Tittlepin by elwen of the hidden valley

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“Please do not fuss so, Nestorel.” Elrond gave a long suffering sigh as the healer draped his legs in a soft blanket.

“Oh hush. You have not the strength to resist me at present so you may as well surrender gracefully. Anyway, fussing is a part of my job.” The healer tucked in the blanket then made sure that a little hand-bell was set within his reach.

“And you excel at it,” her captive murmured with a lopsided quirk of his lips.

Nestorel decided to ignore the comment, instead ensuring that Elrond also had books and water to hand. When she had things ordered to her liking she stood over him, narrowing grey eyes above the slope of her long nose. “You will not leave that chair, Elrond. If you require anything you will ring the bell and someone will attend you.” She paused for dramatic effect. “If I hear that you have tried to get out of that chair I shall have you tied to your bed instead.”

Accelerated elven healing ensured that the bruises on his face were already morphing from green to yellow but still Elrond grimaced as an attempt to raise a brow pulled at healing scabs and stitches. He settled for asserting, “I very much doubt that.”

The lady pointed one long finger, it's nail short but perfectly manicured. “Try me if you wish.”

Deciding that discretion was the better part of valour, Elrond withdrew. “I hope my copy of Aule and Yavanna is amongst these books, and I see no writing materials.”

Nestorel searched amongst the tomes upon his table, finally placing one gently in his lap. “There are no writing materials because you will be doing no writing until the splints on your arm are removed.” Her tone dared him to gainsay her in that matter.

“Your point is valid. When will the splints be removed?”

“When I ascertain that the bones have healed sufficiently,” was the lady's reply as she departed.

Alone at last, Elrond allowed his body to sag into the pillows. After two days his body was recovering well, aside from the wound in his thigh which had to be re-opened and drained earlier this morning. Were he honest with himself, Elrond had to concede that he was fortunate to be permitted to leave his bed at all, for it was only poppy juice that was holding his pain at bay sufficiently to do so. He closed his eyes against a stray sunbeam from the window, relieved that the swelling had gone down enough to at least allow a choice over whether to open his left.

He must have dozed for it was the sound of his book landing upon the floor that shocked him awake and he winced as his body protested his sudden tension. When he tried to bend to the side to retrieve it small hands beat him to the task. “Here, Adar.”

Accepting the book, Elrond yawned before reaching out a hand to cup Estel's face. “Good morning, Estel.”

Estel frowned. “It is afternoon. Are you sleepy? Nestorel said I could visit but that if you were sleepy I should leave.”

Elrond drew himself more upright, a task made difficult with his legs upon a footstool, several still healing ribs and with only one good arm to do so. “I was just napping.” He leaned closer to whisper, “In truth, I was bored. Draw up that stool and talk to me for a while.”

Estel willingly obliged, settling himself comfortably by his Adar's feet. “Are you feeling better, now?”

Elrond's smile was still a wee bit lopsided but he tried it on for size. “I am much better, thank you. But I do wish I knew what was going on around me.” He nodded to the window, with its broad balcony beyond. “I can see nothing from here.”

Estel beamed. “Oh I can tell you everything. Oops!” He slapped a slightly grubby hand over his mouth.

“What is it, child?”

“I'm not supposed to speak about the valley and such,” he offered sheepishly.

Elrond did not bother to ask who had issued that injunction. “Nestorel is a little too protective of her charges. Do not worry. You can tell me.” If he felt a little guilty about asking a child to go against the instructions of an adult, he told himself that he was the Lord of this valley, after all.

Estel relaxed. “What would you like to know? Faerwen hit her thumb with a hammer. The roof on the Hall of Fire is almost fixed. They found the missing horses and they are safe. One of them has had a foal. All the soot has been cleaned from Naneth's room. The cooks made mushroom soup for lunch. The fences in the south pasture will be fixed tomorrow. The pasture down by the river is so wet that when you jump up and down it wobbles ...”

Elrond held up a hand to stem the tide of information. “Let us take this one item at a time. The roof on the Hall of Fire was damaged? How badly?”

“Oh, it was only one corner. All the tiles slid down into the yard and they wouldn't let me go near in case any more fell. Faerwen and some others went up ladders to put them back but some of them are broken.”

Elrond blinked. “Elves, ladders or tiles?”

Now Estel was confused. “Elves, ladders or tiles?” he repeated.

“What was broken? The tiles, the ladders, or did someone get hurt?”

“Oh. Nobody was hurt, except Faerwen. She hit her thumb with a hammer and said a naughty word. Some of the tiles are broken and Erestor says he will have to get some more made. So they have covered the hole with some wood.”

“Those tiles are very old and will be difficult to duplicate. I should tell Erestor where we dug the clay.” Elrond looked about him, remembering with a frown that he had no pen or paper to make notes. “When you leave please tell Erestor that I wish to speak with him on this matter. What of these missing horses?”

“Oh that was exciting. Elrohir brought in all the horses but some ran off again when it was thundering. He found them in a cave and one of them was having a foal. It's a boy.”

Elrond's eyes twinkled. “May I safely assume that it is the foal that is a boy, and not its' mother?”

Estel frowned. “Don't be silly, Adar. A boy horse can't have babies.”

“Is that so? I am glad to have cleared that up.” Elrond discovered that this conversation really was a good way to ignore his pain. “Does the foal have a name yet?”

“I said we should call him Alagos, because he was born in the storm, but Roh. says that your horse is already called that. Roh. says he is to be called Fanui because he is grey, like the storm clouds.”

“That is a good choice and I am sure that Alagos will be happy that he does not have to share his name.” Elrond tried in vain to find a more comfortable position for his leg, suspecting that he was due for another dose of poppy juice. “What else has happened?”

Estel nibbled on a broken fingernail for a moment. “Glorfindel kissed Mama after she had her bath,” he announced with a grin.

Elrond blinked, for a moment distracted enough not to correct the child's nail biting. “In front of you?” Until now he had not been aware of any romantic feelings between the two.

The boy giggled. “Mama got all dirty when she was cleaning up the soot that came down the chimney when it thundered, so she had to have a bath. Erestor sent some people to help finish cleaning the floor and things.”

“So, was Glorfindel with them?” Elrond coaxed, worriedly.

“No. Glorfindel came because Mama had sewed his shirt. He said it was his favourite and he tore it when he was riding last week. When Mama gave him the mended shirt he gave her a great big kiss on the cheek and everyone laughed. I don't know why everyone thought it was so funny. I get kisses all the time.”

Elrond let go an internal sigh of relief. As he saw it, any romantic association between elf and mortal was doomed to end in pain. The thought of pain reminded him of his own and it was some relief when Nestorel entered at that moment.

She smiled as she saw invalid and child. Although pain was beginning to tighten the corners of Elrond's mouth he seemed much more relaxed and the healer wondered whether she should start prescribing and hour of Estel for all her charges in future. “I think it is time for your Adar to take his medicine and have another nap, Tithen Pen. You can come and visit him again tomorrow.”

Estel made no protest, only standing on tiptoe to give Elrond a kiss on the cheek. Adar held him for a long moment. “Thank you, Tittlepin. You always bring sunshine to my day.”

As Estel left he called over his shoulder, “I won't forget to send Erestor.” Then he was gone.

Nestorel measured some viscous liquid into a small cup of apple juice and handed it over. She waited until Elrond had taken the first sip before confronting him. “And why should he send Erestor to you?”

To give himself time to consider the reply Elrond pretended to have difficulty swallowing. “I only wished to see him for a chat,” he replied with a casual air that he hoped suggested he only wished a little pleasant conversation with an old friend.

His carer was not so easily fooled, however. “You wanted to consult with him on something to do with the valley. Is that not so?”

When others would have rolled their eyes, Elrond merely narrowed his. “I only wished to direct him to the clay deposits we use for roofing tiles.”

Nestorel was not easily put off. “And why would he be making roofing tiles?”

Elrond's mind ran furiously. To admit that he knew about the damage to the Hall of Fire would be to betray Estel. “We have just endured one of the worst storms for many years and you need to ask that? Some of our buildings are ancient and it would be logical to assume that some tiles were lost.” Elrond inwardly congratulated himself upon his skills in prevarication.

“The tiles on the roof of the Hall of Fire, for example?” Nestorel's glare could have frozen the southern seas of Harad.

Elrond swallowed the last of the medicine and hoped he would fall asleep soon. Unfortunately, he suspected that it would not be soon enough to extricate himself from this conversation. “It is one of our older buildings,” he replied mildly.

Nestorel's finger pointed at him again. “I have given instruction that you are not to be consulted on anything until you are sufficiently recovered. Estel may deliver his message but I assure you that Erestor will not be arriving. He is far too busy supervising repairs.” When Elrond would have interrupted she over-rode him. “And an excellent job he is making of it. The tiles are already firing. He does not need your assistance and you are in no condition to provide it if he did.”

Nestorel's prediction was correct. Erestor did not arrive in Elrond's room but the tiles were made and the roof of the Hall of Fire was repaired. Within a few years, when they weathered down, it would be almost impossible to distinguish new tiles from old.

-0-

“Not too fast,” Glorfindel warned as he took Elrond's arm to lead him into the cosy sitting room.

“I am perfectly capable of doing this alone,” Elrond replied peevishly, although he did lean heavily upon the elegant walking stick Nestorel had provided.

Glorfindel could feel his friend's body beginning to tremble with the exertion and hoped he would not have to subject him to the humiliation of being carried. It was with some relief, therefore, that he lowered Elrond into a chair that had been set by the fire.

Once seated one would not know that Elrond was still struggling to regain his health. All the scrapes and bruises had faded and the bones healed. Some work was required to restore full function to the broken arm but it was the injury to his leg which caused Elrond the most trouble. There had been some infection and it had only recently begun to heal properly.

“Hello, Adar.” Estel ran up, a small bag in his hand and a happy smile on his face. “Nestorel said I could help you with your arm exercises today.”

Elrond groaned inwardly, knowing the healer's game. He hated the exercises and Nestorel knew he would not refuse Estel. Taking the opportunity of Elrond's distraction Glorfindel melted away, knowing his friend hated showing weakness of any kind and it could make him a little cranky. He would wait until the deed was done before returning to assist him back to his bedroom.

“Nestorel said you should start the stretches without weights first.” Estel was in his happy place. He was helping his Adar and in his eyes there was no greater fun to be had. Celeg appeared at his side and stropped Elrond's legs for a moment before finding a patch of sunlight by the window and stretching out to watch the proceedings through golden eyes. Elrond narrowed his gaze but she only twitched two inches of tail in response. She had discovered that the two-legs could be quite entertaining sometimes.

Estel adopted a more serious tone as he prompted. “You need to do the five side stretches first, Adar.” He had been entrusted with a serious job by Nestorel and he intended to see it done properly.

Elrond complied, stretching his arm out straight to the side whilst Estel counted to four. Not waiting for further promptings he also did the forward and back stretches and then held out his hand to accept the small bag of sand as he repeated the exercise. He was pleased to note that the task no longer made his ribs ache at least. Bending his hand up to his shoulder was still fairly painful but he breathed through it determinedly. The wrist exercises were easier as they were intended only to return flexibility, rather than rebuild muscle strength.

A little later Elrond was more than ready to hand back the weight to a still smiling Estel. “You did much better today, Adar.”

Elrond dabbed at his face with a towel the child handed over, annoyed that such gentle exercise should make him perspire. He had not suffered any serious injury for some years and had blotted from his mind the time and effort required to recover fully. It was one thing to supervise the process in others but quite another to endure it himself, especially when being observed by a rather smug-looking cat.

Estel settled upon the rug at Elrond's feet and Celeg stood, stretched her back into an arch, then strolled over to curl up in Estel's lap. The youngster scratched her chin absently as he watched his Adar. “Elladan told me the story of the making of the dwarves but he doesn't make history as much fun as you do.”

Dropping the towel into his lap Elrond smiled. “It is always easier to tell the story when you were there to see it unfold.”

Estel considered this statement for a moment. “Did you see it, then?” His eyes, which had started to brighten with curiosity, dimmed again when his Adar shook his head.

“Even I am not that old. And Elladan certainly is not.”

“How old is Dan?”

Elrond's gaze drew inward. “I confess that elves think little upon such matters. I believe Elladan and Elrohir will be three thousand years old within a couple of hundred years.” He watched as Estel's fingers twitched, the small lips moving as they attempted to calculate, so he gave a clue. “Three thousand is a three with three noughts after it.”

Bright grey eyes widened. “I do not even have one nought yet, but I will soon.”

Elrond smiled as he shook his head slowly. “I believe I shall never understand the obsession to grow-up that possesses mortal children.”

Estel grinned. “We want to do the exciting things that grown-up's won't let us do.”

“And what would those exciting things be?”

Celeg was dumped from his lap as Estel sprang to his feet. She let out a small cry of annoyance before running to take shelter beneath Elrond's chair, where she glared out balefully at her young companion. The boy ignored her, caught up in his dream as he spread his arms wide. “I want to have a big sword and kill orcs like Dan and Roh. I want to see what it's like outside Imladris. I want to ride a big horse across the plains of Rohan. Dan says they're huge . . . the plains. I want to see the Golden Wood and the caves of the dwarves. I want to see the big cities in the south. I want to sail on a big river and watch the sea.”

His list was met with a chuckle. “That is a great deal to fit within one mortal life. I see, now, why you are in such a hurry.” Then he reached out to cup Estel's cheek. “But do not be in such a hurry to kill.”

Estel frowned, still living in the black and white world of the young. “But orcs are bad. They hurt you with the river.”

“They did, but they did so because they were bred to it. They have no more control over their actions than you have over the colour of your eyes. I will not kill orcs unless they first attack me.”

“But Dan and Roh often go off to kill orcs.”

Elrond's heart broke and he bowed his head. “And so you learn that even your own family is not perfect. Elladan and Elrohir have become trapped in hatred. Their mother was grievously hurt by orcs and for all these years they have been unable to forgive.” Then he lifted his face to study the image above the mantle.

Estel's gaze followed his foster fathers'. There hung a large painting of two people holding hands, looking into each other's eyes with what Estel considered to be a very soppy expression. Elrond was one of them. Behind them was a collection of buildings. “Adar, why has Imladris changed?”

Elrond had long since ceased to be surprised by the boy's quixotic mind and never failed to be amused by Estel's capacity to ask questions to which the only response could be another question. “In what way do you believe it has changed and, changed in relation to what?” Elrond held back a smile as he realised that upon this occasion he had answered the child's question with not one, but two of his own.

“Relation?” Estel frowned, not quite understanding that comment. “I only meant that the house in that picture looks different to how it is now.”

Elrond studied the beautiful painting and smiled. “That picture was painted over three thousand years ago. Most things change with time. Even the most carefully constructed buildings decay and must be rebuilt.” He frowned. “I believe the only part of the original structures still standing is the Hall of Fire. Others have either been replaced, altered or expanded and many of the buildings that you see today are part of the major remodelling done after I wed.” He shook his head with an inward smile. “Celebrian was most unimpressed with the state of the house when she arrived.”

Estel felt a little aggrieved that someone would find Imladris anything short of perfect. “I like this house. Nothing needs changing and Mama says it is much bigger than the house Mama and me used to live in when I was little.”

“Mama and I,” Elrond corrected automatically. “I am pleased to hear that you approve. Sadly, before I wed I paid little attention to the maintenance of Imladris and, as soon as Celebrian arrived, we worked together to repair and extend both house and gardens.”

“Is Celebrian the lady in the painting with you?”

Elrond's gaze softened. “She is. That painting was a presented by Glorfindel upon the birth of the twins and depicts Celebrian and me on our wedding day.”

Estel grinned. “Celebrian and I.”

“Celebrian and me.”

Estel decided to abandon that side topic. “She is very beautiful. Even more beautiful than Faerwen.”

His comment was met with a chuckle. “As one male to another may I suggest that you do not say that within Fearwen's hearing? Ladies sometimes do not take kindly to being compared with another and found wanting.”

Estel filed that piece of information for later life. “Where is Lady Celebrian?”

Elrond's face sobered. “She sailed for the West many years ago.”

“Didn't she like you any more?”

“I believe that she still liked me very much. Why do you ask?”

“When Curudir and Saeldis left last year they went together and Faerwen says she will not sail without Erestor. Why did your lady leave without you?”

Elrond glanced to the window. Beyond was a balcony which looked out over the rose garden he and Celebrian had planted. That garden had not changed since her departure for he had replaced fading bushes with fresh cuttings regularly down the years. For a long time Elrond was silent and Estel began to think that his Adar had forgotten the question.

When Elrond finally spoke his voice was barely more than a whisper and he did not turn, but rather addressed the view beyond the glass. “Her parents are Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel of the Golden Wood, beyond the mountains. One day, when Celebrian was making the journey to visit them, she was set upon by orcs. Captured, by the time Elladan and Elrohir brought her back to the valley she had been very badly hurt.”

“But I bet you made her better. You are good at making people better,” Estel averred, with all the confidence of the innocent in the infallibility of their elders.

“I healed her body but the orcs had been very cruel to her and that made her sad. She did not want to stay in Middle earth and hoped to find healing for her sadness in the West.”

Estel considered that reply for a while. “But why didn't you go with her?”

Elrond glanced to his hand, where it rested upon the arm of his chair. “I still have work here that will not permit me to depart.”

“What work?”

Upon a sigh, Elrond turned back to Estel's upturned face. “There are several reasons that you will understand better when you are older. For now I will say only that I must keep this house open as a refuge.”

Estel found a sharp edge on one of his finger nails and was just about to set teeth to it when he noted Adar's raised brow and put it down again. “How much older? As old as Dan?”

Despite himself, Elrond had to smile. “Not that old. Perhaps when you reach your teenage years.”

Estel did some calculating and sighed. “That's ages. And I bet you could leave if you really wanted to. Erestor decides which bedrooms everyone has when they visit, anyway.”

Elrond feigned hurt. “Estel, are you telling me that my services as lord of the valley are no longer required?”

Estel swallowed. “No, Adar. I only meant that if you wanted to join your lady I'm sure Erestor would look after the house.”

Elrond widened his eyes. “But who would teach any little edain who came to the valley? Erestor is much too busy, Elrohir has his horses to look after, and Elladan much prefers his art.”

Adar was right, of course. Elladan had taken Estel for some lessons but they were not as interesting as when Adar taught them. Then again, surely in only a few years Elrond would have taught Estel all that was needful? Did Adar mean that there be other children? “Do you get lots of little edain here? I thought I was the only one.”

“You are the only one at present but there have been others down the years and perhaps there will be more. Do you think I should abandon them?”

“No Adar. And I would not like you to go either. Nobody tells stories like you do . . . even Lindir.”

“Then I believe the matter is settled. I shall remain here for the moment and teach you all that I can.”

Estel came to his Adar's side, wrapping arms about Elrond's neck and resting dark curls upon his broad shoulder. “Good!” More perceptive that some would give him credit for, he looked into his Adar's eyes. “Did I make you sad when I asked you about your lady? I didn't mean to.”

Elrond wrapped an arm about the youngster, bending to place a kiss upon his brow. “Sadness is a part of life for if there were no sadness how would we recognise joy? You did not bring the sadness. It has been my companion for many years.” He drew back to look into the worried eyes of his foster son. “And you have brought me more joy than I have felt for a long time.”

Grey eyes cleared and Estel leaned in impulsively to kiss Elrond's cheek. “Then I shall bring you more joy. I shall make you laugh,” he declared. “Dan has been teaching me something new. Watch!” Dashing away a few steps he performed a forward roll, followed by a rather wobbly cartwheel.

When Glorfindel re-appeared later it was to discover a laughing Elrond trying to talk Estel through the form required to maintain his balance through a hand spring.

 

 

 

 

 




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