I'm so, so, so
sorry it's taken me so long to get this chapter out.
A lot of really crappy stuff has happened IRL, not to mention this chapter has been rewritten four times, and then my stoopid computer ate the version I actually liked while I was at work apparently, so I had to rewrite it again
There was much flailing and cursing involved when I realized what had happened, and, honestly, I was too brassed off to rewrite it then, so I ignored it for about two weeks. *meeps*
The next several months slipped by almost without notice for the group visiting Lothlorien, the only major change being that Elrond returned to Imladris, leaving Buffy and Spike in the care of the elves of Caras Galadhon.
Legolas opted to stay with them, since he had plans to visit Gondor in the near future and it made little sense to have to make the trek over the mountains twice without need.
Though the events in the Mirror were ever at the back of Buffy and Spike's minds, the atmosphere of Lothlorien allowed them a measure of peace, and time to cope with all that they had seen, which they were happy to take full advantage of.
"Suilaid, Haldir. Have you seen our visitors today?" Legolas inquired of the Marchwarden after an hour long search that had yielded no results.
Haldir gave a nod of greeting, descending gracefully from his perch on the lowest limb of the mallorn he'd been occupying. "They went in search of a clearing to skirmish," he replied. "Though, they did not take much in the way of weapons, save for Buffy's bow."
Legolas' blue eyes turned thoughtful. "Then it is not marksmanship they wish to test this day," he observed. "Have you seen them fight before?"
The Marchwarden gave a slight shake of his head. "I have not. I would believe your estimation of their prowess mere rumor had I not seen evidence otherwise in the Mirror. I would not have believed it possible that either of them had survived such horrors had I not beheld it with my own eyes."
Mirkwood's Prince flashed an impish grin. "Then you do not know what you have been missing, mellon nin," he said cheerfully. "Come, this you must see."
Haldir quirked an eyebrow in amusement. "Did you not search for them fruitlessly already today?"
Legolas gave a nod. "Yes, but I did not know where to look. You do," he replied easily, eyes twinkling with good humor.
"As you wish, then," Haldir replied, amused in spite of himself. Perhaps it would do him good to spend some of his rare time off patrol watching the two newcomers' mock-battle. If nothing else, it would give him means to judge their prowess for himself with little real danger to the two.
Though he'd not come right out and told Legolas, Haldir had a fairly good idea of where the two travelers had gone. There were few elves in Lothlorien who knew its land better than he, due in large part to the frequency of his patrols, both within and without its borders.
Legolas followed the other elf wordlessly, a companionable quiet stretching between them as they moved through the woods as easily as any other woodland creature might, the song of the trees ensuring in ways mortals couldn't understand that there was no such thing as silence in the forest.
As they walked, Legolas mulled over a comment Spike had made about something Buffy had told him prior to the attack the orcs on the borders of Lorien. The vampire seemed to think that the Slayer could hear the trees. Perhaps not as clearly as an elf, but she'd asked Spike if he could hear the trees singing.
The vampire had thought perhaps her sanity was strained due to their long trek, but Legolas, and any other elf, knew better than that. It was something they all knew, from the cradle until they departed for Valinor, something as real to an elf as the color of the sky was for humans.
That Buffy couldn't understand the words in the forest's song was not a surprise, but it made Legolas wonder how much she heard. Most of the time, there were no words at all in the trees' song, but an elf could distinguish emotions and whether or not there was danger nearby by the sound of the woods' song.
He wasn't sure if it was the same for the elves of Lothlorien, but Legolas was a wood elf, and so by his very nature had a closer tie to the forests of Arda than most. Elladan and Elrohir in particular had been quite piqued that Legolas seemed to hear more from the Song than either of them did, though it was Elrond who had attributed it to the Mirkwood Prince's lineage.
"This is the nearest clearing to Caras Galadhon, though there are several others within walking distance that they may have chosen," Haldir informed Legolas, drawing him out of his thoughts.
"No, this is right. The trees have been watching them," Legolas responded, steps quickening as the muffled sounds of a fight reached his ears along with the trees' curiosity at what the two non-elves were doing in Lothlorien.
The two stopped at the tree line, Legolas' lips curving upward in a slight smile as he beheld the sight before him. He'd often watched Buffy and Spike sparring, and they had disturbed him more than once at their willingness to inflict real harm on each other before stopping. He had learnt, though, that they knew their bodies' limits, and did not go beyond what they could safely heal in a few days' time.
It had simply taken Legolas time to train his thoughts away from measuring their health by human standards, as neither of them was mortal, or easily injured.
Haldir, on the other hand, had never seen their particular brand of sparring, and was likely to be shocked at the ferocity with which they fought.
Observing the worried glint in the Marchwarden's eyes, Legolas laid a hand on his arm. "Peace, mellon nin. They will not damage each other badly."
"She cannot see," Haldir replied disbelievingly.
Legolas frowned at that. His brief glimpse at the fight had been more directed toward technique than any self-imposed limitations, and he turned his gaze back to the clearing, surprised to note that Buffy was in fact wearing a blindfold as she fought.
Both combatants were barefoot, and Spike had stripped down to his leggings, presumably so the brush of cloth would not give away his position to the handicapped Slayer.
It did not seem, however, that it was making much of a difference. Even with the blindfold, Buffy had an uncanny knack of knowing exactly where Spike would strike and countering his attack expertly, though the bloody nose would attest, not quite flawlessly.
Then again, Spike wasn't unmarked himself. There was a rapidly-darkening bruise beneath one eye that gave proof to the fact that the Slayer had gotten past his guard at least once.
It seemed almost as if they were still evenly matched, even with Buffy's sight taken out of the equation.
As was their routine, they appeared to have started out slow, presumably to stretch and warm their muscles, and were gradually speeding their movements, until they almost seemed to blur.
Haldir was suitably impressed. "They do not possess our grace, but they are as fast as we."
Legolas nodded. "And they may yet prove as graceful as the eldar. They are both young yet," he replied. "Buffy, in particular, shows much potential of matching the greatest of our warriors. Before she came to Arda, she had never before held a bow, and now she can match me except in distance, but that is only because she doesn't possess elven sight."
The two elves turned their attention back to the fight, frowning as both Spike and Buffy tensed simultaneously. A moment later, Buffy took a swift step backward at the same time her hand came up to snatch a black arrow out of the air where her face had been just seconds before.
The two dove for the edge of the clearing where Buffy had her bow strung and an arrow nocked even as she swept the blindfold away from her eyes and let her arrow fly, being rewarded with an orcish bellow of pain.
Only then did Legolas hear the trees react to the threat beneath their leaves with varying degrees of shock and horror that a creature of darkness had crept undetected deep within the borders of Lothlorien.
Haldir and Legolas exchanged a worried glance. This did not bode well.
The two looked up as Buffy and Spike approached unerringly, as if they had known all along that the two elves were there. Perhaps they had, given how fine-tuned their senses seemed to be, Haldir considered.
"There was only one, but that doesn't mean there aren't more further out. He was probably the brave one," Buffy said.
"Stupid, you mean," Spike scoffed. "No orc with half a brain would come in here, knowin' it's elven territory an' they'd be killed on sight."
The Slayer looked back in the direction the orc had approached from. "You're right. But, they're not here for the elves. They're here for us. We're being hunted, and they're tired of waiting for us to leave so they can run us down in the open and overwhelm us with numbers."
Spike gave a nod of agreement even as Haldir and Legolas frowned, considering the ramifications of the orcs throwing caution to the wind and braving the wrath of the border patrols to get at their prize.
"Our Lady must hear of this," Haldir said finally, discomfited by the thought of such filth entering Lothlorien for any
Buffy nodded. "Yeah. And we need to start packing."
Legolas frowned. "Packing?"
The Slayer raised jaded eyes to meet Legolas' gaze. "We can't stay here, Legolas. We're drawing the enemy to the elves' homes. Who knows how many there are? We can't chance leading them to Caras Galadhon."
Taking in her expression, Legolas knew she wouldn't be swayed in this. With the reminder of the confrontation to come, she would not stay in Lothlorien.
"She's right, Lasseg," Spike drawled, smirking as Legolas shot him a sharp look at the hated nickname. "I haven't seen all that many, but there are children in Caras Galadhon. We can't risk the orcs gettin' any further into the forest than they've already come. If we leave, they'll follow."
Legolas gave a nod, considering their options. "I will accompany you to Gondor, if you do not mind a short detour in Eryn Lasgalen. I have much to discuss with my father ere events begin to make travel nigh impossible."
Spike and Buffy exchanged a look, then nodded as one, knowing the 'events' Legolas spoke of were the roving armies of orcs they had seen in the Mirror.
"So, we've got a plan," Buffy smiled. "Great. Any word back from the messengers we sent out?" she asked Haldir, who was even more quiet than usual.
"Yes. All have returned, bearing thanks from those who received our warnings, as well as promises to be vigilant," the Marchwarden responded.
"Then all that remains is to speak with Galadriel and collect our things," Legolas said.
Haldir gave a hint of a smile. "You know better than that, mellon nin. Our Lady will wish to have a feast before you depart. I also believe she will want to speak to you of things she has seen in the Mirror since we all saw."
Buffy gave a minute shudder. "I think I'm probably better off not knowing."
"Perhaps, perhaps not. The Lady will not give you news you cannot bear knowing. It is not her way. Difficult the message may be, but not entirely untenable," Haldir assured the Slayer.
Buffy took a deep breath. "I certainly hope so. I don't know how much more bad news I can take."-TBC...Translations:
suilaid = greetings
mellon nin = my friendAN2:
Feedback is greatly appreciated, especially since it's been so long since I've updated this. I want to make sure everyone's still in character, and I'm hoping I don't have to take a cattle prod to the Muse...