Title: Cellar: To Beat the Heat
Summary: (A glimpse into the life of Estel and family): Young Estel has developed an odd habit and Elrond comes to understand his youngest's reasoning.
Disclaimers: I think I'd go crazy if I owned LOTR and would be off seeing if I could make the MC into movies as opposed to posting this right now…
Author's Notes: This was written for the MCI June 2008 Challenge: heat.
Yes, I know, terribly late for something back in June 2008, eh? Well, I started writing it, got about half-way through and then my muse took a tumble into the void known as what's beyond the edge of the earth (I hope it learns not to fall off the face of the planet again). When it reappeared months later and I found I could write again, I set to finishing this story. Then it just took me forever after that to actually post it. I'm a very bad procrastinator.
Little Estel speech – I have two little nephews, one is three/four years old and the other is two/three years old, and judging by their speech I think I am not wrong in writing young(er)-Estel's way of talking as I have. I know Estel is five, but I've also been around five-year-olds as well (albeit, a whole lot less than my younger nephews), so I think I've got his grammar close enough.
As for the references to Elladan and Elrohir's schooling… I'm no professor Tolkien, I only gathered what information I could and talked with others, and drew my conclusions. I claim the right of Artistic License.
Also, Elhad and his story I just made up, so don't go asking what story it is or where it can be found. Tolkien didn't write anything about it!
Now, on to the story!
Cellar: To Beat the Heat
Dappled sunlight spilled onto the floors of the halls as a soft breeze occasionally swept through the open house. When it did, the air stirred curtains, plants, and teased hair and clothes of the occupants of the home. Now, as Elrond passed by an open window, the breeze stirred and did exactly that to his hair and loose, casual clothing. At the current moment, since there were no meetings or important diplomatic obligations, he wore a comfortable maroon-coloured tunic with a light blue elbow-length shirt beneath and long, loose, dark breeches. Soft, suede boots accompanied his muted feet as he trekked down the brightly-lit hall.
Though not overly concerned, Elrond had not seen Estel since they had all broke their fast on the veranda in the cool morning air. The little boy had been full of energy and eager to start his day, with absolutely no idea what he was to accomplish, but certainly ready to be off about his childish business.
Elladan was off to the guardhouse to assist Glorfindel in organising that day's work among the soldiers as soon as he had taken his meal. Elrohir was busy taking inventory and stock, while Erestor was reorganising the library - having become rather bored with its setup. Gilraen had set her day aside to assist the ellyth working in the dye-house. Elrond had previous engagements in that he had to examine several reports he had been given - some on the status of the renovations being done on a Dunedian village that had suffered a tornado, others on the restoring of a damaged dam several miles downstream, and some about the state of their borders. Therefore, it was that after breaking their fast, everyone had split different directions, leaving Estel relatively alone.
It was usual that often Estel would be left alone to entertain himself, though he was never truly alone for the entire day. The adults, though often busy, would frequently check on him during the course of the day; and when they had extra time, one could find many of the Elves joining in with the child's games.
Today was a little different, though.
Gilraen had come to Elrond earlier when he was out on the balcony connected to his study glancing over some of the reports. "Have you seen Estel today, Elrond?" she had asked; titles were cast aside for they were equals here since Elrond had taken Estel in as his own child.
"Not since this morning," replied he.
Gilraen had nodded. "I know he is safe here and I am not concerned, I was wondering though if anyone had seen him. I am sure he is alright." She had smiled and turned to go. "Knowing that child, he is probably in some unobtrusive corner playing. No one has seen him since the morning meal; I thought I would check on him."
Elrond had risen as she turned away. "Are you going back to the dye-houses then?"
"Yes," she had answered. "I am not overly concerned about him, but if you do see him, let me know. I thought for sure I would see him when I took the noon meal, but he has not been around for food."
Elrond had nodded as she left; he understood that she had spoken to him so that he could keep an eye out for Estel.
Elrond mused quietly over where the boy might have gotten off to as he quietly perused the house. The reports on his desk were not important and he had decided to take a break to search out Estel. He had checked every wing of the house for the boy, but the child seemed to have vanished; not many places existed that Estel could have snuck off to for no one to see him for hours. Where else then could the boy be?
He had considered looking through the gardens and various courtyards, but his search turned up fruitless. The child had simply vanished; it was possible that Elrond had missed the boy, especially if Estel was on the move during his play. If he had, though, one of the Elves were bound to have seen the child, sent him to his mother or to Elrond, and sent someone else to inform the other, for they knew that the child's parent and guardian were looking for him.
With a sigh, Elrond turned back towards the house and entered through one of the doors that led into the scullery. The room was empty, but as he entered, an elleth hurried in to dispose of several dishes from the kitchen, where, no doubt, the cooks were organising things to prepare the evening meal. She dipped her head in acknowledgement of him before scurrying back into the other room.
The lord of Rivendell was leaving the scullery when a noise caught his attention. In the recess that connected the scullery and kitchen, a small door -one of several throughout the kitchen and scullery- led down into the cellar. The wooden portal stood ajar and it was from this open hatch that the sound had originated. With a small, bemused smile, Elrond pushed the door open enough to slip inside. He traversed the stairs to the bottom, his way lit by several torches hanging from their niches in the wall. The noises resounded at random intervals as Elrond grew closer to the source.
"I waa'ned you!" The voice of his youngest accompanied the noise as Elrond arrived at the bottom of the steps. "Now... die!" There was a loud bang, and subsequently a crash resounded. "Bad d'agon."
Elrond stifled the sound of his unexpected amusement as he took in the site before him. In the cellar, Estel had obviously been playing some sort of game - with a sturdy stick, barrels, and other paraphernalia. Appurtenances of the cellar were overturned, discarded, and reorganised. Elrond knew it must all mean something, but he was not sure what it was.
"Estel," spoke Elrond when he saw the boy to one side of the room, a demolished creation of the lad's in front of him. The child spun around, a surprised look on his face.
"Ada?" the boy asked as he dropped the sturdy stick in his hand.
"Child, what are you doing?" Elrond glanced around at the mess as he approached the boy. "Have you been down here all day? Why did you not tell anyone where you were? Did you know you had your mother concerned?"
"So man-ee questions, Ada!" laughed Estel. Elrond smiled at the child's speech, for the innocence of youth tinged it and proper pronunciation was not his strong point as of yet. "Which one you want me to an'wer first?"
Elrond's smile grew. He sat down on an empty, upright barrel beside his youngest. "Whichever one you would like." He nodded indulgently at the boy.
Estel thought for a moment. "No, I didn't know nana was con-cons- you know."
"Concerned," Elrond offered, smiling.
"Yes," Estel nodded. "I didn't know I needed to tell anyone where I was, Ada, honest!"
"It's alright, child," assured Elrond.
The boy nodded again, satisfied that he was not in trouble. "And to an'wer your first question - I been slayin' bad guys!"
"Oh, have you?" Elrond's eyebrows rose. "Just what…" -he paused and glanced at the various items strewn around the room- "kind of unsavoury fellows have you demolished today, my son?"
"Orcs, goblins, even a d'agon!" Estel gleefully reported.
"Really?" Elrond smiled at the boy, ruffling the child's unruly curls. "Did you decide to forego your school?"
"What's forego mean, Ada?" little Estel frowned.
"Did you decide to skip doing your school today?" Elrond reworded in hopes that the child would understand the meaning of his question.
"Oh!" the lad's eyes lit up. "I am doin' school, Ada. Fightin' bad guys and savin' the day IS school!"
"How so, little one?" Elrond was thoroughly amused.
"I learn how to save the day!" Estel announced as if it where the most obvious thing in the world. Elrond bit back a laugh at the child's logic, politely asking Estel to explain his reasons further. "Well, actually, Ada, I was just jokin'. The school part of this is the con'ructing of the bad guys and their hideouts," he replied most seriously.
"You mean it is like architecture?" A fond smile turned the elf-lord's lips as he watched the boy. Estel frowned, confusion in his eyes. Elrond reworded, "You are saying that it is like building things? You are enhancing your mind in that way?"
Estel did not quite understand Elrond's words, but he could plainly hear the approving tone in which his father's last question was asked. The child nodded vigorously.
Elrond nodded and glanced once more around the cellar. "Well, why do you not turn your attention to something your mother has assigned you for this week? Is there not a book she wants you to read, or something of that nature?" When Estel nodded, the elf stood. "Then come along," he instructed, gently turning the boy toward the closest flight of steps back to the upper level. Elrond noted the slight slump of his youngest son's shoulders. "Do not be too down, Estel. If you focus intently, you will be done with your assignment soon. You are lucky that you have so little to do; when the twins were your age, they had four or five times the amount of school."
"Really, Ada? When they were my age - five years old?" Estel paused and looked up at his surrogate father. In reality, the little boy only had a little reading from a simple-worded book to help expand his knowledge of the world around him and slowly increase his reading skills. The twins, on the other hand, being of Elven-kind, had far more advanced intellectual powers than humans of the same age did - therefore they were already studying history, mathematics, and music.
"Yes, my son," Elrond answered in amusement, "When they were five years old."
"Wow... I am glad I don't have to do as much as they did!" Estel told his father. The child sighed, "Still... I don't like the little bit that I have. I'd much rather play, Ada."
"I know, child," the elf replied. "I will tell you what, yesterday Faelwen made sun tea, which is now cooling in the stream in the adjacent chamber," Elrond nodded in the direction of the darkened room, where an underground stream ran through, cooling the entire cellar, especially that chamber. They used the cold temperatures of the room and stream to preserve milk and cool certain dishes.
"Do you think she'll let me help sweeten it?" Estel's eyes shone with delight; sun tea was his favourite drink, and he enjoyed helping the kitchen staffs prepare it.
"No, she would have already of sweetened this batch with honey before setting it to be cooled; we are having it with dinner." Elrond told the boy as they ascended the stairs. "However, I happen to know she is making more today to go along with tomorrow night's dinner as well." He paused when Estel let out a whoop. "If you finish your lesson in time, you can assist Faelwen in sweetening it just the way you like it."
"Yay!" Estel shouted with glee and took off up the stairs; slumped shoulders gone, the child raced for his room to read what his mother had assigned him.
--------- ten years later ---------
"Have you seen Estel?" Elrohir asked his father one warm, summer day.
"No, not since the morning meal. Why?" questioned Elrond, rising from his chair.
"Glorfindel was looking for him," replied the younger elf.
"What has Estel done this time?" A note of defeat snuck into Elrond's voice; his youngest was always getting into trouble –albeit, harmless trouble– and this fact could probably be accounted to the twins, who, when they had idle minds and free time to complete things, could be quite the tricksters.
Elrohir smiled in indulging amusement. "He has not done anything to be in trouble for, Ada... at least, not that anyone knows of." A secretive twinkle entered the elf's eyes. "Though saying that he has not done anything is part of the problem: that is exactly what has transpired."
"What do you mean, son?" Elrond set down the letter he had been reading from Thranduil.
"As you know, they practice archery in the mornings, and Estel was supposed to return all of his equipment," began Elrohir.
"What did he not return?" Elrond asked before his son could continue.
"I was about to tell you, father," there was a teasing smile on Elrohir's face that enhanced the mock-reprimand tone of his voice; their father had always reprimanded them for interrupting others.
Elrond smiled and glared playfully at his son.
"He was supposed to retrieve his stray arrows and, from the looks of the inventory, he did not. Glorfindel is looking for him so that he may go and find the strays," Elrohir explained.
"He is not to be found, then?" inquired Elrond of his son. It was unusual that one could not find Estel; admittedly, Elrond did not always know where Estel was, but there was usually never any need to be looking for the teen mid-afternoon.
"Correct," Elrohir remarked. "Indeed that, or we just are not looking for him well enough," he allowed the admittance.
"Ah," Elrond proceeded Elrohir into the hall. "I will assist you in finding him. Where have you looked already?"
Elrohir informed him, and then he mirrored the nod his son gave him as they parted ways. Elrohir headed back down the hall towards the common part of the house, whereas Elrond traversed the hall further into the family wing.
A door standing slightly ajar was his destination. "Elladan, have you seen your brother?"
"Which one?" A bemused smile appeared on Elladan's face. Yet Elrond could see the amusement in his son's eyes and knew that Elladan was teasing him about the fact that he had not specified which sibling. His children seemed to be in the mood for teasing their father today.
"Estel," clarified Elrond, choosing to ignore his son's antics for the time-being. Oh, he would find a way to get back later - yes, he would. He grinned inwardly.
"No, I have not. Did he not have weapons practice this morning?" His eldest lay aside some papers, turning his full attention on Elrond.
"Yes, he did, but now Glorfindel is looking for him to find and return his stray arrows, which Estel failed to do earlier." Elrond pulled a face, put out with the entire situation.
Elladan smiled knowingly and took pity upon his father. "You might try the kitchen gardens; I have noted he has an affinity for assisting in the tending of the plants."
"Thank you, I will look there." Elrond turned to go.
"Additionally, Ada," Elladan checked his father's departure. "Estel did mention to me last night before retiring that he wanted to find a book on the Iron Hills."
"The Iron Hills?" queried Elrond, half-turning back as his son drew abreast of him.
"Yes. Do not ask me why, Ada," deflected Elladan before his father could open his mouth. "Personally, I think Legolas put him up to it, but that is a gray area, because I do not have hardcore evidence to back my suspicions." Elrond smiled. Elladan offered, "I will scan the library while you take a look in the gardens."
"Thank you," he informed his son, who answered with a shrug that said it was no problem. They parted company as Elladan headed for the library and Elrond took back, less-traversed halls for a shorter route to the kitchen gardens.
"My lord, is there something I can help you with?" Faelwen inquired of Elrond when he entered the kitchen. She was in there alone at this hour of the day, but it would not be long before others came to assist in cooking enough food to feed the members of the household: for many other elves lived in the Last Homely House aside from the ruling family. Many still that lived elsewhere in the valley of Rivendell tended to stop by and share a meal with their loved ones and their honoured lord and his family.
"You might," Elrond told her as he crossed the kitchen on his way towards the gardens. "By any chance have you seen Estel today?"
"Why, of course, my lord," Faelwen nodded with a smile. "I saw him not long ago, he was in here requesting some refreshments."
"Refreshments?" He asked, then shook his head, waving that question off. "Have you seen him since? Do you know where he is?"
Faelwen grinned and titled her head toward the outlet leading into the scullery. "You might try the cellar, I thought I heard him down there earlier."
"The cellar?" the Lord of Rivendell thought aloud as he altered his course.
"My lord," Faelwen told him, as a way of parting as she turned back to her tasks.
"And then - and then, Naneth!" Estel's excited voice rose in his eagerness as Elrond descended the stairs to the cellar. "'Elhad emerged from the darkness of the cave into the waning light of the stars, but all was not as it seemed in the deceivingly peaceful look of the forest around him.' I tell you, Naneth, this is one of the best stories I've ever read! Guess what happened next! The trees held a mystery of their own!" His exuberance over the tale was quite obvious.
Elrond smiled as he arrived at the bottom of the stairs and came face-to-face with the roomy cellar and his missing child. Estel was in the middle of the room, animatedly relating the tale to his mother: he was waving his hands, pacing, and demonstrating what had happened with elaborate measures.
Gilraen was smiling as she listened indulging to the teenager, but nodded at Elrond as he entered. She held an unemployed book in her hands, and the table beside her sported several of Estel's schoolbooks and a few discarded dishes.
"Naneth, this book has me on pins and needles. You'll never believe what happens next! Elhad-" Estel began again, gesturing with his arms for emphasis.
"'Elhad was swept from his feet and pulled away from the ground, though no arms supported him. High into the trees he was rushed. In the darkness, all could Elhad make out was the disturbed shapes of the forest around him; his body was enveloped by the rough appurtenances of the trees themselves.'" Elrond quoted, and his eyes twinkled with light-heartedness as Estel spun around, surprise on his face; in his excited telling, Estel had not noted his father's approach.
"Ada," Estel smiled shyly, embarrassed at being caught in his elaborate retelling.
"I presume you are reading about the adventure of Elhad's scrape with-"
"Waa-waa-wait!" Estel shouted, covering his ears. "I haven't read to that part yet! I don't know what it is... and I'm dying to know!"
"I see," Elrond laughed.
"Earlier he was more than ready to beg anyone to find out what the creature is," Gilraen related, grinning.
"Well…" Estel grinned sheepishly. "I decided I wanted to find out myself." The teenager secretly just didn't want his father to know that he would find out the information before finishing the story and learning it; somehow he felt that if his father knew that was how he felt about it, that Elrond would be displeased with him.
"Alright, if that's the way you feel…" Elrond shrugged, mirth shining in his eyes.
"It is." Estel smiled. "At the moment, that's how I feel." It wasn't entirely a lie, as at that time, he really did not want someone else to tell him, because he thought it would keep a good regard with his father. Keeping in his father's good graces was a priority of Estel's at most times, though he knew his father would love him unconditionally anyway. He still did not like letting down those he loved.
Gilraen cast Estel a smile, then her gaze turned to Elrond. "What is it that brought you down here, Elrond?" she inquired, standing up.
"Glorfindel is looking for Estel." Elrond came over and put a hand on his son's shoulder, looking kindly into the eyes that stared back up at him. "Did you forget to do something, ion-nin?"
Estel looked confused, his brows drawn together as he thought hard. "I…" he tilted his head in the start of a shake to indicate he couldn't think of anything, even before he spoke the words. However, then a thought occurred to him and he hazarded a guess, "I didn't do something he asked of me?"
"Yes," Elrond nodded. "You were supposed to gather your stray arrows after archery and you didn't."
"Oh," the teen frowned. "Oh!" His eyes conveyed that he remembered. "I forgot because we were talking when we went to gather our arrows. I didn't think about the ones that missed, I suppose. I'm sorry I didn't take care of all of my equipment."
"It is alright," Elrond assured the boy. "If you go and rectify the mistake I am sure Glorfindel will be fine with the oversight on your part."
"Very well," Estel shook his head compliantly.
"And if you'll excuse me, I have previous engagements. I was simply taking a meal with Estel, as he asked of me. I must say again, my son, you picked an odd place to eat." Gilraen smiled and winked at her son, then gave him a quick hug before tucking her book under her arm and picking up the dishes atop a tray, proceeding to mount the stairs with her burdens.
"Have you been down here all day, Estel?" Elrond asked of the teenager.
"Umm… yes." The boy answered hesitantly, slightly unsure as to why his father was asking. "Why?"
"As far as I know, Glorfindel has been looking for you for some time. He had Elrohir searching as well." Elrond noted once more the books on the table, and looked at his son with curiosity shining in his eyes. "May I ask what exactly you've been doing down here?"
"I was just studying, Ada."
"Why down here, of all places?" His curiosity was not sated, and he couldn't help wondering about the odd choice of place to spend so much time in.
Estel glanced down at his feet, scuffing the toe of his boot against the floor, briefly considering not telling his father the whole, honest truth, and simply brushing the question off. However, he opted for the wise decision of speaking candidly, even though it was a little embarrassing.
"The summer's become really hot this year," he began hesitantly. "And I know it doesn't bother you because you're elves," his explanation came out haltingly.
Suddenly Elrond knew, and he smiled at his son, wrapping an arm around the teenager. "It's cooler down here, so you've been coming down here to escape the heat wave, is that it?" He now noted the fact that the boy wore loose clothing, short-sleeved tunic only and some trousers, made of very light fabric.
Estel glanced up and searched his father's eyes, seeing nothing but understanding and acceptance, and he nodded, relief entering his gaze. "I don't remember it being this hot in summers past, but it's really been getting to me this year. I've taken to studying down here, as I feel a lot less uncomfortable and as a result I can concentrate better. The cooler temperatures of the cellar, being underground and the stream in the room over, help me to beat the heat of the summer's ferocity."
"I understand." Elrond nodded and turned the boy towards a flight of steps. "Let's go find those strays and then you can continue your studies."
"Yes, Ada." Estel mounted the stairs in front of his father, feeling the welcome cool of the cellar fall away to be replaced by the warmth of the late June air as they drew closer to the upper levels. Pushing the door open at the top of the staircase, the two emerged into the kitchen, and Estel was fully greeted by the heat of the summer. "Ada?"
"What is it, ion-nin?" Elrond closed the door behind them.
"Was there ever a summer that was this hot before? Maybe one that I was here for?" There was a vague memory playing in his mind and he wanted to see if he was right.
Elrond thought about it for a long moment, staring off out a window, unmoving. "You must remember, Estel, that elves do not notice the weather changes in such drastic ways as humans. However, keeping in mind that if one were human, I would say that there was a fairly warm summer here when you were five; a strong heat wave from the south blew in, I believe. You asked to go swimming a lot that summer, and would disappear for hours to play in some cool area. Looking back now, I can see you were trying to escape the heat."
"Ah, maybe that was the summer…" Estel frowned. "I have this vague impression of playing down in the cellar, but it's more just images than an actual memory. I just know what was going on, as opposed to remembering it all. It's hard to explain."
"I think I can understand what you mean," Elrond smiled slightly. "Though with elven memories it is not at all the same."
Estel nodded. "All I know is it was very hot, in the middle of summer, it was cool in the cellar, and I was playing a game. I have a few images to accompany this knowledge, but that's it."
"There was a time when you were five that I found you in the cellar." Elrond began to explain as the two started to leave the kitchen. "You were playing 'orcs and goblins' or some rendition thereof. I believe you called it 'save the day' and you constructed a whole setup in the cellar for the bad guys' hideout." Elrond's smile grew as Estel blushed at the recollection of his childish games.
"You had a very vivid imagination, and converted the whole cellar for your game. I believe the staff had trouble for several weeks trying to find everything, as you had managed to rearrange quite a bit down there." The elf wrapped an arm around his son's shoulders. "This went on for quite awhile, for you had gotten Elladan and Elrohir to help you move things in the cellar and you spent quite a bit of time that summer down there; when you weren't off playing in water, that is."
Estel felt the heat on his face, but couldn't help the smile on his visage. His father wore a wide grin.
As father and son walked out of the kitchen, they met Faelwen in the hall. She smiled at the two, giving a polite dip of her head in deference. "Where are you off to, young master?" She teased Estel. "I thought for sure you'd be pestering me to let you help make sun tea."
The teenager laughed at the thought. "I would, and you know, if you make any, I want to help sweeten it."
"Of course," Faelwen laughed.
Elrond had to chuckle. Estel absolutely loved sun tea, and it was made specially for him most times. The twins and Elrond didn't mind a cup, either, but Faelwen liked to make Estel feel as if she made it just for him. Oft times she did, but still…
"However," the teen continued. "I cannot at this time, as I have to retrieve my arrows I forgot to get this morning."
"Alright," Faelwen passed the two on her way towards the kitchens. She turned to face them before entering. "While you're outside, why don't you check on the batch I started this morning?" She grinned as that statement lit Estel's eyes up. "It's by the wall, as you know, where it stays sunny all day. I'm fairly sure it's ready to be sweetened." Her eyes sparkled secretively.
"What kind did you make?" Estel asked eagerly, a happy smile on his face.
"I made the peach tea, this time." With that, the elleth turned and entered the kitchen, leaving the two behind in the hall.
"Yes!" Estel grinned and turned around. "I love sun tea."
"I know you do," Elrond laughed at his child's exuberance. "Once you gather the arrows and return them, you may assist Faelwen, but if you have any more studies, I want you to finish those, too, alright?"
"Yes, Ada," the boy nodded.
"Very good," Elrond turned to go. "If you see Glorfindel or one of your brothers, make sure you let them know that you know about the arrows and are taking care of the situation."
"I will." Estel was about to go his own way too when he remembered something. "Ada?"
"Yes, Estel?" Elrond stopped and looked back at his son, still standing in the middle of the hallway.
"What do you know about the Iron Hills?"
"Oh, I was just wondering…" The teen hedged. Then he relented with a sigh, "I was talking with Legolas, and he said something," Estel paused. "I decided I wanted to learn about the Iron Hills." He shrugged noncommittally.
Elrond hid a smile at the way Estel hesitated over speaking about this subject. Elladan was right. Legolas had put the boy up to the Iron Hills affair.
It was so very typical.