A Stout Little Blessing by Tinorial Peredhel|
Rating: T to be safe
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the recognizable Tolkien characters in this story. The names that Professor Tolkien did not create are either Old Norse (for the dwarves) or combinations of elvish words. Besides, I am not making any money off of this.
Summary: When returning to Imladris, Estel and Legolas find an interesting surprise waiting for them: a baby dwarf. But when they take it home, things begin to run out of control.
Chapter One- An Unexpected Surprise
"Legolas!" Aragorn whispered harshly, his keen human senses picking up on a presence nearby that should not have been there. For some reason, whoever—or whatever—it was was hiding. Quietly unsheathing his sword, Aragorn walked forward.
The blonde elven prince followed his human friend, bow drawn and arrow notched. The fact that he had not even picked up on the presence before his companion unnerved him more than if a horde of orcs stood before him with a birthday cake and those inane human celebration caps on. He had been in deep reminiscence of the long-gone Greenwood the Great and apparently he had let his guard down.
Aragorn stopped two feet from a bush that led to a glade. Silently, he looked at the elf to make sure that he was covered and motioned towards where the presence was emanating from. They had to be quiet, they had to be swift, but most importantly of all, they had to be prepared.
Running with muteness that is usually reserved for the Firstborns alone, the Ranger threw himself, sword raised, into the glade and spun around for any sign of attack or trap. There was none. Legolas stumbled in behind him, but neither friend could find the source of what had disturbed their journey home. Then it hit him. Legolas listened with his acute elven hearing and, almost imperceptibly, the sound of shallow, ragged breathing reached his ears. Turning swiftly on his heel, he looked for any sign of an injured person.
"Someone is not well, Estel," he said, his voice barely above a whisper. The Ranger nodded and they each went to separate sides, searching the bushes thoroughly. With a cry, Aragorn found what they had been looking for.
Legolas ran to his friend’s side. Peering over the young man’s shoulder, the elf spotted a short, stout woman with a bright red beard and blood covering her face. Her eyes were pale and stared fearfully at them. But the blood that was matting all over her broken body was not the only alarming factor: she clutched a child swathed only in tattered rags to her breast. It was asleep and its small body rose and fell with the ragged breathing of its mother.
"Don’t harm us," the mother pleaded softly, clutching her child ever closer.
Legolas barely concealed a sneer: a Dwarf. Just what he needed on his journey: a Dwarf. Orcs he could put up with, bandits gave him an exciting jolt at the end of a boring and/or peaceful day, even hordes of men out for his head were better news than this. He had no love for the spawns of Aulë, but against his better judgment, even this creature rent his heart in her current state. He hated that weakness. One day he was sure that it would get him killed (though what bloodied victim was ever going to pull a blade on him and take his life, he was never sure).
Aragorn shared none of his friend’s thoughts. Gently lifting the body of the plump woman, he rested her under the shade of a tree. His healing instincts quickly surfacing, he checked the baby’s vitals and was relieved to find them relatively normal. It was the mother that worried him. She was weak and growing weaker by the minute; her pulse beat erratically and Aragorn knew that nothing short of a miracle would save her.
"What happened?" he inquired calmly, opening his pack.
"We were banished from my house," she replied, the effort of speaking almost overwhelming the usually-sturdy female dwarf.
Legolas cocked an eyebrow and Aragorn ceased rummaging through his pack in shock. "Banished?" he repeated, wondering who could have been heartless enough to turn a mother in her condition, what with a child so young, away under any circumstance.
"What do you expect, Estel?" Legolas whispered to his friend in contempt, keeping his voice low but not thinking that he cared whether the woman heard him or not. Aragorn shot him a baleful glare, but if the dwarf had heard him, she paid no heed.
"My sister’s new husband," she explained more fully, her sentences breaking up at odd intervals as her breathing became more labored, "for some reason, wishes to harm us. He does not want my baby to grow strong." Tears formed in the mother’s eyes as she glanced down at her babe who was just beginning to stir.
"He has a vendetta against an infant?" Legolas asked incredulously. Strider merely grimaced, thinking back on what he knew of his own past. Yes, it was entirely possible. Yet even as Legolas said it, Aragorn became anxious as to the elf’s next reaction. Would it be compassionate or disdainful?
"Legolas, may I speak with you for a moment?" the Ranger requested. He turned towards his new patient. "Milady, we shall return in a moment. We will be right on the perimeter, you are in no more danger."
Walking towards where they had first grouped before entering the glade, the Ranger turned on his friend without warning. "Why, Legolas?" he whispered, making sure that their conversation fell only on the ears it was meant for. "Why such a superior attitude?"
"Mellon-nín, in case you haven’t noticed, she is a dwarf," responded the Prince, slightly aghast. Didn’t that explain everything?
"You elves," Estel spat the word like a slur. "I have lived amongst your kind all my life and envied them, but now I think twice. You let your pride get in the way of everything—I have learned to live with that. More elves die of pride alone than anything else. But when you allow your prejudices to hurt innocent beings, that I cannot stand and I will not suffer it in my presence at all. She is wounded and you and I both know that she will soon flee to the Halls of the Waiting, or wherever dwarves go. If I can save the child, I will. But I will not allow you to hover in that glade showering your insults on us.
"You may go, mellon-nín, ahead to Imladris without me. I care not if I am left here alone, but do not stay with such a disgraceful attitude. It is not befitting of you." There was silence for a few precious moments and Aragorn grumbled, turning to walk away, when Legolas found his voice and stopped him.
"I didn’t realize, Estel," he whispered, this being the first time he had ever seen the human this upset with him. "All my life I was brought up to hate the dwarves, you know how adamant my father is in his own prejudices, and I have never seen a reason to like them. Truthfully, I have never even seen one good quality that a dwarf would possess."
Strider inclined his head towards the elf so that his voice floated back towards the other being, quiet and calm. "You also lived the first two millennia of your life hating Men. The company in which you travel now is odd then."
Legolas got the point. Walking up to his friend, his placed a hand on the human’s shoulder. "Very well, I understand. She is just another being that we need to help, is that it?" Trying to lighten the atmosphere, Legolas joked, "Estel, I do believe you are the most obsessive Healer I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Not even your father goes chasing those that have injuries!"
Aragorn didn’t respond; he merely walked back up to his charge to find her eyes closed, the child watching her intently. Hands unexpectedly flying to her vitals, she opened her eyes slightly. "Will you take care of my baby, young human?" she asked, her voice barely above a whisper. In the time that it took for the elf and Ranger to have their small conversation, she had considered her options and knew that she needed a safe person with whom to leave her son before moving on herself.
Strider nodded, his tongue seemingly sticking to the roof of his mouth. She smiled wanly and, as she closed her eyes once more, he hazarded one last question before her soul fled. "What are your names?"
"I am Gróa and this is my son, Dyri," she whispered.
Aragorn took the child from her arms, held him close against the sudden breeze that filled the glen, and whispered, "Rest in peace, Gróa, and know that your son is in safe hands." Gróa nodded almost imperceptibly and breathed out. She did not draw breath again.
Dyri began to wail loudly. Grieved, Estel looked up at Legolas, who was wearing an expression of sorrow at the lady’s passing. "What do we do with Dyri now?" he asked, trying desperately to quiet the screaming child.
"I suppose we take him to Imladris and permit Lord Elrond to decide," Legolas suggested. "Here, allow me," requested the elf, putting out his arms for the child. He had never had much experience with babies, but Strider was getting no where and Legolas would rather keep his hearing; after all, he had had it all his life.
Gently coddling the dwarf, he soothingly whispered words in the grey tongue and rocked it back and forth. The movement seemed to calm the infant and the security of the strong elf’s arms was the safest he had felt all day. Dyri stifled his cries to small dry sobs, hiccuping every now and then.
"Legolas," Aragorn whispered, "you have a way with babies. Is there something I should know about?"
Legolas adjusted the child in his arms and playfully took a swipe at the Ranger’s head, which the human dodged. Scowling, but not quite being able to hide the twinkle of amusement in his grey-blue eyes, Legolas said, "Let us continue on our journey. I very much fear that the ones who caused this terrible thing to happen may still be about and that the child may have more injuries than previously noticed."
Aragorn nodded seriously. "Of course," he said, and the two friends began walking. They did not stop for meals or rest; they walked for hours. Dyri’s sobs slowly began to subside until the exhausting day caught up with him and he fell asleep in the prince’s arms, resting his head against his protector’s chest.
"You know," said Legolas, looking at the sleeping babe, "he is quite cute." When Aragorn laughed but did not disagree, the Silvan elf quickly amended, "For a dwarf."
"He’s one of the best-looking dwarves around, mellon-nín," Aragorn concluded. The sun was beginning to set and cast a luminescent glow upon the forest. In the next half hour, they should reach the valley of the elves and the wisdom of Lord Elrond, lord of Rivendell, adopted father of Estel, a boy (barely an adult by his own race’s standards) eagerly waiting to get home.
Their journey was a simple one, which was unusual for these two companions. No orcs attacked and neither did bloodthirsty bandits chase them, as Legolas had previously wished. They crossed the border into the elven stronghold and made their way through the large open gates. Elrond was waiting on his balcony for his son’s arrival. It had only been the human’s second time out alone and he had wanted to make sure the man was well.
Meeting them in the courtyard, Elrond happily embraced his son. "Did you have an easy journey?" he asked with a knowing look in his eye. Neither of them looked injured—at all. The only possible explanations were that he was hallucinating or perhaps it was a trick in the failing sunlight.
"We met our share of surprises," Estel answered his father, his lips twitching. Elrond did not even ask; he wasn’t sure he wanted to know.
Turning towards Legolas, the elven lord said, "Welcome, Prince Legolas of the Woodland Realm." Legolas bowed reverently, trying not to lose his grip on the baby. "What is that you have there?" Elrond asked curiously.
Failing to find the right words for what had just occurred, Legolas simply tipped the sleeping babe forward and allowed Elrond to look at the prize he held. There was silence for a few moments, before the half-elf found his voice again. "Have you really been away that long?" he joked surprisingly, not knowing what to believe.
Estel couldn’t take it any longer. He burst out laughing. "No, Ada!" he quickly assured. "This is neither my child nor Legolas’!" He rocked back on his heels with laughter and even the elven prince chuckled.
Elrond smiled with relief. "I did not think so. Come, let us sit while you tell me that tale," he said. The two travelers acquiesced and followed the lord inside to the Hall of Fire, where small embers were being prodded by one of the household servants until they crackled merrily.
Aragorn immediately launched into the story of their journey, which for once did not take as long as expected. The run-in with Gróa had been short-lived, no matter how long it had seemed at the time. When he was finished, Elrond sat deep in thought as the child began to stir again.
"What are we going to do with Dyri?" Elrond’s youngest asked, fondly smiling at the bundle still in Legolas’ arms.
"I know what you are thinking, my son," Elrond answered. Estel beamed. Could they perhaps—? "But no, I am sorry. Dyri cannot live here in Imladris as you did. The circumstances are distressingly different—you, being the heir of Isildur," he said this with a knowing glance at the elf prince. It was safe in this company for Elrond to speak aloud the ancestry of his youngest son, something the elf rarely did, because Legolas was already aware of how special his human friend was.
Aragorn was about to interrupt his father, it just wasn’t fair that since they didn’t know Dyri’s father or forefathers that he didn’t get to live on in the elven home, but Elrond held up a silencing hand. "You were also a human. As sad as it is to hold his race against him, there would be no chance whatsoever of Dyri being accepted in an elven stronghold. You were immune to most elves’ scorn because I took you as my own, but also remember that there are humans whom elves befriend. It has been many years since an elf has hailed any dwarf and those prejudices run too deep for Dyri to live a happy life. I would not have him suffer simply because we wish him to remain in Imladris for our own benefit. He will stay here until I can make better and more permanent arrangements." The words were final. Aragorn knew that there was wisdom behind what his father spoke, but it was still hard to think that just because of elves’ and dwarves’ prejudice that he could not help a child in need. He was a Ranger, he protected, and yet he had to send an orphan away. The thought itself was sickening.
"We cannot send him back to the dwarves," Estel argued, his throat dry. "We know not who wishes him harm and I wouldn’t have him murdered because of our ignorance."
Elrond nodded. "Yes, my son, I am aware of that. Do not worry; I will find a solution that will best suit our young charge here. And in the mean time, why do you two not go freshen up before Elladan and Elrohir make discovery of your arrival? I am sure that they have wanted to play a prank or two on you for weeks now, I heard them scheming this morning. And Dyri will be in the charge of two of the housemaids." Aragorn made a protesting sound, suddenly not trusting the elves that had lived with him all his life. He just couldn’t quite grasp the facts of their prejudice just yet; it came about as much as shock as his own heritage, which had been told to him not long ago. "I assure you, Estel, he will be in the best of hands."
"My lord," Legolas said hesitantly, "I wonder if Strider is not justified in his reasoning. When we first met Gróa, I—I wanted to leave her, she had been as a nuisance to me, and your son made sure that I was able to see past all the tales of dwarves that I have been raised with. I would feel much more at ease if Dyri were left in the charge of the two who found him and already have a bond forming with him. With all due respect, your servants have no reason to treat this child as we would and my heart tells me that he would be better off in our own care."
Elrond contemplated what Legolas said. Of course he was going to allow his son and the prince to take care of Dyri if they so desired, but the plea warmed his heart. He knew that his son no less than enthusiastically agreed and it was encouraging to see the care that the two young ones had for life at their ages. Especially Legolas. Elrond had not expected anything of the sort out of the elf prince. Perhaps there was more to him than met the eye. "Very well," Elrond conceded. "Of course you may watch Dyri. But remember that you are responsible for him; you have to feed him, clothe him, bathe him, and even change him when he soils himself. If you need assistance of any sort, you may always come to me (I will be in my study) or Elvana, you know who she is. She will be more than happy to help you with a babe."
"Thank you, Ada," Estel said, hugging his father warmly. He was relieved that Dyri was in the safest hands possible at the moment.
"Thank you, Lord Elrond," Legolas agreed, glancing at the baby in his arms. To his surprise, he found wide grey eyes staring at him intently. Dyri had been awake the entire time and not said a word.
"But Estel," Elrond’s warning floated across the room and Aragorn made sure to give it his full attention. "Keep an eye on him. As I said, many prejudices run too deep to be excused just now and many elves will not appreciate a dwarf living in the Last Homely House." The friends nodded seriously, knowing that the threat was true and right there in Imladris.
Chapter Two- Raugyulda
Aragorn picked Dyri up and laid him gently in the small washing sink in the bathing quarters that had been raised there especially for young ones. He gently spoke to the dwarf child as he scrubbed him clean, earning many a giggle from the baby. He playfully poked Dyri’s nose and left a dot of soap bubbles in his finger’s wake, which Dyri found even more hilarious.
A raven-haired elf walked into the room. Aragorn did not turn around; he had sent for his brothers, whom he had sorely missed, not long ago. But this was neither Elladan nor Elrohir.
"What have you there, Estel?" the elf asked. The human’s shoulders stiffened. This elf had not always been his friend and had a nasty reputation for being cruel when it suited his purposes. For him to know of Dyri’s existence might just be the reason Elrond had warned his foster-son.
"It is nothing, Faroth," he answered hastily, now scrubbing the dwarf as fast as he could without hurting him. "It is a child."
"A child?!" Faroth repeated incredulously. "Why do you have a child?"
"Ada simply wished for someone to cleanse him and I was the only one available. We will be returning him tomorrow." The answer was curt and to the point. Faroth did not test his luck, but he knew that the human was hiding something from him.
"Very well," the elf said, leaving the room. But he did not go very far. Crouching behind a vase in a well-concealed nook, he waited. Someone should be coming soon; he wanted to know what the human was hiding.
Elrohir and Elladan walked excitedly down the hall a few moments later. Their baby brother had returned and apparently had news for them, some sort of surprise. Well, whatever it was, they were glad that he had sent for them—as long as it wasn’t a warg puppy. They didn’t need that in the house… again.
Estel had just finished cleaning Dyri and was swaddling him in a warm cloth towel (Legolas had not yet returned with clothes, for which Strider had sent him away) as his twin brothers walked in. Turning around, a wide grin spread across his face at the mirror faces.
"Estel!" they said together, each coming up and hugging the mortal.
"What are you holding?" Elladan asked first, spotting the bundle in their brother’s arms.
Aragorn decided to give the elves the same shock he and Legolas had given his father. Tilting the bundle easily forward, the twins were allowed to look in as Dyri babbled inarticulately (though probably something against the one who was seemingly toppling him onto the hard floor).
"Estel," Elladan broke the silence slowly, "That is a baby."
"Thank the Valar Ada kept you when you were born!" Elrohir mocked. "I, for one, wasn’t sure what it was! I was afraid that perhaps Estel had brought another man-eating plant or warg puppy back…." He was met with a dark scowl, but no retort.
The human decided to step in before the two elves were down at the archery range once more to decide which twin was best. "Since you obviously haven’t spoken to Ada today, the boy’s name is Dyri. When Legolas and I were traveling, we chanced upon his mother, who was grievously injured. When she passed, we took Dyri with us in hopes that Ada would know what to do."
"You expect us to raise another human child in Imladris, Estel?" Elrohir questioned lightly, not yet knowing what he thought of the idea. He loved his baby brother and cherished all the time they spent together, especially watching him grow into this accomplished young man, but he also greatly feared the day when Estel chose to leave them. And that was farther away than for most humans, so what would happen if they got attached to another baby?
"Dwarf child," Aragorn corrected the twin with a smile as he saw the shocked looks of horror on their faces. "And I thought it would be rewarding to raise an orphan in the halls of our father’s house—"
Elladan cut him off. "Have you gone mad, Estel?"
"Bringing a dwarf child into an elven realm!" Elrohir finished. "Just how many times have you hit your head since last we saw you?"
Lightly glaring at his two brothers, Aragorn continued his sentence, putting more power into his words to let the elves know that they had cut him off. "—but Ada did not think it as good an idea. Legolas and I are temporarily tending to him until Ada can make more permanent arrangements."
Choosing that moment to appear, Legolas came in with a small tunic in which to dress the child and a cloth diaper. "It was not easy, Strider, to find clothes that would fit our companion here. Elven children are usually longer in length, even at birth, and slimmer as well."
"Well, all of you elves are underfed," Aragorn grumbled, the barb hitting its mark as the three immortals in front of him began to cry out in indignation. But that did not matter to Faroth who, still crouching outside the room, had gotten the information he desired. With a feral grin, his heart blackened and he thought excitedly of the reactions he would receive when this news spread through Rivendell.
He could hear the heavy footsteps of the Edain as the four came towards the door, their mindless chatter echoing in the hall. They were going to head for the human’s room. They passed Faroth without so much as a blink in his direction and he watched them go, his heart beating erratically with anticipation. Down the hall they went, oblivious to the threat that lurked behind the vase. They didn’t even know that their secret was about to be found out.
Slowly standing up as the group rounded a corner, Faroth walked easily but purposefully towards the exit of the house. He would awaken at dawn the next morning and with any luck, the word would be spread before they breaked for lunch. After all, didn’t every elf deserve to know when a dwarf was taking advantage of the hospitality of their great lord?
That night, Elladan, Elrohir, and Legolas all bedded down in Aragorn’s room, playing with the babe into the late catches of the night. Having been drained all day and sleeping on and off, Dyri was quite happy to stay awake while the elves and human talked, told stories, and laughed. They even earned a giggle or two from him, which made both Legolas and Estel positively beam. When the Prince was finally convinced that the dwarf had indeed fallen into a deep sleep, he put the child in a cradle that had been settled there by one of the staff earlier, and fondly watched the babe’s peaceful, cherubic face as he lay there. Aragorn stepped up beside his friend and they stood in silence for a moment. He had taken notice of the certain amount of reluctance when the elf had finally deposited Dyri in the bassinet and pondered the fact that they both seemed to be getting attached to the young one faster than they had anticipated. And yet… neither of them cared.
Elladan and Elrohir watched in interest as the two friends stood beside the sleeping baby. They knew what the duo was experiencing, having felt it themselves when Aragorn took residence there. It had not taken a day before both the twins and Elrond would’ve died to save the boy from experiencing even one more moment of grief. They almost regretted the fact that the dwarf child could not live on in Rivendell, though they knew it was best. After all, one could not hide that they were a dwarf for long.
Finally, Legolas turned away with a small sigh and a smile upon his lips. After befriending Strider and having such a close relationship with the mortal, he found that the emotions he felt when he looked at Dyri did not entirely bother him. Aragorn couldn’t have been happier or less troubled about all this, and the Prince felt nearly the same. Dragging the human with him, he made his way over to the twins at the foot of Aragorn’s bed.
"I think we should also rest for what remains of the night," he suggested softly, not having any wish to awaken the sleeping angel in the cradle. Acquiescing mutely, the three elves left to gather the necessary blankets from their own quarters. Estel’s bed could perhaps fit three people squished, but they were four. Two would have to sleep in the bed, for the floor only allowed a limited amount of space unless someone became fond of the hall, but they would decide that upon their return.
When they did come back, arms loaded with light covers and a pillow, Aragorn pulled the sheets off of his own bed. Plopping down on the floor near his bedroom cabinet, he murmured softly, "You are guests in this room tonight. Two of you can sleep in the bed. I’ll stay here and let you battle it out." Then he closed his eyes, waiting for the sweet release of sleep to take him.
Legolas made a makeshift bed beside Dyri’s cradle. "I think I would rather be near him tonight, should he awaken," he said with a small smile. Elladan and Elrohir did not try to convince him otherwise, but lightly teased the two. "’Twould have been nicer had you told us before we both brought our covers in, but no matter," the oldest son of Elrond jested, before he and Elrohir lay themselves onto the downy bed and soon fell into elven sleep.
Aragorn had been dreadfully tired, but he had not missed Legolas’ words. Grinning to himself, he nestled deeper into his covers to stave off the slight breeze that blew from the open window and lost himself to the dream world.
Yet there would be no sleep for the elven prince of Mirkwood. He had too much on his mind to think of sleeping at this moment and didn’t worry about it; elven bodies didn’t need to rejuvenate themselves with rest as human’s bodies did, and if there was any place in Arda that would refrain from tiring out an immortal, it was Imladris.
He sighed softly and sat on his pillow, plowing through his many thoughts as the candle on the table slowly flickered and died. His eyes sought out Eärendil and he felt a calming in his troubled heart as he basked in its light for a moment. What was going to happen to Dyri? Would any other elves find out? Would they harm him? Well, these problems could only be solved by time, but Legolas vowed that if any being tried to harm the dwarf child while he was around, they would have to deal with one of Mirkwood’s finest warriors first. Then perhaps he would sic the sons of Lord Elrond on them for eternity. With a chuckle, he realized that that may just be was the worst punishment of all and mused lightly about why the Valar hadn’t employed it yet. Perhaps they found it too harsh, or the reason they sent poor Glorfindel back was to pay for some very terrible sins. But what could he have done to earn that?
The hours passed like minutes, so deep in thought was he, and birds slowly began to chirp their harmonious songs. Rays of sunlight started to pour through the open window and into the room, magnificent colors painting the sky and gradually fading away to be replaced by a clear blue.
The sons of Elrond awoke not long after and sat in the warming rays for a few moments, before the bustling sounds through their home told them that the rest of its inhabitants were also stirring.
They dressed quietly, careful not to wake the still-slumbering infant, and then met in the Aragorn’s room. The twins sat on the bed while Legolas and their brother sat on the floor, facing them.
"We should go to breakfast," Elrohir suggested. "Ada will be waiting for us."
"Dyri is still sleeping," Aragorn argued, not willing to leave the child alone in a room. He knew better than that. Who then would be around when he woke up?
Elladan easily saw a way to please everyone. "Why don’t El and I go to breakfast and then bring trays back for the two of you, assuming you wish to stay, Legolas?"
"Ai, I do, and that sounds wonderful. Thank you, Elladan."
The twins left and suddenly the room plunged into silence as Aragorn and Legolas sat on the antiquated carpet. "Did you not sleep last night, mellon-nín?" Strider asked, breaking the silence. He did not like it when the elf went an entire night like that, though he knew that Legolas could care less.
"Ai, I was not granted any rest last night, but Estel, I assure that I feel fine," Legolas quickly cut his friend to the chase. "But I was thinking…."
"About what?" Aragorn probed, already knowing the answer.
"I knew it. Legolas, are you sure that you are well with him around?" the human asked in concern. He certainly would not abandon the dwarf child, but neither would he force his friend to be around that which he may have no power over detesting. He saw an inner battle constantly being fought around Legolas since they had found Dyri those many hours ago and was concerned for the prince.
"I am better than I should be," Legolas grimly answered. "I don’t know what it is about him, but I fear that he has already left an impression upon me. I do not regret finding him nor tending to him as we have, but I do not wish to lose him just yet."
"I know how you feel, Legolas. I do not wish to be rid of his company yet either. But Ada does know best and I fear leaving him in Imladris almost more than allowing him to leave here, now that I have had the time to properly think."
"I agree," Legolas conceded. "Forgive me, mellon-nín, I simply—" He was interrupted as Elladan and Elrohir arrived at the room with their meals, but Aragorn did not need Legolas to finish his sentence.
They ate their meals with quiet talk and laughter as the twins recounted a scene that Glorfindel had made at breakfast, which had caused them to leave early, not properly finishing their food. Apparently, Erestor had drugged Glorfindel’s morning cup of juice in the kitchens, which caused the Balrog Slayer to become overly paranoid. He could not be calmed during the meal and refused to eat the "poisoned meat" and "undercooked, crawling-with-deadly-germs" food. Finally, Elrond had had to escort him out of the room when he tried to kill a fly by bodily picking up his chair and lunging at the windowsill, screaming about the Doom of all Arda. It was eventful to say the least.
Only a few minutes after they had polished off the last remaining bits of bread on their plates, Dyri awoke with a small cry. Elrohir stood up. "I’ll fetch him his bottle," he said, knowing that it had already been prepared by the kitchen staff.
"I’ll come as well to see if we can scour any leftovers," Elladan agreed, though he truly was not hungry. He just wanted to leave Estel and Legolas alone with the baby. It felt… right, somehow, though he could not logically reason it.
With the twins gone, Aragorn immediately walked to the bassinet and withdrew the infant inside. Cradling the dwarf in his arms, he gently soothed the baby in the elven and dwarven tongues, switching between the two because they held a natural calming power on the crying child. Talking quietly, he babbled about anything that came to mind. "And while you were sleeping, Uncle Legolas and I sat here and watched over you…." Legolas quirked an eyebrow. Uncle? He could get used to that….
While in the kitchens, Elrohir took the baby bottle and found its contents lukewarm at best. "Yulma," he said to the old cook, "would you mind warming this bottle for us?" he asked.
Of course she said yes. She always said yes to the sons of Elrond, who had ever charmed her with their timid questions or cute pranks on the other elves. They had a nice relationship: she gave them free little snacks at random intervals, they freed her doorway from any pranks. It worked very well.
Elladan lingered near the door and strained his hearing towards just outside it. From the sound of it, two elves were in a corner talking quietly and breaking the conversation when they looked around to see if anyone heard them. Elrohir was talking in the background, but Elladan adjusted his hearing and only made affirmative noises when Elrohir took a breath.
"… and so I have told the staff, but I do not think they care! I had to take matters into my own hands, mellon-nín, I had to. Lord Elrond does not need to be saddled with another leech like the one he already had."
"Faroth…" the other voice began uncertainly, but Faroth cut him off.
"It is a dwarf, Avarlinte, a dwarf. That is worse than a human." From the sounds of it, Avarlinte was not convinced, and Elladan strained his hearing more than ever. If Faroth was trying to harm Dyri, then this was definitely a conversation of utmost importance. He only wished that Elrohir would quiet down, though he supposed that the chatter of his twin was keeping his own cover. Though soon he wouldn’t need it, seeing as he would either fling himself through the doorway or push his way unceremoniously through the stone wall in an attempt to get closer to the conversation.
"Don’t you worry. Come the hour, that dwarf will be as dead as all his race deserves," Faroth ended the conversation with this final note and the duo dispersed. Elladan realized that Elrohir had been calling him for the last minute or so, holding the now-warmed bottle of milk in his slim hands.
"Coming," he said, shaken. He was still thinking through Faroth’s words on the way to Estel’s room. Come the hour…. Dead…. What could that possibly mean? How could Faroth harm Dyri?
"Look, Dyri, here is Uncle Elrohir with your bottle!" Estel’s voice rang happily in his subconscious as they entered his room. Then with a sudden, sickening clarity, Elladan realized. All the pieces fell into place.
"Estel, if you feed Dyri that bottle I will personally behead you!" the eldest son of Elrond threatened in fear, striding forward towards his baby brother.
Aragorn looked shocked for a moment then lightly laughed. "What are you saying, El?" he said, placing the bottle in the baby’s mouth.
With swift reflexes honed by years and years of training and experience, Elladan’s hand shot out and knocked the bottle out of Dyri’s mouth before a single drop could come out. "Elladan!" Estel said angrily as the top of the phial loosed and spilled the liquid all over his rug. His scolding quickly ceased when it burned a large, painful-looking hole right where it had previously leaked. Everyone gasped.
"What is that?" Legolas asked incredulously. Elrohir and Estel looked equally shocked, but there was a look of dawning comprehension on his twin’s face.
"We call it ‘raugyulda’, demon draught," Elrohir answered, his stomach turning. "But El, how did you know—?"
"I overheard Faroth speaking with Avarlinte about killing Dyri. He said that come the hour he would be dead. I could not think of any other way for Faroth to get near him, but my guess was as good as any." Elrohir now understood the situation they were in, but Aragorn and Legolas were both still confused.
"Why didn’t it burn right through the bottle, then?" Strider asked uncomfortably, holding Dyri closer. Amazingly, he, too, had been stunned quiet. This truly was a remarkable baby.
"It is activated by extreme heat," Elladan answered. "When Elrohir had Yulma boil the bottle, even for just that moment, the poison was activated. Depending on the amount of heat it is exposed to, that is how long it takes for the poison to completely set off and destroy whatever it touches." He was met yet again with two bewildered, albeit horrified, looks and decided to elaborate.
"About a month ago, we had an unexpected visit from Halbarad. He had brought a vial of this poison with him, saying that it was the new weapon of whatever manslayer was plaguing a local tavern at Nimlas. Apparently, some of those who ordered the hot soup or drinks died a quick, agonizing death. The strange thing was that the Rangers had no idea what was killing them—the poison had slowly cooled inside the victims’ bodies and did not burn holes straight through them— except for a couples’ throats—and they had no idea why these people were chosen. Some were good people with absolutely no debts or vendettas against them and some were thieves simply searching for gold. The killer remained unknown and kept striking with this terrible poison.
"One hot afternoon, a little boy got hold of a vial that he had found on the side of the Road. I suppose he had to have been young, for he drank some of it before his mother snatched it away from him. Unfortunately, the Rangers were called to the house because the boy did not survive the attack. With a sample of the poison, Halbarad set off for Imladris. He came here and explained its effects to Ada. That is when we dubbed raugyulda, for it was surely the byproduct of Melkor’s mind only.
"There is no cure for demon draught," Elladan concluded. "Ada searched as hard as he could, though he always kept a small percentage in the vial. He was able to recreate it, but the poison strikes so swiftly that an antidote would be worthless. Ada was about to find one when Halbarad came to our door and said that the murderer had been caught, having been poisoned by his wife. They were holding the wife in prison last I heard. After that, the Rangers confiscated all bottles with the liquid in it. It is believed that the murderer chanced upon the poison one night while experimenting and it is not a threat any longer. Apparently, we were wrong when we left it in the hands of the inhabitants of Imladris," he finished grimly.
"So…" Estel said, and Dyri began to wail, "someone—Faroth—was trying to kill Dyri?"
Legolas finally spoke. "Apparently," he said, "though I do not know how he learned of Dyri’s kin. We should tell Lord Elrond immediately."
"Tell Lord Elrond what?"
Chapter Three- The Ending of a Tale
They looked towards the doorway, expecting to see the lord of Rivendell, but it was a much darker sight that met their gaze. Faroth stood on the threshold, eyes narrowed. "I thought something was wrong when you wouldn’t answer Elrohir," he told Elladan, walking swiftly into the room. "Why do you thwart me, old friend?" His voice was soft and held a deadly calm.
"Faroth, you should leave," Legolas said. Aragorn wisely kept quiet, trying to draw as little attention to himself as possible. Though with Dyri’s untimely screams, it was a hard feat.
"Not yet," answered Faroth smoothly. "I have yet to gaze upon the beast that Elrond has once again taken in. Its vulgar cry pains the ears of any elf who walks by." Something glinted by Faroth’s sleeve and Aragorn’s eyes darted quickly to it, catching a flash of light reflected off metal for an instant before it once again disappeared. He clutched Dyri tighter, backing up a few paces.
The Ranger looked around the room. The twins were keeping their distance from Faroth, not wishing to anger him further (since he seemed quite unstable, having tried to attack one under his lord’s protection), but they were not against throwing dirty looks and scowls at the elf, though who was standing still, three feet from their little brother.
Aragorn’s eyes met Legolas and in a split second, he looked from his dresser back to the elf prince several times, trying to relay the message to the Silvan elf that there was a small knife hidden just out of Faroth’s view. He doubted whether the elves had caught sight of Faroth’s dagger, for surely he would not attack a son of Elrond in the Last Homely House, but he wanted Legolas prepared. Only through the deep bond that they shared did Legolas get Aragorn’s message and he imperceptibly grabbed the blade, flipping it behind his sleeve just as Faroth had.
"Let me gaze upon his infantile face and I shall leave you," Faroth whispered. Strider did not budge, but carefully unwrapped Dyri with a quick look at Legolas. If Faroth stayed where he was, Dyri should be safe, and Legolas was ready anyway.
He took the blanket away from Dyri’s tearstained face and held the baby in the nook of his arm, well out of reach of Faroth and a hard shot to get should he suddenly throw the dagger. Faroth took a step forward and Aragorn matched his by stepping back. "You stay where you are. You have keen elven eyes. If you wish to see Dyri, here he is." The human’s voice was cool and curt, his silver eyes steely. Dyri’s cry still pierced the thick atmosphere of the room.
Without warning, Faroth lunged. He gave a loud cry and threw himself on the human, dagger exposed, trying to get anywhere near Dyri to stab him. Aragorn’s tensed muscles rewarded him as he was thrown off his feet by the sudden onslaught of fierce weight; he shielded Dyri with his body and pressed the child to his chest, ignoring the cries that came even louder now that an attack had been made.
Elladan and Elrohir started forward, shocked. Faroth was fighting like a trapped warg, his nails clawing at Estel to loosen the human’s hold on the dwarf, his teeth bared in an ugly snarl, and emanating from his throat, a deep, guttural growl as never heard from a Firstborn before.
Aragorn felt a brief flash of pain in his left side as the dagger dug deeply into him, but his hands only clenched and held Dyri closer. He would die before he handed this innocent infant over to the enraged elf currently clawing at him.
There was a flash of light and Faroth’s hand raced for his own neck after striking Aragorn firmly in the temple. He dropped the dagger while he held his throat, from which a sharp, elven blade was protruding. Blood trickled out of the wound, running down his body faster and faster, until Faroth fell back with a last release of breath.
Indeed, Legolas had wasted only a moment’s time in defending Estel and Dyri to the death—of the enemy. For a spilt second, he had been loathed to kill the other elf, for the loss of an immortal life is unique and a terrible thing, no matter how twisted the being. But Faroth was intent on Dyri’s life and Strider’s, too, if he had to take it and Legolas did not now regret the price that had been paid so that the orphans could live.
Elladan and Elrohir rushed forward, not even looking at Faroth’s body. Their little brother had been knocked unconscious by that last blow and his breathing was ragged. He had already lost more blood than they cared to see and it concerned them greatly that they couldn’t revive him, not even with the water that he always kept at his bedside (refilled on a regular basis).
Legolas spared a moment of pity for the elf he had just killed and prayed that his soul find its way to the Halls of Waiting and discover a peace that its living form could never have had. Then he rushed out of the room in search of Lord Elrond.
He quite literally ran into the elf lord as Elrond had been making his way to Aragorn’s room with a companion, but Legolas didn’t take the time to see who it was. "My lord—come quickly—it’s Estel—Faroth—Dyri—" Legolas did not even explain fully, but took off down the corridor with Elrond fast on his heels.
Upon entering the room, the elf lord’s eyes quickly found the lifeless body of Faroth and he sighed, but when he caught sight of his youngest son, all previous emotion fled him. He walked up to Aragorn’s body, fearing what he would find. To his extreme relief, however, Estel yet lived and was not nearly as injured as he had been on many occasions prior. All they needed to do was bandage that wound and make the Ranger spend some days confined to his bed.
He did just that. Taking bandages from the healing pack that Elladan had found near Estel’s bedside, he lathered healing ointment on the wound and dressed it tightly. Dyri lay in Elrohir’s arms, tears having subsided, and was now trying to catch his breath while he stared intently at Elrond’s companion, a fearful, yet knowing look in his eye.
"My son," Elrond softly called to Aragorn, gently trying to coax him back to the world of consciousness. All living beings in the room moved to Strider’s bedside, anxiously waiting for any sign that he was truly going to be all right. "Estel, wake up," his father said with a more commanding tone.
Aragorn groaned and blearily opened his eyes. It wasn’t time to be up yet. His head throbbed and his side… well, his side felt like it wanted to tear itself away from his body, and as of right now, Aragorn would gladly help it. "You never let me sleep," the human murmured groggily, attempting to sit up. His head had other plans.
Hearing his youngest son groan, Elrond placed a hand on his chest. "Sit up slowly," he admonished tenderly, relieved that in a fight for his life, his son was not grievously injured.
Doing as he was told, Aragorn sat up and his eyes landed immediately on Faroth’s bloodied form. "Ada," he said, but then memory dawned on him, and he recalled the fight that had ended the elf’s life. That was good, because he was just about to say, ‘Ada, there is a dead elf in my room,’ and Elladan and Elrohir would never have let him live that down. As if they hadn’t noticed. Instead, he settled for, "Where is Dyri?"
"I have him," Elrohir said, and Aragorn turned around to see the small child, unhurt by any of the morning’s battles. Yet the dwarf’s grey eyes were still fixed upon the stranger, as though Dyri knew something and dreaded it. The human turned around to discover the identity of this intruder.
"Just how do you get yourself injured in your own room, Aragorn?" Gandalf’s deep, booming voice asked, scattering small bouts of laughter from everyone present except Dyri.
Aragorn shrugged. "I am an expert," he said simply, his brothers and Legolas enthusiastically agreeing. Elrond merely smiled and nodded. "Indeed you are," he said.
"So this is our little dwarf child?" Gandalf asked, moving to the next subject abruptly.
"Yes," Elrond answered. He turned towards the four younger beings and explained, "Mithrandir knows many strange creatures on Middle-Earth, not the least strangest being dwarves included. He has agreed to take Dyri to the Lonely Mountain, where some of Durin’s folk yet dwell. He is confident that they will take Dyri and raise him as I have raised you, Estel, otherwise he will bring the child back to Imladris and come what may." Undecided looks met his announcement, for none of the beings knew what they thought of this plan. "I do not believe that he will return," Elrond hastily added. Still, no one quite knew where to go with this. They had just survived an attack. That had to leave a mark on them; they had begun to love the child in these last few moments more than anything. After all, they had nearly lost him!
"Yes, and we had best be off, Peredhel, I have some unfinished business in Dale that requires almost immediate attention," Gandalf declared. Elrond resisted the urge to roll his eyes; this wizard was always mysteriously on the move.
Aragorn took Dyri in his arms and Legolas stood beside him, both gazing down at the child, who stared intently back at them. Estel took one finger and affectionately slid it down the baby’s cheek, his heart almost breaking. The room was silent, giving the two companions the time they needed to say goodbye.
"You were a brave little boy," the Ranger whispered, trying desperately to keep his voice from cracking and fighting the tears that were rapidly welling up in his eyes.
"Ai," Legolas agreed. "You will make a great warrior some day."
"Just don’t forget about us," Aragorn lost his battle and his voice did crack, but he still stubbornly refused to allow the tears leave. Quickly hugging the blanketed infant to his chest, he said, "I am going to miss you, Dyri." He looked the boy in the eyes and placed one kiss on his forehead.
Legolas one-handedly hugged the dwarf, not making Aragorn give up his hold on the child just yet. He, too, whispered his goodbye. "We’ll expect letters when you learn to write," he jested lightly, his heart not feeling quite as jubilant. After Legolas had placed a kiss upon the child’s brow, Aragorn reluctantly turned around and walked over to Gandalf.
"You will make sure that he comes to no harm, Mithrandir?" Legolas asked, hoping beyond hope that the old wizard would answer negatively, so that he and Strider had an excuse to keep Dyri a little longer.
"I will, princeling," he answered seriously. One could almost see Legolas deflate at the sound of the crushing words.
"Very well," he relented in a toneless voice. Gandalf’s lips twitched, but otherwise he showed no emotion. Turning, he studied the human closely.
"Remember to wrap him up tightly at night," Aragorn reminded the Istar, reluctantly allowing Gandalf to take the babe from his arms. "And make sure that there are no rocks or pebbles on his bed, and that he is not out in the open where wolves can get him, or too near the fire—" Aragorn choked and roughly wiped his eyes. Dyri began to sob loudly and silent tears ran down Legolas’ fair face. "Be sure to check all of his milk for poisons."
"Do not worry, young human, I have everything under control," Gandalf assured the silently sobbing Edain.
"And please, make sure that the family you give him to will take care of him. And check in on them every once in a while?"
"Ai, Aragorn, I shall do that."
On that note, Gandalf began to walk away, Elrond following near his arm. Elladan and Elrohir sat mournfully on Estel’s bed and Legolas tried to stave off the tears. Then suddenly, without knowing why, Aragorn ran out of the room and followed Dyri’s screams. Legolas pursued him all the way to the courtyard, where a great eagle was waiting.
Gandalf climbed atop Gwaihir’s back and bid one last farewell to Imladris. "I take my leave of you!" he shouted as Gwaihir began to stand. "And rest assured that this little one will be in safe hands!" But Dyri did not seem to be. His cries still echoed loudly and Aragorn concerned himself by thinking that it must surely be making his throat hoarse.
"Goodbye, young one! We will be with you!" shouted Aragorn as they sped away into the sky, quickly becoming nothing more than a dot. Yet he could still hear Dyri’s screams echoing teasingly in his mind.
"They are gone," the young human said simply, his voice holding a tumult of emotions.
"Yes, my son, they are," Elrond gently steered the two friends away and back towards the Last Homely House.
A fortnight later, Elrond called his three sons and their guest Legolas into the Hall of Fire. They had not yet forgotten about the child that had spent one night under the roof of the Lord of Rivendell, but they were beginning to recover. Legolas and Aragorn showed most signs of grief; Aragorn more so because he had never truly experienced such a thing in living memory. He had never allowed himself to get so close to a being in such a short time and, indeed, there were only few privileged people allowed that close to him.
"What is it, Ada?" Estel asked as they all bustled about for a spot on the couch. He was quickly thrown to the floor.
Elrond rubbed his temples and let out a long, weary sigh. "Do you remember the uncle Gróa told you about?"