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Untitled (That Elrond Fic - 2/?)
By: Myaru
Canon: The Silmarillion
Characters: Elrond, Elros, Maglor, Maedhros, OCs
Word Count:

Notes: believe it or not, this is all I've got after... how many months? Comes of rewriting the same material five times, I guess, and ditching a whole lot of material that sucked. Or that I thought sucked. Who the hell even knows anymore? Also, even though I have further scenes written, they're hand written, and it isn't quite time yet to put them in.

Fair warning: this needs a lot of work. It's going to have consistency issues, canon issues, factual issues with regards to medicine and how ancient/stone buildings might've stood up to earthquakes, all sorts of things I stopped researching to make myself write more instead of worrying.



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


When they first came to Amon Ereb, he and Elros, it looked stark and shadowy against a bright blue sky. Elrond used to think it should have been stormy, their arrival accompanied by the roll of thunder and flashes of lightning, the way old campfire stories began before swirling into terrifying tales. He couldn't remember how he felt; only the details remained, the mechanical enactment. The walls were so tall he could only see the upper stories of the keep, and the stones fit together so precisely the creamy gray stone appeared to be one piece, grown up and out of the slope of the mountain. Towers stood like spears. There were no standards. Just behind, he heard Elros's plaintive voice say something, but Elrond felt the weight of the fortress bear down on him as they rode closer.

He rode with Eleriel because she wasn't a warrior and needn't bear the burden of fighting or hunting, and she had tied a rope about their waists so he wouldn't fall. She told him about it, who built it and why, that it was designed by dwarves at the request of one of the kinslayers, much to the chagrin of his brother, who thought he could do a better job. It's pleasanter inside, she said. There's even a garden. Do you like gardens? She stroked his hair, and Elrond remembered clutching Starshield's mane as hard as his fingers would grip. A paen sounded, some silvery horn, that shook him all the way to his bones. He woke to it every morning. It never failed to set his heart beating a bit too fast.

Saerlinn was there, past the gate. He knew there were others, dozens of others, but all Elrond remembered was Maglor's shadow dismounting, the silver of her hair flying as she threw her arms about him, and then-- the slap.

Again, she said in a jagged voice. How could you do this again?


*


"Done counting yet, Elrond?"

The cellar was the coolest place in the fortress during the day, and Elrond had the good - or bad - luck to draw his lot for it that day. Any reprieve from the sun was good. The engineers deemed the structure safe enough (You'll have plenty of warning before something falls on you, Vorocane had said; but we're fairly sure it's done collapsing), and Eleriel, playing quartermaster for the day, was quick to point out that the bad condition of the partitions meant they could take their time. "We have to squeeze past those crates to get to the wine," she told him, pointing. "And how we're going to get it out is beyond me. Point is, you have to use those Mannish muscles of yours to pull on through, and that's going to be so very tiring. Feel free to take a long moment before you start shouting numbers back at me."

Elros was right, he reflected: she was the best of the garrison to get stuck with for chores, even if it did mean he had to do all of the climbing and squeezing through narrow spaces. Everything that could be rescued from the damaged vaults was stacked in the primary chamber when they came down, leaving narrow gaps if one wanted to enter the adjacent rooms. This one was large enough to shimmy through with some work and a good deep breath. None of the barrels had broken. He could smell something sour and cloying that must have wafted through a crack from the parts the engineers couldn't get to-- the pickling barrels, the cheese room. Elrond placed his lantern on the nearest barrel, counted, and held his slate up to the light so he could see what he was writing. "Seventeen white, fifteen red, two of cordial-- and I'm claiming those for the healers."

She muttered something in Quenya that he didn't recognize, then asked: "Ale?"

"Three of the big ones."

"I hope Lord Maedhros lets us take a sledgehammer to this wall, or we might as well have none. Come on out," she said.

Their findings weren't encouraging. Enough had survived the cave-ins and flooding to last through the winter: salt pork and cod, dried fruit, sacks of beans and some grain, but their vegetable harvest would be slim, and after the winter, when these stores were exhausted, there was little chance the garrison would be able to refill them. It was the earthquakes, Eleriel said, and the encroachment of Morgoth's army. They drove game south and east, and the strange weather damaged crops, which they couldn't protect in any event if the Enemy came south. Not enough men to defend them, yet too many mouths to feed even so. He'd heard Maedhros say it, and now Eleriel, with the same resignation.

"One thing is certain," she said, adding up the tallies. "There won't be much holding us down when we move."

Elrond shifted on his perch atop a crate, holding the lantern up so she could read. His arm burned, tired. "Move where? Ossiriand? If they'd even take us."

Eleriel looked at him. The light gave her eyes a weird gleam, like the ghostlight of old bedtime stories. She shook her head when he asked what the matter was. "They'd take you, I'm sure, but you're right: I don't think they want competition for game, if there is any left."

That wasn't what he'd meant, but he kept his mouth closed over his meaning, because he liked her-- liked all of them. Not one elf in Amon Ereb had been cruel or dismissive of him. "Then where? Balar?"

"They might send you and Elros."

A knot formed in Elrond's stomach. He swallowed and felt it tighten. A long time ago he and his brother had plotted just that - to run away to Balar, where the high king, the mariner, men he'd met when young, though he hadn't known or cared who they were at the time. If they ran away, eight-year-old Elrond had thought, they might find their mother or father, or find their people, desires which eventually blurred into finding only one thing: home. A home remembered in images (the balcony with its pine wood rail), smells (salt, seaweed, cakes made of hazelnuts and honey), sounds (the waves colliding with each other, the gulls calling). A place that burned to ashes when they were small, a place they couldn't return to even if they wished on their father's star every night. He tried to remember 'his people' now and summoned nothing but blank faces, silhouettes that came to resemble Maedhros and Maglor, Lorion and Saerlinn and Eleriel. Elros. Elros was his, maybe the only person Elrond could claim, truly.

Balar had pine trees, and nothing else. Nothing that mattered. They couldn't leave Amon Ereb.

"I wouldn't go," Elrond said. "Not in a thousand years."

Eleriel's lips twitched into a smile. "A thousand years isn't very long."

He scowled, and she laughed at him, a silvery sound that belonged in a finer place, the sort with marble halls and diamond lamps. "Were you a lady in Valinor?"

She stopped laughing and looked at him again sidelong. This time she topped writing. The chalk had left her fingers powdery and white, shimmering in the bluish lantern light. "Diplomacy, Elrond."

He looked at her feet, shadow shapes on the floor that cast shadows of their own. "I'm sorry, I was just curious."

Eleriel put the slate down on his crate and clapped her hands together to rid them of chalk; it formed a small cloud of shimmering gray that looked more substantial in the dim blue, like one could mold it into shapes. "How do you define a lady?" She relented with a sigh. "I earned recognition for mastery of my craft, which was almost as good as, if you served the House of Feanor. Bookbinding," she clarified when he opened his mouth to ask. "And copying, but I spent most of my time crafting blank volumes for them. They were a family with too much to say, according to some opinions."

"What did Maedhros write?"

"A little of everything. His favorite topics were historical."

"Maglor?"

"A treatise here and there on artistic movements he disliked. He preferred to write music and went through twice the paper."

Elrond sat back. She blew the dust away, waved her hands. He could taste it on the air and wished he had water to wash it down like an unpleasant medicine. "What about..." He groped mentally for a way to ask. Feanor had written dozens of volumes, and everybody knew that so asking would be silly. Diplomacy, diplomacy-- he hadn't learned how to lie well enough to think of an excuse, not that being diplomatic was the same as lying, no, never, of course it wasn't. So he just came out with it, and winced when he said, "the jewels. There's nothing about them in the books I've read."

"Of course not," Eleriel said, somewhat sharply. "Were you expecting poetry and dissertations on the quality of their light?"

Well... yes. "If they were so important--"

She cut him off with a chopping motion. "Not now. And since you asked, you can take our report to Lord Maedhros. Direct your question to him instead."

Elrond snapped his teeth shut and scrambled to follow her back upstairs, grabbing the slate, the lantern. Ask Maedhros? Not in ten thousand years.

But when she said not now, did that mean she would answer his questions later? Elrond didn't want to push just then, but he did need sources. A good scholarly work, his cousins said, was always supported by some kind of outside source, preferably several, like interviews or other books, or experimentation. His own memory didn't count as a source, so much as a framing device: a glimpse on a sunny day while hiding where he wasn't supposed to be, a memory of the box it was kept in.

The neutral darkness of the cellars gave way to dusty heat near the top of the stairs. Elrond's scalp itched with sweat before they came out into the ruin of the kitchen, where the cook and his assistants had clearned out and lit two of the ovens, and laid a dislocated door atop stacks of stones for a work table. He smelled the beginnings of barley soup - meat stock and herbs, simmered, and hard bread baked in the oven, like lembas but not as sweet or flaky. The courtyard was cool by comparison when they got outside and he parted ways with Eleriel, who smiled and held up a finger when he started to say something. She gave the slate to him and sauntered off to her next assignment, golden braid swinging. Elrond looked at her notes, written under his, and decided he was glad he didn't have to report it to Maglor instead. This news would be-- disappointing. Maedhros would be on the other side of the compound, and still ignorant of Elrond's intentions-- therefore not angry.

Yet.

If the towers and outbuildings had fared poorly, the keep appeared mostly intact to his inexpert eye. Walls and beams had cracked; iron staircases had broken from their moorings; a few of the columns looked unstable, the windows were broken; the floors remained intact, however, and nothing had collapsed but the upper floors of the towers. Maedhros was on the second floor with two engineers examining a wall with an ugly black crack zig-zagging down from the ceiling to break the molding around the doorway to the map room. The inside looked much as Elrond had left it - shattered glass glittering on the rug, scrolls and books spilled onto the floor. He was glad he'd had the wits to dive under the table. The rug in its shadow was an island of safety amid the disaster.

Maedhros motioned the others away and closed with Elrond. "You've come with bad news?"

Elrond looked down at the slate. Was it that obvious? "Three months. We'll last through the worst of winter, but we'll do it drinking water and eating hardtack."

"We've done worse." His cousin took the slate, scanned the numbers. "It's less to carry."

He made it sound positive, stark contrast to Eleriel's tone when she said the same thing. Elrond watched his cousin's red hair move in an errant breeze. "Where are we going?"

Maedhros's gaze flicked up, and then it seemed he focused hard on the slate, mouthing numbers, perhaps doing the math up in his head. "Haven't decided yet."

Then what was the point of packing their belongings already? Elrond wanted to ask. Were they going to load everything onto wagons, hitch the horses, and then roll Erochil's dice? Even numbers would send them south, and odd meant going east. It would be brilliant. Only they had better not let Maglor roll, or somehow they'd end up moving west. The only outcome worse than that involved only Elrond and his brother going that way while everyone else took the opposite direction. Saerlinn had been in favor of sending them away, once upon a time; send them back to their family, she had demanded, when Maglor brought them to her, their hands in his grip, and he'd replied, they have no family. For days she'd talked about sending them to Gil-Galad or Cirdan. An island protected by the sea, she insisted, was a better place for children than a fortress in the middle of nowhere, flying standards that begged the Enemy's troops to launch an attack.

This is my family, Elrond told himself, looking into Maedhros's face. It was a beautiful face still, unmarked by war or Angband's torture, perhaps too pale. He didn't have the shadows under his eyes Maglor did, yet there was a set to his mouth, his brows, slight lines, that indicated he was bracing himself against some suffering. Flecks of brown disturbed the gray of his eyes, speckled his nose and cheeks and throat.

Did suffering enhance beauty?

Elrond couldn't remember where he encountered that question, but thought the answer was yes. He tried to look away. "Elros was complaining about being stuck in the fortress. If we have time..."

"You aren't going anywhere," Maedhros said. His tone implied he thought Elros hadn't been the only one complaining. "There are funeral rites to observe tomorrow evening, and elves all about the grounds who are no doubt looking forward to your daily visit-- or the laudanum, but it's not worth quibbling. They need you."

"I wasn't suggesting sending me," Elrond said sharply, eyes on the wall. Before him his cousin was a tall, thin, dark shadow against the bright window and framed by red gold. "He wants to go with the next hunting party, and he's nagging me every day to ask Maglor-- who always says no anyway. It's like Elros has no work at all."

"Not true," Maedhros said with a slight chuckle. He turned Elrond's head forward. "Your brother isn't carrying extra responsibility on his shoulders because his mentor left. I assure you, he normally isn't the only one asking irritating questions."

Elrond's face heated, though he couldn't recall any questions he'd asked recently-- asked Maedhros, that is. "I don't mind the extra work."

"But you mind that Elros doesn't have any?"

"No!" Elrond's face still felt hot, but that was the truth. When his brother was in the infirmary picking at him, of course he resented that Elros had that free time, but only because he was wasting it-- and Elrond's at the same time. "The essay, the packing... why can't we just help repair the fortress? We're not children anymore. We can put our studying off for a month if it means the cooks don't have to chop meat on an old door."

Maedhros turned toward the window. Glass crunched under his boots and ground on the stone floor where he walked. The room faced north, so the sun came in at an angle and cast bright, slanted shapes on the wall. "How long before Macalaure can ride?"

Elrond breathed sharply through his nose. They did the same thing, both of them-- ignoring questions they didn't want to answer. "I'm not sure," he had to admit. "Three weeks maybe, for the leg-- at the earliest. Better if the bone has a chance to knit more. But he still feels dizzy when he's up too long, and it's hard to keep him in bed."

"Yes. He always tries to lighten my burdens." His cousin's voice was almost too soft to hear above the sound of the wind sweeping by the window, the hammering outside, the shouting. "I'll speak to him. You see, we must be out of this fortress before the snows start, and it doesn't matter where we're going as long as it's away from Morgoth's forces and out of their knowledge. They aren't very far north, now. I think they're trying to flank our friends out west by moving south through Aglon-- past us." Maedhros flicked a shard of glass off the sill and said under his breath, I'd it that way, anyway. Then he glanced over his shoulder, one brow lifted. "Shall we borrow Erochil's dice?"

His thoughts weren't really loud, nor written all over his face, Elrond told himself when he stalked away, slate in hand. It was a lucky guess.


*

*

I don't doubt my version of Maedhros is heavily influenced by others that I've read, especially my favorites.

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