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Butterfly-Cocoon

Chapter 8: Chapter Eight

by Rous

A Meeting Of Young And Old Minds. NOT!


Haldir looked back to see Ela trailing, again. Her pony was trying to keep up, but was just too small. She refused to push him.

“Can you not move him faster?” he asked her, again.

“Are we in a hurry?”

“If we are not in Lórien, we are always in a hurry. Maybe I should ride back to Imladris and get you a horse.”

“Get my cat while you are there. It was convenient that you forgot her.”

“That was your doing as much as mine. You chose to leave her.”

“Well, I am regretting it.”

“I am sure you will find another one.” He had noticed a tension in her since they had left Imladris. She never raised her voice, but there was an irritable tone to it.

“I am sure.”

Rúmil came riding back. “What is the hold up? I sent Elldar on. The other guards are getting nervous.”

“Go ahead. I will stay with Ela. Her pony cannot keep up. We will be along.”

“Do not tarry. It is not safe.”

“Do you think I do not know that?” Haldir’s irritation was showing more than usual. His brother looked at him.

“Just make her ride with you.”

“Not until she wants to. She will wear down.”

“Before or after you do?”

“Go. Before I cut your rank to city guard.”

“There is not much chance of that. You do not have many you trust as far as me.”

“Get going. I will see you soon.” He smiled at his youngest brother. He had a way to break his moods.

“Come on, Ela. We cannot fall behind. It is not safe.”

She kicked her pony into a quick trot, passing him. He rolled his eyes and followed her.

They rode into the camp shortly after Rúmil. The other guards had laid a fire and started the evening meal. Ela got off her pony and unsaddled him. She removed the halter she used for riding and let him roll in the grass. When he was done, she put the halter back on him, and place her riding pad close to the tether line. Haldir noted with approval. She knew enough to keep him ready for emergencies. She brushed him down and tied him with the horses.

She sat down heavily. She would sooner die than admit that her slowness was due more to the hardship of travel by horseback than concern for her pony. She had never spent so much time on him. Her legs hurt, her back, she even felt as if her hair hurt. She would love to soak in a nice hot bath. That, she knew, would not be forthcoming.

She sat apart from the others, eating the stew given her. She had discouraged Elldar from joining her. She did not want to answer any more questions about her face. She kept her eyes on her bowl or her feet. Galadriel could feel her withdrawing, but had promised to not intrude. Finally, Arwen went over and sat beside her.

“How do you feel?” she asked. “I know that travel can be hard if you have never done it. Would you like me to rub your back and shoulders?”

Ela nodded her head. Arwen started with her shoulders and slowly worked down her spine. Ela found herself starting to drift asleep. Arwen silently asked her grandmother for a blanket and pillow. She laid Ela down, settling next to her. She traced the bruise along the girl’s jaw. It was well the boy had run. Elrohir would kill him if he found him. He had been fascinated by the girl, ever since finding her. Arwen remembered her brothers’ treating her the same. They could be terrible teases, but they were loving and protective of those they saw as their own. Any who hurt one they loved would have to answer to them.

----

Ela was the first one up. She had no library to go to, so she got out one of her books and started a lesson. Erestor had given her several months’ worth of work to keep her busy. They both knew she would have it done within weeks. She had just finished when Rúmil came in from guard duty. He sat beside her on the log.

“Do you not tire of that?” he asked.

“How can one tire of knowledge? I can never learn too much. Would you like some tea?”

“Yours or ours? I do not think I can ride far with yours in my stomach.”

“It is yours. Mine is for special occasions.” She got up and went to the fire. She returned with two mugs of tea. Rúmil accepted one from her and relaxed. He noticed her eyes never left the ground.

“It was not your fault. Even elves are not all perfect.”

“There are perfect ones? Do any live in Lórien? I would like to meet them.”

“No wonder you vex Erestor and Haldir so. I am glad I do not have to put up with you.”

“The feeling is mutual. You are highly immature for your age.”

He sputtered. “My age? Do you have any idea how old I am?”

“Not old enough to control your emotions.” She grinned at the ground.

“We were speaking of you, not me.”

“Ah, yes. It was not my fault. Whose then?”

“His. He overstepped boundaries. No is no. In any language. Or culture.”

“Unless you are an Orc. Or Indrelan. Women have no rights. Not even to say no.”

“How do you know?”

“My mother told me. She told me wives are for childbearing and women were for one thing only. But, she would not tell me what. Do you know what?”

“Yes. I know what she meant, but I will not tell you either. That is not my place to discuss such things with you. Go ask my brother.”

“Why would he tell me?”

“He would not, but it would be amusing to see him dance around it.”

“You are terrible. I am glad you are not my brother.”

“Ha! Yours are as bad, if not worse. They share a brain and it is twice as devious as any I know.”

“That was not nice.” She smiled. “True, but not nice.”

“What are you two doing?” Rúmil grinned up at his brother. Ela just looked at her feet.

“We were comparing brothers. I think you win. Hers are worse.”

“I know I would not like to meet hers when they catch wind of events back home.” Haldir looked closer at Ela as she sat playing with her hair.

“What did you do?”

“What do you mean?” she mumbled, her head still bowed.

He reached out, without thinking and tilted her head up. She scrambled backward, falling off the log she was sitting on.

“Do not touch me, again!” she hissed at him. “Do not ever touch me, again!” He drew back.

“I am sorry,” he said softly. “I did not think. I would never do anything to hurt you.”

“Apology accepted,” she whispered, her head still down.

“But I still must ask what you did to your ears?”

“Are you my father? Am I to answer to you now? I am confused.”

“You are not confused and I am not falling for that. Why would you do such a thing? Elves do not pierce their ears.”

“Thank you for pointing that out. I have only heard it several times in the last two days. I am not deaf. And if they do not, what is that to me? I pierced the Indrelan part of my ears. The elven part is intact.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means they are my ears. I will do with them what I want. It is nothing to you. Do not look at them if it offends you.”

“Ela, calm down,” Rúmil tried to soothe her. “He meant nothing by it. I think they look lovely.” She rolled her eyes, finally looking at him.

“I know he meant nothing. And you are trying to placate me. Well, it worked, now leave me to my studies. I am fine. But tell me, March Warden, if wives are for childbearing, what are other women for?”

“What? Where did that come from.?”

“My mother. She said it is a practice of the Indrel.” She waited. “Well, are you going to tell me?”

“Certainly not. That is not a subject for young girls.”

“And apparently not for old elves.”

“Ela, what has gotten into you?”

“Do you mean besides being forced from another home, instead of this being a holiday with my brothers? Or having my life turned upside down by an immature elf whose hormones are running faster than his brain? Maybe it is trying to deal with an uncle bent on permanently removing me for a reason I do not yet know. Could it be all the memories floating around in my mind with no connections? Or maybe I am just mad with one too many blows to the head. Take your pick. I need to stretch my legs. If you gentlemen will excuse me, I will return shortly.”

“That was not wise.” Haldir turned to see Galadriel standing behind them. “And do not let her wander far.” Rúmil jumped up to follow her.

“Maybe not, but it may have helped her release a little tension.”

“Raising two brothers has not prepared you for a girl. They are not the same as boys. You will find your tactics do not work with her.”

“She is very angry. Will anything work?”

“Only time. She has much reason to be angry. Everything she said is true. That is a lot for a young child to cope with. I hope her stay in Lórien will help her. With some of the problems removed, she may begin to heal.”

“Did you hear all of what she said?”

“Unfortunately, yes. She is right about my grandsons. As were you. They are teases, but I fear for the boy if they find him. I would not ask again about her ears. It was a birthday present from Elrohir and Elladan, with Elrond’s reluctant blessings. She will not do anything without permission. Have you not learned that?”

“I just do not understand it. Why would anyone do such a thing?”

“She is torn between two cultures. One she grew up with, another she remembers from her mother. Until she reconciles the two, she will have this conflict. I fear we may suffer at times as much as does she. Exercise restraint with her. And you will need plenty of patience.”

“Yes, Lady. What will become of her in Lórien?”

“I have already sent word to Gariel. She will welcome the child. My husband and I will oversee things. We will have to see about the rest.”

She looked up as Ela came walking back. Rúmil was nowhere in sight.

“He is back farther. Try not to send one so noisy, next time. I cannot see as well, but there is nothing wrong with my hearing.”

Haldir chuckled when she was well past him.

They packed up and started on their way. One day followed another with the same routines. Well into the last day of travel, Haldir finally suggested to Ela that she ride with him.

“I do not think so,” she said. “We are almost there. My pony will carry me the rest of the way.”

“She is as stubborn as an Orc,” he said to Rúmil.

“Funny you should notice that. She is just like you.”

“Little brother, would you like to remain out here on the plains? I could arrange that.”

“No, the girl would object. She seems to have taken a liking to me. I think she would notice.” He grinned.

“You place too much value on your life. She would not care.”

“Yes, I would,” drifted up to them. Haldir rolled his eyes and looked back to where she and Elldar were trailing.

“You seem to do that a lot, lately, brother.”

“What?” he growled.

“Rolling your eyes. It is most unattractive. Humorous, but unattractive.”

“Haldir!”

He turned at a note of panic in her voice. “What, Sell?”

“There is something behind us. Not good. It is coming fast!”

He glanced behind them. He could see nothing. He turned back forward when Denelan, the lead guard rode back.

“The Lady says something is coming from the rear. We are picking up the pace.”

“Come on, Ela. Kick him into a run and move it. Elldar, head for home. Ride as fast as you can.” The boy lit out after Denelan.

Ela did as told. The pony ran all out, but could never match the horses. Haldir leaned over and undid her saddlebags on the right side, Rúmil getting the ties on the left. His brother grabbed the bags and moved away from the pony. Haldir dropped back behind them and glanced back. He could now see several figures on foot following them. They were actually gaining! He realized with a thrill of fear they were Orcs. He looked ahead. He could see the eaves of the forest a couple of miles away. Already the rest of the party was almost out of sight. When Rúmil looked back, Haldir could see the fear on his face also. They were not going to make it, and they could not fight with Ela there.

“Ela,” he shouted. She turned and saw what trailed them. He rode up next to her.

“Grab my arm. You will ride with me now.”

With no arguing, she reached out her left hand. Valar, it was the injured one. He knew it was still sore. It could not be helped. He took it with his left hand and jerked her off her pony. He would run faster without her weight. He saw her wince when he pulled her up behind him. She did not say a word. She wrapped her arms around his waist. He kicked his horse into a flat run. The pony veered away from them, running full out. Even he sensed not to be caught by those following. Rúmil now dropped back slightly to cover them. They were pulling away, but the Orcs still came. They had only to reach the wards. An arrow shot past them. Haldir kicked his horse again. They could not go much faster. He was suddenly welcomed by a flight of arrows from ahead. He and Rúmil flashed by the outer edge of the forest and past the wardens there. They turned their horses abruptly and watched the ensuing slaughter. The Orcs did not seem to realize their danger. They ran straight into the last of the arrows. The wardens did not miss any. When it was safe, they would go out and burn the bodies.

Haldir turned his horse back into the forest. They rode to where the others waited.

“You had me worried, Warden.”

“There was never any danger, my Lord.”

“I was not concerned for you. You can take care of yourself. It was the girl. You would not have been able to fight with her out there.”

“I made sure it was not necessary.”

“That is why you are my captain.” Celeborn smiled.

“Ela, are you alright?” Galadriel noticed her pale complexion.

She nodded, then shook her head. She was holding her left wrist in her other hand and biting her lip.

“Come here, Haldir.” He moved over to her. She reached over and took the girl’s hand. Ela winced.

“How did she break her wrist?”

Haldir swore. “I must have done it. When I pulled her from her pony. I knew it was her injured hand, but there was nothing I could do. I am sorry, Ela.”

She just nodded, trying not to cry.

They rode to the warden station back in the trees. Dismounting, Haldir reached up and lifted her down. Galadriel took her over to a large log by the fire. They sat down and she took Ela’s hand. Rubbing it gently, she spoke to the girl.

“This may hurt a little, but it will only be for a moment.”

Ela did not say anything as Galadriel continued to rub her wrist. Finally, the older woman laid the hand in the girl’s lap.

“Be careful, but it is healing now. I will have Arwen bind it for you. Are you well, child?”

She nodded her head. She looked up as one of the wardens came running in, leading her pony.

“I found this wandering around to the east. I thought it would belong to one of you.”

“It does,” said Rúmil. He led the pony over to their horses.

“That was some ride, Haldir,” exclaimed Loneldon, captain of the guard.

“Yes, we must do it again sometime,” he replied, sarcastically. “Only the next time, I will stand in the woods shooting at the Orcs while you try to outrun them.”

Denelan came up to Haldir.

“Lord Celeborn asks to see you. He is in Loneldon’s talan. He means to push on today, but wants Lady Arwen and the girl to remain for another day.”

“The girl’s name, warden, is Elrénia. Remember that. You will treat her with the respect due Lady Arwen. Is that clear?”

“Yes, captain. I meant no disrespect.” He walked away.

“You do not have to be so hard on him. He only repeats what he has heard others call her.” Haldir turned to look at his brother. He tried to give him a hard stare, but broke at Rúmil’s grin. It was too hard to stay mad at him. Or even try.

“You realize that one day I will have to teach you respect for me, do you not?”

“You realize that your other brother will not allow that, do you not?”

“I should have drowned you both in the Celebrant. My life would be easier.”

“Well, now you will spend the rest of your life paying for your mistake. Come on, I am hungry. There is stew cooking.”

“Thinking about it, that ride made me hungry. I will be there as soon as I see Lord Celeborn.”

“I will save you a bowl.”

Haldir walked back from the clearing. He went to Loneldon’s talan and knocked on the door.

“Come.”

“You wanted to see me, Lord Celeborn.”

“Yes. My Lady and I are riding on. We will make arrangements for the girl. You are to ride with us. Rúmil will come with Arwen and Ela. I want them to rest today. There is no need for them to hurry.”

“Yes, my Lord.” He bowed.

“And, Haldir?”

“Yes, Lord?”

“That was well done today. You never cease to amaze me.”

“Thank you, Lord.” He smiled slightly as he left the talan.

“What are you grinning about?” asked his brother as he joined him at the fire.

“Nothing that concerns you, little brother. I am riding on. You will bring Arwen and Ela. Do not push them. Elldar may come with you, also. I leave that up to him.”

“Did Gariel say she would take her?”

“According to the Lady, yes. I think she will be more comfortable on the ground than up in a talan. She has never lived in one, or been so high.”

“They can have the ground. I will stay up in the trees.” Rúmil grimaced at the thought of living on the ground. Orophin may have adjusted, but it would not suit him.

“Speak to me again after you have wed. You may not have a choice.” Haldir’s tone of voice was tinged with scorn.

“Then I had best not fall into that trap. I will wed when you do.”

“Ha! Our father’s line is doomed to resting on Elldar then. I have no intentions of wedding. I have found no woman willing to share my life up here. And I am not one for the city.”

“I cannot argue with you there. Still, I will wed when you do.” Rúmil’s lighthearted answer irritated his older brother.

“Go find a rock to crawl under. You try me too much.”

Rúmil just smiled and went back to find his bedroll. It had been a long day and he was turning in.

Haldir went over to where Ela and Elldar sat. She was still looking at the ground.

“How is your wrist?” he asked her.

She shrugged. He sat down next to her. Her flinch was barely perceptible.

“I am sorry. I knew that was your injured hand, but I had no choice.”

She nodded, playing in the dirt with a stick. She had drawn what looked like runes.

“What is that?”

“I do not know,” she whispered.

“Ela, look at me.” She refused.

“What Caldelen did was not your fault. You are not responsible. Can you not accept that?”

“No. We were friends. I must have given him some idea I wanted more.”

“No, you did not.” He sighed. “You did correctly. You said no and then avoided him. You did nothing wrong.”

“What if he comes here?”

“He will have to deal with me. I will not allow him in until you are old enough to handle it yourself. Is that agreeable?”

She thought about it. “I suppose. It would not be right to keep him out forever. Agreed.”

He felt better.

“Rúmil is bringing you and Arwen to the city tomorrow. You may rest today. Elldar, you may come with me or stay with Rúmil.”

“I will stay.”

“Then you had better get some sleep. It will take most of the day to reach Caras Galadhon. I do not want you to hurry. Take your time and show her Lórien on the way in.”

“Yes, uncle. Is she to stay with us?”

“For now. She has a lot to assimilate. It will take time.”

Ela got up and went over to her saddle. She lifted off the knapsack and brought it back to the fire. Rummaging through her belongings, she pulled out her doll. She smoothed the hair and dress. Haldir noticed for the first time that it was a Halfling doll.

“Did Rosa give that to you?” he asked.

She shook her head. “It was a gift from Fritzi and Meri. It had belonged to their daughter. She had only sons, so they gave it to me.”

That was the most she had said since their second day on the journey.

“What else do you have?” For some reason, he wanted to keep her talking.

She pulled out several wrapped items.

“I have the oil bottles from the Elf. Some stones from the river below the house. An old skin from the snake. There is another pair of earrings from Elldan.” She pulled them out and showed him. They were sapphires that matched her eyes, set in mithril. Worth a fortune. “I will wear these only for special occasions. They are too valuable. I also have a pair from Dalgren. They are just plain gold. For everyday wearing. I have a book from Lord Erestor. And I have some papers from Lord Elrond. I have not read them yet.”

“The earrings will look beautiful in your ears,” he lied.

“Do not say that just to make me happy. I know how you feel. And I did not do it for you. I did it for myself. I think Lord Elrond was more upset at the idea I made a decision on my own, rather than the act itself. He is not one to let go.”

“No, he is not. I was surprised that he sent you here.”

“As was I. And as there is nothing I can do about it, I will make the best of it. I think I will follow your brother’s example. I am not feeling well. I think I am tired.”

“I will see you in the city. Sleep well.”

He watched her walk away. She dropped her knapsack with her saddle, but he saw she still had the doll. She bent over again to pick up a blanket. He saw her settle not far from Rúmil. He turned to see Elldar watching him.

“What?”

“She gets to you, does she not?”

“What are you talking about? She is an irritating child, not unlike you.”

“And yet, she gets to you. I have seen it. If someone else irritated you like that, you would ignore them. And yet, you keep coming back. To me, that makes having her here all the better.”

“Your father may care what I do to his brother, but I do not think he will care if you do not come back.”

“This is probably true, but how would you deal with my mother?”

“In the future, I will not ignore urges to throw small boys into the Celebrant. It will save many woes in the future.”

“You are as soft in your heart as you are as hard in the head.”

Haldir reached over and grabbed his nephew. He held him under his arm facing backwards as he strode towards the stream behind the station. A deep hole had been dug out for bathing. Without a word, he threw Elldar into the water. He then turned, not waiting to see if the boy made it out of the hole.

“That is what should be done with disrespectful children.” He glanced at Ela to see if she took the hint. She was already asleep, but Rúmil gave him a look that spoke of no good if Haldir tried that with him.

Elldar came out of the woods at a run. Rúmil waited too long to decide whether or not to warn his brother. Haldir was grabbed at the knees and thrown forward. He turned, pinning Elldar to the ground. Several interested wardens gathered to watch. Haldir picked the boy up, again.

“Was one bath not enough?” he asked.

“Try it again,” laughed Elldar.

When Haldir tried to throw him in again, Elldar was ready. He clung to his uncle. Haldir did not know that his younger brother had gotten up and was coming up behind him. Just as Haldir threw Elldar, Rúmil pushed him. The March Warden's reflexes were so quick, his brother could not stop him
from grabbing his shirt. The three of them tumbled into the stream. They came up laughing.

“Are you enjoying yourselves?”

They looked up to see Celeborn looking down on them.

“Immensely,” said Haldir. He pulled himself out of the water. When Rúmil would have followed, he reached out and pushed him back in. Elldar wisely stayed out of his reach.

“We leave in an hour,” Celeborn informed him.

“I will be ready. I just needed to exert a little discipline.” He shook the water from his hair. He turned as his brother came up behind him.

“That felt good. Maybe now I can sleep.” He went back to his blanket and got his dry clothes. Going back to an empty talan, he changed. He came back out, rolled up in his blanket, and went to sleep. Elldar was just coming from changing. Haldir looked over and saw Ela was still asleep. He shrugged it off as he went back to change. When it was time to leave, he went over and nudged Rúmil.

“What?” he said, blinking up at Haldir.

“Keep an eye on her. She is sleeping now, but she did not eat. And we did not wake her earlier, although I thought we made enough noise to disturb the dead.”

“Alright. Enjoy your trip. I will see you tomorrow evening. It is your turn to cook.”

“It is yours, but I will do it.”

He turned and went to his horse. Mounting, he glanced back at Ela. She had not stirred. Turning his horse, he led the way to Caras Galadhon.


A Less Than Auspicious Beginning


----

Morning broke bright and sunny. Rúmil frowned to see Ela was still sleeping. That was not like her. He went over and gently shook her.

“Little one,” he said, softly. He shook her harder. “Little one. Wake up. It is time to leave.”

She groaned and rolled over. He watched her go back to sleep.

“What is wrong with you? Come on.” He sat her up and went over to get her some tea. When he returned, she was just sitting, a glazed look to her eyes.

“Does your hand hurt?” he asked.

She looked at him blankly. Rúmil looked around.

“Arwen. Can you get her ready? I have never seen her like this.”

“I will see to her.” She got Ela up and dressed. The girl refused to eat. By the time they were ready to leave, she was showing some response. Elldar saddled her pony and brought him over.

“You lead,” his uncle said. He wanted to follow to keep an eye on her. Arwen stayed beside her.

Elldar kept up the conversation on his own. He told her about the trees and different settlements they passed through. He described life in the Woods. She looked around, but did not say anything. When they stopped for lunch, Ela wandered off to look at flowers. She would not eat. When they were done eating, Rúmil made a decision.

“Elldar, I want you to bring the pony with you. We are riding ahead. Can you do this?”

“Yes. It is safe here. I do not need you to protect me.”

His uncle smiled.

“I know. I have to get her to the city. Hurry as fast as you can.”

“I will.”

Rúmil mounted and reached down for Ela. He pulled her up in front of him.

“Are you ready, lady?” he asked Arwen.

“I follow you, Warden.” She kicked her horse into a slow canter as he moved out.

----

Haldir spent a quiet evening in the talan he shared with his youngest brother. At dinner the night before, he had discussed what he knew about Ela with Orophin and Gariel, trying to make her adjustment easier.

“You will not have much trouble with her. She is inquisitive, but obedient. Any problems can be taken to the lord or lady. She has some peculiar traits, but I think most of them are due to her upbringing. Too much of Erestor has rubbed off on her.”

“What will she do all day?” asked Gariel.

“Do you mean when you can drag her out of the library? She rises early and spends most of her day there. I am sure she will find enough to interest her.”

“I am afraid she will find our house a bit cramped after living in Imladris. We only have the small storage room in the rear.”

“I think you will find her very accommodating. She is quick to adjust. And very slow to complain. You will have to drag any problems out of her. Just do not ask about her earrings.”

“Earrings? They did not let her put holes in her ears?” exclaimed Orophin.

“It seems Elrond is overindulgent. It does not help that those brothers of Arwen’s spoil her rotten. I swear that it is a wonder she turned out so well.”

“Lady Arwen is wonderful. How can you say such a thing?” asked Gariel.

“You do not know her brothers. May I see her room?”

“Certainly. I hope it suits. We found a small bed and a cupboard. She has a nightstand and a bookshelf, as you requested.”

Haldir followed his sister-in-law down the hall to the back of the house. Glancing past her, he saw that the room was small, barely more than a closet. The cupboard would hold the few things she had brought with her. The bookshelf would accommodate her books and other things. The small window was high and did not open.

“Can we make a bigger window? One that will open? I will warn you, she is going to get a cat. Somewhere, from someone. She will need the window.”

“That is not a problem. I can do it after this week. Will you be able to help?”

“Yes. I am going to be here for a couple of weeks.” He followed his younger brother outside to the porch.

“Lord Elrond sends his thanks. He did not want to send her, but life is becoming to dangerous in Imladris. She had her mother’s people and a young, misguided elf vying for her attention and neither meant any good. She will be safer here.”

“A courier came in from Imladris ahead of you. He has been waiting for two days. I do not know how he missed you. He was traveling with a Ranger. They would say nothing about their business, but they gave me the impression it had to do with the girl.”

“I hope it has nothing to do with a certain boy. She has been through enough on his account.” he paused. “I give you my thanks as well. She is a child to get under your skin. That reminds me, Orophin, if Rúmil says anything about respect, ignore him. And Elldar will get another bath if he continues in his ways.” He recounted the incident on the north marches. They spent the rest of the evening recounting their own childhood antics.

“If you will excuse me, I will turn in. It has been a long week. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, brother. It is good to have you back.”

“Aye, it is good to be back. Goodnight.”

-----

Haldir rose before dawn. Rúmil would arrive by late afternoon. He spent the morning checking supplies and straightening up around the talan. Gariel had laid out fresh linens for them. She had seen that someone came in while they were gone and cleaned. Mostly he just moved things from one place to another. He had to admit to himself that after the last couple of months in Imladris, he was bored. That would change once he was back on the marches. He was relieved when the summons to report to Celeborn came. He changed and went to the large talan the served as the center of Lórien.

The stairs leading up into the midst of the largest mallorn tree wound around the massive trunk. The spiral seemed endless. When he at last reached the top, Haldir paused at the large entrance. When Celeborn’s aide announced him, he was motioned forward. He came onto the level that served as a reception hall for the Lord and Lady. It was as big as any hall of men. He walked to where Celeborn stood by a table, reviewing the reports and various day to day correspondence that had accumulated during his absence. Haldir waited until his Lord turned to him.

“You sent for me?”

“Yes, I did. There is a courier from Imladris. He passed us during the journey here. He comes with one of Arathorn’s Rangers. They have news that you and Orophin both will need to know. Ah, here he is now.” Haldir turned to see his younger brother come towards them.

Celeborn sent all of the others away. He then asked his aide to bring in the Ranger and courier. Haldir was surprise to see Delandor.

“Haldir.” Caldelen’s father nodded to him. “Lord Elrond sends his wishes for a safe journey. I trust everything went well?”

“Other than riding in hard with Orcs on our tails, it did.”

“I have brought Delorfilad. He has been riding with Lord Elrond’s sons. They asked him to look for their sister’s people. I will let him tell his tale.”

The two brothers listened as the Ranger told once again what he had found.

When he was finished, neither spoke for moments.

“They do not want her back? Then why did they try to take her?”

“They told Yrorcyn they had found another. For what purpose, he never determined. The people became so agitated, Yrorcyn thought it better to withdraw. Lord Elrond was most upset by papers the woman sent to him. He did tell me to mention that he was checking out claims the woman made as to the girl’s parentage. He has sent letters to the Havens in the northwest. It could be that things may be more tangled than first thought. All who know about the Hidden Havens know that only the Noldor went there. It is not even known for certain who took sanctuary there. They closed the passes and approaches. I am not sure how even Lord Elrond can gain information.”

----

Haldir sat down to a quick lunch. After cleaning up, he started up to the north gate to check on the latest news and gossip. Before he could get there, he saw the one person he did not want to see. Deladrieng. A most persistent elleth. She had single mindedly been pursuing him for years. She was beautiful, but had a possessiveness for which he did not care. And a perverse streak of meanness. She had cut down any that she saw as a rival. Although given no encouragement from him, that did not stop her. She was stubborn. His brothers wisely did not point out to him that he shared some of these qualities.

“Welcome back, Haldir. I trust your journey was fair.”

“It was.”

“I have not seen your youngest brother. Tell me you did not leave him in Imladris.”

“I did not.”

“Well, since you seem to be alone, why do you not come for supper tonight? I can make a dinner fit to welcome you home.”

“I have made arrangements. And Rúmil will be here this afternoon.”

“Oh. Well, another time?”

“I do not think so. I am leaving for the marches as soon as possible. There are things that…” He was interrupted by riders coming through the gate. He went to see what the commotion was. He was annoyed when she followed.

He was surprised to see his brother.

“I thought you were taking it easy.”

“She was taking it a little too easy. I think something is wrong, but I can find nothing.”

“Where is Elldar?” Orophin came up.

“He follows with her pony.” Rúmil handed Ela down into Haldir’s ready arms. He set her down. She stood still where he put her, looking at the ground.

Deladrieng’s eyes narrowed as she took in the appearance of the child. She had heard rumors that Lady Galadriel was bringing Lord Elrond’s young daughter here to live, but she had expected someone like Lady Arwen. The girl was short and thin. Her skin was almost white. And those freckles! This child was more human than Elven. She would never attain the height of an elf. Her light hair had copper streaks gleaming through it. She wore it like a warrior. Pulled back and braided. It left her ears free. The almost pointless ears. Then the lobes drew her attention.

“Haldir, what is in that child’s ears? Are those earrings?” Her shock warred with the desire to laugh. And it was painfully obvious.

Deladrieng took a step back when the girl looked up at her. The woman was shocked at the gleam in the intensely blue eyes.

“Deladrieng, this is Lady Elrénia, Lord Elrond’s daughter. Bear that in mind.” The reprimand was unmistakable. Haldir sighed. She may have gained one enemy already.

The girl regarded the woman for a moment then turned to Rúmil.

“I thought you said I could meet perfect elves in Lórien. Where are you hiding them?”

Rúmil looked at his oldest brother. Then started laughing.

“I tell you what, little one. When you are settled, we will go together and search for one. I personally do not know of any.” He looked at Deladrieng as he said this. All knew there was no love lost between the two of them. She was looking on in shock. Had the little twit just insulted her? Or had Rúmil?

Haldir turned his head to his brother and his wife. He was hard pressed not to laugh himself.

“Ela, this is my brother Orophin and his wife Gariel. You will stay with them for now.” It obviously was an order, but Haldir remembered who was standing beside him. “Tomorrow, if it does not suit, then I will find you other accommodations. Is this acceptable?”

“It is. May I go? I am tired and do not feel like being polite.”

He smiled. “You may. Gariel, will you show her the way? I will see to her pony when Elldar arrives.”

“Certainly. Come. We have a room ready for you. It is small, but I hope it will do for the night.” She had picked up on Haldir’s change in tone. He was setting an example that he would expect all to follow. The girl was to be treated with respect. She secretly did not believe that tactic would work with Deladrieng.

“You live in a house?” asked Ela.

“Yes. I do not care to live so high. I grew up in a house in a village to the west. They can have their talain. I will stay on the ground.”

“I have a tree house, but it is only eight feet up. I once broke my leg falling out of it. I think I would break more falling out of one of these.”

“I am sure. What shall I call you? Lady Elrénia seems too formal, but it is your choice.”

“Most just call me Ela. It was the name given me by Rosa Took. At least I think that is who gave it to me.”

“Who is Rosa Took?”

“She is a friend. She lives in the Shire. We write and send books back and forth.”

“She is a Halfling?”

“Yes. Her father is a friend of my brothers. He gave them clothes and food for me after they found me. Have you ever met a Halfling?”

“No. I hear they are quite charming.”

“They are. And funny. And the most giving people. Fritzi and Meri, who are friends of Lord Elrond, gave me a doll and more clothes. They did not have to do that. Do you know they are the only race in all of Middle Earth that does not kill. That is amazing.”

“Little one.” She turned at the voice behind her. “Remember what Lord Erestor said.”

“Yes, Rúmil. I remember. I am sorry.”

Gariel did not say anything. She gave Rúmil a questioning look. He shook his head.

When they reached the house, Rúmil held the door open for them. Gariel led Ela to the back. When they reached her room, she went in and sat on the bed. Rúmil brought her things in and set them down.

“I am going back to the gate. Orophin said that dinner tonight is here?”

“Yes. We can eat in the garden.”

“I will see you later,” he said, glancing at Ela. “Rest.”

“Yes, Rúmil. Thank you.”

He walked back down the hall.

“Would you like help unpacking?” asked Gariel.

“How long will I be here?”

“Here in Caras Galadhon, or here in our house?”

“In your house. I do not want to impose. I could stay with Arwen.”

“You do not impose. The Lady asked us to care for you because you and Elldar are friends. She thought you would be comfortable here. You may go anytime.”

“It is alright to stay? Will you not need the room?”

“No. It is yours for as long as you want. If we need more room, we can build another.”

“Oh. Well, thank you. If it is alright, I would like to rest now. I am tired.”

“Certainly. I will wake you for dinner.”

Ela was almost asleep before her head hit the pillow. Gariel took a blanket from the chair and covered her up.

-----

The sun had little more than an hour to setting. Gariel had prepared the evening meal and set the table in the garden. When she went to check on Ela, she found she had not moved. Concerned, she tried to wake the girl. She did not respond. Gariel was torn between the need to get help and fear of leaving her alone. She was relieved when Haldir showed up.

“I think something is wrong with her,” she said to him.

He started for the back of the house.

“What happened?”

“She wanted to rest, but she has not moved in hours. I could not wake her.”

“Go get the Lady. She has had some dealings with Ela. Maybe she can find out what is wrong.” Gariel left.

“Ela.” He shook her gently.

“What?” she asked, her speech slightly slurred.

“It is time for dinner. You need to get up.”

“I am not…” She paused, groping for a word. “Hungry.”

“I will get you some water.” He left and came back with the water. She had not moved.

“Here, drink this.”

“I do not want it.”

“I am not leaving until you do. The Lady is coming to see you. Do you want her to see you like this?”

A spark of fear finally lit her eyes.

“Why is she coming?” she whispered. “I did nothing wrong.”

“What do you mean? Of course you did not. She is coming because I am concerned for you, as is Gariel. You are acting peculiar.”

He turned at a noise in the hallway. Galadriel’s presence filled the small room.

“You promised,” Ela whispered up to her.

“I did, child. I just want to talk. Nothing more. Haldir, please wait outside.”

He did as she bid.

The Lady sat down on the chair.

“They are concerned. You are not yourself. Will you talk to me about it?”

“There is nothing to talk about. I told you my thoughts are mine.”

“Very well. How do you like Lórien?”

“I have not seen enough of it to form an opinion. How do you like Haran?”

“It is too warm, I have heard. Of what are you afraid ?”

“Nothing. Everything. May I ask a question?”

“You may.”

“Do all the feelings of others swirling around in your head make you sick?”

“Until I learned to control them, yes, that would be a good description. Is that what is making you ill?”

“It may be. Things are worse ever since the attack. Sometimes I throw up. Sometimes I feel nothing at all.”

“I may be able to help you, but you must trust me.”

“I do not know who to trust, anymore,” she said softly.

“What is your earliest memory?”

“My mother’s happiness at conceiving.”

“Did you have a younger sibling?”

“No. I was an only child.”

“You cannot mean your own conception.”

“I remember how happy they were. I could feel it.”

“That is not possible.”

She felt Ela withdraw again and mentally chastised herself. Ela smiled.

“Do not be so hard on yourself. I did not believe it when I first remembered it. It is a difficult concept.”

“Can you read me now?”

“Only because you do not think me strong enough to do it.”

“Will you let me help you?”

“The things in my head are not pretty.”

“After over seven millennia, do you not think I have seen some ugly things?” She laughed gently.

“Very well. Just this once. What do you want me to do?”

“Just lay down. Relax. We will see if we can sort things out for you.”

Ela laid back and closed her eyes. She felt a gentle touch on her temples. Then there was a slight nudging in her head. She drifted and thought back. She went through her memories until she felt a withdrawal.

Galadriel sat with her eyes closed, also. The images that flooded the Lady’s mind were chaotic. No wonder the girl was ill. She had never been around so many different people that she did not know at one time. The feelings were overwhelming her. Galadriel sorted through the emotions and set them aside. She concentrated on the memories. The girl was correct. She did remember her conception. She followed the memories forward. She saw Ela’s parents through her eyes. How happy their were. And loving. A faint familiarity struck the woman. It was almost as if she knew the man. The memories snapped forward to when she was ten years old. The mother’s people finding them. Dragging her mother from the house. Then the fury when her father showed up. The hatred and loathing on her grandfather’s face. The death of her father before her eyes. Her mother crying and finally being set adrift in the small boat. Being left to die. Her mother gone one morning. Being alone for almost two weeks before the twins finding her. Subdued memories after that. Until the attack in the alley. The shock of the man’s intentions struck Galadriel like a fist. Her fate, had she not escaped would have been worse than death. The girl had seen that. Had known what the man intended. The look in Caldelen’s eyes. Then nothing until the night of the feast. Caldelen’s intentions. Then the morning they left. That was the worst. The last betrayal. A friend who had struck her.

Galadriel almost broke the contact. Instead, she followed another path. One that she did not think even Ela knew about. She saw Mordor. In ruins. The White City, damaged, but joyful. Lórien fading. She saw a ring fall into fiery depths. A vision of a small man, no, a Halfling, broken down by responsibility. Haldir mourning the loss of a child. A betrayal that would break Ela’s heart. A world where horses no longer were needed. Where uncounted millions of people lived. Where an evil as insidious as Sauron existed.

Ela gasped when Galadriel broke the connection. She struggled to breathe. Galadriel got the cup of water from the nightstand and held it up for her. She drank small sips.

“I am sorry, Lady. It did not work?”

“It worked, child. I want to try something else. Just lie back and relax again.” She laid her hand on Ela’s forehead. She spoke soothing words in a language the girl did not understand. Ela slowly relaxed until unconsciousness claimed her. Galaldriel withdrew her hand and covered her up. She closed the door and went out to the porch, where Haldir and Gariel waited.

“No one should have to live through what that child has. I have suppressed the memories for now, but they will seep out again. I hope it is not until she is old enough to cope with them.”

“What is wrong with her?”

“She feels the emotions of those around her. She has never had contact with so many at once. Great emotional stress strengthens the ability. Her parents’ deaths, the attack in the alley, Misty Havens, Caldelen. All of these are breaking down a wall in her mind. It is difficult to cope with it all at once. I wish we could have seen this before. She is also feeling guilt. If she had not been born, her parents might be alive. She has always been different. They tried to keep her from the outside world. Her mother’s people found them. I still do not know why they wanted her. If my grandsons had not found her, she would not have had to experience that attack in Imladris. She feels it was her fault. And Caldelen. And leaving Imladris. Everything is her fault. Because she was born. I will watch her, but I promised not to try to read her anymore. We will have to do it the hard way, by observation. Time may heal her. I hope so.”

“Thank you, Lady. I know how hard it was for the both of you.” Haldir bowed his head.

“Tread slowly with her. She is fragile and vulnerable right now.”

“Yes, Lady.”

“I will see you tomorrow, Gariel. Goodnight to the both of you.”

“Goodnight, Lady.”

Haldir went to see Ela while Gariel finished with dinner. Coming back to the kitchen, he picked up a platter of vegetables. He went out to the garden.

“She is sleeping, but not like before. She stirred when I made a noise at the door.”

“Good. I will take her a tray later. I see your brothers coming. We can eat now.”

He went back in to get the meat. She followed him back out with pitchers of tea. When the others arrived, the table was ready.

“Where is Ela?” asked Elldar.

“She is resting,” said Haldir. “The journey was harder on her than we thought. She has never traveled like that before.”

“We put her pony out with our horses. He will be there when she wants him.”

“I am sure she will be grateful. When you are finished eating, you may take her in a tray. She may be hungry by then.”

“Yes, uncle.”

“How go the eastern marches, Orophin?” Haldir wasted little time getting to what was on his mind.

“Quiet. Almost too quiet. There have been few seen heading south. Mirkwood sent a courier. They have had problems in the far northeast.”

“Probably from all the men they have let in. Thranduil must know what he is doing. I am glad to live here and not there.”

“It seems to work for them. I have not heard of any trouble concerning men within Mirkwood.”

“The Orcs we ran into coming in were a small force. There must have been more farther north. It may be best to step up security for a time, Rúmil. You can take some from the city guards. I will be up in two weeks.”

Elldar finished eating and excused himself. He went into the house and came back out with a plate. He put small amounts of vegetables and meat on it and grabbed a cup of tea.

“Let me know if she does not eat,” said his uncle. The boy nodded. When he was gone, Haldir turned to his brothers.

“The Lady came to see Ela today.” He gave them the details of her discovery. “You will need to watch her closely. Right now, I can think of only one who may cause her problems.”

Rúmil snorted a laugh. “She was not happy with the child, that is for sure. I honestly do not think you will need to worry. She has proven in the past she can take care of herself.”

“Against a boy, but you have seen of what that woman is capable.”

“And she sees Ela as a threat,” said Gariel. “Just the fact you brought her here is enough to make the woman jealous.”

“She felt the same about Arwen, but dared not say anything because of her grandparents.” Orophin paused. “She will not feel the same restraint. Ela is no relation to them.”

“We will have to trust the Lord and Lady to help her.”

After dinner, Haldir and Orophin played a game of conquest. Over the pieces on the checkered board, they discussed matters concerning the borders. Rúmil helped Gariel clean up from supper. Elldar came out to announce that Ela had eaten a little. When it became too dark to see the game any longer, Haldir and Rúmil bid their brother goodnight and went home.

Gariel checked on Ela before turning in. The girl was sleeping peacefully. She smiled. A girl. She had always wanted one. It was if the Valar had dropped her desire into her lap. She prayed the child was everything Haldir had told her.

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Chapter Eight
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02 May 2004
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02 May 2004
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