"I think this is doing well enough that we can leave off the bandages now," Grandfather Elrond announced after lifting the arm from the herbal soak. "A few places are not quite healed yet, but will do well being exposed to the air." He smiled encouragingly. "I will put it back in the sling, but you should start to move your arm again - use your hand again. Not much at first, but every day a little more."
"It hurts when I move it," Ivoreth said softly. She closed her hand and found that even that made the forearm ache.
Grandfather Elrond nodded. "I am not surprised. The muscles are no longer accustomed to working, as it was they that needed to heal as much as the skin covering them. You will have to teach them again to be strong." His smile grew into a grin. "Incidentally, when I saw him this morning, I told Lindir that you could begin using your left hand on the harp. The exercises he will give you will serve dual purpose: to make more beautiful music, and retrain your arm to do as you would wish."
Ivoreth's face blossomed into a happy smile. "Both hands now? Really?" She'd be willing to put up with a lot of hurt to be able to use both hands on the harp now.
She wasn't surprised that her grandfather could read through the smile. "Be gentle with yourself at first, little daughter. Slow and steady progress is better than doing too much and setting yourself back." This time, rather than reaching for the pot of honey, he reached for a soft towel to simply dry the arm.
"Will I still need the tea?"
"You may," he answered with another nod. "I will have it prepared for you again today and we shall see how well you do. As your arm gets stronger and more used to being used again, you should need the tea less. Now," he tugged gently on Ivoreth's braid hanging over her shoulder, "I need to see some visitors, so I unfortunately shall not be able to play draughts with you this morning. Perhaps this evening instead?"
Ivoreth nodded and then claimed a hug from her grandfather. She would miss her morning game, but Ada had told her that her grandfather was an important Elf that many came to for advice and assistance. He was, after all, the foremost healer in Middle-earth - other than Elessar.
"Another thing you might want to try is to groom your pony a little. That would be a good way to exercise your arm a little and work on your friendship, do you not agree?"
She pulled away to look him in the face, a delighted smile on her face. "I can go to the stables by myself?"
Grandfather Elrond's answering smile was like a warm, summer sun. "Under normal conditions, you should always ask permission before doing so; and this morning you may because I have given you your permission. I shall also tell your Ada where you are, in case he needs to find you for some reason."
"Thank you!" Ivoreth's arms tightened around her grandfather's neck again, and she sighed happily when his strong arms held her back just as tightly.
With that, he set her on her feet. "Go on. Your friend has waited long enough to get to know you better. You know the way?"
"Oh yes!" She'd been dreaming of getting a chance to go out and visit her pony for over a week now. She waved her good hand at her grandfather and set off at a trot.
"Do not run in the house, little daughter!" his voice called after her down the hallway. "You could run into someone and get hurt! And do not forget the time you have promised to Erestor before lunch!"
Ivoreth immediately slowed down to a very fast walk. She didn't want to get in trouble for running, or run into someone; but she did want to get to the stables. She glanced out into one of the gardens she was passing and saw Celebriel, sitting on a stone bench next to a statue, with Raini on her lap. The two were laughing and, from the looks of it, playing some sort of finger game together. Her determined hurry vanished as she paused to watch. When Celebriel's bell-like laugh rang out clearly, and the elleth gathered Raini close for a hug, Ivoreth smiled.
She's just like the kind of Nan that Raini needs.
Eventually her footsteps sped up again. Ivoreth carefully opened the huge front door to the House and then quietly closed it behind herself. Finally free from her grandfather's warning in the fresh air, Ivoreth broke into a trot that carried her across the courtyard toward the huge building that was the stables.
She skidded to a halt the moment she stood in the large open doorway, uncertain which way to turn or what to do next. She could hear two of the Elves who worked in the stables talking to each other and the occasional sound of whickers between the stalls as the horses carried on their own conversations. A huge, brown warhorse was tethered to a post near the doorway, and an Elf was carefully brushing it and rubbing it down with a cloth.
Perhaps he'll know where Gilbain is. Ivoreth drew a little closer. "Excuse me?"
The Elf turned and looked down, and Ivoreth found herself looking up at Haldir. The Lothlórien Marchwarden blinked in surprise and then smiled down at her. "Well, hello there, little one. What are you doing here all by yourself?"
"Grandfather told me I could come out and maybe groom my pony," Ivoreth told him proudly, and then admitted, "but I don't know how to groom, and I don't know where she is."
Haldir bent and put the brush and cloth he'd been wielding on a small, nearby stool and held out his hand. "The names of the horse inside is on each stall gate," he told her as he led her toward the long line of gates. "What do you call your friend?"
"Gilbain," Ivoreth answered eagerly, noticing for the first time the small wooden slats that hung from two hooks on each gate that had tengwar burned into them. "Gilbain," she repeated to herself, trying to think through how the name would look written down."
Ivoreth turned to give her attention to the gate in front of which Haldir had pulled her to a stop. Her eyes stared at the tengwar on the wooden slat and then smiled. "That says Gilbain!" she exclaimed.
"It does indeed." He stepped aside. "Do you know how to open the gate?"
She studied the mechanism that was set higher than her head. Finally she shook her head.
"Watch then." Haldir manipulated the latch and the gate swung open into the corridor slightly. He pushed it closed again and moved aside. "You try it now."
Ivoreth reached and copied the movements she'd seen, and after a couple of fumbles, the gate once more swung open slightly.
Haldir smiled widely. "Very good, little one. Now, it is most important that you do not let your friend out of her stall, for convincing her to come back might not be as easy as you would think. So…" He reached out and took her hand again and led her into the stall, where her pony whickered at her happily. "When you are inside, pull on this strap to set the latch again." And again he stood aside so she could do as he directed.
"How do I get out again?" Ivoreth frowned at him.
He pointed. "Look at the latch, and show me how to open the gate."
She studied what she could see and then reached up again and fumbled with the latch. It was harder to manipulate from this side, but she soon had the gate swinging again.
"You learn easily, nethben." Haldir chuckled as Gilbain nudged Ivoreth in the middle of her back, pushing her against the gate, then grabbed the strap so that it didn't open so far that she fell out into the corridor. "Another important lesson for you: never turn your back on a friend who has been cooped up in a stall for days."
Ivoreth smiled up at him sheepishly as she turned and reached up with her good hand and scritched at the stiff white hairs of the star on the pony's face, which was immediately lowered to a level more easily reached.
"Is there anything else I can show you before I go back to Alago?" the warrior asked.
"Grandfather said I could try to groom her, but I don't know where things are or what to do." Ivoreth blushed. "I'm sorry to keep asking you things, and keeping you from your horse. He will be patient with me, won't he?"
At that, Haldir threw his head back and laughed heartily. "What do you say, Alago? Will you forgive the nethben for interrupting your currying?" A snort and a whicker answered him from beyond the gate. "He will forgive you this time," Haldir interpreted, then leaned close conspiratorially. "But if you bring him a carrot or two from the kitchen the next time you come out, I can guarantee he will hold no grudges for future interruptions."
Ivoreth smiled. "I can do that."
"Then I can show you what you need to do, and where to find what you need." He opened the gate and beckoned for Ivoreth to follow him. "No, no, little one," he chuckled, pushing Gilbain back when she would follow, "you stay here. Your friend will return to you shortly, and I know you will enjoy the gift she brings you."
"Go ahead," Erestor urged gently. "See if you can read it."
"I've never seen this before," Ivoreth hedged, gazing fearfully into her tutor's eyes.
The councilor's stern face softened, and he laid a gentle hand on her shoulder. "Ivoreth, the idea behind learning to read is to understand material one has never seen before. You know these letters - we have drilled with them many times already - so you should be able to sound out the words they spell. We will work on translation after." His hand patted her shoulder and then pointed to the first word on the page. "What is this?"
"Ir," she began, remembering seeing that word before. She frowned at the next word. "Ith…il… Ithil?"
"Very good!" Erestor's finger moved to the next word.
"What about that line over the malta?"
"Twice as long, right?"
"Exactly. So the word is…"
Ivoreth concentrated again. "Amm…en. Ammen." The finger moved to the next word, and she frowned. "Er…uch…in…" She gazed up at him again with a shake of the head. "I haven't heard that one before."
"Eruchîn is a way we refer to ourselves and all those who speak and sing - First-born or Mortal. It means, very literally, 'children of Eru', who is the One Creator - He who sang the song of Creation."
"You mean the All-Father?"
Erestor smiled widely. "I have heard the One called that name before, yes." His finger swept beneath the entire line. "So, now, the entire line reads…"
"Ir Ithil ammen Eruchîn." She looked up at her teacher. "Is that right?"
"Veeery good, Ivoreth! That is precisely what it says!"
"But what does it mean?"
He shook his head. "You know those words now. You tell me, what does it say?" Erestor sat back expectantly.
Ivoreth concentrated. "Ir means 'the', and Ithil is 'moon'…" Her brows furrowed. "Ammen is 'to us', and Eruchîn means 'children of the All-Father'." She sat back and thought, ignoring Erestor and his pointing finger. "'The moon, to us children of the All-Father'?" She tipped her head at her teacher, wrinkling her nose in confusion. "That makes no sense!"
Erestor chuckled. "You would have to read the next line or so to discover the full meaning of the whole sentence, Ivoreth. Where are the dots that tell you that the thought is completed?"
Her smaller finger pointed out the dots requested. "But doesn't that mean…" Her finger moved up a line to a vertical squiggle one line above.
"Good girl!" Erestor beamed. "So the thought ends where?"
Ivoreth left her finger on the squiggle and grinned.
A clear, deep bell sounded from the tower. Erestor placed a clean quill in the book to mark where they had been reading. "You have done well this morning. We will continue after you have eaten and rested."
"Thank you, Master Erestor." Ivoreth gave her teacher a hug, smiling when the hug was returned immediately. "Are you coming down?"
"Not quite yet; I have a few things I must finish before then, but I will see you there." He gave her a gentle nudge in the direction of the door. "Go on with you, and save me at least a crust of bread."
Ivoreth giggled and waved back at him with her good hand before setting off at a rapid walk - Grandfather Elrond didn't want her running in the House - for the stairs leading to the family dining room. She knew that there would be more than enough food left for Erestor… And with that thought, she skidded to a halt.
It hadn't occurred to her before now how much she took for granted, here in her Grandfather Elrond's house - how very much her life had changed in such a short amount of time. Since when had she not worried about having enough food to eat, or avoiding those from whom she had had to steal in order to get a few coins to take care of her brother and sister? Since when had her day been filled with reading exercises, time spent with a beautiful pony, playing games with a Grandfather who loved her, or - strangest of all - the hours spent learning to play the most beautiful instrument in the world?
"Ivoreth?" Slowly she looked up to see Haldir coming towards her with a look of concern on his face. He knelt before her and then took her hands in his. "You had a smile of happiness when I first saw you coming toward me that has now vanished behind a cloud, nethben. What thought takes the sun of your smile away?"
"I was just thinking…" she began lamely. How to explain to one who hadn't known her before.
"I could see that," the Lothlórien warrior nodded solemnly. "But on what?"
Ivoreth gazed at the Elf. "I just thought how strange it was to not worry about having enough food anymore, and how so many things have changed." She knew it wasn't a good description of the many emotions that she'd felt in that brief realization, but it was as good as she could make it.
Haldir considered her words for a moment, and then tipped his head slightly at her. "Is it a bad thing, do you think, not to have to worry any longer?"
"Nooo…" she drew out, examining her thoughts and knowing herself much happier, much more secure in her present life. She would never want to go back to the way things were! "But, I think…" she hesitated, thinking again, "I think it doesn't do any harm to remember the way things were, so that I don't forget that life isn't always easy."
Or those who died before my life changed. Daren. Evien. I miss them!
"That is wisdom, little one," he said with a nod. "The best use of memory is to give us guidance for the future - and, perhaps, to make us grateful for what we have in the present."
Ivoreth nodded quickly. "That's what I meant - only you said it better."
"I have had a little more practice putting difficult thoughts into words than you," Haldir chuckled. "I imagine that had something to do with it." He rose back up to his full height and put out a hand to her. "May I escort you to your midday meal, hîril nîn?"
"Na," she responded, in Sindarin for a change, and Haldir's smile widened.
"Carig vae, nethben," he replied, settling the hand she offered him on his forearm. "You do very well indeed!"
"Now remember, do not work the hand too hard today," Lindir cautioned her as he gathered his harp up. "Practice for a little while more, and then rest your arm and hand for at least an hour before trying anything else."
Ivoreth nodded, resting both hands on the strings. Her left hand was stiff, the fingers didn't want to move quickly like the ones on her right hand. The lesson had been satisfying - but frustrating at the same time.
"Little one," the soft-spoken harpist put his harp back down and sat next to her, slipping an arm about her shoulders and pulling her into a gentle embrace, "I know what you think. I know you are angry at fingers that will not move."
Ivoreth nodded. And now her whole arm ached enough to make her consider going into the kitchen to see if any of Grandfather's tea had been set aside for her. "I want to play," she mumbled.
"You get better with every lesson," Lindir told her firmly. "But just as you had to be very patient with yourself at the very first, you will now have to be patient with yourself again. Your injury was a serious one that took long to heal, but the exercises I have given you will help your left hand remember its speed. But be kind to your arm and hand, or you can re-injure them and only make the recovery process that much longer."
That's what Grandfather Elrond said.
When Ivoreth nodded this time, she smiled up at her teacher. "I'll remember," she promised him. "And I'll rest in a little while."
"You do that," Lindir nodded, one hand quickly drawing her head to his chest before rising again. "I will see you tomorrow."
"Thank you, Master Lindir."
"This is my pleasure, little one."
Ivoreth began the exercise all over again as her teacher walked out of the Hall of Fire. Having her left hand to reach for the deeper notes made the simple exercise sound much more complete to her. She closed her eyes as she hit the last few strings, and then her mind filled with memory.
"I want to hear, Ivo," Daren pleaded. "Please?"
"You know they won't let us in," she said, shaking her head at him.
"But we can listen outside! We can hide in the shadows near the back door, and they'll never even know we're there!"
It was tempting, but Ivoreth glanced over at Raini and then looked at her brother. "But what about Raini?"
"Bring her," the boy chirped with a wide smile. "She can be quiet, and she'll love the music too. C'mon, Ivo, pleeeeaase?"
Ivoreth sighed and smiled back. "Only for a little while," she said firmly. "We don't need to be going through the drains when it's pitch-dark."
Daren seemed to dance in impatience as Ivoreth gathered her little sister up into her arms, and then the three of them snuck down the drains to the opening. Looking both ways, Ivoreth led Daren to a pool of shadow directly across the street from the Laughing Pig. She allowed several passersby to meander down the street in front of them before jerking her head and leading the mad dash across the street into an even darker pool of shadows beyond a pile of crates stacked below a window.
From here, the music was easy to hear. There was a tambour, rattling with a complex and toe-tapping rhythm, and the visiting fiddler played out a merry tune. From the sounds that accompanied the music, the customers of the tavern were dancing and enjoying their evening's entertainment.
"Music!" Raini clapped with glee.
"Yes, it is," Ivoreth agreed, even while stifling her little sister's claps. "But we have to stay very quiet, or they'll chase us away. You don't want that, do you?"
Raini's golden head shook back and forth solemnly; and then, as the child got caught up in the music again, she began to bob her head back and forth with the beat of the tambour. Ivoreth looked down, and Daren's face in the dim light from lamps across the way was rapt. She settled herself a little more comfortably against the chilled stone façade and closed her eyes, finally allowing herself to be swept away with the dizzying melody.
Could she play that melody? It didn't sound that hard…
She jerked her eyes open and reached out to the harp. Where did the melody start?
One by one, she picked at the strings until she found the ones she wanted, then put them in order. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't right either. She played the melody again, trying to remember the rhythm of the notes. That was better! She played the melody again, just a little faster, tapping her toe as she remembered the beat of the tambour. There was more to the song, though; she stopped and carefully picked at the strings one by one until she had more of it, then added it to what she had played at first.
This is fun!
The music had holes, just as all the music she had ever heard in the White City had had. She stopped playing for a moment and stared at her left hand, which had been left behind without anything to do. There had to be a way to fill the holes, but…
"Play that melody again, Ivoreth."
She jumped as she noticed that Elrohir had joined her - and had brought his lap harp with him. "I'm sorry," she said, withdrawing her hands into her lap.
"No, little one. I wish to learn the melody you play. I have never heard it before." Elrohir was smiling at her - grinning really - and Ivoreth stared at him. "What? The tune you play is very catching." He looked at her pleadingly. "Will you teach it to me?"
"Me? Teach?" Ivoreth blinked. "But… You know more than I do…"
"Not when it comes to that tune. Play it again, please? Slowly the first time, so I can follow you."
I don't believe this!
Carefully, Ivoreth put out her hand and found the strings that played the melody, very conscious that Elrohir was watching her hands closely. "Again - still slowly. Let me see if I have it." She started again, amazed to hear Elrohir following her melody precisely.
"A little faster now. Show me how you played it before I sat down and interrupted you." Elrohir's face was tight and concentrating on her, and Ivoreth blushed as she added the rhythm, again finding her toe tapping out for the tambour.
When she looked around, she saw that Celebriel and Raini had come into the Hall and were sitting not far away.
"Here." Elrohir's hand reached out and touched her shoulder to call her attention back to him and their music. "You play the melody, and let me see what I can do."
Eyes wide, Ivoreth played her tune again, only to falter slightly when Elrohir's idea of an addition was to add notes and…
He's filling the holes! This is what it is supposed to sound like!
A smile spread across her face as she caught up the melody again for another repeat. Elrohir was grinning and nodding his head in the same rhythm as her toe, and his hands moved over the strings bringing forth harmony and… oh!
Is that Haldir?
It was indeed Haldir, with a small drum he held tucked into his armpit, tapping out a new and even more complex rhythm than the tambour she remembered had done - but it fit so well with what she and Elrohir were doing. Ivoreth grinned and dove into yet another repeat of the melody, finding herself more caught up in the music than she ever had been as a mere listener.
When the melody ended this time, Elrohir and Haldir brought things to a flourished finish, and Ivoreth started when a number of Elves began to applaud enthusiastically. Her eyes bulged when she saw, at the back wall near a door, both her Grandfather Elrond and Ada, smiling widely and clapping too. Leaning against another wall a short distance away, Grandfather Aranor smiled and applauded as well. In the doorway to the living quarters stood Lindir, his face glowing with pride and nodding approval. Elrohir dropped a warm hand on her shoulder and squeezed gently. "Your song will be a popular one," he said quietly, leaning into her ear. "We do not hear new music often here."
"And I almost wish I had talent for more than just a drum," Haldir added, bending close so that both she and Elrohir could hear him. "You shall have to teach your melody to Aglardir, so that we can carry this tune back to the Golden Wood. Your grandmother and grandfather will be pleased to know that this comes from you."
Ivoreth gaped at him, thrilled beyond measure that her Grandmother and Grandfather would want to hear a simple tavern song. And yet… She looked around the smiling faces. They like me, and they liked the music. She let her eyes settle on her little sister, who was just as happy and enthusiastic with her clapping now as she had been listening to the fiddle and tambour in the shadows of the City.
I'm happy here. Raini's happy here. She closed her eyes and breathed in deeply. This is my home now - Ada, Celebriel, Grandfather Elrond, Elrohir, Grandfather Aranor, they are my family. I belong. I am Ivoreth Elladaniel, of the house of Elrond. I really do belong!
And for the very first time, she actually believed it with her whole being.
Carig vae, nethben - You do well, little one
elleth - female Elf (pl ellith)
hîril nîn - my Lady
na - yes
malta - tengwar letter "m"
nethben - little one
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.