Folks, this is a new elfling tale. I do have another chapter of "Things Fall Apart" prepared. It is being beta'd and will be posted shortly.

Vocabulary

Fuchs—'Fox' (German)

Grausam—'Unkind' (German)

Beta Reader: Dragonfly

Number Nine: Chapter 1

'One', Anomen carefully wrote.

'Two'.

"Three'.

Anomen sighed. Erestor looked up and frowned.

"Anomen, if you would put as much energy into writing as you do into sighing, you would soon be finished with this task."

"But then you'd only assign him another," Elrohir pointed out impishly.

"Elrohir," said Erestor tartly, "you seem to have a surfeit of energy, concerning yourself as you do with the progress of your fellow student. Perhaps I should assign you an additional task."

Elrohir hastily bent his head over his own parchment, and Erestor came to stand by Anomen and look over his script.

"Very good," he said approvingly. "For all your sighing, you are doing a neat job with your lettering."

"May I stop, then?" Anomen asked hopefully.

"No. I said you were doing a neat job. I did not say you were doing a superb job."

As always, Erestor's standards were very exacting.

"Master Erestor," Elladan said timidly, "I don't mean to be impertinent, but why must we spend so much time perfecting our writing?"

"Anything worth doing is worth doing perfectly," said Erestor serenely.

"But, Master Erestor," said Anomen, "what if it is not necessary that a task be done with excruciating attention to detail?"

"Oh, and can you think of a case where this would be so?"

"Let us say that you are chopping wood for a fire," argued Anomen. "Because the sticks are only to be burned, it is not necessary that each stick be exactly the same length as each other. You must merely make sure that each stick is of a suitable length for the size of the fire. There now!" said the elfling triumphantly.

"Tell me, Anomen, when you determine how carefully a stick must be cut, you are considering how best to use your time and energy, is that not so?"

"Yes, Master Erestor."

"It would be foolish to make an effort to cut sticks to a precise length when such precision is not required by the situation."

"Of course, Master Erestor," Anomen replied, puzzled. That was his point exactly; whatever could Erestor mean by embracing it?

"So, Anomen, what are you paying attention to when you decide not to devote your energy into precisely measuring sticks that are to be burned? Are you not paying attention to the details of the situation, one detail being whether you are required to invest time and energy in establishing exactitude of length, given the purpose for which the wood is intended?"

The elflings exchanged baffled glances. Erestor's argument appeared paradoxical yet irrefutable. One had to pay attention to the specific nature of a task in order to determine the level of precision requisite to the task. And that meant paying attention to details. It was thus necessary to be precise even when one was being imprecise! Ai!

The elflings worked in silence for awhile. At last Anomen worked up the courage to return to the argument.

"Master Erestor, sticks that vary somewhat in length serve their purpose if they are intended for a fire and their length is suitable for that particular fire."

"So we have agreed, Anomen."

"The purpose of such sticks is to furnish us with the means for creating light and warmth."

"True."

"What is the purpose of the alphabet, Master Erestor?"

"The alphabet allows us to represent words in written form so that we may communicate over distance and across time one with another."

"The letters of the alphabet can be written in different sizes, can they not, Master Erestor?"

"Yes, the script of a missive written on a smallish piece of parchment may be smaller than the lettering on the pages of a history found within a massive folio."

"But if the sizes were to be mixed," said Anomen, "some letters large, others small, the text would still be understandable, is that not so? One could still communicate over distance and across time!"

Erestor worked hard to suppress a smile. Anomen was a clever little elfling, and even though the tutor valued firmness, he could not but appreciate the young one's effort to argue his way out of the tedious handwriting exercise.

"Tell me, Anomen, are all Elves of equal height?"

"No, they vary somewhat—although none be as short as is a Dwarf!"

"We are speaking of Elves only, Anomen. So, we agreed that the Eldar vary in height."

"Yes, Master," Anomen said cautiously, wondering what trap was being set for him.

"Would we fault a captain if he led into battle a patrol consisting of Elves of various heights?"

"No, for each Elf would still serve his purpose, even if he were a little taller or shorter than his fellows. Besides, differences in height arise naturally, and the captain has no power over them. He cannot order his warriors to shrink; neither can he command them to grow!"

"True. But what would we say of a captain who was responsible for a cavalry patrol and yet furnished only half his warriors with horses so that some had to run into battle whilst others rode?"

"There are many things that could be said of such a captain. One might say that he was heedless or thoughtless or ill-prepared. One might even call him foolish."

"So we judge folk by actions that are within their power and expect them to make good use of their resources."

"Yes, Master Erestor," replied Anomen resignedly. Even a Troll could have seen the direction that this argument was taking.

"And such actions may include the careful marshaling of resources according to the situation at hand."

Anomen gave a sigh as heartfelt as the one he had uttered at the outset of this tale.

"I suppose, Master Erestor, you are going to say that it would be a poor writer who mingled large and small letters within the limited space allowed for a brief message."

"It seems I do not need to say that, as you have already done so. But there is another matter to be considered in this case. If a person proves to be careful under one set of circumstances, do we not tend to assume that he will be careful under other circumstances? In other words, do we not extend our trust to that person?"

"Yes, Master Erestor. I know that Glorfindel has lately allowed me much more freedom on the training fields because I have proved myself to be reliable in the past."

"That's Lord Glorfindel to you," Erestor said sharply. He was as particular about decorum as he was about handwriting. "Now, let us imagine that you have sent a letter with which you hope to persuade a king to enter into trade negotiations. Let us suppose that in many small ways your missive is composed carelessly—in grammar, perhaps, and in spelling and handwriting. Would you blame the recipient if he wondered whether someone who was careless in minor matters could be trusted in weightier ones?"

"But, Master Erestor," interjected Elladan, "very often our father sends missives that have been copied out by a scribe. He couldn't be blamed if those letters were composed carelessly."

"Oh, yes, he would indeed be to blame," Erestor asserted. You father is responsible for selecting and supervising his servants. If he countenanced sloppiness and negligence on their part, it would not say much for his own shrewdness and sagacity."

The elflings nodded. What Erestor said made sense. Young as they were, they were aware that on many occasions it was necessary to make a good impression in order to win allies. There were many ways to do so—through speech and behavior, even through grooming and apparel. Why should not one's missives be another way of establishing one's credibility and authority? They returned to their task with a little less reluctance, now that they understood its necessity, and in due course Erestor was able to release them from their morning lesson, with words of praise for each and every one, but especially Anomen.

"Anomen, I do believe it would be fair to say that you have done a superb job on that final page—particularly the lettering for the word 'nine'. Very elegantly done."

Such praise of course awoke Elrohir's jealousy, which was, after all, never more than napping.

"It's easy for him to write the word for 'nine'," he scoffed, "because his forearm is marred by that birthmark that looks like that very word. He is always staring at it—bothers him, I shouldn't doubt, that he is marked so."

Erestor frowned, partly because he was troubled by Elrohir's pettiness, but partly because it always disturbed him to be reminded of Anomen's birthmark. He knew something that the elflings did not: Gandalf had the identical birthmark, although on his shoulder rather than his forearm. From the first time Erestor had seen Gandalf in one of the bathing chambers, he had noticed the wizard's birthmark. For centuries it had seemed a mere curiosity. Then Anomen had arrived, and one day in the library, when he had reached for a quill, the sleeve of his tunic had gaped enough for Erestor to see the strange sign on the elfling's forearm.

"What's that?" the tutor had said sharply.

"What is what, Master Erestor?" Anomen asked.

"That mark on your arm? Is it a scar? A burn?"

"I have had it for as long as I can remember," Anomen had replied. "My Edwen Nana told me that it was a birthmark."

"Let me see it," Erestor demanded.

Slowly Anomen pushed up his sleeve. He was taken aback by the tutor's peremptory tone. To make matters worse, Elrohir and Elladan were both staring at him curiously. They had of course seen the birthmark whenever they had had occasion to change or bathe, but they had thought nothing of it—until now. Erestor's interest kindled their own.

"By the Valar," Erestor said under his breath.

"What is the matter?" Anomen asked nervously.

"Curious, most curious. That birthmark bears a remarkable resemblance to the word for 'nine'.

"Yes, I have been told that before," Anomen said. "Is that so very bad?"

"I do not know," Erestor said softly. Then he hastened to assume a nonchalant manner. "Probably nothing," he said briskly. "A quirk of nature."

But Erestor did not believe that for a minute. What were the odds, he wondered, that two individuals would be thrown together, both marked by the elven word for 'nine'? For it was Gandalf who had found Anomen and brought him to Rivendell. "Of all the elflings in all of the forests in all of Middle-earth," mused Erestor, "he encounters that one. Why?"

Whenever Erestor caught sight of either Anomen's or Gandalf's birthmark, he wondered anew at what the shared mark might mean. And it never failed to disconcert him.

Partly he was bothered because to him the mark was a visible sign of the closeness between wizard and elfling, for the tutor envied a little the bond that the two so obviously shared. Erestor believed that he, in his incarnation of strict schoolmaster, would never be afforded the same affection that Anomen felt for the wizard, who had a genial side that he freely shared with the elfling. When Gandalf would unexpectedly appear in Rivendell, Anomen would fling himself into his arms and squeeze until the Maia would utter a half-laughing 'oooph!' Whilst Gandalf sat in the Hall of Fire, conversing with Elrond, Anomen would climb into his lap and lean back comfortably against him, tucking his head under the wizard's beard and not infrequently falling asleep so that he had to be carried to bed at the conclusion of the evening. No elfling had ever fallen asleep in Erestor's lap, and, of course, the tutor had no beard for a young one to shelter under.

But Erestor's wistful envy of the love between wizard and elfling was only part of the reason that he was troubled by the shared birthmark. Of greater importance was his fear for the safety of the youngling. Gandalf was always a little vague about the reasons for his presence in Middle-earth (although he probably was more forthcoming with Elrond and Celeborn than with Erestor). One thing was clear, however: whatever had brought the wizard to Arda, it caused him to put himself in danger over and over again. Whenever Gandalf reappeared in Rivendell after a long absence, it always seemed as if he would have new sword rents in his cloak or another arrow hole in his peaked hat. Not uncommonly, Elrond was called upon to use his skill as a healer in treating the wizard's bruises, scrapes, and cuts. After observing this phenomenon repeatedly over the centuries, Erestor had decided that any Elf who cast his lot with Gandalf was likely to be in peril of life and limb. As a result, Erestor sometimes wished that Anomen would have as little to do with Gandalf as possible because he feared the Istar would draw the elfling into whatever perils he himself faced. "Not an appropriate role model," the tutor would bluster to himself on those occasions. "Not an appropriate role model at all!"

The day after Erestor and the elflings had conversed about the need for precision and attention to detail, the tutor decided that Anomen ought to read a tale about Sauron. "Not all Maiar are good," he said darkly as he handed the elfling the tome. "Read this, and then compose an essay in which you explain why an Elf should be very careful about trusting a Maia."

Anomen dutifully sat upon his stool and began to study his text, but Erestor would have been disappointed had he realized that the elfling saw no connection between the Maia described in the pages of the book and his very own Istar. To Anomen, the day's assignment was a mere exercise, as were so many of the tasks set him by Erestor.

As Anomen came to the end of the narrative and picked up his quill to write his commentary, the wizard whom Erestor would have warned him against was toiling his way through a harsh landscape far to the south. Mithrandir was making for Minas Morgul, to spy out the doings of Sauron's minions. At the moment, however, he was fearful that some of those minions were spying him out. He was quite certain that he was being followed, although by whom he was not sure. He had spied shadows flitting in the woods behind him and had several times heard branches crack under someone's foot other than his own.

"Trackers with no allegiance to Sauron, perhaps," he muttered to himself, "but perhaps not. Why would they follow me—I am not likely to improve their hunting as I tromp through these woods!"

The wizard had been traveling through the trees that grew near the edge of a plateau. At the base of the plateau was a plain that afforded little shelter. Normally, Gandalf kept to the cover, but in this case he decided it would be better to forgo it.

"If I descend the escarpment and ventured onto the plain," he said to himself, "I would be easily seen—but so would anyone who tried to follow me. They would have to give over tracking me, or show themselves. Either way, I believe my situation would be improved, either by shaking my pursuers or ascertaining who they may be."

He left the shelter of the trees and stood at the edge of a cliff, looking for a way down. He thought he saw several possible routes and stepped forward. Unfortunately, the trackers must have discerned his intention, and they moved to thwart him. Gandalf heard a 'thwang' and a whir, but before he could react, he was struck by an arrow and staggered a little to one side.

The shaft had hit him in the shoulder—neatly slicing into the center of his birthmark, in fact—and Gandalf lost his grip on his staff. It fell over the edge of the escarpment and landed far below in a clump of bushes.

"I'm in for it now," Gandalf muttered. Since the arrow had struck him in his sword arm, he knew he was quite defenseless. Quickly he unbuckled his sword belt and sent it and his sword after the staff. "Now I'm just an old beggar," he said to himself. Clutching his shoulder, he waited for his assailants to reach him.

In Rivendell, meanwhile, Anomen was in the middle of writing his composition when he gave a sudden cry and clutched at the birthmark on his forearm.

"Whatever is the matter!?" exclaimed Erestor sharply.

"My arm, it hurts, it hurts dreadfully!"

"Let me see."

Anomen pushed up the sleeve of his tunic, and Erestor carefully examined his arm. He saw nothing, unless it be that the skin around the elfling's birthmark was reddened.

"I see no injury, Anomen. Is this another one of your tricks to get out of completing today's task?"

"That's not fair," Elladan interjected. "Anomen doesn't play tricks to get out of his work. Elrohir's the one who does that."

Elrohir scowled at his twin, but of course Elladan was speaking the truth, and the tutor knew it.

"Be that as it may," he said impatiently, "there is nothing wrong with Anomen's arm and so he must finish the morning's lesson."

But Anomen had turned paler than ever Galadriel was.

"Mithrandir needs help!" he exclaimed.

Elladan and Elrohir stared at him as if he were talking nonsense, and Erestor tried to put on the same expression, although given his knowledge of the elfling and wizard's shared birthmark, it was difficult for him to do so.

"Anomen," asked a bewildered Elladan, "whatever does Mithrandir have to do with anything? One minute you are complaining about your arm; the next you are babbling that Mithrandir is in danger."

"I don't know—I can't explain it—but there is something wrong, and Mithrandir's mixed up in it."

"Anomen," said Elrohir smugly, "I am descended from the Lady Galadriel of Lothlórien. Perhaps someday I shall have visions of what transpires in distant places, but I don't see how it is possible that you should!"

"You believe me, don't you?" Anomen appealed to Erestor.

The tutor did in fact believe him, but he was fearful of saying so, lest the elfling run off into danger. And so, to his lasting shame, he lied.

"What utter nonsense, Anomen," he said brusquely. "Attend to your task, and speak no more of this matter!"

Anomen miserably bent his head over his parchment, but his tears watered the ink.

By now Gandalf's assailants had caught up with him. To the wizard's relief, they were not Orcs but two Men. It is true that they were rough-looking, but Gandalf, given his druthers, always preferred ruffians over goblins.

"It's just an old fool doddering about," snarled the first Man to reach him. "Whatever are we bothering with him for?"

"Thought I saw a sword on 'im," replied his fellow. This one, perhaps a little cleverer than the other, stepped to the verge of the cliff and peered down suspiciously. Fortunately, the bushes served to conceal both the staff and the sword.

"Well, you were wrong," said the first. "Here, you, I want m'arrow back." This latter was addressed to Gandalf.

"You are welcome to it," Gandalf replied, "although I pray that you remove it with care. As you have said, I am naught but an old fool. I beg you not to hurt me. 'Tis ill luck to hurt an old fool."

"That's a saying I've never heard before," said the more suspicious of the two.

"Ah, that is because you are young. When you are as old as I am, you will have heard a great many sayings with which you are at present unacquainted. Ow!"

The first Man, in spite of Gandalf's plea, had yanked out the arrow with little ceremony and less care. Gandalf winced.

"I wonder if I might trouble you to tear a strip of cloth from my cloak and bind it around my shoulder."

"Now why would I do that?" said the owner of the arrow.

"So that I don't bleed to death."

"And what if you do? That's nothing to me."

"Hold a minute, Grausam," said the suspicious Man to his companion. "He may be worth something."

"Him!? I think not, Fuchs. Look at how raggedy he's dressed. His kin wouldn't pay no ransom. Probably think good riddance to another mouth to feed."

The two Men eyed Gandalf up and down.

"You know," said Fuchs thoughtfully, "if it warn't that he has no staff, I'd swear he was a wizard. That pointy hat o' his, that really puts me in mind of a conjurer what visited our village last winter."

Here Gandalf devoutly wished that he had sent the hat after the staff and the sword.

"Huh," scoffed Grausam, "were he a wizard, he'd a' put a spell on us by now."

"Not with no staff he wouldn't," retorted Fuchs. "Now, grandfather"—this to Gandalf, of course—"can you give us a reason not to cut your throat?"

"You would have to take the trouble to clean your knife afterward," Gandalf promptly replied.

"Ho ho," chortled Fuchs, "you're a funny one, in't you?"

"As your friend has said, I am a fool."

"Oh, let's just leave 'im be," said Grausam impatiently. "Let the wolves deal with 'im."

But Fuchs was looking at Gandalf with a crafty expression upon his face.

"Now what would you be doing out here, grandfather?"

"Lost my way."

"Where were you headed?"

"Pelargir."

"You're considerably to the north of Pelargir. Aye, and a bit to the east as well."

"Ah, thank you for telling me so. Now, when I resume my journey, I shall know how to direct my steps."

"When we spotted you, we thought you was a spy," said Fuchs.

"Really? I'm rather old for a spy, though."

"One would think so," said Fuchs. "On the other hand," he speculated, looking more and more cunning with every minute, "it may be an old Man would make an excellent spy because nobody'd expect an old Man to be a spy. An excellent disguise, don't you think?"

"Oh, I don't think much," said Gandalf, starting to feel a little desperate. If he were a spy—which of course he was—the only land he could be spying on in these parts would be Mordor. If these ruffians were in the employ of the Dark Forces, and if they were thinking of handing him over to their captain, the outcome might be a nasty and unpleasant one.

"Now, if you're not a spy," Fuchs ruminated, "and we let you go, why, we can't be faulted. But if you're not a spy, and we turn you in, we also won't be faulted. If you are a spy, and we turn you in, why, we will surely not be faulted. On the other hand, if you're a spy, and we let you go, we may be in peril of our heads."

"Oh ho," said Grausam wisely, "so what you are saying is that we can't go wrong if we turn 'im in, but we could go wrong if we don't."

"Exactly."

Having arrived at this bit of wisdom, the ruffians now proceeded to bandage Gandalf's shoulder because a prisoner who has bled to death cannot be questioned. This would reduce a prisoner's worth considerably, and as a consequence, the reward for his capture. Once they had bandaged their prisoner, the Men pulled him to his feet, tightly tied his hands in front of him, and began to lead him further east—toward Mordor.

In Rivendell, Anomen was now flexing his hands, for he had the most disconcerting feeling that the circulation to them had been cut off.

"Master Erestor," he whimpered, "my hands are so stiff and numb that I cannot hold my quill anymore."

"Ah, so now it's your hands that hurt," said Erestor, forcing himself to speak with a coldness that he did not feel.

"Oh, but my arm aches as well. It's a throbbing pain now, not a sharp one, but it still pains me dreadfully."

"Anomen," said Erestor, speaking as heartlessly as he could, "if you do not leave off this whining, not only will I make you finish your lesson, but I will make you sit on that stool until you have copied the alphabet one thousand times over. I do not want to hear another word on this subject."

Anomen fell silent, but Erestor knew that he had not pushed the matter from his mind. Repeatedly the elfling rubbed and clawed at his arm, and it was obvious that he was suffering a great deal of discomfort. Erestor, however, steeled himself to be pitiless and sent only stern looks the elfling's way.

At dinner that night, Anomen had no appetite. He pushed his food about his plate, but scarcely took a bite. Concerned, Elrond inquired as to what was the matter. Anomen swiftly glanced at Erestor, who pantomimed writing upon a scroll. 'If I say anything', Anomen thought sadly to himself, 'Elrond likely won't believe me anyway, and I'll just find myself copying the alphabet one thousand times'. Given how badly his arm hurt, that was a daunting prospect.

"Nothing is the matter," the elfling said softly. "I am weary, is all."

Elrond did not press him, as he knew it was unlikely to do any good. If Anomen had resolved not to talk about something, the elf-lord would simply have to wait for a more opportune moment at which to raise the subject.

Anomen went to bed at the first opportunity, but he was still awake when he was joined in the chamber by Elladan and Elrohir. He pretended to be asleep, however, and as soon as he thought that the twins had drifted into dreams, he quietly arose and dressed. If no one was going to help Gandalf, then he would attend to the matter himself. He knew he would be punished upon his return, but the penalty would be laid down by Elrond rather than Erestor, and Anomen thought he could abide any task set him by his foster-father much better than one assigned him by the tutor. And so out the window and down the trellis he scrambled.

It was only partially true, though, that the twins were asleep. Elladan was indeed dreaming, but Elrohir was not, and he saw Anomen go out the window. Now, Elrohir was of course jealous of his foster-brother, and he briefly thought about raising the alarm at once and thus thwarting whatever adventure Anomen had planned. For all Elrohir's jealousy of Anomen, however, they were both elflings, and both adhered to the elfling code. Among the articles of said code: one elfling does not betray another elfling by tattling on him (or 'orcing', as they called it). It is true that Elrohir had on occasion violated this sacred trust, but in the main he adhered to it. So, after a moment's indecision, he decided to remain quiet. 'He'll get into plenty of trouble without any help from me', he said to himself, trying to convince himself that he was not holding his tongue out of any fondness for Anomen. Poor Elrohir! He could never be as nasty as he wished to be!

Creeping quietly through the garden, Anomen eluded all late-night visitors to that place (including several pairs of Elves in compromising positions) and safely made it over the wall, the gate being inconveniently guarded. The placing of this guard was an innovation lately decreed by Elrond, who was becoming vexed at the number of elfling escapes that had lately taken place.

The next morning, Elrond surveyed the table as he entered the dining Hall to break fast. Arwen. Elladan. Elrohir. No Anomen. Given Anomen's peculiar behavior at dinner the preceding night, Elrond was not altogether surprised, but he sighed nonetheless and began the interrogations. Elrond had learned that if Anomen did not show up for breakfast, it was best to immediately make inquiries as to his whereabouts. It must be said that he had purchased this knowledge at some cost.

"Elladan, Elrohir, where is your brother?"

"Not here," replied Elrohir.

Elrond was not prone to using sarcasm with his children, but in this case he could not forbear.

"Thank you for that helpful observation, Elrohir. Now where is he?"

"He is not in our chamber," said Elladan.

"Could you be more precise," asked Elrond, trying to keep his eyebrows under control.

"He is not in the Hall," said Elrohir.

'Better and better', thought Elrond. Aloud, he said, "That leaves a lot of places in Middle-earth where he may not be. Pray continue."

"I think," said Elladan, "that he is probably not in Imladris."

"Do you happen to know where he is?"

"No, Ada," chorused the twins simultaneously.

"He has gone after Mithrandir," Erestor suddenly declared.

"Nonsense!" said Glorfindel. "Mithrandir is leagues away, and, as usual, no one knows where he has gotten himself to. Anomen wouldn't have the first idea where to start looking for him. Anomen can be impulsive, but surely he wouldn't be so foolish as to run away in search of a wizard who could be anywhere in Middle-earth. Why, for all we know, Mithrandir is reconnoitering Minas Morgul itself."

"Yes," said Erestor desperately. "That is what I am afraid of! Because if he is, that is where Anomen will make for."

"But he wouldn't know to make for Minas Morgul," said Glorfindel impatiently.

"Oh, yes, he would!" insisted Erestor, who was growing frantic.

"Erestor," said Elrond gently, "why are you so sure that Anomen has gone after Mithrandir?"

"His arm has been paining him dreadfully. He has nearly rubbed it raw."

Elrond and Glorfindel both stared at Erestor as if he had taken leave of his senses.

"I mean," Erestor amended, "his birthmark has been paining him dreadfully."

"Ah," said Elrond, the truth dawning upon him. "The birthmark that looks like the word 'nine'?

"Yes!"

"What of it?" asked Glorfindel, still not comprehending. "That sort of discomfort can be treated with an ointment. It would hardly give an elfling a reason to run off."

Ignoring Glorfindel, Elrond continued.

"So you think, Erestor, that Anomen has sensed that Mithrandir is in danger, perhaps injured. But why would he not come to one of us and express his fears so that we might act upon them?"

Erestor bowed his head. He did not want to meet Elrond's eye.

"I belittled his belief that Mithrandir was in danger and threatened him with punishment if he spoke of it again."

"You-threatened-Anomen," growled Glorfindel, who was now looking very threatening himself. "You-threatened-Anomen."

"And why not?" retorted Erestor defensively. "You threaten him often enough. You are always saying to him 'I shall skin you' or 'I shall have your head'. At least I only threatened to make him copy out the alphabet one thousand times."

"This is not helping matters," Elrond interrupted. "Let me see if I understand you aright, Erestor. You prevented Anomen from speaking of his fears to a grown-up. What was your reasoning?"

"I did not want him to get hurt."

"Would you kindly explain to me how speaking to a grown-up would have imperiled the young one?"

Erestor, who prided himself upon his mastery of logic, suddenly came to a full realization of just how illogical he had been. His goal had been to safeguard the elfling, yet by preventing Elrond and Glorfindel from getting involved, he had all but guaranteed that Anomen would run off into danger. Only by encouraging Anomen to speak could the tutor have kept him safe in Rivendell, for then the elfling could have been reassured that the grown-ups would do something on Gandalf's behalf.

"I am a fool," he said bitterly. "I am a fool, and I have sent Anomen to his death."

"Matters have not yet reached so dire a pass," said Elrond. "He was present at dinner last night. He cannot have gone far. Glorfindel—"

"I shall set out with a patrol within the hour."

Glorfindel of course had had much practice in quickly marshalling his forces in order to set out in pursuit of Anomen.

"I shall skin him," he muttered as he left the chamber.

Had the situation been less serious, Erestor would have triumphantly exclaimed, 'See! There you go again—threatening the lad'. As it was, however, he was too miserable to pay attention to Glorfindel's parting words. He was so miserable, in fact, that he waved Elrohir and Elladan away when they arrived at the library for lessons. One would have thought that those young ones at least would have been happy, but it was such an astonishing development, that Erestor should give over lessons, that both Elrohir and Elladan were suddenly seized with fear for their foster-brother. And so they crept quietly away to the garden and whiled away the day playing gently with Arwen, who needed to be entertained because she had somehow imbibed the fear felt by her brothers. Thus it was that a pall settled over all of Rivendell.