How Estel (Aragorn) Got A Nurse

Of Dirt and Departures

“Estel did you take our boots?”

“Did I what?”

“Our boots, did you take our boots and hide them somewhere?”

Estel shrugged. Both elves were trying to stare at him with the gravity and grimness of their father upon his White Counsel seat. By the blank gaze the manling was giving them in return, the Elrondions knew they were failing. Elladan's mouth twisted into a grimace. He knelt down on the floor, coming down to the child's level. “If I look in your closet, brother mine, will I find my boots there?”

A smirk washed over the boy's face. Gray eyes twinkled back into dark. Estel shook his head. Elladan's own smirk vanished. He glanced up at his twin.

What do we do now?

We now know that Estel has hidden them. He is too pleased with himself for it to be otherwise.

We knew that before! How do we find them?

We could always ask father to question him on the matter.

And admit our little brother stole our boots?!

In reply, Elrohir began to walk about the room. Estel's eyes swiveled to follow his brother's progress. The elf noted no flash of horror or fear changed his little brother's expression. Finally, the Elrondion had made a circuit around the room. He was now behind Estel, who had half turned around on his bed to continue watching.

The elf glanced out the window to his left. Estel's eyes widened. The boy's mouth turned down into a worried frown. He swallowed.

Elrohir raised an eyebrow in a good imitation of their father. The elf stepped forward to look more fully out the window. As he did, a thought occurred to him.

It was conceivable the manling could have darted in and out of his brothers' rooms and then dashed back down the hall to his own. He may even have been able to do it twice. Perhaps no one had been there to see him carrying back a pair of boots nearly as tall as himself each time. But how would he have found the luck to have traveled down halls and flights of stairs unseen to hide them somewhere outside his own rooms . . . unless . . .

Elrohir looked down. At first, he was disappointed. No footwear lay in a heap below the window, but then the elf's brows drew together again. The vegetation and dirt looked crushed in the area. His gaze followed the path of destruction until they also widened in horror. He swallowed. “Elladan, how long have our boots been missing?”

The older twin's brow furrowed in thought. Then he shrugged.

“I can not recall. We have not worn them since we got home. Why?”

“Have you seen them since Estel last had a bath?”

Every muscle in Elladan tensed. “Why?” Elrohir raised a hand and motioned his brother to his side with one finger. Elladan rose and went to stand at Elrohir's right. Then he looked out with him. His brows also rose in horror.

A mound of overturned dirt sat at the end of a trail of flattened grass that began directly beneath Estel's window. Both twins pictured together a determined manling heaving each boot onto the windowsill. The window itself would have been open to let in the spring breeze. Only a slight push would have been needed then. Afterwards, it would have been a simple matter of convincing his guardians to let him play outside. Probably their ada or Erestor had gone out with him and read a book, half-listening to be sure no sounds of distress came from the heir of Isildur. A little spade, a lot of patience, and several minutes later, no more boots, at least, not above ground.

Both elves continued to stare outside. Meanwhile, Estel tried to make himself small atop the bed. Then Elladan and Elrohir sighed in unison. The younger twin was the first to speak. “What are we going to wear?”

Elladan shrugged. “Borrow a few pairs from someone I suppose. The real question is . . . what will we tell father?”

“Where are my boots, Nanneth?”

“Over here, Mellolaes, but lets go over the list first.”

Mellolaes sank back upon her bed beside a bag about as long and wide as she was. The Silvan elleth nodded. Merilvidh looked up at the ceiling in thought. “Now, we have several changes of clothing.”

Her daughter grinned. “Nearly all I own, and half of yours.”

“Your bed roll?”

“Squished in with the clothes.”

“Do you have your sewing kit?”

Mellolaes patted the bottom of the pack lying the length of her bed. “Right here at the bottom.”

“Do you have your harp and flute?”

“Those are tucked inside the other one.” The Silvan gestured to the bag resting against the wall beside her mother. The pack was nearly as tall as the older elleth. Merilvidh let her hands fall to her sides and sighed.

“I suppose that is everything then.”

Mellolaes eyes widened. “Nanneth, you have not asked about the most important thing!”

One of Merilvidh's brows lifted. “And what would that be, elfling?”

Her daughter knelt down behind her bed and dragged something out from under it. A clay jar scraped along the dirt floor until it was fully revealed in the light. Mellolaes laid aside its lid and pulled out a bag that rattled as she lifted it. She held it out towards her mother with a wide grin. “Honey-covered candies!”

Merilvidh's eyes glinted with mirth. “I suppose we cannot be forgetting them.”

Mellolaes laughed. “The quickest way I have found to a child's heart, certainly not! Especially since Legolas informed me the child loves them.”

The older elleth's smile turned sad. “Well then, lets find a way to smash them into one of these packs. Then you must slip on your boots and be off.”

Elrond held a soil-crusted riding boot from the ends of two fingers. Estel leaned far back from the elf, but could not flee. His brothers stood directly behind him. Glorfindel leaned upon a spade on the other side of the footwear grave. The Balrog Slayer looked down at the other three boots his careful digging had revealed. The warrior was astonished at the manling's audacity and ingenuity. He was still trying to decide which impressed . . . no, concerned, which

concerned him more.

Elrond turned to pierce his youngest son with a stare. Estel melted beneath it. This was a true, unhappy-Ada stare, not a mimicry by his playful brothers. Even they were looking far too serious. Only the brave blood of his ancestors kept the manling from quaking. Elrond dropped the boot and fully turned to the child.

“Estel, what are your brothers to wear when they leave in less than an hour? They are already late in departing.”

Estel straightened and raised his head in hope. “Maybe . . . they do not have to go?”

Elrond's eyes closed. He slowly drew in a breath through his nose and even more slowly let it out through his mouth. “Estel, we have been through this. You are getting a nurse. Shenanigans like this will not prevent that. Nor will they be tolerated.”

The boy's shoulders slumped. “Yes, Ada.”

Now, the twins were fighting back expressions of sympathy. Why did they feel so guilty? Noticing his older sons distress, Elrond's sharp gaze turned upon them. Immediately, both straightened and re-adjusted their faces into stern expressions. The elven lord then looked to his captain of the guard.

“Glorfindel, you will take Estel inside and keep watch over him. He is not to leave the house tomorrow, and will have no honey with his meals, nor dessert of any kind.” The elf's gaze then fell upon the garden tool his soldier held. “And give that back to Galasmaed on the way. Tell him he should refill this hole before the end of the day.”

Glorfindel nodded. He walked over and picked the manling up in one arm. The boy had deflated still further at the news of his punishment, but did not whimper. His tall friend lifted him without any words, squeezes, or gestures of comfort. Estel was not coddled when he was being punished. Glorfindel walked off with his charge and borrowed spade. Elrond watched for a moment and then turned to his older sons.

“Both of you will take your boots and rinse them at the nearby pump. Then carry them inside. They will receive a more thorough cleaning after you leave. Before doing so, you must borrow boots from some stable hands. I will purchase the servants new boots in exchange for the inconvenience.”

The twins nodded, picked up two boots apiece, whether they were their own they could not tell, and turned to do as instructed. Elrond looked back to the hole at his feet. The elven lord sighed.

The nurse would have her work cut out for her. A charge this desperate to not have her, and who had outsmarted five elves to prevent it. What if the elleth turned around and left as soon as she arrived? What would they do then?

Mellolaes emerged from the palace door with her pack thrown over her shoulder. Her mother followed behind with the other. Silvans usually packed lighter. But then, Silvans

did not usually leave their forest kingdom to dwell in another as a nurse for a child whose father liked his servants well-dressed. With her flute, harp, sewing basket, and a generous supply of honey-covered candies, Mellolaes felt ready to arrive in Imladris. If only she did not have to say goodbye.

Her father stood watching her approach with a serious gaze. Her brother stood to his right and cousins to his left. Between them and she was a small crowd of those gathered to bid her farewell. First, there was her best friend. Beside Nithrestil stood Tirven. Beside the Half-Noldo stood a grinning Collas. The King and Queen were also there to give her departure their blessing. Beside them stood their son, Legolas, who was charged with seeing her safely to their borders, and Rhovamil stood next to him. The latter rushed forward and leapt towards her old nurse. Mellolaes let her pack fall to the ground and caught the overgrown elfling who squeezed the breath from her.

“I will miss you, Mella! I asked Ada and Nana to let me accompany you instead of Legolas, but they said I just got back and cannot leave again so soon. If I had known you were leaving, I would have stayed before.”

Mellolaes kissed the crest of the warrior's head. “That is alright, my elfling. I will do my best to be safe, and you have taught me how to better wield my own blade.”

Rhovamil made a face that said what she thought of her old nurse's ability to wield a blade. Mellolaes and the others gathered chuckled at the sight. Then Nithrestil approached and embraced her as well. “Be safe Mellon nin. I will visit soon and write often.”

Mellolaes hugged her best friend tightly. Her eyes moistened. “Thank you.”

When the elleth parted, Tirven held out his hand. Mellolaes laid hers in it. He gave the back of it a gentleman-like peck, and then raised his head to give her just as gentlemanly a smile.

“Safe travels and a fine journey be yours, Merilvidhian. I shall endeavor to soon visit with Nithrestil.”

Here he put his arm around the Sindar elleth and drew her to his side showing he would also comfort his beloved in her best friend's absence. Mellolaes gave him a smile of appreciation. From behind her, two arms wrapped around Mellolaes' waist. Her feet left the ground. The world became a revolving blur as she whirled through the air. Somewhere in her spinning surroundings she heard Sadorchyl's voice. “Either ask my father for her hand or put my sister down, Collas!”

Ignoring him, the red-haired elf used the distraction to whisper something in her ear. “I see you have found a way to become absent so a certain elf's heart will grown fonder.”

Mellolaes' face twisted as though it could not decide whether to scowl or grin. She jabbed her elbow into the elf 's ribs. He dropped her with a gasp that became a chuckle. Her cousins and brother cheered while the others laughed. She grabbed the Silvan warrior's shirt front and hissed something not heard above the noise the others were making. “That is not why I accepted the task!”

Collas grinned back and winked. “That could still be an unexpected reward, though, no?”

Mellolaes released him, placed her hands upon her hips, and stuck her tongue out and up at the taller elf as he straightened back up.

Legolas blinked at the scene. Were Mellolaes and his best friend in love? Why did irritation stir in his gut at the idea? Before he could even begin to explore the question, Mellolaes had turned away from the Silvan warrior, re-shouldered her back, and was approaching him and his parents. The King and Queen smiled upon the servant of their household. A few strides from them, she once again let her pack fall and stood in silence to listen to their words.

Lathwinn's brown eyes laughed into green. She had loved this elleth like a daughter since she had aided her in raising Rhovamil. A smirk curled up one corner of the queen's mouth. She was fairly certain her son had just experienced pang of jealousy. May the Valar bless Collas and cure her son of his blindness. She had not truly interfered so far. Perhaps she would not have to, if Legolas realized Mirkwood was not the same without the elleth standing before her. In that case, she would add Elrond and his manling to her blessing. Lathwinn turned her thoughts away from their current path as she realized her husband was speaking. Thranduil wore an unusually wide grin. “Mellolaes, daughter of Arathrad and Merilvidh, you have proved your worth to our kingdom both as a healer and nurse of the young. You have come to have a place of special love in the hearts of my family by helping to raise my youngest daughter. We long to hold you as close in our arms as we do in our hearts, but you have ever been called to help those even outside our borders. I have never forbidden it, since by doing so you have brought no shame, but honor to our kingdom. Now Lord Elrond has heard of your skill and asked for your aid. You have been kind enough to accept his request and we have released you from your duties to us to serve him. We know you shall bring joy to his household. I give you my blessing, and that of my household. May your journeys be safe, your hosts be honorable and generous, and all your labors be fruitful. May you receive seventh-fold back the love you give. And may the Valar and Ilúvatar Himself smile upon you and keep you well until we meet again.”

The King bent his head and pressed a kiss to Mellolaes' forehead. She smiled up at him with watery eyes. “Thank you my King.”

Lathwinn stepped forward and embraced her. “Take care now, Mellolaes and take care of that manling.” The queen then stepped back, crossed her arms, and looked at the younger elleth with a smirk. “If Elrond or any of his folk are

not but gracious to you, send for me. I shall mend their ways.”

The younger elleth grinned while biting her bottom lip to keep from laughing. “Thank you, my queen.”

Thranduil straightened to his full height. “Legolas!” The king turned his gaze upon the warrior as the elf turned to face him with perfect posture and serious expression. A glint of approval shone in the father's gaze. “I am giving you charge of our servant's safety. Guide and watch over Mellolaes on her journey to our border. There, wait with her until Elrond's guards appear. You are only relieved of your responsibility when she and her escort from Imladris disappear from your sight.”

Legolas placed a hand over his heart and bowed slightly. “As you wish, my King. I will give my life to fulfill your command if need be.”

Mellolaes stared at her guard trying to decide whether she felt like melting or rolling her eyes. Then Legolas stepped up to flank her, and she turned to walk beside him. It was then,

she saw her mother had set her second bag aside to embrace her father. The elleth barely heard the words Merilvidh whispered into her husband's ear. “Take care of our girl.”

Arathrad kissed his wife's head and whispered back. “Always.”

Merilvidh released her husband to turn and share a tight embrace with her daughter.

A tear rolled down Mellolaes' cheek as she pulled away. Then she turned towards the path

that led deeper into their wood, through the part that now lay dark and dangerous.

She shouldered one of her packs. Her father shouldered the other and wrapped an arm around her. Legolas stepped up to flank her other side. After embracing their mother, Sadorchyl circled them to walk on ahead. Mellolaes felt her cousins close in behind.

The elleth closed her eyes, took in a deep breath, and stepped forward. Behind her watched her mother and friends. Before her lay a Kingdom she had never seen the other side of though she had lived in it all her life. Beyond it were lands she did not know at all. Her father pulled her a little closer. Mellolaes looked up into his eyes. They were asking her a question. Afraid?

His elfling gave Arathrad a bright grin she hoped reassured him more than it did herself.

Then Mellolaes looked forward again. The Silvan elleth raised her chin and stuck her tongue out at the dark path ahead. Her father chuckled. Legolas rolled his eyes and quickened his steps.

“Come on, we must hasten or the Sons of Elrond will worry over what has become of us.”

More than two hours after they had planned to do so, Elladan and Elrohir strode down the stairs to the road out of Imladris. Their horses stood saddled in the courtyard. Elrond, Glorfindel, Erestor, and Estel waited at the bottom of the steps. Glorfindel was beaming in shared triumph. The twins carefully did not smile in return, but could not stop their eyes from shining back. The two, older, dark-haired elves nodded with serious expressions. Estel stood with a bowed head, eyes looking up from beneath furrowed brows.

Their ada had not been so cruel as to insist he stay inside the house and not see his brothers leave. As soon as they disappeared from sight, though, he would go back into the house and not step outside again this day or all tomorrow. He noted the borrowed boots his brothers wore. The manling sighed. How he could have believed his plan would work or that he would get away with it? Both twins knelt down when they reached him.

“Now, brother ours, do not look like that.”

“We shall return even sooner than usual and bring you back a new friend.”

Estel's eyes did not light up at the reassurance. Instead, he fell against his brothers, wrapped an arm around each of their necks, and squeezed. The two elves hugged the manling back. Then they straightened and met their adar's gaze. The Lord of Rivendell stared back.

“As Lord of Imladris and father of Estel, I charge you to ride out to the gate of the path through Mirkwood and there meet a party of Silvans. You are to escort the elleth among them back here with all care and honor that she might safely come into our service.”

The twins nodded. They were still smiling, but now with a touch of gravity.

“We hear and obey. We shall endeavor to render this service with all honor and to the best of our abilities that we might not shame the Kingdom of Imladris.”

Lindir and Rochellon led the Elrondions' horses forward and the twins mounted. They then raised their hands towards the small group still looking up at them.

“Farewell our Lord and kin, may you all remain safe and well till our return!”

Elrond and the others raised their hands in return. “May you and the elleth you will meet have safe journey and return safely to us.”

The twins turned their mounts and rode away. Estel sighed. His orc-killing brothers were going to fetch his new nurse. She had to be coming now. The manling raised his head. But . . . maybe she wouldn't stay long.

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