Elladan's Trials… for Estel

Chapter One

Life is short and we have never too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are traveling the dark journey with us. Oh, be swift to love, make haste to be kind!

Henri Amul

Four year old Estel giggled as he ran through the garden outside the home where he had lived since he was two years old. Born Aragorn, son of the ranger Arathorn and his wife Gilraen, Estel had been renamed by Lord Elrond of Imladris when he came to live with the Peredhil family after the deaths of his parents. It was for Estel's protection that his name was changed, for Aragorn was destined to be the King of Gondor, last of the line of Elendil, and the dark forces that ever grew in the world would forever seek to destroy him, thus ending the line of kings forever.

Hiding behind a flowering azalea bush, the boy peeked out to see whether or not the twins were on to his trail. Elladan and Elrohir, the twin sons of Lord Elrond were, of course, quite easily able to trail the boy, but they would never have let him know this fact. Instead they made a great pretence of following all the wrong trails and looking everywhere but behind the pink blooms where their little brother now quivered with excitement as he hid from his brothers.

Lord Elrond had traveled to Lothlớrien to visit Arwen and taken Glorfindel with him. That left the twins to watch Estel while he was gone. They didn't mind, for they loved the tiny human that brought such joy into their lives after the many years of pain and grief that they'd had after their mother was so brutally attacked by Orcs and then sailed to Valinor. For years the twins had poured out their grief and rage by killing every orch they could find, until the very sound of their names struck fear in the hearts of any who heard it. So fierce was their reputation that even humans shied away from the elven pair. That is, until a two year old bundle of energy entered their lives.

With a great shout of glee, Estel jumped up to reveal himself to the two surprised acting elves.

"Estel, you're the best four year old hider in all of Rivendell!" laughed Elladan, the older twin, as he scooped up the boy and tickled his tummy.

Estel squirmed in the twin's arms. "No fair, Dan," he laughed. Silver blue eyes crossed as he put his nose right against his brothers. "Don't tickle!"

"All right, Estel," Elladan laughed, pulling his face back so that he could uncross his eyes. Giving the boy a big hug, he turned and tossed him to his younger twin, Elrohir. "Catch!"

Estel screamed in delight as his brothers continued to play toss with him for a few minutes. Finally Elrohir called a halt to the game when he feared Estel would become dizzy from the excitement. He hadn't forgotten the last time that had happened and Estel had ejected his lunch all over Elrohir, much to Elladan's delight. "I think we'd better sit down for a while and play a quiet game."

"No, Ro," Estel whined, "wanna play!"

"I think you are in need of a nap, tithen pen," Elrohir answered.

"No I'm not," yawned Estel. "I'm a big boy now."

"That you are," agreed Elladan as he sat down on the grass and leaned back against a large decorative rock. "Come here, Estel, and I'll tell you a story."

Elrohir settled next to his brother while Estel snuggled on Elladan's lap. Sleepy eyes looked up at the twin in expectation and Elladan knew that it would be only moments before the little one was fast asleep.

"Let's see," he began. "Long ago there was a mean, ugly troll named Elrohir that lived in the Misty Mountains."

"Hey!" came the indignant reply from his side.

Estel smiled and stuck his thumb into his mouth. Elladan knew that he should probably do something about it since his father had been trying to break the child of the habit, but he didn't have the heart to discourage him, knowing that Estel had only adopted the habit after the deaths of his parents. He decided that it was his prerogative to indulge his little brother and carried on with the story. Sure enough, within moments the boy was fast asleep.

The twins sat in companionable silence just enjoying the warm afternoon and listening to their little brother's deep breaths. In truth, neither of them had ever expected to feel such peace again…had never dared to believe that they would feel anything but rage and hatred. Estel had changed all of that. All of the negative feelings had been transformed into an amazing amount of care and protectiveness towards this little human. Perhaps Lord Elrond had had more than just the hope of Men in mind when he named Estel, for he had also become hope for his twin sons. Estel had reached into their lives with a healing touch that Lord Elrond had never dreamed possible.

Watching the sleeping child, Elrohir broke the silence. "Ada doesn't want him to suck his thumb."

Elladan couldn't help but chuckle as the thought about the scene they'd witnessed a week ago.

Lord Elrond looked at the four year old with compassion. "Estel, if you continue to suck your thumb your teeth will be misaligned. This will help you remember not to put it in your mouth." He held up of bottle of pepper sauce to show the boy. "Now give me your thumb, please."

Estel obediently held out his thumb to be "painted" with the sauce. "There now," the elf Lord said with satisfaction. "This worked perfectly on the twins."

Both the twins winced at the memory.

"Yes, Estel," said Elrohir, "Ada painted our thumbs every night."

"We even tried to wash it off after he left the room!" added Elladan.

Lord Elrond raised an eyebrow at that statement. "I never knew that!"

The twins just laughed and tucked Estel into his bed. With one brother on each side of him and his Ada standing at the foot of the bed Estel felt safe and happy. The boy also felt extremely satisfied for he had managed to "prank" both of his brothers and his Ada.

Estel was a very determined little boy, and though he had dutifully given Lord Elrond his thumb to paint, it was not the thumb that he sucked each night; it was the other one! All he had to do was wait until his Ada and gwedeir left the room and he could comfort himself right off to sleep with his thumb tucked securely in his mouth.

"What are you thinking?" questioned Elrohir.

"I was remembering when Ada painted Estel's thumb with the pepper sauce…the wrong thumb!"

Both twins laughed at the memory. They had gone back into Estel's room later that night to check on the lad only to find the boy happily sucking his thumb and smiling his way though a dream. They were suitably impressed with their tithen gwador and had never told their father what they'd witnessed.

As the sun made its lazy path across the western sky, Elrohir sighed contentedly. "Elladan, look at him. He is so small and vulnerable. Death stalks a mortal in so many ways." Elrohir paused to watch Estel's eyes moving beneath his eyelids. "He dreams. I wonder if it is a good dream or if the nightmares have returned? He's innocent, and yet the evil of the world has already touched his life." He shook his head sadly. "I swear to you I will never let it hurt him again so long as I can stop it."

Elladan looked at his twin and nodded. He laid a gentle kiss to the top of Estel's unruly hair and placed his hand on Elrohir's shoulder. "And I swear that I will never let the evil touch either one of you so long as I can stop it."

Elrohir smiled and jumped to his feet. "Come, it's too beautiful a day for gloomy thoughts. Let's put Estel in his bed and go do some target practice."

"Brother, that is an excellent idea, even if I didn't think of it!"

Elladan carried Estel upstairs to his room which was placed across the hall from his own. Elrohir pulled back the covers while Elladan laid down the sleeping child. Estel immediately turned over on his side, hugging the pillow as he did every night. It was the only way he seemed able to sleep, with his pillow grasped securely and his thumb in his mouth. He looked quite contented. Elrohir pulled the heavy draperies closed casting the room in a soothing shadow. The boy looked incredibly small beneath the intricately carved headboard depicting a hunting scene. They made sure that he was sleeping soundly and, leaving the door cracked open, they made their way back down stairs stopping only to retrieve their bows and a good supply of arrows. Estel usually slept for two hours or more in the afternoon so they should have plenty of time to practice.

Reaching the bottom of the carved marble staircase that dominated the entry hall of their home, the twins saw Lord Erestor, Seneschal to Lord Elrond, walking out of the library. "Ah, and what are you two young ones up to this afternoon? And where is Estel?" The dark haired elf lord had known these two their entire lives and had been the recipient of their pranks more times than he cared to admit. It was, he knew, always wise to be on your guard when anywhere near the vicinity of Elrond's twins!

The truth be known, Erestor, as well as the rest of the inhabitants of Imladris would have them no other way. For too many years they had all watched the twins riding from the elven sanctuary to rain death and destruction down upon the evil that roamed Middle Earth. For long months the twins would be absent only to return, as often as not, injured and bedraggled. Rather than healing, each trip seemed to bring the pair more torment of soul. All of Rivendell mourned for the twins, for the bitterness of their hearts cast a pall over Lord Elrond and the entire valley. Yes, he thought, he would take their pranks in stride and praise the Valar that the twins had found peace of mind and heart.

"We're going to the archery fields, Erestor," answered Elladan. It wasn't that Elrohir couldn't answer for himself, but he just naturally deferred to his twin. Elladan had always been the spokesman for the pair.

"Estel is asleep," chimed in Elrohir. "Will you please listen for him?"

"I will, indeed," answered the elf lord. "Enjoy your practice."

The twins laughed and joked as they made their way to the archery field. It was the never-ending way of them to be locked in competition against each other. Yet at the same time so in tune were they that they could fight almost as one being, back to back, each anticipating the move of the other. It made them a deadly combination when they were required to fight. Elven immortality made for long years of practice and the perfection of defensive skills. Add to that the innate speed and grace of the Firstborn and they truly became a force to be reckoned with.

The bows the twins used were their pride and joy. Gifted to them by their maternal grandparents, Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel, they were of the finest craftsmanship in all Arda. The elves of Lothlớrien were famous for their bows. They were the perfect blend of weight, balance, strength, and beauty, and had been made exactly to measure for the twin sons of Elrond. Crafted from a single piece of mallorn heartwood, the bows were each covered in carved leaves and vines. Delicately intertwined in the vines were the twin's names as well as those of their grandparents.

Estel's dreams turned into the recurring nightmare…the one that often sent him running to his Ada's bed in the middle of the night. The bad ones were there again. The bad ones wanted to hurt him. Before he was even fully awake Estel was off the bed and running for the door of this room. Turning to his right, he ran next door to his Ada's room only to find it empty and quiet. Across the hall were the rooms of the twins, but they too were unoccupied. Estel was terrified that he'd been left behind and ran for the steps. Surely someone would be here to help him. He knew in his heart that his family would never leave him, but he was still caught in the throes of the nightmare. "Ada? Glorfindel?"

Estel had never been so frightened. He ran down the stairs as fast as he could. Tears ran down his face. He was close to the bottom when his foot missed the stair and the child pitched forward, falling down the last four stairs. He hit his face on the base of a large marble statue at the foot of the stairs and his world went black. A pool of blood began to spread around the child.