Title: One Bright Star
Written for LotR GFic Comm. Yule Exchange for Kaylee
Requested: What I would like: a story about an Elven family celebrating Yule (no preference on which Elves, I love them all) It would be nice if the Valar and/or Maiar (or Istari) could be included in some way, but the Elves don't have to be Amaneldi...even mentions of the Valar or Maiar in traditions by Sindar would work. No preference on Age or realm. Dunedain or Men of Numenor could be included, if the Muse wants. I have no preference for what I don't want.
Summary: It's Yule and Estel gets a little unforeseen help with his present for his father.
"Estel." Gilraen quelled the smile tugging at her lips as the boy fidgeted in his seat. "Eat a bit more of your porridge. You cannot go begging Radhrim for something later. The kitchen is busy with tonight's feast."
"I know, Naneth." Jiggling a leg and glancing down the table where several unfamiliar elves were seated, Estel stuffed one last mounded spoonful in his mouth. He had to wait until he swallowed before speaking again. "May I go now?"
"Yes, go ahead." Gilraen sighed as her son leaped up, and ran from the room. He'd been working on something, and had yet to show her, but tonight was the Yule celebration. She had already given him his present, several tunics that she had embroidered the collars and sleeves with decorations. The twin sons of Elrond had tunics much like them, and Estel looked to them in almost everything lately. She didn't mind, they were patient and endlessly kind to a small boy, and Gilraen doubted any of the elves in the haven would be a poor example to her son.
Looking up to see that the Lord of Imladris had entered the dining hall, Gilraen smiled. "Good morn, milord."
Elrond nodded to the end of the table where the group of elves was seated around one black-haired elf, telling a very animated story. "I see Gildor Inglorion and his group have arrived."
"They seem very merry."
She wondered at his smile, but then the elf telling the tale thumped his mug on the table and gestured grandly. "...And then, at that point, I shoved open the door, ordered the largest ale they could manage, and declared them all safe for night, for Orcs dislike light, and I would glow for them with my last breath!"
There was a twinkle in the grey eyes as Elrond nodded. "Oh yes. The celebration will be very lively this year. Gildor is quite a storyteller."
Gathering up the dishes, Gilraen had to smile as Erestor entered the room, spotted the Exiles and abruptly turned to exit. He almost ran into Glorfindel who said something, his face lighting with a smile. Erestor seemed to disagree, which made the golden elf laugh and bow elaborately before letting Erestor pass.
Then Gildor spotted him and cried, "Glorfindel! Come and lighten our day, old relic!"
"Gildor Inglorion, you old dog!" Glorfindel hugged the dark haired elf, laughing joyously.
It seemed Elrond was already correct. Gilraen quickly dodged a sprig of mistletoe hung from the rafters, and decided the kitchens might be a good place for a slightly overwhelmed human to be of help.
"But, Erestor! I-"
"Estel." He had no idea what had been occupying the boy's attention lately, but from the grubby hands and filthy clothing Erestor would have to guess he'd been helping with the decorating. "This won't take long. Come along."
Hoping no one found what he'd been working on, Estel brushed his hands on his leggings and hurried to catch up with Erestor. They headed for the stables, the boy trotting to keep up with the much-taller Elf. There was so much to see today! Gildor's group had set up targets and were shooting in the far fields where, in the summer, barley grew, and all around there were elves carrying evergreen boughs and holly to decorate the Last Homely House. "Are we going somewhere?"
Erestor kept walking, nodding greetings at those they passed, but nothing was going to delay his appointed task. Not today. Not Glorfindel or those pesky Exiles, or one small boy. "Not today, Estel. Mind your step. It froze again last night."
Oh. Estel hopped down the first stair, then the next, and swept his hand through the snow that had fallen just a day earlier. "Erestor, can we go see if the pond is frozen over enough to skate?"
"Perhaps later." Erestor stopped, waiting for the boy to catch up and smiled. "Do you think it's been cold enough?"
Tapping his boot on a small puddle at the base of the last stair, Estel grinned as he realized it was solid. "I hope so!" He liked skating and loved it when the elves would play crack the whip. It was fun to be the last person and go whizzing off at top speed!
Then he remembered that he had one last thing to do before the celebration. "Will this take long?"
Erestor held out his hand. "As long as it takes, Estel." He paused as the boy bent to pet one of the many cats who lived at the stables, then urged him along. "Look, your Adar is here and waiting for you."
"Adar!" Maybe they would go riding! Estel loved riding and he gave a hop of happiness before releasing Erestor's hand to run to Elrond. "May we go riding?"
Elrond smiled and caught the bundle of energy, swinging him up and around before setting him down again. Hands on the small shoulders, Elrond pondered the question. "I seem to recall the last time we rode you thought your pony a bit too small for a grown boy of ten."
Biting his bottom lip, Estel fidgeted. "I love Huan, but his legs are so short that we have to go around all of the really fun jumps."
The shaggy little pony really was no bigger than Huan the dog, but he had borne Estel through many a mishap. Guiding his son inside the stables, Elrond tried to ignore Glorfindel's beaming smile but it was infectious. "Let's just see, shall we?"
They walked down to Huan's stall and Estel stopped at the sight of a lovely chestnut mare whose ears pricked forward as she saw the boy. "Adar...where is Huan?"
"Happy Yule, Estel!" Elrond pulled several ginger cookies from his cloak pocket and handed them to the boy. "Why don't you get acquainted with ...well, she hasn't a name as yet. What do you think she should be called?"
"She's mine? Really? Thank you, Adar!"" Estel threw his arms around Elrond in a hug before taking the cookies and putting one in his hand. He held his palm flat and walked towards the horse.
Elrond smiled as the boy spoke quietly to the mare, letting her snuffle his face and hair before delicately lipping the cookie from Estel's hand.
"She likes you." Erestor leaned against the stall and smiled.
Giggling as the mare butted her head against his chest, looking for more cookies, Estel gave her another and ran his hand along her glossy neck. "She's beautiful, Adar!"
"I think you'll find her quite able to leap any object you set her to." Glorfindel offered a most innocent look as Elrond shot him a glare. Estel was a good rider but did not need encouragement to go setting his horse to jump anything like some insane elves. "Ah...with your father's permission. Of course."
"Of course," Elrond murmured, resisting the urge to snort.
"This is the best Yule ever!" Estel beamed at his mare and turned to look at his father, unaware of the bits of cookie now decorating his dark hair. "Can we go for a ride?"
Elrond laughed softly and nodded. "Why don't we ride down to the pond and see how solid the ice is? I believe Erestor has been yearning to skate since the first snow."
It was true, he did enjoy skating, but attempting to do so with a small boy racing around, typically with Glorfindel chasing right after him, was hardly what Erestor thought of as ideal. The joy on the small face was impossible to resist though, and he smiled. "Last one to the pond is a smelly orc!"
"To Elrond and his family, to all of you wonderful, glorious citizens of this wonderful haven!" Gildor stepped up on the bench to hold his goblet high amid the cheers from the elves gathered in the Hall of Fire. "May you grow ever wiser, ever more beautiful and if you ever get weary of this civilized living and want to wander with the last of the wild elves in Middle-earth..." Here there was some hooting and good natured ribbing from his audience. Gildor laughed and held up his other hand. "Aye, you know it's true! I invite any of you to come join us!" He turned to face Elrond and gave a surprisingly graceful bow considering that he'd drank quite a bit of the spiced ale. "May your days grow ever brighter, my lord!"
Lifting his own goblet, Elrond laughed and drank to the toast. "Yours as well, old friend! Don't come to me tomorrow though asking for a cure for that sore head you're bound to have."
Laughter filled the hall as Gildor leaped off his chair and staggered a bit before setting his goblet down to go join the dancing.
"He's got a hard head," Glorfindel confided wryly. "Ask Cirdan sometime about the feast with the Dwarves an age or so ago."
Elrohir grinned. "Celeborn groans when he sees Gildor coming and locks away his best wine."
"For all the good it does." Elladan held his goblet up. "Here's to brighter days."
Estel stood and held up his own, smaller goblet. "And to family."
Gilraen met Elrond's gaze, and smiled a bit sadly. Festivals called to mind other days before her husband's death but she put her hand on her son's shoulder and squeezed it gently. "To family and to those no longer with us."
The mood became a bit solemn then, but Glorfindel suddenly smiled and stood. Holding out his hand to Gilraen, he coaxed, "Come and dance, milady. I promise not to let any of these clod-footed oafs step on your toes."
She laughed as he had meant and took his hand, standing. "I fear I'm the oaf, but the music is lovely."
Estel grinned as his mother joined the dancing, swinging his foot in time with the music.
Then he remembered. He had yet to give his present to Elrond! "Adar, will you excuse me? I ..I just want to make sure Quibbet is settled for the night." Grabbing several ginger cookies, he fidgeted, but waited to be excused.
"Go ahead, Estel." Elrond smiled as the boy darted off, slipping through the crowd without bumping even one person. "Where did he get that name?"
"Ask Glorfindel." Erestor snorted and pushed the wreath of holly leaves perched upon his head straight. "It was he who suggested it to the child."
Grinning at the sight of his dignified counsellor decked in a holly wreath, Elrond nodded and held up his goblet. "Bright be your days, Erestor."
A brilliant smile greeted his toast and Erestor clinked his goblet against Elrond's. "I certainly hope so, my lord! Elbereth smile upon you as well!"
Estel leaned back against the stall door and woefully regarded the lump of wood in his lap. He had meant it to be his present to Adar Elrond, but the more he worked at it, the less it looked like a ship. It had a prow and a bow, if one squinted just so, and that stick was supposed to be a mast. It really was just part of the log.
"It looks nothing like a ship," he sighed. He was missing the dancing and singing, and he'd only had one plate of food before dashing off to try and salvage his gift. The day had been so much fun though! They had ridden to the pond and found it solid enough to skate. After riding back for their skates, they had spent a terrifically fun afternoon chasing one another around in-between sessions in front of the bonfire to thaw out. Erestor was an incredible skater, able to do leaps and whirling spins, but Estel had loved chasing Glorfindel and Elrond around the pond, each trying to thwack the round, flat stone just for that purpose through the two sticks stuck up at the far end of the pond.
He had, in fact, entirely forgotten about his present until dinner.
Above his head, his horse nickered and nuzzled his hair. "No, it's not good enough. Not for Adar. All this is good for is the bonfires." But then what would he do for a gift?
Someone was coming! Estel quickly sheathed the knife and pushed the lump of wood under a wheelbarrow before leaping to his feet. No time to dust his leggings. He turned and began to run his fingers through his horse's mane, untangling knots that would, doubtless, be back by morning.
Humming announced the other person had entered the stables and Estel rubbed Quibbet's ear as she shoved her head into his chest. He offered her the broken bits of cookie he'd forgotten he'd stuffed in his pocket, giggling quietly as the whiskers on her chin tickled his hand. "You like those more than even Lindir and he's very fond of ginger."
There was no sound behind him, no footsteps walking towards him or away, but Estel could sense the presence of another. Curiosity won finally and he turned to find someone standing in the open door, moonlight lighting him from behind and hiding his face. "Elladan?" For it was usually the elder of the twins who was sent to find him.
Not Elladan. Perhaps one of Gildor's people for the voice was not familiar. Estel hesitated, mindful to be careful with what he said around strangers. "Hello, sir. Have you lost your way?" The stables were at the bottom of the meadow, well away from the Hall of Fire and courtyard where the celebration was taking place.
"I think not." The stranger came closer, and smiled.
Estel found himself smiling in return though he had no idea why. There was a kindness to the stranger's face, a warmth in the blue eyes, that eased his wariness and made him feel as if he should know this person already. "Are you with Gildor's folk?"
"Oh, no." The smile lit the area and the stranger chuckled. "I've come much farther than that."
Mirkwood perhaps? No, there was little of the look of Thranduil's people about him. His face was gentle, with rounded features rather than the honed look of an Elf, and his frame was broader, more sturdy. He was also very tall, but there was the ethereal air and presence that Estel did not associate with the few humans he had met. As the stranger took a step closer, the log rolled out and bumped against his foot. He looked down, and Estel had to keep himself from leaping forward to snatch it away. "What is this?"
"A lump of wood." Estel had not meant to let the disgust of how he felt tinge his voice and he flushed as the stranger looked up, amusement clear in his smile. Licking his lips and trying not to fidget, it always annoyed Erestor, Estel sighed. "I was trying to finish it but I cannot. It was to be my Adar's Yule gift."
A nod and the stranger rolled it lightly in his hands. "A ship, is that what you were after here, lad?"
"Yes, but as you see, sir…it is woefully inadequate."
Shaking his head, golden blond hair was tied away from his face, but fell loose around his shoulders, he balanced it in his palm. "Here is a bow and here a stern. The rest is easily fashioned."
"Not for me." Estel shook his head. "I lack the skill of the woodcarvers here in Imladris, regardless of their trying to show me their craft." Indeed the labours of his craft littered Estels room. A horse, with a crooked body and one leg chopped off, a bear that looked starved and had an odd, long tail, and a lump that Estel had meant to be a pinecone. The woodcarvers had been patient and kind with him, encouraging the boy to not give up, but his hands just could not seem to bring forth the beauty and magic of Elves.
The smile again, the one that seemed to brighten the very air, and the stranger moved the wood to the crook of his arm and held out his other hand. "Call me Gil. What is your name?"
It was a strong hand, rough with calluses, and easily engulfed the boy's hand. "Estel."
"Well met, Estel. Shall we see if we can fashion this into somewhat resembling a ship?"
He blinked in astonishment, then recalled the knife and held it up. "I have only this to work on it, and it's sharp but not the same as the carvers use."
"It will do. Come, we need more light than this." Leading the way out of the stables, Gil walked towards a bonfire where only a few of the quieter Silvan folk were gathered. They smiled a welcome before going back to their conversations. He sat and faced Estel, taking the knife before turning the wood in his hand, studying it. "Here, see how it lists a bit to starboard? We'll work with that and not force her to a course she'd not like."
Estel watched, enraptured as with quick flicks of the knife, Gil seemed to uncover the form of a ship's hull from the lump of wood. He didn't so much carve a shape as reveal what was already there. "I could not see this before," Estel marveled. "You make it seem so obvious."
A snort of laughter. "It's easier when you've had a bit of practice. I promise, my first ships were not so lovely or graceful." Finishing with the hull, Gil handed the rough ship to Estel. "I think you see her lines now? Just go slowly, take small chips away, the parts that are not the ship, and then you will have what is."
Estel bit his lip, and took a very long time before building the courage to make one tiny notch out of the wood. He held it away and studied it, then held it out to Gil. "I…I cannot. I'll ruin it…ruin her." Time was running out to give his gift and Estel wanted it to be something special. Not a ruined lump of wood.
"No, you won't. Have some faith in your vision, lad." Gil scooted a bit closer. "Where would you take the next bit from?"
Gnawing his lip, Estel turned the ship in his hands, studying the lines already shorn from the log. "Here?" He pointed. "I know very little about ships but I studied drawings of them, and I think here is where the swan's head would rise from the hull."
"Then you must bring it out of the wood." Approval shined in the blue eyes. Gil watched, offering only small corrections and suggestions as Estel worked patiently at coaxing the ship out of the wood. Once or twice, Gil caught the other elves watching and smiled, but they only nodded and soon wandered back towards the Hall of Fire.
More time must have passed than Estel thought, for he jumped when the wood of the fire collapsed into the coals, sending up a shower of sparks. Blinking as he focused around him, he saw the moon was indeed much lower. "Oh! Adar must be wondering where I am!"
"Indeed, as did we all."
Estel turned at the familiar merry voice and held up his ship. "Glorfindel, look! Can you believe this is my ship?"
Hand to his heart, Glorfindel offered a deep bow to Gil. "You are straying into quite deep waters tonight, my lord."
"Just one night, dear friend." Gil gestured to the ship. "See what Estel has found in his lump of wood?"
Glorfindel turned his gaze to the little ship, which now did indeed look very much like a swan ship and golden eyebrows rose. "Estel! She is a lovely ship, fit to sail the deepest oceans."
The boy flushed with pleasure. "Gil helped me. I was making a mess of it before he showed me how to see it in the wood."
"He is very good at seeing things that others often miss." Glorfindel smiled and knelt next to the boy. "A trait that runs in his family."
"You know each other."
"Oh yes, we're friends of old." Gil smiled and looked up at the starry sky before rising. "I must go. I've tarried longer than I should have, but I wanted to see your ship, Estel."
Scrambling to his feet, Estel couldn't decide if he wanted to hug his new friend or offer the bow he'd seen Glorfindel give. He looked up, suddenly feeling shy. "How can I thank you? Adar will love her!"
Gil knelt and studied the young face, flushed from the heat of the bonfire. "No need to thank me, my friend. I had a great deal of fun, so thank you."
"Must you leave already?" Estel looked up the hill where, in the distance, the Hall of Fire glowed yet with the light of candles. "The celebrating will go on most of the night, and though I will be sent to bed soon, I'm sure Glorfindel would introduce you to my Adar and everyone else."
"Happily," agreed the grinning Glorfindel.
"Alas, I have other duties, Estel." He reached out to gently stroke the boy's dark hair, a fleeting sadness passing across the blue eyes like a cloud on a summer's day. "Go and be with your Adar. May your days grow brighter, Estel."
"Yours as well, Gil." A glance for Glorfindel, who nodded for him to go, and Estel was off, racing up the slippery path in the snow.
Gil picked up the discarded knife and sheathed it before standing. His gaze rose to meet Glorfindel's and the Elf smiled. "Come. I'll walk with you."
"I miss you, you know."
"You did nothing but complain about what a disturbing presence I was when I visited you in Aman. And after I made that long trek just to see you and your lady." Glorfindel let him lead the way, walking lightly upon the snow as the dark forest crept in to surround them.
"Yes, well…" A low chuckle as Gil dug something out of his cloak pocket and suddenly the darkness was pierced with a light so swift and sudden it was painful. Gil bound the shining stone to his head then turned to the clearing in the trees. A ship floated lightly just above the ground, her silvered decks and sails ghostly in the darkness. He looked again at Glorfindel. "Life is never dull with you about, dear friend."
Glorfindel stepped forward to embrace Gil and for a moment they held each other fast, before Glorfindel released him. "May your days grow brighter." Mischief edged his smile. "Gil."
"Yours as well. Watch over them for me."
A nod, and Gil leaped aboard the great ship and she rose as if on a silent wind, buffeting the trees and the golden elf with the wind in her sails before climbing up, up…
And for a moment one bright star gleamed bright silver, filling the heavens with its light.
Then all returned to normal, and Glorfindel drew in a long breath. "Elen síla lúmenn' omentielvo, Ardamirë," he whispered, and turned to return to his friends and family.
A/N: Again with the AU. I just get ideas that don't quite fit what is commonly thought of as canon! Also, nod and wink to Shaz for Gildor.
Ardamirë is Eärendil's mother-name, which Glorfindel, as an old family friend, could conceivably use.
Gil, the name Eärendil gives to Estel is a reference from The Silmarillion:
"Now when first Vingilot was set to sail in the seas of heaven, it rose unlooked for, glittering and bright; and the people of Middle-earth beheld it from afar and wondered, and they took it for a sign, and called it Gil-Estel, the Star of High Hope."
– The Silmarillion
The similarity of the names grabbed me and well, this is the result. Kaylee, I hope you enjoy your story! :) Merry Christmas!