I realize the story isn't action heavy, or big with the romance yet, but if I'm going to make this span the third age, and maybe beyond, some things have to be set up now. Anyway, thanks for reading, and let me know what you think, except when it comes to that poem. I know it's terrible, but for whatever reason Tolkien likes rhyming songs and poems, and I'm trying to keep some of that in the story, though I probably shouldn't. The standard disclaimer applies, I don't own these characters.
In total Buffy spent two years in Gondor. They took the South Road through Lossarnach, Lebennin, Pelargir, Linhir, Dol Amroth, Edhellond, Anfalas, and up to Lamedon for a summer. Meneldil sent rider to announce their coming and they always had a warm welcome and a place to stay. She spent the majority of her time at Edhellond and Dol Amroth and the beaches of Anfalas where a horrified Barhador watched her strip down to her underthings and sprawl out on the sand to collect the sun with the flamingos and thousands of other birds dancing on the sand. The elves of Eryn Galen were not as enthusiastic as Buffy, but loving Ulmo and all the creations of Eru they sat and enjoyed the sea in their own way.
Two very important things happened in those years. Just as Buffy predicted, Dulinnor fell in love with an eleth called Silevel and decided to stay in Edhellond with her family. Some people are attracted to like-minded partners and others do better with what they think of as an opposite, but it’s more a continuation. Where one leaves off, another starts and this was true with Dulinnor and Silevel. She was sort of the opposite of Buffy, tall and graceful, quietly intelligent and spent more time reading and writing stories than anything else. She had very long dark brown hair, marble like skin, and her eyes were a very unusual opal color and even Buffy found herself mesmerized by them. It wasn’t hard to understand why Duli liked her and most importantly she was a very good match for him. She was wise and altogether happy and it infected all the people she encountered.
They met a lot of interesting people and elves in Gondor, most importantly Galadriel. The elves of Edhellond built ships to ferry those that desired to leave Middle Earth for the Undying Lands, but it was also a place that many came to holiday near the sea and to meet with friends and family. Galadriel often journeyed there to allay the sea longing that sometimes threatened to pull her west, and she had many friends that resided there after the destruction of Eregion though some only used it as a resting point before sailing west. Celeborn and Haldir accompanied her, but when Buffy first encountered her, it was alone on a ship sailing into the Bay of Belfalas without her guards. Like Buffy, she was not someone that needed protections. If anyone approached her with malice or threat, she was not only a skilled fighter but she also bore Nenya which acted as an invisible barrier to anyone that tried to touch her without permission.
It was the ring that first got Buffys' attention. She couldn’t see it, but could feel the power radiating around the ship almost as soon as she boarded. It was a small ship, meant for short trips up the coastline to the Grey Havens and east to Belfalas and the Mouths of the Anduin, so it wasn’t hard to find where the power came from. It was so strong around the elf, that she could almost see it coming from her hand and her hair having the light of the two trees, silver and gold and the glow that elves give off, Galadriel was like some kind of magical disco ball. She smiled at Buffy when she approached, and just as Willow had, so she spoke to Buffy in her head.
“Gi suilon Gilrin. I am Galadriel of Lothlorien.”
“Mae g’ovannen. I was hoping to meet you in Lothlorien. How do you know me?”
“I have known of your coming for a very long time, and you are known in Edhellond and the other elven realms of Middle Earth. Thranduil cannot keep you secret forever.” Her eyes twinkled as she smiled, regal and mischievous she was, even at such an age.
The water purled around the ship murmuring and moving, and the elves sang and hummed in tune with the ocean. In the light of a thin moon the stars were very bright. Cool nighttime sea air caressed Galadriels long hair and their gowns. “What do you mean you knew I was coming?” Buffy asked it curiously and cautiously. The power of the ring was distracting her, but it’s never good when someone just met tells you they were waiting for you, so she tried that angle first.
“I heard the prophet speak the words foretelling your arrival. It was for me that the prophecy was made, for my ears first. But, before we discuss the revelations of Melian we must assuage your fears about my ring.”
“I can’t see it, but I can feel it all around the ship emitting power and, and, authority?”
“Yes, and it is one of the rings of power, made by Celebrimbor the greatest of the Gwaith I Mirdain. It was created to protect and defend against evil. The Dark Lord does not have power over it while the One ring is lost.” She paused and considered Buffy’s reaction. “You feel it keenly, but do not fear it. The elven rings of power will never be used against you, though the power itself will reach out and try to connect to the power that you wield. Rings of power are always drawn to those that are powerful.”
“What does it do?”
“Rings of power have many purposes. Some can enhance what is, preserve, protect, hide, heal, and inspire. I long for the sea and the Undying Lands, and so this too is enhanced, and I must soften the sting and visit the sea. Just as you felt the protective border as you boarded the ship, so you will feel the other rings when you cross into protected realms.”
“Do the others feel it?” Buffy gestured to the other elves on the ship.
“No, not as you do, unless they try and cross into a protected realm. You have power beyond humans and elves, and more than any other slayer.”
“What do you mean?”
“I will recite to you the prophecy as Melian said I would, and as I heard it the first time, though not all of what she sang. You have many years to learn the lays of Melian.
“When darkness takes the man
So shall there be the woman.
One girl in all the world
The chosen one
With a crown of stars
Beloved of the Valar.
She alone will wield the strength
And skill to fight the forces of darkness
To stop the spread of evil and
The swell of their number.
She is the Slayer
Beloved of the Valar, the Lady Gilrin.
“Most accounts stop there, but I was present and I remember Melian’s words well. She continued in song for a very long time. Here is a little of it:
To see and dream and fastest heal
Lorien she’ll have and Este’s seal
Chosen by Varda and the Elder King
Commanded by Aule she’s given a ring
Judged three times in Mandos Hall
Return she must to save them all
Ulmo will sing and the sea she'll hear
Yavanna protects the fruit she’ll bear
Vaire will weave her story long
And elves will spin it into song
That life so great in love and length
With Nessa’s speed and Tulka’s Strength
Vana’s youth and Orome’s bow
And other gifts the Valar bestow
She’ll protect the children of The One
Until her work and life be done.
Even Melkor has gifts to give
With this she must learn to live
From darkness comes her power
And known to him of the tower.
Four crowns she’ll wear In Kingdoms three
Two rings she’ll bear, one king she’ll flee
Queen of the deep and fairest lands
Love her all, the Valar commands
Two men she’ll love and elves three
Nine dwarves and trees but none like he
The Golden Elf to love her best
And all their days will be blessed.
A gift to Arda she will be
To work and toil without a fee
Heed these words elves dwarves and men
Should she fall by one hand or ten
By orc, elf, man, demon or tree
Darkness will fall on thee on thee.”
When Galadriel stopped, neither said anything for a long while though they would speak a lot about it in the coming years. It was so much bigger than the tiny opener that Tara told her all those years ago, and much more detailed and yet still frustratingly vague or as she’d later find out subject to interpretation.
Buffy and Galadriel became friends very fast after that and as interesting as the prophecy was to her, the discovery that Galadriel knew of Willow was almost more surprising.
“How do you know about Willow?”
“It is Varda or Elbereth Gilthoniel as you know her that Willow is attached to now. She has ascended to Maia in the service of Varda. It is Elbereth Bilthoniel who brought you to us.”
“So Willow had something to do with bringing me here too?”
“No, the Queen of the Stars requested your help. She gave you immortality and your title, but Willow was very powerful and Varda took her and kept her.”
“How do you know?”
“Some of us have a connection with the Valar and she can hear our prayers and speaks to us and to you in dreams.”
“Is that why you are anxious to get to Lindon? Do you know something I don’t?”
“Yes, you have much to do and Aule urges us to Lindon where Cirdan lives and speaks with Ulmo the Lord of Waters. He has many things to teach you if you will listen. Your education will continue for the duration of your life in Middle Earth and beyond, but the peace will not last forever. You must be ready for war and the darkness below. From beneath you it devours.”
“I think you’ve got your magical wires crossed. Tara told me Sauron was the big bad around here, not the First.”
“Morgoth is defeated, and will not return to Earth until your time and you defeated him, but the message is the same. I cannot tell you what it means, but you must be ready for the darkness below and Cirdan has information for you.”
“Well that’s ominous. You know for a tall pointy eared ethereal elf lady you’re kinda big with the dire.”
Galadriel chuckled. “Yes, and it is surprising that you are not, though in that way I think we are alike. Serious when it is necessary only.”
“Well you’re not all doom and gloom, but I bet you wouldn’t let me toss Haldir overboard.” Said elf scoffed and turned away from her.
“If you think you could do it, I would not be the one to stop you, but he is a great warrior and I do not believe it would be easy.”
“He seems like he wouldn’t give up easily, wirey, and I bet he’s fast, but the trick with elves like that is to toss them two small things that are not of the weapon variety so his hands are full when you tackle them. They always look down at whatever is in their hands and they don’t think to drop them until it’s too late. Then it’s a quick toss into the water. Do you think he can swim?”
“I am certain he can swim. Have I ever recited the Lay of Leithian to you?”
“No, I‘ve heard a lot of different versions of it, but I guess you were there, weren’t you?”
“Yes and Oropher, father of Thranduil, was there and Thingol’s brother is the father of Celeborn and your mother. Ernil and Thranduil must have told you the stories?”
“Ernil, Aewel, and Duli told me a lot of the stories, and of course I’ve heard the songs, but each one is a little different.”
“I have not seen Ernil in a very long time. Is she happy in Greenwood?”
“Yes, but I think she wants to travel. She's always bright and happy, but there is some sadness behind it but she doesn’t talk about it.”
“Someday she will.”
“Tell me about Menegroth. Though he has never seen it, Thranduil talked about the Thousand Caves a lot, and would probably expand his own halls if he was willing to pay the dwarves to help him.”
“For me, Doriath was a place of magic and fear. I met Celeborn there, and Melian. The land was beautiful, and protected by the girdle of Melian, but I feared Thingol would discover my part in the Kinslaying.”
“But I thought you had nothing to do with it?”
“Perhaps if I turned around, or tried to stop my kin I might make that claim, but I did not. Feanor had fire in him and so did I. Many followed him and though I did not take up arms, I did not stop them. I charged forth across the Helcaraxe with my brother and when I came to Doriath I tried to hide my part, but Melian guessed and eventually my brother admitted what we did. It was a time of shame for me, though I would not have said it then.”
Buffy waited for her to on. She wanted to question her, but knew better than to push. Finally Galadriel continued. “In that time, more elves chose to dwell underground. Some believed it safer, but as my brother and our kin discovered, nothing was safe from Morgoth’s army in the end. I’m not sure anything would make a difference but we tried and it wasn’t only about security. I know you haven’t seen Khazad-dum, but when you do, you will understand how a cave can be turned into a great city.
“Menegroth was as beautiful as Melian. Set below equally fair lands, the caves represented all that was good of the elves of the first age and of Thingol and Melian. An underground city it was with palaces and homes as beautiful and more elaborate than anything you have seen in Osgiliath. The ladies wove the stories of the Valar into wall hangings, and the pillars were carved in the likeness of beech trees. Somehow Melian coaxed the flowers to grow, even underground, and the air was always fresh. Sometimes I can still smell the flowers and my mind goes there and wishes to speak with her.” She smiled brightly and began again. “She taught me to make Lembas and fortold your arrival. 'To you do I sing this song, of a warrior fair and strong,' she trilled lightly and paused again. “It is the first thing she said about you.”
“I know there have been others, but it always feels a bit weird knowing that a very long time before I was born, someone knew all these things about me.”
“Yes, and we all knew, but not when you would appear. We thought perhaps it was after Feanor’s death, but the language was different then. We did not know how to interpret the words she spoke, and I have had many years to ponder it, and you still surprise me.”
Without much effort, Galadriel convinced Buffy and what was left of her companions to ride north to Lindon on a ship instead of going by horse. The elves planned to journey north on the west side of the Misty Mountains where their daughter Celebrian was staying with their old friend Lord Elrond of Imladris, but Galadriel insisted they sail north first, so Buffy, Aewendes, Barhador, Galadriel, Celeborn and Haldir took a ship north along the coast to Mithlond. Bittersweet was their leave of Dulinnor, but he promised to visit Greenwood in the next century. Buffy, true to form, reminded him that if he didn’t, she would not hesitate to make her feelings known in the most painful way possible.
The ship was small, or rather smaller than Buffy thought was safe for such a long journey, but the elves assured her that it was quite the right size. It would sail along the coast first, and after a short stop to pick up a few more elves, its final destination was Tol Eressea. The elves sailing west were peaceful and eager and it made the ride happy and relaxing. For some, this was a homecoming and others would be reunited with family long gone into the west, and still others an adventure of sorts for they were born in middle earth, and had no connection to the west save distant relatives and a pull west. For Buffy, the trip was exciting but when they arrived she was very happy to be back on land.
As they sailed into the Gulf of Lune Buffy came to the front of the ship and sat with Galadriel. The sun was rising in the east lighting the bay and the Grey Havens in the distance. “I’ll never tire of seeing this. Every time I come to a new place I’m blown away by the natural and elf made beauty.”
Galadriel nodded and smiled but did not comment and as they neared the Grey Havens Buffy could see Cirdan standing on the quay with several other elves. “Are they expecting us?”
“Cirdan has the gift of foresight.”
“Wow, when I have a dream it’s not that accurate. Sometimes I know it will happen soon, but that’s about the best warning I get.”
“The gifts of a seer vary from person to person, but Cirdan has a friendship with Ulmo, and was told of our arrival.”
Buffy marveled at the structures built from the rock. Apart from Edhellond, this was the first real elven city Buffy saw, and though she was reminded by Celeborn and Haldir that it was little more than a Hamlet compared to Eregion, Menegroth, or even the human capital Annuminas, Buffy thought it was the most beautiful place she had yet seen in Middle Earth.
“There is another ring here.”
“Cirdan has one of the three?”
“You know the power coming off your ring is going all wonky now right?”
“Yes, the power of the rings will join while I am in Mithlond.”
Buffy shivered. She was already itching to get on land, and between the two rings fusing and all the good vibrations she was getting from the water and the elves her spine was tingling and she wasn’t sure if she wanted to run a marathon to expel some of the extra energy pulsing around her body, or jump in the Gulf and cool off. The water was another odd pull. She was fairly certain that Ulmo was there somewhere in the deep water below the ship and she half expected him to jump out of the water like merman. She didn’t know what to expect from the God of the Sea, but her brain always pictured a half man, half fish king with a trident.
The elves on the dock were singing a welcome song. It floated across the water joining the sounds of the water and the sea birds and surrounded the ship almost like an embrace that pulled them to the shore. They were met on the quay by Cirdan and several other elves and Barhador carried Thranduils standard on in front of Buffy and Aewendes and Haldir carried the flag of Lothlorien. The captain led the passengers off the ship, and they were greeted by Cirdan.
“Gi nathlam hi.” Cirdan greeted them.
“Gwannas lu and, my friend.” Celeborn responded.
Cirdan turned to Buffy and bowed. “Gilrin, Gail sila erin lu e-govaned ‘win.”
Buffy bowed, not sure what he meant by that, but smiled and took his offered arm as they walked toward the outdoor feast prepared for them on the balcony overlooking the bay.
Cirdan was old, older even than Celeborn and Galadriel. He was so old that he was beginning to grow a beard, something elves did not do unless they were in the third cycle of life, and even then it was rare. He had a power about him separate from the ring, and though Buffy imagined he would be stern and silent, he had a soft sense of humor and was very gentle.
Buffy spent a lot of time by the water and so she also spent a lot of time with Cirdan. Knowing this was going to be her last chance to enjoy the water for a while, she took him up on his offer to sail. On their last trip before Buffy and the others continued their journey east, he took her farther into the gulf and along the north coast to the Isle of Himling and they stopped for the night on the coast north of the Ered Luin and just as the sun set in the west, he showed her Tol Eressea. Human eyes could not see it, but all of elf kind and beings like Buffy might see it at sunset from the western coast on a clear night.
“You will leave us in less than a fortnight.”
“I don’t want to go, but everyone tells me we must.”
“It is a choice, child. No man or elf has the will or the power to force you hence, save the Valar, and they encourage you forth but even they will not command you though they call upon me now and I must obey. I have a gift for you.” He pulled off his ring Narya and held it out to her.
“What are you doing?”
“The lord of the water and his brother Aule, Oli as you call him, bade me give this to the Gilrin. I cannot keep it, nor do I desire such and instrument. I was its keeper only, and now you shall wield it, as it should be.”
He paused, looking her in the eye, and holding the ring out to her.
“Take this ring Gilrin, for your labours will be heavy, but it will support you in the weariness that you have taken upon yourself. For this is the Ring of Fire, and with it you may rekindle hearts in a world that grows chill, and has power over demons in the deep.”
Buffy looked at him like he was crazy, but the power called to her and she reached out and held her hand above his, tasting the energy surrounding the ring.
“It is known as the Ring of Fire for good reason, but do not be afraid this is your burden to bear.”
Buffy drew back her hand. “Forever?”
“No, the ring will have another master before its end and you will know him when he comes.”
“Are you sure this is a good idea? I mean should I have a ring of power after all the bad things Sauron did?”
Cirdan still held the ring out to her, but he relaxed his stance. “The Valar’s command is assurance enough for me, but only you can decide your fate. Surely the one that defeats Morgoth will not be tempted by evil, but I do not know your heart.” He paused and watched her. “Your reluctance is a testament to your quality in this matter. Take the ring child, and I will teach you to use it.”
Buffy took the ring in her hand and instantly she felt compelled to put it on, and as she did, heat coursed through her body and she began to glow and rise from the ground. The earth disappeared from beneath her, and everything around her turned to fire.
Flung around through a tempest of fire without tether or gravity she screamed and tried to grasp onto something, but only fire was there. It was all she could see and feel, licking at her skin and tossing her around, without weight as flame is, and somehow unrelenting in its grasp.
“Conquer it, you must!” Cirdan’s voice echoed around her.
“Any other bright ideas Yoda, like how I might do that?”
How do you conquer fire without putting it out, Buffy wondered? What is the essence of it and how and what did Celebrimbor capture and put into Narya? What power can fire have? To heat, change, cleanse and to destroy. She honed in on the power to destroy, the slayer parts of her own power that are akin to fire, and pushed all her mental and physical strength against the ring and it yielded. Slowly at first she could feel her body absorbing the fire, breathing it in, but as she took in the power of the ring, her own power increased and so the process sped up. As the fire storm receded within her she opened her eyes, and saw Cirdan peering down at her.
“You could have warned me I’d have to become one with the fire!”
“I did not know.”
“You mean you didn’t have to become lord of the fire when you put it on?”
“No, the ring was made for someone like me, with my powers and abilities, but it can be wielded by those with other powers though they must master it. Tell me what did you see? It is different for each of us. Our mind must create a link with it, and though mine was surprising, it was clearly not what you went through.”
“Can I have some water first?”
“My apologies, please, sit.” He helped her off the ground and brought her to the fallen tree and gave her his water skin.
“We need to talk about this, more than whatever I just saw, which was scary by the way. Being tossed around by a fire storm is not fun.”
“Yes, you will need to know how to use it, though with each of us it is different. First, I believe you should wear it for a day just to acquaint yourself with the power. Tomorrow we will try connecting with Galadriel and Lord Elrond. But I confess, I do not know all the powers of the ring. You will find them out as you bear it. Certainly it can enhance protection, and in your case perhaps you will be a more effective warrior, but it is not impenetrable. Even Melian couldn’t create a barrier that kept everything out and she had considerably more power than any of the elven rings.”
Buffy tried to stand thinking it would be difficult, but she rose instantly and felt ready to conquer the world. “Whoa, head rush. More power than the rings?”
“Yes, have you not known very powerful wizards? The rings enhance, but it does not have a will of its own. A witch or wizard is limited to his or her imagination and access to power. The ring is much more limited, though I believe its power will grow with the bearer.”
Buffy suddenly had the urge to jump, and realized rather quickly that she could now jump higher than before. She ran toward the ship, and that too was quicker.
“Yes, you will be stronger and faster and particularly with this ring, you will have help against weariness and hurt.”
“Will others know I have it?”
“No, most will not, for it will be invisible to those that do not bear a ring, but be ever vigilant. Should you feel the influence of Sauron, you must take the ring off. Should he ever find the One ring, he will try to control you through the connection.”
“But I thought these rings weren’t made by Sauron?”
“No, but the knowledge was gained from him, Celebrimbor learned the craft from the Dark Lord and the power is subject to the greater power of his ring, when worn by one capable of understanding and maintaining it.”
“So if I feel and unfriendly influence I should take the ring off, got it.”
“Yes, and do not imagine that any being powerful enough to bear the ring and use its power will remain good, even if the intention is there.”
“Power corrupts, I understand, but why aren’t you worried about this ring corrupting me? I already have demon power, wouldn’t this connect with that?”
“The chosen are picked for their immunity or resistance to power in this way. Given to any normal person your powers might be abused, but you were not chosen for your fighting skills.”
“That’s true. I always wondered why they would pick a girl like me out of all the trained potentials around the world, because I certainly wasn’t ready to fight.”
“No, but you were born with certain gifts and one of those gifts is resistance to power.”
“What happened to you when you took it off?” Buffy was eyeballing it, like she wanted to rip it off.
“Nothing as dramatic as putting it on, and the thing you fear will not happen until it is mastered by another. When you put the ring on, and your power tried to conquer it, I could feel the separation from myself, though it was not painful.”
She took the ring off, and held it out to Cirdan. “Humor me, I want to try something.” He took the ring, and though Buffy suddenly had an urge to take it back, the experience was otherwise not unpleasant. “So if you put it back on, I’d have to go through that whole burning ring of fire thing?”
“Perhaps, but I do not believe it.” Cirdan put the ring back on his finger and Buffy felt an immediate tear, like an organ disconnecting from her system. She stumbled and landed on her knees, feeling like she might lose her lunch and vomit up a kidney. There was also a sense of relief, like a weight was gone that she didn’t know she carried, but it was small, and she ignored it. She stayed on the ground for several minutes, but the feelings began to pass. She could still feel the absence of power and the memory of having her slayer powers taken away on her 18th birthday flashed before her eyes, but unlike her slayer powers, the ring was not something she couldn’t live without.
“I wonder how much worse it will be after several years?”
“I cannot tell you, but I am happy to give it to you, and I believe one day, when Olorin comes you will be ready to pass it on as well.” He took the ring off and handed it back to her. She did not have to master the ring again, and could feel the sensations more clearly this time. The weight was there, but also the friendly connection between her power and the ring.
“It feels right.”
“It lightens my heart to hear it.”
Buffy spent the next week sailing south along the coast of Forlindon and Harlindon stopping to explore and meet the elves Cirdan wished to visit. She learned many things in that week, and above and beyond the gift of a ring of power, Buffy gained a lifelong friend in the Cirdan. Their mutual love of the sea, and being bearers of Narya would always connect them, but it was more than that. In Cirdan she found what others found, a safe haven, wisdom, and a connection to the Valar, and someone that did not treat her like a silly daughter of man, but one that respected both humans, and her place in their world which was always with one foot on either side. Cirdan was always on the edge of the world, and always watching others cross over when he could not, where Buffy could not, and this too they had in common.
With the elves, it began to feel like she was collecting mentors and parents, but with Cirdan, and despite his age and wisdom, she never felt anything less than an equal. It didn’t matter that he was older and wiser because he treated her like a friend, like Dulinnor. It was a comfort too, to know that he would always be there, waiting at the edge of the world for the last of his kind, and maybe even for her.
She left the Grey Havens with a heavy heart. The ring was making her slayer powers want to slay things in a bad way, but in the few months they spent in Lindon, Buffy found a home, and did not want to leave it. But, Galadriel was eager to see her daughter and introduce Buffy to Elrond, the bearer of Vilya, so they took the Great East Road through the North Kingdom of Arnor all the way to Imladris where she met Lord Elrond, Galadriel's daughter Celebrian, and most importantly, Buffy was finally introduced to Glorfindel the balrog slayer.
Next up, Buffy will spend some time at Rivendell, Arnor, and Khazad-dum.
Gi suilon-I greet you
Mae g’ovannen-well met
Gwaith I Mirdain-people of the Jewel smiths
Gi nathlam hi- You are welcome here
Gwannas lu and-it has been too long.
Gail sila erin lu e-govaned ‘win-A star shines on the hour of our meeting.