The ’BtVS’ characters in this story do not belong to me, but are being used for amusement only and all rights remain with Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. The 'LotR' characters also, for whom all rights remain with the estate of JRR Tolkein.
Also, many thanks to my beta Waverly!
Tara stood, framed in the window, when glass shattered behind her. A splash of red sprinkled onto Willow's shirt. “Your shirt,” Tara said. Willow's eyes went wide.
She landed on a narrow stone bridge over a rushing river. Trees surrounded the river on both sides. Tara whimpered. She looked around. Water, trees, trees... Where had Willow gone? To her left, on one side of the bridge, were two figures on horseback. They had an otherworldly beauty, with long dark hair. She didn't focus on them long. Tara whimpered again. “Willow?” she cried.
The world went foggy, and she collapsed.
One of the figures on the bank shouted out, the other vaulted from his horse. He ran forward, barely catching her before she tumbled headfirst into the water. “Elrohir, bring the horses,” he called. The woman was unconscious, and heavy. “We have to take her to Ada.”
Elrohir led the two horses across the narrow bridge. “Have you got her?” he asked his twin.
“Yes,” Elladan said. “But once we reach the bank, we can put her on my horse. I'll ride with her. It'll be faster.” He stood, Tara in his arms bridal-style. Gently he tipped her head so it was pillowed against his chest and carried her across the bridge. At the far bank, he handed her to Elrohir, mounted his horse and reached out for the girl. Between the two of them, they managed to get Tara sitting sidesaddle in front of Elladan, one of his arms wrapped around her waist to hold her in place. Again he tipped her head against his chest.
He glanced back at Elrohir, sturdily astride his own horse. “Let's go.”
“You mentioned she said something before she fainted?” Elrond asked his sons again. Tara had been placed in a room in the family wing, where Elrond and his sons could most easily keep watch over her. All three of them were assembled in that room as the sun set. Elladan was on a chaise near the empty fireplace, Elrond stood at the window and Elrohir had pulled up a seat near the head of the bed where Tara lay. Every now and then he dabbed at her forehead with a damp cloth, hoping to calm her troubled sleep.
“Yes, she said 'willow',” Elladan said. The frown on his face made it obvious he didn't understand the significance of the word. Elrond drummed his fingers on the windowsill, wondering the same thing.
“Wait,” Elrohir said. The other two turned towards him; his eyes were fixed on Tara. “She moved—I think she heard you.”
Elrond left the window and stood at Tara's other side. He leaned over her. “Young one,” he said gently, “young one, what is 'willow'? Wake up, child.”
Tara twitched at her lover's name and murmured something.
“What did you say?” asked Elrond in the same even tone. “Wake up, please. What did you say?”
Tara's eyelashes fluttered. “Willow?” she whispered. Her arm moved across the bed but found only empty space. Her eyes opened and took in first the empty, strange bed. Then her gaze lifted to the three elves, notably the two leaning over her. She screamed.
Elladan and Elrohir both jumped at the sound. Elrond didn't flinch. “Have no fear, child. We will not harm you.”
“W-w-where am I?” Tara stuttered. “Who a-are you? Where's Willow?” She scrambled backwards until she was against the headboard. She glanced around for a weapon but couldn't see one within reach. Everything felt... not wrong exactly, but different. This wasn't Sunnydale, or if it was, it was a very different version of Sunnydale.
“You are in Rivendell, also called Imladris. It is my home. I am Elrond.” He left off his title in case it intimidated the poor girl. Mentally he rebuked himself: he had not considered how frightened a mortal woman would be to wake up—in a bed, no less!—surrounded by strange males. “These are my sons Elrohir,” he gestured, “and Elladan.” He paused, searching her face. “As for 'willow', I do not know what you mean.”
“W-willow! She's—she has to be here! She's not here?” Tara's eyes flitted around, resting on each face before stopping on Elrond.
He shook his head cautiously. “You were alone when my my sons found you,” he said.
A knock sounded at the door and it opened. A breathtaking woman entered the room. Her hair was silver, but not like it had turned that way from old age. The only way Tara could think to describe it was silver-blonde, incredibly pale and glowing. She wore a long blue dress, intricately embroidered with leaves.
Her sapphire eyes took in the room, from the three elves to the strange woman curled fearfully on the bed. “Mithrandir has just arrived,” she said. Her voice was like bells, gentle and commanding.
Elrond straightened. “Then I will go—”
“No need,” a loud voice boomed. A tall bearded man dressed in gray swooped into the chamber. He held a gnarled staff in one hand, with the other he pulled the pointed hat from his head. He held both staff and hat out to Elladan who took them and set them aside. “Thank you, Celebrian,” he said to the woman. He turned his own grey eyes on Tara. “Welcome, young lady. I do hope you haven't been awake long.”
“Mithrandir?” Elrohir asked.
“Not now, please. I believe your guest is very confused, but I have some answers for her.” He looked at the twins. “Might you excuse us? Elrond, Celebrian, you are welcome to stay, but I'm afraid so many people are distressing the poor lady.”
Elladan and Elrohir looked to their father. Elrond nodded and they left. The old man took Elrohir's vacated chair and Celebrian went to stand beside her husband.
Tara wrapped her arms around her knees and looked at the man. “Who are you?” she asked.
He ran his hand through his beard. “I am Gandalf the Grey.” Tara glanced over at the elven couple and back to him. He smiled gently. “Mithrandir is a word that means 'grey pilgrim'. It is a... nickname, you could say.” Tara nodded mutely. “What is your name?” he asked after a moment.
“Tara. Tara Maclay.” She twisted the blanket nervously between her fingers. “You say you have answers?”
“Some,” Gandalf said. “Not all. But some.”
“Okay.” She took a deep breath, not meeting Gandalf's eyes. “What happened to me? How did I get here?”
Elrond and Celebrian both watched the old wizard and saw the sadness in his eyes. “My dear,” Gandalf said, “I think you already know that answer.”
Tara blinked back tears and shook her head. Celebrian perched herself on the edge of the bed and took one of Tara's hands to comfort her. She already had an inkling of what the stranger would say. “Come now,” she crooned. “It will be all right. You must say it.”
“I was with Willow, in our room. I just got her back—” Tara's breath caught. “We were talking, getting dressed. Then the window broke, and—and there was blood.” A few tears spilled back efforts to restrain them. “My blood. I—I died.”