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The pale rays of the early morning sun filtered in through the small
between the drawn curtains. They cast a soft glow around the room,
intricate patterns of leaves and branches on the walls and floor.
Aragorn sat in the large, overstuffed chair he’d pulled up to the side
bed, watching the steady rise and fall of Aerinel’s chest as she slept.
finally free of the fever that had almost claimed her life several
times in the
last five days.
The ranger stretched out his legs in front of him and folded his arms
his head, his eyes flickering casually around the room. They rested
on Elrohir, who was sound asleep in a chair close to the dying fire.
Elrond assuring them that the child was out of danger and strongly
them to get some rest, neither the ranger nor the twins had felt like
the room since the previous night.
Aragorn smiled to himself. The younger twin had succumbed to his
shortly after Aerinel’s fever had broken completely in the early hours
morning. Elrohir had curled up in the nearest chair and quickly found
wandering the paths of elven dreams. He had not stirred for hours.
gaze was drawn up to the door at the sound of quiet murmuring. His
Elladan stood talking in low voices just outside the room. He strained
to hear what they were saying.
“Should she not be waking now?” Elladan asked, trepidation evident in
as he glanced over at the bed where the sleeping child lay. “It has
since the fever broke and she has not moved once. It is beginning to
Elrond closed his eyes at the question and rubbed a hand over his face,
gesture he often did when tired. Both the twins and Aragorn had been
same question since dawn had broken over the tips of the mountains. “As
said before, Elladan – many times – Aerinel has been very ill. Her body
exhausted and weak. She needs all the sleep she can get to recover and
her strength. Do not forget that she is quite young and such an illness
“Wait!” Elladan cried, silencing Elrond’s speech as he noticed a small
from the bed. “I think she is waking!” He pushed himself away from the
doorframe and hurried over to the large sleeping couch, passing the
his brother slept. He created a draft as he passed.
Elrohir blinked wearily as he felt his twin rush past him. “What’s
he queried, rubbing the last remnants of sleep from his eyes. He spied
brothers eagerly leaning over the bed. “Ada, what’s going on?” he asked as
elven lord walked slowly across towards him.
Elrond smiled down into the sleep-filled eyes of his son. “I do believe
Aerinel is waking.”
Elrohir detangled himself rather ungracefully from the chair, moving to
Aragorn and Elladan as they gathered around the bed. All of them were
see the small child fully awake for the first time.
“Aerinel, please wake up. You’ve had us very worried,” Aragorn said
holding Aerinel’s hand and squeezing it lightly. He was rewarded with a
flickering of the child’s eyelids.
“Wake up, little one; you’ve been sleeping for a long time,” Elrohir
gently, kneeling beside the bed. Elrond leaned over Elladan’s shoulder.
healer in him was anxious to see the child awake after her long
Anxiously the twins and Aragorn watched as the child
struggled to wake
up. Her small hands curled into fists as she clutched the bedclothes,
scrunched tightly closed. She twisted underneath the blanket, a small
coming up to rub the side of her face.
Finally, her eyelids flickered and slowly opened, revealing dark,
clouded with tiredness and confusion.
Consciousness returned to her slowly. She felt
unbelievably tired. At
first, everything was sort of blurry and she didn't know what to make
Then as she left herself relax, her mind became more aware of her
The first thing she noticed was the fact that she was lying on her back
something soft, and that a warm heaviness was covering her. She felt
and peaceful and desired to remain there in the place of warmth and
was currently engulfed in. But something urged her to wake up.
Aerinel tried to open her eyes but found it impossible; they were so
her mind floated to the surface of waking, she began to notice other
Her chest hurt badly, her whole body felt tired, there was pain down
leg, and her mind was surrounded in a thick fog. What had happened?
she? Nothing was making any sense. She must have made a small sound,
noises around her changed and now she could vaguely make out the sound
voices among the other noises.
"I think she is waking.”
She heard a soft, melodic voice call her name. “Aerinel, please wake
had us very worried.”
Her seven-year-old mind struggled to understand what the voice was
“Come on, little one. You have been sleeping a long time now.”
The voice jarred her memory and stirred an image of a tall man who had
and comforted her, had cared for her and told her she was safe. She had
trapped, alone and scared in the destroyed building until the kind man
rescued her. She needed to wake up, that was what the voice was telling
Desperately, she fought against her mind, willing herself to open her
At first, she saw nothing, only the brightness of the outside world
her. She moaned, squeezing her eyes shut, trying to turn away from the
shadow fell over her face and she felt a gentle hand caressing her
Slowly, she opened her eyes again, blinking a few times, waiting for
to adjust to the light. Gradually, she began to make out the shape of
visions standing above her. As her eyes became adjusted to the light,
face of a man framed by raven hair came into view. He leaned over her
mysterious smile, relief shining in his gray eyes.
“Mae govannen, tithen pen.” His voice was deep and rich, filled
warmth and kindness, and it instantly made Aerinel feel safe. Why that
she did not know, but it just did; she couldn't explain it. She blinked
him, her young mind not quite aware yet. Another face joined the first
down at her.
“She doesn’t seem to be able to hear us,” Elladan murmured
softly in the
elvish tongue, gazing down at the child. His mind was filled with
the fever had done some lasting damage after all.”
Elrond rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Perhaps not understanding us
might be a
more accurate guess.”
Elrohir frowned. “The child is a Dúnadan; surely she would
basis of Sindarin?”
“Perhaps not.” The elven lord glanced down at the younger twin. “The
is still quite young and perhaps if she has been raised in an
the language was not spoken, she would have never been taught the Elven
Aragorn leaned over the bed. “Aerinel, can you hear us?” he asked,
Westron. The child turned her head and gazed at the man sleepily.
smoothed her hair away from her face. “Do you remember me, little one?”
Aerinel’s lips moved soundlessly few times before any sound came out.
Her voice was weak, and the ranger had to strain his ears to hear her
“Yes, little one, it is I.” Aragorn smiled. “How are you feeling?”
Aerinel gazed around her and suddenly felt very vulnerable, lying on
with four strangers staring down at her. She didn’t like it at all.
Immediately, she tried to sit up, struggling with the sheets. But her
so weak she could not lift herself up. This only frightened her more,
breath caught in her throat as she started to panic.
Elrohir pushed his brothers aside, having seen before anyone else what
child was trying to do. “Easy, easy there, little one…I’ve got you…I’ve
you,” he murmured as he lifted the child up and sat her on his lap,
against his chest. “Shh… Sîdh hên, av'osto. Le mae
dirnen hí,” Elrohir
said, his quiet words soothingly the child, whose small hands clung
elf’s robes tightly as she gazed wildly around the room. The elf rubbed
back gently. “Peace, child. Do not fear. You are safe here.”
Aerinel glanced up at the elf that held her, her eyes wide and her face
– fear? Doubt? Elrohir couldn’t tell. But he knew instantly that the
wasn’t comfortable being so close to him.
Elladan leaned over Aragorn’s shoulder. “The poor thing, she’s
Aerinel shrank away from the tallf, burying her head closer to
She did not like this at all. There were too many of the pointy-eared
around her. She didn’t even know why she was trying to hide in the
robes of the
one that held her.
“And you are just adding to that fear!” Aragorn scolded the twin,
away from the bed.
“Boys…” Elrond said, his voice carrying a certain warning note that all
of his sons recognised immediately. “Aerinel has just woken up in a
place she does not know. Naturally, she will be fearful. Just be gentle
her; help her to understand that we will not do her any harm.”
Aerinel looked up and caught sight of the ranger. She remembered this
had been kind to her. Uncertainly, she shyly reached out for him,
against Elrohir’s hold.
“Estel,” Elrohir called. “I think she wants to go to you.”
Aragorn moved over and took the child from the elf. “Come here, penneth.”
He sat back down the chair he had occupied all night, settling Aerinel
lap. The child relaxed back into his strong arms, gazing up at the man
contentedly. She knew she was safe with this person.
“She seems to have taken a shine to you, my son,” Elrond said with a
stepping closer to the chair. He knelt down in front of it, making sure
the child could see him clearly. “Well met, little Aerinel.” Elrond’s
soft and gentle. He reached out and took the girl’s small hand. “It is
wonderful to see you awake. You have slept for a very long time.”
Elladan leaned over his twin’s shoulder. “She is licking her lips quite
he whispered quietly.
“Perhaps she is thirsty?” Elrohir suggested, glancing up at his brother
Elladan nodded, straightening up. He walked over to the pitcher that
the table and poured some of the water into a cup. He came back over to
chair where Aragorn sat and handed him the cup. “I think the child is
he said in way of explanation when Aragorn looked up at him
“Ah,” said Aragorn with understanding. He took the cup and carefully
Aerinel in his arms. “Aerinel, would you like a drink?”
The child nodded eagerly. She leaned forward to clasp her smaller hands
Aragorn’s larger one as he held the cup to her lips. She started to
water, the cool liquid easing her parched throat.
“Slowly, Aerinel,” Lord Elrond warned gently. “Do not gulp it, for you
make yourself sick.”
Aerinel slowed down her gulping, but didn't stop until the cup had been
drained. Shyly, she handed the cup back to Elrohir. “Thank you,” she
“My pleasure.” The elf smiled down at her. “Was that nice, little one?”
Aerinel nodded. Elrohir smiled again and gave her leg a friendly rub.
surprised when the child whimpered quietly and buried her head in
chest, at the same time pulling her leg away from his touch. The Elf
his hand quickly. “I am sorry, little one! I forgot about your leg.” He
forward to brush her face, but Aerinel swiped his hand away. Elrohir’s
rubbing the still-healing wound on her leg had caused it to start
painfully. She hadn’t noticed it much before, but now it was hurting
Lord Elrond’s heart ached to see the lines of pain that appeared on the
face. He placed a hand on Aerinel’s pale cheek, directing the child’s
back to him. “Aerinel, I need to check your leg. Is that alright?”
Aerinel nodded slowly and lay still in Aragorn’s arms. She tensed
as she felt the Elf gently pull the nightgown she was wearing up to
lower thigh. She buried her face against the man’s tunic, her body
Elladan noticed this and frowned at the child’s obvious fear of the
“Ada...” he whispered, too softly for the child to hear. “Remember
what Estel told us? That she had obviously been beaten…”
Elrond glanced up and realised his actions had frightened
the girl as he
remembered what Aragorn had told him of the child being beaten by her
“Nay, little one,” he murmured, stroking one white cheek. “I would
you; you have my word on that. I do not mean to cause you to fear. For
apologise.” Aragorn felt Aerinel tremble against him slightly.
Elrond finished checking the wound swiftly, pleased to see that it was
well with no sign of infection. The stitches still held, despite the
twisting and turning of the child when she had been caught in the
throes of the
fever. It would be another day or two before the stitches could come
He stood up, settling the nightgown around Aerinel’s legs. “There,
all done. You are a very brave girl.” He stepped over to the table in
where a small bowl of herbs lay waiting. Efficiently, he ground the
together and added half of a cupful of warm water. Mixed together, they
a healing elixir that would help with the pain. He handed it to the
“Here, drink this, Aerinel,” he encouraged gently.
Aerinel drank it obediently. “Why am I here?” she asked once she had
“Because you were very ill, penneth,” Elrond explained kindly,
his hand momentarily on the top of her head. He took the cup from her
with a kind smile. “You are only now beginning to recover.”
Aerinel rubbed her eyes tiredly. “There was a bad man…he was going to
Elladan’s brow furrowed. “When was this?” He came to kneel beside the
taking the place his father had just vacated.
Aerinel shook her head. “Don’t know.” She looked down at the elf on the
“It was scary,” she whispered. “Then there was a nice voice. Said it
Told me to go to sleep.”
“Ah.” Elladan smiled and nodded up at Elrond over his shoulder. He knew
this was about. “You were caught in a bad dream, little one.” He took
her small hand. “The voice you heard was Glorfindel, telling you to
came and chased the bad dream away.”
“Who’s G’or’indel?” Aerinel asked, her voice becoming very sleepy.
Elrohir chuckled at the child’s pronunciation of the golden-haired
“Glor-fin-del” – he said slowly for the child’s benefit – “is a very
friend to us. He dwells here in the house with us. You shall meet him
Aerinel nodded, and that seemed to be the end of the questions until
snapped open again. “Why was I having bad dreams?”
Elladan shook his head. “You are a curious child, are you not?”
Elrond stepped over beside his son and answered the girl. “You were
child, and we nearly lost you this night."
Aerinel seemed content with that answer – or else the painkilling tea
beginning to take effect, for she leaned back into Aragorn’s arms with
watching the elves with a hazy, detached disinterest. Aragorn wrapped
around the small girl, pulling her closer to him so she wouldn’t slide
The girl sighed deeply and snuggled closer to Aragorn, bringing one
hand up and
clutching at the collar of the man’s loose-fitting tunic. Weariness was
catching up with her, her eyelids slowly drooping. Despite her wanting
awake for longer, the child was losing the battle against her exhausted
"Rest, little one," the elven lord said softly. Aerinel looked up as
the cool hand came to rest on her forehead. Then, her eyes closed and
claimed her once again.
Aerinel sighed deeply in contentment, turning over in the
awareness returned her once more. She blinked tiredly, rubbing her eyes
fisted hand. She was relieved to find that she was more alert now. The
had clouded her mind earlier was gone, and she felt more in control of
“Hey there, penneth,” a quiet voice said to the right.
Aerinel turned her head slightly to see who had spoken, feeling the
under her head.
“How are you feeling?” the voice asked again. One of the identical
into her line of sight, sitting down on the bed beside her.
Aerinel gazed at the elf. Her chest still hurt and her breathing was
but she felt better, more alert than the last time she was awake.
whispered, voicing her conclusion.
The dark-haired elf smiled and took her hand. “I am glad.”
Aerinel fidgeted with the corner of the bed-sheet, gazing
at the elf
lord through the corner of her eye. “I’m sorry,” she whispered
which one are you?” She hoped he wouldn’t be offended or angry with
Rather the elf was neither as his laughter rolled
pleasantly, light and
open around the room. “I am Elrohir, little one, and do not be
find it difficult to tell us apart.” He considered the child before him
amused sort of twinkle in his eye. “How about I let you in on a little
Aerinel blinked up at him. “A secret?”
Elrohir nodded and lowered himself to be closer to the
small girl. “In
time, you will learn how to tell us apart, but until then, I’ll help
You should know that Elladan has a small white scar just beneath his
eyebrow, and my nose has a slightly larger bridge due to a certain
breaking it for me when he was a child!”
Aerinel grinned nervously as she studied the elf before
finding that what he said was true. She giggled slightly then and tried
up in the bed, but a sudden pain in her chest caused her to double
abrupt movement had been too much for her weak and battered body.
whispered in pain, her eyes closing tightly. She felt a hand on her
helping her to lie down again.
"Easy, Aerinel," Elrohir murmured. “Take it easy.”
Aerinel cracked her eyes open as the pain subdued. "Elrohir?” she
whispered as she saw the now-familiar elven face bent over her.
"Yes, penneth,” Elrohir replied. "And you shouldn't make such
a hasty move, for you have been very ill and your little body isn't
that yet. You had a high fever and you were delirious.” The elf
stroked her forehead. “You need to rest.”
Aerinel reached out and clasped her hand in his.
Elrohir lips curved upwards. “What is it?”
Using Elrohir’s hand as something to hold onto, she slowly tried to
herself onto her elbows, for she found lying flat on her back quite
with the tall, regal elf gazing down at her. But her lungs didn't agree
her movements, for they sent her into a harsh coughing fit. Her chest
with pain as the rough coughs hurt her throat and shook her body. The
found that she was helpless against the attack and tried to gasp for
"Hush.” Elrohir’s voice was soft, but commanding. "Don't fight it.
The coughs will help to clear your lungs."
After a few seconds she felt better; the coughing fit had started to
Aerinel relaxed slightly, closing her eyes for a brief moment. A cup of
was pressed against her lips, and she greedily gulped down the cool
calmed her hurting throat somewhat, and she was able to catch her
“Is that better?” Elrohir questioned gently.
Aerinel nodded but clutched the elf’s hand tightly as he made to lay
again. “Please...” she whispered.
Elrohir nodded in agreement, understanding what the child wanted and
her up against several pillows. Aerinel smiled and nestled against the
Elrohir seated himself on the bed once again. “Are you hungry, little
asked, scraping his raven hair behind one pointed ear. “Is your little
hungry?” He ran long slender fingers teasingly over the child’s
bringing forth a small giggle from Aerinel’s lips.
After a moment of consideration, Aerinel nodded. “Yes.”
“How do you feel about some broth?”
The thought of food was strangely alluring, and so the child nodded
Elrohir stood to his feet, and Aerinel was reminded of how tall he was.
be back shortly. Try and rest, little one.” He dipped his head and
tender kiss to the girl’s forehead before leaving the room.
Aerinel watched the elf go and rubbed a hand over her
eyes, wiping away
the moisture that had gathered there. Rare were the moments where
treated her with such tender affection, and never had anyone kissed her
such kindness. Relaxing against the pillows, she slowly drifted towards
cocooned within the warm blankets that covered her.
Aerinel cowered in the corner of the room behind the
leaving pale streaks down her dirty cheeks. She curled into a small
desperately wishing he wouldn’t see her. Perhaps he would pass her by.
just maybe – no chance!
“Get up, you filthy rat bag!” his voice thundered down on top of her.
or I’ll make you do it myself!”
Slowly, the girl uncurled herself and stood to her feet, shaking with
The large man seized her by her arm, dragging her out towards him. She
with fright, but this only enraged the man more and he gave her a hard
“What have I told you about stealing food from the larder?!” he
bellowed at the
child, shaking her roughly by the shoulders.
Aerinel only cried harder.
“You are a thief! A dirty, disgusting little thief! That’s what you
man grabbed her other arm and held her close to him.
Aerinel cringed and tried to wriggle away, but his grip was too strong.
“P-please… didn’t mean to… just so hungry,” she gasped out through her
The man threw her to the floor. “Don’t try that ‘uncle’ lark with me!
work. You are a filthy, thieving child and need to be taught a lesson!
you steal from me!” He began to unfasten the thick leather belt that
around his waist. “You will never steal food from me again or anyone
you hear me?!”
Aerinel cried out in fear. “Please please!” she begged. “I won’t do it
won’t, I promise!” She curled up on the floor. “Please....”
“You can bet your life you won’t, you thieving brat!” the man growled.
grabbed the child by the back of her torn and tattered tunic, hauling
the floor. “Now you listen to me, brat. You are a disgusting, thieving
and you are going to learn your lesson good and hard this time! Oh yes,
Aerinel screamed and tried to get away as the man raised the leather
ready to bring it down over her back. She braced herself for the
pain to come. She closed her eyes –
A voice from far away seemed to call her name. But she
frightened to listen.
“Aerinel, wake up, little one,” a gentle voice called
time more urgently.
Something shook her shoulder. “Come on, wake up,
“Come on, wake up, Aerinel!”
Aerinel blinked and slowly opened her eyes. She was back in the room in
house of the elves and one of the kind, identical elves was standing
A bowl of steaming broth rested on the bedside table. She gazed up at
“Elrohir?” she questioned uncertainly.
The elf nodded. “Yes, little one, it is I… Are you alright?” Elrohir
out and ran his finger over her cheek. “You were crying. What
His sharp eyes easily saw the tear stains on the child’s face.
“Bad dream,” Aerinel mumbled, burying her head in the many pillows.
Elrohir looked concerned. “Do you want to tell me about it?” he coaxed
But Aerinel just shook her head. The elf sighed. “Alright then. He
attention back to the bowl. “Can you eat some of this broth for me?”
But Aerinel shook her head.
Elrohir sat back on the bed, a look of surprise on his face. “But I
said you were hungry, penneth.”
Aerinel just shook her head again before burying her face in the
to look at the elf.
“Come on, Aerinel. You need food, little one.” Elrohir’s voice was kind
firm as he spoke to the small girl, gently but firmly trying to pull
from beneath the covers.
But the child was obstinate and refused to let go of the pillow.
Elrohir held out a spoonful of broth towards her, hoping the delicious
would entice the child to eat. “Just one spoonful? Just for me?” he
Aerinel shook her head, but looked up and bit her lip.
Elrohir sighed and set the spoon down in the bowl. “What
is it little
one? Tell me… I won’t hurt you, I promise.”
Aerinel said nothing, but reached up her arms towards the
Elrohir shook his head. “Alright, come here, penneth.”
the child from the bed and settled her in his lap. Aerinel sighed
snuggled into his robes.
The dark-haired elf shook his head affectionately and smiled. “You are
little thing, do you know that?” He reached over for the bowl of broth,
it closer to him. “Will you eat some of the broth for me now?”
Aerinel glanced up at elf. “Will I be in trouble?”
Elrohir looked completely confused. “For eating? Why on earth would you
trouble for eating?”
“Because to eat, I have to eat food and he said that was stealing and I
never to steal from him or from anyone, ever,” she said in one breath.
glanced up at the elf with large, solemn grey eyes.
Elrohir realised with a
start that the child wasn't lying; she was being deadly serious.
“Aerinel,” he said, pulling the child so that she sat straddled across
He held her small arms firmly. “Aerinel, listen to what I tell you.
not stealing. Do you understand? Eating is not stealing,” he
Aerinel blinked up at him. “It’s not?”
“Nay, little one, not at all.” Elrohir shook his head, emphasising his
“Stealing is when you take something that is not yours, without asking
never returning it, using it for your own enjoyment.” He cupped
“You are not a thief; you are a hungry little girl, and I am offering
You are no thief.”
“So…I’m not a…thief?” Aerinel repeated hesitantly.
Elrohir shook his head. “No, little Aerinel, you are not a thief of any
“So what he said was untrue?”
Elrohir couldn’t help but smile at the small voice that asked the
was indeed untrue…but who said that? Who told you that you were a
Aerinel fidgeted on the elf’s lap, wrapping the folds of the robe
small fingers. “Uncle...” she whispered softly.
Elrohir snorted inelegantly. If that man wasn’t already dead, the elf
have his head for what he had done to the small, innocent child sitting
lap. “Thief” indeed, and what then was the child supposed to do to
Beg? Grovel? Elrohir’s thoughts were furious, but he didn’t let
show on his face.
“Just forget about what he said, Aerinel; he is gone and
will never harm
you again. Now, would you like some broth? I believe it has cooled down
will be quite nice.”
A rumble of a small stomach made one of Elrohir’s eyebrows raise
shall take that as a yes, then?”
Aerinel giggled and clutched her tummy. “I think it’s hungry.”
Elrohir smiled. “I think it is. Will you eat some broth for me?”
After a pause, Aerinel nodded and settled herself more comfortably in
“Good girl.” Elrohir dipped the spoon into the bowl and lifted it to
child’s mouth. He was pleased when Aerinel opened her mouth obediently
drank the broth.
Aerinel consumed half the bowl before she’d had enough. Elrohir was
that she at least had eaten something. He sat there in the chair with
girl in his arms, slowly rocking back and forth. Her full stomach and
feeling of warmth surrounding her soon enticed Aerinel to sleep again.
Elrohir’s eyes roamed over her face as she slept. To him, she looked so
innocent and peaceful, and yet at the same time, so tiny and helpless.
It was a
wonder she had even survived until Estel had found her. Reaching across
pulled one of the blankets from the bed and tucked around her small
brushed her hair back affectionately. “You are safe here, little one,”
whispered. “You do not have to fear us. We will keep you safe.”
The quietness and warmth of the room, the songs of the birds from
the fact that he had not gotten much sleep made the elf drowsy. Without
it too much though, Elrohir let his eyes become unfocused as he slipped
Elrohir’s head shot up at the sound of voices speaking in
low tones in
the room. His eyes landed on his twin, sitting on the end of the bed.
smiled at him ruefully. “We didn’t mean to wake you; we were trying to
quiet as we could.”
“Like a babe!” Elladan replied with a mischievous smirk.
Elrohir shook his head. “No matter. It seems I had dozed off. I did not
to.” He spoke around a yawn.
“You looked quite comfortable sitting there with Aerinel curled in your
Aragorn commented from his place on the floor beside the fire,
gesturing to the
slumbering girl leaning against his brother.
It was only then that Elrohir remember he still held the child in his
glance down assured him that she was still asleep. He relaxed and
his brothers. Both looked as if they had just bathed and changed their
and they looked well-rested. “Sleep well did we?” Elrohir asked slyly,
narrowing his eyes at his twin.
Sensing an argument beginning to simmer under the surface, Aragorn
around the room for something to change the topic. He spied the bowl
the bedside table. “Did she eat something?” he questioned.
Elrohir hummed in response. “About half-bowl of broth, and then she
again. She really is quite worn out, the poor little thing.”
“At least she ate something.” Aragorn stood and walked over to the
eyes softened as he gazed down at the sleeping child. “The poor thing
thin for a child of her age.”
“She will recover; it will just take time.” With a sigh, Elladan flung
onto the bed.
Aragorn scowled at the eldest twin. “That’s Aerinel’s bed, you big
With a shuddering cry, Aerinel jolted awake, bolting upright in
Her eyes were wide and she was shaking, causing the elf to grab hold of
quickly before she fell off his lap onto the floor. “Hey, hey,
Aerinel turned fearful eyes on Elrohir. “Where is he? He was here! He
here!” she wailed in horror, clutching his tunic frantically.
“Who was here, little one?” Aragorn asked, crouching down in front of
“He was here. S-said I was bad a-and came to take m-me away!” Aerinel
softly, covering her eyes with her fists.
“Who was here, Aerinel?” Elrohir repeated gently, taking her hands in
pulling them away from face. “Tell me Aerinel.” He was aware of his
looking on with concern.
“Uncle…” came the sniffled reply.
Aragorn shot a sharp glance at the twins. “It’s alright, Aerinel,” he
“Your uncle isn’t here. You are safe. No one is going to harm you.” He
fingers through her short hair.
“P-promise?”Aerinel hiccupped, begging him with her eyes.
“I promise,” the ranger declared firmly.
Aerinel wriggled out of Elrohir’s grip and slid to the floor before
her arms around Aragorn’s neck. “Thank you,” she whispered. “For
Aragorn was surprised and touched when the child hugged him. He
embrace, enfolding Aerinel in his strong arms. “You are most welcome,
one. I would do it again in a heartbeat for you,” he murmured. Aragorn
pulled her away from his shoulder and cupped her face. “No more tears,”
whispered, brushing away her remaining tears with the pad of his thumb.
need to learn how to smile, not to cry.”
Aerinel nodded, her dark lashes wet as her eyes sparkled with tears and
small smile. Aragorn cupped the back of her head and drew her close to
more, stroking her hair with gentle caresses. The twins looked on with
smiles. It was like watching a scene from Aragorn’s childhood play out
them, only the roles were reversed this time. Instead of them
Aragorn, it was the ranger doing it to another lost and heartbroken
“Your hair needs a brushing, sweet one,” Aragorn murmured, his fingers
untangling the dark strands. Aerinel sagged in his arms, weariness
over her once more.
“Mmm...slee-py...” she mumbled incoherently.
With a light chuckle, Aragorn carefully stood and carried her over to
shoving Elladan off the sleeping couch with his foot.
“It will take a lot for her to heal fully,” Elladan whispered to his
he picked himself up off the floor.
Elrohir smiled, watching as Aragorn laid the child down and pulled the
over her. “I’m sure that with a little care and kindness, she will
fine.” He gave his twin a knowing grin, tilting his head towards their
brother. “It what will happen to her when she is recovered that
Elladan rolled his eyes. “I’m sure,” he said, but he couldn’t help the
that stretched across his face.
Many hours later, Aerinel was feeling lonely. The child had slept on
throughout the day, but now she was awake and curious about the strange
home where the man called Estel had brought her. “Estel?” she called
hesitantly. But there was no answer.
Neither the ranger or the identical elves – Elladan and Elrohir – had
the room when she had awoken. The last thing she remembered was falling
feeling safe and happy in the ranger’s arms.
Slowly, she sat up in bed and stared around her surroundings for the
time, taking everything in. It was a spacious room with a large window
which golden sunlight shone into the room. If she got up on her knees
bed, she could vaguely see what she thought must have been part of the
Judging by the light in the room, she guessed that it must be sometime
There were several chairs dotted around the room and a table in the
it. The fire that had burned brightly only a few hours ago was now just
smouldering pile of ashes.
Carefully, Aerinel slipped out of the bed, clutching the sheets as a
dizziness washed over her. She shivered, feeling the cold floor beneath
tiny feet. The young girl eyed the door across the room and, after a
thought, silently tiptoed her way towards it. Following a small
reach the handle, the door eased open without a creak, and her small
by dark hair peered out into the corridor.
Seeing nobody around, Aerinel ventured out a little further, her
getting the better of her. Her nightgown trailed on the floor behind
a little too big for her, as she slowly crept along the corridor. She
fearful of meeting any of the regal creatures that must live in the big
Aerinel whimpered as another wave of dizziness crashed into her. Maybe
her bed hadn't been such a good idea after all. But the feeling of
and the urge to feel safe again overcame any other emotion.
She grimaced as her stomach churned, making her feel nauseous. “Estel?”
whimpered. She wrapped her arm around her middle and closed her eyes.
wanted to go back to her room, but as she glanced around herself, she
that she was lost.
All the corridors around her looked the same. “Estel,
where are you?”
“Honestly El, did you seriously think that would work?”
twin as the two elves bounded up the stairs together.
Elrohir huffed. “It was worth a try.”
Elladan sniggered. “I’m sure it was, brother dear. That is, until Adar
out. Then it will not be so worth it.”
The two elves hurried along the corridor, bickering between themselves.
“Well, next time you pull a stunt like that, warn me first!” Elladan
The younger twin turned to him, a sharp retort on the tip of his
out of the corner of his eye, he caught sight of a small bundle curled
against one of the doors.
“Elladan, look,” he called out sharply, throwing out a hand to stop his
“Look over there.” He pointed at the bundle.
“Aerinel,” Elladan breathed as he realised who and what the bundle was
child in a nightgown. Quickly, he and his brother rushed over to her.
what are you doing out here?” he asked, crouching down beside the child.
Aerinel looked up at the sound of the elves’’ voices. “El’dan?” she
“Yes, little one. What are you doing out here?” the elf asked again,
his arms for the child.
Aerinel tumbled into his waiting arms, whimpering, “I don’t feel good.”
Elladan stood with the child in his arms. “Come, let’s get you back to
where you belong.” Elrohir followed his twin, his keen eyes noticing
the girl’s face was.
Using his foot, Elladan pushed the door open and entered the bedroom.
then, penneth,” he said as he lowered the child onto the bed,
earth did you leave your lovely, warm bed?”
Aerinel closed her eyes as her stomach heaved right at that moment. She
to Elladan’s hand, gazing up at the elf with large, pleading eyes. With
Elladan complied and sat down on the edge of the bed beside her.
over and draped a blanket over the girl, resting his hand on her
“Bit feverish,” he murmured to Elladan, too softly for the child to
will fetch Ada immediately.”
Elladan watched him go and then turned once more to Aerinel. “Well,
are you going to tell me what you were doing out of bed?” His voice
angry, but Aerinel still felt unsure of the elf’s reaction.
“Lonely” was the quiet answer she gave. “Wanted Es-tel.”
Elladan raised one eyebrow. “You were lonely? But why? We hadn’t left
were just out of the room for a few minutes.”
Aerinel sniffed. “I know. Missed you.”
Elladan felt his heart melt at those words. “I am sorry, child. We
have all left you like that.” He brushed her hair back from her face.
never truly leave you, I promise you.” He looked up as the door opened
Elrohir returned, followed closely by Lord Elrond and Aragorn.
The elven lord frowned at the child, who was lying very still on the
half-lidded eyes. “We are not quite well yet, are we?” he said softly,
at his eldest son. Elrond crouched beside the bed and felt Aerinel’s
Aerinel whimpered and curled up under the blanket, worn out from her
“Easy, child,” Elrond murmured, focusing on sending her
slowly to sleep
with a quiet bit of magic. It was really just to help chase away the
inside of her that kept her from closing her little eyes and getting
she so dearly needed after her adventure.
Her eyes flickered closed and her grip on Elladan’s hand
moments, the child was sleeping.
Elladan stood up. “We should let her sleep. After her little adventure,
tired out, poor thing.”
“What happened?” Aragorn asked with concern. “Why was Aerinel out of
she should be resting?”
Elrond stood beside his foster son. “That too is a tale I would love to
Come.” He put an arm around Elladan’s shoulders and led him from the
child will sleep for a few hours at least. You will be back before she