"Our next gathering will take place on June twenty-first," said Elrond. "With that, I believe this meeting is concluded."

Chairs scraped back and the bevy of Elves deserted with table with obvious alacrity. All of the ellith - including Wendy - surrounded Legolas and Elrond, and Ivy stepped back hastily as she was in danger of being trapped in the clinch. Abandoning English, they all began chattering at once in such rapid Sindarin that Ivy hadn't a prayer of catching a single word.

The language barrier left her feeling very much the outsider, with the comfortable welcome she'd enjoyed only a few minutes before having dissolved without any warning. Hovering, uncertain, on the fringes of the group, she was relieved when Haldir came to join her.

"They're a noisy lot, aren't they?" Setting a hand to her elbow, he began guiding her away from the fray, only to have Legolas reach through the crowd and wrap his warm fingers around her wrist.

"Don't go far," came the warning.

She found his care pathetically reassuring. At least he still knows I'm here.

Haldir pursed his lips as Legolas focused once more on the enthusiastic ellith surrounding him. "Honestly, what does he think will befall while you are in my keeping?"

"There aren't any cherubs in here, so I'm sure the warning was meant for me and not for you." Ivy tried to soothe the older Elf's ruffled ego.

Haldir's smile was thin. "I'm equally certain the warning was meant for me, regardless the falling rococo is limited to my receiving room and the ballroom. I gather Legolas doesn't trust me to watch after you." He glanced almost disdainfully at the tight knot of Elves. "You may want to heed his advice, as you are still very much in his keeping and obviously on his mind."

Haldir fell silent, evidently trying to gather his self-esteem. Or think of something else to say, because I haven't a clue? thought Ivy.

The marchwarden managed to summon a somewhat warmer smile. "And so you have survived your first board meeting with all its strangeness and hostility. How are you faring?"

Ivy hesitated. There are so many ways I could answer that question. "You know that Elrond and Legolas have been making sure Julien doesn't eat me alive?"

"Glorfindel mentioned something to that effect." Haldir gave a deep, long-suffering sigh. "I am so sorry not to have warned you about the plans of our resident sociopath, but Legolas insisted we should let you find your own way. Unfortunately, while the nasty meeting may be over, we're snowed in."

Ivy nodded. The depth of the snow was no surprise, and Ivy suspected it happened every year since her mother had not always made it home in time for Christmas. But she always came back in a good mood.

"How big of a problem is it to have houseguests for a few extra days?" she asked.

"It's not a problem to feed and care for everyone. The problem lies in...well, diabolical surprises may be in store for all of us, compliments of Julien, unless the little tick has frozen to death in the gorse bushes below. He is never an enjoyable guest."

"Oh, him. Right." Ivy followed Haldir's glance at the mulled windows where the half-light of the afternoon had faded into gloomy shadow. "It's gotten dark so fast. Is another storm on the way?"

Haldir waved a hand in dismissal. "No, it's merely our Scottish winter. The days are short with sunset coming in the mid-afternoon. Our days will be much longer when you arrive next summer, with the sun rising at four in the morning and not setting until ten."

"At...night?" Ivy said, incredulous.

"At night," Haldir confirmed.

Wandering out of the library, he surveyed the ruin of the snack cart. The group within the room was still chattering at high speed, so Ivy followed the marchwarden and watched him pick through the items languishing on the trolley.

"How very disappointing. I was certain everyone would eat more shortbread at the break."

"What happens next?" she asked.

"Erestor will not be happy." Haldir sounded preoccupied.

"No, I mean...what happens now that the meeting is over?"

"Ah, my pardon. Now, everyone will amuse themselves until supper, which I have been assured will be ready at six."

Great, she thought. What should I do in the meantime? No one needs to keep amusing the kid in their midst, and it doesn't look like any of the usual bodyguards are available. Maybe a nap? She brightened at the possibility. I like that idea. It wouldn't bother anybody, and I could sneak back into my room and use a little time to get my head to stop spinning.

She was jarred out of her musings by the front door slamming downstairs with such violent finality that she looked at the surrounding walls to see if they had developed cracks. A cold draft shot up the stairway to engulf her, and Ivy shivered as the unheated hallway became positively arctic. Heavy feet tromped slowly up the stairs, accompanied by fierce-muttered profanities that grew louder as the seconds passed. Ivy knew all too well who was approaching, for all that she couldn't see him yet.

"Haldir?" Receiving no response to her whisper, Ivy was horrified to discover the marchwarden was no longer by her side. He left me? A quick glance around showed she was very much on her own and about to be alone with the one person she wanted very much to keep his distance.

Her heartbeat sped up as the top of Julien's head appeared over the stairwell. Bits of gorse and melting snow once again adorned his hair, and his muttering contained words that Ivy had never dreamed any Elf would use. Even at this distance his fury was palpable, and Ivy's breath caught as she realized that, for all of Legolas and Elrond's repeated assurances, she was once again alone with the explosive Elf.

He hasn't seen me yet, she realized. There may still be time....

She sidled toward the library door, hoping to reach it before Julien cleared the stairs, but he must have sensed or heard the movement, for his head came up and he locked his venomous, unblinking gaze on her. Frozen in place, she found herself unable to breathe under that gaze.

He has eyes like a shark, she thought. They're--they're black. And so cold.

Never before had she felt so much like prey, and in that moment she realized why Legolas had warned her to stay close. She wasn't anywhere near close enough to him, and her need reach him was suddenly critical.

She knew she needed to bolt for the safety offered by the other Elves who were only a few feet away inside Haldir's safe, warm, insulated library, but Julien's unblinking stare was so terrifying that she couldn't make her feet move. She could barely inhale, definitely couldn't think clearly, and her heart contracted painfully in her chest before leaping into high gear to pound violently against her sternum.

Julien's cold stare never wavered, and the malice he projected was even more intense. Ivy had never felt so afraid, regardless the Elf wasn't doing anything but look at her. He'd stopped muttering the moment he'd seen her, but she had the feeling that something even more terrible was waiting behind his silence.

His angry footfalls gave way to an unearthly, hushed grace as he glided up the few remaining steps. Still and smooth and somehow reptilian, he seemed to fill her mind as well as her vision. He didn't reach for her, didn't touch her at all, but she still felt utterly trapped.

"And there she is," he purred in a voice pitched for her ears only, while his eyes with their huge black pupils looked as if he wanted to devour her. "It's not over yet, little girl. We're going to have a pretty dance later, you and me."

His tone made the hair on the back of her neck stand up.


"What's that?" he cooed, dramatically cupping one hand around his cold-reddened, pointed ear. "I can't hear you. More importantly, he can't hear you." Julien stepped so close, Ivy could feel his hot breath on her cheek. "Poor little lamb, so anxious and alone. Where is your sainted protector now?"

Giving an insolent smile, he went to touch her face.

The hell you will! The thought of that hand touching her skin made her stomach spasm. She jerked backward as Julien stepped closer, only to find she had nowhere to go as the door frame jammed hard against her spine. Oh, crap.

She felt the chill air moving on her left and then, suddenly, she could no longer see Julien. It took a moment before she realized she hadn't gone blind, that the problem was a very large back was now obstructing her view. She knew those broad shoulders and the long black hair fanned so beautifully across them. That hair was still swinging from the sudden motion.

"Ada?" she croaked. Reaching up, she laid her hand against his back and discovered the muscles under her fingers were rigid and trembling with what might have been rage.

Elrond didn't move, so Ivy warily inched around him to see that he was entirely focused on Julien, who wasn't nearly as close now as he had been.

The Lord of Imladris wasn't alone - a seething Legolas and a tense Glorfindel stood battle-ready on either side of Julien, and it seemed to Ivy that all three held the younger Elf at bay by the sheer force of their presence. Unless Julien chose to leap over the balustrade at his back, the half-circle they presented had him effectively cornered.

"Once again, I find myself asking what you are doing, Julien." The Elf-lord's cold voice held little patience.

"I was doing nothing - absolutely nothing - after managing to drag myself out of your prickly, wet vegetation. I was on my way to my room to change. Again. Now...move."

"What were you doing to Queen's Daughter?" demanded Legolas.

"I told you, absolutely nothing." Looking from Elf to Elf, Julien was trying hard to look as innocent as he sounded. "I never touched her, I wasn't even near her. Over-reactive lot, all of you. Your precious little girl is just fine."

Legolas spared Ivy a quick glance, and from the way his blue eyes hardened, she knew she had to look as shaken as she still felt. A hand on her shoulder made her leap sideways as if she were being attacked.

"It's all right, dear, you're not alone." Rubbing Ivy's shoulder, Verce urged her back beside Elrond. "We're all here with you."

"Even me," said Wendy, "because Julien? Le tûg nach."

You're a fool. Ivy's mind mechanically provided the translation, courtesy of the Sindarin she and Dan had played with six years ago. It was reassuring to have the ellith standing behind her, and the intellectual part of her agreed with Wendy's assessment of Julien and added a great deal beyond it as well. But what Ivy wanted to more than verbal reassurances was to wrap her arms around the broad Elf-lord standing beside her and cling like a panicking child. Her heart was pounding so loudly, she could feel its pulse in her ears. If she couldn't hide against Elrond, her second choice would have been to run away.

I'm reacting like this because Julien looked at me? she questioned herself. He said mean things to me in front of the others during the board meeting, so why does it feel so much worse now?

"--will apologize to Queen's Daughter."

Legolas' brusque demand cut into Ivy's scattered thoughts, and she realized belatedly that her musings had made her miss part of the ongoing argument.

No, forget the apology, she silently begged. Just make him go away!

"Apologize for what?" Julien spat. "Using the same staircase? I know you've become fond of the infant, but your behavior is bordering on the ridiculous. I'm an invited guest. I've every right to move about this place."


"I am the one owed the apology," said Julien, "for I'm the one who's been threatened and ignored, mistreated and physically assaulted - all because of that brat. I am a board member with seniority and experience and rights, all of which have been ignored because you want to play with your new girl-toy. If anyone deserves an apology, it's me from all of you, including from that rude, disruptive little bitch-pet of yours!"

Legolas lunged at Julien without warning, and Glorfindel grabbed a handful of his son's sweater. Leaning close as Legolas momentarily halted, the older Elf murmured something in Gondolic. Legolas' reply in the same language was sharp and clipped, and he never took his eyes off of Julien.

"I've told you not to speak in tongues around me!" Julien's voice grew shrill. "Tell me what you just said."

"I beg your pardon, Master Lovell, but you might not like what you hear." Glorfindel sounded as if he were addressing a child.

"Tell me now."

"Very well." The golden Elf's expression hardened. Between one second and the next, the easy-going Elf Ivy had met was gone as if he had never existed. In his place stood a great and terrible war-leader whose presence and power Julien hadn't the good sense to respect or fear. "I asked if I should provide my son with a weapon to kill you. His answer...."

"I need no weapon," Legolas growled. "I am the weapon."

Glorfindel nodded as Julien's horrified gaze swung back to him.

"Yes, that's what he said," the golden Elf confirmed with none of his usual good humor. It was a merely a chilling statement of fact.

My god, Julien is going to die. Right here, right now. Ivy's heart faltered. The only question is which one of them - father or son - is going to do the deed.

Oh, please don't do that - just make him go away!

"One mind, any weapon," Glorfindel clarified. "That's what I taught him, after all."

"That's a load of bollocks!" said Julien.

"Indeed?" Arching an eyebrow, Glorfindel cocked his head and regarded the London Elf with an ominous calm. "Shall we put it to the test? Find out here and now?"

Legolas shifted his weight forward. Julien flinched.

Glorfindel was still not smiling. "I suggest you do as my son has requested and apologize to Ivy. Now. Or I let go."

Julien threw his hands up. "Fine! I apologize for walking past the little bi--your little darling. I apologize for breathing the same air as she does. I apologize if Miss Ivy isn't completely and utterly delighted with her circumstances this minute!"

Wrenching free of Glorfindel's grip, Legolas stretched the cashmere almost to the point of destruction.

"Don't hurt the sweater, please don't hurt the sweater," Tamurile chanted quietly behind Ivy. "Oh, I think you've ruined it!"

Stalking forward, Legolas backhanded Julien. Spinning with the force of the blow, the younger Elf careened into the balustrade. Grabbing instinctively at the railing, he saved himself from going over, only to cover his face with his hands as blood streamed onto the wood.

"You've broken my face!" Julien screamed. "My nose is in pieces!"

Ivy stared at the blood, unable to look away. Broken face, broken nose...does it matter? Oh look, he's bleeding on the carpet now. Haldir won't be happy.

Whirling, Julien backed down the length of the hallway balcony as Legolas continued advancing. "I've done nothing to deserve this, you rotter! What the bloody hell is your problem?"

"Apology not accepted." Legolas continued stalking his quarry.

Elrond left Ivy's side to glide alongside Legolas. "We know all too well what would have transpired out here, had we not intercepted you."

"You're mad too!" howled Julien, dabbing at his swelling nose.

"Deny it all you like," said Elrond, "but we know."

What does he think would have happened to me? Ivy wondered, only to stop her frantic mind from imagining the worst of possibilities.

"You will go to your room," Elrond ordered, "and there you will stay until you are summoned."

Fetching up against the wall at the end of the balcony, Julien laughed hysterically. "You're all besotted with her, aren't you? Or is it the violence you love? The power you so love to display and abuse? Yes, the great and terrible Lord of Imladris is giving orders as if he's the ruler of all he surveys, no matter his kingdom is nothing now but a barren coal pit.

"And Lord Legolas is back, isn't he? The sainted, backward Son of Glorfindel and the House of the Golden Flower, one of the Nine Walkers, Lord of Ithilien and Lairg, blah blah means nothing. None of it. You lot are ancient, outdated nobodies addicted to forcing their will on others.

"Well, I've got news for you! It's the modern world, not the Third Age, and I have equal rights here. I can come and go as I please, just like any other board member. You are not sending me to my room like some stupid child."

Moving faster than Ivy's eye could see, Legolas stepped up to Julien. Rather than snapping Julien's neck - which is what Ivy feared would come next - he laid one hand across the younger Elf's shoulder and pressed his thumb into his collarbone. It seemed a gentle gesture, nothing violent about it at all, but in the next moment Julien grimaced and howled and began folding in on himself.

"Ouch! That's're hurting me again!" He grabbed Legolas' wrist with both bloody hands to try prying him loose. When that didn't work, Julien attempted to jerk away, which didn't work either. "You are totally insane! Violent and flat-out barking mad. You've no right to hurt me like this!"

Legolas tightened his grip, and Julien's knees began buckling. "You will yield."

Head bowed, with his nose still dripping blood, Julien gasped and panted and dropped to his knees before Legolas. His hands fell to his sides in capitulation before Legolas released his grip. Tilting his head, Julien looked hard at the Mirkwood Elf, and Ivy had to look away from the hatred she saw shining in his eyes. That's how he looked at me...before.

"This is my domain," said Legolas. "I am the Laird of Lairg and Lord of Ithilien, and what I decree here will be done, especially when it comes to protecting Queen's Daughter. You will go to your room."

Blue eyes locked into Julien's dark glare, and it seemed to Ivy that the moment stretched into eternity before Julien yielded the fight.

Finally. Ivy dared breathe a slow sigh of relief.

Glancing down, Julien coughed and swiped at his nose.

"Bugger off," he muttered, his tone more resentful rather than combative.

"Sounds like a good idea to me." Stepping forward, Glorfindel heaved a wary, uncooperative Julien back onto his feet. Towering over the younger Elf and standing very nearly on his toes, Glorfindel patted Julien's cheek and smiled when he winced. "Did that hurt? I suggest you take your own advice and bugger off to your room. Now."

With blood smeared across his cheeks and chin, and still dripping to further ruin of his expensive suit, Julien stood weaving on his feet and looked as if he couldn't decide whether to yield or strike out. His hate-filled, black glare was firmly fixed on Glorfindel, but the golden Elf smiled in response, almost seemed to encourage it.

"Do you want to stay and play some more?" Glorfindel asked conversationally.

Coming up beside the older Elf, Elrond's large frame entirely dwarfed Julien.

"Run," Elrond suggested. "Now."

Julien's show of bravado crumbled, and fear filled his eyes. He couldn't resist shooting a venomous parting glare at all of them before shoving inside his bedroom and slamming the door, but it seemed to Ivy that his gaze lingered on her.

Oh, Mom, there's something very wrong with that Elf, so why didn't you warn me about him? And as Julien just showed me, there's no way Legolas can protect me every second. Ivy trembled at the thought that the tantrums and threats might never end, not even after she had left Scotland.

Staring at the bloodstains Julien had left behind, she wondered, Are scenes like this why you tried to warn me that Elves are really dangerous?



Legolas took little pleasure in their joint victory over Julien, for Haldir and others had warned that such triumphs were always brief.

Julien's parents were much easier to deal with, he reflected. Is his insolence a matter of faded Elven genetics, or could it be the result of an indifferent upbringing? I know that in a nineteenth-century world Julien could buy destitute children at the back door of a workhouse for only a few coppers, and do whatever he wished with them. Is that still carrying over to today?

"Well done," said Glorfindel.

Legolas shook his head. "I think not. You know he never gives up."

"He will give this up," Elrond said, "for I shall sedate him at least until suppertime."

Glorfindel brightened at once. "Now there's a happy thought. Wendy, might you be willing to carry a soothing cuppa to your brother?"

"My dear, arrogant Julien drowning his upsets with mere tea?" Wendy looked down her elegant nose in mock disgust. "Nooo, my brother requires expensive spirits more appropriate to his station in life. A fine cognac would be more acceptable than any plebian cup of tea. And I'd be absolutely ecstatic to give it to him," she added with a wicked grin.

"Very well, spiked cognac it is." Glorfindel nodded his satisfaction. "Haldir, if you'd be so kind as to prepare the required snifter?"

"It would be a pleasure."

"And Elrond, might we trouble you for a few drops from the herbal tinctures in your medicinal carry-case?"

Making no answer, Elrond stared down the hallway Julien had recently vacated. He fairly vibrated with the same sort of barely contained rage that Legolas had first encountered after the Valar had required that he commit one particular, unforgivable transgression as a young Elf living in Imladris.

"Elrond, you did suggest it," Glorfindel reminded him. "Are you having second thoughts?"

Ignoring the older Elf's question, Elrond turned abruptly and headed, not toward the stairs to retrieve the needed sedative, but to Ivy. Grasping her by the shoulders, he shook her slightly.

"What did Julien do to you?"

Regardless he was sworn to protect Queen's Daughter, Legolas was helpless to do anything but watch as Ivy cringed and tried to pull away from the Elf-lord she had accepted as her closest guardian only hours before. Seeing her panic, Legolas was reminded of a time, millennia before, when he had done the same. Does Elrond still not know how deeply his wrath can affect another?

"Adar--" she gasped. Her face paled and her eyes grew wide and frightened.

The grey eyes boring into Ivy's held fierce judgment without compassion. Rather than ease his hold on her, Elrond seemed to tighten his fingers even more. "I am not angry with you, daughter."

You say one thing, while your touch and attitude tell her something quite different. Legolas took a step forward, intent on freeing his latest victim.

"Tell me what Julien did," demanded Elrond.

Ivy looked fragile enough to shatter between the Elf-lord's large hands. "He...he didn't do anything. Ada, please...."

"You must tell me how he hurt you."

"You're hurting me now!" Frantic, she twisted away from Elrond as Legolas stepped up beside her.

The Elf-lord let her go, his hands still hovering before him as though she remained between them. Looking stricken, he reached for Ivy again, only to have her wrap her arms around herself and step away from him. Her blue eyes were huge and anxious, and Legolas saw that she was shaking.

Because this old house is cold, he wondered, or because she is that frightened of him?

Staring down at his new daughter, Elrond drew a shaky breath and visibly tried to tamp down his emotions. " child...forgive me. Truly, I am not angry with you."

Shaking her head, she rubbed her arms where he had held onto her and gave no indication of accepting his apology. "Then why does it feel like you are?"

She looks like nothing so much as a wild hart ready to take flight. Coming close, Legolas made sure Ivy knew he was there before touching her. Laying his fingers over hers, he was gratified when she looked up at him warily rather than bolting as he would have done as a child.

"We Elves are very sensitive to the emotions around us," Legolas offered, speaking in the hushed, soothing tone he usually reserved for worried horses, "and we have subjected you to a great many emotions over the past few days. No few of them most alarming."

As I was when Mith first took me to Imladris, he remembered.

"When your father is angry, all around him feel what he feels," Legolas continued, as much for Elrond's benefit as Ivy's. "He has never mastered the ability to narrow his focus only to the one who rightfully deserves such anger. I know it feels as though we are included in his wrath - I can feel it, too - but in this case we are not. You are not."

He glanced at Elrond, who was standing very still and listening. "I suspect that your father is angry with Julien on your behalf. But unless he takes the time to explain, you can only assume he is upset with you."

Ivy and the others surrounding them were listening as intently as was Elrond, but her fingers were cold and stiff beneath Legolas'. Sliding his arm around her waist, he dared to step closer.

"It truly is all right," he murmured. "Julien is gone, Elrond would never hurt you, and I'm right here."

Shifting her weight slightly, Ivy leaned against him and slid her arm around the small of his back to dig her fingers into the back pocket of his jeans with frantic desperation. Tightening his hold, Legolas tucked her beneath his shoulder and braced his forehead against her temple.

Rocking slightly from side to side, he asked, "Will you tell me what happened?"

"Nothing happened," she whispered. "I just got scared. Julien told the truth, he didn't touch me."

"But he still did something that frightened you badly?" Legolas asked softly.

"He just..." She shivered, and Legolas tightened his hold again.

If I keep doing this, she won't be able to breathe, he thought.

"He just looked at me." Ivy closed her eyes. "But it was so scary...he was cold and angry and empty and mean - all at the same time. I couldn't look away and I couldn't move and--"

Lifting her head, she drew a deep breath and looked squarely up at Elrond from the security of Legolas' protective embrace. "I felt like prey, Ada. Like he'd already grabbed me. I'm sorry, but I can't explain it any better than that."

"And what did he say to you?" Elrond's voice was noticeably gentler.

Glancing away, Ivy stared across at the stairwell as if she were caught up in the memory. "Nothing, really. I mean, he didn't use any of the bad words on me that he used coming in the door."

Reaching out to tip up her chin, Legolas forced her to meet his eyes and refocus, so that he could gauge her mood.

"Do not defend him or try to reason away what you are feeling." He kept his voice gentle and slow, but firm. "Only tell us...what did he say to you?"

Shrugging, she drew a deep breath as if resigning herself to repeating the words Julien had delivered with such malicious promise. "He said we were going to have a pretty little dance later, just the two of us. Like I said, it wasn't anything bad, but the way he said it felt horrible."

Elrond and Legolas exchanged a look. Everyone here knows how Julien has danced in the past.

"I will not allow him to touch you again," Elrond said fiercely, unable to help himself. "I swear this, my daughter."

"As do I," said Legolas.

"He will never come near you again," Elrond reiterated.

Ivy shook her head. "I don't want to doubt you - either of you. Except it's said that before, and...."

"And yet you ended up alone with Julien, didn't you? Haldir left you," Elrond said flatly. Turning, he nailed the former marchwarden who was hovering at the library entrance with a half-filled brandy snifter between his hands. "How did that come to happen?"

Haldir met Elrond's accusing glower squarely. "Legolas made it plain that he did not trust me to protect Ivy, and so I went immediately to fetch him - her sworn protector - when I heard the front door slam. I thought surely she was right behind me."

"You didn't make certain?"

"Evidently not, since she didn't follow me, did she!" he snapped. "As alarmed as Ivy was by Julien's approach, I thought surely she'd realize safety lay within the library where all of you were holding court. The fault is certainly mine, for I didn't lay hands upon her and forcibly drag her along with me."

Pausing, Haldir surveyed the impromptu jury eyeing him. "Next time, I shall stand in the hallway and shriek, if that meets with your approval."

"There will never be a next time," Elrond said sharply, "for there will never be another moment when my daughter is left alone." Scowling, he glowered at every Elf in their turn. "Do I make myself clear?"

"Yes," Ivy shifted uneasily from foot to foot. "I'm sorry, but did you just say I’m never to be left alone?"

"That is correct."

"What about if I have to pee? Like now?"

Startled, Elrond blinked at her, and the infamous dark eyebrows lifted in astonishment. "I beg your pardon?"

"I know this is a serious discussion, and I'm not arguing about there not being a next time but...Adar...I do have an - an urgency...." She looked rather desperate.

"I see. Legolas, would you please escort my daughter to her room and stand by while--"

"Of course, Lord Elrond."

He offered the most courtly bow he could manage, knowing it was this side of a mockery and that the former Lord of Imladris would see it as such. But Glorfindel encouraged him by smirking, and Legolas was beyond amused that, once again, the new Queen's Daughter had managed to diffuse the situation and her father's tension.

Her timing and audacity are superb. Legolas' amusement was interrupted by her firm push, urging him into motion.

"Ivy, if you will?" Stepping back, he indicated she should go before him.

"Thanks so much." Darting past him, she hurried down the corridor and ducked into her room.

Does she deliberately do these things to Elrond, or is she merely taking thing moment by moment and trying to survive in this madhouse? he wondered. I don't remember Aragorn using that particular tactic, but I must admit it was most effective.

Oh, Ivy, where were you when the child I was betrayed the Lord of Imladris and he called me to attend my own execution in the middle of the night? Would that you could have used your skills to rescue me then.

Legolas followed Ivy at a more leisurely pace while all the other Elves - except for Elrond - milled about talking to one another. As for the Elf-lord, he stood isolated with his hands behind his back and watched mournfully until Ivy emerged from her room a few minutes later.

"All better." She gave a thin, anxious smile before Legolas captured her hand to accompany her back to the group. "I feel like a little kid," she muttered, but didn't pull away.

The conversation trailed off as she and her protector approached, and Legolas had the feeling their holding hands was marked by more than Elrond, who gracefully refrained from arching one of those deadly eyebrows at them. Glorfindel, however, had no such qualms. Legolas ignored him.

"Thanks for your patience and understanding - all of you," Ivy managed. "And thanks for rescuing me. You, too Haldir. I'm sorry I was too slow to follow you."

The marchwarden regally inclined his head in acknowledgement of her careful apology.

"A rescue shouldn't have been necessary," Elrond insisted.

"Agreed, it shouldn't," Legolas inserted. "Certainly not in my home. But we deal with what is, not what we wish had happened." Knowing he sounded harsh, he squeezed her hand and offered a rueful smile by way of reassurance.

"Ivy, please know that I am deeply sorry for my failure in this." Haldir's apology to her sounded far more sincere that the one he had directed to Elrond.

"It's okay. Really," she said. "No harm, no foul."

To Legolas' surprise, Elrond folded his arms within his robes and stood at his daughter's side, but made no further comment. Is it my imagination, thought Legolas, or is he perhaps a bit uncertain around Ivy now? Or is it she who is uncertain around him? Someone isn't comfortable. He decided not to let go Ivy's hand just yet.

Having relieved Haldir of the snifter of brandy, Glorfindel took a sip and wandered up beside his son. "Ivy, in case you're harboring doubts, you must know it's entirely Julian's fault we're experiencing all this drama. There is absolutely no blame to you. Agreed?"

The others murmured their agreement without hesitation, but Legolas thought Ivy looked as if she wanted nothing more than end the conversation and leave the scene of the crime, as it were.

"Okay, I get the message. Thanks." She nervously wiped her hands on her jeans. "So what happens now?"

"Now, Elrond is going to raid his medicinals for that sedative he mentioned earlier." Glorfindel cheerfully swirled the brandy. "And then, Wendy is going to offer the tainted treat to soothe her brother. After that, Legolas and I are going to go off and plan the upcoming ceilidh while the rest of you entertain yourselves."

"We were talking about watching a movie," Alasse said hopefully, as though she feared this possibility had been canceled.

The other ellith nodded enthusiastically.

"Yes, but please don't let it be Cats again," protested Sindohte.

"No, not Cats," Tamurile said dismissively, "nor are we going to sit through Riverdance again with its hopping fairies - sorry, Haldir. I brought something new. Something I think all of you will love - especially Elrond."


"Yes." Her blue eyes twinkled. "It's the new Phantom of the Opera, with all its fantastic music and seriously brooding hero. Remember last summer, when we all agreed that Lord Elrond and the phantom are quite alike?"

"I don't remember agreeing to that," protested Elrond.

"Of course not, sweetie. You weren't in the room." Tamurile prattled on. "Verce and the rest of us discussed you, and--"

Verce made a choking sound before loudly clearing her throat.

"Oh. Right." Tamurile fell silent, but not for long. "Well, the film should be absolutely brill on Haldir's big screen with that awesome new sound system you've had installed."

"It is state of the art," replied Haldir, looking quite chuffed. "There are now hybrid digital amplifiers in all of our subwoofers, and - wait a moment." He stared down at the delicate blonde Elf at his side. "Phantom has only just been released across the pond. How in the name of Morgoth did you manage to get a copy?"

"It's all in who you know, darling." Tamurile coyly struck an over- the-top glam pose and tossed back her long hair. "Some of us have contacts, and I've used mine shamelessly." Giggling, she clutched Haldir's arm. "I can't wait to see long-leggedy Raoul in those tall black boots again."

Haldir rolled his eyes. "I'm sure you can't."

Tamurile's anticipatory grin was infectious, and even Legolas found himself laughing.

"Would you like to watch that?" Elrond asked Ivy gently.

Looking up, she managed a bit of a smile and nodded. "I think I would."

That's where the crowd and Ivy are going, so that is where Elrond will hover as well, Legolas predicted. And they all intend to be relatively happy and Julien free, so it definitely has its appeal.

"Should we take Ivy with us to get the medicinals so she's never alone, and ask Haldir to delay the start of the film?" Glorfindel sounded almost mocking.

"Nonsense, don't do that," said Tamurile before Elrond could reply. Slipping in between him and Ivy, Tamurile tucked her arm through the girl's. "We'll all look after Queen's Daughter, shall we, until you can join us, Elrond? If Julien dares to poke his thin nose - no, wait, that would be his great swollen strawberry of a nose - out of his room, we'll all scream for help like girls."

"You are all girls," said Haldir.

"You're not. Last time I looked, anyway, and you'll be with us." She turned her most beseeching look on Elrond, who towered over the slight Elf. "What do you say?"

Legolas stepped forward. "I shall stay with Ivy until Elrond returns."

"You will not. We shall protect her." Laying a hand on his chest, Verce pushed him back beside his father. "Won't we?"

The agreeing chorus was deafening to the point that Legolas and Elrond both winced. Ivy giggled despite herself before clapping a hand over her mouth.

"Splendid!" said Tamurile. "Then it's off to the viewing room with us. Time for fun and long-leggedy heroes in boots!"

Legolas knew all too well from past experience that there was no stopping the five ellith after they'd made up their minds. Particularly not when Sindohte and Tamurile were herding Ivy safely into the center of their group and Alasse was dragging Haldir down the hallway. Wendy and Verce were at the back of the group waving good-bye to those very deliberately left behind.

"You know Ivy will be fine with us until you hurry back, Elrond," Verce called.

"Where is this screening room?" Ivy protested, her body language showing clear reluctance at being separated from those warrior-trained.

"Just here," said Haldir. "Right here." He ducked into an alcove on the other side of Elrohir's vacant room. "I knocked out the walls between three old bedrooms and made a home theater in the seventies, you see? Really, it was quite fun and glorious--"

"With no chubby cherubs in sight!" Tamurile sounded triumphant. The door closed to completely muffle whatever conversation followed in the soundproofed screening room.

Glorfindel bumped shoulders with Elrond. "Come on. The sooner we get Julien drugged, the sooner you can get back to Ivy and apologize for being...what was it Tamurile said he and the phantom were?"

"Seriously brooding," Legolas supplied, pulling down the sleeves of his sweater until he could wash off the bloodstains off his wrist that had been left by Julien.

Glorfindel nodded. "Quite so."

"I don't see what is so appealing about watching a brooding mortal," said Elrond.

"You're not young and female, but you are set to take one to Warra." replied Glorfindel with a wicked grin. "Maybe you should take notes."



Ivy had read that movie stars and millionaires had screening rooms in their sumptuous mansions, but the idea that Legolas-of-the-bearskin-coat should have such a thing in his very traditional Scottish-Elven manor was quite a shock. Then again, it was another of Haldir's marvelous modern upgrades, and Ivy wondered if Legolas had seen it yet.

If Haldir's delight with it equals his enthusiasm over dimmer switches and gilt, she thought, I really dread seeing what sort of home theater he considers 'quite fun and glorious.' Will there be more dive-bombing gilded cherubs?

She suppressed a shudder as she was swept into the screening room and the memory of yet another musical lunged to mind. Oh, please tell me Haldir didn't embrace 'Sunset Boulevard'?

Preparing herself for the worst as the marchwarden turned up the lights, Ivy was astonished to discover her worries were unfounded. The screening room was merely a screening room. It sported no horrible, tasteless theme to make her cringe, not so much as a royal purple, velvet curtain protecting the screen.

There are only so many bombshells I can take in one day, she thought. Wait, it's been two days. Hasn't it? In some ways, it feels like I've been here for a week. At the same time, it feels like I only arrived this morning.

Maybe I'm actually asleep in San Francisco, dreaming all this up and none of it's real. Or maybe I'm still jetlagged beyond belief and can't think straight.

My neck is tense and my head's throbbing. If I could sneak off and be by myself for awhile, I'd be okay. As if that's going to happen. But I really need a little time to let my head stop spinning and try to make sense of everything. Maybe take a little nap? But no, they're going to keep piling it on, aren't they? Hey, it's all normal to them.

Sighing inwardly, she gathered her frayed nerves and looked around Haldir's screening room.

The former trio of bedrooms now housed a small but official-looking theater, except that the floor wasn't sticky as it always was in the discount cinema Ivy had occasionally visited in San Francisco. The carpeting beneath her feet was deep green and thick, and the little white fairy lights had appeared again. Having a function this time instead of being merely irritating, the sparkles served as narrow runners to safely guide the way to four short rows of black-upholstered rocking seats. A plush black loveseat sat against the back wall, right beneath an empty frame - behind which, Ivy assumed, the projection equipment was hidden.

The room was so cold, it couldn't have seen heat since midsummer, and Ivy gazed longingly at the stone fireplace on the far wall beside the loveseat. Alas, even that was cold; she could feel the icy waves wafting from the stone to curl around her ankles.

Most theaters don't have fireplaces, she thought. At least it's there, even if it is even colder than I am. Haldir didn't rip it out, so maybe there's hope for some heat soon?

The oak paneling matched that in Ivy's own room - Pretty, her weary mind whispered - and elegant picture frames graced both side walls. She did a double-take at the six movie posters housed within, and amazement pulled her over to have a closer look, which meant having a squint inside the shadow-boxes.

"Haldir have you put up one-sheets for the original Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings trilogies?" she said, incredulous.

"Why not? Those six films did quite well, you know, and each trilogy is long enough to be considered a proper epic, even by Elven standards." He thought a moment. "At least, the original Star Wars trilogy qualifies. We will not discuss the second one."

"But I liked Qui-Gon," she protested.

"Qui-Gon was acceptable, but his movie was not," Haldir declared emphatically before giving her a sharp look. "You're shivering, aren't you? Let me light a fire."

Leaning companionably against Ivy, Verce remarked in an affected, bored society voice, "Do please notice that all the one-sheets are autographed by its respective original cast."

"All of them?" Ivy squeaked.

"Every one."

That must have cost lots and lots, she thought.

Peering more closely at the one-sheet for The Fellowship of the Ring, she thought the squiggles behind the glass might be ink. "So Tam's not the only one with movie contacts? Did Halden finance these films or something? Real Elves supporting fake elves?"

"I'm afraid the truth is much less romantic," said Verce. "Halden knows how to snipe on eBay to make sure he gets what he bids on."

"Verce, be fair. He didn't snipe the first Rings poster," said Wendy. "When Fellowship came out, nobody cared about anybody in the cast until a few weeks after it premiered in the States. Haldir - pardon me, Halden - jumped right in at the beginning to buy up autographs of those nobody actors and got lucky."

"I'll have you know every poster in here was an investment!" Haldir snapped from the fireplace.

"Of course they were, darling," said Tamurile. "They're all worth a bit - now. But you're not selling, are you, and one can't find an original Legolas autograph now for love or money. I know, I've tried." Pouting, she ran the tips of her fingers over the glass. "He's such a cute little Elf."

Haldir rose gracefully to his feet as the fire leaped and crackled to life. "It would be my pleasure to assist you, Tamurile dear. Give me but two minutes and a hundred quid, and I'll run downstairs and get for you an original Legolas autograph."

"Oh, you!" Tamurile slapped his arm while the others laughed. "You know I don't mean that Legolas. Besides which, I won't have any mad money for months because of this mess with Julien, so don't even think of offering me my heart's desire."

Legolas would probably sign something for me for free, thought Ivy. Hmmm....

Alasse perched on the wide arm of the black loveseat, which to Ivy looked sinfully deep and comfortable. "So, Tam, we have you to thank for not being subjected to Amadeus and Titanic yet again?"


"But I like Titanic," said Wendy, "and I was so disappointed when they didn't cast Michael Crawford as the Phantom in this movie."

"I have to agree." Turning away from the Fellowship poster, Tamurile never noticed Haldir stepping up behind her to rub out the smudges she'd made on the glass, nor the proprietary pat he gave the wooden frame afterward.

So Haldir's a Rings fan? Ivy wondered, amused.

"Julien and I took your mother to see Michael Crawford play the Phantom in London," said Wendy.

"And Crawford was in it at the Ahmanson in Los Angeles forever. Oh, Ivy, please tell me you saw him in it?" said Tamurile.

Startled at being included in the conversation as she was inching her way closer to the fire, Ivy took a moment to gather her words.

"I think we were living in Wyoming then," she said tentatively. "I heard him a lot at home though," she added hastily to diffuse the pitying gazes aimed her way. "I remember Mom having the CD when I was in grade school, and she played it to death. I heard a lot of Cats yowling, too, while I was growing up."

Tamurile and the others didn't try to hide their shock.

"You lived in San Francisco," said Sindohte, "one of the cultural meccas of the western United States, but have never seen either Phantom or Cats?"

"I was always in school or we were always too broke. Take your pick."

"That's absolutely criminal!" exclaimed Tamurile. "Well, there will be no more of that, I promise you! We'll all make certain you see all of the best shows as they open in Los Angeles, New York or Sydney."

"Don't forget London."

"Absolutely, we will not forget London," Tamurile agreed. "We'll arrange it with Elrond."

"We can at least show her Cats," Haldir said eagerly. "Right now. You know we have it here on VHS."

"We know, Haldir. We know it so very, very well." Wendy's voice was filled with suffering. "No Cats, please? We've watched it at least once a year since it came out. You know Elrond is sick of the dancing little blighters, and so am I."

"But our Ivy has been deprived," protested Sindohte. "The child could at least be allowed to watch the tape until Elrond comes back."

Tamurile nodded enthusiastically. "She simply cannot be allowed to live another moment without watching that wonderful tomcat."

A chorus of vehement no's met that suggestion, including a threat to have the Rum Tum Tugger trapped and neutered forthwith.

Ivy gave a resigned smile and spread her hands. "Thanks, Haldir, but I guess I'll have to see it later."

Tamurile nudged the marchwarden. "You could always tuck it into her luggage for Warra and not tell Elrond."

"What a lovely idea," said Haldir, "I think I shall. Only the best for our Queen's Daughter from this point on." He indicated the dark screen. "We'll begin Phantom as soon as Elrond arrives."

Continuing their chatter, the other, cold-proof Elves moved to claim the first row of seats while Ivy gravitated toward the warmth of the fireplace with Haldir, who added another log to the fire.

Offering her best smile, Ivy hoped to break the awkwardness she could feel forming between her and the marchwarden now that they were alone. I really don't blame him for what happened with Julien. It's not his fault my feet got stuck to the floor.

"This is a lovely room," she commented, inching as close to the fire as she dared.

Haldir brightened immediately. "Do you really think so? It's one of my favorite rooms, and I hope Legolas likes it once he sees it. I've been meaning to order a popcorn machine to further the cinematic theme, but keep forgetting."

"Will you add fountain drinks, too? Like Diet Coke?"

"Diet Coke?" Haldir recoiled in horror.

"Raspberry tea, then?" Ivy relented.

"With tacky takeaway cups and little straws? And a dispenser containing those horrid little paper napkins?" Haldir shuddered. "The persons we entertain tend to have more advanced palates, and I've much better stemware."

"I know you do," she hastened to agree with him. "And I didn't notice any cup-holders in the armrests, either."

Geez, maybe the popcorn machine would be for ambiance only? she wondered. No snacking on such common fare in his theater? Yeah, well...uncultured little me would love some Coke and popcorn right about now.

Stretching her cold, stiff hands toward the fire, Ivy was determined to keep the conversation going. "What made you put in a home theater?"

"Something was needed to entertain through the cold nights," he explained, "especially as our nights are so very long this time of year. All of us have read the books in the downstairs library at least three times, and the closest cinema is in Inverness. If our guests could reach that, they could go home." The last was added with a bit of a bite.

Ivy perked up at the mention of another room she hadn't yet seen. "There's a library downstairs?"

"Oh, yes." Haldir adjusted the ornate iron firescreen that was probably hundreds of years old. "Ithilien's first library is ensconced rather awkwardly between the ballroom and the kitchen. Legolas originally attached it to the original house to shelter some of the treasures Elrond left behind when he went Oversea."

"My father didn't take everything with him?" asked Ivy.

"By the stars, no. Three ships wouldn't have been enough to carry all that Imladris had accumulated over the centuries. After Elrond left, Legolas and the twins retrieved what they could before time and the forest reclaimed it. Those things needed a library all their own, so one was built without the least bit of consideration for the flow of future architecture."

Haldir grimaced. "Legolas never seems to think beyond the moment when he's adding rooms, which is why our castle has such an illogical structure. The library was built at the front of the main house for all of Ithilien to access. New rooms and wings have been added over the years, so what was originally at the front is now in the middle."

"Oh, wow," breathed Ivy, trying hard to envision the original dwelling and the possibilities it housed. "What sort of Elven treasures are in there?"

"None now." Haldir shrugged, unconcerned. "We did have a multitude of books, statuary and art until the Sassanach made it too risky for such things to remain with us here."


"Scots Gaelic for Englishman," Haldir explained. "Even today it's usually intended as an insult, so mind how you use it. They invaded after the last battle and had a nasty habit of taking whatever they fancied. We couldn't have them taking bits of Elven history. It was bad enough being considered Scottish at the time, without adding that issue to the mix."

Sighing dramatically, Haldir didn't seem to notice Ivy's growing horror. "It's twisted British history and a long story, and there's little time to tell it before Elrond returns. It would likely bore you anyway, regardless more than one MacLeod had a part in it."

"Then you have to tell me!" she protested. "Even if you have to whisper it back here after the movie starts."

"But, the musical--"

Ivy whimpered quietly, but Haldir shook his head and looked as troubled as Ivy had ever seen him, though she wasn't certain whether it was over Scottish history or missing the movie. The pain that shifted his expression led her to believe the marchwarden's distress really wasn't for the fate of the Phantom.

"It isn't my story to tell, you see?" he protested. "It's true that I was...nearby as events unfolded, but Legolas played a far more active and tortured role." He hesitated, then nodded decisively. "Yes, I'm afraid you'll have to ask Legolas about the particulars - if ever you find him in the mood to discuss them. Now, I really should see about starting the movie."

Ivy grabbed Haldir's arm as he stepped away from the mantel. "Tortured?"

"I beg your pardon?"

"You said Legolas was tortured," Ivy pursued. "Over the downstairs library?"

"Of course he wasn't! I thought it was an architectural blunder, but it wasn't that awful. However did you manage to get that idea?"

"Maybe it's because you're talking in circles and not making much sense." Ivy knew she sounded as cross as she felt, but her head was pounding even harder than before, and the Elf's reticence wasn't helping in the least. "Too many secrets have been dribbled out over the last couple of days, and all the mysterioso is giving me a headache. Can't you just tell me what happened?"

He actually pouted. "Very well. But only a bit of the story because, as I said, it's not really my tale to tell. Where to begin...."

I don't care, thought Ivy, as long as you start.

Staring into the fire, the Elf gathered his thoughts. "You are familiar with the Battle of Culloden?"

"A little. Grandfather spoke of it once or twice."

"Then you know the clans died in the battle's aftermath? Legolas was laird then as he is now. He was also one of the Scottish peers who very deliberately and noisily refused to support Bonnie Prince Charlie in his quest to restore the House of Stuart to the throne of Britain. Everyone outside of Lairg thought him a traitor to his own kind, but we knew his supporting the British was actually a desperate ruse to preserve the life we'd built here.

"Legolas rode off to fight at Culloden alongside the Butcher Cumberland, who was King George's own son. Glorfindel, the twins and our clansmen set off a few hours later to fight on Prince Charlie's side, while Elrond, Erestor and I stayed here in case the battle went south - which it did."

Ivy gasped in horror. "You fought one another?"

"No, no, no. Elves do not kill Elves. We all fought for our home, regardless what side we fought on, and we fought the bloody Sassanach. Complications arose for Legolas personally because Glorfindel was on the same battlefield."

"How so?" asked Ivy.

"The son looks so much like the father that doubt was cast as to the Lord of Laird's loyalties in the heat of the battle. Some of the English swore they saw him cut down redcoats, while some Scots - not of Clan Lairg, mind you - made it home to swear they had seen the laird cut down clansmen."

Ivy stared up at Haldir. "Did he?"

"Did he what?"

"Kill clansmen?"

"Of course he didn't! How could you ask such a thing?" Haldir sputtered. "So much for eyewitnesses. I've no doubt that Legolas killed only English soldiers - their red coats were easy enough to spot in the mist, and he was deep within their ranks, wasn't he? A lightning-quick blade thrust here and there? In any case, the Sassanach had no doubt which side Legolas had fought on, but Cumberland still accused Legolas of high treason, ordered him marched south to London, and imprisoned him for months in a prison hulk on the Thames. But never fear, it all worked out in the end."

Ivy felt her stomach knot up at that little brush-off. Haldir had even punctuated it with an airy wave of his hand, but didn't meet her eyes.

"Worked out how?" she all but whispered.

"He's here, isn't he?"

"Yes, but there's a whole lot of details left out in that one little sentence."

Haldir hesitated. "You really should be asking Glorfindel to tell you about all this."

"Tell me now!" she hissed, nearly out of patience with the Elf's dithering and adding as an afterthought, "Please?"

"My word." He blinked down at her. "You certainly are your father's daughter, aren't you? Very well, but please do not tell Legolas I discussed this with you."

Came another deep sigh. "If you must know, Cumberland tried to execute Legolas along with thirty-five deserters from his own army that he personally discovered among the prisoners, but Glorfindel managed to reach London before the execution could take place. Legolas was a Scottish earl then, and there was a bit of an argument as to whether, as a peer of the realm, he should be hanged and beheaded, or hanged and then drawn and quartered."

"What a horrible way to die!"

"Oh, it's worse than it sounds. The Sassanach did kill the victim before pulling him apart, so it wasn't all that bad. It's just that the aftermath is exceedingly gruesome to watch," Haldir said mildly. "And I did try to warn you about the details of this story. You might keep in mind that Legolas is safe downstairs and quite in one piece."

"How did Glorfindel manage to get him out?" a subdued Ivy asked.

"Why the traditional way, of course." A breath of a laugh startled her before Haldir continued. "He crossed some very important palms in the government with gold, went aboard the hulk, and no doubt rescued his son in high melodrama. Or stealth. There is no middle ground with Glorfindel, you know? And so Legolas came back to us to fight another day."

This last was delivered in a cheery tone, no doubt intended to indicate the conclusion of the tale.

He's leaving out a lot, isn't he? thought Ivy.

"If Legolas was arrested," said Ivy, "what happened to everyone left behind? Here in Lairg, I mean."

"The twins and Glorfindel obviously managed to escape the killing fields - or moor, if you like. Glorfindel headed overland back to us, while the twins skulked alongside Cumberland's army to see it enter Inverness and begin the murderous aftermath. Your brothers then hurried to tell us that same army was on its way north to us, and the Butcher had ordered no quarter given."

"No quarter as in 'kill everybody'?" asked Ivy.

"Very much so." Haldir nodded. "Culloden scholars argue today that the order was a forged addendum to the orders given Cumberland, but it mattered very little at the time. He and his army set about fulfilling the order with horrifying efficiency - hence Cumberland's earning his nickname of The Butcher - and Lairg lay directly in their path. We were expected to let the redcoats do as they wished, and the twins had already seen what that involved."

Ivy braced for the worst.

"The twins returned frantic with horrible tales of men, women and children - the elderly as well as the young - being burned alive in their homes. Sick old men were shot in their beds. Children cut down while working the fields. If anyone tried to escape, the soldiers rounded them up to die at the end of a musket, bayonet, or hangman's rope. Drawing and quartering was a favorite for the men," Haldir added as an afterthought. "Some of the soldiers seemed to very much enjoy serving their king here in Scotland."

"How in the world did you manage to save Lairg?" Ivy asked quietly.

"We gathered everyone together - Mortals and Elves and a handful of victims from the battle that Glorfindel had managed to collect on his way home. Explaining the situation, we offered everyone sanctuary in the castle while the twins offered to remain outside and watch for the army.

"When Cumberland's men arrived that night, they saw total chaos and heard nothing but screaming - all staged, of course. Volunteers both Mortal and Elven were running about like demented chickens while Elrond, Erestor and I released the livestock and torched every cottage. The flames could be seen well outside of Lairg, and our volunteers fulfilled their roles with great realism," Haldir relayed with a wry grin.

"All of our people scattered in the darkness to enter the woods above the village," he continued. "Circling round, they entered the castle by way of the old dwarven tunnels. We gathered the livestock later." Looking haunted, Haldir stared into the fire.

"I can still hear their cries and smell the smoke," he added bitterly. "The Sassanach rotters believed what their eyes told them - that the Lord of Lairg was helping, for once and for all, to end the threat that any Highlander would ever again pick up a farming implement - never mind a broadsword - against England. Some of the soldiers seemed quite disappointed that there was to be no killing or other sport that night. Inviting themselves into our castle, they ordered us to prepare their supper."

"With everybody from the village already inside?" Ivy squeaked with some alarm.

"Oh, yes," said Haldir. "But Gimli's tunnels and its cells served our people well. They were safe below and knew to keep silent while the army was here. Glorfindel and Erestor captured a few lambs for the meal."

Haldir's gaze grew distant. "I believe those were the last animals Erestor ever slaughtered for table. He roasted them in the Great Hall, and the Sassenach celebrated their victory past midnight. They moved on after a few days, but we knew they'd be back for the looting, if not for more killing."

"What about Legolas?" Ivy dared to whisper, not wanting to distract him from the tale.

Haldir shook his head. "We didn't know his fate in London for months. Some of the other lairds had their eye on our lands, and at that time merely toasting Prince Charlie's health was a hanging offence, never mind killing redcoats when you were supposed to be fighting on the side of the Sassanach. We knew Legolas hadn't died on the moor, but that made his absence even more frightening.

"Aragorn began our journey by gifting a portion of Ithilien to Legolas and he acted as its steward. In medieval times, he was mormaer, second only to the King of Scots. The Sassanach later rewarded him for defending and preserving Laird and created him an earl centuries after Aragorn's death. Through generations of Lairg clansmen and women, he has always been, quite simply but far from merely, the Laird. We all feared Culloden had somehow brought an abrupt end to him. With the shattering of the clan system, we also feared our life in Ithilien had ultimately come to an end."

"How very sad," Ivy murmured, laying her hand over Haldir's on the mantel.

Capturing her fingers in return, the marchwarden squeezed gently. "Change is inevitable, my dear, and all things end in the Mortal world. We Elves who chose to stay behind also chose to be part of their world, did we not?"

"I guess so," Ivy said slowly, "but it sounds like the price has been too high sometimes and being Oversea would be better."

"Perhaps. I cannot judge, as I have never been Oversea."

"Why did Ithilien end with Culloden?" Ivy asked. "I mean, it looks like it's been rebuilt, and there are people living here."

"The Mortals were able to rebuild, but for we Elves it was another matter. Legolas was eventually returned to us and his earldom kept intact - which meant the crofters living here could rebuild their homes under the laird's protection. But Lairg was no longer safe for Ithilien's Elves.

"They hid in the tunnels and were kept safe along with the villagers that first night and for many thereafter," he relayed, "but it wasn't safe for them to resume their lives here after Culloden. All we needed was for some visiting soldier to notice someone's pointed ears or an Elven warrior's rarified grace and manner, and then..." Haldir grimaced. "So Elrond used his palantir to contact Amsterdam and asked Verce's parents to help."

"Amsterdam?" Ivy blinked in confusion. "I thought Verce was born in Warra?"

"She was, but this was before Warra. In 1747, her parents ran a trading company in Amsterdam. Elrond needed their ships to transport Ithilien's Elves away from Scotland, post-haste. Which is a very long way of explaining to you that the old library's Elven things had to go with them."

"The library!" Ivy exclaimed, thumping the mantel. "I'd forgotten all about that."

"Well then, we can end the story there, can't we?"

"No!" Ivy all but howled at the possibility. I'm so ashamed to think that just yesterday morning I thought Haldir was boring to listen to.

The marchwarden looked pleased with her protest. "Very well. We all worked frantically to box up the library's memorabilia and hide it below before Cumberland's army returned, as the Sassenach were permitted to loot at will - provided there was an officer present to supervise - and we couldn't very well have any of our artifacts and books floating about in London or elsewhere."

"I wish you'd just stored it in the closed parts of the house," Ivy grumbled.

"Never fear, there's plenty to see in the old wings if you can convince Legolas to let you back there," Haldir reassured. "Elrond didn't transport everything, only the Elven things. And we really hadn't time or energy to tackle all that lay in the closed wings."

"So the things shipped included all of the Elves who had been in Lairg since Aragorn had sent Legolas to North Ithilien?" asked Ivy.

"Indeed, yes, with the exception of myself and the twins."

"Why not you?" Ivy asked, curious.

"Legolas hadn't returned yet, and someone had to continue looking after the people of Lairg," he pointed out. "Your brothers stayed on with me as the responsibility really was too much for one person, but as I told Elrond at the time, this was my home and I didn't want to leave. And I spoke their English quite well," he added with a touch of pride.

"Was it difficult to move everyone and all that stuff?"

"Not at all. Two large Merchant vessels came from Holland and docked in an inlet down the hill at the back of the castle. It was quite a scene with everyone scurrying night and day, back and forth from the ships. And then they waved their farewell and sailed away. I've not seen most of those Elves since that day," he added sadly.

"What happened next?" asked Ivy, afraid of losing Haldir to his melancholy.

"Elrond's ships took the time to stop in Liverpool to gather more provisions. And then, it was off to Australia, except for Glorfindel who was left behind so he could make his way London and see to his son's rescue, as we had received word by then of Legolas' imprisonment."

"Why Australia?" Ivy wondered.

"Elrond had learned of its pristine existence from a handful of Dutch merchants he'd done business with in the 1600s," said Haldir. "He knew the Elves would encounter no real difficulties there if they chose to begin a new colony. And that, my dear, is how Elrond founded Warra in 1747, twenty-three years before any Sassanach claimed the eastern half of Australia. So you've two tales in one - the dissolution of Ithilien and the founding of Warra in New South Wales. And the fate of the library, so that's three, really, and quite enough answers for an afternoon, don't you think?"

"So absolutely everything Elven is gone from the downstairs library?" Ivy couldn't hide her disappointment.

"Unfortunately, yes. I personally carried several very heavy boxes of books up the gangway. But never fear." He patted her hand reassuringly. "Elrond has it all preserved in Warra, and you'll hardly notice what's missing here, since we've collected other, wonderful things right up into this century. Why, we've a wonderful modern library now, and Legolas' tastes have proven very eccentric."

"Eccentric, how?" Ivy asked cautiously. "Are we talking shrunken heads and other stuff worthy of Ripley's Believe It or Not?" After the cherubs, I don't think anything is too far-fetched to find in this place.

"You'll see," Haldir offered vaguely. "That library has been known to drive me mad, which is why I often retreat to my own rooms. But I have added a few volumes myself, so I promise there are at least a handful of quality books in there that are worth a read."

A library that can drive Haldir mad? thought Ivy. That takes some imagining. His Ormolu clock is enough to drive me mad. I have got to see this library.

The ellith at the front of the theater broke out in peels of laughter. Startled, Haldir glanced over his shoulder.

"I see Tamurile is back to her old self," he remarked acidly. "I knew her subdued moments wouldn't last. Every elleth up there has a habit of talking during the film, which is why they are there while we are here. Honestly, isn't the purpose of watching a musical to listen to the music and the singing? The lyrics are what drive the plot!"

"What about Elrond?" asked Ivy. "Where does he sit?"

"Elrond? There. The loveseat is his exclusively." Haldir indicated the heavy black piece sitting against the back wall. "I think it's attractive, even if it is a bit oversized. But then, your father is long-legged and a bit oversized, isn't he? It was so difficult to find something that fit Elrond's requests and the décor of the room as well. All I could find were courting seats, and that was too entirely inappropriate."

She gave him a quizzical look, which had the desired effect of making Haldir offer more information.

"We've no courting couples here, and Elrond likes to stretch his legs in peace. You, of course, are welcome to sit wherever you wish." The marchwarden gestured expansively at the empty rocking-chair rows behind the ellith. "People have the oddest tastes in seating when it comes to the theater, so please suit yourself."

Stepping away from the fireplace, he dusted down his slacks lest some ash had strayed his way. "Your father will surely be along any moment now, so I'd best be ready to start the movie."

With that he stepped away, leaving Ivy alone to consider the disturbing tales and crumbs of history he'd shared with her.

Yeah, run away before I think of another question, she thought. Now I know how to get Haldir to stop talking - just ask him to keep talking. But I think he's right this time, I have heard enough for right now.

What he said is just as scary as what he didn't say, she reflected. I mean, Legolas was nearly executed? Glorfindel had to rescue him from the bowels of some nasty prison ship on the Thames?

I'll bet there were rats. Hungry rats. And disease. No food or decent water. Mortals were probably dying all around him, and who knows what else happened?

How many months was he held? And how long did it take Glorfindel to get to him? Shivering with dread, Ivy stepped closer to the fire in an attempt to ward off a cold that wasn't merely in the room. Just how close was Legolas to death, and what sort of condition was he in when Glorfindel finally got him free? Come to that, how'd the two of them get back here?

Pulling back her hair, she glowered at the fire crackling merrily on the hearth even as she turned her chilly side to face the flames. Why is it the more I learn from these Elves, the less I feel I know?


Continued here


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