“Silly Elfling.” Glorfindel smiled, stopping before the Elf maiden, and reaching out his hand, touching her brow. “You’ve gotten berry juice on your face.”
“Ah?” She breathed, touching a hand to her forehead where she had brushed the lock of golden hair from her before her eyes. Sure enough, it came away wet with the crimson juice of berries.
“Here, my little one. I’ll get that.”
From within his tunic, Glorfindel produced a handkerchief, and the maiden rolled her eyes.
“It’s just a streak of berry juice, Glorfindel. I’m not bleeding.” She grumbled, but held obediently still nonetheless as the older Elf proceeded to wipe the handkerchief across her brow. “Sometimes you are a bit overprotective.”
“It is my duty to be!” Glorfindel answered brightly, stepping back. “And a very glad duty to bear, it is.” He added, flicking his finger playfully over the tip of her nose, to which she smiled.
His face darkened slightly, and he looked downward as he tucked the handkerchief away. “But with that Maeglin-,”
“Maeglin is a fine man, Glorfindel.” She countered suddenly. “Why can you not see that?”
He shook his head, looking up at her, pity heavy within his eyes as he smiled sadly. “You have such a tender heard, onómë. But you are trusting the wrong man. There is something dark in him. Something he keeps hidden-,”
“And what is it? What has he done, that you think him unworthy of me?” She shot back.
Glorfindel seemed suddenly worried, and for a moment, the maiden felt a stab of guilt. He did not wish to argue with her.
“I do not know if he has done anything, so much as he keeps his dark plans hidden in his heart.” He looked up at her, a sad grimace upon his face.
“Would you choose my mate for me?” She grumbled to the ground.
Glorfindel sighed. “I would have you love whom you will.”
“I love Maeglin.”
“I do not think you do. Not in the deeps of your heart where true love is. That as yet, I think has gone untouched.”
“And how do you know my heart?” She countered, her voice quavering. “You, who has never found one to love yourself? How can you know of love?”
“I know that Maeglin does not truly love you.” He grumbled, though his voice was gentle, and he came forward to grasp her elbows. ” Not with the way he looks at you. He wants you, to be sure, but not in a way in which I approve. And you should not approve of it either. Not if you wish for lasting happiness.”
The maiden opened her mouth to protest, but her argument died away, as a shard of truth drove painfully through her heart.
“When you find one to truly love, it will be for more than the physical pleasure Meaglin wants from you.” Glorfindel muttered gently. “He will love you for the goodness in your heart as I do, and not only for your fair beauty.”
“Ah, my friends! I heard my name! You are speaking well of me, I hope?”
The nearby voice, though at first seemed bright in greeting, carried beneath it, a darkened hint of warning. Maeglin, the king’s nephew, came striding near, his eyes bright, and his smile broad.
The maiden’s eyes shot to the ground at Maeglin’s approach, and she felt the rush of heat rising in her cheeks. The way he walked toward her, striding so easily with the smooth grace which was his-, the way his thin tunic brushed across the muscles of his chest-, Her thoughts darted to what Glorfindel had just spoken of, and she wondered truthfully for a moment, what it was about Maeglin which attracted her so. Was his heart as good and gentle as Glorfindel’s? Were his words and actions to her, honorable, and respectful?
She drew in a ragged sigh as a troubled thought made her brow furrow. For she could think of no other reason, aside from his alluring masculine beauty, that caused her to believe she loved him. Her heart faltered. Love could not be that way. Not truly. But as she looked back up at the king’s nephew, she swiftly forgot what Glorfindel had said.
“Maeglin.” She smiled, and let the dark haired Elf snatch her by the waist, kissing her hungrily, and she wondered for a fractioned instant if perhaps he did it, for no other reason, but to goad Glorfindel.
“How are you, this fine morning, lissien?” Maeglin asked playfully as his mouth released her, and smiled down upon her.
“Well, Maeglin. Very well, thank you.” She smiled, though a part of her mind balked that he would clutch her so posessively. “And you?”
“How could I be anything but perfect, in the presence of such a fair vision as you are?” He teased in return.
She ducked her head, smiling, and he at last, at a glance to Glorfindel, released her and stepped back.
She glanced at Glorfindel as well, and pursed her lips at his arms folded across his chest, his face stormy as he eyed Maeglin.
“Shall we go on a walk together, just you and I?” Maeglin asked brightly in deliberate ignorance of Glorfindel’s challenging eyes.
“She has not finished her duties here, yet.” Glorfindel interrupted abruptly.
“I can think of a few ah, duties she has yet to-,” Maeglin seethed, “-perform.”
Glorfindel did nothing but scowl at Turgon’s nephew as Maeglin smiled.
“Come then, my dear.” Maeglin finished, reaching for her hand.
But a sudden clap upon Maeglin’s shoulder stopped him, and she turned as Glorfindel leaned meaningfully toward the king’s nephew, and whispered in a hushed voice, meant for Maeglin alone, “Lay one finger upon her, and by the Valar, I swear I will kill you.”
She gulped and dropped her eyes, pretending she had not heard.
“I have friends, Glorfindel, chief of the House of the Golden Flower.” Maeglin muttered in return. “You could not reach me.”
“If I couldn’t Lord Tuor would.” Glorfindel returned smoothly. “He and his lady are not so foolish as you wish to believe.”
To this, Maeglin said nothing. He simply smiled as if the two were friends, and had traded kindly pleasantries. But there was also fear hidden behind his eyes.
“Very well,” he said aloud cheerfully, and with a smile and bob of his head, bid them fairwell.
“I will see you later, Maeglin?” She called to his back as Maeglin with head held high, strode away.
“Oh, most assuredly, my lissien.” Maeglin called back, turning his head to flash a dark smirk at Glorfindel before he turned away once again.
“Glorfindel-,” the maiden muttered as she turned away, and began to pluck with vengeance, the berries from the bush she stood beside. “Why must you always be that way to him?”
“Do not be angry, I beg you, onómë.” Glorfindel murmured, pain in his voice, “I do what I must, for I wish nothing vile such as he plans, to happen to you.”
Softly, he came up behind her, placing the warm weight of his hands upon her shoulders.
She did not turn to him, and she sensed that her aloofness hurt him as she pretended to busy herself plucking berries.
But at last, she sighed, and her shoulders sagged. And slowly, her hand lifted to cover his where it rested upon her shoulder.
“Ai, Glorfindel. I cannot always be angry with you, no matter that we disagree.” She sighed softly, turning toward him, and lifting penitent eyes to his. “You are too good to me.”
“It is my duty to be.” He sighed, and added, a lightness coming to his voice, “And a very glad duty it is for me to bear.”
She smiled. And with that, he placed a gentle kiss against her brow.
Burza snapped awake, the dream fading as swiftly as the light of morning seeped through the plaited branches of Fangorn’s forest and into her dreams. She sat up, sniffling and wiped at her eyes, though she could not remember why. She had fallen asleep crying, she remembered, tired from her long run. But why would she still be crying, now?
Glorfindel. The name echoed again in her mind.
Burza sighed, and looked up once again at the berry bush, half stripped of its fruit, and a lingering sensation of regret folded over her heart.
She was vile and evil and foolish. Far beyond redemption. But still she must try to undo what she had done. She must try. She must keep going north. Her heart drew her that way.
Reaching into her ragged garment, she snatched out the little blanket and once again ran her gnarled hand over it, smiling at the way the light flickered off of it at the briefest touch. Unfolding it, she lay it carefully upon the ground, and hopped up, busying herself once again with the gathering of the small berries that remained. But this time, she did not snatch at them in such greedy haste as she had before. And instead of shoving them into her mouth, she tumbled them carefully upon the little blanket into a slowly growing pile.
For she sensed she had far to go, and would need her strength.
A slow wind, warm and lazy, stirred about beneath the trees as Burza worked, plucking berries and adding them to the growing pile upon the little blanket. It brushed about her, flicking a portion of her hair in front of her eyes.
Unthinking, she lifted a hand to brush it back, but as she did, she stopped, clutched the long skiff of hair, and looked at it carefully.
For as long as she could remember, her hair had been dark, stringy and wirey, skiffed thinly over her head. But this lock of hair seemed finer between her fingers. And-, perhaps it was the light, Burza wondered, the weak filtering light that made it so. But it seemed to her as if her hair was fading in color. For it seemed in the green grey light of Fangorn, a golden mahogany brown.
She shrugged, cast the thin lock of hair back upon her head and continued working.