Elladaniel: 10. Overwhelmed

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10. Overwhelmed

Ivoreth watched as her Grandfather Elrond carefully unwrapped her injured arm. The first time she'd seen it uncovered, she had grown dizzy and half-sick. Ada had told her that the warg had nearly taken her arm off, and he'd been right. The forearm itself was crisscrossed with lines of angry looking stitches holding what was nearly shredded patches of skin together. A few places still looked red and angry, even though a week had passed since she had finally awakened, and they wept a clear liquid that meant that every morning's bandage changing was accomplished with time spent soaking bandages away from the stitches in warm, sweet-smelling herbal water.

Grandfather Elrond told her that he did this so that the bandage wouldn't tear the stitches or give her pain. He was very patient with her, always taking the time to answer all her questions and once drawing her a picture of what was inside the skin of her arm and showing her exactly what had happened to her. He let her smell the little pot that the herbs came out of that went into the warm water bath, and told her about the healing properties of comfrey, thyme and golden seal as she soaked; after a few days, he even showed her exactly how to measure out the right amount of dried leaves to put into the bowl for him. He found a small book in the library that showed what those dried flakes of leaf looked like when they were on the plant, and then showed her his small, private garden where he grew such wonderful things. He was rapidly becoming one of her favorite people, and her time with him in the morning was a favorite part of the day, despite the aches.

He still wouldn't let her move the arm at all on her own; he insisted that she let him move it if it needed moving in the morning before binding it firmly to her chest. She was more than willing to obey him too, for it ached horribly when she would forget and try to move it on her own. The exercises he was having her do with the fingers of that hand made the ache bad enough that she was grateful for the slightly bitter tea that she was handed several times a day.

But she had been given a promise, and she wanted to heal quickly so as to be able to collect on it. Lindir himself had allowed her the use of his smallest lap harp and was beginning to teach her how to find the notes from among the strings with her good hand. He'd promised her full lessons when her healer said she could begin to work the arm and hand more normally. Her times with him never lasted long enough either!

"Here now! This is looking much better today, little daughter!" Grandfather Elrond exclaimed softly. "See how the redness is going away? Just a few places continue to weep."

"Will my arm be as good as before when it heals?" Ivoreth asked, her eyes on his face.

He rocked his head with a strange back and forth movement. "Much will depend on how well things heal on the inside, where we cannot see what is happening anymore - and how much work you are willing to put into teaching your arm to once more do what it used to." He dipped his fingers into the honey that he spread over the stitching each and every day. "Not yet, though. We will not work the arm itself until the skin is whole once more." He smiled at her gently. "You are very lucky not to have lost the arm entirely."

Ivoreth nodded and shuddered. She still had nightmares about yellowed teeth, eyes that glowed red, and a spray of horrible-smelling wet across her face that would bring her up out of her sleep screaming. Those were the nights - like just the night before - when either Ada or Celebriel would have to sit with her until she could finally fall asleep again. She yawned widely, still not entirely awake after having a more difficult time than usual getting back to sleep.

"More nightmares again?"

She grimaced and nodded. No doubt her screams carried down the hall to his bed chamber as well. "Ada says that he's not surprised, but..." Her eyes searched her Grandfather Elrond's face. Maybe she could ask him. "Am I always going to have nightmares?"

Grandfather Elrond glanced up at her. "Have you had nightmares before this?"

She nodded. "Before, in Lothlórien, I'd dream..." No, if she told him that, he'd hate her. "And then in the City, I'd have bad dreams about what was happening to Daren. And before that, I'd dream about the bad things that had happened before."

"Bad things? What kind of bad things?" He dipped his fingers in the water she had soaked in to rinse away the honey and then dried his hands before reaching for the light bandaging linen.

She cringed, not liking to remember those times at all. "Like when the sky grew very dark, and all anybody could hear was the roar of the dark ones outside the city walls; or when they came through to even the Second Circle; or when the balls of fire were falling on us and we had to get Raini and Daren out before they burned up; or when the flying things were overhead and screaming so loudly we couldn't think..."

Grandfather Elrond's hands slowed in the process of wrapping the bandage over the honey-covered arm. "You heard the nazgúl screaming?" He sounded alarmed, and his grey eyes looked into hers closely.

Ivoreth's eyes were wide in response. "Is that what they were called?"

He nodded soberly. "They were the captains of the Enemy's forces. You heard them?" he asked again.

Ivoreth found herself shuddering with that memory as well. "Everyone did. They were very loud and sometimes the sound filled my head and sometimes made it hard to think or move for a moment. Some people I saw just stopped moving at all; and then, when the dark ones came, they were still... just standing there... And the dark ones cut them into pieces..." She closed her eyes, willing away again the memory of heads rolling towards her like over-ripe fruit before her stomach could twist into knots again like it used to.

How had I forgotten that? There was so much blood...

"Merciful Elbereth!" Grandfather Elrond sounded horrified. "You saw all this happen?"
He shook his head when she nodded at him. "It must have been terribly frightening for you! I'd be surprised if you didn't have nightmares about all that!" Then he looked down again, beginning to wrap her arm once more. "Where were you, when all this happened? How did you see this and not end up dead too?" His voice had a strange calm to it, like it was forced.

She took a shaky breath. "We were already inside the city walls - in the storm drains. It was the only place we could go to get away from the balls of fire, and then the dark ones were too big to fit through the entrances and they couldn't get at us except to shoot their arrows at us. Daren used to play there all the time, even though Da told him to stay away and even beat him once when he caught him; so when things got really bad, I took Evi and..."

"Evi?"

"My other little sister. Evien." Ivoreth fell silent, surprised at herself for not having given a thought to her lost sister for so long. It wasn't fair; Evi should have lived to see this beautiful place. So should Daren... Daren!

Grandfather Elrond finished tying off the light bandages and knelt in front of her to put a finger beneath her chin and make her look at him. "Ivoreth, your Ada told me as much about you as he could remember. I know you lost your father in the siege, and your little brother just before you came here, but I don't think he mentioned another sister. What happened to her? Where is she?"

"She died," she whispered, unable to stop the tears. "We were always so hungry, and she found some food in a trash pile. I thought it smelled bad and told them not to eat it, but she ate it anyway, before I could stop her." She sniffed and wiped at her nose with the back of her good hand. "Jarem and the others made me take her outside in cold and the rain so that she wouldn't make any of the rest of them sick, but it was the bad food..." When the finger fell away, she looked down at her skirt again. "She died, and it was all my fault."

"No, little daughter. It was a tragic thing, but you are not to blame."

He doesn't understand! It is my fault, all of it!

"But I should have stopped her, just like I should have told Daren not to play with his friends!" she stated forcefully, throwing her personal accusations into her own face with brutal honesty, forgetting entirely who it was she was speaking to. "I was the oldest, and Da said I was to be responsible for the little ones when he wasn't there. Then he was gone, and I should have..."

"Ivoreth! Stop!" Grandfather Elrond gathered her close. "Hush, little one. You were and still are just a small child too. How old are you now?"

She sniffed and swiped at her nose again. "Twelve years, I think."

"So you were no more than ten years old then, and suddenly responsible for three others younger than yourself. At a very dangerous time, you still kept them fed..."

"No, I didn't," Ivoreth muttered. "We were always hungry. Raini was always crying..."

He seemed to ignore her argument. "And you found them a place they could feel safe when people were dying all around you." His large hand stroked her head gently. "Do you have any idea how many adults of your people would not have had the sense to accomplish what you did?"

"Evi died," Ivoreth insisted dully. "Daren died. Raini almost died."

"And yet you lived, and Raini lived, when I would imagine many others did not," he reminded her. "What does your Ada say about this?"

"He says he's proud of me." She shook her head. "I don't understand."

"What don't you understand?"

"Everything. How can he be proud of me? He knows I'm just a..."

"A what?"

Ivoreth hung her head.

Elrohir didn't tell him after all?

Grandfather's hand kept stroking her hair. "What is it that you think you are, little daughter?" He brought up his other hand and framed her face when she didn't reply. "Surely it can't be as bad as you think... Tell me."

It is as bad as I think. He'll hate me for sure now, and never let me be part of his family. Why couldn't I keep my mouth shut?

Her voice was barely a whisper. "A thief."

Astonishingly, his voice stayed steady and calm; and even more surprising, he didn't move away from her at all. "Why do you say that?"

Ivoreth gathered her courage and looked her new Grandfather - the one she would drive away very soon - in the eye. As bad as it had made her feel to do things her Nan wouldn't approve of, she knew deep down she would still do it all over again if it meant keeping her brother and sisters alive. And if her new Grandfather was going to push her away, he needed to at least know what she'd done and why.

"Because that is what I am - what I had to be. There were no jobs for children like me - no way for me to feed the rest of them - and Da said I was responsible for them. So I took things that belonged to other people and sold them for coin to buy food. I wouldn't let them do it, but I did. I took bread and fruit from the sellers in the market. And sometimes," she cringed inside, "I would cut the purse strings of people in the market to try to get enough coin to buy a real apprenticeship for Daren so I wouldn't have to steal anymore; but I could never get enough for what they asked and it cost so much to buy the food the right way that the coin never lasted long anyway." She sighed in defeat. "I even stole things from the Houses of Healing after Ada saved me from the Guards and sold it for coin to buy Raini some medicine."

"But you did what you had to do, to take care of your family, did you not?"

He's still not upset? When he hears the rest, he will be...

She nodded but braced herself again. "I even took coins from Elrohir and Celebriel, and some food, after..."

He nodded slowly, accepting her statement. "Why?" was all he asked.

"Because..." She looked away and began to shake. Ada had asked the same question. "I wasn't sure that Ada would really take us with him, and I would have to take care of Raini again by myself. And I was afraid that he might die too, like Nan and Da and Evi and Daren..."

Grandfather Elrond was quiet for a long moment. Now he is angry. Ivoreth began to squirm to free herself from his embrace. I'll leave, I promise. I'll go away and never come back. Just don't hurt me...

"Hush, little one. Be still." Strong arms tightened carefully around her so as not to press painfully on her arm. "Look at me. Look at me," he insisted when she didn't obey.

Slowly she looked back up into his face, and then stared. Not mad? But... why?

"Both your Ada and Elrohir explained to me what happened about the coins and the food already, but I am glad to hear you explain yourself. No, no, don't look away," he admonished when she looked back down again and waited until she was gazing at him again to continue. "Tell me, do you still have these same fears?"

"Not all of them. Ada really did take us with him." She still found that hard to believe, along with all the other things she'd learned and seen on the journey that were just as hard to believe.

"But you are still afraid?" Those grey-blue eyes held her gaze tightly. Ivoreth swallowed hard and gave a tiny nod. "Of what?"

"That Ada will die too, like everybody else - or..." Her voice caught in her throat. "...that he'll go away with you and Grandmother to that place that he can't come back from and leave me alone in this strange place..." She felt him flinch slightly and close his eyes, and stopped. He doesn't need to know any more. He's already angry now. She braced herself for his next words.

"Do you still take from others without permission?"

The thought of having to endure more of the cold way Elrohir had treated her for so long over the loss of two silver coins - or worse, the same treatment at the hands of her Ada - made her blood run cold. "No!" Ivoreth shook her head vehemently.

Not that - never again!

"Why not?" he pressed, his expression tense.

She started to shake again as she could hold her emotions inside of her no longer, her voice climbing as her control slipped away and all the fears and worries that she didn't dare speak to these strange and confusing people came tumbling out. "Because I don't have anywhere else to go now if Ada decides he doesn't want me after all, and I don't want to lose Raini. Because I'm so far away from home, I'm afraid I could never find my way back if he did, or that I'd get eaten by the wargs for real. Because I'm afraid of what might happen if I make Ada really angry at me, like he was with Elrohir in Lothlórien; that he could hurt me too... Because I like you and I don't want you to send me away, even though you will now anyway..." As she came to the most important reason, she could hardly speak through the sobs. "Because I'm afraid Ada will stop loving me, like Elrohir did."

Grandfather Elrond sighed and pulled her forward to cradle her head against his chest, shushing at her until the storm had passed and Ivoreth was reduced to hiccoughs and sniffles. "My poor, poor little daughter. Your Grandmother was right; you need much more healing than just in your arm. I can promise you this much: I have no intention of sending you away."

But I thought...

"You mean you don't hate me because your family has a thief in it now?" she asked in a very small voice, trying very hard not to shake so hard because her arm was beginning to ache. "But Elrohir said that you'd be ashamed that I was..."

"Shhhh..." His voice was soft, and his hold on her gentle. "No, Ivoreth. I neither hate you nor am I disappointed in you; quite the contrary, actually. I have heard nothing this day that would change anything. And as long as you take nothing that doesn't belong to you anymore, then as far as I am concerned you are no thief and bring no shame to my house. You are my granddaughter, and I love you."

"I don't understand..." she whimpered in confusion as her Grandfather got to his feet, pulled her out of the chair and took her place; then pulled her into his lap to hold her very close, his hand guiding her head to rest on his shoulder.

I'm a thief, and Grandfather Elrond knows all about it now - and he still says nice things to me. But Elrohir said I would never deserve to be a part of this house and that I was a disappointment. I really don't understand...

"But I do, now," he replied and began rocking her. " I do. Listen to me very carefully, Ivoreth, for what I tell you now is the truth, as best I know it. You are safe, and you are much loved. This is your home now, and no one is going to make you leave it before you wish it. Sleep, little daughter. Rest, and trust that I shall guard your dreams. Sleep; this has been a hard morning for you..."

Drained and exhausted as if she'd ridden Ada's stallion for the entire day, she closed her eyes and wondered if she dared trust that Grandfather Elrond could keep the nightmares away, as he promised.

oOoOo

The sound of familiar women's laughter penetrated the darkness and lured Ivoreth unwillingly back into the waking world. It took a few moments for her to recognize Celebriel's voice and chuckles; but she relaxed the moment she did. Celebriel was a known, safe, person to be with. But an answering male voice, deeper than Ada's and not her Grandfather's brought Ivoreth's eyes wide open. She flinched back hard to find herself with her head pillowed on Celebriel's lap, but also next to an Elf she'd never seen before, who was holding a dosing Raini in his lap.

"Hush, little one," Celebriel soothed her. "This is my father, Aranor. Ada, this is my daughter Ivoreth."

Daughter?

The silver of Aranor's hair was very similar to that of Grandfather Celeborn, and his eyes were kind. "It is my honor to meet you, little daughter."

Another Grandfather? And this one will leave soon too, to go to that place he can never come back from like Grandfather Elrond and Grandmother. I can't do this anymore... No more - please!

She closed her eyes and rolled until her face was buried in Celebriel's stomach, ignoring the ache in her arm as she put pressure on it. She felt the elleth hesitate for a moment, and then a gentle hand landed on her back and began to brush soothing circles against her gown. "Sleep, child. Everything will be well when you awaken."

Another hand touched her back very softly. "Indeed. Sleep, little daughter, and we will speak again when you are feeling better." Then, after a moment of peace: "You have a beautiful family, iell nîn. Your naneth will be glad to know of them, and to know that perhaps, some day, you will give them brothers or sisters."

"I know, Ada. I am very lucky to have Elladan and the girls."

She can't be talking about me.

Sindarin Vocabulary:

iell nîn - my daughter
naneth - mother

This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

Story Information

Author: Aeärwen

Status: General

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - Post-Ring War

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 06/20/10

Original Post: 05/02/09

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