This story was co written, as you see by Julie and I, our first go at writing together. I was off work and probably on too much medication, lol, from a hysterectomy, so the dream this came from was very vivid. Julie is the one who polished it, and together we added much of the story to make it what it is now, from the dream from which it began. It is an older story, but still one of my favorites. I decided to post it here, although it's been on Julie's site for ages, so those who might not have read it.

fianna

Author(s): Fianna and Julie

Disclaimer: The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of J R R Tolkien, the Tolkien Estate and Tolkien Enterprises. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Warnings: none

Haldir Pairing: Haldir and Female OC

Summary: Haldir travels to the White City for Aragorn's wedding, still suffering from his injuries at the battle at Helm's Deep. Keara is a healer, uncertain of her skills since the loss of her daughter. Can she do what the elves could not?

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Chapter One: Beginnings

Perhaps my story starts the day I first set eyes upon the King. I watched him make his way through the steep, crowded streets of the White City, the cheers rebounding off the walls and buildings, the banners flapping briskly in the wind high above. Aragorn-or Elessar as he was now called-rode slowly, his eyes warm and kind as he gazed upon his people, greeting them with nods and smiles, and here and there a jest. He was a handsome, broad-shouldered man with strong arms and a controlled but pleasant manner that won him much respect. The heavy tapestry of his tunic fit snugly over his chest, and his well-shaped hands gripped those that reached for him with firmness.

As he drew near to me, I stepped back into the crowd, watching as he moved slowly past me and beyond. I had been in the city for only a short time, but since the moment of my arrival I had felt a strong urge to seek him out, though I could not fathom the reason why. It troubled me, this urge, for I knew not what to make of it. Now was certainly not the time, yet something told me it must be soon.

The crowd dispersed and I turned away, descending through the sloping streets of the city, avoiding the throngs of people who gathered to discuss daily business and the passage of their King. It was the happiest time in the memory of living men. Buildings were being repaired, the shadows and darkness of war swept away as the city renewed itself. Long lines of people waited for entry into the city, drawn from their war-torn homes to seek a new life in Minas Tirith.

As for myself, I knew not why I had come, only that I had been drawn to the city and was drawn to the King as well. I hurried down the main street, following the curving path as it descended through the various levels and gates of the city. I reached the outer wall of the second level and paused to look downward at the final gate, viewing the lines of weary travelers waiting patiently to be admitted.

I was about to turn and walk away when I heard a commotion from among the new arrivals. A woman struggled to reach the King, her plaintive cries shrill enough to attract his attention as he sat astride his horse, gazing out at the plains. The king's guards blocked her way, but Aragorn waved them away and dismounted, walking over to catch the woman as she sagged, weeping and distraught, at his feet.

From where I stood, I could not hear her words or his answer, but his concern was clearly visible in the early morning sunlight. She pointed back toward the caravan of wagons, and he gestured to his guards to bring forth what she asked. Unable to contain my curiosity, I went through the gate and walked along to stand within a short distance of the woman. A moment later, the guards returned with a litter bearing a small girl, her face slack and pallid with some illness or disease. My heart sank as the sobbing women begged the King to help her daughter. Aragorn crouched beside the girl, his healing powers well known, but I knew instinctively this was something he could not heal.

My own precious daughter had lain in just such a way. Unable to help her, I had watched, aching with grief, as she wasted away until death finally took her. Even now, my eyes watered with suppressed grief and self- hatred. I was a healer, yet I had been unable to save my own child! What more I could have done I did not know, nor even whether I still possessed the power to heal. But something drew me to this woman and her child, something relentless and powerful, as if I was dragged there by some force unseen.

I saw Aragorn frown and shake his head, his eyes filled with sorrow as the woman wept. Without thinking, I pushed my way between the people, catching the eye of the King as he glanced up. He gazed at me for a moment, taking in my shabby clothes and my unusual almond-shaped eyes.

"I can heal her," I said, before I realized what I said. The shock and self-doubt came an instant later when the words had already been spoken.

I saw the way the King assessed me for a moment before he nodded his approval. "Go ahead," he said in a low voice. "Perhaps you will succeed where I can only fail."

The girl's mother stared at me, her eyes wide with fear and desperation as I moved forward and knelt beside her daughter. With gentle hands, Aragorn pulled the woman away, his faith in me greater than my own faith in myself. How dared I make this claim? This child would be the first I attempted to heal since my daughter's death.

Tears welled in my eyes, stinging them as I leaned over this poor child, my dark, waist-length hair shielding my expression from the King. Sending prayers to the Valar, I placed a hand on the young girl's forehead, my eyes closing as I felt the cool clamminess of her skin. Suddenly, I could feel her pulse beating in time with my own, and my heart leaped with the knowledge that perhaps this time I might be successful. Remembering my prayers as my own child lay beneath my hands, I dared not hope too much, yet already I was feeling the first, faint invasion of her pain into my body.

Again, I thought of my own child. So gladly would I have taken on her pain! So fervently had I wished to save her that I had been willing to give up my own life for hers. But still she had died. It seemed the Gods had not deigned to hear my pleas. Too late. I must have prayed too late.

Yet the ways of the Valar were strange, for this time it seemed my prayers were heard. I shuddered as this child's illness crept into me, nearly retching as the pain and sickness crawled into my body like a living, malignant force. Terrible, it was terrible, like nothing I had ever experienced before with any other healing. I do not know how long it lasted, but I knew when it was over. I opened my eyes, my vision swimming as I removed my hand from the child's brow.

I tried to stand and fell back to my knees, and at once felt Aragorn's strong arm reach down to brace me. Look, he said. Turn and look what you have done. I could not refuse. Slowly, I turned back to see a pair of green eyes blinking up at me, the bloom of health already restored to her childish cheeks. My eyes widened with shock, then I touched my temple as the dizziness assailed me.

Weeping with joy, the woman clasped her daughter to her bosom while Aragorn assisted me to my feet. I staggered, and the woman stared at me, not understanding the toll her daughter's healing had taken upon my strength. Yet somehow I knew that Aragorn understood, and as I nodded to her, he pulled me away from the gawking crowd.

"Come," he said quietly. "You need to rest."

His words were distant, almost muted, for I was feeling very faint. Stubbornly, I tried to shake off the weakness that permeated my body, and he urged me down upon a nearby bench. Gasping, I bent my head over my knees as the pain gripped my stomach and my head swam with nausea. When I was able to drink, he gave me water from a nearby well, and although I only took a sip, it helped enough so that I was able to understand the questions he was asking.

"How do you heal?" he asked in an urgent tone. "Where did you get this gift?"

I shook my head, unable to answer. "A gift from the Valar," I replied, knowing it would not be enough for him. "I have had it all my life. I know not why or how it works, nor can I promise that it will work." I did not tell him that I had never healed sickness of this strength before, nor felt the pain that I was feeling now. Something had changed.

Aragorn's gaze stayed steady upon my face. "Your skill equals the magic of the elves," he said so softly that I could barely hear. He studied me, his face still and thoughtful, watching as I leaned against the white stone of the wall. I shook my head, slightly amused by his statement. To equal the skill of the elves would indeed be a strong magic. As the thought took hold, I raised a shaky hand to cover my eyes. Could he be right? Had my healing ability increased? And if so, how could it be? And why?

He proceeded to offer me a place in his court, but I refused. I struggled to my feet, unable to bear his penetrating gaze any longer though the weakness brought a disturbing tremble to my knees. At this moment my sole wish was to seek my bed and sleep. Forcing a smile, I thanked the King once more for his kindness and fled his presence, but as I slipped into the crowd I could feel his eyes on my back.

Ill and nauseated, I stumbled through the streets until at last I reached the back alley where I took shelter, by now so weak I had to crawl the last few steps on my hands and knees. I collapsed upon my tiny bed, shivering until at last I fell into a dark slumber that lasted for a day.

I awoke in the darkness of early morning, the bedclothes wet with perspiration, but my mind was clear and my body recovered. I rose, shaking with hunger, and searched for the remnants of the prior day's repast. The food was old and stale, but I ate it anyway, then smoothed the wrinkles from my dress. The gray wool had seen many days and had grown tattered during my long journey on foot to Minas Tirith, but it was all I had.

I walked out into the silent city, making my way to the walls just as the first rays of the sun lit the horizon, the red streaks of dawn glowing over what was left of the darkness of Mordor. Leaning against the chill of the white stone, I sat and thought of the young girl, wondering if she was truly well. I leaned on my hands, breathing in the cool morning air, feeling the damp mists dissipate as the sun began to warm the stones. I could hear the flap of the banners in the strong east wind, and the sounds of the guards echoing faintly on the walls below. Slowly, the city came alive as its people woke to start their day.

I had just decided to take my leave when a small hand tugged on my skirt, jerking it slightly to attract my attention. I turned around to find the small girl in front of me, her cheeks still blushed with good health and her green eyes twinkling in the morning sun. She smiled shyly, and I saw her mother standing a few feet away.

As I met the woman's gaze, she came forward and caught my hand, but instinctively I tried to pull away, uncomfortable with her gratitude. Grief for my own child still lay heavily on my heart, yet as my eyes began to sting, the girl took hold of my hand and pulled me down to her level. With the innocence of the very young, she smiled and wiped away the single tear that rolled down my cheek. Then she hugged me, and I felt strangely comforted as her small arms tightened about my neck.

She said her name was Gwinnyth, and I smiled because it fit her well. The little sprite's grin warmed my heart, lessening my grief with her sweetness. Her mother begged to give me something in payment for the healing and though I refused, she pressed a small basket into my hands. Still hesitating, I looked inside to see fresh bread and fruit. Such things were still hard to find, and I frowned and tried to return it, but the woman shook her head and returned to her stall, which I now saw that I had passed unknowingly in my quest to see the sunrise.

The child sat by my side while I nibbled on the fruit, both of us watching the sun cast the White City aglow in all its splendor. Her quiet chatter soothed me. For months I had been lost in grief, but now I wondered if perhaps I had begun to find my way again. Could I heal once more? Would my success continue? I did not know, but I found comfort in the small hand tucked into mine.

* * *
I found myself drawn to those who were sick, the part of the city that housed them nearly becoming my home. Of Aragorn I saw little, but his regard for me was known, and I was often led to those he could not heal. Since his skills were great, I often wondered how he failed to prevail, but the evils of war and Sauron still held many in its grip. I knew the King's thoughts were elsewhere as the days flew by, for he watched over the plain as frequently as I did, though for a different reason. I knew he waited for her, the one he loved, and my heart was touched by his devotion and strength of spirit, which did not lessen with the passing of the days and weeks. He knew she would come, and his eyes were often fixed upon the far- off place where she would first appear.

He spoke to me rarely, but I was honored to know that he still thought of me. I knew this was so because each time I completed a healing, I would find someone waiting to assist me back to my room. Aragorn knew of the weakness that overcame me, and made sure that if necessary I would be carried through the streets to my bed.

As people continued to stream into the city, rumors trickled in. She was coming, but from afar, and though the time must have passed slowly for the King, each day his eyes were bright with joy. Today he sat astride his horse, his guard waiting patiently while the King gazed over the plains to the hills far in the distance. Some of his friends from the war had already arrived, a dwarf and several hobbits, but on this day one more arrived. I saw Aragorn's posture change at the approach of a lone horseman. The King seemed excited, and I looked more closely to observe the newcomer, whose waist-length blond hair flowed behind him as he thundered over the plain.

Soon he arrived, his leap from the horse telling me he was an elf even before I saw his ears. He greeted Aragorn, his feet hardly seeming to touch the ground as he unabashedly hugged the King. They laughed and turned, and I stared in awe at the beauty of this elven creature, the first of his kind that I had ever seen.

They walked through the gates, the King and the elf, their conversation quiet as they made their way into the city. I turn and watched as they went past, studying the elf as he moved gracefully beside the King. Braided in the back, his pale hair hung over his quiver, and I noticed that his long, curved bow and the ivory handles of his knives nearly blended with its color. To my surprise, he must have sensed my gaze, for his head turned suddenly in my direction. I looked away, but not before the striking blue eyes met mine and he smiled.

When I dared to look again, they had passed beyond my sight, and I sighed and moved back into the crowd, knowing that at some point the King would mention my name. My desire to remain unnoticed was quickly becoming impossible, which often made it hard to find the solitude I needed to ponder what was happening to me. Oddly, I felt like I was waiting for something. More and more often I found myself on the walls of the city, watching, always watching. But for what or whom?

The elf found me there one day. Still weak from a recent healing, I was thrown into his grasp when I was knocked over by some children pressing their way through the crowd. His strong hands steadied me and set me upright, his blue eyes curious as they rested on my face. He must have seen my pallor, for he frowned and wrapped an arm around me, and lead me to a bench.

He spoke to me softly, his voice a low murmur in my ear. He told me that his name was Legolas and that he had heard about me and my skills. He also spoke of his admiration for what I did and of his concern for my health. I sat, listening in wonder, amazed that someone like him would care about my welfare.

He helped me to my home and when I turned at the door, I saw that he still studied me. He was tall, forcing me to look up at him as he spoke again of his worry on my behalf. He spoke with conviction, but despite this I continued with the healing work I felt called to do. I had often been told that I was stubborn, and I suppose Legolas found me so, but he did not reproach me. When I was well enough, I went to the walls, and I often found him near, offering companionship should I wish it. I still did not know for what or whom I waited, but I did not speak of this to him, and he did not seem to mind.

At last the day I waited for arrived, although I did not know it then. It was cold and gray, the clouds hovering overhead, threatening to wash the city with moisture. I hugged my shawl around my shoulders and gazed out over the dreary plain, the wind whipping my hair about my face and in my eyes. Just lately, my melancholy had returned, my thoughts dark as I dwelled upon memories of my child and her death.

On this day I felt strangely compelled to go farther than I had ever gone before, and I found myself slowly climbing the hill, following the wagons that made their way into the higher sections of the city. I knew not where I placed my feet and was surprised to find myself at the gate of the High Court, staring in awe at the Fountain at the base of the White Tower of Ecthelion. The guards eyed me curiously, unsure whether to allow me entrance as, without thinking, I took a small step forward. Then, from some location unseen, the elf appeared, and the guards drew back as Legolas took my hand and led me into the courtyard.

Even here, in this splendid setting, I was drawn to the walls, the height here providing me with a much grander view than from below. The clouds were clearing, and just as the sun revealed its face, Legolas pointed toward the distant hills, perceiving something I could not. I laughed, reminding him that I could not see as far as he could, then a moment later, excited shouts behind us told me what I should have guessed.

She drew near. I turned back to the wall and leaned forward as Legolas spoke quietly to me, relating more about Arwen Evenstar and her beauty and how she was to wed Aragorn. She comes with her kin, he explained, and I smiled at the joy I knew Aragorn must feel. The elf also smiled, and told me of the celebration that would ensue.

I leaned over the wall, trying vainly to see what he described while I imagined the splendor of what was to come. He left my side for a moment, and I gazed out over the plain, now seeing the movement upon the horizon as it became gradually visible to my human eyes. I turned, startled, as Legolas came back and touched my elbow.

"Come," he said. "We will ride together."

He had brought a magnificent white stallion with him, which we rode through the streets to the lowest gate of the city. Once there, I gave him my thanks, then slipped off the horse, ignoring his slight frown. I knew not why I was unwilling to be near him when the elves arrived, but I slipped into the crowd and hurried to my favorite perch on the wall. The crowd gathered around me as I watched the slow approach of the procession, the shadows lengthening as the day progressed. By early evening it had halted, the long line of elves brightening the plain with their glow.

Aragorn had long watched them from his seat astride his horse, but he now leaped to the ground and strode through the city gates to greet the two elves who led the procession. Their likeness in features named them twins, and they greeted Aragorn as one they knew well. Behind them rode two tall elves, one blond, the other dark and brooding. Aragon nodded in greeting, and their faces softened as they looked upon him.

Behind them rode more dark-haired elves, their features elegant and smooth, but Aragorn passed them by as he headed for another pair. Torches were lit, but seemed unnecessary as Aragorn strode quickly to a regal elven couple on two white horses. His bow to them spoke of vast admiration and respect, and I strained my eyes to see them better. He lifted the elven woman from her mount, smiling as she kissed him on both cheeks. The male elf also dismounted, and greeted Aragorn with seeming fondness.

Aragorn spoke with them for a moment, then the elven woman turned to point behind her. I stared in wonder at these elves as they glided closer to where I stood. These two seemed to electrify the air, and I tensed as the elven woman turned in my direction, filled with the oddest feeling that she was looking straight at me.

She was very beautiful, with hip-length silvery hair, and though I could not see her eyes, I knew they would be blue and that they would bore right into me. For a long moment, those eyes seemed locked on me, then she turned as the elven lord spoke to her, his gaze moving over the walls. I had stepped back, but now I moved forward once more, my gaze drawn to where Aragorn walked slowly beside a tall, solidly-built elf with long, silver blond hair. My breath caught in my throat as I stared, mesmerized by this magnificent creature.

I had thought Legolas handsome, but this elf stole my breath away. It startled me to realize he walked stiffly for one of his kind, and my mind grew troubled as I realized why this must be so. Aragorn slid an arm under the elf's elbow as he faltered slightly, the frustration on his face evident even from where I stood. The whispers around me caught my attention, revealing the name of this elf.

Haldir, March Warden of Lothlórien.

It was a name I had lately heard often as the rumors of the elves' approach swept the city. Many had wondered if he would attend, the word of his great injury in battle strong upon their lips. Perhaps men would have prevailed in the recent war of the ring, but the elves' arrival at the battle of Helm's Deep had certainly assured it. The great elven leader, Haldir, had been severely wounded, and only recently had Aragorn discovered he still lived.

I turned back to the plain, looking frantically for the injured elf, and saw that he and Aragorn had parted, and that Aragorn had reached the end of the procession and now stood before the last two elves. One of these, a dark-haired elven lord of noble bearing, sat tall in the saddle of his horse and carried a long scepter in his hand. Beside him, upon a small gray palfrey, sat a beautiful elven maiden.

I knew at once she must be Aragorn's love, for even from here I could see the way they smiled upon each other. Yet the formalities were observed; the elven lord dismounted, bowed slightly to Aragorn, and handed him the scepter. He then assisted his daughter from her mount and officially placed the hand of Arwen Evenstar into the hand of Aragorn.

As the King led his bride-to-be toward the gates of the White City, I searched again for the injured elf, Haldir. I found him finally, and watched the way he leaned against another who resembled him enough to be his brother. On his other side, there was another elf, perhaps a second brother, who also reached to steady him. My chest felt strangely tight as I saw the way Haldir forced himself to straighten, pushing away the hands that offered assistance despite his obvious pain. His striking features were set and stiff, hinting at the depth of a suffering I could only imagine.

Then the three elves moved from my sight, and I spun around to lean my back against the wall, my heart beating wildly, my emotions in a turmoil. The image of the proud and injured elf, his waist-length blond hair gleaming in the light of the torches, seemed irrevocably burned into my brain. Without knowing why, I felt my time of waiting was over. What did it mean?

* * *

That very night Aragorn wedded the beautiful elf who had long held his heart. Seeing them afterward as they rode through the streets to mingle with their people, I leaned wistfully against the cool stones of a nearby wall, silently wishing them happiness and praying they would have it. The King slowly made his way along the torch-lit streets, his eyes taking turns between his new wife's face and the cheering crowds of his people. I smiled as he caught sight of me, then saw the way his smile faded and his eyes held mine.

At once I knew why.

I began to turn away, only to see that he had dismounted and was pushing his way through the crowd while the elf who was his wife stared at me oddly. I braced myself as he came up to me, knowing what he would say, what he would ask.

"You saw him," Aragorn said to me, his voice low and urgent.

I nodded mutely. There was no need to ask of whom he spoke.

He looked at me, taking in my stricken expression. "Can you help him? Even months after the battle, he still suffers great pain. Elven magic has been unable to fully heal him."

"So I saw," I whispered, my lips dry with dread.

He gazed at me for a long moment. "Will you try to help him?" he asked again, knowing full well the cost to me. "If you do not, he will live forever with this pain."

Haldir was not sick, but injured, I told him, and his injury was grave. I feared to try, for I knew not if my skill would counteract what the elves had already done. What if I made him worse? I knew my face was pale as I spoke, for in truth my longing to heal the elf had already passed the boundaries of all reason. Along with that longing, however, had come a resurgence of my doubts.

Aragorn stared at me, looking as though he meant to argue.

Before he could do so, I turned and fled, knowing I needed more time to think this over. So many had I healed, but I had never touched an elf. Dare I risk it? How could I live with myself if I did not agree to try? And what would happen if I did?