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Darkest Before the Dawn

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Summary: They craved the dawn but were granted dusk instead.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Lord of the Rings > Buffy-Centered > Pairing: Other LotR(Recent Donor)LunaFR152376,2272125442,0826 Feb 1222 Dec 12No

Makalaurë

Buffy froze and tried to slow the beating of her heart. She hadn’t meant to make noise; the power of the song had drawn it from her. Pivoting, she adopted a defensive posture and waited for whoever had been singing to approach. Her fingers found Mr. Pointy Junior and she was poised to strike, should she need to. Brilliant stars lit the night sky like a million eyes staring down at her and the hairs on Buffy’s arms rose.

But no one came.

Puzzled, Buffy’s muscles loosened slightly once she realized there was no incoming attack. But there had been someone out here, right? She had heard him.

Unless she was going crazy.

Except…no, she didn’t think so. After all, Buffy had momentarily experienced an asylum after she made the mistake of explaining to her parents back in L.A. that she was the slayer. She had definitely seen crazy there, and she didn’t think she was crazy.

Maybe she had a concussion?

Nope, she decided. Buffy tenderly inspected her head and there were no bumps of any kind.

So not crazy and not hallucinating. There was someone out here.

And now she had scared him away.

Great.

Buffy realized with a start that maybe this singing elf guy could help her find food – or better yet, use special elf powers to help her find Finrod. With that in mind, Buffy began walking in the direction of where she had heard the singing. There were no footprints in the sand but she wasn’t surprised; elves were like ballerinas to an extent and always seemed to float rather than walk.

“Hello?” Buffy called out in Quenya. No response. “My name is Buffy…and I think you’re an elf. Which is cool, because I just sailed from Valinor. Although, I’m not an elf. Just a human. Well, a Slayer, which I suppose is something…” Buffy frowned at the lack of response. She knew that elves had awesome hearing and no matter how far he had run off at this point, he could probably hear her. “Anyways, I got shipwrecked and I lost—”, Buffy’s throat tightened then and she found it difficult to breathe as she thought on Finrod. God, she hoped he was alright. He had to be, right? Would the Valar really send one of their favorite sons out to die?

“I could really use some help.” Her stomach growled. “And food, too.”

Only the sound of waves lapping against the sand met her request. Buffy sighed heavily and started back in the direction of the pool. She needed a drink and, hopefully, would find something to eat before she became too weak to try.


***


The next morning Buffy felt physically better, thanks to her evening meal of grass and water and a good night’s sleep, but her spirit hurt inside. All she could think about was Finrod, the mearas, the letters, the gifts…all lost.

“For now,” Buffy whispered. Just lost for now. She would find Finrod.

She had to.

Buffy spent the day wandering but she was worried about leaving too far from the pool because she was still unable to find another source of fresh water. The gentle sea breeze carried her voice and Buffy prayed that Finrod would hear her. She had never wanted anything more in her life.

Two more days passed and Buffy was beginning to feel ill. Meals of grass and water were good enough sustenance at first but made her sick now. She needed protein but unfortunately this land was worthless – there was nary an animal in sight. Besides near the pool, even the grass was yellow and dry. Something about this area felt cursed to her…and as much as she tried to tell herself that was crazy talk, the rumbling in her stomach told her otherwise.

At night she allowed herself a weak moment and cried. Shoulders shaking, she plead out loud for Nienna to help her, for the Valar to bring Finrod back to her, for someone – anyone – to help her.

Buffy fell asleep eventually. When she awoke a pile of carefully organized grass was next to her and on top of it was a skinned hare, smoked and still warm. Inhaling, Buffy relished the scent of food. She realized that the smell must have awoken her and, if it was still warm, whoever had helped her must be nearby.

“Hello?” Buffy called out. There was only silence. She presumed the mysterious elf had probably helped her and wondered idly if this was Nienna’s way of helping her. Then her stomach rumbled and Buffy realized she didn’t really care where this came from, just that she was starving, so she began to eat.

This went on for several days. Buffy would wake up each morning to find breakfast – usually hare but sometimes a gopher-type creature – but there would be no one in sight.

“Who are you, Santa Claus?” Buffy finally asked. Not that anyone replied, but still. “Well I hope not,” she said thoughtfully, “because Anya mentioned something about the real Santa Claus eating small children.”

Finally, Buffy felt like this was ridiculous. She spent each day wandering for Finrod and to no success. Then there was this mysterious elf who brought her food – don’t get her wrong, free food was great but what she really wanted was someone to help her find Finrod.

So she devised a plan.

Meditation had its uses. It allowed Buffy to focus or to relax; although she performed it sparingly, it was easy enough to fall back into. That night, Buffy did not sleep. Instead she lay down and feigned sleeping while instead entering into a deep trance. The world came alive then, as her outer senses sharpened. The wind brushed against the pool water, the tall grass rustled, and the tiniest of feet scurried under the earth. Buffy stayed this way for hours until she heard light footsteps approach. She breathed in the scent of freshly roasted bird and her breath hitched; the footsteps paused, then resumed after Buffy maintained control over her breathing.

The food was arranged on the ground near her and Buffy struck. Her arm lashed out and she grabbed the wrist of her mysterious elf. His eyes, dark blue in the morning light, widened in surprise as he recoiled away from her. Pulled forward, Buffy maintained her hold on him.

“Wait!” she pleaded. “I just want to ask you for help!”

The elf wrenched his arm away, causing Buffy to stagger, and he stared at her warily. Long tangled black hair hung past his waist, causing him to look like a wild thing. His clothing was simple black cloth, a tunic and loose-fitting trousers that came without adornment. Pointed ears peeked out past his hair, but other than that Buffy would have thought he looked more like a homeless guy than an elf – especially considering the state of his hair.

“I…Thank you. I know you’ve been bringing me food, and I really, really appreciate it. I mean, catching rabbits and birds without a bow is a lot harder than it looks.” Buffy gnawed her lip and noticed him take a step backwards. “Look, I’m sorry that I scared you like that and grabbed you, but you keep hiding from me and I need your help.” Noticing he didn’t say anything, Buffy barreled along. “Námo,” Buffy rolled her eyes, “sent me here to help fight against Sauron. But then there was a storm and I ended up here – wherever ‘here’ is – and I got separated from my companion, Finrod.”

The elf had visibly flinched at the mention of Námo and he stiffened further when she said Finrod’s name, but he didn’t speak.

“Can you help me? I mean, I normally wouldn’t ask complete strangers for help – especially here in the land of big bad brewin’ evil – but you’re an elf, so I trust you.” All elves were capable of trust, Buffy had learned. It was even true, according to her foster mother, of the elves here in Middle-Earth.

The elf let out a harsh laugh, one that countered sharply to the smooth singing voice that Buffy had heard almost a week ago. “Not all elves are to be trusted, young one.” His voice was accented and different from what Buffy was used to hearing.

“But I—”

The elf was gone. Like, gone-gone. He moved so quickly that Buffy wondered if the elves here could fly.

She sighed. Her life sucked.


***


The elf no longer brought her food in the morning but instead left food for her during the day when Buffy departed to look for Finrod. He was a smart elf; that much was certain.

As the days passed Buffy began to realize she would need to leave the safety of her water source and – probably – food since she doubted the elf would follow her. She began to use some of her more domestic skills – thanks Erulissë! – to prepare. First, she weaved a basket with long handles from grass. Then she tried weaving a container that she could hold water in, but that didn’t work. Finally Buffy realized that she would just need to start walking at sunrise and hope that water would show up somewhere.

The next morning Buffy gathered her basket – now full of tasty grass morsels for when she got hungry (ugh) – and looked out across the land. “Hey,” Buffy called. “I know you’re probably out there but I wanted to let you know I’m leaving to look for Finrod. You’re welcome to join me.” Buffy let out a dry laugh. “Honestly, I wish you would. I could use some help finding Finrod, or even Galadriel or Elrond.” It made Buffy feel awful to think she had lost all those letters Celebrían had given to her. Hopefully they would understand.

Like always, if the mysterious elf had heard her he didn’t make a sound. Frustrated, Buffy set off.

***

The grassland extended for miles. Under the scorching sun Buffy felt her skin burn. Only the sweet ocean breeze, still nearby as she walked north up the coastal area, kept the heat from fully aggravating her. The sun rose high in the air, almost north of where Buffy was, and she wondered how far south the ship had drifted. Judging by her mental image of the map of Middle-Earth, the Grey Havens were in the northwest area, about as far north than Valinor. If the sun was an indicator then Buffy was farther south than she should be – and that meant she had a lot of walking to do.

She hoped she was by Imladris – that lay further south than the Grey Havens and logically could be where she was. Buffy grinned. After hearing about Celebrían’s family she was eager to meet them. The twins sounded like a blast and Arwen was apparently eerily similar to Erulissë; very strong in her opinions with a blended sense of mischief that she got from her brothers. Elrond was the wisest – after Celebrían’s parents of course – of all the elves and if anyone could help her find Finrod, he could.

Hmm. Buffy wondered if Elrond knew Finrod. The timeline of Arda was tricky to track and while many songs and stories told the history of the land and its people, Buffy sucked at dates. But while she knew Elrond was older than Celebrían, she didn’t think he was that old, so he might not know Finrod.

Then again, all the elves were intertwined somehow and Buffy was pretty sure that Beren and Lúthien, who Finrod helped, were the ancestors of Elrond. Lúthien had been the first elf to choose a mortal life and that choice was passed onto her descendants; apparently Elrond once had a twin brother named Elros but he chose to live as a man and became a king. So if anything, at least Elrond would know who Finrod was.

Finrod. Buffy’s jaw tightened and she scanned the horizon. She knew he was still out there, somewhere….somewhere safe, hopefully. No matter how thirsty she was, dehydration was worth the risk to explore this world further and find Finrod. Her heart ached without him by her side.

But she didn’t find him that night. Or the next. It rained for a little bit and Buffy caught mouthfuls of rainwater with her hands, but she was beginning to get weaker. If she didn’t find another water source soon, she was going to be in trouble.


***


After tossing and turning all night, Buffy awoke with a hollow feeling in her stomach. Her mouth was dry as sandpaper and weakness weighed her down. Sitting up, she rubbed her stomach soothingly and began eating some grass.

The wind rustled the tall wildgrass and Buffy glanced up – only to realize it had not been the wind after all. The mysterious elf was in front of her, appearing every bit as disheveled as before. Full pink lips pressed together in a thin line as he tossed something to her.

Buffy’s reflexes were still decent and she caught it, glancing up in disbelief at the gift, a leather flask “Water?” He nodded and Buffy began to drink – but not too much. She didn’t want to get sick.

Clearing her throat, she smiled at him. “Thank you.”

He tilted his head in acknowledgement.

Surprised that he didn’t immediately run away, Buffy hurriedly spoke in hope that he would talk to her again. “So, I’m Buffy. What’s your name?”

He stood motionless for a moment. Finally he spoke, his voice a smooth tenor that hinted at the beautiful singing she heard over a week ago. “My mother named me Makalaurë.”

“Makalaurë! That’s an interesting name…not that I can really say anything about it. Some people think ‘Buffy’ is weird.” Buffy grinned and smoothed back her hair, which was getting to be as ratted as Makalaurë’s after going so long without a comb.

Makalaurë turned to leave but Buffy stood up. “Wait.” He gave her a considering look – which was rather formidable considering his immense height. Makalaurë may have been even taller than Finrod. “Do you wanna hang out?”

Makalaurë frowned. “Hang…out?”

“Yeah! You know, talk and stuff while I look for my friend? I’m starting to go crazy from being by myself all the time. Plus, I could really use your help.” Buffy gave him the best puppy dog eyes she had ever given.

“That would be unwise.”

“Well, that’s okay because I’m not really wise.” Buffy rolled her eyes. “Trust me, that’s exactly what my foster mother told me after I got into a fist fight with Námo.”

Intrigue lit Makalaurë’s grey eyes. “You fought Lord Námo?”

Buffy shrugged. “For, like, a moment. There was a whole misunderstanding. But basically, he’s a total jerk and my least favorite person.”

Makalaurë glanced around uneasily. “You should be careful of how you speak of the Valar, young one. I once knew those who spoke as boldly as you. They were a cursed group.”

Buffy laughed bitterly, releasing some of the emotion that had been twisting within her. “Trust me, Námo has already taken away everything that I love. I don’t think it gets worse than this.”

Tilting his head, Makalaurë stared at her with renewed interest. Buffy crossed her arms, feeling insecure underneath his intense stare.

“I have lost everything that once held meaning to me. But it was not the fault of the Valar, though I once thought it was. My own sins led me down this path of despair.”

Buffy considered that, feeling bad for whatever this elf was going through. But then… “Wait, so are you saying that my sins are the reason why I lost my family, my lover, my horse, and everything else?”

Makalaurë studied her silently. “You move like a warrior. There’s a darkness to your spirit that few others possess, something that recalls a similarity to the Enemy’s soldiers. For that alone I would say yes, your sins have led you to these shores of torment. But there is a great light within your fëa as well, and you have the Lady Nienna’s favor. Therefore, I hold no judgment.”

“Wait, how do you know about Nienna?”

Smiling wistfully, Makalaurë looked away. “She is the one to whom I sing all of my songs. Upon occasion she graces me, who is most unworthy, with her presence.”

“Is she around now? Maybe she can help me.” Buffy’s heart lightened. Nienna would help her!

“She was, and she already has.”

“Wait. What? How?”

“You prayed to her for help, young one. The Lady requested that I see to your needs for sustenance.”

“Wait, so that’s why you helped me?”

“Yes,” Makalaurë solemnly stated. “I will do whatever the Lady of Mercy commands.”

“Oh.” And here Buffy thought that he was just nice. Well, help was help. “Great, so you can help me find Finrod!”

“My time has grown short. I must take my leave.” With that, Makalaurë left swiftly.

“Well at least he said something before running off,” Buffy grumbled.


***


Makalaurë came to visit Buffy at least once a day to bring water and meat but he evaded further attempts to converse with her. Within a few weeks he spoke, but only to teach her how to set traps in the grasslands to capture small mammals. Soon after he taught her to start a cooking fire in the grass, rather than using wood.

He was rather strange and, to be honest, made Buffy think of Angel with his gloomy, broody ways. She wondered what his story was. The first time they spoke he told her that not all elves could be trust – had he been talking about himself or an elf that had betrayed him? Buffy wasn’t sure.

After a month of traveling on foot, Buffy had set up camp for the night within view of the ocean. A fire, burning under Makalaurë’s watchful gaze, roasted a seagull that Buffy had caught tonight. Stalking animals wasn’t wholly different from hunting demons, just with fewer quips.

Throughout the travel Buffy had carefully inspected the land for signs of Finrod. Every half mile she would leave a marker of existence, sometimes sand castles built far away from the tides or strategic tearing out of grass or other markers in the dirt. Buffy wished this land was forested. She would have better opportunities for markers, such as tree trunk carvings, if it was.

More so, she wished that Makalaurë would answer her questions. He acted as though he didn’t know any of the elves she talked about; which Buffy knew had to be a lie. After all, Finrod’s name was in the Lay of Leithian, the most famous poem in all of elfdom. Finarfin, Galadriel, Elrond – these names were all super famous too, if what her family in Valinor told was true.

The only time Makalaurë showcased any personality was when he sang. His haunting voice took root in the world, imbued with strength, yet carried a softness that caressed her soul like falling leaves. Sorrow and regret dripped from his songs; his music centered on the love he had for his kin yet he never called them by name. Makalaurë was a mystery to her.

And mysteries kind of annoyed Buffy.

She turned to watch him tend the fire. In a curious mood – and wanting to distract herself from the pain she felt without Finrod with her – she spoke. “Makalaurë…you called these the ‘shores of torment’. Were you just exaggerating or is this some sort of hell?” Buffy had been pondering on this. When she fell from Glory’s tower and landed in Valinor, she thought she was in Heaven. But here, with little food and drink and the blazing sun overhead, she was beginning to wonder if this was hell.

“Hell?” Makalaurë asked her with fathomless eyes. “I am unfamiliar with that term.”

Buffy frowned, remembering that in this dimension Mandos just took everyone, regardless if they were bad or good. “Ya know, it’s like a horrible, horrible, unhappy place, full of suffering.”

“Ah.” Makalaurë turned the spit to roast the underside of tonight’s hare. “This land has been unoccupied for centuries. The dirt is not prone to growing crops and there is little fresh water. I suppose others would consider it this ‘hell’ that you speak of.”

“And you?”

The corner of his lips twisted into the semblance of a smile. “Wherever I am, that is where hell is.”

Buffy scooted closer to the fire and watched him carefully. “Why?”

Makalaurë gazed at her thoughtfully. Flames reflected in his eyes and shadows danced across his face. “I have committed great sins, young one. The touch of a holy object causes my skin to burn. I am cursed and every moment is spent in torment.”

“Like a vampire?”

His pupils dilated. “What do you know of vampires?”

Buffy’s shoulders straightened. “I told you before, I’m the Slayer. To be technical, the Vampire Slayer, but as it is I tend to kill any evil demon types. So I know a lot about vampires – especially how holy objects cause them to burn.” Her eyes narrowed. “But you don’t seem like any kind of vampire I know.”

A low chuckle escaped him. “I am not a vampire; I am something worst. Vampires can be forgiven for their trespasses because they were created by the Enemy to be capricious and cruel. But I was an elf, molded in the light of Eru, and I chose to commit evil.”

Goosebumps broke out across her skin. “What kind of evil?”

He drew the word out slowly, as if he regretted needing to say it at all. “Murder.”

Buffy observed him thoughtfully. Again, the similarities between Angel and Makalaurë were uncanny. Maybe that was why she decided to keep talking to him instead of leaving, like a sane person would. “When did you do this?”

Makalaurë’s head cocked to the side; he seemed confused as to why she would ask further questions. “History states that it happened ages ago but in my heart it was only yesterday.”

“Okay…Well were you possessed or anything? Were you forced?” Somehow the dissonance between this kind yet homeless-looking elf and evil murderer was a bit too much to take in.

“In the end, the choice was my own. Love may have paved the path but weakness led me down it.”

“So you did it out of love?”

Makalaurë’s eyes flashed. “Love is not an excuse for my sins.”

Pursing her lips, Buffy nodded. “Okay. I get that. But if it makes you feel better I might know where you’re coming from.”

“This I doubt.”

Buffy shrugged. “I was eighteen and not the only slayer. A second one was called - only because I died for like a second,” she explained with a raised hand, “named Faith. Faith was…not me.” Buffy laughed harshly. “Or maybe she was me; the darkest side of me, my sister Slayer.” She shrugged again. “Anyways, she chose to betray me and join up with the evil mayor and tried killing my boyfriend.”

Buffy’s eyes met Makalaurë’s. “My boyfriend was a vampire. Used to be the worst demon out there, until he got a soul and reformed. But Faith…” Buffy gritted her teeth. Even after all these years she hated this memory. “She shot him with a poisoned arrow. There was only one antidote. Guess what it was?”

Makalaurë just watched her silently.

“Slayer blood. So I went out to find Faith…stabbed her in the gut and left her to die. Because of love.”

“And this…you have absolved yourself of this crime?”

“No.” Buffy looked down and concentrated on her nails, idly observing her dire need to find a manicurist. “No, I never did. What Faith did was evil. And I know what I did was…evil…too. It went against everything I believed in. But.” She looked up at Makalaurë. “I got over it. I had to. People were depending on me to still go out there and fight the good fight.”

Makalaurë laughed bitterly and shook his head. “And tell me, young one, is this what you prescribe to me? To ‘get over it’?”

“Well, yeah! I get that you feel bad about the murders you committed a long time ago, but how is walking around like a homeless man feeling sorry for yourself helping anyone?”

Eyes flashing, Makalaurë rose to his feet. “You overstep yourself, Buffy.”

“Hey, I’m just saying what needs to be said. My boyfriend, Angel, was a lot like you. Feeling remorseful over his actions and living off of rats once upon a time. But then he decided to fight for redemption and to help people against the evil in the world.” Buffy let out an aggravated sigh. “Whether I like it or not, the Valar sent me to this world because it was full of evil – that means there’s something productive you could do instead of brooding all the time.”

Makalaurë gave her a cold stare and his beautiful features appeared carved from ice. “You are young and foolish so I will forgive your insults,” he informed in clipped tones. “But I feel our time together has ended. I will leave the water skins with you. Continue going north and you will find a village of men. There you will have resources.”

“Aw, Makalaurë.” Buffy got up to her feet and touched his arm. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to push.” Suddenly Buffy was very afraid of being alone again; at least with Makalaurë around she wasn’t constantly thinking on Finrod and a slate of possible fates. “I just get upset when someone powerful chooses not to help people. There’s too much evil in this world for even one of the good guys to get cold feet.”

Shrugging her off, Makalaurë nodded. “Farewell, Slayer. I wish you happy hunting up north. The shadow of Mordor is home to great evil.”

“Makalaurë! Please! Wait!” But he was leaving…all because of Buffy’s big mouth.

“Great,” she muttered as she retrieved the hare from the fire; Makalaurë must have gotten distracted because the meat was tougher than leather now. “Why couldn’t you just shut up, Buffy. Not everyone wants to hear advice. It’s not like you’re a guidance counselor,” she muttered to herself.

Now she was on her own – or at least, on her own until she got to that village. Makalaurë mentioned it was a village full of men. By her judgment it was probably somewhere around Bree; she figured as much because that was still near the Grey Havens and the only place where humans dwelled around her.

It wasn’t until Buffy was almost done with her crispy rabbit that she thought more on what Makalaurë said – “ I wish you happy hunting up north. The shadow of Mordor is home to great evil.”

Mordor.

Mordor was…north of here?

But that wasn’t anywhere near the Grey Havens or Imladris…

Crap.



Illustration
Map of Middle-Earth, the Third Age




A/N

Hey, thank you for reading and reviewing. Y’all totally fed the muse this weekend. It is much appreciated!

References
It’s not like you’re a guidance counselor – A little joke since Buffy did become a guidance counselor in season 7. Of course, since this fic took her out of the Buffyverse after season 5, she would not know this :)
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