Elladan lay on his stomach, his hands folding beneath his chin, his eyes on the chessboard in front of him. Elrohir leaned over his shoulder, watching the outcome of the game.
“For a game invented by humans, it is a good way to develop intellect,” Elrond said, moving his piece.
“But you always win,” Elladan said.
“Life is not all about winning and losing,” Elrond replied. “Your move.”
Elladan moved his piece. “I cannot be developing much intellect if you always win, can I?”
Elrond cast a suspicious look at his son. “I think you have played too much chess in the past few days. We will finish up here and take a walk in the hills behind the house. The fresh air will be welcome.”
“How is Erestor doing?” Elladan asked.
“He is working,” Elrond replied. “Doing his job. A place like Rivendell rolls in paperwork in need of completion.”
“Is it the same way in Lothlorien?” Elrohir asked. “It has been a while since we visited . . .”
“You made yourselves thoroughly unwelcome with your unruly behavior,” Elrond answered. “Teasing the guards caused havoc.”
Elrohir winced. It was amazing how far back Elrond’s memory would go when it came to their mischievous pranks.
“We can never go back again?” Elladan asked, as Elrond made the closing move of the game and stood up.
“We will return to the Golden Wood when the time is right,” Elrond replied as Elladan knelt to put away the chess pieces and board. “But, to answer your question, there is plenty of paperwork in Lothlorien to. I am fortunate enough to have an adept secretary.”
“But Erestor does look so tired sometimes,” Elrohir said. “Perhaps he needs a break.”
“Fetch your cloaks and we will go for our walk,” Elrond said. “We all need breaks in life.”
Elrohir sighed and made for the door. “Yes, ada. Stay here, Elladan, I will fetch yours to.”
As Elladan put the chessboard in its place, Elrohir came back into the room, pinning on the dark material of his cloak. He handed his brother’s garment to him and waited for him to put it on.
Elrond led the way out into the hallway and made for the back door. The fresh air was cool in the evening light and the unpopulated hills beyond the elven lord’s house made a peaceful refuge, where most of the herbs for the healing potions and pastes were foraged.
Elladan and Elrohir ran ahead of their father, the wind blowing up under the folds of their cloaks. At the crest of the first high rise, they stopped and waited for their father.
As the first trees started to grow on the hills, Elrond sat down in the last rays of sunshine and patted the ground beside him. The twins sat down on either side and leaned against him for a tight hug.
The sky turned red and pink, with purple streaks running across it. The moment was perfect.
“Ada,” said Elrohir, snuggling closer against his father. The quiet peace of the moment emboldened him, and brought to light the plain frustration within him usually shoved far below. “Why do you have to hit us when we do something you decide is not right? Is there not another way you could chose to—to discipline us?”
Elrond looked down at his son. “Elrohir, you fully deserve the punishments you get. If you wish to stop receiving them, behave. The only way to teach you to obey is to invoke consequences sever enough to make you stop and think twice.”
Elrohir winced. “But it does not do that. It makes me afraid . . . of you, and I cannot cope with fearing you and loving you at the same time. It does not make any sense!”
“There is no need to fear retribution when it is done through love,” Elrond said, patting Elrohir on the back and feeling the silky tresses of his son’s hair.
Elrohir felt tears welling up in his eyes. “But that is the trouble! I do not see how you can claim to love us and still hit us with a horrible piece of stinging leather and still believe the lie!”
“It is no lie,” Elrond said, his voice growing tense. “It is the truth.”
“It is a lie!” Elrohir snapped. He tore himself away from Elrond and fled into the dark shadows under the trees. “And I hate you for it!”
Elrond leapt his feet, his eyes blazing. “Elrohir! Come back!”
But his son was gone and Elladan stood staring after him with an uncomfortable expression, his eyes wide with a mixture of horror, fear, and apprehension.