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7
Only Human

The characters are the property of the Tolkien Estate. No profit has been, nor will be made from this story.

Co authored with Raksha the Demon


~~~

Estel could scarcely contain his excitement as he ran to the banks of the Bruinen. His lessons for today had been cancelled, since as Master Elrond and his advisers were entertaining King Thranduil and his retinue from Mirkwood. Estel made his way to the river. It was a perfect day for swimming. He loved to swim, and he knew the perfect spot - deep, but not encumbered with too many underwater rocks or strangling weeds. As he swam with the mild current, Estel wondered what Thranduil and his folk would be like. Master Elrond had said that Estel could meet Thranduil after the feast tonight. In all his thirteen years, Estel had never met Elves other than those of Imladris, who he believed must be the grandest and wisest Elves left this side of the Sundering Sea. But still, Elves who lived in forests and in caves would be worth knowing; and he had heard the great tales of the valour of the Mirkwood Elves in the battle of Erebor.

After one last, lovely dive into the River's cool depths, Estel returned to the shore, shook out his wet hair, and stretched out on the blanket he had left under his favourite tree. The warm sun would soon dry his soaked body; all he had to do was wait, and enjoy the sensation of the heat on his naked skin.

“What is that creature?” A strange voice startled the boy from perhaps twenty paces away. Estel had very good hearing; and the speaker was not troubling to lower his voice. The language was slightly different from the Sindarin he knew so well, a Silvan variant that Estel had studied last year. Estel raised his eyelids just enough to peer out through his eyelashes; a trick that Elrohir had taught him. He saw a group of some three tall Elves, divesting themselves of their raiment; perhaps to take a swim as well. This was awkward. Estel was close to manhood now, too old to play possum and jump up to ambush them, as he had done in jest with his tutors and friends many times. Best to stay quiet awhile, and then make a show of awakening slowly, so as not to embarrass those who were surely his foster-father's guests.

"It looks like a leafless Ent, or a very strange frog!" the speaker said with a laugh.

"Come, Lalforn, you have seen Men before, and their young ones!" Another voice said, perhaps deriding the first speaker. "I have heard it said that Master Elrond has often fostered the sons of Men."

"I suppose then, that this is the latest in his collection," the first speaker said. "I have never seen a child of Men unclothed; such a graceless, puny thing."

Another voice added: "You are right there, Lalforn, the sprout is an odd-looking sort; long legs and arms, but no breadth to the rest of him. How do they manage then, to grow enough to father others?"

More laughter. Estel felt his cheeks burn, and prayed that they could not see. He would have to get up and defend himself, or say something, soon, but what? He wished he could return to the river's comforting embrace and not come out until these strangers were gone!

"Have a care, you two;" said a third voice, perhaps older than the others. "He might be able to hear you."

"So what if he can, Legolas," the one called Lalforn answered; and Estel could hear the derision behind the words. "He would not know our tongue."

"Are you certain?" The third speaker asked, with some sternness. "The Lord Elrond would not raise fools. And even if he cannot understand us, he can hear your tones if he wakes. We are guests here, it is ill done to mock those of our host's household, especially a lad so young. And I have heard that this poor lad is fatherless, the more reason to treat the child kindly rather than laugh at him."

Oh, that was the worst! The mockery was cruel, but Estel found the pity intolerable. Burning with humiliation, he stood up and scrambled into his clothes as hastily as possible. He tried to march away with head held high; but the look of sympathy on the face of the oldest of the three destroyed what little dignity he had. Estel turned and ran for home.

000

Gilraen was walking past her son’s closed door. Estel was growing up and was allowed some privacy now he was almost a man. Gilraen sighed. Often she wished that Arathorn had lived long enough to give her a daughter too. A child who would not grow away from her and ride into danger would have been such a comfort. A muffled sob made the woman pause. Estel may not be a small child any longer, but her boy still had need of his mother! She found the lad lying sprawled across his bed, his face buried in a pillow.

“Estel, what ails you?”

The boy did not answer.

Gilraen sat down on the edge of the bed and put her arms around her son. Estel sighed, but did not attempt to move away. “What ails you?” she repeated.

“Nothing.” Estel gave a loud sniff then determinedly dried his eyes with his sleeve.

“I thought you planned to go swimming while your tutors were meeting with King Thranduil? Estel, I know there is something wrong. You cannot deceive your mother!”

“Never again will I go swimming when strangers might be nearby!” Estel exclaimed before blurting out the whole story. Gilraen’s features became grave as she listened. Long had she feared something like this. The Elves in Master Elrond’s house had never treated either her or Estel with anything other than kindness and respect, but Gilraen had always known that she and her son were not of the same kind as the other inhabitants of Imladris. Once she had asked if some playmates of his own kind from amongst the Dúnedain villages could be found for Estel, but Master Elrond had said it was far too dangerous and might lead to the Enemy discovering her son. “Nana, why did he call me a ‘thing’?” Estel asked fixing her with wide grey eyes, so like his father’s.

“He and his fellows are ill mannered and ignorant. King Thranduil’s folk were long suspicious of outsiders, I am told, while Master Elrond has ever welcomed strangers, ” said Gilraen. “Unlike Imladris, they are not protected from the forces of Darkness. And you are no ‘thing’: you are a child of Eru, just as much as are they. You are different than an Elf, but of no less worth. Many would count you fair amongst Men, my son.”

“Why do you never speak of my father?” Estel demanded. “Did he do something wrong?”

“Indeed not!” Gilraen said fiercely. “You father was a good man and a brave warrior. I was proud when he asked me to wed him, and I grieve still for his death. I promise I will tell you more when you are older. He would be proud of you, were he still living, Estel, as proud as you make Master Elrond and me.”

Estel sat up straight, his usual high spirits almost restored. Gilraen studied his face, the boyish chubbiness already giving way to the fine boned structure of a Man of Númenor. Her little one would come of age in just a few more years. She could see her own father in his face, as well as Arathorn. Later she would speak to Master Elrond and tell him it was time Estel accompanied his sons on their visits to the Dúnedain villages, if only occasionally. They would have to think of some tale to explain his presence, but her boy was Edain--human-- and needed to see others of his kind.

As for the Elves who had mocked her kind-hearted and courteous son...Gilraen forced down her fury. Right now she would gladly make a gift of them to the hill-trolls, but that was not possible. Gilraen smiled coldly. Master Elrond loved her son too. Once he learned of their churlish behaviour, and she would make sure the Elf-lord learned of it, the King of Mirkwood would have to send another envoys. Those cruel strangers would never again set foot in Imladris, except for the one called Legolas, who had spoken on her son's behalf.

~~~

A/N this was written to explain the reason for Aragorn’s shyness in Linda’s stories. and written for the AA List prompt “Human”. Raksha then considerably polished and expanded it.

Neither Raksha nor Linda believes that Aragorn and Legolas were friends before the Ring War, but we believe it is plausible they might have briefly met.


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