“On your feet, Elrondion!”
A voice roared through his dreams, and Elladan was on his feet and standing to attention before he was even fully awake. As the fog of sleep cleared he saw Glorfindel standing before him, blazing with fury. The realisation of what he had done hit him with all the force of a dwarf’s hammer, and a sick, leaden feeling settled on his stomach as if he had eaten one of his mother’s rock cakes. “Glorfindel, I …”
Glorfindel’s eyes narrowed, and he took a step forward, looming even more closely. “Elladan? This should be Elrohir’s watch!” he hissed. “Where is he? Why is he not on duty? Have you slept the whole night away?”
Resisting the urge to step back from the force of Glorfindel’s anger, Elladan had to swallow before he could answer. “I did not wake him, nor Ilmarin. He is still asleep. Glorfindel, do not blame him for this! I … ” he faltered as he realised he did not have an adequate excuse for a breach of discipline of this magnitude. “I am sorry,” he ended humbly. At home, whenever he or Elrohir incurred Glorfindel’s wrath, they would beg his forgiveness, but not here. For this, Glorfindel would not, could not, forgive him so readily.
“You did not wake them? Why not? You had orders, Elladan! Did you think Elrohir incapable? Did you think to spare him the task? Or do you think yourselves above such petty matters as discipline and commands?” With each question, Glorfindel’s fury rose. He did not shout, but his cold rage lashed at Elladan, who could only stand and weather the onslaught.
“No. No …” he stammered. “No.” He was acutely aware of Elrohir, awake now, staring at them from his tangle of blankets on the far side of the fire’s cold ashes. Elrohir knew better than to intervene, though it had been a harsh lesson for them to learn. His eyes were fixed on Elladan, silently pledging his support despite his obvious dismay.
“Then what?” Glorfindel persisted. He waited, and Elladan knew that somehow he had to find an explanation for his foolish, insubordinate behaviour.
He drew a deep breath. “I – I wanted the time alone. It was so quiet, so peaceful – I just wanted to enjoy the solitude, while everyone else was asleep. And I thought I would let Ilmarin and Elrohir rest. So I did not wake them.”
“Then I shall be having words with them as well,” Glorfindel said coldly. “Ilmarin has been a warrior long enough to know that he should be awake and ready for his watch. He should not expect anyone else to wake him! Elrohir needs to learn that too.”
“Glorfindel, please!” Elladan protested. His own actions were bad enough, but he had never imagined that Ilmarin and Elrohir would also be held responsible for his foolishness. “The fault is mine. Do not blame them.”
“Do not presume to tell me what to do!” Glorfindel snapped.
Deeply ashamed, Elladan looked down, feeling his cheeks burn. Everything he said seemed to make this hideous situation even worse. “No, captain.”
“Good. Now, as you are so keen, you will take the watch for what remains of the night, and then prepare breakfast for us all. I will consider what further punishment you deserve. ”
“Yes, Lord Glorfindel,” Elladan whispered. He raised his eyes slightly. “Will – will you inform my father of this?”
Glorfindel’s eyebrows rose. “Why would I do that? I am not in the habit of informing my warriors’ parents of their disciplinary record. You are not a child, and should stop acting like one! You are a member of this patrol, and would do well to remember that. You must take responsibility for your own actions.”
Elladan nodded slightly in response, though he knew it made no difference. Elrond would know. There was little that escaped his father’s notice, and he knew he would tell his parents himself anyway, for his honour would not allow him to keep the truth from them. And yet despite Glorfindel’s rebuke his heart lifted a little and he felt marginally better at the subtle reassurance that he was still regarded as a warrior and part of the patrol. “Thank you, captain.”
Elrohir had risen now, and stood some way behind Glorfindel listening silently; eyes flicking from Elladan to Glorfindel and back again.
“Do you have something to add, Elrohir?” Glorfindel enquired without turning.
“No, captain. Just … well, I am awake now. May I take the watch with Elladan?”
“It is a little late, as this is supposed to be your watch!” Glorfindel retorted.
Elrohir flushed. “Yes, captain. And captain …”
“I am at fault as well. I knew I had the final watch. I should have woken for it. Elladan is not solely to blame.”
Glorfindel snorted. “I will decide who is at fault here. Goodnight.”
Elladan opened his mouth to say more, but thought better of it as Glorfindel glared at him. “Goodnight, captain.”
“Goodnight, captain,” echoed Elrohir.
As Glorfindel returned to his blankets Elladan sank slowly onto his rock with a deep groan. Elrohir merely shook his head in despair. “El, you are an absolute idiot!”
Elladan sat in morose silence as the sky lightened. How could he have been such a fool? And what would his parents say? They would be so ashamed of him. Feeling full of guilt he ignored Elrohir’s attempts to talk to him, until after a while Elrohir gave up and he too fell quiet.
As the sun rose above the distant peaks of the mountains the others began to stir. Ilmarin woke first. He yawned and stretched, and glanced at Elladan in surprise. “Is it morning already? Have you kept watch all night? Thank you, but it was perhaps not wise. If Glorfindel found out …”
“He already knows,” Elladan interrupted, speaking at last. He took a deep breath. “I tried to stay awake all night, but he found me asleep on duty.”
Ilmarin winced. “Oh,” he said with a long sigh. “Elladan, you should have woken me!” Then he shook his head. “No, I should have woken anyway. I knew it was my watch. Let me talk to him.”
“No, Ilmarin. Thank you, but this is my fault. And my responsibility, as Glorfindel pointed out.”
Ilmarin responded with a sudden grin. “Well said. I think you will go far, despite this beginning!” Then just as quickly he grew serious again. “You made a mistake, Elladan, as we have all done at times. It will not be the last. But if you learn from each error, each mistake, you will become an excellent warrior – and one day a leader.” He glanced at Elrohir. “Both of you.”
Elladan blinked and nodded sheepishly. He had been expecting condemnation from the rest of the patrol, and Ilmarin’s understanding support came as a pleasant surprise. “Thank you.”
“That is, if Glorfindel does not kill you first,” Elrohir muttered as Ilmarin disappeared towards the river to wash.
“I would deserve it if he does. El, why did I do it?” Elladan demanded. “We will be back at home tomorrow – no, today – and everything had gone so well! Why did I have to ruin it all? Now I am in disgrace, Glorfindel hates me, and I have let you and everyone else down.” He sighed. “I have let Glorfindel down.” Far, far worse than his own sense of failure was the deep shame he felt in knowing that he had disappointed the captain.
“Glorfindel does not hate you,” Elrohir pointed out. “He is angry – but he has been angry with us before. And of course you have not let me down! You have never done that. You never will.” Clasping Elladan’s shoulder he pulled him to his feet. “You proved yourself an idiot, but I already knew that,” he finished cheerfully. “Come – I will help you prepare breakfast.”
Elladan smiled as he bent to re-kindle the fire. “El – thank you. Not just for breakfast. For everything.”
His smile faded as Rimmon approached them. “Elladan, I just heard what happened. Is it true?”
“Rimmon, I …” Elladan drew a deep breath. “Yes, it is true. I’m sorry. I …”
Rimmon shook his head, his expression grave. “Oh, Elladan. But I blame myself, of course.”
Elladan stared at him in surprise. “How is it your fault? You did not have the watch at all last night.”
“I had no idea my tale would terrify you so, child. That it made you so afraid to sleep you felt you had to keep awake all night … I am sorry. I hope you will not have nightmares tonight as well.”
“No, it was not that!” Elladan protested indignantly. “I …” he stopped and cursed silently as Rimmon began laughing at him. “Rimmon, you orc! Elrohir, shut up!” he added as Elrohir tried unsuccessfully to hide his own laughter.
“Sorry, El!” Elrohir said unrepentantly. “It was not your story that kept my brother up, Rimmon,” he explained. “Glorfindel’s tales were the only ones that gave us nightmares when we were children. Do you remember him telling us about the Balrog?” he added to Elladan.
Glorfindel. Try as he might, Elladan could not imagine what he could possibly say to the captain to make things right between them again.
Glorfindel eyed Elladan steadily. He looked pale but resigned, and returned his gaze without flinching. He also looked tired, but Glorfindel had little sympathy for that.
Eilenach walked past on his way to the river, carefully ignoring them and Glorfindel glanced around the campsite. He could see the other patrol members busy stowing their gear and tending to the horses, but the occasional curious glance came their way, and Elrohir’s ears almost seemed to twitch as he strained to listen.
“We will go this way,” he told Elladan, indicating a track that led steeply up through the pines. Setting off without another word he climbed towards a rocky outcrop that faced back towards the mountains, and Elladan trailed silently in his wake.
Glorfindel knew he pushed the twins hard, both because of who they were, and what they would become. As Elrond’s sons there could be no hint of favouritism, or accusations of an easy passage through the rigours of training. One day they might well lead the forces of Imladris, or rule the valley itself. For that, they needed the dedication and respect of all who followed them – a respect that had to be earned, not merely given. He demanded more from them than from any other novices he had ever trained, and they had never disappointed him, rising to each challenge with relish and surpassing even his own high expectations. They had endured this rather uncomfortable patrol without a word of complaint and performed all the necessary, routine tasks – even the more unpleasant ones like digging latrine pits – willingly. He was impressed with how quickly they had fitted in with the others, who had initially had reservations about having their lord’s sons joining them.
At times he wondered if he expected too much. They were young yet, barely two years past their majority, and still had much to learn; but age and experience and their own determination would turn them into excellent warriors and leaders.
His musings had taken them to the top of the path, and they were now out of sight of the camp. He halted at the foot of the rocks and turned to face Elladan. “Well?” he asked at last. “What do you have to say for yourself?”
Elladan moistened his lips. “Nothing, sir.”
“You have nothing to say in your defence?”
“No, sir. I fell asleep on duty. I left the patrol unguarded and vulnerable to attack – I put everyone at risk.” Elladan sighed. “I was foolish. I do not defend my actions.”
Glorfindel nodded slowly. “I am glad you realise the consequences of what could have happened. The fact that we are sheltered within the borders of Imladris does not excuse you, nor does the fact that you had the best of intentions in seeking to spare others from the watch. That decision was not yours to take.”
“No, captain.” Elladan hesitated and then added, “Glorfindel …”
“I am sorry. Truly sorry. I let you and everyone else down. I am sorry I disappointed you.”
Glorfindel sighed, his anger fading. He loved the twins as if they were his own sons and it was hard to remain stern when Elladan was so dejected and despondent, especially when he could see what troubled him the most. “You did not let me down, Elladan,” he said more gently. “You let yourself down. You made a foolish decision that might have had serious and lasting consequences. Not only did you leave your companions temporarily unguarded, but by remaining awake for most of the night you are now tired, and your judgement and reactions may be impaired if we had to fight. That could also put your companions at risk. There is a reason why the watch is always shared, Elladan.”
“Yes. I understand now, though I did not think of that before.”
Seeing Elladan’s obvious sincerity and regret, Glorfindel was satisfied at last. “You made an error of judgement, but many far more experienced elves have done that. I want you to learn from this. You have already shown me that you have considered some of the consequences of your decision, but you must learn that our actions can have many outcomes. Some are obvious and expected; some we know could occur if chance or mischance prevails. Sometimes we take a calculated risk; and sometimes the consequences are quite unforeseen.”
“I should have thought,” Elladan admitted. “I should have thought about all of that. I think I knew it was probably not wise, but never imagined I would put everyone else at risk. I should have listened to myself. And I know if I had told Elrohir he would have said I was an idiot.” He paused. “He said it anyway.”
Glorfindel smiled as he reached out to touch Elladan’s shoulder in reassurance. “Then learn from this. There will undoubtedly be times when you do have to keep watch all night – perhaps if your companions are injured – and times when it is necessary to fight, then march through the night and fight again; and you will learn that, too.”
Turning away, he pointed back through the trees. “Now come. The others are waiting for us. No doubt Elrohir will have packed your gear for you, so we can be away immediately.” He headed down the steep track silently, pausing to speak only once more. “Elladan. You have done well on this patrol, despite this. With a little more age and experience I have no doubt that you will become exemplary patrol leaders – and who knows, I may soon find my own position in jeopardy!”
With a chuckle, Elladan smiled as he shook his head. “Not for a very, very long time, I hope!”
There was a definite spring back in Elladan’s step as Glorfindel followed him back to camp, but he still had to consider what further discipline to impose. He never meted out meaningless, wasteful punishments. Any penalty imposed would always have a useful goal, for pointless punishment only fostered resentment. But what would be suitable for Elladan? Additional weapons training was pointless, for his skill and fitness already outstripped the other novices; and many of the more experienced warriors as well. Stable duty was always a possibility, and a week of grooming, hoof-picking and mucking out tended to quench the highest spirits. It had never worked for Elrohir though, for he loved the company of horses too much.
Suddenly Glorfindel laughed to himself. There was something he knew Elladan hated above all else – the routine of paperwork. “There is one last thing,” he announced as they reached the clearing, where Elrohir stood waiting anxiously at the foot of the path. “We return to Imladris this afternoon, and you will write a full report of this patrol. I want it on my desk by tomorrow morning. And then you will prepare the schedules, duty rosters and routes for all the patrols for the next two week cycle.” He almost smiled at the flash of dismay that crossed Elladan’s expression, followed by a determined resolution. He paused to let his verdict sink in, and then flicked his eyes sideways as he added, “You will not help him, Elrohir.”
There were twinned sighs.
“Good. And Elladan?”
Elladan gave him a wary look. “Yes, captain?”
“Do not disregard orders again. Let this be the last time.”
Elladan nodded vigorously. “Yes, captain!”
As they rejoined the patrol and set off down the track which led back to Imladris, Glorfindel sighed. He had no doubts at all that in time Elladan and Elrohir would both make excellent leaders. He just hoped he would survive the experience.
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