“What happened?!” cried Dorminel, as she flew at Elphir and helped him lower Lauren to the ground.
“I do not know, I found her like this,” replied Elphir, concern etched on his face.
“Her clothes are drenched with blood. Sabrelin, get the men away from view, and Carasel, bring me my pack,” Dorminel commanded, preparing to tend to her friend.
Before anyone could do anything more, the elves’ sharp hearing picked up the sound of approaching footsteps, causing them all to freeze.
“Oh Eru, what else will happen to us?” cried Dorminel, exasperated, as the remaining members of the companions unsheathed their swords and knocked arrows into their bows. It was now well into the night, and the elves’ keen eyes were of no help in deciphering the identity of these new presences. There was no time to run, so they prepared to fight for what they thought would be the last night of their lives. Each elf and human tensed, readying to put the best effort that their tired bodies would allow into the battle to come. No one felt fear, they were beyond that, too weary to waste any energy on emotion.
Finally, a figure stepped from the trees. All arrows rose to meet it, but instead of attacking, it spoke.
“Is this how you greet your gracious guide?” said the voice of an elf.
“Haldir!” exclaimed Carasel, relieved.
“Who else could I be? ” he replied with a huge grin, hidden by the darkness, then continued, “Now, if our Lady Galadriel is not mistaken, you have one wounded among you, which is why we have been sent here,” he said, motioning to the elves who had silently joined him. Two elven rangers came forward with a stretcher, and gently placed Lauren onto it.
“If you will follow me, I will lead you all to Caras Galadhon and save you from losing your way,” he continued and started after the stretcher, his cloak billowing out behind him.
The companions followed, relieved, that they were a short walk away from their destination and would be allowed a well-earned rest. Thus they passed through the silver trees of Lorien, each overcome with a sense of peace, and in awe of the beauty of the forest. Their hearts were eased, relieved from their burdens, and became convinced that their companion, whom they had come to care so much for, would be healed. Upon arrival, they met with Galadriel and Celeborn, as is appropriate, and then were given rooms to stay in, while Lauren was immediately taken to the healer.
The next day, all were requested to attend a council with Galadriel, Celeborn, Elrond, Haldir and the other lords and ladies of Lothlorien. Elladan, Elrohir and Legolas related the events of their journey from the day they set out from Rivendell to the night before. The rest filled in the bits and pieces these three had left out. Once they had finished, Galadriel spoke.
“Indeed these are strange tidings. Never has such a large patrol of orcs been so close to our woods. As for their deaths, that is not as great a mystery as you would presume. Yesterday, at the time of their death, I felt a wave of power flow through me, combine with mine, and strike a hundred beings dead. Elrond has told me that a similar situation happened to him at the same time. Such things happen in times of need between the bearers of the three elven rings. Occasionally, a being with a power akin to one of the ring bearers may be able to tap into this power. The only mystery I see is which one of these nine companions has such power,” she concluded. Silence followed as each debated which traveler could possibly have this power.
A memory flashed through Thialfir’s mind, he felt again Lauren’s touch as she healed him, closing his wounds. It was her, he realized, she had summoned the rest of the great powers. He had guessed it then, had felt the wave emanating from her, and now knew for certain.
“Lauren,” he whispered, his voice echoing through the silence of the council. All eyes turned towards him. Seeing that he needed to explain himself, he began with the event in the gardens of Elrond, being careful to exclude anything that Lauren may find embarrassing, though noting the slight smile on Galadriel’s face, then continued on with how she had healed him and Elphir. Silence followed again once he had finished.
“Then our mystery is solved. We have nothing further to discuss,” said Galadriel, ending the council, though she left with Celeborn and Elrond, deep in conversation.
It was well into the night by the time the council ended, and though some stayed awake to enjoy the sights of Caras Galadhon, Thialfir walked straight to his lodgings.
The next morning marked the companion’s second day in Lothlorien. They had received word from the healer that Lauren showed no signs of waking, and the gashes all over her body did not even begin the first stage in healing. The healer was a gifted one, equal to Elrond, and most of her patients were up and about within an hour. The lack of change in Lauren’s condition was great cause for worry.
Thialfir could stand no more of simply waiting and worrying, and so, made his way to see for himself how she was doing. The healer’s dwelling was not far, and within minutes, he came upon the tree. He entered silently, and nodded at the healer, who left. He stood, staring at an unconscious Lauren, noticing the gashes where they poked out from under her clothes, and her drained, pale complexion. Fear for her welled up inside of him, and he sat down on the chair by her bed. Her wounds were indeed as open as on the night Elphir had found her. He reached out and stroked her cheek, then took her hand in his, caressing it, all the while willing her to heal and wake. He stayed there for more than an hour, whispering to her in elvish, encouraging her, reassuring her that she was missed, that she had so much to live for, never stopping the rhythmic motions of his fingers across her hand.
Just as he was about to leave, he felt her cold hand warm. A moment later her eyes fluttered open, and her wounds closed. Her eyes strayed towards him, and a contented smile flashed across her tired face.
“Thialfir,” she whispered.
“Sleep,” he said gently, and she closed her eyes, falling into a deep, healthy sleep.
Thialfir stood for a moment more, brimming with joy and relief, then summoned the healer, who confirmed that she did indeed heal fully, but still needed plenty of rest and patiently told him that it’d be best for him to leave.
That evening Lauren woke fully. Though still weary, the healer could not keep her from rising, and eventually succumbed to her pleadings and let her move into the dwelling where the rest of her companions now stayed. What she wanted most of all was fresh air, and went with her companions on a tour of Lothlorien, who were more than happy to have her back. Elrond also went with them.
When they returned, Lauren was obviously tired, still not completely her former self. Elrond immediately noticed, and suggested that she turn in for the night, putting himself into a father-like role. He escorted her to her room, made sure she was all right, and then gave her a reassuring hug. As he left, she heard him whisper, ” Maer du … sellath”.
Before she fell asleep, she relived the events of that evening. Dorminel had been the first one to see her walking towards the companion’s dwelling, and had run up to her with a joyful cry, embracing her in a fierce hug. She had grabbed her hand, and pulled her along shouting to the others, who spilled from the tree. Once everyone had hugged Lauren and welcomed her back, informing her how much they had missed her, Elphir asked, “But how did you heal so quickly when for days not even the tiniest scratch on you bettered?”
Everyone else nodded their agreement to this question, and Lauren, finding Thialfir’s eyes, smiled and replied, “All I knew was darkness, it wasn’t like sleep, sleep is restful and is lit with vibrant dreams. There was nothing there, just darkness, and I could not wake, but occasionally I would stray from even that and not remember anything. Then, I heard someone’s voice, felt them holding my hand, I began to find my way back, I became lost a few times, but the voice never faltered and I soon found my way again, back to consciousness. When I opened my eyes, I felt all my wounds, and willed them close. Then I saw Thialfir and fell asleep.”
“But what happened before? How were you wounded?” inquired Legolas.
Lauren smiled again, remembering, “That is something I wish to keep to myself,” she had said mysteriously, then continued on in a lighter tone “Now, are we going for a tour of Lothlorien or not?” With that they departed, each wondering at what Lauren was keeping from them, but knew that she would only share it when she was ready.
That night Lauren tossed and turned. A nightmarish vision filled her dreams for most of the night. She was back in her house, in her own world, in her own bed and in her own clothes. As she lay half asleep, the scent of smoke spiralled up to her room. It intensified until she could ignore it no more, so she climbed out of bed to make her way to her parent’s room.
As she stepped out of her room, she found the hallway surrounded by sickly green flames. Panic began to grow in her, but she pushed it down, convincing herself that it must be some sort of joke or hallucination. The smoke, as green as the flames, thickened as she came upon the place where her parent’s room should be. The smoke cleared for an instant, and Lauren spotted a limp hand on the ground, just inside a circle of flames. A wave of horror overcame her, cleansing her of all doubt she had at the reality of her situation. She tried with all her might to move, to reach that hand, to get her parents out from the burning house, but she stayed rooted to the spot, unable to move. Some invisible force grabbed hold of her and began dragging her back to her room. “NO!” she screamed, overcome by helplessness, as the invisible force pulled her faster and harder, so that now she was unable to resist it at all. Anger grew in her, as it never had before. All her muscles tensed, in every effort to stop whatever it was that was pulling her, but it didn’t even slow let alone falter. Angry tears fell down her cheeks as she tried again and again, to no avail, filling her with hopelessness.
Once she had been dragged back into her room, she noticed that it too was engulfed in the green flame, but what she saw next unnerved her completely. She saw herself, still sleeping, on the bed, the flames now licking her back. She was suddenly thrust forward and had a vague sensation of going back into her body, before complete darkness overtook her, and a burning pain erupted in her back. She sat, unmoving in the dark, too consumed by her emotions. Then, she was somehow moving upwards, and an evil laugh cut through the silence of that dark void, which turned into a disembodied voice.
“Sssssso, my dear little pawn, you have decided to join us. Such a pity you weren’t able to say goodbye to your poor family before they died, oh so tragically. Do not worry we’ll make sure you’ll be the undoing of all that you hold dear,” it told her, then erupted into another bout of bone chilling laughter.
Before she had a chance to reply, she felt herself stop her ascent, and suddenly begin to plunge downward. As she fell, she felt the cold voice surround her, its evil piercing her soul. Then came the unbearable cold, and the voice seemingly formed a fist around her, digging into her, and filling her with convulsions of pain, adding to her torment. She now stopped her rapid descent, and was moving forward.
“No,” she whispered, and with all her will, unclenched the fist around her, relieving the coldness and pain from her soul, and halting her progress forward.
“You may have escaped meeting me now, but my goal for tonight has been accomplished, welcome to the world where you will end all…” laughed the disembodied voice. The laughing once again surrounded her then slowly died away.
She was left alone in the darkness, with many haunting images penetrating her thoughts. She felt empty, drained. She knew her parents were dead, there was no way they could have escaped the fire, but there was a tiny corner of her that refused to accept it. In her naivety, she began calling to them, in emotional torment, praying that that one small corner of her mind was right. Then, gaining no response, she pushed it out of her mind, but could not dull the great affect of their loss. Her mind focused on what she had been told. What was so special about her that she could end all? How could she possibly do this? Fear gripped her, an emotion she had neglected to feel until now, too immersed in others.
“No!” she told herself, she will not believe it, but try as she might, images of a massacre played themselves in her mind, with defenceless people lying dead around her, and a bloodied sword in her hand. “NO!” she screamed at herself, trying with all her might to push the image away, but the image had a mind of its own. As the image was about to immerse her in itself, she heard someone calling her name. It came again, gentle but insistent.
She opened her eyes and found herself back in Lothlorien, in her room, safe. She saw Thialfir leaning over her, concern showing in his protective stance.
He sat down beside her and asked, “Are you alright?”
Lauren sat up, remembering the dream, and the fate of her parents, as well as hers. She couldn’t restrain the tears now streaming down her face. She didn’t trust herself to speak, knowing only too well that her voice would come out weak; tear filled and incomprehensible, if it came out at all.
“Lauren?” Thialfir asked again softly.
Despite her best efforts to remain silent, a sob escaped her lips, cutting through the darkness, which had, until now, kept the fact that she was crying from him. He, now realizing her distress, drew her in towards him until she was against his chest and in his arms. At this gesture of kindness, Lauren lost all control and began sobbing into his shoulder, the flood of tears unceasing.
“Avo nurno, le hi vi bann,” he soothed her. He was surprised at how much he wanted her to stop, not because he wanted to let her go, but seeing her like this tore at him. All he wanted was to see her smile again, to see those beautiful brown eyes regain the soft light that always radiated from them, now so diminished. To see her features etched in such pain, nearly broke him. He stroked her back, feeling her shake with deep sobs, then slightly tightened his embrace, reassuring her of his presence.
She continued to cry for the next hour, unable to contain the pain, guilt, and fear that had welled up in her over the past few days. Under her grief, she was surprised to feel a sense of security, and some delight in being so close to Thialfir. She couldn’t even begin to describe how grateful she was to him for staying with her. She needed him.
Once she had calmed down, she related her dream to him, thereby exposing the secret she had kept from him, that she wasn’t from Middle Earth.
“I just know it wasn’t a dream, it explains why I’m here and why my back was burnt, and -” she started, hopelessness beginning to consume her, but Thialfir, noticing, interrupted, putting a finger to her lips.
“You are safe here, we will deal with this tomorrow,” he said softly, but reassuringly.
She nodded; glad to have someone to share her troubles with, and believed him. She let go of her fear and despair, and slowly drifted off to sleep, safe in Thialfir’s arms.
Once Thialfir was sure that she was asleep, he laid her down on her bed, and with a swift kiss to her cheek, left.
He stepped from the tree and breathed in the fresh air, easing his mind a little, and marvelling at the beauty of Lothlorien. Worry for Lauren filled him again, and he sat down under the next tree, its silver leaves shining in the moonlight. His thoughts turned towards the secret she had shared with him that night. How could it be true? It simply does not happen, beings are not transported from one world to another, and yet, he knew she had spoken the truth. It may appear impossible, but he had had a feeling that she was more than she appeared to be from the time they had first met. A completely different world would explain the strangeness of the situation in which he had found her, lying on the banks of the Anduin with naught but thin strange garbs in the middle of winter. Indeed, she was from another world, but that changed nothing, he concluded.
“Thialfir,” came Legolas’ voice. Thialfir turned and noticed the slight smile on Legolas’ face and asked, “What is it?”
“I believe I know what ails you, old friend,” Legolas answered, as he sat down next to him.
“I am ill?” asked Thialfir, raising an eyebrow.
“Ai! He speaks! Can the one that has been as silent as death be returning to his old self? What do I say, of course he won’t, he has “the sickness”,” teased Legolas.
“Legolas, I am not in the mood for one of your riddles,” started Thialfir.
“When were you ever? But in the end you always played along and enjoyed yourself, and as I recall-,” he started, but stopped at the threatening glance from Thialfir, then continued with what he had meant to say all along, “Now, as I was saying, I believe you, my dear elf, are in love.”
Thialfir snorted, “And with who?” he asked, sceptically.
“The human girl of course,” replied Legolas matter of factly.
A very small part of Thialfir wanted to laugh at the idea, but he silenced it and remained serious. The two elves sat in quiet calm, as he examined his emotions and found what Legolas had said to be true. He was sure of it, though he had never in his long years felt that particular emotion before, he knew. He had been too preoccupied to notice it, too afraid for her life, too consumed with worry, but love was the cause for all of these emotions. “Aye, you know me better than I know myself,” he whispered.
“That is what friends, who have known you since you were but an elflet, are for,” said Legolas as he clapped him on the shoulder. Legolas rose, and silently walked away, leaving his friend submersed in his thoughts. And submersed he was.