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Butterfly-Cocoon

Chapter 20: Chapter Twenty

by Rous

Gariel came out of the house into the garden. She was surprised to see Ela beneath a tree, weeding. The morning sun had not yet reached high enough to shine down through the trees.

“Why are you here?” she asked, concerned. With the influx of visitors for her benefit, she would have thought there enough to keep her away from home.

“I think Grandmother is upset. I am not sure why, but it has to do with me. She talked only of me last night and avoided any questions about my parents. I thought it best to leave her some time to deal with it. Is there anything I can do for tonight?”

“Everything is ready. The only thing for you to do is have a good time. Enjoy this time.”

“I really wish my parents could be here. Then, if they were, I would not be here. Do you know how confusing this is? If I have one, I cannot have the other. If I have them, I cannot have you, Orophin, and all the rest. Now I could never choose which is more important to me. My life then or my life now.”

“Ela, part of what you feel is the same for every child facing adulthood. A child wants what he had, but also the belonging that comes with growing up. You are beginning to step out into a new world. Embrace it and become what you were meant to be.”

Ela grinned. “How long did you practice that speech?”

“Ever since I found I was having a child. It is the same one given me by my mother. She had many more, but I have found that most do not apply to you. Now, go bathe. You are expected for lunch with Lord Elrond. He sent a message late last night, after you had retired.”

“Very well. I will be down at the river. I feel like a swim this morning.”

“Just do not tarry too long. You will need to be back here by mid-afternoon.”

“Yes, Nana. I will be here. I think I will see if Meliel wants to go for a swim.”

“You will find her over at the stables.”

“Del.” Ela said it with a touch of derision, but under laying it was a softer tone. It was not lost on Gariel. She had heard the comments about Del for several years. While never actually derogatory, they had not been complementary, either. Her attitude had changed in the last several weeks. It was just as well, thought Gariel. If he was Meliel’s choice, then Ela would have to get along with him.

Ela went to her room and grabbed her bath kit. Leaving the house, she sauntered to the stables north of the house. Once on the road leading to the north gate, she walked faster. Glancing up, she saw Mar coming her way. With no way to avoid him, she continued walking.

“Good morning,” he said, politely.

“Good morning to you, also,” she returned, just a bit cautious. Their walk the evening before had been uncomfortable for her. Only her grandmother’s presence had enabled her to stay.

“I think your brother misunderstood my intentions yesterday.”

“I am not sure he did. What were your intentions?”

“I just wanted to talk to you. Nothing more.”

“I believe he did not think speaking to me while I was bathing was a sign of good intentions.” She looked up at him. He was not quite as tall as Elldar, and was much thinner. His dark hair was pulled back in a topknot, but hung down almost as long as hers. He had a decidedly effeminate look about him.

“Why did you seek me out?”

“Just interest.” He paused. “I did enjoy our walk in the gardens.”

“Well, while the walk was nice, you should know there is nothing there. The marking of this birthday has no significance other than in deference to my parents. Whatever you may have said yesterday, I am not interested in anything more than I already have. I agreed to walk through the gardens with you, nothing more.”

“What makes you think I have an interest?”

She looked up at him.

“You do not speak to me. Ever. Not in fifteen years. You show no interest whatsoever. Your contempt for those younger than yourself is painfully evident. I have seen you go out of your way to insult Delinfel. It seems the only one you have not ignored or insulted is Elldar. And I suspect that is out of fear of his uncle. Now, of a sudden, you seek me out twice-in two days. And, I might add, in not so very subtle ways. At what conclusions should I arrive, if not that you are interested?”

Mar laughed, loud enough to draw attention.

“You are correct. However, whether you will it or not, there are those who do look upon this marking of your birthday as a sign that you are approaching your majority. And if one listens to certain quarters, you are old enough to court, even if you have several years before you may wed.”

“One has only to think, with little imagination, where you have gotten your information. If you are so bent on an entanglement you do not understand, you may speak to Lord Elrond. I am sure he will empathize with your plight. Just do not expect him to acquiesce. There is a binding agreement that may make your wait undesirable. But, I do wish you good luck.”

“Explain how it is that you would turn me down for an older ellon such as Rúmil.”

“He holds my interest as others do not. Now, if you will excuse me, I have much to do before this evening.” She nodded and walked away. When she glanced back, he was still staring after her. She turned with a small smile.

Entering the stables, Ela looked around for Meliel. Seeing Del in the back, she approached him.

“Good morning. I am looking for Meliel. Have you seen her?”

Del glanced up from the tack he was repairing.

“She is out back. There is a new foal. You know how she gets about foals.”

“Yes, I do,” said Ela smiling. “I came to see if she wanted to go for a swim.”

“You know the answer to that. She will want to know how warm the water is, and how high it may be running from the spring rains, and where exactly you will choose to swim. Would it not save a lot of headaches just to go by yourself?”

“Yes, it would, but it would not be near as much fun.” She grinned at him. He noticed it did not last long.

“What is it?”

“Have you spoken to Mar, lately?”

“I have never spoken to him; he has spoken at me, but did not invite conversation. Why?”

“It is curious, but he has sought me out twice now. And I would have wagered he did not even notice my existence. Yesterday, he came down to the river to talk to me. Elrohir found him there and was not so gentle in suggesting he go elsewhere. Today, he was polite, almost too much so. If I am denied the use of the bathhouses, then I would prefer not to go to the river alone.”

“You can ask her. If she does not care to go, I will. And I am sure that Elldar would not mind.” She looked for anything other than a genuine offer of companionship. Seeing nothing, she nodded.

“I will keep that in mind. Meanwhile, do not forget about tonight. I have acquired permission from Lord Celeborn to get some wine from his wine master. The elderberry wine.”

“How did you manage that? Finel guards that stuff with his life. Even the Lady must gain permission for some.”

Ela grinned wickedly. “Finel made a gross error several months ago. He wagered against me in a race. The price was a favour. Now I will collect. I do not believe he will be so foolish again, unless I can persuade him to drink some of his own wine.”

Del chuckled.

“What is so funny?” They both turned to see Meliel standing in the stables’ midway.

“Ela managed to get wine from Finel and Mar is paying her court.”

“He is not! And I told you that in confidence.”

“Confidence!” exclaimed Del. “If it was to be a secret, you would not tell either of us.”

Ela turned to Meliel.

“I am going to the river to bathe. I came to see if you would go with me.”

“Well, with the heavy rains out on the eastern plains, I am sure the water will be cold.”

“Never mind. Del has offered to go. I am sure it will not take long for him to fetch his kit.”

“Wait a moment. Del offered to go? I do not think so. I will come.” She cast a look at Del and went out to get her gear.

“It was not necessary to cause me such grief,” he said. “I was honest in my offer.”

“I know you were, and I appreciated it. It was the comment about Mar. Did you think I could let that go?”

“You are a vexing creature, Ela.”

“By the way,” she said, giving him a grin that promised no good. “The rumour you were going to tell me about, before we were interrupted by our near deaths. What was it you heard?”

“Ela,” he begged. “Do not do this. Meliel will hand me my head. And, just in case she misses part of it, Elldar will be sure to finish it. Do not cause my death before I have had a chance to live.”

“I already know of the rumour.”

“Is it true, then?”

“Only as true as it would ever apply now. Do not dwell on the past. I do not. It gains me nothing and only stirs up heartache.”

“But still, to know your grandfather was…”

“Del, if you say it, you will not have to worry about Meliel and Elldar. I will hand you your head myself. If you value what friendship we enjoy, you will never bring it up to me again.”

Meliel’s return saved Del from digging his hole any deeper. Ela cheerfully bid him goodbye and went ahead of Meliel out of the stable. She heard Del sputtering to defend himself to Meliel. She did not want to admit that she was just a bit jealous of the two of them. She had at least ten years before she could even think about being where they were. She suspected that Del would pick tonight to ask Meliel to exchange rings with him. Trust Del to horn in on her night. But she could not really fault him. He just did not see a problem with doing it.

Ela turned as Meliel caught up to her.

"Does Del have any ears left?"

"He will survive. What were you thinking, asking him to go to the river?"

"I was not thinking anything. He offered, if neither you nor Elldar would go. It was no great thing. I cannot go alone right now. You do not like going, so what was I to do?" Ela picked up the pace, forcing Meliel to catch up.

"But Del?"

"I know. Are you ready for tonight?"

"I have only to get dressed. Are you ready?"

"I am. I have my dress, Gariel will do my hair, and everyone is here. Yes, I am ready. I would like you to come by the house early." Having reached the river, Ela dropped her kit on the rock.

"I can. I will tell Del to meet me there."

"No, just come and then go meet him. I want you to come to the party together. I just need you to come over earlier."

"Very well. Is anyone not coming?"

"Who would not?” Ela asked, surprised. “Everyone invited is coming."

"I wondered where Rúmil's brother is today."

Ela looked at her.

"I was just wondering. No harm in that." Meliel was not smiling.

"What game are you playing?”

"I play no games. Just forget I said anything. Now, get your bathing finished so I can get back to something constructive. I have other things to do today."

"You are such a killjoy." Ela stuck a foot in the water. "It is not too bad. Come on. You know you will have to wait forever for the bathhouse. You may as well bathe now." She jumped in, surfacing at the edge of the rock.

Dipping her hand into the river, Meliel decided it was not as cold as other times. Stripping down to her undergarments, she dove in over Ela's head from the rock. She surfaced with a gasp. "Valar, this is cold! How do you do this?"

"Stop complaining and just enjoy. We do not have a lot of time."

Ela swam out to the middle of the river. Diving down, she came back up with a whoop.

"If you think it is cold there, come out here."

"I do not think so. This is cold enough. Come back in."

"You come out. I will race you across the river."

"That is hardly fair. You swim better." She swam out to Ela.

"See, that was not so hard. Come on, I will wait for you." She took off for the far shore, slowly.

"How long are you going to need company?" asked Meliel, her voice almost a whine.

"Just until a certain elf finds out things are not to be as easy as he thinks.”

Reaching the rocks on the far shore, they paused to catch their breath.

"What do you think your ada will say?"

"About Mar? I matters little to me what he says. I will say no. I realize there are few ellith who might be interested in one so young, but that will not sway me. He can go elsewhere to find one willing. Are you ready to start back?"

Meliel nodded. They pushed off the rocks and swam back to the center of the channel. Ela stopped. Grabbing a deep breath, she dove deep. Meliel set out for the shore, knowing what Ela was doing. Sure enough, the younger girl popped up halfway between the center and the near shore. Turning, she laughed and splashed water back at Meliel. They commenced a water fight before tiring of treading water and heading back for the shore.

Laughing, they reached up for their bathing sheets. Ela grabbed hers and stepping out of the water, wrapped it around herself. Meliel followed suit. The gathered their things and parted, promising to meet a Gariel’s later.

At home, Ela put her things away and went to find Gariel. The older woman was in the garden relaxing before the events of the evening took her full attention.

Gariel picked up Ela’s comb and ran it through her hair. Parting it out, she pulled the top third back and tied it off. Twisting it into itself, she smoothed out the roll and started on the next section. She had no idea where Ela had come up with the style, but it was attractive. Pulling the last third together, she wound it back through the tie at the base of her neck. Taking grey ribbons, she wove them through the hair. Standing back, she surveyed her work. Looking at the grey, she had to disagree with Rúmil. Blue was more Ela’s colour. The grey dress and fair skin had a tendency to fade against each other. In addition, the one time Ela had tried yellow, everyone had told her not to do it again. Glancing around her left side, Gariel could just make out the scarring over her temple. She rubbed over it, wishing Ela had let Glordinel remove it when he could.

Ela reached up and grasped the hand.

“Do not fret. I am rather used to it. And it serves as a reminder that friends are worth the scars.” Turning, she reached up and laid a kiss on the older woman’s cheek. “Thank you.”

“For what?”

“For everything. If my mother were here, you are what I would like her to be like. You have been very good to me. I feel blessed to have lived here.”

“Oh, Ela. It is you who have made us feel blessed. I would only give the last fifteen years back if it would bring back your parents. Nothing else do I regret. Go now, before I start to cry. Enjoy your lunch and do not be late returning home.”

“I will not. Have Rúmil and Haldir returned yet? I do not want to miss them tonight.”

“Haldir is here. I believe he said that Rúmil is coming in any time. He needed to find a replacement for Loneldon. He complained that you invited his most trusted officer. He thought that very rude.”

“He will get over it. Celedien was surprised to receive an invitation. The only one to refuse was Corélned. She said something about her sister. Maybe she is sick.” Ela did not notice the slight cough from Gariel. Well, she thought, if the girl did not know, she was not about to tell her.

“I can tell you one was not happy with her invitation. She declined when she found out that half the city guard was coming. She felt it would not help her social standing to mingle with the masses.”

Ela smiled. “Yes, I made sure she was aware of the guest list. But now she cannot claim I excluded her.”

“Well, go now and try not to stir up too much trouble.”

“Me?” she exclaimed, “Cause trouble?

“Go!” Gariel said, laughing. Ela turned and flounced out the door.

****

Closing the gate behind her, Ela started out the lane leading to the main road. Turning east, she started towards the center of the city. She carefully avoided the puddles of water left from the overnight rain. Paying attention to the ground, she did not notice someone behind her. She was startled when his voice broke her concentration.

“Are you off to the Lady’s?”

“As a matter of fact, I am meeting Ada for lunch. What brings you into the city in the middle of the day?” She glanced at the March Warden.

“A silly party. One I was advised not to miss. Do you know anything about it?”

“I am sure no one would miss you if you did not show up. I know of one other who is declining to attend. You could keep her company. You could comfort each other.”

“Ela, you have a wicked streak.”

“So I have been informed. You would not really not come, would you?”

He thought he detected just the smallest hint of disappointment in her voice.

“Would it matter if I did not?”

“Someone may miss you. I am racking my brain to figure out whom that would be. I know, Rúmil. He told me how much he is looking forward to seeing you this evening.” His slight scowl was not lost on her.

“There is enough reason to avoid coming.”

“Did you seek me out just to banter about the party?”

He hesitated and glanced around. By the time he looked back at her, her curiosity was peaked.

“Come now,” she said. “You are not one to deal in nuances.” When he still hesitated, she said, “I am quite sure you have a reason for all of this; however I do not have the time. I am due at the Lady’s and if you do not decide what you are about, I will be late.”

“I find myself once again questioning your age.” He paused, eyeing her. “I have something for you.”

“Will it not wait until this evening?”

“No, it will not. I wanted to give it to you in private, as if it were possible to find any privacy around here, right now.”

She stood, waiting. She was definitely not making this easy. He gave up and just handed her a small box. She looked up into his eyes. Once again she felt a subtle shift in their relationship. Awkwardness had never been one of his faults. She untied the string holding the top of the box. Lifting off the lid, she gasped. She looked sharply up at him.

“Are you serious?” she asked.

“Very. I found them in Minis Tirith. Your grandmother told me what to get.”

Ela lifted a necklace from the box. It was a strand of small goldstones. Hanging from it was an oval of black diamond. On half of it was carved an eagle. The other half was blank. In the bottom of the box were a matching bracelet and a pair of earrings of alternating goldstone and black diamond beads. Ela was in a state Haldir in which had seldom seen her: speechless.

“I… I do not know…I cannot accept…”

“You cannot refuse. They are a birthday gift. You said that your parents would have gifted you on this day. They are not here. I would do the honour.”

“But it is not your place. Why would you do this?” He could see the confusion in her eyes.

“Because I want to, and it is proper that you receive this. Lady Elestra went to great lengths to find out what a fitting gift would be. She told me that this is what would have been appropriate for your station had you lived among your mother’s people. And it is what may have given you had you lived with her.”

“Then why did she not give them to me?”

“Has anyone ever mentioned what a perverse child you are?”

She smiled. “Seldom mentioned, but surely thought. Just ask Erestor. If this is what you truly want, then I accept. But I am surprised at the earrings.”

He sighed quietly. For some reason, this seemed the hardest thing he had ever done. The thought that she would refuse had shaken him more than he cared to admit. He grinned back at her.

“As with all else concerning you, it is just one more thing to be accepted. I discovered long ago that there is nothing easy about you. If you insist on having holes in you ears, then you should at least have something decent to wear in them. Those bells are irritating.” He remembered the first time she had worn them. They seemed to be a part of her now.

“Very well.” She glanced up into the trees. “Oh, now I am late, and it takes me so long to get up to the Lady’s talan. I must go, but thank you for the gift. I am sure it will cause not a few stirrings.”

She turned and quickly walked away, leaving him feeling unfinished. He frowned. Such silliness over a gift.

Her parting thought was, did he really have no idea what the gift implied?

----
Elrond glanced toward the door. It was not like her to be late. He was not looking forward to the conversation he had planned. She was adamant about the subject, but it was one he could not ignore. He relaxed as he saw her finally arrive. Smiling, he remembered the small child that had fallen into his lap twenty years ago. She had filled a gap that he had not realized had grown so big. But, looking at her now, he saw she was no longer a child. She would never be as tall as her father’s people. Nor as dark as her mother’s. At first glance, she would not be mistaken for either. Elladan had been right; she more resembled the Rohan, not that they would take her for one of their own. She was a blending of several peoples, Noldor, Sindar and Indrel. Not for the first time, he wondered if there were more. As far as he knew the Indrel were a very suspicious people. He did not see them accepting any other race of beings. Her father was proof of that. And, he knew from her father’s ancestry that there was no outside blood there. He laid his imagination to rest. The girl just disturbed him, in a pleasant way. What bothered him most, however, was that she was about to be loosed upon the world. And, he was not sure what her role would be. Her parents should have been looking for a husband for her now, yet he had made her promise to wait. She had always acquiesced to those who knew better, but he had sensed a quiet will beneath her that once unleashed would seek its own way. He hoped with the training and love given her, she would choose the correct way. His attention went back to her as she made her way to him.

“Ada, I am sorry. I was stopped along the way. Am I too late?”

“No, Iell.” He rose and kissed her cheek before taking her hand and leading her to the small antechamber. She looked around the room.

“I have spent too much time in here,” she said, smiling. She sat in the chair he held for her. As he sat down, Erestor entered the room with a tray. She looked up questioningly.

“I have asked him to join us. I would discuss a delicate matter, and I do not want others here at the present. Do you mind?”

“Not at all.” She laid her box on the table. Elrond glanced at it. Ela saw he was curious. “A gift. From a friend. Would you like to see?” She slid the box across the table. Her tone was not lost on Erestor. Fifteen years had not changed some things.

Elrond opened the box, and then looked sharply at Ela.

“Who gave you this?” he asked quietly.

“A friend.” She picked up a small sandwich from the tray and started eating it, nonchalantly.

“Do you know what this is?”

“I suspect.”

“Does your friend?”

“I am quite sure he does not. Otherwise he would not have gifted me with it.”

“You cannot keep it.”

“I cannot give it back. He has no idea what it is. This is my grandmother’s doing. She sent him to find it. He went to a lot of trouble. I am not sure, but I think she tries to circumvent our agreement.” Elrond gazed into Ela’s innocent eyes.

“There is no thinking about it. And you know very well what she does.”

“Well, it will do her no good. I am not ready, and neither is he. So I will just accept the gift in the manner intended, and disregard her intentions.”

“You must return it.”

“I cannot. If he finds out what it is, then he will be humiliated. Would you have me do that? No, I cannot do it. Do you not understand?” Her tone shifted. No longer light, but with a passion that bespoke a slight bitterness. “Lady Elestra sees only the now. It is not time. There are things in motion that cannot be undone. Destiny cannot be shunted aside, or held back at our convenience. I must accept certain unpleasantries concerning my past than I cannot change. You must accept certain unpleasantries concerning my future that you cannot change. I made a promise in good faith when I agreed to wait for my majority. However, it will affect others. The Indrel will not be stayed. Even now, they seek ways to get what they desire. Do not ask how I know this. I could not tell you if I tried. They are a desperate people, and their current leader is ambitious. If I return there, do you know who desires to be king? Crelden craves it, but he was speaking for his lord. The one who is striving to get me back there is my uncle, my mother’s brother. He cannot have what he wants without me. Do you realize what I am saying?”

Elrond looked at her in shock. Wedding a child was forbidden, yet the Indrel were willing to overlook that. What she suggested now was even more taboo. Yet they seemed willing to overlook even that.

“I see that you do understand.” She paused. “And there is something else, but I cannot remember what it is. It is hovering just out of my thoughts. But it is important.” She sighed. “The Lady says that I will remember when it is time. The waiting is exasperating, though.” She looked at Elrond. “Can you imagine knowing something important, and not remembering? What if I remember too late?”

“Too late for what?”

“I do not know. That is the maddening part. If I knew, maybe I could prevent it.” She grinned over at him. “I guess you will be seeing the Lady when we are finished. At least it is not Haldir this time. He dreads speaking with me. It almost invariably leads to a trip up here.”

“I had thought that our troubles with you would be ending soon. It appears that they are just beginning. Could you have not been a simple human child that I would have sent to Misty Haven?”

“I could have been, but would you have been satisfied? You have not suffered overmuch because of me. I rather think you have enjoyed it. You do like your riddles. Now, may I have permission to come to Imladris, when I am ready?”

“Why would you need permission? I told you when you left you would always be welcome.”

“I am not yet ready to give my reasons, but it may prove troublesome if I come. They will not stop trying.”

“Then we will be waiting for them. Will you tell me who gave you the gift? I already suspect.”

She stared out the window for several minutes. He could see the confusion pass over her face. “It is not yet time, but if you press me, I will.”

He deliberated on this answer, different from the ones she had always given. Making up his mind he said, “Very well, then. We will discuss your grandfather.”

She wrinkled her nose. “Is it necessary?”

“You know that it is. Your grandmother is very distraught concerning your attitude. Do you realize that now that she has come forward, her marriage can be established? And announce that Ereinion’s line did not die with him.”

She thought on this. It had occurred to her before, but was not something she liked to dwell on. Erestor watched her face. He could see her trying to find a way out of this predicament without harming Elestra. He knew exactly when she concluded that she could not find one.

“Why can you not just establish her claim, and let it go? What good can come of this? Those who will can form their own conclusions. She has spoken little of her life before; however, I have garnered bits and pieces. And, it is not hard to imagine how difficult life was in the Havens for her. She could produce no name for Dorlandad’s sire. I understand why my father left. It is no easy thing to be unaccepted. I had a small taste of it in Holm’s Hold. I would not like to have spent my life among people treated like a cast-off. Yet, this is not only about her. I would rather not say anything about myself. It is the only compromise I can offer. Just let it go at that. I am better served by obscurity.”

Erestor smiled. He could not help wondering what the Indrel could accomplish if they let her rule, instead of a husband chosen simply because he was the strongest. He shook his head. It was no way to govern a people.

“Well enough, Iell. I see you do understand. Know that Elestra is sympathetic, knowing you are hesitant. She would spare you this, but she thinks also of her son and your future. She understands your reluctance. She hopes that you will see her side.”

“I do, but it does not please me any. I would rather have just lived in obscurity. It makes life easier. And what will you do when things stir even further?”

“What things?”

“There is still the east. And, although I do not know what it is, there is something to the south. It bears watching. When it rears its head, it will be a bitter blow.”

“Do you know what comes?”

She smiled. “As usual, just enough to disturb, but not enough to tell anything.”

“You know about the stirrings to the east. You know the history of Morgoth. Do you then also know the future?”

“Oh, Ada. That is silly. It is not possible for me to predict the future. Oh, I know you have a gift for foresight, as does the Lady, but is it always the way things will be? If so, why bother if you know a disaster is coming? If you see it, how can you prevent it?”

“I can only see what could happen. Nothing is certain. There are always variables that are not evident. I had forebodings before the attack on you in Imladris. I let Elrohir talk me out of them. I knew about the battle here when it happened. Not details, but something had happened. I do know that something evil arises in the east. And it is an old evil, one thought defeated.”

“I can sense it, also.” She closed her eyes. “It stirs as does a slumbering animal that does not quite awaken. It is shapeless and right now is not entirely aware.” She opened her eyes. “Is that what you see?”

“It is. When it does awaken, there will be much blood shed before it is finally put down for good.”

She nodded. “And it is not alone,” she whispered. “It has found an ally in one dissatisfied with his lot in life. You would do well to find him and sunder the alliance that has not quite formed yet.”

Elrond sat back. He had thought him and Mithrandir the only ones who knew. It seemed the time had come to bring the Maia to Lórien.

“Do you foresee what will happen?”

“No. That is not a gift I possess, nor would I welcome such an ability. I can only claim that the education given me taught me to fit together bits and pieces of things I hear and read. Then, you already suspected that. And, I can feel it, not the future, but the now. The stirrings have ceased for the present. However, evil is drawn towards the east even now. Can you not feel it? It is like falling in mud. The very air there is thick and tainted. Even the men who lived surrounding the area north feel it. That is why they flee.”

Elrond glanced at Erestor. They had discussed exactly what they thought she could do. It seemed not as much as they had suspected. It was just as well. The girl had enough problems without adding an ability to see the future.

Erestor reached over and gently laid a hand on her arm.

“When will you return to Imladris?”

“I am not sure. I only know that for the moment, Rohan is closed. I would not chance what lies there.”

“Would the healer remain, with what is passing?”

Elrond became aware that this was not the first time they had spoken on this subject. He sat and listened. Erestor was much more adept at prying details from Ela. Not for the first time, he noticed the affinity between them.

“He is old and settled. He does not want to leave; he will not desert those who cannot leave yet. His wife is long gone, and he sent his children and grandchildren south long ago. He, also, has a small gift for adding up facts and does not like the results. The people living in the area surrounding the north of Mordor do not need prophets and foreseers to know what happens there. They live it. It is as plain as the trees we see now. Gregor sent word to me that although he would welcome me, he advised against coming.”

“Why this pressing need, now?”

“I told you, I do not know. I only know that it is important. I feel the urge to do it. I cannot stop it any more than I can stop the sun from rising. It just is.”

“When you are ready, come home.” Elrond was sincere in his invitation. He had not liked sending her to Lórien and wanted her back home. If he could not have his own children, he wanted his adopted one where he could protect her.

“Thank you, Ada. It will not be soon, maybe a year or so. When necessary, I will know the time is right. For now, I will content myself with learning all I can. Glordinel has proven to be what I needed. I am told that I am not nearly as stiff as the northern elves, possibly from the mountains to the west.”

Elrond laughed. “By Meliel, I am sure. There is a change. I noticed it when you were home. You are surer of yourself. And, I do not doubt, more mature. I have heard the rumblings in certain quarters concerning your strong will.”

“Ha! He is the cause of my strong will, and, probably my learning to go around the edges of the rules. Yes,” she laughed, “I know what is said. It is impossible to keep anything secret here. I think even the trees have ears. There are wagers even now, on whether or not I make it to the fences. I am sure that no one has broached the subject with him, but I have a hefty amount of coin riding on the outcome. I plan on a wedding trip to Minas Tirith. And my husband will not be able to use cost as an excuse not to take me.”

“And who is that?”

“That will not work. But, it is good that your interest is peaked. Things get boring around here at times, and among friends, the subject has made many a night pass quicker.”

“Ela, you have not changed that much.” Elrond sobered. “I did have one thing to tell you. The snake in the barn died after you left.”

She nodded. “It was his time. He felt it was so. I wished him good hunting in the afterlife, and bid him say good things of me to my father, should he make it to the Halls of Namo. No, it is not a time for sadness. He offered me many years of friendship and pleasant thoughts after I left.”

Erestor rose at a knock on the door. Speaking quietly to someone outside, he turned back to Elrond.

“It was Felend. Our time is at an end.”

“Well, Ela, are you ready for tonight?”

“Most certainly, Ada. You realize that this is the last day I am considered a child. From now on, I may make my own choices.”

“You have been doing that for years. One day is not going to make a difference in that.”

“It will to one. And, the difference is that I no longer have to defer to those older than myself. Not,” she held up a hand to his reply, “that I will not, when the situation warrants. After all, I do not live in a world of my own. There are always others to consider. Know that your faith in me is not misplaced. I have no plans to do anything rash. I have thought long and hard on my future, and I have inquired concerning the wisdom of my options. There is more to consider than my own safety.”

“You are wise in that respect, Iell. I have never felt my faith misplaced. You are a strong young woman who is quite capable of making her way in the world. Just promise to be wary of that same world. It does have a tendency to bite when least expected.”

“I will. Now, I must go. I have much to do and Gariel will not thank me if I am late. She has gone to great trouble for tonight, and I do not want to disappoint her. Until tonight.” She rose and kissed Elrond’s forehead. Nodding to Erestor, she went out the door he held for her. When she was gone, they looked at each other.

“She will be fine.”

“Yes, I fear for the ones who get in her way.”

Erestor gave a rare laugh. “Right now, I fear for only one.”

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Chapter name
Chapter Twenty
Created
06 Mar 2005
Last Edited
06 Mar 2005
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