1. The Ties That Bind
This was not a place that Elrond knew, or had ever seen before.
The walls were painted in strange colors that jarred his sensibilities as he wandered from room to room. The floor beneath his feet was covered in a featureless beige fabric that somehow didn't clash with any of the wall colorings. The ceilings were low, and the doorways low enough for his height that he was tempted to duck as he passed through them, the top of the opening not quite brushing the top of his head. There were pictures on the walls, some of them landscapes, but a few of them odd shapes and riots of colors that seemed to have no meaning whatsoever. In what looked like a foyer near a glass-bordered door to darkness beyond, a tall construct of wood and a round metal disc emitted a regular, rhythmic clicking sound as a shining metal bar worked back and forth.
Still, the home – and it must have been a home, for it certainly showed no signs of being a public facility of any kind – was comfortable enough. Well-maintained furnishings made of highly polished wood had been scattered about: a larger table surrounded by straight backed chairs and a sideboard filled one room, and a chest painted black but also with highly decorative handles and hinges sat beneath a fine mirror in the foyer. An archway, its apex slightly higher than the other doorways, opened to the right, and Elrond heaved a small sigh of relief as he peered past the apparently enameled supporting pillars into the room beyond.
Now this was a room he found at least somewhat familiar in function. Two of the walls were covered with floor to ceiling bookcases that were, in turn, filled with hundreds of volumes. The odd-shaped lettering on the spines of each of the volumes told him nothing about the information held inside, however. Few furnishings populated the room, but those there seemed designed for comfort: a fabric-covered couch and a low table occupied the middle of the room, and two overstuffed chairs sat on either side of an ornamental hearth. In the corner, a rather plain but substantial desk squatted in front of a set of glassed doors, beyond which could be seen bits of a night-darkened garden.
But it was the painting that hung over the mantle that finally caught his attention and made his jaw drop: it was his own face! A very talented artist had rendered him quite faithfully, from the way he braided his hair back when at ease at home to the brocading on one of his favorite robes.
Again Elrond spun, looking all around him. No, this place was in no way familiar at all. And many of the articles on that desk were utterly alien, made of a material that was unrecognizable and with no hint whatsoever to their function. But…
As Elrond moved around the corner of the desk to examine the objects on it, he blinked once in surprise – and then began to smile. He'd spotted a small, framed picture, of an incredibly faithful quality for something so small, showing a woman with dark and silver hair who had her arm around a young girl. In contrast to nearly everything else that surrounded him, the face of the older woman was familiar, and one he had not seen for many years.
Emma Telcontar, Elrond whispered, his memories of his two previous encounters with his many-times great-great granddaughter on the Mortal side of his family rushing to the fore. When he looked up and around again, it was with the understanding that he must be dreaming as he had long ago, and that this time his dreams had brought him back across the Sundering Sea to the home of his o-so-distant progeny. When his eyes rested again on his portrait, hanging so prominently over the mantle in this, his granddaughter's office or library or whatever, he felt a rush of affection for the child he had met only twice and spoken to only once. Obviously his granddaughter had felt the same pull of familial ties from that last, too-short visit as he had. She was quite the artist too, evidently, easily as good as Arwen had ever been; it was a shame that Celebrían couldn't see this.
Where was she?
Elrond listened carefully, but could hear nothing. Was the house abandoned? Had something happened? Their two previous contacts had taken place at moments when one of them had needed to see the other for one reason or another, but this… this profound stillness in the unfamiliar surroundings, with the metallic clicks seeming to count away the moments in a manner that was disquieting, was almost frightening. A glance at the window told him it was late nighttime here. She should be here somewhere, perhaps asleep, but definitely here…
Determined now, he strode purposefully back through the arch and undertook a systematic search of the house. From front to back, he peeked into each and every room, wondering at times what in the name of the Powers some of those rooms or the objects in them were for, and yet not finding what he was looking for. Certain at last that he'd seen all that there was to see on the ground floor, he headed up the narrow stairs to see what existed on the next – hopefully living quarters, better yet, inhabited ones.
Pictures lined the walls of the stairwell, pictures of people whose features were strangely familiar despite everything. The lift of a brow, the twinkle in an eye, the shape of a nose or lips – all spoke of Estel and Arwen in one way or another. He found a picture of the man he had seen in his dream of Imladris, Emma's father, only it was of a very distinguished and quite aged man. Elrond found it hard to restrain himself from reaching out to the picture to touch the shining surface – was that glass? – over the familiar face. So soon this one had gone! After all the time he'd spent among only the ageless, he'd forgotten how fleeting mortal life was.
One of the doors was half closed, and it was this door that Elrond moved through first. He loosed a deep sigh of relief when his eyes made out the shape of a body on the bed, and his ears caught the sound of deep and regular breathing. As quietly as he could, he stepped close and looked down into the slumbering face of his mortal granddaughter, a face that had wrinkles at the corner of her eyes that told of the number of times she smiled and laughed. Her hair had far more silver in it than he'd seen in the little picture downstairs, but she looked peaceful and serene, perfectly healthy.
She was well, and she was safely asleep. But if he was not here for Emma's sake, then why…
That's when he heard it: the soft sound of drawers opening and closing with care. If Emma was asleep, then who was abroad in her house this late at night, and what were they looking for?
Elrond backed out of the room and found himself wishing with all his might that he could close the door behind him when his hand passed through the solid wood. There was no reason for Emma's rest to be disturbed as yet, and he would that it would protect her from whatever he might find, but there was no way to close it. Once in the hallway, however, he listened again and allowed his hearing to guide him to another door that was standing wide open. He very carefully peeked around the corner far enough to look inside.
Another someone was sleeping soundly in the bed – but there was a figure dressed in dark clothing digging through the belongings that were in a chest with a mirror on it. Elrond saw a hand lift with something that sparkled dangling from it, which was then thrust into a small bag sitting on the chest. It was all he needed to know: this was a thief, stealing the belongings of the person in this room!
He had little time to think, but forced himself to calm. He could announce his presence with a shout, startle the thief, but that would both awaken and put whoever was in the bed at risk. Thieves tended to be willing to resort to violence when discovered in the midst of stealing. He could awaken Emma…
That must be it!
Elrond ducked out of the second bedroom and headed at all speed to Emma's. He moved through the door, and made his way to the side of her bed.
"Emma. Awake please!"
A long, deep sigh answered his urgent whisper, but Emma merely rolled onto her back and threw her hand over her eyes in her slumber.
"Emma! Please! You must awaken!"
Forgetting his situation, he reached down, and then shivered with both alarm and frustration when his hand passed straight through the shoulder he wanted to shake. Frantic, he raised his voice slightly.
"Emma! Little daughter! Please! Hear me and awaken!"
Finally she stirred, mumbled an unintelligible complaint and then one eye opened a crack. That crack widened immediately, along with the other eye that popped open to stare. She opened her mouth, only for Elrond to put his finger to his lips and shake his head vehemently.
"There is a thief in the room next to yours, going through what looks like jewelry. What do you wish me to do?"
"Grandfather?" The whisper was disbelieving. "What are you…"
"Awaken, child, and listen to me! There is a thief in your house, in the room next to yours where another sleeps…"
"Linda!" The name slipped from her lips as she sat bolt upright in bed. "A burglar, you say?"
"Exactly." Elrond straightened. "I feared to startle him in case he would attempt to use this… Linda… to bargain for his freedom…"
And then he stared as Emma reached for one of those incomprehensible objects on the bedside table and lifted it to her ear after pressing three different places on a grid. She held up a hand to keep him quiet and kept her voice very low as well. "This is Emma Telcontar, I live at 1378 North Willow Lane, and there is a prowler in my house. I think he's in my niece's bedroom, and I'm afraid…" She listened and then nodded. "No, I'm in another room." Again she listened carefully. "I'll stay on the line, but the front door is locked…"
Elrond frowned. Who was she speaking to? And why was she not giving him some kind of idea of what she wanted him to do? "Child," he began urgently.
She put her hand on the strange device near her mouth. "The police will be here in just a few minutes, Grandfather," she whispered back. "I just wish there were some way to unlock the front door so they could catch him in the act."
"Can you not go down and open the door for them?" he asked with a frown. "If you are very quiet, your intruder will not even notice your actions."
"The 911 operator wants me to stay on the line with her." Emma thought for a while, then asked, "Can you touch anything here?"
"Nay, little daughter. It is with me now as it was with you in Barvedui."
"I wonder…" she held up a finger and uncovered the device. "I'm going to leave my grandfather on the line with you. He may not speak English so well, but he will understand you. I need to go unlock the door…" She lay the strange device apparently upside-down on the little table. "You listen here, and talk into this," she directed with pointing fingers. "Can you do that?"
Elrond tipped his head and then knelt next to the table. "I talk into.. this…"
"Sir? Sir? Are you there?" A calm and determined woman's voice, strangely small and distant, came up at his ear from the device.
"I… am…" he replied slowly, confused but bending his head closer nonetheless. Emma smiled at him and gestured that she was headed out the door. "My granddaughter is going to unlock the front door," he announced carefully, wondering if the strange magic that made it possible for him to understand Emma and she to understand him despite their speaking very different languages would extend to this… stranger.
"Do you live in the house with her?" the voice asked. He could almost hear the thoughts of this far-away and tiny person; she was trying to hold his attention and yet get more information from him. Can she pass along the information to whomever she has sent to help us?
He shook his head. "No. I am only visiting."
"Is there anyone else in the house?" was the next question. He exhaled in a small amount of relief; she evidently understood him, even though he knew that he was speaking Sindarin.
"Yes. A… my… grand-niece." He thought for a moment. What had Emma said her name was? "Linda."
"Very good, sir. The police should be arriving momentarily. Has your granddaughter come back?"
Even as the little voice asked her question, Emma crept back into the room and very carefully closed the door. "Yes, she is here now."
Emma claimed the device from the bed. "I'm back, and the front door is open." She listened, and so did Elrond; and his ears soon picked up the sounds of very soft footfalls on the stairs and in the hallway outside.
"Someone is without," he told her, pointing to the door. "I doubt it is our thief."
Emma heaved a sigh and put her hand to her forehead. "They're here," she announced into the device and then listened again. "I will." She put the device back into an odd shaped cradle. "I'm to stay here in my room until the police have the place secured."
"That is wisdom," Elrond nodded, and then frowned. "But what about your niece?"
Emma's grey eyes widened, and she sucked on her lower lip in worry. "I don't know…"
"These police – they are like soldiers? Guardsmen?" he pressed and got a quick nod. Beyond the door, there was the sound of a scuffle, an angry voice, and a very frightened woman's voice.
"Linda," Emma murmured, reaching for a robe that was draped over a nearby chair.
"If these men you have summoned are who I think they are, they will make certain your niece is safe," Elrond soothed, sending a prayer to the far-away Belain for assistance.
Emma nodded distractedly, and then frowned and looked at him. "But… You still haven't answered my question. What are you doing here, Grandfather? I thought…" Again she pulled on that lower lip. "I thought I'd never see you again."
Elrond lifted a shoulder, hoping the gesture would reassure. "You clearly needed assistance, and evidently I was summoned to your side to see that you received it."
There was a heavy knock on the door. "Miz Telcontar? My name is Officer Tom Sheridan – you can come out now…"
Emma waved Elrond into a corner. "They don't need to see you," she said quickly. "They wouldn't understand, and I really don't want to have to try to explain. But please, be here when I get back?"
"I cannot promise my dream will last that long," Elrond told her gently, "but I will try to remain for long as I may."
She didn't look happy about leaving, but she nodded and slipped through the door so that she could speak to the men who had come to her rescue. Elrond could hear her answering questions and comforting someone – probably her young niece – who sounded quite upset. Schooling himself to patience, he gazed around the room to learn more of this odd world while he could.
The moonlight shone brightly through strange draperies that were little more than hardened slats turned to a strange angle. Unimpeded by this strange way of dressing windows, the light illuminated the corners of the room, including a small cabinet in the corner with glassed doors in front. Curious, Elrond moved to see what was held within the case, and began to smile anew the moment he realized what he was seeing.
They looked very much as they had when Estel had played with them; just as they had when Glorfindel had carved them – only their age was very apparent. His old friend had said that this had been a game in Gondolin that was popular with the very young, and Estel had taken to it with glee. The sound of the men falling to a well-aimed ball had resounded through the House for several years, and even some of the adults – himself included – had enjoyed the fun of trying to knock them all down with a single roll. Once more, Elrond found himself wishing he could lay a hand on the glass, or even to fondle one of the ancient little men with the bulging eyes and carefully tucked hands.
With a sigh, he moved away from his past and over to the little table near the bed that held the odd device that had somehow held the voice of a woman responsible for summoning the guardsmen to their aid. There was a book laying open, face-down, on the table that showed a great deal of the strange lettering, some larger, some quite small, all over the covers on both sides. What he assumed was the front, however, had a painting of some sort – although there was no sign of brush strokes on the smooth and almost shiny surface. Strange that the illustrations of the volume were on the outside as well as the inside!
It seemed to be taking a long time, but finally Elrond heard the sounds of heavy footsteps heading back down the stairs. The sound of women's voices came closer, and the door to the bedroom opened to admit Emma and another, very young lady who stopped short at the sight of him and sidled closer to her aunt. "Em, who…?" Then her eyes opened wide. "Wait! I know that face… that's the man downstairs, in the picture!" she gaped.
Emma smiled and motioned to her niece to come closer. "You may find this hard to believe, but yes. This is El… Elrond, the man I painted. He is your great-great-great-…"
"Many-times-great grandfather," Elrond supplied as he put his hand to his heart and bowed. "It is my great pleasure to meet you, little daughter," he said gently. "Your aunt tells me your name is Linda?"
Linda twisted and turned to her aunt. "What's he doing here, in your bedroom?"
"Linda." Emma led the young woman to the bed and motioned for her to sit down. "Elrond isn't really here. He's…" She looked back at him, as if seeking reassurance.
"I am here because I dreamed myself here," Elrond supplied, seeing in the girl's face the kind of skepticism that no doubt would fill Erestor's or Glorfindel's face if he were to tell a similar tale. "Your aunt and I have found each other once or twice through our dreams, and tonight is yet another unexpected encounter."
"Why?" Linda looked from one to the other, and Elrond had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from chuckling at the same look of doubt and wariness that his foster-son had turned on him more than once during his childhood, when told something utterly fantastic. "You don't really believe this, Em, do you? Who is he, and why is he here?"
"Perhaps she would be more convinced if she tried to shake my hand?" Elrond suggested as Emma met his gaze.
Her smile was as thankful as it was sad, and Elrond knew instantly that his little daughter regretted their inability to touch at least as much as he did. "That might be more convincing, yes," she agreed and then pointed. "Go ahead. Shake your great-great-great-great…"
"I think of it as 'many-times-great'; it is easier," Elrond supplied, this time not hiding his chuckle."
Linda's look of disbelief deepened, but she hesitantly put out her hand toward the hand that Elrond had extended in her direction, and then quickly withdrew it to cradle it against her chest once it had passed through the offered hand as if nothing were there. Elrond shuddered at the strange coldness that was the only sign that they had met. Her eyes grew huge and round. "He's a ghost? A real ghost?"
"No," Emma said, shaking her head. "Neither of us really understand how it happens, but he lives a very far away from here and we… visit… from time to time."
"But… why is he here… why are you here?" Linda aimed her question at the both of them. "Do you come here anytime you want?"
"No, child. I have never been in this house before. As for why…" He gazed at Emma. "I think whatever Power has allowed your aunt and me to touch each other's worlds before knew that she needed protection this night, and sent me forth in my dreams. Was anything of value taken?"
"He'd got most of it," Emma sighed, and held out her hand, "but he'd missed this necklace. It's a very old family heirloom – priceless, I'm told. I was worried that the thief had found it, and I didn't want to have to let the police keep it for any time."
Elrond started when she opened her fingers to display the piece she held. It had been a very long time ago in Imladris when last he had seen that jewel, and it had hung about the neck of another mortal granddaughter at the time. The jewel that Celeborn had given to Ivoreth still shone with the light of the Elves, catching what little light was in the room and casting it forth. He reached out to it, but then withdrew his fingers almost immediately.
"Grandfather?" Emma's wondering tone finally caught his attention. "You look surprised. Do you know this necklace?"
"Indeed I do," he told her quietly. "One of my sons took a young mortal girl and her sister into his household to foster not long before I left these shores, and my father-in-law gave each of them one such jewel that he had himself crafted many, many centuries earlier. If memory serves, this is the jewel he gave to the older girl."
"Centuries?" Linda breathed, her eyes wide again.
Elrond didn't allow her surprise to interrupt him, nor did he look anywhere but at the little gem on Emma's palm that he'd never thought to see again. "The jewel was to remind her that she was well-loved, as she was traveling to a completely new place to live and was very much lost. Elladan was taking her to Imladris – where we first met." His eyes touched Emma and noted the slight nod that told him she knew exactly which place he was speaking of. He continued, "Ivoreth – that was the child's name – treasured that jewel, I am told." He gazed thoughtfully at the necklace. "I shall have to tell Celeborn that I have seen his gift to her after all these Ages, and that it remains with the family. Your possessing it and naming it an heirloom of the family also means that Ivoreth, or one of her children, must have married into the Telcontar line at some time."
"Cele…" Emma obviously struggled with the unfamiliar name.
"Celeborn," Elrond repeated. "A very gentle soul who loved his mortal granddaughter very much, as did I."
Linda's finger poked at the jewel. "How old is this thing, then?"
Elrond shrugged. "Time is not measured in the same way where I live now as it is here, little daughter. But I know that it was at least three thousand years old when it was given to Ivoreth, and many Ages have passed since then." Linda's eyes widened in shock. "I am surprised that it has survived, to be honest."
"Thousands of years: that must be why no jeweler can tell me what kind of metal the chain and setting is made of," Emma mused, holding the jewel up by its chain and letting it sparkle in the light of the lamp.
"It is known among our people as mithril, true-silver," Elrond told her. "It is as imperishable as we are, and is much prized. It will not break, or tarnish." He gestured at Emma. "I would have you put it on and wear it, my daughter; so that, like Ivoreth, you may know that you are well-loved from even across the sea."
"I'll help you put it on," Linda told her, moving behind her aunt. When finished, the younger woman came to stand in front of her and adjust it so that it hung straight. "It suits you, Em."
"And shall I also tell Celeborn that you will pass his gift along to this child, when the time comes?" he asked quietly, suddenly all too aware of the silver hairs that reminded him of the mithril in the necklace. Too soon! She ages far too soon!
"Yes," Emma promised. "I had already decided to give it to Linda in my will."
"It's magnificent," Linda added in a respectful whisper. "Look at the way it sparkles, even at night. I don't think I've ever seen anything quite so beautiful. Thank you, Em – and thank you too," she added, aiming her statement at Elrond.
He nodded slowly. "I remember hearing Elladan tell me what Celeborn told Ivoreth when he gave it to her. He told her that, whenever she was troubled, she should hold onto the jewel, and let it remind her of the love her new family had for her; that it would cast forth light into corners that would otherwise remain dark." He could feel the first hints that he was being drawn away, back to Barvedui and the bed he shared with Celebrían. Not yet! "Just as the love of family will shine forth into the darker corners of a life."
Emma smiled and pressed the little gem to her heart with a possessive hand. "I like that thought. I had no idea that this was such a special necklace, only that all of the women of the family had cherished it before I got it. Now that I know the story behind it, it's doubly precious to me. Tell Cel… Cele…"
"Yes. Please tell him that I am grateful for the necklace, and I appreciate the advice he gave as well. I'll remember both it and the story that goes with the necklace and see to it that both are passed along when the time comes. Tell him I wish I could have known him too." She glanced the younger woman. "Then again, you're here, and you know the necklace will be yours. You'll be certain to remember the story and the advice too, won't you?"
"I will," Linda murmured, her eyes resting on Elrond's face. "I promise."
"I am so glad I was able to see you again, child," Elrond told Emma, his voice growing sad. "But I'm afraid our time together is ending."
"No! Don't go yet…" Emma reached out to him, and instinctively he reciprocated the gesture. Their hands passed through each other once more, leaving behind a chill that clearly bothered her as much as it had him. "I want to know you better!"
"I too wish we had more time," Elrond agreed fervently, knowing without having to be told that he would probably never see this child of Estel and Arwen again before the ending of the world. He would grieve for her, as he had for Ivoreth and Raini in their time. "But we are blessed just by being allowed our few, brief moments, are we not?"
"Yes, I suppose we are." Emma gazed at him as if pressing him once more into her memory. "I will never forget you, Grandfather. Thank you for tonight, and your help, and for telling us the story of this." Her fingers brushed the little jewel yet again.
"You are most welcome, little daughter." Elrond put his hand to his heart and bowed slightly, then looked at Linda. "Care for your Aunt for me, please?"
"Will you come visit me too someday?" she asked shyly, nodding agreement to his plea. "Please?"
"If those responsible for allowing me to speak to your Aunt from time to time are merciful, then I will indeed look forward to seeing you again, young one, or hosting you in my home at Barvedui when it is you who ventures abroad in dreams." The pull to return to his own world became stronger, although he fought for every last moment. "I shall speak to Celeborn, as he is visiting with us at this time, and I am certain he would send his love and greetings to you." The faces of his far-distant progeny were growing fainter by the moment. "My blessings upon you both."
"Goodbye, Grandfather," Emma whispered softly.
"Goodbye," echoed Linda.
"Navaer, my little daughters."
A long finger stroked the parchment carefully and then held the book out to be reclaimed by its owner. "You say her name is Emma?"
"Yes, and the younger one is called Linda." Elrond accepted the little book of sketches and closed it after once more gazing long at the newest drawing in it. "Emma wears Ivoreth's jewel now at my request, and told me to tell you that she wishes she could know you. She thanks you for the necklace – and for the advice you gave to Ivoreth."
"Amazing." Celeborn rose and went to stand in front of the glassed door leading out to the garden beyond, taking what comfort he could in the studied and deliberate disorganization of the trees and flowers that stood so at odds with the strict discipline of most of the gardens in Eldamar. Even now, all it would take would be a small reminder of all that he had left behind him in Ennor to reawaken the ache that came every time he thought of his old home, and this one was entirely unexpected. For a brief moment, he found himself wishing he were back home in Avathar, where he could find peace again in the trees at the foot of the great mountain. There was a serenity and freedom there, in a land very similar to the one he missed so desperately, that he could find nowhere in Eldamar. "To think that the Belain have allowed you to travel the dream paths all the way back to Ennor and to family left behind long ago, not once but three times now. Celebrían knows of this?"
Elrond nodded. "I have kept no secrets from her. I think the idea is as comforting to her as it is to me that our line continues, even in these far distant days."
"I just find it hard to imagine that after all of those Ages of Men have passed, that little jewel-crafting project of mine still lightens the life of one of your house." He shook his head in amazement.
"It is a treasure of Estel's house now, if truth be told. Somehow, they have managed to retain the house name of Telcontar through the Ages as well." Elrond slid the little sketchbook back into the cubby from whence he had drawn it. "I saw pictures of others in Emma's family in the house, as I walked through it. So many signs are there that they are family; the resemblance is undeniable."
Celeborn turned back toward the office. "Thank you, Elrond, for telling me this. I must admit that I envy you your good fortune at being so successful with your dreams, but I am grateful that you would share them with me." It would take effort, but he was determined not to let his off mood ruin any family get-together time with his daughter. It would be enough that he would spend the later evening alone remembering and grieving for family long since departed past the circles of the world.
"Come." Elrond's arm surrounded the shoulders of his father-in-law. His tone and the warmth of that arm told Celeborn that the perceptive half-elf understood him all too well and was doing what he could to raise his spirits. "Celebrían has planned a fabulous luncheon for us, complete with hobbit-recipes from Sam and Bilbo. Aurin learned to prepare those foods from the hobbits themselves, you know, so you are in for a real treat."
"Indeed! I knew there was a reason I traveled all the way from the slopes of Hyarmentil!"
"I thought that was because you were on your way to visit your wife again, and your daughter's home lay along that path."
"This is true, I admit it; but now you know the other reason I stop at Barvedui so often when I return to Eldamar," Celeborn laughed at him. "Come. I do believe I have developed an appetite."
"Why have I never seen this before?" Linda asked, her hand smoothing over the cover of the sketchbook without having yet opened it.
Emma smiled at her. "Because there are few with whom I feel comfortable sharing the story. But now that you've seen him…" She gestured for her niece to open the book. "The first pictures are what I can remember of Imladris."
"What a strange name," Linda commented, opening the cover and then staring at what looked to be a magnificent, if unkempt garden with a graceful, faceless statue standing with outstretched arms in the middle of it. "It looks like it must have been beautiful at one time."
"It was quite the lovely ruin," Emma agreed. "I think, had it not been at the bottom of a ravine slated to become a reservoir for a hydro-electric plant, my parents would have happily spent the rest of their lives cataloguing everything they found there. But…" she sighed. "We only had the one year to glean what we could before the construction crews took over."
Linda pulled a frustrated face and kept slowly turning the pages until… "Em! This looks like… This is no ruin! Where is this?"
Emma glanced at the sketch. "That's Barvedui, where Elrond lives now. That was the garden outside his office, where I saw him for the second time."
"It looks almost like the first garden, the one in the place that ended up at the bottom of the lake."
"He called it Imladris. Yes, it does." Emma nodded in remembrance. "Elrond said that his wife had designed it to be very similar, and that Barvedui was built by the same people who had built Imladris in the first place."
"So both you and Da saw Elrond in this Im… Im…?"
"Imladris. And yup."
"Why didn't Da ever say anything about it to us when we were growing up?" Linda wondered with a wistful expression.
Emma shrugged. "For one thing, your Da was frightened by Elrond when we came across him in the garden and ran away to get your grandfather, so he didn't see him for long. For another…" She sighed. "Your Da didn't like stories he couldn't prove true or which sounded a little too fantastic, and so he kept telling me I had been too emotional about things and was dreaming that day. But, the thing is that your grandfather clearly remembered seeing him, and grandma too. We talked about it often, when I was older, and wondered how and why he was able to show me where the compartment was in the base of the statue. Your grandfather said that he'd studied that statue for days and never noticed it."
Linda reached the end of the finished sketches and closed the book before handing it back. "Do you think we'll ever see him again – Elrond, I mean? He seems like such a nice and… I guess the word that fits him best is 'elegant,' don't you agree?"
"'Elegant' is an understatement. He's also gracious and kind," Emma added. "I have no idea if I'll ever see him again – or if you will – but I certainly hope so. I sometimes used to wonder if he really was nothing but a dream; but now that I know that you saw him too, I want to believe again. After all, if not for him pointing things out long ago, we'd have never found those strange little carved men and that ball."
"Your ancient child's bowling set?" Linda asked with an impish grin.
Emma stared. "You know, you're right! They do look like toys designed to be knocked down by that ball, don't they? I wonder if he pointed them out to me so that I'd have something to play with back then…"
"But they're positively ancient, Em! They look so fragile, I don't think I'd even dare handle them. If he knew they were in that statue… or… he said that the necklace was thousands of years old even before he saw it, and that Ages had passed since. He has to be a ghost, because nobody lives that long."
"He claims his people don't age or die like we do."
Linda gave her a skeptical look. "That's impossible."
"That's exactly what I told him," Emma said, nodding. "But he said that while it's impossible in the world as it is today, there were many things in the world when he was here that aren't here anymore."
"I suppose the next thing he'd tell us is that there really were unicorns and dragons and wizards and magic quests." Linda scoffed, then sobered up. "Then again, I saw him. I felt the cold when I tried to touch him and my hand went straight through his." Her face became troubled. "What else might be possible, if what we saw last night is really true?"
Emma shrugged. "That's part of the reason why I've never entirely not believed. And you have to admit, someone or something woke me up so I could call the police when that man was going through your grandmother's jewelry in your bedroom. I've never regretted meeting him, and I'd really like to think that maybe he is who he says he is."
"You're right, and I'm glad I saw him too, Em," Linda stated firmly. "And I'm glad he was able to tell you the story of grandfather's mother's necklace. Somehow, I think that if we'd both made him up in our heads, we wouldn't' be agreeing on the terms of the story he told us." Her eyes grew far away. "I wonder about that Kele person he talked about – the one who he said made the necklace. I almost wish I could see him too, but who was he?"
"Well, if what Elrond said is true, he was – is – family too, I guess," Emma said softly, pressing her hand to her chest and feeling the small lump of a jewel beneath her sweater. "Family – far removed and only a name to us, but family nonetheless."
She pulled the gem from beneath her clothing and walked over into a sunbeam to hold it up and watch the way the facets caught and scattered the light throughout the room, casting forth light into places it wouldn't otherwise go. As she watched it sparkle and dance in the light, she felt the warmth and security of knowing that somehow her family was greater than just her two nieces settle into her heart.
Somewhere, in a strange and distant place, they had more family. She and Linda and Katie weren't alone in the world – at least, not completely.
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.