Not only is this my first crossover, it's also my first story for The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, so this is still fairly new to me... but enough of that.
This will be bookverse. Though, naturally, this story does not follow canon, I don't plan on changing things drastically.
This is told in third person, and will change point of view, but I'm sure it'll be easy to figure out whose point of view it's in.
According to the appendixes in Return of the King, Aragorn would have been ten years old and living in Rivendell at the time of Thorin's quest. It is also stated that he learns of his true heritage later on, so he would still be called Estel at this point.
Also, thanks to shady stays gold for looking this over.
A burst of merry singing started up again from the Elves as they danced by the water. They seemed to be spinning through the dim silver moonlight, as if they were swords swung in a blur of movement. A soft rhythm of water pulsed behind the singing, and Thorin Oakenshield shut his eyes for a moment, taking in the sounds. Rivendell was one of those lucky places that always seemed to have a sense of comfort. Even the infernal singing of the Elves could be tolerated after a while: it was a small price to pay for their days of safety.
Even now, looking upon the faces of his Company, he knew that this protection would only last for a few more hours. The reading of the moon-letters only made him more anxious to reach the Lonely Mountain. It seemed like a fair while off, but Durin's Day was approaching with every hour that passed, and it was their only hope to delve into the mountain. Of course, that time would also prove the worth of their burglar, but he did not desire to dwell on that fact. Especially not now, while even Gandalf had a sort of smile on his lips as he watched the Elves sing of mid-summer. The Company was at peace, and they would all wish for something like this later on.
As Thorin's eyes gave a cursory glance over the area and the people in it -the Elves, his fellow Dwarves, Gandalf, Bilbo, Elrond- he spotted something out of the ordinary. Though no one had been there the last time he'd looked -which had been just minutes ago-, a young boy was at Elrond's side, and a woman. Thorin blinked, his brow creasing, and rubbed his eyes. Perhaps he needed a night of rest, and stress was catching up on him. For when he looked closer, he beheld them in the moonlight clearly. But they appeared to be of the race of Men, which could not be. After all, this was Rivendell, a place of the Elves.
He listened closer, and made out their words. First he heard the woman's voice. "Now, now, Estel, you should not disturb Lord Elrond," she said in a gentle but commanding tone. As she leaned down to ruffle the boy's dark hair, Thorin noted that she was fair of face, and neither young nor very old.
The boy -Estel? was that what the woman had called him?- paid no heed to her words, and gazed up at Elrond. "Father?" he asked. Judging by his voice and stature, he had several years to go before he reached manhood. But that was not what befuddled Thorin. Father, he'd called Elrond. It made no sense whatsoever. Elrond was Halfelven, of course, but this boy was a Man! It was baffling. Perhaps Thorin really did need a good night of sleep before they set out once again; he could not afford such confusion when in the Wild.
"Yes, my son?" answered Elrond, his lips curved in a rare smile that indeed seemed paternal. Thorin, distracted by his relief that they were speaking the Common Tongue and not Elvish, realized a few moments later the implications of what Elrond had said. My son. But none of this could be possible. "What is it?" To the woman, he added, "I do not mind, my lady, for I am not doing anything of importance, as you can see."
'My lady', he said, Thorin mulled over in his mind. Most likely it was a mere title of recognition while still subtly concealing the woman's real name, for although he knew little of the Elves, he had heard that Elrond's wife had sailed to Valinor many years ago, after some type of attack with orcs. Besides that, the unknown woman was obviously of the Edain.
As the woman -could she be Estel's mother?- nodded, the boy spoke. "Who are the Dwarves that came here, Father?" he asked, in a voice that was accented like that of one who had been speaking the languages of the Elves for a long while. "And why are they here in Imladris?" Evidently, Estel did not see Thorin's stare, as he took no precaution of lowering his voice.
Elrond, however, raised his head and met Thorin's eyes for a moment. Thorin, filled with a sort of gruff humiliation, was tempted to avert his gaze, but he refused to lower his head, as turning away in submission would surely not be the action of a future Dwarf-king. Instead, he gave his best challenging expression, trying to ensure that Elrond did not speak of their quest to this boy.
For a moment, Elrond seemed to give a barely noticeable nod to Thorin. Then he looked back at Estel. "It is not my business to tell you of the Dwarves and their purpose here, Estel," he said, but his voice was kindly. "It is late, and you should be sleeping."
"I wanted to hear the singing," Estel said, distracted from the thought of Thorin and Company for the moment. He gazed out at the joyful Elves, who had started another song that sounded ridiculously, foolishly happy to Thorin's ears. The boy smiled, eyes glinting like an animal's in the moonlight.
"Estel, the hour is late," the woman said, resting a hand on the boy's shoulder. "What Elrond told you is true: you need to rest. I myself grow tired." She bent down to plant a light kiss on Estel's forehead, after brushing aside his hair. "Goodnight," she whispered, and then she grew so quiet that Thorin could not distinguish her words- they seemed to be an Elven language, anyway. Then she left the small gathering, her hair blowing in the light breeze.
Thorin turned his attention back to the revelry of the Elves, and to his Company. Gandalf was speaking in a low voice to a sleepy-looking Bilbo, most likely of their plans for the days to follow. The hobbit gave his agreement once or twice, and the lightest trace of a smile flickered across Thorin's face when Gandalf shook Bilbo's shoulder gently with a laugh, seeing that their burglar was nodding off.
Let him rest, Thorin thought to himself, staring at the shimmer of the moonlight on the water. We have left barely any land behind, and we have a long while to go, most likely with no places as safe as Rivendell.
His thoughts were abruptly jostled out of place as someone tapped him on the shoulder. He was about to turn and tell Gandalf to give him a moment's peace, but instead of finding himself face-to-face with the wizard, he came to be staring at the boy -Estel- he'd seen earlier. Thorin's surprised gaze was met with a pair of wide eyes -gray or blue, he couldn't tell in the darkness. Estel had slightly long, dark-brown hair, and his face... that was what confused Thorin the most. Being of the Dwarves, he didn't especially care for the affairs of Men, but most knew at least a shred of the tales of Numenor- and the boy before him had the same proud stance as the kings of Men from days long past. He would have to ask Gandalf about this before they set off in the morning.
Regaining his grip on the present, Thorin inclined his head to the boy. "Thorin Oakenshield, at your service," he said, a little gruffly, for although he was curious of the presence of Men in Rivendell, he was unsure of what to say to this boy. Thorin was not bad with words -indeed, he already knew what to say on the inevitable day when he would proclaim himself as King under the Mountain- but he always seemed to talk to younger folk rudely without meaning to. "What are you called?" he asked, not desiring the boy to realize he had been eavesdropping.
"My name is Estel," the child said. Estel. The name sounded like something from the Elven languages. "At your service also." For a child, he had a serious face, but a tentative smile spread across it. "Mithrandir -he says that you call him Gandalf- told me some of the reason for your journey." The solemn speak matched the somber-looking young face with its gray eyes. At the moment, however, a sort of spark lit up in their depths.
Thorin, after recoiling inside at the hideous name which the Elves called Gandalf, frowned. "Gandalf told you of our quest?" he asked. Though he placed full trust in Gandalf, Thorin did not desire for a slip of the tongue to cost them their journey. "Gandalf trusted you?" He looked around for Gandalf, but he was nowhere to be seen.
The words must have come out a bit harsher than intended. Estel took a cautious step back, looking nervous. Thorin sighed. "Pardon me," he said. "I am sorry for sounding harsh. I meant to say... you seem young to gain his trust."
"But I am getting older," Estel insisted. "I am ten years old. And I would not break a promise, to Mithrandir especially, and I would not share your secrets with enemies- though I know of no enemies here." He paused, glancing around, most likely to see if his mother was nearby to find him awake this late at night. "But Mithrandir did not tell me where you are going. He only said 'the Lonely Mountain', and I do not know where that is, exactly."
Thorin attempted to hide the exasperation he felt towards this questioning child; he'd had much practice in this technique when Fili and Kili were young. How could he tell this boy, who seemed so youthful and innocent and even more clueless than Bilbo, of his people? Of the Lonely Mountain, of the dragon that dwelt there with his hoard of treasure? Choosing to leave out the details, he simply said, "Over the Misty Mountains, and through Mirkwood to the Lake-town."
Estel nodded. "That is a long way," he said, and Thorin nodded. He didn't need a reminder that the journey would be long and hard. "Well, it was good to meet you, Lord Thorin. I hope that you have a safe journey and reclaim the mountain." Thorin, who had almost chuckled at being addressed as 'Lord', was struck by the child's perceptiveness. But before he could bid Estel goodbye, the boy turned and left.
Nearby, barely out of earshot from the Company and the Elves, Gandalf conversed with Lord Elrond, leaning on his staff with a grave face. For in his last visit to Imladris, he had not recalled the sight of this strange young boy and his mother; at least, not out in the open. It had been a bit of a surprise, to see the boy walk up to him and inquire about their quest.
"My lord Elrond," Gandalf said, brow furrowed, "Estel seemed rather curious of our journey to the Lonely Mountain." He looked over Elrond's shoulder, squinting at the shape of the boy who was still watching the dancing of the Elves with an expression of rapturous awe on his youthful face.
Elrond sighed, turning to watch his adopted son. "The day will come soon enough when he reaches manhood," he said, his face expressionless. "Soon enough, I must speak to him of his true heritage." Here, his voice lowered, and Gandalf strained to listen to his whisper through the laughing and singing. "Rivendell is safe for Isildur's heir for the moment," he continued gravely. "There will be an inevitable day when Aragorn son of Arathorn will have to follow in the footsteps of his ancestors and play a vital role in freeing Middle-earth from the Shadow. You know this time will have to come one day, Mithrandir." There was conviction in his tone, a sense of urgency.
Gandalf was silent. Yes, this day would come to pass, but it still seemed far off. "We should not speak of such things," he said at last. "That day is far off. But Estel is growing older with every day that passes, and he appears to wonder about the world outside of Rivendell." A wry smile replaced the serious expression on Gandalf's face as he recalled the boy's questions about their journey. Why they were going, why they needed a hobbit to go with them, what they were looking for in the Lonely Mountain...
"Long has Rivendell been a protected place for Estel and his mother, the Lady Gilraen," Elrond said. "But the boy was too young to remember the world outside." A piercing gaze settled on Gandalf. Elrond's eyes were stern. "Do not tempt him with word of the land that lies beyond the Last Homely House, Mithrandir. For Estel has been a son to me, and I have been a father to him."
Gandalf nodded. "I will not ask more of you, Lord Elrond," he said respectfully. "We leave when the day dawns tomorrow."
He turned and went to rejoin the Company. He spotted several of the Dwarves lying on the ground, having drifted off to sleep, and some others appeared drowsy. Thorin was staring out at the dancing Elves as if in a dream, and Bilbo was fast asleep nearby. A few paces away stood Estel, his small figure silhouetted against the moonlight. To knowing eyes, it was not difficult to see that the blood of Numenor ran in his veins. Gandalf saw it in the dark hair and gray eyes.
He thought of the words of Elrond: that Estel would free Middle-earth from the Shadow. This boy, clueless of his ancestry, could in a time of need reclaim the empty throne of Gondor. But for now, there were other matters to think of, Thorin's quest being particularly important. He sat beside Bilbo, setting his staff across his lap. Morning would swiftly come, and the dwarves would need his aid to find a way over the Misty Mountains.
After Estel had spoken with Thorin Oakenshield, he crept into his room inside the Last Homely House. He was elated that Mithrandir had trusted him, and that he had spoken with the leader of the Company. "Over the Misty Mountains, through Mirkwood, to the Lake-town," he said to himself quietly, repeating Thorin's vague words. They were rather unclear directions, but he was sure that he could manage.
Estel no longer remembered a place before Rivendell. He knew that there was one, of course, but he didn't have a shred of the past in his mind. Rivendell was sheltered and safe, as his father reminded him often, but as he had learned, there was much out in the world. There were mountains, marshes, forests, rivers, kingdoms, and much more, and Estel was enthralled by Mithrandir's description of the Lonely Mountain, with its treasure within guarded by the dragon Smaug. If I could set out for the Misty Mountains, he thought to himself, I could go with Thorin's Company and go to the Lonely Mountain!
Unlike it seemed, it was not a mere curiosity that Estel felt. It was more of the desire to wander, to roam the land and see the world before his eyes, instead of being raised and protected in Rivendell. Maybe the lust to roam was something in his blood, he supposed. Something deep down, seeing as his mother was, for the most part, content in Rivendell.
Estel went throughout the House to several of the rooms. In a pile of unclean garments that were to be washed soon, Estel found what he was looking for: a pack to carry supplies in. It was caked with dirt -possibly one that belonged to a Dwarf- but he brushed it off onto the floor without a care. He slung it over his shoulders, hitching it up every few moments to keep the straps from slipping. Snatching a dark-colored cloak that looked to be designed for traveling, he left the room.
When he came to his father's room, he found it to be empty; he assumed that Elrond was still down by the water with the Company. Estel knew this room well: he remembered the nightmares of his younger years, when he would run either to his mother's room or to this one. On one of these occasions -among the first- he had discovered that his father kept at least one blade hidden in his room, possibly in case of an attack on Rivendell. Estel had been trained a little with a sword (or rather, a long knife, since he was still small) by his father's other sons, and he had heard tales of terrible beasts out in the Wild, so he thought to bring a blade along with him. After a bit of rummaging, he discovered a knife behind the pillows on the bed. Admiring the sleek silver blade for a moment, he swung it in the air at invisible foes before stowing it in his pack.
Once he had dressed in his most travel-practical clothes and filled his pack with spare garments, food, and water, the first hints of sunrise were appearing in the East. After running outside as fast as his legs could carry him, Estel raced over the bridge, not caring about the river flowing beneath. Up the path his feet flew, stumbling once or twice, until he came to an open clearing, surrounded by tall trees. He stared up at the daunting course of switchbacks that led out of the valley for a moment, then headed on.
Soon, Estel could feel the air getting a slight chill. He shivered in the morning air, wrapping the cloak tightly around him as he continued out of the valley. The path was steep, and the sharp, clean scent of pine begin to creep into his nose. With a few second thoughts about this journey invading his mind, he walked on, no longer running.
Finally, after several falls and slips, Estel found himself looking down on his beloved home. Rivendell was but a light down in the valley below, and his stomach swooped at the immense height he seemed to have. Then he looked up, and a rush seemed to fill his very blood. There stood the Misty Mountains, tall and proud, crowned with caps of snow. To him, they seemed to be immeasurably large, towering over Rivendell like a row of giants standing by a tiny hole in the soil. The Misty Mountains. He wanted to climb every inch- would he be able to spot the Lonely Mountain from a high peak? Would he see the vast, dark expanse of Mirkwood? It seemed amazing, to be out in the open world.
After the long while it took to skirt around the valley of Rivendell, he found the mountains to still be a fair distance away. Taking a deep breath, he ran as far as he could towards them before he had to stop for a drink of his water. Taking a few precious sips and wiping his lips on the edge of his cloak, he went on until he reached the foot of the Misty Mountains.
But where was a path? His eyes flicked across the expanse of land, over the mountains, searching for a way up. He saw nothing for a while, so he paced near the Mountains in frustration for a while. As the sun was beginning to set, he felt a growing sense of despair. "There must be a way up," he said aloud, speaking to himself, and then his eyes found a small trail, winding up the mountain, barely wide enough for two people to stand side by side.
Seeing no better option, Estel started up the path. For a while, he walked in silence, and the stars began to appear in the dark sky. He looked ahead, trying to find a place to sleep in peace- and saw a movement before his eyes. Some type of large, hideous creature leaped out at him with a growl, and out of instinct, he gave a cry of terror and fumbled for his blade. Lashing out blindly and wildly, missing the creature, he scrambled back down in horror. Two more of the creatures emerged from the deepening shadows, and Estel suddenly realized: goblins. His father had told him of the things lurking in the Misty Mountains on the unsafe paths, and he had forgotten.
The goblins were laughing in a chorus of disgusting guffaws that raised the hairs on the back of Estel's neck. His eyes widened, desperately looking for a sort of place where he could hide or evade the goblins, but there was none. Then he found himself with the biggest of the three goblins holding a rusty blade at his throat, still laughing crudely.
Estel did the only thing he could imagine doing at the moment: he screamed. A terror that he had never known was coming over him as he realized just how dangerous the world outside Rivendell was. "Help!" he cried into the night, though none was near enough to hear, save perhaps more goblins. "Help! Help!"
A rough hand clamped over Estel's mouth. "Shut your mouth!" the goblin barked. "No one will come to help you." The blade pressed harder into Estel's throat, and a trickle of blood slid down his neck and stained his cloak. He winced in pain, his lips moving against the hideous goblin-skin, causing the goblin that held his hand over his mouth to burst into mocking laughter.
Another goblin snatched Estel's knife away before he could comprehend what was happening. A screeching noise started up, and a howl of abhorrence. "Elves!" the goblin moaned, dropping the knife to the ground. The third goblin held Estel's wrists behind his back tightly, giving him no hope of retrieving his only weapon. "An Elven-knife!"
There were disdainful mutters of "Filth!" and "Scum!" among the goblins, and Estel felt his heart sink. He knew well, of course, that Elves were neither filth nor scum, but remained silent, biting his lower lip hard enough to draw blood.
"What do we do with the Elf-friend?" growled the goblin that held his mouth shut. Estel felt rope scratching at his wrists, and struggled in a panic to free himself, but his hands were tied securely in front of him. The goblin continued in his rasping voice. "Do we kill him? Do we eat him alive? Do we let the wolves have him? Or do we knock 'im on the head and eat him raw?" The goblin's saliva dripped onto Estel's shoulder, and he flinched. "Tender, young meat is the best, they say!"
The other goblin, the one who had taken the knife, gave the goblin a blow to the head that made Estel flinch. "Fool!" he grumbled. "This one's for the Great Goblin! We'll torture the nasty Elf-friend 'till he tells the Great Goblin why he's out all alone in the mountains! Then we eat him raw!" He gestured to the third goblin, who, no longer having the task of restraining Estel, was standing nearby with a stupid stare on his face. "You! Cover his eyes! Or just give him a hit on the head so hard he goes limp!"
The last words in particular frightened Estel like he had never felt before now. Wishing a thousand times over that he had never set out, he screamed as loud as his lungs would allow, gulping in air and stumbling off down the path. Suddenly, he found himself in a goblin's grip. A guttural voice in the background screamed, "Hit 'im on the head! Smack the scum's brains out!"
As Estel kicked wildly, panicking and screaming for his mother, he heard the words, "Well, this lad looks like a feisty one!", before he felt his head crack against hard stone.