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A/N: Hello all! Welcome to my new story - a little different from my other LOTR offerings. My current plan is to write this entirely from Estel's POV ... we'll see if it actually turns out that way. Hope you enjoy! :-)
Aaand, all of Arda and its inhabitants belong not to me, but to Professor Tolkien. I do love his works...
“I know he’s here, I know you’re keeping him from me!”
The accusation burst from behind the door of his father’s study as Estel’s first knock landed, and he pulled back quickly, dropping his hand to his side. He hadn’t expected that Elrond would be otherwise engaged—whenever possible, his father reserved these afternoon hours for private meditation and study. Estel hesitated, uncertain whether to wait or to go back to his room and finish packing before trying again. Elrond’s voice drifted out as well, his words too low for Estel to hear but his soothing tone unmistakable. Estel began to back away but the first voice came again, halting him in his tracks.
“I won’t forget this, Elf.” Estel tensed, feeling the hostility directed toward his father even through the wall and door. “I see now the skills and hospitality of the Lord of Rivendell for what they really are, and I’ll not be silent about it. I—”
Elrond’s voice rose, not agitated—his father rarely became agitated with patients, and Estel had finally realized who it was in the study with the Master of Imladris—but loud enough that Estel could now hear his words. “Sir, I wish you to understand that I and all of Rivendell grieve for your loss. It is always a tragedy when one such as your son loses his life at an early—”
“What would you know about it?” A thump and a crash followed this cry, and Estel jumped. He wasn’t permitted to interact with strangers who came to the valley, but he was unwilling to abandon his father to a possibly violent situation. He might be only twelve summers, but he knew enough to be of use if Elrond needed him. “Elves don’t die! No one dies here! My son—”
“I assure you, you are mistaken.” Elrond’s voice was tight but controlled. Long accustomed to his father’s tones, Estel pictured the expression that would accompany these words as he pressed against the door, gripping the ornate handle. “Elves do not die of natural causes, but we do fall to accident and injury. We too know the pain of—”
“Why would you keep my son from me?”
Another crash, and Estel could no longer be still. He jerked at the handle and pushed against the heavy door. “Ada?”
Elrond stood back beneath the open arch of the window, eyes following the distraught Man who strode the length of his study. Two vases lay shattered against the front of the desk, quills scattered the desk and the floor, and ink pooled across the smooth wood. Both heads snapped toward the door as Estel entered, and Elrond held up a quick hand.
“Estel, go. Now.”
Estel hesitated, eyeing the broken vases. If this Man was throwing things at his father …
“Estel.” Elrond’s voice snapped out. “Go. I—”
“Are you all right, Ada?”
Understanding sparked in Elrond’s eyes. “I am well, and the situation is in hand. Go now. I will—”
“No need, I’ve had enough of your hospitality.” The word twisted in the Man’s mouth, as his face twisted with a wrath Estel had seldom seen. Dark eyes speared him, sweeping from his head to his boots, and after a moment Estel dropped his gaze, uncomfortable with being the focus of such intensity from a stranger. Elrond moved forward, but the Man shook his head and turned away. “I’ll not stay here another night. I—”
“Jerold Ferrier.” The Man halted, but did not turn back. Elrond approached slowly, leaving several arm’s lengths between himself and his guest. “You are ill yet, injured and in need of care. I ask you to reconsider this—”
“I’ll not stay here.” Ferrin swept his dark gaze onto the Elf. “And this isn’t the end. I’ll have my son back, no matter how you try to hide him. You won’t have him, not my boy.” His eyes snapped again to Estel, and then the Man turned abruptly and stalked into the hall, leaving an open door and a heavy silence in his wake.
Estel shuddered and edged toward Elrond. “Ada, I’m sorry. I only—”
“I understand, Estel, and I thank you.” Elrond crossed to Estel and squeezed his shoulder. “Know, however, that even if you believe me to be in danger, you must not enter this room without my permission. If you truly feel I am in need, fetch Glorfindel or one of your brothers.”
“Yes, Ada.” Estel sighed, torn between chagrin and irritation. What if there hadn’t been time? What if the stranger had grown violent before—
“You needn’t worry, my son.” A weary half-smile played upon his father’s lips. “I am well able to defend myself until aid arrives.”
Estel flushed. Of course Elrond could defend himself. He had heard all of the stories … “I am sorry,” he mumbled again, and Elrond pressed his shoulder once more before releasing him.
“Enough. I appreciate your intentions.” Elrond sighed deeply, eyes turning once more toward the open door. Estel eyed the empty hallway as well, and the Man’s accusations rang in his ears again.
“Ada, why did he think you were hiding his son?” Estel skirted around his father and bent to gather pieces of broken pottery. “Elladan said he was dead, drowned in the accident. He told me they couldn’t find his body and he never even came here.” He stopped his task and looked back up to the Elf, eyes narrowing as another thought struck him. “And why would he even think you would do something like that?” Forgetting the mess, he rose swiftly. “You helped him, how could he—”
“Peace, Estel.” Elrond shook his head and moved slowly to the nearest chair, settling himself with a weary sigh. “Grief may do terrible things to the mind and heart, and I fear that Jerold Ferrier has had more than his share in the past months.” Estel drifted closer, forgoing for the moment his cleaning efforts. “From what we are able to understand, his wife and young daughter died of illness some months past, and he himself had not fully recovered from the same infirmity when a chance lightening strike burned a good deal of his farm holding. He chose to relocate rather than rebuild, given the memories associated with his current home, yet tragedy struck again in the form of the rains which have been long upon us this spring.” Elrond motioned absently to the window and the grey, wet day beyond. “Their path crumbled beneath them, pulling wagon and horses into the nearby stream, and his son was swept away before your brothers came across the scene.” Estel’s father rubbed at his brow. “I fear that he has gone mad with injury, illness, and grief. As we cannot produce his son’s remains, he now believes that we have hidden the child from him, for reasons known only within his own mind.”
Estel stared, horrified to hear of all that this unfortunate Man had endured. “But Ada, you won’t let him leave, will you? Not if he is still ill.”
Elrond smiled faintly. “Rivendell offers hospitality and peace, Estel, not a prison sentence. I may advise him against this course, but given his current feelings toward us, I do not know if it would be best to force him to remain. Perhaps more harm than good may come of it. In any event, it may be that removal from this place to more familiar surroundings will help him to reorient his thoughts.” He stood then, and crossed to gather the fallen quills. “I will send herbs and instructions, and perhaps one of the twins or some other to ensure him safely onto his road.”
He fell silent then, eyes far distant, and together they cleaned the broken pottery and spilled ink, leaving the refuse in a pot by the door for later disposal. Estel’s own mind was busy with all that he had learned, weighing sympathy for their guest’s plight against the still ringing accusations leveled at his father. Elrond was forced to nudge him and repeat his name to gain his attention.
“Estel.” Estel looked quickly around, and his father smiled. “This is not for you to worry over. Come. You will be leaving soon for your next hide and seek, will you not?”
Estel straightened, excitement pushing away all thoughts of grief and illness. “Aye, Ada. It is why I came, to wish you farewell. I will be going within the hour.”
“You have taken leave of your mother as well?”
White teeth flashed. “Of course.” Estel’s grin widened. “She said to have fun, and that Glorfindel told her he thinks I may remain uncaptured for up to two days this time.”
Elrond’s eyebrow rose. “Two days?”
“Who will be your pursuer?”
“Elrohir.” Estel couldn’t quite hide his anxious bounce. Elrond nodded slowly, studying again the wetness beyond his study window.
“Well. Glorfindel expects much from you.” His father tilted his head toward the sodden out-of-doors. “I think that I will not extend an opinion in your hearing, and I suspect Glorfindel did not intend for you to hear his, either. I will only say this—the rains will be both a blessing and a hindrance in this endeavor. Take care you do not become overconfident.”
“I won’t, Ada.”
“And be cautious, my son.” Elrond’s hand rested briefly upon his head. “I do not wish to lose you to a crumbled creek bed or a chance lightning strike.”
It was a sobering reminder. Estel nodded. “I will. Mother already made me promise, as well. I’ll not take any chances.”
His father’s lips tipped into a smile. “Well. Not too many chances.”
Estel grinned again. “Yes, Ada.” He circled Elrond and all but skipped for the door, his mind already on the path he would take away from the House in order to lure his brother onto a false trail. When he reached the doorway he turned back for a moment, tossing a careless wave toward his father. Elrond nodded and raised a hand in return, settling again behind his desk. Estel slipped through the doorway and disappeared from sight.
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