By Ithiliel Silverquill
Elrohir stared up at his goal. The Tale of Beren and Lúthien, bound in red leather with gold lettering on the spine, would surely help to pass the afternoon. Elladan was off in weapons practice with Glorfindel, an activity that Elrohir found to be intensely boring, and so he was here in the library.
He looked around. Surely someone would be nearby to help him get the book off the top shelf. There were a few librarians, but they were deep in conversation with a group of older students. Elrohir was about to ask them for help, but then he remembered that Elrond had told him never to interrupt a conversation, so he waited.
The librarians' conversation dragged on and on. Elrohir shifted from one foot to the other, willing them to look over and notice him.
He heaved a deep sigh and then looked back at the bookshelf. It was about three times his height, with neat rows of books. There were about eight shelves, lined up like the rungs of a ladder.
The rungs of a ladder…that was the solution!
Inspired, Elrohir reached for the shelf closest to his face, which just so happened to be the second one. He pulled himself up, then reached for the next one. The librarians, deep in conversation with the students, did not seem to notice.
Finally he reached the top shelf. By now he was clinging to the bookshelf for dear life, from what seemed to be a dizzying height. He stretched out his hand for the red leather-bound volume, and his fingers just barely brushed its surface. He gritted his teeth, stretched again, and finally closed his hand around its spine. But now how was he to pull it out?
He glanced around the library, but no one noticed him. He huffed with frustration. How was it that the adults always noticed him when he was trying to be sneaky, but never noticed him when he wanted their attention?
He gave the book a practice tug, and was highly gratified when it slid a few inches. He tugged again, and again, and each time more of the red leather cover was revealed. Success was near!
He could just barely read The Tale of on the cover, when one last jerk pulled the book free of the shelf. Unfortunately, the sudden weight of the heavy book in his hand was more than he had anticipated, and it slid out of his fingers and tumbled to the floor in a flutter of pages and gold lettering.
He tried to hold on to the shelf, but his balance was lost. The polished wood was all of the sudden too slippery to hold on to, and with a cry he finally let go.
Time seemed to slow. The last thing he saw was The Tale of Beren and Lúthien in gold lettering on the cover of the book, coming closer and closer until everything went black.
Elrond sighed as he came into his office, massaging his temples to curb his frustration. Why, by all that was sacred, did his children insist on getting themselves into mischief just when he thought that their behavior was improving? Celebrían was in Lórien, as she always seemed to be when he truly needed her…
"Lord Elrond? Are you well?"
Elrond looked up, and was startled to see his chief advisor sitting in the chair across from his desk. The Elf's hands were full of paperwork, but his face was full of concern.
He sighed again. "Yes, I am well, Erestor. Physically, anyway."
It took Erestor all of two seconds to figure it out. "What have the twins done now?"
"Not the twins, just Elrohir this time." Elrond sat down in his chair. "He tried to climb a shelf in the library, but fell and knocked himself out."
Erestor's eyebrows rose. "Is he all right?"
"He has a bad headache, but otherwise he is fine. At least he will be until I see fit to speak to him about the incident."
Suddenly, a small smile appeared on Erestor's face. "Actually, milord, may I be the one speak with him?"
Elrond looked up. "You?"
"Yes." Erestor transferred the stack of papers to Elrond's desk. "I believe that I can be of help. May I?"
Elrond waved to the open door. "Suit yourself. I doubt that he would wish to speak to me about it anyway."
Erestor dipped his head. "My thanks. Oh, and by the way, those are the treaties that need your signature. They have to be in the messenger's hands by tonight."
Elrond blinked at the tall stack. "All of them?"
"Yes, I am afraid, all of them." Erestor smiled. "Good day, milord."
Elrond heaved a sigh. That conniving advisor. Erestor had talked him out of one duty, only to saddle him with a harder one.
He picked up his pen and got to work. This was going to be a very long afternoon.
The door to Elrohir's room opened slowly and quietly. He looked up, dreading the sight that was sure to come. His father had been far from pleased when Elrohir had explained the situation, and though he had been gentle enough putting him to bed, he had made him drink a nasty herbal concoction that was supposedly "good for him." At least his headache had gone away.
He was relieved when the face that appeared was not that of his father. The relief vanished when he realized that the face was that of his teacher.
Erestor smiled and came in, then shut the door. He walked over to the bed and stood beside it.
Elrohir stared up at him, not quite trusting that smile. It was not quite the same smile that Erestor always gave his students before he announced a surprise test, but it was close enough to make Elrohir squirm.
"How do you feel?" asked Erestor.
Elrohir swallowed. "Fine."
"I am glad to hear it."
There was nothing that Elrohir could say in response to that, so he stayed quiet. Staying quiet was always a wise thing to do around Erestor anyway.
"Your father told me what happened to you in the library," said Erestor.
Elrohir grimaced. So his father had sent someone else to do the lecturing instead. Could he not have picked someone other than his teacher? Perhaps Nana would have been a better substitute, or even Glorfindel. Even Lindir. But why Erestor?
"You know that you are not supposed to climb the bookshelves, do you not?"
"Y-Yes," ventured Elrohir. "But all the librarians were talking, and I didn't want to interrupt them!"
Erestor held up a hand for silence. Elrohir, who was very familiar with that gesture, instantly complied.
"I am glad that you did not interrupt them," said Erestor. "That was a very good thing to do, and I am proud of you for that."
Elrohir felt vindicated. Maybe Erestor wasn't so bad after all.
"However, the fact remains that you knew that you were not supposed to climb the bookshelves, and now I think that you know why."
The warm feeling vanished. This was a lecture all right.
Erestor paused in his speech, then chuckled and shook his head. "I am glad that your lesson was somewhat less painful than mine."
Elrohir's eyes widened. That sounded interesting. "What do you mean?"
Erestor walked over to a chair, pulled it over, and sat beside Elrohir's bed. "Let me tell you what happened to me."
(Eregion, year 1601 S.A.)
Erestor scurried down the main road of Ost-in-Edhil. He darted between carts and traders, dashed past the fountains, and did not even stop to watch the artist painting a portrait of the doves on the statue.
Finally he saw his destination, glistening before him like a shining beacon. The library was two stories high, with a glass dome on top that let in the sunlight and the starlight. Books lined the walls inside, and each floor had tall bookshelves stacked with even more volumes. It was Erestor's favorite place in the city. Today, he had finished his lessons early, and his mother had told him that he could go. His father would pick him up and take him home.
The librarians, who knew him by name, smiled as he pushed open the heavy door and came in. He stood for a moment in the vestibule, closing his eyes and taking deep breaths of the air of the library. It smelled like books and ink and warm velvet.
He walked around until he found his favorite section: the history books. He had just finished a book about Nargothrond yesterday, and now he was eager to try something new. He studied the volumes on the shelves, waiting for something to catch his eye.
Finally, one did. It was a thin book bound with blue cloth, and on the spine was written, in silver letters, The Collected Letters of Eärendil the Mariner.
Erestor was fascinated. He, like every other student of Master Parmandil, had heard the story of Eärendil. He, unlike every other student of Master Parmandil, had stayed awake during the lesson and had been completely enthralled by it. Now he could read Eärendil's letters!
He looked around for a librarian that would help him reach the book. It was on the top shelf, so he could not reach it without help. There was not a chair in sight to stand on, and not even a pillar to climb. Unfortunately, there were no librarians either.
He bit his lip in frustration. There was supposed to be someone here! Was it not a rule of some sort that there should always be librarians nearby?
He looked up at the book. The sunlight glinted off the silver lettering. He could just imagine the crisp white pages inside, waiting for him to read the marvelous information they contained…
He could stand it no longer. Desperate, he clutched the edge of the first shelf and began to climb. He would climb up, grab the book, and climb back down. The librarians would never know. They would never need to know.
He was about halfway up when he made the mistake of looking back down. A wave of vertigo rushed over him, and his stomach gave a small lurch. It seemed as if he was miles high.
Doggedly, he turned back to the books and reached for the next shelf. He was so close…
Suddenly, he heard a noise on the other side of the shelf. It was a librarian, and she was reshelving books! One of the volumes would not quite fit, and she shoved it in harder, making the bookshelf wobble.
Erestor clutched the polished wood desperately. Now his stomach was really churning. If only the librarian would go away…
The librarian gave the volume one last shove, just as Erestor began to reach for the next shelf. The bookshelf moaned, leaned, and began to tip over.
Panic flooded Erestor's brain. Part of him knew he should let go, drop to the ground, and get out of the way. Unfortunately, his hands refused to let go of the wood. The librarian gasped and grabbed for the shelf as it began to fall, but it was too late.
Erestor closed his eyes and shrieked as the bookshelf fell over with him, then landed right on top of him.
The next thing he heard was strangers' voices, all around him.
"…twisted ankles… ribs bruised…"
"…miracle that none of the books hit him harder on the head! He's a very lucky child, Lord Caranár…"
"He has been unconscious for five minutes! Is he going to be all right?"
Erestor's heart skipped a beat. That was his father talking!
"Ada," Erestor moaned. His head hurt, and he was vaguely aware that someone was holding him.
A hand was laid on his face. "Erestor, are you all right? Can you hear me?"
Erestor whimpered. Why was his father shouting? At least, it seemed like he was shouting. "My head hurts."
"I imagine that it does, little bluebird. You struck it soundly on the floor. Can you open your eyes?"
Erestor obediently opened them. He was still in the library, but there was a bustle of activity around him. Librarians were scurrying around like worried ants, clutching tall piles of books. A tall Elf in a healer's robe was nearby, looking at him with a calm expression. But most importantly, he realized that he was lying on the floor, with his head in his father's lap.
"Do you know where we are, child?" asked the healer kindly.
"The library," Erestor answered. He was confused. Did the healer not know what building he was in?
"Do you remember what happened?"
Erestor swallowed. Unfortunately, he remembered it quite clearly. "The bookshelf fell."
The healer nodded. "Very good." He looked up at Erestor's father. "As I suspected, his head injury appears to be very minor, Lord Caranár. His ribs are merely bruised, and the worst injury is his ankles, which are both twisted. What he needs is plenty of rest and a few days off those ankles, and he should be just fine."
"Thank you, Laiqueril," answered Caranár. "Good day."
Erestor watched the healer leave, then looked up at his father. He could see the lines of worry that were just now fading from the familiar face. He winced. Oh, he was in trouble now. And his ribs and ankles had started to hurt as soon as the healer had mentioned that they were injured.
Caranár smiled and brushed back a lock of Erestor's hair. "Shall we go home?"
Erestor started to nod, then realized that the motion only made his head hurt worse. "Yes, Ada."
The older Elf scooped him up and carried him all the way home.
The next few days were like a nightmare for Erestor. Once his mother realized that his injuries were minor and he would recover perfectly, she was furious. Erestor was confined to his bed for an entire week.
He lay back and stated at the ceiling. He was so bored. His ribs hurt. His ankles hurt. But at least his head had stopped hurting.
No one wanted to have anything to do with him. His mother had told him that as a punishment for disobeying the library's rules, he was not allowed to read for the whole week. That made him miserable, and both his brother Soroninquë and his sister Eldaiwen had left when he snapped at them. Soroninquë had even said that he was being a brat about it.
On the fifth day of his incarceration, when he was sure that he was going to go mad before the week was up, the door opened unexpectedly and Caranár's face appeared in the doorway.
Erestor was not sure whether to be relieved or frightened, so he settled for a simple, "Hello, Ada."
"Hello, Erestor." His father walked into the room and sat down on the edge of Erestor's mattress. "And how is my little bluebird today?"
Erestor glared at the bedsheets. "Awful."
"Your mother tells me that you have not been very easy to get along with for the past few days." Caranár tilted up Erestor's chin so that they were eye-to-eye. "Is there anything you have to say about that?"
Erestor sighed. "Nobody likes me anymore."
He smiled. "Well, I cannot answer for your mother, Nin, or Elda, but I still like you." Then he became more serious. "Though I like you far better when you respect the people around you, and are polite to them as you should be. And I think that they feel the same way."
Erestor frowned. "Nana says that I am not allowed to read. I have nothing to do!"
"That does not give you a legitimate reason to be mean, Erestor. I know that you are miserable, but you are making everyone else miserable as well. If you will choose to be kind, instead of choosing to be mean, then I think that you will see that they want to be kind to you as well. Do you understand?"
"Yes, Ada." Erestor heaved a big sigh. "But I still have nothing to do."
Caranár smiled. "I have a solution for that. You are not allowed to read yet, but I spoke to your mother, and she says that it is fine with her if I read to you. Would you like that?"
Erestor brightened. "Oh, yes! What do you have?"
His father reached into the pocket of his big blue robe. "I found this book at the library, and it looked like something that you would enjoy."
Erestor's mouth fell open. The book was The Collected Letters of Eärendil the Mariner.
"Tell me when you want me to start," said Caranár, settling himself against Erestor's headboard.
Erestor fluffed up his pillow, then huddled under his father's arm. "Go ahead, Ada."
Caranár began, and soon Erestor forgot all about the room and his ribs and ankles. He was far away on the Great Sea, sailing with his father and Eärendil.
Elrohir was aghast by the time the story was finished. Apparently it had never occurred to him that his teacher ever had a childhood. Erestor watched him with no small amount of satisfaction.
"The bookshelf fell on top of you?" asked Elrohir.
Erestor nodded. "Yes. Not only did I hurt myself, but a few of the books were damaged as well. As soon as I was allowed out of bed, I had to assist the librarians for a few weeks until I had made up for the damaged books. At least that part of the punishment was fun."
Elrohir appeared to be in deep thought. "How did your adar know which book to get?"
Erestor chuckled. "That I will never know. He claimed that it was merely a coincidence, but the way he smiled when he said it always made me wonder. Which reminds me…" He reached down to the leather-bound volume beside his chair. "This was, according to the healer outside your door, the book that you were trying to retrieve. Would you like it now?"
Elrohir smiled, then frowned. "I would, but my hand hurts. I think I hurt it when I landed."
"Very well." Erestor opened the book and scanned the first page. "Would you like me to read it with you, then? You might be a little too old for that, but…"
"No, I don't mind," cut in Elrohir, scooting over on the mattress to make room for him. "As long as you don't tell Elladan."
Erestor smiled as he sat down beside Elrohir. "I promise."
And so he began.