I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing that I can do, or any
kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or
neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again. ~ Étienne De Grellet, 1773-1855
Erestor shifted. He felt like he'd been in the saddle for weeks. He had, but that was not
the point. He was perfectly capable of sitting in a saddle for months, if need be. The
rolling, wooded terrain they passed through was lovely; the birds sang sweetly, though
the scenery and the birdsong brought him no contentment. He shifted again and sighed.
Glorfindel turned in his saddle, a smile barely threatening the edges of his mouth. "In
need of a break?" Erestor's constant shifting in his saddle had not gone unnoticed.
"Yes. No. Oh, I don't know. I'm just...restless or...something."
"You do not sense anything amiss?" Glorfindel asked. Erestor's keen senses had been
honed to exceptional sharpness during his months of blindness two years ago, especially
Erestor shook his head. "No. I hear no one else close to us." In truth, he had a feeling
deep in his bones that something was about to happen, but whether it was good or ill he
hadn't a clue, and so held his counsel.
"Let us ride just a bit longer until we can find a stream to water the horses, then we'll
stop for a bit," Glorfindel said. "It's nearly time for a midday meal, and if we find a
stream we can make a fire and have a nice mug of tea. Perhaps a bit of exercise other
than riding Dulinn will do you some good. A bit of sparring practice perhaps?" Erestor's
mood prickled Glorfindel. It was unusual for his mate to be uncomfortable without
Erestor bent and patted Dulinn's neck absent-mindedly. His jet black stallion had been a
trusted and treasured companion for many years. "Perhaps a break will do me good." He
stopped and held his hand up, silently telling Glorfindel to wait, and then sat alert, eyes
closed, listening. He nodded his head to the north of the road and guided Dulinn to their
new path. "Half a mile away, perhaps a bit more, there is a rushing stream that promises
Glorfindel shook his head as he turned Asfaloth to follow Erestor. He couldn't fathom
how Erestor could hear a stream at that distance, but he'd long ago given up seeking an
answer to that riddle.
An hour later, the Elves were seated in the lush, green grass of a meadow, through
which there flowed a swift and bubbling stream. A metal pot with water heating for tea
hung from a three-legged stand over the fire, and Glorfindel sorted out the last of the
provisions they'd brought from the Gray Havens. "After this meal it will be hunting and
gathering roots for us, I fear."
It had been four days since they had left Mithlond, their journey necessitated by
communications that their Lord, Elrond, would entrust to no one else to deliver to Círdan.
They traveled the Great East Road that stretched from the Tower Hills, the ancient border
between the Elven realm of Lindon and the Kingdom of Arnor, to their home in Imladris,
and they neared the Far Downs, the western border of the Shire.
"If that inn that was right before the Far Downs is still in business, perhaps we can stop
there tonight," Glorfindel continued. "Their food was good and we might be able to
purchase a few days provisions. I'd prefer that to spending time hunting and adding more
days to our journey."
"As would I," Erestor agreed. The inn was run by men and catered primarily to that race,
along with the occasional Elf or Hobbit. "Do you suppose the Hobbit is out adventuring
again, or do you think he will be at his home in Hobbiton? I am sure we would be
welcome to rest there for a day and you know he would provide us with food for the
journey." The Hobbit, of course, was Bilbo Baggins, known to the Elves of Imladris
from his visits there some twenty years previous during his adventures with Gandalf and
"That is a thought," Glorfindel agreed. They usually passed quietly and unseen through
the Shire, avoiding the towns until they passed the River Baranduin at Buckland, its
eastern border, but a visit with the Hobbit would be a pleasant diversion indeed. "We
will approach the village after nightfall when all or most of the little people should be
abed and check if he is there. A nice rest and bath, a good meal at Master Baggins' table,
a cozy chat around the hearth; what could be better?"
Erestor chuckled. "Short beds, tiny baths, low ceiling and the continual danger of
walking into ceiling beams and chandeliers. Nothing could be better. I do hope he will
After they finished what food was left, saving only a bit of cheese and bread against
unforeseen events, the two tall Elves circled each other in the meadow. Sun glinted
off the silver surface of their swords and Erestor's long, dark locks flew with every
movement he made, helped along by the day's breezes.
"Bind your hair, or I shall be tempted to cut off a lock for a keepsake," Glorfindel said,
not quite jokingly. His own golden hair hung in a long plait down his back.
"Try it and you will see what happens to that braid of yours," Erestor quipped back,
grinning and blocking Glorfindel's sudden attack.
Broadswords clanged together from the force behind them as the well-matched opponents
lunged and parried, neither giving away a clue to his next move through glance or tensed
muscles. Once the stiffness of the road had been well and truly worked out of limbs
and joints, Glorfindel proclaimed a draw, and they rested with a final cup of tea before
extinguishing the small fire and remounting their horses to continue the journey.
The twilight of the evening was upon them when they reached the inn, its hanging sign
proclaiming: The Drunken Duck Inn, Alan Trumble, Proprietor, still visible in the fading
light. The place was frequently quiet, situated as it was outside of the Shire, but today
the courtyard was busy with Men and Hobbits alike, for tomorrow was market day. They
arranged for the care of their horses and a room for the night, and then the two Elves
entered the public room and sat at a vacant table in a corner, from whence they could
view the room and its doors. Once the table had been laid with mugs of ale, a tray of
bread and cheese, and bowls of mutton stew, they sat and ate quietly, for the food was
hearty and plentiful, and the ale was tolerable.
A loud, angry voice coming from the kitchens caught Erestor's attention, and as he turned
to look, the door to that inner room swung open. Through the door he caught sight of a
man, probably one of the cooks, and a small girl child. The man raised a large hand and
slapped the girl on her face hard enough to cause the child to lose her balance and land
on the floor. The plate the child held in her hand dropped and shattered. More shouting
ensued and Erestor began to rise from his seat.
"Leave it, Erestor," Glorfindel said quietly. "You cannot interfere."
Erestor glared towards the kitchen. "But the child..."
"You know that Men consider their children possessions. Do not interfere, dear one. As
disgusted as that man's actions make me, we cannot afford to create a stir here. The child
is probably his daughter and they will say it is his right to discipline her."
Erestor mumbled a few choice words on the morals of Men and turned his attention
back to his meal, although his heart ached for the child. She had a head of curly, brown
hair, and could not have been more than eight or nine years old. In his heart he knew
Glorfindel was right. It was not their place to interfere between the child and her parent.
After they finished their meal, the two Elves requested that water for washing be sent
up to their room. The inn was nearly full, but they had been able to obtain a small room
on the third floor. The landlord apologized for it being near the servants' quarters, but
it was clean and thankfully had a fireplace, for the night had turned chill. A strapping
lad carried up the water and started a fire in the hearth, taking the copper that Glorfindel
offered with a small smile and a nod of thanks.
After washing as much as their accommodations allowed, Erestor curled around
Glorfindel in the bed, his head resting on Glorfindel's chest, sighing in relief at the lack
of lumps in the mattress. Two years previously they had made the exact same trip, albeit
with more disastrous consequences. Erestor had been blinded in the fight that ensued
when he and Glorfindel had been set upon by six highway ruffians. His injury had also
caused the two old friends to declare their feelings for each other. During the subsequent
journey home, the only way Erestor had been able to shut out what his hearing perceived
as blaringly loud night sounds had been to rest his head on Glorfindel's chest, letting the
rhythmic beating of his beloved's heart lull him to sleep. It was a habit that stayed after
they returned home and were bound to each other, and Erestor had yet to change it, much
to the satisfaction of both Elves.
The fire crackled in its grate, doors down the hall and on the lower floors opened and
closed, footsteps pattered and tramped down halls, floorboards squeaked and settled, and
the sounds of the inn quieted - and soft weeping broke the stillness.
"Do you hear that?" Erestor whispered, lifting his head.
"What is it you hear?" Glorfindel pushed himself up on his elbows and listened. He
shook his head. "I hear nothing."
"It is muffled," Erestor whispered. "It sounds as if someone is crying." He rose from the
bed and walked silently to the door, straining to hear more of the sound. "It is close by."
He soundlessly lifted the handle and opened the door to the room, pausing to listen with
his head poking out of the door before entering the hall.
Knowing it would be fruitless to call Erestor back, Glorfindel rose and followed his mate.
Once in the hall, he too could hear the sounds of weeping that came from behind the door
opposite their own. The two Elves stood and stared at each other for a moment, Erestor
with one brow raised in question. The door was not to a guest room, that much was
evident. It was smaller than the rest and bore no marking.
Glorfindel nodded and Erestor cautiously opened the door. The door opened outward,
as a storage closet would do, for that was indeed what lay behind it. On the floor of
the cramped, dark cupboard lay the small child from the kitchen. Wrapped only in a
threadbare, dirty blanket, she wept into her folded arms. The child had to be freezing, as
cold as the night was.
The soft light from the lantern hanging in the hallway intruded onto her sanctuary, and
the child whimpered and shrunk back into the shadows. "I'm...I'm being quiet," she
whispered, fear evident in her voice and in the haunted hazel eyes that peered up at the
Erestor dropped to his knees and whispered, "We will not hurt you and I am sure no one
else heard you. Why are you here when it is so cold? Should you not be asleep in your
room where you can be warmer?" He cautiously lifted a hand a wiped the girl's tears
away with his fingers, leaving a smudged trail behind on her dusty cheeks.
The girl shook her head and pulled her blanket closer. She stared at Erestor for a long
moment as if deciding what she should answer before she finally whispered, "This is my
room. This is where I sleep."
"Here?" Erestor asked, struggling in his indignation to keep his voice low. The child
was so thin and so scantily clad that the cold would run right through her. The bruise on
her face from the slap she had received was clearly visible. "Where is your family?" he
asked. "Was that your father we saw you with in the kitchen who struck you?"
The child shook her head. "I don't have any family," she answered so quietly that only
elven hearing could discern her words.
"Then who cares for you?" Glorfindel asked softly, dropping down along side Erestor.
"Who is your guardian?"
The girl looked confused before finally answering, "I can take care of myself. I don't
Erestor looked at Glorfindel, shocked, before finally turning his gaze back to the child.
"My name is Erestor, and this is Glorfindel," he said. "What is your name?"
"I am Brynn."
"Does the landlord give you work, then, so you can take care of yourself?" Erestor asked,
seeking to better understand the child's state.
"The landlord is my master," Brynn said, shaking her head at Erestor's question. "When
I was little, my uncle sold me to him and said I have to work for him and do what he
"What happened to your parents - your mother and father?" Glorfindel asked quietly.
Brynn shook her head and then shrugged. She didn't know. She had only a vague
recollection of her uncle - she remembered it was her uncle who brought her here, but
she remembered no other family. All she knew was her life with her uncle had not been
much different than it was here. She worked hard every day, hoping to avoid the painful
blows, and hoping to be given enough to eat to stop the ache in her stomach so she could
sleep at night. Every once in a while a kind traveler would give her a coin, but Brynn
would return it and ask instead for a bit of food. Her master would only take the coin
away from her anyway and the food was more precious. Brynn had been around enough
people to get a feeling if they were good people or bad people, and deep down she
thought that these two men were the good kind. If she was lucky, maybe these travelers
would give her a bite of food in the morning. As if in sympathy with the thought, her
"Wait here," Erestor said to Glorfindel as they both rose from the floor. With silent feet,
Erestor swiftly ran into their room, returning a moment later carrying one of the travel
rugs from his pack and the bread and cheese that remained from their provisions. He
tucked the rug around Brynn and pressed the food into her hand. "Eat the food now. It
will help keep you warm. We will see if we can get you more in the morning. For now,
eat and then sleep, and do not let anyone take your new blanket from you." He tucked a
strand of her dark hair behind her ear. "Good night, little Brynn."
Brynn stared up at Erestor, clutching the travel rug around her with one hand and
holding the food in the other, unable to believe her good fortune. It was a plaid design
in black, white, and gray, and so soft. Not only did she have food and the promise of
perhaps more in the morning, but she had a lovely, warm blanket. "Thank you, Sir," she
Erestor nodded and gave the child a little smile before quietly closing the door to the