“ You talk to Maglor about it,” Elros said, from the other side of the small stone-walled room that had been theirs since they first came to the dwarf-city of Belegost. “He likes you.”
Elrond rolled his eyes and set the battered book down on the narrow bed. “No more than he likes you.”
“Hm.” Elros folded his arms around his knees and hugged them. “Not sure about that. Anyway, you’re just as bored as I am.”
“ I’m reading a book.”
“One you’ve read at least twenty times already,” Elros pointed out.
“Thirty at least. It’s still a good book,” Elrond said, but he closed the book carefully anyway and put it away on the shelf. It had come all the way from Valinor, and was probably the only copy of Elemmírë’s Tales of the Journeying that was left on this side of the Sea. “You could ask Maedhros.”
“I suppose I could,” Elros said carelessly. “I think he’s out on patrol at the moment though.”
It was a safe enough bet : Maedhros was usually out hunting orcs unless there was a good reason not to be. Elrond wondered again if Elros was really as completely unafraid of Maedhros as he always said he was. Once, he would have known without thinking, would have felt everything that Elros did. But nowadays it felt more comfortable to keep a certain amount of space between their minds.
“Let’s both go.” Elrond suggested, and Elros shrugged and got to his feet.
Maglor was not in the hall where a few of the Noldor were working on repairs to clothes and equipment by the fire. He was not in the rooms he shared with his brother. In the armouries, the broad, frowning forgemaster who came to shoo them away thought he might be at the stables, and at the stables, someone said they had seen him with Audur the elf-friend, on their way to the Hall of Arches.
They tracked him down eventually to a guard-room with a tall window that looked out across the mountain-side, down towards the long steep valley that led out towards the blue distances of Ossiriand.
“There you are!” Elros declared. “What are you doing up here? We were looking for you.”
“My turn for guard duty,” Maglor told him. “Our hosts asked us to take over this watch-point because Elves can see further down the vale than their own lookouts. It’s good news for our alliance that they have trusted us with it.”
Elrond came over and leaned his elbows on the window-sill next to Maglor, peering out. “What are you watching for?”
Maglor shrugged. “Armies. Spies. Dragons.”
“All the usual sort of things then,” Elros said, joining Elrond at the window.
“I suppose so. Were you looking for me for any particular reason?”
“Yes,” Elros said firmly, and then said nothing more. Maglor looked from one to the other and raised an eyebrow.
“Everyone but us is busy,” Elrond told him, since apparently Elros was leaving this up to him. “But we have nothing to do any more, since we came to Belegost. We aren’t allowed to go hunting or riding or even out of the city gates. We’re just supposed to stay in the guest quarters all the time. They only let us come up here because you're here already.”
“You can go to the baths or the library,” Maglor pointed out.
“We’ve been to the library,” Elros said pointedly. “We read it.”
Maglor glanced at him, blinked, and then went back to surveying the valley. “All of it?”
“All the interesting books in languages we can read, anyway,” Elrond confirmed.
Maglor frowned. Maglor was never angry, but he was a good deal more fun to be around when he had not decided that it was his duty to be stern.
“We know the war is more important,obviously,” Elros added hastily. “And it is good to have all the... food and hot water and clothes and things. And we don’t mind swordplay and archery practice. But honestly, it’s so boring never doing anything else!”
“It really is,” Elrond confirmed.
Maglor turned away from the window and looked at them properly, winding a finger in his hair as he often did when perplexed . “You know it isn’t safe to go out riding or hunting now,” he said. “The threat of orc-armies is a real one. I know that Men find it hard to wait and do nothing...”
“So do Dwarves,” Elros said. “But are you really saying that we are only bored because we are half-elven? You must get bored sometimes.”
Maglor gave him a wry half-smile and looked again out of the window. “I can’t say that I have had much opportunity recently. But no, I’m not saying that. Only that I don’t know what to expect from Men, let alone half-Men, so you’ll have to tell me.”
Elrond laughed. “But we’ve never been half-men before! We don't know how it works either.”
Maglor quirked a smile at him. “Nor you have. We’ll all have to guess then. If you were Elves, I would say that I have a long memory to wander in, in idle moments, and you two don’t, so waiting idle is harder for you than it would be for me. But in time of peace, elf-children are rarely idle... your situation is unprecedented in many ways: as half-elves, as children born into war...”
“Without our parents, living with the slayers of our kin,” Elrond said, which somehow sounded both louder and crasser than it had done inside his head. He could not decide if he felt meanly satisfied at that, or only sad, and decided to be sad, because he did not like to think of himself as mean.
Maglor’s smile vanished. “That too, of course. But despite all that means, I would prefer you both to survive to gather memories, and that means staying within the walls of Belegost, and not annoying our hosts by wandering into parts of the dwarf-city to which you have not been invited.”
“And if we ignore you and go anyway?” Elros enquired, though Elrond was fairly sure he didn’t mean it seriously.
Maglor was looking out again at the long heather-covered slopes, his face entirely calm and his mind guarded. “I would remind you that your parents must hope to see you again unharmed. It would be a pity if you escaped the kinslayers, only to fall to orcs.” He turned to Elros and smiled, though you could see it was with something of an effort. “Perhaps there is another answer. If you were young Elves of Tirion, you would learn many arts and skills, in order to decide which delighted you the most.”
“Nobody has time to teach us,” Elrond pointed out. The discontented note in his own voice annoyed him. “Sorry. I didn’t mean... I know the war comes first.”
“It always comes first,” Elros said, resigned.
Maglor wound his hair entirely around his hand and tugged at it, making a face. “We aren’t so hard-pressed as that. I don’t have tutors to give you, or most of the things you should have, but... Anyway. What do you want to learn?”
“What is there?” Elros asked in answer. Maglor glanced at him, half-opened his mouth and then gave up on whatever he was about to say and laughed instead.
“Perhaps we are going about this the wrong way,” he suggested. “You say that you have both read most of the library of Belegost, and I am sure that must contain many strange and wonderful things. Perhaps if you both choose a book or a document, and make a report to say what is in it, why it is interesting, and whether you feel it can be relied upon, that would make a good start? Thus you can each practice writing a report, and assessing a written source, and each other, and then I can tell you how that is done in Tirion, and all of us will learn something new, for I have not had much leisure for reading for a while now.”
Elrond exchanged a look with Elros. Elros nodded and held a hand up in a gesture of ‘why not’. “It would be something to do.”
“Good,” Maglor glanced sideways at Elros’s hand and then at his sleeve. “And I see you two have grown again: that jacket is too short in the arm. I hesitate to suggest it to princes of the line of Fingolfin, but I could ask Carnil to take you through making a replacement for it. In my family, needlework is held in high esteem, though I fear I have never been greatly talented at it myself.”
"Our great-grandmother wove an enchanted cloak," Elros said, which was as close as they got, in Belegost where most people were unfriends of Doriath, to speaking of Luthien.
"Very effectively, or so the songs say," Maglor agreed, looking wary.
“I’ve seen Carnil make a jacket,” Elrond said doubtfully. “It looks complicated.”
“But not at all boring,” Maglor answered swiftly.
“I suppose not.”
“You could at least choose the colours and designs. Perhaps learn a little about dye-making, with Lanwion, for that is a great art, the art of making and setting colour...”
“And it smells awful, don’t beat about the bush,” Elros said with a grin. “It has to be better than re-reading Elemmírë’s Tales for the thirty-second time, though.”
“I like Elemmírë’s Tales ,” Elrond said automatically. “But making something would be a change, if Carnil doesn’t mind.”
“She won’t mind. She’ll be happy to show off her talent. What else... if you will promise me that I can trust you not to forget, you can take responsibility for a couple of the horses."
"We won't forget," Elros promised immediately.
Maglor looked from him to Elrond, a considering, assessing look. Elrond tried to look responsible. "Very well. We will go and talk to Varyar about this, once I come off duty. You can't take them out, but you can take them to the exercise-hall at least, and you can go to the stables when you like. Would that help?"
"It would help a lot. Can we choose the horses?" Elrond asked.
"We'll talk to Varyar about that," Maglor said, noncommittal, which probably meant 'no'. He hesitated, looking at Elrond, and then as he turned back to the window said "You know, there are other works by Elemmírë other than the Tales that I am fairly sure I can repeat by heart. You can join me for my watch up here, if you wish. Bring something to write with. I can keep my eyes on the hills, and still recite Elemmírë’s work. It might be good to have a written copy of The Coming into Eldamar .”
“Now you’re talking.” Elrond smiled and moved towards the door. “I’ll get a pen... and some bread and ham." He stopped by the door, struck by a thought. " If it’s not appropriate for princes of the line of Fingolfin to make their own jackets, is it inappropriate for princes of the line of Fëanor to be standing guard duty?”
“Oh,” Maglor said, and grinned at him sideways. “That’s being Dispossessed for you. The dignity of our house is hardly worth clinging onto, after all. And Maedhros felt that it would make a good impression on the Dwarves. They like princes that do things.”
“So do I,” Elros said cheerfully. “I intend to be one. How much longer is your watch? Will you have time to tell us some of The Coming into Eldamar now?”
“I’m here till sunset,” Maglor told him. “And although I must keep my eyes on the hills, I’ll admit the watching would be less dull with company. You can’t walk far in memory and keep watch for dragons at the same time.”
“Ha!” Elros said triumphantly. “I knew it. Elves do get bored.”