"My father was a ranger."
Melpomaen froze in the middle of Estel's drawing lesson, and dropped his charcoal. It broke into many pieces, shattered on the floor. So much for complete secrecy. Though "a ranger" was a far way from "Arathorn."
"Didn't you hear me, Mel?" Estel asked, still not looking up from his drawing. "I said my father was a ranger, like Captain Daeron is, and like Lord Dirhael used to be."
Mel fought to breathe normally. "What makes you say that, tithen-pen?" He managed.
Estel looked at Mel as if Mel was an idiot. "Say which? That my Nana's husband, my first father, must have been a ranger, or that Lord Dirhael used to be a ranger? They're both obvious."
Mel wondered which twin had taught Estel the word "obvious," and what type of revenge a junior Adviser and part-time tutor was entitled to take for such an infraction. "Let's start with the first "obvious" conclusion, tithen-gwador-nin."
Estel nodded. That made sense; Mel usually did. "Only rangers visit here and get to stay longer than long enough to make a trade agreement. And only the rangers look at me like they maybe recognize me. Well, all of the rangers I've seen, anyway. Except Lord Dirhael, who was a special kind of ranger. But he would look at me like he recognized me too, if he weren't playing blank face."
As that was a fairly accurate description of Dirhael the former spy master, given Estel's current vocabulary, Mel was rather impressed. "That is interesting reasoning, Estel. Perhaps you should ask your Nana, or your Ada Lord Elrond?" Surely, Mel thought, Elrond and Gilraen had heeded Elladan's advice to have this story ready.
"No, that's ok." Estel had returned to drawing a picture of Erestor's cat, an endless source of fascination for the young animal lover. "I know that I am, now. A ranger's son, that is."
Mel silently cursed his inability to keep a straight face, despite millenia as the twins' companion, and those few desperate years as Elladan's back up, on the Wizard's errands.
"Don't worry, Mel." Estel reassured, turning to give his friend a sweet smile. "I won't tell anyone that you told."
Mel smiled weakly, as he wondered whether Elrond's human foster son would finally succeed where the twins had failed, and drive Melpomaen to drink. Not that Mel was so far gone that he'd accept a drink the twins offered. Elladan was currently experimenting with potions that caused one's eyes to change color. THAT wouldn't help Mel explain to Lord Elrond Estel's new theory of his own origin.