Mairen- A Life Once Lost - Chapter 8- A Life Revealed

Title: Mairen - A Life Once Lost
Author: Fianna
Betas: Julie, Anoriell, Jen, Char
Rating: R
Warnings: - in this chapter . . . continued frustration and longing . . . major clues and hints, minor swash buckling of characters . . .
Disclaimer: Tolkien owns the right to all LOTR characters and I use them with great admiration, and with a conscious attempt to keep them in character. I do not receive any rewards fro writing other than my own satisfaction of elaborating on a story dear to my heart.


Chapter 8: A Life Revealed

Mairen staggered backwards from the blow, reeling away from the glittering elvish blade of her opponent. Until now, she'd always disliked using her sword, finding it cumbersome and unwieldy compared to her lance or even her bow. Even the sword Rolfe had had made especially for her had never felt right in her hand. But Rúmil's elvish sword felt like an extension of her arm, and as she advanced on Loriel, she suddenly wondered why she felt so comfortable with a weapon she'd never used.

She and Loriel circled each other, swinging the long blades across their bodies in a wicked arc, using a two-handed grip reminiscent of the way one held a lance. Perhaps that was why she liked the weapon, Mairen thought distractedly as she blocked Loriel's parry with a twist of her wrists.

They leaped forward, and Mairen swung the sword in backhanded curve that was greeted by a ringing clang of metal. Loriel's blue eyes were narrowed in concentration, no sign of her humor showing as she drove forward with an offensive blow.

Mairen ducked the swing, then whirled to block Loriel's return stroke. The blades met and slid apart with a wicked hiss. Vaguely, she noticed that the arena had grown eerily silent; only the sound of the blades' clashes echoed in the air. Mairen grew conscious of the fiercely intent gazes of the watching elves. What was it that drew their attention so keenly?

Her arms grew weary from the fight, and as she leaned back to avoid Loriel's next stroke she stumbled, but recovered quickly. An instant later she leaped forward, carrying the arc of her blade over her head to slash at Loriel, but the elf anticipated the move and blocked it cleanly, sliding her own blade forward to catch Mairen's. The weapons locked at the hilt, and then Loriel twisted, forcing Mairen to stumble once again. This time she lost her footing and sprawled on her back in the dirt, the sword flying out of her hand to land several feet away.

The point of Loriel's sword halted Mairen's roll. "If you were in full health," the elf said, "I would be lost, for you fight better than I do. But you are not, and I claim victory in this match." Loriel reached out a hand to Mairen.

With a sigh, Mairen yielded and pushed herself up, grasping the elf's hand to stand. "A fight well fought, and I disagree that I would win." She bowed her head in defeat and then glanced toward the fence, seeing a large crowd gathered around her brothers. At once she understood what was happening.

"They have bet on our outcome, the rotten scoundrels," she complained. "I'll have something to say about that!"

Loriel laughed and caught hold of her arm. "Do not be angry. It is already done, but perhaps you can lay claim to any winnings. I know I shall." She grinned, pulling Mairen toward the fence.

*~*

Mairen and Loriel's fight having concluded, Haldir redirected his attention to Arwen, whose arrival he had sensed just a moment before. He turned and nodded a courteous greeting to her, noting how her curious gaze moved past him to the arena below.

"She fights well for a human," she said softly. "And with an elvish sword. That is rare."

He glanced back toward Mairen and nodded thoughtfully. He could feel Arwen's gaze on his face. "You are not here only on behalf of my grandmother?" she asked.

Haldir only lifted one brow, and Arwen sighed. "You are as stubborn and secretive as ever, I see. I shall have to recall my powers of persuasion." She laughed and slipped her arm through Haldir's, drawing him along the path down the hill.

Haldir walked along beside her, his lips curved in a wry smile. "If I remember correctly, my lady, you usually went to your grandmother when we did not do as you wished."

Arwen sniffed and glanced at him from under her eyelashes, but her gaze was piercing in its intensity. "When we were young, yes, but I am now an adult, Haldir. I perceive there is more to your journey than you tell Eomer. Why the secrecy?"

Haldir escorted Arwen up the steps of the Great Hall. "It is no secret, Arwen," he said as they made their way inside.

The Evenstar stopped suddenly, pulling him around to face her. "You can sidestep the question, Haldir, but I will not go without an answer. What draw does this young human have on you? You watch her whenever she is near. I saw your gaze when we arrived, and it lingered not on Aragorn, nor me, but on this female warrior. Even now I see the concern in your eyes, though you seek to hide it. What is happening?"

Haldir gazed down at Arwen and considered his words with care. "Do not forget that she risked her life to save mine. Now she is ill and I am concerned." He glanced around the hall, eyeing the noisy Rohirrim who lounged there, and caught Aragorn's attention as he did so. "She refuses to speak of it. There has been little that I have been able to find out."

Arwen looked at him. "It is for her to deal with; I am concerned about you. Why do you care about her?"

Haldir's gaze shifted to Aragorn as he came up in time to catch his wife's question. The Gondorian King laid a gentle hand on Haldir's shoulder. "Care? For whom does Haldir care?" Aragorn gazed at Haldir, who gazed back at him with impassivity.

"As stiff and unbending as always," Aragorn remarked. "But perchance I can guess. Do you speak of the pretty young Rohirran who stares at Haldir whenever he is near? She was at the battle, was she not? I recognize her."

Haldir slid out from Aragorn's grip. "Aye, she was there. She is ill, and that is my only reason for concern."

Aragorn's brows drew together. "Ill? In what way?"

Haldir shook his head. "I am not yet sure, but I do not think even your skills in healing can help her."

Aragorn exchanged glances with Arwen, then looked back at Haldir. "Please explain."

*~*

Mairen moved up the hill, massaging her arm to ease the ache while pushing aside the weariness that seemed to drag at her limbs. The match had been well received, although the strange looks she had noticed from a few of the Rohirrim had made her pause. She also remembered the intent looks from the elves and wondered what they had seen. She didn't know. She avoided a large pig rooting in the path, and leaped up the steep incline toward her home.

The day was growing warm and the breeze cooled her as she made her way up the hill. But it was not enough, and Mairen was breathing heavily when she reached a fairly level area of the path.

She wished she had not followed Eamon down to the gates. It was his watch, but her irritation about the gambling had prompted her to go after him and scold him. At first he had ignored her tirade, then finally he'd spun around, saying, "Why would we not bet on you? You fight well. I thought for certain you would be victorious. As it is, I lost a whole week's wage, so I should be the one who is angry."

"Angry because I lost?" She arched a brow and rested her hands on her hips.

"Aye," he said doggedly. He glared at her, staring down his straight nose and folding his arms over his chest. "In fact, you handled that elvish weapon amazingly well for one who has never used it before. Have you had training I do know not of?"

Mairen glared back, unperturbed by her brother's gaze. "I have not. `Twas a well-made weapon, that is all. Furthermore, you know I spar with no one other than you and Willem. No one else likes to fight me."

Eamon grinned, a rare flash of humor, and she grew suddenly aware of several nearby Rohirrim guards who were unabashedly eavesdropping. She flashed them a glare as Eamon said, "No, they do not like to find themselves at your feet in that manner. But if you would bat an eyelash at one or two, you might find them willingly on their knees."

Mairen turned her gaze back to Eamon. "You'll be burning in the fires of Mount Doom before I bat eyelashes at any man. I do not play feminine games."

"Ah, so you will have no man, you say, but what of an elf?" He gave her chin a playful clip with his fist.

Mairen stepped back in consternation. "Elf?" she said sharply. "What gives you that idea? Your wits are addled from the sun. I shall go back to the hall." She twisted away from him, but Eamon caught hold of her arm, holding her at his side.

His manner now more serious, he leaned closer to her, glancing around at the Rohirrim who strained to hear what he said. "I see his gaze upon you, sister. He seems very protective of you. I worry, Mairen." Eamon's words were soft, for her alone. "You speak words you say you do not know, you use an elvish weapon with more ease than your own sword. And I see interest in the eyes of one who should not look your way." He gripped her shoulders, pulling her into a rib-crunching embrace that lasted only a moment.

"But it remains a mystery," he said with a sigh. "Run along and leave me be. Willem gambled also, so go snarl at him for a while. I do not regret my wager." He wrapped his hands around her face, kissing her forehead, and then turned away, leaping up the ladder to the ramparts of the wooden wall.

Mairen sighed and shook her head, resuming her trek up the hill. Brothers! She stepped beyond the shadow of a building and paused, blinded for a moment by the bright sunlight.

"You fought well," said a deep male voice.

Mairen started, shielding her eyes from the light's glare so that she might see the tall elf who stood there looking so coolly at her. The force of his gaze made her flinch with guilt for her recent treatment of him.

"Thank you, but I lost." Trying to ignore him, she continued her steps, but Haldir kept pace with her.

"Only because you are not well."

Slightly flustered, Mairen glanced at Haldir. "That is also what Loriel said."

"She sees much. They tell me you carry a worry stone."

Without thinking, Mairen touched the stone that lay in her pocket. "Aye, it was Renny's. Why?"

Haldir's strong fingers wrapped around her arm, halting her when she would have continued on. He pulled her gently around. "They told you what it could do?" They stood on the path, she slightly above him so that she gazed straight into his piercing eyes.

"Perhaps," she said evasively.

Haldir released her arm. "Are you going to refuse my help again?"

Mairen looked away guiltily, then glanced back to see that Haldir's expression had become hooded and aloof. Why did she resist his help? Would he have done the same with her, had he been able? She had no reason to treat him so coldly.

She gripped the stone in her pocket, drawing it out. "They said it amplifies one's thoughts," she said to him.

Haldir nodded, his grey eyes locked with hers. "Aye, it can. Are you willing to use it in such a way? Perhaps I can see what you see, Mairen. If so, I may be able to help you."

Mairen took a deep breath, wrapping her fingers around the stone. The warmth of the sun on her face, the heat of the day and her exhaustion all faded away until only the elf and her fears lay before her. "Why do you wish to help me?" she asked quietly. "You should be angry that I struck you. I have neither excuse nor explanation."

" I am not angry, Mairen. I see that you are confused. You saved my life, not once but twice, and I only wish to return the favor."

She looked away again, filled with an unfathomable sense of disappointment. He considered it a debt. Is that all it was? She tried to push away the memory that suddenly returned, fighting the image that flashed so strongly into her mind, and with it, the intense attraction she felt to him. The strange vision of Haldir, standing in the sea, illuminated by the moonlight passed quickly through her mind as he stepped closer, wrapping his hands around her own, the worry stone held tightly in her fist.

And then, incredibly, she felt his mind link with hers, knew suddenly that he could see what she saw . . . and then his sudden shock of awareness wiped out the vision and he abruptly released her hands. Jolted back to the present, Mairen lifted a hand to her temple, the receding rush of emotions and memories leaving behind a violent headache and a trembling weakness in her knees.

Haldir stared at her, and then reached out quickly, catching her just as she began to collapse, his strong arms easing her carefully to the ground. She lifted her head to look up at him from under her eyelashes, her face flooding with heat of embarrassment that he should be aware of what she had seen.

"Those memories are not mine," she whispered as he knelt down beside her.

Haldir's gaze pierced hers, grey and intense, smoldering with an emotion she could not quite read. "Nay, but they are ones I recognize, Mairen."

*~*

Haldir left Mairen in the care of Willem, and made his way toward the gilded hall of the King. Outside the doors the Royal guard stood silent, their eyes following him as he moved to stand at the edge of the platform overlooking the valley and the distant White Mountains.

The wind snapped the banners over his head and fluttered the ends of his cloak, but the sun was warm amid the coolness of the breeze. He glanced briefly at the guards but soon turned his gaze back to the plain, not really seeing the distant snow-covered mountains, but rather Mairen's vision that he had perceived.

It had been completely unexpected, yet it answered so many questions. Eomer had taken him aside earlier in the day, relating little of Mairen's condition, but forcing Rolfe to tell Haldir what he knew. It had not been much, for the maiden had not revealed what she had been dealing with to anyone. But Haldir had learned enough from Rolfe to recognize the signs . . . or what he knew to be signs, if he were certain of what was happening.

Did he dare speak of it to Eomer and Mairen's brothers? Rolfe's distrust would not be easy to overcome. If what Haldir considered were true, then Mairen would have to return to Lothlórien. It was the only way to aid her. But he was not sure, and he struggled to decide what he might do next to aid the woman who had twice come to his own aid.

He crouched down, ignoring the interested gazes of the guards, resting his arm on his knee. Mairen's brother had said she had spoken words of elvish in her sleep, assuming she had picked them up while in Lorién. But Haldir knew the few days she had been there would not have allowed her to learn them that quickly. Nay, and after today he knew with a certainty that she had not.

He remembered the day of her memory only too well.

He remembered Seothlindë.

The journey to the Gray Havens in the year 2510 of the Third Age had been fraught with much pain and anguish. Elrond rode at their head, beside him his wife, wedded late to the Lord of Rivendell. Tragedy had struck the pair and the results of it were now coming to a painful end. For Elrond it was the end. Celébrian, his wife, was only a faded sense of her earlier self, lifeless, gray and depressed. Her trials at the hands of the Orcs should have killed her, whether physically or mentally. Most elves that had met such a fate would have faded instantly, unable to bear the torture of memories that for an elf would never recede, but inside her was the strength of her mother. And so Celébrian had lived, only to exist in torment, fading slowly as the days passed, bringing heartache to all who knew her.

They had come to the Gray Havens--Elrond, Celébrian, her parents Galadriel and Celeborn, as well as Haldir and a host of Rivendell and Lothlórien retainers. Come to send the Lady Celébrian home to Valinor in the hopes that that fair land would cure her illness and help diminish the horrors she had experienced.

The pain of the forthcoming separation was tangible on Elrond's face; and even now, years after, Haldir could see it in the elf's eyes. The days had been dark, and upon arriving, Haldir had sought to ease his mind from their grief with a swim amid the warm dark waters of the sea.

He had not expected to find the elf staring at him as he rose out of the water, but she was pretty with her long blond hair, and mischievous eyes. He had noticed her earlier in the day, and had found the elf intriguing. A warrior, guard of Cirdan's, she arrived late, along with her father. She had assumed her post as her father spoke with Elrond of the journey.

A few words to some Haldir knew there, and he had found out who she was and had hoped to speak with her. A night spent with someone so young and full of life might have erased from his mind the darkness brought about by Celébrian's imminent departure. But she had evaded him and he had spent the night alone.

But he had not forgotten her.

*~*

Mairen crossed the steps into Meduseld, pulling open the heavy wooden portal only to step back at the sound of music and laughter that poured from the hall that was brightly lit with many torches. Gingerly skirting the fire in the center, Mairen pushed her way through the large crowd to where Willem leaned against a wooden pillar, holding two mugs of ale.

"I hope one of those is for me?" she said as he sipped from one. Willem turned to her, and grinned, raising the other mug to drink from it as well.

"You? Eru forgive me, but no, dearest Mairen." He laughed a bit sheepishly. "I did not want to have to make my way through this crowd again, so I took two." He chuckled and handed one to Mairen.

Mairen took a drink and smiled. She slid next to Willem, gazing around the crowd hall. Eomer sat on his throne, leaning over to speak to Lothíriel, and her father. Eowyn and Faramir were sitting beside him, along with King Aragorn and Arwen on a wide bench. Willem reached out to wrap an arm around her shoulders.

"How are you feeling tonight?" he asked.

Mairen took another sip of her ale. "I am fine, Willem."

He reached out to squeeze her shoulder. "You will tell me if you feel odd?"

Mairen sighed. "Aye, I will tell you." She patted his arm, but then turned as a deep voice spoke from beside her.

"I've been told you have been ill," Aragorn said softly. "May I assist in some way?"

Mairen hastily touched her forehead in greeting. "Thank you, my lord, but I must humbly refuse your kind offer. My ailment is nothing." Mairen saw his eyes search hers for several moments.

"I think that is for me to decide, is it not?" The King's gaze moved to Willem. "You have not regained your sight?"

Willem shrugged. "A loss I do not seem to miss overmuch." He smiled, his blue eyes staring blankly in front of him. "I see much more than I did when I could actually see."

"If you have a moment I would like to see if there is anything I can do to help."

Willem shook his head. "Thank you, my lord, but no. I know the elves cannot aid me so I fear only the Valar can return my sight. Perhaps it is a test for me, or a lesson. I only know that I have accepted it and fear it no longer."

Aragorn nodded gravely. "I respect your wishes, Willem." He turned back to Mairen. "If I can help, you need only to ask." He bowed and moved away, lost quickly in the cheerful crowd.

"An offer of aid from the Gondorian King, and you refuse," Willem reprimanded softly.

Mairen pushed Willem's hand from her arm. "As did you, brother. I am fine. I need no help." She glanced at him, and then patted his hand and followed the King into the crowd.

However, she should have chosen a different path, for as Aragorn reached Eomer's platform to return to his wife, Eomer also spied Mairen. She glanced at the young king and meant to move away into the crowd, but his question halted her in mid-step.

"Have you had any more of your visions, Mairen?"

Mairen bit her lip, unwilling to speak of the last one. "Nothing like the one in the Great Hall, my lord," she replied evasively.

Eomer leaned on one hand, his brown eyes glittering in the torchlight. "But you have had one? Tell me, what did it entail?"

Mairen faced the king. "My visions are nothing I can make sense of, only jumbled thoughts and scenes." She knew it was not the full truth and hoped the Valar would forgive her for being so ambiguous. She bowed her head, avoiding Eomer's compelling gaze.

"I grow concerned that you suffer needlessly. Perhaps Aragorn can help dispel these things that linger in your mind," he began, but they were interrupted by Rolfe's sudden and angry cry. The hall grew quiet and many turned curiously toward him.

"That is insane! I do not believe you!" Rolfe bellowed angrily. He slammed his ale onto the rough wooden table and leaned aggressively toward the Lórien elf that sat across from him.

Haldir folded his arms over his chest, calmly eyeing the Rohirran captain. "Have you any other explanation?" The two did not seem to realize they have become the center of attention.

Rolfe ran a hand through the tangles of his hair, glancing at Renny beside him. "No, but yours lacks much in believability," he argued, lowering his voice somewhat. He glared at the interested faces around him and many swiftly turned back to their previous partners.

"For you perhaps," Haldir replied. "But I have seen it happen. I know of what I speak. There are few, true, but I can name them if you like."

Rolfe shook his head, his glance moving around the room to focus on Mairen, who stood a few feet away. "It matters not. I would not know them."

"You do not know Glorfindel?"

Mairen flinched, for the image of a tall blonde elf rose instantly into her mind, and she knew without a doubt it must be this elf Haldir had mentioned. She folded her arms, hugging herself tightly, and glanced back at Eomer who was listening intently.

"That tale is not true," Rolfe protested.

Haldir only raised his brows.

Rolfe ran his hand through his hair and exchanged a glance with Renny.

"If it is true, what can you do? What more will happen?" Renny asked worriedly.

Haldir stared at them for a moment and then shifted his gaze to Mairen as well. "She will continue as she has, with the dreams. She will have them more often, and the more she fights them, the stronger they will become, insisting on being known. If she does not accept them for what they are, she will grow weaker and weaker. Eventually she will die, if she does not starve to death first. Her own body will fight her mind." His gaze locked with Mairen's, challenging her to deny his words.

"We have no hope then," Renny said in a low voice.

"There is always hope," Haldir countered. "There are those who can help."

Rolfe sat back, staring hard at the elf, and then turned when Haldir's gaze slid back to Mairen. Rolfe frowned, his expression growing grim as he studied her. "Why do I fear this is only a farce, a ruse designed to bring my sister back to your lands?"

Again, Haldir's brows lifted. "Why would I do this, Rolfe?" he questioned evenly. "She saved my life. Surely I owe her the same. Is that difficult for you to understand?"

Mairen felt the flood of disappointment again, brought on by the idea that she was only a debt to repay. A sense of despair crept over her, but she told herself she was being foolish. Why did it matter what he thought? She brushed away the errant thoughts, focusing on what Haldir was saying.

"If I can assist her, then I am willing to do so," Haldir continued. "I do not care to see her fade to nothing. But she must accept it, as well as you. "

Rolfe groaned, slumping slightly as Mairen moved a step closer. He sighed and turned sideways on the bench to stare at her in frustration. "I do not know what to do," he said to her. "I cannot force you to tell me what you see."

Haldir's eyes moved to Mairen as well. "No, you cannot. Nor can I."

*~*

She had to leave. The crowded hall seemed to close around her suddenly, too many faces peering at her curiously, for many had heard as much as she had. Feeling the heat in her cheeks, she glanced about, then moved swiftly away from them all, weaving through the crowd to get to the door. Gamling saw her coming and frowned, but opened the large wooden portal without a word.

Mairen nodded her thanks and slid out into the cool night air. She rushed to the edge of the platform, staring out longingly at the dark plain. Oh, to be free, free to ride the plain once more, with nary a thought inside her head, feeling only the wind on her face and her horse beneath her!

She took a quivering breath as Haldir's words hounded her, repeating themselves over and over. She would die. Die! She didn't want to believe it was that serious, but in her heart she knew it could be so. She shivered, suddenly cold in the stiff wind, and hurried down the steps onto the dark street. The sky had darkened with rain clouds once more, and the air felt heavy with the threat of rain. She strode rapidly down the dirt path, her head reeling with the images she'd seen, with Haldir's words, and with her own fear.

Needing to stop to catch her breath, she leaned on the corner of a low wooden house and rubbed her temple, willing the thoughts to fade. The wind ruffled the hem of her tunic, whipping up bits of sand into her face, moaning as it passed among the buildings of the city.

Moaning, but not masking the sensation she suddenly had of being watched. She straightened, rubbing the grit from her eyes, and headed further down the street, heading toward the arena where she had fought Loriel. They must be following her again. She did not like having these new bodyguards.

Did they think she was so helpless she couldn't defend herself? She was not that sick. Mairen saw a lance that had been left carelessly beside the fence and she moved toward it quickly. She leaped for the weapon, spinning the long shaft over her head as she whirled, taking a brief moment to focus on her assailant-protector.

She had waited too long.

Haldir leaned swiftly to one side as the lance swished over his head, narrowly missing him. He grasped the shaft in the same moment, twisting it as she tried to reverse her stroke, wresting it from one of her hands. The lance was spun, and Mairen gasped in shock as Haldir flipped it behind her, locking her elbow behind her back.

Unwilling to let him win, she twisted, bringing up a knee, but he anticipated her move and kicked out with a foot to sweep her leg out from under her. They fell together, and Mairen fully expected to find herself buried under the elf, but somehow he rotated his body and instead she landed sprawled on his chest. For only a moment and then he rolled, pinning her beneath him.

She squirmed beneath him, furious that he had disarmed her so easily, and struggled to slide out from beneath him, gasping for breath. He shifted as she squirmed, his knee trapping one side of her while he gripped one hand pinning it firmly to the ground. The other was still free and she felt for the lance she knew must be near, but again he anticipated her move and seized that wrist also, dragging it over her head to clamp both wrists together with an easy strength that infuriated her.

"Stop fighting me, Mairen," she heard Haldir whisper but she could not. Her mind was swirling, her conscious thoughts fading as she struggled with both the elf pinning her to the ground and the images that began to churn inside her head.

She was brought instantly back to the present as Haldir suddenly kissed her, releasing her wrists to slide his fingers into her hair, holding her still as his lips crushed hers. She couldn't think. This was so different from his other kiss, rough and angry and full of emotion. She gasped for breath when he slid his lips along her jaw, abruptly aware of his long, hard body stretched over hers. He sprawled on top of her, his muscled thighs clamped tightly against hers, pinning her arms with his elbows as his lips claimed hers once more.

And, Valar help her, she was kissing him back. It seemed that she was helpless against the spiraling flare of heat running rampant through her veins. Helpless to fight off the surging tide of desire that was sweeping over her, drowning her in the heady wash of emotion she had evaded for so long. She moaned as his mouth devoured hers, aware only of the desperate sense of longing that coiled in the center of her body . . . a longing for him.

Eventually she felt Haldir relax and ease his weight off from her, but he did not rise. Instead he gripped her wrists again, firmly holding her fast as she tried to catch her breath.

She couldn't look at him. Was he aware of what he did to her? The intensity of her feelings terrified her. Were they even her own feelings?

"Look at me, Mairen," she heard him command softly.

She opened her eyes to find him leaning close to her, his silvery hair spilling over his shoulder to pool on hers. He had slid to his side, and held her wrists with one hand.

"Let me go, Haldir," Mairen demanded breathlessly.

Haldir did not, only smiled that lazy smile that sent more tendrils of fire coursing along her veins. "No."

"You can't keep me here like this for long. Someone will come and wonder just what that Lórien elf is doing to poor Mairen," she whispered as he leaned closer.

"I don't think anyone thinks of you as poor Mairen," Haldir responded with a soft laugh. "You chose the arena. I only followed."

Mairen twisted, testing his hold, but he only tightened his grip. "And why were you following me? Can't you leave well enough alone?"

Haldir gripped her chin, forcing her to look at him. "No, Mairen I cannot. Haven't you understood this? I can help you if you would only allow it."

"Help me do what? Remember? I don't want to remember!"

"But you must, Mairen. You must accept it."

Mairen looked away, fighting the trembling that threatened to wash over her, fighting the sudden desire to let go and curl weeping into his arms. But she could not. She was not like that. She bit her lip. "I can't." She gasped as Haldir rolled to the side, pulling her with him as he stood up.

"Mairen," he growled, pulling her against his chest. "Why do you fight it?"

She sighed and to her surprise he released her and she stepped back. "Why fight it? I have someone else's memories in my mind and you ask why I fight it? Did Théoden?"

Haldir's chin rose slightly. "This is not like what happened to Théoden."

"No?" she objected. "How do I know this? How do you? Are you so sure?"

Haldir reached out to pull her close to him, sliding his hands along her face. "I am as sure as I can be. But only Celeborn and Galadriel can be more certain? Why give up your life, Mairen?"

She couldn't look away, his eyes held hers, dark and stormy with anger, and frustration. And, she could see, concern.

"I am Rohirran, Haldir. My parents are Rohirran, and theirs before them, and theirs before them. If what you say is true, what does that make me? Who does that make me? I fear what I do not know, and I fear more of who I will become."

Haldir wrapped an arm around her back, a steel band that pressed her firmly against him. She ignored the flaring desire that sprang to life once more, shoving her hands between them and against his chest. She pushed him away and but he only tightened his arms, trapping her hands.

"Why?" Haldir asked. "She is as much a part of you as your eyes and hair. The signs are there. I leave tomorrow, Mairen. You must return to Lórien with me. You must understand the gravity of this. I cannot say how long you have. Each day will grow worse."

The memory of Théoden's words flashed in her mind, his tale of her birth and the light. Had it begun then? She rested her forehead against her hands. Perhaps Haldir was right, but somehow she felt she could not go. Not yet, something within her held her back. She felt him sigh, and he slid his hands into her hair forcing her to look up at him.

"I can say no more. It is your choice, Mairen." He stared at her for a long moment, his eyes searching her face, and then he let go, stepping back to leave her feeling cold and bereft. In a moment he was gone, silent as he had arrived, and Mairen shivered.

He was gone from her sight, but she knew he was lodged firmly inside her heart. But was it her heart that cried out for the March Warden? Were they truly her feelings or that other in her mind? If she returned to the elves, what then would she become... who would she become?

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