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Estel

Chapter 1: Estel

by Viv

AN: Tolkien’s account of Aragorn’s life insists that he had no notion of his destiny during his childhood. But a mortal boy living in Rivendell, and especially the son of a prophetess like Gilraen, must have overheard things, must have sensed his uniqueness. And his burden.

Standard disclaimers apply: Professor T, I wouldn't borrow your world if I didn't love it so much. Also, as with all of my stories, if anyone wishes to heckle, please let me know so I can come play, too.

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Estel

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Elrond looked up from his desk when he heard the heavy footfalls approaching his writing room. He had just a moment to summon a slight smile before Gilraen peeked her head into the arched doorway. She fisted her little hand and tapped on the lintel with her knuckles.

“My Lord Elrond?” she queried softly. When she realized that he was staring at her, obviously waiting for her to enter, she flushed.

“Good morning, Gilraen. Please come inside. And you too, master Estel. I have been waiting for you.” Elrond projected his voice just past Gilraen’s heavy skirts, into the wide foyer beyond. At Elrond’s invitation, Estel entered the room. Solemn for his age, the lad hesitated for a moment, lingering by his mother’s side, and then taking a slight step away.

Elrond nodded and turned his attention to the mother. He had known from the beginning that Gilraen little liked this life in Rivendell. Elves made her nervous, and perhaps Elrond did so most of all. But her own discomfort lay far beneath her ambitions for this child, the one she had prophesied. The one she had named Estel.

“Thank you for bringing him to his lesson, madam. Will you stay today? We will have our meal in the garden now that the weather has warmed, and Limovor will entertain us with songs at twilight. There is always a seat for you in this house, Dîrhiliell.” Elrond waited for her polite refusal.

“Thank you, no, My Lord. I have... tasks in my own quarters. I shall return before dark and fetch him, though. Thank you for your kind offer,” she replied. She blinked once, and then shifted her gaze to Estel. “Listen to Lord Elrond, my son. Become wise.” Her words were blessing and omen, and they carried a hint of desperation that the child was not likely to understand.

But Elrond did.

He waited until Gilraen’s receeding footfalls had faded in his elven ears before turning again to the child. Estel had moved to a decorative panel and was carefully tracing the intricate twists and turns of a scrollwork pattern. His narrow face was serious, intent. Almost as if he felt the weight of Elrond’s eyes, Estel looked up.

“What shall it be, then?” Elrond asked, slipping into the Noble Tongue and noticing with a teacher’s pride that Estel followed easily. “Flora? Histories? Songs? Or do you think you are ready to continue with Feanorian script?”

Like most of his race, Estel was taller than an elf would be at this age. He was awkward, clumsy, slightly rag-tag. But there was something luminous about the child, something that, despite all the generations and contamination of Afterborn blood, still reminded Elrond of Elros. In this mortal face, Elrond could see vestiges of the brother he so loved.

“Yes, sir. I completed the conjugation chart after last lesson. But...” Estel studied the toes of his worn elven slippers.

“Yes?” Elrond prodded gently. Estel sucked in a long breath, and his words poured out in one continuous stream on the exhalation.

“Last lesson you said if I learned the Song of Leithian by memory, we could go to the aerie. If I say it right, may we go this time, please?”

Elrond, far too dignified to laugh aloud, smiled instead and touched the child’s hair lightly.

“Let us hear it, and then I shall decide. Fair?”

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Thin air burned in his nostrils. Old air. Hallowed air. An elf at this height could almost hear the songs of old, could almost smell the white fjellpryd blossoms that littered the slopes of the Pelori. And a gaze tossed into the distance at this height could almost stretch forever. Elrond loved the mountain; in a world of few guarantees, the mountain alone seemed unmoving. He had chosen this place deliberately to build his haven of Imladris.

“Lord Elrond, sir?” The voice cut through Elrond’s reverie, and the elf looked down. Estel crouched on the edge of the aerie, not quite touching the faint remains of a great eagle’s roost .

“What is it, little one?”

“Where did they go? The eagles who lived here, I mean?” Pensiveness stained the voice, and Elrond wondered at it.

“I suspect that they are here still, in the mountains of Middle-earth. The wise of my people insist that Eagles speak to the Valar themselves, and that they alone would dare interfere on our behalf, were the need to arise. After all, it was an eagle lord who saved the Gondolindrim. Do you know the tale?” When Estel shook his head, Elrond continued, “Long ago, on a time of sudden war, when all hope was lost, the refugees of an elven city called Gondolin were set upon by enemies. Their best fighters were slain, and they had no hope. And then, from over the mountains came Thorondor, King of Eagles. Sweeping down upon the dark army, he forced them over the edge and into a chasm, to their deaths. Because of his timely arrival and heroism, the last elves of Gondolin survived. My father was among them. To my people, eagles represent victory and hope.”

Elrond had almost forgotten his audience, so stirred was he by the ancient tale. But as his last words echoed over the vastness of the mountainside, he slowly came back to the here and now. And felt a little foolish. How could a mere mortal child comprehend the magnificence of that moment on the Echoriath? It was too much to expect, really.

And then, from the thin silence, that carillon-clear voice again:

“But what if there were no eagles?”

Elrond felt his spirit sink. “Then the elves would surely have perished. And I would not be here with you now, child. But the wise do not wonder what might have been; they move along knowing merely what is. And what was. And what might yet be.”

Estel was silent for a long time. Thin breeze stirred his fine dark hair, his slightly rumpled clothes. But his face did not change: it remained set in pensive furrows, too deep and serious for a boy so young. He did not turn to Elrond when next he spoke; instead his grey eyes focused on some far-away thing. Elrond waited.

“My father’s name was Arathorn,” the lad said slowly. “My mother speaks of him when she thinks I do not hear. His name means ‘noble eagle,’ does it not?”

Elrond nodded, and though the boy did not turn, he must have sensed the elf lord’s confirmation.

“And my mother has named me Estel.” The child nodded, as if weighing heavy thoughts. And so he did, Elrond realized. It was a strange thing to witness. For here, in the shallow breath of a mountaintop, in the long-empty nest of a legend, destiny settled over this child. Elrond, heir of three races, could only gaze in pity. And humility.

“And that in the Noble Tongue means...”

“Hope.”

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Fin.