The little blanket was empty once again, folded carefully and stuffed back beneath her ragged tunic as Burza lopped wearily along the foot of the mountains, thumping through tall dew wet grasses, and small springing flowers that were just beginning to lift their heads out of the earth now that it was loosing itself from the cold grip of winter. Her berries were gone. They had been since the night before. Her stomach was beginning to grumble again with hunger, and she was growing thirsty as well. The cool shadows of Treebeard’s forest she had left long behind her, and she trotted beneath the high, cloudless sky. The sun, she could see, was coming in the east, warming the sky, and lightening the snowy tips of the mountains to the west with a pink, rosy light.
She sniffed to herself as the golden light slowly rose in the sky, soon to peek over the friendly trees east of her. She would need to stop soon, find a sheltering cave perhaps in the nearby foothills, and sleep as she waited for the harsh, scalding light of the sun to pass beyond the western mountains before she could crawl out again. Or perhaps-, the thought brought a warm thrill to her heart, she could make her way into the shadows of this forest, and find her rest beneath those fair golden trees.
Her heart sang at the thought, for her very soul seemed drawn to those trees. How fair they were, and undefiled, beckoning to her almost, they seemed, inviting her to come and rest beneath their boughs, to sleep her weariness away in their gentle shade. And-, her heart sighed at the thought that washed her heart as if with gentle sunlight, how-, forgiving they seemed.
And she hurried on towards them, quickening her pace all the more as a cold, clear melodious clatter of running water came dancing upon the wind toward her. Until to her great delight, a cold stream of water appeared beyond a low rill, slipping merrily down from the hills above her and moving swiftly on down the slope of the mountain, and joining in the distance, another river that shone silver in the rising dawn before flowing on into the fair, golden forest.
Quickly scampering down the bank, she stopped for a moment on the edge of the bright clear stream, before she stepped carefully into it, and let the water wash gently over her tired feet. Soothing and cleansing it was, as if it were washing away not only the dust of her travel, but also the darkest pain of her heart. Not caring that it soaked her, she dropped to her knees and dipped her hands down into the clear water. She scooped it up, gulping it down greedily, and snatched up more. It was cold, and clean, and deeply refreshing, Burza sighed, sitting back upon her heels for a moment, and letting her fingers trawl over its laughing, dancing surface. If only she could stay here, her heart wished, and splash about all day, like a child. But the sun was coming, and she needed shelter. So with a sigh of reluctance, she clambered to her feet. She splashed out again, moist earth squeezing between her bare toes as she clambered up the bank, cool waving grass, and new young flowers once again beneath her feet. Lifting a hand that seemed softer and oddly pink in the light of the rising morning, she brushed the water from her face, and started in a trot toward the golden trees that grew all the more inviting and kind as she drew closer. Their boughs fluttered softly in a gentle morning wind, their voices stirring softly as if they sang to her in welcome.
The distant mountains were touched with a brush of pink, but the morning light had not yet touched their golden trees, and in the soft shadows of the early morning twilight, Haldir seemed almost one with the branch upon where he was perched, gazing through the trees and toward the western hills as if lost in his own deep thoughts.
Lothriel smiled at his firm, broad back, his straight strong shoulders as she stepped silently nearer. His warm smooth even now, bore a soft glow to it and she mused again over how blessed she was to have him once again. To have the comfort of his strong arms about her, his love filling her days and nights that had once been so empty and purposeless. To see in all he did, his love for her as well as for their unborn son, ever growing beneath the beating of her heart, healed now of all its pain. The Valar were indeed gracious and good.
He was not expecting her here. And her smile grew all the more broad as she crept nearer, anticipating the look of surprised delight on his face. She paused behind him, only a breath away, and slowly, achingly, reached out toward him.
“I must commend you, my love. You almost caught me off guard.” She could hear the smile in his voice, and as he turned toward her, she caught a glimpse of his haughty smirk before he caught her up in his arms and captured her mouth in a deep kiss, drowning out her groan of protest.
“How did you find me out?” She sighed, drawing back from him, and smiling indulgently at his new habit of trailing his hands across her narrow stomach, though it was not yet showing any outward sign of their son’s slowly swelling life.
“It was no fault of yours that I knew of your coming.” He assured her gently, once again drawing her close into the shelter of his arms. “Unless I can fault the sweet aroma of the food you left below you upon the talan.”
“Ai,” she sighed, and her face fell. “That was to have been my second surprise.”
“It is a surprise.” He assured her warmly, catching a branch above his head to step deftly around her. Taking her hand within his, he led her back with him and downward off the wide branch and onto the flat surface of the talan where she had left the food basket she had brought, resting upon a wide square of silver cloth she had already spread out. “I had not expected you. For I had thought, perhaps foolishly, that you were tamed at last, and would wait at home like-,”
For a moment, his eyes flickered, unsure of what he should say next, and Lothriel pounced wickedly upon it. “Like a good little wife should?” She demanded saucily.
Haldir cleared his throat at this, and Lothriel grinned. “No!” He protested. “Like I would think you might in-, your-, condition.”
“My condition?” Lothriel grinned mercilessly, enjoying his discomfited expression immensely. “Are you suggesting, my lord, that I am an invalid?”
“Ai, my lady, I am defeated!” Haldir groaned, circling an arm about her waist. “Will you not show me mercy?”
“Never.” She sighed.
“Ah, good.” He grinned, lifting his chin and cocking an eyebrow mischievously. “Then you remained untamed. Just as I prefer you to be.”
She smirked at these last words.
“But-, where are the others?” He asked, drawing slightly back, and glancing about them questioningly.
“I bribed the other guards with food,” she quipped, “and then I sent them away.”
“Indeed?” He murmured, a roguish smile sliding across his face as he turned back to her.
Offering him an impish grin, she nodded, “Far away.”
“Now that is indeed, a very pleasant surprise.” He murmured, pulling her against him once again and bending his head over her own.
“Ah, but what’s that?” She gasped suddenly before their lips could meet, and pulled back swiftly, tilting her head as if straining to hear an unheard sound.
Haldir paused at her expression, listening as well, and then he heard it, a soft sound down below, as if someone was picking his slow way through the undergrowth below their talan.
“Rumil and Orophin.” Lothriel grumbled, slapping her hands against her skirt in exasperation as her husband, with furrowed brow, crept to the edge of the talan, and glanced over the edge. “They are coming to tease us, the scoundrels. That is the last time I give them any berry tarts.”
“No, Lothriel. It isn’t them.” Haldir hissed in a low voice, the tone of which drew a somber silence over her, especially when she saw the expression on his face as he silently gestured her to his side, and pointed, with bated breath at the figure that was coming along the path below them, toward the very tree they were perched within.
Lothriel said nothing as her eyes fell upon the figure below them. But she felt her breath grow still in her throat, and she lifted a hand, softly covering her mouth.