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A Light in May  by Antigone Q

Estel loved the library: it smelled like old paper and wood oil, and it had a large fireplace and many windows and places to sit and read. it was always bright and warm and quiet, and Elrond had a small study off to one side. Estel could see his papa through the open door, writing something on a piece of parchment.

He began to pull some books from the shelves, mostly slender volumes with bright illustrations, and started to skim through them for information. He had decided to investigate the matter of the natural behaviors of the children of men. He soon forgot why he had come to the library, however, as he became immersed in a particularly good story, and he read on the floor without moving for a long while.

"What are you so captivated with, Estel?" Elrond asked, breaking the silence and startling the little boy. Estel's papa had quietly moved into the library and now sat on the floor nearby, his arms wrapped around one drawn-up knee and his head tilted to one side with a look of interest.

Estel pointed to a passage he had come to that had fascinated him. "It says here that the Elf-lord Thingol took the man-child Tùrin as his foster son. That is like us."

"Yes, I suppose so," said Elrond slowly. "Although I am Peredhil: ‘half-Elven,’ as your people would say. I would not call myself an Elf-lord, as I have told you before."

Estel ignored what to him was a meaningless distinction. "Tùrin's father was gone, too," Estel rambled excitedly. "And his mother was sad, like mine."

Elrond, perhaps remembering what happened later in Tùrin's tale, gently took the book from his foster son and rubbed thoughtfully at the spine. "This is not your usual reading matter. When did you stop reading Tom Bombadil stories?"

Elrond smiled at the little boy, but Estel, remembering why he had come, did not feel like smiling back.

"Some of the words are hard, but I was reading it because…" Estel trailed off, not knowing how to ask his question. Instead he said experimentally, "I would like to go to Nost-na-Lothion this year." He left off the "please" on purpose.

"We discussed the matter already, did we not?" Elrond slid the book back in its place on the shelf. "I am inclined to think it will keep you up too late, and then you would be too excited to sleep well afterwards and would be in an ill temper come the morn." He shook his head. "I am sorry, Estel, I truly do not think it a good idea. When you are older you may go."

Taking a deep breath, Estel stood, ready to be unruly. Elrond's deep gray eyes followed placidly as Estel lifted his foot and prepared to stomp it down, hard. Yet, now that he was under Elrond’s calm gaze, Estel suddenly discovered he did not feel like stomping. Estel scrunched up his face and drew in a breath, ready to yell, but was unexpectedly intimidated by the profound silence of the library. Again Estel picked up his foot as if to stomp it, again he felt embarrassed and put his foot down lightly instead.

Elrond watched all these proceedings with curiosity. "Estel, what are you doing?"

Estel looked down at his shoe, twisting his toe. "Nothing," he said dejectedly, sitting once more.

Lord Elrond rubbed his nose. "My son, I hardly dare ask, but…was that some variation of a fit of childish temper?"

Estel drew his brows together morosely and slumped. "Well…it was supposed to be, but I felt silly."

Elrond made a choking sound. Estel looked up suspiciously to see if Elrond was laughing, but he was only coughing loudly.

"I did not know I had made you so angry," Elrond said when he had regained his composure.

"No, you did not," admitted Estel. "I am disappointed, but I did not really feel very much like stomping my feet."

Elrond rubbed his nose again, a sure sign that he was puzzled. "Then why did you decide to do so? You must know that I would not have granted you leave to go to the celebration just because you stomped at me."

Estel shrugged, still unhappy. "I…Papa, am I a strange child? Different from other children?"

Elrond was surprised. "What? No, of course not." He leaned forward to touch Estel's hair affectionately. "In fact, you remind me a little of Elladan when he was your size."

"But Elladan was an Elf!" Elrond opened his mouth, but before he could say anything Estel continued, "I mean, am I like other mortal children? Other Men my age? Am I too good?"

Elrond did laugh at this. "You are naughty enough at times."

"As often as other children? Erestor and some of the others say that other mortal children are not like me. Even Legolas says so, and he has not been here a week yet."

Elrond, seeing Estel was honestly concerned, smothered any hint of levity. He sat closer to Estel and wrapped an arm around the child. "Estel, you must understand that the valley   itself is full of peace. Even were you not a child of good temperament - and I think you are - you would find yourself reluctant to become overly vexed about small matters." He smoothed the child's hair back - it never seemed to stay in its braids or clips. "I have been remiss, perhaps, in not seeing that children visit Imladris more often, but I am never certain…" he trailed off. "Well, that is my worry, not yours. I will try and find some playmates near your own age to visit us. Would you like that?"

"Maybe," said Estel cautiously. It would be enjoyable to have a young friend, but his memories of visits with other children were always so … loud.

Now that he had broached the subject, Estel decided to continue. "Papa, couldn't I come to the Nost-na-Lothion festival for a little while? Please? Someone could come and wake me," suggested Estel with a burst of ingenuity. "And then I would watch just for a while. I would go straight back to bed, I promise!" Had he but known it, pleading look he gave Elrond was far more effective than a tantrum would have been.

Elrond's eyes crinkled with silent laughter. "Ai! Shall I reward your creative thinking? Or shall I do the easier thing…Very well. If you find someone to wake you and take you back to bed, you may watch the dancing for an hour only. But I cannot do it, for as the host I must stay on the green."

"Thank you, Papa," Estel said, flinging his arms about his foster father in a grateful hug. "I will ask Mama if she will wake me."

"That is a good plan," Elrond said slowly. "And I would very much like to see your mother enjoying herself. But remember that she has never been to a festival in Imladris, and she may not wish to go to this one."

Estel was surprised. "Of course she will want to go, if I tell her what fun it will be." Estel sat back on his heels thoughtfully. "I had better ask Elrohir to come with me, in case I have trouble with my Westron."

Elrond relaxed. "That is well thought of - Elrohir will certainly be of help to you."

Estel nodded and carefully put the books back on the shelf before going in search of Elrohir.

Since it was his first festival, Estel was determined to make the most of it. On the day of the festival of the Birth of Flowers, Estel went hunting for the most beautiful, unusual flowers he could find to weave into his hair that night.

After many hours meticulously examining every flower anywhere near the house, Estel wandered to the bridge to watch the waterfall. As he looked up the side of the steep rise, he noticed a small, inconspicuous plant with the most elegant flowers imaginable growing about six feet up the side of the hill. They were delicate and star-shaped, of a pale, pale blue, with white streaks and a bright gold center. Estel was entranced.

How had he missed them all this time? Could he reach them? It would certainly be difficult, but they were by far the most beautiful flowers he had seen.

Estel began to climb up the embankment to pick them, but before he had gone very far he slid and fell back to the ground, scraping the palms of his hands as he tried to find a hold. Again he scrambled up the face of the hill, and this time he almost managed to grab the flowers when he lost his footing again. This time he scraped not only his hands, but his knee as well.

Estel was beginning to doubt the wisdom of this venture. Yet, looking again at the pretty, star-shaped flowers, he was filled with determination. This time, he went slowly and chose each step with care. He had just closed his hand around the stems of the flowers when a stone came loose under his foot and he slid to the ground again, and thus he accidentally uprooted the entire plant.

"Estel!" The little boy turned to look behind him and saw Glorfindel hurry forward. "I saw you fall. Are you hurt? What ever possessed you to climb in such a way?"

Estel held out his prize with a grin. "I have my flowers for tonight. They are the prettiest in all of Imladris, are they not? Do you know what name they are given?"

Glorfindel had an odd look on his face. "Evening Stars, they are called. They are very beautiful indeed. Estel, you did not take the whole plant, did you?"

Estel looked at the flowers clutched in his hand. "I did not mean to. I slid." Elrond had a very strict rule when herb gathering that one should take no more than every fourth plant, or barring that, every fourth stem. But surely Elrond would understand about an accident.

Glorfindel seemed troubled. "Ai, Estel, I know you did not mean to, but those flowers in your hand were planted from seeds that Elrond's wife brought from a very long way away. They only grow in this one place in the valley, and they are - were - a favorite of your papa's."

Estel’s happiness turned to distress. "I am sorry - I did not mean to cause any harm. Do you think I could put them back?"

Glorfindel shook his head, sighing. "I do not think so, Estel, but perhaps you had better go and show your father. He will want to know."

"Then I shall go and tell him," Estel said dejectedly, and turned down the path. He did not think Elrond would be angry with him, but neither did he want his papa to be sad, and surely he would be.

He took a shortcut up the back stairs of the house, and when he reached the landing he heard voices he recognized through a nearly closed door.

"I do not know what else to do," Calen-Glad was saying in an unhappy voice.

"We must do something soon," the voice of Ilothuir replied. "It becomes more and more difficult to avoid all three of them, and Lord Elrond is beginning to be suspicious. You have not been to the evening meal in more than a week. Besides, Elrond must surely know by now that you have little skill at healing."

"Cannot you go back to Lothlórien?" This was Legolas.

"Galadriel said that I would find my answer here," Calen-Glad replied. "I must discover the truth, or I will have no rest in Lothlórien or anywhere else."

"I think we must tell Lord Elrond your story," Legolas said. "He may -"

"Shh!" Ilothuir said. "What is that?"

Estel realized he had been listening, and began walking again.

He heard a creak behind him, and then Legolas' voice. "It is only Estel passing by. I do not think he could have heard anything important."

Elrond was at the desk in his study, as usual, checking a large open volume and then writing something in another book. Estel entered slowly and Elrond looked up with a smile, but Estel immediately burst out, "Papa, I am so very sorry!"

Elrond blinked in confusion, and put down his pen. "What are you sorry about, Estel?"

With some trepidation, Estel held out the flowers in his hand.

Elrond drew his breath through his teeth with a pained hiss and stilled entirely. He looked at the flowers for a long moment, then came around the desk and knelt by Estel.

"You picked these from the bank near the waterfall," Elrond said finally, stroking a blossom with one finger.

It was not exactly a question, but Estel nodded anyway. "I am sorry, Papa, I did not mean to take the whole plant - I slipped on the rocks. And I did not know I should not pick them - they were so pretty, and I wanted flowers for the celebration."

"Celebrian planted these a long time ago." Elrond blinked hard a few times and swallowed. At last he said, "It is not your fault, I suppose. I did not tell you not to touch them. I did not think you would be able to reach so high."

Estel looked miserable, and Elrond reached out to smooth his foster son's hair. "Never mind; the damage is done. Let us go and put these in water, so that they will keep until you can wear them." But he gave a heavy sigh as he stood.

"I am very sorry, Papa," Estel said again, now close to tears himself.

Elrond shook his head. "As I said - Estel! You did not say you were hurt yourself!"

Estel looked down at his skinned knee and scraped hands. "I forgot." Although now that he looked at his injuries, they were beginning to sting again.

Elrond swept the boy up in his arms. "Come, my son. We will see about your hurts, and then we will put your Evening Stars in water until you need them."


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