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All I Have Left. Yes. This is the one I was posting about at the weekend.
Disclaimer #1: I absolutely swear on all I hold dear that I hadn't even heard of of Erik's fic Forgotten and Forsaken up until the orther day. Therefore, any resemblance is actually, geninelly coincidental. Really.
Title: All I Have Left
Author: Enismirdal firstname.lastname@example.org
Rating: R overall (PG for this chapter)
Pairing: Eluréd/Elurín (eventually)
Disclaimer: They're not my boys, they're Tolkien's. I'll take good care of them and hug them lots and he can have them back any time he wants. No insult intended; no profit made.
A/N: Naath's challenge was to complete the set: Elladan/Elrohir, Elrond/Elros…and Eluréd/Elurín. I admit being picky about the canon sources I use, cos otherwise they're not necessarily twins, which sort of takes half the fun out of it, don't you think?
I know I'm not the first person to write what happened to Eluréd and Elurín after the Ruin of Doriath, but I've deliberately avoided reading any of the others whilst writing this.
Thank you to Katy and Rivvie for your lovely beta work *smiles and hugs*
"…but Dior was slain also, and Nimloth his wife, and the cruel servants of Celegorm seized his young sons and left them to starve in the forest. Of this Maedhros indeed repented, and sought for them long in the woods of Doriath; but his search was unavailing, and of the fate of Eluréd and Elurín no tale tells."
"I'm scared, Eluréd." His eyes were wide and bright in the darkness, searching every shadow in case more of the Bad Elves would come for them. His pale face was streaked red from scrubbing at tears.
"I know," Eluréd whispered. "I'm scared too."
They sat like that for some time, two small, trembling figures at the edge of a clearing, painted silver by the moonlight that peeped coyly between the leaves of the great trees which towered above them like watchful guardians. Eventually, Elurín reached out his hand and closed it tightly around his brother's. Eluréd responded by shifting closer so that he sat shoulder-to-shoulder with Elurín.
They had no food, so both were uncomfortably hungry, and every so often Eluréd's stomach would give off a low growl, making them both freeze in fright.
They huddled together closer, pulling their cloaks over their knees and up to their chins, hoping they wouldn't be found. Elurín started to cry at one point, but instinct made the tears fall silently. He remembered happy times, when Adar would take them on long walks in Doriath and they would climb trees and jump from high branches into Adar's strong arms. He remembered sunny afternoons when he and Eluréd and his sister Elwing would sit all around Naneth's feet, and they would all sing together. But all the time his thoughts returned to his last glimpse of Doriath. He recalled his fists pummelling the back of the Elf who had slung him over his shoulder, an Elf who spoke in a strange tongue and frowned at him with dark, angry eyes. He had looked back at Adar's great hall, with its beautiful fretwork of carven wood inlaid with gemstones, listening to another of the strange, vicious elves cursing because Eluréd had bitten his hand. Elurín had looked at the scene, and his eyes had been drawn to a pool of blood, in which lay his Adar, and Naneth next to him. "They are dead," his mind had said, but it had been hours before that fact had truly meant anything.
Hours passed, and Ithil made his wandering journey across the sky. Weariness overcame hunger and fear, and Elurín lay down on the springy moss. Eluréd looked at him oddly at first, but after a few minutes, he lay down too, wrapping his legs and arms around his brother. Elurín pulled his cloak over them both, and they slept.
Maedhros loomed over his brother, hair virtually standing on end with his absolute fury. "You ordered Celegorm's servants to do *what*?"
Amrod flinched back from the harsh tone of his brother's accusation, but answered evenly, "If the children had been allowed to live, it would only have caused problems for us. This way, we need no longer concern ourselves."
The elder brother shook his head and glowered. "Amrod, these weren't warriors with armour and swords. We are speaking of *children*."
"Children who would be too dangerous if left alive. Imagine if fifty, a hundred years from now, they had decided to reclaim their rightful inheritance. I'm simply holding to an oath I took a little while back."
"You disgust me, brother," Maedhros spat, turning away. "If what you say is true, they may still live. I'm going to find them." He stormed out of the hall.
Amrod stared after him and shrugged. "Fool."
"I heard something." Eluréd froze suddenly, his hand slipping from his brother's grip.
"So did I." Elurín's voice was a trembling whisper. "I think someone's heading this way."
They shrank deeper into the bushes, wrapping their arms around one another for reassurance. Then they heard the voice. It was like those of the elves who had killed their parents, alien-sounding. And it was calling their names.
Elurín let out a whimper. "He's looking for us…"
"He won't find us," Eluréd determined, and pushed to his feet, dragging his twin brother up with him. He led Elurín on a winding path through the trees and abundant undergrowth, heading in no particular direction save away from the voice. It may just have been fear making him imagine things, but it seemed to Eluréd that the trees were parting before them and closing up again behind, urging them on but seeming to direct them unerringly north-east.
They ran on, stumbling over roots and slipping on wet leaves. Eluréd felt a stitch starting in his side. Elurín was squeezing his hand so tightly it hurt, but the younger twin for once was not complaining. The air stung his dry mouth and throat; he knew they would be unable to go on for much longer.
The moonlight outlined trees and bushes, sometimes a glimpse of a deer between the looming trunks, occasionally a silver ribbon of a stream, heard distantly as chiming bells. And a dark hole, moss-encrusted and rimmed with overhanging roots, gaping silently at the night.
Eluréd stopped, and Elurín bumped into him, having simply been running without thought or care. He followed the line of his brother's pointing finger. "A badger sett," he murmured.
Eluréd dropped to his hands and knees to examine. The musky smell of badger was unmistakable; his brother had been right. But the sett was empty, and showed no signs of recent occupation. And it was extremely spacious inside. Urged on by the thought of the warm, safe darkness, he crawled inside. Elurín wriggled in behind him, letting out a grunt when he scuffed a grazed knee in the dirt.
They shuffled as far back in the earthy cavern as they could, their breathing sounding ragged and terribly loud. The voice called again. "Eluréd! Elurín! I want to help you - don't be afraid."
The twins didn't believe the voice. They did not answer it; they froze in the darkness, hardly daring to breathe.
Eventually the voice passed on.
"Pa, come look at this!" The youth tore through the bracken and fell into step beside his father.
"What is it?" The older man stroked his beard thoughtfully and turned to follow his son along the game trail. The youth was quite experienced enough in woodcraft these days not to get excited over a snared rabbit, and certainly should know better than to go crashing through the undergrowth like that on a *hunting excursion*, of all things. He was naturally curious as to what had attracted his son's interest, and became more so when he recognised that they were heading towards one of the brooks that criss-crossed these parts. He wondered if perhaps a bear had wandered into the area and his son had seen the animal fishing; it was unusual, certainly, but by no means impossible.
His eyes darted around, ever aware of the clues the land would tell him, and it was then that he noticed the tracks. They were shallow, as if made by someone very light and small, and wearing shoes. A child? A few paces later, the damp earth showed the trail more clearly, and he identified not one set of footprints, but two. "Helgor, is someone lost in the forest?" he asked his son.
Helgor halted just as the trees parted before the brook, and pointed.
Two young boys lay on the bank, their clothing torn and dirty, their faces muddy, clutching one another as if they were the only two things left in the world.
Eluréd blinked drowsily and rubbed the back of his hand against his eyes. He was lying on a soft, warm surface, in a light, airy…bedroom. He could feel Elurín's feet next to his under the quilt, and hear his brother's slow, steady breathing. He wondered if maybe the Bad Elves had caught them, and if therefore this was Mandos. But it all seemed rather too simple and homely for that, and not nearly cold enough.
He looked around. It was a small room, but comfortable, lovingly filled with plain but well-made furniture. Eluréd sat up in bed to get a better view, and saw that he was wearing a clean, white smock, several sizes too large for him.
Elurín stirred and yawned beside him, clawing at the quilt. There were grazes on his face and hands from the time - was it really only two days? - that they had spent wandering the forests after leaving the badger sett. They'd found some berries to eat some time during the first afternoon, but the thorns on the bushes had been wickedly sharp and prevented them from picking enough to satisfy their gnawing hunger. His stomach now growled in protest at its neglect.
He looked across at his brother, taking in Elurín's messy braids, and sighed. Nana used to brush their hair until it shone, and then spend ages plaiting it into delicate, intricate knots.
Nana would never do that again. In this, safe, homely environment, the excitement and panic, which had sustained him for the last few days and stopped him thinking too deeply, all drained away. He burst into tears, burying his face in the edge of the quilt and trembling.
This woke Elurín. He sat up and put his arms around his brother. Eluréd accepted the comfort offered, but it only reminded him that Elurín was the only one who would ever offer it now. He was angry - he was the elder brother; Elurín should be able to come to *him* for comfort, not the other way round. But right now he just needed his twin close. "Promise me you'll never leave me alone," he whispered in a watery voice to Elurín's shirt. Elurín held him tighter.
"Only if you promise too."
Eluréd nodded inside the embrace. "I promise." Elurín sought out his twin's hand and squeezed it. He was crying too, now. They were still crying when the door opened and a broad-shouldered Man stepped inside.
Two pairs of frightened eyes examined the newcomer. He was not as tall as an Elf, but was bulkier and rougher-looking; a short, reddish beard sprouted from his cheeks and chin.
Seeing how nervous Eluréd and Elurín were, his expression remained soft and warm. He spoke in the tongue of Men, as their father used to on occasion, when he told tales of the valour of the Edain of legend, but his voice was kind. "There's no need to be afraid; you'll be safe here. Can you tell me your names?"
Eluréd drew his sleeve across his eyes and returned a blank look, trying not to sniff. He'd never met the Man before, and wasn't about to tell him anything. Elurín, on the other hand, seemed to have other plans. "I…I'm Elurín," he whispered haltingly, replying automatically in Sindarin. "How did we get here?"
The Man looked startled, hearing the younger twin speak the tongue of Elves. *He didn't realise we weren't Men's children*, Eluréd mused, *Well, now he knows*. They were not full Elves, of course - Adar was, in truth, only a quarter Elven blood. Consequently, he supposed, with their only slightly pointed ears, and hair which was somewhat coarse by Elven standards, they could easily be mistaken for children of Men by someone who seldom had contact with full Elves.
"Elurín?" the Man asked gently. "And your brother?"
Eluréd sighed, noting that the Man had understood at least part of what his twin had said. "Eluréd," he said reluctantly. The Man nodded.
"I am Orlin." He came over and seated himself on a chair by the window. Eluréd saw for the first time that there were two wooden bowls there, full of steaming porridge with a drizzle of dark honey on top. "My son and I came across you in the forest; you looked lost and seemed exhausted, so we brought you here." Eluréd thought he was about to start enquiring as to what two youngsters were doing alone in Doriath, with no provisions, but Orlin did not. "If you're hungry, I brought food." He carried the bowls over to the Elflings and produced spoons for them both.
Eluréd met his brother's eyes with concern. He wasn't sure whether it was right to trust the Man; although he had shown only kindness towards them, Eluréd did not know him, did not know what he planned or wanted. But Elurín shrugged wearily and scrubbed at his eyes. "I'm hungry," he whispered. He accepted the bowl and began to eat.
The Man spoke to them in a calm, low voice, not asking complicated questions or confusing them with unnecessary information. He kept his speech slow so the twins could follow without difficulty. When they finished eating, he fetched clothes for them. They were rough, ill-fitting and much-mended, but they were, at least, warm and clean.
He took them downstairs later, and showed them around the little house. Eluréd surveyed it with bemusement. It was all so small and so simple, nothing like Adar's rich halls in Menegroth, with so many jewels and gemstones it was like the sky on a frosty winter's night.
They were introduced to the Man's son, Helgor, a youth who was close to adulthood and anxious to remind his father of the fact on every possible occasion. He laughed a lot and slammed his ale mug down on the table with a loud 'thud'. But there were no women in the house.
Eluréd wondered about this to his brother in the evening, when they had been left alone before the fire while Orlin and Helgor prepared dinner. The twins had said very little all day, and only picked at the bread and crumbly cheese they had been offered at noon. They were still coming to terms with the last few days; Eluréd was constantly having to remind himself that they wouldn't just go home at the end of the day. So he was unsurprised when Elurín did not come out with an answer to his musings straight away.
Eventually, Elurín turned away from the dancing flames and replied to his brother. "She died. Like Nana."
Eluréd was taken aback. "Who?"
"How do you know?"
"There is a bonnet hanging above the door in the kitchen. He saw me looking at it, and told me." Eluréd frowned. For some reason it irritated him that his brother had been talking to the Man. "She got ill. She died when Helgor was little."
Eluréd swallowed and nodded. He couldn't think what to say to that.
They stayed at the house for many days, avoiding thinking about anything too deeply, speaking little, eating without enthusiasm. Eluréd took to sitting in the small kitchen garden and watching the flowers grow; Elurín seemed to prefer company, and could often be seen with Orlin, a quiet shadow, assisting the Man if he was asked to but otherwise staying out of the way.
Orlin and Helgor were kind to them, and were always trying to persuade the twins to eat more, and to smile and laugh 'the way youngsters should'. Elurín was sometimes receptive to their endeavours, especially when he was introduced to the affectionate 'guard dog' who in truth would probably have showered any potential trespasser with slobbery licks, wagging his tail throughout. Helgor, noticing this, invited the twins to accompany him to a nearby farm, where one of his friends lived with several hounds and retrievers of various types.
Elurín accepted without hesitation; Eluréd came only because his brother was. The farm was busy and noisy, and the high stone wall which surrounded the cottage and outhouses made him feel trapped. He didn't like it. Elurín was enthralled by the dogs, and found a length of thick rope with which to play tug o'war with them. Eluréd, not sharing his brother's enthusiasm, perched on an overturned pail and started to carve a discarded lump of wood into the shape of a badger. When Helgor saw it, he smiled. "You're talented," he said, "Did someone teach you to do that?"
Eluréd looked at the ground and blinked his burning eyes rapidly. Ada had made the most beautiful woodcarvings, and yes, he had been Eluréd's teacher.
Elurín returned to the farm on several subsequent occasions, but his brother did not accompany him. Helgor seemed to grow fond of the younger Elfling, and took him on trapping expeditions as well. Elurín would return from them excited and eager to share all the wood-lore he'd picked up with his brother. At first, Eluréd listened attentively, but his brother's boundless energy was too much for him, so he sought solitude again.
Eluréd could not understand how his twin managed to adapt so easily to this new life. Everything about the Men was so different to what he had known before. Everywhere he looked, he saw alien, unfamiliar things, and they only served to remind him of how he'd never see the safe, warm comforts of home again. The voices he heard were rough-edged and gravelly compared to the mellifluous voices of the Elves, and he missed hearing his mother tongue spoken.
Elurín sometimes woke with nightmares, but usually slept soundly at night. But Eluréd lay awake for long hours, staring vacantly at the ceiling, sometimes watching a spider make its slow, calculated way along the oak beams.
It was at the end of one such night, when the dawn had come as a relief and Eluréd was simply desperate to abandon the cold, silent vigil which every night had now become, that the wind changed direction. A breeze came through the open window, carrying the green, dusky scents of forest and the little meadow flowers that grew on the borders of Doriath.
Eluréd shifted uncomfortably, then rose from the bed and padded barefoot to the small window. A jay was perching on a branch, so close that were it not for the glass pane, he could have touched it. It called once, and then in a flurry of fawn pink and vivid blue, took off into the trees.
Eluréd turned back to the bed. Elurín was just waking up, muttering confusedly to himself. "Elurín," he said when his younger brother was fully awake. "I can't stay here any more."
Elurín nodded. His expression showed no surprise, but his hand snaked under the covers to catch hold of his twin's. "I like it here," he said softly. "Orlin and Helgor are kind, and they look after us. Helgor's taught me so much about the forest… But if you're leaving, I'm coming with you." He was trying to sound brave, but Eluréd could see his twin's lip quivering, and hear the strained note in his voice as he fought back tears. "I won't let you go alone."