My feet carried me away unerringly. My mind had shut down, and as it always had for me, survival instinct took over to control my body and further shield my mind. It wasn’t protecting me from flying bullets this time, but somehow, the pain in my heart seemed far more threatening—far more real.
When my eyes focused on my surroundings again, I was looking out over the canopy of the city. The great silver trees were still bare, yet somehow those branches swaying in the breeze seemed long and elegant, like the slender fingers of a pianist. The moonlight from the slivered moon cast a pale light over the trees, giving them a ghostly white visage instead of their normal silver sheen.
The flet I stood on was simple and plain. Only a few benches lining one side of the railings around the edge of the small platform.
Haldir had brought me up here a few times. An observation platform he’d explained it as. And at the moment, I needed nothing more than to simply observe the sky above, and the city below. And forget my inner turmoil.
The platform was in the same tree as Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel’s talan, but off another branch that lifted above the surrounding treetops. I’d enjoyed coming up here to see the sunrise or sunset over the city with Haldir. I enjoyed seeing the sun and sky even more. Seeing the moon tonight was nearly as good.
Perhaps there was more Fae blood in me than I gave credit for. Or cared to think about.
“Lane?” a voice called softly from behind.
I turned from the railing to see Haldir stepping onto the platform from the stairs. His cloak—usually an ever-present part of his uniform—was missing. He also wore no jerkin over his linen shirt tonight, which was also pulled loose from his pants, the wrinkles making apparent where the tails had once been tucked in.
Glancing at my wristwatch, I confirmed what my internal clock was saying: it was well after midnight.
“What are you still doing up?” I questioned.
“I would ask you the same, Lane,” Haldir countered.
I turned back to the railing with a heavy sigh, leaning down to brace myself against the smooth wood by my forearms. Haldir stepped beside me and mirrored my stance, letting silence fill the air.
Finally, when I could stand the deafening quiet no more, I spoke. “I’m just trying to wrap my head around everything you’re offering and what I’m going to do.”
He briefly looked confused by my vernacular, but then nodded as though he’d heard me say what he expected.
“I saw you climbing the stairs as I readied for sleep and thought you could use the company. You do not seem quite yourself.” He looked across the treescape, and then gently added, “I would help you if you wish it. If there are questions I can answer, please, ask them.”
Turning my head towards him, I spoke. “You barely know me. I’ve only been here a month. Why are you asking me to stay? What do you see happening between us?”
He twisted his head to face me as well, but we both kept our bodies parallel to each other, still braced on the railing.
“You could live with me. Be my wife,” he answered simply.
If only things could be that simple.
I turned away again, to gaze across the treetops. It was easy to recall my month in Lórien. Easy to remember how simple things were and happy I’d been. Perhaps in another life, I could have easily been tempted by that taste of paradise.
But having sampled it before, I knew it couldn’t last.
“I married my first husband because things seemed happy and because I was content. I thought love would follow. Or maybe that love didn’t really exist and simple contentment was more than I could hope for. But it didn’t last and I grew bored with playing wife to him.
“In truth, I left him—at least in every way save for actually divorcing him—long before he started cheating on me and finally left me. And a part of me was relieved when I found out it was over and he’d remarried. I felt guilty for so long for marrying him when I knew my heart wasn’t in it.
“And I know in my heart of hearts, I’d be damning myself to the same mistake if I told you I’d stay here with you. Eventually, I’d grow restless and be busting to get out of here. And then, where would that leave you? I may not fully understand elves, but you said so yourself, elves give their hearts easily and they fade when they’re heartbroken. You wouldn’t be like my ex-husband to simply remarry and start over.”
I sighed again, feeling like I’d run out of steam, and glanced over to see Haldir turned towards me, his brows furrowed.
“You have been married?” he questioned after several moments.
“Yeah, once, years ago now,” I answered. Reading the surprise on his face, I gave a self-deprecating laugh. “I didn’t tell you that, did I?”
I ran a tired hand over my face and answered grimly, “See. You don’t know me.”
No one did.
“Then you will not stay with me?” he asked, looking angry—though whether over the things I hadn’t told him or the fact that he knew what my answer would be, I couldn’t tell.
“It wouldn’t last, and it wouldn’t be fair to you. You can’t love someone you don’t even know.”
My first husband hadn’t known me either. Hadn’t known about my telepathy or my twisted heritage. Hadn’t understood why I hated going to bars or going clubbing with him. I’d never told him that the pressing of that many drunken thoughts on my mind was overwhelming and souring to my own mood.
I’d never told him about the danger of the homicidal half of my father’s family. Hell, I would never even tell him what I did in the Marines or where I was being stationed throughout the war.
Small wonder we’d never worked out. Hard to make something work when every word out of my mouth had been lies.
I’d lied to everyone my entire life.
It had been the last thing I remembered my mother telling me before she killed herself when I was barely past a toddler. To never trust anyone and never tell anyone what I could do. You can only trust yourself, she’d told me.
And I always had trusted in only myself.
Mike had been my partner on the force, but not even he knew anything real about me. Not that I’d been married, nothing that had happened during the war, and certainly nothing about my mixed blood.
No one knew me.
“What is that in your hand?” Haldir asked, his voice quiet and drawn.
I looked down at the railing and saw my left hand clenched around something. Legolas had pressed something into my hands, I belatedly remembered.
Turning it over, I opened my palm and saw something carved out of wood. The wood was darkened from the skin oils of someone’s hand. The obvious hours in their grasp had darkened the wood and smoothed the edges, softening it.
“My god!” I softly exclaimed as I turned it again. Recognition hit me. I traced my fingers over the face of the smiling girl. Her smile was one I’d recognized but never myself known as a child.
It was a smile I’d carved with my own hands.
The very first night I’d found myself in this world, I’d asked Gandalf about the possibility of getting back to my world. When he hadn’t told me what I wanted to hear, I’d sought to distract my mind with my hands. That night, I’d sat and carved the image of a happy child. When morning had finally dawned, I’d left the figurine behind.
I’d never expected to see it again, but here I held it, in my own hands once again.
“It’s a figurine I carved,” I whispered.
“It is stunning,” Haldir observed.
I nodded mutely, thinking it hadn’t been so stunning, last I’d seen it.
The girl was far more detailed than I’d carved her. I’d focused on her face and head, giving her ringlets of curls, and a cherubic smile.
Now, the girl’s hands and even her dress were more finely carved. What had been harsh edges, now formed gentle waves of fabric, with her hands softly grasping folds of the skirt as she shyly looked up through her eyelashes.
It really was beautiful now.
And I was shocked by the realization that not only had Legolas picked it up that morning and kept it, he’d obviously spent a lot of time not only holding it but also carving on it himself.
I can’t believe he picked this up and kept it.
“Of whom do you speak?” Haldir asked, making me realize I must have given voice to the thought.
“Legolas. I can’t believe he kept this. I carved it right after showing up in this world, but I left it lying in the grass when we moved on that morning. I’m amazed he picked it up, kept it, and even carved more on it,” I incredulously explained.
“Yet he returned it to you?”
“Yeah, this evening. I told him and the others about your offer, and he said goodbye and gave it back.”
“He said, ‘goodbye’?” He looked at me curiously and gently took the figurine from my hands to turn it over in his. “You told him you would stay?”
“No. I said I hadn’t decided. Aragorn and the others asked me to go with them. Legolas got mad at me and gave me that,” I said with a nod towards the statue in his hands, “and said he hoped I was happy.”
“He loves you,” Haldir suddenly stated matter-of-factly.
“What!” I sputtered. “Legolas?” I shook my head. “He wanted me to go for the hobbits’ sake, and so that they would still be ‘the Nine.’ There’s nothing more than friendship between us.” The last utterance came out barely a whisper as my mind conjured our discussion again. I pushed it away, not wanting to remember the folly my heart had dared yearn for.
No matter what I’d briefly hoped for, friendship is all that stands between us. Legolas made that clear.
I wouldn’t let my heart foolishly dwell on impossibilities. I had survived as long as I had by keeping sight of what was the reality of my situations. Not dreams.
“There’s only friendship,” I whispered, though, I wasn’t sure if I trying to convince Haldir or myself.
“Of course,” Haldir softly demurred, handing the figurine of the girl back to me.
I traced the smiling lips of the statue, once again remembering my mother’s warnings. Faithfully I’d heeded them my whole life.
Until I’d come here.
I’d told Haldir a little bit about my telepathy, but I was startled to realize I’d told Legolas far more as we sat beneath the stars. Legolas knew about my husband, too. As well as my homicidal father.
He even had managed to talk me into telling him about what happened in North Korea. Or, most of it anyway. Things I had refused to speak of even to the military shrinks—not that they could have helped me.
I’d told him so many things that I’d never breathed a word of to anyone before.
Why had I trusted him and told him so much?
And why had it felt so natural?
“Will you go with the others when they leave on the morrow?” Haldir asked, once again leaning on the railing and looking over the city.
“I don’t know,” I answered honestly. “I have no reason to go.”
Give me a reason to go. Give me a reason, I had pleaded.
I cannot, was his simple answer.
I shook myself from the memory as I straightened to stand. “I have no reason,” I repeated.
I’d left Haldir to his own musings on the observation platform and returned to the forest floor.
My reason for staying had effectively vanished, but no more did I have a reason to go.
I was as lost as I’d been the moment I’d woken up here in this world.
It startled me to realize I’d found my way back to Galadriel’s garden. I hadn’t been back here since she informed me I was stuck here. My treks through the city had completely detoured around this part, making it easier to forget that I was truly lost and without even a world of my own.
The garden seemed different now. A strange dichotomy of winter-bare land and a ghastly ethereal beauty highlighted by the stretches of pale moonlight and deep shadows. Yet I knew this garden—and this forest—would never again hold the beauty of the Galadhrim’s fond remembrance.
I didn’t know if it was my own knowledge of what was to come that skewed my perception of the glowing light and deepening shadows, or if it was my own sense of helplessness and hopelessness.
Maybe it was both.
“One oft lends itself to the other,” a light melodious voice spoke behind me.
I twirled around to see Galadriel now standing before me.
Realizing she’d read my thoughts, I hastily threw up my barriers to shield my mind.
“It is truly amazing how you are able to shut me out like that,” Galadriel commented with a smile. I noticed this time she’d been prepared for me shutting her out and didn’t visibly shudder as she had before.
She gestured to one of the many benches littering her garden and proceeded to walk to it without looking to see if I would follow. But with a sigh, I did just that.
The elleth sat elegantly on the bench and waved her hand to the spot beside her, indicating for me to join her. As I sat, I noticed that she wore another plain, white dress, and that ironically, her feet were bare.
I pulled my legs up to sit cross-legged and turned partly on the bench to face Galadriel.
“Your mind is troubled,” the elleth stated.
“Yes,” I nodded, my hands fidgeting in my lap, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do now or where I’m supposed to go.”
“You could remain here,” she responded.
Somehow, I was surprised by the thought that she knew about Haldir’s offer to me. But I also knew that she seemed to have knowledge of everything that went on in her city.
“I turned his offer down. I can’t do that to him. Eventually, I’d grow bored or restless here, and I’d want to move on. I can’t stay and lead him on. It wouldn’t be fair to him.”
“I am aware that you have declined my marchwarden’s offer. Yet, I would offer to allow you to remain in the city if it was your heart’s wish,” she countered.
I looked at her in surprise, my hands stilling to grasp my knees as I leaned forward. “You would offer me a place in your city?”
“Of course. If it was truly your wish to remain.”
“What about Haldir?”
“Haldir is a strong ellon, one whom still holds your friendship in high regard. I am pleased to see that your wisdom prevailed and you denied his offer, but your friendship need not end. He has been happier these past days then I’ve seen him in some ages,” the elleth explained with sagacity.
“But you think I made the right choice turning down his offer?” I asked, growing confused by his words.
Her smile was kind and almost motherly, and I remembered that this elleth, though eternally youthful and beautiful in appearance, was actually grandmother to Arwen, the Evenstar.
“Hearts of loneliness and longing oft misinterpret their own designs, the wishes and dreams of their inner desires make them deem that they have finally found what they yearn for.”
I was silent for a few moments.
“In other words you think I’m lonely and it’s making me believe I’m finding someone to fill that loneliness?” I asked, my expression drawing together in consternation.
She laughed, that light tinkling sound that only elves could make. “I had meant Haldir in truth, but one draws their own conclusions. Haldir has been alone for many ages now, and though I do desire to see his loneliness ended, you were right to deny him. In the end, it would only lead to heartache for you both. That is not something I desire for either of you.” Her expression sobered as she spoke.
“But you’re still offering me a place here?” I asked, my confusion apparent in my voice, even to me.
“If it is what you desire,” she repeated. “I have no wish to see either of you harmed by your loneliness. If your friendship eases you both, then so be it.”
I felt flattered by her offer, but somehow, something about the thought of staying just didn’t seem right.
Of course, my heart clenched at the knowledge that I really didn’t have any reason to go either.
“Your friends shall miss you if you stay,” Galadriel stated, breaking into my thoughts. “Legolas shall feel far more than that.”
I pulled my knees to my chest and folded my arms across them before resting my chin on my folded arms. “Legolas and the others will be fine,” I assured, maybe myself more so than the elleth. “I asked him for a reason to go with them, but he didn’t have one for me,” I admitted. “I guess the only place left for me is to stay here.”
And I felt my stomach drop at my own words.
“You protect yourself and your heart zealously. Yet you have ever sought to protect others so zealously. What will you do when protecting those you wish to shield from harm, puts your heart at risk as well?”
I looked at her in surprise, and felt her breach my defenses as images of Merry and Pippin flooded my mind. I saw the happy images of them laughing and colluding with each other, and I saw them joining me in my play with the elflings of this city. They were so innocent and childlike themselves. And it shocked me to realize how much I feared and dreaded what would happen to them on their next leg of the journey.
Their captivity by the Uruk-hai I knew would not permanently harm or damage them, on the contrary, I knew it would force them to mature and age and would serve them well when they one day returned to their own lands.
But even now, before it had even happened, I mourned the loss of their naïve view of the world.
I knew that even though they would grow up, their time in captivity would forever mark their hearts and spirits. And I wanted nothing more than to shield them from it. I knew from experience how much even their short captivity would mar their youthfulness.
Boromir too for that matter. I knew I couldn’t change his fate—too many factors hinged on it—but I couldn’t help but seeing him standing alone trying to protect the hobbits. I couldn’t change his fate, but he didn’t deserve to stand alone.
Question was: What was I going to do about it?
I knew I might very well die trying to stand beside Boromir to protect the hobbits, but could I live with myself if I didn’t stand there out of fear?
“I have to go with them,” I whispered to Galadriel.
She smiled knowingly. “Andreth has already packed your things and seen to it that you have enough supplies for your journey.”
I looked at her in surprise. “You knew I would go?”
“I see many things in my mirror, but more than that, I see the hearts of others. In your heart, I have seen your desire to protect. Your future remains clouded to me, but I knew you would not stay,” she admitted.
I shook my head. “Thank you. For speaking with me and for everything you’ve done for me and given me. There’s nothing I can do to repay you.”
She looked at me, a meaningful expression in her eyes as she pinned me with her stare. “You can repay me, and yourself, by finally making a choice.”
“I thought I just did,” I replied, confusion coloring the words.
“Make your choice and finally accept it.”
“I don’t understand.”
She glanced meaningfully at the gun always present on my hip. I feared ever leaving it in my tent and allowing some unsuspecting elf to find it.
“You ever cling to the hope that you may yet return to your own world. Until you make a choice to live in this one and accept that choice and this world, you shall ever be separated from both worlds and cast adrift. Truly make a choice.”
I finally let my feet drop back down to the ground and let my fingers graze the butt of my pistol. But it wasn’t my gun I reached for next. My hand slid into the jerkin I still wore and pulled out my wallet.
She was right, I still kept my wallet and all of things from my old world, refusing to truly let go of them. Even my cell phone and radio were in a pack in my tent, worthless here, save as the ever shrinking promise of returning to my own world. And so long as I still clung to those items, I’d never really let myself move on and accept that I lived in this world now.
I looked up at Galadriel. “You’re right. I know what I have to do.”
Without a word to her, I got up and headed for my destination.
Soon, I was standing at the city’s blacksmith shop. Surprisingly, he was even present and still working. Through pantomimes and my pigeon Sindarin, I was able to get him to stoke his forge until the coals burned bright and red. Removing my clips from my guns, I took out the bullets and then tossed the empty clips along with the guns into the forge. The radio and cell phone I’d detoured to my tent for went in next. My wallet, minus a few old pictures, followed.
Finally, I stood before the blaze of the forge, holding a few old pictures, my dog tags, and a few other small items from my world. I could let my old life and my old world go, but I still needed to hold on to a few things. I’d worn those dog tags for too many years to simply toss them away. They were a reminder of everything I’d seen and done to become who I was. The pictures were mostly old photographs of Marine Corp buddies. They too were a part of making me the woman I’d become. And they were good reminders of some of my better days.
“Le hannon,” I said to the blacksmith, “thank you” being one of the few phrases I remembered Legolas teaching me in Sindarin.
I slid the old photos back into my jerkin, settling them over my heart, and replaced the dog tags around my neck. I had let go of my old world, but it seemed to me to be a good idea to keep a few anchors to my past to remind me of where I’d come from.
I gestured to the ellon’s workbench, silently asking if I could use it and his tools. He silently nodded in return, and I set about laboriously dismantling my bullets. Even without a gun to fire them, they were still dangerous.
The blacksmith watched curiously for a few moments, but soon returned to his work.
When I was finished, I tossed the empty casings in the forge, stirring the coals to ensure that everything had melted. The bowl of gunpowder I silently carried to Galadriel’s garden and gently spread over several of her dormant plants and flowers. In such small quantities, the powder wouldn’t be dangerous and the nitrates in it would act as a fertilizer. Maybe it would give the elleth’s flowers one last beautiful bloom before she sailed into the West.
Giving a final silent thanks to the elleth for all that she had provided me, I turned away to walk back to the campsite and my tent.
I didn’t know what tomorrow or our journey would bring, but I knew regardless of any foolish hopes I’d harbored, I’d found new purpose. No matter what, I’d protect Merry and Pippin as best I could. And I wouldn’t let Boromir stand alone. I wouldn’t allow him to die alone.
A/N: Let me know what you think!
Also, I have another short chapter written up from Legolas’s POV, but I haven’t been positive whether or not to use it. Your thoughts? Do you want to read it?