Chapter Thirty-four: The Return to Rivendell
Not once did Miriel look over her shoulder as they walked up the long drive. As far as she was concerned, she never wanted to set eyes on that abominable place again. The moment she stepped off the property, the environment seemed to change. It felt more wholesome than the old homestead. The air smelled cleaner, the sky brighter. The leaves rustled in the surrounding trees, as if they were rejoicing at the witch’s demise. Even the birds perched on nearby branches sang merry tunes in their sweet, sweet voices. Yes, it was a time for celebration, for the shadow that had devoured that region had been obliterated.
“I need to get my bags,” informed the Slayer, straying from the path to the oak where she had hidden her belongings.
Her friends followed, their eyes scanning the surroundings. They too noticed the change around them.
As soon as Miriel found the tree, she climbed it and began to toss her bags to the ground. With the Slayer out of earshot for a few moments, the men folk had a quick and quiet exchange, regarding a request made by Gandalf. The old Wizard had asked them to take Miriel by the place where they had ambushed the Orcs, to show her exactly how dangerously close she was to being attacked by the enemy, whose numbers would have turned the tide against her.
After a speedy debate, they all agreed that it was in everyone’s best interest to resume their journey as soon as possible. None of the Rangers overlooked the fact that they were still deep in troll country and, as long as they remained in these parts, there was a lingering threat of being assailed by the hulking beasts. Also, none were quick to forget that Thuringwethil had perished. They couldn’t rule out that more Orcs could be hiding somewhere nearby, waiting to hear news from their brethren that had died in the early morning attack. The men felt that their need for haste outweighed the need for proving a point. They had to take the quickest road possible to Rivendell. There was no time to backtrack in the opposite direction.
Once Miriel had slid out of the tree and grabbed her belongings, they hurried on their way. Since they had gotten a late start, they were unable to reach the road by nightfall. As a precaution, the Rangers hid themselves amidst the brush and lit no fires as they waited for morning.
At first light, they set out again, reaching the road in less than an hour.
“If all goes well, we should reach Imladris by late tomorrow afternoon,” informed Elrohir, delighted by how far north they had come.
Onward they went, and just as Elrohir had predicted, they reached the main path to the valley late the following afternoon. As they passed those Elves on sentry duty, they blew a loud blast on their horns, alerting those in the House of Elrond of the Rangers’ arrival, for they had been expected.
Just like the last time Miriel had been there, she could hear the rushing falls long before seeing them. The plants and flowers were in bloom, filling the valley with a fragrant scent of both flowers and freshly cut grass. One good whiff of the clean country air had a way of instantly invigorating one’s weary heart, mind, body and soul. Such was the way in an enchanted elvish realm.
Miriel was home, or at least, felt as if she were. A part of her had thought that she’d never return to Rivendell, and now, as she and her friends crossed the stone bridge, she was glad to be back.
The Slayer gasped when they first set eyes on the House of Elrond. No, it wasn’t seeing that beautiful building that took her breath away. It was all the people assembled outside the Last Homely House. It looked like every resident of Rivendell was there to greet them. They were on the lawn, the porches, even the second story balconies were packed with Elves.
“Why is everyone outside?” she whispered to Elladan, who was walking beside her.
“They want to see you,” he said matter-of-factly. “Undoubtedly, news of Thuringwethil’s demise has reached them.”
“But that was only three days ago!” she exclaimed. “How could they possibly know?”
“News, especially good news, has a way of reaching the Elves,” he answered with a wink.
The mightiest lords of Imladris stood at the forefront on the lawn. In the waning afternoon sun, Miriel could see a gleaming golden head running toward her. It was none other than Glorfindel.
“Miriel!” he shouted, widening his arms as he drew closer.
The Slayer found herself running to him, her heart pounding in excitement at seeing the Noldo once again. She leapt into his outstretched arms. The Elf Lord wrapped his strong arms firmly around her waist, spinning her around and laughing joyfully. “It gladdens my heart to see you again,” he said before setting her back on the ground. His bright, grey eyes swept over her, inspecting her for any obvious injuries. “We have heard that you’ve slain the Maia, Thuringwethil. What an extraordinary feat that is!”
“I learned from the best,” she said, her grin widening. “I couldn’t have done it if it hadn’t been for you.”
Glorfindel laughed. “The credit is all yours,” he said proudly. “You have accomplished something that so few in Middle-earth ever have.”
“You have,” replied Miriel.
The Noldo gently cupped the Slayer’s cheek. “That is sweet of you to say. But, today is about you. Today we celebrate your
great achievement.” He then took her by the hand and led her toward Elrond.
In those few brief minutes that she had been back, Miriel couldn’t help but notice that whatever romantic feelings she had harbored for Glorfindel were long gone. She now saw him in a new light, as a father figure, and a much needed one at that. He was nothing like Denethor. In fact, he was the complete opposite. And, at this time in Miriel’s life, she needed someone in that role, to guide her, to teach her, and to love her unconditionally. She couldn’t help but chuckle to herself. It looked like Elrohir had been right all along and that Miriel was merely infatuated with this mighty Elf Lord, not in love
with him, as she had thought.
Maybe it was just Miriel, but it almost seemed as if the Noldo had heard her thoughts. He glanced at her, smiling. He then gently squeezed her hand that he clutched within his own. Her cheeks turned pink in response.
When they reached the Lord of Imladris, Miriel let go of Glorfindel’s hand and dropped to one knee in reverence to Elrond. As far as she was concerned, he was her
lord, and her allegiance was to him and his kingdom.
“Rise, Dagnir,” he said, offering her a smile.
Miriel obediently obeyed his command. When she stood again, she looked deeply into Elrond’s eyes. There was a twinkling light in them that she had never seen before. Of course, she had done her best to avoid making eye contact with the Lord of Rivendell since their first meeting many months ago. How could she forget the horror of having her mind read by his penetrating gaze? That had been quite unnerving. Now, there was nothing to fear. Elrond knew everything about her, and, as far as she could tell, he had been true to his word, and had kept the knowledge of her past secret.
“Welcome home, Miriel,” he continued.
“Thank you, lord,” she answered, following protocol with a bow of her head.
“My good people,” he then announced loudly. “Today we’re honored to have in our midst the slayer of Thuringwethil, the despicable Maia and consort of the Dark Lord that had escaped us for ages untold. All hail Miriel the Vampire Slayer!”
With that, the crowd roared with delight and thunderous applause. Miriel was ecstatic. She couldn’t wait to see Buffy in the dreamscape, to tell her that Miriel was the first girl to ever be called Vampire Slayer.
When the applause died down, Elrond continued. “Tonight we will hold a feast in Dagnir’s honor. Afterward, I hope that she will regale us with the account of Thuringwethil’s demise.”
Overwhelmed by the Elves’ response, Miriel could only nod in reply. To be viewed by this noble race of people as a returning hero was nothing short of amazing. She was truly beginning to see that her act of valor was great, even amongst the Eldar.
“Perhaps we should let Miriel freshen up before the festivities begin,” suggested Glorfindel.
Elrond then turned to his daughter. “Arwen, would you be so kind.” He needn’t have said any more than that.
“Of course,” answered his only daughter, stepping out of the line. “Come, Miriel. We have much catching up to do.” The elleth linked arms with the Slayer and together they followed the pathway that led to the front steps of the magnificent halls of Elrond.
Arwen was quite eager to hear about Miriel’s adventures since having left Rivendell. The Slayer’s life was vastly different from her own and a part of her longed to trade places with the mortal girl. Since the days of her youth, she had been told that she closely resembled her foremother Lúthien Tinúviel, but the comparison stopped at beauty alone. A part of Arwen longed for adventure, to do great deeds as her forebear had, to be remembered for her outstanding courage and strength. Instead, she lived confined within the walls of her father’s house, protected from the world outside.
Miriel was not oblivious to Arwen’s longing for freedom and adventure. They had spoken many times about it in the past. The last thing the Slayer wanted to do was to put any ideas in Arwen’s head. She knew how envious the elleth was over Miriel’s exploits, particularly those involving the Rangers.
As Miriel bathed, she told Arwen about their first skirmish on the road, involving the trolls. When the Slayer noticed the elleth’s eyes widening in excitement, she made a point to let her know how disastrous things went due to Miriel’s own lust for blood.
“Instead of following orders, I jumped into the fray,” revealed Miriel dismally. “As a result, my arm was broken and a fellow Ranger perished.” She turned her sorrow-filled eyes to the daughter of Elrond. “I have to live with that for the rest of my life,” she added solemnly. “It’s not a pretty world out there, Arwen. There’s so much evil. Consider yourself blessed to live in this haven, far from peril.”
Arwen sighed heavily as she poured a ewer of steamy water over Miriel’s soapy head. “Ah, yes. My haven. I would trade safety for adventure any day. I am bound to spend endless days in tedium. How fortunate for me.”
Miriel wiped the water from her eyes, and spun around in the tub, facing the elleth. “Is this what you long for?” she queried, pointing to the Eye of Sauron carved above her bosom. “Or this?” she asked, pointing to yet another scar on her arm. “Or this. Or this. Or this,” she repeated, pointing out the many scars that covered her delicate pale flesh. “And those are just the scars you can see. Some… some are too deep to be seen with the naked eye.”
The Slayer took a deep, trembling breath. It was time to nip this whole Slayer envy thing in the bud. “You have no idea what it’s like out there. You say that your life here is tedious, try going out on the road where you are forced to sleep on the hard, cold ground, night after night. You have to ration your provisions, not knowing when you’ll get your next hot meal. Water is scarce. Bathing is nearly unheard of. You’re on the move constantly, walking endless miles in the rain, in the cold, in the heat. We’re hunters, but we’re also hunted and have to remain alert at all times. And when it comes to battle, one can die in a split second.” Miriel snapped her fingers for added emphasis. “That’s all it takes. It’s a hard life. Not a fun one. If I had my way, I’d live as you do - safe, in comfort, surrounded by those that love me. That’s not a life to throw away. That’s a life to be thankful for. You have it good though you may think otherwise.”
Arwen stared at Miriel for several long seconds. She then responded with, “If you envy my life so, then have it. Turn away from slaying and stay here, in Rivendell.”
“You know I can’t do that.”
“You don’t want
to. There’s a difference,” countered the elleth. “Whether you want to admit it or not, you enjoy slaying. It’s a part of who you are. People revere mighty warriors, you included. I saw your face light up when you were welcomed back as the returning hero.”
“I’m no hero,” protested Miriel. “I didn’t choose this. It chose me. I’m a tool of the Valar and it’s my job, my destiny to combat evil.”
“You killed Thuringwethil!” exclaimed Arwen in awe. “You took out a powerful Maia that we had believed to be dead.”
“And the lover of Sauron,” Miriel added. “Do you think there’ll be no repercussions for that? When I killed Thuringwethil, I signed my death warrant. When Sauron learns of what I have done, he’s going to be gunning for me. There is no glory in that.”
“Perhaps it’s your destiny to take out the Dark Lord. Thuringwethil was just the beginning.”
Miriel laughed. “That’s insanity!”
“I do not see how that is so,” said Arwen. “You have killed a Maia and lived
to tell the tale. Even Glorfindel perished when he battled the Balrog while escaping the fall of Gondolin.”
“Glorfindel had battled Morgoth’s armies since sunrise,” rebuked the Slayer in defense of the Noldo. “He fought all day, and, if not by his strength, your forefather and the rest of his people would’ve died. Do not bring him into this. He’s the most valiant man to ever set foot in Middle-earth.”
Arwen was taken aback by Miriel’s heated defense of Glorfindel. “I am not diminishing Glorfindel’s deeds by any means. But the truth is: he did
perish battling a Maia whereas you did not. That says something, Miriel. That says something about you.”
“Call it luck then,” replied the Slayer dismissively. She did not like being compared to Glorfindel at all. Their battles were completely different. Miriel had not had to contend with the numbers that the mighty Noldo had. She dunked her head under the water, needing a minute or two to regain her composure.
When she popped out of the water again, Arwen said, “I didn’t mean to offend you. It’s just… I think you’re truly gifted and blessed by those in the West. Do not tell me that you’ve not given any thought to challenging Sauron. Do not tell me that has never entered your mind.”
Miriel leaned back against the tub, stretching out her legs. She stared straight ahead, watching the steam rising from the water. “It has,” she replied. “But it’s a foolish notion.” She turned toward Arwen. “I grew up on the doorstep of Mordor. I don’t think you truly comprehend how great Sauron’s armies are. There is no way in and there is most definitely no way out.”
The elleth bowed her head, looking sadly at the ewer clutched in her hands.
“I know what this is about,” continued the Slayer, watching Arwen closely. “Sauron’s defeat would put Aragorn closer to the crown.”
Arwen shifted her teary eyes to Miriel. “Yes,” she answered softly.
The Slayer reached out and grasped the elleth’s hand. “And then you two could begin your life together,” she surmised.
Miriel could sympathize with Arwen, but by the elleth pinning her hopes on Miriel as the one to defeat the Dark Lord, well, that was more than a bit far-fetched. But that didn’t mean Miriel’s heart didn’t go out to Arwen. “I cannot make any promises, Arwen, but should I ever come face to face with the Dark Lord, I would surely do my best to rid the world of that menace.”
Miriel’s comment seemed to satisfy Arwen. Her disposition reverted to normal and she became happy once again. From that point on, they spoke no more about Sauron, battles, or the like.
Once the Slayer had finished bathing, she slipped into one of Arwen’s beautiful emerald green gowns. As she sat at the dressing table, brushing her hair, she heard a knock on the door.
“Come in,” she called out.
In came one of the maidens of the house. “Good evening, Dagnir. I was asked to collect your clothing that needs to be laundered.”
“Oh, excellent,” answered Miriel, setting the brush on the table. She rushed over to her bags, which had been placed on the floor at the foot of her bed. “I’m hoping you wonderful elvish seamstresses can be of some help,” she continued, digging through her first bag. She pulled out the balled up blue dress that Hal had given her. She shook the garment open, showing the elleth the damage it had sustained. “Do you think it’s reparable? It means a great deal to me.”
The Elf maiden took the dress from Miriel and surveyed the damage with a skeptical eye. “Are these blood stains?” she asked.
“It looks like they have already set,” replied the woman, now examining the tear. She then smiled half-heartedly. “I’ll see what we can do, but I forewarn you: we Elves are not capable of performing miracles.”
“Anything you can do, I’d be most appreciative,” said Miriel, her glistening eyes full of hope.
The maiden then gathered the rest of Miriel’s clothing before leaving the room. Only a few moments later, Elrohir and Elladan came parading in.
“It’s nearly time for the feast,” announced Elrohir, who, like his twin, was also freshly bathed.
“And who better to escort you, than us,” added Elladan in a cheery voice.
Miriel plopped down on the bed, sighing heavily. “I wish we could eat in here, like we used to,” she confessed.
the guest of honor,” proclaimed Elladan.
The Slayer rolled her eyes. “Whoopee!” she replied, feigning enthusiasm. “I don’t much like big crowds any more. I’d rather it just be the three of us, in here.”
“Not tonight,” said an unwavering Elrohir, as he grabbed Miriel by the arm, pulling her to her feet. “Tomorrow, perhaps. But tonight, you will join us at the head table to celebrate your great triumph.”
“Pfft,” sounded Miriel. “I guess the sooner we get this over with, the better.”
“We better be careful, Elrohir. Looks like Miriel’s enthusiasm might be contagious.”
“You know what will help?” remarked the younger son of Elrond. Not allowing anyone the chance to reply, he quickly added, “Wine. Wine will lift your spirits right up.”
“We’ll see,” the Slayer answered with a snort, letting the twins usher her from the bedchamber.
As they descended the staircase, the supper bells rang out, alerting the entire household that the feast was about to begin. Elves flooded the corridors, their sweet, lilting voices instantly making Miriel feel welcome and at home. Filing into the massive dining hall, the twins led her up the steps of the dais to the table where the most notable members of Elrond’s household ate their meals. Miriel was grateful to be seated between Elladan and Elrohir, a few seats away from the end of the table where the Lord of Imladris sat flanked by Glorfindel and Erestor. After everyone had settled into their seats, Elrond spoke briefly about the Slayer’s victory over Thuringwethil before he and the rest of his people raised their cups in honor of her “remarkable achievement.” He then asked if she would share her “glorious tale” with them after the feast. Put on the spot like that, there was no way Miriel could refuse.
Excitement filled the air. Elrond’s people were quite eager to hear the story of Thuringwethil’s demise. Even Elladan and Elrohir emitted the same vibes. They, along with their traveling companions, had tried to coax the details of her battle out of her on their journey to Rivendell, but Miriel hadn’t been ready to share the tale with anyone at that point. She didn’t feel ready now. How could she share her tale without revealing what had happened during her first encounter with the wicked Maia? Elves, by nature, were a curious people and had a tendency to ask many questions when one spoke of an event, experience or story. There was no doubt in Miriel’s mind that she’d be questioned as to how she had come to meet Thuringwethil. And that’s what she was dreading the most.
Being somewhat preoccupied with those thoughts made the feast more tolerable. She ignored the stares and murmurings about her, conversing almost wholly with Elladan and Elrohir. Of course, the food and drink was most excellent. Miriel made an effort not to drink too much wine. By the end of the meal, she had consumed two glasses, just enough to take the edge off.
Once the feast had ended, most of the attendees proceeded to the Hall of Fire. The elven minstrels began to play as soon as their lord entered the chamber. A fire burned brightly in the fireplace and the room felt warm, but not overly so. Miriel sat on the floor between the sons of Elrond, grateful that she wasn’t expected to share her tale straightaway.
As the Elves sang about bygone days, their lyrics conjured images of beautiful ancient lands and the people that inhabited them. The more they played and sang, the more Miriel felt her body relaxing. Her eyes began to grow heavy; she struggled to keep them open. She hadn’t fallen asleep, but found herself in a blissful state of contentment. Even with her eyes closed, she could see the images in her mind’s eye, mirroring the elvish songs. She had become so relaxed that Miriel feared falling over. To combat that, she leaned against Elladan’s shoulder. He then wrapped his arm lovingly around her, cradling the Slayer in the crook of his arm. For the first time in a while, Miriel felt completely safe and utterly content.
She was unsure of how much time had actually passed when she heard Elrond call her name. Startled back to her senses, her eyes popped open, only to see many fair elvish faces looking expectantly at her. She then realized that she had been so relaxed that she had drooled on Elladan’s shirt. Why o’ why did so many people have to be looking at her at that particular moment? Her cheeks turned pink as she quickly wiped the dribble from the corner of her mouth. A few of the Elves seated nearby chuckled softly upon seeing the wet spot on Elladan’s shirt.
Miriel clambered to her feet with a little help from the twins. All eyes were on her. That alone made her palms sweaty and her heart pound so frantically that she could feel the blood rushing through her veins. The Elves scooted to the side, making a pathway leading to the front of the room where an empty chair awaited her. Several chairs were arranged around hers, occupied by Elrond, Arwen, Glorfindel and a few other mighty lords of that House.
Miriel had never regarded herself as the nervous type, but it was amazing how swiftly her anxiety returned. This time, in front of all these people, was vastly different from the last. This was no reciting of Buffy’s story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
, but a retelling of her own personal saga against the Mother of All Vampires, Thuringwethil. Where was she to start? How much should she reveal? So many questions raced through her mind. She took her seat, pondering these questions and many more, as the room fell dead quiet.
Her eyes scanned the numerous faces packed in the chamber. Apparently, many others had come in whilst her eyes were shut. The room was so full that dozens upon dozens of Elves had no other choice but to stand in any empty space they could find. When her eyes fell upon the twins, they both smiled, nodding encouragingly.
“Um, I’m… I’m not sure where to start,” she revealed, feeling the sudden heat emitting from her cheeks.
“Why not start from the beginning,” suggested the Lord of Imladris.
The Slayer remained silent, hesitant to tell her tale from the true beginning. Those few moments felt like an eternity.
Thankfully, Halbarad came to her rescue. “Why not start from when you left us at the lake?” he proposed.
“Alright,” she said, offering her Watcher a grateful smile. And so Miriel began her tale. Determined not to mention how she had first met Thuringwethil, and knowing that the Elves would ask how she knew of the Maia and her whereabouts, the Slayer started her story by mentioning that she had become aware of Thuringwethil’s existence in her dreams.
The Elves appeared riveted by her tale. They “oohed” and “ahed” in all the right places, and even laughed aloud when she told them how she had used cow dung for an Orc head to prevent her from being discovered by the headless enemy’s cohort.
She ended her tale with, “The only ways you can kill a vampire are stake through the heart, beheading, fire and possibly sunlight.” Miriel was iffy on the sunlight bit. She found it impossible to believe that Thuringwethil had survived throughout all the ages without having ever walked in the sunlight. Buffy had always been adamant about the whole sunlight thing, but Miriel had never seen it for herself to confirm whether that was true or not.
While their lore had mentioned that Thuringwethil was a vampire, no one really had any knowledge as to what that actually meant. So, or course, the Slayer was asked that very question.
“They feed off the living, drinking their blood,” she answered. “They need it to survive.”
“How does one recognize a vampire?” asked another Elf.
“It’s hard to say,” she began. “A vampire looks like any other mortal folk until it reveals itself. They sprout fangs when threatened or when ready to feed.” Miriel tried to think of things that Buffy had told her, things that didn’t necessarily apply to Thuringwethil herself. In fact, Buffy had mentioned a few things that didn’t apply to vampires in Middle-earth, such as the cross and holy water. Those two specific vampire repellants didn’t exist at this point in time, but do during Buffy’s time. Perhaps those artifacts would soon come into being. Since they were non-existent, Miriel didn’t bring them up. Nor did she say anything about garlic. Just the thought that a mere bulbous plant could repel a vampire seemed rather preposterous.
“They are creatures of the night and are cold to the touch,” she added after much thought. “They’re strong, fast and are able to heal rapidly. I cannot say any more than that, as Thuringwethil is the only vampire I have encountered.” Once again, Miriel hadn’t quite told the whole truth. She had
encountered vampires before, but in the dreamscape with Buffy. And any discussion of Buffy was off limits. She didn’t want people to think her insane. Maybe one day she’d keep her own diary and write down her adventures, including those with Buffy.
There were murmurings amidst her audience when another Elf stood and asked, “How exactly
did you know the means by which a vampire can die?” Said Elf didn’t bother to conceal his incredulity. “Come now, a wooden stake through the heart,” he added with a derisive snigger. “That sounds like an old wives’ tale to me.” A few of his friends snickered along with him.
“Then you best hope never to come face to face with one,” Miriel was quick to reply. “A sword through the heart will not get the job done, and you just may find yourself supper for a hungry vampire.” The Slayer shot him an angry look before scanning the rest of the crowd. “I thought I would share my knowledge with you. As an immortal folk, chances are you’ll come across one of these creatures, if you haven’t already.” She then rose from her seat. Narrowing her eyes, she looked at the Elf that had attempted to ridicule her in front of all these people. “I’m the Slayer. I’m the instrument of the Valar. They imbued me with knowledge and skills that not even the Elder Children of Ilúvatar have. Should the day ever come when you’re confronted by a vampire, remember my words if you want to save your sorry ass.” Miriel then glanced at Elrond. “Good evening,” she said with a curt nod before stomping out of the chamber.
She was so angry, so tempted to kick that one Elf’s ass, that if she hadn’t left when she did, she would’ve done something foolish. She wanted to go outside to cool off some, but her feet decided otherwise, leading her up the stairs to her room.
Once inside, she kicked off her shoes and lay on her bed. As her head hit the pillow, there were a couple of raps on the door before it flew open. In came the twins, smiling and laughing. The door snapped closed as Elladan and Elrohir crawled up on the bed with Miriel.
“What a dramatic exit,” chuckled Elrohir.
“‘Remember my words if you want to save your sorry ass,’” said Elladan, mimicking Miriel’s voice. “You really put Bandir in his place,” he added with a laugh. “Father chastised him in front of the entire household for his cheeky attitude.”
“Bandir,” began Miriel, not having known the Elf’s name prior to Elladan’s mention of it, “is a prick!”
“I dare say that not only will that story of yours be talked about in Imladris for quite a while, but also the added commentary,” remarked Elladan.
The twins hoped that Miriel’s mood wouldn’t sour and kept mocking her earlier comments as well as Bandir’s reaction to Elrond’s scolding. Elladan and Elrohir were so amusing that the Slayer couldn’t help but laugh along with them.
Greatly concerned over Miriel’s well-being, Glorfindel had also left the Chamber of Fire to check in on her. When he reached the outside of her door, he could hear her and the twins’ laughter coming from within the room. The Noldo let out a sigh of relief, knowing that the Slayer was in good hands. Not wanting to disturb them, he left.
Miriel, Elladan and Elrohir talked for hours. The sons of Elrond did glean a bit more information from her regarding her battle with Thuringwethil. The Slayer was careful not to say too much, but did give additional details that she hadn’t shared with anyone else.
At half past ten, Elrohir left, deciding that he was ready for bed. However, Miriel and Elladan continued to talk for some time afterward until they both fell asleep, nestled in the Slayer’s bed.
Miriel’s internal alarm clock went off early the following morning. Still dark outside, she found herself wide-awake. She could only assume that being back in Rivendell had somehow triggered her awake at the precise hour when the cooks assembled in the kitchen to begin the meal preparations for the day.
She stretched her stiff limbs, her hand brushing against a sleeping Elladan. She had forgotten that he had fallen asleep in her bed. Not wanting to disturb him, she crept out of bed and tiptoed in the darkness to the bathing chamber so she could begin her morning ritual.
Refreshed and revived, she slipped out of the room as quietly as she could and headed downstairs to the kitchen.
“Good morning, all,” she said in greeting, bouncing into the large room where the cooks were already busy at work.
“I wasn’t sure you’d come,” declared Glorfindel from across the chamber.
“How could I not?” she replied, as she was welcomed back by her fellow cooks who had been too busy to greet her the day before.
Amdir came rushing up, cupping her cheeks with his flour coated hands. “Let’s have a look at you,’ he said, his clear grey eyes inspecting her. “You look different,” he observed. “Your hair’s gotten longer. And there’s a sparkle in your eyes that I haven’t seen before.”
“I don’t know about this sparkle thing, but my hair has gotten longer.”
His smile broadened. “It’s good to have you back, Miriel.” Then, getting back to business, he added, “Pick up a knife and get to work. Those potatoes won’t peel themselves.”
Miriel frowned. “Potato duty,” she grumbled. “Lucky me.”
Glorfindel laughed heartily. “It’s good to see your enthusiasm is still intact.” He was busy kneading dough. “Grab a basket of potatoes and come work by me.”
Miriel’s eyes shifted to the many baskets of potatoes that awaited her. Grabbing the nearest one, she heaved it from the floor and carried it to Glorfindel’s work table.
“Here you go, my dear,” said Amdir, setting a container of water on the counter along with a paring knife. He gave her a pat on the back. “It’s so good to have you back, Miriel. And I appreciate the extra set of hands,” Amdir added with a wink before marching back to his own work station.
The Slayer half-heartedly picked up her first of many potatoes and began the tedious task of peeling each one.
“So, tell me of your travels,” said Glorfindel with interest. “I want to hear about everything since you left.”
“Everything?” queried a somewhat reluctant Miriel, as various events from the past months popped into her mind.
“Is there something you’re hiding?” asked the Noldo, raising his brow in question.
“No,” she answered brusquely, shifting her gaze from the Elf Lord to her potato. A tinge of pink came to her cheeks, as she pictured the battle with the trolls, in which Arvellas had perished, due to her lack of restraint. That was something that Glorfindel had warned her about during their training sessions many times over - that she was too impatient.
Of course, the ever-perceptive Noldo noticed the immediate change in the Slayer’s demeanor. “Hmm,” he began. “It appears that more has happened on your journey than the defeat of Thuringwethil.”
His tone wasn’t critical or accusatory, but it seemed that Glorfindel somehow knew that more had happened on Miriel’s excursion than she let on. She wasn’t sure if he had already spoken with her traveling companions and knew everything that had transpired, or, if like Elrond, he was able to “read” her with just a mere glance of those keen elvish eyes of his.
Finding herself unable to deceive the golden-haired Noldo, Miriel then blurted out everything that had happened since her departure. She told him of the battle with the trolls that had cost Arvellas his life (because of her), how her arm had been broken, and how awful it had been (at first) living with Halbarad in Archet while she mended. She spoke of how she had nearly revealed her slaying abilities to a neighbor boy of Hal’s, which seemed mild when compared to how she had murdered and mutilated a rapist in Bree (no apologies there!), and about her banishment from all of Bree-land, leaving out no details up to that point.
However, when she told him about Thuringwethil’s mystical attack, she wasn’t so forthcoming. She didn’t admit anything about her previous encounter with the witch or how the old hag had cast some type of spell from afar that had made the scars on Miriel’s body burn and the Eye engraved on her chest bleed as if newly carved.
“I think you know the rest,” she finally said, surprised to find herself feeling worn out after telling of her adventures, or misadventures as it were. “Shortly thereafter, I decided it was time to put an end to Thuringwethil and her torments.”
Miriel’s last comment made it perfectly clear to Glorfindel that the Slayer and the Mother of All Vampires had met before. He really wanted to get Miriel to open up about that experience, but knew if he didn’t tread very carefully, she’d withdraw, mentally, emotionally and more than likely physically too. That’s the last thing that he wanted to happen.
“An end to her torments,” he repeated. “What exactly does that mean?”
The Slayer cringed, her insides felt as if they were twisting into knots. What the hell had she been thinking by saying that? How could she possibly answer Glorfindel’s question without mentioning her confrontation with Thuringwethil and her evil cohorts months ago? Miriel’s heart began to race, so much so that beads of sweat sprang from nearly every pore on her face and neck. She needed to say something fast. The tension was mounting along with her anxiety.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” she finally said, tossing a peeled potato into the water. “I guess you’re right, there are some things I’m hiding.”
Glorfindel knew not to push that specific topic any more. “If you ever want to talk about… anything
, know that I’m here for you. Any time,” he said kindly.
Miriel glanced up at the Noldo. “I know.” She smiled weakly.
“I understand that you’re not ready to discuss your past with Thuringwethil, but that does not mean that there aren’t still some issues that concern me a great deal.”
“Oh,” said the Slayer, unsure where, exactly, Glorfindel was going with his line of questioning.
“Do you think it wise to have left the Rangers at the lake to search for the vampire Maia on your own?”
“It was my
fight,” replied Miriel firmly.
“I do not deny that, but the Rangers could’ve been of some help. They are seasoned warriors that have seen combat many times over.”
“I didn’t want to put their lives at risk,” she answered.
“They’re Rangers. Their lives are constantly at risk.”
Miriel’s brows darted upward. “So you would’ve had them come, to face off against the Mother of All Vampires, a creature that none of them knew how to kill?” She shook her head. “I would never do that. Like I said, it was my battle.”
“There is strength in numbers,” replied Glorfindel, “especially when you have Rangers fighting at your side. So, yes, Miriel, I would have had them accompany me. Their experience in warfare predates your birth. You were lucky in this instance. Luck may not be with you next time.”
The Slayer couldn’t help but laugh. Maybe that was her way of taking the edge off. “You call it luck, I call it destiny.”
Glorfindel’s expression became grave, despite Miriel’s mirth. “I fear for your safety, Miriel. Your actions were reckless. If not by the grace of the Valar, things could’ve gone ill for you.”
Miriel knew that the Noldo was speaking from his heart and wasn’t offended by his comments. However, all things considered, she still felt that she had made the right decision, to fight on her own. “I know you mean well,” she began, “but I’m the Slayer - not Aragorn, or Hal, or Gúron, or the twins. Me
.” The Slayer felt a sudden lump in her throat. “I love them, Glorfindel,” she said softly. “Even though they aren’t blood kin, they’ve become like family to me. I wouldn’t want to cause them any harm. I don’t want to put them in unnecessary danger.”
“They’re Rangers, my dear. They’re lives are fraught with danger.”
“I don’t want to be the one responsible for putting them in more
“Those that fight the Enemy are in constant danger. The Rangers are no exception.”
“Nor am I,” added Miriel.
“Nor are you,” the Elf Lord confirmed. The tone of his voice revealed his sadness, the light of his eyes momentarily dimming. “How I worry about you, Miriel. When Sauron learns of Thuringwethil’s downfall, he will surely seek retribution against the one that killed her. He will come after you, I fear.”
Putting up a brave front, the Slayer answered with, “Let him come! I’ve slain one Maia; perhaps I’m destined to slay another.”
Miriel’s proclamation grieved Glorfindel, for he knew that as long as the One Ring existed, Sauron would not fall. “I pray that day never comes! Sauron is far more powerful than his servant. In ways, I deem he surpasses his own master.”
That comment caught Miriel by surprise. She locked her widening eyes on the Noldo. “Really?”
“In some ways, yes,” he answered. “This may come as a surprise to you, Miriel, but you and Morgoth share some… commonalities.”
“No way!” she exclaimed, sounding very much like Buffy.
“Indeed,” replied Glorfindel with a nod. “Namely, you both lack patience. Morgoth’s impatience brought about his downfall. He became reckless. That is why I stress the importance of patience to you. Lack of it… well, let us say that it will lead you to ruin.”
“I appreciate the vote of confidence,” came her snarky reply.
“Do not let overconfidence blind you to reality,” warned the Elf Lord. “Sauron has endured for so long because he is extremely patient. He is able to bide his time, planning and plotting, seeing that he will profit in the long run if he does not allow himself to be ruled by his emotions. He used that ploy against your forebears, bringing about the destruction of Númenor over the course of decades. Never underestimate his abilities!”
“Well, I doubt the Dark Lord would ever leave his Dark Tower, even if challenged. Not after what happened to him the last time he dared to step outside Barad-dûr.” Miriel was referring to the Siege of Barad-dûr during the War of the Last Alliance at the end of the Second Age when a desperate Sauron had challenged both Elendil and Gil-Galad to hand-to-hand combat. Though the Lord of Men and the Lord of Elves perished on the slopes of Mount Doom, Isildur had been able to cut the One Ring from the Dark Lord’s hand, which not only weakened Sauron considerably, but also forced him into hiding, thus, bringing peace to the people of Middle-earth for many centuries.
“The Dark Lord has legions of followers willing to do his bidding,” said Glorfindel. “He would most likely send others to carry out his orders.”
“Well then, let them come,” she said yet again, starting on another potato. “I’ve fought Orcs, goblins, Uruk-hai, wargs, trolls and a Maia. And I’ve defeated them all. I’m not afraid.”
“I do not question your courage. That is an esteemed quality. But you must be careful to govern your pride accordingly. I’ve seen a number of noble and valiant Elves and Men fall because they were overconfident. I do not want you to be accounted amongst them.”
“What would you have me do? Flee and hide? Expect some strong and able bodied man to protect me? Pfft!” Miriel sounded, rolling her eyes. “I’m the Slayer. My duty is to slay. And I will do that to the best of my ability.” She sighed heavily, plunking another peeled potato into the container of water. “When my time’s up, it’s up. There’s nothing I can do about that. I’m not naïve, Glorfindel. I know how short-lived a Slayer’s life is. I can’t change that. It is what it is.”
“Is it wrong of me to worry about you?” he queried.
“No,” she answered, offering the Noldo a smile. “I’m glad someone does.”
“There are many that worry about you, Miriel. I’m not alone in my love for you.”
The Slayer could feel the blood rushing to her cheeks. Although she knew that Glorfindel’s words were not romantic in nature (she no longer harbored such feelings for him either), it was nice to hear that she was loved.
“I want you to promise me something,” the Noldo said, his tone serious.
Miriel shifted her gaze to the Elf Lord. “That depends on what it is.”
“Promise me you will not run off again, that you will not leave the others as you did at the lake, even if you are challenged by the Enemy.”
Despite the heat of the kitchen, a sudden coldness swept over the Slayer, accompanied by a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. As a result, she shuddered, pondering Glorfindel’s words.
“Promise me,” he repeated.
Miriel looked up at the Noldo. Something happened when she locked eyes with him. It was like a door opened and she could see to the core of his being. There was concern for her, sadness too. But more importantly, she saw fear. That scared her tremendously, for Glorfindel had never shown fear, especially for her. The potato and knife fell from her grasp. She had to grip the table to steady herself.
“What did you foresee?” she asked in a barely audible voice. Her mouth had gone dry.
“Promise me, Miriel,” he pleaded. “Just promise me, you will never run off again.”
Feeling numb, Miriel nodded. “I promise.”
As soon as she uttered those words, Glorfindel seemed relieved and returned to normal. As for Miriel, that sinking feeling stayed with her for a long while afterwards. Perhaps that was due to the fact that she had unwittingly made a promise that she would not keep. Only time would tell…