Gwindor was on the floor with Glorfindel, stacking colorful cubes of wood and knocking them over only to rebuild them again. On the couch sat Erestor, watching the scene with thoughtful worry, and beside him Thranduil, who nursed a glass of brandy. “I’ve seen many elflings in my years, and they’ve all walked by the age of three. Most of them by a year, and some at a year and a half can sing and dance, but that was always a little peculiar to observe,” said Thranduil.
“Didn’t Legolas take a rather long time?” asked Erestor. Gwindor, intent on stacking all of the red blocks and nothing else, spied one a little further away than the others. Reaching forward, he pulled himself the few feet to retrieve it, his legs dragging behind.
Thranduil’s eyes stayed focused on the elfling as he answered, “He didn’t stand until two years and three months, but soon after he was racing hither and thither. I can’t recall how often I had to tell him not to run through the living quarters when he was younger.”
Erestor turned to look at the wall. “I’m a bad father.”
“What?” Thranduil set his glass onto the table and edged closer to his friend. “Erestor, that is a stupid thing to say.”
“I’ve tried everything. Everything I could think of, everything others suggested- nothing, no change. He still crawls around and I can’t do anything about it.” Erestor looked at Gwindor, who had stopped playing and was watching his ada, a blue block poised to be placed on his latest wall of blocks. “Are you having fun, ion-nin?” he asked a little louder.
“Come and play, ada! Nanafin wants you to, too,” Gwindor said, his lisp not as prominent as when he yelled to them when they played outside. But playing with Gwindor was never quite the same as it had been with other elflings. Sliding down from the couch, Erestor leaned forward and handed Gwindor another block. “No, no! Green ones! Green ones!” he said, pointing to the leaf-colored mound.
Dropping the yellow cube, Erestor used both hands to push the green blocks closer. Thranduil joined them, sitting down cross-legged between Erestor and Gwindor. “You’re quite a bright young fellow, knowing the colors of all of these things,” he commented. Gwindor grinned, and the scars on his face looked less frightening as he did so. “Suppose you tell me, how many blocks do you have here in this pile?”
“You didn’t even count, and yet you’re certain?” asked Thranduil.
“I have two there, and Nanafin has one. There are seventeen green blocks, that makes fourteen there,” deduced Gwindor.
“Brilliant,” remarked the Sinda, and he picked up one of the blue blocks. “How many sides does one of these have?”
“Eight,” answered Gwindor.
Thranduil smiled and said, “I think if you take a closer look, you’ll note it has one, two, three, four, five, and here six, sides to it.”
“It has eight,” Gwindor corrected him. “You forgot the inside and the outside.”
“So it does,” agreed Thranduil. He set the block down and asked, “What do you want to be when you’re grown?”
“Be?” Gwindor looked confused.
“Be. Do. When you are an adult,” prompted Thranduil.
“Oh. I guess I’ll be good,” answered Gwindor.
Thranduil contemplated this and further pushed the matter. “But what do you want to do with your life? What job would you like?”
Gwindor started his work on the green part of the wall. “I just want to be good. The rest I will figure out later.”
Shifting his gaze to Erestor, Thranduil said, “When Ilmendin was his age, he told me he was going to acquire jewels to outshine the silmarils. With Legolas, he was adamant that he would be a king and not just a prince. As a father, whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.”
- - -
“Fin, knock it off.”
“Glorfindel!” Erestor tugged at the sheet, but quickly realized that it was being drawn off of him not to the side, but from the bottom of the bed. Sitting up abruptly, he could now hear something of a worried sob coming from the floor. “Gwindor?”
Erestor stumbled off of the bed and found the elfling at the foot of it, one hand clutching the end of the sheet and his other holding his knee. He was shivering, and when Erestor gathered him into his arms, he found out he was damp, from sweating and crying and from what he was crying about.
“I tried to get out of bed, but I fell and then I didn’t make it,” explained Gwindor, but between his tears and his lisp, all Erestor understood was ‘bed’ and ‘fell’, as he carried the elfling to the washroom. Behind them trailed the sheet, Gwindor’s hand still holding it.
Sitting Gwindor down on the countertop, Erestor pulled the nightshirt off of the elfling over his head, loosening the grip he had on the sheet. “We’ll get you cleaned up, and then back to bed.”
Looking ready to cry again, Gwindor said, “I mean, I didn’t make it and then I fell.” This was more discernable, as was, “I knocked the chamber pot over, too.”
“You can sleep in bed with us, peanut.” Glorfindel entered the room, gathering up the trailing sheet as he made his way to them. Under his arm he had a fresh shirt for Gwindor and a towel. “If you get the water ready, I will give him a bath,” offered Glorfindel to Erestor.
Wanting to say, ‘You just don’t want to strip his bed’, Erestor simply nodded. He left Gwindor sitting on the counter as he began to fill the tub.
“When will you teach me to walk?”
Bowing his head, the tears fell from Erestor’s eyes into the basin as the water flowed into it. “Soon, Gwindor.”
“Tomorrow, maybe?” asked the elfling hopefully. “I think I could learn fast and then I would make it out of bed faster.”
Erestor reached down into the water as if he were testing it, splashing a handful up onto his face. “Maybe tomorrow,” replied the elf, hating himself for the false hope he gave the little one. He turned to find Gwindor grinning happily at him and smiled back, holding back his tears. Glorfindel came in again, handing a clean shirt to Erestor.
“You’re a little damp,” he whispered, “and I took care of his bed, if you can manage the floor.” To the elfling, Glorfindel said, “Well, now, shall we find your gulls, or is your toy boat good enough for right now?”
“Boat,” Gwindor decided as he was lifted off of the counter and lowered into the warm water.
When Glorfindel carried him into the bedroom, the elfling was jabbering about the sea and the beach and the waves and boats in between yawns. The minute he was settled in bed, he drifted asleep. “I propose we stay in bed late tomorrow,” Glorfindel said quietly, raising his hand as if calling for a vote. “All those in favor? Erestor?” Glorfindel frowned as his arm dropped. “Erestor, what’s wrong?”
Erestor’s arms covered his face, his hands fisted in his own hair. “When are we going to tell him? What are we going to do? I would carry him for a thousand years, but in five or ten he’s not going to want that. He wants to be normal. How do we tell him he isn’t?”
“Maybe he’s not normal, but I wouldn’t have him any other way,” replied Glorfindel with a sigh as he bent down to kiss Gwindor’s head. “As for walking, I told you before what we should do. At the time, I know you wanted to wait, but I don’t think he’s going to get any stronger. I don’t think there’s anything we can do about that.” Touching Erestor’s arm with his hand, he waited until they were lowered so that he could see his lover’s face. “He has to be able to get around. We need to do what we can for him.”
With a nod, Erestor said, “He asked if we could teach him tomorrow.”
“Then we shall go to see Olorin tomorrow,” said Glorfindel.
- - -
“I don’t just keep my balance with it,” said Gandalf, his staff across his knees. He was sitting on a chair outside the house he had near the hobbit hole that Frodo and Sam shared. Lifting up the staff, he swung it around, and Erestor had to press back in his seat or risk being hit. “It makes a handy weapon.” To prove his point, the istar took it in his hand again and swiftly used the end to bonk Erestor’s head, so that those sitting in the clearing, except for the one who had been hit, laughed.
Rubbing his head, Erestor said, “Olorin’s not the only one to use a walking stick. Our friend Haldir has one, too, doesn’t he, Elrond?”
“One here, one at his home, one at the Kastle, although he tends to grab a stick if it’s handier when he needs one,” said Elrond. “We’ve one here for you to use that’s just your size, and Orophin, you might have remembered him from when you were very little, he will make them for you as you get bigger so that they grow while you do.”
Gwindor looked unconvincingly at the crutch that was propped up against Elrond’s chair. He was sitting on Glorfindel’s lap, but turned instead to his father. “Did you ever use one, Ada?”
“Yes,” Erestor said cautiously, recalling the time he had been injured when Gondolin fell, and other various mishaps he had had through the years.
“But not anymore,” said Gwindor.
Shaking his head, Erestor took the crutch from where it was and turned it over in his hands. “No. Not anymore,” he said.
“So I will use it until I can walk without it?” he guessed. Erestor nodded mutely.
“I’ve always thought,” spoke Gandalf, “that having a walking stick makes one look rather dignified,” he said. “And wise,” he said with a wink to the elfling.