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37
Imogen

For Lady Roisin's birthday. Beta by RiverOtter.


~~~

Imogen


“But why did you bring such a thing here?” Elrond of Rivendell asked his son, giving Elrohir’s intended gift a suspicious look.

“It is for Estel, Ada. He is lonely, and needs something that he can love and care for.”

“And when it gets into your rooms and claws at your furniture, or becomes ill on your brother’s pillow, who will be blamed?”

“You may blame me if you so desire.”

The Master of the Last Homely House examined the creature one more time, reaching down a shapely finger to caress its head. The white kitten closed its green eyes and began to purr loudly, kneading its claws into Elrohir’s arm. He peered into its large ears, carefully opened its mouth and examined it, then looked into its eyes when it stared at him in surprise at having its jaws opened. “It appears healthy enough,” he finally admitted. “Where does it come from?”

“From the wife of Lord Halbaleg. The cat in their keep had kittens two months past, and they are at last ready to find new homes. There were five, and the mother was beginning to be rather overwhelmed with all five stalking her at the same time. This one appears to be the calmest, and perhaps the most intelligent of the litter, and I felt that Estel----”

Elrond waved his hand, silencing his son. “So you said.” He continued his contemplation of the small animal for a moment before looking up into Elrohir’s eyes. “You will teach him how to keep a tray of sand for it and to keep it sifted.”

“Yes, Adar.”

“And you will teach him how to feed it and to keep its dishes clean.”

“I had planned to do so.”

“And when it knocks over dishes or vases that cannot be replaced, you will assist him to sweep up the shards.”

This time his son paused before agreeing to the terms.

“And you will teach him to keep its coat brushed and free from dirt and mats. Is it male or female?”

Elrohir again paused briefly, then admitted, “Female, Ada. But then all within the litter were female.”

Elrond shook his head. “That is not so good, for she will undoubtedly come into heat frequently, and there will undoubtedly be kittens from time to time, particularly once the toms from the stables realize she is here.”

Father and son exchanged looks. They could, both realized, remove the female organs, although they would usually wish to wait to do that until she was older. That would forestall the birth of unwanted kittens, they knew.

At last, uncertain of what conditions he might have forgotten, the Master of the Last Homely House indicated that the gift might indeed be bestowed. “Although you must keep in mind that Gilraen may yet overrule the both of us. You may not go against her wishes in this.”

It was a consideration that obviously still concerned Elrohir. “I promise, Ada, I will bow to her will.”

However, there was no time given for Elrohir to consult with the child’s mother, as they could hear Estel hurrying toward them even now. “But why didn’t Elrohir come with you to tell me you were both home now, ’Laddan? Why did he go to Ada first? What kind of present did he bring me? Did you really stay with the Edain? What are they like? Are they all like Uncle Halbaleg? Hurry, ’Laddan!”

Then the door was crashing open, and a small, dark-haired child came bursting into the room while the kitten, disturbed by the noise, retreated to Elrond’s lap. “Elrohir! You didn’t come see me first!” He reached to hug onto his brother’s leg. “Why didn’t you come to see me first?”

Elrohir shared a smile with his father before ruffling the dark hair of his small brother. “I had a question to ask of Ada before I came to you, and I need now to speak with your amma.”

“She’s coming. Did you really bring me a present?”

“If your amma says you might have it.”

But the child’s observant eyes had already noticed the small kitten peering over the edge of the desk. He went very still, his attention fixed on the small white head and bright green eyes. “Oh,” he said in a soft voice, his face fairly glowing. “Oh! How beautiful! But a cat--here, in the house?” He looked up to meet Elrohir’s eyes, his expression hopeful.

The Lady Gilraen entered then, having decided to maintain her dignity rather than to follow immediately in her son’s wake. “And what is this present you have brought to the child----” She halted, for her own attention had also been caught by the reflection of green eyes across Lord Elrond’s desk. Her expression softened, and a smile began to show. “Anbeth sent this one?” she asked.

“Even so,” Elrohir said. “It is the daughter of the cat she calls Belleth.”

Her smile grew wider, and obviously filled with nostalgia. “Ah, Belleth--I was ever a favorite of hers. Oft while I pregnant with Estel she slept with me.”

Her son had begun walking around the desk where he could see the kitten more fully, his movements slow and gentle. “Hello, kitten,” he crooned. “Do you like it here? Would you like to stay here with us?” He reached out his hands to the animal, and it stretched to sniff at him. He carefully took it from his adar’s lap. “Ah, sweet one,” he murmured as he rubbed his nose against its fur. “Will you be my kitten? Will you stay here with me?” And such was his enchantment with the creature that no one had the heart to say no to him.

Elrond had half hoped that the child’s mother would forbid the gift, but she was obviously as taken by the kitten as was Estel himself. He sighed and rose. “All right,” he finally said. “You may keep it, Estel, but it will be your duty to care for it, to feed it, and to clean up after it. And Elrohir will assist to teach you how to do this.”

The child looked up, smiling with delight. “May I truly, Ada? Oh, thank you! I promise I will take care of it! Oh, does Glorfindel know, or Meliangiloreth? Please--may I show them?” And at his adar’s nod he was off.

“Go after him, Elrohir--and remember that it is now your responsibility to teach him his own responsibilities toward the kitten.”

His son nodded, flashing his father a grateful smile. “It will be my pleasure.” He quitted the room, following the child. “Do not run with an animal in your arms, Estel,” they could hear as he turned to follow the boy down the hallways. “Yes, that is right--walk!”

“It is my hope we do not regret this decision,” Elrond said quietly.

Gilraen smiled. “It will help him to understand better how it is we care for him, or so I believe you will find. And perhaps it will ease his loneliness somewhat. He so wishes to have a playmate more of an age with himself. He has even created for himself brothers of his imagination with whom to play.” She looked after the way her son had gone. “She will be a companion to him probably until he comes of age. And if she takes after Belleth, she will be a great beauty.”

She turned her attention back to Elrond. “I was surprised not to see cats here when I came, my lord, with their delicate ways and their grace. It always seemed to me that this house would be one that would delight them, and that they would add to its beauty.”

Elrond gave a wry smile. “I will admit that Celebrían favored them, and always had a number about her. But they live such short lives. After she--left us, those that remained mourned her, and some went to dwell in the stable. Those that remained in the house died at the end of their time, and none had the heart to replace them, I fear. This one is the first to dwell within the house for at least three yeni.”

She left him to see to her child, and soon he was busy listening to the report of Elladan on the activities of the orcs and trolls that had been found near the settlements of the Dúnedain who dwelt in the Angle. Then Erestor came to discuss the trading mission that had recently returned over the High Pass from the Beornings with great jars of honey, and the recent shipment of fine wool Gandalf had arranged to have purchased from the Shire.

It was late by the time Elrond was free to finally seek out his foster son once more; and when he came to the rooms shared by Estel and his mother, it was to find that the boy had already been put to bed. “He has named the kitten Imogen, and she’s been entertaining him all day long,” Gilraen told him. “He’s dangled yarn spiders for her to chase, and has run with her after butterflies in the gardens. He’s been learning that as she’s so young she must be fed frequently, and so he’s spent much of the day in the kitchen begging scraps for her. That she should love liver fascinates him, particularly as he detests it. He has overcome his disgust at cleaning her tray, and has followed after her to clean it at least three times this afternoon. And he’s absolutely hanging on everything he’s told of how to care for his new friend.”

Elrohir, who sat opposite Gilraen with a wine goblet in his hand, nodded his agreement. “I fear, Adar, that he and Imogen between them have managed to quite run us all ragged. But he has proved very gentle-handed with her, and does not torment her. Nay, it is rather than she has found she can torment him and he loves it. But she has worn out his considerable store of energy today, and now they are both asleep.” So saying, he rose to his feet and led the way to the child’s bedchamber door and opened it quietly.

Estel lay in the casual sprawl in which he usually slept, and there, in the curve of his neck at the shoulder, lay a small white bundle of fur. Elrond stood still, aware of an odd noise that filled the room--then realized that it was the purr of the kitten. Briefly it opened its green eyes to look up at them, yawned, then curled itself into an even smaller ball against the child’s shoulder. There was a matching movement from the child as he turned his head slightly toward the animal, and Elrond realized his youngest son was smiling as he slept, knowing he wasn’t alone.

Smiling himself, the lord of Imladris withdrew from the room and pulled the door closed after him. Perhaps it was indeed far too long since there had been a cat about the house!



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