Mellon Chronicles

Never Alone

Chapter 1

by Cassia-(T), with tiny touches by Siobhan-(T)

"Never Alone". Artist: Cassia

"Never Alone" art by Cassia-(T)

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    “Estel?  Estel, can you hear me?  Look at me, Estel,” Elrond’s voice was both worried and commanding, but the thirteen-year-old in his arms did not respond.  The young human’s eyes were half-lidded and glazed as he leaned limply against his elven father’s chest.
    “By the Valar what did they do to you, Estel?” Elladan murmured in furious anguish as he pressed folded cloths against the freely bleeding gash that sliced the youngster’s thigh raggedly.  Estel was losing a lot of blood.
    “Was... accident,” Estel shook his head numbly, his swollen lips uncooperative as he tried to pull himself out of the stupor that he felt was drowning him.
    Elrohir lightly touched the bruises on the boy’s face and his bleeding lip.  Obvious signs of a fight and not one that his younger human brother had done very well in.  “Are you saying that someone punched you in the face, repeatedly, by accident?”
    “Not... the fight... fell off the roof... th-they pushed me, but they didn’t mean for me to fall on the fence-spikes... I didn’t mean to...” Estel’s body trembled and he obviously was afraid he was in trouble.  
    Elrond and his sons exchanged glances.  Off the roof?  He assumed the boy meant the roof of the old mill house next to where the twins had found the young human, but... What in the name of Elbereth had Estel been doing fighting on a roof?  And with whom?  Questions however, were going to have to wait.
    “Hush, hush, Estel. We’ll talk about it later.” Elrond brushed the boy’s hair back from his face gently.  “Right now we just need you to be still while we get this under control.”
    “I can’t believe whoever it was just left him there to bleed to death!” Elladan pressed harder, finally stopping the dangerous blood flow.  “Who knows how long he was there before we found him?  If that spike hadn’t kept the wound more-or-less closed until it was removed...”
    Elrond closed his eyes momentarily.  If it hadn’t, they would have lost Estel; there were no two ways about it.  The boy couldn’t walk anywhere on that leg and the way the broken fence spokes had pierced him when he fell, if he had tried to move, he would have removed the only things keeping him from bleeding to death in minutes.  It had been hard getting him back to Rivendell as it was and getting the wound under control again had been momentarily difficult.
    Estel moaned and squirmed slightly against the pain, calling out something unintelligible.
    “He’s delirious,” Elrohir said softly, touching the human’s brow.  “And he’s got a fever.  Father... he must have been there a long time.”
    Elrond winced both inwardly and outwardly at the thought of Estel trapped and in that kind of pain all by himself.  He held the boy tighter.
    Estel’s murmuring voice finally quieted and the elf lord could catch what he was saying.
    “Erui. Alone.”
    “No, Estel, you’re not alone,” Elrond guided the boy’s head to his breast, gently wrapping his arms around the young human’s chest and arms, holding him still as the twins removed the splinters and cleaned the wounds to the boy’s legs.  Estel thrashed in pain and delirium, but Elrond held him firmly, not letting him do himself any more harm and whispering words of comfort. 
    The young human’s chest rose and fell raggedly as he started to sob.  “Erui, erui!” the boy whimpered in Elvish. “Ú-awartha sí erui nin!” he pleaded.  “Do not leave me here alone!”
    “Hush, Estel, hush,” Elrond calmed the delirious child.  “You are not alone, you will never be alone...”
    Elladan and Elrohir looked at one another, their eyes locking for a moment.  Those words bringing back powerful memories that they had not thought of in centuries. 
    Elrohir dropped the soiled bandages in the waste as Elladan finished wrapping the new, clean ones.  Elrohir touched the small, mithril clasp on the shoulder of his tunic before letting his fingers lightly trail over the identical one that was pinned to the front of Elladan’s cloak, which his brother had quickly laid aside on the corner table when he started tending Estel.
    Elladan looked up and saw his brother’s movements.  He knew what Elrohir was thinking.  What he was remembering.
    They had been roughly the equivalent of Estel’s age.  It seemed long ago, and yet very clear; the passing centuries having erased none of the details from their minds.
    “You are not alone; you will never be alone...” 


    “A-Ada?” the young voice was trying hard not to sound frightened.  Trying and failing. 
    Gentle fingers reached out in the dark, brushing the side of a dirty cheek.  “Yes, Elrohir?”  Elrond’s voice was soft and quiet, attempting not to show any trace of pain for his sons’ sake.
    “Ada, you’re fading,” the younger twin’s voice was a mere whisper in the dark.  It was true; the elf lord’s natural glow was slowly waning until now it was only a faint shimmer hovering around his skin.
    Elrohir’s light, usually dimmer, showed radiantly brighter than that of his father as his smaller hand clasped that of the elder elf.
    “I’m just a little tired,” Elrond soothed his child’s concerns, his labored breath belying his words as he leaned in a sitting position against the back wall.
    The elf lord’s free hand tightened against the left side of his ribs, pressing hard to steady the pain that was robbing him of his breath.  His fingers came away sticky with blood.  It was seeping through the bandage again.  Elrond wiped his hand quickly on the dark fabric of his tunic to hide the blood from his young sons.
    The twins were not fooled.  They were young, but they were plenty old enough to understand that their father’s wound was serious.
    For their sakes, Elrond put forth a little more strength and his glow grew slightly brighter, casting more light around the inky-black, half-collapsed chamber.
    Elladan’s fingers were scanning the rough rock and jumbled stones against the far wall, seeking some weak point, some give that might get them out of here, but there was nothing.  Kicking the wall in frustration, the young elf started over again at the beginning.  
    Teetering uncertainly on the brink of adulthood, the twins were by elven reckoning just entering into their teenage years, although of course in human time they were far older than that.
    Too young, Elrond thought as he watched them with aching eyes.  Too young for everything they had been through. 
    “Elladan, come, sit,” Elrond called to his firstborn, seeing the desperation that was creeping into the young elf’s movements.  
    Elladan shook his head; leaning his hands against the walls and letting his head hang down, his long, brown hair falling around his face before being pushed roughly back again behind his ears.  “There has to be a way...”
    “Elladan, you’ve gone over the walls three times,” Elrond’s voice was calm and steadying.  “I’m afraid the enclosure is quite secure.  Come, sit, we should conserve the air.”
    Elladan felt the ground trembling beneath his fingers slightly and put one ear to the stone.  “They’re coming,” he whispered quietly.  Fear that he did not want to admit haunted his words.  “They’re digging through from the other side...” He backed slowly away from the wall, nearly stumbling in the darkness.  Half-falling, half-sitting he came down next to his father and brother.  Pulling his knees up to his chest and hugging them close, the young elf rocked back and forth softly.  
    Elrond gently touched his son’s bare shoulder, careful of the many cruel stripes that decorated the youngster’s slender back.  
    “They’ll take us again, they’ll take us again...” Elladan murmured into his arms as he continued rocking. 
    Elrohir pulled closer to his father’s side, burrowing under the elf lord’s arm, his eyes large in the darkness. He rubbed the rope burn around his wrists with trembling fingers.  The memories were too fresh, too painful.  He pressed his eyes closed against them, but they were still there on the inside of his eyelids.
    The hard, ugly eyes, the rough clawed hands, pulling his arms over his head and tying them around the low-slung tree branch... Elladan was tied on the opposite side, facing him.  Their foreheads almost touched.  

    //The orcs laughed.  The fact that the young elves were identical twins amused them greatly and they made bets on which of the two would scream first.  The whip fell, again and again, across both of the boy’s backs at the same time.  Stroke for stroke the beatings were carefully, mockingly equal...//  

    Elrohir buried his palms deep into his eyes, shame rushing through him at the memories.  He had cried first.  He had tried not to, but the pain was too much. 
    He may have been first, but both boys were screaming before the orcs were through.  
    It was their cries that brought their father to them. 
    Elladan clutched his father’s hand against his shoulder.  Today hadn’t started out this way.  It had started out such a good day.  They were hunting, just hunting.  

    Elrond, Glorfindel, the twins and a few other elves had gone hunting in the foothills near Rivendell as they often did.  When the party rested at mid-day, Elladan and Elrohir had asked for and obtained permission to climb the next hill up to where there was a lake to go for a swim.  
    They never made it to the lake.  A party of orcs had taken them by surprise and overcome them before they could call out for help.  It did not make matters any better when they realized that they had not merely been taken because they were lone elflings wandering about in the woods, they were taken because they were the sons of Elrond. 

    Elrond gently ran his fingers through Elrohir’s hair, feeling the young one’s inner turmoil.  
    The sounds of digging were slowly but steadily getting louder, and closer.
    “I won’t cry this time,” Elrohir whispered fiercely, balling his fists.  “I won’t!”
    Elrond’s heart twisted inside him, hard.  His hands on his children tightened firmly.  “They will not harm you again, El,” his gaze moved from Elrohir to Elladan.  They shared the same nickname, so they knew he was including them both.  “I will not let them, do you hear me?”  His voice was very stern and fiercely protective.  “I will not let them touch you again!  I promise.  I promise...”
    The elf lord knew he would keep that promise if he had to die to do it.  This was his fault.  The boys had been tortured because they were his children... they had only been bait and he unwittingly walked right into the trap.

    When several hours passed and the boys did not return the older elves had gone looking for them.  They did not find them at the lake and worry consumed the searchers.  There were only five of them, and much area to cover, so they were forced to split up to search.
    Elrond had not been searching very long when he saw something moving in the trees.  He gave chase immediately, but whatever it was got away.  A little while later, the same thing happened again, and this time he found the little silver clasps that Elladan had been wearing in his hair that morning lying on the forest floor.  Knowing he was going the right way, the elf lord pressed on, even though he was now too far away to get any reinforcements.  Without realizing it, he was slowly drawn farther away from the others and towards where the twins had been taken.  And where the orcs wanted him.  

    //The lead orc, a beast called Rizhnag, ran his long, clawed fingers teasingly down the side of Elladan’s cheek, lightly breaking the skin.  The young elf snapped at him, almost biting the hand, his eyes flashing.  Of course that earned the young elf a sharp slap, knocking his head into his brother’s.  Both of them winced.  Bleeding and reeling from the cruel beating they had just received, the young elves felt ill with pain.
    “Playful whelp, hm?” Rizhnag sneered.  “Watch out, elf brat, or I’ll teach you what pain really is.  I think this one needs a little more tickling, Burzog,” he commented to the orc with the whip, who moved back behind Elladan.  
    “But share and share alike I says,” the lead orc nodded at the other creature behind Elrohir, indicating that if one of the boys were punished, they both would be.  
    Elrohir’s chest was heaving and his eyes were frightened.  Elladan was no less frightened, but felt somehow that he ought to be stronger for his brother.  Rubbing his forehead gently against his twin, he caught his eyes.  “Just look at me El, just look at me and don’t think about them,” he whispered softly in Elvish, stifling a cry and biting his lip as they started on them again.  He spoke as much for himself as for his twin.  
    “Just as well...” Rizhnag grinned.  “Have to keep ‘em squeaking until that blasted elf lord shows up... slower now you maggots, slower...” he cautioned his underlings doing the whipping.  “More pain, less blood, can’t have them going out on us too soon now can we?// 

    Elrond looked up in the gloom when soft sounds by his side alerted him.  Elladan was crying quietly and trying desperately to hide it.  Gently, the elf lord caught the back of his son’s neck and pulled his head over and down, until the young elf’s head rested against his father’s shoulder.  Elrohir had already laid his on the other side and Elrond placed one hand on each boy’s head, holding his sons to him.  Elrohir wasn’t crying, but he was shaking.  
    Too much, the boys had been through too much.
    “I’m sorry,” Elrond whispered softly into their hair.  “I’m so sorry.  I should never have let them get you.  I should have gotten there sooner...” 

    Truth to tell, he had arrived as soon as he could.  But this was still his fault.  When he had defended Rivendell and the elves that took refuge there against the hosts of Sauron before the end of the last age, before the twins were born and he and Celebrìan were even married, he did not fully realize the personal enemies he had made then among the orcs that fought him.  
    Driven into the hills and scattered when Sauron’s attempt for supremacy in the western lands was crushed, the renegade orc warriors had been forgotten.  Unfortunately, nearly as long-lived as the elves they originally came from, the orcs had not forgotten.  And when they saw a chance for vengeance against the one who had cost them victory over these lands again and again in the past and driven them into the wandering existence they had now, they took it.
    Took it in a horrible way.
    Elrond would never forget the heart-stopping sound of his sons’ cries that had filtered through the trees as soon as he got close enough to hear.  Then when he saw them... when he came into that clearing and saw them... time blurred and distorted from there.  He had been too angry and too horrified for conscious thought, but half the orcs were dead before they knew what hit them.  He barely even remembered getting this wound that was giving him so much trouble now, except that one of the orcs had tried to run the twins through while they were bound and helpless, and he had gotten in between.
    How he got the boys free and fled with them into the mountain caves was a blur.  The cave-in that the orcs had brought down to stop their flight and trap them, was a blur... and the elf lord wasn’t sure if that was because of his emotions or because of the sharp, burning pain in his side and the blood loss that was making him woozy.  

    A ribbon of fire lanced through his injury and Elrond stiffened, grimacing tightly despite his efforts to not, his hands tightening on his children’s foreheads as a small moan escaped his lips. 
    Elrohir slid down his father’s chest and checked the wound.  It was bleeding almost freely again through the bandage.  The young elf quickly pulled off his sash and doubled it up, pressing it over the other makeshift bandages they had made.  Elladan saw what he was doing and moved to help his twin tie the injury off better. 
    “Ada, it’s still bleeding,” Elrohir’s voice mirrored both of the twins’ concern.  
    “It will stop soon, we have to be patient,” Elrond lied for his sons, drawing them back to his shoulder with hands that he refused to allow to tremble.  The elf lord knew his body was not healing.  He knew that whatever weapon had injured him was poisoned and that the blood would not clot properly, he could feel it at work, but there was nothing more he could do for either the wound or the poison in their current situation than he had already done, so he would not frighten the boys with that which could not be changed.
    The digging sounds on the other side of the wall grew louder and the twins huddled closer to their father, not caring if they were acting like children instead of the almost-adults they thought themselves to be.  They were afraid. 
    “Don’t leave us Ada,” Elladan whispered quietly, and the elf lord realized with a start that the boys were not fooled by his show of strength.  He had already raised them too well in the knowledge of the healing arts.  “I-I... we can’t do this alone.”

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