by Cassia and Siobhan

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    Elrond still lay, looking as he had when Aragorn had left his side earlier that morning.  He carefully grabbed an empty chair and drug it over to the bedside, collapsing into it heavily.
    Aragorn leaned forward and laid his head down on his arms, resting on the bed that held his father.  He was weary in more ways than he could recount.  His heart ached from all the stress and worry of the past few days and his body was sore from all the abuse and labors of clearing out Rivendell and its’ residents. 
    The house was now empty save for his brothers and his father.  Legolas had refused to leave and Gandalf had made it known that he would stay on also.  Celboril had remained behind to see to the family’s needs. The sounds of the ever-rising river could be heard rushing through the canyon – it was only a matter of time.
    And still Elrond had not woken.
    Aragorn heard the doors of Rivendell shut softly when Moranuen left, heading into Strayton to warn the people of the danger the river presented and to help them prepare.  He hoped the elf would find his way easily to Taradin whom he knew would see to his friend’s safety.
    But Elrond still slept.  And this troubled him the most.

    Legolas limped slowly down the hall, keeping as silent as possible. Now that all the preparations had been seen to and all the wounded cared for, he knew exactly where he would find the ranger – in his father’s room.  He watched quietly as Aragorn pulled a chair nearer the bed and rested his head lightly next to his father’s chest, his mind completely worn, and for the moment, empty of all thoughts.
    “I thought I might find you here.”  The soft whisper could have been a shout for the reaction it garnered from the human.
    Aragorn jumped and turned his face towards the door.  Legolas stood in the doorway, leaning against the frame for support, a slight smile on his lips. “Has he woken?”
    “What are you doing up?  Come in here and sit.” Aragorn started to rise but the elf raised his hand, stopping the human as he limped forward and carefully lowered himself into a chair.
    “Gandalf said it was only a sprain.”  Legolas explained quickly, seeing the worry in his friend’s eyes.
    “And did he say you could be up?”
    “Do you think I would be if he had said otherwise?”
    Legolas rolled his eyes and looked at the sleeping form of Elrond. “How is he?”
    “Changing the subject are we?” Aragorn smiled at his friend.  He laughed as the elf graced him with a humorless grimace. “Fine.  Subject changed.”  The ranger chuckled slightly as he lowered his head back on to the bed and gazed at his friend.  “He is the same, he has not woken.”
    “I am sorry.”
    Aragorn sighed and closed his eyes.  It was enough to just rest here for now, in the moment that he had.  If things did not improve they would be forced to leave and Rivendell would be lost and perhaps her master as well.
    The sounds of slight movement caused the man to open his eyes.  Legolas stopped, caught in the act of trying to sneak out of the room.
    “Please stay.”  Aragorn’s eyes locked on the blue ones and the elf relented.
    “Of course. I thought you might want to be alone, that was all.”
    A soft chuckle accompanied the human’s smile as he watched the prince reseat himself. “No, I merely wanted to be away from Elladan and Elrohir.  Sometimes they can drive me to insanity, bickering about whose fault it was that that Numenorean vase was broken in the guest room.  It was such an ugly thing. I don’t even know why my father kept it.”  He laughed slightly, “You’d think they had forgotten that Elladan had nearly died.”  He was quiet for a few minutes and when Aragorn spoke again his voice was soft but the elf could still hear him. “I wanted to be here with him for a bit with no one else around.” Realizing how that sounded he smiled and amended the statement, “except for you that is.”
    Legolas nodded in understanding.  There were no words, and he offered no useless platitudes, his presence was simply enough and he understood.
    “I know it’s not my fault. But in a way I still feel responsible.  Those are feelings I will have to deal with over time.  We always had a different relationship than he had with my brothers.”  Aragorn smiled as he thought back to times long past.  “He always remembered that I wasn’t elven, and never would be, and he always treated me thus.  As though I really was an adult when I turned twenty.”
    Legolas laughed quietly at the reference to the long-standing joke that he and the other elves had had with the ranger, ever referring to him as a child and hardly an adult.
    Aragorn’s eyes drifted closed and did not open.  Legolas contented himself with dozing in the comfortable chair.  The day had been very long and he was more weary from his injuries than he cared to admit. 


    Consciousness was slow to returning and he half-wondered why it was anyway until he felt the soft touch again. Opening heavy eyelids, Aragorn glanced at Legolas sleeping soundly in the chair at the foot of Elrond’s bed.  A frown creased his forehead as his mind tried to grasp the source of the touch that had wakened him.  Again he felt it, fingers gently touching the back of his head and combing slowly through his hair, catching slightly in the tangled locks.  Carefully he turned his head and as he did so, Elrond’s fingers fell lightly against his cheek.
    Glazed blue eyes were watching him and a small smile pulled at the edges of Elrond’s lips as he stared at his youngest son.
    Aragorn caught his father’s hand in his own, drawing it towards him as he leaned closer to the elf.
    “Father?  You’re awake.”
    The older elf tried to speak but the words wouldn’t quite form on his lips.  The human leaning over him shushed him gently, “No, shh...don’t talk its all right.  Its just good to see you awake, that’s all.”
    Having none of being quieted by his son, Elrond frowned up at the boy and tried again, “Estel, you...are well?” The words were rough and soft and he smiled as he spoke them, relief shining in his eyes.
    Aragorn closed his eyes, nodding his head in answer before he spoke, “Yes.  Yes I am.  Because of you.”
    The human shook his head in denial, “You should not have...”
    His protests were cut off as the elderly elf pressed his fingers to the boy’s lips.  “All that matters is that you are well, my son.”  Elrond sighed deeply as his body began protesting, his consciousness taking in the fact that he was indeed hurting and hurting badly.
    The soft conversation had wakened Legolas and he stood quietly to his feet, ready to help if needed. 
    Elrond’s eyes slowly glanced towards the young elf standing at the foot of his bed and he smiled.  “And you are in one piece.  I am surprised.” 
    The softly spoken joke caused the prince to laugh. “Yes, my lord, for once I am.”  Legolas looked to Aragorn who was watching his friend.  The elf caught the human’s attempt to brush away the tears that fell from his eyes.  Looking for a way to give them a moment of privacy, he excused himself from the room, “Shall I go find Mithrandir for you?”
    “Yes, please,” Aragorn nodded.  “Tell him to hurry.”
    “There is no hurry. I am not going anywhere.”  Elrond countered quietly from his bed, but the elf was already moving stiffly from the room, seeking out the old wizard.
    “He limps.”  Elrond gazed hard at the human now seated on the bed next to him. “What have you two been doing?”
    “What haven’t we been doing would seem to be the better question father,”  Aragorn laughed as he answered.
    A deep voice interrupted their privacy, “That is the correct question indeed!”  Gandalf entered the room and moved to the opposite side of the bed, staring down at the elf lord. “These two are quite a handful.  I don’t know how you keep track of them without going mad. I suppose it takes the younger generation such as yourself to keep the likes of these in line.”  The lines around his eyes crinkled as he laughed.
    “Younger generation?”  Elrond raised one graceful eyebrow and stared up into the face of his longtime friend.  It was a joke between them because Elrond could track his age on Middle-earth to a longer time than Mithrandir had been present, while none could count the years of Gandalf's existence before he had been sent hither and it was not a topic the wizard was prone to discuss plainly.
    Gandalf tipped his head to the side and raised a hand, staving off the argument, “Don’t start that with me. I have already had to lecture these two on the relevance of age and wisdom.”  He sobered quickly as he bent down closer to Elrond. “It is good to see you awake, old friend.  You gave us quite a scare.”
    The elf lord smiled back at the wrinkled, time-worn face that leaned over him. “Is everyone all right?”
    Gandalf straightened up and looked out the window behind Aragorn. “Well, we’ll get to that in a minute.  For now there are a few other pressing matters that need our attention.”
    “And that would be?”  Elrond tried to move into a sitting position, but was stopped by Aragorn who pressed him gently back down.
    “Nothing you can't take care of while you lie in bed,” the young human admonished him, glancing at Gandalf for support.
    Ignoring the elf’s attempt to move the wizard glanced back down at Elrond and continued, “That river of yours has a mind of its own.  And when her master is not about, she can be quite unruly.”
    “Has the Bruinen jumped its banks?”
    “It is worse than that, my lord.”  Legolas spoke softly from the corner where he had reseated himself.
    Aragorn picked up the telling and continued, “When the earth shook, the river was dammed at the falls.  There were heavy rains and the water pooled in the gorge where it was contained until it overflowed.  Now it is rising by the moment and both the dams we have raised against it and the one formed by the earthquake are ready to give way. When it does it will destroy Rivendell and the surrounding areas.  We had no way to stop it.”  He glanced worriedly at his father, unsure if the elf had the strength to deal with the situation.
    Elrond glanced at Gandalf, gauging the seriousness and validity of what had been said.  He did not doubt his son, but he also realized what they were asking of him and the resulting ramifications could be more than simply a swollen river.
    The old wizard nodded slowly in response.  There was nothing more to say.
    Brushing his son gently aside, Elrond pressed himself up in his bed, leaning back against the ornately carved wooden headboard.  He closed his eyes and thought things through, seeking the best path, listening to his heart and weighing all the possibilities.  Unconsciously his fingers sought the ring on his left hand – Vilya, Ring of Air.
    “Very well.  Let us stop this before it goes any further.”  The elf lord glanced at Gandalf.
    “Then I will watch and make sure that you are not noticed,”  the wizard replied cryptically.  However, Elrond understood perfectly and nodded his thanks.
    Looking out the large picture window on his left, the elf lord began to speak in the high tongue, calling to the winds, calling to the very air and summoning it to him.  He spoke to the river, quieting its mad rush through the gorge.  The angry, swollen waters began to slow and the edges of the waterway began to recede slowly, falling back over into itself and easing to a level below its banks.
    The wind howled through the gorge, screaming down the canyon as it raced on its way to the riverhead and the dam that the earthquake had created. 
    As the force of the air hit the unnatural boundary, it blew the rocks and fallen trees out of the path of the river, destroying the dam, unbinding the Bruinen and freeing her falls once more.
    Had anyone been near the riverhead at that moment, they would have been surprised to see that the water held back by the rocks and trees did not instantly fall to the floor of the rift as one might have expected.  The air itself became the barrier that held the choked water at bay.  Like invisible hands, the winds themselves solidified around the lake and held the water firmly, allowing the falls to refill slowly and the river to recede gradually until it just barely crested its banks, lapping at the edges of the forests and towns that it passed through, meting out the water a bit at a time until the Bruinen flowed smoothly once more.  The river was placid and content again, now that Elrond was back.
    Aragorn watched spellbound as his father spoke to the air and it obeyed him.  Subconsciously, he grabbed onto the edge of the bed as the howling winds swirled around the house, causing the timbers of Rivendell to creak and sway with the power of the unseen force as it gathered outside around them.  Gandalf was equally engaged, but what the wizard was up to only Elrond would ever know and he never spoke of it. The older man was concentrating so deeply that he was not aware of what went on around them, his eyes closed tightly shut as he kept focused on his task.
    Legolas’ eyes widened and his mouth parted in awe as he saw Vilya light up from within.  The ring glowed and tiny sparks of light seemed to swirl in a tight spiral around the jewel, coalescing into the interior of the sapphire gem.  Within moments the ring dimmed and for all outward appearances seemed to actually fade on the finger of the elf who wore it, becoming almost unseen to the untrained eye.
    Aragorn looked up at his friend who had observed everything in spellbound silence and smiled.  He knew that Legolas was able to see Vilya even now, even hidden as it was – for none who ever witnessed the powers of the rings could do so and remain unchanged.
    Elrond redirected his gaze at the two friends, glancing between them, knowing their thoughts.  He smiled at the utter look of awe on the young elf’s face, but quickly turned his attention to the older man who stood next to him.
    “Mithrandir?”  He whispered the wizard’s name, afraid to break into his concentration.
    Slowly the elderly man relaxed and opened his eyes, gazing at the elf lord for a few silent moments before speaking.  “It is safe.  We were not observed.”
    “Thank you, my friend.”  Elrond let himself sink back a little further, exhausted and far weaker than he wanted to admit.  Wielding that kind of power in his current condition had been no small task.
    Gandalf merely nodded and slowly seated himself with a sigh, worn out from his mysterious vigil.  Glancing at the two youths he scowled and leaned forward emphasizing his words, “Mark you now, neither of you witnessed that.  Do you understand me?”
    “Yes, Mithrandir,” Legolas whispered as Aragorn nodded his head in compliance.
    Satisfied, the wizard leaned back and relaxed fully into the large seat.  Reaching into his pocket he pulled out his pipe and went about lighting it. “I think that requires a nice long rest.”  He smiled, pulling in the sweet smoke of the weed and breathing it back out again. “Yes, that should just about do it.”
    Elrohir ran into the bedroom breathlessly, grabbing the doorframe to stop himself.  “Did you see...?”  His words were cut short as he took in the sight of his father sitting upright in bed.
    “Father!”  The elf ran to the side of the bed and threw himself down next to him, wrapping his arms around Elrond’s neck.
    Aragorn quietly moved aside to give them a moment.
    “It is well, Elrohir,”  Elrond gently pushed the youngest twin back so he could look into the dark eyes watching his every move. “And you also look as though you have fared well.”
    “But...” Elrohir touched his father's hand, brushing the now invisible ring in silent question.
    “Do not worry, young elf.  No one noticed and your valley has been saved,” Gandalf spoke up from the seat he occupied, watching the whole exchange with a smile on his weatherworn face.  When Elrohir turned to him, he raised his pipe to the window and motioned towards the falls. “Go see for yourself.  The Bruinen has found her place once more since her master is awake now.”
    “How long have you been up?” Elrohir asked his father.
    “Not long.”
    “Long enough.”  Gandalf growled, standing to his feet, “Now be out with you all.  I need to look after my patient.”  He shooed them out the door, pressing Aragorn out last, “Go!  Go!  Who can get anything done with the three of you underfoot? Out with you now.”

    When he had finally secured the door he turned with a laugh and glanced back at the elderly elf.  Elrond was spent.  What energy he did have was fading fast and the aches in his body were beginning to vie for attention.
    “You look older than I do.” Gandalf laughed at his joke and walked back to the bedside, seating himself next to his old friend.  “That was close, you know.”
    Elrond nodded, “Too close.”
    “Yes.”  Gandalf glanced out the window. “The darkness grows stronger by the day, my friend, and it is not so easily held back any longer.”
    “Was it noticed?”
    “No. Not this time. But I would advise against that again.”  Gandalf closed his eyes, “Things are changing.”
    “Things are always changing, Mithrandir.”
    The old wizard opened one eye and leveled his gaze at the elf.  He snorted at the comment and pressed his head back against the chair. “Yes, but it’s different now and you know it too.”
    There was no doubting that the darkness that had been held at bay for so many centuries was moving again.  The elf lord knew it, had known it for some time.
    “It is as I have long feared, since you brought the news that the Eye had regathered itself in Dol Guldur.  Too long did we tarry before driving it from Mirkwood, I fear, giving him time to escape...” The elf lord sighed as if willing the dark thoughts away.  Now was not the time to ponder the shortcomings of the White Council.  “Thank you for coming, old friend.  How has everything else fared?” Elrond questioned, changing the subject and eager to hear of the happenings that had occurred, since he had obviously been absent for some time.
    Gandalf eyed him casually. “Well your Numenorean vase is broken.  It was my fault, but your twins had such fun arguing amongst themselves about who broke it that I never told them.”  He laughed at the memory.  “I can get you a new one if you like.”
    The elf lord laughed. “Please no. I always hated that thing.  It was given to me as a gift from the royal family when they took refuge here. But honestly I think they just wanted to get rid of it, it was truly awful.”
    “Yes indeed,” Gandalf laughed with the elf. “But your sons are a handful.  How do you maintain your sanity?”
    “You may have them if you like.”  The elf raised an eyebrow, teasing the wizard.
    “What and deprive you of joy in your old age, never!”
    “Then borrow them, please.  I could use a bit of peace around here from time to time.  There is never a dull moment under these rafters unless Estel is taken ill or recovering from their latest exploit.”  Elrond chuckled as he thought of his sons.
    “Yes...Estel.”  Gandalf looked down in thought.
    “What is it?” Elrond leaned forward. “Did something happen to him?”
    “Happen?”  The old wizard chewed on the end of his pipe thoughtfully. “Yes and no.”
    “Speak plainly, wizard.” Sometimes Gandalf’s way of talking irritated the elf.
    “Well the boy has grown up amongst elves.”  When Elrond nodded impatiently, Gandalf continued. “Imperfectly too, just like any human would I might add.”  He let his words hang in the air, idly smoking his pipe and gazing out the window at the far side of Rivendell’s gorge.
    Elrond spoke quietly at length  “I see.  I suppose I should talk to him.”
    “Hmm...I suppose you should.”  The wizard commented quietly around the end of his pipe.
    Elrond glanced at the older man darkly. “Wonderful help you are.”
    “Of course, that’s why I am here.” He smiled brightly at the elf lord, his eternally blue eyes sparkling.
    The old friend’s conversation was cut short as a soft rapping on the door interrupted.
    “Yes! What is it?!” Gandalf boomed at the intruder while smiling at the elf lord, thoroughly enjoying himself.
    The door creaked open and Aragorn pushed his upper body through.  “May I come in for a moment?”
    “Of course Estel.”  Elrond answered quickly, motioning the boy in.
    Gandalf stood from his chair and walked around the far side of the bed, “I’ll be in here concocting a sleep potion, in case anyone should need me,” he mumbled to the occupants of the room as he disappeared into the refreshing room through an adjoining door.
    “We are getting ready to go into town and call back the servants and the others who left when the flooding started.  I just wanted to make sure you were all right before we went.”  Aragorn looked from the door Gandalf had disappeared behind back to his father.  He gently touched the bandage that wrapped the elderly elf’s head. “Did Gandalf say you are all right?”
    “Yes, Estel.  I will be fine.  You and I need to talk.”
    “Talking is what got you hurt in the first place.”  Aragorn sat on the side of the bed and looked down at the sheets beneath his hands.
    “Is that what you think?”  Elrond watched the boy for several long seconds as the human thought through all the emotions and feelings in his heart and mind.  “Estel?”  The dark silver eyes looked up and locked onto his own. “Is that what you think?” he questioned again.
    “Not only I think so.  Elladan and Elrohir do as well.”  Aragorn broke the eye contact and looked over his shoulder out the window, “And they are right. If you had been in the house when the earth shook, you would not have been hurt.  Elladan was very angry with me.  I think... I think he's still avoiding me.”
    “I think you misunderstand your brother, my son.”  Elrond touched the side of the human’s face, forcing Aragorn to look him in the eyes once more. “Your eldest brother is forever worrying over you.  You don’t need a mother, you have Elladan.”  He laughed as the ranger smiled and nodded. “Ever since you were little, Elladan took it upon himself to be your protector.  I think he believes he is Rivendell’s protector as well, including my own.  When things happen outside his ability to stop them or protect the ones he loves, he often responds in what seems to be anger.  And it is, but it is not directed at you, it is directed at himself.  You just took the brunt of it because you happened to be near.”
    Aragorn did not respond. He just watched his father, quietly listening.  Gandalf had reappeared in the doorway but did not speak.  He leaned against the frame and observed the elf and the human.
    “I remember a time when you got very sick when you were little.  You had gone to play in the rain and no one noticed.  No one noticed until dinnertime in fact.  When we finally found you, you were already sick and you had a high fever and I couldn’t get it to break.  Your brother Elladan was very angry.  And he seemed to be very angry with me, for letting you play outside when it was storming.”  Elrond smiled at Aragorn as he recounted the story. “When I approached him later about it, he apologized and confessed that in truth he was very angry with himself and blamed himself for not watching you more carefully.”
    “He blamed himself?” Aragorn asked in disbelief. “But it wasn’t his fault.”
    “No, it wasn’t.”  Gandalf moved from where he had been standing, a steaming mug of tea in his hands.  He held the cup out and Aragorn took it, handing it to Elrond. “Just as your father’s accident wasn’t your fault.  Seems that you are not the only one who blames himself for other's miseries.”
    The old wizard sat again in the chair and picked up his pipe, refilling it and smiling contentedly to himself as he lit it once more.
    “It’s true Estel.  You have all grown up with the weight of a world on your shoulders, you more than your brothers.”  Elrond sipped the tea before speaking, smiling softly, “I think the only one of you who never quite realized the burden that we bear is Elrohir.  He always had more of carefree spirit than the rest of you.”
    Elrond turned to Gandalf and questioned him, “Is this what I think it is?”  He held up the mug for inspection, glancing at its contents suspiciously.
    “Yes it is. Now drink it all.”  Gandalf pursed his lips and frowned at the elf feigning indignation. “You need to rest.”
    “As if haven’t rested enough.”  the elf lord muttered, taking another sip of the sleeping draught.
    “I see where your sons get their stubbornness.” Gandalf glared at the two of them.
    The glare of the wizard set Estel to laughing.  He smiled at them both, “Thank you.  Both of you.”  He ended the thanks with a slight bow to the older man.  “Now I probably should leave you and let you rest.  Legolas and Elrohir are waiting for me.  We need to rescue Mora, I sent him into town.”
    “Alone!?”  Elrond became instantly worried.
    “I sent him to Taradin,” the ranger replied with a laugh. “He’ll be more than safe in the hunter’s company.”
    “Off with you then!” Gandalf growled at the young human. “We’ll be fine here without you.”
    Estel smiled and stood from the bed.  Leaning back down he gently kissed his father’s forehead, “I’m glad you are all right,” he whispered.
    Elrond smiled back at him and watched as the human opened the door to the room.  Legolas stood from his seat out in the hallway.  Before he could leave, the elf lord called his son back, “Estel?”
    Aragorn stopped midstep and turned back.
    “I am very proud of you, my son.”
    The smile that lit the boy’s face was reflected in the ancient eyes of his father and the wizard.  “Thank you,.” he whispered and bowed slightly before closing the door behind him.
    Gandalf had been just about to speak with Elrond when the door popped open again. “Excuse me, Gandalf.” It was Estel who had interrupted yet again, “Elladan is wondering if you could come and give him more of those herbs?  The pain has returned with a vengance, I fear.”
    “What happened to Elladan?”  Elrond questioned immediately, realizing that it was unusual that his eldest had not been in to see him already.
    “Drink your tea.”  Gandalf looked at Estel and Legolas out of the corner of his eye and shooed them out with a slight motion of his hand. 
    Legolas laughed as Estel shut the door quickly, “We will be back as soon as we may!”