The Green And The White
As light crept into the forest, Dawn awoke. Stumbling around the woods in the dark had seemed like a bad idea, but so did sleeping on the ground with goddess only knew what kind of animals wandering around. So she’d settled for climbing a decent sized tree. She had found a spot at the junction of its trunk and some large branches where she was fairly sure she wouldn’t fall while she slept, and made herself as comfortable as she could.
Now that she could see, though, she needed to work on finding Merry and Pippin. For all she knew there were bears or wolves in this forest, and a couple of unarmed hobbits would be easy prey. Not that she was much better off with her crappy stolen orc blade, but at least it was something. She set off in what she hoped was the direction Merry and Pip had been going the last she’d seen of them.
Wandering deeper into the forest, Dawn felt the beginnings of unease. It was unnaturally quiet in these woods, and the atmosphere was tense, almost as if the trees themselves were angry. On top of that, she was also starting to get the feeling she was being watched. Her hand strayed to the hilt of the orc knife tucked securely into her belt. The situation didn’t quite feel threatening, but she didn’t like the idea that there was something lurking about that she couldn’t see.
The feeling accompanied her for several hours, along with increasingly insistent hunger, until the combination got to be too much and she finally lost her temper.
“Who’s there? Show yourself!” she demanded.
She realized a split second too late that asking politely might have been a better move. A blinding white light filled the glade where she stood. Great. Whoever or whatever it is will be standing right there and I won’t be able to see them because I’m blind.
She blinked the sunspots out of her eyes and several very long seconds later was surprised to find a kindly looking old man, dressed entirely in white standing before her.
“You are searching for two young hobbits. They passed this way early this morning, and met someone they did not expect.” His voice was unlike anything she had heard before. It was…powerful. Yet something about it was familiar. It was oddly comforting.
“Um…hi,” was all Dawn could think to say.
She had no idea who the hobbits met that they did not expect, but she hadn’t expected this old guy who looked like he was the only one in Middle Earth who knew where to send his laundry to get the whites done properly. He could have stepped right out of a commercial back home. Except for maybe those shoes…
“Did you see Merry and Pippin? Who did they meet? They didn’t run into more orcs did they? And not to be rude, but who are you?”
The old guy smiled at her, and Dawn had the sudden conviction that she knew him, even though she was sure she’d never seen him before in her life.
“I am Gandalf, that is what they called me. Or sometimes Mithrandir. Although I am not sure that you would know either name.”
“Mithrandir! You were one of the people Faramir said might be able to help us! But he didn’t know where you were… where are we, actually?” Dawn stopped herself short before she got into a full on Willow-style babble.
“Oh? Faramir said I might be able to help? What help did you require?” Gandalf asked. Dawn noticed he hadn’t asked who she was. Or answered where they were. She tried not to let it show that the situation was setting off alarm bells in her head.
“My friend and I are not from Middle Earth, and we’re trying to get home. Faramir said that you, or Elrond, or Galadriel might know if that was possible. I’m Dawn, by the way.”
“Ah. Is that what you call yourself these days?” Gandalf asked with an air of polite inquiry.
Dawn was very confused now.
“These days? Have we met before?”
“I believe so, although you apparently do not recall the encounter. But I recollect my meeting with the Key quite clearly, even if you did not have the appearance of a child of Men at that time.”
Dawn backed away, debating reaching for the knife, not that she was terribly optimistic that it would do any good. This man- who she was pretty sure wasn’t actually a man- knew without being told exactly what she was, and what was more, seemed to recall meeting her before she had become human. She herself had no idea what the Key had been or done before being made into the Slayer’s sister, and the idea that she’d had another life that she didn’t remember at all was more than a little unsettling.
“Do not be alarmed. I mean you no harm. And I do not know what it was like in any other world you may have been in, but here in your native one, only you control your considerable power. Any who wished to make use of it would harm you at their own peril.”
Dawn gaped at him in shock.
“Wait…you’re saying I’m from Middle Earth
Now it was Gandalf’s turn to look surprised, and he gestured for her to seat herself on the grass.
“Perhaps it would be wise for us to exchange stories. Your return is most unexpected, and may be of great significance in the war that is about to unfold.”
Dawn lost track of how long it took her to tell her story- which, unfortunately, she realized she wasn’t doing particularly well, having absorbed the Scooby habit of going on verbal tangents and backtracking as she remembered parts she’d left out. Mithrandir seemed to be following along, though, and he hadn’t complained once.
She started from the beginning, with her fake memories of growing up in LA and Sunnydale. Then the part where she found out that they were fake. Being the Key, Glory, Buffy dying and being brought back, defeating the First, calling all the Slayers, no more one girl in all the world, the more important near apocalypses since Sunnydale, and finally, the one that had brought her and Faith to Middle Earth. Her long recovery in Osgiliath, and finally setting out for Lothlorien with Faith.
“So there we were, almost where we were trying to get to, when we stumbled across a fight. We didn’t know what it was about, so Faith went to scope out the situation. I lost track of her, but when I saw Merry and Pippin in trouble, it wasn’t like I could just leave them. So I joined in. It was going fairly well until an orc managed to shoot Boromir. Then someone hit me over the head, and when I woke up the hobbits and I were being held captive by orcs and taken to Saruman or maybe Mordor. I wasn’t too clear on that part, so when the orcs were otherwise occupied, I figured we should make our escape. We went into the woods, I dropped back to deal with an orc on our tail, and then realized I couldn’t find my friends in the dark, so I waited until morning and here we are.”
She’d been paying attention to Mithrandir’s facial expressions as she spoke, and he had clearly been the most interested by the Key, the First, and the part where she ended up in Middle Earth up until now. He’d paid attention to the parts of the story in between, but she was pretty sure he didn’t think they were very important bits.
“Hmph,” he said. “So, you want to go back to this world where your sister died?”
Dawn tried not to squirm under his keen gaze.
“Well, I can’t stay here, can I? At least, I didn’t think I could until you mentioned me being from Middle Earth. Am I?”
“Not precisely,” Mithrandir answered. “You existed before Middle Earth. You were a singer in the Song, part of the music of the Ainur. When Melkor- who, incidentally, I believe to be the same being you knew and fought in this other world as the First- came to Arda, you followed. You were ever his foe and the chief of his enemies though years uncounted. When you vanished in the First Age, it was shortly before he himself was banished from the circles of the world.”
Dawn chewed her lip for a minute.
“But…Faramir didn’t recognize my name. Or me. If I’m part of this world, and one of the Ainur- they’re like Powers, right? That’s pretty important. Wouldn’t he have recognized me?”
Mithrandir shook his head.
“You had very little to do with Men. It is true that many of the Eldar would know you, but not under the name you bear now. Though, curiously, it seems closely related to that which you once used- you were Tindomiel, the morning star, bringer of hope. Few even among the Wise would make the connection, I think, and fewer still would look to find Tindomiel in the guise of one of the secondborn.”
“If I was a foe of Melkor, why would I leave Middle Earth before his defeat? I read about Morgoth while I was in Gondor. He wasn’t defeated until Earendil’s plea moved the Valar to intervene. Angband was broken and he was barred from the world. But mentions of Tindomiel are rare, at least in the texts I had access to, and stopped well before the siege of Angband.”
“You studied well during your time in Osgiliath. Tindomiel disappeared ere the fall of Gondolin. Some thought you had perhaps returned to Aman to plead the cause of the Eldar and Edain to your brethren the Valar, but that was not so. You departed Arda, leaving no word to Valar, Maiar, or Eldar as to why or whither. You are the only one who can answer that question, but it seems to me likely that you foresaw what must happen if the Valar moved against Morgoth- that he would be cast out from the circles of the world and would turn his malice on any other worlds he might discover.”
Dawn shook her head.
“But I was sent to the Slayer in my world- my other world- for protection from a hellgoddess. If I was so powerful, why would I need protection? Wouldn’t I just be able to fight the hellgoddess myself?”
Mithrandir did something that would have shocked those in Middle Earth who had dealt with him. He shrugged.
“As to that, I cannot say. Middle Earth has been my care and my task. There may be other evils that spring not from Morgoth, or it may be that this hellgoddess you speak of was another pupil of his. Who can say if you cannot remember?”
“All right, let’s just accept for now that I don’t remember Middle Earth, or why I left, or anything before I- as I am now- was made human and lived in Sunnydale. None of what you’ve told me explains how Faith and I ended up in Middle Earth, much less how we managed to end up here now, just when Sauron is back to Big Bad-dom and making his power play after an age of being a shapeless, formless malice. That seems like a pretty sizeable coincidence.”And the two things we don’t believe in at Casa Summers are coincidences and leprechauns.
“Coincidence?” Mithrandir said, sounding surprised. “I doubt very much it is a coincidence. Not after your tale of how you came to be here. You returned to Middle Earth under your own power and of your own will. Whether it was simply luck or something more that brought your companion with you is the only part that is not clear to me.”
“Could you make with the ‘splaining?” Dawn asked in confusion. “How did I bring myself here? And why now?”
“If we might return briefly to the part of your tale in which you fought your last fight in that other world, explain please how you felt in that fight, just before you were wounded.”
Dawn squirmed under his keen gaze.
“I felt…tired. I was tired of fighting. I’d just seen my sister die- again. She wasn’t coming back this time. Her fight was over. I wanted the fight to be over for me, too. I wanted everyone left to be safe. And I wanted to go home.”
It felt shameful to admit that she’d wanted out, even for the briefest of moments. To her surprise, there was nothing in Mithrandir’s expression to suggest that he found it shameful.
“Even the mightiest warrior eventually grows weary. But, if I may point out to you, you seem to have accomplished your aim. You are ‘home’, in a manner of speaking- even if this was not quite the ‘home’ you meant. And I do not doubt that in sacrificing yourself as you did- at least, from the perspective of anyone watching in that world- you ensured the safety of your friends there.”
“Everyone is ok?” Dawn asked, looking up with unexpected hope. If Rona and the others had been saved, she’d call that a win.
“The power you wield is deep and subtle,” was Mithrandir’s reply. “You seem to have succeeded better than you realized- your will was done, though perhaps not precisely as you had intended.”
Gandalf paused a moment, and then added thoughtfully, “Your presence here certainly seems to be helping fulfill the other part of your wish- that everyone be safe. Until Sauron is finally defeated, those here who were once your friends here are in danger. And even your companion, who came by purest chance, seems to be having a positive impact on the fate of Middle Earth- I can think of no one better to aid the men of the West than a Slayer.”
Dawn thought for a second. That almost made sense.
“Ok, so if I’m from here in the first place, why did my magic go all wonky the one time I tried to use it? Shouldn’t it have worked better?”
To her complete surprise, Mithrandir threw back his head and laughed.
“From what you tell me, it did work better! You drew on the power as you were used to doing in your other world, where it seems what you refer to as magic is different, or perhaps rarer. There, you needed to call upon far more power than you need here.”
Dawn’s jaw dropped. So all her spells would come out turbocharged here, unless she concentrated on damping it down.
“So I just need to practice control?” she demanded. “And my magic will respond the way I’m used to?”
“Indeed,” Gandalf smiled. “Though if I may counsel you, do not do so yet!”
“Ah,” Gandalf said. “Now I must speak of luck, for it is great luck indeed that until now, your return has gone nearly unnoticed. Sauron failed to spot you on his very doorstep- extraordinary luck, though perhaps we should attribute it to your power, which is greater by far than his. You were wounded and by rights, should have been found by orcs, yet you were not. Instead, you were found by men of Gondor- another stroke of luck. On the road, you attempted magic. Here is where your luck finally runs thin, for in doing such highly visible magic, you made your presence known to any who looked for it. Your luck held in that Sauron did not notice. His attention was engaged elsewhere, on matters he considered pressing. Saruman, however, did notice. Alert to any signs of trouble so close to home, he spotted your magic and knew it for what it was. However, we can perhaps consider this a blessing in disguise, for had he not wished to capture Tindomiel, his orcs would doubtless have killed you instead of taking you prisoner at Amon Hen.”
“And here I thought it was just Tuesday.”
Gandalf raised a bushy eyebrow.
“What has Tuesday to do with it?”
“I get kidnapped on Tuesdays a lot,” Dawn said ruefully. “But your explanation sounds better, so let’s go with that.”
Mithrandir did not laugh, but looked as though he wanted to.
“Now, young lady- though not so young, really- we must think on how to keep you away from the spies of Saruman until he has been dealt with. Sauron is, I believe, still ignorant of your return, and we must delay his discovery of that knowledge as long as possible!”
“Just tell me how to help. Saving the world is kind of what we do.”
Mithrandir smiled again, as if he had expected this.
“I have reason to expect reinforcements soon, riding from the North, and it would not hurt to have someone guide them. If I may trust that errand to you, I will meet the others from the company and proceed to Edoras to cast out the spies of Saruman. After that, it will be safe for you to rejoin us as we proceed against Orthanc.”
“No problem. All I need to know is who I’m looking for and where. And let Faith know what I’m up to. She’s not as bad as Buffy, but she gets a little protective.”
Mithrandir shook his head.
“In some respects you have not changed at all. Tindomiel was ever a foe of Morgoth, and Morgoth’s apprentice will not have forgotten how his master feared you. Indeed, if I were to judge, given the choice between you and Tulkas he would as soon face the latter.”
“This sucks. You’ve told me what you know, and I believe you, because, well…I just know you’re right even if I can’t explain it. And I’ve read a little about the Valar, but I still don’t remember. You speak of Tulkas as someone you know, and I think I should know him too, but I don’t.”
Gandalf looked at her with understanding and sympathy. But Dawn also saw something like sadness in the depths of his eyes.
“Let us hope that if you remain, in time the memory of Arda will return to you. Perhaps it is as well you did not find your way to Lothlorien. Even for one of the Wise it would have been a hard meeting.”
“Why?” Dawn asked.
“You saw Galadriel in her cradle,” replied Gandalf. “You it was named her Alatáriel. Yet you would not have known her.”
Tears suddenly stung Dawn’s eyes. Why had she left Arda? Had she known when she did what she might be giving up? And knowing exactly what she would be giving up, could she decide to forgo returning to Earth?