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One Title: Your Story

A Fairy Tale, Middle-Earth style

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Friends in Small Places

The Advice of a Child by Calenlass Greenleaf


Crime and Punishment
Rating: PG-13 for angst.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fan fiction based on several works of fiction. I do not own anything.

Summary: One of many scenarios on an almost-unknown elf—Erestor. Characters are Erestor and a young Aragorn, better known as Estel.

Warning: There is much angst. Story may not be canon according to some readers. This story changes various point-of-views; they are marked by line breakers.





That was my crime.
And this…
This…
Is my punishment.

Introduction


Many called him proud and uncaring.

The only reason he lives in Imladris is because he has nowhere to go,” they said.

Maybe they were right.

Perhaps he was proud (he was too proud to tell anyone anything, not even to dispel rumours).

And perhaps he was uncaring (he used to care, and that had gotten him into trouble).

What did it matter though? Not a single one of them attempted to ask him his reason for his personality. Even if they did ask him, he would not give them an answer, for he deemed all of them too prying, too foolish.

They would never understand. Few did. Elrond was one of them, but that was because he and the Lord of Imladris had understood each other for many centuries now.

The others kept their distance, as if his aloofness were something contagious. If he merely looked at them, they would turn pale and avert their eyes. They whispered about him when they thought he was not listening, and he could usually catch the words ‘odd’ and ‘strange.’

Did he care? On the outside, it appeared it was not so.

Yet none of them knew what he kept hidden. And it was better that way—

At least, he thought so.

All of them already distrusted him. They would hate him if they knew the whole truth.

Then why did he not leave for the Undying Lands? Why did he still linger if it were so painful?

Because he was not ready.

Because he could not.

Because…something kept him here.

Prologue

3441, S.A.

Gwador, you—’ he hoarsely whispered, ‘you cannot leave me like this.’ By the Valar, why was this happening to him? To them? ‘Forgive me, I should have—’

Did you think I would choose it this way? For the last time, stop blaming yourself.’ A hand reached up to grip another’s shoulder. ‘You will live—’

Yet you will die.’

You will live,’ the voice continued, as if it had not been interrupted, ‘and you will w—’ a harsh cough. ‘And watch over Elrond and make sure he does not do anything foolish just because I am no longer there.’

A pause; rain was falling all about them, which the only sound in this desolate graveyard.

I promise.’ He was not crying; he would not shame himself like that. Elrond should be here, though, but he was not—his healing skills were needed too much at the moment.

And…’ the voice was growing weaker, ‘you will not grieve—when I…pass.’

He shut his mouth, heart and mind in turmoil. How could he do such a thing when his heart was breaking?

Swear it!’ The hand tightened on his shoulder.

I swear.’ He forced the words out.

I can tell—you do not mean it.’

He wanted to close his eyes. His brother knew him too well.

At least…’ the other whispered, ‘p-promise me that—you will find s-some way…’ The grip on his shoulder weakened, ‘to smile again and not blame y-yourself for my own folly.’

What was he to say? ‘I—’ Tears made his voice thick. ‘I promise.’

Good.’ Then Gil-galad’s—rather, Ereinion’s— eyes closed, never to open again on Middle-earth.

And Erestor let the tears fall, for there was no-one to see his sorrow.

I was too late

What sort of a friend am I?

Part I

2936, T.A.

The spring air was delightfully warm. It rained only yesterday, and the rain had washed all of Rivendell fresh and new. The afternoon was quiet, save for the sound of someone counting aloud.

Enegchaer, odogchaer—tolothchaer!’ The elf raised his head. ‘Ready or not, here I come!’ He stalked toward a tree, peering up into it. “Now, where could the two of you be?”

A soft giggle to his right made him smile. ‘Anyone up in this tree?’ He proceeded to rap his knuckles against the trunk. ‘Mayhap a few squirrels—one big, the other little?’

More giggles.

Hm, not in the tree?’ He stalked toward some bushes. ‘Now, where else do squirrels hide…’

Elsewhere, another elf gently shushed a child. ‘Shh…no sound, remember?’

Sorry!’ Wide, grey eyes blinked, and a pair of small hands were pressed to a mouth.

The elf smiled, merely crouching lower. ‘Worry not. He will not find us here, for I—‘

Ah-ha!’ He heard their seeker say. ‘Squirrels like to gather nuts, no? Then they must be—’ someone parted the bushes, ‘—right here!’

The child shrieked with delight as he was swung up and tickled. ‘N-no more!’ he laughed loudly, squirming to get away. ‘Ro, stop!’

That’s the punishment for being found, little one.’ Nevertheless, Elrohir ceased his actions, holding him with one arm. ‘Now, Estel, what do you have to say for yourself, hiding in such an easy spot?’

Nothing. Dan picked this place.’ He pointed a finger at the elf still sitting in the bushes, using his other hand to tug at his unruly hair.

I?’ Elladan raised an eyebrow as he stood to his feet, brushing leaves off his tunic. ‘Are you sure it was not you?’ He moved out of the bushes, nearly tripping over one of them.

No.’ The boy shook his head, giggling at Elladan’s clumsiness. ‘You picked it!’

Elrohir chuckled, ‘Muindor, something tells me you have need to relearn a few skills.’ He lightly swept some leaves out of Estel’s hair. ‘Do he not, Estel?’

Uh-huh.’

Ai Valar, both of my brothers think my skills have regressed?’ Elladan adopted a look of horror. ‘What will I ever do?

You can begin by taking your play elsewhere,’ a voice interrupted them.

Elladan quickly turned to face the window that was right above the bushes. ‘Forgive us. We did not know you were there.’ He bowed his head slightly before motioning to his brother.

Elrohir hoisted Estel up on his shoulder, sighing a little before he grinned at his twin. ‘How about we race, Elladan?’

With Estel on you, you cannot win.’

Really?’ He tipped his head to side. ‘Tell me that when I leave you in the dust!’ He began running, Estel clutching his shoulder and laughing.

Elrohir, that is not fair!’

Did you not say that I cannot win while carrying Estel? I am going to make you regret what you say!’

A plague upon your head, brother!’

As their voices died away, the person at the window dropped the curtain and moved away.

How can they be so joyful?’ he said to no-one, ‘When only three years ago, they could still hardly smile…’

********^********

A few hours later

Elladan lay on his back, his head supported by his arms. Nearby, Elrohir was trying to get the mud out of his hair. Next to him, Estel was chewing contentedly on an apple.

Supper is nearly ready, I should think,’ Elladan commented, watching a bird soaring in the sky.

Distracted, Elrohir grunted in reply. ‘I knew we should not have gone through that part of the gardens.’ He eyed the brown flecks clinging to his dark tresses.

There you go again, blaming me for something that not my idea.’ He blew a flower petal that had the audacity to land on his face.

You were the one to hint that the gardens would be a good shortcut.’

That was you.’

Nay, you suggested it, Elladan.’

Well, you—’

It was both of you,’ Estel put in, still eating his apple. ‘Dan said that he knew a quicker way to get here, and that it was the gardens, and then Ro mentioned mud puddles, but you said that they should be dried up already by now, and then both of you took off.’ He finished by taking another bite.

Elrohir chuckled, reaching out to ruffle the boy’s hair. ‘You have us, little brother.’

Never argue against the observations of children, is it?’ Elladan pushed himself up into a sitting position. ‘Elrohir, stop fussing. It will wash out—Adar is not going to say anything about it.’

But I hate mud.’

You are fussing too much with it. You remind of an elleth.’

I do not, Elladan.’ Still, he flicked his hair back over his shoulder.

Ro.’ A hand tugged on his sleeve.

Hmm?’ He glanced down at his younger brother.

Why is Lord ’Restor always so put-out?’

Such a turn of conversations, Elrohir thought. ‘Ah…’ He exchanged looks with his brother. ‘How about you answer, Elladan?’

The elf fidgeted a little with the clasp on his cloak before answering. ‘He did not have a happy life.’

I know that, Estel replied, look exasperated. ‘Everyone says that. But why is he like that?’ He looked puzzled. ‘Ada says he was always like that ever since the Last Alliance, and that he couldn’t say anything else. ’Findel says it’s because he never gets a good night’s sleep. Other people say it’s because he doesn’t care about anything except himself and his books,’ he finished with a frown. ‘But I don’t know why they don’t answer me, um…’

They do not answer you directly? Is that it?’

Estel nodded, his apple forgotten. ‘Are you going to answer me directly, Dan?’

Err…’ Elladan ran a hand through his hair. ‘Probably not.’

Why?’

Because, Estel,’ Elrohir leaned forward, ‘we are not sure what to say. For us to speak on things we have no guarantee are true would only increase rumours, and as the Son of Elrond, we do not wish to be known as talebearers.’

You sound just like Ada!’ The child pouted.

We will take that as a compliment, then,’ Elrohir told him.

But could you at least tell me what you know is true?’

I…suppose we could,’ Elladan answered, albeit reluctantly, glancing at his brother. ‘Do you want to—?’

Elrohir shook his head. ‘You are better at explanations,’ he said by means of an excuse.

From what I know from Adar,’ The elder twin began, ‘Erestor was born in the First Age.’

Before Ada?’

Before Ada.’

Before ’Findel?’

Nay, not that early.’

But I thought—‘ Elrohir broke in.

We are not getting into that conversation, muindor.’ Elladan stopped him. ‘The last time that happened, Glorfindel was not happy.’

What do you mean he wasn’t happy?’ Their brother piped up.

Now look at what you just did, Elrohir. Elladan glared at him before replying to Estel. ‘I thought you wanted to know about Erestor.’

Estel was young, but he was old enough to understand that tone of voice. ‘He was born in the First Age,’ he repeated, ‘no wonder he acts like that. I would too, if I were that old.’

Elrohir coughed. ‘Being old does not mean you have to bad-tempered,’ he interjected.

I would like it better if the two of you could stop interrupting.’ Elladan interrupted them both, nudging his twin in the side.

Sorry,’ Estel gave him his best ‘sorry’ look.

As I was saying,’ Elladan continued, not falling for that face, ‘he was born in the First Age. He is very knowledge in things, and he knows Ada quite well.’

Can he fight?’

Fight?’ Elladan shrugged. ‘He has a sword in his room…’

He does?’

A big, long one. Elegant, like Adar’s Hadhafang.’ Elrohir reached over to tickle Estel. ‘Good for scaring curious little boys with.’

Ro…’ Estel stuck his tongue out, scrambling over to sit in Elladan’s lap. ‘Stop teasing!’

Elrohir is right in saying he has a big, long sword,’ Elladan told him, grimacing when Estel stepped on his thigh, ‘though we have never seen him use it.’

We have seen him use long knives, before,’ Elrohir pointed out. ‘But only once when Glorfindel challenged him.’

Knives? What about daggers?’ Estel seemed all too fascinated with this talk of weapons. ‘And did he also use—’

A sword, and knives,’ Elladan was quick to say. ‘And no, Estel, you may not have any of your own until you are older.’ He raised an eyebrow at Estel’s frown.

The explanation, muindor.’

So he knows Adar, and he has served under him for a long time. He is polite, well-versed in many things, and can be considered a steward if Imladris had been a kingdom,’ Elladan continued, ‘he taught both Elrohir and I, but even after so many years, we were no closer to understanding him.’

Whenever we asked about him, the answers we received were similar to those given to you,’ Elrohir once again staring at the mud staining his hair and clothes.

There you have it, Estel, the truth.’ Elladan finished with a wave of his hand.

But…’ the boy frowned. ‘You’ve hardly told me anything!’

That is the extent of our knowledge. Anything more would be idle talk.’ The elder twin raised his arms over his head, stretching them.

It seems that the only way to know everything would be to ask Erestor himself,’ Elrohir added, ‘but no-one dares to.’

Oh…’ Estel seemed to ponder this.

How about we go back now?’ Elladan lifted him off his lap. ‘I am hungry.’

And I heard someone say we would be having pie for dessert…’

Pie?’ The boy looked at Elrohir before he grabbed his hand, thoughts of Erestor forgotten.

Elrohir let himself to be led. He looked back at his older brother. ‘You did not tell him all we know,’ he whispered in Quenya, for Estel did not yet understand that tongue.

Could I do such thing, when I am unsure how much Glorfindel made up? When we asked him, we were older than Estel, but still children.’

Surely he did not distort the actual incident…Adar did say that he was guilty of something—’

But it is not for little children to hear,’ they both said at the time, exchanging looks. The ‘something’ was disputed, and they had heard several different versions, none of which seemed right for a child.

Even though Estel may understand more than children his age do,’ Elrohir said after a pause, ‘I would not tell him.’

I agree with you, brother.’

Part II


Dinner was nothing out of the ordinary, though Estel and his brother did find themselves listening to a mild scolding due to the mud on their clothes. So, before they ate, he had to take a bath. He decided the baths were far more evil than orcs.

Estel had finished his meal and had decided to wander around the inside of the Last Homely House until he would be called for bedtime. He currently found himself in the library, and he was bored. Why was the library connected to the dining room, anyway? It was an odd design to him. If he had designed it, the library would be far, far away, so that people would have trouble finding it. Then they would not have to read books.

He looked disparagingly at the shelves.

Books, books, books. Did they not have anything better? He wanted to see weapons, but the armoury was off-limits to him unless he was accompanied by Glorfindel, Ada, or one of his brothers.

You must wait until you are older before you can handle a real weapon,’ they had told him.

But I want to be a warrior now!’ he had said, stubbornly. ‘Then I’ll be grown-up, and I can protect everyone!’

You will,’ they had assured him, ‘in time.’

But they could not understand that he wanted it now. He clung to the banister and let his palm squeak across it as he headed to the first floor.

I wish Dan and Ro were here. He descended the last few steps. But they had to go out to-night for patrolling. And Glorfindel is in Mirkwood at the moment…

He sighed loudly before taking up his humming again. I’m so bored…He glanced around this room; here there were artefacts, paintings, and tapestries.

Well, at least this was more interesting. Estel peered through the large arched windows at the orange-pink dusk sky. The trees surrounded this area, as if protecting this place.

It’s as if I’m half-inside, half-outside,’ he said to himself as he began circling the room. ‘It’s nice. I think I will ask Ada if I can have my lesson here…’

The boy came across a painting and halted. ‘Is-Isildur,’ he slowly read the inscription on the bottom, ‘And S-Saron?’ No, it should be Sauron. ‘Isildur and Sauron,’ he corrected himself, raising his eyes to properly view the picture. ‘Oh…’ He stared it for a while, taking in the scene.

Isildur was really brave, he thought, but it’s too bad that he wasn’t brave when he was supposed to throw the Ring away. If I were him, I would have kicked the Ring into the fire and said to Sauron, ‘So there!’ Such thoughts made him giggle, and the sound echoed faintly in the large room.

He turned away and glanced at the far side of the room. The statue of a lady holding something seemed to beckon to him. Curious, he walked toward the statue, and as he drew nearer, he saw that the something was the shards of broken sword lying on a piece of purple fabric.

That’s strange,’ he spoke aloud. ‘Why would Ada keep a broken sword in this special room?’ He stared at it. ‘At least it’s not all rusty.’ Someone must be truly bored, to polish pieces of a shattered sword.

Nonetheless, he wondered if he could touch it.

Ada said nothing about the sword in this room, he reasoned, I think it would be all right it I just picked up the hilt and put it back after looking at it.

With this, he darted forward up the steps, hand outstretched—

Another hand shot out of nowhere and clamped down on his wrist.

Ai!’ he yelped, trying to pull away.

Just what do you think you are doing, Elrondion?’

Let me go!’ he tugged.

I thought your father taught you better manners then that.’

It dawned upon him who was holding him, and he shrank back a little from the other. ‘F-forgive me, Lord ’Restor, I didn’t see you there.’

I asked you a question.’ Erestor looked at him, eyes unreadable.

He did? Frantically, Estel thought back. ‘I-I am allowed to go anywhere except the armoury,’ he said.

Do you not have duties? Your lessons?’

I finished them before I went out to play with Dan and Ro.’ He ceased his movements. ‘Could you please let go of me?’

Erestor loosened his grip, but did not release his hold. ‘But did any of them say anything about touching weapons?’

Um,’ he nervously began. ‘Ada never said anything about this room.’ He raised his eyes, daring to look straight at Erestor.

The elf’s gaze was piercing—like Ada’s, but more harsh, he decided. Still, he tried to hold it, so that the other could see he was sincere.

You look so sad, ’Restor…

However, before he could say anything about this, Erestor averted his gaze. ‘Come with me.’

Where are we going?’

To see your father.’

But—’

A frosted look made him quickly close his mouth, and he quietly allowed Erestor to lead him to his father’s study.

They reached the closed door, and Erestor knocked against it. Estel heard his father’s muffled voice, and then Erestor opened the door, lightly pushing him in.

Erestor? Estel?’ Elrond put his quill down. ‘What is the matter?’

My lord, he attempted to handle a sword.’

As that so, Estel?’ Elrond looked at him, and his heart began to beat faster.

I-I w-wasn’t in the armoury, Ada,’ His words tumbled over each other as he tried to explain himself. ‘I was in the—in the room where there were lots of pictures and things—’

‘—the floor directly below the library,’ Erestor supplied the location.

It wasn’t even a whole sword,’ Estel quickly went on, ‘It was broken, and you never said anything about it, so I thought it would be all right to just—’

Elrond held up hand. ‘Thank you for informing me, Erestor,’ he said softly. ‘You may go.’

The elf dipped his head once before releasing Estel’s wrist and leaving the room.

Estel laced his fingers together, rubbing his fingers in an agitated way. When Elrond beckoned to him, he moved forward, dragging his feet a little.

What did I tell you about weapons, iôn?’ Elrond asked.

Not to touch them until I am given permission,’ he answered, ‘But…I thought you meant only the armoury,’ Estel tried to explain. ‘I didn’t even know there was a sword in the room.’

Then you should have asked.’

I guess so.’ A minute ago, he was sure he was right. Now he felt terrible. ‘Sorry, Ada.’ He fidgeted. ‘Am I going to bed early?’

What do you think?’

I think I should,’ he decided, ‘And tomorrow I won’t go out to play, and you can only give me bread and water to eat.’

His father raised an eyebrow at this. ‘Oh?’ he said. ‘Do you think I am that harsh on you?’

Uh…’ Estel froze his movements.

Elrond smiled at him. ‘Can I trust you not to touch the sword again?’

‘…yes.’

Then you will go to bed early, and that will be your punishment.’

Estel nodded at this, secretly relieved. When his father held out his hand, he took it. He hated going to bed early, but at least that was it.

As they walked through the hallway, his mind turned upon Erestor.

He was so angry, but he also looked so sad. But he doesn’t look mean. I don’t know why everyone says to stay from him, Estel thought. I wonder what happened to him to make him so sad and…

Lonely.

Yes, that was the word. Lonely.

They reached his room, and he hopped onto his bed to wait for Ada to find his sleeping clothes.

No-one talks to him unless it’s about those things that Ada likes to talk about with all the adults. He never smiles, and I’ve never heard him talk about himself.

Estel changed into his night clothes and kissed his father’s cheek, distracted from his thoughts for a few moments as Elrond tucked him in, bid him good night, and closed the door.

If he really is that old, then he should have a lot of experience, but I don’t hear him say anything about it. He turned on his side, his eyes adjusting to the dim light coming from his window.

It seems that the only way to know everything would be to ask Erestor himself,’ Elrohir had said, ‘But no-one dares to.’

Hmmhe chewed on his lip. Then maybe I can be the first to ask.

He won’t hurt me. He’s an elf.

If I ask him nicely, he will not refuse—right?

Pleased with this plan, the boy closed his eyes, trying to go to sleep so that morning would come more quickly.

And maybe when I ask, I can find a way to make you smile


Part III


The next day

Elrond could not put his finger on it, but Estel was decidedly very obedient today. He even did his reading without complaining, which was quite odd, considering how little patience the child had for words.

He must be up to something, Elrond reasoned. He is probably going to ask for something.

Not wanting that to happen, he stopped him in his reading. ‘Estel,’

The boy gave him a grin. ‘What is it, Ada?’

Are you going to ask me for something?’

An innocent look, and to his surprise, Elrond found it to be honest. ‘No, Ada.’

Then why are you being so good today?’

Because it is nearly summer, and I want more time to play,’ Estel replied with another smile.

Finding no duplicity, Elrond told him to continue reading. Still, he could not shake the feeling Estel was planning something.

I hope you are not up to some mischief, he thought as he watched his adopted son reading. And I certainly fear for whomever your victim is…

********^********

In the afternoon

Finally, he was done with his lessons for the day. Estel ran through the halls with a smile on his face. Those that saw him also smiled, for they knew, he was going out to play.

But not today. Usually, he would be heading outside, but right now, he had something important to do.

He ran down through a hallway, taking a shortcut across a room. He wondered what Erestor would say to him. Last night, before falling asleep, he had already thought over how he would ask him.

But what if he refuses to say anything, but tells me I’m disturbing him? What if he tells Ada that? This suddenly occurred to him, and he slowed his footsteps.

Maybe…he has some good reason for hiding. Maybe he doesn’t want to know everyone else to know something that did. What if it were something awful?

Estel halted in front of the door to Erestor’s room, biting his lip as his mind whirled with different ideas.

Silly—I’m thinking like everyone who ignores him. He reached up towards the door. Besides, if he did something wrong, Ada wouldn’t let him stay here.

But…why would he be so sad?

With this in mind, he took a deep breath, and knocked—not too loudly, he hoped—on the door.

For a moment, he heard nothing. Then a voice asked him who he was, and what he wanted.

It is Estel,’ he answered, wondering why he was feeling nervous. He was not committing any crime…

What is your business?’

I-I want to talk to you, Lord ’Restor.’

Did your father send you?’

No.’

Did someone send you?”

No.’

A long pause. “Very well, you may come in.” The door opened, and Estel saw Erestor standing there. ‘But do not take too long with your questions.’

The boy stepped in. ‘I won’t,’ he said, his gaze sweeping about the room.

It was spacious and bright, much to his surprise. The drapes were drawn back, the windows flung open, and the furniture was made out of light red-brown wood. He was not, however, surprised by two bookshelves that spanned two walls. He was most intrigued by the long sword hanging over the fireplace, the bright metal gleaming.

Are you done staring?’

Guiltily, he turned back to face the elf. ‘I like your room.’ He would like it even better if it had more weapons and pictures, but this was actually quite nice—almost like Glorfindel’s room.

Thank you.’

He IS polite. This bolstered his confidence, and he took several breaths. ‘Can I—

‘—may I,’ Erestor interrupted, frowning.

Forgive me—may I ask you something, Lord ’Restor?’

That is the reason why you are here.’

Well,’ he fingered his shirt sleeve, wondering if he should have cleaned up some more before coming here. ‘It’s just, it’s just—’ He tried to meet Erestor’s gaze, but the other was avoiding him. ‘Why don’t you ever smile?’

There. He had said it.

For the longest moment, the room was silent. A light wind blew in, moving the drapes and making a few pages of an open book on Erestor’s desk flutter.

I hope I didn’t make him angry, Estel thought as he watched the elf. ‘You-you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to. I just wanted to know why.’ He looked down at his feet, tracing a pattern in the rug.

Why did you ask me?’

His head snapped up, and he saw that Erestor was meeting his gaze.


********^********


One could not help but admire the boldness of this child, Erestor reflected as he looked at the boy standing in front of him. He is not unlike his ancestors.

Because…’ Estel looked a bit less nervous than he was before. ‘I wanted to know. And because Ada says there is a reason for everything.’

Is that so?’ he replied, folding his arms.

He did say that,’ Estel insisted. ‘And I think that you shouldn’t be sad.’

Why can I not be?’

You-I—Doesn’t it hurt, being sad every day?’ The boy questioned, ‘I thought if Elves became too sad, then they would have to go somewhere to be happy. But Dan says that you were born in the First Age, which is a long time ago, so you must have some reason for staying, but you’re sad, so—’ he shrugged his shoulders, frowning. ‘I don’t how you can be so sad.’

I—’ For the first time in many years, he found himself at a loss for words.

Where did he, a mere child, find this sort of insight? ‘Child, I—’ A part of him wanted to send him away, wanted to ignore him. But another part of him, and part he had ignored for so long, wanted to speak.

You’re not angry with me, are you, Lord ’Restor?’ A pair of anxious eyes stared at him.

Erestor managed to compose himself. ‘I am not angry, Elrondion,’ he finally said. ‘It is only that you have surprised me.’ He let out a short, humourless laugh. ‘No-one has ever asked me that.’ He turned a little to the side, reaching a hand up to push his hair out of his face.

So I am the first?’

You are.’

Well, could you please tell me why?’ A touch on his arm made him look back down. ‘Maybe if you talked about it, you wouldn’t be so sad?’ Those grey eyes were wide and questioning.

I have not spoken this much before—casually.’ But he thought about it every day, for he could not forget what had happened…

You could start now.’

I suppose I could,’ he found himself answering. Perhaps if he skirted around the topic for a while, the child would grow weary of him and leave.

So…why don’t you ever smile?’

He is also rather persistent, Erestor noted. ‘I ceased to smile after the Last Alliance.’

Was it because something happened to you?’

In a way.’

You have to answer me directly, Lord ’Restor,’ the child piped up. ‘Or else we’re going to miss eating supper!’ He bounced a little on his toes. ‘Tell me what happened.’

It looked like there was no chance of avoiding the subject. Silencing the voice in his head, he answered before he could regret it. ‘I…’ he tried to put in into terms that a child could understand. ‘I committed a crime.'

A crime?’ Estel tipped his head. ‘But you don’t look bad.’

By the standards of the world, it would not be considered one.’ Erestor leaned against the wall, looking away. ‘It is what I did not do.’

What did you not do, Lord ’Restor?’

I broke a promise by not doing something,’ he heard himself answer. ‘A promise to my fr—my brother.’

He had meant to keep his promise—the Valar knew how hard he tried. But he could not.

How could he when his brother—even if it were not by blood—would be gone?

Mayhap they would meet again in the Undying Lands, but then he would not be able to face his brother because the truth would be there, standing between them.

He was stuck, and for so long, and not found a solution to his problem.

What promise?’ Again the child reached out to tug on his sleeve.

He glanced down at those eyes, those eyes that seemed so innocent and yet so caring…

Before he knew it, most of the story had spilled out—though not all the details, as Elrond’s son was still too young for them—how he had promised to smile, to not blame himself. How he had failed at that.

But if I had been swifter in dealing with the enemy, he would not have died,’ he finished. ‘I was too slow, too weak to help him.’

But if.

If only.

If

The words that had always haunted him.

He waited for Estel to say something, maybe agree with him that he was at fault.

Lord ’Restor?’ he began, ‘Forgive me if I hurt you, but—’ he squared his shoulder. ‘I think you’re being silly.’

He raised an eyebrow at this. ‘By what do you mean, silly?’ No-one had ever told him that.

Ada says you can’t go back and repeat history.’

But I can still think on my mistakes, can I not?’

Not when they make you sad.’ Estel told him. ‘And your brother wants you to be happy.’

He could not. No matter how hard he tried. Did he choose to wallow in sorrow? Nay, he did not choose this life.

When my first Ada died, I was really sad.’

Erestor looked up at this. He could remember those days?

I cried a lot, but Ada were there, and so were Dan and Ro and ’Findel.’ The child sucked in his breath, gulping a little. ‘They let me know everything was good.’

Well, he corrected out of habit in his mind, but he decided to let it slide. ‘Your situation was different from mine.’

It’s not that different,’ Estel asserted, ‘I felt angry because I was too young to help them. And I’m still too young to help.’ He down at his feet. ‘And everyone says I have to wait before I’m old enough.’

Old enough to—?’

Protect everyone.’ Here, the boy looked up at him. ‘But you’re old enough, aren’t you?’ He waved his hands. ‘You don’t have to worry about what happened a long, long time ago when you need to worry about now.’

He felt the urge to laugh at the absurdity of the situation—a child, lecturing him. ‘I already failed one person.’ He shook his head. ‘I will fail only more.’ I cannot even keep a simple promise…

It’s a chance, isn’t it?’

Erestor was puzzled by comment. ‘Chance?’

Ro says that you have to take a chance sometime.’ A shrug. ‘Or else…you’re only—only, um,’ he frowned, ‘staying in one place.’

Take a chance? He was not one to do so.

However, it could work.

You’ll see him again, Lord ’Restor,’ Estel solemnly said, ‘So you can stop hating yourself, and also, you can keep your promise.’

The last sentence seemed to hang in the air between them.

Erestor’s hands were tightly fisted in the sleeves of his robe as he thought over this.

Could he…forgive himself for what had happened?

I suppose I can…’ He swallowed. ‘I can try,’ he murmured.

Much to his surprise, Estel’s face broke into a grin. ‘I’ll help you, then!’

Child, I—’

A small body slammed into him, and if he had not been braced against the wall, he would have fallen over.

You don’t have to so sad anymore, ’Restor,’ came the muffled reply, ‘or so lonely.’ Estel looked up shyly at him. ‘I don’t hate you.’

Don’t have to be so sad…

lonely…

don’t hate you…

Something about those words seized him, and Erestor found himself crouching down to the boy’s level. Hesitantly, he returned the embrace.

I can try

Le hannon,’ he whispered, the beginnings of a smile appearing on his face. ‘Estel.’

Elrond had named him so well.


********^********


He smells likes books and parchment, Estel thought to himself. Oh, well.

The boy grinned. Erestor was not what the others said about him—not the least bit. He was not that proud, nor was he uncaring.

He must really love his friend, he decided, and he’s really brave. Whenever I’m in trouble, I don’t like saying it’s my fault.

Estel stepped back when the elf released him, but he held on to one hand. ‘You smiled!’ he said, remembering not to point.

Erestor snorted a little, but the corners of his mouth were still upturned. ‘I said I would try,’ he answered.

It’s not that hard is it?’

It was…easier than I thought.’ The elf brought a hand up to his face to push back his hair.

I told you so.’ Estel tugged on his hand. ‘Do you want to come with me to the gardens?’

I—’ He seemed to hesitate.

Ada says they’re no longer muddy.’ He looked pleadingly up. ‘Besides, I can’t climb any of the tree unless I have a grown-up with me.’

Very well, then.’

Eagerly, Estel pulled him toward the door.

Now, he thought to himself, I just have to get him to laugh…


********^********


Outside and unseen, Elrond eased away from the door before the two could walk out. He chuckled to himself once he was on a different floor.

So…it had taken the ventures of a little Dúnadan child to break the ice—glass, really.

Elrond had followed Estel, several steps behind, for he was naturally suspicious of the son after his good behaviour in his lessons. He was surprised and confused when Estel had halted at the door of his chief councillor. Once Estel had gone in and the door was closed, Elrond made sure no-one was in the hallway before he stooped and pressed his ear against the keyhole.

What he heard made his heart twist, and then loosen, gradually.

He knew Erestor well—too well, it seemed. Ever since the death of his liege, or in Erestor’s case, a brother, the elf had not been the same. No matter what he said, it seemed that Erestor did not listen, saying he was ‘too young’ to help him. And maybe…because they both knew Gil-galad well, both of them could not fully help each other when they were grieving, Erestor even more so.

Once, he had come close to losing his temper when he demanded why Erestor did not sail if continuing his life here on Middle-earth was such a painful thing. Erestor had replied that he could not, until he had fulfilled a promise to his brother. When Elrond had questioned him on what the promise regarded, the other had said it was not for him to say.

And Elrond had to leave it at that. If Erestor wished to punish himself as such, he had no power to order him not to do so. Diplomatic troubles were easy to solve, but personal troubles far harder to deal with.

As the years went by, and peace was beginning to disappear from Middle-earth, he wondered what would become of them all. Elros’ line was dwindling, and Isildur’s heirs seemed to be fading.

And now everything depended on a child who had only seen five springs.

Oddly enough, it had been that child who reached out to a closeted, silent, self-condemning elf and told him that, in simple terms, that the only way to stop hurting was to start smiling.

Elrond returned to his room, a sense of pride and wonder filling him.

Who knew that Estel had it in him?

It made him wonder what sort of man that child would turn out to be.

Nevertheless, he knew it this was the makings of someone the world would come to respect.

The End


Epilogue


3019, F.A.


The wars were fought, the One Ring destroyed, the victories won, and Aragorn, son of Aragorn, was to be crowned king.

It had not been some easy thing; he had to earn this right, and he knew he had earned it well.

Aragorn leaned slightly out of one of the windows in his bedchamber, catching the wind in his face. He raised his head, feeling the sun warm him, calming him slightly.

In just an hour, he would be crowned King of Gondor and Arnor.

It seemed only yesterday that he was patrolling the wilds with his men, sitting at a campfire or battling orcs. He smiled a little to himself. It would certainly take a bit a adjusting to this new life. Still, he was grateful to have gotten to this point, with the help of his family and friends.

Someone knocked on the door; he assumed it was a maid and answered so.

Is that your new greeting for me, Estel?’

He hurried to the door and opened it, apologising. ‘Forgive me, I thought—’

A hand waved him away. ‘How are you?’

As well as can be expected,’ he admitted, taking a deep breath. ‘This is certainly for more serious than reciting a long lay in the Hall of Fire or receiving my own sword.’

But are you prepared?’

I think—’ he cut himself off. ‘I am,’ he said, with more resolve. He was ready—his entire life had been about this moment, and the moments thereafter.

Good.’ A hand squeezed his arm. ‘Just do not be so nervous that your voice squeaks like a boy adjusting to manhood.’

My voice is fine,’ he said, pointedly, ‘It had been so for the past few decades.’

Even with all that smoking?’

Hmph.’ Aragorn shook his head, used to this comment. ‘Finding your sense of humour?’

Every day.’

He smiled. ‘I am glad to hear that, Erestor.’

Aragorn received a nod in reply, and he continued. ‘What brings you hear?’

The elf seemed reluctant to state his reasons. ‘You already know of my plans after this?’

Adar has informed me of it,’ He sighed. ‘I wish that…you would stay.’

My duties are finished, and it is time.’ Erestor replied, gazing out the window. ‘Your brothers are staying, though.’

I know, but…’ he shrugged helplessly. ‘I could use your advice—like Adar’s.'

But our time—it is nearly coming to an end.’ The elf met his gaze. ‘And it would not seem right if a Kingdom of Men has many elves partaking of it.’

It seemed like nothing he said would convince them. He had already had this conversation with his father, and he knew he would have it again when he said farewell to the rest of the elves leaving with Elrond for Valinor. ‘Then I will thank you now, for all that you have done for me.’

It it I who should thank you,’ Erestor told him.

For what?’

The elf smiled slowly. ‘Do you remember that day, Estel,’ he said softly. ‘when you came to my room to talk to me?’

I remember it well.’ He had been five years of age, too curious for his own good, and bolder than he should have been.

I thank you for that.’ Erestor reached out to take the man’s hands. ‘Estel. For I was unmoving, lost in the past, and you showed him how to live and smile again.’

He suddenly found tears in his ways, though he did not know why. ‘I will miss you—for being a teacher and a friend.’

Even if Middle-earth should forget you, I will not let your memory pass from Valinor.’

On an impulse, he reached forward to embrace the elf.

Navaer, ’Restor.’

A choked laugh. ‘Navaer, Elrondion.’

And the farewells were said, with the memory of the friendship never dying.

Conclusion


Let it not be said that he was eternally locked in his self-made prison of guilt and shame. Even though he had thrown the key away, it was found by a child known as Hope, and his world was brighten.

While they only knew each other for only eighty-some years, a short time in the eyes of the Eldar, he would not forget the one who had helped him keep his promise.

This account ends here.


Erestor


Notes

Elvish:
Gwador – brother
Enegchaer, odogchaer—tolothchaer! – Eighteen, nineteen—twenty!
Muindor – brother (by blood)
Ada – Daddy
Elleth – female elf
Hadhafang – in movieverse, this is the name of Elrond’s sword, according to the movie guide The Lord of the Rings Weapons and Warfare.
Elrondion – Son of Elrond
Iôn – son
Le hannon – thank you
Navaer – farewell


Other:

Very little is known about Erestor. Appearance, history—nothing on him. But as he was Elrond’s chief councillor, he must have known Elrond well. That idea, combined with several other ideas, created this story. He probably will not forgive me for giving him an angst-filled background, but I favour elves that way…


And


Can a two-year-old child truly remember things? I believe yes.


When I was two, my parents thought it would be nice to take a trip—overseas. So they booked a flight and took me along. When I was older, they told me I cried incessantly, and ended up vomiting over the seats.


I remember most of it. I remember the green-coloured seats and the white expanse all around me. I remember something bothering my ears (pressure), and feeling confused and frightened. There was also a sick, dizzy feeling, but what I remember rest were my parent’s voices, telling me everything was all right.


It was minor, though. Now say that when Arathorn was killed, orcs raided the place where Aragorn—only two—stayed. This was something harsh and brutal. Maybe he wouldn’t understand everything he saw, but he would surely remember the fear, and parts of the scene around him. Things would stick out and become engraved in his mind.


That’s my view.

 


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