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Untitled (That Elrond Fic - 1/?)
By: Myaru
Canon: The Silmarillion
Characters: Elrond, Elros, Maglor, Maedhros, OCs
Word Count:

Summary: none yet; this takes place a bit after the War of Wrath started, according to a timeline at the SWG which may or may not be precise. Fifty years is a long time for a war, but since I wrote or planned most of this before I saw other options, I'm just going with it.

That said, fair warning: this needs a lot of work. It's going to have consistency issues, canon issues, inaccuracies with say, medicine. I'm still undecided on a lot of elements like OCs, as well.



............................................................................................................................................................


Elrond would have given almost anything to wind time backward five days - his next day of leisure, his new knife, his brother (especially his brother, just now), anything. If he had only fetched Maglor before going up to see cousin Maedhros, he wouldn't be in the healer's room, pounding out antidotes with a mortar and pestle, wondering how he would make Lady Saerlinn's rounds while she was gone to Ossiriand, and then his own, and find time to write an idiot-minded composition assignment after that. There was a fortress to repair: walls to shore up, debris to clean out, store rooms to sort through. Injured men and women to tend to, others to bury. They were lucky Amon Ereb stood up to the earth tremors rolling in from the west, instead of falling down like a pile of his old toy blocks. Maglor's old chambers had half-collapsed, with him still inside, and Elros too; Elrond had watched books fly across the Map Room from under the heavy table, heard them slam into the surface above his head, watched glass shatter and dust rain down from the ceiling, and wondered if he had escaped death at the sea only to be buried under a pyramid of rubble.

Elros made light of it; he was already back to his old routine, studying smithing, then sword forms, and now his favorite activity: pestering Elrond every way he could think of. That day it was hunting. A group was about to ride out, perhaps as far south as the forest, to see if there was anything to forage, and Elros was set on going with them. "You should too," he said when he came in, straight from weapons practice, smelling like mud and sweat and tracking clods of dirt into the room. "Maglor didn't even protest. It's safe down there."

Safer than in the fortress, Elrond guessed, but only because there would be nothing down on the grasslands that could fall on him.

Eventually the conversation moved to the assignment Maedhros bestowed upon them in the interest of keeping them out of the way. They weren't strong enough yet to haul stone or do much else useful, he said bluntly, and Maglor would yell at him if they got scraped up while helping. This meant they were stuck inside, or what counted as 'inside' when most of the fortress was off limits, talking-- bickering. After fifteen days of unseasonable rain, the emergence of the sun lay heavy on the healing chambers, and sweat trickled down Elrond's cheek to drip from his chin like a tear. He had discarded his robe, rolled the sleeves of his tunic, plaited his hair back tightly, and still sweltered. "I think this is morbid," he said to his brother, grinding poppy seeds in a marble bowl with both hands, "and the elves have it directly from Mandos: mens' souls go beyond the circles of creation."

"And where is that? What's over there?" Elros perched on the other stool, across the table, both legs folded and wedged under him on the seat. While he appeared to suffer from the heat, with tunic stuck to his chest, his hair damp, he ignored it, focusing instead on rifling through the discarded seed pods and breaking each piece into smaller pieces. Fine powder dusted his sleeves. "Men have come up with myths, even the ones who haven't enlisted with us, that are very close to what we were taught. Aren't you interested in how that happened, or why? If, maybe, Eru granted them some form of enlightenment some... mysterious way?"

The elves taught that Eru didn't interfere in the affairs of the world, and Elrond hadn't seen any evidence to contradict that teaching. Morgoth was violent proof to the contrary, a blood-spatter spreading across the page of a book where one least expected it. "I'd like to know, yes, but it doesn't matter, it doesn't even fit the assignment."

"Yes it does." Elros swept his mess into a neat mound and looked, from the way he gazed at Elrond, like he was thinking of blowing it across the table, or causing some other mischief. "Do you think Maedhros has time to care what we write about? I'm positive he won't even read them."

"He might once he discovers your choice of topics." Elrond scraped the powder into a flat-bottomed basin and mixed it with a measure of water. He wasn't fond of the smell, and it was worse in the heat - thick in his nose, coating his throat.

"I asked him about it." His brother went back to breaking pieces of dried poppy pods. Glassware and utensils clinked together when he leaned his weight onto the table. A green bottle glinted in the sun and cast its reflection on his cheek. "Didn't say I would write the thesis on it, of course. 'What might happen to our souls after we die?' And he told me he didn't know, and that he couldn't decide which was worse - knowing someone went to Mandos and might never come out, or some undefinable apotheosis beyond Arda."

Elrond was sure the room would be less sweltering without his brother in it. "That has nothing to do with us. Honestly, I haven't even considered it." He covered the vessel and shoved it into a dark cabinet where other medicines were fermenting, and locked the doors so the contents wouldn't fly out in the event of another earth tremor. The sunlight slanted in sharply eastward to touch his shoulder, tinged red and losing strength even if the heat hadn't let up yet and probably never would; day was getting on to evening, and he had rounds to make while Lady Saerlinn was gone. She would skin him like a rabbit if she heard he was late, forgot someone or misdosed them.

Elrond made his brother follow him with Saerlinn's bag of medicines while he gathered everything they needed, and sent Elros to clean up the mess he made on the table while he gathered the simples and teas and carried them against his chest with one arm to put everything back: valerian, poppy, comfrey. The cabinets were tall, narrow shelves with doors added as afterthoughts: the hinges were often too big, or sometimes the handles were cannibalized from old chests of drawers or jewelry boxes, too big or too small for the job they were now put to. When he first came to learn from the healers, they had been open to the light - not necessarily a good thing, his first instructor said, but convenient. The different bottles and pots were a colorful array he enjoyed looking at almost as much as he liked the multicolored spines of books in the map room. They were like jewels the size of his two hands in red, green, and blue glass, clear or frosted, sometimes faceted. One of them was a flower vase in a former life, fitted with a big wedge of cork, and he'd liked that one best, its diamond shape and textured surface. They glinted in the sun every afternoon, casting prism reflections on his primer.

Then the Host of the West arrived, and the ground shook with tremors at the oddest times. Measures had to be taken so they wouldn't lose their supply, or find glass crunching underfoot when they reported for the morning rounds. They didn't have the numbers anymore to spare people for gathering, even if Maedhros proved willing to take the risk.

Elrond tried not to think about how close Morgoth's marauders might be when hunting parties rode out; they had to ride so far to find anything to forage that his imagination didn't have to run very far to picture the worst. He knew who was missing instantly when their parties returned, or when someone didn't return at all. The host at Amon Ereb was nearly a hundred elves strong when he and Elros first rode up, seated before Maedhros and Maglor on their horses, small and cold and hurt. And now, now-- fifty seven, not counting the non-combatants.

"Are we elves or are we men?" Elros asked when he came back to the table. "This mystery is part of our heritage, whether you like it or not."

Elrond latched the bag bag and led the way out of the laboratory. The beds in the healer's bay were all empty but one, where Leranel lay quiet and too pale, still suffering the affects of a poisoned dart. Her sister sat bedside, rolling new bandages. A sweet green scent tinted the air.

"There is a book on the healing of Men in Lady Saerlinn's collection," he said when they were safely away, down the corridor and marching down the colonnade between the out-buildings. No one was in the courtyard. His voice echoed uncomfortably. "It is mostly about how to treat problems unique to them, but there was a long chapter on bedside manner that mentioned some of these myths you're interested in. Ask Maglor if you can borrow it."

"And you, the skeptic, read this?"

Elros lifted his brows when Elrond looked back, and he wondered if he appeared as insufferable as his brother when amused. "We do have a few Men in our service, still."

The fortress was deemed unsafe after the quake, so quarters were moved to the workshops and public halls while Maedhros and his engineers examined what hadn't fallen over or cracked. Tents were raised in every clear space, and Maglor had moved to one of them, set up in a courtyard near the center that used to be the practice yard. It was an old campaign tent, big as a house with faded red and gold panels and the family hearaldry stitched in conspicuous places, and it had been with them since the very early days of the war, when they were still building the walls of Himring.

Elros held the flap open. "We look the same, more or less. What is so different about Men that requires a manual?"

"Mortification," Elrond said. "Sometimes their injuries blacken and die. It can get worse-- start to decompose and such, and the problem spreads, then."

His brother's nose wrinkled, and Elrond privately shared the sentiment, though he liked to think he wasn't disturbed by the sight of most injuries - not anymore. Blood was blood; they all had it pumping through their veins, elves and men, and knowing how it worked made the sight easier to bear.

Maglor looked around when they entered, seated with his leg propped on a stool and tinted red by the rays of sunset until they let the flap drop. Lorion stood behind him, weaving his raven-black hair into braids flat against his head, drawing strand by strand with nimble white fingers. Once, someone had told Elrond - perhaps the baker - once Lorion was a musician of no small skill, who came to Maglor seeking instruction, validation, competition... accounts differed. His story was right out of a ballad, the baker said: Lorion seeking to join their lord against his father's wishes and following music and glory over the family craft, which had been no small thing in its own right. Elrond didn't know what it was, supposed he hadn't asked. Whatever these people were in Valinor seemed unimportant now that they were Kinslayers. This valet of his cousin's was a commander, a warrior, sometimes a teacher, and a murderer like the rest of them. No music. All that was left of Lorion's past was this insistence on braiding his lord's hair. His welcoming smile came a beat after his master's and was subdued, more a duty than a sentiment.

A small table had been set up beside Maglor's chair and laden with plain white dishes: brown bread and strawberry preserves, slivers of carrot and the last of the summer squash in clear broth, browning slices of red-skinned apple, a tisane of mint in a chipped porcelain cup with a missing handle. One of the last Feanorian lamps sat at the very back and lit it all brightly with white, bluish-tinged light. Elrond's stomach knotted, reminding him that his last meal had been a single apple that morning, and a spoonful of honeyed oats swiped from his brother's bowl.

Elros leaned on the bedpost. "Are you dead of boredom yet, lord cousin?"

"Nearly." Maglor shoved his soup away half-finished and reached for the tea. "You're a mess. I was about to send Lorion to see who returned at the last horn-blow. You look like you've been running around already; maybe I'll have you go instead."

"Maedhros likes to see that I've been practicing, you know." Elros's smile showed too many teeth, an assessment their cousin seemed to share by the lift of his dark eyebrow. He sat heavily on the bed, which was still unmade, ran both hands back through his damp hair to gather it against his neck. "One of Saerlinn's men came back. I don't think it's trouble - maybe just a report. I was about to go find out more."

Elrond pulled up the other chair and unpacked what he needed: tincture of poppy, muslin and comfrey paste for a poultice, and crowded it onto a bare corner of the table. As far as he could tell, his brother hadn't been about to do any such thing - or up to anything useful at all, unless pestering the healer's apprentice was in keeping with Cousin Maedhros's odd idea of the art of war. For a philosophy that didn't involve much fighting, Elros spent more time at the practice yard than Elrond did with Lady Saerlinn's ponderous tomes - his brother's affectionate name for them - and accomplished less. Of course he could not say so, because Maedhros often joined him, and they seemed to like hitting each other with sticks.

"She wouldn't waste a man on something frivolous," Lorion said, tying off the last braid and letting it swing down to join the others. He grabbed a towel from the wash stand and tossed it at Elros. "You need a bath-- badly. I'll do the inquiring, if you don't mind."

"I do mind, actually--"

"Out." Lorion shoved him off the bed by the shoulder, steered him toward the door. "Let your brother work."

Elros complained, but didn't resist. He left with a flippant, do feel better! that left Maglor grumbling under his breath. "He feels well enough for the both of us."

"Nagging me puts him in a good mood." Elrond uncorked the tincture and reached for his cousin's teacup, but stilled when Maglor covered it with his hand. "You said the pain was getting worse..."

"I'd rather not." The smile he had donned for Elros, previously faint, disappeared, the set of Maglor's mouth now grim. "It isn't bad today. Leave the bottle if you're worried."

He wasn't supposed to do that-- but Elrond nodded and left the little red bottle and its dropper beside the teapot, and the valerian with it after a moment. One of the other apprentices should have a bottle he could borrow later. I would rather have the luxury of thinking, Maglor often said when he was served medicine with tea, and I can't with poppy juice in my stomach. Perhaps music didn't visit Maglor when he took poppy, and it was well known he would rather bleed than miss an opportunity for inspiration.

The silence between them wasn't heavy, but Elrond felt the tightness in his shoulders relax when Maglor broke it to ask: "Mortification? Just what were the two of you discussing when you came in?"

"Nothing relevant." Elrond dragged Saerlinn's clothes chest from under the bed to use it for a seat, while his cousin finished his undrugged tea, re-braiding his own hair and twisting the end into a knot when he realized he'd forgotten a ribbon. It thumped against his back like one of those leather lashes they kept in the cellars. "Elros is going to research the belief in life after death among Men, and I mentioned that book of Saerlinn's, with the red binding."

"I know it." Maglor set his cup down with exaggerated care, lips flattening. "He does like provoking my brother, it seems."

"Nothing has ever come of it, and Elros is right about it being our heritage - so it counts." Elrond said, diplomatic, though he had laid the same criticism before his brother only minutes earlier. Let Elros invoke the legendary anger of Cousin Maedhros, if he could; little appeared to anger him, or even annoy. Elrond suspected his temper was a myth. His brother often went out of his way to ask stupid, antagonistic questions: what is it like to kill someone? he might try one day, and Maedhros would reply that it was a little like chopping at a tree-- would he like to try? All without a flicker of consternation.

"I think he'll take it in stride," Elrond said. "He used to like this sort of thing, didn't he? Unanswerable questions."

Maglor frowned slightly. "Maitimo used to be interested in everything," he said quietly. "A long time ago he might have pursued the topic. He was quite interested in their language when we first encountered them."

"Then there's no need to worry. He'll find it interesting-- probably."

"You may hope." Maglor didn't sound hopeful.

Elrond moved the bag onto Maglor's bed and sat on the other chair so he could get at the dressing on his cousin's leg with a pair of long steel shears. His condition could have been worse, Elrond told himself - in so many ways. The table Maglor and Elros took cover under could have been less sturdy, could have broken under the masonry that fell from the ceiling; they could have been buried behind the debris too long and suffocated. They could have been in the tower that collapsed on the fletcher and his workshop, or in the smithy where a fire killed three people. Elrond learned new ways elves could die every day. He remembered how he'd hoped misfortune would fall upon the kinslayers when he was much younger, how he'd dreamed it all the way from Sirion to Amon Ereb and for dozens of nights after, when he and Elros tried to sleep in the western tower - the same one that collapsed five days ago. Sometimes his father came with a host of Men in his dreams, ready to avenge them; sometimes it was their mother, with silver-haired elves from the island. He would have thought it justice then.

Now he knew there was no justice. It was a figment of optimistic thought, and not just because Cousin Maedhros said so.

Maglor's gaze remained firmly on the lamp. "What have you chosen to study for this ridiculous assignment?"

Peeling the old dressing off gave Elrond a reason not to look up. He tried to shrug. "The Silmarils."


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