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More caterwauling.


Chapter 3: The Bathing Pool – or – Of Language Idiosyncrasies and Breasts



***

“Liar.”

Haldir was back in the room before the sound of the word vanished in the air. In his hand he held another nightgown and a robe. “I believe My Lady brought this for you.”

Bronwyn’s eyebrows shot up. She had been in the white nightgown for almost three days and she realized that the Lady had said to expect visitors.

That meant Legolas.

She stood up again too fast and almost collapsed. Her hand shot out to grab a steady post and discovered Haldir’s arm. It was rock hard. The feel of his skin jolted her to the soles of her feet. She quickly steadied herself and muttered a not-so-convincing ‘thank you’.

“I need to freshen up. Is that allowed?” She barely reached the middle of his chest, yet rather than be intimidated, she stood ram rod straight and looked him in the eye.

“You are insolent.”

She never missed a beat. “Oh. I was thinking I was a bitch. Must be a step up!”

He tilted his head to one side, seemingly in deep thought. “Nay. Just insolent.” His face was void of emotion. She scowled. She tried yet again.

“Fresh-en Up. Com-pren-de?” She spoke slowly, as if to a child.

“You wish to bathe. And make yourself look nice. For… Le-go-las,” he dead-panned.

She smiled wickedly. “Smart-arse Elf! You wish to play!” She poked him in the chest. “Not today.” She took a deep breath and the room didn’t seem to spin so much. “Where can I freshen up?”

Haldir picked her up and set her on the bed. “You are not ready for the bathing pool yet. I will bring you a pitcher of water. You may change.” He quickly stepped out of the room. She stepped, slowly this time, out of the bed and spread out the lingerie.

That is what it was. Lingerie. A beautiful hand stitched satin gown and robe. How long had it been since she had indulged in something that sinful? It had to be…

Before Duncan. Before Ramsey. Years.

Her head jerked. No! It hurts. I don’t want to remember…

“Mama? Mama see! Quit! Quit! Buh-fly Mama! Buh-fly! Prettee buh-fly!”


She put the heels of her hands quickly to her eyes to stop the tears. It didn’t help. Haldir heard her cry out and stopped in the doorway. He watched her standing over the bed, hands moving from eyes to mouth, in attempt to stifle her sobs. He quietly walked behind her and set the pitcher down. He turned her around and folded her into his safety of his arms. Her arms unclasped and snaked around him, squeezing tightly. In the air, very lightly, he could hear a harp playing. It was not elvish music, but yet it was hauntingly beautiful and sad. He waited until she got control of herself. It seemed to take forever.

“I’m sorry. I appear to have dripped on your tunic.” She was still enfolded in his arms, yet she had managed to step back a little. He smelled of clean air, wood and leaves.

“Do not think of it.” He turned her loose and stepped back. He stepped over to the table and poured water from the pitcher into the bowl.

“That pitcher is full. It was empty.”

“Yes.”

She looked at him strangely. “You poured water from a full vessel.”

“Yes. I filled…” he stopped and looked at her strangely. “…it.” They could both feel the electricity in the air. “What do you know about empty vessels?”

“Nothing. Nothing at all. You fill them up, you empty them out. No big deal.”

He turned back to the bowl and pitcher and picked up a washcloth. “You have many strange words. No big deal.”

“No big deal. It’s nothing. Don’t worry about it. It’s not worth getting upset over.”

“Com-pren-de…”

“Comprehend. Understand.”

“Kay Peach.”

“Capiche. Also, understand.”

“Look like shite.”

She was very quiet for a moment. “What?

He looked up, searching for words. “Look like shite. Yes. That was it.”

“Look like shite.” He nodded. “Look like shite. As in, I look like shite.”

“Exactly”

She inhaled. “Where did you hear that?”

He turned his back to her and dipped a cloth in the water. “What does it mean?”

“It means…” she took a deep breath as he turned around with the cloth and began stroking her neck. “…it means…Stop that!” She snatched the cloth from his hand.

“Stop that?”

“No! It doesn’t mean stop that. I meant for you to stop that! Stop washing me.”

He shrugged elegantly. “My apologies. I suppose you could say it was habit.”

She was furious. He could feel it, so much agitation in such a tiny person. She slapped the cloth down onto the table. “Look like shite.” He dipped his head toward her. “You will tell me what it means.”

She realized she was holding her breath. “Well. There are many ways to use the word ‘shite”, but in that context, it means to look awful.”

He considered that for a moment. “Ah.” He headed towards the living quarters. “I would hurry. I believe I hear the Dwarf coming.”

Bronwyn scurried to the other side of the bed, grabbing up the things that Galadriel left for her. She quickly changed from the white gown to the new one. It appeared to be made of sleek ivory satin and only went to the top of her thighs. Light threaded stitching of flowers in the same color thread radiated through the material. It was straight necked across her collarbone and had no sleeves. The matching robe, with three quarter length wide sleeves, was no longer in length. The color brought out the olive complexion of her skin. She walked back around the bed and picked up the wet cloth that she had jerked from Haldir’s hand. She quickly ran it over her face and neck and found herself wishing for her…

Make-up bag.

The thought was disconcerting. She heard noises and quickly climbed into the oversized bed. She pulled the covers over her legs just in time.

Over the next hour, Hobbits, Men, Elves, and a Dwarf came filing in and out. Pippin and Merry made her laugh with their antics. They were most impressed with the way she had handled her stomach on Orophin’s shoes. Gimli was charmingly brusk and full of good humor. Boromir was courteous, but seemed pre-occupied and saddened. She liked Sam, with his simple ways and quiet talk. Frodo…Frodo she worried for. His heart seemed heavy and he looked tired. Aragorn stood next to her bed, turned the palm of her hand over, and traced the lines.

“There was more to you than meets the eye.” He looked up at her. “I could tell the moment we escaped the mines.”

She smiled without delight. “Was my voice that noticeable?”

He chuckled. “Aye it was. But that wasn’t all of it. I am sorry to leave you in the care of the Elves, for we could use one who uses weapons well, but you will be watched after and whatever destiny awaits you, you will be well served and prepared for it here. ” He kissed her forehead. He lowered his voice to a whisper. “About Haldir…” She closed her eyes in exasperation. “…don’t let him push you around. Stand up to him when he gets arrogant. Become that warrior who stood up to thousands of orcs and spent how many days alone in a tomb. Find your true self, your destined path.”

Legolas was last. Bronwyn tried her hardest not to beam when he came into the room. He slid up on the bed and grabbed both of her hands. “Do you feel better? Your side does not pain you?”

“Nope! Almost as right as rain!” She noticed a quick flash of confusion. “No, no, ” she laughed. “I feel much better. My side does not pain me as that tall one does.” she nodded towards the living area. Legolas smiled, ready to be part of a conspiracy. “Do you wish to be as big a pain to him as he is to you?”

Her grin widened as she leaned close to this beautiful elf. “Yes! Tell me.”

Legolas looked over his shoulder to make sure no one was in the room. “Ignore him.”

She sat up. “Do what? Ignore him?”


Legolas nodded his head. “Do not flirt with him, or anyone. Be courteous and friendly to the others, but hold him at arm’s length.” Bronwyn was confused. Why was Legolas acting like she was trying to capture Haldir’s attention? She shook her head. Their voices had grown faint, soft. They did not see Haldir come to the doorway. He could barely hear their whispers, but he also read much into their body language, the heads close together, their hands clasped like lovers.

“I wish I were going with you. You… and the others.” Their foreheads touched again. “I don’t wish to stay here. At least, with the Fellowship, I would have a purpose.”

Legolas smiled and gently tucked a stray, curling lock of her hair behind one ear. She was enchanted by the gentle touch. “Ah, but with us, your purpose would be trite, short-lived.”

She smiled, gently. “I will miss you all terribly.”

“Ah, then feel bad for me, because I drew the short stick of who will ride in the boat with Gimli! And I think he has fallen in love with Lady Galadriel. If this is the case, I will spend the next few weeks listening to dreadful, dwarfish warbling he calls poetry, inspired by her beauty!” They both laughed. He took her face in both hands. “You are lovely when you smile. Your mind is bright and your wisdom will be unfathomable. You have a wonderful destiny and purpose and happiness, if you would accept it and release your grief to embrace what the Valar want to give you.” He kissed her sweetly on the lips. He tasted of clean snow and white wine. “Lle naa vanima – You are as beautiful in your countenance as you are in body. Do not be grief-stricken for long. You will be loved and beloved by many, if you would just accept who you were and who you will become.” He continued to hold her face in his hands. Haldir, unable to take more, turned from the doorway and strode from the talan to wait outside. They never saw him, never heard him.

Her eyes welled up with spilling tears. “Legolas, who am I?” His thumbs gently rubbed the tears away. Haldir was too far away to hear his answer.

“You are Bronwyn. You are the last Empty Vessel.”

***

Haldir walked with Legolas for a ways before speaking.

“That was a very touching scene, Prince of Mirkwood. She will dream of that kiss for months.” Haldir did not know why it bothered him.

“She is frightened, Haldir. Imagine waking and being somewhere you have never been, all alone, and not knowing who you are. I would imagine it is frightening beyond belief. And yet her memory is right where she could touch it, if only she would reach out her hand for it. What happened to her must have shattered her very soul. You might want to practice that gentle touch of yours.”

“Gentle!” Haldir scoffed. “I simply want to get her well and send her on her way. She can find her destiny and her memories on her own watch. The Lady will not allow me to heal her and is allowing her body and mind to heal in their own time! Had they allowed me or another healer to mend her, she and her cursed knives would be leaving with you now. However, she will instead stay here and pine until you return for her!”

Legolas took a deep breath. “Her destiny is not with us, nor is she for me, mellon. She is destined for another.”

“Well, he or she should come and get her!” They walked quietly for a moment. “Legolas, I know you are sometimes able to see, as the Lady does. Have you looked to see what will be the outcome of this quest?

“No, not this one, my friend. I would not do that. As long as I hold hope, I will fight with all I have to destroy the One Ring. I realize that our people are leaving for the Havens and whatever the outcome, it will not affect us, but I worry for the Men and other folk of Middle Earth. I do not wish to leave them to ruin and can not understand why we do not join with the Races as we did before.” He took a deep breath. “If I thought for one second the quest was for naught, that the forests of Lothlórien and Mirkwood would be destroyed, I would die of grief. And if I am going to die, I would rather die fighting, than grieving.”

Legolas did not tell him, however, that he had seen forward for Bronwyn and saw two decidedly different outcomes. One, if she embraced her past and future, and another, dreadful one if she did not.

And Haldir played a very heavy role in which way she would decide. He looked ahead and said with a straight face, “You know, in a few days, when she is up and about, you might want to take her down to the river where we used to fish. She might like it.”

“I would rather bed the Dwarf!”

***

Bronwyn stood by the window, high in the trees, watching the leaving of the Fellowship. She saw how easy he was with Sam, reassuring him of his passage. Why can’t he treat me that way? she wondered. She saw that Legolas had been given a new bow and he handed his old one to another elf. She watched and strained to see as they rowed down the river, away from Lothlórien, watching any hope she had of joining them, float away.

“Knife-welder.”

Bronwyn turned to the owner of the sultry voice. The elleth was taller than her, slender with silver hair and ice-blue eyes. She was astoundingly beautiful, yet upon a closer inspection, her face was hard.

Like she had spent to many evenings drinking it up in the pub.

“I am Bronwyn. You are?” She let the question hang in the air.

The elleth waved her hand in the air as if to dismiss her. “You will leave Haldir alone. He is mine and you have no chance.” She spoke slowly, as if she had not used the Common Tongue but in study. Her speech was sounded stilted, rehearsed.

“I had no idea I was bothering him. And I have no chance at what? I’m sorry, I did not catch your name.”

“Haldir has been my lover for a thousand years. You are a toy to him and he will tire of your fat breasts quickly. I will not give him up to you.”

“Well, the so-called legendary courtesy of the Elves is not apparent here!” Bronwyn muttered not so quietly. “Exactly, what am I doing to his Tall-ness to annoy you? And I still haven’t caught your name.”

The elleth began an oratory in Elvish that tumbled forth like a rush. Good Lord – I must learn this Elf language if I am going to survive here! But then again, do I really want to understand this bitch? Maybe she and His Altitude-ness belong together! The elleth was going on and on.

“Look, dearie,” Bronwyn interrupted her in mid-something whatever. “I feel for your plight, honestly, I do. But I have no designs on your bed partner. I am deeply grieved that you have been stuck with him for a millennium or whatever years and sorry that you can’t seem to do better. And as much as I would love to discuss the issue, I have this rule about not arguing with…um…beings who don’t have the IQ I have!” The elleth looked confused. Bronwyn blurted, “For the love of Mike, do you have a name?”

“Her name is Liandrien. She is not my bed partner. And she is leaving.” The elleth – Liandrien – turned around quickly as Bronwyn looked beyond her shoulder. Haldir stood in the doorway. Bronwyn had never seen him look so angry. Two other elves stood behind him, looking shocked, yet on guard. Haldir turned to Liandrien. He did not raise his voice or physically attempt to intimidate the elleth in any way, but when he was finished, she slunk out of the room. But not before she shot a noxious look at Bronwyn.

“We are not through, Knife-welder!”

“Yes, you are!”

“Oh, probably not by a long-shot!” Both Haldir and Bronwyn spoke at the same time.

The talan was quiet for a long time. One of the Elves slid around Haldir and came into the room, completely immune to the painful silence. He held Legolas’ old bow. With great ceremony – and a lot of words she didn’t understand – he presented her with the bow, before pressing his hand to his heart. He had the look of Haldir, but he was slender and taller, believe it or not. He had a beautiful smile as well.

“This is my brother, Rumil. Legolas has been gifted with a Lothlórien bow and he wished for you to have his old one. It is a fine bow, made for the Prince of Mirkwood and he claims that with some practice, you would be almost as good as a young Elfling.” The Elf said something else. “Rumil also wishes for you to know that if you would like to have lessons with the bow, he would be glad to give them to you.” Haldir’s voice sounded dry and uninterested. She smiled back at Rumil.

“Thank you so very much.” Her voice was sincere, as was her smile, which reached to her eyes. She pressed her hand to her heart as well. “I would like to learn how to properly use and appreciate this gift, so that it will not waste from misuse or disuse.”

The third Elf came in. Bronwyn knew immediately who he was. Although she was aware that he would not understand a word she said, nevertheless her apology tumbled forth in a torrent.

“I am so sorry for sicking up on your boots. It wasn’t planned. I hope they weren’t ruined.” She bowed her head in apology.

Haldir said a mouthful of things and this Elf smiled as well. “This is also my brother, Orophin. I believe he will be willing to give you archery lessons as well.” Bronwyn looked closely at the third Elf…

…and noticed his eyes were fixated on her chest. Before she could even consider the consequences, her hand snaked out and slapped him across the face. Haldir took two steps and was held back by Orophin. Words flew between the two brothers: Haldir’s were stern, eyes flashing at Bronwyn; Orophin’s were laughing. He rubbed his stinging cheek, said something (I must learn this Elvish language!) that made Rumil laugh, and then he bowed with her with his hand over his heart. His eyes, she was glad to see, were on hers. The brothers punched Haldir on the arm and left.

She watched as he stared out after his brothers, pulling on his back braid. He turned back around and noticed for the first time the ivory sheath she was wearing. Noticed how the color played up the tan of her skin, her legs looked incredibly long for her body. The sash of the robe made her waist look incredibly small. Her hair was thick, wild curls framing her face. Her eyebrows were raised in question.

“I am sorry if Liandrien upset you. She can be very difficult.” How he made his voice bland and emotionless was beyond him.

“She did not upset me. She seems to think I am taking her place in your heart or crouching on her territory. If you wish for her to move back in, I will find somewhere else to stay. Or I can leave.”

He put his hand up and shook his head. “She has no place in my heart.”

“But if she is your lover, she should be…”

“She is no longer…” he took a deep breath. “She is not my lover.”

Bronwyn’s eyes shone in understanding. “But she was. And I take it she did not take the break-up well.”

He shrugged nonchalantly. “It does not matter. It is over.”

“Haldir! Do you not care for her feelings? Obviously, she loves you.” Bronwyn unconsciously reached up to smooth a lock of his hair behind his ear. Haldir stepped backwards, out of her reach.

“Liandrien does not love anyone but herself. I do not wish to discuss this with you.” His tone was harsh. Bronwyn jerked her hand back, stung by his aloofness, his coldness. He turned his back on her and moved towards the door. “I have duties I have neglected. Beginning tomorrow morning, you have been invited to spend time with The Lady in her garden. I have arranged for one of my archers to teach you archery skills in the afternoon. If you tire, you are to let me know. I do not wish for you to overburden yourself. I have brought some food for you. It is still warm and should fill you.” He called over his shoulder. “I will be back later this evening. After you have gone to sleep.”

The talan was quiet. Depressingly so. She wandered into the gathering area and found dinner on the table. It smelled wonderful and before she knew what she had done, she had eaten every crumb. If I keep this up, I will be such a pig and too fat to dance, much less be able to get my arms around a harp! She giggled at the thought. It was the first real meal she remembered having in…

Before you buried Duncan.

The memory upset her and she squashed it immediately. The warm food settled in her stomach and she wandered about the talan. It consisted of several rooms and was painstakingly neat.

My cottage by the sea was always disheveled, as was my office at the university. Dusty with books, CD’s, tapes, and instruments. Music and papers lay in piles everywhere, the table, the computer, the chairs, the piano. Duncan would run through the rooms to watch the sheaves fly…

She drifted back into the bedroom. Out of sheer boredom, she picked up one of the books stacked neatly beside the chair and opened it. Reading had been one of her first loves…

How did I know that? How do I know any of that?

…and the thought of sitting here alone maddened her. But the book was written in a language and style she could not decipher and she quickly gave up. Quietly, in the still of the room, music played. A harp, with oriental tones.

Andreas Vollenweider… how I loved his music.

Eventually, she crawled on the bed and slowly drifted into sleep, as the sun was setting, the music fading as she slipped into slumber.

Many hours later, she rolled over and realized dreamily, the robe was removed and she was covered under the quilt. She opened her eyes to see the tall Elf, sitting in the chair, eyes slitted and glowing eerily in the moonlight. She fell back to sleep, knowing she was safe.

***

“Mama! Mama! Come tee! Come tee! Prettee moo-sic!” Small, pudgy hands rake across the strings of the ancient lute, making raucous sounds amidst childish laughter.

She stood above him, smiling. “And what is Duncan playing for Mama?”

A big, wide, drooling smile looks up at her. “Bar-nee. I love you! You love meeee…”

Flower petals fall on the grave. Duncan, Duncan, please don’t leave me. See the light? Go to the light. Don’t leave me.

Car tires squeal and the car wraps itself around the tree. An older, hungry looking couple, in cheap, worn clothes, the man whispering, “Mrs. Powell, surely you understand our position.”

Ramsey. Ramsey. You did this! You did this! It’s your fault! How was I to know? How do I protect Duncan?

The ivories call. Let us grieve. The strings sing so sorrowfully. The bodhran calls for its master. Duncan, where is Duncan?

Tiny pills lined up in a row, like pearls on a string. One at a time, every 5 minutes. Damn the vessel! It’s still empty! Damn the empty vessel! Damn it…


***

“Damn it! Damn the empty vess…”

Her eyes opened up and realized she was sitting up, enfolded in strong arms. She stiffened, because she recognized the smell – his smell. So different from Legolas. This one smelled of air and wood and earth. So…

Good. Admit it, he smells good.

His hold loosened. “You are better?” She refused to answer. He shrugged. Damn it! She was tired of his shrugging like nothing mattered.

“I’m fine.” Her voice was curt. He removed himself from the bed and sat back in the chair. His eyes fixated on her and the thought that he sat and watched her all night made her uncomfortable. “Go away.”

His shoulders jerked as if to break out in laughter, but he contained his mirth. “Joyous the day will be when I can.” She was shocked by his shuttered vehemence.

“Am I that much a burden?”

He took a very deep breath and stopped himself from bellowing out angrily yes. Stopped himself from offering to take her immediately in a fast boat to catch the Fellowship and Legolas. Stopped himself from wishing her out of his hair. It was unfair, what he was doing to her. He knew it. And deep inside, he was ashamed of himself. It was not her fault that she had vomited her way into his life at such a horrible time for the Elves and Man. And the aftermath of Liandrien. It was not her fault that she had lost her way. None of this was her fault. Yet, he took it out on her. Why? Because she fought back? Because she did not cower before him? Because she was not impressed by his status? Because all the others spoke of her in awed whispers… well, except Liandrien, but she never spoke well of anyone. His own brothers were wrapped around her finger. No elleth would have ever slapped Orophin for being… Orophin! Much less in front of Haldir! And yet Orophin laughed, told his brother he had deserved the stinging blow. And for both… BOTH brothers, to offer to teach her Elven skills… it was too much to consider. All this bother, over a tiny woman. He looked at her and realized she waited for his answer.

“No, tithen aras. You are not a burden. Go back to sleep. The sun will rise in a few hours and you have much to do. Shut your eyes.” Against his better judgment and previous orders, he murmured a sleep spell and she quickly succumbed to dreamless sleep. He leaned back for a few more hours of revere.

And he dreamed of being curled next to her warm body, one hand cupped around her breast.

***

She awoke to a stinging slap across her behind. The quilt had been thrown back, leaving only the thin silken shift between her bottom and the cause of her pain.

His hand.

Haldir stood above her. “Get up. You are to go to my Lady today and I think to take you to the bathing pool.”

She immediately forgot the way of her awakening. “A bath? I get to bathe? YESSSSS!” She jumped out of bed, unaware of how high the shift had risen on her legs. Haldir was gifted to the sight of long lovely legs joining at a nest of curls. The view was not long-lived, but he caught his breath, regardless and forced himself to look blandly into her face.

“Yes. A bath. I have arranged for time in the pool alone.”

She paced back and forth in… by the waters of Koivie… who planned a bath? “I need a robe, and I need shampoo and soap. Lots of soap. Bubbly, foamy soap and… Did you say time alone?”

“Yes.”

She looked horrified. “The bath is… public, communal?”

“The Elves bathe together. It is, as you say, no big deal.” A very high-pitched sound escaped that sounded like a muffled moan escaped from her throat and she looked scandalized. “But it is male Elves together and female Elves together?”

“Yes. But sometimes, it is ellon and elleths together. It is enjoyable. I like to have my back scrubbed by longish nails sometimes. It gets the dirt and grime from hard work…” he stopped, realizing she had run around him, muttering,

“Oh no, oh no! I am NOT going there!” She fled into the gathering area. Haldir shook his head in bewilderment. What was wrong with bathing with one’s friends? And why did the people of Man have such difficulty in understanding? He followed her into the living area and reminded her she was still in her shift.

“Well of course I’m still in my nightgown!” she flung out, arms akimbo. ” I don’t see my clothes anywhere and it isn’t like I haven’t been given anything else to wear. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! What would you have me do?”

He handed her the robe he had painstakingly removed the night before as he covered her. “This will be fine. The Lady said she would send someone with a dress for you.” He did not mention her clothes, rolled in her pack. Except for the burgundy velvet, they looked constraining and mannish and deep down, he wished to see her in the flowing gowns of his people. He forced his mind from that thought. He plucked the bag with paint pots from the top of the roll, which Legolas had removed and not tucked back in. “This was with your bag. You might want it.

She recognized the make up bag. It had been a gift from…

Ramsey. For a special trip…

She shook her head and didn’t think to ask him how he had found it. Nor did she see the tattered teddy bear, tucked back into the strings of the bedroll.

***

After breaking their evening fast with warm bread with something sweet and sticky generously spread on it, they walked down winding, wispy stairways. Bronwyn had had no idea how high up she was and was enthralled by the beauty of her surroundings. Haldir watched her in admiration as she drank in the sight. She stopped at near the bottom and laid her hand on the huge trunk. “Your trees speak, you know that?” She placed both hands on the trunk. “It is beautiful how your people have incorporated nature into your buildings and coexist with it.” He heard her inhale clean forest air. “My people would have chopped down every…”

…tree. They would have bulldozed and paved and totally eradicated each and every scrap of grass…

Haldir felt her pause. “What, tithen aras? What would your people had done?”

“I don’t know. It was a stray thought.” She reached the bottom of the stairs and took in completely the city of Caras Galadon. Even after almost 3000 years, Haldir never took the beauty of it for granted. “This, ” she whispered, “is a dream. That’s all it is. I have died and gone to Hell and this is my dream to comfort me or taunt me.”

Haldir wondered if angels tormented lost souls in her Hell. Or if even Jesus, Mary or Joseph had anything to do with Hell. He didn’t want to begin to think about Mike’s love, that one who wanted to know names. He pointed her to the right and she followed him to the outer edge of the city. She was aware that she was walking through this beautiful forest in a nightgown and robe, while he carried her makeup bag and fluffy towels. The few Elves she past, treated her with respect, holding their hands to their hearts and murmuring “Brave One”. Haldir scowled. They treated her as special.

Soon, she could hear running water and in a copse of trees discovered a pond… no… a pool of clear water. Several large rocks were scattered above the water and a waterfall was at the far edge. The sun’s morning rays brightened up the clearing. She walked to the edge and dipped her toe in. It was warm. Perfectly warm. She turned to her guard. “I think I can find my way back. Thank you.” She shooed him on his way.

“No. I will not leave you.”

She placed both hands on her hips. “Look. You said I had it alone. I have no wish to have a parade of onlookers, even if it’s a parade of one. I would like some privacy.” When she said the word ‘privacy’ he understood her consternation, not that it mattered. She saw the shrug coming.

“You have been very ill and you are my duty. I will not leave you. I will look up and contemplate the birds or turn my back, if you will promise to splash, make noise, or Iluvatar forbid, talk to me, so I can hear you. You will trust me.”

Trust. Now there was an unrealistic word if she had ever heard one. “Every time someone asked me to trust them, they lied!” She jeered. “Why should I trust you?”

Part of him was furious. No. All of his very being was furious! How dare she assume he was a liar. but his Lady’s voice crept into his thoughts.

She has endured a great hurt, greater than even you, our mighty Haldir, have ever experienced. She refuses to remember and therefore refuses to move on. Do not blame her for shielding herself. In many ways, she is like you.”

He forced himself to speak softly through gritted teeth. “I am many things, Baraer, but I am not a liar. You have been put into my keeping, my charge. Please understand that it is my duty to die before I would allow any harm or derision to come to you. You have my word that as long as I hear you moving about, I will not look upon you. You have my word” He reiterated the promise, to make his point.

Bronwyn looked into the deep blue eyes of the tall Elf. She could tell that he was restraining himself mightily and could see him unclenching his hands, forcing himself to relax. She realized that she had wounded him in an unknown way.

“I am sorry. I meant no offense. Forgive me.”

Haldir was taken aback. The last thing he expected from the she-termagant was a sincere apology. It was a part of her he had not seen. He sat down on a rock and turning his back, looked into the tree tops. She might think he was looking at birds, but in reality he was looking for some of his younger archers, namely Rumil and Orophin, who would try even his wrath for a look at her lovely breasts. It was all the Elves could talking about; the males wondering at their feel and taste and the elleths scoffing in derisiveness at the very idea of having such large breasts. They were sure they got in the way of everything but were a little amused by their male counterparts enamoring of them. He heard her robe and gown hit the earth in a quiet whisper and soon heard gentle splashing. Had he turned around, he would have seen her wading to the deepest part with her makeup bag held high above her head.

Bronwyn swam to the rock that appeared to be the flattest. She placed the bag on the smooth boulder and unzipped the pouch. Inside she found things she recognized and realized she had missed; her shampoo, conditioner, a toothbrush, a razor. A small bar of rose scented soap. She wanted to crawl under that waterfall, but first…

She swam. The water was barely deep enough for swimming, she could stand on the bottom and the liquid came to her chin, but it felt so good to be out of clothes and into the warm, clear water. She giggled and did something she hadn’t done in years – a handstand, kicking her legs above the water. Haldir heard her splashing and realized he had not played in the bath, since he was a small child. He sat with his back turned, clenching his teeth and looking for his brothers. Several birds flew overhead and he made a mental note that he needed to scout for branches and such to create new arrows. Orcs were delving into the woods at a regular pace and regardless of what Legolas thought, there was going to be a battle in the near future and it would best to prepared with weaponry.

And it dawned on him he had not heard her make a sound in several minutes.

“Bronwyn. I can not hear you.”

No answer.

His discontent threatened to bubble forth in a very Haldir-like manner. He deepened his voice with all the authority of the March Warden of the Northern Fences, the highest ranking servant of the Lord Celeborn.

“Bronwyn. Do not test my patience. If you do not answer me now, I will turn around!”

No answer.

Haldir rolled his eyes in fury and stood up. He turned slowly.

And caught his breath.

She had climbed up into the waterfall and was standing in it. With the rushing water falling over her head, she could not hear him. She was facing away from him and was washing her hair, foam flowing down her back. Her hair was piled on her head and her arms were raised, fingers unseen in the suds. Her body was stretched out and the curve of her breast could be clearly seen. Her shoulders were slim and her torso tapered to a natural waist. Her spine was straight and glistened in the water. He watched as soap suds slid down her silky back to the indention above her hips. They were generously flared and her cheeks curved lavishly. They were made perfectly, to be cupped, in a lover’s hands, made to fit… her legs were long and graceful. He noticed that although it was apparent that recent events had caused her to lose weight, she was returning to what ever her former glory had been. She was muscular, but not overly so. Her flesh was firm and as defined as a mountain lioness. He realized he was harder than he had been in several hundred years. She finished with her hair and leaned into the wall, retrieving a soap block from a crevice she had found. She began to soap every delectable inch of her skin.

“Rumil! Iluvatar does love his children!” Haldir jerked around to see two pairs of eyes cleverly concealed in the bush. Both of his brothers were wide-eyed and grinning from pointed ear to pointed ear.

Haldir hissed at his brothers. “Leave immediately! She is skittish enough about me being here!”

“Oh and why should you have all the fun? Would you move over? You are blocking the view!” Orophin motioned for Haldir to step aside as Haldir had turned and stepped directly in front of their hiding place.

“I am going to continue to block the view. You must leave now or face the consequences.” He heard gasps from his brothers, not about his threat, he was sure, and heard splashing behind him.

“Did you see, Rumil? Did you see? They are-“

“Perfection. Sheer bliss! Haldir, go on and peek! She is not watching!”

Haldir ground his teeth. “Bronwyn, are you alright? I have not heard you in several minutes!”

He heard her laugh, bright and cheerful above the sounds of the water. “Yes, I was in the waterfall. It is so wonderful!”

Haldir returned his attentions to his brothers. “If you do not leave immediately, I will go to My Lady myself and make sure you do four weeks of weeding in her garden.” The Elves did not move. “Four weeks of off days. Myself! And I will work you mercilessly on the Fences!”

Rumil’s voice whispered. “I will do five weeks happily if you will allow us five more…oh, sweet flowers of delight!”

“What is she doing now?” Haldir rolled his eyes heavenward. He felt a vast headache coming on and he rubbed his temples. “Well, tell me! You are going to anyway.”

“She is doing something with her legs. She has soaped them up and… oh… I am going to have to find Alilian if this keeps up.” Orophin sounded as if in pain.

“Bronwyn! What are you doing?” His own leggings were strained at the seams. And he was not even looking!

“I’m shaving my legs!” Haldir heard Orophin groan and back out from the hiding place. Rumil gasped. “Haldir, she has her leg straight over her head and she is scrubbing the back of her… six weeks! Six weeks of penance! It is so very worth it.”

“Bronwyn! Please hurry!” Haldir was quickly losing control and he did not like it a bit! To his relief, he heard a splash in the water and then saw Alilian walking down the path, with a gown in her arms.

“Haldir! I have brought this from The Lady Galadriel. I know you have a battalion rotation to be drawing up soon, but can you spare Orophin for a few moments? He just stopped me on the path and said he needed to speak to me about something.” There was another splash in the water and Alilian looked into the water. “Well, I suppose I know why now!” she said with a smile.

Haldir’s jaw was clenched. “If you would be so kind as to do me a slight favor.” Alilian knew the look and the tone and whatever amusement she had found in the situation before was now gone. “I know you are quite able, putting up and keeping my youngest brother in line all these years, but would you please take Rumil, who is hiding amongst these bushes and Orophin by the ears and lead them to Lady Galadriel’s garden and tell her that they have earned twelve weeks of off days weeding.” Her eyebrows shot up. “In the thorn bushes. No gloves.” Alilian gulped and nodded. She heard Rumil take off from under the bush and after laying the dress on the rock Haldir had been sitting on, went to retrieve him and his brother. As she left the clearing, she decided not to make mention of Haldir’s own problem, which was very evident.

“Haldir? I’m ready to get out.” He backed up, until he reached the towels that had lain between him and the pool. He mentally forced himself to relax as he unfolded the largest and turned around, staring straight at the sky. He held the towel directly in front of him until he felt her body step into it. Without taking into consideration her wishes, he wrapped the long towel around her and looked down, tucking it in behind her. He picked up a second and began to rub her head.

“HEY! Not so rough!” She jerked her head back and glared up at him from behind wet locks. He dropped his hands and turned to pick up the dress.

“My Lady has been kind enough to send you suitable clothing while in her presence.” He handed it to her. “Do you need help?”

Bronwyn looked at the beautiful garment. It looked gauzy and was everything that could be called feminine. It was palest of green and sparkled in the sunlight. It was amazingly heavy. “I don’t know. I will let you know. Stay turned away, please.”

Haldir started to say that he had promised not to look already, but he became enthralled by the sounds behind him. He heard her dry her body and then saw as both towels hit the boulder in front of him as she tossed them. He heard the dress being shook out, rustling, her grunting, sounds as if she were jumping up and down.

And cursing.

“Damn it to hell! How do you put this thing together?” It was obvious she was no delicate flower. “Well… crap… SHITE!” The curses became worse and it sounded as if she was turning in circles. “I have never in my life had this kind of trouble… OOOOH!” She growled low in her throat.

Haldir tipped his head engagingly to one side, looking at the sky. “Would you like my help?” The noise and cursing stopped.

“You have experience with ladies garments?” She sounded doubtful. It was more a statement than a question.

“In all honesty, I have more experience removing the garments, but I believe I can reverse the process.” He heard her sharp intake of breath. “May I?”

“Yes.” It was whispered. He turned around to see that she had presented her back to him.

She could not reach the fastenings as they were under the train that attached at the shoulder and in truth, he felt badly for her. She had piled her hair over her head and was holding the mass of waves up with both hands. Deftly, he did the fastenings. She dropped her hair and turned around, smoothing the folds in the dress.

It was apparent The Lady had looked long for something close to her size, but had failed in doing so. The dress was at least six inches too long and very tight under the arms, due to the size of her breasts. The neck was scooped and was slightly off the shoulder. It was beaded, lovely. As he had noticed earlier, a train of beaded gauze draped from the back of the shoulder and dangled behind her. The color played off her hair and her skin shone. She smelled of cut flowers and she looked lovely, breathtaking, beautiful –

“You are presentable. Come follow me.” He picked up the towels and her bag and strode off back towards the city. Bronwyn, not showing the stinging hurt she felt at his words, picked up the bottom of the gown and padded barefoot behind him.

*** *** *** ***

I can feel the cool breeze on my face as I cradle my harp in my lap. Oh, to be able to bring the ivories out in this wonderful air! Hours in the practice room does horrid things to one’s complexion! A tall, handsome, dark-haired man sits next to me. Despite his proximity, I will not stop and I continue to play. He listens to solemnly, as he has all week and I wonder when he will get the nerve to say anything. After twenty minutes, he does. “My name is Ramsey. Ramsey ap Powell. Would you have dinner with me?”


***
tbc
***

Lle naa vanima – You are beautiful
mellon – friend
tithen aras – little dear
Baraer – Fiery One