Mirrors were not something commonly found among the Galadhrim who guarded Lothlorien's borders, nor the spartan talans in which they took rest and breaks. It also was not common for elves to take trophies or souvenirs of battle, but that was more understandable than carrying a mirror. Haldir kept a shield propped against the central trunk of the mallorn his talan was built around, a highly polished bronze shield he had taken from the corpse of an orc, which had undoubtedly looted it from some other unfortunate warrior.
Early morning light filtered through the leaves, dappling his silver blonde hair with shades of soft green. Haldir stared morosely at his image in the shield and peeled his lips back to expose teeth and gums. A bit of lettuce clung stubbornly to a front tooth, and he grimly ran his tongue over the offending matter. A quick re-inspection showed him that it was gone.
Haldir, March Warden of ‘Lorien, was ready to face the day.
He would have preferred to have been stationed on the distant borders or to have been sent beyond ‘Lorien on an information gathering mission for the Lord and Lady. It was work for which he was well suited; the company of other elves in the tree city was not something he sought, and blending with the human populace of other lands was easier for him than most elves. The Valar had seen fit to provide him with a sturdy, broad shouldered frame made even more unique by the solidity of his musculature. Though fair enough to look upon, Haldir's nose was more aquiline than the average elf and, in his more bitter moments, he inwardly compared his cheeks to those of certain small burrowing rodents who stored their foraged food in their jowls. Disguising himself as a human youth was easy once he'd unbraided his hair and added a bit of dirt; much to his horror, the women of those settlements he visited found him an incomparable vision of masculine beauty.
Instead of guarding ‘Lorien's farthest reaches or grimly flirting with apple cheeked human beauties, Haldir perched upon a sturdy mallorn bough in full, seldom-worn dress uniform, watching Lord Elrond's entourage make its way toward Caras Galadhon. At some point he would have to reveal himself, give proper greetings, and formally escort them to the royal talan. He was the best and brightest of the Galadhrim, and he knew his services had been enlisted as a mark of respect toward Elrond's house, as well as a courtesy toward the Lord and Lady's daughter. Such was his duty to Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel and, as much as he detested the task, he would do nothing to displease or disappoint the elves that had appointed it to him.
Now that they traveled within the secure confines of the golden wood, Lord Elrond rode at the front of the company with an elf whom Haldir immediately identified as Glorfindel, hero of Gondolin. A smirk twisted Haldir's features as he perused the deceptively delicate figure casually chatting with the Lord of Imladris. His hair was golden blonde rather than silver blonde, and it had begun to curl most fetchingly in the damp air. Most unelf-like, but Haldir doubted if anyone had ever made a point of this to the elf in question.
A quick count showed twenty warriors fanned out in a wedge with Elrond and Glorfindel as its point. Five more ghosted through the trees, oblivious to Haldir's group of six defenders, all of which had spotted them while avoiding notice. At the center of the formation rode Celebrian, her moon pale tresses contrasting sharply with the dark hair and eyes of her three lady companions. The twins followed behind her on matched black mares, both armed and evincing elven deadliness in spite of their mixed heritage. The corners of Haldir's lips twitched in spite of himself. He had enjoyed the Lady Arwen's company, and was prepared to like her brothers as well.
The remaining two elves of the party were a mystery to him. A raven-haired male elf dressed in dark robes cut for riding rode ahead of Celebrian's ladies along with a younger, similarly dressed male. He made no conversation with his companion in spite of the nervous glances occasionally cast his way by the young one. The expression on his coldly beautiful face was that of extreme annoyance, and Haldir found himself commiserating silently. The young one didn't seem any happier than his elder and, judging by their appearance, Haldir guessed that travel was not something either of them enjoyed.
Loyalty. Honor. Courage. Gritting his teeth, Haldir gracefully descended, ending his downward movement in an acrobatic leap that finished in an elegant bow a dozen feet in front of the Lord of Imladris's mount. He smiled as if it pained him to do so, squared his too broad shoulders. "Greetings, Lord Elrond, Lady Celebrian. I bid you good day and welcome from the Lord and Lady of Lothlorien, and extend to you their hope that your travels have been uneventful and that your stay will be joyous. I am Haldir, March Warden of Lothlorien and, as it pleases you, I shall be your guide."
"Thank you, Haldir." Elrond took Haldir's dramatic entrance in stride; behind him Celebrian giggled, and Haldir's smile stretched upward another notch. "All has been well with us, and we hope to find the Lord and Lady in peace and good spirits."
Haldir felt as if his face would crack under the strain of maintaining a properly diplomatic expression of friendly courtesy. The stilted exchange of formal greetings continued a few moments longer until he was finally permitted to take his position as ceremonial point guard. The artificial smile vanished the instant his back was turned, briefly twisted into a sarcastic grimace. The sharp titter of female laughter reached his ears, and he glared at the path in front of him, marching stolidly forward.
Haldir found it ironic that, aside from his brothers, his best friend was a princess of mixed blood who had yet to live even half the span of his own years. At first, he had resented his duty as guard and chaperone on the occasions she came to visit, viewing it as glorified baby sitting. It had quickly become apparent to him that Arwen did not require a babysitter, however, and soon he began to resent it more when duty called him away from the city during her stays.
Arwen lived within her own world of contradictions and subtle speculation, though station and appearance offered her more protection from the sly commentary of others than he. Hot, human blood flowed in her veins in spite of her delicate, ethereal beauty, and who knew what strange urges and behaviors that blood might incite? Nothing overt was ever said, not of the lady who was the granddaughter of Celeborn and Galadriel, not of the elf maiden whose hand would undoubtedly be fiercely sought, if only for the station and appearance that made questions of blood secondary. Still, the elves outside of Imladris' cocoon did not so much curiously wonder as they simply waited - waited for their silent speculations to be inevitably borne out.
Befriending a princess had put Haldir squarely in the sights of those who didn't quite dare to gossip about Arwen. He caught it for both himself and Arwen, and had known that he would when he first began thinking of her as something more than an annoying duty that occasionally kept him in ‘Lorien. No one would be so vulgar as to comment on her heritage, but Haldir had heard the edges of sotto voce conversations concerning his own impeccably elven ancestry. What they couldn't say about her they said about him, pointing out his build and less than delicate features as proof of… something. Some wrongness, some unwonted fleshliness and deficiency for which there was no evidence, yet was as unconcealable as his aquiline nose and soft cheeks.
He'd only partially succeeded in being happy for Arwen's sake at the news of her family's visit. He'd heard enough about the informal relations amongst Elrond's family and staff to be curious, but not nearly curious enough to overcome his distaste for the necessary conspicuousness his role as honor guard would entail.
"You do realize that if your mother were anyone except the daughter of the Lord and Lady I would resent this most highly," he'd said to her several evenings before her parent's arrival. "I am the Warden of Lothlorien and occasionally a gatherer of information and ambassador to the human realms, not an ornament to the honor of others."
Arwen had laughed, ignoring the disgusted glare cast Haldir's way by the elf maid who served as her chaperone. The two of them had been seated on the balcony overlooking the gardens; the lady companion sat at a distance, lips pursed as she pretended to concentrate on her embroidery.
"Grandfather and Grandmother are proud of you, Haldir. ‘Tis the reason you're Warden of Lothlorien, and the reason they want you to serve as escort and guard. Only the best for Ada and Nana."
"I like your perspective. I'd still rather be doing something useful."
"You wouldn't miss me out in the wilds?" Arwen had teased, and he'd been unable to hide his answering grin.
"You know I would."
"Well, it won't be so bad. You'll like Elladan and Elrohir. If it weren't for them I wouldn't be able to spar with you." A most unladylike sniff of displeasure had reached their ears, and Arwen cast her chaperone an amused glance. Haldir glanced at her uncomfortably.
"Perhaps we could go someplace where we would be within sight of others but not in ear shot?" he'd whispered, leaning forward, and Arwen nodded.
"Come on. We'll go to the main talan; I like the view." Arwen had turned to address the maid. "Lisaebette, you are excused."
"Do you not wish an escort, my lady?" The elf woman had asked.
"I think we can find the way," Haldir had answered dryly. Lisaebette had smiled tightly and dropped an abbreviated curtsey before gathering her sewing. Arwen swept past her without a second glance, airily waving for Haldir to follow.
"So what are they like, your brothers?" he'd asked stupidly as they'd made their way along the high, suspended bridge that connected to the central talan. He'd heard enough about the twins to make the question seem redundant, but Arwen never batted an eye.
"Cute. And kind of fuzzy."
Haldir had gawped, looking for a moment more like the village idiot than the March Warden of Lothlorien. Then he'd laughed, his lower tones mixing comfortably with her crystalline giggles in the moonlit darkness.
He'd noticed no indication of fuzziness when he'd seen the twins in the golden wood, nor later when he'd had a chance to view them more closely in the Lord and Lady's receiving hall. Elladan and Elrohir looked more elven than he himself did and, dressed as they were, very little could be made of them beyond their typical and identical svelte sinuousness. Returning to the talan he shared with his brothers, Haldir viciously imagined them nude and hirsute, bristling with dark curls like the men he'd encountered in the human settlements.
"Bad day?" Rumil asked as Haldir stalked in, shutting the door behind him with more force than was strictly necessary.
"Do you need ask?"
"No, I suppose not," Rumil sighed. He'd been sprawled across the low divan doing nothing more stimulating than perusing the insides of his eyelids. It was his first full day home from border patrol, and he'd spent the better part of the day in indolent laziness planning late night excursions to ‘Lorien's public houses. In light of Haldir's mood, he wished he'd set aside this first evening to spend with his brother, but arrangements had been made already and a certain maiden of more than ordinary loveliness would be expecting him.
"Haldir, you need to relax more."
The March Warden's gaze swept over his brother's half-nude form, lingered on the partially hooded eyes and the hand loosely clasped about the neck of a wine bottle. He said nothing. Rumil ran his free hand through his blonde hair and sat up.
"I assume you have plans tonight."
"Yes." Rumil frowned, but Haldir merely nodded, face stoic.
"If you need anything I'll be in my room." Haldir turned on his heel, then paused and glanced over his shoulder. "If you drink until you are sick again, make sure you reach the edge of the talan this time or you will be even less pleased on the morrow than you would be in any event. And, if you bring home any… female companion… I'd prefer not to have to look at her over my breakfast.""
"Alright, Haldir," Rumil said lamely. He set the bottle on the floor and followed his brother's departing form with unhappy eyes. A great deal of the fun had abruptly leaked from his plans. "Hey, Haldir, I could just stay home with you tonight. We could talk, play cards…"
"No." Haldir didn't turn or slow his pace. "Go enjoy yourself." The door to his bedroom closed with a quiet, firm click. Rumil flopped back onto the divan and closed his eyes.