Usual story about a girl among the elves. Or maybe not.
"Come on, Elf. You are too slow." Ela pulled at Elrohir's hand. "We will miss tea."
"You dragged me down here for tea?" Elrohir laughed. "We could have had that at home."
"Not this kind of tea. Lord Erestor says it is not fit for a lady. Even he does not like it."
He glanced back at Caldelen, sulking behind them. He had not been happy that Ela had invited the boy, but there was nothing to be done now.
She had been up at dawn and in the library before breakfast finishing her lessons. She was taking no chances that she would not be allowed to go to Dorga's. She had put on trousers and a tunic. So, this was an informal visit.
She continued to pull on his hand until they had reached the center of the village.
"Wait, Ela. I need to go in here for a moment." Elrohir pleaded, stopping outside a small shop.
"I will meet you at Dorga's. Do not tarry. We will not wait for you." She laughed as he motioned her on.
She waited for Caldelen to catch up to her. They walked in silence for two or three blocks.
"Why are you so quiet?" she asked.
"You make enough noise for the both of us."
"That is not very kind. If you did not want to come, why did you?"
"I had something to do. Do you want to help me?"
"Help you what?" she asked, suspiciously. He never wanted her help, unless it might get her into trouble. She understood their relationship better than he did and avoided most of the punishment that was meted out when he was caught, an avoidance he did not thank her for.
"I am meeting some friends and they said they would like to meet you."
"I do not know. I told Elrohir I would go straight to Dorga's. I will just meet you there."
"Do humans have no sense of adventure? Why do you always do the safe thing?"
"Because that way I do not get punished by Lord Erestor or Lord Elrond. I do not enjoy their methods."
"They have never laid a hand on you!"
"They do not need to. Their displeasure is enough. There is nothing in this world worse than a displeased Elf. They will not speak to me. That is enough to keep me in line."
"Soon they will send you out into the world of men and you can do as you please."
"Why do you say such mean things? They will not send me away. This is my home. They are as close to a family as my own parents were."
"Never the less, when you are of age, you will have to go to an Edain village to find a husband. There is no one here for you."
"Maybe I will go and maybe I will not. However, if you are the only offering the elves have, I would be better off with the Orcs. So I will take my chances on not finding a husband."
He scowled at the back of her head as she started towards Dorga's. He ran after her.
"Wait!" he said, forcing himself to smile. "I am sorry. I should not have said those things. Will you forgive me?"
"There is nothing to forgive. Do your friends really want to meet me? Why?"
"Because they have never seen a human raised by elves."
"What does that matter? I would look the same if I have been raised by men. That makes no sense."
"I think they may know who you are. They said something about an uncle."
"You are making that up."
"I am not. They have been looking for a girl that fits your description. They said she was taken from her home by bandits."
"Oh. And why would bandits take a child? There is not much of a market for a small child. And besides, I was not taken from my home. At least not by myself. Nana was with me."
"I am just telling you what they said."
"Well, I guess it would not hurt to meet them. But only for a moment. Dorga is expecting us, and I told Elrohir that that was where I would be."
"It will only take a minute."
He lead her down an alley between two shops. It was dark and cool between the buildings. She slowed half way down the alley.
"Caldelen, this does not feel right. I am going back."
She turned to see a man had entered the alley behind her.
"Caldelen!" she turned back to find him gone. "Caldelen!" The panic in her voice was unmistakable. She faced the man behind her and backed away from him, right into another man. Spinning, she looked frantically for an escape. By now there were three of them. One of them reached out and fingered her hair. She jerked from his touch. He laughed and said something she did not understand.
"Leave me alone!" she said, her voice barely audible.
'Do you not remember the language of your mother?' The man spoke in Westron.
She searched desperately for an escape.
"Caldelen!" she called again.
'You mean the Elf imp? He is gone.'
'You would do well to shut up, girl. I have orders to bring you back, or make sure you never come back.'
Her eyes widened as she realized what the man meant.
'Why,' she asked.
'Your uncle needs to either have you in hand, or be assured you are out of the way.'
"Ela!" One of the men started at the sound of Elrohir's voice coming from out on the street.
"Elf!" she called, as loud as her voice would sound.
'I did not want it to end this way, girl, but you leave me no choice. It would have been better if you had come willingly.'
He reached for her, but suddenly found himself holding his stomach. He had not seen the knife she held in her hand. He looked down to see a gash from one side of his abdomen to the other. He knew he had only minutes left to contemplate his life.
'Bitch!* he said. He grabbed her face and slammed her head into the stone wall behind her. Had he the strength, it would have killed her, but his body would not respond to his will. He managed one more blow before he fell to the ground, Ela tumbling on top of him. One of the other men reached to finish the job. Before he could lay a hand on her, he was flung into the wall. The remaining man could hear his companion's neck snap. He turned and ran. Elrohir was torn between chasing the man and seeing to Ela. He went to her and picked her up. She was covered in blood.
"What is going on?"
"Dorga, get me a horse! Quickly!"
The Dwarf asked no more questions. He went to the stable behind his house and got the horse that belonged to his neighbor. He put a bridle on her and brought her around front. Elrohir carried Ela out of the alley and handed her to Dorga. Jumping up on the horse, he asked a passing man to hand the girl up to him. He then started for home as quickly as he could through the village. Dorga followed as fast as his legs would carry him.
Clearing the edge of the small town, Elrohir kicked the horse into a gallop. He rode the animal up into the garden behind his father's house. Calling for help, he slid off the horse, Ela still in his arms.
"What happened?" Erestor was the first to come out of the house.
"I am not sure. I am not even sure how much of this blood is hers. She was attacked in an alley. I think it a good idea someone find Caldelen. He was nowhere to be seen."
Elrohir carried Ela to the small infirmary Elrond kept in his house. He had laid her on the bed and started checking for wounds when his father came in.
"I do not know!" he answered the unasked question. "I found her this way. What is wrong?"
"Leave me to look at her. Go, get cleaned up. Send Elendil back with warm water and clean towels."
Elrohir went quickly to get his father's steward. Going to his room, he went over what had happened. The boy was not with her. Something was not right. She would not have gone down that alley on her own. Something, or someone, had convinced her to go. He should never have let her go alone. He should never have let Caldelen go with them.
He returned to the infirmary as soon as he was cleaned up. He found Seldala with Elrond and Erestor. They had gotten Ela cleaned up and changed into a clean nightgown. She was lying on her side and his father was examining her head.
"None of the blood was hers. Except a small amount on her skull. She will have a headache when she wakes up, and her nose is broken, but I think that is the extent of the damage. We will know in a few hours. Meanwhile, has anyone found Caldelen?"
"He showed up with Dorga. The Dwarf says he met him on his way here. Caldelen told him Ela had been attacked. He asked for help," Erestor said, from where he was standing by the window. There was an odd note to his voice.
"I want to speak to him."
"He has returned home."
Elrond turned back to the bed.
"I have done all I can for now. She will sleep for awhile. Seldala, will you stay with her?"
"Certainly, Lord Elrond. I will send for you when she awakes."
He left the room, followed by Erestor and Elrohir. They went to the library.
"Something does not fit," Elrohir stated. "She would not have gone off by herself like that. She told me she was going to Dorga's."
"No, she would not have tarried. She was going for tea, was she not?" asked Erestor.
"That is what she said." Elrohir grinned. "She said something about you did not think it fit for a lady."
"It is not. It is foul. He mixes it with a bit of that drink he is so fond of. It tastes like swamp water. There is nothing refined about it."
Elendil came to the library door with Dorga.
"Master Dorga! It is good to see you." Lord Elrond rose and greeted the Dwarf.
"Lord Elrond. How is she?"
"Sleeping, for now. It will be hours yet until she wakes. Would you like some wine?"
"Yes, thank you. This is most upsetting. I was surprised when Elrohir showed up at my door without Ela. When I told him she had not shown up, he went to find her. I ran here as quickly as I could. Does anyone know what happened?"
"Not yet. The guards say there are two dead men. One, apparently, she killed. Elrohir took care of the other one. I want to know how they gained access to Imladris. The wards should have prevented their entrance to the valley."
They were interrupted by Seldala.
"She is awake, Lord Elrond."
"Already? She should have slept for several hours. Who is with her?"
"Haldir wanted to stay. I saw no harm."
"No harm leaving her with one she considers the angry one?" Elrond asked lightly, a small smile tugging at his lips.
"He did not seem angry to me. I left him singing a lullaby."
"Then I will go see to her. Please, everyone, go to the dining room and get something to eat. It is getting late."
He went up the stairs that led to the bedrooms. He stopped in the doorway when Haldir put his finger to his lips. He could hear the ellon speaking, but no response. Softly crossing the room, he sat down next to the March Warden.
"Can you tell me what happened, sell?" Elrond had never heard him speak so softly.
She started to shake her head and almost gave into the nausea that threatened every time she moved.
Licking her lips, she whispered, "No."
"Do not worry. You can tell us later. Lord Elrond needs to see your head now."
"No!" she said, fearfully. "Do not touch me."
"He only wants to examine your wounds."
"NO!" She tried to move away. Something in her face must have told him what was coming. He grabbed the wastebasket sitting beside her bed. She managed to get her head over the basket before the nausea finally erupted. Lying back, her skin was white as chalk. Elrond got a damp cloth and tried to wipe her forehead and mouth. She turned her head and was rewarded with another bout of dizziness and near vomiting.
"I am here, sell." She came into the room. Taking the cloth from Elrond, she wiped Ela's face. The girl calmed down. There was sweat glistening on her forehead and upper lip from fighting the nausea. Elrond handed Seldala a glass of water. Ela managed a few swallows before sinking back onto the pillow. Within minutes she was asleep.
"What was that about?" asked Haldir.
"She was alone in that alley for several minutes before Elrohir found her. We do not know the intent of those men. If it was kidnapping, that would be one thing." Seldala paused. "If they meant something else, that could explain her fear. It would be better to check her when she is asleep. Go, I will sit with her."
"Thank you. I will come back in two hours and check her."
Elrond left the room, Haldir behind him.
"What do you intend?" Haldir asked.
"First, I intend to make sure she is alright. Then I want to know how those men got past the wards. They had to have come in with someone."
"I would like to stay a few more days, but then I must be getting back. You have my aid, if needed."
"It is appreciated. You have my leave to remain as long as you can. Go and eat. I am sure they are still in the dining room. I will be down shortly."
He went back to the doorway to Ela's room. Standing there watching her sleep, he thought back on the last five years. No, he thought back ever further, before she came. How could one small child have made such a difference? It had always been that way. He loved children. Maybe that was part of the reason he had welcomed every child of the Dunedain he had taken in. Distant kin or not. He would continue the practice until there was no longer a need.
But there was something different about this child. He was not sure yet what it was, but he felt it. The riddle of her past held the key to her future. If only he could solve it.
Smiling at Seldala, he turned and walked down the stairs. Going into the dining room, he found the men still sitting at the table, even though the hour was late.
"There was a trader came in a week ago," Dorga was saying. "I wondered at the time why he needed three assistants for a negotiation. But I figured it was not my business."
"Did you know the trader?" asked Elrohir.
"I did not. He was a man, that much I can tell you. Closemouthed."
Erestor rose and walked over to the window bench where Elrond had sat down.
"How is she?"
"Still sleeping. She would not let me touch her. Only Seldala. I think the pain may go deeper than just her head."
"She will bear watching. Head injuries are unpredictable. I have seen men walk away from a battle, only to drop dead days later."
"As have I. The knot on her head would indicate the probability that the blow did no more harm than the apparent surface damage, but I will pay close attention to it."
"Have you spoken to Caldelen?"
"Not yet. What do you think his role in this?"
"I believe he had something to do with it. I only hope it was through ignorance. I would not like to think he would deliberately put her in harm's way. However, I know that he is jealous of her. I am not sure why. Lately he has had a cruel bent in his comments to her. Not when he thinks anyone is listening, but it is there."
"I will speak with him tomorrow. There is nothing else to be done tonight. I will send Elrohir and Haldir to the village tomorrow to ask concerning our trader friend. No matter the initial intent, in the end, he tried to kill her. I would know the reason."
"I will see you in the morning then." Erestor nodded to Elrond and left, pausing to say goodnight to the others. Elrond turned and looked out the window. His peaceful valley was not the safe haven it was yesterday.
It took Elrohir and Haldir two days to ferret out the information they were looking for. But it was long enough for the "trader" in question to remove himself from their reach. He and his remaining assistant had been seen leaving the valley the same day as the attack, before the guards had been alerted. The search gained them only a name. Indrel. They had no idea who or what the name meant, but they would not forget.
Hearts, Pride And Legs Heal, And Life Goes On.
Within a week, Ela had ventured out of her room. She would not leave during the day, but early evening would find her in the library. She told Seldala the light hurt her eyes. She would not speak to any of the other elves. Erestor shifted his hours so that he could continue her lessons at night. She would not answer any of his questions or comments, but did the work assigned to her. The one time Caldelen came to the house, she disappeared. No one saw her leave, she was just gone. It did not escape Elrond nor Erestor's notice. Elrond's talk with the boy had gotten nowhere. He claimed the men knew Ela and wanted to talk to her. He got scared when things turned rough and ran to get help. He did not find it odd that the one person he ran to was beneath his contempt.
A month after the incident, Glorfindel entered the library, looking for Elrond. He had been out of Imladris at the time of the attack. He found Ela sitting in the corner of the window seat, crying. Unsure of whether or not he should approach her, he paused in the doorway.
"Can I help?" he asked softly.
She shook her head, slowly. The nausea had disappeared for the most part, but the dizzy spells still caught her by surprise.
He turned to go.
"Wait." He just caught the whisper.
Crossing the room, he sat down as far from her as the bench would allow.
"You went to the Halls of Namo." He knew she was aware of how much he disliked the subject of his death and return. If she was asking, she had a reason.
"Why did He let you come back?"
"I cannot answer that question. Why do you ask?"
"If he let you come back, maybe he will let Ada come back. I need him."
"I do not think that is a hope to cling to, sell. I am only one of two who have ever returned. It is not reasonable to believe your adar will be allowed to come back."
"Who speaks of reason? It is not reasonable to murder a man because you do not like his race. It is not reasonable to leave a deranged woman and small child in a boat guaranteed to sink. It is not reasonable for my uncle to want me dead. If I was reasonable, I would not have thoughts of walking off the terrace, without the benefit of the stairs. What is reason? I only know what I want. What I need. My adar." She paused. "He looked like you. I remember. But his hair was more silver. Yours is gold. More like the March Warden's. If you asked Namo, do you think he would release him?"
"I do not think that it is possible. Only the Valar know why they make the decisions they do. We can only accept."
"It is not fair. We were happy. There was no reason to do what Da did. Do men go to the Halls of mandos? I often wonder where my nana is. She was not Elven. It is sad to think they are not together."
Glorfindel sat back. He had gotten more information from her than all the searching done by his friends. He was anxious to get it to Elrond. Another piece to the puzzle.
He looked back at Ela. Her head was leaning against the window frame and she had fallen asleep. He rose and lifted a throw from a chair and covered her with it. He closed the door when he left. He did not waste any time finding Elrond.
Ela made her way down the back hall leading from the kitchen. She was carrying a pot of tea and two cups. Elrond had invited Dorga since it was evident that Ela would not leave the grounds. She had ventured only as far as the gardens behind the house. Even then, she would go only so far into the gardens. She was always within reach of a door.
Erestor happened to come up behind her. He was about to speak to her when she seemed to lose her balance and fell against the wall. The dropped teapot and cups shattered on the tile floor. Ela crumpled down on the floor, her back to the wall. She was holding her head and silently crying. He reached down to comfort her, but she flinched. Without saying a word, he bent down and started to pick up the broken pieces. When she was sure she would not pass out, Ela helped him. When they had the mess cleaned up, she followed him back to the kitchen. He helped her prepare another pot of tea. She got down two more cups and placed them on a tray. She allowed him to carry the tray to the small table in the garden. Setting the tray down, Erestor turned to leave. He smiled as his hearing picked up the almost inaudible voice saying only two words, "Thank you."
"You are welcome," was his soft reply.
Elrond went to the library window. He had been startled by a noise from the garden. The only thing he saw when he looked out was Dorga and Ela, having tea. The weekly visits had been going on for a month now. She was smiling more and Erestor informed him that she was speaking to him again. This was the first time he had heard her laugh in almost three months. She still would not leave the grounds. He was concerned that she refused to see Caldelen. He had been there four or five times to see her, but she informed Erentil to tell the boy she was indisposed. If anyone she did not know came, she disappeared. If they did not belong to the small group that inhabited her world, she had nothing to do with them.
Her lessons progressed at a much quicker pace, now that she did not have to wait for Caldelen to grasp what she picked up the first time. She was already past the level of education a human child would have received. If she had gone to Misty Haven, she would probably have settled down with some farmer and had children by now. She showed no interest in settling down with anyone. She did not seem inclined to ask the normal questions for one of her age.
As preparations began for the arrival of Arwen and her grandparents, Ela was released from most of her lessons. She still spent far too much time in the library, but Elrond had found her in the kitchen and shadowing Erentil. She did anything anyone asked of her. Except leave the house and surrounding gardens.
"Would you like to go to the village?" Erestor ventured one day. She had worked hard the day before and he had found her in the library, sleeping over her lessons.
"I do not think so. I have enough to do here."
"You have done enough. You should come and get out."
"Are you asking me to, or telling me to?"
"Asking, as always."
"Then no. I cannot."
"Very well, then. Tell Lord Elrond I will return this afternoon. What will you do today?"
"I have that new book Elrohir sent me. And a letter from Rosa. That will keep me busy."
"Read in the garden. You need some sun."
"What, my pale skin is not attractive enough, you want it pink?" she laughed. "Besides, it will bring out even more of the cursed spots."
"Learn to live with them, sell. They are a part of you. And they are not so bad."
"That is because you do not have any. I am sure my father would have thought them cute. Ugh. Such an odious word. Cute. That is what people say to be kind. 'Well, she is not beautiful, but she is cute. Is that puppy not cute? What a cute Orc'."
"I have never heard anyone say an Orc is cute."
"I am sure there is a mother Orc somewhere saying it. Surely they think a baby Orc is cute."
"I do not believe that Orcs are born. Where do you get these notions?"
"I am cursed with an inquisitive mind. I heard someone say that." She looked at him, slyly.
"You lurk in far too many corners for your own good. Are you ready for Arwen's visit?"
"For the most part. There is nothing much left to do until the last week before they arrive. Who is coming with her?"
"Her grandparents, Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel. More than likely Haldir will come. Maybe his brother RÃºmil. Several others you do not know."
"May I have a lock for my door?"
"Whatever for?" Her change in directions took him off guard.
"To lock it. Why else would one need a lock?"
"Why do you feel the need for a lock?"
"I just do. Do I need a reason?"
"You should have a reason for all you do."
"Well, then, I would like one to keep my cat in."
"Your cat uses the window. Do you need a lock for that as well?"
"Now that you mention it, yes. I thought the door would be more reasonable. Then I could get the window lock."
"Your mind runs in circles, sell."
"That would explain the dizzy spells. I am sure they have nothing to do with a hard blow to the head."
She watched the reason for her request finally dawn in his eyes.
"Can you never just say what is on your mind?"
"What, and deprive you of the joy of the riddle? You think too much like a man and an adult and an elf. It is really simple. I am afraid. The locks would make me not so afraid."
"They cannot get here, Ela."
"They could not get into Imladris, either. I never said it was a rational fear. Does the fear need to be valid to be felt?"
"Of course not. If it will make you feel safer, I will speak to Lord Elrond. I see no reason why he would refuse you."
"Meanwhile, get some rest. And go out to the garden."
"Yes, Lord Erestor. I will, as always, comply."
"Haldir is correct. That attitude will not serve you well."
"As it is the one thing that is totally mine, I think I will hold onto it a little longer. And he should talk."
"Go. Read your book."
"Have a pleasant day."
He turned and left the library.
Ela went to her room and got the small box she kept her writing things in. Grabbing her new book, she went out into the garden. Trying to decide where best to sit, she happened to glance up at the old tree house. Slinging the box over her shoulder and stuffing the book in the front of her shirt, she climbed up the tree. Settling down, she read the letter from Rosa first. Leaning back against the trunk, she wrote out an answer to the letter. She then picked up the book Elrohir had sent her. She had just gotten started when she heard someone in the garden. Peeking over the edge, she saw it was Caldelen. Careful to make no noise, she sat and watched him through a crack in the planking.
"Ela, I know you are up there. I want to talk to you."
She said nothing. He circled the tree house and tried to see her.
"Why are you so mad at me? I used poor judgment. I did not know those men would hurt you."
Still nothing from above.
"You are being childish. Come down so we can talk. If you do not, I will come up there."
"Go away. You are not welcome here. You did not just use poor judgment. You were stupid. What did you think three grown men would want with a girl? To say hello, we are your kin and we want you to come home?"
"That is what they said."
"And you were just angry enough with me to not think any further than what you wanted. I do not need friends like you. I want you to leave. Now."
"I am coming up. I cannot talk to you this way."
She started to panic.
"You cannot. It is not safe. You are too heavy."
"I am not."
"There is not enough room. I am warning you, Caldelen. Stay down. If you do not leave me alone, your arrows will not be the only things broken."
He began to climb the tree.
"Stop, Caldelen! It will not hold us both!"
"You are just a girl, and human at that. What do you know?"
"I know enough to have you banned from here. I did not tell anyone what really happened in that alley. I saw you. You did not use poor judgment. You set me up. Was it all your idea, or were you just handy?"
He stuck his head over the edge of the platform.
"Who would believe you? That blow to your head so scrambled your memories, who can say what happened?"
"I have never lied. They would believe me. You, however, are a poor excuse for an Elf. I wish I had never met you."
He climbed up and sat down on the floor of the tree house.
"See. I told you it would hold both of us. Now, I want to talk to you. I am sorry you were hurt. I did not want that to happen."
"You are only sorry they failed. I will not accept your apology. Get down, before I push you down."
"I am not leaving until we settle this."
"You can leave the way you came up, or the fast way. I am done speaking to you."
She turned and tossed her box to the ground. Before she could pick up her book, he had grabbed it.
"Give me that," she spat at him.
"Another priceless treasure from that meddlesome Elrohir? Why does he waste his time on you?"
"Because he is a real friend. Now give it to me."
She reached for her book, but instead met with his elbow. He had not meant to hit her, but he did not really feel sorry about it. She jerked back and grabbed her face. Realizing she was in danger of falling off of the platform, he tried to hold onto her arm. She lashed out and left four long, bloody furrows on his cheek. He howled and let go of her. He noticed the tree house had started to sway.
"Jump, Ela." The cry came from the ground. She recognized the voice, but could not place it. Her eyes were tearing so badly she could not see, but jumped instinctively. No matter how graceful she could be, she had never jumped from eight feet before. She could not see and set her bearings, and so landed hard on her right leg. She heard a bone break and felt the hot white agony that shot through her body. The hand that managed to catch her arm probably saved her from more injuries. Looking up, she still could not see well enough to see who it was.
"I tried to grab her!" That voice she recognized. She tried to get up.
"Lie still. You have a broken leg."
"Haldir? What are you doing here? You should not be here for another two weeks."
"Do not worry about that. What happened up there?"
"I would ask a favor."
"What is it, sell?"
"Tell that...that...Elf that the next time I speak to him, it will not be you, but my father standing between us."
"Are you injured, Caldelen?"
"No, March Warden. It was not a difficult jump." His voice carried just a trace of a sneer.
"Then I suggest you hightail it for home, before I let her up to finish whatever was going on up there."
Caldelen looked dumbfounded.
"We were just talking and I was teasing her about her book. There was an accident."
Leaving Ela lying on the ground, Haldir walked over to the boy.
"I heard what went on up there," he said in a voice so soft Caldelen struggled to hear it. For all of its softness, it carried a menacing tone that few had ever disregarded, and they were all dead. "You would do well to go and not return. If I hear that you bothered her again, I will be sure that Elrohir and Lord Elrond know what really happened in that alley. Is your life worth that little to you that you would risk their wrath?"
The boy's mouth dropped open, then closed. A look came over his eyes that Haldir had seen before. Hatred was such an ugly emotion. Caldelen turned and walked away. Haldir could hear him muttering about humans and Dwarves and the lowlife of the earth.
Hearing a gasp, Haldir turned back to the fallen girl. She had tried to get up again. He went and picked her up.
"You will not tell anyone how this happened, will you?"
"I am sorry, sell, but Lord Elrond is not going to let either of us off that easily. I will not tell what I overheard, but you must tell him how you fell out of the tree. I think you will find him understanding."
"He will not be if he finds out what I omitted telling them. Why, again, are you here?"
"We left earlier than planned and made good time."
"Then there are others here, as well?" He was startled at the panic in her voice.
"Yes. We came with a group. Why?"
"Will you take me to my room the back way? Then ask Him to come up?"
"What is the problem? Lord Elrond will want to see you right away."
"I know, but I need to go to my room." He could sense her groping for an excuse. "I forgot to let the cat out. She will be anxious."
"Yes, the cat. Are you deaf? She does not like being cooped up. Please, can we hurry?"
"Very well. But I want to meet this cat."
"You will, just get me to my room."
He carried her in through the kitchen and up the back stairs. Once in her room, he looked for the cat.
"I see no cat."
"She must have gotten out on her own. Good. Now you may go get Him."
"Ela, is this a game?"
"Oh, yes. The worse one I have ever played in my life. When Lord Erestor returns, would you ask him to see me?"
He sighed and turned to leave.
"The door, please," she called.
He shut the door. Shaking his head, he descended the stairs to find Lord Elrond.
He found him on the terrace with Lord Celeborn.
"Did you find her?" Elrond asked.
"Oh, yes, I did. She would beg your indulgence. She is in her room and would like to speak to you." Haldir's tone let Elrond know that something was amiss.
"If you will excuse me, Celeborn. I will return shortly."
Haldir followed him into the house.
"What happened?" Elrond asked.
"She fell out of the tree house. Her leg is broken and her pride shattered. Other than that, I think there is something else going on with her. She would not let me bring her through the house. She insisted I use the back stairs. Used her cat as an excuse."
"I have not had time to prepare her for visitors. We have only gotten her to leave the house in the last two months. She will not leave the grounds. She refuses to see Caldelen and will disappear if strangers are here."
"That would explain the fight in the tree house."
"Fight? What fight?"
"She and Caldelen were in the tree house arguing when I found them. It was not meant for such activity and started to collapse. I told her to jump, but she could not see and missed me. I sent the boy home."
Elrond reached for the doorknob to Ela's room. Before he could turn it he heard her call out.
"Who is it?"
"Haldir said you wanted to talk to me."
"I just bet he did." he heard her mutter. Then louder, "Please, come in. But no one else."
They entered her room. She was sitting up on the bed her leg stretched out in front of her. Elrond could see the bruising and swelling from the break.
"What happened?" he asked, looking over her leg.
"What did he tell you?" she countered, looking at the March Warden.
"That you fell from the tree. Should he have said more?"
"No. That is what happened. I fell."
"You have never fallen before. How is it you fell this time?" Elrond turned the leg and straightened it out more.
"A dizzy spell? Maybe I blacked out."
"And the black eye that you are going to have tomorrow?"
"Maybe Haldir is not as quick as I thought."
"Why is there blood under your fingernails?" He went to the end of the bed and picked up her foot.
She looked down at her fingers. "Well, that defies explanation. Did I accidentally scratch you, March Warden?" He winced at her sharp gasp when Elrond jerked her foot and the bone slid back into place.
"No, you did not. Maybe another reason is in the offing."
"No, I have no other." She winced as Elrond ran his hands up her leg.
"Hold still, Iell. This may hurt."
"And you could not have warned me about the other? That did not hurt?"
"You would have tensed up. I needed you relaxed."
"Thank you for that. Who is downstairs?
"Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel."
"How long are they staying?"
"I told you, several months. Hold still." He laid his hands on her leg and held them there for several minutes.
"Can I stay with Dorga?"
"No. It would not be seemly."
"Lord Erestor said he would return this afternoon. Did he know they would come early?"
"I believe so."
"He did not mention it. Why is it unseemly? We are friends."
"Yes, you are. I thought you did not want to go to the village."
"I do not, but I do not want to stay here, either. Did Lord Erestor speak with you about the locks?"
"Young girls do not just stay with older men."
"What are we doing?"
"That is different."
"Do we really need this conversation now? Erestor will be back and then you may ask him."
"Is the Elf coming?"
"Next week. He and Elladan both. Why?"
"I just thought they might help me build the tree house back up."
"Why do you not ask Caldelen?"
She glanced over at Haldir.
"He is too busy. I do not wish to disturb him. He is disturbed enough already."
Haldir coughed to hide a small laugh. It earned him a look from Elrond and a glare from Ela.
"Is there something you need to tell me, Ela?"
"No, Lord Elrond. There is much I want to tell you and more I probably should, but not today."
"You may come down in a couple of hours. Let the leg rest until then."
"May I eat here? I do not feel like company right now."
"You will have to come out of this room, sooner or later."
"Later would be better. Can I stay in here for a couple of months?"
"Now you are being silly."
"I know. Go down to your guests. I am sure they are much more interesting than my broken leg."
"I am going. And the leg is no longer broken. Just rest it."
"May I have a drink of water?"
"You may." Elrond went over to the wash stand and poured a cup of water. Haldir saw him slip something into the cup before he turned around.
"Here, Iell. Drink this."
She drained the cup.
"I would have slept with out the herbs, you know."
He smiled at her and watched her eyes slowly close.