14. Change Is Inevitable
Ivoreth stared at the boxes that had appeared in a far corner of the library overnight. One of Master Erestor's assistants had one of the boxes on a set of chairs to one side, and was stacking books on the table next to it.
"Good morning to you, Ivoreth," Master Erestor greeted her, walking over to her after handing the assistant a large wax tablet. "I think we shall take our lessons into the reading room today; I fear there will be too many distractions if we stay out here."
"What are they doing?" she asked, watching some of the books that had been stacked on the table now being carefully tucked into the box on the chairs.
"Packing," Erestor answered simply, taking Ivoreth's hand in his and leading her - pulling her, actually - away from the bustle of assistants toward one of the side rooms that looked out over the valley. With the door shut, it was a quiet place to which to retreat and read without interruption, or have lessons.
Ivoreth's eyes grew wide. "Packing? Why?"
Erestor's gaze was sad, but compassionate. "It is already Iavas, nethben. Your grandfather has heard from Lord Círdan in Mithlond, letting him know the ship we will be taking West will be ready to depart before Firith."
Ship? Depart? Ivoreth blanched. They're getting ready to leave. Already! Ada said that Master Erestor would be leaving with Grandfather Elrond - and Master Lindir too!
She whimpered and sank into a seat on a cushioned bench near the wide window. So many of those who had made her life happy over the last few weeks were preparing to leave, never to return. She had already bid farewell to Haldir and Aglardir weeks before, when they had left to return to Lothlórien; but that had been much less sad because she knew that the both of them would be returning in only a few weeks. Suddenly their quick return made sense: they would be accompanying her Grandmother when she came to visit Imladris on her way to the ship. Will I lose them too?
Ivoreth felt the cushion next to her dip with her teacher's weight, and she looked up at him. "You're leaving," she said, her voice flat in her efforts to keep from crying. "And Grandfather Elrond is too."
Master Erestor's arm went around her and pulled her close. "Yes, I am leaving. My time here is finished."
"But I need you to teach me more!"
Erestor's large hands rubbed down her arms soothingly. "Under any other circumstances, it would be my honor to stay and teach you, Ivoreth. But I have waited long for a chance to return to my family across the Sea. It was my duty to wait for your Grandfather to fulfill his promise before I could make plans. Now that this is done, we are both ready to go. Leaving you behind will be one of the more difficult things I have ever done, however, and it will be a most difficult one for your Grandfather as well."
Ivoreth snuggled into his side, grateful for the closeness. Erestor didn't allow such things often - he had been quite remote for the first weeks of their lessons, still wary after that surprise "message" from Estel and Arwen, only slowly thawing and coming to smile and laugh more as time passed - and now she was determined to enjoy his care even more. "Who will teach me, then, Master Erestor?"
"I believe I have selected the best of my many assistants to take on that task. You know him well, for you often bother him for the picture-books that you love so well."
"Menester?" Ivoreth gazed up at her teacher again, her heart lifting slightly. Maybe some of the Elves she had come to know and care about would be staying after all.
He smiled. "Indeed. In fact, Menester asked if I thought him ready to assume the task, as he has done little other than tutor students from time to time before now. But he is very knowledgeable, and very patient. He will be a good teacher for you, I think."
She sighed and reached out to cling to the silken robes. "I like Menester," she admitted, "but I will miss you."
"And I you, nethben. You have been a ray of sunshine during these latter days, just as Estel was when he was in my care." His embrace tightened just a little.
"Can we not do lessons, today? Can you tell me about your family - the ones you are going to see? You never talk about them."
Erestor let out a long, not-quite-silent breath. "I can only hope that they will be there to greet my ship when it arrives," he told her, his voice shimmering with emotion. "They perished in the fall of Doriath, very long ago; and I am hoping that they have found their way out of Bannoth by now."
"B…bannoth?" Ivoreth shifted so she could look up at him. "What's that?
"Those are the Halls where an Elven faer goes when the rhaw is too damaged to keep living," the ancient Elf explained patiently. "There it can truly rest and recover from the former life - and death - before being rehoused in new rhaw and released to move forward with life in the Blessed Lands."
Ivoreth's eyes were wide. "You mean, when Elves die, they come back after a while?"
Master Erestor nodded. "Our lives are tied to the life of the world, nethben. For as long as it prevails, so do we. For example, Glorfindel - you know Glorfindel?"
Ivoreth nodded. Glorfindel had made it his responsibility to teach her how to ride her pony, and had demonstrated the kind of care Gílbain needed depending on how hard she had worked. She liked Glorfindel too, for he had a way of making her laugh with his views on many things that was always just a little stranger than others. Will he leave too?
"Well, what you may not know about Glorfindel is that he died once, when his city of Gondolin was destroyed." Erestor nodded down into very wide eyes. "Yes. To protect those trying to flee, Glorfindel fought with a Balrog of Morgoth - one of the most powerful and evil creatures to ever walk Ennor - and destroyed it, but at the cost of his life."
"But… he's here…" Ivoreth wondered aloud.
Erestor chuckled. "Indeed he is. He spent his time in Bannoth, and then, when he was rehoused, the Belain gave him a new purpose and sent him to be your Grandfather's mightiest arm. He has defended Imladris ever since."
Ivoreth's voice grew small. "Is he leaving too?"
"No." The arms about her squeezed comfort. "He remains here at Elrond's request, to be of the same aid to your Ada and Elrohir as he has ever been to your Grandfather."
While knowing that both Glorfindel and Menester would remain when so many others took their leave was a relief, it didn't help. Too many would be leaving. Suddenly, something in what Master Erestor had said made her stop short.
"What happens to one of my people, then? The same thing? Do we go to this Bannoth and then get re… re… come back too?" Daren, Evien, Da - are you waiting for me in a special place too? Can they come back too?
"No. We are not certain what happens to a mortal faer at death, but we do know that your people are not bound to the world as the First-born are," her teacher answered with a sad smile and a shake of the head. "We can hope that your faer takes a path through Bannoth as well, on your way to your far different destiny, but we have no way of knowing anything except that the edain step past the circles of the world when they die, never to return. Your destiny is much different from ours.”
Ivoreth nodded. So they are gone forever.
"You were thinking of your brother and sister?" Erestor asked kindly.
She nodded again. "But you say that maybe the edain pass through this Bannoth after we die?"
"It is a fond wish," he admitted, "but it is also possible that it does not happen at all. Were it true, and if those in the West are aware of it, then I am certain that all who have ever opened their hearts to mortals would crowd the Hall awaiting that brief passage."
"So I might see you or Grandfather again, maybe just for a little while? And I will see Daren and Evien - maybe even Nan and Da?" Maybe things aren't as sad as I have always thought!
"You can hope, as we do - but do not trust to hope to sustain your heart, child." Master Erestor stroked Ivoreth's head as it lay against him. "The best thing to do is to make all the remaining moments before we leave as full and meaningful as possible; and to carry the memories of those moments with you always. Hope for more, but expect no more; and you will not be disappointed in the end."
I want to hope. I want to see them again!
"Tell me of happier things, Master Erestor, please?" Ivoreth pressed herself into her teacher's side. "Tell me of your family?"
Master Erestor settled back, leaning himself against the stone window casement, and settled Ivoreth more comfortably against him. "Very well. A long, long time ago, I had a brother," he began, "and a sister. His name was…"
The warmth of the summer in Imladris was nothing like the sweltering heat Ivoreth remembered as part of the summers in the White City. Going out of doors and into one of the many gardens was a pleasant thing. Her lessons with Erestor and Lindir over for the afternoon, and her practice time finished, she wandered through the corridors until she found her Grandfather Elrond's herb garden, and then she headed for the stone bench shaded by fragrant jasmine vines.
Who's going to take care of his herb garden when he's gone? she wondered sadly. I know how to do a little, but I would need him to teach me more - and he's always so busy lately. She scuffed her toe in the grass for a little bit, then noticed a weed starting to sprout in the comfrey bed and slipped off the bench to sit on the grass. As her Grandfather had taught her, she carefully pushed on the fledgling weed before giving a gentle tug, which almost without fail resulted in pulling the complete baby weed, roots and all. Several of these weeds were sprouting, and Ivoreth found herself scooting along, moving from weed to weed.
"I was wondering where you had gotten to, little daughter," Grandfather Elrond's voice came from the garden gate.
Ivoreth hunched and bent forward to her next weed. "It's a nice day. I came outside to sit for a while, and I saw some weeds…" How do I tell him goodbye? I've just barely gotten to know him!
Her ears told her that her Grandfather had taken a seat on the bench. Knowing him, she wasn't surprised when he didn't speak immediately. Her Grandfather had been the one to teach her to sit, close her eyes, breathe deeply, and just listen to the sounds of the breeze and the birds and the water. So many of their long talks had taken place here, where she would open her heart about what was bothering or confusing her. He had taught her so much about living here, with the Elves… He had been her friend, her grandfather, her confidant, her healer. She loved her Ada, but Grandfather Elrond was special…
"Erestor told me that you were very upset when you saw the books being packed away."
She still didn't want to face him. If she looked at him, she wouldn't be able to be strong. "I didn't think it would happen so soon," she said finally, putting her latest weed into the little pile in her lap and scooting a little further along to reach the next one.
"Yes," he agreed finally, "time has passed all too quickly."
Ivoreth stared down at the broad leaves of the nearest comfrey plant. "I know which ones are the weeds here, in this bed; but someone will have to teach me about the others, so I can take care of them when…"
"Ivoreth. Come here."
I don't want to cry. I won't cry. I'm not a baby!
Slowly she got to her feet after depositing her clump of weeds on the grass; and then she took a huge breath to steel herself before turning. Grandfather Elrond was holding his hand out to her. She put out her hand to him and felt him pull her gently to him until he was hugging her. She pressed her nose into his hair near his ear, breathing in the smell of herbs and libraries, and worked very hard to control herself.
"You wish to take care of this garden when I am gone?" He spoke very quietly, very calmly. Ivoreth nodded wordlessly. "Then I shall teach you as much of what you need to know as I can; and when I am gone, you may ask your Ada for help. He knows this garden well, and can teach you the uses of the plants in it you are not yet familiar with. What I do not teach you, he can." He smoothed the hair on her head. "Our House has always been known for its healers; perhaps you will study and learn to heal too, when you are older."
Ivoreth wrapped her arms around her grandfather's neck and held on tightly.
"It will please me to know that my garden will be as well-loved by you as it has been by me," he continued softly, his voice not quite a whisper. "And we have time yet; I do not leave for a few weeks yet, not until your Grandmother Galadriel has arrived and rested from her journey, and not until after your Ada and Celebriel have celebrated their bond. Until then, I can show you how to collect and dry the herbs - and how best to store them."
"But you're so busy now," Ivoreth murmured. "I never see you much anymore." She hadn't had a chance to play draughts with him for over a week now, and she very much missed their games.
"I know, and I intend to change that." Grandfather Elrond sounded very firm. "I do have many things that must be done before I leave, but spending time with my granddaughters cannot be set aside all the time any longer. I think you and I shall set aside the latter part of the afternoon, after you finish with Erestor and Lindir and your practice, for our time together." He rested his cheek against the top of her head. "And you should bring your sister with you. This should be a special time for just the three of us, all by ourselves, to make the memories we shall carry forward in the days and years to come."
Ivoreth sighed and nodded. That's what Master Erestor said I should do.
"But the reason I was looking for you now was because I was hoping for a game of draughts before our supper. Do you think you might be interested?"
She nodded more vigorously.
"Then come - set aside your sadness for yet another little while. I would see you smile while you scheme to take my pieces." His voice was light, almost teasing; but she could hear the note of pleading in it.
I don't think he wants to say goodbye anymore than I do!
She sniffed and straightened to finally look her Grandfather in the eye. He met her gaze with a smile that invited her to share one of her own, and then leaned forward to deposit a very soft kiss on her forehead before rising and claiming one of her hands in his. Ivoreth closed her fingers around his very tightly, determined not to let go until she absolutely had to.
It just wasn't working; she couldn't sleep. The evening breezes had died, leaving Imladris bathed in the warmth of the day without any relief. Even the duet of voices that lent their skills to songs that spoke of the stars had lost their ability to soothe.
Ivoreth rolled up onto an elbow. In the crib across the room, Raini lay in a pool of moonlight, fast asleep, an arm tucked around a stuffed rabbit that Elrohir had found for her. The door to their bed chamber was slightly ajar, but there was little sound coming from the rest of the House. Even the low murmur of voices that often wafted up the stairs from the Hall of Fire had died away.
Her mind too active to want to just lay back into her pillow until sleep overtook her, Ivoreth quietly slipped from beneath the cool sheet and pulled on her dressing gown that was always placed across the foot of her bed. Cook kept a covered barrel of fresh water in the kitchen near the back door to the House, with a dipper that hung from a loop crafted into the wood of the barrel; maybe a drink of water was what she needed. Not bothering to put on her slippers, she padded carefully across the chamber, out the door, down the stairs and towards the back of the house.
Moonlight through the many windows made interesting shadows on the polished stone floor of the Hall of Fire. There had been no fire in the great hearth that evening, it had been too warm; the entertainment had taken place on one of the wide porches overlooking the roaring river far below, with those attending cooled by the gentle mist that floated upwards from the falls. Ivoreth walked slowly from one end of the vast room to the other, remembering a time not long before when this room had been most intimidating - when so many strange Elves had made her huddle against her Ada for safety. Now, fingering the gemstone that hung around her neck, she wondered at her fears.
The room hasn't changed - it must be me! I've had too much fun here to be afraid of it anymore.
She could see that the fire in the hearth of the kitchen, however, had not been allowed to go out, but was carefully banked so as to be easily reawakened in the early morning. The hook had been pulled out away from the coals, but the kettle that so often sang still dangled from the hook but rested against the stone wall. Ivoreth hurried over to the barrel and got her drink, then hung the dipper for the next thirsty person and began to retrace her steps.
"Daughter? You are up very late." From one of the shadows at the opposite end of the Hall of Fire emerged her Ada. He held his hand out to her, and she hurried across the chamber to grasp it. "You should have been fast asleep long ago."
"I was thirsty," Ivoreth explained, more than contented to be drawn into her Ada's side and surrounded by a warm arm over her shoulder. "I'll go back to bed now."
Ada seemed in no hurry, and Ivoreth found herself enjoying the quiet moment with him. "Ada?"
"Grandfather Elrond told me I could take care of his herb garden when he's gone."
She could hear the smile in his voice. "I know. He told me this just a little while ago. He was very pleased with your offer."
"He said maybe I could be a healer too, someday."
Ada's hand tightened on hers. "Being a healer is a noble cause, and something that would do our House great honor. If you wish it, when the time comes, either I or Elrohir would be more than happy to train you - and even Estel and Arwen, when you spend time with them."
Ivoreth gazed up at him. "Then I really will go back to visit them sometime?"
"Yes," Ada chuckled at her, "but not until you are older. I think you would do well in staying a long way from the White City for a time. You need to become the child you were meant to be, before the One put so many trials in your path, and then grow up into a young lady. Estel and Arwen understand this. They will be patient."
They finished walking to the top of the stairs and turned down the hallway towards Ivoreth's chamber. But before Ada could reach for the door, Ivoreth asked, "Ada, are you sad that Grandfather Elrond is leaving?"
Ada hesitated, then withdrew his hand from the door handle and led Ivoreth over to a bench on the other side of the hallway. "Yes," he answered, seating himself and taking both of her hands. "I am very sad to see so many of my family and friends leaving. I will miss them greatly."
"If Raini and I weren't here, would you be leaving too?" she asked in a small voice.
He shook his head in the moonlight. "No. I promised both Arwen and my adar that I would remain until both she and Estel have stepped past the circles of the world. Elrohir has promised the same. But even if I hadn't made such promises, I realize my time to leave is not yet." He loosed one of her hands and cupped her face in his palm. "Besides, I would not leave you or your sister. I am very much looking forward to watching you grow up and lead your own life."
Ivoreth tipped her head at him. "You'll live longer than I will, won't you?"
Slowly he nodded. "I am Eldar, Ivoreth."
"And you will go West someday?"
Again he nodded. "That is the decision I made, and the reason I was able to speak to Celebriel and ask her to be my wife."
Ivoreth thought for a while. "Will I stay here, in Imladris, for the rest of my life?"
"If that is truly your wish, you may remain here. This is your home now. But I would hope that one day you would find a young man to love who loves you, and that you would spend the rest of your life with him."
"I don't think anybody will want me," she mumbled, scuffing her toe in the dirt.
"I think," Ada said, pulling her into a quick but tight hug, "that we should let time and experience tell the tale - and that you should climb back into bed and close your eyes. With all the learning you are doing lately, you need your rest."
Ivoreth snaked her arms around her Ada's neck. This Elf had found her, given her shelter, protected her, taken her to the most beautiful place in the world, and given her a new life. Even when mad, he had been gentle with her. No promises were made that were not kept. So much that she'd never dreamed possible was now within her reach. "Ada," she said suddenly, pulling back, knowing there was something she just had to do, and do now.
"What now, daughter?" His voice was smiling, but there was a hint of iron behind it. He had risen, and was obviously wanting to tuck her into bed.
"Here." Her fingers sought out the thin leather strap that held the tiny pouch around her neck, and then lifted it over her head. She held it out until he put up a hand to receive it. "I don't think I need this anymore."
Ada's long fingers closed over the pouch very slowly, and then he bent and picked her up into his arms to give her a very tight embrace. "I am so very proud of you, my daughter," he said in a tight whisper, "so very, very proud."
"I love you, Ada." She wrapped her arms around his neck again and laid her head on his shoulder. It's true. Why haven't I told him this before now?
He leaned his cheek into hers. "Oh, Ivoreth! I love you too!"
Ada backed up and found the bench again, and he sat down with her in his lap and held tightly to him. Ivoreth sighed contentedly. She felt so safe and warm and loved, and at last she closed her eyes. Important people were leaving, yes, and it hurt to even think about saying goodbye to them - but the most important person in her life was going nowhere. And with that thought, she drifted quickly and easily to sleep.
adar - father
Bannoth - Sindarin term for Mandos - the Hall of the Dead
Belain - the Powers (Q. Valar)
edain - Men (sing. adan)
faer - soul, spirit
Firith - "fading" - the Elven season between Autumn and Winter
Iavas - Autumn
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.