Rest, Rinse, Repeat
Authors Note : Many thanks for all the reviews - I really appreciate it!
Waiting had never been one of Buffy’s strong points, and after all of about two minutes shed had gotten bored of sitting cross legged on the ground. Peering into the woods all she could perceive was row and row of the silvery trunks of trees that looked more like ghostly pillars supporting the golden canopy above.
Returning her attention back to her two remaining captors, she smiled slightly at the uncomfortable way they stood holding their bows – presumably, so as to be ready to fire on her should she try anything. They didn’t talk, and kept a wary eye on her.
Buffy next observed the path she had been walking, and from the amount of grass and moss that was growing on it she had the suspicion it wasn’t used that often. The path naturally led up to where the boats were tethered, and that led her eyes back to her two captors.
They were about six foot in height, Buffy would guess, and looked to be lean and well muscled from what she could see. They wore silver grey trousers, and close fitting tunics of the same fabric. The ensemble was finished off with a cloak of similar design. The material seemed to reflect the light and colours around it, and Buffy suspected would be great for sneaking around – especially in the dark or twilight. The other thing that Buffy noticed about the two elves, or at least that’s what she assumed they were, was the fact there seemed to be a sort of warmth about them: a glow.
From where she sat Buffy started mentally calculating the odds of them being able to stop her if she wanted to take them out. They were a fair distance away from her, and that gave them a good chance of getting off an arrow or two – those would either have to be caught or dodged. Fighting hand to hand should be easy enough. She’d knock one out, probably a right hook would be enough to do it.
The other would come to help, probably a kick, she’d deflect it and have him sprawled on the ground. She’d have him pinned down before he could even think. She could see it now – her straddling his perfect little self, him struggling to escape. He would never escape. She’d lean in closer to him, pinning his arms, she’d lean closer still…
Damn! Buffy mentally grumbled to herself, looking away from the two elves, and towards the river. Why the hell was she thinking about taking the two elves when she was here to get help for that Gandalf guy that had sprung her from jail. Knocking them about and doing things
with them really wasn’t going to help the situation. She’d have to learn to wait.
Uncrossing her legs Buffy shrugged and sprawling out on the ground. She was aware of her two guards getting all tense, but didn’t pay it any heed. From where she lay she could watch the water bubble and chatter around the bank of the Silverlode as it ran by. The sun played along its surface.
Bringing one of her hands closer to her face, and taking a good look, Buffy couldn’t see the glowiness that the other elves had. It was typical, she thought to herself, that when she got put in a disguise it was in the same class as a false moustache (although it was obviously her ears and not facial hair, a fact for which she was quite thankful). Still, her skin did look a little smoother and softer than she recalled it being – perhaps that was just her imagination.
Returning her attention back to the river Buffy spent her time examining the little frogs that hopped around in the undergrowth near the river bank, the insects that hovered near the edges and over the surface, and the occasional glints of light below the surface of the river that indicated a fish swimming by. The constant chattering of the river helped her relax, and she was glad of that, because they were sure keeping her waiting! * * *
Eventually, Buffy could sense the approach of some more elves. It took a few minutes, then the elves she had picked up on walked up to her two guards and had a conversation in hushed tones – Buffy assumed to stop her from being able to hear what they were saying. They needn’t have bothered; she didn’t understand the language anyhow.
Once the conversation had seemingly finished she could hear one of them approach. Thinking it better to at least give the impression of being respectful, she got up and fussed with straightening her top so it looked less wrinkled and pulled her now dry hair back behind her ears.
The elf approaching her was probably about the same height as the others, and he had the same stealthy shifty clothing as her two guards. His hair was a light blonde colour, and was guided behind his pointy ears. Like the two other guards Buffy noted a sort of glow to him, but he was bit broader than the other two. Her two guards, and the other three elves he had brought along with him, hung back near where the boats were moored.
“Hey!” Buffy said, making a small wave with her left hand.
He looked her up and down critically. Buffy felt like some kind of specimen in a science lab or something. “I understand you speak in the tongue of men,” he said to her. Buffy noted his voice was a bit deeper than that of the first elf who had spoken to her.
“So I’m told,” Buffy confirmed.
“And you do not know Sindarin?” he asked.
Buffy assumed this meant whatever they had been speaking between themselves. “Nope!”
He looked momentarily confused, before it seemed to click what she meant. “You must excuse my brothers, but we do not widely speak in the common tongue,” the elf explained. Buffy pulled a bit of a face, he really knew how to make it sound good calling it the ‘common’ tongue. “I am Haldir. What brings you to Lorien?”
“Buffy Summers,” she told him, pointing to herself with one hand. “And I’m here ‘cause some guy called Gandalf is on the other side of the river. He seemed to think one of you might help him out by picking him up.”
“Gandalf is known to us, and is a friend to the Galadhrim.” Haldir replied.
“So you’ll go across and pick him up?” Buffy queried again. This earned her a look from him as if she had said something odd.
“If that is what he requires, though the river is easy to pass further north,” he said, indicating upstream with one arm.
“Ah,” Buffy said, understanding now the slightly confused looks he’d been giving her, “I was on about the other river… the Anduin?”
Haldir briefly glanced upwards before responding, “The day grows short, and there would not be time to cross the great river and return before nightfall. We shall collect Gandalf tomorrow at dawn.”
“Well… thanks,” Buffy told him lamely.
“Can I ask how you crossed the Anduin?” Haldir asked.
“I swam,” Buffy said, shrugging a shoulder in a slight nervous movement. This earned her a slight look of surpise, before Haldir turned and walked back over to where the others were gathered. He started to talk in the melodic sounding language Buffy had found out was called Sindarin. Not knowing what else to do she followed him over to the other elves, and from the looks she attracted, it was obvious she was the current hot topic.
After he had finished conferring with the other elves Haldir turned back to Buffy. “A signal will be sent to Gandalf. You will follow me.”
“Yes Sir!” Buffy muttered under her breath, while following the larger elf.
The path followed the river, but they took the path that led towards the woods and brought them out of the sun and under the boughs. After a few minutes they hit upon a glade covered in grass and dainty yellow flowers. Buffy continued to follow him as he led her across the clearing and continued back into the trees.
“I take it you have never visited the golden wood before?” Haldir observed, the fact obvious from the way Buffy was looking around.
She simply shook her head to confirm the fact. “It’s seems friendlier than Mirkwood.”
“I should hope it would!” Haldir half snorted. “Though, to be fair in comparison with that evil place is no compliment.”
“Sorry,” Buffy said looking down.
“So, where do you hail from?” Haldir asked, seemingly keen to skirt around what he’d just said.
“I’m not entirely sure,” Buffy told him. Time for her to use the story she’d concocted for this situation. “I think I must have taken a knock to the head when I was captured and thrown in the cells in Dol Guldur.”
“You were imprisoned by the necromancer?” Haldir asked her, sounding very much like her didn’t quite believe her.
“Yup, and let me tell you, that was not an experience I want to repeat.” A scowl crept onto her face on recalling the event.
For a time Haldir seemed to ponder on what had been said, and they walked in silence apart from the sighing of the late afternoon breeze through the trees. “For you to have been in Mirkwood it is likely that you were from the halls of Thranduil.”
“If you say so!” Buffy quipped, knowing full well that she wasn’t.
“It is at least worthy of investigation,” Haldir argued.
“There is no way you, or anyone else, is getting me to go back into Mirkwood,” Buffy told him, her tone adamant. “Where are we going anyway?”
“I will let the Lady Galadriel decide what truth there is to your story,” Haldir told her. Buffy normally would have been tempted to bop someone over the head for a comment like that, but he delivered it so much like it was normal for this person to make these type of decisions, it didn’t seem snarky in the least.
As they continued Buffy noted the occasional blip on her senses, and peering up into the canopy could start to make out the occasional elf on high up platforms. From the way they were watching her and Haldir, she guessed that they performed some sort of guarding function and would shoot anyone who attempted to get in. Kind of like the medieval equivalent of snipers.
A while later they started to approach a high green fence, parts of which seemed to be made from wood and other parts of live plants. Buffy would guess it had to be at least twelve or so feet high. As they got closer, Buffy could make out that they were approaching a gateway through the fence. Not that she would actually need one at a push – a twelve foot fence was so not going to stop her.
On reaching the gate there was a rapid conversation between Haldir and whoever was behind the fence. Again, in their native language. Buffy could make out the name ‘Gandalf’ said several times, and also ‘Buffy Summers’ said in a very deliberate way by Haldir. Eventually, the guards on the other side got the gate open. Buffy traipsed through behind Haldir, behaving herself very well, she thought.
Carrying on along the path, Haldir once again addressed her, “We are now approaching Caras Galadron.”
“Ah,” Buffy said, the name not really meaning anything to her. However, she had noticed that they were starting to climb upwards. Also, she had noticed the high level platforms in the trees. These platforms were much larger than those outside the fence, and occasionally there would be narrow walkways suspended high in the trees between the platforms.
“So you live up there,” Buffy said, pointing to one of these platforms.
“Indeed, we are not known as the Galadhrim for naught,” Haldir smiled at her, but their was a certain something behind the smile.
Buffy nodded with her eyebrows furrowed. She didn’t particularly like the condescending way he was looking at her, even if she didn’t get what he was on about.
Haldir seemed to pick up on her confusion. “Galadhrim literally means tree dwellers.”
They both proceeded further up the hill, and as they did Buffy couldn’t help but notice more and more elves watching them, or more specifically, her, from above. It seemed like they weren’t used to having visitors. The small archer sniper platforms started to reappear a lot more frequently now, and they approached yet another fence.
Behind that fence were stationed a series of walkways high in the trees branches above, which from the look of things were patrolled by a reasonably large contingent of elves. These went back for as far as the eye could see, with the waning twilight. They progressed forward, and there now appeared to be dwellings and other light building scattered around at the base of the trees as well as up high.
In the distance Buffy could make out an increase in the level of light that they appeared to be heading towards. A few minutes later they were emerging from the trees, and she could take in the sight of the grassy knoll which was covered in tiny little white and yellow flowers, still visible in the light available. At the height of the rise in the land were a number of simply enormous white trunked trees that seemed to flank the forest behind them.
Walking through the grass and flowers Buffy couldn’t help but notice the sweet scent of the surrounding land. As they reached the base of the tree, Haldir once again spoke to some guards in his native language before turning back to her.
“We are required to ascend to see The Lady,” he said evenly, “if you tire there will be an opportunity to rest on the way up.”
Nodding silently, Buffy started to follow him up the narrow stair that wound its way up the improbably thick trunk of the tree. The tree itself reminded her, in terms of scale, of the enormous redwood trees she had visited at one of the national parks on a school visit when she was still in Hemery High in LA. There was just enough light to see the stairs by, and the lanterns lit along the outer edge had started to help illuminate the way.
The climb seemed to take forever, but Buffy wasn’t going to completely write it off as a bad experience. Walking behind the well muscled Haldir had its advantages, and though she kept on telling herself not to, that didn’t stop her casting an occasional appraising eye over his rear.
Every level higher they went there were spokes that seemed to fan out from this central stair, and ever so often there were guard posts with little groups of elves – all of which whom gave her suspicious looks. Eventually, they came through the centre of a platform so high in the canopy that the central trunk had dwindled down to what Buffy would have called a reasonable size.
Poking her head through the circular hole in the platform she could make out an oval room. There were plenty of people there, and they seemed to be milling around a central couple of chairs. One of which had a woman with golden blonde hair, the other of which appeared to be empty. Haldir had already started walking across to the seated woman, so Buffy decided she might as well follow.
“My Lady,” he said, bowing slightly. Buffy sidled up behind him, earning a raised eyebrow from the lady sitting in the seat.
“Haldir, I assume this is Bufe-ay?” she said, standing from her seat and taking a step forward. Buffy kicked herself at the fact this woman was about a foot taller than she was, and her senses were going into hyperactive. Not to mention she was hacked off she’d got her name wrong.
“Indeed, my lady. She was located on the northern banks of the river,” he informed her respectfully.
“Well, it’s a pleasure to welcome you to Lorien, Bufe-ay,” she said directly to the shorter blonde standing in front of her, again mispronouncing the name, “I am known as Galadriel.”
“Thanks, and it’s Buffy,” she informed the taller lady.
This earned her a half smirk from the regal looking elf. “I am told you came from the dim depths of Mirkwood.”
“Something like that,” Buffy replied, not really committing if this apparent leader woman was not taking her entirely seriously. That earned her look directly into the eyes of Galadriel.
The first Buffy knew something was not right is when she was still in Galadriel’s gaze when it was starting to feel a little strange. She could feel the hairs start to prickle. ‘You were with Gandalf,’
it was a statement, not a question. Buffy could hear Galadriel talking inside her head.
Now, if she hadn’t spent several years practicing this mental talking with Willow she probably wouldn’t have known what was happening. The fact she had also looked into what would be categorised more as snooping than talking also meant she recognised what Galadriel was trying to do: mention a subject, and see what thoughts come to mind.
The only problem for Galadriel was that Buffy was more than experienced in blocking off mind reading and control. ‘I don’t think so,’
Buffy mentally projected back, suppressing a smirk when Galadriel’s eyes widened. ‘You know how to read the thoughts of others!’
Galadriel needlessly observed. ‘Yes,’
Buffy replied, an acid edge given to its inflection. ‘I meant you no harm, you must believe that,’
the elf pleaded, her eyes conveying the feeling behind the thought. ‘I know,’
Buffy replied more softly, ‘and, to answer your question, I was with Gandalf yesterday. He’s waiting on the other side of the Anduin for your minions…’
with the look she got she decided to rephrase that, ‘…I mean, the other elves to pick him up. For some reason, he seemed to trust you.’ ‘To hear that Gandalf the Grey is returning to Lorien is good news indeed. But what of you? How did you end up in the company of a wizard like him?’
she asked, her eyes positively sparkling. ‘He found me in Dol Guldur. I was locked up, he was leaving, I didn’t want to stay; hence, I followed.’
Buffy smirked at the cut down version of events she had given her host. She mused on the fact he had neglected to mention the fact he was a wizard – assuming this elf woman wasn’t being all figurative. ‘Does he bring news?’
Galadriel asked, with a hint of hope in her voice. ‘Probably. He seemed really keen when I was telling him about Mr. I-have-a-tin-mask who was interrogating me,’
Buffy teased, watching the reacting in the eyes of the woman she was looking at.
Galadriel stopped talking for a moment, and examined Buffy’s face, no doubt to try and see if there was any tell of a lie. ‘I have a mirror that is used for seeing, if you were willing, it may be possible to see what you saw…’
Buffy shrugged one shoulder carelessly – it wasn’t like the memory was even that bad. He hadn’t really tortured her or anything. “Okay,” she said out loud.
“With me,” Galadriel said, directing her attention to Haldir, before starting to walk from where she was stood. Buffy trailed along behind her billowing white dress, and Haldir in his sneaky clothes.
As always, Buffy found going down stairs more annoying than climbing up them – probably due to being more worried about falling. The fact the lady who, Buffy imagined, was in charge here was around and about with a guest who had only just arrived no doubt warranted the curious glances they were earning.
Reaching the bottom of the stairs Haldir found himself instructed to stay and wait there. With that taken care of, Galadriel once again set out at a frantic pace.
“I am sorry to rush you so,” Galadriel apologised, and just as Buffy was about to say it was okay, ploughed straight on. “Only, I cannot think of anything of greater import than learning the identity of the shadow that has lain over Mirkwood these last years.”
“This mirror thingy, then?” Buffy asked back, cautious as to exactly what it was she was being let in for. She could hear Galadriel let out a slight sigh before she continued on.
“You are right to be wary,” Galadriel said a stern expression on her face. “The mirror shows what has been, that which is happening now, and also what may come to pass.”
“Does everything it show actually happen?” Buffy wondered out loud. She had never liked the way her prophetic dreams had a habit of presenting the future as a done deal.
Despite the rapid pace being set, Buffy could see a sad smile play across the lips of the other woman. “No, not by any means. But many who have looked upon it have made that their future, simply because it is all they could see.”
“I never much cared for prophesies,” Buffy half smiled to herself.
“It is said,” Galadriel started, “that the wisdom of the wood elves is all but lost, and that they are reverting to a simpler existence. I may have to think again on that notion.”
Buffy just smiled. She didn’t need to correct Galadriel as to her true origin. After all, if it made it easier to fit in being an ‘elf’, why shouldn’t she just carry on with the pretence? It wasn’t like there was even anyone who really knew who she was before.
“Which line are you from?” Galadriel asked, as they still walked along.
Buffy cursed to herself: another one of those damn questions she didn’t have the answer for. “I’m not sure – I think I took a bump to the head, or something – and I’ve not really been able to remember. Weird, huh?!”
Galadriel raised an eyebrow. “Indeed.”
After a time they came to a high hedge, and passing through a narrow gap in it, they made their way into a secluded area. At the centre was a circular plinth. Walking over to a culvert, Galadriel collected some water in a pitcher, before decanting it into the top dish on the plinth.
“Come,” Galadriel indicated towards where she had tipped the water.
Buffy wandered over, and looked sceptically at the still water that was reflecting the dying rays of sunlight from overhead. “So, I have to do what?”
“Here,” with a wave of her hand over the surface it seemed to go incredibly still, and stopped reflecting the sky. “Concentrate on what you saw while you were in Dol Guldur. If you let your mind wander there is no telling what you will see.”
“Okay,” Buffy said, not sounding at all convinced. She concentrated on thinking about the evil feeling man in metal armour she had encountered. Letting out a small cry of surprise Buffy noticed the water reflecting the image of the man who had questioned her.
Examining the form on the water, Buffy was surprised at just how accurate the likeness was. He didn’t give off the weird vibe she had felt when actually in his presence, but physically the image was spot on, right the way down to the fiery eyes. Looking at Galadriel’s reaction was interesting – the first impression was that she was surprised by the revelation, but on closer inspection Buffy thought she could detect a kind of weary look in her face, almost as if this is what she had been suspecting all along.
“What of Dol Guldur?” Galadriel prompted. Buffy played along with being all dutiful and well meaning, and concentrated on what she had seen while there. Images of mouldering rooms and corridors flitted by, along with goblins, rats, and the general creepiness of the place.
Galadriel examined everything that was playing out on the waters surface in great detail. Buffy guessed that she probably didn’t get to see an insider’s view of this evil guy’s fortress every day, so could well understand why she would want to know everything she possibly could.
“Is there anything else of significance you remember?” the fair haired elf asked, eyes seeking Buffy’s.
“No… I don’t think so,” Buffy confirmed, the water now playing seemingly random flashes from her journey away from her imprisonment in Mirkwood.
“Your parents then; your home?” Galadriel prompted. “Can you recall those? Mayhap even thinking of them will yield some clue.”
Momentarily Buffy panicked. She had no problem remembering her parents or her home, the only problem was that she didn’t want to be giving away where she was really from just yet. Who knew how these elves would react if they knew she wasn’t really one of them? For all she knew, they might think she was a spy.
Looking back at the ‘mirror’ she was not particularly happy to see it playing out her being chased down by elves that looked suspiciously like the ones she’d been seeing for the last day. Letting her mind run away with itself had clearly put one of the ‘could happens’ on display, and from the look on Galadriel’s face, she wasn’t too pleased about what she was seeing either.
Desperately trying to think of something that wasn’t going to incriminate her, Buffy automatically started thinking of the fact she was the slayer – the last thing she wanted to bring to mind. Watching the reaction in the water she could see it start to cloud over, and an inky blackness settled over its surface. Not wanting to see what would happen next she splashed her hand in the surface.
“Sorry, nothing…” Buffy said, a nervous edge to her voice.
Galadriel nodded slightly, a firm expression having settled on her face. “There is much to ponder from these visions.”
Buffy laughed a small nervy laugh, “Yeah, sorry about that.”
This earned her a small smile and shake of the head from the elven lady standing in front of her. “There is nothing you should be sorry for. The mirror shows many the woes they may befall, or have suffered in the past. Only the wise use what is shown to stop what they have seen for the future come to pass.”
With that Galadriel turned and started to make her way from the enclosure. Her head slightly bowed, Buffy traipsed along behind, following her in silence back to the central mount of Caras Gaaldron. * * *
Haldir was still waiting for them by the stair up into the canopy, and as they approached Galadriel took him to one side, and Buffy could hear them exchange words in their own language. This thing of people talking in a language she couldn’t understand was getting to be annoying, and in her opinion was pretty rude. Once the conversation between the two was over Haldir approached Buffy, and Galadriel started to ascend the stairs up.
“I have been asked to see that you are fed, and given space to rest before tomorrow,” Haldir informed her.
Temporarily, Buffy had forgotten about food, but being reminded about it she realised that she was damned hungry. She hadn’t eaten since before setting out in the morning!
“You know, that sounds pretty darn tempting,” Buffy smirked.
“If you’ll follow me,” he said, leading her away to a section to one side that seemed to be segmented off by some wicker looking dividers.
Behind the partitions were a number of tables – a couple of which had an elf or two sat at them. Buffy guessed that late at night probably wasn’t the normal time for elves to eat. Haldir led her on through the various assembled elves, and towards the ‘front’ of the area where another female elf was working over a fire cooking.
On closer examination Buffy could see this particular elf was a tad shorter than Galadriel had been, and was certainly a lot less muscular than her. Still much taller than Buffy herself though. Like all the elves she’d run into so far she had blonde hair, only this elfs was very light.
The female elf made her way over and said something to Haldir. Buffy could make out the word ‘Haldir’, and didn’t need a translator to know from the soppy tone and googly eyes this elf girl was making what her intention was.
“Indie wondered what you would like to eat?” Haldir translated.
Buffy peered over towards the fire and pots and could make out a sort of stew in one pot, while it looked like she was cooking fish as well. “Stew,” Buffy told him, and looking critically at the pots added, “A large pot please.”
Haldir once again exchanged some words with the besotted female elf. A couple of minutes later she was helping Buffy and Haldir carry their stew, some bread, and a pitcher of water with some glasses over to a table.
“I have a feeling you eyes are bigger than your appetite,” he observed, indicating the large bowl of stew Buffy had.
“Yeah…” Buffy half grunted, spooning up a load of the surprisingly good tasting stew. It had meat, vegetables, and some kind of corn type seed she couldn’t quite identify.
“You know, if you don’t slow down,” he commented watching her shovel another mouth full of bread and stew into her face, “the effect will be most… unpleasant!”
Ignoring him seemed like the best option, so Buffy continued to scoff the food that had been provided. She also tried to ignore the furtive glances that the elf who had served them was casting Haldir’s way about every ten seconds.
Eventually, Buffy finished off the large portion of food she’d been given.
“That sure hit the spot – you think I could have seconds?” She said after wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. She let out a laugh at the horrified expression on Haldir’s face. “Relax – I’m just kidding!”
“I would hope so too!” he grumbled, getting up from where he sat, “There was enough there for four elves!” They both took their dishes back to the front, and Buffy suffered another bout of Indie googly eyes, before following Haldir out of the dining area.
“So…” Buffy said, “you got an admirer?”
Even in the dark she could see a slight blush creep onto his face. “I’m not interested in… why am I discussing this with you?”
“I don’t know, perhaps so I don’t feel like vomiting everytime I need to get some food and you two are in the same room?” Buffy smirked. Haldir looked distinctly uncomfortable. “Still… she is a good cook…”
“We are not discussing this. This talon is for you,” he said indicating to a medium sized platform in the trees with a rope ladder slung down from a small hole near the centre. “You can reflect up there.”
‘Reflect?’ Buffy thought to herself. That sounded more like something she’d have been told to do when she’d misbehaved at school – not of course that she ever had. Still, at least she could get some rest. She thanked him, and climbed up to the perch.
Once up there, Buffy realised that there weren’t any walls in the traditional sense around the ‘talon’, as he had called it. In fact, all she had was a kind of blanket, and a light screen, which looked like it would blow over with a light breeze. Laying as close to the centre of the platform as she could, Buffy wrapped herself in the blanket supplied. * * *
Buffy was slow to wake the following morning, and when she did finally get her eyes open, she could make out that Haldir was sitting cross legged close to where she was laying. Quickly pulling the blanket up around her, Buffy remembered belatedly that she still had her day clothes on.
“What are you doing up here?!” Buffy asked, propping herself up with a hand, and sounding a bit startled.
“Are you well?” Haldir asked, concern in his voice.
“Yes… why shouldn’t I be?” Buffy asked back with confusion.
“You appeared to be unconscious,” he explained, “but it is obvious you are not affected by any malady.”
“Right…” Buffy replied, starting to fold her blanket up. “I think you’ll find that’s called sleeping.”
This earned her a raised set of eyebrows and a look as if she’d just said something peculiar. “I brought you fresh clothes…” Haldir informed her, indicating a pile of clothes made from the same slinky material that the elves things seemed to be made from. He looked at her expectantly.
“You know, if I’m gonna get changed, you’re going to have to leave…” Buffy told him in a measured tone.
“Ah… yes… sorry,” he said, seemingly realising his mistake and climbing down out of the floor.
Buffy surveyed the clothes that had been left for her. There were a pair of trousers, a tunic, and a cloak – she’d been left the same ensemble as what the other elves wore. Rolling her eyes, she stripped out of her clothes and underwear before pulling the elves clothes on.
Going commando under the trousers and tunic wasn’t Buffy’s preferred option, but after wearing the same clothes for over two weeks they were starting to get a bit ripe – and that was putting a polite gloss on it. The trousers and tunic were actually a pretty snug fit. She didn’t bother with the cloak as it really wasn’t her style (not that any of the clothes really were).
Now awake and clothed Buffy climbed down from the ‘talon’, and found Haldir waiting at the bottom of the ladder for her. He watched her climb down, before she followed him to the base of the giant tree Galadriel presumably lived in. Galadriel and Gandalf were already waiting at the base of the stairs.
“Buffy! It’s good to see you awake. Finally.” Gandalf grinned from under his beard.
“I see you made it across,” Buffy said, observing the obvious.
“Indeed, and I brought something with me,” he said indicating to a coat and set of boots set to one side.
Clapping her hands together and walking over to the clothes, Buffy was delighted to have her boots and jacket back. She pulled her socks then boots on and started lacing them up. Going around barefoot really wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
“I owe you one Gandy,” Buffy told him, standing back up and pulling her jacket on.
“Yes, well. We have much to discuss.” Gandalf observed, ignoring what Buffy had just said.
“Food is available in my talon,” Galadriel told Gandalf. “If you and Buffy could join me to discuss what has been seen…”
Looking at the start of the long winding stair up the side of the tree, Buffy mentally rolled her eyes and got ready to go up it again. She could see that having ones house at the top of a very long set of stairs could get very tiring very quickly. Wasn’t it about time these people got an elevator?
Buffy felt a bit sorry for Haldir: everytime she went to have a talk with Galadriel, and now Gandalf, he got told to hang around. As she started to climb the stairs, she took a quick glance back to where he was now standing. And, to her surprise, she was sure he was checking her out! Turning back around, she carried on up the stairs, a grin half forming on her mouth. * * *
“So it is he,” Gandalf said gravely.
“That was what I saw through the mirror, and what Buffy has described,” Galadriel confirmed. She sat in her chair with another two pulled up for Buffy and Gandalf to sit on. The other more regal chair was still free.
“Our long held suspicion has been confirmed.” Gandalf told Galadriel, sparing Buffy a brief glance. “I cannot now see that any course now remains other than to take action against this shadow in Mirkwood.”
“And long have you argued such,” Galadriel confirmed, “but I suspect Saruman will still argue to exercise restraint.”
“Yes. Yes, he would,” Gandalf said, sounding somewhat defeated. He looked to the side and noticed Buffy had her hand in the air – he gave her a ‘what?’ look.
“Who’s Saruman?” Buffy asked, helping herself to a piece of honeyed cake from the table in front of them.
“Saruman the White is leader of the White Council, and considered amongst the wisest in middle earth,” Gandalf told her. “He has strived this last age to undo the evils of Sauron, who we now know has been hiding behind the façade of the necromancer in Dol Guldur.”
“The White Council,” Galadriel picked up, “is an alliance of the istari, who you may call wizards like Gandalf, elves and men to defeat Sauron and rid the world of his malice.”
“So, why don’t you just… you know…” Buffy said, looking at Gandalf to prompt him.
“Just what?” Gandalf asked, in a coy tone.
“Well. Kill him, if he’s so evil.” Buffy said plainly.
Gandalf laughed out loud at that. “If only it were so easy. Sauron cannot easily be killed. Others have tried, you know.”
“What of his defences?” Galadriel asked, deflecting Gandalf’s sarcasm.
“Not enough to launch an attack,” the elderly man mused. “I would say though he has built a sufficient force to defend himself, and it would take a significant number of men to topple Dol Guldur.”
Buffy sat there and listened to them continuing spout on about the various strengths and weaknesses of Sauron, along with the pros and cons of his evil creepy forest hideout. In the end they concluded that they would have to wait for the White Council to meet, and find out what decision was made.
When the discussion was finally over Buffy was pretty relieved. She felt out of her depth, if she was honest. This wasn’t her fight, certainly wasn’t her home, and she had no frame of reference for the events Gandalf and Galadriel had been rattling on about. It was actually nice to see Haldir still waiting for her at the base of the stairs after she was excused.
“I see you have been released,” Haldir half joked.
“Yeah, I think they could tell I was getting bored,” Buffy told him, a smirk playing across her mouth.
“I’m sure they would both be wounded by your words,” Haldir said. Buffy simply snorted at that comment. “So what would they have me do?”
“They,” Buffy said, pointing upwards with her left hand, “didn’t mention about me doing anything specific.”
“Well, seeing as you are free to do as you will, there are a whole range of things you could occupy your time with. Many lady elves cook, sew or weave, learn the art of healing, some even join us on the hunt, practice archery or arms.” Haldir told her.
“A spot of archery sounds like fun,” Buffy told him.
“Ah, you have experience with a bow then?” Haldir asked, starting to set off with Buffy following behind.
“I’ve been known to dabble…” she lied.
“The wood elves of Mirkwood are well known for their talent with a bow,” he helpfully informed her.
If she was a wood elf, or from Mirkwood, she guessed she would probably be quite flattered. As it was, Buffy plastered on a fake smile and followed the elf for about ten minutes before arriving at a section near the inner fence.
The area was set up with a number of targets at varying range. There were about three other elves practicing, all of whom were men. A fourth elf appeared to be supervising those practicing who looked similar to Buffy’s friend. Haldir went over and talked to another elf who looked quite similar.
A minute later he came back.
“That was my brother, Rumil,” Haldir told Buffy, explaining the similarity. “He bids us good shooting.”
“Good to know,” Buffy confirmed, before being led over to a rack of bows. Sorting through, she found one that she liked the look of.
“That may be too heavy for you,” Haldir warned, “are you sure you can draw it?”
“Yes thanks,” Buffy said tersely while picking up a container of arrows, and a bracer for her arm.
“I meant no offence, only that some of my men would have difficulty with that bow,” he explained.
Buffy knew he hadn’t meant anything by the comment. “Don’t worry, no offence taken. So that’s your brother,” she said thumbing over her shoulder to where he was giving hints to the other elves practicing.
“Yes. He is a marchwarden of Lorien, like I,” Haldir explained.
“Marchwarden?” Buffy queried.
“A guard of the Galadhrim,” he said as if it explained everything. Buffy could vaguely recall that these elves sometimes called themselves that.
They had made their way over to a target that was so close it wouldn’t have surprised Buffy if she could hit it by spitting at it. Not of course that she’d do something like that… dirty, disgusting habit that it was. “How about that one?” Buffy said, indicating a target that was about fifty yards away.
“As you wish,” he agreed, walking along to the next target.
Haldir went first, using his bow, and wound up with two arrows in the first ring and one in the bulls eye. “Don’t worry it’s not a competition,” he said lightly.
Buffy hated it when people said that, since what it usually meant was ‘I’m going to be better than you, so, don’t worry about the fact I’m better than you’. She smiled acidly, and notched her first arrow. It went a bit wild and barely hit the outermost ring. The second arrow went in the first ring from centre. On her third shot she deliberately aimed for the first ring from centre and struck just about spot on where she wanted to.
“Well done!” he commented, walking off down the range to collect the arrows. On his return he handed Buffy’s three back to her. “You’ll get better as you get a feel for the bow. I’m still pretty impressed you can even draw that bow!”
“Yeah, well, I’m stronger than I look,” Buffy commented without cracking a smile.
Her companion put another three shots on the board. This time two hit the bulls-eye and one the first ring. “Ah! That’s better.” He told Buffy, obviously pleased with himself.
Rolling her eyes, Buffy stepped forward for her turn. She hit two in the bulls eye and one in the first ring as well. “Oh,” she said, with a mock coy voice, “I must be getting the hang of this.”
She smirked as Haldir looked a bit ticked at her doing as well as him. “Mayhap we try for a target not so easily reached,” he said pointedly, going forward to get the arrows that they had used.
On returning he ushered her along past one of the other elves that were practicing, to some targets that looked to be set at around the hundred yard range.
“So why is it that you can speak the common tongue and not Sinderin,” Haldir asked Buffy, while lining his shot up. She waited for him to loose his first arrow, that hit the second ring, before answering.
“I don’t know, mustn’t have been taught it. After all…” Buffy stopped talking as he made his second shot. It hit the third ring. Buffy continued, “…you only know something if someone’s taken the time to teach it to you.”
“That, I suppose, is true,” he agreed. Haldir then aimed and fired his final arrow that lodged between the bulls eye and first ring.
“Still, it is most unusual that you would not have been taught the language of your parents, is it not?” He asked, yielding the firing position to her.
“I wouldn’t know,” Buffy told him, before returning her concentration to lining up the shot. The first arrow hit slightly to one side of the bulls eye. The second shot landed smack dab in the centre of the bulls eye, and third slightly to one side of that.
She could hear Haldir swallow from behind her. “That’s… impressive…” he said, sounding slightly wounded that she’d beaten him, but also a bit like he was going to worship the ground she was standing on.
With a shrug of a shoulder, Buffy dismissed it. “Bah! Not really.”
“I seem to have lost interest in this activity for now,” Haldir admitted, squinting at the target, “and you don’t seem to need to practice. How would you like something to eat?”
“Mmm! Food!” Buffy said dreamily. “You know Haldir, you’re gonna become my official favourite person.”
Buffy watched with a well hidden smirk as he blushed slightly at that compliment.