Tittlepin by elwen of the hidden valley

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Gilraen looked up at the knock.  “Come in,” she called as she gathered up her shawl.

Elladan entered, bowing his head in greeting.  “Good afternoon, Lady Gilraen.  The visitors have set up their wares in the Dining Hall.  Faerwen said that she would meet you there.”

“I shall not stay too long,” Gilraen promised as she draped the shawl about her shoulders.

“Stay as long as you like.  I am certain I can keep Estel occupied.”

If she doubted the veracity of that statement Gilraen kept her thoughts to herself.  Estel had become a real handful of late and she was more than looking forward to a couple of hour’s respite.

“Dan!”  Estel flew across the room, leaping at his older brother who caught him easily and casually swung him upside down by one leg.  The child squealed with laughter, his struggles having no effect whatsoever upon Elladan’s grip on his ankle.

Gilraen only rolled her eyes.  “Thank you for looking after my wayward son.  Nonetheless, I will not stay too long in the hall.  I only wanted to see if they had any ribbons.”

“And something for me!” came a somewhat muffled voice from around her knees.

“And something for Estel,” his mother confirmed with an indulgent smile.  Making no comment on Elladan’s parenting skills she slipped out of the room.

Estel was still struggling like a landed fish and Elladan held him up.  “Now, what shall I do with you?” he speculated.  “Perhaps I could hang you on a clothes peg in the wardrobe.”

His suggestion was met with a squeal of “Nooooo!”

“No?  I suppose I could sit you on the top branch of that oak tree in the centre of the lawn.  That would keep you still for a while.”  Elladan took a step toward the door but stopped when Estel giggled, “No, Dan.  Play with me.”

Once more Estel was hoisted upward.  “I am not sure, Estel.  I am rather busy.  I promised Adar I would help him tidy a corner of the library this afternoon.  Then again, it is raining so I suppose you would get rather soggy if I left you in the oak tree.”

Estel’s agile mind grasped immediately at a perceived flaw in Elladan’s reasoning.  “But it’s not afternoon yet.  You have time to play.”

Elladan’s eyes widened in mock surprise.  “My goodness.  I do believe you are right.” 

At that moment a tiny bundle of orange fluff pounced upon Elladan’s shoe and he winced as sharp little claws penetrated the supple leather.  “That is unfair, Celeg,” he chided.

Estel giggled.  “Get him, Celeg!”  The little ginger kitten gave a token nip at the toe of Elladan’s shoe but then turned her attention to the tips of Estel’s hair which, hanging upside down and struggling as he was, made a perfect kitten toy.

Elladan took pity on his little brother, swinging him upright in one fluid movement and catching him to his chest before setting him on his feet.  He did not fancy the idea of explaining Estel’s scratched face to Gilraen.  He supported Estel for a moment while all the blood returned to its proper place in the little body.

“Can we play in the garden?”  Estel asked as soon as the room had stopped spinning.

“It is raining.  Oh, but wait . . . I brought some things with me.”  With those words he left the room, returning a moment later with his arms full of bags and strange equipment, which he dropped in the middle of the carpet.

Estel and Celeg ran over to investigate at once.  “What’s this?”

Elladan settled himself cross legged by his collection, scooping Celeg into his lap when she would have climbed into one of the bags.  “You have plenty of toys but I thought Celeg could do with some.  And you can use them to play with her too.”

“Oooh!”  Estel righted a short, thick pole attached to a square of wood.  He could see that it was wrapped neatly with a tight spiral of string.  “What’s this for?”

Celeg needed no prompting however and immediately leapt out of Elladan’s lap to stand on her hind legs, stretching up as far as she could and scratching at the pole with her front claws.  Elladan grinned.  “It is for just that.  Adar suggested it would be preferable to her scratching the upholstery.”

Estel coloured as he remembered his mother’s anger yesterday when she discovered Celeg had been using the back of a finely upholstered armchair to sharpen her claws.  “Was Adar very cross?  Celeg didn’t mean to hurt the chair.”  As though sensing his distress, Celeg gave what had become her signature call, “Aa!” and jumped into his lap.  Once there she clambered up his chest, eliciting a couple of winces from Estel, and onto his shoulder where she balanced a little precariously, golden eyes focussed challengingly upon Elladan.

Elladan grinned at her antics.  “Adar is used to such incidents but it was he who suggested the scratching post.”

Estel’s little shoulders relaxed and Celeg clambered down, to a chorus of yelps from Estel when her claws penetrated his linen shirt.  Once down she began to sniff delicately at the bags, drawing Estel’s attention too.  “What else have you brought?”

The bags were tipped upside down and Elladan grinned as the child’s eyes widened at the bounty revealed.  There was a selection of brightly coloured soft balls and when Celeg batted at one experimentally it rolled across the carpet, emitting a bright tinkle.  The little kitten lowered her head, tail straight up like a flag pole and hind quarters wiggling for a moment before suddenly pouncing upon her prey.  Another bat with her paw and it was off across the room where she gaily followed it under the table, dribbling it around the chair legs.

Estel continued to sort through the heap, crying out with delight when he discovered a bundle of feathers and ribbons on the end of a long piece of cord, attached in turn to a stick.  As soon as he waved it about Celeg zipped across the room and pounced.  Estel crowed, standing up to wave it in a wider arc and Elladan retreated to a safe distance to watch, relocating an antique vase in the process.

The arrival of winter had taxed Gilraen’s patience as her son demanded action after his long confinement.  The broken leg had healed quickly and perfectly under Elrond’s care but Estel chafed at his enforced inactivity.  As soon as the splints were removed he had assumed that he could continue with life as usual and everyone’s tempers had been tested by his tantrums and disappointment as he fought to regain his former strength.  Just as he had been pronounced completely recovered winter closed in.

Protected by Elrond’s power, Imladris rarely saw bad weather but what fell on the surrounding mountains as snow he allowed to fall as rain in the valley.  To prevent rain or cold weather altogether would not be good for plant or tree.  Although elves did not relish walking about in cold, sopping wet garments it did them no harm.  Mortals were not so fortunate however and Estel was forced to entertain himself indoors on many days.  Although the storerooms had been raided for old toys and several elves had been happy to play rough and tumble with the little lad, Estel preferred the wide open spaces of outdoors.

Two days ago Gilraen had confessed to Elrond that she was almost at her wits end and it was then that he had told her of the caravan of dwarves due to arrive soon.  They came to trade every year at this time, leaving just before the mountain passes were blocked completely by winter snow.  When the lady expressed concerns about trying to shop and look after her over-excited son at the same time Elrond pressed his own son into service as baby-sitter.  Whilst he loved his new little brother it was not a role Elladan particularly relished when space was restricted.   Estel needed plenty of room to run off his excess energy.   The introduction of cat toys was Elrond’s idea and watching Estel giggling and prancing about the room, followed by an adoring Celeg, Elladan doffed his metaphorical cap to his father’s wisdom once more.

When Gilraen returned a couple of hours later it was to find Elladan sitting comfortably in a chair by the fire, deep in a book, and a floor strewn with balls, bells, ribbons and feathers.  She surveyed the mess but it was not until Elladan nodded toward the corner that she was surprised to find her usually inexhaustible son curled up on his bed, with Celeg purring softly on the pillow by his head.

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