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The Old Man

Chapter 1: The Old Man

by Elanor

Title: The Old Man
Author: Elanor
Feedback: elanor_@wanadoo.nl
Rating: G
Warnings: None
Spoilers: None
Summary: Young Estel wants to go the feast on the occasion of Gandalf’s arrival to Rivendell, but he isn’t allowed to stay up that late. Will Estel obey his father or will his mischievous side get the better of him?
Author's Note: While I was watching LotR: FotR, for the umpteenth time, I suddenly realised that Gandalf looked really *old* and then I started thinking what Estel must have thought when he first met the wizard. I mean, Estel grew up in Rivendell and Elves do not age like Humans do, so it must have been quite a shock for him to realise wizards look like old humans. And even though I was in the middle of my exams, the story kept nagging me and I simply couldn’t resist putting it on paper, so here you are!
Disclaimer: I can only wish I owned anything, but unfortunately everything is Tolkien’s, except for a cuddly toy……, well at least it’s *Estel’s* cuddly toy



The Old Man


‘Ada?’

‘No, Estel.’

‘But...’

Elrond sighed. ‘Estel, how many times do I have to tell you that you are not allowed to stay up for the arrival of Mithrandir this evening! You will meet him tomorrow morning. End of discussion.’

Estel dropped his head, considering his options. ‘Maybe I should try and convince Elrohir to smuggle me to the feast tonight, he’s always been more sensitive to my pleas than either Elladan or ada.’

Elrond watched his foster son and hid a smile. He knew perfectly well what the young human was thinking and he was glad he had already forbidden his Elven sons to take Estel to the feast.

Elladan had looked offended at the mere thought that someone thought he would do such a thing. ‘Ada! You know I would never harm Estel and he is much too young to stay up that late, he needs his sleep!’

Elrohir had been a different story, having not responded to Elrond’s words.

‘Elrohir?’

The younger twin looked up, evading his father’s gaze. ‘Yes?’

‘You will not bring him to the feast, or you will face the consequences and I promise you: this time I won’t be lenient. Is that understood?’

Miserably Elrohir complied. ‘Perfectly, I will not bring him with me.’



Elrond was shaken from his thoughts back to the present as a door slammed shut: Estel had left the study.

* * * * * * * *

‘Elrohir?’

The twin groaned. ‘No, Estel, I promised ada.’

‘But,’ he stammered, willing his eyes to become watery. ‘Surely Elrohir won’t be able to resist my tears.’

‘But I have been behaving really good this whole week, I have done all my lessons without complaining and I have not taken revenge on you for that vase incident.’

‘Not that I haven’t been planning one, one that I will execute tomorrow, right after the feast.’

However, Elrohir was not affected by this display of goodwill. Or maybe he knew his foster brother and had figured that Estel had already thought of an ingenious revenge plan. ‘I’m sorry, Estel, but…’

‘Aww, come on!’ pleaded Estel. ‘Just for this once!’

‘But I promised ada not to take you with me, I promised it.’

Angrily Estel stamped his foot on the floor. ‘I have even put up with that horrible book you chose to read me from at bedtime!’

‘But I thought you liked the story?’ exclaimed Elrohir, eyes wide in surprise.

Estel rolled his eyes. ‘Elrohir, that book is boring. Nobody, not even Ada, could possibly like it!’

‘I like it,’ came the soft reply.

‘Oh,’ Estel hesitated for a moment. ‘But it has no adventure, no danger in it, nothing happens. It’s only a boy and a girl falling in love and I don’t need ada’s Foresight to know how it will end: they die tragically in each others arms, the last thing they do is confess their love to each other and that’s it. The End.’

‘That’s why it’s called a romantic story, Estel.’

‘There are other romantic stories too. Like that one about Beren and Lúthien. Ada says that is romance too. And that’s not all about love and dying tragically; it also has other things like battles and adventures!’

Elrohir snorted. ‘The lay of Beren and Lúthien? That story is so unrealistic, such a thing only happened once in history and will never happen again, I’m sure! An Elf giving up her immortality for a Man? It can’t get more unlikely! Come on, Estel, I thought you wiser than to believe that such fairy tales can come true.’

‘At least it’s more realistic than your story!’ shouted Estel.

‘Is not!’

‘Is too!’

‘Is not!’



‘STOP!’ a voice yelled somewhere in Imladris, carrying through the hallways to the room Estel and Elrohir had picked to ‘discuss their disagreement’.

Elrohir peeked around the corner of the room and saw a fuming Glorfindel approaching. After sharing this information with Estel, they both headed for the window.

‘Quickly, elle toror, you go first,’ whispered Elrohir as he helped Estel onto the window ledge.

Silently they sneaked off until they arrived in the Gardens.

‘Elrohir? It’s not so difficult to help me, you only have to close your eyes and pretend you don’t see me, that’s all.’

Elrohir looked definitely pained by now. ‘No Estel, I’m sorry, but this time I really can’t help you.’

Frustration lit the young Human’s face. ‘I had already planned my revenge for that vase stunt you pulled on me, but now it seems I have to polish it some more! I think it’s only fair to warn you.’

Having said this, Estel took a deep breath to make himself taller and did his best imitation of a stern Elrond. ‘Beware Elrohir, Elrondion! Beware of my wrath!’

It took all of Elrohir’s will-power not to burst out laughing, but as he heard a thundering laugh from behind a corner he couldn’t help himself and he doubled over, tears running down his cheeks.

Elladan, who had been enjoying a walk in the Gardens had only heard the last words of his foster brother and roared with laughter at the tiny Human’s threat.

‘Estel! You’re hilarious!’ he managed to bring out as he approached his brothers. ‘You should have heard yourself!’

Estel meanwhile didn’t find the situation so entertaining and glared at the elder twin. ‘Don’t worry, I’ll make sure you will have a part in my plan too.’

With that he favoured each twin with an icy glance and turning around with a sweep he left the two Elves alone.

‘What plan was he talking about?’ asked Elladan, still trying to control his laughter.

‘A revenge plan, of course, I told you about the vase, didn’t I?’

Elladan stopped laughing abruptly. ‘A revenge plan for the vase prank? But that was entirely your fault! I had nothing to do with it!’

‘I know, but you were stupid enough to laugh at him and for Estel such an act can only be answered with a trick.’

Elladan threw his hands in the air. ‘Great!’ he hesitated for a moment. ‘How angry was he? Do you think we should worry?’

‘Yes,’ responded Elrohir. ‘He was quite upset and for a six-year-old Human Estel is very ingenious.’

‘Don’t tell me you’re afraid of a Human child!’

‘You tell me!’

Elladan opened his mouth, but then closed it again and decided the best strategy was to retreat. ‘I need to find Glorfindel, I was just on my way for a meeting about,’ he faltered. ‘About the hunting or something.’

He turned around quickly, missing the smile that spread across his younger twin’s face. ‘Go find Glorfindel, Elladan, I’m sure he’ll be overjoyed to see you,’ muttered Elrohir, sitting down on a bench. Diverting his attention from his brother’s predicament, he tried to focus on his own problems. ‘What would I do if I wanted to take revenge on Elladan or Estel? No, I must put myself in Estel’s place, I have to think like Estel. Okay, what would I do if I were a six-year-old Human, very resourceful and potentially psychopathic and my brothers have angered me…’

* * * * * * * *

Estel had spent the remainder of the day plotting his revenge on the twins, but every now and then his mind had wandered off to think about the injustice that he wasn’t allowed to stay up for the arrival feast of Mithrandir. However, eventually it was bedtime and the young Human found himself in bed not a minute later than usual.

Deciding against a final plea when Elrond kissed him goodnight, Estel waited for Elrohir to come and read his bedtime story.

It didn’t take long before the twin hesitantly peeked around the corner of the Lhasbelin room.

‘Estel? Can I come in?’

‘I have not placed booby traps in my room, Elrohir,’ replied Estel with a smile. ‘Not yet, anyway,’ he thought and his smile grew even bigger.

Elrohir, standing in the doorway, repressed a shudder. ‘Valar, why me?’

Bravely the Elf took a step forward and entered the bedroom.

‘I thought I’d better bring a different book, as you didn’t like the previous one,’ Elrohir said, scowling slightly at the boy.

However, Estel didn’t rise to the bait and he remained silent. He just looked at his brother, all the time an angelic smile plastered on his face.

‘I can’t do this! Certainly not on my own! Where is Elladan when you need him?’

‘Okay, well then, this is a book about battles, you like those, don’t you?’ said Elrohir aloud, fighting the urge to flee.

‘Yes, dear brother, I like those very much, they are very, let’s say… inspiring.’

Elrohir cringed at Estel’s last word; he should have known this book wasn’t a good idea. ‘This is the last time I listen to Elladan’s advice.’

‘I see,’ he paused for a moment, trying to shake the feeling of unease that had crept on him. Estel was only this polite and friendly when he was planning something. ‘Most probably something that has to do with his Elven brothers!’

‘On second thought: I was wondering if you’d mind if I didn’t read to you this evening. You look a bit tired and I could use some rest too, so I can prepare for the feast.’

Elrohir closed his eyes at his mistake. ‘How could I mention the feast?’

‘I’m sorry, Estel, I didn’t…’

‘It’s okay,’ replied Estel. ‘I’m tired too, you go enjoy yourself at the celebration.’

Elrohir all but ran from the Lhasbelin room. ‘Elladan, wait till I get my hands on you! ‘Don’t worry, Estel isn’t that mad, before you know he’ll forget the whole incident.’ You just wait, dear twin!’



Meanwhile Estel was lying in his bed, listening to the footsteps of Elrohir that were slowly dying away. ‘It almost sounds like he’s running,’ he grinned. But it was not long before he let out a weary sigh, making Elrohir feel uncomfortable and insecure had been fun, but now he was bored. ‘I want to go the feast,’ he whispered to the shadows. ‘I want to meet Mithrandir, a real Wizard!’

He tried to fall asleep but after a seemingly endless time of tossing in his bed restlessly he found himself laying on his right side, facing the door. Underneath it, through a crack, he could see light. Though it was not very late yet, the sun set early in the autumn and outside it was already dark, the sky lit only by the stars. Therefore, inside the Last Homely House the Elves had lit torches and fires to bring light and warmth into their home.

‘I think it is time to test my sneaking abilities,’ thought Estel. ‘If I’m really quiet maybe no one will notice me.’

He crawled out of his bed, quickly putting on his slippers and wrapping his blanket around him. Clutching Imthôlion, his plush toy, close to him, he approached the door to the hall.

Standing in front of it, he hesitated. ‘Maybe I should return to bed,’ he thought, thinking back to the last time he had sneaked off like this. ‘Ada wasn’t very happy with me and I don’t want to listen to his lecture again. And when I tried to explain that I only had wanted to take a look at the lake at midnight he had threatened to ‘confine me to my room for the following ten years if I’d do such a thing again’.’

Standing in indecision Estel was getting cold and he looked back to his bed longingly for a moment, but then he turned his back resolutely. ‘No, I want to see Mithrandir.’

Estel leaned against the door to listen whether someone was in the hall, although he was almost sure no one would be there. The private quarters of the Lord of Rivendell were not public places and the Elves respected their Lord’s privacy. ‘Besides, tonight everybody will be at the feast!’



Walking as silently as he could, which was very silent indeed, Estel made his way towards the Hall of Fire where the festivities were held. Arriving at the passage leading to the Hall of Fire, Estel cautiously peeked around the corner and quickly withdrew his head as he saw a servant carrying an empty tray coming out of the Hall.

He waited for a few seconds and looked around the corner again. This time he could see no one and Estel peeped through the door into the Hall. Keeping close to the wall he moved to a darkened corner with no occupants, near a window. Crawling onto the window-ledge, Estel wrapped himself in his warm blanket and took all the precautions to stay hidden from even Elven eyes.

In the front of the room, he could see his father and brethren sitting at a table, a great fire illuminated them from behind and the three Elven Lords were an impressive sight. Next to them an Elf was singing beautiful songs about Valinor. Snuggling closer under his blanket and holding Imthôlion safely to his chest, Estel let out a content sigh. ‘I could sit here all night, listening to the songs and watching all everyone.’

A sudden thought struck him. ‘I wonder whether Mithrandir has arrived yet. Ah well, it doesn’t really matter, right now I’m much too drowsy to search for him in the crowd. There’s always time for that later.’

He closed his eyes and let the warmth of the fire and the songs warm his body and soul.

* * * * * * * *

He must have dozed off, because when he opened his eyes again, an old man had pulled up his chair near the spot where Estel was hiding. The old man was puffing on his pipe and staring off into space, seemingly not paying attention to his surroundings he appeared lost in his thoughts.

Intrigued Estel looked at the man closer, applying all the techniques the twins had taught him how to observe a person, without the person’s knowledge of course. The man had a very long beard and his face showed countless wrinkles. His hands that were seated on the arm rest of the comfortable chair he was sitting in, were wrinkled too, yet they seemed full of strength, judging by their grip. The old man’s clothes did not appear dirty, yet looked travel worn, their colour a sombre grey.

Estel’s attention was quickly drawn to the smoke that was emerging from the old man’s pipe, as it assumed a strange form; in front of his eyes the puff of grey took shape of a beautiful ship! Estel let out a gasp, half in amazement, half in admiration of the man’s skill in forming smoke figures. Then he threw a quick glance at the old man, hoping he hadn’t heard his gasp. It appeared the smoking figure hadn’t noticed anything and continued to stare out of the window.

Spell bound Estel watched the old man and his smoking for a while. Until suddenly, the old man spoke, still not turning around to look at the boy. ‘Aren’t you a bit too young to be up at this hour?’

His eyes wide in surprise and his mouth opened slightly, Estel was much too shocked to reply. ‘How is this possible? How can this Human have noticed me? Not one of the Elves that passed my hiding place, saw me! How did a Human see me?’

The old man chuckled at the boy’s shock. ‘Now, there is no need to be afraid of me’, he said, raising his hands in a gesture of surrender.

‘I’m not afraid!’

The man only looked at him questioningly.

‘Well, maybe just a little,’ conceded Estel, slipping of the window-ledge, Imthôlion still held close, tucked safely under his left arm.

The old man beckoned for him to come closer and Estel complied. Standing next to the strange man, Estel could contain his curiosity no longer. ‘How did you know I was there?’

The old man smiled. ‘For me to know, for you to wonder about; it’s one of my little secrets,’ was the response, but when he saw the disappointed look on Estel’s face he added with a wink: ‘Or maybe it was just plain luck.’

Estel grinned and crawled into the open arms of the old man, all his fears and doubts put aside. He wriggled a little to get comfortable and putting his head against the older man’s shoulder he let out a satisfied sigh. His eyes watched the sparks of the fire play, the fiery tongues seemingly fighting each other in the game of which one of them could rise the highest.

‘We could move closer to the fire, if you want to,’ the old man proposed after a couple of seconds in comfortable silence.

Estel raised his head in alarm. ‘No!’ he cried out softly. ‘There is no need for that.’

‘Alright, nessaer, no need to fret,’ the man reassured the distressed boy. ‘But tell me, does your father know you are not in your bed?’

Estel looked away, refusing to meet the old man’s gaze.

The old man sighed. ‘That is an answer in itself.’

Estel looked up. ‘Please, don’t tell ada, he’ll skin me alive.’

‘Skin you alive?’ repeated the old man, arching an eyebrow.

‘Figuratively speaking.’

‘Ah,’ the old man nodded.

‘I only wanted to see Mithrandir,’ confessed Estel, saying the wizard’s name with something akin to adoration in his voice.

The old man chuckled. ‘All you wanted was to meet that old Istar?’

Estel nodded, then added: ‘Do you know him?’

‘Well, let’s say that I have never had the pleasure of talking face to face with him, but yes I do know him.’

‘What do you know about him?’ asked Estel eagerly. ‘Is he as wise as they say he is? And are his eyebrows really that bushy?’

‘Who told you his eyebrows are bushy?’

‘Elrohir first told me that he had pink bushy eyebrows,’ the boy giggled. ‘But I didn’t believe him and asked ada about it and he said that though his eyebrows aren’t pink they certainly are very bushy.’

‘So, what else has your ada been telling you about Mithrandir?’

‘Not much more, he said I would meet him myself and that I could judge him when I see him, so that ‘my judgement will not be clouded by other people’s opinions’. That were his exact words if I remember correctly,’ answered Estel.

‘But you must have created an image of how you expect him to be. What do you think he looks like?’

There was a great deal of amusement in the old man’s voice and his eyes twinkled with amusement, but Estel didn’t notice, consumed by the thought of how a proper Wizard should look like.

‘I expect him to look like ada, but then not Elvish, but Human,’ he finally said. ‘Ada told me Istari have taken the shape of Edain, though they are not Edain by nature,’ he explained at the surprised glance of the old man.

‘So you think Mithrandir ought to look like a Human version of your ada,’ said the old man, his voice sounding very gentle.

Estel nodded, then turned towards the front of the room. ‘See that Elf in the middle of the table, flanked by those two identical younger Elves? Those twins are my brothers and the one in the middle is my ada,’ he said proudly. ‘Doesn’t he look wise and wizardly?

‘When I was little, Elladan, my eldest brother, once pretended to be a Wizard and he tried to fool me into believing him. But Elrohir was in the complot too, so when I asked Elrohir whether he knew that Elladan led a double life and secretly was an Istar, he confirmed it and started telling all kinds of ridiculous stories of how Elladan had saved thousands of innocents using his magic! Naturally they swore me to secrecy, thus effectively preventing me from asking ada about the truth. They managed to keep up this charade for two weeks, but then ada found out about it. He tried to explain to me that Elladan was no Wizard, but I didn’t believe him; I thought he considered me too young to know about this secret. It took him two days of long discussions and Elladan to confess it was all a prank to convince me otherwise,’ continued Estel, oblivious to the huge smile that spread across the old man’s face.

‘I can’t believe I actually believed Elladan to be a Wizard,’ said Estel, looking intently at his eldest brother. ‘He doesn’t behave like one at all, he is way too mischievous and doesn’t have that look of wisdom around him. He is a warrior, but not a sage.’

Estel turned to Elrohir, his gaze scrutinizing the younger twin. ‘Elrohir isn’t a Wizard either, he is much too innocent and kind-hearted. He wouldn’t be able to bear the responsibility for so many living creatures, he wouldn’t be willing to sacrifice anyone, besides himself, even if it were for the greater good.’

The old man’s gaze had become curious. ‘How can you say? The two look the same?’

‘On the outer part, yes. But if you get to know them better and know where to look, you see the inside of them. You can see their character, their nature. Elladan and Elrohir may seem alike, but inside they are very different.’

‘You’re very remarkable, nessaer,’ commented the old man. ‘I’ve seldom met such an intriguing youngster, although I remember a certain Elf that is just as fascinating as you.’

‘Who is it?’ asked Estel impatiently when Mithrandir did not show any signs of continuing his tale.

‘It is a young Elven Prince, I met him many years ago and I will never forget our first encounter. I was on my way to congratulate King Thranduil, having heard that he had received a son…’

The old man continued his story until after a while he felt the Human child in his lap relax, his breath evening out. Instinctively he pulled the boy closer to him, and graced him with a fond gaze.

* * * * * * * *

It was thus that Lord Elrond found the guest of honour many hours later.

‘Mithrandir, my friend, I see that even you are not spared from Estel’s charm,’ he remarked, his voice tinged with amusement.

‘Alas, I could do nothing against it: before I knew it, the boy had wormed his way into my heart,’ answered the old man, his eyes still on Estel.

Elrond looked at his foster son too and realized how grateful he was for the gift the Valar had granted him with when they had brought Aragorn into his Home.

‘You have a fine son, Elrond,’ whispered Mithrandir, breaking the silence.

‘I know,’ replied Elrond gravely, yet with a proud edge.

‘You have all reason to be proud, not only has he a stout heart and a bright mind. He too has the ability to love and care for others, especially his family. He loves you very much.’

‘And I love him equally, as do Elladan, Elrohir and all of Imladris. Estel is unique.’

Elrond paused for a moment, then his face turned stern. ‘But still, he and I will have a discussion tomorrow about disobeying my specific instructions not to come to the celebration. And about how he managed to sneak into the Hall without anyone noticing,’ he concluded with a smile.

Mithrandir looked at the Elven Lord. ‘If your twins have been teaching him, you don’t have to look far. Those two rascals have had millennia to perfect their sneaking abilities and I’m sure they were glad to pass their experiences to Estel.’

Elrond couldn’t hide his smile. ‘I’m afraid I can’t argue with that statement.’ He then added thoughtfully: ‘Maybe I should have a discussion with them too, about what they should teach Estel. And especially what they should not teach him.’

Estel stirred in Mithrandir’s lap.

‘But for now Estel needs to sleep in his own bed,’ Elrond said, bending over to take sleeping form over from the Wizard.

The boy reluctantly left the secure arms of the Wizard, but then automatically adjusted to his father’s grip, letting out a content sigh.

Walking in amiable silence the Elf Lord and the Istar made their way towards the Lhasbelin Room, where Elrond put Estel in bed, covering him with a warm Elven made blanket. He picked up Imthôlion, who had fallen on the floor and put him next to the sleeping child. ‘Sweet dreams, my son,’ he whispered, planting a soft kiss on Estel’s forehead.

Then he walked out of the room and as he closed the door he heard Mithrandir’s questioning voice.

‘There is one other thing I wanted to discuss, though. How would you describe me, more specifically, how would you describe my eyebrows?’



The End



ada = father

elle toror = little brother

nessaer = young one



= = = = = =



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The Old Man
Created
19 Aug 2003
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19 Aug 2003
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