Title: 2005 Gift for LilyFrost
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Disclaimer: These characters and their world are not mine. I've no rights and no money.
Summary: Before an important journey, Elladan comes down sick. Naturally, the twins come up with a solution.
Notes: Written as a gift fic for LilyFrost during the 2005 holiday season. Many huge thank you's and hugs to Lady Korana who suggested the destination for the party in this story, when I felt quite stuck! I couldn't have done it without her!
2005 Gift for LilyFrost
His body restrained beneath the layers of covers, it was just his head which moved back and forth which was evidence of the dream which seized his mind. His breathing was quick and shallow, and his movements equally quick. His raven black hair lay damp and spread out on the pillow.
A cool compress was laid upon his forehead and held in place. Moments later, the thrashing slowed then stopped altogether. Eyelids were pulled open and tired green eyes met matching green ones.
"You are all right Dan," Elrohir said, flipping over the compress. "It was just a dream."
"I dreamt of Naneth and the Orcs again," he whispered. Elladan lifted his arm, pulling it out from beneath the covers, and rubbed at his nose. Elrohir bent over and hugged his brother comfortingly. When he pulled back, Elladan was sniffling. "Do I have a fever?"
Elrohir shook his head. "You do feel slightly warmer than usual, but you are not feverish. It looks like whatever you have is still mild."
"Good," Elladan gave a weak smile. "Then I will still be able to accompany the party of loremasters to The Grey Havens."
Elrohir frowned. It was a task Elladan had been entrusted with many months ago, and one he had been looking forward to for that long as well. But with his head cold such as it was, venturing out for a long journey during late firith was not the most intelligent of ideas. There was also the obvious drawback of a sick Elladan being unable to protect his fellow elves should they run into danger along the way. It was no wonder he was having sick-dreams about their naneth's party being attacked.
"Galu," Elrohir blessed him. He reached over to the bedside table and plucked a folded handkerchief off the top of the stack. He handed it over to his twin, who blew his nose a little. Tough as he was, Elrohir knew that Elladan was in no condition to lead a party alone out of Rivendell in less than an hour.
He knew his twin like he knew himself, and knew that what little symptoms Elladan was displaying were just those he was allowing to the surface. Because he, himself, was so good at restraining most sneezes, he knew Elladan was as well. He knew the elf probably felt immeasurably worse than he looked. But he also knew being asked by their adar to head this task was a great honor. Much as Elrond loved and trusted his sons, their attitudes and tendencies towards mischief did not warrant them many opportunities to lead important missions on their own. Elrohir knew his twin would have to feel far worse before he even considered not going. He knew his twin like he knew himself. And he smiled.
"Dan," he said, his eyes twinkling. "What do you think about doing a bit of a switch?"
Elladan looked momentarily hopeful, then pessimistic. "We cannot. We will be discovered. Adar will know--"
"Adar left this morning with Estel." Elrohir shrugged.
Elladan thought it over. "Either way, I am going. This is my responsibility and I should go."
"Fine," Elrohir said, hoping he did not sound reluctant. He had expected as much. As laid back as their attitudes about some things were, when it came to protecting their own, the twins were loyal and steadfast. "I shall leave word to say I have gone along with the loremasters as well. Then I will pretend to be you and you can pretend to be me and no one will be any the wiser!"
Elladan began to smile. "We have not played at this since we were elflings. Do you really think we will be able to manage it?"
Elrohir grinned mischievously. "Oh, I am certain we will. Now, get up, get cleaned up, and get dressed." He jumped up from his spot on the edge of the bed and immediately pulled the covers down. Elladan shot him a look and shivered but rose nonetheless. "Make sure you pack extra handkerchiefs," Elrohir reminded before heading to his room to pack a small bag with a few changes of clothes as well.
Elrohir had intended to leave word with Arwen, but he ran straight into Estel as he rounded a corner. His eyes widened with surprise.
"Good morning, Ro! I was just on my way to find you."
It was a good thing that Elrohir thought quickly on his feet. He let loose a laugh. "Estel, you must be tired, still. I'm Elladan. Though funny you should mention him. I wanted to let someone know he was coming with me to Mithlond. And I thought you were going to Isengard with
Estel looked confused and kept tilting his head to the side as he looked at Elrohir. "My apologies, Dan. I could have sworn..." He trailed off, shaking his head. "Elrond decided he did not need me to accompany him after all. So I am free to go with you two!"
Elrohir had a terrible feeling that was their father's way of making sure someone was there to make sure Elladan did not make any foolish mistakes when it came to the mission. He also knew their switch would be much easier to pull off if their foster brother was not with them. But he could think of no plausible way of convincing Estel to remain behind. So he smiled and patted the man's arm. "I am glad to hear it. We will be leaving very soon."
Estel nodded and headed off, presumably to pack. Elrohir hurried onward, determined to report to someone who was not also coming on the journey, and then needing to fill his twin in on the change of plans before he and Estel crossed paths. Elrohir was starting to doubt they would be able to pull this off with any success... but, given how awfully sick Elladan had seemed, Elrohir was not ready to give up just yet.
"Nothing has changed. We can still do this," Elrohir said reassuringly as they prepared their horses for the journey.
"But Estel will surely know!" Elladan nervously whispered over to his twin. He tightened the girth which wrapped around his horse's middle then lowered the saddle flaps back into place.
"I will surely know what?"
The twins looked over to see Estel entering the stable, a saddle and saddle pad on one arm and a set of reins on the other. Elladan coughed in surprise. Elrohir took the lead, hoping the man had not heard more than the last few words of the conversation. "Elrohir isn't feeling too well. He thought you might know what herbs he should take in his tea that might help. I suggested Plinta Root but I feared it might make him too drowsy." He held his breath, hoping Estel would buy it.
Estel wore that confused expression again as he looked from one brother to the other. Then, to Elladan, "I am sorry you are not well. I can certainly suggest a number of other herbs that might help, all of which they are sure to have in supply at The Havens."
Elladan turned quickly, burying his sharp nose into his handkerchief. "hihh-Ihschhh! ehhhTChhh!"
"Galu," Elrohir said, reaching over and massaging his brother's shoulder.
Estel still looked confused. "Perhaps you should just stay home if you're sick? Adar does not expect you to go, only Elladan."
Elladan shook his head as he wiped at his nose. He wanted to explain the switch, but did not think Estel would find the deception terribly amusing at the moment. "Tis only a little cold, an ache in the head and some sneezing. If I remain, I will be fussed over. You know how Arwen can be. And when I am sick I would rather be with my twin."
Estel nodded. "There are worse things than being fussed over when sick," he said, speaking from experience.
Deciding there was no time like the present to jump into his brother's role, Elrohir quickly announced, "I am going to go check on the loremasters to make sure they are ready to go." He headed out of the stable. There were three elves in blue robes sitting astride horses, ready to depart. "My brothers have decided to come along as well. We will be ready in a moment. Supplies are packed and arrangements have been made. Is there anything else any of you require?" The general consensus was that everything was taken care of. They thanked him and he went back inside for his horse.
"Ro, are you certain you will be all right to go?" Estel pressed the elf he thought was Elrohir as he mounted his horse. "I will stay behind with you if you'd prefer."
Elladan nodded, sniffling into the handkerchief he had taken out the moment he had settled into his own saddle. "I would rather go. I will be fine, Estel. But thank you."
Elrohir mounted his own chestnut brown horse and slid his feet into the stirrups. With a deep breath, he led the way out of the stable at a trot. The loremasters took their places behind him, Elladan followed, and Estel brought up the rear. As they headed out of Rivendell towards the Ford of Bruinen, the party broke out in a steady gallop.
Elrohir glanced back, seeing his twin struggling with the reins and his handkerchief. The sounds of sneezing were all but drowned out by the thunderous hooves, but Elrohir could sense his brother was not doing well, and the visual had confirmed that. "Estel!" Elrohir called over his shoulder. Estel dug his heels into his horse's sides and sped up so that he was alongside the group's leader. "Take the lead for a moment, please? I'd like to speak with Ro." The name still sounded strange to his tongue.
Estel nodded and took up the duty while Elrohir fell back a few beats until he was even with Elladan. "I have decided that we are stopping in Bree for the night," he announced. "It is about halfway and we will find decent lodgings there."
Elladan shook his head. "We should keeb goidg. We can bake the jourdey id a day if we hehh-hurry."
Sighing to himself, "There is no need to hurry. We have made excellent time thus far and can afford to rest. The horses will be glad of it as they've only had a few short rests all day, and I am sure we will all enjoy a warm meal in our bellies. And you..."
"ihhh-hihh-IHChhh! HeyIShhhh!" His head snapped down towards his increasingly damp handkerchief. He sniffed instead of blowing his nose.
Elrohir looked on with great sympathy. He finished, "And you could use the sleep. It will help your cold immensely." Elladan looked displeased with the decision, and it seemed as though he were trying to figure out a way to argue without letting on that he was the one who was supposed to be leading the expedition. "The decision has been made, there is no use arguing," he said with a coy smile. "You are going to get some sleep in a proper warm bed and drink some hot tea and that's that."
Elladan paused, considering. Finally he gave a grateful smile. Then he snapped forward in the saddle again. "hehhChhhh! hihhhChuhhh! ehhh-yihh-hihhChihhh!"
"Galu," Elrohir said. He waited to make sure his twin was all right, then he galloped ahead to inform the others about the plan.
The three loremasters were quiet, even for elves. Laerglad always concentrated heavily on the details in situations, but could easily get lost in texts. He was tall and fair-haired, unlike Minarow who was raven-haired. Minarow's specialty was historical texts and, accordingly, liked compiling as many written versions of events as possible. Alfirin was the only lady among them. She was terribly observant and equally kind, with great big blue eyes and brown hair down to her waist. Her focus was on traditional folklore and had come along to gather what she could there, but also to help the others during the bargaining process. Elrohir was certain that if any of them were to find out about the switch, it would be Alfirin. However, he used caution when speaking to all three of them.
The Prancing Pony, which they had selected upon Estel's recommendation, was just about as animated as could be. Conversations took place at the various long tables, each growing gradually louder to be heard above the other loud conversations. No one dared bother the elves with ignorant questions, though there were a few good-natured fellows who inquired as to their origins and purpose. Once it was established that their destination was the Grey Havens, however, they received far less attention.
Apart from the noise, the atmosphere was decent. There were large fires on two walls and warm lamps hung from the ceiling over every table. Despite the warmth, Elladan sat shivering in his cloak. The spirits were free-flowing and the food was quite satisfactory, from the foul to the steamed vegetables. Nevertheless, Elladan barely touched his food.
Instead, the sick elf sat at the table with a cold metal tankard of water pressed to his forehead. Every so often he would put down the cup and pick up the handkerchief he had taken to keeping close at hand on his lap. He rocked slightly as the urge to sneeze built. Then he pitched forward as discretely as possible with his handkerchief covering the lower half of his countenance and his eyes shut tightly. "hehh-YIhchuhh! IhhShhhh!" Nearly every member of his company blessed him each time, but he still muttered an apology as well to be respectful.
That was just about the extent of what he said during the meal. He tried to nod and smile along with the conversation his brothers were having with the loremasters, and he tried to keep an eye open for anything or anyone suspicious. But his attention repeatedly strayed towards his sneezes and his eyelids felt heavy.
When Elrohir reached over and touched his arm, he jumped in surprise. "You should go upstairs to bed," he suggested. Elladan looked around, then shook his head. Clearly he did not wish to leave prematurely. Elrohir cleared his throat. "Let me rephrase that. You will go upstairs to bed right this moment. I will see to the others, as is my job. Yours is merely to get better. Go on now." He gave his twin an encouraging push.
Elladan reluctantly stood and excused himself in a stuffy voice. Then he headed up the stairs.
"We had best turn in as well," said Laerglad. "I assume we will be leaving early in the morning?"
Elrohir nodded and stood from the table. "I will see you to your room." He glanced over at Estel. "Would you make sure Elrohir made it into bed all right?"
"Of course, Elladan."
After some initial discussion upon their arrival in Bree, they had decided upon a total of two rooms with three beds apiece. Elrohir's instincts had told him to get two rooms and pair one of the loremasters with one of Elrond's sons. But he had a feeling that Elladan would be sneezing through much of the night. In the end they found it easiest to split upon those lines. Elrohir still made sure the loremasters were well armed as well as settled.
"Are you certain you have all you need?" he asked as he watched the three elves choose their beds and deposit their belongings thereupon.
"We are just fine, Elladan. Go tend to your brother," said Alfirin, sympathy in her eyes.
"Thank you," he said with a nod.
He was anxious to finally sit down with Elladan and speak with him. His cold, which had been bad before leaving Rivendell, had certainly not improved from the cold, long, hard ride.
Elrohir opened the door to their room slowly, hearing that his twin and foster brother were talking. "And do you remember the time you and your brother helped me sneak out of my room in the middle of the night and we went swimming naked by moonlight?"
"The best way to swim, in my opinion. Or how about the time when I added far too much spice to Adar's dinner?"
"I thought Dan did that..." said Estel, sounding confused and thoughtful.
Luckily, Elladan's nose provided the perfect distraction. "hihhhChishhh! ehhhShhhh! ehhhShhhh! Excuse me."
"You two certainly do seem to get away with things others would not even attempt. Nonetheless, what I cannot understand is why you were so adamant about accompanying us, even though you are sick. It is not as though you needed to come," Estel said.
"I believe I know," Elrohir said, announcing his presence and closing the door behind him. "It is because of Naneth, is it not?" he asked, walking over. He sat down on the edge of the bed Elladan was on. Estel was seated on the other side. The elf was sitting on his heels, hugging his cloak as well as a blanket around himself. He gave his twin a tiny, weak nod. "This is not about you wanting to..." He chose his words carefully, "help with this task. And it is not about the desire to get out of Rivendell and potentially kill some Orcs because they have not been seen this far East. It is about being sick for the first time since Naneth left."
Elladan took a deep breath, then nodded in agreement. "I could not lie around there feeling sick. ihhh..." He had the handkerchief up to his nose in an instant. "hehhhChhhh! Ehh-ehhh-YIHShhhhh! Sniff! Add I did dot thig I would get this bad." He blew his nose miserably.
"How bad is it?" Estel asked gravely. "And no games, Ro, be honest."
Elladan glanced at his twin, then sighed. "I believe I have a fever now. My head is pounding. And my nose... you've heard how much sneezing I've been doing. Sniff! I ab so sorry."
"Not your fault," Elrohir said, reaching out and easing Elladan down. "Just get some rest. Estel and I will take care of everything else." Estel nodded and went to get a cloth and some water for a compress. Elrohir reached over to the bag he'd brought up and pulled out a fresh handkerchief. "And for goodness sake, get rid of that handkerchief." He overacted a bit and screwed up his face in disgust and it made Elladan smile with amusement.
They took the roads around The Shire and needed to stray from the roads onto dirt paths as they made their way just south of The Tower Hills. Despite Elladan's worries, they met with no Orcs or dangers of any sort. In fact, they made excellent time and arrived in Mithlond just before dark.
They were show to their rooms, one apiece, and were informed that Círdan had business to attend to and could not meet with them until the morning. A fine dinner was being prepared, which they were most welcome to attend. All accepted the invitation except for Elladan, who went straight to his room to lie down.
Before heading off to eat, Elrohir made sure he was in bed, tucked in and comfortable, with everything he might need. Halfway through the meal, however, he felt the urge to return to his twin. It was a strange knowing sort of sensation. He tried to ignore it as he discussed with the loremasters the issues they would be addressing the next day. He tried to keep eating and drinking and tried to seem merry. The fish was rich and tender, and garnished with beautifully spiced vegetables. It all practically melted in his mouth as he ate. The spirits were frothy and strong, just as he liked it. But, as the dinner continued, his mind continually strayed. By the end, all he felt like doing was leaving to go to Elladan.
With a sigh and a heartfelt apology, he excused himself. Then he returned to Elladan's room and sat down on the side of the bed. He put a cool compress on Elladan's forehead and, even though his twin brother was asleep, Elrohir could sense the relief that came with his presence. "Do not worry," Elrohir whispered, his voice very soft. He wanted Elladan to hear him, but did not want to wake him up. "You are safe here. Safe and watched over." As he patted Elladan's arm through the blankets, Elrohir looked out of the window. The room's view was spectacular, and he could see the moon's reflection in the waters of the harbor. He looked forward to seeing it in the daylight, and knew Elladan would enjoy that as well.
Two days passed with ease. The dinners each night were just as nice as their arrival one had been. The days were spent in meetings with Círdan the Shipwright. He turned out to be very kindly and accommodating, just as Elrohir had expected. From the start he made it known that he could not part with all of his volumes, but there were many arrangements that could be made to allow the loremasters to study those particular books before their journey back. There were also a number of oral tales of Círdan's that the loremasters were eager to transcribe for historical purposes.
"Due to my obligations here, however, I will be unable to spend many hours a day regaling you with these tales," Círdan told them, but he stoked his long, white beard in a pensive sort of way.
Noticing that Laerglad looked agitated, Elrohir cleared his throat to draw attention... and also because it was feeling slightly scratchy. He quickly took a sip of his water and looked around the table around which they were all seated. "I am certain some arrangement can be reached, with an amount of time suitable for... for all..." Elrohir resisted the urge to rub at his nose, but there was most definitely a tickle in it that should not have been there.
"Elladan?" Estel said from the other side of the table to get his attention, nodding to something behind Elrohir.
Elrohir looked over his shoulder to see his brother standing in the doorway. "Ah, Elladan, may I see you in private for a moment?"
Assuming this had to be of utmost importance, and because he could certainly use the break, Elrohir nodded and told the others to suspend the discussion until his return. Then he headed out of the room and down the hallway, following behind his twin who was moving at a quick pace. "Dan," he said, confused. "I thought you were feeling better. You said just this morning that you were feeling better."
"I am, Ro, I am," Elladan said so as not to worry his brother. They found a small alcove off the hallway which curved so the end could not be see by passersby. They hid there as Elladan confronted his brother. "You, on the other hand, are not so well."
"Excuse me?" Elladan stared at him. Hard. Unblinkingly. Elrohir caved in an instant. "You could sense it?" Elladan nodded, and Elrohir sighed. "I do feel ill."
Elladan reached up and felt his twin's forehead for a few long moments. Then he began to unbutton his vest.
"Excuse me?" Now he felt confused on top of ill.
Elladan paused and smiled. "I thought the solution was obvious. We will switch. If you have indeed caught that cold of mine, you will be unable to lead the talks with Círdan and our loremasters. And you will need sufficient bedrest if you are to get better before our journey home. So we will switch back. I will be me again and you will be you and no one will be any the wiser!" He resumed his task of undressing. "Now hurry and take off your clothes. We will make the switch at once."
Elrohir nodded and began to undress as well. Not half a minute in, however, he paused and pulled back a little. He cupped his hands to his face. "hihhh-hih-Chiiihh! ehhh-CHIHH!" He sighed with relief afterwards. "I've beed deedig to do that for quite a while," he admitted.
Elladan reached down to his pile of discarded clothes and pulled out a fresh handkerchief. He handed it over and Elrohir took it quickly without needing to drop his hands and reveal his runny nose. He wiped gratefully and sniffled.
"There is a fresh cup of herbal tea waiting for you," Elladan told him. "And I've left the curtains open so you may admire the view. You should get right into bed and keep warm. I will come by to see you as soon as I am able."
Elrohir shivered as he shed his last item of clothing and quickly put on Elladan's leggings. "We have covered most of the important points already," Elrohir informed him. "But we have yet to discuss the volumes that Lord Círdan would like from Adar's library. Our loremasters will not part with much easily. They will... need to be appeased... and reminded of... of..." He turned and held the handkerchief up, just in front of his face. Finally letting a few sneezes go had somehow triggered more from him. His nose felt tickly and runny and he leaned against the wall as he doubled over with sneezes. "ehhhh-Yehshhhh! Hehhh-hahhhChihhhhh! Hihhshhhh!"
"Galu," said Elladan sympathetically as he dressed as well. "Do not worry. I will be careful in my words and give them no reason to suspect I was not present at the meetings thus far. I have been preparing for this for near to a month, after all."
Elrohir nodded and pulled on Elladan's cloak. Then he stood there, beaming with gratitude. He did not need to say anything, however, as Elladan understood and felt likewise. They squeezed each other's shoulders, wished each other luck, and went their separate ways once they left the alcove.
Elrohir headed to the bedroom his brother had been using and entered. Just as Elladan had said, there was tea waiting for him on the bedside table. Elladan had made up the bed with clean sheets and had also left a stack of handkerchiefs on a pillow. When they had been elflings, their switches were done to confuse unsuspecting visitors or to sneak desserts. It was quite a strange feeling to use their talents in this area for something so different.
However, he was glad to be himself again, as he pulled the covers down. He stripped off his clothes again and put on a dressing gown. Then he climbed into bed and pulled the covers up to his middle as he reclined against the pile of pillows.
Before he went for the tea, he reached for a handkerchief. He unfolded it halfway and held it to his nose, "ehhhh-hehhhschhhh! Sniff!" He blew his nose, but the tickle only grew stronger. "hehhh-EH-Shihhh! hehhhShuhh!"
Sniffling, Elrohir reached for the tea. He was pleased to find that it was warm still. As he drank, he looked out of the window. The shore could not be seen, so all he saw were the blue and grey waves of the river Lune. They relaxed him and comforted him, to be sure. But they also made him think about all the elves who had since left Middle Earth. They made him think about his mother.
By the time he had finished the tea, he felt drowsy. He lay back, tugging the covers up to his neck. When he closed his eyes, he could still hear the gentle sounds of the waves and the occasional cry of a gull. They touched him deeply, washing over him, soothing him. There was still a scratch in his throat and a tickle deep in his nose. But the sea relaxed him enough to allow him to fall asleep.
Elrohir woke when it was dark out, his head full with congestion. He coughed and sniffled as he tried to get his bearings. As he remembered coming down sick and being saved from the meeting, he felt the bed move beside him.
Elladan sat down and placed a cool compress on his twin's forehead. Then, quickly, he handed over a new handkerchief.
"Galu." He smiled, and Elrohir was sure his twin knew just how he felt. Elladan also seemed to know what was on his mind. "I thought you might like to know that the rest of today's meeting went very well. Though it did feel a little strange to be myself again." Elrohir smiled in understanding. "I continuously wondered if I was acting as I would normally or whether I was acting the way you might when pretending to be me. Either way, no one seemed to suspect anything."
"I am glad." He sniffed and turned onto his side so he could have a better look at Elladan. "And I am glad you came to relieve me today."
"My pleasure. It was the least I could do for you after you helped me out." He broke into a smile. "Now get better because today, during the meeting, I thought of the perfect prank to pull on Estel."
"Concerning that ratty old cushion on his chair?" Elladan nodded excitedly and chuckled. "I like the way we think."
He yawned and Elladan reached down to pat his arm through the blankets. "Goodnight. Have sweet dreams."
"I will," Elrohir assured him. He managed to rub his nose once more before falling back to sleep.