Title: Just Rocks

Author: Calenlass Greenleaf

Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me. I would like to have Erestor as a muse, but he refuses. Any ideas on how to bribe him would be appreciated. As for the plot—it's based on a real story.

Rating: PG

Characters: Estel and Erestor. Not the fic I promised for NiRi—still working on that one.

Timeframe: Ranging, but when the story ends, The Qualities of a Ranger should take place. There also bits of spoilers for Apostate's Ruse, and the sequel to Apostate's Ruse (Which is unwritten, but I'm giving hints to it).

Genre: Family/Friendship. Smidgen of angst. No slash.

Summary: Even simple things such as rocks can hold some importance. Featuring Estel and Erestor. Written for OAA Prompt 127—Stone. This counts as a normal fic, however, because I couldn't make the 500 mark. Not even after cutting out stuff could I make it. :(

A/N: I don't know who began the "Erestor teaches Estel" thing. It wasn't I.

A/N #2: Thanks go to Linda Hoyland and Lissas Elves for pointing out the typos! :) Also, I revised bits of this fic.

Just Rocks

(Year 2,936 of the Third Age)

He stretched his arm up, straining his fingers and wiggling them in an attempt to reach the second-to-top shelf. The chair wobbled beneath him, and he caught hold of the shelf, fingers moving toward the box.

A hand came from nowhere and snatched the box away. Startled, he pitched backwards but was caught and lowered to the ground. Dust floated down with him, and he sneezed a few times.

"What do you think you are doing, Estel?" Erestor scolded as he set the boy down, still holding the box. "How many times have I told you that standing on a chair is not safe? Ladders were invented for a reason, child."

"But you don't keep a ladder in your room!" Estel protested. He glanced up longingly at the box, and then sneezed again.

"I have no need for one, nor did I expect a little robber to come ravage my room." The elf turned to face him, irritation written on his face. "Now wipe your nose and answer my first question."

"Because I wanted to see it." His grey eyes were wide with earnestness as he reached for his handkerchief. "What's inside it?"

"Nothing that you need to know of at this moment." Erestor tucked the box away on the highest shelf.

"Why can't I see it?"

"Because now is not the right time." Erestor began guiding the child out the door. "Now, come. You still have a lesson to finish. I sent you to find my quills. Not climb chairs and pry into people's private things. I will let you see it in due time, Estel."

He allowed himself to be led out the door. "When, Erestor?" he questioned.

"I will let you know when."

And Estel had to be content with that.

(Year 2,938 of the Third Age)

Estel peeked into the dark room. Erestor was not there, for he had gone away on private business.

Two years had passed since Estel asked about box. He had forgotten about it, but a casual conversation he had overhead between his brothers had renewed his interest. They had been saying how Erestor was an enigma, with more than one hidden secret. Perhaps, Estel had thought, the box was one of them?

This time, he was successful in reaching the box, and he did not sneeze like the last time. He leapt down the chair lightly, his fingers already tugging at the cover. The box was heavy, and its contents rattled oddly as he fumbled with it. The top was stuck on tight, and when he finally opened it, the contents tumbled out onto the rug.

He stared in dismay at the objects scattered on the floor—three rocks. Not even beautiful ones, but the plain, ugly kind you could find anywhere on Arda. With a disappointed sigh, he gathered the rocks and shoved them back, returning the box back on the shelf before slowly walking out the room.

Why would Erestor keep something so commonplace in such a nice box, he wondered. He shut the door behind him with a bang.

So much for secrets.

His brothers were right about one thing. Erestor was an enigma. And also eccentric, he added to himself. What sort of elf would keep stupid rocks in such a nice box?

(Year 2,948 of the Third Age)

"I have something for you."

"Oh?" Estel didn't bother to look up. He was stuck on his assignment, the day had not gone too well for him, and his mood was dark. He was counting the days until he would be released from his quiet life. Only a few more lessons, and he would be free… (1)

"Tíro nin, penneth."

With reluctance, he obeyed, and his eyes widened. Erestor held the box out towards him, face unreadable. The boy took the proffered item, carefully opening it. He stared the rocks he had seen nine years ago, and saw they had been added to.

"I know what you did."

Startled, he glanced at Erestor.

"When I returned, I found one of the rocks under my chair."

Suddenly he felt ashamed of himself for being so impatient. "Sorry," he softly apologized. "But if they were just rocks, why the secrecy?"

"They are not just rocks, Estel." Erestor took the box back and picked up a stone, a dark brown one that was common to Rivendell's grounds. "I kept this stone on the day you arrived in Imladris." He set it down on the boy's table. "It was to remember that day of sorrow, and of joy."

"So…all these rocks have sentimental value to them?" He touched the stone.

"They do." The elf held another one in his hand. It was grey, with glittering bits of quartz in it. "This one commemorates your first birthday celebrated here. Do you remember it?"

"Yes." He grinned. "It's a foggy memory, but it's there."

He reached in and took out a third rock. "This came from Glorfindel, who found it on the day he first taught you how to hold a sword. Do you notice the purple color when you hold it up to the light? He said that it resembled the bruises you received. I took it as a memory of when you began to learn."

Estel snorted, but he was smiling. "I hadn't learned how to block all that well yet," he admitted. "So I collected more than a few bruises."

Erestor chuckled at this. He fingered a fourth rock, a black, smooth one with no sharp edges. "Elrohir found this near the river, when you and your brothers went on your first hunting trip."

"He told you about it? I had hoped that story would go down with me to the grave." Estel stifled a groan. "Honestly, I had never been more embarrassed in my life."

"At least you now know the importance of keeping your senses clear and not falling asleep during your watch," Erestor told him, reaching for another rock. "I picked this one up in Lothlórien." He tossed it up in the air, letting the clear, diamond-like stone flash in the afternoon sunlight that came from the window. "A sign of bravery," he commented, handing it to Estel.

"At that time, I didn't feel all that brave." The boy held in his palm, for he had not seen this stone before. He knew of what Erestor spoke; the events had only occurred little more than half a year ago. (2) They did not speak much of it, however, and he preferred it that way.

A touch on his shoulder brought him back to the present. He dropped the stone down on his desk and reached for a rough stone, covered with sharp edges. "A flint?"

"What do you think, Estel?" Erestor gave him a look.

"Oh." Pain flickered briefly in his eyes as he stared at the rock. "Who gave this you one?"

"Your father. Did you expect anyone else?"

"I did not." A faint smile. "But it's fitting to what happened." His voice trailed off as he recalled the incident. (3)

Erestor broke the silence by handing him that last stone. "Now, tell me what this is."

"An elf-stone." The boy carefully held it, turning the bright green rock over in his hand. The top of it was rough, signifying it had once been a pendant, but the rest of it was polished and well cut. "Did you buy this one?"

"It was a gift," Erestor replied. "From someone close to me. The chain snapped, however, and I never had the heart to repair it." (4)

One of his secrets, no doubt, Estel thought absently as he set it down. "Why is this one the last?" he asked. "I know these are like milestones in a way, but why an edhelharn?"

"I choose it for many reasons." Erestor touched it at he spoke. "One reason because it signifies hope. (5)" His eyes met Estel's. "And because your life was like these stones."

"Rough and assorted, I suppose." Estel chuckled. "From the earth and not from the heavens."

"Nay," the elf shook his head, "because you who were once naïve and untested have now become like an elf-stone, symbolizing hope for your people." At Estel's questioning look, he added, "Your father will explain that to you in due time."

He rolled his eyes. "More waiting?"

"Of course. What did you expect?"

"I am forever waiting on something." The boy turned once more to look at the different rocks lined up on his desk. His gaze lingered on the last one. This, he supposed, was Erestor's way of acknowledging the fact he was leaving his childhood to become an adult. "But this definitely was worth waiting for," he commented.

Erestor took the elf-stone and placed it in Estel's hand, closing his fingers over it. "Your journey has not ended, though," he said softly, placing a hand on his student's shoulder. "You can add to this box anytime you wish, for one never stops learning." He smiled, and turned to leave.

"Le hannon, Erestor," Estel softly said as he looked up, catching his gaze. "I don't know how I could have become the person I am today without your advice and help."

"No need to, penneth. It was honor for me to have taught you." Then the elf was gone from the room.

Slowly, Estel put the rocks back in the box, handling each with care. He lingered on the last stone, slowly exhaling before placing it inside the box.

He would tuck it into his pack tonight. It would weigh him down, but that mattered little. What mattered more was the priceless treasure it held.

Whoever knew that a few stones could carry so much significance?

And to think he had assumed that they were just rocks.

The End


Tíro nin, penneth – Look at me, young one

Edhelharn – "Elfstone" according to Dragonflame

Le hannon – Thank you

(1) Refers to Qualities of a Ranger.

(2) Refers to Apostate's Ruse.

(3) Refers to the unwritten sequel to Apostate's Ruse. No title yet. But it's Estel and Elrond centric, very long, and very angsty from beginning to end…more like an epic.

(4) Dropping a hint from that Erestor fic. :)

(5) Don't remember where it came from. Probably from a book/website on birthstones, or something similar.

A/N: This story was based on "The Christmas Box" by Alliee DeArmond, found in the Highlights Magazine, December of 1999. I still occasionally read Highlights as inspiration for some of my G and PG-rated stories—when I can get them at the library, anyway. "The Christmas Box" was one of those stories that I remember. Google turned up the author's name for me. However, most of this fic was of my own creation.