Of toddlers and porridge

The blond warrior grinned smugly as he moved his white horse forward and sideways.

"You did not think you could slip past that, did you?" he challenged his dark-haired opponent.

Erestor bit the inside of his lip to hide his glee as he slowly hovered his hand above the chess board, savouring the moment before making his master move. The former captain of King Turgon's army, now Chief of Defenses of Rivendell, the one who was widely known to be a brilliant strategist, had taken the bait.

"Check," he mouthed triumphantly as he replaced Glorfindel's white tower with his own black queen.

The eyes of the Golden One slowly widened as he assessed the new situation on the board.

"Will you not make your next move?" the Seneschal asked sweetly.

Glorfindel furrowed his brow as he once again considered his possible moves. Oh yes, he could get his king out of the danger zone. But then he would first lose his knight and then…

A broad smile appeared on the blond warrior's face as he tipped over his king.

"You win," he acknowledged with a dip of his head.

"And you shall wash Caradhras when next it is needed," Erestor quipped happily.

The large ginger mouser, who went by the same moniker as the infamous hostile mountain, sleepily looked up from his warm place by the fire at the sound of his name. A picture of brute strength though he was, the feline had a serious case of sensitive bowels. The poor beast periodically leaked brown liquid onto his furry posterior, much to his own chagrin and mortification. Worse even: Erestor vastly disapproved of the besmirched behind leaving brown 'I was here'-stamps around the kitchen. After several useless attempts to keep Lord Caradhras out of his 'favored domain' on Diarrhea-Days (or short: D-Days) Erestor had eventually decided that bathing the bloody cat after an 'accident' was less of a torment than enduring the ear-shattering, gut-wrenching roars and cries of the violent ginger monster when he was locked outside the door.

Glorfindel grimaced, but then smiled benignly at the Great Wielder of Talons by the fire. "I shall, shall I not...you orange Breath of Doom?" he cooed.

Caradhras purred and blinked serenely, lowering his head onto his front paws to continue his nap.

"Dangerously deceptive," Erestor observed as he went to fill the kettle for more tea.

A loud giggle could be heard from the corridor, announcing the approach of the newest inhabitant of the Last Homely House, and the door was flung open.

"Wor-fee!" came an excited squeal.

The small bundle of energy on Elladan's arm bounced his swaddled behind up and down and two little hands�were stretched towards the Golden Warrior.

"Hello Estel!" Glorfindel smiled, standing up to receive the precious young cargo into his arms.

"Worfee, fly?" the toddler begged, giving his new friend a slobbery kiss.

With a broad grin the warrior turned the two-year-old around and tossed him back to Elladan.

"You forgot to wipe him," the Golden One chided with mock-sternness.

"I do beg your pardon," Elladan smiled, deftly catching and turning the toddler in his arms. "But he is dripping ongoingly. Ada says it is the new teeth."

With a whoop of delight the giggling child flew in a high arch through the kitchen and was caught – safely – by Glorfindel.

"You shall make him sick," came Erestor's dry comment from the range.

The child whirled around on Glorfindel's arm.

"Yestor!" he exclaimed excitedly.

"Down! Down!" he ordered the blond warrior, impatiently kicking his little legs and prying at Glorfindel's fingers to make the strong hands release him. No sooner had the little feet touched the ground, or the toddler launched himself at the raven-haired Noldo.

"Yestor, cookie?" he asked hopefully. Huge grey eyes beamed up at the Seneschal's face.

"No, tithen pen, it will soon be time for your meal," Erestor said kindly.

Undaunted by this initial denial of his request, the 2-year-old carefully enunciated "Eh-yestor, Agorn cookie peese?"

"A four-word-sentence!" Elladan whispered excitedly in the background.

"How does he do it?" Glorfindel whispered back, pointing to the Seneschal. "Three weeks here and he already has him trained to say please!"

Erestor smiled down on the charming child in front of him. "No, little one. The milk for your evening porridge is already getting hot. Go to Glorfindel for your napkin and sit on your chair."

The child paused and studied Erestor's face with interest.

"'Stel cookie peese?" he played out his final trump.

He had discovered that the use of that particular name brought him far more praise and reward from his caretakers than his old name Aragorn.

"No Estel, you may not have a cookie," Erestor repeated slowly and with emphasis. He took the child by the hand and deposited him in Glorfindel's care.

The blond Elf aptly distracted the hungry child by tossing a napkin over the tousled head, whispering 'peek-a-boo' in the little, round ears. The toddler giggled and avidly began to climb the warrior's velvet-clad chest, not stopping until he was comfortably seated on the strong, broad shoulders. "Ride, horsey!" he commanded, taking a firm grip on the earpoints that so easily presented themselves for this purpose.

While Glorfindel neighed and galloped through the kitchen with Estel, the Seneschal set to work preparing a delicious oatmeal porridge with honey, raisins, pieces of apple, cinnamon and butter. Placing the steaming bowl on the table, he gave a spoon and napkin in Elladan's hands and pointedly cleared his throat to direct the blonde to place the youthful knight on his wooden high chair.

o-o-o

Grey eyes looked into grey eyes as the heavily laden spoon journeyed from the porridge bowl towards a wide open mouth.

"And this one is for…?" Elladan asked, using the now empty spoon to 'shave off' Estel's 'beard'.

"Papa!" Estel smiled happily.

Glorfindel chuckled. After a spoonful 'for mama' it was only natural that the next one was 'for papa'. He briefly touched his hand to Elladan's knee when he saw a look of anguish flicker in the younger Elf's eyes.

"He is at peace now, Elladan," the ancient warrior spoke softly.

"I should have scouted the area myself that night," Elladan whispered back, so softly that the child would not hear.

"You decided to stay by his side," was Glorfindel's calm, hushed reply. "Had the orcs attacked while you were away, you would have blamed yourself the other way round. Now dry your tears and feed that enormous cave beside you."

The spoon with porridge had halted in mid-air, and Estel, mouth wide open, was grasping the front of his tray and leant forward as far as he could – as though hoping to entice the spoon to come to his mouth of its own accord.

"Forgive me, Estel. The next one is for…?" Elladan hurried to ask, shoving the spoon into the hungry mouth before wiping it again.

"Ada!" smiled the sprout.

Behind them, Erestor's eyes filled with silent tears. How had the child come to accept his new family so easily?

"Very good!" Elladan praised. "And…this one?"

"El-yo-hir!" piped the tike.

"Ah! Elrohir will be glad! He loves porridge!" Elladan smirked, giving Glorfindel a knowing wink. His brother had always despised porridge – no matter what delightful fruit or amount of honey Erestor had put into it.

"Elladan, if you put less on the spoon, there will be less on his face," remarked the Seneschal, watching the oldest twin perfect his 'shaving skills'.

Estel obediently opened his mouth to eat his beard.

"Now, let me see, what do we have here?" the young peredhel asked, as the spoon emerged from the bowl crowned with some apple and some raisins.

"To whom shall we give this delicious treat?" the twin asked the child, his eyes twinkling when the grey eyes went round.

The toddler furrowed his brow as he looked around. To El'dan? To Yestor? Or…?

"Worfee!" he announced brightly.

The golden-haired Elf instantly opened his mouth widely, evoking giggles from the child, laughter from Elladan and a snort from Erestor.

But when Elladan actually moved his hand in Glorfindel's direction, Estel hurriedly opened his own mouth as wide as he could, leaning forward over his tray towards the spoon.

Elladan stopped and gave the child a feigned look of surprise.

"Do you want it?" he asked.

Estel nodded vigorously, and Elladan slowly moved the spoon towards the youngster. Then Glorfindel opened his mouth even wider and leant across the table, pointing at himself, just like the toddler did.

"Aah! Aah! Aah!" the two-year-old pleaded with his mouth wide open.

The spoon travelled from in front of Glorfindel's mouth to in front of Estel's and back. The small Dunadan slapped his hand on the table – tonsils showing – and fervently pulled at Elladan's sleeve to get the Elf's attention, emitting a loud "Ng ng ng!" when Glorfindel almost managed to snag that yummy bite off the spoon!

The spoon circled around the table in figure eights, until, the very moment Elladan steered the spoon within reach of the little hands, Estel grasped Elladan's wrist and hurriedly closed his mouth around the soft delight.

Glorfindel chuckled as the child sat back in his chair and gave a contented sigh, munching on the apple and raisin.

"And this one is for…?" Elladan asked, holding out another spoonful.

"For 'Stel!" the child said quickly, hurriedly opening his mouth again.

o-o-o

As Elladan continued feeding him, the two-year-old kept a close eye on the Balrog Slayer and on the bowl of porridge. Just imagine that the hungry blond Elf would try to 'steal' another bite of his delicious meal!

Glorfindel pouted most convincingly, pretending to be deeply hurt that he did not get fed.

As the bottom of the bowl slowly came in sight – and the child's worst hunger was satiated – Estel began to giggle about the antics of the golden-haired Elf-Lord. Encouraged by this success, the Balrog Slayer upped the game by crossing his eyes and sticking out his tongue, causing the two-year-old to burst out in hysterical laughter…precisely when he closed his lips around another spoonful!

"Ack! Glorfindel!" the eldest of Lord Elrond's sons exclaimed, as he was sprayed with a shower of porridge.

Estel happily clapped his hands when he realized he had managed to do something new, and the peredhel laughed heartily at the utter delight on the little one's face. With a playful grin the Elf bent forward and wiped his face on Estel's bib, blowing a raspberry on the squealing toddler's tummy before refilling the spoon.

Up out of the bowl the spoon went… towards the toddler's mouth…

Glorfindel bit the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing as that which he had silently predicted came to pass: Estel blew a loud raspberry in his porridge, spraying more oatmeal around the kitchen.

"Estel, no!"

Elladan half-heartedly tried to sound firm, but when the child burst into peals of laughter, the peredhel could not resist and crossed his eyes, just like Glorfindel had done before. Estel cheekily stuck out his tongue and blew a raspberry in the air, which Elladan repeated and the two of them dissolved into giggles.

The Balrog Slayer exchanged a knowing glance with Erestor as Estel bounced up and down in his chair. Ah! But Elladan was simply asking for it now!

The Seneschal solemnly stood by the sink – his arms crossed, but his features relaxed – and calmly watched the proceedings. Elrond's Chief Advisor was intentionally allowing Elladan a most valuable lesson in child-rearing today. He would not interfere…yet.

The spoon once again coursed towards the toddler, but when Estel drew a deep breath and eagerly eyed the porridge, ready to blow into his spoon again, Elladan withdrew it.

"No Estel, no raspberries," the twin said kindly.

Estel eyed the spoon and waited, but Elladan was no fool.

A frown appeared above the youngster's eyes as he pondered how to make the spoon come closer. Finally, understanding sinking in, the little mouth opened wide.

Elladan smiled approvingly and filled the pink, little cave with porridge.

"That's very g… Argh!"

A third volley of oatmeal porridge splattered into Elladan's face.

The peredhel was far from losing his patience with the young Dunadan – whose loud, excited giggles inadvertently brought another smile to the ellon's face – but Elladan did begin to see that the game the child was playing could not continue like this.

"No, Estel! No raspberries!" the son of Elrond said a little more firmly, with a sideways glance to his Captain and the Seneschal.

But even as he said it, it was clear that the hysterically giggling two-year-old was amusing himself far too much to heed these words. Elladan carefully tried again, his eyes alert for any sign that another raspberry was coming as he scooped up some porridge.

"No Estel!" he warned, as the little lips pouted for a renewed attempt as the spoon approached. Determined to make his point, Elladan resolutely set the bowl and spoon back on the table and raised his eyebrows in an uncanny imitation of his father.

"No!" he said sternly.

Unimpressed, Estel smiled his most charming and disarming smile. He blew a raspberry in the air and dissolved into another fit of delighted giggles.

When Elladan made no attempt to continue feeding him, the toddler changed tactics.

"Aah!" he said pointedly, opening his mouth wide while eyeing the raven-haired twin.

Though enamoured by the sweet display, Elladan decided to wait a little longer to allow the lesson to sink in.

"Aah! Ahaa!" Estel urged, a little louder now, leaning forward in his chair and tilting his head.

When Elladan kept ignoring his plea, the determined toddler tried to reach for the bowl. Panting and grunting with the effort, he grabbed the front of his tray and stretched out his hand, pushing himself forward until his fingers just grazed the end of the spoon.

Elladan shoved the bowl a little further away from the child and looked into the pleading grey eyes.

Pointing a chubby finger towards the bowl, Estel smacked his lips and mimicked chewing. He reached for Elladan's hand and tried to shove it towards the spoon.

"More peese, El'dan," he tried, making sure to smile kindly.

Elladan bit his lip to hide his grin and picked up the spoon.

"No more raspberries!" he spoke firmly.

"No more," the child repeated compliantly, shaking his head.

Two spoonfuls of porridge disappeared into the child's mouth without incident. But at the third, promise forgotten, the mischievous little boy treated an increasingly desperate Elladan to another squirt of the soft, sticky oats!

Erestor chuckled inwardly as he watched with interest how Elladan would handle this. Lord Elrond's Chief Advisor was vividly reminded of another such scene, nearly three-thousand years earlier, when two identical elflings had played this same game with a certain Seneschal!

Glorfindel, too, bit his lip in delight, as memories of a very determined, dark-haired little elleth – covered from head to toe in porridge – came back to him.

"Glorfindel, what do I do?" Elladan whispered urgently.

"Just stop feeding him," the Balrog Slayer smirked. "He will learn."

"There is a third of the porridge left. If he does not eat it all, I fear he might get hungry before dawn and wake up during the night," Elladan whispered back, looking to the Seneschal for aid. "What if he wakes the entire household? What if he changes his sleeping hours?"

Erestor smiled warmly, but decided to refrain from commenting. In the Seneschal's mind, the eldest son of Lord Elrond needed just a little more desperation, to ensure that the lesson would definitely hit home.

Elladan sighed and looked at the wide open mouth beside him – and at the twinkling little eyes above it!

In the corner by the fire Caradhras leapt down from the chair on which he had been dozing, stretched, and came over to the table to sniff the splatters of oatmeal on the ground, purring contentedly as he busied himself to lick them all up.

"Pusss!" squealed the child.

Seizing the opportunity, Elladan used the distraction to shovel a few spoonfuls down the little boy's throat. But:

"Pfffrrrt!"

Caradhras indignantly leapt aside as splatters of porridge landed on his pristine ginger fur – haughtily looking up at the wildly giggling child. Then the solidly built mouser curiously sniffled the new tidbits on the ground, and stoically continued his meal.

o-o-o

"Glorfindel...please! I beg you! Make…him…stop!" Elladan pleaded.

Glorfindel looked at the twin's flustered expression. The two-year-old bundle of energy appeared to be having the time of his life, but the Chief of Defenses agreed with Elladan that it was time for the game to end. Estel was still finding out how his new life in the Last Homely House was different from his life among the Dúnedain; it would not be fair to let the child believe that he was able to get away with this.

A slender hand appeared in front of Elladan, holding a wet rag. The spoon was taken from the twin's fingers and deposited in the Balrog Slayer's large paw.

"You started this, you might as well help end it now," the Seneschal told the Chief of Defenses sternly. "Watch Glorfindel, Elladan, and learn!"

The Balrog Slayer eyed the Seneschal questioningly.

"I taught you how to handle this," Erestor reminded the blond. "Remember the day I came to your rescue with Arwen?"

"Arwen?" Elladan echoed incredulously. "Arwen never did this!"

"Oh yes, she did!" the Balrog Slayer and Seneschal replied in unison.

"With your father and myself busy in his office, your mother insisting that she must plant her gardenias that day, and the two of you getting the dust beaten out of you on the training fields, Glorfindel kindly volunteered to take care of Arwen for an afternoon," the Seneschal elaborated. "By the time I returned to the kitchen, Glorfindel looked like he had bathed in oatmeal."

Elladan grinned broadly. It would seem that he was not doing such a bad job feeding Estel, then.

"Show Elladan how it is done," Erestor ordered his friend.

Glorfindel chuckled and picked up the spoon, taking the bowl from Elladan and pulling the high chair plus Estel a little closer.

"So?" he asked the child. "Still hungry?"

Estel eyed the Balrog Slayer with suspicion. Was 'Worfee' going to eat his porridge again?

Glorfindel scooped up some oatmeal and held out the spoon. "Aah!" the blond haired Elf encouraged, leading by example.

The pink little cave opened wide, closed around the spoon and... miraculously remained shut until the porridge had gone down. But this 'new-feeder-effect' did not last beyond the first filling:

"Pffrrt!" came the loud raspberry. But Glorfindel was quicker. He had held his free hand below Estel's napkin, and when the child blew his raspberry, Glorfindel quickly held the cloth in front of the toddler's mouth, keeping the porridge inside.

Paying no further attention to the fact that the child had 'done the forbidden', Glorfindel waited until Estel swallowed, and then shoveled another spoonful into the waiting mouth. Once again the quick use of the napkin prevented the porridge from flying around pointy ears.

"Elladan, first of all you need to remember that when children begin to play with their food, they either do not like it, or it means they have had enough," Erestor smiled.

"And you tell me now?" Elladan groaned.

"When you laughed about his antics, you rewarded and encouraged him," the Seneschal pointed out. "He believes it is an exciting game. Can you see how you brought this upon yourself?"

"I do now," nodded Elladan, smiling at the bemused expression on the child's face as Glorfindel wordlessly pressed the napkin against his mouth.

"The key is to make it very boring for him to blow his raspberries," Erestor finished. "And not to keep telling him off, for that too is a response."

True enough, without any response from his caretakers save the napkin pressed against his mouth, the little Dunadan soon lost his interest in continuing his folly. When Glorfindel scraped the last bits of porridge from the bowl, the napkin was no longer used.

"There, finished!" Glorfindel smiled, showing Estel the empty bowl and holding out his hands to lift the toddler from his chair.

"Fly!" Estel squealed.

"Ai, little one. No flying now! You must wait for your meal to settle," Erestor intervened before the blond could comply. "You may sit by the fire with Glorfindel and sing songs."

"I can do that," Elladan offered, holding out his hands to take the child. But the Seneschal tutted and shook his head. The Chief of the Kitchens had quite a different idea in mind! Erestor held up the wet rag and pointedly gave it to the twin.

"I believe you have other duties to finish before you can play with the child, young one. You shall first clean up my kitchen floor – and then you will take a bath and change your clothes!"

o-o-o

Erestor stretched his feet towards the fire as he sipped his tea. The sleeping child on Glorfindel's chest snored softly, and Caradhras lay rolled up on the Seneschal's lap, purring contentedly. The raven-haired Noldo was certain that, by now, Elladan would be filling in his twin on the events in the kitchen. He hoped fervently that today's lesson would bear some fruit!

Fifty years earlier, a rambunctious ten-year-old Arathorn had arrived in Rivendell to be fostered, just like his ancestors before him. Though Elladan and Elrohir had mostly been away hunting orcs with the rangers, they had had no qualms whatsoever to undo nearly all of Erestor's efforts to raise the child whenever they had returned to Imladris. Taking great delight in planning mischief together with the eager young lad, the twins had turned a blind eye to the consequences for the child, who had routinely continued his boisterous pranks even after the sons of Lord Elrond had left on yet another of their missions.

Arathorn son of Arador had been more than a handfull for the Elves of the Last Homely House. For, inspired by the Twin-Masters of Mischief, the lad had gone out of his way to live up to their example, which unfortunately had also cost him dearly. The number of hours spent in punishment time had been higher than any of his caretakers had liked. And yet…each and every time the twins returned home, the youngest Heir of Isildur had forgotten all of his promises to Elrond and his staff, and had fallen back into his mischievous ways. If he could prevent it, Erestor would not have a repeat of that situation with young Aragorn!

The little one stirred and snuggled closer to the Balrog Slayer's chest.

A silent tear dripped down Erestor's cheek as he remembered the endless hours he had spent chasing the inexhaustible child Arathorn. Never again would Erestor hear the raucous laughter sounding up the hallway if the shaggy ranger unexpectedly came to visit. Never again would the boisterous Dunadan barge into the kitchen and lift the Seneschal off his feet to spin him around. Never again would he…

A gentle hand was placed upon Erestor's forearm.

"I miss him, too..." Glorfindel spoke softly. "I shall miss rolling him through the mud in hand to hand combat, and chasing him away from my biscuits…and I shall miss teaching him about the stars and the Valar, and learning new dwarf-songs from him during the night's watch… But now we have this little one to take care of, mellon nín. Let him heal your heart, for he needs our love."

Glorfindel carefully placed the sleeping child in Erestor's arms.

"Let him sleep here with you for a while and let me take care of you. Would you like some tea?"

The fire crackled peacefully when Glorfindel brought a tray with muffins and tea, and then quietly set to work setting up the pieces on the chessboard.

"Now… If I win, you will help me bathe Lord Talon here. If you win…"

THE END

Translations:

tithen penlittle one

peredhelhalf-elven (singular)

elleth - elf-maiden

mellon nín - my friend

AN: Dear readers and friends, I must ask you for some patience with the long intervals between my updates. I am facing challenges with my health, which have been inhibiting my ability to write. Updates for 'A Prank On Glorfindel' and 'Glorfindel and the Mearas' are planned, as well as a new story about Celeborn and the twins. But like you, I must wait for healthy days before these updates can be written.

Many thanks to Ivy and Puddley for their encouragement and help with this chapter!

Esteliel