Tittlepin by elwen of the hidden valley

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“Ouch!”  Estel tried to pull away but his mother dropped both hands to his shoulders.

“Be still, now.  I promise not to tug so hard but this would be easier if you let me cut your hair.”  Confident that he would stand still, she wielded the hair brush once more, holding tightly to the root of one particular lock.  It took several attempts but she finally managed to tease out the knot.

“I want long hair like Dan and Roh and Adar Elrond,” her son declared.

Gilraen’s heart performed a queasy flip-flop and her brush paused before moving on to smooth the rest of his shoulder length hair.  Did Estel truly think of Lord Elrond as his father?  Was her son already forgetting his real father?

“Did Lord Elrond tell you to call him Adar?” she asked as she helped him out of his dressing robe and into his little bed.

“Dan and Roh call him that,” he replied innocently.

“Do you know what, ‘adar’ means?”  Gilraen tucked the soft blankets under his chin.

“I’ve been learning to speak elvish.  It means, ‘father’ he replied proudly.  “A father is like a papa.”

“But he’s not your papa, is he?” his mama asked around a suddenly constricted throat.

“Oh no,” Estel replied with all the easy innocence of childhood as he pushed back the blankets to leave his arms outside the covers.  “I have a papa but he is dead.  Adar Elrond is different.”

The muscles in Gilraen’s throat began to relax.  “How is he different?”

“Adar Elrond says he could never be my papa but I can call him Adar if I like.  He says people who are friends don’t call him ‘Lord’ and I’m too little to just call him Elrond.  So I said I would call him Adar because that’s what Dan and Roh call him,” her son offered.  Then his eyes widened.  “Oh!”

“What is it, Ara . . . Estel?”

“He said I was to ask you if it was alright first.”  Estel’s eyes dropped and his thumb made its way toward his mouth.  “I forgot.”

“Yes, you did.”  Gilraen captured his hand before the thumb could slip between his lips.

“Can I call him Adar, Mama?”  Even at this young age Estel knew that his eyes were his best weapon when trying to convince grown-ups to do what he wanted.

After nearly three years Gilraen sometimes tried to persuade herself that she was immune to those big grey eyes.  Every time she thought she had succeeded she found herself falling victim once more.  She sighed.  “Alright.”

When he would have exploded from the covers to hug her Gilraen constrained him.  “That does not mean that you can pester him every hour of the day and night.”  She fixed him with the glare Estel had come to associate with impartation of some serious information.  “Adar Elrond makes choices about your lessons but outside lessons I am still in charge.”

Estel adopted his most serious face.  “Yes, Mama.”

Gilraen was a little taken back by the simple agreement.  She had come to recognise when the cogs were still turning in her son’s head.  For a moment she waited but Estel simply settled down into the pillows, rolled onto his side and slipped a thumb in his mouth.

His mother bent to kiss his cheek then crossed to draw window curtains against the last rays of the sun as it sank behind the mountain peaks opposite.   As she made for the door her son’s sleepy voice asked, “Does that mean Dan and Roh are my brothers now?”

Gilraen did not turn.  “Goodnight, Estel.”  She closed the door silently behind her.




Searching for Elrond in his study Gilraen found Elladan instead.  “I am sorry to disturb you.  Do you know where I may find your father?” she asked.

Elladan turned from the window.  “At this time of day if he is not in the garden, watching the sunset, he will be in the Hall of Fire.  Is there something I can help you with?”

“I thank you.  No.”  Gilraen turned to leave but Elladan stayed her.

“Lady Gilraen?”

She turned back to find him holding out a small flat item, no bigger than his hand and wrapped in brightly patterned silk.  He looked a little uncomfortable and cleared his throat before continuing.

“I had only one charcoal sketch of Arathorn so this was painted mainly from memory.  Will you accept it?”

Gilraen took the small package and unfolded the silk a little tremulously.  The contents caused her to stifle a cry for in her hand was a simple oval frame containing a perfect likeness of her husband.  Blinking away a mist of tears she touched a finger to his bearded cheek, half expecting to find flesh and bristles instead of paint.

When she said nothing Elladan cleared his throat once more.  “I am no artist but I did the best that I could.”

Gilraen stepped up and wrapped her arms about him in a brief, fierce hug.  “It is beautiful and I shall treasure it all of my life.”

Elladan’s face brightened.  “I am glad it pleases you.  I had intended to present it to you upon your natal celebration but I thought you may like it sooner.”

Gilraen rewrapped the miniature and slipped it into the pocket of her over-gown.  “You can have no idea how timely this gift is.  Thank you.”  Now it was her turn to clear her throat.  “I still need to find your father.”

“Oh yes.”  Elladan glanced out of the window.  “I see him.  He is in the arbour in mother’s garden.  Would you like me to show you the way?”

“The rose garden?  I know it.  Thank you.”




Gravel crunched beneath her shoes as Gilraen navigated the winding paths of the rose garden.  The arbour overlooked a small lawn and fountain at the garden’s heart and despite the sound of her steps Lord Elrond did not seem to notice her presence until she was almost upon him.

He turned from watching the last pearl glow of sunset to smile softly at her, and Gilraen was surprised to see a shimmer of tears in his eyes.  “Did you wish to see me about something, Lady Gilraen?”  He waved her toward a seat in the arbour and Gilraen felt annoyed to find that she had complied without thinking.  Elrond took a seat next to her, half turning to give her his full attention.

The reassuring weight of Arathorn’s miniature rested against Gilraen’s thigh.  “I have been taught that elves are very wise and that you are considered wiser than most,” she stated as she steeled herself to meet his gaze.

Elrond’s eyes narrowed.  “Some would say so,” he replied simply, aware from her tone that this conversation had the potential to grow acrimonious but unsure yet why that should be.

“My son has a father,” Gilraen announced pointedly, tucking her hand into her pocket.

The target of her ire nodded.  “Estel has relayed our conversation of this afternoon, then.  May I take it that you do not approve his suggestion?”

Gilraen blinked as the conversation was suddenly turned on its head.  “His suggestion?”

Lady Gilraen was raising only one child whereas Elrond had already raised two sons and a daughter and helped to raise several of Aragorn’s sires.  He was more astute than she when it came to the workings of a child’s mind.  “We were revising some Sindarin words when Estel suggested that ‘Adar’ would be a good title for me.  I confess that I was a little concerned at your reaction but ‘Lord Elrond’ seemed rather too formal for our relationship.”  Elrond smiled.  “I find I have grown very fond of your son.”

Gilraen would not let herself be so easily mollified, however, determining to retain the high ground.  “Being fond of my son does not give you . . .” She struggled to find the right words and winced when the only ones her angry thoughts could supply were, “ does not give you any rights of ownership.”  Her fingers wrapped tightly about the frame in her pocket.  “Arathorn may be dead but he, and he alone, is my son’s father.”

The elf lord’s eyes flashed briefly and Gilraen actually shrank back a little.  “I would hope neither of us has any ‘rights of ownership’.”  Then his voice continued, calmly.  “Which is why I told Estel to ask your permission to use the term, ‘Adar’.  I considered that the word was sufficiently different to the Westron, ‘Papa’ to ensure no confusion between the two.  I do understand, however, if it is not to your liking.  We could use the term for a teacher, which is ‘Isthir’ or perhaps, ‘Uncle’.”

Gilraen discovered that it was very difficult to stay cross with someone who did not respond in like manner.  She was wise enough to let go her ire and dropped her gaze with a sigh.  “No.  I have already agreed that he may call you Adar.  But I would have appreciated being included in your original discussion with Estel.”

Lord Elrond bowed, touching hand to heart.  “And for that I apologise.  I did not take into account how easily a child’s mind may confuse permission sought for permission granted.  I shall endeavour to ensure that I do not do so again.” 

Surprised to find herself gifted with the upper hand Gilraen decided to push home her point.  “In future, outside the schoolroom I make all the decisions about my son’s upbringing.  Inside it, you and I make joint decisions.”

Elrond’s’ lips quirked into a wry smile.  “I agree.  It would seem that I am not as wise as some would have you believe.”

Gilraen found herself smiling in response.  “It’s a wise man, or elf, who is willing to acknowledge that.”



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