He hugged his knees to his chest, awkward limbs sticking out in the way of an elfling who had yet to grow into his long and broad body. “I do not want to go down to the river,” he whispered.
Artuo patted his head. “And so you shall not, my child. If any other elfling teases you about it, all you will have to do is say your name and it will explain it all.”
Ecthelion leaned against Artuo and buried his head in his neck. He let out the tears he had been holding back for what felt like ages. “It is too heavy a burden to carry and I feel as if I will disappoint everyone if I do not live up to my history.”
Artuo pulled him into a tight embrace. “Listen to my words, Ecthelion, and hear them in both your heart and soul, you will never be a disappointment to me. You accomplished a feat that no other being on Arda or Aman has ever been able to match. Most elves could not fight one balrog, much less kill four of them. No one expects you to do such a thing. We have peace here on Aman. If you spend this life doing nothing but walking the lands and playing a flute we will all rejoice. We are just so happy to have you amongst us again and so blessed to raise you for a second time.” He pressed a kiss to the crown of Ecthelion’s head. “May I ask what brought this on?”
Ecthelion sniffed and waved a hand in the direction of the elflings down by the water. “I feel so apart from them. I feel like they can never understand what I am going through. The only ones who understand me are you and Vanima, my parents, and Penlod. There is no one my age I can find who feels the pressure of living up to the past with, what I have been told, is the standard awkwardness of youth.”
Artuo smiled. “There is one youth, only a few years younger than you, who may be able to relate. He was once a dear friend of yours, named Rog, but he is currently living in a settlement a long ride from our home. All the parents of those in Rog’s house decided it would be best to form their own community as, well, you know.”
“All of Rog’s house fell, from the lord down to the dormice, and all will be re-born,” he replied. Ecthelion smiled, pulling back to wipe his tears with the sleeves of his tunic in a gesture that would make Vanima grimace. “I remember a bit of who he was as an adult. I remember his sense of humor and his sense of mischief.”
“Humor and mischief are certainly two very fitting words to describe Rog,” Artuo agreed. “Come,” he said, tugging on Ecthelion’s hair and standing, “let us go back to your home. We shall arrange a visit to the settlement of those folks. I daresay, they would be delighted to have someone distract Rog from his usually pranks.”
Elladan and Elrohir entered, many bags and sacks hanging from their arms.
“Father had a feeling,” Elladan said by way of explanation.
“And you know how he gets, when he has a feeling,” Elrohir continued.
“How did you get here so quickly?” Berenon asked.
“The Sons of Elrond have a knack for being where they are most needed when they are most needed, with no regard to distance or time,” Glorfindel replied.
“We may or may not have also slipped our horses something special, but you shall never hear such a thing from us,” Elladan said.
“Now, off to see to the injured, yes?”
“You will not go on that battlefield,” Glorfindel ordered. “You will stay as far from it as possible. This is not your war or your matter to fight. You will only cause distraction. You will stay in the Healing Tents, which lie far behind the lines, and you will heal. Am I clear?”
“Yes, Overlord Glorfindel, you are quite clear.”
“And you say I am disrespectful,” Morwen murmured.
“Where is Rilasseth?” Elrohir asked. “Father asked me to give her a quick check-up if there was time to spare. Since I know Glorfindel and Morwen can go over this argument for hours on end, I would much rather spend my time making certain the Princess and her unborn child are in good health.”
Ecthelion ducked into Tuor’s sitting room and grabbed the mug of ale out of his hand, downing it in one gulp.
“Thirsty, Ecthelion?” Idril asked.
Tuor frowned down in his now empty mug. “My ale is gone,” he muttered.
Ecthelion put his hands over his face and paced the room. “I think I may have something other than paternal feelings for Glorfindel’s daughter,” he said.
“Pour him another one, Tuor,” Idril ordered.
“Funny,” Ecthelion said. He collapsed into one of the armchairs by the fireplace.
“By the stars,” Tuor said, “I never thought I’d see the day of Ecthelion of the Fountain in love. With Glorfindel of the Golden Flower’s daughter, no less.”
“I always thought he loved Glorfindel,” Idril interjected.
“Well, I do, deeply,” Ecthelion said, “ not romantically though. But I will not deny that there are few elves I love more than him and his family.”
Estel bathed the sweat off his brow with his rolled-up tunic. He could not recall a time when the lands around the valley contained such sweltering heat. None of the others seemed affected by the weather, the grace of the Eldar giving all the other riders of the march an advantage. Even Elladan and Elrohir seemed to bask in the warmth. They had just come from a journey that took them through the Misty Mountains and still moaned about the bitter cold.
Being raised by Eldar left him in a different position from everyone around him. No matter how much elvish he knew, how many skills he gained, how many years he lived, he would never be one of the First Born. He would never be wholly of the Second Born either. The same environment which trained him for a future of surviving the world and the woods on his own, also made him forever isolated from all others around him. Even the Dunedain who came to visit Imladris on their run-throughs, who were close friends and strong allies of Imladris, could not understand the life he was raised in; in a grand home, a sedentary lifestyle, where food, clothes, and shelter were never a worry.
As he edged close to his majority he took notice of these differences, of these things which set him apart. Days like today, when everyone else on the march seemed to revel in the sunlight and he was left weakened by its heat, made him cruelly of aware of just how far apart from the Eldar he stood.
“The horses need rest,” Glorfindel called from the front of the line. “Even my own brave companion here needs to stop for a drink and some shade. The lake up ahead should serve us well,” Glorfindel said. He dismounted, leading his mare at a slow trot. All the other soldiers followed their Captain.
Estel wanted to believe this stop was truly for the horses but he had seen the twitch of Glorfindel’s head which meant he was expanding his senses to assess the condition of his riders. Estel’s need for a rest could not have been missed, even by a green rider of the march. He was not in a position to let his pride get in the way. He dismounted, running a soothing hand over his horse’s snout, and slung his pack onto his bare shoulders. He kept a slower pace than the others, but decided to enjoy the walk and the slight breeze if it meant he did not have to overtax his already protesting body.
As the daughter of elven nobility on Arda, Celebrian was educated in the way of politics and intrigues, but it was never assumed she would rule in the style and power her mother commanded over the future Lothlorien. Her marriage was as much a political alliance, if not more so, than a conjugal agreement. Celebrian was willing, and assumed it was her duty, to her husband as her elder in years in wisdom to rule Imladris on his own. Elrond, the contrary being he was and always would be, refused to leave Celebrian to a life of fanciful idle.
“This is not Lindon, nor Lothlorien, your people must know you and you must know them,” he said at least once a day. Often using a book for emphasis, ever the teacher and always the scholar.
In the first years of their marriage, Elrond was as much her tutor as her husband. He knew, better than any elf, how quickly one’s situation could change. He was adamant that Celebrian knew how to rule the whole realm in his absence. Celebrian found herself learning far more than how to manage a noble household. She was taught everything, from how to wield the unfamiliar Imladrian daggers to how to dye a robe of state. She learned the basic in healing arts as she learned the proper way to preserve documents, paintings, and tapestries in a realm which experienced all the seasons and lived with stone and fireplaces rather than the warmth of the trees and their talans. Celebrian was groomed for inheriting the mantle of Imladris as much as her sons and daughters.
Standing in front of the Council of Tirion, Celebrian was never more grateful for those lessons taught all those centuries ago.
The yeoman stood up, his long ceremonial robes scrapping across the floor. “Lady Celebrian, what brings you to the Council of Elders on this day?”
Celebrian felt her spine tighten at his tone, her mother’s voice in her ear reminding her of presence and posture, a phantom memory of her father’ hand pressing down on her shoulder, the warm presence of Elrond forever in her mind. She knew members of the Council looked down on her, considered her mother a traitor, her father even more so for joining her, and viewed her husband and children as something inferior. It gave her grim amusement to imagine what would happen to this Council when the Children of the Third Age arrived. Making contact with each council member’s eyes, Celebrian proceeded forward to the central dais.
“I stand before you, with a humble heart, to beseech your graces on behalf of the elves of the Greenwood. They wish to establish their own realm, though many object to the sharing of borders with these most noble of elves. There is a deep thicket of woods on the south end of land designated for both my Lord Elrond and the land claims of the other Noble Lords and Ladies of Imladris. I know with all the certainty that is in my being, they would not protest to sharing borders with the elves of the Green Wood.”