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Thanks to daw the minstrel for beta reading this story
The Warrior and the Boy
Glorfindel sat before a lazily burning fire in the quiet darkness of the Hall of Fire. He found himself not in need of the warmth, but enjoying the flicker of flame and the crackle of wood as it was consumed. Recently returned from a wet and muddy patrol, he did appreciate being dry and comfortable. Having shared those days with a group of warriors, he also appreciated the quiet and privacy afforded by the early hour. He closed his eyes in meditation.
The small child entered the Hall of Fire and made his way to the fire as a bee to honey. He was cold, but he also liked watching the flames dance. He was nearly to the fireplace when he realized someone was sitting before it. Stopping suddenly, he attempted to remain motionless and silent, hoping that the big elf had not heard him. Turning slightly he carefully put his foot down as quietly as he could. Another footstep followed, and he pictured himself moving like a sly fox. He even imagined himself having a large fluffy tail and four silent padded feet. His eyes darted to the door and safety, but inside a little voice encouraged him to pounce while he could. How often did the small prey have opportunity to catch the big predator? A grin spread across his face, but he could not help it. Resounding in his head, he could hear his mother’s warning not to bother the elves when they were in deep thought, but he heeded it not. He drew in a deep breath and leapt at the warrior.
Estel squealed as Glorfindel caught him in mid-air, then turned him over his knee and thwacked him once on his behind. He laughed as he was rolled over and found himself eye to eye with the golden haired warrior.
“Next time,” Estel warned between giggles. “I will surprise you.”
“Not ever, Estel,” boasted Glorfindel as he used his hair to tickle Estel on his cheeks and forehead. “I am the bestest and greatest warrior in Imladris!”
“Bestest is not a word!” cried Estel with joy at having caught the golden one in an error. “Even I know that.”
“Bestest is not a word? Who told you that?” demanded Glorfindel as he sat Estel upright on his left thigh.
“Ada Elrond,” answered Estel. “And Elladan. They know these things.”
“I am older than them both and I am far wiser.”
Estel raised his eyebrow, a trick he had been practicing in hopes of looking just like Ada Elrond. “I would not suggest you tell Ada Elrond that you are wiser than him,” he advised.
Glorfindel could feel how cold Estel’s feet were even through the fabric of his right trouser, where both the child’s feet were currently planted, for Estel sat with his own knees drawn up to his chest and his arms hugging them close to himself.
“I do not need to tell Elrond I am wiser, for he is wise enough to know that I am wisest,” he answered wisely, as he dragged the chair closer to the fire. He pulled a woven blanket from where it hung over the chair back and wrapped it around the small shoulders, then noted the furrowed brow and look of bewilderment on the child’s face as he attempted to process Glorfindel’s words. “Have I confused you?”
Estel nodded as he burrowed into the blanket. “You do not make sense.”
“You will understand when you have grown wiser yourself,” answered Glorfindel sagely. “Are you at least warmer now?”
Estel nodded again. He did suddenly feel very warm and contented, and he leaned against Glorfindel’s chest, relaxing as warm and strong hands rubbed his shoulders and back.
“So why are you awake at such an early hour?” queried Glorfindel softly.
Estel yawned. “I was cold and my blankets had fallen on to the floor.”
Glorfindel grinned. “Did you not think to pick them up and put them back on the bed, where they could warm you instead of the wood floor?”
Estel shook his head. “The blankets felt cold too. I did not want to wake Naneth. And I like it here, especially when there is a fire and it’s raining and cold outside.”
“Hmmm. . . and there is no other reason you wanted to be here?” prompted Glorfindel.
A tiny smile flitted across Estel’s face. “Well, maybe there is a little reason.”
Glorfindel nodded in understanding. “Ah, so you wished to be with me.”
“No,” said Estel sleepily. A moment of silence of followed, then his eyes suddenly flew open in time to see Glorfindel’s look of dismay. “I mean ‘yes.’ I do want to be with you!”
Glorfindel laughed, and Estel knew that he was being teased. He slapped Glorfindel’s hand softly. “Stop that.”
“So there is no other reason you came to this room on this night?” he repeated.
Estel grinned and buried his face into Glorfindel’s tunic. “If you do not know why, then Ada Elrond or Elladan or Elrohir will have to tell you. They have good memories.”
Glorfindel tipped up Estel’s chin so that the child was looking at him. “I think my memory is better than you think, young one.” He kissed Estel on the forehead. “I an honored to have the privilege of being the first one to wish you a Happy Birthday on today, your seventh birthday. Elen síla lúmenn’ omentielvo, Estel.”
“Thank you, Glorfindel,” said Estel happily, stretching in Glorfindel’s lap. “Naneth and Ada Elrond have promised me a special day, and Elladan and Elrohir are home, and they said you would be home in time and you are. . ..” He paused to yawn. “. . . and there is going to be cake and even strawberries from the greenhouse. They are Ada’s favorites and mine too. . .”
Glorfindel listened as the young voice drifted off, then tucked the blanket back around the arms and legs again snuggled in his arms. He could feel warm breaths against his cheek, and the faster heartbeat possessed by mortals thrumming along in the flesh beneath his hands. That always amazed him – not just how fast a mortal child grew, but how fast everything about them seemed to move.
Deep even breaths and a small body completely relaxed against his told Glorfindel that Estel was asleep, and he rose carefully so as to not disturb the child’s slumber. He carried him through the silent halls of Imladris, nodding to the few elves he met along the way. Arriving in the wing where the family quarters were located, he nudged Estel’s door open. A window was open and the fire had gone out, and he reached down to feel how cold the sheets felt. No wonder the child came seeking warmth. A slight rustle from the door caught his attention, and he turned to see Elrond entering the room. Smiles were exchanged as Elrond closed the window and stoked the fire. Glorfindel eased himself on to the bed, Estel still held close.
“Was he wandering?” asked Elrond as he sat down on the edge of the bed.
“He came to the Hall of Fire saying he was cold, which was true,” explained Glorfindel. “However, I believe he had other motives for seeking warmth in that particular room.”
Elrond laughed softly. “That is where we will celebrate his birthday,” he agreed.
“I think I have sufficiently warmed the sheets,” said Glorfindel softly. He rose and then placed the sleeping bundle of child on the warm sheets and covered him with his blankets. Both he and Elrond watched as Estel snuggled into the bed and a contented smile crept over his face. Pulling the door closed behind them, they stepped into the hall.
“Are all the preparations made, then?” asked Glorfindel.
“Yes, the only outstanding item had been your timely return,” replied Elrond. “I think perhaps a certain little boy’s window was open because he watched for your return, and his blankets were on the floor because they fell there from his shoulders when he fell asleep in the window seat.”
Glorfindel felt warmth spread through him down to his toes and he smiled.
* * *
Estel felt a tickling sensation on his cheek and brushed it away, only to feel the sensation on the other cheek. He pushed something soft and silky away from his face and stretched. His hand was caught in one much larger and stronger.
“Estel, wake up,” whispered a voice in one ear.
“Estel, the sun is already high in the sky and still you tarry,” teased an identical voice in the other ear.
Estel slowly opened his eyes, and grinned as he recognized twin faces above him. Elladan still held his hand, and suddenly he felt the other one taken up by Elrohir. They lifted him by his hands to a standing position between them and he realized the room was full of people. His naneth and Ada Elrond and grouchy Erestor and Glorfindel!
“Happy Birthday, Estel!” they called.
“Come and have breakfast, Estel, the cook has made your favorite eggs and cakes,” said Erestor cheerfully.
“No breakfast yet!” called Elladan. “There are certain initiations that come when one reaches the seven year mark. Gilraen, if you will entrust him to us, Estel shall first bathe in the Men’s pool and then we will dress him in his birthday finery, and then he will be prepared to dine with his beautiful mother.”
“May I, Naneth?” asked Estel eagerly.
“Yes, Estel, you may,” answered Gilraen warmly.
As the elves led Estel away, Gilraen knew that he would enjoy this day planned just for him. Gifts, a special dinner with cake, and singing in the Hall of Fire would all make the day one he would remember fondly. She watched him go, his hands held by each of the elves he considered brothers, followed by the one Estel thought of as father and others he looked up to as one might favorite uncles. Joy and pain twisted in her heart.
“Happy Birthday, Aragorn, son of Arathorn,” she whispered as a tear slipped down her cheek.
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