Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Lord of the Rings belong to their respective creators, Joss Whedon and J.R.R. Tolkien.
At the hour before dark the next day, he returned to where the street of soap- and candle-makers met the street of laundresses.
He had clothed himself plainly, baffling his servants by wanting peasant cloth. They had refused to bring this to him, and he had had to accept good linen of plain cut in place of it. He wore a guardsman's helm and strapped a borrowed sword to his belt.
No one stopped him as he walked through the gate and down the Tunnel-Way. The people he passed did not look at him for longer than it took to see the quality of his clothes and the blade at his hip and decide him a guard off-duty or some soldier looking for work, both professions much more common sights in recent days. The breadth off his shoulders and the hard line of his jaw prevented anything more than a polite nod.
When he arrived, the street of laundresses was becoming empty, the doors shutting against the dark, and he feared he was too late. But then he saw her, coming through a brightly-lit door with the signs of soap-maker, candle-maker, and laundress fixed over it, covered in a light cloak.
He stayed at his corner, at a loss for what to do. He had thought to approach her, to speak to her, but it had occurred to him that such a thing was hardly appropriate, and his appearance would probably frighten her. In his haste to return to the place where he had seen her, in his hurry to learn her name, he had not thought of the proper way to do things, and so he found himself skulking in the darkened space between lighted lamps, unable to go forward or backward.
She had come halfway to where he stood when she stopped, her head coming up, and he realized she had seen him.
They stood, he breathless and she very still, and the light of the lamp closer to her shone in her face.
He felt an odd pain in his chest. Straightening his already straight back, he gave her a courtly bow.
She was looking very boldly at him when he rose from it, and he realized she was not afraid. Only cautiously she kept her distance, poised in a certain, silent wariness, and the image came to him of a hart in the wood, listening for the howl of dogs.
“My lady,” he said then, and was caught unaware by the uncertainty in his own voice. “My lady, I shall see you safe home.”
He waited, but she did not speak, only stood looking at him. Despite that, her expression was not unwelcoming, and after a moment she gave him a slow nod.
They walked quietly through the dark, going from the busy streets of tradespeople to the emptier, less well-lit alleys. She walked with a good length to her stride, which was immodest, but her tread revealed more grace than he had ever seen in the step of a courtly lady. He thought that her eyes were sharper than he had thought, for she was sure and quick in her movements, leading the way.
He saw pieces of her as they went. This passing lamp traced the line of her throat, that cast the darker shape of her impossible waist through the lighter shadow of her dress. Her hands, when he glimpsed them, were small and fine. Walking at his side, she was unusually small, the top of her head barely coming to his shoulder.
He yearned, unexpectedly, shockingly, to see her free and unbound hair.
When she stopped, it was before a small house against the outer wall, far from the street of laundresses. She looked at him then, as if expecting him to do or say something, and he was embarrassed to realize that he did not want to let her go.
“I,” he began, and then rushed on without thought, “I am - Damrod.”
He stopped, nearly humiliated, but she only nodded and turned to go.
Before he could recover himself, before he could even think of what he was doing, he had reached out and caught her hand.
They stood, she on the stoop and he in the street, her hand in his between them.
“Please,” he whispered “Your name?”
She turned away and his stomach dropped, but then she looked back and smiled at him, and again he felt that odd pain.
“Anne,” she said, and, slipping her hand from his, went up the steps, through the door, and was gone.
He stood for a while, watching until he saw the light in one of the windows in the roof. And then he turned to go, hoping that she was looking after him, but unable to turn and see, in case she wasn't.