6: A Clean Outlook on Life
A/N: Telepathic communication is indicated by [text].
~~~Chapter 6: A Clean Outlook on Life~~~
Baths, Wes decided, were possibly the greatest invention known to civilization. During his stint in LA, he’d almost decided that air conditioning should win that prize. Then again, spending five days covered in lake slime, mine grime, and orc goo, baths definitely took the cake.
He luxuriated in the warm water until it was beyond tepid, scrubbing all the bits of detritus from his body. Shaving didn’t seem to be an option, and he vaguely remembered seeing no elves with facial hair. Maybe it wasn’t an issue for them. He looked with distaste at the pile of dirty clothes. He wasn’t exactly sure what sort of garments had been provided for him, but they had to be better than what he’d been wearing. Clothes for going to a physics lecture were certainly not the most practical for fighting for one’s life.
All too soon, he grew cold and clambered out of the tub. The small pile of weapons next to his ruined pea-coat presented the next problem. Would it be rude to go armed here? The elves, while a bit trigger happy with their bows, seemed peaceful enough. But there was always danger… even when you least expected it. Decision made, he re-strapped on the dagger sheaths to his legs, minus one dagger lost to the lake monster. The stake launcher and sword holsters went on each wrist. The axe had been confiscated when they’d entered the tree city, and he hoped to see it again soon. It was a good weapon, and he wanted to make sure it was cleaned properly.
That left the clothing.
He turned the pair of soft suede leggings over in his hands and thought again of Robin Hood. The silvery embroidered tunic and tall leather boots only heightened the feel of make believe, and when he swung the cloak around his shoulders, he couldn’t help but grin widely.
“Something amuses you?”
Wes whirled around to look at Pissy Elf. He lurked just in the doorway to the grass room with a stiff expression his face. He stood with his arms crossed, glowering, and seemed to want to say something. Wes just arched an eyebrow and waited.
“Your presence is requested.”
“By whom?” Wes hoped he got the request correct, and when the elf just narrowed his eyes and gestured for the brunette to follow him, he mentally sighed.
Ah. The lord accompanying the elf woman, probably her husband. He’d had hair like spun silver, but Wes could remember very little else about him. They wound their way through the base of the trees, and before long, Wes was lost. Eventually, however, they began to climb, and entered a simple, elegant room furnished with pale, carved wood. Sitting regally in an almost filigreed chair was the elf lord in question. His features were strong, but clean, and his eyes were shrewd. He wore his robes with regal pride, though Wes thought he could see humor glinting in the blue irises.
“Welcome Master Wesley.” Celeborn inclined his head in greeting.
Nodding back, Wes pronounced carefully, “Your welcome is much appreciated.”
“So, you are the traveler spoken of by Aragorn. It seems a most fantastic tale. I do hope one day you’ll share it with us, when you feel comfortable.” The request was polite, but Wes heard the command in the tone and bearing of the speaker.
“As soon as my speaking will allow.” Wes kept his movements still, calling on years of standing on his father’s attention to prevent any nervous fidgets. He looked around, seeing shelves lined with scrolls and parchments, books and other bound objects, and couldn’t keep the light of interest out if his eyes.
“Ah, I see you’ve noticed part of my library. Tell me, is there something here that would interest you?” The elf lord watched him closely.
“In my home I am a… I do not know the word… man who reads for learning?”
Wes thought for a moment, then nodded. “Yes. Scholar, one who lives to learn.”
“But you are also a fighter, so I am told. You defended yourself, and others, with great skill.”
Wes would have blushed if the words were meant as a compliment. They were not, however, and were designed to provoke an explanation. “I… work… in a dangerous place. I have a… work, no, not work… calling? Yes, a calling to defend against the dark.”
“By the dark, do you mean creatures of darkness, such as the orcs you fought in Moria?” Celeborn leaned closer, eyes intent.
“Like orc, but not orc or troll. We name them vampires and demons.”
Frowning, Wes tapped his teeth with his forefinger. “Shadow men who live on blood of live men.”
Comprehension dawned on Celeborn’s face, and he nodded gravely. “Yes, they are not unknown here. If you are a scholar, why do you fight?”
Wes sighed. Why indeed? In the beginning, he’d had no choice. A life preordained by his father; the Watcher’s council was hereditary. But he’d learned to love it, the fascination of cataloging demons and languages, learning about the impossible, spending long hours with his nose in a book hundreds of years older than himself. But now, now there was much more. He wasn’t sure when it had changed for him, fighting the good fight. It was certainly after he’d come to LA to work with Angel and Cordelia. Sunnydale Wesley had been an extension of the creature his father had created, petrified of failure, afraid to live his life on his own terms. Perhaps it was Pylea, the general in charge of the ragtag army, sending men to die as distractions and being alright with the choices he’d made. Or perhaps it was before that, when Angel had bottomed out in despair and left them all in a lurch, forcing him to think why he wanted to continue to live that life.
He was brought back from his mental ramblings by a tapping on the wooden floor. Haldir was lightly rapping the end of his bow at his feet, an unimpressed expression on his face.
Wes gathered his thoughts and responded, “I could not leave the dark and demons to… hunt… in my home. Someone must stand between them and… I do not know the word… people who do no wrong.”
“Innocents. Yes, I think I understand you.” Perhaps Celeborn did, for he stood, walking to Wesley’s side. “There are many choices ahead for our world, many dark days. You have come to our lands in a time of great turmoil for an ancient shadow is once again stretching over Middle Earth. Most of our resources, the resources of the elves, are focused on leaving these shores, but some who are more invested in this land wish to save it from annihilation. Your traveling companions are some of those who fight against the dark, as you would say. Perhaps it is not an accident that you joined them when you did.”
Wes raised incredulous eyebrows. “I should not be here. The monster attacked a… friend, not me.”
“But yet you are here, and how shall you return?” Celeborn lifted a few scrolls, clearing a space at the table. He selected a few leather bound books, placing them in front of a chair. “As you said you were a scholar, and the others have said what a quick study of languages you have been, perhaps you would be interested in learning more about our world.”
Our world. The words held a connotation that Wes hadn’t even had time to think of. Between the confusion of his first attempts at communication and the frantic, adrenaline filled flight for his life; he’d not thought much about his future. How was he to return? And more importantly, did he want to? He looked around at the ethereal beauty of the wood, barely visible through the windows. Soft starlight and moonlight swirled together with the artificial lights that glowed from nooks and niches. There was purity here not to be found in his world, a taste in the air that held no pollution. His lungs were deeply grateful, and it had only been a short time.
If he listened, he could hear soft, mournful singing weaving in and out of the trees. The voices sounded as bells, clear and bright, despite the obvious lamentation in tone. The sadness of the words curled around him in an almost tangible way, caressing him, and he closed his eyes briefly. When he opened them again, both elves were watching him carefully.
“They sing of Gandalf, a great friend to the elves,” murmured Celeborn. Haldir nodded, distracted, but was not unfriendly.
“I am sorry for his loss.” Wes wasn’t sure what the traditional expression of consolation was among these new people, and hoped he did not offend.
Celeborn smiled faintly, “Yes, as are we all. But all things are not revealed to us, not even to Galadriel, and surely there is some reason to this madness.”
“Is there ever reason in madness?” a soft voice called from the doorway, and Wes was not surprised to see the stunning lady elf from before. The glow surrounding her was less obvious, but she pushed forward into the room with a presence that Wesley found remarkable. She smiled graciously at him. “Welcome again, traveler. I hope my husband has not been too much of a bore. Always fascinated by new knowledge; I’m surprised he hasn’t asked you to write a book by now.”
Celeborn gave his wife a somewhat indulgent smile and shook his head. “No, we were just discussing Master Wesley’s future course of action.”
“Ah yes, the future. Do you find, Master Wesley, that the future is a slippery commodity, always running away in directions we don’t expect?” She looked at him intently, and Wes felt a brush against his mind, soft but insistent, gossamer with the strength of steel.
He pushed back, mental shields firmly in place. Galadriel gave him a piercing stare, only somewhat amused, and Wes relaxed. They had offered him no violence, only showing him hospitality. If she wanted to discover who he was, he was fairly sure she would be able to overcome any mental resistance he could mount. His magic was of a more tangible sort: use incantation A and relic B to defeat demon C. It did not do to be overly rude to one’s host, no matter how much of a violation he felt it would be to allow someone else into his mind. But he did not know the ways here…
With effort, he slowly dropped his guard, letting her in. The silken touch of her mind against his caused goose bumps to ripple down his arms, and he shivered. Her eyes widened, and the touch became warmer, less hostile.
Outwardly, she smiled, offering him a seat, and casually sat herself. In his mind, however, that cultured, musical voice spoke to him with clarity as great as if she were speaking in his native tongue.
[Far from home, yet you have been lost longer than your foray into our world.]
A sigh rippled through his mind, and he replied with the relief only experienced by those in a foreign land when they find others speaking their language. There was something about her that inspired trust, perhaps a sort of magic in and of itself, and he could no more have lied than cut off his own hand. Much to his internal amusement, and sorrow, he found himself responding in kind.
[Oh, I have been lost too long. The world, it spun away from me, turning upside down and sliding sideways. Where was I when it all became lost?] The words loosened something in him that he didn’t know existed. To be able to speak of his fears and insecurities, to a stranger no less, was a novel, and heartening, experience.
[Those who dabble in prophesy must take care, for else the world warps, and nothing can be reclaimed.]
Wes hung his head, remembering that night in the park, once again, always again, and touched the scar on his neck with a wince. He didn’t notice the looks exchanged by Haldir and Celeborn, nor the concern on Galadriel’s lovely face.
[Am I to be lost forever then?] His fingers trembled as he laid his palms on the table top, idly tracing the carved swirls and whorls.
Aloud, Galadriel said softly. “Not forever, for all things have a time. Perhaps you will find yours here.” He looked up, meeting her eyes, and she tilted her head. “Will you come with me? Before we reunite you with your traveling companions, there is something I would like you to see.”