Title: Of Apples and Squirrels
Author: Calenlass Greenleaf
Disclaimer: All inhabitants of Rivendell that are known belong to Tolkien.
Rating: PG. No adult themes. No pairings except for the ones already established by the creator.
Summary: A story based on the time when I was about thirteen or fourteen and when grandmother decided to wage war against the squirrels that stole the apples from our trees. A little Estel who has his own apple tree feels as if the squirrels were stealing from him.
A/N: I've been allergic to apples since I was eight, and therefore can only eat the apples my family has planted. So this story is also written as an effort to try to remember the taste of apples—it's been many, many years since I last ate a real one—the squirrels have been winning, I'm afraid…and I no longer have an apple tree to eat from. -Sighs longingly-
A/N #2: Written to relieve writer's block. I'm stuck on "Bring Him Home" and a couple of other things. Finally unstuck, I think.
Warning: This may or may not be canonical. Unbeta-ed, except by me.
End of long header. Please proceed to the story.
Of Apples and Squirrels
Perhaps the obsession with the fruit began when he was still a babe. Or perhaps when he was older. Or maybe he inherited it from his father—Arathorn had the same fixation—and from the rest of Elros' descendants. Whatever the reason was, Elrond would never know.
It did not matter—five-year-old Estel loved apples, their juicy taste, and the crunchiness when he bit into them. In winter he would often steal away to the pantry and enjoy an apple or two. And during the summer he even gathered apples and kept them in his room so he would always have a snack.
And now he had a plan—a plan to grow his own tree. No longer would he have to ask his Ada for apples; he would be capable of getting them himself.
These thoughts were running through the child's head and he waited for his bedtime story that night. He had already asked him mother, who told him to ask Elrond for permission. He now sat on his bed, twitching with impatience and excitement.
At last, his father entered the room. Smiling, he shouted, "Ada! I have something to tell you."
The elf laughed and sat down at the side of this bed. "What is it, iôn nîn?"
"Galadhlin told me about the apple trees in your garden." The boy's grey eyes were bright. "He told me I could have one if I asked Naneth, and Naneth said I should ask you, and so, can I?"
"You mean 'may I,' Estel." The elf corrected him. "But why?"
"So I no longer have to ask you for them! I can also eat them whenever I want?" He grinned brightly. "Please, please, please? Galadhlin also said it would be good for me to learn…um, reposa—resporso—"
The child nodded enthusiastically. "So…may I?" Grey eyes anxiously stared into the ageless face. "Please?"
Elrond smiled. "I do not see why not." He replied. "As long as you remember to take care of it every day, and—"
"I will, I will." Estel tightly hugged his father. "Thank you!" He snuggled against his father. "Story, Ada?" he asked.
Chuckling, Elrond smoothed back the dark hair of the boy and began.
Little Estel was faithful in tending to his tree. Elladan and Elrohir jokingly said to their father—out of earshot of their brother—that it seemed all of Isildur's heirs had a strange liking to trees.
"Do you remember when Isildur thought it brave to steal a fruit of Nimloth from under the noses of the Ar-Pharazôn's guards?" Elladan chuckled. "I remember you told us that you believe all his heirs had inherited his stubborn streak."
"And I still believe that," his father answered. "I fear for young Estel when he is older—and the poor people he will involve in one of his schemes." He said it so darkly that both of his sons laughed.
"We are three of them, Adar," Elrohir was sitting near the fire in the room which they were in. He was fixing the strap of his quiver. "Do you remember what he did only two days ago?"
Elladan snorted. "He tried to bake a pie using dirt, and then told us to eat it."
"And the two of you had enough sense not to," Elrond added, smiling a bit. "Let us pray it is the last he tries to bake."
They were interrupted by Estel, who had come barging in covered with mud. He was shouting incoherently, face aglow with rage. Elrond stood up and held out a hand. "Calm down, Estel, and tell me what is wrong."
The child took a breath and blurted out, "The squirrels are eating all my apples!" He stomped his foot in frustration. "They're eating everything! I tried to shoo them, but they just keep comin' and comin' Ada." He plopped into a chair and folded his chairs. "They threw acorns at me and ran off when I tried to chase them," He stuck his lower lip out, and was the perfect picture of a pouting child. "I hate those nasty things."
Elrohir coughed and suddenly left the room. "Pardon me," he mumbled. "I left my knife in my room—need it to mend my quiver."
Elladan was not so discreet about his mirth. He smiled at his youngest brother. "It is not so bad, Estel."
"It is, too!" The boy fired back. "They'll leave none for me, and I like apples better than THEY do!" His emphasis on "I" and "they" made his brother laugh. "See for yourself, Ell'dan." He began kicking the legs of chair.
"I need not. I know—"
"Enough." Shaking his head, Elrond held up his hand for peace. "Estel, do not abuse the furniture." He turned to Elladan. "Go and make yourself useful."
"Then I will go and bother Elrohir."
"Yes, yes, as long as you leave Glorfindel and Erestor alone and do not set the house on fire."
"I am not a child, Adar." Obediently his son got up and left the room. "As long as Estel is not as passionate as Isildur was about fruit, I do not think there will be any problems." He escaped before Elrond could say anything.
"Who's Isildur?" Estel asked innocently.
"Someone who was long dead. I will tell you more about him in the future," Elrond hastily replied. And not anytime in the near future, he thought to himself. Elladan, you and I will have a talk tonight, if possible…
"What did Elladan mean 'as long as I'm not as passhun—passionate as Isildur was about fruit,' Ada?" The child swung his feet carelessly as he gazed at Elrond.
Reluctantly, Elrond decided to talk a little bit more on the subject of Isildur. "Do you remember what I told you about Númenor?" At Estel's nod, the peredhel continued. "And the Ar-Pharazôn?"
"I remember. But what does what have anything to do with a tree?" He thought for a moment. "I know! He wanted to eat all the fruit, so 'Sildur had to go and punish him. Did he come and strike him down with a sword?"
There was a smothered laugh from the behind the door. The Lord of Imladris also suppressed a smile. "Not quite, but close. The king wanted to burn down the tree—"
"Why? Trees are nice. At least, when no squirrels live in them." He made a face.
"Because Someone bad told him to do it." One could actually hear the capital "S" in that sentence. "So, one night, Isildur went past the guards, disguised so that no one would recognize him, and stole a fruit right from the tree, and ran off with it."
"Did anyone catch him? Was there a fight?" Estel leaned forward. "Did he get away?"
"He got away, injured but alive." His father replied. "And a tree now thrives in Gondor."
"Good. Isildur sounds like a nice person." The boy bounced in his seat. "Maybe one day I can be like him and do great things."
A strangled sound came from the hallway. Elrond coughed discreetly. "Perhaps, Estel. Perhaps. You are still far too young."
"Youalways say that." Estel folded his arms and frowned. "You say that about everything. I don't think it's fair at all."
"And I will say it until the day I deem you old enough to be on your own."
"But Ada—" a thoughtful look appeared on the boy's face. "Maybe-maybe I can be like him."
"What do you mean, iôn?"
"It means that I can go and defend my apples!" Estel pushed himself off his chair and ran toward the elf sitting across him. "Can I throw stones at them?"
This time, Elladan's laughter could clearly be heard. Since when did this innocent child become such a bloodthirsty little warrior? Elrond thought. "Nay!" he said firmly. "You certainly may not!"
"But," The eager look was replaced by one of sadness. "They'll eat all my apples!" he wailed. "And there won't be any left for me!"
Elladan wondered if this would be a good time to call Gilraen. Beside him, Elrohir nudged his arm. "If he had not started crying, this all would have been rather amusing. Perhaps it could be useful information when he is older."
"Shh! I cannot hear when you are whispering in my ear!" Elladan absently pushed his brother away, though in reality, he liked Elrohir's idea.
Elrond gathered the child up in his arms, seeing he was on the verge of tears. "Hush now, penneth," he said quietly. "Have you ever considered that the squirrels might think the tree was theirs?"
Indignant, Estel placed his hands his against his father's shoulders and began pushing, trying to get down. "But you said it was mine," he insisted. "My tree, my apples!"
"No one told the squirrels." Elrond merely gripped the boy a little tighter, not even wincing when a small fist smacked him squarely in the chest. He had, after all, raised three children of his own along with twenty-four Heirs of Isildur before Estel. "Squirrels are not people, Estel nîn. They probably think that you were stealing from them."
At this, the child ceased his squirming and looked up. "Oh," he said in small voice. "I hadn't thought of that."
"Exactly." The half elf loosened his hold on the boy. "Squirrels like apples, maybe even more than you do. Would you take away from them something they enjoy?"
Estel looked properly horrified. "Then what should I do?" he asked, fiddling with one of Elrond's braids.
"There is nothing you can do," The elf lord replied, tucking his hair away from his face. "Except perhaps not yell at the squirrels." He smiled. "There are other apple trees in Imladris, penneth. There will be plenty left."
"For winter, too?"
"Aye. Enough apples to last you until throughout the year."
The child pushed away from his father. "But I hate it when they throw acorns at me."
Elrond chuckled. "I can do nothing about that, Estel." He leaned close to whisper into the boy's ear. "Be glad that Rivendell's squirrels are not like the black squirrels that live in Mirkwood."
"You will have to ask your brother about their encounter with those…vicious beings."
Two loud shouts of protests could be heard. Giggling, Estel slid off Elrond's lap and ran off. "Tell me, El!" Elrond heard him say as he rounded the door. "Or I'll tell Ada about the time you two—"
"Hush, Estel!" Elrohir hissed. "Ada is not supposed to know about that! You promised!"
Elrond laughed to himself. Oh, the trouble the child would get into when he was older. As he left the room, sparing only one glance at the three who were wrestling on the ground, he headed for the kitchens. Pushing the door open the half-elf walked over to a storage room stocked with item. He reached in and pulled out an apple. With a smile, Elrond Peredhel took a bite from the fruit, savoring the taste.
Who said he did not love apples as much as his brother?
Ten years later…
Estel tiptoed down the stairs, his feet making no sound on the carpeted stairs. One hand gripped the railing, the other clutching a blanket wrapped around his shoulders.
It was late at night; Rivendell was quiet, save for the sounds of nocturnal creatures. Estel had awoken some time ago, hungry and thirsty. He was no longer the small, energetic child who kept the inhabitants of Rivendell running in circles, but a youth of fifteen years with an insatiable appetite. Ada said it was only because he was growing. He grimaced. Though he liked the fact that he was growing, and was nearly as tall as his brothers, he hated the gnawing feel of hunger; it seemed to him he was constantly snacking on something.
He reached the kitchens without a problem. Hurriedly closing the door behind him, he lit a candle, blinking as he adjusted to the light. It cast a warm glow throughout the room, and he went in search of something to eat. As he rummaged through the pantries, he found a flask of miruvor. He grinned; neither Ada nor his brother would let him drink much of the cordial. Holding the miruvor in one hand, Estel continued searching until he came upon something that brought a delighted grin to his face.
Apples; an entire barrel of them.
With a happy sigh, he sat down near the closet door, setting the flask next to him as he polished the piece of fruit on his shirt sleeve before taking a bite. Unbeknownst to him, he looked rather like a squirrel, curled up in the corner, grasping an apple between his hands and chewing with obvious satisfaction.
He sipped some miruvor, savoring the taste, wondering why his father never let him have too much. "It is not as if I will sicken from drinking it," he muttered as he dropped the core next to him and reached for another. "Then again, they never let me drink wine. I have to wait until I am twenty. Twenty! Five more years…" his voice trailed off he gulped more of the drink. The boy felt content, now that he knew where all the apples and miruvor were kept. Perhaps during Yuletide, he could sneak in and enjoy a meal of his own…
He blinked, feeling rather tired. How did he have to drink? He looked at the flask; it was nearly empty. Dropping it back down, he rubbed his eyes, yawning. It was still night; he probably could sleep here until morning. The half-eaten apple dropped from his hand and rolled from the hand as pulled the blanket tighter about him and closed his eyes. In a few minutes he was snoring.
Elrond looked down at his sleeping son. The boy's head rested against the wall, hair tousled and mouth slightly open. Elladan smiled as he stooped to pick up the apple his youngest brother had not yet finished, while Elrohir snatched up the miruvor. "He has had nearly an entire bottle!" The twin whispered loudly, for fear of waking Estel.
Their father sighed. "How many apples are missing?"
"Only a few. He apparently drank more than he ate." Elladan showed him the barrel. "And a good thing, too, else he is going to wake up with more than a headache."
Estel stirred in his sleep, mumbling under his breath something inaudible. Elrohir bent down and managed to pick his brother up without disturbing his sleep. "Shall I take him to his room?"
"Yes." Elrond turned to leave for his study. "Call me when he awakens."
Elladan snorted and looked at his sleeping brothers as they started up the stairs. "Estel is going to get an earful from Ada." he said ominously.
"And his mother," Elrohir added, "and I do not feel a least bit sorry for him. We have told him many times not to consume too much miruvor."
"He simply does not listen very well, does he, brother?"
"Nay, he does not." They reached Estel's room, where Elrohir laid the boy down on his bed and pulled the covers over him. "Elladan, the curtains."
Elrohir gave him a look. "Because when he awakes, he most likely will have a massive headache, and bright sunlight will do nothing for it."
The oldest son of Elrond let out a soft sigh as he pulled the curtains shut, darkening the room. "You always learn the hard way, Estel. You cannot say we did not warn you."
Indeed, Estel did receive a lecture from both his ada and his mother. In addition, Elrond made him swallow a spoonful of something "incredibly nasty," in the boy's own words, claiming it would take away his headache. He also was not allowed to leave his room for the day.
The youth sat on his balcony, not bothering to pace even in his frustration for fear his headache would come back. He kicked at the closed doors with one foot, sighing heavily as he watched the snow fall. If only he had not drunk so much of that miruvor; he might have had a chance to return to his room before anyone else awoke.
But...at least he was not entirely deprived. After making sure no one was outside his room, Estel reached for the blanket that he had wrapped himself in only a few hours ago, and pulled out an apple from its fold. The fruit itself was slightly bruised, but otherwise good. He returned to his place at the balcony, humming to himself as he admired the fruit.
A flash a brown caught his eye. Estel stood and pressed his face close to the glass, curious. A lone squirrel scampered across the snow, obviously searching for food. It climbed one tree and jumped to another, tail flicking in the air as it did so.
The boy smiled, recalling the conversation he had with his father years ago concerning squirrels. He had not changed much; he was still fond of apples. But…perhaps his opinion of squirrels had changed. Estel looked down at the apple he held, turning it over and over. The red of the fruit was beautiful, a deep crimson that was unblemished. At last, he opened the balcony door a crack. Kneeling down, he stuck his hand out and dropped the apple on the snow.
Estel watched as the squirrel cautiously climbed down from a tree and edged toward the apple. It seemed to be pondering whether it should take it or nor, but finally, it skittered across the snow, snatched the apple up in its mouth, and dashed away. The youth let out a chuckle as he shut the door and rubbed his hands, blowing on them.
"What are you laughing about?" he turned to see Elrohir standing behind him, holding a cup of tea.
"Nothing," Estel reached for the cup, still smiling. "but a squirrel, gwador." His grey eyes were bright and danced with the light of knowing a private joke. "And an apple."
Ada – Daddy
Iôn nîn – my son
Galadhlin – "Song of the Trees" (I'm at a loss for names here…)
Gwador – brother
Penneth – young one
Gwador – brother (sworn)
A/N:For those of you who haven't read the Silmarillion, yes, Isildur did actually steal a fruit from the tree Nimloth during Ar-Pharazôn's time. It was the only way the Tree was preserved. He nearly died in the attempt. But I think it was very heroic of him. As to what kind of fruit, I don't know. But the White Tree is definitely NOT an apple tree. :D The bunny was inspired by a scene in FOTR, the movie. See if you know it. Also inspired by two of Evergreene's stories, "Into the Frying Pan" and "Games People Play." Stories are available on FF-Net.
A/N #2: No animals—not even squirrels—were harmed either in this story or in my real life. The worst was that they were sprayed by my brother's water gun. My grandmother encouraged it. Don't ask why; I still don't know.
A/N #3: "Bring Him Home" will be finished soon, rest assured. I've only got one and a half more pages to go.