Tittlepin by elwen of the hidden valley

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Gilraen recognised the knock at her chamber door and closed her book.  “Come in, Faerwen.”

There seemed to be a moment’s fumbling with the door handle and then Faerwen backed slowly into the room.  When she turned around it was clear why she had struggled, as her arms were piled high with various colours and lengths of fine fabric and Gilraen rushed to help at once, closing the door and relieving her of half of the heap.  Both ladies placed their burdens on the table.

“Where ever did you find all this?” Gilraen asked, smoothing her hand longingly over a layer of heavily damasked holly green silk.

Faerwen grinned, jangling a ring of heavy keys.  “I raided the store rooms.”

Gilraen’s eyes widened.  “I hope you will not be in any trouble.  I would have been content with some simple stuff to make my son a set of play clothes.”

Faerwen laughed.  “Have no fear.  Erestor allows us free rein.”  She surveyed the two piles of fabric.  “Although I may have got a little carried away.  I was uncertain of your tastes.  But I can always return what you do not need.”

Gilraen had never seen so many beautiful and no doubt costly fabrics in one place.  She amended that thought at once.  She had indeed.  On the backs of elves gathered in the Hall of Fire on the previous evening.  The amassing of wealth was probably easier when one lived for thousands of years.  Gilraen did not feel that she had earned such bounty however and was loathe to take advantage of her new hosts.

As though sensing her thoughts Faerwen lifted a small piece of dark grey woollen fabric.  “This would make some practical breeches for Estel, do you not think?”

Gilraen reached out to touch the soft yet tightly woven material, her voice wistful.  “It would be perfect although I am reluctant to breech him yet.  He is still a babe.”

Faerwen’s brows rose in surprise.  “He no longer requires padding.  Why would he still wear dresses?  We put our children into breeches as soon as they are dry.  It is so much more practical for both genders when they are playing.”

Sighing, Gilraen took the cloth from her.  “To be truthful, so do my people.  I suppose I am reluctant to let him go.  It signals another step away from needing me.”  She fumbled for a hanky to blow her nose.  “He is all that I have and I struggle to fight the urge to keep him close.”

Her companion pushed the lady gently into a chair at the table, drawing out one for herself.  “I have no children of my own yet, so I cannot claim to know how you are feeling.  Indeed, we have very few children in the valley at present, as it is not usually the way of our people to bring children into such dark times.”

Gilraen gifted her with a watery smile.  “We mortals do not have the luxury of waiting for a better time, or the elven gift of choosing when to conceive.  Sometimes I wish that Arathorn and I had waited a little longer but at other times I am grateful that we did not.  I have loved Ara . . . Estel from the moment I felt him quicken in my womb but, as you so rightly point out, this is a dark world.  He has lost his father already and I fear for his future.  Wherever his path takes him it will not be easy.”

Faerwen laid a hand upon Gilraen’s where it stroked the grey wool.  “Even those amongst my kin who have the gift of foresight do not claim to see a fixed path, unfurling into the distance. We may plan for the future but we must also be prepared to have that future change.    I am still accounted young for elvenkind but one thing I have learned is to live each day as it arrives.  To worry too much about tomorrow is to miss the joy of today.”

“Wise words but difficult for a mother to follow,” Gilraen replied with a sigh.

“Then know this, Lady Gilraen.  There is nothing more precious to elvenkind than children.  While he is here your son will be protected and nurtured by every elf in the valley, as though he were their own.  Before he can ask a question someone will help him to find the answer.  If he so much as stubs his toe upon a pebble half a dozen hands will reach out to dry his eyes.”  Faerwen met Gilraen’s eyes squarely and in her gaze the lady saw a hint of the reason for her naming, ‘spirit lady’.   “And if any hand so much as reaches out to harm your son it will be severed before it can lay a finger upon the hem of his cloak.”

Gilraen could not help but smile at her new friend’s vehemence.  “Then I had best make sure he has a cloak.”  She looked down at their joined hands upon the grey fabric in her lap.  “And several pairs of breeches for I can guarantee you that he will tear the knees out of the first within days.”

Faerwen shook her head.  “Oh no.  Not this stuff.  It was woven in the valley and is used to clothe our warriors.  Although at the speed Estel is growing it may be as well to make several pairs in different lengths.”

Gilraen laughed.  “It is clear you have never had children.  One pair, with deep hems.”

Faerwen began to sort through some of the larger pieces of sumptuous silks and velvets.  “I bow to a mother’s superior knowledge there.  This pale yellow would make a lovely contrast as an under-dress to the holly green fabric you were admiring earlier, don’t you think?  Both colours will suit you well.”

Her comment elicited a longing sigh.  “They are beautiful.  Are you certain Erestor will not be cross?”

Faerwen laughed.  “I know the way to Erestor’s heart.  How do you think I acquired the keys in the first place?”



Elrohir’s mind was lost in pleasant childhood memory as he stroked Baragaer’s bright copper flank, so when he turned about to select a clean brush he blinked to find Estel standing just beyond the roped entrance to the stall.  The little edan had crept up so quietly that Elrohir’s mount had not even flinched.  He was impressed, for Estel usually tore about in fair imitation of a small oliphaunt.

“Good morning, Estel.  Should you not be at your lessons?  I hope you are not hiding from Adar.”

Estel shook his head swiftly.  “No lessons today.  Adar says he has ‘portant visitors.”

Elrohir changed brushes and began to tease the knots out of Baragaer’s mane.  “Important and, yes, Adar ordered some jewellery from the dwarves of the Iron Hills.  I had heard they would be arriving today.”  He paused to eye his new little brother suspiciously.  “If you have no lessons did Adar not give you something else to do?”

The little one shuffled his feet and Elrohir hid a smile as he saw one small grubby thumb migrating toward Estel’s mouth before he dropped it to clasp hands behind his back.  Elrohir remembered that being one of his father’s favourite strategies to wean children from sucking thumbs.  “He said I had to practice my letters,” he mumbled toward the stable floor.

“And have you?”

“A bit,” Estel confessed.  Then he turned pleading eyes on his older brother.  “It’s hard, Roh.  And it was dark in the libr’y.”

Elrohir grinned openly now, remembering only too clearly how he used to hate being stuck indoors when he was Estel’s age.  “Lib-rary.  So you decided to go for a walk?  Does your mama know where you are?”

Estel had the grace to blush and drop his gaze to the floor once more.  “She’s with Lady Faerwen.”  He wrinkled his nose.  “They’re sewing.”

“And if you told her where you were going your mama would make you practice your letters, I expect,” Elrohir commented as he set the brush aside and stroked Baragaer’s cheek.

“Is he your horse, Roh?  He’s not the one you used to bring when you visited Papa.”

Elrohir chuckled, deciding to ignore the sudden change of subject.  “He is a she.”  He clicked and a little copper coloured foal trotted from the back of the stall to butt at his waist.  Elrohir fished in a bag tied at his hip and offered the little foal a piece of carrot, holding out the rest of it to Baragaer when her imperious head swung his way.

Estel took a step closer, although he did not cross the rope.  “Oooh.  What’s the foal’s name?”

“His name is Gaerryn and his mother’s name is Baragaer.”  He considered for a moment before whispering in Baragaer’s ear.  The horse nodded her head and Elrohir beckoned Estel closer.  “You may enter the stall and stroke Gaerryn if you wish.” 

Estel’s eyes widened, shining with delight.  “Can I?” 

Elrohir held up a staying hand.  “If you make me a solemn promise.  You must promise never to enter any of the stalls unless a grown up tells you it is safe.”

As he had seen elves do on many occasions since his arrival in the valley Estel placed a hand over his heart and said, very clearly, “I promise, Roh.”  He did not wait for Elrohir to change his mind, ducking under the rope and approaching mother and foal with admirable restraint.

Elrohir grinned, handing him a carrot.  “Give him this.  He’s very fond of carrots.”

Estel held it as he had seen Elrohir do and giggled when he felt Gaerryn lip it off his palm.  When Baragaer snorted Elrohir gave her one too.

Reaching up a tentative hand, Estel’s face glowed when Gaerryn allowed him to stroke his warm neck.  “Does his name mean anything?”  Estel was learning that elven names usually meant something but he did not know enough Sindarin yet to be able to translate them all.

Elrohir stroked Baragaer’s long nose.  “Baragaer means, fiery copper and Gaerryn means, copper chaser.”

Estel frowned as he continued to stroke the foal.  He could see why the names included the word copper.  Both animals were the most beautiful copper brown colour, like beech leaves in autumn.  “Why, ‘chaser’,” he asked as Gaerryn nearly bowled him over with a butt to the shoulder.

Elrohir tapped Gaerryn’s nose lightly with one finger, even as he steadied Estel with the other hand.  “No, Gaerryn.  That is not polite,” he murmured and the foal snorted but stilled.  “He is called Chaser because when he grows up he is going to be a very fast runner.”

Estel frowned.  “How do you know?”

Elrohir offered Baragaer another carrot and broke one in half for Gaerryn, watching as the foal delicately nipped if off Estel’s palm.  “Because of the shape of his body and because both his mother and father are good runners.”

Estel absorbed that bit of information as he patted Gaerryn’s neck.  “Can you tell if I’ll be a good runner when I grow up?”

Elrohir laughed.  “With your long legs I am certain you will.  But would you not rather ride than run?”

“I don’t know.  I only rode for the first time when Mama took me up with her.  And I think I fell asleep.  We were awfully high up.”  He nearly fell over backwards as he looked up and up at Baragaer’s back and Elrohir had to steady him again.

“Oh, we must do something about that when you are a little older.  I can teach you to ride and we have some ponies.”  Elrohir shepherded a rather reluctant little edan from the stall but then, instead of escorting him to the door he led him to a quiet corner at the back of Rivendell’s extensive stables.  He paused before another rope.  “Say hello to Luin.”

Estel held in a squeal of delight as a tubby little black pony with a shaggy mane and big, liquid brown eyes trotted forward.  Elrohir held out a carrot and Estel needed no encouragement to hold it out for Luin’s delectation.  “Why is he called, Blue?” he asked as Luin crunched contentedly.

Elrohir ducked under the rope, bringing Estel with him.  “When the sun catches his coat it has a blue shimmer.”

Estel pursed his lips, imagining a horse that glowed blue in the sun.  That would be a very magnificent steed and he wondered when he could begin his riding lessons.  Even as the thought came to mind Elrohir scooped him up and, before he could blink, Estel was sitting astride Luin’s back . . . or at least trying to.  Luin was a rather fat little pony and although Estel’s legs were long for his age, they were not yet long enough to enable him to balance astride.  Elrohir supported him safely, however, and Estel leaned forward at once to wrap his arms about Luin’s neck and bury his face in the thick, unruly mane. 

As soon as he straightened the questions started.  “When can I start riding lessons?  Will Luin be my pony?  Will you teach me or will Adar?  Can we ask Mama now?”

Elrohir laughed, holding up his hand to stem the tide.  “You are too little to ride alone yet.  Let us see how you keep your balance in a few months.  For now this will be our little secret.”  With those words he lifted down a very reluctant Estel and nudged him out of the stall.

Estel looked back with a sigh.  “Can I come and see Luin sometimes?”

Elrohir scooped up Estel and placed him on his shoulders.  “You can help me to feed and clean him if you like.  That will be a good lesson for when you do start to ride.  But for now I will have to be your steed.”  He trotted toward the stable doors and Estel giggled.

“That way, Baramlug!” he instructed with a tug at one of Elrohir’s plaits.

“Fiery dragon!  Does that mean I must fly?”  And Elrohir grabbed his rider’s ankles as he picked up speed.  Estel squealed with delight and dug his heels into his steed’s shoulders, yelling, “Faster!  Faster!”



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