~Eriador, 2893 III~
The young ranger searched frantically through the jumbled contents of a worn leather pack. “I knew I’d want it, if I hadn’t got it!”
Elrohir struggled against his own mounting fear and frustration. The man was ill-supplied and inexperienced, his training in the care of wounds and fever still rudimentary at best. Even among the Dúnedain, where passed from father to son among the chieftains, the lore and art of healing had declined.
It had been Elrohir himself who snapped the shaft and drove the arrow on through Elladan's shoulder, Elrohir who washed and bound the wound while the young healer watched wide-eyed, his seldom tested skills and knowledge rendered useless by the sight of Elrond’s son lying half-conscious and bleeding near the hastily kindled fire.
“Have you any spirits, then?” Elrohir asked, smoothing his brother’s hair with a gentle hand. “Anything to ease the pain?”
“Aye, even a nip of that despicable dwarven brew would serve just now,” Elladan rasped, smiling weakly. “I will need some fortification for the trip home, I am afraid.”
“There is whiskey, my lord,” the ranger stammered, his glance darting between the twins as though he was unsure which to answer. “I will fetch some.”
As the young man scuttled away, Elrohir let loose a string of oaths, thankfully holding his voice to a hissing whisper. “Of all the useless, poorly-trained, panic-addled fools I have ever-”
Elladan chuckled, the hoarse sound ending in a cough as a grimace of pain crossed his face. “He is barely of age, ‘Roh, still apprenticed to his father. And, I think, he is a bit in awe of us yet. He hardly knows us, we have traveled so since his birth.”
“Left to him, there would soon be none alive to be in awe of,” Elrohir retorted, his grumbling ending abruptly when the young man returned with a flask. His anxiety apparently eased by the successfully completed task, the ranger showed skill enough as he helped to raise the elder twin’s head, dribbling the fiery brew into Elladan’s mouth carefully.
Elladan shuddered as the rough-edged whiskey burned a path down his throat, into his protesting stomach. “Firewater, indeed,” he managed. “How do you drink this and live?”
The ranger smiled, the changed expression making him look even younger than his scarce years. “Practice, my lord.”
The arrival of another injured warrior drew the young man away, leaving Elrohir alone with his twin. Shifting restlessly, Elladan accepted another drink from the flask, then drew a deep breath that ended on an ominous wheeze. “We must go home,” he said quietly, reaching up to grasp Elrohir’s arm.
“You cannot travel, tôren,” the elf-knight argued. “The pain would be unbearable, and you are far too weak to ride.”
Elladan shook his head. “You do not understand, ‘Roh. It is more a matter that I cannot stay here. We must go home,” he repeated, meeting Elrohir’s eyes squarely.
A chill of foreboding raced up Elrohir’s spine. “Poison?”
“I fear so,” Elladan answered slowly, “though it may be the wound’s position. Each breath comes harder than the last.”
A rush of soft footsteps heralded the arrival of an older ranger, his face furrowing with concern as he knelt beside the elder twin. “There are many breaths to be drawn between here and the Hidden Valley, my friend,” he said distractedly, his fingers examining the wound with practiced skill. “Perhaps we can ease the struggle a bit.” Rummaging in his pack, he drew out various jars and packets, replacing Elrohir’s hasty field dressing with one as expert as any to be found in the healing halls of Imladris. Elladan’s breathing quieted almost immediately and he dropped into a light sleep, his pain buffered by both salve and whiskey.
Elrohir stuttered his thanks, feeling somewhat guilty for his earlier complaints. As though guessing the elf-knight’s thoughts, the healer said, “I must ask that you excuse my son’s floundering, if you can. He has only recently begun training in earnest and I fear he is somewhat intimidated by the two of you. The boy has long wished for a chance to watch Elladan at work. To see him injured, instead-”
“And ‘Roh glowering like a thundercloud,” Elladan broke in, his speech slightly slurred, “it is enough to unman any youngling.” Glancing briefly at Elrohir, he then turned back to his savior. “I daresay it will be a few days before I am fit to do anything in the healing halls save rest, but Ada would be glad to welcome him home. We will need another pair of hands on the road.”
The elf-knight nodded. “He can ride your horse, ‘Dan, and mine will carry the two of us.” Arching one eyebrow at the ranger, he added, “If it pleases you and the lad?”
“I daresay he will be pleased, aye.” Arador chuckled as he rose to his feet. “But I will let him decide.”
And so it was that, several days later, two shadow grey horses bearing three grey-cloaked forms rode slowly into Imladris. Elrohir’s call for assistance was quickly answered, and a litter appeared to carry Elladan to the healing halls.
Motioning for the young ranger to follow, Elrohir hurried to the healer’s rooms, as well, releasing a breath he had been holding unaware when at last Elrond leaned over to brush his lips across Elladan’s flushed forehead and moved to embrace his younger son.
“You did well, ‘Rohir,” Elrond said, releasing the elf-knight with a final squeeze. “He will heal, though it will be several weeks before he rides again.”
“Praise the Valar,” Elrohir sighed in relief. “But I had able assistance, Ada.” His eyes twinkling, the elf-knight urged the young ranger forward. “We have brought you a new apprentice, to serve until ‘Dan is able to return to duty.”
Elrond’s eyes widened in surprise and delight as he drew the ranger into a warm embrace. “Welcome home, young one,” he said. “You have been missed.”
And Arathorn smiled.
A/N: As most of you probably know, Arathorn ( Arathorn II, that is) was the father of Aragorn Elessar. Like the Chieftains before and after him, he would have been well-acquainted with the House of Elrond. Many years after this tale is set, when Aragorn was two, Arathorn was killed while hunting orcs with Elladan and Elrohir. This is my elves’ take on how the relationship between the twins and Arathorn began.