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Butterfly-Cocoon

Chapter 11: Chapter Eleven

by Rous

The Return




Approaching the bridge, Ela remembered the first time she had come into the valley, riding hard with Elrohir; it was nothing like the confusion, to her, of guards preparing to defend their posts. This entrance was much different.

They rode to the edge of the bridge. Rúmil dismounted and approached the captain.

“I am Rúmil, march warden of Lórien. With me is Lady Elrénia and also Meliel Gaellyniell of Lórien. We have papers from Lord Elrond.”

“You need no papers. I remember you. Welcome home, Ela. Your father is expecting you.”

“Thank you, Delandor. How is your wife?”

“She is well, thank you. She sends you greetings and an invitation if you so desire.”

“That is most gracious. I will send word. Would she be inclined to join me?”

“I think that she would not be adverse.”

Meliel looked at her friend. It seemed that once she crossed the bridge, she changed into a different person. Ela had always had a formality about her, but it was so stiff now, the older girl was hard pressed not to laugh.

“What has gotten into Ela?” she asked Rúmil.

“You will find life here more formal than in Lórien. She had an upbringing that is much different than yours.”

“I do not think I like it.”

Rúmil laughed at her.

“Come,” he said. “We must get going.” He gave his horse a nudge in the sides. The others followed. They started up the road that led to Lord Elrond’s residence.

Ela watched Meliel to see her expression when she first saw the house. The last six days had been spent answering her friend’s questions about the fabled valley. She really thought Meliel was the more excited of them. Ela was not disappointed. When they turned the bend and saw the large dwelling on the hill, Meliel’s gasp could be heard by all.

“That is where you lived?” she exclaimed. “It is beautiful!”

“Yes, it is,” Ela agreed.

They rode to the stables. Ela unsaddled her own horse and brushed him down. When she was done, she turned him out with the other horses. The two guards that had accompanied them found their way to the barracks west of the stables. Rúmil took Ela’s hand and looked down at her.

“Are you ready?” he asked.

“I am,” she replied. She laid the hand on his arm. “Although I must confess to a small amount of nervousness.”

“It will pass.” He went up the stairs. At the top, they stepped out onto the terrace. Standing alone was Elrond. Ela went to him and bowed her head. She did not see the woman at the open window.

“Hello, Ada.”

“Welcome, Iell.” He waited. After several seconds, she threw herself into his open arms.

“I have missed you so,” she said.

“And I you.” He kissed her forehead. He noticed he did not have to reach down as far to do so. “You have grown. Rúmil. It is good to see you, also. Your journey was fair?”

“It was. We had no problems.”

“Ada, this is my friend Meliel. The Lady said you would not mind my inviting her to come with me. Was she correct?”

“The Lady is never wrong. You are welcome, Meliel.

“Her father is a Ranger. She is living in Lórien while he is in the north. I have so much to tell you. Where is Lord Erestor?”

“He is waiting. He has news for you, also. But I will let him tell you.”

“Has it anything to do with Lady Seldala?”

“What do you know?”

“Only what was obvious.”

“For the sake of your friendship, you had best act surprised.”

“It will have to be an act. I warned her before I left.”

“I have missed you, Iell.”

“If I have your leave, I will go up and unpack.”

“You have it. Dinner will be informal tonight.”

“Thank you. Come, Meliel. We have a few hours before dinner. I have much to show you.”

Meliel rolled her eyes at Rúmil as she went past. He grinned at her.

After they had gone, Elrond turned to him.

“She is good for Ela?”

“Very. Ela sought her out. Gariel knew the girl’s mother. She thought they would make a good match. Gariel has good instincts. They have been constant companions for almost fifteen years. Ela has had some problems with a certain elleth. Partly due to her bloodlines, but mostly due to attention paid her by my brother. This elleth has staked him out and sees Ela as a threat. We are not sure why. Ela shows no interest and is too young anyway. The elleth does not use reason. Meliel’s problems are different. All know her father is human and a Ranger. She has had a hard time gaining acceptance from any but the guards. It suits her, but her mother worries.”

“As long as Ela is happy, I am happy for her. She is more relaxed.”

“Meliel does not like the change since we entered the valley. She says Ela is too formal.”

“Is that possible?” Elrond asked in mock astonishment.

“It is for Meliel. I can hardly wait until she sees the interaction between Ela and Lord Erestor. That should be interesting.”

“To say the least. Come, I will show you to your room. You must be tired. You have some time before dinner.”

“That would be welcome. At least a bath would.”

“A bath it is then. Here you are, and you know where everything is. I will see you later.”

“Thank you, Lord Elrond.”

Elrond went back down the stairs. Entering the small room off the terrace, he approached the woman standing by the window. He was still struck by how young she looked. She had not changed much in three thousand years.

“What do you think?” he asked her.

“She does not look like him. But, there is a certain bearing that is familiar.”

“She does resemble her mother’s people. Her eyes belong to her other heritage.”

“Yes, I could see that. And the skin. Does she suspect?”

“According to Galadriel, no. The memories are there, but suppressed for now. It was necessary for her well being. She has an ability to feel out emotions. Not as strongly as the Lady, but as she was unused to it, it was enough to make her ill. When she went to Lórien, it became unbearable for her. Galadriel suppressed the ability until she could handle it. It is now slowly resurfacing. I do not think she realizes it yet.”

“Lórien. Could you have found no better place? They were always so uncivilized.”

“It has changed much in the last thousand or so years. Celeborn rules with a firm hand, but has not eliminated the spirit of the woods elves. The Lord and Lady have brought a small amount of “civility” to the Golden Woods. I suspect that Ela took some with her. She has a firm idea of how one is to behave in a situation. I cannot see her letting them change her much. The last time Haldir was here, he told me he was surprised she had managed to change his brothers and nephew as much as she had. He said she is very happy there.”

“If she is Dorlandad’s daughter, what will you do?”

“That is up to her. She is almost at the age of majority according to what her mother told her. I can only advise her after that. What will you do?”

“I do not know. I never thought to have to deal with a situation like this. When Dorlandad left, he was alone. I have heard things, sporadically, over the years, but nothing of a wife or child. Your letter came as quite a shock. The fact you could even find me was unsettling.”

“If you had not gone to the west, there were few places you could be. The only closed haven was to the northwest. Why did you not come to me? I would have given you shelter.”

“The war was yet too fresh . My pain was too fresh. If not for the child, I would have chosen to fade and join my only love. And I could not leave the land he loved and died to protect. After the child was born, I could not bear to leave him. So the only place to go for protection was a place few even knew existed. How did you find me?”

“Bits and pieces. Rumours and stories. Put together, it was enough to take the chance they were true. It has only taken fifteen years.”

She smiled. “You were such a good friend. He loved you like a brother. You were one of only a handful he entrusted with our secret. Even my parents did not know. I never told them. I did tell Dorlandad, when he was older. Everything died with his father. I did not want our son dragged into that life.”

“That life is over. There will be no more kings. Our time is fading. The time draws near when we will turn this world over to men. They will have charge of it. I, for one, am looking forward to leaving. I miss Celebrian. I know our children miss her also. When the time comes, we will sail together to Valinor.”

“Are you sure they will follow you?”

Elrond looked startled. “Why would they not?”

“I have heard things. Not about your children, but about others born here. It is a strong tie to break. There are even those among the Noldor who would choose to stay. I do not know if even I will leave. If she is my granddaughter, what more do I need to keep me here?”

“They miss their mother too much. They will go.”

“You best know your own children.”

“Come. Rest before dinner. Then you can meet her.”

“Very well. I have waited this long. What are a few more hours?”


-----

“Why are you wearing a dress?” asked Meliel, almost on the verge of a whine. “He said it was informal.”

“This dress is informal. It is not a gown. It is too short. This is what the occasion calls for. Take your time. I will be in the library. Take a bath. You will not believe how hot the water is.”

“Go. Leave me to mourn my leggings. I will wear a dress. I would not have you embarrassed.”

“You would not embarrass me. What you do is your choice.”

Ela turned and left the room. She made her way down the stairs and slowly walked to the library. Memories flooded her. Early mornings, stealing down to do some last minute studying. She paused at the door to the library. She remembered the last time she was here. The memory was painful. She forced herself to cross the threshold. Once in the room, her pain eased. She could remember the good without dwelling on the bad. She sat in the place she had occupied for so many years. Placing her hands on the table, she closed her eyes. She was regaining her ability to feel others since returning. She could feel everyone she knew. Meliel was indulging in a bath. Dalgren was in the kitchen finishing up dinner. Rúmil had found the barracks. Elestra was in the Fire Room. Erestor was approaching the library.

He reached the doorway in time to see her eyes fly open wide. She stood. Without a word to her former teacher, she went down the hall to the Fire Room. She stopped at the door to see Elrond with an ellith. He turned at the catch in her breath.

“Ela? What is it, Iell?” Her face was drained of colour. She was having trouble breathing.

“I told you this was not a good idea.” Erestor had come up behind her. “Ela, sit down, before you fall.”

“You are his mother.”

“Whose mother?” the woman asked.

“Gondol’s. Whatever his name was. My father.”

“His name was Dorlandad.”

“Yes,” Ela said slowly. “That is what it was.” Some obscure piece of information clicked into her consciousness. Genealogy charts. Something her father had remembered. “He changed it so my da would not find us. It did no good. He found us anyway.” She turned to Elrond. “Is this why you brought me here?”

“It is one reason. There are others.”

“This was not necessary.”

“It is. You wanted to find your mother’s people. Never once have you asked of your father’s. This woman can tell you of your people and your heritage.”

“What heritage? That time is gone. It is no more. I would have been content to live and die in the fringes. Haldir is correct. The center burns much too hot.”

“Would you please explain that riddle to me?” asked Elrond.

“I am content,” she said, ignoring his question. “I do not want whatever it is you seek to give me. I have made choices and decisions. I have planned the life I want. It does not include anything to do with my father and his heritage. This knowledge will do me no good, and will cause me much trouble. Can we not just let it rest? I am fine just being the little child that Lord Elrond adopted. It fits in with what I want.”

“Life does not always fit in with what we want. You have a purpose, as does everyone else. It may follow what you want, it may not. But you owe it to yourself to explore all of your possibilities.”

“What possibilities? Do you seek to restore the House? It is not possible. The time of the elves is passing. men will not tolerate it. They have their own destinies.”

“No one wants a new king. But there are other things you need to know. Your ancestry. Your family.”

“My ancestry lies here. I am the product of the elves and the Indrel. That is all I need to know. My family is here. You, my brothers and sister, friends. That is all I want. I no longer want to know about my mother’s people, nor my father’s. I will train for the wards when I return to Lórien. I am already training to be a healer. I will wed and bear the children I will. I will live and die for my home. There you have my future. I am sorry, Ada, lady, for being blunt, but that is what living in Lórien has taught me. Say what you mean, because the fringes are no place for eloquence. I beg your forgiveness and your leave to withdraw.”

She bowed and waited for Elrond’s nod. He sighed and gave it.

“Yes, I see how ‘civilized’ Lórien has become,” was Elestra’s dry comment. “How did she know who I was?”

“If you were to ask her, she would tell you that she remembered through her father. She remembers the most remarkable things. She can even remember her conception.”
“I would like to speak with her.”

“You will find her in the tree house.” Erestor had stepped forward. “That is where she goes to think. I will show you.”

“Thank you, Lord Erestor. You will excuse me, Elrond.”

“Of course.” He watched her leave with Erestor. And the troubles were only just beginning.
----

“How was her upbringing?” Elestra asked as they walked down the hall.

“It was formal. Maybe too much so. She did not have many friends. She is very intelligent and received the best education she could have. She was content as a child. Her only trouble came from another child. Delandor’s son. He was jealous of her and tried to hurt her. She avoided him.”

“She does not look elven. How can you be sure she is?”

“The Lady Galadriel is sure. She has had the most intimate contact with Ela. Elrond is sure. And I am sure.”

Elestra allowed Erestor to open the door leading to the garden. She went ahead of him and waited for him to lead her into the gardens. Erestor walked along a pebbled path.

Ela heard the door to the house click open. She peeked over the wall of the tree house. Seeing Erestor brought a smile to her lips. She was not sure about the woman. She gave her a good look. Elestra had the hair indicative of most Sindar. It was a silver and fine as silk. She was tall, but not quite as tall as Erestor. She moved with a grace that was enviable. Ela knew that she came from a different age. One of grace and graciousness. The same age that Elrond had come from. Elestra carried herself with an ease that bespoke noble bloodlines. They stopped just short of the tree.

“Ela, would you come down, please.” Erestor’s voice was soft, but firm. She sighed.

“Shoes,” she called down. She carefully dropped them. It seemed only Haldir was graced with flying shoes. She swung over the edge and dropped, landing on her feet. She reached down and picked up the shoes.

“Ela, this is Lady Elestra. I do not think you were properly introduced. She has come a long way to meet you.”

Ela bowed her head. Just the correct amount.

“I am pleased to meet you, Lady. I must apologize for my behavior earlier. I can only plead surprise.”

“It is understandable. I assure you I was as surprised to hear from Elrond. It was a great shock to find out not only was my son dead, but that I might have a grandchild. May we talk?”

“Of course. Would you like to sit on the terrace?”

“That would be acceptable.”

Ela led the way back to the vine covered terrace at the rear of the house. She waited until Elestra had seated herself in a chair, then took the other one. She nodded to Elrond, who was sitting not far away. Erestor brought another chair and sat down.

“Of what would you like to talk?”

“Tell me of your father.”

“Well, he was tall and silver. Not unlike Lord Celeborn. But he laughed and smiled more. He would take me for walks in the woods. We would go fishing in the small river. I asked to go hunting once, but he said that he did not do that. It was too painful when the animals died. I know what he meant. I have only hunted stag once, but I could not bear the crying as he died.” Elestra smiled. She remembered him saying as much, once. “He was good with his hands. He could heal anything. He and my mother loved each other very much. They did everything together. She even taught him to milk the cow. That was always amusing. He ended up with as much milk on himself as in the bucket. He never did get any better. When I was ten-years-old, he told me that my grandfather was one of the greatest elves that ever lived. Funny, I just remembered that. He promised that on my thirtieth birthday, he would tell me about his family and give me the things that were mine. I am not sure what he meant. And now he is not here to tell me. I do not think anyone could have had a better father. He told me that he wanted me to have what he never had. A father to see me to adulthood. To protect me. To grow old with my mother, spoiling grandchildren.” Ela did not seem to notice the tears running down her cheeks.

“How did he die?”

“Do you really want to know that? Is it not enough that it was unnecessary? Know that he did die trying to protect my mother and me. Not that it did any good. She is dead also.”

“I need to know.”

Ela stared towards the mountains looming over the house. After several moments, it seemed she was not going to answer. Taking a breath, she looked back at Elestra. “My da found us. My mother begged him to leave us alone. We had gone far away. We were no threat to them. But he hunted us down. All may have ended differently, but my father was away at the time, and picked that moment to return. Da’s anger was so great, he seized my father. His men beat him and dragged him behind a horse. Then they hung him. That is what happened to my gentle, laughing father. And all because my mother refused to wed one of her own. The only thing my da said was that now she could fulfill her purpose. He had picked out a husband for her. One who was strong enough to lead their people. He whipped her when she refused. He finally told her he did not need her anymore. When she was dead, I would replace her. I do not know what he meant. My mother took him aside and said something to him. If possible, his anger was even greater. He took the both of us and put us in a small boat and set us out to sea. That is the last I ever saw of him. My mother cried for two days. On the second night, a storm came up. The next morning, she was gone. That is all I remember until my brothers found me.”

“Do you believe you are my granddaughter?”

“Lady, it matters little to me whether I am your granddaughter or not. I know who my parents were. They loved me enough to try to protect me from my heritage. I have made the best of a very bad situation, with a great deal of help and even more love from strangers. Strangers that did not need to do as much as they did. If you believe me your granddaughter, well enough. If not, then I may go back to my life knowing that still I am loved. I have no aspirations to anything other than what I already have.”

Elestra was silent. Ela sat with her hands in her lap, waiting. Erestor sat back. He glanced at Elrond. There would be much to discuss later.

“May I ask a question?”

“You may, Lady. If it is in my power, I will answer.”

“If you are my son’s child, what do you plan to do?”

Ela looked into her eyes. “What do I plan? I am sorry, I thought I had made that clear. I plan on returning to Lórien, my home. I will train for the wards. Eventually, I will wed and have children. That is the future I see for me.”

“You could return with me. You could live among my people.”

“The Noldor? I think not. As much as I love the people here and I miss Imladris, it has already begun to stifle me. I miss the woods. And the way of life Lórien offers. There I am accepted for what I can do, not who I am. I cannot see myself being content in a city. And as far as my mother’s people are concerned, I remember what their village looked like. I would be better off in Bree; it is cleaner. No, I will return to my life. The Lady has already seen it is so. I would not dare try to prove her wrong.” She gave a small smile.

Suddenly Ela’s face lit up. Elestra turned to see what had caused the change. She saw only the ellon who had escorted the girl to Imladris. He smiled as he stood in the door. Elestra could feel an undercurrent between the two of them. Ela rose and went to the door. She took the elf’s hand and brought him over.

“Lady Elestra, this is Rúmil. He is a very dear friend. His brother and his wife made a home for me.” She turned to him. “This is my father’s mother. It seems she came all this way to see me. Is that not extraordinary?” Something in her voice belied her words.

“It is. Lady.” He bowed his head. Turning, he said, “Lord Erestor. It is good to see you again.”

“Likewise. How is your brother?”

“Recuperating. He underestimated an opponent in a bit of knife play. He will live.”

“He will not make that mistake again,” said Ela.

“Haldir was warned. It is well you pulled back when you did.”

“He was the one that insisted on real knives. And I did not realize he was holding back.”

“Ela?” Elrond rose from his chair. “Haldir was fighting you?”


“No one else will.”

“He was ignorant of her abilities,” said Rúmil. “Because of her size, she has developed a style of her own. Haldir likened it to…what was the phrase he used? Ah, yes. Barroom brawling.”

She snorted. “As if he has ever been near a barroom brawl. And I put no credence in that story about the Inn of the Raging Bull in Gondor.”

“But knife fighting?” Elestra was shocked.

“It is part of the training. If I want to be on the fences, I must learn. I can draw a bow, but I cannot use a sword. I am not able to best one in unarmed combat, or with knives. So I have combined the two. What one does not expect, one cannot defend against. I will only need the precious few moments before they realize what I am doing.”

“But what of the danger?”

“What danger? So far, the only danger has come from one I trusted. None else has tried to harm me. Unless you count Deladrieng, and she counts for little.”

“I do not understand this need of yours.”

“Who knows what the future holds? I feel the need now, therefore I believe it will be there in the future. Besides, that which stirs is not weak. He will turn this land upside down. Do you not think it prudent to be prepared?”

“What stirs, Ela?” asked Elrond.

“That which is to the east. You know of what I speak. I have seen some of the Writings. I have heard things. Remember the corners? They are dark, not soundproof. I only prepare for what I must do. You remember the last war. Those who were not ready did not return. Mirkwood and Lórien were sorely depleted. Do you not think it could happen again?”

“What do you know of war? You are but a child,” Elestra’s voice was bitter.

Ela looked at the ellith.
“You are correct. I am a child and know not of what I speak. I beg forgiveness and will leave to the adults subjects of which I have no knowledge. Excuse me, Lord Elrond. I will see if Meliel is ready for dinner.” She turned and left without waiting for his permission.

Erestor looked after her with disapproval. He turned back to Elestra.

“She may be remembering from her father, but she has a firm grasp of the history and politics of The Last Alliance. She is able to hold her own in a discussion on a variety of subjects. You do her a great disservice by treating her in that manner.”

“You led me to believe that she had reached adulthood. She is little more than a child.”

“She may look like a child, but I assure you she has the intelligence and maturity of one far beyond her seeming fifteen years.”

“If I may,” Rúmil said. He waited for a nod from Erestor. “There are few things that will anger her. She has had to battle the prejudice of others concerning her parentage and her appearance. There are those who dismiss her because she is only half-elven. And there are those who fail to take her seriously because she looks younger than she is. You have touched one of those sore spots. She is very angry and hurt right now. I beg you to take care. She will avoid confrontation, but if cornered, she will fight back.”

“If you thought to find a biddable child, I am sorry,” Elrond’s voice was gentle. “She is almost of an age to make her own decisions concerning her life. I can try to persuade her, but I cannot tell her what to do. Galadriel feels she has a path and must be allowed to find it. I cannot disagree. We have done all we can to give her the skills and knowledge to choose her own destiny. Will you not give it more time?”

“I will have to think on this. She is so unlike her father. I did not lose him until he was well past his childhood. I do not know about this child.”

“You have a choice. You can accept her as she is, or leave her, like the rest of her family. As she said, she has made the best of a painful situation. She has done well. She is strong and would do you proud, but you must give her a chance.”

“As I said, I will think on it. This is not a decision to make lightly.” She rose.

“No, it is not.” Elrond and Erestor stood, also. “We will see you shortly at dinner.”

Elestra left the three elves standing on the terrace.

“Was this wise?” asked Rúmil. “I do not mean to question, it is not my place, but I am concerned for Ela and what is best for her.”

“It was necessary. There is more to come.” Elrond motioned for Rúmil to sit down. “I have received word from Holm’s Hold, where her mother came from. They want her back and are willing to negotiate for her.”

“Negotiate? She is no piece of property. What do they mean?”

“Unfortunately, to them, she is. They claim to need her for political reasons. They would go into no further details, but will come and treat openly. From rumours overheard by a Ranger, there was another girl involved, but she disappeared. Now whatever they want falls back on Ela.”

“Are these not the same people who tried to kill her once and have tried several times to recover her? Why would you even speak with them?”

“Because I would know what they want. They are an unknown. In these times, an unknown is a potential enemy. I would rather know which way they lean.”

“I think it best to get her back to Lórien as soon as possible. This meeting with Lady Elestra did not go well. I can only imagine how she will react to meeting the people she holds responsible for the deaths of her parents.”

“I tend to agree. I think you should plan on returning the day after tomorrow.”

“She will not deal with these people. It is too soon to make a decision, but she has started to feel differently for someone. It will not happen anytime soon.”

“Is it anyone we know?” Elrond smiled slightly.

“It could be. She will insist he speak with you.”

“I look forward to that conversation.”

“He will not. So therefore, I look forward to it.” Rúmil grinned as he bowed and departed.

“The next two days should prove interesting,” said Erestor.

“Indeed. You reminded me that children have their own way of stirring up the pot. She is not the first, nor will she be the last.” He held the door for his old friend and followed him to the dining room.



A Moment of Reflection


Riding down through the meadow with Meliel, Ela’s thoughts were not on her horse. She was thinking about dinner the night before. She had been sorely tempted to remain in her room and skip dinner. She knew she was too old to resort to that. It had been fine when she was younger, but the accusation that she was just a child had stung. Lady Elestra had no idea who or what she was. Therefore, Ela felt she was unjustified in her comments. Dinner had been strained and all were relieved when it was over. Meliel, not knowing what had gone on down on the terrace was the most confused. Ela had only told her that a relative had come to meet her, but the older girl could tell her friend was very upset.

“What are you thinking about?” Ela was startled by Meliel’s question.

“Yesterday. I do not think it was such a good idea to return.”

“Why? It is beautiful here. Your family is here.”

“Therein lies the problem. Lady Elestra. I am not sure she wants me to be her granddaughter. I am not what she expected.”

“Just be glad she did not go to Lórien to meet you. You are not the same here as you are there. I think you would have shocked her Elven blood back to where ever she comes from.”

Ela grinned. “She is right proper, is she not?”

“As if you are not. I will be happy to return home and find my friend again. I do not like you this way. I feel as if I am always watching what I say and do.”

“Yes, Lórien is rather lax on manners. However, I feel safer there. It is too open here. I do not know why I let them talk me into leaving the Woods.”

“I do. Your adar said come and you came.”

“That will not happen again any time soon.” She glanced back at the rider following them at a discreet distance. Delandor had agreed to accompany them riding.

“Is this the way it was before you left?”

“Yes. I could not go riding or swimming by myself. Oh, yes, now I remember why I love Lórien. No guards. I can go anywhere and do anything I want. As long as the March Warden deems it necessary.”

“What is going on with you and Rúmil? And do not deny anything is going on. I know you too well.”

“There is not much to tell. We are friends. He is not interested in dealing with the simpering women that think it time he settled down. I took pity on him and agreed to play companion.”

“Oh, what a hardship! You should be rewarded.”

“And are you serious about Del? What is that about?”

“Del and I are friends. And more in a position to do something about it than are you. Are you serious?”

“I cannot be. I know what I want. It is just a matter of waiting for him. I have time. When he is ready, so will I be.”

“Who is it?” Meliel almost fell off her horse with excitement.

“And have you tell? I think not. It is my secret. Of course, you could ask the Lady and see if she tells.”

“She knows?”

“She knows far too much about me. More than I desire. I suspect she knows things that I am not even aware of yet. But that is the cost of dealing with her.”

Meliel looked up at the sun.

“It is almost noon. We should be getting back for lunch.”

Ela reluctantly turned her mare around. They met Delandor waiting for them. Ela reined in next to him.

“Have you heard from him?” she asked.

“No. I hear things about him. He joined a Ranger group that works towards the north. I have not heard he is dead, so I assume he has not run into your brothers.” He smiled. “I am sorry he caused you such pain.”

“That is not your fault. I do not blame you and neither does Ada. He just saw what he wanted and did not know why he could not have it. It did get me to Lórien. I love it there. I feel such peace and contentment.”

“It has not been the same since you left. It is too quiet.”

“At least Lord Erestor does not have to wonder what I will say next. I know I was a trial to him.”

“Never. You were a joy. I do not think he has smiled since you left.”

“I doubt that. Come on, I will race you to the stables.” She took off without any more warning. Delandor made it first, but the girls were laughing as they rode up. Dismounting, Ela unsaddled her gelding and brushed him down. She turned him out and went into the barn. Kneeling down beside the hole, she waited. Before too long, the snake came up through the hole.

“Hello, snake. Did you miss me? I have missed you.” She sat as the snake slithered around her. It finally rose up high enough to caress her nose with its tongue. Then it slowly withdrew back into its hole.

“That was unbelievable,” whispered Meliel.

Ela turned to see Meliel staring at her. She shrugged.

“Just an old friend.” She turned to Delandor.

“Thank you for the ride. I apologize for pulling you from more pressing duties.”

“Think nothing of it. It is good to get away and just relax.”

“I will see you this evening. I look forward to seeing your lady also.”

“As does she. Until this evening.” He turned and left them.

“What is this evening?” asked Meliel.

“Ada has decided that there is reason to celebrate. I personally do not feel the need, but I can never say no to him. He is so excited that I am back. Only Arwen could get more from him. I cannot help but think about the last party here. At least Caldelen will not be here this time.”

“I am here. We will have a good time. I never get invited to parties at home. The social scale does not run that low.”

“You get to attend the Lady’s little circle with me. Is that not exciting?”

“Oh, yes. And the only reason I attend is that you are mortified you will have to go alone. Misery loves company.”

“And very pleasant company it is. I invite you because I like you, not because I am lonely.”

“Liar. We both know why I go. But this sounds different. It actually sounds like fun.”

“It can be. I bet I can get more dances than you can.”

“Foul! You know them, I do not. Race you to the top!” Meliel took off before Ela could get around her. Reaching the top, they were both breathless from the climb and laughing. Ela drew up short when she saw Lady Elestra waiting on the terrace.

“Meliel, please tell Lord Elrond I will be late for lunch.” She turned to Elestra. “Lady?”

“I would like to speak with you.”

“Certainly.” Ela warily followed her to a bench.

“It has been pointed out to me that I may have taken a wrong tact with you. I meant not to belittle you. It seems that that is exactly what I did. You do not look as old as I was told you are. And I am still getting used to the idea of having a grandchild.”

“Then you do accept that your son was my father?”

“I think that I knew it from the moment I first saw you. You have a certain bearing. My son carried himself the same way. I am told you more resemble your mother’s people.”

“I know that I do look more like my mother. She was darker and her hair was a deeper shade. I suppose I inherited my father’s lighter skin.”

Elestra looked out over the valley. Ela waited for what she would say.

“Why are you so adamantly against returning with me?”

“My home is in Lórien. That is where my friends are. Would you leave your life in the Hidden Havens to come with me?”

“A month ago, I would have said no. Now I am not so sure. I would like to see where you live. I would like to meet your friends.”

“And what of the Lady? Are you anxious to see her?”

“That is the one thing of which I am not sure. I do not believe we ever met, but I know the stories I grew up with.”

“Then if you are sure, let me ask Lord Celeborn if it is possible for you to come. I do not know of a reason he would say no.”

“Would it be acceptable to you for me to come?”

“If you so wish.” She paused. “Does it bother you that I am not what you expected? For all intents and purposes, I am a woods elf. Their way of life suits me. It is what I desire.”

“If you are Dorlandad’s daughter, then you will do. What I expected and what I will accept are two different things. I see much of my son in you. The gift of healing. The compassion for others. Even the quirks of humor. He was ever smiling and joking. I despaired of him ever taking life seriously. It seems he finally did.”

“He may have taken life seriously, but he never lost his sense of humor. I do not remember ever seeing him without a smile. Except for the last.”

Ela glanced at the door. Elentil hovered just inside.

“I think Ada is concerned. He has sent Elentil to check up on me. Shall we go to lunch?”

“I think it time.” Elestra rose and took Ela’s arm in hers. They walked into the house and down the hall to the dining room. “Despite my initial misgivings, I think we could at least be friends. Do you think that possible?”

“I do not mind trying it. It would be interesting to see the reaction of certain people at home when you come. Most tolerate me because of Lord Elrond and Arwen. I have some friends, but I do not see you fitting in with them. When I am not with Lord Glordinel, I am on the fields.”

“We will see.” They entered the dining room. The men stood up and waited until they were seated to sit again.

“How was your ride, Ela?” asked Elrond.

“It is good to be able to run. Elldar was right. There are too many trees in Lórien to run a horse. Delandor said he is coming this evening. I look forward to seeing them. And what of Lady Seldala? I have not seen her.”

“She is not feeling well,” said Erestor.

“Well, since she cannot be sick, and I would have heard had she been poisoned, what could cause her illness?”

“I apologize, Ela,” answered Elrond. “I have been lax. I was to send word to you that Erestor and Seldala wed last fall.”

“How surprising! That is news indeed. I am astounded. Whoever saw that coming? Well, that explains the illness.”

“You are a little too enthusiastic. And how so?”

“Elrond, it is my turn to apologize,” said Erestor. “We only found out yesterday. Seldala is expecting a child. That is what has kept her home lately.”

“That is wonderful news!” Elrond raised his glass. “This calls for a toast. A child returning and a child arriving. Both blessings.”

After much laughter and congratulations, they returned to the meal. Finishing up, Elrond looked at Ela.

“What do you have planned for this afternoon?”

“I would like to go to the village. Is it permissible to invite Dorga this evening?”

“I would like to say yes, but it is already done. I sent word this morning.”

“Thank you. I have some things I would like to get in the village, then I will stop and say hello to Mares. I want to see her daughter. I saw the snake today. He is getting very old. He feels tired. And I noticed the cat is fat again. Where do you put all the kittens?”

“Mares is looking forward to seeing you. I do not think that is the same snake. And you would be surprised how many people want a cat when I ask them.”

“It is the same snake.”

“How do you know?” he teased.

“He told me. Now, if you will excuse us, we will go to town and spend all the coin in my pocket. Come on, Meliel, we will not be gone long at all.”

“How much do you have?” Meliel whispered.

“None. I do not carry coin. Have you ever seen me with any?”

“Oh, a joke. That was not funny.”

“It was to Ada and Lord Erestor.”

They went to their room to change. Ela put on a simple dress, Meliel insisted on trousers and a tunic. When they reached the terrace, Elrond was waiting for them.

“I have decided to go with you. I have need of a few things myself.”

“Are you sure you want to traipse around with two girls all afternoon? We can be quite tedious.”

“I am sure, but pressing needs dictate that I must go. So, let us be off. An adventure in shopping.”

Ela rolled her eyes. “You realize that the only reason I am going is for tea.”

“Yes, but you must go past shops to get there. And I do have business to tend to.”

“Very well.” Ela took one arm and Elrond placed Meliel’s arm through his other one. They went down the stairs and started on the road to the village.

Erestor watched from the terrace.

“He has missed her, no?” asked Elestra, coming up beside him.

“We all have. It was very hard when Arwen left. He was lost for so long. Then the twins dropped this small bundle of troubles in his lap. It seemed he had purpose again. He was upset at sending her away, but not in the same was as with his children. They left by choice and he took it personally for a time.”

-----

Ela was not disappointed in the welcome given her by Dorga. She was sure his voice could be heard to the other end of the village.

“It is good to see you, lass!” He grabbed her in a big hug.

“Likewise. I have missed you. I have so much to tell,” she said, extricating herself from his grasp.

“Lord Elrond, I am honored.”

“Nonsense. It is you who have honored us. She has been chafing to come since arriving.”

“Well, how about some tea. I have found no one willing to partake with me. At least none as charming.”

“I will have some. Meliel? Ada?”

“I will, if only to be able to say I had tea with a Dwarf.” Meliel’s eyes were bright with excitement.

“I will pass,” said Elrond. “I am afraid I am one of the not so charming.”

“You, Ada, having tea? After the last time, I cannot even imagine it.”

“I will admit that it is just tea, but then, is the point not the tea, but the company?”

“You are correct, Ada. It really matters not what you drink.”

“I will leave you to your tea. I have an errand to see to. I will return in an hour.” He nodded to Dorga and left, smiling at the chatter from the girls.

-----

Ela glanced up at the knock at the door. At a nod from Dorga, she answered it.

“Ada, I did not realize… Oh, Rúmil. Is something wrong?”

“Nothing, little one. Lord Erestor asked me to come. He has need of Lord Elrond. When you are finished here, he said you wanted to see Mares. And I believe Lady Seldala is also on your list. But we must hurry if we are to get back in time for dinner tonight.”

“Yes, Rúmil.” She turned to her host. “I will see you later, Dorga?”

“Certainly, lass. I would not miss it. An invitation to Elrond’s home is not to be spurned.”

“I will see you then.” She and Meliel went to the door.

“Wait for me outside. Do not wander.”

“As if I would,” she admonished him.

He turned to Dorga when they had gone.

“Was the visit pleasant?”

“Most pleasant. I had forgotten how charming she is.”

“She has missed you sorely. Letters are a poor substitute.”

“Aye, they are. I had thought when she first began coming, it was just curiosity. Yet her fascination has not waned over the years. She truly does not mind beings of different races.”

“Only her mother’s people. She has not much use for them. And she has ceased her searching for them, also. Her grandmother’s appearance seems to have quenched all desire to search out her roots.” He hesitated. “I was asked to relay a request. There are those here now she would rather avoid. Lord Erestor requests that you keep your ears open for anything. He does not trust their coming so openly now.”

“I will do that. It does not seem right. Why wait until now?”

“I do not know, but this will cause problems. I had best get them going. It is a short time until dinner. We do not want to be late. Until this evening.”

“Yes, yes. I will see you then.” He shut the door behind the tall Elf. It is time, he decided, to walk among those of the village.

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Chapter name
Chapter Eleven
Created
12 Oct 2004
Last Edited
12 Oct 2004
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