Author: Calenlass Greenleaf
Disclaimer: Tolkien owns everyone. I own only the plot and OCs.
Warnings: None. No romance/slash. Just fluff. And hurt/comfort with emphasis on the comfort.
Spoilers: None, I think. Elrond does giving a bit explanation for the Silm, but it's paraphrased so that a child (Estel) could understand it.
Timeframe: Estel is seven.
Summary: Living among Elves isn't as easy as one thinks, especially with the constant reminders of how different a mortal is from an immortal. Featuring Estel and Elrond. Inspired by OAA Prompt 132— "Perfect" and EAC's contest, 'Life.'
A/N: Late for both prompt and contest. Forgive me. I truly hate Real Life.
A/N #2: Some of you may remember my first story that I posted at OAA and , titled "The Way You Are" (I peeked at it on OAA recently and was promptly ashamed of how poorly I wrote). It's probably my most cliché story, and I deleted it from . Now, after a two years of writing, and while writing this fic, I can now say this story is a sort of revised edition of my first Estel and Elrond story. And the immortal/mortal discussion isn't complete; it'll be addressed again in the sequel to Apostate's Ruse and resolved. That fic will probably be my magnum opus…haven't even started on it yet…
To my fellow EACians: I must be the worst at deadlines. O.o Maybe I should receive the award of "Best Procrastinator?"
Many thanks to Virtuella for betaing this!
No one is perfect... that's why pencils have erasers. —Author Unknown
He hated being sick. Especially when something was going on and he could not be part of it.
Estel sniffled and burrowed deeper into the blankets, willing his nose to stop running, his throat to stop hurting, and his head to stop aching. Gazing gloomily across the darkened room towards his window, he wished he were well and downstairs.
There was going to be an eclipse tonight; he had looked forward to such an event.
Until he caught something two days ago. He had hoped he would be better by today. He had begged his father to allow him to watch a little, but Elrond had not given in to his demands.
Estel rubbed his eyes. He was only a bit tired, and he could hear music somewhere outside. He had never witnessed such a phenomenon before of seeing the moon disappear behind Arda's shadow, and now it felt as if he would never have the chance again.
He punched his pillow—and sneezed. Why did he have to live among a race that was perfect in all they did? The child fiddled with a loose thread on his comforter and stared towards the window.
A mortal child, plunked in the middle of a valley full of immortals. Not that he was discontented. How could he be? Elves were probably the best storytellers he had ever known, and the best place to go for his questions—
Estel tugged at the collar of his nightshirt, scratching as the sharp end of a stray feather poked him. He couldn't quite reach it. Squirming, he unbuttoned the first two buttons to loosen his clothing and tried to find the feather.
No success. It still jabbed him in the back.
He let out a huff and returned to his thoughts. Stupid feather! he viciously thought.
Yes, he was happy to be here. But sometimes he wished he were not always standing in the shadow of the elves. I wonder if they'll always think me as a child, he mused. The boy turned over on his side. Sometimes I wish I were perfect…
Someone knocked on the door. "Estel?"
Hurriedly, he yanked the blankets up and closed his eyes, feigning sleep, groaning silently. Why did it have to be Ada? He heard the door open, but didn't hear any footsteps. That was a bad thing about living among elves—you could never hear them coming up behind you.
Estel held his breath, hoping his father would leave. The feather was itching in a most uncomfortable way, and he wanted to scratch it.
His bluff was called when someone touched his shoulder. He jerked, and his eyes opened.
Elrond was standing next to his bed, holding a candle in one hand. The small light made odd shadows on the walls and furniture, quivering as the elf set it down on a table. "Not asleep?"
He shook his head, sitting up and stretching. "Not tired," he said, wincing at how hoarse his voice sounded. "Can I—"
His father pressed the back of his hand to Estel's forehead, and shook his head. "You may not go outside."
"But—" Crestfallen, he turned away. The movement reminded him of the feather stuck in his shirt, and he reached back, trying to find it.
"Why is your shirt unbuttoned, Estel? Surely you are not that warm."
"There's a feather poking me in the back," he said, twisting his arm. "And I can't reach it!" Annoyed that he could not be out of bed and annoyed at the feather for disturbing him, he was ready to stomp his foot and complain—loudly—to his father about the unfairness of everything. "Why do I have to be sick? Why can't it be anyone else? It's not fair. I always—"
Firm hands closed over his, stilling his awkward attempts. Though Estel's face was set in a scowl, the look in his eyes was bordering on teary. He felt his father's hand search his shirt and pull out the offending feather.
Elrond adjusted Estel's clothing, and blew the feather away. "Better?"
The child nodded, staring down at his blankets. The silence gathered in the room until Estel wondered if he should pretend to sneeze in order to break it. Then Elrond began tucking the blankets around Estel, and he suddenly remembered what he had been thinking about earlier.
"Why are all of you perfect?" he finally blurted out.
The elf paused, arching an eyebrow. "Perfect? I should think not, Estel."
"Well, in most things." Estel glanced up at his father. "Like Elladan said it only took him a few days to learn how to carve when he was my age, yet you don't let me touch any knives unless I'm practicing," he rushed on, "Elrohir memorized an entire lay in just a week, while it takes me a month. And—"
"Because we are of the Eldar," Elrond interrupted him, though gently. "Can I help it if I was created so?"
"I guess not," the dark-haired child admitted, "but…Eru was not fair!"
"If life were fair, Estel," His father said as he smoothed his hair down, "then the world would be in turmoil."
He was not even going to try to understand such a perplexing statement. "Well, I wish life was fair." A sigh. "And I wish I was outside at the moment. Or maybe that I was perfect."
Elrond did not reply to this. Instead, he reached out and pulled Estel against him. Lifting him up, he held his son with one hand, the other grasping for the candle.
Estel was confused. "Ada?"
"Hush," was all his father would say.
Hmph. But he didn't argue, letting the elf carry him out of the room. He gazed idly at the pictures that hung on the walls, not really seeing the works of art. Maybe his father had yielded? However, much to his dismay, they turned the corner. "Why are we going to your room?" he asked, rubbing at his eyes.
"Wait and see."
Elrond pushed the door open, pausing to light more candles. "Are you cold?"
"No." Estel pulled slightly away. Rivendell was never cold, not even in the bitterest winter.
"Then I will not make the fire any stronger."
"Why not?" He looked around the room. "It's still dark, even with all the candles."
His father merely gave him a smile and set him down on his feet. "Do you see that large drawer?"
"Can you help me pull it away from the wall?"
Growing more perplexed than ever, but also curious, Estel did as he was told. The legs of the drawer scraped against the heavy carpet. He stopped to catch his breath afterwards. "Ada?"
The elf reached for a doorknob that had been hidden by the piece of furniture. "Carry the candle, but be careful."
Estel held the light gingerly, trying not to tip it or let it come too near his clothing and hair. He followed Elrond, wondering why his father had a hidden doorway. He saw that they had entered into a dark room, illuminated faintly by the candlelight. He shrank back a little, pressing against his father.
Elrond took the candle from his son, and reached out with his hand. Estel grasped it without much thought. He heard rather than saw his father reach up to pull something like heavy fabric away. The resulting draft blew the candle out, and he sucked in his breath, sharply, shutting his eyes. Really, he was too old to be afraid of the dark, but as this place was unfamiliar to him, he was unsure of wandering about blindly.
His father's hand was on his shoulder. "Open your eyes, Estel." The fingers were warm and gentle. "Trust me."
Reluctantly, he obeyed, and gasped with surprise and delight. Elrond had drawn open a large curtain that covered a window, which was nearly the same size as the wall. And right in front of him, he could see the full moon.
Elrond laughed. "Do you like my surprise?"
"Very much, Ada!" Yet he frowned up at his father. "Why did you not tell me earlier?"
"Where would the fun be in that?" He ruffled his son's hair.
"Well…" He decided not to argue. "How long before it happens, Ada?"
"The moon?" Elrond glanced out the window. "Perhaps in half an hour or so, maybe sooner. Not long, I think." He gently pushed Estel toward the blanket-covered couch that faced the window. "Wait here while I get something. This room is not as warm as the others."
The boy nodded, and clambered onto the couch, leaning against one arm and pulling his legs up. Not once did he take his eyes from the window.
Isil was…huge. There was no other way to put it. He had never before seen the moon up close, and its luminance was beautiful to see. Propping his head up with his hand, he wondered why his father had this secret room.
He had nearly dozed off when his father appeared again, carrying a tray of something.
He pushed himself up. "No," he said, trying to look alert, if such a look was possible for a sick child. "Well, maybe a bit," he added with a yawn.
The elf lord set the tray down on the table and sat down next to his son. He draped a blanket around the child and drew him nearer, handing him a mug. Estel sniffed at it.
His father chuckled. "Nothing to make you sleep, Estel, I assure you."
He sipped it. The taste of cinnamon melted on his tongue, and he eagerly drank more, nearly scalding his tongue. Cupping the mug and letting its warmth spread to his hands, he slouched down a bit more on the sofa. "Ada, why do you have a secret room?"
A soft sigh. "Celebrían was formerly of Lothlórien. She was willing to leave the Golden Wood to become my wife, but there were days when she missed the open platforms and flets of her home. The heavens were quite visible there, and it was possible to sleep under the stars." He paused to drink from his own mug. "But such was not possible in Rivendell. So I had our rooms partitioned off to make this little room, with a large window." Elrond's fingers traced the fabric of his robe. "She loved this room dearly. So do Elladan and Elrohir. I haven't used this room for quite some time now."
"Then why isn't it all dusty, like the storage rooms?" For the first time he realized he wasn't sneezing.
"Do you think I would actually keep this room in disarray?"
"I guess not. I—Oh, look!" He pointed at the window, eyes widening in delight. "It's happening!"
Indeed, the moon was slowly disappearing behind a plate of black, and changing to a deep orange-red.
Estel pressed closer to Elrond, his gaze never leaving the sky. The elf took the mug from him as it was threatening to drop. He smiled down at the child, who was engrossed by the sight. They watched as the earth's shadow covered the moon, darkening the skies considerably.
"Is it really going to all disappear?" Estel glanced about the room for the candle.
"This time, yes. Other times it there are only partial eclipses."
"Oh…" The boy was only vaguely listening.
Elrond chuckled to himself, settling against the couch and reaching for one of the pastries on the tray. "Would you like one, iôn?"
"Like what?" Estel tore his gaze away. "Doughnuts? Of course!" He eagerly reached for one, tearing it hastily as he returned to watching the moon. "Isil is nearly all the way blocked." A long pause. "And now it's gone." He shuddered a little. "How long before it comes back?"
"In a little while." His father handed him a napkin. "Now wipe your mouth."
The boy did as he was told. "What does 'eclipse' actually mean?" he asked. "Does it mean to be shadowed?"
"In a sense, yes." The elf lord raised an eyebrow. "Why do you ask?"
"Because…" Oh, how was he supposed to say it without sounding rude? "Because I feel eclipsed."
"In what way?" Elrond reached out to brush a crumb from the child's face.
"By all of you." Estel fidgeted and squirmed, not looking up. "All of you are perfect in everything. You're in charge of Imladris. 'Findel is the chief captain. 'Restor is your head councilor, 'Dan and 'Ro are great warriors, and I'm just…just me. Not perfect. Not Elven." He sighed. "I know I can't change anything about that, but why am I here? The only firhen."
Elrond was quiet for a moment. "Estel," he began, "You certainly ask difficult questions, especially for one so young." He smiled faintly before continuing. "But I can tell you that even perfection is flawed in its own way, and that I am not perfect. Nor is the race of the Eldar."
He paused to take a sip from his drink. "Our history is a long and bloody one. It is glorious in a few places, but much of it is also shameful. There were wise and foolish decisions made, and much to give thanks for, but also much to regret." A soft exhalation. "Are you ashamed to be mortal?"
"N-no," Estel said slowly, shaking his head. "Not exactly. It's just…it's just—I don't know how to say it!" Somewhat agitated, he reached for another doughnut—his third one—and took a bite, chewing as he tried to put his thoughts into words and sentences. "So you say Elves are imperfect. Then what would you call the race of Men. More imperfect?"
"Yours is a noble race," Elrond told him, putting a hand on Estel's shoulder. "Such deep thoughts tonight," he added.
"I had time to think. I don't think often about it, but when I'm sick…it seems to make it more obvious." His headache was returning. He rubbed his forehead. "Why would you love me?" He stared up at the peredhel.
Elrond's eyes were shining, though he could not fathom why. "Because it is your imperfections that I love," he replied. "Your imperfections that endear you to us." He pushed back the child's tangled hair. "When you were first brought here, you could only speak a few words. But you had a way of expressing yourself clearly." He laughed softly. "And while you were not the model infant, you learned quickly."
"But I'm different."
"Different, yes, but in your own unique way," he said. "You are not like Elladan and Elrohir, but I still love you—" He cupped the small chin in his hand. "You, Estel. My Estel."
"Hmm…" He wasn't sure he fully understood. But he could see now how silly it was to want to be perfect. "Your Estel?"
A pair of arms encircled him in reply, and Estel burrowed against his father, flinging his own arms around the elf's neck. "Well, I'm glad you're not perfect," he said. A laugh sounded close to his ear, and he grinned, turning towards the window. "Ada, look," he pointed. "The moon is coming out again!"
Elrond turned to see. The sphere was indeed appearing from behind the circle at a steady pace. Already it was turning pale whitish-grey.
Estel's eyes were wide open, but he was continuously blinking and yawning, and his father noticed this.
"I think it's time for you to rest." He tucked the blanket tighter around his son, and quickly pressed his hand against Estel's forehead; it was still slightly too warm for his liking.
"Not yet!" The child protested, shaking his father's hand off. "I want to see all of it appear!" He rubbed his eyes hard. "Please, Ada?"
"Very well." Elrond allowed the child to turn around, the dark head resting against the half-elf's shoulder. They watched in companionable silence, the moon growing brighter. Somewhere in the distance one of the elves was singing a lullaby about Isil.
The child in Elrond's arms yawned again. "Eclipses don't last forever, do they" he commented, catching his father's eye. He was asking simply about more than the moon.
Elrond caught his meaning, and shook his head. "They do not." He stroked the dark hair. "Someday, the world will know who you are, when you will be revealed, and…" he continued in a quieter tone, "glory will be restored to the Númenoreans."
"Mm…" Estel pulled Elrond's arm over his shoulder, tugging at the large sleeve. His eyes closed, and he fell asleep. "G'night."
Elrond kissed the top of his head. "Good night, Estel vuin," he whispered as he leaned back, letting the moonlight wash over them like a blanket of light. "Your life was not meant to be an easy one, and I cannot shield you from your destiny for very long."
How he wished he could, though. The Heirs had passed from Arda at such young ages, and…he could not see this one leave to soon. He would cherish the time he could spend this child.
Sighing, Elrond rested his chin on Estel's tresses. "Sleep while you can," he murmured. "Estel nín."
Ada – endearing form of "Adar"
Iôn – son
Firhen – mortal child (noun; a word of my own creation. As "firiel" means "mortal maiden" and "firion" means "mortal man," I took the liberty of putting "mortal" and "child" together to create the word. Feel free to disagree; I'm not an Elvish expert)
Estel vuin – dear Estel
Nín – my
Notes on lunar eclipses:
A lunar eclipse refers to the moon disappearing behind the earth's shadow. It can be predicted—I don't know how, and yes, the moon can appear orange, red, or brown with a ring of blue or yellow. There are also partial (penumbral) and total (umbral) eclipses. For this fic, I chose a total eclipse because it's much more interesting. I've seen one; unfortunately, I was on a cruise ship heading for Antarctica, and the weather was bad, so the moon appeared to be just a white plate that disappeared behind a black plate. At one-something in the morning, it was rather disappointing after staggering out of bed and pulling on layers of clothing to step outside into the rain and wind. The next partial lunar eclipse is in Asia, December of 2009.
A/N: Information about lunar eclipses came from my astronomy/meteorology obsessed brother, Rochír. I must have confounded him because I usually don't show much interest in such topics, but he was more than helpful. He's only half an LOTR fan, I'm afraid. Thanks, anyway, muindor.
A/N #2: My other source was "The Astronomy of Middle-earth: Astronomical Motifs and Motivations in the Work of J.R.R. Tolkien." However, please note that this fic is more fantastical than scientific, because I'm not sure I got all the facts straight.
A/N #3: Doughnuts—not sure of their origin, but I love them! I don't know if Middle-earth had them, but I like to think that it does. *grin* Random doughnut notes—the first doughnuts were "braided," or twisted for easier baking, then filled with jam/jelly or cream. As for the ring-doughnuts, there were several legends as to their origin, but the ultimate was because it was easier to hold that way. ;) You can look up on Google "doughnut legends" and share a laugh or two. :)
Some final boring notes:
I know I'm taking forever to write, and I apologize for the many delays. –Points at RL and gestures helplessly- I wish it weren't so. I'm not the world's fastest typist, and when I write, I'm constantly interrupted—meaning I write, stop, write, stop, sleep, write, stop, etc. I don't have, say, two hours of free time. But I do have pockets of time, and when these bits are added to together—they add up to a lot. That's why I haven't stopped beta-ing (I'm not receiving new beta-requests, just keeping in touch with those I am betaing for at the moment); reading is a lot easier than writing.
The other non-RL thing that's taking up my time is art. Finally, my people-sketches don't look all like females, the body proportions look realistic, the eyes show emotion, and the hair isn't a fright. And I think I can draw an adolescent Estel now. And elves. :) However, I still need to mess with shading/Photoshop/coloring/etc longer before I dare post any real art. I might put up some sketches, but…nothing official now (Like commissions, art trades, or prints).