Disclaimer - BtVS belongs to Joss Whedon and The Lord of the Rings and all its characters belongs to J.R.R. Tolkien.
They call her Anoriel because when she smiles it brightens everything around her even in the darkest of times. For days the group of elves lead by Anoriel have been watching Dol Guldur from across the Anduin. The fortress remains eerily silent, but they know it is only the calm before the storm. It is during a small break for some, when lembas bread is being passed around, that a glazed look comes upon Anoriel’s face, a look usually worn when hearing the voice of Galadriel in their minds. Suddenly a large smile grows on her lips, pushing back the shadow of Dol Guldur, and after a look to her second-in-command, she runs.
Her heart pumps and muscles strain. The Ring of Barahir slaps against the skin of her chest. It has been long years since she last seen Aragorn, and her excitement pushes her harder. Word of a Fellowship has been flowing through the ears of Middle Earth, and though she wishes she could have been a part of it, the shadow of Dol Guldur grows. Not to mention she promised a certain elf Lord never to set foot in his lands.
She passes through the entrance of Caras Galadhon and flies up to the talan where the company of four hobbits, one dwarf, one Mirkwood elf, and two men look at her in surprise. Her sight is set on only one of them though, and soon he is in front of her. She takes the moment to bask. She has been in the wilderness for days and has just run hours to get here so she knows she must look disheveled and sweaty, but his grey eyes look at her like she is the most beautiful thing in this elven paradise.
The Mirkwood elf steps closer to the two, asking what is on everyone’s minds, “Aragorn, who is this woman?”
Aragorn smiles at Buffy before turning around to his companions. “Everyone, I would like you to meet Anoriel, Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel’s daughter.” He twines his hand around hers. “And my betrothed.”
If the Fellowship is surprised that the Lord and Lady’s daughter is of the race of Men, they do not voice it to her face.They do; however, introduce themselves and Buffy finds herself particularly charmed by the hobbits (and finally she’s not the shortest person in Lothlórien). It’s refreshing to be around people who didn’t know Celebrían, but Buffy still detects a sense of sadness in the air. It’s when the elves begin to sing that she starts to understand why.
They all take a second to listen to the beautiful voices. “A lament for Gandalf,” Legolas says.
Merry looks out into the trees gleaming in the moonlight. “What do they say about him?” he asks.
“That his light will be missed,” Buffy solemnly replies.
Sam complains about the lack of fireworks in the elves’ song, and then creates a verse of his own. The innocence of it touches Buffy, and though she has only heard of the Grey Pilgrim, she can obviously see the impact of his loss.
She excuses herself to wash the past few days away and after she is clean and presentable she finds Aragorn waiting in her room. Away from his company she can she the weariness deep in his eyes. When she goes to embrace him he falls in her arms, lets her strength carry them both for a moment. Sitting them on her cushioned bench she listens and comforts him as he tells her of what happened deep in the mines of Moria, how an old demon of fire took one of his greatest friends away and how everyone now looks to him to lead but even he can feel cracks in their Fellowship. He confesses his fears into her neck as she soothes his dark hair and by the end she offers, “Let me come with you.”
He sits up at that and looks into her green gaze, his fingers tucking strands of blonde hair behind her ear. “As much as I would want you always near me, your people need you more right now as Dol Guldur rises in power.”
She smirks and eyes him playfully. “You’re just afraid something might happen to me on your quest.”
He leans forward and rests his forehead on hers. “I am always afraid of something happening to you, but that doesn’t make my previous point any less true.”
Buffy knows that he’s trying to protect her in his own way. Here she has an entire army to support her, whereas on their quest it would only be a small, ragtag group of people, of whom half of which can barely wield a sword. She also knows the threat of Dol Guldur is very real, and that the abilities of the Slayer would be beneficial. And how could she leave the people who have cared and supported her all these years in their time of need? It isn’t an easy decision to make, but finally she relents to Aragorn. She seals the decision by closing the distance between them and pressing her soft lips onto his slightly chapped ones.
In the morning she holds onto him tight, cementing the feel of him, the smell of him, into her memory. After Angel and Riley, she never thought she could feel this kind of love again, wasn’t sure she even wanted to, but then Aragorn was there and something inside of her, inside the Slayer, just clicked
. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s the best of both her exes - he’s strong and can handle himself in a fight but he also doesn’t have a sun allergy, he treats her as something precious and worth protecting but he isn’t afraid of her power either.
After the gift giving and stolen glances between the two, she stands there and watches the boats float down the Anduin. She stays there until they are out of her sight, and she thinks that this must be a trend, to watch as the person she loves leaves her.
She can only hope this one will come back.
The sight of the largest eagle she has ever seen flying shocks her, but not as much as the person the creature is holding onto. The eagle lands in Caras Galadhon, in front of Galadriel, Celeborn, and herself, and carefully lets go of his treasure. Old, naked, long white hair and beard, Buffy begins to think she’s not the only one to come back from death.
Galadriel immediately sets to work healing him, and when the old man finally opens his eyes Buffy is there, sitting in a chair by his bed. “You’re late,” she says.
He takes a large breath and lets it out, stretches muscles that haven’t been used in days, becomes reacquainted with his own body. Then he sets his gaze on Buffy, takes in the details of her face, and replies, “A wizard is never late nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to.”
She smiles. “Well at least your sense of humor still works.”
He chuckles and moves to sit up. Buffy leans forward to help, arranging and fluffing his pillows to make him more comfortable. “I have heard of you,” he says, “a warrior from another world with the soul and likeness of Celebrían. I can only imagine how your loved ones first reacted.”
“That is doubtful, Mithrandir.” Galadriel glides into the room, her blue eyes fixing onto the scene before her. “I sensed you had awakened. Tell me, what happened.”
He tells her what happened deep in the mines and beyond. How he slain the balrog and came back from death to finish his task in this world. Then he tilted his head in Buffy’s direction. “And I will need her to do that.”
The elf and wizard both turn their attention to her, and Buffy shifts her eyes from one to the next, feels her eyes widen and jaw drop. “Huh?”
Galadriel grows quiet and it seems like the shadows sink into her. “Anoriel, please give me a moment alone with Mithrandir.”
Buffy definitely remembers the “mad Mom” look from Joyce, so knows it’s best to get out of the way as quickly as possible. She walks down to the garden her family frequents, where the sun drenches the niphredil growing on the edges of the small, glistening brook. She passes by the tall aeglos shrubs with blooming white flowers that make the air smell sweet around them and takes a seat on one of the silver wood benches. She sits, and she waits.
It isn’t too long before the soft glow of Galadriel sits beside her. They are silent for a moment, the sounds of the brook filling up the space between them. Buffy picks at the fabric of her dress. “I already told Aragorn I was staying here. Dol Guldur is rising in power. I need to be here to stop it.”
Galadriel sighs, “No. You don’t.”
Her head quickly turns in Galadriel’s direction, her brow furrowing in confusion. “What are you saying?”
She takes Buffy’s smaller hand into her own and lays her other hand on top of their joined ones. Her blue eyes meet Buffy’s questioning green ones. “I’m afraid I’ve been quite selfish. I didn’t even know I had lost my daughter when you fell back into this land, and I’m so very afraid to lose you again.” Buffy’s feels Galadriel’s hands tighten around hers. “But you belong to the race of Men now, and you should be among them with Aragorn so they can learn just how bright you are.”
This feels like a goodbye, and that notion makes Buffy’s heart begin to ache, her eyes begin to water. “But what about you and Ada?”
The soft pads of her fingers wipe away Buffy’s tears. “We shall continue as we always have. Do not worry.”
For decades Galadriel and Celeborn have been there as loving parents, gently guiding and supporting her everyday she has been there. To no longer have that anymore, to no longer have Galadriel brush her hair in the morning and night nor Celeborn tell her stories of his adventures in Middle Earth, it genuinely frightens her. She wraps her arms around Galadriel, presses her face into her hair, and feels the elf do the same. “I never figured out how Celebrían could leave you all.”
Galadriel pulls away, softly smiles at her. “Why did you never tell Arwen, Elladan, and Elrohir the truth when they first came?”
The answer comes easy. “Because I know how painful it is to lose a mother. If I could prevent it somehow, even for a moment, then I would do it.”
She tucks a strand of hair behind Buffy’s ear. “Do you not see how it is the same? Celebrían experienced. . . unimaginable things. She had the choice to prevent it from happening to others, so she took it.”
She likes to think that she would be more selfish, that she wouldn’t have left these people who greatly cared for her, who expected to find her when they crossed the great sea, but then she remembers how she got back to this world. She dove off that tower, away from her family and friends, because she felt it was her duty.
She thinks her and Celebrían may not be so different after all.
She is still unsure though, has never really left the familiarity of these borders, these elves. “I’m frightened, Nana.”
Galadriel’s soothing voice echoes inside her. “Just because we are not near you, does not mean we are far away.”
They continue to sit there until Celeborn comes and joins them, and then they stay there until the sun falls from the sky.
In the days leading up to her departure Buffy cherishes her time in Lothlórien, spending as much time with Galadriel and Celeborn as possible and saying goodbyes to Haldir, Rúmil, and Orophin, as well as the other Wardens. Then the day comes when Gandalf is fully healed and ready to travel. Galadriel clothes him in white, dubs him Gandalf the White, and wishes him luck on his mission.
At the southern gate, the elves of Lothlórien gather to wish them farewell. Buffy looks at the looming gate, her destiny beyond that point, and feels a fluttering in her stomach. Turning back to the people who she feels are her parents just as much as Joyce was, she sees Celeborn holding a scabbard in his hands. He sees her slight surprise and smiles. “You did not think we would let you go without a gift did you?”
She beams, her eyes lighting up at the sight of the blade. “Prezzies! Is it shiny?”
He passes the sword to her, and grabbing the red-jeweled hilt, she pulls to inspect it. The silver steel gleams bright in the sun with swirling patterns etched into it resembling flame. She marvels at it, can’t stop the feeling that this blade belongs to her
. The sword grows warm in her grip, and then the tip bursts into red fire, spreading up the blade over the metal and stopping just under the hilt. She looks up in surprise. “The sword is on fire! Is it supposed to be on fire?”
Gandalf walks up beside her and laughs. “We thought it proper that the sun daughter should wield a sword of flames. Your parents and I worked together to craft that specially for you.”
“It can only be wielded by you,” Galadriel says, her eyes filled with mirth. “It is called Arien. Like the spirit who guided the sun, let Arien now guide you on your path.”
Buffy is touched by their thoughtfulness. She carefully inserts the sword into the scabbard, the flame immediately disappearing at the contact, and arranges it onto her side. “Thank you.” She finds Galadriel and Celeborn’s gazes, tries to express her love, her gratitude, how much she will miss them, into that one look. “For everything.”
They seem to understand, smiling back and giving her one last hug good bye. Gandalf places a hand on her shoulder, turns her towards the gate. “Are we ready?” he asks.
She looks behind her, at the place that was her home for decades. She looks at Haldir, her first and dearest friend here, at Rumil and Orophin, the two brothers who made her laugh harder than anyone in this land, and of course her parents. She will miss this place, these people who hold a piece of her heart, but as she feels the warmth of the sword at her side, she knows they won’t be too far away. “Ready as we’ll ever be.”
They take their first steps out of the gate, each one becoming easier than the last. Her mind goes to Aragorn, and her heart begins to beat in excitement at finding him. Days ago she had watched him leave her, as her other lovers did before. None of them were easy. But this time, she thinks with a big smile on her face, she’s going after one of them.