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I refuse to apologize for my Bronny Sue. I’m fond of her, even so many years later.

The Vessel

Chapter 09

Rain, Rain, do NOT go away – or – Push, push, in the Bush!

***

Can’t help this feeling…

I’ve been a fool not to see the repercussions

You’ve had in my life

***

“Baraer! What are you doing?” Haldir looked down at the woman in his arms. She had cuddled in and was exploring his chest with her nose. A string quartet was playing in the background.

“Smelling you.” The rain still poured outside and the fire was smoldering down into crackling embers. Her tongue whipped out and lightly grazed a flat nipple. “Tasting you, too.” Her free hand slid leisurely across his shoulder. “You taste good!”

He scowled. “Baraer. We have been hunting Orc for two days, stuck in the rain and joined as lovers last night. I smell of sweat and-“

“Sex. And woods and air and earth and I have thought for the longest time that you smelled good.” She nipped at his nipple and discernible words were not uttered for quite some time.

***

The rain continued for three days. They spent most of the time buried beneath the furs in each other’s arms, leaving only for sustenance and what Bronwyn referred to as “the call of nature.” He found humans most amusing; they took such great pains in covering that which the Elves considered a normal occurrence. The first morning, he awoke to an empty place within his arms. As he peeked over the edge of the covers, he saw her pulling on a tunic he did not remember packing. It was all she was wearing and she looked delightful in it.

“That is my tunic.”

Her head popped through the opening and she shrugged. “I am going to check on the horse and deal with my bladder. Uhm…go to the bathroom”

He rose up from the animal skins and Bronwyn inhaled sharply. Despite the intensity of the previous night, she realized she had not gotten a good look at him. And he was magnificent! Broad in the chest and shoulder for an Elf, with corded muscles, tapered waist and long legs. His skin was fair and even flaccid, he was more than well-endowed.

“Baraer. You are staring.” Her eyes jerked up to his face and she felt herself blush. “I believe you slapped my youngest brother for the same offense.”

“I…uh…I am not sleeping with your brother.” she quickly turned away.

‘No, Baraer. And you will not.’ He stopped the thought before it crossed his lips and it shocked him deep down. Was this what his father had felt for his mother? It left him feeling unsure and confused. He thought he had prepared himself to be her Guardian, but this protective and possessive feeling was unsettling.

“Baraer, the breeks are around closer to the other side. I will take care of the gelding.”

She looked at him in a strange manner, as if he was completely insane.

“I am not going to squat over a smelly ditch! It’s unrefined and unladylike!” She noticed he was looking about as abashed as it was possible for an Elf to look. “I don’t know what you are thinking, but I can not just whip it out and write my name in the dirt!” And with that, she turned on her heel, and ran through the rain to the barn.

Haldir looked down at himself and visualized what she had said. He did not realize that his hand was lowered, sketching his name in the air. His eyebrow arched up. What a novel concept! How was it he had never thought of it?

***

Several times, he woke up to find her sitting up next to the window, watching the rain. Sometimes, she would be chanting a litany of names, kings, scandals, queens, political figures. Wars. Scores of wars. The One Hundred Years War, that lasted more than One Hundred Years, World Wars, Civil Wars, The War of the Roses. Sometimes, it was people: Malcolm X, Joan of Arc, Beethoven, Teleman, Mozart. Other times, she would be singing or humming to herself. Once, she was singing and tears trickled down her checks.

“Lully, Lully, O Little Tiny Child…” he probed gently and was assaulted by grief and despair, could plainly see a young mother in strange clothing, holding a baby in what appeared to be a barn stall and getting the distinct impression that this child had been born to die.

Like hers.

He withdrew never seeing that her eyes were on him. Full of pain. Full of questions.

What am I to you, oh great archer, oh great March Warden of the Woods? Can you read this?

Even time spent beneath the warmth of the furs was not necessarily pain free.

Her quiet sobs woke him in the middle of the night the third evening, She backed into him and her bottom was curled adorably into his groin. He reached and rolled her over. “Baraermin. Lirimaer. Shhh. What is wrong?”

She slid her ankles between his legs and slid comfortably into his arms.

“I have no home.” He pulled her closer and listened to her breathing. “My past is gone, I cannot go back. I have nowhere to call mine. I am lost.”

He murmured soothing words over her head and soon, she fell into a deep sleep. He held her tight and whispered. “Baraer, you are home. My arms are your home.”

***

When I see the sun rise in your eyes…

***

They woke up the fourth day, the sun shining brightly through the grimy window. She was up first and digging through their packs. He rolled over to empty furs and immediately felt her confusion, her wall, and an outer disquiet that had nothing to do with him.

“Baraer. What are you doing?”

She pulled her clothes on quickly and gestured to the packs. “Do you think you can grab this together? I’ll go get the horse and while I’m in the barn, you can pack this and we can decide which way to head out. It’s too pretty a day to lay in the furs and honestly, we have lain here long enough.” She grabbed her knives and slammed out the door.

He felt her turmoil, her light tone of voice did not match her thoughts. He delved, softly and was nailed with waves and waves of doubt. Three days of passion had gotten him nowhere.

And then he felt her go cold.

She went into the barn, buckling her knives on and slung the doors wide open. “Stay sane, stay sane. You are a burden, a duty to him. This was just sex! He doesn’t love you. Why are you making such a fuss? Owen Gwynedd ap Griffith, Prince and so called King of Wales died in 1169, plunging Wales into civil war. His eldest son Iowerth was deemed ineligible to take the kingship due to a broken nose and Owen’s second son Howell took the throne. His brother Dafydd, killed his brother in battle and took the throne in 1171…”

and stopped.

The horse was in a sweat and his eyes were rolling wildly. She felt the hackles rise on her neck. She turned quickly, knives flying.

They pinned the Orc to the stall by the ears. He started screaming, sounding like a squealing pig. Almost at the exact same time, Haldir charged in, arrow notched and ready to fly. He was nude. She gestured at the neatly pinned and howling Orc.

“We have a guest.”

Haldir did not stand down. He kept his arrow notched and aimed. “Bronwyn, I want you to go outside and make sure there are no others.”

The knives flew back into her hands and the Orc dropped to the straw. He sneered at Haldir. “Kill me, Elf! Go ahead! It won’t save Lothlórien or Mirkwood!” Haldir nodded to Bronwyn to go out the door.

She went out and did a quick recon around the house and barn. There were no signs of any other Orcs. She ducked inside and grabbed his leggings and as she came outside the house, she heard a horrible scream of pain that went on for what seemed like forever coming from the barn. She took off running, only to be met by Haldir at the door, leading the horse. The screaming, while not as arduous, still continued inside. He took the leggings and pulled them on.

“Baraer, listen carefully and I would ask that you hear me out. I want you to take the horse to the house, pack our things on him. Keep your knives and weapons at the ready and keep an eye out. I need to take care of something unpleasant and then we need to talk. Hear what I say, do not come into the barn. I will brook no disobedience from you in this matter.” He handed her the reins and went back inside the barn, shutting the door.

Bronwyn listened carefully for a few moments and heard the screams intensify. They were awful. She took the horse to the door of the house and proceeded to pack the animal. She slung the bow and sword at her back and got Haldir’s sword as well. The screaming continued until it stopped as if a stereo had been turned off abruptly. She saw Haldir carry the body of the Orc to the muck pile, set it afire, and immediately went to the rain barrel and washed his hands and upper body. He returned to the barn to retrieve his bow and walked into the house. He exited a few moments later in his tunic and boots and braiding his hair. He walked quickly up to her, tugging fiercely at his braid and his look was murderous. She handed him his sword.

“Bronwyn.” She looked at him expectantly. He took a deep breath.

“Baraer. I promised not to force you back to Caras Galadhon. I promised to allow you to deal with your past.”

“Aye, you did.” She waited.

He looked over the hill, out to the blue sky. “Your time is up. You may grieve; do whatever you think you need to do, but it will be done on the run. According to this Orc, he is a scout. There is an Orc Army headed this way, prepared to attack Lothlórien and Mirkwood. Their numbers are immense. This is not small troop of twenty or thirty. It is an army of hundreds, possibly thousands. He said they are a day behind us, but I would suspect he was lying and are closer than he is contending. As much as I desire to give you more time, I am worried for my people and must attempt to warn them.”

The reason behind his agitation and restlessness became very clear to her. She reached out and laid a hand on his chest.

“You are worried. I understand that and of course, we must return. I wanted time to deal with what has happened to me and what is to come to pass and…” she turned away from him, so he would not see the confusion on her face, “…that is settled in my mind. I have come to a decision.”

“And what is your decision?”

She looked at him over her shoulder and shrugged. “I will do what it is they ask. My son will not be returned to me. And no matter what promise they make me, nothing can replace him. I will always grieve him. It is either do or die and quite frankly, I would just prefer to be a thorn in their sides, rather than give up and run headlong into an Orc troop and die. Already, my own history plays through my mind, unwelcome, unbidden. And I can feel it continuing this minute. It is the worst head rush you can imagine. All of it, pouring over the top. I am remembering ancient and lost languages, ancient people, The music continues to no end. I have a gift I cannot control, ” she quietly murmured to herself the last, “…and now I have another problem that I must deal with.”

“And that is?” His ears had picked up her whispering.

She did not speak, simply took the reins of the horse and began to walk. For the last three days, she had done the one thing she swore never to do again. And that was get sexually involved with a man – or in this case, Elf – whose true feelings and past were unknown to her. She had feelings for him, but she didn’t trust him or his motives. And now she was in the position of guarding her heart, before she fell again into the fire that had been Ramsey ap Powell.

And although Haldir could not read her mind, he was aware her new problem concerned him. And although he was certain he knew that she doubted him and had known that she would, it vexed him.

Thoroughly.

***

“Why do you wear my tunic?”

She looked at him sharply. “What? None of your lovers have ever worn your clothes?”

“No. I do not understand why you like to wear mine. They do not fit.”

She had been deep in thought, trying to figure out their relationship, replaying the time spent under the furs in her mind, and battling with more ancient history in her head. She was now rolling through Chinese Dynasties. There had been no love words exchanged between the two, just physical, raw, sex. She had no idea of his past lovers or experiences, and after spending years of dwelling on Ramsey’s adulterous shenanigans, the thought disconcerted her.

“About my tunic.” Bronwyn glanced over at him and raised an eyebrow in question.

“I wear it because it is comfortable. It is large and I have room to move in it. I wear it because it smells like you. I happen to think you smell good. It is something lovers do in my…time…world.”

He tilted his head to one side. “Well, since we are lovers, does this mean I must wear something of yours? Because if that is so, I do not believe you own anything that I can wear.” He never heard Bronwyn laugh so hard.

***

They walked quietly up the hill; neither had spoken in hours. Although he did not outwardly show his emotions, she could tell he was agitated and concerned. He had the reins and she, in her own world had charged ahead. She crested the hill and stopped in her tracks, eyes huge. Haldir immediately felt a jolt and quietly joined her. The words came out of their mouths at the exact same time, in stereo.

“Oh, shite!”

They backed down the rise quietly, hiding themselves and the horse behind the mound and spoke in whispers.

“It could be worse!” His voice was nonchalant, unworried.

“Worse? Worse? How could it possibly be worse?” Her voice threatened to screech, despite its whisper.

“They could be on this side of the river!” he shrugged.

“This side of the…for God’s sake, Haldir!” She ran her fingers through tousled locks, mind working furiously. “How many are there? Could you tell?”

He pulled angrily on his braid. “It is an entire contingent. An entire Uruk-hai contingent. Several hundred camped openly on the plains.”

The two got on their bellies and crawled up the hill, the sun beginning to set behind them, blocking them from unfriendly eyes. Bronwyn took in the field.

“Think we can take them?” He looked at her in astonishment.

“What? Take them? Great Iluvatar, woman! I realize you are impressed with my prowess, but I am not the Valar!”

Her eyes darted back and forth in thought. “If we could think of a way to protect your ears, I could level them while we killed them one at a time.” The very thought of that pained him and she continued on. “Excuse me, it was just an idea, I am throwing out suggestions here! Maybe you could just go way away, that way,” she motioned him back towards where they had come from with a dismissive wave of her hand, “and I could do my thing with music and kill them one at a time.” She nodded her head in mock agreement as she took in the immense size of the camp. “Might take a while.”

He scowled at her. “You would spew for days and die of dehydration and malnutrition!”

“Well, I thought you said that so called scout said the army was behind us!”

“Apparently,” the elf sneered, “he lied. That, or this is a different contingent.” They rolled on their bellies and crawled to the top to look at the group camped. “We cannot stay here. We must get to Lothlórien and warn Celeborn.

Bronwyn looked down at the spreading fungus of Orcs. “No, we cannot stay here. But they are spread all over the plain. There is no cover for us to hide behind and I really can’t see you putting a sleep spell on the entire group and us tiptoeing like fairies around them.” She scanned the countryside. “There is not a tree in sight. Oh man, what are we going to do?” She looked at Haldir. “Well, come on, Great Guardian of Mine! What do we do? I await your words of divine intervention and wisdom!” He ignored her mocking tone.

He was scanning the sky, a grimace on his face. “The sun will set in a less than an hour and it will be dark shortly after that. If we are quiet we can move past them and warn the Galadhrim.”

“What about Mirkwood? Look at how they are placed. They could easily be heading there.”

Haldir continued to scan the sky. “The Lord and Lady will be able to do that, and it is not our concern. We heard rumors that the Shadow has rebuilt Dol Guldur. I had prayed it was not so. It does not look like those prayers have been answered. Thranduil’s army is mighty and they will know what is going on in their borders.” He rubbed his eyes. “We will wait.”

So they waited, laying low on the top of the hill, watching the army prepare to break camp. When the moon ascended the sky and the stars twinkled, they quietly slid down the shore of the Anduin, past the camp and on towards the Golden Wood. As they passed, they could hear the camp breaking up and moving on to war. The Orc army was heading towards Lothlórien.

Bronwyn was panicking. Haldir could feel it and the thought of it almost unnerved him. She needed to be strong. “Baraer…” his hand pulled her to him as he drew her close.

“Oh, God, Haldir! There are so many! So many! How can we hold them off? How can we keep them from Caras Galadhon? From destroying our home?” She buried her face in his chest, clinging to his tunic, something he decided he enjoyed very much.

Haldir smiled grimly, wondering silently if she realized that she was calling his home and people ‘ours’. “We have fought worse. We will fight again. Many times, our forest has been under attack. We have never lost and we will not lose this time.” He kissed her brow. “I promise.” He lifted her chin up and looked deep into glittering, moon-filled eyes. “Where is my Brave One? My Baraer? Where is the woman who proudly vomited on my brother’s boots?” He saw her smile in the moonlight. They heard sounds and looking, realized the army was getting even closer. “We must make Lothlórien immediately. I am afraid this group of evilness will move quickly. Do you ride?” He motioned to the horse.

“Do I ride? What kind of foolish question is that? My mother was a member of the peerage! What well brought up British girl doesn’t ri-“

“Madam! A simple yes or no would suffice!” he snapped. As much as he wanted to calm her, his patience was wearing thin.

“Yes.” She didn’t tell him that she scandalized her instructors by insisting on riding Western, but then, he wouldn’t have understood anyway. Both Elf and Woman climbed atop the tall chestnut and galloped as quickly as possible towards Lothlórien.

They rode for twenty-six hours, galloping at times, walking at others. Bronwyn was exhausted and would sleep in the saddle, encased in his arms while Haldir kept moving. All the while, they imagined the army behind them. They stopped rarely and she knew he was using Elvish spells to keep the horse from collapsing. Late in the afternoon, the day after seeing the Orcs, they saw the northeastern edge of Lothlórien Wood.

“Where do you think they will attack first? Here?”

“I do not know, but we must warn the Guard and the Wardens.” They rode straight for the Forest.

***

Bronwyn sat up in the flet, back against a grey trunk. She was enjoying the fruit, after having eaten nothing but Lembas for the past eight days and her body was demanding rest. Heridil sat next to her, both sets of eyes on Rumil and Haldir. Although he was no longer the March Warden, it was obvious his brothers and archers were deferring to him. His words moved swiftly as he gestured quickly. Messengers had been dispatched, along with the tired gelding and their belongings, to Caras Galadhon. Bronwyn barely remembered to get her weapons and was semi-dozing.

“He did not harm you?”

Bronwyn slid one eye open and looked over in amusement at the quiet Elf. Concern was etched on Heridil’s face and she smiled wickedly at him. “He made me scream.” she whispered.

Heridil cocked his head to one side. “Was it a good scream? Or a bad scream?” Bronwyn’s chuckles could be heard over the flet. Haldir stopped talking long enough to look at her and visually reinforce that she was alright. It was strange, having this woman in the back of his head and knowing, not her thoughts, but her emotions. He knew that when she grew cold, she was under attack, when she was in turmoil, she was thinking of him. Suddenly, as if she knew he was looking at her, her eyes rose to meet his. He felt her emotions run rampant.

“Haldir!” Rumil was snapping his fingers in front of his eyes.”Do not become useless to us this late!” Haldir’s eyes jerked back. “I have asked twice how far behind this army is?”

Haldir scowled and tugged on his braid. “Just because my attention is elsewhere, you should know that does not mean I am not attending! Had you been listening to me, you would know they are not far behind us. We passed them the night before last!” His eyes drifted back to Bronwyn. She was sitting much to close for his comfort to Heridil and her head was resting on his shoulder. She was falling into reverie and her defenses were down.

“Question, elder brother of mine?” Haldir’s eyes rested back on his brother. “Did you spank that delectable bottom well?” His grin was down right lecherous.

“I did not spank her.” Rumil’s eyes widened in shock. “I was too busy tying her up!” And with that, he strode over to Bronwyn, pulling her from Heridil’s grasp and sinking down next to her, pulled her in his lap and held her close.

***

She told me she was interested to see

If I could play the game

She said her name was Victory

(Molly Hatchet)

***

The Orcs spilled into the forest at dawn the next morning. They were not quiet and could be seen for a ways from up in the trees. Elven archers had been streaming to that area for the past hour, armed with extra arrows and they would continue to arrive during the battle. Celeborn had himself arrived a scant hour before the Orcs could be seen. He was dressed in a Warden’s black and grey tunic and took his place next to Haldir. Although out-numbered four-to-one, the Elves had a distinct advantage being hidden in the trees. Bronwyn was using a bow in battle for the first time and although she was not an Elf, she felt comfortable in her speed. Volley after volley was launched and while the Orcs fell like rain, she watched more Elves than she cared to see fall to Orc arrows. Orophin stood next to her, silent with deadly arrows. Towards the end of the battle, he motioned to Bronwyn.

“Look, by the tree.” Three Orcs were scurrying behind brush and were trying to find an advantageous spot in which to launch an attack. Bronwyn leaned towards her friend.

“I have them!” taking aim. In their watching of the three Orcs, they had not paid attention to a fourth Orc, who had skimmed up the tree behind them. His dagger flashed in the air and Orophin gasped out loud. Bronwyn turned in time to see him and his attacker fall over the flet to the ground, the Orc dagger in his back.

“Noooo!” she dropped her bow and unsheathed her sword, falling to the terrain and brush.

And the music soared.

She landed close to where Orophin had fallen and the Orc stood over the injured Elf, dagger raised, flashing down. She realized there was little time and in her fury she attacked with the blade.

Her strokes were short, choppy, angry, hacking. There was no grace, no leading, no plan. The Orc attacked back and pushed her backwards into the tree.

“I am going to kill you gladly, Wo-” His voice cut off as he became an Orc-pincushion, no less than five arrows in his body. He was the last to fall.

Bronwyn dropped to her knees next to her crumpled friend. His face was pale, drawn and Bronwyn was aware when Haldir dropped behind her.

“Orophin..noo…”

Orophin smiled weakly at Bronwyn. “‘ ‘Tis just a little pain. Nothing serious.” His hand stroked her cheek. Celeborn sank down in a squat next to the fallen Elf.

“Celeborn, he is stabbed in the back. Roll him over.” Her right shoulder was itching and she scratched idly at it. Rumil had leapt down silently on cat’s paws and he helped Celeborn roll him over. Orophin groaned at the movement.

Celeborn pulled his knife from his boots and gently sliced up the back of Orophin’s tunic. The wound was high on his left shoulder blade and it oozed blood and filth. “It is very deep, ” he said probing gently, “but it missed anything vital.” He murmured a binding spell over him, the bleeding stopped and the gash fused. “We need to get him back to the city, so this can be healed properly.” He stood up and turned to Bronwyn. His eyebrows knitted together.

“Bronwyn. You are injured.” Her right shoulder was no longer itching; it was burning. She looked down and saw the short arrow protruding from it.

“Oh. Would you look at that.” Her vision was turning dark on the edges as Celeborn placed one hand on the arrow and bracing his other hand on her shoulder, pulled. Bronwyn last coherent thought was falling backwards into Haldir’s arms before the world went black.

***

TBC

***