Tittlepin by elwen of the hidden valley

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“Good morning, Lady Gilraen.”  Elrohir dipped his head to the lady and she nodded in response.

“Thank you for coming so quickly.  I know you have many tasks to perform.”  Gilraen offered him a chair and poured him a cup of mint tea.

“I will always make time for you.”  He glanced about the room as he added a liberal dose of honey.  He was not overly fond of mint tea.  “Where is Estel this morning?”

Gilraen settled in a chair opposite and took a sip of her own tea before replying.  “Your father took him into the gardens for the morning.”  She smiled ruefully.  “I cannot say that I am disappointed to have some respite.”

Elrohir smiled broadly.  “He is a bit of a handful now that he is recovering.”

“A handful and an earful,” Estel’s mother replied with a sigh.  “I have run out of ideas to keep him occupied within this room and he grows more and more restless.  He had a full blown temper tantrum this morning just because he did not want to have his hair brushed.”

“Is there aught I may do to help?” Elrohir asked, politely.  He secretly hoped that she would say, ‘No’.  One of the best things about not being a father was the ability to step back when a child was being difficult.  He was to be disappointed, however.

“That is why I asked to speak to you.”  Despite seeing a flicker of discomfort in Elrohir’s grey eyes she pressed on.  “He used to enjoyed his visits to the stables and would come back bursting with pride at being allowed to help.  I wondered if you could spare some time to take him for a visit.”

Elrohir disguised his pause for thought by taking another sip of tea.  Estel always behaved himself when in the stables and he suspected some of the animals actually missed him.  “I suppose I could take him to see the horses.  Or perhaps he could watch whilst I work.  If he stays in the walkway he should be safe enough.”

Gilraen’s relief was palpable.  “Oh, that would be wonderful.  When can you do it?  This afternoon?”

Elrohir smiled again.  “How about early tomorrow?  He can spend the morning with me.”

If Gilraen was disappointed that Elrohir could not take her son that afternoon she took care to hide it.  The very promise of tomorrow’s visit to the stables would probably see Estel in a better mood for the rest of the day.  “Thank you so much.”

 

-0-

 

“Sit there and behave yourself,” Elrohir instructed as he lowered his little brother onto a heap of clean straw by Baragaer’s stall.

Estel shuffled himself around until his back rested against the wooden partition and he could watch Elrohir work.  For several months he helped with feeding and grooming some of the milder mannered mounts and since breaking his leg he missed the regular visits with Elrohir.  He scowled at his still bandaged and splinted leg and then ducked, giggling as Gaerryn leaned over the rope to nibble at his hair. 

“Gaerryn, you behave yourself too.”  Elrohir dropped a small bag in Estel’s lap and Gaerryn now waited politely for it to be opened, his sensitive nose instantly identifying the sweet aroma of fresh carrots.

As Elrohir selected his brushes and began to groom Baragaer, Estel broke a carrot in half and held it out to his friend.  Gaerryn lipped it gently from his palm then crunched loudly, eliciting another giggle from the child.

In hopes of receiving the other half of the carrot Gaerryn dropped his head to Estel’s chest and allowed him to rub between his ears.  Gaerryn actually liked the rubbing every bit as much as the carrot but did not refuse when the rest of the treat was offered.

Elrohir watched proceedings from the corner of his eye as he worked and was surprised when Gaerryn dropped to his knees and then settled down companionably next to Estel.  Estel slipped an arm beneath Gaerryn’s neck, stroking his cheek gently.  If Elrohir needed any evidence that Estel would one day make an excellent horseman he could see it here.  Indeed, had Estel been older he would have gladly gifted him Gaerryn as a mount.  Sadly, by the time Estel graduated from ponies to horses Gaerryn would already have been allocated a rider.

As he worked Elrohir began to sing, as he often did when working with animals.  It seemed to calm them, which made his task easier, and he liked to sing.

For his part, Estel loved to listen to Elrohir singing.  His Sindarin was extensive now but sometimes the “older” words still confused him.  But when Elrohir sang them Estel could see the stories he told, as though he was there as they happened.  He was happily playing on a beach in the sunshine when something prickled on his un-splinted leg.

Drawn back from the dream he looked down to meet a pair of bright golden eyes.  On his leg a little marmalade kitten, with a perfect pink T of a nose was kneading his leg in preparation for a nap.  Gaerryn lifted his head and snorted in alarm at the tiny interloper but the kitten just stared back brazenly at the huge creature, circling daintily on Estel’s leg, before flexing her claws once more.  Estel yelped, lifting her from his abused flesh.  She gave her kitten version of a yelp and struggled as Gaerryn drew back, scrambling to his feet when he saw the little pink maw open and heard, “Aa!”

Suddenly aware that something was happening behind him Elrohir paused in his song and turned about.  Estel still sat upon the floor beyond the rope but Gaerryn, eyes rolling, was backing toward his mother.  Elrohir laid a soothing hand upon the foal’s flank and Baragaer nudged her foal toward the teat for comfort.    Hunkering down at his little brother’s side Elrohir nodded toward the wriggling kitten.  “I see you have discovered one of the stable cats.”

Elrohir relieved Estel of the kitten, lifting it gently by the scruff of its neck.  The kitten stopped struggling immediately, hanging limply from his hand.  When Estel looked at him questioningly Elrohir smiled.  “It looks odd but this is how her mama carries her.”

Lifting Estel’s hands, Elrohir lowered the kitten gently into his little brother’s cupped palms.  She was still so tiny that she could sit comfortably there and Elrohir wondered if she was the runt of the litter.  She called again and Elrohir directed Estel’s hands inward, toward his chest, where the kitten immediately clambered inside his jerkin, curled up and began to purr.

“I can feel her voice,” Estel announced in wonder.

“You have surely seen cats before?  I remember them running about your village.”  Elrohir settled, cross legged in the straw.

“Oh yes.  But I’ve never touched one before.  Papa said they belonged in the stable,” Estel answered wistfully.  “They’re very soft, aren’t they?”

Elrohir chuckled.  “Apart from the claws and teeth,” he commented as he saw Estel rub absently at his thigh.

Estel grinned.  “It only prickled.”  Then he peeped inside his jerking before asking, “Are her teeth very sharp?”

Elrohir watched as the mama cat came toward them warily.  Estel froze at the sight but Elrohir continued calmly.  “Kitten teeth are not too bad.  They do not intend to hurt and an adult cat will generally only bite if frightened for themselves or their children.”  As soon as she came within range Elrohir reached out slowly and stroked the mama cat reassuringly.  Beneath his touch she arched her back and, once she had sniffed at her kitten, sat at Elrohir’s knee, tail wrapped neatly over her toes.

At this signal of trust a gaggle of little multi coloured fluff balls tripped and tumbled to join them and soon a quietly ecstatic Estel was heaped in kittens.  So pleased was he that he did not even complain when they settled on his healing leg.  “Do they realy live in the stable?” he asked as he tried to stroke each purring lump in turn.

“Most of them will stay here but some decide to live with us.  We let them choose.”  Elrohir suspected that at least one kitten had already made that choice.

“Do you think one would come to live with me?” the little edan asked, hope shining in his eyes.

At one time Elrohir would have simply spoken to the mama cat and handed over the kitten, but he had learned to respect the Lady Gilraen’s opinions when it came to raising her son.  “I think we must speak to your Mama first.  You and she share a room at present and she may not want a kitten under foot.”

Estel’s answering pout soon faded as all the kittens continued to vie for his attention.

 

-0-

 

Elrohir waited until his father had taken Estel to the library for his lessons before seeking out the Lady Gilraen.  Sitting in the sunlit garden, sewing yet another garment for her son, she smiled a greeting.  “Good afternoon, Elrohir.  Thank you for entertaining Estel this morning.  He looked much better when you brought him home.”

Elrohir joined her on the bench, first moving aside a little pile of oddly shaped fabric pieces.  Uncertain whether they were off-cuts or actual garment pieces he placed them neatly on the grass at his feet.  Although he had long ago learned how to repair his own garments in the field he had no interest in the mechanics of actually constructing them.  “Did he tell you of his adventures, then?” he asked.

Gilraen smiled as she removed a pin.  “He did.  I had no idea that you kept cats in Imladris.”

“Oh, there are several, although few choose to live in the house.  My brother and I acquired a pet cat when we were Estel’s age.  He followed us everywhere until he got old and stiff in the joints.  Then he adopted my father.”  He winced and adjusted his fine silk tunic.  “I think Lithuion preferred father’s slower pace,” he added.

Frowning, Gilraen’s gaze dropped to an area of Elrohir’s tunic, just above his belt, which seemed to be moving independently of the rest of the garment.  Elrohir decided to postpone the meeting no longer and lifted out a rather ruffled marmalade kitten. 

Gilraen’s face softened at once and she held out her hands eagerly to accept this little treasure.  “Oh my.  She is as adorable as Estel said she was.”

As he hoped she would, the kitten signalled her approval of the lady by rasping a tiny pink tongue over Gilraen’s palm.  The love emanating from Gilraen was almost palpable and in response the kitten leapt lightly into her lap, curled into a ball and settled down for a snooze.

“Have you cared for cats before?” Elrohir asked hopefully.

“Oh yes.  I too had a cat when I was a girl.”  Gilraen sighed.  “I would have liked one for Estel but Arathorn was not fond of them.”  Her eyes narrowed.  “Are you asking if Estel can have this kitten?”

“They do seem to have bonded and the mother cat approves of the match.”

The lady searched his face a little sceptically.  “The mother cat approves?  I suppose you asked her.”

“I did not really have to.  Mother cat would not stand in the way of her kitten’s wants in this matter.  She approves of Estel, it seems.  She says he is “Animal Friend”, which is a great honour.”

Gilraen stroked the kitten’s head absently.  “Do all elves converse with animals?”

Elrohir shrugged.  “I suppose so, although some seem to be better at it than others.”  He nodded toward the now purring kitten.  “Will you permit Estel the kitten?”

Smiling, Gilraen gathered the little ball of fluff in her hands and held it up to her face.  Gold eyes met silver for a moment then the gold ones blinked slowly.  “How can I refuse?  Yes.  I hope Lord Elrond does not mind having the furniture scratched.”

Elrohir chuckled.  “He is quite tolerant of such things and I expect he will speak to her regarding the house rules soon enough.”

Gilraen leaned in to kiss the little rose pink nose of her new charge, deciding that she would love to hear that conversation.

 

 




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