Burza smiled, tipping her head back, and gazing up into the high branches of the tall golden trees, flocked with vibrant golden leaves as they waved and fluttered like the welcoming hands of friends beckoning her home. What a fair place was this! She could stay here, many days if she wished, resting, and eating berries, if perhaps, she could find some-,
A soft rustle of leaves caused her to spin, suddenly frightened, hugging her arms tightly to herself. But she saw nothing on the path behind her.
“You need not fear that your captors will follow you, young one. For you are under the protection of the Lady of the Wood now.”
The voice startled her, and Burza uttered a garbled cry of fear as she spun forward to face the unexpected image of the Elf man, standing on the trail before her. Tall he was and golden haired, clad in a grey cloak, a tunic and breeches of muted colors, and soft leather boots. His eyes were fixed upon her with questions, and what seemed a soft, sorrowful look as well which Burza could not interpret. His voice contained none of the harsh, painful tones of the Black Speech, nor the solid, somber tones of the Common Speech, but yet she understood much of what he said. He took a step nearer, his eyes growing ever softer as he unbound his cloak from his shoulders and held it out to her, a gesture which she did not understand, and only stumbled back again, a pace.
“What is your name, young one?” He queried gently. “Where is your home?”
At this, she cried out again, and scrambled backward, falling to the ground as she did. She could see now, the sheathed knife strapped at his waist. He was going to kill her. Drawing in a ragged breath, she released it in a timid whimper, and scurried upon her hands and knees toward the nearest tree, huddling herself into the tall curve of its roots. Sniffling, she buried her head against her knees, hugging the small folded blanket close against her skin, her one comfort.
“Do not be afraid,” the man called after her his voice even softer than before as he took a step closer to her. “You need not fear me. I wish to help you.”
“Oh, the poor little one.” Another voice, a feminine voice caused Burza to shiver, gulping hard at the fair Elf woman who came near to stand at the man’s arm, watching her with the same soft expression as his face bore. “How terrified she is.”
“And none can fault her for it.” The man muttered, shaking his head, a thick bitterness laced his voice. “Look at her garb. I dare not think of the abominations she has suffered-, cursed, vile orcs-,”
At this, Burza began to sob, loud wrenching sobs, for she had understood well his last words. She was cursed and vile, they had said so. And now they would kill her.
“Oh, my dear one!” The lady exclaimed, catching his loose cloak from him as she stepped past the man. Drawing nearer to Burza’s narrow hiding place, she crouched down so that her eyes could look levelly into Burza’s. “The darkness is past. And the pain will never return.”
Burza shook her head through her fearful tears.
The woman sighed softly, and glanced up at the man as if for help.
“Those creatures will never touch you again, fair maiden.” The man added gently as he came to stand behind the woman. “You need fear nothing any more.”
Burza sniffed, and blinked at him as he said these words. And in the same moment, a spear of bright, golden morning sunlight broke through a space in the branches above her head, washing the ground before her hiding place in a warm beam, bathing the two Elves beneath it.
“Come.” The woman beckoned, smiling again, and offering her a welcoming hand. “Come back into the light.”
Gulping hard, Burza lifted a hand, which seemed no longer twisted and gnarled, but soft and smooth as the woman’s as she caught her hand and drew Burza slowly, gently from beneath the bowed tree roots. The woman stood, helping Burza up with her, and with gentle pressure, pulled her slowly beneath the warm beam. Slowly, Burza’s hand was drawn beneath the light that shone warm and smooth upon her skin, warming as it crept up her arm, to her shoulder, and at last, enveloped her, washing her face in the light that streamed like a gentle shower through the fluttering leaves.
“Now, my dear one.” The woman sighed and circled the grey cloak, warm and soft about Burza’s narrow shoulders as the man smiled kindly upon her. “Was that so very difficult?”
But Burza did not answer, for she was too captivated by her own hands, shining and white beneath the clear sunlight that fell down upon her like a gentle rain. She turned them over before her face, unable to understand what she was seeing. They were fair and smooth, no longer twisted and charred as they had once been. Burza lifted her hands to her face, touching the smooth unblemished skin, and her hair-, she touched her fingers to it, long and thick now as it tumbled in rich golden waves about her shoulders.
“Haldir,” the woman murmured anxiously at Burza’s dumbfounded expression, “go quickly and bring the food basket. She must be delirious from hunger.”
He complied immediately, and soft, swift footfalls marked his exit.
“Now then, dear one,” the woman soothed, catching Burza’s hand within her own, and touching a cool hand to Burza’s cheek. “Will you tell me your name? And where is your home? Your family is sick with grief, surely, thinking you lost.”
Burza blinked numbly at the woman’s questions, as she pulled the edges of the cloak about her. What were the answers? She could not remember. Her mind was a swirl of forgotten memories, and half remembered dreams.
She gulped hard, hugging the warm cloak all the more tightly about her shoulders as the woman smiled softly and nodded her encouragement. Burza shivered warmly at the image that came to her mind. His eyes, his smile, his face she would never forget.
She sighed at last and murmured one soft word, “-Glorfindel.”