The next morning Tasana changed into a clean pair of breeches, a long-sleeved tunic, and her heavy cloak to ward off the chill in the early spring air. She left off her stiff leather armor, knowing that the woods would be well protected. Brushing the tangles out of her short, thick hair with her fingers, she asked the elf maiden standing outside her room where the rest of the company was residing.
“They stay in a guest house not far from here,” she replied in heavily accented common tongue. “Lady Galadriel wishes to meet you today. Come, I will guide you.”
“Galadriel…” Tasana murmured, thinking once more of the eyes that had haunted her dream. She followed the maid to the bottom of a wide, delicately crafted stairway that spiraled up into the leafy tops of the ancient trees that had not yet bloomed this year.
The men had been waiting on her. Frodo and the rest of the hobbits looked very relieved to have spent the night in real beds instead of a tree. Legolas was socializing with another elf, talking rapidly in his native language, occasionally laughing or singing a snatch of some melody unknown to Tasana. Frodo would join in intermittently, speaking haltingly in the elven tongue. Sam watched them raptly, attempting to absorb every element of the beauty of Lothlorien. Gimli looked a little haggard, but much better than he had since the group had entered Moria.
“Boromir! You’ve been up pacing all night again, haven’t you?” Tasana embraced him, checking his face for signs of weariness. She was not happy with how close he looked to collapse.
“You accuse me justly, I’m afraid. Guilty as charged.” He laid his head her shoulder.
“You worry too much, my lord. You’ve too much to worry about.” She ran her fingers through his honey-brown hair, trying to ignore the lines around his eyes as they kissed.
“We’ll discuss this later.” Aragorn nudged his sister in the ribs with an elbow as a pair of royally dressed elves came down the stairs. The male was easy enough on the eyes, his silver hair belying his ageless, almost youthful face with smoky eyes of the same shade as Strider’s. He was dressed in plain gray robes, but held himself as an elven nobleman. The lady at his side was dressed as a meditative sun to the lord’s quietly powerful moon. Her hair was the color of the old leaves upon the trees illuminated by the morning’s first light in early spring; her snowy white dress was accented with golden brocade. Her eyes were closed as if she were deep in a trance as she descended the stairs, yet her grip upon the lord’s guiding arm was loose and unaffected.
“Where is Mithrandir? I wish to speak to him,” the gray lord asked for Gandalf. Before any of the company could speak, the lady — Galadriel — opened her ice blue eyes.
“He has fallen… in Moria, upon the bridge of Kazad-dum.” Aragorn nodded, speechless as the rest of the company. Gimli quickly averted his face, muttering something unintelligible. “But come, you have not yet eaten.” Her welcoming smile did not quite touch her eyes.
Through the meal, Legolas and the hobbits made small talk and spoke of their adventures, with Boromir occasionally adding a wry observation or Strider interrupting for a clarification. At first Gimli remained closemouthed, but Legolas’s gentle prods soon had the reticent dwarf speaking freely about his elven hosts. Tasana said little, volunteering no information and answering questions as taciturnly as possible without being outright rude. She flashed her brother the wolf sign for ‘stay quiet,’ willing him to understand.
No one mentioned the company’s final destination or the Ring. The way Boromir described it; the group was accompanying him back to Minas Tirth. Although the elven lord and lady were allies, none was ready to enlighten them as to the true purpose of the quest in public.
There was no mistaking those eyes for Tasana. The Lady Galadriel had some sort of uncommon power that allowed her to work her way into others’ dreams and thoughts. Despite Gimli’s earlier warnings to avoid her eyes, he now seemed enthralled in his conversation with Galadriel, as if she had already wormed her way into his heart.
Tasana watched the lady steadily, rarely turning her eyes from her constant vigilance upon the elf, attempting to divine the witch’s reasons and methods purely from her frosty expressions. The human woman was the only one who dared meet the sorceress’s eyes for any length of time. Aragorn bowed his head and shaded his eyes with a hand whenever he spoke directly to her. Boromir would blink owlishly and hood his eyes, studying the floor. None of the hobbits would meet her face; they addressed her feet or the air around her as often as Galadriel herself. Even Legolas, an elven noble himself and as personable as most of the rest of the company combined, seemed uncomfortable in meeting his kinswoman’s icy gaze.
This lady had certainly amassed quite a bit of power, Tasana admitted to herself. A sorceress of the wood and a leading member of a highborn family, the elf could give Tasana knowledge that her pack seeress would find useful. A few weeks in Lothlorien would have Boromir well on the way to recovery from the horrors of this journey, as well. Perhaps Galadriel was not the frozen – hearted witch Gimli had described her as; the dwarf seemed have to fallen under the spell of her eyes and looked much improved for it. “… All who see her eyes fall under her spell.” Gimli’s warning echoed in the woods-woman’s thoughts.
Tasana shook herself, breaking eye contact for a moment as she steeled her mind. All of that was what the sorceress wanted her to believe. There would be another time after this quest was completed to return with Mithilira at her side; the wolf would be able to pick up scents and feelings that the human huntress was incapable of detecting. And it only took one look at Boromir’s exhausted, restless face to assure Tasana that he would not sleep peacefully here or anywhere else until he had walked the streets of the White City once more.
There were many wounds to tend to yet, the healer thought to herself, studying the stretched smiles on her company’s faces. Frodo’s eyes had been unnaturally wide after the troll had stabbed him, and he often turned them upon the company as if he expected danger at any moment, particularly from them. The younger ones were too quiet. Merry and Pippin were attempting to keep the gentlemanly stiff upper lip around the ladies, but Gandalf’s death had hit them more deeply than it had Tasana.
Aragorn had quietly taken over command, and although Strider seemed well suited for leadership, he had concentrated so much upon the rest of the group that he ignored his own needs. Even with the clean river the group had followed into Lothlorien and the hare Legolas’s bow had provided, Aragorn still rationed food as closely as they had needed to in Moria, his own more closely than anyone else’s. Tasana could have sworn this was the first meal in days the ranger had eaten that consisted of more than a single bite of cram and a swig of water. Even those “meals” had been few since the wizard’s death. Yet another symptom of the group’s meltdown, the healer thought to herself, a meltdown that Tasana would have to find some way to prevent.
After breakfast, which had been big enough to satisfy even the hobbits’ voracious appetites, Legolas, Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin went on a tour of the Golden Wood with their host, Lord Celeborn, dragging Gimli reluctantly along to leave the three humans alone with Galadriel.
“I know what you have foreseen, Tasana Rivermerchant,” she said, causing Chev’yahna to exchange looks with her confused brother, who shrugged innocently. Neither of them had used her real name in public, not even amongst the company. Boromir’s gaze flitted between all three, looking thoroughly mystified and slightly hurt as he saw the recognition of the name in the healer’s green eyes. “I know what you have sensed; I have felt it as well. But I did not cause these this to happen, so you must learn to trust me, Lady Warg.”
“After that earlier attempt to turn us from our quest?” Boromir stood up, knocking over his chair. “Don’t lie to me, witch. I know that vision was your doing and meant to lure me away from completing our mission. You have failed, Lady Galadriel. Men of Gondor are true to their word. I will not abandon my company. The One Ring will be destroyed,” he growled. Tasana could literally see his hackles rising. Had the elf tried to worm her way into everyone’s minds? Whether Galadriel wished them ill or not, it would be best to avoid a confrontation with her until they knew for sure.
“Be at ease, my dearest lord, and let me hear what she has to say.” Tasana attempted to soothe him, only to find herself facing the brunt of Boromir’s angry suspicion.
“Have you found your coven-sister then, Tasana?” He spat her name like a curse. “What witchery did you cast upon us, foul sorceress, to allow you to join our fellowship? What charm did you blind us with to let you so close to your master’s ring? With what spell did you steal my heart, only to break it?” Boromir suddenly looked close to tears. “I love you, Chev’yahna; I loved you with my whole heart. Yet you could not even trust me with your name.” He turned his back on them, walking stiffly to the door.
“Boromir…Boromir, wait, I-” Tasana started after him, overcome with a desperate need for his gentle touch. No physical wound could have hurt her as much as his words.
“Let him go, Tasana.” Aragorn stopped her. “He needs some time to himself. He will return when he is ready.” Strider held her tight for a moment, letting her cry on his shoulder. “What things have you foreseen, sister?” He stepped back, his gray eyes piercing her green ones.
“Dangerous times, Aragorn. Sorrow and suffering upon all of us. I saw Boromir–” She looked over first her brother’s shoulder for the steward’s heir, then over hers in a futile attempt to read the expression on Galadriel’s face, which was as indecipherable to her as the elven language- “I saw him close to death.”
“I saw him dying.” Galadriel’s voice was as cold and emotionless as her eyes. “But that was before I knew that you had joined the fellowship upon their quest. You have changed the course of fate, Lady of the Wolves.”
“Perhaps it needed to be changed,” Tasana shot back. “I am no lady though, simply a merchant’s daughter. Why do you persist in addressing me as one of the nobility?”
“The king’s sister, no matter her father and upbringing, is truly of noble blood. As is the alpha of the seer-Wargs.” Galadriel lectured her as if she were a small child.
Tasana chuckled darkly, returning to the table. “No matter our blood, my brother is not yet King of Gondor. And if we do not complete our mission quickly, there shall be no Gondor left to rule over. Furthermore, I am just a human the pack mistress has taken a liking to, no higher in the hierarchy than a yearling cub. If you are going to name my supposed titles, you have as yet forgotten the future wife of the Steward of Gondor.” Her velvety tone did not hide the embittered, cynical bite in her voice.
“You may marry Boromir yet, Tasana,” the faintest trace of a smile crossed the elf’s frozen countenance. “But he will not become Steward of Gondor. This I have foreseen with no small amount of certainty.”
Tasana laughed aloud. “This is definitely a place for amusement. We may have to stay a few days yet, Strider,” she said sarcastically. With that, she turned and left the room, stalking off to find Boromir.
“Your sister carries much evil within her, Aragorn.” The Dunedain nodded remorsefully, saying nothing as he looked toward the door. “She is not the only one, though. All of you suffer from this burden.” The call of Galadriel’s eyes brought Strider’s face to hers.
“It must be destroyed, though, Lady Galadriel. I agree absolutely with Boromir upon this point.” He paused, remembering the words another lady of the elves had told him in a time of weakness, words that had become his mantra for courage and strength. “I am Isildur’s heir, not Isildur. I will not make the same mistake as my forefathers. Through me, Isildur’s bane, the Ring of Sauron, will be destroyed.”
“I understand, Aragorn, but at least rest here in peace and comfort for a few nights. You push your companions too hard, too fast. Not even you can keep this pace for long.”
Aragorn recognized the truth of her words, but as the ranger’s nickname implied, Strider was anxious to get back on the road. “We will stay a fortnight, and no longer. We must keep moving.”
Galadriel nodded with cool comprehension, knowing she would get no better offer. “Very well then.” She watched this last man, who carried the hopes and futures of so many of the free peoples, walk out her door.
* * *
[Author’s note: Easy, elf-lovers… have to set up Tasana’s suspicions of Galadriel, not all character’s beliefs coincide with my personal views. That legal jargon out of the way, hope you like it. Comments always welcome!]