Author’s Note: An anonymous revier left me a negative review. I encourage you all to read it, because it has some interesting points. My sole gripe is this: if you’re going to tell me I suck, at least have the courage and decency to leave your contact information so I can email you. I take my writing seriously, and would have liked to discuss your complaints in an effort to improve the problems you see in my work.
Without, Part 7
The next week passed in a state of tension for Corinne. She and Haldir couldn’t seem to remain in the same area without either arguing or trying to take each other’s clothes off, and Galadriel had given them a strongly-worded scolding about the need to keep from consummating their relationship, so she had moved into Tatharë’s talan. The elleth was quiet, but sweet, and Corinne found her to be an excellent companion. A definite improvement over the roommate-from-hell she’d had her junior year, that was for sure. Not once did Tatharë bring Rúmil home in the middle of the night, dead drunk, and screw him noisily until the sun came up. For which Corinne was endlessly grateful.
Orophin had taken over his brother’s post on the Eastern marches and Haldir was spending all of his free moments on the training field, running drills on his forces until they were begging for mercy. Even after he’d dismissed them, he could be found late into the evening, sending arrow after arrow thudding into dead-centre of the targets, or hacking a practice dummy to smithereens with his deadly twin knives.
Corinne spent her days closeted with Celeborn, trying to stuff as much as she could into her head of the history of Arda. She was almost to the point where she could hold a simple conversation in Sindarin, and toyed with the idea of insisting everyone around her speak only that musical language to her so she could immerse herself in it.
Unless, of course, Haldir was shouting at her. It was at those times that she found Sindarin more annoying than musical, and took to shouting back at him in a conglomeration of French, German, Russian, and Arabic. She spoke none of those with anything approaching fluency, but knew just enough to express a sense of outrage, and it never failed to shut him up for at least a few minutes. Needless to say, tensions were running high.
The fact that they seemed to be able to read each other’s minds on occasion wasn’t helping, either.
There was no real rhyme or reason to it, Corinne noted one lazy afternoon whilst in Celeborn’s study, slouched on his squashy divan with an enormous book spread open over her lap. The Silver Lord was scribing away in his elaborate calligraphy, some lengthy and impossibly elegant missive to his son-in-law Elrond, blissfully unaware of the direction of his student’s thoughts.
Right now, for example. She knew Haldir was tugging with growing impatience at an arrow that he’d embedded in the target. It was refusing to come free, and his ire was rising. She could also tell he was slightly hungry, a little thirsty, but not too tired for all that he’d been shooting for several hours by that point. Just the opposite—there was an edgy, jangling aspect to his mood that spurred him to yank viciously on the arrow, finally removing it, and stride back to where he would stand to shoot again. And again.
Well she understood ‘edgy’ and ‘jangling’—they had been her constant companions in the past week or so, after all. With loads of sexual tension worked up between them and no way to release it, it was no wonder. She idly considered if she should try to hook up with another elf and see if it was just a general sort of horniness, but then dismissed the idea, because she had no doubt whatsoever that Haldir would either kill her, or the hapless elf she seduced, or both of them. It just wasn’t worth it.
The ache in her belly hadn’t diminished either, and was starting to affect her sleep and appetite—she hadn’t eaten normally in about four days and already her jeans were getting a little loose. She didn’t mind losing sleep so much, though. It just meant more time she could study. Celeborn had given her permission to use his study any time she wished, and now that she was more familiar with Caras Galadhon, more nights than not found her crouched beside a single candle, her finger tracing the increasingly-familiar lines of Tengwar script. Submerging herself in learning was the only thing that could take her mind off her physical discomfort.
She sighed. Galadriel had informed them that their friend, Dagnir, was going to come to Lórien to help with their situation. Corinne wondered what this Dagnir would be able to do, and asked Celeborn as much.
He looked up from his letter, silver-gilt hair just brushing the desktop (the ends becoming inky from the still-wet letters on the parchment) and frowned in thought. “We should have told you about her as soon as we met you,” he began apologetically. “Dagnir is… very much like you.”
“A grad student from New York who was sent to another dimension by a magic talisman?” Corinne asked, smirking.
“From California, actually,” Celeborn told her, making her smirk melt away like ice in the sun. “Not a… grad student, and it wasn’t a talisman. But she is a very powerful woman. The Valar sent her here to repair a mistake of cosmic importance, and fulfill her destiny.” He smiled when she just continued to gape at him. “There is… one more thing you should know about her.”
Recovering, Corinne blinked. “What’s that?”
“Although she is very happily married to the mate of her soul, she and Haldir were lovers for over a decade,” Celeborn said calmly. “Even now, they are very close friends, and fiercely protective of each other. If she thinks you are trying to hurt him in any way… it will not end well.”
Corinne was filled with great unease. “She sounds… formidable.”
“She is,” he agreed, sitting back in his chair and eying her speculatively. “Entirely.”
She had the impression that her next words would go far in forming Celeborn’s opinion of her. “I’ll just have to show her that I don’t mean harm to anyone, especially not Haldir. I only want to make him happy.” A pang lodged in her chest at the thought of him, a pang of regret for all their arguing, and she wished with all her might that he were with her at that moment. A slight buzzing from her pocket made her start. “What the--?”
Corinne almost put her hand in her pocket to explore the mystery, but then remembered what happened the last time she did. “Shit!” she yelled, leaping to her feet and beginning to unbutton her jeans. “Shit!”
Alarmed, Celeborn jumped up as well and rounded the desk, watching with great trepidation as she began to wrench her jeans off. “Please do not,” he said earnestly.
“No, no, no!” Corinne exclaimed. “It’s the cartouche! Didn’t I give it to Galadriel to take care of?” Toeing off her shoes, she yanked the jeans off her feet and stood before him clad only in one of her father’s ancient Oxford shirts, the tails of which went past mid-thigh.
“I thought you had, yes,” Celeborn mused as she grabbed the jeans by the hems and shook them vigourously. With a thunk, the cartouche fell out of the pocket to land on the floor. It was glowing brightly, the energy pulsing from it as red as blood.
“Don’t touch it!” she screeched when he bent to pick it up, grabbing his arm with hers and jerking it back. “Don’t ever touch it!” Her grip on his arm changed from pushing to pulling, trying to steady herself as a double-wave of dizziness and nausea overcame her. “I feel awful.” And she fainted.
Celeborn swept her into his arms before she could touch the floor and began to carry her toward the healer, calling for Galadriel as he did. She ran from her glade, wiping her hands on a cloth, making him wonder irrelevantly what she’d been doing to require hand-wiping, before dismissing the thought. “She is ill. Where is Haldir?”
“I will fetch him,” Galadriel promised, and turned away, but there was no need—their march-warden was running up the path, bow still in his hand as if forgotten when he had bolted from the archery range, which is exactly what he had done. At the sight of Corinne lying limply in Celeborn’s arms, he paled and put on a burst of speed, skidding to a halt when he reached them. Celeborn willingly transferred his burden to Haldir’s arms, retrieving the bow he dropped to the ground.
“Doll-nîn,” he murmured, resting his cheek against her forehead and beginning to walk quickly toward the healer. “What has happened? And why are her trousers missing?”
But Celeborn didn’t get a chance to relate the happenings of the past few minutes, because Corinne woke up, yawning and stretching as best she could while being held in someone’s arms. “Haldir,” she murmured, nuzzling against his throat. “Mmm. Smell good. Love you.”
Haldir swallowed visibly and closed his eyes. Her sleepy words and warm, soft, half-clad body in his arms were making him lightheaded with desire and before he really knew what he was doing, he began to stride as fast as he could without actually running toward his own talan.
Celeborn and Galadriel caught up with him easily, however. “You must not do this,” she told him, and there was a thread of warning in her voice that managed to cut through the haze of lust in Haldir’s brain. Struggling to control himself, he relinquished Corinne to Celeborn once more, who carried her away from Haldir’s home toward Tatharë’s.
“My deepest regrets, Lady,” Haldir said at last. “I… am not myself lately.” Humiliation vied with residual lust and frustration within him, and the vague queasiness that filled him whenever Corinne was apart from him returned with a vengeance. “I am not well.” He sat down hard on the ground and buried his face in his hands as vertigo threatened to overwhelm him. “I am undone, I am undone.”
The last thing he remembered seeing was Galadriel’s face, pinched and white, as she bent to him and then all went dark.
“I must go to him!” Corinne gasped, lurching up from her bed in Tatharë’s talan. “He’s sick, he needs me!”
Celeborn and Tatharë looked alarmed at this revelation, and at his nod, Tatharë departed on swift feet to see what had happened to Haldir. “Rest, Corinne,” Celeborn commanded, grasping her arms and lowering her back onto the bed. “Galadriel and Tatharë will tend him; you can do nothing.”
“He needs me, he needs me,” Corinne moaned over and over, struggling against him. “Please, let me go to him.”
“You cannot,” he told her, starting to become alarmed. Her panic was lending her strength, and he was beginning to lose control of the situation. “He is being cared for.”
“He needs me!” she exclaimed, fighting him with desperation, and wiggled out of his grip. She had made it to the door before he tackled her. “Ooof,” Corinne said on a rough exhale as the elf’s body slammed down on top of her, pinning her to the floor. “Celeborn, get off me!”
“What is this?” asked a voice. Both Corinne and Celeborn looked up to find Rúmil standing there looking impossibly amused. “Does Tatharë know you are using her home as a place for your illicit assignations?”
“Quiet yourself,” Celeborn hissed at the younger elf, somehow managing to scramble to his feet whilst still looking very elegant indeed and continuing to manacle Corinne’s wrist with his hand, hauling her up. She tried to peel his fingers off, but to no avail.
“He needs me,” she keened over and over. “Why won’t you let me go to him?”
Rúmil frowned. “What is this?” he repeated, but this time his tone was deadly serious. “Is aught wrong with my brother?”
“I do not know,” Celeborn gritted out, dragging Corinne away from the door and sitting on a chair, plunking her in his lap and wrapping his arms around her waist so he could hold onto her squirming body more securely. “Much has happened this day. Dagnir and Legolas should arrive soon. Ride out to meet them, and hurry them to Caras Galadhon.”
“It will be done,” Rúmil assured him, and left after a last look at Corinne, who now slumped against Celeborn’s wide chest, weeping pitifully.
Legolas gazed speculatively at his wife. She rode with her usual ease, body moving seamlessly with that of the horse, reins held comfortably in one hand, the other resting on her thigh. To the casual observer, she was simply enjoying a beautiful late-spring day’s travel. To him, however, the tension in the upright line of her back was as obvious as if she wore a sign reading, “I am upset!”
He knew she worried about Haldir. More than simply being her lover for over a decade, he had been her first friend in Middle-Earth, had fought by her side throughout the War of the Ring just a year ago, had comforted her when he, Legolas, had hurt her shamefully. Haldir was her pillar of strength and voice of reason, and ever did he delight in flirting shamelessly with Buffy, knowing how it … displeased Legolas.
Ever since communicating with Galadriel, Buffy had been withdrawn but also… eager, in a way. She had told him that a woman had arrived in Arda from her world, and was causing trouble with her Haldir. She tried to hide her enthusiasm to meet someone from her own homeland, but Legolas knew her too well. Even though she had resigned and acclimated herself to living in Middle-Earth, ever would she remember with fondness the amenities of her old life.
She turned and flashed a smile at him, that smile that never failed to make his love for her well up in him. Reaching out, he plucked her off her mount and positioned her before him on his own, wrapping his arms tightly around her slight form as she sighed happily. Her horse was left to follow of its own accord, which it did willingly.
A year they had been wed, and much had occurred since. They had founded what Buffy would insist upon calling an ‘elf commune’: Sérevinya, or 'New Place of Rest' in Common, and now had over two score of his kind living there. Minas Ithil was nearing the end of its lengthy renovation, much to the delight of its rulers, Buffy’s sister, Dawn and her husband Boromir; and Gimli’s supervision of the rebuilding of Minas Tirith was nearly complete as well. True to Eowyn’s prediction before Dawn’s wedding she and Faramir were expecting their first child before next spring, and Elessar and Arwen were simply enjoying being together as he pulled together the remnants of the great kingdoms of Gondor and Arnor.
They crossed the Limlight, and the mellyrn of Lothlórien were a dark line on the distant horizon. Already, the air seemed fresher, less dry than that of the Wold that they had just left. A speck in the distance caught his notice, and he peered closely at it. Not long did it take him to ascertain it was an elf, riding at great speed toward them.
Buffy lifted her face from where she’d snuggled against his shoulder and gazed northwards. “It’s Rúmil,” she muttered, sitting up straight. “For him to be riding like that toward us…” she paled a bit, and hopped lightly to the ground, grabbing the reins of her horse and leaping into the saddle, for she did not ride bareback in the elven way. Glancing at her husband, she saw he was as ready as she, and spurred her mount to a gallop.
Within an hour they and Rúmil had met. “You came alone?” he demanded, only slightly breathless from his own wild ride. “Do not let Haldir know; he is…”
“It was quicker,” Buffy replied. “Haldir’s what?”
Rúmil shut his eyes, so like his brother’s, a long moment. When he opened them, they flared with pain and worry. “He was unconscious when I left Caras Galadhon,” he said at last. “And Celeborn has had to restrain Corinne, she is frantic with worry for Haldir.”
Buffy squared her shoulders. “Let’s go.”
Legolas was about to ask if she should rest; they had been traveling since dawn and it was now nearing dusk, but decided from the glint in his wife’s eyes that it would be an unwise question.
They travelled hard, all that night. Buffy’s sole concession to fatigue was to sleep in Legolas’ arms while they rode. She woke when they reached the edge of Lórien and couldn’t ride with any speed through the trees. Legolas was very glad to be able to see the splendor of the forest without hindrance of blindfold, as had been his misfortune on his first entrance to this place. Just as he recalled, the trees were immense and magnificent, but there was something diminished about them, perceptible only to an elf’s gaze.
His thoughts must have shown on his face, for Rúmil nodded. “Ever since the Ring was unmade, the power of the other rings has lessened. Galadriel’s power is not what it was, and the Golden Wood is slightly less… golden now.”
Legolas murmured something noncommittal and continued to trudge along the path, allowing himself to feel a moment’s fear at the uncertainty of the future. For his entire existence, all two thousand plus years of it, certain things had been facts: his birthplace, Mirkwood, was nearly overrun with orcs and spiders; caution was a way of life; darkness hovered over the land, and it was only through the three elves who wielded the rings of power that it was kept at bay at all.
Though it was true that the darkness had been weakened, still it was not gone entirely. If the rings held their power no longer, how vulnerable were the lands of Arda? What foothold could be gained by evil, now that the protectors of Middle-Earth were handicapped in their task? This new issue of Haldir and a woman who, unlike Buffy, had no Valar-sponsored destiny, caused great anxiety to be born within Legolas.
But he would not burden her with his misgivings; not yet. Her beloved face was strained with concern for her friend, and he would not add to her worries with his own until this newest problem had been hurdled. Taking her hand, he gave it a reassuring squeeze and lifted it to his lips for a brief kiss. Her smile at him, briefly erasing her expression of unease, reassured him that even were there evil coming, it would not succeed. Not if he and Buffy were there to prevent it.