A/N2 one year of the Trees equals 9.6 of Years of the Sun, according to information from CoE and EoA. In this AU tale, children reach adulthood or 'maturity' at age 100.

Always Been There
Chapter One

1490 Years of the Trees
Valinor

"We could pick Erestor," Ecthelion suggested, looking over at the small Elf standing by the edge of the trees.

"Nay," Glorfindel replied, shaking his head in Erestor’s direction. "He is too small and too slow." Though the young Elf had not intended it, his words did carry to where the Elfling in question was waiting.

Erestor felt his face turn red and he dropped his head. He did not wait around to see if today he would be selected, but turned and headed back home. He never was chosen for the games of tag and tug-o -war that the Elflings in Tirion loved to play. He tried to keep up with Glorfindel and the others, but his shorter legs and weaker arms were no match for those of the other Elflings. If he was honest with himself, Erestor would much rather be curled up reading one of his Ada’s books, but then he would not see Glorfindel.

His and the blond Elfling’s families had lived close to one another for as long as Erestor could remember. When they had been younger - well, younger than their current 28 years - they had been the closest of friends. Often spending whole days together playing and talking, the two had been inseparable; night and day their families had dubbed them. But that had changed. Now Glorfindel did not want to be with Erestor all day long. Glorfindel liked the rough and tumble games, the mock sword fights against Melkor, or the hunts for fictional wild beast. No longer did the tales of adventure in books satisfy his friend, and Erestor missed him.

Erestor felt the prickle of tears in his eyes, furiously blinking them back and glancing about hastily.  He hoped none of the others had seen. It would give Glorfindel and the others just one more way to make fun of him; calls of slowpoke and bookworm had followed him home too frequently of late. Erestor did not understand why his friend did not like him anymore, but Glorfindel joined the others in their remarks and laughed also when Erestor lagged behind or tripped, as he was wont to do. Today had been just one more day of not being chosen.

Erestor brightened a bit. He had forgotten he would be seeing Glorfindel this evening. It was his Begetting Day, and Glorfindel always came to his home for dinner and some of his Nana’s special 'Erestor dessert', as she liked to call it. Erestor laughed a little as he skipped closer to the small house he called home. How could he have forgotten?  Tonight he would see his friend, and Glorfindel always brought him a gift, too. Last year it had been a little boat with real white sails!

Erestor rushed through the door calling out, "Nana, I am home."

Firingë smiled as she came from the kitchen, dusting her hands on a cloth at her waist. "You are home early, ion. I expected you to play with your friends much longer than this."  Firingë frowned as her little son’s face immediately fell. She sat and patted her lap, knowing that when he was troubled, Erestor did not mind a little cuddling.

Erestor settled himself back in his Nana’s arms, breathing deeply of her scent, lavender and rose. His Nana always smelled of fresh lavender and rose. He tucked his dark head against her breast.

Firingë ran a hand down her son’s long, raven-colored hair. He looked so much like her. Dark of hair and eye, slight of build, Erestor was truly her dark little bird, sensitive and sweet with an underlying shyness that she hoped he would grow out of. "Were you not chose again, ion?" she asked, her voice soft and gentle.

Erestor shook his head and burrowed tighter against her. He sighed as Firingë began to rock him, softly humming his favorite song. Suddenly Erestor pulled back and looked at his Nana with a big smile. "I forgot, though, that I will see Glorfindel tonight. He will be here for my Begetting Day dinner." Erestor hugged his Nana, no longer in need of comfort. He jumped from her lap. "I am going to read a bit before he gets here, Nana."

Firingë's smile lasted only until Erestor had raced up stairs, then it faded. She had tried to explain to Erestor that sometimes friends just grew apart and that he and Glorfindel had different interest now. Hlárleru, Erestor’s Ada, had even encouraged his son to seek out other Elflings who enjoyed reading and discussing history and legends, but Erestor had stubbornly clung to his idea that he and Glorfindel were and would always be the best and closest of friends. Firingë just wished children did not have to be so cruel. Erestor was small for his age, his build slender, but he was a beautiful Elfling with a loving heart. Firingë shook her head at her own foolishness. Those qualities were not important to young ones. Glorfindel was destined to be a warrior - a great one, Firingë felt - while her ion was not. No, Erestor’s greatness was in his mind, sharp and probing it was.

While Glorfindel and the others, Ecthelion and their friend Onónon, might be future warriors, not one of them was as smart as her Erestor. Even the most learned among the Elves, his own Ada included, remarked on Erestor’s intelligence. Hlárleru often joked fondly that his ion would take over his own position as advisor to King Finwë. Erestor loved books and lore, and while the childhood toys still had their places on his shelves, more and more were put aside as new volumes of history and learning replaced them. Nightly now, Hlárleru enjoyed a lively discussion with his son at the dinner table, discussing complicated dealings of the King’s court. That is, if every other word out of Erestor’s mouth had not been "Glorfindel."

That evening, Erestor dressed carefully. Choosing his favorite leggings, he topped them with a sky blue tunic the color of his friend’s eyes. Eagerly he went downstairs to join his Nana and Ada, hardly able to contain his excitement. Erestor accepted the hugs and well wishes, all the while keenly keeping an ear open for a knock on their door. Hlárleru tried to engage his son in conversation, bringing up tale after tale of happenings in Tirion, but Erestor’s lack of response and attention had the room drifting into silence. The evening passed on, and still no knock came upon the door. Erestor’s eyes had hardly left that solid piece of wood as if his stare alone could conjure up his friend, but Glorfindel did not appear.

Finally, Firingë urged them to the table, complaining that her meal would grow cold. She and Hlárleru exchanged nervous glances as Erestor’s face grew sadder and sadder. They tried to draw Erestor out, asking questions about what he was reading, offering up any thing at all that popped into their heads, but it was no use. Erestor had only tried at first to mumble a response, but all too soon, he stopped responding altogether. Finally, as Firingë brought out the dessert, Erestor and Glorfindel’s favorite, he could not stand it any longer and with a sob, fled the table and ran to his room.

Firingë threw down a plate, and a curse left her lips that had her mate gaping at her like a fish. "I could turn that little blond brat over my knee!" she exclaimed.

Hlárleru rose and pulled her into his arms. "It will be all right. Perhaps this is a good thing," he soothed.

Firingë pulled back, eyeing him with amazement and some anger. "How can you say that? Did you not see his face? His heart is broken!"

Hlárleru moved away and began to pace, running a hand over his robes anxiously. "How many times have we tried to explain to Erestor that he and Glorfindel growing apart is natural when two have such different interest and futures? But our words have not sunk in, or made one bit of difference. It is 'Glorfindel this' and 'Glorfindel that'! It can only lead to more heartbreak if he does not let him go." Hlárleru went back to his mate and grabbed her hands, trying to make her understand. "It is not natural, this pull, this need he has for Glorfindel. It is better that it ends now. Erestor needs to be with those alike to him."

Firingë nodded and gratefully accepted the embrace and comforting arms that wrapped tightly about her. She could not stop the tears that fell or the ache in her heart that her most precious one suffered so. "It just hurts me so much to see him unhappy," she sobbed.

Hlárleru rubbed softly at her neck and shoulders. "I know, it hurts me also, but he will get through this. Our Erestor is strong."

Firingë wiped any lingering traces of tears from her cheeks before quietly opening her son's door. "Erestor?" she called, but was met with only silence.

Carefully entering the dark room, she looked to the small bed, but it was empty. Coming further into the room, she finally spied Erestor curled up in the window seat. Firingë sat beside him, saying nothing, only waiting for Erestor to speak. In his hands, held tightly, was a small, white-sailed boat. After several silent moments, Erestor spoke.

"How could he forget?" was all Erestor asked, such heartache in his little soft voice, that Firingë’s battle against tears was lost.

Pulling her son into her arms, Firingë whispered, "I do not know." Only after Erestor had cried himself to sleep, did Firingë leave his room.

The next morning, Erestor stayed close to his home. He sat in his Nana’s small garden with his current favorite book, but the words made no sense this morn. Gloomily he ignored the light, the whisper of the happy wind through the trees, the songs of the birds.  The morning held no joy for him. It was a faint whistling sound that finally drew his attention away from his unhappy thoughts. Erestor turned his head, listening carefully. There it was again, the whistling, and then a thud. Curious, Erestor laid his book aside and went to investigate. Carefully stepping through the trees that separated his home from his neighbor’s, Erestor drew close to where the sound was coming from.

Erestor watched silently as the Elf shot arrow after arrow into the target, always hitting dead center. His eyes thoughtfully examined the adult Elf. This Elf was not large or heavily muscular, not like the sword-master that Glorfindel and Ecthelion went on about. No, this Elf was slender and almost graceful in his loading and firing of arrows. Erestor’s eyes widened and he jerked to attention. "That was it!" he thought. Lots of warriors were archers, and they were highly regarded. He could be an archer. Then he would be a warrior like his friend Glorfindel. Oh, he could not wait to share the news!

Erestor ran back through the trees, ignoring the branches and leaves that pulled and snagged in his hair. Rushing past his home, he headed for the grounds where Glorfindel and the others liked to play. Out of breath and red in the face, Erestor slid to a stop next to Glorfindel and Ecthelion, who regarded the disheveled Elfling with amazement. The pair smirked as Erestor fought to regain his breath.

"What has gotten into you, Erestor?" Ecthelion asked.

 "Archery," Erestor gasped out.

Glorfindel frowned. "What about it?"

Erestor grinned up at his blond friend. "I am going to be an archer," he proudly proclaimed.

Ecthelion bent at the waist, roaring with laughter until he was as red in the face as Erestor. "You, an archer?" Ecthelion looked up at Glorfindel expecting him to laugh along at the very idea of tiny bookworm Erestor becoming an archer, but the blond was frowning thoughtfully.

"No, he may be able to do that," Glorfindel said, earning himself a radiant smile from Erestor. "I have seen some of the guards' archers, and they are small and skinny like Erestor is."

Erestor frowned at the words small and skinny, but only for a moment. Glorfindel was talking to him, was paying attention to him, thought Erestor could become an archer. "I saw an Elf practicing and it looks very interesting, but first I must study on it. Perhaps Ada has a book on Archery," Erestor said. "What do you think, Glorfindel?" Erestor cringed at the smirk that now graced Glorfindel’s face. What had he said?

Glorfindel shook his head at Erestor and laughed. "Yes, Erestor I am sure that you could learn all you need to become an archer from a book. Why not go see if your Ada has such a volume and start right away." Glorfindel laughed once more before strolling away, not noticing that his words brought fresh tears to Erestor’s eyes. He did not wait around to see the smaller Elfling run away, already joining his friends in laughing at the bookworm's silliness. Imagine, learning about shooting an arrow from a book!

Glorfindel also had said nothing of missing his friends Begetting Day.

Erestor only allowed himself a few moments of self-pity before he squared his small shoulders determinedly. Glorfindel would change his mind once he saw what a great bowman Erestor would become. With that goal in mind, Erestor went in search of a book, a book on archery.

To be continued...