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Tales of the Telcontars (PG-13) Print

Written by Susana

19 September 2011 | 56124 words | Work in Progress

Lessons with Uncle Elladan

“Have you never thought how danger must surround power as shadow does light?”
-Ursula K. Leguin

“‘You can’t give her that!’ she screamed. ‘It’s not safe!’
‘It’s a sword.’ said the Hogfather. ‘They’re not meant to be safe.’
‘She’s a child!’ shouted Crumley.
‘It’s educational.’
‘What if she cuts herself?’
‘That will be an important lesson.’
- Terry Pratchett

Uncle Elladan was Eldarion’s most favorite tutor. He didn’t treat ‘Darion like a baby, like that first tutor had. Honestly, thinking ‘Darion couldn’t even read or write, when Fara and Nana had taught ‘Darion how to do that ages ago! Nor was Uncle ‘Dan an “overstuffed prig” like ‘Darion’s second tutor had been. That was Uncle Elrohir’s description of ‘Darion’s previous tutor, and ‘Darion thought it quite appropriate. But he knew better than to repeat anything Uncle ‘Roh said when he was upset.

Normally, Eldarion and Thea loved their lessons with Uncle Elladan. Uncle ‘Dan didn’t plan lessons, and would just answer their questions (whatever they asked!). Uncle Elladan was one of their favorite adults. He would also take them on “nature hikes” in the garden, where Eldarion could usually convince Thea to try to eat something gross, which was really neat, in Eldarion’s opinion. Uncle Elladan didn’t overreact to Thea’s “inquisitive, investigative” nature, like most of their other minders did. He just gently guided her to the more edible plants and animals in the garden.

But today neither child was able to enjoy their lessons. Yesterday a bad man had tried to kill Eldarion’s Ada, the King, and then Theodwyn’s Ada, who was ‘Darion’s older half-brother Faramir, Ada’s Steward. Ada and Fara had just been walking around in the city, and the bad man shot arrows at them, and no one knew why. Both Ada and Faramir had been quiet the previous night, and Nana had cried. Éowyn had just looked very fierce, even nearly nine months pregnant.

Eldarion could believe Éowyn had once fought the evil witch-King. He could also believe his mother had been a warrior for a long time before even his Ada was born. Nana wasn’t fierce, but no one went against her when she made up her mind. Ada said it was like fighting the tide. Fara said that Eldarion’s Nana was very wise, and had developed a persistent nature from surviving centuries as Lord Elrond’s only daughter. Eldarion didn’t know what that had to do with anything, but Fara and Nana were almost always on the same side. Ada said that Nana and Éowyn were the only ones who could get Fara to do something when Eldarion’s older brother turned stubborn. Fara said that wasn’t true, that he listened to Aragorn as well. Eldarion’s twin uncles said that Fara was too stubbornly independent for his own good, and that Eldarion’s Nana was a spoiled brat. Eldarion knew not to repeat that, too.

Eldarion and Thea had talked about what they wanted to learn today, and they asked Uncle Elladan to teach them how to stop bad men. Uncle Elladan didn’t say anything for a moment, which was really odd for Uncle ‘Dan.

Recovering from surprise, Uncle ‘Dan asked “‘Darion, Thea, neither of you will have to defend yourselves from anyone for many years. Your Ada and I and ‘Roh will take care of you, and that is only if anyone is “bad” enough to get past the army and our guards. Which is unlikely, children, as those who guard us are well-trained and quite loyal.”

“Ada fight bad man.” Thea disagreed quietly.

“Ada did fight the bad man,’ Thea.” Elladan corrected. “Remember, sentences require transitional verbs, and nouns generally need objects.”

Theodwyn wrinkled her cherubic nose. “Grammar stupid.” she noted in disgust.

‘Darion grinned at his niece despite his worry. “Grammar IS stupid, Thea. I agree.”

Elladan sighed. Grammar had never been his favorite subject as an elfling, either. Just wait til these poor kids got to variant forms of Quenya… he desperately hoped Estel had found them a new tutor by then. He would be very likely to just agree with his pupils that it was an unnecessary thing to have to learn. Perhaps Erestor would be willing to teach them? But that would leave Mel alone in Imladris… Elladan shook his head, returning to his niece’s point. “Your ada put himself in a position where he was able to fight the bad man only because he disobeyed orders and common sense to go running after the bad man, Thea. I love Faramir well, but he should not have done that. It was too dangerous.”

“He got in big trouble with Ada.” ‘Darion observed in wonder. The Crown Prince hadn’t realized that his older brother, whom he idolized, could ever get into trouble with their Ada. Normally Ada and Fara were both telling ‘Darion what to do, even though ‘Darion far preferred to confess his misdeeds to the tolerant Faramir.

Elladan closed his eyes for a moment, thanking the Valar for keeping Faramir from getting scratched by the assassin’s poisoned knife. “And deservedly so. But neither of you are trained warriors yet, as our Faramir has been for several decades. Neither of you are to run after assassins, or any other such thing. It would be very stupid and naughty, as well as dangerous.”

“But what if they come running after us?” Eldarion asked. “What if our guards get lost or hurt? What if we’re alone, or just with Nana? What do we do?”

Elladan smiled fiercely. “If you’re with your Nana, you’re not in bad shape, ‘Darion. As a matter of fact, I might consider hiding behind your Nana if assassins, er, bad men attack. She is a fierce and capable warrior, though she does not usually carry a sword in the city.

“If Daernana not is?” Thea followed up, smoothly tag-teaming her partner-in-crime, her beloved uncle ‘Dari.

Elladan gave his his great-niece a measuring look. Thea’s persistence and ability to follow a logical argument were impressive for her age. Then he corrected absentmindedly “what if Daernana is not there, Thea.” But Elladan’s mind was elsewhere. He had lived over 20 centuries… some of the things he had seen… what could it hurt, to tell them a little of how they might defend themselves? Everyone hoped that they would never be in a position to need to, or at least not until they were well-trained adults, but he could remember the terrible fates of other beloved children, dead with their parents in the burnt out villages the Witch-King’s men had left behind them in Arnor, following the siege of Imladris. Elladan had lived long, and one thing he had learned was that life was too uncertain. And a king was always a target, and no less his sons. And if he taught Eldarion, what harm to teach Thea?”

Elladan sighed again, and conceded. “Alright, you two have a point. You have logically followed your arguments through to their conclusion and defeated your opponent in this debate, me. As you have persuaded me, I shall tell you what you should do. Soon, you will begin to carry knives. Here is how you can find a knife on an opponent if you don’t have one. Then…” Elladan began drawing diagrams, showing them the sensitive spots on the human, elven and orcish body, the places they must aim for if defending against an enemy, the parts of themselves they must defend.

Theodwyn paid careful attention; this was important adult information, information she and ‘Dari had determined that no one else would probably be willing to teach them. Her own Ada and Nana had been their next best choice, but ‘Dari had said Uncle Elladan would be best, and ‘Dari was right again.

Then ‘Dari asked what they should do if they lost their knife, or didn’t have one. So Uncle Elladan had them practice in the classroom, picking up any given object and showing them how it could be used to delay a foe, or disarm them. “Remember,” Elladan solemnly instructed the children, “anything can be a weapon. The name of the game, in your age and position, is to survive long enough for help to come.”

At one point, with a stylus that had been among Faramir’s old childhood school things, Elladan was covering again the principle of aiming for the heart. Eldarion asked what a heart looked like. After Elladan explained the shape, Theodwyn demanded, “How work?”

Uncle Elladan frowned a bit, then said that since they were both curious, he would try to explain. So he drew a picture of the human heart. Then Uncle Elladan explained how blood is pumped from chamber to chamber, and how and why stabbing an assailant in the heart stops that process and ends their life. Thea looked at ‘Dari; he was confused too. Observing this, Uncle Elladan took them on a fieldtrip to see one of the older fountains that used a pump to recirculate water. Using his belt-knife, Elladan picked the lock on a concealing panel to show his pupils the pumping mechanism. Then he poured wine into the water to show them how the pump made the liquid circulate throughout the fountain, and explained that a heart works similarly.

Eldarion, judging by the skeptical look on his face, was unconvinced. “We have a machine inside of us? That’s too odd, Uncle ‘Dan. You’re putting us on. Like when Ada told Thea that cats all must learn to swim, and then they will love to do so.”

Elladan frowned at the memory of that incident. “No, I don’t have Estel’s low sense of humor. Mine is much more refined. I would not mislead you on such an important matter.”

Thea also frowned in memory of that less-than-funny joke of Daerada’s. She didn’t want to be taken for a fool again. But how to have Uncle Elladan prove they really had machines called hearts inside them? Thea didn’t dislike anyone enough to ask Uncle Elladan to cut them open in order to prove they had a heart, even if Uncle Elladan would. One could never tell with Uncle Elladan.

Just then Thea spotted Smaug the cat returning through the garden with a trophy, a dead frog. Thea frowned in thought. Elladan said that all creatures except the littlest ones like bugs had hearts, too. This frog was already dead, because Smaug was planning to eat it. So maybe Elladan could show them if the frog had a heart. That would work.

“See if lie.” Thea said to Darion. Thea then chattered to Smaug for a bit, and the cat reluctantly yielded the frog to her. Thea had her father’s way with creatures of all kinds, at least until they realized she intended to bathe them, or possibly eat them, or put them in Eldarion’s bed in retribution for not being invited to join him in one activity or another (this only happened to slimy creatures; a cat would not be an effective deterrent).

Thea then handed the dead creature to her uncle. “Show.” The toddler ordered.

Elladan obliged her, after first vocally thanking the little frog for the life it had given, and Smaug for her forsaken meal. He then showed the children how one went about dissecting a frog. Both found it fairly abhorrent, and Elladan decided that anatomy was probably a better subject for adolescents than toddlers.

Elladan was exhausted, and he still had reports by healer-trainees to revise, and work to do on the book he was currently co-writing, “Healing Herbs of Gondor.” Not to mention experiments to review from his apprentices in the alchemy guild. So he decided that it was time for the lesson to be over, He concluded the lesson, as always, by having ‘Darion and Thea write an entry in their learning journals, and draw pictures if they wished. Elladan was quite impressed by their retentive memories and artistic skills, although Thea’s determination to convince the rest of the world to eschew grammar rather than learning it herself was a continuing source of frustration for her tutor. Still, the children seemed less worried about “bad men,” so Elladan considered himself to have done well. He still hoped that Estel would find someone better suited to tutoring the children soon, but he was quite sure that Éowyn and Arwen needed the break, until then. Éowyn was still working with the healers when she had the energy, though her due date was approaching.

Then Lady Lindorie and ‘Darion’s Nana came to collect Eldarion and Theodwyn, and it was time to get ready for dinner. Lindorie was helping Nana because Thea’s Nana, Darion’s sister Éowyn, needed extra naps – she was going to have another baby soon. This was sixth day, when Faramir usually took Thea and Éowyn to meet his friends in the city for dinner. Eldarion liked it when Faramir would take him, as well. Faramir’s nephew-who-wasn’t-really-a nephew Tavan was lots of fun to play with, when he was in a good mood. He was almost a teenager, so sometimes he had grown-up stuff to do, and didn’t have time to play with ‘Darion and Thea. Tavan’s mother Nessa was really nice, and she’d always play the harp and sing if ‘Darion asked politely. Hallas and Dev were always nice to ‘Darion as well. Hallas would tell ‘Darion really interesting stories about past Princes of Gondor and Arnor, and Dev would suggest neat games that Ada probably wouldn’t like. But Nessa’s husband Ethiron (who Tavan explained carefully was NOT his Ada), was likely to notice anything really fun before it had a chance to half get started. But this week, Ada had asked Faramir to have his friends come to the citadel, instead. That was an acceptable alternative to Eldarion, although he knew Thea was sad to miss a trip into the city. Maybe he could convince Fara that Thea was old enough for swimming lessons.

The dinner that night was lots of fun, from Eldarion’s perspective. Much more fun than the formal dinners that he and more recently Theodwyn usually attended with the full court on first, third, and fifth days. During those dinners, they had to sit up straight, and eat properly, and not make a mess. Plus they had to behave like miniature adults, and be “discreet.” And there were lots of people watching them, all the time. Most of the people were nice, but Ada still compared it to being an animal in a zoo exhibit. Dinners with just the family were a lot more fun, and dinners with Fara’s friends were even more fun.

And this dinner was great. There was lots of good food, and since Faramir and Éowyn were hosting this dinner, Ada said it was their rules instead of his, that he and Nana were just Fara’s guests. So Eldarion didn’t have to eat all of his vegetables; just give them a tiny taste to make sure he hadn’t suddenly developed a taste for them. ‘Darion assured Fara that he would never develop a taste for carrots. Fara said that was fine, as long as ‘Darion used socially acceptable terminology to describe his dislike. Fara said it wasn’t fair to be so explicit as to dampen the enthusiasm of those who did like carrots, or to upset the cook.

“A simple “I do not care for them,” is sufficient, ‘Darion.” Faramir murmured, as Ada rolled his eyes at Fara and said, “Just you wait, Faramir Your next child will be as picky an eater as Eldarion, and then you will have to play tyrannical Ada at the dinner table as well.

“Don’t wish that on Éowyn, meleth-nin.” Nana interposed gently. Fortunately, Éowyn, who often took exception to Ada’s teasing of Fara when she deemed it to have gone too far, was paying complete attention to Elladan, who was describing what he considered his most challenging surgery of all time, a ruptured appendix on the battle field. Éowyn was riveted, but Sion and Hallas both looked a little sick, and even Ethiron looked a tad green.

Fortunately for the other dinner guests, the next course arrived, an absolutely splendid dessert, in Eldarion’s opinion. Ada had argued with the cook Mairen until she had agreed to let Mistress Sion, Hallas’ mother, bake a special cake that Fara used to have as a child in Dol Amroth. Sion was kin to Lord Golasgil of Anfalas, which was near Dol Amroth. Lord Golasgil was also nice, and knew lots of fun stories about ‘Darion’s brother Faramir, when Faramir had been young. He and Dev kept Faramir laughing even after dessert, when ‘Darion went to play with Thea and Tavan. He asked his twin uncles to join them, but Elladan had lost a bet to Elrohir, and had to play a game of chess with him.

At first they played chase, with Tavan chasing both of them, and then Dev helping Thea and ‘Darion chase Tavan. But after ‘Darion knocked over the table with the chess set in the middle of his twin uncles’ game, Nana suggested they find another activity. So they started to build a maze for Smaug the cat with wooden blocks that Faramir had painted to look like different fiefs of Gondor. When Smaug escaped, ‘Darion and Tavan started building really high towers with the blocks for Thea to knock down. Then Dev and Hallas showed Eldarion, Tavan and Thea how to make the stacks of wooden blocks go flying in all directions by setting off the spinning tops Uncle Éomer and Aunt Lothiriel had sent them right beside the blocks, which was really fun. Nessa and Sion were talking to Nana and Éowyn about boring baby stuff, but Eldarion was relatively certain he could talk Nessa into singing once they finished that. She had even brought her harp, and Tavan had his pipe and lute. Eldarion hoped Faramir took Ada’s advice and had his friends over more often; all of Faramir’s friends were fun.

Well, all of Fara’s friends were fun except for Ethiron. And Ethiron was properly Ada’s friend, not Fara’s. Fara “disclaimed any responsibility for Ethiron.” And Ethiron seemed really annoyed with Fara tonight too. He was talking to Faramir by the fire, getting louder and louder when Faramir seemed not to agree. Eldarion could have told Ethiron that getting louder at Faramir didn’t get you anywhere. Dev said that Faramir had been yelled at by the scariest, so you had to talk softly if you wanted Faramir to listen. Eldarion decided to rescue his brother. He got up to go and invite Fara to join their game, picking up his learning journal from the table as an afterthought. He could always use that for a distraction, if Faramir said “in a little bit, ‘Darion,” which he sometimes did when he was having important conversations.

When Eldarion went over to see if Faramir would like to join their game, Ethiron was almost yelling at Faramir. Ada didn’t normally let anyone yell at Fara (except sometimes Éowyn), but Ada was just watching, this time.

“I don’t know what it is going to take to get this through your head,” Ethiron lectured, teeth clenched, to Eldarion’s older brother, who exhibited the polite listening expression that ‘Darion knew meant he was just humoring someone, “but you are NOT just any other loyal soldier of Gondor anymore, Faramir! Not only are you the Steward, and the Prince of an important border territory, but you are the King’s son, your half-brother’s regent if anything should happen to your father! Your heir is not yet two years of age, your next-heir is not yet born, and your brother is not yet four! You have no business chasing after assassins!”

“No one else was in position to catch up with the man, Ethiron.” Faramir replied softly. “I did not want him to have the opportunity to try again.”

Ethiron took a deep breath before continuing to lecture Eldarion’s brother in a mean tone of voice. Eldarion wasn’t sure if he liked Ethiron. Tavan seemed rather undecided on whether he liked Ethiron, and Eldarion figured Tavan would know. Tavan knew lots of things. So did Faramir, but Ethiron wasn’t even listening to him just now. Which was quite rude; Faramir had listened to what Ethiron was saying, after all. Faramir always listened.

Eldarion had actually gone looking for Faramir last night. He’d awoken in the middle of the night from a terrible dream in which bad men had been shooting at Ada and Faramir with arrows, and Faramir had died protecting Ada. Eldarion wanted to find Faramir and make sure he was really whole and alive and fine, with his deep voice that always knew just what to say to make ‘Darion feel better. Ada knew what to say, too, its not that he didn’t, but Faramir could almost read ‘Darion’s mind. Even the fears that Eldarion was scared to give voice to because he thought them too silly or awful, Faramir could guess, and somehow make smaller, and less frightening.

But Nana had still been awake when Eldarion got up to go looking for Fara, working on a tapestry at her loom. Nana had taken one look at Eldarion’s tear-stained face before scooping him up in a hug. It was a nice hug; its not that it wasn’t, but Eldarion had needed to know that Faramir was still fine, that it had just been a nightmare. When he eventually managed to explain that to Nana through sobs, she had nodded determinedly, and picked him up. “I will take you to see Faramir.” Nana promised. And Nana ALWAYS kept her promises. No matter what it cost her, or at least that was what Uncle Elrohir said.

To Eldarion’s surprise, Nana was carrying him to Ada’s study, instead of towards Faramir and Éowyn’s apartment in the royal wing. Answering his unspoken question, Nana said, “Ada had to talk to Faramir about something that happened today, I think they’ve had long enough, though. Its fortunate that Faramir is not in his rooms, for Éowyn is near to term, and I would hate to waken her if that hyperactive babe is finally letting her sleep.

Eldarion had nodded. His future niece or nephew was not an easy baby to carry, like he had been. The babe kicking Éowyn’s tummy hurt Eldarion’s hand when Éowyn let him feel the baby moving around, but Éowyn was tough. She hardly even winced.

Nana held Eldarion balanced on her hip as she approached Ada’s study, turning sideways as she opened the door so that Eldarion couldn’t see in, before entering the rest of the way. Eldarion was surprised by what he saw. Ada was sitting on the settee by the fireplace nearest the window, not doing any of his King work, which wasn’t really that unusual. But Fara was lying on his side on the same settee, half on Ada’s lap, with Ada’s arm around him. Eldaron smiled a little even through his abating tears. Fara hardly ever let Ada hold him. When Eldairon had first learned that Faramir was his brother, he had worried a little that Ada might not have time for him anymore, since Ada and Fara were friends, and now Fara was Ada’s son too. But Faramir almost never joined in any of Ada’s special father-and-son activities with Eldarion, even though first Ada and then Eldaron had invited him.

“Eldarion-my-heart, whatever is the matter?” Ada asked, concerned.

“‘Darion?” Fara asked a split-second later, looking to ‘Darion almost as if he had been almost asleep.

“He had a nightmare about bad men with arrows.” Arwen explained softly, gently settling her son onto his father’s lap. Faramir got up immediately to make space for ‘Darion, despite Aragorn’s murmur of “There is room for both of you.”

To Eldarion’s surprise, Fara winced and then hissed as he sat up, quickly standing then kneeling beside Eldarion. “I am sorry you had an ill dream, my brave little brother.” Faramir reassured him gently.

Eldarion reached out a hand to pat Faramir’s cheek gently, tactile reassurance that Faramir was really, truly there. And fine. Or at least mostly fine. “Did the bad men hurt you?” Eldarion asked his brother. “Is that why it hurts you to sit?”

Ada, holding Eldarion, made a funny choking noise. Fara gave Ada a look, half-embarrassed, half-approbation. It was almost the look that Ada got from Fara when Ada was confessing he hadn’t gotten his King work done, but with a little bit of maybe Fara had stayed up too late doing his Steward work, and then gotten caught falling asleep at the breakfast table.

“Nay, ‘Darion.” Faramir explained soothingly. “The bad man did not hurt me.”

Ada snorted. “You’ve bruises and scrapes from scuffling with that “bad man,” dear one, and you’ll finish your willow-bark tea before you go to sleep.”

“Nag, nag, nag.” Faramir teased their father, to ‘Darion’s delighted surprise. “I’m not feeling any of what he did to me as much as your displeasure, Aragorn.” Faramir continued, obviously a bit unhappy with their father.

“Fara,” said ‘Darion in shock, “Did Ada smack you?” ‘Darion had been smacked the first time just recently, for climbing out of the window in Nana’s solar to get to the garden. He’d promised Ada he wouldn’t climb out of the window in the nursery anymore, and he hadn’t. Eldarion just hadn’t known that Ada meant any high-up window. He’d told Ada that Ada should have been more specific. Ada had asked ‘Darion if he had known that climbing out the window was dangerous. ‘Darion had explained that it was only dangerous if he slipped, and that he’d been very careful not to. Ada had stared at him for a moment, before explaining that ‘Darion couldn’t be sure he wouldn’t ever slip, and that the rule was ‘Darion wasn’t allowed to do things that could be dangerous, whether or not he thought he was skillful enough not to get hurt. ‘Darion had said that was a stupid rule.

Ada had sighed, and told ‘Darion that he’d known grown men to fall from like heights, and get very badly hurt, and that Ada would feel sad forever if something like that happened to ‘Darion. That seemed like what Faramir called a “specious argument” to ‘Darion, but ‘Darion felt bad for worrying his Ada, so he’d apologized anyway. He didn’t promise not to do it again, though. Ada had sighed again, and explained that sorry wasn’t enough for having risked getting badly hurt. Then Ada had explained that ‘Darion was going to receive his first spanking, because ‘Darion had known better and still broken the rules. ‘Darion had protested, but Ada had persisted, and ‘Darion had wound up bare-bottom over Ada’s lap, where Ada had smacked his hand down firmly several times. It had hurt very much, and ‘Darion had cried. But Ada had held him afterwards, and told him that he’d been brave even though he had cried.

But ‘Darion couldn’t believe Ada had smacked Fara. Though Fara did look like he might have been crying. ‘Darion turned to frown at their father, who rolled his eyes.

Fara’s rueful chuckle drew Eldarion’s attention back to his brother. “I, too, must pay for my errors, little brother. And the King…”

“Our father,” ‘Darion interrupted firmly. He and Éowyn were working on getting Faramir to call Ada by the proper term in private.

“Our father,” Faramir amended, “no more approved of my ducking our poor guards to apprehend the assassin, then he approved of you jumping from window ledge to window ledge.”

“Because it was too dangerous and he loves you so much he is scared of you getting hurt.” Eldarion explained sagely, just in case Faramir had not grasped that. Sometimes Faramir missed the simplest things, even though he was really smart. That’s when Ada said that his firstborn took extra looking after. Faramir explained things all the time; ‘Darion was happy to be able to return the favor.

“Oh, is that why?” Faramir asked with gentle humor. “Ada didn’t get much past, “if you ever worry me like that again, I’ll tie you to Magordan.’”

“You don’t want that, Fara.” Eldarion assured his brother. “Magordan is NO FUN when he is in “guard” mode. He’s worse than anybody but Orohael.” Eldarion knew all of his father’s guards, an elite force hand-picked and trained by Magordan and Uncle Elrohir.

“On the bright side for you, little brother, I believe I’ve just made you the royal guards’ favorite Prince.” Faramir said ruefully.

“Hmm.” Aragorn commented with some sympathy, reaching a hand out to stroke Fara’s cheek, where he had a bruise from ducking under Orohael’s fist. “Magordan thinks you should GIVE his guards lessons on evading opponents who are being careful not to hurt you.”

Faramir winced. “If you hadn’t acknowledged me…”

Nana frowned, before pulling Fara gently back up onto the settee. Nana had sat down beside Ada, and Faramir now returned to his previous position, on his side so no weight was on his sore bottom, but this time leaning against Nana’s shoulder, rather than Ada’s. “We’d be in the same place, Faramir.” Nana said gently, stroking her step-son’s hair soothingly. “You were already a secondary target, as Steward. The guards next priority after securing Estel’s safety was already to secure your own.”

Faramir frowned. “No one told me that.”

Ada explained dryly. “We thought it would be easier that way. We forgot that you had trained in hand-to-hand combat with the best Gondor had to offer. Ethiron is kicking himself for not having briefed us better.”

Eldarion squirmed until he was cuddled against Faramir, who leaned down to kiss his head. Ada pulled a blanket down from the built-in shelf by the window, and Nana put it over ‘Darion and Fara.

“I hope Eldarion and I did not interrupt.” Nana said softly. “I had thought you would mostly be done, and he was so upset.”

“Faramir was just blaming himself for things which are not his fault again.” Eldarion’s Ada complained softly.

Faramir snorted. “Minas Tirith is my charge as Steward, is it not? And the assassin aimed at you on the streets of Minas Tirith, did he not?”

“Technically, we were by the dock, not in the city, difficult child.” Ada scolded Faramir. “And secondly, no one can control every mad man with a bow. We’ll get this straightened out, but it was NOT your fault. The policy changes we’ve made, you and I, in these last few years have by and large made our streets much safer.”

“That, and Sauron’s bribes have dried up.” Faramir pointed out, frustrated. Eldarion was glad that Sauron was gone; NO ONE had seemed to like him at all. Not even the orcs.

“None of that changes that I would prefer to have you stay here, tomorrow night.” Ada said gently. “I know you can look after yourself, and the guards are wiser now than they were this morning to your stubborn ways, but you have a very pregnant wife and a little daughter who are not quite so self-sufficient.”

Faramir didn’t respond right away. Eldarion, snuggled against Fara’s chest, couldn’t see his brother’s face, but not replying right away usually meant Faramir was thinking. Personally, Eldarion thought that anybody who got close enough for Thea to fight wouldn’t consider Thea defenseless, but he knew better than to get involved in this argument. Besides, he was pretty sure he was on Ada’s side.

“Why don’t you have your friends come here, instead, Faramir?” Nana asked, still stroking Faramir’s hair. “You could borrow a dining room, or two, if the one in your apartment is too small. Its not like we don’t have plenty of space.”

“I don’t know,” Faramir responded at last, sounding pensive. “I don’t want to take advantage.”

It was Ada’s turn to sigh, and sound frustrated. “You’re not taking advantage; you live here. More, you are not Denethor’s unwanted second son anymore, dear one, who needs to meet his friends away from the Steward’s disapproval. You are MY son, and very much wanted. I want you to feel comfortable, welcome, to bring your friends here for dinner. Indeed, to host whomever, howsoever, you and Éowyn please.”

“You were welcome to do so even as Steward, dear.” Nana scolded Faramir gently. “This is your home as well as our own. Its rooms are at your disposal, always. And for tomorrow at least, I, too, would prefer to keep you and Éowyn and Thea close by.” Nana was on Ada’s side; that settled it. ‘Darion was too.

“Fara?” ‘Darion mumured, growing sleepy again.

“Yes, muindor-laes?” Fara prompted.

“Please have your friends come here. Tavan said he would show me how to play his old set of pipes, but I haven’t had a chance to see him, you’ve been too busy the past month to take me to visit.” ‘Darion pleaded.

“Its only been the past two weeks.” Faramir corrected gently. “But very well. If Éowyn approves, of course.”

“Of course.” Nana said easily. Eldarion could tell Nana thought Éowyn would agree. ‘Darion wasn’t sure; for being so very pregnant, Éowyn was very active. But Éowyn listened to Nana.

And Nana had been right. Éowyn did agree that hosting a small dinner for their friends at the citadel would be an acceptable alternative, and she invited Ada and Nana, as well as Eldarion. And somebody must have invited Ethiron, who was now being mean to Fara even though Fara had already been punished by Ada. Eldarion didn’t approve of that, not at all.

“Moreover, Faramir, if I were your father, I’d have you tied to me in leading-strings!” Ethiron finished, glaring at Faramir now.

Eldarion felt that someone should say something, and Ada didn’t seem ready to interrupt. Eldarion didn’t want to tell anybody that Fara had been smacked, because Fara had asked him not to. It turned out Eldarion didn’t have to say anything; Ethiron’s last statement had been loud enough for Arwen to hear.

“At least MY husband’s son speaks to him.” Nana observed coldly, though normally Nana was quite fond of Ethiron. “Perhaps you should think on that, Ethiron.” Tavan, lifting Thea on his shoulders so that she could be as tall as Hallas and Golasgil, fortunately had not heard. Nessa, too, was distracted with setting her harp up, aided by Sion. Probably Nana had intended that.

Éowyn sighed, placing a hand on her stomach. “Ethiron, the habits of a lifetime cannot be unlearned in half a year, or even a handful of years. I still reach for my sword when the wind blows from Mordor; I am not one who can lecture my husband on failing to know his place.”

Then ‘Darion’s older brother exchanged one of those looks with Éowyn, the ones that Eldarion didn’t understand. Nana had explained to ‘Darion that every married couple had their own language, and that between Faramir and Éowyn, Nana thought that look meant “I love you and I understand you and I forgive you, and no one else will understand either of us, ever, so thank the Valar for you.” Eldarion thought it was probably handy that Fara and Éowyn had shortened all of that to just a look.

“Speaking of places,” Dev said thoughtfully, “are you getting a bit old for fieldwork, captain-of-mine?”

Ethiron gave Dev a pained look, “Do you want my job, Dervorin?”

“Eru, no.” Dev retorted, seeming to Eldarion’s eyes truly reluctant. “I’ve enough to do. Asking for more work was always Fara’s peculiar habit, not mine. But you should have more time to spend with your family, ‘Thiron. I’m not a newly-wed, it might be a good time for me to do some of your traveling.”

“Hmm.” Ethiron murmured thoughtfully, looking over at Tavan, who was showing Thea how to read musical notes. “You may be right. I never seem to say the right thing, with him.”

“The biggest problem is merely that you are not Boromir.” Faramir said kindly, even though Ethiron had been mean to him all night. Faramir was always nice, even to people who were mean to him. Eldarion wasn’t sure he approved. “Tavan never got to see a body nor a grave, and he is not entirely convinced that Boromir isn’t coming back someday, not in his heart of hearts, I am afraid.” Fara explained further, looking very sad now.

“Eh.” Ethiron sighed. “I’ll think on retiring from field-work, but not this year, when the border with Harad is heating up. Now, Eldarion, what is that book you have there?”

Eldarion blinked. He had forgotten all about his learning journal. “I was going to show Fara what I learned today, but its not important.”

“Of course it is important, ‘Darion.” Fara disagreed. “Let’s see.”

‘Darion showed Faramir his drawing and his short essay about what he had learned. Faramir’s eyes widened slightly. “Ah, how very, hmm, detailed. You’re going to be more than ready for the academy, someday. Was Thea at this lesson with you?”

“Of course. She drew the heart.” Eldaroin obligingly showed Faramir Thea’s drawing as well, although he held a hand over her essay. Uncle Elladan hadn’t been happy with it, as Thea was continuing to maintain that proper grammar was a sort-of delusion that the adult world could just get over it if it tried hard enough.

Ethiron, looking over Faramir’s shoulder, choked out, “Aragorn, just who do you have teaching your son?” Eldarion frowned. He had used proper grammar in his essay.

“Which one?” Ada murmured wryly, but he obligingly looked over at Eldarion’s book. Then his eyebrows raised in shock, and he handed the book to Nana, and Thea’s book to Éowyn.

Éowyn appeared merely interested in the mechanical correctness exhibited by her daughter’s drawing of the human heart. Nana, on the other hand, sighed, and said, “Oh, Elladan.” Eldarion winced. When Nana said his name in that disappointed voice, he knew he was in trouble. It was probably a good thing he and Thea had decided to ask Elladan how to fight the bad men; Fara was in enough trouble already with Ada, without getting Nana mad at him too.

Nessa, attention drawn by her husband’s flabbergasted expression, laughed lightly. “Well, at least they waited until after dinner.” Eldarion didn’t think Nessa would sit near Elladan and Éowyn during meals again, at least not on purpose.

Ada sighed, and seemed to be counting to himself. After a bit Ada said, “Elladan, a word?’

Uncle Elladan looked up from his chess game. “Can’t it wait, Estel? We’ve only just recovered from Eldarion’s interruption.”

Elrohir frowned at Ada. “We hardly ever have time to play chess anymore, muindor-laes, since Elladan must take timeout from his duties to tutor your children and Faramir’s.”

Ada smiled thinly. “Actually, I was going to ask Elladan if he’d mind giving up his tutoring work, in order to spend more time on “Healing Herbs of Gondor.” I am eagerly anticipating its release.

Elladan smiled, pleased. “You can read an advance copy, Estel.” He offered. “In fact, I’d appreciate your input.”

“And Aragorn would do anything to avoid reading petitions.” Faramir murmured under his breath.

“But Ada, I don’t want a new tutor.” Eldarion protested. “Uncle Elladan is the best tutor ever; he knows everything, and he explains it really well.”

Uncle Elladan was touched. “Eldarion, I think that’s the nicest thing anyone’s said to me this century.” He thanked ‘Darion. “But I am really not the best tutor for everyday matters. Perhaps I could return to teach you science lessons?”

Ada coughed. “Perhaps in a few years, ‘Dan. I would hate to deprive the Houses of Healing or the Alchemy Guild of your wise counsel. Didn’t you say, just the other day, that you have so many brillian human apprentices to nurture?”

Elladan smiled, pleased Estel had been paying attention.

“But Ada, who will be our tutor now?” Eldarion said, worried. He hadn’t liked his last two tutors.

“Ah..” Ada paused in thought. Absently, he noticed Hallas distracting Thea by telling her the history of their ancestor Valandil, who had owned a fine brace of hounds, a gift from King Thranduil of the Green Wood, their good friend Legolas’ father. The story was interesting enough that Tavan, who viewed history as a waste of time, appeared drawn in as well.

“Hallas.” Aragorn called. “Are you busy tomorrow afternoon?”

Hallas, surprised, answered, “No, my King. How may I be of service?”

Ada smiled. Nana smiled. Faramir chuckled. Éowyn nodded in approval, though she did not stop Uncle Elrohir from praising Theodwyn and Eldarion for their fine grasp of where it was best to strike a human assailant. This prompted Ada to ask Elrohir to show Faramir the best way to disarm a man with a poisoned knife, and Fara to protest that such a lesson could really wait until tomorrow. Or next year. Or the year after that.

Later that night, while ‘Darion listened to Hallas tell them the story of how he and Fara and Dev and ‘Darion’s twin uncles’ friend Mel had rescued Fara’s many-times great-grandmother Mithrellas from a trap set by Sauron and the evil Witch-King of Angmar, ‘Darion also listened with half an ear to a quiet discussion between Ada and Fara.

“I apologize for essentially stealing your friend from the archives, Fara.” Ada said softly.

Faramir laughed lightly and shrugged. “No harm done, I suspect, Aragorn. Chief Archivist is an important position, and the guild may choose to elect someone other than Hallas, if he stays on as tutor. But I’ve a feeling that Eldarion’s tutor – royal tutor- may be an even more important position.” Faramir then went very still for a moment.

“Vision?” Ada asked in concern.

“Nothing concrete – just flashes. Nothing bad. I think this was a good decision, though, Aragorn, inspired by desperation and horror though it was. Faramir’s lips quirked into another smile. “And I agree that it is probably best to let Elladan go back tot he House of Healing, where drawing anatomically correct pictures of how to inflict life-threatening wounds will not be quite so… hmm, unusual and riveting for his pupils.”

Epilogue: Yule of that Year

“Ada! Look, a knife! Thea, you’ve got one too! Hannon le, Uncle Elladan!” Eldarion caroled enthuisastically. “Wait ‘til I show Tavan and Alphros!”

Faramir, holding baby Elboron, turned to look at his father and said plaintively “Ada…”

Aragorn sighed. “Elladan, a word, if you please,” the King gritted out, grabbing his brother by the shoulder to gently tow him across the chamber.

‘They’re just dissection knives.” Elladan pointed out, surprised to see Estel so upset, and Arwen speechless. He couldn’t remember Arwen ever having been speechless, at least not since she was the smallest of elflings. “for when I return to teach them about animal biology and physiology.” The younger of Eldarion’s twin elven uncles explained.

Elrohir, who hadn’t been invited into this conversation but had come along anyway, as he often did, claiming oldest brother’s prerogative. “They’re more than ready, in my opinion, little brother.”

“You too, Elrohir?” Aragorn asked, sighing. “Look, they’re children. Little children. They aren’t even permitted to cut their own meat at the table. They are far too young for any kind of knife.”

Arwen, putting together one piece and another of her brothers’ past, left the supervision of her son and grandchildren to her grown children, and went to join her husband and brothers.

“Tell him why, Elladan, Elrohir.” She commanded gently. “Aragorn has seen much; but not what you have that makes you fear what you fear.”

Haltingly, and softly, the twins told their brother of whole villages, including children, slain by orcs. Of their fears that that Aragorn’s children might in such danger, someday. Elladan concluded, “We need to teach them how to defend themselves, that they might not be taken when they might defeat danger and live.

Aragorn, now sympathetic, added more gently. “I am sorry, brothers. I did not know. But still, Eldarion and my granddaughter are too young too learn bladed weapons.”

Faramir, joining them, still with Elboron in the crook of one arm, offered a compromise. “Perhaps unarmed combat training? If it was presented as gymnastics and tumbling as well as preparation for learning to fight.” Aragorn, recalling that Faramir, too, had seen burnt out villages, and the children of his fellow rangers fallen amongst the dead, nodded.

“That is a good compromise.” Arwen said, standing on tip toe to kiss her step-son’s brow, and take Elboron from him. “You look hungry, daerion-nin. Let us see if your Nana is ready to feed you again.”

Faramir frowned. “He’s not hungry. He can’t be. He just ate…”

Aragorn chuckled lightly. “Arwen has decided our fate; our children shall start self-defense training, and she wants nothing to more to do with this argument.”

Éowyn, rising to the challenge with the smallest members of the family, offered “Those are very fine knives, little brother, Thea-my-love. After you have finished admiring them, why don’t we place them here on the mantle, where they can be seen and acquired at your need with the assistance of someone taller, but are unlikely to be… lost?” See, here you both have a package from Gimli – let us see if he has sent you another clever toy of his own design! I do hope he has!”

Faramir looked at his wife in approval, once again thinking what a lucky man he was.

Aragorn wondered at the structure of his family such that the Witch King Slayer had become their family diplomat.

NB: Please do not distribute (by any means, including email) or repost this story (including translations) without the author's prior permission. [ more ]

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6 Comment(s)

Oh these are wonderful. Eldarion is such an astute child :)

— Maria    Thursday 14 October 2010, 1:28    #

A very interesting beginning. I look forward to reading more!

— Ria    Thursday 14 October 2010, 3:05    #

I love these father-son moments, they’re so perfect and heartwarming.

— Anna    Monday 20 December 2010, 17:55    #

Just lovely!

— Linda    Tuesday 11 January 2011, 9:58    #

This is so lovely to read! It’s light and bright and makes me smile or chuckle during reading. Very enjoyable, I hope you update soon.


— Aneyrin    Wednesday 2 February 2011, 15:56    #

Cute, cute, cute story.
Thank you for sharing it with us.

— lille mermeid    Monday 16 May 2011, 15:50    #

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