Title: The Guardian, The Lady
Author: Jo Slater
Summary: Haldir's oldest son, Onduras, has joined the Galadhrim against his wishes.
Time: Twins are 20, Nethin is 17 – two years after Always.
Annnnnddddd...I'm back! I know, it's been so very long. I hope you all haven't lost hope that this series will be finished. It will be!! Here's the first installment...Enjoy!
The Guardian, The Lady
"No cheating," I muttered, leaning back in my chair as my sister studied the game board intensely.
Ana flashed a glare at me and I smiled, tapping a finger to my head. "And no looking around in here."
"I'd find nothing but cobwebs even if I did," she replied, looking back to the game where my pieces outnumbered hers by almost half. She drummed her finger to her lips, humming to herself. I hated it when she did that.
I closed my eyes, listening to the gardens around us. The water from the fountains was beginning to mist with the night air coming. The bees and butterflies were drifting away for the night, and the birds were nesting.
I forced myself to find each sound without turning my head. I made myself see what I was hearing to the finest detail. And when a breeze passed, I knew every scent it carried and exactly which direction it came from.
"When are you going to tell Ada?"
My twin's voice drew me out of my thoughts and I frowned, opening my eyes. She was still studying the game.
"Tell him what?"
She looked up at me. "That you're planning on joining the Guard soon."
I stared at her.
Ana raised a brow. "You practice for the test every day." She looked down to the game again.
"I do not."
"You were just a moment ago. Don't think I'm a fool, Onduras. I know you better than you think." She finally moved one of her game pieces.
"You were sneaking around in my head again," I grumbled.
She smiled. "You know I wasn't. You don't hide your intentions very well. Ada will notice soon enough. He always does."
I frowned, forcing myself to glare at the game between us rather than at my twin. She leaned back in her chair, crossing her legs casually.
I snatched a piece, moving it to take one of Ana's.
"What do you think he'll say?" she asked.
I shrugged. "No, probably. He still says I'm too young."
My sister smiled at me. "You are no younger than he was when he joined."
"That may be, but you know him."
Ana leaned forward, looking over her pieces in the game. "Well, he won't have much of a say about it soon anyway…We both come of age in a week. You could join Gondor's Calvary if you wanted."
She took a piece, knocking aside one of mine.
"I know." I looked at the board as my sister stood up. I frowned. She had beaten me…again.
"Well, I hope you are a better soldier in battle than you are in this game," she smiled and took her cloak from the back of her chair, "Otherwise I don't think Ada will have to use your age to deny you entry to the Guard."
With her cloak folded over one arm, my sister walked away leaving me to dwell on her words as she so often did.
I stared in the mirror, glaring at the woman I saw there. She was old, not like the young woman she once was.
I would be forty-four soon. I was aging…And I hated that.
Ana's voice startled me and with one last glare at the mirror, I turned and walked through my bedroom toward the hall.
"What is it, Ana?"
I entered her room, pushing open the door.
"Can you help me with this?"
I smiled, finding my daughter draped in the gown she'd chosen for her ceremony the past summer. The green was tailored against the white, and she looked beautiful.
I moved forward, taking the green laces she was having trouble with. Already knowing the familiar pattern, I wove them through the back of her dress with ease.
"A little early to be wearing this, don't you think?" I asked.
She smiled at me in the mirror she stood before. "I just wanted be certain it still fit. It has been a few months."
I laughed at her. "Or maybe it's just because you like to wear it." I looked up to meet her eyes in our reflection. She was smiling at me, blushing slightly.
A tickle in my throat forced me to turn away and cough. I shook my head, frowning as I continued to lace the dress, seeing I'd missed a loop and quickly corrected it.
We both heard the front door open then and with the silence that followed the close of it, we knew it was Haldir.
Ana and I exchanged a look. Haldir had been touchy all week, and I knew why. His children were growing up, and it was hard for him to know he wasn't needed as much as he once was. It was hard for me too. Thinking of Ana, or Onduras, or Nethin leaving our home was difficult.
Haldir walked past Ana's room and for a moment I thought he didn't notice us.
Just when I was about to let out a sigh of relief, he backed up and stopped in the doorway to look at us.
"Ada." Ana plastered a sweet smile on her face and I turned to look at him.
He looked at his daughter a long moment before walking away.
Ana sighed in nothing less than disappointment. "I don't know why he's so upset lately."
I smiled at her. "He just doesn't know how to deal with letting you and your brother go."
Ana gave me a look. "We're not going anywhere, Ama. It's just a silly ceremony."
"It's hard to explain, honey. The role of a parent is difficult…You give everything to your child, and when you give everything to someone and they eventually leave…Well, you find yourself with nothing."
When Ana was quiet, I looked up at her only to find a look of pure sadness on her face. "Is that how you feel?"
"Oh, Ana, don't look at me like that. It's just a way of putting it into words." I smiled at her. "Besides, no matter how much I love you and your brothers, I haven't given you absolutely everything."
She turned, staring at me deeply. I could see magic swirling in her eyes, but I knew better than to wonder if she was wandering in my mind. Ana never betrayed her gifts like that.
"Then who did you give everything to?" she asked.
I glanced out the door. "Your father. And as long as I've given him everything, I'll never end up with nothing."
Ana's face only became more grim. "What about Ada? What will he be left with when you are gone?"
Her words struck me hard and I frowned.
Ana immediately looked down, a gesture of shame from her I saw so very rarely. "I'm sorry, Ama. I didn't mean to say that."
Perhaps she didn't, but the ring of truth in those words left me cold.
I forced a smile, turning her around gently so I could finish with the lacing. And, as I drew each silky belt through the loops I remembered when my girl was just a baby. I smiled to myself.
"I used to tie ribbons just like these in your hair." I looked at her. "You always looked wonderful in green."
She met my gaze almost timidly.
"Your first birthday…" I laughed to myself, looking at the dress again, "I'll remember that for the rest of my life. Everyone thought you were just the most adorable thing." I bowed the laces at the curve of her back. "And you were."
Ana was smiling at me again and I stepped around her to stand eye-to-eye. I lifted a hand, brushing aside a lock of her soft hair.
"You used to have your father read to you every night he was home. And sometimes he was so tired, he tried to skip a page or two." I shook my head with the memory. "But you wouldn't let him. That's not the way it goes, Ada. You skipped a page."
Ana laughed and I laughed with her.
Something fell in the next room and I looked toward the door. I heard Haldir cursing and shook my head.
"Let me go see what he's doing." I tipped my daughter's narrow chin up before walking away.
Entering the bedroom of my husband and I, I frowned. Haldir was hastily cleaning up a mess of broken glass.
"What happened?" I asked.
He looked up at me with a glare. "I knocked your glass over. I wish you'd take those out of here in the mornings." He continued to pick up the broken pieces of the glass I kept on the bedside table at night.
My brows shot up. Haldir's irritated voice only slightly surprised me.
A moment passed before he sighed and stood straight.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to snap."
I gave him a forgiving look and moved to help him. Squatting down, I used the skirt of my dress to dump the broken shards.
"Onduras wants to join the Guard," he told me, carefully dropping the glass pieces in the skirt.
I froze. "Did he say something?"
"Not yet. But, I know he will. This year's testing will be soon. He couldn't have picked a better time." Haldir scowled and shook his head.
"Darling, we've known for years Onduras would join the Guard."
"He's too young."
I paused, looking at my husband. He continued to pick up the last of the glass until I put a hand on his arm. "Haldir, you've hoped for him to join the Guard since he was knee high. What is going on? Why the change?"
He shook his head and after a moment he said, "Attacks on the borders are increasing. More Galadhrim are being injured…and killed." He put the last of the glass on my skirt and I carefully stood, considering his words carefully.
Haldir sighed behind me as I walked to the washroom's basket. "Besides…Vala, Ashk, Galadhrim see horrible things." He looked at me with worry in his eyes. "I don't want our son to see that yet. He's too young!"
Brushing the last of the glass off my skirt, I went back to the bedroom. Haldir was pacing with his arms crossed. He was honestly worried.
I walked to him, placing a hand on his chest to stop him. He looked at me almost reluctantly. "Then talk to him, Haldir. Tell him what you think, and if he decides to join still…We can't do anything about it."
He frowned. "Ashk, don't you understand-"
"Of course I understand. Do you really think I want to see my baby ride off for battle? It's hard enough seeing you go every time."
I turned my head away, avoiding his eyes. I knew he hated it when I told him how much it bothered me when he went to the borders. I pursed my lips and stared at the ground. "I don't want him to join either, Haldir…But we can't choose for him."
My husband's hand came to my face, turning my gaze to his. I tried not to look at him. I didn't want him to see how upset I really was, and I knew in a glance he'd know everything I was thinking.
And, I was right. The moment I met his gaze, his eyes softened that way they did when he wanted to comfort me.
"Just talk to him," I murmured. "Perhaps he'll listen."
Dinner had been unusually quiet for my family. Besides the casual talk of the day, little else was said.
I couldn't help but feel a little guilty for that. I knew my attitude in the last week had affected my family, and not for the better.
I glanced at my youngest son as he stirred his food around on his plate. Ana sat across the table from him, silently waiting to be excused as, beside her, Onduras finished his meal.
My wife had remained quiet after several attempts to talk to all of us.
The discomfort in my own home made me frown.
"Lord Elrond will be attending your ceremony next week with his children," I heard myself say to the twins. "They are on their way as of this morning."
Ana and Onduras glanced at each other then back to me, surprised.
"That's very kind of them," Ana said, her voice as poised and diplomatic as ever. "It's a long travel."
Onduras said nothing.
Ashk sighed, looking at me with a drilling stare.
I forced myself not to grumble as I pushed my chair back. "Onduras, I want to speak with you outside."
My son looked at me and his face paled. He knew exactly what I wanted to talk to him about.
"Ana, Nethin – help me clear the table," Ashk said, standing.
Ana and Onduras exchanged a look before he stood and followed me to the balcony outside the den.
"Is he in trouble?" I heard Nethin whisper.
Ashk replied, "No, dear."
"It's about the Guard, isn't it?" Ana asked, her voice raw with curiosity.
"Would you two stop? Let your father and brother talk about whatever they wish to."
Onduras came to my side on the balcony after he closed the two doors. I could see how tense he was beside me; standing painfully straight, hands fisted and chin angled.
"Do you plan on joining the Guard this month, son?"
He hesitated a brief moment before nodding. "Yes, I do."
"You know I don't agree that you should?"
"Yes, Ada, I do."
I looked at him and waited until he looked at me as well. Our eyes were nearly level with each other now and that only reminded me just how many years had passed since he'd been a boy. He was nearly grown now.
"Being apart of the Galadhrim requires dedication, Onduras. You are a Galadhrim all day, every day…You never return to civilian life as you know it now."
He only stared at me.
"The Guard changes you."
"I'm ready for that change," he replied, his chin lifting and his eyes hardening.
Silence hung between my son and I.
Finally, I spoke again, "Onduras, you are young. Taking rank will strip you of any childhood you still hope for…The things you would see as a Galadhrim would be brutal, and they will haunt you all of your days." I almost wished I could show him what I looked like without the mask of his father. I wish he could see the person I was, scarred and brutalized by war and battle.
But I couldn't. I couldn't show anyone that…Least of all, my children.
I stepped closer, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Don't go rushing into adulthood. Think before you sign your life on that parchment, Onduras. Think hard." I squeezed his shoulder.
I turned to leave him.
"Ada." Onduras's voice was strong, and in it I heard the tone of my failure, "I signed the parchment this afternoon…And even if I hadn't, I would have signed it tomorrow, or the next day, or the next. You know that, Adar. I'm ready for this." There was no hesitation in his voice, nor was there worry. He had made his decision, and I had been too late to stop him.
I looked over my shoulder at him and saw the pure steel in his eyes. The father in me dreaded that, but the March Warden knew that steel would be broken before it was reforged…and that would be painful for us both.
"You signed?" My voice was coarser than I meant it to be, but I went on, "Without my permis—Who let you sign?"
He frowned. "It doesn't matter. I've signed."
I turned to him. "You should have spoken to me firs-"
"Onduras, what were you thinking? Your life will be gone as you know it," I snapped, turning on him and my shadow passed his face.
"I've given it up for good reason. The same reason you did." He shook his head. "Ada, you've wanted me to join the Guard since I was young – don't think I don't know that."
"I wanted you to join when you're ready, not now. Not the week you come of age!"
My son stared at me and I couldn't help but see the disappointment and pure pain in his gaze. He wasn't expecting this from me, but I wasn't expecting him to go behind my back to sign onto the Guard. It was foolish of him. I'd like to think I would have handled this situation differently if he had just spoken to me about it…Perhaps that's foolish of me.
"You're too young, Onduras."
"You were my age-"
"And it was a mistake!" I hadn't intended on shouting, but I was literally at a loss at how else to get through to him. "You make mistakes when you're young, and I made mine. I wasn't ready for what I had to see and it made me into a different person. It took me a long time to cope with that. I don't want to see you do the same."
"I've made my decision."
"You've made a mistake."
"So be it."
I nearly replied to him, but I knew better. My anger was hot inside me and anything I said would be nothing but painful.
I turned away from him.
A moment passed before he took in a deep breath.
"…I had hoped since I was a boy that you would train me for the trials when the time came."
I didn't bother to look at him. And I didn't tell him that I had planned on that as well. I had looked forward to it. "You made your decision on your own, Onduras. You will prepare on your own." Opening the door, I walked inside.
Unable to look at my wife, nor face the questioning stares of my other two children, I walked to the bedroom of my wife and I and closed the door.
- - -
Be on the lookout for the next chapter! Unfortunately I can't give out an estimated day of posting, but it should be pretty soon - less than two weeks.
All my love!