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Elflings – First Acquaintance
Sirithiel leaned over the cradle, looking down at the dark fluff of hair and the crumpled features. ‘Oh Miriwen,’ she sighed. ‘He is absolutely beautiful.’
The proud naneth followed her gaze slightly dubiously. ‘I am not sure we share the same concept of beauty,’ she remarked. ‘Adorable, yes, I can accept that. Tiny – I agree. Precious. But beautiful – I suppose it is better than telling me that he is my image. I would hate to think I was red-faced, toothless and squawking.’
Her sister-in-law’s mist-grey eyes moved protestingly to her face. ‘How can you say that, Miriwen? He is lovely!’
‘You can say he is like his adar, if you want,’ her friend suggested. ‘He might be flattered by the comparison.’
‘If you do not admire him sufficiently, I will be happy to steal him,’ Elerrina offered, touching the soft hair with one gentle finger.
‘Well,’ Miriwen smiled at the infant. ‘I am not sure about that. Perhaps I will keep him – at least while he is sleeping. You may borrow him later, when he is crying and refuses to settle.’
‘I am not certain that is a fair offer,’ Elerrina considered. ‘I think, perhaps, that that might be an appropriate time for adar and son to learn to know each other. Elladan would doubtless enjoy the restless pacing that seems needed at such a time. It would be good exercise for him.’
The elfling opened his eyes and pulled a face, his head turning as his mouth sought the comfort of food. ‘See!’ his naneth said proudly. ‘Very like his adar.’
‘You are wicked,’ Sirithiel giggled. ‘Are you going to feed him?’
‘No, not yet. Here.’ Miriwen scooped up the new-born and tucked him into his aunt’s willing arms. ‘You have him for a while.’
Sirithiel automatically curved arm and body to accept the child. ‘Oh, he is so small,’ she sighed. ‘And just look at his tiny fingers – they are simply perfect.’
‘Perhaps,’ Miriwen suggested, ‘you should have one of your own.’
‘I would like to,’ Sirithiel sounded wistful, ‘but I am not sure that Elrohir is that anxious to begin a family yet. He says there is plenty of time and there is no need to rush into parenthood to keep up with you and his twin. My naneth is of the opinion that we should spend longer as a couple, too.’
‘Have you decided on a name?’ Elerrina asked, watching Sirithiel as she stroked the tiny dark head.
‘After much debate,’ Miriwen nodded ruefully. ‘We finally came to an agreement on a name – only to decide against it just as he was born. We have now agreed a second time – and you will discover the choice at his naming ceremony.’
‘Would you care to hold him, Elerrina?’ Sirithiel tore her eyes away from the baby.
‘Later,’ she replied. ‘You enjoy him for now. I have had plenty of opportunities to hold my brother’s son, so it is less of a new experience for me.’
Elladan touched his brother’s shoulder as they watched from the doorway. ‘You are doomed,’ the new adar intoned with relish, ‘doomed. You have no chance of escaping your fate.’
‘What is it about females and elflings?’ Legolas shook his head. ‘They are nice enough, I suppose, but I cannot really understand what the fuss is about. It is not as if they do anything.’
Miriwen looked at him and laughed. ‘Sometimes you appear quite intelligent, my prince,’ she said. ‘But, on the whole, you display no more common sense now than you did when you were an elfling yourself. It is a great shame – your poor adar must find it to be a great grief to him.’
‘What elflings do at this age, my love,’ Elerrina informed him, ‘is twine round your heart – and they do it most successfully and without any effort at all on their part. Come and meet this little one.’
‘I have not come here to be insulted.’ Legolas raised his eyebrows at them in imitation of his adar’s most intimidating look.
‘No need,’ Elladan told him amiably. ‘You can be insulted anywhere.’
‘Sit down,’ Miriwen commanded him, ‘and I might permit you to hold our son for a moment.’
Legolas obeyed reluctantly. ‘I do not mind waiting to make his acquaintance,’ he said. ‘I can happily wait until he is able to walk and talk – and control his bodily fluids.’
Sirithiel rose carefully and deposited the small bundle in his arms. He froze, then moved one long-fingered hand to support the child’s head.
‘You have done this before,’ Sirithiel accused. ‘You are not as ignorant as you were pretending.’
‘I have held many babies,’ he admitted, ‘but I have not learned to enjoy it. They seem too small and too easily damaged.’ He studied the little face. ‘I see no resemblance to anyone,’ he declared. ‘He looks more like a fledgling than anything else – one begging for worms,’ he added as the little mouth opened and closed as if exploring, before letting out a protesting wail. He held the infant out quickly. ‘Here, have him back. He clearly does not care for me.’
Miriwen took him and he settled immediately. ‘Hopeless, Legolas,’ she mourned. ‘Elerrina, you will have to put in a lot of work on this one.’
Sirithiel moved to her husband’s side. ‘Have you seen his tiny nails?’ she asked. ‘He is just the most perfect little creature.’
Elladan met his brother’s eyes, his own brimming with laughter. ‘Doomed,’ he mouthed over his sister-in-law’s head.
‘He is indeed a wonder,’ Elrohir said admiringly, ‘and most wonderful of all is that he can be left with his adoring parents. I can be an indulgent uncle, spoil him dreadfully and leave his adar to deal with the discipline.’
Sirithiel slapped at his hand. ‘Elrohir!’
‘Beware, my brother,’ Elladan warned him. ‘Do that and I will make you pay – your own little ones will be taught to make your life a misery!’
The small noises from the infant began to develop into a more determined complaint, stopping the conversation and turning all eyes towards him.
‘I think it is time for us to take our leave.’ Legolas rose to his feet. ‘The little Elladanion clearly needs some attention – and his naneth requires some peace in which to indulge him. He is a delightful elfling,’ he said politely. ‘You have done well, Miriwen, despite the disadvantage of having chosen Elladan to be his adar. We will now go and spend some time congratulating the proud daernaneth and daeradar on their achievement.’
‘Do you need any help, Miriwen?’ Elerrina asked, resisting her husband’s pressure on her arm and waiting for a response, before allowing him to draw her from the room.
‘No,’ her friend replied. ‘Elladan will do anything necessary.’
‘Will I?’ he said uneasily.
Elrohir’s mocking laughter echoed down the corridor as the door closed and his twin was left for his wife to initiate him in some aspects of caring for his son.
‘But, Nana, they are tiny,’ the small voice piped disapprovingly. ‘They will not be any fun at all.’
Miriwen looked apologetically at Elerrina as she rested in the cushioned chair on the wide verandah. ‘He has not seen many babies,’ she said, ‘and his ada has been filling him with stories and making all sorts of promises about what he and the twins will be doing. I think he expected them to be ready to go straight out and play with him.’
‘They will grow very quickly,’ Elerrina told the ellon sympathetically. ‘They are still quite new at the moment, Elrin, but they will soon be following you everywhere.’
The elfling continued to look disappointed, but he allowed his naneth to distract him with his toys and settled amiably on her lap.
‘They are lovely babies, Elerrina,’ Miriwen approved, looking at the two elflings beside each other in the cradle, each wrapped in an embroidered shawl of white. ‘And they are bigger than I thought they would be. Which is which?’
‘You would ask me that!’ her friend responded.
‘She does not know,’ Legolas explained teasingly, as he caressed her silky chestnut hair, bringing his hand to rest on her shoulder. ‘It is as well they are ellon and elleth, because then, at least when they are naked, it is plain which one is Eleniel and which is Galenthil.’
‘You cannot keep them naked all their lives, though,’ Miriwen replied, keeping her face straight and her voice serious. ‘They will become self-conscious.’
‘Miriwen! Legolas!’ the new naneth snapped. ‘Of course I know them apart,’ she said with dignity. ‘I just have to think about it, that is all. As I am coming to know them better, it is getting easier to tell – but when they are asleep and their minds are resting, there is not much for which to reach.’
‘Has Sirithiel seen them yet?’
‘She and Elrohir should be here any minute,’ Elerrina told her. ‘I hope it does not upset her to see them. Her longing for an elfling of her own is very strong.’
‘Adar says there is no reason why the little one is taking its time in coming,’ Elladan remarked. ‘He thinks she is just too anxious, but it not easy to take her mind off babies when they are all around her.’
‘Nana, may I go and play?’ Elrin wriggled from Miriwen’s grasp, standing just out of reach.
‘Stay on the verandah where you can see us, my son, so that we can see you.’
The ellon galloped off along the wide shaded expanse of terrace, making horse noises as he went.
‘You are very brave.’ Elladan looked at his wife. ‘You know he is bound to come back dirty and with scraped knees – and probably having done something to infuriate Thranduil, do you not?’
Miriwen shrugged. ‘I cannot tie him to me, my husband. He is your son – he is bound to get in endless trouble. We will just have to hope he starts with small amounts of mischief and learns from his mistakes.’ She smiled. ‘At least it gives me the opportunity to meet these little ones without him complaining.’
‘Would you like to hold one?’ Elerrina offered.
‘I believe I would,’ her friend teased her. ‘Which one shall I take?’
‘It hardly matters,’ the new adar mused. ‘If Elerrina knows them apart, I certainly do not. Shall I shut my eyes and pick one? Or do you have a preference?’
‘You could play one of the old counting games,’ Miriwen suggested sardonically. ‘Inty, minty, tipsy, toe; ira, dira, domino; oker, poker, dominoker, out goes you!’
‘Good idea,’ he enthused and grinned as he handed her a small bundle. ‘I think that is Eleniel,’ he told her.
‘You are getting better at handling infants,’ she smiled approvingly.
‘Do I get the other?’ Elladan asked, stretching his hands out and deftly removing the other twin from the cradle. ‘What does Thranduil think of them?’ he asked, as he gazed down at the sleeping face.
Legolas and Elerrina exchanged a long amused look. ‘He is smitten,’ Legolas said. ‘And he is surprisingly competent.’
‘I do not know why you are surprised,’ Miriwen remarked. ‘He is your adar, after all. I am told that he and your naneth could not take their eyes off you when you were born – and that your naneth was not one to let him use his position to avoid some of the less pleasing aspects of being an adar.’
‘I remember him sitting beside me when I had bad dreams,’ he said softly, ‘and telling me long and involved stories that always seemed to involve sunshine and happiness in a great green wood.’
Elerrina stretched out and took his hand, drawing him down beside her.
‘Is Galenthil the firstborn?’ Elladan enquired after a moment.
‘No, my friend, Eleniel arrived several minutes before her brother – although, I believe Galenthil was actually conceived first. Elerrina seems to feel that that evens things up, but I suspect they will spend the next several centuries squabbling about which one takes precedence.’
‘Look what we found!’ Sirithiel’s gentle amused voice called from the end of the verandah, indicating Elrohir who was holding up at arms’ length a small, wet and exceedingly muddy elfling.
Miriwen looked up, automatically rising and heading towards her brother-in-law. ‘What have you been doing, Elrin?’ she asked despairingly. ‘How can you have managed to get so filthy in so short a time?’
‘Talent. Natural talent,’ Elrohir suggested. ‘Here, you give the infant to Sirithiel and take the mud-pie. I think that is a fair exchange.’
‘Has he made a terrible mess?’ Elrin’s naneth wanted to know. ‘If Elladan needs to go and be deeply apologetic, please tell him – and get him to arrange to have whatever has been done cleared up. Elerrina, may I take this creature and bathe him?’
‘He has only been playing on the verandah, Miriwen,’ Legolas said easily. ‘He cannot have done anything too terrible. Come with me and I will arrange for water and the cleaning of his clothes – though he might have to dress in a towel. We have nothing in his size.’
‘If Elladan needs to go and be apologetic?’ protested the offended adar. ‘Why would I need to go and be apologetic? I haven’t done anything!’
‘Parental responsibility, my brother,’ Elrohir nodded gleefully. ‘Your elfling – your fault. You had better go and clear up the mess he had made with those plants and then grovel to Thranduil.’
‘He was only gone ten minutes,’ his brother moaned as he handed Galenthil over to his twin and headed reluctantly towards the site of damage. ‘How much harm can he have done?’
‘And just what did he do?’ the new naneth asked softly.
Elrohir shook his head. ‘The usual mix,’ he said. ‘Ellon, water, soil – result, mud. He appeared to want somewhere for his horse to run.’
Elerrina’s smile grew wider. ‘It would seem that there is much to anticipate as far as parenthood is concerned. I shall enjoy watching Elladan and Miriwen endure it first – knowing they will relish our suffering.’
Sirithiel stroked the soft blond hair of the little elleth in her arms, working to conceal her mournful expression. ‘I hope you will be able to take pleasure from our experience in turn, Elerrina.’
‘I know we will,’ she answered comfortingly. ‘Have confidence.’
‘Where is my little Eleniel?’ asked Sirithiel, looking up from the treasure she held. ‘And those two adorable little ellyn?’
‘We learnt from what happened last time, my sister,’ Miriwen said, stooping to kiss her friend. ‘Little elflings and visits to new-borns do not mix. Elerrina’s naneth is visiting and she offered to take charge. Legolas did warn her – in front of witnesses – but she recklessly ignored him, so she will not be able to hold us responsible for what they are bound to do.’
‘You have become cynical, Miriwen,’ Elrohir said, shaking his head. ‘It is a most unattractive trait.’
‘My apologies, brother,’ she teased. ‘I look forward to you developing the same fatalism.’
‘Sirithiel, they are like peas in a pod,’ Elerrina interrupted. ‘And I thought it was difficult telling Galenthil from Eleniel! What does Celebrian say?’
‘She says that I will know – they are themselves and it will be apparent to me very soon.’
‘Adar and she could always tell us apart,’ Elladan admitted. ‘Even when we were really trying to fool them. Even when we were not in the same room as them! I always thought it was a natural ability given to the parents of twins. After all, they need some advantages!’
‘They are so fair,’ Miriwen marvelled. ‘It amazes me that one of the sons of Elrond should have golden-haired elflings.’
Elrohir grinned. ‘Daeradar insists they are silver-haired,’ he commented. ‘He is certain they will share their colouring with naneth and him. He is very pleased.’
‘And he is thrilled that they are ellyth,’ Sirithiel smiled. ‘He is anticipating spoiling them.’
‘I think our adar is pleased that they will be fair,’ Elrohir told his brother. ‘His heart was in his eyes when he saw them – and his mind was filled with Arwen. Even though he had time to accustom himself to the idea while we were awaiting their arrival, he still found it hard to greet our little ellyth.’ He turned to smile at his wife and her armful of elflings and looked at her enquiringly, before picking one up and offering her to Elerrina, who took her gently.
‘Do they have names?’ she asked, as he placed the other infant in Miriwen’s arms.
‘They do,’ he asserted. ‘You have Aewlin, our little songbird, and Miriwen holds Nimloth, our white flower.’
‘Are you sure of that?’ Legolas teased. ‘I do not see how you can tell.’
‘We have our ways,’ the proud naneth smiled, ‘that are reliable enough at the moment.’
Miriwen fingered the tiny mithril bracelet fastened round the wrist of the infant she held, admiring the flower that decorated it. ‘It is beautiful work,’ she said.
‘The chain can be lengthened as they grow larger,’ Sirithiel remarked, ‘and the plaque will always represent their name.’
‘Until they learn to deal with the clasp and start exchanging them,’ their uncle approved. ‘Identical twins find nothing more entertaining than tormenting their friends. Is that not so, Legolas?’
‘You were excessively annoying, I can tell you that. Even though you were old enough to know better.’
Elerrina stroked the fair little face. ‘I am glad you had ellyth, Sirithiel,’ she said. ‘It will be pleasant for Eleniel to grow up with friends who are as close as kin.’
‘What about me?’ the new adar protested. ‘Did I not also have ellyth?’
Their wives smiled in a way that was singularly alike. ‘Of course,’ Miriwen told him. ‘They are yours when they need discipline. . .’
‘Yours when they are exhausting. . .’ Elerrina added.
‘Yours when they are coaxing their ada to provide ponies, or new dresses, or permit them to do something naneth would not allow. . .’ Sirithiel added.
Elladan exchanged a rueful look with his brother and friend. ‘Ellyth are very devious,’ he stated. ‘Our wives are prime examples of that. We will have an easier time with our sons.’
The silence extended to several minutes before they all burst into a gale of laughter. ‘If you believe that, my friend,’ Legolas gasped, ‘you have learned nothing over the course of your long years. The only thing more wearing than an elleth seeking to manoeuvre her way round her parents is an ellon evading his responsibilities while charging bull-headed in search of adventure – and that is something you should know only too well.’
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