Laughter greets my ears as I run down the halls towards my brothers’ chambers. Without even knocking, I swing open one of the double doors to their adjoining rooms.
“Dae!” Three voices greet me as one, their levity surprising me. But wait-why should they not act as though nothing is happening? They are unaware that I know differently. As I step in, I see the cause: Elrohir, standing in front of his bed, obviously in the middle of a story. He knows thousands, and tells them with such enthusiasm and emotion that you feel as if you were in them. This one is obviously a comedic tale, most likely involving the dwarves. However, when I approach, he drops his arms frozen in a storytelling stance and rushes over to embrace me. Elladan shortly follows suit. I hold them tight, remembering their so-recent promises to leave us. An extra-tight squeeze and we release each other.
Another elf sits on Elrohir’s bed, a slight smile pulling the edges of his mouth into an uneven curve. Flashing dark blue eyes betray recent laughter, tempered by a new solemnity that I have not seen in him before. I know him immediately, and dash across the room to give him too an embrace. This is Bregolas, elf of Mirkwood and messenger of Thranduil. He is no stranger to our halls, and is my brothers’ best friend. Like Elrohir, he always has a cheerful smile for all and a laugh hidden behind his bright eyes, and now is no exception. But as we embrace, I feel an unusual tremble in his arms. This news has frightened him, as it has us all.
We let each other go and the four of us bounce down on Elrohir’s big bed, chatting lightly about this and that, ready for a long talk and some catching-up. Squeezed between Elrohir and Bregolas, I momentarily forget the Mirkwood elf’s news in the happiness of this reunion for us all.
Elladan glances over at Elrohir, pain in his look. My brothers nod to each other, a barely perceptible movement. Elrohir sighs and turns to me.
“Dae…there’s something Elladan and I have to tell you…”
“It’s all right, Elroh. I know.” The surprise on his face warms the cold that has been growing in me. Stealing a quick look at Elladan, I see a mirroring look of disbelief on his face, though now it is not without a hint of humor. I suppose they’ve already told Bregolas, judging from his similar reaction.
“You always were a sneaky one, weren’t you?” Elrohir asks, his query breaking down the stark surprise and filling the room back up with smiles and reminisces. Neither he nor the other two elves in the room ask for a fuller explanation, and I offer none. I know-that is all that matters. But I cannot put the matter down. I feel that I need to tell them of my plans during their absence. I breach the subject as plainly as I know how.
“Mother and I are leaving as well.”
Another stunned silence ensues. I hurry on, explaining. I wonder now if I should have even brought the topic up…they don’t need another thing to worry about on top of everything else…
“Father says that we’re to go to Lothlórien, to stay with the Lady Galadriel. He says that we’ll be safer there, and-“
“Do not go.” Elladan says suddenly, his voice pitching to a deeper, monotonous tone that I haven’t heard before. Both Elrohir and Bregolas look at him-Elladan in worry, Bregolas in what looks like grief, like a painful truth has just shown itself to him.
Elladan’s eyes close and he sways forward. The three of us jump up and catch him before he falls. Elrohir grabs his shoulders and shakes him, fear replacing the worry in his stare.
Elladan comes to, looking dazed.
“What was that?” I ask, and reach for his hand. He takes mine, and holds it tightly. His palms are clammy, and he is gripping my hand so tightly that his knuckles are white with strain.
“What was what? What happened? Elrohir, why are you looking at me like that?”
“You closed your eyes, your voice went all strange, you told me-” I trail off, seeing the confusion and weariness in him. His troubled eyes hold no sign of dishonesty. I know that he is as confused as we are, so I leave it be. Elrohir sits down beside Elladan and grips his hand, but Bregolas remains standing. He looks distracted.
“Bregolas?” I call.
He jumps slightly, startled, and battle-trained muscles unconsciously reach for bow and quiver. He overcomes his reaction quickly and turns to look at me. Now I am the startled one, for the look on his face mirrors perfectly the one that Elladan wore moments ago. The same confusion, the same distance, the same dazed perception. Our eyes meet, and I see fear in his eyes. And anger. And exhaustion. And a million other things I cannot name. But I know that if I had looked into Elladan’s eyes a split second after he came to, I would have seen the same.
We look away, and Elladan calls to the Mirkwood elf.
“Bregolas? I’m all right. Really, I am.”
Bregolas looks at him, peering into his pale face.
My brothers and I are still processing this brief thought when the Bregolas that we know-merry, laughing, cheery Bregolas-seems to return to us, and his wide grin spreads like a fire.
“Come on, all of you…strange things happen to everyone. Let’s enjoy ourselves while we still can! It seems that we will all be leaving for somewhere soon…where did you say you were going, Dae?”
We all laugh and pick up our talks where we left off before the solemnity that is not natural for any of us took over. We leave the awkward silence behind us and try to avoid discussing the darkness that has stolen into our lives. Elrohir even resumes his story, and soon we are all laughing at his antics, blissfully lost in his tale. My happiness-unnatural, seeing the circumstances-returns, and I forget for the moment the new evil that has come into our peaceful lives.
Elrohir is nearly done with his story when another messenger-this time one of Father’s-pokes his head through the still-open door.
“Pardon me, my Lords, my Lady, but the Lady Celebrían requests a word with her children. My Lord Bregolas, your meal is waiting.”
Bregolas rushes off eagerly to the kitchens and my brothers and I exchange nervous glances. First Father speaks with Elladan and Elrohir; now Mother wants a word with all of us…what could be happening? The answer is all too clear: Our world is changing. And our lives, though we can avoid the fact all we want, will never be the way they were years, months, days, even hours ago.