“Climb!” Legolas encouraged.
Elladan stopped to catch his breath, squinting up at Legolas several feet above them in the tree. He decided not to look down, knowing the distance between him and the ground was a far ways.
“Coming,” he said.
Elrohir was right behind his twin, climbing hand over hand up the branches. The unused energy burning inside him escaped out his fingers and aided his work. At last he perched on the branches at the top of the tree and poked his head out the top of the leaves. The fresh air and wind sailed by, whirling leaves into the blue sky.
Legolas looked at him and grinned.
“Do you climb up often?” Elladan asked, dangling his feet over the branch.
“Not the same tree,” Legolas said, snapping the small stick in his hands into small pieces with a thoughtful expression.
“Have you . . . ever fallen?” Elrohir asked.
Legolas appeared to consider. “I have lost plenty of skin shinning up trunks,” he admitted. “But I have not ever fallen. What about you?”
“No,” said Elrohir. “But we do not climb a lot.”
Legolas thought back to Elrond’s expression when he and the twins had gone sailing down the stairs at Rivendell. “Probably not,” he agreed.
For a while the elflings sat in silence.
“We should go back down,” Elrohir said. “And find a new tree to climb. One more difficult!”
Legolas grinned. “I will race you down.”
“It would not be fair, as seeing as you have so much more practice,” Elrohir argued.
“I will go easy on you,” Legolas promised.
As the elflings started down the tree, Elladan asked, “Where is Landion?”
Legolas looked up at the twins. “He had to stay in with Harune and help him iron sheets.”
“Ep!” said Elladan. He made a face.
“Landion likes it,” Legolas objected. “It is something Harune has instilled in him. But you better stop talking and start climbing or I will win!”
“Ha!” said Elrohir. “There are two of us. So if one of us wins, we both share the victory since we are two halves of the same person.”
“I am sure you think it very funny,” Legolas said with a frown. “I object to the rule. I raise argument!”
“Ha!” said Elladan. He swung his foot down and reached for the lower branch. A sickening crack wrought the air and the branch under Elladan’s feet gave way. He plummeted with a scream, the branches whipping across his body as he fell, and slammed into the ground, landing awkwardly on his feet. He tripped, and tumbled to his back.
As Legolas and Elrohir landed on the ground beside him, he groaned and looked dazedly at the two elflings.
“Muindor nin!” Elrohir said. “Are you all right?”
Elladan blinked and sat up slowly. “N-nothing is broken . . . I am fine.” He looked at Legolas and grinned. “But I won the race.”
Legolas’s concerned expression faded into one of annoyance. He stood up and offered his hand to Elladan. “Indeed, and it was a good race. Falling is a good trick I must remember.”
Elladan grabbed Legolas’s hand and hefted himself to his feet. He doubled over with pain as his feet landed on the ground, and sank to his knees with a groan.
“I-I think I have sprained my ankle,” he said, stretching his legs out in front of him.
Elrohir felt Elladan’s ankles and nodded. “Yes, the left ankle bone is dislocated. We will help you walk home.”
Elladan winced as Elrohir’s hands wound around his left ankle before leaving his flesh. He leaned back on his hands; glad the ankle did not hurt. There was a dull ache. He wondered what Thranduil would say when he found out.
“We not far from home,” Legolas said. “We will take you to ada. He will know what to do.”
Elladan let Elrohir and Legolas help him to his feet. It was not easy hopping on one foot the entire way homewards but it was better then putting weight on the twisted ankle and feeling the sharp pain. With Legolas and Elrohir’s help, he made his way to the family room in the palace and sat down in Thranduil’s armchair with a tired sigh. His ankle was beginning to hurt now.
“I will fetch ada,” Legolas said, and darted out of the room.
Elladan leaned his head back on the chair’s plush back and bit back tears of pain. Elrohir came to take his hand and squeeze it.
“I m sure he will not punish you for falling,” Elrohir said, without conviction in his voice.
“Ada,” said Elladan. He stopped as Thranduil entered the room at a brisk walk and knelt down at his feet to examine the injury.
“I know it hurts,” he said, after a quick look at Elladan’s face.
“It is growing worst,” Elladan said meekly. He felt Thranduil’s fingers on his ankle, and he screamed aloud as a quick jerk twisted the bone back into place with a pop. Hot tears slid down his cheeks, but the sharp pain had gone back to the dull ache.
His vision was blurry but he did not need eyes to feel Thranduil’s arms wrap around him in a tight hug. The elf king drew Elladan into his lap, and sat back in the armchair. The elfling’s tears reduced to a trickle as the gentle hands on his back soothed him.
“You were not far from the ground when you fell,” Thranduil said. “Nothing is broken. You have some bruises but you will live.”
“I did not mean to fall,” Elladan faltered, his eyes on his hands.
“No one does,” said Thranduil, with a smile. “Be more careful next time, and it will not happen again.”
Elladan wiped his running nose on the back of his sleeve. Next time? Tree climbing had not been banned over the small incident? He looked over his shoulder, wiping away his tears, as footsteps announced the arrival of Harune, Legolas, and Landion.
“I am all right now,” he assured Legolas. He looked at Thranduil. “Can I walk on it?”
“Try,” Thranduil suggested.
Elladan slid off his lap and took a few steps, wincing as a few sparks of pain shot through his leg. He shifted his weight back and forth and gave a satisfied nod after the pain faded.
“Dinner will be ready soon,” Harune said into the silence. “I am relieved no one broke an arm. Or a nose.” He pinched Legolas’s ear lightly with a knowing look.
“Ow!” Legolas twisted away. “I did not mean to hit the wall!”
“It still looks the slightest bit crooked to me,” Harune said, studying the small, delicate nose in the face of his grandson.
“You have been saying that ever since the day it stopped bleeding!” Legolas retorted. “And I know it is not true! I measured it exactly with a ruler!”
“I wondered what happened to that,” Harune said at once. “No doubt in the clutter under your bed. Which reminds me—”
Legolas let out a scream and fled before Harune could tell him to clean his room out before dinner. As soon as he was gone, Harune eyed up his grinning son.
Thranduil heaved himself out of his chair, and paused a moment to tousle Elrohir’s dark head. “Come; we do not want dinner to grow cold. Landion, find Legolas.”
“He will not come as long as the threat of cleaning out his room is in the air,” Landion objected.
“Tell him there are boar sandwiches for dinner,” Thranduil said.
Landion’s eyes lit up. As his mouth began to water, his excitement came to a halt and he examined Thranduil’s face suspiciously. “Is it true though? Or is it a trick?”
“It would not be a good trick if I answered that,” Thranduil replied. “But this once it is true. Esrestil and Nix accompanied the hunters on their hunt, and killed one of the rampaging wild boars. The meat is freshly roasted.”
Landion shot from the room like an arrow from a bow at this ravishing description. Elladan limped slightly as he followed Thranduil and Harune to the dinner table. A quick look at his twin brought a grin to his lips. It faded to a smile as he said with his eyes, “I am happy there was no mention of punishment. I do not think he was even angry.”
“He might have been, if you had broken something,” Elrohir’s eyes said.
Elladan looked away as his mind considered the question. He could not see Thranduil with a strap in hand and he did not want to try imagining it. But a frightening thought made its way into his mind:
What if Thranduil’s gentle, kind nature covered the anger and boiling rage that could erupt from within him at times when it was needed? A hand guided by anger, and a mind ruled by the great lie would be a painful punishment indeed. Elladan closed his eyes and vowed he would do his best to never awaken it.