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Interlude for the Harbinger's Song

Chapter Text

 

 

              The Halls of Mandos laid silent as the grave as Námo watched the still form of one Harry James Potter, who stood before the Veil in the Department of Mysteries. The other Valar, Námo knew, were watching as well, waiting for the boy to take his step into infinity. But the child stood motionless for a very long time, raw emotions flashing across his face as he peered intently at the Veil. Námo clenched a fist as Harry’s eyes—a beautiful green, like the finest of his wife’s woven silks—glistened wetly with unshed tears.

              No child, thought he, no innocent should ever need to endure such pain. And he, of all the Valar, knew innocence and pain best, for it was he who judged the souls of all the dead—innocent and guilty, young and old alike. Though his countenance was stern—for he was an impartial judge, to the best of his ability—his heart wept for the boy. His attention never wavered from the mortal as he waited.

              Harry moved suddenly, breaking into a sprint toward the Veil. Námo’s breath caught at the wild pain in the child’s eyes, the reckless madness that burned like fire within his soul. Oh, child…

              And Harry passed through the Veil.

              It was Námo who reached out with his power, receiving the boy’s feä, his soul, into the folds of his own. His connection to the other world was sundered, gently, by Illúvatar; Harry was with them, and so it was no longer needed. And the soul he took into his own was not the same as the soul that had passed through the veil, but instead one changed at the hands of the Creator God, molded anew in the space between eternity and void. As he took the little feä—damaged, badly so, but brightly shining—his Father whispered a name in his ear. Námo smiled, for it was fitting: Calasain, the boy who shone anew.

              Calasain curled into the protective eddies of Námo’s power, sinking his own shining core deep into the spiritual warmth. His life flashed before the Judge’s sight; the Vala was struck by the power of it as he felt, vividly, each moment.

              And in his arms he held a newborn baby boy, born into the potential of a destiny so dark that it shook the very foundations of the world.

              And in his arms he held the two-year-old who had survived the Killing Curse, who had been torn from the warmth and love of his family and thrust into a world altogether hostile to him.

              And in his arms he held the three-year-old, innocent and trusting, who begged for the smallest scrap of love, and yet went unanswered.

              And in his arms he held the eleven-year-old, never a child, who was left in ignorance until pushed into a society that idolized him like a god, and yet rejected him in the same instant—who placed upon him expectations that would break a fully-grown man, never mind a mere child.

              And in his arms he held that same eleven-year-old, who had killed a man and yet still received no aid, no support from those who had a duty to protect him.

              And in his arms he held a twelve-year-old, abused by his family, ostracized by his peers for a gift he had no hand in choosing, and forced—due to the negligence of those same adults who should have shielded him—to face two monsters alone; he held a child who very nearly died for his mighty deeds, and yet was left alone and unsupported once again.

              And in his arms he held a hurting thirteen-year-old, who discovered a remnant of his parents, a remnant of family in the form of his Godfather, and lost it again to distance and the negligence of those in authority.

              And in his arms he held a suffering fourteen-year-old, ostracized again, even by his closest friend, forced to risk his life in a competition that could have—and had—killed those years older than him, who watched a classmate executed before his eyes and faced down the Dark Lord alone—only to be called a liar and returned to his abusive caretakers, alone and without any kind of help.

              And in his arms he held a bitter fifteen-year-old, tortured physically and mentally by so-called ‘teachers’—only one of whom was his enemy—, forced to fight for his life, who watched the last remnant of his family fall through the veil but was left alone, bitterly alone, once more.

              And in his arms he held a suffering soul, bitter, jaded, and scarred, only sixteen years old, who watched the man who was like a grandfather to him killed before his very eyes in a bitter betrayal, all whilst he could do nothing; he felt as the soul shattered irreparably.

              And in his arms he held the seventeen-year-old burdened by destiny, the seventeen-year-old who had never been a child, never truly been cared for, never truly had family; he held the child who walked willingly to his own death and yet came back, sacrificing his ability to die—however unknowingly—in an act of devastating selflessness.

              And in his arms he held an innocent who suffered unspeakably, so much so that even the power of the Valar could not have healed the damage to his soul.

              He wept openly for the boy, holding him all the tighter.

But Námo was also struck by a sudden sense of doom—ironic and unexpected to the Doomsman of the Valar. For despite his highly pessimistic opinion of the former Master of Death’s stubborn tendencies, he discovered that he had somehow managed to underestimate the child’s sheer bullheadedness. Badly underestimated. His grief was diverted to exasperation.

              “Oh Calasain,” he said—he did not groan; the Doomsman never did silly things like groan—wrapping the sleeping feä more securely in his power. “My child, you will suffer greatly if you do not learn to yield.” The little soul merely slept on contentedly in his arms.

              Námo stepped forward to where the other Valar waited, passing into Estë’s domain with a mere scrap of thought and power. Wordlessly, he handed the feä to Estë. Her husband Irmo, his brother, was nowhere to be seen, fully ensconced within the realm of dreams where he was busy greeting Calasain. Estë took the baby with a tender smile, and in a shower of golden sparks Calasain took on the hröa, the body, that she had so carefully designed for him. And when the sparks cleared, a tiny baby boy slept in her arm, dressed in the same clothing he had been wearing upon his ‘death.’ He murmured and shifted deeper into her hold, hiding his face in her chest.

              Estë smiled, and as one the Valar moved to Middle-Earth. They watched as the Healer stepped alone onto the shore, shielded by Ulmo’s sea. She knelt gracefully, placed a tender kiss on the baby’s brow, and laid him in a cradle of sand. With a wisp of her thought, his pack and wand appeared next to him. She stood and left Middle-Earth’s shore without hesitation, leaving the small, lonely figure asleep in the sand, soon to wake beneath Lady Varda’s stars—just as the first of the Eldar had woken, so long ago.

              Námo lingered the longest, watching the gentle rise and fall of Calasain’s chest; and he wondered, just briefly, if Calasain would have been happy as one of his Maiar—if Calasain would have been happy as one of his children. Regretfully, he left the baby and faded back to Valinor, the taste impossible longing thick and bitter on his tongue.

              And Calasain slept on beneath the wheeling stars.

Chapter Text

              Yavanna barely contained her excitement as she waited and watched, practically vibrating with eagerness on the edge of physical reality. Her husband laughed softly, sliding wide, calloused hands over her slim shoulders.

              “Calm, love,” he admonished without heat, murmuring into her pointed ear. She could hear the fond grin in his voice.

              “Ah, but he is almost asleep!” she sang rapturously, not taking her eyes off of the little wizard-turned-elfling that was nodding off in the sheltered nook that she had gently directed him to. “We have waited so long for this moment! Just look at the littling!” She cooed, bracing a hand against her chest.

              “Calm, Green Lady, or you will wake him the moment you step onto the shore.” Irmo’s voice was teasing, and she shot a brief, mild glare to where he stood with his wife and most of the other Valar.

              “Ah, of course you can say that, Irmo.” She waved a hand, turning back to her watching. “You have spoken directly to him twice now, and will again tonight! The rest of us are not so lucky, I needn’t remind you.”

              Irmo laughed and made to reply, but at that precise moment Calasain slipped into the land of dreams; the Lord of Visions sketched a quick bow as Yavanna shooed him away, his grin matching hers, and faded into the realm of dreams to greet his favorite otherworlder.

              “At long last,” Yavanna breathed, stepping from thin air and oh-so-gently dipping her bare feet into the shallow seawater. Ulmo’s magic surged, matching hers step-for-step as she danced onto the sand, skirts raised above the water. The Lord of Waters would use the sea to shield her presence and power from all. The trees roused as she walked past them, some nearly all the way; they greeted their mistress with slow enthusiasm. The Lady of Earth giggled and trailed her fingers lovingly along their trunks, pale green life-magic lingering in gently-glowing streaks that slowly dissipated into the trees’ hearts. Green shoots sprang up in her footfalls, flowering into delicate and short-lived night blossoms that glowed in blues and purples. They would wither away come moonrise.

              “Oh, my flower,” Yavanna cooed gently as she at last came upon the sleeping babe, the sheltering greenery moving aside obligingly to grant her access. “Oh, my precious little flower.”

              Calasain did not so much as stir as Yavanna reached in and gently scooped him up, cradling the little body much as she did the delicate green buds of her beloved plants. He hummed and curled closer to her chest, snuggling deeper into her sunlight-warmth in the innocent trust of sleep.

              “Well met, my Calasain,” she murmured with a smile, trailing elegant fingers over the baby-smooth skin of his forehead. The elfling sighed softly at the touch, turning and burying his face against her. Yavanna sighed. Though she would gladly have held him all through the moonlit night, she knew her visit must be brief. “I must leave you soon, my flower,” she whispered, stroking his unruly black hair. “But let me sing to you, once, at least.”

              Yavanna sang in Valarin, in the language of creation, though she did not seek to create as before. No, the Valie sang a song of life and healing, of springtime after winter, of a burned-out forest returning greener and stronger than before. She sang a renewing lullaby, Ulmo’s power shielding the delicate balance of Middle-Earth from her power, and bolstered Calasain’s flagging and grieving spirit. The babe sighed and melted into her arms, one tiny hand coming up to tangle in the folds of her tunic; she felt as Irmo pushed him into a deep and dreamless sleep, the signal for her leave-taking.

              With a disappointed sigh, the Green Lady kissed Calasain’s forehead and gently returned him to his mossy cradle, retrieving a blanket from his pack and tucking it around him, lest he become cold in the night. Námo tugged gently at her power, and Yavanna smiled as she received his offering. Still sitting on her heels, she pressed her palms together and slowly opened them; a small glowing light—a soul—flickered fitfully between her palms. Gently, she blew upon it, and in a rush of white feathers it took form again.

              “Well met, little one,” Yavanna whispered as the snowy owl awoke in her hands, blinking in confusion. “I have brought you to your boy, Hedwig.”

              Hedwig, for it was she, looked into the face of the Lady of Earth and was delighted. The familiar crooned and took off, circling around Yavanna’s flower-crowned head. The Valie laughed delightedly, raising one forearm, upon which the owl alit. “Yes, hello, daughter! I trust you will keep watch over my little flower, yes?”

              Hedwig crooned an affirmative, bobbing her head. Yavanna lowered her arm, allowing the snowy to step onto a low root and keep watch for the night. The Lady stood, brushing off her skirts, and blew a kiss to the babe before she left. “Sleep well, my flower. I will see you again.”

Chapter Text

               Arasion flourishes his now too-long wand, staring determinedly at the twig that sits innocently on the moss before him. Hedwig croons nervously, perched high above his head.

               “Relax, girl,” he scolds, glancing up. His familiar’s feathers are ruffled, making her look like a large white puffball. “It’s just a little spell so I can get my bearings! Nothing’s going to happen.”             With a confident grin, he turns back to the twig and, with wand movements precise enough to make Hermione proud, intones “Wingardium Leviosa!”

               For a long moment, the twig doesn’t move. Arasion frowns and lowers his wand, disappointed. Hedwig barks in confused relief.

               Then, with an ear-splitting BANG, the twig explodes into flaming splinters.

               Arasion yells in alarm and quickly stomps the flames out, lest they set the whole forest ablaze. He stares at the charred patch of moss for a long moment, chest heaving and eyes wide, then looks up at Hedwig. Her feathers have fluffed up enough to obscure her entire face, and Arasion doesn’t blame her one bit.

“You, know,” he acknowledges shakily, “maybe I should wait a bit. Acclimate, and all that.”

Chapter Text

For various reasons, the Valar adored Calasain. As was usually the case, that adoration influenced the opinions of their various maiar.

               No one quite realized the extent of that influence until Ulmo caught Uinen inhabiting the Greyflood and playing with Calasain.

               “Caught your toes! Caught your toes!” she crooned, chasing the giggling elfling as he flew north on his broom. Her wave lapped upward, high enough to splash against his shin. He shrieked and flew higher, a delighted expression on his face.

               “Uinen?” Ulmo asked. Had he been embodied, he would have raised an eyebrow. As it was, he sent an equivalent feeling along their bond.

               “Hello, my Lord,” she greeted, not turning from her game. The tiniest bit of sheepishness crept across their bond.

               “What are you doing?” the Vala asked with a sigh.

               “I am playing with the baby,” she said, as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

               “Yes,” he agreed patiently, “but why?”

               Uinen was silent for a long moment. More sheepishness crossed the bond. “He is endearing,” she said at last. “And my Lords and Ladies spoke so highly of him…”

               Realization dawned on Ulmo. “This is not limited to you, is it?” he asked, resigned.

               “No, my Lord,” she replied. Had she been embodied, her face would have been crimson.

               Ulmo sighed.


 

               “Papa knows where I am.”

               Irmo clapped his hands in delight, cackling with glee at the child’s words and thoughts. “Oh, he called me papa! Cunning child!” The Lord of Dreams seized his wife’s hands, pulling her into a merry dance. She giggled, indulging his silliness.

               “Who does that make his mama, then?” Tulkas asked with a boisterous laugh of his own. “Manwё?”

               The Vala king shot Tulkas a withering look. “Would that not make Estё his mother?” he asked.

               “No, no!” Tulkas replied, grinning widely. “This is about seniority. You’re Mama Manwё!”

               Manwё rubbed his temples as the other Valar—even his wife!—laughed, and resigned himself to being called “Mama Manwё” in private for the foreseeable future.

               He just hoped that none of the maiar found out, or the joke would never die.

Chapter Text

Irmo bowed teasingly to Vána as he admitted her into little Calasain’s hazy dream. She ignored him in her eager to finally have a turn with the baby. The dream was vague, filled with mixed impressions of objects and strange abstractions. She reached out with her Power and gently smoothed it into a more cohesive whole, until Calasain was drowsing in a well-defined cradle of river-grasses.

“Hello, my little sparrow,” she whispered, gathering him up into her arms and settling down onto a patch of springy turf. Golden flowers bloomed in a circle around her, releasing a honey-sweet scent into the air. Calasain murmured and shifted until he was pressed more firmly against her, melting into the sunlight-warmth of her skin like a kitten in a sunbeam. “You are so stubborn,” she commented with a smile, leaning down and kissing his baby-soft forehead. “Really, can you not accept succor for a day, little one?” She shook her head. “Ah, I suppose that is simply part of your nature. Tell me you will at least give those poor edain a sign of your leave-taking.”

Calasain’s eyes opened to slits, revealing drowsy green irises, and Vána sighed. “No, I suppose you won’t, silly child.”


 

Belegwend bolted up from her bed three hours before dawn, a sudden feeling of foreboding blooming deep within her chest. She scrambled up and towards their unexpected little guest, but the cot was empty—the child had vanished into the night. For a moment she stared in utter shock, frozen with disbelief and the surety that she was in a nightmare. In a sudden convulsive movement, she dashed out the door.

“Where are you, little one?” she murmured frantically, circling the house in search of little footprints. There! Tiny, subtle tracks led off into the forest. She followed as quickly as she dared, relying on the mottled light of the waning moon, until they abruptly vanished. Her stomach seemed to drop from her body as she knelt in the cold grass, clad in naught but her light sleeping clothes, feet bare, and pressed her palm over the final track. Her heart felt cold and afraid in her chest.

“Where did you go?” she murmured hollowly.

“Belegwend?” Her grandmother’s voice came from the edge of the clearing, full of concern and alarm. “What has happened?”

Belegwend forced herself to her feet, trudging defeatedly back to the cottage. “He’s gone, grandmother,” she said mournfully. “The child is gone! He has used some magicks that I do not know to conceal his tracks, even from me!”

Brûn sighed, reaching out and pulling her granddaughter into a tight hug, not altogether surprised by this turn of events. The child was quite a strange and canny one, though she could not hazard a guess as to the reasons for his mysteriousness. “Do not punish yourself, my girl. Come! There is but one thing to do.” She pulled back, pressing one gnarled hand to the girl’s face. “You must ride to the elves at once. They can find the child better than we.”

Chapter Text

 

 


 

The door to Lord Elrond’s study burst open with a thunderous crash, startling the old elf into spilling ink all over the latest draft of… whatever it was. Frankly, he hadn’t been paying attention for quite a while. There was some faint, niggling sense of unease that kept him twitchy and unrested. It probably had something to do with why Lord Glorfindel had just kicked the door in.

“LORD ELROND HOLY FUCK,” said the ancient Balrog-slayer, wheezing.

Elrond raised an eyebrow. “Whatever is the matter, my friend?” he asked mildly. Had Glorfindel run all the way back from his position along the Eastern border? That might explain how he was out of breath.

“AN ELFLING!” said he of House Golden Flower, waving his arms like a maniac. “AN ELFLING IN LOND DAER!”

Elrond’s other eyebrow shot up to join its compatriot at his hairline. “I beg your pardon, but did you say—”

“ELF. LING.” Glorfindel repeated forcefully, bracing his hands on his knees. “LOND DAER. YES. YOU HEARD THAT CORRECTLY.”

Elrond rubbed a hand over his mouth. Well. That certainly explained his recent unease, though he had to wonder why it had been mild discomfort and not frothing-at-the-mouth insanity. A strange elfling appearing in the middle of nowhere would certainly merit that kind of intensity, since there had been no recent announcements of a birth. It had seemed to him that Arwen would be the last child born on these shores, but apparently he was mistaken.

“Can you explain—without shouting—exactly what has transpired, my friend? I confess, I am still at something of a loss.”

Glorfindel straightened and took a deep breath, smoothing his mane of golden curls back self-consciously. “A woman—one of the remaining Numenoreans in Lond Daer—she found an elfling wandering the ruins. She said he spoke Sindarin clearly, and his name was Arasion and he was ‘exploring.’ He also said that his papa knew, but she now suspects that was a lie.” His expression became pained. “When he vanished in the middle of the night, her grandmother directed her to find our nearest scout.”

Elrond frowned thoughtfully. Arasion? That didn’t sound like any father-name he would know, unless some of the wilder, free-roaming elves had changed their naming conventions. How very strange. “And he was alone?”

Glorfindel nodded. “Yes, my Lord, save a most intelligent white Owl. The child gave its name as ‘Hedwig.’” 

Another strange name. It sounded almost mannish. “How old was the child?” he asked, standing. Clearly this merited swift action. 

The Balrog-slayer hesitated. “From her descriptions, I would guess between sixteen to twenty years.”

“He surely cannot have gone far, then,” Lord Elrond said with a nod. “We shall send some scouting parties to search the area.” He smiled and laid a reassuring hand on Glorfindel’s shoulder. “Take heart, my friend. I am certain we will find him and bring him to safety quickly.”

“Yes, of course,” the blonde agreed, relaxing. “How hard could it be to find a single child?”

Chapter Text

Lord Glorfindel was an incredible elf. Handsome, noble, and wise, he was truly a superb example of what the Noldor could be.

He also had the rather uncanny ability to resemble a kicked puppy, thought Lord Elrond as he carefully daubed an herbal tincture on the bruise between the noble Lord’s eyes.

“I do not understand,” said Glorfindel forlornly for about the twentieth time, shoulders slumped. “Why would the little one run from me? Why would he hit me? I’m not that scary… am I?”

“No, my friend,” replied Lord Elrond (also for about the twentieth time) with truly godly patience. “I am certain it was merely childish mischievousness.”

On the other side of the room, his sons were firmly tucked into Lady Celebrian’s side. Despite their nearly 1,500 years of life, the twins took great delight in being coddled by their mother, who was equally delighted to indulge them. In this case, however, Elladan and Elrohir looked truly sad and distressed.

“I am worried,” said Elladan as his mother gently carded her fingers through his hair. “Where are his ada and nana? Who were they, to teach their son such skills at such an early age?”

“What a fierce little Balrog,” said Celebrian with fondness, likely remembering Arwen’s youth. The Evenstar had been quite the willful, demanding little thing. “I look forward to meeting him.”

“If we can catch him,” murmured Lord Elrond pensively. “I am more concerned with how he managed to travel so swiftly.” The group fell silent, stymied. There was no conceivable way for the little one to traverse such a distance, much less in so short a time.

“Perhaps... the trees helped?” Elrohir said hesitantly. “We heard him sing, and it was very strong.”

“Perhaps,” agreed his father, then sighed. Another mystery to solve. He had the feeling that no one would catch this mysterious boy-child until he wanted to be caught. Bring him to us soon, he prayed, lifting his eyes to Elbereth’s heavens. I beg you.


 

Far, far away (in Valinor, to be precise) Varda heard Lord Elrond’s prayer. She pressed a hand to her mouth, stifling a laugh. “My apologies, Child,” she murmured, more to herself than to him, “but I am a Valie, not a miracle worker.”

Chapter Text

Just a little bit farther, Arasion promised himself, hauling his body another few inches across the path. Pained gasps escaped him with each movement. Blood stained the ground in smeared crimson streaks, marking his slow progress. There were people nearby. He could feel it. All he had to do was drag himself just a little bit farther, just a little bit more…

               Hedwig circled nervously overhead, buffeting his unruly hair with each pass she made over his body. There was very little she could do to protect him—they both knew that—but she could at least warn him if the orcs had somehow managed to track him this far.

               Just a little bit farther, he promised himself again, the grim line of his mouth tightening. He dug his fingers into the hard-packed dirt of the path, focusing on the grittiness beneath his nails over the searing pain everywhere else, and pulled himself a few inches further. A wounded sound escaped him; his hand slipped, the nail on his middle finger tearing away from the bed, and he screamed. Hedwig screeched in alarm, dropping to land next to him as he curled up around his hand.

               “Ow ow, fucking ow,” he hissed clamping his other hand on the tip of his injured finger. It really shouldn’t have upset him so much. The Cruciatus hurt more, and Merlin knew had endured that often enough. Not to mention that he was already bleeding out from that orc encounter, and his legs were broken too.

But it was like the nerves in this new, tiny body were extra sensitive to pain, and he couldn’t quite stop the muffled sob that escaped him.

               Keep going, he thought desperately, the orcs might have heard that scream. Keep going!

               He turned on his belly, keeping his newly-injured hand tucked to his side, and managed to haul himself another few inches.

Keep going.

He could hear crashing sounds in the bushes to his side.

Keep going!

He moved another few inches. An orc snarled.

Keep going! Keep going!

He knew he was doomed, but he couldn’t quite bring himself to stop moving.

I want to live, dammit!

But as the ungainly, crashing footsteps of the orcs came close enough for him to feel in the ground below him, he closed his eyes and dug his fingers into the dirt, waiting for the inevitable pain to start.

Fthunk!

Arasion’s eyes snapped open; a startled gasp escaped him at the distinctive sound off an arrow meeting orc-flesh. He looked up, very nearly bursting into tears as the people he had been dragging himself towards suddenly appeared on the path before him, weapons at the ready.

Elves, noted the part of his brain that hadn’t gone mushy in relief. Half the group advanced on the orc party with the swiftness of avenging angels; the other half immediately gathered around his prone form, crouching and speaking too rapidly for him to parse out.

Arasion allowed his head to drop to the dirt, exhaustion at last overtaking him. His eyelids drifted shut.

Hands, strong but gentle, wrapped around his chest. A small, wounded sound escaped him as he was lifted from the dirt and into one of the elves’ arms. The elf shushed him gently and spoke a string of words he didn’t understand. Westron, the tiny, functional part of his mind informed him, and yeah, he definitely didn’t speak Westron yet.

Then, a startled gasp and an exclamation of “his ears!” in Sindarin. If Arasion hadn’t been in such pain, he probably would have laughed. Thank you, Captain Obvious, he thought.

A hand pressed against his face, and he managed to crack his eyelids open. Two blonde elves were leaning over him; one was holding him, and the other was touching his face. The one holding him was significantly blonder than the other, and Arasion found himself legitimately distracted by the shininess of the golden strands that hovered over his nose.

“Pretty,” he slurred, then mentally slapped himself, because what kind of first impression was that?

For some reason, that just seemed to make the elves more alarmed. The hand on his face disappeared, and the elf holding him broke into a sprint.

“It will be alright, little one,” the elf reassured him in a panicked voice that was definitely not reassuring. “Hold on, it will be alright.”

Arasion was more distracted by how smooth the elf’s sprint was than by his injuries. Seriously, he felt only a gentle rocking as the elf ran, not the expected jarring thuds.

It was kinda’ unnerving, actually.

Please tell me I’ll be able to run this smoothly one day, he thought hazily, eyes once more closing. That’d be bloody awesome.

Blood loss, the tiny part of his mind informed him, and as helpful as that tiny part was he kinda wanted it to shut up.

I am aware, thank you, he responded.

You’re going to pass out soon, it said. The elf holding him swung up onto a horse, and Arasion managed to open his eyes enough to glimpse a bright blue sky before he lost the fight with unconsciousness.

Thank you, Captain Obvious.

Chapter Text

Arasion woke up in pain. Large fingers gently manipulated his legs, making the breaks flare in agony. He cried out and tried to move away, but he was held still. Another hand was laid on his brow.

“Shhh, shh,” someone soothed worriedly. The rim of a cup was pressed against his lips. He drank without thought, the liquid warm and bitter on his tongue. A finger brushed against his cheek, wiping away his tears of pain. “It’s alright.” The other hands went back to tending his legs as the world went dark and quiet.


 

Someone was holding him and singing. Arasion was still in pain, but in a distant, floaty kind of way. He moaned and shifted, trying (and failing) to open his eyes. The singer stopped abruptly. “All is well,” his holder said, gently caressing his fevered cheek. “You are safe now, little one. Go back to sleep.”

Arasion sighed shudderingly and went limp, pressing his face further into his holder's warm chest as they resumed singing. Within seconds, he was asleep.


 

Arasion woke alone, blinking blearily up at a pale ceiling. The pain was much less than before, muted by some kind of painkiller, if the bitter aftertaste on his tongue was any indication. He sat up, pressing one hand against his head when the room spun around him, and smacked his lips. A dark sky was visible through windows that were half-covered by gauzy white curtains.

“Huh,” he said, frowning and looking around for Hedwig. Worried by his familiar’s absence, he scooted to the edge of the much too large, much too soft bed and slowly lowered himself to the floor. His legs ached upon impact with the cold wood. It was only when he stood that he realized they were splinted and heavily bandaged...and that the rest of him was heavily bandaged...and that he wasn’t wearing any clothes.

“Dammit,” he muttered, looking around for some kind of clothing. Luckily there was a fluffy towel folded up on a nearby chair. It was large enough to drag on the floor when he unfolded it and draped it over himself like a makeshift cloak.

The door posed a bit of a problem, considering the handle was just barely out of reach of his hands. Finally, straining on his tiptoes, he snagged the cool metal and managed to pull the door open. He childishly stuck his tongue out at the stupidly-tall handle as he squeezed through the crack and out into the hallway.

Arasion had barely gotten to the next corridor, searching vigilantly for Hedwig all the while, when someone gasped behind him. Startled, he whirled around and raised his free hand (the one that wasn't holding his towel closed) defensively.

A tall, silver-haired elf woman dressed in a light sleeping gown was gaping at him a few feet away “Little one,” she said in concern, sweeping forward. “You should not be walking! Your legs are still healing!”

“I’m just—” he squeaked as she plucked him up off the floor, bundling him securely in the towel. “I'm just looking for Hedwig,” he said when the lady settled him on her hip.

“Hedwig?”

“My owl.”

“Ah,” the Lady hummed as she carried him back towards the room he had just escaped. “Your Hedwig went out to hunt, I believe. She has been watching over you vigilantly this past fortnight.”

Arasion’s eyes widened. “Fortnight?” he asked.

“You have been asleep for the past fourteen days, little one,” the lady said, looking down at him with sad, gentle eyes. “Your injuries were quite severe, and a fever brought by poison came upon you not two days after reaching this house. It broke barely a day ago.”

The Lady pulled the covers back and set him down on the bed. She took the towel, folding it up and replacing it on the chair. To Arasion’s surprise, his eyelids already felt heavy with fatigue. He laid down at the Lady’s gently prompting, blinking heavily. She smiled and gently brushed his bangs back from his forehead.

“My name’s Arasion. What’s yours?” he whispered sleepily, watching the cool starlight play over her silvery hair as she tucked him in.

“I am Celebrían, little Arasion,” she answered, then leaned down and gently kissed his forehead. “Now, sleep. The morning will come soon enough.”

Chapter Text

The room was dark, lit only dimly by sconces filled with pale blue enchanted flames. This particular side room in the Halls of Mandos was always empty, save one person. Maedhros, he of infamy, stood before one of the many tapestries. Hands clasped behind his back (and wasn’t it strange, having both hands again?) he observed the Lady Vairë’s masterful weaving. The scene she had created was incredible in its accuracyand he would know, since he had been there.

The first Kinslaying.

Oh, what mistakes had he made! The Kinslaying was just the first in a very long line. And for what? Nothing. Less than nothing.

A sudden pattering of bare feet distracted him from his relentless brooding. For the first time in a very long time, he turned toward the archway. A childish giggle reached his ears and his eyebrows crept up toward his hairline.

A child? This far from the children’s quarters?

The child giggled again and came barreling in through the archway, stopping short when he caught sight of Maedhros. The elf caught his breath as vibrant green eyes, set within a pale face and framed by messy black hair, met his. The points of his tiny ears poked out of the birds-nest that was his hair, but Maedhros had never seen an elf who looked as this one did. What’s more, the child seemed to be embodied, like the Maiar. Did any of the Maiar have children?

If Maedhros had expected the child to turn and run at the sight of him, he found himself quite mistaken when the child grinned widely and bounded over to him, like an overexcited puppy.

“Hi!” he whispered, and Maedhros staggered as the child began to climb him like a tree. A sudden pang of nostalgia nearly brought him to tears as he remembered the Ambarussa doing the very same thing when they had been barely knee-height themselves.

“I’m playing hide-and-seek,” the child said, distracting Maedhros from the sudden agony in his chest. “You’re my hiding place, ok?”

“Child…” the redhead said helplessly, his voice rasping and weak from decades of silence.

“All you have to do is stand there,” he scolded, hiding among Maedhros’s thick waves of hair. A tiny nose poked into his neck, warm breath tickling his skin as the child giggled again.

“Cal~a~sain~” a deep voice from the outer hallway sing-songed. Maedhros stiffened in surprise and fear, eyes popping wide. That, if he was not mistaken (and he was sure he was not), was the voice of the Doomsman himself. Námo was playing hide-and-seek?

Perhaps this toddler really was a Maia child.

The Vala had to duck a bit to enter the side room. There was no surprise in his fathomless golden eyes when he saw Maedhros, and the little smile that tugged at his lips said that he knew exactly where the child was. The elf had never seen the stern Doomsman smile, but strangely, it wasn’t a terrifying sight. He found himself relaxing, his fear slipping away.

The child grinned against his neck, badly stifling his giggles.

“Oh dear,” said Námo, “I seem to have lost something important to me. Would you mind terribly helping me find it?”

Maedhros found himself grinning and adjusting his arms to more fully hide the child’s little legs where they braced against his side. “Of course, my Lord,” he said. “What have you lost?”

“Oh, just a small thing,” said he, smile widening when another badly-stifled giggle echoed through the room. “an imp, barely the height of my shins. He has a head of black hair that refuses to be tamed, and he likes to run away from his minders to have ‘adventures.’ Have you seen anyone like that?”

“I’m afraid not, my Lord,” Maedhros said with a straight face. The child slowly raised his head, still shaking with laughter, and peeped out through a screen of crimson hair at the Vala.

“You seem to have something attached to your shoulder, Maedhros,” said Námo. “Do you need any help removing the little pest?”

“Boo!” The child yelled, clambering over Maedhros’s shoulders and forcing the elf to catch him, lest his fall to the floor. Apparently he had given up the game. “I’m not a pest!”

“Calasain!” The Vala cried in mock surprise. “Aha! I've found you!”

The childCalasain, apparentlyshrieked with laughter and lept from Maedhros’s arms. He darted out the archway, dodging Námo’s overdramatic attempt to catch him, and called over his shoulder “it's not over until you catch me!”

The Vala laughed and chased after, leaving Maedhros to stare after them with confusion and a strangely light heart. He glanced at the tapestry he had previously been observing, but the sight now repulsed him.

“Perhaps I will go rest,” he murmured to no one in particular. “I think I've been here long enough.”

 


 

Six corridors over, where Maedhros could neither see nor hear, Calasain at last failed to dodge Námo’s grasp and was swung up into his arms. He shrieked with laughter, squirming as the Vala tickled his sides and blew a raspberry into his shoulder.

Finally, Námo relented. “Excellent job, my little one,” said he, kissing Calasain’s temple as the little wizard tried to catch his breath between fits of giggles. “Excellent job! Perhaps he will stop brooding now.”

“You think?” Calasain asked settling his head against the Vala’s shoulder. “He was so… dark when I found him. Dark and weak, like he was about to fade away completely.”

“He was,” Námo agreed sadly. “But you helped. Thank you Calasain.”

The child’s eyes fluttered sleepily, worn out by the long game. “Good. I like helping.”

Chapter Text

Luckily, Arasion doesn’t have to run long, for there, up ahead, he catches a flash of red and silver. Relieved, he speeds up and then skids to a stop on his knees next to the broom, reaching for it with eager hands.

At the same instant, another, much larger hand enters his line of sight.

The elfling’s head snaps up to find a startled male elf with long, sun-gold hair kneeling and reaching for his broom as well. They both freeze, leaf-green eyes locked on ocean-blue. The adult opens his mouth slightly, drawing in breath to speak, and Arasion does the only thing he can think of: he yanks the broom to himself, smacks the other elf between the eyes with it, and scrambles for freedom

It doesn’t work.

A hand quickly snatches the hood of Arasion’s cloak, yanking him back before he can get more than two steps away. “GAk!” he chokes, falling onto his rear. A second later stupidly-large fingers close around his ribs and suddenly Arasion is trapped within the desperately strong grip of the golden-haired elf.

“Little one!” he cries joyously, pressing his nose against the elfling's wild black hair. “You are here! You are—” he stops abruptly, confused. “How are you here?”

“Noooo,” Arasion complains, attempting to squirm free. “Irmo! That’s cheating! Noooooo!”

The elf easily compensates for his escape attempt, standing and securing Arasion to his chest. “Is this your… broom, little one?” he asks, stooping and picking it up.

Arasion slumps in defeat, scowling into the elf’s chestplate as he begins to walk away. “Yeah,” he says grudgingly. “Don’t break it.” He tilts his head back, scowling up at the elf, and asks “who’re you?”

The golden-haired elf looks a little dazed as he returns Arasion’s stare. “Ah... yes, my name is Glorfindel. What is your name, little one?”

“Arasion,” he says, noting the satisfied gleam in Glorfindel’s eyes when he speaks. His scowl deepens. Belegwend must have gone to the elves once he left, if this one already knows his name.

“Arasion,” Glorfindel repeats, hugging him a little closer. “Where are your ada and nana?”

The elfling opens his mouth, a reflexive reply of “dead” on his tongue, but pauses. “Far away,” he says after a moment of consideration. “Far away in the West.”

Glorfindel’s expression becomes one of understanding and compassion. “Fret not, little one,” he says, gently stroking Arasion’s cheek. “You will be reunited with them.”

Oh you are going to be so much fun to confuse , Arasion thinks, struggling to keep the grin off his face. “They like to visit me,” he says innocently.

Sure enough, that gets a surprised and puzzled look from the elf. “Visit you? What do you mean?”

“In my dreams,” Arasion says.

“Dreams,” mutters Glorfindel, half to himself. “Is that why you said…?” A look of bemused wonder crosses his face. “You are a very strange child, Arasion.”

Oh you have no idea, Arasion thinks, unable to stop a devious grin from pulling at his lips.

Hedwig suddenly swoops by, circling around Glorfindel’s head and startling him. Elladan and Elrohir follow close on her heels.

“You found him!” cries Elladan in relief. Now that he’s on the ground, Arasion can see that Elladan and Elrohir are twins. Both look slightly winded, presumably from chasing helter-skelter after Hedwig, and he has to bite down on the inside of his cheek to keep from giggling madly. Good job, girl, he thinks, raising his eyes to his familiar.

“Ai, Elbereth,” Elrohir says, soft and giddy. “Look at him, Elladan.”

“Hello, little one,” says Elladan with a beaming smile. “You have managed to cause quite the uproar. Tell me, how did you get here so swiftly?”

Arasion smiles back guilelessly. “Oh, I flew.”

Glorfindel chuckles, a rolling sound that vibrates through his armor and into the elfling in his arms.”You flew, did you? Where have your wings gone?”

“I don't need wings. I have my broom.”

Elrohir’s eyebrows rise. “That must be quite the special broom, if you can fly on it,” he comments in the way of adults indulging a child’s imagination.

Arasion grins, shark-like. “Give it, I'll show you,” says he, wiggling his fingers beckoningly.

The twins chuckle, but Glorfindel is a little quicker on the uptake. A cautious look crosses his face. “You can show us when we return to Rivendell, little aras .”

Dammit , the elfling thinks, frowning irritatedly. So close.

Chapter Text

Aulë’s forges were hazy with smoke and stiflingly hot, even to the Maiar who worked so diligently within them. Mairon turned decisively and plunged the glowing metal into the cooling trough, stepping back from the billowing cloud of steam. He took a moment to mop the sweat from his brow and clicked his tongue in annoyance as a long, fire-hued braid uncoiled and fell over his leather headband. The strands clung stubbornly to his sweat-damp skin as he tried to pull it back into some semblance of order. It didn’t have to look nice; it just had to last one more hour.

“Mairon!” Lord Aulë called, startling the Maia.

“My Lord,” he said, quickly sweeping the last errant tendrils back and refastening the headband. “How can I be of service?” As the ‘youngest’ of Aulë’s Maiar, Mairon was seldom called on to do any important tasks, but there were some occasions when his brand of creativity was desired.

Lord Aulë was easy to find, even in the chaos of the forges. As one of the tallest of the Valar, he towered above his Maiar by several feet. If that wasn’t enough, his skin was like molten metal and shone near-constantly with a bright radiance. He was clad in his usual stained and blackened forge leathers, a somewhat absent expression on his face as he strode toward Mairon’s workstation.

“Are you at a good stopping point?” the Vala asked, nodding to the trough.

“Ah, yes,” Mairon said, glancing once at the cooling metal. “I can easily continue tomorrow.”

“Good, good, I need to ask a favor of you.”

Mairon blinked in surprise. A favor? Of him ? “I...whatever my Lord requires,” he replied cautiously.

“Nothing terrible,” Aulë hasted to say, for once hearing the nuance in Mairon’s tone. “I need you to watch Khālazenë until my Lady comes for him. I’m afraid a rather pressing issue has come up, and I must attend to it immediately.”

It took several long seconds for Mairon to place the name, and he only did so when he spied bright green eyes peeping over Aulë’s shoulder: Khālazenë, the firstborn of the Firstborn, come to Valinor several ages before the rest of his kin would wake. Some speculated that he was more Ainu than Firstborn, and as Mairon gazed into bright eyes, like deep green emeralds lit from within by golden light, he was inclined to believe them.

“Of course I can watch him, my Lord,” Mairon said, recovering his ability to speak. A real smile crossed his face and he raised his arms beckoningly to the little one. “Come, Khālë, and let us see how we may occupy our time.”

The child beamed. “Bye!” he chirped to Aulë, climbing up onto his shoulder and kissing his cheek. “See you later!” He lept straight into Mairon’s arms, giggling madly.

“Goodbye, my little ones,” Aulë said absently, his thoughts already occupied by whatever problem needed his attention. Mairon startled at the diminutive, having never heard his Lord call him as such.

He didn’t have long to ponder the slip. “What’re we doing?” Khālë demanded, a bright, eager smile on his little face.

“Ah… well,” Mairon said slowly as he carried the child from the forges, racking his brain for activities that were safe and Firstborn-appropriate. “Would you like to go visit my brother in the Gardens?” Olórin would surely be more than happy to help entertain the child and Mairon knew he wasn’t serving his lord at the moment.

Khālë frowned. “Boring,” he said flatly. “I already spend lots and lots of time in the Gardens. Irmo says ‘m not healed yet.”

Mairon’s smile dimmed a bit as he remembered that yes, the little one in his arms was still recovering from some severe and unnamed soul-damage. Of course he would not want to visit the Gardens. That was where he faced the daunting and often painful task of healing and growing, day in and day out.

“Would… would you like to see some of Lady Vairë’s tapestries?” he offered instead. Surely that would amuse the child.

Sure enough, Khālë beamed at the suggestion. “I want to see them making them!” he chirped. Relieved, Mairon thought them both to Vairë’s workshop.

Apparently Khālë had spent much more time in the Weaver’s domain than in Aulë’s workshops. Most of the Maiar offered Khālë bright smiles and familiar greetings as Mairon carried him toward the central workroom. The child returned the greetings with cheerful enthusiasm. Mairon, unused to such attention being directed anywhere near him, found himself ducking uncomfortably and avoiding the eyes of the other Maiar when they tried to greet him as well.

“What's wrong?” Khālë asked, patting the side of his face concernedly. “It's alright. They're just saying hello.”

Mairon laughed a little at the child’s assurance. Wasn't he the one that was supposed to be offering such comfort? “Forgive me, Khālë,” he said. “I… don’t like attention.”

“Oh,” the child said knowingly. “It’s ok. You get used to it.”

“I suppose,” Mairon said noncommittally.

The central workshop was busy, but fairly quiet. Many of the Maiar sang softly as they worked, or chattered among themselves, but the hum was low and soothing rather than overwhelming.  Khālë’s bright green eyes went wide with delight as he spied Lady Vairë herself, sitting at the largest loom and singing as she worked.

“Ladeeeeeeee Vairë!” he trilled, wiggling out of Mairon’s arms and running over to the Valië. Many of her Maiar’s heads snapped around as his high, clear voice cut through the low murmur. The Lady herself looked up, surprised. Her eyes flicked from Khālë to Mairon, then back. She smiled and reached down to pluck the Firstborn from the floor and up onto her lap.

“Hello, Khālazenë,” she said, leaning down to kiss the top of his head. To Mairon’s discomfort, she turned her attention to him. “You are Mairon, correct? One of Aulë’s?”

“Yes, my Lady,” he said, bowing formally. “My Lord asked me to watch Khālazenë, who asked to be brought here to watch you work.”

“That’s quite alright, Child,” she assured him. “He’s welcome to watch.” Her eyes sparkled knowingly. “Both of you are.”

Khālë hopped down and took Mairon’s hand. “Come on!” He commanded, and dragged the young Maia toward a smaller group off to the side that was working on a brightly colored rug. The Maiar, all female, looked delighted at their approach.

“Hello, Khālë!” the one with pale lilac eyes cooed, he fingers never stilling. “Have you finally come to watch me work?”

“Yeah!” the little one said, cheerfully popping down and pulling Mairon with him. “I brought a friend!”

“I see that,” she said, smiling cheerfully at Mairon. “Hello! My name is Winnusë.”

“Mairon,” he said in return, dipping his head shyly. The rest of the women introduced themselves as well, and he did his best to remember their names. Khālë climbed into the arms of the one who was least encumbered by her project and began asking rapidfire questions.

“Where does that go? What is that string made of? How did you do that? What are you making? Where is it going? Can I make one too?”

The women laughed and answered the child’s questions as best they were able. Mairon did his best to fade into the background, a slight smile on his face and his expression just engaged enough to discourage anyone from engaging him in conversation. It worked very well, mostly due to Khālë’s innate charm. It was only when Khālë began to yawn that he refocused.

“Naptime, Khālazenë,” he said, shifting to his knees and holding out his arms. The elfling pouted, but crawled out of Winnusë’s embrace and over to Mairon.

“Bye-bye,” he said, waving sleepily when Mairon rose and offered the ladies a polite bow.

“Goodbye! Sleep well!” they chorused in response.

Khālazenë was asleep against Mairon’s shoulder before he even reached Lady Vairë to tell her they were taking their leave. She smiled softly and waved him off, adding “return whenever you wish, dear—with or without Khālë,” before he departed.

Chapter Text

Melkor

Melkor stared— well, stared as much as a bodiless spirit in a nonphysical dimension can stare.

“What is that? ” he asked his brother, watching the little spirit that whizzed mischievously around Manwë. It seemed… shattered, the light of it’s core fractured and dampened. Melkor had never seen anything like it.

He, ” Manwë corrected, “is Khālazenë.” He beckoned the little spirit, cradling him close. “Say hello, Khālë.”

“Hi!” the little one chirped in the tiniest, sweetest voice Melkor had ever heard.

“Well, hello there,” he answered, entranced. “What happened to you, little light?” He beckoned, nearly unconsciously, but Khālë flew to him without hesitation.

“I was hurt by evil people,” he said seriously, spirit darkening at the memories. Melkor caught only little flashes: pale white, red eyes, glowing green, overwhelming pain, and in the end, death. Horrified, Melkor held the little one closer to his core, wrapping him safely in his Power.

“‘Sokay,” Khālë said, radiating amusement at Melkor’s actions. “I’m getting better.”

Then the strangest thing happened, though he would later realize it was exactly what his Father had planned: he completely forgot about finding the Secret Fire. “Worry not, Khālazenë,” he said fiercely, ignoring the indulgent amusement radiating from Manwë. “I shall not let anything hurt you ever again.”


 

Put Your Hair Up

Arasion frowned thoughtfully, wrapping some of Glorfindel’s shiny golden curls around his tiny fingers. He tugged, gently, and said “you’re the one who died because he didn’t tie his hair up, right?”

Glorfindel twitched at the reminder. “Ah, well, yes,” he admitted, looking down at the child in his arms. “Who told you such things?”

Arasion looked up, a fiendish gleam in his green eyes, and the ancient balrog-slayer felt an uncommon surge of alarm send chills up his spine. “That was really dumb. Do you normally do dumb stuff like that?” the child asked, blinking innocently.

Eru Iluvatar, what have I gotten myself into? Glorfindel wondered.


 

Erestor

Erestor stared at the child.

The child stared back.

Erestor narrowed his eyes at the child.

The child blinked innocently.

“Don’t you try that innocent look on me, boy,” the waspish seneschal said, pointing a finger. “I know your ilk. The twins have more than prepared me to counter your fiendish schemes!”

The child’s bright green eyes widened and he tilted his head just so, as if to say who, me?

“You fool no one!” Erestor thundered. “I see through your deception!”

“Erestor!” Glorfindel said, aghast at the seneschal’s words. He scooped Arasion up, holding the little one protectively to his chest. “He’s just a baby! What could he possibly be planning?”

Erestor privately thought Glorfindel was being deliberately obtuse. Did he not remember the twins’ tiny, adorable, scheming faces when they’d rigged a bucket of water over his office door? When they’d stuffed his pillows full of worms? When they’d moved every single piece of furniture in the library slightly to the left?

Erestor crossed his arms over his chest, narrowing his eyes at his sometimes-friend, but before he could say anything Glorfindel shook his head sadly and turned away. “Come, little one, let us find somewhere to play for a while.”

The little Balrog had the audacity to look over Glorfindel’s shoulder and grin at Erestor, his expression clearly communicating ‘Arasion: 1, Erestor: 0’

The seneschal narrowed his eyes again, his promise of retribution equally silent, and turned away to make preparations. The war, he knew, had only just begun.


 

Chaos in the Woodland Realm

Arasion ducked into a nearby closet, muffling his manic giggles in one hand, and cautiously peeked through the narrow crack between the door and the doorframe. A second later Thranduil came thundering through the room, his expression alight with fury. His hair was a bright, neon green and curled into tight ringlets. Honey oozed down his face and shoulders, stray feathers stuck in the mess. His majestic woodland crown had temporarily become a cheap plastic ‘pretty princess’ type tiara, though Arasion wasn’t sure he’d noticed that one yet.

“ARASION!” he yelled, missing the child hiding in the closet as he stomped into the next room. “GET BACK HERE THIS INSTANT!”

Arasion pressed his other hand over his mouth, desperately restraining his laughter until he was sure the Elvenking couldn’t hear him anymore. Yeah! he cheered silently. That’ll teach you to take my cloak and keep me trapped here!

Despite his lack of cloak and broom, he had successfully evaded the elves for over a week by using his tiny size and liberal application of disillusionment spells. Over half the elves that lived in the ‘city’ had experienced one or another of his pranks in the meantime, and he found it quite funny to watch them creeping warily around, suspicious of every doorway and corner. It was sheer dumb luck that had Thranduil catch sight of him as he was setting up another prank.

“There you are.”

Uh oh, Arasion thought, freezing as the door to his hiding place was opened by none other than Legolas, son of Thranduil. The elf raised an eyebrow as he crouched to be closer to the elfling’s height. “Uh… hi?” Arasion offered weakly.

“Come on,” Legolas sighed, his lips twitching as he tried to suppress a smile. “I’ll hide you in my rooms until Father calms down.”

Arasion, deciding that this was probably the best deal he was going to get (and the most convenient way to escape again if he needed to) nodded and let the elf pick him up.

“You are quite a nexus of chaos for one so small,” Legolas murmured with a nearly disbelieving shake of his head.

I was trained by the best, Arasion thought with an innocent smile that did absolutely nothing to fool the elf. And I’m not done yet!