Author's Note: Here's the next little Estel story for you! I've decided to post this story outside of my 'Dawn of Friendship' collection because, for once, Legolas is not present in person. Feedback is, as always, very welcome. ;-)

I hope all of you are having a great weekend! :)


Title: Gifts from the Heart

Author: Silivren Tinu

Beta: the wonderful Imbecamiel (((hugs)))

Rating: K

Summary: An incident during a visit to a nearby village makes Estel remember and treasure some very special gifts he has received on his birthday. Characters: Little Estel, Elrohir. Written for Prompt #135 "Simple" and Prompt #137 "Book" in the Owners of Aragorn Angst yahoo group.

Disclaimer: I guess I own Jannek, but I could be persuaded to swap him for Estel. *g*


o-o-o-o-o-o

- Gifts from the Heart -

o-o-o-o-o-o

"Look what I can do!" a shrill, excited voice cried, startling both the boy and the elf, who were sitting on a bench in front of a small, rather shabby looking cottage at the edge of the village, soaking up the warm rays of the afternoon sun.

Estel yawned, blinking in the direction the noise seemed to be coming from. He had been drowsing with his eyes closed and his face turned towards the sun, and wasn't able to see much more than red spots dancing in front of his eyes for a moment. When his sight finally cleared, the first thing he saw were three large shapes and a smaller one, which turned out to be the three magnificent horses and one shaggy pony he and his foster brother Elrohir were supposed to be guarding.

The boy stretched and sat up straighter, casting a short glance over his shoulder at the front door and the windows of the cottage behind them. The door was still closed, and he could see his adoptive father sitting at a table with his other brother, Elladan, and a stout woman, who was the closest thing to a healer this village had. Estel was quite aware that the real reason why he was sitting out here, 'guarding the horses', was that Lord Elrond did not want him to hear whatever he was talking to the woman about.

He did not really mind. The last time Elrond had come to the village to offer both advice and supplies to the village healer, there had been talk about a plague spreading in a nearby village and Estel had been banned from the house then, too. The boy was realistic enough to know that hearing about the gruesome details would likely have caused him nightmares for many days to come, and he was quite content not to know what was discussed in the healer's house today.

He could hear Elrohir shifting on the bench beside him and turned to look at him, but the half-elf's eyes were closed and he seemed to have returned to his previous sunbathing. While there was at least a reason for Estel sitting here, Elrohir's presence was, in the boy's opinion, completely superfluous. Estel usually got to accompany members of his family or their household to this village several times a year, and he had quickly noticed that he was never left alone during those - mostly rather short - visits.

Even when he was playing with the villager's children, there was always an elf nearby watching him and his surroundings attentively. Estel could not help thinking that his family was really a bit overprotective. He was only an ordinary boy, after all, and he had never seen other children his age running around with a bodyguard on their heels. Really, what could happen to him in a village whose inhabitants all knew each other, were friendly towards elves, and where strangers seldom passed through?

There were no wolves or orcs around, and Estel thought it quite unlikely that one of the children he had befriended was hiding a Balrog in his or her wardrobe. He had never voiced his thoughts about the subject to his family, though – first, he was quite aware that any protests on his part would have been useless, and second, this might just be another grown-up thing he didn't understand. Adults always tended to behave strangely, whether they were humans or elves.

His philosophical thoughts were rudely interrupted by loud clanging, banging sounds, the source of which was hidden from the boy's sight by a living barrier of three bored-looking horses and one drowsing pony. Remembering the cry, which had originally drawn his attention, Estel leaned sideways and found that he was able to see through a gap between his brothers' horses without even having to rise from the bench. The banging sounds repeated themselves, and the boy saw the ears of Elladan's usually easy-going stallion twitch irritably.

Estel was not really surprised when he spotted a blond-haired, square-shouldered boy running around in the small marketplace in the direction the noise was coming from. Of all the children in the village, this boy was probably the one he liked the least, and also the one most likely to be the source of any commotion. Jannek was the son of the mayor, who also happened to be the wealthiest man in the village, and mighty proud of it.

He tended to be both boisterous and boastful, and the other children either admired or envied him. Estel did neither. He had never felt the need to show off to anyone about his own home and family, though Rivendell and the elves living there were certainly much more impressive than anything Jannek could dream of. Expensive toys and wrestling also did not interest Estel particularly, and since Jannek had never shown any interest in books, healing herbs, or talking to trees, they really did not have that much in common.

They would occassionally play together, but Estel was quite sure they would never become anything like friends. He was about to look away again, when he noticed something that captured his attention. Jannek had a wooden sword in his hands and was 'duelling' with five other kids, who were using sticks and trying to shield themselves with four pots and a frying pan. Jannek's enthusiastic pummeling of the 'shields' and sticks seemed to be what was causing the infernal noise.

His interest roused, Estel watched the 'fight' for a while, but realized soon that Jannek did nothing but vent excess energy and obviously had no idea how to wield a sword. He used it like an axe, his stance was all wrong, and he neglected his guard completely. The only reason Jannek remained victorious was that the others were too busy cowering behind their pots and frying pan to ever attack him. Estel could not blame them – Jannek's wild, blind blows were certainly a danger to anyone and anything in his vicinity.

In the short time he was watching the scene, Estel had already seen him lay into a tree, a bench, and a bucket just as enthusiastically and relentlessly as into his opponents. He frowned, unable to understand why anyone would want to make a game out of sword fighting, and why anyone would enjoy it. To him, sword fighting was a serious and deadly thing, but the wooden sword Jannek was wielding so carelessly was not even one of the wooden training swords Estel knew from his own training with Glorfindel. It seemed to be nothing but a toy.

"Do you want to join them?" a quiet voice asked.

Estel, who had forgotten his brother's presence completely, almost jumped. He turned his head, meeting Elrohir's keen eyes. The boy thought about the question for a moment, then shook his head mutely. He did not feel very much like playing, and this specific game did not make any sense to him. He would have been able to disarm Jannek in one single move, which would not bring any real benefit for his training. Estel could only hope that the older boy would never have to face a real foe, or would eventually find someone to teach him how to fight.

Elrohir seemed to accept his answer, since he did not ask again, and Estel turned his attention back to Jannek and his friends. Jannek's opponents had finally done the only thing they could and thrown their sticks, pots, and frying pan to the ground to indicate their defeat. The blond boy raised his sword in the air and let out a triumphant shout. Elladan's horse snorted, tossing his head. Estel found himself agreeing with it completely. Other children, who had been watching from a safe distance, now gathered around Jannek, all seemingly wanting to touch the sword or at least look at it.

Jannek showed it to them willingly, holding it with both hands and declaring in a voice loud enough to be understood by Estel, "Father had to order it from somewhere in the South. It's great, isn't it? They don't make anything like that around here. I bet I'm the only one around here who has something like it!"

Estel craned his neck to get a better look at the sword, and had to admit to himself that it was indeed a beautiful piece of art. The handle was adorned elaborately with pieces of what looked to be coloured glass, and the sword was painted in a way that made it look a lot more like a real sword than Estel's training swords ever did. On the other hand, it was easy to see that the wooden blade was beautiful, but not useful – its balance was off, the handle too thick, it was too long to be wielded by a boy, and on top of that, the artist had seemingly not been able to make up his mind whether he wanted to imitate a scimitar or a long sword. Still, it did look very nice.

"Of course, that was only one of my birthday presents," Jannek went on puffing himself up, "but I think it's the best one. Do you want to see the others?"

Estel did not hear what the other children answered. He was not listening anymore. Jannek's words had reminded him of his own birthday, and for a while he forgot Jannek and the other children completely, losing himself in the memories of a day he would always remember as one of the most beautiful in his life. He could not help smiling when he recalled the events of that day and the gifts he had been given.

Legolas had not been able to come, but had sent him a letter with a dried leaf and an acorn enclosed. The elf had told him in the letter that, since Estel was not yet able to visit him, he wanted him to at least be able to take a look at his favourite tree, the leaf and acorn of which he was now holding in his hands. The leaf had arrived in a rather crumbly state and the acorn had had cracks, as if someone had stepped on it or sat on it by mistake, but being a very imaginative child Estel had had no problems picturing a majestic tree in his mind from looking at the battered leaf and acorn. Both had found a place among his most treasured possessions on his bedside table by now.

From Elladan and Elrohir, who knew from his countless questions how much he was interested in the healing arts, he had received a small bag filled with seeds, which had enabled him to plant his own healing herbs in the garden by now. Estel went there to visit his herbs and watch their growth at least once a day, and the bag with some seeds left in it had found a place on his bedside table, too.

Glorfindel had gifted him a song, and Estel was quite sure he would never forget that evening in the Hall of Fire and Glorfindel's voice as he sang for him that day. It was the most beautiful thing Estel had ever heard in his life, made even more special by the knowledge that the song had been written for him.

After Glorfindel's song, Elrond had given his son his own gift – a tale. Estel had always loved sitting in the Hall of Fire, listening to the elves' tales, and Elrond had told him about a battle a long, long time ago he had experienced himself. Estel was quite sure his father had left out lots of unpleasant details, but he did not mind. The tale was one of the rare ones that even had a happy ending, and to Estel it seemed like the most exciting adventure he had ever heard about.

Finally, just before he went to bed that day, Erestor had given him a book bound carefully in leather. Opening it, Estel had found both his tale and his song written into it in Erestor's neat, orderly handwriting, and there had still been lots of empty pages left 'to write his own songs and tales down', as Erestor had said.

Estel had never had a more wonderful birthday. The things he had been given on that day could not be bought or paid for, even if you had the richest father in the world. He looked over at Jannek and the other children again, which was now a lot easier to do, since Elladan's stallion had chosen to move away to the far side of the bench, as if trying to make a point.

Jannek was now showing his gifts to everyone who wanted to see them, and Estel could not help noticing that he had obviously had them with him all along. He was rather amused than annoyed by that. Estel watched Jannek and the other children a while longer without really taking in what he saw, still preoccupied with thinking about his gifts and wondering if Erestor really thought he would ever be able to create a song.

"Jealous?" Elrohir broke into his thoughts, a barely detectable hint of anxiety in his voice.

Estel looked at him, surprised. "No," he said, giving his brother a blank look. "Why should I be? I have a leaf and an acorn, seeds, a song, and a tale. What else would I want?"

His words were rewarded by a smile spreading across his brother's face. Behind them, Estel heard the door to the cottage open with a telltale creak and took that as his cue to jump to his feet. Suddenly, he felt rather eager to get home, make sure that his healing herbs were thriving and, perhaps, try to write down the first line of a song which had just come to him.

- The End -