[Arvernien, Havens of Sirion. The year 538 of the First Age of Middle-earth]
"Hold still, Elros!"
Elwing's elder son squirmed in indignation under his mother's doting, exasperated ministrations. "Mother, I am not a babe. I can button my own tunic without your aid!"
An amused chuckle erupted at Elwing's other side. "Then why must Mother fix what your clearly expert fingers have overlooked?"
Elros scowled at the hauntingly similar, taunting face. "'Tis only a missed button, Elrond. Not worth the fuss."
"Allow me to be the judge of that, my son." Elwing smoothed out her son's tunic and undershirt, leaning back on her heels as she studied his beautifully sculpted features.
Eldar fineness and Adan strength mingled and complimented each other in both her sons' mirrored faces. "There - now you look a prince of Arvernien."
A derisive snort was loudly produced by the younger twin. "Perhaps he should go to Balar and challenge the High King for the throne of Endore."
"Perhaps I will, when I come of age," Elros shot back without blinking. "Our blood is as noble as his."
"So it is," Elwing agreed soothingly, readjusting the skirt of her simple moss-hued gown as she rose to her feet. "But why would you challenge Erenion Gil-galad's rule? Is he not a faithful ally to our family?"
"As faithful as any of the Kinslayers," Elros suspiciously murmured.
Elrond bickered back a short-tempered response, leaning menacingly into his brother's private space. "If he is to be counted among their number, then so should we, since we, too, are from the line of the Exiles. Perhaps you should spend more time listening to the Old Ones and less reenacting the capture of Morgoth with the manlings."
"That is enough," Elwing sternly ordered, separating her sons with outstretched hands before the argument turned heated. "The High King does not need you to defend his honor, Elrond, nor should you disparage it, Elros. He and Lord Cirdan are both kin and ally, and we owe them much."
"Then why does the King not visit us, if he is so concerned with our well-being?" Elros pouted.
"In good time," Elwing calmly explained, smiling at her elder son's admission of his true concerns. "He is needed in Balar, where most of our people reside. I have not seen him myself since my marriage to your father, although he sends messages often. Perhaps I will ask Lord Cirdan if he will take you both back with him for a visit the next time he graces our shores."
Excitement earnestly flashed in Elros' deep eyes. "The sea? We will cross the sea?"
"'Tis only a bay which separates us from the fair isle," Elrond corrected with rolled eyes.
"'Tis the same water which fills the greatest sea of all," Elwing negotiated masterfully.
"And you will cross the waters on Lord Cirdan's favorite ship."
"They say 'tis as grand as the one on which Father now travels," Elros chattered.
Elrond opened his mouth as if to protest, but catching the warning in his mother's eyes, simply nodded a smiled agreement. "Of course." His smile brightened further as he accepted his mother's silent expression of thanks. He reached out and gently brushed his fingers against the great jewel his mother ever wore upon her breast, wondering in awe as the warming tingle of its unique silvery-gold light pulsed through him.
"Take care, Aphadon, or it will burn your hand," Elros teasingly warned.
"It only burns the impure and evil, Celegur," his brother shot back without humor. "If you find yourself in trouble again with Hador's mother over broken pottery, you may wish it had struck you dead when you used to grab at it in the cradle."
Elwing shook her head, a sweet smile of amusement gracing her pale features. How alike her sons were to her husband's line, yet each in their own unique way. Elros had inherited the restlessness of Tuor's blood, craving adventure and the rough and tumble company of the Adan children of the realm. Elrond was the more introspective and thoughtful, content to remain close to home as Idril's line was wont to do. The light in his eyes as he prodded the Old Ones for tales of Doriath and Gondolin reflected a respect for blood and bonds his brother had not seemed to master. It was not to say that her younger son was not without his passions, but his were less close to the surface, and undoubtedly ran much deeper still. Although Elros was technically first in line to reign over this realm of refugees and exiles when her husband passed beyond life, she guiltily felt her younger child better suited in temperament for statesmanship. "Why must you two constantly wage a war of words against each other...."
The interrupting sounds of screams in the distance curdled the Lady's blood. Elwing jerked turned toward the door, instinctively gathering her sons to her sides.
Grim-faced Galdor rushed past the curtained entrance, his lieutenants close on his heels, their expressions tense and swords drawn. "My Lady, the sons of Feanor have crossed the river with weapons raised. You know what it is they seek."
A pale hand instinctively rose to the jewel-studded golden heirloom worn around her graceful neck. She felt the power of the silvery-gold light of the Two Trees pulse through her as her fingers brushed against the Silmaril, and found her strength renewed and increased. "What they have always sought, yet shall never find."
Galdor momentarily sheathed his sword, seeing the mirrored expression of terror in the twins' eyes. "It grieves me to say that some of our troops, both kin from Doriath and Gondolin, have already turned to the invaders' side, for what reason I cannot fathom."
"There can be no sane reason when Eldar turn upon their own," Elwing murmured sadly. She wrapped her arms more tightly around her twin sons' shoulders, feeling them both clutch at her robes in understandable fear. They had been raised on tales of the sons of Feanor and their heinous crimes against the Valar and their own kind. That her sons should have to face these monsters in the flesh boiled her blood. "Galdor, I must place upon you the most important and perilous task of all -- you must take a boat to Balar and beg Lord Cirdan and our King for immediate aid. I only pray you return in time."
"Lady, I will send another in my stead. My place is by your side. I swore an oath to your husband, whom I have known since he was a babe, that I would allow no harm to come to you in his absence."
"Galdor, I much appreciate your loyalty, but unless our allies make a swift advance in our defense, all will be for naught."
The ancient elf lord bowed reverently. "As you wish, my Lady. I shall not fail you."
Elwing smiled, watching as the warrior turned on his heels and sped from the room with the swiftness of Thorondor, ever aware of the pain Galdor must feel at obvious parallels to the fall of Gondolin. She drew in a steeling breath and addressed her next comments to the brothers Mithelas and Elthalion of the House of the Golden Flower, his lieutenants, also survivors of the Walled City's fall. "To you two faithful elves of Glorfindel's House I entrust a treasure more precious still than the stone I bear -- my sons. Take them to the waterfall at the edge of the forest and hide them there until the danger is past. My heart tells me to send them to Balar with Galdor, but my head warns me that the harbor will be too perilous to risk their safety."
Mithelas, the elder and taller of the two noble brothers, bowed respectfully, his hand tightly clutching the hilt of his sword. "No harm shall come to the heirs of Gondolin's King, not so long as breath still fills our breasts."
"The House of the Glorfindel the Fallen remains ever faithful to the line of Tuor Elf-Friend, as our late Lord would have wished," Elthalion offered, "and to the memory of Luthien Tinuviel and Beren the Brave."
Elwing smiled faintly and nodded. "The loyalty and bravery of your House have no equal. The sons of Feanor robbed me of my brothers -- I will not have them harm my sons. Once I know my sons are safe, I can care for my people, as my husband, and my father, would expect. The blood of my family has already been shed in the name of Feanor's oath. I would rather my blood be lost than the hope of my people, and their legacy. They will not touch the Great Jewel - not while there is still life in my flesh. Wait outside while I bid farewell to my sons."
The White Lady of the Vale waited until the guards were discretely outside the doorway, then gently pushed her sons away. Turning them to face her, she slowly sank to her knees. With tender strokes she caressed each child's hair with one of her hands, her gaze passing between their identical faces, memorizing every precious detail in case the worst should come to pass. In sorrow and hope she pressed a tender, lingering kiss to each child's forehead, her eldest first, then his twin. "So brave you both are, your father would burst with pride."
"Let me go with Galdor, Mother, and speak to Lord Cirdan on our behalf, in the name of my father," Elros beseeched. "I do not fear the Feanorions."
"And I shall stay by your side," Elrond chimed in emphatically. "Father would wish for me to protect our people."
It pained Elwing to hear her sons speak so definitively of the father they had never known. They had been born during his last and longest voyage in search of his own parents and the lost land of Valinor, in the vain hope of beseeching the Valar to intervene for the sake of both their Kinds, the Eldar and the Adan. "Your father would wish for his heirs to be safe," she gently explained, "and that means you must leave me, for a time. Mithelas and Elthalion will protect you, and that brings great comfort to my mind. Do as they say, and when your father returns I shall tell him all about your bravery." With a final kiss of her sons' cheeks, she bid them to leave.
As she rose to her feet, watching their last, hesitant, over-shoulder glances, her heart fell into her stomach, fearing it would be the last time she would look upon their fair faces. But she could not consider that sorrowful possibility now. She was Beren's heir, and the wife of Earendil, Lord of Arvernien. For the good of her people, she would lead them without fear, just as her father before her, and her grandfather in his time. As would her husband, if he were here by her side. Clutching the Great Jewel once more, she shrugged her shoulders into stately stature and strode out from her sons' bedroom, trusting in the Valar to give her the strength to meet her fate with dignity and wisdom.
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