To Catch a Fish
The Bruinen River was swollen from the rain, but that didn't stop the three brothers from enjoying the sunny day the season brought them. They had traveled an hour already, but it seemed as if they had left the Last Homely House only minutes before.
Two elves walked along the worn dirt rode. Elrohir now carried all the fishing poles, bait, and the picnic basket, while Elladan had a laughing Estel perched on his shoulders. Estel, having confidence in his brother's hold on his ankles, leaned back and hung upside down; not wanting to drop his younger brother, Elladan tightened his hold slightly.
Estel laughed as he looked at Elrohir, who was traveling a little behind due to the load he'd been forced to carry.
"Elrohir, you're upside down," Estel giggled.
Elrohir chuckled, "Are you sure of that little one? The way I see it you're the one upside down." He watched as his younger brother's face turned a light shade of pink from blood rushing to his head.
Estel laughed again. His brothers were silly sometimes. Suddenly, the five-year-old got an idea. Motioning his brother to keep quiet, he reached around with his hands and poked Elladan in the sides.
Elladan jumped and let out a startled yelp. He heard muffled giggles coming from the little being on his back and understood immediately what was going on. So, this is the game he wants to play, thought the dark-haired Elf as he spun around to face Elrohir.
"Elrohir, why did you poke me? You know I don't like it," he stated in mock annoyance and winked at his brother, silently telling him to play along.
Elrohir shrugged his shoulders as best he could with all their fishing gear in his arms. "It was not me, Elladan; perhaps you were imagining things."
Thoroughly enjoying this new game, Estel reached up and pulled one of Elladan's long dark locks. Elladan whirled on his heels, pretending to look around for the one responsible.
"Where is Estel? He must be the one who's doing this." Moving backwards, he came face to face with his twin. "Elrohir, if you see the young pup you are to tell me at once." With that the Noldor Elf turned back and marched in the direction of the lake.
By this time, Estel was beginning to become dizzy in his head-down position. He tried to flip back up, but the furthest he could reach was his knees. He didn't understand; it was easy to lean backwards, his back against Elladan's, so why couldn't squirming back upright be just as easy? Seeing his brother struggle to get back into an upright position, Elrohir shifted the things in his arms and hurried his steps until he was directly behind his siblings. Estel felt a hand on his back as Elrohir pushed him upright.
Elladan felt his brother settle back on his shoulders and place his hands and chin on his head. Moving his eyes upward he spoke to the little Edain. "Ah, there you are Estel. I couldn't find you."
Estel grinned, "I didn't go anywhere. I was here the whole time."
"Really? Are you sure? I didn't see you at all, and I don't think Elrohir did either." They continued the play until they reached the riverbed. Elladan then reached up and removed Estel from his perch.
"Now, Estel, I want you to stay here where we can see you. Elrohir and I need to set up lunch and get the fishing poles ready."
Estel nodded at his brother's instructions. "Yes Elladan." He looked at the water in longing. "Can I go swimming now?" he asked excitedly.
"Not before us, young one," Elladan said gently. Estel's face fell. "Don't worry, after lunch we will go in the water," he tried to make Estel feel better. It worked.
Walking back to Elrohir, he massaged his shoulders, trying to loosen the muscles of their newly acquired kinks.
Elrohir glanced at his twin with a single raised eyebrow. "Are you alright Elladan?"
"Just a little sore. It won't be long before Estel can no longer ride upon my shoulders like that; he's getting heavy."
"Yes I suppose he is, he is growing after all. Remember he is human, and they grow faster than Elves."
"Are the lines ready yet? I'd like to start collecting fish soon."
While the twins were getting lunch ready, Estel's boredom was increasing tenfold. Looking around, he spotted his chance for a little fun. The young king to be kicked off his shoes and felt the mud between his toes. Then, after checking to see if his brothers were watching, he scooped a large ball of mud into his hands and aimed for the younger twin.
As Elladan reached for one of the worms Elrohir grabbed his sleeve and pulled his brother in front of him as a living shield. Elladan didn't know what happened all he knew was that Elrohir pulled him in front of him and that his back was now wet. Reaching behind him he felt a large clump of mud slip between his fingers. He heard the laughter of the youngest among them and knew instantly what had happened.
Seeing the look on his twin's face, Elrohir knew something was going to happen and made a break for the river, removing his tunic along the way. Elladan was not far behind.
Estel tried to run, but his shorter legs could not keep him ahead for long. Elladan scooped up his baby brother and removed the little one's tunic, throwing it on the bank, near his shoes. Estel watched as the water's edge flew towards them.
"Time for you to learn to swim, little brother," said Elladan deviously. They hit the water with a loud splash. Elladan covered Estel's nose and mouth so he wouldn't swallow the river water and choke. Seconds later, they surfaced. Elrohir swam to his brother's side. The three played some, splashing each other, before finally teaching Estel how to properly float on his back and swim like dogs do. Elrohir held Estel on his stomach while Estel paddled and kicked, and Elladan gave him directions on what to do. He was getting fairly good at it when quick movements in the surrounding woods caught the older twin's eye.
A slight rustling and the breaking of a twig brought Elladan and Elrohir to a stop in their play. Something wasn't right. All life in the forest had come to a complete standstill. Nothing moved; not even the wind. It made Elrohir feel like even his breathing was out of place.
Elladan made his way out of the river, listening carefully to his surroundings. Something was definitely amiss. The trees whispered to him a warning that he could not fully hear through the water in his ears, but he knew his sense of danger was not in the least bit wrong. Something watched them, harboring dark intentions.
Elrohir, with Estel wrapped in a towel in his arms, now stood beside his brother. He could feel something was watching, but he could not see it. Whatever it was, it was well hidden.
A slight movement in the corner of his eyes alerted Elladan to the enemy's movement. It was coming closer. Elladan had no doubt in neither his nor his twin's fighting skills, but they were unarmed, and the little five-year-old, who had just begun to swim and properly ride a horse, could not so much as hold a small dagger; let alone fight a battle! Not knowing what precisely what they were up against grated on his nerves.
Estel, sensing the tension between his brothers, remained silent and still in Elrohir's arms. His only movement was a small wince as the younger twin unconsciously tightened his hold on the human child. Estel lightly pinched his brother's arm. Taking the hint, Elrohir lessened his grip slightly.
Coming to a decision, spying another movement, he whispered to his twin in Elvish. "Elrohir, listen to me. I don't want to chance a fight with Estel here. When I give the signal, I want you to run back home; do not look back."
Elrohir gave a slight shake of his head. "I cannot do that. I will not leave you. Besides, we have no weapons; what will you fight it with?"
Estel was now the one to speak. "Why don't we all run? Why must Elladan stay and fight when we can all get away?" Estel's high voice carried far, and they had to hope their would-be attackers didn't speak Elvish. The little boy didn't want to see any of his family hurt.
"He is right, Elladan."
Elladan nodded his head. Estel was correct and if it weren't for the situation he would be proud of his youngest sibling's insight. Taking a quick and hardly noticeable look around, he saw his opening.
He spoke quickly to his brothers, again in the Grey Tongue. "We have a small opening to my right, but if we are to escape the time is now; the enemy is moving."
Elrohir nodded and held Estel closer to his chest in a protective hold.
It all happened in the blink of the enemy's eye. One moment, his targets were standing; the next they were moving. The man saw his chance but he would need to be swift. Taking aim he readied a tube at the back of one of the retreating elves.
Elladan felt something strike his back. A slight stinging sensation filled his body and he sank into nothingness…