Tittlepin by elwen of the hidden valley

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“Where’s Mama?” Faerwen held the chair steady while Estel clambered up, then pushed him closer to the table.

“And a good morning to you, Estel,” she replied pointedly, pouring milk into his cup.

Estel bit his lip.  “Sorry.  Good morning, Faerwen.”

“That is much better.  Your mother is helping in the Halls of Healing.  We are unused to dealing with so many injured at one time and Lord Elrond thought the Dunadain would appreciate being tended by one of their own.”  Faerwen ladled porridge into a small bowl, adding a swirl of honey and some milk before setting it before her charge.

“Oh.  Thank you.”  Estel sniffed before taking up his spoon.  His nose was runny this morning but food was more important than wiping his nose.  He should have known better, however, for before he had taken his second mouthful the lady was waving a clean hanky in front of his face.  He accepted it with a sigh and applied it loudly before tucking it up his sleeve.

“What is wrong with your pocket?” Faerwen asked mildly.

“It’s full,” Estel replied around another mouthful of milk.  His throat was dry this morning and the milk was cool and soothing.

His fair interrogator settled in a chair opposite.  “Full of what?”

Estel frowned.  He had not catalogued the contents for some days so he dipped in a hand and scooped out his gleanings, dropping them on the table to examine.  As he sorted he elaborated upon the trove.

“There’s this piece of string.  I took it from Celeg because she was trying to eat it. I thought it could be useful.”

Faerwen blinked.  The string was thin and but three inches long.  “Useful for what?”

Estel shrugged and continued to sort.  “This is a button from my second-best shirt.  I thought Mama could sew it back on,” he announced.

Faerwen frowned.  “Your Mama was looking for that four days ago.  Why did you not give it to her as soon as it came off?”

Estel took another gulp of milk.  “I forgot.”  He moved on swiftly.  “This is a special stone.  I was going to ask Adar if it was magic.”  He held up a dull dark grey pebble.

Despite herself, Faerwen was beginning to enjoy this.  “What makes you suspect it may be magic?”

Estel’s voice dropped to a whisper.  “It changes colour when it’s in water.  It turns blue.  Adar was telling me about the three magical elven rings last week and that nobody knows where they are.  I thought they may have been broken and this could be the stone from Vildra.”

“Vilya,” Faerwen corrected automatically.  “I can see why you would keep it” She added, with some sense of mischief, “You really should show it to Lord Elrond.”  She pointed with some concern to a small drawstring bag that looked to have come from the herbarium.  “I hope you have not taken that from the infirmary.”

Estel shook his head vehemently.  “Oh no!  Adar told me never to take herbs.”  He made to open the bag.  “I was in the garden when I saw an owl pellet and I put it in here for later.”  He frowned.  “That was last week.  I had forgotten I had it.  Glorfindel says you can tell what they’ve eaten if you pull these apart because the owl spits up the bones.  I’ll show you.”

Faerwen stayed his hand upon the drawstring.  “No, no. I shall take your word for that.  The breakfast table is not the best place to open it.”  It was with some trepidation that she indicated several round fluffy grey balls.  “Are they owl pellets too?”

Estel grinned.  “No, silly!  They’re aniseed balls.  I was sucking them yesterday when Mama called me in for tea so I put them in my pocket for later.”  He frowned.  “I don’t know where the fluff came from.”  He reached in to pull his pocket inside out, producing a cloud of fluff, seeds and crumbs, and sneezed.  About to wipe his nose on his sleeve he remembered Faerwen’s presence and fished for his hanky.  He had discovered some time ago that grown- ups had a thing about not wiping noses on sleeves.  Having observed the niceties, he gathered up his treasures, fluffy aniseed balls and all, and returned them to his pocket.

Faerwen held out a hand.  “Give me the button.”

Estel grinned.  “You could just tell Mama you found it on the floor.”  He dropped it into her palm.

Perhaps she could.  Deciding that her curiosity had been more than adequately satisfied Faerwen nodded towards his breakfast bowl.  “You had better finish that.  Do you have any lessons today?”

“I’m not hungry this morning.”  Estel gulped down the last of his milk and, eschewing the hanky, wiped his top lip with the back of his hand.  “Adar wants me to see him in the library for a history lesson after lunch but he said I could play this morning.”  He turned pleading eyes upon Faerwen.  “I can play, can’t I?”

Faerwen smiled.  “Of course you may.  Just do not forget to return at midday.  Your mama insists that you have a wash before going to your lesson.”

Estel made his escape with, “I promise,” shouted over his shoulder as he ran from the room.


Estel dipped a hand into the silver fountain and cupped some of the icy clear water.  He slurped noisily and swallowed, hoping it would ease the heat in his throat.  For a few moments it had the desired effect, the ice cold liquid freezing his mouth and throat, but then the discomfort returned.  He dropped down dejectedly upon the stone edging of the broad silver bowl, knowing that he could postpone this no longer.

The vague scratchiness at the back of his mouth this morning had grown into a burning dryness and his nose was running constantly.  He suspected that he was developing a cold and, not for the first time in his life, wished he was an elf because Adar said they never got colds.  He squinted up at the sun, which seemed to be excessively bright today.  From it’s angle, and the shortness of the shadows, he knew it must be close to midday, although the noon bell had not yet been rung.  He was tired and needed a clean hanky so he decided to return to his room.  At least that would give him time to wash his hands and face before eating.

Neither Faerwen nor Mama were in sight when he arrived and the table was not set for lunch so Estel turned to the bathing room, where he made some attempt to neaten his appearance.  As he was finishing he heard the rattle of crockery coming from the hallway and knew that the table was being set in the sitting room.  Ducking hurriedly into his bedroom he grabbed a clean hanky and arrived just in time to meet Faerwen leaving.  He held out his hands for inspection.

Faerwen smiled as she turned over the little hands.  “Very good, Estel.  Your hands are much cleaner than your pocket at least.  Your Mama is still working in the infirmary so you will have to eat alone.  Lord Elrond asked me to tell you that he will meet you in the library but he may be a little late.  He has to perform an operation upon one of the edain.”

Estel frowned.  “I thought they were all getting better.”

Faerwen cupped his cheek and her eyes grew sad.  “Sometimes healing does not progress as we would wish.”

Too uncomfortable to wish to pursue that statement, Estel only nodded and Faerwen departed, seemingly lost in her own thoughts.

It felt strange, eating alone.  Estel blew his nose as he surveyed the platter of cold fish and the colourful salad bowl, discovering that he did not feel very hungry after all.  He drank some cool apple juice and followed it with some water but the food still did not tempt him. 

A yawn sneaked up on him as the noonday bell chimed.  Maybe he could lie down for a few minutes on the cushions in the library corner while he waited for Adar.


It was a full two hours past noon when Elrond entered the library, making for the desk he normally used for Estel’s lessons.  When it was clear that Estel was not awaiting him there he turned about.  “Estel?  Are you hiding?”

There was no reply and Elrond shook his head.  It had been a long and disappointing morning and he did not feel up to playing hide and seek.  He took a deep breath and ordered his thoughts.  After all, it was hardly the child’s fault that a man had died beneath Elrond’s knife.

“I shall find you.  You know this,” he called, having tacked on a smile. 

It took him only a few moments to find his student.  In a corner of the vast library was a section used to store books for Imladris’ younger residents.  It was one of Estel’s favourite haunts and he would often be found sprawled on a heap of cushions, absorbed in carefully edited tales of Silmarils and secret elven strongholds.  Today, however, he was asleep, curled in about himself with an unopened book by his hand and Celeg tucked in close at his feet.  When she saw Elrond Celeg met his gaze for some moments before moving away a little and sitting down to watch.

Elrond lowered himself to his knees at his foster son’s side.  “A fever you say?”

Celeg only replied, “Aah”.

It was with difficulty that Elrond switched from concerned Adar to elven healer.  Once more collecting himself he studied the little boy.  Estel’s face was pale but his cheeks were flushed and a fine sheen of perspiration had caused tendrils of dark hair to cling to his forehead.  In one hand was clutched a still damp handkerchief and from the fact that Estel was breathing through his mouth Elrond deduced that he suffered some congestion of the nasal passages.

He reached out to touch a finger to one wrist, confirming the presence of fever and a life pulse too swift, even in one so young.  He smiled softly as he cupped one hot little cheek.  “Estel?  Wake up Tittlepin.”

Estel roused slowly, dragging himself up from dark and disturbing, but only vaguely remembered dreams.  “Adar?”  He blinked watery grey eyes, trying to remember where he was and finally establishing that he was in the library.  He had fallen asleep waiting for Adar.  “Sorry, Adar.  I was sleepy.”  He pushed himself upright with Elrond’s help and sat for a moment as the room performed a lazy spin.

“How long have you been feeling sick, child?”

“This morning I think,” Estel answered slowly as he blinked the room into stillness.  “My throat hurts,” he added plaintively.

“Let me see.”  Elrond pressed carefully just beneath the corners of Estel’s jaw, withdrawing as soon as he saw his charge wince.  “It seems you do not exaggerate.  Your throat must be very sore.  Open your mouth please.”

As soon as Estel obliged Elrond recognised the illness.  “The little white spots inside your cheek tell me that you have measles.”  The healer frowned.  “Although how you have acquired them I am unsure.”

“What are measles?” 

Elrond slid arms beneath the small frame and arose with Estel cradled securely in his arms.  “Measles is a mortal illness.  Fortunately, if one must catch it, childhood is the best time of life in which to do so.  Young and healthy bodies can fight it more successfully.”

Estel laid his head upon his Adar’s shoulder, feeling better already.  “I don’t remember chasing it.  How did I catch it?”

Elrond smiled as he walked down the hallway towards Estel’s room.  “Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the measles caught you.”

“Oh.”  Estel’s fever fed imagination threw up a rather frightening image of a crowd of large white spots chasing him through Rivendell’s hallways and he shrank closer to Adar’s strong chest.

Sensing the child’s disquiet Elrond squeezed him gently.  “Do not worry, Tittlepin.  You will feel uncomfortable for a few days but we will look after you.”

Celeg’s voice interjected.  “Aah.”  Estel glanced down to discover that they were being escorted by the little cat. 

As Elrond turned to push the door open with his shoulder he glanced down.  “Go and fetch Elrohir, please.”  Celeg spun about to run back down the hallway and Estel learned anew that there was more to his Adar than often met the eye.

By the time Celeg returned, with Elrohir close behind, Elrond was helping Estel into a nightshirt.

“What did you wish to see me about Adar?”  He put two and two together when he saw Elrond tucking Estel into bed.  “Is Estel sick?”

“He has contracted measles and needs to rest for a little while.”  Elrond smiled down at his little nephew and then turned to escort Elrohir back to the door, lowering his voice as he continued.  “I would like you to deliver some messages for me.  First, please advise Lady Gilraen that her son is ill.  She is working in the Healers Hall at present but she will wish to be with him.  You will also need to advise Master Healer Lorndir that we have measles within the valley.  It must have arrived with one of the edain in his care and it is possible that others will begin to show symptoms soon.  As soon as he sees any sign of the sickness any sufferers must be isolated from the others.”   

Elrohir glanced back to the bed, where Estel had now curled up on his side and appeared to be dozing.  “Is it safe to have Gilraen with him?  Is she not in danger of catching it from Estel?”

Elrond shook his head.  “If she has been tending the edain it is likely that she has already been in contact with the sickness.  It will make little difference whether she is here or in the Halls of Healing and suspect it would be impossible to keep her from her child’s side in any case.”

“Will Estel be alright?  Can this sickness kill?”

“It can kill the weak and as Lorndir’s charges are already physically compromised he must take great care.  Estel is otherwise healthy and strong so he will be uncomfortable but is unlikely to die.”  Elrond did not give his son time to ask further questions.  “There is a possibility that elves may carry the illness from one person to another, even though we do not suffer ourselves.  So the strictest cleanliness protocols must be set in place and it would be wise to limit the contact of healers between rooms.  I shall join him later but if Lordir requires information now he will find details on the illness in my notebooks.”  He smiled reassuringly as he gently edged Elrohir from the room.  “Hurry now.”

Elrond returned to the bedside, gathering up Estel’s discarded clothes and a selection of items which appeared to have fallen out of a pocket.



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