Rúmil knew what they all thought. He was getting special treatment because he was Haldir's brother. As if mucking out stalls was special treatment. I guess if you wanted to think that any kind of attention from the instructors and full-time warriors was good, then yes, Rúmil was getting special treatment. He certainly had Haldir's attention. It was just not the kind of attention he liked. Haldir had higher expectations for him, so Rúmil couldn't help but disappoint him more.
He jabbed the pitchfork into the soiled straw and threw it behind him without looking.
Orophin coughed and brushed the stinky straw from his chest and arms. "What are you doing here so late? It's past dinner. I expected you home hours ago."
"Can't you tell? I'm being punished. I didn't do well in class today and Haldir decided I needed to reflect on my poor performance." He couldn't quite get the slightly whining tone out of his voice as he spoke.
Orophin frowned and laid a hand on Rúmil's shoulder. "You knew he would be harder on you than the others. You said you would keep your mouth shut and live through it. It's only been two days and you're already whining?"
"I know. But Orophin, that's exactly it. It's been two days. I've been punished for two days too. He doesn't even raise his voice to the others, but me, I can't seem to do anything right. Nothing. It makes me wonder why they moved me up to the advanced classes. To hear Haldir, I might as well be an elfling who's never touched a bow or a sword."
"Is that so? Perhaps I ought to add insubordination to your list of demerits, then."
Rúmil paled and winced as he turned around to find Haldir standing a few feet away with his arms crossed over his chest. Rúmil looked back at Orophin, accusingly, wondering why he hadn't warned him that Haldir was there. Orophin shrugged and shook his head. Haldir had stepped inside before Orophin could warn him.
Rúmil dropped the pitchfork and held his hands out, pleading with his older brother. His instructor, or lieutenant, or whatever Haldir was now.
"Haldir, I'm sorry for whining, but I'm not sorry for the things I said. You are being unfair to me." When Haldir didn't move, or blink, or even breathe, Rúmil crossed his own arms and lifted his chin. "Add insubordination if you must. I believe I'll have to appear before all of my instructors and Captain of the Guard, won't I? I'm sure they will be very interested in the fact that I have never been reprimanded or censured before, until now. That might indicate the problem is with *you* and not me, don't you think?"
Haldir sighed, shook his head and looked over Rúmil's shoulder at Orophin.
"And I suppose you agree with him? You two usually stick together against me."
Now Orophin narrowed his eyes and crossed his arms. "I said nothing of the sort. I don't agree with him, but I don't agree with you either. You're both behaving like babies." Orophin meant to stomp out right then, but he was suddenly struck with an inspiration. He ran outside, shut the big doors, threw the latch across, then ran and latched the smaller side door.
"There! You two can't come out until you settle this! You're locked in!"
Their reaction was at first, shock, and laughter. But after they both tried the doors, and realized that Orophin was serious, they began to shout for him to let them out. Orophin refused to respond to any of their threats, or promises, or any of the yelling and pleading.
"Not until you talk to each other! And make up! For real!"
As the middle brother, he'd had centuries of being forced to choose sides between his serious, no-nonsense older brother and a lighter-hearted, more spontaneous younger one. He was tired of it. He was tired of being the mediator. It was time they started to communicate with each other, and not through him.
He'd been out drawing most of the day, and he hoped he'd left one of his pencils in his pocket. He had. It was a small charcoal pencil, so he used it to put a note on each of the doors—telling any comers not to open the door without speaking to Orophin first. Satisfied, he left for home, returning a little later with food, water, a bedroll, a book, and a lantern. He figured on spending the night.
He could hear nothing when he returned, so he banged on the door. Both Rúmil and Haldir started shouting again, wanting to be let out.
"I told you to work things out first! You can't do that without talking! And I don't hear any talking! You're stuck in there, brothers. I suggest you get to work right away, if you want to eat soon!"
Inside the stables, Haldir growled and wiped his face with his hand. He glared at Rúmil, who stood behind him, and kicked the locked door one last time.
Orophin had chosen a good time to leave. His two brothers spent the next hours alternately yelling at each other, then at the door. They were both getting tired as the evening wore on, and almost ready to say or do anything to make Orophin free them.
"I didn't put Orophin up to this, Haldir. This was his own idea. One that he wouldn't have had if you hadn't been such a…a…dictator!"
"A dictator!? I wouldn't have to be if you weren't constantly taking advantage of our relationship to slack off during training!"
Rúmil opened his mouth to say something, then snapped it shut before he spoke. "You think I'm taking advantage? You can't be serious. Have I ever done it before? No. Why would I suddenly start now?"
Haldir knew, in his heart, that what Rúmil said was true. He dropped down to sit on some hay bales and stared at his feet. "I know. I…I wanted to make you quit. I wanted you to leave training, so you'd never become a warrior."
Rúmil started to protest again, loudly, until Haldir held his hand up.
"Please, let me explain."
Rúmil moved over to sit on the some hay bales situated near Haldir. "Please, do explain."
"It's bad enough with Orophin out there, being in danger. I didn't want you to follow in our footsteps. I want to protect you, Rúmil. I can't do that if you're fighting. I think that's what's been our problem for all these past years. I want you to stay innocent, and protected. You want to grow up. I want to keep you from doing that. I never felt this way about Orophin, because mother and father were here then. But you—Orophin and I practically raised you. You're my little brother, I want to keep you safe."
Rúmil laughed and shook his head. "Haldir, in case you haven't noticed, I already am grown up. Stop seeing me with only your heart. Use your eyes. See me as I am on the outside. How others see me. Besides, I won't get hurt. Not even in a battle. Look who my teachers are."
Even Haldir had to laugh at that. "If I get too overbearing during training from now on, just say ‘outside'. I'll try to calm down and treat you like the others."
Orophin could obviously sense when his brothers had quit fighting. He unlocked the door and flung it wide open. "Will you two hurry up! Dinner is getting cold!"
Orophin was lucky that he was the fastest runner.
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