author: Lucinda

rating: pg13

main characters: Anya, Aragorn

disclaimer; I hold no legal rights to any character, events, or situations from the television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I hold no legal rights to any character, place or concept from Tolkein's Lord of the Rings. No profit is being made.

distribution: Mystifying Dreams, Twisting, Mental Wanderings, anyone else please ask first.

note: uses rumors of season 6 events. Inspired by Jinni's Week 2 Poetry Quote.

"T'was so; But this, all pleasures fancies bee.

If ever any beauty I did see,

Which I desire'd, and got, t'was but a dreame of thee"

-The Good Morrow, John Donne

Anya had shut herself into the little dressing room, her whole body tense and quivering with emotions, and none of them were good. This was supposed to be her wedding day, the day that she would become Anya Harris, Mrs. Xander Harris for the rest of as long as they both lived. She was ready for that, properly dressed in a ceremonially ornate off-white gown sewn with pearls for fertility and lace for beauty, and voluminous enough that she couldn't run away.

Xander had run away. He hadn't shown up for his own wedding.

If he wasn't off dead or dying somewhere, she wanted to kill him. Right before she locked herself in a dark room with a lot of chocolate and tissues. She wasn't quite certain how people were supposed to deal with these feelings - anger, pain, fear, guilt, worry that it was somehow her fault, that she hadn't been enough.

"I'm sorry about all of this, Anyanka." There was a large, warm hand resting on her back suddenly, and a familiar voice as D'Hoffryn tried to offer her a measure of comfort.

She looked at him, her vision blurred by tears and her veil. "He's... Did something kill him?" Realizing that she sounded almost hopeful, Anya tried to amend her question. "Because then there would be a reason why he's not here."

Slowly, he shook his head. "No, he's not dead. Just afraid and hiding somewhere else. You deserve better than this."

"But this is my life now. I'm not a demon anymore, not... What other alternative do I have than this?" She tried to wipe at her face again, feeling more pain surge through her.

Patting her hand, D'Hoffryn pulled the veil from her hair, and for a moment stared awkwardly at the mass of shimmering gauze. "I'm not certain about an alternative to mortality. There might be... I might be able to bring you back to the fold, but... I need to double check with a few rules first. But I can give you an alternative to Sunnydale, to the Hellmouth."

"What alternative? I don't think I could cope long in Arashmahod as a human, there are too many old rivals. And most of the alternate dimensions that I found were... not too healthy." She was curious though. If he said there was an option, then there was one - it just might not be any better than the Hellmouth.

"Anyanka... you underestimate my power." He was smiling now, this smug little grin that said he had a secret. "You always sought to find dimensions that were well suited for suffering and misery. My own explorations... many of them were to recruit promising girls for our circle. I found quite a number of worlds that are... rather different from this one. Some are unwelcoming to humans, others are no more or less so than this world was, when you were mortal the first time."

"So, you could - theoretically - send me to one of these other worlds, a place that wasn't here, wasn't Sunnydale?" She had to admit that the idea sounded tempting. "Isn't there usually some sort of catch to these things?"

Chuckling, he nodded. "Indeed, there's always a catch. If I just frame the sending to be a relatively safe place, I won't be certain where it is until you get there. More than likely, you won't be able to come back here. Not unless you become one of mine again. And every world has its own dangers."

"That doesn't sound too bad, considering. I don't think that I'd really want to come back, not after... not after all of this." She tried to smile at him, uncertain how well it would work. "But would I arrive in a wedding gown, with no money, no transportation, and no weapons?"

"My dear girl, I'm not mad at you. I'm offering to help you." He reached out, touching one carefully styled lock of her hair. "If you go, you'll end up suitably garbed and equipped for wherever you land, and it should be somewhere relatively safe."

For a moment, Anya wondered if that was what she really wanted - to run away from all of this. To never see Xander again, or the Magic Box, or everyone. She looked back at the sleeves of her wedding gown, her beautiful, expensive, wasted wedding gown. How could she stay here after he'd done this to her? "I don't think I want to be here anymore. Not after..."

"Then I can send you to another place. A fresh start." He nodded, as if he'd had his own questions. "Anyanka... I wish you the best of luck in everything."

Looking up, she took a breath, preparing to thank him when everything suddenly spun around her. The air drew in, pressing against her, and everything got dark. She didn't quite pass out, but there was the strangest feeling, as if she was being simultaneously stretched out very thin and squished together all at once.

end part 1.

Gradually, the throbbing in her head subsided, and Anya realized that she could breathe normally again. She wasn't being stretched, or squished, and she wasn't in the wedding corset anymore. Even if it had done amazing things for her breasts. Instead, she was wearing some sort of pants that felt like leather, wrapped boots that went over her knees, some sort of spun shirt and a vest and belt over it. There was a short sword at her waist, and a knife in one boot. Beside her was a pack with a small net containing a wooden cup, a wooden bowl, and a wooden spoon.

"I'm back in the middle ages somehow?" The question slipped out as she sat up, running a hand over her hair. There had been leaves clinging to it, and they fell to the ground with a faint pattering sound.

Anya carefully stood up, lifting the pack after she'd regained her feet. She was in a forest. Nothing but trees as far as she could see... Oh, there was a tiny stream of water. And a man in a cloak headed towards her. Hmmm, a man in a cloak, this could be good or bad, depending on the guy.

There wasn't much point in trying to run away. He'd almost certainly seen her, considering that he was headed right towards her. She didn't know enough about where she was to have anywhere to run to. And there was the chance that if she tried to run, she'd find something dangerous.

"Who are you, and why did you come to this place?" His words were easily understood, though they carried a trace of an accent. Or perhaps it just sounded like an accent because she wasn't from around here? He was watching her carefully, a sword hilt peeking from under his cloak. Clearly, he was ready for trouble, but not trying to start it.

Looking at him, Anya realized that he was actually rather attractive, in a rather rugged and unkempt sort of way. He had the sort of stubble that was almost but not quite long enough to be a beard, and his hair fell just past his shoulders. His clothing showed signs of hard use, and he had a lot of muscle definition under them. And he was giving her this look, one that said he was going to wait until he got an answer.

"I'm Anya." She gave this little smile, the one that Willow had described as 'look at me, I'm entirely human and harmless'. "As for my arrival... it's sort of complicated. And it involved magic."

"Magic." He raised an eyebrow, and looked her over again, as if seeking some answer from the way she was dressed, or how she looked. "You were brought here by magic?"

Slowly, he began to walk around her, his attention focused on the ground and the trees. For a moment, Anya wondered why, until she saw the way that his feet were moving the leaves that covered the ground. The scruffy cloak man was looking for her trail. "There's no foot trail around you. Only... you were on the ground there, and you stood up... But you aren't elven. How did you come to be here? Why this place in particular?"

Anya sighed, and ran her hand over her hair. The elaborate wedding curls were gone, and it was just loose again. "I think it was just a mostly random relatively safe place. Unless..." For a moment, she wondered if perhaps D'Hoffryn might have been less than truthful about the randomness of her destination. Could he have known where she would go? Could he have deliberately sent her to this place? But if he could, why? "I'm not aware of any reason why I would arrive here in particular."

He made a small noise that could have been amusement as he looked at her. "Do you even know where you are, Anya?"

"Besides in a forest?" Anya looked at him, crossing her arms as she reminded herself not to glare. "No. And what should I call you?"

"You may call me Strider, and it may please you to know that I am one of the Rangers." He made an oddly elegant half bow, the movement at once at odds with his clothing and yet perfectly fitting him. "You are less than two days walk from Rivendell, the home of Lord Elrond."

"Right, two days from Rivendell, where Lord Elrond lives. That's nice to know." Anya shrugged the pack onto her shoulders, and smiled at Strider. "So, are we going there? The trees are pretty, but there's not… I'd rather not live in a slightly open spot between a few trees."

"Just like that?" He was giving her an odd look. "You aren't going to try to find a way to go back to… where you were before?"

"No!" Anya looked at him, not quite able to stop from glaring. "There's no reason for me to go back. Not that I can anyhow, I don't… I can't travel between… not like that."

"Hmmm…." It looked as if he wasn't quite certain if she was someone that could be trusted. "I suppose there's no sense in leaving you out here. Follow me, we shall return to Rivendell."

Anya followed, part of her mind wondering what sort of place this 'Rivendell' would be. The name sounded almost familiar, as if he'd heard someone mention it once and not paid any attention. Had he mentioned… yes, he had said Elven. So, she was in a place with elves. Were they nice elves, or vicious, evil nasty elves that would skewer you? Strider was apparently human, so it was pretty obvious that elves weren't the only sentients around, but what else was there? And where were they in relation to where she was, and what did she need to look out for? She was also trying to figure out if she had any magic here, and if and when it would be safe to try to find out. The whole demon thing was something that she figured would be best kept a secret.

End part 2.