Only a Game
18. Elladan's Story
Elladan and Elrohir were identical twins without the benefit of a strategically placed mole or scar, to make it easier to tell them apart. I narrowed my eyes, trying to discern any difference between them apart from the fact that they wore different clothes and Elrohir had his hair open today, whereas Elladan had his braided down his back.
Perhaps Elrohir was a bit thinner. And Elladan was glowing with happiness, when he looked at Mínuíal. Would I be able to tell them apart?
Now I raised my eyebrows, too.
"Introductions, remember?" I said, at my driest. As the beauty contest was already decided with me the loser, I could at least try for witty repartee.
Elrohir flashed me silvery look, which felt like a caress drifting down between my breasts. I swallowed hard. An interesting way to tell them apart.
But then Elrohir smiled and turned to his brother. "May I introduce Jarro, a ranger from the North and companion on my search for you." The last part he hissed slightly.
No fighting, boys! Elladan, who had stared at me with a bewildered expression on his face, turned towards Elrohir. "But there are no more rangers in the North."
I groaned. I had been so much looking forward to finally, finally finding Elladan! I smiled sweetly at Elladan and said, "Well, I am from the North and I have ranged far and wide; and many miles of this far and wide were spent looking for you, my Lord." I held my palms up in the traditional Elvish greeting. "Mae govannen, at long last, my lord Elladan."
And up the eyebrows went again, but there was a grin tugging at the corners of his mouth. He placed his palms against mine and I was surprised to feel nothing. Only a slight touch of skin. There was nothing like this overwhelming, tingling sensation I had felt from Elrohir since the first time we met. Was that strange?
I stepped back, smiling politely at no one and every one. When in doubt, smile. Animals bare their teeth as a threat against intimidating situations, and sometimes growl. We smile.
I was feeling strange and unsure of myself being included in this reunion of the brothers.
Now Elladan walked over to Mínuíal and drew her close against his body. They did not really touch, just stood really close to each other. I blinked at the scene, wondering how it was possible for two people to… fit together like that. I had the strange impression that they belonged to each other in a way that they were two parts of a whole; not figuratively, but in a real, tangible sense of the meaning.
Elladan now turned to his brother. "Elrohir, this is Laerte, called also Mínuíal. She is the daughter of Doron, the leader of the Avari, and we are betrothed to marry."
They were both positively glowing with happiness at giving this news. At least in that way they were exactly the same as all the newly engaged couples I had ever met.
"Mae govannen, Mínuíal. A star shines above the hour of our meeting." Elrohir said embracing his brother and his brother's betrothed. I looked at Elrohir and felt the strangest mixture of happiness, relief and sadness. Sadness?
When I looked back at the scene I felt as if I was looking at a picture or from somewhere far above. Suddenly I understood the feeling of sadness I had touched in Elrohir's thoughts.
The saying of the wild tribes that you can never meet again, because you will always change and be different when you return, it was proven true with this reunion. Even if the brothers chose the same path for the rest of their lives, claiming their Eldarin ancestry, they would never be together again as they had been throughout the third age of the world.
First and foremost Elladan would be Mínuíal's husband from now on, and if I was not very much mistaken, father of their children, and no longer twin brother, accounting for one half of the songs and legends telling of the deeds of Elrond's sons.
Elrohir smiled at his brother, a smile full of love and relief and regret. "Tell me, brother, how did you meet this beautiful dawn of her people, for now I understand better, why you did not return or send word, while I was waiting for you in Rivendell."
Elladan grinned unrepentantly, but I think I caught a glimmer of relief in his eyes. "Do you, then? But I suggest we sit down and have a drink and something to eat to go with the story. It is a rather long story and I enjoy telling it."
We sat back down, Elladan pouring wine for Mínuíal and himself, adding water to Mínuíal's wine. Then Doron returned, and everyone was up on their feet again, talking at the same time, this and that and oh and ah. Then Thôn appeared, carrying trays with food and assuring us that the horses were fine. Finally everyone was seated and provided with food and drink. Yes, I admit, I was impatient to hear Elladan's story and I was not inclined to be as forgiving as Elrohir. If my brother left me waiting without calling or sending a SMS for an hour or two, he was sure to catch hell next time I saw him, no matter what, or who, had kept him. And Elrohir had waited for months! And the choice of the Half-Elven wasn't exactly a date for dinner and a movie!
I took a sip of the red wine. It was delicious and soothed my agitation.
It's none of your business, after all, Jarro. I reminded myself. It's only a game.
They are back together and can decide together what they will do. You listen, keep your mouth shut and then return to London. And why the bloody hell did even the thought of London bring tears to my eyes?
I took another swallow of the red wine and resolutely turned my attention back to Elladan, who had been fussing with Mínuíal to put her feet up. No, I did not raise my eyebrows.
With his arm around Mínuíal, Elladan beamed at his brother. "Well, brother. Where shall I start? The evening perhaps, when we first perceived that the choice was upon us. It was not really a surprise, wasn't it? We were the only ones left of our people in all of Middle-earth – or so we thought. Indeed, looking back, I can see how strange it must have been for our kin and the Valar Themselves, how long we lingered in Arda, putting off the choice. We had talked about it, you and me, more than once. We talked about it, when Arwen chose her destiny, we talked about it when mother left, and we talked about it, when father left. But somehow, we could never decide. Arda, Middle-earth, was our home, not Aman. And there were so many paths to discover yet in Middle-earth, and the line of Aragorn and Arwen to look out for.
That was what I felt, at least. But when the choice was set for mid-winter this year, I perceived that you were willing to obey the call of kin and duty."
He sighed, and the same shadows I knew from Elrohir's eyes turned his silver gaze to a darker grey. "For the first time I was loath to be with you, brother. Indeed, for the first time in my life I realized that this decision had to be my very own. And this disturbed me greatly. In all those 3,181 years of our lives, we have almost never been parted, and always have known each other's soul and thoughts. But with this decision, I was barred from your thoughts. I have never felt more lonely and frightened than in those last days at Rivendell. Finally I could not stand it anymore. I had to leave." Elladan's voice was almost pleading. Elrohir's eyes were a mirror of the darkness I had seen in his twin's gaze.
"I had told you I wanted to see the Eastern Seas. That was true, but more than anything else, I wanted to be alone, a new and strange desire… But I felt better as soon as I had left Imladris. I hiked on dangerous trails through the Misty Mountains, following them to the North until I reached their end. At mount Gundabad I turned east, climbing the lesser heights of the Ered Mithrin. I crossed the Withered Heath, and only barely escaped the evil ghosts dwelling there." Elladan shuddered, closing his eyes at some terrible memory.
"Then I crossed the plains of the Erebor to the Iron Hills. I stayed with the dwarves for a bit. They were very polite, not at all what you would expect. But their numbers are dwindling. There have been born no more girl-children among them for a long time now."
Elladan trailed off, his gaze unfocused, a melancholy expression on his clear features. "The world is changing, brother. Our time here is really over, and even the other older children of Eru are fading."
Mínuíal's hand closed over Elladan's and a smile lit up his face, chasing away his sadness.
"I travelled to the East some three hundred miles north of the Sea of Rhûn, making a straight line for the Orocarni. Those mountains are so old; they made me feel like an Elfling again. And their rugged beauty! I delighted in Middle-earth once more, and was almost ready to claim a human life, forever roaming strange paths of stranger countries. But then the most extraordinary thing happened."
He beamed at Mínuíal and at Doron. "I arrived at the vast forests at the feet of the Orocarni. And the trees recognized me as an Elf! I have never been more astonished in my entire life. The whispering leaves, the dewy grass, the very air held the presence of Elves. But I had thought there were no more of our kindred left in Arda. I could not contain my curiosity and followed a path deep into the forest. And one bright summer morning I ran right into the arms of Elvish guards. Fortunately Doron's people are more forgiving to trespassers than the galadhrim used to be." He grinned at Doron. "I was allowed to try and explain myself, and not simply thrown into some dungeon as Thranduil of Eryn Lasgalen was wont to do with strangers."
Doron smiled and inclines his head. "I guess our remoteness has made us go soft."
Somehow I doubted that. Doron did not look soft at all, more like and exceptionally shrewd politician. And I would not want to try and go against him in a match of swords.
Elladan grinned at the comment, too. Soft, eh?
"Anyway, I was allowed to stay, and as an honoured guest, too. Oh, brother, it was so good to be with our people once more! And no shadow has ever touched their homes. In these forgotten Eastern lands Arda is as she was intended to be. I felt happy in the forests of the Orocarni; the weight of choice was lifted from my heart."
His silver gaze locked with Mínuíal's blue one. The intensity between them was almost touchable. "And then I met Mínuíal, who had been away scouting the beaches of the Eastern Seas. I looked at her, she looked at me, and the world was changed forever. We were betrothed at Loëndë. I have never been happier in all my life. Now you are here, brother! The Valar's blessing is with us!"
He beamed at his brother.
True love at first sight, I thought wistfully and wished I could huddle up against Elrohir, hiding my face against his chest and forgetting about love and choices and games and ends.
"But now you have to tell how you come to be here, my brother! I did not think I would ever see you again, until this world will be remade. I cannot tell you how this pained me, or how joyful I am that you have met us just in time!"
Elrohir narrowed his eyes. "Just in time for what?"
But Elladan held up his hand. "Fair's fair! A story for a story, little brother. Now it's your turn!"
Elrohir raised a slanted eyebrow, and then shrugged. Travelling with Elrohir I had had the impression that he would be the more forceful of the brothers. Evidently I had been mistaken.
Obediently Elrohir told our story, to my absolute relief leaving out any personal details about our – er – relationship. I was gratified at the terrified gasp from Mínuíal at the telling of our little skirmish with the orcs, and how her eyes grew very round with curiosity at our encounter with the Eastern tribe.
"And now we are here", Elrohir concluded.
And where will we go from here? I asked myself. I could see the same question in Elrohir's eyes, and the tightness around his lips.
But before either of us could ask the question, Doron had risen from his seat. "And we are really glad that you are!" The Elf told us. "I can see many more questions in your eyes, and there will be decisions to be made and plans to be laid – but I ask you, not just now and at once. Even though we are not in our beautiful city of trees, we will not let ourselves be diminished as hosts. A feast will be held in your honour, dinner and dancing and singing! A bonfire shall be lit! Let any other tales and questions wait for yet another few hours. – I have ordered a tent to be readied for your use; it should be waiting for you now. You can bathe away your weariness and rest until sunset."
Elladan nodded his agreement at his future father-in-laws suggestion. "Doron's right. I can see that you are tired. I will come and get you when the dinner's ready."
The Elves were both right, of course. I was tired and Elrohir was, too. And the emotional upheaval of meeting his brother again had to add to the weariness from travelling, even for an Elf. But I did not like being cut off from my questions like that.
"Very well", Elrohir said, rising to his feet. "If you show us to the tent, big brother?"
He did not raise an eyebrow.
Elladan grinned unrepentantly at his brother. Thôn showed Elladan the way to the tent, Elrohir followed his brother, and I tugged along.
A welcome dinner and party. And then I should be gone. I really should.
It was a nice tent. The colour was a dark turquoise green. It reminded me a bit of the Sea of Rhûn. Why did that make me feel like crying?
There was only one bed, that is to say, one large mattress lying on the floor of the tent. Although I had the distinct feeling that Elladan and Doron had not approved of me, they had apparently decided to accept Elrohir's "companionship" with this "ranger" from the North. I did not know whether to be glad or feel awkward. On the one hand, I had not thought that anyone could look at me and see with one glance I had been sharing sleeping bags with Elrohir; those damn keen eyes of the Elves, I thought, blushing hotly.
On the other hand, I had to admit that I did not want to sleep alone.
We got out of our dusty clothes and washed the sweat and dirt off our bodies. But we did not sleep. We lay on the mattress clinging to each other, acutely aware of questions not yet answered and choices to be made.
We were lucky with the weather for the welcome party. For an evening in October, it was balmy. There was almost no wind, and the sun was as warm as possible for autumn at the sea.
When Elladan finally came to escort us to the central square between the tents of the Elves, the square was gone. Another huge tent had been put up there, with large fires lit on each of its sides. Thus the interior of the huge party tent was bright and warm and inviting. Long tables had been set up inside of the tent, to form the letter "U", leaving an aisle for musicians and artists, and indeed, there were already three musicians standing there, playing on silver flutes. We were shown to the foremost table, and, as guests of honour placed on the right side of Doron. On his left Mínuíal was seated and next to her Elladan.
A first glass of sparkling white wine was offered and many Elves were introduced to us, I did not attempt curtsying, but bowing so often I felt my cheeks flush in a very un-Elvish manner. They did not stare at me. With eyes as sharp as an Elf's you probably did not need to stare. But I did feel… scrutinized… watched… wondered at. They were naturally curious about me, I thought. I was curious about them, too.
Why shouldn't they feel the same?
If I was not very much mistaken, most of them had never seen a human being, a mortal, before.
The evening flew by in a flurry of delicacies and extraordinary wines, accompanied by music more beautiful than anything I had ever heard before. There was dancing, too, and the gracefulness of the Elves was not of this world.
I did not eat much and drank even less, but watched the Elves around me; most of the time remembered not let my mouth hang open in wonder. Even though I felt out of place and an awkward onlooker on a people much closer to divine grace than humans can ever be, I was happy and grateful. Yes, grateful. Somewhere deep inside of me I kept saying a prayer of humble gratefulness for being allowed to be a part of this evening.
Although I had travelled with Elrohir so far, and we had been as close as two beings can possibly be, only today I had a glimpse of understanding of Elvish culture, of living, breathing Elvendom. Watching their dancing, listening to their music, hearing their golden laughter, seeing the light of the stars caught in their eyes – all of these tiny details and more, which I cannot begin to describe, showed me that they were indeed an alien race, the Firstborn of Ilúvatar, the quendi, the fair folk; and all those designations fall far short of how Elves truly are. How poor is the earth, which does not know them but in legends and myths!
Suddenly I came out of my reference to hear the beginning of a tale. A tall, fair haired Elf was standing in the aisle, a dark haired girl plucking at a harp sitting a few feet behind him. I cannot recall the rhymes of the ballad the Elf told us in his dark singing voice, but this was the story I heard, caught up in elegant rhymes and flowing melody.
"…and when the light of the stars hit the waters of the lake Cuiviénen the first time, and their reflections kindled bright lights in the dark waves of the lake, it was that the Elves were woken by the song of Eru Ilúvatar, the Ainlulindalë.
They opened their eyes from the Sleep of Yavanna and beheld Arda in all her unspoilt beauty. One hundred forty four they were, the quendi, the speakers, and they walked the first wood and swam in the first river, and when they spoke to the animals in the wild and the trees in the forests, they were answered in kind.
When darkness woke, the spirits of the stars, the Valar, summoned all Elves to leave their home and go to the West. Many were afraid and followed the summons. Others had already left the shores of the Cuiviénen, to discover all the lands and all the seas of Eä. But twenty-one remained behind. And the Valar called them Avari, the unwilling.
The Valar and the Elves, and later dwarves and men and many others fought in many wars against the darkness. The balance between good and evil, dark and light, matter and void, swayed with the passage of time. Enemies were vanquished and new evil was born.
The face of Arda was changed, and the Lake of Cuiviénen was destroyed.
But the Orocarni remained, and the Wild Woods of the East remained, too. However, the Eastern Lands were forgotten, the mountains of the East were forgotten, and the woods at their feet were forgotten, too.
The Avari were forgotten.
We became the delíël, the hidden ones, the forgotten ones, because the Valar do not remember us and our brethren do not know us.
And hidden we shall remain until Ilúvatar calls us forth."
When the singer ended, I only slowly returned into the present. As it should be with a myth of origin, the verses had been very powerful, and had touched me deeply. Elves forgotten by the Valar and their own kindred… what a sad story.
My thoughts went back to the last line, which had been approximately "And hidden we shall remain until Ilúvatar calls us forth".
There was a strange quality to this as a last line, as if there was a purpose to their remaining behind and being forgotten, almost as if there was a reason for them becoming the delíël, a reason known only to Ilúvatar.
A cold shiver ran down my spine, as if my thoughts had touched upon a premonition, a foreboding of shadows in a far away future.
I shuddered violently. Elrohir touched my elbow lightly. "Are you cold?"
"No", forcing my thoughts back to the party. "Just a goose walking on my grave, I suppose."
"A goose?" Elrohir raised an unbelieving eyebrow. I grinned at him.
"That's just a saying. Do you think I might have another glass of this wonderful red wine?"
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.