Elladan and Elrohir
The air in the room was stifling and thick, saccharine-sweet in the way that made her nose sting and mouth run dry. Alunim knew she had been asleep for hours, but felt none of the relaxation that usually came with it. The room was familiar, although it didn't stop the involuntary panic that rose up in her chest. Her heart beat erratically, pounding against her ribcage like a drum, as she remembered where she was and her fear dissipated. Imladris.
She was in Imladris and her brother was still missing.
The pain was just as sharp as when she first heard, although it came with the added joy of tightness in her body and breathlessness that made her lightheaded. She sat back in the soft bed, clutching the sheets to her body, feeling both cold and hot at the same time. She was clean, she noticed, and not starving, although she should be after not eating for a few days. Mostly, she just felt an unnatural amount of misery settle over her that she hadn't felt since her parents left the Grey Havens.
Alunim threw off the sheets, preparing herself to get out of bed, when the door opened and revealed a tall brunette elf. She sat back immediately, feeling scolded without him needing to say anything, and smoothed out the sheets. She was trying to appear like she wasn't panicking. She was failing. Lord Elrond entered the room quietly followed by an elderly man that Alunim immediately recognized as Gandalf the Grey, despite never having met the wizard herself. He shut the door behind him with a snap, seeming very tired, which mirrored her own feelings, and walked further into the room.
Lord Elrond sat down in the wooden arm chair next to her bed, while Gandalf took the seat on the bench underneath the singular window. They were staring at her and Alunim had to fight to maintain eye contact.
"How are you feeling, Alunim?" Lord Elrond asked quietly. He was looking at her as if he already knew the answer, the perceptiveness of his gaze making her feel like he could see right through her.
She wasn't sure what she should say; if she should mention her fear and uncertainty at the disappearance of her brother, or her almost painful sadness at the loss of Mithuiel and the others who died in the attack. She decided she could say how her body felt safely. She could be truthful about that, at the very least.
"I'm sore from riding so long, but otherwise I'm well."
"You fell unconscious shortly after your unscheduled return." Lord Elrond smiled slightly at her, a knowing look on his face. He knew she was lying to him, or rather, being unintentionally mum about why she was back so soon after she left in the first place. She could tell he considered prying, pushing her to tell him, but decided he would wait until she chose to volunteer the information on her own.
She should tell him, but she didn't, not yet. "I only stopped long enough to allow my horse rest."
His lips twitched, revealing his desire to purse them in disappointment. "Galdor has been asking when you would wake."
"How long have I been sleeping?" She asked, suddenly irrationally self-conscious of being passed out for an inconvenient amount of time.
"A little over a day."
"So long?" Her voice tried to waiver, but she fought it and steeled her expression.
Lord Elrond nodded slowly, folding his hands across his lap. "Galdor said you left the Grey Havens over a week ago. Elladan and Elrohir were just about to go looking for you when you turned up, covered in sweat and mud."
Galdor would have told him what happened. It was probably the reason he was here, actually. She felt a sudden wave of appreciation at the prospect of not having to recount everything to Lord Elrond. Truthfully, her knowledge was limited. "Galdor told you what happened?"
"He did." Gandalf spoke for the first time. "Alunim, I don't think we've met. I am Gandalf the Grey. I'm a friend of you uncle, Cirdan. We met briefly, when you were too small to remember." He smiled in a very kindly way that made the skin around his eyes crinkle. Her uncle was very fond of Gandalf and she could see why, if his pleasant nature was anything to go on. Of course, he could just be curbing his interaction with her. Perhaps she looked as terrified and confused as she felt. She stared at him for a moment, thinking of what she should say, what would be appropriate in the situation.
"Riders were sent out to look for Rumil." Lord Elrond said.
It was what she would have done, if she had been in his position. The knowledge didn't make her feel better. She wanted to help, needed to help. She lifted herself up by her arms, feeling her muscles complain about the weight she put on them. Lord Elrond immediately moved forward to stop her, placing a light hand on her shoulder. He pushed her gently back onto the bed, fixing her with a stern, although not unkind look, when she tried to protest. "I'm going as well."
"You need to rest." Lord Elrond kept his hand on her shoulder to prevent her from trying to get up again. The pressure of it, while not strong, felt heavy and encompassing, trapping her in her spot completely. "You've barely had time to recover."
That was his way of saying no.
"I have nothing I need to recover from." Alunim said slowly, bitingly. She tried to keep her tone respectfully even, but failed spectacularly. Lord Elrond knew that it was better not to say anything, to save that conversation for later. He sat down next to her, folding his hands together in his lap. "I'm not hurt."
The look on his face could only be described as placating sympathy. She found it intolerable at the moment, even though normally she welcomed such a thing from the older elf. "You should not assume anything, Alunim." He spoke slowly, evenly, like he was thinking about every word before he said it.
"I am not assuming anything. I know something is wrong. I can feel it."
"Galdor told me you were troubled by what happened, and you are right in those feelings, but now is not the time for rash actions."
"Something is wrong. Cirdan didn't see the attack coming and now Rumil is gone." Alunim spoke with so much conviction she almost surprised herself. She clenched her fists, balling them up in the sheets until her knuckles turned white. "You've never believed in coincidences and neither have I."
"We are not ignoring it, Alunim."
"But you aren't doing anything about it?" She snapped, inwardly cringing at how disrespectful her tone came across as.
"Where would you propose to look for him? We know nothing and charging ahead without any sort of plan or information is the fastest way to losing more. We've sent word to the neighboring lands to look for him. We can't do anything else until we know more." Lord Elrond was so calm when he reprimanded her. She wondered how he managed it, but then again he was so much older than her, perhaps he had plenty of time to practice. His sons were Elladan and Elrohir, after all. "This isn't up for discussion." Lord Elrond said, silencing her before she could say something else. "Please get some rest." She nodded, although she did not think he believed she would listen. He eyed her warily, one eyebrow raised as if he expected her to jump out of the bed at any moment and run away.
"I'm certain I'm correct in assuming that we will speak later, Alunim." Gandalf said, standing up. He leaned heavily on his staff. He looked like he wanted to say more, but ultimately thought better of it. That annoyed her. "Rest. I find that it's often the best thing to gather your thoughts and think about what you might do next."
They both looked at her for a moment longer before they left her alone.
Alunim didn't rest after they left, although she didn't think either Lord Elrond or Gandalf expected her to. She waited for them to leave before she threw off her covers and pried herself out of bed, wincing at the pain in her muscles. She should not be so sore. It was shameful, considering she hadn't even done something to earn it.
She leaned backwards, cracking her back and flexing her arms for a moment before she froze.
She felt off, somehow, uncomfortable. She thought Lord Elrond and Gandalf should be more alarmed by what happened. Rumil and his disappearance was personal, she understood that, but an attack on the Grey Havens was different. It was the uncertainty of it all that unnerved her, but she didn't think she could quantify it into words well enough that would convince Lord Elrond to allow her to leave and find out what happened.
She bent forward and rubbed her thighs, kneading the knots out roughly, looking around the room. Her pack was placed on the floor next to the bed and her boots leaned up against the far wall next to a small table that had a neatly folded pile of clothes. She walked over and grabbed them, slipping the soft dress over her head.
Alunim wasn't normally defiant, but she thought now was the time, if ever, to make an exception.
She toed on the soft cloth slippers, making up her mind.
She needed to find Elladan and Elrohir.
Imladris was quiet, not alarmingly so, and peaceful. A few elves were scattered about, doing their daily tasks without giving her much notice. One or two of them smiled at her when she sped past them, head down, lips drawn. She knew the twins would be together, wherever they were. She thought the archery ranger was the most logical place, considering the time of day and their penchant for it after what happened with their mother.
Alunim picked up her grey skirts and hurried down one of the paths that ran along one of the hundreds of small rivers. It wasn't a far walk, but it twisted through the most beautiful parts of Imladris and down along the side of one the larger waterfalls.
The noise was so loud it drowned out her thoughts, briefly and blissfully, until she turned left and found the tree covered route to the only flat area within walking distance of the city.
It wasn't long before she heard familiar sounds of metal against metal. A few shouts, laughter, conversation. It was all very comforting, in a way, and yet still disarming somehow. She stepped out from the path and walked down the sloping hill, scanning the area for a sign of their matching dark heads of hair.
"Alunim?" She whirled around, embarrassed that someone was able to sneak up on her without her hearing them coming. Aragorn raced up to her, smiling at her. It didn't reach his eyes, however, and he looked almost hesitant to approach her. She tensed, unable to force a smile onto her face despite her best efforts. "I heard you were back."
He stopped in front of her, whipping his hands on his trousers before he pulled her into a hug.
He definitely knew what happened. It was if she could feel the pity radiating off him.
"It's been too long." She said quietly, stepping back from him and tilting her head up to look at him. He changed considerably since she had last seen him. His hair was longer, and dirtier for that matter, but she had come to accept that about him, and peppered with a few stray grey hairs that made him look older. "I've missed you."
Alunim tried smiling again, but it worked even less than the first time.
"I didn't expect to see you." Aragorn was choosing his words carefully, picking them out one by one. "But then I spoke to Galdor." Everything went back to Galdor, it seemed. She should probably find him.
"Why are you here?" Alunim blurted out, taking special note to ignore the look on his face. "I am happy to see you, but last I heard you were," She paused, thinking about all the rumors she had heard about him and his whereabouts over the years. "Actually I'm not entirely sure where you've been."
"Everywhere." Aragorn said.
"And nowhere that you can tell me." She finished for him, earning a smile that seemed almost as forced as her own. Uncomfortableness settled over them, causing Alunim to look away. He was hiding something, she was hiding something, it was awkward. "Are you going to the training grounds?"
"No," He paused, trailing off suspiciously. "No, I was just looking for someone."
"No one important."
"I won't keep you, then." She tried to expertly maneuver her way out of the conversation without Aragorn seeing the look on her face. He, being as observant as other, noticed immediately.
"I'm truly sorry for what happened."
She looked down at her slippers and 'hmmd', thinking it was best if that was her only response. She rubbed her arm, feeling her muscles clench up from stress more so than anything else. She wanted to tell him what happened, tell him the truth of it all and what she planned to do, but she couldn't bring herself to in that moment. Not when she could see the pity in his eyes, the care he used when she spoke to her like she was made of glass and would shatter into a million pieces.
"Have you seen the twins?" It wasn't the smoothest evasion, considering, but it would have to do for now. Aragorn sighed and turned down the hill, pointing at the archery range nestled back against a river on one side and outcropping of trees on another. She followed the line of his arm and saw the twins, matching form as they shot arrow after arrow at the stationary targets. She looked back at Aragorn, body already turning down the hill. "Thank you."
"Alunim, wait." Aragorn stopped with a firm hand on her arm, squeezing it ever so slightly.
"We'll speak later." She tried to subtly move down the hill, but he kept her in her spot. He looked at her for a moment longer, really looking at her like he was trying to see what she wasn't telling him, before he shook his head and removed his hand.
"I'm really happy you're back." Alunim said as an afterthought when she realized she might have been unnecessarily, and uncharacteristically, short with him. They were close and he didn't deserve the attitude she was throwing at him.
Before he could say anything else she turned and walked down the hill, feet slipping on the dewy grass, causing her dress to tangle around her legs for a moment. She grunted, finally deciding to wrap her skirts around her knees to avoid any incidents that involved her landing flat on her back, and hurried the rest of the way down. She called to the twins when she was close and they both turned to look at her with identical smiles.
"Alunim!" Elladan set down his bow and unlatched his quiver from around his waist. Elrohir fired a few more arrows before copying his brother's actions.
"We thought Estel would keep you occupied for a bit longer." Elladan said, bending down to pick up a water skin. He took a long swig and passed it to his brother. "But you didn't seem too eager to speak with him."
"Only the awkward parts. We ignored the rest of respect." Elrohir downed the rest of the water and threw the skin down next to his empty quiver.
"I didn't mean to be rude." Alunim said, feeling instantly bad for how her conversation with Aragorn had gone. "I'm just…"
"Preoccupied." They both said at the same time. They looked at each other and smirked.
"Thousands of years and you still find that amusing." Alunim hopped up on top of a saw off log, pulling her knees up into a crossed position.
"The world is dull."
"Although, it's become a bit more exciting lately." Elrohir mused, causing Alunim to glare at him.
"You think what happened in the Grey Havens is exciting?"
Elladan gave his brother a reprimanding look. "No, not at all."
"Sorry, Nim." Alunim got the impression that Elrohir was only apologizing because Elladan was there, but she said nothing and decided to ignore it like she usually did. "You know I didn't mean it."
"I wanted to speak with both of you."
"You don't need to say it." Elladan said, arm extending outward as if he was going to touch her before he seemed to think better of it.
"Yes, I do." Alunim got off the log, annoyed that they seemed to be dismissing her without hearing what she was going to say. "I want to go after him."
"After who?" Elrohir asked.
"You know who."
"I only ask because I assumed you wouldn't be foolish enough to try and find Rumil yourself." Elladan sighed audibly as soon as Elrohir said it. Alunim glowered at him. "I'm only speaking the truth. Don't look at me like that."
"What do you mean?"
"It's Rumil." Alunim pointed out, not sure why she needed to explain her motivations to Elrohir. "He could still be alive. I'm not going to leave him."
"Galdor told us what happened."
"Galdor seems to be telling everyone what happened." Alunim said with an unnatural amount of bitterness in her voice. She liked Galdor, even if he had a tendency to treat her like an elfling, and thought that she might be being a little unfair. She rolled her shoulders back and looked down at her feet. "It doesn't matter what he said."
"It does." Elladan said, slowly, cautiously, like he was trying to placate a small child away from a tantrum. She bristled instantly, narrowing her eyes until they were nothing but slits. "You can't go racing off without knowing everything. It's too dangerous."
"Is that your opinion, or your father's?"
Elrohir scoffed. "You're nastiness is unwelcome."
"I thought you would understand." She said quietly, a sick feeling settling in her stomach. She was exploiting them and she wasn't proud of it, but she thought they might not notice, if she was clever about it. Or perhaps, they simply wouldn't care. "I need to find him."
"You two didn't even get along." Elrohir said icily.
"Don't get along. Present tense. Why is everybody speaking about him like he is already gone?"
"We're not." Elladan said quickly, looking between them both with a weary look on his face. They had been through this before. Numerous times, in fact. The twins were her closest friends, but there had always been an underlying conflict between her and Elrohir that made them pick at each other constantly. She liked him for it, most of the time, but right now she wanted to throttle him. "We're just trying to understand your desire to find him. You and him have always been distant."
"Why does that matter?"
"It doesn't." They spoke at the same time again, although this time they didn't smile at each other.
"Are you going to help me or not?" She asked, feeling her agitation and apprehension growing with each passing second.
They were both silent, looking at each other in the way they did when they were communicating without words. Elladan raised his eyebrows, lip quirking upwards while Elrohir's mouth turned downward. Elladan shook his head, causing Elrohir to sigh before he turned to look at Alunim.
"Of course we're going to help you." Elrohir said, sounding none too happy to be agreeing. "You'll get yourself killed if you go alone."
"Now is hardly the time for jokes." Elladan said, placing his hand on her shoulder to squeeze it. It was comforting for a moment, until she realized it was more pandering than anything. She thought she could deal with that, for the time being.
At least now she wouldn't be going alone.