Arwen sat in the attic in Rivendell and cried. She huddled near a small window that was full of swirling snow. The eight-year-old elf wiped her face on her green velvet sleeve and stared out at the landscape of the family garden that she could just make out from this height. The smooth wooden floor was cool to sit on and she could see her breath slightly in the air before her mouth. The attic was her favorite place to be alone because it was so little visited by others, save the occasional cleaner. Her brothers had found the attic useful as well as Arwen had found some of their drawings and toys in a small chest.
Arwen dropped her head again to her knees. The last few days had been nothing more than a series of disasters for her. She had not only lost Cimbelin, her favorite doll and a much treasured gift from her grandmother in far Lorien, but she had spilled a pot of ink all over her handwriting sample that she had worked on for weeks. It had been intended as a gift for her Grandfather and Grandmother when they came to Rivendell for Yule. Her plans had been to give it to them right before the ceremony in which all the elves of Rivendell lit candles in their homes and rooms and then went outside holding candles aloft through out the whole of Imladris. It took place at midnight on the shortest day of the year to show that even in the dark of winter, warmth and light and family shone forth and was stronger than the dark. Afterwards there was usually ice gliding on the Bruinen and the fishpond and on the lake above the house. And lots of singing of course and feasting.
And gift giving too.
The holiday was ruined. All her gifts had come to naught. Naneth's clay swan had broken a wing. Ada's starburst broach, which she had made from gold wire with the help of the House metal smith, Gryndinal, had been crushed when she knocked it off her study table and accidentally stepped on it. She had even made the twins matching candleholders from dywern wood, but one of them had fallen from the shelf in her wardrobe and snapped in two. She couldn't give one to Elladan and not give one to Elrohir.
Everything was ruined. And there were only two days until Yule.
Noticing that the light was fading into the early winter twilight, the elf child got up from the floor and made her careful way back down the narrow stairs to her room, two floors below. She needed to tidy up before dinner.
As she changed from her play dress into something more suitable for dinner, she heard a tapping at her window. Turning, she went over to the frosted pane and looked out. Would one of her brothers be out in this weather up in the apple tree to tease her?
But no one was there. She rubbed the glass to see more clearly and then she noticed it. A small bird, brightly feathered in red and blue sat huddled on the windowsill. She watched as it pecked at the glass. Wondering why the bird did so, Arwen stepped back and then noticed the basket of midwinter berries and flowers that Naneth had brought her the other day.
The bird must see the berries and be hungry!
Quickly unlatching the window to invite the bird in, it flitted a few feet away into the bare branches of the apple tree.
"Come on little one. Do not be afraid. All the cats are safe in the barns. You can come in here and be warm." Arwen held out her hand singing softly as she had seen her father do on occasion in the family garden. He would call the house sparrows and linnets to his hand who would then boldly eat seeds from his palm. Naneth could do it too, but Arwen found she did not have the patience to hold still long enough for the birds to overcome their fear.
She stood very still, ignoring the sharp wind and cold, but the unusually colored bird would not come to her outstretched hand.
The sound of the dinner bell broke her concentration and she realized she would have to go. Disappointed, Arwen closed the window. Brushing the snow off her gown, she turned and went to join her family in the main dining hall.
As she entered, she noticed that though the rest of the family was at the high table, Ada was not in his customary chair. One of the servers pulled out her chair and she clambered onto the soft pillows (which gave her enough height to be even with the other diners). She looked at Elrohir who was pouring mead for himself and Elladan.
"Where is Ada, Elorhir?"
Celebrian spoke up from around her youngest son. "Ada and Glorfindel had to attend to an emergency out on the East Road Arwen. Some travelers can go no further this night because of the snow."
Arwen nodded and held out her glass for some mead. Elrohir filled her glass a third full and then diluted it with water. Finished, he set the ewer down and then got Arwen a roll, which he buttered for her and then set it on her plate. "Anything else little bird?"
Arwen bristled at being called little. She hated being the youngest elf in the House. Everything was too high or too heavy. She could do things herself.
But the dinner table was no place to start an argument, something her parents had impressed on all of them.
Elrohir took her wooden bowl and passed it to his mother who filled it with rich venison soup from the tureen before her.
Arwen took the bowl carefully from Elrohir and set it before her. Sighing, she stared into the fragrant steam. Slowly she dipped in her spoon and took a tentative sip. It was not too hot and soon she was eating eagerly. But her mind was on the poor bird outside her window.
While Elrohir de-boned her trout, her father joined them, silently kissing Celebrian on the head as he slipped into his chair. He was immediately served mead and soup by two attentive elves.
Arwen wiggled in her seat anxious to ask her father about the emergency and wishing Elrohir was a bit faster with the trout.
Finally the bones were gone and Arwen could eat. But before she did, she leaned around her brother. "Ada! Ada where have you been? What happened on the East Road? Did the people get frozen?"
Elrond smiled as he set his goblet down. "Well my Undomiel a small group of elves returning from the Grey Havens had trouble in the snow. Their horses were unable to plow through the drifts and this storm made it hard for the animals to see their way. Two of the horses were injured when one slipped and fell on another horse and slid down an embankment with their riders. No one got frozen however."
"Will the horses be all right Ada?"
"Cerwal is seeing to them. They should be fine with a little rest and a chance to heal."
Arwen fell silent and then realized something. She could not remember anyone leaving for the Havens, so who had gone to the Havens and returned?
"Ada! Where are these elves from?"
"They are returning to King Thranduil's Hall in Mirkwood."
"Mirkwood." Arwen stared down at the slightly steaming heap of trout. She had never met any elves from the dark mysterious wood to the east of them. Her parents did not speak often of Mirkwood or the elves therein. Her brothers, however, had always spoke with great relish about the giant spiders there that could be hunted there for sport. Arwen shivered. "Are they coming to dinner?" Arwen looked about the Hall but did not see any strangers. Maybe they had hunted spiders too.
"Two of their party are injured Arwen and the rest are cold and weary from their efforts to rescue the others. Now enough questions. Finish your supper."
Elrohir took a moment to ruffle her hair. "You are certainly an inquisitive bird this evening, Arwen."
"I am not a bird Elrohir and stop mussing my hair."
"Forgive me, my lady."
Celebrian said mildly, "That is enough Elrohir."
Dinner was finished in quiet.
But while the other elves ate and talked in low voices, Arwen was consumed by curiosity. Elves from Mirkwood! She couldn't wait to see them!
When finally the Evening Song of Thanksgiving had been sung, Arwen asked breathlessly "May I be excused Naneth, Ada?"
Her parents nodded their heads and in moments Arwen had climbed out of her chair and rushed from the Hall headed to her father's surgery.
The door to her father's study was closed, which usually indicated privacy was wanted. Biting her lip, Arwen knocked lightly and turned the handle. Her father's surgery was just to the right. Glorfindel looked around the tall cabinet doors covering her father's medical supplies. "Yes Arwen?"
"Glorfindel! Who got hurt? I want to see the elves from Mirkwood! I have never seen any elves from Mirkwood. Do they look like us? Are their ears pointed? Do they---"
An elf came out of the recovery room carrying a small bundle of clothing. He looked much like Glorfindel, tall, blond and dark-eyed. And was definitely not a member of her Household.
Looking at the two adults Arwen burst out "Are you from Mirkwood?"
He nodded. "I am. You must be the Lady Arwen. I am Fhelast of Thranduil's Hall."
Arwen curtseyed and tried to peer around the two adults. "Who got hurt? Can I see them? Do they need me to sing a song or help them drink one of Ada's medicines?" She couldn't help herself from making a face.
The two adults laughed. "Young Legolas is asleep, my lady. Perhaps when he awakens?"
"King Thranduil's heir, Arwen."
"His father sent him on his first visit to the Havens." Fhelast explained. "We had hoped to be home by Yule, but harsh weather slowed us at every turn."
"Oh…poor prince. His Ada and Naneth and his brothers and sisters will miss him so." Saddened by her thoughts, Arwen ran and grasped Glorfindel soft gold velvet robe and crowded against his rock hard thigh. He put a gentle hand on her head. "Well, we shall do what we can to make his Yule bright."
At that moment Elrond entered, pausing by the door as he saw Arwen. "My love, what are you doing here?"
"Ada, Glorfindel and Fhelast say the poor prince is hurt! And he can't get home and he will miss Yule with his family and…" Arwen rushed from Glorfindel to her father who picked her up. She immediately turned her face to hide her tears in the long dark curtain of her father's hair.
She heard the low rumble of his voice as she calmed down. "Is all well with Legolas and Sana?"
Glorfindel answered as he closed the cabinet doors. "Both are sleeping, my lord."
Elrond silently entered the recovery room and showed the sniffling Arwen the small form in the bed. The young elf's pleasant face was warmed by the large candle that would burn steadily through the night. The other patient, an adult elf, whose head was thickly bandaged, lay in the next bed.
Admonishing her to be quiet, Elrond went and checked on his patients, laying a hand briefly on each one's forehead to insure their sleep was peaceful.
In moments, he took Arwen by the hand and the two elves left the room. Glorfindel and Fhelast looked at him inquiringly as he re-entered the study. "It is as you say, the prince and Sana are sleeping peacefully. The morning will tell us more."
The two adults bowed slightly to Elrond and left.
Arwen yawned and dipped her face against her father's hip. He picked her up again. "Time for you to sleep as well, my little sparrow."
She yawned again and said quietly, "Will you sing to me Ada?"
"Of course, Arwen."
"Earendil's Sailing Song?"
"If that is your wish."
The tall elf began humming the song as he walked along, holding Arwen close.
In a few minutes the elf lord and his little one had entered her room. Smiling at her sleeping face, he laid her on her bed and undressed her. Finding her nightdress on the bottom of her wardrobe, he walked carefully about her blocks and wooden animals and re-dressed her. Tucking her in, he lit her night candle and singing a night blessing, he left the room.
The wind's mournful howl woke the little she-elf hours later. Biting her lip she cowered beneath her blankets and debated about running to her parent's suite just down the hall. But only babies did that.She needed to be brave. Moonlight glowed softly in her room as the clouds raced before the wind over the Misty Mountains. Arwen drawn by the silvery light, went to her window and stared at the sparkle of snow and ice on the apple tree and the icicles hanging from the roof line. With a start, she noticed that the red and blue bird was huddled against her window again. She watched it intently and realized with an in rush of breath that the bird was not moving. It was covered with a light dusting of snow. Opening her window carefully, she leaned around the casement and tried to reach the tiny form. Her arms were just too short. Thinking furiously she straightened. It wouldn't do to wake Ada or her brothers for the bird. She would never hear the end of it from the twins and Ada, well, he had actually looked rather tired at dinner.
Being a healer did that to him.
Glancing at the sparkling apple tree branches, she realized that the branch closest to her window would allow her to reach the bird. Running to her wardrobe, she hunted about until she found her pair of leather trews that she was allowed to wear when she went riding or hunting with the family. Pulling them on under her nightdress, Arwen climbed out of the window and onto the apple tree branch, hissing a bit at the cold as her hands grasped the icy wood. She inched along the branch until she got opposite the tiny feathered form. Leaning out, she edged further until her fingers touched the cold bird. Moving a bit more she was able to get her hand around the bird and take its unresisting body with her. Sliding back on the branch, she took a moment to tuck the bird inside her nightdress so she would have both hands free to navigate back to her room.
Safe at last, Arwen jumped down and quickly latched the window behind her. With a loud howl the wind moaned once more about the eves of the House on its lonely way to the East.
Gently taking the bird from out of her nightdress, Arwen took it near her night candle and looked at it closely. It looked like a cross between a robin and a sparrow, save for its blue breast and body, red topknot and wings. Arwen kissed the bird softly and finding a one of Cimbelin's blankets, she wrapped it loosely around the bird and then set it on her pillow. Taking off her trews which she left on the floor, she got back carefully into bed and laying close to the bird, she watched it intently until she fell asleep.
The next morning, Arwen rolled over yawning. The sun was shining thinly through high clouds. With a start, the young elf remembered the little bird. She unwrapped the cloth, but nothing was there! Arwen looked wildly about the room and as she did, suddenly a clear trill of bird song came from over by her window. There was the little blue and red bird, perched among the red berries and flowers. She could see he or she had eaten several. Clapping her hands, Arwen went to her wardrobe and hastily got out of her nightdress and pulled on a warm woolen gown of soft blue.
There was a knock on her door and in a moment, her father stuck his head around. "Are you coming to breakfast Arwen?"
Running to him, she leapt in his welcoming arms. "Ada, look! I rescued a bird! It was frozen outside on the window ledge and I saved it! I am a healer just like you!" Elrond looked over her head at the bright colored bird now preening itself on a bare hawthorn branch Celebrian had included in the winter arrangement she had put in Arwen's room for Yule. It was an unusual looking bird.
"It is a beautiful bird my love. I shall have to look in the library to see if I can discover what kind of bird it is. I have not seen one like it. Certainly not here in the North. It looks more like something from Far Harad."
"It is not far now Ada. It is in my room."
"Of course. Let us go have breakfast and then perhaps if he is up to it, you can meet Prince Legolas."
Arwen hugged her father hard. Today was certainly going to be better than the last several days.
As her father set her down, though still holding her right hand, Arwen thought about Yule again. It was one more day away. And she had no presents for anyone now. Her shoulders slumped a bit at the thought. She would have to think of something.
Breakfast was in her parent's suite near the fireplace in their parlor. Occupied with thoughts of Yule, she missed her mother's question.
"Nana? I am sorry, I did not hear you. My thoughts were wandered off."
Celebrian smiled, "I asked what you planned to do today?"
"Well, I want to talk to Prince Legolas because I have never met a prince. Does he have a crown Ada? Did he bring it with him? Will he put it on if I ask politely?"
Her parents laughed and Elladan spoke up around a grin. "I don't imagine he has it with him Arwen. A crown is only for very formal occasions."
"Or to impress people." Added Elrohir.
"Oh, I don't think he can press people. He has a broken arm I think.'
Elrond spoke up. "A broken wrist, a slight concussion and a rather nasty scrape down his left leg."
"Poor prince! Well it does not matter he does not have his crown with him, I shall talk to him anyway."
"I am sure he will appreciate that Arwen. If you have finished your breakfast, you can come with me to the recovery room."
Arwen hastily finished her milk, which formed a mustache above her upper lip. Her mother took her napkin and softly dabbed at her face. Dodging the offending cloth, Arwen hopped off her chair and looked at her father expectantly. With a grin, Elrond stood and going over to Celebrian, bent and kissed her, taking his time. Celebrian raised a hand to his cheek.
"Oh Ada, do you have to kiss Nana all the time?"
Everyone laughed, and with a brief heated look at his wife, the elf lord took his daughter's hand and left his suite.
Erestor passed them as they neared Elrond's study. Stopping the elf said, "The Lord and Lady of the Golden Wood have sent a message by snow owl. They shall be here this evening, barring any more bad weather."
Elrond chuckled. "It would not dare delay Galadriel!"
Erestor smiled in return and bowing slightly, went on his way.
Arwen danced around her father, clearly delighted with the news. "I cannot wait to see them! Why I have not seen Daernaneth and Daeradar in well, since I was a baby!"
"At least that long." Elrond agreed as he pushed open the door to his study. Arwen rushed past him and went to the recovery room. She clapped her hands and turned to her father who was opening the doors to his medical cabinet. "He is awake Ada!" She ducked into the room and hopped up on to the edge of the bed.
Legolas hissed at the sharp stab of pain from his wrist. "Well you could have least come in quietly. This is not a play room." The little prince glowered at her. Arwen about to say something hot in return saw his eyes were suspiciously moist. She got off the bed slowly and stepped away. "I am so sorry my lord." Backing up, she bumped into her father, who carrying a tray, stepped around her smoothly and went to the prince's bedside. Noticing his eyes, Elrond looked quickly at his daughter and then lay a hand on the prince's forehead. Legolas blinked quickly a few times and then relaxed back down into the pillows as the elf lord's healing energy eased his hurt.
"Ada, I am sorry I jumped on the bed too hard. I didn't mean to."
"Legolas has several hurts sweetheart, he cannot take too much movement right now." He beckoned to her. "Come let me introduce you formally."
Arwen took his hand and whispered fiercely "But he doesn't have his formal crown Ada."
Smiling, he pulled Arwen close to Legolas' right side and said softly, "Legolas Thranduilion, meet Arwen Undomiel, my daughter."
Arwen biting her lip, curtseyed very properly.
Legolas taking a deep breath sat up carefully and bowed from the waist.
"Oh am so sorry you are hurt Legolas! And that you won't be able to be home for Yule. I promise I will not jump on your bed again."
The prince's eyes grew watery again and his lower lip trembled. "I shall manage quite well, I am sure. I have been alone before." He lifted his wet lashes up to the healer. "And I have been told your father is a great healer."
"Oh yes, he is the best in all of Middle Earth. He can save any one---"
"Arwen, that is quite enough. I need to examine Legolas to see how he is doing. If you will wait in the study?'
Sighing deeply she nodded, "Yes Ada." She looked around and saw the other bed was empty. Gasping she pulled on her father's mauve robe. "But Ada where is Sana? Did he die? You could not save him?"
"No, no my love, Sana is not dead. He has been moved to another room. He needs complete quiet and not the chatter of little ones."
Nodding slowly Arwen stepped away from her father and left the room. She jumped on the couch that stretched beneath the big glass window that overlooked the valley. It was a beautiful sight this morning, sparkling and glistening with new snow and ice. It would be perfect sledding weather, perhaps she could convince one of the twins to accompany her because her parents had firmly told her no excursions without another elf with her. Then she sat heavily and turned to face the room. But poor Legolas. He would be stuck in bed and wouldn't be able to go sliding or sledding or anything. And he needed a gift! He might have to face Yule without his family, but certainly he couldn't have Yule without a gift.
To be continued