TITLE: An Unexpected Destiny
Author: Fianna with assistance by Lady Julie
Rating: R for violence, sex (really)
Disclaimer: The world of LotR belongs to J.R.R. Tolkien. I borrow them only for the pleasure it brings.
Note: Remember, elvish (and gaelic) does not have a soft C… Ciren is pronounce (Kear-en) (at least in my mind…heheh… ) like Celeborn, Cirdan… etc etc…
CHAPTER ONE: Rescued – or not
He did not like men, or cities, not even small villages where his heritage was so different, where everyone watched his every movement. Yet, even with all the aspects of his dislike, he enjoyed these journeys, enjoyed the simple things he learned each and every time he ventured out from beneath the golden boughs of Lorién.
Haldir, as emissary to the Lady of Light, Galadriel, princess of the Noldor and ruler beside her husband Celeborn, found traveling the lands of Middle Earth a tiresome, if also intriguing, part of his life.
His command of languages was impeccable.
His reserve toward those not of elvish blood was both ridiculed and respected. Most men did not understand his aloofness, thinking him merely arrogant and superior; they did not see his attitude was more one of self-confidence in just who he was and what he had to do.
Sitting, as he was this evening in the rank smelling, musty confines of an ale house, amid the dirty and sweat reeking bodies around him, he could only smile faintly into the glass of wine the proprietor had kindly offered him, one of few who appreciated his rank and longevity.
But then, Haldir had visited this pub before, and knew the innkeeper well enough to have earned the man's respect, if not for being an elf, then for the money paid without hesitation for the simple extras offered him: the wine, a clean bed in a room to himself, and the news that the man told to his ears only.
A commotion nearby, two tables away, brought up his gaze if not his head, the grey eyes scanning the crowd swiftly, marking the trouble maker easily, amid the shouting surrounding . . . her.
That brought a lift of an elegant brow, a straightening of spine that brought his vision even with hers, a wide-eyed look of panic and frustration as she struggled in the hands of two burly men intent on forcing their lips against hers.
Haldir sighed deeply, setting the fine glass down on the marred table, and rose gracefully to his feet so smoothly the men near him did not even notice.
The woman slapped one man handily, sending him reeling back into the crowd with a gasp of rage. The other glared for a moment at the wench, which gave Haldir the moment he needed, as well as time for a quick glance to the innkeeper who nodded faintly.
"By god, woman, you've got some nerve…" the man snarled, lifting his hand to strike only to find it held firmly in the air by a set of fingers that could have snapped the bones easily.
"Indeed she has," Haldir agreed in a voice too low for many to hear unless they were close, which most were not, recognizing the elf for what he was, powerful- and a warrior not meant to be trifled with.
Haldir met the man's gaze calmly, grey eyes expressionless, aware the woman had shifted to his side, her hands gripping the belt at his waist, but not frightened as much as angry.
"Let me go…"
Haldir allowed his lip to curve faintly, amused. "Touch her further and you will not have use of the hand."
The man scowled, jerking free of the Haldir's grasp with a scornful growl. "You interfere where you are not wanted."
"You push too far, Fen," the woman complained irritably from underneath Haldir's arm where she had burrowed.
He resisted the urge to push her further away, and instead dropped his arm around her shoulders and then to her back, feeling instantly the trembling beneath his hand, proof of the fear she had hidden so well.
Fen hauled his drunken friend from where he was still sprawled on the table. "We were only having fun, meant no harm." The last was spoken roughly to Haldir.
Haldir did not move, nor change his expression, only watched the man drag the other with him outside with a grumbled curse. The crowd around him remained silent, waiting for his next move.
The woman smiled at him, her eyes a peculiar blend of grey and blue, wide and thickly lashed in black. Her mouth was the color of a particular rose he admired in Galadriel's garden, her cheeks flushing as the smile slowly faded.
"I'm sorry, I did not mean for you to be troubled," she said, stepping out from under the protectiveness of his arm, brushing a hand across the flush of her cheeks.
He bowed his head, touching his brow. He had not planned to step in, his mind deploring the interaction, but his feet, and heart perhaps, reacted for once before he thought fully. Too late to retract his generosity, he could only smile faintly. "Nay, no trouble, I was merely moving toward the door."
He lifted the elven bow he'd leaned on the table to his shoulder, his gaze sweeping the room, dismissing the curious gazes that followed him out the door.
The Innkeeper had his horse ready, the white mare well fed and groomed, impatient to be out of the village as much as Haldir was. Haldir took the reins from the man, handing him the coins he required, and began to walk away from the inn when she came bursting out of the door, nearly falling in her haste.
He didn't pause, ignored the plaintive wail with a deep sigh.
"Damn you, wait!" she cried, splashing through the mud behind him when he did finally stop, turning his head to glance over his shoulder.
She had very trim ankles, delicately boned, revealed by the lifted hem of her skirt. She ran up to him, chest heaving, her cheeks still flushed rosily, but now more from anger than anything else.
"You can't just leave!"
He watched her as she stepped around him, blocking his path, hands on her hips. He found her amusing. "Indeed, I must."
She lifted her chin in a stubborn gesture that did nothing to deter him. "You haven't even given me a chance to say thank you."
He shrugged, moving past her, leading the mare.
"You are Haldir." It was not a question.
"Aye." He felt little inclination to further the conversation she seemed determined to have. She did not notice, but stepped into his way again.
"You've been asking questions." It was, again, not a question, but a statement that was true. He had been asking questions. He lifted a brow, silently inquiring what she wanted.
"I know what you seek," she said softly, smugly, arms now folded under her breasts, unaware of how nicely they looked pushed up like that. He put the thought aside with a frown.
"Don't talk much, do you," she continued, watching him closely. She smiled suddenly, impishly, lifting one hand to tap her lips in contemplation. "I've heard about you."
"Indeed," Haldir answered dryly. Most here had at some point.
"And I know you aren't fond of men, or women…" she added softly.
On the contrary, Haldir thought mildly, there were a few men he was fond of, in a platonic way. "I accept your thanks but it was nothing to deter the men so deep in the influence of their ale. Had you not challenged them…"
She blushed, lowering her eyes sheepishly. "I was not challenging them, only trying to make a point."
"By inferring they were not manly enough to garner a kiss from you."
The eyes flared to life, the blue becoming dark grey. "That's not what I meant when I said…"
He interrupted smoothly, disturbed to be suddenly annoyed at the thought of her kissing one of them. "It was how it sounded, and they took it to mean that. You should be far more careful of what you say, as well as where you set your feet, my lady, at night."
She blinked as he brushed past her again, rose petal lips open in astonishment. "What makes you think I am a lady?"
He grimaced without looking back, certain that she was not, after the episode a few moments before.
He heard her stomp a foot, and then the rustle of her dress as she ran up behind him again.
"What else do you know?"
He glanced down at her, studying the narrow face, pointed chin and flaring eyebrows. Even without the pointed ears, he could see the elven blood that flowed in her veins, even if most others could not. They were so blind to the obvious.
"Nothing," he replied, distancing himself from the interest that had flared at the sight of her earlier.
She knew it was not true, her eyes widened as she took a step back. "It's not possible to tell."
"For one not looking, perhaps."
She seemed flustered, blinking rapidly as he left her behind, his questions now answered. Galadriel would be pleased to know, yet would also despair of retrieving the lost soul she thought the girl was.
By elven standards she was hardly out of her teens, a young elleth just past puberty, untrained, untried, and arrogantly believing herself his equal. He knew that simply by her stubborn determination to hold him back, as she caught his sleeve, fingers winding their way into the fabric as he paused once again.
"You won't tell," she demanded of him, her blue-grey eyes fierce suddenly in the moonlight, her mouth a thin line.
"And who should I tell and why?" Haldir shook his head, reaching out to grasp her chin, forcing her still, studying the fine features with interest. "Your father would be most pleased to see you, indeed, he has asked of your mother many times."
The woman closed her eyes, but could not hide the pain that swept into her expression. Her mother, mortal, frail, and the treasured daughter of the local lord had left the elven lover she had taken to her bed. The child from that union hidden until Galadriel had seen her in her mirror, and had sent Haldir to find her.
It had taken years. Nothing much in elvish time, but for the frail mother, years she had little ability to spare, until here he was now, hoping to convince her to release the child into his custody only to find the girl flirting foolishly in a crowd she did not belong in, nearly forced into a display that only made him cold with anger. Too long in the hands of men, the woman would not fit into any elvish society, or so he had intended to explain to Galadriel.
Why he had mentioned her father was beyond him. Perhaps one of the Vala was there, choosing his words, for he had not intended to speak of Elterion at all. The elf had been foolish enough to ply the mortal for her favors, the loss of his child would be a blow he would have to bear. Haldir frowned, releasing the girl suddenly, disarmed by the wide eyes.
She was very good, he thought distractedly, she had learned her trade well.
He dropped his hand, striding past her without another word.
"I do not know of my father," the girl said faintly, her voice tremulous. "My mother refused to speak of him, felt he had betrayed her."
Haldir had to stop, shoulders stiff, chin lifted in irritation. "Betrayed?" he snorted. He turned around to stare hard at the young woman. "She refused to see him, and never told him of you at all."
She stood still, hands clasped on her arms, silent, unable to refute his accusation. "So how did you know?"
He turned to grasp the mare's reins without answering.
"My mother said she couldn't tell him. It was her revenge for leaving her, not to let him know he'd sired a child, even one of tainted blood."
The pain in her voice halted him yet again, forcing him to turn around to face her. She had turned away, the hem of her dressed mired in the mud, shoulders slumped dejectedly.
"I've tried to forget I had a father," she whispered. "My mother lies near death, heartbroken, forlorn, so ill these past years she might as well be dead."
That explained the behavior, the lack of sense.
She glanced at him over her shoulder. "I thank you for stepping in for me. Fen is really quite harmless, he'll not remember in the morning."
"You should not have been there in the first place," Haldir declared sternly.
The young woman smiled in amusement. "One must work to eat, my lord elf. We are not so lucky as to have such ease as the elves seem to have."
He lifted a brow. "You are of the Lord's family; have you no support from them?"
She laughed rudely. "Support a daughter who'd lain with the enemy? A creature not of human blood, no matter how handsome? A woman destined to bear a child of tainted blood. Nay, he cast her out years ago, and refused to remember that she was once his favorite."
All answers he had been given by the inn keeper, but had hardly believed. It made no sense to him.
"Why did she stay?"
"Where were we to go?"
She looked away at the lift of his chin.
"My mother couldn't bear to see him again. And so, since I was very small, we have not spoken of him at all, nor spoke of the fact that as I grow older I still look as if I am little past sixteen."
He hid the smile that disagreed with that assessment.
"And so you ply your trade in the inn."
This time it was her brow that rose as she stared at him curiously. "My trade?"
He lifted a hand, a gesture that pointed out the dress, the plunging neckline, the fit that hugged her slim body. "Your trade." He bared his teeth in a smile she knew was not, and turned away, dismissing her.
The mud hit the back of his head. Haldir gingerly touched the sodden mass that clung to his hair, staring at the dirt on his fingers in both surprise and shock - one that he had not sensed the blow, and two that she had flung it in the first place. He dropped his hand and the reins to his mare, whirling to stalk toward her, aware of her anger, her fear as he drew closer.
She stepped back rapidly, trembling as he caught her arms to shake her roughly. "What manner of foolishness is this?"
He felt a piece of mud drip onto his shoulder and watched her eyes shift to watch it slide further down his sleeve. Her lips twitched even as she trembled in his grasp. He let go, brushing off the offending blob with a growl.
"I was not plying my "trade" as you put it, Master Haldir," she declared stiffly, brushing back a strand of dark hair. "I was there working for the Innkeeper, if you must know."
Her lips were still twitching, her gaze on his hair. He resisted the urge to drag his hand through the mud, staring coolly down at her instead. "Indeed? Why then the familiarity with men such as this Fen?"
The woman snorted. "He is my cousin, and has always tried to take what he deems is his when full of drink. During the day he is the most mild-mannered of men, and one who will be dismayed to know what he has done."
Haldir shook his head, unable to understand the duality of such a person for elves did not become inebriated often by alcohol, nor changed their personalities to such any degree. Nor had the innkeeper mentioned the girl worked for him.
"Forgive my error," Haldir replied coldly. His mind was not changed to the fact she was not suitable at all to return to the elves, her manner was fully human.
She stared at him for a long moment without speaking until he began to turn away.
"Why did you come?"
He debated on his reply, but in the end knew the duty Galadriel had pressed upon him. "I've come looking for you."
He heard her rapid intake of breath, sensed her surprise. But she had known as well that it was true. "I really didn't believe it," she said quietly. "Why?"
He shifted his shoulders, his jaw tight as he answered, if a bit unwillingly, to explain Galadriel's wishes. "To bring you back, of course."
"And my mother?"
They had discussed that in depth, Celeborn, Galadriel and Haldir. Would they allow the mortal woman inside Lorién, would Elterion accept her, want her, or was it too painful for the elf, they who had such long memories, whose pain a hundred years ago was as fresh today as it was then? Elterion had answered them succinctly. Bring them back, he had said, please.
And here he was, yet unwilling to do that very thing.
Perhaps he was wrong, his first impression of her mistaken. In the end, he knew it was not his decision to make. "Elterion wishes her to return."
He heard the woman sigh softly. "I suppose that is my father?"
Haldir nodded, meeting her gaze over his shoulder, finding it both curious and wary. "Aye."
"I suppose, also, that I know only one side of the story, as do you."
That was true, and part of why Galadriel had sent him. "Indeed," he agreed dryly.
"Yet you were leaving," she reminded him suddenly, her voice full of reproach. "Because you thought I was a … a…" She snorted and he heard the rustle of her skirts as she turned, squelching through the mud away from him.
He turned around in surprise. "Where do you go?"
"Home, away from you, away from everything you represent. It is no wonder my mother refused to see my father, if he is anything like you."
Haldir was taken aback. "It was quite obvious to me what you were, or seemed…" he declared, annoyed suddenly that she had rebuffed him.
She didn't answer as she marched away from him.
"We can care for your mother, perhaps heal her ills."
She stopped, trembling, in the shadow of the inn, clearly visible to him in the moonlight.
"And give both the opportunity to explain, and perhaps, repair the pain given to each."
It was all they could offer. Reclusive as a race, they had refrained from interacting with most mortals, finding their short lives almost painful to watch. Elterion's desire for Mirium had shocked many, his pain at her loss nearly his undoing. He had been told she did not wish to see him, which was true it seemed by the girl's story. Elterion's side, however, told to them by Lord Cathier, was completely false.
Elterion had gone to Lord Cathier, requesting the woman's hand. Refused, insulted, and then sent away, Elterion had given up hope of ever seeing Mirium again.
Haldir had thought Elterion had given in too easily for the love he had professed, but the elf was not aggressive at all, nor forceful enough to press his suit. He had simply bowed his way out, and returned to Lorién, a silent wraith of the elf he had once been.
Any attempts to reopen negotiations with the Lord had been adamantly refused.
Had they known the woman had been cast out… Haldir sighed at the thought of the long years of pain felt by both parties. His actions had only added more pain. "Forgive me," he declared softly, touching his brow with a bow of his head. His hair, still caked with drying mud, slid over his shoulder, reminding him of how volatile the girl seemed to be.
"My name is Ciren," she said. "My mother is probably asleep, but we can wake her. The choice is hers to make."
He nodded, shoving the heavy strands back over his shoulder. She waited until he reached her side and then turned to face him, eying the long strands of his hair still stuck to his shoulder. "I'm sorry; I shouldn't have thrown the mud at you."
He arched a brow in agreement, but did not say as much. She smiled faintly, touching the strands of his hair gingerly, unaware of his sudden stiffness at the contact.
"It's quite pretty, a shame to mar such beauty."
"It will wash," he replied, moving away from her curious fingers. Her eyes were far too intriguing, wide with innocence yet not, expressive yet hiding much behind the dark blue-grey depths.
They walked in silence, making their way through the village, unseen for the most part. Reaching her small cottage, Ciren paused, her hand on the door, and looked up at him with a frown. "I cannot say what my mother will do."
"We can only offer our aid, and our deepest regrets."
Ciren nodded and pushed open the door, moving into the darkened room easily. He followed, leaving the mare outside at the post. The cottage was small, hardly more than one tiny room ten paces square, with a loft overhead that seemed hardly tall enough for a dwarf, let alone a human of normal size. A curtain separated a space from the main area and this is where the woman went, sliding behind the partition with a brief glance his way.
Haldir stood patiently waiting, studying the room intently, aware of much of what was left unsaid about their life. The cottage seemed barely livable in his opinion, damp, the fire banked low, with few coals to show it had ever been lively at all. The quarters were cramped, with few possessions to show, only what was needed for daily living, and hardly that at all.
How could they have left the woman in such straits? Yet how could they have known of her misfortune?
Ciren pushed aside the curtain and waved for him to come closer, her expression carefully composed, revealing nothing to offer him any hint of her mother's condition. He ducked under the curtain, aware of the mud in his hair, the tangles in his quiver, the dirt caking the ends of his cloak.
The woman was sitting up against a few pillows, a heavy quilt tucked around her waist, the same grey-blue eyes of her daughter watching him so intently he stopped in surprise. She was far lovelier than Elterion had described, frail to the point of wasting away, yet even with the sparseness of her appearance, she was fair, her eyes so large in her face they nearly broke his heart so filled with pain and hope.
She had not given up it seemed, even this long.
"My lady," Haldir said, bowing deeply with fingers to his brow.
"You give me too much credit, my lord," Mirium whispered hoarsely.
"Nay, I think not," he replied with a faint smile.
"Elterion still lives?"
"Aye, if melancholy most days," he admitted.
Mirium blinked rapidly, looking away. "It has been a long while. I am sure he has forgotten me."
Haldir nearly laughed, but sat instead on the edge of the bed. "Nay, hardly a day goes by that he does not think of you. He sends you this." Haldir pulled a small carefully wrapped parchment from his sleeve.
Ciren watched impassively from near the curtain, arms folded tightly across her chest.
Mirium looked at it for along moment, and then reached for it, her fingers trembling visibly. "Why now suddenly?"
Haldir bowed his head, but his eyes remained fixed with hers. "We did not know of your misfortune, or of the child."
She allowed a sad smile to curve her lips. "Nay, I would not have told you had I been able."
"A pity for the loss to both of you," Haldir chided softly.
Mirium looked down at the letter, smoothing her fingers over the paper nervously. "Why do you come now?"
"I am here to make amends, to allow your daughter to know the blood that runs in her veins. Your father no longer rules your actions."
Mirium shook her head. "Not true, even now he can refuse me leave, my lord."
Haldir smiled faintly. "Then we shall have to leave quietly."
Ciren snorted. "We would not endanger your life, even should you think to take us. It is impossible. Where would we go?"
Haldir looked at the young woman intently. "To Lothlorien of course," he replied evenly.
"Lothlorien," Mirium repeated wistfully. "I have always wanted to see Elterion's home. He spoke of it so lovingly."
"Indeed," Haldir responded. "It is well loved by all elves."
"And populated only by elves," Ciren added. "We would not be welcome."
"Not true," Haldir said smoothly. "As I have said, it is why I am here."
Ciren rolled her eyes in disbelief, but Mirium sighed. "I would love to see him again. Seeing you," she looked up at Haldir with a warm smile. "Seeing you has brought back memories I had thought lost." She laughed softly. "Even so, my fair elf, leaving with me would be quite impossible. I cannot travel, you see." She caught her breath, pressing a hand to her chest. "Indeed, between my father's certain refusal to allow me to leave, and the handicap I would present, you would certainly have some ill befall you and I would not wish that upon you."
"Fairly put, my lady," Haldir agreed with a smile. "But give me a chance to prove otherwise. I will have you free of your father's wrath and upon the path to Lorién before the moon has left the bed of night."
Mirium giggled. "I have not heard such sounds for so long," she sighed. "Can you not hear the beauty of his voice, Ciren? The elves speak so wonderfully, I can hardly bear to hear him speak."
Ciren rolled her eyes again, and then blushed when she realized Haldir was watching. "We have enough here, it is foolish to try to leave, Mother."
"You would deny me my last chance at happiness, daughter?"
Haldir waited for the girl to reply, chin lifted as she glared at him.
"Of course not, but he can't get us out of here without Lord Cathier knowing. We have to pass through the city gates, how will he do that, pray tell?"
Mirium's gaze settled on Haldir. "I remember Elterion speaking of the March Warden of Lothlorien, and seeing you, my lord, I can see his words were spoken truly. If anyone can free me of this dismal life, it will be you. I leave us in your capable hands."
"You give in too easily," Ciren protested, rushing to her mother's side. "You do not know if he speaks truly, and traveling will be far too hard on you! I cannot bear to lose you as well!"
Mirium patted Ciren's hand, and then brushed her fingers along the parchment lying on her lap, as yet still unopened. "My proof is here." She sighed and then carefully opened the letter, the paper trembling more violently as the time passed until she dropped it, falling weeping into Haldir's waiting arms.
He had sat close beside Ciren, well aware of the contents of the letter, of a heart laid open to possible ridicule or forgiveness.
Ciren rose from the bed, hands pressed to her chest, watching as her mother gathered herself, her sniffles muffled in the linen Haldir pressed into her hands.
"I do not like this," Ciren declared stiffly, and then swept outside the curtain to leave Haldir with her mother alone.