1. First Impressions
For SivanShamesh and Julchen for their shared birthday.
"Did you first meet our ada when you went to our daeradar's house for the Council, Uncle Legolas?"
Legolas smiled down at Aragorn's son Eldarion, touched at the title the child had accorded him. "When I arrived at Imladris for the Council of Elrond? Oh, no, child, I met him first many years prior to that, on a visit to Elrond's house in company with my adar while your ada was himself a child not much older than you are now."
Eldarion exchanged wide-eyed looks with his sister Melian. "Oh? You mean he was a little boy, the same as me?"
"Oh, yes, Eldarion. He was child yet, his eyes still wide with the wonder of the world."
Melian asked, "And what did he look like? Did he look as Eldarion does now?"
The Elf glanced across the room to where the subject of their discussion sat, listening warily as to what he might say. Deciding to tease his friend, he gave Aragorn what he knew to be his most maddeningly enigmatic smile, and returned his attention to the two children. "Very similar, but at the same time different, very much his own self. His hair was less curly than is that of Eldarion, and was shorter, having only recently been cut and shaped more to his head. I believe that his naneth said that he had been climbing one of the great pines that grows in the valley, and had covered himself in pitch, and that a goodly amount of the pitch had so befouled his hair that it had been necessary to crop it close.
"He had set himself to help in the guarding of the approach to the house, so he had done his best to make certain he was properly armed. He carried at his belt the wooden sword carved for him by Elladan and painted by Elrohir, with a piece of green jade set in the pommel. He also had thrust through the same belt the small eating knife he'd received from his uncle for his conception day gift."
Eldarion was shaking his head. "It wouldn't be for his conception day gift, but for his birthday. Elves celebrate conception days, but Men celebrate birthdays instead. My Uncle Laddan told me that."
"Did he? Well, as he has spent far more time with Men than have I, I must suppose he is right."
He caught the smile Aragorn was entertaining at his expense. He continued, "The eating knife was styled much like a dagger, so he was quite pleased with it, as it suited his appearance. He carried for a spear an alder shoot he'd cut upstream on the river earlier in the day, and that he'd sharpened to a point and peeled to show the white wood underneath the fine bark. He had a bow and quiver proper to his size, and he stood near to those who stood the duty in the proper stance, watching and ready to draw whichever weapon would be most appropriate for any provocation. If he'd not had a large smudge of dirt on his cheek and a white cat at his feet he could have been taken for a proper guard indeed." He flashed a glance at Aragorn and saw the roll of the Man's eyes at the unnecessary detail conveyed to his children.
"He had a white cat even then?" asked Eldarion, intrigued.
"Yes, and I learned later that her name was Imogen. She appeared as dignified as only a cat can manage, her tail curled about her to neatly hide her paws, her eyes watching every movement we made, but always aware that she stood by her beloved person. She appeared to be pleased with herself and with him, and we could hear her purr as we went by."
"If he was on guard he ought to have had a dog by him instead," the boy commented.
Legolas shrugged. "Perhaps. Imogen certainly did not indicate she was ready to spring to defend the keep should anyone offer any threat to the place or its inhabitants."
"Well, I'm certain that our adar was ready to do that himself," sniffed Melian.
Legolas gave Aragorn another sideways glance before he agreed, "I must suppose you are right, although it was difficult to take seriously the threat offered by one who barely reached past my waist. Of course, that was long before I met Sir Peregrin. Nowadays I would know full well that size does not limit the determination an individual knows to defend the home and people he honors and loves."
Eldarion gave his sister a satisfied smile. "See, Melian, I can stand with the Guards if I want! I want to protect <i>Nana</i> and <i>Ada</i> and you and everybody who visits the Citadel!"
The Elf suspected that even now his friend was envisioning trying to explain to Arwen why their son was standing outside the Citadel with the Guards rather than coming to dinner or readying himself for bed, and suppressed the smile the thought gave him as best he might. "Oh, I am certain that you love your own family no less than your adar did then, Eldarion."
"Did your adar notice him?" asked Melian.
"Oh, that he did. He noted the close-cropped hair, the dirt on the side of his face, the rip in his sleeve, and the green stain on his leggings where he'd been kneeling in the grass, and I have the feeling that your father realized just how much the great King Thranduil noticed each blemish." The rueful expression on Aragorn's face showed him that he was right. The Elf continued, "And of course he commented to Elrond as he was conducting us to the rooms set aside for our use on what he'd seen."
Eldarion demanded, "What did he say?"
The children's father was stiffening the slightest bit, Legolas realized. He himself straightened, remembering so clearly the words of his own father regarding the appearance of Elrond's youngest fosterling so long ago. "He said, 'I notice that you have an extra guard to the house today.' Your daeradar looked sideways at him. My adar continued, 'I suspect that his sword and spear might possibly prove less effective than those of his fellows should orcs manage to find their way into the valley, but he looked as ready to use them as those he stood beside, and I am certain that he would have used them to full effect. He appeared both most competent and most determined to do whatever he could to guard the safety of this house and those who dwell within. I think that you can be fully proud of his sense of responsibility.' And your daeradar responded, 'Oh, but I do suspect that you are right, Oropherion.' And he could not fully hide the smile of pride he tried to school from his face."
And for a brief moment he saw on his friend's face the same look of unselfish pride and dignity he remembered seeing first in the boy some seventy years of the Sun past.