This is a not for profit work of fan fiction based upon the works of J.R.R. Tolkien
For Justine darkchylde who has once again gifted me with beautiful art work
Imladris: the kitchens.
"I have a well-hung haunch in the larder," murmured Master Elrond's Seneschal, Erestor.
"Well," drawled Glorfindel, restringing his bow, "are you not the lucky one?"
"Venison is only ever succulent when left to mature," Erestor would not encourage smut in his kitchens, he set his companion's feet back on the straight and narrow by invoking the proper terminology.
"Venison," Glorfindel sighed, "you shall have to confiscate the wizard's dentures!"
"It is hardly fitting for you to so malign Mithrandir," Erestor chided.
"You shall soon change your mind when he scoffs the entire hind," Glorfindel predicted, "where is the c-a-t?"
"Underneath the t-a-b-l-e; why are we spelling?" Erestor was beginning to wish Glorfindel would take a long walk off a short pier…in Loth Lorien, say.
"Well, yes, why are we, let me think for a moment, perhaps because when I ask where is the cat…?" Glorfindel paused for effect, and instantly a dark-haired head emerged from beneath the huge oak table.
"…Miaow!" announced the obviously non-elvish child.
"What is all that about?" Glorfindel groaned.
"He says he does not fit in, that he wants friends of his own, and so he has chosen to be a cat, and mingle with the kitchen mousers. It is merely a phase," Erestor opined.
"It hardly is normal…!" Glorfindel gasped in amazement that his friend was not concerned over this development.
"What may one say, other than he is m-o-r-t-a-l? I have seen stranger behaviour over the time Imladris has fostered his line, Valandil especially had a penchant for becoming little furry creatures," said Erestor.
"Why does such information not surprise me?" Glorfindel groaned.
"Estel shall grow weary of his latest incarnation soon enough, for now I have more pressing duties to attend to, give the little kitten a saucer of milk," said Erestor, and then he flounced from the kitchen, and Glorfindel prayed this was all a bad dream from which he would soon awaken.
"Would Estel like some milk, yes or no, child, I do not speak 'feline'," Glorfindel could almost see the cogs turning in the little boy's head.
"Yes, please," said the well-mannered little mortal.
"Saucer, or shall I fetch you a special mug that shall henceforth be known as Estel's mug?" Glorfindel knew how to wheedle, and so he knew how to handle recalcitrant little mortal fosterlings.
"I should like a mug of my own, fank you," said Estel, peeping upwards now, wondering what such a vessel would look like.
"Now, I need a stool to stand upon, I am certain there is a special mug on the topmost shelf, and do not wish to fetch the entire collection down upon my head," said the imposing looking ellon as he scooped up a small blue stool and set it just so before the huge cupboard.
"Glorf-indel…?" the little mortal said softly.
"Now…pink…I think not."
"Glorf-indel…that is the…"
"Sunshine yellow…!" Glorfindel announced, seemed to re-consider, and set the mug back in place. All this to make the child believe this was the most special mug in all of Imladris with which he was about to be gifted. It was hard work, being supportive to the spawn of Numenor, and Glorfindel wondered if he might not be too jaded to do it all again.
"But Glorfy, the stool, the legs are lying down!"
"The legs are lying down? What a strange child you are! Now, this mug is definitely yours, see how it matches my eyes!" and the ellon set it next to his head so the boy could compare the exact hue of blue, when the legs of the stool, built to accept a child of Estel's size and weight, laid down fully, shearing off entirely, flying outwards in a shower of wooden legs, the seat section drilled itself onto the flagstones with a whump, and Glorfindel just stood in place, atop the flattened stool, jaw swinging, mug still upside his head.
"It is a 'naughty stool', Glorfy," explained Estel.
"Wasn't it just? I never knew a naughtier one in all my lives!" The returned by the Valar's grace Lord of the House of Golden Flowers replied.
"No, it is the stool I must sit upon when I is naughty," said Estel, curious as to how this would work in future. "You frighted the cats!"
"I frighted me, are the cats concerned?" Glorfindel huffed.
"Why are you pressed against a mug?" Erestor enquired, hands balled upon his hips, his face a study in disgust.
"I was just…" said Glorfindel.
"Hush, you, I was talking to the cup! I know better than to expect an intelligent reply from you, you…reprobate! Oh, see, you made kindling, how kind of you to re-stock the wood box!" Erestor now gathered the three wooden legs, and swept past, dropping them into the brass kindling box by the hearth. "Estel, I wish you to ignore the unfortunate episode you have just witnessed, this is not behaviour becoming of a Lord of the Eldar. As for you, you shall remain on the naughty stool for another five minutes as you reflect upon your behaviour!"
"Yes, Erestor, I am sorry, Erestor," Glorfindel said sheepishly.
"Why are you holding that mug?" Erestor asked, but a reply came there none! "Glorfindel…!"
"Oh, I thought you were still talking to the crockery!" Glorfindel said sarcastically. "I was fetching a special mug for Estel, and this is the one I chose."
"Yes, well, it was a very kind thought, next time use a stool capable of bearing your weight!" Erestor said tartly.
"Ooh, it is my favourite colour, fank you, Glorfy!" Estel said, delighted by the mug with a daisy painted inside its bottom, so that when he would finish his drink, he would see it there, looking up at him.
"Fank you, Glorfy…?" Erestor snickered.
"For the mug, Restor," said Estel, and now it was Glorfindel who was hooting in laughter.
"Glorfindel shall wash it for you, given it has been stored over such a long time, Lady Arwen made it, when she was in her pottery throwing phase. Milk, Glorfindel, he needs nourishing, I have no idea where his mother's eyes were not to see such a fundamental fact." Erestor took up his table plan, the reason he had returned to the kitchens in the first place, and then he strode off to supervise the laying of the tables for the evening meal, for the Wizard Gandalf would be the guest of Lord Elrond tonight, and for many nights to come, if the snows did not melt, thereby freeing the High Pass.
Gandalf settled himself upon a chaise, hat and staff to one side, feet perched upon a dainty footstool, upholstered in cloth worked in petit-point by Arwen, in her petit-point stage. Elrond crossed the vast open room bearing two tiny crystal glasses filled with Miruvor, the Cordial of Imladris. Elrond's superior hearing picked up on the wizard's excitement, the smacking of pale dry lips, testimony to the harshness of the weather and the difficulty he had experienced reaching the safety of Imladris. One tiny glass of this cordial would revive him, and lift his flagging spirits.
"Welcome, traveller, you are ever welcome in this sanctuary," Elrond formally spoke the greeting traditional within these walls.
"And a welcome sight your borders were, Elrond of Imladris! I thought I never would cover those last few miles!" Gandalf fell into silence as he sipped the wonderful liquid, and then he set the glass aside, and reached for his pipe-weed, remembering as Elrond's eyebrow climbed, that such a vice was un-welcomed here. His hand altered course, and now he drew out a paper twist of toffees, and these he extended to Elrond. The Master waved the toffees off, almost as though he had been offered a snake.
"Sugar, butter, a little vanilla, non addictive, and not entirely unwholesome," said Gandalf.
"If I were to spoil my appetite Erestor would never forgive me. Venison is on the menu, and you know how rarely we permit ourselves to eat meat here," said Elrond.
"All too well," muttered Gandalf, "how is the fosterling settling in?"
"Ah, yes, Aragorn," Elrond sighed, "rather, as we have begun to call him, Estel."
"Ho! I like your thinking; for you named the Heir of Isildur 'Hope'," said Gandalf.
"From the Gil-Estel; the star of high hope. It encapsulates what the child means to his people," said Elrond.
"He surely is experiencing some anxiety at being uprooted from the north," said Gandalf. "He was but two years old when his father was slain, Lady Gilraen tried to keep her son with his own people, but alas, the danger became too great, and so she invoked your oath to Gil-galad, to protect the line of Elendil. The burning question now is whether he shall reach his majority, or whether we all shall be swept away 'ere that day arrives."
"All that we may do is to afford Estel sanctuary, and do our utmost to protect him," said Elrond.
"One little mortal, the hope of his people, guard him well, Elrond," said Gandalf, "guard him well!"
Glorfindel had settled Estel with his mug of milk, and fresh bread, buttered, and liberally spread with raspberry jam. The little boy was eating ravenously, and although it did Glorfindel's tender heart good to see this, he knew that Erestor would have a conniption fit to see jam on Estel's nose and eyebrows. Fetching a wet flannel from the water pump, he now gently wiped the child free of jam.
"Another slice, Estel, or shall you wait for dinner?" Glorfindel had taken on board Erestor's comment that the child was waif-like; an extra slice of bread would not wreck his appetite.
"No fank you, Glorfy, I will wait for dinner," said Estel.
"Are you happy here, little one?" Glorfindel asked, and where had that come from?
"Mamma says I must stay here, I shall get used to it," said Estel, "mamma says I shall."
Glorfindel found that to be incredibly sad. "You shall grow to love your life here, Estel, for Erestor, Lord Elrond, and I, are your new family, and Elrohir, and Elladan, and soon you shall feel as though you have always lived here."
That translated loosely as 'if only by dint of the sons of men possessing a shorter memory span than the Eldar.'
"I is confused, Glorfy," said Estel, and this was possibly the first honest remark the little one had permitted himself to utter. "Why is I now called Estel?"
"Well, you want to be part of Imladris, do you not? And Estel is the elvish name best suited to you, that is all," said Glorfindel.
"Stel s'pposes," the little boy sighed.
It would be easy enough to divert the child with a treat, but what would it take when next he felt so melancholy? No, that was the road easiest travelled, not the one which would see them safe at their journey's end. Sometimes medicine had to be bitter in order to work its cure. Glorfindel lifted the too-thin little boy, and settled in the armchair with him upon his knees. Talk was not what the little one needed. He was worn out from so much talk, and too many explanations, no, he needed to shut out the cruel reality of being abandoned, he needed to connect to someone as opposed to everyone, he needed to be grounded, and allowed to stop feeling. Glorfindel had tried to view Gilraen's decision compassionately, for she was still ridiculously young in the scheme of things, but he could not find it in himself to find her guiltless. Glorfindel knew what such abandonment could do to a youngling. Elrond still bore the emotional scars of his and his twin brother, Elros', being abandoned by their mother, Elwing.
"Two jewels exchanged for a single jewel, how is that a bargain worth sealing with one's life?" Glorfindel mused.
"Is you sad, too, Glorfy?" Estel's arms now snaked around the neck of the magnificent Ancient who held him, and together they wept healing tears.
Erestor bustled into the too-silent kitchens, and when he saw the two lonely voyagers, adrift upon a sea of tears, he backed out and barred the way from servants following on.
"We shall work from the serving kitchens, go, there is nothing to see here!"
"Lord, the beeswax candles are in the store room," said one elleth.
"We are of the Eldar, place an oil lamp upon each table, sufficient light shall be given out without the candles. Do not question my choices! Only one Seneschal orders this realm!" Erestor snapped. Best to choke off any questions now, for Glorfindel was achieving a minor miracle in the main kitchens, the food had been prepared there, and had been transferred to the secondary, the serving kitchens, and any item not already in place there was summarily removed from the order of service. It was generally believed that Erestor was utterly devoid of humour, and totally inflexible in his approach to duty, but this was not the case. Give Erestor a valid reason to move a mountain, and he would be the first to take up a spade.
The entire meal was orchestrated by the Seneschal in person, and if he appeared slightly distracted, then Elrond knew without asking there was a good reason for his distance. Glorfindel was also missing, and little Estel. It took little imagination to conclude the three were somehow tied together. Elrond bent his will to keeping the Istar occupied, and his glass primed. The venison was as delectable as Erestor had promised, but before it was stripped completely the Seneschal ordered it taken from the table, and other side dishes were suddenly removed and returned to the serving kitchens, and none, not even Elrond, dared to question his motives.
When the company broke up and removed to the Hall of Fire, there to listen to Elrond's minstrel, Lindir, play the lute and sing, and for Gandalf to tell tales of a bygone time, Erestor left the passing of the wine and sweet meats to his delegated deputy for the night, and he stole off to prepare a private dinner for two very special citizens of the Riven Dell.
"My lords, if you would both follow me, dinner is served!" said the imperious ellon, with a snow white serving cloth draped over one forearm, and his best senior server expression pasted into place.
Glorfindel recognised this mind set, he had witnessed it a time or two before, on the night Gil-galad had faded, on the night when Celebrian had left for Valinor, and Elrond and her elflings had returned home bereft, and lost. Tonight the Major Domo of Imladris was personally seeing to the needs of one little mortal with a fractured heart, and a dear friend who had allowed his own clown mask to slip, to comfort a little tormented soul, for it was forgotten that Glorfindel had witnessed death, and destruction, at the fall of Gondolin.
Glorfindel did that silly smile where he exposed his even white teeth, and then closed his mouth, knowing it never failed to make Erestor smile. Erestor gave him the desired smile, and then all was business, and Estel was settled on an adapted chair, and a napkin was swirled open and tucked under his chin, and then the food was served, by the light of beeswax candles, the same ones denied to the Lord of Imladris and his guests earlier.
Venison, roast potatoes, honey-glazed parsnips, light fluffy batter puddings, and rich wine-enhanced gravy. For dessert there was a syllabub of such feathery texture that Estel giggled, and said it was like eating a fluffy cloud. For Glorfindel there was the best ruby red vintage, for Estel strawberry sherbet, and when the little one succumbed to sleep, Erestor truly came into his own. He set aside the bath routine, he did not fuss over the need to change into sleep wear; he just lined a vast laundry basket with a blanket and laid the child inside.
Now he joined Glorfindel at the table, and he allowed the lord of the House of Golden Flowers to pour him some wine, and he in turn sliced a selection of cheeses, and selected fruits, and they retired to the fire to watch over Estel asleep by the hearth, and with another momentous day behind them they settled in their respective armchairs, and simply enjoyed the fruits of the vine, and one another's company.
"If you ever tell another elf of this…" said Erestor,
"…you will deny it!" Glorfindel chuckled.