Chapter 18 - Epilogue
"So this is where you have been hiding during the daytime."
Ivoreth didn't even start at the sound of her Grandfather's voice. "It's quiet up here," she answered without leaving off her study of the valley below.
"Yes, I know." He sat down next to her, and she could feel the weight of his gaze. "Your naneth worries about you, nethben. She says you are not eating again."
"I'm not hungry."
Grandfather Celeborn sat down next to her on the protruding rock. "I dare say you are, but that you have convinced yourself otherwise. This is not healthy, little daughter."
Ivoreth struggled with her tears. She had managed to put off any "talks" with her Ada or Nana; they made certain she knew that she could come to them for comfort or advice, but hadn't pushed themselves into her grief now anymore than they had when she was recovering from Daren's death. Grandfather Celeborn, however, was an unknown quantity. He was certainly reeling from Grandmother's leaving - after all, they had been married for longer than Gondor had even been around. How he was able to continue on, Ivoreth was utterly unable to understand.
And then he was lifting her up onto his lap and into his embrace. "Do not hide your grief from those who love you, little one. We are all having to find ways to continue on in life with so many gone from us; you would find much understanding..."
"But you knew them so much longer - it must be harder for you. I thought maybe if I would stay here for a while, until..." she began.
"Sweetling, you loved your Grandfather Elrond and Grandmother very much, and I know you were close to both Erestor and Lindir; and it is the amount of love you bore them that will determine the depth of your grief, not the number of days you knew them." He tucked her head beneath his chin. "And you know very well that if any of them were to catch you up here, not having eaten for days, they would be quite put out with you."
Ivoreth buried her face in her Grandfather's suede tunic. He was right; neither Grandfather Elrond nor Grandmother would have allowed her to continue on this way for long without a talking-to. Master Erestor would simply have taken her in hand and dragged her off to the kitchen, and most likely Lindir would have started sneaking her small sweets as a bribe to at least eat something. Oh, she missed them!
"Do you remember the jewel that I gave to you before you left Lothlórien?"
She nodded and put a hand to her chest to feel for the little lump beneath her gown.
"Do you remember how I told you that jewel was to be used?"
Again she nodded, now curious and listening closely.
"Taking time to find a private place for your grief is to be expected, Ivoreth; but withdrawing from life itself is not. Since it is so easy to get as lost in grief as one can get in a strange place surrounded by those you don't know, I would think that holding the jewel and remembering those who are gone will eventually become another good way to find and touch the love they had for you again." He kissed the top of her head. "So do not think that I am telling you never to return to this place to mourn. Indeed, after my daughter sailed, I know Elrond spent many hours up here."
Grandfather nodded. "There was a time I feared for him, too. Like you, he did not eat, and he did not sleep well either for a very long time. So, you see, you are not alone; not now, and never again. We all grieve in our own ways, Ivoreth. "
That makes sense.
"And it is up to those around us who love us to make certain we do not dwell overmuch in it to the point that it becomes a danger. There will come a time, I promise you, when you will be doing just as I am now: making certain that someone you love doesn't harm themself in the process of mourning."
Ivoreth gave a very deep sigh. She couldn't see that far ahead in her life, couldn't imagine being in a position of being the one to offer comfort rather than need to have it offered to her. Still, perhaps it wouldn't be so bad if she could be there for someone else as Grandfather Celeborn was being there for her right now. She snuggled in closer and relaxed against him.
They sat together for a long time, letting the silence become a comfort. Ivoreth knew that he was hurting too - how could he not be - but she would ask him no questions, knowing how much having to answer hurt her. She nestled against him and listened to the steady thud of his heart beating beneath her ear as she looked back out over the valley. The beautiful valley of Imladris - her home. And then, finally, the tears came; silent tears that didn't hurt as much as sooth in the shedding. Grandfather's arms tightened just a little bit more about her; and she wasn't certain, but she thought perhaps his own breathing grew a little ragged for a while too.
Finally, however, he gave her a squeeze and then loosened his hold on her. "Come now. It is almost time for the evening meal, and your naneth will be frantic if you do not at least try to eat something. Life must continue, little daughter. The song of the One has not finished for you yet; do not betray the faith the One has in you by refusing to sing it."
Grandfather set her back on her feet and then rose in front of her. "Will you do me the honor of allowing me to escort you to dinner, nethben?"
Ivoreth looked up into those deep, ageless eyes that held so much sadness and love and compassion, and she nodded as she put her hand in his. Like him, she had lost; but she had him to lean on, even as, it seemed, he had her. And they both had Ada and Elrohir and Celebriel and Raini. They were still a family; smaller, yes, but still there and still strong for each other.
"Let's go home, daerada."
"That's my girl!"
daerada - grandpa (neo-Sindarin)
naneth - mother
nethben - little one
A/N: I would like to thank my repeat reviewers for their consistent support and encouragement: Lady Ambreanna, ., Song in the woods, Ainu Laire, diamond aka fairy246, Macheil, Mysterious Jedi, ErraticPerfectionist, sparkalie, ValadhielofRivendell, Kat5643, Jay of Lasgalen, Oleanne, and Lady Akyrial. Without folks like you, writing would be a much lonelier process.
Yes, folks, there will be a sequel to this. However, I'm going to try to lighten my load of current WIPs before then. I currently have six novel-length pieces at various degrees of being done. However, I do have one genuinely finished and ready to begin next week, so…
Thank you again for your kind attention. And thank you to those who may not have reviewed, but did read. I hope that my story entertained.