Never Alone

Chapter 2

by Cassia, with tiny touches by Siobhan

Stories > First > Next  

    “Shh, shhh....” Elrond smoothed their silky hair slowly.  “You will never be alone, El, either of you.  Even if you have no one else around, you will never be alone, because my love will always be with you.  Your mother’s love will always be with you.  And your brother’s love, will always be with you.” Elrond placed the two boy’s hands in one another and closed them over with his own.  
    The elf lord’s eyes glazed slightly as memories of the far distant past clouded his thoughts and he heard his mother’s voice speaking to him, saying those very words as she caressed his face and calmed his fears even as he now tried to do for his boys.  They were some of the last words his mother had ever been able to speak to him.
    “Ada?  Ada!” Elrohir’s voice brought Elrond back from the past and the semi-daze he was falling into. 
    Elrond steeled his resolve, battling back his own weakness.  He would not desert his sons, he would stay and he would fight for them whatever the cost, no matter how hopeless.  But he had to stay conscious, he had to keep his mind engaged, and it wouldn’t hurt to take the boys’ thoughts off the impending doom that was tunneling steadily towards them.
    “Did I ever tell you about how your grandmother saved a great treasure and became a bird for a while to do it?” he asked, knowing that would get the youngsters' interest.
    “A bird?” Elladan blinked and made a face.  “Grandmother Galadriel?”  He couldn’t quite picture it.
    Elrond chuckled slightly.  “No, not her.  I mean my mother, Elwing.”
    “Oh,” Elrohir nodded, understanding now.  “We never met her.”
    “No, no you never did,” Elrond said quietly, his mind on days long distant. 
    “But we watch Grandfather sail home to her every night across the sky, don’t we?” Elrohir added quickly, hoping he hadn’t made his father sad.
    Elrond smiled at the boy’s kind heart.  “Yes, we can still see the light of Eärendil, and someday you will meet them both in person.  But he was not yet a star in the heavens at the time of which I speak.  He was far, far away, sailing on the ocean, for your grandfather loved ships and sailing.  I can still remember the feel of the ocean breeze in my face from the days when he would take us sailing with him.  Once, Elros dared me to climb to the top of the mast with one hand literally tied behind my back...” Elrond chuckled.  “I did, but I nearly broke my neck on the way down.  Mother was furious.”
    “Elros was your twin brother, wasn’t he?” Elrohir asked, although he knew the answer was yes.  “He sounds like Elladan!”
    Elladan shot his brother a withering glare.  “Oh very funny, and who was it that suggested walking across the stream on that rope blindfolded last month, hm?”
    Elrohir just snuggled further into his father’s embrace.  “I don’t remember,” he said innocently.
    Elrond laughed.  “Oh we were very like you two, my sons, very.  Now I can have great pity on my father and mother...” He smiled when two sets of small elbows jabbed him gently for that.  But it was true; Elrond and his brother had even called themselves El and El, even as his sons now did. 
    “But why was she a bird?” Elrohir returned them to the original topic, his curiosity piqued. 
    “Why indeed?  Now that is a tale...” Elrond’s mind drifted far back in time.  “You remember the tales of the Silmarils of Fëanor don’t you?  And how Beren and Lúthien rescued one from the crown of Morgoth for Lúthien’s father Thingol?”  
    The twins nodded.  They had heard those stories before, how long ago the elf lord Fëanor had crafted the radiant gems and captured in them the light of the Two Trees of the early days of Arda, before Morgoth destroyed the trees, leaving those three gems the only place that the light could ever be seen again.  Beautiful as they were, tragedy had followed the priceless jewels because Fëanor and his sons had refused to give them up to the Valar and swore oaths then that bound them to a terrible fate.  Many, many elves died over the ownership of those stones. 
    “Possession of a Silmaril eventually cost King Thingol his life, and thus it passed back to Lúthien.  There for the only time in its history did none chase after it,” Elrond skimmed over the long history briefly, for much of it was already known to his sons.  “But after Lúthien left this world the Silmaril passed to her son Dior, who was the father of Elwing my mother... tragedy struck again when my mother was young and she alone of her family survived.  But the trouble wasn’t over yet and, as so often happens, peace was not lasting.  Father was away at sea when the sons of Fëanor and those loyal to them came to try yet again to take what they claimed as theirs.  Elros and I were almost exactly the same age that you two are now...”
    He could still see the cliff, standing tall above the crashing waves.  Elwing stood alone on the edge with Maedhros and his compatriot converging slowly on her.  Elros lay unconscious on the ground nearby and Maglor was restraining a viciously struggling young Elrond.  

    //Elwing clutched the Silmaril in her hand and the light flashed radiantly between her fingers as her dark hair whipped about her on the wind blowing up the cliff.  The pounding surf filled her ears as the two elves advanced towards her. 
    Maedhros and Maglor were the last surviving sons of Fëanor, bound by their rashly spoken and terrible oath to recover the Silmarils at any cost... and that cost had already included many countless gallons of innocent elf blood.  
    “Give it to me Elwing,” Maedhros stretched out his right hand.  In his left he held his sword threateningly.  “Give it to me and you’re all free to go.”
    Elwing’s eyes blazed.  “You killed my father and my mother!  You and your kin left my brothers to die alone in the woods when they were just BABIES!  You murdered my family!  *Nothing* will I give to you but my utter contempt, Maedhros, son of Fëanor, for I call you cursed!  And if ever you lay hands on them, these jewels will be your undoing!”
    Maedhros flinched only slightly.  “I tried to find your brothers, Elwing, it was too late.  That was not my doing.  But give me the Silmaril or I will not be so concerned about what happens to your sons!”
    Elwing was torn.  The Silmaril must be saved, it was what her mother, her father and brothers had died for but... they had her children... for an instant her eyes met first Maedhros’ and then Maglor’s. 
    “Are not the hundreds of innocent lives already on your heads enough?  You were elves once, not monsters,” she whispered.  “If you have any shred of decency left in you, you will not harm my children!  Or this oath *I* swear by Manwë and all the Valar, that I shall return even from beyond the grave if necessary to avenge them, and never shall your spirit make its way to the blessed lands, even in death!”
    Then her eyes met Elrond’s and in that moment Elrond somehow knew, whether by the foresight that was already in him, or just from the look on her face, that this was goodbye. 
    “Remember what I told you, my son!” she called out, backing up to the very edge of the cliff and clutching the Silmaril to her breast.  “My love shall always be with you, always!”
    Elrond nodded once, understanding that he was releasing her to do that which she must.  “Go mother...” he whispered.  His gaze fell upon his unconscious brother before rising back to meet Elwing’s and unspoken in his eyes was the promise that he would watch over Elros... they would watch over one another.  For they were all that each other now had. 
    With one last look, Elwing clutched the gem tightly and brilliant white light flashed out between her fingers, nearly blinding the other elves on the cliff edge, making them shield their eyes and fall back a pace.  Then she simply stepped backwards off the brink and let herself free-fall towards the pounding waves below, fully intending to take the Silmaril with her to her grave.  But she never hit the water.
    For Ulmo, the Lord of the Sea, intervened and lifted her up, giving the elf woman the shape of a great white bird with the Silmaril a flashing white light against her breast.  Elrond saw her rise into the air on glistening wings, mirroring the meaning of her name ‘star spray’.  The young elf watched her fly away in search of his father... until Elwing at last disappeared against the horizon.
    All the elves on the cliff stared after her in shock, until she was gone and whatever spell was upon them seemed to lift.  Maedhros and his servant swore loudly as they realized that both Elwing and the Silmaril were gone from their grasp forever. 
    Elros stirred and moaned, his eyes beginning to flutter open.  “El...?” he murmured his brother’s name blearily.
    Elrond pulled against Maglor’s hold on his arms, trying to get to his brother’s side.  Blood was clotting on the wound across Elros’ brow and the young elf was worried.  “Let me go!” he insisted. 
    Maedhros stalked over and slapped the young one sharply, snapping Elrond’s head first one way and then the other in the viciousness of his rage and causing the boy’s lower lip to bleed.  “Shut up!  You worthless half-breed brat!”
    The older elf wasn’t really angry with the twins, but he was enraged that they had lost the prize that they sought, leaving their fateful oath unfulfilled yet again. 
    Elros struggled to his feet, catching Maedhros’ arm before he could strike his brother again and grappling with the bigger elf.  “Stop it!  Leave El alone!”
    Maedhros threw Elros off his arm, sending the boy sprawling again. The younger twin fell and did not rise. 
    Maglor released Elrond, allowing him to go to his brother’s side.  With their servants and compatriots all around, there was nowhere for the twins to run if they tried.
    “What do we do with them?” Maedhros’ servant, Fandril, wanted to know, favoring the two young half-elves with a disdainful look.  “Kill them?”
    “No!” Maglor shook his head, seeking his brother’s eyes.
    “No, not again,” Maedhros shook his head wearily.  “We take them back with us.  Lock them up.”//

    “I can’t believe they were so wicked!” Elladan’s voice interrupted the story.  “That they killed all those people for a jewel!  I hope they both died.”
    Elrond shook his head; that was over-simplifying things slightly, but essentially his son was not far off in his assessment.  Although truth be told, of all Fëanor’s sons, those two had probably been the least twisted.  “They did,” he said quietly.  “What my mother said was true, for in the end the Silmarils were their undoing.  But although Maglor and Maedhros did many wicked things with their brothers, I pity them in the end for they were bound by an oath that should never have been pledged and it destroyed their lives as surely as it destroyed many others.”
    “And did they put you in prison?” Elrohir wanted to know.  Somehow it was comforting to hear that his father had gone through something terrible and survived when he was their age... maybe it meant they would make it out of this current situation as well.
    “Yes, they did,” Elrond’s voice was quiet.  Those were hard, fearful days to recall.  The dark, the imprisonment, the uncertainty...  “We were taken to Maedhros’ stronghold in the hills of Himring and put down in the deepest cellar of his keep.  We spent many, many months in a small dark hole, not much bigger or brighter than this.  We feared that they meant to leave us down there for eternity.  The only time we saw another living soul was on the infrequent occasions when the servants would bring us food, but the servants in charge of our care were neither kind nor considerate and we did not look forward to their appearances: we dreaded them...” 

    //“Someone’s coming,” Elros’ voice echoed slightly in the empty little room, he was holding Elrond’s head in his lap so the other did not have to lie on the damp, stone floor.
    “I know,” was his brother’s weak reply.  “It’s Fandril, I recognize his step.”  Of the two of them, Elrond’s hearing and sight reflected more of their Elvish heritage then his brother.  But he also needed daylight and stars and the fresh, free air more than Elros seemed to.  The young being was sliding into despondency over their situation and his health was beginning to fail him. 
    Elros moaned slightly and pulled his brother back against him, scooting them both further back into the corner of their prison.  Fandril was routinely cruel to them.// 

    The two boys were not allowed to eat alone, but had to be watched, and then the dishes and utensils were taken away at once.  Elrond never did figure out what exactly their captors feared the two young elves could actually DO with those items if left to themselves, but mealtimes were very uncomfortable because the guards did not like to be kept waiting around and if they felt the twins were taking too long sometimes a beating was in order. 

    “They beat you for not eating fast enough??” Elladan couldn’t help interrupting again, indignation coloring his words.  He couldn’t imagine anyone treating his father that way!
    Elrohir touched the side of his Ada’s face gently.  “I’m so sorry.”
    Elrond smiled.  He had good sons.  Sometimes they seemed younger than they really were simply because they did not hide their hearts from him and place between them the distance that some mistakenly believed came with age.  “It was a very long time ago young ones.  It doesn’t hurt me to remember anymore.” 
    Pain rippled through Elrond’s awareness from the injury in his side and the elf lord drew his breath in sharply.   The chamber was eerily quiet for a few moments.  The diggers on the other side seem to have hit a snag or rock or something because the sounds had halted for a few minutes. 
    “Ada?” the soft word rang in the darkness and Elrond drew in a deep breath.  He was fading in more ways than one, but he had to hold on, he had to, for the two precious gems next to him still needed him. 
    “Ada?” Elladan shook his father’s shoulder gently... but he didn’t sound like Elladan anymore in Elrond’s head, he sounded like Elros... 

    //“El?  Come on, El, sit up.  You’ve got to eat, you need your strength,” his brother was coaxing him, trying to get him to respond before he got in trouble with Fandril and their other guards.  Elrond had barely touched his food and his head rested heavily against his brother’s shoulder.  His breathing rattled alarmingly.  Elros was really beginning to fear that his brother intended to leave him as well.
    Elrond would eat if Elros fed him, but only slowly.  He was fading and his will to live was slowly evaporating. 
    “If he doesn’t want to eat when it’s here, it’s on his own head,” Fandril took the trays away from them, obviously impatient to be on with his day. 
    “No, please, wait,” Elros swallowed his pride and pleaded for his brother’s sake. 
    Fandril slapped him sharply for talking back and gave Elrond a shove for good measure.  The semi-conscious elf whimpered slightly and Elros’ temper got the better of him. 
    “Why do you hate us so much?  Would it kill you to be a decent being for once?  Can’t you tell my brother is ill?  He could die in this hole!” the young one’s eyes snapped fire. 
    “Real elves don’t get ill,” Fandril snorted, his face darkening like a cloud at being rebuffed by a child.  “This is what comes of Men and Elves mixing as they have no business doing.  You should never have been born!  Your blood is tainted!  If you die you merely rid the earth of your abominable presence.  Some may call you elves but you are not, for I will not claim any kinship with half-breeds!”
    “Well who ever said I wanted to be an elf anyway?” Elros shot back, too angry to think of caution.  Elrond, brought out of his stupor by the loud voices, was tugging on his brother’s arm and shaking his head, knowing this Elros was only going to get himself in trouble. 
    Elros ignored his twin, his ire fully up.  “And I wouldn’t want to be related to you either!  I am a man, like my father!”  In reality Eärendil was half-elven as well, but had always seemed to associate more closely with his human kindred. 
    Fandril laughed.  “You are *nothing*!  No race will claim you.” 
    “You lie!” Elros spit at the older elf’s face, causing his brother’s eyes to go wide.  They were in sooo much trouble now. 
    Fandril wiped his face, a dangerous scowl darkening his features.  “You boy, are going to pay for that.”
    Grabbing Elros, the older elf jerked the young one forward, pushing him up against the wall and passing him off to some of the others to hold there as he pulled a leather thong off his belt. 
    Elrond was struggling to get to his feet and the older elf looked at him dispassionately.  “Put him up next to the other.”
    When Elros realized Fandril meant to punish them both he began to struggle.  “No, don’t!  He didn’t do anything, you’ll kill him!  He’s too weak!  Please don’t!”
    Their captors had no mercy and Elrond could only lean trembling against the wall and wince as the thick leather strap fell across his shoulders. 
    The guards might have actually killed him unintentionally if they had been allowed to continue, but it was then that Maglor, who was visiting his brother, came upon what was going on.  Hard the hearts of the sons of Fëanor might have been, but he was not unmoved by the twins' plight, having not been totally conscious of the condition they were being kept in, nor the unreported brutality of the guards, of which even Maedhros was not really aware. 
    Maglor made Fandril stop the beating and looked with concern upon the thin, pale faces of the twins.  The ill one he judged would not survive another week thus imprisoned.  His heart moved for them and he spoke to his brother, securing that the twins would be released into his custody and return with him to his dwelling in the Gap.  He kept them bound in transport, but was surprisingly gentle towards his young prisoners and tender in his care of Elrond’s illness and their wounds.  And the one thing he made sure of was that they were never put in the dark again. 
    With fresh air, sunlight and a reprieve from despair, Elrond revived and his strength slowly began to return. 
    Elros laid his hand on his brother’s head gently...//

    But no, that was not Elros’ voice raised in near-panicked concern, that was Elrohir's.  And it was Elladan’s hand that rested on his head.  Elrond pulled himself alert once more, realizing he had almost drifted off. 
    “Ada, don’t go!” Elrohir’s voice was pleading as he and his brother exchanged worried looks over their father’s unresponsive form. 
    “Shh... I’m here, it’s all right, I’m here,” Elrond blinked slowly, his voice faint but tender.  “I’m here.  Now where was I...?”
    “You were imprisoned by the largest idiots ever to mar Middle-earth and stuck in a dark hole like this one,” Elladan prompted, realizing that telling the story was helping their father stay with them as much as it was helping keep their minds off the digging that had started up again just outside their refuge.
    Elrond chuckled at his son’s descriptive choice of words.  “Yes, well, we didn’t stay there fortunately.  Maglor took us out and took us to his home.  We were still captives, but in Maglor’s house we were treated fairly.  He put us to work for him and we had to work hard, but Maglor allowed no one to abuse us at least, and gradually, with time, our lot improved.  As unlikely as it seems he grew very fond of us, and we of him.  Eventually he set us free, although we stayed on for a time, scarcely knowing where else in the world we would go.  Eventually we moved to Eregion and the lands beyond...”
    “And that’s when you were given the choice,” Elrohir said quietly. 
    “Yes,” Elrond sighed.  “That’s when we were given the choice... to choose forevermore whether we would be counted among the race of elves or of men.”
    Silence hung between them for a few moments, broken only by the scratching outside. 
    Elladan and Elrohir looked at one another, trying to imagine what it would feel like to have to make a choice that would separate them like that.  “Were you sad that Elros chose to be mortal?” they couldn’t help asking.
    “I was sad that we would not always be together, but I loved my brother and I respected his choice.  His heart lay with men and he would never have been happy with the long life of the Eldar; it would have wearied him, I understand that now.  At the time of course it was hard, and took me a long time to deal with.  But I can be happy for him now, because he lived the way he wanted to and passed from this life in the manner in which he chose.  Besides...” he touched his sons’ heads gently.  “The night he told me what he chose, he reminded me of our mother’s words... and he was right.  His love is always with me, even as hers is, and I have never been alone.”
    The sound of something striking stone, very close by, made them all jerk.  “Are we going to die?” Elrohir whispered quietly in the darkness.  His voice was soft but did not waver.  If they had to die here, at least they would be together. 
    Elrond hugged the young ones tightly.  “I have something for the both of you,” he said instead of answering, reaching into the breast pocket of his tunic.  “I meant to give them to you while we were on this trip... This isn’t exactly the setting I had intended, and yet maybe it fits in a way.” 
    The elf lord pulled two palm-sized mithril brooches out of his pocket.  The two younger elves could see them sparkling clearly in the three elves’ combined light.  They were shaped like small stars, woven from many twisting strands of mithril that looked at the same time silver and gold.  Beautifully fashioned creations of careful craftsmanship they were and yet understatedly simple in design.  And they were both of them identical, down to the very last flourish.
    Elrond pressed one into each of his sons’ palms.  “These were made for Elros and me, very long ago.  A gift from our parents.  Now I want you two to have them.  To help you remember always how very, very much I love you, my sons.”
    Gently wrapping his arms around their hurting shoulders, Elrond kissed each of his boys gently on the top of their heads. 
    The rock wall nearby shook and quivered from the work being done on the other side and rocks began to slide and fall, kicking up dust into the air. 
    “They’re breaking through,” Elladan whispered quietly, holding tight to both his father’s shoulder and his brother’s hand.  
    Elrond took a deep breath and gathered his strength.  His light had faded to an almost imperceptible gleam, but he pushed himself upright, holding onto the cave wall and pulling his sword. 
    “Elladan, Elrohir, listen to me,” the elf lord said urgently, turning to face his boys as the rocks began to fall away from the wall in earnest.  “We cannot let them trap us in here.  I’m going to try to push a way out and hold them.  As soon as there is an opportunity, I want you to run, my sons.  No matter what happens, do you understand me?  I want you to run as fast as you can and don’t look back.  Find the others.  And if...” he stopped.  “If I am not with you when you return to Imladris, tell your mother that I love her and will be waiting for her.”
    “Ada no!” Elladan was shaking his head.  “We won’t leave you!”
    “We are not children, we will fight!” Elrohir nodded his agreements.
    Elrond shook his head firmly, his voice taking on an edge of urgency.  “No, you have to promise me!  If you me love, dear ones, promise me!”
    Mournfully the twins murmured their promise, tears filling their eyes. 
    Elrond kissed them both one last time.  “Remember what I told you,” he whispered.  “You are never alone.”
    The wall crumbled completely, opening a large, gaping hole and filling the air with a thick, choking layer of dust. 
    Elrond pulled himself up and stood at the ready.  His dull light flared suddenly bright and fierce as he put himself between the opening and his children, one hand holding his sword and the other clutching his side, bitter determination flaming in his eyes.
    “Lacho calad!  Drego morn!” The elf lord called out the ancient battle cry in a loud voice as the last of the stones fell at his feet.  “Flame Light!  Flee night!” 
    Elladan and Elrohir gripped one another’s hands tightly, holding in the other hand the gifts their father had given them.  The sharp edges of the cool metal dug into their palms. “Lacho calad!  Drego morn!”  They echoed their father’s cry with determined desperation. Expecting the rush of orcs at any moment, their injured bodies trembled slightly, betraying more weakness than they would have wished. 

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