Tittlepin by elwen of the hidden valley

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Elrond smiled in satisfaction as he drew out the scroll from its hiding place on the top shelf.  He had been searching for this particular version of the tale of Beren and Luthien for several decades and had finally discovered it, quite by accident, amongst a collection of ancient herbals.  He blew off a thick layer of dust.  Someone had obviously misfiled it some time ago.

Lost in musings of just who could have filed it there he was suddenly jolted back to awareness of the world both metaphorically and literally.   The ladder upon which he stood lurched alarmingly and, with one hand upon the rail and the other around a scroll, he was unable to prevent its slow topple.  For some moments his body fought to stay put but when the list became too great he gave up the battle for balance.  Letting go and leaping backwards he landed nimbly, flexing his knees to absorb the shock, and then pirouetted neatly to snatch the ladder before it could land upon the open mouthed little edan cowering beneath it.

Both heads turned to the doorway as Elladan’s voice was heard announcing, “Estel!  Come back here you little imp.  You will have to learn Sindarin at some point.”

With a conspiratorial wink Elrond twitched aside his heavy outer robe and the child had no need for second thought before rushing beneath.  Just as Elrond drew his robe back a rather tight-lipped Elladan entered the library.  He paused when he saw his father and frowned. 

“Have you seen Estel, Adar?  We were making a start on learning Sindarin and when I turned my back for a moment he was gone.”

Elrond set the ladder back against the bookshelves and even Elladan had to admire the way he managed to do it without turning or taking a step.  In fact, the whole movement looked a little odd.  His gaze travelled down the length of his father’s robe, noticing that it did not seem to fall in its usual ordered folds.  The reason for this was explained when he noted that Elrond seemed to have acquired an extra pair of feet.  His gaze shot back up to his father’s face.

The only part of Elrond’s features to move was one perfectly winged brow.  “I cannot see him at present.  Perhaps you could try the garden.  It is a sunny day after all.”

Elladan’s mouth opened briefly then snapped shut before morphing into a lopsided smile.  “Of course.  Thank you, Adar.”  Without a backward glance he departed, leaving Elrond alone with his new ward.

“You may come out now.”  He helped the little figure to fight free of the enveloping folds of his robe.

Estel ran fingers through his tousled curls and grinned up at him with mischief sparkling in his eyes.  Having raised three children of his own and helped to raise countless others Elrond had thought himself immune to an impish smile but now he learned otherwise.  It took some effort not to mirror the little one’s grin.

“Was there a reason for your swift departure from the schoolroom?”

Estel’s grin faltered as he realised that his erstwhile rescuer was perhaps not as pleased with his actions as he had first appeared.  He slipped a grubby thumb in his mouth and mumbled something.  Elven hearing picked out the words and their meaning easily but Elrond frowned.

“I am sorry, Estel.  I am not used to your language.  Westron is not my mother tongue.  Could you repeat it a little more clearly?”

The slobbery thumb was removed and Estel raised his voice a little, speaking slowly.  “I wanted to play outside.”  His gaze strayed yearningly to the long windows, through which could be seen a corner of Rivendell’s extensive gardens. 

“I see.  Did you not think that Elladan would be worried when he could not find you?”

Estel’s eyes widened.  “No,” came the soft response.  “Will he be very worried?  Maybe I should go back.”

Elrond narrowed his eyes for a moment.  “Perhaps we can send word to him that you are safe with me.  Have you been in the garden today?”  He had to tighten his lips on a grin as Estel tried to nod and shake his head at the same time.  “Very well.  I shall send word and then you and I will take a stroll in the garden.”  He reached out a hand and Estel grabbed two of his fingers in one slightly sticky fist.  Elrond suspected the boy had taken honey on his breakfast oatmeal today.

Estel was lead from the library, out onto a little used path that ran around the side of the large house.  As they strolled in the sunshine Elrond offered gentle conversation.

“It is many years since I have needed to speak in Westron,” he noted.  “You must forgive me if I am a little rusty in its use.  Perhaps you can help me?”  In truth, a party of dwarves had been through the valley to trade only two months ago but their Westron was rendered almost incomprehensible by a thick accent, so Elrond decided he could be forgiven this little deception.  “For example, what do you call this thing upon which we are walking?”

Estel looked down and considered for a moment.  He felt very important, being asked to help such a wise elf.  It would not do to tell Lord Elrond the wrong thing.  “A path.  A gravel path,” he added helpfully.

“Ahhh.  We call this a brithbad,” the elf replied, annunciating clearly.  “A gravel path.  Thank you.  I shall remember that.”

“Brithbad,” Estel copied triumphantly.  Years later his wife would laugh when he told her the first Sindarin word he had ever learned.

The path ended at a delicately wrought iron gate, set in a long stone wall smothered in glossy green ivy.  Elrond lifted the latch and ushered the little boy into an enclosed rose garden.  “This is called Celebriasant, which means “Celebrian’s garden”.  Celebrian is my wife and she and I planted it together many years ago.”

Estel looked around a little disappointedly.  All he could see were roses, trees and hedges.  There were no lawns to run on or streams to paddle in.  But he had been rude to one elf already today so he held his tongue.

Elrond bent to sniff a deep peach coloured rose.  “What do you call these flowers?” he asked as he picked one and slipped it into the sash at his waist.

Estel was pleased that this at least was a flower he knew.  “It’s a rose.”

“A rose,” Elrond repeated carefully.  “To us it is a meril.”

To be polite, Estel repeated the word dutifully.  Just then a frog hopped across their path and he shrieked, tugging on Elrond’s fingers to drag him after it.  “Frog!” he cried delightedly.

Elrond laughed, falling into a trot to be lead easily in the frog’s wake.  “Cabor,” he supplied.

By the time the midday bell announced luncheon Estel had learned at least two dozen Sindarin words.  Admittedly, they were mainly the names of animals or plants, but it was a beginning.  As he watched the little edan dart off to the dining hall Elrond determined to have a word with Elladan about the need to make Estel’s Sindarin lessons more engaging. 

He grinned as he raked a twig from his hair and surveyed the grass stains on his robe.  Perhaps he would undertake to teach Estel himself in future.  It had been many years since he had spent so enjoyable a morning.

 

 




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