Usual story about a girl among the elves. Or maybe not.
Ela went to the study to speak to Elrond. Finding it empty, she, she went back past the library. Entering, she stopped in front of the shelf that housed her personal books. Closing her eyes, she turned her thoughts inward and savored an early memory of her parents. An unremembered feeling entered her consciousness. Uneasiness settled as she realized she was no longer alone. She did not open her eyes, but frowned.
"That was not polite," she said softly.
The other one felt as if a door had slammed shut.
"You have a rare gift. Most cannot feel nor block me."
"That does not make it right."
"No, it does not. Of whom were you thinking?"
"My parents. How happy we were."
"What happened to them?"
"I am sure that Lord Elrond already explained that. Is there need to bring it up again?"
"You are a most unusual child. Who was your mother?"
"Depending on whom you would ask, a goddess, temptress, witch, savior, whore, traitor. Shall I continue?"
There was silence for several moments.
"Are you happy here?"
Turning, Ela opened her eyes. Galadriel noted the slight gleam in their depths.
"As happy as I can be. My parents are dead. I was torn from my home. However, I have found a home here. I am most content, for now. The time will come when I must leave,
but until then, this will do."
"Why must you leave?"
"Does not everyone leave at some point? You are no longer in Valinor. Lord Celeborn is no longer in Doriath. Eventually, everyone comes and goes elsewhere. Someday, I will
go to another place."
"You are correct. Do you know where you will go?"
She shrugged, a most unattractive habit of hers. "Not yet."
"May I ask a question?"
"Another one? Yes. If in my power, I will answer."
"How old are you?"
"I am fifteen. I was born at mid-summer. In fifteen years, I will mark my thirtieth birthday. If I were at home, my mother would make me a very pretty dress. There would be a
celebration, with guests and gifts. At that point, I will be considered no longer a child, but starting on my journey towards adulthood. In another ten years, a man will be permitted to
speak for me. Then it would be a matter of waiting until we decided to wed. I do not think my mother liked the last part. She said she would never force me to wed. I would choose. That
is why she left her people. They did not approve of my father. Actually, they hated him. They forbid her to wed him."
"Do you know why?"
"He was different. My mother said that her people did not like any who were different. His looks, his manners, his speech, all pointed to the fact he was not one of them. She did
not care. She loved him anyway."
"If you found a man you liked, when would you wed?"
"Anytime after my fortieth birthday. When we felt it was time. There is no hurry. My mother was seventy-five when they wed. She was far older when I was born. She had
angered her father by refusing any others. There was none left who would have her, no matter what she brought them. She was..." Galadriel could see her struggle for a word. "She was
obstinate. No man wants a woman he cannot control."
"That is unlike elves."
She grinned. "Yes, that has occurred to me. I have seen that also among men. They want a woman who can think, not blindly follow a man." She looked into Galadriel's
eyes. "You are very strong. You can think. You would not blindly follow any man nor allow one to lead you. Yet, are you wedded. Moreover, your Lord is not a man to be led. It seems
you suit each other."
"You see much more than you admit. Tell me of your father."
Ela closed her eyes.
"He was fair. All silver. Even his voice. When he spoke, it was like water running down a hill. His touch was like a feather. When he touched me, I felt safe and happy. He could
fix anything. Once, I fell from a tree. I hurt my arm. He fixed it and did not tell my mother. She worried so about me. My mother said I should be as lucky as she was. To find one who
made me safe."
Without opening her eyes, she said, "Good morning, Lord Erestor. We have a guest."
"So it would seem. Good morning, Lady.
"Ela, you are excused to prepare for tonight."
"Yes, Lord Erestor." Nodding, she left.
Elrond came in through the terrace door.
"What do you think?" Erestor asked.
"She is a very unusual child. She believes her father was Elven. I am inclined to agree. There is a wall I cannot penetrate. She is adept at blocking her thoughts. She also has
an ability to read things around her. She knew who I was before she saw me. Have you noticed this?"
"Some of it. She seems able to feel emotions. So far, it is as erratic as her questions are. She said the snake in the stables liked her. When asked if he told her that, she said
no, she just felt it. There have been the problems with Caldelen. He is very jealous of her. She noticed this early and has been avoiding him for months. I do not think the boy knows how
serious it is. Elrohir and Haldir both have spoken to him."
"Have you found out who her mother's people were?"
"Not yet," replied Elrond. "We have two names, and small bits she has given. Elrohir said she mentioned the word Indrel last week. She mentioned it again yesterday. I know
of no people by that name, but the far southeast is an open and mostly unknown area. He will check it out when he returns to the Rangers. It seems the older she gets, the more she
"It may be that the attack on her brought forward memories and abilities that were meant to remain dormant for yet a while. She will bear watching. She says she is fifteen, yet
her words speak of maturity beyond that, while her actions often prove her younger. She is torn. She is trying to fit in to our world, while remembering her own. The young are known to
do foolish things when confused."
"The watching for now will not be a problem. She barely leaves the house and only goes as far as the gardens. She will not leave the grounds without an escort." Elrond
paused and looked at Galadriel. "Thank you for speaking with her. I had hoped you could reach her. I know she is hiding something."
"When the time comes, I am sure she will share with you. I will see you at lunch. I promised my husband a walk in the gardens."
Both men bowed to her. She went in search of her Lord.
Misery Loves Company
The feast set for that night was an elaborate affair. Seldala had seen that Ela had a new gown to wear. She had argued about wearing it, but since it was insisted upon, she
made the best of it and did not fuss too much. It was a deep sapphire with slippers to match. Seldala had even found ribbons for her hair in the same shade. By the time for dinner had
arrived, she was actually looking forward to the evening.
When she finally came down the stairs, she found Elldar had also been required to dress up.
"I do not feel so bad, now," she said to him.
"Why, because I am miserable?"
"I did not want to wear this. I would rather have worn my trousers and a tunic. This feels unnatural."
"Not to mention it looks unnatural."
"At least I can take my shoes off during dinner. No one ever notices."
"Do you do this often? I mean the fancy dinner thing."
"More than I like. Whenever someone important comes to see Ada, I have to dress up. It is most unfair. They did not come to see me."
"Well, I cannot wait to get out of these clothes."
"That will not be very long. We will be excused early. They will be up all night dancing and singing and drinking."
"Well, that is something. What will we do?"
"We can go up to my room and play a game, or go to the library. I still have some work to finish for Lord Erestor. Then there is always the tree house. Sometimes I spend the
night there. It is peaceful, once you get used to the waterfalls."
"Let me know when we can leave. At home, I do not usually have to attend these things."
"All right. You decide what you want to do later."
She turned as Seldala came down the stairs.
"Are you ready, Sell?" she asked.
"As ready as I ever am for this."
"Then, come on. They are waiting." Seldala smiled as Erestor came up behind her and took her hand, placing it on his arm.
"Come, younglings. It is time for dinner."
Elldar shrugged, a habit he had picked up from Ela, and put her hand on his arm, imitating Erestor. He led her into the dining room to the places assigned to them. After holding
her chair for her, he took the seat next to hers. Ela gave a start when she heard a voice behind her.
"That is my chair, boy. Go sit somewhere else."
Elldar looked back at Caldelen.
"I was not aware you would be here. Please forgive me. I had not realized this was your chair. One moment please." He looked at the back of the chair and then turned it
over. Haldir watched him, confused. What was the boy doing?
"Again, I apologize, but your name does not seem to be anywhere on this chair. Maybe they are switched. Would you like help finding yours?"
Haldir's elbow slipped off the table. He was hard pressed to keep from laughing. He expected a comment like that from Ela, but not Elldar. She was becoming a bad influence.
Caldelen turned red and looked around. Most of the adults had glanced away, but he caught a glimmer of a smile on Elrond's lips. Since his parents had been invited, there had
been no choice but to include Caldelen. Elrond did not have to like it. He had warned Erentil to keep an eye on the boy. Even with so many there, he did not entirely trust him.
The conversation during dinner flowed around and over Elldar and Ela. They had their heads together quietly talking to each other. If one happened to look up, the one sight that drew their attention was Caldelen glaring at them from down and across the table. Haldir caught his look more than once. He had warned RÃºmil earlier that Caldelen would be
attending. Whenever his younger brother could tear himself away from Glorfindel's tales, he also watched the boy.
Before she knew it, dinner was over. The company that usually prompted these events had always bored Ela. This was the first time she had ever enjoyed herself.
Elrond led everyone into the Fire Room. There were roaring fires in both fireplaces. The season might be warm, but the night had cooled down. Glorfindel went over to where
the musical instruments were waiting. He picked up a lute and started to tune it. Three others went over and picked up flute, lute, and a drum. At his nod, Ela went and got her lute.
Although not proficient, she could keep up on some of the songs. As they started to play, Elrond led Arwen out into the open. Ela smiled to see Erestor and Seldala move onto the floor.
Soon, the area was crowded with dancers. Elldar sat close to Ela and watched her fingers strum the strings. Her small fingers faltered some, but it seemed more due to lack of size to fit
the neck of the lute, than lack of ability. Looking around the room for his uncles, his eyes rested on Caldelen. He was watching Ela avidly. Elldar heard a very sour chord and glanced at
her. She had stopped playing, staring at Caldelen. Elldar sensed that she had felt the older boy's emotions. He took the lute from her and took her hand.
"I want to dance," he said.
She allowed herself to be led out to the floor. Neither of them was very good at dancing, but they laughed at each other and had fun. A hand on his shoulder startled Elldar. He
looked up to see his eldest uncle standing behind him.
"When you are finished, I would like a dance."
"Certainly. You may have it now." Elldar stepped back.
Haldir took Ela's small hand in his and placed his other hand on her shoulder. She concentrated on her feet, willing them to keep from stumbling.
"It is easier if you do not watch your feet. Just feel the rhythm. Let the music guide you."
She looked up into his eyes. He was struck with the vividness of them. They glittered with a small inner light. The freckles crossing her nose had deepened since she had begun
spending more time outdoors. The deep crimson of her hair had lightened to gold, streaked with fire. The light from the lamps and candles gave her tresses a life of their own. If he used
his imagination, he could make out tiny points on her ears. He wondered, not for the first time, who her father was.
"Where did you learn to dance?" she asked.
"From my mother. She used to dance with me when I was a child."
"Where is she now, if it is permissible to ask?"
"It is. She faded when my father was killed."
"That must have been hard for you."
"It was. It left me with two small brothers. Than in itself was hard enough. They were not the easiest of children to raise. Still, they turned out well enough."
"How old were you?"
"Just short of my majority."
"How could she just leave you like that? Did she not love you?"
He broke his gaze from her eyes. He had not discussed this in so many years. She could feel the pain.
"I am sorry. I did not mean to pry. It is not good for me to ask such questions."
"It is alright. I see Elldar is impatient to reclaim you. Thank you for the dance." He nodded to his nephew, who came forward.
"Thank you, Elldar. Watch your other uncle. If he can tear himself away from that girl in the corner, he will be over to bother the two of you."
They glanced over to where RÃºmil was chatting with an older girl. Ela remotely knew her. Dariela, or something like that.
Elldar firmly took possession of Ela's hand and swung her around.
"He will have to find us first," he laughed, moving into the crowd.
"That was interesting," Ela commented. "This night is full of surprises."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, this is the most fun I have ever had at one of these dinners. Your uncle is a walking revelation. And, RÃºmil is interested in more than balrogs. I wonder what else this
evening will bring."
They had worked themselves to the doors leading to the terrace. There were several couples already drifting from the overheated room to the cool air outside.
"Would you like something to drink?" he asked.
"That would be nice. Ada has some wine set aside for us. It is slightly watered down, but still tastes good. Just ask Erentil."
She watched him go back into the house.
"Finally, I thought he would never leave."
She spun around at the words and came face to face with her former friend.
"Go away. I do not know how you managed to be allowed to attend, but you are not allowed to speak to me."
"If I was not allowed, do you not think someone would have stopped me by now. I want to talk to you. About us." He slowly worked her over to a dark corner.
"There is no us. You ruined that months ago. Even before that day in the alley. If you leave me alone, you will not have to worry about anyone else finding out. Not because I
would spare you, but I do not want anyone finding out how stupid I can be. I wish that I had never met you."
"That will make the future difficult. I plan on asking that I be permitted to exchange rings with you." He waited for her response. He saw Elrohir come out onto the terrace,
looking for something, or someone. He was startled by the laugh that sounded in his ear.
"You are what!" she exclaimed, between laughs. "You cannot be serious. I am too young. You are too young. Go back to our game of hiding your bow. You have a better
chance of keeping it from me than gaining my acceptance of you. I know what kind of husband I want, and you are not it."
He grabbed her arm and shook her. "Stop it. Do not laugh at me!"
"I cannot help it."
"What is going on here? Caldelen, let go of her. Ela, what are you doing?"
She held up her hand. When she could speak again, she looked at her brother.
"Oh, Elf. He has told me the funniest joke. I could not control myself."
"Would you care to share it?"
"Oh, no, it was too stupid. It made no sense. It had no point."
"Then why was it so funny?"
"It was the delivery, and the teller. Someday, I may share it, but it is too precious now."
Elrohir scowled at the boy.
"Come on, Ela. Elldar is looking for you. He has your wine."
"Goodbye, Caldelen," she said, bowing slightly. "Our talk has been most enlightening. I trust you will learn from it and do nothing you will regret." She turned before he could
say anything. Elrohir followed.
"What did he say?" Elrohir asked when they were inside. He went over to a bench along the wall. They sat down and waited for Elldar to find them.
"Will you tell your father?"
"No unless it will harm you not to."
"He wants to exchange rings."
He stared at her, speechless. "That was the joke? I can see how you would find it funny, but he was not amused. He is very angry right now."
She shrugged. "That is not my fault. You know how dense he is. I told him to his face I do not want him. He just insisted on speaking to Ada. I would love to hear that
"Ela, this is not a game. The boy is serious."
She sobered and looked up at him. "Do you not think I know that? What would you have me do? Tease him with false promises? I have told him no. I have pointed out the
reasons, least of all that I do not like him. Short of dragging your father into it, what can I do? He knows I cannot claim I love another. I am too young for even that game."
"But you do, correct? There is another. There is nothing wrong with that. Now is the time for you to explore your options. Decide your future. Does this other one know?"
"No," she whispered. "It would not be right. Besides, would I not be better off with one of my mother's people? They must have a reason for wanting me back."
"No good reason. You should forget about them. You are more Elven than anything else, even if only by upbringing. You would not fit into their society. Trust me. I have seen
it. Those raised in the closed confines of the havens of elves do not do well in the outside world. It may have been a disservice to have kept you all these years, but you have not been
unhappy, have you?"
"No. Lonely, sometimes, but never unhappy. And, you have been a family to me. I have been honored to be permitted to live here. Lord Elrond has been very good to me. Even
Lord Erestor has done everything he could to teach me. I would not throw any of that away. Besides, I think your father was glad to have a child again. Maybe he would like more."
"Do not even think that," he laughed. "We do not intend to settle down as long as the unrest exists. Moreover, I have not seen Arwen hastening towards a relationship with
any. Maybe another waif will show up in a boat."
"Maybe, but I would not bet on that happening again. When you leave, will you do me a favor?"
"Will you look for my mother's people? I would only like to know. I feel like half of a person."
"I will. Here comes Elldar. I think it best you stay in here for the rest of the evening. Do not wander outside. It is only by chance I found you this time."
"I will not leave. Besides, this is the first time I have ever had fun."
"I will blame that on Elldar. Company makes even the most tedious task bearable."
"Thank you, Elf."
He smiled. "Are you always going to call me that?"
"Do you object? I will stop only if it bothers you. Not because it bothers Haldir."
He laughed. "I do not. Enjoy your evening." He rose to leave, as Elldar reached them.
"I want a dance," she called after him. He raised his hand and waved it in acknowledgement.
"Where did you go? I looked outside and you were gone."
"I am sorry. I had to see to something."
"Is everything alright?"
"It is for now. Keep an eye on Caldelen. He is very unhappy right now."
"How much longer do you want to stay?"
"Unless you want to leave, I would like to stay a little longer. I am actually having fun. Who would have thought it?"
"I know my uncle would like a dance. I am not sure why. He is all over that girl over there." They both glanced to where RÃºmil was sitting with yet another girl.
"I do not know that one. He is persistent."
"He is fickle. I can think of at least four girls back home. He knows he is safe here."
The object of their discussion looked up to see them staring. He spoke to the girl and came over to them.
"Would you care to dance?" he asked Ela.
"Certainly. Although you might be more comfortable with the girl you just left."
"No, I want to dance with you."
He took her hand. Elldar watched as they gracefully started to dance. She had improved with the evening. He had seen his eldest uncle speaking to her; maybe he had helped
As they danced, Haldir watched her from time to time. It escaped her understanding, until she saw that he was also watching her former friend, who was also watching her. The
look on the boy's face was too easy to read. Haldir thought it time to remove the temptation from Caldelen's reach. Striding over to where Elldar sat, he joined him.
"How do you like it here?"
"It is different. Too formal, though. I miss home."
His uncle laughed. "So do I. I think it would be alright for you to leave, if you want."
"I will ask her. She promised a dance to Elrohir. Is she really coming to visit this summer?"
"Good. It is lonely being the only child around. Do you think she will miss all of this?"
"Probably not most of it. She does not like the formality any more than you do. It is just something with which she has grown up. I know she is happiest when in the library, or
in her tree house."
"Then she will fit in. All we have are trees."
They both watched as Ela came towards them. She was flushed and her eyes were lit up.
"Your brother is a terrible flirt."
"He does do a lot of it."
"No, I mean he is terrible. Someone should teach him how to do it. He is so obvious."
"Well, it has stood him well for a long time. As he is not yet wedded, his technique has either done him harm or good, depending on how you look at it."
"I would say it has done him good. He is not ready for that."
"Are you ready to leave? I would like to see you to where the two of you are going to spend the rest of the evening."
"I promised the Elf a dance. When we are finished, I can leave, if Elldar wants to..."
"My turn." Elrohir came up beside them. He took off with Ela before she could finish her sentence.
"Are you sure she will not miss all of this?" asked Elldar.
"Her brothers leave the day after tomorrow. We leave in three days. Soon it will be just her and the few here. She will not have anything much to miss."
Before she could return after the dance, Elrond had claimed her. She was kept busy the next few dances. The only one she turned down was Caldelen.
By the time she returned to Elldar, she was ready to leave.
"I want to change, then I think I would like to go to the tree house. It is not too cold."
Elldar agreed and Haldir followed them to the back of the house.
"I will meet you in the kitchen," said Elldar. She nodded at him and started up the back stairs, Haldir following.
"I will not be long," she said, outside her room. She went in and closed the door. He noticed she did not lock it. Soon her need for locks would be far away. Within minutes, she
opened the door back up. She was dressed in leggings and a wool tunic. He smiled to see her clutching a blanket and her doll. Fifteen, huh? He saw past her that she had laid her dress
carefully over the chair.
"Are you ready?" he asked.
"Yes. I want to stop in the kitchen to get some snacks. Dalgren will have a basket ready."
He led the way down the stairs. The promised basket was on the small table in the corner. Elldar had not come in yet, so they sat down.
"If you live in trees, are your tree houses on the ground?" she asked, grinning.
"Not everyone lives in the trees. Actually, not even most do. Orophin and Gariel live in a house outside the city walls."
"Oh. Do you live in a house?"
"RÃºmil and I both live in a talan."
"Why does Orophin not?"
"Gariel will go up into the trees, but she prefers the ground. It is handier."
"Where does Arwen live?"
"She lives with her grandparents, the Lord and Lady."
"I think it will be different from Imladris. Quieter."
"It is. There are no waterfalls. Just the Celebrant. However, to hear the wind in the mallorn trees is worth the trip. LÃ³rien is surrounded by the plains of Rhovanion on two
sides. The Misty Mountains are to the west and Fangorn to the south."
Elldar came into the kitchen, interrupting their talk.
"I am ready," he said.
Haldir picked up the basket and saw them to the tree house before returning to the party.
Indulgence Can Be Painful
For the next several days, Elldar and Ela were inseparable. Except for her lessons in the early morning hours, they managed to spend every waking hour together. Elrohir and
Elladan took them riding, but did not let them out of their sight. Haldir found them in the tree house one day, reading one of her Dwarvish books. It was a book of children's stories. He did
not understand her fascination with the literature of Dorga's people. Personally, he did not think it well written or of any benefit.
She came into the library to talk to Elrond. He was at his desk finishing up some correspondence. She waited patiently until he was done. Erestor came in with another stack of
papers. Elrond looked up at her soft sigh.
"Did you need something, Ela?"
"Just a request."
He set aside the letters and went to sit beside her. "What is it?"
"My birthday is soon."
"I have decided what I would like."
"And what is that?"
She glanced from one to the other.
"Earrings? You want to put holes in your ears?"
"Yes. I have thought long about it. I think that I would look good in earrings."
"Ela, elves do not pierce their ears. It is just not done."
"Why not? I think Lady Seldala would look beautiful with earrings."
"It is just not done. Elves do not pierce their ears."
"You mentioned that. Well, then if I am only half Elven, then I will get the Indrel half pierced. That way, I will offend no one."
Elrond sat back. "Are you sure this is what you want?"
"Yes. Dorga said that the human healer in the village could do it. It is safe. He does it for the others."
"And if I say no?"
"Then I will be disappointed, but I will not. I will wait until I can do it myself."
"Are you absolutely sure about this?"
"It will hurt."
"More than when you healed the broken leg? More than getting kicked by my pony?"
"Alright," he laughed. "You have made your point. You have my permission."
"Thank you, Ada." She gave him a quick hug and ran from the room.
"Earrings?" Elrond said to Erestor.
"Her flights of independence take a different path than did your other charges."
"Yes, they do. I will take her tomorrow. She wants to visit Dorga, anyway."
Dorga was more than a little surprised to see Elrond, trailed by Elldar, with Ela the next day. He ushered them in and found a chair for the Elf. Elldar had never met a Dwarf
before. He had mixed feelings about going there, but found the small man very interesting. Elldar received more than a healthy dose of bad poetry and worse songs. He would have to
remember to edit his reports of his visit to Imladris when speaking to his mother.
Pouring tea for them, Dorga glanced at Elrond.
"So, what brings you to my humble abode, Lord?"
"It seems your bad influence on a certain girl. She wants to have her ears pierced, and it seems I have you to thank for it."
The Dwarf laughed. "Do not blame me for that. I only told her where to go. I did not want her to have just anyone do it. But I did tell her she had to gain your consent."
"Well, thank you for that. She waylaid me yesterday. I brought her down to have it done. I hope she knows what she is doing."
"Most of the women of men and Dwarves have it done. It is not an uncommon practice."
"It is among elves."
"I would not worry. It is just two small holes."
"In otherwise perfect ears. Why is it so important?"
"In some cultures, it is a sign of maturity. In others, a sign of unavailability. With her, it is just a desire to flex her wings. She saw several of the village girls with earrings and
wanted to fit in."
"It will not help her in LÃ³rien."
"So, you intend to send her there? It will be less handy for a certain elf I know. How does she feel about it?"
"I have not yet told her. She will not take it well."
"You have a flair for understatement. I expect she will fight tooth and toenail."
"Aye, she will fight it, but she will go."
"She will. I shall miss her. She has been a joy. I look forward to our visits. I will have to remember to send her some of my tea."
"The elves of LÃ³rien will not thank you for that. Send plenty." They both laughed.
Elrond looked over to where Ela was showing Elldar some of Dorga's trade samples.
"It is time, Sell. Your appointment is soon."
"Yes, Ada. Thank you, Dorga, for your hospitality. I will see you tomorrow for tea?"
"Yes, child. I will be there."
"Goodbye, then." She went to the door and waited while Elrond and Elldar gave their goodbyes.
Walking down the street, Elrond noticed that she was moving slower.
"Second thoughts?" he asked.
"Maybe just a little."
"Good. I would not feel you had thought it through if you did not have them."
They stopped in front of the healers shop. Ela took a deep breath and went through the door that Elrond held open for her.
"Lord Elrond. I did not know you would bring her personally." Melkin came to greet them. "Welcome. Are you ready?" he asked Ela.
"Come then. I have everything waiting." He led her into the private room. She sat down in the chair.
Elrond followed, but kept out of the way. He saw her blanch at the sight of the needle, but she did not say anything.
"This will numb it up a little," said Melkin, rubbing a swatch of cloth on her ears. "You will still feel a pinch, but nothing worse."
He waited several minutes to allow the anesthetic to take effect. He then picked up a large needle and placed a small piece of hardwood behind her earlobe. Quickly pushing the
needle through her ear, he heard her gasp. Pulling the needle out, he placed a drop of alcohol in the hole. He then placed a very small stud in her ear. Moving to the other side, he
repeated the process. Handing her a mirror, he sat her up.
"How do you like them?" he asked.
"They are beautiful. I like them. I cannot wait to show Dalgren. She said I would not be able to go through with it. What do you think, Ada?"
"Your Indrel ears look beautiful. Come, it is time to go. How much is the fee, Melkin?"
"It is taken care of, Lord Elrond. It was a gift for her birthday. The Elf paid for the earrings and the piercing was my gift."
"He just said he was The Elf," Melkin said with a grin.
"Elrohir. Ela, what did he have to do with this?"
"Not much. He said that if I could talk you into it, then he would get me the earrings. I did, and he did."
"LÃ³rien is in trouble."
The next day, Ela was in the library before light. Dorga would be there at two and she wanted to be done long before then. She went over her lessons one last time before
Erestor was to arrive. Satisfied, she folded her hands and closed her eyes.
Erestor came through the door, interrupting her thoughts.
"Ela, you are excused this morning. Dorga has sent word he cannot come this afternoon. He asks if this morning would suit."
"How can one have afternoon tea in the morning?" she asked, opening her eyes.
"I am sure you will find a way."
"Would you care to join us, lord?"
"You know the answer to that very well. His tea is a poison that will slowly kill."
"Probably. Nevertheless, it would be a pleasant way to spend a millennium. I have a kitten yet. Did you change your mind?"
"No, sell. One is enough. Go now. Get ready for your tea. He will be here in two hours."
"That is enough time to see the snake." She stood and bowed. "Thank you, Lord Erestor."
"You are welcome."
"Would it be much trouble to have tea on the front terrace? Ela asked Dalgren.
"No, sell. Are you sure?"
"Yes. I want to look out over the valley. I am tired of the mountain behind us."
"Very well. I will see to it. How many will there be?"
"Maybe four. Do you have cakes today? Dorga loved them last week."
"I think there may be some stale ones from the other night. How will that be?"
"Better than nothing, barely. I know you made cakes yesterday. Please say you made extra."
Dalgren laughed. "You know I did. Yes, there are enough for your tea."
"Thank you," she said, giving the older woman a hug.
She went out to the terrace to see if it would do. She found the broom in a corner and started sweeping up the leaves that had blown from the trees. A squirrel chattered under
one of the small tables. Ela went over and crouched down.
"What are you doing here? There are no nuts. If you wait, there will be cake. How does that sound?" The animal cocked its head as if listening to her. Suddenly, it bolted from
the terrace. Ela turned to see Galadriel sitting in a far corner.
"Lady," she said standing and bowing politely.
"Come here, sell." Ela warily went over to her.
"You do not like me much, do you?"
"I did not know it was required of me to like you."
"It is not," the woman said, laughing. "However, why is it you do not?"
"I cannot say. I do not care to have someone read my private thoughts. They are mine. They are the only things I have. You reach out and try to see what is there. If I wanted
to share, I would. It should be my choice."
"I understand. I will try not to intrude upon your thoughts."
"What did the animal say to you?"
"Nothing. He does not speak elvish and I do not speak squirrel. He was just looking for food."
Dalgren came out, followed by one of the kitchen help. They bore trays of cups and cakes. Setting them down on a table, Dalgren turned to Ela.
"Will you require anything else, lady?"
"Maybe another cup. You never know who may drop in for tea. Are you making bread this afternoon?"
"You know I have already done it. You should not spend so much time in the library."
"Well, maybe tomorrow. Thank you, Dalgren."
"You are welcome."
"You could join us," Ela said.
"Yes, and I could wed an Orc. However, we both know I will do neither. Enjoy your tea. I see Master Dorga coming up the steps."
Ela ran over to the head of the steps. Running back to the table, she set the cups just so. She laid out napkins and tiny plates. By the time Dorga had finished his climb, she had
everything the way she wanted it. He handed her a small bottle, which she poured into the teapot.
She turned as Lord Celeborn came through the door. She bowed and showed him his chair. He in turn held hers out for her. When they were all seated, Ela poured the tea.
Celeborn thanked her and took a sip. They watched to see what he would do.
"This is not the worst mixture I have ever drunk. I remember an old Dwarf who made his so strong, it could melt the cup."
"Then how did you drink it?" Ela asked.
She sat for several seconds, and then broke out in laughter. Dorga joined her.
"I do not believe that you have ever drunk this before."
"Believe what you will, I have had it. Once. However, that was enough. You do this every week?"
She nodded her head as she bit into one of the little cakes.
"We have been doing it for almost five years. Caldelen quit after a couple of weeks. He said we have no taste. Of course, he did not understand the poetry and the jokes were
over his head." She looked at him. "Would you like to hear a poem?"
"An Orc said to a lady
'How do you do?'
She turned to look at him
And said, 'The same to you.'
It bothered her not
That he was not her kind
For it was soon discovered
She was totally blind"
"That was interesting. Where did you learn that?"
"From the Elf. He did tell me not to recite it to his father, but you are not his father. He told me some others, but I cannot tell them to you."
"What are you doing?"
Ela looked up to see Elldar standing in the door.
"We are having tea. I would invite you, but it is for adults."
"You are not an adult."
"Yes, well, in that case you may join us then, but do not tell your uncles. They would not approve."
He sat in the empty chair. She poured him a cup and waited. He took a large swallow, and then realized what it tasted like. Ela later swore he turned at least three shades of
green before he managed to swallow the rest of the mixture.
"What is this stuff?"
"Tea. Was there something wrong with it?" She turned to the Dwarf. "I told you, Dorga, it has to be fresh. Now he will probably get sick."
Elldar looked stricken. He was caught up in a coughing spell when his uncles came up the steps. The sight they beheld was priceless. Celeborn had a very small smile on his
lips. Ela was laughing so hard there were tears running down her cheeks. Dorga was looking out over the valley. Then they noticed their Lady sitting in the corner, smiling.
"What is wrong with the boy?" Haldir demanded.
"I think he is getting ready to throw up," laughed Ela.
"His tea went down wrong," said Dorga.
"His mother will never let him leave LÃ³rien again," added Celeborn.
"Would you like some tea?" asked Ela, innocently. She managed to take a drink with a straight face.
"Tea?" said Haldir.
"Yes, tea. We are having a tea party. That is what you drink at tea parties. Tea. And cakes."
"Very well. We will have some tea," he said, humoring her.
"That is not a good idea." Elrond walked out onto the terrace. "It is laced. With poison, I think."
Haldir decided to take his chances. He and RÃºmil both accepted cups. By the time they got it down, everyone was laughing so hard, Erestor came out to see what the commotion
was. He shook his head in disgust.
"It is bad enough you indulge her and allow this foul ritual, but to let her suck others into it, that is not right." He turned and went back to his office.
Ela suddenly stood up and took a step towards the edge of the terrace. The cup she was holding shattered on the stone paving. She went as far as the railing would allow and
even leaned over. Her gaze was fixed on the mountains to the northeast.
"Ela, come away from the edge," Elrond said to her. "Ela! Get her!" She had leaned out farther than was prudent.
"They are dying!" she cried. She backed down from the railing. Celeborn was closest and caught her before she fell to the ground. He almost dropped her in shock. When he
looked down into her face, there was blood running from her nose. "Help them, please! They are dying!"