Jolting awake, Ivy squeezed closed her eyes. She knew that when she opened them she'd see the ceiling in the San Francisco house. The same ceiling she'd seen every morning after being dragged out of Montana, complete with demon-shaped water stains and the memory of her mom's meltdown when she realized they needed a new roof.
Her quilt would be the same worn and faded one she’d had since early childhood. Her empty belly was already the same, a dispiriting realization as she knew there was nothing in the fridge but crackers and ketchup and some bread that had begun looking a bit green around the edges.
Her fears were the same, the bills were the same, and behind that came the crushing, fearful memory of having been awarded her Masters degree, so school was over. She was on her own and had rest-of-your-life-type decisions awaiting her, and the need to get a job.
She refused to open her eyes. The dream of the elves had been so very real, and the Elves had been so wonderful and welcoming--most of them, anyway. They'd been so good at making the fears step back and promising security and family and friendship and just everything she’d wanted. Even horses. Gorgeous horses, and that sweet filly trying to get the frozen honey off her teeth....
Yeah, she thought, it was all about as real as those happily-ever-after, fairy-tale princess dreams all little girls have. I just dreamed of a Prince Charming with pointed ears.
It was nothing but a dream. Stupid.
Rolling onto her side, she pulled the covers over her head and burrowed deeper into the blankets as an added defense against reality. Wisps of the wonderful Scottish Elven fantasy still teased at her, so she willed herself to go back to sleep, back to the dreamscape where Legolas took her hunting and Lord Elrond was determined to smother her with care. Sadly, the more Ivy struggled to sleep, the more she woke up.
But my nose isn’t cold. Neither are my toes. That's different. Did I start a fire before going to sleep?
The question was almost immediately answered with the scoffing memory that there was no wood, outside of that provided by the imaginary Haldir.
Her fingers were stiff and sore where she clutched the blanketss, and her frost-burned skin begged her to let go.
I remember dreaming that Glorfindel yelled at me after I got frostbite. Since when does dream-pain follow people into the real world? Her heart surged with hope at the realization her fingers really did hurt.
Maybe I really am in Scotland! She thought. Maybe the ceilidh's already started while I've been lying here, working really hard at depressing myself by thinking none of this is real?
Another part of her dreamscape seemed to be extending itself into her reality, for something beyond her eyelids made a subtle rustling noise that sounded suspiciously like someone turning the pages of a book.
Whether I'm in Scotland or San Francisco, she thought, who's reading in my bedroom?
Opening her eyes, she felt an overwhelming wave of relief at the sight of Elrond--more solid than he'd ever been in books or film--sitting not ten feet away from her in a tall chair before the fire.
Leaning back comfortably with his long legs crossed at the ankles, the broad-chested Elven lord was once again dressed in the high-collared, black formal robes with their intricate silver piping that Ivy had first seen him in. He appeared engrossed in the book held between his long fingers, and his austere features glowed in the light of the fire. One pointed ear peeked out delicately between thin-braided strands of long-black hair to make Ivy smile.
He's real, she thought, blinking back tears of joy. It’s all real. And he’s just as elegant as my Dream Elrond, even at rest.
The celidh! It’s really happening! It looks like he's already dressed for it, while I haven't even started getting ready.
She hadn't made it anywhere near the old stone hall that afternoon, regardless Glorfindel had seen her properly wrapped up against the cold after they'd left the library. Ivy and he had been caught by Elrond on their way through the kitchen, right next to the Vinotemp and with stern Erestor looking on.
"You are not going outside again, daughter," Elrond had decreed in a voice that brooked no argument. "You agreed to rest before the ceilidh begins, and rest you shall."
"But I'm not tired. I can rest later," she protested.
Elrond did not relent, so Ivy looked to Glorfindel for help. Much to her dismay, he only nudged her shoulder and murmured, "Pick your battles carefully, Queen's Daughter."
Slipping past Elrond, who ignored him entirely, Glorfindel all but bolted through the door while Ivy found herself turned gently about and marched in the opposite direction.
"I'm fine!" she said as one of Elrond's big hands spread itself across the back of her neck to guide her back into the mud room. "I don't need to be put down for a nap like a child."
The borrowed coat, scarf and mittens were returned to their proper places. Elrond then guided Ivy back through the kitchen, up the back stairs, and into Legolas' cold, dark bedroom.
"I want to go see what Alastair's brought and meet the villagers. I want to help!" she protested again. "I really don't feel the least bit tired."
"You are excited, which is natural," Elrond answered evenly, "but excitement does not erase the fact that you have had too little sleep for too many days, nor that it shall be a very long evening. You will meet the villagers tonight."
With that, the Elven lord ushered Ivy through the bath and into the dark little chamber beyond. Slapping a hand at the dimmer switch, Ivy turned on the lights while Elrond knelt on the hearth to light a fire.
"It's not every day that people get ready for a ceilidh, you know?" she fumed.
"That is true." Rising gracefully to his feet, Elrond smoothed his robes before crossing to her side and turning the lights off once more.
"Have you been listening to anything I've said?" she asked with some exasperation.
"I have heard every word. Have you been listening to me?" Looming closer, he crowded her toward the bed. "You must sleep now, daughter."
"No. You need to rest."
The unwavering look Elrond gave her--along with the set of his jaw and the thinning of his lips--told Ivy he would not be swayed.
Glorfindel knew I'd lose this fight. But how did he know? she wondered.
Maybe it's because your protestations are worthy of any five-year-old and not much else? another part of her pointed out. If you were honest, you'd admit your new daddy is right. You are tired. You're so tired that a tantrum's tugging at the edges of your jet-lagged sanity, and over what? The fact that Elrond cares and wants you to take a nap instead of helping to arrange the tables and whatever else they're doing down there?
Tears of frustration filled her eyes. "But--"
"There will be other ceilidhs."
"But I wanted to be a part of things," she whispered. "I'm missing stuff."
"Does it matter so much to miss a wet Christmas tree being dragged inside the hall? Do you truly wish to admire yet another skinned and gutted deer being set to roast in a fireplace big enough for an ox, and the villagers staring at their new laird while they set up tables and chairs, and other boring details of preparing the room? Because that is all that is happening downstairs at the moment."
"Yes! I’d like to see the fireplace, and I’d like to see the tree decorated, and I’d really like to see them staring at Legolas.
I could help move tables and be useful. I could be part of it."
"Your injured hands should not be moving furniture. And you can meet the fireplace and tree tonight."
"You will see more than enough of him tonight as well." Elrond turned down the blankets on Ivy's bed before grasping her gently by the shoulders. "You will also be walking into the ceilidh with Legolas, and I am sure you would like to be well-rested when that happens."
She had to admit his arguments made sense, and her bed was looking more welcoming by the moment.
"Okay, you win."
She toed off her boots with a sigh and then crawled beneath the covers without taking off anything else. She thought the looming Elf-lord might even try tucking her in--something she wouldn't have allowed-- but he only watched solemnly as she pulled the blankets up to her chin. Sleep had to have come only seconds later, for Ivy recalled nothing after that, not even Elrond settling into that chair.
Sitting up in the bed, she pulled her unruly hair back as Elrond set his book aside.
"And so, she wakes."
"Have I caught you watching me sleep yet again?" She softened the accusation with a soft smile.
Elrond regarded her solemnly and steepled his fingers. "I have been guarding your sleep, which is an entirely different thing."
"Oh." Memories of who he might be guarding her against rushed back. "You're right, it is an entirely different thing. And with someone as nasty as Julien around, your protection is something I'm really grateful for. You were right about something else, too."
"And what might that be?" he asked mildly.
"I did need a nap." She managed to sound gracious, since she was determined to take Glorfindel's fight-picking advice to heart. I'm fairly certain I'll be needing it in the future. "How long did I sleep?"
"Three hours?" She gave up trying to finger-comb the snarls out of her hair. "That's forever! Why didn't you wake me?"
"You were sleeping so very deeply, it was clear you needed the rest."
"But the ceilidh--I must be late! I have to get ready now! Has it already started?"
Elrond raised a hand to forestall her throwing back the covers and leaping out of bed. "The ceilidh will not begin yet for an hour and a half.
She willed her pounding heart to slow down and hoped he was telling the truth about her not missing anything. "I'm not late?"
"No, we are not late," he assured. "Would you like to know what happened while you slept?"
"So I did miss stuff!" She threw him an accusatory look.
"You missed nothing but our meeting with Julien, which you would not have been attending even if you had been awake."
"You actually left me unguarded while you went and met with Julien?"
"I asked Legolas to lock you in for the hour or so we were gone. And as our meeting was with Julien, we would surely have noticed had he gone missing from it."
She laughed outright. "And Legolas did? Lock me in?"
"He was most eager to do so."
She leaned forward. "Did weasel-boy agree to leave the council and go to France?"
"Indeed he has, however sullenly that agreement may have come." Elrond shifted in his chair and looked thoughtful. "I believe the sight of Legolas, Glorfindel and myself crowding into Julien's room to...strongly suggest...he develop a sudden interest in making wine may have had something to do with his decision. That, and the fact Julien seems to have realized the entire council is against him and Legolas has the power to make Julien's continued participation one long, exquisite torture."
"Was there more bloodshed?" Ivy asked eagerly.
"Not one drop. Haldir was pleased, as he is still lamenting the bloodstains on the carpeting from the last altercation. Julien has had enough time to brood upon his injuries as well as his future, and he appears most eager to prove his worth to Greenwood. As for Wendy, she absolutely refuses to live in Clos Fondcombe with her brother."
"I don’t blame her. Who’d want to live with Julien?"
Elrond nodded. "There does seem to be some schism between the siblings at the moment, and so Wendy insists she will take an apartment in Paris. She will check on Julien regularly, but refuses to be isolated with him, which is reasonable. We shall have other, experienced watchers observing him at all times – watchers of which he will be unaware. All of the involved parties have signed the required documents, but Greenwood Limited will not be paying Julien for his shares until Haldir has them in hand. Knowing Julien’s fondness for money, I would be willing to bet that he overnights those shares even before he makes an appointment with someone to look at his shattered nose."
"I wouldn't take that bet." Ivy pushed back the blankets to climb out of bed. "So when do Wendy and Julien leave for France?"
"As soon as they can escape fair Lairg and make the necessary arrangements. I've informed those currently looking after Clos Fondcombe that an ignorant new manager will be moving in on them."
Elrond hesitated and then frowned, evidently at what he knew he was unleashing upon the management of the vineyard.
"The families involved are far from happy, but will cooperate in showing Julien how things work. Greenwood has supplied him and his sister with generous funds to facilitate their move, so there should be no worries. Still, with Julien, you never know."
"But he'll still be at the ceilidh tonight?" Ivy asked with great trepidation.
"Oh, goody." Scowling, she pulled the bedding back in place, yanking at the blankets with a mixture of irritation and rising fear.
Leaving his chair, Elrond sat on the side of the bed and laid his hands over hers to still them. "Be assured that a number of Elven warriors will be guarding you tonight. Julien will not be permitted to come anywhere near you."
Her eyes searched his and her fingers tightened, seeking even more reassurance. "Do you promise? Really, truly promise?"
"I do." His smile was warm, his hands engulfed hers. "How are you feeling now? Have we quite overwhelmed and terrified you?"
"I feel a lot better after napping for so long, and you already know how I feel about Julien. But in general..." She shrugged and shook her head. "He's the only thing scaring me at the moment. I do feel kind of overwhelmed if I try to think about everything that's happened in the past couple of days, but I'm okay if I stay in the moment."
"Are you still willing to go with me to Warra?"
She rocked back slightly at the sudden change in subjects. "Are you having second thoughts about inviting me? Or are you worried I'll change my mind?"
"I am somewhat concerned that you might think better of accepting my invitation," came the reluctant admission.
"You think I want to go back to San Francisco?" She stared at him, then shook her head. "Go back instead of going with you? No way."
Releasing her hands, Elrond folded his inside the voluminous sleeves of his robes. "I recognize the attraction Legolas holds for you and am concerned that you may prefer staying here with him to going to Australia with me."
LEGOLAS? Oh, boy, she thought. Insecure Elf-lord at twelve o'clock. What do I do with this?
You tell him the truth, a little voice told her.
"Hang on a minute." Giving the blankets a final punch, she perched next to Elrond on the bed. "Hug please? Now."
He instantly slid his arms around her and tightened his grip, while she slid her own around his waist and did the same. The robes interfered, but Ivy persevered.
There’s a lot more fabric involved in those things than I thought, she realized. Hope he can feel me hugging him in there.
"Now, look," she began, drawing back far enough to meet his eyes. "You're the one who's welcomed me into your life and invited me to come visit you. Legolas hasn't. And you're the one I wanted more than anything to meet when I read Lord of the Rings. Not Legolas. I know you don't invite just anyone into your home, and you haven't agreed to teach anyone else how to paint frescoes, have you?"
"You don't offer willy-nilly to help other people learn Sindarin and Elven history, do you?"
Elrond shook his head and stared at Ivy as she thought a starving man might stare at a loaf of bread. "No."
"Dan...Elladan...seems willing to spend time with pretty much anybody, but you're not like that. So I find it really amazing that you want me around. You've promised we're going to do all sorts of things together and get to know each other, and I'm holding you to that unless you're the one who's changed their mind, and you don't want me going to Warra after all?"
"I have wanted you near, to guide and protect you, for too long to ever change my mind."
"Okay then. It's settled. Again. I'm definitely going with you."
"It makes me glad to know that."
He drew her into such a tight hug, Ivy's face was mashed against his chest and she was sure her ribs were bending. Wincing, she returned the hug with enthusiasm and tried not to breathe.
There's also the fact that Legolas has to run off and be Lee after this week's over, she thought, so he doesn't have time for me. I meant everything I just said, but I guess it's best not to mention that too?
Drawing back, Elrond did not release Ivy completely but gave a tolerant smile when she made a impatient noise and fought to disentangle her hair from his as well as the elegant trim on his sleeve.
"Stupid hair, always going where it shouldn't." She batted it down. "And yours is all neat-braided and everything for the ceilidh."
"Your hair is glorious, not stupid. It is catching on mine because of the braiding, but what is the American term...no harm, no foul? And now, I believe it is finally time you got ready for the ceilidh." Getting to his feet, he turned back to gently stroke her cheek and kiss the top of her head. "Take your time. I will wait for you in Legolas' chamber."
She caught his hand as he turned to go. "Am I still supposed to wear the dress from the painting?"
"Has someone offered you another choice of dress for the evening?"
"No, but I don’t see it in here. Do you know where Legolas put it?"
"The most logical place would be inside the wardrobe, but it may not be there as Glorfindel's son is not known for being logical. In that case, you might check the back of the bathroom doors. If you still cannot locate it, I will go downstairs and ask him."
"Or..." Crawling on hands and knees to the foot of the bed, Ivy shoved aside what looked like a white linen nightgown to pull something out from beneath it that looked like a deep-green madrigal robe. "Is this it?"
"I believe so."
Crawling off of the bed, Ivy held up the soft wool garment, which seemed nothing but a unlaced, twisted tangle of a tunic. "Ada...how exactly is this thing supposed to be worn?"
"Let me see." He took the white linen nightgown at the foot of the bed and spread it across the blankets. "If I remember correctly, this is a chainses. You would know it as a chemise. I believe Haldir found it for you."
"I'm wearing Haldir's pajamas?" she squeaked.
"Firstly, this is a chemise, not a nightshirt. Secondly, I’ve no idea what Haldir sleeps in. And while some of his tastes may be strange these days, I doubt he sleeps in a lady's chemise." He swept a hand across the garment in question. "Haldir found this in a trunk among some other things that a previous Queen's Daughter left here." Lifting a hand, he forestalled Ivy's next question. "Please do not ask me which daughter. I have never acquainted myself with any of their underthings and so cannot possibly tell you the owner's name or even how old the linen is."
"So I'm supposed to wear that nightgown under this thing?" She shook the tunic.
"You are to wear the chemise as an undergown, yes. Here, allow me." Taking the long wool gown from Ivy, he laid it beside the chemise and set about untangling the sleeves.
"We need more light on this thing." She squinted doubtfully at the garment before marching over to slap on the lights. "That neckline is really wide, Adar. And those sleeves are way too long." She stared up at him with wide, worried eyes. "This won’t fit me at all. The lady who wore this must have been a giant."
"Once you have put on the dress, I believe you'll find all is as it should be. This was, after all, the basic dress of medieval women for several hundred years. And Florence of Lairg was a small woman with delicate bones." Elrond paced around the bed. "There should also be jesses to lace up the sides. Where would Legolas have...ah, here they are." Bending, he retrieved two long, thin leather ties from the floor and tossed them onto the gown. "Those, I'm sure, came from Legolas. Are you happy to know the same sort of leather cord he uses to lace up his hunting tunics will grace your gown?"
She looked over the strange ensemble. "Happy isn't exactly what I'm feeling right now. Confused would be more like it."
"What is confusing you?"
"This whole outfit." She waved her hands over the bed. "It seems like a really odd assortment of...um...stuff to wear anywhere. But hey..." She shrugged. "It's what Legolas wants me in, so I'll give it a go."
"I believe you will like it once you are wearing it."
"Once I figure out how to put it on, you mean?" She bit her bottom lip and shook her head. "If you say so."
"I do. And now, I shall leave so you can make yourself ready." Giving a slight bow, Elrond retreated from the room.
"Yeah, I'll make myself ready with this mess of medieval wear, just see if I don't," Ivy muttered as a heavy, instinctive dread settled in her belly. "I’m lucky I know where my head goes through it."
She pulled on a sleeve, pulled a few wrinkles out of the middle, and stared at intently, but it still looked like something made out of an army blanket. The color was better than the average army blanket, but still....
"I think a major miracle might be needed here to make this work."
Unfortunately, she felt fresh out of miracles.
* * *
The bath was humid and the floor was damp, which told Ivy that Legolas had been and gone before her. Even though she'd missed him, other things were looking up: the electricity was back so she didn't have to shower in the dark, and someone had been thoughtful enough to clear away their wet towels and leave a stack of new, thick ones for her to use.
I'm all gratitude for whatever Elf understands the needs of us long-haired people for big, fluffy towels, she thought as she threw two of them over the shower rod.
A huge flannel robe hung behind the door, which Ivy suspected was Elrond's own, also provided for her use, since it was definitely too big to be Legolas'. She pulled it down from its hook to gather it in her arms.
Yup, it even smells like Elrond, she decided, burying her nose in the soft fabric and startling herself at the realization she'd actually been close enough to the Elf-lord to know what he smelled like.
Cinnamon and cedarwood, I think? Doesn’t matter what, it suits him. And I really like it. She sighed and gave a silly smile at the realization.
I could get used to this being-taken-cared-of thing, she decided as she climbed out of the shower a few minutes later. If that stupid dress out there will just cooperate and not embarrass me, my life may be complete.
She dared to have great hopes for the night ahead, but that hope faltered a little when she plugged in Dan's hair dryer and discovered it was dead. Not immediately dead, as it gave a sickly little whine only to fall silent before the first warm gust of air reached her wet hair.
"No, no, no!" She smacked and shook the recalcitrant thing. "Not now. Please, not now!"
It absolutely could not do this to her when the ceilidh started in less than an hour, and her hair took forever to air-dry and then left her looking like a red-headed Chia pet.
Actually, the hair dryer could. And it did. It also remained oblivious to her pleading and battering, remaining most sincerely dead.
Shoving down her panic, Ivy moved into the bedroom and approached the Victorian pseudo-Medieval gown with dogged determination.
"Okay," she muttered at the weird-looking gown. "I haven't ever gotten on with dresses, but we have to come to some sort of agreement. It's just for one night, so please, please, please cooperate and let me look good wearing you? I promise, you can go back into retirement at midnight, just like Cindy’s pumpkin."
She gave it an encouraging pat. It offered no signs of encouragement. The tangled leather lacings slid off the bed to land on her foot, though.
Ivy pulled on the nightgown or chemise or whatever it was, buttoned it at her throat, and tried not to worry that it was way too long and billowing around her feet. She then set about climbing into the deep-green overdress with its long, tight V-neck and black bands of trim.
She stuck her head through middle and her arms in the sleeve places, but the rest of the thing flapped open at the sides.
It doesn’t even look like a dress, she growled to herself.
"Lacings. Yes, have to lace it up," she remembered.
She bent to gather the lacings from the floor and had to bat the nightshirt out of the way to do it. Straightening to examine the tangled lines of leather, she realized she had absolutely no idea how she was supposed to use them.
Glancing at the dress, she saw that the lacing rings running up either side were less than half an inch wide. She tried using them to lace herself in, but she couldn't get the absurdly long, pointy sleeves to stay out of the way, and her arms were all at wrong angles to lace more than the bottom holes anyway.
I’m missing something here, or did medieval ladies have extra arm joints so they could lace under their armpits? she wondered.
Yanking the dress back over her head, she tossed it across the bed and tried weaving the leather jesses through the lacing rings before pulling the dress back over her head. But then she discovered she had laced a little too enthusiastically, so that now the rings were too tight then to let her shimmy into the dress. She was lucky to get her nose through the absurdly huge neckline before the nightgown underneath got all twisted and started fighting.
"This is impossible!" she growled, the wool muffling her voice.
She did a lot of flapping and wriggling to work the thing back over her head, which left her feeling like a caterpillar fighting its way out of a woolen cocoon. For all of her trouble, she was left panting and with a mouth full of wet hair as her anticipation over the ceilidh turned to dread and embarrassment and great disappointment.
Bunching up the material, Ivy threw it back onto the bed, gathered up the trailing ends of her nightgown, and headed out into Legolas' chamber. Very nearly in tears, she stomped up to the hearth where Elrond was standing, waiting for her.
Tilting back her head to meet his gaze, she ignored the eyebrow climbing high at her appearance--which she knew was probably this side of frenzied insane.
"I quit. You'll have to go down and tell Legolas he's going in to the ceilidh without me."
"And why is that?" He sounded unruffled, but those dark eyebrows had not dropped back down to neutral yet, and he was looking her over most intently.
Yeah, get a good look. This is me. I don’t do dress up, and it's best you learn that now. What you see is what you get, Lord Elrond.
"I can't get the stupid dress on, and...and look at this!" Moving back a few steps, she clutched the baggy nightgown, spread wide its generous folds, and pivoted. "This thing is way too big, and it drags the floor. It's worse than wearing a feed sack, it won't work under that...that demon dress, and I can't believe Legolas wants me to wear any of this! I don't care how good that thing looked in the painting, the woman wearing it had to know some secret to make it behave, or had extra joints in her arms, or been sewn into it as a teenager! It’s awful. It’s evil. I can’t make it work, so I’m going back to good old American Levis that I know I can put on right."
Furious, she swiped away tears.
"And it’s not just that dress," she continued. "Nothing is working! Dan's hairdryer is dead, so even my hair won't work, and I’m not going to walk in there with my hair frizzing up and smelling like a wet dog. So just...just tell Legolas to go without me, and I'll sneak in later in jeans. You can hide me behind Alastair and his five kids, or maybe I can help carry in the food or something so I won't be so noticeable. I’ll eat in the kitchen and peak around the doorway at the laird so I can see what he looks like all lairded up."
Elrond's eyebrows climbed even higher. "You most certainly will not."
That brought the sting of new tears. "Then I’ll see you at breakfast."
With that, she turned to march back through the bath to the relative security of her own bedroom.
"No, that is not what I meant," Elrond protested, pacing quickly after her. "You are certainly not going without dinner, and you shall dine with us at the Laird’s table tonight."
Going to stand before her where she sat on the side of her bed, Elrond slid his hands across her shoulders. "Come. We will take the dress and other things into my room."
Ivy swiped away more tears. "What good will that do? I told you, it hates me! And the feeling is mutual."
"I might be able to offer some help, as Arwen experienced one or two wardrobe malfunctions when neither her mother or her maids were available to help. I would be honored to serve as your dresser this evening."
He smiled gently, then bowed to her. "I am at your service, daughter. There is more room to work and much better lighting in my room. When we spread out the dress and its accessories properly, I shall certainly remember how your bliaut should come together."
She scowled up at him through her tears. "My...what?"
"What's a blee-oh?"
"It is the medieval name for the dress you are wearing tonight."
"If I can't even say it, how am I supposed to wear it?" she asked, feeling cross despite Elrond's generous offer. "Why can't you just let me pull on some jeans and have dinner in the kitchen?"
His large hands gently cradled her face and wiped away the latest tears. "Is eating alone in a cold kitchen truly what you wish to do tonight?"
His tender touch and caring words very nearly undid her. She squeezed closed her eyes.
"No," Ivy whispered. "I don't want to eat in the kitchen, but I feel so discouraged that it seems like...."
"It feels as if giving up would be the best thing to do?" he prodded.
She nodded, feeling helpless.
"You do not wish me to try and help you, then?"
The tears seemed to have stopped, so Ivy fumed for a moment and tried to figure out what Elrond wanted her to do. Opening her eyes, she saw that his calm, patient expression was offering no clues.
"I guess you could try helping," she finally answered, with some reluctance. "But I'm warning you now that dressing me up is like trying to put a mule into horse harness. Don't be too disappointed with the disappointing mess you end up with, okay?"
Gathering the dress, Elrond then slid a hand beneath Ivy's elbow to urge her to feet. "Did your mother tell you that?"
"Yeah. More than once." She got to her feet with reluctance. "I'm plain. I have no curves, no boobs, no grace and no manners. I walk like a horse and look like one. Even have a chestnut-colored mane. Why do you think I live in jeans and sweatshirts? At least I can put them on right." She scraped at the tears, humiliated beyond embarrassment yet again.
"Your mother was wrong, and I do not think you will disappoint," Elrond said with all gentleness as they passed once more through Legolas' room.
"Is that Optimist Elf or Diplomat Elf talking? Either way, you haven’t seen what I look like when I try to dress up. And you haven’t seen what I look like wrapped up in a too-tight wool curtain and a too-big nightshirt."
"But I have seen--" Elrond started, but Ivy turned at the door and held up a hand, cutting him off instantly.
"Oh, wait. Yeah, you have seen that dress, haven't you? But that was a hundred and fifty years ago, and a beautiful woman was wearing it. The right way."
"I can tame the dress for you, and you will be beautiful in it." His tone was even more gentle and encouraging as he ushered her into the hallway. "Let me help, and I believe you will be able to wear it the right way as well."
"Your bed's a lot bigger than Legolas'."
"Am I not bigger than Legolas?" Elrond spread the green dress across the broad four-poster. Standing with his hands on his hips, even he had to admit it made an unattractive offering against the quilt. "It is no wonder you are having trouble getting ready. There are things missing."
"Your ceinture and ballet slippers, to begin."
"My center and what?" She stared up at him. "What sort of dancing goes on at these ceilidhs? Oh, you’re not expecting me to do the hopping Highland dancing, are you? In toe shoes? I didn’t know they wore ballet shoes for that."
"No, and no." He interrupted her panicked thoughts. "No toe shoes, they are not Scottish at all. The slippers I speak of are of the usual sort."
Ivy turned back to the bed to glower anew at the dress. "So what’s missing besides the shoes?"
"My cincher. Right." She turned her look of exasperation for the dress on him. "I’ll just pop over and find it, shall I? Just as soon as you tell me what it looks like."
"Forgive me, Ivy, for I seem to slip not only centuries while discussing your dress, but languages as well. A ceinture is a long belt, and I saw Legolas bring one in for you while you slept."
"O-kay," she said slowly. "Didn’t see one, but I'll go back and look for it."
She turned as if to go, only to turn back.
"Do you think that just for tonight we might use, like, twenty-first century fashion terms? I know it’s technically incorrect," she added hastily, "but it would save so much time skipping over all the explanations."
And her frustration, he noted, as it seems to rise further with everything I say about this gown.
"I will do my best to keep my comments within the current fashions." Taking a deep breath, he tried to assume a pleasant expression. "We need to locate your belt and slippers to complete your outfit. Please."
Ivy neither changed her expression, nor moved to comply with his polite request, regardless he had very carefully couched it in modern fashion terminology.
"Ballet slippers?" She muttered. "I'd still like to know what's up with the medieval ballet shoes?"
Is my daughter to be distressed with everything I say tonight? he wondered, feeling his own irritation rise, or is she merely overtired and overwhelmed with the many new things she has encountered as of...merely the last few days. Of course she is overwhelmed. Of course it is at last catching up with her.
"I thought perhaps you would like something besides boots to wear on the cold stone." Elrond was careful to keep his tone neutral. "And so I asked Verce if you might borrow a pair of hers. They are not for dancing on point, though she travels with those as well. They are flat ballet slippers--quite modern ones--made of the softest black leather. She assures me you will find them quite comfortable," he added, hoping to smooth the look of suspicion from Ivy’s face.
Her scowl of suspicion turned dissolved cautious surprise. "Verce travels with ballet slippers?"
"Yes. She practically lived in them while growing up in Warra as she learned ballet."
"And she still wears them? Must have been some lessons."
"They were more than mere lessons." Elrond allowed himself a small smile as he remembered the slender, graceful Elfling’s lessons that had evolved into performances that never failed to lift his heart as he had watched her practice. "Verce pursued ballet beyond her childhood, and she loves it still. She even took that love outside of Warra to pursue dance opportunities among the Mortals, which was quite daring for her."
"Among the mortals?" Her quizzical look requested more information.
"She danced professionally for George Balanchine, and I believe it very nearly broke her heart to quit when her parents decided to go Oversea and asked her to take over the company in Brussels."
"Balanchine?" Ivy breathed. "He was an amazing choreographer, wasn't he?"
"He was, indeed. And it pleased him to have her dance for him."
"She must be really good." Ivy hesitated a moment, then nodded. "Verce has such a graceful and elegant way about her, I can see the ballet part of it now."
"She has never given up the dance, and one of her joys in coming to Lairg is that the ballroom downstairs has a floor she loves to use. Many are the hours I have watched her practice, and she has even performed for the village on occasion."
"Would she let me watch?" The worry had left Ivy's eyes, replaced now with a bit more brightness and a definite eagerness. "I’d love to see her dance."
"As would I. Alas, for the moment Haldir's falling plaster would endanger her efforts."
"Ewww. No, it wouldn't be good to dance with those cherubs, kamikaze or otherwise. That’s too bad. She must be disappointed. What about Baryshnikov? Did she dance with Baryshnikov?"
Elrond shook his head. "Verce was forced to leave professional ballet long before his arrival, but she has many stories to tell of Nureyev if you are interested. It is far too soon for her to dance out in the world again, she must sit things out for a generation or two. Mortals tend to remember those who are so outstanding, and she would surely be noticed were she to return now."
"I'm honored she'd let me borrow her slippers. Maybe some of her grace will rub off on me." Ivy gave an uncertain smile.
"You must tell her so, but already you are more graceful than you know. And you must run and find those slippers now. The belt as well."
"Right." Gathering the folds of her undergown, Ivy whirled and ran out of the room, looking for all the world like a child in a nightshirt as she disappeared into the gloom of the hallway.
I could never let her know that, thought Elrond. But she is so very young, and that shapeless linen garment makes her look even younger.
Working quickly in her absence, he lit the fire and gathered the few things he knew would be needed to make his daughter ready to accompany the Lord of Lairg to his first appearance before the clan in over fifty years.
This night shall be as pleasant as possible for her, he thought. Unfortunately, that includes my being as pleasant as possible to Legolas, and he to me.
Not that we would not be pleasant if Ivy were not present, for all of the villagers will be in attendance tonight, and each Elf must show their support. The transfer of clan leadership from Haldir to Legolas must go smoothly.
Standing before the fireplace, Elrond folded his hands behind his back and awaited Ivy's return.
Were she not with us, I would not need to be watchful of Legolas' actions. Polite distance between us would suffice as it has sufficed in other years.
I will be glad when we can return to our old ways of interacting. Giving a sigh, he turned to stare into the dancing flames of the fire. The villagers will not care how little affection lays between Legolas and me, but Ivy misses nothing. She will know if I am not sincere.
The thought of being that nice to Legolas for the next few hours made Elrond all but grind his teeth.
It is but for one night, he reminded himself. I will rest more easily when Ivy is safe with me in Warra and Legolas is no longer able to influence her.
Still, his daughter did not return, and Elrond's thoughts moved on.
If I did not know Legolas would refuse such a suggestion, I would ask him to let go his commitment to protect Queen's Daughter. His efforts are now entirely unnecessary, for she has me to look after her. Might Legolas be convinced of this?
Elrond took the time to examine this new, intriguing thought.
Legolas shall be extremely busy learning the ways of the modern world, supervising Julien, and of course tending the ever-expanding Greenwood businesses. He might be encouraged to let me see to Ivy's protection, as I can devote my full time and attention to her needs and safety. The thought made him smile into the fire. My plan is quite reasonable. We shall have to discuss it.
In the meantime, so excited is my daughter about the ceilidh, I am determined to make sure she enjoys it. That, unfortunately, includes allowing her to interact freely this night with Legolas and all of his very strange, Mortal villagers.
Crossing to the bed, he gathered up the woolen dress to begin picking out the lacings that Ivy had put in place.
She’s pulled these so snug, a cat couldn’t breathe while wearing it. Small wonder she was so frustrated. He tugged the long leathers back through the holes, freeing the dress to start again. She is so anxious about walking in with Legolas, I must make this work for her.
He pulled the last lace free and tossed it with more force than necessary onto the bed.
If only Haldir had called me to pick up Ivy in San Francisco, he lamented, her fascination with Glorfindel's mercurial son would not be so complete. But Haldir did not. The situation is what it is, and so--
Flying back into the room with the undergown billowing about her, Ivy waved the slippers and a tangle of braided black leather at Elrond. "Found them!"
"Very good." He glided back toward the fireplace. "Close the door, if you please? I've laid a fire and want you to be warm. Lay your things on the bed, and then please join me before the fire. We shall attend to your hair first."
"Can't we sit in front of the dresser? I’m sure it will be warm enough, and it has a mirror, and I want to watch what you're doing to me."
He pulled cushions from nearby chairs and arranged them before the hearth. "I have no need of the mirror, and I would prefer you see the full effect in the standing mirror after I am done, rather than doubt whatever I may be doing."
And frown at me, and question me over every point. And squirm. And argue, and fret. He gentled his tone with a warm smile and gestured to the soft pillows. "You shall sit before the fire."
Still, she hesitated. "You don't want me to get dressed first? Make sure the medieval nightmare works? If I can’t get the dress to...to be some kind of a dress, there’s no point in fixing the hair, is there? Besides, the dress might muss up the hair. It’s very uncooperative hair," she declared. "I’ll just braid it,"
She reached up to grab the damp curls.
Drawing himself up to his full, commanding height and standing very still, Elrond held his silence and merely looked at her.
Ivy froze and stared back at him for a moment before slowly lowering her hands and clasping them before her.
"Um...that'd be a no, huh?" she ventured meekly. "Okay, why don’t I sit before the fire, and perhaps you could, um...please...do something with my hair?"
She scurried past him to spread out her undergown and kneel on the pillows. Elrond waited until she was settled before stepping up behind her to begin patiently finger-combing her hair and drying it before the fire.
"Do you really think you can do something with my hair?" Ivy's voice was small and wistful.
"I am quite certain of it. I do wish you could come to trust me."
"But I do!"
"Perhaps you will when you see yourself in the mirror." He concentrated on lifting and smoothing her hair between his long fingers, separating one delicate fire-strand from another.
The gentle warmth and crackling of the flames seemed to surround them both in a moment of quiet and peace, as though all the world was contained within this chamber, and Elrond gentled and slowed his touch even more.
I shall remember this moment, he thought. A hushed, calm time shared with my daughter.
"It's so quiet," Ivy whispered. "Where is everybody?"
"Already downstairs, I would imagine." Privately, he thought, I am having to share her with others all too often this first week.
Ivy sat quietly for a few moments and stared into the flames, only to sigh deeply. Even as he lightly brushed her shoulders with his fingers, Elrond could feel her deep anxiety.
"Oh, I hope this works," she whispered. "Legolas will never forgive me if I embarrass him in front of the entire village."
"Legolas may take note of your appearance, but it is not his place to be judging it." Elrond drew a slow, deep breath before more judgmental words escaped.
Being nice to Legolas must start now, it appears. Releasing the breath, he deliberately chose to lighten his tone of voice.
"May I also point out that the villagers will be watching Legolas? He is, after all, their new laird. The majority of them were not yet born when he left for Alaska. They know Legolas only from the tales they've heard from their parents and grandparents."
"Do they know you're all Elves?" she asked.
"Of course. But they have lived with Haldir in their midst and have encountered the rest of us only during ceilidhs. Only a few of the elders are old enough to have known Legolas before he left. Nothing, I am sure, can prepare the younger ones to finally meet the Elf who helped form their clan millennia before it became a clan. Turn a little, please?" He guided her by the shoulders to expose a new section of her hair to the fire’s warmth.
"I wish I had a clan," Ivy mused, holding out her hands to the fire only to pull them back and glare down at her fingers.
And so her skin is still not completely healed of frostbite, Elrond noted. Legolas must be gentle when he touches her this night. I will have a word with him before we go in.
"You wish to join a Scottish clan?" he asked. "You do have clan rights through your grandfather, you know? We can arrange for you to be officially accepted in the MacLeod clan."
She leaned the side of her head into his hand, then sighed. "No...not exactly that, being in a clan. I don’t know anyone in Clan MacLeod. I just meant...something like a clan, I guess. I think it would be really nice to be part of something."
"Ah, that I understand." He paused to gently separate a few hairs that had become entangled. "But you do have a clan. A clan of Elves in Warra and an large extension of that Oversea."
"If you say so."
"I know you cannot quite believe that yet, but once you have settled in and met everyone...and once I begin introducing you to your Elven birthright and heritage...."
He allowed his voice to trail off, knowing all he had to reassure her at the moment was words.
Only words, he reflected, while she sits alone and apprehensive in Legolas' cold fortress of stone, in fear of being found wanting this night by his Mortal family.
How could I and this manic introduction to our world ever convince Ivy of her security and welcome?
"You will see tonight how completely Legolas belongs with his ragtag band of Scots," Elrond predicted.
"I think it must be nice to belong somewhere. With someone."
Elrond's heart ached as he heard and felt Ivy's thoughts beneath the words, and he closed his eyes briefly against the pain. She wishes she belonged here, with that ragtag band, and with Legolas.
Setting his hands on her shoulders, he began lightly rubbing her collarbones beneath the white linen. He chose his next words with great care, knowing how easily it would be to alienate her on the subject of Legolas.
"You are very young, and you shall meet many other Elves in the coming weeks. Please try not to fasten much of your hope on Legolas." I want for so much for you, and Legolas is not among my hopes. "You might do much better than Legolas."
"Better than Glorfindel's son?" Her head snapped around, and her wide, astonished gaze locked into his.
"Better than Legolas," Elrond insisted, gently guiding Ivy's chin back so that he might resume working. "Glorfindel does not enter into this, however much he wishes things could have been different for his son."
"That sounds cryptic." She started to twist around again, but seemed to think better of it. "Want to enlighten me? What do you mean?"
"I mean that Legolas was basically left alone for the first twelve years of his life. He struggled to get his most basic needs met - needs like food and shelter - and he did not receive the nurturing and lessons every Elven child is entitled to. He became a wildling, and he is still a damaged soul."
"I know how Legolas feels," she said quietly, "because if you shift the first twelve years of his life in Mirkwood to the last ten years of my life in San Francisco..." She spread her hands in open entreaty. "But we both survived, right? And now Legolas has Glorfindel who loves him, and I have you, and you're taking me home with you. So what's so terrible if Legolas and I are becoming friends?"
Is that how she sees this relationship between them? Elrond wondered. A lonely little girl from Montana and an unpredictable elfling from Mirkwood are becoming friends?
He opened his mouth to frame another warning, only to think better of it.
The more I suggest she abandon him, the more she is likely to cling to him. In due time, she will discover what a friendship with Legolas is like. She may also be distracted by our people in Warra and form new and better friendships. Yes, surely she will find many new friends in Warra.
"Friends, is it?" He was careful to keep his tone light. "Very well. I ask only that you be careful. I would not have Legolas hurting you."
"He isn't going to hurt me."
"Of course he won't. Not intentionally." You speak with all the confidence of the young and innocent, he thought. May it ever remain so. "Ivy, do you prefer butterflies or dragonflies?"
"Do I..." She did twist around at that question, and confusion filled her face. "Bugs? Sorry?"
Reaching into his pocket, Elrond pulled out an assortment of cloisonné enameled hair clasps and held them out to her. "Dragonflies or butterflies?"
"Oh, but these are lovely!" she exclaimed, immediately distracted from the subject of Legolas and tugging Elrond's hand closer to begin gently separating the delicate wings of on the small, metal insects. "They look so old! Are they antiques? Where did you get them?"
"The first, long ago, was a gift from Gilraen."
"Aragorn's mother?" She drew back, her green eyes wide with amazement before her gaze snapped back to stare at delicate offerings in the palm of his hand. "Is one of these--"
"Unfortunately no. But I wore it often until it went missing, and so began the tradition of presenting the Lord of Imladris with small, flying insects to wear in his hair." He bent to give Ivy easier access to the fragile things. "The twins made this particular collection as they learned how to inlay metalwork in Imladris."
"Elladan and Elrohir made these?"
"Do you like them?"
"Yes, in Imladris. I’ve had them for awhile. Do you like them?" he repeated, but she offered no reply. "Is there one you might consider wearing this evening?"
"I love them!" She took her time examining the exquisite detail of the wings and the leaf-work surrounding some of the tiny insects. "They're all so beautiful, I can't decide on just one." She looked up at him. "What are you wearing tonight?"
Dropping down on one knee, Elrond lowered and turned his head so that Ivy might see the blue butterfly he had chosen to secure his own hair.
With great care, she ran the tips of her fingers over the intricate braiding. "That's absolutely gorgeous. So is the butterfly. Could you do something like this to my hair?"
"I had planned to if you would permit it, but I would suggest a more simple design as the time grows short. Would you like to select one of the creatures now?"
She lifted up a realistic-looking dragonfly with iridescent red and green wings.
"This one, I think. If it will hold my hair?" She looked up at him with a mixture of anticipation and hesitation. "My hair is so thick and heavy, it doesn’t fit in most barrettes and things."
"It holds mine, it should hold yours." Taking the dragonfly she had chosen, Elrond poured the other clasps into her hands.
A bit of art to ground her while I work, he thought, resuming his place behind her. Taking up a long strand of gently curling hair at Ivy's temple, Elrond gathered other strands to begin braiding it back against her head. Securing it, he began a companion to it on the other side.
Regardless the little antiques Ivy was examining one by one, not many minutes had passed before she was squirming on the pillows.
"Are you too hot?" Elrond asked.
"No. Too nervous." She gave a heartfelt sigh and put the cloisonné clasps safely aside. "I know you’ll make my hair look better, but I’m still sitting here in a nightshirt. Do you really think you can make me presentable in that dress?"
"Yes," he answered firmly, still hoping to instill a bit of confidence in her. "I understand why you feel insecure about the armful of medieval cloth Legolas handed over. It is not terribly attractive unassembled, but I shall take care of that, and you shall be lovely, regardless the recalcitrant dress."
He made short work of twisting both braids together and securing them beneath the red and green dragonfly. Stepping back, he surveyed the long auburn curls cascading down her back to pool on the pillows and smiled in satisfaction.
"I believe I have finished with your hair."
"Finished? Already?" She got to her feet, only to gingerly touch her palms to her head, to trace the braiding with her fingers. The loose hair under her hands caught her attention next. Taking great handfuls of it, she ran it between her fingers. "It's all soft and dry. What did you do?"
Her wide-eyed astonishment only increased Elrond's pleasure in his work.
"I merely combed it out with my fingers as it dried and let the fire work its magic without any further interference."
"Huh, I guess this is what you get if you keep combing until it's dry? I've never had the patience to do that."
"You must have the patience not to bother it too much now." Reaching out, he took her hands very deliberately in his. "If you continue raking through your hair like that, you may disturb the clasp, and I will have to begin again. It is very nearly time for you to meet Legolas, so why don't you let me show you how to wear that armful of wool he left you?"
She glanced over at the fabric on the bed. "Uh-oh."
"A bliaut is not complicated once one knows what to do with it." He crossed the room with Ivy very nearly on his heels.
"You're back to the bluey, Adar. I thought we were going to use words I understand?"
He tried not to laugh at her grumbling annoyance. "My most sincere apologies." I suppose now is not the time to mention that, come Warra, she shall have to learn many Sindarin words she does not now understand? "Shall we sort out your dress? It truly is not so complicated as you think."
"Most things aren't complicated if you know what to do with them," she observed, "but Legolas didn't give me an instruction manual with that thing."
Standing safely back, Ivy watched as Elrond rolled the entire garment up between his hands. "I've never seen anybody do that with a dress before, much less with an antique."
"Properly cared for, wool will last the ages. Now, come stand in front of me and put up your hands as if in surrender. Higher," he corrected, as Ivy hesitantly raised her hands in front of her. "Straight up over your head. Ball up your fists, and stand still for me."
He quickly lifted the dress over Ivy's head and had the impression she was holding her breath as the worsted wool brushed over her hair.
"Arms up, please, then straight through the sleeves." He pulled the dress down the length of her arms, taking care to clear the clasp in her hair.
Ivy's eyes flew open. "Hey, it worked! I mean, you've gotten a lot further than the stupid thing let me get. It just sat on my head and tried to suffocate me when I tried it."
"So we are making progress?" Elrond settled the tunic over her shoulders and pulled her arms down in the long, pointed sleeves.
"It feels all bunched up." She squirmed and tugged at the material gathered beneath her arms. "Really uncomfy. And my hair's all itchy."
"Patience, daughter, and stay still. We are not yet finished." He paced around her, shifting the material down over the undergown as as he went.
Anxiety is working against us here, he thought. Ivy is not as difficult to assist as a toddler, but she will soon reach that point if I do not hurry this along.
She suddenly stopped squirming. "My hair! Did the dragonfly survive?"
"Your dragonfly is quite happily intact, as are your braids. Kindly do not touch them."
Sliding his hands around Ivy's shoulders, he gathered and lifted her long, heavy hair free of the dress and let the curls cascade down her back.
"Your gown evolved from silk ones brought back from the east to France by the Crusaders," he relayed, hoping to distract her as he worked.
"Knights brought back dresses? Fashion-conscious knights, who'd have thought it?"
"They were more concerned with pleasing the wives left behind, I believe. The French nobility and royals made them popular initially, and I remember Arwen favoring them from the late twelfth century, straight through to the fourteenth."
"This dress really had legs, huh?" Her gaze followed him, but in obedience to his previous order, she did not move.
"Staying power," she clarified. "I mean it was popular for a long time."
"Ah, I understand. It certainly was, for over two hundred years." He touched the tip of her nose before pulling the top of the chemise free of the tunic and arranging it properly at her throat. "The main purpose of your undergown is to keep you warm, so only the neckline and lower sleeves will be seen. And now, I will lace you up. Please raise your arms sideways, palms up and level with your shoulders."
He gathered the loose leather jesses from the bed.
"I'm starting to see why Legolas didn't offer to help me into this thing."
Elrond arched an eyebrow and knotted one end of each jess. "As if I would ever allow such a thing?"
Ivy arched her own eyebrow right back. "As if Legolas ever learned how to get any girl into a gown like this?"
Elrond laughed outright. "Your point is well made."
"Besides," she groused, but was grinning up at him, "if Legolas knew how to get a girl into a boo-hoo like this—"
"A bliaut," he corrected.
"A bleee-oh, I think he'd have warned me that it takes two people - one to be a guinea pig while the other laces her into it. And there you go again, on your knees in front of me," she concluded in exasperation.
"And again, I am on only one knee in front of you." He set about lacing the jesses through their holes and weaving them from Ivy's hip upward. "And yes, this dress does require a ladies maid or a dresser to help you get into it properly."
"Nobody told me that," she said softly, looking down at him as he worked. One hand started to reach for his hair, then snapped back into position. "You could sit in a chair and lace me, you know?"
"It is easier from this angle. Now, stop arguing and hold still, daughter."
He laced her in tight, right up the side of her body to the underarm.
"This arm over your head, please," Elrond requested.
"Can I lower my other arm until you get there?"
"Not if you wish the lacings to be of equal tension and appearance," he warned.
Hands and arms stopped drifting downward and returned to position. "Jeans and a t-shirt are a lot easier."
"But not nearly as elegant, I think you'll agree when you see the finished effect."
"If you ever let me see the finished effect." She watched as he finished lacing the side of the bliaut down her upper arm. Shivering slightly, she giggled. "You are so lucky I’m not that ticklish, or this would be really hard for both of us. You really want this thing to be tight, don't you?"
"It must be tight to look right."
Taking up the other jess, he moved to lace up the gown's other side. Memory and skills had returned with the lacing of the first side, and so Elrond was quickly done with the second side. He tested the tension was equal on each side before stepping away to look for the black leather belt Ivy had retrieved from her room.
"You can lower your arms now."
Behind him he heard Ivy flap her arms experimentally. "What am I supposed to do with these long, trailing sleeves? I know I’m going to end up dragging them through the soup."
"We will tie off the ends to weight them. Beyond that, you must be mindful to ensure accidents with the soup do not happen."
"Talk about learning as you go. Please remember I have no experience with this? I know I’m going to screw up somewhere before I get the hang of being a graceful medieval lady."
"You will do beautifully," he assured with a smile.
She answered with the same worried gaze with which they’d started the night. "You have a lot more faith in me than I have in myself."
"Perhaps. But Legolas has invited you to stand with him. Both he and I know you are entirely capable of behaving like a beautiful lady in an elegant dress for one night. For Legolas, if not for yourself."
"When you put it that way..." She watched as he untangled the length of long braided leather he held. "I've never seen anything like that. I know you called it a...a cinch-thingie, but what is it?"
"It is a ceinture. A cinch, a belt, to flatter the line of your gown."
She eyed the leather distrustfully. "It looks like a really long, braided rein to me."
"How interesting you should say such a thing, for it is indeed fashioned after the reins used by one particular rider from Rohan." He fingered the length of braided leather, smoothing it out. "Legolas made this ceinture for you while you slept this afternoon. For some strange reason, he was certain you would like it, regardless it is fashioned on the reins the White Lady--formerly of Rohan and finally of Ithilien--used to beg Legolas to make for her every few years.
"Legolas made Eowyn reins like my belt? Oh, let me see it!"
He held out the ceinture and let her snatch it up for closer examination.
I see that once Legolas has become involved in something, her interest becomes sincere. But he does turn out more than adequate leatherwork.
Decorative knots were intertwined at intervals all along the length of the narrow, four-thonged braiding, and even Elrond had to admit the detailing was beautiful.
"How did Legolas do this in only a few hours?"
"He has much experience working leather, and he used a lucet." Elrond continued off of Ivy's look of confusion when it changed swiftly to one of irritation. "I suppose the world no longer uses them, does it?"
"If they do, they don’t call it that. We’d probably call something unromantic like a braid-aid or something if it helps you braid."
"Which it does. It is a pronged braiding tool whose origins are lost in the mists of time. Perhaps it was an Elven invention, perhaps one of Men, I do not know. But with a lucet, Legolas can create braided cord without pre-measuring the threads, and so it is suited for very long cords."
Ivy's fingers traced the long maze of perfect braiding and Celtic ornamentation. "That's amazing."
"He does know how to turn out fine leatherwork," Elrond admitted with reluctance. "Haldir fashions handsome quivers, but Legolas makes the harness for each to ensure its strength. I have heard him lament more than once that a braided harness stretches, so he cannot use one with his quiver." Elrond plucked the ceinture out of Ivy's hands. "There will be time later to study this at length. I am sure they are waiting for us by now."
The last inches leather were pulled from her fingers as Elrond gathered it up.
"It’s beautiful, but it's so long that it would go around both you and me." Her tone begged an explanation.
"A ceinture is meant to go around your waist twice and fall precisely to your shins after it is tied. It would be positively scandalous were it to be too short."
He satisfied himself that he had found the exact center of the leather before narrowing his eyes Ivy.
"When I asked Legolas if he did not wish to leave some length at either end of the belt, to let me trim it to the proper length once you were wearing it, he was most insistent that his creation would fit you perfectly and need no cutting. He declined to explain how he knew." He arched an eyebrow. "Tell me please, my daughter, why did Glorfindel's son blush and refuse to answer when I asked how he could possibly be certain his belt would fit you perfectly?"
"I...uh...I have no idea. Really." She was now looking everywhere but into his eyes. "Where did those slippers go?"
"And now you are the one who is blushing. And stammering. Clearly there is an explanation, and it must be an interesting one to cause such reactions from the both of you."
He waited a long moment, but she ended by staring at her feet.
"Ivy? The answer please? And the truth."
"Okay, okay." She held up her hands as if warding him off, regardless Elrond hadn't moved an inch. "Don't start pushing with that mind-meld thing like Spock's that I know you can do. It goes like this."
Taking a deep breath--somewhat shallower now she’d been laced into the dress--she hurtled on.
"Legolas had to lift me up into a tree so we could sit waiting for his deer to walk by this morning, and he had to catch me when I dropped out of the tree, so he knows how big around my waist is. I guess."
"There now," Elrond soothed as she glowered and raised her chin to him, unrepentant. "Was that so bad?"
"Not yet, it's not. Oh, come on, let's just see if it fits, huh?" Snatching back the ceinture, she wound it hastily around her waist and frantically pulled up the ends to yank them into a knot. "It's supposed to go around twice, you said?"
"Yes, but you must center the whole thing before you begin, else it will not--"
"It fits." She snatched one end and jammed it over to tie it. "There, it's done. Happy?"
"Erm...I am not certain whether I should be happy or troubled that it fits." He untied the belt and took his time adjusted it properly, regardless Ivy twitched nervously. "Your ceinture needs to lie as flat as possible so that the elegance is preserved and the leatherwork shown to its best."
"I’m happy with it. Will you let me see what I look like in this thing while you make up your mind whether you're happy with it or not?" She flapped her arms so hard that the long pointed sleeves reminded Elrond of twin pelican pouches at her side.
He frowned. Not at all an elegant image.
"I think we need to tie your sleeves a bit farther up. Go to the standing mirror and have a look. I will adjust you there."
She all but ran to the mirror, while Elrond followed at a more sedate pace. Standing behind Ivy, he looked over her shoulder to see what she saw.
A slender girl appeared in the mirror, her green eyes huge and hungry for any sliver of happiness she might grab that would not cut her. She appeared far too delicate for this world's pain, but Elrond was determined to see that nothing ever hurt her again.
The neck of the white undergown emphasized her pale skin and was a sharp contrast to the full-skirted, dark green, ankle-length gown that was laced tightly--almost too tightly--up her sides to cling to her body. The long, V-neck was echoed by the gentle V of the ceinture and the long, flared sleeves that Elrond moved to re-knot so they would stay out of her way and swing less widely.
"Oh." Ivy stood motionless as he worked with her sleeves, but no further comment was forthcoming.
"Ivy? Are you displeased? Have I done something you do not care for?"
"...no..." The silence returned as she stared at her reflection.
"Is it what I have done with your hair?" Elrond asked, moving around to the second sleeve. "I can change it if it distresses you."
"No." She blinked as if only just waking up, and turned to look at him. "No, the hair is perfect. It’s wonderful. And the dress is...wow. It's a really...sumptuous...gown, isn't it? And it's got a mini-train," she added, twisting to try to look behind her. "Like a wedding gown."
"Is that a good or a bad thing?" he mused.
"I like it," she whispered. "I've never worn anything like it. And it's comfy. I’m not usually comfortable in any sort of a dress. I feel...almost pretty, thanks to you," she added softly.
"You are pretty, and the dress suits you."
Poor thing, to feel so awkward and unsure, he thought. Did her mother never offer her any approval at all?
Pride and love surged within Elrond to see how beautiful a child she really was. But sadness came hard on its heels to taint his mood when he realized Ivy was only admiring the dress and how truly oblivious she seemed to her own beauty. A ferocious pain seized his breath as he realized that, in only a matter of minutes, he had made her into a young woman who very much looked as if she belonged at Legolas' side.
That is the last thing I wished to do, thought Elrond, yet is that not why Legolas asked her to walk in with him? Why he selected this very dress for her to wear? So that she would look as if she belongs with him, if not to him?
Why did I not realize this? It was made for a lady to stand at his side, after all. Taking a deep breath, Elrond deliberately cut off that train of thought. She stands with him for a single night. Let her enjoy the ceilidh. Let her enjoy him. And then we are away to Warra.
Elrond clenched his teeth so very hard, he had to deliberately and slowly unclench his jaw to speak again. "You look very much like the lady of the manor."
Ivy's eyes sparkled with happiness as they met his in the mirror.
"Do you really think so? It’s all your doing, you know? You've made me look like I stepped out of an Edward Blair Leighton painting, like the one where Guinevere is knighting someone."
"'The Accolade'?' he asked.
"That's the one." Turning sideways, she raised her arm and examined the lacing. "You know this looks a lot like the lacing in Legolas' tunic? And my hair...the braids are sort of like Legolas' warrior braids, aren't they? But you've put mine a lot farther back and...oh, this is wonderful, Ada!" She gave a little spin, testing the short train of the dress.
Must it always come back to Legolas? He bit down to prevent himself actually voicing the words out loud.
"What I have done meets with your approval, then?" he managed to ask after a few seconds.
Ivy whirled around, her hair and sleeves flying at the motion.
"Oh, how could it not? My mother never cared like this. Not once! She just put dresses on me that looked stupid and said I would never dress up nice. You're like some fairy godfather, working an absolute miracle on me!" Reaching up on tiptoe, she threw her arms impulsively around his neck and hugged him tightly. "Oh, thank you, Ada. You've made me almost pretty!"
He bent to return her hug, and Ivy's fierce joy surrounded and penetrated Elrond until he very nearly stopped breathing beneath its intensity. He had never dreamed that something so simple as his helping his daughter dress could bring him such happiness.
If only Marian had allowed me into her life years ago. If only...but no. There will be much joy in her life now. I will see to it. Just as soon as we leave this frozen place and return to Warra’s summer.
"There is no 'almost' about it," Elrond managed, once he could trust his voice again. "You have always been pretty, my child. Do you now feel presentable for the ceilidh?"
"Oh, yes. You've really worked a miracle, and I could just cry!" She turned back to stare, almost unbelieving, into the the mirror once more, turning a little this way and that to catch new angles of her reflection.
"Then there will be no more talk about changing into jeans and eating in the kitchen?" he pressed.
"Of course not, because you've made the dress work. And my hair doesn't look half-bad, does it? The dragonfly's still in place, and I don't think I'll embarrass Legolas looking like this, so everything is all right. So far, anyway." Drawing back, she took a deep breath. "You said it was ceilidh time now?"
"It is time." Elrond pushed back his sadness and summoned a smile he hoped was convincing enough to pass for real. Taking Ivy's hand, he squeezed it gently and placed it on his arm. "Walk with me, and I will take you to join Legolas."
Even if it is the last thing I wish to do, came the thought.
Darkness shrouded the old library, and the naked branches of Legolas' old oak beckoned like skeletal hands in the dark. Glancing down at his companion as they moved past, Elrond saw that however much the tree had alarmed Ivy a few hours before, she spared it not a single glance. Her attention was now firmly fixed on the doors leading to the old house, and he could feel her shiver with excitement as they paced along the corridor.
Suppressing a smile, he bent to murmur into her ear. "I suppose there would be no point in asking you to forego the ceilidh in favor of reading with me this night in the library?"
"I’d love to." She smiled up at him, and the excitement in her eyes told him the invitation was barely heard. "But I promised I’d be at the ceiligh. Another time, maybe?"
Elrond knew her reply, while polite, was entirely automatic. Already, she was far away from him. Legolas was nowhere in sight, but Elrond could feel his daughter straining for her first glimpse of him.
The corridor leading to the old hall looked as it always had and likely always would, for time did not touch this part of Legolas’ world.
Villagers' hands had shoved open the heavy doors, had lit torches in high wall sconces so that flickering flame danced on the ancient stone. The worn stones beneath Elrond's feet whispered at the slightest sound, echoing endlessly off the cold stone walls.
"Can you feel it?" Ivy whispered as they passed the threshold and entered what remained of ancient Ithilien.
"Feel what, daughter?"
Her fingers dug into his arm, he could feel her tremble harder. "How very old this place is. I didn't realize how worn down the stones are when I was in here before. And there are even more shadows now that there's actually some light in here. They crawl across the stone, and it's like you can almost hear and see the people who lived in here. See them moving out of the corner of your eye. Aragorn and Gimli walked over these same stones, didn't they? Helped wear them down?"
"They did, indeed."
Ivy jumped and gasped softly, and even Elrond was startled when Legolas stepped out of the darkness cloaking a shallow alcove. So silently did Legolas move, he might have been one of the shadows Ivy thought haunted the ancient hallways. Elrond knew at the end of that alcove was the original door leading into the house, a door that was now closed tight against the cold.
Legolas sneaks as well as ever. And he certainly makes a most dramatic entrance. Elrond bit back the temptation to voice the words out loud.
Much to Elrond's outrage, Legolas then slowly, blatantly looked Ivy over from the top of her braided hair to her slippered toes before locking his gaze into hers and offering a slow, satisfied smile. With teeth.
He looks entirely different when he smiles like that, thought Elrond with some alarm. Half predatory, half mischievous, and entirely untrustworthy. Why can Ivy not see this? And where did those dimples come from?
Legolas was openly grinning now, and his intensity touched Elrond through Ivy when she curled her fingers into his arm as a contented cat might curve its claws into the blanket beneath it. She was practically purring under the younger Elf's attention, and Elrond could barely refrain from growling and revoking the permission he'd granted for Ivy to accompany Lairg's laird this night.
"You are beautiful." The Mirkwood Elf's blue eyes held all sincerity.
She blushed at his words, then slid her hand down Elrond's arm to entwine her fingers with his. "It's still just me. Adar made me presentable."
Elrond noted she never took her eyes from Legolas.
"You're glowing again. Or still." Reaching out, Ivy ran her hand down the shining fall of blonde hair and boldly slipped her fingers beneath the heavy fall to cascade it over the Elf's shoulder.
Elrond was astonished when Legolas shivered but allowed the contact. Narrowing his eyes, he tried hard to see the tall, slender Elf as his daughter did.
As required this night, Legolas was attired in traditional, formal kilt attire which included black ghillie brogues with long laces wrapped about his legs and black kilt hose with the lairds' official crest at the top. Elrond well knew that the ceremonial sgian dubh with its plain bog-oak handle had been sharpened within an inch of its Damascus-steel life before Legolas had tucked it into the top of the hose on his right leg. The Elf-lord couldn't help but wonder if Legolas was also wearing a sgian achlais concealed under his armpit.
Most probably, Elrond decided. For whatever else this one is, Legolas has never been ill-prepared to defend himself or those he loves. Elbereth, please grant that neither weapon is needed this night as we manage Julien.
"You look good," said Ivy. Leaving Elrond's side, she walked a slow circle around Legolas, the better to see all parts of him. "Really good. Exactly like a proud Scottish laird should. Except for the pointed ears. But they also look really good on you."
Legolas gave her a slantwise, almost sly, look. "That is well, for almost everything is new except for the ears. Even the kilt, which my father assures me was hand-made for me with much care in Warra. The village women are scandalized that they were not allowed to make it themselves. They made Haldir's, you see?"
"That may be why Glorfindel was determined our tailors would make yours," said Elrond with some amusement, "for Haldir's kilt is known to ride up a fair bit in the back, especially when he bends over. That may well be the source of the village women's enjoyment of it."
Ivy looked confused, but Legolas nodded in what appeared to be solemn understanding. "Ah, so they would have a bit of sport with the old laird?"
"Definitely. However, I am certain that, if ever you have occasion to kneel, that kilt your father gave you will reach exactly to the prescribed one-quarter inch above the floor. Glorfindel ordered, supervised, and packed that ensemble himself."
"How kind of him to protect my...dignity...so." Legolas glanced down at his kilt as though only just seeing it, and surreptitiously noting where it fell against his thighs.
"Given the ongoing fuss Glorfindel made, I've no doubt he handed it over to you with a ceremony befitting the bestowal of a new set of long-knives."
"Oh no. This is merely a kilt, not my knives." Legolas' voice was reverential. "Nothing could equal my father's giving me my knives."
Ivy finally returned to Elrond's side and looked up at him. "Do you know what's written on Legolas' knives?"
He shook his head. "I neither read nor write Gondolic. This side of Valinor, unless Glorfindel or Legolas confides in you, only father and son can know what is etched there."
Legolas turned away at that point, and Elrond sensed he was beginning to tense visibly at the discussion of such a private matter. Legolas also began peering into the shadows as though watching for something. Or someone.
Or rescue, thought Elrond.
He was acutely aware of the moment his daughter picked up on that fact, for she began chewing on her bottom lip and began inching her way closer to Legolas. Almost, he could see the thoughts tumble in her mind as she cast about for a safer subject.
"So what color is your kilt?" she finally asked. "It's too dark in here for me to see it properly. Is it a clan tartan or does Lairg have a special one?"
Legolas looked back toward her and stared for a moment before taking a deep breath. Elrond had a moment to wonder if the Elf was even going to acknowledge his daughter's question. And then, much to Elrond’s surprise, Legolas relaxed. Visibly. He smiled and the dimples Elrond had never noticed before deepened, to make Legolas look almost childlike.
"It is the ancient Lairg tartan. Its thin stripes are black and gray," he said, following willingly and where Ivy chose to lead him. "The smaller squares are green and the larger ones blue."
"Those are the official Lairg tartan colors, then?"
Ivy's fingers twitched forward as if she wanted to touch the seal-skin sporran which fell exactly three finger-widths below the last button on Legolas' black jacket. She dropped her hand before Legolas grabbed her wrist to prevent her, but his wary look and faintly twitching fingers told Elrond that Legolas had been on the verge of doing just that.
It won't be long before he turns that sporran to lay more comfortably against his hip, Elrond mused. Easily out of reach of no doubt still-curious Queen's Daughter fingers.
Have a care, Ivy. For however attractive you may find this wildling - not to mention his unheard of willingness to sit still while you drew him - Legolas Glorfindelion will never be your plaything to examine or to undress.
In all fairness, I do not know the Elf who would tolerate any Queen's Daughter undressing him, by glance or by inches. Then again, Haldir might tolerate such things, he amended his judgment. During the summer-solstice ceilidh when the moon is full. Perhaps. If she were to flatter him in exactly the right way. And she resembled Galadriel. And brought wine.
After a moment’s consideration, Elrond took a step back, deciding to allow the scene to play out as it would between them. If they are to be such good friends as Ivy thinks, it is best they work such things out for themselves. She’ll soon learn.
"Your shirt's so white, it's almost blinding." Ivy sounded as if she approved. "And you've got French cuffs! That’s so elegant. Are you wearing cufflinks?"
"Legolas is no doubt wearing his ever-required Thistle-of-Lairg cufflinks," Elrond ventured. "Those fashioned by Elladan in the late nineteen hundreds."
"I am." He held up one arm so that Ivy might get a better glimpse and did not object when she fingered the cufflink in question. "You've seen the thistle before, as it's on all of the plates we eat off of. Including the ones we'll use tonight."
"Now there's a romantic image." She mock-sighed before brushing the tip of her finger over the delicate metalwork. "I'm sure Dan would appreciate your putting his work in its masticating place."
"I am wearing his creation, am I not?" Legolas sounded affronted, but his blue eyes were laughing.
"You're wearing a tuxedo, too." Ivy sounded as awestruck as any teenager. "At least on the top half. Strange combination, but it works. It looks very elegant."
"It is not a tuxedo," Legolas corrected gently, straightening the bottom of his open jacket. "It is a Prince Charlie jacket and vest."
He glanced down at the coatee which was similar to tails, but the jacket's tails extended only six inches from the top of the kilt, while the front just reached its top. The three buttons running down each side of the vest matched the six on the jacket, and all were etched metal also bearing the Thistle of Lairg.
"The tailors in Warra made this to fit my father as I was unavailable to them, but it fits me well enough, so they did a splendid job. Don't you agree, Lord Elrond?"
Elrond gave a solemn nod to counter the impish look on Legolas' face.
If Ivy wishes to discuss Scottish-Elven fashion, then Legolas and I will groom ourselves to patience and inform her, he thought.
"Your father quite cracked the whip to make sure they got it exactly right and finished everything on time."
Truth to tell, the Elves in Warra - some formerly of Lairg - knew all too well that every villager had certain expectations where their new laird was concerned, and that lasting opinions would be formed of him this night. Only Legolas' best was acceptable at the first formal meeting of the twenty-first century between the villagers of Lairg and the leader of their clan. Such a requirement was the only thing that could have forced the rebellious, free-spirited Legolas into what, to an outsider, might have appeared pompous as well as archaic in its formality.
"I think Glorfindel and your tailors got it exactly right," Ivy proclaimed. "I'm thoroughly convinced now that there's nothing like a sharp-dressed Scottish Elven laird."
"Then I am truly worthy of your accompanying me this night." Legolas offered his hand. "Shall we?"
Ivy shrank back against Elrond. "You're worthy? It's me who's unworthy to walk in with you. But I’m so grateful you've invited me. And if I look acceptable, it’s because of Adar. It’s his doing, all of it. I'm just grateful you knew how to make me presentable tonight." She cast a bright smile Elrond's way.
Ah, she remembers me still, even with that sharp-dressed, entirely too alluring Elven misfit about. So Legolas hasn't dazzled her so completely that I’m forgotten straight off. Encouraging, that.
Reaching for Legolas' hand, Ivy made to take it, but Elrond got there first. Intercepting her fingers, he cradled her hand in both of his before placing her hand carefully within Legolas'.
"Be gentle," he cautioned, closing Legolas' fingers gingerly around Ivy's and resting his hand over Legolas' for a moment. "Her hands have not yet healed completely."
His gaze held the younger Elf's for a long moment. As an afterthought, he added, in Sindarin, "Take care of her tonight. See to your duties as protector and laird, and let the rest of us deal with Julien."
"I will," Legolas answered in English. Giving a slight bow, he drew Ivy slowly away from her father and closer to his side, his gaze holding Elrond's in silent understanding.
Elrond skimmed his fingers down Ivy's hair and curled the ends of a shining red lock around his forefinger one last time. Stepping closer, he cradled the back of her head, smiled to reassure her, and bent to kiss her forehead.
"Enjoy yourself this night."
She frowned up at him. "Where are you going?"
"Where everyone else has already gone." Sweeping his arm grandly before him, Elrond indicated the entrance to the great hall further down the corridor. Loud voices and laughter bounced off of the stone walls. "The task of opening the doors to you and Legolas falls to Erestor and myself. Tonight, we all live to serve the laird of Lairg and his lady."
His robes billowed as he took his leave.
"But...but what about Julien?" Ivy asked with some bewilderment and no little alarm. Just in case, she tightened her grip on Legolas' hand.
"What of Julien?" Legolas scoffed. "You will be well-protected tonight, surrounded by no less than four Elven warriors. I daresay even Erestor would dive into any fight to protect you if the need arose. Which, it will not," he added on a growl.
Erestor passed by at that very moment and cast the two of them an inscrutable look, though it was plain he had heard the comment. Ivy did a double-take as she realized the Elven chef was dressed in his own formal, black robes that were more reminiscent of Professor Snape's severe, high-collared costume than the elegant raw-silk creations Elrond wore.
"With the inclusion of Erestor, that makes five Elven warriors," Legolas concluded.
"I'm not too sure about that," she said. "I didn’t hear any ‘count me in’ comments from him."
She peered round the corner and down the corridor to discover that Elrond had taken up residence at the far side of the double-doors leading into the great hall. He stood as serene as ever with his hands tucked inside his sleeves as Erestor joined him. Both Elf-lords nodded to her, and Elrond gave a reassuring smile.
"Come to it, I have no doubt he would be there," Legolas reassured her. "But it matters not. Julien will behave himself and your protectors will not be required to take action against him."
"If you say so."
A door behind Ivy moaned open. Cold air blasted her as she turned, and a shadow lurched inside. Standing taller than a man, the shadow was momentarily half-illuminated by the moonlight on the snow outside the door, and Ivy stumbled back against Legolas to see sharp appendages like strange antlers as high as the doorframe spiking up where its head should have been. The shadow stomped its feet and slammed shut the door by throwing itself against the heavy wood with a strange, inhuman moan.
Ivy's mind worked desperately to align past experience with the terrifying thing before her, to make some sense of what she was seeing. Panic filled her throat as her mind connected this sound with nothing but the velociraptors featured so gleefully in Jurassic Park.,
But they're extinct, aren't they? And they don't have antlers!
Even if it wasn't a velociraptor, some other carnivore had obviously gained entry to Castle Lairg, and the ink-black darkness not two feet away from the tips of her borrowed slippers had just swallowed up the creature.
"Wha?..." was all her paralyzed mind could manage, so she plastered herself to Legolas' side and clutched at him.
Some part of her was protesting, Don't hurt his beautiful gear! but another, much larger part of her was a gurgling mess of silent-screaming terror, reduced to mind-babbling because the Elven warrior beside her didn't seem the least bit concerned that an alien thing had just invaded his castle.
The creature wheezed and puffed at them for a moment before shifting its head and antlers. Ivy was shocked breathless when its first scream came. The high-pitched whistling with a discordant growl beneath it was deafening. It was also horrible, and she'd never heard anything so frightening in her life. The mountain lion’s scream back in Montana had been a lullaby compared to this shrieking.
The alien thing didn’t stop to draw breath. Ever. It set up an unintelligible whining, droning and squawking as if the Devil himself were molesting a deeply unhappy, if not hysterical, goose. And then it began to move again, pacing slowly and directly toward her, and the droning grew stronger and so did the squawking, until Ivy thought surely Elrond and the other fierce warriors Legolas had mentioned would come barreling around the corner, ready to slit the creature's throat and save everyone unfortunate enough to be caught within Lairg Castle's stone walls tonight. Because the sound was bouncing and rebounding off of the stone, creating its own eternal echoes, redoubling the power and terror of the sound.
How could they not notice this? Was it announcing its intention to eat them all and preferably alive because, well, that would make it hurt more, wouldn't it? And why, why was Legolas just standing there, doing nothing but staring with her into the darkness that was about to destroy them all?
Was it a loch monster? Lairg was nowhere near Loch Lomand and nobody had said anything about inviting another, generic loch monsters to the ceilidh, so maybe it was just crashing the party?
Ivy's heart was pounding at an unbelievable rate, and she couldn’t seem to draw breath, and she certainly couldn't think with that evil racket going on. The thing from hell wailed at her again, and Ivy's instincts said, Run!
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