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Brotherhood  by Bodkin

Brotherhood 14    Hurt


Gilraen’s skirts rustled as she walked the length of the quiet corridor, only to turn and pace back in the opposite direction before repeating her restless measure.  It was an indication of how skilfully Lord Elrond had integrated her into the tranquil stream of life that was Imladris that it was only at times like this that she felt like … like a flapping pigeon among drifting swans.

‘It is better you wait until Adar and Elrohir have had time …’

‘I should be with him,’ she said fiercely.  ‘I know not why I let you persuade me …’

‘Adar never let Naneth come back in until after he had finished the splint,’ Elladan said with unflustered composure, leaning one shoulder against the wall, so still he might almost have been one of the statues adorning the alcoves.  ‘He said she remained calmer – and so found it easier to comfort us, if she had not been present when …’

‘It is not as if I have never set a bone!’  Gilraen stopped and prodded an accusing finger at the tall figure. ‘I should never have let him out of my sight.’

‘You cannot lead him round by the hand until he is grown,’ Elladan told her logically.  ‘He will have to learn that some mistakes have painful consequences.  Better to gain that understanding while Adar is around to mend the results than discover it at the wrong end of an arrow.’  Elrond’s intrepid warrior son took a wary step back as the woman’s hand turned to curl into a practised-looking fist.

Gilraen drew a deep breath and forced herself to lower her hand.  She was no longer a child – and adults did not settle their disputes with violence, however great the temptation.  Estel’s injury was not Elladan’s fault.  Not really.  Small boys did fall from trees.  She should not blame Elrond’s sons simply because they were supposed to have been caring for her son at the time.

‘And what mistake did he make?’ she asked, refusing to conceal her wrath entirely.

Elladan blinked.  ‘He believed that he could – without supervision – repeat the actions of a full-grown adult – one who has had years of training and centuries of experience,’ he said frankly.  ‘He is too young to realise his limitations – and too bold for his own good.’  He eyed the woman cautiously.  ‘He is like his father,’ he added.  ‘Arathorn’s courage was always … indomitable.’  A faint reminiscent smile emphasised an obvious sorrow.  ‘It is not often that my brother and I are the voices of caution – but there were times when your husband’s strategy alarmed even us.  But he was right, more often than not.’

Gilraen’s choked protest drew him back to the present with alarm, but the look on her face led him to place gentle arms round her and pat her back reassuringly. 

‘Estel is all right,’ he assured her.  ‘A simple fracture – and children mend quickly.  He will be bad-tempered for a day or two and after that our main problem will be keeping the splint on long enough for him to mend.’

‘I wish …’ Gilraen reined herself in, but Elladan’s glance of mild enquiry persuaded her to continue.  ‘I wish it were possible for me to keep him safe.   To protect him and stand between him and what life will demand of him.’

Elladan sighed, but remained silent, allowing the woman to provide her own answer.

‘It hurts,’ she said, ‘to know that all I can do is try to teach him and then stand back while he fights a battle he is unlikely ever to win.’

The hand on her back stilled, and Elladan made no effort to hold her as she drew away.  ‘How do you think it feels,’ he asked, ‘to do that over and over?  To know that every child you love will become a man – and wither, and fade?’  His eyes closed, he did not see Gilraen’s stare.  ‘We watch,’ he said – and his gaze held hers suddenly, so that she could not look away, ‘and offer all the support we can, but, in the end ...’  His musical voice sounded harsher than any she had heard in the dream-like serenity of Imladris.  ‘Sending warriors into the world is a thankless task – but it is needed.  Without the Dúnedain – without all the boys taught here – would the world of men still stand?  It is hard to be a mother,’ he added more softly, ‘but it is how you serve.’

Gilraen placed her hand on his long fingers and squeezed comfortingly.  ‘Let us abandon the self-pity.’  She sniffed determinedly.  ‘Estel will be all right – and you will help him grow into the man he should become and I will not keep him a child … and … and has Lord Elrond finished yet?  Anyone would think he was trying to keep me away from my son!’

‘Valar forbid,’ Elladan said dryly.  ‘He is not so foolhardy.’

Both turned to the opening door, so that Elrond raised a defensive eyebrow as he met their glares.  ‘He is sleepy,’ he said calmly, ‘but will not settle until he sees you both.  He apparently feels he needs to apologise to you, Elladan, for spoiling the day – and he wants to be sure his nana has forgiven him for frightening her.’

Only quick reflexes enabled him to step out of the way of Gilraen’s headlong rush to her child’s bedside, but his hand stopped his son from following immediately behind her.  ‘What did Estel do, my son?’ he enquired.  ‘He seemed very concerned that I should not blame you for his injury.’ Elladan lifted his chin slightly, but did not speak.  His father held his eyes implacably, refusing to permit the evasion.  ‘You are old enough to know the difference between tale-telling and sharing information.  I am not about to intervene in what is clearly a matter for the two of you, but I want to know.’

‘How you and Naneth survived our childhood, I shall never know,’ Elladan surrendered.  ‘As soon as an idea pops into Estel’s head …’  He rolled his eyes.  ‘He attempted to cross the stream by running across a branch, evading the fact that we had forbidden him to walk on the ice – while failing to realise that the wood was slippery.’

Elrond inclined his head in a slow nod.  ‘He will need entertaining as he heals,’ he remarked.  ‘And I am sure that, in a day or two, he will be very relieved to have you and your brother replace his mother’s care with something more … casual.’  He smiled.  ‘It will be good for you all,’ he added cheerfully. ‘A learning experience.’

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