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Their footsteps could barely be heard as they crept through the large
house nestled deep in the beautiful valley of Imladris. Sneaking
up the elegant stairway and quietly entering the room at the end of the
hallway, Lord Elrond’s twin sons silently approached the bed that held
their younger human brother, Estel.
The ranger had returned the previous day and the twins had not yet had
the opportunity to see him as they had only just returned from a quick
trip through the mountains themselves.
The human lay on his stomach, his face turned to the far wall.
The sheets fell in folds off the bed, wrapped about his waist, exposing
the top of his sleeping breeches. One arm lay under his head
beneath the pillows that cushioned him and the other dangled off the
The man had filled out since they had last seen him. He had grown
up. His shoulders and back were broad and muscular and his facial
hair, albeit scraggly in comparison to others, had grown as well.
Shoulder length, wavy tangles of dark hair, coated with the warm glow
early morning light, fell across his face as he breathed deeply in
His senses, having been battle-heightened over the many years of war he
had seen, were alert and although the man had not completely woken,
every fiber in his body tensed, bringing his awareness slowly to the
Elladan barely knelt on the bed; it gave way easily beneath him with a
soft squeak. The elf leaned towards the ranger, a devilish smile
on his face; it had been a long time since he had been able to surprise
his youngest brother.
Instantly awake and on the defensive, Estel twisted in the bed sheets,
recoiling from the presence he had felt. Automatically his hand
wrapped around the hilt of the elven blade he had placed beneath his
pillow out of habit sometime in the pre-dawn after his father had left
his room. He slept better with it near at hand lately and putting
it there had been an almost unconscious reflex.
Bringing the weapon up with lightning fast speed, Estel pressed the
sharp edge of the knife against his perceived attacker’s throat.
His left hand wrapped in the dark hair of the elf that knelt next to
him, holding Elladan still against the steel razor and pressing forward
The elf froze, breathing carefully as the blade scraped dangerously
against his jugular. His eyes wide, Elladan slowly raised his
hands, taking note that the human who held him so precariously was not
quite awake or aware yet. His younger brother’s attack had simply
been an automatic response to a perceived threat. It was an
action that neither twin was prepared for, however; the ranger had
raised his weapons against them before save in jest or to spar... this
“Estel?” Elladan spoke his name softly, causing Aragorn to blink
several times as he took in his surroundings. He was not on the
banks of Pelargir nor the blood-soaked plains of South Gondor, the
attacker before him was not a Haradrim or Corsair, it was an elf with
oddly familiar eyes...
Aragorn loosened his hold at once, releasing his brother and allowing
Elladan to press him back against the pillows while Elrohir slipped the
blade from the human’s hand. Aragorn breathed in deeply, closing
his eyes and holding his breath as his heart pounded wildly in his
chest, trying to absorb the adrenaline that had shot through his
The ranger sighed softly and stared up into the blue eyes that
scrutinized him. Estel didn’t move when Elladan pinned him to the
bed, his hands on the younger human’s shoulders as he leaned over the
man. His nearly disastrous reaction to his elven brother
frightened Aragorn; he hadn’t heard the twins enter his room and had
forgotten that he had slipped his knife under his pillow before he had
fallen completely asleep. The reaction surprised him as much as
it did the twins and so he simply lay on the bed, catching his
breath. If he had pressed against the blade even a little too
hard... Aragorn shuddered slightly. The wars he had lived through
these past years had marked him too much; he had a great deal to
It had been many years since the twins had seen their brother and the
visible changes in the human both intrigued them and saddened them as
well. The emotions were foreign and strange. Aragorn would
need a time of adjustment. Things weren’t as
they always had been.
“We heard you had returned. You have... changed, little
brother,” Elladan whispered softly. It wasn’t just his
outward appearance or actions; they could see the age in his eyes, more
so even than his years. Because elves aged so slowly after
reaching maturity, it was almost as if their little brother had grown
up to be older than they. It was strange to the twins,
Changed. An understatement, Aragorn thought sarcastically, but he
simply nodded. There was nothing else to be said, it was
true. He tried to explain himself. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to
hurt you. I wasn’t awake... I... It was an automatic
response. I thought you were an enemy.”
Gently placing the sharp elven blade on the dresser, Elrohir sat on the
edge of the bed, watching his brothers. Deep in his heart he knew
Estel was different... older, and he could feel the weight the human
carried in his own heart. He smiled softly as the ranger’s silver
eyes turned to gaze briefly at the dark-haired elf. Although
things had changed, he for one was very glad that Estel had returned to
them. The years since they had last seen the ranger had been long
indeed, even in a timeless place such as Rivendell. After all,
life was full of changes; they didn’t have to be bad. Estel would
always be their little brother in their hearts, no matter what
When Aragorn glanced back at his older brother, he noticed the frown
that creased Elladan’s forehead. The elf was staring at the scar
that marred the man’s lip. Self-consciously Estel covered the
blemish with the fingers of his right hand, dropping his gaze from the
twins. His slight beard and mustache concealed the worst of the
scar but it still bothered him.
Elrohir caught the ranger’s wrist and gently pulled Aragorn’s hand
“What happened?” he asked softly.
Moving out of his brother’s grip, Estel scooted back against the
behind him and sat up in the bed, drawing his knees up to his chest and
fingering the mark.
“It was a war wound, from a fight with a Haradrim. They are
fierce warriors.” He glanced at Elladan as he spoke, “But he did
not return home and I did.”
Elladan nodded, a smile slowly spreading across his face. “Well you
know, they say that women find battle scars very attractive.” The
elf looked quickly at his twin who matched his smile.
Shaking his head, Aragorn rolled his eyes. “Leave it to you to find
something positive about it.” He scooted over as Elladan seated
himself on the edge of the bed across from Elrohir.
“Tell us of it?” Elrohir asked cautiously.
“The war, your time with men, all of it.” Elladan finished the
thought his twin had started, eager to hear how their brother had
fared. Little word had been sent through the years as carriers
often fell prey to the ravages of war, bandits in the hills, or
“Not yet.” Aragorn glanced from one twin to the other. “Please,
let me leave it for a while. I only wish to be Estel. There are
some things I need to
forget.” Deep weariness marked the gaze
he laid on the elves and they immediately withdrew from their
Gently touching Estel’s shoulder, Elrohir apologized, “We meant no harm
Estel. If it is painful it is best left until you are
Aragorn smiled softly, his hands busy worrying the edges of the blanket
that he had pulled up to his chest, a habit he had never broken himself
of. “It is... I am weary of it. The world men of has taught me
many things, some good, but much of which I wish to forget.”
“I see it has also taught you to sleep with your blade under your
pillow.” Elladan eyed the weapon that rested on the nightstand,
his tone taunting as he deftly changed the subject, not wishing to make
his younger brother any more uncomfortable than they already had.
“Oh that.” Estel laughed quietly. “Yes, I got used to sleeping with
that in my hand. I slipped it under my pillow out of habit last
night after father left me. Please forgive me Elladan, that is
one routine I will need to break.”
“Before you kill someone would
be nice,” Elrohir chided
“Oh and you think you didn’t deserve it!?” Aragorn glanced from
one twin to the other, his eyes narrowing in mock suspicion, trying to
hide his smile. “You think I don’t know that you were trying to
scare me?” He laughed as the twins affected an air of shocked
innocence. “Probably had in mind to drag me out of bed and play
one of your tricks on me didn’t you now? Well they won’t work
Elladan sobered immediately. He knew that Estel was teasing them
but he could also feel that the human spoke the truth. Aragorn’s
age of innocence was gone and the little brother that they had known
had finally, truly grown up. The older twin looked quickly away,
trying to hide the sadness his thoughts had suddenly evoked. He
knew it was natural, but could not help the bitter-sweet feelings of
one who has watched someone grow from infancy.
Aragorn however was not fooled and leaned forward, tipping Elladan’s
chin up, forcing the elf to look at him. It was a tiny action
that the elven twins had done a thousand times with their younger
brother and now the roles were reversed. “What is it? What
have I said?”
“You are not the young Estel that we remember,” Elrohir whispered
softly, his voice uncertain as he spoke the words. They
knew. They knew their brother was human, they knew with their
heads it would be this way, but their hearts still had trouble grasping
the fact that their young Estel had become a man, a battle-weary man
whose cares hung heavy upon him.
Aragorn glanced from the youngest twin to Elladan who was watching him
again carefully. “He is right. You are not,” the elder twin
concurred quietly. It was not bad that Aragorn had become an
adult, they were proud of the man he had become... but it was hard to
let go of the boy.
“Oh.” Estel silently mouthed the one syllable word and leaned back
against the headboard as realization sunk in. His elven brothers
were having difficulty with the fact that Aragorn had finally grown
up. The ranger reached his left hand behind his back pushing a
pillow into a more comfortable position. As his fingers touched
the soft, down-filled bag, a thought brushed his mind and he gripped
the cushion, tensing.
“You think I am so changed that you fear you no longer recognize the
person in this body?” he asked quietly, voicing the elves’
“Yes, perhaps,” Elrohir answered hesitantly, glancing at Elladan
for confirmation. The brothers had always been honest with one
another; it would do no good for them to hide their thoughts now.
Nodding his head Aragorn dropped his gaze, throwing his brothers off
just enough so that when he slipped the pillow he held from behind his
back, Elladan was unprepared for the soft blow.
The elf fell off the side of the bed; the pillow following him as
Aragorn landed the cushion squarely in his older brother’s face.
Gripping the edge of the bed Estel looked over the side of the
mattress, watching as the elf pulled the pillow off of his head and
stared, open-mouthed, at the human.
“Hmm... well, guess if I can still rub your face in a pillow I haven’t
changed that much, have I?” The human laughed from his vantage
point before being pulled back from the edge by Elrohir. The twin
had taken hold of Aragorn’s ankle and jerked the ranger back, pressing
a large bed pillow over the human’s head and burying his face in the
blankets with a shout of mirth.
By the time Lord Elrond entered the room, followed by Legolas, no one
could remember who had actually started the pillow fight, but the
broken cases and the snowfall of downy feathers that rained down on the
room’s occupants incriminated them all.
When Elrond cleared his throat, Elladan and Elrohir quickly sat up,
releasing their captive who bolted upright in the middle of the bed,
coughing and spitting out a mouthful of feathers. Fluffs of down
stuck out from the dark, disheveled hair at odd angles
and the bright silver eyes smiled as the ranger extricated himself from
the pile of pillows and empty cases that he had been buried under.
Looking slowly around the room Elrond shook his head, his gaze landing
lastly on his youngest son, sitting in the middle of the bed, flanked
by the elven twins who were trying desperately to look innocent - a
tactic that very nearly always failed.
“So, Estel, I see you have lost the pillow fight again?” The
lord entered the room, his tone imperious, his eyes full of
laughter. He fought to keep contained the smile that slipped
slowly across his face.
“I am afraid so, Ada.” Aragorn glanced between his brothers. “They were
picking on me again.” The human’s eyes took on a pitiable gaze,
begging the elf lord to intervene.
When the twins started sputtering in self-defense and pointing at the
ranger, Elrond could contain his laughter no longer. “I see some
things have not changed.”
“I am afraid, Lord Elrond,” Legolas spoke up from his place in the
doorway, “that with Estel around, some things never will.”
“Good,” Elrohir whispered. “I like it that way.” He smiled as
Aragorn glanced at him.
The ranger pulled his brother into a tight hug, “Me too,” he whispered
into the elf’s ear before shoving the twin playfully away from
They gave me a life that’s not so
easy to live
And then they sent me on my way
I left my loving, forgot my dreams
I lost them along the way.
Those little things you say
When words mean so much
You never back down
When they all shy away
You always listen to me.
--Three Doors Down
It had been nearly two weeks since Aragorn had returned and the rest
that his weary heart had begged for was only now beginning to take
hold. Padding barefooted across the wood floor of Elrond’s study
room Aragorn quietly made his way to the picture window that stood
open, facing the rift that Rivendell had been built into. It
appeared that no one was awake yet in the house save for Celboril and
the kitchen staff.
Morning was just breathing her sigh of warmth in the valley. The
far side of the cleft that held Imladris was aflame with the first
touches of the sun.
Estel stood silently on the balcony that overlooked the river far
below. His unfocused eyes did not notice as the sun crept over
the valley and painted her black and grey palette with brilliant colors
of light. His thoughts were flung far beyond the safety of the
rift that sheltered him. He shivered slightly but the chill that
ran up his spine had nothing to do with the still cool morning air.
Elrond had been awake when the ranger stirred that morning and followed
quietly in the man’s wake. The elf lord had fully expected that
there was much weighing on Estel’s heart that he was either unable or
unwilling to share. A shadow edged the ranger’s eyes and his
lightheartedness had not returned fully. Elrond stood in the
shadows of the room behind his son watching the young human. He
could feel the confusion that warred inside the man, mixed with a
sorrow that he did not understand. They had spoken of the dark
shadows of Mordor and all that had happened there... but truly, that
had touched Legolas’ soul deeper than Estel’s. There was
something different that troubled his youngest son.
When Aragorn sighed deeply and laid his head down on his arms crossed
atop the balustrade, the elf lord moved from the shadows and stepped
silently up behind the ranger, gently placing his hand on the broad
shoulders as he moved to the side, trying to glimpse Estel’s face.
Aragorn started slightly before laying a rueful smile on the elf
lord. Elrond remained about the only being that could utterly
surprise him like he just had.
“Father, you startled me.” Aragorn shifted, facing the older elf
and leaning against the low stonework. “What wakens you so
“Funny, I was about to ask you the very same question.” Deep blue
eyes pierced through to the soul before him and Aragorn was surprised
to find himself instantly shying away from the touch that was so
familiar and yet so unwelcome. He dropped his gaze to the floor
of the valley, watching the Bruinen sweep by below them.
Elrond turned and leaned against the railing, waiting out the
human. The quiet roar of the waterfalls at the head of the river
could just barely be heard on the still morning air and the silence
hung between them heavily. He had finally decided that his son
was not going to open up to him just yet, when Aragorn turned his gaze
back to the elf and held his father’s questioning glance.
“I do not wish to be human.”
The statement, spoken quietly, was simple and blunt. The grief
behind the words touched Elrond’s heart.
“You were never given that choice, Estel. Your blood is
Númenorean and though there are very minute traces of elvish in
you; you cannot choose to be one of the Firstborn, my son.”
gently laid his hand on the young man’s shoulder.
“If I had been I would go with you now across the sea. The world
is wearying. I have seen enough of man’s cruelty and intolerance
to last a lifetime. If I cannot be what my heart desires, cannot
lay claim to the things I truly love, then I will not walk amidst those
for whom I feel so little kinship, will not tread a path whose end I
cannot see. I choose exile.” Aragorn frowned deeply and glanced
back across the way, finally noticing for the first time that morning
had blushed the mountains with its first rays. Obviously these
thoughts had been heavy on his mind for some time.
“Your heart is weary.” Elrond recognized the battle-exhausted
look, the look of one who had seen too much death and darkness.
“More than you know.” The whispered words fell away, caught by
the slight breezes that were beginning to pick up.
“I know full well how you feel, Estel. I too have been there and
if you think that only men have the corner on brutality, intolerance
and hatred, you would be wrong.” Elrond stepped back as Aragorn
straightened and turned towards the elf, resting the small of his back
against the top of the rail.
The ranger shook his head. “I saw men killing each other, not
even knowing why, but simply because they were sent out to do so.
I saw women and children caught in the chaos and whole cities
decimated. Men who sought profit by enslaving another being and
subjecting that being to horrible cruelty. Selling one another,
murdering, stealing...” Aragorn closed his eyes against the images that
surfaced. “The darkness I saw in Mordor was deep and terrible... but I
saw glimpses of that same darkness in the eyes of too many in the south
that were neither orc nor wraith. I have seen what power does to
men, and I want no part of it.”
“The elven races are no different,” Elrond said quietly. “We are
simply older now. When one has an immortal lifetime, lessons
learned are sometimes better remembered. We were just as you are
once. I have seen elves do the same to one another. I know
how heavy your heart is. You must trust that it will not
always be this way.” Elrond hurt for his son. The things
the young man had seen drew scars on the heart of a kind that often did
not fully heal, but he could not allow the human to turn from his own
race; this one had a destiny that could not be so easily thrown
“It does not feel like it will ever leave, the ache I mean,” the ranger
explained when his father frowned slightly at him. “I went to
Rohan, to Gondor, to see what their world held. To see if I could
be what they need me to be... I cannot. You have told me of my
heritage, of my supposed future, but I do not want it.”
“You do not have to right now, my son. It is not for you at this
time.” Elrond’s words were calm and reasonable, yet laced with
“But it will be!” Aragorn stepped back, his anger peaking at his
own helplessness and sense of inadequacy, “And do you think that in
twenty or thirty years men will have changed? I do not.
What difference will I be able to make in the world?”
“More than you can know.” Elrond glanced down to Estel’s hands and
noticed that Barahir was missing from his fingers. The ranger
slowly opened his fist and the ring shown brightly in the warm
light. When the elf met his son’s gaze he noticed the guilt that
hid just behind his eyes. “You were going to get rid of it?”
Aragorn nodded and dropped his eyes to the floor beneath his
boots. “I had thought to throw into the Bruinen where it would
never be found...”
“And so escape your destiny?” Elrond closed his right hand around
his son’s, the ring biting gently into his palm. “The ring only
marks you outwardly as Isildur’s heir.” With his left hand the
elf touched the human’s chest above his heart, “The true power you
carry, and the goodness with which you will wield it, is in here... and
nothing can change that.”
Silver eyes locked onto the earnest blue ones. He knew the truth
in what his father told him, but his war-weary heart shied at the
“You have not come to that point in your life yet Estel; you have much
farther to go still and many years to enjoy. Do not feel
imprisoned by the expectations of others, even those of us who love
you. Go where your heart leads you; you know you are welcome to
rest here as long as you wish.” Elrond smiled as the hand caught
in his own tightened slightly and Aragorn wrapped his right arm around
the elf lord, pulling him in closely.
“Thank you, Father. I would stay on here for a while. I
the rest,” Estel whispered softly into the elf lord’s ear.
Elrond nodded in understanding as the young man pulled back, “I for one
am glad, for I missed you these past years. Since you have been
in my life young one, I have begun to experience time as the race of
men does and I do not cherish that feeling.” He laughed lightly
as he wrapped his arm around Estel’s shoulders and drew him back inside
with him. “It will do my heart good to have you near again.
Besides, Celboril has done nothing but complain about not being able to
make panjacakes. You know you are the only one who loved those
things. I am sure he will have some ready for you this morning
when we break fast!”
Aragorn smiled and walked back into the house, easily allowing himself
to be lead through the large mansion. He gently wrapped his arm
around his father’s waist and laughed as the older elf began to tell
him about a stunt his brothers had pulled just last week. He
found he was amazed at how young he suddenly felt and how light his
heart became when he released his cares and relaxed into the warmth of
his home, Imladris. Something echoed deeply inside and he
realized he had missed his family more than he knew.
Slipping Barahir back on his finger he allowed his heritage to settle
deep in his heart, far from the surface; accepted but not taken
up. For now he was Estel, at home in Rivendell and he could hear
the sounds of his brothers echoing down the stairwell as they teased
He laughed, pulling back behind his father slightly for protection as
the Silvan elf vaulted the railing, jumped from the last landing of the
staircase and landed lightly next to him.
“This is all your fault. You must stop them.” The blonde
elf laughed as he stepped behind the human and the elf lord.
Elladan and Elrohir had chased him down the stairs and the prince
glowered at them with unrepressed mirth as he hid behind their father
and brother. “I did NOT
use either one of your closets for my
clothes, Estel gave these to me last night! Take it up with
Aragorn held up his hands innocently against his brothers mock-accusing
stares. “Well Celboril is the wrong size. I couldn’t find
you last night to ask and Legolas said he was sick of wearing my
At this Elladan and Elrohir had to laugh. “I wonder he did not
weary of that the first day.”
Elrond shook his head with a smile. Aragorn’s clothing, even the
silk or velvet tunics and robes he wore around Imladris, had looked
slightly off on Legolas’ graceful form. Especially since Aragorn
was wider built than the slender elf. However, even the brown and
maroon tunic and leggings that Aragorn had borrowed from his brothers,
although a bit of a nearer fit, still did not look completely natural
on the blonde archer.
“Well the good news,” the elven lord said patiently as the younger
beings jostled about him with Aragorn pretending to growl at his
brothers for the slight and them pretending to be oh so frightened. “Is
that the tailor said the clothing I commissioned for the prince
should be ready later today.” Elrond supposed rightly that
Legolas would feel more comfortable once he was again able to dress in
the familiar styles of his woodland kin.
Legolas smiled gratefully, pretending to ignore the three
brothers. “Thank you.”
“Now,” Elrond used a tone one might employ for very small children,
which made his three boys look up almost in unison. It was all
Legolas could do to keep from laughing. “I believe Elladan and
Elrohir expressed the desire to take you both out hunting with them
today, so I suggest that this would be a good time to have that
Aragorn smiled. It was so
good to be home. “Yes, Ada.”