-Siege of Dread-
~Gathering Clouds and Rays of Hope~
You haunt me in my dreams
but I can never see your face
I hold you close through midnight
but dawn leaves me no trace.
Is my heart searching for you,
or has it lost its way?
Dark portents cloud my vision,
have they led you astray?
Cold. Everything was so very cold. He knew that’s what it was although the feeling was foreign, unfamiliar. He shivered. That wasn’t right... something about this was wrong. Very wrong.
What was this place? Was it the void? It could have been. It felt that empty.
But no... it wasn’t empty. There were mountains; their dark shapes barely discernable from the surrounding darkness. Evil. There was great evil all around. And there were others present... horrible creatures. Orcs and goblins.
Their fell voices rattled with the black speech, a foul curse upon every breath they took. They seemed pleased in a cruel sort of way; stirred up. They were sporting with something... nay, someone.
Someone whom they had up against a cliff wall... it seemed the being was in chains, but he couldn’t see the captive clearly through the press of foul, reeking bodies. Yet somehow he felt it was important that he know.
He felt his blood boil.
Who was being subjected so to such blatantly evil whims?
He tried to move, to help... but found himself utterly powerless to do so. He could do nothing but sit there as the orcs jeered and strangled cries were wrung from the unseen source.
The soft voice was pleading, broken, and eerily familiar as it begged someone also unseen to let death take away the pain.
“I cannot endure with them any longer. It is time for me to go, my spirit has become too weary, I cannot abide here anymore. Please help me. Free me. Do not leave me here with them. Do not leave me at their mercy again...”
The plea rent his heart and made him choke. Yet he could not shake the feeling that the voice was speaking to someone else. The words were not meant for him, he was listening as an outsider... but an outsider whose heart was breaking.
A strange flame of desperation burned in the pit of his stomach, as if he knew this, as if he had seen it before and knew that he wanted it to stop, even if he could not remember why.
The mottled, starless sky overhead disappeared and it seemed that the world shrank and pulled in on itself, trapping him in the inky blackness of a cave. Yet the figures of the orcs remained the same, undeterred from their cruel games.
Suddenly the dark mass of orc bodies parted and their prisoner was thrust forward.
His heart stopped. Time stopped. Everything became suddenly deathly silent as the orcs threw the bleeding blonde elf to the ground.
“LEGOLAS!” his heart screamed in recognition, but it was barely a trembling whisper on his lips as his son fell limply into his lap; the younger elf’s golden hair spilling across the elf king’s legs like tattered remnants of sunshine fading from sight in this darkened world.
Legolas’ head came to rest against his knees; the prince’s glazed silver-blue eyes staring up into nothing.
“NO! LEGOLAS!! What have you done to him?! LEGOLAS!!”
Thranduil sat bolt upright in his bed, the cry still on his lips. His hands were tangled in the bed sheets next to him and his chest was heaving. Perspiration moistened his brow and made his long blonde hair cling to his face.
He blinked at the familiar but unexpected sight of his own chambers, bathed in the faint light of pre-dawn creeping in under the long velvet drapes. His heart was still hammering in his chest and it took him a few moments to rationalize what he was seeing now with the gripping terror of only a few moments ago.
“Your majesty?” A concerned voice from the direction of the doorway made Thranduil look up. The Elvenking ran a shaking hand through his tousled hair, smoothing it away from his face. His voice when he answered was steady, although still slightly confused.
“Yes, Elrynd? Is something wrong?”
Elrynd was in his dressing-gown still, standing in the doorway and looking quite concerned.
“You cried out your Majesty... are you all right?” Elrynd’s gaze was openly worried. Elves did not usually suffer from nightmares, being able to wander in dreams of their own choosing when they lay down to rest on most occasions. Therefore the king’s current condition was cause for confusion and mild alarm from his loyal servant.
Thranduil let his breath out slowly, allowing the last of the unfathomable terror to roll away from him.
“Yes, I’m fine Elrynd. I simply...” Thranduil did not finish his sentence. How could he explain that he had been having nightmares for over a year now? No, not nightmares, he corrected himself. Nightmare, singular. It was always the same one, but in his dreams he never recognized it for what it was until after he awakened. These horrible visions did not come frequently, he had had it only a handful of times, but it was still a highly disturbing occurrence.
The first time the dream came to him was nearly six months after Legolas left on his journey south to visit Estel in Gondor a few years ago. At that point the King had been sorely tempted to send someone out to look for the Prince, to assure himself that everything really was all right. Reason had taken over in the end however. Thranduil had realized he had no idea *where* in Gondor his son was heading and by the time any messenger covered the great distance the prince would in all likelihood no longer have even been there.
Time passed and Thranduil had just about convinced himself that the dream had been nothing more than his subconscious mind expressing its concern for his son’s safety since it seemed always that he got into trouble whenever he went off with his human friend.
Then the dream returned.
Thranduil’s relief was unspeakable when the message came from Rivendell a few months ago that Legolas and Estel had returned to Imladris alive and well. The letter hinted that they had some rather trying adventures behind them, but Lord Elrond was nothing if not diplomatic and had obviously not wished to give a full accounting in a letter, saying rather that Legolas would explain all when he returned.
Legolas had included his own note in the dispatches. He bid his father well, made a jesting reference to whether or not his ketrals had yet become the side-dish at a feast as his father had so often threatened whenever the small creatures caused mischief, and said that he intended to stay in Rivendell for a time.
All seemed well, and yet Thranduil could not shake the small feeling that there were things he ought to know that he did not.
The dream had come again that night.
Now, less than three months later, it returned once more to haunt him. Never before had they come so close together and Thranduil did not like this one bit.
The elf lord pushed the covers aside and swung his legs off the edge of the bed. Elrynd was still standing there, staring at him.
“I’m fine,” Thranduil repeated, much more in control of himself now, his usual authoritative presence becoming clear once more. “Is there any word from the elves sent to Imladris yet?”
Not long after the return of the nightmare, Thranduil sent messengers across the mountains with responses to the letters he had received, and some carefully worded prodding that he hoped would give him some insight into what was plaguing him so.
The messengers did not return and a search party was sent out for them.
As of right now, all of them were sorely overdue. If this continued, Thranduil was going to take matters into his own hands.
Elrynd nodded his head in assent, which surprised the Elvenking, who had not expected an answer to the affirmative.
“Raniean returned late last night your highness...”
“What?” Thranduil rose swiftly, pulling a robe on over his sleeping clothes. “Why wasn’t I told? I said I wanted to be informed at once if-”
Elrynd held up his hands in apology. “I am sorry your Majesty, but it was no more than an hour or two ago and he was in no state to be able to speak to anyone. He is with the healers; they put him in one of the guestrooms for the time being. I was just coming to get you now when I heard you call out.”
Thranduil nodded as he knotted his corded sash around his waist to keep the robe shut. “The healers? He is injured? What happened? What of the others?”
Elrynd’s face was grave. “He returned alone your Majesty. It appears that they were attacked by a great host of goblins and wargs in the mountains. The passes are not safe. He said it is doubtful that the messengers they went in search of ever made it through.”
Thranduil was already on his way down the hall towards the guest chambers while Elrynd hurried along behind, explaining as they went. The Elvenking’s expression was troubled. These were not good tidings.
Elrond stood quietly in the recesses of the far north balcony of his home. Here the sun touched the open veranda and warmed the cooling fall air.
Elrohir was stretched out upon the couch that faced the balustrade, overlooking the Bruinen far below. The younger twin had fallen asleep on the brocaded coverlet, his face turned towards the autumn sun. His chest rose and fell gently and he had closed his eyes against the bright afternoon light. His lips were parted slightly in sleep and the cool air had painted his cheeks a rosy pink. He stirred a little as some dream haunted his rest, but quieted with a sigh as he settled back into deep slumber.
A shadow to his right alerted the elf lord that they were not alone and he stepped forward.
Aragorn stalked quietly onto the balcony from the stairwell that led down into the gardens below. He knew that Elrohir had been spending a lot of time here lately and he fully intended to surprise his brother, hoping to lighten his spirit. Elrohir had despaired of late when his hearing did not return as quickly as he had thought it would. Withdrawing from their usual activities, he had separated himself from the others and pulled inside himself. This grieved Aragorn and he knew it was almost eating Elladan alive although the older elf was trying not to admit as much.
“Estel,” Elrond called to his human son, stopping the man in his tracks. “Don’t my son. It will only scare him.”
Aragorn swiveled in surprise towards the sound of the voice. “Ada?”
The elf lord left his vigil and walked out into the sun.
“What are you doing here?” The human asked softly.
“There is no need to whisper.” Elrond drew the man with him to a bench against the wall of the house. His gaze trailed back to the sleeping elf. “He can’t hear you.”
Aragorn sighed as he took a seat next to his father. “I know. But you and Gandalf both said you thought it was only a matter of time, surely soon...” the ranger’s voice trailed off at the pained expression on his father’s face as Elrond shook his head.
“That is what I *thought* Estel, and I still do hope. The sad fact however, is that his hearing is only a little better after all this time and he is not dealing with it well. He suffers from bouts of dizziness also; they sap his strength. Elves are not used to feeling ill. I think right now a surprise would not be the best thing for him.” The elf lord smiled softly in Elrohir’s direction before turning back to look into the silver eyes that watched him quietly.
Aragorn’s gaze flickered from his fathers to the sleeping form before resting on the blue eyes once more. “I only meant to cheer him. It worries me that he does not go out with us anymore. I wish he would realize that we do not care whether he can hear us or not, we just want to be together. Is there nothing else we can do for him, Ada?”
“There is one more thing that I have not tried,” the elf lord admitted slowly. “I was going to suggest it to him, but when I found him sleeping out here I had not the heart to wake him. It’s been a long time since I have found him curled up asleep on this balcony.” A smile spread across Elrond’s lips and he looked across the rift. His gaze did not perceive what was before them now, straying instead across the recollections of what had been.
“This was my wife’s favorite place in the autumn. We could always find her out here enjoying the sun in the late afternoons. She claimed it was the warmest spot in the house during fall. As a child, Elrohir would join her often. Sitting at her feet with a book or a toy, as contented being here as she was.” With a sigh the elf blinked slowly and it was apparent that he was once more in the present.
“He and Elladan are twins.” His gaze settled once more on the dark haired elf, “Identical in nearly everything and inseparable. It used to be hard for me to tell them apart. But as they grew older they developed their own personalities. Elladan hides his fears and what he perceives as his weaknesses in controlling the situations around him, and sometimes the people.” the elf lord glanced at the human next to him with a fond smile. He placed his arm around the ranger’s shoulders, staring into the attentive eyes. “He has taken up the role of protector, acting as the firstborn that he in fact is. Sometimes he takes his role too far.” A small laugh escaped the older elf. “His heart is soft but he hides it. Elrohir, however, never could. His tenderheartedness has ever been his greatest strength and his greatest weakness.”
Aragorn watched his brother as the elf slept. He knew that Elladan was the more stubborn, strong headed of the two. Sometimes his over protectiveness had irritated the ranger and yet there were times that he welcomed it, a reminded of home, of safety. But Elrohir had always been the one he had gone to when he had hurt himself or woken in the night afraid when Elrond was away. It hurt his heart to see his brother withdrawing and pulling away from them like he was.
He started slightly when Elrond began speaking again, pulled out of his reverie by the elf’s deep soft voice.
“When Celebrìan left, it nearly broke his heart. He knew she could not stay and yet he was torn in letting her go alone. He very nearly left with her. I... I almost expected him to, as much as that thought hurt. I never could be sure he didn’t stay simply to spare me further loss,” Elrond sighed. “For weeks I would find him out here, tears rolling his face. He said he could feel her more here than anywhere else in the house. Wounds fade in time, even for elves, but some more slowly than others. Elrohir feels deeply, but his spirit is too light and free to remain bound by sorrow forever. Still... it was not so very long ago as we reckon time. Then you came along. Many years had already passed, but I think your being here did his heart more good than any of us expected. Often were the nights I would find the two of you in your bed because he had stayed when your nightmares returned.” Elrond smiled down at the human next to him.
“I remember that.” Aragorn laughed softly, “He always came back into my room with me. Elladan was harder to wake up than Elrohir and for some reason he could never understand what I was saying in the middle of the night. Elrohir was quick to wake up and always quieted my fears. He would sing to me, tell me stories, make me laugh and stay until I fell I asleep.”
“Yes.” Elrond’s smile widened. “He loved having a child in the house. In many ways in his heart I still think he is one. They both are, but he would probably admit to it more readily than Elladan.” Elrond smiled faintly. “Elladan would rather be the mother, that is how his heart heals, but Elrohir... Elrohir would rather be the child.”
Aragorn chuckled slightly. “Maybe that is why they compliment each other so perfectly.”
With a small answering smile the elf lord rose, “I think I shall wake him and see if he would like to try this treatment. I have only heard of it, never preformed it or had reason to.” Elrond glanced back at his human son, “Would you like to help me?”
With a nod Aragorn rose also, walking to the balustrade and watching as his father sat quietly on the large couch. “Elrohir?”
Elrohir didn’t stir. It broke the elf lord’s heart as the twin slept on. He moved forward to touch his son and wake him when Aragorn interrupted.
“Ada, wait.” The ranger spoke up quickly. He was watching his brother carefully, “See if he can sense you before you waken him. Give him a minute.”
“What are you thinking, my son?” Elrond turned back and watched the ranger but Estel was intent on the twin.
“This is something I have been wondering about...” Aragorn’s voice trailed off and a smile spread across his face, “There...see?”
Elrohir stirred slightly, his right hand easing up in front of him as if to ward someone off. Gently he rested his palm on his father’s leg, his consciousness registering that someone was near. A second later, grey eyes opened and squinted questioningly up at the elf lord.
“Ada?” Elrohir pressed himself up on the couch, slightly surprised to see his father so near and yet realizing that he halfway expected it as well. He was confused.
Elrond smiled at the twin before frowning slightly at Aragorn. “How did you know?”
“What?” Elrohir questioned softly.
“Not you.” Elrond glanced back at the human again causing Elrohir to follow his gaze, “Your brother.”
“A hunch.” Aragorn shrugged, “Something I’ve been noticing lately.”
“What are you talking about?” Elrohir’s confusion was growing by the minute. He sat up, brushing the long dark strands of hair away from his face. His braids had come undone in his sleep and he pushed the wayward locks out of his eyes.
“You.” Aragorn deadpanned as he stared at his brother, “What else is there to talk about?”
With a snort of derision Elrohir shook his head, but the human’s smile was mirrored on the elven face.
“No, really?” He asked again.
“No, *really*!” Aragorn answered with a chuckle.
“Enough of this you two.” Elrond stopped the banter, giving his youngest a stern look. “I expect you to explain what you are going on about when we get inside.”
“What is it Ada?” Elrohir was sitting up fully now, watching his father and brother speaking and trying to keep up with their conversation. He was becoming more skilled at lip-reading, but it was hard when people were not talking directly to him. He lost too much of a conversation looking back and forth between the different speakers.
Elrond turned his attention back to the elf next to him. The gentle touch to his arm by the twin caught at his heart as Elrohir tried to keep up with the two of them.
With a soft smile the elf lord explained himself as he pulled Elrohir to his feet. “I would like to try one more remedy for your ears if you are willing.” He spoke softly and clearly, the words of the high tongue easiest for the younger elf to follow.
“I am.” Elrohir nodded quickly. He had had enough of living without sound and longed to hear again. At nights sometimes he would strain to hear, willing his ears to open up again, but always he was met with the same quiet, muted world. Sometimes he thought he could hear something, but he could not be sure if he actually was, or if it was the phantom of his imagination. His impairment was wearing on him and he could no longer pull himself out of the depression that dogged his spirit.
Aragorn trailed quietly behind them as Elrond led his sons into his medicine pantry. The small apothecary was comprised of shelves and cabinets that lined the walls. A countertop of burnished wood ran the full length of the long, narrow room; wrapping around the corners and making the pantry seem smaller. A waist-high worktable sat like an island in the middle of the room and Elrond quickly began clearing the contents off of it.
“Estel, bring me some towels, three or four please, whatever you can find.”
The human ran out of the room quickly to obey as his father lit a large candle, placing it in a holder beneath one of his copper pots that he frequently used.
When Aragorn returned, Elrohir was seated on the island behind Elrond as the elf lord mixed a concoction of herbs and oils. The sweet smell of the concoction lingered in the room scenting everything it touched. A dash of lavender was added to the mix and Aragorn smiled as the smell washed over him.
Unconsciously Elrohir began tapping his boot heels against the wooden cabinets underneath him. He couldn’t hear the sound, but he could feel the resonating in the table he sat upon. Elrond endured the repeated noise for a little while before turning around and touching his son’s knee, a smile softening the unspoken reprimand.
Aragorn laughed quietly, silencing quickly when his father glanced at him. Holding out his hand for the towels in the ranger’s arms, Elrond beckoned him forward.
“It smells good.” Elrohir commented, his voice hushed.
“Hopefully it will be useful for more than just its smell.” Elrond answered as he folded two of the towels into neat squares and laid them one atop the other at the far edge of the table, creating an impromptu pillow. He patted the cloth and indicated he wanted Elrohir to lie down.
Placing one hand alongside his son’s face, he gently but firmly lowered Elrohir down on the long table, positioning the elf on his side so that he faced away from the counter where Elrond had just been working.
“Estel, this is where I will need you.” Elrond glanced up at the human who stood once more quietly in the corner watching. “I want you to talk to Elrohir, tell him everything I say.”
When the ranger moved forward, the elf lord walked back around the table standing behind the twin, his hand gently resting on the younger elf’s shoulder so he would know where his father was at all times.
“What’s going on Estel?” Elrohir asked quietly, his eyes fastened on the human’s.
“I don’t know. Father wants me to tell you everything he says.” Aragorn smiled softly at his brother. He gently took the elf’s hand in his own.
“Will it hurt?”
Aragorn laughed softly; “I don’t know El. Let me ask.” He glanced up at Elrond.
The elf lord had turned back to the counter behind him and was stirring a mixture of sweet oil and healing herbs. He tested the liquid to make sure that it was not too hot and ladled out a small amount into a tiny glass pitcher.
“Tell him it won’t hurt. And I need him to unbutton his shirt and pull the collar away from his neck.” Elrond smiled slightly at the exchange. He realized he should have explained himself a little better.
Aragorn relayed the information and helped his brother roll his collar down away from his neck after he had unbuttoned it. Gently the ranger brushed the twin’s hair away from his exposed ear, pushing it back so it flowed off the thin table behind him.
With his hands, Elrond gently held Elrohir’s head firmly in place and explained to Estel exactly what was going to happen.
“Tell him that it is very important that he stay still. I need his head to remain in this position.” Elrond pressed down slightly with his fingers emphasizing the words that the twin could not hear. “I’m going to pour this oil in his ear. It will soften the eardrum and coat it with the herbs. It is liable to feel strange and he may want to resist it at first. It’s not hot, just warmed slightly. I’ll need him not to move so I don’t spill it and so that it stays in his ear for a few minutes before we remove it with water.”
With a short nod Aragorn relayed all the information to Elrohir. The elf’s blue were locked onto the human’s face, intently reading his brother’s lips as Aragorn repeated everything in the high tongue.
“Did you understand everything El?”
Elrohir nodded slightly under Elrond’s touch.
“Good.” The elf lord acknowledged as he draped one of the towels around the twin’s neck, in case he were to accidentally spill some of the oil. He tucked the ends of the cloth behind the base of Elrohir’s head and under his chin forming a ‘u’ around the elf and helping to brace him so that he would be less inclined to move.
When the first drop of oil touched his ear and trickled down to rest against his eardrum, Elrohir flinched, grimacing.
“Is it too hot?” Elrond stopped quickly and asked.
“No.” Elrohir whispered as Estel translated, “It feels...odd.” He swallowed hard, as though at high altitude.
“Don’t fight it, just rest and let it do its job.” Elrond instructed as he proceeded to fill up the elf’s ear channel with the healing oil. He pressed a heated wet towel over Elrohir’s ear and gently patted the elf’s head.
“Now I’ll need him to stay still for a bit while the oils work in. So he needs to relax. I’ll heat up some water to clean it out with while we wait. Keep him occupied will you Estel?” The elf lord explained himself to his youngest son.
Aragorn repeated everything to his brother, leaning down on the counter top and resting his head on his right arm, so he was eye level with the twin, only inches from the other’s face.
Elrohir nodded and glanced away. Soundlessly Aragorn touched the elf’s forehead with his hand, directing his attention back. “What is it?” He mouthed silently.
Knowing his brother could read lips as well, Elrohir spoke, his voice barely above a whisper. He didn’t want his father to worry and wasn’t sure if the elf lord had left the room or not.
“What good is a deaf elf Estel?” The grey eyes pleaded with the human to give him a reason to not despair.
“Elrohir, your hearing does not make you more of an elf nor does your loss of it make you less.”
“I am no good to anyone like this. I am a liability. I cannot go out hunting or riding, for I cannot hear if a warning is called. I cannot go visit Beoma or anyone else because I constantly need someone to explain everything to me. I know El is more than glad to do it, but I’ll just get him in trouble too. I am defenseless and incapable of communicating. It’s as if the world has totally closed off to me.”
Aragorn’s heart ached at the words that tumbled out of his brother’s mouth and the fear and hurt that they were spoken with. He didn’t dare look up at his father, but he knew that the elf lord had heard the whole conversation because he had turned and was staring at them both now. Elrond had no idea of how to help his son and the younger elf’s words broke his heart.
“That’s not true.” Aragorn whispered, “None of it.”
In his heart Elrohir wanted to believe him, but he couldn’t and he shook his head slightly, forgetting that he was not supposed to move. Elrond’s hand lay gently on his face as a reminder, stopping the twin. Tears formed in the elf’s eyes as he stared at his brother, realizing his father had been right behind him the whole time. He hadn’t wanted Elrond to hear that.
“I’ve been watching you,” Aragorn continued, he sat back up a little to explain himself better. “You may not be able to hear, but you can *feel*.”
Scrunching up his face in confusion, Elrohir raised an eyebrow and stared quietly at the ranger, asking silently for an explanation.
“Here. Watch this for example.” Estel turned quickly, searching the countertop behind him. His fingers brushed one of Elrond’s stirring sticks and he snatched it up, moving back next to his brother. He held the utensil up and explained himself, “When I tell you to, I want you to close your eyes and try to sense when this is close to you. Understand?” When the elf mouthed a silent ‘yes’, he proceeded. “All right, then close your eyes now.”
Elrohir did as he was told and lay very still. The world about him was dark and quiet. He felt his father’s hand against his face, the rough, warm cloth that covered his injured ear and the towels that held him still. Suddenly another sensation rippled through him. Something was close to his face. Jerking back and opening his eyes he noted that the stirring stick was inches from center of his forehead.
Elrond’s hand clamped down on him forcefully as Elrohir sucked his breath in and tried to move away.
“Estel!” Elrond reprimanded, “Do not cause your brother to move!”
“Sorry, sorry!” Aragorn apologized quickly, setting the stirring stick aside and touching Elrohir’s hand once more, “No moving.” He said with a smile as he gazed into the grey eyes.
“I felt it!” Elrohir was excited. It was the first time he had had a glimmer of hope in the past few weeks. “How did you know I would?”
“I’ve been watching you.” Aragorn’s gaze flicked up to meet his father’s before focusing on the twin once more. “Your hearing may not work but your other senses are compensating. Your sense of awareness is heightened. If you think about it you *know* when someone is near, like this afternoon when Ada sat down next to you. And I’ll wager the same is true of your sense of smell,” The ranger continued on hurriedly as he noticed the way his brother was relaxing and smiling more, “Yesterday you told us dinner was ready before Celboril comes to fetch us. Your body is taking care of what you perceive as a lack. I imagine with practice you will be able to sense even more if you are aware of what you are doing.”
Aragorn laid his head back down on his crossed arms near his brother, “You are not defenseless, nor are you useless. So you can’t hear right now?” He shrugged slightly, “You are far more useful than you realize.”
Elrohir stared at him quietly for a few minutes, reading deeply into the human’s eyes. If Aragorn were just trying to placate him, he wanted to know. His heart needed something to grasp onto and he prayed his brother was telling him the truth.
“It’s almost time Estel.” Elrond spoke up quietly. When the human looked up at him the elf lord was smiling widely, “That was well done my son. You never cease to amaze me.”
“I am right am I not?”
“Yes indeed you are. I had not noticed until you brought it up, but you are correct. Elrohir has been much more observant than when he had his hearing. In fact he knew when Taradin and his men were nearing the house last week when we were in the courtyard. I think he could feel the vibrations and just didn’t realize what was happening.” Elrond smiled.
“What is father saying?” Elrohir touched Aragorn’s arm lightly.
“He is saying that it is true and he has noticed it in you as well.” The ranger smiled at the elf. “What say you we practice when you are able to move around a bit more?” He teased gently.
Elrond tapped the younger elf on the shoulder and inched his fingers underneath Elrohir encouraging him to sit up. The elf lord held the cloth pressed tightly to the side of the twin’s face as he tipped Elrohir’s head towards him, allowing the oils to run out into the cloth.
Elrond flushed the younger elf’s ear with warm water several times, cleaning it out and drying the exterior with a dry towel.
They repeated the process with the other ear; Estel keeping his brother occupied the whole time. The ranger came up with all sorts of hair-brained ideas about how they could work on sharpening Elrohir’s other senses. Some of them were out-right forbidden by Elrond as they were suggested and others just made the younger elf laugh, which had been their purpose. Estel also realized that the more he talked with his brother and the more words he used, the more adept the elf would be at lip reading. Everyone hoped Elrohir’s hearing would return, but if it did not then Aragorn was determined to prove to his brother that he could still learn to function normally once more.
Elrond’s heart warmed at his youngest son’s successful attempts at lightening his brother’s weary heart. The human had been a blessing for them from the start and he was always surprised by the young man’s ability to see what they all overlooked and took so for granted.
“Dinner is almost ready.” Elrohir spoke softly as an easy lull developed in their conversation. Elrond was washing out his ear for the second time and the elf flinched as some of the water dripped down his neck, staining his tunic a darker green.
“What are we having?” Estel asked playfully as his stomach grumbled.
Elrohir breathed in deeply and closed his eyes, grimacing as Elrond dabbed at the inside of his ear with a corner of the towel.
“We are having wild boar, with fresh baked bread. The good kind.” Elrohir smelled the air again. “The one Celboril makes with the flecks of herbs and seasonings in it.”
“What else?” Aragorn prodded as Elrond finished and pulled Elrohir’s shirt up around his neck.
“Corn.” Elrohir smiled, “sweet corn and other vegetables that I can’t identify.” He frowned slightly a little confused that he couldn’t be more specific.
“That’s okay El.” Estel touched the elf’s hand as Elrond motioned him down, off the table. “Ada watch this.” the human grinned wickedly. “What’s for dessert El?” he continued.
Elrond stepped around the twin and inspected his ears, leaving off the bandages this time.
“Apple pie.” Elrohir answered softly, a smile broadening across his face. Apple pie was one of the twin’s favorite deserts, but not one that Celboril made frequently. Doubtless he had made it as a surprise for them. Everyone knew how badly Elrohir had been feeling of late.
“Oh yes, you’ll come in very handy.” Estel teased, ducking a playing smack from his father as he warned the youngster off. Given enough time here, Aragorn always seemed to eventually revert back to the younger man who dwelt in his heart, slowly easing out of some of the care and burdens that built up on him when he was away from home.
The ranger dodged outside the room, heading up the hallway to see how far along supper was from being served.
Gently, Elrond pulled Elrohir nearer and tipped his son’s head down, kissing the top of his forehead. He spoke directly towards the blue eyes when he stepped back. “Your ears look much better. The scars are fading and the oils should help. I firmly believe that you will back to normal in no time my son. Be patient with yourself.”
“Thank you Ada.” Elrohir whispered. He stepped back from the doorway seconds before Aragorn reappeared on the threshold, deftly avoiding a collision.
“Come on. Celboril is calling us!” His eyes alight with mischief. “You were right El, its ham. I took Elladan’s place settings and hid them, we’ll see how long it is before he notices.”
“Estel.” Elrond rolled his eyes at the human’s antics. Perhaps sometimes the ranger reverted a little *too* far in his maturity level when under his brothers’ influence long enough. “How are old are you?”
“Far younger than either of them are and Elladan hid my plate last night!” Aragorn laughed at himself as they entered the dinning hall. “Turn about is fair play.”
Elladan stood near his seat staring at the ranger with a glower on his face. Legolas was already seated, trying hard not to laugh.
The prince spoke first, “It appears that Elladan will not be dinning with us tonight, he seems to have misplaced his fork and knife.” The restrained mirth in the elf’s voice was enough to send the ranger over the edge and he started chuckling.
“Hey!” Aragorn danced around the table, hiding behind Legolas as his older brother stalked towards him. “You hid my plate last night!” The ranger stepped close to the elf prince, “Fair is fair! Besides if you lay a hand on me you’ll have to deal with Legolas.”
The prince laughed and stammered objections to being dragged into the middle of this family squabble. He moved partially out of his chair as Aragorn grabbed his shoulders and positioned the Silvan Prince between himself and the glaring Noldo who stalked him.
“You’ll both have to deal with me if you don’t sit down right now! Estel produce those utensils or I will give your brother yours.” Elrond’s admonishment was softened by the smile he turned on the younger being. Good grief, had he not suffered through this endearing nonsense quite enough when they were young?
“Now.” He added quietly, raising his eyebrows to indicate that although amused, he was serious.
With a mischievous laugh the ranger retrieved the fork and knife from behind a potted plant near the wide window much to his brother’s chagrin. Aragorn made a great show of polishing them up before handing them over. Elladan growled, un-amused, and snatched the items in question away from his little brother.
Elrohir and Legolas were trying hard not to laugh and to pretend that they did not know either party involved in the antics by the time Celboril entered.
“So what was missing this time?” the older elf asked with feigned grumpiness. His questioning glare sent the younger occupants of the room into further bouts of half-choked mirth.
Aragorn dropped down in his seat on Legolas’ left as Elrohir took his own chair on Estel’s other side. His hand lightly touched the human’s arm drawing the man’s attention.
“Thank you, Estel.”
With a brilliant smile Aragorn pulled his brothers head down against his shoulder giving him a fierce hug. “You’re welcome. It’ll be all right Elrohir. You’ll see.” He answered.
He was surprised when the elf held tightly to him, moving his head so that his ear was placed directly over the human’s chest. “Say it again!” He whispered.
Aragorn tensed slightly, wondering what had happened. The whole room quieted as they watched the two.
“Say it again Estel.” The elf repeated himself, tightening his grip on the human to get his attention, “Please.”
Aragorn glanced around him hesitantly as he gently held his brother, “I said you’re welcome. And not to worry, it will be all right.”
The room was silent for a few moments and Aragorn began to wonder if every thing really was all right after all. “Elrohir?”
“Say it again.” The elf commanded him. “My name, you spoke it, did you not?”
“Elrohir.” A smile widened on his face as he felt his brother smile against him, “Can you hear me?”
“Yes.” Elrohir whispered.
Elrond stood from where he was seated and rounded the table slowly as Elrohir sat up.
“Ada, I could hear Estel when I placed my ear against his chest.” The elf was visibly excited.
“Can you hear now my son?”
A frown marred the elf’s features. “What? Say it again?”
The elf lord repeated himself as he stopped next to the twin’s seat.
“I hear something but I cannot make it out.” The shadow that had fallen in the elf’s eyes was gone as he glanced up at his father. “I can hear but it is not clear and it comes and goes.” He sat for a minute before he glanced at Aragorn again and shouted joyfully, “But I hear *something*!”
The room erupted with everyone talking at once. Estel grabbed his brother and pounded him on the back while Elrond tried to quiet them, attempting to get his sons’ attention.
“Give it time my son. Let your ears heal on their own.” The elf lord silenced the room with his words, motioning for Celboril and his staff to bring their dinner. “Celboril, let us all dine together, for tonight we will celebrate.”