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‘Of course it was an accident.’ Gilraen kept her voice determinedly steady, feeling quite proud of her control and completely unaware that both twins flinched at the strained hollowness of the tone. ‘I am perfectly well aware that none of you would have done it deliberately. Yet it is broken nonetheless.’
She cupped the pieces in her hands as if trying to absorb the memories the broken pot had held. She had so little that came from … before. So little that reminded her of a life that had promised so well. She knew that it seemed insignificant in this beautiful haven, where every piece of pottery, every glass, every piece of hammered pewter showed an artistry developed over more time than she could easily imagine, but this had been hers. Chosen by her husband, gifted to her on his return from some patrol that had led him through a town large enough to have a potter, carried here among the few clothes and trinkets she had had time to gather.
‘I am sorry, Nana.’
Estel sounded so miserable that it was apparent who was really to blame for the incident that had left the bowl on the floor. A faint flicker of amusement warmed the cold core and spread. His foster brothers stood by him, willing to share the burden of guilt – but her son was reluctant to hide behind them. The flicker became a flame of pride. Her son. Hers and Arathorn’s. He was what mattered here – and he was far more precious than any mere thing.
Gilraen placed the pieces on the chair and knelt to embrace the child. ‘You did not break it on purpose,’ she said forgivingly, ‘but I have told you before that you must not throw balls inside the house. There are too many things that can be damaged.’ Estel rested his head on her shoulder and, once his face was hidden, attempted to sniff back his tears. He was still little more than a baby, she thought, stroking his hair – and she was tempted to let the incident pass without further comment. He was upset enough. Only … She sighed. ‘Give me your ball, Estel,’ she said. ‘You may not play with it again until tomorrow.’
The ball of stitched patches of brightly-coloured leather was handed over without debate and Gilraen placed it in the chest she kept by the window. ‘You may ask for it again in the morning,’ she reminded her son as his lip began to wobble.
‘And I have something that perhaps we should do today,’ Elrohir said gently. ‘You will be too busy to have time to think much about your loss.’
‘But first let me wash your face.’ As she moistened a cloth to wipe the tears from her son’s cheeks, Gilraen failed to observe the swift glance – and practiced wordless conversation – that passed between Elrond’s sons. Elladan moved slightly to block the woman’s view of the chair, while Elrohir swung the child into his mother’s arms and stretched his arm behind her to guide her out of the room.
‘We will have lunch now,’ Elrond’s son suggested, his sincere gaze meeting and holding Gilraen’s eyes. ‘And then I have a job with which Estel can help me while you get on with your work.’
The child who bounced into the light-filled room where the seamstresses of Imladris gathered to do their stitchery appeared to have forgotten the incident already. Gilraen felt a pang of guilt. It was not that she wanted him to brood over his misdemeanour – but it did not seem fair that she should be left mourning her small treasure whilst its destruction had faded from his recollection.
One of the twins hovered beyond the doorway – and doubtless the other was nearby. It seemed unlike them to hold back. The mere fact that this was a female refuge would not normally have deterred them from following her son into the room.
‘Nana,’ Estel said again, and his eyes were shining like water under moonlight, while his face was bright with anticipation. ‘Come and see!’ He grabbed her hand with fingers that were actually shaking with excitement. ‘Come and see now.’
‘Patience, little one.’ She reproved him gently, smiling at his enthusiasm. ‘Let me finish this.’
Estel drew a deep breath and stood – quivering like a hunting dog awaiting permission to retrieve a fallen bird.
‘Go with him.’ Long elven fingers removed the small garment from her hands. Mothwen smiled. ‘I will finish the seam for you – I would not wish to see Estel go up in flames!’
The child flashed her a bright smile as Gilraen rose and followed her son and the elleth blinked. Such eagerness for life – it made the serenity of Imladris seem – dull.
Gilraen paused at the door to their rooms. She had not expected Estel to bring her here – his fervour had suggested puppies at the very least – but … She looked around the room, but it was a moment or two before she realised that there was nothing missing. She released the warm fingers and stepped over to the bowl.
‘Be careful with it until the glue has had longer to set fully,’ Elladan suggested. ‘Normally we would have left it until tomorrow – but Estel thought that you would be happier to have it returned to you tonight.’
Gilraen turned the pot over cautiously. Even knowing it had been broken, she found that she could barely see the joins. Even the smallest fragments had been returned to their proper places. ‘It is beautiful,’ she said simply, looking at the small boy who was bouncing on the balls of his feet, a hopeful look on his face. She smiled. ‘It has been given to me twice,’ she stated, ‘and is doubly precious for that.’
‘Estel worked very hard,’ Elrohir told her. ‘He did not complain once – nor ask to leave before the task was finished.’
She stood the bowl in its customary place and opened her arms to catch the small boy, holding him close, her face shining with pride. ‘He is his father’s son,’ she said.
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