It was late afternoon when the travelers finally made their way to the courtyard before the Last Homely House. They were surprised to see only a few of the household staff awaiting them. Since riders were always announced by swift arrow relays from the borders, it was impossible that no one knew they were approaching. Elrond frowned at the absence of the twins and Erestor. As an elf took his bridle while he dismounted, he asked where everyone was. The elf looked around as if they would appear from thin air.
"I cannot say, hir-nin. They were about earlier."
"Well, we are not going to await their pleasure!" Elrond snapped. He turned to the commander of the valley's forces. "Glorfindel, I thank you. I will see you inside when you have seen to your troop. You are dismissed."
The Seneschal touched his breast and made a sweeping gesture to the side, palm up. "I will attend you shortly, my lord." He turned and rode toward the stable with his elves.
Estel looked rather forlorn; he had been sure his brothers would be there to meet him. An ugly thought plucked at him but he looked at Legolas and resolutely dispelled it.
Legolas smiled. "They have no doubt just now remembered and are scrambling their way here from the swimming pool by the falls, or some such thing. You know how they are!"
Estel nodded and was overtaken by a huge, jaw-cracking yawn. Elrond saw and ordered him into the house.
"Take your things to your room. I will have some refreshment brought to you and then I think a short rest is in order." His own jaw itched to copy his young son's. "We will meet at dinner."
Estel, Legolas, and Elrond made their way into the house. Elrond split off at the main stairway, heading for his suite, leaving Legolas and Estel to make for their own quarters. They had rooms across from each other and they simultaneously nodded a farewell and opened their doors. Legolas found his as it always was: welcoming with fresh flowers and clean clothes laid out for him. Estel found something quite different.
He looked around the room he had occupied since he left his crib. It was empty! To be sure, it still held bed and clothes chest, bedside table and chair, but everything that said 'Estel lives here' was gone. Dust motes danced in the air. It was as though he had been gone for a long, long, time. Gone so long that he had been forgotten. His throat went tight and he backed into the hall and turned for reassurance to Legolas.
He burst into the elf's room and cried out. "My things are gone! They do not want me here anymore!"
Legolas stared at him incredulously, then took swift strides across the hall and just as swiftly returned. He spoke soothingly, "Softly! Softly, mellon-nin, there is something strange going on here. Let us go look for some answers."
At that moment, a tiny piece of parchment caught his eye. It had been tucked into the neck of the silk tunic laid out for him. He picked it up, read what was written there, and smiled.
"Come, Estel. I know where we must go." He grabbed at a dangling hand and headed for the door.
Towing a questioning Estel behind him, Legolas hurried to the last room in the wing. He threw open the door and shoved Estel forward. The push carried the boy well into the large, airy room and Estel stood, thunderstruck. The room which he had only been in a few times had been totally transformed. The walls were a riot of forest trees and bushes, with elven and human warriors creeping through the deep cover. Birds and animals watched them or drank from forest pools. The furniture was heavily chased with vines and flowers, as was the headboard of the bed. All his treasures were placed on bookshelves that also contained a copy of the rare "The Lindon Dispensatory: Medicaments and Their Uses."
Three elves burst from behind the curtains. Their cries were stunningly original.
"SURPRISE!" shouted Erestor, Elrohir, and Elladan. Estel was nearly speechless.
"What?...How?...Is this mine!"
The twins came up to him and put their arms around his shoulders. "Yes, muindor, it is yours."
Estel pulled away so that he could look at their faces. He was uncertain. "But…your naneth…this was her room."
Elrohir answered for them both. "Yes, it was. But we do not need a room to remember her, and our brother needs a man's room now, not a child's. She would want you to have it, Estel. She would love you to have it. She would have loved you as we do."
The three hugged and sniffled a bit, and then Estel began to explore his new quarters. He touched every carving with delicate care, and was just about to open the wardrobe when his father and Glorfindel appeared in the doorway, looking for the rest of the family. Estel turned in great excitement to them. "Ada! Glorfindel! Look what my brothers have done!" He started to exclaim over every detail but Erestor broke in loudly.
"Go ahead and open the wardrobe, Estel. Make certain all your things are as you want them."
Slightly puzzled at the interruption, the boy did as he was bid. At first he saw only tunics and shirts, boots and belts. Erestor urged him to look in the far corner. Estel grasped an item not usually found in bedrooms and pulled it forth. It sweetly chimed. He gasped. So did Glorfindel.
The twins stood off to the side, closing their lips firmly on their laughter. Their eyes moved back and forth between the seneschal and the counselor. Legolas joined them and measured the distance for a quick getaway through the door with his marksman's eyes.
Estel held the bridle reverently in his hands. His trembling made music with the lovely harness. He read the tag and turned glowing eyes to the two who had been both tutors and confidants. He went to Glorfindel and said joyously, "It is just like yours!" His throat tightened with emotion. He whispered, "It is so beautiful! Sadoreth will look a fit mount for Gil-Galad!"
Glorfindel's throat was also tight with emotion. "It is indeed just like mine!" He glared daggers at Erestor.
The boy looked up. "Is something wrong, Glorfindel? Should I not have this bridle?" He hesitated and then held it out toward the golden elf. "I am sorry; I thought it was a gift."
Erestor moved as though to protest. The furious Glorfindel again looked in his direction and was astounded to see Erestor's eyes pleading with him. They pled for forgiveness and for the heart of their sacred charge. He turned back to the crestfallen boy. A recent memory flashed through his mind: a young body, limp and still; no rise and fall of chest, no beat of heart. He saw again a father's tears and remembered the feel of his own upon his face, hot and stinging.
The fabled warrior lifted a hand and brushed the back of his fingers across Estel's cheek. He smiled and said gently, "Of course it is a gift. And a poor one, too, in comparison with the gift Illuvitar gave to us."
Estel flung his arms around Glorfindel and mumbled grateful words into the shoulder of his mentor. He next grabbed Erestor and swung him around and around. "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!"
Erestor gruffly told him to mind his elders' dignity while at the same time bestowing a kiss to the top of the boy's head.
The counselor resettled his robes while Estel continued exploring every inch of his new home. In the corner Elrond and the twins stood together, heads inclined and speaking softly.
"You are not angry with us?" Elrohir was a little uncertain how his father would feel about their surprise.
"I am as proud of you as I have ever been. You do not yet know all that happened in Mirkwood. But even if you had, you could not have given Estel a finer, more meaningful gift. I see your mother in you this day; I see her loving heart. There is more than one way to heal." He glanced at his youngest. "Look at him! The shadows that plagued him are nearly gone."
After another hour Estel was finally persuaded to leave for dinner. He latched onto Legolas' arm, demanding to know if the elf had ever seen so fine a room or so beautiful a bridle.
As the family left the room, Glorfindel delicately laid two fingers on Erestor's sleeve. "My dear counselor, may I have a few words with you?"
Erestor looked after the others as they disappeared down the hall. He drew a deep breath. Time to pay the piper.
"Certainly, Glorfindel. I am entirely at your service. Although, if I will be needing a healer, perhaps we should fetch Elrond back."
The ancient elf purred silkily, "Unnecessary, mellon brūn. My skills are many. In situations like these, I never leave a mark."
Brūn: old as in 'has long endured' or 'is well-established'