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The Heir Apparent  by Mirkwoodmaiden

Author's note:  It's been a little under a year since I've done any work on this story, or any writing for that matter, so the writing might seem a little uneven!  Tell me you think this chapter leads on well from the last one or not.  Thanks for reading!  :-))



Hope is kindled

Fall 2936 TA

Estel was very still.  He crouched on the stream bank just as he had seen Elladan do the day before and watched the fish in question.  It was a nice fat salmon and would be perfect for lunch that day if he could only catch it.  Elladan had made it look easy.  The sturdy five-year old thought back to the day before.  His foster brother had crouched on the riverbank and stilled himself and quick as a flash reached out a hand and flicked the fish onto the riverbank.  Estel imitated his actions now.  He was crouching and was as still as he knew how to be.  He eyed his quarry for a few seconds and then pounced.  The next thing he knew he was sitting in the stream, soaking wet and listening to uproarious laughter.

"Muindyr nin!  It was a valiant attempt! But I'm afraid that your quarry has slipped through your fingers."

Estel looked up from his berth in the stream to see his beloved foster brother, Elladan walking towards the stream, laughter written across on his fair face and lighting up his star-filled eyes.  The little boy's grey eyes were earnest as he questioned the dark-haired elf.  "What happened, ‘Dan?  I did just like you and it didn't work!"

Reaching down to extract his little charge from the gentle rolling water and wetting his boots in the process, Elladan said, "It was nothing you did wrong, it just takes practice, Mithreneg nin!  I fell in the stream plenty of times when I first learned the trick, "Estel looked at him, disbelief clear on his face. "It is true. Just ask Ada."   He placed the incredulous little boy on the stream bank and knelt next to him.  "I'll tell you what.  Let's get you dried off before you catch your death out here sopping wet, but I will teach you all I know about fish-flipping tomorrow!"

Estel nodded so vigorously that water droplets splattered everywhere, including the forest green silk of Elladan's already wet tunic.  The Elf laughed and said, "I think we are both going to need a change of clothes by the time we get inside.  Come along, my little wet one!" The Elf took the little boy in hand and they walked quickly towards the house and dry clothes.


Upon approaching the house Estel spied his Ada on the front steps talking with a very tall personage.  He broke into a full run with the intention giving his Ada a very big hug.   “Ada! You're back!"  Estel nearly knocked his foster father over with the force of his enthusiastic greeting.

Elrond sounded a rather winded laugh, "Yes, I'm back my little whirlwind! Have you been a good boy?"  The Lord of Rivendell untangled the small wet child from his crimson robes looking at him with amusing incredulity. "You've not given your mother and foster-brothers any trouble?" 

Estel shook his wet head so quickly water droplets flew in all directions as he said, "Nay, Ada! I've not given Nana any trouble.  And ‘Dan has just been showing me how to catch a fish.”

The Lord of Imladris grinned, noting the child’s sopping wet clothes, “Has he now?”

Elrond shifted his amused gaze to his eldest son’s wet tunic, “How goes the lessons?”

“Swimmingly!” said the younger dark-haired elf without missing a beat.

The little boy nodded his head, dark, wet curls bobbing up and down, “’Dan is really good. I tried but I’m not so good.  I fell in the river,” he ended confidentially.

Elrond burst out laughing and hoisted Estel up into his arms, “Just between you and me, I remember fishing Elladan out of the river a fair few times.”

The little boy brightened looking at his foster father and said, “That’s all right, then!”   Elrond again burst out into peals of laughter. “Estel, ion nin!  You are beyond all measure!”

Estel was distracted from this compliment by the sound of merry laughing.  He located the owner of such a laugh.  Standing beside his Ada was the most fascinating man he had ever seen in his short life.  His face was obscured by a seemingly endless white beard and an enormous grey hat.   Under the brim of the hat twinkled two grey eyes.  Estel smiled broadly and reached out a hand to touch the beard.  He proclaimed emphatically, “You’re not an Elf!”

Again the merry laugh sounded from the fascinating personage, “And what makes you say that, Young master?”

“You’ve got a beard!  Elves do not have beards.”  He stated in a confident tone looking at first his Ada and then his foster brother.  Finally he turned his gaze back toward the man in the hat.  “Also your faced is crinkled, not even my Ada has a crinkled face.  He says that Elves do not age, except maybe in spirit.”  Estel added earnestly.

The merry eyes regarded him and, “Well if that is what your Ada says, then it must be true.” the fascinating man said with a note of amusement in his voice.  “And you are right little Master.  I am not an Elf.  Allow me to introduce myself.  I am Gandalf the Grey.” At this he traced a deep bow.

Estel’s eyes were round as saucers as he watched the man bow low.  A liking of the man in the grey robes took seed in the little boy’s heart.  Met again with the twinkling grey eyes, Estel climbed down his Ada and grabbed the old man’s hand.  “I have a horse named Gilgilath!  He is really pretty! You’ll see!” and started to pull him toward the stables that were located down the hill.

Elrond laughed and declared, “Mithrandir, you are clearly among the favoured!  Estel does not show his horse to just anyone!”

Gandalf laughed, “I am honoured.”  Just then Estel let out a tiny sneeze as he pulled at the old wizard’s hand with the intention of leading him off to the stables. 

“Wait, my little man!  Was that a sneeze I just heard?”  Elrond interjected, giving the little boy a stern look.  “You had better pack yourself off to your Nana before you catch your death of cold.  I’m not having a repeat of last summer when she gave me an earful when you came down with the sniffles.  Elladan,”

The younger dark-haired elf looked up and did not bother to hide his smile at the memory of the Dunedain woman lecturing his august father like he was a forgetful schoolboy.  “Yes, Ada?”  he said as innocently as he could muster. 

Elrond raised a quizzical eyebrow at his son’s mirth and then recognition dawned in his pale blue eyes he replied dryly, “Take our wet little charge to his nana and make sure he gets there!” He switched his gaze to pointedly stare at the small child.  Preempting the protest that he could see forming in the precocious mind,  “You can meet us in my study and then you can show Gandalf the stables after you have changed into dry clothes!”  Estel closed his mouth around the unstated protest and meekly nodded, “Yes, Ada.”


Gilraen stood at the balcony’s railing, the russet coloured gauze-like curtains blowing across her face, and gazed upon the twin waterfalls that fed into the Bruinen.  Residual mist fell lightly upon her face.  It had been a little under three years from when she and little Estel had crossed over Rivendell’s borders.  She closed her eyes to the beauty that surrounded her in remembered pain.  Three years.  At times it seemed that she had never lived anywhere else, that she had never lead a different life than the one she lead now.  Other times it seemed like only yesterday she arrived, tired to the bone and heartsick, and was received into Elrond’s hospitality.

She thought back to that day, beyond it she tried not to go, because of memories both happy and sad that she simply could not deal with even now.  Elmiran had spoken true. Imladris had brought a healing of sorts.  It had been a slow process but Estel emerged from his self-imposed cocoon and blossomed under the care and attention lavished upon him by Elrond and the twins.  In fact all of Rivendell had taken the bereft mother and child into their hearts.  The depth of Gilraen’s gratitude for the kindness shown to her and her son by the Elves was boundless.  They had given Estel back his smile.


The shouted word shook Gilraen from her musings.  She chuckled softly to herself wondering what “treasure” her little love had brought with him today.  His little chests and shelves were laden with treasure-turn-debris.  Many of the same keepsakes found residence on her tables and shelves.  She crossed the threshold of balcony and suite only to find her son hurriedly wringing out his dark green tunic making a small puddle in the middle of her weaving room floor and Elrond’s eldest son tapping his shoulder to gain his attention.

“Young master,” he said, motioning toward the balcony window.

Estel stopped wringing and looked where Elladan was pointing.  “Nana!  ‘Dan is going to teach me how to flip a fish.  I tried myself but I fell in the river!”

“Really,” Gilraen said straight-faced, looking at Elladan sharing the laughter that she saw in his eyes.  “Not before time, I should think!” she continued in mock sternness.   A small sneeze prompted the immediate motherly response, “All right, ion nin.  Time to get out of those wet clothes before you catch your death.”  She crossed to where her still-damp son stood and looked at the eldest son of Elrond, “Thank you, Elladan, for delivering my mischievous little imp.”

“It was my pleasure, my Lady Gilraen.”  the dark-haired elf’s star-filled eyes twinkled as he bowed touching his heart in farewell.  “See you later, Muindyr nin,” he said, ruffling the already drying partially plaited black hair before his departed.

Gilraen turned her attention to her damp son, “Right,” she said emphatically, “Let’s get you out of these clothes, shall we?  Arms up!” she commanded.  The little boy flung his arms over his head as he was gently extracted from his wet clothes.  Gilraen heard muffled words as she pulled the shirt up.  Laughing she said, “Let’s try that again in words I can actually hear, hmm.”

Estel repeated his words in an excited fashion. “Ada’s back and he’s brought someone with him!!”

“Has he now?” Gilraen stated in a mildly disinterested way.  Her interest in the world outside of Rivendell had grown less and less over the years since Arathorn’s death.  It hurt less that way.  To be too involved only reminded her of all that she had lost.  She had achieved a fragile peace within herself and allowed very little to disturb it.

“Aye, he has!  But he’s not an elf.” Estel imparted confidentially, “I think he is a man!  Tall and all in grey and with a long, white beard.”

Gilraen stopped untwisting the wet shirt from inside out.  She looked at her son long and hard. “What did you say he looked like?” she asked, a small, but undeniable flare of panic beginning to flare within her breast.

Estel stilled and looked at his naneth, noting the emerging signs of the “troubles” that plagued her infrequently.  It always scared him she became sad and distant and at these times he feared that she would never find her way back.  He nervously stumbled over his description this time, “He had a white beard and a long staff.”  He added, “He looked very nice.” hoping to halt the onset of the her “troubles.”

Gilraen looked at the wide, worried eyes of her son and drew a deep breath in an effort to calm herself.  She sensed his unease and drawing him close and gently rubbing his back saying, “I’m sure he is my love, I’m sure he is.”  She hoisted him up into her arms and said, “It is time we get you into the bath, young master!”

Estel emphatically stated, “I don’t see why I have to take a bath!  I’m already wet!” 

Gilraen laughed again and carried her wet little charge to the bath. “Enough of delaying tactics.”   As she undid her son’s plaits that drew his dark hair away from his face readying him for a good scrub, Gilraen reflected on how Elven Estel had become.  In the few years since they taken refuge in Imladris, Sindarin had all but supplanted the Common Tongue, spoken by her people, as Estel’s native tongue.  Or rather the two languages were melding themselves together in an uneven mix, with the Westron rapidly receding amid the onslaught of Sindarin words and ideas. He no longer called her “Mama” as he had started to.  To him she was “Nana!” the endearment short for the Sindarin word for mother.  He more often spoke Sindarin rather than Westron, in fact they both did.  He remembered many words of Westron and within their own suite of rooms Gilraen spoke the Common Tongue to her son for it was important that he know and understand the language of his people, but by virtue of where they were living Sindarin had become his native tongue, whereas it would never be anything other than a second language for Gilraen.

As she combed his hair free of the tangle from the undone plaits, she felt a chagrin bordering on sadness that this was so, but like so many other things in her life they were unchangeable.  Fate had decreed that Estel would grow up in Rivendell with no knowledge of whom he really was.  It was unlike any fostering before him.  All heirs of Isildur before Estel had known what their destiny was, for they had come to be sheltered in Imladris much later in life.  Seven or eight had been the usual age for the child to be sent to Lord Elrond and taught the ways of the Eldar.  Times and tragedy told differently for Gilraen and her son.

Just then a splash of water broke her train of thought and she looked at her bath-ready son quickly noting that his smile did not reach his eyes.  Upset that she had yet again allowed her son to see her melancholy she quickly smiled and said, “All right, young master, into the water with you!”  At this she tickled the sturdy five-year-old and promptly plopped the giggling child into the scented water of the sunken stonework bathing tub, splashing both she and the little boy.  Laughing, Gilraen reached for the white, leaf shaped soap, wet it and began soaping down her son.  She heard an indistinct little croak and looked back toward Estel’s crumpled clothes and saw his leggings move, a sure indicator that they were not alone.  Estel had managed to bring along a little friend.   She wondered who he was going to “introduce” the frog to next.  Chuckling to herself, she began to scrub the boy in earnest.  He needed to be clean for the amount of trouble he was about cause.


Properly dried off and dressed in a fresh tunic and pants of russet and forest green Estel bounded out his suite of rooms leaving his nana smiling after him.  Excitedly he made a beeline for Elrond’s study.  Not looking where he was going he rounded the corner and ran straight into solid midnight blue silk.  Looking up he saw a mixture of amusement and bemusement sitting on an Elven face. “Young Master Estel you are simply going to have look where you are going when you are bounding about places!”

Putting his best earnest look, Estel stated, “Sorry, Elmiran.”

“You cannot fool me with that look, young master.  I know it too well.” Elmiran said in mock sternness.  The elf knelt on one knee to tickle the sturdy child.  He loved this little boy and thought of the contrast between the precocious talkative child in front of him and the withdrawn little soul he had been he had first arrived a little under three years ago.  Since then he had taken it upon himself to help bring the boy out of his shell.  He stopped by the suite of rooms set aside for the boy and his naneth whenever his duties as Elrond’s page allowed him to do so bringing the then silent child little presents or simply sitting and talking.  Eventually Estel opened up again and behind Elladan and Elrohir with whom the small boy shared a special relationship, Elmiran was one of his favoured companions.  “So what is so important that you rush around corners heedless of another’s safety.”

Estel bubbled, “Ada has a companion in his study and I want show him ‘Lath!”

Knowing the child’s love for his horse, Elmiran nodded sagely, “I see.  Well by all means you must be on your way for such an important mission.” He ended, humour evident in his voice.  “Off you go, little master,”  Elmiran stepped to one side in a grand sweeping  motion.  Estel giggled and with a backwards look to the young Elf he continued hurriedly in the direction of Elrond’s study looking forward just in time to avoid another Elf going about his daily business.  Elmiran watched as the collision was narrowly averted.  He closed his mouth around the almost shouted warning and chuckled instead as he again made his way along the corridor that had been temporarily impeded the small bundle of energy known as Isildur’s heir.


Estel ran into the study eager to see his Ada and the tall grey man.  “Ada! I’m back!  All clean and scrubbed!”

Elrond and Gandalf, sitting on the chair and divan sofa at corners in the center of the room, immediately stopped their whispered conversation and turned amused looks onto the small whirlwind that had just burst through the door.  Gandalf, somewhat unsuccessfully, tried to hide a smile, as the boisterous child launched himself into Elrond’s lap, eliciting a rather undignified “Umph! from the Lord of Rivendell.  Elrond shot him a look of amused forbearance as he adjusted the rambunctious bundle of child on his lap.  “You smell so fresh and clean, my young master!  Any dirt behind the ears?”  At this Elrond’s voice rang out with mock sternness, “I do not know.  I think I will have to check!”  Elrond bent one ear and then the other.  “All right.  Inspection done.  I deem you properly clean and fresh enough to speak with our honoured guest.”

Estel giggled and turned his attention to the tall grey personage sitting on the divan sofa.  He scrambled down from his Ada’s lap and seated himself on the open portion of the sofa looking at the fascinating man in an expectant fashion.  This seemed to amuse the old man and his face broke into a wide smile. “Well now!  My good little man.  You are so big and strong.  Whatever are they feeding you here in Imladris?”

“Mostly stuff that’s good for me they say,” Estel said wrinkling his nose is distaste. “But sometimes my nana makes me honey-cakes and Elmiran brings me spiced candy! It’s really good!  Also I go fishing and Elladan says that I can eat whatever I catch!”

Gandalf laughed, “And how many is that?”

“None so far,” the small boy replied looking aggrieved, “But,” the little face bore as stern a resolve as a five-year old can hold, “I will, though.  Just watch!”  Gandalf saw the serious look and replied seriously, “I believe you will, my lad, I believe you will.”  Just then, all present all heard a rather indignant croak and Estel’s leather pouch began to move.  Gandalf laughed cheerily, his serious mood evaporating under peals of delighted laughter.  Estel reached into his pocket and pulled out a rather large frog.

Elrond, eyes to the heavens, said, “Estel, come here.”  The little boy slid off the chair and walked over his Adar.  “What have I told you about taking frogs out of their pond homes and carrying them around with you.  Hmm.”

“You said that it was not fair to the frog to be removed from its home.  That frogs need to be around rivers and ponds in order to be happy.” The little boy replied biting his lower lip fretfully.  He looked at his Ada with eyes showing trepidation, “Am I in trouble now?”

Elrond hoisted the child, frog in hand, up onto his lap, sitting him across his legs. “No, you are not in trouble, Estel.” He replied briskly,  “Only you have to remember,” the Elven lord continued,  “All living creature thrive best where there is a place to grow and be happy.  We must learn to respect their ways.  Do you understand?”  Elrond looked into the earnest grey eyes and saw that his point had at least started to work its ways into the heart of the little boy.

“Aye, Ada.  But he was injured!” Estel said in his own defense. “See!”  At that Estel put the frog on top of the table next to at Elrond’s chair and dangerously close to the decanter of fine Dorwinian vintage that Elrond and Gandalf had been sharing.  Just as the frog’s feet hit the table, he hopped in a completely uninjured way and straight into the decanter.  The frog stopped, momentarily stunned, and the wine went flying.  Estel, eager to correct the situation, quickly reached across his Ada to save the frog and in the process a knee caught the edge of the table toppling it back, the momentum taking Estel and Elrond’s empty wine glass with it.  Landing with a gentle bump amid a crumpled tablecloth and the broken crystal of glass and decanter Estel sat and triumphantly held up his left arm clenching something, “My frog!” 

For the first few seconds after all had become still again, Elrond sat in his chair looking at his charge, anger and amusement warring for supremacy upon his brow, “Estel, you have got to be more careful!” he began reprimanding, but relief that his little son was uninjured and the delighted look on his small face cooled Elrond’s anger.  Estel began to stand, “Stay where you are!” commanded the father and the son immediately stilled.  Getting up, Elrond explained, “There is broken glass all around and I do not want you cutting yourself.”  Grey eyes wide, Estel nodded his understanding and waited as his Ada lifted him from amid the debris, placing him closer to the door.  Elrond called to his page waiting attendance on his door, “Send for some help to clear this up,” Intal, a dark haired elf dressed in Rivendell livery, spied the glass on the floor and sent a knowing yet indulgent look in Estel’s direction.

“Right away, my lord.” he intoned with his hand over his heart and sped away upon his errand.

“Well, then,” Elrond turned back to his guest and his charge, “Did not you say you wanted to show Gilgilath to Gandalf?” he finished, careful to stand in front of the broken glass so that his little son would not run through it in his excitement.

“Oh Aye, Ada!” the boy ran around his Ada’s chair to get Gandalf off the divan and drag him towards the stable. “I want to you to see my horse!” He grabbed at the old wizard’s hand and pulled as only a five-year-old on a mission can pull.  Gandalf laughed and looked down his long crooked nose at the dark-haired child with the eager gray eyes.  He tossed an amused look at Elrond and said, “Lead the way, young master!”  With this the tall and the small walked out of the study down to the little flowering path that lead to the stable.  Estel began chattering away about his horse. 

“Gilgilath and I have grown up together!  I have had him ever since I can remember!  ‘Dan had a special saddle made for me, and he and ‘Roh have started teaching me how to ride.  Although I’m not supposed to ride ‘Lath when they’re not with me.” Estel stated earnestly.

Gandalf was listening with interest not only at the words being said, but the language they were said in.  Estel, as would any small Elven child, spoke Sindarin as if he were born to it.  Thinking about it Gandalf realized with a bit of a shock, in essence he was to born to it.  Elrond had written three years ago that the child had arrived, so he had been living in Imladris for most of his young life.  No wonder then that he should speak Sindarin.  Curious, Gandalf thought to test something.  In Westron, he casually enquired, “How often do Elladan and Elrohir take you riding?”

Without looking up or missing a beat, Estel answered in Westron, “When they are not too busy.  About two or three times a week.”

Thick white eyebrows shot up in mild astonishment.  He can understand and speak both Elvish and Westron without thought. Casting his mind towards a desired future Gandalf thought that this spoke well for the task that was to be set before this little boy happily dragging him to towards the stables.

Estel released the old man’s hand and ran toward a black stallion with a star-shaped spot on his nose that clearly knew its own worth.  The stallion whinnied softly as he recognized his little master and gently nuzzled the boy’s face, licking his ear.  Estel laughed delightedly and flipped up the top of a wooden hinged box to retrieve a carrot as treat for the black stallion.  Gandalf immediately recognized the horse as one not of Elven get but a northern breed.  Making a mental note to discuss this interesting development with Elrond when the opportunity suggested itself Gandalf cheerily sang out in Sindarin again, “He is a fine horse, indeed.” as he strode forward.  He waited however for little Estel to give permission for him to touch Gilgilath.

The little boy looked up at the tall man towering over him.  The young boy had had very little experience with Men having lived as long as he could remember among the Eldar nestled within the verdant ravine of Imladris.  In fact he had never been beyond its borders and yet he felt somehow that he could trust the man with the long grey beard.  After all he sensed that his Ada trusted this stranger and that was good enough for Estel.  Pensively biting his lower lip, the boy looked back at Gilgilath and then peered up at the tall man.  “You could put me on ‘Lath’s back.  I’m sure that Ada would not mind.”  Earnest grey eyes sought Gandalf’s acceptance of such sound reasoning.

Gandalf looked down at the precocious grey eyes of the child.  Laughing just a bit before giving in Gandalf said, “Well, my lad!  I think you just might be right!”  He unlatched the gate to Gilgilath’s stall and fed him a carrot out of the same wooden box petting the silky black coat while the horse munched on the treat.  Lifting the nearby leather saddle exquisitely etched with twinning leaves upon the seat Gandalf placed it upon the horse’s back, receiving a slight, food-muffled whinny for his troubles.  After cinching the saddle in place, he reached down for the solid little boy and hefted him into the saddle of the strapping black stallion.  Boy and stallion seemed made for each other.  Gandalf wondered again who had presented him with such a fine horse as he checked the adjustment of the stirrups and said, “The paddock adventurous enough for you today, young master?”

Estel nodded his head; his black curls and plaits bobbing enthusiastically.  Gandalf looked at the young boy of whom so much was to be asked, of whom so much was hoped. Estel.  He was aptly named by Elrond.  Looking at the child, Gandalf sensed that he would indeed bring hope.  The Maia smiled into those expectant young eyes as he led the dark stallion out of his stall and into the bright light of the paddock.


A/N:  In the timeline Aragorn doesn't actually meet Gandalf until after he's left Rivendell and is in his 20s, but I thought about it and I thought it was be nice to actually bring Gandalf into the story while Aragorn is still a child, so further strengthen the bonds between future king and wizard.  Also I thought it would be fun!!

About Estel speaking both languages more or less fluently I read up what the effects of large exposure to two different languages on very young children just beginning to acquire language are.  It turns out that if children are exposed young enough (i.e. at the time of first language acquisition, around age 2 or 3) then they will more learn both languages very well.  One might take precedence, but not necessarily.  I have chosen Sindarin to take precedence over Westron because I think it will help generate storylines later on in the story! Hopefully! :-))

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