Title: In the Shadows I Wait
Summary: A fantasy set in Middle-earth
I have been waiting a long time. Waiting here in my place—in the corner, in the dark. The others live in the open, with the greatest of us surrounded by tapestries, torch brackets, and framed parchments carefully lettered by masters of the art. I find it ironic that I, the only one beset by restlessness, am the one most hidden from those who might end my boredom. The others sleep, dreaming of their days of glory. Are you surprised to find that they sleep? That I am wakeful? No doubt you think that we are mere minerals, forged into useful objects sorely needed by those who would defend home and hearth, kith and kin. But we have spirits, of a kind. Now you are certain I jest; that I am some strange chimera devised by your reverie. It is true, nonetheless, however you may disbelieve. Have you never noticed how warriors mourn over the loss of a favored blade? There are many wives who would be happy to be missed so grievously! Or have you never heard one of our great paladins say, "I knew it was mine—it just leaped into my hand, the hilt fitting like it was made for me alone." We do indeed have our own preferences, for who has never heard this in the yard: "The damn thing turns in my hand just when I need to bear down on it!" Oh yes, we have a life of our own, though it is not as your life. We do not communicate with each other, nor are we aware of the greater world around us, though we know it exists. But we know of singing—the high keening of death dealing—and we know of sun glancing along our edges when held aloft before a charge. We know the acid burn of blood left to dry. We know the gritty caress of polish, and the salt tang of sweat. And above all, we know our master's hand. That is one reason the others choose to dream of times past. For in this, great and small, fabled or humble, those of us here are the same. We are not needed now. We are forsaken.
The door to our great room is open today, and I am somehow aware of this, and aware of the pathetically few elves that pass. Once, in days gone by, the halls of this place teemed with elves, and even men and dwarves. Now there is only one man here. He comes often to our twilight gloom, usually with at least one elf. They tell him stories of my companions on these walls, and he is eager to hear them.
"What of that one, Ada? The one with the red and gold hilt; the blade seems to flicker in the torchlight somehow."
"Ah, that one. That is a fine blade, indeed. We all carried swords of that type at Eregion."
"Why is the grip so long and curved? And there is no crossguard."
"Swords like that are still used in Lorien. You hold it like this, and do not chop and parry, but spin and sweep, putting one hand close to the blade and the other next the pommel. You use the hand on the pommel for leverage to…er…" The stately elf that had begun to fight an imaginary foe with slow, graceful gestures, suddenly stopped and looked a little uncomfortable.
"Leverage to what?"
"Well, as you make…contact…you use leverage to –" The elf stalled, unable to find sufficiently innocuous words to describe the purpose of the long grip.
His companion's eyes had widened with realization, and the boy had no such scruples as he said with relish, "To spill your enemy's guts onto the floor!"
The Lord of Imladris blinked. He gave one of his soft, dry coughs. "As you say."
The boy stretched his coltish body to get a closer look at the blade fastened to the wall, impatiently pushing back the dark hair that flopped over one eye. "Why is the blade glimmering like that?"
"That sword was given to me when I was made commander at Eregion. It was in token of my rank and family. Those long, swirling lines that glimmer in the torchlight are tiny chips of gems, embedded like enamel in the steel. I only actually used it in battle a few times; it was mostly ceremonial."
The boy gazed another long moment at the sword with its curved, red hilt that was enwrapped with a vine design in gold to prevent slipping in the hand. Then he shrugged and turned away. "It is pretty, but I like the fighting swords best."
"Spoken like a warrior, Estel. I must admit to the same preference."
The two moved on to stop before another sword. The elf stood at ease, hands clasped loosely behind him. His near-black hair swayed gently where it fell down his back, though at crown and temple it was confined with elaborate braiding. The head of the youngster beside him barely reached his shoulder, and though the boy's hair was the same color as the elf's, it waved in unruly tangles where the elf's was smooth and sleek. Newly cropped to jaw length, Estel had already acquired an irritating habit of tossing it from his eyes like a horse throwing back its forelock. They both had grey eyes, though Elrond's were opaque and mysterious, while the boy's were like a crystal stream that lets you see through to the shining pebbles beneath its surface. The elf was garbed in fitted robes of fawn and russet, but the boy wore tunic and leggings of grey and dark green.
Estel took a step sideways to stand before the sword to which he gave greatest reverence—the blade carried at the Battle of Fornost by his friend and hero, Glorfindel. He would have dearly loved to have seen the sword that slew the Balrog, but it was long lost. It probably rested in molten lumps in the river below the cliffs, where the Lord of the Golden Flower fell. Not far from the huge blade that had threatened a Nazgul, was a sword that seemed out of place in the Hall of Guardians. It was well-crafted but plain, and rather short compared to the others.
"What is that one? It does not seem like a sword a mighty warrior would use."
Elrond looked to where the boy pointed, then smiled fondly. "It was used by no mighty warrior, Estel. In fact, I do not believe it ever saw what you would call a real battle."
The boy snorted with disgust. "It must just be filling in a blank spot behind the door, then What about this one—is it new? I do not remember seeing it before."
"Hmm, yes, that is your brother's. We found it when cleaning out his old chambers. Elladan used it when he…" One by one, they paused by the fabled weapons that were cherished and maintained in this room. The elf would speak their names, echoed by his foster son. Hadhafang. Demon's Bane. Aiglos.
Below Aiglos was a marble plinth covered in velvet. Carefully arranged on the crimson folds was a sword, broken in pieces. Estel gazed on them somberly and reached a tentative finger to touch the hilt. He looked up at his father. "May I?"
Elrond nodded slowly, watching the boy intently, though he could not say why. Estel knew where and when the sword had been broken, but little more. It would be foolish to read deep and profound portents into a child's actions.
Estel closed his fingers around the hilt and began to lift, but was surprised at the weight. "Ada, the pommel is so heavy that I cannot hold it level!"
"What does that tell you about the blade?"
"That it was either very long or very heavy."
"Or both. The pommel was filled with lead to balance the blade, which is why the design is so broad there, and the grip is so long—it is not merely decorative. A pommel no wider than the hilt could not have contained enough lead. There are few men in these days who could wield such a sword."
"You always speak of men in the early times as if they were different than men today. As if they were stronger, and braver, and…better."
Elrond gazed into eyes that had darkened with uncertainty. He cursed himself and spoke swiftly, one hand moving to cup a cool cheek. "My son, there are reasons I sometimes speak as I do, though they are not for the telling here and now. But heed me in this: in any age or time, a man or elf is what he decides to be. You are compassionate, intelligent—even if you do not always apply yourself to your studies—you have a stalwart heart, and an ardent spirit. Do not let my bitterness taint your belief in yourself. You can shine as brightly as any hero ever born. Like Fingon, Tuor, and Glorfindel. Do as they did: succor the weak, uphold that which is of the Light, and labor hard to allow all you hold within you to come to fruition." The elf lord smiled and spread out his arms. "Come here, Estel. I know you have attained the ancient age of thirteen, but I think I need a hug."
The boy's eyes cleared, and he moved into an embrace that had meant safety and love for as long as he could remember. "I suppose if you need a hug, I will have to bear it." And if the boy happily pressed his face into the warm shoulder beneath it, well, there were only old weapons to see it.
As the two turned to leave the room, quenching torches as they went, Estel again noticed the simple, unassuming sword behind the door. He stared for a moment, oddly caught by the dull steel, then started when he heard voices in the corridor—his brothers had returned from patrol. He tugged at Elrond's sleeve, and together they hurried from the room, anxious to see if the twins were well and whole.
I sighed—as much as a sword can sigh—when the man and elf left us to darkness and silence. I expected it would be another long while until we were visited again, but I was quite wrong. It seemed there was some momentous issue being discussed, and incredibly it involved weapons, for our solitude was broken many times over the next few weeks. It seemed as though everyone concerned with the short human came to gaze upon us for inspiration.
"It is an important decision, Elrond, and I am the one to make it."
"I am well aware that this is an important matter, but you sometimes act like I have never held a sword in my life! Not to mention I am the boy's father!"
"No one could doubt your prowess—that is not the issue. But I have trained warriors for two lifetimes, and made this decision for many of them. He is not ready for Hadhafang, it is too long for him, not to mention the abuse a boy's First Blade goes through. It is natural for a father to want to pass his most cherished sword to his son, but it is not the sword for him now. Leave it on the wall, Elrond. We must choose something better suited to him."
The two elves who stood before the wall were nearly identical, one to the other.
"What about this one, Elrohir? The hilt is much shorter, but it still has a curved blade. He should be able to manage it without too much difficulty. He is growing fast, after all."
"No, Elladan. That is a one-handed sword. I think we should stay with what he is accustomed to. Glorfindel has been concentrating on teaching him the two-handed Numenorean style. It is obvious he will be tall and broad-shouldered; he will not be quick enough for an elven blade, but he will be strong as an ox. We should have an arming sword made, with a longer blade than is usual."
"Absolutely not! An arming sword has too much width and thickness in the blade, and the point is not tapered enough. I am surprised at you, Elrohir. An arming sword is a good sword to strap to your thigh for an extra weapon in a tight situation, but nothing more!"
"We are talking about his first sword, not his last. He needs something small enough to give him confidence. A sword that he has to 'grow into' will just make him feel inadequate!"
"A Lorien sword is too long, an arming sword is too small, a Numenorean sword is too heavy; what exactly do you suggest?"
"We will think of something. Keep looking."
I have only just realized the short human is a child. Now the restlessness I felt has become a sharp longing. Yet they will never consider me for the task, even though my hilt was made for small hands—young hands. My blade is thrice-fullered, with one long groove nearly to the tip, and two shorter ones on each side. This was done to reduce the weight of the blade, and make it more flexible and forgiving of clumsy blows that might shatter my more rigid brethren. Aii, that I might clatter to the floor and gain their attention! My young master is long grown, and I have mourned his absence through all the dusty years. But I would accept another, if his mettle were as true as mine.
"It has been an age since I have been in here. Why did you drag me from my work, Glorfindel?"
"Because perfectly sane and sensible elves like Elrond are coming apart at the seams, over one child's First Sword!"
Erestor smirked. "The child is his son, Glorfindel. I expect if the Valar were ever so lost to sanity as to give you a son, you would pick his First Sword before he was breached!"
Glorfindel laughed good-naturedly. "Hm. No doubt you are right."
"And it is a memorable occasion, after all. Not quite an entry into adulthood, but important just the same. The day a boy stops dragging pitted and scratched blades from the pile of children's training swords, and receives one of his very own, is a memorable one. For himself and all who love him."
Glorfindel growled in exasperation. "Do not get all misty-eyed on me, Erestor! I brought you here for a little cool, considered advice. What type of sword shall I order for him? If I tell Elrond you approved the choice, he might give up this idea of giving a thirteen year old human a sword that is taller than he is!"
"Now you know what I am up against!"
"Hush, I am thinking."
He has not returned. I should never have dreamed, never have wished. For now my melancholy is sharpened with bitterness. For the first time, I crave the dormant slumber that overtook my companions long ago. But I think it will be a long time before I forget that I had a chance for life again.
The boy—whose demands for attention were completely ignored by his arguing elders—wandered aimlessly around the room. His anticipation for his First Sword was waning, as the contention among those he loved only seemed to increase with time. He glanced at the weapons on the walls with far less interest than was his want. He finally sat down on a lovely carved chest close to the door, and rested his chin in his hands while his elbows dug painfully into his knees. He sighed a long, long sigh.
He is back. He rests beneath me, though I cannot see him. He has never remained close to me for so long a time, and I am getting strange feelings; hints of something undreamed of in my most foolish longings. Something beyond miraculous, something bound up in fate. And now despair takes me fully, for the child will never speak for me. His elders will never even remember me, though I have been kept on this wall solely for remembrance. The feelings strengthen with every moment, and now I am certain. He is of my master's blood, though long generations stand between them. He is mine, though how to claim him I do not know. Yet I will not let this chance for life pass me by, the chance to swing, singing, through the air. The chance to be cared for, and needed, once again. The chance to serve the one I was made for, though he has been dust for an age. I will call his blood with all my strength, though I have no hope.
You wonder how I can call him? How something made of metal can speak? Then you have never left a shop with more than you intended to buy. Ask any woman how a trinket can whisper to her.
Estel was picking at a thin spot on his suede leggings when he stopped and looked toward the elves that stood in the middle of the room, still arguing. No one was looking in his direction—he must have been mistaken in thinking he heard someone call him. He rose and stretched, wondering if he dared leave. He moved a little closer to the door, looking over his shoulder to see if anyone took notice. As he reached for the doorknob, his gaze moved across the plain sword in its secluded location. His hand stilled, and he moved a step closer to the wall. He wondered again why such a blade was here in the Hall of Guardians. He climbed onto the chest and stretched a hand tentatively upward. He touched one fingertip to the blade, midway down its length, and then jumped as a spark stung him. He laughed at his twitchiness, but he had not expected a common phenomenon of winter—not in the midst of the rainy weather that had plagued Imladris in recent weeks. He touched the blade again, drawing his finger down to the point. He stretched even more and dared to close his fingers around the hilt. His mouth opened in amazement at how well his fingers fitted the grooves. He lifted carefully, pulling the sword from the brackets placed to hold it to the wall. He stood upon the chest, legs braced, and swung the blade a short distance. He could not believe how well-balanced it was. He swung again, a longer stroke. It felt like an extension of his own arm, as if it sought to do his will. He leapt lightly to the floor, and took a few quick, turning steps. He had never felt the movements come so easily! His body often frustrated him these days, as growth spurts made him awkward and clumsy. But now the dancing steps of swordplay flowed smoothly. He swung the sword in sweeping strokes, then jabbed the air. He never noticed the silence that gradually fell over the room as, one by one, the elves turned to watch the boy who was totally absorbed.
"ESTEL! What do you think you are doing!?"
The boy ran to his father. "Ada! This sword! It feels wonderful, and I can swing it so easily!"
Glorfindel stepped forward. "Let me see it, boy." His large hand looked cramped on the hilt as he raised the blade to inspect it. "I cannot say I have paid much attention to this sword. You say it feels good in your hand, Estel? Perhaps we should send it to the smith, so he can use it as a pattern for your First Sword."
"No! Not a pattern! I want this one!"
"I do not think that is reasonable, Estel. It must be here for a reason. It belonged to someone important, or was used in a great battle. Though I must say, it hardly looks as if it did."
"It did not." Elrond's voice cut into the buzz of speculation.
"Do you know of my sword, Ada?"
Glorfindel snorted. "Your sword! You presume a great deal, young one!"
"Not as much as you think, Glorfindel. Of all of us here, except myself, he has the strongest claim to it. This sword belonged to my brother."
The silence that fell at those simple words was heavy, and filled with ancient pain.
Elladan and Elrohir moved closer together, taking comfort from each other's presence as they always did, whenever the twin brother of Elrond was mentioned.
Glorfindel said quietly, "It is not big enough, Elrond. You wielded Hadhafang easily. Elros was as strong as you are, or nearly so, and his reach was the same, as well."
"It was my brother's sword when he was but a little older than Estel. I think we have all been looking very hard for something that was right in front of our noses."
Estel gazed in awe at the sword that was still held in Glorfindel's hand. "Your brother's! Oh Ada, I am sorry that I thought this was not an important sword! Let us put it back, and you will find me another. I could not use Elros' sword, not when you have so few things left of him."
Estel reached for the sword and as he took it, was again amazed at how it snugged into his hand. It would be hard to give it up, but if he kept it, it would be nicked and scratched, and perhaps even broken. Then Elrond reached for it, and Estel loosened his fingers and felt his father's take their place. He was careful to wait until Elrond seemed to have a firm grip, yet as his fingertips left the hilt, the sword clattered to the floor. Estel held his breath, waiting for a sharp reprimand. Elrond, however, was rubbing his chin with two long fingers as he gazed at the sword on the floor. "Pick it up, Estel. Now, Glorfindel, take it from him."
The ancient warrior closed his hand around the hilt as Estel released it. Once again it clanged to the floor. "It is hard for me to hold it, Elrond, the hilt is too small."
"I do not think that is the only reason. Estel, tell me why you want this sword."
"I cannot explain, Ada. It seems to come to my hand so sweetly, as if it were made for me. It makes me feel stronger and faster, and I do not feel as clumsy as I have lately."
Elrond picked up the sword, holding it very firmly, and beckoned to Estel to follow him across the room. He sat on a large chest and patted the spot next to him. Estel sat and watched as Elrond laid the sword across his lap, stroking the blade gently. "Would you like me to tell you of this sword, and why it is here, ordinary as it appears?"
The boy nodded, and Glorfindel began to walk toward the door, gathering the other elves as he went. Soon Estel and his father were alone.
"As you know, I lost my parents when very young, even as you did. Elros and I went from pillar to post, first with the sons of Feanor, and finally going to live with Cirdan. There were many changes in our lives; we often wondered if we would ever have a place we could call home. But there was one constant: wherever we were, whoever had charge of us, we were given training in arms. This was not unusual then, anymore than it would be today, but I think Elros and I trained a little harder than most, partly so we could forget our troubles while sparring and drilling. I think that is why we kept our swords when so many of our other things were lost or left behind in the interest of speedy travel. Then, when Elros made his Choice, I could not discard anything that I had left of him. Not even an old, worn practice sword from his earliest days in arms training. That is why this sword hangs in this hall. It was not swung by a mighty warrior, nor did it kill any fell beast or win a great battle. But it is dear to me."
Estel laid his smaller hand over the one now lying still on the blade. He whispered, "Thank you, Ada, for telling me the story of this sword and what it means to you. Come, let us put it away and get some tea. I do not want you to be sad." The boy had noticed that adults all seemed to think that hot beverages solved many of life's difficulties.
Elrond smiled and said, "That is very thoughtful of you, Estel. Here, put it away for me, and we will get that tea. And some cake, perhaps. Although I think Glorfindel is right, and this is the pattern we should use for you."
Estel climbed back onto the chest, sticking out his tongue as he tried to fit the sword back into its brackets. "Thank you, Ada! I would love to have a sword just like this one – OH!"
The sword banged on the chest and then clanged on the floor as it fell. As Elrond frowned, Estel fervently apologized. "I am so sorry! I was trying to be careful!"
"Shhh, Estel, I know you were. I will put it away for you; it is often harder to get something back on a wall than it is to take it down." Elrond climbed on the chest, lifting his robes in one hand, and the sword with the other. Just as he began to settle it onto the brackets, it fell again, striking him on its way to the floor.
Estel gaped at the sword, then at his father. "Ada, are you all right?"
Elrond slowly walked around the sword that had landed a little distance from the wall. One hand rubbed his hip absently, while his mind grappled with an absurd notion. And yet, he had not kept his people fed, sheltered, and safe for an age without knowing when and how to accept new ideas. Caught in his abstraction, it took some moments before Estel's words penetrated. "Hmm? Oh. No, I am fine; it just glanced off my side. Estel…pick it up again."
A little wary now, Estel curled his fingers around the hilt again.
"Now do a drill – anything, it does not matter which one you choose."
Naturally, Estel's mind went completely blank for a moment, as if he had never held a weapon in his life. He started to lift the sword tentatively, then was relieved as he remembered the drill he had been working on for months. He pulled his feet smartly together and touched just the tip of the blade to the floor at his side. Then he swept the sword across his body in a simple parry, then a twist of wrist to turn the defense to offence. His left foot feinted forward while his weight went back for a drop-knee retreat, followed by a strong forward thrust as his weight returned forcefully to his planted left foot. Then a quick 180 turn with the blade horizontally across his chest. Next a slashing sweep aimed for the Achilles tendon of an opponent, and then the boy straightened again, panting slightly. He looked at his father in amazement. "I have never done so well at that pattern! It felt like dancing, not fighting!"
Elrond reached again for the sword, almost expecting it to resist his hold, but it came to his hand like any conventional blade. Slowly twisting his wrist, he examined every inch carefully as he replied, "You did exceptionally well, Estel. I will tell Glorfindel you are much improved."
Estel opened his mouth to protest that it was the sword that made the difference, but then shut it again. Adults could be quite resistant to truth when it did not accord to their view of the-world-as-it-was. At any rate, it did not matter how much he wanted the sword, or even that the sword seemed to want him—incredible as that thought was—it was a family heirloom of the greatest importance, and deepest sentiment.
Elrond finished his examination of the fine, but quite ordinary sword, and laid it upon a small table. Estel asked diffidently, "Are you going to put it back on the wall?"
"I am not sure I can put it back, or that anyone can put it back, Estel. Let us leave it here for now, and go to dinner—everyone will be waiting for us. I need to think about a few things."
"About the sword?"
"Yes, and other things."
With sensitivity beyond his years, Estel asked, his eyes dark with concern, "Please do not think about unhappy things." He sighed sharply with frustration. "I am sorry my First Sword has caused so much trouble, and made you remember such painful times."
Elrond placed one arm around his son's shoulders as they started for the Hall. "I do not want you to think that all my memories of Elros are unhappy ones. He was my closest companion, and often my source of strength, for many years. The sword reminds me of some of our better times, when we lived in safety, and practiced to be great and mighty warriors together." He gave the shoulder under his hand a gentle shake. "You fret too much, Estel, over those you care for. I am not at all unhappy."
Relieved, Estel looked back over his shoulder, glancing at the sword one last time as they left the room. "Do you think we should just leave it on the table? Someone might misplace it."
Elrond said dryly, "They are welcome to try. I must admit, I have never before known of a sword one could term 'stubborn'."
Once again I am left in darkness. But now I am torn between the joy I feel at having been held and swung, by his hand, and the fear that there will be nothing more. Part of me thinks with longing of the peaceful sleep of my brethren, for such slumber soothes all restlessness, quenches all desire. But the greater part dares to grasp at a chance for so much more! Now I think I understand why I have been unsettled. Why I, alone, am still aware. I have work yet to do, another warrior to train, and by the blood in his veins, one of no small importance. The brother of my master—my past master—holds no interest for me. His days on the training ground are memories only, and if he should take up arms again, it will not be with a blade too small for him to wield. He has carried a score of weapons since my time, and more than a few are hanging on these walls—he is welcome to any of them. Nay, my concern lies with his son. I learned much in the short time he brandished me. I learned that his heart beats strongly with love and courage. I learned that a shadow ever touches him, much like his many-times-great-grandsire. He is often lonely, and doubts of his worth plague him. I want him. I want to be wanted again, a matter of distress if I am mislaid, a matter of envy among his friends. I want to help him. I want to help him master his changing body, help him learn to temper his rash daring with calculated maneuvers and cunning stratagems. Most of all, I want to help give him the confidence to reach for his destiny. I desire him like a smith desires mithril. I must have him!
The Hall of Fire was filled with nearly every elf remaining in Imladris. A soft hum of conversation bounced off pillars and rose to the rafters. Some of the elves present appeared bored and impatient—they were there only because the ceremony about to take place involved a son of the lord of the valley, and it is never wise to antagonize those in power. Others felt genuine anticipation, and some of those were grouped together by the door. They were dressed in their finest robes, and surrounded a human boy who tugged at his own finery.
"Stop that, Estel. I do not think either one of us can face forcing you into another set of robes, if you spoil these."
"It is too tight across my shoulders, Elladan! What if it rips in front of everyone?"
"For the last time, they are supposed to fit like that! It just feels tight compared to your tunics."
Estel was not the only one who wished he was in his everyday clothing. "Honestly, Glorfindel, you are worse than Estel. Get your finger out of your collar, and stop pulling at it! How did you ever survive the formality of Gondolin?"
"Fortunately the Balrog killed me, before the politesse could!"
Elrohir was standing in the doorway, and called to the others, "Here he comes! He is not carrying anything, though."
Glorfindel snorted derisively. "He will not have it with him. It will be produced on cue, carried by four elves, each holding one corner of an enormous tasseled cushion!"
Estel's eyes widened to an impossible size. "Really?!"
Erestor smiled and smoothed Estle's unruly hair. "No, Estel. That is just Glorfindel's subtle way of saying he does not care for ceremonials."
Estel's excited expression dimmed. "I am sorry, Glorfindel. You do not have to stay…" He trailed off unhappily.
Erestor gave Glorfindel a 'Now look what you've done!' glare. Glorfindel hastened to assure Estel that he was more than delighted to be present when he received his First Sword. "For one thing, I am as much in the dark as you, for he has told no one of his final decision; I want to see what he has come up with. Ah, here he is! Elrond, are we ready to begin?"
The Lord of Imladris looked every inch a ruler, from the mithral circlet adorning his brow, to his heavy burgundy robes embroidered with blue and gold. "Yes, let us take our places."
The Hall quieted as Elrond, Glorfindel, and Estel stood at the head of the hall. Estel moved so that he was facing his father and the Marshall of Imladris. Elrond raised his voice and began. "My friends! We gather today for this momentous occasion in a young warrior's life…"
Estel let the words wash over him as he tried to slow his heartbeat. In just moments he would receive his First Sword. Although still very young, from this day forward he would be considered one of Imladris's defenders. His training would begin in earnest, and he would soon join some of the more routine and secure patrols. It was an important day in the life of any elf or man. And yet, although he would shortly hold out his hands to receive his very own sword, his thoughts returned to the humble blade in the Hall of Defenders. He doubted any other would ever feel so right in his hand.
Elrond spoke on, unable to suppress the pride he felt in his son. After what seemed an interminable time to most of the audience, he finally said the words all had been waiting for. "Bring forth the First Sword of Estel Elrondion!"
Glorfindel choked down a gasp of laughter at the sight of two—not four—elves carrying a large cushion-like object, about the size of a small door. The ancient warrior hissed at Erestor under his breath, "What? No tassels?"
The First Councilor stepped firmly on the instep of the Marshall of Imladris. "Quiet!"
The small platform was gently placed on a small pedestal to Elrond's right. Estel dared to sneak a quick glance and his anticipation dimmed a little. The sword on the velvet could not be Elros'. The blade was hidden in an intricately carved leathern scabbard, but the hilt was not the one that had come to his hand so easily. He gazed somberly at his father as Elrond reached for the scabbard and held it before him in both hands. He lowered his voice and looked directly at Estel. "Take your First Sword, my son."
Estel reached out both his hands at chest height and received the scabbard. The hilt that was close to his left hand was made to the same pattern as the sword he had wished to receive. However, where the older hilt had been near-black, this one shown with gold and silver. Instead of leather wrappings, thick wire coiled around the grip. Estel slowly turned and faced the audience, then raised his hands high, holding the sword over his head. Tumultuous applause and cries of: "Hail the defender of Imladris!" and "Wield it well, young warrior!" rang through the Hall.
Gradually the clamor died, and Estel felt everyone was watching him expectantly. Glorfindel touched his shoulder as he whispered, "Draw it, Estel."
Nodding, Estel shifted his grip and placed one hand on the hilt. He pulled, and with a sweet, soft hiss the blade came free. He lifted it high as again cheers broke out, and his heart began to bang in his chest. He swung the blade in a sweeping arc and more cheers answered the gesture. He swung again and finished the stroke with the blade high overhead, the torchlight flashing in brilliant highlights on the shining blade. He spun to face his father again, joy blazing in his eyes. "Ada!! It is the same – it is his! It must be, though I do not know why it looks so differently now."
Elrond smiled warmly. "It is the same. It is – was – Elros' sword. It is yours now." He gave the boy a quick hug, mindful of the newly sharp edge that was a little too close for comfort. "It looks differently because it has been cleaned of tarnish, and a new wrapping put on the grip." He sighed. "I am ashamed it ever came to be in such a state, but those days are past. I expect that you will take excellent care of it, will you not?"
As the boy earnestly promised, Elrond became somber. "Estel, listen carefully. I have gifted you this sword. You do not need to be careful with it, nor do you need to think of it as a treasure of my House. It is yours now. Use it hard and well – I have the strange feeling that it wants to be so used." He lifted the chin that was just beginning to lose its childishness, showing hints of the strength of the man to come. "My brother would be proud to know that he could be reach through the years and help his descendent. I am proud and happy to see it in your hands. Now – " He gave the chin a little push. "Go and show your new sword to your friends!"
Estel said with great seriousness, "I thank you, Ada, with all my heart." Then he turned and held the sword high again as he was surrounded by elves.
Glorfindel, who had no need to see yet another sword, smiled wryly at his friend. "So you gave it to him, after all. It is well done of you, but I was afraid you could not part with it."
Elrond placed a hand on his marshal's shoulder, turning him toward a lavish spread of refreshments. "I had no intention of giving it to him at first. But I have lived a long time, and seen many, many strange things – almost as many as you have. And one thing I have learned: do not fight the inexplicable, nor the inevitable. The sword wanted him. Do not look at me like that! You did not have it nearly take your head off, when I simply wanted to hang it back on the wall!"
"Well, since I will have to see the blasted thing nearly every day, I think I prefer to belive that you are merely an overly indulgent parent. I will sleep better if I do."
Elrond chuckled. "No wonder they call you wise. Wine?"
I lay upon the knees of my master. His fingers slowly circle, the little rag with its gritty kiss soothing us both, after a day of overmuch excitement. Wonder of wonders, I am his, and he is mine. Mine to teach, mine to protect, mine to serve. My restlessness is stilled by his hand. Tomorrow I will begin to make him into a warrior. My long wait has ended. I am content.