Legolas' steps slowed then stopped as he and Ivy left the old house behind and approached the door leading into the hallway of the new wing. Coming up behind him, Ivy didn't need to ask why he hadn't opened the door, for she all too easily heard Glorfindel's clipped Sindarin and her father's growled reply in the same language from beyond the thick wood. Laying a hand against the door, he glanced at her over his shoulder and inclined his head to acknowledge the Elf-lords' presence beyond, but made no effort to step through and join them.

The doors in this place are not soundproof, Ivy noted, and that pointed, articulate bombardment is what Glorfindel sounds like when he's mad. Good to know for the future. I was beginning to wonder if he ever so much as got cross about anything. She shivered slightly as Glorfindel interrupted Elrond and took control of the exchange once again. Yeah, I'd say he's a bit beyond cross.

Leaning against Legolas, she whispered, "What are they saying?"

"My father is protesting your father's harshness during our cell-phone call earlier," he whispered back.

Legolas doesn't sound upset. He seems more...almost resigned, Ivy noted, now feeling uneasy as well as confused. Sliding her hand up his arm, she wasn't certain whether she was asking for guidance or offering reassurance.

The voices beyond the door broke off abruptly, and Ivy suspected sharp Elven ears on the other side had heard her and Legolas.

"They're not arguing now," she noted sweetly.

"No, they're not." He sighed, then patted her mittened fingers where they had come to rest on his shoulder. "Shall we?"

Legolas pushed through the door into the corridor and held it for Ivy. Blinking furiously at the sudden assault of light, she peered at the two Elf-lords standing like tall sentries on either side of the door. She suspected Elrond was grinding his teeth as he raised his head and tucked his hands inside his sleeves, but Glorfindel relaxed his stance immediately and smiled as brightly as ever at her.

Leaning forward, Glorfindel peered more closely at her. "I was going to ask if you enjoyed your time in the past with my son, but it looks as if you did not. Are you all right?" 

Still battling the bright light, Ivy squinted up at the golden Elf. "What makes you think I didn't enjoy the old house?"

"Because I can see the smudges of tear tracks in the dust on your cheeks."

Both Elrond and Legolas tensed at the mention of tears.

"I'm not crying," she denied as quickly as she could get the words out.

"Ivy--" began Elrond.

"I'm not. Here, take this." Shoving her flashlight at Legolas, she pulled off her mittens before wiping her eyes and scrubbing at her cheeks. "My eyes are watering because it's dark back there and it's bright in here. It was dusty back there, too. We were wandering around in the dark, and - hey, the electricity is back on!"

"It was restored while you and Legolas were out hunting." Elrond took the mittens from her, only to seize one of Ivy's hands and begin closely examining her fingers.

"Don't tell me you only just noticed?" Glorfindel demanded.

"Much has happened between then and now to distract her," Legolas offered.

"A lot of it has happened in the dark. It's really dark back there, y'know?"

"So you have informed us," Elrond replied wryly. "Some of it also happened after your hands were frostbitten. How are you fingers feeling now?" He released that hand only to capture the other one and inspect its fingers too.  

"They're fine. Great. The skin is looking a lot better, see?" She wiggled her fingers in illustration of their nimbleness.

Thank heaven I remembered to put the mittens back on before we came back, she thought. I'm running out of distractions here, and I don't think any of them are working. Elrond and Glorfindel still feel like tomcats considering jumping each other, and I'm not sure they haven't drawn Legolas into their mood now.

"But I'm so hungry," she said aloud, "I think my stomach is growling. You did say lunch was ready, didn't you?"

"Why don't I see to your dress while you enjoy your dinner with Elrond." With that, Legolas slipped quietly behind her and was off down the hall.

"I'll go with him." Glorfindel spared Elrond a glare and Ivy a parting nod before all but running to catch up with his son. Ivy watched as Legolas slapped at the panel concealing the elevator, which opened immediately at his command. Glorfindel ducked into the car right behind his son, and the doors very nearly closed on his boot heels.

"And there goes my gown," Ivy lamented. Nice trick, she thought, leaving so smooth and fast. I wouldn't put it past Glorfindel to have anticipated Legolas' needs and helped out by having the elevator waiting on this floor to accommodate that escape.

"Let me take you in to lunch." Elrond seemed unimpressed with the awe-inspiring five-yard dash they had just witnessed.

Old world much? She thought as the Elf-lord offered his arm to escort her into the dining hall. Knowing her new father's already volatile mood, she didn't dare voice her well-intentioned sarcasm aloud. Instead, she contented herself with feeling grateful he hadn't challenged Legolas over her alleged tears, and Elrond wasn't forcing the mittens back onto her hands. Sliding her fingers across the silky fabric covering his forearm, she silently accepted his offer. Better to just flow with his going all upper-class, society Victorian, right?

Elrond's progress down the corridor was much more sedate than Legolas' had been, and Ivy didn't know whether to be amused or irritated at that.

"Did you enjoy your tour of the old house?" he asked.

"Yeah, but it was way too short to really appreciate anything, and Legolas didn't let me get a good look at the dress I'm supposed to wear tonight. I don't mean to whine, but..." She made a face.

He patted her fingers. "I'm sure it will be fine."

"Legolas said that too, but I'm not feeling all that reassured." She tried not to pout, knowing that to do so would probably win even less points with Lord Elrond as it had with Legolas. "What are you wearing to the ceilidh?

"My robes, of course."

"Of course." She sighed. He probably didn't bring anything else. Probably doesn't own anything else." You already know how good you look in them. If I don't look right, Legolas won't let me walk in with him."

Elrond guided her through the door into the dining hall. "That is a harsh thing for him to have said, but ceilidh attire is traditional, and I am certain it was merely a reference to your...ah, ranch wear."

"You mean my jeans."

"Yes." It was Elrond's turn to sigh. "Your jeans. While they are quite practical and no doubt quite comfortable and familiar to you, they are inappropriate for you to wear if you are to walk in with the laird of Lairg. I've no doubt Legolas has taken the trouble of finding a dress more appropriate to the occasion. I am certain you will look lovely in it."

"I think lovely's a stretch, no matter what I wear. At this point I'd settle for presentable."

Pausing at the fireplace on the way to the buffet table, Elrond helped Ivy out of her coat and laid it across a nearby chair.

She brightened as another possibility occurred to her. "Do you think maybe I could walk in wearing the dress and change into my jeans afterward?"

"Formal appearance for the formalities, and then casual comfort for the celebration afterward?" He set aside the bulky mittens she wasn't missing at all. "That sounds a reasonable compromise."

"Oh, thank you." She could have hugged him. At least I won't be locked into that Army blanket version of a dress all night. I'll only have to suffer for a couple of hours. She did a double take at the deer carcass roasting in the huge fireplace where she'd first met Glorfindel and Dan. "Is that--"

"The deer you and Legolas brought back?" Elrond anticipated her question. "It is. Erestor intends it as our first course at the ceilidh supper tonight. The villagers will bring their own deer to roast over the fire in the Great Hall."

"That sounds good because it looks kind of rare for lunch."

"Our current meal will be the rabbits you sacrificed your fingers to prepare." Elrond's tone reminded her of his displeasure. He brandished a mitten at her, but the smile in his eyes ruined the stern effect.

"The bunnies sacrificed far more, and my fingers are fine thanks to you." Plucking the mitten from his fingers, she tossed it back onto the chair with its mate. "I keep hearing about this Great Hall. Where is it?"

"In a far corner of the old house. Legolas didn't show it to you?"

"Noooo, because someone made us cut the tour short," she pointed out with great relish.

"Someone wanted to make sure you got your lunch." Unrepentant, he led the way toward the banquet table. "Erestor wishes his meals served while they are still at their best. He also wishes us – and this current meal – out of his way so that his preparations for tonight may continue unimpeded."

Leaping to follow close behind Elrond, Ivy impudently enjoyed the feel of his robes flowing against her own legs. I know my new Dad can be difficult but, darn it, he's just so neat to be with sometimes, too!

She very nearly ran into the Elf-lord when he stopped without warning and whirled on her. Jumping backward and out of his personal space, Ivy put her hands behind her back and offered a sheepish smile. "Oops. Sorry."

He arched an elegant eyebrow at her. "What were you doing?"

"I the way your robes billow as you stride along." She offered a half-hearted shrug when he continued staring at her. "It''s an artist thing."

The other eyebrow rose at that, but only to half mast. "Is it?"

"Yeah. You know, the artist's eye and recording neat images kind of a thing." Frantic to change the subject because she wasn't about to explain any further at the risk of his thinking she was truly daft, Ivy looked around the room to see that the other Elves were already seated and eating. A quick once-over of the table told Ivy her broken-nosed nemesis wasn't among them. She shivered in spite of herself as memories reached out to tickle her. "Where's weasel boy?"

It wasn't solely a matter of trying to find something to distract Elrond from her weird behavior. I really would like to know where Julien is.

"He remains sulking in his room while Haldir watches the door should Julien change his mind," Elrond said mildly. "He is behaving for the moment, but I will not hesitate to drug him senseless once more should that change."

"Will he be at the ceilidh?" Ivy dreaded the answer.

"Unfortunately, yes."

Her heart sank at that bit of news. Having to watch my back all night really takes the fun out of it. Will he be drugged or undrugged? she wondered. And do I have to sit anywhere near him?

"I cannot believe Erestor has that smelly...thing...roasting over our fire!" Wendy's peevish voice rose over the low hum of light conversation at her table to pull Ivy's thoughts back to the present.

She stared at the raven-haired Elf who stabbed at her salad and glared at the large spit containing the deer.

"Do you hear that?" Wendy hissed.

"Hear what?" Kiki asked.

That...that thing is sizzling again! It's dripping liquids into the fire! That is just so disgusting."

"It's going to sizzle for half the afternoon," Verce said mildly.

"It had better sizzle," said Kiki. "We want to eat it tonight."

Wendy cringed and shuddered in her chair. "I don't want to think about that, it's just too horrible. It's disgusting! Do you know they left its head by the woodpile again? Its head! And there were legs in the bin!"

"Wendy thinks the ceilidh supper is disgusting?" Ivy murmured sotto voce, taking the large bowl Elrond held out to her at the buffer.

"Wendy complains about such things every year," Elrond said, equally as quietly, lest they be overheard by the still-complaining Elf. "She objects to seeing what her food looks like...on the hoof, as it were."

"But Legolas sawed off the legs and stuffed them into the bin for her already," Ivy pointed out.

"You are quite right. That deer hasn't a hoof to stand on," he confirmed with a smile. "Still, as you can hear, Wendy prefers to encounter her food when it has already been cooked and is being placed before her in a most thoughtful, elegant presentation."

"In other words, she wants someone else to do all the dirty work." Ivy shook her head and took a healthy helping of rabbit stew. "Where does she think meat comes from originally?"

"She doesn't want to think about that as it's quite horrible and disgusting," Elrond deadpanned, following Ivy through the buffet. "She wishes her gourmet meals to be accompanied by calligraphied names on stiff cards assigned to silver chafing dishes rather than clearly described by the roasting carcass." His steady blue gaze caught Ivy. "I trust you have no such remorse about eating what the land provides?"

Ivy grinned to remember the frequent you-hunt-it-you-eat-it meals in Montana winters. "We never had anything that could rightly be called gourmet. Mostly, I'd describe it as done enough to eat, so I'll gladly eat what Legolas' forest provides or what the Elves grow behind yonder workshed."

She lifted her bowl of rabbit pie, which she felt should be called 'stew with the golden-brown, delicate pastry-crust,' before snagging a Diet Coke from the bed of ice at the end of the sideboard. "Deer and elk are only the reason we had meat through the winter some years, and you can bet that my grandfather made sure I saw and helped out with them before they were ready to cook."

Elrond led the way to the table to pull out a chair for her.

More courtly manners? she thought, sliding into her place. Why do I feel like Molly Brown in European high society?

"Did not your Grandfather Cameron raise a few cattle and sheep as well?" he asked.

"Yeah, but he usually sold that meat to the locals." Cracking open the Diet Coke, she took a long, grateful pull. "I think he was trying to create a college fund for me. I hope he spent it on himself after we left." She allowed herself a wistful smile, remembering the warm bear-hugs and fatherly approval that went with her memories of her grandfather, now forever gone from her life. She deliberately shook that memory away. "Speaking of college, did you ever hear from Dan?"

"I did. He called while you were asleep last night." Elrond tucked into his rabbit stew. "It took a bit longer than the twelve hours he anticipated to reach Knightsbridge for he stopped outside of Inverness to help a couple with two small children retrieve their car from a snowbank."

"Lucky family to get help from someone like him. From anyone at all, even."

"Indeed. Elladan saw them all safely into Inverness and made sure they had accommodations for the night before heading on his way."

"I'm glad he got to London okay," said Ivy. "I had awful visions of him being the one freezing in the snowbank and needing help." Staring mournfully at her stew, Ivy stirred it about and poked at a few carrots.

"Is something wrong with your lunch?" asked the ever-watchful Elf-lord.

"No! No, it's wonderful, and it smells great."

"They why do you not eat it? Why do you watch it as though you fear finding something vile in its depths?"

She hesitated to answer but knew those patient gray eyes would keep staring at her until she gave an honest confession. "This is really awkward, especially after we mocked Wendy for sounding off about it, know I said I'd eat whatever you Elves grew out behind the workshed, and I'm even the one who cut up this bunny, but...."

"But?" Elrond prompted.

"It's silly, but now that it comes right down to it, all I can think of is Peter Rabbit and the advice his mom gave him." Ivy felt herself blushing.

"Ah, yes." Lowering his voice, Elrond rumbled the solemn warning. "'Don't go into Mr. McGregor's garden. Your father had an accident there, he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor.'"

Ivy's spoon descended into the stew with a startled clink and a splash.

"The Lord of Imladris knows the tale of Peter Rabbit?" She didn't bother hiding her surprise.

"I do, for the Lord of Imladris has read such stories to countless generations of Elven children. Haldir faithfully sent each Beatrix Potter book to me in Warra as it was released. In fact--" Elrond looked down the long table to where Verce was just finishing her lunch. "Verce, my dear, do you remember my reading to you the story of Peter Rabbit?"

"Of course I do," she called up the long length. "I think that was when I first learned to love your voice so."

"Awww..." the other ellith immediately responded, all fond mockery.

"That's so sweet," cooed Kiki.

Ivy glanced at Elrond who seemed somewhere between serious and abashed.

"I was ten at the time," Verce continued, looking not in the least disconcerted or apologetic, "and you were looking after me and teaching me my letters while my parents were away in Brussels. You were easily the most rumbly, unbelievably tall thing in my life. So very impressive, and you knew the answer to absolutely every question I could think to ask."

"There. You see, Ivy--"

"--and if I did well at lessons, my reward was your reading me a story," Verce continued, clearly delighted to share the memory. "How could I ever forget Peter going lippity-lippity and not very fast for he was all worn out after Mr. McGregor chased him about?"

"Ah yes. Thank you, Verce. I remember as well. Ivy--"

"--And, like Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-tail, you gave me bread and milk and blackberries at tea after the story was finished."

"Erm, thank you, Verce."

The ellith laughed again and clapped their hands, obviously delighted with the Elven lord's discomfort with Verce's recollections. The elleth from Brussels nodded and offered the warmest smile Ivy had ever seen coming from her.

"As you wish, Elrond. Do let me know if I can be of further help?" With that, she refreshed her mug of tea and returned to more tame luncheon conversation.

"I am so jealous. No, I mean it," Ivy insisted off of Elrond's skeptical look. "Children growing up in Warra get story-time and special snack-time with you while I got a bowl of potato chips after school – not too many or the bag wouldn't last the week - and my mother telling me she couldn't help with my math homework, but if I spent enough time staring at the page she was sure I'd figure it out for myself."

"One might consider that you and I are having a special snack-time right now," Elrond pointed out. "As for the stories, I can always read Peter Rabbit to you when we reach Warra. For that matter, Haldir might have his own volumes of Beatrix Potter here."

"It wouldn't be the same." Ivy began eating as her embarrassment overwhelmed her misgivings as to the origins of the meal before her and any remaining twinges of guilt for the rabbits' fate. "Everyone would laugh at me, and I'm too big to sit in your lap, and...never mind. Could we change the subject now?"

"Certainly. Why don't you tell me what you saw whilst in the old house?"

"Oh, the usual," she muttered as with impeccable timing Legolas and Glorfindel entered the dining hall and headed for the buffet. Watching them cross the big room, she thought, They really do look more like brothers than father and son. Maybe I'll tell them so when they join us.

Elrond marked their arrival as well, with a gaze that was just a touch antagonistic.

"We didn't really have time to explore, of course," Ivy continued, "but there's really cool stuff down there." She moved from recounting to almost chattering, trying to redirect Elrond's attention and was relieved when he turned back to her. "Legolas touched the stone walls and got all nostalgic and sad. Then we went off to find my dress, and he showed me his rooms and where Gimli slept. There's this a huge wooden crate down there, too, Legolas says it's got your fresco in it."

"My fresco? What fresco? I never painted anything for Ithilien."

"No, it's from Rivendell. It's the one of Isildur cutting the ring from Sauron's hand."

Rocking back in his chair, Elrond stared at her. "Sweet Elbereth, how did such a monstrosity get itself into Legolas' old home?"

Oops, thought Ivy. I've certainly got his full attention now. "You left it behind in Rivendell, remember?"

"I left it behind so nature could obliterate it from this world's memory! And Legolas preserved it. Here in Lairg." Elrond's blue eyes
had grown stormy, his glower was fierce.

Uh oh, thought Ivy. Now I've got his full attention complete with eyebrows. This is not good at all.

"Um...I guess nature didn't cooperate?" she ventured. "Maybe Elven paint is fiercely permanent?"

"How did it come to be in this house?" Elrond enunciated slowly, his fingers curling into a fist beside his plate.

"Legolas and the twins went on a remnant-finding mission, and he said he started to smash it so no Mortal would find it, but the twins couldn't stand to destroy your work, so they added it to the stuff they brought back, and that's how it ended up here."

"I suppose I should be grateful the lord of Lairg he hasn't put it on display," he growled. "I wanted it destroyed."

Yikes, she thought, I didn't see that coming. I thought he'd be pleased. Okay, Ivy. Think fast and pry your foot out of your mouth while doing so.

Sitting up straighter in her chair, she hastily turned the conversational possibilities and bloody outcomes in her mind. "I'd really like to see it, Adar. Would you believe I can't do a proper fresco? I mean, yeah, my thesis was on frescos, but I didn't have a wall to practice on, and the closest I could come was this acrylic mural in Las Vegas. Not to mention today's techniques probably aren't the same as yours? I mean, there are frescoes like the ones DaVinci did that he sabotaged so the paint peeled off of the walls within months because he knew the monasteries wouldn't pay him properly, and then there the ones in Florence that look like they've been painted yesterday, and--"

"Ivy, what are you actually trying to say?"

She took a deep breath. "Your fresco has lasted thousands of years, so is there any way we can take it back to Warra before you destroy it? Legolas said the Elves who left here to go to Warra tried to take it with them, but there wasn't time to load it onto the ships."

"Take that thing on my plane? By all of the tiny little gods and in a word, no. We can't. That aside, I won't." He looked as stern as she could ever remember seeing him.

"But Ada--"

"Even if I was agreeable to loading such an unspeakable monstrosity on my plane - which I am not, you will please note - we could not transport it this trip. The horses returning with us are extremely heavy and there is already some concern for the cold, wet runway. We cannot possibly carry another two thousand or so kilos."

"There's another board meeting in June, right?" she wheedled. "Can we take it back then?"

"Why in the name of Sauron's seven hells would you want that thing to come with us to Warra?" Elrond leaned forward as his irritation moved toward tightly controlled outrage. "My home is a place of peace, while that thing is dedicated to the memory of a holocaust! Why are you so attached to the idea of traveling with it?"

"I'm not attached to it!"

"There is other art in Warra, Ivy. We have no need to haul that horror inside our sanctuary."

"I don't care about the subject matter! I just want to learn how it was done," she managed with some desperation and very near tears. "If I don't look at it, how can I study it like I was taught to do?"

Elrond fell back, his anger visibly fading to be replaced with something ranging between surprise and disbelief. "You want to study it."

Wrapping his hands around the arms of his chair, he stared up at the huge iron candelabra they'd all taken turns lighting only the night before. Another time, Ivy might have wept and begged for paper and pen to record how the sleeves of his robes draped so elegantly across the wood. Not at all in the mood to draw and swiping surreptitiously at the tears threatening for quite another reason, she raised her chin and waited miserably for the Elf-lord's next words.

Drawing a deep breath, he murmured, "You might simply ask me to teach you? I created the damn thing, after all."

"It never occurred to me to ask," she said quietly. Elrond as my art teacher? A real teacher of the really old style? The fresco Master himself? Oh Merry Christmas, Ivy!...if he doesn't un-invite you to Warra because of your impudence. Or ignorance. Take your pick.

"You remember how?," she asked tentatively.

"Of course I remember how!" he snapped. "Elves do not grow senile even after so many thousands of years, and I am quite capable of mixing the materials and showing you the necessary techniques. You have but to ask."

"I'm asking. Right now. In front of witnesses, too. Please, please, Ada, teach me. I'll get down on my knees and beg, even if the stone is really cold. I'll be an indentured servant to you for the next hundred years--"

"You're being silly, Ivy. I said ask, not grovel. In answer to your, ah, most sincere petition, I say that yes, I will be pleased to take you as my student in that subject as well as any others you may desire." He raised a finger in warning as she drew a sharp breath. "But please remember that I have not sketched or painted anything in centuries. There are other artists and other frescos in Warra. You might learn from them if you have some objection to learning from me."

"Objection?" Ivy's blinked in stunned disbelief. Regaining control of her tongue, which seemed equally as stunned as the rest of her, she pushed forward. "I won't have any objections. Not one. Couldn't think up one if I spent a week trying. Please, please teach me how to do a proper fresco so I can stop feeling as if I faked my way through my thesis, even if we both know that I did? I think they're so beautiful, and I want to be able to do them myself."

"I will teach you whatever you wish to know," The crunchy tone had vanished, he sounded like a warm daddy again. Reaching out, he settled his hand across hers to engulf it, and his gray eyes twinkled at her.

We've had our first argument and he's not mad anymore, and he's going to teach me, and...and I think he's actually happy that I asked?

"There's so much I need to learn! And even more I want to learn from you. You've no idea. I guess Sindarin would be a good place to start - in addition to the art lessons, though. Not instead of, right?"

She knew she was babbling, but didn't care. Elrond's smile grew even more broad, so it seemed he didn't care either.

"Sindarin would be a very good place to start," he agreed. "Reading and writing, I think."

"That sounds great. But wait a minute." She frowned to remember something he'd said. "Why don't you want your fresco in Warra?"

Elrond's warm smile vanished as if it had never been, and the storm clouds moved back in. His grip on Ivy's fingers tightened very nearly to the point of pain.

"That fresco freezes a moment in time that should be remembered, but not memorialized," he ground out. "There are many other, more worthy subjects, after all. I painted that thing to exorcise the images seared into my memory, and to educate others who had not been on the slopes of Mount Doom as to what had happened."

The wood on the fire popped loudly, and Ivy jumped but never looked away from the raw emotion on Elrond's face.

Looking into his eyes and listening to him, it's as if I can see it all without having to look at the fresco, she thought. There's Sauron - tall and smug and pure evil bent on enslaving Men and Elves alike. The screams of the terrified dying ones fill my ears until their agony is all I can hear. I feel the anger of the volcano - all heat and rumbling obsidian - and my heart hurts as Isildur smirks and caresses the Ring and is lost to it. Oh, Ada, I'm so very sorry. Turning her hand, she wrapped her fingers around his broad palm and held on.

"The moment illustrated in that fresco was followed by the period we called the watchful peace. Watchful because Sauron's ring was still out there, and that was something we dared not forget, no matter how far removed he seemed at the time. Saying or writing, 'Isildur cut the ring from Sauron's hand' is one thing. Illustrating it in living color, forcing the Elves and other visitors to Rivendell to confront it every time they walked past after I had poured into it all the accompanying horrors, deaths and demons of the day into the layers of that stone...."

His grip tightened, and Ivy was held in thrall, she could not look away. "Please trust me, my daughter, when I say that the visual and emotional resonance forever locked into that painted stone is quite another matter. It served its purpose. Thankfully, its time is over."

"You don't want me to see it?" she whispered. "Not ever?"

Elrond considered for a moment. "I have no objection to your seeing it. Briefly. Preferably in warmth and sunlight, with cheerful company beside you. To answer your original question of why I do not want the thing in Warra, my answer is  simple: I do not want any part of Sauron's darkness in my home, and so I would prefer that the thing stay here, buried in the darkness of unused stone and dead memories."

"It's entombed in a crate," Ivy offered helpfully. "A big wooden one."

Elrond inclined his head, acknowledging her information. "It is well-buried then, and that is as it should be. Destroyed would be better, I think. As for your seeing it...." He pondered again. "Why don't we plan to inspect it next June when the castle doors can be thrown open to the light and the thing can be hauled out onto the grass. You can then look on it in warmth and sunlight, and I can ensure you are not affected by its emotions as you were earlier affected by Aragorn's tapestry. We do not even know what sort of condition it is in and must also unpack and possibly re-crate it, depending on our decision regarding its future. This winter is not the time for that."

"Okay," she agreed, recognizing the sense and honesty of his answer. "But you promise you'll teach me how to create a proper fresco in Warra?"

He laughed outright at her persistence, so that his eyes crinkled at the corners and all of Sauron's shadows dissolved from the corners of Legolas' dining hall where they had been lurking. "I promise to teach you that and many other things as well, daughter. So many things that you will undoubtedly tire of being instructed by me and beg me to stop."

"Not going to happen." She solemnly shook her head and grinned, anticipating new lessons of great art, but her smile slowly faded as she remembered the others in the hall and looked around, worried as to how they might react to the fierce discussion she and Elrond had just had.

To Ivy's astonishment, no one but her, the Lord of Imladris, and the deer slowly turning on its electric spit remained in the hall.

"Where is everyone?" she asked.

"Verce and the others may have found our conversation a little too volatile for their liking. I have no doubt they have retired upstairs to view yet another motion picture."

"But Legolas and Glorfindel came in earlier. I thought they'd join us, but they never did." Pushing aside the half-filled bowl of now-cold stew, she set one elbow on the table and only then realized Elrond still had hold of her hand.

"I did warn you that Legolas is the cat who walks by himself." His disinterest in this subject was evident in his offhand tone.

"What, he doesn't want to sit down and share a dish of cream with his friends very often? It's lunch, not the Inquisition."

"Of course it isn't," Elrond agreed. "The inquisitors did not feed their prisoners." Releasing her hand, he gently touched his fingers to hers. "Legolas has had you all morning long, and you have had him. That's quite a long time for Legolas. In any case, it is my turn to spend some time with you."

Is this the nice way to tell me Legolas' turn at babysitting is over? She winced inwardly. I must be getting on his nerves by now, never mind he's been so polite about it. He probably wants some time away from me.

Okay, no Legolas until tonight. It would have been nice if he'd have been the one to tell me, though.

"I also believe the lord of Lairg will be sharing a very long evening with his villagers tonight. Probably as long an evening as he can bear," Elrond revealed.

Oh, so it's not just me he gets tired of? she pondered and maintained her silence, hoping Elrond would reveal more.

He didn't disappoint. "I'm sure Legolas needs a bit of alone time before the ceilidh begins. There is also quite a bit of setting up to be accomplished as well, and so he may be needed elsewhere this afternoon."

"That covers Legolas, but what's Glorfindel's excuse for not eating with us, because he doesn't seem that solitary."

Elrond shook his head with some amusement. "Lord Glorfindel is large, he contains multitudes."  

"Yeah, I noticed. So where did he go?"

"I believe he is in the library being quiet for once. Not Haldir's library upstairs, mind you, but in Legolas' old library which lies at the very heart of this house. You passed its entrance on your way into the old house."

Ivy sat up straighter. "Haldir told me about that library, and I think Legolas mentioned it too. He said Alastair's ancestor was painted wearing the dress I'm supposed to wear tonight, and the painting's in there too. I so want to see it!" She hurried on off of Elrond's long-suffering look. "I know you think that dress will be okay, but I'm going to worry about it all afternoon. Legolas didn't let me see it properly in the dark back there, so could I see the painting instead?"

"It would be far wiser if you took a nap this afternoon in preparation for tonight's celebration instead of staring at old, mortal paintings."

"A nap?" She very nearly rolled her eyes, but thought better of it, given the impression it would make. He wants me to take a nap in the middle of the day like a cranky toddler? It's not enough that I need a babysitter, now I need a nap?

Taking a deep breath, she fought down the irritating urge to protest. "I'll take a nap, but please show me the painting first? I promise I'll sleep after, but I really, really need to see what my dress is going to look like, or I'll never be able to sleep."

"Very well." Elrond gave a heavy sigh, but Ivy was relieved to note that the amused smile was back. "Far be it from me to come between a female and her fashions. If you have finished your lunch, I am quite willing to show you Legolas' old library. And then you will rest."

She nodded eagerly, willing to agree to almost anything if it meant replacing that glimpse of lumpy wool in her memory with something better.


Much to Ivy's surprise, Elrond led her back through the door she'd last been through with Legolas on their way back from the old house. Beyond lay the strange oak tree she'd seen looming out of the darkness earlier in the day. It loomed no more, illuminated as it was now by the pale winter sunlight bravely trickling through the skylight. Ivy was startled to realize just how enormous the dead tree was and how fragile it looked as Elrond led the way beneath its skeletal arms and into the library proper.

Flagstone merged with a wooden-slated floor to mark the beginning of the library. The Gothic-arched lighting sconces marching every few feet along the wood-paneled wall were wrought-iron and reminiscent of those Ivy had seen in the old house, but electric light rather than flames glowed behind their rose-tinted glass.

When Legolas wired this place, did he just pull out the blackened torches, insert the wiring and voila! Instant electrical ambiance? she wondered. Haldir said this library was built to house the Elven wonders brought back from Imladris, but those are all gone. I get that, but what is that feeling...I'm feeling?

Slowing her steps and deliberately pausing beneath the old oak, she scanned the room beyond for any sneaky tapestries that might be laying in wait for newly discovered and very tender Elven psyches. Glass-enclosed bookcases filled with tomes wrapped themselves round library's first level, and generous drawers lay beneath the shelving to house whatever ancient treasures might remain in Lairg. The small fireplace in the far corner had obviously been built for warmth rather than for decoration or roasting game, dwarfed as it was by the extensive wooden shelving dominating the room.

Ivy saw no tapestries, which wasn't a surprise as there was simply no room for one anywhere on the first level. She also saw no paintings, which was a worry.

Tilting back her head, she surveyed the library's second level. She could see hints of old paintings and other relics housed on the walls of a gloomy balcony and landings running the length of the second level, but regardless the bad lighting Ivy didn't think anything mentally dangerous lay in wait for her there. Besides which, the weird feeling she was experiencing seemed a lot closer.

It doesn't really feel anything like that tapestry in the dining room felt. Turning in place, she deliberately reached out with her senses and very nearly gasped at the overwhelming sense of calm sanctuary and security that enfolded her. I didn't feel this when Legolas and I were in here before, so is it coming from the library itself? Then again, the big Elf-lords were going at it earlier in the corridor outside, so I probably wouldn't have felt a big truck driving through here. They were kinda focused and so was I. But I feel...that, and where is it coming from?

Taking a step forward, she was startled when the ancient wood planks shifted slightly beneath her feet and creaked like the deck of an old ship. The sound was loud in the warm silence, and it sent her hopping off of the wood and back to the stone foyer.

I wasn't expecting that, she thought. Do Gimli's tunnels run under here and could we fall through after this many years? And how come the floor doesn't creak when Elrond walks on it? Does he know where the squeaky places live and how to avoid them?

Peace, something whispered. All is well.

Okay, that is major, major freaky. Wait...wood Elves, private space, tree. Whirling on the old oak, she slapped her hands flat against the naked wood. "Is that you?"

Safe, it soughed to her. You are safe here.

Ivy backed slowly away from the tree after feeling the insane urge to hug it.

Of all things, she scoffed. Is everything weird in Elf-land? Maybe there's more than Elrond is letting on to those fairy tales about people being stolen away or changed drastically through contact with fairy-elves? Then again, he does want to steal me away to Warra, doesn't he?

"Ivy?" The Elf-lord in question had turned and was regarding her with concern.

She stared up into the wasted branches, regardless her slack-jawed expression undoubtedly made her look woefully afflicted. "Why did Legolas put a dead tree inside his library?"

The Elf-lord hesitated to answer so long that she turned from the strange tree to look at him. "Adar?"

"That is undoubtedly a story Glorfindel would like to tell."

"More mysterioso?" She eyed Elrond with new suspicion, regardless part of her was insisting she was being too silly. Another part was screeching that maybe she should heed her mother's warning after all and not become too familiar, too fast with these strange Elves. And their weirdo dead trees.

"Glorfindel's not here," she pointed out. "And this tree? Um...Adar, I know it's dead, but I swear it's talking to me."

"Is it now?"

Elrond's answer was no answer at all. He sounded almost disinterested, and the expression on his face was so blank that Ivy didn't know whether to be relieved or perturbed that he didn't seem too alarmed by her news.

I guess I'm on my own here? she thought, turning back to the tree. Okay, let's start at the beginning. This thing's in the middle of Legolas' home, so it must be important to him.

She stared up at the big, square skylight that was set a few feet above the tallest branches of the old oak. Why couldn't Legolas he just set up a dedication plaque like other people do? It could say something like, 'There was once a really nice tree here, and we remember it. Or, if he has to keep the dead tree, the plaque could say, maybe, 'Here be a dead tree guarding my library. I like it, I think it's neat. And oh, by the way, don't freak out when it whispers in your ear.' It'd help me, anyway. It would also help me if somebody would say something, but it's looking like that's not gonna happen any time soon.

Elrond addressed the empty library. "Glorfindel, would you care to explain to my daughter why your son's dead oak is whispering to her?"

Elrond then spared Ivy a positively mephistophelean smile that contained far more smug amusement than she felt comfortable with. Beyond Elrond in the library proper, Glorfindel rose up like a sneaky blonde Dracula from his supine position on the well-stuffed couch beside the fire.

"I didn't know you were in there," Ivy protested. "We could have been talking about you."

"And so you were." Glorfindel casually ran his fingers through
his mussed hair, and Ivy had the feeling the golden legend wasn't even aware, nor would he have cared to know, how effeminate the gesture would have looked if a Mortal male had done it.

Much to her disgust, the Elven lord's heavy hair untangled effortlessly to once again flow beautifully across his shoulders and down his back. Ivy reflexively pushed her own independent and eternally irritating flaming-red hair out of her face. I hate you, and I want your hair.

"Where else would Glorfindel be on an indolent afternoon before the ceilidh, but stretched out and napping like some great insouciant cat before the warmth of a fire built just for him?" asked Elrond.

"Here now. I'll have you know I built that fire myself."

"And for yourself. I rest my case." Elrond offered a slight bow before sauntering over to a tall bank of books. Placing his hands behind his back, he began examining titles.

"Hello, Ivy." Glorfindel beamed at her. "Pay no attention to your father, he's only upset because he didn't think of taking over this comfy place first." He patted the space beside him and offered a reassuring smile. "It's much warmer on this side of the room, so come sit by me, and I'll tell you all about our resident haunted oak."

Making a supreme effort to ignore the squeaky floor, Ivy tiptoed across the room to sink down beside Glorfindel on the couch. "So I'm not crazy? That old dead tree is haunted?"

"Only emotionally, and it wasn't always dead, you know?"

She made a face. "I know that much. Most trees do start out alive."

Glorfindel leaned in to bump her shoulder. "I've seen horror movies where some trees start out dead and eeeevil." She scowled at him, and he laughed, holding up his hands as though to ward off her growing ire.

"Not funny, Glorfindel. You said you'd tell me about Legolas' tree, but you haven't said whether it'll be the truth or some fairy tale or legend. Could I have the truth, please? I have so many questions that have to wait for later, I'd really like some answers to something today?"

He was immediately all solemnity. "Of course, little one. How could you not be overwhelmed by all that's been thrown at you this week, and we've not had time to explain very much at all to you. Forgive me, and I'll try to keep it simple for you?"

She nodded and endeavored to at least look like she was being patient. She'd have punched Dan in the arm for the condescending adult tone, but she was still a bit intimidated by the golden legend of Gondolin, so smacking him was out, no matter how irritating he was at the moment.

"On the day Gimli began the foundation to the old house, Legolas planted that oak from one of the acorns he brought back with him from Imladris."

"So it's a Rivendell tree?" She turned to look at it again, flooded by new respect and immediate affection for the relic that had accosted her.

"Many of the trees still growing here are descendants of those in Imladris."

"That is too neat."

"That particular acorn also came from the first tree Legolas made friends with after Mithrandir left him to live with us. It might interest you to know that tree grew just outside of Elrond's own elegant library of distant fame and ongoing legend."

"That's really special," she breathed, still staring at the tree. "I never thought of trees as having family lines before, but why did Legolas plant it inside his library?"

"It didn't grow up in the library. He planted it lovingly just outside the new keep. The new little oak tree grew well for my son. In fact, it grew for well over eight hundred years and was one of Legolas' favorite retreats. He spent a great deal of time in its branches. Eventually, this library grew up around it."

"Is that why he saved its bones?" asked Ivy. "Why it's preserved in here?"

"It is indeed. Legolas didn't want to lose his friend, and some of his best friends have been trees. You see, his childhood chambers in Mirkwood were not always safe for little boys, and so he sought shelter whenever possible in the trees just outside of King Thranduil's fortress. The leaves hid Legolas from Galion, who was the king's personal assistant and the bane of Legolas' existence.

"Legolas felt protected while cradled in their great hearts, and even today when my son is under stress he will retreat to his trees and give them his thoughts. If you visit here in summer, you may find him napping in the back garden, nestled in the heart of an old oak and all but invisible in its thick leaves. Not even the rain wakes him then, and he returns to us a few hours later with his spirit renewed."

"Just like a cat," Elrond murmured from across the library. Catching Ivy's glance, he inclined his head and arched an eyebrow. "Did I not tell you so?"

Ivy ignored her father's triumph. "Cats don't like wet. They find dry shelter when it rains." Turning back to Glorfindel she pursued the next question to pop into her mind. "So the professor was right about wood-Elves loving trees?"

"He was," Glorfindel confirmed.

"But I'm not a wood-Elf, so why can I hear the bones to Legolas' tree talking to me?"

"This particular tree grew up surrounded by Men, Dwarves and Elves, so it does not distinguish between the races or the branches within races," Glorfindel explained. "It was rooted in love and tolerance and given much care, and it has been preserved with that same love."

"And no small bit of concrete anchoring it in place," added Elrond.

Glorfindel waved away his reply. "Engineers. Always focused on foundations. That tree, however, is more involved in spirit than Sakrete. That sort of passion never dies, so why should a big-hearted oak stop caring just because its physical innards have stopped growing?"

"That's amazing," Ivy murmured, tucking the story away in her heart and knowing she'd be reflecting later on Glorfindel's words, along with a lot of other things she was in the midst of learning. "I knew the stories about this house would be as good as the furniture. I just didn't expect one of the furnishings to be a loving old oak tree descended from Imladris' own."

"If you've come looking for stories wonderful and eccentric, sometimes bizarre and always eclectic, we have plenty of them," Glorfindel said, "in Warra as well as Lairg's own. But here's a story you can tell me, Ivy. Did Legolas' old house talk to you as strongly as does yonder tree?"

"Um...yeah. Kind of." She squirmed in her seat and made a face. "But I can't say it was a warm and fuzzy conversation."

She heard the close of a heavy book cover and the hiss of it being slid back onto a shelf. Without looking, she knew a certain Elf-lord had left the books and was heading her way, even if the boards were too polite to squeak under his feet.

"It smelled musty back there and was totally dark and really quiet," she continued. "Too dark and quiet. Like Alcatraz. It really scared me."

"Alcatraz?" Grasping the back of a wing-back chair, Elrond moved it closer to Ivy before sitting down. Leaning forward and folding his hands between his knees, he regarded her intently. "The old house felt like a prison to you?"

"For a few minutes, yeah. But it was all my fault," she hastened to explain. "My own stupid reactions. It had nothing to do with Legolas, so don't go picking on him for what I felt in there."

"Yes, Elrond," Glorfindel piped up. "Mark that it had nothing to do with my son."

"Indeed? Then what had it to do with? Legolas was, after all, your guide." Explain, was the unspoken command, for I am determined to project you from anything that frightens you. Including him.

"Dan wanted to see Alcatraz at its spookiest, so we went on a night tour the year he lived with me," she hastened to explain. "I went with him because it sounded cool, and it was something new to do. And he said he'd pay, too."

And I'd have done anything for Dan, she reflected, but not sharing that bit.

"Alcatraz wasn't all that cool." She shivered at the memory, and tried to remain casual about the topic. "It felt really bad over there."

Glorfindel's blue eyes were watchful, gauging. "How could it not? Some of the country's most violent criminals were housed on that rock."

"I know, but it's just supposed to be a tourist attraction these days. Something...y'know, fun. It wasn't fun-creepy, it was scary-creepy, and I wasn't expecting that," said Ivy. "I also didn't expect that in some places it feels like the criminals are still there. The cells were all shadowy and stifling, but that was okay. It was when they showed us The Hole that things started getting bad. The Hole caused major, major freakage where I was concerned." She clutched her hands tightly together and chewed on her bottom lip as she tried once more to cope with feelings the memories brought back full force.

Elrond laid his hands over hers and tugged gently. "Here now. Stop that or you'll undo the delicate healing that's begun." Capturing her fingers safe between his, he quietly urged, "Now tell me, what is The Hole?"

"That's what they call the isolation chambers. The cells are like closets. A really tiny closet or box with a filthy floor. The tour guide locked me inside of one. Not just me," she added hastily as Elrond's expression darkened. "They do it to everybody who's willing. I'm just the only one who freaked. They lock you behind two heavy metal doors, and you stand there in this totally inky, silent black. There's no sound down there, so all you can hear is your own breathing.”

"It sounds quite unpleasant," Glorfindel commiserated. "That sort of isolation has been used as a form of torture and is known to drive mortals mad."

"Not in a minute or two," murmured Elrond. "There must be more to the story. Isn't there, Ivy?"

She nodded and clutched tight at the sleeves of his robes. "Being alone in the dark isn't that bad. I mean, new-moon Montana nights were really dark and they never bothered me. It's when you're not alone in the dark that it gets scary."

"Not alone?" Glorfindel repeated.

"I heard other things in the dark, and it felt like something or someone was in there with me. I panicked." She shivered violently and closed her eyes, feeling as if just talking about it threw her back to the very night.

"Stay with us, Ivy." Glorfindel ran a hand down her arm, and her eyes flew open. "You're safe here in Legolas' library, remember? Look at the fire, all bright and warm, and hold on to your father. Tight-tight, all right?"

"I'm fine," she insisted, regardless she was doing exactly as the golden Elf suggested because it sounded like a really good idea. Just stop talking to me like I'm six! "I've never told anybody but Dan about this, and talking about it makes it feel like it just happened yesterday for some stupid reason."

Taking a deep breath, she went on. "The guide left me locked in for only a couple of minutes, but it felt like forever. I could feel things...something...touching me in there. Playing in my hair. Touching my face and other things. I could hear them moving around in the cell with me, too. I was shaking and screaming and crying long before the guide opened the door, but nobody on the outside could hear me. The Hole is soundproofed, so nobody knew I needed them to let me out. I was so scared, it took Dan a couple of hours to calm me down. I'm okay now - was okay, I mean, in Legolas' old house." She shrugged. "I just can't handle being left alone in cold, dark places."

"I will speak to my son later for his carelessness in subjecting you to Alcatraz, but did Legolas not do as I requested and take a torch back there?" Elrond demanded.

"Yes, he did. Of course he did. He even gave it to me to hold. But I was so rattled, I forgot I had it in my hand," she sheepishly admitted. "I turned it on when he reminded me, and everything was okay from then on. It's not Legolas' fault I went all weird in the dark. It's not Dan's, either."

"I suffered the same terror in Moria," a familiar voice intruded from somewhere behind and above them.

Letting go Elrond's hands and twisting around on the couch, Ivy spied Legolas leaning against the second-level railing on the balcony next to the old oak. His knuckles were white on the old wrought iron, and even at a distance Ivy could see that his blue eyes were wide and filled with terror for her.

Oh, great, now I've managed to upset him, she realized. As if he doesn't have enough to worry about tonight? Has he been standing there listening in the whole time? What did I say about his tree?

"I am sorry, Ivy," Legolas continued. "I wish you had told me, for I did not understand what you were feeling during our time in the old house, much less why you were feeling it. If I had, I would have treated your feelings with a great deal more sensitivity and understanding. I would not have left your side for a second."

"You did fine," she protested. "I had a perfectly good light in my hand and forgot to use it. You're not responsible--"

"Mithrandir had a perfectly serviceable staff with a lighted crystal on the end of it. But that did not stop my panic and dread from growing ever stronger with every step I took deeper into the darkness that was Moria."

"That's different! You had tons of rock over your head and you spent days in the dark, so you were light-starved. Just being that far underground is scary to think about. Then there were goblins coming at you constantly, and you were worried about your friends getting killed. And then - as if that wasn't enough - then came a balrog! There isn't any of that in your old house. Sure, it's dark and there's dust, but nobody's ever died from a dust-bunny attack, have they? I was just being stupid. You even came to rescue me from the dust-bunnies when I squeaked!"

Legolas opened his mouth to argue further, only to close it and regard her silent companions, who were listening intently to every word exchanged between him and Ivy.

Oh no. Ivy's heart sank. I forgot Elrond the terrible is right here. I guess there's no question in his mind now what happened. But blast it, , he'd better not blame Legolas for this, even if Legolas is insisting on taking the blame. That is so not gonna happen on my watch.

"Why don't you come up?" Legolas asked.

"Come up?" she echoed. Her glance went to the old tree. "Um, how, exactly? Are there handholds or a ladder in your old tree?"

"Yes, but spider-webs guard them most vociferously, so I would suggest you use the spiral staircase instead."

With that, Legolas turned and disappeared into the shadows while Ivy sat dumbly on the couch and eyed the tree.

"Um...could somebody maybe tell me where the spiral staircase is?"

"It's tucked in the corner just behind the tree," Glorfindel instructed, staring at her with an expression Ivy couldn't quite identify. "Wander in that general direction, and you should find it."

"What's wrong?" she asked.

"What makes you think anything is wrong?" Glorfindel evaded.

"You're looking at me funny. All...distant and bewildered." She looked from Glorfindel to Elrond. "Both of you are."

"Perhaps that is because you have just been invited up into Legolas' sanctum sanctorum," said Elrond. "Unless I misremember, Glorfindel himself has only been up there twice."

"You're not misremembering. Few have been invited to climb that staircase."

Reaching out to try smoothing Elrond's sleeves where her grip had wrinkled them, Ivy got to her feet and wiped her damp palms on her sweats. "Legolas probably just wants to yell at me in private for arguing with him. Or getting him in trouble again. Hey, I saw that look," she added to Elrond. "You know my getting scared was not his fault. He wasn't anywhere near Alcatraz, and I didn't tell him what was wrong with me this morning. So his asking me up there? No biggie, I'm sure."

"No biggie," Glorfindel echoed as Ivy stalked away from them across the library.

The squeaky floor prevented her from hearing Elrond's reply, but she didn't care. At the moment all she wanted to do was find the mysterious spiral staircase and rejoin Legolas.

It makes no sense that I miss him even if he's in the same house, but there you are. This entire week hasn't made sense, so why should I?

All is well, whispered the old oak as she brushed past it.

Huh, easy for you to say. She spied the spiral staircase. He loves you.

Elrond rose and helped her pull back her chair, which had Ivy fighting not to giggle at the thought of someone dressed in jeans and boots should be offered such grand courtesy. Once again, Elrond stood waiting to escort her. This time, she smiled as she took his arm so that he might lead her to the private library of the Laird of Lairg.



The ornate wrought-iron railing that Ivy grasped was narrow and unforgiving. So were the narrow, well-worn wooden stairs marching up around the black iron column that had her watching her every step and eventually succumbing to her anxiety to turn side-on and edge up the spiral like a crab, her hand tightly gripping the rail.


I'm sure this isn't really a handrail, she thought, Because no proper Elf would need a hold like this. It must be some structural necessity to keep the risers in line or something.


She edged up two more steps and noted her view of the trunk was changing, so she had to be nearing the top.


It figures a wood-Elf would make a spiral staircase so finicky and narrow, she groused to herself. What does Legolas care about it being made for tall, skinny people who aren't worried about heights? He runs around in the tops of trees, so to him this thing is probably as steady as a sidewalk. I'll bet he trips lightly up here like it's nothing, but I'm going to miss a step and slide down on my chin if I'm not careful.


True to her thoughts, she caught her toe on the next step. Halting her progress for a moment as her heart pounded, she dared look up to see just how much further this torture was going to go on. She was closer than she realized, already near the top, and the nimble Elf in question was waiting and watching from the landing at the top of the stairs. Ivy caught her breath once again at his slender, glowing perfection, conveniently captured in a sunbeam streaming through the skylight above.


Oh wow...just look at the sunlight turning his hair all shimmering gold. He looks like an angel standing there. Will I ever get tired of seeing him?


The Elf under her scrutiny frowned as she paused to stare at him, and reached out to pry loose her hand where it sat locked about the handrail. Legolas' fingers were warm and strong as he helped her up the last two, narrow steps. His sincere blue eyes locked into hers as she finally came to stand with him.


"Allow me to apologize once more for--"


"Will you stop?" Grimacing, she thumped him on the arm. "You aren't responsible for my neurosis."


"Ow." He rubbed his bicep as if she'd actually hurt him, but the slight, dimpled smile he offered said otherwise. "I certainly could have been more sympathetic of your plight."


"I could have noticed the flashlight in my hand. Forget it, would you? It's over, both Alcatraz and this morning." Mindful of the eavesdroppers below, Ivy leaned closer to whisper. "I'd rather know where we are now. What dark secrets are you hiding up here?"


"Secrets?" He looked genuinely puzzled.


He's so easy to read sometimes, she thought, and so inscrutable other times. So many contradictions. Wish I understood the why of what I'm seeing. "Our fathers said it was super-private territory, this library. Why don't you let anybody up here?"


"I let people up here," he defended, "just not very often anymore."


She narrowed her eyes at him, and pointed toward the bottom of the tree. "They said otherwise."


He looked down at his feet, as though he could see the pair of Elven lords through the floorboards, and then shrugged. "I designed this library to be both private and accessible, much as I am."


She shook her head with some bewilderment. "I'm sorry, I don't understand. How can you be privately accessible?"


Legolas opened his mouth, only to hesitate and close it. Regarding her solemnly, he slowly shook his head. "The explanation to that is a long one, Ivy MacLeod, and I have no wish to bore you."


"I've yet to be bored with you, Legolas Glorfindelion," she returned, equally as solemn. "Please share?"


"Very well," he answered, his reply holding just a touch of reluctance. "It isn't very interesting. Not really." Reaching out, he stroked a smooth branch of the old tree as if needing the contact.


"As my father has told you, my first friend in Imladris was the massive, ancient oak outside of Elrond's library. I climbed as high as I could which wasn't very high at all, but to me it seemed far up toward the sky as I was so small. I believed myself invisible and safe when I hid among her branches." His gaze grew distant as he was pulled into the memory, and he patted the branch beside them. "This daughter-tree afforded the same illusion of safety and invisibility millennia later when I felt a loss of privacy while living here in Ithilien. I retreated to her branches. I no longer held the illusion that I was truly invisible," he confessed with a smile, "but she helped those I was living with to realize that I needed much time away from them. At the same time, they drew comfort in my still being nearby should they need me. They respected my privacy when I was in her branches and would at least try not to disturb me until I came down of my own accord."


Ivy nodded. "That was thoughtful of them."


"They made the effort to understand, and that meant a great deal to me. But time passes and trees do not live forever, so my friend's leaves grew no more and she lost her hold on this life. Still drawing comfort from her after she died, and not wanting to silence her whispers or cut up her body to build cottages, I enclosed her bone. Or rather, Lairg Castle expanded and surrounded her."


Turning, he gestured back into the shallow balcony where they now stood. "This chamber became an outgrowth of warmth and welcome after my friend was enclosed. It also provided me a place to work while at the same time keeping my finger on the pulse of our small community."


"This balcony isn't exactly in the center of things," Ivy observed, "so how did it do that?"


"It isn't now, but it once was." Moving to the railing, he stared down at the room below. "This library was once the gathering place for those in Ithilien who wished knowledge, the warmth of the fire, or my attention. And so they would gather. Frequently," he added, irritation coloring his voice. "From here, I could see those visiting, but not be seen myself if I did not wish it. I heard them coming in. I also heard them gossiping freely as they thought they were alone. From time to time, their words time contained valuable details about the citizens and happenings of our fair community. Details I sometimes needed to address directly, but would have known nothing about otherwise."


"You used this space to lurk and eavesdrop?" Ivy asked, incredulous.


"I did, and without remorse," he confirmed. "We know how far voices can rise and carry, do we not? If the laird's visitors didn't wish to be heard, they shouldn't have spoken." Legolas gazed to the far side of the room where Elrond and Glorfindel's faces were tipped upward in rapt absorption with what the two were hearing. "Don't you agree?"


"Quite so!" Glorfindel called.


"You needn't be so blatant about it, Glorfindel!" snapped Elrond.


"As if you're not?" the golden Elf challenged. "You're waiting on every syllable and all know it, so don't pretend you're not."


Moving away from the railing, Legolas returned his attention to Ivy as the growls continued below. "They are illustrating my point, don't you think?"


"Mmmhmm," she agreed. "Very interesting."


"It's nothing new. And it is something it would be wise for you to note."


Ivy glanced back toward the floor below. I'll be hearing a lot of that in Warra, huh? "Yeah, good point."


Legolas passed a bank of leather-bound books and ran his hand over the back of a sturdy chair set against the round table dominating the balcony. "The suite of rooms you are sharing with me upstairs is personal, seen by only a chosen few. This chamber, however, was for the laird's business. They allowed him to be accessible, but not overly so." He smiled at her. "Do you understand now?"


"So do you still meet up here with the villagers from Lairg?" she ventured.


"This chamber hasn't been used so in my absence, and now that I think on it I don't believe the tradition will resume." He tilted his head. "Especially considering the size the villagers are growing to these days. Some have grown quite large over the last century."


Ivy giggled. "You're right, as usual. I can't really see big, broad-shouldered Alistair trying to make it up here on that staircase."


Legolas' eyes widened at that, and he raised a hand as though to wave either the image or the possibility away from his sanctuary, making Ivy grin.


"It is rather unfortunate, for this space has belonged to all of us for a very long time. They feel comfortable meeting here with whoever is the current laird. Or they did."


"Yeah, and I'll bet they felt pretty special to be climbing that private staircase to meet with the laird himself."


"But of course."


"And that's something Haldir's gilded receiving room could never do for them." Ivy shook her head sadly.


Glorfindel's voice rang out from below. "Are you going to tell her about the legend of The Fair Laird of Lairg who had the mysterious capability of appearing unexpectedly in this very library at critical moments?"


"Critical moments?" she called back down, though looking to Legolas for further explanation.


Glorfindel's voice floated up as Legolas looked away.


"Yes! Very critical moments. The laird would suddenly leap through the doorway to address whatever volatile opinions were being roared out across these boards. Opinions held by stubborn – and pissed off - Scots who threatened veritable fisticuffs and bloodied noses in his absence."


"Ewww, definitely sounds critical." She paced closer to Legolas, who was still studying the floor. "What did you do then? Grab a sword from yonder fierce suit of armour to leap over the balcony railing and into the fray?"


His gaze rose slowly to meet hers, and she was startled to see that rather than appearing embarrassed, the Elf was actually smiling. And his smile was sly.


"No. This is the public outer chamber." He swept an arm to encompass the small room. "Perhaps I should show you the laird's private inner chamber?"


"But what about the fair laird of Lairg who mysteriously interrupted many a heated fight?" She scrambled to follow him toward the back of the room. "What's his big secret? You can tell me. I won't tell anyone. Not even the tree! I promise!"


Ignoring her, Legolas approached a plain narrow door set deep in the wall of books that dominated the far wall. "This is where the secrets dwell."


Drawing closer as he retrieved a key from the casing over the door, Ivy was startled to realize the wall of books in this part of the balcony chamber did not reach the ceiling, and so the casing was no more than a divider between rooms. The aged door before Legolas had worn so thin with age that fist-sized holes dominated it, though it was initially difficult to see them in the gloom.


The lock is still intact, she noted, and it's still in use, even if an intruder could just bend down and look through a hole to see the treasures beyond. Is Legolas that trusting or are the villagers all that respectful? Or are they just that fearful of the Fair Laird of Lairg with supernatural abilities?


The lock turned, the door shuddered open. Legolas stepped inside and lelt Ivy outside, but he also left the door open behind him.


I guess that's as much of an invitation as I'm going to get, she thought. Or maybe he assumes he's already given one? I'm still trying to figure out how Elven culture works, so give me a hint, okay?


No hint was forthcoming, but Legolas did pause and glance back at her.


I guess if he's not locking me out, I'm welcome to come in? She sidled delicately past the fragile door as it tried to swing close. "This looks like the door into a monk's cell."


Not wanting to disturb the door for fear large pieces of it might break off, she held her breath and gingerly stepped into the small chamber beyond.


"That door needs replacing," said Legolas. "Remind me to add it to my list of things to be done." He crossed to the bench window-seat to give her more room to move about the small chamber.


Standing just inside the room that was more of a cell, Ivy was surprised to find it as well as the door looked pretty much as if it belonged to a monk. There were no furnishings, only a few books stacked on the floor with the older, raggedy ones at the bottom. An open pad of yellowed graph paper topped the stack, along with a pencil with a broken lead. Ivy picked up the pad to study the drawing and blew a blanket of dust from the surface.


"What is this?" she asked, squinting at the lines on the uppermost page.


"I don't remember. Here--" He took the pad from her and angled it toward the light leaking through the shutters across the window to peer at it, only to hand it back. "I believe it's a rough sketch of what eventually became Old Meg's house."


She set the graph paper carefully back in place so it would be there when he wanted it again. "You still build homes for your clanspeople?"


"But of course." Legolas sat on the edge of the window-seat.


"The wooden planks in here don't creak," she noted. "I hope you won't take offense at this, but for a sanctum sanctorum this is"




"Not boring, exactly." She rolled her eyes when he tilted his head and gave her a pointed look that clearly said, 'I told you to speak the truth.' "Okay, fine. I was going to say Spartan, but its way beyond Spartan. It looks like the tenants got out just ahead of the bandits, and it is really boring in here. Unless the view is something I'd want to paint, I don't think you have to worry about people scheming to break in here."


"No golden cherubs or shining silver to pilfer?" he asked innocently. "No precious rings, pearls, or gems of great price?"


She narrowed her eyes when a smile twitched at the corner of his mouth. "All right, what am I missing?"


When the smile became an all-out grin of greatest glee and he shook his head at her, Ivy knew he was trying very hard not to laugh.


Because our Daddies will hear if he laughs, she realized, and then they'll listen even harder. Maybe even creep a few steps up on that fiddly little ladder - if Elrond can get his broad shoulders in there.


Legolas looked very pointedly at the door, then back at her. Turning slightly, she very gently pushed the fragile thing closed. It gave a quiet click as it locked, and then Ivy joined him in the window-seat, tucking one leg up beneath her even as he did.


"What am I missing?" she whispered, scooching closer.


"My father is the only other person I have ever allowed in here," he whispered back conspiratorially, leaning closer so that their foreheads nearly touched. "For this is where I come to ponder and to plan, or to simply try making sense of my life. When I do not wish to be interrupted at all, by anyone, I come here. Not even Haldir knows how important this small, insignificant room is to me."


Ivy widened her eyes as she sensed the importance of what he was confiding, how much confidence he was placing in her. He's trusting me with the place that holds his aloneness? Oh my gods, this is huge.


Daring to lay her hand across his and hoping he wouldn't notice its trembling, she whispered even more quietly. "Aren't you afraid I'll tell or intrude or something? When I'm here, I mean?"


"No." His gaze held hers and seemed every bit as intense as the look in her painted stallions' eyes when she finally got them right. "I believe you understand, for you are one who also must have your own private place."


"Yes," she whispered, remembering the quiet studio she had managed to set up as a teenager in a cramped, too-dark room at the top of the old Victorian in San Francisco.


"Regardless we have known each other for only a very few days," Legolas continued, "I hope you will allow me the liberty of saying you seem to be someone who needs simply be at times. To have people stop pulling at you - even those people you love - to have all the demands cease. To not be interrupted while you let silence take you and give your thoughts leave to calm." He tilted his head again in the way that was fast endearing itself to Ivy. "Am I not right?"


"You're so right, it's kind of scary. But no one else has ever gotten it, not even my grandfather when I tried to explain. So how can you--"


"Because my tree talked to you. You would not have heard her if you too did not need the solitary comfort she offers." Suddenly shy, he looked down. "Will you want to find a peaceful place all your own when you get to Warra?"


"I think so." Her fingers snuck between his and tugged, if only to coax him to look up at her once more. "Legolas, please tell me...will I need one? Please...tell me the truth of what I'm walking into down there?"


"I think you might find such a place welcoming at times," he finally answered. His gaze held hers and his fingers closed on hers in a fierce grip as if he didn't want to let her go.


"Are you worried about my going to Warra?" she whispered frantically. "Is there some reason I shouldn't go?"


"No reason," he whispered back. "But you will have to insist on the space you need, else how will Lord Elrond know to provide it? You will find a long reflecting pool in the main house's central garden. Pine-nut trees, ferns and other foliage grow beside that pool to offer both shelter and seclusion when you seek it."


When, she noted. Not if. "And you know this because you've sat in those trees?"


"They cannot be climbed except by the smallest of animals, but I have sat beneath them." His blue eyes were as sincere as she'd ever seen them. "I come to assist the Elves in Warra at the muster every March, and there have been times..." He shrugged. "If ever you need a bit of space from...from Warra's activities--"


"And my father'" she ventured warily.


"And that," he acknowledged, "for you may find both unrelenting at times. If that should happen, the pines will accommodate you. If you need more distance than that from the main house, my father runs the stables and he will help no matter your need. The loft is also most airy and comfortable," he added with a hint of a smile.


"That's good to know. Thank you." Not giving herself time to think about what she was about to do, Ivy leaned forward and pressed her lips to his cheek in a brief kiss. His skin was smooth and warm, and he smelled good. Really good.


Legolas turned his head as she leaned back, which brought him so close she could see the dark rings encircling his irises and feel his warm breath on her face. So deep and intense was his gaze - as if he were trying to see to the depths of her soul - it was Ivy's turn to duck her head and stare down at their entwined fingers. Suddenly nervous, she began playing with Legolas' thumb.


"I''ve always needed a quiet place to think and draw," she confided, careful to keep her voice low. "Mom never stopped interrupting me until she moved out, and it even took Dan a few weeks to get that it totally wrecked the mood when he barged into my attic studio. 'I'm not interrupting, I've got just a quick question--'" She sighed at the memory and the frustration that rose with it. "So thank you for the advice. A lot," she finished.


Geez, she thought, grateful when her long hair fell forward to hide her face. Can this get any more awkward? With my luck, it's some sort of terrible offense to kiss the Lord of Ithilien without his permission.


Without any warning, Legolas braced his forehead against Ivy's temple, which had the unfortunate effect of making her jerk backward and stare at him. Once more, their noses were scant inches apart, and Ivy froze and gasped when Legolas nuzzled the tip of her nose with his own.


"You are most welcome." He was all calm sincerity, which made her wonder if the Elf had made a habit of nuzzling maiden's noses across the ages. "If I can be of further help--"


"You'll be the first one I call. I promise." Ivy thought she might go cross-eyed trying to gauge the Elf's mood from the amused look in his eyes. "Um...forgive me for asking, but are you feeling as out of your depth right now as I am?"


"Forgive me, for I did not mean to make you uncomfortable. I have been told on occasion that I can be too intense." He released her fingers and patted them in gentle parting before moving further away on the window-seat.


"Hey, wait. No, I didn't mean--" She reached out, only to have him hold up his hand.


"Be at peace, Ivy. My intent was only to help ease your time in Warra. And also to show you how I was able to confront those in the library in times past without their discovering that I was listening in on their gossip and discussions."


"Um...okay." Her fingers felt lonesome without his touch. Great going, she scolded herself. First you kiss him, then you basically tell him you can't handle it when he gets affectionate? Mixed signals much? No wonder he wants to get back to story-telling.


"So how did you confront them? The fighting villagers, I mean." She was desperate to return to the easy camaraderie they'd been sharing before. "Don't tell me there's a secret passage in this window-box seat chest thingie?" She thumped the wooden bench they were sitting on.


"Nothing so gothic, I'm afraid. Building such a chute was far more effort that I wished to go to, and this is much simpler."


Going up on one knee, Legolas thumbed a hidden catch in the window behind them. The broad window-frame swung outward, letting in a blast of arctic air and revealing a space large enough for a slender Elf to slip through. Ivy looked beyond the glass to see footprints in the deep snow beyond.


"You had an escape hatch?" She dared do little more than breathe the words for fear of being overheard.


"Always. Beyond this room lies the roof of the old house," he oriented her easily. "Even all those years ago, I could jump down from its edge, gain the courtyard, and circle around to this library's front entrance."

She leaned a little out the window. "You know, from the looks of those footprints, I think you've been using that path more recently than all those years ago."


"Well, yes," he admitted.


She grinned up at him. "Nosey lairds with personal sanctuaries and secret escape routes...aren't all self-respecting Scottish lairds supposed to have secret passages and skeletons in their dungeons, along with wailing ghosts and a spectral bagpiper or two on the battlements?"


Legolas closed and relatched the window. "We have only one secret passage, and it leads to the Dwarven tunnels. As far as I'm aware, the skeletons are all buried in the village churchyard, and our bagpipers are alive and well - perhaps because we have no battlements - and the wailing ghosts only come out on All Souls' Night." He paused for a moment, the turned back to her. "In truth, the only spectral piper I know of is at Castle Duntrune."


Ivy pouted. "You mean I missed it?"


"Alas, yes. But there is always next year. Perhaps we could invite the poor fellow to play here? No, the Campbells cut off his hands so he can't play anymore. Sad, that. But it may console you to know there will be unspectral pipers at the ceilidh tonight." Getting to his feet, Legolas straightened his tunic. "We had best return to the balcony proper before your father discovers we are behind a locked door - however full of holes that door may be - and decides I am doing something reprehensible to you."


She followed him from the little room and watched while he locked the door with an iron skeleton key that was much smaller than those he'd used in the old house.


"Permission to speak freely, m'lord?" she whispered.


He cast her a slantwise look with an equally slanted smile. "This is the place for it. Permission granted, my Ivy."


"It seems to me that your door is in such rough condition, that key might be more for show than security," she pointed out. "Like the stereotypical 'Keep Out, This Means You!' boards little boys attach to their clubhouses."


"True." He considered for a moment before shrugging and turning toward the spiral staircase. "But it is still an effective deterrent to Haldir, who will never know the secret held within."


"Could I ask you a favor?" Unwilling to abandon the balcony quite yet, she spoke at her usual pitch for Elrond's benefit below.


"Of course."


"Is there any way I could talk you into showing me the painting of Alastair's great-grand-whatever that you mentioned? The one where she's wearing the gown I'm supposed to wear tonight?"


"Don't tell me you're still fretting over that dress?" He looked at her, expression dumbfounded, as though it was totally incomprehensible that someone should worry so much about a mere garment.


Hey, dude. You might not, especially since you'd look stunning in a feed sack, but we women have to work harder at such things, and yes, I'm really worried. And you might as well know it, too. "Okay, I won't tell you. But I am."


Giving a deep, exaggerated sigh, Legolas pushed past her to start down the access walkway that ran along the library wall and all the way to the corner fireplace. "The painting is down here."


Following hot on his heels over the creaky wood, Ivy snuck a glance at the Elf-lords below. Glorfindel was sprawled once more on his couch, but he was now lying in the opposite direction - the better to lean back comfortably and keep an eye on the second-level action. As for Elrond, he was back in the wing-backed chair he'd claimed earlier. A book lay open on his lap and his hand was splayed across it, but his face was tilted upward.


That's such an obvious prop. If Mr. Elf-lord has read a word, I'd be surprised, thought Ivy. To Legolas' back, she said, "I told you, a girl likes to try on things before she agrees to wear them."


"The dress will be beautiful."


"I'm sure you're right, and I'm really not worried about the dress. I'm more worried about what I'll look like in it."


Legolas halted before a painting that had to be over five feet high. Laying a hand against the blackened oak frame, he gestured upward. "This is it."


Leaning sideways because she couldn't lean back over the railing, Ivy gawked at the painting that was buried in gloom since all the lighting was on the ground floor. And because this oil hasn't been cleaned since the moment it was hung here, she thought, sucking up all the firesmoke and dust and whatever else circulates up here.


Said Legolas, "These paintings used to hang below, but we needed the room for more bookcases, so I had them moved up to this level."


Ivy heard the words, but they really didn't register, so absorbed was she in the picture before her. Preserved forever in oils that had darkened with age, a solemn red-haired woman with a thin face and huge blue eyes was dressed in a plain, form-fitting dark dress with a white chemise beneath it. Ivy thought the dress might be a deep forest green, but that could have been because she'd glimpsed the one Legolas had retrieved and its color had stuck in her mind.


It was impossible to tell anything else about the gown, since the woman was standing behind the seated laird who was kitted up in full formal Scottish attire and only superficially resembled the Elf standing beside her now. Ivy squinted and frowned at the painting, only to move a bit farther down the railing only to squint and frown even more.


"Legolas, please don't take offense, but the style of this painting definitely isn't Elizabethan," she murmured, not wishing to embarrass him, "and neither is the dress Alastair's granny is wearing. Not that I can see all that much of the dress, mind you, since she's standing behind you."


"Are you certain it's not Elizabethan?" Stepping close to her, Legolas bent over and struck much the same pose as Ivy in his own effort to examine the painting.


"Of course it's not Elizabethan," called Glorfindel. "It's Victorian."


"No way that dress is Victorian!" Ivy exclaimed, glowering down at him. "There aren't any regal ruffles, high necklines or mutton-chop sleeves. And she's not wearing a corset with a wasp-waist."


That, for some reason, sent Glorfindel off into gales of laughter.


"What's so funny?" asked Ivy, feeling cross and straightening as her back began to cramp.


"Mutton-chop sleeves?" The Elf wheezed. "Victorian men wore mutton-chop whiskers."


Elrond looked dour as only he could. "I believe my daughter meant leg-of-mutton sleeves."


"Yeah, I did. And thanks for laughing at me, oh kindly know-it-alls. At least I got the age of the sheep right. But any way you cut the lamb-chop and from what I can see of that dress, it looks medieval." She glanced across at Legolas, who was still intent on the painting. "Your kilt and jacket are timeless, so that's no help at all."


"Our fathers are quite right," Legolas sounded humbled, as though embarrassed at being caught out in such a detail. "And I was centuries off dating your gown. Florrie was Alastair's great-great grandmother, and she played my lady of Lairg in the 1880s."


Ivy stared at him in silence.


"Generations take a bit of time in Alastair's family," Legolas added helpfully.


Giving a sigh, she patted his shoulder. "It's okay that you got it wrong. I mean, you're not into fashion, and the years all run together when you're old, right?"


He rocked back and blinked at her. "Did you just insult me?"


"Never. The only problem is, that's still not a Victorian dress, so what are you making me wear tonight?"


"It is Victorian!" he protested. "Of that I am quite certain. Now. But it is Victorian in age, not in style. If my vast years allow me to remember correctly, now that my ancient memory has been prodded..." His tone was warm if sarcastic, and his sidelong glance was snide. "Florrie felt a romantic attachment for the elegant, chivalrous past and so much enjoyed the costume she rented for a fancy-dress ball at Christmas in Edinburgh that she asked me to have one made for her. She brought it home to Lairg in time for that year's ceilidh, and that is the dress you see in the painting above and what you will be wearing tonight," he concluded cheerfully.


"So what period was it?" Ivy pressed.


"It was painted in the late 1880s."


"Noooo, I meant what period is the dress you're having me wear?" she said slowly.


"Medieval," came the definitive answer. "Just as you observed."


She wasn't quite ready to let him off the hook. "So it's a nineteenth-century replica of a dress from...when, exactly?"


"The 1100s."


"Are you sure this time?" she asked, teasing.


"I am sure it dates from Henry the First's time," he hastened to add. "Not Henry the Eighth's." His blue eyes begged her indulgence. "I did not mislead you deliberately, Ivy."


"I know." She offered a dismissive shrug. "I don't expect you to be in the know about Charles Worth or anything else beyond who wears what tartan."


"That's a good thing," inserted Glorfindel, who was still hanging on their every word. "You'd do better to expect the strange otherworldliness surrounding all the formal goings-on here in the weird, wild land of Lairg. Besides which, who is Charles Worth?"


"The English father of Parisian haute couture," said Elrond.


Glorfindel deigned to turn his head to look at him. "And you know this how?"




"It was a beautiful dress," Legolas said smoothly, ignoring the conversation below even as Ivy's ears pricked up at the mention of Arwen. "It came to mind when we were discussing a gown for you because I know you will look beautiful in it."


Ivy glowered at him. "Legolas, I told you before--"


"Please do forgive me for interrupting?" a new voice intruded.


All eyes turned to Haldir, who staggered beneath the awkward weight of the stack of thin wooden boxes and rolled-up documents he was carrying.


"You mentioned to me earlier that you have matters to discuss in private?" he ventured. "Now is a good time, as Julien is splayed out and snoring in my library."


He paused to glance back over his shoulder as though to make certain the Elf in question wasn't sneaking along the corridor behind him.


"I sacrificed an entire bottle and a half of Glenmorangie, letting him guzzle it down as though it were only Johnny Walker bought at the local grocers. Such a waste," he added in disgust. Haldir edged toward the couch Glorfindel was sitting on, his intent clearly to set down his burden. "I must get back as soon as possible, for Wendy absolutely refuses to watch Julien. We must hurry this along, but I've brought the key to the cabinet housing the documents you need to see."



~ * ~ * ~ *


AUTHOR'S NOTE: For more backstory about Legolas and his relationship with trees as a child, please see "Perfect Time II: Through the Heart of a Child" and "Perfect Time IV: Wild Child" which are archived on our website and at



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