*Chapter 5 A Night in Lothlorien*
Legolas looked sideways at the group next to him. It was amazing the changes in his companions: When Gandalf had fallen, not a one had any hope left, not even Aragorn. Legolas truly believed the only reason his friend took them to Lothlorien was because it was all he knew to do. There was no plan, no hope of going on, just the one thought: Gandalf was coming here, and that’s all I can do. Aragorn had done his best, but despite his resolve the Fellowship had been falling apart. Frodo had looked ready to die, the grief of his life-long friend’s end immobilizing him. And Legolas had kept himself going by the sheer thought that he would rather die in Lothlorien than in orc country.
But, this newcomer, this Willow-Tree girl, had somehow made them forget all that. No, not forget, he amended. They were healing. They were accepting and moving on. In her strange language, they were “dealing”. She was sitting in the middle of their Fellowship, regaling them with stories of the food in her land, which sounded different from the elvish feast they were recovering from, although much more varied. He was especially curious about ‘pizza’.
Her presence made them all feel less burdened, with her red hair shining- a color that was completely new to Legolas, yet not unnatural. More like an earth color, like copper. Legolas smiled to himself. Perhaps that was why Gimli was so taken with this new stranger. The dwarf liked metal-colors, such as Galadriel’s golden hair. Oh yes, his new friend had changed his mind about the “Witch of the Wood”! He had even promised to call nothing fair except her- not even his precious mithril!
Their merriment was paused when a beautiful song came drifting through the woods. No one had felt like singing since Mithrandir had died, not even the normally raucous Pippin and Merry. Legolas knew, however, that this was a different kind of song. This was music that soothed the soul by letting out all the pain and suffering it was feeling. It was a paradox, but an important one.
“What are they saying?” Sam asked, always curious about the elves.
“It is a song for Mithrandir,” Legolas replied.
“Who is Mithrandir?” Willow asked nervously. She didn’t want to upset them even more, but her curiosity overpowered her manners. She had learned that someone close to them had died, and that they missed him terribly. She could see it in their faces, although some of it had passed with food and talking. She recognized their expressions now- she had seen it far too often. After Buffy died, there were times when they would forget their grief, and push it to the side. Xander would instinctively crack a joke, or Dawn would do some klutzy thing, and before they knew it, they were all laughing. When they had realized that they were actually feeling something other than sorrow, each had felt guilty and a renewed sadness. The renewed sadness was what she saw on the remaining members of the Fellowship.
At first no one answered. Then Aragorn, always the leader, said, “He was many things to many people. To me he was a best friend, and a teacher.” He said no more. He was remembering the adventures they had gone on together- many unpleasant and dangerous, but always made bearable by his friend’s presence.
“He was a wizard!” Sam burst out. He had needed to talk about his grief for a while, and it came out suddenly and awkwardly, in his own fashion. “He had the most incredible fireworks you ever seen. He’d pop in every year or so, and life would be diff’rent. People said he was a troublemaker, and I guess he was, in his own way, because once you got involved your life was never the same, but not in a bad way. Sort of like this adventure that we’re on now. If it weren’t for him, I wonder what we’d all be doing right now. Not that I wish for anything different, mind you...” He trailed off, not sure how to put into words how he felt.
Willow was intrigued, however. “A wizard? You mean magic and things?”
“Yeah,” said Pippin, the youngest hobbit. “Only he wouldn’t do it all the time. I hardly ever saw him do real spells and stuff, but somehow you knew he was capable magic things.”
“Sort of like Mr. Elrond,” mused Sam. “I never saw him do a spell or nothin’, but you could tell just by lookin’ at him he was magical.”
“Elrond?” Willow queried.
“Elrond,” said Legolas, “is an elf, and the lord of Rivendell.”
“So there are more places for elves? I thought Lothlorien was their home,” Willow said. She wanted to learn everything she could about this strange place. She didn’t know her task yet, and so couldn’t predict what would come in handy later. A part of her hoped that the task was staying with the elves in this peaceful place.
Legolas laughed, and was happy to tell her more about his people- a more comfortable subject than their beloved Mithrandir. For a time, the grief had passed. He paused as he was describing Mirkwood- he realized they had never asked the name of her land.
Willow hesitated, then answered, “A city called Sunnydale. And it is very different from here.”
“I have traveled far,” Aragorn said, “but I have never heard that name. Where is it?”
The witch wasn’t sure what to say, so she explained as she would to any person in her world. “I suppose it’s west from here, though I’m not sure where here is. Near the ocean, I guess.” She spoke of her home with such emotion that even the inquisitive hobbits did not push further. And Legolas felt a dangerous pull to his heart at the word ocean, and he too did not wish to pursue the topic.
The gay mood was somewhat lessened, though they were all grateful for each other’s company. The hobbits settled down for bed, but Willow did not feel tired. She noticed that Legolas was not moving to the sleeping area either.
“Not sleepy?” She asked.
“Elves do not sleep,” he replied.
“I hadn’t realized how powerful elves are, to not feel exhaustion,” she said with a raised eyebrow.
He smiled. “We feel tired, Willow, but we do not need to close our eyes to recover. I will walk under the mallorn trees for a while, and that is all the rest I need. And, as I do feel tired now, I must leave you for a time. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight, Legolas,” She said. She was sad to end their night—she had been hoping to have more time alone with him, to get to know him better, that Prince of Mirkwood.
Looking around, she noticed that nearly everyone was asleep. Only Boromir and Aragorn were awake. She noticed that the blond man was lying down, but his eyes were open and he kept turning over in his blanket. Aragorn was sitting against a tree trunk, but he looked so peaceful and full of thought that she did not have the heart to interrupt him. Oh well, she thought. I’ll have to make my own fun.
She looked around her, and was surprised to see Galadriel standing some feet away, staring at her. The beautiful elf was gazing at Frodo, who had woken up and was staring back. She shook her head and made a gesture, indicating he should wait, and go back to sleep. Then she turned to Willow, and beckoned her with her hand. Willow followed her through the forest to a clearing. The treetops were bare here, and she could see stars and a brilliant moon above her. The stars, she noticed, were the same as hers. Above, she could see Orion’s Belt. Willow smiled at the familiar sight.
“Now,” Galadirel said, “We shall talk.”
“Do you know why you are here?” Galadriel asked.
Willow looked at the tall elf with wonder. In the stars she seemed to glow with a strange light, and she had the sense that Galadriel was reading her mind. She felt she could trust this woman with the truth. “I think,” she said slowly, “that you called me here. Is that right?”
Galadriel nodded. “You are from a different world than ours. That is good, as those in our world have failed.” Willow felt nervous at these words. Failed? If this world had people like Aragorn and Legolas (who seemed quite capable) what did they need her for? “A war is brewing in our world,” she continued, “and there is a great man who must lead it. However, he is engaged in a battle that he cannot win alone. I want you to go and aid him.”
Willow wanted to protest- a battle did not sound like her best chance of helping. The fighting was more of Buffy’s thing. Yes, she did have over seven years of Hellmouth fighting under her belt, but that didn’t make her a kung-fu master or anything. If this “great man” couldn’t win alone, who was she to help?
However, the Powers That Be thought she had something that could help, and she agreed. “I’ll do my best. How do I get there? And will I need to bring anything?”
Galadriel laughed. In many ways this woman seemed as a child to her- so young compared to her elf-years, and at times carefree. But her resolve to do help a complete stranger raised her in her eyes. This woman was the one. She could feel such a strong magical force coming from her. It was as if she and the earth had a direct link, connecting her to its power. She knew only a pure soul could do that. Not pure, she corrected. Perhaps good was a better word, or hopeful. The earth itself was not pure. It could be polluted and broken, but it healed itself. And she could tell this girl-woman in front of her had been polluted as well, and was trying to heal herself. “I suppose you would call him by his Western name: Gandalf,” she told her, knowing she hadn’t even asked for the name of whom she was going to save. “He is deep within a mountain, deeper than any man has gone before. I will call for an eagle to carry you to him.”
An eagle to carry her? Willow was once again struck by how odd this world really was. She had just gotten used to the fact that there were elves and dwarves and hobbits here.
“I have some things for you.” Willow noticed there was a large bad next to the elf. In it were a cracker-like food, a thick grey coat made of a fabric she had never seen before, and snow boots.
“Now I will call for Gwahir. In the meantime, you must rest. You have a great task ahead of you, and you will leave as soon as possible.” She placed her hands on Willow’s shoulders and looked into her eyes. “You can do this,” she said firmly.
Willow nodded, then, on an impulse, embraced this great woman.
“I will try,” she whispered.
*~*~*~*~*~* Thank you, those who have read this far!! I am so excited, this is turning out to be a longer story than I've written before. I hope to have the next part written in the next week or two.*~*~*~*~*~*