Friends are for Such a Time as This – Part I
Disclaimer: Middle Earth and the beings thereof belong to J.R.R. Tolkien and his kin. I'm making no money, so please don't sue me.
Notes: This story occurs c. 2940, when Aragorn (then known as Estel) is only 9 years of age and under the care of Elrond. Out of amusement at the tremendous difference in age between Legolas and Aragorn, I composed this snippet. Behold as the Elf babysits the Man whom he will later follow across Middle Earth …
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"Then Aragorn, being now the Heir of Isildur, was taken with his mother to dwell in the house of Elrond; and Elrond took the place of his father and came to love him as a son of his own. But he was called Estel, that is 'Hope', and his true name and lineage were kept secret at the bidding of Elrond …"
--Lord of the Rings, Return of the King; Appendix A, pg. 1032
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"By the Valar, Estel!" cried Gilraen, her voice distraught, nearly pricking herself on her needle. "Must you run about so?"
But the child scrambling across the sewing room paid her no heed, a cry of delight on his lips. "I cannot stop, mother, or Elrohir will catch me!" He soon disappeared around the corner, his laughter and the slap of his feet upon the marble giving away his path. "Do not tell him where I hide! He must find me!" he called ere the sounds of his flight quieted.
"That boy …" sighed the woman, laying her embroidery in her lap and gazing after the youth, a small sigh of despair upon her lips. "He will be the death of me."
"And yet you live on, fair lady, and may you live long yet," said a gentle voice, and when Gilraen looked up she saw it was Elrohir who spoke. His eyes were stern, but a mild smile turned the corners of his mouth.
"You speak kindly," replied Gilraen, inclining her head, but she too bore a tender smile. "This seems a rare honor; what brings you to the sewing room of Imladris this day, Elrohir?"
Elrohir cocked his head slightly towards the door whence Estel had made his escape and brought a long finger to his lips. "Where goes Estel?" he asked, his voice raised, and a childish giggle could be heard. "For I agreed to play Seek and Hide, but now it seems I have thoroughly lost him, and I know not where he might have gone from here."
Gilraen smiled in earnest then, raising her voice to join in the Elven lord's game. "He passed through here, but more I cannot say. For then I would be aiding you, and I am informed by my son that such things are not allowed."
Again a muffled chuckle came from the far doorway, and Elrohir slipped on silent feet across the sewing room, gazing down the empty hall with mirthful eyes. "Alas, then all is lost!" cried the Elf dramatically, "For Estel is skilled at his art! I know not if my tracking skills will be enough to find him."
Gilraen made a clucking noise and turned back to her embroidery as she carried on in the façade. "Truly, Estel's skill must be great if even you cannot track him, Elrohir. But then all is not well! For if you do not find him, I fear he will miss dinner, and that would be a grave thing indeed."
There was a disappointed gasp from Estel's hiding place, and Elrohir turned his fair gaze to the youth's mother at this, his gaze full of mischief. "Then tell you where he hides? He must not starve."
"Nay, I cannot," sighed Gilraen. "He instructed me specifically that you must find him. I may not tell you where he lies in wait."
"Then my search has been in vain," moaned the Elf. "May he appear soon, or I fear the wrath of my father when I tell him his dear son has been lost!"
"No, Elrohir, you needn't!" cried the child, springing from where he had crouched behind a pillar. He ran into the sewing room, distressed. "I am right here!" But when he saw the smile upon Elrohir's face, and the amusement in his mother's eyes, he scowled. "I have been tricked!" he sighed.
"But with good intentions," said Elrohir, his hand falling to the youth's hair to smooth it back. "For indeed, dinnertime draws nigh."
"You could have simply asked me to come out," Estel pouted.
"But it was so much more entertaining, drawing you out this way," laughed the son of Elrond. "Was it not, fair lady?"
Gilraen looked upon the scowling features of her son and smiled. "Yes," she agreed, "And it is well, for you must grow used to teasing, dear son. Many may taunt you in your lifetime, and you must learn a good humor."
But Estel wanted nothing of morals and good humor. "Someday I shall successfully hide from you, Elrohir!" he said petulantly.
Elrohir nodded, still light in heart. "So you might, Estel; so you might," he agreed. "But for now, I would see you and your mother hide away a meal in your stomachs."
He could not have known that Estel spoke prophetically.
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"I want to go to Mirkwood."
Elrond, Lord of Imladris and Keeper of one of the Three, gazed with wonder upon Estel as the human child looked up at him, his face stern. "I wish to go to Mirkwood with Elladan and Elrohir."
"Who gave you this idea?" inquired the Elven lord, a smile quirking upon his lips.
"No one; I am nearly ten years old, and I am able to use a bow and sword. I want to hunt Orcs with my brothers!" cried the child.
Elrond was nearly unable to hold back his smile, for he perceived Estel was headstrong and lacking experience. It seemed to him that sending Estel towards Mirkwood was akin to sending a babe unto the wolves, for nine was young even for the children of Man. "I am sorry, my child, but you are not yet ready for Orcs," he said gently, kneeling before the youth so that they were eye to eye.
"Elladan told me that my skill with the sword was enough to fell a Warg," Estel protested.
Elrond shook his head slowly, for his eldest son's exaggerations had given his surrogate son false hopes. Indeed, Estel was not yet even tall enough to wield a true sword; rather, he carried an Elven dagger at his hip. "Oh, Estel, Estel," he sighed. "I cannot permit this."
Estel scowled at this, but before he could speak Elladan came into the room on silent Elven feet. "Father, I would that Estel come with us, at least for a part of the journey," said he. "Mayhap he will learn a thing or two, and he shall be well-protected."
Elrond straightened and gazed at his son, the elder of the twins by but a minute or two. "I do not think this wise, Elladan."
"If he were to travel with us for but a few days, would you permit it?" suggested Elladan. "We would be but a few leagues from the realm of Imladris."
"How would you return him?" inquired Elrond.
"I want to go all the way to Mirkwood," interjected Estel stubbornly, bringing upon himself the gaze of both Elves.
"That," said Elladan, a smile alighting upon his features, "even I cannot allow."
"Nor will I," promised Elrond firmly. He looked lovingly upon the youth. "Please leave us, Estel, for I must discuss this matter with my son. Mayhap you shall travel with them for a ways."
Estel pouted as young children were wont to do, but he bowed his head in acquiesce. "Yes, father," he said dutifully before dragging himself from the room.
Elrond watched the child go and turned again to Elladan. "I would that you had waited until Estel was not present, for I still doubt greatly the wisdom of allowing him to come for even a short ways. Now you may have given him false hopes."
Elladan shook his head. "I hope that I have not, father, and perhaps you will agree when you have heard me out. Estel is a strong child and his skill with the sword (although it is but a dagger, he wields it as a sword) is nothing to be mocked. If he were to come with us, it would be for naught more than two days. We would have barely left your realm ere we sent him back with good Rivendell warriors. He could hardly be safer than when he scampers about these halls haphazardly."
Elrond sighed at this and looked beyond his son to the sky, visible through the many windows of Imladris' open chambers. "I doubt not the safety of your company, or the company of the many elves here, for all are strong and well-trained. But to what purpose would you do this thing? Surely not to merely please the whims of a young child."
Elladan again shook his head, the smile on his lips containing little mirth. "Nay, father. Perhaps it would make Estel happy, but it is for a far grander reason that I desire his presence. For we both know whose son he is, and of what lineage he comes, although I dare not speak it. I say it is well that he begin to see the land beyond your realm, for I fear that all too soon he shall be swept up in a sea of danger that we shall not be able to prevent. I only wish to educate Estel while he remains hidden."
Elrond fixed his eyes upon his son, his features resolute. "I see the wisdom of your words, Elladan, and so I am reluctant to hold back my approval. Thus I say that Estel shall go with you, but he shall go no further than a day's travel from Imladris' borders. But know that there is a foreboding in my heart that speaks of danger, and you would do well to heed such things before they cause much pain."
Elladan nodded gravely, for he too held such a foreboding. "We shall pay special care to Estel's safety," he promised.
"See that you do," Elrond replied curtly, but he smiled as he spoke. "I know how much you care for him, and I know you will not let harm befall him. When do you leave?"
"On the morrow, with the light of the sun," replied Elladan, bowing slightly, a smile upon his lips as well. "I thank you, father, and now I must depart. Estel must be told the favorable news."
"Indeed," agreed the Elven lord, voice grave but features light-hearted. "Yes, indeed."
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Author's Notes: Like so many LotR authors, I am fascinated by the relationship between Legolas and Aragorn. When it comes to Lord of the Rings, though, I'm against slash, so I tend to look for platonic explanations … and amusing stories.
Well, anyway … I've interpreted Elrond loving Estel as a son to be pretty much that Estel is his adopted son. Not unlike Cassia, who is a kickass author.
Legolas appears in the next chapter, so stay tuned! ^_________^x