By time Legolas and Ivy descended the stairs, Haldir had an array of wooden boxes and vellum documents spread across the library floor. Glorfindel sat up and took notice when Haldir went behind the couch to pull out one of the drawers beneath the bookcases and begin digging. Even Elrond deigned to rise to his feet and glide closer to the assortment.
"What is all this?" Ivy asked as Legolas knelt to open the first cracked, worn box.
"Legolas seems to have forgotten who owns Lairg." Haldir carried a thick black notebook across the room, only to let it thud to the floor alongside the other items. "I've merely dug out a few items to assist his memory."
"I've not forgotten," Legolas murmured, ghosting his fingers across a long, rolled-up parchment laying in the velvet-lined box. "I am simply questioning whether at some point we transferred ownership to the corporation, as Julien seems to assume we did."
Elrond came to stand beside Legolas. "May I see that?"
Lifting the parchment with great reverence, Legolas got to his feet and handed it to the Elf-lord.
"If I may, Legolas?" Haldir beckoned to him.
"Ivy, do come stand here by me." Elrond forestalled her intention to follow Legolas.
She tried to keep an ear cocked toward the other Elves' conversation, but Elrond's next words commanded her full attention.
"Daughter, I thought you might enjoy seeing the charter from King Elessar granting the Princedom of Ithilien and the Lordship of Emyn Arnen to Faramir and Legolas."
"The original? From Elessar himself? Oh, yes...."
Ivy held her breath, only to sigh as Elrond unrolled the firm vellum and held it open for her. Leaning against his arm, she surveyed faded brown ink running the breadth and length of the wide page, as well as the two heavy wax seals - one red, one white - hanging on faded ribbons attached to the bottom.
That's not Aragorn's hand, she thought with some disappointment. It looks a lot like half-uncial minuscule, and not his neat printing. I guess the king had to allow some scribe do it? Bummer. But I guess he had to follow the official traditions of the day. Oooh, at least he signed it. Look at that.
Her fingers twitched, eager to reach out and feel the vellum, to touch her ancestor across that bit of history. She glanced up at Elrond. "Can I touch it?"
"Of course. It's quite durable."
She brushed her fingers slowly across the signature of the king. "I wish I could get a picture of this."
"I can make a fair copy if you like. For that matter, you were well-taught in calligraphy, so you might do it yourself," he suggested.
She shook her head. "That's not what I meant. I don't want a copy of the complete charter, I just want a copy of Aragorn's signature."
"That is something even more easily achieved." Smiling down on her, he handed her the vellum. "If you will hold this, I can take an adequate photo with my cell phone. If you remind me, we can print it out when we get to Warra."
Me? Hold something this important and this old? Oh, I wanted to touch it, but now I don't.
Elrond looked down at her, clearly waiting for her to accept his invitation and oblivious to her insecurity, so she forced her fingers to grasp the document exactly as Elrond was. Taking the thick parchment, she held it as steady as her shaking fingers would allow while Elrond located the pocket holding his cell phone. In a moment, he had taken not one but three photos of the king's faded signature. And then Ivy was holding the ancient document out so that Elrond might roll it back up and tie the black ribbon onto it and settle it once more in the worn, cracked box from Gondor that it had been presented in all those millennia ago.
"'It became the fairest country in all the west-lands,'" Ivy quoted the professor's appendix as she watched the lid close over the vellum. "And it still is."
"How can you say that?" Elrond protested. "All you've seen is snow."
"I've been out hunting," she defended, all to aware of pointy Legolas ears eavesdropping. "I've seen...well, some of it. And it is beautiful."
"Ah, but you've not yet seen Warra," Elrond assured her with a smile.
"No, no, no!" Their attention was commanded by Haldir, who seemed to be leading Legolas and Glorfindel on an emphatic tour of Lairg's history. "The tradition we deliberately established had your line descending from Brion, one of the great kings ruling Ireland - regardless Lord Glorfindel never set foot in Ireland," Haldir added as an afterthought.
"Have too!" said the lord in question.
"Only as a tourist," Haldir continued smoothly. "If I remember correctly, you were determined on that occasion to stand on your head and kiss the Blarney Stone. Any road, Legolas and I took great care in 400 A.D. to firmly establish his claim on this land since greedy, illiterate Men from the south were migrating into the Highlands."
"Verbal tradition and the loyalty and strength of a clan were all that was needed in such days to keep and hold the land," Elrond told Ivy.
"Quite so," Haldir confirmed. "Our second written claim - let us refer to it as Exhibit Two and Aragorn's grant as Exhibit One - dates from 1150." The former marchwarden gestured at a broad piece of vellum laying at his feet. "This is a retrospective charter from King David the First of Scotland. In it, he made Legolas a mormaer and acknowledged his ownership of what eventually expanded to become the entire county of Lairg."
Ivy couldn't help but interrupt. "The king made him a what?"
"Mormaer of Lairg," said Legolas.
"A Moo Mayor?" she repeated in bewilderment. "What is a Moo Mayor?" I know they love their cattle up here, but that sounds ridiculous. I've got to have this wrong.
"It is a rank equal to the high king's, for we were princes if not kings within our own territories then."
"Well, that's true enough, and I happen to think you still are." Her words earned her an indulgent smile.
"The title later evolved into that of earl after the British involved themselves in our affairs." He tapped the charter with his toe. "King David's is the first documentation of my authority that the Mortal world would accept." He glared down at the vellum. "It amazes me how often their kings and queens have granted me lands and rights that were already mine. I suppose I should be grateful they saw fit to give it back to me. Repeatedly," he concluded in an irritated tone.
Ivy tried again before the conversation went off track. "But about this Moo Mayor thing--"
"Mormaer," Haldir corrected.
"Oh, sorry. Not what I was hearing. Still not enlightened, though."
"Legolas was one of nine lairds made mormaer," Haldir clarified. "This title was bestowed after he and the others raised an impressive army of clansmen to clear out the Norse once and for all."
"Oh, come on," protested Glorfindel. "You can't go giving it such a mind-numbing summary. Tell Ivy properly what happened." Glorfindel grinned at his son, who scowled and shook his head in return.
"Oh yes. Let Haldir tell her, in great and gory detail, that the Norse broke our formation after I fell in battle. Tell her that all I could do was lie there like an incompetent whelp with my leg torn open while the Vikings roared down upon us," said Legolas. "I would enjoy that so much, and Ivy would find it most educational."
Haldir smirked. "I'd enjoy the recounting."
"Aye, you would." Glorfindel nodded. "And aye, you did, Legolas. And then...something else happened, didn't it?"
The silence became noticeable after a second or two, and Ivy looked with anxiety-laden curiosity between the two matching elves.
"Won't somebody please tell me?" she pleaded. "Something positive had to happen because you're all here, and your limbs are in the appropriate places."
Legolas glanced at her, only to turn his frown back to the documents on the floor, and Glorfindel shifted around their small circle to stand beside his son. The arm he wrapped about Legolas' shoulders was that of a comrade-in-arms, but he gave the younger Elf a reassuring squeeze at the same time.
"You remember, I'm sure?" the older Elf prompted. "You saw their general coming up to support the attack, and even though you were injured and believed helpless--" He turned to smile reassuringly at Ivy. "We all know that an Elf down is not ever helpless. Legolas grabbed a stone and struck the Viking leader squarely in the forehead, which killed him instantly and turned the whole battle round. He then managed to bind up his leg to lead the fight once more, and by the end of the day," Glorfindel concluded with evident pride, "every one of the Norsemen had been killed or captured."
"Impressive," said Ivy, meaning it.
Legolas snorted. "Not hardly. And it wasn't a stone, it was one of their poorly-made horseshoes that had come adrift. The heel of the shoe punctured just above the Viking's left eye socket, and he collapsed in front of me." Shrugging, Legolas once again studied the vellums on the floor and refused to look Ivy's way. "It somewhat unnerved the other Norsemen to see their leader with half of a horseshoe protruding from his eye, so they hesitated in their attack. It was quite enough time for us to regroup and make them regret it."
Ivy knew she was staring, but the casual way Legolas tossed off his victory was even more frightening than the details.
He's was injured, and it sounds serious, but he just bound it up and kept going? She wanted details of her new friend's subsequent recovery, but the stormy look on her new father's face preventing her from asking. Legolas has seen so very much fighting just to keep this land and its people safe. I guess the War of the Ring was only the tip of a very nasty iceberg that's lasted for ages. I'm surprised he didn't need a few months off in Alaska before my grandmother happened on the scene. She was startled out of her musing – and staring – by Legolas' voice.
Now," he said briskly, turning to Haldir. "What comes next?"
"Em, let me see... "Exhibit Three is a letter sent in 1190 from King William, the Lion of Scotland." Haldir lay the parchment in Legolas' hands. "He thanked you for chasing a band of ferocious robbers all the way up north to Taigh Iain Ghrot." Beaming at Ivy, he placed his hands behind his back and rocked on his heels. "I actually went along for that adventure, and it was glorious."
"It was bloody," Legolas contradicted, glancing briefly at the parchment before letting it fall atop the other specimens laying on the floor. "And they were more annoying than ferocious."
"Kind William said they were ferocious, and that impression was more than shared by those they preyed upon!" Haldir snapped.
"I thought the old clans pretty much tolerated thieving," said Ivy before he and Legolas could get further into it. "Didn't everybody reive because it was the only way everyone survived?"
"It was how some survived," Legolas admitted, "and it would have been a never-mind if these robbers had simply stolen goods and cattle. But they took it upon themselves to savagely murder a number of Highland churchmen."
Ivy widened her eyes. "How? I mean, how murder? And if stealing cattle and plundering is a never-mind, what counts as savage?"
Elrond gave Legolas a stern look. "Details aren't necessary."
Legolas met the Elf-lord's gaze with equal power even as he answered Ivy's question. "They tortured the churchmen by nailing horseshoes to their feet and making them dance to their deaths. The king ordered me to pursue the leader to his death, and so I did. We did."
"I thank you for remembering that others were there." Haldir stepped into the growling silence between Elrond and Legolas and took up the story. "We caught up with the leader and his men near Taigh Iain Ghrot," he explained to Ivy. "Our clansmen captured all the robbers, while Legolas and the twins saw to it the leaders were themselves horseshoed and hanged."
Ivy winced. "Roughshod times."
"That's not the half of it," said Glorfindel. His smirk told Ivy there was more to this story, something really interesting about the justice as dealt out by the Laird of Lairg.
"Glorfindel, don't!" warned Elrond.
He grinned, clearly ignoring the warning. "After all that had gone on before, I shouldn't even mention such a tiny detail, but I think it should be noted that my son is thorough. Legolas had the rest of the robbers gelded all of a night to prevent men so detestable from fathering future offspring."
"Ewww..." Wide-eyed, Ivy looked from Elf to Elf to Elf. Wow. Elves don't mess around. But it was more than fair. I mean, he let the reivers live, but not quite the same way as before they went sadistic. Big decisions made fast, she realized, against some very bad men. It's scary, but I really think I'm okay with this. She let her surprise and shock give way to a slowly growing smile as she met Legolas' wary, worried gaze.
"Well done," she said softly, appreciatively.
"Glorfindel!" Elrond growled, startling Ivy back to the present debate.
"What?" He snapped in return. "It was a frequent punishment of the time, wasn't it? An entire sept of the Sinclair clan was castrated only a few years later for killing their very own bishop."
"Yes, but your son was the one who gave them the idea, wasn't he? I've heard the tales. The geldings near Taigh Iain Ghrot were not Legolas' first."
"I had gelded men before when they preyed on innocents," Legolas admitted quietly. "Should it prove necessary in the future, I will not hesitate to do it again."
"That does not mean you must share such things with my daughter!"
"You know we Elves have even more bloody things lurking in our own history," Glorfindel pointed out. "Are you planning on giving Ivy a whitewashed version of those when you begin her history lessons?"
"My lessons will be--"
"Hello?" Ivy interrupted, waving her hands to get their attention. "Not needing any protection here, historical or otherwise."
"Not at the moment you're not," said Glorfindel. "But I may be." He shrugged, dismissing the danger even as he acknowledged Elrond's increasing fury.
"Last time I checked, I'm allowed to watch R-rated movies, and Grandpa Cameron told me some pretty violent stories about his clan when I was just a kid. I know the most powerful clans didn't hesitate to shed blood when they defended their people or their land, so I get why Legolas did what he did. Stuff like that is not going to give me nightmares, okay?"
An open grin from Glorfindel, and a shy smile from the Elf who mattered most at the moment greeted her pronouncement, and Ivy tried hard not to fidget as Elrond turned his fierce glower on her.
What? she wondered. Does no one dare disagree with him in Warra?
"So glad you cleared that up." Glorfindel gave her a subtle thumbs-up that Elrond couldn't see. "So, Haldir. Where's Exhibit Four?"
"I'm afraid Exhibit Four does not appear for another hundred and fifty years. Not until after our clansmen found the assassins of James the First of Scotland hiding in a remote glen north of here and handed them over to the loyals...with their genitalia intact, I might add. Our much beloved James the Second consolidated Legolas' lands yet again after that and rewarded him handsomely with much gold. The Scottish king and the Lord of Lairg exchanged friendly missives for quite some time." Haldir poked a tall box with his foot. "That's what's in here. The missives, mind you. Not the gold."
"No, the gold went for taxes. Of course. The monarch may give it you," Legolas observed sourly, "but he wants paid for his generosity. Every year."
"Wow..." breathed Ivy as Elrond bent to open the lid to reveal scrolled up parchments packed upright and tight into the box. "If Lairg every goes broke, all you have to do is auction off this stuff and you'll be rich again. So what's next?"
Haldir bent down to examine an oblong piece of vellum whose brown ink was faded but still readable, at least to Elven eyes. "The final exhibit from Scotland's past is a pardon from Queen Anne the First to 'our trusty and well-beloved lord,' dated 7 July 1703."
Glorfindel leaned into his son, nudging him with his shoulder. "You've given so many offenses to various crowns, what were you pardoned for this time?"
Legolas thought for a moment. "Fighting on the side of the Jacobites."
"Always." Legolas gave a wicked smile that even reached his eyes, and Ivy nearly melted at the sight of his deep dimples so obvious, so brazen, so beautiful. "What is in the fat black notebook, Haldir?"
"Absolutely boring copies of Lairg's tax records for the past two hundred years. There are more stashed in the shelves back there, but I didn't feel like dragging them out. My point is that you won't find Greenwood Limited's name on anything to do with the ownership of Lairg. Your name and grand title is on everything - signed, sealed, and registered when required and certainly delivered," said Haldir with evident pride and satisfaction. "The taxes for Lairg County have always been paid from your personal funds. Greenwood Limited is an entirely different entity, so Julien can go to Sauron's seven hells if he covets this land."
"You are absolutely certain none of Lairg County or its possessions are entailed in Greenwood?" asked Elrond.
"Not one square meter. I assure you most solemnly that however much Julien wishes to posture and covet, by several royal decrees and current Scots law these lands belong to the House of Greenwood and its heirs. Legolas has always paid the taxes, and the deeds are in his Mortal name. The only other person who might claim legal right to these lands would be the currently reigning monarch if you were to hand something over to her."
Legolas gritted his teeth. "That is a hell no."
"I rather gathered that would be your answer. And so there you are," Haldir said with great satisfaction. "You may have to relinquish your lairdship every fourscore years or so to a chosen and very temporary substitute, but you alone own Ithilien since it was given to you and Faramir, and Faramir's heirs are long dead. Unfortunately."
Legolas gave a great sigh of relief as Haldir began gathering documents and re-stacking boxes. "I must ask...why didn't you simply tell me this when I asked you this morning about Julien's brazenly surveying my trees? Why put yourself and us through the bother and time of dragging out these...pedestrians?" He waved his hand over the relics covering the floor.
"Pedestrians?" Ivy nearly screeched. As it was, she called it back at the last moment, remembering nearly too late Legolas' cold reaction to her criticism while they'd been seated in the tree that dawn. No one was around then to hear my shrieking at him like a harpy, so how much more offensive would it be if I were to challenge him again with two other Elf-lords and a...whatever Haldir is now...watching? Or, more likely, participating? Nope, bad idea. Very bad idea.
Tugging insistently on Legolas' sleeve, she murmured, "May I have a word? In private, if possible?"
"Certainly. Come this way." Taking Ivy blithely by the hand, Legolas led her out of the library proper and around the great dead oak, even as Glorfindel looked on with great interest and Elrond with great suspicion. Only Haldir looked bored.
"If you whisper," said Legolas, taking his own advice, "they will not overhear you. I hope."
Stepping close, she whispered as he instructed. "Can I have permission to speak freely again?"
"You don't have to keep asking me that, for your honesty is always welcome." His blue eyes were warm and sincere. "I do thank you for asking to speak to me in private, as from the fire kindled in your beautiful green eyes, I fear you are about to take me to task."
"That'd be a hell yeah." She echoed his recent reply to Haldir and resisted the urge to sock him in the arm as she would have Dan. "How can you call your vellums pedestrian?" she whispered furiously. "Mortals build national archives to protect and exhibit stuff like that, and people come from miles around to gawk at it because it's part of their heritage. Those pedestrians are part of your legacy, and one of them even came from Aragorn."
Legolas' expression was tolerant, his smile more than a little amused. "You think my pedestrians additional windows into history? As you say I am to you?"
"Yeah, they are!" She folded her arms and glowered at him. "They were there when everything happened. They are history!"
"Please keep your voice down," he leaned over her and whispered furiously.
Ivy very nearly stomped her foot at him, but managed to take a deep, calming breath instead. Supposedly calming, anyway. After a second gulp of air, she nodded at him. "I'm trying to be quiet, but this is something I feel really passionate about, so it's hard to stay quiet!"
"Yes, I can see that. And it seems your father feels passionate about eavesdropping on us." Legolas raised his voice. "Lord Elrond, if you would be so good as to creak the floorboards back the way you came?" Looking past Ivy's shoulder, Legolas shooed someone she refused to turn to see. "I would also be ever so if you would take my father with you as well."
Both of them? Geez! She decided she did want to see, after all. Leaning back, she was in time to see Elrond spin round and nearly run into Glorfindel as the golden Elf was right behind him. The Lord of Warra ground out something in Elvish that only garnered a mischievous smirk from Glorfindel, and then the two were retreating as ordered back into the library.
Ivy straightened and followed Legolas further into the shadows around the tree. "I didn't hear a thing."
"I believe you were too busy shouting at me in your mind to be aware of their sneaking up on us." His face was in shadow, but she could hear his smile.
"You've got it."
He tilted his head. "Please continue."
"Um, give me a minute. Where was I?" She thought for a moment. "Oh, yeah. Until I came here and met you - all of you Elven walking history exhibits - pedestrian windows were the only kind I had a hope of looking through. I've had to settle for books by scholars who pretend they know stuff, or squinting at inferior facsimiles of illuminated manuscripts and old documents on the Internet. Oh, and the odd museum exhibit or two if it deigned to come to San Francisco."
"And what about Aragorn's charter?" she hissed, taking a step forward to thump Legolas in the chest and back him further into the shadows. "I don't believe you really think that's pedestrian, not when you've got his things totally preserved back in the old house. And don't you have memories of being with him and Faramir the day he signed Ithilien over to you?" Lapsing into a prickly silence, she glowered her fiercest up at him.
Legolas gently stroked her cheek with the back of his hand. The sudden contact made her jump, but it didn't make her back up.
"Ivy mine, so fierce and fine," he murmured.
"Huh?" She blinked and shivered slightly beneath his touch before grabbing his wrist. "Are you trying to distract me?"
"Not at all. I am merely listening and observing. I truly am listening, Ivy," he assured her, entwining his fingers with hers.
"I still have more to say, you know?" Narrowing her eyes, she leaned away from him, but Legolas pulled her back and laid her hand against his chest.
"I can't see your face," she protested. "Are you laughing at me? Or trying to get around me because I'm feeling irate?"
"Irate, is it?" Legolas spread her fingers across his chest, only to begin stroking the back of her hand. "I would have said you are very angry with me and are trying to defend not only Aragorn's memory, but the memory and history of my people as well."
"Well, yeah," she grumbled, as he found some extremely sensitive skin at the side of her wrist and began petting it. "Somebody needs to."
"I assure you, somebody has for thousands of years."
"That would be you?" She felt herself calm despite her determination to stay angry with him.
"It would. But new defenders are welcome as well."
Regardless Legolas was hidden in shadows, Ivy felt that if she listened to him another few minutes, she might very well fall into the caressing warmth of his very soul.
Being near him when he's all warm and friendly like this feels like sinking down into warm bathwater on the coldest winter's night, she thought, only a hundred times better. Curling her fingers against the hard muscle beneath her hand, she struggled to ignore what his fingers were doing to her as he stroked the inside of her wrist.
"How can you possibly care so deeply for a people you have never known?" he whispered.
"I...it kind of feels like I know them even if I've only ever met Alastair and Bridie," she murmured, her attention held by the sighit of his long fingers moving over her skin. How can he have an archer's fierce calluses, yet still have such a gentle touch? she wondered. "I'm a MacLeod, remember? We're Scots, too...from not that far from here, I think...and...."
Shivering violently, she grabbed his fingers. "Stop that."
"You're relaxing me so much, I can't think straight. And my Dad's just over there, and he'll probably have some not-nice words to say if he catches you doing...whatever you're doing to me that's so hypnotic."
"My apologies." He didn't sound at all apologetic, but he did set his hand on her waist to walk her a couple of steps back into the light so that she could at least see his face again and escape Elrond's wrath should he creep closer. "Is that better?"
"I think so." Stopping him was the right thing to do, but Ivy wanted nothing more than to dive back toward Legolas and beg him to go on touching her.
"I truly did not mean to belittle Aragorn's gift nor Lairg's history," said Legolas. "I fought long and hard for those I love, and no, I do not think my memories or the documents at all pedestrian. But I value what they represent, not the vellum itself. Haldir, on the other hand--" Drawing a deep breath, Legolas gave a wry smile even as he could resist stroking her cheek once more with the back of his hand. "I find Haldir very pedestrian on occasion. He always uses an hour to make a point when a minute would suffice."
"But I liked his lecture and his visual aids this afternoon," she said, leaning into his touch and closing her eyes. "I learned a lot. And it was just so cool to actually see your things and hold them and...well, I really liked it," she finished, uncertain what else to add and suddenly unable to gather her thoughts.
"I woke you far too early for the hunt this morning, and the ceilidh will last long into the night. Haldir took up an hour you might better have spent napping."
"I'm not tired." But the mere mention of sleep inspired a stifled yawn, giving lie to the statement as she opened her eyes. "I'm not!" she continued off his half-smirk as he withdrew his hand. "It's just...your touch really relaxes me for some reason. Besides, there's too much going on for me to want to sleep."
"You must sleep, else you will not last the evening," he warned.
"Fine, I'll take a nap," she grumbled, knowing it was easier to agree with the warrior-Elf than continue arguing. "Just not right now. I'm glad you don't really think Aragorn is pedestrian, else I'd have to relieve you of that charter he gave you and give it a better home."
Offering a bright smile, Ivy turned on her heel and marched back into the library before Legolas could reply. A thunderous-looking Elrond had retreated to the couch formerly claimed by Glorfindel, and Ivy flopped down beside him. Better soothe the dominant lion's ruffled mane before he starts roaring.
She could still feel Legolas' fingers on her skin. Rubbing her wrist as if to rub the warmth of Legolas' touch deeper into her, she thought, Ada would have something to say about that if he knew. Better not tell him.
"Haldir?" Legolas came up beside the Elf as he finished gathering his parchments and boxes. "May I ask why, on the afternoon when we are all trying to prepare for the ceilidh, you decided to drag out these relics when a simple, one- or two-sentence answer to my question was all that was required?"
"You never taken my word for anything," came the cool reply, "and you always ask for proofs and documentation. Also, our new Queen's Daughter was so enchanted with our tapestries, I thought she might enjoy seeing a few of our most prized heirlooms. Those few remaining here in Lairg, anyway." He drew a long-suffering breath and patted one box before giving Ivy a warm smile. "In any case, I believe the issue of whether Julien may lay claim to Lairg has been put to rest?"
"It has. Thank you." Legolas sounded as if he were somewhere between bored and annoyed, which earned a severe look from Haldir.
Picking up Aragorn's long, cracked box, the former marchwarden hefted it between his hands. "You know, this old thing has no legal value whatever at this late date. Perhaps you'd like to present it to Ivy who would surely appreciate its artistic value as well as--"
"No, what?" Haldir was all innocence.
"Yes, I'm sure she appreciates its artistic value," Legolas clipped. "No, I am not giving it to her. It is part of Ithilien, and in Ithilien it shall remain."
"It's okay," Ivy said cheerfully from her slouch beside Elrond. "I already tried to coax it out of him. I'll just have to practice Aragorn's signature from the picture Adar took and bring my calligraphy nibs and inks next summer to make a fair copy. Though I've no idea where to get vellum of that quality--"
"We can make you some in Warra," said Elrond.
She cast a beaming smile on her father. "There, see? I'm set. But thank you for trying, Haldir."
The look the marchwarden gave her said that while the other Elves may have been out of hearing when she and Legolas were whispering furiously, Haldir had not. He took his time returning things to their drawers below the bookcases before daring to approach Legolas, who was by then standing and brooding by the fireplace.
"I believe there was something else you said needed discussing if we all had time," said Haldir.
"What's that?" Elrond asked.
"The matter of what is to be done about Julien in the future."
Swearing beneath his breath and giving an explosive sigh, Legolas left the fireplace to drop sideways into the wing-backed chair Elrond had dragged across the room earlier. Glorfindel immediately claimed its twin, hauling the chair closer and dropping down onto it to fling a leg over the arm in mimicry of his son's pose.
"Look, Ivy. Elven bookends!" Gondolin's best beamed at her.
She looked from one to the oblivious other. "Oooh, look what you've done. If I had some paper and a pen, I'd sketch you. Both of you."
"What happened to the drawing pad you had on the plane?" asked Legolas.
"I haven't seen it since then, so it may still be there."
"I will look for it and send it on to you in Warra."
"Thanks so much. In the meantime..." She turned hopeful eyes on Haldir who was hovering at the side of the couch. "Do you happen to have some scratch paper and a pen close at hand?"
Turning on his heel, the marchwarden approached a different bank of drawers and muttered as he dug through them. He eventually surfaced with a handful of loose onion-skin paper and a pencil.
"Will this do?" He handed them over.
"The paper's fine but...Haldir, this pencil has a broken lead and a dried-out eraser."
"They are the best I can manage at the moment unless you want charcoal from the fire." He stalked back toward his stack of leftover boxes and the doorway. "I regret that I cannot stay for the discussion regarding Master Julien, but there are still a few matters for the ceilidh needing my attention. Beyond that, someone has to make sure Julien stays upstairs like a good little thorn in our side. Again, please keep me posted as to any decisions you may make regarding him? Especially who will be taking over the ongoing babysitting of him, and how soon this will happen?"
"We will keep you informed," Elrond assured.
With a parting nod, Haldir marched away with his historical documents, leaving the room in silence save for the crackling of the fire.
Ivy eyed her new pencil doubtfully. "That was so helpful of him. I guess I could gnaw on the wood to sharpen it."
"Please, allow me." Just like that, a small pen-knife was in Elrond's hand and he was slipping the pencil out from between Ivy's fingers. A half-second later and the sharp blade was shedding delicate curls of wood over the library's wooden floor.
"What else has it got in its pocketses?" She misquoted Gollum without thinking, only to sit up and protest. "Hey, wait a minute! I can sharpen my own pencil."
"Not with new-healing hands you cannot." Elrond handed her back the now perfectly sharpened pencil. "I keep this small blade very sharp, and the consequences could be most unfortunate for your fingers should you slip."
"I want another Diet Coke before we begin discussing Julien." With that, Legolas shot from his chair and tore out of the room.
Will he come back with Cheetos, too? she wondered. Wish I dared ask him to bring me a can, but as huffy as Adar was about it at breakfast, I'd better not. Aloud, she asked, "Is Legolas always this manic?"
"Only when he's happy," said Glorfindel.
She looked across at him sadly. "It's great that your son's happy, but he's gone and I've entirely lost the chance to sketch the beautiful Elven bookends."
"Beautiful are we?" Glorfindel preened while Elrond growled something under his breath that sounded like, 'Elbereth spare me.'
"Fear not, fair maiden," Glorfindel gestured as expansively as any Italian Renaissance noble. "When Legolas returns, you shall see him collapse across yonder chair as completely and handsomely as he did before."
"How can you know that?"
Elrond's tone was dry. "Because unless manners dictate Legolas do otherwise, that is how he has lounged everywhere since he was the Elven equivalent of six years old. His understanding of the function of certain chair parts seems to be lacking. Or deliberately misunderstood."
"There is nothing wrong with being comfy," Glorfindel defended.
Mental note, thought Ivy. When in Warra, use party manners. She gave an anxious sidelong glance at Elrond, only to shrug off the thought in the next moment. It was better to be ready to draw Legolas when he returned than fret about her future behavior Down Under. With that, she tried balancing the onion-skin paper on her knees to begin testing both paper and pencil, only to discover that the paper slipped and slid beneath her hands no matter what she did.
"This is impossible."
"Allow me." Bending, Elrond retrieved from beneath the couch the book he had been pretending to read earlier.
"Perfect." Offering a grateful smile, she took and slid the book beneath the recalcitrant paper. "Is there any problem for which you don't have an instant solution?"
"I daresay my son would say the same about you," said Glorfindel, "as I have on innumerable occasions."
The argument continued in Legolas' absence. Silence rather than participation seemed prudent, and so Ivy ducked her head and concentrated on trying out the primitive art supplies she'd been given. Finding them satisfactory in the short run, she squirmed back against the corner of the couch, only to squirm all the more when she found it was too narrow and uncomfortable to accommodate her.
Not only that, she thought, the angle's all wrong to sketch Legolas and Glorfindel where they're sitting.
"Drat it," she muttered. "Would anyone object if I sit on the floor?"
"The floor is hard and cold, so why don't you try leaning against me?" said Elrond as Legolas strode back into the room.
Ivy looked up at him uncertainly. "Could I? Would you mind?"
"Of course not." Opening his arms, the Elf-lord made room for her beside him.
Ivy noted that Legolas did exactly what his father had predicted he'd do, which was throw himself back into the chair sideways so that his lean body was draped across it as if it were the most comfortable branch of a tree.
That long, sleek body won't stay in that position forever, Ivy realized. Best I stop fussing and get started.
Squirming toward Elrond, she was surprised when he slid an arm around her waist to effortlessly pull her the rest of the way across the couch.
"You might try taking off your boots and bringing up your legs to prop the paper against your thighs?" he suggested.
"That would be better," she admitted, "but my toes will get cold."
"I will prevent that."
"You have power over the ambient temperature of the room?" she asked.
She felt him shrug. "If I did, it would be warmer inside these walls of stone."
Toeing off her boots, she brought up her legs as Elrond suggested and was surprised when he brought his arms around Ivy to lock his hands around her knees. The Elf-lord's heavy robes wrapped completely around to cocoon even her feet. She stiffened at first, startled to have such close contact with new-met Elf-lord fathers. But it felt so comforting, so welcoming and so warm that her hesitation faded almost as quickly as it had come.
Sighing, she subsided back against his solidity. "Having my own warm Ada blanket is just too cool."
"You are far too easily impressed, daughter." His voice rumbled against her back, and he sounded pleased. "Have you sufficient room to draw?"
"I don't need much room, and I'm only making rough sketches to reference later. I wouldn't trade where I am for the most magnificent studio in the world." Positioning her rough pencil, she glanced over to Glorfindel and son, only to discover both of them were watching closely and listening intently.
Legolas cracked open his Diet Coke and took a long pull. "Are we ready to discuss the matter of Julien?"
Silence greeted his query, and finally Glorfindel answered with a resigned, "If we must."
Bending to capture the moment on the fragile onion-skin paper, Ivy dismissed the discussion of Weasel Boy in favor of filling her hungry artist's gaze with the two golden Elves glowing in the firelight. Her fingers drew with a quiet, sure urgency while Elrond watched.
"You still have concerns regarding Julien?" asked Glorfindel.
"I do," Legolas admitted before looking away as though unwilling to discuss the problematic Elf any further.
Grrrr, don't move while I'm working on your nose, Ivy growled inwardly. Yeah, I have concerns about Weasel Boy too, and the bruises to remind me if I forget, she thought, but this is special drawing time, not talking time. Gotta get my bookends on the paper before they shift some more.
She glanced up from her drawing to study the Elves before her. Yeah, that's good, got the cheekbones just right. But that's certainly not the expression I'd hoped for. Legolas looks so...I don't know. Closed down? Like he's on edge and keeping a lid on it.
As she watched, Legolas clenched his jaw and slanted a glance at Elrond.
I wouldn't push a horse that looked at me that way, she thought, so it's probably best to keep my mouth shut and my fingers busy. This isn't a conversation to jump in on, even if Julien does scare me silly. Let Legolas handle this mess.
"You needn't worry about Julien's manipulations any longer," said Elrond. "We know what his plan is now, and it won't work again. Even had he won the vote yesterday, we would have found a way to prevent him from doing anything to or with Greenwood."
Legolas grimaced and shook his head. "I thank you for your reassurances, but mere words are not enough to ensure Julien's future good conduct. His behavior has affected everyone on the council, and I cannot see him giving up. Never again can he be allowed to come so close to defeating us." His fingers flexed, only to tighten again on the arms of the chair. "Has Elden Warlow some ironclad legal way to ensure that?"
Ivy felt a subtle shift in the Elf-lord's mood as he slid a hand slowly down the broad arm of the couch and expelled a deep breath. The animosity between him and the younger Elf seemed to ease a little. Legolas' expression softened slightly as he and Glorfindel waited expectantly, and Ivy took full advantage of their stillness to scribble a bit more detail into their expressions.
So Elrond and Legolas mesh as business partners every bit as fiercely as they clash as individuals? Or is it just persona-Lee and persona-Elden have decided to work together whereas Legolas and Elrond cannot? Chewing her lip, Ivy tried to force the ancient pencil into something it was never intended to do. That is so weird. And so is this lead. She scowled as it skidded and nearly tore the paper. Would Elrond sharpen it for me again? Sighing quietly, she smoothed the paper and went back to work. Now was not the time to ask.
"I believe I might have a solution." Elrond's voice vibrated low and solicitous against her. "Board takeovers are seldom seen in Italy as the larger shareholders are typically controlling families, and special voting privileges have been designed deliberately to keep them in control."
"We need to get us some of those," said Glorfindel.
Legolas arched an elegant eyebrow. "I trust you mean special privileges and not Italian shareholders?"
"Of course I mean privileges. What would we do with more shareholders? Bloody nuisance, those."
"Mmphm," was Legolas' agreement.
"Could we all listen for a moment, please?" Elrond interrupted. "Legolas, as the founder and ultimate guardian of Greenwood, what you require are board memberships that are revocable at your whim."
The younger Elf nodded as he considered the idea. "It goes against what I wanted when the original council was set up - that we would all be equals in directing how we interacted with the Mortal world, but--"
"But times have changed," Elrond said firmly, "which is how we find ourselves entertaining this discussion in the first place."
Legolas stared silently into the fire for a moment. "In Greenwood's case, Elden, Gordon and...whoever Haldir ends up being in his next Mortal incarnation...would also need to be able to revoke council seats if I am unavailable."
He shifted one leg and leaned forward slightly, only to have Ivy clutch her pencil and whimper softly. Meeting her desperate gaze, he gave a slight smile and gracefully subsided back into the chair exactly as he had been.
"Bless you," she murmured. "I work fast, but not that fast."
Raising his hand, Elrond carefully relocated and ran his hand down a heavy portion of Ivy's hair that had been trying to take up residence across the arm he still had wrapped around her. "I'm sure Legolas and Glorfindel won't move until you are finished."
"Not one inch, wouldn't dream of it." Glorfindel gave her a devilish smirk before beginning to swing his jeans-covered leg in what was obviously a deliberate effort to annoy. "So, Elrond, what exactly is needed to make the board seats ejectable?"
"Is that even a word?" Elrond ventured.
"Of course it is, and an old one, too." Glorfindel beamed at him. "I'm surprised you don't know its Latin origins, given how much you're still mourning that language's decline, but I suppose it's difficult to keep all the world's languages straight in your head after...how old are you now, anyway?"
"Oooh, how cool is that?" Ivy looked around at Elrond and very nearly got a crick in her neck. "Your voice is all rumbly in your chest, and When you growl so fierce and close to me, I can feel it all the way down to my toes."
Snapping closed his mouth, Elrond stared at her. Ivy thought she heard Legolas snickering, but he covered it with a quick cough and she dared not look at him, lest she start giggling too.
"So that's it, then?" Glorfindel pressed on, unfazed. "Ejectable council seats is now our plan? So how do we install and implement them? Beyond continuing to eject Julien out the window, of course."
Elrond gave a long-suffering sigh. "It's quite simple. We change Greenwood's by-laws and grant the heads of the company absolute power in the form of a final, controlling vote. Of everything."
Glorfindel grinned, all gleaming white teeth and open delight, and rubbed his hands together. "So at the summer meeting we'll be making Lee Greenwood the all-powerful head of his own corporate family?"
Sounds like they're forming their very own Elven mafia, Ivy thought. Shivering slightly, she cast quick glances at the two faces she could see and very much wished she could see Elrond's expression as well, but turning around again was out of the question.
"I like it," Glorfindel continued. "But if Lee Greenwood has to be cast in a deceptive and manipulative role inspired by devious Italian families to ensure his own company's preservation, then I hope he follows in Machiavelli's footsteps, and not in Rodrigo Borgia's."
"In all my years of guiding Ithilien and Greenwood, have my actions ever come anywhere near those of the corrupt, debauched father of the Borgias? Total domination and debauchery are Julien's aspirations. Not mine."
"Of course they're not!" Glorfindel agreed. "You would never, and I never meant to imply--"
"Legolas, must you always be so quick to take offense?" Closing his eyes, Elrond rubbed the bridge of his nose. "At any given time, the power will be shared by at least four Elves. I suspect you will continue to seek counsel from other members you trust, such as your father and me, and so will anyone else who leads Greenwood in the future. The responsibility will not always fall to you, so pray do not take Glorfindel's words so personally."
"I beg to differ," Glorfindel said softly.
"Must you, and with what?" snapped Elrond.
"Even when someone else is the acting CEO for Greenwood, Legolas is still leading us. I think he should always be able to make the ultimate decision whether someone is to be tossed. Otherwise, how are we going to get a tosser out of power if he or she is the acting CEO?"
"Your raise a valid point, but a clause like that cannot be written into the corporate by-laws," Elrond insisted. "Conversations with you tend to wander off-topic, Glorfindel, and the ultimate issue before us is how to beat Master Julien at his own game. We are discussing possible methods for doing that legally, not Legolas' non-existent tendencies toward debauchery. My first suggestion was only an example of how we might ensure Julien will never again be able to make a grab for power."
There was a moment of silence while Legolas studied the fire quite closely, and Ivy held her breath until her father shifted again. Feeling his ribcage expand as he inhaled to speak, she found herself tensing for the next volley, and her pencil stilled on the drawing.
"If you do not appreciate this first suggestion, which had its origins in modern, corporate Italy, I can bring forth others going back as far as Ancient Rome," the Elf-lord said.
"That's an idea." Leaning closer to the slippery, recalcitrant paper, Ivy deliberately kept her tone casual. "Julien's supposed to go to this ceilidh thing, right? So why not conspire between yourselves to stab him a la Julius Caesar on his way downstairs tonight and solve our problems that way?"
Silence greeted her droll suggestion, and she looked up to find two startled Elves staring at her. From the way Elrond had gone very still, Ivy had the feeling he was just as surprised as the others at her suggestion.
"You too, my child?" Elrond murmured the last words the emperor was said to have spoken to his murderer.
Ivy thought she could hear a trace of amusement in the Elf-lord's tone, but dared not look around to meet his eyes for fear she was wrong. "Um...did that sound a little too bloodthirsty?"
"Not at all." Legolas' expression was bland. "I rather fancy finishing it tonight, but Haldir would never forgive us if we stained the carpeting."
"You know I'm not serious, right?" she said. "It's just we're all being so grim and broody about Julien. It really sucks that we have to play by the rules, but he doesn't, and his name led me straight to Julius Caesar's - what with plotting to remove Weasel Boy from his position of imagined power...and - oh, never mind." Shrugging, she concentrated on repositioning her drawing squarely across the book. "It was just a thought."
"I think it was a good thought," said Legolas.
"It was," agreed Glorfindel, "for all that we can't take advantage of it. A good bit of facetiousness never fails to put things into perspective, does it, Lord Elrond?"
Not waiting for a reply, Glorfindel leaned over to grasp his son's arm and ignored Ivy's squeak of protest. "You must know that I truly meant no offense? Greenwood is far from Rome - medieval or current day - and it has always been your sandbox. You are most generous to let the rest of us play in it, and you've always managed everything with wisdom and compassion."
"I thank you for your words." Legolas gave a regal nod. "But as I pointed out during yesterday's meeting, all of us need to play in the sandbox if we are to thrive. I apologize for overreacting to your remarks, Adar. It seems Julien can disturb me even when he is not in the room. He keeps me from better things, and the machinations we must consider to pull his fangs are most inconvenient."
"Since Greenwood's headquarters are here in Lairg, it's too bad you can't just use some ancient Scottish law to get rid of Julien," Ivy mused as Elrond adjusted his robes to wrap her up even more in their warmth as the fire fell to embers on the hearth. "You know, something that gives a clan chief the right to throw out anybody he wants to? Just shove a sack of coins in their general direction, and out they go?"
Glorfindel nodded. "That sort of a law would make things easier, wouldn't it? But as you said, we must play by the rules even as Julien does not." Frowning, he waved a hand toward the ceiling, in the general direction of where Julien currently rested. "On the other hand, and as one of your presidents observed about his FBI director, 'I would rather have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.' As vulgar an image as that may be, we still might feel the same about Julien."
"A wise thought, and I agree," said Legolas. "It would be a simple thing to force Julien and his ambitions to retire from the council, but I think it better if we keep him there."
"The better to have him where we can watch him?" asked Elrond.
"And catch him." Legolas nodded. "If we simply cast Julien loose, we'll not know what his activities might be or what he is plotting until he puts it into action. I want him gone, and yet he must stay. It is also rather unfair to turn him loose on an innocent world with no means to stay his hand or erase the intimate knowledge he has of not only Greenwood but of all the Elves remaining in this world."
"No matter what you do with him, I think he's always going to be dangerous," Ivy said, her drawing forgotten for the moment. "He really frightens me, and not just for myself," she added, her voice small as she remembered the terrors of the day before.
"Not just for yourself?" Legolas started to turn toward her, only to freeze. "Ivy, may I move soon?"
"Sure. I've gotten the important bits down, and thanks for being so patient." She put her pencil aside. "Julien really spreads his malevolence around, doesn't he? I mean, he's burned you and the girls. Then there's his sister, and who knows what other people he's stepped on. I'm sure there are lots more."
Glorfindel grinned. "Everyone needs a hobby, Ivy."
"No, I'm serious. Let's stand back a minute and actually see what he's managed to accomplish in just a few short weeks. First, he had the gall to formally announce that he was jonesing to take over Greenwood. Next, he blackmailed almost half the council members into voting for him. Then he showed up on my doorstep in San Francisco to suck up to my mother, trying to guarantee her vote against you scary, dangerous Elves,” she added in hushed and fearful tones as she rolled her eyes, “which would have guaranteed his success if she'd been attending this meeting."
"You told me Julien also tried to force his way into your home," said Elrond.
"I'm trying not to remember that." Shivering, Ivy leaned back against the powerful Elf-lord, who immediately tightened his arms around her. "I'm not even sure I'd count it, since the weasel didn't try very hard," she added, trying to disguise the fear that rose inside her at the memory. "I mean, if he'd wanted in all that much, my squeezing his foot in the door wouldn't have deterred him at all. He was crafty enough to know his behavior had already scared me, so what did he do next?"
Legolas narrowed his eyes. "He waited until you arrived here in Lairg to try dragging you off for a private talk."
"Yeah. I guess he needed some time to think up a new plan that involved me and not my mother. So he waited until I was here to pounce like the smug weasel he is. He was also so totally certain that I'd fall in with his plans and win him Greenwood that he made arrangements to cut down your personal forest. Now that shows real confidence. Or it shows just how crazy he is."
Elrond stiffened, and Ivy gasped at the sudden surge of anger she felt rolling off of him. "Julien did what?"
"He surveyed my trees for cutting!" Legolas spat. "Even now, plastic yellow ribbons are tied round his intended victims."
"He planned to destroy the pristine beauty and tranquility of your very home?" Elrond demanded.
"He did," Legolas confirmed. "Once Julien had Greenwood he would own all, and why let trees stand idle when there is money to be made? They're only trees, after all."
"Only trees?" Elrond echoed, all outrage and disbelief. "One of the most beautiful ancient forests in all of the Highlands - some might say in all the world - consists of only trees?"
"The forest of Lairg is beautiful," Legolas acknowledged, "but it is not a beauty Julien can appreciate. And yes, he would kill it all for a few pieces of silver. And not just the trees, for the wildlife within would perish as well. The birds and the deer, the foxes and badgers and all the other creatures that have long found a home in our ecosystem. Their homes would be destroyed for the joy of a few pounds and a handful of change. Even the poor panthers would be homeless. They've no hope of finding safety outside the Highlands."
"There are panthers in your forest?" Ivy squeaked.
"There are," Legolas confirmed calmly. "Haldir tells me that many from the village have seen their tracks on the game trails. I saw some as well just this morning during our hunt."
Ivy squirmed around to look Elrond in the eye. "If there are fierce panthers out there, why did you let me go into the woods with Legolas?"
"He guarded Aragorn across the whole of Middle-earth and rode with him to meet the Mouth of Sauron at the Black Gates," Elrond said mildly. "Why then should I doubt your guardian's ability to protect you from one or two very shy, very well-fed, exotic felines?"
"Well-fed?" she pursued.
"The panthers have been here for some years and are known to harm no one but the occasional deer," said Elrond. "Lairg has no shortage of deer, has it?"
"Um...I guess not. Food on the hoof, huh?" She tried but couldn't make sense of why her new father would trust Legolas with her where big, hungry cats were concerned, especially as he trusted Legolas with little else to do with her.
Come to that... She arrowed her gaze at Legolas. "Wait a minute! Panthers don't live in Scotland, they come from jungle places. So why are there suddenly panthers in the Highlands? Unless you're all having a joke at my expense? Is this a joke?" she demanded, looking from Elf to Elf.
"We're not having you on," Glorfindel assured her. "The panthers really are here."
"Yeah? Like I should trust you, given your wicked sense of humor?"
He gave a delighted laugh. "It keeps things interesting, doesn't it?"
"There are definitely panthers in my woods, Ivy," Legolas confirmed in all sincerity. "The explanation Haldir gave is that a few years ago the government changed the laws pertaining to exotic pets in Britain. Suddenly all had to be licensed. Some owners of the great cats felt they had no other choice but to release them into the wild when registration and other fees made it impossible for them to keep the animals."
"No zoos would take them, so legally they would have had to have been destroyed," Elrond relayed. "Apparently many such owners drove the cats to isolated areas and tipped them out. The panthers traveled farther and farther north in search of food and to evade people until we can now find them living in Lairg."
"They have as much right to survive in this land as we do," said Legolas, "and I certainly do not mind their presence. I am happy our bounty can help them. It's not their fault they are out of place and they do no harm here."
"They did take a few sheep a couple of winters back. Did you hear about the fuss?" Glorfindel asked.
"Oh yes, the great sheep incident. Are the villagers still going on about that?" Legolas turned toward Ivy almost conspiratorially. "You'd think those involved had lost their firstborn children the way they carried on about a couple of ewes. I'd imagine a young panther - probably starving - took them, and I can't begrudge it a meal or two. Once it got up its strength it stopped preying on them, but the wailing about it was endless."
"Poor kitty," Ivy agreed, suddenly saddened by the thought of a great cat starving and cold out there in the snow. "Hey, I have money now. I'll replace the sheep if you think it would help?"
"Helped long ago," Glorfindel put in. "Bought them whole flocks of very nice Cheviots. It's done, all but the trauma and drama, and that's good for a winter's tale around the fire."
"Legolas, the ribbons Julien placed around your trees absolutely must be removed before they are permanently damaged."
"I'm well aware of that!” he snapped irritably. “The removal of said ribbons stands at the head of the list of things I mean to accomplish as soon as I am able."
"Meaning, after the lot of us have left?" Glorfindel said in sympathy..
"The meetings and Julien have taken an extraordinary amount of attention. The council meeting may be over, but there are still other parts of this gathering to be completed, and there is still the ongoing matter of what is to be done with Julien." He shook his head, looking from his father to Elrond. "Julien must be dealt with before any of us can move on. Definitely before you leave here."
"You've said yourselves he's not going to give up," Ivy pointed out. "I'm pretty sure I've made a permanent enemy of him this week, and I don't think he likes you much either," she added, waving at Legolas, which earned her a small smile. "Adar says I'll be safe with him in Warra, but does that mean I'm going to have to stay in Australia for the rest of my life?"
"Would that be so bad?" murmured Elrond.
"How am I supposed to answer that, when I haven't even seen Warra? My new reality is that I'm afraid to go home," she confessed. "I'm afraid to go anywhere alone." Her fear rose, sharp and bitter, as the memories of Julien's approach threatened to overwhelm her. "I don't get how changing a few corporate by-laws and keeping the weasel on the council is going to stop him from inventing other ways to come at us. And I hate to keep focusing on poor little me, but I can't defend myself. I'm going to get eaten up like the sheep, and there's nothing I can do about it but cower in Warra."
"Julien will not harm you," Legolas insisted, his voice equally soft but carrying steel. "I will not let that happen."
"You're going to come stay with me in Oz?" Ivy forced a smile. "Somehow, I think the great Lee Greenwood has other pressing matters."
"I will do whatever is necessary to keep him from you."
Elrond's arms tightened about her again, offering reassurance and protection, at least for the moment.
"We can limit the damage," he said. "Contain Julien."
"There will still be damage to someone or something," Glorfindel pointed out. "Even when Julien is directly damaged, he still insists on making threats and trying to fight, as his shattered nose is quick to point out. Like some insane, bloody terrier, he does not yield."
"Hello? Julien is a psychopath, remember?" said Ivy. "Adar told me Weasel Boy is never going to change, never going to give up trying to destroy something or someone."
"Yes," agreed Legolas. "Julien calls that winning."
"Win or lose, am I the only one who finds the thought of him being in the same world - never mind in the same room during the council meeting next June - more than a little scary?" she pressed.
Glorfindel bowed his head while Elrond's grip on her tightened. As for Legolas, his blue eyes darkened as his gaze bore into hers. "You are not the only one. Lord Elrond, there must be another way to deal with the matter of Julien."
"We cannot remove him from the board," Elrond spoke through clenched teeth, "and we cannot use greenmail to buy back his shares and interest. Julien would never sell."
"No, he never gives up any toy once he's got his hands on it. Until it dies." Glorfindel sounded completely disgusted.
"If you let me get my knives, I'm sure I can convince him by tonight that it would be most wise of him to sell." Legolas' wolfish grin was echoed by others in the room, but the knowledge of why knives were not allowed dampened everyone's enthusiasm all too fast.
"Is there anything he wants besides Greenwood?" Ivy asked in desperation. "Something he might want even more than Greenwood?"
"I think he wants me dead and gone," mused Legolas, "but I'm not feeling cooperative."
"Oh, he just needs a new, bright, shiny toy. Something even shinier than you." Glorfindel patted Legolas' thigh reassuringly. "Something special, something all his."
"I'm feeling right out of shiny right now, and not very big on sharing. Not so much as a single tree!"
"Considering Julien's dream of owning us all has crashed and burned, and that he's heartily sick of all of us," continued Glorfindel, "I think he might be open to the right offer."
"Like what?" Ivy asked eagerly.
"Yes, like what?" Elrond echoed. "Surely the three of us can come up with something."
"Um, hello? Maybe I can help, too?" Ivy elbowed Elrond gently.
"My apologies." He ran a hand down her hair again. "The four of us."
"I may have an idea." Legolas sounded surprised. Setting both feet flat on the floor, he leaned forward and looked almost hopeful.
"The entire council mistrusts Julien now, correct?" said Legolas. "Every one of us has lost confidence in him, yet he is still eager to prove how capable he is of running a company. Or at least how woefully inept we all are in comparison to his brilliance. So why don't we let him?"
"A...company?" Elrond said with some bewilderment. "Are you suggesting we gift Julien-the-irresponsible with a Greenwood subsidiary of his very own?"
"In a word, yes. I have great compassion for the people who would be under him, but yes."
"It would have to be a very small subsidiary," Glorfindel mused, "or else one that practically runs itself."
"Surely we have more than a few of those?" Legolas coaxed. "I propose we suspend Julien's council membership and give his voting proxy over to Wendy while he works to prove himself at some small endeavor for Greenwood. We will set him up properly in whatever business we choose and give him five years to turn a profit - or to sustain a profit if what we give him is already profitable."
Legolas looked to his father. "Haven't we some small project somewhere that Julien might use to prove himself? Something simple and very small, preferably isolated so we can keep an eye on him?"
"Don't want much, do you?" said Glorfindel. "First off, it would have to be something the little weasel would take. Considering Julien's high opinion of himself and great importance to the world, that may prove tricky." Still, the legend of Gondolin put his chin in his hand and set about thinking for a long moment.
"We don't own any casinos in Monte Carlo," he pointed out, "and I can't see Julien turning a profit with anything else. Even given a gambling establishment run entirely by professionals, where all Julien would have to do is sit back and count the daily earnings, I suspect he would only plow his own earnings back into the house and then complain that we do not pay him a large enough salary."
"Does he like anything other than gambling, expensive suits, hurting small animals and ruining women?" Ivy asked with some desperation.
Glorfindel offered a tense smirk. "Look, she knows all of his best points already. That's quite a question, little one, asking if the serpent likes anything outside of his own personal Eden."
"Julien likes wine," said Elrond.
Legolas didn't miss a beat. "Then give him a vineyard."
"A vineyard?" Glorfindel sat bolt upright. "Wait a moment, that's perfect." He let his smile widen into a wolf grin. "I know just the place, and we're all positively brilliant because this is going to work. Elrond, do you remember that pretty little French wine estate we acquired some time ago in the Medoc region northwest of Bordeaux?
"I'll help you dredge up the memory. Ironically, it borders Saint‑Julien," Glorfindel confided to Ivy before hurtling on. "Elrond, you originally found it on one of your solitary medieval treks. The estate and the vines have exited back to 1370 or so, but you acquired the place only after the owner was executed in the Reign of Terror and its heirs sold off the property. You later tossed the property into the Greenwood pot - once Greenwood came to exist - because you never had time to visit France. You knew the last owner - what was his name? You even borrowed his name for a time in the early nineteenth century."
"Louis Henri Gouy D'Arcy," said Elrond.
"That's the very one," said Glorfindel with a nod.
"Clos Fondcombe is a charming place," Elrond went on. "Its family of workers turn out a few bottles of good Merlot every year. Their know their job, and they are fully capable of putting Julien in his place and keeping him there. We've not visited the estate in years because they turtle on quite nicely by themselves."
"So you agree this is the right place?" demanded Legolas.
"Yes, I think it might be." He counted off the points as his mind worked on the problem. "Clos Fondcombe makes a profit every year. They send a portion of their profits annually to Greenwood and keep such precise records that not even Verce could them into question."
"How much wine are we talking about?" asked Legolas.
"Annually, nine thousand cases of a Cabernet Sauvignon‑Merlot blend."
"You know," Glorfindel said conversationally, "for someone who couldn't recall the winery he acquired a mere five hundred years ago or so, you're doing pretty well now. I had forgotten why theirs is such an unusual Merlot."
"Your palate is slipping, Adar," Legolas noted mournfully. "How very sad."
"Oh, leave off, will you?" Glorfindel chuckled. "Ii'll admit it's true, but right now that doesn't matter. What does matter is that Clos Fondcombe very much runs itself through the efforts of its loyal employees whose husbands and wives, sons and daughters have worked there since 1795. It's small, well-established, and has been humming along for so long, Julien can't possibly muck it up."
"Oh, don't say that." Elrond groaned. "Never underestimate a determined idiot."
"You sound like Eeyore," said Ivy with affection.
"Bah." Glorfindel waved a hand. "Julien can't drink away all the profits, and the estate has local contracts into the next century. It's perfect."
"Let me see..." Legolas mused. "Wendy would remain on the board, but she and Julien would have to move to Medoc. At the very least, to France. Julien will have no choice, but we need Wendy nearby to baby-sit him, or to at least report back on his activities. Do you think she would?"
Ivy widened her eyes. "Would Julien want a kingdom of his own? Would Wendy be willing to move closer to the haute couture designers of Paris and their fashion shows? To all those lovely boutiques just itching to offer the latest, strangest styles and get their hands on all her lovely money?"
"And shooooes," crooned Glorfindel, doing a horrible imitation of Wendy. "Oh, she does love the shooooes."
Legolas grinned. "And the answer is...I'm mad for thinking we'd have to ask either of them twice."
"This could actually work," Elrond said slowly.
"Of course it will work, it's brilliant!" Glorfindel crowed, flinging wide his arms in an expression of victory. "We bury Julien in the French countryside, but still keep an eye on him. And have Wendy steal his passport once he's there." He waved an imperious hand. "Elrond, make it so."
The Elf-lord looked to Legolas. "What do you say?"
"If you can convince Julien to give up his seat on the council and sell back his shares and interest in Greenwood in exchange for his managing Clos Fondcombe, I am quite willing to see this done."
"Wendy would still be a member of the council and the vineyard would still be a Greenwood subsidiary," Elrond pointed out.
"That is well." Legolas nodded. "As we control the winery, we will still control Julien. If he fails at this, then he can draw a student's stipend from Greenwood and live in a Parisian garret for all that I care."
"Do they still have garrets?" Ivy asked the room in general.
"I believe Paris outlawed them a few years ago," said Elrond. "Their charming quality has been lost for those who wish to suffer."
"How?" Ivy asked. "A garret is a garret, isn't it?"
"Not since they were deemed unsuitable by the government. Now, all rentals are required to have room for a double mattress and the basic amenities of hot and cold running water. Not to mention suitable heating and something to cook on. The romance has quite been knocked out of the garret," Elrond concluded.
"I can't believe you actually know that," said Glorfindel.
"I can," Ivy said quietly. "He is a master of lore, after all."
Glorfindel snorted. "I do not think that word means what you think it means."
Ivy blinked and shook her head. "Okay, that's the third media reference I've heard from you. Do you really watch all these movies?"
"Ah, but the lore master is Elrond. I just quote."
"What I am is a master of useless knowledge," Elrond said mildly, smoothing both hands down Ivy's hair as more static-laden tendrils floated toward him. "In any case, I believe we have a workable plan for managing Julien. I shall speak with him and Wendy before they leave for London. If they agree, I shall draw up the papers once we are back in Warra and have Master Julien learning the care and feeding of Medoc grapes before the Continental winter has passed."
Glorfindel nodded eagerly. "Put the little bugger to work and keep him busy."
"Does he even know how to work, or only how to take?" asked Ivy.
"We shall see." Legolas turned back to Elrond, all traces of previous pleasure flown. "You must not speak to him alone. Julien can be violent, and I believe this offer will displease him. At least initially."
"It's going to cause one glorious tantrum, that's what," said Glorfindel. "And I agree, there's a certain safety in the plurality of warriors when weasels are to be confronted."
"You think me incapable of handling this sorry child?" Elrond's voice was quiet, his displeasure was plain.
"I know you are more than capable," Legolas answered quietly, "and I would like nothing more than to leave Julien in your expert hands and walk away from him. But I fear his reaction more than I trust your competence, and I would be there. Greenwood Limited must also have witnesses, and as I am once again the head of Greenwood, I must be part of this ejection process, whether it be with words or knives."
All heads turned as the library door suddenly swung open, and a tall, broad-shouldered silhouette ducked its head to clear the lowest branch of the dead oak. Stepping into the light, the silhouette revealed itself to be Lairg's resident private jet pilot.
"Erestor said I'd find the lot of you in here."
"Alastair!" Dropping her sketchwork on the couch, Ivy dove out of Elrond's protective embrace. Slipping and sliding across the wood floor in her stockinged feet, she all but hurled herself at the Scot, who looked startled but still had the presence of mind to catch her up in a hug. "It's so good to see you! I didn't get the chance to say thanks or good-bye when we arrived."
"You're more than welcome for the trip, Alice. And hello." Setting her back on her feet, he tugged at an unruly strand of auburn hair.
Ivy all but batted away his hand. "Alice?"
"Aye. How're you finding the rabbit hole?"
She let out an explosive breath. "Deep and kind of endless."
"Our Elves can overwhelm a soul, can't they?" He nodded as the others joined them. "Foos yer doos, i'day?"
"Broggis," Legolas replied, standing at Ivy's elbow as Elrond handed her boots to her.
"Oops," she whispered. Taking them, she leaned a hand on Legolas' shoulder before digging her toes into the boots. "What did you two just say?"
"Alastair asked how life is treating us, and I said rather well," Legolas translated.
"Please tell me everyone won't talk like that at the ceilidh?" Ivy begged. “I’ve never heard anything like that before.”
"We shall all take the time to translate for you," said Elrond.
Alastair cocked a thumb over his shoulder. "I've a tree and some deer outside to be carried in, and half the village has come with me to get a danner at their new laird."
"Then let us help you."
Legolas strode out of the library with Elrond and Alastair in close pursuit. Hanging back, Glorfindel grasped Ivy by the shoulder when she would have followed the others.
Sidling closer, he whispered, "I want to see what you sketched."
"And I want to know what a 'danner' is."
"You know it as a gander, I think. They want a look at their new laird as more than a few villagers have been born during his absence. Now, about that drawing?"
Feeling awkward, Ivy chewed her lip and glanced back to where the thin papers lay scattered on the couch. "Wouldn't you rather wait for the real thing? I mean, it's just scribbles done in a hurry. Bare bones."
"You drew my son."
"I drew you, too," she reminded him, "but I don't usually show people the raw, unpolished stuff."
Glorfindel leaned closer and his aura somehow became so much more intense that Ivy very nearly scrambled backward to put some distance between them.
"I've promised to let you see my drawings of Legolas once we reach Warra, haven't I? And now I'm asking one small favor, for you to let me see what you've done with him. Tip for tap, little one."
"Tip for tap?" she echoed. "I thought it was tit for tat."
"Not in the century I learnt it." Glorfindel's smile was so dazzling, his eagerness so childlike, and his aura so determined that Ivy knew the easiest thing to do was to simply give in to his wishes.
"Oh, all right!" She threw up her hands to ward him off before spinning around and pacing back across the library. "You can quit wheedling and pushing and...and just quit whatever you're doing to influence me."
"I'm doing nothing of the sort." He trotted alongside of her.
"Yeah, right. You know those beautiful, pleading blue eyes of yours will get you anything you want."
He gave a great sigh. "I was hoping not to have to take out the heavy artillery, but you left me no choice."
"Thought so." Scooping up the onion-skin paper, Ivy slipped it into Glorfindel's reaching hands, then waited anxiously while he studied the drawing. "I know it's not as good as it should be, but there wasn't much time, and you kept turning your head and thumping your foot against the chair...."
His finger hovered over the detailed lines of his son's face. "You did all of this in mere minutes?"
"Had to. You know how long you two are willing to sit still. Can count it in seconds, mostly."
"Put a new-made arrow in Legolas' hands, and he will sit in marble-like contemplation for a half hour." Glorfindel sounded distracted as he stared at the sketch. "Of a necessity, the lord of Lairg has posed for a bevy of painters across the centuries. But my son will sigh and fidget and scowl if he is asked to pose for other artists - including me."
"Then why did he let me sketch your wonderful Elven bookends?" she asked with some bewilderment.
"For the same reason he took you hunting. Legolas likes you." He reluctantly handed back the sketch.
Half-embarrassed and desperately hoping the Elf-lord was right, Ivy folded up the delicate paper and shoved it into her pocket.
"You’ve crumpled it!”
She jumped, startled at Glorfindel’s cry of dismay so close to her ear.
“What? This?” She half-pulled it out of her pocket, and crinkling noises came from the paper.
“Here now, you'll ruin it!" His fingers reached for the abused sketch.
"It's just a preliminary," she said, puzzled by his concern. "Enough to provide a map after I decide what medium to work in, but not enough to preserve it like it's gold. It’s on crappy paper, too, done with an insane sort of antique pencil. Please don't worry, I'll do my best for both of you." She shoved it back into her pocket without concern.
"It is a sketch of my son, and I would have you preserve it," he insisted, pacing around her and staring at her hipbone as if he could see the sketch through her sweatpants. "With that in mind, and as it means so little to you, could I induce you to give me that bit of paper once you're done with it? Provided, of course, your father doesn't snatch it for his archive first?"
Ivy spun around. "Elrond has an archive dedicated to Legolas?"
"No, Elrond has an archive dedicated to you. I know Elladan sent him the scraps you discarded over the months he lived with you,you’re your father has treated your works as one would the finest delicate leaf gold or the most precious illuminated manuscript. Like any proud father, he preserves everything he can of his daughter's creations and even exhibits your things on the Elf-lord equivalent of his refrigerator door."
"He does what?" Ivy squeaked, horrified by the thought and knowing just how bad some of her doodles and scraps were.
"Lord Elrond's private library houses quite the shrine set up in your honor."
She felt her jaw drop. "You're joking."
"Far from it. He was very pleased that you let him watch you work this afternoon. Did that make you nervous?"
"Nooo," she answered slowly, still pondering Glorfindel's revelation. "From the very first day in art school, I had to get used to professors constantly watching and shredding - er, critiquing - everything I did. Education, dontcha know? I know how to sketch preliminaries, so it's no big deal to be watched while I do it."
Glorfindel leaned in conspiratorially. "Best not tell Lord Elrond, else he'll want to watch whenever you're creating art. Whatever art you're creating."
She thought about all the idle scribbling that never came to anything else, and thought Elrond would be watching her always if that was the case, only to shake the thought aside.
He's promised to help me with the frescoes, she thought, but I'm sure he has better things to do than watch me play around.
"How do you find my son as an objets d'art?" asked Glorfindel.
Her distracted thoughts dissolved as she thought of Legolas once more and happily fastened on him. "Oh, he's glorious! All perfect lines and angles - except for his nose, of course, because that's been broken.”
“More than once. Is that a problem?”
“No! Even his imperfections are perfect. There's a story behind every one of them, and maybe one day I'll know them all, and he's really easy to draw because he's not all mysterious. I mean, he telegraphs most of his emotions in the way he moves or sits, and you can always read everything in his eyes."
“You can?" Glorfindel sounded skeptical.
"Can you?" he challenged, only to put his hands behind his back and rock on his heels at her enthusiastic nod. "You know, I believe only Mithrandir and I have ever noticed that about Legolas?"
"How could anyone miss it?"
Glorfindel didn't answer immediately, and Ivy hurtled on.
"Maybe it's obvious because you work so closely with horses, and I've watched them for years so I can paint them? But Mithrandir didn't watch horses, did he?"
"Mithrandir watched everything." The golden Elf tilted his head and regarded her closely. "But what have horses to do with your my drawing my son? Legolas hasn't four long legs or a tail."
She sighed. "He's got a beautiful mane of sunshine hair. And don't you think he's an awful lot like a stallion? I mean, both have very specific reasons for doing everything they do, right? And Legolas communicates his thoughts and feelings clearly ahead of time, just like a stallion does. Or he does if you take the time to look at him. You also have to be with a stallion in his world, he really couldn't care less about being in your world. You always have to live by his laws, and you've got one chance to keep those laws. If you mess up, things get really scary, really fast."
"How interesting you would think that."
Ivy shrugged. "Thinking doesn't have much to do with it. I’ve only known him a few days - really stressful, high emotion-type days - and I'm feeling my way a lot of the time with him, so please tell me if I get it wrong?" she begged. "I so don't want to mess things up with him."
Glorfindel gave a slight, almost secret, smile. "If I see any stallion traps up ahead, I'll be sure to warn you."
"Thanks so much." She gave a relieved smile. "I think he's going to be an easy subject to paint, but I don't think he wants his emotions frozen in time on canvas for anyone to read."
"You're dead right about that. Which may be why, with the exception of the childhood sketches I did and the tapestry hanging the dining hall, Legolas has never been the subject of any Elven art."
"Has that been his own, deliberate choice?" Ivy asked.
"Most probably. As you've noticed, my son has very specific reasons for everything he does. He sat for Mortal artists only to satisfy the traditional requirement of preserving a portrait of each generation's laird. And that is a portrait of the laird, not him, or so he says."
Ivy looked up at the series of paintings marching across the far wall of the library that featured said laird and his lady of the moment. When she looked back, she discovered Glorfindel was eyeing her so speculatively and she suspected for so long that she very nearly squirmed under that keen, ice-blue gaze.
"What?" she asked with some trepidation.
"You are a perceptive one, Ivy MacLeod." Glorfindel's voice was as serious as she'd ever heard it, his expression equally so. "Thank you for indulging me and sharing your sketch. I'll be very interested in seeing the finished painting." Giving a slight bow, he gestured toward the door. "Shall we bundle you for the outdoors again and join the others? There’s going to be fun aplenty this afternoon, starting right now.”
“And we’re missing it?” Ivy looked at him with wide, horrified eyes.
“AT the moment. Shall we?” Glorfindel held out an arm, which Ivy solemnly accepted. Patting her fingers, he grinned down at her. “Got mittens?”
"They're in the pocketses of my coat which is...I've no idea. Adar took it, ages ago."
“Then let’s be off to retrieve Haldir's coat and mittens for you from the mud room.” Together they walked out of the library.
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