Tittlepin by elwen of the hidden valley

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Gilraen paced her room impatiently, crossing to lean over the balcony and survey the gardens below yet again.  The midday bell had rung some time ago and the table was laden with treats to tempt a little boy’s growing appetite.  But there was no sign of Estel.

When there was a knock at her door Gilraen raced across the room, flinging it wide and ready to hear the worst.  But it was only Faerwen and another, coming to collect the empty plates.  When that lady saw Gilraen’s face and the untouched food she turned her back into the room and waved the attendant away, closing the door.

In the time they had been here Faerwen had rarely known Estel to miss a meal.  Nor had she seen Gilraen in such a state since the evening she arrived.  “Where is Estel,” she asked gently.

Gilraen wrung her hands.  “I don’t know.  He left after breakfast to go and play in the gardens but he has not returned for his luncheon.  I was going to give him a few more minutes and then go to Lord Elrond.” 

Faerwen wasted no time.  “Come.  I will send word to Lord Elrond and meanwhile you and I will begin a search of the gardens.”


It was as they were closing the gate upon Celebrian’s garden that they turned to find a large contingent of elves, lead by Lord Elrond himself.  Gilraen was at first dismayed to see several wearing the long pale green tabards of the Healer’s Hall but she relaxed upon noting others in the white suits of the kitchen helpers.  It seemed that the presence of healers was not some portent of injury but rather a symptom of the fact that any and all who could be spared from their duties were joining the search party.   She noted not only the twins but Erestor, Lindir and Glorfindel among the front ranks. 

If Gilraen still harboured any doubts about Faerwen’s assertion that all elves in the valley would treat Estel as their own she lost them now.   All wore grim expressions and Gilraen was astonished when Elrond gathered her into a fierce hug before stating firmly, “We will find him.”

For a moment Gilraen sagged in his arms, and then she drew a deep breath and straightened.  “Thank you.  All of you.  Has anyone seen Estel today?”

A white clad elf stepped forward.  “He came to the kitchens for a snack at mid morning.”  He smiled a little sheepishly at the lady.  “He calls in on most days and I give him a pastry and a glass of milk.  I was kneading a batch of bread so I am afraid I did not see him leave.”

Gilraen filed that piece of information away for future use.  Snacks were not forbidden but she would rather it was a piece of fruit.  She fought the urge to giggle as she found her mind occupied by such a minor thought at this time and realised that she was not nearly as calm as she was trying to appear.  As though sensing this Faerwen slipped a hand onto the small of her back in support.

Erestor came to the fore.  “I saw him walking toward the woods at the end of the lawns at mid morning but I had noted Elladan going that way a few minutes earlier and assumed they were playing hide and seek.”

Elladan shook his head.  “No.  I was going to check progress on the clearing of the stream at the foot of the bank.  Once we had removed the debris damming the water I left.”

“Do you think he could have been following you?” Gilraen asked in alarm as she remembered that the land sloped down steeply from lawn to stream at that point.

Elladan blanched.  “I did not see him on my return trip but I suppose we could have passed each other without noticing.  I was preoccupied and the undergrowth grows thickly there.”

Elrond looked out over the sea of faces.  “If no-one has seen him since then, that would be a good place to begin our search.”  When no-one else came forward Erestor began to arrange the search party into smaller groups, the largest of which would be tasked with searching the bank and stream whilst others were sent further afield in case their assumption was incorrect.  Determined not to be left behind Gilraen and Faerwen used the few minutes grace to run back to the house and change into leggings and Elrond nodded approval when they returned.

“Come, Lady Gilraen.  We will call out to him as we search and he will be most likely to heed your voice.”


 Estel whimpered, wiping his nose on an already soaked sleeve.  Once more he tried to move his leg and threw his head back to cry out as pain shot through from ankle to hip.  The action dipped his face below the water and he lifted it to cough, tears springing to his eyes as that sent stabbing pains through his chest.



The bank was as steep as Gilraen remembered but a narrow path zigzagged across its face and Elrond guided her along it with a firm hand beneath her elbow.  At any other time she would have protested the cosseting but it had rained heavily the day before and both bank and path were very slippery.  Gilraen considered the close growing trees and muddy ground and shuddered as visions of her son rolling down toward the stream, his little body careening unchecked from trunk to trunk, crowded her imagination.

The rest of the elves were traversing the areas between the levels of the path and now Erestor cried out, “Here!”

“Estel!”  Gilraen shook off Elrond’s hand to run forward to where the seneschal was just visible, at the next bend in the path.  Her hopes were dashed however when there was no smiling child, nor even a tangle of little limbs.  What she did see made her heart pause.  In the mud she made out a set of small bootprints and then a series of long streaks leading to a trail of strange markings that disappeared down the hill.

Elrond and Faerwen were only a half step behind her.  Erestor bent to examine the marks more closely, finally looking up into the lady’s face, concern writ large on his features.  He pointed to the footprints.  “He was trying to take a shorter route between turns in the path.”

Elrond continued.  “He slipped in the mud.”  His eyes followed the strange trail.  “And fell, rolling on down the slope.”  He motioned to Elladan, who was just above them.  “Follow the trail down and we will continue on the path.”  When Gilraen would have protested he shook his head.  “I do not doubt your nimble step, lady.  But even elves have difficulty negotiating this mud.  Elladan will call if he finds anything more.”

Watching Erestor resorting to leaning against a tree trunk in order to rise, Gilraen had to accept the truth of Elrond’s assertion.  But her step speeded up when the path turned to lead her away from the trail, before turning to meet it once more.  And now she called out. 


Other voices joined in chorus.  “Estel!”


Estel had never felt so alone and frightened in all of his short life.  Nor had he ever been in such pain, although his leg was not quite so painful now.  He looked down the length of his body but could see little beneath the still muddy water, only the heavy branch that pinned him.  His teeth chattered and when he lifted a hand he could see his fingers turning white.  Spring had brought sun and warmth to the surrounding mountain peaks and much of the water in the streams was from the melting snow caps.  As a consequence it was icy cold.

His neck was hurting now as he had to keep his head bent forward in order to hold it out of the water that, even then, came up to his chin.  In desperation he craned his head, his gaze finally lighting upon a small log.  He reached out a hand, stretching as far as he could, and managed to snag a twig at its end and drift it closer.  Had it not been in water it would have been too heavy for him to move and he wished the same were true of the larger tree branch that trapped his leg.  With much difficulty he eventually manoeuvred it beneath his head and managed a teeth chattering sigh as it relieved some of the pain in his neck.



Gilraen was running by the time she reached the foot of the slope, noting Elladan waiting for them.  There was no sign of her son although there were signs of activity some way upstream.  A small pile of debris sat on the bank and Gilraen realise that this must be the site of the dam they had spoken of.  Tears sprang to her eyes as she saw the strange markings of her son’s trail end at the edge of a bank above the rain swollen stream.  “No.  Oh please, no.”

Faerwen would have slipped an arm about her shoulder but Gilraen shrugged free, running to look down over the edge, hopeful and yet fearful that her son would be lying at the foot of the low cliff.  There was no sign of his little body and she buried her face in her hands, accepting Faerwen’s comforting arm now.

It was some moments before she realised that Elrond had moved away and was making his way down to a shingle beach.  Now she watched in fascination as he knelt at the water’s edge, closing his eyes before plunging his hand into the icy flow.  All stood silent and still, waiting for she knew not what.

The elven lord’s eyes opened to look at her and yet Gilraen sensed that it was not she that he saw and his voice seemed distant.  “He fell into the stream just as they broke the dam.  The rush of water carried him downstream.”  He winced, eyes suddenly drawing into focus upon her face.  “He is hurt but alive.”  He arose, returning to the bank.  “This way.”




The voice seemed so close but when he turned his head slowly from side to side Estel could not see his Adar.  Still he tried to call back, but his voice was little more than a whisper.  At least his teeth had stopped chattering.  Indeed, he felt strangely comfortable now.

“Ada.  Mama.”



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