Disclaimer: I own none of the characters, nor the original concept of them and the places they inhabit. All that is mine are the words inbetween.
A/N: This is a slight AU, as Gilraen is ignored/does not exist. Her presence would have been too cumbersome. (That, and I prefer my Estel completely parentless, at least in the biological sense. ;) Will be a fairly short (four to five chapters, I reckon), with light angst and (hopefully) much fun.
"My Lord..." Erestor hissed, attempting to hide the dread that shone in his eyes with a deep scowl of disapproval, "with all due respect, I do not believe this to be the wisest course of action!"
"Indeed," Glorfindel nodded firmly in agreement. "My Lord, why not assign this task to Elladan and Elrohir? Surely they, with their youthful penchant for battle, would be better suited for this job than Erestor and I?"
The Master of Imladris frowned at the two Elves in which he often placed his highest confidence, puzzled by their reluctance to oversee the important matter he had just entrusted them with. In the past, they had always been eager - overly so at times - to help carry the pressing responsibilities that came with ruling a haven, when he would allow them to do so. Now, for the first time, and when he had to depart his beloved Rivendell so shortly, did they protest an assignment that he had bestowed upon them.
"Were it but possible..." he spoke at length, his words slowed by wariness of his two advisors' unease, "...I might reconsider my decision. But Elladan and Elrohir cannot fulfill this task any more than I, as they shall be accompanying me on my journey. What new cowardice is this?" he implored, and Erestor and Glorfindel averted their eyes in shame. "Could it be that two of the finest, wisest and most honorable Elven minds of this Age and many others actually fear a six-year-old child?"
"Not fear, my Lord," Glorfindel interjected quietly, "but...distrust."
"He is scarcely more than a babe," Elrond argued. "What more innocence than that do you desire?"
"We would desire that he were aged six decades, rather that six years. My Lord, you do not understand - he is...different...in your absence," Erestor said pleadingly, looking as though he had need to repress a shudder. The frown that had yet to leave Lord Elrond's brow deepened at Erestor's words.
"Of what do you speak?" he demanded, pausing in readying his horse and giving the other two Elves his complete attention. Both were nearly cringing, wishing to bite their tongues but knowing that they could not deny their Lord the answers he required.
"Estel is..." Glorfindel began hesitantly, then finally settled on "...a very intelligent boy."
"Yes," Erestor nodded emphatically. "He is...most clever."
"And cunning," Glorfindel added.
"Like a short troll."
Lord Elrond held up a silencing hand. "Enough. Such exaggerations are not becoming of either of you. And besides, you are hardly alone in your duties. All of Imladris will be keeping watch of young Estel alongside you. He is a good child; I am certain he will be no trouble." There was a tone of finality in his voice that forbade further discussion of the matter. The Lord of Rivendell finished saddling his horse and started back for his house, his right- and left-hand Elves trailing with an air of defeat in his wake.
It was in the main hall of the Last Homely House that the three met up with the twins Elladan and Elrohir, who were trotting with matching steps down the west-facing staircase, their packs slung over their shoulders.
"Father," Elladan greeted, "we are ready."
Elrond nodded to his eldest son. "I will meet you in front of the stables shortly--" Grey eyes flicked past the brethran and toward the far ceiling, where the staircase disappeared into the floor above; "--for I must first bid farewell to our resident shadow."
Sure enough, a youthful human face peered round the banister at his words. Estel grinned widely, his cheeks plumping like a chipmunk's, with a gap in his little front teeth (the recent result of his first lost tooth). Glorfindel and Erestor exchanged dubious glances - one less tooth was one less mark in their skins. Indeed they would have preferred it if humans lost all of their baby teeth at once, rather than one at a time.
Why o why did King Thranduil have to have such atrocious timing? Though it was no fault of his own that the wargs of Mirkwood were becoming a tad more...rambunctious than usual, the two Rivendell Elves supposed.
Thranduil sought Elrond's counsel in regard to what portent of doom the beasts' heightened unruliness could possibly mean. He did not wish to leave his kingdom unattended for too long a time in light of the new - if not yet altogether grievous - threat, and Lord Elrond could not forgo attendance of Imladris' own spring festival, which was to be held in just over one month. Thus, the two Elf-lords had agreed to meet halfway between their respective realms, near the eastern shore of the River Anduin. Barring complications, the Master of Imladris and his sons were scheduled to return barely a day before the festival was to begin. The party would be both a warm welcome home for the travelling company, as well as a celebration of the season of life.
It also needed to be organised - the banners hung, the food decided upon and prepared, the few guests' quarters made ready, the halls and city aptly decorated. Of course, the majority of these things had already been planned; it was their implementation that was placed in danger. Without the authority of his foster father and the play of his foster brothers to distract him, Isildur's heir often searched to entertain himself in ways that could be described as...destructive. However much respect had been earned by Glorfindel and Erestor from Elves, Men and other creatures, Estel cared not for it. The young Edain heeded only the command of his ada and brothers, and the only hope anyone else had of controlling the future king was to put themselves in his good graces - something much easier said than done.
Hence it was with mutual winces that the two Imladris counsellors looked on as Estel ran down the stairs and embraced their kneeling Lord tightly. Elladan and Elrohir smiled, each clapping one of the advisors on the shoulder in a shared attempt to jar the disgruntled-looking Elves out of their woebegone expressions before making their way toward the stables. Ai, what oblivious fools even the wise could at times be...
Elrond pulled back, and looked seriously at the beaming six-year-old. "Pray you will behave for Glorfindel and Erestor?" he asked the child, who nodded proudly and straightened up a bit.
"I will, Ada," he promised. Elrond glanced up at his two chief adivsors and arched an eyebrow as if to say "See?" Glorfindel ground his teeth together. Erestor's fingers slowly curled and uncurled, as though he were attempting to restrain his hands from forming fists.
Lord Elrond turned back to Estel and smiled, ruffling the boy's hair. "Excellent. Elladan, Elrohir and I shall return in time for the spring festival. Do not fret; the weeks will pass quickly."
"Were that but true," Erestor mumbled beneath his breath, and concealed a grunt with a small cough when Glorfindel nudged him sharply in the ribs. Lord Elrond shot the brown-haired Elf an admonishing look, and stood.
"I will escort you to the stables, Ada," Estel declared, reaching up to clutch one of the Lord of Imladris' large hands with his own small fingers.
Elrond chuckled. "You do me a great honour, Estel," he humoured the child, then gave a slight nod to Erestor and Glorfindel, silently letting them know that they were to follow and watch that the young Edain did not get any ideas from being left alone with the horses after the three Peredhils were out of sight. Though he did not believe Estel capable of the sort of wickedness Erestor and Glorfindel suspected lay within the human youth, he was not wholly unaware of the mischief the boy could get himself into if left unsupervised.
"Such abuse," Erestor grumbled once Elrond and the twins had ridden well beyond the reaches of even the keen sight of the Elves. He patted at his robes, brushing them free of whatever invisible dirt he thought remained from Glorfindel's nudge and Elrohir's clap. "O how I do hope their return is swift," he sighed. "Forty days and forty nights...that is not so long, is it, Glorfindel? Not for the Elves."
His question was met with no reply.
"Glorfindel?" he enquired again, finally tearing himself away from inspecting his immaculate grey robes to look quizzically at his friend. The golden-haired Elf was staring straight ahead, his eyes unblinking and his face pale as bone. Erestor followed his gaze, thinking mayhap some great danger had suddenly unveiled itself from the wood in the distance. Finding nothing of alarm, Erestor blinked in confusion. "Glorfindel, what fear grips thee so?" he demanded, and was at last rewarded with a response.
Glorfindel's eyes slowly rolled to look upon Erestor, and then down between them. Realisation dawned in Erestor's mind - he had been so caught up in the state of his robes that he had momentarily forgotten the small presence that stood between himself and his tow-headed friend. Swallowing with some difficulty, he looked down at Estel.
The young king stared back up at him, his countenance cloaked in innocence and his eyes flashing devilry.
Glorfindel's blood felt cold as ice within his veins as a strange sensation took hold of his chest, causing his heart to quicken. He knew the feeling well, and knew that it presented itself under a solitary circumstance. He averted his eyes to meet Erestor's, their shared wisdom exchanging an acknowledgement far faster than any words would ever be capable of:
War was now upon them.
"Valar have mercy..." he murmured, and Erestor finished for him, "...on all the souls of Imladris."
"Our own above all..."
"For we shall surely perish..."
"Forty days and forty nights..."
Estel, growing quickly bored of the two Elves' echoing speech patterns, wrenched free of the loose hold they each had on one of his shoulders and broke into a run, his direction random and his giggle high-pitched. Glorfindel and Erestor watched him go, disbelief at their misfortune still written plainly on their faces.
"You realise, of course, that we are doomed," said Erestor.
"O yes," Glorfindel nodded. "Quite doomed. But far be it for me to ever fall without a fight." He looked over at the dark-haired Elf, a wide grin suddenly overcoming his features as he, too, ran off in the same direction as the Edain had mere seconds earlier.
"Warriors," Erestor groused, his eyes rolling skyward. With a heavy sigh, he bent down and scooped up a handful of earth, then smeared it over his front. "By no other hand than my own," he vowed, sullying his arms and the fronts of his legs for good measure before giving chase to Glorfindel and Estel.