Marien- A Life Once Lost - Chapter 10 - A New Beginning or End?
Haldir sat on the chair beside the bed, watching Mairen sleep. A magically induced sleep, true, and he knew he'd have to explain his actions to two obstinate Rohirrim when they found out. Healing and magic sleep would not ease their minds that the elves had not caused Mairen's ailment.
For that was what those brothers of hers still considered Mairen's visions- an ailment. Had she explained more since he had left their land? Logic suggested she must have in order to convince them to come here to Lórien. What now did they think? Did they believe what he had told them? Or did they bring her because they knew not what else to do?
Either way, she was here now, earning a much-needed rest, for the magic kept all dreams and visions at bay and allowed her to sleep deeply. She needed that as much as food. Haldir gazed at her, his fingers tracing the veins in her wrist while he noted the new thinness of her arms. She had changed much since the last time he had seen her.
Mairen moaned softly, but did not wake, only curled up on her side, her hand brushing his on the blanket. He touched her fingers and at once they wrapped around his, and then she sighed in her sleep. He gazed down at their linked hands, and then leaned forward, wrapping her hands between both of his while he studied her face.
So long ago did it seem, that day when she had found him surrounded by Orcs. He remembered little of the battle after she arrived, but he was sure she must have defended him with that same stubborn determination he had begun to admire, even he did not completely agree with it. He smiled a little, remembering her slap. As volatile as most humans were, that had surprised him. No elf would have dared to do that, nor most humans either.
His head turned when an elf thrust aside the cloth door to the tent. "Rúmil and Orophin return. They bring the Rohirrim."
Haldir glanced at Mairen. "Stay with her, if she wakes come and find me."
The elf nodded and stood aside as Haldir moved past him, and ducked beneath the low doorway.
The Rohirrim were dismounting when he arrived, staring at the city around them in apparent awe, while a group of nearby elves gazed back in distinct surprise. The event of a group of such mortals allowed inside the city was such a rarity that it always drew the curious.
As Haldir approached, Rúmil and Orophin both turned to face him, Mairen's brothers only a step behind.
"She is well," he answered their unspoken question. He met Eamon's gaze as the Rohirran pushed his way past the elves.
"Where is she? I want to see her."
Willem held Eamon's shoulder, and Haldir noticed Willem's sleeve was soaked with blood, but neither Rohirrim seemed to notice. "She sleeps," Haldir explained carefully, watching Eamon's eyes narrow slightly. "And it looks like Willem is injured. I suggest you rest and let us tend you."
Eamon's hand clamped down on Haldir's arm. "She sleeps? She was wounded the last I saw her. Your brother removed the arrow, but she looked nearly dead when they took her."
Wary of the Rhohirrim, Haldir pulled his arm free and considered the man before him. The Rohan warrior's expression was concerned, yet beneath that Haldir could sense the man's distrust. He seemed defensive, yet ready to strike out at the least bit of deception. He understood the man's concern for his sister, yet knew the mortals would be hard-pressed to accept what might need to be done to held Mairen. "She is in the healing tent. I will take you there if you insist."
Eamon nodded curtly. "Indeed I do insist."
Haldir led them to the area where the large healing tent sprawled among the roots of the Mellyrn trees. Long fluttering banners bearing Galadriel's insignia draped from the tent poles while nearby a number of sentinels stood guard. Galadriel was not taking any chances with the Rohirrim. They would not be allowed to forget whose realm they had been allowed to enter.
Haldir allowed Eamon to go first, watching as the sturdy Rohirran thrust aside the tent flap, followed by Willem with a hand on Eamon's arm. Haldir entered last and remained by the entrance while the two brothers bent over Mairen.
Willem brushed his fingers along her brow. "She does not sleep normally."
Surprised, Haldir studied Willem. Despite or perhaps because of his blindness, the mortal had become extremely perceptive. It would be interesting to see how far he could develop the trait. Shaking off the thought, Haldir answered. "Nay, she does not." He rested his hand near his sword, still unsure of how the men would react.
Eamon turned his head, his face inscrutable and when he spoke his voice was soft. "Was it you who healed her shoulder?"
Haldir nodded, watching them carefully. Would they rise against him? But they had journeyed here by choice. What exactly had they expected the elves to do? He waited patiently for Eamon to respond, for the man's brooding gaze had returned to his unconscious sister. What was he thinking?
"She has had no ill-effects?" Again his voice was soft, yet Haldir could detect a hint of steel underneath, a control he found admirable.
"None so far, nor do I expect any." Haldir met Eamon's gaze evenly as the warrior stood slowly to face him. The sentinel stood just outside, but Haldir remained motionless as Eamon sighed, running a tired hand through his hair.
"Then I thank you." Eamon spoke stiffly, his face tight while his eyes searched Haldir's. "Perhaps my brother's fears were unjust. We do not understand your magic. If you can heal her mind as well as you have her body then I shall be forever in your debt."
Haldir relaxed inwardly with an odd sense of relief. The man had extended a bridge where before there had been none, reaching out against all his ingrained principles. The Rohirrim were tight folk, staunch and loyal to their comrades. Their relationship with the elves had always been distant, an acknowledgement of respect, admiration, yet also distrust and wariness. They did not like elvenkind's use of magic; they feared what they did not know and could not understand. For Eamon to accept Mairen's magic-induced sleep and healing without much argument spoke of the man's deep fear for his sister. It was a large leap of faith that Haldir could not help but approve
"It is not I who can heal her mind," he said, "but Mairen herself. We will do what we can to help."
Eamon nodded, and reached for Willem's arm to pull him to his feet. "My brother needs aid as well. We shall leave Mairen to sleep."
Mairen woke up with a mind clear from darkness, and no memory of her sleep. The last thing she remembered was the warmth of Haldir's arms and she raised her arm to test the shoulder where the arrow had struck.
"It should not ache, but perhaps be a bit stiff," said a low drawling voice.
Startled, she sat up, clutching the thin blanket to her chest and found Lord Celeborn seated in a chair at the foot of the bed, a small book resting on his lap.
"My Lord?" she said in confusion.
Celeborn leaned forward, his silver hair draping over his shoulders to cover his chest. "How does your shoulder feel?"
Mairen gingerly prodded the skin. "It seems fine," she said with surprise. "Just a bit tender."
The elven lord nodded once. "An after-effect we elves normally do not experience. Perhaps a resistance to the elvish healing?" He shrugged elegantly. "A irritation that should pass as soon as you begin to use it again."
Mairen lay back down, suddenly very tired again. "How long have I been here?"
"It has been one day since you were wounded."
"And I slept all that time?" She glanced past her feet to where Celeborn was sitting.
"With a little help from Haldir."
She stared at the elf lord, not quite understanding his meaning, and then it hit her. "Oh. I see," she said.
Haldir had made her sleep, using his magic as well as healing her. Or had someone else healed her? She wasn't sure what Haldir had done on the trail and hardly remembered much past the last few moments when Haldir had carried her in his arms.
"You needed the rest," Celeborn said quietly. "What is the last you remember?"
Uncomfortably aware of her nakedness beneath the blankets, Mairen pulled them to her chin. "Do you mean my visions?" she asked hopefully. Lord Celeborn smiled, chuckling, and Mairen knew he could see the hot blush that stained her cheeks.
"Yes, that is what I meant, dear child. I do not need details of Haldir's rescue. Your condition when he arrived told us enough."
Mairen knew her blush was deepening and felt foolish for it. "I don't recall. I am afraid if I try to remember it will bring the darkness with it. I don't want to remember anymore."
She glanced at the elven lord, watching him tap his lips, his arm folded across his chest. Would he understand why she struggled? She closed her eyes, her thoughts churning again. She had come to learn, had to find answers. She knew it was not going to be easy. She knew the elves were terribly kind to offer her this aid, and wondered why they did. What could she mean to them? Why was it was important for them to step in, for Haldir to travel to Rohan to see her? The rush of questions hounded her and she struggled to push them aside, too weary to consider them all again, too exhausted to search for the strength.
"Why, Mairen? What is this darkness of which you speak? Does it frighten you?" Celeborn leaned forward resting his hands on the book on his lap. His voice was soft, his tone questioning, yet demanding her to look deeper into her thoughts.
Mairen twisted her hands into the blankets, feeling a familiar twinge of nervousness in her fingers. "Nay, I do not fear it. I just . . . don't like her memories." She had to look away as the elf raised a brow.
"But they are your memories," he pointed out.
Mairen sat back up. "How can that be, my lord? I am not an elf. I don't understand this at all. All I know is that I am very tired."
Setting his book aside, Lord Celeborn rose to sit beside her. "I understand your confusion. True, you are not an elf, but you have small things about you that gave us pause. Traits we noticed, but could not place. This is a very momentous thing to happen to you, but you must continue to be strong. And be open, Mairen. You have taken but the first step in your healing."
Mairen's brow furrowed in thought. "That's why you looked at me so oddly," she said, remembering both Celeborn's and Galadriel glances when she first arrived. What exactly had they seen?
"You noticed? That was perceptive. But then I am not surprised." He regarded her solemnly. "We will discuss this more later, but for now I want you to sleep. Sleep as long as you can. Haldir will soon return, after he meets with your brothers and their questions. I will allow them to see you later, but at present you must rest."
Mairen shivered and looked up at the elven lord as he rose to his feet. "Can I have my tunic back?" She blushed when Celeborn gazed at her with amusement.
"I think not, Mairen. I believe it still lies somewhere along the trail. Haldir did not bring it with him. I doubt very much if there is much left of it, but I will have someone bring you a shift. We do not wish to make you uncomfortable."
Mairen sighed. It sounded like she had really made a grand entrance, carried in Haldir's arms. What must everyone be thinking? And what had they seen? She gripped the blanket tightly, knowing sleep was going to elude her, but not willing to argue with the elven lord. "Thank you," she said. "I will try to sleep." She lay back down but then sat up abruptly. "My stone!"
Celeborn turned from the door. "Don't worry, Mairen. Haldir has it. Rest now." He lifted a brow until she was once again lying down, and then brushed back the flap of the door, allowing a brief glaring light to spill through. Then the flap fell into place and the soft darkness returned.
Mairen stared into the shadowy cloth ceiling. So much happening, so much to consider. Had she been wise to come here? Or did it only open more questions, add more fuel to a fire she was already hard pressed to put out?
She groaned quietly. The Valar had made her life a quagmire. She didn't know if she would ever work out what she must do. She didn't even know if she could even do whatever it was she had to do. All such thoughts rushed back, all the worries, including the one question that confused her the most. Why did the elves care?
She pressed her fingers against her eyes; certain she would never be able to sleep. Questions filled her mind, but suddenly they were gone and instead she was sinking in a grey mist of weariness. Her exhausted mind was shutting down and in moments she slept.
Haldir sat back in the chair with his eyes closed, yet he had been pulled from his reverie by the slight rustle from the nearby bed. He did not move or open his eyes, but remained very still as the sounds continued. They told him she was awake and had found the long robe he brought. It was the least he could do after destroying her tunic.
He cracked open one eye. As expected, she faced away from him but the darkness of the tent did not hamper his vision. He watched her movements as she slid the gown over her head, noting the thinness of her bare back and hips and the bones too prominent for a warrior of her class . . . or any female. He let out a sigh, and saw her quickly shove down the gown, then whirl to look at him, a blush staining her cheeks.
"Watching were you? How naughty, Haldir." To his amusement, she yanked a blanket from the bed and wrapped herself in it.
"A scene too fair to resist," he said teasingly, "but I cannot see through your gown. You need not hide behind the blanket."
"No? Well I don't know what your elvish eyes can see, so I shall take my precautions." She sat on the edge of the bed, gazing at him the best she could with her non-elvish eyesight.
"Are you hungry?" he inquired.
Mairen stared at him for a moment, an odd expression he would ponder later crossing her face, and then she smiled and nodded. "Famished. For the fist time in ages I really do feel hungry."
Haldir rose and went to stand before her. "A good sign. Your brother's wait anxiously for you to wake." He drew her to her feet and guided her from the tent, pausing while she rubbed her eyes to adjust to the dappled sunlight breaking from the canopy above. They then followed a meandering path among the roots, and finally toward a large area filled with tables and a few elves. In the midst of all of this were her brothers, who rose quickly to their feet on her arrival.
"Mairen!" Eamon shouted. He strode to meet her, swinging her around in a circle as he hugged her tightly.
"Eamon, you are squeezing me to death," she gasped, and he set her down, standing back as he studied her intensely.
"How do you feel, Mairen?" Willem reached her last, his step uncertain in the unfamiliar glade.
Haldir watched Mairen reach out to caress his cheek. "I am fine, Willem, or as well as I can be. My shoulder feels better."
He noticed she did not mention the wound to her leg. The brothers still had no clue as to how near the darkness was to taking Mairen. Did they realize truly, how close she was to death? He watched her closely, noting the fragility of her body, yet he had to admire the strength of her mind. Whether she admitted it to herself, she was fighting for her life as much as she was avoiding the fight to save herself. How long before the two disparate poles of her thoughts would come together?
Her self-inflicted wound was a testament to her will to survive. Had she not done what she had done, he was sure the memories would have overtaken her, leaving her vulnerable and most likely dead. He had been surprised at her capacity to do what had to be done. It was a Rohan trait. He settled back to gaze at the woman as she greeted the others of her kind. She was and always would be a product of her Rohirrim upbringing and yet there was that other part of her soul that lingered in her mind. He would be interested to see what more she would reveal and how much Seothlindë affected who she now was.
Did she realize how much these men cared for her, not just her brothers, but also the other men of her homeland? They had lain down their lives to get Mairen to Lórien. Had they come by choice, or command? Looking at each one as they conversed, Haldir had to believe they had willingly chosen the duty. Mairen must have felt the same for she rose suddenly, and moved down along the row of men, speaking softly to each. When she sat at back down and glanced his way he noticed her cheeks were flushed with pleasure.
"I think I have underestimated my friends," she said. "Perhaps in my illness I have been shortsighted, and selfish." Haldir noted her face grew pale, as if an odd thought passed through her mind, but she gave a slight shake to her head and then glanced at him from beneath her lashes. He caught his breath, but met the gaze that searched his. Was she ready? He could only hope they could help her in time.
She pulled her gaze from his and rested her chin in her hands. "What have they been doing while I lay sleeping, they do not seem to mind being among the elves?"
Eamon's smile was not forced, yet he met Haldir's gaze with a bit of reservation before he turned to Mairen. "We do not mind, for already we have seen what they can do for you. Besides, the elves are far fairer than the men I ride with," he laughed softly with a wink toward his companions. "My eyes have been reminded there is much beauty in this world that we have not seen." He turned to his companions and several men laughed, agreeing.
Willem snorted quietly, and touched his brother's arm, causing Haldir to wonder if it was a subtle reminder to watch what they said, but Willem's next words made him take note.
"There is certainly one sight my brother finds fair indeed," Willem teased, and then he turned his head toward Haldir with a slight smile. "But I think Haldir has been keeping close watch on that warrior." Mairen looked confused, and Willem, seeming to sense no one understood his quip, shrugged and laughed, then prodded Eamon slightly. "Eamon noticed one tall warrior elf, er... warden- ess," he whispered loudly to Mairen.
Eamon blanched slightly and looked at Haldir. "Willem means Loriel," he explained, to the murmurs of his men. "She evades me, so I know not if my interest is permitted or if she just does not wish to see me."
Mairen sent Haldir a questioning look. "Surely it is her choice?"
Haldir nodded. "Indeed the choice is hers." Both Mairen and Eamon visibly relaxed and Haldir noted Mairen's gaze rested on him for several moments before she turned back to her brothers.
"And you?" she asked Willem, poking the man hard in the arm.
Willem sighed. "I have done nothing but sit here and wait."
Rúmil appeared alongside Mairen, briefly squeezing her shoulder as he sat beside Haldir. "He lies, Mairen. Orophin and I offered to relieve his boredom and took him to the training grounds. I think the loss of his eyesight is only a slight disadvantage. I think he sees better than I do." Rúmil laughed as Willem grinned bemusedly.
Mairen turned to Haldir. "Loriel said you could teach Willem ways to fight without seeing."
"True," he replied, observing the hopefulness in her eyes, "but he learns much of it on his own. A step in growing, Mairen, and learning who you are inside, and using it."
Mairen sent him an anxious look and then sat back as several large plates of food and goblets of dark red wine were brought forth. The humans ate in silence; the elves only drank the wine.
Haldir watched Mairen pick at the food. Suddenly, the half-eaten slice of bread she held in her hand fell from her fingers to her plate. "Mairen, what is wrong?" he asked, noting her sudden pallor. Rúmil also turned to her in concern.
Mairen smiled brightly. "Nothing . . . I am fine . . ." and then promptly fell backwards into Rúmil's arms.
I sat quietly, curled into the stone sill of the window that stood taller than I, staring out through the glass panes to the city wall and beyond. I clasped my knees tightly, uncaring that the silk gown was wrinkling, knowing I probably looked like a child hiding from her punishment.
Was I? If I considered my life truthfully, I could see I had made mistakes, some of them very large. But one thing still stood out in my mind, a solid anchor that I reached for with desperate hands, despite the elf's denial.
I was meant for the March Warden.
I brushed my hand over my eyes. Or had it all been only a child's dream? A crush I had never let go? I pressed my fingers to my eyes, warding away the moisture that threatened to well over through my closed lids. I couldn't believe that. The feeling had been too strong. I sighed and stared out the window again. How long had it been since I'd first seen the Lórien elf, nay even heard his name? The memory was as vivid as the day I'd experienced it.
I had been very young, only in my twenties when my father had come home with news of visitors arriving in the city. Cirdan, our lord, had been overjoyed, for it had been many years since he had last seen the Lady of Light. But it was not the Lothlórien ruler my father had spoken about. No, the young warden he had met had impressed him. A tall fellow, broad of shoulder and keen of eye, he'd be March Warden if anything my father had declared. It had been a rare compliment from an elf who gave none.
I sighed again, thinking of my father. Strict and circumspect, he was a good elf and a loving father if not overly affectionate. I was sure it was the similarity of the warden's personality with his own that had earned his accolades and approval. However I knew the two were really quite different.
But my thoughts returned to that day and to my father's conversation. I'd been instantly drawn into his words about Haldir.
March Warden? I had asked. What was a March warden?
My father had smiled indulgently. Captain of the guard, of course, he had said. The young elf would be Galadriel's foremost guardian if he missed his guess.
Is he handsome? I asked again.
My father had turned to me with a frown. Handsome? What does that matter? He is strong-willed and dedicated. He shrugged off my curiosity and had stood up to return to his duties, but I had one last question.
What is his name, Father?
His name? Haldir, my father answered. Haldir of Lórien.
I had shivered, stuffing my hands under my arms in a habit those who knew me recognized, hiding a nervousness that made them tremble. Even then I was stubborn, unwilling to reveal a weakness. I repeated the name. Haldir.
And knew without a doubt that I was meant for him.
I lay my head on my knees, ignoring the cold dampness that seeped in from the window. Was I truly? And if so, now what? He had been so dismayed by my actions on the wharf. As for me, I was so confused. I couldn't understand his actions. Did he not feel the same? The elves were superior everyone could see that. Couldn't they?
I sat back, leaning my head against the cool stones. Couldn't they? Yes, we lived far, far longer than the mortals, but did that make us any better? Certainly we had much more experience in life, much longer to learn lessons. But was I learning them?
I considered my feelings. I lived in a harbor, and everyday had been subjected to contact with the mortal races. Even as a child I had played with human children nearby. When had I begun to hate them? I knew the answer but had tried to forget that memory. Be they elf, human or dwarf, children were cruel. They could be little mean spirited orcs. And I had been as bad as any of them.
The boy had been tall, dark haired, wiry and a skilled street fighter. He'd taken to watching me, following me whenever we crossed paths. I had felt frightened at first, irritated and then finally annoyed by his constant surveillance. We had clashed finally, one bright morning in a back alley when I was on my way to lessons.
"Why won't you talk to me?" he'd asked harshly, cornering me against the wall.
"Why would I want to talk to someone like you?" I'd responded sourly, holding my precious books against my chest for fear he'd grab them to destroy them.
"Are you afraid, elf?" He leaned into my face, his green eyes and smile cruel.
`No, I am not afraid of you." I'd insisted, but I had lied. I was older, far older, but he was bigger and taller. He could have hurt me if he'd wanted to.
`You think you are better than me, don't you?'
I had responded without thinking, only wanting to go home. "Of course I am better than you. I am an elf, and elves are superior to any mortal. You will die and turn into dust before I even reach my prime. You are nothing, you silly boy."
The boy had stared at me in amazement and then laughed harshly, clearly hurt and struggling to hide it. He must have heard enough and pushed away from me, stepping back with a sneer. I grew silent, realizing I'd gotten carried away in my attempt to push him away. Instead I angered him and created a monster within myself. The boy had left me then, but as the days passed, he taunted me along with the other human children. I, being the foolish child I was, refused to back down, to apologize for words spoken in fear. Eventually even the elvish children left me alone, for I had become withdrawn and closed, struggling to maintain what I thought was a stoic façade and what I now knew they had seen as arrogant and haughty.
I had become too proud and stubborn. Remembering all this, bitter tears now spilled down my cheeks, but I ignored them. I had forgotten the pain. No, I corrected myself; I had ignored it and twisted it into something else. Hatred. It was no one's fault but my own.
I was such a fool.
Mairen sat on the edge of the rampart wall, staring out into the forest, conscious of the tall sentinel only a few feet away. He glanced her way when she climbed the wall, and then his face once again became impassive, a warrior on duty. It brought a rush of familiarity, not only from her days in Rohan, but also memories of a harbor town and duties there. The thoughts were jumbled, flashes of both flaring quickly inside her mind. She leaned over the wooden palisade, admiring the elven handiwork of coaxing the roots of the large trees into masses of knots and twisted branches, forming the outer gate.
"What do you find so intriguing, Mairen?"
She recognized the drawling voice immediately and flew to her feet, brushing off her leggings. The sentinel stood stiffly, if anything more at attention than he'd been a moment ago and she bowed to Celeborn as he stood beside the guard.
"Greetings, Lord Celeborn. I just find it fascinating that the wall is still a living part of the trees. However did you manage to build it?"
Lord Celeborn's lips curved slightly. "Ah, a question more for the lady, for she rules all that grows here. I am sure you would find it an interesting conversation. But come, we have other things to discuss, my dear.'
Mairen took his proffered arm and they moved down the steps from the rampart.
"I find your city beautiful, and mysterious."
Celeborn glanced down at her. "A lifetime of work, that yet continues. We cannot help but create beauty as we see it. But you must be careful not to wander far, your health is not yet fully restored, and you may find yourself too ill to return to your talan."
Mairen shrugged. "I am fine, my lord. I feel better than I have for weeks."
The elven lord frowned, as they entered a small alcove within the bushes. "That may be true, young child. But you push yourself too far. Must I place a guard with you?" Haldir has his own responsibilities, and you may not like my choice of sentinel."
Mairen blushed, taken aback that she was more a problem than she liked. "I am aware Haldir has responsibilities. I do not mean to take him from them." She folded her hands together to still their sudden trembling. "Besides, my lord, I know well the guards that follow me, it seems you have already placed shadows at my back."
"Indeed we have," Galadriel agreed as she rose from a stone bench in the shadows. "But Haldir's responsibilities also include you, Mairen." She reached them and took the hand Celeborn held out to her. "Do not let Celeborn fool you, Haldir will be near for he is a part of your healing. And my husband's concern for you is not unfounded. You have slept finally, but your body is still weak. I would prefer you do not stray far from your room, nor go high into the trees. My sentinels will continue to be near when Haldir is not for your protection."
Mairen felt her blush deepen and move to sit nervously in the chair Galadriel offered. What did they think of her? Did they truly feel concern for her health, or were the guards more than that, indeed guards? They seemed to treat her well, their concern evident on their faces. Did they sense her feelings about Haldir, about everything? She watched the elven lord pour a glass of wine, which he handed to her.
He sat down across from her and Galadriel moved behind him, resting her hands on his shoulders and the two gazed at her with eyes that were fathomless, kind, yet in those gazes she saw nothing. What they thought was completely hidden from her.
"This is our first opportunity to speak. We have some important things to discuss, Mairen," Celeborn said quietly.
Mairen nodded, hoping the twitching of her fingers was not visible.
Celeborn reached over and relieved her of the goblet. "Do you understand what is happening?"
Mairen felt a chill run down her back, but nodded. "Haldir says I am reborn."
"So we believe." Celeborn leaned back. "Let me provide more detail. As immortals, when elves die, in battle or otherwise, we are sent then to a place called the Halls of Waiting. Not bodily, of course but in spirit we are sent, and therein we wait until some point in a time when we are reborn and assume another role in life."
Mairen folded her arms over her chest, tucking her hands underneath. Celeborn's eyes narrowed slightly and a smile tugged at the corner of his mouth.
"I understand that, I think. And if you do not die, you sail eventually to the West."
"Aye, to live in peace forevermore," Galadriel said softly.
"Why do you wait?" Mairen asked. "Why not all go now?"
Celeborn pondered this for a moment, reaching up to squeeze Galadriel's hand on his shoulder. "An interesting question. We have loved this land for ages, Mairen. Just as it was not easy for your brothers to leave you here with us, it is not an easy thing for most of us to give up that which we have built up for so many years. This land is in our blood as much as Valinor, and it is a struggle to know which to follow."
"We all hear the call," Galadriel added, "to go to the Havens to set sail, but many of us put aside that call, for events happen here that require us to remain. Yet soon all the elves will leave the world of Arda, never more to walk her green bowers and sunlit plains."
Mairen shivered, unwilling to think of that day. "So what does this have to do with me?"
"You have the fëa of one of us," Galadriel replied. "Why an elf has been reborn as a mortal is for you to decipher. Only you can unlock the secret."
"Only you," Celeborn repeated, "have the power to merge the two into one entity so that you become her and she you. Only then will you remember why you were reborn. Once you remember then those memories will fade, not to be forgotten, but trouble you they will not."
Mairen stared at him in dismay. "But I cannot be this elf! She is nothing like me!"
"Who is she, Mairen? Do you know her name?"
Mairen sighed. "Her name was Seothlindë."
Galadriel lifted her chin, her sapphire gaze resting calmly on Mairen. "Ah, an interesting dilemma now presents itself." She seemed to study Mairen intensely, and Mairen felt the blood rise swiftly to her cheeks.
"Do you know anything else about her?" Celeborn asked. "Anything that might be important?"
"Aye," Mairen gazed at the elvish couple. "She was in love with Haldir."
Haldir nodded to the elf before him, and then turned away from the gate, heading back into the city. The Orcs still harried the borders and a new patrol had just been sent out to relieve Orophin at the border. He wanted his brother here instead; he had a sense that he might need his aid.
He made his way along the meandering path, nodding to greetings given by those he knew well. He paused as an elf left the group he was in and walked over to clasp Haldir's arm.
"They say the Rohirran has the fëa of an elf? Is this true, Haldir?"
"We do not know for certain, Elweth. Hopefully we will know more soon."
Elweth's grip tightened on his arm. "I have heard it rumored that she was one of Cirdan's people?"
"All will be revealed when necessary. You would do well not to pass rumors until we are certain."
Elweth stepped back, his chin rising. "I ask only out of concern, Haldir. For if it is the one I have heard, I wonder why the Valar would send her back."
Haldir met Elweth's gaze. Elweth was a sword smith of the Galadhrim, a well-respected elf. "We will only know the truth when she remembers. The Valar's whims cannot always be explained."
The elf bowed slightly. "Indeed. Forgive me, March Warden for delaying you."
Haldir nodded and resumed his walk among the Mellyrn roots. The day had dawned clear and bright, a late summer day that warmed the lower glades of the forest with a misty light. The shafts were glimmering beams of pollen-laden radiance, illuminating the darker bowers of the wood.
Haldir made his way past small alcoves and several gardens full of heady fragrance before he stopped at a smaller one, moving among the tiny patches of flowers toward the elleth who knelt among them.
She looked up, smiling broadly. "I wondered if you would come by, Haldir. I too have heard the rumors."
Haldir crouched beside her. "Indeed, Eluviel, everyone seems to have an opinion. What is yours?"
"Eluviel laughed softly. "I think the Valar are playing games. I have no wish to decipher their reasoning. No, pray they do not think me ignorant, but I would wait until I knew for sure their way of thinking. And only she can tell you that."
Haldir's lips curved in a wry smile. "Always the devious one, winding your way around an answer." He rose gracefully, gripping her fingers to pull her to her feet.
"That is because I have no answer. Has she met with Celeborn and the Lady yet?"
Haldir nodded. "Aye, but only briefly."
"Time will tell. You must be patient."
Haldir's brows lifted. "As if I am not?" He bowed slightly and turned to leave, but she gripped his arm gently.
"Give her these, Haldir, she might like them." With a soft smile, Eluviel held out a few of the long pale violet flowers whose heady perfume filled the garden.
He took the flowers with an odd smile. "If I did not know better I would think you were match-making," he murmured.
Eluviel smiled. "Nay, Haldir. I think someone else has already done that."
Mairen lay back on the long bench, staring up at the leafy canopy above her, her eyes moving higher and higher until she could perceive no longer the individual leaves, but only the shadows of flets, bridges and occasional patches of brighter light. The forest here in the center of the city was thick with the largest of the Mellyrn, anchoring the elvish city. She sighed, knowing she was going to be late with her next meeting with Celeborn, an unforgivable breach. She forced herself to her feet, ignoring the dizziness that came with it.
She had to take a moment to remember his directions, and then proceeded down the trail to another path, taking that and following it for several minutes. She was beginning to worry she had confused his directions when the elvish lord rose from within the shadows.
"Greetings this day, Mairen."
Mairen bowed. "Greetings to you, Lord Celeborn. I trust you are well today."
Celeborn took her hand. "It is not my health we are concerned about." He led her into a small garden, surprisingly bright among the large trees. "I hope my directions were not confusing."
Mairen smiled. "Nay, my lord. I am here."
Celeborn's eyes twinkled. "Aye you are, but we are missing someone else."
Mairen's head swiveled as Haldir spoke from behind them. "Forgive me, my lord, for it is I who am late."
Celeborn only smiled, lifting an eyebrow at the flowers in Haldir's hand. "For me, Haldir? My favorite kind."
Haldir smiled, and handed them to Mairen. "Had I known they were your favorite, I would have brought you some as well."
Celeborn chuckled, then noticed Mairen's expression. "Do you not like them, Mairen?"
She glanced at Haldir awkwardly. "They are beautiful. I just have never had anyone give me flowers before. Thank you."
"A token of my friendship," Haldir replied and guided her to a low bench set among a large bank of bushes.
Mairen lifted the flowers to her nose, hoping she hid her disappointment. She didn't want to dwell on why she felt it. She set them gently on the bench beside her and looked up at Celeborn who remained standing while Haldir sat beside her.
Haldir reached into the pouch at his waist and held out the worry stone she had carried. "I believe this is yours."
Mairen took the stone, feeling it warm in her hand the instant she touched it. "Aye, but it was my brother's first." She opened her fingers to gaze at the small rock. "He never told me of its powers, only that is seemed to ease his worries."
"That is because he did not know of them," Celeborn told her.
Mairen stared at him in confusion.
Haldir shifted slightly. "The stones powers to amplify will only work on those who have some inherent magical abilities. Such as elves."
Mairen rubbed her thumb over the stone thinking of her efforts to contact him. "So you heard me?"
Haldir's gaze touched hers. "Aye, but you could have given me a bit more warning."
Mairen glanced back down at the stone, remembering the brief glimpse of dappled leaves, the view of the forest that hadn't been hers. And the last memory of Seothlindë's.
"What do you remember?" he asked evenly.
"I remember Seothlindë. She was also remembering."
Haldir reached out to wrap her fingers firmly over the stone. "What was she remembering, Mairen?"
She stared down at his fingers, still touching hers. The elf's last memory had been painful and emotional. "She was remembering her childhood. And you, Haldir." She glanced at Celeborn. "Well, not really Haldir, but how she felt about him."
Celeborn nodded. "Why do you think she remembers?"
Mairen shrugged. She didn't want to think about that because for some reason it pained her as much as it must have pained the elf. "I have no idea. None of it makes any sense to me."
"The memories have meaning," Celeborn said. "But only you can interpret them. You must reflect upon what you have seen and what she is trying to tell you."
Mairen scowled, thinking of what the elf had been like. "I don't like doing that. I don't like her."
"Why don't you like her, Mairen?" Haldir prodded.
She stared at him incredulously. "Do you have to ask? You knew her. You know what she was like." She pulled her hands away from Haldir's and stood up. "Why the Valar would want to send her back is beyond me." She spun around to leave, but Haldir rose and caught her arm.
"Are you running away now? You came here for help but you refuse to listen to our guidance. Perhaps you are more like Seothlindë than you think?"
Mairen jerked her arm free. "How dare you say that? I am nothing like her! Nothing!" She glared at him, and then spun around angrily only to find Celeborn blocking her path.
The elven lord settled his hands on her shoulders. "We are not trying to make you angry, Mairen. You must consider why she raises these emotions inside of you. That is the key."
Mairen stared into Celeborn's eyes, biting her lip as the sapphire depths searched hers. Blue as the sea they sparkled . . .
The sea was sparkling blue, the sunlight glancing off the shallow waves to blind my eyes as I gazed out over the bay. My bay, mine alone, I had found it only yesterday, following a deer along the shore. I sat on the warm sand, sifting the gritty soil in my fingers. The wind teased my hair, fluttering the blonde strands around my face, tickling my cheeks and I absently brushed the strands back. I stared at the sea, wishing . . . but for what?
I laughed to myself, wishing for a handsome sea god to rise and sweep me into his arms to carry me off. I giggled, enchanted by the idea but then frowned. But he wouldn't come from the sea. No, my love would come from a far-off wood, a forest I had never seen, of golden trees and dark grottos and houses built high into the trees. I squinted out over the waves, imagining instead the wood of my dreams. I would live there, wouldn't I? Some day? A nagging sense of foreboding swept over me, darkening the daydream to shadows, but I pushed it away, refusing to allow the feelings to obscure my fantasies.
I stood staring out at the sea, sparkling blue as I'd ever seen it, and imagined not being here to view the broad expanse. My sea would some day be a sea of trees and golden leaves. Or so I'd always thought. I adjusted the bow on my shoulder, pushing away the memories of the day I'd found the bay, and focused instead on that sense of foreboding. It had come back full force of late. I frowned; wishing I could roll back time to the day Haldir had left me.
I'd been so ignorant, naïve to think I knew everything. How the Valar must have laughed as they watched, knowing I was so wrong. I shook my head. I knew what he'd meant about my need to learn. I had always assumed when we met it would all fall into place. Even when he had risen from the sea, so like my fantasy I'd felt sure it was the right path.
I'd been terribly wrong. It was not his fault. The March Warden was everything I'd dreamt he'd be. Tall and handsome enough to send waves of giddiness through me, making my fingers itch and tremble to touch him. No one else had ever made me feel like that. How could one elf overcome my sensibilities and make my knees turn to water at glance? Perhaps it was those eyes, so different from anyone else's. The grey depths could cut a man in two, or an elf. He was so commanding, yet distant, and it was all I could do not to run to his side, wishing only to drown in that gaze.
He was so *** honorable. Like my father had predicted, he had become March Warden. He was loyal and steadfast and highly respected, well known for his fighting skills as well as his work as an emissary to the Lady of Light.
He could speak more languages than I could. He spoke Westron with the ease of hobbits or humans. That should have told me so much. But I had been blind. I had seen his strength and reveled in it, but had overlooked his empathy and his compassion. Such traits aided him so well as he dealt with others of the world. Traits he had shown me I lacked.
I sighed. I had to see him again so that he could know I could change. He could teach me . . .
But no, I had to teach myself. Only then would his gaze rest on me once more.