Heavy boots came to a halt by the entrance. Gilraen glanced up from her occupation. There in the doorway of the winter storehouse stood Gilbarad, looking bemused. "You're late."
His wandering gaze found her, and he flinched. "I didn't see you--" he began again, "Forgive me, Gilraen. This morning I thought to find you at the dining hall, and ended up sitting for a meal with Elrond's sons. Had I known you were waiting-—"
"I meant late in the year," she replied smiling. "But I breakfast ere dawn. You would not find me sitting anywhere at this late hour." Seeing the man arch backwards to gauge the angle of shadows outside, Gilraen laughed. "Late for me, that is. For Estel's sake, we keep schedule with Master Elrond, frighteningly early to rise though he may be. Now come, uncle, I owe you a proper greeting!"
They met to embrace in welcome. Despite his happy words, his arms were tense, and his face somber. When they stepped apart, Gilraen kept one hand of his in her own. "I thought it was to be Valcirion's dutiful pleasure to suffer Elrond's hospitality each year. Tell me how it is that you've come in his stead."
He released a breath she had not noticed he held. "Alas, Valcirion has fallen ill."
"I am sorry to hear it." If not overly surprised. Gilraen suspected something of the sort since word reached her that Gilbarad had crossed the Bruinen with the merchantmen. Two commanders would unlikely take leisurely leave at once. "I see that you are concerned." Also she saw that there was more he meant to disclose, and waited to hear it.
"I am. An ailment of similar symptoms nearly slew Beregost last year. Thus far, few enough of the elders have been afflicted, but they've not survived. We can only hope Valcirion will fare better."
Gilraen would not voice her foreboding: that Gilbarad may return to find the Angle in mourning, and himself promoted. She said instead, "What Master Elrond can mend with herbs, Gilbarad, you would not believe. I'll bring this to his attention, and a rider will be sent out as soon as may be to distribute aid."
Then hushing Gilbarad's halfhearted objection, she assured him, "He should be wroth with us both if I did not inform him, and if his help were refused." Doubtful, as she had yet to behold Elrond beyond a shade of annoyance for any reason; but Gilbarad reluctantly agreed, and his mood soon lightened.
They left the storehouse together as Gilraen spoke of the goods brought, what exchanges would follow, and how Gilbarad could expect the Angle to prepare. Gilbarad struggled to keep pace, being less familiar with the process than Valcirion, or Gilraen herself. By the second time she had cause to repeat some detail, Gilbarad blinked with a shake of his head. "Thrice before coming I was reminded that you had been appointed the delegate for such affairs, but in truth I still wondered."
Anticipating his reaction, Gilraen said, "For two seasons I assisted another, then for two seasons I had an assistant. Now without anyone to distract me, things go smoothly at last." Telmoth had said the same, when Gilraen began learning under her the year previous.
A smile came to Gilbarad. "Best indeed that Valcirion recovers soon. I think I would not be so quick to adapt as you. Our men throughout the wild and all duties thereof, I can manage, but this business does not suit me."
Coming upon a doorway, Gilraen gestured that they pause in the hall. Quietly she said, "Estel will be so excited to see you, though I'm loath to interrupt his lesson. They should be finished soon, if you would bide with me."
As Gilbarad focused upon the sounds, she felt a hint of pride at his expression, gone from a puzzled frown to amazement. From inside the room resonated Elrond's voice reciting a simple sentence in Westron, then followed Estel's voice repeating those words in Sindarin.
"Has it only been a year?" He turned to Gilraen as she corrected his estimate by adding some months. After a moment he said, "He has been called only Estel in the Angle, as you requested."
With a smile, she nodded. "Elrond bestowed the name upon him."
"Then they have become close," he did not quite ask.
She tried to detect whether he approved or not; the closer she looked upon the man, the more she was reminded of Arathorn. "They have. Estel looks to him as a father in many ways," she said. "I did not foresee it, though I think Elrond did. Still, I would have it no differently. Of everyone here, Elrond is the most-- here."
"And what do you look to him as?"
"Elrond?" Gilbarad nodded gravely. She could not answer at once, so simple it seemed. "He just is."
At length he grunted, a grin puckering his beard once more. "Life here is making you elvish, Gilraen. But I see that you have grown much, and I am glad for it. Also because I think Arathorn's wishes have been honored to their fullest. Estel is safe, and happy, and in good hands." He paused briefly to hear that the lesson continued, and went on in a hushed tone, "In truth I'm relieved, but not surprised, not as some others would be to see the same, few though they may be. You know I ever sided with your husband on such matters. Speaking of which, were you able to learn any more towards the origin of these silly rumors, if ever there was one?"
Gilraen blinked. "Oh. That." For a place as memorable as Rivendell, she had never been so forgetful before coming here. "Well, it is important to mind that most Elves here marked little or no change in relations. Ask any about a 'rift' and none would know what you mean. However, if you ask of Aravorn, most could tell you that he was a lad of twelve years when Celebrían sailed over Sea, making him the last Chieftain's son the Lady had a hand in fostering, and that he was and remained until his death very close with Master Elrond. I even heard that he died here."
Again, Gilbarad perked an ear towards the study until the voices sounded from within. "What if I asked of Arahad his son then?"
"They would speak carefully so as not to offend, but to frustrate you." She put a hand upon his shoulder and smiled. "Do not despair. I am not yet so elvish that this much I won't say plainly, for this much I do know. The Elves remember Arahad as 'ambitious' for deeds and endeavors that you and I would call imprudent, while it's said that his father was renowned for his trust in the wisdom and foresight of Master Elrond. I think-- just think, mind you, that Arahad tried too much too soon, and failing for want of wisdom, he grew bitter."
"Ambitious endeavors-- say no more. Had his mind bent on a crown, did he," murmured Gilbarad. "Maybe he should have consulted the Wise, the very Powers, his own people!" Wincing, he bit his lip, and quieter, "Maybe he should have minded how the Edain became Númenóreans in the first place, and how the Númenóreans became Dúnedain in the end."
"This is not the end." Gilraen raised her hand to encircle his neck, and embraced him. "There is a saying among the Elves, uncle: Aurë entuluva. I believe it. Day will come again. Whether we see it or not."
"Maybe," he said, then chuckled. "It just may be. Now you best turn round. Someone wants your attention."
She did so, a full and quick spin. Estel squealed and disappeared around the corner, boyish giggles echoing down the hall as he ran.
"Does he brag?"
Gilraen looked in amazement at her uncle. "Yes! How did you know?"
He smiled, shrugging. "You could say I grew up with his father, and I was the slower runner. So come, we had best catch him. Then you can introduce us-- ah, but best tell me beforehand. How am I to be known by him from now on?"
"As his kinsman, of course. That will never change." Taking the lead, Gilraen led the Ranger on their hunt. "Now flank me. He's getting good at this."
Canonically, Gilraen is not said to have held any appointment in Elrond's House.
A Final Note From The Author:
This story was originally published in 2003 by another title. This revised incarnation was published 2006.
I included the (many and detailed) notes throughout in light of receiving many reader comments inquiring towards which aspects were canonical or original in this story, more so for this story than in regards to any other fic I've written. I hope it helps to enhance the experience and leaves readers with fewer unanswered questions.
Comments and criticism and corrections are appreciated one and all. Send me an email, leave a review, visit my LiveJournal, whatever -- I would be glad to hear from you.
Most important: THANK YOU the reader for partaking of my game. I had fun and I hope you did too.