Title: Vagaries of the Wind

Rating: PG (at the moment)

Pairings: None for now

Fandom: Lord of the Rings (book)

Chapter: 1?

Summary: Estel (Aragorn) grows up in Elrond's house, and yet the intricacies of his human heritage, and elven upbringing are brought to the boil by two unscrupulous elflings, who seek to make him aware of his differences from them- and tear his heart apart as they do so.

Author's Notes: Ages. I've worked out that for this story, Estel will age at the normal rate of a human until he hits late teens, and it is slowed and delayed. The elflings bodies mature slightly different- it takes twice the amount of time for example an elf who looked fifteen is actually thirty, but after a certain point, it slows almost to a halt the aging process. It takes longer for them to gain mental maturity as well.

The wind was bitterly cold, swirling in gusts and eddies around the carven stone pillars. Elrond did not seem to notice however as he stood, hands resting lightly on the graceful balcony. He was watching a small figure in the garden, drifting aimlessly from one thing to the next. It was a human child, dark haired, perhaps eleven human years in age. His face was childish, with a peculiarly wistful expression that seemed out of place in one so young. Elrond sighed unconsciously, noting how the child looked up eagerly at every sound, and then disappointed looked down, as he discovered it was nothing to do with him.

His robes swept the floor, regal purple as he walked with an easy stride to the small flight of steps that led to the garden. Leaves danced in the wind around him, autumn colours- the very earliest stage of autumn had begun. The grass was withered, and here and there, fiery flowers blossomed underfoot. The child did not see him until he was but a few steps away. Then he looked up and the joy on his face, struck Elrond to the heart with a bitter- sweet pain, and the boy came towards him swiftly, then stopped as though remembering some protocol. Elrond opened his arms, and the boy's face brightened again, as he gave his foster father a hug. "I thought you might think me too old, ada." He said quietly.

Elrond smiled. "Never Estel." He walked companionably beside the child for a few moments then said softly. "Why were you alone child? It seems to me that I always see you alone either in the garden, or wandering the halls."

Estel's head drooped. "I'm sorry ada. But nobody wants to play with me. They say I'm too young, that I wouldn't understand their games at all." A fierce pride entered his eyes. "But I'm not. I understand more than they think."

Elrond walked on slowly, revolving the problem in his mind. There were so very, very few young elves now. He knew there were some in Mirkwood, but in Rivendell... He toyed with the idea of sendingEstel there, but dismissed it. Estel was young for his age in some ways, though mature beyond his years in others, and Elrond had never held with deliberate separation of small ones of any race, from their family. Though Estel was surely an exception to all rules. His keen eyes caught movement in front of them. He gave Estel a little push. "Greet your brothers."Estel took off, small legs eating the distance, until he reached the taller of the twins, who picked him up and swung him round. Elessar let out a squeal of excitement.

Elrond watched the small group with solemnity. All these years he'd worried about the rightness of raising a human child not his own, in the ways and traditions of the elves. He'd tried to instil a sense of being human intoEstel but that was the one lesson, Estel resisted. He couldn't understand the differences that divided the races, nor the aching that though he did not know it would cause him much pain later, as he attempted to reconcile his human heritage with his elvish upbringing.

It had come naturally to him to call Elrond ada, and to address Elladan and Elrohir as his brothers. He had no conception of his father. His mother had been kept alive for him in the words of those who had known her, and in the painting that illustrated her graceful beauty. But his father was only a set of words and stories, and sometimes Elrond thought that maybe Estel believed he did not have a father. If that was true then he had done the boy a grave disservice.

And sometimes Elrond had to guard against himself. From thinking of the boy as his own flesh and blood. Sometimes Estel felt like the child of Elrond's old age, and he almost forgot that the child was not his own family. And secretly he wished that it were so, that Estel was truly a part of their family, their petted youngest child, the family's baby son. He shook his head impatiently. The child had a destiny to fulfil, a path to take up, and Elrond must not make it any harder for Estel to do that role.

As it happened, the very next week, three young elves arrived from Mirkwood; the very youngest. Elrond knew one of them, a solemn elf, with dark brown hair, interested in books and tales of lore named Yarin. The other two were unknown, and though it was not in Elrond's nature to take an instant dislike against anyone, he came close to it. They were twins, about Estel's height, with the same dark hair, but anomalous deep blue eyes. Though they were male, and female, they resembled each other utterly, and they'd been sent to Rivendell in the hope that Elrond could teach them some of the manners, and sensitivity which they seemed so completely lacking in. One was called Anerion, and the other Reinor.

Estelhad shyly greeted them, but what Elrond had hoped had not happened. He'd hoped that Yarin would take Estel under his wing, and be a companion. But Yarin had merely been distantly polite and gone straight to the library to read. The twins had immediately become acquainted with Estel, and he certainly seemed happier. But there was an element of cruel mischief in the twin's laughter, that did not sit well with Elrond for one. But as Estel appeared to enjoy playing with them, Elrond put his misgivings aside.

That evening as people huddled in groups at the tables, Elrond looked around for Estel, not seeing him in the room. Curiosity turned to uneasiness.Estel was never late for his meals. Elrond stood, ignoring the untouched food on the table. Elrohir stood as well, sensing his father's growing worry, and knowing instinctively whom it was about. He nudged Elladan who was deep in a book. Unobtrusively the three of them left the hall. "Elrohir, could you please search the cellars?" That was Elrond's first request, Elrohir nodded and loped off swiftly. "Elladan this floor and the gardens. I'll take the upper chambers. The library as well." Elladan also nodded, and started in the opposite direction. Elrond climbed the stairs quickly, calling Estel's name quietly into the rooms. No answer came, and neither did the library yield any result.

When Elrond had met the twins again, Elladan had a bright idea. "Those children,Estel plays with. They might know." Reinor and Anerion, were in the hall though, eating with the others. When asked, Anerion giggled. "He's in his secret place." She would say no more however, stuffing a hand over her mouth to contain the laughter. Elrond ignored the rudeness though. It was the malice in the laugh that unnerved him the most.

They racked their brains, for secret spots for eleven year olds to hide, and finally gave up. There were so many! There was a soft knock at the door. Yarin, stood there, his normally stoic face a little worried. "Estel usually hides in the observatory when he wants to be alone." Elrond nodded, eyes already filled with worry. There was something wrong in the air,- he could feel it.

The steps of the observatory were many and steep, but Elrond dashed up them, outstripping even his athletic sons. He stopped short however at the top. A small figure wrapped in a white sheet, was sobbing- whimpering even in pain, and what sounded like heartbreak. But that was not what had paused Elrond. The sheet had a red patch, that looked much like blood. Released from his temporary paralysis, Elrond ran forward, forsaking his usual staid dignity, tearing the sheet away.Estel was holding a cloth tightly to one forearm, rocking backwards and forwards. Tears were running down his face. Elrond gestured fiercely for his sons to stay back. Heedless of the blood, Elrond knelt at Estel's side, and embraced the small boy. "What is the matter child? Tell ada."

Estel's face was stricken. "They lied ada." He wailed. The blood on the arm was not fresh; and though there was quite a lot, he was in no danger. What worried Elrond more was what Estel, was covering. He gently pried the fingers loose, though the shuddered breaths were tearing at his heart strings. An uneven five pointed star had been drawn with a knife blade, and it was clotted with darkened blood.

"Why?" asked Elrond.

Estelbit his bottom lip in pain. "They told me. They told me that if I drew Varda's star on my arm, that the Lady would take pity on me, and make me like everyone else. Make me into an elf." Elrond felt tears running down his own face, and crushedEstel to him. Elladan and Elrohir, stood near the doorway, compassion and tenderness in their eyes, and Elrond shook his head wordlessly. Of course this would happen. He should have foreseen this. His mind was just pleading over and over again. Not like this, why like this? What did I do wrong?

"But why would you want to be an elf? You are so special, just being you."

"Of course I want to be an elf. I always have. And they told me that you'd be pleased as well, if I was brave enough to go through the pain for the reward." No need to ask who 'they' were, thought Elrond grimly. "They said it was stupid to be human. They said..." The last bit was soft, and Elrond had to strain to hear it. "They said that if I became an elf, then I could be your son." It was the last straw for Elrond. He'd had no idea, how muchEstel had been hiding about how much he wanted to be an elf.

"Listen to me Estel. You had a father who was a brave and noble man, who fought as a warrior, and died as a warrior. Your mother was brave as well, and good. But I am your father too." He felt Estel's small body shake with grief, and he tightened his grasp. "And you are my son, in every way that could ever truly matter. Do not be grieved child, over an accident of birth. You have a destiny beyond your dreams, and though your path may be hidden from you now, rest assured that it is one that only a man could walk, that there is not an elf born who could fulfil it. You are the only person in the world who can do it."

He didn't know if the words had sunk in or not, but the tremors quietened, and gradually a small voice said, almost apologetically. "My arm hurts." Elrond pickedEstel up, feeling the fragile, bird like bones in his grasp.

"Let's get you fixed up." His eyes met his eldest children's, and they knew what he was thinking. He would deal with Anerion and Reinor later. WhenEstel had been bandaged carefully, and washed, he had been put to bed to sleep. Exhausted by his emotional day he'd fallen asleep instantly, not even seeing Elrond leave the room.

When he called Reinor and Anerion to him, he had to struggle to retain mastery of his voice. Reinor seemed to know that they had gone too far, and his face was cast down and hidden. Anerion appeared scornful of her twin though, and met Elrond's eyes boldly, before she too looked down, though not in any shame. Elrond sat, but did not invite the twins to. "You know why you are here." It was not a statement.

Reinor nodded, and Anerion opened her mouth to start an explanation. "It was onl..."

Elrond's voice was like a whiplash. "Think your words through carefully Anerion. Your punishment for saying the wrong thing, could be the worst chastisement you have ever had. He could see the arrogant confidence in her eyes; the confidence of a child who had fit in and been indulged all her life . A child who truly believed that no-one would dare really to punish her.

Even Elrond's warning did not deter her, from speaking. "It was only a game. It wasn't our fault he was stupid enough to believe us."

Elrond couldn't believe what he was hearing. This child was claiming that it was only a game, to convinceEstel that he could become an elf. "It was only a game was it? Only a game to you maybe. You knewEstel wanted to be an elf, and you preyed on his weakness. And then you ran away, both of you like cowards leaving him alone, once you saw what you had done."

Reinor spoke, his face flaming red. "We aren't cowards!"

Elrond eyed him coolly. Of course they would think they were brave. They'd never had anything to be truly frightened of had they? He'd like to see their 'bravery' against raiders and orcs. He spoke, carefully enunciating his words so they could hear every syllable. "Yes you are. Too frightened to tell me whereEstel was. Too frightened to stand with, and see the blood that you brought about. I'm sickened with the pair of you. Since you have come here you have shown nothing but arrogance, cowardice, bad manners and stupidness. I tell you,Estel is more like an elf than you will ever be."

Anerion's eyes widened in shock. "But he's not an elf. I am."

Elrond looked at their faces; the aggressive posture of Anerion, and the way Reinor stood supporting his outspoken twin, and shook his head wearily. "I'm sending you back to Mirkwood in disgrace. Or rather Reinor I'm sending you back. Anerion will stay here, where she can be taught some proper manners. You are a bad influence on each other, and so you will be separated."

He watched their faces shrewdly. As he'd thought, that would be the worst punishment he could give them. To separate them, would be to deprive them both of the only companion, who would never reprove or condemn them. Anerion's face was outraged. "You can't do that!" Elrond just eyed her coolly, and she started to sob. "Please. You can't do that." She turned to her twin, seeking denial. But Reinor was equally shocked. They both knew that it could be many years before they would see each other again. Journey's between Mirkwood, and Rivendell were few and far between. The twins were on border patrol, and they had volunteered to escort Reinor back to Mirkwood. Yarin was to stay in Rivendell, though Elrond was displeased with him as well.

Motioning the twins from the room Elrond leant back wearily. Where had everything gone so wrong? He couldn't ever remember even the most spoilt elfling, doing and saying what the twins had done. In all his long years, it was the first time he'd ever met such small minded prejudices, and hatreds. There was something seriously wrong with both Reinor and Anerion, and he felt a moment's fierce worry. Had he done the wrong thing, should he have just sent them both back and given up? He didn't want either of them nearEstel again that was for sure. There was something subtly wrong with them. Nothing he knew of though, would explain the right course, and for the first time his gift of sensing the future was failing him. He would just have to trust that this was the right decision.

The next morning Elrond watched with a stern unrelenting face, as Reinor rode off with Elladan and Elrohir. He ignored the screams, sobs and threats of Anerion, as she kicked and twisted to get out of his firm hold. When the retinue was out of sight, she collapsed still sobbing, and refused to be lifted. Elrond had imposed harsh restrictions on her. She was not to ride the horses, or to do anything that she most liked to do. Rivendell was quiet enough for a young elf at the best of times, and deprived of dancing, friends, horses and even long walks, Anerion sunk into a state of complete ennui. She was more tractable certainly, but Elrond worried over the dull eyes, and obvious ill health Anerion showed. He spent long hours with her, attempting to interest her in books, story telling, and some of the female elves tried to teach her feminine arts of sewing, weaving and working with the hands. For a time Elrond even suggested that she learn a weapon skill to occupy her time. But Anerion was at heart feminine, and though she disdained sewing skills, she also was too conscious of herself, to spend hours training with a weapon.

Two years passed andEstel turned thirteen. He'd shot up, though he was still childlike in appearance. His face was carefree, and Elrond was proud of how well he looked. Elves grew differently from humans. An elf at thirteen human years would have been a small child still in elvish terms. It was hard to compareEstel to the average human though. Elrond guessed, based on his family that he would not reach his full stature until he was in his late teens, and that after that the rate of aging would be slowed, to only a third of that of a normal man. Anerion on the other hand had been twenty six when she had come to Rivendell,- about thirteen in her physical age, and eleven in her mental. She would stop growing in her thirties. Her body was aged about fifteen now, but Elrond often thought that she seemed younger, as though the spirit within her had not matured as it should have. The ennui of those early months had never completely left her, and finally seriously worried, Elrond had commanded her to undergo some sort of vigorous exercise, that would hopefully rejuvenate her energy. She'd acceded, training with one of the elder elves with the spear. Listlessly she'd jabbed the targets, usually missing, but as time passed she grew livelier, and more skilled. Now that she was fifteen, she'd become interested in clothes, and would stay hours with the dressmakers, watching them at their skilful work. She didn't offer to help, but she would watch and learn, and in these days of long stretching months, and plenty, the dressmakers would make her clothes in whatever style she wanted, and gradually she seemed more content at Rivendell.

Estel's loneliness had not been solved fully. He never spoke to Anerion, and their paths rarely crossed. He worked with Yarin, learning different scripts, and reading the scrolls and books that filled Elrond's library, but Yarin was too introverted to really be called a companion, and Elrond had made a conscious decision to spend more time with Estel, knowing all too well, that he would not stay young long. He'd ridden out as far as the mountains with Elessar, mapping the new contours, and searching for rare herbs, and both Elladan, and Elrohir looked after their younger 'brother,' as well as they could.

Elrond was in his study, when a knock sounded at the door. Anerion stood at the door, and Elrond invited her in. He doubted that he would ever properly like her, but he'd learnt to contain his aversion and to look after her as well as he could. Sitting, she made a request. "I hear Yarin, is to make a visit home. May I go with him for a visit?"

Elrond considered before he replied. He had anticipated this request, and he was not sure what would be wise to do. Granted she had improved much over two years, and it would be unfair of him not to reward her. But he doubted whether she had truly changed inside. Sighing, he spoke. "I have decided that yes you may visit. But.." he said as her eyes flared with joy. "We shall all go. Yarin, Estel, yourself, me, and whoever would like to see our kindred in the northern woods. She nodded submissively.

"Of course Lord Elrond."

The journey's preparations were long, some of the elves who were planning on going, and not been to Mirkwood in two hundred years. At least twenty were packing, for the court of Mirkwood was a merry one, and no visitor was turned away. Glorfindel was to remain in Rivendell, and Elrond trusted that he would be well. Anerion was packing, and sang as she stepped around.Estel was nervous at the thought of so many new people, and though he did not mention it, worried about how they'd react to him being human. Yarin would rather have stayed in Rivendell with his research, but his parents had especially asked for him to visit, and being a dutiful son he obeyed.Estel had little packing; Elrond had taken charge of it.

Their arrival was welcomed by Mirkwood, and many of those who had distant blood connections sought out relatives. Mirkwood elves were on the whole, a rather less learned and wise group of elves, and the High blood did not flow through many veins, but they were mirthful, and lively. Their king Thraundil had embraced Elrond, and then apologised for his son's absence. "Legolas goes hunting far afield," he said ruefully. "He's half wild I suspect." Elrond said nothing. He'd only met the king's son on one other occasion, and he had sensed some strange twist of bloodlines, that had produced a son of nearly full Quenyan blood. Naturally the young elf had grown up feeling strangely alone, but rather than taking to books and wisdom, as many high elves had, he had taken to hunting, and riding far from habitation in search of loneliness and the things that he was missing from his surroundings. Indeed Elrond was not sure if the prince was even literate or not.

Anerion was half mad from delight. She had sought out Reinor, worried that he might have... forgotten her, but she was soon convinced he hadn't. He had been equally delighted to see her, and had introduced her to everyone. She gradually slipped back into her old life; the petted and adored young elf, whom her parents and everyone made much of. They had admired her dresses, and though she was too young for the dance, that would follow the feast tonight, she had wangled permission to go both from her parents, and from King Thraundil who was charmed by her ways. Watching her Elrond shrugged. There was no doubt that she had improved both in manners, and in sensitivity, and it would do no harm for her to have some fun while she was here. He heard light footsteps behind him, and turned to see who it was. The king's only son had just entered. He bowed to Elrond perfectly correctly, and smiled abstractedly. "I must apologise for being late."

Elrond shook his head. "There is none owed." He looked at the elven princeling. Dark hair was pulled tightly back from his face. Wide set eyes were dark grey, not unlike Elrond's own, and fair skin contrasted the dark hair. Indeed there was something familiar about him, that came from neither his father nor mother, as though he shared a different heritage. He was tall, having reached full height, and had the physique of a hunter. Slung over one shoulder was a graceful longbow and on one hip was his sword. He was clad in the colours of the forest, dark green and brown, and wore soft leather boots. He was a contemporary of Elrohir's, and Elladan's in age. Elrond asked "have you been hunting?"

Legolas smiled again. "I must confess I have. I heard that there were visitors though, and so I returned."

Estelentered the room. "Ada, have you seen Elladan?" He stopped embarrassed at using the family name in front of a third party. He introduced himself by his name. "I'm Estel."

Comprehension flared faintly in Legolas's eyes as he looked at Elrond. "I'm Legolas," was the reply. He glanced back at Elrond. "If there is anything you need at all while you are here, Lord Elrond, Estel, then do not hesitate to ask me." He bowed again, and left the room.

Estellooked round, not understanding. "Who was he?"

"The King's son."

Estel's expressive face grew solemn. "His father is angry with him. Everyone is talking about it."

Elrond didn't like gossip, but interested in spite of himself he asked why.

"He refused to remain at court, and to meet other elves properly. His father worries that there will be no heir to the throne. He thinks that Legolas spends too much time hunting. So he forcibly commanded Legolas to appear tonight. The rumour is as well, that King Thraundil plans to remarry, and that his son disapproves, and has publicly announced that he will cut himself off from his family rather than allow such disrespect to his mother's memory."

Elrond inhaled slowly. This was large news. The king's only son choosing exile rather than his father's remarriage? He wondered aloud. "Who is the would be bride?"

Estellooked very wary. "Ada, they are saying that she is too young for such a step yet. I heard.." he hesitated, then blurted it out. "I heard that it is Anerion."

Elrond's mind was greatly perturbed. It was not completely unknown for a second marriage, though so few of them ever happened. Elves fell in love but once, and that completely. Only death, or the Sea, would separate them, and their memory was honoured in the loved one's heart. So the news that the king had fallen after three centuries alone, for the charms of a barely adolescent elf, was both worrying and unnatural. The foolishness of old age, Elrond would have been tempted to think, if he had not known that Thraundil was anything but senile. And for Anerion's part, it was impossible that she should be in love with the king, and to be willing to marry without love... there were many conclusions which could be drawn from that.

He pulled himself out of his thoughts, feeling Estel's worried eyes. "Elladan is in the stables." He resolved to have a discussion with the King. On his way to the hall, he noticed how unnaturally quiet the place was. He didn't know that it was like that every time the king and his son argued. Pausing at the entrance to the hall, he stood hidden by the shadows for a moment.

"You will respect Anerion, for that is my will."

"Father, she is not even thirty, far too young for marriage. And you, you should remember my mother better than to supplant her with some twig of a child, interested only in power."

The king's voice was enraged. "How dare you? Of course Anerion and I have no plans to wed yet. Years will pass, as she prepares to be queen. But until then you shall remain loyal, and silent." The king's voice hardened. "Tread carefully my son. Any child she may have, could pose a threat to your inheritance. Is that your worry, your concern? That another child would supplant you."

Disdain filled Legolas's voice. "No father. Only you would think of me that, that was my worry. Being king holds no interest for me, and no power over my actions. And I will leave, rather than see you make a fool of yourself with an elf so much younger."

"Do you desire her then?"

"Never."

"Of course not. You desire no elf do you Legolas? You would let the line die without an heir, through want of love. But I can see your heart, and I know what lies within. Do not think you can hide it from me. Leave then. You shall not be missed. Do not return, until your mind is less stubborn."

Elrond saw Legolas leave the hall head held high. "I shall never return, if your lover is crowned."

Elrond stepped in. The king's face was pinched white with temper, but he attempted a courteous smile. Elrond hesitated. What to say? It seemed the king would be swayed by neither reason, nor logic. It would be better to tackle Anerion. The King spoke first though, and saved him the trouble of formulating a reason for approaching. "Lord Elrond, could I beg a favour of you? My son is wayward and headstrong, and I worry for him. Would you be good enough to allow him to remain at Rivendell for the time being?"

Elrond bowed and acquiesced. Making his apologies he left as swiftly as he could. Going to the stables, he saw Legolas saddling up, his face still strained with anger. With a pat, Elrond calmed the restless stallion, and spoke. "Come to Rivendell Legolas. There, rest with us and consider your actions. Now is not the time for rash actions."

Legolas leaned his head against his horse. "I am confused Lord Elrond. It is generous of you to offer this sanctuary. But sometimes I just need to get away from everything and everyone, and I can do that best alone in the forest." It was a dismissal no matter how politely worded, but Elrond took no offence.

"At Rivendell, no-one will disturb you if you do not wish it. It is a place of quiet contemplation, but also merriness if you so wish it. Think over it." He left to find Anerion. She was in her parent's chambers, humming as she brushed out her long dark hair until it flowed in a heavy gleaming mass down her back. Elrond tried to speak but she continued humming. Finally he sat down beside her, and spoke. "Have you thought about this properly?"

She turned a look of cool disdain on him. "Of course I have."

"Do you love him then?"

She didn't reply, merely continued brushing slowly. Then... "I don't choose to have this conversation. I want you to leave my room."

Smiling grimly Elrond looked upon her. "I might remind you that you are still to go back to Rivendell until your parents decree otherwise."

"My parents have agreed to my marriage. And they have also agreed that I may stay in Mirkwood until such a time as I am ready to participate in the ceremonies. Thank you for your time Master Elrond. I appreciate all you have done for me." The cool insolence of her tone, would have infuriated anyone else. Elrond merely looked at her with pity, and left the room. He wouldn't even bother talking to her parents. If they were foolish enough to be deceived by what was going on, on the outside of Anerion then their eyes would be closed to anything that he chose to tell them.

The last week they spent at Mirkwood was not a happy one. The anger between the father and son, the proposed marriage of Anerion all contrived to put a dampener on festivities, and on the last night, Legolas came to Elrond. His eyes were as cold and hard as stones, and his strong mouth was set firm. "May I travel with you to Rivendell?" he asked. Elrond nodded.

Estelturned bewildered eyes to them, too polite to ask what was happening, and no-one chose to enlighten him.

Not much of a cliffhanger to leave it upon, but if I continue to write anymore it's going to get fairly unwieldy. Hope you enjoyed it, and certainly reviews would be appreciated.