Say What Now?
Author's Note: Well, look at that—a relatively quicker update than before. I love listening to the composition Sacrifice from the episode 'The Gift' It's very moving and I think it suits this story very well. Ok... So, I have to admit that initially I was afraid to put this chapter up. I suppose I'm nervous as to what everyone will think about the way the story is going. I hope it doesn't seem so ridiculous and inconceivable... Anyway, I'll stop rambling.
NB: Many, if not all, of the facts I state about the history of Middle-earth is correct. I give thanks to my fellow Tolkienite friend, Jen, who helped me with the research for this.
Thanks for your reviews, your opinions are valued and will be taken into account.
Say What Now?
"You are weary from your travels, please be seated."
Buffy wanted to say no. She wanted to argue with the beautiful Elf woman, but she couldn't find the will to speak as the Lady's voice echoed in her mind. 'Patience, young one. You will have the knowledge you seek, though you only need to look into yourself to see the truth of what you are...'
Though Buffy was chilled to the bone by the words in her mind, she already knew what she was. And she didn't need Lady Galadriel to tell her. She was Death. She was the bringer and the giver; the one girl in the world that was sent to battle evil.
Death was her gift.
There was so much Buffy wanted to ask the woman before her. But in order to do that, she needed to have the facts first. She wasn't known for her patience but in this instance the Slayer inside her grudgingly backed down.
She started with surprise as Lady Galadriel's soft fingertips tilted her chin upwards.
Buffy stared into the Lady's cold blue eyes unflinchingly and shamelessly as the she-Elf smiled at her stern countenance imperceptibly. That small smile felt so intimate—almost as if she and Lady Galadriel shared a secret of some kind. Of course, she was totally oblivious as to what that secret actually was. "Come," the Lady's soothing voice murmured, "Sit."
Unwillingly, Buffy stepped away from the Elven woman's motherly touch and forced herself to move stiffly towards the cosy wooden table. She sat down onto the cushioned seat of the well-crafted chair and waited for the others to seat themselves accordingly. Her knees felt weak and wobbly like jelly and she was glad that she had sat down at that moment. She knew that she would have been completely embarrassed if she'd fallen flat on her face.
Although the table was large enough for six people it somehow felt more comfortable with only four. She had the odd feeling that the table was only used for the Lord and Lady's more friendlier, intimate guests. Her eyes drifted towards the embroidered cream tablecloth and even with her lack of knowledge in the crafts department, Buffy was impressed by the intricate details that were woven into the silk fabric. Like the tapestries, the tablecloth was also telling a story, this time woven from thin silver thread.
If she had been more attentive, she would have bothered to decipher the story. As it was, she really didn't care about those things, except for the fact that it looked really pretty. Really, really pretty. Like the yummy frosted icing on a wedding cake. She could just imagine the Elves' faces if she started chewing on the expensive-looking cloth. She was about to smile at that when she remembered exactly why she was in the room with these strange people. Once again, reality came thundering back to her and ended with a glorious crash.
As Haldir sat down beside her, he offered her an encouraging nod. Even though it was a little strained, Buffy managed to return the gesture with a a quirk of her lips. It was much more of an effort than she would normally put into smiling. The March Warden was actually being sincere and kind for once by not making fun of her and the situation that she was in. It might have been because of his Lord and Lady's presence, but Buffy was just grateful that he didn't have any crude jokes ready to shoot at her. If he did, then she felt as if she had the right to punch him. Hard.
Lady Galadriel and the other Elven male finally sat down opposite her. They both wore peaceful, if not subdued, expressions on their faces as they studied her quietly. Finally, the Elf sitting beside Lady Galadriel spoke as he lowered his head in greeting towards her. "Well met Lady Buf-ii. I am Celeborn, Lord of Lothlórien and husband to the Lady of the Light. It is an honour to make your acquaintance." He looked at her blankly, waiting for her to respond. There was nothing in his hard gaze. Absolutely nothing.
A moment of silence ensued his words. Buffy didn't know what to make of his aloof manner. "Uh... Yeah. Likewise," she finally replied, somewhat hesitantly. Her eyes darted towards Lady Galadriel.
The golden haired Elf raised her brow in amusement at the smaller woman's panicked expression.
Lady Galadriel chuckled softly. "Lord Celeborn is teasing you, Lady Buf-ii. He does this to everyone; do not be fooled by his stern appearance, for his heart soft like the petals of a freshly blossoming flower on a new day."
"Why—thank you, my lady!" Both husband and wife exchanged veiled glances.
Buffy frowned, feeling a little more than confused by everything that was going on around her. Wasn't this supposed to be a serious meeting? She switched her eyes to Lord Celeborn's once more and stared back the Elven male as he returned her severe gaze. Most people would have fidgeted under the scrutiny of her hefty green eyes, but this guy didn't even bat a single eyelash. "O-kay..?"
At length, Lord Celeborn's face broke out into a small grin at the bemused line that creased the young woman's brow. "You shall have to forgive my behaviour, Lady Buf-ii. I am carefree at heart and sometimes I tend to let it get the best of me."
Buffy's right eye twitched as the Elven Lord smiled at her. Blinking rapidly, she shook her head. "Right. Moving on," her steady eyes fell upon the Lady's, "You have some information that I need... What am I doing here?"
Haldir's complexion was growing paler by the minute at Buffy's sharp voice. She knew that she was being a bit rude, but she was annoyed and tired. Tired of everything.
As Lady Galadriel studied her silently, Buffy felt the tingle of a shiver shoot up her spine. She shuddered and was surprised that the Elf woman had managed to get such a response from her. It was unnerving and it caused her to shift in her seat slightly. The high back of the chair seemed to burn through her thin jumper as the Lady continued her wordless study.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity of torture, Lady Galadriel spoke. "A few days prior to your arrival, I felt a deep tremor in the earth below. I know now that it was your arrival that brought it to me," her toneless voice was a distant beacon, drawing Buffy inwards with every syllable she uttered. "Lord Celeborn also sensed it..."
"We felt nothing," Haldir commented, almost to himself. "The company and I felt no disruption around us."
"You are young, Haldir. Only the oldest of our race could discern it. The tremor rippled through me like the life blood I bear in my veins. It was a part of me, yet it surrounded and encompassed me wholly. And though it was not unpleasant and I sensed no evil from it, a dark shadow followed behind it... The trembling of Lothlórien's soil beheld the arrival of the lady sitting beside you." Even though Lady Galadriel's unnerving blue eyes remained upon Buffy, she answered Haldir's comments without hesitation. "All is not as it seems with her."
The March Warden looked at Buffy with surprise and thinly veiled shock. She could feel his curiosity burning within her like a flame, but she could also feel his wariness at her presence. The contrasting emotions sent a wave of unease through her.
Buffy wondered... She wondered if the Lady knew what she was.
"I know what you are," Lady Galadriel announced almost instantly, as if replying to her thoughts.
Buffy was officially weirded out. But she refused to show it. "Oh? And what am I?"
Lady Galadriel ignored Buffy's question. "Long ago in the lands of Valinor the Vala, Oromë, Huntsman of the Valar and Tulkas, wrought and coveted the Halls of Valhalla upon the request of Námo, or Mandos as he is known—"
"But those Halls are of legend!" Haldir exclaimed, interrupting the Lady's words. He was given a reprimanding gaze from Galadriel and could not help but bow his head in submission. "Forgive me, my lady."
The Lady's hard eyes softened at her March Warden's chastened demeanour. "I would not be so dismissive of such legends, Haldir. I was raised in Aman and though the knowledge of those Halls has passed from the Elves that had returned to Beleriand and then moved on to Middle-earth, that very same knowledge was returned to me recently by a most unseemly messenger. They came merely a day after the arrival of Lady Buf-ii and the tremor I felt within the earth; they bore with them a decree from Taniquetil that contained the reason for the messenger's hasty entry into Lothlórien. I was deeply taken aback by the news I received and even more disturbed by the manner of the messenger."
Buffy raised her hand in a pathetic gesture of confusion. She was feeling dizzy from all the strange names Lady Galadriel seemed to be saying one after the other. "Um—who're those people; what's the Halls of Valley and what does it have to do with me?"
"Halls of Valhalla," the Lady corrected with an amused smile. "And it has much to do with you, my child." She continued to speak, allowing none to interfere with the task she had set out to complete. They would have answers before the day waned. "They are not merely people, Lady Buf-ii. Lord Oromë and Lord Tulkas are two of the fourteen great Valar; The Powers. They once existed with Eru Ilúvatar before descending into the world that is known as Arda..." And so, Lady Galadriel began her ancient tale, as she knew that the small woman before her possessed no knowledge of the world around her.
As time passed, with every word that was spoken, Buffy came to learn about the history of the world she was in. She was completely fascinated by the stories Lady Galadriel told her. Even though she was a little put out by the strange names, Buffy listened with rapt attention as the Lady of the Light spoke of Ilúvatar and the Ainur that became the products of his thoughts. It suddenly hit Buffy that this was real. That there was a God, the One, and that he was called Ilúvatar and he wasn't just a myth created by people that were merely frightened by the unknown. It was all real in this world and all of the unbelievable stories that Lady Galadriel told her could not have been faked.
They just couldn't have been, even if they did sound like fairy tales or myths.
It was described to Buffy that through the music of the Ainur, Ilúvatar created a Vision of the World. And when that world was made, many of the Ainur wished to enter it and ready it for the coming if Ilúvatar's Children; Elves and Men. Once a part of Ilúvatar's vision had finally been created, the Ainur that wanted to enter into the world. They descended into it and separated to form the Valar, or The Powers as they were also known as, and the Maiar. She found it easier to remember them collectively as The Powers, simply because it felt more close to home and they seemed to sound like the Powers That Be. But she quickly learnt that they were nothing like the Powers That Be. Because the Ainur had separated into two groups, the Valar and the Maiar, the Maiar were not officially part of The Powers. This was because they had less strength than those that formed the Valar. But essentially, they were from the same race and both the Valar and Maiar possessed power, just on a different level of strengths.
So out of the Valar and the Maiar, the fourteen spirits of the Valar that came into the world Ilúvatar had created were the strongest.
But originally there had been fifteen.
Buffy learnt that the fifteenth spirit from the Ainur, some whack-job called Melkor, or Morgoth as he was soon to be named, decided to become more than slap happy with the free will he'd been given by Ilúvatar. Melkor turned away from Ilúvatar's path and became the Big Bad of this world, or dimension as Buffy thought of it. She was told by the three Elves sitting around her that Melkor was bad, really bad. Worse than Glory-bad. Worse than her cooking-bad. But luckily, the Valar had managed to banish him into a place called the Void after his defeat in the War of Wrath.
Even though Melkor had been the strongest of the Valar, he had eventually been tossed out on his ass by them. She was surprised to learn that Melkor was brother to Manwë, another Vala. But after being sent into the Void, Manwë became the strongest and wisest of the Valar. Even with his strength, Manwë continued to follow the path Ilúvatar had laid out before them and he grew in esteem. Though, in her mind, Buffy almost understood why Melkor had taken his own way even though it was ultimately a path of evil and destruction. She guessed that he just had not wanted to be part of Ilúvatar's grand 'master plan' and that he'd wanted to make his own destiny. Just like her. Melkor had not been given the chance to do what he wanted to and it must have rubbed him the wrong way; so he rebelled, in the only way he knew how. To become evil.
She could understand that. Buffy didn't condone it, but she could understand why Melkor had become evil. There were so many times when she wished she hadn't been 'Chosen' to slay. That it didn't have to be a part of her destiny... But it was. And she had no choice about it. She couldn't avoid it and even if she tried, the instinct inside her wouldn't have rested until she finally answered her calling.
Buffy voiced her theory about Melkor to the Elves, minus her own feelings of being The Slayer.
However, they were quick to refute her suggestions and seemed appalled at her ideas. Only Lady Galadriel had looked at her with something akin to understanding.
The Slayer soon learnt to keep her opinions to herself. Apparently, her radical ways of thinking had disturbed Haldir and Lord Celeborn, so she decided to keep her mouth shut about such ideas. It was almost as if they didn't want to understand Melkor's reasoning. True, he had been the cause for a lot of death and destruction in this world but with the baddies, there's always a motive. Always. Maybe he was just a megalomaniac psycho at heart, she certainly didn't know, but Buffy maintained her own views about the fallen Vala.
Time drew onwards and Lady Galadriel moved onto the awakening of Ilúvatar's Children; first the Elves at Cuiviénen, during the Years of the Trees, and then came the race of Men during the First Age in a far eastern land called Hildórien. Buffy felt some confusion about the dates, but she didn't say anything. The Years of the Trees and the First, Second and Third Ages were just too dizzying for her blonde head. Sometimes she wished she was smart enough to understand things like her friends could. But she'd never been one for academics, even though her SAT's had proved that she wasn't as dumb as she originally thought she was. She was actually proud of that accomplishment. It gave her a sense of purpose and belonging. But even her SAT's couldn't help her understand the dates and times of this new world. She would just have to wing it and pretend she knew what Lady Galadriel was jabbering on about.
The stories moved on through the Years of the Trees and the First and Second Ages, all of which grew more and more interesting. She found out that Elves weren't as perfect as she thought them to be.
An Elf called Fëanor had made a huge, huge mistake during the Years of the Trees. Something to do with the Silmarils or jewels, as she was told by Lord Celeborn when she didn't understand. Through Lord Celeborn's explanation of the Silmarillion tale, Buffy caught Haldir sending her mute but wary glances at her. There was a look of disbelief on his face, almost as if he could not understand why she knew nothing about the world she was supposed to be living in.
She was sure that the March Warden would have a heart-attack once he knew that she wasn't from this world.
Buffy returned her attention to Lord Celeborn and as he continued the story of the Silmarillion, she grew more and more disheartened by what she heard. Fëanor had become blind by his lust for the Silmarils that he had created and in the end, he scorned the Valar's guidance for them. They had been stolen by Melkor and in the end, the Noldorin Elf swore a blood oath recapture them from the fallen Vala. It was all extremely troubling and sad for her. She learnt that Elves felt emotions deeply, deeper than a mortal and once Fëanor's wrath had been incurred by Melkor, he lost the plot completely and gave up everything that an Elf should have stood for. Valour, honour and respect were replaced by pride, ego and lust.
What hurt her the most was that the quest for the Silmarils had been a case of the blind leading the blind. Many of the Elves that followed Fëanor, did so out of loyalty to the House of Fëanor and his father, who had been killed by Melkor when he had taken the Silmarils from Valinor, the blessed realm of the Valar. They had no idea that the oath they had taken would have resulted in the death of their own kin. They had no idea that the blood of their own people would stain the shores of Aman. They had no idea... And they couldn't go back on their word.
The quest for the Silmarils had been nothing but a big mess. Along with it, Buffy's eyes had been opened to the fact that perhaps the Elves weren't as perfect and as beautiful as she thought them to be. From listening to the story, she found out that the characters of the Elves were balanced on a thin blade. They had to keep themselves in check all the time. It hadn't come as a surprise to Buffy when she found out that Elves could die from sorrow. If they could be angered so deeply and create so much havoc, then sorrow would destroy them. They felt deeply, loved deeply, hurt deeply and once their wrath was unleashed, everyone around them would eventually pay the price.
At that moment, Buffy was glad to be human; to be a mortal.
As she studied the eyes of the three Elves around her, she could see the hidden and withered weariness within their depths and it made her pity them. It made her pity their long lives and the endlessness of the years they were forced to endure. Even if they died from sorrow or were killed in battle, their spirits would flee to the Halls of Mandos, the Doomsman of the Valar, where they would wait to be reborn and return to their kin in Aman and so the cycle continued. Only the Men that Lady Galadriel spoke of were free from this. They visited the Halls of Waiting, but where they went afterwards, no-one truly knew.
She finally understood how Angel must have felt being immortal. And he was young compared to these Elves. Change was a hard concept to grasp, but the Elves had to deal with it every year of their never-ending lives. It was almost enough to make Buffy anti-immortal. But then again, she supposed that the Elves were simply used to it and it felt as natural as the different seasons. Immortality wasn't given to them as it was with Vampires. They had been born with it.
"And now, you shall learn of the Third Age and rising of Isildur's bane; the One Ring."
Buffy blinked her thoughts away as the Lady's calm voice spoke out firmly against the fragile evening. She looked out of the nearby window and almost gasped at the dark void that encompassed it. Only moonlight and starlight filtered through the glass panes as they lovingly caressed the amber leaves outside, as if they were their children of the night. During the course of the evening, candles had been lit and the chandeliers above gave off a soft orange glow; someone had also managed to light those as well. Hours must have gone by, but Buffy hardly acknowledged the passage of time. Somehow, she didn't know when, food had arrived on the table and she was disturbed to find that she had dropped her guard so much that she barely registered her surroundings as she ate the tasty breads and cheeses set out on display. An assortment of sweet and savoury dishes fruits, pastries and dried meat were placed out on the table in front of her and there they remained, half eaten by the four members of the large room.
It was strange—almost as if time had no meaning in this place.
She frowned, pondering the Lady's words. "Isildur's bane? I think I've heard you mention his name before."
"Aye," Lady Galadriel said gravely. "You have heard his tale of the Second Age. Isildur was a Númenorean and the heir of Elendil; King of Gondor and Arnor. Their old kingdom was ravaged, for the Númenorean's pride and greed had become so great and corrupted by Sauron that they had challenged the Valar and thus their glorious kingdom was destroyed as a result of this direct defiance. Only the faithful were saved, Elendil and his sons Isildur and Anárion were of those Númenoreans that remained true and faithful to the Valar, whilst King Ar-Pharazôn perished because of his corruption. Elendil led the remaining trusted Númenoreans and founded the kingdoms of Arnor in the north and Gondor in the south of Middle-earth—where the current, newly crowned King resides on his throne at this present day."
It was strange to know that this palce had Kings and Queens; it definitely reminded her of the Middle Ages. She nodded thoughtfully to herself, her brow furrowing as a result. "Elendil and his men joined forces with the Elves, right? Something to do with a ring?"
"Not just a ring, Lady Buf-ii," Lord Celeborn interjected. "It was the Ring; the One Ring. The Last Alliance of Elves and Men drew their swords together and marched upon Sauron in the hopes of destroying the evil he had cast upon Middle-earth."
She bit her lip, trying to remember everything she had been told previously. Buffy realised that the Elves were waiting for her to continue the story. They wanted to see if she could recall what they had told her before. Blowing her cheeks out at the difficult task ahead of her, she began to tell the tale that had been recounted to her. "So, Sauron was a Maia and he was turned evil by Melkor... And after Melkor was sent into the Void, Sauron returned and created the One Ring so that he could control some other rings that weren't made by him but by the Mírdain that were these jewel-smiths of a place called... Eregion? Am I right?" She didn't wait for their answer, but steam-rolled on. "They wanted to learn more from Sauron and they didn't think he was evil because he wore a disguise and called himself... Er, Assatan?"
"Annatar," Haldir offered helpfully.
She sent him a grateful smile. "Right, Annatar," Buffy took a deep breath. Her mind felt like off-date cheese, all crumbly and stinky. "Ok, so... The Elves of Eregion made sixteen Rings of Power but the Elves were sneaky and had a hidden agenda. Um... They made three rings that were more powerful than the others and because they didn't know Sauron was Annatar, he made the One Ring in his fortress so that he could take control of all the other rings. But he didn't bet on the Elves making their own Rings of Power and when he used his ring for the first time, he found out and was wicked-mad. But the Elves found out what was going on and they took off their rings so he couldn't do anything. He... He was really, really piss—ah—angry?"
The three Elves nodded encouragingly, waiting to see if she had remembered the tale they had told her hours prior to this moment. "Right," Buffy continued, "He was angry and he went to Eregion with his nasty army and destroyed Eregion and along with it, the Elf called Caleb was also killed. He was the guy that helped make the rings?" They nodded, but Lord Celeborn muttered the Elf's true name to her. Her eyes widened at the mistake and she corrected it. "Celebrimbor, the Elf was called Celebrimbor and he was Fëanor's... Grandson?"
Again, the Elves confirmed her words gravely.
Buffy's eyes brightened as she remembered something, "Oh, wait! Sauron didn't get the three Rings of Power because they'd already been sent away. Is that right?
Lady Galadriel smiled, "You are correct, Lady Buf-ii. I have never met a more attentive mortal than you. Your memory is quite impeccable."
The Slayer held back a blush. She smiled awkwardly. "Thanks, I get called a lot of things but attentive isn't one of them."
"You should not undermine yourself so, my child," the golden-haired lady murmured quite morosely.
Buffy shrugged. She didn't want tobe involved in a pity party. "It's okay. So, tell me what happened in the Third Age when the One Ring was found again?"
And thus they began to recall the events of the Third Age and the recent years of the past. For the three Elves, the journey into their recent memories were fraught with pain and sorrow at the crumbling world that had surrounded them and been on the brink of total destruction. Many good Elves and Men had perished in the War of the Ring. Though the Elves did not fight in the battles and skirmishes of Men, there had been many battles upon the borders of Lothlórien and in Mirkwood where King Thranduil had found himself dealing with numerous and endless amounts of foul creatures, such as the children of Ungoliant and Shelob.
Buffy was amazed by what she heard about the Quest of the Fellowship.
A small creature called a Hobbit had gone on the adventure of a life-time to destroy the One Ring. His name was Frodo and he had risked his life to save the people of this world and Buffy felt proud for him. He did what no other living Man or Elf could; he saved them all. As she found out before, the Ring could only be destroyed in the fires of Orodruin—Mount Doom—where Sauron first created it. And from what she had been told, it would have been a huge struggle to get there in the first place. Especially because Sauron still had his army of nasties running around the lands of Middle-earth for his Ring. It must have really difficult for Frodo...
Buffy was sad to learn that one member of the Fellowship had died to protect two other Hobbits that had also accompanied Frodo on his almost incapable task. His name was Boromir, Son of Denethor and she was told that he died bravely, doing what he loved best; fighting for truth and justice.
In the end many things had happened that seemed like fate unravelling like the steady ripples in a pond that would set off another chain of events, which culminated in the victory for the good guys. It was all very dramatic and she knew it would have made a great film in the end, but this story—everything she had been told—was real to these people. They had lived it, suffered from it and endured the pain of loss but in the end, they gained peace and respite from the evil that had surrounded them for many centuries... It was weird that it was all so real. That this actually happened.
She found the courage to say this to her three Elven companions. "It's all true... The story about the Ring, Frodo, King Aragorn, his Dúnedain Rangers... And King Théoden who died and the Witch-King that was killed by his niece; a woman not a man. It's all... true?"
"You do not believe us?" Haldir remarked quite menacingly with an incredulous look upon his fair face. "Were you not here when the War of the Ring occurred? After everything you have been told, which you should have known, this is your response? Ungrateful mortal. Is this is the gratitude you show us even after I brought you here to have an audience with Lady Galadriel?"
Buffy scowled at his assumption. "I didn't mean it like that," she snapped, crossing her arms. "I—"
"Peace, children," Lord Celeborn intercepted the argument, much to Buffy's relief. "It would not bode well for you to engage Lady Buf-ii in combat, Haldir."
The March Warden did not catch the warning in his Lord's voice and so he snorted indelicately, "I would not do such a thing, my lord."
"Good," Lord Celeborn was satisfied with this.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Buffy sat up straighter in her chair, eyeing Haldir furiously.
Haldir returned her fiery gaze with shards of ice dancing in his own blue eyes. "I would not fight with a mortal woman. It would be unseemly and—"
Buffy jumped as Lady Galadriel's voice spoke over Haldir's firmly but softly. Her tone brooked no argument as her words were coated in steel. The Slayer inside Buffy was itching to reach out and lay one on the uppity March Warden, but the Lady's penetrating eyes stopped her from doing so. In the end she settled back into her chair, all the while huffing to herself.
"I am sure it was not Lady Buf-ii's intention to imply that all she heard was false, Haldir. Rather, she has good reason to question all she has come to know."
"Yeah," Buffy sent a smug and triumphant look at the Elf that was trying not glower at her, "What she said!" Buffy gestured at the Lady with her thumb.
"And now we come to it," Lady Galadriel suddenly whispered to the small mortal as Buffy restrained herself from hurting and pouncing on her March Warden. "We come to the reason of your sudden appearance in Lothlórien and Middle-earth."
The Slayer's ears perked up at this. As much as she had actually enjoyed the history lesson, she really only wanted to learn about the reason she had been torn from Heaven. Buffy simply wanted to know how she could get back and when. "What is the reason?"
The Lady smiled distantly, as if she was trying to remember something in her past. "During the Years of the Trees, the Huntsman of the Valar, Oromë, was known for his pursuit of Melkor's creatures in the dawn of the world. But it was Tulkas who was the most war-like of the Valar. He was strong and steadfast and he had battled Melkor in the years when the world was young. Now, when the first stirrings of Men occurred in the far eastern lands, they were approached Mandos. He bade them to join him in manning the Halls of Valhalla. These Halls bore no semblance to Mandos' Halls of Waiting. For you see, the Halls of Valhalla were created to house the spirits and newly forged bodies of the fallen warriors of Ilúvatar."
Galadriel paused, allowing her words to sink into the minds of those around her. "After your death in your own realm and before you were brought here to Lothlórien, your spirit and ageless body were housed in the Halls of Valhalla, at peace and at rest. And though you were not a warrior of this realm, you fought and died bravely in your own. From the different realms and worlds, all the great warriors battling against evil are sent to the Halls of Valhalla once they have served their duty and their purpose. In those Halls, their spirits and renewed bodies are to be at rest until the time comes when they shall be called to rise for the End. The Halls of Valhalla were a part of Ilúvatar's vision and only he and Manwë are privy to the outcome. Tulkas and Oromë, along with Mandos, were bidden to guard the Halls until that time arrives; they are the ones who decide and judge which warriors are deserving enough to enter these sacred Halls. You were one of warriors chosen to reside in the Halls of Valhalla, Lady Buf-ii."
Buffy blinked owlishly. She sputtered on her words before finally getting the out. "Say what now?" Her shrill voice caused the Elves around her to wince. She glared at Haldir, who was looking at her with something between wonderment and bafflement. Even Lord Celeborn looked as if someone had slapped a smelly wet fish across his face. It was obvious that his wife had forgotten to mention this to him. "Are you saying that when I died, I was sent to those Halls? In Valinor? That place was my idea of Heaven?"
"It is true my child," Lady Galadriel assured her. "You were there prior to your arrival here."
"I felt so safe there... And it was so warm and soft," Buffy murmured to herself, briefly forgetting about the listening ears of the Elves that surrounded her. She returned to herself and placed a blank mask over her face at the questioning glances she received.
"You were a warrior in your world, Buf-ii?"
At Haldir's softly posed question, Buffy looked at him with a wry smile, forgetting the anger she had felt towards him previously. "I was... Kind of."
"Did you fight fell creatures of your realm?" Lord Celeborn jumped in, eager to learn more about this strange young woman that had been chosen by the Valar to reside in the forgotten Halls of Valhalla.
Buffy laughed humourlessly. "I did. I was a Slayer in my world. The Slayer. The one girl chosen in every generation to fight the baddies. I was the Chosen One—I am the Chosen One... But I don't know if that applies here anymore. Would do I do here if I can't slay? There's no evil forces around at the moment." She looked at Lady Galadriel and saw that the Elven Queen knew exactly what she was talking about. She must have been informed by the mysterious messenger that had been sent to her, Buffy thought absently.
The Lady's next words confirmed Buffy's theories. "In every generation there is a Chosen One. She alone will stand against the vampires, the demons and the forces of darkness. She is the Slayer... This is your decree, is it not?"
Buffy couldn't pull her eyes away from Lady Galadriel. She made a throaty sound that was meant as a confirmation. At the Lady's steady but shrewd gaze, Buffy began to speak. In return for everything that had been told to her, she reciprocated their gesture by giving edited details about her life as the Slayer. Recounting her past in this way felt mildly disturbing but she knew that she couldn't get away with hiding most of her dark secrets. Of course, she had no intention to divulge any personal information about her love life and other things of that nature, but she informed them about the Demons and Vampires that had plagued her town and world. She described to them how she had managed to save it time and again from the brink of destruction, even going to the lengths of sacrificing herself.
They Elves seemed impressed by her actions but disturbed by the events that had taken place in Buffy's world.
At the end, Lord Celeborn turned to look at his wife in surprise. "You knew exactly what she was?"
Her star-filled eyes shimmered with mirth. "A little bird told me."
It was Lord Celeborn's turn to be amused. "Ah, I see! Your mystery messenger."
"Aye," the Lady chuckled. "But the arrival of Lady Buf-ii is also shrouded in mystery. How can the dead rise again without Ilúvatar's blessing, Lady Buf-ii?" Galadriel already knew the answer, of course. But she wished for Buffy to speak of her plight. Silence was could do more damage to the Slayer's soul than speaking.
The Slayer knew what the female Elf was asking. How could she tell them? How could she let them know that she had been torn from eternal bliss by her selfish friends? The Elves' thoughts on mortals and their petty desires would be confirmed if she told them why she'd been brought back to life. But as Buffy thought this, a suddeen calm washed over her. It was not of her doing but of Lady Galadriel's, though she did not know this. And so, she made her decision to speak. Her voice was hushed with shame as she began, "My friends... My friends from my world did this. They tried to bring me back with magic. Black magic."
"Your friends?" Haldir leaned closer, fascinated by what he heard. She must have had powerful friends if they could bring back the dead. For all his awed countenance, Haldir was appalled by the prospect. It reminded him too much of Sauron; The Necromancer. He had had the power of dark magics at his beck and call in Dol Guldur.
Lady Galadriel interrupted Haldir's thoughts. "But their power was not as great as Manwë's," she told Buffy severely. "I am told that he intercepted at the last moment and managed send your old body and spirit to Middle-earth when this world shifted. If he had not countered the strong spell of the dark magic that invaded Valinor, you would have been returned to your world and there many imbalances would be created; chaos would have ensued."
"But I wasn't," Buffy concluded softly. "I'm here and... I want to go back. I can go back, right?"
There was a moment of suffocating silence that descended upon the room. Buffy looked pleadingly at the powerful Elven Queen sitting across from her. Finally, Lady Galadriel sighed with sorrow. "Your spirit has been returned to your former body, Lady Buf-ii. You cannot return to the Halls of Valhalla but you will once you are given the gift of death again."
"I have to die again to be allowed back into the Halls?"
The Lady nodded as she stood from her seat and walked around the circular table to where Buffy was sitting. She surprised her husband and Haldir by moving to kneel beside Buffy's chair. Once settled, she clasped the Slayer's cheek in her palm and offered a motherly caress. "I know that you fear the life ahead of you. But you should not be bound down by the troubles of your past. And mayhap your future could be fraught with difficulties, but Manwë has offered you a choice."
Buffy frowned slightly. "And what choice is that?"
"He has granted you passage into Valinor, the Undying Lands. If you so choose, you may accompany me to the Grey Havens and we shall sail into the West together, where it is ever-green and beautiful. There in Valinor, you will be allowed live the rest of your life in a peace and comfort that you did not know of before your death and at the end of your life, you will rejoin the Halls in a newly formed body. Or, if it is your wish, you may remain in Middle-earth until your dying day. Once your spirit has fled this body, it will be returned to the Halls of Valhalla and there you shall remain anew."
"But... I thought only Elves were allowed to go to Valinor." Buffy murmured quietly, as she remembered what she had been told about the Undying Lands and the last journey of the Elves.
"It is true," Galadriel said with a hint of laughter, "Very few mortals are granted passage into Aman. You are indeed blessed that Manwë has given you this choice. Only he and Eru know of the life you suffered before joining the Halls of Valhalla. And though you will not become immortal by residing in the Undying Lands, you have shall have laughter, joy and peace before you are returned to the Halls. It is a difficult decision, I do not deny this, but you have ample time to make your choice."
"How long will I have?" Buffy tilted her head as the Lady's hand left her cheek. The area of her cheek where Galadriel's hand had been was warm and tingly.
Returning to her seat, Lady Galadriel answered Buffy's question. "You will have a year before you must choose. Until then, I would be honoured and glad for you to remain in Lothlórien. Or if you wish it, you may travel to the different realms of Middle-earth and acquaint yourself to the history you learnt of this land."
Buffy's head was really beginning to hurt at that moment. How could she make such a decision? From what she heard about Valinor, she would have loved to go with Lady Galadriel and see the beauty of that land. She knew how lucky she was to be allowed to enter that land but... The story about the Ring Bearer and his Quest to save Middle-earth had caught her interest too. Deep within her heart, she wanted to visit all the places she had been told about. She wanted to see Gondor and the King that now sat on its throne. She wanted to travel to Rohan and meet the Horse-lords that had come to the aid of Gondor in it's direst needs. And she wanted to go to Rivendell and meet Elrond and the other Elves, as well as visit the Shire and see the Hobbits. She knew that they were all alive because she'd been told that the War of the Ring had ended only a year before her arrival. But Buffy also understood that all of this would take longer than a year to accomplish.
She was stuck.
A part of her wanted to go to Valinor and be a peace in the beauty of that land, while another part of her wanted to experience the adventure of Middle-earth.
What was she supposed to do? How would she ever choose?
As these thoughts accosted her mind, Buffy froze completely. She looked at the faces of the three Elves that were watching her and she could see their concern plainly. She asked the dreaded question that popped up into her mind. "If I'm here, am I still dead in my world?"
"I believe so," Lord Celeborn surmised.
"Then my friends, my sister; they all think I'm dead?"
"Yes," Galadriel breathed softly. "Your friends believe that they failed in bringing you back."
Buffy blinked heavily and sighed deeply. "I'll never get to see them again for the rest of my life," she whispered. "Dawn..." Her sister's name slipped out sorrowfully past the crevice of her dry and weathered lips.
Haldir rubbed his jaw. "Dawn?"
The Slayer let out the breath she had been holding. "My sister... I had to die to save her."
Once again, Haldir was taken aback by the actions of the small woman beside him. The afternoon and evening had been full of surprises. The legend of Valhalla had been true and it was proven by Lady Galadriel's words. Next to him, a warrior sat that had previously been in those very Halls but was now here in Middle-earth all because her friends wished to return her to the land of the living. If Haldir had not been and Elf and trusted the word of his Lord and Lady, he would not have believed any of the things he heard through the course of the evening.
"You did a noble deed, Lady Buf-ii, do not regret past choices," Celeborn's gentle words pierced through the March Warden's thoughts.
"But I left her on her own," Buffy said somewhat guiltily.
"She is not alone," Lady Galadriel confirmed at length. "When you were in the Halls of Valhalla, you knew she would be well and safe. With your friends. All is as it was and as it should be."
"Do not linger on your past, little one. You cannot go back and so you must look ahead."
Buffy grudgingly accepted the Lady's words. Her brow creased as she thought of something. "Who was the messenger that gave you all this information about me and what happened?"
A teasing, beautiful smile played upon the Elven Queen's lips. "Is it your wish to meet them?"
"I, for one, would like to acquaint myself with this mysterious, faceless messenger," Lord Celeborn exclaimed rambunctiously. The mood of everyone seemed to be lightening up now that Buffy's story had been told and a choice had been given to her.
Sending a sly grin at her husband, Galadriel patted his hand. "I am sure you would, my dear. But the decision lies with Lady Buf-ii. However, let me simply tell you that this messenger is also from the Halls of Valhalla."
They all turned to her then and waited for Buffy's answer.
She shrugged. "Oh what the heck, send 'em in!"
As soon as the words had left Buffy's mouth, Lady Galadriel's eyes shifted to the large doorway of the hall they had sat in for the past few hours. As if on cue, the doors opened and a shadowed figure slowly stepped in. Buffy worried her lower lip as she saw the shadow come nearer to the table. It was rather odd that she couldn't make the form out but she knew the shadow belonged to the figure of a woman. She looked at Haldir and saw the troubled expression on his face that mirrored her own. At least she wasn't the only one who thought they were seeing shadowy thingies walk towards them.
The darkened shadow was only a few feet away now but it was slowly beginning to materialise into a solid form. It was giving Buffy a big case of the wiggins but she thought that if Lady Galadriel trusted this thing, then so could she. A bright flash briefly blinded the quartet sitting at the table. Buffy blinked away the dark spots that danced across her vision before her eyes finally came to rest upon the figure looming above her.
She almost screamed.
But Buffy couldn't speak; she couldn't even move from her seated position. Her bum was rooted to the chair and her tongue felt rough and dry in her mouth as she stared at the figure looking down at her with beautiful big brown eyes and dark honey coloured skin. Swallowing roughly, Buffy managed to find the will to speak. "K-Kendra..?" Her voice was high-pitched and squeaky from the absolute shock of the moment. Feeling slightly embarrassed, she cleared her throat and struggled to her feet. "Wha—How?"
"You know one another?" Haldir exclaimed rather loudly, for he too was overcoming the surprise he felt at seeing the shadow transform into a woman. A beautiful dark-skinned woman that appeared to be neither Elf nor mortal. He had never seen that type of skin colour before in all his long life... He knew that the people of the East possessed such dark skin, but he had never seen a dark-skinned person in the flesh. He did not know why, but he found the dark colouring amazingly beautiful and exotic.
The young, ebony-haired woman smiled chillingly at the Slayer as she ignored the March Warden's outburst, not looking away from her target. "Hello, Buffy..." Kendra's voice was just as accented as it was when she had been... alive. But now, that voice was softer and sweeter than it had ever been before. Her tone reminded Buffy of the Elves' voices.
She let her eyes wander around the figure of her supposedly dead friend and former Slayer. She was wearing a beautiful pale blue sheer gown that clung softly to her feminine, curved body.
Kendra was wearing a dress—an actual feminine dress! If anything, that revelation would have been enough to knock Buffy right off her feet there and then. Her green eyes moved to the other woman's long dark hair spilled around her shoulders and down her back like delicate tufts of clouds as the strands framed her face and... She seemed more beautiful than she had been in Sunnydale, when she'd been alive. "How come you're here?" Buffy managed to ask rather dumbly.
Kendra's smile widened into a smirk. "You don't think you're the only Slayer that's in the Halls of Valhalla, do you?"
"Actually, I did."
The other woman hmphed and folded her arms as she raised a single black brow to the ceiling. "Still the same self-centred Buffy. You were like this when you first came to the Halls. I don't know why I even thought it would be different now."
Buffy scowled fiercely. "I resent that!" She retorted angrily, putting her hands on her hips, "I am not self-centred."
There was a brief moment where neither Slayer spoke. They simply glared at one another, causing the three Elves witnessing the reunion to become wary and worried about the outcome of this meeting. Finally, and fortunately for everyone, both Kendra and Buffy began to laugh softly at the manner of their meeting.
"It's good to see you again," Buffy sighed as she moved to sit down once more.
"I take it you don't remember the short time you spent in the Halls with us?" Kendra mumbled with amusement as she too sat down on the empty chair across from Haldir. Their eyes met only for a moment, but it had been enough.
It had certainly been enough.
Kendra looked away, forcing down the blush that threatened to stain her caramel-toned skin.
"I don't remember much," Buffy admitted, noticing the momentary interaction between Haldir and the dark beauty. She was reminded that Kendra wasn't very confident in front of the fairer sex. Even now, after her death, she was still the same old Kendra. She looked the same, even though she seemed to be more rejuvenated, and she acted the same as before. There was nothing new about the other Slayer, except for the fact that Buffy could feel an indescribable power emanating from Kendra. It rolled off of her in serene waves, soothing her bruised and weary heart.
For Haldir, when their eyes met, he felt as if a jolt had been sent through his entire body for that one brief instant when the mysterious woman named Kendra looked at him with her large brown eyes. A becoming chill swept through him, raging like a fire upon kindling wood, but he fearfully pushed it away. He knew not what devilry was afoot but he would have to be alert. His reaction to the woman's gaze was most unsettling and disturbing.
"I was told that you wouldn't remember much," Kendra said after a short period of silence as she gathered her wits again. "But I'm glad I came." She turned to Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn with a small smile of gratitude. "Thanks for allowing me to stay as long as I have. But I need to return to the Halls, soon."
"And thank you, Kendra, for bringing me the message from Valinor. I know it must have been difficult to venture out of the Halls," Lady Galadriel mused, feeling gratitude for the young woman's swift appearance in Lothlórien. The Elven Queen knew nothing about the power of the warriors that dwelt in the Halls of Valhalla, but she understood that they must possess a certain amount of strength that was mightier than expected.
"It was difficult," Kendra admitted. "But I knew I had to come. If not for Buffy, then for the message that needed to be delivered."
"Can I ask you something?" Four pairs of eyes came to rest on Buffy as she spoke out. She waited for Kendra's consenting nod before relaying her question. "How did you do that mystery shadow thing? If I remember correctly, normal Slayers can't go all black and misty."
The dark-haired former Slayer smirked knowingly. "It's a gift you get given, along with other things."
"Oh... Cool." Buffy's echoing voice lingered in the air for a moment.
The encompassing silence was broken as Kendra rose from her seat, clearly avoiding Haldir's penetrating blue gaze that had constantly been fixed upon her. "Me task is done and now I must return."
"How will you get back?" Buffy asked worriedly. She knew that Valinor and the Halls of Valhalla were far, far away from Middle-earth. She wondered how the dark-skinned woman would return.
Kendra looked at Buffy with a slightly smug smile. "It's me secret."
"Figures that you of all people would say that," Buffy snapped as she and the three Elves also rose from their seats.
Kendra rolled her eyes, "Well, I am what I am."
"Yeah, and what's that? A bitch?" From the confused expressions of the Elves, Buffy knew they didn't have a clue as to what she was saying. She felt a little guilty for swearing in front of the Lady and her husband, but it passed relatively quickly.
Once again, both Slayers dropped their angry demeanours and smiled at one another. "I suppose this is goodbye for now, Buffy," Kendra said somewhat sadly.
Buffy nodded solemnly. She stepped out from behind the rounded table and moved closer to embrace the woman, knowing exactly what the reaction would be.
True to herself, Kendra backed away slightly with feline grace and a glint in her dark eyes. She held her index finger up in warning. "I don't do hugs," she reminded Buffy with a glare.
The Slayer returned the gesture with a smile but it soon faded away into a frown as her arms hung limply by her side. "I'm sorry," she whispered, hoping only she and Kendra could hear. Unfortunately for Buffy, the Elves could hear every single word clearly and were listening with interest at the private conversation.
"For what?" Kendra asked blankly.
"I'm sorry I couldn't stop her."
Kendra's eyes widened fractionally as realisation dawned brightly within their dark depths. She knew that Buffy was talking about Drusilla. "It's all in the past. And I'm happy now. You don't need to worry about me."
"I'm glad," Buffy murmured sadly.
"So am I... But, me wish is to see you again soon, Buffy." The dark-haired woman nodded once at the Elves. Then, just as before, she began to fade away into a shadow once more.
Buffy let out a long, deep sigh. "Me too." She stared at the empty space Kendra had just occupied. A hand upon her shoulder made her turn to face the Lady. "I'm tired," she admitted softly to the tall Elven woman.
Buffy wasn't just fatigued from the long evening and afternoon she had spent learning about the history of Arda. She was tired of living; tired of breathing. If she could have chosen, she would have gone to Halls of Valhalla with Kendra at that very moment instead of waiting for another death to come upon her. She would've really liked to return to the peace and rest Kendra had waiting for her in the Halls of Valhalla. She knew that Kendra had been sent as a messenger to reassure Buffy that this, everything she was experiencing, was certainly all real. Valinor, the Valar, the Halls of Valhalla; it was all real. And the choice that had been laid upon her loomed in the distance. She only had a year to decide if she wanted to move on to Valinor or remain in Middle-earth. How was she ever going to decide that?
Lady Galadriel saw the deeply rooted weariness in Buffy's eyes and smiled reassuringly. "Haldir will escort you to your appointed guest talan and Silivwen will show you the way. You will need a permanent residence for the remaining year if you decide to stay in Lothlórien, but that will all be arranged in due course."
The Slayer nodded wearily, feeling too drained to form an answer. She barely registered the new presence of another Elven woman as she entered the Lord and Lady's Hall, hardly noticing that Haldir was bowing to Celeborn and Galadriel in farewell. Through the haze of her thoughts, Buffy didn't even think that she had the strength to fight off the March Warden as he took her by the arm in a gentlemanly fashion and led her out of the Hall. Her footsteps felt heavy against the wooden floor as the Elf woman named Silivwen led them out of the tree-house before going down and around a countless number of steps. Unknowingly, she leaned heavily against Haldir's supporting arm, though he did not seem to mind at all.
Buffy didn't even remember how or when they had reached the guest tree-house, or even how she had fallen face first into the wonderfully soft bed, but she had. And the peaceful slumber that embraced her like the silk sheets around her body, felt glorious.
Added Notes: Regarding the Halls of Valhalla; a bit far-fetched but workable, no? I haven't seen this idea around before, so hopefully it's original. Let me know what you think of it and what you think Buffy's decision should be.