Ivoreth's fingers caressed the still-vibrating strings to quiet them. "That's hard, Master Lindir."
Imladris' bard threw his head back and laughed heartily. "Oh my, yes! That is where one moves from merely playing the notes to playing the music, my dear. Any imbecile can learn to plink the strings in the right order, but to be a musician means being able to let the strings or flute or drum communicate for you."
The Elf let his harp's legs down to the floor, and he sat back against the wall of the empty Hall of Fire. "Music is communication, Ivoreth, but a different kind of communication than simply speaking words. Music is more about the emotions behind the words than the words themselves; although when you are playing a song that others will sing, the emotion in the words will tell you what kind of emphasis to put into your playing. Think of how your body feels when you are experiencing happiness: you feel light, like dancing. So music to express happiness will be light, quick, with the kind of rhythm that makes a listener wish to dance. When you feel sad, you feel heavy, move slowly, drag your feet in the dust. So music to express sadness will be slow, heavier. Do you see what I say?"
Ivoreth nodded. She ran her fingers over the harp strings in the first stanza of the melody that came from the tavern in Minas Tirith, then smiled and played it again with the rhythm and beat and dancing flavor of the night she had played with the others.
"There! Exactly so! Do you hear and feel the difference in what and how you played?" Lindir's grey eyes sparkled.
"I think so..."
His hand landed companionably on her shoulder. "And now you know the order of things. First you learn the notes, then you decide what you want the music to say, and then you adjust the way you play to make the music express the way you want your listeners to feel when they hear it."
"You make it sound easy." Ivoreth let herself lean into her music teacher's side a little, cradling the lap harp carefully.
Lindir's hand moved to surround her and give her a hug. "You have a natural talent, Ivoreth. As you keep playing and learning, the ability to let your music do the speaking for you will become as easy as breathing. In time - and in your case, in not that long a time - you will forget ever having to struggle with it."
Ivoreth smiled as she leaned into the hug. So many of her lessons on the harp ended with little talks like these, where Master Lindir would open his heart and mind and share his music with her in a completely different way. Hearing him talk of the music speaking was giving her a way to sense what she was doing - and what she wanted to do. "Thank you, Master Lindir."
"You are most welcome, little one." The hand at her shoulder patted her and then let go. "And now I have a gift for you."
She backed away enough to stare up at her teacher. "A gift?"
The Elf's dark head nodded solemnly. "And one I dare put off no longer. You know that I leave soon for the Havens?"
Ivoreth looked down at her hands holding the lap harp and nodded. That was a fact that she was trying very hard to forget, the more the days passed.
"I came to Imladris when I was very young, when Master Elrond decided to build his stronghold here. I have been here ever since; and in that time, I have never left a student with their training incomplete before now. I will never know the full range of your skill, and I deeply regret that. But one thing I can do is to make certain that the instrument you play will be of the best quality. And so..."
He lifted his floor harp slightly and moved it to in front of Ivoreth, who was staring at him with eyes as round as tea mugs. "Master..."
"You will be called upon in the evenings more often now, after I am gone. And while that little creature you are holding now is a good friend to take with you into a garden or when you travel, you will always want something with more range." Lindir's grey eyes bore deeply into Ivoreth's soul. "And you would be doing me the immense favor of letting me know that I leave these two instruments in hands that will appreciate them."
Ivoreth felt as if her breath had been stolen away. "Both of them?" she asked, her lips moving but no sound emerged.
"Both of them," Lindir nodded. "They have ever been the instruments I lend my students; and I am certain that I can acquire others in the West, once I am settled - if indeed I should have students again. This way I need only concern myself with packing my good harps for the journey." He put his large hands over hers as it held the lap harp. "So. Will you accept these, and care for them for me?"
She didn't know what to say, and so she nodded slowly even as tears began to fall on her cheeks.
"There, there, little one." Lindir pulled her close again, wrapping her with both arms this time. "I did not mean to make you cry, although leaving you will make me cry too." He leaned his cheek against the top of her head. "Having you so hungry to learn has made these past months pass by very quickly. It has been my extreme pleasure to introduce you to your music."
Ivoreth closed her eyes and let her hands stroke the smooth wood of the lap harp - her lap harp now - a gift as beyond price as was the jewel she wore beneath her gown. She promised herself that every time she played, she would remember her first teacher and his kindness to her. Her music would be her way of honoring him.
"Come now, dry your eyes and I shall help you take the harps up to your chamber," Lindir said finally, a small sniff telling her that she had not been the only one shedding tears.
"Thank you, Master Lindir, for everything," she told him once she had found her feet again. "I will treasure your harps forever. I've never..."
He bent and kissed the top of her head again. "Hush now, or you will have us both weeping again." He lifted the larger harp easily. "Lead the way, nethben."
"You are very quiet, little daughter," Grandfather Elrond commented as he pushed his white piece forward on the board.
Ivoreth stared at the board, finding it difficult to focus her mind on the game. "Master Lindir gave me his harps," she blurted out. "Now he won't have anything to play other than his big one."
"Did he really?" Gentle grey gazed at her evenly. "Did he tell you why he was giving them to you?"
"Because," she sniffed, "then he wouldn't have to worry about packing them."
"And because he has never left a student with their training incomplete," he reminded her. "He spoke to your Ada and me about this earlier in the day, hoping that his intended gift be taken in the proper spirit. He is convinced that, with time, you will become a very skilled musician; and he has presented Elrohir with a plan of lessons for you after he is gone that should carry you forward."
"He did?" Ivoreth stared at her Grandfather.
"He did, and Elrohir has promised to see to it that you are given every opportunity to progress." Grandfather smiled. "And since Elrohir is considered to be Lindir's finest protégé, I have no doubt that you will be able to play very well indeed when you are grown." He continued to gaze at her evenly. "But that is not the entire reason you are quiet, is it?"
She shook her head. "You're leaving soon, aren't you?"
Grandfather Elrond sighed and pushed himself away from the small stone draughts table to hold out his arms. "Come to me, little daughter."
Ivoreth rose immediately and went to him, glad to be gathered close and held. "How soon?" she asked softly.
"Two mornings from now," he replied, equally softly. "Everything is packed and ready; the carts are being loaded. All that is left is the farewell feast."
Ivoreth sniffed and buried her face in her Grandfather's shoulder, feeling yet again the silky smoothness of his hair beneath her cheek. But now there were no words that would express everything she was feeling.
"Do you know that I have drawings of you that I will be taking with me?"
Again she sniffed. "Drawings?"
"Indeed. I asked your Ada to do them, so that I could take them to your Grandmother Celebrían. And I have asked your Ada to continue to make drawings of your life - and that of your sister - so that when he finally joins me, I will be able to see you grow up and see the family that you will have one day."
Ivoreth had often paused to gaze at the portrait of Grandmother Celebrían that hung in the private sitting room frequented only by family and those considered part of it. The Elf lady in the frame was beautiful - almost as beautiful as Grandmother - but had a twinkle in her eye that told her that her "other" Grandmother would have been great fun to know. "Tell her that I wish I could have met her."
"I am certain she wishes that she had had the chance to meet you as well, little one," he replied. He seemed to pause for a moment, and then flow to his feet. "I do not believe I have ever shown you my favorite place in all of Imladris, have I?"
She shook her head.
A large hand was extended to her. "Then come. I should take you there now - this afternoon; for there is no promise that I will be allowed the private time with just you again before..."
Ivoreth sniffed and put her hand in his. The idea that this could be the last time that she would have her Grandfather to herself was a blow. And now she was beginning to understand that, like with Lindir's hugs and talk earlier, these quiet times alone with each of those who would be leaving were the real farewells. Two mornings from now would be the final separations.
The path that Grandfather found was not one that she would have found by herself easily. But once upon it, she could see how it wound up a hillside in and among the trees. Finally, at nearly the top of the rise, Grandfather took an even tinier, more indistinguishable path that climbed between rocks. At last, however, he leaned down for her hand and pulled her up onto the top of a boulder; and Ivoreth gasped.
Below her, the entire valley of Imladris lay open to the eyes. There was the Last Homely House, looking delicate and almost as if it had grown up naturally amid the trees. There were the stables, the building Ada had told her once was a forge; and beyond them the many small buildings that had been home to most of the Imladrim. Further down the valley lay the pastures and fields where horses roamed and some of the food was grown.
"I didn't know this place was here," she whispered.
"This was the spot where I first decided that this would be a good place to build my home," Grandfather told her, his eyes surveying the magnificent view below. "The approach was a difficult one - something I have not changed over the Ages - but the bounty of the valley was such that I think the Belain themselves prepared it for us."
"It's beautiful!" For the first time, Ivoreth could appreciate how, even though so much of what she had seen on her journey here from the White City had been pretty, this place held a very special beauty.
"That it is," he agreed. "And it is very difficult to think of leaving it after all this time. I can only hope that your Grandmother has found us a similarly peaceful place to build a new home." He led her across the rock to where they could sit together on a slight outcropping.
"Tell me about the West, Grandfather," Ivoreth asked finally, hoping she wouldn't offend. "I...if you can, I mean..."
He smiled at her. "The one to ask about it is your Grandmother Galadriel - that is her home, after all. I have never been there. I was born here in Ennor and have lived beneath the trees for my entire life." He looked out again and sighed. "And for all of the sorrows and tragedies that have found me over the Ages, I have loved this place - and all the many peoples who have come through my doors. What I know of the West is only what I have heard."
"I thought the West was only for Elves. That's what Grandmother told me once."
"Then why is Bilbo going there too?"
Grandfather Elrond put his arm around her. "Because it is a special favor being granted him - and to his nephew too. They were the ones who carried the One Ring, Ivoreth. Bilbo bore it for a long time while it slept, and then Frodo carried it from the Shire - their homeland - all the way to Mount Doom, where it was unmade. The free peoples of Middle-earth owe everything to those two little hobbits; and the Elves will see to it that they are granted as much peace and healing in their latter days as can be given them."
"How long will it take to sail there?"
"I have no idea, Ivoreth," he replied with a shrug. "It will take as long as it will take, I would imagine."
"Is it scary not to know?" She gazed up at him worriedly.
"The unknown is never a comfortable place to be, is it?" She shook her head; no, not knowing what to expect was not entirely pleasant. "But there are times when staying where one knows the rules and is familiar with everything is not the right thing to do, aren't there? The time came for you to leave the White City, if you were going to stay with your new Ada. Was it scary for you to ride away from the only home you'd ever known?"
Ivoreth had to think about that one. "No," she said finally. "Daren was dead, Evien was dead, and Raini and I had Ada now. I wasn't scared - excited and nervous, maybe..."
"Just so," Grandfather nodded. "So many of those I love are in the West, waiting for me; and those who remain here will, for the most part, come West eventually. I am not frightened of the unknown so much as I am sad that there are four people I love dearly that I will never see again." His arm pulled her tighter. "If there were any way I could ensure that Estel and Arwen, and you and Raini, could be allowed to sail, I would do it. But the paths of Men and Elves lead in different directions at the last."
She turned enough that she could put her arms around him and hug him back, and then she inhaled deeply of the scent that was uniquely her Grandfather Elrond. "Can I come back here again?"
"I would not have shown you the way otherwise, little daughter," Grandfather chuckled at her. "This is your home now, every last hidden corner of it. It would please me to think that you would come up here from time to time and remember our times together."
This is his gift to me - this place.
"I will," she promised in a whisper. "I will never forget you, for as long as I live."
"Nor I you, little daughter. Nor I you."
"...and the eagles swept many of the goblins from the high places, so that Men and Elves could come to the rescue."
"And the evil ones were defeated, Master Bilbo?" Ivoreth asked excitedly.
"They were indeed," answered a deep and clear voice, and the golden Elf that Grandmother had pointed out as Thranduil, the King of Eryn Lasgalen strode forward. "Master Elrond told me that I could find you here, telling our old story." The king's startlingly blue eyes rested kindly on Ivoreth and Raini. "It is quite a tale he has to tell, is it not?"
"Yes," Ivoreth whispered and quickly rose to her feet to give him her best curtsey, tugging on Raini's hand to get her to follow suit.
Thranduil waved his hand. "Save that for days at court, little one. Do you see a crown?" He pointed to his brow.
"What crown?" Raini asked with a tip of her head.
The Elf laughed and bent to sweep the toddler up high into the air. "Exactly, little one. I wear no crown today. Today I am an Elf in search of an old friend, not a king." He bent closer to Ivoreth, still hanging onto Raini. "There are times when it is a good thing to be able to run away from all that fancy bowing and titles and the feeling that every last word spoken is of the utmost, dire importance - would you not agree, little mistress?"
Ivoreth gazed at him in astonishment, but managed to get her mind to work in time to give a tiny nod. In many ways, Thranduil reminded her of Glorfindel; he positively glowed, his actions and words were almost larger than life, and the smile on his face was infectious. And his gentle, almost reverent handling of her little sister did much to set aside her fears.
"So, Master Burglar, I have come to take my leave of you. My warriors await my pleasure in the courtyard for my return trip to the Greenwood, but I would not leave until I had once more had the chance to give you my blessings."
"You are too kind, Sire." Bilbo had actually blushed, something that Ivoreth had never seen before. His brown eyes caught the surprise in her gaze, and he grinned and jerked his chin at the Elf. "That Elvenking I told you about in the story?"
Ivoreth raised her eyes to Thranduil in shock. "The one that locked all the dwarves in the dungeons?"
The Elvenking's blue gaze twinkled merrily. "Guilty as charged, little maid. But, you see, I do not have real dungeons in my Hall..."
"Hmph!" Bilbo snorted in amusement. "I'm certain Thorin wouldn't agree with you, or Glóin either."
The golden head shook, but the laughter rang like a bell. "You know, it really is difficult to dispel exaggeration when one comes late to the storytelling." Thranduil set Raini back down on her feet. "Farewell, Bilbo Baggins of the Shire, Master Burglar of the Halls of the Elvenking. Elvellon I called you then, and I reaffirm that. May your days in the West be enjoyed with all of the peace and fulfillment that you should ever desire."
"And merry be the Greenwood, unto the breaking of the world, Sire," Bilbo rose slowly to his feet, his shawl clutched tightly about his shoulders, and bowed carefully.
"As for you, little mistress," the King added with a knowing look, "the time may come when you travel. Know that you and your sister will ever be welcome in my Halls, as a sign of the continuing alliance between your Ada's realm and mine." His large hand rested briefly on Ivoreth's head. "Navaer, mellyn nîn."
"And may the stars shine brightly on your path, my friend," Bilbo stated somberly.
"Navaer," Ivoreth said softly with a small wave.
With that, Thranduil gave a brief bow to the hobbit before turning and striding away.
"He's..." Ivoreth began, her eyes wide.
"An interesting person," Bilbo completed the thought, and then sat down again. "And so, that is the story of my great adventure, from one end to the other. Gandalf soon had me back in the Shire, where everyone thought that I was dead already. Took them a while to accept that I was back, but they always looked at me a little strangely after that. 'Mad Baggins' I came to be called..."
Ivoreth settled back down on her seat next to the hobbit, Raini beside her. Sometimes some of the most interesting things were revealed when Bilbo's mind began to wander a little, and she would enjoy listening to him ramble as much as she could before he, too, was gone.
"Grandfather Elrond told me to ask you about the West," Ivoreth said, sitting still while her Grandmother braided her hair in the garden and carefully making a chain of flowers from the bounty that had been spilled into her lap by Raini. "What's it like?"
"It is a beautiful land," Grandmother answered easily. "The first thing we will see are the tops of the towers in Avallonë, which is the main city on the island of Tol Eressëa. The beaches are quite white, and you can see them sparkling when you walk near the water. But Valinor itself is beyond description. The interior lands are ringed by high mountains called the Pelóri, and there is but one opening in those mountains called the Calacirya."
"Are there trees and forests and grass, like here?"
"Indeed, yes. Vast forests - and without a single evil thing to fear. Imagine being able to walk from here to Thranduil's Hall without worrying about a single warg attack."
Ivoreth twisted to see her Grandmother's face. "No wolves or wargs? Really?"
"Really." Grandmother's hands on her shoulders turned her back around again. "Those are creatures twisted by Morgoth - and as such, have no place in the Blessed Lands. There are wolves, of course - there must be a balance of all creatures, and those who hunt make certain that those who do not hunt do not over-run the woods and eat all the food. And so, one must be careful; but one need not fear an intelligent evil actively seeking to destroy one."
"And the cities?"
Ivoreth could feel the first of the flower stems being inserted into the braided crown. "That depends upon which city you speak of. The cities of my people, the Golodhrim, are very much like your White City. White stone buildings and streets, but with many places filled with grass and growing things. The Vanyarin cities inland are wooden, but they are exquisitely crafted."
"Where will you live, with your family?"
"I am not certain as yet. Much will depend upon which of them have been released from Bannoth and which remain cloistered. I am hoping to see my father and brothers again. I fear I will never see my cousins, however, although I am hoping that the Belain would have some measure of mercy on them. My daughter is also there - your Grandmother Celebrían - I may stay for a time near her, although I will not interrupt her reunion with your Grandfather Elrond."
Ivoreth was quiet for a while, thinking. Then: "Won't you miss Grandfather Celeborn though?"
"I shall miss him very much," Grandmother replied in a voice that was oddly uneven. "I look forward to the day when he finally decides to join me." Finally she gave a careful pat to the top of Ivoreth's head. "There. All done. Now you look every bit a Golodhrim princess. You will have to ask Tadiel or maybe Gwirith to braid your hair in this fashion from time to time."
"I will," Ivoreth promised.
"Never lose your love of learning, little daughter. You have a quick mind, one that soaks up information like a sponge. Do not fear to use your mind, or seek to hide it in order to 'fit in' with those who choose not to use theirs." Gentle hands landed on her shoulders. "I do not see you settling for one who does not cherish you for your mind as much as for your family or connections. You will be loved, little one; your Ada and Nana will be your strength."
"And I will remember that, when it is Raini's time to start learning her tengwar, that there is a little book just for that."
"I am glad you remember that promise, little daughter. And in your turn, choose one who shows a deep love of learning and pass the book along to those who follow you. Teach them to love learning and to be proud of their minds, as I have tried to teach you."
"I will." Ivoreth scooted to sit next to her Grandmother and leaned into her arm. "I will miss you."
"And I will miss you, child. Your Grandfather Elrond has promised that he has arranged for drawings to be done, so that in time I can see what a fine lady you become."
"Grandfather told me," Ivoreth nodded.
Grandmother was quiet for a long moment, her arm having snaked around Ivoreth's shoulders and holding her close. "Will you sing with me, little daughter?"
"The hymn I taught you in Lothlórien - do you remember it?"
Ivoreth nodded and swallowed back tears. "A Elbereth Gilthoniel..."
So many carts! So many horses!
The sun hadn't even really begun to shine down into the valley itself yet, and still the entire population of Imladris had gathered to farewell its former Master and the other Elves leaving Middle-earth forever.
Ivoreth clung to her Nana's hand, trying hard not to become so blinded by tears that she would miss her last looks at people she loved. She had finally handed out her farewell gifts at the feast the previous night - each letter carefully written in her best hand, telling of her love for the Elf and expressing her wishes for peace and happiness in the West. In each letter, curled into small rings and tied in tiny bows of green and blue, were locks of her hair and of Raini's as remembrances. Nana had helped her with those.
She had already had her final hugs, with each tearful embrace tearing hard at her sense of security.
So many are leaving! How can we go on?
Grandfather Elrond and Grandmother Galadriel would lead the caravan of horses, carts and Elves on foot. Already they were at the head of the group near the gate, and then, suddenly, they were moving. A song started up - the song of farewell - and soon every voice in Imladris was joined in, Ivoreth's included. Slowly, steadily, her Grandfather and Grandmother rode at a sedate walk through the gate and down the road leading to the bridge that arched over the Bruinen.
Ivoreth squirmed her hand loose from Nana's grasp and darted back toward the house, seeking the landmark that Grandfather Elrond had shown her only two days earlier. Her feet flew down the hidden path and then scrambled on the rock until she stood where she could see.
The caravan of Elves was a long one; Grandfather and Grandmother were soon over the bridge and starting the winding trail up the ravine walls while carts and Elves both on foot and mounted still poured through the gates. Ivoreth found the small prominence of stone and sat down, tears pouring down her face and singing along with the rest of the voices. From the Last Homely House came the melody - and now, from the caravan, the answer.
With trembling fingers, she pulled at the chain around her neck until she could grip the little jewel in her hands tightly. All the love she felt for each of those who were passing out of her life, and all of the grief she felt at losing each and every one of them, she poured into her song and into her grip on the jewel.
She sat there until long after the midday and the last brush of dust had vanished from the far horizon.
Bannoth - (Q. Mandos) where Elven faer go after the death of the rhaw
Belain - the Powers, the gods (Q. Valar)
mellyn - friends (sing. mellon)
navaer - farewell (Q. namarië)
nethben - little one
nîn - my, mine
Taur-en-Ndaedelos - lit. "wood of great dread", Mirkwood