"Rather than babysitting me, aren't you supposed to be off pumping people for information as to why they voted for Julien?" asked Ivy as she once more found Elrond taking a meal with her in the kitchen.

"You are far more important than...pumping...anyone for information. From now on, Legolas, Glorfindel or I will always be with you."

"Like the Elven Secret Service?" Off of his nod, Ivy prodded, "Erestor's here. He could look after me."

"Erestor's busy looking after his pots at the moment," said the austere Elf in question, carrying two more dishes out of the kitchen.

"Julien's still sulking upstairs," Ivy continued her protest. "So I'd be fine on my own for a few minutes."

"I am not leaving you alone. In any case, I spoke with Verce briefly a few minutes ago, but she is unwilling as yet to discuss the specifics of her humiliation."


Elrond nodded. "As we suspected, Julien is at the center of this misadventure. Verce said enough to give me a fair idea of what made her vote for him, so I was able to direct Haldir and Glorfindel in finding out if Julien commanded other votes by making the same insidious demands. Even now, they are pressing for more information. My being with you works to our advantage, as my presence seems only to alarm and intimidate Sindohte, Alasse and Tamurile at the moment."

"How could anyone find you intimidating?" Ivy dared tease.

Leaning back from the table, Elrond steepled his fingers and leveled a stern gaze at Ivy. "Tell me, daughter. When did you receive your last student loan, and how did you spend it?"

"Erm..." The room suddenly got much smaller, and Ivy quickly racked her brain for the information the Elf-lord wanted. "The check came the middle of August. It went for tuition and class supplies."

"What supplies?" He never blinked, and Ivy didn't dare look away.

"Oil paints, canvas and a couple of frames, some paper and watercolors for preliminaries. I think I bought some paint thinner too, but I didn't get any new brushes, and--"

"That is well." Elrond held up his hand to silence her before sliding that same hand across Ivy's where it was gripping hard the edge of the table. The Elf-lord's smile was utterly benign, and his command seemed to retreat along with an oppressive pressure against her mind. "Come along now, it's safe to let go."

His grey eyes twinkled as he pried her fingers loose. "I am certain you did exactly what you were supposed to with the funds you were given. Now, let me ask you something else. Do I have any right to know how you spent that money?"

She thought for a moment. "No. But you asked in a way that made me feel like I needed to tell you, and right now."

"Did I not intimidate you into giving me the answers?"

She squirmed where she sat. "Maybe. But you didn't twist my arm. You just made me feel like..."


"Like you could make things really uncomfortable for me somehow if I didn't tell you what you wanted to know."

"Exactly. Now, Haldir and Glorfindel are interviewing the four women who voted against Legolas because it was obvious to us during the meeting that they did not enjoy doing so. Verce's conscience is not as clear regarding her vote as yours is about your student loans. She is friends with the other three woman, and my instincts tell me they may be blameworthy as a group. I do not yet know the logical particulars as to why, but with the help of Haldir and Glorfindel, I expect I soon will."

"And if they still won't talk, it'll be time for you to interrogate them?"


His anticipatory smile was panther-sleek, and Ivy shivered. "So glad I'm not Verce, Sindohte, Alasse or Tamurile."

Erestor pushed into the kitchen with a stack of dirty plates. "I've an update for you, Elrond. Glorfindel has Alasse whispering confidences to him next to the English trifle, while Haldir's got Tamurile and Sindohte spilling all before the fireplace."

"Then the interviews are a success. That is good to know. Thank you, Erestor." Elrond all but purred before turning his attention back to Ivy. "Now, because of my status and power, I could certainly have intimidated them into offering up the information we seek. But that would have caused a great deal of resentment, which would certainly have damaged my relationship with all four women and led to negative repercussions in Greenwood's future. So I set the far less intimidating Haldir and the ever-charming Glorfindel on them to gently ferret out the details."

"You are sneaky."

"So you said before. And you would be right." Looking satisfied, the Elf-lord leaned back from the table.

"You know, you look positively demonic when you smile like that," Ivy observed.

"Do I?" said Elrond, all innocence.

"It must be the pointed ears," said Erestor, joining them at the table. "Admittedly, one does catch more flies with a bottle of vinegar than with a bowl of honey."

"Isn't the cliché the other way around?" Ivy asked.

"The cliché is wrong," said Erestor. "You catch more flies with cider vinegar because flies like rotting fruit."

"Huh. Who'd have thought? So why aren't you on Greenwood's board of directors?"

"I was until a few centuries ago," said Erestor, "but I don't lead or fight any more. I feed people."

"It's as simple as that?" Ivy marveled.

"From where I am sitting, yes. It is. Feeding people brings me contentment. Fighting - in any capacity - does not." Erestor eyed Elrond as he buttered a roll. "Do you believe Julien really feels Legolas has served too long?"

Rather than answer, Elrond asked, "What do you believe?"

"I think a nasty little boy made a grab for all of the marbles today and lost. If Julien had played nice with his toys, he might have had his turn at piloting the ship, same as the rest of you. When he was all grown up, of course."

"I fear Julien would rather plunder the ship than pilot it," Elrond observed.

A cell phone rang somewhere close to Elrond, with a ringtone that sounded suspiciously familiar to Ivy.

"That's from the soundtrack to Lord of the Rings, isn't it?"

"It is not," the Elf-lord denied as he retrieved the phone from a hidden pocket. Studying the little electronic intently, he poked a button or two and avoided Ivy's amused scrutiny. "It is a piece of music entitled 'Anduril,' which is in fact from Return of the King."

"Well, that makes all the difference, doesn't it?" she muttered to Erestor, who arched an eyebrow.

"Anduril was delivered by my character, was it not? So I think it rather appropriate." Poking another button, Elrond set the phone in the middle of the table. "Mae govannen, Elladan. Are you well? Do we need to come find you?"

"No, no rescue party, I'm fine. Listen, I'm calling to let you know the road down into the village is really bad. There's black ice under the new snow, and I nearly landed in the loch a couple of times. Don't let anybody else leave, hey?"

"We won't. What are you plans now?"

"I trust the Rover now that the road has leveled out a bit, so I'm going to go on regardless it's still snowing heavily. The villagers are saying the road down to Inverness is barely passable, but you know how they exaggerate, so I'm counting on that. If I run into trouble before Inverness, I'll try to come back."

"If you do run into trouble, call and we'll come after you with horses. If I don't hear from you, you will still call when you get to London, yes?"

"Absolutely. Okay, I'm out of here. All love to you and Ivy. And remember, Adar, in the book version I delivered Anduril." Elladan ended the call.

"Are you worried for him?" Ivy asked as Elrond slid the cellphone away.

"A bit, but he has faced heavy snows like this before. If the Rover fails, Elladan will take shelter with someone and get word to us."

Ivy thought a moment. "I have to ask, who actually did deliver Anduril to Aragorn?"

"It was a community effort. I ordered the shards of Narsil reforged weeks before the Fellowship left Imladris. Word spread beyond the blacksmiths, and the entire community was in attendance when I delivered the sword into Aragorn's hands. No one wanted to miss watching him test the weapon."

"Oh. That makes sense. Who'd he test it on?"

"Glorfindel and Legolas."

"Consecutively?" Ivy squeaked.

"At once and together," Elrond clarified. "The Hobbits were most impressed."

"Where is Anduril now?"

Elrond thought for a moment. "I believe Legolas retained possession of it after the kings of Gondor fell in the fifth age. We are all of us a bit careless with our antiquities, so it is no doubt shoved inside a dusty cupboard in one of the old, unused wings. That is not to say Legolas doesn't know exactly where the sword is. If you asked after it, he would undoubtedly excavate it for you."

Glorfindel pushed through the door to throw himself into a chair and beam at Elrond. "We're making real progress out there."

"So why are you in here?" asked Elrond.

"I took a short break to look for my son and talk to you. He's not upstairs, so I thought he might be with you and Ivy."

"Legolas jumped out of the library window about half an hour ago," Ivy offered.

"He chose an external blizzard over internal politics? Can't say I blame him." Snatching an apple from a bowl of fruit sitting in the middle of the table, Glorfindel made quick work of slivering it. "Erestor, have we any honey?"

"We certainly do. There's fresh bread keeping warm in the oven as well. I'll cut a slice or two for the little leaf."

Little leaf? thought Ivy. What a nickname for someone who's as elegant, tall and strong as Legolas. I guess he wasn't always?

A moment later, Erestor set before Glorfindel a plate of hot-buttered bread slices slathered with honey. They smelled delicious even to Ivy, who had already eaten.

"No doubt Legolas is in the stable," said Glorfindel, heaping slices of apple around the bread. "Ivy, may I suggest you take this out to encourage his appetite?"

"He said he wasn't hungry before he bolted, and Elladan insisted I should give Legolas time to be alone before bugging him."

"I'm sure he did. Where is your coat?"

"Upstairs." Ivy looked from Elf-lord to Elf-lord, and all three looked back at her placidly. It seemed even gruff Erestor was trying hard to look guileless, which made Ivy all the more suspicious. "Why do I get the feeling you're all trying to get rid of me?"

"We would never do any such thing," said Elrond.

"Unless they had official company business to tend that's not fit for young ears," said Erestor.

"It's not fit yet, anyway," muttered Glorfindel. "Never fear, you'll hear it when Legolas hears it, after all the puzzle pieces are assembled and all of the shouting is over. In the meantime, I need Elden-the-international-lawyer's help for a few minutes, which means Erestor will retrieve Haldir's coat for you from the mud room, and you can bundle up tight before going to feed my son his apples."

Erestor brought the coat in short order, along with a pair of heavy gloves and three long tartan wool scarves. Two of the scarves, Elrond bundled around Ivy before stuffing her into the voluminous coat. The third scarf - bright red and yellow - Glorfindel wrapped around her neck.

"This will help us locate you if you get lost in a snowdrift between the house and the stable."

"If that's supposed to reassure me, it doesn't." Ivy was barely able to move, so well-padded was she against the cold. Turning awkwardly toward Elrond, she protested, "I thought you weren't going to leave me alone."

"You won't be alone. Legolas is mere feet away in the stable, and I will be in here. You have but to scream for help, and all of us will come running. Erestor included."

"Wouldn't miss it," the grave Elf confirmed.

"You said you don't fight any more," Ivy challenged.

"I would enjoy watching the mayhem."

Haldir pushed open the swinging kitchen door. "Elrond, Glorfindel? May I speak with you?"

"Of course."

"I'll be there as soon as I see Ivy off." Glorfindel turned her about.

In short order, Ivy found herself pushed out the back kitchen door and into a cement-floored workroom ringed with tall windows, gleaming steel tables against the plain stone walls, and a broad, deep sink with black plumbing that looking positively Victorian. Even though Ivy was technically still inside, the cold pinched her face.

"What's this room for?" she asked.

"We clean game here before taking it inside to cook." Glorfindel pushed open the back door and snow blew in to swirl around Ivy. "Out with you."

"Where am I going?" Off of Glorfindel's blank look, Ivy tried again. "I mean, where is the stable?"

"Down the path that skirts the gardens and straight past the ramshackle old buildings." Standing on the threshold, the golden Elf stared out into the gathering gloom of the afternoon. "Come to that, it is a bit gloomy out there. Well then, follow the stone wall that's mostly covered with snow, pass through the bower of trees beyond it, and the stable will be the big shed-looking building in front of you."

She peered through the swirling snow at the merest grey outline in the distance that may have or may not have been the stable. "I'll find it. If I can't, I'll yell for help're sure someone will come running?"

"At the very least, you'll be rescued by your father, Erestor and myself. But fear not, the stable is the biggest building out there. There's not the ghost of a chance Julien would be out in weather like this, and I have it on the best of authority that the Abominable Snowman frequents only Nepal which means you'll be perfectly safe."

"Safe in a blizzard. Right." Still she hesitated and shuffled half around to peer up at the legendary Elf who seemed blissfully unaware of the wicked wind violently whipping his long blonde hair. "Are you really sure it's okay to invade Legolas' solitude?"

"Yes." He sounded every bit as certain as she felt uneasy.

"But Elladan said the warrior in Legolas needs time alone to deal with not being able to pound Julien into oatmeal."

"Dear Ivy." Stepping out into the storm, Glorfindel took her gently by the shoulders. "Legolas has had his time alone while all of us have been talking. It is now time for him to come out of his self-imposed isolation. Your gentle affection in the form of small touches - and snacks - can help him do just that."

"You want me to touch an uptight warrior-Elf?"

"I want you to help me end my son's self-imposed isolation, so yes, I would like you to touch him in any small way you feel comfortable doing. Legolas likes you, so at the very least he should be willing to brood with you out here in the cold."

"Uh-huh. Sure, he will."

"I don't believe he will reject your touch, but if he should--"

"How, exactly, will he do that if he does it?" she asked warily.

"He will shy like a wary cat or move a few steps away from you. If that happens, I wouldn't pursue touching him."

"Absolutely I won't." I must be crazy for agreeing to this. But with that hypnotic, brown-velvet voice, Glorfindel could likely tell me to jump off a cliff - or walk out into a Highland blizzard to touch his crunchy warrior-son - and I'd trust it would be all right. She wanted to give a deep sigh, but thought her lungs would freeze if she dared. "Okay, I'm off to find the stable before Legolas' apples freeze."

"Remember to scream if you need help." Glorfindel closed the door, and the silence of the storm descended.

"Yeah, I'll do that." Turning into the blinding snow, Ivy resolutely waddled forth.


A/N: As always, thank you taking the time to review and all your kind comments. This update doesn't take the story as far as I wanted it to, but real life has done a number on Greenwood's and my emotions/ability to write over the past couple of weeks. I am writing as fast as I can, so I'll update again as soon as I can.

I know some of you are in Legolas withdrawal; much more of him is coming. The story spans four years and you're still only in the first week, so patience, Padawan. It really is Legolas and Ivy's story. The problem is that they've got this big family that includes pushy Elf-lords who want equal time - much like in real life when your parents interfere with your spending as much time as you'd like with your best friend or boyfriend.

When I began this story, I naively thought it would have about as much depth and length as a Harlequin or Mills & Boon Romance. Bwaahahahahahahaa! We are now drowning in both depth and length (the outline alone is over 70 pages long), but from what some readers have to say this may not be a bad thing, so Greenwood and I are running with it. The upside is that you'll get a highly detailed world that goes on and on and makes you perhaps feel like it could be real "somewhere out there." The downside is that it takes a lot of time to write properly because there are so many emotional/visual layers to it and we have to go carefully, carefully.

Some quick feedback for you reviewers:

Thank you for writing to say you like the way we're writing Legolas as well as Ivy. We didn't want him to be perfect - or, actually, want any Elf to be perfect, 'cause perfect is boring to read.

If you're wondering why Legolas is so moody/broody, etc., you might want to read "Through the Heart of a Child" which was written/archived by Greenwood and me here in 2002. It explains how Gandalf first met his little leaf in Mirkwood and why Legolas came to live in Imladris as a child. It also explains a bit of why Legolas is the way he is.

Glad you liked the reference to Star Wars. It will definitely come up again.

You know there really are Elves out there? You just have to believe.

I'm am really, truly sorry for not having more Legolas in this update. The chapters to come will have TONS of him in it. I am not toying with you as an audience, but I am following an outline to very carefully lay the foundation of this world. I know you're frustrated - so is Ivy. So am I because I can't write on this thing as often as I could if I were, say, still in school. #pointed look at those who read this story while in class or to avoid doing their homework. been there, done that, and i miss it. enjoy it while you've got it, 'cause it won't last forever#

Anne Rice? Wow...I don't think we could ever write with that much originality, emotion or description, or have characters as perfect and individual and lasting as she does, but thank you for the comparison. (Am I the only one who misses Lasher?)

Julien will get his. That's a promise.

Elrohir and his mohawk will definitely put in an appearance in Warra. Boy, will he ever.

As always, thanks so much for reading, and for your continued patience.


Ivy couldn't remember the last time she had felt like the only person alive in a freezing world of where almost everything she saw was blanketed with white. There was no real sound out here, only the wind whispering in her ear (very cold ear) and the hiss of the snowflakes settling atop those that had fallen before. Otherwise the world had a muffled, unreal quality about it.

The snow did protest her movement in it, squeaking and crunching beneath her booted feet as she balanced Legolas' treats in her wool-mittened hands. Another shiver stole up Ivy's spine, galvanizing her decision to move forward, either to find sanctuary against this wind or to finish her mission and return to the relative warmth of the stone monstrosity from which she had just been so unceremoniously shoved. Her breath came in puffed clouds and it hurt to breathe, so Ivy took the end of the scarf and covered her mouth and nose to breathe through it.

"Forward on, then. Sooner started, sooner thawed. Maybe, if they let me back in the house."She felt somewhat reassured by her own voice, however much it was muffled behind wool. "Follow the wall, and then go through the trees, he said."

Pull the foot high, scoot it forward through the top few inches of snow, plunge it uncomfortably deep in the icy white to find the ground, and repeat. Progress was ridiculously slow.

"It's been too long since my ranching days," she muttered through the red wool, "and I really haven't missed this a bit. At least I knew where our barn was. This is unbelievably stupid--out in a blizzard, and I don't even know where I'm going."

More snow stung her eyes and she blinked it away, then batted at the burn with a fat, mittened hand.

"They want to guard my every breath inside, but hey, we need a break from babysitting now, so go outside and play in the storm, whether you want to or not. What's with that? Is it like the Elvish version of 'go play in the traffic, little girl'? Too weird."

She forged onward through the swirling snow and the path seemed endless, but at least it was a real path which she found encouraging, believing that it must lead somewhere. Persistence was finally rewarded; what Glorfindel had told her proved true as a big, ghostly building-shaped shadow did loom up beyond the last wall of skeletal trees. Ivy thought it had to be the stable because there were fenced paddocks and frozen water tanks attached to it. Or at least there were dull grey winter outlines of them, covered with the same innocent-appearing fluffy frosting that was currently numbing her toes.

Snuggling Legolas' plate in the snow piled atop a fence post, Ivy beat the accumulated ice and snow off of the latch, then opened and closed the only gate she had obvious access to. The plate accumulated a bit of snow while it waited, and she tried to shake it off, but it seemed to want to stick there. Shrugging, she mushed forward again.

Carrying the plate across the paddock, she eyed the tall door looming over her. The track it was supposed to roll along was as buried as everything else out here, and Ivy's Montana winter experiences told her she was unlikely to win a fight to make the door budge even a little.

Not only that, she'd been bundled so tightly into Haldir's coat and scarves, Ivy wasn't sure she could bend over to set the plate in the snow, much less retrieve it if she proved to have the physical strength to roll back the door. Eyeing the shallow depressions in the snowdrift close to the door, Ivy thought they might have been made by Elf-feet, so perhaps there was another way to get inside the barn?

"Legolas, are you in there?" she called. "I come bearing treats from your father."

When there came no answering call, she thumped one booted foot against the door. Snow promptly slid off of the eaves to land atop her and the plate. Leaping back, she shook her head. Maybe I should just resign myself to eventually being buried alive by the storm?

The door rolled back abruptly, but only a small space was opened, and the driving snow took full advantage to swirl inside. Glancing up at Legolas where he stood before her with one hand braced on the door and the other against the frame, with his hair whipping wildy in the wind and the snowflakes not daring to land on him, Ivy was once more struck with how beautiful he was. She wavered on the threshold as he narrowed his eyes.

"I can go back to the house if you want to be alone," she shouted against the wind. "Here!" she added, thrusting the fairly unidentifiable plate toward him.

"No! Come inside!" Stepping out into the storm, Legolas shielded Ivy with his body before all but pushing her over the threshold and leaning against the heavy door to roll it closed once more.

Blocked the storm may have been by the sheltering stable, but the wind still moaned fiercely around the weathered boards like a resentful Scottish ghost. Pulling the scarf away from her face, Ivy glanced around the generous entry stacked high with bales of hay.

A generous amount of loose hay was scattered in random depths along the aisle, while beyond was a lengthy corridor with long equine faces staring with blatant curiosity over stall doors. The older horses watched Ivy with a sort of wary interest, as though asking what bizarre behavior might be anticipated from this newcomer. The foals on the other side of the aisle were obviously delighted at this new entertainment.

Turning, Ivy stared at Legolas for a moment. He had no outerwear on, just as he had not when he leaped from Haldir's library window, but the Elf didn't look like he was freezing to death. In fact, he was breathing rapidly as though from exertion.

Was the door that hard to open? she wondered.

He stared back, and Ivy suddenly felt the need to look away. Attention returned to the plate in her hands, and she tried to shake some of the snow off of it without tipping its contents into the loose hay.

"I don't understand why the stuff Glorfindel gave me didn't blow away."

Coming around her, Legolas took the plate from her to examine the offering. Giving a slight smile, he turned it upside down. Everything remained in place, refusing to fall.

"It can't blow away, for the cold honey has glued both bread and apple to the plate." Turning the plate right side up once more, Legolas arched an eyebrow. "This is what my father had you bring me?"

"Erestor got the honey bread ready for you, but Glorfindel cut the apples himself."

Legolas burst out laughing.

"What's so funny?"

"They've had you bring the only food I would eat when I was twelve. Comfort food, I think it would be called now?" Legolas set the plate on the dirt floor next to a bale of hay before collecting a rake leaning against the wall.

"Was your nickname Little Leaf then?" Ivy asked.

That stopped him cold. He turned to look at her for a moment, then just as abruptly turned back to raking up the loose hay. "It was. Where did you hear of it? Don't tell me Glorfindel is calling me that."

"Actually, it was Erestor." Covering her cheeks with her gloved hands, Ivy tried to warm her face. Stiff cheek muscles made her sound funny, even to her own ears.

"That name is something I've not heard it for many hundreds of years. Regardless Julien's intrigues, I am not so badly off - or strange - now as I was that first year in Imladris."

Legolas smiled, and with the appearance of those deep dimples it seemed to Ivy as if the sun itself were coming up over one of the stalls. The Elf then returned to trying to corral all of the hay, raking it into small piles and shoving it into stalls, seemingly at random.

"Did the maid not show up today?" Ivy asked.

"The maid?..."

"You're cleaning up." She gestured with her robot-bundled arms. "Why is all the hay in the aisle, anyway? That's nice grass hay, too nice to be thrown down to walk on."

Legolas raked even more vigorously and seemed to be evading Ivy's gaze. "It is nice hay, isn't it? We bail our own, you know."

"So were you examining the summer cutting?"

"No, the disorder is my doing. I am trying to hide the evidence, as they say."

Ivy considered that for a moment and followed Legolas down the aisle. "You came out here and threw straw around?"

Silence and more raking met that question.

"Could you open that stall door for me?" Legolas waited while Ivy fumbled with her fat mitten-impaired hands. "I am responsible for the hay," he finally admitted. "I...fought with it."

Reversing the rake in his hands, he used the tines to flip the straw into the stall and past the legs of the very intrigued yearling inside.

I needed to..." Leglas continued after a search for the right words. "I needed to confront something. Physically."

"You came out here and beat up bales of hay when you really wanted to beat up Julien?

"Essentially yes."

"I guess that would explain why you've bits of hay in your hair."

Grinning, she pulled free one of Haldir's great mittens and moved forward to gently pick at some of the chaff in his hair.

Legolas tolerated her grooming him far longer and with better grace then Ivy thought he would before urging, "Door please?"


Ivy hurried past him to open the next stall door and struggle to restrain the eager occupant who viewed the open stall door as an invitation to come out and play in the aisle.

"I did exorcise my frustrations on the bales. I wasn't expecting company," he concluded, sounding almost embarrassed as he shoved hay into the next stall.

"Wow. I wish I could have seen it," Ivy said, wistful. "It must have been quite a battle."

"Ah, and now she mocks me."

"No, seriously, I bet it was something to see. I'd love to watch a warrior go through a kata or whatever Elves call it. I'd really love to see you in action. If you wouldn't mind, of course."

Legolas stopped raking to turn and stare at her. His expression was hard for Ivy to decipher, but she thought it fell somewhere between disbelief and amazement. She was the one to look away this time, picking hay wisps out of a yearling's forelock and mane. The battle must have been of epic proportion, as it seemed everyone and everything in the stable was sporting at least some hay.

"I would be glad to show you, if you sincerely wish it," Legolas offered softly.

"Oh yes, I wish. I'd love it." She tried to smile, but her cheeks felt oddly mask-like. She hoped the expression wasn't too unnatural.

Giving that little half smile of his, Legolas shook his head. "This was not the time, though, for many reasons - not the least of which is that I would never have brought you out in this weather. What was my father thinking?"

"He and the others wanted me out of the house."

"They ordered you out in this storm?"

"I think it was time for the grown-ups to talk," she said carefully. "Sekrit things seem to be going on, things not for young ears - pointed or otherwise."

Legolas scowled. "There are limits, and this was not the best of choices for you."

"I'm here, I'm fine." She shrugged. "Glorfindel's directions were good for finding the stable, so no harm, no foul. It's all good, right?"

Legolas did not reply, but put more effort in to moving the hay. The aisle was being tidied in record time, and Ivy hesitantly picked up a broom to follow along and clear up the finer bits he missed. She handed out handfuls of hay to those who seemed to feel slighted in the tidying efforts, working in silence with Legolas until the task was completed and Ivy was left feeling uncertain and awkward. Finally she went back and collected the plate of frozen, snow-limned goodies from its place on the stable floor.

"So...the snacks are delivered. Should I leave now?" Ivy watched Legolas turn back toward her, but a sudden nudge at the plate in her hand distracted her. "Hey! That's for him, not for you."

The lips of a delicate chestnut muzzle made another grab for the bread even as Ivy tried to snatch it out of reach, but the bread didn't budge. Clearly surprised, the filly made yet another grab, stretching out her neck to rake her teeth across the bread.

Cold, congealed honey strung away from the bread even as it adhered to the filly's teeth. Backing away, she snorted and wiggling her lips in bewilderment. Ivy giggled, and to her surprise Legolas joined her in laughter. Moving forward, he ran a reassuring hand down the filly's neck as he rubbed at the stickiness on her muzzle. The filly paused as she enjoyed his caress, but backed away to continue her snorting and champing.

"I would be grateful for your company if you'd stay." The Elf's smile was definitely warmer, his tone gentler than Ivy had ever heard it. Settling on a bale of hay set against the wall, he indicated the space beside him. "Sit with me, if you will, and tell me why my father would send you out with frozen apples."

"There's nothing more to tell. They all wanted me out of the way for awhile." Sinking down beside him, Ivy discovered they were sitting nearly shoulder to shoulder. This would be nice if it wasn't so cold and I didn't have five layers of clothing on.

"All of them?" Legolas prompted. "This makes no sense."

"Your father, mine, Haldir and even Erestor seemed giddy - for Erestor, I mean - because they've discovered why Verce and the others voted against you. Julien's definitely part of it, and they wanted me out of the way for some sort of private business conference. Your father said I'd find out what it was all about when they told you. They definitely seemed pleased, though, so it must be all to the good."

Shivering, Ivy wrapped her arms around herself.

"You're cold."

Ya think? Her freezing mind shouted, but took advantage of chattering teeth to slow her down to a more polite response.

"A little," she stuttered as another fierce shiver seized her.

Getting up, Legolas shoved a second bale of hay against the one they occupied. He then strode into a nearby stall only to return in short order with an armful of tartan wool blankets resembling those Elladan had found for Ivy in the chest in her bedroom. Shaking them out, he threw the entire lot over her.

Unlike the barn of Ivy's childhood, these blankets didn't smell of animals and dust, but of clean, sweet hay so lovely even her frozen nose could appreciate it. There was, however, loose hay still clinging to the edges that had climbed aboard in the trip down the aisle.

"Turn about and put your feet up," Legolas instructed.

Mystified, Ivy did as he asked, only to have him slide in behind her and tighten the blankets around her.

"Now, lean back against me."

No problem, she thought, doing just that. Small touches, said Glorfindel? This seems pretty major to me. And he's offering! How cool is this?

"Are these horse blankets?" She dared to wipe her nose on the edge as she sniffed, the icy air making it drippy and embarrassing.

"No. I believe they were stored here by the couple from the village whom Haldir hired for foal-watch last spring. Apparently the nights were still a bit too cool for their comfort."

Reaching past Ivy, Legolas gathered the blankets to bundle them even closer. Wrapping his arms around her, he slid his long legs to either side, tightened them against her and hugged her close.

"You should feel warmer in a few minutes." His mouth was just above her ear.

I don't believe this! thought Ivy. Who are you, and what did you do with the skittish, uptight Elven warrior I met on a LearJet less than a week ago? Or how about the one who jumped out a window to avoid me an hour ago?

He was holding her so close, she could feel his breath stir the hair against her ear. Forcing herself to relax and savor the moment, Ivy closed her eyes, the better to concentrate on Legolas' steady breathing against her, his strong arms tight around her.

"You and Elrond are getting on, then?" he asked.

"Mmm," she responded, reluctant to open her eyes or even nod lest she break the spell. "Sure. He's wicked cool."

She felt the chest move behind her at her response, but decided to ignore the possibility that the Elf might have been laughing at her.

"Elrond told me he had to save you from Julien."

"That was cool, too. Just by saying Julien's name, Elrond sent Julien scuttling off like a roach into the shadows last night. He was amazing - Elrond, I mean. Not Julien." She smiled at the memory. "I didn't even know who he was then, but I knew he was one big, cool Elf."

Turning her head, Ivy felt Legolas' hair brush her cheek before he tilted his head down to look at her and she fell into eyes the color of the sky.

"Thank you for...taking care...of Julien this morning." She stumbled over the words as her stomach did flip-flops. "And thank you for checking my doors last night."

"For checking..."

"I think it's really sweet how you make sure all the doors in the house - even the ones on the balcony - are locked up tight before going to bed. It feels really good, having an Elven protector or three."

"I am glad you felt safe last night."

"With you watching over me, how could I not?"

Legolas was mere inches away, and Ivy marveled that anyone could have such thick, dark lashes. His skin was flawless except for the shadows beneath his eyes that spoke of suffering and looked so entirely out of place that Ivy felt a sudden surge of protectiveness.

That shouldn't happen to him. If he takes care of me, why can't I take care of him? I'd like to try, but he'd never let me. He's tried so hard for so long to look after everyone, does he ever let anybody take care of him? Even his father?

"Are you going to eat what Glorfindel had me bring you?" she asked, feeling more than a little nervous while Legolas looked placidly back at her and the silence seemed to build and build between them. "I don't think the filly touched the apples."

"I am not hungry." He tightened his grip as she drew breath to protest. "Truly, Ivy, I am not." His head dipped so low, she thought he might brush his forehead against hers. "Let us get through the rest of the meeting this afternoon, and I once again promise to eat supper tonight."

"If you don't, I'm telling Erestor on you."

Those dimples crept out again. "I doubt you would have to tell Erestor anything. He is probably watching my eating habits even more closely than are my father and you."

"I'll bet Erestor would have voted for you if he was still on the board," Ivy grumbled.

"Perhaps. But Erestor chooses to be far away from corporate turmoil. He has served that sort of role in the past, and his wisdom is still much valued, but we honor his wish to feed us instead." Legolas offered another small smile. "It isn't as though we don't enjoy what he does now."

Whatever else Legolas might have said was cut short as the aisle door suddenly shrieked on its tracks as gloved hands heaved it open against the wind. Ivy jumped violently, startled out of her comfortable reverie with Legolas. Her only comfort was that he flinched as well and tightened his grip on her, apparently as surprised as she.

Two large, snowy forms pushed inside the barn, the last one trying to yank closed the door once more. The other turned to add his heft to the effort, and the door groaned shut again. The silence and absence of biting wind was almost as shocking as the door being slung open had been.

Ivy and Legolas both stared in tense silence while Elrond and Glorfindel beat the snow from their shoulders and shook it from their hair.

"Storm's worse," Glorfindel observed.

A moment later, both Elf-lords turned in unison to find Ivy and Legolas still snuggled under the blankets atop the bales of hay. Glorfindel gave them an approving grin and winked at Ivy, but Elrond's eyes narrowed, his mouth thinned, and he looked somewhat less than pleased.

"And what are we doing here?" he all but growled at Legolas.

"Protecting her from the cold," the Elf replied with equal chill in his voice. "You may have noticed that the weather - which you pushed her out into - is rather chill?"



A/N: Greenwood is responsible for this chapter. I only tinkered after the fact. :) Wednesday


"Storm's getting worse." Glorfindel beat more snow from his hair. The prickly silence continued around him and the Elf-lord glanced up to note his son's stiffness, then Elrond's rigid stance. "Just thought you'd like to know."

"Yes, we can see that," Elrond finally responded, his gaze never leaving Ivy who was still firmly wrapped in blankets and the encircling arms of Legolas. "I think we'd best go back to the house. Now."

The arms around Ivy tightened a little more, as though to hold her in place should she try to rise.

Oh, this is not good, she thought. What silent message is being sent between the Lord of Imladris and the Lord of Ithilien?

"But I'm warm," she protested, all too reluctant to leave the warm cocoon Legolas was providing and remembering Elladan's insistence that she was Legolas' to protect while she was within the borders of Lairg. "And...and you said you had a meeting. Is it over? What happened with the ladies?"

"Ivy, I would like to take you back to the house." Elrond was looking over her head now and staring hard at Legolas.

I'll just bet Legolas is returning that fierce look, which means they're both behaving like two tomcats getting ready to square off. All that's lacking are the nasty wailing songs, but maybe this is the silent Elven version of The Fur Person's, 'May your milk turn sour, may your blue eyes blear, and may you get the mange.' But why? Legolas and I aren't doing anything.

"Did something go wrong with the meetings?" Ivy asked.

"No, we have news." Glorfindel jumped in with an eagerness that told Ivy she wasn't imagining the tension between the two Elves. "Very interesting news. Much to tell."

"Which we can discuss inside by the fire, in comfort." Elrond offered his hand with a regality that was somewhere between invitation and command. "Daughter."

Oh great, she thought. I've had a Dad for two whole days, and he's already gone bug-nuts. I welcomed his rescuing me last night, and I'm sure he expects the same reaction today. He obviously wants to get me away from Legolas, but why? Legolas isn't going to hurt me - he's my protector!

Glorfindel stepped toward the pair sitting atop the bales of hay. Once clear of Elrond, the golden Elf very deliberately turned back and scowled at the former Lord of Imladris.

Blinking, Elrond shifted his focus to Glorfindel. Neither Elf-lord moved or spoke, but Ivy still had the feeling some sort of communication was going on. Elrond didn't look quite so menacing when he finally shifted his attention back to Legolas.

Ivy looked up at Glorfindel, who still wasn't moving. Did he and Elrond just have one of those private mind-to-mind conversations like the one the professor said went on in Return of the King's "Homeward Bound" chapter between Elrond and the wizard and that couple from Lothlórien?

Think, Ivy! What is the big deal with Legolas keeping me warm? Dan used to tell me that every action stems from either love or fear. I've seen Elrond act with love and this isn't it, so he has to be scared of something. Of Legolas...what? Being with me? Touching me?

He doesn't want Legolas to be my friend? I shouldn't have any friends, I should only have Elrond? No friends, only a...Daddy? That felt right. Gotcha, Dad.

Listening to her instincts and taking a deep breath, Ivy jumped into the silent fray.

"Ada?" Daddy. Ivy layered the word with every bit of uncertainty and insecurity she'd felt since first boarding Greenwood's sleek little corporate jet in San Francisco.

Glorfindel's head whipped around, and Elrond looked genuinely startled. Good.

"Have I done something wrong, Ada?" Ivy pursued. "Have you changed your mind about letting me go to Warra?"

The Elf-lord's hostility melted away instantly. He offered a small smile, and his grey eyes were kind once more.

"You have done nothing wrong, my daughter. In fact, you have done wondrously today, and I am glad to hear you still wish to come home with me. We shall leave as soon as we can clear the runway."

Ivy slowly let out the breath she'd been holding.

"Well played."

Legolas' voice was barely a breath against her ear and certainly too soft for Elrond to hear. Unwilling to risk a whispered reply, Ivy patted his thigh beneath the blankets.

"Of course Ivy's still coming home with you," Glorfindel started in, "regardless her introduction to our merry band has had her meeting hostile strangers, being accosted by a nutter, being attacked by a gilded cherub and seeing tardy twits chucked out the window. Of course she wants to be subjected to more Elves in Warra."

Glorfindel turned to scratch the ears of the filly nibbling at his sleeve, then peered down into the stall. "Here now, who gave you all this hay?"

"I did," Legolas replied wearily. Ivy could sense his resignation that, sooner or later, his battle with the hay a la Julien would need to be confessed.

"I helped," Ivy inserted.

"Did you now?" asked Glorfindel.

"In Montana when it was this cold we always fed more hay. My grandfather and the Future Farmers of America said that digestion generates more body heat and keeps the gut moving so the horses have less chance of colicking."

"Aye, they're right." Glorfindel nodded. "We've known that for millennia, but the farmer scientists feel they've discovered it all by themselves. Reinventing the wheel, just like always."

Moving across the aisle he peered over another stall door. "Why give extra hay only to the foals and not the mares? They're feeling slighted. And have you even looked at the gentlemen in the end stalls?"

A rhythmic banging started in response to his question.

"Never mind, I hear you haven't." Glorfindel headed for the ladder leading to the loft and the older bales of hay that were to be fed first. "They're good stallions, you know?"

"You said you brought news?" Legolas attempted to redirect the conversation.

"We do," said Elrond, tucking his hands inside his sleeves like some Jedi Master standing before the council on Coruscant. "Thanks to the efforts of Haldir and Glorfindel, we have gotten to bottom of the convoluted tale of who voted for whom and why, and the matter has been effectively resolved."

"'Tis a wonderful tale full of back-biting, mayhem, illegal activities and betrayal." Glorfindel peered down on them from his lofty perch. "Good as any bad Mortal movie if you added a little bloodshed. We need more hay. Nobody move."

"Blackmail and bloodshed?" Ivy echoed. "I thought Elves were above all that. Especially the bloodshed."

"We may yet see blood spilled, for Julien is entirely unaware of what has transpired. I doubt he will be pleased when he finds out how we've interfered with his plans." Elrond's wicked smile said Julien would likely be the only one displeased.

"So?" Ivy leaned forward. "What are the details?"

"Heads up!" warned Glorfindel.

A bale of hay came crashing from above to send Ivy flinching back against Legolas. Another bale followed, bouncing toward them and making Elrond step back.

The Elf-lord scowled up at the loft. "Are you finished?"

"No, I'm not, thank you for asking," came the cheerful, disembodied answer, followed by a third crashing bale. "We'll need more hay for evening stables," Glorfindel explained after jumping gracefully from the loft into the center of the aisle. "No sense going up there twice in only a few hours."

"Details, please?" The Elf's warm breath brushed against Ivy's hair, and his voice rumbled against her back. "Or must I beg?"

Oh, wow, she thought. I'm sitting in the middle of Middle-earth's finest while they tend both horses and politics. Mom, I understand you not trying to explain this - how could you? - but I'm so glad you sent me to Lairg.

"Details are plentiful." Glorfindel spared Elrond a quick grin before cutting open the first bale to a chorus of nickers that encouraged haste. "Shall I begin the telling?"

The nickering down the long aisle grew more urgent, as did the thumping from the stallion stalls.

"It seems you are being summoned. I shall begin." Elrond flicked hay fines from the loft out of his hair and composed himself. "The reason Sindohte, Tamurile, Verce and Alasse voted against you is quite simple. It is known as blackmail."

"Julien, yes?" Ivy didn't bother hiding her eagerness.

"Most definitely Julien. He has apparently been plotting this takeover effort for several years."

"Which demonstrates more intelligence than I've previously given him credit for." Glorfindel spoke with pitchfork in hand, some distance down the aisle. "I knew he was a little weasel, but apparently he's become a crafty little weasel as well."

Scooping up two more flakes of hay, the blonde Elf moved to the next stall. The steady thumping continued, reminding him that others were waiting.

Elrond turned slightly toward Glorfindel. "Could you please deal with the door banging? The competition is annoying."

"Immediately, oh, great Elf-lord," Glorfindel sniped in return. Having delivered his two flakes, he caught the plastic twine on the second bale of hay and dragged it toward the far end of the aisle.

Catching Elrond's eye as he turned back, Ivy smiled. "It sounds like this is going to be quite a story." Thumping a neighboring bale with her boot, she invited, "Want to sit down? Drag up some hay and join us."

Elrond hesitated and then, much to Ivy's surprise, he nudged a bale closer to them. Settling beside her, Elrond lifted Ivy's feet and stretched her legs out across his lap. He arched an eyebrow but refrained from commenting as the blankets remained tented over her, due to Legolas' bent knees beneath them.

Laying his hands across her ankles, Elrond said, "Yes, it's quite a story. Ivy, have we told you of Sindohte's pride and joy in the form of an off-Broadway theatre called The Renaissance?"

"Um, I don't think so."

He nodded and folded his robes more closely about his daughter's legs. "Sindohte owns this little theatre, has been acting as its producer for some time, and is very proud of its survival. About five years ago, she mounted a play that was highly successful by whatever standards they use to judge such things. Sindohte had purchased not only the performance rights, but the film rights to it as well."

"What play was this?" Ivy asked.

A short, mirthless laugh answered her from down the aisle. "None you've ever heard of, wherein lies the heart of the matter."

"Don't tell me," said Legolas. "Sindohte had visions of branching out from theatrical production to film production, as she had visions of beginning her own touring ballet company during the Great Depression?"

"How did you know? asked Elrond. "In the past, Sindohte has proven she has the ability to take ideas and make them reality. In this case, however, she grossly miscalculated, as did her friends."

"You're getting ahead of your story," said Glorfindel, heading back up the aisle. "Back up and tell it properly."

"Very well." Elrond gave a long-suffering sigh. "Over lunch with Alasse, Sindohte shared her dream of producing a film based on this play."

"Is Alasse still the director of the World Folklore Society and Museum in Manhattan?" asked Legolas.

"She is," Elrond confirmed. "And she offered to invest her own personal monies in Sindohte's movie-making scheme. Alasse told Haldir that if Sindohte had sold the rights it could have fetched quite a bit of money. Unfortunately, they called Tamurile in Los Angeles and she assured them it would be simplicity itself to start their own production company because--"

"Because like, hello..."

Ivy gaped as Glorfindel set aside his pitchfork and swished unabashedly down the aisle and back to them. Throwing back his long blonde hair, the Elf cocked a hip, planted both hands on his waist, and rolled his eyes.

"Don't you know Tam has, like, dated Hollywood actors, directors and producers and, ohmygod! She lives in Westwood!"

"Which means what, precisely?" Legolas sounded annoyed, while Ivy struggled to not burst out laughing at the most bizarre imitation of a Valley Girl she'd ever seen.

"It means that in addition to running Greenwood's Los Angeles import company, Tamurile volunteered to rent the necessary office space, furnish and staff and manage it locally, and house Sindohte whenever she flew in from the East Coast. She also assured the others that good directors abounded on every Hollywood street corner, so all the girls had to do was put up the funds to produce the film themselves once they'd hired a director. Tamurile had all of the...what did she call them?"

"Contacts." Glorfindel pulled up his own bale of hay and joined the party.

"Yes, contacts to bring Tamurile's play to the big screen in a spectacular, Oscar-winning fashion."

"No." Legolas moaned softly, echoing out loud what Ivy was feeling.

"This sounds like a bad idea to me," she said slowly, "but then, I just paint little pictures."

"You, my dear, are an artist with a great deal more wisdom than our resident film experts," Elrond snapped. "They made a wonderful business plan and began executing it. Of course Tamurile told her dear friend Verce about their project - you'll remember meeting Verce this morning, Ivy."

"Is she the one who runs Greenwood's import company in Brussels?"

"Yes. Verce wanted in as well. So all four of them donated considerable personal funds to this marvelous cause."

"How considerable?" asked Legolas.

"Some millions. They then mentioned the joint venture to Wendy at the next board meeting - which was a few years ago - and of course Wendy thought they were all brilliant, so she bought in as well."

"There's the kiss of death right there," Glorfindel commented, brushing hay from his sleeves. "If Wendy thinks it's 'brill', you'd best run away. And hang on to your coin purse as you go."

"So our merry band of entrepreneurs began their production company and hired themselves a director, who also adapted their script as he was willing to do two jobs for one salary."

"'Creative control' he called it," inserted Glorfindel.

"And they merrily set about hiring staff, selecting locations, auditioning actors, renting equipment and making their film," Elrond said. "It practically beggared them, but after some months the principal photography was finally finished."

"Then came the nasty surprises." Glorfindel took up the story. "They needed more money - much more money - for editing and other post-production expenses. For special effects...for a dozen expensive things that were not in the initial budget."

"Oh, wow," breathed Ivy. "Even I know there's more than just getting it in the can, and all I do is watch Entertainment Tonight. Didn't they research anything or do some sort of a feasibility study before they started?"

"Ah, of course not." Glorfindel scoffed. "They had all the experts they needed in the wunderkind director and the combined experiences of Sindohte and Tamurile."

"In short order they needed more money." Elrond reclaimed his story. "Much more money. So Sindohte contacted Wendy in London to let her know what was happening, and she called back with another brilliant and simple plan. Julien had suggested the solution was to have Tamurile and Verce borrow from their respective import companies. They ran them independently of Greenwood Limited, after all, and no one would know. They could simply put the money back once the film started raking in those distribution profits. Julien said this sort of thing was done all of the time in the Mortal world."

"Um, Adar, correct me if I'm wrong, but don't Mortal CEOs get burned over stuff like this all of the time?"

"They do. They are also sent to prison for it. It's called embezzlement."

Legolas swore in a rapid stream of Elvish, and Ivy felt sick. Adar's not even at the end of this story yet. How can it get any worse?

"And so all were agreed and more money appeared in the coffers to complete this epic work of entertainment. The final cut of the movie was completed and debuted at the Cannes and Toronto Film Festivals." Elrond fell silent.

"You can't leave it there," Ivy protested. "What happened?"

"No one liked it," Elrond said simply. "Not one reviewer printed anything positive about it, and no one offered to distribute it. And so, the five producers concluded their very expensive adventure under the guilty burden of monumental debt and dishonest activities."

Ivy could only stare in horror. She knew she was gaping at Elrond and finally remembered to close her mouth.

"How could they be so naïve?" she demanded. "So stupid when they've been around forever and are supposed to be smarter than Mortals? How can Elves be that dumb? The professor's Elves weren't that dumb."

Glorfindel shrugged "As Elladan is fond of saying, 'It beats the hell out of me.' And now for the really good part." He grinned at them, clearly enjoying what was to come. "The four original film producers went crying to Wendy, complaining of the horrible and unjust panning of their film. Even worse, they confessed that there was no hope of any return at all on their investments, much less any future profits."

Said Elrond, "Tamurile relayed to us that while Wendy was kind enough to sympathize, she wasn't too upset as she had not, surprisingly enough, invested more than she could afford to lose. For her, it was a mere tax write-off. The rest of the ellith tried to repay the import companies from their bi-annual dividends, but there wasn't enough coming in. Or, rather, it wasn't coming in fast enough. By this time, Haldir was calling to schedule the corporate audits on both import companies."

"Audits?" Ivy asked.

"There are annual audits of all books belonging to Greenwood's subsidiaries," said Legolas. "Or, at least, there were before I went to Alaska."

Elrond nodded. "There still are. They are required by government taxation entities worldwide, and we are in keeping with all Mortal business procedures. The audits is what really sent matters crashing."

"So the filching of the funds was sure to be exposed?" asked Ivy.

"Under unspeakable scandal and humiliation," Elrond confirmed.

Glorfindel grinned. "At the very least, Haldir would find out about Verce and Tamurile's unauthorized borrowing, and he'd tell Elrond, the great and terrible."

Ivy shook her head. "Why didn't they tell you themselves?"

"It might have something to do with the fact that Verce grew up in Warra," said Legolas. "The others may have been trying to protect her."

Ivy twisted to look round at Legolas. "From what?"

"From me. My perceived reaction, if not my actual one," admitted Elrond. "Verce's mother, Eirien, was of Imladris. She adored Arwen and moved to Ithilien after my daughter married Aragorn. Verce's father, Thann, was an Elf come to Ithilien from Mirkwood at Legolas' invitation. Thann and Eirien went with me to Australia during the Clearances that took place after the Battle of Culloden.

"Their daughter Verce was born into my hands in Warra," Elrond continued. "I taught her to read and write in English as well as Sindarin and watched her grow up. Her parents and I taught her better than this. She knows better than this."

"Verce undoubtedly knew the penalty for failing you," Legolas said softly.

"She did not fail me." The Elf-lord sighed deeply. "She has disappointed me. I expected better of her. And the others."

So what happened to make them vote today with Julien?" Ivy prompted quietly.

"Oh, that." Glorfindel rubbed his hands together. "This is where the plot thickens...well, even thicker. Verce and the others cried out their fears to Wendy once more. Obviously her friends were upset and in trouble, and so Wendy went back to Brother Julien with the horrible news. He did his 'There, there' and 'Oh, how tragic' commiseration, and then Julien magnanimously offered the four partners individual loans from his personal funds with which they could pay back the companies in the whole. The books would then balance, no one - meaning Haldir or Elrond - would be the wiser, and each partner could take her time paying back Julien. There were only a few simple contracts to sign, and it would all be over."

Ivy wrinkled her nose. "I may be wrong about this since I've only just met Julien, but I get the impression he doesn't do anything out of kindness."

Glorfindel nodded his approval. "You're quick. I like this one, Elrond. As for Julien's charity, we've seen the final results today."

"He called the loans?" asked Legolas.

"He did," Elrond confirmed. "Last month, after accepting payments for two years, he called in the loans. Of course they hadn't the money to pay off his totals, any more than they had the money to pay off the original debt to the import companies. Julien then threatened to go to the media and reveal Verce and Tamurile's misbehavior, so there would be much scandal for Greenwood and possibly criminal charges as well.

"But Julien would forget about all that if they'd just vote for him at this meeting. Such a tiny, simple little thing, that. Just vote with him. Never mind what it was for, just vote his way and the sun would shine on everyone once more."

"They can't have fallen for that!" Ivy protested.

"They did." Elrond spread his hands. "They were desperate. And that concludes the tale as to why they voted against you, Legolas."

"It was nothing personal," Glorfindel assured. "All four ellith are horribly embarrassed about the whole thing, and Elrond has already raked Verce over the coals for not coming to him the minute the problem began years ago."

"But what are we going to do now?"

"We." Leaning over, Glorfindel patted Legolas' blanketed knee. "I like that. This Queen's Daughter is one of us for certain now."

"She's my daughter as well as Queen's Daughter," said Elrond. "I should think she's proven that to anyone's satisfaction today."

"She is Aragorn's worthy heir as well as Queen's Daughter," Legolas answered.

"She is sitting right here, listening to you and not feeling all that noble," said Ivy, "and she's asking...that money's still owed Julien, right? What do we do to fix this?"

"It's already done, QD." Glorfindel smirked. "Greenwood Limited's paid off the loans, and now the girls owe Greenwood. While you were out of the house, Halden Greenwood wrote a check to Julien Lovell, Elden Warlow countersigned it as is required for an amount so vast, and Wendy cheerfully accepted payment. She then gave all four debtors individual receipts with the notation 'paid in full,' while her brother was still venting his wrath over the vote upstairs in his assigned room."

"We're not having that," growled Legolas. "Julien will pay for any and all damages if I have to personally wring it from his future dividends."

Ooh, growly Legolas, thought Ivy. Neat. Hmm, I wonder if he knows about Haldir's cherubic mess yet?

"And so the matter is resolved," concluded Glorfindel. "Not one of the girls wanted to vote for the sneaky weasel, and they send their apologies."

Legolas straightened behind her. "They apologized?"

"They did," Elrond confirmed. "All are still most distressed at being forced to vote against you. It was not their wish, and they swear to never do so again."

"I see."

"How they could have let it come to this is appalling," Elrond added. "They have all been thoroughly chastised for not bringing this to me, as we could have handled the matter easily and many months ago."

"I get why Verce didn't want to fess up," said Ivy, "But what about the rest of them?"

"Isn't it obvious?" said Glorfindel. "At the very least, they were proud and fearful of humiliation. Weren't thinking straight. Haldir's no threat, but they certainly lived in dread of what the Great Elrond and his Eyebrows of Doom would say to them."

"Eyebrows of what?" Said eyebrows leaped into motion, but this time they rose rather than furrow over burning eyes.

"You heard me. You've got the Eyebrows of Doooom," Glorfindel intoned dramatically. "It's become quite the catch-phrase as of late."


Glorfindel waved a gloved hand, airily dismissing the cited eyebrows that made a sudden leap downward once again to perch above scowling eyes as if to illustrate precisely what Glorfindel meant.

"It's those movies at work again. The actor they hired to portray you certainly could use his eyebrows to good effect. Scary. It's as if he were already acquainted with you before climbing into the robe and the ears. In any case, it was more than our ladies could face, given the severe consequences awaiting were they to beg an audience with our resident Elven Mafioso."

Glorfindel shook his head and looked mournful. "They panicked, poor things, and I suppose hoped that the mighty Valar would rescue them. Or that Greenwood's officers would see things set to rights after Julien revealed their sins to the world--though I can't see how that would have improved their lot any. We'd have had the same mess to clean up but needed a much bigger, public mop then."

"And Julien knows naught of it yet?" Legolas asked.

"Not one word," a beaming Glorfindel confirmed. "We should be able to witness the revealing soon, unless his sister has rushed into the viper's jaws in our absence. Should be great fun. I'm quite looking forward to it, since it should result in a Julien tantrum of magnificent proportions."

"We will likely tell him at the session this afternoon," said Elrond, "which I am sorry to point out is scheduled to begin rather soon."

Legolas suddenly tightened his grip on Ivy once more. "What about the contracts?"

"The ones they signed for Greenwood or for Julien?" asked Elrond.

"The originals for Julien. You know he will not be satisfied with simple repayment. With their signatures on those original papers, he can still go to the media and so essentially owns them still. We must get those back."

Elrond considered for a moment. "Speaking officially as Greenwood's legal counsel, and considering the very specific receipts Wendy signed, there is very little Julien can do. Our little entrepreneurs have company books that match now, regardless the failure of their film. Julien might run to the media and draw the public eye Greenwood's way, but he'll only come up looking the fool for it, as Greenwood will officially ridicule his story."

"Verce and the others could also sue him for slander if he goes to the press," Ivy pointed out. "Or libel. Whichever. I doubt his gentlemen's club in London would like that much."

"Oh, good point!" exclaimed Glorfindel. "Thank you so much for pointing that out. I doubt we'd want to prolong Greenwood's time in the public spotlight - or in court against Julien - but we can use it as a threat to his humiliation, and use it immediately. Well done, QD."

Both Elven lords looked at Ivy approvingly, while Legolas gave her a little squeeze to let her know he agreed.

"Come on, it's not that big a thing," she muttered, staring at the stable floor. "I'd be blushing if my face wasn't frozen."

"With that, perhaps we should return to the house. Daughter?" Releasing Ivy's feet, Elrond rose gracefully and held out his hand once more.

This time she nodded. "Okay, let's go."

Legolas gave her one last squeeze before beginning to peel away the blankets.

"Eee!" Ivy yelped as the warmth fled and cold air rushed in to replace it. "Oh, that's wicked!" Leaping to her feet, she grabbed Elrond's hand as her teeth started chattering. "Can we hurry? I don't want to be late and get tossed out the window."

Elrond enfolded her close before moving toward the door. "Julien has been repeatedly tardy, which has left us awaiting his pleasure as to when we might start our meetings. His arrogance was not to be tolerated, and I warned him what would happen if he didn't respect the scheduled meeting times. Getting tossed from the window was his choice."

"And you've not been warned you'll be tossed out," inserted Glorfindel, assuming his position at the vast stable door, "so you've nothing to worry about."

"Oh, thanks, because I'm not up to flying in this snow. I'm not sure I can walk in it again, either," she added dubiously, eyeing the door and knowing from the continuous howling what was waiting on the other side.

"It was unfair of us to send you out here unprotected," rumbled Elrond, enclosing her in his robes.

She could only sink into his warmth. I love how he and Legolas both seem to be into snuggling.

"Excuse me?" Legolas bristled. "I've been protecting her right along this afternoon, and I do think my efforts have been satisfactory."

"My pardon, Legolas." Elrond offered a slight bow. "Most satisfactory, yes. My daughter hasn't frozen yet, and I thank you for that. But we must now return with all possible speed to the house and its warmth."

Enfolding her hand in his larger one, Elrond wrapped his free arm about her shoulders before nodding to Glorfindel, who heaved open the door. The wind bit and the snow swirled violently in at them, diluting the sanctuary of the stable's warmer, still air.

"Off we go."

Ivy felt more than heard Elrond's words against the roaring wind, and dove out into the blinding snow to head up what she hoped was the path back to the house. Behind them, Legolas paused with Glorfindel to close the door tightly. A moment later, father and son bounded up on either side of Ivy and Elrond to stride out into the deep snow and tend to the gates.

The path has disappeared, and I can't even open my eyes against the wind to see the trees now, Ivy noted with some alarm. It really has turned into a blizzard out here. I hope Dan's okay.

"Stay with us, and we'll have you inside in just a moment!" Elrond shouted into her ear.

Glorfindel moved closer on Ivy's other side to block the wind that was trying to bowl her over, while Legolas pushed past all of them to break a path in the snow and lead the way.

If this is what it means to be part of an Elven family, I could really get used to this, Ivy thought, because these people are absolutely serious about taking care of one another. I've never known anything like that.

Squinting against the bitter cold, she snuggled closer to Elrond. I'm out here in the Scottish Highlands a few days before Christmas, in the middle of a nasty blizzard with people I've only just met - Elven warriors, no less. And for the first time since Grandfather died, I feel safe. I feel like I could actually belong with them.

Wow. Merry Christmas, Ivy.

She blinked away the blinding snow crystals that stung her eyes to see the first glimmer of welcoming light from the castle's mullioned windows. Ivy smiled to herself, regardless her cheeks threatened to crack under the cold. It had been a most tumultuous few days with more to come, but she actually felt like she might be coming home.


Continued here

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