The Search

Chapter 5: A Question Of Identity

by Jay of Lasgalen

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Legolas stared at Aldor incredulously.  Beside him, Elladan had gone white, but then he dropped his head into his hands, his dark hair veiling his face.  He said nothing.

“What - ” Legolas’ voice failed him.  He swallowed, then tried again.  “What happened to him?  Do you know?”  Another thought occurred to him.  “Are you absolutely sure?”

Aldor nodded slowly.  “Yes.  I’m sorry, but there seems no doubt.  The medallion …”

Legolas studied the token again.  In flowing script, in both Sindarin and Westron, it authorised ‘Elrohir Elrondion’ as an emissary and ambassador of Imladris.  Yes, Aldor was right.  There could be no doubt.  Somehow, despite Elladan’s horrifying dreams and visions, he had still believed they would find Elrohir safe and well.

Mention of the medallion seemed to penetrate the daze that enveloped Elladan.  He felt inside the collar of his tunic, and pulled out a small disc attached to a fine chain of mithril.  Pulling it over his head, he passed it to Legolas.  “El and I both have one,” he said tonelessly.  “That was his,” he added, indicating the one Legolas already held.

Legolas compared the two.  They were identical – naturally – apart from the name.  A broken link on Elrohir’s showed where it had been attached to a chain at one time, and wrenched off.  He fingered them absently, before silently giving both back to Elladan.   He felt utterly devastated at the news of Elrohir’s death – and could not begin to comprehend how Elladan must feel.

He turned to Aldor again.  “What happened to him?” he asked once more.  “How – how did he die?”

Aldor hesitated, and glanced at Elladan.  He was staring at the two medallions, turning them absently in his hands, and did not seem to be aware of anything else.  “There had been a fight.  He was badly injured.  But the worst wound – it was a knife wound, here.”  He indicated his stomach.  “From what we could tell, it looked – it looked as if he bled to death.  I’m sorry.  I wish I could say that he died quickly.” 

Elladan flinched, and went, if possible, even paler.  His fist tightened on the token that had been Elrohir’s, the knuckles white as he clenched his hand around the medal.  “No,” he breathed.  “No.”

Legolas cursed himself, both for asking the question, and for not being quicker to halt Aldor’s unfortunate words.  Now was not the time for Elladan to learn of the nature of his twin’s death.  For the moment, the mere fact itself was hard enough to bear.  Elladan seemed to have lapsed again into a haze of disbelief and incomprehension, turning the metal discs unseeingly in his hands, and murmuring his brother’s name over and over again.  Legolas realised that his companion was in no state to take in any information, or to question Aldor about what had occurred.  He would have to do it himself. 

With an effort, he thrust his own grief to one side.  The loss of a life-long friend was terrible.  The loss of a brother must be a thousand times worse.  The loss of a twin – Legolas could not even begin to understand the pain Elladan must be enduring.   There was only one other he knew of in the whole of Middle Earth who would know – and Elrond was far away in Imladris.

Legolas drew a deep breath, straightened, and faced Aldor resolutely.  There was no trace in his expression of the inner turmoil he felt.  “What else can you tell me?”  he questioned.  “When was he found?  Where was he found?  What else can you tell me of the battle?”  He drew Aldor away from Elladan a little, trusting that his friend would be too lost in his misery to overhear.  “They were twins,” he explained softly.  “They shared a unique bond, one I have never really understood.  If there is anything you can tell me about what happened, what your patrol found, that might help in some way, then please let me know.  Later, if necessary, when we are alone.”  He did not want Elladan inadvertently overhearing any of the more distressing details.

“Twins?”  Aldor repeated.  “Then I am doubly sorry.  Yes, they may well have looked alike in life.”   Legolas wondered, a little sickly, what other injuries Elrohir must have sustained if he ‘may have’ looked like Elladan.  He glanced again at Elladan, hoping he had not heard that comment as well.  But he did not seem to be aware of anything at all.  He had stopped the incessant fingering of the two medallions, but still gripped Elrohir’s tightly, his hand shaking.  Turning back to Aldor, something suddenly occurred to him, and Legolas questioned him again on what he knew.  “You said one of your patrols found him.  Could you send for them?  Would it be possible for us to talk to them?  They may have more information.”

Aldor nodded.  “Yes.  Wait here, I’ll send someone to find them now.”  He left, leaving Legolas and Elladan alone in the long room.


Elladan stared at the medallions Legolas had just returned to him.  The one Aldor had found was Elrohir’s, there was no doubt about that.  There were only three in existence – his own, Elrohir’s and Arwen’s.  And now Elrohir was dead.  He swallowed dryly, aware of the pounding of his heart, and the swirl of his thoughts.  Elrohir was dead.  It was impossible.  Vaguely, he wondered how he could feel so completely numb, and yet feel such agonising pain at one and the same time.  He felt empty, totally lost, with a sense of utter desolation.  There was a searing pain in his chest that made it difficult to breathe.  His eyes were burning, too, but the depth of his anguish went far beyond the reach of mere tears.

He recalled with horror the times as a child when he had wished he could be just Elladan, a person in his own right, not always one of a pair.  Well, it seemed that his wish had been granted.  And now he would give anything to have it changed.  He would give his life itself; despite the fact that he knew it would inflict this same paralysing grief on Elrohir.  The twin he loved, fought with, argued with; who was probably closer to him than even a lover could ever be, was gone, and he faced the future, the rest of his life, forever alone.

Dimly, he heard Legolas questioning Aldor.  Their voices were faint, seeming to come from a long way away, but it did not stop him hearing Aldor’s reply, describing how Elrohir had died.  The weight of the words hit him like a blow, and he turned his head away in horror.  No.  Oh no.  Not El.  He did not deserve that, did not deserve such a miserable, lonely, agonisingly slow death.  Apart from his vague fears, dreams and unease, he had had no idea, no inkling of what had occurred.  With the link between them severed – possibly by distance – Elrohir must have felt truly alone for the first – and last – time in his life.

He recalled Celebrían’s words as they had left Imladris.  He had promised to bring his brother home.  He had let her down.  For the first time in his life, he had failed his mother.  When he returned home, somehow, he would have to explain to his parents what had befallen Elrohir.

Elladan realised that he was still clutching Elrohir’s insignia in one hand, while his own dangled loosely by the chain from his fingers.  Slowly, he replaced the chain around his neck, then opened his hand to look again at the token.  His fingers felt stiff and were difficult to move.  The edges of the disc had dug in, leaving white indentations on the palm, and he looked with surprise at a smear of blood along one edge.  The sharp ends of the broken link had cut deeply into one finger, but he had never even felt it.   He also became aware that Legolas was calling his name, had been calling him for some time, and had laid a hand on his arm.

He raised his head to look at Legolas, and could see grave concern in his eyes.  “Elladan?”  Legolas spoke again, gently.  “Elladan, Aldor spoke of finding only one elf.  What of Bereth?  Where is he?  Is there a chance, any chance at all, that Elrohir may have given the medallion to him?”

“You mean - ”  Elladan blinked, trying to gather his scattered thoughts, and establish exactly what Legolas did mean.  “Yes, of course, how could I forget about Bereth?  But then – it may not have been El they found?  It could be Bereth?  But in that case, where is Elrohir – or Bereth?”  He rubbed his eyes, trying to think.  “I cannot think why El would have given the pendant to Bereth, but in any case, one of them is still missing.”  He paused.  Legolas’ words had kindled a very slight, faint hope in him.  There was just a chance that Elrohir was alive. He had to cling to that hope, or succumb to despair.  He glanced down at the token again, then raised dark, shadowed eyes.  “Legolas, I have to know.  Who was it they found?”

“Of course you need to know,”  Legolas responded.  “Aldor has sent for the guards who found the – who found him.  I thought they may know something.”

In a few minutes, Aldor returned, two guards with him.  “This is the patrol who found your brother.  Derufin, and Dervorin.  They are brothers too.  I hope they can tell you something of comfort.”  He left them then, returning to his desk.

The two guards looked a little ill at ease, but spoke up readily enough.  “I’m real sorry about your brother.  When we found him, he’d already been dead a day or two.  There was nothing we could of done,” explained one.

“We do not fault you for that.  But my brother travelled with a companion.  We cannot tell which of them you found, and Aldor did not mention anyone else.  Could you – could you describe the one you found?  Was there any sign of anyone else?  Did you search the area?”

“We didn’t search the area, no. We did have a quick look round, and found a pendant or something half in the grass.  We gave it to Mayor Aldor.  But there weren’t no sign of anyone else.”

The second guard answered Elladan’s initial question.  “What did he look like?  Well, he was an elf.  Tall, with longish, dark hair, and the ears.   Young-looking, too, I’d say about the same age as Dervorin here.  He’s twenty.”

Elladan sighed.  The description was so general it would fit nearly half the population of Imladris.  It could certainly apply to either Elrohir or Bereth.  “Did he look like me?”

Derufin nodded.  “Yes, he did.”

Elladan’s heart froze.  So, it was Elrohir.  “I see.”  He stopped, unable to say anything else.

“But to be honest, begging your pardon, all elves look the same, don’t they?  Except you!”  he pointed to Legolas

Elladan began to breathe again.  There was still a chance.  And surely the guards must have noticed something distinguishing?  “What about clothes?  What was he wearing?”   he asked them.

“A grey cloak, like the ones you’ve both got.  Trousers, black or dark blue, I think.  And ….”  he paused, trying to remember.  “Oh yes, he had a bag made of leather, with a healer’s mark on it.  It was empty.  I suppose the outlaws had stolen the medicines.  But that was how we knew he was a healer, and we guessed he was on his way here.” 

Elladan began to feel frustrated.  The details were still too generalised.  He tried to think of anything else they may have noticed.  “What about his horse?  They were both riding.  Did you find his horse?”

Dervorin shook his head.  “We didn’t see no horse.  But they’d have stolen that too, like as not!  But it was difficult to tell much.  There was - ” he hesitated, and looked at Dervorin.  “There was cuts, and bruises on his face.”

Legolas glanced at Elladan.  This was not as much help as he had hoped, and the lack of a clear answer was beginning to wear on Elladan.  “Could you show us where you found him?  Tomorrow?  We may be able to find something.  And where – where did you bury him?”

But both Derufin and Dervorin now shook their heads.  “We didn’t.  Because he was an elf, and a healer, we weren’t sure what to do, so we brought him back here yesterday.  You’d have to ask Mayor Aldor.  I expect he was buried this morning.”

Legolas could have kicked himself.  Yes, of course Aldor had seen him.  But before he could ask the mayor, Aldor had rejoined them.  “Ask me what?” he enquired. 

“The elf you found,”  Elladan asked him urgently.  “Is he still here?  Or have you given him burial?”

“Still here.  I was about to ask if you felt ready to see him yet.  I know you will find it – distressing.  We would have buried him this morning with the rest of the dead from this fever, but when I saw the medallion and realised who he was, I felt it should be a little more formal.”

“There is a chance – just a chance – that it may not be my brother, but his companion.  I have to see him, I have to know!  Can you take us there now?”

Aldor looked surprised.  “Yes.  Yes, of course.  I had no idea there was any question over his identity.  You never mentioned anyone else. Let me take you.”

Dismissing the two guards, he led them out of the room and along a hallway.  He halted at a door at the far end, and from his belt took a key to unlock it.  He took a small lamp from a table and passed it to Elladan, and took another himself. “This way,” he said briefly.

The door opened onto a flight of stairs that led downwards.  It was dark, and the light from the lamps flickered on the stone walls.  It was damp and chill down here, and moisture ran down the walls.  At the bottom of the steps a passageway ran back in the opposite direction, with doors opening off one side.  At the end there was a further door.  Aldor unlocked that as well, then stood to one side.  “In here,” he motioned.  “I will leave you now, give you a little privacy.  Tell me when you are ready to leave.”  He retraced his steps back up the steps and halted by the door at the top.

Cautiously, Elladan reached out and opened the door.  It swung open to reveal a small room, very dimly lit by tiny windows near the ceiling.  There was just enough light to see shelves, laden with all manner of goods, around the walls.  It was clearly a storeroom.  In the centre stood two trestles, with rough planks resting across them.  A still figure lay there, shrouded in a dark cloak.

Legolas stood back, and motioned for Elladan to go in front.   “After you,” he murmured.  Elladan took one step, then halted.   He turned his head towards Legolas.

“Legolas?  I feel unsure I can do this.”  He swallowed.  “The injuries they spoke of – if it is El –“  his voice wavered.  “I – I  just need a moment alone.”

“Then let me do it.  Wait here.  Join me when you feel ready.”

Elladan merely nodded.  He leaned against the wall, his eyes closed, feeling the chill of the dank stones seeping through his cloak, and took a deep breath in an attempt to slow his racing heart, and quell the blind panic he felt.  He waited.

Legolas stepped into the room, the lamp in his hand casting strange shadows all around.  He stopped by the makeshift table.  He could quite understand why Elladan had been unable to go through with this.  He found it impossibly difficult himself.  Very slowly, he stretched out a hand which shook slightly, and taking one edge of the cloak draped over the figure, folded back one corner.  He let out a long sigh.

“Legolas?  Is it El?”  Elladan’s voice sounded strained.

“No.  Not Elrohir.  Elladan, this must be Bereth. Come and see.”  Elladan was already beside him, gazing down, his head bowed in silence.

Elladan felt awash with conflicting emotions.  First and foremost was an overwhelming relief.  This was not Elrohir.  Secondly, and nearly as intense, was a deep sorrow.  He had known Bereth for many, many years, laughed and played with him, trained with him.  He should not have died in this way.  There was also a profound guilt.  Bereth deserved more from him than this.  It was wrong that his primary reaction was relief that the dead elf was Bereth, rather than Elrohir.

“Yes.”  Elladan spoke at last.  “Yes, it is Bereth.  The guards said there was no sign of anyone else where they found him.  So why was he alone?  Legolas, where in all of Arda is Elrohir?”

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