5. Childhood, Middle Earth, Esgaroth, the fourth age, the year 330
Jarro was sitting on a bench in the beautiful garden of their their large white house in Esgaroth, watching her five-years-old son playing with some of his friends.
It was a warm summer's day, and she tried to relax in the sunshine.
But her back hurt abominably and she still felt slightly sick. Three more months, she thought…. Three more months… an eternity… to drag this weight around.You wanted another child, now you are having another child, she scolded herself silently. Stop acting up, Jarro!
Her best friend, the mid-wife Lori, who was usually watching the children had to be with a patient today so it was Jarro's turn to take care that the children did not get into any trouble.
But today the children were for once well-behaved.
Three human girls, two human boys and a dwarf boy were playing hide-and-seek between the bushes and shrubs of the lawn. Berat, the other human boy, was exactly the same age as her Elentar, but already more than a head taller than her son. Elentar seemed to grow much slower than his age-mates. He was smaller, and his figure was much daintier than the sturdy build of the other boy, he was even daintier than the three girls, and two of them were younger than Elentar. And although the little dwarf was of course shorter than the other children, Kilían was a good deal stouter and stronger than his friends.
On the other hand, Elentar moved with more grace than his friends, his muscle control and balance was excellent. Intellectually, he was ahead of his friends. His vocabulary was much wider, he could already read and write. He needed little instruction by his father or his mother in anything he was interested in. He soaked up knowledge like a sponge. But there was no use in trying to teach him something he was not interested in. He was stubborn as a mule.
In the development of his social skills he lagged behind his age-mates; in many ways he behaved like a much younger child. He seemed to mature differently. But that was probably only her imagination…
No, Jarro thought, watching the children, watching how Elentar interacted with the other children. I have to face this issue. Elentar does not seem to mature differently. Elentar is different. He is not like the other children his age.
She felt hot tears burning in her eyes. She felt the keen edge of desperation and failure.
She loved her son, more than anything in the world. She wanted him to be just the same as his friends. If anything, she wanted him to be better than his friends.
But he was not better. Elentar was somehow different.
Jarro had to admit that she had tried to ignore this fact for quite some time. Where she came from, being different was all too often labelled with being not normal, being handicapped or specially challenged in some way. Now she was farther away from the country of her birth than she had ever believed possible. But that did not really help. Her son was different. And even though in Esgaroth men and dwarves, two completely different races, lived together peacefully and contentedly, being different was an issue in Esgaroth, too. It was a not the same problem that it was in the world where Jarro came from. But there was no way around it. It had been noticed that Elentar was different. And it was talked about how he was different.
Jarro leaned back against the bench and rubbed her swollen, pregnant belly. She was so awfully tired. This pregnancy was so much harder than Elentar's had been. Although she had still at least three months to go, she was already heavier than she had been with her son. And the morning sickness did not get any better. She felt sick most of the day.
Lori was worried. Elrohir was worried. Hell, she was worried.
And she was not only worried about her pregnancy. She was so desperately worried about her son. He was different, he was not as mature as his age-mates. But what did that mean? Had she somehow made a mistake with him? What had she done wrong? What exactly was the matter with her son? She wanted to talk about this with her husband. But this once, she who talked about everything else with her lover and husband, this once she was too frightened, and felt somehow too ashamed to bring the subject up and talk about her fears. What, if there was something wrong with her, if it was her fault that Elentar was different? Could it mean that her new baby would be different, too?
Jarro watched as Elentar raced around the large walnut tree, trying to catch Lissy, Lori's little daughter. It was so unfair. Her son was smart. Her son was beautiful.
She smiled lovingly.
Elentar's skin was pure and white as a girl's. He had large, luminous silver-grey eyes, just like his father. His hair was a shade darker than his father's was, a true black, not the shade of twilight in the trees. But Elentar wore his hair cut very short, close to his skull, because he did not want to look like a girl. That his father still wore his hair long was another matter entirely. Elentar wanted short hair – and that was that. Elrohir had been a bit upset about his son's insistence, but in the end Elentar had had his way. Elentar managed to nearly always get his way…, and that was another thing Jarro worried about.
And there was no talking to Elentar when he had set his mind on something. He did not listen to anything he did not want to hear. He was sweet, he was polite – and he ignored her completely. Sometimes she had the feeling as if he inhabited a world of his own that was completely separate from hers. Elentar just did not react the way the other children reacted to instructions or reprimands. He was different.
He acted differently.
He looked differently.
He was different. There was no easy way out of it.
Elentar was different and she had finally to come to terms with that fact.
She would also have to talk about this with Elrohir.
Jarro sighed again.
Elentar yelled for his mother to watch how fast he could run.
Jarro smiled in spite of herself. Elentar was very fast, and he looked so sweet, in his serious pursuit of his play-mates.
Now that his hair was so very short, the delicate bones of his skull showed very clearly, and in a way, Elentar was even more beautiful than before. His appearance was way beyond cute, bordering on the angelic. His eyes seemed to be even larger with his hair so short. He only needed to blink at most people to get what he wanted instantly. However, his ears were much more prominent with this hair-cut, and at the moment they were blushing in a very red colour in the excitement of the game.
Therefore the hair-cut had actually defeated Elentar's purpose, which had been to look more like the other boys. Indeed, he looked much more elf-like with his hair cropped that short than he had looked before, when his dark hairs had touched his shoulders. He looked more fragile, more beautiful, almost ethereal…
Jarro wondered if Elrohir had looked like that with five years.
Suddenly Jarro heard the sound of soft foot steps and turned her head.
Still wearing his black teacher's robes, Elrohir had entered the garden after a long day of trying to explain the history of Arda to pig-headed boys of fifteen or sixteen who were deemed in need of further education by their parents.
His eyes lit up with joy as he saw his wife, but the instant Elrohir noticed the pallourpallor of his wife's cher cheeks and the deep circles of fatigue under her eyes, the joy diminished, and the darkness of worry crept back into his eyes.
"Bereth nîn," he said softly and held his hand out to her. She frowned at him. Then she grinned. He knew very well that she did not like to be called a queen. He sat down next to her, laying a gentle hand on her extended belly. "Melethril nîn." He kissed her softly on her cool lips. "You look very tired, Jarro. Have you eaten anything at all?"
She shook her head and looked back at the playing children.
"No," she replied. "I felt too sick to eat."
"But you have to eat, my love. And you have to rest! Remember what Lori said! You have to be careful with this one!" As if in an answer, there was movement under his hand, movement jerking into different directions at the same time.
A thought suddenly occurred to him. Could it be… could it possibly be…
"I worry about Elentar," Jarro interrupted his thoughts.
Elrohir managed to suppress a sigh. After five years as a father he wondered how his own father had ever survived the childhood of him and his brother.
"What did he do this time?" He asked, not for the first time.
Jarro sighed in answer. "He did not really do anything, this time." She fell silent for a moment. Then she took a deep breath. She had to talk about it. She had to get it over with. "It's just… I don't think he has grown very much at all in the last year. Take a look at Berat, how tall he is growing already! And Elentar – his behaviour – he knows so much, much more than the other children. But he acts as if he was… not like Berat, you know. And Kilían is more mature than Berat and Elentar together."
Now it was Elrohir's turn to sigh. He knew that the life of the Eldar was leaving him. That had been his choice and he did not regret it for a second. During the last five years some strands of his dark hair had turned silver at his temples, and he knew there were tiny lines forming at the corners of his eyes and around his mouth. That was the way of the human world.
But his son… He sighed again. Elrohir did not know much about elvish children, or how they matured. In times of war and duress not many elvish children are born. Elves can voluntarily decide when to have children. Therefore not many elves had ever been born in Middle Earth at all; the times in Middle Earth had always been dark and dangerous for the elves. . But Elrohir did remember the birth of his sister, and he did remember how she had been as a baby and as a small child. Looking at his son now, there was only one possible, if incredible conclusion he could draw.
"I know," Elrohir said finally. "He is different because I am different."
"Don't tell me that he is different because he is our child, and you are an elf, even though you are not immortal anymore," Jarro said arching her back against the pain of the commotion in her womb. "But the way he is different, there is more to it than that. I know it."
"No," Elrohir said, and his voice was very serious. He knew this would be a grievous shock for his beloved, and he almost could not bear the knowledge that it was his fault. He continued in his softest voice. "No, Jarro. You don't know. Elentar matures differently because he is different. Jarro, Elentar is an Elf. He has the life of the Eldar. The choice of the Half-Elven must have been renewed in him."
Jarro spun around, then groaned, clutching her womb.
Shock raced down Elrohir's back in icy waves. He grabbed Jarro's hands, holding her tightly. "Breathe slowly now, slowly. Don't get excited. Calm down. Please, calm down. Everything's alright."
He only wished that it were true.
When he felt that she had relaxed somewhat, he loosened his tight grip on her hands. "Better?"
She looked at him, her eyes dark and wide with fear in a face that was drawn with worry and white as a sheet. She shook her head wordlessly, and withdrew her hands from his grasp. She folded and unfolded her hands on her stomach in a nervous rhythm. Only after a long moment of silence she slowed down her frantic movements. She gulped, visibly forcing herself to calm down. After a few minutes, she spoke again, but her voice was so low that he could barely understand what she was saying. "How is that possible? How, for God's sake is that possible? And what does it mean? How does that change the way he will grow up?"
Elrohir swallowed dryly, wishing there was an easy way to tell her about what he himself had realized only a short time ago, wishing he could have waited with that explanation until after the birth of their second child. But perhaps it was inevitable. People had noticed already that his son was different. Jarro, as the mother, must have noticed something strange about her son a long time ago; she must have been out of her mind with worry. He knew that and he regretted it deeply, especially as it was his fault, the fault of his blood. What was worse, he also knew that Elentar had noticed it, too. Young as the child was, both by human and by elvish standards, Elentar was a very smart child. He knew that he was different, and he resented that fact.
Elrohir reached for Jarro's hand again, and felt immeasurably relieved when she let him have it. "I have no idea how that is possible. You would have to ask the Valar."
She snorted. "Very likely, given their frequent visits to Middle Earth. But what does it mean?" Her voice was pleading, frightened.
He wished he could be more certain about what it would mean. "You know already a part of what it means. He will mature in a different way."
"Slower. He will mature much slower than a human child. You have noticed it already, haven't you? He does not grow the way his friends do, either in the height of his body or in the development of his personality." Elrohir explained.
Jarro gulped, and he could see tears glittering in her eyes. She stared at him. Her eyes were wide and anxious. "How slow?" She whispered.
How he wished he could give her a certain answer! But he had to tell her the truth.. "I have no idea, Jarro. An Elf-child with no human blood will stop maturing noticeably with about three years of age. Elvish children grow and develop only very slowly after their third birthday."
"How slow?" She repeated.
"When a human comes of age at twenty-one, an elf will still be a child. To you an elvish child of that age would seem as a child of perhaps seven human years."
"How slow?" Jarro's voice was desperate. "Elrohir, when will Elentar grow up? When will he become an adult?"
Elrohir swallowed dryly. He wished he could say anything else but the truth was an easier way to tell her what it could mean that their son was an elf. He wished that he did not have to tell her that they would perhaps never see their son grow up.
"An Elf reaches maturity normally around his or her fiftieth birthday. Sometimes later."
"How much later?" Jarro choked out, her voice hoarse and strangled.
"Sometimes twice that age. But –"
"But I will most likely be dead before he's grown! And so will you! We will die and leave him a child, helpless and alone! How can that be? How can your Valar be so cruel? I just can't believe it!" Jarro collapsed into his arms, crying. He stroked her head, trying to soothe her.
"I am so sorry, my love. I wish I could tell you just how sorry I am that my blood..." He paused for a moment. In his worst nightmares he had never imagined that his elvish heritage could bring such sorrow and such fear into their lives. Finally he continued. "But, Jarro, I don't think it will be quite as bad. He is only half-elven. And he grows much faster than for example my sister grew at the same age."
"Your sister?" Jarro mumbled, stifling her sobs. "Arwen? Do you remember how it was when she grew up?"
Elrohir trailed the tears on Jarro's face with his finger tips. and Then kissed her softly. "Yes, I remember very well how my sister grew up. Although I am beginning to feel the passage of time more like a human does, I think I can still safely say that Elentar is much faster in his development than an Elfling of pure elvish blood. Now, I can't say for sure when he will be fully grown, of course, but I do think that it will be way before his fiftieth birthday. Perhaps with thirty? I would not think very much after that. So please, don't worry. Elentar is in no way retarded. I think, I believe that we will live to see him fully grown. And there is nothing wrong with him. He is only an Elf. He will be perfectly alright. I promise."
He felt that Jarro was finally calming down again. Her breathing deepened, and the almost painful grip on his hands loosened somewhat.
"But thirty years… that's still a very long time…" He could see that she calculated his age and her age in her mind. Finally she sighed, rallying, as she always did, turning to face her fears and cope with them. How much he loved her!
"Oh well, I only hope you are right," she said. "We should still be in a pretty good shape in thirty or thirty-five years. But fifty…" She shuddered. She was thirty-four years old. She could imagine to be sixty. But eighty-four – although they lived very well in Esgaroth, the standards of living and medicine fell far short of the ones of twenty-first century earth. It was not very likely that she would ever grow that old.
Then she remembered the new child she was carrying. "And what about this one? Will this one be an Elf, too?" She asked, and the fear was back in her eyes.
Elrohir could only shrug and hold her tight. "I have no idea, my love. I am so sorry."
She blinked her tears away and tried valiantly to smile at her husband and lover. "I don't know what the matter is with me… really… I should be happy… after all, that means Elentar can choose to be immortal… that he never has to die, like you and me…"
"Indeed," Elrohir said softly, feeling his stomach lurch. He shivered slightly. Although he did not regret his decision of choosing mortality for the love of his life, the exhilaration of the knowledge that he would not be bound to the circles of Arda for all eternity was little by little replaced by a vague fear of the shadow that was even now waiting at the end of his road.
Elentar, who had not realized anything of the talk and tears his parents had shared raced screaming joyfully after his best friend, Kilían, the little dwarf. Although Elentar's legs were longer, the dwarf had more stamina, giving them almost even levels of strength for the moment. It was a real challenge for the Elf-child.
This time he simply had to win, Elentar thought, and setting his eyes on the goal post, gave the whole strength of his small, lithe body to the race.
…and this time, the first time ever, he was the winner, the first to get to the goal post.
He turned around to alert his mother to the occasion. Delight swept through him, as he realized that his father had been watching his triumph, too. And both his parents looked very excited, his mother even seemed to be crying!
The small boy turned a beaming face towards his parents.
"Mama, Papa, did you see that? I won! I won! I am the fastest ever!"
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This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.