Tittlepin by elwen of the hidden valley

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Aragorn took a bite of bread and his mother was not quite fast enough to prevent a long string of honey landing on his lovely new tunic.  Both she and Aragorn had awoken that morning to find several sets of rather beautiful garments in their room.  It was clear that they had been donated and expertly altered as they slept for no-one, even an elf, could have made them so quickly.  Aragorn’s eyes had widened when he saw the delicate line of birds embroidered around the hem of his tunic and Gilraen had never worn such a light and elegant gown in her life.  She wondered if Elrond was aware how much damage her son could do to a set of clothes in one day and making some simple play clothes moved to the top of her list of priorities.

“But why do I have to have a new name?” Aragorn asked around a mouthful of bread and honey.

Gilraen glanced aside at Elrond, who was leaning against the balustrade, sipping a cup of mint tea.  The Lord of Imladris had arrived shortly after their breakfast tray and helped himself to a cup while Gilraen supervised her son.

“Well . . . we are in a new place so we thought you would like a new name,” she offered rather lamely.

“Do you get a new name too?” he asked, around a sticky mouthful.

“Oh, I am too old for a new name and don’t speak with your mouth full,” Gilraen replied.  She noted Elrond hiding a smile behind his cup. 

“But I like my old name.  It sounds like Papa’s name,” Aragorn persisted.

Elrond finally took pity on the lady, setting down his cup and coming to sit at one of the chairs about their small table.  “Did you know that elves have several names?”

He had little Aragorn’s full attention at once.  Gilraen noted that there was something about the timbre of Lord Elrond’s voice that instantly made one want to stop and listen.  He continued.  “I was named by my father at birth and then, when I grew older, I chose another name and it is that which I use most often now.  Most elves even have another one, given to them by their mother, but mine departed Middle-earth before she could do so.”

“What is your other name?” Aragorn asked.

“My father is called Earendil so he named me Earendillion, which simply means Earendil’s son.  The name I chose for myself is Elrond.  When I was only a few years older than you are now my brother and I were lost in a forest.  That night we took shelter in a cave with a waterfall at the entrance.  My brother took the name Elros, which means Star-rain and I took the name Elrond, which means Star-cave.”

Most of this information was new to Gilraen too and she determined to find out more of Elrond’s history.  It was clear that his childhood had not been uneventful. 

Aragorn took a gulp of milk and Gilraen winced as he wiped his mouth on the back of one finely crafted silk sleeve.  “So can I choose my own name?  I want something that means “Big Warrior”,” he announced with a broad swipe of his empty hand.  Gilraen’s heart stopped and, lightening fast, Elrond grabbed a delicate teacup before it could be swept off the table.

Placing the cup safely out of Aragorn’s range Elrond smiled.  “You have not yet reached the age for choosing your own name but you are of an age where an elven mother would usually give a second one.  Would you like your mother to do that?”

Aragorn turned to his mother, his eyes shining.  “Will you name me, “Big Warrior”?”

Gilraen chuckled, dipping the edge of a napkin into a water glass and using it to remove breadcrumbs and honey from her son’s cheeks.  “I think you are still a little young to be a warrior.  Perhaps I can give you a name that suggests that when you grow up you will be someone very special . . . even a warrior?”

“Yes!  Yes!”  Aragorn bounced in his seat, scattering cushions and leaving him with his chin level with the table top.  Elrond determined to appoint someone to search the storerooms for a raised chair later.

Gilraen glanced at Elrond before adopting a considering pose.  After a moment she smiled brightly.  “How about, Estel?”

Both lady and elf lord held their breath as Aragorn frowned.  “Does it mean something?  Like Mr Elrond’s name,” he asked.

“Lord Elrond,” Gilraen corrected.  “It means, “hope”.  It will tell everyone that we have high hopes for your future,” she offered with some hope of her own.

Aragorn turned pleading eyes on Lord Elrond in one last bid.  “And I can’t be called, “Big Warrior”?”

Elrond smiled and shook his head.  “Not yet, Tittlepin.  You have a lot of growing and learning to do before you can claim that title.  But you can hope to earn it one day.”

Seeing that he was not going to get his own choice Aragorn capitulated.  At least he had hope.  “Alright.  I shall be called, Estel.”

“Welcome to Rivendell, Estel,” Elrond announced solemnly, hand on heart, as Gilraen let out a long breath.

Estel grinned.  “Now can I go out and play?”

Gilraen gave their host a questioning look and Elrond nodded.  “Turn left, towards the statue of the lady at the end of the hall, and then right.  Through the door you will find a nice lawn to run on.”  As Estel jumped down from his seat Elrond added, “Elrohir will meet you there.”

Pausing to exchange a brief kiss with his mother the youngster ran from the room and both adults winced as the door slammed shut behind him.

Gilraen sank back into her chair and Elrond refilled their cups.  “That went well,” he offered as he pushed the honey pot toward her.  Discovering that the pot was quite sticky he absently sucked honey off his finger while the lady doctored her tea.

“Thanks to you,” Gilraen replied as she too sucked honey from her fingers.  She determined to ensure that Aragorn . . . Estel . . . was not allowed to handle the honey pot in future.  “Was all that information about elven names true?”

“It was, fortunately,” her host replied with a smile. 

Gilraen took a sip of the excellent tea.  “He has not asked about his father this morning.”

“At his age it is difficult to know whether he has forgotten or whether he wishes to deny the truth.  Give him a few more days.  If the subject does not arise naturally you may have to broach it yourself.”

Unshed tears began to glitter in Gilraen’s eyes and she blew her nose.  “I am not sure I will know what to say to him.  Can you remember how you felt when your mother departed?  You say you were a child too.  How did you cope?”

Elrond sipped his tea.  “Perfect elven recall can be a two edged sword.  Elros and I were left at the mercy of our sworn enemies.  Estel has been spared that at least.   But I did have my brother and we shared our grief.”

Gilraen dabbed at her eyes.  “Arathorn and I were not wed long enough to provide Estel with a brother or sister.”

“No hope even now?” Elrond asked but Gilraen shook her head. 

“My courses arrived this morning,” she replied emptily.

“I am sorry, Lady Gilraen.  I know another child would have brought you much comfort.”

Gilraen made one final swipe at her tears and straightened her shoulders.  “I have a son and that must be enough.  I will raise him as his father would have wished; to become the leader of his people.”

“And perhaps even more,” her host added. 

 

-o-

 

Estel searched the dishes and plates for one last morsel of food, finally discovering a lone cucumber sandwich hiding under a napkin near Elrohir’s knee.  With a good natured grin Elrohir offered the plate and Estel began munching at once.

Elrond shook his head commenting to Gilraen, “I had forgotten just how much food a growing child can consume.  Perhaps we should bring a sumpter horse on our next picnic.”

Gilraen laughed; surprised that she could recall how to do so.  “Lord Elrond, you could bring a sumpter oliphaunt and my son would still manage to empty its panniers.  We have been here only weeks and already I have had to lengthen the legs of his breeches.  I am even more convinced that it would have been better to keep him in dresses for another year.”

“But it is so much easier to climb trees when wearing breeches,” Elladan inserted, grinning broadly when Gilraen fixed him with a gimlet stare.

“He is too young to climb trees and if you encourage him again I shall make you stand on top of a chest too.”

Swallowing his last mouthful of sandwich Estel’s eyes widened and he jumped to his friend’s defence.  “Dan didn’t mean to get me into trouble, Mama.”  His voice took on an edge of awe however when he asked, “Can you really make Dan stand on the chest in our room?”

“Watch me,” the lady replied firmly.

Elrond tried to diffuse the sudden tension.  “My son’s will respect your wishes in this matter I am certain.  And you may dress Estel as you see fit.  We will not stand in the way of the customs of your people.”

His sons exchanged glances which promised otherwise however and Elrond determined to have strong words with them later.  He and Celebrian had never stood them on a chest as punishment when they were children but he knew of several bedroom corners that had regularly received the little twin’s undivided attention.   They were too old now for that particular punishment but Elrond could list several odious tasks to be doled out at need.

Estel’s voice interrupted his listing.  “What’s that?”

All turned to follow Estel’s little pointing finger.  Their four horses stood cropping grass contentedly and at first Elrond was uncertain exactly what Estel was pointing at.  He leaned down to sight along the child’s arm and that was when he realised that he was asking about a small low mound, topped with a standing stone.  It was one of the reasons Elrond had chosen this particular picnic site.

He exchanged a warning glance with the child’s mother before replying, “It marks the burial site of an old friend.  He died in an accident many years ago.”

“Can elves die?” the little one asked in surprise as his mother inched a little closer.

“They can.  But Edrin was not an elf.  He was a man.  Indeed he was one of your people.”

Gilraen’s interest was piqued too.  “How came he to be buried here?”

Elrond’s eyes grew distant.  “One spring we found him almost frozen to death in one of the mountain passes and brought him in to recover.  He was a woollen trader and returned many times after that, bringing us the best fleeces each year.”  His rich voice dropped.  “One spring he did not come upon the promised date.  We found him in the high pass, trapped beneath a rockslide.” 

“Was he dead?” Estel asked quietly and Elrond dropped his eyes to meet the innocent gaze.

“His end was swift at least.  He was dead when we found him.  I knew he had no family still living so we buried him here, where he will always be remembered.”

Tears began to shimmer in the child’s eyes.  “And he won’t ever come back?”

Elrond cupped a small cheek in his palm.  “No, Tittlepin.  He will never come back but he will always be in here and here.”  He touched a hand to his heart and head.

“Like Papa?” Estel asked, though his chin quivered.

“Yes.   Like your papa,” Elrond replied sadly as Gilraen gathered her son into her lap, rocking him as the sobs finally came.

 

 

 

 




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