See chapter 1 for notes and disclaimer.
*** …orange light, like shadow and flame…“You shall not pass!”…Faith…“Be back before dawn.”…a rugged-looking man…“The horn of Gondor!”…an endless landscape of sand… “Death is your gift.”…Legolas…“A red sun rises; blood has been spilled this night.”…a girl with long brown hair and eyes like Buffy…“She won’t choose you.”…a blinding white light…the sound of horse hooves thundering and the cries of orcs…***
Willow awoke from her dream with a gasp and a terrible pounding in her head. There was a dull ache running through her entire body, the only exception the sharp pains in her injured knee. Once she let herself adjust to all these unpleasant sensations, she was able to take in her surroundings.
First, she noticed that she was lying in a very large, very comfortable bed. Her traveling clothes had been replaced with a finely woven linen nightgown, and her knee was tightly wrapped in bandages and elevated on some pillows.
Next, her attention was drawn to the room she was in. It was well lit in the midday sunlight coming in through the airy archways that comprised an entire wall. There were gorgeous tapestries hanging on another wall. In addition to the bed she was in, there was a large wardrobe and a table with a washbasin and pitcher on top.
She was startled as she finally realized that there was another person in the room with her. An old man draped in gray sat in a chair in the far corner and studied her with an amused twinkle in his blue eyes.
“Mithrandir,” she breathed, recognizing him from her dreams.
The wizard stood and slowly approached the bed as she sat up against the intricately carved headboard. “It is good to see you have rejoined us in the land of the waking,” he offered by way of greeting. He placed one hand upon her brow, as gently as if she were his own grandchild, instead of a stranger he’d just met. After a few moments he seemed content and removed his hand with a soft smile in her direction.
He moved to the large wooden door and opened it slightly to converse with someone just outside. “There is someone here most eager to see you.” He stepped aside so that Legolas was visible as he entered the room. He smiled fondly at the prince. “He has refused to move from the corridor until you awoke.”
The elf quickly made his way over to sit on the edge of Willow’s bed. She could see that he was still in the same travel clothes he’d been in when she’d passed out. Concern shone in his dark blue eyes, but it faded the instant she gave him a brilliant smile and leaned over to embrace him. “It’s been four days. I was terribly worried about you,” he said as he pulled back. He held her at arm’s length giving her a thorough visual examination as if she might shatter at any second.
“And you were right to be,” a new voice stated. The elf who spoke was visibly older than Legolas, and his appearance was darker and more reserved than her friend. “I am Elrond. Welcome to Imladris, Willow.”
She managed a shy smile in return, as Legolas burst forth with questions in a rare show of impatience. “How is she? What happened? Why did she collapse?”
Elrond raised a hand to still the younger elf. When he spoke he addressed the girl on the bed. “You are going to be fine,” he paused as he leveled a chastising glare upon her. “However, what you did was very foolish and could have caused much damage had it continued any longer.”
Willow seemed to physically shrink from his words. “What she did? What do you mean?” Legolas was only more confused now.
This time Mithrandir spoke. “Willow focused a great deal of her magical energy on her injury to block out the pain it caused. This, in turn, drained her physical and mental energy. Walking on the injury kept it from healing and probably added more damage to it.” He then turned his gaze solely upon Willow. “I do hope you have learned a lesson from this and will never do such a thing again?”
“I-I had no idea it was dangerous,” she stammered. “I just didn’t want to slow us down and be a burden.” Tears were glistening in her eyes.
Legolas pulled her into another hug. “Oh, Willow. Your health is more important than that. You should have told me.” He wiped a few stray tears away as she nodded.
“Well, now,” Elrond began, “It is time for midday meal. I shall have something sent up for you both.” The somber atmosphere seemed to melt away with his pronouncement and his accompanying smile. “I will return later to see to your injury.” He and the wizard took their leave and left the pair to catch up, as if weeks had passed instead of mere days.