Not the usual, but rather a slow paced story of growing up.
"Who is dying?" demanded Elrond.
"The people. So many." Galadriel reached out to help her. When she touched the girl, she recoiled as if burned. Elrond looked at her, but was drawn by exclamations from the others.
Looking up towards the mountain, they could see smoke.
"Where is that?" asked Haldir.
"Misty Haven. Edain village, just over the mountain." Elrond looked down at Ela. Her eyes were open, but she did not see anything. He took her from Celeborn and went into the house with her.
"What happened?" asked Erestor, meeting him in the hallway. He could see that Ela was pale, and the blood on her shirt. His thoughts were drawn back to when Elrohir had brought her from the village, months ago.
"I do not yet know. Find Seldala." He went up the stairs to Ela's room. Laying her on the bed, he found a towel and wiped the blood from her face. His hand touched her cheek. He drew back. The thoughts he had felt were chaotic and horrifying. He had seen people slaughtered. Women and children. Was this what she had seen? He looked down at her. She was sweating and her skin was white. Her eyes were unresponsive. He moved aside as Seldala came in. She took the girl's hand in hers. He was relieved that she did not seem to feel what he had felt. He left and went back down to the terrace. There he found Celeborn and Galadriel, looking up at the mountains. Elldar sat in the corner, trying to be inconspicuous.
"Haldir and RÃºmil left with your sons to investigate," Celeborn spoke softly. Looking down at the blood that soiled the front of his robe, he did not know how to ask the next question. "She saw what happened. Did you know about this?"
"No. Did you feel it? When you touched her?"
"Yes. As did Galadriel."
"Who is the man hanging in the tree?" she asked, coming closer.
"You saw that?" She nodded. "Her father. He was murdered by her mother's people."
"Elrond, that child is very troubled. Her people tried to kill her. Her parents murdered in front of her. She cannot even sort out what she is. From what you have told us and what we have seen, how could she ever live in the outside world?" Her voice was soft and carried much concern.
He sighed, in resignation. "I do not think she could. She has doubts about it. She has already spoken to Erestor. We have discussed it at length. I have reconciled myself to the fact that she will probably never leave Imladris. Unless to another haven."
"Do you think to send her to LÃ³rien? Who would care for her? She is too young to be on her own. How would she adjust, after living here? It is vastly different. It will not be what she is used to."
"I no longer know what to do. If she stays here, I am afraid she will come to more harm. Caldelen has a dislike for her that could destroy both of them. I know he is not innocent in his part of the attack on her four months ago. He arranged to deliver her to those men. I just cannot prove it. Whoever they are, they are determined to have her. I fear they will try it again. Is it still all right that she visits later this summer? By then, we may have sorted this out."
"Of course," said Celeborn. "She will be welcome. I am assured that Gariel will make a place for her."
"Thank you. How are Orophin and his wife?"
"They are well. I am sure that they are missing their son by now. At least she will have a few friends when she arrives."
"I am sorry your visit had to be so involved. At least we settled on a plan for Mirkwood. Will you be staying much longer?"
"I think it time to return home. Your hospitality and home are both gracious, but I miss LÃ³rien." Elrond chuckled at Celeborn.
"It surely must be quieter."
"At times. However, it has been an enjoyable visit. Has Arwen decided to return or stay?"
"I think she will return with you. She is glad to visit, but she cannot stay yet."
"She is, as always, welcome. I look forward to Ela's visit later. She is a most interesting child. Erratic, but interesting."
"I am sure Erestor could fill you in on erratic. He has had the main dealing with her for five years. I am surprised he does not have more headaches."
Seldala's pause in the doorway interrupted the conversation.
"She is asking for you," was all she said.
"I am coming," he replied. "Excuse me," he said to Celeborn and Galadriel.
"May we come?" asked Galadriel.
"You may try. She will not let many past her door. You may be disappointed."
"I will chance it."
"Very well then. Follow me."
They went into the house and up the stairs. Seldala opened the door to Ela's room. A scent of lavender floated out.
"Sell, you have company. Is it alright?" They could hear her ask the girl. They could not hear her answer.
Seldala turned to Elrond and nodded. He entered the room, Celeborn and Galadriel behind him. Ela was sitting in her chair by the open window. Elrond took in her pallor and looked deep into her eyes. At least they were bright again.
"How do you feel?" he asked her.
"Like I have been dropped off a cliff. What of the people?"
"Your brothers went to see. They should return by tomorrow."
"They will not find much. Those men were thorough. Only the outlaying areas will have escaped. The men were brutal, but not very intelligent. They should have made sure of the fringes first."
Galadriel's eyes lost their focus as she looked out the window.
"The child is correct. Not many in the village are left."
"I guess that men are also able to commit kinslaying. Caldelen was right."
"No, Iell, he was not entirely right. Only some men would do this. Most would not."
"What difference does it make if you cannot tell who will and who will not? You cannot trust anyone." She looked at him with pain in her eyes. "Men kill, Indrelan kill, I know one elf who would like to. Are there no people not bent on killing someone? Wait. The Halflings. They have no history of murder. Are they the only ones?"
Elrond knelt down beside her.
"You must understand that all were created with a mind and will. It is up to the individual to decide whether good or evil will rule their life. Greed and jealousy are strong motivations for some to choose evil."
"Will you one day choose to go to the west?"
"When my time is done here, yes. Why?"
She hesitated. "Men are destined to stay here. They have no hope of Valinor. What they have for them and their children is what they can build here. Elves have an escape from this land. When they tire of the battles here, they can leave. Of what would you have to be jealous? This is just a way stop for most of you. It is those who will stay behind who will carry on. They are the ones who have the courage. To face the future with only the hope of death at the end of their lives. What is my future? Do I have a choice? If I did, I would stay."
Elrond could think of nothing to say to her.
Celeborn took the opportunity to survey her room. It was sparse, but she did have a few belongings scattered on shelves. There were books neatly stacked on a desk. She had her clothes neatly folded and on shelves in the cupboard. The only thing he could see out of place was a large grey striped cat sitting in the window behind her. He stepped back as something crossed his foot. Looking down he was amused to see a tiny yellow kitten batting at the hem of his robe. He reached down and picked up the creature. It was so small in his large hands you could not see it. He stroked its neck and was rewarded with a loud purr. Ela looked up at the noise. Celeborn stood with a smile on his lips. She smiled, taking in the strange sight of the Lord of LÃ³rien playing with a kitten.
"He needs a home, you know."
"Ah, but would he stand the journey?"
"No," she agreed, "He is too little. I think closer to home would be better. Besides, the cat would miss him. He is the last of his litter. She would like to have him a little longer. No child should have to leave before they are ready." She looked at Elrond as she said this.
She looked around at each of the adults.
"I am not ready. When the time is right, I will accept, but not yet."
Erentil, searching for Elrond to announce dinner, found them still in her room. "We will be right down." He had not noticed how late it was. "Will you join us, Iell?"
"I do not think so. I am not hungry."
"I will have Seldala bring you up something later.
"Rest now. I will see you later."
"Good night, Ada."
Elrond closed the door behind them.
"She knows. Somehow she knows about LÃ³rien."
"You give her too much credit. She knows she is to visit later this summer," Celeborn said as they walked down the stairs.
"It is more than that. You have not spent enough time with her to know it."
Galadriel frowned. "I think that she knows she will be leaving soon. Not when, but soon."
"She has spoken to you?"
"In a round about way. We spoke on the terrace earlier today. She said that when she feels it is time, she will leave."
"I am afraid that the time may not be of her choosing. Short of banishing Caldelen, she is not safe here any longer."
"We will welcome her when she comes. Whenever that may be." Celeborn still held the little kitten.
"Thank you, Celeborn. I think late summer will be soon enough."
He went to the dining room door and motioned them through. "I am hungry. Shall we eat?"
Ela was waiting on the terrace the next afternoon when the party returned from Misty Havens. She carefully waited back from the railing, mindful that Erestor was watching her. She had come down for breakfast, but had not shown up for lunch. When asked, Dalgren said that they were having a picnic in the tree house. No one needed to inquire as to who "they" were. Elldar was missing as well.
"They are coming!" she called, running past the library. She did not stop, but went to the kitchen for glasses and wine and water. She carried the wine out, followed by Dalgren, carrying the water and glasses. The placed their burdens down on the table and had set them out just as the returning party reached the bottom of the steps leading up from the terrace. Ela was extremely annoyed to see Caldelen had insinuated himself into the small group. He was as thick as an Orc.
Elrond came out of the house as his sons reached the terrace. He saw with surprise that Benerd was with them.
"Benerd. I am pleased to see you survived. And your family?"
"We lost only our home and some livestock. Most were not as fortunate."
"Come. Have some wine. Where is Mares?"
"She is coming. She could not travel as fast with the small one. In addition, it seems she is to bless us with another one. They are several hours behind us."
"Elf," Ela said quietly to Elrohir. "Where are Haldir and RÃºmil?"
"Do you worry for them, Sell?" he asked, a smile in his eyes.
"Only because Elldar would be concerned."
"Do not drag me into this!" the boy declared.
"Do not worry. They come with Benerd's wife and child. I will let him know that you asked for them, though."
"Do not bother yourself. I was only concerned. It is no big thing." She turned to get glasses of wine for everyone. She pointedly did not get one for Caldelen.
"What of me?" he asked her.
"Wine is not good for children. You know that."
Elrohir stepped between the bristling elf and the girl.
"Why do you bait him so?" he asked softly, only for her ears.
"Because he is too dense for subtlety."
Elrohir fetched the boy wine, himself.
Close enough to catch the conversation, Celeborn just smiled. She had a spirit he admired. It reminded him of somewhat of Galadriel when younger.
Ela went back into the house to help Dalgren bring out sandwiches and more wine. When everything had been placed on the table, she went to Erestor.
"Lord Erestor, may I have leave to wait below? I find it too close up here."
Glancing at Elrond, who nodded slightly, Erestor looked down at the girl.
"Do not wander far. Ask Elldar to go with you. I will keep watch from up here."
"Thank you." He watched her go over to Elldar and speak to him. He saw from the corner of his eye that Caldelen's gaze never left her. It was a mixture of intense dislike and something Erestor did not expect to see. Desire. Elrond had better get the girl to LÃ³rien, and soon, he thought to himself.
The party from Misty Havens entered Imladris from the east. As he crossed the meadow on the far side of the river, he saw Elldar and Ela waiting. Since they did not know the people with them, he suspected that they waited for him and his brother. For some reason, it made him smile.
"What is so amusing, brother?"
He just pointed across the river.
"Ah. Who do you suppose they wait to greet?"
"It is more likely a matter of who is on the terrace."
"There is that. Have you spoken to Lord Elrond yet?"
"No. I hope I do not have to. It is really not my place to interfere in the affairs of his subjects."
"But if he is a threat to her, why would you not?"
"I am not sure if he is just words or not."
"Ha!" RÃºmil snorted. "You have seen the way he watches her. If he does not try to kill her, he may do something worse."
"Not after I talk to Elrohir."
"He leaves today. What good will that do?"
"He can tell his father things that I should not. I will leave it up to him."
They halted at the near side of the bridge where Elldar and Ela awaited them.
"March Warden," she said, coolly and formally. "RÃºmil." He got a grin.
She turned to the woman with them.
"Lady Mares, I presume. I hope your journey was not too difficult. I am sorry for your loss. How is the child?"
"It was difficult, but necessary. Thank you and the child is fine. May I ask your name?"
"This is Lady ElrÃ©nia," said Haldir, with none of his usual arrogance. "She is Lord Elrond's foster daughter. It is she who was to come to you five years ago."
"Please, it is just Ela. Lady is for someone who does inhabit tree houses and throw boots at March Wardens."
Ela took the bridle of Mares' horse and led it to the stables. Haldir helped her dismount. She leaned heavily on his arm as he put her down. Ela reached to help and suddenly drew back. Haldir glanced at her.
"What is it?" he asked.
"You carry a child," she said to the woman.
"Yes. How did you know? I only found out days ago."
Ela looked up in wonder. "She will be very special."
"She?" asked Mares.
"Yes, she. A blessing after all you have lost."
Mares started crying. Haldir helped her up the stairs.
At the top, Benerd came running when he saw she was crying.
"What is wrong? Is it the boy?"
"Ask the girl," was all she could say.
Benerd looked at Ela questioningly.
"I did nothing. I swear."
"Ela told Mares she was carrying a girl child," Haldir said.
Benerd looked from Ela to his wife.
"How do you know?" he whispered.
She shrugged. "I could feel it. Can you not?"
Erestor decided it was time to pull Ela out of the discussion. He had noticed that she was winding up for one of her question tirades. He did not think anyone needed that right now. He sent her into the house to ask Seldala to ready some rooms.
Benerd took his nephew from one of his sons. The boy looked unaffected by his journey. Benerd was just thankful they had all escaped. So many of his friends and neighbors had not. According to Elladan, the village was gone. What survivors there may have been, had fled. The twins had found Benerd's family hiding in the woods back from their farmstead. They had escaped with practically nothing.
"Erentil," said Elrond, "will you send for Dorga? Tell him we will need clothing and give him sizes. He will know where to get it. Also, find out if that house in the bend of the river is still available. It is small, but is a good farm." He turned to Benerd. "There is a small house not far from here. It will serve for now. Should you decide to stay, it can be enlarged."
"You do not have to do that, Lord Elrond. We can find lodgings for now."
"You are a good friend of my sons. I would not turn you away. If it does not suit, you may find accommodations later. For now, you need a place to stay. Tonight you will stay here. I will send someone to make sure the house is ready."
"Thank you," said Benerd, bowing.
Elldar had taken over Ela's job of pouring wine and water. He also ignored Caldelen. Haldir decided it was well they were leaving soon. He would not like to explain to his younger brother why his son had damaged one of Imladris' fair ones.
After Mares had eaten, Ela showed her to a room for the night. The girl had gone to the garden and picked flowers to brighten up the room. She turned down the bed and got towels for a bath. She showed Mares the bathing room and went back to find a sleeping gown for her. By the time the woman was finished bathing, hot tea and cakes were waiting in her room. Ela returned with a gown.
"I have made you tea and found a gown. Lady Seldala is taller, but she likes her gowns shorter, so it should fit. Would you like the window open or closed?" Mares had a hard time hearing the child.
"Open is fine." She dropped her towel and put the gown on, while Ela turned around.
"I must warn you, if the window is open, you may get a visit from my cat. She thinks any open window is an open invitation to come in."
"I do not mind. I like cats."
"Well, then, if you decided you cannot live without one, I may be able to scrounge one up. Do you like yellow?"
"Yellow is very pretty."
"I will keep that in mind."
"May I ask you a question?"
"You may. I will answer if it is in my power."
"Benerd told me that Lord Elrond was to send us a child of men. I apologize, but you do not look like one of us."
"My father was Elven. My mother was Indrelan."
"What is Indrelan?"
Ela shrugged. "When I remember, I will let you know. One of the many secrets in my head awaiting a sharp blow to knock them loose."
She swung around at the voice from the door.
"Lord Erestor. I did not hear you come up the stairs."
"I do not think it polite to burden Lady Mares right now."
"Yes, Lord Erestor. I apologize, Lady Mares. It is a bad habit, my erratic babbling, or so I have heard."
"Stay out of corners, child. It will get you into trouble."
"And I have not enough of that. Did Caldelen go home?"
"Ela," his voice warned.
"Apologies, Lord Erestor."
"Go to bed, now, Sell. I will be in the library before first light."
"Yes, Lord Erestor. Good night. And to you, lady." She danced between the doorjamb and her teacher.
"I am sorry if she bothered you."
"She was no bother. She got me tea and a gown. She was very helpful."
"Very well. Sleep well, lady."
"Thank you, Lord Erestor. Good night."
The next morning, Ela was in the library shortly after her teacher. He went over her work and found it satisfactory. She sat with hands folded and waited.
Elrond came into the room. He sat down at the large table. She did not need to look to see Erestor standing by the window, hands behind his back, gazing up at the mountains. By the timing, she figured he had been waiting until Erestor was finished with her.
"I would speak with you," he said after several moments of silence.
"Lady Galadriel spoke to me concerning a conversation she had with you. She said that you discussed some of the customs of your mother's people with her."
"Yes. Some things I remember."
"Would you tell me?"
She looked over at him. "What more do you need to know?"
"In fifteen years, you will be old enough to be spoken for. Is this correct?"
"Then you may wed after forty."
Again, she nodded.
"Is the choice yours, or your father's?"
"It is my father's. He would accept the man's offer if the dowry was acceptable. Then we would be able to get to know each other. When we felt the time right, we could wed. My mother did not like this custom. That is one reason they left. She turned down all of her would-be suitors for my father. It made Da very angry. I am not sure why. All she said was that she did not want that for her children."
"Why did they not go to your father's people?"
"I do not think there were any left. He never spoke of anyone."
Elrond sat back.
"What is it you really wish to ask?"
"That day in the village. I think those men were your mother's people. For some reason, they want you back there."
"That does not take a great deal of deductive reasoning. Would you not rather ask what happened that day?"
"Will you tell me?"
"It will not make you happy."
"I will still listen."
"Caldelen pushed at me to go with him. I refused, at first. However, he started taunting me about leaving Imladris. Since he insisted that all they wanted was to meet me, I gave in." She glanced at the window. "You have taught me well, but there is a streak of foolishness that still lies within." Turning back to Elrond, she said, "I gave in and started down the alley. Within a short distance, I knew I had made a mistake. I tried to turn back, but there was a man behind me. Another appeared in the back of the alley, followed by a third. They said that my uncle wanted me back, or dead if I refused to return."
"Do you know why?"
"Not yet, but I will."
"I want you to go to LÃ³rien this summer. Elrohir set it up for you to visit. Celeborn has granted permission. Will you go?"
"What did Caldelen do now? That is the only reason you would push for this."
"I warned you she would question," came from the window.
"For some unfathomable reason, in spite of his desire to do you harm, he has come to me. He wants you to trade rings with him."
She snorted softly.
"Is that likely to happen in this millennium? We are both too young. It is not permitted to even consider it until I am thirty. He will not be old enough
for another twenty or so years. Is he not a little premature?"
"Yes. That is why I want you to go to LÃ³rien. You will be out of reach to him there."
"Are you so sure? He has spoken to the March Warden several times about going there himself. What would stop him?"
"For all of their seeming graciousness and gentleness, the Lord and Lady of LÃ³rien are not as lenient as am I. They cannot afford to be. They are too close to the east. I believe you will be safer there than here."
She just sat there. She looked into his eyes. He saw a brief flash of fear cross before she closed hers.
"There is more, is there not?"
She sighed. "Is there not always more?" She remembered that day. Too clearly. But she would never tell anyone what she saw just before the man had hit her. Glancing up into the shadows of the alley, she had seen Caldelen standing and watching. She would not ever forget the smile on his face.
Elrond leaned back in his chair. "Will you go?"
"I suppose if you feel strongly enough, I will go. When may I return?"
"I cannot answer that. It will depend on circumstances."
"Very well." She rose and picked up her books. She paused at the door. "You know that the fringes will not be as comfortable as is the center."
"One day you and Haldir must explain the joke to me."
He heard her laugh as she went down the hall.
For the three days remaining until the party from LÃ³rien left, Ela did not allow herself to be alone, except in her own room. She helped Mares and Seldala with what ever she could. Mares began to actually regret not having had Ela come to live with them five years ago. She was inquisitive and helpful. She asked questions concerning every aspect of the life of men. Mares laughed when Erestor finally rescued her by keeping Ela home.
Caldelen had not heeded the warning given him by Elrohir before he left. He believed that with Elrohir gone, none would stop him from trying to see Ela. Haldir had finally gone to Elrond and told him what had happened in the tree house. To say that Elrond was less that pleased would have been an understatement of the grossest kind. Haldir had never seen him so angry. He understood that part of it was at him for withholding what he knew.
"How could you have kept this from me?"
"As you pointed out to me years ago, it is not my place to question what chances in your realm. I did warn the boy, as did Elrohir."
"He has known for long that things were not right between the two of them. We both suspected Caldelen after the attack. I told him the rest a week ago. The boy does not heed warnings."
"Then she will go to LÃ³rien now. It is already arranged. It will require little effort to ready her to go now."
"That may be best."
Elrond looked closely at Haldir.
"Will you watch her for me?"
"I will, as much as possible. Orophin is on the eastern marches. He lives in Caras Galadhon. He will be in a better position to look out for her."
"Celeborn has suggested that. She would be comfortable around Elldar. Arwen will also be close. I must speak to Celeborn." It was clearly a dismissal. Haldir turned and left the library. That had gone better than he had expected.
After speaking with Celeborn, Elrond sent for Ela. She paused in the doorway, seeing Celeborn, Galadriel and Erestor in the library. A tingling of foreboding ran down her spine.
"You wanted to see me?" she asked.
"Come in, Sell. Sit down." She glanced warily around at the others. Erestor smiled slightly. Elrond would never learn. The child could sense the emotions drifting through the room.
"I want you to go back to LÃ³rien with Arwen."
"That is not possible. I have too much to pack."
"You do not have that much."
"I have an appointment for tea in a few days. It is too late to cancel."
"I will take care of that. And your cat. And the snake. Anything else?" He thought he had covered all of her excuses. The one she gave next surprised him.
"I do not want to leave. I have thought about it. This is my home. If you do not want me here anymore, I should go to my mother's people. That is where I belong."
Elrond looked at Erestor in exasperation. Dealing with a child was hard enough. Dealing with this one was proving to border on impossible.
"I do not want you to leave, Ela. It is for your own good. I do not feel you safe here, anymore. If you stay, you may come to more harm."
"Ah, Haldir spoke to you. I knew he would, eventually, but he did hold out much longer than I thought he would. If I go to my mother's people, then I will no longer be in danger. They want me, they will have me."
"The question remains, why do they want you? No one has come openly to claim you. If their intentions were honorable, that is what they would have done. They came like thieves and used violence. That is not the way of someone who means you good."
"You have a point. I still do not want to leave. I have changed my mind."
"How old are you?"
She hesitated, feeling a change in his direction. "Fifteen."
"How old is your majority?"
"You cannot hold me to that! That is not fair!"
"Until you are thirty, I can. And I will. You will be safer in LÃ³rien. I have to do what is best for you."
"What of my education? Do the fringes have an Erestor?"
"We have very good teachers. Maybe in directions that you have not had here," Galadriel said.
She looked from one adult to another. The tears threatening to spill spoke of her resignation. She was defeated, and knew it.
"Very well," she said softly. She rose and left the room, silent.
"You will have your hands full," Elrond commented.
"She will settle when she sees what LÃ³rien has to offer."
"My concern," said Erestor, "is how she will be accepted. She does not look Elven. Will your people make a place for her? I do not mean to be indelicate, but the elves of LÃ³rien are not known for their openness."
"That is true," laughed Celeborn. "But she comes with us. That will make a difference. And her ties here will help."
"I can make that easier. I have been considering adopting her. It will give her some standing. She will need all the help she can get."
"Well, we have packing to finish. Will she be ready by tomorrow?"
"I will see to it," said Erestor.
Age And Maturity Do Not Walk Hand-in-Hand
Ela did not leave her room the rest of the day. She kept her door locked and anyone walking by could hear movement. She did show up at dinner. She wore a gown and slippers rather than her usual leggings and boots. Her hair was done up in twists and braids. Standing behind the chair next to Elldar, she waited as he jumped up to hold it out for her. Haldir shook his head. Such formality would be lost in the everyday world of LÃ³rien. The adjustment would be hard.
"Are you packed, Ela?" asked Elrond.
"Yes," she said, playing with her food.
"Do you need any help?"
"Did you find enough baskets for your clothes?"
"What else are you taking?"
"Books." Her one word answers were annoying Haldir, while eliciting amusement from the others. It was apparent she was still angry at leaving.
"Do you want anything else?"
"My pony." Haldir smiled. Two words.
"I thought to give you a horse. You will not be able to keep up on a pony."
"You know I cannot ride a horse. I will ride my pony. He knows me and I know him. And I want to take my cat."
"Ela, you cannot take her. She is used to life here. She would not adjust. You cannot do that to her." The moment the words were out of his mouth, he realized his mistake.
"And yet, you do that to me," she said softly. "Perhaps you would like to adopt the cat."
"Where did you hear about that?"
"She lives in the corners, Elrond," said Erestor.
"I think she will find that harder to do in LÃ³rien."
"Wills and ways, Ada," she said sweetly. She turned abruptly to Celeborn. "Do you have butterflies?"
"Butterflies?" he asked, slightly off balance at her change in subjects.
"Yes, butterflies. You know, little caterpillars that turn into big flying insects."
"I know what a butterfly is. Yes, we have them. Why?"
"Do you have hills?"
"Yes, we have hills. Again, why?"
"And what of cats. Do you have cats?"
"No. We have no need of cats."
"Butterflies, hills, but no cats. The fringes need enlightenment. I will take the kitten."
"It is a long journey, Ela. It is not for tiny kittens," said Elrond.
"Then it will have to be the cat. You can keep the kitten here, as it is not right to take children from their home."
Haldir rolled his eyes.
"I will take the cat. Will that stop this inane conversation?" He could feel she was maneuvering to get what she wanted.
"Certainly," she said, smiling.
Erestor exchange a look with Elrond. It was good to see someone else caught in one of her verbal loops.
"I apologize, Lord Celeborn, but I have a question."
"Anything," he replied. Haldir's head came up sharply. Contrary to what Erestor and Elrond may think, she had caught him not a few times in her question circles. Celeborn had had only a taste of it.
"My letters. How will I get them?"
"From Rosa Took. And Dorga. And the Elf. If I am in LÃ³rien, how will I get them? And the books they send me?"
"I am sure Lord Elrond will see that they reach you."
She nodded. "Can I send letters? How will they get them?"
"I will see to it."
"Is there a library?"
"Yes. We have a large library."
"Where will I live?"
"Where would you like to live? Elldar's parents would let you live there. You may live with Arwen. Anywhere you like."
"Anywhere?" she asked, a gleam deep in her eyes.
"No, Ela. That will do," Erestor's tone stopped the next comment.
"But why can I not stay here?"
"It has been explained. You will not argue your way out of it. It is not fair to trick Lord Celeborn. He does not know your ways."
"Yes, Lord Erestor. I will not do it again."
"I think it is time you went to bed, Ela," said Elrond. "You have a long day tomorrow. Erentil will bring your things down. I will see you in the morning."
"Yes, Ada. Good night, everyone."
Haldir told Elldar that he should turn in, also. He nodded and left behind Ela.
They waited until both were gone.
"I believe that I will retire also," said Arwen. "Goodnight, Ada."
Erestor waited until Arwen had withdrawn. "Do not let her suck you into one of her games. She will question until you no longer know what the original subject was. By the time she comes around to her point, you may have agreed to anything. I am sure Haldir could tell you how persuasive she can be. She means no harm; it is just her way. However, I think it one of the reasons Caldelen does not like her. For an elf, he seems gifted with less than usual intelligence, . He does not understand a great deal of what she says to him. It infuriates him that he believes she thinks him stupid. She does not, but she knows he does not understand subtlety or sarcasm. And she uses them like a sword with him."
"I will be careful." It was obvious he thought Erestor was exaggerating. After all, she was only a child. He had handled children before.
"Do not underestimate her intelligence because of her size. She may look twelve, but she has the wits and education and maturity of one much older."
"I think we understand each other," said Galadriel.
"I hope so."
The conversation drifted to other topics. By midnight, all had turned in for the night.
Well before light, Ela dressed and went to the kitchen for a drink. She took her glass to the library to look around one last time. She felt it would be a long time before she returned. The shelf looked empty with her books gone. She had packed them in a saddlebag with the few clothes she was taking. All would fit behind her pony's saddle. She had packed her doll and personal belongings in a small knapsack. The bottles of oil that Elrohir had sent her were wrapped in thick cloths. Several small stones from the river were included, along with a shed skin from the snake, the things she cherished from her short life there.
She moved about the room, her eyes closed, savoring the memories. The endless lessons drilled into her brain. The countless discussions. The rare smile given by Erestor. She paused, realizing she would miss him most of all. He had never accepted that she could not learn, but had given no quarter, either. He had been as hard on her as he had been on the twins and Arwen. And she had learned.
She started. She was no longer alone.
"Why are you here?" she asked.
"To ask you to stay."
She spun around at Caldelen's words.
"It is because of you I am forced to leave!"
"I want a dance. You danced with the March Warden."
"He has manners. And respect. You do not." She saw her words did not please him.
"I still will have a dance." He reached for her hand.
"You are brave coming here after all that has happened.
"I have to talk to you. Come with me." He grabbed her hand and pulled her towards a corner. She pulled back and tried to get her hand free. He was stronger and gripped her wrist harder.
"You are hurting me, Caldelen. Let go."
"Not until I can talk to you."
"Let go! If you do not, I will scream."
"Everyone knows that you cannot scream that loud. Anyway, there is no need. I just want to talk."
"I do not! Now let go!"
He abruptly pulled her toward the door. He shut the door behind him and she heard the lock turn. Frightened now, she ran for the window. He reached her before she could open the latch.
"Now, I have some things I want to say to you. I have decided that you will suit. I would like to see you more. I want to go to Elrond and ask permission to see you. I want you to tell him you agree."
"Are you mad? Why would I do a fool thing like that? You are either mad, or stupider than I gave you credit for. You tried to get me kidnapped and almost killed."
"That was a mistake. I know that now. I have changed my mind."
"You have changed your mind? About hurting me? About hating me? What girl would not be swayed by that?"
"Exactly. Now, we can go out and speak to Elrond. I knew you would see things my way."
He reached out, took her shoulders, and tried to kiss her. His mistake became painfully obvious when he doubled up with a yell. Her well-placed knee had cooled his ardor somewhat. Without thinking, he stood up and slapped her across the cheek. The blow was enough to knock her down. He jerked her back up by her arm.
"That was not wise." He pushed her up against the wall.
"Stop this, Caldelen. We are both too young. I do not want this. You are making things worse."
"I want this. I want you."
"I do not want you. I never have, and I never will. Get that through your head. There is another."
"That boy? He will never make you happy."
"And you will? I will spend the rest of my life waiting for the moment you tire of me and throw me away. No, I will not have you. I will have a ellon. A real husband. One who knows how to treat a elleth. One like my father. Who will cherish and protect me. You will never do that. All you think about is what you want. What you need. I pity the one who accepts your offer. It is a promise of a life filled with pain and suffering."
He held both her hands in one of his. With the other hand, he held her chin, squeezing until she cried out. "It will be your life. You do not know what you want. I will have to make the decision for the both of us. Now, you will tell Elrond what I say."
He kissed her, hard, bruising her lips against her teeth. She maneuvered enough to stomp on his foot, and was rewarded with another slap. Her right hand slipped out of his grasp and she reached for his face, dragging her nails down his cheek. He staggered back, grabbing at the scratches. She could sense below his surface emotions now. What he was feeling terrified her. What he had in mind almost caused her to faint. She ran for the door, turning the lock. Before she could open it, the door pushed into her, knocking her to the floor. She tried to scramble away, but was picked up from behind. She fought, turning in his arms and managed a blow before she heard the words.
"Ela, calm down. Ela, it is alright." She stopped her struggles as the voice finally broke through. She buried her head in his shoulder.
"I want to go home. I want my adar. Please." Her words were almost incoherent, mingled with tears and sobs. "Please, take me home."
"Ela, you are home." Erestor looked around the room. It was empty and the window stood open. He went over to the sofa and sat down, still holding her.
She was silent.
"Will you tell me what happened?"
"No," she said.
There was a noise at the door. He looked up to see Elrond. Erestor shook his head. Elrond backed out into the hall. He turned to Erentil, who had followed him.
"Get me Delandor! And his son! Now!"
"Let me see, Sell." Erestor turned her face towards the light. The handprint was unmistakable. He could also see bruises the shape of fingers forming along her jaw. She winced when his hand brushed her left wrist. He saw there were red marks there, as well.
"I know that Caldelen did this. He is the only one who would. Will you not tell me what happened?"
"No. I will be gone today. The sooner, the better. I only wanted to remember." She cried into his shoulder. "This was my favorite room. Now he has ruined it. Why can he not just leave me alone?"
"I cannot answer that, Ela. I do not understand him anymore than do you." He stood her up. "Come. We will forget him and share a last breakfast. I will miss you, child."
"And I you. I wish I did not have to go."
Erestor stood and took her hand. They went down the hall to the dining room. Elrond was the only one there yet. Ela could feel the fury emanating from him as he saw her face.
"The others will be down soon. I wanted a few minutes with you. Are you ready to go?"
"I am now. Any reservations I had are gone."
"I am sorry, Iell. I will see to him after you are gone."
"Do not bother. He is already gone. You will not find him in Imladris."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes. I would know if he were still here. His feelings, if possible, are even stronger that yours right now. I would rather have your anger directed at me than what he felt."
"You have an eight day journey ahead of you. Stay close to the others and do not stray."
"Ah, Celeborn. Good morning. It will be a good day to travel."
"Indeed. Galadriel is upset. Would you know anything about that?"
"That depends upon what upset her."
Celeborn was staring at Ela's bowed head. He could see the red marks on her cheek. She refused to look up. He raised an eyebrow at Elrond, who shook his head.
"May I be excused?" she asked quietly.
"If you wish."
"Thank you. Please let me know when it is time to leave." She went into the kitchen.
"That is a change of events. What happened?"
Erentil came in and whispered in Elrond's ear.
"As near as we can piece it out, Caldelen came to see her this morning. It did not go well. By the time Erestor went to the library, the damage had been done. That was a message from Delandor. The boy is gone. He left before daylight."
"We will watch for him in LÃ³rien. He will not be welcome."
Slowly everyone drifted in for the morning meal. Elldar asked about Ela and was told she was finishing packing. It was not a very good lie, as all knew she was packed.
After breakfast was finished, those leaving gathered on the terrace. Seldala went to get Ela. Elrond hugged and kissed Arwen. He then said goodbye to everyone else. He was finished before Ela appeared. There was a sharp intake of breath from Haldir and RÃºmil when they saw her. She kept her head bowed. Elrond took her to the bench and sat down.
"Remember, Ela. This will always be your home. You may come back when it is time. You will always be welcome here."
"I know. Thank you for everything." He took her in a firm embrace and kissed her forehead.
"Go. Show LÃ³rien some culture." He laughed.
She turned to Erestor.
"May I ask a question?"
"Would it be permissible to hug you goodbye?"
"I would be disappointed if you did not." She ran and threw herself at him.
"Please tell Dorga I am sorry about leaving like this."
"He understands. He sent you a gift. With the promise to send more." He placed a large bottle in her hands. She looked up in wonder.
"Tell him thank you. And I will wait for his letters and tea."
"He knows, Sell, he knows."
She turned to Seldala. Giving her a hug, she whispered in her ear, "He would be a fool to let you go." The startled elleth smiled and looked at Erestor.
"I am ready."
She and Elldar led the way down the stairs. They reached the stables first and mounted up. They waited for the others.
"What happened?" Elldar asked her.
"Unrequited love. Love scorned. Frustrated male. Take your pick. If I never see him again, it will be too soon."
Haldir mounted and reined his horse over to hers.
"Where is the whelp?"
"I do not know. He is not here any longer. Even if he were, I would not tell you. His blood is not worth it. Trust me, he is more trouble than he is worth." She did not look at him.
"If I see him, he may not reach adulthood."
"The very reason I would not tell you where he is. Why sully your life?"
"Because the next time you will not get off so easily."
"Which is why I am trusting you."
RÃºmil rode over to them.
"He is gone."
"I could have told you that. You will not find him."
Haldir looked at Ela. "How do you know?"
"Come, the day is not getting any younger."
They turned at Celeborn's words. Waving goodbye to those on the terrace, they rode for the bridge leading to the village. No one could see it, but it would be years before Ela returned.
Three days after their departure, Elrond welcomed a courier from Arathorn. His steward ushered in Delorfilad. They sat and had a cup of wine. After finishing his, Delorfilad turned to Elrond.
"We have found her people. Your daughter's. Your sons asked a Ranger company to listen for rumours of a new people. While patrolling the lands west of the Shire, they found a village hidden in the White Mountains. They were refugees fleeing armies in their own land. They had been on the western sea for over a year before reaching our shores. Yrorcyn, the Ranger captain had heard of your daughter and seen a resemblance. He asked them about her. The people refused to talk and fired upon the patrol. When Yrorcyn finally got things straight, he found out that the people were attacked by beings similar to us. The men would treat only after all elves in the company had withdrawn."
"It a twisted story from here. Yrorcyn told the men that the girl had been taken in and adopted by the Lord of Rivendell. After they stopped spitting on the ground and making gestures with their hands, they started shouting about demons. It seemed they had heard of you and knew you were an Elven lord. They said she was..." here he hesitated again. "She was used, dirty, ruined. There were allegations of rape, torture and witchcraft. Moreover, the word demon-spawn was used. They no longer had need of her. They had found another to replace her. Yrorcyn was confused. He did not understand what they meant. Moreover, it did not seem they had so many children that they could afford to throw them away. The men were in such a state; he thought it best to withdraw. When out of sight of the village, an older woman approached them, although she would not go near the elves. She told them the girl had been set to sea with her mother for witchcraft. She gave Yrorcyn a small bag and told him to give it to her foster father. She also warned them to never let her come back. It would not go well for her. Nothing was found out about the mother, but now we know about the girl." He looked at Elrond. "They will not take her."
Elrond closed his eyes. How could any treat children that way? They were precious. A gift. ElrÃ©nia must never learn this. He would send word to LÃ³rien. He would trust Celeborn to handle it.
Elrond opened the bag. He spilled out a handful of dull silvery disks. He almost dropped them as he realized what they were. Mithril. A king's ransom. Finding a paper in the bottom of the bag, he pulled it out and opened it. He could not read it, but three words jumped out at him. He sat looking at the paper. Suddenly it became clear. It was a family tree. Cera Brien, daughter of Ceria and Dorlandad. Ceria Brien, daughter of Gorden and unknown. Dorlandad, son of! But this could not be! He had died childless. Yet there it was: Dorlandad, son of Elestra!
They had never publicly married. Elrond had been entrusted with delivering the rings of betrothal. But, they had refused to marry openly, fearing that a wife and children would provide a weapon for Sauron. A king with loyalties divided could not have stood.
Elrond picked through the silvery disks. There were two rings. One was a band set with diamonds, the other, rubies. He recognized the ruby ring. It was one he had given Elestra. There was no doubt. Not only was she was his cousin, she was the granddaughter of a king. But how? He had thought Elestra dead after the Last Alliance. She had disappeared. No one had ever seen her again. She would not have gone to the Sindar. As her people, they would never have accepted that she carried a Noldor child. She had to have gone to the havens in the northwest. That was one of the last rumoured refuges of High elves. But, why had she not come to him? He would have given her refuge.
He shook his head. He picked up his pen and started a letter. There would have to be confirmation.