A/N: I apologise I haven’t submitted sooner and that this chapter isn’t as good as it could be for the time it took. Recap: Elizabeth just arrived in Lòrien and found out that the Lord and Lady had known that she was coming.
She would have stood gaping had Haldir not stepped forward and bowed. She curtsied in return. The Lord and Lady exchanged an amused glance.
“With your leave, may I return to my post?” asked Haldir.
The Lord gave him a short nod and Haldir descended back down the long flight of stairs.
“My lord, w-what do you mean when you say that my arrival was–er–last minute and not unexpected,” stuttered Elizabeth nervously.
The Lady smiled not unkindly. “I have seen your coming,” she said. Her voice was deeper than what a woman’s voice normally would have been. But despite the harmlessness meant in her words Elizabeth felt frightened. What did she mean? The only people Elizabeth had heard ever of that knew things before they happened were witches. But witches didn’t look this pure and beautiful, did they?
“Why are you frightened child?” the Lady asked with true concern sounding in her voice.
Elizabeth chose her words carefully, “My Lady, I do not want this to sound offensive, but the only people that I’ve ever known that foresee the future are witches.” To her complete surprise the Lady laughed.
“It is true that I have been called `witch’ but you need not fear that I am the witch you were taught that was evil. Only enemies of the enemy live here,” the Lady calmly assured her. “But I am sorry. You are probably tired as well as hungry,” she said as Elizabeth’s stomach gave a particularly loud rumble. “Renatirrael shall be your guide while you stay here,” she continued.
As she spoke a handsome, dark-haired Elf walked forward. “My Lord. Lady,” he said, bowing to each in turn.
“Please,” said the Lady motioning gingerly to Elizabeth.
Renatirrael nodded and offered her his arm. “Milady.” Which gave her no choice but to accept and be led back down the stairs.
Her eyes began to water from her restrained cough. She stopped her descent and began the familiar cough, leaning against the tree for support. Renatirrael did nothing but watch with a startled look on his face.
“Are you all right?” he asked when she could stand straight without support.
She nodded. “It’s just a–a slight problem I’ve had for a little while.” He gave her a penetrating stare but said nothing. “Honestly I’m fine,” she reassured him but he still looked unconvinced.
He led her on. They reached the bottom and he led her on toward another tree similar to one of the talans. “You may sleep here if you wish,” he said, pointing to it. “But we have kept you too long from a meal.” And he led her on once more.
This time they stopped outside what looked like a hollow. He glanced quickly around and motioned for her to come inside. He gave her a mischievous look. “No one, except perhaps the Lord or Lady knows about this. I have a secret stash of food I sneak from the kitchens.”
Did that mean he wasn’t as trustworthy as the Lord and Lady thought he was? She didn’t think she should mistrust their judgment so she stayed silent and ate what Renatirrael brought out from somewhere.
“How long has it been since your last meal?” he asked in surprise when she finished her fourth helping.
“Since the mid-morning meal yesterday,” she replied. The fourth helping was all she felt she could handle for a very long while. She was more than full.
“Now that you can listen without the interruption of food,” he began quickly, “not everyone here is as open to the idea of a mortal staying here, whether it be for a short time or the rest of his or her life. It’s mostly one particular family that has any audible complaints, the others remain silent for fear it will make their Lady angry.”
“But why exactly? I mean to say, what is wrong, exactly, with being mortal?” she asked. What extent would that family go to, to make sure that Lòrien remained a home for immortals alone? She hoped it wouldn’t result in death or someone getting seriously injured. But of course, her visit would be short anyway as the doctor had given her a month to live at most.
Renatirrael studied her face as she thought. He could tell by her face that her thoughts were travelling toward an unhappy subject. “It saddens me to say that I’m not sure what they will do. That family is proud of both their line and of their home. They might go to…desperate measures to `cleanse’ Lòrien of mortality. In my opinion they are too fond of tradition and will fight desperately to keep things the same. But then, as long as you are in the Lord and Lady’s favour you shan’t need to worry too much about them,” he answered. Elizabeth nodded absently. “If you are too worried, I can take you to your flet, unless you would prefer a ground place to sleep. Tomorrow I can show you more of the forest.” He offered her his hand so she took it and stood up. He directed her quickly back to her flet by a different route.
She began climbing the ladder up then turned around. “Thank you for my dinner a–and for your offer to give me a tour of the forest. I’m looking forward to it.” Then she turned and walked the rest of the way up.
Renatirrael stood rooted to the spot, slightly surprised. So much for Atariana’s complaints about how rude and blunt mortals were. “You’re welcome,” he said quietly before turning around and heading to his own flet.
`Still,’ he thought to himself, `something isn’t right with her.’ He had never met a mortal but he figured mortals were…different.
Not bothering to change clothes, he slipped into bed and into a dreamless sleep with no more thoughts on the subject of mortals and their health.