The sound of voices singing a greeting to the sun roused Ivoreth to a new morning, and the songs reminded her of her short days in Lothlórien. She took a deep breath of lightly scented air and rolled to her good side to sit up and look around.
She didn't find herself in the trees this time, though. The walls of this room were stone, but stone carved to look like wood. The window overlooked a small garden filled with spring flowers, from which came the sweet scent that filled the air. Ivoreth looked about the room with awe; even her bed's headboard was carved into intertwining vines that divided woodland scenes. A sense of peace and tranquility and utter safety filled her senses.
A warm robe just her size lay stretched across the bottom of her bed; and she struggled into it as best she could, eventually just hanging the garment over the arm that was so carefully and firmly affixed to her body for support. She couldn't see a way to tie the robe shut, though. Frustrated, she debated crawling back into the warm covers and waiting until someone came for her.
A light knock warned her that someone had arrived before she could do so. "There you are!" Celebriel smiled widely at her. "Good morning! I was hoping you would be awake."
"G'morning," Ivoreth answered, grateful that the first face to appear was one she knew well.
"Are you hungry?"
Ivoreth nodded, and her stomach rumbled too.
"Let's get you presentable then. Master Elrond said that you should be able to be up and around today, provided you took care not to move your arm. It looks like you're doing what he told you to; he should be pleased." Celebriel stepped forward and quickly tied the belt around the warm robe. "Did you put your slippers on?" Ivoreth shook her head, wide-eyed. She hadn't seen any slippers, and even though there was a warm rug on the floor, her feet were already beginning to feel a chill. The elleth bent and retrieved slippers that matched the color and fabric of the robe from beneath the bed and placed them before the bare feet. "Here they are." She stretched out her hand as soon as Ivoreth's feet were shod. "Your Ada wanted me to show you how to find the dining room. He said it was time you got to know your new home a little." She bent closer. "I'd eat well, if I were you. They probably intend to give you the grand tour after."
Tour? Is Imladris big then?
Ivoreth gazed around the room in which she'd awakened one more time as Celebriel pulled her toward the door. Home. This is my new home. It's really pretty, almost as pretty as the talan in Lothlórien. "Is this my room?" she asked in a small voice.
"Yes." Celebriel stopped and turned to look at it as well. "Do you like it?"
It's bigger than the one I had in the City, and I don't see Raini's stuff. Maybe they won't let us be together anymore. I'll be lonely...
Ivoreth nodded, knowing Celebriel was expecting some sort of answer. "Where's Raini?" she asked worriedly.
"Her room is next to yours; although we may move her bed into your room for the time being, now that you're feeling better. She has missed you greatly, while you were in the healing sleep."
"There she is," Ada pronounced happily and rose from the round table to walk over to the doorway to greet her with a gentle hug. Ivoreth clung, happy to see him again. "Come in, daughter," he said finally, with a hand at her back to move her further into the room.
"Ivo!" Raini bounced on her chair with a huge smile, with Elrohir reaching out quickly to keep the little girl from toppling from whatever had been piled to bring her up to a more comfortable eating level. "Ivo better now?"
"I'm better, Raini-Day Sunshine Girl," Ivoreth answered automatically. Her little sister looked quite contented and comfortable, and that made Ivoreth feel somewhat better. It helped that her new Grandfather was there too, sitting at the end of the table and smiling at her. She gave him a cautious smile back.
"Good morning, little daughter. How is your arm today?" he gestured toward the one empty chair left at the table.
Ivoreth touched the lump under her robe that was her heavily bandaged arm. "It isn't so bad right now." She moved to the chair next to Raini's at her Ada's and Grandfather's direction and sat down. "Thank you."
"What did you call your sister?" the new Grandfather pushed a tall container of pale drink toward Elrohir, who took it and poured some into Ivoreth's glass.
Ivoreth blushed. "Raini-Day Sunshine Girl," she answered softly. "It was something our Da used to call her, before..." She looked down into her plate, choosing to study the pieces of bread with honey on them.
"It fits her," the new Grandfather announced in a kind voice. "She has a smile that warms a room like a sunny day - just as you do. Your Da was a very observant man."
That brought Ivoreth's gaze up sharply, prepared to defend her Da for the first time since she'd come to stay with the Elves. For as long as she could remember, any compliments paid to her Da had been backhanded insults; and most who knew her knew to not make any statements about him lest they have her spitting mad in their faces. To feel the need to bristle like that here was completely unexpected, but the look in her new Grandfather's eyes appeared anything but snide or false. She hesitated before speaking for a change.
He meant it?
And from the way the smile faded slightly and then pushed its way back into full brightness, Ivoreth knew that her new Grandfather understood that he'd touched something sensitive; but was willing to look past it if she was. The very idea that someone as grand as he was would say something nice about her Da confused her; but then, everything around her confused her now. All the rules she'd lived by for so many years seemed to be set aside; and she didn't really understand any of the new rules.
"This is indeed a treat," the new Grandfather said in a tone that brought all eyes at the table to look at him. "Three generations of my house seated at the same table here in Imladris." He cast a fond look at Celebriel. "And, it appears, congratulations are in order?"
Celebriel blushed and turned to gaze at Elladan, who gave her a gentle smile. "I spoke with Aranor last night," he explained quickly, "and he has given his permission for me to court Celebriel and celebrate our wedding in the fall, before everyone departs."
"Then I welcome you to the family, daughter," Grandfather bent toward her and clasped her hand as it sat at the table. "Elrohir, it seems you and I will need to spend time with Erestor and plan ourselves a wedding. Do Estel and Arwen know of this?"
"They knew of our intent before we left Minas Tirith," Ada put his arm around Celebriel. Ivoreth smiled to see her Ada look so happy, and to see Celebriel looking more contented than she'd ever been.
"So soon my little daughters will have a naneth as well as an adar. It appears the House of the Peredhil flourishes once more." Grandfather turned to Elrohir. "Now all that needs to happen is for you to find someone to share your life with, and I can carry word of my children's contentment to your mother."
Elrohir's long moment of silence finally drew Ivoreth's gaze, and she found him a little pale beneath his father's study. "The Belain have not seen fit to put such a gift in my path as yet, Adar," he replied finally.
"Fear not, my son, when they decide to do so, you will have no doubts. Is that not right, Elladan?" Grandfather lifted his own goblet to his lips.
"I'm certain Elrohir understands how much effort the Belain are willing to go through to make certain their gifts are noticed," Ada replied evenly. "Although sometimes, the greater share of the effort has to go toward convincing the gifts to cooperate." His hand stretched warmly across Ivoreth's shoulder. "This little one had to come to me injured and starving twice before she stayed put and stopped fleeing from me. Even then, I think she only stayed the second time because her little sister was so ill."
Ivoreth blushed and studied her plate again. She didn't like to think of those days anymore; thinking of them always ended with her thinking about Daren, which tended to make her cry all over again.
"One day, you will tell me your story from your side of things," her new Grandfather stated quietly, once more managing to get her to look at him, only to again discover nothing in either his words or expression to justify her bristling. "Your Ada has told me some of your story; but I would have it all, so that I can tell a faithful version of it to your Grandmother, whom I'm afraid you will never meet."
He really wants to hear my story? Why? When he knows everything, he will wish I had never come. That's what Elrohir said...
"Would you like some fried taters?" Elrohir asked her, taking some of the strange stuff from a large bowl and then extending it in Ivoreth's direction. She glared at him, daring him silently to serve her, and he finally turned to hand the bowl to Celebriel instead. When she looked around to see if anyone had noticed the clash, she found herself under her new Grandfather's astonished gaze. She shrank back, intimidated by the idea that someone would eventually have to tell her Grandfather about what had happened in Lothlórien, and leaned into her Ada a little for comfort and security.
"You will have to forgive him someday, daughter," Ada leaned back and gave her a quick hug.
She shook her head. He wasn't going to forgive me, and he hurt you, too. What he did was worse than what I did.
"Is there something I should know, my sons?" Grandfather asked warily.
"Later, Adar," Elrohir sighed. "Perhaps after breakfast."
Ivoreth wasn't certain that was such a good idea, but from the Grandfather's nod, she knew that was the way things would happen. Would Elrohir ruin her Grandfather's love for her now, the way he'd tried to ruin Grandmother's and Grandfather's in Lothlórien? She pressed her hand against her chest, feeling the tiny gem hanging there that Grandfather had given her.
At least I know that they care.
"You should try these," Ada had the bowl of strange food now. "We originally brought them in from the Shire for the benefit of one of our guests, but lately they have become a favorite of many of our residents." He put a tiny helping of the browned pieces on her plate. "I think we grow them now ourselves, do we not, Adar?"
Ivoreth picked at one of the pieces and finally nibbled on it. It tasted of onions and a smoked meat, and she popped the rest of it in her mouth. "Good," she said with a surprised smile. "What are they?"
"Taters," Elrohir answered her, and his gaze dared her to challenge him for answering her question. "They grow underground."
Ivoreth nodded and busied herself with the food on her plate. Why couldn't he just leave her alone?
She cringed. Ada had that tone in his voice again. "Yes?"
"Come here and sit with me for a time, daughter. We need to talk."
I've disappointed him again, because I won't be nice to Elrohir. But I don't want to.
The seat he found was in a small niche where a tall and wide window stood behind an area with a small fountain and a statue of a beautiful woman. He patted the stone seat next to him, and Ivoreth sat down gingerly.
"I know you do not like to think of what happened that night on the road," Ada began gently, putting his arm about her shoulders and pulling her to him, "but there is something that I think you should know. How much do you remember after the warg bit you?"
Ivoreth shuddered and huddled. "Someone came, and something wet splashed all over me that smelled really bad. But I hurt so bad..."
Ada nodded. "You remember enough, then. You remember one of us coming to your aid."
She shrugged and looked up into his face, confused. "I suppose..."
"Do you know who it was?"
Silently she shook her head.
"It was Elrohir. I was all the way on the other side of the fire when the warg bit you; I would never have gotten to you in time." Ada's hold on her was firm. "But Elrohir jumped between you and the warg and killed it before it could do you more harm."
Elrohir did that?
Ada kissed her forehead. "I know you are angry at Elrohir for what happened in LothLórien, and for the way he was treating you before. But the time has come for you to let go of that anger. Like you were about the coins you stole, he is very sorry for the sorrow he caused you. Can you not understand how much you hurt him now?"
"He hurt me," Ivoreth said, disappointed that Ada didn't understand. "And nothing I did would help. And then he hurt you. He should hurt a little."
"Sweetling, I know he hurt you badly by not forgiving you after a reasonable time, and by saying cruel things to you all the time. But what happened between Elrohir and myself in Lothlórien had little to do with you, really; and we share guilt in hurting the other. My ribs were merely bruised; Ivoreth, I broke two of his. I hurt him far worse than he hurt me, mostly because by that time, he was feeling foolish and I was just freshly angry."
Ivoreth stared up at her Ada. "You hurt him worse?"
Is that what happens when he gets really angry? Is that what he will do to me?
He nodded. "And now you hurt him just as badly, if not worse, than he hurt you; because you know how it feels to be pushed away and do it to him anyway."
She blushed and looked away and finally down at her toes.
"Sometimes, little one, it is better to let go of the anger than to hold it close and nurse it. Anger is a vicious friend; actually, it is more like that warg that bit you. Only it gets inside you and eats you away until there will be nothing of the sweet girl that I saved from those two Guards. Do you want that?"
She shook her head, and then looked up. "Why did he save me, if he knew I was still angry at him?"
Ada sighed and pulled her very close. "Do you not remember me telling you once, when he was still angry with you, that the reason I knew that he really did care for you was because he was angry?" He waited until she nodded, then continued, "Elrohir cares for you, whether you are angry with him or not. He would not allow the warg to do you any more harm than it already had because he wanted to keep you safe. You are part of his family."
It was Ivoreth's turn to sigh. "I don't understand."
"Ivoreth, in our House, family takes care of family, regardless. There are no bonds stronger than family bonds, between parent and child, between brothers and sisters, between uncles and nieces. All else is unimportant compared to those."
She looked up at her Ada. "No matter what?"
"No matter what," he confirmed. "Just as you were ready to do just about anything to take care of Raini, we all are ready to do whatever it takes to take care of each other."
Ivoreth blinked. Such a thing had never occurred to her.
"I think saving your life cancels the debt of pain he owes you, don't you?" Ada continued.
He saved my life. Elrohir did that. He saved me and Raini and Celebriel. And I didn't know.
Slowly she nodded. "I'm sorry, Ada."
"I think the next time you see Elrohir, you should behave better toward him, don't you?"
Again she nodded. "But will he be angry at me again now?"
"No, sweetling. I think the time for all the anger is just about gone now," Ada soothed, "for the both of you."
Ivoreth leaned into him and wrapped her good hand in the fabric of his robe. "I'll try, Ada."
"That's all I ask," Ada kissed her forehead again and cuddled her close. "You are home now; the time has come to give yourself and all around you a fresh, new start. Leave behind the pains and sorrows from the stone city. They are part of a life that is yours no longer."
"Do you know which way to go, hîril nîn?" the pretty elleth in the light green dress asked Ivoreth.
Ivoreth stared, not used to being asked anything in such polite terms by anyone but her own family. Finally she shook her head. "I don't know how to get back to my room," she admitted shyly.
The maid smiled widely. "Let me show you then." She set her stack of linens on a nearby chest and put out her hand. "I am Tadiel."
"Ivoreth," Ivoreth responded, putting her good hand in the larger one.
"I have heard of you, nethben, and your bravery." Tadiel smiled down easily.
She has? How? Why? What bravery?
Tadiel pulled them to a halt before the door that opened into a large hall with an immense hearth at one end. "This is the Hall of Fire. Do you see that door over there?" A thumb pointed across the hall, and Ivoreth nodded. "Go through that door and turn to your left. The stairs to the family wing will be right there. Can you find your way from there?" Ivoreth nodded again. Her room was the third door on the right; she had counted doors when Celebriel had brought her back to get dressed earlier.
"Then I shall leave you to it." Tadiel dropped a curtsey. "Hîril nîn."
Ivoreth's mouth dropped open in amazement and watched the elleth retrace her steps down the corridor until Tadiel disappeared around the corner.
She curtsied - to ME!
Confused as well as tired now, Ivoreth began to cross the large hall, only to have her steps slow to a halt when she heard the music of a small harp nearby. She pivoted rapidly and then stared. Elrohir was sitting near a window, gazing out at the gardens beyond, his hands moving as if by themselves over the strings of the instrument he held in his lap. The melody he played was a sad one, and the look on his face was very far away, as if seeing things that had gone away.
Ivoreth swallowed hard. Ada was right, the time had come to put an end to the bad feelings that had stood between them ever since those last days in the City. She walked toward him slowly, feeling a trembling begin deep in her stomach. What if Ada was wrong, and Elrohir was angry with her again? The last time she'd tried to talk to him, she'd ended up running away into a forest.
But Tadiel had said she was brave.
It took several deep breaths to bring up the courage to open her mouth. "Elrohir?"
The music ceased, and Ivoreth was pinned by an intense and cautious blue-grey gaze. "Hello, Ivoreth," was the soft answer.
At least he's talking to me.
Ivoreth took a timid step forward, wishing she knew how to make things right between them again. She grasped at the most obvious alternative she could think of. "You play harp."
He glanced down at the instrument in his lap, Ivoreth's gaze following his. The harp was intricately inlaid with different colored woods and shining veins of silver metal, as beautiful to look at as to hear. "I do," he replied. "My brother tells me that you had never even seen a harp before Lothlórien."
She shook her head and took yet another step closer. Her good hand itched to touch the highly polished wood - to pluck at one of the strings - but she closed it in a fist and kept it stiffly at her side. "I didn't even know that music had holes until that night."
"Holes?" Elrohir's gaze came up to meet hers again, intense and this time curious. "What do you mean?"
"You make the music feel..." Ivoreth searched for the right word to express the way she had sensed the harp's contribution. "...finished - like the flute needs the harp to hold the melody together to something... bigger."
A slow smile spread across his face. "I had never thought of it in quite that way before," he admitted with a nod, "but I can see what you are saying." He waited, watching her look anywhere but at him. Did he know how hard it was to try to make things right?
She swallowed hard and tried again. "Elrohir?"
"Yes, little one?"
At the tone of gentle patience, Ivoreth's nerve nearly shattered. She looked down at the floor. "I'm sorry," she said very softly, never meaning anything more in all her life. "I won't be mad anymore."
"Ivoreth, look at me."
When she finally worked up the bravery to do as she was told, she saw that Elrohir had set the harp down on the floor and had his hand stretched out to her. He could have leaned forward and grabbed her if he wanted, but he seemed to be waiting for her.
"I am sorry too, niece, for many things." His hand turned slightly, so that the palm was up. "Come here?"
It was an invitation that Ivoreth couldn't have refused, even if she wanted to. She sprang forward and pressed her face into his shoulder, and let loose a sigh as she felt strong arms fold around her and hold her close. She had missed him - her same-as-Ada-but-not-quite - more than she'd realized. With care for her injured arm, he hauled her up into his lap and cradled her, rocking her slowly.
I'm glad he's being nice to me again, but I wonder if he still thinks I don't belong? He called me 'niece' just now; what am I supposed to believe?
Exhausted, as if removing the immense weight of anger from around her heart was almost more than she could endure, Ivoreth nestled closer and closed her eyes. She felt Elrohir settle back so that he could be more comfortable, and then begin to sing the melody of the song he'd been playing on the harp when she'd come into the hall.
adar - father
Belain - the Gods, the Powers (Q. Valar)(sing. Bala)
elleth - female Elf (pl. ellith)
hîril nîn - my Lady
naneth - mother
nethben - little one
talan - tree platform, living quarters for Silvan Elves