"Oh, dear God, you have to get up." Ivy's hands captured his and yanked.

"My dear--"

"You're Elven royalty, you can't let anybody see you kneeling at my feet. They'll kill me!"

He was immovable as a mountain. "They most certainly will not. They might be mildly curious, but--"

"No, they'll want to kill me. I'm the hated Isabel's grand-daughter, and you're an Elf-lord--"

"I am just an Elf, Ivy. Nothing more."

"You're Lord Elrond, you're like a king."

"I am not a king."

"Only because you wouldn't let them make you one back in Imladris. In any case, and no matter how much you argue, you're certainly more than just an Elf." Yank and tug as she might at his robes, he wasn't moving in the slightest. "Please get up, your kneeling there just isn't right."

His hands caught hers and held on tight, halting her efforts. "Ivy, it is all right."

Staring at those hands, so broad and strong and easily engulfing her own slender fingers, she muttered, "I should have known it was you. Nobody else would wear robes like that. I mean, even Glorfindel's in jeans, and the black mane's a dead giveaway, too."

"I beg your pardon?"

"Look at your hands! They're so big, so of course they could handle a broadsword at Dagorlad, and you had the ring--"

"I had a ring, my daughter. Not the ring."

"Right. But you got your ring from Gil-Galad, and you built Imladris and kept everybody safe--"

"Allow me to point out Imladris was built before I was given Vilya." He sounded as if he just might laugh at her again.

Ivy didn't care. The butterflies in her stomach were back, but this time they were good butterflies. If he's here, things might be all right after all in this house of mirrors. "No wonder I've been feeling as if nothing bad could ever happen to me as long as I'm with you. You're Elrond."

”I am. And you are Queen's Daughter, and people are starting to notice we are out in this hallway, talking without them. We will be descended upon in a matter of seconds."

"Then go!" she hissed. "Get up off of the floor!"

"I will get up only if you agree to accompany me elsewhere."

"Fine, whatever!" She leaped to her feet. "Just please get up off of your knees."

Elrond flowed upward to tower over Ivy.

"I was only on one knee, actually." Sliding an arm about her waist, the Elf-lord tugged her close to his side. "Make haste, for they are coming. No doubt Glorfindel heard his name and is leading the pack. He has an uncanny ability to locate any conversation of interest."

Ivy trotted beside the Elf-lord down the hall, hoping she didn't tear his robes as they tangled about her legs. The shadows at the far end swallowed them as they had Julien, but Elrond halted and took Ivy's hand before reaching the staircase leading to the second floor.

"This way," he announced, making a sharp right and guiding Ivy into a room next to the front door. "I will leave the door open to reassure you, but we still need some light."

Elrond found the lights as voices followed them around the corner. Forget reassurance, Ivy thought. This is Elrond. I trust him, and I want to be alone with him.

Shoving the door closed, she whirled to join the Elf-lord, only to stop dead as she had in the ballroom.

"Oh, no," she moaned. "The infection's in here, too."

"You've seen the ballroom, then?" Elrond moved further into the room and beneath a flickering chandelier that was so deeply encrusted with scrollwork that the faux-flames had to compete for attention with mountains of twisted gold.

"Seen the ballroom?" Ivy repeated. "I backed out of it."

"That is well, as the walls and ceiling are beginning to buckle. I barely escaped being hit by a decaying forest of falling gold leaves when last I was in there."

The Elf-lord settled on a couch near the fireplace. Its gilded ornamentation was interwoven so tightly, Ivy thought the piece would fall apart without it.

Elrond gestured grandly as Ivy hovered near the door. "Welcome to Halden Greenwood's receiving room."

"It looks like a wedding cake gone terribly wrong." Feeling visually overwhelmed, Ivy went to join Elrond on the couch. "As if King Midas and the Winter Queen battled it out in here, and they both lost." Taking the other end of the couch, Ivy sat on one leg and turned toward the Elf-lord. "Should I have locked the door to keep everyone out?"

"No one will dare intrude - I am Lord Elrond, after all - and I trust the cherubs won't reproduce while we're watching." His hand covered hers where it lay across the back of the couch. "Let us begin again, and let me welcome you properly. I have wanted to meet you for a very long time, Ivy MacLeod, but your mother wouldn't allow it."

"Because you're Elrond, and the queen's father?" she asked quietly.

"Because I am your father."

Closing her eyes against the headache that was starting behind her eyes, she shook her head. "That's impossible. My father owned a travel agency in Phoenix."

Elrond did not respond, and Ivy forced herself to open her eyes, to confront him and the hideous room once more.

"Are you saying that you and my mother..." Don't make me finish that sentence. I can't finish that sentence.

"No, of course not," Elrond said quickly. "I should explain that Elves have a habit of condensing the generations. Arwen is my daughter and your fore-mother. That makes you my daughter as well."

"You mean, according to Elven tradition, I'm part of your family or something?"

”You are very much a part of my family."

The open sincerity in his grey eyes - so wise and kind - was her undoing. Much to Ivy's dismay, she burst into tears.

"My dear...I have no wish to make you cry. If you do not want me to consider myself your father--"

"I do! It's just--" She choked. "It's...let me get used to this because it's been a really bizarre, rough week." She swiped away her tears and wished the thickness in her throat would dissolve. "When I read Lord of the Rings, I wanted more than anything to go to Imladris and meet you and hide in your library forever. I wished you were real."

"Please, Ivy, come here." Elrond opened his arms, and she dove into them immediately like an overwrought child.

"If you were anybody else, I wouldn't be doing this," she said through her tears. "I'm getting your beautiful robes all wet."

"I do not care about my robes." Tucking her beneath his chin, Elrond stroked her hair. "I assure you that I am real. My library is also real, if you'd care to come see it. Imladris may be gone, but I have another home now in New South Wales. I would be most happy if you would join me there."

Rather than reply immediately, Ivy tried to regain control of her emotions, which were tumbling between disbelief, exhaustion, and relief.

What's wrong with me? she wondered. Just because I’ve been thrown down the well into a scary, confusing Elvish Wonderland and been told I'm immortal, and am all jetlagged, and have been assaulted by a renegade Elf and rescued by the Lord of Imladris himself who's insisting he's my new Dad...that's no excuse for me to cry all over him.

"It's quite all right to cry. You've been under a great deal of stress these last few days."

There he goes again, practically reading my mind, she thought and pressed closer, the better to feel the Elf-lord's deep voice rumbling against her. Haldir probably told him everything, but that's okay, because Elrond really does feel big and paternal -protective - like Grandpa used to, and what I've always imagined my own father would have felt like if I could remember him.

Sniffling, she took the handkerchief the Elf-lord produced from somewhere. Has he got pockets in his robes? "Do you have books in Elvish?"

"Many of them, yes."

"I probably can't read them," Ivy said sadly, wiping her eyes. "Legolas told me to forget everything I thought I knew about Elvish."

"That was certainly rude of him. I am certain your Sindarin isn't as bad as he's made you believe it is."

"I don't know anything about your history, except for the Tolkien books."

"No matter. I still have the old primers used in Imladris to teach my sons and other little Elves their letters, and I am certainly qualified to teach you our histories if you like."

She leaned away from him, the better to gauge his expression. "Are you serious or just being polite?"

"Quite serious."

She chewed her lip. "I don't know what to say."

"Then say yes, and come home with me after the meeting."

Still hesitating, Ivy shifted away from the Elf-lord and sat up to blow her nose. Elrond seemed not to mind at all.

"You know there is a story told in Wales," he said, "not far from where Imladris once lay, of a Mortal farmer who befriended one of the Tylwyth Teg - the Fair People, the Other Ones of Welsh lore. When the farmer admitted to wanting to see the homeland of the Tylwyth, which was normally invisible to Mortals, the Fair One invited the farmer to place his foot atop the other's. The farmer did so. Immediately and by virtue of their contact, an unsuspected world was revealed deep in a chasm in the ground the man's feet, with all its crowded byways and fertile fields, its smoking chimneys and gleaming rivers winding to the sea."

The Elf-lord's gaze was intense, holding hers. "You have as much right to see that land and live in it as I do. If you wish, I will show it to you."

"Okay," she whispered, agreeing because he seemed to want it so very much, and so did she. "I'll go back to Oz with you. But you'll have to tell me how to behave around an Elf-lord so I don't embarrass you. I don't know what do say, or how to show my respect."

"A hug would be nice," Elrond said softly.

She thought he might be teasing, but his expression was entirely hopeful. When he opened his arms, Ivy dove back into them immediately.

"You're going to think I'm totally starved for affection," she whispered, hugging him tightly, "and you'd be right. Oh, please don't let me mess this up."

Elrond had drawn breath - probably to reassure her - when something cracked overhead. Ivy and the Elf-lord both jumped, with Elrond tightening his grip and shielding her as best he could as something crashed very close beside them.

Emerging from Elrond's embrace, Ivy looked down to see that a large chunk of gilding ceiling had fallen beside the couch, while the Elf-lord's thigh was coated with gold-flecked plaster.

Raising his hand, he picked other bits of plaster out of Ivy's hair. "That was far too close."

"Did that lump hit you?" Ivy asked.

"Yes, but I am unharmed."

As if on cue, they both looked up to see cracks framing every junction of the buckling walls and sagging ceiling. Whole chunks of the ceiling were missing, while other jagged pieces swung free.

"Bloody hell," said Elrond.

Ivy did a quick double-take. "I never thought to hear you say that."

"It is a phrase I picked up from Glorfindel, and you won't hear it from me often. Come, we need to get out of this room before it buries us."

She followed him off of the couch and to the side of the room where Elrond began leading the way to the door.

"What's making everything fall apart?" she asked.

"Haldir redecorated in the sixties," said Elrond, "and I suspect the plaster was set onto wooden wall plates rather than onto brick. Over the years, the timber has expanded and contracted with the humidity. There have always been small cracks, but nothing so dangerous as this."

"So the underlying plaster is like an ill-made fresco?" Ivy ventured. "And its weight is making it detach completely from the plates and fall to the floor?"

"Yes. With catastrophic results as you see here and in the ballroom." Opening the door, he ushered her ahead of him.

Ivy was relieved to discover the area was deserted. "You mean the entire ceiling is going to fall?"


"It's all falling down tonight?" she squeaked, wondering if they should alert Haldir.

"I do not know." Elrond finished shaking his robes free of the gold glitter that now lay sparkling against the green leaf carpeting. "Have you regained a bit of your appetite now, and might you be willing to move our conversation into the kitchen? Haldir's plasterwork did not reach there."

"The kitchen sounds good. Smells good, too," she added after inhaling deeply. Beef and Elf Lord, what a glorious combination of scents. Giving him a hesitant smile, she dared to take the arm he offered to escort her down the hall.


"Erestor, I'd like you to meet Ivy." Standing just inside the kitchen door, Elrond laid his hands across her shoulders. His hands radiated heat, even through the heavy sweater she wore.

Standing at the sink and not turning around, Erestor reached for a towel and took his time drying his hands. His long black hair was pulled back and trapped in a single, long braid down his back, no doubt to keep his hair from interfering with his work. When Erestor deigned to turn and face them, his storm-grey eyes bore into Ivy with cool precision.

He looks more suited to appraising priceless antiquities than being a chef, she thought, trying not to squirm under that unsmiling gaze.

"Hello, Ivy."

"Hi. I'm happy to meet you." Feeling a bit anxious, she leaned back against Elrond. Casting about for something - anything - to say, she blurted, "Have you two known each other long?"

Erestor solemnly shifted his attention to Elrond. "She is serious?"

"Ivy's knowledge of us comes only from the professor's works," Elrond explained smoothly. His thumbs rubbed her shoulders, reassuring. "Erestor and I served Gil-Galad in Beleriand. We were both with him when he died during the Siege of Barad-dur, before the One Ring was cut from Sauron's hand."

"I watched Gil-Galad transfer Vilya to Elrond, if that helps you," Erestor relayed.

"It has always seemed to me that your help came to me along with the ring." Moving around Ivy, the Elf-lord examined a plate of appetizers on the kitchen's center island. "Erestor was one of my most trusted councilors in Imladris, and he remains a very good friend."

"Have you eaten?" the Elf demanded after Elrond had helped himself to a handful of peeled shrimp and a few black olives.

"I was waiting for Ivy to join us."

"That would be a no, then. Are you hungry?"

He's looking at me now, thought Ivy, so he must be talking to me. "A little."

"Then sit down." Turning away, Erestor busied himself at the broiler.

"None ever dare disobey such an order." Going to the table, Elrond held the chair for Ivy. "You'll soon discover it's much easier to comply than refuse when Erestor wishes to take care of you."

Elrond joined Ivy at the table. Seconds later, Erestor set a can of Diet Coke before her. Catching it up, she nearly yelped with joy.

"I've been wanting one of these for hours.How did you know?"

"We have our ways," said Erestor, placing an open bottle of wine and a clean goblet before Elrond. Silverware followed in short order. "Do you want ice with that," he asked Ivy, "or will you be taking it neat?"

Ivy already had the can open and had to stop drinking in order to answer the Elf. "This is fine, thanks."

"Barbaric," was Erestor's assessment.

A hand-thrown stoneware plate was placed before her next. Ivy's artist's brain registered the intricate thistle and greenleaf pattern running around the rim, but her growling stomach was much more interested in the beautiful steak sitting on the plate. Bowls of creamy mashed potatoes and an assortment of summer vegetables were set down as well.

"I'll leave you to it and check the buffet," Erestor announced, pushing through the swinging kitchen door.

"I haven't had a steak in years," Ivy confessed.


She picked up knife and fork only when Elrond did, only to notice the Elf-lord held his fork in his left hand with the prongs facing down, and his knife in the right. Oh, great, he eats continental-style. Am I supposed to do that too?

Her hunger overwhelmed her fears regarding table manners when Elrond seemed to sense her uneasiness and very pointedly began to eat. Ivy's concerns were entirely forgotten with the first bite of steak. "This is fantastic."

"You think so?" The Elf-lord sounded pleased.

"Better even than what my grandfather raised. What king of beef is this?"

"Angus, from my own cattle station."

"Grass fed?" she asked. "Free range?"

"Of course."

"So was my grandfather's, but it never tasted like this." She kept eating while Elrond set down his fork and warmed to his subject.

"Our stock is completely free of mad-cow disease and is greatly in demand. We export mainly to the United States and Japan." He shook his head. "You cannot be interested in this."

She waved her knife at him. "I’m interested in everything to do with you. How did Angus cows end up in Australia?"

"They originally came from the shires of Scotland." He pushed the bowl of mashed potatoes closer. "You should take some of this, and don't forget to try the other dishes before Erestor returns, else he will be offended and spare no words to tell you so."

She did as he suggested, only then realizing how truly hungry she was. "Were the Angus bred by Elves?"

"No, by the lowland Scots. Legolas sent a few yearlings to us as an experiment in 1840, and we have kept the breed ever since."

"So why are you here and not Oversea?" Ivy switched subjects as Elrond rose from the table to retrieve a basket of bread rolls. "Did you ever make it Oversea?"

"I did. But I missed my sons who never arrived after me. Glorfindel missed Legolas as well, and we both found life in the Undying Lands to be wretchedly boring. We were also curious as to how the world had changed in our absence. And so, we returned, along with Erestor, a few years before the birth of Julius Caesar."

"So you were many years?"

"We left from the Grey Havens around 1200 BCE, during what the Mortal world calls the Neolithic and Bronze Age of Britain. These are only rough dates; I would have to consult my records at home for the precise ones. To answer your question, we were gone approximately eleven hundred years."

"The world had to have changed a lot in all that time, so how did you know where to go when you came back?"

"A map was made for Cirdan. You see, we all used palantiri to keep in touch. Legolas had the one originally housed in Orthanc, as he inherited it from Aragorn upon his death. My sons had the one that survived Minas Anor."

"Minas Anor?" Ivy took another drink of Coke. "Isn't that the one Denathor had in his hands when he committed suicide?"

"It is." Erestor pushed back into the kitchen, and Elrond addressed him. "Ivy is very much enjoying her steak."

"It's the best I've ever had," she confirmed. "Everything else is good, too."

"I’m glad you think so." Hands on his hips, the Elf surveyed the table. "You two have enough, then? Glorfindel's asking for more prawns."

"That doesn't surprise me. He's always asking for something." Elrond's tone was one of dry amusement.

"I'll see to it."

The shrimp Erestor poured into boiling water a moment later were the size of small fish, and Ivy stared.

"Don't tell me you raise shrimp on your cattle station, too?"

"No, those were purchased frozen from a wholesaler in Sydney and flown in," said Elrond.

"Oh. Do you mind if I ask more questions?"

"Not at all." Elrond smiled so that his eyes crinkled at the corners. "How else am I to know what you wish to know, and how else are you to learn things?"

His kindness gave her courage. "I thought that anyone who used Denathor's particular palantir after his death saw nothing but two flaming hands?"

"That is so, but I repaired it before going Oversea," said Elrond, pouring more wine. "Would you like some of this?"

" thanks. Legolas gave me wine in New York, and I fell asleep on him."

"You fell asleep--"

"It's okay, he had the waiter box up our dinners and I ate mine later, back at the hotel," she quickly explained, not wanting the conversation to get sidetracked. Palantirs are a lot more interesting than sleeping. "How did you repair the palantir?"

"I am a master of lore, am I not?" He gave her a stern look which Ivy interpreted as, 'Leave it.' "There are many palantiri in the Undying Lands, and Glorfindel used one to keep in touch with Legolas. I used another to communicate down the centuries with my sons."

"And the palantiri let you make a map to get back here?"

"Essentially, yes." Elrond leaned back as Erestor removed their plates. "A palantir has two uses. If you are alone, you may observe things from afar in a way that is similar to a Mortal's traditional use of a crystal ball. Your mental focus and power determines how detailed those things appear to you. You may also use a palantir to contact another and its user, to speak to each other mind to mind. You may also use one as a bulletin board and attach notes to it, to let another user read them. Through the use of all these methods, my sons and I assembled a map that enabled Cirdan to retrace the western road. I also brought with me a palantir small enough to hide in my pocket."

Ivy tucked into the crème caramel Erestor placed before her. "Wasn't the road closed?"

"It was, to men who knew of it and tried to use it for their own gain. Over the ages, however, knowledge of our kind was lost to all but Mortal folk tales, and the road could safely be reopened. When Cirdan discovered this, we asked him to take us to Alsium, which was in the day an ancient Roman port. My children had established themselves as wealthy citizens and resided in a villa there, about thirty-five kilometers from Rome."

"Why weren't the twins and Arwen in Ithilien? Or why didn't you all go back to Imladris?"

"Nature had reclaimed all of Imladris by then. As for the land surrounding our ford, Those who became the Welsh had claimed it long before I returned. As for settling here in Ithilien, Legolas and Arwen have never gotten on, and she has always refused to live anywhere near him.

"Over time, the Lothlórien and Mirkwood Elves who helped rebuild Ithilien spread over the continents - some by choice and some by expediency," Elrond explained. "Our time and history among Men has proven it is better if we do not all congregate in one place, for Men have a habit of noticing people who are different, and we are certainly different. In this way, if one of us is discovered or taken, the others can still be kept safe. It may be that, as we were warned would happen, some of us are diminishing because we have stayed so long in this world, but Legolas and others still refuse to leave these shores."

"Because he made a promise to Aragorn and his queen to look after their children?" Ivy ventured.

"And because many living below us, in the village of Lairg, are the Mortal descendents of Gondor and Ithilien. Legolas also looks after them."

Scooting back from the table, Ivy discreetly burped. "This is probably a really rude question, but how old are all of you now?"

"I was 6,500 years old when the Fellowship left, and am now around 9,300. Haldir is older than me by about a hundred years, but Glorfindel is the oldest among us at over 10,000. As for Legolas..." Elrond thought a moment. "I believe he is now around 4,800."

"Legolas is still two thousand years younger than you were when the ring was destroyed?" Ivy asked, incredulous.

"He is. But age matters little to us, for when you are immortal the years blend one into the next. We are all judged more by our wisdom and our actions than by our years."

Ivy nodded. "Speaking of actions, I wish my mother had told me some of this. Come to that, you must have phones now to supplement the palantir, so why didn't you just call and tell me all of this?"

"Marian would not allow it, and we had to respect her wishes for she is your mother. Now that she has revealed our existence to you..." He smiled. "How do you say it? All bets are off."

"Did you spy on me using your palantir?"

"Certainly not, for that would have been an unforgivable intrusion on your privacy." Elrond sounded indignant. "I did, however, dare to reach out in some small ways when you were younger."

"When?" Ivy said dubiously.

"Your violin teacher in Darby was Elven."

"Mr. Devine was an Elf?" She propped her elbows on the table. "So that's why he only wanted to teach me half of the time allotted and talk the other half. I thought it was because I played so badly that it sounded like a mad cat, and he couldn't stand listening. Was he relaying stuff to you?"

"Only a little." Elrond looked sheepish. "And then there was your Santa Claus." Off of Ivy's blank look, he said, "Did your particular Santa not live at the South Pole? Did he not send presents to you from Australia, and did you not send back to him letters and a video?"

Horrified, Ivy scooted away from the table. "You saw that embarrassing video my grandfather made me make?"

"I did." Elrond looked smug and far from repentant. "I found it delightful. I found you delightful."

"I thought that tape was for my mother! I talked about...about..." She glanced at Erestor, who was taking a large bowl of peeled shrimp out to the banquet area. Waiting until he'd gone, she whispered, "I talked about periods and bras on that tape and--"She buried her face in her hands. "Oh grief, I'm so humiliated."

"I regret your embarrassment, but I am a father as well as a healer. Nothing you confided could ever disconcert me." He captured her hand and tugged at her fingers. "Please look at me?"

"I can't."

"I was glad to catch a glimpse of you, of your life," Elrond said gently. "Your grandfather was in on the making of that video, unbeknownst to your mother."

"I told him I was too old to believe in Santa any more, but he bullied me into making it. I thought he'd give it to my mother."

"I don't believe Marian ever saw it, but she had you every day while I did not. A few years later, you were no longer in his life. Sadly, I feel responsible for your mother forcing you to move to San Francisco."

That confession made her drop her hands and look at him. "How could you be to blame?"

"Marian returned early from our summer solstice meeting, only to intercept a phone bill with my number on it. She and Cameron had a terrible fight after he admitted talking with me and accepting presents for you at Christmas for a number of years. Your mother thought our friendship was a terrible betrayal of her trust, so she took you away that very fall." Elrond's eyes were sad. "Not only did she move you across the country and beyond our reach, she also broke off all contact with your grandfather."

"The morning we left, Mom was in such a hurry to get away that she barely gave me time to say good-bye to Grandpa and all of the animals," Ivy whispered. "When we didn't hear anything from him at Christmas, she told me he'd let the ranch go and went into a retirement home. I never saw to him again."

"Cameron came to live with us," said Elrond. "He helped with the cattle and managed our stables whenever Glorfindel left on business."

"But Mom told me he died the next winter," Ivy contradicted. "She showed me a letter from his lawyer and her new deed to the ranch."

Elrond shook his head. "Cameron transferred the deed to her when he left the States. He passed from this world two winters ago due to complications from pneumonia, but won his struggle to live long enough to know that you received your Bachelor's Degree."

"Grandpa lived eight more years with you, and my mother lied about it?" Ivy didn't bother lowering her voice as Erestor re-entered the kitchen. "She wrecked my grandfather's life and made me get out of 4-H...made me leave all of my friends because she hates Elves that much?"

"She is afraid of us. I don't know that she hates us."

Swiping away tears, Ivy took the tissue Erestor was suddenly standing by to offer. "Thank you."

"Welcome." Pushing the Kleenex box across the table, the Elf took the chair opposite Elrond.

"My pony," Ivy suddenly remembered. "I had to leave Windfola, and she was a gift from Santa. Did you send her to me?"

"I did, for you told me on the video that you wanted a horse. Glorfindel imported her here from Iceland, trained her for me, and sent her on to you for Christmas."

"She saved me once," said Ivy, "from a mountain lion attack."

"Then Glorfindel did well training her." Elrond reached out to stroke Ivy's hair while she balled her fingers tight around the latest tissue. "I'm sure he would like to hear how Windfola saved you."

"Give me a minute to stop crying, and maybe I could tell him." Stealing more tissues, she wiped her eyes and blew her nose. "I can't believe my mother could do such a thing. Wait. Yes, I can. She's kept secrets all of her life from me, what's one more? But I'm here with you now, and even though I can't see Grandpa again, we can still talk and make up for lost time, right?"


"All of the secrets are coming out now, and it serves her right." Ivy lifted her head. "If Mom is that paranoid about Elves, you know she's going to go ballistic when I end up in Oz with you. She may have stolen my childhood and hurt Grandpa, but that's all over. I don't care what she thinks or how much she yells that Elves are dangerous and I should be careful around you. Do you really think Glorfindel wants to hear about my old pony?"

"I do."

Ivy lifted her chin. "Then lead on, MacDuff."



If the great hall across the way had been made over into Ballroom d'Tacky, the dining hall was Olde Medieval Money.

Old money, old world, and really quiet, thought Ivy, cautiously following Elrond into the room that held new Elves for her to meet.

Much to Ivy's relief, no rococo nightmares had reached this hall. There was only more of the sinfully thick carpeting featuring the same greenleaf pattern as she'd seen upstairs, and shining ash paneling that appeared to match the woodwork in Haldir's library. There was also a heavy iron chandelier set high in the wood-beamed, white-washed ceiling overhead, which looked like it had been recycled from some ancient hall in Ithilien itself. Real candles burned in it, and Ivy noted that no electric dimmer switches were in sight. I guess Haldir didn't dare change anything in here?

The long plain table dominating the big room was a larger version of the one in the kitchen, suitable for seating thirty, or so Ivy estimated on the way by. Stacked on the gigantic buffet behind the table were more of the utilitarian stoneware plates featuring the Scottish thistle-and-greenleaf pattern Ivy had noticed in the kitchen.

There were quiet murmurs and subtle glances from the Elves already gathered in the room before all went ominously silent. So silent that Ivy could hear the whisper of Elrond's robes as he led the way.

A few willowy, elegant female Elves near the door turned as one to mark Ivy's trailing after Elrond. Ivy knew their looks of dismissal all too well, having seen others like it too often at horse shows where she'd exhibited her paintings.

Yeah, that's me: no money, no clothes and no makeup. I look like the hired help, but The Perfect Ones probably didn't like my mother, either. Thank heaven they didn't witness my trying to get away from Julien. Double thanks that they don't want to meet me, because there have been way too many surprises. I'm not up to making a further spectacle of myself tonight. Maybe tomorrow because Legolas will be there tomorrow. He'd better be there tomorrow.

For all of Ivy's silent bravado, she found her steps faltering as Elrond approached two more Elves who seemed to have commandeered the massive stone fireplace at the far end of the long hall. There are two Elves to meet over there, and one of them is the legendary Glorfindel? I am so out of my league, and this is only the first night. Maybe it would have been better to have stayed in the kitchen?

Her face must have reflected some of her uncertainty, for the tall, fair Elf that Elrond had earlier pointed out as being Glorfindel pushed abruptly away from the fireplace. Catching Elrond's eye, Glorfindel gestured with his wine goblet to draw Elrond's attention toward the perfect Elves at the door before subsiding back against the stone fireplace as if he'd never moved.

Pausing, Elrond turned slightly and held out his hand. "Daughter."

It was only one word, but the warmth and welcome it held was unmistakable. Ivy immediately closed the space between them to slip her hand into his. Peripherally, she was aware of the perfect Elves murmuring among themselves and filing out the door.

Put that in your chocolate and smoke it, she thought.

That left only two Elves in the room for her to meet. Grateful for Glorfindel's discreet help, Ivy wondered if the books were right, if he was actually a legend among his own kind. This one, it was said, had proven so valiant, honorable and loyal in Gondolin that he was the only Elf to ever have been re-embodied by the Valar and sent back to Middle-earth. All of the others who had died and regained their bodies remained in Valinor. Legend also had it that Glorfindel had spent so much time among the Maiar that he was practically one of them.

Leaning casually against the fireplace, the newest Elven lord was dressed in a red-flannel shirt, faded blue jeans, and a pair of well-worn, square-toed boots. Ivy could well imagine him a Ringer who had come straight off the Great Dividing Range, except that the luxurious golden hair fanning across his shoulders entirely wrecked the man from Snowy River effect.

He and Legolas shared the same bone structure and musculature, but Glorfindel's skin was so pale, it seemed to glow nearly transparent in the candlelight. Ivy knew she was openly staring at him, but the Elf-lord seemed willing to suffer her scrutiny and waited with a half-smirking serenity for her to finish. The eyes she finally met were ice-blue, like a huskie's. Ivy sensed he was assessing her every bit as closely as she was him, yet his eyes danced a welcome. Judged, she may have been, but Ivy didn't think he'd found her wanting.

Not yet, anyway. She liked him immediately.

Placing his hand over his heart, Glorfindel gave a short bow. "Welcome, Ivy Macleod. I am Glorfindel, and I hope our motley, pointy-eared crew hasn't frightened you too badly."

"Erm, no." Ivy wondered if she should return his formal salute, but decided it would probably look silly.

"Not yet, anyway?" Glorfindel teased with a smile that lit up his eyes. The deep, calming timbre of his voice was a surprise.

"Not yet," she agreed, and found herself grinning back at him. If Burnt Umber had a sound - rich and smooth and deep - his voice would be it, Ivy decided. "Please forgive my staring, but I can't take my eyes off of you."

"And why is that?"

Hadn't Legolas told her to always speak her truth when dealing with Elvenkind? Taking a deep breath and deciding to trust his advice, Ivy took the plunge. "You have the most beautiful voice, I've never heard anything like it. Not only that, but the way you look and the way you feel to be near...that's pretty mind-blowing, too. You're not scary, you're mesmerizing."

Glorfindel laughed outright. "Mesmerizing, am I? I like the sound of that, but it won't last. I'll certainly enjoy it while it does, but please know I am simply an Elf who has lived a long time. No more and no less, little one."

Elrond's hand was warm on Ivy's back. "I've the feeling we're going to be here for some time, so why don't we all sit down?"

"An excellent idea." Sinking where he stood, Glorfindel sat cross-legged on the side of the hearth, just beyond the searing heat of the fire. Patting the stone, he said, "Would you like to join me?"

The golden Elf's smile was so beguiling, his blue eyes as eager and open as a child's, that Ivy began believing she really was welcome.

"Ivy will sit on the floor next to me." Elrond took the one remaining chair next to a silent Elf whose name Ivy didn't know.

Grateful for being told so clearly what to do, she settled opposite Glorfindel on the floor, where she could soak up the heat from the fire. Scooting closer to Elrond's side, she asked, "Do you mind if I lean against you?"

"Not at all."

The Elf-lord's leg was a comfortable support, and Ivy felt braver being in contact with him. He rescued me from those snooty Elves, so I know he won't let anything really bad happen to me. Embarrassing, sure. Bad, no. She focused again on the still-smiling Glorfindel.

"So you aren't of high birth, of the Vanyar, after all?" Ivy let disappointment tinge her tone.

"Well, yes I am, but--"

"But you really didn't do all those heroic things the books say you did? You didn't fight a balrog and save the women and children of Gondolin from certain death?"

"Of course I did. But I also fell to my doom after getting my long, golden tresses caught up in the balrog's horns...claws...whatever. That doesn't sound very heroic, does it?"

"The survivors thought so," said Ivy. "They built a monument to you right there, on the spot."

"That, they did," Glorfindel admitted. "But instead of asking a giant eagle to bring up my lifeless body and gathering stones to heap over me, I've always thought it would have been a bit brighter if they'd have gotten their collective behinds down the mountain and off to safety."

"Maybe. But another time you fought the Witch-king and won."

"No, Eowyn fought him and won. I merely laughed at him and he ran away to fight another day. Have you ever seen a ringwraith?"

"Only in the movies."

"They look rather silly, don't they? Running about dressed in black sheets, screeching and sniffing the air to catch your scent like incompetent bloodhounds. You'd think Sauron's darlings could have come up with more inventive Halloween tricks to defeat the enemy."

"There are always the morgul blades," Ivy challenged.

"Yes, you're right. Best not get scratched. Better to laugh so hard that the ghouls give up in confusion. It's a terrible thing to laugh at a Nazgul," Glorfindel said conspiratorially. "They end up totally bewildered if their presence doesn't reduce you to trembling impotence."

"Why weren't you afraid of them?"

The Elf-lord tilted his head. "I've faced Morgoth's army, died by Balrog, and spent some time with Mandos and his friends. Not much frightens me any more."

I'll bet he has some great stories to tell, Ivy reflected. Maybe I'll get to hear them one day.

"Not to change the subject or anything," she said hesitantly, "but Elrond told me you fathered Legolas?"

"Ah, so I did." Arching an eyebrow, Glorfindel looked at Elrond. "Told her about that, did you?"

"I mentioned it only in passing and knew to leave the telling of the tale to you."

"That's kind of you."

"You and Legolas look so much alike," said Ivy, "and some of your mannerisms are the same, but your personalities are so different that it's making my mind tilt."

Glorfindel leaned forward. "Are we back to my being mesmerizing?"

She grinned. "Definitely. But when I referred to Legolas as Thranduilion on the plane, he didn't correct me."

Elrond braced his elbows on the arms of the chair and steepled his fingers. "Legolas' conception and birth are two of the greatest scandals of our history. Even as his father is one of the most powerful warriors among us. Glorfindel's name and deeds are indeed legend, whether he admits it or not."

"Did he just compliment me?" Glorfindel demanded.

"Um, I think so."

"That won't last either. But Elrond is right about my son, and we need a few scandalous legends to keep us humble."

"Humble now, are you?" said Elrond,

"Definitely." Glorfindel nodded, all solemnity. "As St. Augustine said - mostly - 'It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes the Elves as angels.'"

"So Elves really are like angels?" Ivy asked in all eagerness.

Glorfindel snorted. "Hardly. We are in the middle of an ongoing soap opera, the same as everyone else on this planet. I will admit to having participated in one or two overtly dramatic scenes down through the ages. Legolas' very existence did begin in scandal though through no fault of his own. As for my son's paternal name, he probably didn't want to confuse you since your mother has already done plenty of that."

"How is Legolas' existence a scandal?" Ivy puzzled.

"He was intended by the Valar to be the guardian of the Istari," said Glorfindel. "One in particular called Mithrandir, commonly known as Gandalf. And so Legolas' birth was...a bit manipulated, if you the Valar. His mother was the queen of Mirkwood, but Thranduil did not father him."

This just keeps getting weirder and weirder, thought Ivy, feeling as if her mind might explode with the newest revelation of the week. "So the professor was wrong? Elves don't bond forever?"

"The professor was right, but the Valar broke the bond between Thranduil and his queen long before I visited Mirkwood in the third age."

"Why were you in Mirkwood?" Ivy asked.

"During my time between the worlds, I came to know Mithrandir as Olorin - one of the Maiar who are lesser members of the Valar. Mith was the last wizard to arrive in Middle-earth, and as I had long been back, I elected to leave Imladris for a time and show him about. One of our 'getting acquainted' stops was Mirkwood. While Mithrandir met with the king, I renewed my acquaintance with the queen." The Elf-lord's expression was all innocence.

"Whoa." Ivy rocked back against Elrond's leg. "If we're all players in a soap opera, I think you may be one of the leads."

"Delicious, isn't it?" He grinned at her. "Seriously, my encounter with the queen of Mirkwood was not the way it appears upon first hearing, and the Valar had their reasons - quite strong ones - for wanting Legolas born. Thranduil returned from the Battle of Dagorlad in total misery after watching his eldest son, his father, and his uncles fall - more through obstinacy than bravery when Oropher refused to wait for Elrond's order to charge. Oropher's recklessness meant one third of the entire Elven army was swallowed up by the marshes northwest of the entrance to Mordor.

"Thranduil became king upon his return to Mirkwood. He also lost himself in depression and drink, becoming someone the queen could no longer bear to be near, either in soul or body. She remained with him out of loyalty and memory of what they had once been to each other, but the Valar generously dissolved their bond, lest she sink into a depression even deeper than Thranduil's. When I arrived a thousand years into the Third Age..." Glorfindel spread his hands before him.

"You seduced the queen of Mirkwood just after meeting her?" Ivy squeaked.

"I did not," Glorfindel sounded indignant. "I'd met the lady before and thought her quite lovely. I still think her quite lovely."

"Is she here?"

"She is in Valinor, but that is part of the tale I'm trying to tell, if you'll be patient."

"Sorry." Ivy subsided.

"As I pointed out earlier, the Valar had a hand in Legolas' conception. We were nudged, if you will, to become better acquainted in the gardens of Mirkwood, hence her naming Legolas as she did. I left Mirkwood not knowing she had conceived, nor that we had bonded. Yes, I know this shatters points of the professor's backstory all to hell." Glorfindel raised a hand as Ivy was about to interrupt him again. "But really, you must consider that his source was most impure and be willing set a fair bit of the professor's writings aside if you're to learn our history without its angelic affectations. Now, where was I?"

"You were bonded and left Mirkwood," Ivy said quickly.

"So we were, and so I did. Mith and I continued our tour. A few months later, the grapevine carried the news that the queen of Mirkwood was with child. Thinking the child might be mine as the timing was right, I left Imladris once more and returned to Mirkwood, only to discover I was now barred from entering Thranduil's domain. He knew he had not lain with the queen, and I suspected he knew who had.

"I hung about the gates for some weeks, seeking a way in. In due time, the queen delivered her son. She was allowed to hold Legolas but once, and then Thranduil tossed her out."

"Among the spiders?" Ivy gasped.

"Among the spiders and the orcs," Glorfindel confirmed. "I was able to intercept and protect her, and my first priority was to get her to safety, which meant as far away from Mirkwood as possible. Weakened by childbirth and beyond distraught, she wanted only to go Oversea. I took her to the Grey Havens, and at our farewell she begged me to retrieve our son from Thranduil and bring him to her. This, I promised to do, but the Valar and circumstances had other plans. I tried every few months to re-enter Mirkwood and negotiate Legolas' release, but was always turned away - politely but firmly - at the gates. My efforts were for nothing unless I wished to wage single-handed war upon my own kind.

"Twelve years later, Mith returned to Mirkwood and greeted its king with the news that Dol Guldur might be reawakening and Sauron's power with it. The wizard found Legolas hiding behind a tapestry in one of Thranduil's meeting rooms. Thin and dirty, neglected by Thranduil and abused by Galion, Legolas was filled with fear and only six years old in Mortal terms. Mith managed to win my son in game of chance played that night with the sodden king. Knowing Legolas would certainly be reclaimed when Thranduil had slept off his folly, Mithrandir whisked Legolas away and was on the road to Imladris by dawn's light.

"By the time wizard and Elfing arrived, a fierce bond had formed between them, regardless Mith had been sent to Middle-earth for a definite purpose that did not include towing about vulnerable little Elves. Of course he had to leave my son in Elrond's keeping and continue with his quest to discover where the One Ring lay hidden. Of course Legolas spent the next thirty years learning from me the skills necessary to travel with his wizard and protect them both from all harm." Glorfindel shook his head. "I never was able to keep my promise to Legolas' mother; to this day, my son has not set foot in Valinor."

Not wanting to move while Glorfindel told his tale, Ivy finally dared stretch out her legs, which were falling asleep. "Elrond told me why he came back from that realm. But why did you?"

"The first time I returned to Middle-earth, I was re-embodied and sent back by the Valar quite simply to aid Elrond, who was unable to leave Imladris while the power of Vilya was required to conceal and protect that sanctuary. I led the Elvish forces of Imladris, the Grey Havens, and Lothlórien against the forces of the Witch-king in the Battle of Fornost. Elrond and I were also charged with protecting the last of the Elves at the Grey Havens if the Fellowship failed and the One Ring was returned to a re-embodied and all-powerful Sauron. Our job in that case would have been to hold the final line against the Dark Lord as long as it took for the last ship to get away.

"That sounds like a suicide mission."

Glorfindel nodded solemnly. "The second time I returned here...there are so many reasons, where to begin?"

He began ticking them off on his long fingers. "First of all, Legolas never came home as he still had responsibilities to tend and promises to keep. I missed him. I wanted to come back and help. So I did. Secondly, my bonded mate has never forgiven me for not rescuing her son and sending him to her. She feels cheated, not only out of raising Legolas, but out of watching the rest of his life unfold to this day. She knows him only through stories told of him, which is heartbreaking for a mother as you might imagine. We had a second son in Valinor, whose raising she jealously guarded to the point of deliberately locking me out of his upbringing and spoiling him rotten. I decided to leave her to it and return when her mood may have softened toward me."

"Thirdly--"Glorfindel cocked his thumb at Elrond. "I have doggedly guarded this one's safety for centuries, as Legolas guarded Mithrandir. Neither Erestor nor I were about to let Elrond back into the scary world of Men without our being there to watch his back."

Glorfindel fell silent and waited patiently for Ivy to ask her next question. A growing fatigue made her struggle to absorb much of what the Elf-lord had shared.

Stupid jetlag, she thought as the grandfather clock outside the door chimed midnight. What I'm hearing is too fascinating to give up and go to bed. It didn't help that Elrond was stroking her hair. She soaked up that touch and instinctively relaxed beneath his open caring.

"Why are Haldir and Legolas posing as father and son if you're here?" she asked.

Elrond took up the tale. "We have all developed strategies for appearing as Men, for this is their world now, and our survival requires us to interact with them. We establish roles and play them out for entire Mortal lifetimes at a time. So it is that I am Elden Warlow while Glorfindel is Gordon Westron. We retire each role after only a few decades, creating a new one or lying low for a generation or two if a previous role has been too public."

Explained Glorfindel, "Legolas and I have posed as entire strangers, mere business associates, cousins, as father and son and even as brothers at different points in the Mortal timeline. We cannot always be father and son, as the Mortals would notice. A couple of centuries back and for some months, we were both the Laird of Lairg when Legolas had to be in two places at once - in London as well as here. That was interesting to say the least. We got away with it because there was no Internet or CNN back then."

"Haldir's current role as Halden Greenwood is coming to an end," Elrond pointed out, "for the persona has aged to the point that it must be retired. The persona of Lee Greenwood the Third was set up nearly twenty-eight years ago as Halden's son and heir, so Legolas has a fresh role to maneuver with for some years to come. At some point in the near future, Halden's death will be announced to the media. A mock funeral will be held in the graveyard next to the parish church in the village - complete with a wooden coffin built by the locals and filled with sandbags - and Haldir will drop out of public sight for a few years."

Ivy twisted around to look at her new guardian. "Am I going to have to play someone else, too?"

"Not until your natural Mortal lifespan has passed," Elrond replied. "It is a safety precaution for all of us who interact with the world of Men."

She sighed. "It all sounds so exhausting. Do you ever get to be who you are? Just Elves, living your own lives?"

"We do, behind closed doors and away from prying Mortal eyes," said Elrond. "We've thirty-five thousand private acres two hours southwest of Sydney where we are able to do just that."

"That's definitely reassuring." She fingered the material of his robes pooled beside her on the floor. "Is this raw silk?"

"It is. And no, we do not have our own silkworm farm." He smiled down at her. "We import the material from Japan and Italy."

She bit her lip. "If you're anticipating my questions, does that mean I've asked too many tonight?"

"Not at all." His smile deepened, and his fingers were in her hair again, reassuring.

"Okay, I have to ask - why are you the only one wearing formal robes? Not that I'm objecting or anything, because they look great."

"I am not always so formal," murmured Elrond.

"Sometimes he's worse," said Glorfindel. "We all have robes, but some of us fight tooth and nail not to wear them. And then there's Elrond, who seems married to them."

"Ignore my Greek chorus, please. At the very least, do not believe everything Glorfindel says, for he will often say anything to keep things interesting. As for my robes, I wanted to look my best when you and I finally met. I also need to intimidate a few people this weekend. But my attire is not always so formal."

"Or beautiful and flowing," piped in Glorfindel once more.

Ivy tried not to laugh at the legendary Elf-lord's gleeful tone, but lost the battle. Thumping the side of his boot with her own, she protested, "I'm having a hard time envisioning an informal Lord Elrond, and you're not helping."

"I am so glad to hear that."

She looked up at Elrond. "I'm sorry I didn't dress to meet you, but I didn't know--"

"You could have turned up in sackcloth and ashes, and this one wouldn't have minded," Glorfindel said. "It would only have given him another excuse to tut-tut, enumerate how neglected you are, and shower you with paternal luxuries. Given half the opportunity, he'd spoil you rotten."

That sounds really nice, I'd like to try it, Ivy thought. She knew better than to say it out loud, though, certain that Elven lords from Sydney had better things to do than take care of fully grown Queen's Daughters.


A/N: The tale of Mithrandir rescuing young Legolas was written by Greenwood and myself, finished in April 2002, and is included on this site under the title of "Through the Heart of a Child."


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