Tittlepin by elwen of the hidden valley

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“Adar?”

Elrond looked up from his work, setting down his pen and smiling at the little figure peeping around the corner of one of the book cases.  “Yes, Estel.  Did you want something?”

Estel looked about him at the many cases that ran from floor to ceiling down the long room, their shelves crammed with books and scrolls.  Celeg was not so easily impressed, however.  The little kitten sniffed delicately at a few tomes on a bottom shelf then came over to investigate Elrond.  Adar Elrond absently bent to scoop her up in one hand, stroking her gently.

“I am getting better at my letters,” Estel announced as he came closer.

“You are, indeed,” his foster father replied, waiting to see where this conversation was heading.

Celeg’s golden eyes narrowed, fixating upon the quill Elrond had just set in the ink pot. 

“No, Celeg,” Elrond stated calmly as he set her down upon the floor once more.  There she sat looking up, up and up the legs of the writing lectern.

“Have you any books I can read?” Estel asked.  “I like to read but Mama’s books are too hard.”

Elrond smiled, leaving his stool to hunker down before his adopted son.  “Would you like to read in Westron or Sindarin?”

“Sindarin,” Estel replied at once. 

Elrond frowned.  “Would you not prefer your mother tongue?  You may find it easier at present.”

“But I’m learning Sindarin.  We don’t talk Westron here.  Even Mama talks elvish now.”

Elrond considered again the wisdom of teaching Estel Sindarin so soon.  But he had not wanted the little edan to feel isolated when most of those living in the valley only spoke Westron as a second tongue.  Now he began to worry that Estel would lose the language of his own people.  He would speak to Gilraen about the feasibility of her son learning the languages in tandem.

“Very well.  Perhaps I can find you some books in both Westron and Sindarin.  What sort of stories would you like to read?”  He rose smoothly, taking Estel’s hand to lead him to a far corner of the huge room.

“I like stories about warriors and dragons,” Estel replied at once.

“Hmmmm.  Most of our stories about warriors and dragons are a bit too grown up for you.  Let me see . . .” Elrond pushed aside a drift of comfortable floor cushions and knelt to examine a collection of brightly bound books on the lower shelves.  He drew out a small book, bound in a bright sky blue leather.  “Here is one written in Sindarin, a story about a naughty pony.  Elrohir was very fond of this book when he was younger.”

Estel plopped down amongst the cushions and opened the book, cooing with delight when he saw that it contained many colourful pictures as well as words.  Warriors and dragons were instantly forgotten and Elrond smiled, pulling out two more books.  “This is a story about a sailor called Aldarion.  He is an ancestor of yours and had lots of adventures.” He held out a green book.  “The story is written in Westron.  And this one,” he offered a bigger and obviously much read book, “is the tale of how the world was made.”

Estel laid aside his first book and reached for the larger one.  It fell open easily in his lap and he tried to read the title page.  “The Ain . . .” He looked to his Adar for help.

Elrond smiled as his fingers traced the word slowly.  “The Ai-nu-linda-le,” he pronounced carefully.  “You will not find it as easy to read but it does have some very pretty pictures.  If it is too hard for you we could read it together the first time.”

Estel beamed.  “Oh, yes please.  I love it when you tell stories.  Can we read it now?” he asked eagerly.

Elrond settled on the floor at his side, slipping a cushion at his back and gathering Estel to him.  “Yes.”  He turned to the first page and his rich voice floated on the air as Estel stared at a picture of strange and beautiful figures.

“There was Eru, the One, who in Arda is called Iluvatar . . .”

-0-

Celeg watched the two move away but did not follow.  She continued to stare upward, to where the tip of Elrond’s quill could just be seen, its bracts quivering in a stray draught from the open door.  Still a kitten, the desk was too far for her little legs to jump.  She unsheathed her claws, testing them against the wood of the lectern, but after two unsuccessful attempts she sat down to reconsider.

That was when she hatched her master plan.  With much thought (for a kitten) and not a little scrabbling she managed to traverse a convoluted path from bookshelf to bookshelf and from thence to chair and finally, desk.  Once there she paused.

Celeg sniffed delicately at a brown and curling scroll, and sneezed before sitting upon a fresh sheet of paper which contained just one line of beautiful flowing script.  She pawed at the words for a moment, just to see if they would play.  When they ignored her she returned her attention to the initial quarry. 

The pale grey quill sat in isolated splendour within a finely traced silver pot at the corner of the desk.  Its delicate bracts waved at her tantalisingly and she dropped onto her front paws, golden eyes glowing as her bottom wiggled from side to side, the tip of her tail twitching.   Somewhere in the house a door closed, the plume shivered and Celeg pounced.

She landed a hairsbreadth from pot and plume but one front paw nudged the little silver inkpot.  That was enough to tip it over, pooling blue ink over most of the lectern and turning the quill into a soggy mess.  The round pot rolled in a wide arc before dropping off the desk and landing with a loud clatter on the tile floor, leaving a ragged ribbon of blue in its wake.

Celeg did not wait to discover whether or not she was in trouble.  She assumed the worst and, with a cry of alarm and a boldness that could only have been born from fear, she jumped directly from desk top to floor and bolted for the door.

-0-

Elrond leapt up, Estel in his arms, as there was a loud clatter followed by the sound of papers scattering and the unmistakeable, “Aa!” of one very startled kitten.   His keen gaze immediately took in the scene, the growing blue stain, soggy feather and trail of tiny blue paw-prints. It took the elf little more than a moment to assess the situation and he set Estel on his feet.  “Come.  We had best find Celeg before she leaves a trail of paw-prints across some family heirloom.”

As they left the library Erestor appeared.  “If you can send someone to deal with the mess in the library I shall find our little culprit,” Elrond called over his shoulder.  Erestor glanced into the library and sighed.  The beautiful tiled floor was centuries old.

It was not difficult to find Celeg.  The trail of dainty prints ended in a corner, behind a large potted palm.  Elrond easily reached in to grab the little trembling bundle by her scruff.  She called out indignantly only once before hanging limp in his grip.  Elrond held her up before his face, his voice soft but firm.  “If you promise not to get ink on Estel’s clothes we shall get you clean.”

“Aa.”

Elrond met her golden gaze steadily for a moment before laying her on her back in Estel’s hands.  There she remained, blue pads pointed heavenward and her trembling fading as she recognised her friend’s touch and smell.

-0-

“Oh dear.  What has happened?”  Gilraen set down her book as Elrond and Estel arrived.

“Celeg stood in some ink,” her son replied as he held out his kitten for her inspection.  Celeg obliged by stretching out her little blue pads.

Elrond was already making for the bathing chamber and called over his shoulder, “Ink that she spilled.”  He returned a moment later with a basin of warm water, soap and a towel.  Gilraen drew a table next to her chair and pushed Estel to sit.

The elven lord eyed Celeg sternly.  “If you lie still I shall try to remove this ink.  Although I suspect you are destined to have pale blue paws for some days.  And please sheath those claws.”

“I think Celeg could look very fine with blue paws,” Estel pointed out as Elrond soaped his fingers and began to gently wash the kitten’s pads.

“I have no opinions on the aesthetics of blue pads but Celeg will try to lick them clean herself and the ink may upset her tummy.”

Some of the warm soapy water trickled down Celeg’s leg and she squirmed a little but Elrond ignored her movements.  By the time Elrond had reached the fourth little foot, however, Celeg was becoming annoyed.  Her fur was getting wet and wet fur was cold fur.  Finally, she decided she had suffered enough indignity.

Had Elrond or Gilraen been holding the little cat they would perhaps have been prepared for her sudden move.  But Estel was holding her very lightly when Celeg exploded into action.  She corkscrewed about as only a feline can and leapt.  Sadly, as a kitten, she had not thought this through and landed with a big splash, up to her belly in the basin of warm, soapy water.  Everyone jumped back but Elrond was unprepared when Celeg made her almost instantaneous next move.

Claws unsheathed, the now soaked kitten leapt straight at his chest.  Sadly, her climbing skills were limited as yet and she had to scrabble to climb upward, leaving a trail of water and little rips all the way up the front of Elrond’s fine robe.  As swiftly as Celeg had pounced, Elrond moved.  The kitten was grabbed by the scruff.  She would not let go, however and when Elrond drew her away she took his robe with her.

So there Celeg hung, from Elrond’s hand, and there Elrond’s once beautiful robe hung, from Celeg’s claws.  A stand off until Elrond’s eyes narrowed.  “If you release my robes I shall hand you over to Estel to get dry.”

Celeg sniffed and twitched her whiskers before delicately sheathing her claws.  The robe fell away and Elrond grimaced as the cold wet fabric fell against his chest.  Gilraen tried valiantly to hide a smile as she spread the towel.  When Elrond lowered Celeg into his lap Estel draped the soft towel about his little friend.  A rather soggy and sorry looking Celeg burrowed into the towel, peeping out to stare balefully at Elrond.   

True to her promise Celeg had not marked Estel’s clothing, much to Gilraen’s relief, but Elrond had not fared so well.  He managed to avoid the ink but his beautiful robes were very wet and showed some serious damage from needle sharp kitten claws. 

Having witnessed the undignified tussle, Gilraen was having difficulty holding in her laughter as she held out another towel to the scowling and, for once, not so elegant elven lord.  Elrond paused long enough to fix her with a narrowed gaze before dabbing rather ineffectually at his garments.  At the sound of his mother’s smothered giggle Estel looked up in surprise. 

For a moment longer Elrond scowled then his lips twitched as he too began to see the ridiculous side to the situation.  He began to chuckle and that was the signal for Gilraen to completely abandoned the battle to hide her amusement. 

It seemed to Estel that it was an age since he had heard his mama laugh so freely and it felt as though spring had just arrived after a long and hard winter.

 

 




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