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Butterfly-Cocoon

Chapter 21: Chapter Twenty-one

by Rous

I feel compelled to warn you that this is the last chapter. So, if you do not like semi-cliff hangers, you may not want to read. However, the good news is that I am working on Part ll. It will be a little slow in coming as I have started back on an original story I am writing. Thank you so much, all of you who have stuck with this story through the rewrites and glitches in my personal life. I love this story as much as some of you do. And I have no intentions of not finishing it, so, if you will bear with, I will try to hurry it up.

I have run through and made minor changes in the last seven chapters. Mostly, just grammar and dropping a few lines to clarify passages. Feedback is welcome. As usual, any issues with canon are addressed in the first chapter.

Thank you,

Rous




Chapter Twenty-one

“Ela, hold still!” Gariel had been trying for half an hour to get her into her dress. Her hair alone had taken twice the normal time, simply because she would not sit still. Gariel had finally sent Meliel home to keep Ela from being distracted. All the arrangements for tonight had not been as frustrating as the last two hours.

“Gariel, do you think he will make it?”

“Who? Oh, Rúmil? Yes, he will make it. He promised.” Ela was upset he still had not returned to the city. Even Lonélden had arrived. But no Rúmil.

“I know he promised. But what if something happened?”

“If something happened, you would know. Now, stop squirming and let me get your dress on you.”

“Hello!” came from the front door.

“Lindelen!” Gariel called. “Thank the Valar you are here. Hold her down while I get this dress on her.”

“Ela, what did you say to Meliel? She is in a state.”

“I just told her stay with Del tonight. Do not wander.” She settled the dress onto her shoulders. Gariel started buttoning up the back.

“How am I supposed to get out of this, if the need arrives?”

“What need would you have to get out of it?” Lindelen smiled.

“You are wedded. Why would you need to get out of it?”

“ELA!” Gariel exclaimed.

“I am only jesting,” the girl laughed. “I have no intentions of needing to get out of it. Just do not make my wedding gown with the buttons in the back. Nor Meliel’s. She will not thank you, nor will Del.”

“Del!” said Lindelen. “He has not even made a move in that direction, yet. I think she is wasting her time on him.”

“So do I, but then he is her choice.”

“Hmmph,” said the older woman. “And when exactly am I making your wedding gown?”

“Give it a few years yet. I have things to do first.”

“There!” said Gariel, with a sigh. “Turn around.”

Lindelen and Gariel examined the dress as Ela slowly turned. The deep sapphire silk contrasted sharply with her pale skin and light copper hair. But it complemented her eyes. Her hair had been braided and twisted and looped into an intricate pile on her head. Lindelen reached for the thin tiara Ela had brought back from Imaladris. She placed it on the girl’s forehead and stood back to look. Gariel had brought Ela’s sapphire earrings from her room.

“No, I will wear these tonight,” she said, handing Gariel a box. Opening it, Gariel gasped.

“Ela, these are beautiful. Where did you get them?”

“An early gift. The stones match the one my grandmother gave me. I think they will suit.” She stood still while Gariel fastened the necklace. Ela took her gold earrings out and replaced them with the ones from the box. Lindelen picked up the bracelet and put it on her left wrist. She and Gariel took a step back to survey their handiwork.

“Not bad. Next time, we will have to do better.”

“Oh, Lindelen! Did Meliel get dressed all right?”

“Yes. She practically threw me out of the house when she was done. Told me to hie myself down here to help you. The gowns are both beautiful.”

“You did an excellent job. Thank you.”

“Are you ready to go?” asked Gariel.

“I am waiting for Ada.”

A noise at the front door caught their attention. Gariel went into the family room.

“Oh,” she said. “Ela was expecting her father.”

“Is it Rúmil?” Ela came into the room. She stopped when she saw who was standing there. The look on her face changed from excitement to something else. The man was not sure how to read it.

“You father sent me to get you. He said something about being needed at the moment. I hope you are not too disappointed it was not my brother.”

“No,” she said, lightly. Down, butterflies, she chastised herself.

“Are you ready?”

“Yes. Are you two coming?”

“We are right behind you,” said Lindelen. By mutual agreement, they held back , allowing the others to wander ahead. Gariel thought things were becoming clearer.

“I see you decided to wear the jewelry.”

“Was I not supposed to?” she asked.

“No, I mean, yes. If you wanted to.”

“Do you think they go with my dress?”

“Your dress?” he asked. “Oh, your dress.” For the first time, he noticed it was the same dress he had buttoned up for her not long ago. “They go better than the leggings and bare feet.”

She looked blank for a moment. Then started laughing. “I had forgotten about that. Yes, you are right. They do look better.”

They walked in silence for several moments.

“Why do you want to go up to the fences so much?” His question startled her.

“Because I feel a need. Do you not remember how it felt to be young? There is so much I want to do. And all at once.”

“But you are a lady. You cannot change that. There are those who object to your desires.”

“And you are not one of them?” she asked, grinning. “Why do you oppose me so?”

He thought on it. “It is not necessary. You are not needed on the borders. It seems rather irresponsible to allow you up there.”

“Irresponsible on whose part? It seems it should be my choice, if I am capable of the job. Am I?”

He took a moment. It had been a while since she had caught him up in one of her word games, but he had not forgotten how it felt. If he told her the truth, he left himself open, if he lied, she would never let him forget it.

“You are,” he said, hesitantly. “However, why risk it? Can you not content yourself with healing and teaching? Why must you compound things by seeking such a hazardous living?”

“Would you be content here in the city, day after day? Is it fair to condemn me to such an existence? You do not deny Meliel. Nor do you deny Solera or Elendin. And other than the incident on the eastern marches, when has there been much danger?”

“The danger is always there. It is not always obvious. I do not think it the place for you.” He finished as if the discussion was at an end.

Silent for minutes, Ela thought out her next comments.

“All right,” she said, watching him roll his eyes, “let me see if I understand. You do not want me on the fences. I am capable and responsible enough for all, except you. Could it be there is another reason? One not tied to my abilities? I mean, I did disobey orders. Nevermind that Del is not upset. Nor his parents, nor his future wife. Are you afraid that I will not be able to control myself? That I may cause my future husband grief?” She saw a flicker in his eyes. “Ah, so that is it. Why should you worry about that? I am not even betrothed yet. I have not given any an indication that I am ready for that. Yet you worry for him. Is that not a little fatherly of you?”

“Stop it. I do not care for the reasons your juvenile mind conjures up for my refusal. I refuse. That is the end of it.”

“Very well. I will not bring it up again.” She concentrated on the path ahead of her. “I am returning to Imladris soon.” She smiled as he stumbled.

“What!”

“My Elvish is very good. I did not stutter. Ada has said I may return. I have decided to accept his invitation.”

“When?”

“In a year or so. Does it matter? You are on the marches. I am in the city. You will not even miss me.” Well, that would give him food for thought.

He was silent. Leaving Lórien. Did he care? He found that for some reason, he did. He did not want to contemplate Rúmil’s reaction. Well, that might be amusing, for a while. It would keep his brother on his toes for a short time. He would be sure to let it slip.

They reached the outer edge of the gardens. Faint laughter could be heard from the depths of the interior. Haldir reached out and took Ela’s hand, laying it on his arm. She laid her other hand over it. To any watching, it was a gesture of intimacy that could not be mistaken. And there was one watching. One could not see her, but Ela felt her presence. She backed further into the trees, but not before her movement caught the attention of the two who followed.

“There is trouble just waiting an opportune moment,” commented Gariel.

“Ela had better watch herself. I really believe the woman is not right. I cannot understand her dislike for the girls. Ela is one thing. She does not look Elven, but Meliel inherited little of her father’s looks. She could pass for full Elven.”

“Trust me, it has nothing to do with looks. It has to do with men. Deladrieng set herself to capture Orophin. When that did not happen, she decided on Rúmil. He quickly set her straight. So then she went after Haldir. He just ignores her, for the most part. Then when Rúmil and Ela started their little game a year ago, it caused even more resentment. Now that it seems Ela is making a move into her territory, Deladrieng is really going to get nasty. I have seen it before. She has run several out of the city with her jealousy. I really do not understand it. With so many to choose from, why go for one who does not return your affections? There are many who would have been willing to accept her when she was younger, but no longer. She had become too bitter.”

“Is Ela playing games? There are those who would not welcome that. I know she is half-Elven, yet both she and Meliel bring enough of their other heritages into their lives to make waves.”

“I do not think you can inherit what Ela is doing. It is something only a woman can do. And playing games has always been part of it. Ela just picked the wrong opponent.”

“Well, I do not envy her. Meliel has told me some of the things the woman has said about her. I can only imagine what she says about Ela.”

“Whatever you imagine, it is true. Ela will not confirm it, but Deladrieng is the one who started all the ‘half-blood cur’ comments. Orophin was livid when he heard them from some of the guards. They had come to him to complain. If it came to a popularity contest between the two of them, I know where I would place my coin.”

Gariel glanced ahead when she heard her name. She saw Orophin coming towards her. The look on his face told her there was a problem.

“Rúmil is still not here.” He gave his wife a quick kiss on the cheek. “Lord Celeborn said he was taking care of business for him. I do not like it. Ela will not be happy.”

“I will speak to her. Is everything else in order?”

“Everything is ready. Come, I have seats for all of us. This way.” He led the two ladies to a large table set to the side. It was set for twenty. There were other tables scattered around the clearing. One large table held food and drinks. Wine had been set out and was already in evidence. A group of musicians were setting up across the gathering.

Nodding to Lord Elrond, already seated, but rising, the ladies took their seats. Gariel found Ela across the way, speaking to Glordinel. Haldir had disappeared. She noticed that every few minutes, Ela glanced towards the entrance to the glen. Which brother she was looking for, Gariel would not hazard a guess. Finally seeing a grin, Gariel glanced back. Neither. It was Meliel. She and Del had arrived. Ela nodded to her teacher and went to greet them.

“Oh, Meliel! You look beautiful. And the earrings.”

“Thank you. And for the earrings. Mother had a right fit about them. But, as she said, the damage was done.” She turned her head so Ela could see the tiny emerald stones. They matched her gown perfectly.

“And do you not look dashing, Del!” When Meliel’s attention was drawn away, Ela looked at her escort. “And I forgive you for messing up my party,” she whispered.

He looked startled, then sheepish. “I am sorry, but it is the perfect time.”

“The only reason I would forgive you. Just pick your time carefully.”

“I will let you decide.”

Ela glanced past him to see Celeborn and Galadriel coming up the path. “Excuse me,” she said to her friends. She walked over to where the rulers of Lórien stood surveying the gathering.

Bowing, she said, “Welcome, Lord Celeborn, Lady Galadriel. Thank you for coming. I am most pleased to see you.”

Celeborn nodded back. “I almost did not recognize you in a gown. It is beautiful, but does not suit you.”

“It is a necessary evil,” she said ruefully. “It seems Lórien has spoiled me. I had forgotten how trying these affairs can be. But it is for only one night.”

“Do not listen to him,” Galadriel laughed. “The gown does you great justice. I would see you dressed so more often. Have you seen Arwen? She left ahead of us.”

“Not yet. Do you know anything about Rúmil? He is not here, and I have heard it is your doings.” She looked unabashedly at Celeborn.

“I have no idea,” he said with a straight face. “Wife, have you anything to do with this?”

“Not a thing. I see Elrond. I would speak with him.” She escaped before Celeborn could move fast enough to join her.

“I think you do have an idea. He promised to be here, and is not. Only your business would keep him.”

“I suppose you could wait and see if he comes. Other than that, I have no advice to offer.”

She looked into his eyes. “I will wait, but this is your doing.” She laughed as he turned towards his wife to keep her from seeing his smile.

She went over to the table where her family was seated. Walking up behind Elrond, she laid her arms around his neck and kissed the back of his head. He glanced up and smiled.

“How is my youngest daughter?”

“Not so young, anymore,” she whispered in his ear. “Just wishing she could crawl up on your lap yet. Have you seen Arwen?”

“She is just arriving. And not alone, it seems.”

Ela glanced up to see her sister crossing the glen with Mar. Well, he certainly had aspirations. She nodded to the ellon, then grinned and hugged her sister.

“Ada,” Arwen said giving her father a hug. “Have you seen your sons? They seem to have disappeard.”

“That is curious,” said Ela. “So has another brother. Where do you suppose they could be? Off carousing? Maybe they forgot.”

“I would not worry,” said Elrond. “They did not forget.”

There was a commotion back in the trees. Ela stood shocked as the party made its way into the clearing. Everyone turned at her soft cry as she ran towards her brothers. There was stunned silence as she passed both of them and Rúmil. She bent to hug a small figure standing in their midst.

“Dorga! How is it you are here?”

“Hey, lass, careful of the beard. Your excitement could do irreparable harm,” he boomed. “Your father arranged it. And that is not all.” He stepped aside to reveal a young woman shorter than herself.

“No, it cannot be!”

“It is,” shouted Dorga. “Lord Elrond arranged for Rosa to come also.”

The small Hobbit looked around in wonder at all the elves. When the invitation had come to attend Ela’s party, she had thought it was to be in Imladris. She had never dreamed that she would stand in the fabled Lórien.

Ela leaned down and gave her life-long friend a warm embrace.

“You do not know how many times I have wanted to see you. How was your journey?”

“So long. I would not have thought it so far. We stopped in Rivendell. It is as beautiful as you described it. I think Father cried when he saw it. For so many years he has promised to visit. Now he can die a happy man. Not that he is not already deliriously happy. Come here, Perin.” Rosa turned back to motion someone forward. Ela took in the handsome Halfling before her. His clothes were very expensively cut and spoke of some wealth. It seemed Rosa had done well.

Perin gave a small bow.

“I am pleased to meet you, Lady Ela. Rosa has spoken much about you. I feel I almost know you.” His elvish was not quite as polished as Rosa’s, but he was understandable. In light of his dealings with Elrohir and Elladan, Gradin had made sure that his children learned to speak the elven tongue.

Ela laughed. “I wish I could say the same. She has been very closed mouth concerning you. Perhaps she feared I would swoop down on the Shire and steal you.”

“Oh, lady! I would never desert my Rosa. She is the highest treasure of the Shire.”

Gradin stepped forward. “Has she hoodwinked him, or what?”

“Hello, Gradin. It is good to see you, again. And this must be Lady Letty.” She smiled as the short, slightly stout woman blushed. “It is you I have to thank that I did not arrive in Imlandis in naught but what the Valar provided me. And to show you the gratitude I hold for you, I still have the clothes. They are stored in my father’s house awaiting the day I have a daughter of my own. I will tell her that she wears the clothes of a most foresightful Halfling. It was my good fortune that the clothes were too big for Rosa.”

“Thank you, lady,” Letty stammered. She had never spoken to an elf before, let alone had one profess gratitude for something she had not even done.

“Ela, these are our children, Feller and Ella. Rosa wrote you about them.” Gradin motioned forward a boy and small girl.

“She did. How is your leg, Feller? I must tell you that I broke mine once. I fell from my tree house. Can you imagine an elf falling from a tree?” Fifteen year old Feller looked at her in fascination. A real live elf. Talking to him. And falling from trees? What a tale to tell back home! And to think, this was his sister’s friend. Oh, the prestige this would gain him!

Ten year old Ella looked up at Ela.

“Are you really an elf?” she asked. “You do not look like Rohir and Elldan. You are all gold.”

“Yes, little one. I am an elf. A most proper one, I am informed.” Ela knelt down to look the small girl in the eye. “Would you like to meet another elf?”

“Oh, yes!” Ella exclaimed.

Ela picked her up and carried her to where Lady Galadriel sat.

“Lady, this little one would like to meet an elf. She is most taken by us. Ella, this is Lady Galadriel. She is the most proper Elf I know.”

“Oooh. You are the most beautiful Elf I have ever seen.” She nodded her small head. The Lady laughed.

“I would have more of her around. She is soothing for my ego.”

Ela went around to her father once more.

“Thank you so much. This is a gift more precious than any I can think of.”

“You will have to give Erestor the credit. He says he promised you your friends for your birthday. I only made it possible.”

“How did you gain permission for a Dwarf to enter the Woods?”

“That would be Celeborn’s doing. He is the only exception made, and for your benefit.”

“Well, I must be sure to thank him appropriately. Did Dorga bring anything with him?”

“A whole cask, I am told. I have a feeling he plans quite a tea party for you.”

“It will not be unappreciated. I am out and was planning on writing for more.”

Ela turned as Ella started squirming. She noticed the child looking at the food.

“Are you hungry, little one?” At her nod, Ela grinned. “Then we will eat. I know better than to keep a Halfling from food.” She swung Ella around as she made her way to the food table. Ela had not noticed that Haldir had rejoined the group. He was standing next to his brothers.

“Does she not look good with a child?” asked Orophin.

“Yes, she does,” remarked Rúmil. “Some man is going to be very blessed.”

Haldir stared at his youngest brother. “Not you?”

“I told you that long ago. There is nothing between us. Other than friendship.”

Haldir turned back to observe Ela with the Hafling child. “Then it will not distress you to know she is returning to Imladris.” He watched from the corner of his eye to gauge the reaction.

“I know. We spoke of it. I do not agree with her reasons, but it is her choice. And I am inclined to trust her judgment. Unlike another I could name.”

Haldir scowled. This was not the reaction he had expected. Maybe they had been telling the truth concerning their relationship. He changed his mind when she looked over and motioned his brother to join her. And he went, like a love sick puppy.

Ela returned to the table to find that Elestra had finally made it. She sat next to her grandmother and held Ella on her lap. It seemed the child was content to remain there for the rest of the meal. Ela ate around Ella and wiped her chin when the excited girl swung her spoon into the air. All of this was accomplished without effort or thought on her part, as if she had been doing it for years.

The chatter got louder as the table filled up. Another table was brought to accommodate Gradin and his family and Dorga. Since Ela and Elrond were so at ease, the Halflings felt at ease. They relaxed and enjoyed the meal. Although more informal than the meal they had been guested with at Elrond’s, the food was just as sumptuous. And the wine flowed freely. By the end of the meal, it was obvious that Lórien’s elves were ahead of Imladris when it came to throwing parties. This was no sedate gathering such as Ela had been subjected to when growing up. This was the kind of gathering that led to mornings scrounging for remedies to ease throbbing heads. The occasions were few and far between, so any excuse was welcome, even if it was a celebration from another culture. Ela’s birthday would not have been marked if not for her Indrel heritage. But that did not bother the elves. And they had gone all out. Gariel had garnered help from anyone interested in helping. And because it was for Ela, there were few not interested. She was well-liked among the guards and wardens she knew. And it did not surprise Elrond where the tendrils of friendship had reached. She was on easy terms with those from the Lord and Lady, all the way down to the stable hands that cared for her horse. All had been invited and none were shirked because of rank. He glanced over at Erestor. The same thought had occurred to his most trusted friend. It seemed their little princess was well at home among the common people. She had an air that would be totally squashed, should she return to Holm’s Hold. No, if she had to return to the world of men, her place would be more fitting at the side of a king, but at his equal, not a stepping stone to a destination. Gondor would benefit from her diplomacy and grace. He could almost see her sitting on the throne. It was a place that for once, she outdid Arwen. Elrond knew his elder daughter would never be at ease in such a situation. Arwen, a queen of men? No, she would leave with him for the undying lands when the time arrived. They would greet Celebrian together, husband and children. He could almost picture the reunion. Arwen and her mother reunited and happy. Forever.

“Ada!” Elrond started, as he realized that Arwen was speaking to him. “Where were you?” she asked softly.

He smiled at her. “Just thinking on the future. What did you want?”

“Nothing,” she smiled back. “You just looked so lost.”

“I am fine. Who is your young escort?”

“His name is Mar. He asked to accompany me this evening. I am not sure why, but it has nothing to do with an interest in me, so you may rest easy.”

“I never rest easy when it comes to my children. You all have the ability to rend any rest to shreds. Are you coming home anytime soon?”

“I cannot. Grandmother has not yet finished with me.”

“Well, it seems I am to be alone for another year. Your brothers refuse, also. However, Ela will return.”

“That is news. I thought she would stay here forever. She did not enjoy the last visit.”

“I know. But this time, it is her choice. I am not sure why she wants to come, but she and Erestor have been discussing it. I would be good if you returned with her.”

“I cannot promise that, right now. When the time comes, I will return.”

“I will be pleased to see you, whenever that may be. Ah, the dancing will begin soon.” He pondered how to ask the question that had been plaguing him for weeks. “Are you and Ela close?”

“Not as close as she is with Elrohir, or even Elladan. Our interests are not the same. Why?”

“She is dropping hints about the future. And today she showed me a gift. But would not tell me who gave it to her. Do you have any thoughts on the matter?”

“I have a few. But should I share them with you? It is Ela’s business.”

“Arwen, if you are to deprive me of your company, then the least you can do is indulge my paranoia. I would know more of this man she keeps mentioning.”

“I have only heard rumours. I can tell you that Mar seems keenly interested.”

“No, he is too young. She said he was older.”

“That leaves Rúmil. He is the only one she has shown any interest in.”

“I do not believe he is the one, either. And neither does Elrohir.”

“Ah, he will not tell you, either. Is that why you question me?” She laughed at the guilty look on her father’s face. “Do not worry. She has no intentions of jumping into marriage just yet.”

“Have you seen the gift she received? It is not a gift given by just a friend.”

“Ada, let it go. She knows what she does.” Arwen smiled. “I am sure you will not be talking to any ellon on her behalf for a long while. Just let it go and enjoy the party.”

Elrond frowned. He had the impression that there were not a few who had some ideas of what was going on, but he had found none willing to discuss them. And the worst one was the girl, herself. She had always been closed about her personal life, and it had made him uneasy at times. It was hard to gauge just which direction she would go in some situations. He glanced up as someone sat next to him.

“You look like you could use a drink.” Elestra sat a glass of wine in front of him.

“I could use some information.”

“Well, I only have wine, so will that content you for now?”

“It will have to. You could answer a question for me. Who gave Ela the necklace?”

“Now, how would I know that?”

“Elestra, I knew you when you were a simpering girl mooning over a fledgling prince. You forget that I was privy to what was going on then. You managed to get what you wanted. What is it you want this time?”

“Elrond, you have no idea how the female mind works. She will tell you when she is ready.”

“This is a most frustrating game she has learned. Who taught it to her?”

“No one need teach a girl this game. We are born knowing how to play it. Do you think you made all the moves before you and Celebrian settled on each other? If you do, then you should speak with her mother. I am quite sure there were things going on in the background that you are not aware of even today. Ela is flexing an ability she was not aware she possessed. She will use it for a while, then when the game gets old, she will stop until it is time to get serious. Let her have her fun.”

“Fun! I am not having fun.”

“No, you would not. The game was not made for males, nor in particular, fathers. I think that if you just sit back and observe, you will learn a lot. The game is a subtle dance between many. If you watch long enough, you will figure it out.”

Elrond thought back over his courtship of Celebrian. He remembered the chance meetings in the gardens. The way she had been swayed by his taking control. Their first disagreement, when afterwards he had found her flirting with Erestor. All the little things that he had not paid attention to at the time. All her doings? That was impossible. She could not have manoeuvred him that way! He had known what he wanted and taken it. No, he had been in control. He was satisfied that he could lay that to rest.

“Ada.” The soft voice broke into his reverie. He glanced up to see Ela standing in front of him. “They are starting the dancing. Would you dance the first one with me?”

“Yes, Iell. How could I refuse.” He rose and took her hand. They walked out to the center of the clearing. He took her hand as the music started. They swirled around the open area as other joined them. Mar was fast losing Arwen’s interest as he struggled to manoeuver his partner closer to the center. Arwen, guessing at his intent was just as insistent that they remain on the edges. Several made as if to cut in on Elrond, but were dissuaded by his sons. When the dance was finished, the dancers lightly applauded. There was a slight pause as everyone waited to see who would get the next dance. As the music started, Haldir frowned to see his brother step out. It was only right, but he did not have to like it. He watched them round the open area. While her appearance may have belied her Elven blood, her grace did not. Thinking back, he could remember few times when she was less than poised. She had made even falling from her pony look graceful.

Erestor was waiting when the next dance began.

“So, sell, you are then happy?”

She gazed up into his eyes.

“Now? Deliriously. I have almost everything I want. I have few regrets.”

“I look forward to your return to Imladris. As does Seldala. She chafed greatly at remaining behind.”

“I assure you that it will not be long in coming.”

“Have you spoken to Rúmil?”

“I have. He does not like it, but respects my need. Another is not so gracious.”

“What of the Lady?”

“She has always let me choose my own path. She sees no need to interfere now. Gariel will be concerned.”

She glanced over at the table where they had been seated. Rúmil was engage in conversation with Arwen and her brothers. She caught Haldir’s glance as it swept over her and then around the glen. It halted past her left. She turned to see what had made the distasteful frown on his face. Even with her poor, by elven standards, eyesight, she could make out a figure standing back in the trees. Knowing who was invited, and who was not present, she could surmise who it was. She sighed. What was it with the elleth? Had she always seen enemies? Surely Deladrieng did not see her as a threat. She shook her head.

When the dance ended, Ela walked over to Del and whispered in his ear. She then went and sat in the empty chair next to Rúmil. So, it seemed she was not yet willing to abandon him. Haldir tucked that piece of information away. His attention was drawn away, as Del stood.

“I would like to make an announcement. Pending the blessings of our parents, Meliel and I wish to share with our friends our trading of rings.” Lindelen looked startled, then glanced at Ela. She had known! As the parent of the elleth, it was her place to give consent first. She stood.

“On behalf of my husband, Gaellyn, and myself, I give my consent.” She stood waiting, until Del’s parents stood.

“We have thought long and hard on this. It was not our wish that our only son wed an outsider, let alone one of mixed blood…” Lindelen held her breath. Surely they would not deny them! “…However, after the things we have seen the last several weeks, we gladly give consent. I do not think we could find a better match for our son.” Lindelen swayed with relief, as applause and proclamations of well-wishes came from those gathered. Meliel glowed with happiness, and Del blushed with embarrassment. He caught Ela’s eye and nodded. She returned the gesture.

“That was most generous of you,” whispered a voice in her ear. She looked up into Elrond’s eyes.

“Trust me, it was that, or he would burst. But could I have done less for one of my best friends?”

“You would have done no less for anyone. It is one of your charms.”

“You flatter me. And now I feel the need for a dance. Come, Perin. You and Rosa must join me in a dance.” She grabbed Haldir’s hand and led him out into the clearing. They waited for the musicians to begin a new song. He moved forward and took Ela’s hand. His steps were sure and graceful. He noted with satisfaction that so were hers. She did not glance at her feet, and moved with a fluidity that almost defied gravity. They did not notice any others around them. This time, there were no attempts to cut in. No one had the courage. As they started, they were joined by Elrond and Elestra, the Lord and Lady and Rosa’s parents. Arwen found a ready partner in Rúmil and Orophin had pulled Gariel into the dance. Even Elldar had found an older woman who was amused by the young ellon’s enthusiasm to join. Meliel and Del danced close by his parents. They laughed and danced through three songs.

Taking a seat when the dance was finished, Haldir watched Mar. The man had been about to ask for a dance, when Celeborn had stepped in. Again, there was no cutting in. It seemed rank did have its privilege. Mar became angrier as the evening progressed and he was regulated to the outside of the circle. Rúmil had claimed a dance, as did Orophin. Her brothers horned in ahead of him. Elldar even seemed blessed. She gave Elldar and Delinfel each a turn. He had been appalled that she had even danced with the Dwarf. And now she had returned to her table, claiming fatigue. And of course, they had closed rank around her. She did seem like a princess with them all dancing court around her. Mar finally left.

By midnight, the wine had slowed its running. Those who had not drifted off to find quiet corners with their spouses joined in a tighter circle. Dancing had taken its toll and they were willing to listen to singing for a while. Eventually, Meliel was asked to sing something. Glancing to Ela, who went behind the musicians and found her lute, she quietly conferred with her friend. Nodding, she stood and went to the center of the small group. Ela struck a chord and Meliel started the song.


I cannot see by light of candle
Nor by the fire’s dance
I only seek the stars above me
Their light a shining lance

The road I walk is full of choices
The life I live they rule
If I should falter in my journey
Tears of pain, form a pool

But with your love, I will not falter
Steadfast I will be true
The love we share, will always keep us
As stars in midnight blue

I cannot see without your passion
The stars burn brighter still
They shed their light and open passage
Our hearts they speed to fill

Now onward t’wards the journey coming
The sun shines down on us
We travel with the west wind blowing
The end, our journey blest


Ela’s quiet strumming faded away. Del gave Meliel a kiss and smiled. He knew she had been working on that song for weeks, but would not sing it for him. Now he was glad she had waited. There were murmurs from those seated. Rúmil had sat down behind Ela, and she leaned back against him. He felt so comfortable. She played with her lute, just strumming random chords. There was a harmony brought up from the silence as another joined her softly. A third lute introduced a counter melody. There was silence as the three of them danced around different chords, the other two accomplished enough that they could anticipate where Ela was going with her playing. When her fingers began to tire, she finally stopped. The silence was so peaceful, all were loathe to break it.

Ela looked up and happened to catch Rosa’s glance. The girl was entranced. Her face held a look of awe.

“That was beautiful,” she whispered. “So unlike our songs in the Shire.”

“Oh, we have some fairly rowdy ones, also. But most of the ones I know are frowned upon. Too much influence by a certain Dwarf I could name. Lord Erestor would rather I did not sing them.” She looked around. “Where is he?”

“He retired early. He was feeling the absence of his lady. He bid me give you his regrets,” Elrond said.

“No regrets are needed. I must confess to feeling a little tired, myself. But first, I have a few to thank. First of all, Lord Elrond. You opened your home to me, before you knew who I was. You gave me healing and love and a purpose. I can never thank you enough. To my brothers and sister, thank you for sharing your father, so that I could have one. One could never replace the other, and both are very dear to me. Lord Celeborn, thank you for allowing me to live in your fair city. And to the Lady, you know that for which I thank you. My grandmother, for being satisfied with me as I am. Gradin, for your generosity, and Rosa for your friendship. Dorga, thank you for letting a ‘proper’ elf learn that there is another side to life. And your tea. Orophin and Gariel, for opening their home and treating me as their own. Haldir, for many hours of challenging arguments, and many more to come, I promise.” Laughter circled the group. “Lord Glordinel, you are the most unserious elf I know. Thank you for teaching me that ability. Meliel, Del and Elldar. Life here would be dull without the four of us. They should thank us.” More laughter rose. “Rúmil, I will thank you later.” This time, Elrond did not join in the laughter. Neither did Haldir. “There are too many more to name. Tonight, I asked all of my friends to join me, and I see they have. Know that you are all dear to me, and I thank you for whatever you have contributed to my life here. But more importantly, I hope I have contributed to your lives.” She grabbed her wine glass, sitting beside her. “I would like to offer a toast. To all who gathered here tonight. And to those who, because of duties, could not be here.” All drained their glasses and applauded.

“You forgot Erestor,” said Elladan.

“No, there are no words needed between us. We understand each other perfectly. Now, I for one intend to head for home. Please, I invite all of you to remain and enjoy yourselves. I am afraid I have a cruel master and must work tomorrow. He does not understand skipping work. So I will stop by his house tonight and hide all of his headache remedies. And then show up at dawn. That will teach him.” This was met with much laughter. Glordinel tried to scowl at her, but could not do it.

“I will just have to beat you to my house.”

“There is wine. You will not be leaving anytime soon.” She grinned.

“Remind me again why I keep you around.

“My charming personality. And the fact you have frightened away all others.”

“I fear for your future husband. You are entirely too cheeky.”

“He will not mind. It will keep things interesting. Now, I am off to bed. I will see you all tomorrow.” She waited for Rosa to say goodnight. She had insisted the girl stay with her, after gaining Gariel’s consent. The others were scattered in guest rooms close by. It seemed that although quite a few knew what a Halfling was, not many had ever seen one, so they were in great demand. And Ela had been surprised that Glordinel had been as fascinated with Dorga. She just attributed it to his earlier life.

Walking home, Ela quietly listened to Rosa’s soft chatter. She told how she had met Perin and of their wedding plans. Ela assured her that she was planning on attending the ceremony. She had a feeling that elves in the Shire would cause a bit more stir than Shirefolk in Lórien. But maybe not as much as a Dwarf. For all of his small stature, he did manage to stand out.

“How long will you be staying?” Ela asked, when Rosa finally wound down.

“Only a few days. It is a long journey back to the Shire, and Perin has a business to run.”

“What does he do?”

“He owns a small import concern. A friend of his likes to travel and sends things of interest home. Perin sells them and they split the profits.”

“That was wicked of you to keep this from me. Are you happy?”

“Very. Papa says that Perin is a good choice. He is more motivated than the boys around home. He will make something of himself. He will provide for me. Papa is very happy. And Letti is impressed. I only wish he did not live so far away. I will miss Papa so much.”

“You will just have to visit. At least you do not have to travel for a week to see them. I have only been back to Imladris once. It is so far, it just does not seem prudent. Especially since it means that someone has to take me.”

“I do not think I would like that. I guess I should not complain. But you are coming to the wedding, so you will be able to stop on the way back and visit your father.”

“I think I may do that. I wish to see Lady Seldala.”

“What of your plans for the future? Surely you have some idea what you want.”

“What I want, and what I get may not be the same. Right now, I am content with my life. At least I will be, once I have gained what I desire. A singularly stubborn man stands in my path. He feels I should be above such lowly employment. He does not grasp the great desire I have for that life. It is the antithesis of what I was raised to want. I feel a great need to be there.”

“What man has ever stood in the way of what a woman wants? You have only to make him think it his idea. Do you think Perin makes all the decisions? It has taken me two years of hard labor to bring him around to thinking this was his idea. And the maddening thing, he will never figure it out. He will spend the rest of his life laughing at how he cornered me into wedding him. Men! They see and hear only what they want. So I will let him believe that it was all his idea. It is a useful tool. It will gain me much in the years to come.”

“Rosa! I had no idea you were so predatory,” Ela laughed. “We shall have to drink a toast to the men of the world, and the ideas we put in their heads.”

They got ready for bed. Orophin had brought in a cot for Ela to use, as she had given Rosa her bed. They laid, talking far into the night. They discussed the little things they had experienced. They laughed over misadventures. Rosa told her that she had seen the twins a few times over the years. Ela smiled. Rosa probably saw them more than she did.

Gariel smiled, laying in her own bed, when silence finally reigned. Rosa had done more for Ela than even Meliel had been able to do. She knew that Ela was planning something, but the girl had not spoken to anyone yet. Gariel was afraid she was leaving. She would admit only to herself how much the girl meant to her. She had grown up an only child, among older children. She had wanted a daughter so much, but Orophin seemed content with just Elldar. But now that her son was following in his father’s footsteps, Gariel felt more left behind than ever.

She finally relaxed and went to sleep when she heard Elldar come in and tiptoe down the hall to his room.


The End




A/N
A story is not just the words of one person. It is the sum of those around the author. Without help and encouragement, the story may not be the best it can be.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank a few. Havetoist for urging me to post this here. And to Michael, my son, for listening to me read this for hours. To Marcia for your invaluable help with betaing the first fifteen chapters. I had more. To Ghettoelleth for your unflagging enthusiasm and LuthienTinuviel for your gentle encouragement. Haleth for just noticing. Andreth for the countless questions I had. And those who read and left comments. You have no idea how much they helped when times were low. Eärengil for the help you gave. Juno Magic for just being there.

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Chapter name
Chapter Twenty-one
Created
14 Mar 2005
Last Edited
14 Mar 2005
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