Lazing on a Sunny Afternoon

by Jay of Lasgalen

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Celebrían listened to the hum of insects, gentle birdsong, and the distant murmur of the river as she relished this rare moment of solitude.  For once there were no demands on her time – her sons were playing somewhere in the gardens, Elrond was happily translating some documents in his study, and no crises had arisen in the household.  The whole of this perfect summer’s afternoon was hers to do with as she wished.   She sat on the bench, and picked up her book.

“Nana?  Nana!”

Celebrían sighed, and looked up as a distraught elfling ran to her, flinging his arms around her neck.  “Elladan?  What is it?  What is wrong?”  she asked softly.

Elladan sniffed.  “It’s El.  He’s hiding from me, and I don’t know where he is.”

“Hiding?  Why is he hiding from you?”  Celebrían prompted.  “Are you playing?”

“Yes.  We were playing hidenseek, and it’s his turn to hide, but I can’t find him, and I don’t know where he is!”   Elladan was beginning to cry.

“Then can I help?  We shall search the valley from head to foot and peer under every pebble until we find him.”  Taking Elladan’s hand, Celebrían joined in the game, helping him to search in all the most likely places to conceal a small child, and the places she knew were Elrohir’s favourite haunts.  Yet there was no sign of him.  He was not in the orchard, pocketing the sour, unripe windfall apples.  He was not pestering the cooks to cut a crust from one of the hot, freshly-baked loaves intended for the evening meal.  He was not splashing in the small stream that bordered the gardens, or attempting to scale the cliffs.  He did not appear to be anywhere.

No evil or danger could enter the valley, but of course there were always accidents that could befall a mischievous, curious child – and Elrohir was nothing if not curious.  It would be odd, though, if he had embarked on an adventure without Elladan – the twins rarely did anything alone.  Beginning to share Elladan’s concern, she knelt so that she was at eye level with him.  “Elladan?  I want you to think hard about Elrohir.  Do you think he is frightened, or hurt?  Can you tell?”

Elladan screwed up his eyes and concentrated.  “He’s not hurt.  He’s happy.”  His eyes opened, and he stared at her in indignation.  “He’s laughing!”

“Is he?”  Celebrían smiled as her anxiety vanished.  She did not really understand the bond between the twins – and neither did they, yet – but they could each tell when the other was upset or in pain.  Elrond assured her that the bond would strengthen and grow with time.  Wherever Elrohir was, he was safe and unharmed.  But where was he?

“He didn’t really want to play hidenseek,”  Elladan informed her.  “He wanted to go swimming instead.  So we wrestled, and I won.”

Celebrían hid a smile.  Elladan liked to be the leader in their games, and although Elrohir usually acquiesced to playing a secondary role and followed his brother’s ideas, occasionally he rebelled.  Was it possible that he was hiding in some secure spot, and deliberately ignoring Elladan’s calls?  Even as she considered the possibility, she rejected the idea.  Elrohir was never devious or malicious, and he would know that such an underhand trick would cause Elladan to worry.  If he had truly not wanted to play hide and seek, he would have said so, forcibly, and would have stubbornly refused.  “Do you think he went swimming on his own?”  she asked cautiously.

Elladan shook his head.  “We’re not allowed,”  he pointed out.  “And anyway, I said that we could go after I found him.”  He sniffed again.  “But I can’t find him – not anywhere!”

“I think we should go to the bathing pool anyway, just to be sure.”  Taking Elladan’s hand again, she hurried along a woodland path.  Although both twins could swim like fishes – a necessary precaution in a valley blessed with so many streams and waterfalls – they were forbidden to go alone to the deeper pools to swim or play.  If Elrohir had defied that instruction, she would personally skin him alive.

As the path widened and opened onto the banks of the river, she saw one of the grooms ahead, leading two horses to the water to drink.  It was time to enlist more help to widen the search party, and she hailed him.  “Marach!   Have you seen …”  Her voice trailed off as she caught sight of the small, grubby figure leading the second horse.

Elrohir spun around, though he still kept a careful grip on the rope he held.  “El!”  he cried in delight.  “I hid, and waited for ages for you to come and find me, but you didn’t; so I came to find you, but I couldn’t; and then I saw Marach, and he asked me if I wanted to help him groom the horses, and now we’re taking them to have a drink!”

Elladan gave a snort of exasperation.  “I looked for you everywhere!  Then I saw Nana, and I could tell she was worried, so we came to look for you together.”

Elrohir looked contrite.  Passing the rope to Marach, he  ran to Celebrían and hugged her.  “You didn’t need to worry, Nana,”  he said seriously.  “I was quite all right – I was just helping Marach.  Are you going to play hidenseek as well?”

Celebrían returned the hug, then looked down with resignation at the dark stain Elrohir had transferred to her dress.  “Of course I can play,”  she said with a smile.  “But I thought you were going to swim once Elladan found you?”

“Yes!”  he exclaimed.  Turning to Marach, he asked politely, “Do you still need my help, Marach?”

The groom shook his head.  He bowed, but Celebrían did not miss his broad smile.  “No, Lord Elrohir, but thank you for your assistance today.  It was invaluable.”

“Can I come back tomorrow?”

Marach nodded.  “Of course, if your parents agree.”

“As long as your lessons are finished,”  Celebrían forestalled firmly.

“Thank you!”  Elrohir exclaimed joyfully.  “And El can come as well!”

Elladan nodded less enthusiastically.  “All right,”  he agreed.  “Nana, are you going to come swimming with us now?”

Celebrían considered.  She was hot, and Elrohir’s hand in hers felt sticky.  A strong aroma of horses clung to him.  “That sounds like an excellent idea,”  she agreed.

The twins whooped with delight and raced off.  Two excited voices carried back to her. “Race you, El!  Last one in’s orc bait!”

She smiled as she followed them to the bathing pool.  All hopes of her peaceful, solitary afternoon had fled, but she knew she did not mind in the least.

The End

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