The story of Legolas, Elrohir and Maewen in Valinor. A Silvan child runs free and safe in Valinor but how free is he? A mother and son remain sundered; is there any path back to togetherness for them?
Categories: Fiction Characters:
Elladan, Elrohir, Legolas, OFC, OMC, Thranduil
Angst, Het, Hurt/Comfort, Romance, Slash
September 28, 2017 Updated:
April 20, 2018
This is a sequel to Fire Dancing Upon Our Souls. It's really going to help if you have read that beforehand.....And Light of a Thousand Stars....and Darkness in Your Heart.
Synopsis of the most important points.
Legolas had an older brother Laerion who died protecting him while they were fighting in the Greenwood.
His Mother could not deal with his death and fled to Valinor while Legolas was away fighting in the south. She did not say goodbye to him.
Legolas has a Silvan partner, Maewen he has loved since they were young but Silvan do not restrict themselves to one love as the Noldor do. They are fluidly polygamous, so Legolas and Elrohir also have a connection as do Maewen and Erynion, Legolas' childhood friend. The story of these is told in "Fire"
Legolas suffered a traumatic injury he nearly did not survive in Minas Tirith after the Ring War. It has left him damaged in ways you will see later.
I think that's all.
This is especially for Naledi my incredibly regular reviewer who didn't want Aragorn,
NelyafinweFeanorion who knows my characters SO well,
and UnnamedElement my most esteemed beta!
Credit for the title goes to Bob Dylan. It's from a quote of his: No-one is free—even the birds are chained to the sky, which fits my Legolas in Valinor perfectly,
1. Chapter 1 by cheekybeak
2. Chapter 2 by cheekybeak
3. Chapter 3 by cheekybeak
4. Chapter 4 by cheekybeak
5. Chapter 5 by cheekybeak
6. Chapter 6 by cheekybeak
7. Chapter 7 by cheekybeak
8. Chapter 8 by cheekybeak
9. Chapter 9 by cheekybeak
10. Chapter 10 by cheekybeak
11. Chapter 11 by cheekybeak
12. Chapter 12 by cheekybeak
13. Chapter 13 by cheekybeak
14. Chapter 14 by cheekybeak
15. Chapter 15 by cheekybeak
16. Chapter 16 by cheekybeak
17. Chapter 17 by cheekybeak
18. Chapter 18 by cheekybeak
19. Chapter 19 by cheekybeak
20. Chapter 20 by cheekybeak
21. Chapter 21 by cheekybeak
22. Chapter 22 by cheekybeak
23. Chapter 23 by cheekybeak
Note: There is more than one Estel in my universe. Aragorn is not the only one.
I am hanging from a tree when I see him.
He rides fast, with purpose and when he is close enough for me to recognise him a flash of excitement runs through me.
A Noldor warrior, fierce and strong. He flits in and out of my life randomly; I usually only see him from afar. I can count on the fingers of one hand the times I have spoken to him, but here he is and there is no one here but me. I will have him all to myself for the first time ever.
When I drop to the road in front of him, his horse rears so badly I wonder that he does not fall.
He is not pleased with me.
"Estel!" His voice is deep, loud and commanding. The displeasure within it makes me flinch. "What are you doing? If I had not seen you I could have hurt you—or worse. Why are you here in the wilderness alone?"
I have to laugh then, despite my awe.
"This is not the wilderness," I cry. "I live here!"
"It is far from your home. Does your mother know you are here? What would she say? Or your father?"
"My mother knows I am in the trees and she does not stop me." I fold my arms to show him I am not afraid. "My Father neither. He often runs through the trees with me. Why would he mind?"
"Because it is dangerous," he snaps. "And you are his joy, his hope, his treasure. I do not believe he would be happy with this."
He tells me nothing I do not already know. I have heard it before from my father and my mother both, how much Father cherishes me. It is my name after all. And we do clash, my father and I, when he holds me too close. He gives me far less freedom than any of the other elflings here, and I hate it. But in this—when it comes to the trees—this Noldor is wrong.
"My father," I say, chin raised in defiance, "says this place bores him. He says nothing ever happens here. He hates it. He is never afraid for me in the trees for I am silvan!"
"You are too cheeky for your own good." The Noldor leans down, and before I know what has happened he has snatched me up so I am sitting in front of him upon his horse. "Your father lets you run wild."
But my father does not. He does not let me run half as wild as I wish to, and what he does allow my mother argues long and hard for.
I could brood on that and resent it but I do not, for now I ride with Elrohir Elrondion and it is glorious.
He slows his pace until it is a plodding walk compared to the speed of before, but to me it is still exhilarating. Until I realise—suddenly—something is wrong.
I turn where I sit to see his face, and I tell him what I should have before, had I not been so caught up in challenging him:
"Father is not here."
For Elrohir only comes here to see my father, and then not often. He never comes when Father is away. Never.
"He has gone with Erynion to see my Grandfather," I explain. "It was urgent. He had to go." When my Grandfather sends for you, you do not argue with him. I love my Grandfather dearly but when he tells me to do something . . . I do it. "You have come all this way for no reason. I am sorry; I should have told you earlier."
"I do not come to see your father," he replies. "I already know he is not here. It is Maewen I am here for."
Mother? That is not what I expected, and now I burn with curiosity. Why would Elrohir be here to see my mother?
"That is for she and I to know," he says firmly, “And not a small boy with more curiosity than is good for him." He is silent then. A silence that leaves me in no doubt he will not discuss it further, and, though I am desperate to know, I am not quite brave enough to dare to ask.
The silence lasts nearly all of our ride towards my home. It is not until we are nearly there Elrohir speaks softly in my ear.
"Legolas does not hate Valinor," he says.
"He does!" I rush to defend my father, for I know how he feels on this. "He misses his home. He never wanted to come here. It suffocates him, he says."
"He was desperate to come here," the Noldor says softly. "He does not hate it because it has brought him you. His unhappiness is not because of Valinor—he would carry it wherever he was."
There is a sharp, painful, grief in my heart at his words, for I want nothing more than for my father to be happy, but still . . . I think he may be right.
My mother greets us with a brilliant smile when we arrive. She stands in the sunlight, my small sister entwined around her legs. My sister is sweet and funny and beautiful. Calithil is her name—Moonlight. And she shines softly like the moon—lighting Father's darkness so he says. I am his hope and she is his light.
But also she is annoying, irritating, and tiresome. She follows me like a shadow, always wanting to be near me, to do what I do, when she is just too small. But I love her. I will keep her safe always and she thinks I am the cleverest, most talented elfling in our woods even when it is obvious I am not. I feel strong when I am with her—undefeatable, and I smile to see her now.
"You have bought my wanderer home to me!" My mother exclaims as she reaches up to help me down from this horse which is taller and stronger than any I have ever seen. But Elrohir does not smile. He is tense and serious when he replies.
"He was alone in the woods. He stepped in front of my horse—I could have hurt him. He should not be there alone!"
"Not you, too." Mother sighs in response. "He is quite safe there, Elrohir. He is Silvan and the trees are in his blood. He is Legolas' son after all."
But Elrohir drops his voice low as if he does not wish me to hear the next.
"If any harm should come to the boy it will destroy him. There will be no bringing him back from that. Do you wish Miriel's fate upon him?"
"I know!" My mother looks him in the eye, her own eyes flashing in defiance. Mother can seem sweet and soft, but I know at her heart is fire and spirit and she is not easily tamed. Definitely not by this Noldor. "I know what it would do. I know better than anyone! But Estel is his own person. He will live his own life. I will not cage him to save another and Legolas does not want it. Not deep in his heart, whatever he may say and do. Anyway-" she turns away suddenly, guiding us towards our flet in the trees, "It is not as if it is the dark-soaked Greenwood he runs through. Not as I did when I was young, and I am still here to tell the tale. So is Legolas."
"Only just," the Noldor mutters, but Mother simply ignores him.
"Thank you," she says simply, as if the conversation had never happened. She has dismissed it. "Thank you for coming, Elrohir."
"You know I will always come when you need help." He replies and I am left wondering . . . What on earth does my mother need help with from him that Father could not do for her?
It is hours until I get the chance to find out. Though I watch them like a hawk, listen carefully to their every word, they give me not one clue. They speak of pleasantries only. Gentle gossip of people I do not know, and Elrohir asks me of my studies, my friends in the wood, my Grandparents, but nothing exciting. Nothing that would explain his presence here. It is not until late the opportunity presents itself for me to listen when they do not see me.
Darkness has descended and I am in bed—asleep, they think—when I hear the murmur of their voices discussing things in earnest. Calithil has climbed into my bed, as she does often, for the dark sometimes scares her. She curls up against me, a warm, small body in the midst of the blankets, and it is hard to slowly extricate myself with out waking her. She will spoil everything if I do.
I am stealthy, though, and so I manage it, then creep to sit on the floor next to the crack in the doorway, but try as I might I can not catch every word it is they say. I hear my father's name often, and my own. My mother is upset, I know that much. Then, suddenly, the conversation ceases.
"We have a spy!"
The door is flung back. A hand reaches out to grasp me by the collar and haul me, blinking, into the light.
"Estel!" Mother is disappointed. I hear it in her voice, and Elrohir towers over me, glowering.
"Has your father never taught you it is rude to eavesdrop?" he snaps.
"It was my father who taught me how to eavesdrop!" My reply is defiant, although I know I am in the wrong. I do not like to hear criticism of my beloved father from anyone.
"Of course." Elrohir rolls his eyes as he lets go of me. "Of course he did. Why am I not surprised?"
"Come here, Estel." My mother’s voice leaves no doubt she is unhappy with me. I have shown her up. "You know better than this. Why do you listen at doorways to things that do not concern you?"
"I heard my name. It does concern me!"
She sighs, and I hate it so badly when she is not happy I am immediately contrite.
"I am sorry, Mother." I fall into her arms. "I only wanted to know why Elrohir was here."
She pulls me onto her lap, and normally I would take the opportunity to snuggle up to her warmth, but Elrohir is here and I do not wish him to think me a child Instead I twist so as to slip down beside her in the comfortable chair. I am close and yet it is a little less childish.
"You are your own worst enemy, little one." She smiles as she strokes my hair. She has forgiven me.
But Elrohir watches me carefully from across the room. When he speaks it takes me quite by surprise.
"What if you were to come with Legolas next time he visits me?" he asks. "You are old enough now I think, Estel. It is about time we ensured you were educated more like a prince and less like a wild Silvan."
"Oh!" It is an invitation that is quite unexpected and very much desired. "Do you mean it?" I cannot keep the rising excitement out of my voice. I glance at my mother, waiting for her to bring me back to earth with a refusal, but she does not.
"You will have to do better than listening to conversations not for your ears, Estel, for me to think you are old enough to go." Her face is serious but her eyes dance with laughter. She means to say yes!
"I promise!" I cry. "I will be the best I can be, Mother. I will make you proud."
"You already make me proud." She sweeps her arms around me. Nothing is so good for my heart as a hug from her, and then I remember—
"Father will not let me go." I say it flatly. I have asked him before, and he aways say no. It is too dangerous, he thinks, and he does not trust me. No matter what I do, he does not trust me to be safe.
"He will if Elrohir asks it." She pulls me close so I can feel her heartbeat. "Leave your father to me."
I can barely believe it might happen. That I will go with Father to the Noldor. And better than that, Mother does not send me to bed. She lets me sit and drift to sleep leaning against her, as her fingers comb out the knots tangled in my hair.
And eventually, through the edges of dreams, I hear them speak.
"I am in your debt, Elrohir," she says, and he chokes back a laugh.
"You are never in my debt, Maewen. I owe you the world. You know that."
"I am afraid," she murmurs then. "Legolas holds him so tight. He is terrified to lose him. Even though we are in the safety of Valinor, he sees dangers around every corner. Ghosts of the past . . . Those he has lost. Estel will grow to resent him if he does not give him the chance to spread his wings. I cannot bear to see the love they have for each other be broken and lost because of fear. But you . . . You can give Estel freedom, Elrohir. The excitement that he craves. Legolas will trust you with his son like no other."
"Anything," Elrohir replies. Anything he needs I give it freely."
My Mother is wise. She knows everything there is to know, it seems to me. I can keep no secrets from her. But as I sit—head upon her shoulder—and drift towards the dream paths, I think for the first time, she has something wrong.
For as much as she fears it, I know nothing will come between my Father and I.
There is one tree in our woods I always go to when I wait for my father's return and I am there now. I know he is coming home today and I am determined I will be the first to see him.
Elrohir has gone, staying just one night and vanishing before I was up the next morning. Since then I have been desperate for Father to come home to see what he will say . . . to see if he will let me go with him next time he visits the Noldor.
I hang upside down while I wait. Legs hooked around the branch, hair drifting in the breeze. I see the world from a different angle and it amuses me. When Father and Erynion round the bend in the road ahead of me it is as if they ride upon the sky. I laugh at them when I see them for it is ridiculous.
"Monkey!" my father cries when he see me, pulling his horse up beaneth me. It is his special name for me, especially when he sees me in the trees. The others say it is a nonsense word that has no meaning but Father has told me he travelled once to the Desert land with Aragorn, the King of Men. He saw monkeys there. Creatures which ran through the trees like lightening, better and faster than even a Woodelf. He says I remind him of them because I am the fastest climber he has ever seen.
My Father has travelled further than any elf here. He has seen more than all of them put together. He has been to Dwarven caves which glitter like stars, to the lands of the Hobbits—little people no bigger than his waist. He has ridden with the Horsemen across the Plains. He has seen everything
, my Father.
I wish I could go to his homeland and see it all. I wish I could go there with him. He would be happy there.
"Monkey," he calls now, looking up to me swinging above him. "It lightens my heart to see you. Come and tell me what has been happening here while I have been away." He holds out his arms, I let go of the branch and he catches me as I drop.
I knew he would.
"How is your Mother?" He asks as I settle myself on the horse in front of him, "And your sister? Have you kept them safe for me?"
"Of course I have. How is Grandfather? Did you sort it out....his important business?" I tilt my head around to see him.
A cloud passes over his face then, a fleeting frown.
"It was no business at all," he says. "Nothing he could not have dealt with without me. It was just an excuse to see me—a waste of our time."
"Perhaps he misses you, Father?" I pat his arm softly trying to recapture his joyous mood. "I miss him
." It seems a long time since I have seen my Grandfather. It is probably not, but it seems so to me.
"Ah!" The bright smile returns to my Fathers face and with it my joy, "he has sent something for you, Monkey."
He pulls out a small package from his pocket and drops it into my hands. When I unwrap it slowly, carefully, I see the tiniest, most beautiful dragon
"Ohhh!" I am entranced at the sight of it.
"He has carved it himself," Father says. "My Father has hidden talents, Estel. He is more than just King of the Greenwood."
"Oh, Father, it is beautiful! Who is he, this Dragon?" I know there will be a story behind this marvellous creature.
"Smaug," my Father says. "He is Smaug. He hid in the Lonely Mountain, flew through the skies breathing fire. I saw him, before Bard killed him."
Of course my Father has seen him, of course. I never doubted it.
It is then I remember my own wonderful news.
"Father, Elrohir has been! Elrohir has been here while you were away."
"Elrohir?" His face creases into a frown. "I sent word to him I was visiting my Father. Why did he not meet me at Thranduil's if he needed to see me?"
"He came to see Mother!" I am so excited to be able to tell him this news he does not know, I do not stop to think about the consequences, but Erynion does beside us. I hear his hiss of disappointment but it is too late. The words are out there.
In front of my eyes all Father's joy bleeds out upon the ground.
"Really?" He speaks to Erynion, not me. "Really? This is what it was about, this meaningless trip you insisted I take? The three of you plotting behind my back? Why would Elrohir—who keeps himself so distant—need to meet Maewen without me?" His voice drips with sarcasm and I flinch for Erynion's sake.
But Erynion meets his eye. It takes more than the cutting edge of my Father's voice to deter him.
"She needed help. You need his help and it has been too long since you saw him. It is Maewen who pays the price for that; for your stubbornness."
I wish there was a hole in the ground I could hide in. I wish I could climb off this horse and run away. I wish I did not have to sit here, invisible, in the midst of their anger.
"It is none of your business what
I need!" My father snaps and he turns his back. He urges our horse away at speed, so quickly it takes me by surprise and I must grasp tightly at her mane to stay upright. We race at a gallop down the road, the wind whips my hair and normally I would be in heaven to ride like this, but my Father's anger churns behind me and I know it is all my fault.
It is Calithil who sees us first as we turn in to the path to my home . . . Or at least Mother lets her think she does. She comes running down the path towards us shouting,
"Father! Father!" and he leaps off the horse to sweep her into his arms as she squeals with glee. Calithil does not notice his mood; he hides it from her, but behind her I see my Mother does. She smiles but it does not reach her eyes. Her face is all tension as she moves towards us.
"Welcome home, Legolas," she says softly.
But Father takes his time depositing my small sister on the ground with a kiss before he replies and the reply when it comes is biting.
"The boy tells me Elrohir has been here. What did the two of you decide? Am I worth saving?"
And my mother looks at me, right at me with her sorrowful eyes.
"Oh, Estel," she breathes.
"It is not
his fault!" Father snaps. "Do not expect him to keep secrets from me!"
"Legolas, you need to see him. He can help you. You are so unhappy lately—"
He will not let her finish but cuts across her pleas as if he does not even hear them.
me unhappy!" Then he pushes past her, down the path, up the ladder to our flet. If it had a door I imagine he would slam it.
They cut like a knife to my heart, those words. I always thought it was being here, in Valinor, so far from his home, that caused my Father's unhappiness but Elrohir said that was not so. He said Father wanted to come here. Is it us then, that cause this sadness? Is it us he does not want?
"Where is Erynion?" My mother's voice cuts across my thoughts.
"Down the road." I nod behind us. "He—" I shrug wordlessly in the end. I do not know what else to say about why he is not with us. She will know in any case.
"Go find him." She tells me and she kneels before my sister. "Will you help Estel find Erynion for me, little one? We do not want him to get lost." As if Erynion the silvan would ever get lost finding his own
home. I know what she does. She wants me to take Calithil away from here.
She brushes a hand over my head ruffling my hair as she turns away, following my Father into our home amongst the trees.
We watch her as she climbs, before we turn to find Erynion as she told us. We have gone not even a dozen steps down the road before my parents raised voices float down after us.
I cannot pretend it does not hurt.
Calithil clutches my hand with her small sticky one. She grips it tight as if I am the one thing standing beteeen her and the dark, and we have not gone far before I hear the sound of small muffled sobs beside me.
"Oh Cal, do not cry!" I drop to my knees beside her and try and wipe her cheeks dry but round tears roll down them relentlessly. "Please stop."
If she does not I will cry myself and that will be terrible. I feel so useless. It is my job to protect her and I cannot fix this. I wish I could, I wish I could fix it for myself but I cannot. It is then my hand brushes against my grandfathers dragon nestled in my pocket and I know what I must do.
"Calithil, I forgot!" I say, "Father gave me a present for you, from Grandfather." and I place my beautiful dragon gently in her hand.
"For me?" It has worked. Her tears subside and she stares at it with wide wondrous eyes.
"He made it himself." For some reason I think it is important she knows that.
"Oh! It is beautiful Estel," she holds it up to the light, "Her name is Firefly!"
I want to tell her the dragon is a boy and his name is Smaug but what is the point? She is happy and that is what I wanted. She clutches it to her chest, tears forgotten and takes my hand once again. I have mended the world for her even if I cannot mend it for myself.
It is not long before we come across Erynion. He plods towards us at walking pace as if he is reluctant to reach his destination.
"Estel!" Gracefully he leaps of his horse and strides towards us. "Why are you here?" I see his glance towards my sister. I know he notices it all. Her tear-stained cheeks, my forlorness.
"Mother sent us to find you." I tell him before Calithil interrupts me.
"They are shouting," she says.
"Ah . . .well . . ." He pats me on the shoulder. "Are you hungry? What say you follow me home and we share the delicious lunch your Grandmother has packed for Legolas and I? There are some of her sweet cakes in there!" He grins at me and despite myself I cannot help but smile back. Grandmothers cakes are the best I have ever eaten.
And so that is what we do in the end. Follow him to his home in the trees and sit on the grass in the sun, food spread out before us on a blanket, as we eat far too many cakes.
Cal is entranced with her dragon. She winds a ridiculous daisy chain around its neck and plays foolish games of pretend amongst the flowers. Poor dragon. He is a mighty beast not a winsome faerie.
When Erynion finally collects up the remains of our feast and announces we must go home I do not want to.
"Come," he says. "Dusk is falling. I will be in trouble if I do not return you to your Mother." Even Calithil hesitates.
"Firefly wants to stay." She says.
"Firefly must go home to bed," Erynion takes no notice of her pleading, "Come beauty," he strokes the wild strands of hair from her small sullen face. "Your mother will be missing you and we cannot have that."
I trail along behind them as they walk, one foot dragging in front of the other, anxious what we will find at home. As it turns out it is Father we see first. He stands below our home, singing to his horse as he brushes her, a soft lilting melody he has sung me to sleep many times with before. He leans his head upon the horses side and does not see us until we are close.
"Erynion," he says in surprise then.
"I have returned your children
, Legolas." The tenseness running beneath Erynion's words makes me nervous.
Calithil cannot help herself. At the sight of him her hesitation disappears.
"Father, look what Grandfather gave me!" She holds the dragon aloft and I hold my breath. I did not think she would tell him.
"He gave you this?" He takes it, turning it over carefully in his hands before fixing me with a questioning look but he is not angry. "It is beautiful little one. You must thank him when you next see him." He hands it back with not a word to me. "Go up to the house," he says to her then. "Your mother is waiting for you. She has dinner ready I think. Take her, Estel."
I climb the ladder slowly, reluctant to leave Erynion and Father alone. I remember their anger on the path and I have had enough of angry words today, but I need not have worried.
"Will you join us, Erynion?" is all Father says, "Please." It is an apology I think and Erynion takes it. Perhaps he is done with angry words as well?
All is quiet over dinner. My Father and Mother dance around each other carefully and none of the rest of us are hungry. I push at my food in a manner that could be seen as moodiness but is—in fact—simply the result of too many of Grandmothers cakes.
It is after the food is finished and my mother has cleared it all away that Father brings me something, a gilt bound book he takes off the very top shelf. He lays it in my lap carefully like treasure.
"I should have let you read this before now" he says. "It is special. Elrohir found it for me in Elrond's library before I sailed." I sit on the large rug in front of the fireplace and he curls up beside me.
"What is it?" Even opening the pages feels special and it is beautiful, a work of art.
"It is the story of Smaug," Father says, "An adventure full of dwarves and hobbits....and some elves. Your Grandfather is in there. I knew the Hobbit who wrote this."
in there, Father?"
"I was there," he laughs, "but no, I am not mentioned. He did not know my name then, you see!"
'There and Back Again', the title says. I cannot wait to read it. It brings a small ray of light back into my dark day.
Calithil has fallen asleep in my Mothers arms and Father takes her then.
"I will put her to bed," he says quietly, "I have missed her." And Mother lets him go.
I curl myself tight on the floor by the fire and begin my book, but I watch them as I do so—Erynion and my Mother. I hide behind the pages in the hope they will forget about me.
My mother stands to go to the kitchen and he follows her.
"Are you well, Maewen?" he asks, cupping her face softly with his hand.
"I am well." Her voice is soft I can barely hear her.
"Is everything. . ..?"
"Everything is alright, Erynion."
"It is no good, Maewen, the way things are. The children were in tears when I found them."
"I know, I know," she says, "We will both try harder. His sadness overwhelms him. It will not always be so."
"He is not the only one in Valinor who has suffered death and loss!"
!" My mother turns on him and hisses in anger. "Do not come into my house and criticise him in front of his son. Do not do that Erynion: Ever!"
I see Erynion glance towards me and duck my head, sheltering behind the book, hoping he did not see me listening.
They say no more.
I take myself away then, softly I fade in to the background, slip outside and climb in to the top of the trees. I have had too much of adult squabbles. I am sick of them all.
I sit and watch the stars as they dance across the sky while the trees whisper to my soul, calming all my rough edges. I do not know how long it is until Father joins me.
He stands on the limb below me.
"Can I join you?" He asks and I nod. I will never turn him away. So he pulls himself up to sit, on the bough, beside me. It seems a long time we sit in silence but eventually he speaks.
"You gave your sister your dragon."
"She was crying." I am filled with a rush of rage at the unjustness of it all. I want to hurt someone else as I have hurt today and so I do. "I am supposed to look out for her. You always tell me to. I am supposed to make things better but I could not! I cannot stop you arguing, you and Mother. I cannot fix it for her and I cannot fix it for me! The dragon was the only thing I had."
He pulls me to him, wraps his arms around me and pulls my head to my chest so his tunic soaks up the tears which have burned in my throat all afternoon.
"I am sorry," he whispers. "I am so sorry. I do not want this for you." And he rocks me as he did when I was small. Then he leans back so he can see my face and wipe away what is left of my tears.
"I will ask Grandfather to make you another dragon, Estel, one just as special. He will be so proud of you. I
am so proud of you."
"It was all my fault," I mumble.
"It was not
your fault. It was mine." He throws his arm back across my shoulders. I love the warmth of it against me, a soft, comforting warmth. "Your Mother says Elrohir has asked us to visit." He says then changing the subject. "Just you and I, do you want to?"
Do I want to? How can he not know the answer to that? To see the Noldor...to go on an adventure. . . With him
"Yes!" I leave him no doubt of my eagerness.
"Then we shall go."
It is as simple as that.
He turns his eyes to the stars.
"They are beautiful are they not?"
"They make me feel better" I mumble.
"I used to sit when I was young with my Mother and watch them," he says then. "In the Greenwood. And she would tell me stories. The best stories. The stars are all different here of course."
I cannot believe it.
?" I ask incredulously for my Father and my Grandmother do not speak often. She is beautiful, kind, lovely, but something between them is broken. I do not know what it is but I certainly cannot imagine them stargazing.
"With Grandmother," he sighs. "I will tell you one of her stories if you like."
And so he does. He holds me close and fills my mind with brilliant imaginings that chase all my troubles away. He keeps me safe.
When I am here—with him, like this—Nothing can hurt me.
Not even him.
The injury his Father suffered that Estel describes here is written about in "Fire Dancing Upon Our Souls" if you are curious.
Legolas' skill as an artist is described in "King and Princes"
The next morning I awake eager to depart. For the first time in my life I am going to travel further than my Grandparents house.
I am going to the Noldor!
But my Father laughs at me when I ask what time we will be leaving.
"Patience, Monkey!" He says, "I have just come home, and I have work to do before we leave. We will get to Elrohir I promise, but not today! "
It is a crushing disappointment.
My mother takes Calithil into the forest after breakfast. She goes to visit our neighbours and normally I would go with them but I am sulky after the destruction of my plans to leave and refuse. I choose to stay at home with my Father instead.
It is not very exciting.
My Father works at his desk, and he wants me to be quiet. He does not have the time to entertain me today he tells me, and so, after muttering loudly about how much I wish I had gone with my mother, I sit down with my book—the wonderful, exciting book about Smaug. It is full of dwarves, so many dwarves. There are hundreds of them!
I have never met a Dwarf much less seen one. There was one of them here once but I was not yet born then. Gimli was his name and he was my father's friend. I know all about him but I do
wish I had met him.
Father misses him, I know.
But none of the dwarves in this story are Gimli. I hoped he might be there, since Father says he
was in this story somewhere but Gimli is not one of the dwarves names and I am disappointed yet again.
The dwarves in this book are not very wise at all which surprises me as Father has always said Gimli was one of the wisest friends he ever had, but the hobbit who is with them . . . I like him. He is smart and clever and
sensible. He reminds me of Erynion who is one of my favourite people in all the world.
Then there is Olórin!
him. I have met him for he visits us often. I know his name is Olórin although Father will call him Mithrandir or Gandalf as these dwarves do. They say he is old and wears a grey hat. Well that
is wrong. For Olórin shines, and he is not old at all, nor is he a wizard, he is almost a God. Silly dwarves!
I glance up to ask Father if I might find Gimli in the book later—you never know—and ask why they have Olórin so wrong, but he is writing—and he is unhappy—for my Father cannot write.
That is not exactly fair. He can
write, but it is very slow . . . And very hard to read. It is not his fault. He was hurt when he lived in Arda—so badly my mother says we are lucky he is with us now—and the hurting stopped him writing she says. He hates it, I know that much. He is always
in a bad mood whenever he has to write a letter.
He is in a bad mood now.
As I watch, the ink spills—thrown by his angry arm as he swipes it from the desk—and it splatters to the ground. Mother is not going to be happy I think to myself, for it has made a mess.
"I am sorry Estel." Fathers voice jolts me from my consideration of the ink stain on the ground. " This is not going well, as you can see. As always I am terrible at this." He smiles at me then, as if he laughs at himself but I think it is not real. I think it upsets him that he cannot do this.
And suddenly I know how I can help him.
"I will write for you Father!"
Usually my Mother will be his scribe when he is struggling but she is not here and I can do it, I know
"My handwriting is neat." I add when he hesitates.
He looks at me long and hard, fingers drumming on the desk as he thinks but at last—
"Yes," he says finally, "I see no reason you cannot help with this. Come over here."
He pulls up a chair for me, screws up the paper he was writing into a ball and throws it over his shoulder into the corner. Quickly he draws up another with lines making neat columns up and down. My father cannot write but, oh, he can draw!
He draws pictures that look as if they are secretly alive and will fly off the paper when you are not looking. He draws them for me when he tells me his stories of Arda. I keep them all; I have a drawer full of them by my bed. That is how I think I would know Gimli if ever I were to meet him for Father has drawn me numerous ones of him.
"This is for your Grandfather," he says. "The Lords in Tirion have asked him for this so we will do it. He will be sending it to them so you must be very neat."
My writing will go to Tirion? Perhaps the High King himself will see it! It is both frightening and exciting all at the same time.
"They want us to tell them the names of all who live here" Father continues, "So we will write them down here."
"Why?" It makes no sense to me. "Why do they want to know our names when they never see us?"
And Father shrugs. He is not impressed by this request at all, I can tell.
"Who can tell with those fools," he says. "They what to know where every single Elf's home is as well."
"But we all live here
!" I cry and Father leans in to me to whisper conspiratorially.
"I know. What would they have me write? Fourth tree down on the left of the creek? They have no sense!" He winks at me and I laugh. It makes me feel grown up and important, him sharing secrets about the Noldor lords with me.
And so we work together. He tells me the names and I write them trying my hardest to be neat and careful. In the end it is the best handwriting I have ever produced and I can tell he is pleased. When my mother returns we have nearly finished. Who knew there were SO many elves living in our wood!
"What are you doing?" Mother asks as she comes in the room to see us bent over the desk together.
"Writing down those details the Noldor want," Father answers. "We will take them to my Father on our way to Elrohir."
My mother sees it all. The crumpled paper in the corner, the ink stain on the floor, me with the quill in my hand. I see her understand exactly what has happened as she moves behind Father to rub all the frustration and tension out of his shoulders while he leans back towards her.
"You are too hard on yourself, Legolas," she sighs. "Your words would have been perfectly acceptable. Thranduil does not mind the odd jumbled word."
"He does not but the Noldor would think me illiterate. You know that! Father would simply rewrite what I had written to save me from that and why should he? They think little of us Silvans as it is. I will not have them saying the son of Thranduil is an imbecile."
"No one thinks that."
"No one here
thinks that, no one in Arda thought that, but the Noldor here; they do not know my story and nor do they want to. They know nothing of any of us. It is ridiculous!" He waves his hand over the papers we have just written. "They wanted more than this," he says bitterly, "Marriages . . . Children . . . All detailed in straight lines that they can follow. How can I write our reality so it makes sense to them? If they want to know us they should visit us rather than requiring me to send them these meaningless words."
My mother wraps her arms around him then and rests her chin upon his head.
"You are right. They do not know you so who cares what they think? Thranduil does not. You have done enough for today, Legolas, the two of you. The sun is in the sky, the trees call for you. Calithil and I have been picking berries. What about a picnic? Wash these Lords of Tirion right out of your hair."
! I think, A picnic
? It has been so long since we have done that. But Father hesitates, he is unsure, I can see it in his eyes.
with us, Legolas." Mother murmers to him. She is a force to be reckoned with, my mother, when she is determined and she is very determined now. Even Father can not resist her . . . Especially Father cannot resist her . . . and in the end; he has no more luck now than he ever does.
My Father loves the trees. He is different when he is in them. He says they talk to him, that they sing his name and tell him stories. They do not talk to me the way they do to him but sometimes, I think I hear them whisper to me, "Estel
" they say, "Estel
." Father says he will try to teach me one day—how to hear them properly—but he has not done that yet. There is never time when he thinks of it. There is always something else to do.
Today, when we go out into the woods with our basket full of food, my little sister tugging at my hand, Father is transformed. He sets Calithil upon his back and runs through the grass as if the wind has sent him mad and she screams with laughter. He turns into a horse then she can ride, bucking and kicking to try to dislodge her while she clings to him with glee. I remember when he used to play that game with me but I am too big now. I would squash him!
And when she has had enough he challenges me to a race . . . To the top of the tallest tree. I think this time will be the time I beat him. Every time we do this I get closer and closer—but not today; today he is still the first to the top and he grins at me when I reach it behind him.
"Not yet, Monkey, You cannot beat me yet!"
"One day I will, Father!" I cry.
"But not today, Estel, not today." And he is gone then sliding down branches while I scramble to follow his laughter as it floats ahead of me.
After we have eaten Father sits with Calithil, making daisy chains for my dragon, listening to her nonsense and I retreat to my book under the trees.
that you are reading Estel? " Mother asks. "Whenever I see you, you have your nose in that book."
"It is Bilbo's book," Father calls out from where he sits. "The one Elrohir found for me."
"Oh!" My mother's face lights up at that. "Well remember, Estel—when you get to the battle at the end—I was there!"
That is exciting. Not only because there will be a battle to read about, but most of all, my mother was in it. I know she was a warrior once. I have seen how good she is with the bow but I cannot imagine her fighting in a battle. Not at all; and now I will get to read about it.
"She was good too." Father says with a smile."Almost as good as me." And Mother sequels in indignation.
"Legolas! I saved your hide at Erebor. Don't forget that!" She picks up a handful of the leaves laying next to her and throws them at him.
It is the excuse he has been waiting for and he is on his feet in an instant. chasing after her while my sister claps her hands in excitement.
"Run Mother, Run!" She cries. Father will win this, I
know from experience, but Calithil does not.
Sure enough he catches her and holds her tight, smothering her in kisses as she laughs and dodges out of his arms.
"Legolas Thranduillion, you are such a fool," Her smile is brilliant as she laughs down at him where he has thrown himself to lie amongst the flowers on the ground.
"Ah, but you love me for it." He throws his arms wide inviting her to join him. "Maewen, you know you do."
"I love you despite
I see the way my Father looks up at her. The way he always looks at her, as if she is the most important thing in the world and I remember what he said yesterday, that she made him unhappy. I think it is a lie.
It is not her who causes his unhappiness at all, it is something else, something I do not understand.
Oh how I wish I did.
If I do not understand it,
How can I fix it?
The night before we leave I cannot sleep.
We are to leave early, before the sun is in the sky and I am terrified I will miss it, so all night long I wake and find it is still dark, and still all is quiet. Wake, sleep, wake, sleep, the entire night is an agony.
When finally my father shakes me gently awake and the lamps are lit I cannot believe morning has arrived at last.
When it comes to the leaving though it is not as easy as I thought.
Travelling to see the Noldor has been all I have thought about for days but now the moment has come and my Mother stands before me, my sleepy sister in her arms, I am not sure I want to go.
"Be good little one," she smiles as she ruffles my hair and I wrap my arms around her in a last desperation to soak up the feel of her. I have never been anywhere without my mother; nowhere. "Listen to your Father."
"I will," I mumble it into her side where I bury my head. "I will, Mother."
"Come, Estel," my Father's hands fall upon my shoulders as he peels me off her. "We must be off so we get to your Grandfather's in good time."
"Will you just have the one night there?" My mother asks him. "There is no rush. You can take your time getting to Elrohir."
"One night." He is curt when he answers, "There is no need for any more."
"Your Father—" Gently Mother lays a hand upon his arm, "Time with your father is need enough surely."
"And then there are the others." He shrugs her hand off him, and it hurts me when he does that . . . For some reason it frightens me, deep down. "One night only, Maewen."
"How long must you punish her, Legolas?" Mother asks softly. "It has been years."
"You do not understand, you do not—"
"I do!" She cuts him off even as his voice begins to rise. " I do
understand. You forget, Legolas that I was there
when you were not."
They talk in riddles and it makes no sense to me. All I know is things are no longer calm and loving as they were before. Their voices ring with dangerous tension and things unsaid and I do not like it. I do not want them to argue now
, not before we go.
Perhaps my mother does not want them to either for suddenly she softens and smiles at my Father banishing away her frown,
"It is a selective memory you have my love," she says sweetly, touching his cheek. "First Erebor and now this? What else have you forgotten? My part in chasing Golem?"
"Never." He is solemn when he answers. "I will never forget that." He reaches out and grasps her hand in his, "when I feared I had lost you."
I wish I understood them.
Still, the moment when it all could end with fighting has slipped past and they are in love again.
I can breathe.
And as we turn to leave my fathers hand lingers in my mothers, his fingers brushing hers right until the last minute when they can barely touch. It is as if he cannot bring himself to let go.
My Grandfather lives in a forest bigger than our wood. It is more majestic too, as he
is more majestic than any of us
. The trees are taller, the green is greener. I am pleased when we reach the outskirts. I always love coming here . . . But I have never been here without Mother.
A gold head greets us down the path as we enter and I know as soon as I see that glimpse of gold through the leaves who it is.
"Laerion!" I cry, "Laerion has come to meet us. Father!"
"So it seems," he replies, but I do not think he is as pleased as I.
Laerion is my uncle, my fathers brother. He is older than my father and yet younger, for Laerion was dead and now he is alive. He has been to the Halls of Mandos and come back to us. I try not to think of it . . .what happened to Laerion. It hurts my head.
He looks like my Grandfather, almost exactly like him, just not as commanding. People think Father and I look like Grandfather, because we do look alike. They say that all the time, but only until they meet Laerion. When you see Father and Laerion side by side you realise suddenly; Father does not look like Grandfather at all.
"Legolas," my uncle cries, "Back so soon? Twice in a month? What have we done to deserve this?"
"What indeed," Father mutters under his breath, but I know Laerion hears him.
"Mother will be pleased," he says next, staring at my father as he says it, as if it is a challenge, as if he dares him to do something.
"She will not see much of us." Father snaps back. " We are on our way to Elrohir. I have no intention of staying a day longer than necessary."
Laerion looks to me then, his eyes wide and he leans towards Father to whisper bringing his horse close to ours.
"You take the boy
? On your jaunts with the Noldor? Is that wise?"
"Speak up Laerion, whatever you might have to say. Why should I not take Estel with me wherever I go?" I feel Fathers arms tighten around me as I sit in front of him.
"It is not our way, Legolas," Laerion sighs.
"It is not your
way, Laerion, but it is completely and utterly mine
." Father digs his heels in and spurs our horse away—faster—leaving Laerion behind.
They are always like this, Father and Laerion. They fight and bicker and squabble. They always find things to disagree about. Usually my mother smooths their jagged edges, she will calm the muddy waters between them, but she is not here, and I do not think I can do that on my own.
Mother says it is just because they are brothers. That it is what brothers do. I only have a sister, not a brother so I do not know but I cannot imagine Calithil and I ever fighting as they do.
Laerion catches us up and he says no more about Elrohir, or whether I should visit, instead we ride shoulder to shoulder for awhile, in silence. Neither of them say anything. We are nearly at Grandfathers house when Father speaks again.
"My Father has chosen a wood so like the Greenwood to live in. Can you see the difference, Estel, between our wood and his? If I close my eyes I can almost imagine we are in the Greenwood now. This is as close to my home as you will ever see here."
"That is the past, Legolas," Laerion chimes in before I can tell Father I do feel the difference, I really do. "Teach him to look forward, not back. Our home is gone. This
is home now. It does you no good to spend all this time wallowing in the past."
"I will teach him what I want
to teach him, for he is my
son. Not yours! And I will let my thoughts travel to where I
wish them too!"
"You make no effort to settle here. Open your eyes. See the good there is here. This is nothing like the Greenwood with it's twisted darkness creeping ever closer."
"I have seen the healed
Greenwood, Laerion and this is exactly it. Do not tell me Father chose this place to live without purpose. Just because you
never saw it does not mean it doesn't exist."
"And who's fault was that?" Laerion's words are cutting but the instant he says it he looks shocked and contrite. As if those words jumped out of his mouth on their own accord and Father? He is white, chalk white. The colour drains from his face.
"I did not mean that!" Laerion is apologising before Father can even reply. "I did not mean that, Legolas. It was anger and frustration only. I do not think that, believe me."
"But you would be within your rights if you did." Fathers reply is soft and sad. "We all know it."
We have reached the courtyard. The grooms stand waiting for us and Father pulls our horse to a halt before dismounting, and I slide into his arms. He does not acknowledge Laerion's spluttered denials. He takes my hand instead and strides away into Grandfather's Palace.
All I know is, I am sick of Grown-ups and their angry conversations that I do not understand, today.
Usually when we come to Grandfathers I share a room with Calithil and Mother and Father are next door. This time I have that room all to myself. It is an exciting prospect. I have always wished for a room all my own, suddenly this whole space is my domain . . . And only mine. I unpack my small amount of things carefully agonising over the correct place for everything. I can put them anywhere
and not worry about Calithil touching them! It is foolish to unpack them at all, I know, for we leave again tomorrow and so I will just have to pack them all up again before bed, but still, I cannot resist.
Eventually however, even with all this space to myself I get bored. I do not have that many things to unpack and there are only so many places to put them. I decide to go in search of my father.
I love visiting my grandfather but there is only one problem with being here. His people treat me strangely. They call me Lord, they bow to me in the corridors, they will not listen when I say I am not a Lord at all, I am just Estel. Our people —my fathers people—do not do this. To them I am just a boy who runs through the woods . . . But here? Here they drive me crazy being so polite. Mother says I must not argue for it will hurt their feelings. Just smile Estel
, she says, be nice and courteous and allow them to do what they wish
. I do what she says but I hate
it. They do it now, as I walk through the corridor to Grandfathers study, for I am sure Father will be there, and it is so annoying.
Father is not in the study at all. The door is open and when I peer through it only Grandfather is there, sitting at his desk. He sees me before I can withdraw but I do not mind. I love my grandfather.
"Estel!" He holds out his arms and calls me near, "Come in boy. You have got tall since I last saw you." I run across the room for it has been so long since I last saw him, and throw myself at him, catapulting into his lap. He is taller than my father, bigger, and his lap still fits me where Fathers no longer does, not properly.
Father has been here already however. I was not so wrong when I thought this would be where I would find him. Piled upon Grandfather's desk I see our papers, the ones I wrote for him.
Grandfather sees me looking.
"I am proud of this." He says, picking up one of the pages. "You have done well here Estel, helping your father. I will be sending these to Tirion."
"Will the High King see them?" I cannot resist asking him that and he smiles.
"Perhaps. You never know," he says. He turns the page over in his hands as if thinking on something. When he speaks again it is as if it is something not important at all . . . And yet very important, all at the same time.
"How are things at home Estel?"
"Home is good." I smile at him, because he looks serious now, as if something bothers him. I want to make sure it is not me.
"You father tells me you gave your dragon to your sister. He has asked me to make you another."
So that is it! He is unhappy I gave away his carving when he made it especially for me.
"I am sorry, Grandfather!" I cry. "I loved Smaug but Calithil was crying—"
He does not let me finish my apology but lightly covers my mouth with his hand to stop my words.
"Shh, Do not apologise for caring for your sister." He says quietly, "I am proud of you, Estel. It was a good thing you did."
"You are not angry?"
"I am not angry. I will make you another . . . Perhaps not a dragon . . . Something special."
What could possibly be more special than a dragon? While I contemplate that he has not finished speaking.
"Does Calithil often cry?" He asks. And I almost fall in to his trap.
I almost answer him. I almost tell him that yes, she does while Mother and Father argue and I am left to try and make her happy. It is on the tip of my tongue but I do not say it. He wants me to speak ill of my parents and I will not do it. I will not tell him anything
he may think is not good enough, I will not!
"She cries a lot," I say in the end, " When Mother gives me more strawberries than her, when she must go to bed first, when I play with my friends and she is too small to join us. All the time she cries." It is the truth, for I would never lie to Grandfather, but it is not the answer he wants and he knows I know it.
"Are you often looking after her?" He tries again but I am stubborn. A part of me wants to tell him it all. That I am often worried and tied in knots while my Mother and Father speak with words like ice. That my Father is unhappy and I do not understand
it. I want to tell him it all, but I do not.
"She is my sister. I look after her when mother is busy."
"Estel," he sighs and turns me to face him so I cannot look away, brushing my hair from where it has fallen across my forehead in my wild rush to greet him. "It is my job to watch out for you. For you, your sister and
your father and I cannot do that if I do not know what happens. Will you tell me?"
He gives me a look that cuts straight through to my heart but I cannot . . . I cannot
. In the end I tell him that.
"I cannot, Grandfather. I cannot tell you."
He looks at me a long, long time after that.
"Very well," he says at last, "We shall try something different. If there were something I could do, something I could change . . . Anything . . . To make things better for you what would it be? Anything Estel."
This is an easy question. I do not have to think on it for even a minute.
"I want Father to teach me how to listen to the trees."
His hand—which has been stroking my forehead—stops suddenly.
"Has he not done that?" He seems startled. As if I have surprised him, as if it upsets him.
"It does not matter Grandfather." I have been thinking about this often since our picnic in the woods and I have come up with a solution myself. I do not even need his help! I am eager to tell someone my plan. "He has no time. The foolish Lords in Tirion send him so much to write and it takes him so long, there is no time for the trees. But now I can write for him! It will be alright, I will do the writing and Father will have the time to teach me about the trees."
When I look up to see if he agrees it is a fine plan he is smiling, a wide smile. A smile that is about to turn into a laugh.
"It is not funny
"Oh, I know it is not, Estel, of course, but why do you call them that? The Lords in Tirion."
"Foolish, it is not a . . . Usual description."
"Father calls them that. He says they are the foolish Noldar Lords who should find better things to do."
And Grandfather does
laugh at that.
"A word of advice," he says, "Do not call them that while you visit Elrohir Elrondion for some of those foolish Lords are his very own family." He looks back to the paper covered in my own neat writing he still holds in his hand. "So your father spends much of his time on paperwork?"
"They always want reports from him, Grandfather, on every little thing and it takes him a long time to write them. Mother has Calithil; she cannot always help. Father says they will want him to detail our toileting next. He thinks they must line their walls with his reports so many do they need, that it is a hundred times more than Aragorn the King ever needed from him and anyway that didn't matter because he could write whatever he liked to Aragorn."
"Does Erynion not help?"
"Oh yes!" Now I have started to talk I cannot stop. "Erynion helps, but Father will sometimes send him away. He does not always want help . . .at least not from Erynion, and sometimes they fight . . ." I trail off as I remember I did not want to talk about the fighting, "They disagree on things, that is all."
"The demands from Tirion are steep." Grandfather mutters to himself as he puts our papers back on the desk. "Why did I not think on how long it was taking him to fulfil them? Perhaps it is I who is the foolish one?"
"Oh no!" I am horrified at that. My Grandfather is not foolish! "You are not
He holds me tight then, lifts me up on to his lap so I can lean in close.
"I will fix this, Estel," he says and he is determined. "For you and your father, I will get you your time in the trees. You are so
like him. Even when he could
write, the woods were all he thought of. Laerion was the only one who could get Legolas to focus on his studies and I have no idea what he did to achieve that."
It is a relief. Even though I have told him nothing of Father and Mother, even though I have not spoken about the knots in my stomach, he will still fix it for me . . And for Father. Being in the woods will make Father happy, I know it will.
My Grandfather will keep us all
My Grandmother is nothing like a queen, at least not how I imagine a queen should be. She is funny, and light. She makes me laugh and when I am with her I feel as if I am the most important Elfling in all of Valinor. She does not sit upon a throne or wear dresses made of jewels. She says she is a Silvan first and a Queen second. She says she can be both but she has learned she should not stop being Silvan just to be Queen.
I do not know how Grandfather's polite people cope with her but she does not let them chain her. That is why, when I want to find her, she is not in the Queens quarters, she is in the kitchen with the scullery maids and the cooks.
She is baking. She is covered in flour, up her arms and even on her nose and she smiles, a brilliant smile like sunshine —just like my father's when he is happy—when she sees me.
"Estel!" she cries, "I would hug you little one but . . . " she holds up her arms and laughs at the flour that smothers her.
I scuttle over beside her pulling a stool up so I can lean against her as she mixes her concoction.
"What are you making Grandmother?"
"Cakes for your father," she smiles down at me. "His favourites, and no touching Estel!" She raps my knuckles lightly as I reach a hand towards the batter. "Perhaps if you stay I will give you a taste at the end."
She will. I know she will. If I stay I will get to lick the bowl clean. I settle in to wait.
"What is new in your wood?" She asks me as she works, "I hear you are going to visit the Noldor. Be careful they do not bite you!"
"They do not bite, Grandmother!" I laugh at her silliness for I know she does not really think that.
"How are your sister and your mother? Are they well? It is so long since we have seen you Calithil will not even remember who I am."
"She does!" I protest. "I remind her all the time. She is still annoying, just the same, and Mother is well, although—" I catch myself just in time, just before I spill secrets I should not.
"Although?" She misses nothing, my Grandmother.
"Although, nothing." I shrug as if the words were a mistake all along.
"And how is your father?" She is quieter as she asks that. So he has not been to see her then, as he saw Grandfather.
I am not sure what to say without making her worried. How is my father? I turn my mind away from the shouting with my mother, the argument with Erynion and I remember our picnic.
"We had a picnic in the woods," I say, "And he chased Mother until she laughed and raced me to the top of the trees. He won. He always wins Grandmother."
"He has been climbing trees many centuries longer than you little one. One day you might catch him, but you will have to be very good!" It makes her happy—talking of my father—her eyes are alight and I remember then something else I can tell her that she will like.
"We sat under the stars and he told me your stories."
She stops. Her hand stops it's stirring and she is quite, quite, still.
"He said the stories you told of the Stars were the best in all the world. He told me one and it was good but he said you would tell it better. Will you Grandmother? Will you tell me one tonight?"
She turns her face away then so I cannot see her when she whispers,
"He said that?"
When I wiggle round to see her face I see them, the tears upon her cheeks. She is not meant to cry!
"Grandmother! Have I said something wrong?" I lift a hand to wipe those tears away but she shakes her head and rubs her hand across her face not worrying it leaves streaks of flour behind.
"Do not worry about me, little one. Tears are not always sad ones." Her voice is light but it makes no sense. Why would you cry if you were not sad?
"I am being silly," she says. "I am pleased your father tells you my stories, that is all. Of course I will tell you a tale under the stars tonight! Go wash your hands and I will let you shape the cakes with me."
It helps me think, patting her dough into shapes. Grandmother lets me make them whatever I want and so I make a cat and a bird, though it's wings are lopsided and whatever I do I cannot make them straight. It is as I struggle with them I remember what I wished to ask her.
"Who's fault is it Laerion died?"
"Why do you ask that?" She gives a small gasp, an intake of breath and she stares at me, " It is a strange question for a small boy Estel. Why are you worrying about that?"
"Because Laerion asked Father who's fault it was but I think he knows anyway."
"He told him that? Oh Laerion, what are you doing?" She is upset . . . I have upset her yet again. "What did your father say?" She asks me anxiously.
"Not much. He said Laerion was right. We walked away. Is that why they fight? Was Father to blame?" I cannot believe it really—not my Father—but it is what it sounded like.
"No." She is definite when she replies. "Sauron was to blame. It was his evil creatures who poisoned our forest. It was one of them who felled Laerion. Your father was little more than a boy, so young, when it happened. It was not his fault. Do not think that Estel."
"I do not, Grandmother." But that does not explain why Laerion said what he did. His whole conversation with my father makes no sense to me.
"You are so courageous, Estel." Grandmother cups my face with her floury hands. "Always asking the hard questions. You are your mother's son in that I think. Maewen was never afraid to question. She is full of courage where I am not."
"Oh you are brave, Grandmother!" I do not know why I say that but she must be for I love her, but she shakes her head.
"I am not brave, little one. I am a coward. I ran from my fear, and I have learned if you do not stay and face it the price you must pay is a terrible one."
I want to ask her why . . . Why she ran? What she ran from,? What the price is? But I do not think she will answer me and so I turn back to my cakes. I may be courageous with my questions but, as much as I want to know the answers, I do not have that much courage.
It's Laerion who comes to take me to dinner, not my father. I have retreated to my room, curled up with my book when he knocks on my door. I like Laerion. He feels safe—like my Grandfather is safe—unless he and my father are arguing. Then he is not safe at all. But Father is not here and so I am happy to see him.
"Where is Father?" I ask him as I follow him down the hall.
"With my father." He says and he frowns as he says it. "He still has not learnt it is better to take the lecture without arguing back. He will not win."
I think I catch Laerion unawares for he answers me when I thought he would not.
"Thranduil reads us the riot act. He puts us both in our places for he is displeased with us. Legolas feels the need to explain to him why he is wrong in his decision instead of just accepting it . . . Or pretending to accept it anyway. He has not changed one iota since he was an argumentative child."
His words make him sound unhappy but despite that he smiles softly which is strange.
My Father, however, is not smiling when he joins us, and neither is Grandfather. It makes me worry when I think back to my conversation with my Grandfather. Did I say the wrong things? Is the tension between them my fault? My stomach begins to churn.
Father sits beside me but he says nothing, which does not make me feel any easier. Still, he says nothing to anyone—not just me—simply prods at his food with a scowl. Grandfather looks very stern indeed and we eat on in a silence that hangs over me like an invisible force, pressing me down into my chair. It is Laerion who breaks it in the end.
"How are your studies Estel?" He says lightly. I do not know how he speaks so easily, as if nothing is wrong, but the sound of his voice helps me breathe. "What were you reading so intently when I collected you?"
"A book about Dwarves and Hobbits," I say, and Father interrupts me before I can elaborate. The sound of his voice beside me makes me jump.
"It is that book of Bilbo's," he says to my Grandfather. "You know the one, when they journeyed through our realm." and Grandfather frowns.
"Should he be reading that? You know how they portrayed us!"
"I want him to know it!" Father is defiant against Grandfather's disapproval. "It is important to me. You were the one who gave him Smaug. Anyway I have warned him to take what they say of you with a grain of salt. Estel knows who you really are."
I do not want them to argue. I am sick of arguing. I am surrounded by it and it makes me ill, so I try and distract them. I have a question I have been saving to ask my Father and I may as well ask it now. Perhaps Grandfather will know the answer?
"Father, Do the Noldor really hide in trees and sing? The book says they do and the song is nonsense. I cannot imagine Elrohir singing in a tree. Does he?"
It has puzzled me since I read it, those elves in Rivendell. It seems not what I thought the Noldor were at all. Perhaps they were different in Arda?
Beside me my Father splutters, his hand flies to his mouth to stop his latest spoonful of dinner flying across the table. Behind that hand I think he is laughing!
"Elrohir does not sit in a tree and sing," he chuckles when he has composed himself, "but I should like to see him if he did!"
Even my Grandfather's eyes light up.
"The book says that?" He leans forward to ask me, "It has the Noldor singing nonsense songs?"
"I guess they are Noldor. They are in Rivendell, I just assumed . . . " Perhaps I have got it wrong since they find it so funny?
And Grandfather smiles.
"Elrond will not like that!" He exclaims.
"I do not know what Bilbo was thinking then. I always thought perhaps his memory played tricks on him, that he was remembering us instead, at our parties." Father laughs. "But perhaps it was simply a joke at their expense. I would not put it past him."
I bask in the smiles of my Father and Grandfather. This is so much better than frowns and silence!
Then Laerion speaks and it all falls apart.
"Are there not better things for Estel to study than factually inaccurate books?"
Instantly Father slaps him down with stinging words.
"It is my past and I want him to know it."
"That's just it, it is the past, Legolas."
My Grandfather interrupts then, his voice silky smooth and yet at the same time, very dangerous.
"If we do not remember the past how can we avoid its mistakes in the future, Laerion?"
But Laerion does not hear the danger I do, or else, perhaps, he does not care.
"This is Valinor, Father! I hardly think Estel will ever be faced with Dwarves or Hobbits here. The only Dwarf was Legolas' and he is gone now. There is hardly likely to ever be another."
It is as if a chasm has opened up in front of me and we teeter on the edge of it.
My Father talks to me often of Gimli. He is always in his thoughts and when Father is happy he likes to tell me stories of him. He draws me the pictures I keep. But none of us—even Mother—mention Gimli unless Father starts the conversation and certainly not like that. Not reminding him he is gone.
Father was angry before and now his anger dances in front of my eyes as if he is drenched in wild flames of it.
"Thank you, Laerion. Thank you so much for reminding me." I know he does not mean to thank Laerion at all. "I do not need you to point out to me he is gone just as I do not need your opinion of how to raise my son—you, who do not have one of your own."
"And why is that Legolas?"
Suddenly they are as they were in the forest, full of resentment and bitter words. I wish my Mother were here. She would step between them, she would soften the blows they rain upon each other, she would make this all go away for me.
But Mother is not here. She is miles away, at home and I miss her. She is not here to stop this.
There is only me;
And I do not know what to do.
"Stop it right now!"
My Grandfather has several voices. There is the one he uses with me, it makes me feel special, beloved, a treasure. There is the one when he explains things to me. He makes everything so interesting, it makes me wish to know everything he knows and that is a lot. There is the voice he uses with my Grandmother where every word he speaks tells of her beauty and how much he loves her.
Then there is this voice. This voice shatters the very walls that surround us. When he speaks you feel like an ant upon the floor. I shrink down in my chair as if I can hide from it but there is no hiding from this. Surely the very Gods would obey him when he speaks like this.
"Stop it right now!"
And they do. Laerion and Father stop their fighting but Father wears his anger like a shield and my Grandfather's words bounce off him. He argues back.
"You see!" He cries, "This will not work. I told
you. Every chance he gets he sends these barbs at me."
"That is enough
!" I did not think it possible for Grandfather to speak any louder without shouting and yet he does.
"You will make
it work Legolas. You are not an innocent in this."
"I do not wish
to make it work."
And Grandfather leans over towards him. He is so much taller than my father.
"I am your King
, Legolas. This is not up for discussion. I have given you more than enough leeway already. It is an order. You will do as I tell you."
Until now my Grandmother has been silent. She smiled at me when I got here, the sweet smile she has that is just for me, her Estel
smile, but then Grandfather and Father arrived, moody and unhappy and she slipped back inside herself. Sometimes she does that, she can hide right in front of you. I wish I knew the trick of it. She has been as nervous as I am—I do not think Grandmother likes arguing either. But now, finally, she stands.
"Well that is sorted then Thranduil. I do not think Legolas needs it to be any clearer." Her voice is tense as she pushes her chair back. "I have made cakes, Legolas, raspberry . . . Your favourite. Do you want some?"
When I am angry with Calithil, when she has broken a toy, spoiled a game, when Mother fusses over her and I feel she gets special treatment, sometimes it spills over. Sometimes I am so cross, so mad I lose my temper with everyone I see. I think that is what happens to my Father now.
"I am not hungry." He is not polite. He pushes his plate away acrosss the table and hurt and disappointment sweeps across my Grandmother's face, but she tries again.
"Perhaps tomorrow?" She says softly, "you can take them with you."
"No. I do not think so."
He gives no reasons and makes no apologies. I do not think he would say that if Mother were here. I do not think she would like it.
!" It is a hiss from my Grandfather and I know that tone because Father uses it on me as well. It says, Wait until we are alone for I am not happy with you
. It says, Behave yourself!
I remember my Grandmother when I found her in the kitchens. I remember how happy she was to be making cakes for him, his
favourites, no one else's, even though he had not bothered to seek her out on our arrival. It hurts. It hurts me to think of it, it burns in my chest, I think I will cry and that will only make things worse.
"I will have one, Mother." Laerion lays a hand on her arm, "Nothing tastes better." He tries to make her feel better but I do not think it works. It was Father she made those cakes for. It is him
she wants to eat them.
Still she swallows her hurt and fixes her face with a smile as she turns to me,
"Estel? Will you have one? Do you want one of yours?"
I do want one of my cakes. I have been waiting for them all afternoon and wondering which one I will eat first, the cat or the bird? I have settled on the bird because it was so hard to make and I am proud of it. I want nothing more than to say yes, especially because my Grandmother is sad and it will make her happy.
But what does Father want me to do?
I hesitate. I chew on my lip and look to him for a clue as to what I should do. I feel torn in two.
It is Grandmother who saves me, not Father. She sees what goes on in my mind.
"It's alright, little one," She smiles tenderly. "I will pack yours up for you tomorrow. You will need them on your journey."
I think for one moment Father is going to stop me having them at all when he begins to speak but she does not let him.
"Estel has worked hard at making cakes for himself, Legolas." She says and her voice is exactly the same one my
mother uses when she wants me to know she is not to be disobeyed. "He will
be taking them with him."
And for once Father does not argue.
I am so filled with relief she has saved me from that decision—where I could not please either of them—I want to give her something back as a thank you. I want to make her happy.
"We can still watch the stars Grandmother," I say. "You will still tell me a story?"
It is then Father stands and he grabs my hand to pull me upright also. It takes me by surprise.
"Did you promise him that?" He snaps at her, "Why? We have a long journey tomorrow and he is unused to travel. He cannot be up all night star gazing with you!"
"I did not think, Legolas. One short story, perhaps?" Grandmother's eyes look sorrowful when she gazes at me and I do not want Father to shout at her.
"It is late already. Always you promise things you cannot deliver. Nothing ever changes!"
"I am sorry, Legolas. I have regretted my decision from the moment I arrived here. I need you to know that."
"You were only there as long as things were easy. I was not worthy of any effort. I know that
And suddenly I realise they are not talking about me at all.
"Now is not the time for this discussion." Grandfather steps between them before I can hear any more, and I did want to .. . Perhaps they would have answered some of my questions? My Grandfather does not look angry as he did before, he looks tired . . . And sad. All
of them are so sad.
"Take your child, Legolas, and put him to bed as you need to. He has heard enough today and you would do well to remember that. "
And so I do not hear any more of what my Grandmother regrets and my Father resents much as I want to. I want to stay and take that sad look out of her eyes, I want to make Grandfather less tired and Laerion less lonely. I want to make my Father smile. Instead I am tripping over my feet struggling to keep up with Father as he strides down the corridor holding my hand.
And something strange happens.
As I stumble alongside him I begin to feel angry.
I am not sorry he is unhappy, as I usually am. I am not wondering how I can fix it, how I can take all the pieces of this evening and make it better. I am not fuming at my uncle for his ill-timed words, or my Grandfather for his orders.
I am angry at my Father
. So angry that by the time we get to my room, it feels as if it burns a hole right through the inside of my stomach.
"Get ready for bed, Estel," he tells me, "and I will be back shortly." He sounds tired himself, as if he would rather be anywhere but here. Well I
do not want him here either.
I do as I am told, I climb into my bed and all the time I am furious. I sit, blankets pulled up over my knees, arms wrapped around them, and I wait. My hands when I look at them are clenched in to white knuckled fists. Every minute I wait the rage inside me grows. I remember it all. My Grandmothers pain, my Grandfathers weariness, I even remember my small sisters tears as we walked down the road, my parents raised voices echoing behind us.
Father smiles at me when he returns. His eyes are tired but his smile is real. He wants to forget it all I think, but I do not. He sits on the edge of my bed.
"This time tomorrow we will be with the Noldor, Estel!"
As soon as I open my mouth the walls holding back the anger break.
"Why are you so mean
?" I hiss it at him and he blinks. He did not expect it.
"You have never travelled this far, Estel," he sighs. "You do not understand how tiring it can be. We have a long trip tomorrow and I could not let you stay up with your Grandmother."
But I shake my head.
"It is not about that
!" It is not about me
! Grandmother made those cakes for you. She was so happy when she made them. They were special, and you did not even have one!"
"You do not understand."
"I do! I do understand. I understand I love my Grandmother and you hurt
her!" Her face at that moment when he refused her gift—the sadness and disappointment she struggled not to show—floats across my mind and the tears that have been burning behind my eyes all this time burst forth. There is no stopping them now.
"You hurt me
!" I cry and it is true.
He is helpless in the face of my tears and there is a flood of them.
"You could have had one," I shout at him, "just one. I
would have if it was my
mother who had made them!"
"But your mother would not—" He stops himself before he finishes that sentence and it is so frustrating. Always, always, they do this. They never tell me things. They never explain. But I am sobbing and I cannot find the words to tell him that. I bury my face in my hands instead.
At first there is nothing but the sound of my crying and I am so mad with myself that I cannot stop, but then . . . Then Father's arms are around me. They wrap me tight and pull me close. He cradles my head against his chest and strokes my hair with his hand. It reminds me how much I love him.
"I had no idea, Monkey." He says, "I did not think. What a selfish fool I am"
He pulls me back then, holds me out so he can see my face and wipes my cheeks dry, though silent tears still fall.
"I will make this right." He says and his face is solemn. "I will fix this, for you. Tomorrow, Estel, before we go. I promise."
But he does not tell me why
he is so angry with my Grandmother. He does not tell me why he and Laerion argue so badly all the time. He does not tell me what it is Grandfather has ordered him to do. It is all still confusing but if he takes that look of hurt off my Grandmothers face I will forgive him.
"I do not like the arguing." I tell him. "It hurts my head. It makes me feel sick. I do not think Grandmother likes it either."
"To tell you the truth, Estel," he murmurs softly against my hair, "I could do without it as well."
And as I lean against him, my warmth against his warmth, his hand upon my head, I wonder;
If that is true, then why does he do so much of it?
My Father wakes me early.
"Get up sleepyhead," he smiles. "We have a long day ahead of us." He seems happy. It is as if last night did not happen at all, as if the night's sleep has washed it all away.
"Pack your things, Estel," he tells me. "Then go to breakfast before we hit the road. I will be down seeing to our horse if you need me."
I wonder how he will fix things with my Grandmother from there? Still he has promised me, and Father never breaks his promises.
I pack in a hurry. I do not want to slow things down and I am eager to be on the road, heading towards Elrohir and the Noldor. The thought of it makes my heart sing, it takes my breath away. Today I will be there! The furthest from home I have ever been. I wonder if Elrohir will take us to meet those foolish lords in Tirion if they are his family?
"Be sure you do not leave anything behind little Man."
It is my uncle. I have been so engrossed in thoughts of the adventures I will have I did not even hear him enter. He sits down on the bed beside me, smiling.
"Are you looking forward to your travels?" He asks me.
"Oh yes!" I think I have never been so excited in my life. "I have always wanted to go with Father and he has never let me before."
"That is funny," Laerion says, "because when we were young and he was left behind when Father and I travelled to visit the Lakemen he was always so angry. He used to tell Father when he
had a son he would let them travel the world!"
He picks up my book then, from where it sits waiting to go last of all into my bag.
"This is the book of Dwarves?"
"It is good, Laerion." I know he thinks it is the past, but it is an interesting past . . . And it is my Father's
past. "I wish I could meet a dwarf one day . . . Or a hobbit."
"I met the Hobbits," Laerion says slowly. "They were here when I arrived, before Legolas got here. They were nice enough, strange little creatures. They told me stories of Legolas. . . Not all of which were good ones."
"What is it like?" The words burst out of my mouth before I can stop them and he looks up from the book with a frown of confusion.
"What is what like? Meeting a hobbit?"
"What is it like to die? And to come back to life. . . What is that
like?" I have always wanted to know and have never before been brave enough to ask.
"Oh." He puts the book down with a thud. "You know, no-one has asked me that before. They just assume it was nothing at all."
"Did it hurt?" I imagine it did. I imagine it hurt a lot.
"It still hurts" he says and I peer at him curiously. Is he not completely healed?
He laughs at me then.
"You will not see any scars! I am more perfect than I was before. All the scars I gathered defending the wood have gone. I would not have minded if they had remained. They were trophies of a kind, and now it is like it has never happened at all. It is my heart that hurts."
"Your heart?" I press my hand upon his chest. I do not know if that will help but I would fix it for him if I could. Perhaps the Gods have just forgotten about it?
"Dying hurt." He goes on as if I have not even asked my last question. "I remember that. That is where it hit me, the arrow, right under your hand." He places his own above mine and rubs the skin as if it still aches. "I forget most of the rest of it but that moment when I knew I was hit and I would not survive it. Oh that hurt. I knew it would be bad for my Father . . . And for Legolas. They did not spare me the knowledge of that. It was as if time stood still."
"But you are back now," I say and I wish I had never asked him this. It is making him unhappy. "You are back now and that is all over."
"I am back but things are not the same," he sighs, "and never will be. They have all changed and I have not. Legolas has changed so much I do not recognise him. He is no longer my little brother. We were so close and now he has replaced me in his heart with others. I cannot compete with ghosts, but I miss him. I miss being the way I remember us."
He looks away, and when he looks back he is smiling, but it is a sad smile and does not reach his eyes. He is pretending for me.
"This is probably why no-one asks me the question, Estel. They are afraid I will become
melancholy and bore them to death with talks of the halls and my lost life."
"Perhaps you and Father can be the same again even though he is different?" I wonder as I say it what it was Father used to be like. What does Laerion remember him as? I will have to ask my mother I think. She will know.
"I do not even know how to talk to him any more, Estel. Anyway, It is not your problem to worry about."
He picks up my book again,
"But enough of that, come on," he smiles. "Pack this away for I am sure you do not wish to lose it and we cannot have you being late for breakfast. You need to eat before you travel!"
There is a parcel at my seat when we arrive to eat. Carefully wrapped, it looks beautiful and oh so tempting.
“Your cakes,” my Grandmother says to me, smiling when she sees my eyes light up. I want to eat them now but she will not let me. “For your trip,” she says firmly,”not for breakfast. Your father would not be happy with me if he found out I fed you cakes for breakfast.”
Actually my father—when Mother was away visiting her family—once fed us cakes for breakfast himself, but I do not tell my Grandmother that.
Father arrives before I have even begun to eat. He slips in to the seat beside me and he is glowing. I can feel his happiness; his fea dances in the light. He is so different from last night and I wonder why. Perhaps because we will see Elrohir today?
I hope my Grandparents do not notice. It might hurt them.
Father spies my parcel the moment he sits down and looks at me with a question in his eyes.
“My cakes,” I answer defensively and I reach out to cover them with my hand. I am afraid he might take them off me, he was so determined last night we would not eat them.
But he does not.
Instead he turns to my Grandmother and smiles his brightest smile.
“Are there any left for me, Mother?” He asks lightly as if the argument last night never happened. “It will be agony to sit and watch as Estel eats them all.”
And my grandmother beams.
Grandmother had a smile as warm as the sun. I love to bask in it—it makes me feel special. She smiles it at my Father now, and when she does they look so alike. He has her smile . . . when he uses it.
“Of course, Legolas! I made them for you. They always were your favorites.”
It is if last night never happened. With one sentence he has washed it all away, as he promised me he would. I wonder if he notices how easy it was for him to make her happy?
I wonder if he means what he says or if he says it only for my sake?
I wonder what it was that happened to make them like this?
They all assemble on the courtyard to see us off, my Grandparents and Laerion. My grandmother holds me tight, close against her heart.
"Be good, little one and listen to your father," she says. "Come and see me again soon."
I say that, and I mean it from the bottom of my heart. My grandmother brightens my soul, my grandfather makes me feel safe. I love them. But I am not sure when I will see them again. Our visits are so seldom I will have to wait until Mother next insists on it. I do not think I want to come here without her again. It is she who stops the arguing.
"I am sorry for last night."
Father speaks from behind me. He puts his hand upon my head as I lean against my grandmother. At first I think he means the argument over the cakes but it seems he does not.
"He is small," Father continues, "and has barely travelled. I could not afford to let him stay up long enough for the two of you to sit under the stars. I did not do it to hurt. I need to look after him."
"It is alright, Legolas." My grandmothers voice is soft and quiet and . . . Sad. "I understand."
The next surprises us both.
"When we return from Elrohir we will break our journey here. It will make the travel easier for Estel and there will be no pressure then to move on. We will be able to stay long enough for you to tell him your star stories. I promise it Mother."
And I feel the hitch in my Grandmother's breath as I rest against her. I feel the leap of her heart. It is a gift he has given her bigger even than the eating of her cakes, and I did not expect it. He told my Mother he did not want to spend a day more here than needed. He only came because he needed to deliver our list of names to Grandfather. We had no plans to stay here on our return and nor does he want to. He does this for me.
For a moment I forget my anxiety about more days here in tension without Mother to protect me. For a moment I am happy
at the thought of it.
Laerion holds our horse which huffs and dances in eagerness to begin the journey, as I am eager to start our ride to the excitement that is the Noldor too. I would dance for joy like that horse if I could.
I watch as Laerion leans forward to speak in Father’s ear, his voice so low no one but the three of us can hear.
“I will speak to Father while you are gone.” he says. “I will convince him this plan of his is wrong since it is so unpalatable to you. I can get him to change his mind.”
And Father sighs. He rests his forehead against the horses neck as if he is weary. All that brightness that has shone from him all morning disappears.
“It would not work, Laerion. You know that.”
“There was a time when it would have worked.”
My Father does not see the look my uncle gives him then, he is not looking; but I
see it. I see straight into the hurt he told me resides in his heart.
“Those days—“ Father begins to argue but Laerion holds his hand up to stop him before he has hardly begun.
“I know, I know, Legolas. Those days are long gone. But spare a thought for me, my brother, to whom they seem barely a moment away.”
He turns away then, brushing a hand over my head.
“Travel well, little one,” he smiles at me gently. “When you come back perhaps you can read me a chapter of that book of yours. Educate me on the mischief your Father got up to in the wood in my absense.” He ruffles my hair and then he is off, striding across the courtyard back to my grandparents.
Father watches him go and in his eyes I can see as much sadness and loneliness as Laerion. They speak in riddles. I have no idea what it is they speak of . . . What my Grandfathers plan is that Father disapproves of, butI know one thing;
It is both
of them with an injured heart.
I strongly recommend you read the oneshot "Protector of Dreams" before reading this chapter!
The Noldor’s home is like nothing I have ever seen before.
Of course it is not like ours. It is not in a tree for a start! But it is not like Grandfather’s either. It is made of stone and so elegant. The sun glints off it walls and takes my breath away.
"Impressive, isn't it?" Father says. "They modelled it after Imladris. This looks like Elrohir and Elladan's home did in Arda although the land around it is not the same. Imladris was hidden in a valley and there is no need for that now."
"It is beautiful, Father!" I cry. "They must be important to have such a house." Elrohir did look very important when he came to visit Mother, but this looks like a King's house and I did not know he was that important.
But Father just laughs.
"Wait until you see Tirion," he says. "This is a very mediocre house as far as the Noldor go. Although yes, they do have connections in high places you could say."
Elrohir is waiting for us. He looks as impressive as his house; tall and imposing, I am glad he is smiling otherwise I think I might be frightened.
Father is not frightened of him though, he runs to him after he helps me down, and I am left standing, but Father . . . How he shines!
“Where have you been!” Elrohir exclaims, “So long since I have seen you. Why must I travel all the way to your wood to drag you here?”
I hold my breath as I remember my father’s anger when he discovered Elrohir had been to see us, the shouting with Erynion and my mother. My heart thuds.
Sure enough he is not pleased. The brightness dims and his words are cutting.
“I should be asking you why you and Maewen feel the need to meet behind my back!”
“Because you are a fool, Legolas, a fool.” He reaches out to touch my father’s face gently. “And I have missed you. Why have you not come to see me?”
And the anger I anticipated does not come.
Instead my father smiles. It cannot have been less what I expected. How did Elrohir do that?
“If I had known you were missing me I may have been here earlier,” he laughs.
“You should have been here earlier. And you already know I always miss you.”
The Noldor wraps his arms around my Father then and holds him tight. He is taller than Father and broader. Father’s head rests upon his shoulder.
“This is not what I want, Elrohir,” He says as they stand there together. “to always have to run to you for help. It is not who I want to be, the needy one others worry about. That is not who I am. I am sick of it. That is why I do not come, because I do not want to be that Elf. I do not want it!”
And Elrohir releases him, he holds him back so he can see his face.
“The answer is simple then Legolas,” I can see his wry smile from where I stand, “ You must come here before you need help.”
“There is Maewen,” Father protests, “That would not be fair, the children—“
But Elrohir covers his mouth with his hand before he can say more.
“I think Maewen would rather you came here more frequently and were happy, Legolas, than how things are now.” He looks up then and sees me, as I stand uncertainly, not knowing what I should do. “And you can bring your boy with you now he is grown. Come and introduce us.”
He throws an arm across Father’s shoulders and he smiles at me. He smiles as if he likes me, a brilliant, magical smile and suddenly all the knots I am tied in inside, all my worries, all my fears, are gone. The knots unravel and I feel . . . Free.
Elrohir will fix this mess we are caught in. I know it.
“Have you not stopped to think, Legolas,” he says quietly as they walk towards me, “That perhaps I need you?”
I cannot imagine him ever needing anyone.
“Well met, Estel,” he says to me when they reach me. “I trust you have avoided scaring horses half to death since our last meeting?”
And Father gives me a questioning look.
“What have you been up to?” He asks and Elrohir answers him before I can struggle for the words.
“He leapt out of a tree as I rode towards your house. Half frightened me to death, and the horse.”
“I was safe, Father!” I say it quickly, in case he changes his mind about letting me run in the trees. It is my only freedom. The only place he trusts me to stay safe.
I need not have worried. He only laughs.
“You are such a Noldor sometimes, Elrohir. Estel is a Silvan. He would have seen you miles away.”
“That’s what Maewen told me.” Elrohir still frowns. “You are both as bad as each other then.”
The laugh that bursts out of Father then is as bright as the sun. I love his laugh, but I do not often hear it. He throws his arm around me and pulls me close.
“Silvans are always safe in the trees. I have been away too long if you have forgotten that.”
It is exactly what I told Elrohir myself when he first lectured me. The trees would never let me fall and I knew he had time to stop his horse. He may not have seen me but I saw him . . . And I could always have danced out of his way anyway.
The house, when we enter it is all stone. Not stone like my Grandfather’s though, this is smooth, it almost shines. It is beautiful but cold. I prefer our cosy flet in the trees even though it is nowhere as magnificent as this.
Elrohir leads us through corridors I think I will never remember—around twists and turns, until I am quite bewildered. Even Father seems confused.
“Where do you take us?” He asks but Elrohir is not forthcoming.
“Just wait and see,” he says. “Patience was never your strong point, Legolas.”
We stop in front of a wooden door and he flings it open dramatically, smiling down at me as he does so.
“Your room, Estel,” he says, “while you are here.”
I peer around the corner.
It is a small room but instantly I love it. There is a bed just like my bed with a quilt that looks almost the same as the one my mother made me. I walk across to touch it, I cannot help it and it is so very soft.
“It is just like mine!” I say, for it is wonderous.
“My mother made this years ago.” Elrohir sits upon the bed and sweeps his hand across the quilt. “I imagine she learned from the Silvans in Lothlorien. Do you like it?”
“Yes!” I am lost for words because the room is perfect. It is so exactly like my room at home. I like that it is small for it feels cosy like my own small room amongst the trees. There are even plants in here around the walls that hide that cold smooth stone. There is a bookcase full of books which I burn to look at, and a desk—oh a desk! With paper and ink for me to write and draw.
“You have transported his room from home.” My Father gasps in disbelief. “How did you do this?”
“I imagined this would make him feel more at ease.” Elrohir tells him. “And I have learned from an expert how much Silvans hate the stone. I thought Estel would be no different. Am I wrong?”
“You are not wrong.”Father replies softly. “Thank you for this.”
“I know a bit about the hearts of boys,” Elrohir smiles. “I have helped raise a few of them remember.”
He gets up then and moves toward a door opposite the bed.
“Through here,” he says to me as he opens it, “is where your father will be.”
Father’s room has even more plants and vines than mine but it is much larger . . . Much much larger. But still, despite that, it too feels like our forest.
“This is not my usual room,” Father says in surprise, “That is, usually I am with —“ But Elrohir cuts him off before he finishes.
“Estel will need you close though will he not? His first trip away from home. This will work, I promise. What is a room after all? I can move to you.”
I barely notice their conversation for I have wandered away to inspect all treasures there are in this little space of mine. I walk around and brush my hand across all of them. I had not imagined anyone would make me something so perfect.
I stop at the desk. I have always wanted one but there is no room at home and it would not work with Calithil. She would only mess with all my things. I will write a letter home to Mother from here I think. It has paper galore and bottles and bottles of ink. There is a box there too, on top of the desk. A big one, sitting in the corner, and it calls my name when I touch it.
“Open it,” Elrohir says behind me. “They are for you to use while you are here.”
And so, slowly, cautiously, I do.
In the Box is the most perfect thing of all. There are soldiers carved from wood. So many of them. Elves, men, even these ugly creatures I think must be orcs, and short stumpy ones that I assume are dwarves. They are all beautiful and I am drawn to them.
“Oh, Thank you!” I cry as I lift one out to look at it more closely. I can have fun with these!
Behind me father picks one up as well and he frowns as he looks at it.
“Elrohir, I have seen these before. These are Eldarion’s! Where did you get these?”
“I brought them with me, for memories sake.” He turns to me then. “I made these, for my Estel and his son used them also. Now you can have them to play with when you stay here.”
He made them? I am astonished. And Aragorn the king of men played with these very soldiers.
But my Father leans over and takes the one I hold from my hand before putting it back in the box.
“He is but a boy Elrohir. These are too precious. Accidents happen and I would not have these broken because they have been dropped or forgotten.”
“They are meant to be played with, Legolas. And if there is a breakage it will not be the first time. I have had to carve replacements before now for Estel and Eldarion both. I want your Estel to use them too.”
Father hesitates and for terrible second I think he will say no. He does not trust me to keep them safe but I will. I will look after them more carefully than I have looked after anything else before!
I worry I might cry if he does not let me play with these.
"Replacements will not be the same . . ." Father begins but Elrohir interrupts as he places an arm gently across his shoulders.
"Let it go, Legolas," he says softly. "It is dangerous to live to tightly in the past. Would Aragorn not have given these to your boy to play with if he could?"
"He would," Father murmurs eventually and he looks at me. "Very well, Estel you must treasure these for they are precious."
He does not have to tell me that. I know they are precious, but not because they belonged to the King of Men and his son. Not for my father's reason. They are precious because Elrohir made them, and because he trusts me with them.
I will not let him down.
Elrohir makes us a picnic.
"I know you hate the dining hall," he tells my father, "and you will both be tired. I thought we could eat down by the waterfall tonight, just the three of us. I will spare you both the public eating for today."
"What of Elladan?" Father asks with a frown.
"He will hold the fort." Elrohir laughs then. "He is a big boy! He will not hold it against you. Well not for long."
I know Elladan is Elrohir's twin but I have never met him. I am curious for I have never met a twin before. I wonder if they really look exactly the same as people say they do. Is it possible?
The waterfall, when we get there, is beautiful. The water sings music to us as it flows across the stones. If I close my eyes I can imagine what it is saying to me, whispers of adventures it has had.
Elrohir has bought sandwiches, and cakes, and even a jug of lemonade which is cool and delicious, though the food tastes slightly strange to me. It is not the same as our food and the cakes are not as good as my Grandmothers cakes. Still I am hungry, so I eat even though it is different. I have brought my book with me and when My stomach is full I lie on the grass and read while my father and Elrohir talk.
"How are things with Thranduil?" Elrohir asks Father and he sighs, a heavy sigh as if the weight of the world is upon him.
"He has lost his mind." Father says. "He is sending me Laerion."
I lift my head in surprise. What does he mean? It turns out Elrohir does not understand either.
"Sending you Laerion?"
"I am struggling with the demands from Tirion." Father replies. "He is right about that. There is so much paperwork and it takes nearly all of my time. You know how difficult it is for me. So Father has decided he will send Laerion to me, at least for a time to ease that burden. As if that would ever work! He will not listen to reason."
Oh! Laerion is coming to stay with us? I am excited by that!
"Why would it not work?" Elrohir leans forward intently, "That has merit, surely?"
"Because we do not get on!" Father throws his arms wide in frustration. "Because always, always, he is critical of me. He does not understand me. He treats me as a child. He pours scorn upon my decisions and my life. He has never forgiven me for choosing Aragorn and not him when I . . . After the accident. He holds that against me."
"Have you tried to explain that?"
"He will not listen!"
I have no idea what my Father speaks of but Elrohir obviously does. What accident, I wonder? The one my mother told me of that stopped him writing? That makes no sense because that happened in Arda and Laerion was not even there.
Elrohir is quiet for a moment. As I peek over the top of my book I see him watching my father as Father scowls and tears handfuls of grass to shreds in his frustration. At last he speaks.
"I think it could work," he says. "I think you should consider this."
"Not you as well!" Father cries. "Why is it no one understands? Maewen would!"
But Elrohir does not lose his temper in return.
"You were close once. You could be again, you just need to find a road back to that."
"There is no road back!"
That is when Elrohir gets angry, still he does not shout but I can tell, by the tightness in his voice he is unhappy with my father.
"Do you not remember what it was like to lose him?" He asks.
"Of course I do! I do not even want to think of that."
"You should think of that. He has returned to you. How many times have you wished for that? You should grasp this opportunity. It will help you."
"He does not want it either." Father says defensively. "I am not the brother he remembers and I never will be again. He is not interested in knowing me as I am."
But my father is wrong and I know it. The words slip out of my mouth before I can stop them.
"Laerion is lonely." I say, and they both turn to look at me in surprise. I think they had forgotten me.
"What do you mean?" Elrohir asks me gently, and I tell it all. I am no good at secrets.
"His heart hurts. He misses you, Father. He says you have replaced him with ghosts and he cannot compete with them."
"I have not replaced him." Father protests, "with ghosts? What does he mean?"
"You know what he means." Elrohir says tersely. "Be honest with yourself, Legolas."
"Why is he telling a child this?" Father defends himself. "He should not be doing that."
"Because I asked." I interrupt them. "I asked him what it was like to die. He said no one else had asked him. He said everyone thought it was nothing at all but it hurt and it still hurts. He told me because I asked him."
And Elrohir turns to my father, his eyes wide in shock.
"You have not spoken to him about his death, his time in the Halls? None of you have discussed that with him? You leave him to struggle alone?"
"I am sure my Father has—" Father looks at the ground. I think Elrohir has shamed him.
"The boy says he has not." Elrohir will not let it go. "Laerion is your brother Legolas. You have not helped him at all."
And Father raises his head.
"I do not want to think on it, Elrohir!" He cries. "It is too painful. I do not want to think about that time. You have no idea. You talk about things you do not understand. I do not want to think about him gone . . In the Halls . . I do not want to!"
I know Elrohir is angry. I know he thinks my Father has done a wrong to my uncle but despite that he reaches out and grasps hold of Fathers hand.
"You have to." He says quietly, "This is your brother and you do him wrong. He is here, Legolas. Here with you and yet you do not embrace him. You are no coward and you have faced this pain before. You have to make this work for both your sakes."
They are silent then, both of them. Elrohir holding my father's hand. They are silent till I cannot bear it.
"I would like Laerion to visit us, Father." I say. It is the truth.
And Father lifts his head, he rubs a hand across his forehead.
"You are ganging up on me." He says but he gives the smallest smile as he says it.
"You cannot throw this opportunity away, Legolas." Elrohir says seriously. "You can make it work."
"You sound like my Father now, Elrohir," Father complains. "Thranduil is bad enough. I do not need two Fathers!"
"Then behave!" Elrohir glances across at me before he pulls Father across to rest against him, his arms around him. "We will talk more about this later" he says.
I know what that means. It means the boy is here and I do not want him to hear what we say. Father and Mother say that all the time and it is always just when their conversation gets interesting. I hate it.
In the end I go back to my book. Now they have decided they do not want to talk in front of me there will be no more interesting conversation. I know that from experience.
"What is that you are reading, Estel?" Elrohir asks. He has obviously been watching me.
Father answers for me.
"Bilbo's book," he says. "The one you gave me. Father made a carving of Smaug for him and I thought he should know the story behind it." He does not mention the arguing, my sister crying, the fact I gave that Smaug away and he is now Firefly, doomed to live his life festooned in flowers.
Elrohir smiles broadly.
"I am glad you have passed that on!" he says to Father and I remember the question I wanted answered. The one I asked last night at dinner, the one that made my Grandfather laugh. Elrohir will be able to tell me.
"Do you sing in trees, Elrohir?"
Father splutters and Elrohir frowns at me.
"Sing in trees? No. I am not a woodelf. What have you been telling him?" He turns to Father.
"Nothing . . " Father can barely get the words out. I think he wants to laugh.
"The book says it." I explain. "It says you sit in trees in Imladris and sing nonsense. It did not make sense to me so I wondered . . . "
"I sit in a tree and sing nonsense? It says that?"
"Not you." I explain, "Imladris elves but I did wonder if you were there—"
Elrohir reaches out and grabs the book off me fumbling through the pages and now Father is definitely laughing.
"Did you never read the story, Elrohir?" He smiles.
"No." Elrohir snaps. "I was too busy defending Imladris from the forces of Darkness if you remember." He stops and runs a finger across the page. I think he has found the right spot.
"Defending it by singing silly rhymes from the trees when strangers arrive. Did it work well?" Father has tears streaming down his face now and the way he describes it is so funny I cannot help but laugh myself.
"This is ridiculous!" Elrohir cries. Oh yes, he has found it. "We never did this! What was he thinking, writing this?"
"Relax, Elrohir," Father slaps him on the back. "It is not so bad."
"Not so bad? You shouldn't be letting him read this. It is completely inaccurate!"
"I know there are some things wrong." I tell him to make him feel better. "Because it says Olorin is old and grey and a wizard. That is wrong."
"Well actually—" Elrohir begins to tell me something but Father interrupts him.
"Peace, Elrohir. It is harmless. According to Bilbo we had dungeons and regularly locked random travellers in them. My Father was even more displeased than you Estel was reading it!"
"You had dungeons, Father?" I have not reached that part, but he shakes his head at me. "No. No more than Elrohir sang songs in the trees."
He brushes his hand softly down Elrohir's arm and smiles.
"Let this be a lesson to you, Estel," he says. "The Noldor take life very seriously. Even half elven Noldor!"
I know Elrohir is a half elf although I had forgotten it until now, for he looks exactly like every other elf to me. Just more impressive than anyone except my Grandfather. Still I know it, for Father has told me of Elrohir's sister who was the most beautiful of all the elves on Arda and chose to die. It was Aragorn the King's fault she chose that and I do not understand why she would. Although Father is not unhappy by it, even though it must make Elrohir sad. I do not understand that either. He should be angry at Aragorn, should he not?
I know one thing. I am glad Elrohir did not choose to die; for my Father's sake.
I watch Father now. His eyes dance, his smile is real, he leans his chin upon Elrohir's shoulder and grins at him as he teases. I wish I could catch his happiness and keep it in a bottle so I could give it back to him when he is sad. It is Elrohir who has done this. Only yesterday Father was angry at the world.
And Elrohir did not sing any songs in the trees.
That is a shame. I liked imagining him doing that.
And suddenly I realise, I am sad it is not true.
I know my father loves Elrohir and Elrohir loves him back. I have always known it. I know that is why he leaves us behind to go visit him. It is one of those things that has always been, as I know Mother loves Erynion.
It is what we do. It is how everyone is at home for we are Silvan. It is why Father gets so frustrated with the foolish Lords in Tirion who want him to line everyone up in boxes.
Silvans do not fit in boxes.
I know the Noldor are different. I know they love in straight lines and follow the rules.
I wonder why Elrohir does not? Because he is a half-Elf?
As I watch he and my father now I cannot understand the Noldor. Elrohir makes Father shine like the sun. He plaits his hair while Father rests his head in his lap and they are both happy. Why would you choose not to love someone if they could make you happy? Why would you love only one person when another would just mean you had twice as much love?
It makes no sense to me.
"I have been surrounded by dark clouds," my father says now as he looks up at Elrohir, "but your light has cut through them and driven them away so I can breathe again."
"I am glad," Elrohir replies. "You deserve to be free of them. Too long have we been apart this time and I know you have been suffering." He bends his head so his dark hair brushes across Father's face.
Father hesitates then as if he pauses to think upon what it is he should say next.
me." He says in the end, "You are a healer, Elrohir."
But Elrohir only laughs.
"Not this again, Legolas. You know I cannot heal even so much as a scratch."
"You heal souls."
Elrohir shakes his head.
"I know it feels that way to you but it is love you are feeling, pure and simple."
"Maewen loves me, I love her. She makes every day brighter, but she cannot scatter the clouds as you can. She could not burn away the sea."
"I am not
a healer, Legolas."
"If you would only speak to Elrond. Tell him what I feel from you. Have him look at you." My father is insistent. He will not give up this topic of conversation and Elrohir is becoming annoyed.
"I am not going to bother my Father with this. Elbereth knows he has spent enough time already trying to find some kind of healing power within me."
"Then he has not been looking in the right place!" Father lifts his head and props himself up on his elbow to meet Elrohir's gaze. "Olórin agrees with me. He
says it should be investigated further."
And Elrohir is horrified.
"You have spoken to Olórin about this? About me?"
"Of course. It is important,
Elrohir. There are others here besides me you could help, and he agrees with me. You have power. You had it in Arda and you have it here." My father, when he has something on his mind, can be very stubborn and he is stubborn now.
But Elrohir sighs heavily. He is not listening.
"I have power for you,
Legolas because I love you, you and only you. It is nothing special, no mystery. I wish you would stop this." They have both completely forgotten me, sitting where I am, behind my book, so involved they are in this conversation.
"And Elladan," Father says quickly. "It is not just me. You eased the sealonging for Elladan too, remember!"
"He is my twin.
That hardly counts."
Father pulls himself up to sit, so he looks Elrohir in the eyes, and I remember as he does, that smile Elrohir gave me when we arrived. The one which undid all my knots. Is Father right?
"What about your mother?" Father's question hangs in the air and I do not understand what he is asking.
Neither, it seems, does Elrohir.
"What about my mother?" He frowns and something about the way he asks seems dangerous.
"Olórin said when she was first found, you were the only one whose presence she could bear. Even Elrond she turned from. It was just you, Elrohir, who could reach her."
"Why is he talking to you about that? About her?"
They have wandered in to something I do not understand. I have met Elrohir's mother and nothing was wrong with her. I liked her.
"Because he thinks it is an example of your power."
Elrohir is on his feet now. Fists clenched by his side and I am nervous. Those knots his smile undid within me begin to tie themselves up again.
"Olórin spent too much of his time on Arda playing games with our lives. He would do well to stay out of mine
now, and he is wrong!
I did not heal my mother. I could not help her. Finarfin did that. Finarfin and Finrod; here, far away from me
"Because you are untrained, Elrohir, but if you were—"
Father is standing too now and he matches Elrohir's raised voice with one of his own.
I feel sick. My stomach churns. I wish I could run and hide but I do not know where to go. There is too much anger, one too many arguments for me. I need it to stop so I can breathe.
I know how to stop them. It works with my mother and father at home. It will work here too. I clasp my book tight to my chest for I do not want it damaged then I jump to my feet as well . . . Kicking the jug full of lemonade over as I do so.
It spills across the ground and I cry out in distress at my clumsiness,
And Father is distracted. Thank goodness
he is distracted.
"Estel!" He cries, "Child, what are you doing?"
"I am sorry, I did not see it there." I bend down to pick it up but he stops me and does it for me.
"Sometimes I wonder how one elfling can be so clumsy." He brushes the hair from my face and smiles. He is not angry, nothing was broken, I kept my book safe and he has forgotten all about Elrohir.
Elrohir; who looks at me now through narrowed eyes as if he can read my mind, as if he knows this was no accident.
But he does not say it.
"You are tired," he says instead, "Both of you. I should have thought more carefully, Legolas. We have kept the boy up too late after a long ride. Maewen would have a fit if she knew."
And he bends down to pick up our things from the ground.
"You need bed, Estel, hmm?"
Father puts his arm around me as we walk back to our rooms and I am glad of it. But I am even more glad when I see Elrohir, on his other side throw his arm across Fathers shoulder, and whisper in his ear with a smile.
They have forgiven each other. It was worth a little spilt lemonade.
Father puts me to bed in my little room with a hug and a kiss. He tucks me in to bed and strokes my hair.
"Sleep well, Monkey." He says before he leaves me to go next door.
Elrohir is right. I am tired, but now, alone in the dark I cannot sleep.
Father has left a lamp lit in the corner and it throws a soft light across the shadows of my room; the room Elrohir has made for me that is so much like my own. But it is not
my own. If it were mine Mother would be outside that door, humming as she cleaned away the dishes and tidied up at the end of the day. She would have kissed me goodnight with a smile before Father tucked me in to bed.
I have never been away from my mother, apart from last night at my Grandparents. She has been there every night and now I miss her. I miss her with an ache that brings tears to my eyes.
She is so far away and I want her.
I want Calithil too. When I am at home and unhappy she will wrap her chubby arms around me and try to make it better. She will crawl into my bed, and snuggle her warmth in to my back so I fall asleep to the rhythmic sound of her thumb sucking.
The ache spills over into tears. I feel them spilling down my face. When the door to my father's room opens a crack and the shadow of him appears in the light, I am sobbing and I cannot stop.
"Monkey!" He is across the room in an instant and wraps me in his arms. "What is wrong, little one?"
"I want Mother!" The words come out between choking sobs. "I miss her. I love you but I miss her."
He holds me tight against his chest and rocks me, murmuring how much he loves me into my hair.
Eventually my crying stops but the ache remains.
"I miss Calithil as well," I tell him.
"I miss them too," he tells me as he wipes the tearstains from my cheeks. "Is there room for me in this bed? I am bigger than Calithil but will I do for now?"
"Yes," I want him to stay, I do.
And so he snuggles next to me and I lean against him in his arms. The ache retreats just a little bit.
"Thank you for coming with me, Estel," he says. "It is easier to be away from home when you are here."
"But you are happy, Father. Elrohir makes you happy!"
"Your mother makes me happy too, just in a different way. I miss you all when I am here."
I think then, on what he said about Elrohir and how he heals him. I remember that smile of Elrohir's that sent my worries fleeing.
"I was worried when we arrived here," I tell Father, "and Elrohir smiled at me. He smiled as if he liked me, as if he liked my heart, and I was worried no longer. It disappeared."
"You felt it too!" He is triumphant. "He has a talent for healing our spirits but he will not see it. For so long he has thought of himself as only a warrior. I will talk to Elrond myself next time I see him."
That makes me anxious.
"But Elrohir does not want that! You will make him angry."
"He will forgive me . . . Eventually." Father, it seems, is not worried about that. "He will be angry but he needs me to do this. He needs it for himself, he just does not know it."
It is warm, lying next to him as he hugs me, and I feel safe. The ache within me for my mother subsides. It is still there but I can breathe through it. Sleep creeps about the edges of my mind.
"What were you worried about?" Father whispers to me, "What worries did Elrohir chase away for you? You are safe here with me."
"It is different here," I tell him and it is true, "and scary. People sound different, the food tastes different. What if I do the wrong thing?"
And he laughs softly,
"You know, Estel," he says, "I worried about those very same things myself when I first went to Imladris."
"Did Elrohir make it better for you?"
He laughs harder then.
"No, Elrohir and I did not like each other much back then. I can not say he made it better at all!"
I can not imagine that!
But he is happy with my answer and does not ask me about my worries any more, instead he sings me a song from home that banishes the last of my aching and leads me in to sleep.
And I have not had to tell him, most of all, I worry about him.
It is daylight when I wake. The lamp Father left me has burned out but it does not matter as sunlight streams through the windows. I have slept in.
I am alone. Father is no longer there beside me. On my bedside table lies a note.
Get ready for the day, it says.
If my mother had left me this I would think she was angry with me for there is no softness about it at all, but it is from Father and his notes are always like this. Brief and to the point, he uses as few words as possible to say what he needs to. That he has written it at all counts for something.
So I do as I am told; I get ready. It does not take long and then I am at a loss. What do I do now? I cannot leave my room for I will surely get lost in the winding maze of corridors that lie outside my door. Instead I knock cautiously on Father’s door but there is no answer and when I open it, slowly, bit by bit and peer in, the room is empty.
But he has definitely been there.
My mother says Father is like a whirlwind—that you can always tell where he has been for he leaves behind chaos. He is very untidy, even more untidy than me.
His room does look as though a whirlwind has hit it today. His things are strewn everywhere. But he is not there.
I have no choice but to wait for him. It is not so bad because I reach for Elrohir’s box of magical soldiers. They are just as beautiful as they were the first time I saw them. They make my heart sing. I have always wished for a toy like this.
I sit myself down on the rug and begin to assemble my army. I can just imagine I am there—as Father was. I remember his stories of fighting with Gimli and Aragorn amongst the armies of Men and I fish out a dwarf, a Man, the tallest elf—although Father isn’t tall but I think he should be the most important—and I put them at the head of all my other soliders.
There are no battles in Valinor, that’s why Father sometimes says it is boring. I will never get to do this in real life like he did.
There is a knock at the door. Standing there when I open it is an elf who looks exactly like Elrohir. I stare at him carefully and I can see nothing different, nothing different at all.
But he does not feel like Elrohir. Elrohir has a bright, sharp light that is exciting. This elf is calm, he is peaceful.
It must be Elladan.
“Hello, Estel,” he says and he hesitates for just the slightest moment before he says my name. As if he does not want to say it . . . As if he is not sure it is right. It confuses me. Surely Elrohir has told him who I am?
“I am Elladan.” He sticks out his hand toward me and I know what it is he does. Father does it too. It is a silly thing he has learnt from the Men in Arda—to shake hands. Why they do it I do not know, but I know what to do. I hold his hand and he shakes my arm so it wiggles back and forth. It is so silly it makes me giggle and he smiles.
“I know who you are.” I say.
“Well, good! Your father has sent me to escort you to breakfast, shall we go?”
I look back at my soldiers and he sees it.
“They will be fine,” he smiles.
“I promised Father I would be careful with them. I should tidy them away.” I am reluctant because it has taken me so long to get my army just right.
“No one else will be in this room.” Elladan says and he lays a hand on my shoulder, “I promise. Leave them as they are.” He squats down then, beside my carefully laid out forces. “Now if you do this, Estel —” he moves some of them to the side, “If you attack with these first it will create a diversion. The enemy will be distracted and then your main force—” he sweeps his arm across the rest of my soldiers, “can take them by surprise.”
It is such a good idea!
His hand hovers above the three standing at the front, the Man, the dwarf, and the elf. Then he carefully searches out two fine looking elves from amongst the other men and places them one either side of them.
“Elrohir and I,” he says with a smile when he looks up to me. “We were there for most of it too.” His hand taps the head of the elf who is my father. “Legolas has had a growth spurt since I last saw him!”
He makes me laugh, he is funny and clever and I like him!
“I do not know about you but I am hungry.” He holds out his hand to me again as he stands and I take it. “Breakfast?”
He keeps holding my hand as we walk through the maze of corridors and I am glad. This house is so big I do not think I will ever know which way to go.
“This place is confusing, I know.” He says, as if he knows what I am thinking. “But you will find your way around it. You must be more used to the trees.”
“Yes.” It seems that is the only word I can say to him.
“I have a flet.” He continues, “I built it myself, down by the river. It reminds me of Lothlorien, the forest where my Grandmother lived in Arda. Has Legolas told you about that?”
“I will show you it if you like, while you are here. We could sleep there one night if Legolas allows it. Would you like that?”
Would I like that? It is a silly question.
He looks down at me with a smile.
“You do not say much do you?”
“Usually I do.”
“Ah,” He turns to open the door we have stopped in front of, “Perhaps when you know me better then.”
The room he leads me into is small. There is a table in the centre, and on that table is so much food!
But no Father.
“Where is my Father?” I ask him as I sit in the chair he pulls out for me. I am beginning to worry. Where could he be?
“He and Elrohir have gone for a walk . . . To get some fresh air, shall we say. They will be back soon. We shall entertain each other, you and I, until they get here.”
He loads my plate with pancakes and fruit and cream. I think it is the biggest breakfast I have ever had. I dig a fork into it eagerly.
“I hope they do not argue.” I do not know why I bring that up. It is just . . . a memory of Elrohir and my father shouting at each other flashes across my mind.
“Why do you say that?” Elladan leans towards me intently and I really wish I hadn’t.
I say nothing. It feels as if I would be telling tales. But Elladan does not let it go.
“Have they been arguing? Already?” He leans back in his chair and rubs his forehead with his hand, “Seriously, Elrohir . . . Do you have no sense?”
Elrohir is not even here. He will not hear him. Briefly I wonder if, perhaps, he is not right in the head.
“What were they arguing about?” He asks me. “I cannot believe my foolish brother could not control his temper for one night.”
I do not think Elrohir is foolish. I think he is brave and wonderous. I think he is fascinating. I want to defend him, but I want to defend my father too.
“Father thinks Elrohir is a healer and Elrohir says he is not.” After all that is all it was about really.
And Elladan frowns.
“Elrohir is not a healer. Legolas knows better than to throw that in his face. What is with the two of them?”
He begins to load his own plate with food then as if eating will ease his frustrations with them.
“He heals souls.”
Elladan looks up in surprise when I say that.
“What did you say?”
“Father says Elrohir heals his soul.” Suddenly I find my voice and it all comes tumbling out.
“He says he scatters the dark clouds and he burned away the sea. Elrohir says it is only love but Father says he loves my mother and she cannot do that. He says Elrohir helped you too but Elrohir says you are his twin and that does not count.”
I stop for breath and Elladan simply stares at me, his fork hovers motionless in the air halfway to his mouth.
Briefly I think of telling him what my Father said to Elrohir about his mother. But that is what made Elrohir the angriest—Perhaps it will make Elladan angry too— and so instead I turn to Olórin.
“Father says Olórin agrees with him. Olórin thinks it needs investigating.”
“Olórin?” Elladan seems astonished by that. “I wonder . . . ” he murmurs. “Why have I not thought of this?”
“Elrohir does not think it is true. It made him angry.”
“Elrohir is sensitive when it comes to his healing ability . . . Or lack of it.” Elladan goes back to eating as if we have not even had this conversation. “However I can tell you they definitely will not be arguing this morning,” he says, “ I promise you do not need to be worrying about that.”
“Do you not believe me?”
He puts down his fork and looks at me seriously.
“I do believe you. And I thank you for telling me this . . . Estel.” He does it again, that hesitation before he says my name.
“Why do you do that?” I ask, “Why do you forget my name? Did Elrohir not tell you it?”
He smiles but he looks sad at the same time.
“I knew another boy called Estel once,” he says, “and it seems strange to be using that name again. I will get used to it. . . Anyway—“ he pushes his plate away, “what shall we do, you and I, while we wait for this recalcitrant pair? Tell me, what is your weapon of choice, Estel? I assume Legolas has you training with the bow but what else? The long knives, or the sword like your Grandfather?”
I do use the bow, and I am good at it. Everyone says so. I would like to show him, but as for the others . . . My Father has not let me begin any training yet, despite the fact I am more than old enough. It is something we fight about and I never win.
“I have not begun my training yet.” I tell Elladan. I am not about to admit Father does not trust me. “I can show you the bow though, but the sword and the knives . . . Maybe next year I will start.”
“You have not yet begun to train?” He is surprised. “I would have thought you old enough, especially by Silvan standards. I tell you what, Estel, what if I were to take you down to the training fields and show you the basics with a sword? Would you like that? I will leave the knives to your father. I cannot match him in them.”
I am in heaven. To learn the sword! It is all I have dreamed of. But there is a voice whispering at the back of my mind. It tells me “Father will not like this. He does not want you to learn this.”
But surely he will be happy if Elladan Elrondion taught me. Surely he would not mind then, for he is a great warrior. And he has left me here alone with him. He must trust him.
And so I ignore that voice at the back of my mind and I listen to all my own arguments instead.
“I would love that,” I cry. “Yes, please!”
“So be it!” Elladan replies and my heart sings. “To the sword then young Estel!”
Could there be a better day than this?
I have often watched my father and Erynion as they spar with knives. It is like a dance. They are beautiful. They move so fast sometimes you cannot even see them. I dream of the day I can move like that.
They make it look so easy.
When Elladan takes me to learn the sword I find out it is not easy at all.
My first disappointment is before we have even begun—when he hands me the sword—for it is not a real sword at all.
“This is not a sword!” I complain as I run my fingers over the blunt edges. “It is wooden. It is a toy!”
“It is all you will use for a long while Estel. All you will get is some bruises with this. I am not about to let you cut yourself, you are too precious for that.”
“It is not fair
I am so disappointed. This is not what I had imagined at all.
"It is how it is, Estel. We all began our training with one of these." He is not interested in my protests.
The next crushing blow he delivers me is that he does not spar with me as I imagined he would. We do not dance around each other ducking and diving as Father and Erynion do. It is not like that at all, in fact he does not even pick up a sword himself. Instead he teaches me to stand, holding out the sword until my arms ache.
My third disappointment is that this is not at all as simple as I thought. How does Father make it look so effortless?
I am almost ready to give up when the shouting starts.
I hear my name first of all, and when I twist myself in Elladan's arms to see who calls me, it is Father. He runs toward us and I do not even need to know him very well to know that he is angry.
"Put that down!" He shouts, and I realise I should have listened to that whispering voice in my head after all.
"You fool, Elladan," I hear Elladan whisper to himself underneath his breath as he lets me go.
"What do you think you are doing?" Father is so angry when he reaches us he is on fire, and it is Elladan he attacks. "How dare you? Did you ask me
before you let him near a sword? I do not want this!"
"Forgive me, Legolas." Elladan backs away from Father's heat and raises his hands in the air. "You are right, I should have asked. I just assumed . . . He is well old enough to have started his training and I —"
say when he is old enough!" Father advances on Elladan and shoves him away from me, pushing him in the chest with both his hands. "Not
All the breath is sucked out of me as Father's rage swirls around me. I am frozen where I stand. What have I done?
It is Elrohir come to save me. He has run across the fields behind my father and now he reaches us he grabs him, pulls him away from Elladan and holds him tight.
"What are you doing
, Legolas?" He snaps. "This is not the way to go about this."
"Let me go!," my father twists himself in Elrohir's arms but Elrohir is the stronger.
"I will not. Not until you are calmer." He pulls my father around to face him. "What goes on with you, Legolas?”
"What goes on with me? Look what he does to my son."
Elrohir's face is stern. His eyes burn.
"Look what you
do to your son!" he hisses. "Look at your child
, Legolas." And he turns Father to look at me where I stand.
All their eyes are upon me and the weight of it crushes me in to the ground. I do not want to cry, not in front of Elrohir . . . And Elladan, but I fear I might and I bite my lip, hard, to try and stop the tears.
It does not work.
"I am sorry, Father." I say and I hold the hated wooden sword out for him to take—but he does not—so when I let it go it spirals to the ground. "This is my fault. I knew you would not like it but I did not tell Elladan because I wanted . . ." I cannot finish. I can not put in to words how badly I wanted to be a boy, to be like him. "It is all my fault." I trail off and I am ashamed that my cheeks are wet with tears.
And Father reaches out to me. He cups my face in his hand. He wipes my tears with his thumb. His fire is extinguished, snuffed out and he looks . . . Tired.
But he says nothing.
Then Elrohir lets him go.
He turns and walks away from us then. Fists clenched he strides out into the field, and when he stops he screams his frustration to the sky. Frustration at me? At Elladan? At life?
Then he crumples, to sit head in hands and I do not know what to do.
Elrohir does though. Elrohir is beside him in a flash. He folds himself around him, wraps his arms about him, as if his body is a shield protecting my father from all the pain of the world.
“Hush,” he murmurs, “Hush, my love.”
“I do not want him to hold a sword in his hand.” Father says, “I need to keep him safe. I want him to remain as he is; perfect, innocent, as he was meant to be. I do not want him to ever have to bear the burden we bear.”
“You have to let him grow, Legolas. You can not hold back time. You, of all of us know that. You must embrace it. He will always be perfect to you
From behind me Elladan wraps his arms around me. He pulls me back to lean against him.
“I know you do not understand this,” he whispers, “but it is alright. It will be alright.” Elrohir is my father’s shield and now, Elladan makes himself mine.
“He does not need
this,” Father protests, “He does not need to do this. We live in Valinor where all is safe. That is why Maewen and I are here. So he will be safe.”
“You are here, Legolas, because the Gods dragged you here kicking and screaming. I know this is a brighter, more sheltered world than the one we grew up in but Elven blood has been spilled in Valinor before—and it may be again—who knows what the future brings. If you do not give him these skills; he will not be able to defend himself if he needs to. He will be so vulnerable
Father is still then, very still, and when at last he speaks his voice is so quiet I have to strain to hear it.
“I am so afraid of losing him, Elrohir,” he whispers. “I could not bear it. It would break me.”
“If you let him go you will never
lose him. His love for you shines so bright. But if you hold him too tight . . . He will only resent you, Legolas.”
I know they talk about me.
Elrohir is wrong. Father will never lose me.
Father gets to his feet then, slowly, and when he turns to face me I can see he has been crying. It frightens me.
I did that to him.
He walks back towards me and when he stands in front of me, Elladan lets me go. He steps away, his strength is suddenly gone from behind me. I feel lost and adrift without it. He anchored me in the midst of these winds that buffet me.
I watch as Father bends down to pick up the sword from where it fell upon the ground. I stare as he presses it in to my hand.
“While you are here,” he says quietly, “Elladan and Elrohir can teach you this. I can think of no one better. When we go back to your Grandfather’s you will be able to show him what you have learned. He is an expert at this so you must listen carefully and practice hard to impress him.”
I cannot believe he is giving me permission to do this. I imagine showing my Grandfather what I have learned. He will be so proud of me!
“And when we go home,” Father continues, “Erynion and I will teach you the long knives. It is altogether a more Silvan way to fight. Would you like that?”
“Yes!” I cry, “Yes, I would like that!” I have always
wanted it, and my joy nearly obliterates my sadness of before—nearly, but not quite.
Behind Fathers shoulder I see Elrohir and Elladan look at each other. It is a strange look, almost as if they are talking and yet they say no words that I can hear. Their mouths do not move. Father follows my gaze, he sees them for himself and he frowns.
“Anything you have to say about me you can say, aloud, Elrohir.” He snaps. “I tolerate your mindspeak but you will not discuss me in front of my face yet behind my back where I cannot hear!”
And Elrohir looks guilty.
Were they speaking in each other’s minds? Can they do
I do not have time to ponder it. Father gathers me up. He throws his arm around me.
“We will go,” He says, “you can begin the sword lessons later. Now is not the time I think. It appears Elrohir and Elladan have things they need to discuss in private.”
And he turns me away. Together we walk across the field, towards the house. Just Father and I;
As it always should be.
He takes me to my room and when we enter he goes straight to the soldiers I have laid out on the floor.
"This is good, Estel," he says pointing the the group of men Elladan has put off to the side, and briefly I consider letting him think it was all down to me. But in the end I cannot do it.
"Elladan, did that." I say, "He said it would be a diversion."
"That is a very Noldor solution. I need to show you what the Silvans would have done."
He bends down and his hand ghosts over the three at the front.
"I am tallest, I see," he says with a smile.
"You are the most important," I tell him and his smile grows wider; but then it falters.
"Estel," he says, and he reaches over to where I kneel beside him and places his hand over mine. "War is not easy. It is not a game. A sword is not a toy. We are not meant to kill; it is not who we are, not who we were meant to be, but the world made it impossible to avoid. Every life I have taken has left a scar upon my soul. Elrohir and Elladan have them too. I do not want that for you. Do you understand?"
"I do, Father." I say it because he needs me to, but in truth, I do not understand at all. Not really.
He stands up then and brushes his hands on his trousers as if he brushes away the pain of our conversation.
"I need to write a letter. I will set you a puzzle while I do. Imagine this is a river, and over here is a cliff. Your enemy is at the end of the valley. How will you command your men? Show me as I write."
We sit in silence then, the two of us. My father works at my desk. The letter he writes is a difficult one obviously for periodically he tosses screwed up balls of paper over on to my men as I arrange them. I pretend they are rocks raining down upon us from our hidden enemy.
The knock at the door surprises me but before I can even scramble to my feet to open it Elrohir walks in. He smiles as he sees me. It makes me feel warm and loved inside. It makes me feel safe.
"Elrohir." Father does not even lift his head from the desk but he knows who it is who visits us and Elrohir moves to stand behind him.
"Who do you write to?" he asks and he rubs my father's shoulders as Mother often does, to rid him of all that tensions that gathers there when he is frustrated and struggling. "Can I help?"
"Not with this." Father replies. "It is to my mother."
"Your mother?" Elrohir is so surprised at that he even stops for a second in his massage. "You write to her?"
"She will be worried about the boy. I am letting her know we have arrived and he settles in. That is all Elrohir. Do not make this more than it is."
"You have never written to her before that I know of, Legolas. It is
more than it is."
Father puts down his pen with a sigh,
"How many times have you nagged me about my communication with her? Now it is a problem? When I do what you want?"
"It is not
a problem. I was surprised, that is all."
And Father picks up his pen. This whole time he has not looked at Elrohir, not once.
"Surprised I try to facilitate my son's relationship with his Grandmother? Is that how little you think of me."
"I think the world of you." Elrohir bends down and places a kiss upon my father's bent head. He watches as Father struggles to write. "You try too hard, Legolas. This is your mother.
She will not care about your spelling, relax."
"I will not have her think I am an imbecile when she reads this." Father replies.
"Whatever you have written, she will love." Elrohir sighs. I think he is right. My Grandmother will shine, like the stars she tells stories of, when she gets this.
He places a hand then on Father's shoulder before he speaks.
"I am sorry for before; the mindspeak. It was wrong."
Father does not acknowledge his apology. He does not argue his case or point out just how wrong Elrohir really was. He is still angry then, I think, but I am wrong, for slowly he lifts his own hand to pat Elrohir's when it sits upon his shoulder.
It is a forgiveness.
"I need to write to Maewen later," is all he says. "Will you help me with that? I would like to be more . . . Eloquent, than this if I could."
"The mindspeak is not wrong, Elrohir." Finally Father answers the apology. "Just the timing. When it is to do with me I would rather you spoke it aloud. No matter how disparaging it may be." He turns his head then, finally, to look Elrohir in the eye and lifts a hand to shush him before he can reply.
"Can you help Estel solve his puzzle for me while I finish this? That would help me. He has been very patient."
And so Elrohir sits himself down beside me and he is smiling as he does so. He looks at my troop arrangements briefly then goes to move a handful of them.
"No!" I tell him, "That is a river. You cannot put them there!"
"A river?" He frowns then, "Are there any other landmarks I should know about?"
"This is a cliff."
He looks up at Father then.
"Is this your doing? You have set him an impossible task!"
"Not impossible. Think like a Silvan, Elrohir."
"I am not sure I want to," Elrohir laughs. "The Silvan I know best is completely mad."
"Ah," Father turns his head and smiles right back at him, his most contagious grin, "But you love me despite it!"
And I know he is right.
I know Elrohir most surely does.
Sometimes I feel guilty about how happy I feel in the next few days.
My mother is not here and nor is Calithil and I do miss them. This place is not my home and I miss that too.
But despite that I am happier than I can remember being for a long time. The sun shines brighter, the sky is bluer. My father smiles, all the time
Elladan teaches me the sword and Father watches with Elrohir. It is hard. Harder than I ever imagined. My arms ache at the end of the day but I get better. Elladan begins to spar with me—if you can call it that—he teaches me moves and blocks me. I feel as if I am really fighting and I think my Grandfather will be proud when he sees me next.
“You were good today, Estel,” Father calls out as he walks across the field towards us when we stop for the day. “I see improvement. You will be better at the sword than I am, I think. You are more precise. I could never be bothered. It drove my Father mad.”
“Show him what you mean, Legolas,” Elladan smiles and he takes my sword off me and holds it out to my Father. “Show him how not to do it.”
“A practice sword?” Father exclaims and he looks at it in distaste. “We are above that I think Elladan.”
“But I do not want to hurt you!” Elladan laughs and dances away as Father launches himself at him and I back away. I do not want to be in the middle of them—swordless.
Elrohir comes to stand beside me.
“This will be good.” He tells me. “Their styles are very different; watch.”
Elladan is better. Even I can see that. His movements are more exact. They are sharp and clean and I can see the things he nags me about as he fights. He is beautiful, effortless and perfect.
But Father, although he is not as crisp and clean as Elladan, holds his own. His movements are sloppy but he is fast and unexpected. He does not do what Elladan thinks he will . He takes him by surprise.
“Who won?” Father calls out to me when they finally stop. “Who was the best, Estel?”
I bite my lip as I think on it. I want to get it right. Both of them are still standing and neither struck a blow.
“It is a draw.” I say in the end.
“Ah no!” He pretends to be distraught and it makes me giggle. “Where is your family loyalty boy?”
“Elladan is better but you surprised him.”
He tips his head back and laughs.
“I can not argue with that!”
“I had forgotten what a nightmare it is sparring with a woodelf.” Elladan says then. “Thank goodness we were never on opposite sides!”
Father tilts his head to one side as if he considers something.
“Well. . . If you consider your Father’s upbringing . . . “
“No!” Elladan holds his hands up, “We are not going to get into Doriath now!”
Father bounces on his toes,
“Are you suggesting—“ he begins but Elrohir lays a hand upon his arm.
“Legolas,” he says, “I know you simply look for a little excitement but there are others here who will not understand that.” His eyes flick towards me. “Perhaps we can revisit Doriath tonight. I am sure Elladan will still bite then.” And Father follows his gaze, sees me standing there and sighs.
“I suppose you are right,” he says. “Come on Estel. Let us Silvans go find some trees. What say you?”
“Yes!” I will always agree when he invites me to run in the trees. My annoyance at the riddles they speak above my head disappears.
“What is Doriath, Father,” I ask him as we walk away.
“A fight,” He says, “Between our people—the Sindar, and the Feanorions. It is complicated, Estel, and a lot of grief has been caused because of it. We are in a new land now—together. We should not dwell on it.”
“And Elrohir and Elladan are Feanorions?”
“No . . .” He runs a hand through his hair. “They are not. I was only teasing them. Elrond was raised by Feanorions though because his parents—” He stops, and looks at me, “Have I really never told you this? Of Elwing and Earendil? Turgon, Idril, Beren and Luthien?”
“No.” I wish he would though. The names sound intriguing.
“Well I will have to rectify that then, later, although . . . “ he catches himself. “Perhaps not Beren and Luthien. They are so tedious and I had more than enough of them for a lifetime from Aragorn.”
I stare at him in confusion and he laughs.
“He would wander the marshes reciting these endless maudlin poems. Seriously, Estel, you are lucky you missed it. Enough to put you off Beren and Luthien for life!”
He does not often talk about Aragorn the King so easily. He tells me stories but it has to be the right time before he will. I cannot ask for them myself. I have never seen him laugh at him like this.
He is still laughing when we reach the trees.
The first day we were here, after he had finished his letter to my Grandmother, my father led me here. We left Elrohir behind and just the two of us walked and walked until we found this small woodland.
“I have been reprimanded by my father,” he said, “and he is right. But now I am unburdened and have time I will begin to put things right.” And I wondered what my Grandfather had disciplined him for. I did not have to wonder long.
“You wish to learn to listen to the trees?” He asked, “I should have taught you long ago, Estel. I am sorry.”
“Oh!” It was my fault my Grandfather had been angry with him. “I am sorry, Father. Grandfather asked me what he could change for me. I did not mean he should reprimand you. I was not complaining.”
“But I should have done this sooner,” he said to me then. “I should have made the time. It is important. Your Grandfather was right to take me to task, but we change things now
He took me then, up into the tree tops, and he taught me to quiet myself and listen. He showed me how to find their whispering amongst the hum of the world. It was hard, harder than I expected, as hard as the sword fighting. It seems nothing is as easy as I think it is.
But I did it.
Where Father hears conversations and detail
I can now hear the faintest whispers, but hear them I can.
He takes my hand now, as we arrive at our grove, and holds it against the trunk of the tallest tree there.
“Do you hear that, my son? Do you feel her joy? Child of Cuivelan! She cries to you. She feels your Silvan heart and she is joyful.”
How he knows it is a she I do not know. My Father is much better with the trees than I, still I do now feel the trill of excitement that runs through the bark.
He reaches up then, grabs a branch above us and then he is gone, up into her leaves. For a moment I think he has gone straight up to the top to sit in the sun but then he appears, dangling above me, upside down, his arms outstretched to pull me up into the foliage with him.
“Come on Monkey, join me!”
I let him pull me up onto the branch and then I chase him, up, up, up, until we balance ourselves delicately at the top. The leaves are all below us here and the sun warms us. At least, I am balanced delicately—Father lounges.
His hair shines bright in the sun, he drapes himself across the branch he sits on and leans back, eyes closed as he soaks up the warmth. And I watch him.
He opens one eye and looks at me with a smile.
"Relax, little one. You look so worried."
Father?" There is something I want to ask him and now seems as good a time as any. "When we go home . . . Can Elrohir come home with us?"
He lifts his head and pulls himself up to sit beside me, legs dangling in the air.
"Elrohir must stay here, Estel. This is his home."
"We can build him a home in our wood." I have been thinking on this and I have it all planned out. "It needn't be a flet. He could have a house. You could make him one."
"Elrohir needs Elladan. They are twins, my little one, and linked together. They need each other. Elrohir, without Elladan would be very unhappy and you would not want that would you?"
"Elladan can come to our wood as well!" I have already thought about that and it is such an obvious answer I wonder he has not thought of it himself.
But he just laughs softly and maybe a little sadly.
"Elrohir and Elladan have people who depend on them, who chose to stay with them in Arda when Elrond left, and followed them here when they came in the end. They cannot leave them to come to our wood. When you are a leader you must put your people first."
It takes the wind out of my sails. I had not considered that.
"There are other Noldor who could lead them." I say sulkily in the end.
"There are other Silvan or Sindar who could lead our people but I cannot walk away from them can I?"
And I hang my head.
All my plans of Elrohir coming to live with us—my father being this happy always—are shattered into dust.
Father reaches out a hand and brushes my hair out of my face so he can see me.
"Why do you want him to come to our wood, Estel?"
"Because you are happy. If he came to live with us he would heal you. He could scatter your dark clouds forever
. Erynion lives near us . . . for Mother . . ."
And Father sighs.
"Elrohir and I are not the same as Erynion and your Mother, or all your friend's families. Erynion is Silvan. Elrohir is not. He would not be happy in our wood and he is not always comfortable with the way we live."
"Then he could come and visit us Father! He does not have to live there." It seems so simple and I do not understand why they are all making it complicated when it does not need to be.
"Elrohir feels the wood is your Mother's place. He does not want to intrude there."
"But he would not be! Mother would not mind. Erynion is there after all. That makes no sense Father." It is all so frustrating.
"Estel," Father takes my hand which waves about in my frustration at them all and holds it still. "This is important and I need you to understand it. Elrohir sees the world differently. We are not the same. Despite that—for me—he tries to find a way to make things work. But you need to respect the things he finds too hard to do, as he respects you. Look at the Silvan room he has made you so you will feel better about being here. Look at the way he gives us space to run to the trees even though he can imagine nothing worse! Coming to our wood is hard for him. That is just how it is. You do not have to understand it but you need to respect it."
I am sure I can find a way around this if I think hard enough. I am sure I can make it work. They have just not tried. But Father will not let me speak.
"Perhaps nothing, Estel. It is for Elrohir to decide how much of a Silvan he can be, not us. Listen . . . I will come here more often, as he asked me to. Sometimes I will bring you. Not always, but sometimes. Things will be better, I promise. Anyway, we will have Laerion coming home with us, remember. He will need a house, for flets do not suit him. There are only so many houses I can build!"
I had forgotten about that, that Laerion was coming!
“Will he not live with us then?”
“Laerion is my Father’s Sindar son. He has always preferred the caves.” Father says. “Although he can run through the trees with the best of them. I thought that old house by the river, past Erynion would be good for him, if we fix it up, you and I. He will probably stay with Erynion until we get that done. There is more space there.”
Father is right, our flet can be crowded. My mind is filled with images of my Father and I making that house perfect for my uncle. I forget all about Elrohir. If Laerion is writing for him Father will have so much time! It is exciting.
I cannot wait to have Laerion with us.
With my father sitting happy beside me the memories of his bitter arguments with my uncle seem so far away.
I could almost forget about them altogether.
“Are you happy Laerion is coming now Father?” I ask him. He does not answer me straight away but instead plucks a leaf from beside him and begins to spin it around in his fingers, back and forth he flicks it. It is mesmerising to watch.
“Elrohir says I must embrace it,” he says at last, “and so embrace it I will. We will see how it goes Estel.” He looks up then from his leaf. “It will be good to give him those tedious reports from Tirion to write though, I can tell you! I cannot wait to be done with them.”
I cannot wait either for it will mean more times like this, just he and I. It will mean less time for him to spend hunched over his desk in misery.
As far as I am concerned Laerion can not come fast enough!
It is late when Father and I return from the trees. People are already eating in the Hall. It is crowded and noisy and I hate it, it hurts my ears. I do not know why the Noldor are so much louder than us Silvans. Thankfully Elrohir and Elladan are not there. That means they are eating somewhere else and we do not have to stay.
I breathe a sigh of relief. Eating there is the worst thing about being here. Everyone stares at us and I feel as if I am on show and somehow do not measure up.
We find them in the small room Elladan took me to for breakfast that first morning.
“Thank goodness you are here!” Father exclaims as he slides into the chair next to Elrohir. “I was hoping . . . I did not fancy the public eating ordeal this evening. It reminds me too much of Minas Tirith. All the noise of those Men, those people of Aragorn’s staring at every move I made. They were so caught up in pomp and ceremony.”
I have never heard him casually speak of Minas Tirith like this; just dropping it in conversation as if he speaks of my Grandfathers house, or our own and soak up every detail. Something about being with Elrohir means these stories pour out of him and I soak up every detail.
Then he smiles despite his complaining and turns to Elrohir,
“But I know you loved it, being in the midst of the song of Men. The noise that hurt my ears made your heart sing. We are so different you and I.”
And Elrohir returns his smile with a soft one of his own. He lifts a hand to cup my father’s cheek.
“Different and yet the same, for the bright light of those mortal spirits was a lure for your soul was it not? You understand my loss as no-one else here does.”
It is as if the two of them are in a world of their own at that moment and I intrude upon it simply by watching them. I turn away and pile my plate with food, eating with determination; not looking. But Elladan does. I see him out of the corner of my eye, watching, thinking. He is just about to say something when Father speaks again.
“Thank you for allowing us our time amongst the trees,” he says to Elrohir. “It is important, and something we are not able to achieve at home.”
“Take all the time you need. It is no problem.”
“Perhaps you could join us?” Father tilts his head and his eyes sparkle but Elrohir simply laughs.
“I think not! I am not brave enough to climb about the trees with two Silvans. What a disaster that would be.”
“I have a flet—” Finally Elladan speaks and it startles everyone. I think both Father and Elrohir have almost forgotten he was there, “—in the trees. I thought I might take Estel there one night, to sleep under the stars. With your blessing of course, Legolas. Perhaps tonight would be good?”
And Father’s eyes open wide. He puts down his fork full of food.
“A flet?” He is surprised by this.
“It reminds me of Lothlorien.” Elladan smiles. “I am not as adverse to trees as my brother. I thought Estel might enjoy it.”
Father’s fingers begin to drum against the table. I know he will not like this. I have never even been allowed to go to Erynion’s to sleep. He likes to keep us with him. Faster and faster his fingers tap against the wood as he thinks.
“Perhaps I could come with you?” He suggests but I do not think that is why Elladan offers; to take Father with us. It will defeat his purpose.
Then Elrohir reaches out and grasps his hand, winding his own fingers through Fathers so they can no longer beat their anxious beat.
“You can do this.” He says quietly. “Remember . . . It is what you want, to give him room to grow. Did you not do similar yourself, in the Greenwood as a child?”
And Father stills.
“I did.” He breathes. “Mother would take me with her to her villiage and my Grandfather would take me out into the trees. I loved it there. It was so wild compared to the stronghold.”
“And that was amongst the danger of the Greenwood. This is within the safety of Valinor. Give him this.”
“The villiage was quite safe then. . . ” Father frowns, “or my Father would not have allowed her to take me. It was only later it became too dangerous and my Grandparents came to us instead to visit.”
I have never met my Great Grandparents. They are not here, for they chose to stay in Arda with the land. I only know the snippets my Father occasionally tells me of them.
“Your mother truly gave up much to come here.” Elrohir obviously thinks of them also.
“It was her choice.” The bitterness that always lines Fathers voice when he speaks of my Grandmother creeps back but it does not scare Elrohir. He does not change the subject as my mother might have.
“She would have lost them regardless though Legolas, would she not? Laerion was lost to the Halls, you ended up with the sea-longing, Thranduil always had to accompany the Sindar to Valinor eventually. Her parents were lost to her the moment she chose your father.”
“Why do you care so much about my Mother?”
“Because I know how hard it is to love someone whose heart is so different from your own.”
Father stares down at their hands clasped together on the table their fingers entwined. His knuckles are white, he grips Elrohir so tightly. For a long time he stares and says nothing but finally he lifts his head to look at me.
“You can go with Elladan if you wish it.”
I can not believe he has said it.
“I do, I do wish it!”
“But you will obey Elladan as you do me. Pay heed to everything he says, Estel. I am trusting you. “
As if I would not obey Elladan Elrondion! Why would I want to do that?
“Of course, Father, Of course! Thank you!”
It is only then he smiles, and only then I see his grip on Elrohir relax but he does not remove his hand. He does not move it. It stays there—connected, even as he eats.
The walk to the flet is a long one. The sun is setting and the shadows lengthen as Elladan and I make our way there but I do not mind. I imagine I am like my father and we go on a quest together—a dangerous one of course—there are enemies around every corner.
“Do you ever walk in a straight line?” Elladan laughs as I dance around amongst the undergrowth.
“I am battling Orcs!” I tell him.
“Oh, Of course.” He says it with a straight face as if it is a perfectly normal thing to be doing—as if now he can see the orcs I imagine in my mind—and leans himself back against a tree and folds his arms.
“But we have reached our destination,” he smiles. “Perhaps you wish to climb up to the flet where we can better survey the enemy and plan our tactics?”
And instantly the orcs vanish from my mind.
The flet is perfect, just like one of ours, and I gasp when I set foot in it.
“Like it?” Elladan asks behind me.
“Yes! It is just like home.”
It is comfortable and cosy. It feels lived in, not empty. There are quilts here like the one on my bed—the one Elrohir said his mother made—and I reach out and run my fingers over one.
“Silvan quilts made by my mother,” Elladan says. “They remind me of Lothlorien where my Grandparents lived. Everything here reminds me of something. It is where I come when I want to remember.”
There is a large chest in the corner that catches my eye. It is carved with brass hinges and it calls to me. He sees me gaze at it.
“Do you want to see inside?” He kneels down to unlock it and I drop to my knees beside him. There is a crown inside, a Queen’s crown, not a King’s, and the most beautiful gown I have ever seen. Better than anything my Mother has.
“These are some of my sister’s things,” Elladan tells me and I hold my breath. His sister? The one who chose to die? I cannot believe he shows me these.
He reaches down into the depths of the chest and pulls out a heavy book and when he opens it and places it before me I see the pages are filled with drawings and sketches.
“She drew these.”he says, his hand drifting over them. “She was quite good at it.”
I turn the pages slowly. There are many pictures of small children there. A boy with wild curls and big eyes, two little girls. Then, suddenly, my father leaps out of the page at me. It is definitely him. I would know even without the words written at the bottom in sindarin. Legolas visits from Ithilien, it says. There are lots of pictures of him then. On his own, with the children; I pause at one of him and the boy sprawled in front of a fire playing with soldiers.
“That is Eldarion,” Elladan explains beside me. “My nephew. The soldiers they play with are the ones Elrohir gave you to have here.”
“The very same?” It is so strange to look at them in this picture drawn so long ago in another land. That boy is dead now.
But many more numerous than my father, I see as I continue to browse, are the pictures of another man. He is tall, handsome, serious; He looks like a King even though he is often not dressed as one. He is there with the boy, with my father, swinging the girls in the air, his pictures are everywhere.
“My Estel.” Elladan tells me. “That is Aragorn.” I did recognise him. Father has drawn me pictures of him before.
And looking at him, there in the flet, my secret bursts out of me. It is a secret I hold close to my heart. One that burns within me but nobody knows. I do not know why I tell Elladan now.
“I hate him,” I say and I push the book away. He looks pleasant and kind in those pictures and I do not want to see that. “I hate him. I wish I did not have his name. I hate that too!”
At first Elladan is silent beside me before he picks up the book I have spurned and places it back in the chest.
“Why do you hate him?” He asks at last, “when you do not know him?”
“I do know him!” I cry and it all spills out. “He hurt my Father. It is his fault, his fault Father is unhappy and nothing is ever right for us. I wish he had left my Father alone.”
And Elladan looks at me as if he does not know what to say.
“Do not hate him, Estel. He would have loved you.”
“I do not care. I wish Father had never known him!”
“But if he had never known him . . ” he says quietly, “Legolas would have stayed in the wood. He would not know Elrohir and I would never have known you. Do not wish for that. If we take one person out of our lives it changes everything.” I had not thought of that, that not knowing Aragorn the King would mean Father did not have Elrohir either.
“I do not want his name.” I say sulkily, unwilling to concede he has a point. “It is always someone else’s name and never really mine.”
“It is yours. You make it yours. Already when I hear the name Estel I begin to see you in my mind. It is a fine name.” He reaches out and tilts my face up towards his. “It means hope. And you are hope. Aragorn would be so proud if he knew you.”
But that is something else that upsets me.
“I do not want to be that,” I cry. “Everyone says that, especially my father, but I cannot be his hope. It weighs me down until I cannot breathe. I want to be me.”
“Oh Estel,” Elladan wraps his arms around me then and holds me close against him so I am safe. “You are your own person no matter what name you bear. You do not have to live up to Aragorn, or be a bedrock for Legolas.”
“Do not tell my father,” I say in a panic for suddenly the idea occurs to me he may well do that. “Do not tell him what I said about my name, or Aragorn the King. It will hurt him.”
“I will not tell him.”
I remember then that silent mindspeech that passed between he and Elrohir.
“Do not tell Elrohir either!” It seems wrong that Elrohir would know this when my Father does not.
“I will not tell Elrohir. It will be our secret only, little one.” He murmurs as he holds me. “If that is how you wish it. I promise, and my promise is my word. No-one else will know.”
And I believe him.
“Perhaps I can change your mind?” He says then. “Perhaps I can find a crack in the walls your heart has built against Aragorn?”
But the walls are very high. I do not think he can.
This chapter is short, sorry, but I felt this was all it needed.
When I wake I am wrapped in a quilt, warm and snug and I do not want to move. It is safe and soft, a protection against the world.
But I am also alone. Elladan is not there.
Briefly I am worried but then I smell it—food cooking on a fire, and I realise I am hungry. The hunger drags me from my cocoon and out into the world. I poke my head out of the flet and there he is, on the ground below me cooking us breakfast.
“Coming down, Estel?” He calls up to me with a smile. “I hoped the smell of breakfast would wake you. I have yet to meet a boy who did not like to eat.”
I am down before he can blink.
He piles up my plate and it smells so good. I had not imagined we would breakfast underneath the trees.
“It was interesting . . .” he says casually as he sits down beside me to eat and I look at him suspiciously. I have learned that often when adults pretend what they say does not matter it is really very important indeed. “What you were saying last night about your name, Estel. How you do not like it.”
“I do not want to talk about my name.” It is true. Suddenly I am worried he has changed his mind, he will tell my father after all and that will be terrible.
My defiance does not stop him.
“Ah, But I do. Did you know Este— Aragorn, did not much like his name either? You are not so different the two of you.”
“That is not true.” He must be lying now to make me feel better somehow, trying to trick me into accidentally liking Aragorn the King. Well I am wise to that.
“It is true. Estel was not his real name. My father named him that to hide who he truly was and keep him safe. He called him Hope because he was the hope of Men, of all of us, truth be told. But Estel did not know that. We had to tell him though in the end—when he was grown—who he really was. That he was Aragorn son of Arathorn. He was so angry with us all. He felt we had tricked him. He did not want to be Aragorn then. It was a heavy burden. He said exactly what you did to me. I can still remember it clearly, that he just wanted to be himself, not a king to a homeless people, and because of us he did not even know who himself was.”
I did not know this and I wonder if it is true?
“Father has never told me this.” I say disbelievingly.
“Why would he?” Elladan shrugs. “He was not there. It was years before he met Aragorn. I assume perhaps they spoke about it but maybe not. Maybe Aragorn never told Legolas how it enraged him.”
I have never imagined there might be things about Aragorn the King that Father does not know.
“Still,” Elladan continues, “Whether Legolas knew it or not the truth it remains. Aragorn left us, burning with resentment. Hating the name he had to carry.....and also the one we had given him to keep him safe that had stolen who he really was. He went to his real people as he told us. To Halbarad to learn how to be Dúnedain. Then he met my sister. It reminded me—your words last night—they reminded me of him. He used so many different names after that. Aragorn had a multitude of them.”
His sister . . . I have wondered—well he is the one who brought it up. Why not ask now?
“Why do you not hate him for that? He made your sister choose to die. I would hate anyone who did that to Calithil, anyone!”
“I do not hate him,” Elladan says slowly, “because I loved him first. But I was angry . . Very angry . . For a long time. So was Elrohir, and my father. He was the angriest of all. It was a betrayal. It felt like a betrayal.”
“Elrohir was angry?”
“Oh yes. And when Elrohir is angry everybody knows it. He is all passion and fire. But he is angry about that no longer. He misses them.”
“I would be angry forever, if it were my sister!”
Elladan laughs softly at my declaration and I am surprised that he would laugh at all.
“It is not funny!” I cry.
“Is your sister as determined as mine was?” He asks. “Does she have a mind of her own? Is she stubborn? Arwen always was and it was her choice. Aragorn did not make her love him, and once she had decided upon it what chance did he have? You cannot stay angry at someone for love. I tried . . . It does not work.”
Calithil is stubborn. She does have a mind of her own and she does not listen well to me either. Perhaps I can see his point. But none of this matters anyway.
“It does not make any difference,” I tell him, “that he did not like his name. It does not change anything. He still hurt my father.”
“I know Legolas still hurts and always will.” Elladan says quietly, “I know that hurt spills on to you sometimes and it is not fair, but is that Aragorn’s fault? Legolas chose to be his friend and he is as stubborn as Arwen. I have lost Estel. Elrohir has lost him. Perhaps the problem is your Father’s? Legolas has always struggled with loss. It is who he is.”
Instantly I am angry, I am furious, for how dare he? How dare he say it is all my father’s fault! He knows nothing!
In the back of my mind ring Erynion’s words, "He is not the only one in Valinor who has suffered death and loss!" But that is not how it is! My mother would not listen to that and neither will I. I spill my plate onto the ground in anger and leap to my feet. I would break it if I dared.
“You do not know anything!” I shout at him. “You know nothing about my father!”
But Elladan does not shout back. He simply sits where he is. He is calm and quiet in the face of my rage.
“Shall I tell you about my father?” He asks me. It confuses me. My angry words stumble to a halt, but no matter, he does not wait for my answer anyway.
“My father—” he says calmly as if we only discuss the weather, “lost his brother. His twin. Has Legolas told you that story? My Father’s twin was Elros who chose to be a Man as Arwen did. So Father watched him age and die. He has never recovered from that loss. He carries it with him always . . Still . . Even here. He spent his life watching over Elros’ children. Aragorn was one of them. Sometimes, to Elrohir and I, it felt they were more important to my father than us—his own children. He has spent his life researching, reading, looking for proof . . . any proof, he will be reunited with Elros once again. Elros is a ghost that haunts us all and Father cannot let him go.
“It has been worst for Elrohir for the call of Men is strongest in him and that terrified our Father. He was frightened he would lose him too. So Elrohir pretended it was not there. He hid who he really was for Father’s sake. Arwen did not help things and still it is not easy, even now we are all in Valinor, so perhaps I know a little bit what it is like for your Father? Perhaps I know a bit about what it is like for you?”
He takes my breath away. In my wildest dreams I have never imagined anyone understood. Not like this.
“Sometimes . . . ” I stumble over my words for tears build up behind them like a dam and if I speak it will let them all out. I will end up crying like Calithil when she has been denied a favourite toy. “Sometimes it feels as if Aragorn and Gimli are more important to Father than me. He does not see me. I am never enough to make it better. I am never enough . . . ”
It is too late. The tears defeat me. They surge forward down my cheeks.
And then I am in his arms.
“I know.” He says, “I know.” And he does. He does know.
“But listen,” he holds me back from where I gave burrowed in to his tunic. “I also know your father loves you. I know he fights to reach you. I know he shines brighter when he is with you. He has overcome incredible odds before and proved me wrong. I think he will defeat this also. It will not always be as it is now. But if ever you need me, write and I will answer. Call and I will come. We must stick together, hmm, those of us who understand what it is to have the ghosts of Mortals haunt the ones we love.”
It is a relief, a weight removed. I feel light as a feather to realise I am not alone.
He holds my hand as we walk back. There is no orc hunting. His hand is solid and secure. It lets me think.
There is one thing he said that I find difficult to believe for I cannot imagine it.
“Elrohir hid himself away? The real Elrohir?”
For Elrohir is magestic and strong. It is hard to believe he would hide his heart as I hide the worry inside me so often from my Father.
“He did.” Elladan says firmly. “The Elrohir you see here is not always who he was. We are in Valinor now. The strength of his mannish blood is no longer a threat to my father. But most of all it is Legolas who changed that before we even arrived here, and I love him for it. He taught my brother all parts of him are worthy of love. He asked him to let it show—his love for the song of Men.”
They sit together upon the steps, Elrohir and my father, when we arrive, and Father is singing. I love his voice. But he stops when he sees me. He leaps to his feet and sprints towards us.
“See how you make him shine.” Elladan says behind me. “See how, in this moment, you are enough. Learn to capture these times when you see the real Legolas behind the pain.”
Then Father has me. He swings me in the air. He holds me tight.
“You are back!” He cries. “How was it? Did Elladan treat you well?”
“Yes.” I smile up at him for it is good to be back and I am floating. “He cooked me breakfast!”
“Was it edible?” Father laughs and Elladan objects loudly beside us but he is laughing as well.
Father pours his love upon me and I bask in it, and behind me Elladan is my shield.
For he knows, he really knows,
What it is like to be me.
The accident Elrohir and Estel talk about here is described in “Fire Dancing Upon Our Souls”
I know I do not know my real father and I never will.
People tell stories—especially my mother and Erynion—about what he was like before his accident in Arda, and I listen, but I will never know that Father.
Sometimes I think I see him . . . glimpses, especially here with Elrohir. He is bright—my real father. He shines and his light spreads across us all. It makes me sad that he is not with us always.
Today is not a day for my Father of light. Today is a day for the damaged one.
Letters have arrived for us. For me there is one from my mother, and a picture from Calithil. I have read Mother’s three times already!
Father has a letter from Mother also but as well as that there are a large pile of papers from my Grandfather. I have seen the letter Grandfather sent with them.
Legolas, it said, I know you have gone in search of rest but the demands from Tirion flow on. I have diverted as much of this as I can to Erynion but these need your attention. Do not worry about inaccuracies. I will correct them. If there were any way I could avoid sending you these believe me, I would.
Father’s shoulders slumped from the moment he opened it.
We are in his room. I am curled up on his bed and he is seated at his desk the papers strewn around him haphazardly . I do not think that is because he is damaged, his messiness. Mother says he has always been that way. She says she does not know how he makes his way through the world sometimes given the chaos in his head.
He is very frustrated today.
“Damn it!” He swears and it makes me jump when he slams his fist on the table. “Why can I not think today? If only Gimli were here.”
I do not know what happened to Father in Arda, but I know that it was bad. My parents never speak of it in front of me and yet it hovers, always, in the background. One day when he was light and happy, Father did tell me how hard it was for them to mend him. Elladan healed his body he said, Elrohir his spirit and Gimli his mind while Aragorn brought him back. What he meant by that I do not know; brought him back from where?
“What did Mother do?” I asked for it seemed unfair everyone had a hand in his recovery except her.
“She had the most important job,” he said. “She opened the door and let Elrohir in.”
He was just being silly. Opening a door is not important. How heavy was the door anyway that Elrohir could not let himself in?
But he calls for Gimli today so I know it is his mind which is not working as it should.
He turns to me with a wry smile.
“Sorry Monkey. You have a useless Father today. This might take a while.”
“I can help you.” I have done it before after all.
“Not this time.” He sighs. “I need to do this myself.”
As if he knows exactly when he is needed, like a saviour from the mists, the door opens and Elrohir strolls in. I see his eyes assess the mess in front of my father immediately. He stands there at the edge of the desk, hand hovering just above the papers. I think he wants to rearrange them, he wants to tidy them. He resists.
“What is all this?” He asks, “Can I help?”
And Father rubs his hand across his forehead as if it pains him.
“No.” My heart sinks when he says that. “This is not lists and numbers to copy,” he says. “I need ideas. This has to come from my head.”
“So you dictate and I write.” Elrohir will not give up.
“You are not understanding. I cannot think. My mind is all over the place today. I am scattered on the wind. I need more control. That’s what Gimli would be telling me. You are in control Legolas, take it back, build the walls. How many weeks did he traipse me around Minas Tirith telling me that? Today I cannot do it.”
“What has happened?” Elrohir’s forehead creases with concern as he runs his hand though Father’s hair. “What has happened here to cause this?”
“Nothing, Elrohir,” Father leans into his touch and sighs. “It is just how it is. Do not start that—looking for a reason to blame yourself. A bad day that is all. Some days I wake up and everything is gone. No matter where I am or who I am with. It just is. I can do this. I can get it back, I have before.”
“Well let me help then.”
“I need to do it myself. No matter the struggle. Gimli showed me that I need to be able to regain my control all on my own.” Father turns and looks at me. “Take Estel out,” he says with a quick grin that is more his real self. “That will help me. It is boring for him here. I promise if I am still struggling when you return then you can help me with this.”
“Take him out?” Elrohir seems surprised at that. “For the day, without you?”
“Yes! He will enjoy it—you will enjoy it?” He asks me.
“Of course!” Time with Elrohir is exciting and anything is better than watching Father battle with himself. That is so difficult to see.
But even as I leave on the much wished for expedition with Elrohir I am uneasy. I hate seeing Father when he is not as he should be. It makes me sad, and leaving is hard. He is on my mind as we stride off towards the waterfall we had supper at that very first day. Elrohir says he will take me to the very top.
I try to feel excited as I should but I cannot. I feel angry. Guilty I am not with Father, unhappy life is so hard for him. It is not fair. Why is it like this? I resent the Gods who did this to him. I resent the the fact no-one will tell me anything.
Elrohir strides ahead and I stomp along behind, hating the world. Elrohir speaks, he tells me stories I think, but I do not listen. I am too angry.
“What happened to Father?” I cut across his tale with my furious demand.
“What?” He turns to look at me in surprise.
“What happened to my Father in Arda to make him like he is today?”
“You do not know?” He stops in his tracks and stares.
“I know he was hurt. I know it took everyone to mend him, but no one will tell me anything real.”
“It is for your parents to tell you,” he says gently, “I cannot—“ But I do not let him finish. I do not want to take no for an answer today.
“My parents will not tell me and now you will not either. It is not fair. I am sick of it. Nobody tells me anything.”
“A wall collapsed on him in Minas Tirith,” he says sadly in the end. “A large wall, and he was crushed.”
“And you were there?”
“Your Mother was with him but I was there. They called for help and I came. At first I did not know it was Legolas underneath all that rock, but Maewen in tears trying to dig him out. It was obvious who it was.” He looks away then so I cannot see his face. “It is not pleasant to think of, Estel. Perhaps that is why they do not speak of it. It is enough you know he was damaged and that damage is still with him. The details are theirs to know. You do not have the right to know everything no matter how much you may want to.”
That is not what I want to hear and I push on.
“If he was in Minas Tirith already where did Aragorn bring him back from?”
Elrohir face drains white, completely white.
“Why do you ask that?”
“Father told me one day Aragorn brought him back but that was all he said. It makes no sense.”
“Then that is all he wants you to know!” He snaps. “Cease this questioning and respect their pain.”
Oh I am so mad.
“It is not fair” I cry. “Everyone only tells me lies.”
“You have had no lies from me!” Now he is angry too. “Only what you need to know. Your father has been damaged and that damage will always be with him. You need to know that. He cannot write easily, sometimes he is volatile and he feels too deeply, sometimes he struggles to find his focus and every day, every single day he fights to limit how much that hurts you. That is all you need to know Estel, and all you will hear from me. The rest of it is his own private experience and you would do well to respect that.”
He turns his back on me.
“Come on. Let us put this aside and enjoy our day.”
But I will not put it aside. I will not let go of how angry I am with him for not telling me what I want. I push past him and run up the path ahead. I do not come back when he calls me and in the end he lets me go.
When we reach the waterfall its roar fills my ears, its spray wets my face and invigorates me, I see the path winding its way up the cliff beside it and I head for it.
“Stay on the path, Estel!” Elrohir calls to me, but why should I listen to him. He will not talk to me. He hides things from me like all the rest. The path is windy and much longer than it needs to be. It is frustrating so when I see a gap in the rocks, a more direct way to climb, I am off.
“Estel!” Elrohir’s angry voice floats up to me. “I told you, stay on the path! Do as you are told.”
He doubts me but I am Silvan. I can climb! He may be afraid because he is Noldor but I am not. I ignore him.
It feels freeing, skimming over the rocks, leaping from ledge to ledge, searching for footholds. I ignore his shouts. I will show him, and I know he cannot catch me. I will be in trouble when we reach the top but I would be in trouble now in any case so I may as well make it worth it.
Too late I realise all the rocks are not as stable as they could be. Too late I find some are not secure at all.
I reach up to one, grasp it with my hand and pull myself up to move on to the next . . . And it moves. It pulls away from the cliff as if it was never attached at all. In that split second I scramble for another but there is none. Then I am in the air, with nothing to hold on to, only rocks and water a long way below me.
And Elrohir’s panicked voice rings loudly in my ears before I fall.
The story Legolas tells Estel of his bad reaction to medicinal herbs happens in “Hands of the King”
At first it as if I am suspended in the air . . .
But then I drop.
I bounce from rock to rock down the cliff face, ricocheting from one side to the other as if I were a pebble.
But the worst of it is when I land.
It hurts. It knocks the breath out of me so I lie gasping. The sky above me sways and spins and I lie there because I can do nothing else.
Elrohir’s voice floats down to me, my name being called in desperation, but I cannot answer because I cannot breathe.
I try to move. Gingerly I turn my head and it hurts . . Everything hurts, especially my arm and when I look at it my heart stops still. It is crooked, bent, misshapen. What has happened? It lies there beside me at all the wrong angles. It terrifies me.
The spell is broken. The air rushes into my lungs . . . And I scream.
“Thank the Gods!” Elrohir cries above me.
“Estel!” He calls, “Estel, keep still, I am coming!”
I hear his footsteps above me, the sound of his body pushing through the trees and all the while he talks to me.
“Lie still, little one, I am on my way. It is alright, Estel. It is alright.” Except it is not alright at all.
I want my father. I want him more than anything, more than I have ever wanted him before. I am so frightened and I call his name. I scream it.
Of course he cannot hear me.
It is Elrohir who arrives, breathless and wide eyed he bends over me. He is shaking . . . I feel his hand tremor as he touches me and that frightens me even more.
“I want my father!” I cry. “I want him, I want him!” My voice rising to a fever pitch in panic.
“Hush, hush,” he soothes. “I will take you to him little one.” He sweeps his hands over me, brushing away what I imagine is dirt from my face until I see his fingers come away wet with blood. Surely that is not my
blood! My panic rises at the sight of it. It is so hard to breathe. The fear chokes me.
“Shush, shush, calm down Estel.” Elrohir rolls a wave of calm across me that gently slows my thudding heart. “This is not so bad, hmm. Not as bad as I feared. Nothing Elladan cannot fix. You must trust me.”
“I hurt,” I cry. “Everything hurts. My arm!” It is my arm that frightens me most. It looks so wrong
But he smiles softly.
“You have broken it.” He says, “What a badge of honour for a warrior like you. Elladan will make it straight again. Never fear.” I cannot imagine how Elladan will ever do that but Elrohir is so sure, so certain everything will be well despite myself I begin to believe him. At least it means I can breathe.
He disappears for a time then when I have stopped screaming and started breathing. He leaves me, telling me to stay still, but he does not go far. He talks to me all the time so while I cannot see him I can hear him, and I lie absolutely still as he has told me. I am not going to ignore him again. When he returns he has some wood, a curved solid piece of bark. What a strange thing to go searching for now. Then he takes his shirt and rips it, tearing a strip from around the bottom. I am confused.
“This will hurt little one.” He says gently, “But I must do it before I move you else it will hurt so much more,” and he moves towards my arm.
“Do not touch it!” My voice is shrill and high as I cry. “Leave it alone. It hurts, it hurts!”
“I must.” He places a hand upon my forehead and his bright light surrounds me. “I must, Estel. I know you are scared but show me how brave you are, my courageous boy.” He has never called me his boy before. The thought of it stills the beginnings of my screaming.
“I remember Aragorn doing something similar once,” he says with a smile. “Falling . . Breaking his arm while doing something he shouldn’t. Except it was a tree which I know you
would never fall from. He climbed too high, got stuck for hours and then in the end he slipped. Foolish child he was. It ruined heights for him forever.” He laughs as he speaks of the misfortunes of Aragorn the King and his story distracts me so much I almost do not notice as he reaches for my arm.
I do as he lifts it though for it hurts worse than any hurt I have ever felt before and although I do not want to my screaming begins again. But he is quick . . So quick, and before I know it he has laid my arm in the cradle of the bark and the strip from his shirt is strapped firmly around it.
“Good boy,” he says despite the fact I am still sobbing. “So brave,” and he smiles at me. “I am proud of you.” He sits back on his heels then. “I am going to lift you up.” He says brightly. “And carry you back to Elladan and your father so we can begin putting you back together. This will hurt too. I am sorry.”
He is right it does. He carries me gently, but every step he takes jolts pain right through me. It takes forever, a never ending trip of pain and I cry. I cry loudly and although Elrohir is with me I cry for my Father.
“Father, Father, Father,” I moan it like a mantra against the pain. And Elrohir murmurs his own into my hair.
“Nearly there,” he says “Soon we will be with him, soon Estel.”
Suddenly all is a rush. I do not know where we are but there are people all around us, murmuring low in anxious voices and Elrohir lays me down—finally, in a room that is not my room on a bed that is not my bed. There are strange elves everywhere but Elrohir is there. The others scare me so I look only at him.
“Elladan is on his way . . And Legolas—” In fact he cannot complete his sentence before the door swings open and suddenly Elladan really is there. The rest of them move away from me to let him through as if he is a King.
He sits on the bed beside me and his voice is soft.
“Oh you have made a mess of yourself little one.” But he is smiling so I am not worried. “Get me water, cloths to clean him, poppy, splints for the arm,” he snaps orders at the elves behind him and they scurry away like ants. He really is important.
“Do not be afraid, Estel. We can fix this.”
The water comes quickly and it is warm upon my skin. Gently he dabs it on the grazes that litter my body and as he does he talks to Elrohir. His voice is not light and sure as it is with me—no, to Elrohir it is grave.
“We were climbing to the top of the waterfall. He was off the path.” Elrohir’s voice is quiet and sad.
“Off the path? Oh Elrohir!”
Elladan does not take his eyes off me as he speaks. I want to tell him not to be angry with Elrohir. It was all my fault, but I cannot.
“You know this will not go well for you?” He says to Elrohir in the end. And Elrohir makes the same response.
“I know,” he says, “I know
There are raised voices outside the door, loud and agitated.
“And here he is.” Elladan says. “What did you tell him?”
“I sent word Estel was injured and to come here soonest.”
“No reassurance? Seriously, Elrohir!”
“What?” Elrohir throws his arms wide in annoyance. “The boy was calling for him, I was distracted. As you can see I am not perfect
Then the door swings open with a crash and Father is there.
The green gold song that is Legolas sweeps into the room like a whirlwind and he is by my side, calling my name.
I cry when I see him. It is such a relief to have him here.
“I needed you.” I sob.
He pats at my face, hands sweeping over me as if he does not believe I am really here.
“Legolas,” Elladan grasps his arm and I can see his grip is a firm one. His fingers curl in to Father’s skin. “Legolas, listen.” He reaches out and forces Father to look away from me, to look at him. “Listen to me. It is important.” He says earnestly. “There is nothing here we cannot mend. He has been lucky. With your help we can patch this boy of yours back together. There is nothing serious, Legolas. Do you hear me?”
“Yes I hear you.” Father says but his eyes are wide and frightened, which in turn frightens me.
“I need your help.” Elladan repeats himself slowly.
And Father turns back to me,
“Yes,” he says, “yes. You have my help.”
I did not know my Father was a healer.
He strokes the hair off my face frowning as his fingers touch the graze there and I wince, but Elladan rubs sweet smelling ointment on it and it soothes the sting.
“What happened Elrohir?” Father’s voice is ragged when he speaks and he does not look behind him. He does not look at Elrohir.
“We were on the path by the waterfall, he strayed from it. The rocks were unstable.”
“And where were you?” There is a coldness now in Father’s words.
“I was not where I should have been. I am sorry, Legolas.”
There is silence. A long silence as Father strokes my hair, winding his fingers through it.
“Can you leave please.” He says finally, quietly.
“I would help if I could.” Elrohir protests and then Father bites back.
Again I want to explain it was not Elrohir’s fault but again I cannot. The words freeze in my throat.
“Leave Brother.” Elladan looks up from where he dabs at my cheek. “Come back later when all is calm.”
Father does not watch him when he goes.
They clean my wounds, Father and Elladan. Gently they cut off my clothes and Father holds me as Elladan cleans. It stings and sometimes I do
“So many bumps and bruises,” Father smiles softly. “Is there any part of the cliff you did not hit?”
For a moment he makes me laugh even though I hurt.
“First you, then your son.” Elladan laughs, “You know you do not have to try so hard to test my skill! I think we can agree Thranduillions’ and rocks do not agree with each other.”
“My father lived in a cave!” Father protests but inside I can tell he is laughing too.
Finally they are finished. Every cut and graze is under soft bandages or covered in salve.
“He will be sore in the morning” Elladan says to Father. “This will take a bit of getting over.” He moves away then, over to the other side of room where he mixes something I cannot see. Father sits himself behind me. Wrappping his arms around me and resting his head on mine. I feel as if I am in a safe cocoon.
“Elladan is going to fix your arm now.” He is calm and quiet but I am instantly frightened.
“No! I do not want him to touch it. Leave it as it is!”
“We cannot do that Monkey. He must make it nice and straight so you can climb again, and shoot the bow.”
I want to be able to do that . . . I am torn.
“It will hurt.” I remember how sore it was when Elrohir moved it. I do not want to do that again.
“Yes it will.” Father is quite firm. “But I will be here and Elladan will be quick. You can do this my little warrior. I have faith in you.”
do not think I can do it Father.”
“Then I will be here to help you. There is no choice, Estel. It must be done. The only choice we have is in how we cope with that. Do you understand my little one?”
“I am frightened.” If Father says I must do this then I will but I am so, so scared.
“You are allowed to be frightened” he says. “There is no shame in that.” He pulls me close against him and I can feel his heart beating fast. I think he may be scared too but he does not say it.
“I will tell you what will happen. Elladan is mixing medicine he will give you. It will
make your head spin and the world float—at least that is what it does to me, and it will make the pain better. I will hold you tight, so tight that you cannot move. That is my job. And then . . . When the medicine works . . . Elladan will pull. It will be very quick. I promise.”
The medicine Elladan brings me is bitter and at first I taste it and spit it out.
“Drink it, Estel!” Father says. “I know it is not nice but you need it.” He looks at Elladan, “It is not too much? I do not react well to this.”
“So I have heard.” Elladan give a small smile which seems strange. “It is as little as I can give,” he says.
So I drink. I swallow that nasty medicine and rest back against my Father. He is right. It is not long until the world begins to spin and I float up to the ceiling, but how did I get there when Father holds me down?
“Did I ever tell you the story of when Aragorn gave me too much of this.” Father says, “It turned me quite mad. It changed everyone in to colours. Aragorn was purple, Theodan the most boring brown and Gimli....he was orange or red or some such colour. I thought he was on fire!” He makes me laugh although I do not know why it is so funny.
“Do you feel strange, little one?” He asks me.
“Yes,” I say and my voice sounds most odd. But Father seems not to notice, he continues his story.
“Gandalf was so
angry with Aragorn he made me ride with him, all the way to Isengard! Poor Aragorn . . . Because I was very chatty and made not the slightest bit of sense.”
His arms tighten around me then and hold me very tight. I almost cannot breathe. But before I can ask him to let me go, to please be not quite so tight, I feel him nod to Elladan.
“Now.” He says.
Then Elladan pulls.
And I scream.
Thanks to NelyafinweFeanorion who helped me manage Legolas during this very difficult chapter to write!
A word before you read this. I need to remind those of you who have read “Fire Dancing upon Our Souls” .... and point it out to those of you who haven’t, that Legolas suffered significant brain damage in the accident that happened during that story. Though he presents as normal and functions remarkably well, brain damage, especially as far as emotional control goes does not ever go away. Even in an elf.
We cannot judge him against the same bar we use to judge others. :-)
P.S. Legolas’ story about Aragorn and the medicine is in “Hands of the King”
The medicine Elladan gives me makes me sleep and my dreams are strange, very strange. They are full of people I do not know, places I have not seen, They make no sense.
One is so
real. I am lying in bed and Father is stroking my hair. I know it is Father, I can feel him, but I cannot see him for my eyelids are so heavy I cannot open them even though I try. My arm hurts. It aches and throbs but I can not even tell him that.
Father sings me a song softly—one he used to sing me when I was small—it makes me feel better and I wish I could open my eyes and tell him so.
But then he stops and that is when the strangeness starts.
“Oh little monkey,” he whispers in my ear. “ I wish I could do you justice, be the father you deserve. It is not fair . . . That fate has given you only me.”
But it is fair. It is! He is the best father there is. I want no other.
“I am broken in pieces,” he tells me, “and they cannot mend me. I cannot be what I want . . .for you. I am trying. I promise I am trying. I promise
He bends close over me, his breath warm against my skin when he speaks and when he lies his cheek against mine I feel the wet of tears.
“It is so hard.” He murmurs, “ so hard, so endless, so impossible. But I will keep on trying, I will try harder, for you.”
He is quiet then and inside myself, as his sits there, his face next to mine, I cry too.
But then he lifts his head and my skin is cold where he once was.
“What do you want?” At first I think he talks to me, but I want for nothing and cannot say any words when I try to tell him so.
“I am so sorry, Legolas.” It is Elrohir.
“Now you have said you are sorry can you leave me be?” Father’s hand begins its soothing movement through my hair again but his words . . . They are not soothing at all.
“Can we not talk? We need to talk about this—“
do not need to talk about anything
with you!” Suddenly he is so angry. He feels like sparks of fire, and I wish Elrohir will do what he asks and go away. It will only end in fighting otherwise.
“I am trying
to do what you want, Elrohir,” Father continues through gritted teeth. “I am trying to think of him, to keep control. Will you just leave me alone to do that. Do you have to make things harder? This is what you want from me. I am doing what you told me.”
“I can help.” Elrohir’s voice is soft and uncertain. “I know how hard it is. Let me help.”
Father’s hand shakes ever so slightly as it moves through my hair.
“You do not
know!” Suddenly, out of nowhere, he is shouting. “You do not know, Elrohir. How can you? You, Maewen, my Father . . . None of you know what it is like to be me, day after day as I struggle just to be myself . . . Who I used to be. You do not know the chaos in my head, when I cannot find the words, when my thoughts will not sit still, when all I can do is feel
. You do not know how hard it is to get up every morning and put one foot in front of the other. You do not know what an agony it is to forever try not to fly apart at the seams. And I can do nothing about this, nothing
, because this is who I am now though still I fight it for you all. You do not know because I do not tell
you! Who would love me if all I did was complain of my difficulties? Who would love me if they knew my reality? Who
At first Elrohir is silent. All I can hear is Father’s ragged breathing.
“I will go then if you wish me to,” he says in the end.
wish you to.”
would love you.” Elrohir says then. “I would love you if you told me this. I will always love you, no matter what, no matter if every day is a nightmare for you. I want
And I hear footsteps moving away. He is leaving. But then Father does not let him go. I feel him breathe beside me. A deep breath, as if he prepares himself for something.
“Do you though?” He asks. His voice is quiet now, and the footsteps cease.
. I want to know it all Legolas.”
“I do not doubt it, but do you love me? Or do you still, deep down, despise me, as you used to?”
“I have never despised you!”
“Even on the Dead Marshes, Elrohir? Did you not despise me then? Because it felt like it. All those years when I was unfortunate enough to meet you in Minas Tirith, when you poured scorn upon me and drowned me in bitterness? It felt like then.”
“No,” Elrohir splutters over his words, “That is not how it was. I always loved you.”
“Do you not remember, Elrohir?” Father is disbelieving. “All those words you threw at me, all that hate through so many years. Are you still the elf who left me broken in the mud of the Dead Marshes? My heart was shattered into pieces by grief and you trampled on it and walked away without a backward glance, spitting in the face of my dead. Oh yes, I
still remember that, Elrohir! Even though I am not the same Legolas as I was then, I remember! Why did I ever think I could trust you with my child? Will you never
forgive me? Is there nothing I can ever do? Did you do this to hurt me?”
“You still dwell on that?” There is horror in Elrohir’s voice and I wonder . . . What has he done? What has he done to my Father in the past? “But this . . . Today was an accident, Legolas! An accident,” Elrohir gasps but still he does not explain. “There was no malice intended. I would never-”
“I trusted you,” Father interrupts. “He is the most precious thing to me in the world and I trusted him to you
. Oh I did not want to, but you nag me and Maewen nags me. Let him go you say. Well I did and see what has happened.”
“It was still the right thing for you to do, Legolas.” Elrohir’s voice is barely a whisper. “I am sorry I failed you.”
Why does Elrohir not explain it was all my fault?
“When Estel is strong enough we will return home. As soon as Elladan says he may.” Father’s voice is cold. Not like his usual voice at all. “Until then I want you to stay away from him.”
“Stay away?” I am as confused as Elrohir sounds. Father cannot mean that. Why would he keep me from Elrohir? This is such a strange dream. It cannot be true.
“Stay away. Leave him alone. Leave both of us alone. He is my
son and I do not want you near him. I would leave today if I could.”
“Legolas, you cannot do this.”
“You took him off the path!” Father’s voice again rises. “Where you know it is treacherous. I cannot believe you did that, you
, of all people. You who I love!”
And still Elrohir does not tell him. Still he does not say This is Estel’s fault, he ran off the path and I could not catch him. Why?
Instead he begs and it frightens me.
“Do not do this. Please, Legolas, do not keep me away from him. I have lost so many boys before him. Please.” I can hear tears in his voice and I try to let them know I am here. I try to shout it, that it is my
fault, not Elrohir’s but I cannot. Nothing will move, my eyes will not open, my lips will not obey me.
“He is not your boy to lose.” Father sounds sad and quiet now. The loudness in his voice seems to have bled away. He sounds exhausted. “He is my
boy, Elrohir, and I will keep him safe. You did not.”
“Do not shut him away, please. It is not what you want for him. Do not go back to that, Legolas when you have just given him a glimpse of the world. Let him have the boyhood you had . . . But even better. One untinged by the dark. I know you want that for him. I know
Their words sound strange now, as if Elrohir speaks down a tunnel, his voice echoing off the sides.
“I thought I had lost him,” Father says. His words float around me, “I thought I had lost him, I thought I had lost him.” Around and around my head it goes. “I thought I had lost him.” I am not sure if he really says it so often or I dream it.
But when I wake; when I wake for real and the sun shining into my eyes tells me it is daylight I can still hear it in my ears, the faintest echo . . . I thought I had lost him.
He is still there beside me . . . but Elrohir is gone.
Father smiles at me as he strokes away the hair falling across my eyes.
“Welcome back, little one,” he says softly. “You have been sleeping the day away my courageous boy. How do you feel?”
Elrohir called me that. Hearing the words again reminds me. He called me his
boy. It makes me feel warm inside to think of it until I remember the dream with he and Father arguing, Father saying I was not Elrohir’s boy at all. It was just a dream, I say to myself, just a dream.
“My arm hurts,” I tell him, and it does. It aches badly. And when I stretch out my good hand to grasp one of his, that hurts too. Every move I make is sore. “Everything is sore, Father, everything.” A wave of misery washes over me. I wish I was still asleep where the pain could not get me.
He picks up a glass and bottle from beside my bed.
“Elladan thought it would. He has left more medicine for you. This will make it better.”
“No!” I pull away from him which sends a jolt of pain running through me. I do not want that medicine which makes the walls spin, my head float and gives me such strange dreams. “I do not want that. It makes me feel strange Father!”
“Ah.” Gently he puts the bottle down again. “I understand Monkey. I hate it too. So we have a problem and I will leave the decision up to you, I think. To get rid of the pain you must take the medicine and only you know which you would rather. Pain or strangeness? I am not going to make you take it but if you do not you will
It is an easy decision, at least at the moment.
“I do not want it, Father, not now, maybe later.”
“Any time, Estel.” He pats my hand gently. “Any time you change your mind just tell me.” He leans back in his chair and smiles then. “I hate that stuff so
much. It makes you not yourself and that is frightening. At home, in the Greenwood they used to have to call for my father before they could treat me because I made so
much fuss. I would kick and scream and shout at them . . . They thought me foolish and uncontrollable but I was simply frightened, frightened of being alone and not in control. I hated it. Once Father was there it was better.”
It is strange to think of him like that. He sounds so young, the way he speaks about himself and I cannot imagine it. It makes me feel less ashamed of the way I cried and screamed at Elrohir when I fell.
He leans forward again then, as if he is about to share a secret.
“Did I ever tell you of when Aragorn had to treat me at the Hornburg? He tried to give me a medicine like that and I would
not have it. It took him and Gimli both to hold me down. I spat it in his face! He was so frustrated
with me. It was before he knew me well and I did not completely trust him.”
He has never told me that. How dare Aragorn the King hold him down . . And Gimli!
“Why did they do that!” I gasp for I am horrified to think they might.
“Because I was ill. I had been foolish and neglectful of my injuries because I could not bear to take myself to the Healing Hall full of Men to be treated. There were so many of them and that too frightened me. Aragorn needed
to treat me and I was not as brave as you were yesterday.”
“I was not brave.” It slips out before I can stop it. “I cried, Father, and screamed. I was a baby, but Elrohir made it better.”
“Did he?” He murmurs, before he frowns. “Well he needed to. You had every reason to cry, Estel. Do not feel badly about that. I am sorry I was not there to help you. I should have been and I cannot change that. But I am going nowhere now. I am staying right here while you recover. Right here.”
It makes me feel safe, knowing he will be here with me. Somehow he makes all that is scary feel better. He is smiling, and gentle. He loves me.
Tell him it was your fault.
A voice inside me whispers, but I do not want to. He will be angry and disappointed in me. The smile that lights my soul will disappear. He will not think me brave and courageous. He will think I am disobedient and wilful.
So I say nothing. I will tell him later. Instead I bask in his smile and his love just a little bit longer and tell myself that is not wrong.
They will not let me go outside and I hate it.
At first Elladan makes me stay in bed, and I do not mind so much because I am sore and miserable, but then I begin to feel better, and I am allowed to leave the strange room with the strange bed Elrohir brought me too and Father carries me back to my own room.
But even in my room Elladan says I must rest, sit still and stay indoors. Even grumbling to my father does not help.
He does what he promised me and stays with me always so it must be boring for him too. He reads to me and tells me stories, we play with my soldiers, and sometimes he does the work sent by my Grandfather but he struggles with that and I cannot help him because my arm means I cannot write.
I think Elrohir might help him but he does not come, not to help Father and not to see me. He does not come at all.
I remember that strange dream I had and it makes me nervous. So nervous I am not brave enough to ask Father where he is.
Every lunchtime Elladan comes to see me. He and Father peel off the bandages from all the grazes that cover me, and oh, it hurts! At first when they do this I cannot help but sob and cry for it stings so much, but after a day or two the banadages no longer stick, then one day Elladan does not put them on at all and merely covers me in a sweet smelling cream.
And each time, when he is done he sends Father off—while he watches me for him—to eat or wash, or walk under the trees.
“You will go mad cooped up in here” he says when Father protests, as he does every time. “You cannot look after Estel if you are not well yourself. Take a break, Legolas.”
So Father will go reluctantly and Elladan is right. He is always happier when he returns. They do not care about me being trapped in my room though.
Elladan tells me stories when Father is gone. Tales of my father in Arda which make me laugh, stories of him and Gimli. He brings me sweet cakes too. But the day he decides to leave my bandages off he does not laugh, and he does not tell stories. He is serious.
“Tell me Estel,” he says when we have finished eating our cakes. “Tell me what happened at the waterfall.”
“I fell.” My heart starts thumping hard in my chest. Why does he want to know?
“I know you fell, but why did you fall?”
“Because the rocks slipped away beneath my feet.” I do not look at him. I do not want to talk about this, least of all with him.
“Because you were off the path where it was treacherous,” he adds, and I am silent.
He leans back in his chair and stretches his legs out in front of him as he waits for me to say more but I will not.
“Elrohir tells me,” he goes on in the end, “that this accident was all his fault. But that would mean he allowed you to stray from the path . . . That he encouraged that. Certainly that is what Legolas believes, but why would he do that, Estel? Why would he let you go somewhere so dangerous when he cares for you and he knows how precious you are to your father, who he loves?”
I do not know what to say but I know I do not want to tell him the truth. When I try to look away he catches my chin in his hand so I must look at him. He stares at me right into what feels like the centre of my soul. He can see what is there even without me saying it—I am sure of it—and so even though I do not want to the truth bursts out of me.
“I ran away!” I cry, “I was angry with him and I ran away. I did not stop when he told me to stay on the path. I thought I could climb it and he could not catch me.”
“Ah,” He does not sound at all surprised. “I thought it was something like that. Why have you not told your father this?”
“He will be angry. He will be disappointed in me. He told me to obey Elrohir always. I will be in trouble.” My excuses sound weak even to my own ears. I sound like a baby, like Calithil, not a warrior.
And Elladan sighs.
“My brother will never admit this was anything but his fault. That is how he is. And Legolas is hurt. His trust has been shattered. They are not speaking, Estel.You have noticed Elrohir has not been here?”
I remember the dream—which was obviously not a dream. I remember the hurt in their voices, but I will not be the boy my Father thinks I am if I tell him this. I will not be his courageous boy. I will be the boy who let him down. I feel sick just thinking about it.
“Will you tell him?” I ask, for I am sure he will. “Will you tell him it was all my fault?”
But he surprises me.
“No,” he says. “You need to do that. But they need each other, Estel, and so you must fix this.”
“I cannot! I cannot fix it. I cannot tell him. You do not understand!”
The look he gives me then is disbelieving.
“Then you are not the boy I thought you were, Estel.” I can see the disappointment on his face. “I did not think you were a boy who would let others suffer to save yourself.”
“I am not!” I do not want him to think less of me. I want him to be proud of me. It matters that he thinks me brave and strong—that he likes me.
But as I cry it, the door swings open and my father strolls in, smiling, relaxed, happy to see me. I cannot tell him now.
He has been outside and he smells of the sun, of grass, leaves and the trees. His smile is the one that lights up the world and he throws himself into a chair next to me, reaching over to pick up the last of the cakes we have been eating.
“You left me one today!” He exclaims with joy. My father loves sweet cakes.
And my stomach churns. I do not want to turn his happiness into disappointment in me. Can Elladan not see how hard it is?
The look he gives me suggests that he cannot. It is a look that says I expect you to do what I told you. A look that judges me. It makes me ache inside and I look away.
But Father sees all.
“What is wrong, little one?” He pauses mid bite of his cake to look at me.
“Nothing.” I stare at my hands in front of me. I am not going to look at either of them. But out of the corner of my eye I see the questioning look Father throws Elladan, and I see Elladan stand, gathering his things as he goes.
“I will see you later Estel.” He says but I do not look up at him. I do not want him to look at me that way again, not even for a minute.
And when Elladan is gone Father’s full attention is on me.
“Has something upset you?” He asks me, “What have you and Elladan been talking about?”
“Nothing!” I am a tangled knot inside. Whatever I do someone will be unhappy with me and it is not fair. I cannot win. “Nothing is wrong, Father” I snap at him, “except I am stuck in here and you will not let me outside!”
That is true and it does bother me but it is not what causes my distress, not really. I am angry at the unfairness of the world. Being trapped inside away from the trees and the sunlight my Father is drenched in is just a convenient excuse for my anger to stick to. Father does not know that though.
“It has only been a few days Estel. I have explained this to you. Elladan worries for your arm. It was a bad break and he wants the healing nice and solid before you wander about in the garden.”
“Then Elladan is mean!” It is easier to be angry at Elladan than think about that look upon his face.
He sighs heavily.
“He is not mean, he is a healer. I understand you are frustrated. Perhaps I will ask Elladan if tomorrow you could come for a short walk with me? That is the best I can promise you Estel.”
It is a compromise he offers me. This morning when I badgered him about this his answer was an absolute NO. He holds out an olive branch but I am not in the mood to take it.
“I am not a baby, Father. I can walk in the gardens by myself!”
“Hmm,” I watch as he throws the last bite of his cake in his mouth and stands. “Well it is all that is on offer, Estel. But I see now is not the time for us to discuss it. I will do some work I think, and you can read your book quietly. We will talk later when you are more agreeable.”
He turns his back before I can even open my mouth.
“But . . .”
There is a firmness to his voice I do not often hear. It makes him sound rather like my Grandfather, and it makes me decide it is best to be quiet.
I could not tell him about Elrohir now even if I wanted to, I think, since he does not even want me to talk.
Reluctantly I drag my book over—the one about the dwarves and the hobbit. I am not enjoying it as much as I was, for the dwarves have reached my Grandfathers forest. I was looking forward to that—for a chance to see my parents old home they love so much—but I do not like what this book says about my Grandfather. In it he is strange and unreasonable, he locks the dwarves in prisons and it is not right. It is not right at all.
Father just laughed when I complained to him.
“It is imagination.” He said, “to make the book more exciting. It stretches the truth a little. There were no dungeons, they had perfectly comfortable rooms but we would not let them wander through the stronghold.”
“Grandfather is not like this!” I complained. “Why are you not angry?”
“Because I know what he is really like, and you know, so what does it matter what the book says? Anyway my Father never minded if the outside world was a little afraid of him. He encouraged it.”
He does not mind the hobbit that wrote this disparages my Grandfather but I do. So I read a few words only before I push it away and watch him instead.
He bends over my desk and I cannot see his face, only his back, but I know he struggles for every muscle there looks tense.
And as I watch him I have an idea. I think it is a brilliant one. For if Elrohir came here to help Father, as he said he always would, then he could massage his shoulders and relax him—just as he did when they argued about my sword fighting. Father would be sure to smile, as he did then, and forgive him. If I can only get Elrohir here to help they will remember they love each other and I might not have to say anything at all!
“Elrohir would help you.”
He does not turn around when I speak but his shoulders—if it were possible—seem even tenser.
“Elrohir is busy.”
I am not going to give up that easily.
“He said he would always help you if you needed it. If you called him—”
“Elrohir has things to do. He has people to look after. He is busy, Estel.”
Perhaps I should have noticed the warning signal in his voice but I do not. I have had my idea and I am determined it will succeed. If he will not call Elrohir for himself then I will try something else.
“I want to see him.” I say, “He has not been here to visit me. He would come to see me if you asked.”
“Elrohir’s life is more than just you and I, Estel.” Father sighs and picks up his pen again. “He will not be visiting you today.”
My frustration explodes. Why will he not let me bring Elrohir here to fix things? Why is he making it so difficult? It feels as if they are both against me—he and Elladan. Inside me, my anger at myself, my fear of disappointing him, surges until it boils over.
“I want to see him!” I snap. “I would go walking in the garden with him.”
“You will not!” Father pushes his books away with a thud as he turns to face me, eyes flashing. “You not walk anywhere with him. He has damaged you once. He will not have the opportunity to do that again!”
And once again I remember the dream. I remember him telling Elrohir to say away. I forget this is all my fault, my doing, because I have not been honest. It gets lost in the swirl of hurt and loss, for I have just discovered Elrohir. I do not want to lose him.
He cannot do this to me.
“You cannot stop me!” I cry, and suddenly I am on my feet, shouting, my plan to reunite them long forgotten. “You cannot. I will not let you. I would rather be with Elrohir than you!”
The pain on my Fathers face is as if someone has stabbed him in his very heart. It should stop me in my tracks but it does not. I would rather hide behind my anger from my wrongdoings.
“Estel . . . ” He reaches for me but I move away.
“You do not know anything!” I shout at him, for suddenly my tongue is lose. “It was not Elrohir’s fault I was hurt. It was not. It was my fault. I ran away. I went off the path, and I will not let you keep me from him. I wish he was my father. He would be a better father than you! I hate you!”
It is not true. It will never be true, and later I do not even know why I said it. But once it is said and he looks at me in horror, I cannot take it back.
That is why I run.
I do not understand why I did not tell him the truth from the beginning. I do not know why now I choose to hurt him.
I do not know what to say next when my tongue has betrayed me.
And so I run, I duck under his arms and I slip beyond his reach. I charge out the door Elladan has left ajar and I leave him behind.
I run as far away from the devastation on my fathers face I have created, as I can get.
Sorry for being awol for awhile.
For anyone still reading this, last time we saw Estel he had had a meltdown, told his father he hated him and done a runner.....
now we we see where he went!
At first I do not know where I run, I just run.
My father’s horrified face dances in front of my eyes and I run as fast as I can to get away from it. I hear him calling after me,
But I do not stop. I do not turn around. I cannot.
Elladan has put my arm in a splint and it is heavy and cumbersome. It alters my balance as I run so I fall—often—and I cannot put that arm out to save myself. By the time I reach the trees my knees are bloody and my face scraped from my stumbles, but I know where I will go to hide.
It is a long way but I know exactly where it is. The trees do not confuse me. I brush my hands against them as I pass them—as I have seen Father always do—and I open my mind to them as he has so recently taught me. They worry for me. I cannot hear their words but I feel that.
I am almost defeated when I reach the flet. It is so high. How will I climb it one armed as I am?
I am a wood-elf
, I tell myself. I can climb anything.
Although deep inside me now is a voice that whispers to me I cannot climb rocks.
But this is not a cliff-face, it is a tree, and it will not defeat me, I discover my arm is not completely useless. It hurts within its splint as I twist it, the muscles aching as I pull on them, but if I use it only to steady myself and not to hold my weight I can do it.
The flet is as Elladan and I left it but without him there it feels lonely and empty. The cosy comfort of home I wished to hide in is not there. Suddenly I want my mother to hold me and whisper soft words into my hair, to tell me all will be alright, that she can fix things. I want my Father to stroke my head and say how proud he is of me. He would tell me a tale from his childhood of how he has done something just as foolish as me once upon a time and laugh at himself. He always makes me feel not as silly and clumsy and awkward as I really am.
But I have told him I hated him. I have told him I wished he were not my father but someone else instead. I am sure he has never been as cruel as that and I worry things will never be the same again.
I find one of Elladan’s quilts and wrap myself in it like a cocoon. It is soft, and warm but it’s warmth does not reach my heart. As it grows dark I look up towards the stars whose light usually makes my soul sing but tonight their light is cold.
I can hear voices, out in the distance, calling my name. I imagine one of them sounds like my father. I should go to him. I should let him know I am here.
But I am too afraid.
I do not sleep. I sit and think and wait, curled in a ball, wrapped up tight. The first light of day just creeps through the boughs of the tree above me when I hear someone beneath my hiding place.
It is not my Father and I do not know if I am relieved or unhappy at that.
I curl myself tighter, as if I could disappear into myself, as if he will not see me though I sit right in front of him, and Elrohir emerges into my sanctuary.
“Estel, little one.” The relief in his voice washes over me but it does not fix anything. It does not stop the hurt in my heart.
“I should have known you were here. Where else would a silvan go to hide!” He drops down beside me and sweeps me into his arms but I am numb. I do not respond to his love.
“You did not come to see me.” I do not even know why that is the first thing I say. Of all the things I need to talk about why does that spill out?
“I know. I am sorry, Estel. It was nothing to do with you I promise. I have wanted to see you but sometimes . . . Sometimes things cannot be as we wish. I am here now.”
He holds me tight, wrapped in the quilt as I am, and slowly, slowly, his warmth begins to chip away at the ice that surrounds my heart.
“Have you slept, little one?” He asks me, “Have you eaten anything? How did you get up here with your arm?”
Now that he warms me I realise, my arm is sore
. But I am stubborn. I will not let him know that.
“I am silvan!” I say determinedly. “My arm will not stop me climbing!”
“Of course,” he chuckles to himself but it does not feel as if he laughs at me. “How long is it that I have loved a Silvan? I should know better!”
“Father is angry with you.” It bursts out of me so suddenly it takes me by surprise; all my worry. “He does not love you any more and it is my
fault!” Then the tears start to fall. The tears I have been too cold to cry all night.
“Oh Estel,” If it’s possible he holds me even tighter. “He has not stopped loving me. It would take more than this foolishness to do that. We have survived far worse than this! If you knew the damage we have done each other in the past. This is nothing! He has been angry, yes, and I have stayed away until that anger burnt itself out as it has done. I am sorry we have made you unhappy with our silliness.”
I remember then that conversation my Father had with him while I was sleeping, the one I thought was a dream. When Father said Elrohir hurt him upon the Dead Marshes.
“What did you do to him?” I ask, for why would he hurt my father? Why would he do that? “What did you do to him on the Dead Marshes? He said you spat on him.”
That seems a terrible thing for him to have done.
And I know that it was
because of the gasp he gives when I say that.
“He has spoken to you about that?” He sounds horrified.
“No. He spoke to you
. While I was sleeping. I heard you.”
? You heard that conversation?”
“I thought it was a dream.” I tell him. “But then, when you did not come to see me I realised it was not.”
He is quiet then though he does not let me go, it seems an age until he speaks.
“Your father and I have not always been as we are now.” He says at last, slowly choosing his words with care. “For a long time we did not get on. We were cruel to each other. I did not realise he still carried the hurt of the Dead Marshes in his heart . . . All this time! I did not realise until that moment you heard him tell me. But I promise you that is something I will make right, now that I know. I will fix it.”
“But why did you hurt him?” I cry, “Why
were you both cruel? What happened? What did you do?” For he has answered my question not at all. He has told me nothing.
He turns around next to me so he looks me in the eyes. He is serious now. Serious enough to make my stomach churn.
“Do you remember what I said to you before you ran from me?” He asks.
Oh yes I remember and I do not want to speak of that at all . . . My bad behaviour . . . So I look away.
But he will not let me. He grasps my face in his hand and forces me to look him in the eye.
“Do you remember?” He repeats.
“You said there were things not for me to know.”
“Indeed: and this is one of those things. Yes I have behaved badly towards your father in the past and yes he is not completely without blame in that but it is between he and I. I will not answer your questions. I will never answer them. All you need to know is I will make things right now I know it still pains him. Had he known you could hear, Legolas would never have spoken of it in front of you. It is not your business to know Estel and never will be. I expect you to honour that.”
“But—” He will not listen to my protest. He is the sternest I have ever seen him.
The pause as he waits for my acquiescence seems interminable. It weighs upon me until I give in.
But even that is not enough for this serious Elrohir.
“Yes, what, Estel?”
“Yes I will honour it.” As much as I burn to know the story I do not want him angry with me.
“Good.” He smiles then, as if he had never been cross at all. “Now we must go. It has been a long night for Legolas, not knowing where you are. I will not make him wait any longer for news of you.”
“I cannot go back!”
“Do not be silly, Estel.” His smile fades but he does not understand.
“I told him I hated
him, Elrohir! I said I wished he was not my father. I cannot go back. You do not understand, I have hurt him, I have made him unhappy.”
“I know you said all that. He has already told me. I do understand, Estel, but he knows it is not true.”
But he did not see Father’s face when I ran, how horrified he was. I do not think Father knows my words were not true at all.
It is as if Elrohir sees the doubts in my eyes.
“We have had a long night to talk on this, Estel, as we searched for you,” he says, “He knows you love him. He understands all about rash words spoken in anger.”
But I shake my head. I do not want to look my father in the eye and see the hurt that must be there.
“Courage is not all about fighting in battle you know,” Elrohir says then. “It is not about danger and heroics. Sometime being courageous is facing up to our mistakes. It is going back to those we love, who we have hurt, and putting things right. That takes real bravery. Come on.”
He pushes himself up off the floor then, leaning down with an outstretched hand to pull me up. He gives me no choice. He will not take no for an answer.
And so I take his hand.
It is only when we are trudging back towards his home that I remember the question I wanted to ask him. I remember too him saying I was not entitled to know everything I wanted but I ask it anyway.
“Who were the boys?”
“What?” He looks surprised. “What boys? What do you mean, Estel?”
“When Father said you could not see me any more you said you had lost too many boys already. Who were they?”
“Ah,” he sighs then. “Boys we fostered, who grew to be Men, then they died. Mortal boys. My cousins, all of them.”
That does not make much sense to me but Father always says Elrohir’s family are confusing and it pays not to think too hard about them.
He rests his hand upon my head.
Estel was one of them.”
I know who that is. It is so unfair. Aragorn the King haunts my father until he cannot see me when I am right in front of him. and now he haunts Elrohir as well.
“I will not leave you!” I tell him to make him feel better but also because I mean it. “I will not grow old and die.”
“I know that, Estel.” He smiles but his smile is sad and I drop my head to look at the ground in front of me rather than see that sadness.
“I told Father I wished you
were my father but that is not true either.” I say quietly.
“I know.” He puts his arm across my shoulder then. “He is the best father for you, the very best. Perhaps I could be like a brother, a big brother. I am good at that. What do you think?”
I have always wanted a big brother to help show me the world.
“Like Laerion and my Father?” I think it out loud before I hesitate, “well maybe not them.” I remember their cutting words to each other and the fighting. That is not what I want from Elrohir at all.
But he just laughs.
“Yes just like them,” he smiles. “They have not always been at each other’s throats. I know before I knew Legolas . . . before Laerion died, they were very close.”
“And now they are not.” I tell him.
“But they want to be.” He replies. “They want to be close, Estel, so they will find their way back there one day.”
I think he truly believes it.
I wonder why;
because I do not believe it myself.
Legolas and Maewens problems, when they almost gave up on each other, are described in “Darkness in Your Heart”
My Father sits upon the stairs.
He huddles in a dejected heap of elf. As soon as I can see him I see his misery and I stumble.
“Onwards.” Elrohir puts a firm hand on the small of my back. “Now comes the time to show me your courage, Estel. Face what you have done and make it right. You are allowed mistakes as long as you try to fix them.”
He gives me no choice but to carry on, as much as I want to turn on my heels and run.
Father’s head jerks up as Elrohir shouts his name and then he is on his feet and running towards us. He gives me no chance to speak. I do not have to fumble through my words of apology or even look into his eyes at the pain I caused for when he reaches us he sweeps me into his arms and holds me tight, my head buried in his chest.
I can feel his heart thudding against my cheek where it lays against him. He smells of the trees and the sun; and home. And his fea entwines itself with mine. I am bathed in his light.
It is a long time we stand there, his arms around me, and he does not move at all.
“Legolas . . . ”
Behind me is the softest movement as Elrohir touches my father’s arm.
“The boy is tired, and has not eaten. This foolish child of yours has been climbing trees. Let us get Elladan to see what damage he has done to that arm, hmm?”
Then Father lets me go. He holds me back at arms length so I must look at him. There are tears upon his cheeks. My Father never cries!
And I feel sick.
“Climbing trees?” He asks me, and his voice, now I hear it, is taut with tension. “Why, Estel?”
Gently he lifts my arm, in its splint, to cradle it in his hands.
“Does it hurt?”
It does; but not as much as my heart.
All the words I should say to him, all the apologies, freeze within me. I say nothing.
In the centre of my back there is a prod, sharp and uncomfortable. A finger pokes me where my father cannot see it. It is Elrohir. Silently he tells me his disappointment in me, he urges me to do what I should.
“I am sorry, I am sorry Father!”
It does not answer his question but now I have said it the words tumble out, one on top of the other.
“I am sorry I ran away from you, and from Elrohir when we were at the waterfall.” I splutter my regret out through sobs that come from nowhere and threaten to choke me. “I am sorry I did not tell you it was all my fault. I am sorry I made you angry with Elrohir. I am sorry—”
He cuts me off mid sentence, as I am about to tell him I am sorry for all my hurtful words, that I love him beyond the stars, that no one could replace him.
Clasping my face in his hands, he stops me.
“Hush, hush, little one, Hush.” He soothes.
The most important thing of all I have to say he will not hear.
“We are all allowed mistakes, Estel,” he murmers. “No more tears now. It is alright.”
And my opportunity is gone.
They whisk me away inside then, my Father and Elrohir, and Elladan appears from I know not where. He is serious as he looks at me. He shakes his head when Elrohir tells him I have been hiding in his flet, as if he is not pleased I was there at all. He says nothing as he looks at my arm.
My father stands beside me, tense, anxious, quiet, until Elrohir puts an arm across his shoulders.
“Let us get this boy some food,” he says. “He must be hungry. You can come with me to tell me his favourites, Legolas. Leave Elladan to do his mending alone.”
And Father leans in to his touch. He rests his head on his shoulder. It untangles one of the knots in my stomach to see them, for Elrohir must be right. Perhaps Father does still love him after all.
It is quiet when they have gone. Gently Elladan removes my splint and turns my arm in his hands and says nothing, nothing at all.
I can feel his light surging through me, I can feel it soothing raw nerves, relaxing tense muscles, easing the throbbing ache, but it is all in silence.
Not until he has carefully placed it back into its splint and tightened the strapping does he speak and when he does it makes me jump.
“When I asked you to explain what happened at the waterfall to your Father this is not what I had in mind, Estel.”
“I know.” I hang my head but his eyes burn through me regardless.
“When I showed you my flet I did not anticipate you going there alone, using it to hide and cause chaos.”
He sighs as he turns away from me to tidy up his supplies.
“Our parents are people too.” He says quietly, while he does not look at me. “They hurt like we hurt and we are the ones who can hurt them the most. You need to remember that—“
I think he means to say more but at that moment the door swings open revealing my father and Elrohir, and a tray piled high with deliciousness.
“I am sorry.” I whisper as they enter. “I am sorry, Elladan.”
And he ruffles my hair with his hand as he turns to go.
“I know it is not always easy to be you, Estel.” He says under his breath then he smiles at Elrohir, as if he says nothing to me at all.
“A feast fit for a king!” He exclaims, “You have excelled yourself brother. Let us leave these Silvans to it, shall we. The arm will be well, Legolas. No damage to speak of, just the pain of overuse. The bones sit nicely, straight and nearly knitted.”
And Father flashes him a smile of relief and gratitude.
They have bought me to my father’s room, not my own, so I sit in the middle of his large bed and now he sits himself next to me, placing the tray filled with food in front of me.
I watch as he helps himself to a cake. My father can never resist sweet things.
“Have something, Estel,” he pushes the food towards me. “Eat, you must be hungry.”
hungry, but it feels as if a weight of unspoken things hang between my father and I and it crushes my appetite. I am not used to this feeling. My father knows my heart, he knows all of me. Never have I sat with him and felt there were things I could not say.
“There must be something here you like?” He says, a frown flitting across his brow. “Did we not choose well?”
They have chosen well indeed, all my favourites, but I cannot eat. I have questions burning inside and I must ask them.
“Do you still love Elrohir?” I am not sure why it is that which tumbles out before all the others but I need to know. Elrohir tells me he does but what if Elrohir is wrong? My father needs
Elrohir. He makes him well. He makes him happy. I do not think he can survive without him.
Father’s eyes open wide in surprise. He stares at me.
“Of course I love him. Why do you ask that?”
And it all pours out.
“You were angry with him. You would not let him see me. You said we would leave for home. I thought I had destroyed it all . . . I thought it had all gone wrong and it was my fault.” I twist the blanket that covers my knees between my fingers and do not look at him.
His hand reaches out to cover mine. Slowly he prises the edge of the blanket away from me.
“Look at me, Estel.” When I do not he holds my face in his hand and makes me.
“I was angry, yes . . .” He says, “but I never stopped loving him. Sometimes we are angriest at people because
we love them. I am fated to love Elrohir. He is emblazoned across my soul.”
He sighs then as his fingers twine between mine.
“You must not worry about this Estel. In the past, Elrohir and I were at odds and yet we are still here. We still love each other. We will still argue at times but I will never
not love him.”
He speaks about whatever it was that happened on the Dead Marshes . . . He must do. I long to know the details but I must not ask him.
Elrohir said I was not to know. He asked me to honour his wishes and I gave my word. The questions burning inside me must go unanswered.
“I know it must seem confusing,” Father says. “You will understand better when you are older, how the heart works.”
“Do you still love my mother?” Suddenly I find courage enough to ask him what has bothered me for months. Since he speaks of his heart now might be my only chance.
If he was surprised when I asked about Elrohir he is nearly speechless now. He gasps before he answers me, as if I have knocked the very air from his lungs.
“Estel! You know
I do. You must know. You are Silvan, you have grown with the Silvans. I thought you understood this. I thought it a part of your blood, to know how I can love Elrohir and
your mother. How she loves Erynion and
“Oh I know that!” I wave my hand dismissively for that is not it at all. It seems stranger to me that anyone would not
love more than one person. How could you ever find all you need in just one?
“You fight.” That is what makes me doubt. “You fight all the time. You said she makes you unhappy. You did
Father. And I worry. . . Do you not love her any more? Do you wish you were not with us?”
“Do I wish. . . ?” His voice trails off and I notice his hand on mine is shaking. “No! No, I never
wish that. It is you who keeps me going, Estel, every day. Your energy and Calithil’s smile. And your mother .. . Always your mother. She is my light. I cannot believe I have let you think this. I cannot believe it.”
He is upset. As upset as I have ever seen him. Tears glint in his eyes and I am ashamed. I should not have spoken this aloud. I should have kept it tucked away out of sight. Elrohir told me there were questions I should not ask and obviously this is one of them.
“I am sorry Father, forget I said it. It is alright.”
“It is not alright. I will not forget it. You should know . . .” He rubs his eyes with his hands as if to stop those traitorous tears from emerging. “Do you not see the little things?” He asks me.
The little things? Now that I think on it I do
see them. His smile when my mother comes to see us unexpectedly as we work. His laugh as he chases her through the trees. The way he reaches up to touch her hand as she massages his shoulders when he writes. There are a litany of little things but they get lost. That is what I tell him.
“They are hard to remember amongst the harsh words, Father.”
He takes a breath then, a deep one, and steadies his hands. I have seen him do this before, at home, when things upset him and my mother pleads with him to calm himself. Build your walls, Legolas,
she will say, remember Gimli.
I have never understood it. There are no walls, but I can imagine how Gimli would have been good at building them. He was a dwarf after all.
It seems such a long time he is silent.
“Long ago,” He says finally, “Not long after the Ring War, so you know how many years ago that was . . .” He smiles sideways at me as if he laughs at his age. “ Your mother and I did have problems, many problems. You think we argue now? Oh it was worse than this. We did not understand each other. We almost walked away. We hurt each other badly—”
I did not know this, any of it.
“—but we survived that time, Estel, and if anything we loved each other even more at the end of it. We grew up. Love is not always easy, and that is what you see . . . The part of it that is a struggle, and I do not help that, the way I am. But it is worth it. It is so
worth it. We have been at our worst. We will never go there again. Promise me you will not worry about this. I love you all . . . There is no where I would rather be.”
“Not even Arda?”
He hesitates, just a second, a momentary pause, before he answers.
“If all of you are not there with me, not even Arda.”
I believe him.
Short chapter ....sorry, not sorry. It had to break here.
I hate it when the adults will not listen to me.
I hate it when they dismiss me, when they look at me with that smile that says they think I do not understand and they humour me.
When my Father announces, as soon as Elladan removes my splint from my arm, that we will go home I am worried. He is not himself—instead he is too quiet when that is normally the last word you would use to describe him. Oh he can creep silently through the woods, he can stand so still in a room you might even forget he is there . . . But he is not normally quiet
. I cannot explain it well but I do not think he is happy.
And between him and I it feels as if something is broken. We are not quite right, not quite the same. I do not know why. He still reads to me at night. He still arranges brilliant battles for me with my soldiers, he still takes me to the trees and teaches me how to find their song, but still, though I cannot grasp it . . . Something is wrong.
Usually, when he returns home to us from seeing Elrohir, it is as if he walks upon the very air itself. His happiness is plain to see, he laughs and jokes. He is joyful.
He is none of those things now.
And so I do not think we should go home yet . . . Much as I find I do
But when I ask if we should stay longer he will not listen.
So I go to Elrohir. I find him in his study one day, while Father is busy writing letters and thinks I read my book in my own room.
I am certain Elrohir will help me and he smiles when he sees me but he will not listen either.
“I do not think we should go home yet.” I tell him.
“Oh? Do you not want to go home and see your family, little one? Are you not missing your forest?”
“I am.” Indeed I am missing them so much it burns a hole in my heart to think of them. “But Father is not happy. He should not go home until he is.”
“Ahh,” Elrohir leans back in his chair and puts his hands behind his head. It is then that he gives me that smile, that ‘I am only indulging you’ smile.
“Perhaps he is unhappy because you have been too long away?” He says. “Perhaps going home is what he needs.”
“No, it is you that makes him happy. He is not the way he usually is when he comes home from seeing you.”
“But perhaps he is exactly the way he usually is when he leaves.”
It is a confusing answer and it feels almost as though he is laughing at me. I try again.
“I am worried. I think we should stay longer but he will not listen.”
“Estel,” he leans across his desk then, his face suddenly serious, “There are older and wiser people here to worry about your father. It is not your job. Now I promise
you if I believed he should stay longer with us I would not let him go. I would not let him take as much as a step away from here. But I do not believe that. I think home; with your Mother, your Grandfather, Grandmother and Uncle is exactly where he needs to be.”
He will not let me tell him of my father’s quiet stillness, how wrong that is.
“He needs to go home. You
need to go home. You must trust me in this, Estel. It is not forever. You will be back.”
I would like to trust him. Normally I do trust him, but now I think he simply does not want to hear. I am only a boy and too easy to ignore.
But I never thought Elrohir would ignore me.
And so I am uneasy when we leave, and miserable as I watch my Father say his goodbyes to Elrohir. Why will no one listen to me?
“Weeks not months this time,” Elrohir tells Father. “Do not make me come down to your forest to drag you back here again. And know that is exactly what I will do!”
“Weeks not months,” Father repeats. “You have my word.” And Elrohir holds him tight.
“ Remember it is me
that needs you.”
I hear him whisper. “Remember that Legolas.”
“It is not the end the world,” Elladan says quietly beside me, as he too watches them. “You will be back. Make sure you work on your swordplay for I will be expecting improvement when I next see you.”
“Father is not happy,” I say. Perhaps he
will understand? He told me about his own father after all. He knows what it is like. “And Elrohir helps him with his fea healing. I do not think he should leave yet.”
“Hmm . . . “ Elladan folds his arms and looks as if he really is listening. “I know he is quiet and not himself but I do not think Elrohir can help him with that this time. I think he needs his family.” But he does not know
our family and I tell him so.
“You do not know our family!”
“Do I not?” He tilts his head to the side and smiles at me.
“No. Laerion will say something clumsy as he always does and Father will snap at him. It will make Grandfather angry. And my Grandmother . . . She and Father make each other unhappy always. I do not know why, they just do. You see . . . It will not help him.”
“I think it will
help him.” Elladan puts his arm across my shoulder then. “You worry too much for a someone who is just boy, Estel. Elrohir knows what he is doing and your father also. I tell you what. I told you we would stick together you and I. If things go badly and Legolas is miserable write and tell me. I will send Elrohir, I promise.”
It is better than nothing and it is all I have.
It is strange riding back towards my Grandfathers. I feel different. As if I am not the same boy who left there, and yet I cannot put my finger on exactly what it is that might be different about me. I am still the best at climbing in my woods . . . Apart from Father. I still love my Grandmother’s cakes best of all.
But I have held a sword and had lessons from Elladan Elrondion, I have broken a bone, I have lived with the Noldor. I am not the same Estel. I wonder if my Grandparents will notice?
We are not far from Grandfathers home now and I am looking, watching the trees ahead for my uncle. Every time; every single time we travel here he comes to meet us. I do not know why he does it but he always does . . . And it always ends with my Father and he arguing before we even arrive,
We are nearly there. He should have met us ages ago, and he has not.
“Did you not tell Grandfather we were coming?” I ask Father. “Did you keep it a surprise?”
“I told him.” He says. “Your Grandfather is not one for surprises really.”
“But Laerion is not here. He has not come to meet us, so perhaps they do not know?”
“They do know.” Father snaps at me. He is angry now, and we are not even there.
I stop my questions but the all too familiar churning begins in the pit of my stomach. I remember our last dinner here. My Grandfathers impressive angry voice, my Father and Laerion shouting, my Grandmothers face as Father rejected her. Almost I wish I could turn and run.
“I am sorry, Monkey.” Father is softer now, apologetic. “I did not mean to snap. It is as well Laerion is not here I think. Less time for you to have to put up with our arguing.”
I will be having to write to Elladan the moment we arrive at Grandfather’s at this rate for Father is more unhappy already.
Laerion may not have ridden out to meet us but he is standing in the courtyard when we arrive, patiently waiting. He reaches up to help me down from our horse and speaks to me first, before he even says hello to my Father.
“The explorer returns!” he cries. “How are you, Estel? We heard you tried your hand at flying!”
“Not flying, Laerion!” I turn behind me to protest to my Father, “Did you tell them I was flying?”
But Father does not answer me. He has leapt off our horse—the stablehand has her now, and he stands, arms dangling loosely, looking completely relaxed when I know he is not at all.
“You did not come to meet us.” He says it as a challenge.
“It never goes well, does it, Legolas. I thought I would save us from the arguments.” It is almost exactly the excuse my Father has just given me. “I know you are never, what I would call, pleased to see me.”
“I am always pleased to see you.”
It is the last thing I expected my father to say, and by the look on his face, the last thing Laerion expected also.
“You ride out of the trees, Laerion,” Father continues, “and my heart is joyful at the sight of you. Every time it is as if you have just been returned to me. As if I forget you are back and then suddenly—there you are.”
It is so unlike him . . . So surprising . . . At first Laerion simply stares, and so do I.
“I did not know,” my uncle says quietly in the end.
“I missed you today.” Father turns away and starts unloading our bag from the horse. “I was looking for you.”
“If I had known, I would have ridden out.” Laerion replies. “If I had known it would matter to you, I would have been there.”
“It does matter.” Having finished unloading Father hoists our bag over his shoulder and takes my hand as I stand and gape at him. He turns back to Laerion one last time before we go.
“I need my brother.” He says. “I have missed him and I need him. Every time we arrive here I look for you. Every time you ride out to meet me it makes my heart sing in that one moment when I first see you. I needed to see you today.”
And then he turns and strides off across the courtyard, away from my uncle, as I stumble to keep up.
“Wait! Legolas wait!” Laerion cries, and I realise it is just the same as the last time we arrived. Father walking away, Laerion calling out after him.
And yet somehow . . . It is different.
My room at my Grandfather’s is perfect . . . Just as I left it. And it is so good to be back. But I last only a few minutes after Father has deposited me there telling me to be good, before I venture out. I want to see my Grandfather and tell him about the sword!
But when I step out into the corridor; there, about to turn the corner in front of me, is Laerion. He does not see me. He strides ahead, head down, and he walks towards my Father’s rooms.
I cannot help but to follow.
He might be angry, I tell myself. Father walked off and left him. I should follow to make sure they do not argue.
It is an just an excuse though. Really I am dying to see what happens. Father was so strange with Laerion in the courtyard.
Sure enough Laerion stops outside Father’s door and knocks, and I press myself back against the stone wall, hiding in the shadow, for if my Father were to see me I do not think it would go well.
I cannot see Fathers face when he opens the door but I can hear him.
“Laerion, what a surprise.” He is back to his usual way of speaking with Laerion then. What ever happened in the courtyard must have been an illusion.
But this time, unlike all the other times I have seen them bicker, Laerion does not bite.
“You needed me.” He says. “You said you needed your brother and here I am. As I always was Legolas, back in the Greenwood.”
And Father lets him in.
I am desperate to hear what it is they say. The door is ajar . . . Perhaps Laerion was so surprised at being allowed in he forgot to close it properly? But if I lie myself down and peer through the crack I can see them. I hope nobody walks past and discovers me sprawled on the floor.
Father sits upon the bed, his head in his hands and now Laerion sits himself down beside him.
“Is all well with the Noldor?” He asks cautiously.
“Yes all is well.” Father answers too quickly, antagonistically. “Though you probably wish it were not since you do not approve. I am sorry to disappoint you but we are fine.” He makes me wince.
“I am glad you are fine.” Again Laerion does not raise to the bait. “It is not that I disapprove, Legolas. More, I do not understand. It is not something I would see for myself ever. But it is not for me to approve anyway. The only one with a right to comment is Maewen. I do worry though . . That it is complicated and has potential to hurt you.”
“The time for worrying about that is long gone, Laerion.” Some of Father’s prickliness seems to have washed away. “We have sorted our difficulties . . . most of them.”
“So it is not the Noldo. What is wrong then? For something must be and it must be serious little brother, for you to need me, hmm?” Laerion’s voice sounds as if he smiles but I cannot see his face.
“Do you remember . . .” Father sighs heavily as he answers, “When I thought you could solve all my problems? When I would hide and you would seek me out and put my world to rights. You would explain things in a way that made sense, you would fight my battles, you would get Father to let me skip my studies and run in the trees?”
“I do remember.” Laerion speaks very softly now.
“I need someone to do that for me now.”
“Then let me try.”
I do not know what it is they are doing. They never speak to each other this way . . . Never.
“I have made such a mess of everything, Laerion,” Father says then. “All of it. And I do not know where to start putting it back together. Estel resents me. He hates me.”
It is all I can do not to gasp when he says that. It hits me like a punch. I knew it! I knew Elrohir was wrong when he said Father understood my angry words. I want to rush in and tell him it is all wrong, that I love him more than anything, but how can I explain why I am here, why I am listening?
“What nonsense is this?” As I watch, Laerion places an arm gently across my Father’s shoulders. “That boy adores you. The love he has shines out of his eyes every time he looks at you, every time he speaks of you.”
And so Father tells him. He tells him it all. My running away from Elrohir, his anger, how I hid in Elladan’s flet, my words which hurt him, all of it.
“I have failed him,” he says in the end. “The most precious thing in my life and I have failed him.”
“Legolas . . .” Laerion pauses before he says more. “This is just a small boy with a temper who has got himself in trouble and let his tongue run away with him. He did not mean those things.”
“Now you sound like Elrohir.”
“Well I am pleased he has been giving you sensible advice then, despite being a Noldor.”
I am paralysed. I wish I had never started listening because how can I fix this now without confessing to huddling outside doors listening to others conversations?
And how can I not confess to that and leave my father thinking he has failed me?
“Legolas, will you promise to hear me out?” My Uncle sounds serious now, “I say this to help, not to lecture, not to criticise. Promise me, before I go on.”
And Father shrugs his shoulders, he lifts a hand to rub his forehead.
“Say what you wish. There is much to criticise,” he replies.
“Perhaps . . . But that is not why I ask this. I want you to hear me.”
He is sitting right next to him. Of course my father will hear him. But something about the seriousness in his voice makes me nervous.
“What do you feel for Mother? Do you hate her?”
My stomach drops. Now . . . When Father is upset, just as they talk to each other as if they could almost be brothers he asks about my Grandmother? Does he want to ruin things?
And Father is startled by it too. I can see it on his face as he turns to stare at Laerion.
“Hate her? I hate what she did to me! Tell me you would not had she done similar to you. Tell me before you judge me!”
“I am not judging you. She wronged you, I agree. I understand your anger. That is not what I asked. Do you love her, despite it all?”
“She is my mother!” Father cries, “I will always love her!” I am angry on his behalf now, because of course he will, of course, and what has this to do with me . . . with him and I anyway?
“How does she know that?” Laerion drops his voice to barely more than a whisper. His arm around Father’s shoulders draws him close to lean against him. “You are angry with good cause and you do not hesitate to show that with your words, your actions. She would be justified in thinking there is no love left in your heart for her. After all she failed you. Yet despite it all you still love her.
“This thing with Estel . . . He used his words to hurt and they did. Yet with all the words you hurl in anger at our mother, after all she has done—far worse than any failure you could imagine you have done Estel, for you have never abandoned him—you still love her. So of course Estel still loves you. Do you understand?”
And I wish I knew . . . I wish I knew what it was my Grandmother had done.
I do not hear what they say next. I pull myself up to sit so I can no longer see them. I lean against the cold stone wall and feel its chill right to the centre of my heart. I do not know what I should do! I never hated my father despite the fact I said so. I never really wanted Elrohir and not him. How can he believe that would be true?
“There is more that,” Fathers voice floats out to me through the open door. “I cannot give him the time he needs, I am too distracted, I neglect him. There is not enough time in the day for us.”
“And that is why Father sends you, me.” Laerion replies. “Do you not think he knows what it is like? No-one is the perfect father .. . He was not. He did not have the time for you he wished, especially for you because the darkness had begun creeping when you were young. But what do you remember most, Legolas? The time he was forced to put his people before you or the times he was with you? You are the Son of a King. That is how it is and you cannot change that and Estel has to live with that. It is what it is but I will help you make it the best you possibly can if you will let me. Can we do it, Legolas? For your boy?”
There is silence . . . A long, long, silence.
“Can we do it for me?” Father says in the end. “For I have missed you with all my heart. But I am different, and you are different, and I did not know how to fix that . . . Well, I cannot fix myself. Many have tried. I am unfixable.”
“You are not so different, Legolas, when I take the time to look.” I think Laerion might even be smiling he says that, it sounds like it. “I do not think you need fixing.”
I do not think he needs fixing either. He is perfect as he is. I would not want my father to be any different, . . . only happier. That is all I would change.
I do not notice they have stopped talking. I am distracted into thinking what it will be like when Laerion comes to our Wood. To have him there all the time . . . And to be able to spend more time with Father. It is exciting. I have many plans.
I do not notice the footsteps, the murmured leave taking, the movement of the door, until it shuts with a thud. Then I notice. Then I look up in shock and the disapproving face of my uncle stares down at me.
“What have we here? An eavesdropper? Someone skulking in the shadows listening to things he shouldn’t?”
“I am sorry!” I scramble to my feet in a rush, “ I am sorry, Laerion.”
“It is as well your father did not see you here.” Laerion continues, “He would not be happy with this I think and a disobedient son is the last thing he needs.”
“I need to see him.” I reach past my uncle to open the door but he slaps my hand away.
“Not now!” He says with a frown.
“But you heard, Laerion. He thinks I hate him. I must tell him that is not true. I must.”
“Indeed you must.” Laerion grabs me by the hand and his grip is strong, I cannot break it. I could call for my father . . . But he has only just started to talk to my uncle. I do not want them arguing again over me. “You must tell him that, but not now, Estel. He needs time to think . . To think about what he and I have been discussing. What you should not have heard!”
“I was only —“
But Laerion is not interested in my explanations. He is angry and determined as he marches me down the corridor.
“You and I,” He says, “will go and see my Father.”
My Grandfather? My grandfather has never shouted at me. I have made sure he never has to. I do not wish to be in trouble with him.
I cannot think how this could possibly be any worse.
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