A/N: When I first started to write this fanfiction, it was suppose to be about a young Aragorn that didn't have the worries he carried when we meet him. But somehow it has progressed into an Elrond ficcy. The title, Belethil, means divine radiance in Quenya, and you'll see a reference to it later. If this is wrong, please be sure to let me know! Sections in Italics are memory-dreams that Elrond has. Much thanks, again, to Dwimordene, who provided some help with the early versions of this tale. I sincerely hope that you like it, 'cause this has been a great pleasure for me to write.
Also, this is dedicated to my close friends, who puts up with all of my insanities, Amy, Mikki, and Isa!
Elrond Peredhil watched as the mortal boy who'd come into their lives swung agilely from the top branches of a silver-barked mallorn tree; a gift from the Lady of Lórien. He was still, leaning silently against one of the great tan-colored pillars of his home. There was a brilliant smile that lit Estel's face, showing off two missing front teeth. The child had lived with them in Imladris for but five short years, and already Elrond found himself attached to the youngster. It made the lord, who was great among Elves and Men, uncomfortable; he knew that one-day he'd have to give the boy up to the Gift of Men.
His solitude was disturbed when he heard the soft scuff of Gilraen's shoes as she approached, trailing her gloved hands along the smooth walls, humming a sad tune to herself. Elrond did not bother to turn and greet her, for she knew that she was welcome. Estel's mother came to stand by him but did not speak, finding the silence comfortable. The Master of the Last Homely House shifted the slightest bit to glance at her in acknowledgment. What he saw on her face did not surprise him. Gilraen's emerald-green eyes, once alive with happiness, were now dulled. There was a strain on her youthful face, a sorrow that he could appreciate. Everything about Gilraen was soft and gray. The only enjoyment in her life was her young son.
The pair watched as Estel nimbly scaled further up his perch each time one of Elrond's ageless twin sons he played with pretended to head up after him. Elrond spared a brief moment to feel a swell of pride for the strong and honorable Elves they'd grown into.
"He is convinced that you are his father," Gilraen murmured softly, shattering the peace. The Half-Elf uncrossed his arms and swung his head around, looking incredulous. His dark, wise eyes focused on her piercingly, but she did not drop her gaze.
"I know that I instructed you not to tell him who his father was, but surely you've told the child something?"
Gilraen smiled sadly. "I do. Every night I tell Estel story after story about his father, of how brave Arathorn was. However, to Estel, they are nothing but stories. You are here; you are real to him. That's all that matters to Estel. He loves you."
The woman fingered the end of her thick golden red braid. She had not shorn her tresses in mourning, for her husband had often told her how much he loved her long thick hair. Tears shimmered on her blonde lashes.
Elrond was stunned, but his face was closed and revealed nothing. Outside, Estel was giggling madly, entertained by the twins' mock clumsiness. They stumbled and slipped as though it was beyond them to climb a tree. Even the shaken ring-bearer had to grin at his sons' antics. He touched Vilya, spinning the Ring of Air around his finger as he thought.
Suddenly Estel's shaggy head swiveled, and he focused on them as though he'd known all along that he had an audience. He grinned again, and waved at them enthusiastically, taking both hands off the tree. Gilraen winced, for the boy was straddling the branch rather carelessly. Elrond was not worried, though. The boy could climb nearly as well as one of his own kindred.
A brief frown passed over his youthful, weary face, and the Peredhil remembered his brother Elros, who had chosen in the First Age to become mortal, taking the name Tar-Minyatur for himself and finding his place among Men. Five hundred years later, in the Second Age, his brother had died. Estel was, through many generations, his own nephew, as Isildur had been.
"Elrohir!" he called, not noticing the melodic quality of his Elvish voice, a trait possessed by all of his kind. Obediently his son stepped forward, looking up with bright gray eyes so like his mother's were.
"Why don't you and your brother take Estel for a ride." There was sharpness to the command hidden in a request. The Elves obeyed without question. Estel was ecstatic, for he loved horses as much as any Elf. So excited was the boy that he nearly leapt from the tree, arms spread wide as though he could fly; but Elladan quickly persuaded him to climb down. Once Estel had dropped to the ground, they raced to the stables, Elladan and Elrohir carefully restraining their natural speed, their feet making no sound as they fell.
"Do not be angry with him, Master Elrond. He is only a child," Gilraen said quickly. The Dúnadan rarely addressed him as 'Master Elrond' anymore, except when she was worried that she and her son had become a burden on his household.
Without answering, Elrond gracefully pushed himself to his feet, and with a quick formal bow excused himself. Once out of Gilraen's sight, he fled as though all the demons of Hell were at his heels.
Shortly after Rivendell had been established, Elrond had designed a sanctuary built under the river where he could be alone, finding solitude from those that depended on him, a weight that showed in the occasional stoop to his strong shoulders. Elrond found himself retreating here most often when his thoughts were turned to his wife, Celebrían. She'd gone across the sea after her capture by the Orcs, and he was left in Middle-earth to await his own time to escape to the Havens. It was to this sanctuary that he now ran.
'What is the use of being a powerful leader among Elves and Men, of bearing the Ring of Sapphire, if I cannot even handle this attachment to a single mortal boy?' The Peredhil wondered bitterly. Estel was not the first Chieftain of the Dúnedain to be raised in Imladris. Countless before him had spent their early years there, for their own protection.
However, their situations had been so different. With the others, Elrond had managed to remain removed, aloof. He hadn't spent enough time with them to develop any sort of attachment. Estel, however, was special. At seven years old, he'd wormed his way into a heart that had been closely guarded since TA 2509.
It was peaceful outside on the grassy banks of the river. The midnight sky was sprinkled with stars that shone down on their beloved Eldars. Elvish music drifted on the air, mingling with delighted laughter, a beautiful sound in itself. Imladris was celebrating the wedding of Lord Peredhil and the Daughter of Golden Wood. From the gathering of Elves two slipped away, a man and woman who giggled like children. Those that spotted them smiled but said nothing. The woman let out a peal of laughter as her companion tried to scoop her up into his arms. Her gray eyes glinted mischievously and she sprinted effortlessly away from him. The white robes she wore gleamed in the moonlight, causing her to appear fey.
Elrond gave chase, his longer legs eating up the distance between them. When he caught up, he lifted her into the air, spun them both twice, and tumbled to the ground, careful to taken the brunt of the landing with his shoulders. Immediately rolling her beneath his body, he tickled her mercilessly.
"Please, stop!" Celebrían giggled, writhing to get away from his tickling hands.
"What would I get in return?" Elrond asked innocently, relenting and pinning her hands above her head so that she could not tickle him back.
"Perhaps I might have a kiss, for so strong an Elf," Celebrían whispered coyly, and he laughed out loud, delighted.
"I may just take you up on that offer, Belethil," he warned playfully, one dark eyebrow raised. Then his head lowered, and Elrond captured her lips in a gentle kiss, cupping her cheek in his hand...
"Father?" Elrond jerked awake at the sound of the soft voice, snapping his mind out of Elvish dreams, where he'd gone to retreat even further. Raising his head up from his bent knees, he found himself face to face with his daughter.
"Arwen?" he whispered, head cocked to one side as he curiously observed her. She had been away for more than eight years to spend time with her grandparents in the Elven refuge of Lothlórien, but her face was as familiar to his as the halls of Imladris.
Smiling, the Evenstar hugged her father. Then she gracefully settled herself beside him on the stone bench that had been carved from the same rock that formed the cave they were in.
"What is wrong, Father?" she questioned gently, taking his hand in hers. It was no wonder that Elrond had occasionally heard Elladan affectionately call his sister Tinúviel; she was the very embodiment of beauty and caring.
Elrond stifled a sigh. He became a bit irritated; lately he had felt so tired and so...old. Arwen squeezed his hand gently, and he drew strength from her, relaxing.
"A millennia of worry and sadness, my daughter. A single young boy has unbalanced my world." He told her, a touch of pessimism in his tone. "A mortal child. He thinks that I am his father. Gilraen tells me that he loves me."
Turning, he faced Arwen and revealed the real reason Estel's presence terrified him. "He'll die, one day. Just like my brother. Estel will leave me just as surely as your mother did..."
He broke off and twisted away, ashamed of his words. The Undómiel made a soft whispering sound of empathy, and put a comforting arm around her father's shoulders. They shook, and a muffled sob caught in Elrond's throat.
"I miss her so much." He whispered into his hands. Celebrían's beloved face filled his mind's eye, with her long golden curls framing a heart-shaped face. Gray eyes, slightly slanted, that sparkled with happiness whenever turned his way.
"So do we all, Papa." Arwen paused for a moment and sought for the words to express what she felt. "Haldir of Lórien told me that Middle-earth isn't forever. One day, when our role here has ended, we shall go across the sea, and join Mother. She is not lost to us forever, Papa."
Drawing a deep breath, Elrond brushed away his tears. Slowly he nodded, and the familiar mask of confidence slid over his features again. Although he was embarrassed by his weakness, Elrond felt better now than he had in years. He helped his daughter to her feet, and she regretfully informed him that she would return to Lothlórien almost immediately; she'd come only because Celeborn had warned her that her father would need her. How he'd known she did not ask. Elrond nodded; his wife's father was a mystery.
Together they returned to the others. Arwen slipped beneath his arm, laying her head on his shoulder. In the distance, Peredhil spotted Estel, astride a roan Elf-horse, Elladan mounted behind him. They needed no saddle or bit to control the animal. All they needed was the animal's trust, and it's love.