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Butterfly-Cocoon

Chapter 13: Chapter Thirteen

by Rous

----

Well before light, Ela was in the library. The moon was still bright enough that she could navigate her way without a light. She stood in front of the empty bookcase that had been hers. In fifteen years, Elrond had found nothing to replace the missing books, save two small boxes. The space looked forlorn. Was there a place in his heart as empty?”

“Good morning, Ada.” She had not turned around.

“I see that things are returning.”

“Slowly, but more quickly than I like.” She turned and looked at him. “I have a request.”

“Anything.”

“Lady Elestra gave me her family coat of arms. I would like two copies made, one for her, and one for me. Then I would like permission to hang the original here. It would not survive long in Lórien.”

“You need only ask. I will see to it. Dorga will be here for lunch. He has something for you. We need to speak.”

“I know why they are here. Not the reason behind, but I will. I will not go.”

“That is your choice. However, remember, you are still a minor. They will claim that in ten years, you will have to return. I can help you there, but it will mean others will control your immediate future. I will leave that up to you.”

“You would push my majority back another ten years? But what of my desires?”

“If you want to train, then by all means, do so. Learn all you can. You can never have too much knowledge or skill. You cannot wed. However, if you should find one willing to wait, you may go ahead with your betrothal, when it is time. I will speak with Celeborn when I arrive and discuss the best way to proceed. The path you choose is very narrow. You must not stray from the center, or you will give them the opening they want. But, I would caution you to listen to all they have to say. A choice made in ignorance is ill-made.”

She nodded. “I will listen to your advice. Will this change your plans to come to Lórien?”

“No, Iell.” He smiled. “I would not miss that for anything. And, Erestor is looking forward to coming, also. He has not stirred from Imladris for far too long. Only Seldala could keep him here.”

“Then I will pray that she recovers enough to allow him the visit.” She studied the books behind him before speaking again. “Is he really my grandfather?”

“Yes. He was a cousin, but more importantly, he was my friend. I was devastated when he fell. I was more than shocked to find out he had a son, let alone that I was harboring his granddaughter. I see nothing of him physically in you, yet you have the determination he showed. He knew what was necessary and did it. His position was not a mantle he took eagerly.”

“How did you find out about him?”

“It seems you have more family than you thought. A woman spoke to the Rangers who found your mother’s people. She sent some items that had belonged to your parents. There are also other things that she felt it time you had. They arrived the same day you left Imladris. It has taken me almost fifteen years to confirm what she claimed. But, it all holds. Your father was the son of Ereinion. His only child.”

“Who was the woman?”

“She claims to be your grandmother.” He watched to gauge her reaction.

Ela paused, Elrond recognizing her hesitation. It was thus, whenever she groped for a locked memory. Sometimes she could produce the elusive thought, but, usually not.

“Gorden, is it not?”

He smiled. “Yes, that is the name she gave. She met with the Ranger captain and begged him to give me a box. It contained papers alluding to your genealogy on your father’s side, and others confirming your mother’s. There were also belongings that now will go to you.”

“Tell me of them.” She did not have to elaborate on ‘them’. Elrond knew her curiosity was now whetted.

“They met at a gathering. It was one of the last before the war came to our doorstep. She was a young Sinda. Her family did not look kindly upon him, bloodlines notwithstanding. The Noldor turned their noses at her family. It seemed nothing would happen. Then, he started disappearing for hours at a time. It took me weeks to figure it out. By then, it was too late. They were in love. He wanted to marry her, but he was afraid that if he did, he would put her in grave danger. We were the only thing standing in Sauron’s path to the domination of Arda. He had spies everywhere. Elestra’s family sent her to the Grey Havens. He did not protest her going. He knew where her heart and her safety lay. He charged me with delivering her his ring. When I gave it to her, she cried. She gave me back one for him. She had engraved it with the words ‘I will stand until your return.’

"They spent two years stealing what time they could. When the opportunity finally arose to bring her back to court, she came as a representative for her family. Her brother was dead and her father was not able to leave his holdings. It seemed even the Grey Havens were not as secure as thought. They were secretly married and only a handful knew of it.

"On the eve of our departure, she told him that she would wait for him, no matter how long it took. She would not leave as long as there was a remnant of him remaining. When I returned without him, she knew. The next day, she was gone. I heard nothing. I sent word to her family; they knew nothing. After several years had gone by, I assumed she had either faded, or gone to the west. I had no idea she had had a son. I had no reason to search out the Hidden Havens. It was rumoured that any who sought them, disappeared. I now know that most were forced to remain there.”

“I cannot find many memories from my father. They may come later, or it may just be something I have from my mother. He was not happy at the Havens. I do know that. He was not accepted. That is why he left. I can see a mother who doted, trying to make up for his unhappiness and the feeling of emptiness, not having a father. It is no wonder he left. Circumstances were not kind to him.”

Elrond watched her, silently, as she mulled over what he had told her. He was shocked at the stricken look in her eyes.

“What am I to do with this knowledge?”

“Nothing,” came from the door. They looked up to see Elestra standing there. “There is nothing you can do. The time is past. You are who you are. Let it go at that.”

Ela sat silent. More tangles to her life. She felt like a rosebush; the moment she got things pruned and neat, a bramble shot up to mess things up.

Elrond rose and removed one of the small wooden caskets from her shelf. He set it down on the table. Opening the lid, he pulled several items from the box. He laid them out for Ela to see. There were the two rings sent by the woman from Holm’s Hold. He emptied out a bag of silver disks. Ela just glanced at them, more drawn to the rings. Elestra picked up one and put it on Ela’s left hand. The gold band, set with diamonds, was too big for her finger. Elestra slipped it onto her middle finger. Elrond took the other, a much smaller white band, set with rubies, and placed it on the third finger of her right hand.

“This was my wedding ring,” said Elestra, still holding her left hand. “I gave this to Dorlandad before he left. It was all I had left of his father.”

“And this was your mother’s wedding ring. It is smaller, following the customs of her people. The woman wanted you to have these. The mithril is also from your father.”

“These rings were my parents? Was this what my father wanted to give me?” She could not take her eyes off them, dismissing the small fortune lying on the velvet bag.

“I can only guess, but it is reasonable to assume so. What of the mithril?”

“I have no need of it. What is coin in Lórien? If I want something, I make it, or trade for it, or wager against it. I will warrant that there are not but a few who even have a use for it. Do what you think best.”

Elrond nodded. “Whatever you wish.” He put it back in the bag, returning the bag to the casket. He placed the box back on the shelf. At least it was something to replace her books.

“I am hungry,” said Elrond. “Is anyone else interested in breakfast?”

“I am,” answered Elestra.

Ela shrugged and followed them to the dining room. Erestor was waiting. He raised an eyebrow at Elrond and got a nod in return. Both seemed satisfied as they began to eat.

“I have a question, Ada.”

“Yes, Iell?”

“How do you know when you are in love?”

The comment took him by surprise.

“You want to spend time with the person. You find you have things in common. You begin to think of them as more that a friend. Why?”

“It is just that before I left Lórien, I had an incident with someone that left me feeling funny. Kind of sick inside. No, that is not the word. Butterflies. That is it. I felt like I had swallowed a mouthful of butterflies. And I know he felt it also.”

“Well, that is the other way you know. Who was it?”

“I am not ready to say. I need to think on it more. He is older. I am not sure how he would accept attentions from one he views as child. But then, I have twenty years to catch up, do I not?” She smiled. “May I have some more tea, please?”

“I would rather hear more about this.”

“Well, do you have twenty years to spend waiting?”

“You are a very trying child,” commented Elrond.

“Yes. Haldir has threatened to drop me in the Celebrant several times. It is good I have learned to swim so well.”

Elestra sat back thinking on all the comments she had heard Ela say, or had heard about her. Piecing together this with that, she thought she finally had figured it out. The girl did not make things easy on herself.

After breakfast, they went out onto the terrace. The weather was just perfect for them; the men would be over-heated. It was calculated move on Elrond’s part. He decided that any advantage would be used.

Before the appointed time for the meeting, Rúmil and Meliel came out. Dalgren brought trays of tea and cakes. They settled down to wait for the men. At precisely the time agreed upon, they topped the outside stairs. The sight that met their eyes was daunting. Elrond sat, leaning back, in a chair that uncomfortably resembled a throne. He was wearing robes shaded in a dark blue. The crown on his head was an intricate affair made of mithril and bearing a dark sapphire. Elestra sat to his right. She wore robes of gold and brown. She also bore a crown, even more elaborate than was Elrond’s. It carried three rubies that seemed to glow against her pale skin. Erestor sat on Elrond’s left, dressed in his usual black. What drew Crelden’s attention was Ela. She stood behind Erestor. The man frowned to see she did not wear a gown, but rather a tunic and trousers in grey. As did Rúmil and Meliel. Although longer and fuller than the ellon’s, the girls’ hair was dressed in the same severe manner favoured by those of the warrior ranks. Ela also wore the circlet from the night before. The man bristled at the sight of her earrings.

Crelden seated himself at the small table set up before Elrond’s chair.

“I trust your night was well spent?” said Elrond.

“It was not. But that is forgotten.”

“Would you care for some tea? Cakes?”

“No. I would have this settled.”

Elrond heard a suck of breath from behind him. Ela took exception at the lack of manners displayed by the man. He raised his hand to calm her.

“Well, then, what is it you would have settled?”

“We have come to take Cera Brien home.” Another piece of information dropped in place for her. Her memory flashed back to the chart Lord Glordinel had shown her. It had been her family.

“And who is Cera Brien?”

“She is,” he said, pointing to Ela.

“Do you mean Lady Elrénia? Her home is in Lórien. What do you mean, take her home?”

“She is a daughter of the Indrel. We would have her back.” Crelend’s impatience with Elrond’s questioning was heavy.

Elrond pulled a parchment from the pile in front of him. He made a show of examining the chart, and then handed it to Crelden.

“Is this the person you seek?”

“Yes. She is the granddaughter of Gorden. By blood and rights, we claim her and will return her to her people.” Crelden relaxed, somewhat. This would not be as difficult as he had thought. The man seemed to understand reason.

“Do you deny her parentage?”

“No. It is there.”

“Then have you forgotten her father? She has blood and rights on that side, also. Would you deny her those?”

Crelden hesitated. “Her people have need of her. She is pivotal to the well-being of her people. We are willing to overlook the mistake her mother made. We can deal with her mixed blood.” There was just the slightest tone of distain in his voice.

“And what of her people here? Have we no say in this?”

“We need her. You do not. You have many girls, women. She is the only one who can fulfil what we need.”

“And what is that?”

“We need a strong leader. Her husband would provide that leader.”

“But she is not wed, and cannot be for quite a while yet.”

“She will be. He has already been chosen. In addition, necessity demands that we bend the customs. We are desperate.”

“You would have her wed before her majority? That is unheard of. Even among your own kind, she has ten years yet. Among our kind, she must wait until she is fifty. She will not be allowed to wed for another twenty years. Can you wait that long?”

“We will not. It has already been decided. The council has made an exception under the circumstances.”

“I am afraid that you will go home disappointed. The Valar do not allow for exceptions. She is forbidden to wed for twenty years. It is the law; it cannot be undone. The consequences for breaking this law have led to devastation.”

“Then explain to me why I found a male in her room last night.”

“Ela?” Elrond turned to her.

“You would have to ask Grandmother. She was the only one in the room with Rúmil when this man came to my room. Grandmother, was there something going on that you did not see fit to tell me?” The smile teasing her lips threatened to erupt into a laugh.

“Elestra?” Elrond reminded himself to speak with the girl later.

“Elrénia went down to get tea for me while I was visiting in her room. I had not had much opportunity to speak with her all evening. When the man left, Elrénia came back upstairs. After tea, Rúmil saw me to my room, and came back downstairs. Meliel was there when we left.”

“Meliel?

“They were all three having tea when you sent me upstairs for the night. Rúmil and Lady Elestra left and we went to bed.”

“Does that clear things up for you? There was nothing.”

Crelden got into a very heated discussion with the other men. It seemed none of them took into account the fact that the elves might understand Westron.

“I would hear from her.”

Ela licked her lips. Standing tall, she looked at the man.

“I have been advised to consider all of my options. What does going with you gain me?” Her seeming hesitance gave Crelden courage.

“Your husband will be king.”

“And what does that do for me?”

“You will be his consort.” He said this as if it were a great honour.

“I do not understand.” Erestor smiled, slightly. A delaying tactic while her thoughts raced ahead.

“Your mother was the daughter of the king. She is dead and you are her only eligible offspring. You are her heir.”

“Then I would be queen.”

“You would bear the title of queen, subject to your lord, of course. You would be his consort.” He did not notice the subtle shift in her attitude. Even Elestra, who did not know the girl, could sense that Ela’s footing had changed.

“That sounds remarkably like a courtesan, little better than a mistress, a whore.” Her soft words carried the contempt she felt for the man.

Crelden’s rage seemed about to erupt. The soft sneer had finally gotten past his arrogance. What woman would dare speak to him in this manner? To whom did this girl think she was speaking? Her very ignorance of the way things were was enough to cause him to strike her, and were he at home, he would not have hesitated… One of his companions whispered harshly to him. With very visible effort, Crelden calmed, somewhat. However, it was in his mind to make her pay.

“That is not the way of it. You would be wed, legally.

“So, no better than a servant.”

“No, you would have servants.”

“Power?”

“Women do not know how to handle power. That is why you have husbands.”

Ela smiled at what Galadriel would say about that. Elrond saw she had relaxed. So, she had made up her mind.

“Let me see if I understand. I am the only living heir and one can only become king by wedding me.” She waited for Crelden’s nod. “So, if I return with you, I wed the one you pick, and not one of my own choice.” Again, he nodded. “Then I am subject to him in all things.” Crelden smiled. She could understand.

She turned to Elrond. “It is settled then. Why would I not want to return with these men? I am the daughter of their heir. I would have all the riches of the Indrel at my feet.” Crelden’s smile started to falter. She turned back to him.

“Why now? You tried to kill me once and have made several attempts to locate me since.”

“There was another, but she died. And as she was only two, the council could not wait for her to attain her majority.”

“This is an odious practice.”

“It has stood us well for thousands of years.”

“In Indra, I am sure. In addition, never was it forced upon a woman to wed one not to her liking. However, you are now in Imladris. I know of nowhere in Arda where what you propose would be acceptable. Even among the royal houses of men are choices allowed. You would give me no choice.”

“That is our custom.”

“I am the daughter of Dorlandad. He was elven. That makes me elven. These are my people, whatever claims you make to the contrary. I am the granddaughter of the last of the high elven kings. These people here are my cousins, family. Rather would I be the heir to a kingdom no longer in existence, than the heir to one soon to cease to exist.” She smiled, genuinely, at the men. “I am sorry. I have thought about it, and I must decline your invitation to return. I am most happy here. I will wed one of my choosing; and I will wed him only if he agrees. It is a matter of choice.”

“You cannot refuse. Your people need you.”

She nailed him with a look that had been learned from only one person. She did his haughtiness justice. “Did they need me when they hung my father? How could you think that I would be content among the very people that murdered my father, my dear, gentle father who never even raised a hand against them, except to defend my mother and me? Did they need me when they dragged my mother and me back to their little hovel of a town? What about when my mother was beaten, did you need me then? Shall we talk about setting us adrift in a boat guaranteed to sink in the first good gale that beset us? I was alone for almost two weeks in that boat. A child. What kind of people throws away a child? Maybe shall I tell you what was in the mind of the man you sent to Rivendell to “rescue” me from the elves. I saw things in his mind that no adult should see. I was fifteen-years-old. Is it that to which you would have me return?” She looked him over with distain. “I am trying to find one good reason to return with you. So far, I am drawing a blank. If you seek to persuade me further, you will need to speak to my father. You can choose the one here, or the one in Namo’s Hall. I have no preference as to which you decide. You can find the one; I can send you to see the other.”

The man looked at her blankly. He did not understand how she could stand there, her voice devoid of all emotion.

“He does not grasp, sell,” Rúmil said softly, “That you have just threatened his life.”

The man looked startled.

Elestra looked uncomfortable. This clashed with the image of gentility that she wanted to foster in her granddaughter.

“I find I am disinclined to hand her over to you.” Elrond’s voice broke the tension. “It is not in her best interests. I think she is better off here, among her father’s people. In twenty years, if she has changed her mind, you may try again. I would advise against it.”

Crelden rose and took a step towards Ela. He met by Rúmil’s arrow.

“You know not what you invite,” Ela said softly. “He is the best archer Lórien has. He is undefeated. Have you ever been beaten, Rúmil?” He shook his head. “I thought not. Meliel is also well above average; and should you wonder, it has been months since any tried me. Since we both desire the fences, and they do not accept seconds, we have made sure we will be accepted. Now, what will you do?”

Crelden’s eyes widened when Meliel also drew her bow. Elrond and Erestor sat, seemingly oblivious to the fact that blood was about to be shed at their feet. He slowly sat back down. The bows were lowered.

“Wise choice,” said Elrond. “Now, matters here are cleared up. I think it is time for lunch. Will you join us? I insist. Ela will be leaving the day after tomorrow and this may be your last chance to see her. I would not deprive you of that.”

Crelden reluctantly accepted.

“Good. We will eat on the back terrace. It is a little too cool out here.” He smiled at the sweat rolling down the faces of the men. He ushered the men into the house ahead of him, leaving the elves from Lórien alone.

“I thought we were leaving tomorrow?” said Meliel.

“We are leaving tonight. Ada has just given us a day’s head start. We will pack after lunch. That will give us a chance to reach the summit before nightfall.”

They followed the others to the back terrace. They found an empty table to the side and sat down. Ela jumped up to help Dalgren when she came out with the food. Laughing, she convinced the elleth to sit with them when every one was served.

“I do not understand,” said Crelden.

“What is that?” asked Elrond, turning his attention from Ela and Dalgren.

“You let your women wear men’s clothes,” Crelden wore a frown on his face.

“It is better suited for their lifestyle. Can you not imagine how hard it is to ride a horse in a dress?”

“Then they should walk.” His frown had turned into a scowl.

Elrond raised his eyebrow.

“You would deny them the right to ride? Why?”

“It gives them too much a sense of independence. Women should know their place.” This was said matter-of-factly, as if it should be obvious even to a child.

“Our women have a much defined sense of their place; and they are independent. That is one of Elrénia’s strongest qualities. She knows what she wants.”

“What of her future? What man will want her if she will not obey?” Crelden demanded.

“That is not something we look for in a mate. We cherish the individuality. Her husband will appreciate her all the more for it.”

“What of the weapons? Was she serious?”

“Deadly. The bow is one weapon where she is on more equal footing with a man. Although smaller, she can outshoot many. She may not be as quick, but she has greater accuracy. And I hear that the March Warden of Lórien can attest to her skill with a knife.”

“It will all be a waste when she comes back to her people.” Crelden's voice held a tone of dismissal. He did not understand the waste of educating and training a woman.

Elrond shook his head. Had the man not been listening?

“Ada?”

“Yes, Iell?” He looked up at her.

“You sent the chart to Lord Glordinel. Why?”

“So that things would not come as too great a shock. I had hoped it would jar your memory. Unfortunately, the Lady is very good at what she does.”

“I know. I am afraid that I will need to go to her to learn to control myself. It would not do to be in a constant state of nausea.”

“You have a copy of the chart in Lórien. If you desire, I will keep the original here for safekeeping.”

She nodded. “With your leave, we would like to go down to the fields for a time.”

“You may go, but wait for Dorga. He has something for you.”

“Should he not be here?” She heard a disturbance at the door.

“I am, lass.” She turned at the deep voice. Bending over, she gave him a great hug.

“I was afraid you would not make it.”

“I would not miss the opportunity to come to Lord Elrond’s house, even if just to see you.”

“Did you bring some tea?” she teased.

“Aye, I did. And something else.”

A pair of hands covered her eyes. She reached up to remove them and stopped when she felt the skin. Her fingers danced along his for a moment. The shock of recognition elicited a gasp from her.

“Elf! How is it you are here?” She twisted in his arms and grabbed his neck.

“I bring birthday gifts.” He handed something to Dorga.

“Here, child. From a grubby old Dwarf.”

Ela took the leather bound object. Unwrapping it, she gasped. It was a sword. Not quite full-sized, but lighter than even the small one she had at home. Under it was a shirt of mail.

“Dorga! How could you? This…this is too extravagant!”

“Nonsense. It is small payment for the many years of enjoyment you have given me.”

“But how?” she glanced from Dorga to Elrohir, and back again.

“I got the mithril. Elrohir took it to the Grey Havens and had them forge the sword and make the shirt. That is why I am late. He only just arrived.”

“Oh. I do not know what to say. Thank you, thank you both.” She hugged both of them again.

“And I will tell Elladan that you wore his earrings.” Elrohir smiled at her.

She reached up and fingered the blue stones. “I felt I should put them on today. Is that not odd?”

“Very. Now, I am hungry. Is there anything left?”

“Plenty. I will get you a plate and some tableware. No, sit back down, Dalgren. I will get it.” She ran into the house.

“How are the borders?” asked Elrond.

“Quiet. We want to go to the north, but Arathorn will not allow it. I suspect he has a good reason, but he is not forthcoming with it. She looks good, Ada. Lórien agrees with her?”

“Apparently. You will see for yourself next month. Elrohir, this is Crelden. He comes from Holm’s Hold. He thought to persuade Ela to return with them. This is one of my sons, Elrohir.”

They regarded each other. The man dropped his gaze. Elrohir dismissed him.

“Here you go, Elf. I brought you some tea, also. You had better eat first. Dorga brought it.”

He laughed at her. A stray sunbeam reflected off her earring.

“I have a question.”

“Yes, Crelden?” said Elrond.

“Why do you allow her to wear earrings?”

“Why would I not?”

“It means she is married. You have assured me she is not.”

“It means nothing to the elves. We do not wear them at all. It is a perverse habit of hers insisted on after she saw the daughters of men in the village with them.”

Elrohir picked up his plate and filled it, returning to the table. Ela waited with the tea.

“So, what have you been up to?”

“I have finished my studies. I now know everything.”

“I am sure you do not. What else?”

“I am studying the healing arts. It is sporadic. Last week, I managed to close a tear in Haldir’s side. Of course, I put it there, so it was little consolation to him. He and I are in disagreement about my training for the fences. I think I am in love. Did you know Meliel’s father is finally coming to visit?”

“Slow down,” he laughed. “What was that about Haldir and you?” From the corner of his eye, he could see Crelden translating like a madman.

“Which part?”

“The hole in his side.”

She shrugged. “He wanted to see how good I was. No one else will fight me, so he did. Unfortunately, I did not realize he was holding back; he did not credit me with much skill. Overall, it was a learning experience. Not that Lord Celeborn was happy. I thought he was going to ask me to leave Lórien. And, Ada has given permission for me to train, so that will deflate THAT argument. Lord Celeborn said that was all I needed. Gariel had a dinner party last week. That was when Meliel announced that her father was coming for a visit. There, was that everything?”

“Not quite. You left out something.”

“No, I think I covered it all.”

“The ‘in love’ part.”

“Oh, that. Yes. I think I am in love. That or very sick.” She saw the men frown.

“Who is the lucky ellon?”

“I do not think I am that ready. He certainly is not. He has been given food for thought, and he has twenty years to get used to the idea.”

He laughed. “And you have twenty years to change your mind.”

“That will not happen.”

“You are so sure?”

“I am.”

“Well, then, I wish him all the luck. He is going to need it.”

She threw a napkin at him.

“You are fast returning to the top of the list of worse brothers.”

“How so?” She explained the argument between her and Rúmil.

“How are things between you two?”

“They are just fine. Are you going to start on that?”

“No. Just curious. I have heard a few things.”

“How, in all of Arda, could you possibly hear what goes on in Lórien?”

“You would be surprised what trickles out of the Forbidden Woods. Actually, I had already heard of the incident with the knives before I arrived here. You had best watch yourself. If your intended turns you down, you may not find any willing to wed you.”

“No,” she said, slowly. “You have spoken to Dorga. That is how you knew.”

“I confess,” he laughed. “But word will get around. You had best watch your step.” He was no longer laughing.

“Yes, I know. Things are already complicated.”

“Is there something I should know?”

“No. Ada will tell you, I am sure. Meanwhile, we are going down to the fields. Would you like to come?” She rose and walked towards the door. Elrohir followed.

“I will be down shortly. I will speak with my father and Lord Erestor. When are you leaving?”

“Tonight,” she said, just above a whisper. “Ada thinks to give us a day to be gone before the men find out. That should see us over the summit and well down the other side, if we do not tarry. We will make a hard ride for Lórien once we reach the plains. I do not trust these men. They do not listen to reason.”

“Well, if you are leaving tonight, you had better get going.”

She gave him a hug. “It is good to see you,” she whispered in his ear.

“And you, also. I almost forgot. Here.” He pulled a bottle from a pocket. The clear liquid had a slight tint of gold to it. She opened it and was overcome by a heavy scent.

“What is it?” she asked, breathless.

“Oil of the gardenia. It comes from the far south. It grows only in the hot climes. Do not spill any. It is cloying and you do not want to know what it is worth. I will only say that the mithril was cheaper.”

“Thank you, Elf. Is this from Elldan, also?”

“He is the one who found it. He has been searching a year for something unique. I think he found it. You should mix it with an odour-less oil to use it. Otherwise, you may not be able to stand the smell.”

“I will. I was wrong. You are the best brothers. Rúmil loses.”

“Go. The day gets no younger.”

She left to put the oil away. Returning, she retrieved her bow and quiver, then followed Rúmil through the house. Meliel downed her tea and ran after them. The men did not see them go up the front stairs to their rooms.

Elrohir went over to the table where his father sat. Sitting down, he looked at Crelden.

Dorga had already filled him in on the highlights of Crelden’s reasons for visiting. Now he wanted to see where things lay.

“Ada, have you heard from Caldelen?”

“Not since just after you left.”

“He may not survive a meeting if we run into him. He has a lot to answer for. Does his father know this?”

“He knows. He is regretful of the whole situation, but he does know that you feel you may have no choice. I would ask you to temper yourselves with mercy for his sake. See if the boy has matured any.”

“I will only promise to stay my hand long enough to hear his explanation. I will not speak for my brother.”

“And do not ask Ela. She will talk you out of anything you would do.”

“She tells me she is in love. What of that?”

“She has twenty years to fall in and out of love. Galadriel assures me that things are in hand.”

“How is Grandmother? We managed to stop in Lórien five years ago, but not since. Arwen looked well.”

“They are fine. Ela tells me that Arwen is happy. Your grandparents are looking forward to seeing you. Meliel’s father is arriving sometime during the next month. His name is Gaellyn. What do you know of him?”

“He is a captain with the northern Rangers. He is human, but well liked by men and elves under his command. We served with him just before he became captain. He is fair and even-tempered.”

“Good. I want to know more of Ela’s doings. When in Lórien, I want you to ask concerning her. Find out in whom she is interested.

Elrohir grinned. “I would not worry on that. I think I know who it is and you have no need for concern.”

“Who, then?” Finally, someone who could tell him.

“I cannot tell you. That is up to her. She will tell you when she is ready. Leave her to her games. You know how she loves them.”

Elrond’s frown made Elrohir laugh. “Very well, but if things go awry, I will come to you for answers.”

“And do I not always have them?” his son said, with maddening confidence.

“I do not know who is more vexing, you or her.”

Elrohir just grinned.

“Are you here long?”

“I will leave tomorrow. If I ride hard, I will just catch Elladan at Bree. I think he has a girl there. He has picked the same rendezvous four times in six months.”

“How are things to the south?”

“You mean other than finding we have an unknown people traipsing the White Mountains and settling in on Gondor’s doorstep? It is quiet. Do you not hail from the White Mountains?” Elrohir stared at Crelden.

“Yes. That is where we settled.”

“Do you think she would be happy there?”

“What has happiness to do with anything? She has an obligation to her people.”

“Yes. She does, and I think she is fulfilling it in Lórien. My grandmother says that she is learning skills that will aid our people.”

“And who is your grandmother?”

“The Lady Galadriel, ruler of the Golden Woods. Lothlórien.”

He saw with pleasure Crelden’s face blanch. “The Elf-witch? That is your grandmother?”

“You did not know?” Elrohir heard whispers from the other three men.

“I know who she is, not that she was related.”

“Their daughter is my wife,” said Elrond, quietly.

“And you sent Cera into that?” The elves did not understand Crelden’s growing anger.

“No, I sent Elrénia there for safe-keeping. It was the only place I knew of that could shelter her from harm.”

“But, the Elf-witch. How do know what she has learned?” He barely managed to control his contempt as he spit the words out.

“She seems content. And she has learned what she needs to survive. If she was not happy, why would she want to return?” Elrond’s voice was calm. The man was agitated, and the reason was still not apparent.

Elrohir cut in smoothly, “The only reason she is here now it that you asked her to come, Ada. Dorga told me that she is not comfortable coming back. She wants to return and the sooner the better. I look forward to spending time with her tomorrow before I leave.”

“She will like that. She plans on the borders. Do you think her good enough?”

“Five years ago, she was well on her way. It will take her some time yet. She got a late start. Most guards began when they could first hold a bow. However, she has thrown behind her desire the same determination she gave her education. I think she will make it by the time she reaches an age to make her final choice.” He looked hard at Crelden. “So, I must ask again, do you think she would be happy with your people?”

“It still matters not whether she is happy. She is required. She will be made to understand her duty.”

“I do not think you understand the situation. I take an interest in her. My brother takes an interest. If she is not happy, then neither are we. We would take it personally if anything were to happen to her. The decision was made to deal with one who has hurt her; you would not be a far stretch to include in the dealing. Think hard on that. One thing I have noticed in my travels. Some men tend to disregard the elves as above such things as bloodshed. However, I would point out that we have warriors the same as men. Our swords and knives are as sharp, our arrows as true. And, our sense of self-preservation as great. Do not test our mettle.” He stood up. “Ada, I believe I will go see how good our aspiring wardens are.” He left without a word to the men.

“I am sure you gentlemen would like some time to discuss what you have learned today. I will have someone see you to your lodgings. It has been a long day.” Elrond stood and pointedly waited until they also stood. “Erentil?” He called into the hallway. “Please have someone see these men to the village.”

“Yes, Lord Elrond. Follow me.”

The men had no choice but to leave. Elrond could still hear them grumbling as they went through the house. He followed at a distance and watched them descend the outer stairs. He noted that they stopped as they came to the fields where the garrison trained and practiced. He could make out the individual archers and saw that Ela and Meliel were making a good showing. Satisfied, he went back into the house.



-----


The laughter that drifted up from the field carried to the men standing and watching. They had been greatly misled by the source of their knowledge. These people were not gentle and peaceful like the Shire-folk. They knew well how to handle weapons of war. It seemed they had stepped in the situation with only half of what they had needed. Even their women surpassed most of Crelden’s people. They would have to take a different tact to regain the girl.

“How do you expect me to return to Lórien with any arrows, if you keep splitting them?” Ela laughed at Rúmil. “Your brother will not think much of me.”

“That is the only way to best you today. You have improved greatly. My brother will be hard pressed to invent a reason for refusing you now.”

“He will not have to. I have removed his argument. Ada gave his permission. I anticipate the look on his face.”

“I do not. He will not enjoy being out-flanked.”

“It will do him good. He is too full of himself.”

“You are asking for a dip in the Celebrant if you vex him too much.”

“I can swim. And it is all part of the game.”

Rúmil looked at the sun. Glancing back at the men, he said, in a voice just loud enough to carry, “All of this is wasted. If we leave now we can still get in several hours of hunting. I am sure your father will not mind. What do you think, Elrohir?”

“I would love to, but I have a two day ride ahead of me. I do not think I care to hunt all night and still try making it. I will be leaving early tomorrow afternoon, and I still have to attend to some business.”

“Well, I am going to get my kit and tell Ada,” Ela piped up.

“Do not be long. We do not want to lose the light. You know it is darker back in the forest.”

“I will not, Rúmil. I will get yours, also. Come on, Meliel. Do not forget to ask Londil and Relim,” she told him. “They will not forgive you if they miss out on a hunt in Imladris. It will give them something to talk about when we get home.”

“Run, little one. The sun drops.”

The girls ran back to the house. Racing to the top of the stairs, they stopped to catch their breath.

“Will you get my bag, Meliel? I need to say goodbye.”

“I will be right back with all three. It is well we packed light.”

“Ada!” Ela called, heading for the study. She found him reading a book.

“It is time?”

“Yes. We are ready and have a good excuse for taking our packs. We are going on an overnight hunt. I do not think they suspect. I just wanted to say goodbye.”

He stood up and went to her.

“It is only goodbye for a short while. I will see you in a month, only six short weeks.”

“Only. It will seem like an eternity.” She went into his arms. “I will miss you so. Have I ever told you I love you?”

“Yes, Iell. In everything you do. Have I told you how proud I am of you?”

“Yes, Ada. In everything you do. After all you have done for me, your opinion is the most important thing to me. I will never do anything to change that. Thank you for everything.”

“Thank you, sell. You have made an old man happy.”

“Yes, well, when you see an old man, see if he is as happy as you are. Oh, Grandmother.” She went to the door.

“You are leaving?”

“Yes. Now is the best time. Do you think ill of me because I am not a proper Noldo?”

“Never. You are a proper elf. That is the important thing. Do not forget to speak to Celeborn. I will wait here for word. I do not feel the inclination to remove myself back to the Hidden Havens just yet. After all, I have forever.”

“I will not make you wait that long. I like having a grandmother. It seems so…family-like.”

“Go. Now, while I will still let you.”

“Where is Lord Erestor? I cannot leave without saying goodbye to him.”

“Now, where do you think he would be?” smiled Elrond.

She gave Elestra a hug and went down the hall to the library. Meliel got there just as she did.

“Just one more quick goodbye.”

She went into the library.

“May I ask a question?”

“You may. I will answer if it is in my power.”

“What kind of gift will you bring me next month? It seems the only things I lack are my friends.”

“Well, then, I would bring some of them. Now, may I ask a question?”

“You may.”

“Would you leave without giving your teacher a hug?”

“Never. You had but to ask.” She hugged him and reached up to kiss his cheek.

“Ela, we have to go. They will get suspicious.” Meliel’s voice carried a tinge of impatience.

Ela pulled herself away.

“Thank you. For everything. And I expect to see you in a month. No excuses.”

“None will be forthcoming.”

“And please say goodbye to Lady Seldala for me.”

“Certainly.”

She went from the library through the house to the terrace. Dalgren stood with a large bag.

“Were you leaving without saying goodbye to me?”

“No. You were next. What is this?”

“Something for your ‘overnight trip’. It was good to see you again. Do not wait so long again.”

“That is up to fate. I go where the winds blow me,” she said loftily, waving her hand.

“Go, child. May the winds blow you swiftly to Lórien.”

Ela bowed and said, “May butterflies always tumble your tummy.” Turning, she picked up her kit and slung it over her shoulder. Picking up the bag Dalgren had given her, she waited until Meliel was ready. They started down the stairs.

Reaching the bottom, they quickly made their way to the stables. There they found their horses saddled and ready to go. Meliel tossed Rúmil his bag and then tied her own to the back of her saddle.

“Did you speak to the others?” Ela asked.

“They said they may join us later. They had plans.” The grin on his face alluded to what the plans were. Let the men draw what conclusions they would.

“They could do that at home. When will they get a chance to hunt in the Misty Mountains again?” She shook her head, smiling. She knew what the men would think.

“I will be right back,” said Ela, jerking the ties on her bag. She went into the barn.

“Hello, snake. I fear that I will never see you again.” The snake slowly crawled up from its hole. It circled her legs and laid its head on her foot. She gently caressed its head. “Rest now. You have spent your life well. Should you go to the Halls of Namo, speak well of me to my father. Tell him that he would be proud.” The snake lifted its head and crawled back down into its hole.

“So this is what that witch taught you!” Ela spun around at the words and saw one of the men standing behind her, the one to whom Crelden seemed to defer. She was surprised he spoke Elvish, albeit, badly.

“She did not teach me this. I have always been able to do it. It is a gift from the Valar through my father. And I suppose a small part from my mother. Her father did name her witch.”

“Gift!” he spat. “It is evil. You would do well to forget it before you return.”

“I have no intentions of returning with you, ever. My home and people are here. I know that you have problems with Elvish, so I will say it in terms you will understand.” She repeated her words in Westron. The man looked shocked.

“You speak the language of men?”

“Most elves outside of Lórien and Mirkwood do. I learned from my brothers and was required to learn to read and write it. Do you think me uneducated? I can also read and speak some Dwarvish. I have books from the Shire. I have also gained a very small grasp of the ancient language, Quenya. What do you offer your daughters?”

“What they need. It does not include reading.”

“They I pity you. Women have a lot more to offer than as a bed companion. It seems there is more reason yet for refusing your offer.”

“You will come back. Sooner or later, I will have you.” He grabbed her arm. She flung herself backwards from his grasp as if burned.

“What is going on?” Elrohir demanded.

Ela stood back up. She looked the man over, as if surveying a piece of dung.

“You wear deceit like a cloak. It wraps you and hides your true purpose. Do you think I would ever be content with one such as you? It will be a cold day in your hell before that happens.” The brief contact had given her his identity. The shock of what he wanted warred with the knowledge that this was her uncle, her mother’s brother. She pulled herself together and went from the barn.

“I think it best you do not speak to her again. You have overstayed your welcome.” Elrohir turned and followed Ela from the barn.

“What was that about?” he asked her, quietly.

“It seems his true purpose for being here was not as altruistic as it appeared. He wants this marriage for reasons of his own, and he will stop at nothing to gain it. It is well that we are leaving now. I think only sorrow will ensue if we stay.”

“Maybe I should ride with you.”

“No. You have your duties. We will be fine. Once we reach the plains, it will be a speedy ride home. If we push, we can make it in five days.”

“Take care. I will see you in a month.”

“And I look forward to that. Until then.” She mounted her horse and leaned down to kiss his forehead. “Take care, yourself. There will be too much sorrow in the future to spend the present mourning.”

The three of them turned their horses from the barn and started for the northern forests. Elrohir watched until they were out of sight, and then went back to the house to inform his father of the incident in the barn. It was best they were leaving.

-----

Two hours later, they had turned towards the east. Following a low ridge for another hour, they were met by Londil and Relim. With little speech between them, the picked up their pace and headed for the summit. It was well after dark before they were through the little used pass Elrohir had mapped out for them, and started down the other side. They were farther north than would be usual, but not many knew of this cut through the mountains. They made a cold camp that night and were back up before light. Once they reached the plains, they rode as hard as they dared, without winding the horses. They stopped only for the night, eating in the saddle and resting only when watering the horses. As promised, they made the trip in five days.

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Chapter name
Chapter Thirteen
Created
17 Nov 2004
Last Edited
17 Nov 2004
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