11. A Little Help
"Ivoreth. Time to wake up, daughter. Or do you intend to miss your time with Lindir today?"
Ivoreth stifled a groan as she roused. Her time with Lindir was precious - after all, he was going to be leaving soon too - and yet, her head was pounding, her stomach was aching, and all she wanted to do was keep her eyes closed. "I don't feel so good, Ada. Can you tell him I'm sorry, and that I'll see him tomorrow?"
She felt the bed dip as her Ada sat down next to her, and then felt gentle fingers teasing the hair out of her face. "What hurts - your arm? Celebriel said you rolled over on it…"
Yes, come to think of it, her arm hurt too. She nodded. "And my head and my stomach."
"You had no lunch. I would imagine your stomach ache is hunger."
The very thought of food made her stomach twist wickedly. "I'm not hungry, Ada. Honest."
The fingers continued to comb back straggling tendrils to tuck them behind her ears. "I talked to your grandfather," Ada told her in a soft voice. "He said you and he had a very important and difficult conversation, but he wouldn't tell me what you spoke of." His hand moved to her back and spread a large patch of comforting warm. "Is there anything I can do?"
She shook her head. There really was nothing Ada could do.
"Very well." Ada's voice sounded sad. "I shall pass along your message to Lindir, and you just rest and feel better." He bent over her and deposited a very gentle kiss to her forehead. "I will wake you for supper."
Ivoreth waited until Ada finally rose from her bed and she heard the door to her shared chamber with Raini shut quietly before groaning again. Supper! She would have to come out and eat something then. Ada wouldn't let her go an entire day on just the biscuit and honey and jam she'd had for breakfast.
She rolled over on her back and found herself toying with the two things that hung around her neck and usually remained hidden under her blouse. The tiny, flat fold of leather that held two golden coins hung longer on her chest than did the delicate gem that Grandfather Celeborn had given her. Both of them were meant to tell her something important.
It was easy to pull the tiny gem from her blouse and hold it up to look at it. Even though there were no sunbeams in the room, the jewel sparkled and glinted in a way that reminded her of her Grandmother's laugh. And then it was as if she could hear Grandfather Celeborn speaking softly into her ear: "When it seems that all is dark about you, hold the jewel in your hands and let the thought that you are loved drive away the sadness, just as the jewel casts light into places it wouldn't go alone."
She needed some of the magic within the jewel now - desperately. Talking with Grandfather Elrond that morning had brought all of her fears crashing down on her, one on top of the other until it was difficult to want anything but to curl up in a corner. One thing good had come from the encounter however: he had at least told her the truth; he had guarded her dreams that afternoon against the nightmares. If nothing else, she wasn't tired; just very confused and wanting to be alone. She twisted the chain to make the gem turn this way and that.
I want to believe in your magic, she thought at the jewel, pretending it could hear her. I know that Grandmother and Grandfather Celeborn love me; but they're all the way back in Lothlórien, and I won't see them again for a long while. What do I do here, now?
The little gem sparkled quietly, dangling on its delicate chain below her fingers. And on her chest, she could feel the solid weight of the coins; and again, it was as if she could hear her Ada's voice in her ear: "Keep it as a sign of my promise that you’ll never be without again, and return it to me when you can finally trust that I will not abandon you.”
She tucked the jewel into her blouse again and laid her hands on each of her treasures.
Am I being silly, imagining that Ada would abandon me after giving me something like this? Even after I stole, he still brought me all the way to Imladris and showed me so many beautiful things. He talked to Lindir and got him to show me a little of how to play the harp. Would Ada break his word?
The peace and the gentle harmonies floating in the air were soothing, however, and eventually she tired of staring at the ceiling while asking herself questions that had no answers and closed her eyes. It seemed only moments before a light knock on the door shattered her calm, and she flinched hard as she pulled completely awake again. "Ivoreth? May I come in?"
Elrohir? What does he want?
She turned on her side toward the door and pulled the covers more completely over her shoulder. "Yes," she called out finally.
Ada's brother looked surprised and then concerned when he saw that she huddled under her covers. "You are not getting ready for supper?"
"I'm not hungry," she told him carefully, and then shifted back as he moved to sit down next to her as Ada had.
His face showed that her moving away from him bothered him. Still, he folded his hands in his lap and looked into her face, his eyes sad. "I just had a very long talk with my adar, your grandfather. At the end of it, he told me, and I agree, that I needed to talk to you right away."
What? Grandfather told him what I said? Ivoreth closed her eyes at the feeling of betrayal.
"I thought you knew," he continued, his voice soft. "All of those things I told you, when things were not going well between us? That was my anger speaking, not the truth, Ivoreth. And I assumed, when we settled things between us the other day, you would understand not to take anything I said during that bad time before seriously anymore."
Stunned, all she could do was lay there and stare at him, her mouth hanging open slightly.
He passed his fingers over his eyes, as if relieving strain, and then looked down at her again. "I was not being fair to you, or to the things you had had to do to survive before Elladan took you in. I think I said what I did because I hurt, and I wanted someone else to hurt too; which was very unfair to you, who had already had too much hurt from losing your little brother. I still don't know everything that happened to you. My adar told me only a very little, mostly about what you said about me and what I had told you, before he scolded me for what I'd done. But you need to know that, if I had been fair or thinking clearly, I would have realized that it takes more than a few good meals and nights spent in a clean, dry, warm bed to make you trust us. I should have given you the benefit of the doubt, little one, and I failed to do so."
As if her Ada had reappeared next to her, now Elrohir fingered some of her fly-away hair out of her face and then laid his hand gently on her head. "But I'm telling you the truth now. You do deserve to be here, Ivoreth, to be a part of this family, I swear it; every bit as much as Raini does. And even though I can understand if you cannot bring yourself to believe me, I do care for you a great deal. We all do. If there is anyone who has been a disappointment to my adar and his House lately, it is I and not you. I deserved every bit of his scolding just now."
Grandfather Elrond scolded… Elrohir?
"I had no idea that you still were believing those horrible things I said to you." He began playing with her hair again, as Ada had. "And I had no idea that the argument in Lothlórien at the table with Elladan, and then our sparring afterwards, had frightened you so badly. These are things that happen between Elladan and me from time to time, and I forgot you had no idea what to expect. Grandmother tried to explain it to me, after you got sick, but I do not think I was hearing her properly at the time. She was so angry with me, and frightened for you."
Frightened? For me? Ivoreth's hand crept beneath her covers to the hard little lump that was her jewel and pressed it. Elrohir's words were casting light into one of the darkest corners of her fears. It's working? Really working? But… is it real?
"I am not going to ask for your forgiveness," he continued sadly, "but what I am going to do is give you a solemn oath never again to make you fear me or doubt your right to a place in this House. As I demanded of you to prove yourself to me, now I vow to prove myself to you." He withdrew his hand back to his lap. "Perhaps, one day, I will have proved myself enough that you can begin to trust me again. But for now, all I can do is tell you that I am deeply sorry for the hurt I caused you, and say again that nothing hurtful that I said while angry was the truth."
I don't know what to believe anymore…
Elrohir bent and deposited a gentle kiss on her cheek. "Think about what I have told you, little one." He brushed his fingers over her forehead. "And come down for supper, please. Your grandfather worries that your health will begin to fail if you do not eat, and that will only make it harder for your arm to heal."
"My stomach hurts," Ivoreth's complaint slipped out before she could stop it.
"You need not eat much," he urged, "a piece of bread and maybe some broth? I can ask Ada to make you a soothing tea, and I promise I will watch to make certain that he makes one that does not taste bad." His lips quirked, and Ivoreth knew he was trying to coax her into a smile.
"Grandfather's teas don't taste bad," she defended her Grandfather stubbornly.
"Then you are truly favored, young one," Elrohir smiled more fully. "When your Ada and I were your size, and we would get injured, our adar would make us drink the most disgusting tasting teas." His smile widened as her face folded into disbelief. "Ask your Ada if you do not wish to believe me. Better still, ask your Grandfather. I am certain he remembers what he used to give us."
Bread and broth does sound good. Ivoreth could imagine the taste of the delicate broth, and of the warm, fresh-baked bread that always seemed to be on the tables here; and suddenly, her stomach grumbled its emptiness at her. Convinced, she pushed herself to sit up, then put a hand to her head when the room spun.
"Headache and dizzy too?" Elrohir tsked at her. "Definitely, you are hungry. Once you get a little food inside, I would wager you will start to feel much better." He held out a hand to her. "May I escort you?"
Ivoreth stared at his hand for a moment, and then finally laid hers in his grasp and let him lead her to her chamber door. They had made their peace before, and now he had apologized to her. She might still not know what to think or believe, but she could see no harm in letting him hold her hand on the way to the supper table.
The sound of lively conversation drifted down the hallway as Ivoreth and Elrohir drew near, almost making Ivoreth wish she had not changed her mind. The last thing she wanted to do was talk - to anyone.
Ada looked a little startled when Elrohir pulled her into the room, but Grandfather Elrond looked relieved. "Come, sit with us," Celebriel rose from her seat between Raini and the new Grandfather Aranor, and moved swiftly to take Ivoreth's hand from Elrohir.
"Did you sleep well, little daughter?" Grandfather Aranor asked kindly.
Ivoreth gave a tiny, shy nod and quickly slipped silently and safely into place between Celebriel and Ada. Elrohir found the empty seat next to Grandfather Elrond. "Ivoreth says her stomach is bothering her," he told those seated. "I talked her into trying a little bread with some broth, and maybe one of your soothing teas, Ada; one of the ones that will entice the appetite, not quash it completely."
The quirk in Grandfather Elrond's eyebrow as he turned slowly to look at Elrohir made Ivoreth's mouth twitch with the beginnings of a smile. When Elrohir turned to look at her with a mischievous and satisfied smirk and twinkle in his eye, she felt a brush of warmth.
He's teasing his father! And Grandfather Elrond is playing along. I remember playing with Da sometime, but he was never wanting to play after I'd done something wrong that he'd had to scold or beat me for. She cast a wary glance at her Ada. I wonder if he'll ever let me play with him like that someday?
"I am certain I can find a soothing tea that tempts the tongue," Grandfather Elrond told Elrohir quietly as he pushed back from the table and rose. "After all, Ivoreth knows better than to go out and get herself hurt doing careless things, don't you, little daughter?"
Ivoreth looked up at Grandfather with wide eyes at hearing herself directly addressed. His eyes were kind, and his expression encouraging. She nodded carefully. I don't like being hurt.
Grandfather spoke softly to one of the servers as he left the room, and soon a small bowl of steaming broth was placed in front of her. Celebriel cut a healthy slice of bread from the loaf on the bread board and placed it on the plate next to the bowl. "Just eat slowly," she suggested, pushing some of the loose bits of hair from her forehead. "Take small bites and chew them well." Ivoreth nodded and tore a small piece from her bread and dipped it in the broth.
"Ivo sick again?" Raini chirped at her, her mouth half filled with food.
"I'm fine, my Raini-Day Sunshine girl," she soothed her little sister. If she didn't, Raini would want to be in the same bed with her and "take care-o" her, and she'd never get to sleep.
"That is an interesting way to speak to your sister," Aranor commented, aiming a smile Ivoreth's way. "Why do you call her that?"
Ivoreth blinked. "It was our Da's name for her, because she always had a smile," she explained shyly.
"And did he have a similar name for you?"
Ivoreth blushed to see all the eyes at the table turn to hear her answer. "No," she shrank into her chair a bit, embarrassed. "I was always just Ivoreth."
No, I wasn't. I was "Girl." "Girl, get me my dinner." But Da loved Raini…
Grandfather Aranor's eyes widened, and he turned to Celebriel. "We shall have to amend this disparity, daughter. Every child should have a special name, given to them by those who love them!"
"I agree." Astounded, Ivoreth turned to see Ada nodding and then aiming his comments at her. "If Raini has a special name, it is only right that we find one of you as well."
She blinked. "I didn’t know that anyone ever wore more than one name."
"We all wear several names over the course of our lives," Grandfather Elrond's voice sounded behind her, and he moved forward to put a steaming mug on the table near her plate. He put his hands on her shoulders and bent close to her. "Sip at this until it is all gone, little one, regardless of how much of your dinner you eat. It will settle your stomach, and I added honey to make it taste good and give your body energy to work with."
"Thank you." Ivoreth reached for the mug and inhaled the gentle aroma. The first sip proved that it was indeed a tasty brew, one that slid easily down the throat and warmed her belly. "It's good."
The large hands patted her shoulders, and then Grandfather Elrond was returning to his place at the head of the table.
"Certainly you must have noticed that the King had many names," Elrohir managed after taking a sip of his wine. "You call him Elessar, as do most in Minas Tirith. We…" His wave included most at the table. "…have called him Estel since he was very young. His mother named him Aragorn."
Ivoreth nodded, her mouth working on the broth-soaked crust of bread. She'd wondered about that.
"I think Estel has more names than all of us put together," Ada chuckled.
"We Elves have a tradition, you see," Aranor leaned forward so that he could see Ivoreth. "When we are born, our father gives us one name and our mother gives us another. Then, over time, friends and other family members - sometimes even enemies - give us yet another name or two…"
"Or three, or four, or five…" Elrohir slipped in, his eyes twinkling again.
Aranor gave him a similarly cocked eyebrow as Grandfather Elrond had earlier. "Each name," he pointedly returned his attention to Ivoreth, "is called an 'epessë'. Considering that we have no knowledge if 'Ivoreth' is your mother-name or your father-name, it is therefore an epessë that you need."
"The thing is, however, that one day we shall give you a name very different than Ivoreth," Ada smoothed her hair back.
Her eyes widened, and she swallowed quickly. "An Elvish name? For me?"
"Would you like an Elvish-given name to go with your new Elvish family, little daughter?" Grandfather Elrond asked gently.
"Oh, yes!" A new name, for a new life? They would do that, for me?
Ada's hand landed on her upper arm, careful not to press too hard against the bandages. "It may take some time, so don't expect one in the morning. Your epessë will no doubt reflect the way we see you. We do not just pull such an important thing from out of nowhere."
"All right…" she breathed. Ivoreth hoped she didn't sound too impatient. She reached out for her tea, suddenly very glad she had chosen to come down for supper.
The music was wonderful, Grandfather Aranor had told the most interesting story, and now Ivoreth was tired. She leaned heavily against Celebriel, her eyes half-closed but struggling to continue to pay attention. Lindir and both Ada and Elrohir were playing together now, Elrohir on a smaller lap harp while Lindir had his large harp.
"I think you are ready for bed," Celebriel finally told her as the music paused between songs.
"I'm sorry." Ivoreth tried to sit up straight.
"You've done nothing wrong, daughter," the elleth replied. "I understand it has been a very long and difficult day for you. And Raini is fast asleep. Come - I shall tuck you in."
She called me "daughter" again.
Celebriel waited until Ivoreth had pushed herself to her feet again before standing with a sleeping Raini lolling on her shoulder. Then putting down a hand to collect Ivoreth's, and giving a shallow bow to the others she was leaving behind, she led the way through the Hall and up the stairs.
Ivoreth sat on the edge of her bed and waited while Raini was changed into her sleeping gown, and then turned obediently so that Celebriel could release her arm from the sling that bound it in place.
"Why do you call me daughter now?"
The injured arm felt heavy and aching; as always, Ivoreth was glad for the mug of medicine that was waiting for her on the little table by the bed and drank the bitter potion right down. Celebriel took the emptied mug from her and then began helping her ease out of her blouse and skirt. "Does it bother you?"
Ivoreth thought about it. "No," she admitted at last, after a small whimper as the arm was jostled to remove the blouse. "You just haven't done it before."
Celebriel didn't answer her right away, but helped ease the sleeping gown over her head and then move the wrapped arm through the sleeve. "When you were injured, and all I could do was watch you sleep for so long after we got here, I realized that I was afraid I would lose you. Elladan and I have had an agreement for a long time; but when you and Raini came to stay, things seemed… right."
She sat down on the bed facing Ivoreth. "You see, I have waited a very long time to make a family of my own. I had to wait for Elladan to decide… But once he did, it still didn't seem real. Then you and Raini came along, and I started to appreciate what it was to have a family of my own. Elladan cared for you both, very much; and I learned to care too. Now, I cannot imagine starting my life with Elladan without you and Raini. I want to be there for you, like he is. I know I am not your real Nan, but perhaps, someday, I can be a Nana for you."
"You mean it?" The idea that Celebriel wanted to be a mother to her took her breath away.
The beautiful face smiled as gentle fingers caressed Ivoreth's cheek. "Very much."
Ivoreth let herself tip so that she was once more leaning against Celebriel, and the feeling of arms slowly surrounding her was like finding herself suddenly wrapped in a warm blanket. Without even thinking about it, Ivoreth slid her good arm around Celebriel's waist, surprising herself at how good it felt to hold and be held.
Suddenly, she knew. I want this. It wasn't a question of deserving or privilege. It was pure need. I want this a lot.
adar - father
elleth - female Elf (pl. ellith)
epessë - nickname
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.