It had been three years since little Estel had come to Imladris with Gilraen. Estel was now five years old and a very joyful child he was. The House of Elrond was so filled with things an observant and curious young boy could stir up untold trouble by becoming enamored with. And yet, Estel had managed to win over every single Elf in the Last Homely House, including Master Erestor who was notoriously impossible to win over, especially by the energetic and questioning.
It was an ordinary night in Rivendell, all was peaceful and quiet. After dinner many had gone off separately for walks about the garden, stargazing on the cliffs, or a undisturbed glass of wine and a night's sleep. Of course, there was always that faction that rejected all of these restful activities in favor of getting just a bit more work done, but it diplomatic work or needlepoint.
Gilraen had seen her little one to bed in his own chambers before retiring to her rooms nearby to take up the tapestry she had recently begun. It was to be a portrait of the last Chieftain of the Dúnedain, who her little son was growing to look so much like.
Erestor was squirreled away in the library as usual. And trying to hide he was indeed, for the Balrog-slayer had just returned that day from a patrol with the sons of Elrond. It was no secret in Imladris just how much Erestor detested Glorfindel, though it did not seem that Glorfindel minded in slightest; it was even said that the famed Vanya delighted in pestering the bookish Noldo.
Elrond had had a long day. Longer than he had been expecting, even though there was a council meeting that day. Both of his sons had managed to return home to him in one piece, more or less, from their patrol with Glorfindel. Elrohir had sustained a fractured collarbone, not that that was anything to be concerned about, not after seeing some of the injuries they had brought home to their beleaguered father in the past. Elrond was confident that he would be fine with a few days rest. However, now that their mission was complete and there was nothing pressing going on, Elrond knew perfectly well that Twin 1 would milk his injury for all it was worth and would refuse to be up an about for likely a week. Naturally, Twin 2 was concerned for his brother and stayed close by constantly; Elrond didn't give that concern two hours once Elladan saw through his brother's pretext of pain. It was a game they were each equally skilled at.
Elrond was beginning to feel a headache coming on and decided to take a cup of lavender tea and retire for the night. He never was quite sure if it was his position of Lord of Imladris or his half-Mortal side that gave him these blinding headaches.
On the other side of the house, Estel lay awake in bed listening to the songs that were sung by Elves out in the gardens. He had been starting to speak a bit of Westron when he first arrived here clutching onto his nana, but in the last three years he'd come to know more than enough Sindarin to be able to sit up in the Hall of Fire on the high days and appreciate most of the songs sung by Master Lindir. Master Glorfindel liked to sing songs, as well, only his songs tended to be a lot more fun than Master Lindir's. Still, the child's best friend here in this place, other than his mother and father, as he knew Elrond to be, was Master Erestor, who never sung a note and never listened to a note that he could avoid. For as much as Estel loved songs, his true love was the written word, and Master Erestor was his own personal tutor in word-craft every time he visited the Chief Advisor in his study or in the library.
But this night the child was restless. He knew Glory was home, for he saw him at supper that evening and gave him a big hug, but where were his brothers? Usually when Glorfindel returned home, so too did his big brothers who spoiled him rotten every time they were home. Estel decided to get up and check on them, thinking that maybe this was just one of their hiding games, which Estel did not especially like at all.
Their rooms were only just up the hall, but to get to them, he would have to pass his naneth's room and he did not want to disturb her. Estel did not always understand why his nana sometimes seemed to feel unwell as she did, certainly no one else here did. Instead of running past her rooms, Estel thought that if he went all the way around to the other side of the house over by his adar's rooms he could get to the twin's rooms that way and never have to risk waking his resting mother.
As Estel passed his father's chambers he thought about the portraits of the two beautiful Elves which Elrond kept there, one who was fair with silver hair and the other who was mysteriously enchanting with dark hair just like adar had. Estel loved to look at them when he had occasion to visit his father's apartments. Thinking that Elrond was likely to be working with Erestor still or walking in the gardens as he ordinarily was into the night, the child saw no harm in just sneaking a quick look at the two beautiful Elves. Creeping into his father's bed chamber, Estel stood in awe of the subjects of the portraits, though his eye was always drawn to the raven-haired elleth more than the silver-haired one.
Estel turned to leave, but thought that maybe he ought to put out the candle which allowed him to see the tapestries before he left. His adar was always quite careful about leaving candles burning when no one was about. As he was reaching the snuffer up to the candle beside his father's bed, a minor shift caused him to turn to see his father laying there upon his bed.
Estel had not noticed Elrond in the room and felt quite self-conscious suddenly, especially as the Elf lord seemed to be looking right at him, though, to Estel's relief, he did not seem angry. But nor did he seem happy... in fact he did really seem much of anything, it was almost as if he did not even notice his son's presence. But that couldn't be, Estel thought, Elrond always noticed everything.
Estel apologized for bothering his father, but Elrond did not respond. Estel moved a little closer and repeated his words, but still nothing. "Adar," he said in a worried whisper, "are you angry with me? Please do not be. Ada? Ada, what is wrong? Why are you silent?" the child pleaded.
Suddenly he remembered overhearing something the twins said once. It was something that frightened him, even though the twins had spoken in Sindarin to mask their words from the child. They had been talking about someone called Arathorn and Elladan said that he would never forget finding him after the skirmish, laying there with his eyes open. Estel put two and two together quickly and worked out that this Arathorn person had died and that the twins knew this because his eyes were open, but he was not awake.
For a moment, Estel just stood there staring at his unresponsive father, tears silently flooding his little cheeks. Estel was frightened to the point of panic and he ran out of Elrond's chambers and immediately dashed down the stairs. He needed to find Erestor immediately, surely he would know what to do - Erestor knew everything! He did not slow down despite the several Elves he passed who queried him "what is your haste, little Estel?"
Estel knew where he could find Erestor and hurried to the library. He fled down the hallway as fast as little legs could carry him and burst into the library. The child stopped still, suddenly in a dilemma. He had been taught that one was supposed to be quiet in a library, but this was not the same was it? Estel was so scared in the first place, and he did not want to make it worse by making everyone mad at him for breaking rules.
He was upset that he just sat down on the floor of the library and cried. What if something had taken his adar away somehow? And worse yet, what if it had taken his nana, too? "Please, Lord Námo," the terrified child whispered in ragged breaths, "please do not take them!"
Across the room, holed up in his favorite hidden little nook, Erestor had heard someone rushing about in the hallway but ignored it. Then he could have sworn he heard someone crying, but he prided himself on not interfering in other's affairs. It was when he caught the sound of little Estel's voice begging the master of the Halls of Awaiting for something that he took notice.
"Estel?" Erestor said coming around the corner to see the child sitting on the floor in his night clothes and weeping.
Estel jumped up, clutching onto Erestor's robes and saying over and over, "i know you can help him."
"Child!" Erestor soothed, lifting Estel into his arms. "Who needs help?"
"Adar!" Estel whimpered with his face buried against Erestor's shoulder.
It took Erestor a moment to understand what the child was getting at, but he thought of the day Elrond had and guessed that he'd probably taken a headache. Still, why that had little Estel so terribly distraught he did not know. "What seems to be the matter with your adar?" Erestor asked calmly and gently.
"He's -" Estel could scarcely speak, every time he tried, his throat constricted painfully and he choked on more tears. He could not bring himself to say what he feared. Erestor carried him over to where he was working and handed him a glass of cool water. The child drained the glass in one gulp and seemed to be a little calmed as he looked up plaintively at his friend and tutor and said, "i think my adar is dead... please do something!" He then immediately resumed his tears and held tightly to Erestor.
It was a good thing Estel had such a tight hold on him because when Erestor heard those words he very nearly dropped the child. His mind whirled for a moment before he came to his senses; it was not actually possible. There had to be a better explanation. "Where is he, Estel?" Erestor asked, trying desperately to keep the terror out of his voice.
"In his chambers," Estel sniffled, his head still buried against Erestor.
The Noldo advisor hurried with Estel in his arms up to his lord's apartments. There lay Elrond in bed with an unfinished cup of lavender on his bedside table and the candle still burning. Erestor sat Estel down on the edge of the bed and gently slipped his fingers until Elrond's wrist. Exhaling a sigh of relief that he had not realized he held, he beckoned Estel to put his two forefingers where he had on the wrist. "Do you feel that, Estel?" he asked gently.
Estel nodded, though he could not take his eyes from his father's blank expression.
"That is a pulse, it is how you know for certain that someone is still alive," Erestor explained compassionately.
"Adar's alive?" Estel asked bewildered.
Erestor smiled, a very rare sight indeed and one that almost no one but Estel ever got to see. "Very much so, child. He is only sleeping deeply. It is a restful sleep though, you can tell that because his eyes remain open. Were he unwell, his eyes may be shut."
At that Estel really looked confused. "But i once heard the twins talking about someone called Arathorn who died and El said he knew he was dead because his eyes were open but he did not respond."
Erestor hesitated. This was precarious territory and he knew it. Not only was the life/death issue very heavy for a child to comprehend, but now Arathorn, his true father, had come up and Erestor knew that the idea was that the child should not know of his heritage until he was of age. He settled for ignoring the name as if it was not relevant in any way. He was rather surprised that in three years, Estel had never seen a sleeping Elf before, though he realized that he likely had and thought them to be musing something in deep contemplation. "It is not easily explained, Estel. When Elves sleep, we sleep with our eyes open. We do not sleep in quite the same way that you Mortals do. Your adar is just asleep right now. He drank some lavender tea to help him rest, so he is in a deep sleep now. If an Elf has his eyes closed, that is a time to worry. I, too, sleep with my eyes open."
"Are you sure?" Estel asked, still a little frightened. "El and El told me that you do not sleep at all," he said innocently.
Erestor fought the urge to roll his eyes. "Well, child, the twins often say things that they ought not to say. But i am very sure that Elrond is well. But you must be very sleepy. Let me take you back to your chambers."
Estel shook his head even as he was yawning though. "I'm not sleepy," he insisted as Erestor lifted him up again.
Erestor smiled. He knew how to win at this game. "Would you like to come back to the library with me, then? I've some work i need to finish and perhaps you could help me?"
"May i, please?" Estel said. Erestor merely nodded and turned to leave. "Wait!" Estel said, climbing out of his friend's arms. He stretched up on tip-toe at the side of Elrond's bed, giving his sleeping father a kiss and whispering, "i'm glad you are not dead. I love you, adar, sleep well."
Erestor chuckled as Estel came back and held up his arms to be lifted up again. Together they went to the library where Estel sat curled up on Erestor's lap as the advisor worked on a few documents. As Erestor has guessed, it was scarcely any time at all before the little heirling began to fall asleep, a hand curled around a lock of Erestor's raven dark hair. "I don't think you're so cold as Glory says," Estel mumbled as he drifted off.
"Aye, well," Erestor grumbled. "He, too, is another who often says more than he ought. That is why i schedule him to go on patrol with the twins so often."
Estel seemed to think nothing of his friend's peevishness on the subject of Glorfindel. Instead he only said, "thank you for making my ada just asleep again." And then the little one was sound asleep.
Erestorlaughed lightly, again lifting Estel to take him back to his own bed to sleep the night away. He tucked him in snugly and kissed his forehead. "I hope the day is very far off before you understand death, heir of Elendil."