Upon her wide bed where Lothriel lay, curled like a child, she sighed as she lifted a hand, and studied her long tapered fingers as they shivered and trembled with a cold chill in spite of the warm, lingering sunlight that filtered through the screen of her flet above her bed.
Inside of herself, nothing existed but a black void, where hope and joy lay withered and dead. And within that void, Lothriel could hear the labored thumping of her heart, slow and sonorous. Her chambers were silent, for since the passing of her father and mother, she had been the only occupant, living here alone for the many decades they had been gone.
Brushing a trembling hand beneath her eyes, she glanced at the empty spot beside her, and closed her eyes tightly against the renewal of silent tears that flooded forth. For so long, she had imagined him there, laying peacefully beside her when she dropped to sleep at night, or watching her with his smiling eyes when she woke in the morning. But now, with the wrenching realization that Haldir did not love her, such an image no longer brought the warm hope it once had, and only served to chill her limbs all the more, and make the burdensome effort of her heart’s continued beat heavier.
Lothriel sighed to herself, wondering if this was how her mother’s last hours had been, with her father dead, and no reason to continue living.
Lothriel offered another ragged sigh. How could she find the strength in herself to continue when her mother had not? When she had simply chosen to lay herself down beside her the grave of her beloved, and follow him to the Halls of Mandos.
She had chosen to die and join him, rather than remaining behind, alone. And now, if Lothriel allowed herself to fade as her mother had, she would join them, and there she would-,
Lothriel caught a sudden ragged breath in her throat at the wretched realization, and though the effort to do so was great, she shook her head, and forced herself to sit up. Haldir did not love her, it was true, but-, what was to be gained by allowing herself to fade away, and pass beyond the shores of this grief torn land? Her mother had done so, to join her father but if Lothriel were to fade away and join them, it would only take her farther away from him. The one she loved.
Lothriel set her jaw hard at this sudden realization, and scrambled out of bed, forcing her weight upon her legs. She swayed as she stood, but she steeled herself, and stood straight. She could not allow herself to give into her grief, for her heart bid her be near him. And though she could not have him, she would be as close to him as he allowed.
As her heart returned to the words they had shared at their last meeting, her eyes came to rest upon a wooden chest beside the wall. One that had been hers from the time she had been a child.
“I have my duties to guard the borders. You have your own duties to Galadriel, our lady. Our paths take us in different directions.” Haldir had said. And thus, if that was so, perhaps a change of her own life’s path might take her closer to Haldir, and her ache would be eased somewhat, if she was allowed near him.
With that thought, she moved across the room to the wooden chest, and dropped to her knees beside it, lifting up the lid, revealing folded robes and dresses as well as some of her father’s things that she had been unable to part with upon his death.
Drawing out a pair of men’s breeches, she stood and held them up to herself, wondering a moment, before a resurgent hint of hope lifted her once heavy heart and she found herself snatching up a loose tunic as well, as the hint of a smile began to cross her face.
A resounded knock sounded upon her door as Lothriel tugged upon the hem of her tunic, smoothing the loose garment over her slender frame, and her eyes turned at the sound, followed by the soft brush of a door opening.
Her heart leaped in her throat at the voice, that was Lady Galadriel and as she glanced down at herself, her heart began to hammer.
“Lothriel?” The voice was closer, and filled with a measure of concern as the lady tentatively entered the maiden’s rooms.
“Ah, my lady.” Lothriel gulped as Lady Galadriel in all her regal splendor, at last swept quietly into her bedchamber, and her soft gaze swept across the room, alighting at last upon Lothriel.
Lothriel gulped, waiting for her lady to laugh to see the maiden clad in men’s garb, her own dress flung haphazardly across her unmade bed.
But no laughter came forth. Instead, Galadriel smiled with the look of one whose fear had been comforted.
“I had feared for you, dear Lothriel.”
“Oh, my lady.” Lothriel murmured, dropping her head. “I had not meant to be absent today. But-,”
With a step that was almost silent, Galadriel swept near, and Lothriel felt two slender fingers upon her chin lifted her face up. Galadriel’s ageless eyes searched her own, touched with a troubled thought.
“You have the strength in you, Lothriel.” Galadriel murmured softly. “To follow the path you are meant for.”
Lothriel did not answer, though she drew in a ragged breath, and released it in a soft sigh.
To this, Galadriel smiled, and touched Lothriel cheek with a motherly caress. “Come.” She urged gently.
“Yes, my lady.” Lothriel nodded submissively, though she could not begin to understand the meaning of Galadriel’s enigmatic, though kindly words. And with this, she followed Galadriel’s steps as the Lady of the Golden Wood led her from her flet, and downward around the steps that twisted around the Mallorn in which her home had been perched, and to the grassy path at the base of her steps.
Beneath the silver light that spilled about her, Lothriel’s eyes glanced with questions at a filled quiver that had been set against the jutting roots of the tree as if awaiting its owner, and a strung bow that lay nearby.
“My lady?” Lothriel queried softly as Galadriel caught up the weapons, then turned to her, holding them out in offering.
“These are for you.” She murmured quietly, surrendering them into Lothriel’s startled hands.
“It would not do, to guard our borders without such weapons, do you not agree?” Galadriel asked, her voice lilting in a teasing tone.
“Yes,” Lothriel gasped, “but-,”
“My lady!” A man’s voice cut her off as Thalion, an Elf Lothriel knew, came darting near, slightly breathless as he drew to a stop, and offered Galadriel a low bow. “You sent for me?”
“I did.” Galadriel returned, gesturing to the maiden beside her who stood unsure. “You are acquainted with Lothriel, daughter of Alcarion, yes?”
“Yes, my lady.” Thalion said, offering a nod to her as well.
“Lothriel has chosen to leave my service, and join the border guards.” Galadriel murmured smoothly. And while Thalion’s brows rose slightly, and Lothriel’s eyes darted to the lady’s face, Galadriel’s expression changed not at all.
“She possesses training and skill enough to do this, for Haldir himself has taught her. I wish for you to be her guide and mentor, as your duties take you near the Marchwarden often, and she will-, benefit from that nearness.” Galadriel finished. “Will you do this?”
“Yes, my lady.” Thalion agreed swiftly with a dutiful nod. And with a short smile at Lothriel, he asked, “I will show you the way, if you are prepared to begin now?”
“I-,” Lothriel stuttered momentarily, before she gulped back her surprise at the suddenness of everything, and nodded, “I am.”
But before she could start after Thalion, she felt a gentle hand upon her arm, and she turned to see Galadriel’s eyes shining with the light of many centuries of gathered wisdom.
You will gain your heart’s desire, Lothriel. Galadriel’s words spoke to her mind, though her softly smiling lips said no words. This path may be hard to tred now, but it will not fail to lead you aright, one day.
At these silent words a surge of hope swell in her heart, and Lothriel offered Galadriel a smile of thanks as she turned away, and followed after Thalion’s lead, away through the trees.