars, listening to their song.’
Aewlin glanced to where the sun was angling the shadows across the glade. ‘But we will have to earn it,’ she said reluctantly. ‘And to do that we will have to go back now.’ She looked thoughtfully at her cousin. ‘It might be as well anyway,’ she stated. ‘I think that, if we do not, we will find that someone will be coming to fetch us.’
Elrin tensed. ‘What makes you say that?’
‘I just – feel it,’ Aewlin said vaguely. ‘But if I am wrong, it will not matter if we are home a bit early. Everyone will just be a little surprised – and impressed by how amenable we are being.’
Tindu and the ponies were waiting by the time they had gathered themselves and descended to the meadow, having clearly enjoyed the afternoon as much as the elflings.
‘Ascar, you have been rolling!’ Nimloth exclaimed in disgust. ‘It will take me hours to groom the mud from your coat.’
‘At least that is one bad habit Gruin does not share with him,’ Aewlin said thankfully. ‘She is too fastidious to appreciate being mud-caked.’
‘That is not always a good thing,’ her sister told her. ‘There are times when she is too finicky.’
‘Do you want to race back?’ Elrin asked, deciding that they needed some encouragement to move faster than a snail’s pace.
Two pairs of eyes turned to him. ‘Adar says we are not to race towards areas where people might be walking,’ Aewlin told him. ‘It could cause accidents.’
‘Halfway, then,’ their cousin compromised. ‘To the log. And if we let them walk the rest of the way, it will give them time to cool down.’
The twins exchanged glances. ‘Last one there is a warg’s rump,’ Nimloth yelled and the two ponies shot off.
Elrin stroked Tindu’s neck consolingly as he held him back. ‘We will let them have this one,’ he murmured. ‘I think I can stand being called a warg’s rump for the rest of the day.’
Miriwen walked up and down the corridor, Celebrían on one side and Elrohir on the other.
‘This is ridiculous,’ Elladan complained to his adar as he perched in the window seat, his leg stretched out awkwardly in front of him.
‘It will become yet more ridiculous if I decide to confine you to bed, my son,’ Elrond told him with poorly concealed amusement.
‘I am supposed to be offering my wife support,’ he groused, ‘not sitting here watching while she is in pain.’
‘There will be time enough for her to wring your hand and tell you how much she dislikes you later,’ his adar said. ‘I only hope she retains enough nobility of character not to kick your bad leg.’ He put a consoling hand on his son’s shoulder. ‘When she takes to her bed, you will come into your own, Elladan. Now you need to go into your room and sit somewhere with your leg properly supported – or you will be in too much discomfort to help Miriwen through the later stages of labour.’
‘Listen to your adar,’ Miriwen instructed him and she paused in her pacing to run her fingers over his hair and down his cheek. ‘I am well, my love, and I do not need to be worrying about you. Get some rest. I will tell you when I wish to start abusing you.’
He grasped her wrist and pressed a kiss on her palm. ‘If you are sure,’ he said.
‘I will let your brother take your place for now,’ she teased him. ‘He looks enough like you to be a suitable substitute.’
‘But spare me the insults,’ Elrohir pleaded. ‘Remember that I am innocent of any involvement in this – and I will provide you with some choice snippets of information about my brother that he has kept hidden for centuries.’
Miriwen managed to bend enough to kiss Elladan’s brow. ‘I will keep my fingers in my ears,’ she promised, ‘to make it harder to hear these revelations.’ She smiled at him. ‘Now go and sit comfortably – and take some tea,’ she commanded. ‘Your leg is clearly paining you.’
‘I cannot believe how lucky I have been,’ Elladan said very softly as his adar escorted him to the chair prepared for him. ‘I do not deserve Miriwen. It would have been only just if she had turned away from me and found another – but she did not.’ With Elrond’s help he lowered himself carefully and allowed his adar to settle his leg. ‘And as soon as I saw her here, I knew what she had always known.’
‘Sometimes two people are not ready to make the commitment,’ Elrond shrugged. ‘But it is not something from which it is possible for an elf to walk away.’ He smiled. ‘I, too, am glad that you saw finally what Miriwen had seen long ago. She is the perfect wife for you, my son.’
‘She has completed me in a way that I did not know I was lacking,’ Elladan admitted. ‘I find that I understand better how Arwen could have chosen as she did.’ He glanced at his adar’s stilled face. ‘I loved Estel as a brother – but I would never have denied my race for him: I would have done it for Miriwen, had it been asked of me.’
‘I am glad that it was not,’ Elrond said in a low voice.
‘I, too.’ Elladan took his adar’s hand and held it tightly for a moment. ‘Do you think it will take this child long to make its appearance?’ he asked, clearing his throat. ‘I find I do not like to think of Miriwen enduring this distress for any great length of time.’
‘I am certain that time will soon feel as if it passing much more rapidly,’ Elrond said with forced lightness.
Aewlin sat next to her cousin at the table and watched him play with his food. ‘You might as well eat,’ she said. ‘They will refuse to let us anywhere near your naneth until it is all over.’
Elrin shook his head. ‘I am just not hungry,’ he told her. ‘Everything is just too – strained.’ He smiled slightly. ‘I would rather know what was going on.’
‘You all need to finish what is on your plates,’ Sirithiel instructed them mildly. ‘It is not too much to ask. Then you may go and listen to the singing under the stars for a while before the twins go to bed.’
On any other occasion, Aewlin thought, she would have been delighted at the opportunity to attend the night’s activities with the full consent of her naneth, but somehow, when the object of the exercise was to keep them out of the way, the suggestion lost some of its attraction. However, there was more to consider here than her wishes. She grasped Elrin’s arm. ‘Will you take us to the waterfall?’ she asked, looking at him in the way she knew he found difficult to resist. ‘You promised that next time we were allowed to go to the singing you would take us there.’
Sirithiel smiled at her approvingly. ‘That sounds a good idea,’ she agreed. ‘And, if you are keeping an eye on the twins, I know I will not need to worry about them.’
Nimloth leaned closer. ‘That is not what she said last week,’ she breathed in Elrin’s ear while smiling at her naneth.
‘I will try to stop them falling in the water,’ Elrin sighed, ‘but you know what they are like.’
‘Indeed I do,’ their naneth said ruefully. ‘I shall not hold it against you if they escape from your care – but,’ she looked at her daughters sharply, ‘I will hold it against them.’ She stood up. ‘Finish your meal before you go,’ she told them.
Three pairs of eyes followed her out of the room.
‘I wonder if they will allow us to stay out beyond without coming to look for us,’ Nimloth pondered.
‘They might, if my brother has not arrived by then, but I will not,’ Elrin informed her. ‘You are far too young to be out that late.’
‘I wonder what happens at that time of night,’ Aewlin mused, ‘for everyone is very determined to stop us seeing for ourselves.’
‘Nothing happens,’ her cousin shrugged. ‘Well, nothing special, anyway. But I will not want to be that far away – I am staying out no longer than I feel we have to, and then I am coming back to wait here until the child is born.’
The sky was clear and the stars gleamed as if they had been freshly polished. A surprisingly large number of elves were taking their ease among the trees and gardens, singing and playing harps and flutes. Elrin and his cousins made their way steadily to the closest of the waterfalls that the former elves of Imladris had constructed, much to the bemusement of the Forest Elves, to remind them of their former home. No foaming cataracts – the terrain was generally too flat – but rippling cascades whose song enhanced the music of the trees leading into still pools designed to reflect the trees and echo the beauty of the stars.
‘Minding the elflings?’ An ellon about Elrin’s age emerged from the shadows. ‘Do you not have anyone else to do that for you?’
Elrin grinned. ‘It is a special treat for me,’ he said with mock seriousness. ‘What are you doing out here, Nadhras? Have your parents grown tired of you and sent you to find seek another home?’
‘We are not elflings,’ Nimloth stated, staring at the ellon with her best and most intimidating imitation of her Ananeth.
‘What are you then?’ he challenged her. ‘Trolls? Dwarves, perhaps?’
‘Ignore him,’ Aewlin stuck her nose in the air. ‘We will be over there, ’Rin,’ she announced and drew her sister away.
Elrin watched keenly as they went to sit on an artistic tumble of large rocks. ‘I cannot let them out of my sight, Nadhras,’ he said absently. ‘You know what they are like.’
‘I just wanted to know how your naneth is,’ his friend told him.
‘Oh!’ Elrin looked round with sudden understanding. ‘Is that why so many people are here tonight?’
‘He will be the first of your family to be born in these lands – that is what my naneth said – and he will be especially welcome.’
‘I hope Naneth does not keep you waiting too long,’ Elrin said dryly.
Nadhras grinned. ‘Do not feel obliged to ask her to hurry,’ he remarked. ‘We are prepared to wait.’
‘She will be glad to hear that.’
The activity in the room had shifted almost instantly from frantic activity to almost complete peace. Elrond washed his hands and dried them thoroughly, while watching his son and daughter-in-law.
Celebrían joined him and rested her silver head on his shoulder contentedly. ‘It could not have gone better really, could it?’ she murmured. ‘Shall I send Elrohir to fetch the children?’
‘Give them a while on their own,’ he said, taking his eyes from the three on the bed to admire his wife’s loving expression, before turning to the door. ‘We will none of us be missed.’
Elladan looked up briefly as they left, but his gaze returned swiftly to Miriwen’s flushed cheeks and he brought his hand to lay it over hers on their new son’s small body. ‘Are we agreed?’ he said softly. ‘I would not wish to choose a name you disliked.’
‘I do not mind which you select,’ she said, leaning into his hold, then turning to meet his soft grey eyes, ‘of the final five,’ she added firmly. ‘You are not calling him any of those ridiculous things you proposed at first.’
Her husband looked aggrieved. ‘So I suppose that Elgorog is out of the question then?’
‘Completely,’ she answered composedly. ‘As is Eltarlanc and Elboth and all those other names you thought would be so funny.’
He sighed. ‘Well, I suppose I shall have to give in,’ he said with exaggerated regret. ‘I seem to remember promising you the earth, moon and stars not very long ago. The least I can do is choose a name you will not promptly change.’
Miriwen’s finger traced the soft skin of the infant’s cheek and she smiled as the tiny mouth moved as if in search of food. ‘He is so small,’ she marvelled, ‘yet he will alter so quickly. Before we know where we are, he will be nearly grown, like his brother.’ She slid a finger into the baby’s palm and watched his instinctive clasp. ‘I hope Elrin finds his arrival easy to accept,’ she said with a tinge of concern. ‘He is not sure about this.’
‘He will be when he sees him,’ Elladan said confidently. ‘We were Arwen’s slaves from the moment we were permitted to meet her.’ He hesitated. ‘Are you sure that you will be happy with any of those names?’ he asked. ‘For I thought that we might let Elrin take his pick of them.’
His wife tilted her head in thought. ‘You would be prepared to accept his choice?’ she asked. ‘It is your right to name him.’ On his nod, she smiled. ‘I think it is a good idea.’
‘I believe it is time he made his brother’s acquaintance, do you not?’ He looked at her helplessly. ‘How do we attract the attention of our horde of helpers?’ he asked. ‘They are all queuing up outside to come and coo over this little one – but, short of shouting, we have no way to invite them in.’
Miriwen started to laugh. ‘You could throw something at the door,’ she suggested. ‘How about one of your crutches – that should bring your adar running.’
The door opened and Celebrían looked in, smiled at them and turned to call their older son into the room. Elrin entered warily, as if unsure what to expect.
‘Sit down, my love,’ Miriwen commanded. ‘You have someone to meet.’ She held out the newborn and her naneth-in-law took him and placed him in his brother’s arms.
The baby reacted to the movement and opened his slate blue eyes, staring unblinking into the grey eyes above him. Elrin held him gingerly, as if afraid that he might break should his older brother make any unexpected move, but the infant rested easily in his inexperienced hold, pursing his lips and making a little noise of content. Elrin’s smile spread slowly as the wonder in his face turned into joy. ‘Hello, little one,’ he said softly. ‘You may not realise this, but there are a large number of people waiting outside to celebrate your arrival. You are very welcome.’
‘We thought,’ Elladan said tentatively, ‘that you might like to be the one to select his name.’ He paused to see how his son responded to the suggestion.
‘Really?’ Elrin looked up at his parents, clearly delighted. ‘You would trust me to do that?’ Before his adar could reply with more than a nod, he gazed back at the infant in his arms. ‘Ellanthir,’ he said confidently. ‘Your name is Ellanthir.’
Elladan opened his mouth to intervene and explain the restrictions placed on his son’s decision, but then closed it sharply and looked at Miriwen. She smiled at her husband, tilting her head enquiringly, and when the new adar shrugged his approval, Miriwen looked at her two sons and nodded. ‘Ellanthir,’ she agreed. ‘It is a fine name.’
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