A/N: *word* means emphasis. §word§ means Elvish.
I unfortunately don't own either Willow or Haldir, or his brothers (though I'd love to have a bit of fun with them... ).
This is dedicated to Jinni! You rock, for about a thousand reasons.
The screaming started abruptly, leaving Haldir barely enough time to knock an arrow in his bow and look up at what was going to hurtle him to the ground. Or who, really, he corrected himself as the person – most definitely a person, and a she-person at that if the high pitch of the scream was to be trusted – collided into him, sending them both to the ground.
This was most aggravating.
The marchwarden ignored the pain in his back where his quiver dug into his flesh and let his warrior's instincts take over. He let go of his bow, useless at such short distance, to grapple with his assailant. There was close to no resistance as he forced himself on top, and then came the surprise.
Some unseen force threw him backward, right into a tree at the edge of the clearing, a few feet away. The wind was blown out of him for a few seconds. Most aggravating.
Haldir stood up swiftly, with the ever-present dignity and grace of his kind, and froze at the scene. Both his brothers Rúmil and Orophin were suspended upside down in mid-air, their bows discarded on the ground next to Haldir's, their golden hair draping their faces. What Haldir was not quite ready to grasp was that the petite redheaded woman standing next to them was holding her hands up to them because she was the one holding them there. Surely she could not – Men were not known for weaving any magic, and she was neither Elf nor Istari, that much was evident to Haldir's experienced eye.
Seeing his brothers in such a drastic situation, Haldir reached for his dagger, only to find himself unable to move, his finger mere inches from the dagger's hilt.
"Note to self, do *not* surprise pointy-eared guys by falling out of the sky unless you wanna work out your magic," the woman muttered to herself in Common Language, not low enough for Haldir's keen hearing to fail him. Her brow was frowned and glistened with sweat. Her eyes shone hardly at Haldir and his brothers. "Now can I let you go and you don't go piercing me with any sort of weapons?"
Haldir blinked slowly in agreement, unable to respond in any other way. He was not sure her power would have been enough to rid her of all three of them, but she could have attempted it while they were at her mercy. That she had not was enough for him to allow her a chance at justifying her presence here, in the northern borders of Lórien.
The marchwarden suddenly regained his mobility, just as his brothers fell to the ground. They were standing up again in one swift motion, the bows that they had picked up from the ground pointed at the woman who swayed and brought a hand to her forehead.
"Wo-ho, guess my mojo isn't at its easiest here," she said faintly.
Haldir motioned at his brothers to point their bows down – neither of them was fluent in Common Language-- far from it, actually. Of the Galadhrim of Lórien, few ever crossed their borders to journey abroad, but Haldir was part of the few to gather information from the neighbouring lands. As it was, Rúmil obeyed immediately, and Orophin after a second's hesitation, though both kept their arrows knocked and were at the ready.
"Who are you, and what is your business in the realm of Lórien? Whence did you come tumbling from?" he asked of the woman as he walked closer, ready to draw his dagger if need be. His words came slowly; he had not used the Common Language for some time and he had grown unaccustomed to it. He reached his bow and picked it up, not bothering to knock an arrow himself. He had never known either of his brothers to miss a shot.
"This is a realm?" The woman looked at them with curiosity, green eyes intent as they roamed over the Elves, her brow still frowned and her face pale and drawn. She was clad in strange garments, the like of which Haldir had never seen. "If not for the pointy ears and sophistication of the clothes and weapons, I'd believe myself in the Middle Ages alright." She swayed again. "Think I could perhaps get the permission to sit in that realm of yours?"
"Who are you, and what is your business here?" Haldir demanded to know once again.
Haldir was not an Elf of much patience and the woman was about to draw what little he had to an end.
"O-kay, so much for being civil," she replied with a small glare, but Haldir could now see she was frightened. And with good reason. She had trespassed the borders of Lórien. "My name's Willow Rosenberg. My business here is, well, to go away?"
Haldir frowned. "To go away?" he repeated dryly, quirking an arrogant eyebrow at her in that way that always drove his brothers mad.
"Yeah, see, there was this demon, and a portal, and then poof, tumbling down to crash into you," Willow Rosenberg explained, if such a sentence could be called an explanation. "And I just wanna go back to my very own dimension with rounded ears and hopefully no arrows pointed my way, if you don't mind."
Haldir's second eyebrow raised alongside the first one, changing his look of arrogance into one of perplexity. "You are not from this plane of existence?" he asked slowly, trying to see clear through what she was saying.
"Bingo," Willow Rosenberg replied, which puzzled him all the more. "Now, if you guys had a wizard or a witch handy, that would be just perfect. 'Cause with the way I just exhausted myself, I don't think I'll be able to rip a portal home in the fabric of this 'verse myself."
Haldir seized her up for a moment. She did not look dishonest. But then, neither did she look harmful, yet she had had Rúmil and Orophin suspended upside down in the air and Haldir himself immobilised. The marchwarden was not quite sure her appearances could be trusted. "Do not move."
He motioned for his brothers to follow him aside, and immediately related the conversation to them in §Sindarin§. "§We shall take her to our Lady Galadriel,§" he concluded.
As he had expected, Orophin frowned on that decision. "§I do not trust her, Haldir.§"
"§Rather say your pride has not yet recovered from her little trick,§" Rúmil countered with good humour, the youngest of them three and always the more light-hearted.
"§Hush,§" Haldir interrupted harshly, for he thought Rúmil might be a little too light-hearted on the matter, as it was often the case. "§For I do not trust her either, and yet we shall lead her to our Lady and Lord, and they shall do with her as they see fit.§"
"§Shall we leave the northern borders unprotected when the darkness stirs in all surrounding lands?§" Orophin enquired.
Haldir paused to think on it. He had not considered that problem. "§I alone shall lead her to Caras Galadhon while you two keep the watch, brothers.§" He did not much like the thought of journeying alone with Willow Rosenberg to his city, a journey long enough for her to build up her strength. But Orophin was right; they could not leave the borders unprotected, not in those darkening times. And it was his duty to see to Willow Rosenberg, as the eldest; he would not ask it of his brothers to do a thing that made him ill at ease.
"§As you say, brother,§" Orophin acquiesced almost grudgingly.
"§As you say,§" echoed Rúmil.
Haldir nodded at them and turned back towards Willow Rosenberg. The woman was obviously not building up her strength as of yet, for her complexion had gone even paler, and although she met his look with steadfast eyes; he could see the strain she was going through.
"I shall take you to the city of Caras Galadhon where our Lord and Lady dwell, Willow Rosenberg. There they shall decide what is to be done with you."
The woman nodded thoughtfully, her eyes not straying from Haldir's face. "Alright." She straightened up. "Where to? The sooner we're there…"
She did not finish her sentence as she once again swayed. She had fallen down before Haldir had reached her, Rúmil straight behind him. Her 'little trick', as Rúmil had called it, must have indeed exhausted her wholly. Haldir looked at her unconscious form. Strange garments indeed, slacks as if for a man, made of a strange tissue he had never seen, and a cream-coloured shirt with ruffles. Her form was slim, her red hair fiery and her complexion close to that of an Elf.
"§If I did not know you better, brother, I would think you had made her your duty so as to hold such a beauty in your arms,§" Rúmil said with a chuckle.
Haldir turned a levelled gaze on his youngest brother before locking eyes with Orophin, who probably looked a mirror of Haldir's own studied arrogant indifference.
"§I am thankful you know me better than that, then, Rúmil,§" he replied evenly.
Haldir bent down and scooped the woman up in his arms. Rúmil watched him with the same amused look, while Orophin was growing hardly able to disguise his disapproval. Had Haldir ever listened to Orophin, many an innocent wanderer of late would have been slain for losing their way into the forest of Lórien. None of them had ever hung his brothers up in the air, that was true enough. But the look of exasperation on Orophin's face almost made it a pleasurable occurrence.
Haldir turned around to face his two brothers as he reached the edge of the clearing. He arched an eyebrow at them. "§Do not do anything I would not do,§" he recommended with a barely suppressed smirk.
Rúmil grinned openly while Orophin's face remained carefully devoid of any emotion. Haldir turned away and strode into the forest. On his own, he could have reached Caras Galadhon in twice less time as he would with her, should she be awake or unconscious. Either way, she would be a burden, and he had rather have her be an unconscious burden. One that would not speak, complain, question, or possibly do other 'little tricks'. As he made his way among his beloved trees, Haldir forced himself not to glance at the light burden in his arms. He would not contradict Rúmil on one thing; she *was* a beauty, albeit a strange one. He had never seen the likes of her before, and beholding such a face was refreshing, so different from the ethereal Elvish features. He banished those thoughts as soon as he realised what they were pertaining to.
Haldir did not reach the §talan§ he had been planning on spending the night in before the moon was well up in the sky, and the night not so young as it should have been. He balanced Willow Rosenberg easily in his arms as he climbed up the tree, without any need for the silver rope ladder rolled up on the wooden platform. He arranged a few skins and laid the woman down, covering her with a fur cloak. The wind was blowing in the South tonight, but he did not know the constitution of her kind and would not risk making her ill. Whatever his Lord and Lady shall decide to do with her, she was his responsibility until he reached them.
Haldir took some §lembas§ out of his pockets and took a bite, and then a swig from the flask he always carried. Both warmed him greatly and renewed his strength. He puzzled a moment over waking Willow Rosenberg up to have her eat and drink some herself, but decided against it. She looked peaceful as she slept on in the moonlight, her soft breathing the only regular rhythm to be heard in the forest.
As if she had sensed the direction of his thoughts, Willow Rosenberg picked this moment to stir. She was warmly ensconced in the fur cloak; Haldir did not think she could be uncomfortable. Then she had to be rested, if she woke up. Her eyes fluttered open and she frowned immediately. She scrambled up in a seated position, her back to the tree as she looked wide-eyed at Haldir. She made him think of an animal caught by surprise by the hunter. He did not dare move for fear she would try to flee, but would still not part with the arrogant mask that ever graced his features.
She finally began breathing again, and only then did Haldir realise she had stopped.
"And here I thought I'd had a bad dream about dimension-hopping and pointy-eared bowmen," she said with a trembling voice. "Where is this?"
"This is the realm of the Galadhrim of Lórien," Haldir replied evenly. "Haldir is my name. I shall take you to the Lord Celeborn and the Lady Galadriel, who will decide of your fate."
"And, sheer curiosity, none of them happens to be big with the magics, huh?"
"They will decide of your fate," Haldir repeated.
Willow Rosenberg seemed about to protest, but wisely refrained. "Where's this Lórien, then?"
"You are in Middle Earth." Haldir paused, his head slightly tilted to the side as he studied her. "You were saying the truth, then, about being from another plane of existence."
"I don't usually go about lying about my dimension," Willow Rosenberg replied tiredly. "So, pointy ears. What are you?"
Haldir barely refrained from scoffing or taking offence at her question. It was likely her plane of existence held no such creatures as Elves. "I am a Silvan Elf," he replied curtly, then decided to return the favour. "What are you, yourself? Your appearance would see you from the race of Men, and yet you weave magic such as only Elves or Istari could master."
"Hey, I'm a man alright," she protested with a frown. "Well, woman really, in case you hadn't noticed the, er," she glanced at her bosom and blushed, "anyway. I'm a woman. Men have magic in my world. We don't have Elves or what-nots to do that for us."
"Did your magic lead you here?" Haldir enquired.
The more he learned now, the better. He would be able to tell of his learning to the first one of his people they met, without doubt one of Múlnared's at Celebrant, who would reach Caras Galadhon ahead of them to give tidings to their Lord and Lady.
Willow Rosenberg shook her head and then frowned, bringing a hand to her temple. "All light-headed here. You wouldn't have anything to eat, would you? To settle me down?"
Haldir would have cursed himself. Here she was, his responsibility, weakened, exhausted, and he did not think of offering her food. He took the §lembas§ bread back out and handed it to her. "A bite or two will be enough," he advised her. "§Lembas§ will feed you well enough in small quantity."
She looked at him doubtfully and took a bite with a sceptical pout. Her whole face lightened as the §lembas§ no doubt had its usual effect on her. She grinned widely, beaming.
"It feels all warm and tingly!" she exclaimed. She took a second bite enthusiastically, then pouted as she gave the bread back to him. "It's kinda too bad, doesn't feel so fulfilling as it is, what with only eating so little."
He raised an eyebrow at her, certainly not liking the offhandedness with which she dismissed the Elvish bread. He would have her drink water then, he who had been ready to share the Elvish beverage of his flask. "I suppose we focus on quality over quantity," he remarked scathingly. "Forgive me, Willow Rosenberg, but I am ignorant of the ways of your world."
She seemed at a loss what to say. "Hey, you know, that's like, unfair!"
"Is it?" he asked lightly, dismissing it with a wave of his hand. "You still have not answered my question."
"What question?" she asked sullenly.
Haldir was glad to know he had managed to strike a nerve, but did not let it show. He wanted his answer. "Did your magic lead you here?"
Willow grimaced. "Nah. Big ugly demon did. You guys have demons? Creatures of evil and all that stuff?"
"Well a big ugly demon landed me here. He was throwing that portal on Buffy – she's the big super-strong warrior of us all, so I couldn't just let her vanish to Neverland. I tried to deflect the portal with my own magic and I guess I failed 'cause here I am. Stuck in the 'realm of Lórien' with touchy snappy Elves."
Touchy? Snappy? He was not sure what she meant. He had not spoken the Common Language in too long; and it seemed Willow Rosenberg had a very strange use of it herself. Never had he heard anyone handle it as she did, not even close. He imperceptibly shook his head, dismissing the thought, and focused instead on what she had just told him of what circumstances had brought her here.
He did think the strange blend of words she had used had signified, among other things, that she had hastily tried to fight off a magical attack on the demon's part in order to save a warrior, whom she deemed worthier than herself. The will to save others before oneself was not so often found, and if what she said was true, then she might just happen to be a person Haldir could grow to - accept.
"And you wish to go back to your world," he concluded.
"Yep, that I do. A lot." Her voice trembled again and her eyes took on the look of fear. Either she was saying the truth, or she was the most excellent liar Haldir had ever met.
"You should sleep, rest some more," Haldir advised her. "Tomorrow will be a long day's walk."
Willow Rosenberg nodded thoughtfully and lied back down under the fur cloak. Haldir watched her fall asleep with a frown.
He awoke her as soon as the sun came up. They had a long distance to cover still, for his brothers and he had been keeping watch at the very limits of Lórien, and with Willow Rosenberg as a burden, Haldir could not hope to reach Celebrant before the sun was at the highest.
Haldir pressed a hand on her shoulder, but she would not wake. He pressed harder, shook her a little, and finally her eyes fluttered open. He was struck by the emerald green, a colour rarely seen among his kind. It spoke to him of the forest, the leaves and the grass; it spoke to him of the spring, every Elf's favourite season.
"We should be on our way," he told her rather curtly.
"And good morning to you too," she grumbled as she sat up.
She ran her hands through her hair, then tried to press it down. Haldir was rather puzzled by the way it looked, as if cut at different lengths, but he did not say a word and turned away, unrolling the rope ladder for her to climb down. He turned back to her to find her sniffing at her clothes. She blushed slightly as she saw him looking.
"I… Any chance I can take a bath some time soon?" she asked. "I need to wash. Magical efforts lead to sweating, and if we walk all day long, I'm thinking it's not gonna be a priority so much as a necessity."
"We will make a short stop at the river Celebrant, if you wish," he replied. "Now hurry, we should already be on our way."
Willow Rosenberg looked at him oddly, but made her way down the ladder. He then pulled it back up to the §talan§, put the cloak and skins back where they belonged, and jumped down the tree to land swiftly next to her.
"Neat," she said with raised eyebrows. "Very vampire-y."
Haldir vowed to himself that he would not try to understand any of her odd sayings any longer. He was considered open to the outside world among his people, but there was a limit to everything, and such nonsensical statements he did not deem worthy to try to comprehend.
"Follow me. Tell me if I go too fast for you."
He let the smirk show on his face as she grumbled against his arrogance; she could not see his face, walking behind him as she was. They did not exchange any word for the time it took them to reach Celebrant; she seemed at times deep in thoughts, at others simply angered at him. Haldir did not mind the silence; he welcomed it. He felt serene enough to resist going too fast for her on purpose.
Celebrant was ever swift and powerful in these parts, but Haldir had not forgotten Willow Rosenberg's desire to wash, and he led her first to a smaller brook he knew of, which joined Celebrant a few miles down-river.
"Here you can wash, Willow Rosenberg," he told her.
Haldir turned and walked a few dozen feet away, still within earshot but far enough to leave her some privacy. He took a seat on a low branch, ever at ease up in a tree. He suppressed a chuckle as he listened to her muttered complaints about the coldness of the water. It seemed she had been used to a certain degree of comfort, where she came from. His brow darkened when he could not hear any sound coming from the brook after a little while. Surely he would have heard her, had she tried to flee.
He walked hastily back to the brook and was relieved to see she was still there. The relief became concern: she was huddled on the ground next to the brook, her arms circling the legs she had drawn to herself, and her face resembled that of the Elves Haldir had seen taken most strongly by the yearning for the sea.
Haldir stopped a few feet from her, and as she noticed him she tried to compose herself, getting to her feet to better mask her emotions. The Elf watched her closely, more certain than ever before that she had told him the truth. She longed for her world as his kind longed for the sea and the Undying Lands.
"My Lady Galadriel knows some of the ways of magic, and few in Middle Earth are more knowledgeable than her," he found himself telling Willow Rosenberg.
Her face took on a look of surprise, then gratitude. "Thanks." She nodded a bit, then straightened her clothes. "I'm all ready to go now."
Haldir nodded in turn and took them back to Celebrant, where indeed he made out Múlnared on the other bank, clad in his own grey cloak, amidst a few young trees. Haldir whistled their call and Múlnared stepped into view. Haldir heard Willow Rosenberg gasp.
"So I guess if I hadn't fallen on you, I would have had a hard time realising anyone walked in those woods," she remarked as Haldir readied the rope he always carried with himself.
"Indeed," he acquiesced as he sent the rope over to Múlnared, who bound it to a tree on his side of the bank. "Can I count on your magic to retrieve the rope, or shall I signal for Múlnared to send one of his people over to this side?" he asked as he fastened his own end of the rope to a trunk. After that was done, he paused for an instant to lay his hand on the bark in a gesture of thanks and love.
"I can get it back," Willow Rosenberg answered, looking uneasily at Celebrant's flowing stream.
"Will you be able to cross?" Haldir asked as he took foot on the rope and it dawned on him that she had no Elvish agility.
"Like that? Standing on a piece of rope as if it were a solid five-feet-wide plank of wood? I don't think so."
"Oh no, no way I can go airborne here. Restraining you guys shouldn't have been so tasking, I don't think I could pull that off without fainting mid-river."
"Wait here," Haldir told her as he crossed over to Múlnared.
"§Haldir,§" the other Elf greeted him. "§Who is she you travel with?§"
"§A visitor from another world altogether, strange as it may sound,§" Haldir replied. "§Do you have other ropes to help her cross? She is of the race of Men, and unable to walk the rope.§"
"§Ill luck, for Nimred requested the rope I always carry with me this morning and you find me alone in those parts for the moment,§" Múlnared replied, but he looked amused more than regretful. Múlnared and Númil were good friends. "§I could always carry your foreign lady across, unless you wish to do so yourself.§"
"§I shall take care of her,§" Haldir replied evenly, and turned away without letting his exasperation show.
He ran back across Celebrant to Willow Rosenberg. "There is but this one rope. If you trust me, I shall carry you across."
"Carry me?" she let out in a small strangled voice. "Above all that water? I mean, no offence, you look way agile and all, but that's still a lot of water. Rushing water. Looks deep, too. And I'm not exactly a light weight either – not that I'm fat, mind you, but I'm not small either and –"
"I bore you yesterday without suffering of your weight," Haldir reminded her. "You are a light burden."
"You… Right. I *was* wondering how I'd gotten up in that tree." She paused and licked her lips. "And I'm still not completely at ease with the idea of me in your arms, you on a rope, us above all that water."
Haldir decided he had no time for this. Willow Rosenberg squealed when he scooped her up in his arms, and clung to his tunic tightly, her eyes shut tight, as he made his way over Celebrant. He let her down and she slapped her hand on his chest as soon as her feet touched the ground. Her eyes were open again and she was glowering at him.
"Now, okay, it all went well, but you don't do that ever again!" she exclaimed. "That was so scary!"
"§Still no way with the women, Haldir?§" Múlnared wondered with a small smirk as he came and faced Willow Rosenberg. He took her hand in his and turned it over to drop a kiss on her palm. " Múlnared is my name, milady. I apologise if you find Haldir rude. Please do not judge us all on the lack of manners of one Elf."
Willow Rosenberg blushed slightly. Haldir did not like it. Múlnared had no business to treat her so, and to call her milady. She was Haldir's responsibility, and he would not let Múlnared take her away from him.
"Hey," Willow Rosenberg replied as she took her hand back. She seemed mesmerised by Múlnared, watching him with a mixture of amazement and fascination. "Thanks for the, er, welcome." She grinned foolishly, then turned to Haldir to glare. "See? You guys have it in you to be nice and understanding and to not scare the hell out of a poor witch."
"A witch, milady?" Múlnared asked.
Willow Rosenberg smiled at him, then turned to Celebrant. She frowned, and soon enough the rope was making its way over the river to them, landing on the shore. Perspiration had broken out on her face and Haldir was worried she would be considerably weakened yet again.
"Will you be all right?" he asked as blankly as he could, but he could not help a hint of concern to be heard.
"I'll be fine," she replied, dryly. "No need to thank me, of course."
Haldir tensed. Múlnared took the opportunity to address Willow Rosenberg again.
"Most impressive," he remarked with a bright smile.
"Thanks," she replied just as brightly.
"§Múlnared, a word with you?§" Haldir interrupted, and took the Elf aside.
The marchwarden did not leave Múlnared time to protest and explained everything he knew about Willow Rosenberg, asking him to send someone ahead of them to warn their Lord and Lady. Múlnared nodded, stealing occasional glances at the witch. When Haldir said the two of them would now go on, Múlnared seemed on the verge of adding something, but he looked at Haldir in the eyes and simply wished them to fare well. A messenger would be sent immediately, he would go fetch one of his people. Haldir nodded and turned back to Willow Rosenberg.
"We go on now."
She shrugged and made to follow him.
Múlnared stood on her path, his charming smile back in place. "It was a pleasure to meet you, milady."
Willow Rosenberg blushed again. "Thanks, same here. And I'm no lady."
"Oh, but you are," Múlnared contradicted her softly. Haldir was fuming. "Fare you well, lady. I hope you find your way back. May the stars shine on you."
Haldir took Willow Rosenberg by the arm and pulled her among the trees, away from Múlnared's smooth talk. What was the Elf thinking, trying to seduce her like this? She was not of their world, and she might prove dangerous for all they knew. The times were growing darker with every passing moment, and Múlnared did not know better than trying to ensnare an unknown woman?
"You can let go any time, you know. I'm gonna follow you anyway." He paused to look at her; he was still holding her arm, indeed. "You said your Lady knew magic. She's my best chance."
Haldir let go of her, studying her thoughtfully. "An old custom would want you to walk this land blindfolded, for we know too little of you to trust you with the secrets of the Naith of Lórien, the land we now walk."
"Why aren't you blindfolding me then?" she asked crossly.
Haldir tensed. He had been about to say he would trust her with the secrets of the Naith, that he could not bring himself to deny her the beauty of this land, but if she insisted on being so… aggravating. "Very well."
She pretended to not care about it at all as he wrapped a scarf of silk around her head, but he could see she was only barely refraining from making her anger known. He made to move away but she grabbed on to him before he could.
"What are you doing?" he asked evenly, careful not to let anything of his emotions show.
"I'm blind, you're my guide dog," she replied on a light tone. "I can be very clumsy, and I'm sure you don't want me to arrive all scraped and bruised in front of your lady, right?"
"Very well," he repeated, an echo of his earlier agreement.
He secured her hand in the nook of his arm, his own hand on hers, and led her through the Naith. This was truly home to him, amidst the snowy-white Nimloth-trees and the golden Mallorn-trees, and he could hardly wait to come across the ever blooming flowers he cherished the most, the golden §Elanor§ and the pale §Niphredil§. His hand relaxed on top of Willow Rosenberg's, and he forgot he had laid it there to make sure hers did not slip away. He breathed deeply, and beheld the beauty of this realm he was so proud to be a part of.
Neither of them spoke for hours, and Haldir lost himself in the present, he who always thought of past and future. He had not visited the Naith in too long a time, and yet so short when compared to their eternal lives. How could time stretch so, and yet be so concise? His surroundings enchanted him, and more than once he turned to his companion to comment on a Mallorn's special height and bearing, or the very colour of a bark, only to be reminded as he looked on her that she could not behold such beauty. Oftentimes did he find her expression sombre, whereas at others she looked as enchanted as he was. He had no doubt that the scent, the sounds and the feel of the Naith were enough to enchant her.
"You really think your Lady can help me, then?" she eventually asked.
"I am not learned in the ways of magic," Haldir replied, watching his tone closely. "I was ever raised a warrior. My Lady shall do as she sees fit."
"You mean she's not even gonna help me for sure?" Willow Rosenberg did not even try to keep the anguish out of her voice any longer.
"I cannot speak in her place," Haldir admitted. "My Lady Galadriel often has motives of her own."
Willow Rosenberg had stopped walking, and Haldir had turned to face her. She was slowly shaking her head. "You're not telling me that she might just decide not to help me 'cause, say, she doesn't like my hair colour, right?"
"Her motives are somewhat less superficial than hair colour," Haldir replied calmly.
"You know what I mean!" she exclaimed. For once, Haldir actually did. "I mean she might not want to help me, and – and if she doesn't – you said – I wanna go back home. I mean it's gorgeous around here and I don't just mean the trees, but it's not my home and I wanna see my friends again, I don't wanna stay here!"
Willow Rosenberg now gripped his tunic with both hands, one on his arm and one on his chest, and Haldir was at a complete loss what to do. Tentatively, he placed his hands on her arms.
"There is no need to fuss over it while you do not know what the Lady Galadriel will say," he stated reasonably.
"There's every need to fuss!" Willow Rosenberg contradicted him. "I – I don't wanna stay here, I really, really don't. Xander and Buffy'll be so worried, they'll be calling Giles any minute, and maybe the coven could do something about it but I'm not so sure, and Dawn will definitely try some stupid bleeding ritual to open a portal and I really don't want her to get in over her head, and now you're telling me your great big lady isn't gonna help me –"
Haldir clutched her to him, letting her pour it all out, her fears, doubts and frustration. He did not know what he could do apart from holding her. He was unable to quench any of her fears, to utter any reassurance, and he could not understand half of what she was raving about. He wished messengers from his Lord and Lady would come and shed some light on what Willow Rosenberg could expect from Galadriel.
"§Do not trouble your heart with such uncertainties,§" he found himself telling her in §Sindarin. The Elven-tongue was often found appeasing even by those who did not understand it. "§There will be time to weep should the Lady Galadriel deny you her help. You must not let your fears drag you down ere you know that they are justified. This is no time to shed tears, lady.§"
Willow Rosenberg finally calmed down and grew still in his arms. Haldir kept whispering to her in §Sindarin§, adjusting his hold on her so as to make her more comfortable. Her own arms let go of his tunic to circle his waist, as she laid her head on his chest. Haldir had never known such intimate contact with one so foreign to him, and he found it oddly pleasant. For it held no promise, no obligation, it was intimacy freely offered and received, freely shared.
But they ought to be moving on. Haldir slowly undid her blindfold, catching the silk scarf as it started to flow down to the ground. He would have expected her to stare around her in amazement, but she kept her eyes locked on him.
"Thanks," she said softly. Her eyes glistened with more unshed tears. "I mean, I don't have a clue what you said, but I think it – helped – to some extent. What was it you said?"
"Nothing worse translating," he assured her, pocketing the scarf. "If you feel well enough, we should be on our way."
She looked at him still for a few moments before nodding absent-mindedly. Only then did she seem to take in her surroundings, for she gasped in amazement. "This place is… I mean… Wow!"
"I suppose 'wow' shows approval, then?" Haldir enquired.
Willow Rosenberg turned on herself, looking in all directions at the tall trees, the ever so green grass, and the beautiful flowers. "Approval? No. More like, amazement, and admiration, and just… wow. You know." She turned back to him with a small, shy smile. "You use wow when you don't really have any fitting words."
He smiled back at her before he could prevent it. She did not have words for the beauty of Lórien. Of course she would not.
"Come, we have lingered enough already," he told her abruptly. "More beauty awaits on the way, for I intend to halt at Cerin Amroth tonight, and there you shall behold more magnificence than you could have dreamed of."
Willow Rosenberg took up his arm as he led the way, and he did not pause to reflect that she needed no guide anymore. She looked at him with a small smile. "You really love this place, don't you?"
He merely smiled. This question needed no answer.
The two of them spent a few pleasant next hours. Haldir would not have thought so, but Willow Rosenberg proved most pleasant company. She was curious about their ways and culture, and Haldir proud of them. She made it a habit to surprise him with her own ways, or with her odd phrasings; her sense of humour was just as strange, but then most Elves though Haldir simply lacked one, and it turned out they found themselves chuckling at the same things. Haldir grew to understand the love she had for her friends, the ones she was so worried about when she was the one isolated in a foreign world. The Elf was surprised when she explained that magic and the existence of creatures of darkness were not common knowledge in her world, but that her friends and she had been fighting them before even reaching adulthood.
To be so young – so much younger it seemed to an Elf, a child in man's eyes! – and to be fighting already, by choice, without any acknowledgement from the world around them. He was not surprised to know that she had had a 'dark phase', as she called it. She had put it past her now, a simple reminder of what she could be if she strayed from the righteous path again. She had known the darkness and had come back from it. Haldir had grown to respect her.
They reached Cerin Amroth at twilight. The skies were sporting red, orange, pink and yellow, shedding their colours onto the beloved hill on which stood a ring of white nimloth-trees, surrounded by Mallorn-trees. Haldir climbed the slope eagerly, then turned back to Willow – she had insisted that 'Rosenberg' was additional, that she would have him call her 'just Willow'.
The witch was walking up the slope slowly, looking as if she were listening to some distant noise, but Haldir could hear naught. Her lips were shaped into a blissful smile, her eyes glazed and yet sparkling.
As she reached the top of the hill, she seemed to come back to her senses and looked at Haldir, without parting from her smile.
"Galadriel has agreed to assist me," she stated softly.
Haldir raised an eyebrow. "You have talked to the Lady Galadriel?"
"Only just now," Willow answered. "This place is – basking – with her power. You can feel it, can't you?"
"Yes, of course. Here her power can be felt by all, Elf or no." He glanced away for an instant, surprised at the jab of pain that had slashed across his chest. "My heart sings with those good tidings."
"Yeah, she said there was hope," Willow agreed. "Something about a mirror of hers, how I could perhaps reach Giles or the coven, and then we'd figure something out."
Haldir kept smiling, although he did not feel it anymore. "Good tidings indeed. Will you follow me onto the §talan§ now, where you may behold what I promised you?"
Willow nodded and followed him up the ladder onto the platform. He did not leave her time to look around and took her hand to lead her to the Southern side, where the warm colours of the twilight bathed the fair city of Caras Galadhon. She did not say anything as she looked at the city. He looked with her for some time, for he had never grown used to the beauty of the city, but then he shifted his gaze to look at Willow instead.
She looked transfixed, her eyes wide, greener than they had ever appeared to him, with such a look of admiration on her face – Haldir would have wagered this 'wow' word would have fit the situation.
"Behold the great city of Caras Galadhon," he whispered.
A small unconscious smile tugged at her lips, and she flickered her eyes at him. Haldir immediately got a hold of himself and pointed to the east. "There flows the Great River Anduin, one of the borders of Lothlorien." And he was sad to see how bleak and dull the land looked across Anduin, sad that the power of Lórien was not enough to light the surrounding lands.
"Okay, I guess you were right," Willow admitted. "I'd never thought anything could be so… wow."
He smiled, and only realised as he stroked her hand with his thumb that he still held it in his. He would have dropped it immediately, only she turned to him at that instant and her eyes held such a mixture of fear and hope that he dared not move, lest he should wound her somehow. She was frowning and slightly pouting at the same time, and her eyes, so green, so bright, beckoned to Haldir as surely as his dear trees had, on each of his trips abroad.
Their lips met and Haldir closed his eyes at the sudden rush of emotions that ran over him, settling down in a tight bundle in his chest. She tasted like nothing he had tasted before. Múlnared could taunt him all he wanted, but Haldir *had* been admitted into a lady's bed times enough to be familiar with such intimacy. But not her. Not Willow. She tasted like nothing he could put a name to, this freshness and this sting at the same time. Her otherworldliness had never touched him as much.
Haldir let go of her hand to bury one in her hair, at the back of her skull, and to lay the other on the small of her back, pulling her to him. He should not be doing this; Willow was expected by the Lady Galadriel; she had been favoured by his Lady, who had talked to her; Willow was a witch from another world who longed to go back to her home more than anything else; he most certainly should not be ravishing her mouth as he was. But he could not find it within himself to stop, not when every single one of his senses but his sight was overwhelmed by the strangeness of Willow Rosenberg.
She put a halt to the kiss, laying her hands on his chest and pushing him ever so slightly away. He opened his eyes and was greeted by a sight he was not likely to forget. Her lips were slightly swollen from the kissing, her hair was wild about her face, and her eyes – those eyes – were glazed over, speaking of desire barely restrained and pleasures beyond knowing. As he looked on her they took on their usual spark, and a small breath of air escaped her lips, the shadow of a sigh. Haldir dared not move, once again, both of his hands resting on her back; he dared hardly breathe, for fear motion would shatter the moment.
"I… This wasn't supposed to happen." She must have seen the flicker of pain cross Haldir's features, for she hastily went on. "I mean, I don't mean that that way. I mean that – that it's not supposed to happen, because – because – because I'm going back to them. To my home."
Haldir wondered whether he was doing any good at keeping his face devoid of all the emotions swirling inside him. "I know that." Still he would not move.
"You do? Well that's great. But – not quite solving the problem here," Willow remarked, wringing her hands against his chest. "I mean, you're – that kiss – but tomorrow we'll –" She glanced at Caras Galadhon; night had now fallen and the city shone in the moonlight. "And I'll…"
"I know that," he simply repeated.
Her lower lip was jutting out slightly, and her green eyes glistened with tears. He bent down to kiss her again, and what had once again started as a gentle kiss turned into something much more passionate-- Haldir did not feel he would ever have enough of her. It scared part of him, but his fear was not more powerful than his desire, far from it. He felt as if he could have been content kissing Willow Rosenberg for the rest of his life, and yet he already was not, longing for more.
"Wait," she finally breathed.
He paused, looking at her closely, his head slightly tilted to the side.
"It's all very dangerously attractive, Mr Cryptic, but are you saying I'm gonna be a one-night stand?" He frowned, unsure what she meant, and she settled to explain her meaning. "Like, someone who you sleep with once and then, bye! 'Cause I don't wanna be that."
Haldir did not blink as he looked at her still. She would be going back to her home the next day, in all likelihood. Even if she laughed at him and called him a fool, it surely would not leave a permanent wound on his soul, such a short acquaintance. She would be going tomorrow.
"If I thought you would, I would ask you to stay and wed me, Willow Rosenberg," he told her, reverting back to using her full name. "I would forsake my eternal life for you. The Spring shines in your eyes."
She was gaping at him.
Haldir let go of her and turned away. His chest ached terribly. He was a fool. "I am sorry if my reckless words have offended you. I will not speak a word more on the subject, and I would be thankful if you did likewise." His voice sounded harsh to his own ears.
A hand took one of his and he turned back to her, surprised. She was done gaping. She was now smiling, her eyes full of tears again.
"It's one of the most beautiful things anyone ever told me," she said. "But I can't stay."
He nodded; he knew that. She did not seem convinced he did, but he knew she could not, just as he knew he would be unable to leave his beloved Lothlórien if not for the Undying Lands of Valinor.
"I would not bed you once before parting, not if I had my way," he admitted as he stepped closer to her and slid his hand to the back of her skull again, emboldened by her reaction. "I would bed you again, and again, until we were both spent, for I fear my soul will never hold enough of you."
She was simply looking at him with those tear-filled eyes, and it was enough to make his desire flare again. He did not try to make the kiss gentle this time; their lips crashed together and fingers were tearing at clothes, wrenching at stubborn buttons and clasps, lips and hands were exploring bare skin once all layers of clothing had fallen to the ground at last. Haldir laid her down on a few skins hastily thrown together and as he entered her Willow Rosenberg seemed to become his whole world.
The stars shone no more, he knew no light but those in her eyes; no taste had ever existed but that of her, no longer strange but home, her taste was home to him; what were the perfumes of §Elanor§ and §Niphredil§ to him, all he knew was her scent, a salty hint of perspiration, a heady mixture of darkness and light; he could no longer feel the night air but only her heat, and her skin under his fingers, and her blunt teeth as she bit on his lower lip, and the movement, he could not seem to stop, deeper and deeper he was losing himself in her; the whole world had hushed but for their rhythmical breathing, their grunts and their moans and the hissing sound she suddenly made right before he joined her in release.
Haldir felt he was coming back to life with the first breath he took, after his climax. He was still in her, above her; her eyes were closed and she looked peaceful, breathing regularly. He felt so weak, like a newborn babe; he moved out of her and lay by her side, unwilling to crush her with his weight. He lay still by her side in silence, focusing on the afterglow of their union, his skin singing to the night around them about the pleasure they had shared.
He rolled on his side and propped his head on his arm, watching her. She shivered, and he grabbed a fur cloak to cover them both, and lay it over her after one last study of her body.
Willow opened her eyes as he placed the cloak on her. She smiled lazily. "Hey, stranger."
He found himself chuckling. He traced the line of her jaw with a finger, then kissed her softly. The kiss remained gentle and soft. She raised slowly and soon he was on his back, and she was hovering above him; she smiled at him softly when they broke up the kiss.
"Hello, meleth nín," he greeted her in turn.
She frowned. "What's that mean?"
He simply smiled.
"Come on!" she insisted. "Tell me!"
And on he smiled.
"Tell me or no more cookie for you."
She nodded, laughter bubbling up in her eyes. "They're biscuits. Real good, too. *Or* it can mean something else." A faint blush settled over her cheeks, but she went on. "It can mean an orgasm."
"Are your biscuits so good that you would use the same word for both?"
"Well – no. And that's not the point!" she protested with a mock-glare. "What did you call me?"
"My love," he answered softly, afraid of her reaction.
She looked at him in silence for a few seconds, until a genuine smile broke forth on her face. "Teach me some words," she asked as she snuggled against him, resting her head on his chest.
Haldir smiled sadly. "Of course." He inhaled, breathing in her scent, and dropped a kiss in her hair. "Love is meleth. Lover is melethril for a woman, melethron for a man."
"Melethron," she repeated softly.
She was drawing idle circles on his chest with her hand, while he was softly stroking her back.
"Lust is mael," he added with a smirk. "Life is cuil, and laughter lalaith. Magic is gúl. Soul is faer. Charm is lúth. Mocking is iae."
"Iae?" she repeated, having trouble trying to force her mouth around the word. "I like that one."
"The morning twilight is minuial," he went on, dismissing her taunt to find himself wishing minuial would never come, for then they would have to set out towards Caras Galadhon. "Starlight is gilgalad. Spring is Ethuil, and union erthad. A willow is tathar, and babbling - glavrol. And you, Ethuil nín, are minei."
"Minei?" she repeated, frowning as she stopped drawing circles on his chest.
"Unique," he translated.
She smiled. "Thanks…" She paused, looking up at him with an arched eyebrow. "But I'm sensing a definite bias in the words you're telling me."
"Wait for what is coming next," he advised her with fake seriousness.
He moved so quickly that Willow's eyes widened with surprise only when he was already back on top of her. He slid his hand through her bright red hair and kissed it. "Hair is fin." He kissed each of her eyes reverently. "Eye is hend." She was smiling. "And ear is lewig," he finished right before sucking her earlobe into his mouth.
She giggled delightedly, and after that they made love once more, but with none of the previous urgency. They were slow and careful, attentive, they drew it out as much as they could, and when release came they held each other's gaze. Willow did not sleep much that night, and Haldir not at all. They were all too aware of time passing by, time they would never have again together, and Haldir would have cursed the Valar for putting him through this, had they not blessed him with that one night of bliss.
But minuial, the morning twilight, did come to put an end to their one night. Haldir woke Willow gently, without a word, and they both dressed in silence. He waited by the ladder for her to climb down first. She walked up to him, no less beautiful in the morning light than he had ever seen her, and kissed him softly. Haldir was grateful for the kiss, for it might be the last one they would share, and he responded equally as gently. He felt as if his heart would burst on the spot, but once Willow broke it up and climbed down the ladder, he felt slightly more serene.
He could face this day. He could let her go. She ached as much as he did; that was what the kiss had told him. She ached as much as he did, and he would not increase her pain by adding his own to it.
They walked hand in hand towards Caras Galadhon. Never before had Haldir wished himself as far from the city as possible. Never before had he dreaded the sight of the beloved green towers among the trees. This day was a sad day indeed.
Thindevail came to meet them as they circled the city to come to the gate at its southern side. The newcomer cast a look at their entwined fingers but did not comment, only his voice held much sympathy as he greeted Haldir in their language. Haldir would have rather had him not show any sympathy; it only heightened his own sense of impending loss.
"The Lady Galadriel and the Lord Celeborn sent me ahead to properly greet you, Lady Willow," Thindevail went on. "Thindevail is my name, and I shall lead you to them." Willow cast an almost panicked glance at Haldir, which Thindevail noted, and the Elf consequently added: "Haldir will come with us."
Willow nodded. "Okay. But I'm no Lady. I'm just Willow."
Thindevail smiled indulgently, as if at a child, and Haldir felt anger rise in his chest. He forced it out of him slowly. He would not cause a scandal. If he hadn't already had. "Should we proceed?"
Thindevail nodded and all three walked on. Thindevail tried to engage them in conversation a few times and neither Haldir nor Willow gave him anything but short answers, so deep they were in thoughts of what had happened, and what was to come. Their hold on each other's hand tightened gradually as they approached the gates of Caras Galadhon, and even more so as they climbed up the long stairs to the large talan where the house of Galadriel and Celeborn was built. Thindevail stopped in front of the house.
"Here do our paths part. May the stars shine upon you, Lady Willow," he solemnly said, then walked away.
Haldir was grateful for this short moment of solitude. His Lord and Lady were waiting and he would not prolong this delay more than he should. Yet he turned towards Willow and cupped her cheek in his free hand. She leaned forward into the touch, closing her eyes for an instant. Haldir's throat was so tight he did not trust himself with words; besides, he did not know what words could ease this pain. He kissed her once on the lips, focusing on each sensation so as to never forget, then kissed her tears away rapidly.
"Tear is nín, and never have I more hated the word."
She looked up at him and nodded, swallowing. He let go of her hand and turned towards the house, entering first. He was surprised to find his Lord and Lady alone, where they were usually surrounded by their kind. They both stood up as Haldir entered the room, and as always the marchwarden felt humbled in front of their beauty. Silver and gold were well wed.
"§Haldir, too long have we not seen you within the walls of the city,§" Celeborn greeted him.
"§I am only too well aware of it,§" he replied. "§Here is Willow Rosenberg, of whom you know the tale.§"
Haldir's eyes flickered to the face of Lady Galadriel, who nodded almost imperceptibly, her piercing blue eyes fixed on Willow. Her face showed nothing of her intent and Haldir was unpleasantly reminded of what he had told Willow of his Lady's nature. One never knew exactly what was on her mind.
"Welcome to Caras Galadhon, Lady Willow," Celeborn greeted her.
"Just – just Willow," the witch replied, glancing uneasily between Galadriel and Celeborn. "I – thank you for your welcome, Lord Celeborn. Lady Galadriel."
She even tried a little bow. Haldir should have thought of instructing her on Elvish etiquette. He loved her for trying. He was such a fool.
"Willow," Galadriel replied with one of her cryptic half-smiles. "We know of your tale. Do you still seek assistance in returning to your world?"
She knew. Of course she knew. She was Galadriel. Her words still cut Haldir up, each like a slash in his face.
"I do," Willow replied, and her words rang like a knell in Haldir's soul.
Galadriel nodded, and Haldir thought he saw a hint of regret passing swiftly through her blue eyes. He was most certainly imagining things.
"Then I shall give you what you request," Galadriel replied. "Come with me."
Haldir watched Willow nod and follow Galadriel out with a last look at him. He kept his face emotionless; he could not try to smile and act brave, for letting any emotion show on his face might have broken him down. He did not want to break down until he was far enough for no one to hear.
"§What could such a young woman do to catch the heart of this marchwarden?§" Celeborn asked softly as he appeared at Haldir's side. He had almost forgotten his Lord was there. "§Many have deemed the task near impossible, and given up the attempt.§"
Haldir did not reply for a few seconds. "§She is unique. She did not have to try.§"
"§Could you not find one not so far from you?§" Celeborn's voice was tainted with sympathy and regrets, there was no mistaking it.
"§She is unique,§" Haldir merely repeated. He turned to look at his Lord. "§Do you know whether I might see her again before her departure?§"
"§That depends on the woman herself,§" Celeborn replied wisely. "§We have had your usual place of abode made ready for you. We shall direct her to it should she ask.§"
"§Thank you, milord.§"
Haldir took his leave and made his way absent-mindedly to the §talan§ he was used to sleeping on whenever he stayed in the city. §Should she ask.§ Would she? If her friends, her world, her home, were at her fingertips, would she take the time to bid him farewell?
A small hut was built on the §talan§; he was happy to find it deserted. He sat down at the table and fingered his dagger unconsciously, hating those feelings of uncertainty and helplessness. He took the dagger out and played with it distractedly, rolling it in his hands with its point in the table. He needed to stop thinking, to stop reminiscing all that had happened the previous night, the way the glow of his own skin in the moonlight had reflected on hers and the small whimpering sound she had made when he had tasted her truly for the first time, her laughter as his fingers had unwillingly tickled her ribs, her softness and her warmth as she surrounded him, the different greens her eyes could take, all the different shades of spring…
"Ethuil nín," he whispered softly.
"Please tell me you're not thinking about me while playing with your dagger?"
Haldir was up in an instant and by her side the next, covering her face with kisses, which she eagerly returned. Their lips locked at last and he found again this feeling of losing himself in her, this feeling he had thought lost. He was the one to break the kiss this time, for he longed to look at her. She was crying openly, sobbing.
"I'm – I'm sorry, I, I told myself I'd be strong, but I can't – help myself," she told him as she cried on.
He embraced her and she clung to him tightly, her chin on his shoulders and his hands in her back, holding her close. He wanted so to cry along with her, but he forbid it to himself. He would not add his pain to hers. He held her tightly and bit back his own tears, willing his pain away from even showing on his face.
She eventually calmed down. She sniffed loudly and stepped back, wiping her face.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to break down on you. Now your tunic's all wet."
He could care less about his tunic, but refrained from telling her so. He caught one of her hands in his and dropped a kiss on her knuckles. She watched him with a pained look.
"We found a way," she told him. "Through the looking glass." She let out a dry chuckle. "Sorry. I mean, through Galadriel's mirror. I just have to, like, dive through. The coven could arrange that much."
Haldir looked at her strained face. Even so, with puffy red eyes and those tear tracks, he found her beautiful as the spring. "You could already be back."
He stepped closer and kissed her again, without restraint, unwilling to put in words his conflicting emotions but more than ready to let them play out in one more kiss, always one more kiss, let there be always one more.
Willow pushed him away softly, looking up in his face. "And just – I have to ask. I know the answer, but I have to ask 'cause otherwise I'll hate myself for not asking. Will you come with me?"
It broke his heart anew. "I am tied to this world as strongly as you are tied to yours, melethril minei."
She nodded thoughtfully. "I knew it."
"Shall I walk you there?" He was glad his voice did not tremble.
"I'd like that."
Hand in hand they walked silently to the southern slopes of Caras Galadhon, to Lady Galadriel's garden where no tree grew. The Lady of Lórien was awaiting Willow next to her mirror. Haldir stopped on top of the stairs.
"My place is not down there," he admitted. "None but those who have been invited by the Lady Galadriel may enter this place."
Willow turned to him, biting on her lower lip in an attempt to stop its trembling. Her eyes were again full of tears. "I will always remember you, melethron."
He forced a small smile on his lips. "I am glad to know you *were* paying attention. To at least one word."
They kissed again, and it seemed to Haldir to last an eternity, an eternity of those sweet lips on his, of her beloved tongue battling with his, of her hair and her skin under his fingers, of her unique scent filling his nostrils, of her in his arms, of his losing himself all over again. An eternity, and yet far too short a time.
"I don't wanna have to leave you." Her voice trembled so.
"The Spring shines in your eyes, meleth nín. Go home. Remember me."
"I will. Always."
"Go," he urged her again, calmly, as he pushed her gently towards the stairs.
Haldir turned away as she walked down them. He turned away and closed his eyes, trying to get a hold of his feelings so as to be able to have a last look at her. He pushed his emotions back and turned around.
Willow had his back to him; she was looking down into the mirror. Once again, he wished himself never to forget a single detail. She turned around and they locked eyes one last time. "Meleth minei," he whispered to the wind. A beam of light shot above the mirror and she turned back to it. Haldir wished his Elvish eyes had not allowed him to see the agony written across her face in such detail. She climbed on the edge of the mirror and stepped into the light.
Haldir closed his eyes and took a deep shuddering breath, his hands reaching for the silk scarf in his pocket. The silk was soft, a pale remembrance of her skin. He remembered taking the scarf off her eyes, her bright green eyes. She would not look away from him then. He wished he had thought of giving her something to remember him by.
When Haldir opened his eyes again, the light was gone. So was Willow.
~~ the end ~~