Usual story about a girl among the elves. Or maybe not.
And Just When Life Was Getting Boring
The two days it took them to leave the Shire were uneventful. It would be another three or four at the pace they were traveling to reach Imladris. They stopped for lunch and again for the night only. The girl never complained. Their word game was giving her quite an extensive vocabulary. Not that she used it much. She seemed to be storing the words. She only spoke when spoken to and it was usually peppered with words they did not understand. She seemed to understand more of what they were feeling, rather than what they said.
When they were a good distance from the Shire, Elladan silently turned back and disappeared for several hours. When he rejoined his brother, he seemed agitated.
"Calm down, brother," cautioned Elrohir. "You know she picks up on your emotions. What is it?"
Giving himself several minutes, he replied, "We have a shadow. I do not know who or what yet, but they are back there."
"We are still a day out of Imladris. How many are there?"
"At least five or six. We may be able to outrun them, but we cannot fight with the child."
"Then we will have to move it along." He gave his horse a slight kick in the sides. Before long they were moving at a slow canter. They had gone for three hours when he felt the girl start to fidget slightly.
"We need to stop soon. Ela is tired and we need to eat."
Elladan looked behind them. The way was straight and flat with no trees to hinder his view. He saw nothing.
"You go ahead and see to her. I have the trail food. I will go back and watch. Here." He threw the bag containing her food and clothes at Elrohir. They rode on while Elladan dropped back. Ela glanced back around Elrohir. She looked up at him.
"Elldan? Where does he go?"
"He is just riding back a ways. Do not worry. Come, we will stop up by that tree and eat."
Reaching their goal, he dismounted. He got Ela down and hurriedly fixed her a sandwich and poured water into a small metal cup Meri had given her. She ate and then disappeared into the bushes. Elrohir gathered up their things and repacked them. After several minutes, he decided to go get her. She came out and went to him. He picked her and put her on the horse. He had just mounted when Elladan came riding up.
"We ride. They have the scent and have picked up the pace." He grabbed the bag his brother threw at him. They rode at a hard canter. Elladan dropped back once more. Ten minutes later, he caught up with them.
"The chase is on. Pick it up, brother." Elrohir kicked his horse again and the animal shifted into a fast, hard run. They were just shy of the foothills leading into the Misty Mountains. He clucked his tongue at the horse; if possible, they were going faster. He reached the start of the hills surrounding Imladris. Still riding hard, they came to the pass through the hills. He slowed the horse down to a walk. They could not run down the other side of the pass. He let the horse pick its way down. The sheer drop on one side and the mountain face on the other left no room to maneuver. He hoped they had enough of a head start to reach the entrance to the valley. Without looking back, he knew his brother had dropped back again. He kept all of his concentration on the path ahead. Surprisingly, he felt no fear from the girl. She had her hands on his legs for balance, but there was no sound from her. He heard a cry from behind.
"Ride, brother! They are fast on our heels!"
He spared a look ahead. He could see the valley entrance and the bridge now. It was only a short distance. He pushed the horse as fast as he dared. Finally reaching the bridge, he shouted to the guards.
"We are followed. Elladan is behind me. Let none else pass!"
The guards ran to the outer end of the bridge. The enchantments surrounding the hidden valley would keep a wanderer out, but it would not stop arrows flung at a rider coming in. Elladan dismounted as his horse stepped onto the bridge. He drew his sword and turned to join the guards fanned out across the width of the wide span. The riders behind the elves drew up on the trail above them. They could no longer see their quarry, but the elves could see clearly that they were men. Dirty and coarse men. Not those that usually came to the hidden city. The men eventually turned and headed back up to the pass.
The captain of the guard turned to Elladan, who was standing next to him.
"I do not know. We picked them up a slow day's ride out. We have been traveling at a slower pace than normal."
The captain glanced at Elrohir and the child on his horse.
"I see. Yes the travel would be slow. I have sent a rider to your father. He was not expecting you."
"Yes, well, we were not expecting to be here, either. We will go on now. Do you have things in hand?"
"I do not think they will try the barriers. Most find them very uncomfortable."
Elladan laughed. He mounted his horse and followed his brother. They rode for the stables below their father's house. He looked up at the residence. What a magnificent place. It was everything the outside world whispered about. Those who had never seen it could describe it just from rumors.
He gabbed Ela's bag and started up the steps leading to the main terrace.
A Butterfly Is No Substitute For A Bull In A China Shop
Imladris lay in a valley below the Misty Mountains. The white buildings that marched down the valley and up its sides were interspersed with long, narrow waterfalls. The effect was breathtaking. Any outsider fortunate to have visited the Elven city proclaimed it the most beautiful thing they had ever seen.
Its ruler, Lord Elrond Halfelven, was reputed to be the wisest and most patient of leaders. He had built the city as a refuge from evil. It was a refuge now for any seeking asylum. He did not care if they were Elven or Human. He had offered refuge to the children of Isildur, the last Great King. Even the Dwarves were welcome. It was a place of healing and learning.
He had been pacing for a day now. Something was not right. He had felt it. For some reason, he knew it involved his sons. It had been two years since he had seen them last. Even his friend Glorfindel could feel the unrest. When the rider had come up with the news that the twins had arrived at the bridge riding hard, he had sent for his chief advisor.
Erestor had only just arrived when Elladan came up the steps to the terrace. He was dirty and looked worn. He went to his father and bowed his head.
"Elladan, what has happened?"
"We were riding with a riddle for you and picked up a shadow. It followed us all the way through the pass. We only lost it when we crossed the bridge."
"Where is your brother?"
"He follows. He brings the riddle. Hello, Glorfindel. Greetings, Erestor."
They turned as Elrohir at last came up the steps. Elrond looked hard at his sons when he saw what his eldest one held.
"What is this?"
"We found her on the coast. We wanted you to see her before we took her to Benerd and Mares. I know they will take her in."
They told them the whole story, from finding the child to the race for the valley.
"Is it possible they were after the child?" asked Erestor.
"I could not say. There was no one on the beach. We searched for a couple of hours, but we had to get back to our company. You know how Arathorn worries." He grinned.
Elrond's steward, Erentil came from the house.
"Dinner is ready."
"Thank you. Erentil, would you take this child to Seldala and ask her to see to her?"
"Yes, Lord Elrond."
He gently took the sleeping girl from Elrohir. She settled on his shoulder. He went back into the house.
"We will wait dinner while you change and clean up," Elrond said to his sons.
They nodded and went to their rooms. Twenty minutes later they entered the dining hall, bathed and changed. They had just sat down when their father's housekeeper came into the room, leading the girl. They had to admit, she looked much different. Her pale skin was lighter than theirs with a dusting of freckles across her nose and cheeks. Her hair, falling to her waist, was a color not unknown, but the intensity was unusual. The setting sun caught the auburn hair and sent streaks of bright copper shining through it. Her bright blue eyes took in everything around her. Glancing at the woman, she turned to Elrond and made a formal bow. He solemnly nodded his head to her. Seldala led her to the two empty seats. While Elladan jumped up to hold Seldala's chair, Erestor gracefully rose and held the child's. When they had all sat down, the serving girls brought out the food.
"Well, do you have a name?" Elrond asked the girl.
She looked at him but said nothing. He glanced at his sons.
"Rosa Took said her name was Ela. That is all we have been able to find out."
"Elldan," she said.
"Yes, I am Elladan. And you are?"
"Well. That is the first time she has offered any information to us."
"Rosa Took. Is that not Graden's daughter? I was saddened to hear of her mother's passing last winter. How are they?"
"They do well. Graden even hinted that a lady down the road might have more in mind than making dresses for Rosa. I think he may wed again."
"We also met Fritzi and Meri. I do not think we asked their name."
"I remember Fritzi. He was very much taken with the city. Said he was eager to return to the Shire, though. I guess now we know why."
Erendil entered and whispered in Elrond's ear.
"It seems we have more guests. Bring them in and two more chairs."
By the time Erendil had brought the chairs, the visitors had arrived. Elrond stood and went to the pair.
"Haldir! RÃºmil! How good to see you. Is all well?"
They bowed their heads, hands over their hearts.
"Thank you, Lord Elrond. All is well. I have brought greetings and messages from my Lord and Lady. RÃºmil decided that he wanted to see life outside the Golden Woods. I fear he may never wish to leave Imladris. Lady Seldala," he nodded to her. Cooling slightly, he turned to the twins. "Elrohir, Elladan." He nodded to Glorfindel and Erestor.
"Come, join us for dinner. You must be hungry."
"Truth told, we are. We came straight through." Their chairs happened to be placed across from each other, next to Glorfindel and ElrÃ©nia. Haldir looked down at the child beside him. He looked at Elrond and raised an eyebrow.
"A riddle. From the west coast. My sons brought her just today." He nodded towards the twins. They told the tale of finding the girl.
"That is extraordinary. What will you do with her?"
"Put her to bed and wish her good night."
Haldir nodded at the slight reprimand. He had forgotten for a moment where he was. This was not his Lord and not as plainspoken. He would do well to remember that. RÃºmil had missed the exchange. He and Glorfindel were deep into a story about balrogs. Haldir had cautioned his brother about the subject. Glorfindel could go on for hours.
Elrond frowned. He respected the March Warden of LÃ³rien, but his arrogance did not sit well with him. It may serve him on the border marches, but it did not help him in diplomatic situations.
"How is your other brother?"
"He is well, my lord.
"He has a son, does he not?"
"Yes. Elldar. He is two years old."
"I thought so. They must be very happy."
Haldir appeared to think about that.
"Yes, I suppose they are."
"Elf," ElrÃ©nia started, but finished with gibberish. Her voice was just barely audible.
"Ela, you must speak Elvish. It might be thought rude to speak a language no one understands." Haldir noticed that only Elrohir answered the girl.
"Elf, where do we sleep tonight?" She said her words slowly and carefully.
"You will sleep in a nice big bed in a room next to Seldala. How is that?"
"He has his own room."
"And you, Elf?"
Haldir was getting annoyed at the child calling someone Elf. Could she not remember his name?
"I have my own room."
"And does Glorfindel and Erestor have their own rooms? And Lord Elrond?" So she could remember names.
"Yes, sell. We all have our own rooms. Some of us even have our own houses."
"What about the angry one?" she whispered.
"Who is that, sell?"
She quickly glanced up at Haldir. She had finally caught RÃºmil and Glorfindel's attention.
"Have you met this little one before, brother?" RÃºmil asked with a grin.
"Why would she think me angry?" he asked, trying hard not to show his anger.
She can feel it said Elrohir, switching to Westron. Why subject the child to Haldir's temper.
Haldir did not see the hesitant hand reach over to his. He jerked at the feathery touch on his wrist.
"Do not do that again," he said, harshly.
Ela blanched and stiffened. A quiet stream of words came from her.
"Elvish, Ela," came from Elrohir.
She got down from her chair.
"I did not mean to hurt you." She turned to Elrond. "Please, do not put me back in a boat." She ran from the room.
Elrohir ran after her, leaving his father to deal with the situation. He went to her room. Looking in, he did not see her at first. The door to the cupboard was ajar and he could see a tiny boot. He went and sat on the bed.
"Do you want to talk to me?" He watched the boot disappear. "Do not worry about him. He does not know about children. You scared him."
"Elvish, please," he said when she answered him.
"I scared him? Why is he so angry? Ada said elves were nice. HE is not nice. Maybe Da was right, not Ada."
"Who is Da?" He suspected, but wanted her to say it.
"Nana's adar. He was not nice. He said elves were bad. Will my nana come and get me now? I am tired. I want to go home."
Elrohir glanced up as his father halted at the doorway.
"Where is home?"
"I do not know. I am lost. In the big hills."
"Can you tell me your adar's name?"
"He said it was Gondol, but that is wrong. It was something else first."
"He changed it?"
"Da did not like him. Or me. He was angry at Nana."
"Will you come out? My adar would like to talk to you."
"Is he like a da. I do not like Da. He put me in the boat. I did not like it."
"My adar is very nice. He would never put you in a boat. Unless you wanted to."
The cupboard door opened very slowly. A small foot stepped down onto the floor. Another followed. She was out, but still behind the door. Peeking around, she saw Elrohir on the bed. She ran to him and grabbed his legs. He picked her up and sat her on his lap.
"There. See, no one is angry at you."
"No he is not. He wants to speak with you, when you decide it is alright," said Elrond.
"Do I have to?"
"No, but it is the polite thing to do."
She sighed. "Ada said I must always be polite."
"Do you want to come back down to dinner?"
"No. I am not hungry."
"Very well. I will give your regrets." Elrond looked at his son.
"Do you want company?" Elrohir asked her.
"Elf, do you know where my things are?"
"They are in your cupboard." He went over and showed her where her clothes and doll were.
"Do you want to play with me?"
"If that is what you want."
Elrond left his eldest son sitting on the floor playing with dolls. He remembered a scene very similar when Arwen was a child.
Miss manners Takes A Holiday, But Comes Back Early
Breakfast the next morning was uneventful. Ela had sneaked a look around the door before entering. Not seeing the cause of her unhappiness, she entered the dining room and took a seat next to Elladan.
"Did you sleep well?" asked Erestor.
"Yes. It was noisy. The water runs too loud."
"It is difficult for one not used to it. Does it bother you?"
"No. It is just noisy."
"May I ask you a question, sell?"
"You may," she said just as formally.
"What is your age? I mean, how old are you?"
"I know what you meant. I am ten years old. Nana made me a cake last summer to mark it."
"I see. Ten years old. I must say, you do not look that old."
"It is Nana's fault, she says. She is very old and beautiful."
"Oh, how old is she?"
"I do not know. She always just says centuries. What does she mean?"
"A century is one hundred years."
"I know that. What does she mean?"
"That I would not know, never having spoken to her."
"Well, Ada was very old. He said that men and elves were friends. He lost his someone in the war."
She shrugged her shoulders.
"Some last something. He did not like to talk about it."
"Do you know your adar's name?"
"He said it was Gondol, but he lied to me. I did not think elves lied."
Erestor glanced over at Elrond. He had agreed to question the child, but she was not acting like a six-year-old child. Her speech was too mature. He was not sure how to answer her questions.
"Elves do not lie."
"Then why did he tell me his name was Gondol?"
"Maybe he had a reason for changing it. You said your da did not like him. Maybe that is why he did it."
"And maybe he just lied to me. Where is the Elf?"
"Do you mean Elrohir?"
"Yes, that is who I mean."
"He is down at the stables. Why?"
"Because talking to him does not make my head hurt."
Erestor sat back and raised his eyebrows. He thought he heard a muffled chuckle from Elrond.
Suddenly Ela jumped up and ran for the door. She almost collided with Haldir and RÃºmil.
"I would like a word with you," Haldir said, just a trace of haughtiness to his voice.
"I am not ready to be polite," was the response as she slid past them and ran down the hall.
"Someone had better curb her attitude. It will get her into trouble," he said quietly to his brother.
"Yes, just like the trouble you always got into."
He chose to ignore the remark.
"Lord Elrond, at your convenience, I have the papers in order for you."
"Very well. I will see you in an hour in the library."
Haldir nodded and they left.
"What did you think?" Elrond asked Erestor.
"Either she is lying about her age, does not know or there is something else at work. She cannot be ten years old. However, her speech and abilities seem to belie that. Right now, I do not know what to think."
"I happen to know that Benerd is away visiting relatives in Rohan. He will not be back for several months. I will keep her here until they return. Will you see to her education while she is here? I think we can learn much from her. I would like to know what language she speaks."
"If that is what you wish. Do you think she will fit into a Edain family?"
"She seems very adaptable. I do not think there will be problems."
"Then I will see what I can teach her. She seems bright enough."
Train Of Thought Is A Good Thing, Unless Derailed
Within days, Ela had explored every room in the house. She had even found an old tree house that the twins had built. She had discarded her dress for the day. She wanted to climb and trousers were so much better. She had sat down with her doll and some blocks when she heard a noise from below. Glancing over the edge of the platform, she saw the one person she had been avoiding.
"Go away. You are not welcome here." He strained to hear her words.
"I just wanted to apologize. You startled me. That is why I reacted as I did." The softness in his voice matched hers.
"I am not ready to be polite. You should not be here."
"Do you have to be polite for me to apologize?"
"Ada said I must be polite. Until then, I will not speak with you."
"We are speaking now."
"No, I am speaking AT you, not WITH you. Now you will please remove yourself and leave me alone. You make me uncomfortable. Ada said I do not have to do anything that makes me uncomfortable." Her tone changed. "Besides, you are also uncomfortable. Why?"
"What kind of question is that? I am not uncomfortable."
"Yes, you are."
"No, I am..." Why was he arguing with a child? Because she was right. Children made him very uncomfortable.
"Now that we have settled that, would you like to come up? It is easier to talk when you do not have to look up constantly."
Haldir looked at the rickety centuries old platform.
"I do not think that a sound idea. Why do you not come down?"
He heard nothing, then saw a pair of boots come flying in his direction. He barely missed getting hit by one, but caught the other one with his forehead. She climbed down, barefooted, until she was about five feet from the ground. She jumped gracefully and landed on her feet.
"Did my boot hit you? I would like to apologize." By the smirk on her face as she turned from him, he knew that she was not sorry.
He led the way to the garden in the rear of the house. She followed him at a short distance. He sat down on a bench. She sat at the other end. He saw a book sticking out of her bag.
"What is that?" he asked.
"I can see that. About what?"
"Geography. It seems that I must learn about the land. Lord Erestor has decided that he will teach me."
"What have you learned so far?"
"That Imladris is the center of the universe and LÃ³rien is somewhere out in the fringes."
"No. But it almost got a rise out of you. Imladris is a haven. For anyone. LÃ³rien is only for elves. The other major holdings are the Grey Havens and Mirkwood. Men are allowed there. Do you not find that strange? The major realms of men are Gondor and Rohan. Mordor is of no good to anyone. The east is bad, the west is good. North is a wasteland and south for men."
"Well, it seems you have learned a lot. What do you intend to do with your knowledge?"
"I want to learn about people. Why elves are good and men are not always. I really like the Halflings. Rosa was so nice to me. Are all Halflings like that? And I want to meet a Dwarf. They seem so fascinating. Small people who live in caves. Do you not think that exciting?"
"Let me see, elves and men are the way they are because of their natures. The Halflings are very special people. No one wants to meet a Dwarf. And caves are bad places."
"Elves are not always nice. I have read some of the things they did. They were no better than men. And what of Melkor? Was he good?"
"Stop!" he said, laughing. "I think you should ask these questions of Erestor. He is a teacher, I am not.
"Do you not know everything? You are an adult."
"My knowledge lies in other directions."
"What do you know?"
"I know much of the geography and the peoples of our land. I also know of weapons."
"Ada said weapons never solved anything. They only kill."
"I would like to meet your adar."
"Well, you will need to speak to Namo about that."
He looked at her in shocked silence.
"Do you know who Namo is?"
"He keeps the ones who have passed. Is that something you did not know?"
He was saved from answering by the bell calling for the noon meal.
"Shall we go?"
"Yes. I am hungry."
Hey Diddle Diddle, The Cat And The Fiddle
Everyone was surprised when they showed up for the meal together. Ela bowed to Elrond and took her seat. Haldir nodded.
I would speak with you later, he said to his host.
Elrond nodded and began to eat. The meal was peppered with tales of the Rangers and news of LÃ³rien. Haldir thanked the Valar that Glorfindel was not present. He was tired of hearing of balrogs. He noted that his brother was also missing. Seldala asked Ela how she had passed the morning. Haldir sat through her account of their conversation. Elrond just raised an eyebrow.
When they had finished, Seldala suggested a nap for Ela. The twins left for a foray into the near mountains. Haldir followed Elrond and Erestor to the library. There he reported the conversation as it had actually taken place.
"How could she know so much of the ways of elves, yet be so ignorant of them?" Haldir asked.
"One explanation is that she is Elven. I know it seems far fetched, but she mentioned her father did not like to speak about the war. What war do you know of that would be 'some last something' to a child?"
"Another explanation would be that she is a compulsive liar and made the whole thing up."
Erestor frowned at Haldir. "The things she says are too consistent. A compulsive liar trips himself up. Have you caught her in a lie?"
Haldir thought back. "No, I have not. So, a blow to the head? Maybe in the boat?"
"Again, the facts she has given do not support that theory. She picked up Elvish very quickly. I think she knows a form of it. Not pure, but maybe a pidgin form of it."
"Well," said Elrond, speaking for the first time, "We have only three, maybe four months to solve the riddle. Then she will go to Misty Havens and live with a family there. She will be well taken care of. They lost their only daughter last winter."
Haldir rose and addressed Elrond.
"We will leave in the morning."
"Very well. I will have things ready for you to take back to Celeborn."
Haldir took his leave. Elrond sat back and pondered what had been discussed.
"Do you think she is Elven?"
"Frankly, I doubt it. She looks neither Sindarin nor Noldarin. The woods elves are disinclined to mate with men. They place themselves above the Sindar in that respect. They would not water down the lines. I think it likely that Elladan was right. She probably is from Rohan. She may have misunderstood things she heard concerning the ages of her parents."
"I am not sure. However, teach her what you can and learn also from her."
Erestor bowed his head. He turned and left the library.
Erestor looked over the paper ElrÃ©nia had given him. Her writing was neat and precise. Just as he demanded. He corrected the few mistakes and handed it back. He watched as she redid the work. He knew he pushed her hard, but he would not lower his standards just because she was not Elven. Knowledge was something to be learned, not handed out on a silver platter. He also knew that she spent too much time in the library trying to keep up with him. In two months, she had mastered the alphabet and numbers. She could write simple ideas down and count to a hundred. Her Sindarin had improved. There were fewer nonsense words included in her speech. All in all, he was satisfied with her progress.
"I will return," he said, touching her shoulder to get her attention. He went out into the garden, where he had seen Elrond.
"Erestor. How does it go today?"
"Very well. She is adept, for a human."
"I have heard from Benerd. He will not return for another six months. It seems his brother's wife is with child and not doing well. They want to remain for a while longer. Their sons are returning, but I hesitate to send her without the parents there."
"I agree. The wait will not hurt her any. She is like a sponge. Everything I teach her soaks in. When needed, she knows exactly what is correct." He hesitated. "Have you seen her room lately?"
"No, but I heard. Where did she find a cat?"
"She said in the stables."
"Can you spare her lessons this afternoon? I would like to take her riding. She has been stuck in the library too much."
"Thank you. Tell her we go after the noon meal."
He went back into the library. Ela was not at the table. He looked around and was beginning to get angry she had left, when he saw her on the terrace. He saw her playing with something near the railing. Walking out, he saw it was a raven. He was going to shoo the bird away, when he realized she was talking to it. And not in Sindarin. She reached out and stroked the bird's head. He could hear her softly croon a song. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Elrond had come to the window. Several minutes went by before she shooed the bird herself. She turned, shocked to see the two elves watching her.
"I am terribly sorry, Lord Erestor. I know you told me not to leave the library, but the bird wanted a song." She started to run for the library.
"Stay, sell. You have done no harm. Your work is completed for the day?"
"Yes, Lord. I corrected all the mistakes and went on to the next lesson. I do not think I made many errors."
He gave her a rare smile. Walking over to a small table, he motioned her to join him. He laid down paper and a pen.
"You have done very well. This afternoon, Lord Elrond wants to take you riding. You are excused from lessons the rest of the day."
"Oh. But what of the one I just finished?"
"I will look over it and we can discuss it tomorrow."
She was quiet. She picked up the pen and dipped it in the ink. She drew for a few minutes.
"Lord Erestor? May I ask you a question?"
"Yes. If it is in my power, I will answer."
"Why are some men good and some bad? And are there bad elves? And what about Melkor?"
"Wait. Slow down. I can only answer one question at a time. It is the nature of men to be what they are. Most are good. They live by codes similar to those of the elves. They obey the laws. Then there are some who do not believe the law is for them. If they want something, they feel they should have it. The same can be said for elves. We have laws and codes. But sometimes things make even elves do what they would not ordinarily do. Are you thinking of the Kinslayings?" At her nod, he continued. "They were driven by grief. It is not excusable, just understandable. But remember, at the time, they did not perceive their actions as evil. It was only afterwards that they realized the harm they had done. That is why you must be ever mindful of your actions and words. As for Melkor, it seems even the Valar can be jealous and greedy."
"The angry one does not like me. Why?"
"Do you mean Haldir?" She nodded.
"He is not used to children. They make him uncomfortable. He is used to commanding and being obeyed. Children do not work that way. I thought you did not like him."
"He is alright. He needs to loosen himself. He is too stiff. He needs a woman."
"Where did you hear that?"
"Down at the stables. When I got my cat. Why does everyone think I do not hear Elvish. I can speak it, does it not mean I can understand it?"
"I think it best if you avoided the stables. It is no place for a young girl. It could be dangerous."
"I am not afraid. Even the old snake under the flooring likes me. He told me so."
"You can speak with snakes?"
"Well, no. But he felt like he likes me. The horse in the end stall does not like the snake, though."
"You were near the horse in the big stall? You must never go near him. He is too dangerous. Promise me you will not go back to the stables."
"How will I go riding this afternoon?"
"You must promise."
"Very well. But who will feed the snake?"
"That snake was fine before you came, he will survive."
She drew for a while.
"Were you ever a child?"
"Yes. A long time ago."
"Did people tell you what you could and could not do?"
"Yes. They told me for my own good. Otherwise, I would not have grown up wise enough to teach you."
"Ada was very wise. And my Nana was very wise to wed him. She always says so."
"May I ask you a question?"
She thought about it.
"I will answer, if it is in my power." He smiled at her imitation of himself.
"Where is your Ada?"
"He is with Namo. That is what Nana says. Da was very angry. Haldir is not that angry. I could learn to like him."
"But your Ada?"
"Oh. Da did not like him. Told my Nana she was a bunch of things. I do not remember all of them. Foolish. Traitor. Worthless. Whore."
"Alright. I understand. What happened to him?"
"I do not remember. It was not good. But he is better now. Namo will take care of him. Do you think he will let him come visit?"
"That is a question I cannot answer. What of your Nana?"
"She was unhappy with Da. She cried for days. He finally told her to shut up if she wanted to keep the spawn. What is that?"
"Yet another question I cannot answer. Where is your Nana now?"
"I think she went swimming. I woke up one morning, and she was gone. She told me to stay under the cover so I would not get wet. But she would not hide with me. Does it storm much here? I have not heard any thunder."
"No, it does not storm often. Your Nana was in the boat, and then she was not?"
"Yes. Do you have a cat?"
"No. Was it storming when your Nana left?"
"Yes. She cried a lot. She said something about her nana, but I do not remember. Do you talk to birds?" He was having trouble keeping track of the conversation.
"Sometimes. But they do not talk to me."
"Does that make me a...a...witch! That is what Da called Nana! He said it was wrong to talk to animals. If you had a cat, what color would it be?"
"I think yellow. What is a witch?"
"I do not know. Something bad? So, if my cat has kittens, and one is yellow, you will take it?"
"Yes, sell." She looked up at him. He was rubbing his temple.
"Does your head hurt?"
"No, sell," he said, wincing. "What have you drawn?"
"It is a picture of Ada, the last time I saw him." Erestor was extremely disturbed to see that she had drawn a figure hanging in a tree.