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A Light in May  by Antigone Q

Before supper that evening Estel had a language lesson with Glorfindel. Or at least, he was supposed to have had a language lesson with Glorfindel. Although Elrond had provided a very pleasant, comfortable room for formal studies and all Estel's tutors tried to keep the lessons short in deference to his age, languages were an exercise that neither Glorfindel nor Estel really enjoyed.

"I do not like the Common Tongue," Estel said grouchily. "It is ugly." He rested his chin on folded arms and glared at Glorfindel from under lowered brows. "Besides, I shall never need it. I shall never live with my mother's people. I am going to stay in Imladris."

Glorfindel sighed with the weariness of one who has covered the same arguments over and over again. "Someday you may change your mind, Estel, and then you will be glad to speak as others of your race do."

Estel glowered. "I will not change my mind," he muttered. "And I do not like the way the words sound. When I hear them they remind me of someone taken with a fit of coughing."

Glorfindel frowned. "I cannot dispute that. Nevertheless, Lord Elrond has commanded that you learn the tongue of your mother's people, and learn it you must. Come, we will start with these words here. Do you remember the word for -"

"I do not wish it," Estel said again, and this time with resolute stubbornness he pushed the short list of words away, nearly tipping the inkwell.

Glorfindel was taken aback. "This is not like you, Estel. You never behave in the manner of a spoiled child. What is the matter?"

Estel was silent.

Glorfindel tried again, more gently. "Estel? Does something trouble you?"

Estel scowled harder. Glorfindel waited with a patience earned over the course of three ages.

Finally, after many long moments, a small, shiny tear laid a trail from the corner of Estel's eye and down his sullen face to drip off of his chin. Estel didn't move until Glorfindel put an arm around him. Then Estel buried his face in his arms and began to cry in earnest, making both choked noises and sputtering incomprehensible words.

Glorfindel, more than a little bemused, patted Estel's back and said silly, meaningless things like, "there, there," and "now, now."

It seemed as though once started, Estel really could not stop crying. Through the sobs Glorfindel thought he made out the words, "not fair" and "maps" and "blossoms." Glorfindel had not Elrond's powers of deduction and could make nothing of this.

"What is that you say?" Glorfindel asked during a lull. "What is not fair?"

"Elladan teaches me tracking," wailed Estel.

This perplexed Glorfindel. "But you like to go with Elladan to learn wood lore."

"And you teach me history," sniffled Estel, wiping his nose on his sleeve.

Glorfindel winced and resolved that hereafter he would always carry a handkerchief on his person. "Well, I like history. I was there for much of it."

Estel nodded as if it should all make sense now. "And Erestor likes figures, so he teaches me arithmetic. And Elrohir likes maps, so he teaches me maps. And Papa teaches me herbs and how to read better."

"Yes…" Glorfindel tried hard to understand, but he was finding it difficult to follow Estel’s train of thought.

Estel nodded tearfully and took a shivery gulp of air. "Mother likes the Common Tongue. She doesn't even speak Sindarin unless she has to." He began to cry all over again.

Then Glorfindel knew what Estel was trying to say and he felt his heart drop. "Oh, Estel." He pulled the little boy onto his lap and tried to comfort him.

When Estel spoke again it was in fractured phrases, for he had reached the hiccupping stage common with small children who have cried too hard to breathe properly. "I brought her some… ch-cherry blossoms… to make her feel better… and she said she liked them, but she still said she wouldn't teach me. She said y-you would do just as well… And then she sat at her window again and she would not look at me and I do not think she l-lo-" Estel could not make himself say the words and began to sob once more.

Fearless, joyful Glorfindel would cheerfully have wrung Gilraen's neck just then. "This cannot continue," he said angrily, more to himself then Estel.

Estel thought the anger must be directed at him and began to pull away from the older Elf.

"Not you, Little One," Glorfindel said, pulling Estel back. "You are fine where you are. Shh. Your mother loves you, Estel. She is just - sad."

Whether it was simple good fortune, or whether Elrohir had been near and his sharp Elf ears had caught the sound of crying, he was walking past the door of the school room in time to hear Glorfindel's last remark.

Elrohir stopped and raised his eyebrows in inquiry. Glorfindel continued to speak to Estel, but slightly louder, and with a pointed glance at Elrohir. "Perhaps if someone explained to your mother how important it is to you that she teach you the Common Tongue herself, she would consent to do so."

"No, she will not," snuffled Estel. "She never pays any attention to me."

Elrohir gave Glorfindel a "we-shall-see-about-that" look and disappeared down the hall, leaving Glorfindel somewhat better satisfied. Elrohir was a very determined Elf, and, better, he had become a sort of friend to Gilraen, in so far as Gilraen had any friends in Imladris.

Legolas flipped idly through a book, not in the mood to read. He glanced at Nestwen, who was primly rolling bandages, and decided it was not worth it to attempt conversation again. He was already bored, yet he knew that he probably had several more days in bed to contend with and it was no one's fault but his own.

Elves heal rapidly, but earlier in the day Legolas had heard Nordheth and Lindir beyond the hall and had made the mistake of rising from bed and leaving his room to hear them better. Unfortunately, Legolas heard nothing of value and he made his ankle much the worse by walking on it.

Nestwen had scolded him roundly when she saw him up out of bed and putting weight on his injury, and then, to Legolas' great embarrassment, she brought Lord Elrond from whatever Important Matter he was attending and into the Hall of Healing to see to Legolas.

Elrond had sighed when he had seen the new damage. "It would have been well if you had not walked on it," he had said as he examined the newly swelling ankle. "I did not think to tell you that you should not, for I thought you would know better."

"Aye," Legolas agreed blandly, though his cheeks flushed a little. "It is not surprising that you thought so."

Elrond rubbed the end of his nose thoughtfully, and then fixed Legolas with a gaze that was half stern, half amused. "Well, I will tell you this time: you should not walk on it again until I give you leave, or you will risk harming yourself further."

"I will try not to,” Legolas acquiesced meekly. Truly, Lord Elrond was being very patient with the abrupt invasion on his household, and Legolas was sorry to be a nuisance.

Elrond shook his head in exasperation. He had been a parent long enough to know the difference between "I'll try not to" and "I will not," but he did not press the issue.

After Elrond left, Legolas found himself restless. There were plenty of books to read and Nestwen to tease, but Legolas had never liked sitting still for long and Nestwen didn't seem to have a very good sense of humor.

Trapped as he was abed, Legolas had little to do but ponder the events that had led him here.

The first part of the plan he and Laegyrn had laid had worked very well. After Thranduil's search party - Nordheth among them - had been dispatched to find any sign of Laegyrn, Legolas had purposefully laid a trail leading the pursuers to the North, toward the Grey Mountains. He took the most taxing trails possible, giving his brother time to reach safety, always staying far enough ahead that he was sure the search party would not catch up with him. Next Legolas had turned and led them all on a merry chase down the Anduin River, and, when enough time had passed, he'd begun to take a direct path through the Misty Mountains and in the direction of Imladris.

Legolas deduced that at some time after he had entered the valley, messages had gone back and forth from the tracking party to his father. And since Elrond's relationship with King Thranduil was sometimes tense, Legolas’ father would certainly not have the entire tracking party intrude upon Lord Elrond's hospitality.

Legolas smiled to himself. His father had been wise in sending Lindir, who had been a good friend to Laegyrn, and whom his brother respected. Lindir might have succeeded in persuading Laegyrn to return, had Laegyrn actually been in Imladris. Moreover, both Lindir and Nordheth were proving very discreet thus far: a good thing, since Legolas was sure his father would not want to share the events of the last few months with Lord Elrond.

Legolas tried to think of what he should do next. Should he return home now? Or should he try and join his brother in Lorien and hear what Galadriel had decided? Might he even remain where he was until affairs worked themselves out? Imladris was very different from lively and sometimes dangerous Mirkwood. It made for a relaxing change. Legolas lay back onto his pillow. He need not decide now, he supposed: at present he could not even leave his very comfortable bed.


On the other side of the Last Homely House at the end of a long corridor, a heavy oak door barred the way to a silent set of chambers. Within, Gilraen sat by the window with her embroidery on her lap, remembering other places and other days in May. She was not sewing but the needle and thread let her pretend that she was not entirely idle.

Though the doors in Lord Elrond's house were heavy, they had no locks: it was presumed that everyone knew they should not intrude on someone else's privacy without knocking, and in fact it was an unvoiced rule that one did not even knock without invitation. So Gilraen was surprised when someone strode into the room unannounced and unapologetic.

One of the twins, Gilraen saw. Elladan? No, Elrohir. Definitely Elrohir. The twins looked alike but Elladan could always be counted on to wear more subdued colors, and this Elf was wearing leaf-green trimmed with gold.

Elrohir began to speak Sindarin, but so quickly that Gilraen found it hard to follow. The Elf seemed unusually agitated.

"Slowly, if you please,” Gilraen said in the Common Tongue, wondering apprehensively what could be wrong.

Elrohir paused and took a good look around him.

After five years at Imladris, it seemed Gilraen had not decorated her chambers beyond what Lord Elrond had given her during the first week of her stay. This room had remained all bare white walls and silver-white wood and silver-blue cloth. The chamber was fair, but unadorned and pale, just as Gilraen herself was still fair and yet plainly dressed and pale. In the room where Gilraen sat, a cobalt blue vase full of bright pink blossoms stood on the table, incongruous with the lack of color around it. In a similar way, within the snowy pale of Gilraen's face deep purple-pink shadows lay under her bright blue eyes.

Elrohir saw all of this, and he was silent for a short time before he began speaking again, this time in the language of Men. "My Lady, I do ask your forgiveness for interrupting you, but I must speak to you. It is regarding Hope."

Gilraen smiled sadly. "Ah. Then you have come to the wrong place, good Elf, for you will find no hope here."

Elrohir breathed in slowly, and then exhaled. "I meant," Elrohir gritted out, "your son, whom all of this house calls 'Estel' - Hope, you would say in your tongue. Surely you know the name, Lady Gilraen."

"Oh," Gilraen said absently, poking the needle at the cloth she held. "Yes, Estel. I suppose I was unused to hearing the name in Westron. Does he need something from me, Elrohir?"

"Yes, Gilraen, he needs something from you. He needs a mother, just as he has needed one yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that."

Elrohir waited for Gilraen to speak, but she made no sound. Instead she shook her head and gazed at the beginnings of something in her embroidery hoop: five neat, red stitches were sewn side by side on a field of black. It might have been a flower petal. It might also have been a drop of blood.

Elrohir sighed, crossed the room to Gilraen, and knelt by her. "Gilraen, we must talk. I am sorry I must come to you this way. I know you still mourn your husband-"

Gilraen laughed, and it startled Elrohir.

"You think I mourn Arathorn?" she said bitterly. "My Lord was thrice my age, Elrohir, and a stern man, not much given to affection. Anyone will tell you so."

The Elf blinked in for a few seconds. "For what, then, do you mourn, my Lady?" Elrohir asked softly.

At first Elrohir thought Gilraen would not answer; then, as if something within her snapped, she abruptly flung her needlework to the floor and stood.

"What do I mourn? Must I make a list? Perhaps I mourn my home, or my lands! Perhaps I mourn my kinfolk, for I cannot see them again until Aragorn is safely on the throne - though whether that will ever happen no one can tell. Perhaps I mourn the view from my rooms in my own home, or the loss of the children I might have had, or my son's name - or maybe I only mourn for my best blue dress! Must I decide what I mourn for, son of Elrond, when I have lost everything? Must I make excuses for my sadness? Were I an Elf I could at least choose to fade away or make for the Havens, but as I cannot will you not at least grant me my right to grieve for whatever I choose?"

Elrohir was silent for several moments. "Lady," at last Elrohir said carefully, "you have not spoken of this to any of us."

"And why should I?" Gilraen sat again, wearily, and picked up her abandoned needlework. "What if I spoke of it all? What would it change?"

"It would let us understand you better," Elrohir said gently. "Here you sit, day after day, and neither my father nor my brother nor I know what it is that grieves you so, for you say nothing."

"Everything grieves me," Gilraen said quietly, looking again out her window.

"Even your son?" Elrohir pressed. "Lady, he mourns for the loss of you, just as you mourn for the loss of your kin and your home. If ever I have been a friend to you, or if you think you owe me ought for saving your life, please go to him. See him just once or twice a day, so that he can look forward to you. He misses you, and he does not understand why you forsake him."

Gilraen buried her face in her hands. "I have not the strength to be happy around him, Elrohir. Elrond is as a father to him, and a good one. Aragorn has no need of me."

Elrohir said something sharply in Elvish that made Gilraen look up in astonishment.

"What did you say?" Gilraen asked uncertainly.

"Something I ought not," Elrohir snapped. "Yet I find it difficult to be patient with you while your son sits crying five doors down the hall, thinking you do not love him."

"He - he isn't really, is he?" Gilraen looked a little frightened at the Elf's tone, and very young.

Well, she is very young, Elrohir reminded himself. She was a young bride, even among the Dunedin. "He is," Elrohir affirmed, "or he was a few minutes ago." He continued in a slightly more kind tone, "Will you not come to dine tonight with all the family and guests, instead of eating here? Estel would be very glad to see you."

Gilraen fiddled with her thread unhappily. "I don't-"

"I will be there, and so will Elladan," Elrohir reassured. "And I do not think you will need to say much to Estel. It will be enough for him that you are present."

"Hope," said Gilraen, softly, tracing the line of her embroidery hoop with one finger. "Yes, I will go. And I will… I will see him every day, so that he knows I still care for him. I do not wish my son to cry for me. That sorrow, at least, I can cure."


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