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One Morning in Rivendell - by Catherine Aragon

The June midmorning found Master Elrond sitting in his private study. An airy and sun-filled room off the library in Rivendell, it was a comfortable and peaceful setting for thoughts decidedly otherwise.

What was Gandalf thinking, actively supporting this dwarvish expedition? Yes, the dragon in the Lonely Mountain had long threatened that region, but what could Thorin Oakenshield accomplish with just 13 dwarves (and a hobbit) except make it angry? There were other matters the wizard should be more concerned with, most chiefly Saruman’s refusal, so far, to permit the Council to act against the Necromancer. Moreover, the peace of his own household was being disturbed by old enmities thinly disguised in silliness or exaggerated courtesy. Had there ever been so many dwarves in Rivendell?

"O! Tril-lil-lil-lolly / the valley is jolly, / ha ha!"

Warned by voice and footsteps coming through the library, Elrond looked up as a young boy bounded into the study.

"Father, can we have a lesson today?" he asked eagerly, bouncing on his toes. Plainly human despite clothing and hair worn in elvish fashion, his enthusiasm teased a smile from the brooding Master of Rivendell.

Consulting the sunbeams streaming in the window, the Elf-lord offered, "I have some time right now. What would you like to study?"

"Dwarves! I want to know all about them: where they come from, what their language is like, why they like gold so much, why everyone makes fun of their beards..."

"You have been spying on our guests, I take it."

"Not spying, just ... observing from afar. You always tell me to stay out of the way when strangers are here, so I am, but they’re so interesting!" he finished breathlessly, grey eyes shining.

Elrond laughed and shook his head in mock defeat. He thought for a moment, then got up and went out into the library, the boy following at his heels.

The daily language of Rivendell was Sindarin, but Westron was also spoken, most often in deference to non-Elven guests. The boy had entered singing in that tongue and they had been conversing in it, but now Master Elrond switched to Sindarin, which they customarily used for their lessons.

"I suppose we could start with this," he said, taking a book from a shelf. He looked over his shoulder at his pupil. "But it might be too hard for you still — it’s in Quenya."

"I can read Quenya!" Elrond’s eyebrow shot up. "Well, sort of. I’ve been practicing!"

"Have you now. Then let us put that to the test, shall we?"

Returning to the study, they set the book on the reading desk and pulled up a bench to share. Finding the desired page, Elrond explained, "This is a tale from the most ancient days of the world, long before the Sun and Moon were fashioned, before the Firstborn came out of the East to Aman. Now, start here and don’t forget that the mode is different too, not just the language."

They read aloud slowly, stopping often for translation interspersed with digressions on linguistics and ancient history.

"It is told that in their beginning the Dwarves were made by Aule in the darkness of Middle-earth..."


The shadows had shortened toward noon when Gandalf came into the library seeking Master Elrond. He stopped short in astonishment: a childish voice was reciting in the language of the Blessed Realm. Quietly, he peered into the study. Elven prince and human child sat side by side, Elrond’s arm around the boy’s shoulders in casual familiarity. Along with their long dark hair — the one in his usual elaborate braids, the other’s confined by a silver rayed-star clasp — they shared a particular intensity as they studied the book before them.

At length they reached the end of the section. "But that still doesn’t explain why everyone laughs at their beards," said the boy, now in Westron, looking sidelong at his mentor.

Elrond gave him a severe look and said, "I think that is more than enough for today." Then, finally acknowledging the wizard in the doorway, "I need to speak with Master Gandalf. Be off with you and keep out of the way of our guests!"

The boy laughed and got up, grey eyes glancing curiously at the wizard. "Don’t worry, they’ll never know I’m there. Thank you for the lesson, Father!" He darted out of the room.

"Father?" said Gandalf, looking back in amusement as he walked into the study.

"Gilraen’s son, Estel. I’ve all but taken his father’s place and it pleases him to call me that." A fond smile played on Elrond’s lips as he replaced the bench against the wall.

"I see." The wizard sat and made himself comfortable while the Elf-lord went back to his own chair by the window. "So, our ‘Hope’ is turning into a scholar, then?"

"Among other things. He loves history and poetry and tales of different races and peoples. He also has a real gift for languages. I tell you, he will have picked up some Khuzdul by the time your Dwarves leave, even though they speak it only among themselves."

"I expect that will be useful someday. How does he do outside the library? What else are you teaching him?"

"Elladan and Elrohir have that charge and he does well enough with sword and bow, riding, woodcraft and whatever else the three of them can come up with." He smiled again, this time rather wistfully. "They tell me they really enjoy having a little brother."

Gandalf regarded his old friend shrewdly. "You love him, don’t you."

Elrond looked away for a moment. "It is impossible not to. He could almost be my own, he reminds me so much of my sons when they were young. But with him, everything happens so fast — the children of Men grow up so very quickly. Ten years is but an eye-blink to us, yet he’s half-grown already."

"I know most of the others spent time here, growing up. Is he so different?"

"Well, to start with, each of them knew his own name and place in the world, so none ever decided to call me ‘Father’. This was just a school or a refuge; they had their own families and homes to return to in time. Estel loves us as his own family and this House is his home. He is well-loved by all the household."

He leaned toward Gandalf’s chair, lowering his voice. "Estel is special. For his safety and ours, we conceal his heritage, both from him and from others as much as we may. He accepts this with good grace and has learned not to ask questions."

He sighed. "I fear for him terribly, my friend. Even now, I feel the time long-feared approaching; a mighty storm is all but upon us." He met the wizard’s eyes at last. "He is the one, Gandalf, I have seen it: Narsil, reforged, in his hand at the Stone of Erech. That boy will fight the Enemy someday, and he will need great strength and stature, both of body and mind, to have any hope of victory. If by my care I can prepare him for that, then he will have it, for his sake and the sake of all Middle-earth."

They were silent for a time, thinking grim thoughts of a future no longer distant and increasingly bleak.

"Well," said Gandalf at length, "if we are concerned for the sake of Middle-earth, I would suggest we try once again to convince Saruman to let the Council move against the Necromancer. I was there a while back, in Dol Guldur, finding things out..."


Note: The reading selection is from The Silmarillion, Chapter 2.

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