This was written for a LotR Community Yule Challenge for Rosemarie. She wanted: A story about an elven family finding a lost human child at Yule.
Dedicated to Rosemarie: I don't know that I accomplished what you wanted, and if not, I'm sorry.
Happy Christmas and bright blessings for the coming year to everyone!
As the last note of the flute died away like a soft sigh, the child sitting at her father's feet sighed. She leaned her head against his knee, smiling as he reached down to stroke her hair. "Ada, tell me the story. Please?"
"Again, Bria?" He smiled, hazel eyes filled with affection as his oldest son also looked up from his reading.
"Will you, Ada?"
"Yes!" Another son, this his youngest child, leaped up from the table and raced around the room. "I want to hear about the elves and wars and—"
"Faelon." Placing the silver flute on the small table next to him, the man reached out to capture his son as he raced by. "Son," he laughed, "there will be no tales of war or battles tonight."
"Aww…" Fingering the small wooden soldier in his hand, the boy sighed. "Will you tell us how they found you?"
His wife came in and joined them, sitting next to the fire with a smile for him. The firelight lent her a glow and he smiled back, still amazed this beautiful, strong woman had agreed to be his wife. "Hmm…do I remember? It was a long time ago…."
"Ada!" the children chorused.
"You were chasing something," his eldest reminded him.
" A bird!"
"And wolves! And orcs!"
"Son…" Chuckling as he settled his son in his lap, the man sighed and cast his mind back many years, to his childhood.
"It was a week before Yule, and my family was traveling, for we were leaving the south to come north to my mother's kin…"
A flash of brilliant scarlet, fluttering in the limbs of a bare tree had first caught his attention. Bored with watching his father repair the wheel, and curious what the red was, the child ran to the trees lining the road to peer into the depths of the wood. Another glance behind, checking to see that his mother was still tending to his baby sister, and he trotted forward, into the forest. So long as he kept the wagon in sight, he would be fine. He was brave and hadn't Ada just said two days ago what a big boy he was becoming?
With that in mind, Damrod stepped between the two trees at the edge of the road, and looked upwards for the flash of red. A trilling call ahead, one he'd never heard in the South, and the child took several steps forward, peeking around the base of a huge old oak, now bare of leaves.
Where had it gone? Was it a bird? Perhaps it was one of the elves his cousins had told him about. No…elves wore greens and browns and no one saw them unless they wanted to be seen. This…
A flash of red, trilling call and the scarlet bird leaped off the branch where it had been watching the travelers, swooping deeper into the forest. With a grin of delight, Damrod followed, forgetting all about watching for the wagon in his excitement of the new bird.
Dodging through the pines and oaks, stopping to look up, peering for the playful bird, the boy didn't realize he'd run so far until he tripped over a root and fell. He hadn't seen the root. It was getting dark!
Damrod turned, heart beating fast. Where was the wagon? "Ada!" His voice echoed eerily in the thick old forest. "Nana!!" Panting now, he stumbled forward, back the way he thought he'd come. "ADA!" Why didn't they hear him and come get him? Maybe something had happened to them! So many had died from wolves and the hard winter…
Dashing forward, heedless of the branches slapping at him, grabbing his arms, the child yanked free of the trees and ran as fast as he could back the way he thought he'd come.
An old tree loomed up in the twilight, as tall and sturdy as an old man, gnarled branches like skinny old arms reaching for him. Damrod yelled and turned to run only to find there was an old dead tree that had fallen and blocked the way.
No, no! This wasn't the way he came! Heart pounding, scared of the old trees now that it was dark, Damrod saw a path, and ran. He ran and ran for what seemed like his entire life, further than he had ever run. Surely by now he should be back at the road!!
A cry and he went sprawling as a root grabbed his ankle and brought him down. Sobbing in fear, Damrod crawled under a bush and pulled his cloak as tightly around him as he could. He was lost! Lost and Naneth and Ada…were they looking for him?
What had Ada said? To stay in place if he was ever lost. Shivering as the first flake of snow floated down, soon followed by more, Damrod curled up in a tight ball and wished with all of his seven years that he had never left the road.
"My buck is just as big!" Elladan did not quite pout as he watched Elorhir help tie the buck he'd just finished gutting on a pack horse. "Your's just has more points."
"Means he's older."
Frowning at the smirk on his brother's mouth, Elladan caught his captain's eye and offered a wry grin. Competition between the twins had always been fierce. "Do you think we have enough for the feast?"
Nodding, sending a golden braid sliding down his chest, Glorfindel looked pleased. "Indeed. A boar, a brace of rabbits, and two fine bucks. Imladris shall feast well this Yule!"
"Not to mention the pheasants and quail." Elrohir finished tying the last knot and patted the pack horses' neck. "Radhrim will be thrilled."
It was a contented bunch of hunters that headed back to Imladris, Elrohir taking up a song first, even as the snow began to fall again. It started coming down heavily while they were yet several hours from the Last Homely House. Elves did not mind winter. Arda and all of her seasons were part of their very blood and flesh, but some liked it more than others.
Glorfindel, a survivor of the Helcaraxë, was never bothered by the cold. Elladan, with a measure of human blood, was less enthusiastic, and rode with his hood up, hunched over his horse.
"We shall have a snowy Yule," Elrohir declared, looking up at the grey clouds.
Nudging his horse into a faster walk, Glorfindel nodded, then fell silent as his stallion suddenly stopped, ears pricked. Years of riding this horse had taught him to pay attention to its instincts. "What do you smell, Caranduin?" A snort and the chestnut stallion pawed the ground before taking a step forward. He shook his head as he lowered it, making the bells braided into his mane jingle merrily.
There was something there.
Glorfindel swung down from the horse, and took two steps forward, going to one knee to get a better look. He grunted as Caranduin nudged his shoulder. "Leave off, you great lug. I'm looking!"
"What is it, Gofi?"
Ignoring the pet name the twins had landed him with almost from the time they could speak, and yet not say his name properly, Glorfindel's eyes widened. "A child!" Reaching under the bush, he scooped the small form up and brought it to his lap. "He's freezing."
"What is he doing out here so far from anything?"
"Probably lost." Elladan, who hated the cold, swung off h is horse and pulled his fur-lined cloak off. "Wrap him in this."
"We have to get him to Adar." Elrohir gnawed his bottom lip at the sight of the pale face, dark lashes like a bruise against the white of the boy's face.
Wrapping the cloak around the boy who was still alive but still, so still, Glorfindel nodded. "'Ro, you are the lightest and fastest rider. Go ahead and alert your father to what we bring."
The youngest of Elrond's twins was off before the last word was out of Glorfindel's mouth. "Here. Hand him up to me once I'm seated." Swinging up, Glorfindel reached for the child, and tucked him against his chest, holding him securely. "Let's go."
Imladris was ablaze with light and warmth when the hunters finally rode back in. Elrond was there, waiting in the courtyard, Elrohir next to him all but dancing a jig of impatience. Erestor stood on the steps behind, but moved forward as the riders stopped their mounts.
"I know not how long he was there, but he is only a bit warmer." Glorfindel carefully handed his burden into Elrond's arms and only then swung down off his horse.
"Under a bush, Elrohir told me."
"Come." Elrond smiled for his younger son who clearly wanted to help. "Let us see what we can do for our new visitor.
As they hurried off for the healing wing, Glorfindel turned to smiled at Elladan. Teeth chattering, dark hair almost white with snow, he had his hands tucked tight under his arms. "Your generosity was greatly appreciated, 'Adi."
As his mentor and tutor slung and arm around his shoulders, Elladan leaned into the warmth and nodded. "I hope he'll be alright."
"He is young and humans are very resilient." Glorfindel stopped as Erestor turned from directing the groom's assistants with a gentle smile.
"So…you could not resist bringing home some lost fledgling again, hmm?"
Elladan chuckled, then quickly stifled it as Glorfindel glanced down at him. "Would you have me leave the child out there?"
"Of course not!" Erestor put a hand up to Caranduin's nose as the stallion followed his master. "To the stables for you, muddy one. You cannot follow him in all places."
A scratch to his ears and under the chin, a whicker for his elf, and Caranduin amicably turned to trot towards the stables where a rub-down and hot mash awaited him.
"That horse is more dog than anything." Erestor dusted the chestnut hairs from his hands before leading the way into the house.
"And yet you were the one who told me he would be a perfect mount."
"Aye, for one who would sleep with a horse in his room if allowed."
Elladan listened to the pair bicker for a while, it was one of the things that spoke of home, this warmth and teasing, before pulling free. "I'm going to see how Naneth is." His mother was carrying a babe, and though not far into the pregnancy, still grew tired quickly.
"Don't tire her out, 'Adi," Erestor reminded the young elf. The twins were full of boundless energy that had taken every bit of skill when they were younger to direct. Even now they seemed to rarely be still.
"I won't." A grin and the youth was off, whistling a rather bawdy version of a Yule tune.
One black eyebrow rose. "You taught them that version?"
"They're of age!" Glorfindel waved off the disapproving look and grinned. "Go fuss at someone else, old crow. I'm for a bath then to see how our new visitor is doing."
"Old crow," Erestor muttered and sighed at the mud both Elladan and Glorfindel had tracked in on the polished wood floors. "Better than a mindless magpie!"
Elrond held the very small hand in his and gazed down into the child's face with a slight frown. A boy, probably around seven years. Human. Far too small to be out wandering the woods on his own, and though wet and filthy, the boy had not been undernourished.
Where were his parents?
It was entirely possible that wolves or orcs had come upon them, taken the family unawares and killed everyone but the boy. Or he could have wandered off – Elrond knew very well just how much mischief small boys could get into. He hoped for the boy's sake that his family was well and only worried sick for their lost son.
"Glorfindel." He didn't have to look to know that distinctively quiet step or the presence of dampened power that rode like a summer storm before the Eldar.
"Milord?" Nodding to one of the healers, Glorfindel came to the opposite side of the boy's bed, a gentle expression coming over his face as he looked at the child. "Is he well?"
"He will be, if infection does not set in. " Elrond looked at his old friend, grey eyes full of concern. "You found no one else?"
"No." Tucking the blanket a bit higher around a very small shoulder, Glorfindel sat back in his chair with a thoughtful look. "I had Siriondil and Tathir scout back and around before following. They found no traces of any other people."
Knowing the two Silvan scouts Elrond doubted they had missed anything. "Keep a watch on the roads to Bree and the surrounding communities." He reached out to brush the child's brown hair back, careful to avoid the bruise there. "Someone is frantic with worry over this boy."
"We will watch for them."
Elrond did not doubt. Glorfindel watched over the valley and Elrond's own family with steadfast care. A smile, a last caress for the child, and Elrond stood. "Come get me immediately if he wakes," he told the other healers who were there, tending to those unfortunate enough to have broken a bone or gained a wound.
"Yes, milord." The healer smiled, silver eyes gentle.
"Come, old friend." Elrond winked at Glorfindel who was smiling at the healer. "Leave them to their patients and come help me tease Celebrian in to a better mood."
"Is she still feeling poorly?" A last smile for the adorable healer and Glorfindel followed his friend's wake.
"Pregnancy is not kind as yet."
"At least it isn't two?"
Elrond sighed, thankful for that. "We can all be grateful for that."
Grinning at the memory of two small scamps racing about the halls of the grand home, Glorfindel slapped his friend's shoulder. "Ah…but one girl can often be the equal of two boys."
"Thank you for your calming words."
Laughing at the sarcastic bite to Elrond's tone, Glorfindel shook his head. "All will be well, peredhel. You will see."
And one bright star blazed a bit brighter in the night sky as it sailed high above the valley.
Damrod awoke the next day, confused and a bit scared that he had died and all of the very beautiful shining people were the Valar his grandfather had taught him about, but once a very grand elf came and sat next to him, he felt a sense of peace.
"What is your name, child?"
The elf had kind grey eyes, almost the colour the storm clouds had been before they had snowed. He was smiling gently and without even thinking about it, the boy liked him. "Damrod, sir." A shy smile, showing one front tooth missing, and he asked, "What is your name?"
"Elrond. This is my home."
"It's very big, isn't it?" Hazel eyes wide, Damrod pointed out the window. "And there are ever so many waterfalls, sir!" Fingers twisting, the boy looked back to the adult. "Do you know where my parents are?"
"We are looking for them even now." Setting a gentle hand on the boy's, Elrond squeezed. "How did you get separated from them?"
Tears welled up in the eyes and the boy's bottom lip trembled. "I didn't mean to wander so far! I just wanted to see the bird but then I tripped and the big old tree scared me and branches grabbed me and it was getting dark and I yelled but they couldn't hear me and I ran but I couldn't find the way back and then the snow started falling and I was cold so I crawled under a bush and…" A hiccup and a breath. "Do you think they're all right?"
He could not say in any good conscience that they were, not when wolves and orcs roamed the wilds and roads seeking easy prey. Leaning forward to cup the small chin in his fingers, Elrond spoke quietly but with great confidence. "Some of our best scouts and warriors are out right now searching for your parents, Damrod. They are the very best at what they do and if your parents are out there, they will find them."
It was all too much for the child, and he started sobbing, even letting himself be gathered into Elrond's arms and rocked. "Shhh… You are safe, Damrod. Nothing will harm you here."
Sniffling, and wiping his running nose on his sleeve, the boy didn't meet the elf's eyes. "I should not have run off, sir. My parents must be so worried!" He hiccupped and picked at Elrond's tunic. "And my baby sister…she likes it when I whistle, but only …I can't right now, see?" He leaned back and displayed his missing tooth. "It fell out last week. Ada said a new one would grow in, but…" Damrod looked doubtful. "When my cousin got his tooth knocked out nothing grew back."
Holding back a chuckle, Elrond found a clean handkerchief and held it to the boy's nose. "Blow."
Blinking in surprise, his Ada did this too, Damrod obeyed and grimaced as the elf cleaned his face with another handkerchief. "Do you have children, sir?"
Elrond smiled, and set the boy back on his bed. "Indeed. I have twin sons."
"Twins?" Damrod thought about that and nodded. "My aunt has twin daughters and you can't tell which is which." He shook his head. "They play tricks on us."
"They have been known to try that a time or two." Elrond chuckled. "If you're feeling better, we can leave the healing wing. There are those who would do better with some peace and quiet, I think." Including the poor elf who had suffered a severe knock to the head when he slipped on a snowy rock and almost fell into the falls. Elves were graceful but nature did have a way of bringing down even the very best at times.
So it was that Damrod was dressed in some of the twins old leggings and tunic, boots that were a bit too large, but once stuffed with cotton, not too bad, and a cloak. Grinning for the new clothing that made him look more of an elf, his mother was a good embroiderer but Damrod had never seen such fancy stitching on everyday clothing, the boy took his host's hand and danced along next to him, asking a million questions.
Did the falls run all year? Did they bathe in them? Did anyone ever try to go over one? Did they freeze? If so…could you climb down one? Everything was new to the child and he greeted everyone he met politely, amazed at how beautiful and clean everything was.
"Im..la..dris." He knew Westron and Sindarin, for his mother's people were Dúnedain, but they had long lived in the south, and there only the upper class used Sindarin daily. "It sounds as pretty as it looks!"
The twins had taken to the boy immediately, laughing when he stared from one to the other, in open-mouthed astonishment. "How can you know which of you is which?"
"Well…" Elladan's eyes sparkled in mischief. "I know that I am Elladan, therefore he is Elrohir. Unless," he added, kneeling down to quickly braid the boy's hair out of his face, "I am not, in which case I would be Elrohir."
Wrinkling his nose, Damrod gave a look that said he knew silly when he heard it.
"Come, you have arrived just in time to help us decorate for Yule." Elrohir took the boys hand, smiling as the child skipped in excitement.
The great entry was transformed, with boughs of evergreen fastened along the walls. Holly decorated each doorway, the red berries adding a festive look, and mistletoe, with its white berries, twined into the great green boughs. Candles lit the room with a warm glow and Elrohir and Elladan hurried the child along to the Hall of Fire.
Damrod found more elves there, hanging great rows of greenery and berries, all of it so beautiful and perfect that he was afraid to help. It was all a bit overwhelming for him. His family was large, but he had only seen elves once, when they were passing through his uncle's land. They been singing as they walked, glowing slightly in the dusk of twilight and Damrod had watched in wonder.
Now he was surrounded by elves and they were singing and laughing, ….
And he felt suddenly alone.
Sitting on the ground, a pinecone in one hand, glue in the other with a tiny amount of very finely broken glass in a jar, Damrod gulped and tried very hard not to cry. He was not a baby! He was almost eight, and Ada had promised to give him his very own bow next year so that he could learn to shoot as well. Bottom lip wobbling a bit, Damrod looked down and half-heartedly spread some of the sticky goo on the pinecone. It got all over his hands and nose, when he rubbed his face, and somehow a glop of it ended up in his hair though he tried very hard to be careful.
Elrohir came back from helping hang some of the lanterns to find his new friend looking a bit more shiny than the pinecone. "Damrod," he laughed and squatted next to the boy, "you are supposed to decorate the pincones, not your own self!"
"I'm sorry," the boy said earnestly, tears welling up in his eyes. "It's just that my nose itched and then something fell on my head so I reached up to see what it was…"
"Brother!" Elrohir shook his head and scanned the crowds for Elladan. "Ah, no mind, we shall get you cleaned up in a trice." Rising, he held out his hand, then laughed. "Perhaps we will wait until after your bath."
Damrod wrinkled his nose, a decidedly stubborn pout puffing his lips. "I don't like baths."
"That's too bad, because you are in dire need of one."
Crossing his arms, the boy refused to stand, ignoring the gestures of the elf. "No!"
"Ai, 'Ro…" Elladan joined them, slanting his brother a merry grin. "He is as stubborn as you were once."
"You're not helping."
Damrod looked up. "You didn't like baths?"
Squatting down to get closer to eye-level, Elladan shook his head. "Neither of us did, but Naneth insisted on one daily."
Dubious look as the boy looked from one identical face to the other. "And you did?"
"No one argues with Naneth." Elladan nodded with his twin's statement and then an idea came to him. "But come! You have yet to meet our mother." He reached out and lifted the child, winking. "You'll like her. She's very fond of little boys."
"Even filthy ones," Elrohir added.
Celebrian looked up as the twins entered, a smile of welcome on her face. Then she spotted their guest. "You must be Damrod?"
She was very beautiful, far more beautiful than any of the elves he had seen yet, and they were all so amazing. Damrod stared, mouth moving in silent words. Finally he blurted, "I don't want a bath!"
Silver eyebrows rose and Celebrian offered a merry grin. "No, most children don't."
"My sister likes baths but she's just a baby." Damrod scowled. "She'll learn."
"Do you like swimming?"
Damrod considered. It was awfully cold outside, the snow was still falling, but perhaps elves bathed in the river? It would be fun to swim with a waterfall splashing on you! "…yes…"
Cheeks dimpling at the caution of the child, Celebrian leaned forward as if conspiring. "There is a pool of warmed water where you can swim, did you know that? Quite a few of the boys go swimming there in the winter when it is too cold to go to the river."
"Warmed?" It had to be a small pool then. His Naneth warmed up buckets of water for baths but most of the time, the water was cold by his turn. Damrod didn't mind; it was another excuse to rush the bath.
"There are hot springs under the ground," she explained. Seeing his dubious expression, she laughed. "If you will go with my sons, they will show you."
"I still don't want a bath." Thinking on it, Damrod added, "Ma'am." It paid to be polite. His Ada had swatted his behind for being rude when he was younger.
"We'll show you." Elladan set a hand on the boy's head. "Come along, little one, we'll show you the hot springs."
It was actually a room where there was the largest pool Damrod had seen. It was even bigger than the fountain he'd seen once in Gondor! There was a wooden walkway around it, and steam rose from the surface, indicating it was, indeed, heated. "Where are the fires?"
"There are none." Elrohir knelt and pointed to a section of water. "See there, where bubbles are coming up? That is where the hot water rises out of the spring. We stay at this end because that end is very hot."
It was big enough to swim in…if he tried. But that was close to bathing and you didn't swim in the winter; you bathed. Shaking his head, he backed to the wall. "I don't want to."
"Damrod." Elladan was serious as he knelt and turned the child to face him, hands on his shoulders. "It is safe. Elrohir and I will go in with you if you want."
"No!" He squirmed, trying to get loose. "I don't want to!"
"Stop struggling or you'll fall in," Elrohir scolded.
Damrod stopped but the pout was back. "I don't want a bath!"
"You will bathe, child." Elladan wrinkled his nose. "You stink."
An angry look was all the warning the elf received before he was shoved. He released the child and teetered as if he would catch his balance before toppling into the pool with a splash.
Damrod giggled and turned to run, but stopped as his arm was grasped firmly. He turned with some trepidation to face Elrohir who was not looking amused. "That, my friend, was very rude."
"You don't sound very contrite to me." Elrohir walked down to a bench and sat, looking the child in the eyes as his brother sputtered to the edge. "I want you to tell Elladan that you are sorry and I want you to mean it."
"He said I stunk!"
"Damrod." Elrohir put his hands on the boy's shoulders. "Look at me. You do not push people into pools because they say things you don't like, do you understand? People will say things that you don't like all of your life. You cannot go around shoving them."
Stubborn look and the child scowled at the elf. "You can't tell me what to do!"
It was the last thing Damrod heard before he was lifted and placed over the elf's knees. "No!" He squirmed, held in place firmly. "I'm sorry! I'll take a bath! I didn't mean—"
"Yes, you did or you would not have said or done those things." Elrohir grimaced and met his brothers eyes. They had received more than their share of spankings and neither enjoyed it. "Do you know why you're getting spanked?"
"You're mean! Let me go!"
A sigh and Elrohir held the child in place. "For yelling at my brother and me." Swat! "For pushing Elladan into the pool." Swat! Swat! "For being rude and disrespectful." Swat! Swat! Swat!
Damrod was crying by the forth swat, truly sorry. He'd been spanked before, but now he knew he'd been rude to his hosts as well, and for that his father just might have taken a spoon to his behind. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry…."
"So am I, little one…so am I." Elrohir picked the boy up and held him to his chest, rubbing his back as he hummed. He let the child cry until he felt him finally relax into his hold. "Will you bathe now?"
Damrod nodded, suddenly weary. "I want my Ada," he whimpered.
Elladan sighed at the look of pain that crossed his brother's face. Elrohir had a tender heart, and hated to see any being suffer. "Come on, Damrod." He splashed the water. "I'll stay in here. There's no need to be nervous."
The boy popped up, looking at Elrohir first then to the wet elf in the pool. "I'm not scared." He slid to the ground and began to yank off his boots. A bit of help with the tunic and then he was at the edge of the pool, gazing apprehensively at the water. "It's not boiling is it?"
"Do you see it boiling?" Elladan held out his arms. "Even elves cannot stand in boiling water!" He grinned. "Come! Jump!"
With a yell, Damrod leaped.
In the dim light, the boy could have been their own son, dark-haired and fair of skin. His features were not as fine as an elf's, but his Dúnedain blood showed in high cheeks and dark hair.
"Have you heard of his parents?" Celebrían came in to stand next to her husband, leaning in against him as he put his arm around her.
"No. " Elrond sighed. "Snow hampers the scouts a little, but Glorfindel said he sent messengers to Annuminas as well, to see if perhaps they were traveling there."
"I hope they are well."
"As do I, love." Elrond kissed his wife's temple. "As do I."
Erestor watched the child laugh in delight as the twins demonstrated how they could walk on top of the snow. With a whoosh, the boy leaped off the balcony, sending clouds of snow up, then laid there, giggling.
"Grab his hand, 'Adi. Let's see if two elves can help a mortal walk atop snow…"
And so they did, keeping the small booted feet just barely off the snow.
Damrod laughed and pushed himself to swing between the two strong hands holding h im.
"He keeps those two out of trouble."
Glancing to his side, Erestor smiled. "Who better?" The child's laugh was infectious and the elf chuckled. "Practice, perhaps, for keeping your coming daughter out of mischief."
Elrond pretended offense, sticking his nose up. "My daughter, counselor, will be a perfect lady." Wry smile and the lord of the house, shook his head. "I fear there is too much of myself and Elros in my children." He sighed. "They will be scamps, all of them."
"Which is never to forget your lady wife."
"Erestor." Elrond arched an eyebrow. "Are you saying …."
Hands together, Erestor bowed, hiding a smile. "Of course not. The Lady Celebrían is every inch her mother's daughter."
"Yes, and Glorfindel will tell you what a hoyden his cousin was."
Erestor just smiled, bowed again and left his lord to watch his sons and Damrod.
He loved the Hall of Fire best. It was a huge room where everyone gathered after dinner, but somehow it was …cozy. Damrod found it hard to stay awake, but had found if he sat on the floor, on a cushion not too full of stuffing, then it was uncomfortable and kept him awake.
The songs could not be missed.
All of his life he had loved music. Loved to sing and hum, to whistle and beat a tempo on whatever came to hand. It drove his mother insane, that insistent tapping and humming, but he wasn't even aware he was doing it until she would suddenly put her hand over his with a smile, and kiss his forehead.
But these…these were songs he had never heard, singers with voices he could only dream of ever matching…
And the stories they told! Half-asleep, head nodding against Elrohir's shoulder, Damrod would listen and be uncertain if he was awake or not. Images would fill his mind, and his eyes, and suddenly he would see grand cities full of fountains and white towers gleaming brightly in the sun. Ships, white of sail, in the proud, graceful shape of swans, skimmed over the blue ocean, waves frothing against their hulls. Eagles shrieked in joy, great eagles, as large as the Oliphants in his Ada's book, tall as trees, swept across the sky.
Great tales of derring-do and heroes, of damsels who sang to dark lords to free their loves, and brave beings who had sacrificed all to save those they loved. Damrod sat night after night soaking up the tales, the songs, the deeds. His heart longed to see the places, but Elladan had told him many of those places were gone, long drowned by the seas.
Praises and matched hymns to Elbereth, to the stars, to Manwë and Ilúvatar filled him with awe as he gazed up at the skies. SO much more than he had ever dreamed.
The world was a very large place.
And he was a very small boy.
He wondered how his parents would ever find him. Elrond was kindness itself and often sat with him after the twins tucked him in bed. He would hold his hand and tell him stories of his father.
His father was a star!
Damrod cried sometimes, and though he would mute his sobs with his pillow, Elrond always heard. Celebrían would come in and hold him, and sing to him.
She smelled good. Damrod would cuddle against her, and miss his Naneth so badly it was a hurt in his chest.
He didn't ask how many days passed, it felt like forever and just a day all together, but every morning he ran to Erestor's office and peeked hopefully in on the counselor. If anyone knew, Erestor would. Elrond would know as well, but Damrod knew how busy the lord of the house was.
So he waited.
And then…it was Yule Eve.
"Just like that, lad. Good!" Radhrim beamed at the child who was shaping the cookies.
Damrod carefully cut out another shape, then another, so intent on getting the star shape right he absently scratched his nose and left a streak of flour there. "Why stars, Radhrim?"
"Did your naneth not make shapes of dough?"
His mother had always had certain things she made. There was always venison for deer were plentiful. There was often duck or pheasant. Potatoes. Other vegetables that he didn't eat – they were disgusting. Naneth had always put them on his plate and he had always pushed them around until she had finally kissed his head and given them to the dog.
"We made horses." He looked up. "And soldiers."
The cook looked sad a moment before bringing what he had been heating over the stove to the table. "I know you'll like this, lad. Have you ever had caramel?"
Damrod's eyes grew wide as Radhrim poured the caramel over a tray of cooled cookies then sprinkled them with nuts. It smelled delicious!
"Then I think perhaps you should try one or two." He winked. "To be certain you like them, of course."
"Thank you, Radhrim!" Damrod did like caramel, and after three cookies was sent on his way to leave the cook to his preparations.
Elrohir found him licking his fingers and ruffled his hair. "You've been making cookies."
"How did you know?" Sometimes the elves seemed to have eyes in the back of their heads and they always heard everything! It was way worse than his Naneth, who also had amazing hearing.
Kneeling down, the elf grinned and tapped the boy's nose, then showed him the flour on his finger. "Radhirm always makes the best things for Yule."
"He made caramel!"
"Mmmmm…." Elladan strolled over and gave a happy sigh. "We spent many a fun day in the kitchen with Radhrim."
"You still do."
"I like cooking!"
"You like eating." Elrohir grinned as Damrod giggled at their banter. "Do you want to go outside to play in the snow?"
"Yes!" Damrod bounced, hopping from foot to foot in excitement. "Can we? Please?"
Elladan pulled out a smaller version of his fur-lined cloak. "Look what I just happened to find in my room this morning!"
Hazel eyes wide, the boy looked solemnly at the elf. "That's too grand for me, Elladan. I'll get it wet and muddy and then the Lady won't be happy."
"She made it just for you, Damrod." Elrohir took the cloak and shook it out around the boy's shoulders. "There. Look here, she even put a fine cloak pin on it."
It was green, and lined with a soft fur that snuggled against his neck when the cloak was closed. He smiled shyly. "I'll tell her thank you tonight."
"She'd love that."
"Race you!" Elladan took one step before a happy shriek sounded behind him and suddenly he was overtaken by a whirlwind of green and brown. Laughing, he looked at his brother. "I used to think we were the overly-energetic ones."
"We are! He's just…"
"Come ON!" Damrod danced at the door, which was too heavy for him to open. Why did grown-ups always have to talk so much?
"You heard the lad."
"Last one out is an orc's—"
"I was going to say uncle!"
Watching his sons race around the snow-swept gardens, chasing the small boy as he threw snowballs, Elrond laughed. The child was much smaller and far less powerful but managed to get a few good hits in against Elladan. At one point, the elf went down as if injured in a grand swan dive and was promptly pounced by Damrod who crowed at the victory.
It was Elrohir who convinced the pair that a snowelf was a much better way to use snow, but later they pelted the younger elf with snowballs until his hair was white.
It wasn't until the sun was heading down that Elrond heard the jingle of bells.
Glorfindel had returned.
Dancing around the two elves who were somehow far more soggy looking than the child, Damrod grabbed Elrohir's hand, and looked up at him in glee. "Pow! I got you good!"
"You did, right in the face." Elrohir wrung the water from his soggy braids and offered a wry smile to Erestor who had greeted them just inside the house. "Sorry, …we'll clean the mess up."
Shaking his head, he was well-familiar with the boys and their messes, this was a minor one, Erestor knelt. "Damrod."
"Erestor!" The boy let go of Elrohir's hand and ran to the counselor. "Did you see our snowelf?"
"I did, and he's quite grand. I especially liked the hat of holly."
"And the mistletoe!"
"Child, I have good news." Erestor put his hands on the boy's shoulders. "Glorfindel found your family."
Damrod went still, eyes anxious. He swallowed hard. "Are they….are they all right?"
"Oh..child!" Erestor cupped the boy's chin. "They're very anxious to be reunited with their son and waiting in Elrond's—"
"…office." Erestor rubbed his ear and offered a wry smile to the twins as they watched the boy race down the hall. "Well, let's not miss this!" He turned and ran, followed closely by Elladan and Elrohir.
He raced to his mother, nearly knocking her down as he flung himself into her arms. "Mama!"
"Child! We were worried sick…." She held him tightly, crying.
"I'm fine, Mama!" Damrod hugged her back before pulling away to run to his father. "Ada!"
Sweeping the boy up in his arms, the man buried his face in his son's neck and held him.
"I'm sorry, Ada! I'm sorry!"
"Damrod…" The man knelt, and set the boy down, taking hold of his shoulders. Tears were in his eyes as he looked at the boy. "You worried us sick, son. Your mother and I looked for you and called. Why did you run off?"
"I wanted to see the red bird." Contrite and hating the sadness on his father's face, Damrod flung himself forward to hug his father tightly. "I won't ever do it again!"
"Thank you for finding him." Amarie wiped the tears off her face and cuddled their baby girl, who was watching her brother with a grin.
"We can never repay you." Daeron held his son tightly, but his look was very solemn.
"There is no need." Elrond spread his hands. "Children are precious to us all." He smiled at Damron. "And it has been lively having a young child again."
"You must stay." Celebrian threaded her arm though her husband's. "Join us for Yule, please."
"Can we?" Damrod looked from his Ada to his mama, worried they would say they had to leave right away. "You have to see the Hall of Fire, Ada! They sing every night and tell tales and I helped make cookies and we made a snow elf and—"
"Damrod!" Daeron laughed and kissed his son's cheek, before ruffling his hair. "Breathe, son." He bowed, son in his arms, and added, "We would be honoured, my lord, my lady. Thank you."
"Excuse us, if you will." The twins bowed in unison, so alike the humans stared for a moment. "We must change for dinner."
"As must I." Glorfindel bowed to his lord and lady and offered a wink for Damrod before following the twins out of the room.
"Ada," Damrod tugged on his father's tunic. "That is Glorfindel! The very same one who killed the balrog!"
A skeptical look for his son who was known to tell tales, and Daeron glanced at Elrond who nodded.
"Indeed. Glorfindel, along with my sons, found Damrod hiding under a bush in the wilds. But come, you must want to freshen up before dinner. Erestor, will you show them to their rooms, please?"
"Of course." Erestor smiled and gestured. "If you will follow me."
They had come out of the wilds and the frozen wastes into a dream land.
It was an amazing evening of food and laughter, of song and story and it was a night the small family never forgot.
Even years later, when he was grown and had children of his own, Damrod would call the children to his chair and tell them tales he had heard in the Halls of Elrond's Last Homely House.
But it was the flute, a silver flute, that he prized most. He still remembered the awe and astonishment he had felt when Lindir had knelt before him, silver-blond hair gleaming in the light of a hundred candles, and held the instrument out to him. "For I sense there is a love of music in your heart and I would kindle that flame with this small gift."
Nor had the elves forgotten his parents or sister. There had been gifts for all. A cloak for his mother, lined with the softest of white fur, a toy horse for his sister, and a knife of elven crafting for his father. Damrod had the blade now, and it had never dulled, not in decades of use.
"Ada…can we go visit?"
Stroking the silky brown hair of his daughter, Damrod smiled. He would love to go back, to see if things had changed.
He knew nothing would have changed. The elves were ageless.
"Maybe some day, Bria." It would be wonderful to show his children the wonders of Imladris, and those who had saved him that snowy night so long ago.
A Yule he would never forget.