The sun shone brightly down on the last Homely House. From his bedroom, Elrond Lord of Rivendale watched the dawn as he often did.
With a sigh, he rubbed his hand over his eyes and turned away from the window. There was much to do today, much more than he had done in over 3,000 years.
The last time he had had the responsibility of taking care of a two-year-old was long since forgotten and Elrond was just beginning to remember how difficult it could be.
A crash a shout from the kitchens confirmed his musings, and placing the circlet of silver on his head, he turned and made a stately, if ever so hasty march to the dining room.
"I told you! I've told you a thousand times!" Elrond's personal cook was covered in flour and held a wooden spoon in her left hand.
"I told you! It wasn't my fault!" The tiny cowering child was backed up against the far wall holding a large metal platter in front of him as shield of protection.
"Who's fault was it then? Gandalf's, I suppose?"
"Of course not!"
"Well then, who's fault was it?" The cook asked, leaning over the poor boy like a giant.
"I don't know," said Estel finally. "I'm the one who made the mess. But it wasn't my fault. I slipped."
"If you hadn't been in here in the first place, it wouldn't have happened at all." The little brat was beginning to get on her nerves
"It wasn't my fault!"
The cook whapped him with the spoon and he howled, clutching his head.
"I was hungwy!" he screeched defiantly.
"Breakfast is in less than an hour!" she fired back.
"Yeah, well, but I would have stawved to death before--"
Both flour-clad figures turned the unexpected sound.
"My lord!" the cook dropped the spoon, bowed her head slightly and turned a shade of pink as she realized he had watched the whole exchange. "I didn't--"
"Come here Estel."
The little boy had sunk to the floor against the wall and now hid, the platter obscuring his tiny body completely.
"No." Came the whimpered reply.
"Estel," Elrond said, more firmly. "Come here."
The platter fell forward and he stood, cowering slowly towards his foster father.
Elrond turned the cook, and said, "You are dismissed."
The embarrassed cook turned and fled from the kitchens, and Elrond turned back to the little boy who was looking at the floor.
"Explain yourself please."
Estel sniffed, wiping his small hand across his eyes.
"I'm sorwy Ada," he said finally.
"Sorry? Sorry does not explain anything Estel."
The small dark-haired boy lifted his head and looked his father in the eye. Elrond shifted uncomfortably. He was often known for his ability to stare anyone down, except for maybe Gandalf, but the little king-to-be had definately inherited Arathorn's eyes.
Large, clear and grey, fringed with long dark lashes, unmoving, unblinking, and at the moment filled with tears to make himself look pitiful.
Elrond sighed, pulling Estle to him and crushing him in an embrace, blinking quickly. He remembered that day so many years ago when he found six-year-old Arathorn in the stables trying to saddle his own horse, and recieving the same look.
"Shall we go give you a bath?" Elrond lifted Estel into his arms and turned for the door.
Estel nodded, laid his head down on the Elven Lord's shoulder, and began playing with his hair.
Elrond sighed as he carried the human into his chambers. He hated to think of the responsibility that would someday belong the tiny child in his arms.
Already he had seen more than any child should. He was hardly two, just a toddler really, and he already spoke in full sentences like an adult, despite the hard time he had with r's. He had witnessed his own father's death, and had been wounded severely the same day, almost killed.
Estel splashed into the tub full of water clutching his ducky, laughing and dunking his head. Elrond managed a small smile as he poured soap from a vile onto Estel's hair.
"Estel, you know what you did was wrong?" he asked, beginning to rub the suds into the dark brown curls.
Estel chewed his lip. "Ada do you know what Gandalf told me last week? He said--"
"Estel, I asked you a question."
With a sigh, Estel, dropped his gaze to the bath toy in his hands. "Yes Ada, I know it was wong to shout at the cook."
"Good," said Elrond, satisfied. He lifted a lock of hair away from Estel's forehead and was horrified to see a large red gash on the side of his head. He touched it gently, and Estel flinched.
Elrond frowned; he would have words with the cook later when Estel was not around. "Lay down now, and let me rinse out your hair."
Estel laid flat in the tub and set the ducky on his chest, poking at its side. "Ada, last week Gandalf told me he would come back soon."
"Yes, he did." Elrond continued to rinse his hair. "Just be patient."
"I've been patient for two whole days!"
"Yes, well you must be patient a little longer."
Elrond turned away from the tub to get a towel, and when he turned back, he saw small tears on Estel's face.
"Oh what is it? Does your head hurt?"
Estel shook his head sniffing.
"Tell me then," said Elrond, wrapping him in the towel and lifting him out of the water.
Estel hiccuped, and then said slowly, "Last time someone told me to wait, the someone didn't come back."
A sniffle was his only response, and then his mind cleared. Of course. His father had left when he was barely a year old, and when at last Estel and his mother went to see him, they had been attacked.
"It's alright Estel. Gandalf will be fine. He will come back very soon."
"Why did they kill him Ada? Why did they kill my daddy?"
"Because Estel..." Because he was the king. He couldn't tell Estel. Not yet. "Because there are evil beings in this world, and your father was outnumbered.
Estel shook his head. "He was twying to save me."
Elrond looked down at the mop of dark hair. "Pardon?"
"It's twue." Estel lifted his head and looked Elrond in the eye. "I wemember. Daddy said, 'lay here'. So I did. Then the owks came and daddy led them all away. When he came back he had ouchie stuff on his mouth and I knowed he was huwt and he started to come to me but then another owk came and he saw me and he had a big axe, bigger than Gloin's axe, and then he was going to huwt me so then daddy came and chopped off his head and then--"
"Estel," Elrond cut him off. "I know what happened. And it was not your fault. You must never, ever blame yourself for your father's death, do you understand?"
Estel sniffed again, and nodded slowly.
"Good." Elrond stood. "Now let's get you dressed and go find those awful brothers of yours."