Learning to Smile

Chapter 9

by Little Jewel-(T)
January 11, 2017

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Elrohir led Aerinel into the large, airy stable block that housed the elven horses of Rivendell. He opened the half-door leading to the stable where the mare and her new foal were housed. "Come on, little one," he encouraged gently, holding the door open as he encouraged the child to step inside. Slowly, Aerinel followed the elf in, wary of the tall, protective-looking mare.

Berain looked up as Elrohir approached her and blew softly into the outstretched hand.

"There's a good girl, Berain," Elrohir murmured as he stroked her nose. "And how is your little one today?" He reached down and scratched the small chestnut foal that lay on the straw, nestled close to her mother. He glanced up and saw Aerinel hovering uncertainly by the door. "Come, Aerinel, Berain will not hurt you." He held out his hand, crouching down beside the foal. "Come," he repeated.

Moving slowly, Aerinel stepped over the straw and came to stand beside the elf. Taking her small hand in his, Elrohir gently guided the tiny fingers over the soft muzzle of the foal. The young girl's eyes widened as she felt the velvety coat underneath her fingers.

Berain, sensing that the child meant no harm, bent her head and nuzzled the child's hair. Aerinel giggled as she felt the hot breath on her skin, brushing her hair off her face, and then shrieked as the foal tried to nibble her tunic.

Elrohir laughed. "Peace, Aerinel. She is only curious to discover how it tastes...there, she had decided she doesn't like little girl's tunics."

"She?" Aerinel looked up at the elf.

"Yes, little one. The foal is a girl, a little filly." Elrohir watched as Aerinel gazed back at the foal. The small horse was a beautiful light caramel colouring, but the elf knew that would darken into a deeper chestnut as the horse got older.

"She's nice," Aerinel whispered, stroking the white blaze that ran down the filly's nose.

A sharp banging filled the stable block and Elrohir stood up with a sigh, knowing exactly who was causing the racket. "Come, Aerinel. There a few things I must see to."

The child followed Elrohir out of the stable and down the aisle towards the angry banging.

"Alright! Alright, I'm coming! I'm coming!" Elrohir yelled crossly as he arrived at the end of the stable block. He glared at the large black stallion responsible for all the noise. "Just couldn't bear the thought of someone else getting a bit of attention, could you, you great brute?"

Aerinel gazed up in awe at the tall, powerful horse. He was jet black except for a white stripe down his nose. "Who is that?" she asked, ducking behind Elrohir as the horse recommenced his banging on the stable door, thrashing his head around in time with the noise.

"That," said Elrohir, pushing the horse away from the wooden door, “is Elruin, Elladan's horse. He is a rude and feisty animal that cannot bear another horse getting attention when he is not. Elruin, stop it now! Do you want to bring my Adar out here?"

The large stallion paused for a moment and considered the elf in front of him. Aerinel cautiously moved out and held her hand up towards the animal.

But Elruin decided he did not like the small human and snapped at the offered hand. Elrohir quickly snatched Aerinel's arm away from the stallion. "Elruin, stop it right now!" he scolded, giving the horse a stern slap on his neck.

Aerinel had cowered behind Elrohir once again. The elf sighed. "Don't mind him, Aerinel; he’s just bad-tempered. Come and meet Arfuin." He led her to another stable near Elruin's. Inside was another black stallion. The only difference was this one had a white diamond between his eyes.

"Hey there, my noble boy," Elrohir murmured as he rested his forehead against Arfuin's face. "How are you today, my beauty?"

The horse sighed and closed his eyes, snorting through his nose. Elrohir reached up and gently stroked an ear. "I have someone special I want you to meet." He turned and beckoned Aerinel over to him. "Come and meet Arfuin, little one."

Aerinel looked up at large horse. "He looks like El'uin," she said, stumbling around the elven name a little.

"Yes, he does because he and Elruin are brothers." Elrohir opened the stable door and ushered Aerinel in. "Arfuin won't hurt you, I promise."

Arfuin gazed down at the child with large dark eyes and Aerinel found herself captivated by his gaze. "He's beautiful," she whispered.

Elrohir smiled proudly. "He is. He is my beauty, aren't you, boy?" He stroked the glossy neck, giving it a friendly pat. The elf looked down at Aerinel. "Would you like to give him a brush?"

"Can I?" Aerinel asked, but then her face dropped. "But I don't know how to," she whispered sadly.

Elrohir tipped her chin up. "That is no problem. I will show you how."

Elrohir fetched some grooming equipment and together he and Aerinel brushed the black stallion down, the elf lifting the child into his arms so she could reach the horse’s back. Arfuin had a gentle temperament and stood patiently while Elrohir showed Aerinel how to use the different brushes and combs to clean the horse's jet black coat until it gleamed.

Elrohir gently set the child back onto the ground. He’d had to hold Aerinel to allow the small girl to reach the horse's back. Aerinel giggled as Arfuin lowered his head and blew on her face. She swatted her hair out of her eyes and gave the stallion a shy pat on his nose. Elrohir smiled as he tidied away the grooming equipment. He had no worries of leaving Aerinel in the stall. If it had been Elruin's stall, that would have been an entirely different situation altogether.

Elladan's horse was large and fierce, possessing a fiery nature along with a mind of his own, and he could sometimes be a handful for even Elladan to control.
Elruin could be feisty when the mood stuck him. Fiercely loyal to Elladan, the stallion would sometimes lash out at the nearest being. This morning it had been Aerinel. Whereas on the other hand Arfuin was calm and had a willing disposition.The two horses had been a begetting day gift from their father several years ago.

Elrohir smiled at the sight of Aerinel chatting away mindlessly to the large stallion when he came back from the tack room. An idea entered into his mind. He was sure his father wouldn't approve, but still… “Aerinel, would you like to go for a ride on Arfuin?"

"Really?" Aerinel clasped her hands together and turned pleading eyes upon the raven-haired elf. "Oh, please?"

Elrohir laughed. It would be worth to bear his father's displeasure just to get the child to smile. "Of course, little one." Grabbing a saddle and bridle, he quickly tacked Arfuin up and led him outside. Aerinel squealed in delight when Elrohir lifted her up and sat her in front of him in the saddle, effortlessly swinging up behind her.

"Ready, little Aerinel?" he asked, wrapping one arm securely around the child. Aerinel nodded eagerly but clutched the sleeve of Elrohir's tunic. She had never been on such a tall horse before and it was a little frightening.

Elrohir sensed her fear. "Do not worry, Aerinel. Nothing will happen. Arfuin and I will both keep you safe." With a click of his tongue and a nudge of his heels, Arfuin walked slowly out of the courtyard and towards the surrounding forest.


Elrohir slowed his horse to a steady walk as he guided the stallion along the forest path and through the trees, although Arfuin needed anything but guiding. The large black horse was one of the two most powerful elven horses in Rivendell, the other being Elladan's horse. Both stallions were fiercely loyal to their elven masters.

Elrohir glanced down at the small child that sat in front of him with a smile. "Are you alright, Aerinel?" he inquired softly. One strong arm was wrapped around the young girl while the other hand held the leather reins loosely between his fingers. He trusted his horse enough not to bolt forward without warning.

Aerinel looked up at the elf and nodded eagerly, almost bouncing with excitement. Her small hand clutched the sleeve of Elrohir's tunic tightly. She leaned forward and patted the black mane gently, giggling when Arfuin tossed his head and snorted.

Elrohir smiled to himself, wondering what his father would have to say about him taking Aerinel out on Arfuin.

The smile grew wider as he glanced down and watched the child in front of him, gazing around in wonder and curiosity at the trees and foliage surrounding them. "Do you like the forest, little one?" he asked quietly, not wanting to break the spell of peace that seemed to surround them.

Aerinel nodded, twisting her head over her shoulder to glimpse the elf behind with her eyes shining and a bright smile on her face. "It's lovely. Thank you for bringing me out, El'hir."

Elrohir dipped his head and bestowed a gently kiss to the top of her head, inhaling the sweet, innocent scent that all children seemed to have. "You are most welcome, penneth."

Elrohir allowed himself to relax slightly and his mind wandered to the young girl sitting on the horse in front of him. It was quite remarkable, the difference between the silent child this morning and the bright, excited one now.

His eyes shot open and his arm around Aerinel tightened as he felt the child lurch over to stare at something on the ground below. Aerinel squirmed in his grasp. "El'hir, you're hurting me," she whimpered slightly.

Elrohir immediately loosened his hold on the child. "Forgive me," he murmured, his shoulder sagging. "I did not mean to. You startled me when you leant over." He leaned around to see the young girl's face. "Don't do that again, little one. If I had not been holding you, you would have fallen to the ground."

Aerinel nodded. "Sorry," she said in a low voice. "I didn't mean to. There was just a little bird and oh, it was so pretty!"

Elrohir shook his head. He half paid attention to the ramblings of the child as Arfuin stepped neatly around the trees and over downed branches.

After a while, Aerinel's childish chatter ceased as she was lulled into a dreamy state of sleepiness by the steady, rhythmic movement of Arfuin. Her head came to rest against Elrohir's chest and her eyelids dipped lower and lower.

Elrohir affectionately stroked her forehead, brushing the loose strands of dark hair away from her pale face. "I believe someone is in need of a nap," he murmured softly. With a light tug on the reins, the elf turned Arfuin around. "Come on, boy, I think it is time we headed home."

The stallion agreed with a toss of his head and moved towards the direction of Rivendell. It was one of those days during winter where spring could be felt in the atmosphere. Elrohir tilted his head back and inhaled deeply, feeling the light breeze brush against his cheek with the barest touch of warmth. Soon the world would come alive once again after its long winter sleep. Leaves would appear on the bare branches of the trees, flowers would bloom in the forest, and the animals would come out of hibernation.

Suddenly, Arfuin stopped and snorted in fear, backing up a few paces.

Elrohir frowned and sat up straighter, his mind alert and aware of his surroundings. "What is it, Arfuin? What is out there, boy?" The elf realised with annoyance that they were closer to the borders of the valley than he would have liked and inwardly kicked himself for allowing them to wander so far from the safety of the house, especially with Aerinel.

Arfuin pawed the ground restlessly and flattened his ears back, letting out a pinched whinny as he tried to turn away from the forest path.

The reins tightened in Elrohir's hands. "Easy, boy, easy," he murmured, trying to calm the agitated stallion. Aerinel was shaken from her light doze and clung to Elrohir in fright as Arfuin stamped his hoof down on the ground with a snort of fear.

Elrohir tightened his arm around the young girl more firmly, drawing her closer to him. "Hush...hush," the elf spoke softly trying to calm both the child and the horse.

Arfuin tossed his head wildly, pulling against the reins as he tried to turn away from the direction he had been moving in.

Elrohir was beginning to lose his temper with his horse. "Arfuin! Calm down. There is nothing out there!" But even as the words left his lips, a feeling of dread shivered up his spine, a feeling Elrohir had come to know over the many centuries of fighting against the evilness of Orcs.

Aerinel let out a cry of terror and clutched the strong arm that held her with her small hands tightly. Elrohir was startled at the child's cry and looked around wildly for the cause of her distress. "What is it, Aerinel?" he asked gently. "What has frightened you?”

With a shaking finger Aerinel pointed towards the trees that surrounded them on the left. Tears were now streaming down her small face, her eyes wide with horror and fear.

Elrohir frowned and gazed deeply among the trees trying to spot whatever it was that was scaring both Aerinel and Arfuin. He hissed in fury and alarm as his eyes landed on a pair of small, glowing, yellow eyes staring back out at him from the cover of some bushes not a hundred yards away.

Orc eyes.

The elf and the Orc locked eyes for a moment, neither moving. Then with a snarl, it lunged forward out of the bushes. Aerinel screamed, but Elrohir was faster. Yanking hard on the reins, he wasted no time in whirling Arfuin around and urging him into a gallop. The horse needed no encouragement.

"Noro lim, Arfuin! Noro lim!" he shouted to his horse as he pressed him to go faster.

Aerinel clutched the elf in fright. She had seen those glinting yellow eyes among the trees. She shivered as memories of those eyes, burning with hatred and bloodlust came flooding back to her. She had seen firsthand what the owners of those eyes did. Trapped amongst the burning debris of the house, she’d had no way of escape and could only watch in horror as the orcs ruthlessly killed the village people and then tried to get through the small hole to her, only resulting in bringing the burning roof down on top of themselves, leaving her trapped. Those yellow eyes...

Aerinel buried her face in Elrohir's tunic as Arfuin sped through the trees. Anxious thoughts raced through Elrohir's mind. Why was the Orc so close to Imadris? Orcs normally dared never venture this close to the home of Lord Elrond. It was suicide, to their minds. He risked as hasty glance back over his shoulder. Nothing was following them. He did not know whether to be relived or to fear of what may come.

Blast! he thought. This is all we need right now! But...why only one Orc? Where is the rest of the pack? What annoyed and scared the elf more, though, was why he hadn't sensed the evil creature. Surely he should have been able to tell that something was close by. Arfuin had sensed it before he had.

Aerinel whimpered in his arms, returning Elrohir's attention to the child in his arms. The elf bent over her protectively, shielding her from the low branches that snagged his clothing and the wind that rushed by their faces. "Hold on, child. Hold on. We're almost home," he whispered into her ear as they broke through the trees and out onto the bank of the Ford of Bruinen. The horse plunged into the swirling water, froth gathering at his mouth.

The adrenaline left him in a rush, and with a sigh, Elrohir let his head come to rest on his chest as he allowed Arfuin to splash down into the cool waters of the river. The stallion shook his head and slowed to a walk as he waded his way across towards the far bank.

Elrohir could feel the child shivering uncontrollably against him. Whether from fright or cold, the elf could not tell. He gently cupped her face, pressing her cheek against the soft material of his tunic. He noticed with alarm that the child had her eyes closed. "Aerinel? Are you alright?" He tried to hide the mild panic in his voice.

Aerinel cracked her eyes open and gazed around her. She started when she saw that Arfuin was splashing through the shallows of a river. She turned her head slightly, her face falling against the comforting warmth of Elrohir's chest, trying to hide her tears from the elf. She could feel a gentle hand slowly stroking her hair. Her breath hitched as she grasped the elf's tunic, her small fingers curling into the material with a surprisingly strong grip.

"It's alright, Aerinel. You are safe," Elrohir murmured as he urged Arfuin up the stony bank on the far side of the ford.

"I want to go home," Aerinel sobbed quietly. "I want Estel!"

"Iston, tithen pen. Iston." He had an inkling of how the child was feeling right now. After all she had been through and to be now faced with this? He shook his head. Why today of all days? he thought. All he had wanted to do was give the child a treat, and instead Aerinel ended up being cold and frightened. "We'll be home soon, I promise."

A frown appeared on Elrohir's fair face. He was not looking forward to alerting Elrond about the presence of Orcs so close to the house, and he was sure his father would ask the question as to what he was doing out there in the first palace and with Aerinel. Estel was not going to thank him for getting Aerinel cold and frightened, especially after her being so ill not long ago.


Some hours later, Lord Elrond sat in the private lounge with Aerinel on his lap wrapped in a soft blanket. The child had been alarmingly quiet since she and Elrohir had arrived back. The elven lord had tried to coax Aerinel to eat a small evening meal, but the girl had refused to touch the food.

Silent tears had fallen from her eyes while she watched from behind the door of her room as the twins and Estel prepare to ride out after the Orcs. She had buried her face in Elrond's shoulder and cried as the sound of the hooves on the stone courtyard echoed throughout the house.

Now Aerinel just sat in the elven lord's arms, staring at the door with large, wide eyes, her small fingers curled into the edges of the blanket.

It was pitiful to observe, Elrond decided. He looked up as the door eased open and Telwen stepped inside the warmly lit room. "Hîr-nín," she said softly. "Hello, little Aerinel."

The child looked up at the elf maid for a moment, then turned her eyes back to the door.

"She wants my sons to return." Elrond spoke in the Grey Tongue. "She is worried for them. The experience she has been through has left her fearing for those she loves. "

Telwen smiled gently in understanding. "I understand, hîr-nín."

Elrond glanced down at Aerinel's sad little face before looking up at Telwen. "Would you be able to put Aerinel to bed? It is past the time she should be up and she is drooping with tiredness from all the excitement of today. Perhaps a glass of milk and a small cake might help?"

Telwen nodded. "Of course," she said, then knelt down in front of the young girl and held out her hand to the child. "Aerinel, will you come with me and we shall get some milk and a little cake, then perhaps a bedtime story?"

Aerinel nodded, slipped off Elrond's knee and took Telwen's hand. Elrond stood up and followed them out of the room as they walked down the dimly lit corridor towards the foyer.

As they neared the main entrance of the house, Elrond became aware of a commotion outside. Moments later, the doors were flung open and Elladan appeared in a flurry of wind with his cloak wrapped around him.

“Adar!" The raven-haired elf looked flustered and was breathing hard, his hair windswept and his tunic covered in dark red and black stains.

"Elladan, what is the matter?" Elrond anxiously hurried over to his son and stopped when he saw the two other figures that stood on the top step, outside the door, one leaning heavily against the other. When they stepped forward into the interior of the house, the elven lord immediately recognised them. "Estel," Elrond said softly, seeing the state his youngest son was in.

Elrohir was supporting Aragorn and in the growing darkness, the dim candlelight played faintly across dark, red stains on the ranger's torn tunic and on his face.

Elrohir stumbled as he crossed the threshold, loosening his grip on the ranger. Elrond caught the man, bracing him against himself. "Elrohir, what happened?"

"We were ambushed by Orcs," the younger twin replied. “A pack of them were waiting...just across the river!” He broke off to catch his breath, coughing slightly.

Aragorn lifted his head at the sound of his father's voice. "A-da,” he whispered haltingly, his words cut off as he passed out. Glorfindel appeared behind the twins. His fair face was set in hard, unreadable mask of displeasure.

With the golden-haired warrior’s help, Elrond lifted Aragorn and carried him towards his chambers, calling for some of the serving staff to bring water and his healing supplies to his son’s chambers.

On seeing the tall elf, Aerinel pulled her hand from Telwen's and ran towards Elladan, trying to reach him before he could turn away, relief shining in her grey eyes. “El’dan, you’re home!”

"Aerinel." Elladan tried hard to smile. "I cannot play yet."

"Cuddle?" Aerinel looked up hopefully reaching out to be picked up.

"No, Aerinel, not now." Elladan shook his head. “Maybe later."

"Please?" Aerinel begged, reaching out and clutching Elladan's tunic.

Elladan roughly pulled her hand away. "No, Aerinel. Not now!" he said harshly.

"Estel?" the child questioned softly, peering around for the man. She had heard his voice for a moment and was anxious to see him.

Elladan closed his eyes. He was rapidly losing what little patience he had left. "Aerinel, Estel cannot come to you right now. Go away," he told the young girl unsympathetically.

Aerinel stepped back with tears in her eyes, but as she did so, she caught sight of Aragorn being carried past by the elves, covered in blood. Her young mind froze as she took in the sight of the wounded man. Images flashed through her young mind of other figures she had seen in a similar state, never to get up, never to wake up. Then her mouth opened and she screamed in terror, thinking the worst had happened to him.

Telwen rushed over and scooped the crying child up, hugging her close to her chest, whispering soft words of comfort into her ear. "It's alright. It's alright, Aerinel. Shhh...shhh...shhh."

"He's dead! He's dead," Aerinel sobbed hysterically, choking on her cries for she truly believed that the man was dead. Too often in her few years had she seen people covered in blood, unmoving, never to rise again.

"Oh, please make that child stop crying!" Elladan snapped angrily at Telwen.

Aerinel's sobs ceased in fright at the sound of the elf's angry tone of voice. "Estel...d-dead?"

Elladan rolled his eyes in exasperation. "No. He's not dead...yet!" he barked back at the child, fear and worry making his voice hard. “You can blame Elrohir if he does die!”

Aerinel shrank back into Telwen's arms, tears falling from her eyes. The elf maid glared at Elladan, her eyes flashing with fury. Elladan took no notice of the frightened child, simply turning his back and striding back down the dark corridor.

"Hush, little one. It's alright. Estel is going to be alright," Telwen murmured as she stroked Aerinel's hair. "Elladan did not mean it. He is just worried about his brother, that is all."

Aerinel clutched the elf maid and sobbed quietly. Telwen glared daggers down the corridor at the retreating form of the young elf lord. She wanted nothing more than to slap his face. The child was only relieved to see him and he tossed her aside in anger.

Telwen rocked Aerinel closer to her body as she made her way to the child's bedroom by a different route. "Easy there, little Aerinel, all will be well in the morning.”


Elrond quickly gathered the herbs and other supplies he would need from his pantry before he moved quickly through the halls of his home until he reached Aragorn's room. Elladan and Elrohir moved away as he approached the bed his son had been laid on. Gently, he brushed the strands of dark hair away from the bruised face.

"How is he?" Elrond glanced quickly at Elrohir.

"Not good, Ada." The elf moved nearer his father and touched his brother's face carefully. "He has several broken ribs and his left arm is fractured. I'd be surprised if he didn't have a concussion. There is a deep gash on his left side also." Gently, he pulled aside the torn shirt, displaying the bloody cut on Aragorn's torso.

Elrond frowned as he gently examined the wound. "Elladan, fetch me a bowl of warm water and a cloth, please," he asked without looking up. He heard his son walk out of the room with heavy steps.

Taking a small knife, the elven lord cut away the rest of the torn and bloodied tunic. Aragorn moaned as Elrond pressed his hand against the man's ribs feeling for any broken bones beneath the skin. "Estel...Estel, can you hear me?"

The ranger's eyes flicked open and he gazed unseeingly at the elf leaning over him. "Ada?" he muttered incoherently.

"Yes, ion-nín. Hush now. You are safe." Elrond looked up with relief as Elladan came back into the room, a bowl of freshly boiled water in his hands. Using a clean, soft cloth, the elven lord gently cleansed the deep wound in the man's side, carefully wiping away the blood and gore.

Aragorn closed his eyes against the pain that welled up inside him, biting his lip to stop himself from moaning aloud before darkness claimed him once more.

Elrond paused in his ministrations and rested the palm of his hand on his son's forehead, frowning at the heat radiating off the human. It was as he had feared; Estel was running a high fever. Taking a clean strip of cloth, he wound it around the man's temple, binding up the wound.

Glancing back over his shoulder, Elrond's concerned eyes found his other sons as he prepared the needle and thread. Elladan leaned against the door frame, a scowl plastered on his fair face. Elrohir had collapsed into a nearby chair, holding his head in his hands. He had stripped of his own blood stained clothing and the slash on his arm had been washed and bandaged.

As Elrond watched, Elladan walked over stiffly and sat down beside his brother. Elrohir immediately turned to face away from his brother, wincing as he jostled his injured arm.

"What happened, Elladan?" Elrond asked softly.

Elladan glanced up, his eyes hard.

"He wouldn't listen, that's what happened!" Elrohir spat as he stood up, his own grey eyes burning with anger.

"Elrohir!" Elrond said sharply with a frown as he finished stitching the wound. Gently, he spread a soothing ointment over the wound before carefully wrapping a clean bandage around Aragorn's torso.

"It's true! He wouldn't listen and did his own thing, like usual! It's because of him that Estel is lying there injured!"

Elrond sent a glare at the youngest twin. "Elrohir, watch your tongue. Your anger is getting the better of you." He glanced at his eldest son. Elladan sat, his eyes fixed on Aragorn's still form, his face blank.

"And he doesn't even care." Elrohir hissed.

"Elrohir, that is enough!" Elrond silenced his son with a glare. With a huff, Elrohir seated himself next to Aragorn, smoothing the sheet down and fiddling with the white bandages.

The door opened with a bang and Glorfindel strode in. He had changed from his armour and now wore his usual robes. His sharp blue eyes travelled around the room, resting momentarily on Aragorn before landing on Elladan.

"Explain yourself, Elladan! What possessed you to take such foolish actions?!" Glorfindel regarded him coolly. "What happened?" he demanded again after several seconds of silence.

But Elladan just glared at his feet.

The golden-headed warrior turned to the other twin. "Elrohir?" he questioned, his voice slightly softer.

Elrohir looked up. "The Orcs are getting too near the borders of the valley. As I told Ada when we first came in, they were waiting in an ambush across the river. We were not prepared."

Glorfindel turned and left the room, slamming the door behind him. With a sigh, Elrond moved over to try and comfort his son, but with a snarl Elladan pushed him away and ran from the room.


Little Aerinel was long asleep by the time Elrond returned to his quarters and checked in on her. In the child's hands she clutched her old, worn stuffed bear, her little face resting on his head.

It was with sadness that the elven lord noticed the tear stains on the pale cheeks. Tenderly, his thumb brushed them away before he smoothed her hair away from her face, tucking the blanket up around her more securely. "Sleep well, little Aerinel. May you have pleasant dreams tonight," he murmured. He slipped quietly from the room, remembering not to close the door fully, allowing a crack of light from the hallway beyond to enter the room.

Elrond sighed wearily as he reached his own chambers, only then noticing how dirty his robes had become. He changed, grateful for the bowl of hot water that one of the serving staff had put ready for him. Then, he proceeded back to Aragorn's room, where the man lay sleeping.

Elrohir, sitting beside the bed, looked up expectantly as he came in. Elrond smiled sadly as he leaned down, checking over his youngest son. He was pleased to see that the fever had lowered. Thankfully, there was no sign of infection, and hopefully Aragorn would recover quickly, despite the severity of his injuries.

Elrond sat down in a chair on the other side of the bed, his eyes staring at the glowing silhouettes of logs against the flames, waiting patiently.

The younger elf looked up at last, his eyes clouded with sadness. "The Orcs were getting too close to the borders of the valley. Elladan decided to act rather than wait for Glorfindel's signal. He would not wait,” Elrohir said in a choked voice. "There were so many."

Elrond went to sit by his son, placing a comforting arm around Elrohir's shoulders.

"He decided to attack." Elrohir spat out with anger. "He wouldn't wait. And then more came. I think they were hidden from us at first."

Elrond sat in silence and waited for his son to continue, his finger gently stroking the dark, silky locks.

"Aragorn got separated from us. I looked around but I couldn't see him." Elrohir exhaled deeply. "I tried to get to him. I saw him cut down...I couldn't reach him. If it wasn't for Glorfindel showing up when he did with the rest of the troop, Estel would be dead by now and it's Elladan’s entire fault!" Elrohir angrily swiped the sleeve of his tunic across his eyes.

"Elrohir," Elrond said gently. It indeed sounded as if Elladan had made grave errors of judgement, but he did not like to see his sons fighting like this.

"It is his fault that Aragorn is lying here injured,” Elrohir bit out angrily. "He is responsible for this." As he spoke Elrohir's voice cracked slightly. Elrond wrapped his arms around his son, cradling him as if he were a child again as Elrohir reached out and clasped Aragorn's limp hand in his.

Elrond slowly rocked his son back and forth, allowing the gentle movement to calm the distressed young elf.

Movement from the bed made the two elves look up. "Ada...Ada..." Aragorn murmured feverishly, turning his head back and forth across the pillow.

"Estel," Elrond called softly. "Estel, can you hear me?"

"Adar...?" The man frowned and tried to pry his eyes open.

Elrohir leaned forward, anxious for his little brother to wake up. "Estel," he called, tenderly brushing the man's hair away from his forehead while being careful of the bandages.

Aragorn blinked and focused on the elven lord leaning over him. "Adar?" he repeated groggily.

Elrond smiled down at the human. "Yes, Estel. It is I."

Aragorn moved and tried to sit up suddenly. "Elrohir! Elladan! The Orcs! We were surrounded." He looked around the room wildly.

"Hush, Estel," Elrond soothed. "You are safe. You are home and I have tended to your injuries. Thankfully, this time, none of them are life-threatening, although you will have to remain quiet for some time to allow them to heal. Believe me, I will get creative if you do not!”

Aragorn allowed Elrond to lower him back onto the bed. Already he could feel his eyelids closing. "Elrohir, Elladan," he murmured sluggishly.

"I am here, Estel.” Elrohir moved into Aragorn's line of sight and wrapped his fingers around the ranger's hand. "I am here. We are all safe."

Aragorn blinked up at his brother. "El..."

Elrohir smiled slightly. "Yes...El," he confirmed.

The man closed his eyes and seemed to settle back into sleep. But a moment later his eyes flew open again and he clutched Elrohir’s sleeve. "Aerinel! Where is Aerinel? I heard her scream. She was crying."

"Peace, Estel, Aerinel is well." Elrohir eased his brother's iron grip off the sleeve of his tunic. "She sleeps in her room."

Elrond gently brushed a hand over the human's eyes, gently forcing them to close. "Rest, my son. You will be fine now."

The last thing Aragorn heard was his father's soft voice before he closed his eyes and the warm welcoming embrace of sleep surrounded him.

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