Title: Gilraen the Living Dead
Author: Sivan Shemesh
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Warning: Family/Horror, AU.
Synopsis: A young Estel is haunted by visions of his mother. How could he make them stop?
A/N: This story is based on Estel being a few years older than in the books.
A/N 2: Written for Teitho "Weird Tales"
It had been two years since his mother died. The last time Estel had seen her body was two years ago. How was it possible that he saw her again so recently in Imladris? And certainly he could not have been mistaken; she looked exactly like how he remembered her – even if something wasn't quite the same about her.
Still, was it possible that Gilraen had faked her death to be with him longer?
Estel let his mind explore the possibilities as he wandered within the forests of Imladris. Perhaps she had heard him crying at her grave and had finally returned to look for him. Perhaps she missed him too much. Or more likely, perhaps he had made her angry… As he made his way back, going past the waterfall, he stopped on the arched bridge, watching the water cascade in a blur. If he looked hard enough, maybe he would see his mother within the rushing waters.
"Estel, what are you doing now?" Elrohir asked his brother quietly.
"What do you mean?" Estel asked him, still staring at the waterfall.
"It is your sword lesson, Estel. You've already missed two lessons in the past two weeks, and you weren't present for adar's healing class, or Lindir's archery class either," Elrohir replied and then he asked with a worried frown, "Is there something that bothers you, my brother?"
Estel turned and stared at him, his expressions as though pleading, but he could not seem to find the words to explain it all to his brother, so he tried to shrug it off instead. "No, you cannot help, no one can," he said, dejected.
Elrohir looked at the boy, having noticed something flicker in his brother's gray eyes, but not wanting to push the subject, he decided to let it pass; he knew Estel well enough to know that the child would talk when he wanted to.
"Well, if there's something that bothers you, little brother, you can come to me, Elladan and ada for advice anytime. We'll try to understand and help you as much as we can," Elrohir paused and put an arm around the boy. "Please do not forget that we are a family, and everyone in a family takes care of one another."
With that Elrohir gave the boy an encouraging smile and left him alone with his thoughts.
Estel blinked as he realized he had been staring at his brother's retreating form. Giving a small sigh that would have done his ada proud, he wandered around, thinking of what had happened in the last three weeks. How had everything started? How could he made it stop? But his mind had no solution for it all.
The day seemed to fly by and it wasn't too long before the sun began to set and the colors in the sky were replaced by the envelope of darkness. Estel was in his room tucked in the bed. He was tired but he kept putting off the moment of sleep – sleep meant she would come again and he wasn't sure if he wanted that – until he could bear it no longer. Finally, his eyes closed.
"You cannot run away from me, my son, you are mine!" The familiar figure was chasing after him, growling at him like some kind of animal.
Estel thrashed around, trying to free himself from her firm grasp. He shook his head frantically and then he screamed as loud as he could.
The frightened scream woke Elrond at once and he rushed to the boy's room, only to find him sweating profusely, his limbs entangled in the sheets. The boy was paler than usual and his eyes were still closed in sleep
"Estel..." Elrond tried to wake him from his nightmare, but the boy showed no response.
Coming quickly to a decision, Elrond left Estel's room, calling for his sons to see to their brother as he hurried toward the kitchen. Though he was uncertain of what troubled his foster son, he knew that he needed lots of fresh water and the calming athelas.
Elrond was aware that Estel had missed quite a few lessons in the last three weeks. Although he had hoped that the boy would confide either in him or the twins, Estel had not come by.
When Elrond returned to the room, Estel was half awake, a haunted look still in his eyes. Elrond could easily see the streaks where the boy's tears had flown down his cheeks.
"Elladan, Elrohir, did he say anything?" Elrond asked with concern as he kept his gaze on the boy.
"Only mumbling about someone coming after him..." Elladan replied, and Elrohir continued for him, "We could see that something was bothering him. I even asked him about it earlier and but he told me that no one can help him, and I did not wish to push the issue, fearing he might do something rash instead."
"You did well my son, you are his brother and you acted like one," Elrond said to Elrohir, the pride evident in his voice, as he saw the young elf's regretful expression.
"Adar is right, muindor," Elladan agreed and told his twin.
Elrond sat at the edge of Estel's bed, wiping the sweat that covered the boy's forehead with the fresh leaves, letting the calming scent ease the boy's fears.
"Estel," Elladan called, hoping Estel would open his eyes completely.
"No..." Estel mumbled.
The healer and the twins looked at each other in incomphension.
"Estel," Elrohir called, and looked deep in those gray, haunted eyes, "It is only us and adar here. Please, little brother, tell us what is wrong and we will fix it."
"Go away... please..." Estel was still mumbling, his eyes glazed over.
"Who do you wish to go away, my son?" Elrond asked. Whatever it was terrifying him, Elrond wanted to protect the boy.
"Her..." Estel replied, pointing his little hand toward a figure that only he could see, for when Elrond and his sons turned, they saw nothing but the cool mist.
"Who is she?" Elrond asked softly, willing the herb to take its effect, as he saw how Estel seemed to grow paler.
"Please go away before she does something to me... please..." Estel was almost begging them.
"What will she do to you, little brother?" Elladan asked with concern.
"She will take me away..." Estel started to cry and Elladan instinctively hugged the boy, letting him cry on his shoulder, while his twin turned to his father, hoping Elrond could help the boy pass the night. At his father's nod, Elrohir passed a few leaves for him to brew the tea.
"Estel," Elrond called and waited for the child to look at him before he spoke, "I want you to drink this." He brought the herbal tea over to him. "It will make you sleep soundly, and no nightmare will catch you in your dreams, alright?"
Estel nodded, and though his fingers still trembled, he finished the tea.
The twins watched him carefully, noticing how he was still clearly disturbed from his nightmare. Hopefully he would rest and in the morning, he might feel well enough to tell them about the nightmare that had left him so shaken and vulnerable.
When dawn broke, Estel lay in bed for a few minutes before he registered what had happened last night. While he could not help the blush of embarrassment that crept up as he thought of how he had let his brothers and his adar know about the one who kept hunting him, he comforted himself with the fact that he had managed to hide her identity.
Then he saw her again.
He moved quickly off the bed, his clothes still soaked in his own sweat. He could not understand why; nights were cool but his room must have been particularly heated up.
"Please..." Estel mumbled toward her, tried to make his escape.
"No one can see me except you, my darling boy..." Gilraen told him, laughing so hard that Estel found it painful.
Dashing out of his room, the boy covered his ears and ran as fast as he could. He did not know where he ought to go, but anywhere seemed better than his room, the corridor, the house. He could still hear her laughing behind him but he pressed his hands hard against his ears and ran, not bothering where he would wind up at. All he knew was that he had to keep running.
"You are a boy, a human, and only you can see me; no elf can see me. And I will hunt you till you come and be with me where you belong!" she laughed again.
"No!" Estel did not dare look back but he brushed those shameful tears roughly off his face.
"Estel, wait…" It was a different voice this time but Estel paid no heed to it. He could not let anything stop him from running.
"Estel… Please…" The boy's mind worked out that the voice sounded familiar but he was too frightened to stop.
"Gwador nîn, av-'osto… Gwador vuin…" Somewhere in his mind, he knew it was Elrohir and something made him slow down and take refuge in a cave. [My brother, don't be afraid, my dear brother…]
Elrohir wasted no time in catching up with the boy, watching him hug his knees in the darkest corner of the cave. He could not possibly let the boy try to hide and face the unknown on his own.
"Estel, gwador vuin, it is I, Elrohir," Elrohir called to him softly. It was heart-wrenching to see the boy running away from the land he had adopted as his home only not too long ago.
"Elrohir... she is after me..." Estel said softly, his voice trembling with fear.
Elrohir came closer and held the little child in a protective hug. "Who is she?" he asked gently.
Estel sobbed only harder and squeezed his eyes shut.
"Estel…" Elrohir patted the boy's back. "You know you can tell me; I'll always protect you. It'll be alright."
As though coming to a decision, Estel swallowed hard. "My… my mother," Estel replied between chokes, "She... she said that... that she came to get me... I'm scared..."
"You have nothing to afraid of, little brother. I will protect you, and Elladan and adar will help too. No one will ever hurt my family," Elrohir told him firmly.
"No one?" Estel sniffed hard and asked, looking up at Elrohir hopefully.
"No one!" Elrohir assured him, wrapping his arms around him tighter.
The boy seemed to calm down; at least Elrohir did not feel the boy's fearful trembling now. "Estel, your mother has been dead for two years. There is no way she can return back to scare you," Elrohir tried to reassure him.
"But... but I saw her..." Estel said, and swallowed another sob.
"What did she look like?" Elrohir asked in concern.
"Like she always was. But she was paler, and her clothes were torn, and she looks very… evil." Estel replied timidly and those sobs engulfed him again.
Elrohir let him sob on his shoulder, and then a thought occurred to him. "Estel, have you been listening to one of Erestor's stories again?" Elrohir asked; he could recall a very similar tale.
"I do not remember…" Estel replied.
"It is alright, little brother," Elrohir assured him and added, "If you see her again, let us know about it and we'll tell her to go away, alright?"
Estel nodded and looked at his brother. Giving him a warm smile, Elrohir wiped the tears away and ruffled his hair.
Now, King Elessar, once Estel, once Strider, once known by many more names, looked at his son as he finished his bedtime story.
"Did she haunt you again, adar?" Eldarion asked his father.
"No, my son, she did not," Elessar replied.
And like his father, Eldarion was not easily satisfied. "What made her go away?" he asked.
The king shrugged, ruffling his son's hair. "I do not know," he answered honestly. In all likelihood he had simply come to understand that his mother was not real, after all. Even if that brought a tinge of sadness.
"What was the tale that Elrohir thought Erestor told you?" Eldarion asked in curiosity.
"If I remember correctly, it was 'The Hunt of the Living Dead'," he replied and smiled as his son nodded and seemed to think for a long moment.
"That was a weird story, adar. I prefer the others stories about your hunting trip with the twins or Legolas." Eldarion told him.
"Do you?" There was a tinge of a playful grin on his lips.
"The hunting trip is better than this creepy tale," Eldarion replied with a wide grin.
"Ah," Elessar said knowingly, "Well, don't you think it's time for you to sleep now?"
The boy nodded, clearly disappointed but he obediently closed his eyes as his father pulled the sheets over him.
An hour later, a terrified scream woke the entire house.