Chapter One – Entering Lorien.
Lorien was clearly visible now with its friendly trees beckoning to them 'Here you will find refuge, here you will find ease from grief.'
For grief had surely taken possession of their hearts. The loss of Gandalf was a terrible blow that weighed heavily on all of the Fellowship. Each avoided the eyes of the others, each privately re-living the wizard's final moments, wondering if it somehow could have been prevented.
Arlannis looked for her brother. Aragorn had turned back to the aid of the Ring bearer. Frodo seemed at the end of his strength. Gandalf had been the one constant throughout the halfling's odyssey beyond the safe borders of the Shire. Arlannis felt deeply for him, torn away as he was from all that was familiar and with such a heavy duty laid upon him. Boromir had been right on the slopes of Caradhras; it was a strange fate that they suffered so much pain and fear for so small an object.
Legolas gestured to her from the tree line, Arlannis signalled him back and passed the word – the trees were safe and free of Orcs for now. The Fellowship hurried, night was falling, the first night on Middle Earth that Gandalf would not see. Arlannis joined Legolas just inside the first ring of trees.
'We will not go un-noticed for long,' he said.
Arlannis just nodded in reply. She knew only too well how quickly the Lorien elves would react to their border being breached. She scanned the swaying branches above them, they seemed to stare back at her.
Legolas took her arm and Arlannis started and grasped the hilt of her blade, expecting an attack from the forest but Legolas only watched her face steadily.
'What is it?' she asked slightly unnerved by his expression.
'It is you, Arlannis,' he answered, 'we have reached safety here in Lorien, if indeed any land can be considered safe in these dark days, yet you look as if you have stepped into a nest of Orcs.'
He did not release his grip on her arm and Arlannis swallowed nervously. This friend of her brother's could be quite direct for an elf.
'No reason,' she lied, 'it is just the darkness and my heart is grieving for Gandalf. I expected that he would be the one leading us here and now…' she let her voice trail off and lowered her gaze.
Yes, she thought silently as Legolas' stern face relaxed from suspicion to understanding, Gandalf should have led us here, Legolas, he would know the words that would ease this part of the journey for me.
Legolas released her and Arlannis exhaled in relief. Only Gandalf and Aragorn knew why she would rather face a lonely death at the hands of the Moria Orcs that still pursued them, then what awaited her in the blessed land of Lorien.
Gimli lumbered into view trailed by the hobbits that were still uncharacteristically quiet. Gandalf's death had wounded their spirits deeply and even Pippin could not muster a smile for her.
The dwarf was hefting his axe and whispering to himself about the Witch that ruled the forest. His voice was carrying well in the cold night air. Legolas was grimacing to himself at the dwarf's words. Arlannis was watching their path and the trees but stopped dead in her tracks as Gimli nearly impaled himself on an arrow. She followed his frozen gaze and then saw them. The Lorien archers shimmered out of the trees and they were everywhere. The Fellowship was surrounded.
Just as Gimli was trying to choke out a greeting, Arlannis felt her heart shrink within her as the one person that she never wanted to see again stepped into view. She pulled her hood closer over her face and tried to melt into the background. She let her brother go forward to greet Haldir.
From her place between Boromir and Gimli she was free to observe him closely. He was still beautiful. But then it was well known that the grace of the elves never desert them. He had not aged a day in twenty years. He and Aragorn began to converse in the Elven tongue and both Legolas and Arlannis listened carefully.
She focussed on the low urgent tones but was stung from her concentration by a bright flash in her mind. 'I know of your presence, daughter of Elrond,' a pair of bright eyes shone at her, 'you have travelled far since last we met. Do not now trouble to hide your face.' The moment passed and Arlannis gasped and noticed that Legolas was observing her intently.
'You have sensed her,' he stated.
Arlannis pushed the hood away from her face.
'Yes,' she replied and turned to Haldir. The effect was striking.
Haldir stopped in mid sentence to Aragorn, who looked around to see what had caused the interruption. The Lorien elf was staring openly at Arlannis, all elvish composure gone. In a moment that seemed to drag on for an age, he recovered himself enough to state emphatically, 'Whatever about the Ring bearer, that one cannot pass through Lorien. She was banished. Permanently.'
Aragorn's hand slid towards his sword hilt and Legolas took a warning step towards him.
'We need safe passage through Lorien, Haldir,' said Aragorn through gritted teeth, 'the fate of the free peoples of Middle Earth will rise or fall on our fate.'
Haldir's eyes closed briefly as though he conversed inwardly with another.
Reluctantly, he nodded, 'So it would seem, Aragorn, son of Arathorn. Follow me, I will take you to the Lady.'
Both Aragorn and Legolas relaxed as the arrows pointed at them were lowered and the Fellowship made ready to follow Haldir and the other Lorien elves.
The Mirkwood elf turned to Arlannis with an unspoken question in his eyes. She lowered her gaze and followed Aragorn's retreating form, but once again, Legolas stopped her with a hand on her arm. His eyes were bright in the starlight as he whispered; 'I would have the truth from you when I ask for it.'
He dropped his hand and let her proceed. Arlannis fought the urge to return to his side and try to explain.
But he is a Prince of Mirkwood and there is nothing to gain from explanations, she thought dully.
Arlannis trudged after her companions with a weary step and a heart heavy with memories.
* * * * * * * * * *