A/N: No matter how hard I try, I can't seem to get update out any faster. I know it has been way too long since I lasted updated. Sigh. Circumstances always seem to conspire against me. I won't give up. This tale will be completed eventually. I will not abandon it!
Disclaimer: As always this all belongs to the estate of the great JRR Tolkien and I make nothing for my efforts.
As the warmth slowly started working its way into his small muscles, he began to relax. Glancing around, he realized that for the first time since his ordeal began that he was alone. Closing his eyes, he dreamt of his home and family. With all that he was he yearned to be home. Sadness began to wash over him yet again but he pushed it aside, whispering to himself, "Ada will come for me."
With that last thought, he picked up the soap and cloth and began to bathe.
Not wishing for Marian to walk in on him, Estel quickly washed up. After finishing, he swiftly but carefully climbed out of the tub, dried off and put on the clean clothes provided for him. The pants were large in the waist and a little long in the leg and the tunic was big on him. What mattered though was they were wearable and above all, clean. As he reached down to pick up his clothes with one hand, the other grabbed a fistful of pants and held them up. With a sigh he closed his eyes and opened the door.
"Done lil' one?"
Opening his eyes, Estel saw the nanny waiting in the main chambers for him, a brush in her hand. "Aye," he answered her.
"Come 'ere," she motioned to the bed, "sit down an' I'll brush out y'ere hair," as she sat down.
"Yes ma'am," answered Estel, as he walked towards the strange woman sitting on the edge of the bed. He was tired and found he had not the energy to resist.
As he stood in front of her, Miriam hummed as she worked the brush through the snarls in his hair. After a few moments his eyes drifted closed and he enjoyed the feeling of being cared for. If he pretended hard enough he could almost imagine he was home, that his Adar was brushing his hair. Enjoying the few too short stolen moments of comfort, the child startled as a gasp broke his reverie.
Miraim had run the brush over his left said of his head, pulling his hair back to reveal the rounded tip of his ear. "Oh my," she muttered, as she ran a gentle finger along the edge.
Slowly she took the brush and pulled it through the long tresses on the right side, again revealing the rounded tip of his other ear. This time the only thing heard was a sharp intake of breath. Without a word she continued brushing the child's hair before pulling it back into a low ponytail at the back of Estel's head, his ears covered.
The old nanny took the boy gently by the shoulders and turned him to face her. She gazed into his silvery eyes before saying, "You be no elf."
Continuing to gaze at the boy before her, she asked, "An' you be a chil' of men?"
Though she dearly wanted to know how this Child of Men came to live amongst the elves, it was her lord's business and none of her own. It was her job to care for the child before her, be he child of elf or man, made no matter to her. As she continued to look at him again she felt the nagging suspicion she was missing something. Shaking her head to clear it she asked, "Shall we ge' you' hurts tended?"
He felt the sadness overwhelm him and Estel sighed. He wanted his Ada to tend his hurts but knew that to be impossible right now. After a moment reflection, he whispered, "Aye."
Miriam looked into the grey depths of this strange boy's eyes. There was something there but she just could not put her finger on it. "Ah well," she mumbled, "Let's see that cranky ol' Tarkil."
Standing she walked across the room, reached out and grasped the door handle, opening it. Starting out into the hall, she stopped, looked back at the child and said, "Come, lil one," as she offered him her hand.
He did not want any, other than his Adar to attend his ills. In his short life, until he was taken, only the elf lord had seen to his hurts. Estel missed him with all his heart. He did not wish for this 'Tarkil' to attend him but could he could see no other choice. He knew he needed to be strong when his family came for him and they would come. He was not staying here! With a soft sigh he took the proffered hand and followed the ruby-haired woman out the door and down the hall.
After leaving the path through the mountain, Jobel quickly made his way down the mountainside. He avoided the outlying farms, not wishing for any to see him and report his passing to their lord's men. He was in no condition for a fight. He was hurt, hungry, and beyond exhausted. Continuing to hide away in the tree line the man hurriedly picked his way across the valley towards his hideout where he could rest.
While on patrol for his then Lord Dirhael, it had been during a pouring rain and he was looking for some place dry to hold up, he found the isolated and abandoned cave far from any farms or settlements. Since the entrance was covered with overgrown bushes, he had nearly missed it. The small cave was barely big enough for one man and his gear. Luckily he had been able to shelter his horse in a nearby copse of trees. After spending the night, it was the next day as rode back towards the settlement he realized the cave would suit his purposes perfectly, a place he could retreat to if his planned betrayal of his lord were ever discovered. He made plans and in the coming months he frequently snuck away and hid food, medicines and spare gear in the small cave, preparing it for the day he would possibly need it. That day had arrived.
With one last careful glance around, to ensure no one was near, he ducked down and pushed his way through the undergrowth and into the cave. After ensuring the brush camouflaged his hideaway, Jobel settled back against the far wall, grabbed a clay pot filled with water, pulled the stopper, and took a long drink. Grabbing a piece of jerky from a pack lying near the wall, he took a bite and washed it down with another swallow from the pot. While taking another bite, he leaned back against the wall, closed his and relaxed, chewed his jerky and dreamed about what he would do to that little kid when he got his hands on him.
That little brat had cost him everything, his position, his gear, his horse and if he was not careful, his very life. He had no delusions, if he failed to return to his master with the elf, the man would have him killed, if he did not do it himself. His lord was not the forgiving type and failure was not an option, not and continuing breathing.
Not to mention he had a personal score to settle with the kid and Raun. If it were not for the meddling of the other man, he would have taken the elf brat and gotten away. He would be back in his lord's stronghold, in his good graces and enjoying the spoils of success. Instead he was sitting this cold cave, dirty, injured and hungry, while the little monster and his nemesis were warm and cozy in Lord Dírhael's keep. They were having their hurts tended, getting clean and eating a good dinner. He would get even for that.
Grabbing some supplies from another bag, he inexpertly tended his wounds and dressed them. Removing his filthy shirt he tossed it into a far corner of the small space, before pulling a fresh one from another satchel. Not bothering to try and clean up, he pulled the tunic on and fastened it up. He quickly did the same with his breeches. Afterwards he ate another piece of jerky while laying out a bedroll he had stored in the cave.
He washed his last bite of meat with a swallow of water, before stretching out on his covers and pulling a blanket over him. Closing his eyes, he relaxed and dreamed about what he would do to the little elf, when he got his hands on him again. A small smile graced his ugly visage as he drifted off into much needed sleep.
As they entered the room, Estel knew immediately that this was a chamber of healing. He could smell the familiar scent of herbs and glancing around he saw the line of carefully made beds and on the shelves, the stacks of bandages. He so closely associated the sights and sounds with love and comfort, his mind took him home to Imladris and he could not help the small smile that graced his lips or the whispered, "Ada."
Hearing the word, Miriam looked down and questioned, "Child?"
Still lost in memory and not hearing her, Estel continued to look about the room, seeking the familiar and much loved face. The illusion was broken when a dark-haired man came around the corner and asked, "What do you need this eve Ms. Miriam?"
With those words the smile slipped from the small face and tears pricked his eyes as the illusion was shattered into a thousand tiny pieces. Estel could feel a hand rub his back, offering some small comfort. He glanced up and saw the ruby-haired woman watching him, concern etched on her features. When she looked away he heard her reply, "The lil 'ne her' needs som' tendin'."
With a soft smile the man knelt before the little boy, taking in his hurts. The experienced healer could not miss the cuts, bruises and the makeshift brace on one small, thin arm, nor could he miss that the child was extremely thin. When he reached out to touch a small shoulder, the lad took an unconscious step behind his caretaker's skirts. The man lowered his hand and asked, "And who do we have here?"
Laying a gentle hand on the anxious child's head, Miriam answered, "This is Estel." Glancing to the babe glued to her side, she continued, "And lil 'ne this is Tarkil, the he'ler."
Upon hearing that one word, healer, some of the child's fear drained away. f this new man was a healer, than he would not cause him harm. "Master Tarkil," he whispered in greeting.
"Just Tarkil lad," replied the man, "No need to be so formal."
Again he offered his hand to the child; though this time he did not attempt to touch him unbidden. "Come; let me tend your hurts."
Looking up at his current caretaker, Estel saw her give him a reassuring smile and a nod. With a heavy sigh, he reached out and took the healer's proffered hand. The man led him over to one of the carefully made beds, and bid the child to climb up. He quickly scrambled up and sat with his short legs hanging over the edge, gently swinging back and forth and his hands folded in his lap.
The man pulled a stool over and sat down directly in front of the quiet lad. Glancing up, Tarkil caught the tyke's eyes as he carefully reached for the injured limb and asked, "May I look at your arm?"
"Aye," was softly whispered.
As Tarkil picked up the limb, the healer did not miss the fear and hesitation written in every line of the child before him. He dearly wished to put the lad at ease, as it would make treatment that much easier. "Lets us see how well tis healing," he said, as he rolled back the sleeve and with care, undid the bindings, and removed the makeshift splints, before laying them to one side. Gently, he felt the arm searching for the break. A sharp intake of breath and Estel pulling the arm from his grasp, told him he found it. "Sorry if I hurt you child."
"It did not hurt, just surprised me."
With a small knowing smile, the healer did not disagree; instead he reached behind him and grabbed a pot that was on his work bench. Removing the lid, before setting it on the bed next to the child, he reached inside and with two fingers dipped out some cream. Picking up the injured extremity, he tenderly rubbed the cream into the skin, directly above the break.
"Comfrey?" questioned Estel.
"Aye," answered Tarkil as he covered the ointment covered skin with a clean bandage. "Do you know what comfrey is used for?"
Watching what the healer was doing, he answered, "Ada says that comfrey reduces swelling and helps bones heal."
"Aye," replied the healer as picked up a new set of splints and bandages. He carefully affixed the split the small appendage, and using the bandages. While he was working the older man did not miss the young eyes watching his every move. When he finished, he told the child, "Remove your tunic, while I get something from the cupboard."
The older man stood and strode across the room; he quickly grabbed another pot filled with a different balm and returned to the stool, sitting again in front of Estel. He inhaled a sharp breath at the sight of the small chest littered with bruises, in various stages of healing, including a fresh one across his chest from the altercation in the yard. Aghast at the damage done to a small boy, he asked, "How did you come by these hurts child?"
"The mean man hurt me but Raun protect'ted me."
Not understanding the Tarkil glanced at Estel's caretaker. Shaking her head, Marian answered, "I kno' not."
Seeing their confusion the little one explained, "Jobel did it and Raun made him leave."
"Ah," commented the healer, as he opened the new jar. He would inform his lord of this development later. He gently started to apply the ointment to the tiny damaged chest in front of him. To distract the lad he asked, "And do you know what this is for?"
Without a moment's hesitation, Estel replied, "To help my bruises heal."
"What is it made from?"
Breathing deeply to capture the scent, he closed his eyes and thought for an instant, before replying, "Calendula."
Surprised, Tarkil answered, "Correct. And from what do we procure it?"
"Tis a flower."
"Very good," said the man, as he continued to apply the cream to the obvious bruises. "How is it you know so much of healing herbs?"
"My Adar taught me."
"Who?" asked the healer, not recognizing the word.
Taking a soft breath, tears welling in his eyes, Estel said, "My father," squaring his little shoulders, he met the grown man's eyes, "the greatest healer in all Arda."
Smiling at the childish pride, he could not resist asking, "And who is your father?"
Again silver eyes met brown, as the child answered, "Lord Elrond of Imladris, the greatest healer in all Arda."
Drawing in a sharp breath, Tarkil could not keep the shock from his face. The lad was correct, the ancient elf was the greatest healer in all Arda and he was not too proud to admit it. What was the child of the mighty elf doing here, in his room of healing?
"How did you end up here child?" questioned the older man, "Did my Lord's men find you?"
Getting angry at the thought of his abduction, Estel replied, "Nay!"
"They took me!"
"They did!" asserted the distraught youngster. "They hurt my Ada and took me from him!" He crossed his small arms across his thin chest and glared at the dark-haired man in front of him.
"I have no knowledge of these affairs child," conceded Tarkil, hoping to calm the boy.
Some of his stubbornness returning, Estel said, "He is coming for me! Ada will take me home!"
"I know not child."
"As you say child," placated the healer. Hoping to change the subject he added, "I just wish to finish healing your hurts."
Continuing to glower at the man, Estel sat rigid with indignity on the table, saying nothing. Eventually, he sighed softly and slowly uncrossed his arms. The healer had not been with his abductors and may have no knowledge of his Lord's plans. Not wishing to speak further to the man, he lowered his gaze, folded his hands in his lap and nodded curtly.
Quickly finishing applying the balm to the bruises on the lad's chest, Tarkil moved on to the bruises on his face and then the rest of the body. After finishing, he helped the child fasten up his shirt. Placing a hand on a small shoulder, he told the Estel's caretaker, who had been standing quietly in the corner of the room, "Miriam, you should get the lad some supper."
"Thank you," Estel whispered.
"Twas nothing child." Offering the small boy a hand, he assisted him off the bed. Estel quickly scurried to his watcher's side, still looking at the floor.
The older woman laid a gentle hand on the ebony head of hair. "We 're off for some supper," she told Tarkil as her hand took the lad's smaller one.
Looking out a window and noticing it was far past sunset, the man said, "Best if you head for the kitchen and feed the child there this evening. Supper in the hall is nearly finished." Smiling at the small boy he added, "Ask the cook for dessert and tell her Tarkil sent you. When I miss the evening meal she always keeps a good piece back for me."
"Thank you," Estel answered again, this time much more eagerly, even giving the healer a small smile and getting a wink in return.
The rescue party had pursued the kidnappers through the forest, as the trail rounded a bend, all could see a flash of gold upon the ground. As they carefully drew near, all realized what it was or rather who.
"Legolas!" shouted the twins as they jumped from their mounts and hurried to their fallen friend's side.
Quickly approaching the elf's side, they could see his beautiful long tresses streaked with red and a small pool of blood beneath his head. Dropping to their knees next to him, Elladan gently checked for a pulse.
Dismounting, Elrond grabbed his healing satchel and asked, "How is he?"
"He yet lives," answered the eldest twin, as he took a deep breath, "He has taken a blow to the head."
Kneeling next to his sons, the ancient healer visually assessed the fallen elf's condition. Aside from the obvious head wound, he found no other sign of obvious trauma. Reaching out, he gently touched the blonde head, checking for a fracture of the skull. Finding none, he continued his examination, first checking the younger elf's neck, down his body, his arms and finally his legs. Releasing a breath, he had not realized he was holding, he informed the group, "Aside from the obvious injury, Legolas appears none the worse off."
Concerned for his friend, Elrohir said, "Tis a lot of blood."
"Aye," answered Elrond and attempting to ally some of the younger elf's worry, continued, "but that is not uncommon for a wound such as his."
Taking a bandage out of his satchel the healer placed it against the bleeding wound. Looking to his son he said, "Help me turn him over." Together the trio gently turned Legolas over, so he was lying on his back, Lord Elrond's hand still under his head and a twin on each side of the young elf.
While his lord continued his examination of the injured woodland elf, Glorfindel followed the tracks to the stone wall, where they abruptly stopped. He got down off his steed and studied the ground around him. He was looking for any sign the men laid a false trail to the mountainside, some place they backtracked and turned off. Finding nothing, the puzzled elf returned to the wall and studied the hoof prints. Looking closer he noticed a man's footprints that suddenly ended too. Legolas was lying in the trail, just a short distance from the wall. 'Where had they gone?' pondered the golden-haired elf.
Finally joining the group, Mirthandir noticed the elf studying the stark mountainside. Curious, he dismounted and joined the ancient elf. Reaching his side, the elf did not break his concentration to acknowledge wizard, instead continuing his study of the puzzling trail. "What seems to be the problem my friend?"
Finally glancing up, Glorfindel finally acknowledged his presence. "Mithrandir," as he turned his gaze back to the problem at hand. "We have been following the trail left by the kidnappers but it abruptly stops at this mountainside. I have gone back up the trail but can find no place where they may have turned off."
Looking at the ground, the silver-haired wizard noticed exactly what he was talking about, a trail of hoof prints ended at the mountain's edge. The cagey maia, slowly walked up and down, studying each mark in the dirt. When he again reached the stone wall, he looked up and with a sly grin said, "If you eliminate all other possibilities, than what seems impossible, must in fact be truth."
Unable to stop the snort of disgust, Glorfindel replied, "Are you suggesting they vanished into thin air?"
"Nay," agreed Gandalf, "not thin air but possibly solid rock."
Striding up to join the pair, Cilinwё added his opinion, "Tis impossible. No edain disappears into thin air or solid rock."
Glorfindel nodded his agreement. "Agreed."
"Can they not?" questioned the wizard.
"Nay," answered both elves in tandem.
"Is that so?" smirked Gandalf, "than pray tell where did they go?"
Tiring of the game of words, the master of swords demanded, "If you know why not enlighten us?"
"Patience," said Mithrandir, as he stood in front of the towering rocks, in the middle of the disappearing trail. He seemed to search the blank mountain face, before adjusting his position slightly. Raising his arms, he glanced back at the waiting elves. "If nothing else is possible, than it must be the impossible." Turning his attention back to the task at hand, he softly whispered a spell.
The trio stood watching and waiting for something to happen, some change in the stone surface. Nothing happened. Not to be deterred, the old wizard tried a second time…and a third…and a fourth. Finally he lowered his arms, muttering, "I do not understand, it should have worked."
With a sad grin, Cilinwё approached the maia and clapped him on the shoulder. "We shall find a way to Estel," he said, as he readied to walk away. With a small grin he added, "As I said, no edain can walk through rock." With that parting shot, he left to rejoin his lord.
"It seems he is most correct Mithrandir," added Glorfindel as he turned to find Erestor.
"We shall see," mumbled the Gandalf as he continued to study the stone surface. Shaking his head with disbelief, the golden haired elf left the wizard to his machinations.
Reaching the group assisting the fallen elf, Cilinwё knelt and asked, "How may I assist milord?"
"Prepare camp," answered Elrond. Glancing up at his sword master as he pressed a bandage to the wound to the blonde elf's head, "We shall stay here this eve."
"Aye milord," was the prompt response as the sword master stood.
Standing, Cilinwë called out, "Halbarad."
Upon hearing his name, the requested man looked at the elf. "Aye?" he asked.
"We shall camp here for the eve."
While the Rangers expertly begun to set up camp, the elves and one wizard went about their tasks. Lord Elrond and his sons care for Legolas. Cilinwë assisted the Rangers, Glorfindel and Erestor cared for their horses, and the lone wizard attempted to figure out how he could not get through solid rock.
After supper in the kitchen, Marian escorted her new charge back to his bed chambers. She handed him some night clothes and he slipped into the adjoining chambers to change. After a short time, he came back into the room clutching his clothes. She took them from his grasp, folded them and laid them on top of the chest of drawers. "Ya be ready fo' a night of rest?" she asked the child.
"Aye," answered Estel, watching her with huge silver eyes.
Moving to the bed, the woman turned down the covers and gestured to the small boy to climb in. "Sli' in," she told him.
"Hannon le," her charge whispered as he padded across the room and climbed into the soft bed.
With a soft smile, she gently pulled the heavy covers up over Estel's little body and carefully tucked them around him. Reaching up she tenderly pushed a dark lock of hair off his forehead. Looking into his silvery eyes, the feeling of déjà vu once again overcame the woman. Searching his face she tried to figure out why he seemed so familiar. Finally with a soft sigh, she gave up and cupped a small cheek. "It seems I shoul' know ya."
"I no not Miss Marian," replied the lad.
Shaking her head, she replied, "I no not eithe' child. Tis wh'at botherin' me."
He watched the auburn haired woman, as she attempted to puzzle it out. She seemed to be trying to memorize the every curve of his face. The moment was broken when someone knocked on the door. "Come in," she called out.
Tommas carefully pushed the door open and stepped into the room. The pair already inside could see he was clutching something in his big hands, though they were not sure what. Marian gestured for the man to join her near the child's bed. "Come sit lad."
He made his way across the room and stood across the bed from the nanny. Motioning to edge of the bed, she told him, "Now sit down, so's we nee' not lo'ok up at ya."
The blonde man sat down where he was told too. Worried about Estel, and knowing the child was rightfully upset with him, Tommas did not know what to say, as a consequence he just sat quietly on the bed, studying what they could now see was a toy, in his hands.
Studying the young man, Marian could tell he had taken the time to bathe and change clothes. Though he still looked tired, he was at least clean. She asked him, "Did you eat lad?"
"Aye," answered the blonde haired man and finally looking at the boy in the bed he questioned, "I did not see you in the dining room. Did you eat Estel?"
Nodding, he replied, "I ate in the kitchens. The cook was nice and gave me a cookie."
Reaching out, he was going to ruffle the boy's dark curls but remembering Estel's earlier reaction to being touched, Tommas allowed his arm to drop back into his lap. Instead he just smiled at the boy and said, "You deserve one little one."
"He gave me two," corrected Estel, with a small smile.
"Good," replied the man. He looked the small child over, what little he could see above the heavy covers and noted the improvements. Not wishing to upset the boy again, Tommas chose not to comment on it.
They sat quietly for a few long moments, before curiosity got the best of Estel and he asked, "What are you holding?"
Tommas quickly looked down at the toy and back at the waiting child, before finally answering, "It is a horse." Offering it to the dark haired boy, he said, "I brought it for you."
Reaching out for it, Estel took the toy. It was soft, brown and appeared to be well worn. "It is a horse."
"Aye," said Tommas, "I thought you would like to have it."
"Hannon le." Holding it above the covers but tight his thin chest, Estel translated softly, "Thank you."
Grinning, he told the child, "I thought you would like it."
"Wher' did ya get it?" Marian asked.
"Twas mine when I was a child," Tommas informed them. "I always loved horses."
"Me too," answered the child. Initiating contact, Estel reached out with one hand and touched the blonde's chest, right above his heart. "Many thanks."
Keeping the small hand tightly against his chest, Tommas beamed, "You are most welcome little one." Eventually breaking the grip, he tucked the boy's hand under the comforter, "He should help you sleep."
"What's his name?"
"Her name is Karbî," the man answered.
"Horse?" Estel continued to question.
"In Adûnaic," agreed Tommas. Shrugging his shoulders, he continued, "I was not very creative."
Not disagreeing, the dark haired child just smiled and replied, "I like it. She is pretty."
"Karbî kept me company many dark nights." Taking a chance Tommas reached out and stroked the dark curls on the lad's small head, "Now she shall keep you company."
Standing, he answered, "Sleep well little one."
Walking to the door, the tall man said, "I shall see you in the morning," as he slipped out the door.
"Tis my t'urn to say g'nite." Marian told the child, "Sleep well." She stood and continued, "If you n'eed me my room's r'ight down the hall."
"Aye," was the soft reply as Estel closed his eyes.
"Hannon le," he murmured again. At the quizzical look on her face, he translated, "Thank you."
"Ya be mos' wel'om ch'ld."
Snuggling down into the soft down of his bed, Estel burrowed deeper under the covers and enjoyed the feeling of a comfortable bed underneath him for the first time since he was taken from home. He could feel his aches and pains finally catching up with him and dragging him down into sleep. His eyelids slowly began to close and he slipped off into dreamland.
The camp was set up; tents were pitched, food prepared and eaten, and horses were put out to graze and a guard rotation was set. Campfires were lightening the darkening night. Men and elf alike were preparing to take to bedrolls for a night's sleep. In one tent entry a figure could be seen, back lit by a fire. He appeared to be studying the surrounding area, taking in each darkening tree and rock face, his sharp eyes taking each curve. He was looking for something and he would find it and he would not stop until he did. Found him, rescued him and took him home. Home to Imladris
"Adar, come lie down," came from further inside the tent.
Without a word, the figure turned and moved back inside, and allowing the tent flap to close behind him. In the morning, the search for the trail left by the kidnappers would begin in earnest. If they did not find it, he would find a way to walk into solid rock. He swore to vala he would find his son, his hope, his Estel…