Name: Unexpected Meetings

Author: Sigma

Rating: K and very mild.

Disclaimer: Neither Buffy the Vampire Slayer or the any character from Lord of the rings belongs to me. I own nothing!!!

Unexpected Meetings

It was the singing that alerted him. A high, sweet, distinctly feminine voice singing in a language that he knew not, but one that interspersed liquid vowels with the occasional burst of some much harsher clipped language that seemed all the more foreign for the sweet tone they were sung in. The rock he had been set to watch from had been warm and sun blessed and he had allowed himself to drowse all unaware in the summer heat, but now he scrambled to alert, flustered by his lack of attention and irritated that anyone, even a singing woman had been able to get close to his post without him noticing.

The sound was coming from the South and when he shaded his eyes with his hand he could see her, a small blond figure on a great grey horse that to his amazement seemed to be dancing along with the music of her voice. The horse's unpredictable curvetting and prancing did not seem to bother her at all, despite the fact that the breadth of muscles on croup and shoulder made it clear to his eyes that her mount was a full grown stallion, but rather seemed to be causing that thread of amusement in the music she was making and he had a sudden burst of admiration at her skill, to sit a great stallion so easily and unfearing and be so in tune with her beast that not even its unpredictable antics could disturb her. Not even Leod, Lord of the Eotheod was so in tune with his beast.

But no matter how sweet her voice or how skilful her seat on her horse she was still a stranger approaching the land of his people and it was his duty and his honour to challenge her.

The rocks were harsh underfoot and the ground uneven and it took him longer than he had planned to reach the small canyon where he had meant to wait for her to reach him. By the time he had scrambled down she was almost upon him and rather than surprise her he had the dubious honour of her gravely stopping her mount and nodding to him as he scrambled down the last few feet of scree in front of her.

For a second they merely regarded each other, she with a glint of amusement in calm green eyes, he with an increasing sense of puzzlement. Who was this woman? She, a seemingly young girl who had the golden hair and pale skin of his people, did not wear decent skirts, or even the divided riding skirts some of his kinswomen wore when necessary but rather was clad in soft, grey, formfitting leathers, leggings and tunic, like any border guard with bright silver chain mail over the top, her feet bare from the ankle down, although he could see the top of boots peeking from the edge of one saddlebag. Her cloak poured across the haunches of her mount in a scarlet wave, obviously discarded due to the warmth of the day and on her saddle was mounted a quiver and on the other side what was obviously a unstrung bow. A great knife lay strapped to one thigh and over her shoulder he could see the outline of the pommel of a sword.

These things in themselves were contradictory to all he knew of women and it went against the grain of common decency that a young woman so fair should be so garbed and unaccompanied, but even more disturbing to his understanding of things was the complete lack of any ornament, bridle or rein on the head of the great stallion that she rode, a magnificent animal that was watching him with what he could have also sworn was amusement, amusement that was matched by the laughter in the eyes of his rider.

She was a puzzle and a confusion and he had need to ascertain her true intention ere he could allow her to cross into the lands that Leod ruled. She was so foreign in dress and appearance that he doubted he spoke the tongue of the Eotheod so he spoke in the Common tongue to her.

"Woman, what business have you in the lands of the Eotheod? I am border guard for this pass and I bid you answer."

She looked down at him from the lofty height of her horse and her green eyes sparkled with mirth, but when she answered her tone was suitably serious and courteous and she nodded her head to him in acknowledgment.

"I travel from the house of my kin in Rivendell to the house of my kin in Lothlorien. I had not taken this way in some time, and there is little urgency in my errand so I decided to travel by this route. But, if my crossing offends you or your kin, I can journey hence by another way."

Even in the common tongue her voice had a foreign intonation, a lilt that was unfamiliar to his ears and he wondered where she had come from to make such a well known tongue exotic. But then her words registered to him and he looked up at her sharply.

"You journey to the halls of Lorien? Are you of the firstborn then?"

She smiled at him then and it was like the sun coming up over mountains, dazzling on snow, and some small part of him reeled as if she had thrust a spear through his middle.

"No, "as she tucked her hair back to reveal one small, but rounded ear. "I am not of their blood. But they are as kin to me and there was a wishing on me to see again the Golden Woods."

"So you are known then to the immortal Lady? The one that they call the Golden Witch?"

Abruptly her eyes narrowed and hardened, and her voice took on a tone of underlying steel.

"Those who know not of what they speak of would do well to not speak at all. The Lady Galadriel is amongst the highest of all the beings left on this Middle Earth on this side of the sea and she is no witch, but rather a server of the light of the highest order, as well as one I am honoured to call my friend. I would advise you to keep a civil tongue on her name."

He stiffened and then straightened, taking in the sudden tensing of muscles on the slim figure, the hand that twitched to her knife and the sudden readiness in the stance of her great mount. Young he might be, and strange to the idea of a woman with a weapon but he had never been stupid and he bowed shortly in all sincerity in an attempt to defuse the stranger's ire.

"My pardon, my lady, I have never met one who has had speech with the Lady, is all. Her reputation amongst my folk is one of legend and superstition as is all of her kin in Lothlorien, although we have had some trade with the Woodland Folk of Mirkwood. I spoke in haste, without knowledge." He dipped his head in apology.

She seemed to accept his apology, her hardness in her eyes softening and her stance becoming more relaxed. "You speak fair words for one so young. Most of the children of men I have met in this region are ruder and more uncouth, and lack all common courtesy."

He bowed briefly again. "I assure you my lady, my elders made sure I knew the courtesies due to strangers before ere they sent me out to hold as border guard. Indeed the courtesies were instructed to me very firmly before my kin allowed me to act without supervision."

"Ah." Her tone was sympathetic. "I understand that instruction can often be quite firm. You have my sympathies, but if it is any consolation it seems to have had the desired effect."

He winced in memory, the reminder of the heavy buffets on the back of his head when he forgot a greeting or mangled a courtesy still too fresh to have faded in memory.

"Indeed." He commented wryly. "I can only hope that the blows to my skull will have so firmly embedded the knowledge in my brain that it will not ever come out again. I would not suffer such a lessoning twice."

Her face twitched at that, the appropriately polite mask breaking into merriment as she bit her lip in an attempt to keep her laughter in. But when she met his amused gaze, the laughter burst out of her, in a torrent of silver bells and he found himself laughing along with her, all tension forgotten.

After a few minutes they both managed to control themselves again, although an echo of their merriment lingered in the curve of mutual smiles and the amusement that sparkled in green and blue eyes respectively.

"I am glad that I met you, my lady but I must ask, do you have any business with my land or my people other than that of passing through, and do you wish harm on any within our lands?"

She smiled at his renewed seriousness but answered him with appropriate solemnity.

"I wish no one harm that does not do harm to me or to my kin, or to my friends first, and to my knowledge none of those reside within your lands. As to my business, it is only that of any curious traveller, I would travel these lands to see them and the people that reside them, but it is not my ultimate intention and if you turn me away, " she shrugged carelessly, "well there are other lands and other paths that I may take, if I am not welcome here."

He hastened to reassure her, suddenly feeling at once very young and awkward, now that there was no immediate threat.

"No, no my Lady! As long as you are a peaceful traveller you are well come to the lands of the Eotheod!"

Her smile broke out again, warm and merry and it felt like the sun had come up all over again.

"Then it is well done and I thank you for your welcome. I travel down the path of the Anduin, but do you have any advice as to places where I may seek shelter and hospitality?"

He scrambled nearer as she shifted in her saddle, obviously preparing to dismount, ready to catch her as she moved from the saddle as he would any of his kinswomen, to steady them. But she surprised him again, slipping her boots on her feet and then pushing off in a leaping dismount that put shame to any of the horsemen he had trained with, and left her crouching like a cat on the ground before she stood upright.

To his amazement off her great steed she was very small of stature, indeed the top of her golden head came barely up to his shoulder and he gawked down at her, feeling like a young calf, all long limbs and awkwardness. And unfortunately, his mouth, as all too often happened, overrode his brain.

"But, but you are so small!" The moment the words were out of his mouth he would have died a thousand deaths to call them back, especially when she glared at him and muttered something that sounded distinctly aggressive under her breath in that harsh other tongue. Behind her the stallion snorted in a way that almost sounded like human laughter and she reached behind her and up without even looking and tapped it on the muzzle with one hard finger. She looked as if she was about to do the same to him with a much harder finger or perhaps her fist, but then she saw how scarlet his face was and how he was dying of mortification and seemed to take pity on him, her face softening slightly.

"You are young aren't you?"

Trying desperately to regain his composure he straightened and looked down at her as she gazed fearlessly back up at him.

"I have 13 summers. This is the first summer that my Father has permitted me to act with the border guards."

She blinked and her eyes tracked him up and down, the corner of her mouth twitching. "By eru, they breed them tall in your family don't they? And I would say that you still have some growing to do."

"My uncle Eofled stood 19 hands, and my Father is not far behind him. He thinks that I shall at least equal his size."

Her mouth twitched again. "A veritable family of ents indeed." He frowned at her, puzzled and she shook her head. "No matter. Now as to the issue of a place where I may seek shelter, you have a suggestion?"

"Indeed, my Lady. If you will but wait an hour until I am relieved I can take you to my Father's hall where he will be glad to offer you the hospitality of the Eotheod."

She seemed to muse over this for a minute and then nodded. "Indeed that seems like a generous offer and one that I would be glad to accept. But where is your Father's hall and will he not be shocked to see a woman enter it dressed in the garb of a man?"

From the glint in her eye and the quirk of her lips it seemed she guessed what he had earlier been thinking. Conscious of the blood rushing to his face again and damning his easy flushing skin, he bowed politely and shook his head in negation.

"It is not far, my lady, in our principal city of Framsburg, between the rivers of the Langwell and the Greylin. And my Father's hall is open to all without restraint, no matter how...differentially they are dressed or armoured."

Her lips quirked and then that glorious smile broke out again at his attempt at diplomacy and his heart soared at the sight of it.

"Well then, I shall be delighted to accept. So what is your Father's name, young giant, and more to the point - what is yours?"

By the gods, he was blushing again. He had forgotten the most elemental of the courtesies that his Father's man had been so determined to drum into him. Taking a measured step backwards he put on hand on the pommel of his sword and the other on his breast and bowed, straightening to meet her green eyed gaze, which was now sparkling in merriment.

"I greet you in the name of my Father, Leod, Lord of the Eotheod and welcome you to our lands. I offer our hospitality and the promise that none shall offer you insult or injury within our walls. I pledge my honour and the honour of my kin that it shall be so. I, Eorl, son of Leod, grandson of Forleon the Great pledge that it is so."

She inclined her head in acceptance and reached out one small slim hand to him. Startled he took it, feeling the softness of her skin against his rougher fingers, the smoothness against the calluses that he had taken 13 years to build.

"I accept your hospitality, Eorl, son of Leod and swear on my honour that you shall have no reason to regret offering it. To your hearth I bring welcome, to your bread I bring salt and if I break faith with your hospitality may the gods crush me out of life forever."

He bowed again slightly in response, impressed by the seriousness and the strength of the oath she had spoken in response to his invitation. Her hand was still held in his and the warmth of her fingers was distracting even as he straightened. For a second she smiled at him, completely ruining his ability to concentrate and then he started as the thought struck him.

"My lady, I have been remiss. I have not asked you your name."

Her smile broadened. "Well, I have many names. I am known as Ravenne in parts, Lorisse in others, Laureth in the golden wood, and Dagnir amongst the people of Mirkwood. But you, I think..." she paused, her eyes looking up into his face, as though searching his soul for something or somewhat he had no knowledge of, and then her smile widened still further and the clasp of her fingers in his tightened, the promise of unexpected strength strangely apparent even through such a delicate grip.

" can call me Buffy."

File 18.doc \27.7.2007