Fading memories ignored
I crawl across the forest floor
Pool reflects an orphan child
Dirty, lost, alone and wild
Fatherless and nameless still
Fallen heart and broken, will
there ever be a place where I belong?
He hated himself.
Stumbling away from the meadow, Estel could still hear the laughter of the elven children burning in his ears. Their voices calling after him.
"You’re just a human, you’ll never be an elf Estel!"
"You can’t even walk in the trees!"
The small voices floated to him as he ran into the forest away from his friends.
"It’s easy to see why you were adopted, without an elf to take care of you, you’d never survive!"
"I can’t believe the Lord Elrond really kept you!"
"Bet he’s sorry too."
"Some Hope you turned out to be!"
The day had started out fun. Estel had traipsed off to a nearby meadow with a few of the children who called Rivendell their home. He knew them all, they had practically grown up together...or at least he had grown up around them. The elven children were actually at least a few human years his senior, but they were in maturity and mentality his peers. On this day they had dared him to climb one of the tallest trees in Rivendell. All the elven children could do it - it was easy for them. They found the human’s slow unsteadiness humorous. They often laughed at his clumsiness and until today he had laughed it off too. Until they had attacked his relationship with his elven father, until the taunts had whispered doubts into his mind – today the teasing had gone too far.
Not one to back down from any dare, Estel had made his way up the large tree. Half way up the thick trunk, one of the elven boys had dropped lightly down in front of the child, startling him and unbalancing his grip on the branch above him. With a cry he had fallen to the forest floor, a sickening snap in the arm pinned underneath his body stole his breath away.
He winced now as he ran away from the field, remembering the way they had leapt lightly out of the tree after him and tugged at his rounded off ears, ignoring his tears and taunting him, reminding him yet again that he was different. Elven children could be thoughtlessly cruel sometimes.
Estel limped slowly deeper into the forest until he was exhausted. The woods here were old and the trees thick and tall. It was an area of Rivendell that he had no memories of, no recollection of ever having visited with his brothers or his father. He was lost. Backing against the trunk of a large, ancient tree he sank down at the base of if it, seating himself in the long grasses that grew through the woods. It didn’t matter, he would never go back, how could he? After all they were right, he’d never amount to much.
Tears rolled down his cheeks as he held his arm close to his body. It ached. A lot. It wasn’t the normal kind of pain he was used to when he fell or roughhoused with Elladan and Elrohir. It was a deep ache and it frightened him, but it was not so deep as the one that pierced his heart.
I cower ‘neath the monster trees
And try to stand on tired feet
But gravity knocks me to the ground
Where I give up, and tears roll down
I claw the dust and beg the end
Curse the day that I began
to hope there’d be a place where I belong...
‘They were right,’ the voices in his head confirmed. ‘You are no elf and you never will be, you are only adopted, how could your father ever love someone as clumsy as you? I bet Elladan and Elrohir are glad that you are gone.’
"No." A sob broke from his lips and he curled into himself careful of his arm that hurt so much. He had tried repeatedly to fit in, but they just wouldn’t let him. He didn’t know how. He hated his human parents for being human and for dying and leaving him here. He was nobody, nothing - adopted. He had heard the way they said the word, it wasn’t a good thing, it was a bad thing. A weak thing, like himself. He loved his elven father and brothers but he knew deep inside he was an embarrassment to them, a disappointment, how could he not be? And down in the depths of his heart something snagged on those thoughts and wouldn’t let them go. Believing them and the pain of knowing they were the truth hurt more than anything he had known before.
He tried to breathe around the sobs that tore from him, but he couldn’t catch his breath and his ragged gulps for air quickly turned into hiccups.
The skies broke open and a soft drizzle set in. The woods seemed to echo the bleakness in his heart. As the cloudburst turned into a down pour Estel stood uneasily to his feet. He was lost in a part of the woods he did not know. Something his elven father had warned him about.
Shivering from the cold that had quickly wrapped itself through the trees and the shock of his broken arm he searched for a place out of the rain. No one would ever find him, how would they even know where to look?
Why would they come looking? The haunting voice whispered.
He stumbled through the darkening forest, seeking shelter. The branches of the trees bent down to catch his clothing and the huge, thick, topsoil roots reached out to trip him, snagging his feet and dropping him hard to the wet forest floor. He cried out as his broken arm was jostled. Stiffly he rolled off the root and slowly gaining his feet once more.
The gaping maw of a huge burnt out tree loomed before him and he shied from it at first. Its darkened carcass hewn out by a bolt of lightning that had struck it eons ago. The tree itself he realized had actually continued growing as green boughs bent by the winds gently swept his face. Crouching down near the opening he pressed inside the trunk. It was warm and dry and a bed of needles and leaves had collected inside it on the floor. Pulling his knees up to his chest the little boy hugged his injured arm tightly to him and allowed the tears to stream down his face, the sounds of the sighing tree branches lulling him to sleep.
"He is not anywhere on the grounds." Elrohir reported to Elrond. His twin paced in front of the large picture window that graced the common room. A fire roared beneath the mantle and Elrond turned from stoking it higher against the storm’s chill. He glanced at his elven sons. They had quickly taken to the young human that Elrond had accepted as his own child. The three had been inseparable when the twins were about and not out on scouting or hunting forays in which Estel was still too young to join.
"He would have not wandered off." Elrond’s worry shown in his silver eyes, "I have warned him of doing just such a thing."
"He was with the other children earlier." Elladan spoke up from his vigil. He was irritated with himself for not seeking out the human child sooner when the storm had threatened them. The little boy had no idea what it was like to grow up on the edge of a ravine, near woods that were not safe for children at night. If anything happened to the child, after his inability to save the boy’s father... Elladan would never forgive himself.
"I’m going to go find some of the others he was with. Maybe they can tell us what happened." Elladan stalked to the door, grabbing his cloak on the way out. Elrohir rushed after him turning back to glance at their father.
"We’ll find him father. It will be all right." He chased his brother out into the storm.
Elladan entered their dwelling, pushing two reluctant children in front of him. The small elves glanced up anxiously at the tall lord, dropping their eyes quickly and fixing their stares at the carpet below their feet.
Elrohir stepped around the two small beings and walked up to his father.
"This is Tinioril and his brother Tineriand. Their father is Timoril who lives in the houses near the river." Elrohir presented the two children who glanced up at the elf lord when they were introduced, "They have something to tell you."
Elladan paced out of the room. Elrond watched as his elder son opened a storage closet and began removing items; an extra pack, a thick warm blanket, bandages and splints. His choice of objects bothered the elf lord who turned his attention back to the two children. He realized his height might intimidate them into not speaking and he knelt on the floor in front of them.
"Tell me what happened." His voice was soft and warm, "You are not in trouble."
"Yet." Tinioril spoke quietly.
"Father said when we get home we would be." Tineriand finished by way of explanation.
"Well if you help me, I might be able to help you." Elrond tried to hide the smile that pulled at his lips, "Tell me what happened to Estel."
Tineriand glanced at his brother who spoke for the both of them, his voice so quiet that Elrond had to lean forward to hear him speak, "We dared Estel to climb the tree."
"Oh *the* tree?" The elf lord prompted when they stopped talking.
"Yes." Tinioril glanced at the older elf. "He fell after only getting half way up. They were teasing him and one of them startled him, so he slipped."
"I see. Then what happened?" Elrond’s heart stopped at the words, he could tell there was more they were hiding.
"I think he was hurt." Tineriand offered. "Inside and out." The small boy touched his heart and his arm indicating where.
"We teased him about his ears." Tinioril swallowed hard, not meeting Elrond’s eyes. He glanced sidelong at his brother who was fidgeting with the clasp on his cloak, "And about…about…"
The child couldn’t bring himself to admit what they had done. Elrond glanced up as Elladan re-entered the room stuffing herbs into a small satchel.
"About being adopted."
Elrond sighed and closed his eyes tightly. He had known the day would come when the subject would be brought up, but was not fully prepared for it now that it had happened.
Tinioril reached out hesitantly and touched the older elf's hand redirecting the elven lord’s attention. "We are awfully sorry. We hope he's okay. Elladan said he never came home. We always tease him and he never seems to care..."
"I guess today he did," Tineriand spoke up. "because he ran away into the forest."
Elrond nodded slowly, thinking through his words before he spoke next. "Being adopted is a special thing. Adopted children are no less loved or wanted by their parent than you are. Estel is my son and I love him as much as I love Elladan and Elrohir. Just because he is different than them or you does not mean that I love him less or just let him stay here because I pity him." He glanced between the two children, "Do you understand?"
They both nodded sheepishly. Elrond was not sure they fully grasped the severity of their teasing, but he knew with time and age they would. Right now there was a little boy lost out somewhere in the woods and it sounded like he could be seriously hurt.
"Well we shall walk you back to your homes and go search for Estel. Can you show us which way he went?" Elrond stood to his feet and joined his sons by the door, escorting the children out before him.
I hear a sound I recognize
You lift my chin and seek my eyes
A song of love you sing to me
I ache to sing it back to thee
Father Love prepares a place...
...Follow to the place where you belong
The three elves searched far into the woods. Tracking the small child was next to impossible in the rain and darkness. The twins held torches, calling out Estel's name, hoping to rouse the child.
Estel woke sluggishly to the faint sounds of his name. His arm was throbbing and he felt sick to his stomach. Again he heard his name but he tuned out the sound, thinking it was just his imagination. Firelight weaved through the trees a few feet above the ground as he peered into the darkness ahead of him. He watched it curiously, his mind slowed by the fever that had set in.
Elladan bent close to the ground, his fingers pressing the edges of an indention in the wet forest floor. The outline of a small boot heading away in the direction they were searching.
"Father! Over here!" He called through the lessening storm. Standing to his feet he walked forward, searching the area for any signs of his human brother.
"There!" Elrohir grabbed his twin’s sleeve and drug the elf to the base of a huge ancient tree whose trunk had been hollowed out by a lightning strike. The shape of the small, hidden human contrasted starkly with darkened hulk of the tree.
Elrond pressed his sons back and knelt on the forest floor in front of the little boy's hiding place.
Estel had hoped they would overlook him. He didn’t know how he would ever be able to tell them what had happened and he pressed farther back against the wood. Elrond noticed his son cringe away and he stilled his movements. The boy was shivering, yet his face was flushed and he held his right arm tightly against him, deep purple bruises stood out on his white arm where the bone had broken.
Huge silver eyes locked onto Elrond's own.
"I'm sorry." The boy whispered.
Elrohir crouched down behind his father and smiled gently at the young human.
"Whatever for my son?" Elrond questioned him softly. The rain had abated and it was easy to hear the child’s soft voice.
"That I am human." Tears fell from the boy’s eyes, tracking down his cheeks.
Elrond closed his eyes fighting the ache in his own heart. "That matters not to me."
"They said it did." Estel's breathing hitched slightly.
"They were wrong." Elrond took the blanket that Elladan held down for him and slowly leaned forward wrapping it around the child’s slim shoulders.
"They said I am just adopted." Estel clutched the edge of the warm fabric with the fingers of his good arm and wiped his tears on his sleeve. "They made it sound bad."
"Young one, the fact that you are adopted is a very special thing. Do you know how many children actually get adopted?" When the little human shook his head Elrond continued, "Very few. I chose you my Estel. I wanted you to be with me and to grow up with me. You are a gift from Iluvitar to this family. You are my son in every way, just like your brothers. I love you no less, not because you are adopted, nor because you are human. To me you are very special and I could not love you more than I do." He reached in and gently stroked the boy’s wet hair. He could feel the unnatural heat of a fever beneath his fingers; they needed to get the child out of the cold.
"No one can ever change that or take away my love for you." Elrond opened up his arms and invited the young boy in. Without hesitation the child threw himself against the older elf as the strong arms wrapped around his slender body and held him tightly.
"They made fun of my ears." Estel sobbed against his father’s chest.
"Oh Estel, your ears are perfect." Elrond leaned down and kissed his son’s ear. "They are perfect the way that they are."
"I'm sorry I believed them. I am sorry I ran away." The young human whispered softly as Elrond shifted the child in his arms and stood to his feet.
He bent his head low next to youngest son’s as they started the long walk back, "Worry not Estel, it is all right. Let’s just get you home."
With a slight nod the child rested safe in the warmth of his father’s embrace. He was asleep before they reached the steps of Rivendell.
How did I miss this wondrous song?
The forest sang it all along
River rinses all your shame
Father offers you his name
Father Love prepares a home...
Follow to the place where you belong!
Elladan leaned in the doorway of Estel's room, watching the elf lord tenderly rock the boy. The child slept cradled in his father’s arms. Elrond had given the young human a sleeping draught in order to set his broken arm without causing him further pain. The splint that now covered it held it straight and it lay awkwardly across his chest, rising and falling with each breath he took. His fever had broken sometime throughout the night, but Elrond had not left his side.
"Why don’t you go get some sleep father? I'll stay up with Estel." Elladan entered the room and sat down in a chair adjacent to the bed. Elrond was seated on the mattresses, one leg stretched out on top of the soft comforter that covered the bed, his other dangling off the side, his booted foot barely touching the floor.
"Did you hear what he said?" Elrond asked, ignoring his son’s suggestion, "He believed I would think of less of him because he is human." Elrond smoothed the boy’s hair from his face, lightly brushing his fingers against the child’s soft cheek. "Do you know he asked me before I put him to sleep why I had ever named him Estel?"
Elladan leaned forward, listening intently, "What did you tell him?"
Elrond glanced up as Elrohir walked in and sat on the edge of the bed, near the foot.
"I told him that he held great hope. That he had brought joy and laughter back to the house and that in time he would realize just what his name really meant." The older elf glanced down at the sleeping form he held, "He fell asleep at that point but he was smiling." Elrond looked up at his sons, a soft smile lighting his own face.
"He must never be made to feel less again." Elladan whispered with mild fierceness, his protectiveness rising to the surface as he watched his little brother sleep.
The elf lord glanced at his eldest twin. "He must know that he is special to us and wanted, but you must not shield him." Elrond shifted his hand under the boy’s splinted arm, covering the child's chest. "This one is destined to face great hardship and trial. He is in fact human and their lot is different than ours."
"Well when he is with me, he will know he is loved."
Elrond smiled at the over protectiveness in the twin’s tone. He started slightly when Estel's small fingers wrapped around his own.
The older elf gazed down into the brilliant dark eyes shot through with silver that were locked onto his own and smiled.
"I do know." Estel whispered quietly, smiling back at his father.
Elrond kissed the young boy on the forehead and shifted the precious bundle down onto the sheets next to him, wrapping the child in the comforter. "Good, don’t you ever forget it." He spoke quietly, leaning over the boy.
Estel pulled his broken arm up onto his chest and fiddled with the splint, "I promise I never will."
"See that you don’t." Elrond smiled and pushed his hand away from the stiff bandages, pulling the covers up close under the boys chin, "Get some more rest, you need it."
"If you promise me one thing." Estel quickly moved his good hand free of the covers and closed it about his father’s larger one.
"What is that my son?" Elrond stopped and sat back down.
"Can Elladan and Elrohir teach me how to climb?"
Elrond glanced at the twins, one eyebrow quirked upward in question, "Well?"
Estel glanced around his father at the two dark haired elves, a huge smile breaking out on his face.
"Just as soon as you are well." Elrohir leaned over and tousled the boy’s unkempt locks.
"We'll teach you to climb better than an elf." Elladan bragged. The child giggled at his brother’s exaggeration.
"For now though young one you *will* rest." Elrond pushed the twins away and gently placed his hand over the human’s eyes, forcing him to close them.
"We'll be right here if you need anything."
"Father?" Estel glanced at the three retreating elves.
"I love you." The little boy watched the elven lord’s reaction.
Elrond walked back to the bedside and knelt down, gently embracing the child once more, "I love you too Estel, with all of my heart. And I always will." He closed his eyes and smiled as the child’s arm wrapped around his neck, the small boy placing a gentle kiss to the side of his face.
It was good to have the young human back home, home where he belonged.