Ivoreth's fingers stilled on the harp strings when she heard first one voice and then several others take up a joyous melody that very quickly drowned out the regular afternoon serenades. As moments passed, more and more voices joined with the melody, some in harmony, until the emotion in the ever-growing chorus drove her to settle her harp into its stand, rise and seek out someone to ask what was going on. She had barely gained her feet when Tadiel, a familiar face now and a friend, came rushing out of the kitchen toward the front of the House. "They are arriving!" she declared with a grin. "The scouts have seen the party at the top of the ravine."
"Who?" Ivoreth demanded, having to trot to keep up with the chambermaid.
"The party from Lothlórien, of course!" Tadiel answered and then broke into a trot of her own to mix into the small crowd of Elves, her voice joining all the others.
Ivoreth stopped short. The party from Lothlórien! That means Grandmother and Grandfather are here! Hard upon those thoughts was the realization that with their arrival, Grandmother, Grandfathers Elrond and Aranor, Masters Erestor and Lindir, and many others were one step closer to leaving these shores forever. It hadn't seemed real before now, but suddenly...
"Come, daughter." A strong hand claimed one of hers. "We should be out front to greet them when they arrive." Ada gave a tug and then looked down when Ivoreth didn't move as he wished. "What is wrong?" he asked kindly, bending down to her.
"They're really leaving, aren't they?" Ivoreth whispered sadly.
She saw a very brief glimpse of deep grief wash over her Ada's face before he pushed it aside to smile at her. "Yes, they are - but not yet. Grandmother and her party will spend at least two weeks here, resting and preparing for the final journey. I understand that we will also be hosting a group from Eryn Lasgalen soon as well. But for now, we should rejoice that our family is once more together - as much as it can be - and enjoy the time that remains."
He means we should work hard to make good memories while we can.
"Now, don't you want to be there to greet your Grandmother and Grandfather when they arrive?" Ada's smile widened slightly.
"Then come along!"
With Ada, Ivoreth found herself moving smoothly through the crowd of Elves that had gathered in the front courtyard of the Last Homely House until she stood with Elrohir, who had Raini in his arms so she could see; Celebriel, whom Ada surrounded with his free arm; and Grandfather Elrond. Now she could hear the sounds of the answering song coming from the Lothlórien Elves themselves, in a melody and harmony that blended and enhanced the song being sung by so many around her. The emotions that surrounded her were light and joyous, and Ivoreth soon forgot her own sadness and caught her breath in excitement as the very first hoof-beats became clear through the music.
All eyes were drawn to the road, where the lead horses in the approaching group were just rounding the corner. There was Grandfather Celeborn, sitting tall on a beautiful chestnut mount that pranced proudly beneath him, and Grandmother, her mount a stunning white that strutted equally proudly. Behind them came Haldir and his brothers, Aglaron, Beregond, and several of the other Galadhrim warriors Ivoreth knew from her travels. Behind them was such a large number of Elves that Ivoreth wondered whether all of Lothlórien had emptied when the line of riders rounding that last bend seemed never to end. But her eyes quickly fixed on her grandparents, and her hand crept to touch the lump that hung on a delicate chain around her neck.
She could feel the moment her Grandmother's gaze connected with hers, and she lifted her head slightly and smiled widely in welcome. I'm glad she's here, even though it means that the day she leaves is just that much closer. Her Grandmother's gaze was even more tired and sad than it had been before, but she could see a pleased surprise flash in those grey eyes.
The melodic voice sounded unexpected in the back of Ivoreth's mind. It does my heart good to see you again, little daughter, and see that your hurts are finally beginning to heal. Grandmother leaned slightly and, with a touch to Grandfather's arm, drew his attention to Ivoreth.
The smile that lit his face when he saw her made Ivoreth smile wider and once more touch the lump that was the gem that he'd given her. She could tell that Raini was squirming hard in Celebriel's arms to be released and allowed to run forward, and Ivoreth found herself hard-pressed to restrain the same desire.
Then Ada leaned down to her. "Let your Grandfather Elrond give them a formal greeting, and then you may run forward to give your welcome."
He understands! Ivoreth looked up at him and smiled as she nodded her agreement, and then turned back to watch the action. Grandfather Elrond was accepting a gentle hug from Grandmother, and then clasped arms with Grandfather.
"Dae'ada! Dae'nana!" Raini was calling, becoming harder and harder for Elrohir to hold onto.
Grandmother's bell-like laughter rang over the courtyard, and she bent towards them with her arms outstretched. "My little ones!" she called out.
"Go!" Ada urged, dropping Ivoreth's hand even as Elrohir bent to set the toddler he had been restraining on her feet. Together, Ivoreth and Raini made it across the courtyard very quickly, and each was quickly enfolded in an arm.
"How you both have grown since I saw you last!" she exclaimed and then deposited a kiss on first one forehead and then the other. "Let me look at you." She set them both back just a little bit and smiled. "Have they not grown, my love?"
"Indeed they have; so much so that I nearly did not recognize them." Grandfather's deep voice filled Ivoreth's heart. And even though it was Raini whom he bent and lifted high into the air, Ivoreth knew herself no less loved than her sister.
Grandmother reached out and touched the arm that had been so injured very carefully. "I was quite concerned to learn that you were hurt so badly after you left us. Are you healing there as well?"
Ivoreth pushed up the thin sleeve that she wore to cover the scars. "I'm much better now. See?"
Grandmother examined the arm closely, and then once more pulled Ivoreth into a hug. "And so you are. I am much relieved to see this. Your Grandfather Elrond was most worried about you when you first arrived."
"He took good care of me, Grandmother," Ivoreth promised, shining a smile over her shoulder at Grandfather Elrond, who was close enough to hear.
"And Ivoreth was one of the best small patients I have tended in many long-years," Grandfather Elrond commented back, putting one of his huge, warm hands on her shoulder. "I know that her Ada and his siblings were much less cooperative with their own care when they were her size, as was Estel in his day."
"Elrohir said once that you kept giving them teas that tasted awful," Ivoreth giggled at him. "You never did that to me."
Grandfather Elrond chuckled and replied, "Indeed not, little daughter. You never needed them."
Grandmother's sharp eyes gazed once more into Ivoreth's. "And some of the other things that..."
"I've settled things with Elrohir, Grandmother," Ivoreth told her, knowing immediately to what she was referring. "I'm not mad at him anymore."
"And is he treating you well now?"
"If he does not, he will answer to me - again!" Grandfather Elrond growled before Ivoreth could answer, and the hairs on the back of Ivoreth's neck rose at the sound despite the comfort intended in that warm hand's sweep across her back.
Elrohir said that his father had scolded him - but it sounds as if he did more than that and is still not happy about things. I don't think I would ever want to have Grandfather Elrond truly angry with me! His angry voice is even scarier than Ada's was!
"Trust me, daernaneth, when Ada stops growling and starts talking so softly that he is difficult to hear, both of us know enough to pay very close attention. He only does that when he is furious," Ada remarked, coming close at last after greeting his grandfather. "I was the lucky one this time; he only yelled at me."
The sound of Grandmother chuckling made Ivoreth's eyes widen just that much more. Grandfather yelled at Ada? "But you didn't do anything wrong, Ada..."
"Yes, I did, little one," Ada countered her gently, with his hand joining Grandfather Elrond's. "But the important thing is that we have moved beyond that now. We need not waste time reviewing old hurts long since healed - for most of us." When Ivoreth looked up at him, she could see that he was studying his father's face carefully.
So he notices that Grandfather Elrond is still not completely happy yet either. At least I wasn't dreaming that...
"And whatever discussions we need to continue this evening can be continued over a meal, can it not? The welcome feast will be tomorrow evening, but our fisher-folk brought in a small feast for the evening meal not to be missed." Grandfather Elrond's voice - pushed back into a much more pleasant and welcoming tone - seemed to expand until it was great enough to be heard across the entire courtyard. "Come in, everyone, refresh yourselves, and then join us in our supper and then the Great Hall for entertainment afterwards!"
"Do you want to play your harp with me tonight in the Hall of Fire, and play the tune you remembered from your home for everyone?" Elrohir asked, leaning toward Ivoreth, who had been sitting next to her. "I spoke with Haldir earlier; Aglaron got confused and misremembered, and so they never played it in Lothlórien. So, if you want, it would make for a nice surprise welcome gift..."
"Me? Play in the Hall of Fire?" Ivoreth squeaked in shock.
"Shhhhhh... Not so loud!" Elrohir shushed at her. "We've been working on your tune for a while now; and don't you think Grandmother's and Grandfather's arrival makes for a good enough occasion for you to take your turn as musician for the first time?"
She cast her gaze about until she found Lindir, sitting a little further down the table. He glanced up at her, smiled softly and nodded at her. Is he telling me I should?
"Ivoreth." She looked to the other side of the table, where Bilbo's bright eyes were on her. "Do it. I've been listening to you and Elrohir practice it for weeks now - I'd like to hear a more finished version of it for a change."
She leaned so that her forehead and Elrohir's was almost touching. "But I still can't get my left hand to work right," she complained in a whisper. "I'll make mistakes!"
"So play the simple melody line with your good hand, and let your left hand do what it can. I think I can 'fill your holes' for you," he reassured her. "Maybe we could ask Haldir and Aglaron to join us as well? The four of us were sounding good before they left..."
Ivoreth glanced down the table at where the elders sat, speaking among themselves in a Sindarin delivered so quickly that her mind could only catch a few words from each sentence. Then she glanced down at her little sister, sitting on her other side like a tiny queen, perched atop stacked books topped with a cushion, when Raini tugged at her arm. "Ivo? You gonna play?"
She could feel Elrohir's gaze on her, waiting for her answer, as well as both Bilbo's and Raini's curiosity. Finally she swallowed very hard and nodded. Bilbo's round face broke into a pleased grin, and Raini began to bounce next to her. "Ivo's gonna..."
"Shhhhh!" Elrohir shushed at the tiny girl from the other side of her sister. "We want this to be a surprise welcome present for your Grandmother and Grandfather."
Raini's eyes grew huge, and she nodded enthusiastically and looked carefully down toward the end of the table as if making certain none of them had noticed. "I no say nuthin! Promise!"
Ivoreth looked back at Elrohir in worry, only to feel his hand catch at hers beneath the table. "We all have gone through what you are right now, little one, when it came our first time to play or sing or tell the story in the Hall of Fire. And you have done this before, remember, when you taught me?"
"But that just happened!" Ivoreth reminded him in a frightened whisper. "We were so busy that I didn't notice the people listening until we were done."
"I have an idea that might help, then, Master Elrohir," Bilbo offered with a careful eye to the head of the table and the exalted Elves sitting there. "You and Ivoreth should excuse yourselves early and be in the Hall already playing when the others arrive. Just begin to practice the piece together, like you have so many afternoons lately, and Ivoreth can become wrapped up in the music again and not notice the audience gathering." Bilbo's eyes sparkled as he shook a finger at her. "I know how you are when you play, young lady - the world could come crashing in, and you'd not notice it at all!"
Elrohir chuckled at the hobbit and then bent toward Ivoreth again. "The suggestion has merit. Would that help your nerves, little one?"
"I'm not sure, maybe." Ivoreth shrugged, feeling her nervousness grow again.
"What if I talked Haldir into joining us? Would that help?"
Ivoreth's gaze shot back to Elrohir's face immediately, and then she looked down the table to where Haldir sat talking and laughing with some of the other Galadhrim warriors who had accompanied him. "Do you think he'll mind?"
"Not likely," Elrohir shook his head. "You probably didn't know this, but your Grandmother and Grandfather raised Haldir and his brothers after their parents were killed. If I know Haldir - and I know him rather well - giving them a surprise like this will please him greatly. I know he was disappointed that Aglaron's memory for music was so faulty."
If Haldir plays the drum, it will be like that first afternoon - when we had so much fun.
"Would you mind asking him?" she asked finally.
"I'll ask him when we're on our way out - how's that?"
Ivoreth nodded and concentrated on eating as much of the food on her plate as she could. Ada still hadn't learned not to give her more than she could eat, although she had to admit that she was eating better again. And she noticed that Elrohir tucked into his food as well.
"You two look like oversized hobbits right now, the way you're shoveling in your food all of a sudden," Bilbo muttered under his breath, his eyes gleaming with amusement and mischief.
Elrohir snorted and coughed when he tried to inhale a bite literally. "I beg your pardon, Master Baggins, but neither Ivoreth nor I have any hair on the tops of our feet."
Bilbo shrugged nonchalantly. "That's quite all right - nobody's perfect."
At that, even Ivoreth couldn't hold back a laugh.
Elrohir excused himself from the table first in order to fetch both his harp and the one Ivoreth had been using to the Great Hall. "Do not rush to finish, little one," he advised her before leaving, "but do not dawdle either."
Ivoreth nodded and went back to the delicately sweet custard that had been served at the end of the meal, her eyes watching all of her grandparents at the head of the table. The discussion had not faltered, and even Master Erestor had begun taking part - which was definitely unusual. Next to him, Lord Glorfindel was leaning forward and tapping the table with a finger as he spoke.
She knew that, if she concentrated hard enough, she could catch about one word in three lately. Master Erestor was using Westron to explain himself to her during lessons less and less as time went by now, although he made a practice of speaking slowly so she could catch as much as possible. Still, it was Raini who had made the greatest strides in learning Sindarin; she had heard her chattering at Celebriel once and sounding as if she was having no trouble at all.
"They look like they're finishing," Bilbo broke through her thoughts with a pointed whisper. "If you want to be in the Great Hall before the rest, you'd better get moving."
Ivoreth started, swallowed hard, and then nodded. A quick glance down the table told her that Haldir had already left his place as well. She quickly excused herself to her Ada and trotted into the Great Hall to find Elrohir patiently tuning his harp. Next to his seat, in its stand, was the lap harp that she normally practiced on.
Catching sight of her, he beckoned with a darting hand. "We can warm up by playing the tune slowly, and we can go over the arrangement again, if you like."
"I'm going to make too many mistakes," she worried at him as she lifted the lap harp and sat down in her regular chair. "I'm going to ruin things!"
"If it helps you at all, Ivoreth, do not think of this as a performance, where you are showing off your skills," Elrohir said gently, a hand resting warmly on a shoulder. "What you are doing this night is sharing a tune with our newly-arrived family from Lothlórien - something they have never heard before. As the tune is unfamiliar to most of them, they will not know to notice any mistakes you make."
Ivoreth looked up into his face. He's right! Grandmother and Grandfather haven't heard this yet for the first time. They won't know which notes are the mistakes! Feeling relief flood through her, she finally smiled at him. "All right," she murmured her readiness.
Haldir joined them as they were just finishing the first repeat. "You sound much more practiced than you did before I left, nethben," he commented with a pleased nod. You are learning your instrument quickly."
"All right, now, this is the way I think we should start," Elrohir took charge of the little group. "Ivoreth, you start the melody line and play it through once by yourself."
"Alone?" she squeaked again, fearing her fingers would forget where they needed to be.
"Only for the first time," he reassured her. "I will join you with the simple melody line the second time through. Haldir, you join at the chorus, and then when we begin the repeat, Ivoreth will take melody, I shall do harmony, and we can play the full arrangement we have been practicing."
Ivoreth nodded, her mind already working to remember where her hands needed to go.
"Start!" Elrohir hissed suddenly, and Ivoreth swallowed hard when she heard the voices begin to draw near. "Keep it at a good tempo too - no slowing down."
The first few notes were soft and hesitant, but as she once more remembered the tune and the sound of the tambour that had played with the fiddle, she gained both momentum and confidence. When Elrohir joined her in the melody, his knee bouncing ever so slightly with the beat of the tune, she started to enjoy the sound they made together. Haldir's entry into the music added what she knew was desperately needed: a complex rhythm that sustained as well as embellished.
She knew people were gathering in the Hall, but she was having too much fun now to worry about them anymore. Drilling on her tune with Elrohir had become yet another favorite part of her day; having Haldir back once more, adding his skill of getting his little drum to speak with so many different voices, was a joy. Her gaze touched Elrohir's, and with very little urging, she bumped up the tempo just a little bit more and burst into the main theme again, carried along with the solid harmonies and descants that now spilled so effortlessly from Elrohir and Haldir's intricate drumming.
Her head was bobbing in time, her fingers finding the right strings almost by themselves. This feels like flying! And then she noticed another chair moving closer to her - and Lindir was rolling out his large harp. As Elrohir had done, he watched Ivoreth's hands very carefully before copying her one time all the way through. And then, to her complete astonishment, the crystal tones of Ada's flute picked up the melody as he came to stand directly behind her.
Ivoreth was transported. She was part of something greater than she'd ever experienced before, something that took the simple little tune that she had remembered from a much darker time and turned it into a paean of joy. From those who listened came a soft and then louder sound of hands clapping in time with the music. Without thinking about it, Ivoreth raised her eyes to see what was going on with the others.
Suddenly, Grandmother leaned over and made some comment to Grandfather Elrond, who made a face at her and suddenly offered her his hand. Grandmother's laughter was only an introduction to a sight Ivoreth had never dreamed she'd see: Grandfather Elrond then led Grandmother out onto the open floor in front of the musicians. He took her hands and they began to dance - a combination of spinning and leaps and Grandfather Elrond lifting Grandmother high into the air. Grandmother continued to laugh, Grandfather Elrond's full laugh very quickly joined her; and Ivoreth looked over to see Grandfather Celeborn slapping his thighs as he laughed quite heartily.
The empty floor was soon filled with Elves dancing and spinning to the simple tune that had become so much more with three harps, a flute and a drum. Grandfather Aranor had drawn Celebriel onto the floor, and Glorfindel had lifted up Raini to dance with her the way Elrohir had done in Lothlórien. Erestor - stern, serious Erestor - had a delicate elleth in his arms and was lifting her into the air with ease and obvious pleasure. Even Master Erestor can dance - and dance well! I didn't know that...
"I would dance with my little daughter." Ivoreth hadn't noticed Grandfather Celeborn's approach. "If I might steal her from the group..."
"Go on, nethben," Lindir nudged her foot with his. The tune was getting ready for yet another repeat. "I shall take your place. You have done very well."
Ivoreth set her harp carefully into its stand, only to squeak in surprise when Grandfather's arms closed around her from behind, tossed and spun her into the air to catch her up to him properly, and then carried her swiftly into the crowd of dancers with him to spin and sway and leap with the music. She wound her arms tightly around his neck and giggled when he chuckled at her, and then abandoned herself to the music and the movement.
I will remember this night for the rest of my life!
daernaneth - grandmother (neo-Sindarin)
nethben - little one