Tittlepin by elwen of the hidden valley

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The door opened to admit one tall elf lord.  Elrond closed it quietly behind him, gliding silently to the bedside.  Estel’s mother offered a weary smile.

“Good afternoon, Gilraen.  I can sit with him for a while if you wish.  Faerwen tells me that you did not leave his side all night.”  Elrond drew up a chair opposite her.

Gilraen only shook her head.  “My place is at his side.  He woke up earlier and asked for me.”  She leaned over to brush damp hair from her little boy’s brow, her fingers registering both heat and the bumps of an angry rash.

“How was he?”  Elrond asked as he touched a finger to the inside of one small wrist.

“His eyes are sore.  I tried to wipe away the crusts about them but it hurt him so much that in the end I gave up.”  Gilraen’s grey eyes glittered with tears.

Rather than sit, the healer crossed to the bathing room.  Gilraen heard him washing his hands and when he returned he held a basin of gently steaming water, which he set upon the table at her side.  Selecting a fine green glass bottle from the arrangement of medicines that had been collecting on the bedside table he added a couple of drops of the contents and swirled the water with long fingers.  The bottle was delicately cut with an image of flowers and vines, its stopper an alabaster rose.  Among Gilraen’s people it would have been reserved for the storage of expensive perfume but here it contained something more precious, succour for the hurting.

Elrond wrung out a clean soft cloth in the delicately scented water and held it out to her.  “Hold this on his eyes for a few moments and then wipe gently,” he instructed.  “It will break down the encrustation more easily.”

She draped the warm damp cloth over her son’s eyes, then heard, “Mama?”  Estel’s plaintive call was little more than a croak.

“Mama’s here,” Gilraen murmured as she stroked his hair. 

“My eyes hurt.”

“I know, sweeting.  Mama’s going to help with that now.”  She began to wipe gently, sweeping the cloth from nose to temple and relieved when Estel made no protest.  “Try to open them now,” she murmured when her son’s thick dark lashes were revealed at last.

He blinked open bleary and bloodshot eyes to seek out his mother’s face, chin trembling as he whispered, “Want to be better, Mama.”

Fighting back tears Gilraen smiled, in an attempt to reassure.  “I know.  You will be out climbing trees soon, I promise.”  A part of her knew that this statement was true but another could remember, only too clearly, Elrohir’s quiet message of that morning.  One of the injured rangers had succumbed, his damaged body too weak to fight off this latest onslaught.  She had refused Elrohir’s offer to sit with Estel so that she could attend the interment, resolving to mourn her kin only when her son no longer needed her.

“Would you like a drink?  Your Adar has sent lemonade.”  She glanced up to where Elrond stood behind her chair.

Estel’s face showed a flash of interest.  “Yes, please.”  He followed his mother’s gaze to see Adar’s calm features.  “Can’t you make me better, Adar?”

Elrond had to swallow before replying.  “I am sorry, Tittlepin.  Only time can heal this sickness.  But your Mama is correct.  In a few days this will just be a memory.”  He lifted Estel slightly so that Gilraen could slip a plump pillow beneath his shoulders, tucking the blankets close while she poured pale, cloudy liquid into a small cup.  Water gathered upon the outside at once and Gilraen marvelled anew at the skill of elves in keeping liquids cool.  She had long since ceased to call it magic, knowing that the term would only draw frowns of incomprehension from her hosts.

Touching the cool rim to his lips, Gilraen was gratified when Estel took a sip, quickly followed by another and another.  Lemonade was one of the few things that Estel did not push away and Elrond had promised her a stroll in the orangery attached to the Healer’s wing when Estel was recovered.  Gilraen had never heard of lemons until she started to help with the sick.  This was not surprising for they would only grow indoors in these northern climes and there was space in the orangery for only one tree.  The sick always had first pick of the fruit and only when there was an excess did other’s get to share this precious commodity. 

Elrond bent to whisper in her ear.  “Not too quickly.  It will not sit well on his empty stomach.”

Gilraen complied at once but was very gratified to have the cup emptied.  Elrond bent to smear a clear salve on Estel’s lips and was rewarded by a thin smile from his heart son.

His immediate needs settled, Estel watery gaze followed his Adar about the bed, watching as he settled into a chair opposite Mama.  “Is it night time?” he asked with a frown.

Elrond followed his train of thought easily.  “No.  We have drawn the curtains so that your eyes do not hurt as much.  It will soon be teatime.  Are you hungry?”

Estel considered for a moment.  He should feel hungry.  It seemed to him that he always felt hungry.  But he could not remember when he last ate and he realised that, if he was truthful, he did not feel hungry now.  His tummy was not growling and the prospect of chewing something was more effort than he could muster.  “Not really.”

Gilraen glanced across at Elrond.  Estel must be feeling ill indeed if he was turning down the offer of food.  Elrond only nodded to her before continuing to coax their little charge.  “You need to eat something if your body is to fight off this illness.  You will get better much faster if you can manage to eat.  Perhaps we can find something soft for you to try.  Do you like soup?”

Estel pondered for some time.  Soup was very nice when he came in from playing on a cold day.  He had not been playing, though.  On the other hand, soup did not require chewing.  Indeed, the more he pondered the subject, the more the idea of soup appealed.  “What sort of soup?”

Both adults stopped holding their breath.  “We have lots for you to try.  There is cream of chicken, cream of tomato, beef broth, potato and mushroom . . . If none of those appeal I am certain that we can ask the cook to make you one that does.”  Elrond waited patiently for his reply.

It did not take long. “I like cream of tomato.  Can I try some of that?”

“Of course you may.”  Elrond arose.  “I shall make the arrangements.”

Gilraen smiled at her son before following Elrond to the door.  There they held a short, whispered conversation. 

“Will that be enough?  I would rather he had the beef broth.”

Elrond shook his head.  “We can fortify it with a little chicken broth and, for the moment at least, I would rather encourage him to eat something than have him reject everything.  His appetite will pick up once more when he begins to feel better.”

“When will that be?”

“The illness shows no sign of abating at present, but neither is it growing any worse.”  In a rare show of affection Elrond laid a gentle hand upon Gilraen’s shoulder.  “Do not worry.  He is young and strong and will come to no lasting harm if he rests.  Our greatest problems will come when he begins to recover.  I have no doubt that he will chafe against the restrictions we must place upon him then.”

Now Gilraen managed a small smile.  “I’m sure you are right.”  Then she turned back to look at the little figure curled beneath soft blankets.  “I wish I could do more.”

“You are doing all that he requires of you.  He knows that Mama is at his side and that is the greatest gift for any child,” he replied wistfully.

Gilraen watched his back thoughtfully as he strode away down the hallway.

-0-

“And Tulkas was as one caught in a black net at night, and he stood powerless and beat the air in vain.  But when the Darkness had passed, it was too late: Melkor had gone wither he would, and his vengeance was achieved.” 

Elrond’s rich voice faded and with it the magical images.  The book of The Darkening of Valinor lay open upon Elrond’s knees but he had long ago ceased to consult its pages, the lore master recalling perfectly every word written there.

“So is it always dark in Valinor now?” Estel asked around a mouthful of soft scrambled egg.

Elrond smiled, reaching out to wipe away a drop of liquid from Estel’s chin.  “That is a tale for another time, but no, there is light in Valinor.  Perhaps you can read about it when you are feeling better.”

Estel frowned.  “Is it written in Quenya?”

“We have a copy in Sindarin, but the poetry sounds better in the original Quenya.”

“Maybe I could start with the Sindarin?” Estel asked hopefully.

Elrond relented.  There was still time for the chieftain of the Dunedain to learn Quenya.  Not as much time as an elf, but time enough.  “Very well.  When I judge you recovered enough to read I will send you the Sindarin version.  Later we will study the Quenya one together.”

Estel swallowed the last morsel of egg.  “Will you tell me the tale now?”

Elrond smiled.  Every day he was reminded of how quickly mortals lived their lives.  “No.  Now that you have finished your repast you need to rest.”

Estel sighed, having learned long ago that further protest would be ineffective with Adar.  For his part, Elrond cleared away the tray and it’s few remaining contents and rearranged the pillows beneath Estel’s head.  As he settled back in his chair Elrond noted Estel trying valiantly to smother a yawn.

“I will not tell you another tale but I will sing, if you wish.”

Estel’s eyes widened.  In all the days he had now lived in Imladris he had heard Elrond sing no more than half a dozen times.  Each time was engraved upon his memory for the Lord of Imladris had a rich baritone that could fill the corners of the largest hall or whisper melodically in the ear of only one.  Pure elven voices held a clarity and perfection that seemed to grow out of the very air.  Elrond’s mixed heritage produced in his a perfectly pitched clarity but it also had a burred and earthy quality to the edges that spoke warmly to Estel’s mortal ear.

Settling back among his pillows, Estel smiled.  “Yes, please Adar.”

Elrond closed his eyes and drew breath then, to Estel’s surprise, began to sing in Westron.

*“An Elven-maid there was of old,

A shining star by day:

Her mantle white was hemmed with gold,

Her shoes of silver grey.

 

A star was bound upon her brows,

A light was in her hair

As sun upon the golden boughs

In Lorien the fair.

 

Her hair was long, her limbs were white,

And fair she was and free;

And in the wind she went as light

As leaf of linden-tree.

 

Beside the falls of Nimrodel,

By water clear and cool,

Her voice as falling silver fell

Into the shining pool . . .”

 

 

*The song of Nimrodel – as sung by Legolas in Lothlorien, The Fellowship of the Ring.

 

 

 




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