Elrond was just making his way to Thranduil’s study to find out about the progress of the spider hunt when Lanatus hailed him.
“My Lord Elrond!” As always, the steward sounded irritated.
Elrond turned, waiting for the steward to catch up.
“Lord Elrond, a messenger has arrived from Imladris. He is waiting for you in the Great Hall.” Clearly, Lanatus thought it beneath his dignity to bear such tidings.
Elrond thanked him, and retraced his steps. He had been expecting a messenger sooner or later, as he had been away from Imladris for some time.
The messenger sat at one end of the long tables, eating a very late lunch. He stood as Elrond approached. “My Lord, it is good to see you again.”
“And you, Teiglin. You have news for me?”
“Aye, my Lord. I bear messages and letters.” Teiglin sat again, and Elrond settled himself on the other side of the bench.
The first was a short dispatch from Glorfindel, which the messenger recited verbatim, followed by an even briefer message from Celebrían.
“Look after the boys. Do not let them get into trouble.” Elrond grinned wryly at that, wondering how much he should tell his wife of the spider incident.
“Thank you, Teiglin. Was there anything else?”
Teiglin laughed. “Yes, one from the Lady Arwen. ‘I love you Ada’. She also gave me a kiss to give you …?”
Elrond laughed too. Teiglin had been with the family for a long time, and was not in the least abashed at such messages. “I think we will consider that delivered. Send her one back.”
Teiglin smiled. “Of course, my Lord. I have letters as well.”
He handed over the bundle of parchment. There were several letters, including one from Glorfindel which would be more detailed than the verbal message, and another from Celebrían. Elrond put that aside to read later, in the privacy of his room. He knew he had a tendency to wear a foolish smile as he read his wife’s letters to him. She had also written to both Elladan and Elrohir.
There was even a letter from Arwen, marked ‘Ada’ in careful, though slightly wobbly letters. And what was this? A second letter for Elrohir, in unfamiliar writing. He sniffed it disbelievingly. It was scented. He looked at Teiglin questioningly, one eyebrow raised.
The messenger shook his head. “My lips are sealed. I was sworn to secrecy.”
Well, well. It appeared his younger son had an admirer. He would have to ask Celebrían about it when he returned home, she knew everything that went on in Imladris.
There were letters for Erestor and other members of the Imladris party. Teiglin excused himself and went off to deliver them. He would stay overnight at least, before journeying back to Imladris with return messages.
As Elrond turned his attention to the letter from Arwen, Elladan and Elrohir came into the hall. They had met Teiglin, and come to hear the news from home.
Elrond gave them their letters. “Here is another one for you, Elrohir. I am not sure who sent it.”
Elrohir flushed slightly as he took the letter. Elladan snatched it from his brother, and backed away, waving it mockingly. “El! Look at this! Someone sent you a love letter! Who’s it from? You never told me about her!” His voice was taunting.
Elrohir’s flush deepened. “Never mind who it’s from. Just give it back!”
“Tell me! Who is it? Tell me, or I won’t give it back!”
“Elladan, give it to me!” Elrohir snapped. He was clearly annoyed. He hardly ever used his brother’s full name.
“Elladan.” Elrond spoke mildly, but Elladan stopped teasing, and gave the letter back to Elrohir with a flourish.
“Here you are, little brother.”
Elrohir glared at his twin, thrusting the letter into the front of his tunic. “Thank you,” he said with exaggerated politeness.
Elrond had watched the exchange with interest. It appeared that not even Elladan knew the identity of the mysterious admirer.
Elladan, having decided to stop tormenting his brother, changed the subject. “Father, we just saw Legolas. He said the hunters caught the spiders, that we can go outside. So may we?”
“He said it was safe?”
Elladan nodded. “Yes.”
“Very well. Yes, you can go, both of you. What about you, Elrohir?”
“I – I think I’ll go upstairs. I might go out later.” He was fingering his letter as he spoke.
Elladan rolled his eyes, but made no comment. The twins made their way out of the hall to go their separate ways. Only seconds later, there were sounds of a scuffle, followed by Elrohir’s voice raised in fury, swearing vengeance on his brother. Elrond sighed. Look after the boys? He could not even keep them safe from each other.
Thankful that he was finally permitted outside, Legolas crossed the bridge in front of Lasgalen, and drew a deep breath of the clean, earth-scented forest air. It was a relief to be out in the open again. He turned, and saw Brethil following him out. His friend was deep in conversation with Thranduil, which surprised Legolas, as normally Brethil avoided the king if at all possible.
Thranduil had his head bent to listen more closely, and occasionally nodded, or shook his head. At last Brethil finished what he was saying, and ran off into the trees. Thranduil looked up, and saw his son watching. He beckoned Legolas to come closer. As he ran to join him, Thranduil looked at Legolas sternly. “What is this I hear about last night?”
Legolas looked at his father in surprise. What had Brethil been saying …?
“Apparently there was an epic battle with the spider. You scared it away, I understand,” Thranduil elaborated.
Legolas smiled. “Yes! I told Brethil and Tirnan I frightened it, and it ran away.”
“Why did you tell them that?”
Legolas’ smile broadened. “Well, I didn’t want to tell them how scared I was, or that I fell out of the tree! They would have laughed!”
“So you lied to them,” said Thranduil flatly.
His smile suddenly froze. “No! I didn’t lie, I just pretended.” *Surely that wasn’t telling lies? Telling lies was wrong!*
His father frowned. “Was it the truth? Did it really happen?”
Legolas hung his head, beginning to feel ashamed. “No,” he mumbled. He had not realised that telling tall stories to his friends was the same as telling lies. He had just told the story as he wished it had happened, if only he had been brave enough …
Thranduil sighed. “Then it was a lie. You know that.”
“I’m sorry, Ada,” he whispered. “You won’t tell them, will you?”
Before Legolas could begin to feel relieved, Thranduil added: “You must tell them yourself.”
“But Ada …!”
“Legolas, you must never lie to your friends. How will they ever trust you?”
Legolas was silent. Confess to Tirnan and Brethil that he hadn’t fought the spider? Admit that he had been so frightened he had fallen from the tree? How could he do that? They would laugh at him!
“Well?” Thranduil was waiting for an answer.
“Yes, Ada. I will. I promise.” Legolas sounded very subdued.
Thranduil watched as Legolas walked, very slowly, in the direction Brethil had taken. He felt great sympathy for his son. It was a hard lesson he had to learn, but necessary. He was a prince, and the people had to be able to follow him without question, and trust him completely.
Legolas followed the route Brethil had taken into the forest. He soon caught up with his friend, and took a deep breath. He wanted to get it over with.
“Brethil? Do you know where Tirnan is? I need to say something to you both.” If he had to say this, it would be better to say it to both at once.
“I think he went to the stables. Shall we go and see?” Brethil could sense that his friend was troubled about something. He and Tirnan could usually manage to cheer him up.
They had not gone more than a few steps when Elladan shot past, waving something high in the air. Elrohir raced after him, hurling insults and blood-curdling threats at his brother. Elladan veered off into the trees, followed by Elrohir. Their progress could easily be followed from the shouts and curses that drifted back.
Legolas and Brethil looked at each other in astonishment. “Come on! I want to see!” Brethil nodded, and the two ran after the twins.
It seemed as if Elrohir was gaining, when Elladan suddenly leapt high into the air and grabbed at a branch overhanging the path. He swiftly scrambled up into the tree, and from his vantage point looked down and jeered at his brother. “El, do you still want this? Come and get it!”
Elrohir stood on the path and glared upwards. “Elladan! Give it back! I’ll tell father you took it again!”
“I think I should open it first. I ought to see who is writing to my little brother.”
“Don’t call me that! Elladan! Come back down! Give me back my letter!”
Elladan simply retreated further up into the tree, and brandished the letter again. With an inarticulate bellow of fury, Elrohir followed him. The two were soon high in the branches, but Elrohir was no nearer catching his brother, or retrieving the letter.
With a sudden laugh, Legolas jumped up into the branches after his friends. He began to urge them on impartially. “Elrohir, go on! You can do it! Elladan! Hurry up, he’s going to catch you!”
Brethil stayed on the ground, watching the other three in disbelief. “I hope you’re going to be careful. Elladan, you’re getting very high up. Legolas, I thought you wanted to find Tirnan?”
“In a minute! Just wait! You worry too much, Brethil.” Legolas was still in the lower branches, and Elrohir by now was about half way up. He was still shouting threats at Elladan, but was some distance below him.
Elladan climbed still higher, finally pausing to look down again. He waved the letter mockingly, his eyes widening in surprise as it slipped from his fingers. He made a sudden wild grab to catch it, but his foot skidded on the wet bark. With a cry of fear, he fell, crashing through the branches to hit the forest floor so far below. His descent ended with a sickening thud and a sharp crack.
The horrified silence that followed was broken as Elrohir’s anguished cry echoed through the trees.
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