Chapter 6: The Ward of Imladris
Three months went by since I'd been made the Ward of Imladris. Barely any time at all for the elves, but for me it seemed like an eternity.
Nothing had come back. Not a single whispered memory or fragmented thought from before I'd woken in that sodding cave. Not since I'd dug up that one name that made no sense from my scrambled memories. Not even my irritating second personality had been much help even though she'd been appearing in my dreams nearly every night.
I had quickly decided to dub her "Tink" — for Tinkerbell, the angry little fairy from my all time favourite Disney movie: Peter Pan. She'd accepted the condescending nickname with about as much grace as a velociraptor, but at least it got her attention. I was getting really sick of having to mentally shout 'Oi! Obnoxious split personality!' whenever I needed her attention.
I had managed to keep Tink's existence from Lord Elrond so far, and as promised he was helping me as best he could — both in recovering my lost memories and adjusting to life among the elves. Once every week I would visit his study, and he would spend hours helping me focus, trying to dig up what memories I could salvage from the shadowiest parts of my mind.
So far the only things I'd managed to scrape up were dark flickers of figures, places and words that were too shadowy or too quiet to be anything other than frustrating.
Patience, he preached. They would come in time.
Patience, my foot. I doubted a couple of months even registered as time at all when you were older than the New Testament. Regardless of what reassurance the elf lord gave me, regardless of the fact that I was technically an amnesia suffering she-elf now; I was still a twenty-two-year-old university student in spirit. Patiences had never been one of my virtues.
But where my luck with recovering my memories was frustratingly non existent, life outside my head as the Ward of Imladris seemed like a never ending landslide of new experiences.
I was moved out of the infirmary the morning after my meltdown Lord Elrond's office, and was given my own modest but utterly beautiful room overlooking the gardens. From my small balcony I had a panoramic view of the entire valley and waterfalls running under the house. When I'd finally mustered the courage to venture down into the massive gardens, I'd seen someone I'd almost fallen over a bench in shock upon recognising.
Bilbo Baggins of the Shire.
He was difficult to miss at 3'2, brass buttons on his waistcoat, humming happily to himself and pottering around the rose bushes with his pipe. He'd introduced himself and offered to help me up when I did fall over at realising who I was seeing. It had been easy as breathing talking with him after that, Embarrassing falls made for a great ice breaker.
He was far more friendly and far less grumpy that my childish memories of 'The Hobbit' had lead me to believe. We'd chatted for hours that first day, and regularly repeated the routine for many days after — minus my awkward face-plant into the magnolias.
Aragorn returned to visit regularly; still as stoic and intimidating as ever, but I was still happy to have his company. I'd tell him about what I'd been up to since we last spoke, and he'd ask short and pointed questions, making sure that I wasn't causing problems for Lord Elrond or any of the staff. He even suggested that I asked one of the sword masters to teach me some basics, since I was becoming obvious that I was going a bit crazy with restlessness. Well, more crazy that usual.
It was nice to have someone who cared enough to check up on me, and I dare say he was even stating to enjoy our little chats.
He even smiled, once.
And then he'd gone and introduced me to Elladan and Elrohir — twin sons of Lord Elrond, and elder brothers to Arwen.
I'd always been under the impression that elves were all meant to be serene, subtle and mysterious creatures. That illusion had been masterfully shattered when Elladan's first words to me had been; "Manwë's breath, you are tiny!" That had been followed swiftly by a long series of pestering questions about myself, my life at Rivendell, my lessons, and a lot of playful jibes about my height. I could have sworn I'd seen Aragorn biting his tongue to keep from laughing at me. It was like being back in school again.
They'd even given me a nickname. Well, I couldn't tell if it was meant as just a nickname or something bordering on mockery, but ever since Elrohir had said it one night at dinner while merrily jesting about my small stature, it had stuck.
"Míwen" — roughly translating to "small lady" in Sindarin. Even in a fantasy realm I was still the butt of the 'vertically challenged' gag. Life just wasn't fair.
It was true though, at just 5'3 I was unusually small for a she-elf; though no less graceful than one Arwen assured me, but I was pretty sure she said out of pity than truth. I had light-footedness that could make a professional ballerina turn green, but I still stumbled and fell over during my introductory classes in sword fighting. All of my senses were sharper that what I could have imagined as a human, but I still found I got easily distracted and ended banging my head on thing's I'd walked into. There was no escaping it. Nothing I did ever seemed to be quite perfect enough to match the elves.
The more time I spent among them, the more obvious it became that I was still human in everything but body.
Despite all that, I was always made to feel welcome in Elrond's house. Any questions I had, were answered. Any activity I wished to partake in, I was welcomed to (no matter how catastrophically bad I was at it). I'd been trying to quell my boredom like that for weeks. So far, I'd achieved little more than mastering the art of playing 'Smooth Criminal' by Michael Jackson on the elvish harp.
The one new skill I was proud to have flourished in was — weirdly — the art of wielding elvish knives. The weapon had been suggested to me after a particularly awful swordplay lesson with Glorfindel, in which I had almost severed three of my fingers. I had thrown down my blade in frustration, taken the apple I had brought for my lunch and had thrown it over fifty feet. It had sailed across the gardens, flew straight over the head of an unsuspecting scholar, and down a squirrel hole half way up a cedar tree.
After that, I had abandoned swordplay altogether, and had happily assumed instruction in wielding a set of small but lethal elvish throwing daggers. And damn, for the first time since I'd come to Arda, I was actually good at something.
Shortly after that, one other uplifting discovery occurred.
I found that, though my novice level Sindarin elvish was truly appalling, I was somehow able to read Tengwar script perfectly. I'd run frantically to Lord Elrond's study upon discovering it, babbled hysterically with excitement for about a minute, and then run straight off to the library. I refused to leave for three whole days, and Lord Elrond being the well humoured elf lord he was; had my meals sent up to where I'd all but buried myself in books and scrolls.
It was a gradual thing, my adjustment to life in Rivendell, but it was happening.
I found that the more I listened and watched the other elves, the faster I learned how to at least act like I belonged. Sometimes it even felt like I did belong — as if I wasn't really being taught much at all, only very slowly reminded of things I already knew, but had left untouched for so long that they'd withered away.
There was just one little problem…
"None of the memories have come back?" Bilbo asked me one afternoon over a pot of freshly brewed tea. We'd sat in our usual meeting spot in the gardens; right next to the magnolia bush I'd fallen into on my first day.
"No." I confirmed morbidly, blowing on my steaming cup to cool it down, "I know all these things, but I don't know how I know them. I know how to read Tengwar and throw knives the same way I know how to tie a bow or write my name. I don't think about it, it just happens."
Bilbo gave me a speculative look and chewed thoughtfully on his pipe, "Perhaps they just need more time to surface? Lord Elrond himself keeps saying that maladies of the mind take the longest to heal."
"I know, but if it was only a matter of time, don't you think I should have remembered something by now? Anything? I've been here for months and I still can't even remember what my name was." I reasoned, trying to keep the frustration from my voice, "Just that one other name that makes no sense."
"Rávamë." Bilbo echoed quietly, nodding in recollection and puffing out a perfect smoke ring. I'd told him pretty much everything that had happened in Elrond's study on my first day in Rivendell — sans my status as Arda's latest illegal immigrant. He hadn't ever really been able to do anything to help, but he had always been willing to dish out advice, "No luck scouring the library for clues then?"
"No, there's no record I can find of that name ever being used in the library genealogy records, and I went back four thousand years." I grumbled, "I found about two hundred Bainthaurwen's, fifty Rivaleth's, even two Rythredis's. But no Rávamë."
"Perhaps not a person's name at all, but the name of a place? A city maybe?"
"Nope, I checked that too. Three times. No dice." I just shook my head and stared dismally down into my tea.
Bilbo gave me a gentle pat on my shoulder and uplifting smile that reminded me of my dad, "Don't loose hope yet, Miss Eleanor, I'm sure they will return someday."
He was right of course, but that wasn't really what was getting to me the most at the moment. The homesickness was what was really eating at me. If I didn't occupy myself with something, anything, I started to think of home.
And thinking of home hurt.
Three months of trying and failing to distract myself from that pain had been more than enough. I was sick of hurting. I was sick of being sad. I was sick of feeling hopeless. But more than anything, I was sick of sitting around feeling sorry for myself.
"No more tears." I commanded myself right after my meltdown in Lord Elrond's study, "If I've got time to sit around and cry, I've got time to get up and do something productive."
The only problem was, there didn't seem to be anything productive for me to do.
Finding something to do in Rivendell other than playing music, read, or drink endless cups of tea with Bilbo was a bit like trying to find an ice-cream truck in the desert. Everything was pristine and perfect, and always being attended to. From the Hall of Fire, to the waters gardens, everything was immaculately kept and no help was required in keeping it that way. I'd offered to help anyway, but the appalled looks I'd been given for offering to help in the kitchens had been humiliating.
I was the Ward of Imladris, they'd told me, horrified, a lady under Lord Elrond's protection. They could never have allowed me be seen doing dishes or scrubbing floors, no matter how much I might have begged. And I did beg. Honestly, If this kept up, I was going to have to resort to something drastic…
" 'My mind rebels at stagnation, give me problems, give me work!' (1) " I mumbled a quote from one of my favourite mystery novels back on Earth. "I feel your pain Holmes. At this rate I might reduced to shooting the words 'Victoria Regina' into the library wall too."
Bilbo gave me a sympathetic smile that was laced with pity, even though I knew he head no idea what I'd just said. Meh, I was used to being looked at like I was one glow-stick short of a rave by now anyway. He patted my shoulder kindly, and we both just sat for a while, sipping our tea in a pensive but companionable silence. "A wise old wizard once told me 'the world is not in your books and maps, it's out there.'" He said after a while, " Perhaps that is your problem."
I turned to look at him with my eyebrows raised, my tea forgotten, "What do you mean?"
"Maybe you need to stop worrying so much about who you were before, rummaging through all those books in the library looking for answers, and focus more on who you are now. Maybe if you just let yourself just be you, the memories will come back of their own accord."
I thought about that for a moment. Could it really be that simple? All this time had I been trying to be someone else, and that was what was keeping me from remembering? I had no idea who I was supposed to be in this world, so up until now I'd been trying to dig up my elvish past with what I'd seen the over elves doing. Music, arts, and rifling through endless scrolls and book for clues. I'd kept trying because I'd hoped that it might eventually stir up something — throwing as much as I could against the wall to see what stuck.
But nothing had, because I'd never really had any interest in any of those things. I'd never really stopped to think about what I wanted.
I'd been digging for answers in the wrong place.
"Miss Eleanor?" Bilbo leaned forwards to peer curiously at me. Before he knew what was happening, I'd taken his face in both my hands and planted a big kiss on the top of his curly head. His face turned an impressive shade of magenta and I grinned at him.
"Bilbo Baggins, you're a pint sized genius! You've just given me an idea!"
With that, I jumped up and raced off towards the main house, leaving Bilbo sitting there staring after me with a baffled sound of, "Shall I finish your tea then?"
"You want to be trained as a healer?" Lord Elrond asked in both a confused and surprised voice. He was staring at me over his desk with a look I couldn't really read. Probably because I'd just come charging into his office without bothering to knock first.
"Yes! I mean… Mae. G-goheno nin, Im—.*" I tried to remember how to say the phrases in elvish, since Lord Elrond had insisted I practice every time we had our meetings. This time he interrupted me with a quick wave of his hand and a faintly pained look. I couldn't blame him. I'd cringe too if I heard someone butchering my native tongue that brutally.
"Do not feel obliged to force your Sindarin, child. I see you are upset." He said gently, clasping his hands to rest on the desktop, "Tells me why this idea has suddenly occurred to you."
I hesitated before speaking again, trying to think of the best way of putting what I was feeling into words. Then I realised that trying to stick to a script here wasn't going to do any good, so I decided to just wing it.
"When I was human, running till I was too tired to think used to be my way of relieving stress. Now I can run an uphill marathon through the valley without stopping and barely get tired at all. I can read in the library for hours, but I'm not allowed to help do anything around the house. I've been sitting around waiting for something to happen for three months, and it's driving me insane." I explained, wringing my hands together to keep them occupied.
Elrond's thick dark eyebrows furrowed together as he observed me, his faint worry lines deepening in confusion, "You have a very restless mind, Élanor. Under your circumstances, it is perfectly normal to that you would feel this way. Though I fail to see why you think becoming a healer might help. I've told you, there is nothing more that can be done to hasten recovery of your memory."
"It's not the memories I'm worrying about… or at least not entirely." I replied quickly, edging instinctively towards the desk while I flailed to find the right words, "I feel… useless. I've been here for months and I still have no answers, no purpose, nothing to do except pour over endless books or throw knives at a target. Don't get me wrong, you've been kind to shelter me, and it's beautiful here. But I just feel like I need something more to work towards; more than improving my grammar at least."
I realised I was rambling, and cleared my throat, embarrassed, "I know it's asking a lot, but I… I do want to be taught to become a healer. Really. I've been studying a lot, and I want to learn more than just what I can read from old scrolls and books in the library. So I… what I suppose I'm asking is, will you agree to teach me?"
For a long time Elrond just stared into my face. I'd become used to the long pauses in our conversations by now. I supposed when you were over three thousand years old, awkward silences just didn't seem that big of a deal anymore. Still, it made me feel like a gold fish in a bowel just standing there, waiting for his response while he just watched me.
Finally he spoke, his tone slipping from gentle to severe as easily as slipping on a glove, "I do not train apprentices by halves, Élanor. If this is what you really want, you must be willing to put your full effort in. I will accept nothing less."
Bloody hell. I hadn't been expecting that.
I hadn't fully believed he'd even consider teaching me, let alone agree on the spot. I realised my jaw was hanging slack, and I mentally smacked myself out of my daze and started nodding eagerly.
He continued, "It will not be easy for you either. You might have learned much these past few months, but your Sindarin is still… poor, and pouring over books is no substitute for years of practical experience. It will take a great deal of hard work, and I trust you know I would not show you any leniency simply because you are a ward of my house."
"I understand." I answered simply, and meant it.
"Then," He said with another slight pause, "let us hope your skills as a healer will be an improvement on your talents as a musician."
I felt my face flush pink in embarrassment, but let loose a small burst of relieved laughter when I realised that Lord Elrond was smiling warmly at me, and amused twinkle in his eyes.
"You should rest. We'll begin at daybreak."
* "Yes. F-forgive me, I'm—." (Sindarin)
(1) Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes - "The Sign of Four")