A figure, cloaked and hooded, made his way through the trees of Caras Galadhon. He had come unchallenged through the trees of Lothlórien, for he had made himself known to none of the guards, and even to their elven eyes, his passing had appeared as nothing more than a stirring of the leaves, and a brush of wind moving through the trees.
He glanced upward at the shining lights of the city set within the graceful branches of the trees he loved so well. The time would come when he would present himself before the Lord and Lady, and though decorum demanded that it be the first thing he do upon returning, he shook his head to himself, and cast decorum to the winds. His thought was bent upon only one other, now.
His eyes, remembering their old skill, found the small, rarely used path, and noted the soft imprints of her slender, bare feet. Turning upon the path, he followed where it led, until the well remembered tones of the clattering waterfall came to his ears, and he saw her at last, seated upon the ground. Her face was turned from him, her loom with the tapestry upon it, set before her. It had progressed much further than it had when he had seen it last, and the colors woven into the three figures upon it, fairly glowed. The child upon his mother's lap seemed to peer out of the tapestry with soulful curiosity. Her hands worked as skillfully as he remembered, though they trembled slightly now, and she would pause occasionally to place a hand to her face and stifle her gentle though unceasing weeping. Though she faced away from him, her body was turned slightly from her tapestry, the smooth curves of her slender, youthful body pleasantly outlined beneath the thin white gown that she wore. It was not yet apparent that she was with child, though he knew that she was.
Drawing in a deep breath, he stepped forward.
Lothirien straightened at the sound of the voice behind her. She had not expected to be discovered here. She had come here to be alone. None but she and Haldir had ever come to this place.
"My lord." She said, pausing in her work and dropping her eyes, making no effort to turn and greet the stranger. The Elf who stood behind her carried a soothing presence about him that felt painfully familiar, warming the quiet glade as only one other could for her.
"It is a beautiful tapestry you weave."
"Thank you, my lord." She sighed again to her hands.
"It is yourself and your husband and..." The stranger trailed off.
"And our son." Lothirien finished for him.
"A son." He echoed, his voice growing soft and wistful. "He is a beautiful child."
"He is yet unborn. But this will be as he will appear when he comes to me." Lothirien whispered softly, and continued, "This tapestry I weave to keep the broken shards of my heart intact until I can deliver him to this world."
There was nothing but silence behind her, and Lothirien sensed that the stranger was waiting for her to continue.
"My husband fell at Helm's Deep, defending the people of Rohan." She pursed her lips tightly, the pain slicing through her again, as painfully as it had when she held her beloved, when the light had faded from his eyes, and she knew he was dead.
"I am sorry for the pain you have felt these past days." The stranger murmured behind her, his voice choking with soft grief himself.
"The pain I feel is no more hallowed in the eyes of the Valar than the grief felt by any other woman of these woods who lost a lover that day." Lothirien sighed to her hands, closing her eyes and bowing her head.
"But for your part, the grief you feel, is at once both sweet and bitter, different from that which is felt by many others."
Lothirien half turned, seeing out of the corner of her eye, the figure of an Elf, a hooded cloak draped about his broad shoulders, and over his head hiding his face. "What do you mean?" She wondered quietly.
"You were there, my lady. At Helm's Deep. You held him when he drew his last breath."
Lothirien's shoulders sagged, and she bowed her head dejectedly. This man must have been one of the survivors of the battle. He must have seen it happen. Only a few days before it had been when their company had returned, but ages it seemed to her. Ages of torture, and hopeless, empty grief. She went through the motions of her life, though as one already dead. She ate and slept and lived, not for herself, but for her baby whose presence she could feel within her, a soft little ball of life, though there would not be any visible sign for many more months.
"I should not have gone." She whispered. "I was a fool. I went, wanting to give him aid. But I only caused him to worry for me. It was out of fear for me that he did not watch his own safety as he should have. It is because of me that he is dead." Lothirien sighed sadly as the stranger moved a step closer to her. "My fault!" Not caring that she wept in front of a stranger, she bowed her head and began to sob. "But I loved him, my lord."
She caught her breath, fighting to speak. "How I loved him. More than my own life. If I could have, I would have died in his place! At the least, I would have died beside him. But I was not even allowed that."
"My lady, Lothirien. Do not despair. The fault is not yours." The hooded stranger said soothingly, his voice cracking with a wretched pain of his own. "Your beloved does not regret that you followed him to the battle. For then he was given the chance to repair the injury he had done to you. He spoke many words he regretted before he parted from you here in the Golden Wood. Yet at Helm's Deep, in the armory, and again upon the parapet of the wall, he was able to speak again of his love for you." For a moment, the Elf paused, and a wistful smile entered his voice. "He did not feel the pain of his wounds, my lady. He felt only the comfort of your gentle touch, and heard the music of your voice as you spoke again of your unending love for him. His love for you is as yours for him. Unending. Even, as you said upon your wedding day, beyond death."
Lothirien choked between her sobs, wondering how this man could know so much. Lothirien paused, and took a deep breath, staring hard at the tapestry before her. The stranger's voice was so soothing. So melodic. So like-,
Drawing in a breath, she closed her eyes, and listened to the music of his words as he continued. "He shares with you a love that exists beyond the borders of this world. One that is greater than can be spoken in any of the tongues of the children of Ilúvatar. Great enough, than even Mandos himself cannot part you long."
"I know that is true." Lothirien nodded, her voice soft, her eyes still closed, for she did not want to end the spell his gently flowing words had cast. "I live now for nothing else but to give my son life, and then I will give him to the care of the Lady Galadriel, and leave these woods. I will travel to the Lands of Men, to Rohan, and the fortress at Helm's Deep where my love died, and there, I will make my grave."
"He does not wish for you to die, my lady." The hooded figure murmured, softly but insistently. His voice was filled with emotion, bringing wetness to Lothirien's eyes. "He has missed you. Every moment parted from you has been as an eternity of torture for him. He longs to be with you again, to fill his senses with you. You were torn apart too soon, my lady. But joining him in death is not the answer."
"Is it so surprising, my lord?" Lothirien asked sadly, opening her eyes. This man's voice was so very familiar, but he could not be whom she wished for him to be, for he was gone. There could be no returning from the Halls of Mandos. "I love him. I cannot live without him, so I will join him." Lothirien choked on yet another sob and rose quickly to her feet, turning, and barely glancing at the hooded stranger as she moved to brush past him. "Forgive my rudeness, my lord, but I must go."
"There is no need for you to go to him." The stranger insisted, reaching out and catching her hand as she moved past him, gently drawing her to a stop.
At this, Lothirien's head straightened suddenly, and she turned, looking upon this strange figure fully, for the first time. She could see little more of his face than his firm jaw, and his perfect, expressive mouth. His golden hair flowed from beneath his hood, shining as if with its own light. And to Lothirien, it appeared that a white light was shining through his form and raiment as if through a thin veil.
"My lord?" She asked, her words barely more than a whisper.
"You need not go to him, for with the blessings of the Valar, and by the will of Ilúvatar, he has returned to you."
The Elf now, with a trembling hand, reached up and threw back his hood. Lothirien drew in a sharp breath.
She caught a soft sob in her throat, as she pulled her hand away and lowered her head, dropping to her knees before him. His countenance was bright, and the aura of his being was as the sun itself. And he carried an air about him as it were the glory of the Valar. But his face-, his gentle eyes, the timid almost boyish smile upon his perfect lips-, she knew that what she saw could not be even as her heart pounded painfully within her. He was dead. She had watched him die. She had heard his parting words of love, had felt his last breath, warm upon her cheek. She had seen the light fade in his eyes, and as orcs swarmed the walls Aragorn had dragged her back to the Keep as she wept and begged him to let her die beside her lover. And again she had wept as the earth had covered his still form. She dared to lift her eyes briefly, wondering if she would see nothing, and realize that it had been but a wishful dream.
Yet still he stood before her. The light of Valinor was about him, though his countenance was not one of stately, unfeeling calm. His hands hung heavily at his sides, opening and closing. The cloth of his linen tunic thinly disguised his firm, muscled chest, which rose and fell heavily with unchecked emotion, his warm eyes gazing down upon her with painful longing.
Again she dropped her eyes and whispered his name, letting the word roll deliciously over her tongue. Then she took command of her voice. "Haldir?" She managed to whisper, hardly daring to hope.
"Oh, Lothirien." He choked, and dropped to his knees before her, and in doing this, he cast her mind back to the day she had come here, her heart grieving, for she believed that he did not love her. She had come to be alone, but he had followed her. And when he had told her of how he had learned of her true feelings for him, she had despaired. In shame, certain that he was angry with her for loving him, she had tried to flee, but he had caught her hands, imploring her to stay. She had fallen to her knees, and he had lowered himself to his knees as well to look into her eyes, just as he was doing again. This was the very spot where he had held her, and confessed his love for her, and they had shared their first kiss.
"Lothirien." Haldir breathed, one hand rising to cup her cheek, where her scar had faded to naught but a faint line. As his warm flesh touched her, the light that exuded from his skin reached out and enveloped her, warming her heart, and soothing her wounded soul like a soft beam of sunlight. "My little flower. Have I changed so much? Do not bow to me."
A warm shock raced through her, and tears started instantly to her eyes. Without further hesitation, she flung herself, sobbing, into his arms.
She felt his arms circle around her and pull her tightly against him, his warmth permeating into her. With her face against his chest, she could hear his heart pounding, and felt the heat of him against her cheek. The touch of him was fulfilling and real, unlike the vague, faint shadows of dreams that had tormented her at night, only to disappear when she awoke. This time, there would be no waking, and no loss. For a long moment, Haldir said nothing as they held each other, but stroked her hair, sending pleasant shivers along her skin. At last she felt him bend his head, and bury his face in her hair, and then she felt him shaking, and heard his soft sobs. He was crying, holding her as if he needed to know of the reality of her as much as she needed his touch to assure herself of his.
"Haldir." She breathed, as she reached up, touching her fingers against his smooth cheek. "You've come back. Like Lord Glorfindel, of Rivendell."
"Yes," he said, a smile touching his lips, humor lacing his voice. "I have."
He had changed much, yet he seemed to be as he always had been. A new light shone in his eyes, giving him an air of great wisdom as if he possessed the knowledge of the ages yet the same smile she remembered turned at the corners of his mouth. The same warmth lit his face. "How?" she breathed.
Haldir caressed her brow and her cheek. "By the grace of the Valar." He smiled.
Her breath quickened as Haldir's hands softly cupped her face, as he kissed her hair, and brushed his lips warmly over her brow and her cheek. And lastly, his lips touched her trembling mouth, famished for a taste of him, as his were, for her.
He gave no other explanation, but she needed none as his kiss deepened, growing more heated, more insistent and his arms tightened around her, gently, yet also with a subtle urgency. Questions remained unanswered in her mind, but she did not care. The answers would come when they would. All that she wanted, all that she hungered for now, was him, and as her senses became entwined with his, all else about her, faded. Already she had forgotten her grief, her loneliness, and the grim belief that the child growing beneath her heart would never know his father. All of the pain fled, as insubstantial now, as the memory of an unhappy dream flees in the light of morning.
In the background, the gentle clatter of the waterfall murmured on unchanging, and somewhere off in the forest, a bird began a sprightly, joyful song. But Haldir and Lothirien, discovering each other anew, barely heard.