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‘I have heard Gilraen say…’ Glorfindel sat back and eyed his companions smugly, ‘that if she never again hears the words, ‘Elladan says,’ it will be too soon.’
The woman looked at him in horror, a bright blush colouring her cheeks as she turned to the Lord of Imladris.
‘I remember Celebrían telling me – forcefully – that she was sure the Valar had inflicted you on us from some perverted sense of humour purely because they were sick and tired of hearing the sound of your name,’ Elrond said meditatively. ‘I think that was about the time that you were introducing the twins to the joy of caring for their ponies – and no-one in Imladris was left in any doubt that Glorfindel was the fount of all wisdom.’
The warrior inspected his nails modestly. ‘I do my best,’ he said.
Elrond laughed. ‘Do not worry, my dear,’ he told Gilraen. ‘I have plenty of experience with star-struck youngsters – and know only too well how irritating it can be. Particularly,’ he added thoughtfully, ‘when your child willingly performs tasks for his hero that he has doggedly refused to do for his loving parent.’
‘Elladan told Estel that if he wanted to grow as tall as your sons, he would need to exercise – to increase his strength,’ Gilraen said. ‘And Estel decided that the bed was the perfect place to bounce – until he tumbled off, taking the table down with him.’
‘Did he hurt himself?’ Elrond asked in some alarm.
‘A bruise or two.’ Gilraen shook her head. ‘Nothing of import.’
‘Did Elrohir not break his wrist tumbling off his bed?’ Glorfindel frowned.
‘Only because Elladan landed on top of him.’ Elrond took a sip from his glass. ‘They tended to do everything together – at least until they were considerably older than Estel.’
Glorfindel smiled. ‘They were very amusing.’
‘You might have thought so,’ Elrond said somewhat acerbically. ‘You did not have to sit up with the twins at night after you had told them tales of monsters and battles.’ He smiled at his friend’s look of protest. ‘At least,’ he amended, ‘not until Celebrían insisted that their night fears were your problem. You were always putty in her hands.’ He raised an eyebrow at Gilraen in wry camaraderie. ‘Remember that,’ he suggested. ‘Glorfindel might be a terror to Balrogs and assorted creatures of the Dark – but he is susceptible to the wiles of ladies and small children.’
Gilraen smiled and ducked her head in acknowledgement. She had been afraid that in agreeing to live among elves, she would be completely alone – cut off from all her kind – but she found that she shared something with them that went beyond species. She and Elrond were parents, first of all, and in that they had an equality that she had never expected to find. More, they had both lost – and mourned always – a most beloved partner. A partner with whom they expected, someday, to be reunited. It did not seem to matter that elves were beautiful and incredibly ancient – and experienced beyond her capacity to understand; that they shone with a gleaming light that made walking in the starlit gardens quite disconcerting; that they spoke of the natural world as if they were in constant conversation with it. There were times when she felt as if she were talking to family.
A slender hand waved dismissively. ‘Your sons have taken over my role,’ Glorfindel pronounced. ‘And there are two of them – I doubt I will be called upon to ensure that Estel knows how to – er – express his originality. I shall simply sit back and watch.’
Gilraen attempted to suppress her smile, turning her head so that Glorfindel could not see her face – but she was too late to avoid Elrond’s notice.
‘You think he is deluding himself?’ he murmured with pretended confidentiality.
‘Estel is most impressed that Glorfindel can tell his heroes what to do,’ she said. ‘And that they obey him without debate.’ Her smile widened. ‘I have seen the way my son looks at Lord Glorfindel – and I doubt he will escape the attentions of a most admiring child. Especially when Elladan and Elrohir are absent from Imladris.’
Glorfindel’s sigh was overly dramatic – but it fooled neither of his audience. ‘I suppose I will do my duty,’ he said with apparent resignation, but his smile told a different story.
‘And, again, I am left to be the disciplinarian,’ Elrond observed. ‘I hope – very much – that, one day, a time will come when I shall be able to provide entertainment for your children while you attempt to instruct them in the merits of hard work and responsibility.’
Surprised, Gilraen blinked – and felt comforted. She was alone here, in important ways that no mere male could understand, but she was not without support. She might never feel entirely at home, as her son undoubtedly would; she might always hanker after the life that might have been hers – but she was accepted into the family of the Last Homely House as one of them. She would not have to parent her son alone, but could lean on the experience and wisdom of some of the greatest elves of Arda and, amongst them all, they would raise a son of whom Arathorn would have been proud.
‘While we are on the subject …’ Glorfindel crossed one long leg over the other and sipped his wine provocatively as they waited for him to finish, ‘I believe the stable cat has produced a very fine litter of kittens – and Elrohir has promised to take a certain young Dúnadan to visit them once he has broken his fast.’
Elrond met Gilraen’s eyes in silent enquiry, and they came to an immediate unspoken agreement. ‘No pets,’ Gilraen said firmly. ‘Estel is far too young to give any creature the care it needs.’
Glorfindel grinned. ‘Let battle commence,’ he declared. ‘I look forward to it.’
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