Title: The Warrior Is a Child
Author: Calenlass Greenleaf
Disclaimer: I don't own LOTR. I'm writing fanfiction and not getting paid for it. Would be nice, heh, but I don't think I would make too much money because I'm not the world's greatest fanfic writer…
Spoilers: LOTR in general, with references to the Silmarillion. Estel is fifteen in this.
Warnings: Angst, mentioned violence. No pairings/romance.
Summary: He thought it would be glorious. He was wrong. Characters: Glorfindel and Estel. POV: Glorfindel. Inspired by OAA prompt 180: Mentor, but is late and over the 500word limit.
A/N: Title comes from Twila Paris' song "The Warrior is a Child."
Contains a lot of dialogue on a difficult topic. In part, it ties back to two of my stories: Fireflies, and Tithen Maethor. Explanation given at the end of this story.
The Warrior Is a Child
"He refuses to talk to me."
"Yet you did not force it out of him."
"I could not find the feeling to."
"What do you mean?"
"The way he looked at me."
He pondered this for a moment. "Are you not a reader of hearts, Elrond?"
"He had his tightly closed up, and as his father, I would not feel right in this instance after he told me not to ask anything."
"Did his brothers say anything?"
"Nothing out of the ordinary."
"You say his injuries are not severe."
"An arrow wound on his leg, and multiple cuts from a blade. That is not what troubles him, Glorfindel."
"Iston," he softly replied, frowning to himself.
Stubborn child. If Elrond will not pry, then I will, because I am his teacher, and if he wants our lessons to continue…
"You mean to compel him to talk," the peredhel broke into his thoughts.
"Of course. Do you think we are going to allow something to fester?" Glorfindel said. "I will get it out of him one way or the other."
"Considering how stubborn you are, I know you will." A faint smile came and went. "But at least let him rest. You can talk to him tomorrow morning."
"As you wish, my lord."
Early morning came and went. Glorfindel climbed the stairs and turned the corner that would lead to Estel's room. He knocked on the door.
There was no reply.
"Estel, are you awake?"
He tried the door knob; it was locked.
"If you do not open this door, I will force it open." When there was still no answer, he drew an irritated breath and picked the lock using a dagger.
The room was dark; the curtains were pulled shut and there were no candles burning. He strode quickly forward toward the bed.
"Estel Elrondion," he called out. Had the boy not been injured, he would have shaken him. "Estel!"
The figure on the bed stirred and turned over. "I did not hear you," he murmured. "What is it?"
Glorfindel looked him over. Estel looked pale and tired. Dark circles were under his eyes, and he seemed to hold himself stiffly. Even more so, the elf was unsettled by the lifelessness in those eyes.
He sat down on the chair next to the bed. "How are you feeling?"
The youth waved a hand. "All right."
"Did you sleep?"
He paused. "Estel, did you sleep?"
The grey eyes flickered. "Not really."
"Is it due to your injuries?"
"And what is the other part?"
"I…" He made as if to turn away. "…do not feel like talking."
"You are not known for replying with five words or less at time, Elrondion."
"Tell me what is bothering you, or I will no longer teach you."
This garnered a better response; Estel looked at him with no small amount alarm. "Would you truly—?"
"If this stands between us, then aye, I would." He leaned forward.
The boy looked away. "Will you tell Ada?"
"Anything regarding you will be told to him," Glorfindel replied, "Now tell me. You can take a minute, an hour, or a whole day, but you must speak." He hoped it would not take a day, but he did not want to push Estel too hard. He watched as the boy's fingers curled around the bedsheets and twisted them. Estel's gaze rested once or twice on him, but he remained silent.
The minutes passed by slowly. The elf let his mind wander, trying to come up with something that would make the silence less harsh.
"The last time I had to sit with a young one because he refused to talk, it was with Eärendil," he began, fixing his gaze on a large painting on the far wall to the right. "That was the night before Gondolin was attacked." He felt Estel focusing on him. "However, I grew impatient before he said anything, and I left. Later, I had no chance to repair any damage."
"You died the next day." Estel interjected.
"Not so. Gondolin took a week to fall." His eyes flickered. "Even so, there was no time." He crossed his arms and leaned back, sighing. "But at least I died defending him and his family."
It was that simple. A life, no matter how great, could easily be extinguished. Elves were hardier than Men, but even they succumbed to some things.
"Did you think it was worth it?"
"Is it this subject that bothers you?" He held the boy's gaze.
A soft exhale. "Aye."
"What happened when you were out with your brothers?"
"Ada did not tell you?"
"No, and I did not think to ask." He should have; perhaps he would have caught on more easily. But maybe…even Elrond did not inquire of his children as to the events two days ago. "Tell me, Estel."
"I…I don't know where to start."
"At the beginning, of course."
Estel propped himself up on his unbandaged arm. He stared down at his blankets, fingers tracing a random pattern there. "I suppose you know why we were out?" At Glorfindel's nod, he went on, his voice only a little above a whisper. "It was only supposed to have been just an ordinary outing."
"I can tell you ran into some trouble."
"Some? It was much." He blew his hair out of his face and began tugging at the ends. "There were orcs. And there were men."
"Orcs and men?" Seldom did they get along…
"I did not consider it, either. Nor did Elladan and Elrohir." He violently pulled on his hair; a snag was caught between his fingers. "It was all a ploy. The men pretended to be captives."
"Ah." He could see how things escalated from here. "Yet your brothers escaped unscathed."
"Of course. As you and everyone else are fond of saying, I am too young, too rash, and if I were to be involved in a battle, I would be injured horribly," he finished sarcastically.
"Watch that tone of voice, Elrondion."
"Goheno nin," he replied automatically. "But I think I am beginning to see the truth of that." His lips twisted in humourless smile. "I was a foolish little boy. A boy who caught in a little skirmish that should have been nothing. I should have been able to be like my brothers. Instead, I found myself shot, stabbed, cut, and knocked out. In only a matter of minutes. It really—" he broke in a cough. "ah…"
"You are going to re-injure yourself like that." Glorfindel reached over to pat him on the back.
"I—I don't care."
"You do not?" He deliberately paused. "Say that once more, Estel, and I will walk out of this room to find your father." This reckless behaviour was something he did not expect from a bright, cheery child like Elrond's youngest. They were getting nowhere. The boy was skirting around the topic, and he still did not understand.
"It is only because I cared too much."
"There is no such thing as caring too much."
"Indeed? Then why—" He broke off. "I mean, then how is it that my brothers had no trouble?"
He was nonplussed. "They are more experienced—"
"That's not what I meant." He clenched his hand into a fist and, face strained. "How is it that they have no trouble with…killing?"
The question registered in his mind, and he understood. "Is that why you are acting like this?"
"What kind of a question is that, Glorfindel?" Estel pushed himself up so that he was sitting. "I saw them cut down all the orcs without a second thought. They had a sort of fire burning in their eyes, and the way they swung their swords was reckless and almost without any grace."
If you think this is bad, then I would hate for you to have seen your brothers right after their mother left. He shook his head. "What about the men?"
"Dead. All of them."
"How many did you slay?"
"What sort of person do you think me to be?"
He did not flinch at the rebuff. "You did, correct?"
The boy drew a breath and let it out slowly. "Just…one."
"And the others?"
"Right after he…fell, I was shot by another man. Then someone hit the back of my head." He touched the bandage. "But before I lost unconsciousness, I saw Elladan and Elrohir. They were so angry…I've never seen them like that." He shuddered. "What made them—?"
"I cannot explain all of it, because it is not my place, but I can tell you that they did it out of love. Or, so they say."
"It was born out of love, but it turned to something darker. Something called revenge." He decided to give Estel a little more information. "It had to do with their mother." He sighed inwardly. Elladan and Elrohir, ever the protectors.
"Oh." Estel nodded at this. "But what about me?"
"I only understand half of what is bothering you. You must tell me all that is in your heart."
"But I have so many questions…"
"And we have much time to go through them, one by one." He reached for Estel's shoulder and gripped it.
The boy was quiet for a few moments before venturing to speak. "I can remember his face. He knew he was going to die by the hands of a child." He bit his lip. "It's bothered me since. If I close my eyes, I see him. If I sleep, he appears in my dreams."
"Let me ask you something." Glorfindel said, "During the time you fought, did he show any remorse for hurting a child?"
"Did he hold himself back?"
"I don't think he did."
"Then what you did was right."
"There are some people in this world who are so calloused that they do not care if they kill a person. You can only pity them and hope they can turn away from that path. But if they cannot, and you are forced to make the decision of letting them live or ending their life." He leaned forward. "Who struck the first blow?"
"Then you acted in self-defence."
"But maybe if I were a better fighter, I could just injure him enough so that he could no longer fight me. Maybe I—"
"No," he interrupted. "Don't consider the what-ifs if it never happened."
Estel turned away. "But why does it hurt, Glorfindel?" He gritted his teeth and slumped down into the blankets.
It made his heart clench to see the pain in those young eyes. He was too young for this.
"Ada teaches me healing. Yet only two days ago, these hands have shed the blood of men." He looked at his hands, which were gripping the sheets so hard that the knuckles were white. "How can I do both? What is the difference between a murderer and a warrior?"
Glorfindel considered the questions, knowing that they were finally getting to the heart of things. While he was dismayed that they had to be brought about at such the age of fifteen, he was also relieved that Estel was opening up instead of harbouring them.
"What is your purpose for learning healing, Estel?"
"And what is your purpose for learning swordplay?" He smiled a little. "Think back to what you said when you were little."
"To protect others."
"Therein lies your answer to how you can do both things that on the outside seem to contradict each other," he said softly, "you learnt both for the sake of others, for those that you care for."
Estel loosened his grip on the blankets, letting his hands lay limply on his lap.
"Do you understand?"
"I think so." He raised his head. "And what makes me a killer or a…an advocate?"
"Your purpose," Glorfindel replied, "Are you doing it because you want to see their pain, or because you resolved to protect someone?"
"Tell me why again," he quietly said, "Why you trained under me. Why you learned from your brothers. Why you can shoot a bow and swing a sword."
"Because I wanted to be a warrior. To protect those I love."
"That is the difference."
"You tell me I am right, then why do I feel as if I have done something wrong?" He closed his eyes and pressed a hand against his head, splaying his fingers so that he could press down on his forehead and temple.
"You did nothing wrong."
"Then why can I not be more like my brothers? Sure of myself? Why these doubts?" He stared down at his other hand, which was once again in a fist. "When I was little, I liked to pretend I was killing everything from dragons to Sauron himself." The boy snorted. "Not once did I realize how wrong I was. How ugly death truly is." His breathing hitched. "Maybe I am not fit for this."
"No," Glorfindel interjected. "You are more than capable." Of course, he could not tell the child now of his heritage and the burden he needed to take upon himself. "You have the making of a wonderful swordsman," he tried to assure him.
"But I cannot go out there again!" His head came up sharply, and he leaned forward. "I won't! You cannot make me. I—" Estel suddenly curled in on himself, gritting his teeth. "Valar, it hurts…"
Glorfindel touched him on the arm. "Are you all right?"
And to his surprise, Estel shook his head.
"No." His breathing hitched. "How can I be all right if I do not understand?" Fingers scrabbled for something to hold, and they found the sleeve of the elf's tunic. "I thought I was stronger." He looked straight at Glorfindel, grey eyes wide and frightened. "Do you know what that man said to me, right before I ended his life?" Estel went on. "He said that I was only a child playing the warrior, and that I was too fearful to kill anyone."
He realized the calm demeanour Estel had put on at the beginning of their conversation was slipping away to emotions. "Estel, it—"
"And he called me a coward, not fit to be a man. He looked as me with hate me, even though it was the first time I ever saw him." Frustrated, he banged a hand down his mattress. "How can I be everything you and Ada and everyone else want me to be if I cannot even kill without falling into pieces over just one person?" The fingers tightened. "I—"
"Estel," The elf spoke, interrupting. "Listen to me, and listen well." He placed a hand over the fingers that were crumbling his sleeve, and found them icy cold and sweaty. "Look at you—you are still a child. I, your father, your brothers—we do not expect you to become an adult in just one day." He rubbed the back of the clammy hand. "You are being too hard on yourself." He shook his head. "Give yourself time; I had to do the same."
"The Kinslaying." He sighed. "I took no part in it, but the night I saw Elf killing Elf, and the blood that ran into the sea, it was terrible."
"How did you learn to put it behind you?"
"I did not," he said simply. "But it became a memory—a memory tells me I could prevent it from happening again, I would."
"That is why you came back?"
"In part." He clasped the boy's hand. "One day, the fighting will lessen. Men will learn the sacredness of life, and the Shadow will be forced from these lands." Glorfindel glanced across the room, toward the window. "You are strong, child. I can see it in your eyes. No-one should ever call you a coward."
"But I was afraid." Estel shook his head. "While fighting him, I thought I was going to trip, maybe lose my grip on my sword…" He gestured helplessly. "I thought I was going to die."
"I do not find any shame in fear. If you said you were unafraid, then I would be sceptical."
Estel was silent for a moment. "Are y-you…proud of me?" he finally asked.
"I am proud of you for standing and fighting even when you were afraid."
"I don't think…I'll ever get used to it. Seeing people die."
"You should not." Ai, how we children of Ilúvatar strike out at each other with so little thought at the heartache that comes when a child grows up. "Because you have hands and heart of a healer and warrior."
"I don't want to be either!" he snapped, pulling away. "I just…" His hold on his emotions slipped. "I just want everything to be the same again! I don't want to a healer or a warrior." His breathing accelerated and he pressed his sleeve against his eyes. "I-I j-just—"
"Hush." In one movement, he was holding the boy tightly, not letting him be worked up again. "It is all right."
"—just w-want to be a child a-again…" Estel tightly fisted his sleeve and buried his face into the crook of Glorfindel's shoulder, hardly caring that he was too old to be crying like this. "Even a s-stupid, ig-ignorant one…" he sobbed out. "I d-don't want this—"
"I know." There was really nothing he could say at this point. It was all too fast. Estel was only fifteen, and already he was confronted by hard issues. Glorfindel wished it had come later, but now he could only hope that it did not affect the boy too badly. "Shh…"
Estel clung to him for a few minutes until his shoulders stopped spasming and he was calmer.
He smiled little at the use of the nickname. "Give yourself time, Estel." He lightly rubbed the boy's back.
"…didn't mean to yell," was the muffled reply.
"Elrondion, I was never angry. Only when you were being impudent."
"You will still teach me?"
"Until the day you are a fully-grown adult, aye, I will always be your teacher."
"C-can you not tell Ada that I—?"
"You leave your father to me," Glorfindel told him, "and do not worry about the details."
He nodded against the elf's shoulder. "A-all right."
"Do you want me to leave or stay?"
"You can stay if you want."
Glorfindel smiled at this typical reply. "Then I will," he said.
He would wait until Estel recovered from his injuries, and then they would talk on the matter again.
For now, Estel simply needed his presence and assurance, and he was more than willing to give it to him.
The heartache will pass, young one. I promise.
"The warrior is a child," was all he said to Estel's father.
And Elrond understood all too well.
Iston – I know
Peredhel – half-elf
Ada – endearing form of "Adar"
Goheno nin – Forgive me
I don't know how long Gondolin took to fall. But considering the elves' prowess at fighting, I'm sure it took a little while before they were crushed.
A/N: While wondering what to write for this prompt, I realized that I had overlooked something while writing some of my earlier LOTR stories: wars and fighting, and how it might be impressed on someone who isn't a child and who isn't an adult.
Little is known of Aragorn's childhood; I've assumed he had a rather sheltered one and lived on the old tales of elves fighting. And what if he suddenly found himself in a fight of his own? Would he brush it aside or remember it? Would he understand?
In Tithen Maethor, Elrond observes a child growing up to be a warrior. In Fireflies, Elladan takes note of the innocence of that child. In The Warrior is a Child, Glorfindel confronts the questions that arise when innocence gives way to reality.
War…isn't pretty. I wish the race of Men would be more like the Elves in the Silmarillion; horrified by the slaying of our own kind. But we aren't. We're apathetic, yes, but how many times do we actually reflect on the nitty-grittiness of the purpose of fighting wars? Or strife of any kind?
I'm not one of those people against fighting wars. I just think that maybe we ought to consider the consequences of such before doing it. You're trading ignorance for knowledge, but that knowledge comes with repercussions that either shatter or strengthen a person.
To utilize an old quote, "Choose your battles wisely."
Sorry that this A/N is so long, but I was stuck on this for two weeks and I felt this story needed the explanation. It came from reading too much FullMetal Alchemist and stems from Ed and Riza's conversation in Volume 15 (Chapters 58—61) regarding the ugly side of war. And, I think, FFVII played a part in formulating this.
Hope you've enjoyed reading this.