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Written for Silver Trails for the LOTR Community 2017 Yule Exchange.
Truants and Welcomes
“Your sons are upset that they are not allowed to accompany the patrols that keep watch on the vale,” Celebrían told her husband.
“They are barely halfway to being of age,” Elrond responded. “They are certainly not ready by anyone’s standards to take on the responsibilities of adults.”
His wife was shaking her head. “That is not how they see it, of course. They keep telling me that they are approaching thirty, and that they have bested all of their instructors in arms and in tracking, and that they believe they have earned the right to accompany the patrols—or at least one patrol.”
Elrond shook his head. “They are barely twenty-seven sun-rounds old, and they have yet to best Erestor or me. Why is it that younglings are always certain that they are far wiser and more skilled than they actually are?”
“It appears to be as common to Men as it is with Elves,” Celebrían answered. “Valandil’s son was much the same when he was barely fifteen summers, and certainly he appeared to be no older than our two now when he struck out on his own to return to his father’s house when he heard that his mother’s brother had been struck ill.” She sighed. “I fear that Elladan and Elrohir will seek to follow his example and set out on their own if they are not given the chance to see for themselves what it is like to go out with the patrols. They are convinced that we are seeking to deny them the glory of a fight with whatever enemies lurk outside our borders.”
Their father smiled wryly. “And what else might we expect? After all, they are our children, and their grandparents are each and all renowned for their will, skill, and courage. Of course they will desire to prove themselves worthy of their lineage. But even though we have done our best to provide them with the best of training, they are yet inexperienced and far too impetuous to be trusted to protect themselves should they leave our lands without escort and guidance, and with the increased encroachment of trolls from the Ettenmoors we cannot afford to allow those on the patrols to be distracted by having to keep these two in check. But I agree they are likely to seek to go off on their own. I will advise those on guard over the approaches to Imladris to keep a watch over them that they not slip out across the bridge.”
But it was not so much the desire for glory as curiosity that inspired the two young Elves. Elladan found his brother near where he’d last seen him, sitting cross-legged in the tall grass near the east wall of the valley, looking up at the sides of the mountains that towered over the vale of Imladris. The elder of the two sons of Elrond plopped down beside Elrohir dispiritedly. “Ada has the bridge blocked off. The guards have been ordered not to allow any of those who are under age to cross over it to leave the valley.”
Elrohir glanced sideways at his brother, wearing a twisted smile on his face. “What if we could follow another path to reach the outside world?”
Elladan sighed, rolling his eyes with disgust. “No one may enter or leave the valley without our adar’s agreement. How, then, shall we get out to see the world for ourselves?”
Elrohir’s smile widened, becoming increasingly smug. “But he does not govern such as those.” He nodded toward the mountainside beyond and above them. “They do not come and go at the will of the Lord of Imladris.”
It took several moments for Elladan to realize what his brother was considering. A patch of white and brown moved, and the two young Elves watched as a goat lightly leapt to a higher place on the slope across which it browsed. It was followed by a second goat, and then a third. The leader disappeared around a twist in the rocks above, and soon the others, too, were out of sight. “So, my brother, you think that we could go out to explore on our own if we take the route of the goats that live on the heights of the mountain?”
Elrohir’s eyes were still fixed on the site where the goats had gone out of sight. “Why not? Are we not the grandsons of Eärendil the Mariner, who slew Ungoliant in her hidden fastness? Do you not think that we could scale such slopes as those?” He pointed upwards to where the goats had been feeding. “It is not as if we were as clumsy as Men.”
Elladan was beginning to smile as well. “It is a thought. But I wish to be properly prepared. What do you think we ought to take with us on such an adventure? And how shall we hide our true plans from our adar, naneth, and the rest?”
The two sons of Elrond and Celebrían leaned toward one another, planning how they might distract their parents and elders, allowing them to slip out of the valley undetected.
A week later the young ellyn successfully followed the trail of the goats. They’d indicated that they intended to camp out near a certain lake that they were known to favor a day’s tramp from their parents’ house, and were granted permission to gather sufficient provender and equipment to keep them for five days. It took a few hours to convince the warrior shadowing them that they were indeed heading for the lake sufficiently that he allowed his attention to be distracted by a herd of deer so that they could elude him and turn toward the eastern mountain slopes. They were correct that they were sufficiently skilled at hiding their trail so that few could find it once they sought to leave no signs of their passage; and it was an anxious Elf who returned to Elrond and Celebrían to admit that he had no idea as to which path their sons had taken, but that they were clearly not anywhere near the lake they’d indicated was their destination.
Two days were wasted as the hunters searched fruitlessly for any sign of the twins’ actual goal, and at last Elrond turned to the Great Eagles for aid in finding the truants. The Eagle that responded to his call listened without comment, and at last mantled briefly before agreeing to seek for them.
“I will do my best, but unless they are in great danger when they are found I shall not compel them to return home, nor intervene. Sometimes the young fledgling must be allowed to try his wings that he know better what he can and cannot do for himself.”
It was not perhaps the particular promise the young Elves’ parents wanted, but they had to agree that it was most likely what their sons truly needed to experience now that they were reaching for the rights and privileges of adults.
Meanwhile, the two young Elves were sitting within a niche they’d found upon the mountainside, considering their current situation. Climbing the steep slopes of the Misty Mountains was proving nowhere as easy or comfortable as climbing trees, or so they’d found to be true. Elrohir had been right that they were far more agile than were Men, but the fact remained they were definitely not as capable of gracefully traversing the terrain on which they sought to travel as were the goats of the region. The narrow path the goats had followed around the rocks within such a short period of time took the twins far longer to negotiate, for they could not spring easily from one narrow ledge to another that proved to be either higher or considerably lower than their starting point as was natural to the animals. Both had slid badly, and both now sported scrapes and bruises an Elf ought not to have suffered.
“We perhaps ought to turn homeward soon,” Elladan suggested. “We only brought food and drink for five days, and much of our water we’ve had to use to bathe wounds.”
His brother was shaking his head. “But we have barely traveled five leagues from home, and have seen nothing but goat tracks. Besides, we ought to find a trickle of water soon. We know there is a glacier above us, and the snow melt should be running down the mountain not far ahead along the path. And have we not learned how to hunt for ourselves? We shall not starve at any rate, even should we miss a meal or two.”
“And what path is it we follow, Elrohir? It is all we have been able to do to make our way from one foothold to the next. The goats may be familiar with each and every ledge upon the mountainside, but many of those we’ve tested cannot bear the foot or the weight of an ellon. Face it, brother—we are not goats! We’d perhaps do better to find one of the established passes if we wish to travel more swiftly through the mountainous regions.”
“To do that,” Elrohir said, “we’d have to go down lower to where the High Pass climbs out of the lowlands. As it climbs, it twists far to the north, or so I remember it from the maps we studied under Erestor.”
“But the goat’s path we’ve been following is climbing upwards so far, not going down.”
They shared a meaningful look. Already they’d learned it was far more difficult to go down safely than to climb further up the mountainside when the slope was nearly sheer as it had been so far. A narrow path an Elf might traverse easily enough. Here, however, were no proper pathways, merely cracks in the rock that might or might not provide precarious purchase for fingers or toes. Already Elrohir’s nails had been torn when a thin slice of rotten rock had broken off under his right foot while he’d been seeking a place to set his left one. As he considered the scrapes on his fingertips, Elrohir commented, “I cannot imagine how it was that Maedhros hung so long from the fetter the Black Enemy bound him with, there upon the heights above Angband. I thought I should slide down the mountainside and perhaps plunge to my death while I held on with but one hand, there before I finally found a place to set the toes of my left foot and managed to grasp that tree’s root.”
They both shuddered, and turned their minds to consider what they might do next. Finally Elladan pointed. “I think we might go that way with fair safety.” There did appear to be a line of rock that led down to their right, a place where the strata tilted downwards to the north. “I think I remember seeing a cleft down that direction when we were coming to this place.”
Having no better plan, Elrohir nodded and rose to follow his brother out of their shelter. “I hope that it can bear us,” he sighed as they turned to face the rock and Elladan sought his first toe-hold along the face of the line the stone followed.
The elder twin gave but a faint grin of agreement, and they began their descent.
Within a fairly short time the way became easier as the next strata upwards began to recede into the cliffside. Soil had gathered in the hollow between the harder stone on which they trod and the upper layer now tilting down toward the north and east. When they came to their next twist east in the mountain’s shape, the tilted line of stone continued, but now more steeply, bare now of the fill that had covered their path to this point.
“Looks slick,” Elrohir noted uncertainly.
“Do you wish to go back?” asked his twin.
At last Elrohir shook his head. “No. Better down than up, I think. But we shall need to go cautiously.”
As they turned to follow their intended path down, a shadow covered them. Both paused to look upwards and back to the west. “One of the Great Eagles!” breathed Elladan with awe.
“Are they truly the messengers of Manwë, do you think?” asked Elrohir.
“So it is said.” They watched it fly off southwards, then turned back to the downward slope. The stone before them led downwards, but the northern edge was angled down as well, and the next strata up now leaned over the width of stone on which they walked, so they had to crouch as they moved down the way the slope led them. Closer and closer they came toward the heart of the mountain, and once they reached the next corner, it was to find the small rivulet that Elrohir had foretold. Gladly they paused their journey to drink and refill their water bottles. They easily stepped across to the next ledge, but the stone was slick with spray, and the ledge they’d been following was narrowing once more. It was not long before they were forced to face a sheer rock wall and edge along the mountainside until the slope grew less steep. Below them they could see an established roadway.
“Can we reach it safely?” asked Elrohir.
There had been a number of rockslides over uncounted years, and much of the slope consisted of loose scree. “We must step with care,” advised the older twin.
Elrohir merely nodded, saving his breath for the possible scramble down toward that roadway that was now their goal. They took their first careful step, walking lightly, erect, determinedly at one with the mountain below them, as best as could be managed. And they’d nearly—so nearly—reached the solid stonework when they heard a squirrel scream as it was nearly taken by a diving hawk. The squirrel forgot the need to be careful itself as it leapt sideways away from the reaching claws of the bird, and as it hit the loose stones of the scree slope the top ones began to shift.
Elladan was barely able to murmur, “Oh, no!” when the avalanche began. He leapt desperately for the solidity of the roadway. Elrohir did his best to stay atop the shifting rock fall so as not to be buried beneath the stones and gravel once the avalanche stopped. But unexpected arms reached out and plucked Elladan out of the air and Elrohir off the slide of broken stone he rode, and the two of them found themselves pulled safely out of the way as the rockslide buried the road to the depth of several feet.
It was several minutes before they could wrest their gaze from the rocks that could so easily have buried them to see who it was that had rescued them. Two tall Elven warriors held them, and one they recognized. “Daeradar!” they cried together.
But the other was an Elf they’d never seen before. He was tall, his hair fairest of gold, his brow bound with a golden fillet set with sunstones and a great emerald, his forelocks plaited into intricate braids set with gems wrought into great beads. He wore a long sword on his back, and his eyes were filled with unexpected light—light and laughter.
“And whom have we here?” the stranger asked.
“The sons of my daughter and her lord consort,” Celeborn answered. “Gone willful missing, I would hazard. It was for them that the Eagle commanded that we hurry to this spot, or so I must guess. My Lord Glorfindel, may I present Elladan and Elrohir Elrondilionath.”
“Well, as I believe my commission is to serve the progeny of Idril and Tuor, it would appear that these shall be given to me to offer further training.”
“Glorfindel?” Elrohir squeaked. “Are you from the Great Greenwood east of the River Anduin?”
But Elladan was remembering the stories told of the fall of Gondolin so long ago, and the Elf who’d sacrificed himself to save their other daeradar, the one who sailed the night sky to offer hope to those who dwell in these hither lands. Could it be?
And so it was that the miscreant sons of Elrond and Celebrían were the first of those who dwelt in the vale of Imladris to welcome the return of the former Lord of the House of the Golden Flower to Middle Earth and their father’s service.
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