~AUTHOR'S NOTE~ This is more or less the prologue of my story. There is one quote from The Fellowship of the Ring, which I cited as Tolkien's own work, not mine.

~DISCLAIMER~ The only characters I own are Raélowen, Calíme, and Emeriel along with one or two others to be introduced later. Everyone and everything else belongs to J.R.R. Tolkien.

I am called Raélowen. It is not my birth name, of course, for only Elves can bear an Elvish name at birth. I am human.

I live with the Elves of the forest of Lothlórien. We live under the rule of an elven Lord and Lady: Celeborn and Galadriel. They are said to be almost as old as Middle Earth itself. The Elves have raised me my whole life, regarding me with much curiosity, for many of them had never been near a human before, much less lived with one.

Our city, called only Lórien, sits in the high mallorn-trees of Lothlórien. Platforms (called talans by the Elves but flets by most others) nestled in the strong branches are what support our buildings, holding Lórien high above the ground. We travel from dwelling to dwelling and to the ground via elegant spiraling staircases that wind around the towering mallorn-trees. Some stairways even lead up to talans near the tops of the trees that look down over fair Lórien.

The flowers and leaves of the mallorn-trees are deeply golden in color and blanket Lórien with their sunlit hue through the year. Mallorn-trees are naturally of silver bark and thus create a forest of silver and gold, making Lothlórien like no other forest known in all of Middle Earth.

Here in Lórien, we speak Westron, or Common Speech most of the time. There are two other languages spoken in the city as well, but not nearly as often: Sindarin and Quenya, both forms of Elvish. Sindarin is used mostly for conversation and is generally easier to speak than Quenya. On the other hand, Quenya was the original ancient form of Elvish. Now it is primarily a ceremonial language, used for important occasions or in poetry and song. However, Elves are known to slip into Quenya at moments of high emotion or sorrow. Personally, I study Quenya and choose to speak it rather than Sindarin. Most Elves have a racial knowledge of Quenya, more so than Sindarin, making it easy for me to learn from those I live with.

The name "Raélowen" was given to me when I was very young. In one of the many border skirmishes, Lórien's western border guards, led by an elf called Haldir, defeated a goblin hoard descending from the Misty Mountains. The goblins had developed a taste for young humans and had taken me from my village before burning it. I was only an infant and the guards brought me here to Lórien after the goblins had all been killed. That was almost 20 years ago and I have lived with the Elves ever since.

I believe I am the only one who keeps track of time here. Elves are ageless and immortal, and care little for how long they have been alive. A very brave and valiant elf once said (of Elves and time), "For the Elves the world moves, and it moves both very swift and very slow. Swift, because they themselves change little, and all else fleets by: it is a grief to them. Slow, because they do not count the running years, not for themselves. The passing seasons are but ripples ever repeated in the long long stream. * " I can see this evident even in me: I have grown and changed much in the 20 years I have been here in Lórien. But the Elves all look the same as they always have. You can see differences between "younger" Elves, for their eyes look younger. Other than that, they all look the same age, forever.

As for my own appearance, I, well, look human. That, of course, makes sense, but it can be hard when trying to fir it with Elves. My ears are rounded, but usually I am able to hide them with my hair. Elves all wear their hair long and occasionally braided. I wear mine the same, except mine is brown and every elf that I've ever seen has blonde hair. My eyes are not elven blue, but brown. Having such drastic and noticeable differences certainly does not help me to "blend."

Lady Galadriel is supposedly one of the most powerful Elves in all of Middle Earth. She bears Nenya, one of the three "lost" Elven Rings of Power. However, they are lost only to those who would use them for evil and are kept in great secret. Nenya enables the Lady to foresee things and gives her a greater awareness of the world outside of Lórien.

She has also been very protective of me my whole life. This may be due to her knowledge of the evils outside Lórien and the entire forest of Lothlórien, but I believe that she knows more about my future than I can tell.

Two female Elves, Emeriel and Calíme, are my close (and really only) friends. It is nearly impossible to tell how old they are, but I think they are "young" Elves. They stick up for me and take my human limitations in stride. And for that, I am forever grateful.

Living with the Elves has heightened my senses, out of necessity for elven life. My eyes and ears, while not nearly as sharp as an elf's, are much better (I have been told) than an average human's.

However, one elven trait that I cannot acquire is their connection to everything around them, the Heavens especially. The star called Earendil's Star or simply Earendil is most revered by all Elves, for in legend, Earendil was a great elven hero. He wed a human woman, and their sons became great leaders of both Elves and Men. That is one reason I love his legend so much. I can relate to the mixing of human and Elvish culture. When Earendil was gone, he retired to the sky, his silmaril or elf-stone shining down as a star upon Middle Earth. I love the legend and the star, even though I do not feel connected to it as do true Elves. Regardless of my spiritual estrangement from the land and Heavens, the Elves have taught me to love natural beauty and simplicity.

Yes, living in an Elvish land has shaped my life and changed me forever.

In more ways than one.

* Page 404-405 of The Fellowship of the Ring