Disclaimer: The setting, characters, and languages belong to the Tolkien estate. I make no money from this story.

Silver Wanderer

Chapter 1: Thunder in the Distance

The trees of Lothlorien were whispering to each other, leaning in to mumble of darkness and pain. Evil was coming, it vibrated through the earth and up their roots and the trees were afraid. The forest filled with the chattering and murmuring of branches clacking and young leaves fluttering, shade and light exchanging places in a dizzying dance of green and yellow on the forest floor. Their voices, like the faintest hint of a breeze, spread in all directions, asking,

"Do you feel it?"

"Is it close?"

"Could it really be true?"

Silraen grunted as her hoe impacted a rock. She stooped to pick it up, but froze. She cocked her head, faintly hearing the talk of the trees around her. She glanced up, only to have the trees stop abruptly, the sound replaced with thick silence. Then, the trees moved a bit, with artificial nonchalance, trying to fool her into thinking they kept nothing from her.

"Fine," she grumbled, "Be that way."

She looked at the rock in her hand and then tossed it half-heartedly into the forest. It thumped off of a tree trunk and Silraen smirked with satisfaction. As she went back to hoeing a long trench through the field, two of her workers exchanged a look that said, "Mirkwood elves, always talking to trees. . ."

But, Silraen's brow was still furrowed with concern. It was like that more and more, nature seemed to hum with a nervous foreboding as darkness pressed in on the borders of Lorien. She gouged more viciously at the black earth, but paused as the image of her husband's face flashed before her eyes.

Haldir. Her foul mood that day was little to do with the merciless sun beating down on her or the slow progress made on this field and more to do with Haldir's absence. His patrol should have returned three days ago. Three days and no word.

Sixty years they had been married and it had never really gotten easier to watch him go. But, soldiering was all he knew, it was an inseparable part of him. His recent promotion to high captain had been a source of both pride and anxiety for his quiet wife.

They made quite the odd pair, really; Silraen, the plain fieldworker and Haldir the magnificent captain. Silraen had been born to Silvan parents in Mirkwood. Her father was a wanderer by nature. Even the land of Mirkwood proved too tame for him after a time, and his wife and young son and daughter followed him all over the wildlands. He believed such a life was closer to the old ways of the Nandor, roaming freely across Arda, always exploring and restless. Finally, on the side of some nameless mountain, Arda had claimed him back. A warg had attacked and killed her father, and whatever he had been searching for would remain unfound.

Silraen's mother and two now-grown children went to Lothlorien, where Silraen's grandmother had been born. The city had been too stuffy and confining for her mother and brother, and both had returned to Thranduil's realm. Silraen had stayed, for Haldir, and worked in the fields and the Lady's orchards. She was head fieldworker now, a sort of "Captain of Gardeners" as Haldir put it, and she loved watching the cycle of growth and harvest across the passage of each year.

Seeding fields on a gorgeous spring day brought her strangely little comfort at the moment. For, Haldir's absence caused anxiety not only to Silraen, but also to their three small children. *What a time to start a family,* Silraen thought wryly, *Sauron couldn't have waited until they were grown to rise again?*

She could hear the trees clamoring nervously again at the edge of the field, and sensed a word here and there, snippets of their malcontent.

"Burning. . ."

"Mordor. . ."

"Closing in. . ."

". . .not much longer."

Silraen closed her eyes for a moment and added a quiet plea to the chorus of hushed voices, "Haldir, come home."

* * *

Haldir wearily climbed the spiraling stairs to his home as thick raindrops fell from the leaves above and pelted his face. It was after midnight, and he stepped carefully so as not to wake his wife and children. As he reached their talan and stood facing the door, he took a deep, steadying breath, trying to dispel the grimness that he knew dominated his features. The things he had witnessed while patrolling the borders greatly troubled the captain, but he did not wish to alarm his family.

As Haldir pushed open the door, he stopped short at the sight before him. Silraen was asleep in the ornately carved rocking chair that they had received as a gift when Halnorel was born. In her left arm was the baby, and on her right side lay Taurnan, dozing peacefully. Sitting on the floor with her head on Silraen's knee was Halnorel. Silraen's shining yellow hair was in disarray about her shoulders, the faint red of sunburn coloring her high cheekbones. They all looked so beautiful and tranquil that Haldir's chest tightened, love for them washing through his veins like a cleansing balm. After the long toil of his patrol, seeing his family safe and happy drained the tension from his body.

Silraen's head shot up as she sensed someone enter the room. Her face softened as she saw Haldir standing in the doorway, soaking wet and watching them with a gentle smile. She looked down at the children and back up at him with a shrug. He nearly laughed and went to disentangle her from the three elflings.

Haldir lifted Halnorel, his older daughter, in one arm and his boy Taurnan in the other, their small blond heads resting against his shoulders. He carried them effortlessly to their room and settled each in their bed. As he drew the covers over Halnorel, she awoke.

"Daddy!" she called, her small face alight with joy.

"Shhh. . . honey, you'll wake Taurnan. But, I'm glad to see you too." He hugged the little girl to him and she sloppily kissed his cheek. "Good night, Halnorel," Haldir whispered. Silraen had put their baby daughter, Danuriel, in her crib across the room and Haldir stopped for a moment and brushed his knuckles over her smooth cheek. She was a beautiful child, with a round, chubby face and enormous blue eyes. Even Celeborn admitted she was the most adorable baby ever seen in Lothlorien, outshining even Celebrian, who had been a legendarily beautiful baby. Haldir swept the fine white hair from her forehead and left her to her dreams. He then entered his and Silraen's bedroom, quietly closing the door behind him.

Silraen was looking out the window, vigorously shaking her right arm. "It's raining hard. I will have to check the fields in the morning and see if we need to reseed."

"What are you doing?" Haldir asked, looking pointedly at her arm.

"My arm fell asleep while Taurnan was laying on it."

"Now you know how I feel. You always lay on my right arm and it falls asleep." Haldir joked.

Silraen looked slightly horrified. "Sixty years and you never bothered to tell me? Next time, shove me off of you."

"I don't really mind it," Haldir said with an easy grin.

Silraen laughed and crossed the room, looping her arms around Haldir's waist and resting her cheek on his chest. "Silraen, I'm wet and dirty, you don't want to hug me."

"Yes, I do," she answered simply. Finally, Haldir wrapped his arms around Silraen and held her quietly. He could not remember how many times he had come home in the middle of the night, filthy and tired, and always Silraen welcomed him home with a serene smile and open arms. He knew she feared for him when he was away, but she dealt with those feelings gracefully, and had never once tried to make him feel guilty for leaving her. But, he did feel guilty. Every time.

Reluctantly, Silraen pulled away from Haldir. Her pale blue eyes were stormy as she looked up at him. "The children came in while I was feeding Danuriel and wanted to stay here with me. Even they sense the evil that is descending upon us. It grows nearer every day, can you not feel it?"

Haldir sighed, his normally beautiful face marred with concern. "Yes, I feel it too," He gently released Silraen and crossed the room, beginning to remove his sweaty armor. Without a word, Silraen moved to help him. As she lifted the heavy plates of armor that covered his shoulders, Haldir drew in a quick breath.

"What's wrong?" Silraen asked.

"Nothing," Haldir assured. Silraen was not so easily deterred.

"Let me take a look." As she unbuttoned his shirt, she struggled to keep her features calm. "You were attacked?"

"Yes," Haldir admitted, "By a band of orcs."

Silraen led him to the bed and had him sit near the lantern so she could treat the gash on the back of his shoulder. As her careful hands bandaged his wound, Haldir sighed in resignation. "This was the worst incident yet. There are more orcs than ever prowling the borders and it seems and endless stream of them pour out of Moria each night. I fear even the powers of our Lord and Lady will not be enough to stem this tide. Being Captain of the Guard of Lorien has been an easy job up until now, I have to admit that. But, no longer. We will soon find out if I fail the test of real command."

Silraen's hands stilled in their ministrations. She took Haldir's chin between her fingers and turned his face toward her. She met his eyes steadily as she said, "You are a great warrior and a great leader, Haldir. You will not fail. All of Lorien has faith in you to protect us, why can't you believe it too?"

Haldir smiled sadly, "You are strong, Silraen. I take my strength from you. It is you Lorien should honor."

Silraen snorted, "A sunburned fieldworker? I am not exactly the type they hold feasts to celebrate." She went to the wardrobe and began digging for dry clothes for Haldir.

He frowned at her back, "Why do you say things like that, Silraen? You know that what you do is just as important as what I do."

Silraen just shook her head and returned with a shirt and a pair of pants for him, "You will get chilled if you do not change."

Haldir was too tired to argue. But, he looked up at her for a lingering second, and caught a flash of shame and pain in her eyes. He knew there was nothing he could say to her to convince her of her worth. Dropping the clothes onto the bed, he stood and towered over Silraen for a moment. Then, his face descended on hers and he kissed her fully and slowly. The warmth of his lips on hers was both comforting and thrilling. Her hands rose to the firm muscles of his chest as the kiss deepened.

Silraen reluctantly broke away, knowing that her husband was exhausted. She dropped away from him and busied herself turning back the covers. Haldir looked at the bed and had to admit that sleep beckoned him.

When finally he lay down with Silraen and extinguished the lantern, he heard her whisper, "If I roll over on you arm, just push me off."

Haldir laughed and pulled her to him, "Numb limbs are small price to pay for the privilege of holding you."

Silraen fell into slumber with a smile on her lips. No one else could make her feel as revered as Haldir did.

* * *

Sometime in the deepest part of the night, Haldir and Silraen were woken by soft weeping and a tiny body scrambling between them. Haldir gathered Halnorel close, brushing tears from her frightened face with his thumbs. She was easily the most reserved of their children, and seeing her so upset alarmed him. "Did you have a bad dream, Little One?"

"It-it was like a bad dream, but I was awake. I tried to close my eyes, but even then I could still see." She dissolved into tears again and Haldir cradled her against his chest. "I saw a-a creature with wings. It screamed. And a mallorn was burning and elves were falling. There were ugly, dark creatures on the ground."

Haldir and Silraen shared a look over the child's head, concern darkening both of their faces. Halnorel had had many moments of strange sight in the past year, but none so disturbing as this. Before it had been small things, names and events she couldn't possibly know, dreaming things that would happen the next day. This was much more sinister.

The girl's sobs had quieted, and Silraen and Haldir tucked her securely between them. Silraen took Haldir's hand were it rested on the child's arm. She interlaced her fingers with his. She suddenly felt she needed the comfort of his strong presence as much as Halnorel did.