|Beta:||Julie and Mary|
|Disclaimer:||We all know who invented Haldir. And who made him such a hottie. Thanks, JRRT and the PJ team!|
|Summary:||For those who dare enter the Golden Wood uninvited, there's a price to pay...|
|Author's notes:||Written for the Haldir smut challenge at Haldir Lovers, August 2008. Special thanks to Julie – without her, this fic hadn’t been nearly as romantic as it turned out to be!|
|Feedback:||Please write to to email@example.com|
Fair Lórien’s mellyrn had turned to gold only recently, her late summer attire as new and wondrous as ever to the wardens who guarded her borders. Through the trees, Haldir, perched on a talan hidden in the foliage, caught sight of another of Eru’s creation to admire. Or, rather, to watch with vigilance, for such was his duty. Closer and closer she came, the woman gathering mushrooms. The sight as such was not unusual – the daughters of men were known to be industrious when it came to feeding their growing families – but it was rare for a villager to venture this near the trees.
Usually, the tales of the sorcery in 'Dwimordene' were deterrent enough, and if the prospect of falling into the hands of the evil witch that inhabited the heart of the woods – or her faceless ghosts guarding it – did not do the trick, then a very solid arrow always worked. The borders of Lothlórien had been safe from intruders for decades.
With increasing tension Haldir watched the woman collect the last few mushrooms on her chosen spot, straighten her back and peer into the shadows under the trees. If she would take as much as one step closer, he would have to...
The arrow clove the air with a zing and bore into the ground just inches from Merewyn’s right foot. Her left one was hanging motionless mid-air, waiting to be put down before the other. Instead, she struggled backwards and fell, dropping her basket.
"Béma! No need for that, good spirits! I was only picking mushrooms!”
No reply. All was still, as if the very forest was waiting for her next action. It frightened her more than she was willing to admit at first, mushrooms on her mind. Crawling, she began to gather into the basket what had spilled on the ground, while trying hard to ignore the feeling of being watched. Only two more of the field mushrooms to pick up, and she would be on her way from here. A quick glance over her shoulder confirmed that Greymane was still grazing nearby and would be ready to leave as soon as she was. Now, back to the last few mushrooms.
The largest mushroom lay so close to the ghost arrow that she almost decided to leave it behind. What a shame! What a waste! Careful not to touch the unholy weapon even with her sleeve – intriguing though it looked, shimmering like spider’s web on a dewy morning and likely to vanish as quickly as soon as she took her eyes off it – she reached for the errant mushroom. And noticed a whole group of real delicacies, chanterelles, golden as the flowers of the trees they grew beneath.
Wisdom warred with greed, and lost.
No sooner had she crouched to begin the harvest, when she felt a gust of wind – it must have been – in her hair, and it carried with it an eerie voice that whispered: “Be gone, firieth. Be go-o-o-ne...”
She stood on shaking legs, looking about. Nothing. She turned towards the mushrooms again, and screamed. A ghost! The witch herself! Or? No, a man it was who stood before her, tall and fair, with a commanding air about him and a face set in stone.
“My lord?” She was somewhat relieved to see him, but not enough to wish to remain where she was any longer than necessary. “Forgive me if I speak out of turn, but we should leave this place with haste. These woods are haunted, I heard it myself just now, faceless spirits howling with the wind, please let us go before they come to hunt us down, long-eared, hairy demons shooting deadly arrows out of their hands...”
“Spirits with ears?” He looked amused, clearly not understanding the direness of their situation.
“No, yes, I mean, can’t we just leave? Good sir, I should have never come here, and it isn’t safe for you either, even if you look like you can take care of yourself. But they are ghosts, and your knife, or that fancy bow, will be of little help. Where’s your horse? If you lost it, my Greymane will carry us both, at least to my village, where you can... oh, sorry, I’m babbling, when we should be hurrying off. Please!” He seemed not to have understood a word, and she was just going to try to explain again, when he spoke.
“Lórien, this wood, is my home – I am an elf.” What did he say? An elf? Not possible, everyone knew what they were like. And this stranger was... stunning.
“You have disturbed the peace of the woods,” he continued, more gravely. “You have chosen not to heed our warnings, and for that you must pay.”
A familiar glitter came into his eyes, and she blushed. No ghost, clearly, whatever he called himself, but a man, with the same urges as those back home. Whatever he was, it was obvious what payment he meant to demand from her. She held her breath as he closed the space between them and took her by the arm.
She panicked. He meant to ravish her! “Please, no!”
He did not let go of her entirely, but released his grip enough for her to feel calmer. His expression of sadness and disgust was so immediate, so honest-looking, that it chased away most doubt as to his intentions.
“It is not the way of the elves to violate women,” he explained in a kinder voice, “not even those who intrude upon us. But, you will have to come with me.”
“Where? Not the witch... please!”
“The Lady of Light prefers men.” He smirked. “My Lord, Celeborn the Wise, will judge your actions.”
“I’ve done nothing, at least I meant no harm, and Béma knows I was only picking mush...”
“You will follow me.”
She began to wish that he had simply ravished her instead, as the thought of going further into the trees renewed her fears. The forest looked unthreatening enough, almost merry with the garlands of yellow flowers among the boughs, but there was something uncanny about it, something unnatural she could not quite put her finger on. Soon, the sun would set, and even thinking about being caught under the trees in the dark made her ill at ease. No, she needed the open sky above her head to feel safe. When the elf released her, she instinctively took a step toward the meadow. He caught her again, holding both wrists this time.
“Look at me,” he said, and she reluctantly lifted her gaze. “No harm will befall you while you are under my responsibility. But, you will follow me. Now.”
Merewyn had heard of enough battles to know when one was lost. Her basket was left behind on the elf’s insistence, hung on a branch with a cloth over it to protect its contents from snails and insects. It was a foolish bother, she thought even as she did it – mushrooms usually went bad as soon as one turned one’s back on them, unless taken care of properly at once.
For the remainder of the day, she followed the elf reluctantly. She would have run if she thought she could flee from him, at least while there was still a chance of finding her way back.
Through sunlit glades and underbrush so thick she thought no passage possible they went, over singing brooks and silent hills. The elf walked fast, hard to follow for someone used to being on horseback most of the time, and even the more so as he moved soundlessly and she had to keep her eyes on him to know where he was going.
Soon, she found that she continued to watch him closely even when the terrain was easy and they followed a clearly visible path. Tall as the tallest of the Rohirrim he was, but lither and stronger-looking. Beardless, but no youngling, his oddly shaven state underlined the features of his face, those high cheek-bones, his straight and noble nose, and the steel-grey gaze of an experienced warrior who bore into her with some impatience when she tarried. But he was kind to her also, assisting her whenever there was a need, and his initial air of aloofness seemed to disappear a little with every step.
At sunset, when they finally stopped walking, she collapsed on the ground from weariness as soon as the elf disappeared out of sight, gone to fetch wood and water. Her back ached and she would have remained lying, if not for her reluctance to appear weak to him. So, she forced herself to rise to a sitting position, leaning back against a smooth tree-trunk, and greet him with a smile. To her surprise, he returned it, thereby putting a real smile on her lips.
Then they sat by the fire and shared a simple meal of fruit and roots, and she realized suddenly that she trusted him, in spite of everything she had heard about this wood and its inhabitants. Despite the pain in her back, she began to long for the next day and each moment when he would touch her, helping her on a particular rough part of their path.
“Allow me,” she said when he reached for the water-skin that lay on her side of the fire. Biting back a grimace, she rose, picked up the water and took the few steps towards him. And fell, dropping her burden and causing it to spill its contents in his lap.
“I’m so sorry,” she said, “please forgive me. I’m not usually this clumsy,” she added as she rose uneasily and made an attempt to brush some of the water off him.
He whisked her hands away, a tad more angrily than she thought was called for, considering she had already apologized and was only trying to help. “Let me see your feet,” he demanded.
He pulled her down beside him, and watched critically as she removed her boots with some difficulty. Her feet were clearly swollen, and an angry red colour in the light of the fire. She yelped when he probed the pads with his fingers.
“Elbereth!” he cursed. “Why did you not say something?” He looked upset more than compassionate, and yet his touch had become very delicate, soothing her skin.
“I was raised not to complain.” She wanted to say more, to explain that she hadn’t wanted to slow him down more than necessary, but felt consciousness slipping from her fast. “I’m sorry,” she repeated, “Must sleep now.”
After the first hours in a near coma-like state induced by utter physical weariness, her night was one of fitful sleep, disturbed by bad dreams. Invisible ghosts were chasing her, turning into monsters as they ran, sometimes armed with ornamented bows, sometimes just reaching for her with long, slim fingers. She always woke up before they caught her, and then the elf was there. He said nothing, but his presence at her side calmed her.
The sun stood high in the sky when she awoke at last, thoroughly rested despite some residual stiffness in her limbs. It took her a moment to realise where she was, and when she saw the elf sitting turned away from her, she remembered how angry he was the night before. And now, she had slept long into the day, delaying their departure hopelessly. By now, he must be furious!
“I am so very sorry,” she said tentatively as she folded the cloth she had used for a cover during the night, understanding only when he put it on that it was his mantle. His face appeared calm, and she saw no trace of anger when she dared to look into his eyes at last. If anything, he looked worried.
“The fault was mine,” he said, motioning for her to sit down beside him on the trunk of a fallen tree. “I should have paid more attention to you,” he continued as he handed her a cup, “and not expected you to follow me like a company of archers.”
“I tried my best. I didn’t want you to have to slow down because of me. And I did not want to appear whiny.” She sipped her drink, a brew of birch-leaves it seemed.
He laughed. “Now, see what this silence on both of our parts has taken us! As a result, we will arrive later than if we had walked slowly from the start, with many breaks.” He paused, and then added with a slight bow that looked proud more than anything else, “My name is Haldir.”
She rose to offer him a polite curtsey. “I am Merewyn.” She thought better than to ask him where precisely they were going, thereby jeopardising his newly won trust. To be entirely honest, she preferred not to know. For now, it was more than enough to just travel with this elf, no longer entirely a stranger, and the only thing with some familiarity in this new place. “Should we go then... Haldir?” The name rolled pleasantly off her tongue.
“We should, Merewyn, but not until you eat some of this.”
She took the offered piece of bread, which turned out to be hard, but surprisingly tasty. “Thank you. It’s very satisfying.” The small piece was not only enough to still the worst of her hunger, but left her in a pleasant state of fullness.
“We carry it with us when travelling,” he explained, showing her a few more pieces wrapped in leaves. “Now, let us leave. I will count on you to let me know as soon as you need to rest, or else...”
His threat was only half serious, she suspected, but she quickly agreed, not wanting to test his patience.
The landscape they moved through was much like the one she had seen the day before, but everything else felt different. Every now and then, she would ask for a break, and Haldir would sit with her.
“How fares your family?” he asked as they shared a cup of water. What an odd thing to ask an intruder! She looked at him – he appeared seriously interested in her answer.
“They are well,” she said, relieved to engage in habitual small talk. “This summer has been good to us. Plenty of grass for our horses and sheep, and the barns are full already.”
“And your storehouses? Are the mushrooms for someone in particular?”
“My sister’s youngest – he loves them. You see, Haldir, I live with my sister and her family. I have no children of my own, and no husband.” She blushed, suddenly realising how that might sound, as if she was offering herself to him. “I prefer it that way,” she quickly added. “It suits me well and allows me some freedom.”
She returned the polite enquiry as to the health his family, but he dodged it, muttering something near inaudible about brothers and how it was about time for them to continue. It was clear that he preferred to be the one to ask the questions.
“Nobody I know has ever seen an elf,” she offered as an innocent conversation starter the next time they rested.
“Most of my people prefer to remain hidden.”
“And you are different?” He had proven that already, by showing himself to her, but she hoped he would tell her more about himself.
“I have travelled, in my youth. I am one of the few who speak your language.”
“Then I’m lucky it was you who caught me.” She fell silent for a moment, thinking she was lucky in other ways too, to be with Haldir rather than someone else. She did not need to meet other elves to know that he was special.
“It was my duty to approach you, but it has had its rewards already.” That was a kind thing to say.
“I guess anything out of the ordinary is interesting; you must be bored sometimes.”
He looked at her with suspicion.
She chuckled. “I am no spy. My youngest brother rides along the northern border; you may have seen him even. He often complains about the lack of everything, including enemies to fight.
“Your brother must be very young.”
“Sixteen this summer, counted for a man long enough, but has yet to become one, if you ask me. He’s dreaming about moving to Edoras to ride in the king’s own company. Have you been there, on your travels? I haven’t heard of any elves visiting.”
“The friendship between our peoples was greater then. And the name of your country was recognised as an Elvish word.”
“Riddermark? I did not know.”
“Rochand, ‘land of horses’, it was called by your ancestors.”
She lost track of everything she told him in the course of the day, about herself and life in the Mark. Haldir’s reluctance to offer information in return was disappointing, but not surprising. Considering how these elves kept to themselves, it would only be natural for him not to trust her. She enjoyed their conversations, and his company, nevertheless, and not only because they took her thoughts off what was to come, his lord’s judgement.
When Haldir spread his mantle over Merewyn for the second night, he said softly: “Tomorrow morning we will be there. Now, rest.”
Sleep did not come easily. Already tomorrow, they would reach their mysterious destination, and whatever happened after that, she would not be with Haldir. The realisation struck her with sudden sadness, as if she were to lose a friend, rather than being parted from someone – a possible enemy even – whom she met for the first time just two days ago. Opening her eyes briefly, she caught sight of his noble profile outlined against the night sky. It was not only that that was noble with him, she thought, but his character as well. He had spoken with her as with an equal, not ‘just’ a woman, and despite being his prisoner, at least technically, she felt treated with more respect than by many at home. Half asleep, she glanced at him again, happy just to know that he was there, a few steps away.
The dreams that visited her that night were of a kind that caused her to wake up panting, hot-faced and with her hands entangled in her skirt. It embarrassed her, and she was relieved to find him sitting with his back turned. Doubly so in the morning, when she realised whose face her dream-lover had been wearing.
Breakfast was a hurried affair of tea and bread, the same as the day before. Haldir confirmed that the former was indeed mainly birch-leaf and volunteered the other two ingredients – elderflower and a grass she had never heard of – but would disclose nothing more about the bread than that it was considered very special, and seldom offered to strangers. She ate the remaining piece with a feeling of awe, noting that his giving it to her made her feel special as well.
Haldir seemed to be in a hurry again, but conceded to her plea to make a short break at a brook so she could wash her face, and sprinkle some water in other places as well. Then they set off again, but stopped when the first sunlight had scattered the morning mists.
There, against a deep-green wall of ivy, stood a lady in white, as fearsome as she was fair, and with her a tall lord, his hair turned silver although he could be no older than she. Then the Lady looked at her, and she lost track of time.
‘Her heart is pure. She can be trusted.’
Somehow, she knew that it was the Lady who had spoken, even if she had not seen the elf–woman’s lips move, and the voice was only in her head. And now she was smiling, this mighty creature, and Merewyn suddenly understood why Haldir had referred to her as the ‘Lady of Light’. It was as if the sun stood high in the skies instead of being shy morning rays filtered through layers of leaves; her limbs were warmed, and all fears seemed to vanish.
Then, the Lady turned and left, and the world was dim again. Merewyn followed the disappearing elf–lady with her eyes for as long as she could, reluctant to let go of even the last traces of white glinting between the trees. Then she could no longer delay the moment that must come. Fears rising anew, she turned her gaze to the Silver Lord, to hear his judgement.
“Hear my verdict, Merewyn of Rohan,” he said, and though his voice was kinder than expected, she could not look at him at first. Only when she lifted her head, the Lord continued, speaking slowly as if to imprint each word in her for many years to come. "No mortal ear must hear what you have seen, or heard, or felt while in this wood. Instead, you will tell tales of abduction, and suffering beyond description. The reputation of 'the witch', my beloved wife, must not be diminished.”
“I swear,” she said quietly when he seemed to wait for an answer. “I vow to never betray you; I swear it on the mearas, no on Béma himself!”
He nodded. “Araw – the name under which the Vala is known to us – has heard your oath. Now, I wish to speak with Haldir."
The two elves walked away, heads close as if sharing an intimate secret.
When they were no longer to be seen, she sat down on a stone to wait for their return. There was no chance of finding her way out of the forest alone if she ran off now, and she was not sure that she even wanted to flee any longer. No, she would wait for the elves to return, and to deliver her doom. And then, she would courageously carry out whatever task they would lay on her to atone for her mistake.
It would probably be something boring, like spinning or weaving, or maybe something hard and unpleasant, as mucking horse-dung, if they had horses in this strange place. If only Haldir had been less noble – she would gladly pay him in kind. She sighed and for a moment was lost in thoughts of what it would be like to kiss him, to feel his hands on her, his body against hers, its heaviness as he would lower himself onto her...
She sighed again. Whatever price would be asked for, it would not be that. No, the grey lord would tell Haldir of some menial task that they needed done. Or, maybe she had judged them wrong, and there was something terrible in store for her. Maybe, they would keep her here, locked up in a cave, or as a kitchen servant for as long as she lived. They wouldn’t do that, would they?
Anxiety notwithstanding, the scenery was too beautiful not to enjoy. She followed the flight of a red-spotted butterfly, and then he was suddenly at her side, Haldir, with a smirk that only augmented his noble features.
"What did he say?" She heard how her voice trembled. "How will I pay my debt?
"Have you not understood? You will suffer no harm at my hands."
“And your lord?”
"Your fears have been punishment enough – and I suspect that keeping secret the truth about my people will not be an easy burden for you to carry. I will lead you back to the grassland now, on a quicker path than the one I used to bring you.”
“And?” His expression seemed to say that he had not spoken to the end.
“Lórien is fair, Merewyn,” he said with a chuckle, and a shrug. “My lord wishes you to enjoy it to the fullest. As do I."
Was he saying what she hoped? There was promise in his eyes, was it not? The way he looked at her now, the same way she had looked at him when she thought he did not notice... with desire.
“Then I would like to enjoy it like this, if I may?” Before she could regret her brazenness, she put her arms around his waist and stood on her toes to deliver a kiss onto his mouth. The ardour with which he responded frightened her a little. He must have sensed it, as he soon broke the kiss and asked:
“Is this all that you want? If it is so, then we need to stop this now, and start walking, unless...”
“Unless what?” She was stalling for time, neither wanting to part with him just yet, nor prepared to go further without a second thought.
“Unless you are deliberately trying to put my honour to the test. Merewyn, I will not be held responsible for the outcome. This past night I more than once was near asking to share your bed. I shall not be tempted in vain again.”
She shivered, more with delight than actual fright, although she could feel that his emotions were not to be played with, anymore than his honour. Beneath the cool reason he had showed her until then, passion reigned. Did she have the courage to find out how much? Would it be right to do so, for both of them? In her heart and mind, she knew that it was so. She would soon leave Dwimordene, no Lórien, and by succumbing to passion, she would carry a small piece of Haldir in her heart, and, hopefully, also leave something of her with him.
"I wish to give myself to you," she whispered, eyes modestly downcast. "If..." She looked up, suddenly feeling insecure.
"If I do want you?" His earnest smile warmed her heart as much as the predatory glint in his eyes made her body tingle with anticipation. "Come, let us see."
Within moments, she found herself pressed against a tree, his mouth devouring hers. His lips were so soft, yet demanding, his muscular back so hard under her hands when she embraced him. Her eyes sought his when he put his knee between hers, pinning her effectively to the tree – there was no mistaking that gaze.
"Now, do you believe that I want this?" She gave a small sound of consent and then held her breath when she felt his hands cup her breasts. "I have wanted to know what these would feel like ever since I saw you in the meadow."
"And I," she replied, feeling brave from the intensity of the moment, "I have wondered how it would be to touch this."
She slid her hand between their bodies and felt along the front of his leggings. He was as ready as he had stated, and she noticed with delight how his eyes widened and then closed when she began to stroke him. His mouth opened in a soundless moan, and then the efficient warden was back, removing her hand with one of his and making short work of the leather strap that held his leggings closed. She touched his flesh briefly while they shared a fervent kiss, and then felt him slip to his knees. The hot mouth travelling up the inside of her thigh made her moan softly as she buried her hands in his hair, and then yelp when his tongue found its target. Surprise shifted to enjoyment, to pleasure, to need, until she feared she would burst from the pressure building up inside of her.
“I would prefer if you did not pull it out by the roots,” she heard him say once the waves of orgasm had begun to ebb out. Still somewhat dizzy, she looked down and found that she had strands of his hair wound twice around her fingers.
“Forgive me,” she said as she unwound his locks and tried to ease the pain he must be feeling by gently massaging his scalp.
“There are better ways to make it up to me,” he said hoarsely and rose to his feet.
“Like so?” She lifted a leg and put it around his waist, discreetly making sure that her skirt would be out of the way.
His wolf–like grin went straight to her core and she eagerly pressed herself against him, aided by strong hands that lifted and held her at the most advantageous angle. For a long time she was lost in a sea of impressions: the bark of the tree trunk scratching her back, the rustling of leaves under their feet, slipping, but not falling, held by strong hands that felt warm against her exposed flesh. His lips on hers. Someone breathing very loud. One voice, no two, moaning in a rising cadence. Him. His body against her, in her. Everywhere... ah! Nowhere.
"Do not stop now," she whined, annoyed, bereft, missing his warmth already.
"I... will... not." Then he withdrew, silenced her complaints with a kiss, and whispered: "On your hands and knees."
She fell forward without a second thought, willing to do anything and all, if only he would fill her again. This time, she shut out all sensations from her mind except for those he caused. The reward came quick, and hard. Both of them were laughing when they collapsed onto the ground.
“Valar!” she said as she rose. She made an attempt to smoothen her skirt and brush moss and dirt from her knees, but soon gave up. “I must look like I’ve been... doing what we just have.”
‘You do, and it only makes you more beautiful to me,’ Haldir thought, taking in the intoxicating scent of sated mortal woman.
Invited by her not too subtle hints, he took her twice more before they reached the glade where she had entered the forest: first in a pale sea of blooming niphredil, and then again while they bathed in a spring that was almost too cold.
"Haldir," she said when he stopped at the foot of a mallorn and motioned for her to continue out into the sunshine. "I understand that we will ride different paths from here. I am truly sorry for breaking the laws of your people, but I cannot entirely regret it. If you know what I mean?"
“A star shone upon the hour of our meeting, Merewyn,” he stated, allowing himself a last quick smile before melting back into his role as march warden of Lórien. “Should you ever dare venture into these woods again, my lord has given me leave to deal with you as I see fit.”
This time, he saw no fear in her eyes, and the hint of a smile played on her lips. She would come back to him, he thought as he watched her happily walk out onto the meadow, having found her mushrooms as fresh as if plucked only moments before. The season had only just begun. She would return.
Béma – the name under which the vala Oromë is known among the Rohirrim
Araw – Oromë’s Sindarin name (‘Oromë’ is Quenya)
Dwimordene – ‘valley of sorcery’, Lórien according to Rohan superstition
Firieth – Sindarin for ‘mortal woman’(supposedly someone more mature than a fíriel, a ‘mortal maid’)
Merewyn – In LOTR, Old English was used for the language of the Rohirrim. This is an authentic Old English (Anglo-Saxon) name, consisting of the elements ‘mer’ (fame) and ‘wyn’ (friend).
Posted: September 8, 2008
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"Long live Thranduil, great Elf-king of Greenwood!"