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The Ainur of Shadows

Chapter Text

Hazel Potter hated the stares from everyone that seemed to follow her wherever she went. 

Given, she was covered in blood, carrying an unconscious young girl through the main lobby of the Ministry but that wasn’t an unusual sight. Not when she was sure she’d given notice she was infiltrating the magical underworld’s biggest human trafficking ring to find the Polish Minister’s niece.

“Hazel!” The relieved but tired voice of Hermione rang through the crowd and she got to see the rare sight of three of the most composed people she knew running towards her. Hermione, the youngest Minister of Magic in the last century, came skidding to a halt before her with Ron and Draco at her sides. “You- I thought you might not come back and-”

“Why wouldn’t I.” Voice void of inflection, relying on the others to know it was an actual question, she carefully set the girl in her arms down onto the floor. “I was told to do a job. So I did.”

Draco kneeled down across from her, his medical bag already in hand and he checked over the girl thoroughly, even if his eyes darted up to look over her skeptically. “She’s fine physically, if in shock. Though I wouldn’t be surprised if she has some sort of trauma from this whole mess.” 

He waved a man from the side and Hazel didn’t move as the girl was levitated on a stretcher to be taken away, Draco looking at her with visible concern though Ron spoke up first. “You were gone for quite a while, Hazel. We were worried.”

Standing stiffly from where she’d taken a knee to the floor, she looked to her best friend and Head Auror, trying for a stiff smile and knowing it fell flat by the deepening concern on their faces. “I had to infiltrate the trafficking ring from the inside.” Finally taking a moment to use her magic to clean herself of blood the best she could now that the girl was safe- the other prisoners already in the hands of the medics she’d called in at the scene- Hazel snorted softly in a show of dark humor. “Seems that there were quite a few hidden supporters of Voldemort hiding and they all wanted the opportunity to rough-up the Girl Who Lived… Though I admit the blood is not all mine.”

“Hazel.” Hermione took a stern tone, even if her eyes held concern. “What did you do.”

It wasn’t a question. She’d done something, even a random passerby could guess that.

“They’re all alive.” Hazel transfigured the skimpy dress she was in into a tank top and jeans, instantly feeling much more comfortable. “Even if some wished they were not.”

“You should-” 

Interrupting Draco, knowing he’d only pester her about healing treatments that wouldn’t do anything and mind healers that wouldn’t be able to get past her mental barriers, her voice was still without inflection. “I’m heading out after a shower and change of clothes. I have a list of names to hunt down.”

And no one stopped her, some even scrambling out of her way when she passed.

Because wasn’t it legend?

She’d lost the last of her humanity and emotions when she’d charged into battle against Voldemort with her blood-red hair rippling out behind her like the wake of blood she left in each step she took.

Everyone knew that.

Hazel Potter, the Girl Who Lived To Win, was now nothing more than the glorified assassin that people of power or misfortune came to the Minister of Magic about hiring to do the impossible.

And yet when she stopped at the front desk of her muggle-run apartment building and gave the old lady who ran the desk a chocolate bar, when she helped the old man down the hall carry his groceries, or when she curled up in the bottom of her shower and shook with sobs as she mourned the girls in that horrible place she hadn't been able to save…

Well, she knew better than most that even a monstrous heart patched together with steel and the blood of countless enemies could cry out in pain.

 

As always, her presence was known far before she stepped inside the small house without bothering to knock, the white-haired woman not looking up from where she was reading a familiar magazine upside down. “Tea?”

Hazel gave a soft hum that sometimes, depending on her mood, seemed more like a grunt and then sank into the chair opposite the woman. Picking up the tea, she smelled it and then carefully took a sip.

“It’s not poisoned.” Luna Lovegood’s eyes were smiling at her from where she’d lowered the newspaper.

“Habit.” It wasn’t that Hazel expected Luna to poison her- not in a million years- but it was a hard habit to break after she’d died plenty of times from drinking or eating things she hadn’t seen made or made herself. “Apologies.”

Luna just nodded, not accepting the unneeded apology but not upset either. 

It was easy around the woman.

Hazel never had to see the woman worry and fret over her strange habits and voiceless presence, never had to pretend to be something she so clearly wasn’t anymore.

So by the time she’d finished the peppermint tea, her muscles had untensed for the first time in weeks and she was practically melted into the comfortable chair. When she spoke, her voice was soft in a way that it normally wasn’t. “Where're the midgets?”

“Rolf and the kids are out shopping for the upcoming school year.” Luna put aside the copy of The Quibbler that she was surely looking at to make sure the final product was up to standard, picking up a letter and holding it out. 

Hazel didn’t move to take it. Not when it could only be one of two things and either meant unpleasant news that would ruin her relaxed state.

Slowly, Luna set it down again. “Neville caught a rare magical infection while you were hunting down the rest of Voldemort’s followers. I understand if you don’t show up... but Hannah asked me to invite you.”

Her eyes slipped closed, tears on her cheeks.

So that was why the kids were out shopping when it was more than a month from school.

“When?”

“Two days ago. Hermione and I were both sent your invitation, even as we both knew you’d come here when you got back.” 

That was another thing about Luna- she told it like it was and there was no hesitation or fear at igniting Hazel’s legendary temper.

Breathing through the hurt deep in her chest, she nodded slowly. “I’ll go.”

She had gone to every funeral from the war, even if others had only invited her for the sake of spitting and cussing her out as they lowered the family she’d killed into the ground. And though there had been only a few of those with family that were alive and innocent, Hazel had still gone to each one and bore the hate. 

They balanced out the funerals she’d been to where people did nothing but thank her, not to mention it was probably more truthful to her character.

And she was sure that this one would be a new mix of emotions directed towards her.

“Not many will like that you were gone while one of the few brave men that you charged into battle with died.” 

Some days she swore Luna could read minds, if not the future. But then again, it wasn’t her business if the woman could. Instead, she reached up and covered her eyes with her hand in an unusual show of weariness. “It will not be as bad as telling Pansy I killed her father.”

Nor hearing the news she'd killed herself the next day.

Nothing would be that bad.

Luna nodded, not pushing on the subject, and instead poured her another cup of tea. “You’re wearing the cloak again.”

Hand lowering so she could stare at the shimmery fabric (that had turned a deep black after the war), Hazel scowled deeply, voice near a growl. “ Fuck .”

This earned her a light feathery laugh from Luna.

“Shut up.” She turned her glare onto Luna while pulling the cloak off and throwing it across the room.

The woman waved her hand in what she supposed was supposed to be an apology, still smiling widely. “You know it won’t stay there, right? It’s not going to leave you, not when you’ve claimed it.”

“Yes, well, either way, I’m going to ignore that it’s there right now for the sake of my sanity.” She knew it wouldn’t go away, none of the Deathly Hallows had since she’d woken up in Hagrid’s arms, not to mention the fact that she couldn’t seem to die- but as not even burning the damn things with fiendfyre seemed to work to keep them destroyed, she had no choice other than to ignore it for the moment. She heaved a sigh. “Elaine’s not going to be happy to see me.”

“Is anyone nowadays?” 

It wasn’t meant to be hurtful, Luna’s gaze curious, but she felt herself flinch back anyways. “I’m…” A muscle in her hand gave a tremor. “...no, I suppose they’re not.”

Luna smiled sadly and then stood, teacup in hand. “Take your time, dear. We have a few more hours yet before the kids get home.”

And when the woman stepped from the room, Hazel broke down into small silent sobs.

 

Hazel owned only one dress, which even though Ginny and Daphne called that an affront to woman-kind, there was only one place she wore dresses and thus she only needed one.

A long simple black dress.

A funeral dress.

The speeches had already started, with Hermione at the front of the elegant chappel when she slowly walked in, her steps silent against the ugly faded green carpet. Ignoring the small hint of an irritated glance Hermione sent her in the middle of the woman’s speech about Nevile’s love for plants, Hazel moved to stand stiffly to the side of the doors at the back of the room.

The speeches were nice, the pictures around the room of Neville with his wife and daughter enough to make her chest ache with emotion, but still, she found her cheeks were dry. 

Perhaps she had lost the last of her humanity and emotions.

Though she knew she hadn’t, sometimes she almost wished she had, especially as the room of people broke to talk and get some of the small foods- and her presence was finally noticed.

As she’d thought, for the past week since the news had been plastered over the newspapers that Neville had died the media had also been busy with digging their slimy claws into the family’s life and thus knew Hazel hadn’t been in touch with them even as she’d been back for most of that time.

So it was of little surprise to her when her name was spoken in hissed tones and people only moved around her to get further away. 

“Hazel.” Hannah’s face was lined with sadness, but she still held out her hand in some sort of way of telling her she wasn’t upset. “I’m glad to see you here.”

Her smile was stiff, her face unused to the gesture anymore, but at least she knew it was less unsettling than trying to add in teeth and having it coming across as a threatening grin. She took the hand. “My apologies. If I had been in contact I would have come as soon as I could, but I was unfortunately out of reach.”

If not even Death could find her when she was wearing her cloak, then no letter would have been able to.

Hannah nodded as if she understood and Hazel politely didn’t mention the woman had no clue about any part of her life. 

“Neville will find peace in watching over you.” Setting the hand not clasped in the woman's own her shoulder gently, Hazel spoke with the certainty of one that heard the voices of those that had crossed over in her dreams. “You’re not alone.”

The woman broke into tears, quiet and heartbreaking, and quickly Hermione moved forward to take Hannah in her arms. 

Which was fine with her.

Hazel was admittedly not the greatest person to come to when crying.

But as soon as the woman had been shepherded away, a figure stomped towards her, a hand moving like a blur and her head snapped to the side with the pure rage behind the slap. “How DARE you! ‘You’re not alone’? You have no right to say that, not when you just- just up and leave without saying goodbye and- and you’re never around anyways! And now you’re here out of the blue? What kind of fucking joke are you! You’re no godmother of mine!”

Elaine, her godchild, and Nevile’s only daughter was practically hysterical and hitting Hazel’s chest with every word. 

Her cheek stung slightly, even as she only stared down at the girl hitting her with a small frown. No one else would have dared hit her, but the girl didn’t reek of fear like them, especially not when she was so obviously consumed by grief. “Elaine…” 

“NO! No, you don’t get to be here! How could you- you leave and- and you’re not even upset !”

“Oh Elaine, dear…” Hannah was starting over with sadness in her eyes, but there was also fear when they glanced at Hazel.

Hazel shook her head slightly at the woman. “It’s alright, Hannah. It’s surely more convenient to take one’s anger and grief out on the only person here not able to cry than to further upset anyone else.” Holding in a grimace, she slowly moved forward to pull Elaine to her in a gentle hug, running a hand over her hair as the girl proceeded to break down into sobs. “Anger is easier than sadness, that I know, but it never lasts as long as we wish… everyone has to feel the grief eventually, as that is the only way to honor your father’s memory.”

“Except you.” The girl’s sobbed words were soft but audible. “Everyone except you.”

Her eyes closed briefly, wondering briefly how many of those around her that she counted as her family thought she was nothing but a machine without emotions, and when she opened her eyes they were emotionless and her tone flat. “Everyone but me.” Pulling back from the girl softly, she offered up a sharp and slightly mean grin. “But do not think this means that you have a free pass to attack me whenever you please, because most monsters do not take kindly to little girls who push their buttons.”

And like she knew would happen, the crowd around them stunk of fear as Ron moved forward with watery eyes, shepherding the girl away from her as if worried she would lash out against her own goddaughter.

She wondered if Sirius had felt this way after Azkaban, a sick feeling rising in her stomach.

“Hazel.” Luna, free of anything but the soft smell of lavender, moved to her side silently and laced her soft hand into Hazel’s rougher ones. “If you don’t mind coming over, I have a rather curious but rabid beast in the woods near the house that I finally got Rolf to agree to have you help put down.”

Nodding slightly as she felt her heart softly splintering more in her chest, she let the woman lead her away from the family that she found treated her more like a wild wolf they sometimes left scraps out for and counted as a famous charity case rather than a human.

Some days... she wished she couldn’t feel a damn thing.

Some days... she wished that she hadn’t come out of the Forbidden Forest.

Chapter Text

It was without much guilt that she walked into the Ministry one sunny day a few weeks after Neville’s death, walking out just another citizen of Magical Britain. 

No longer was she going to take being called ‘The Ministry’s Sword’ or ‘Butcher for Hire’.

Instead, she was Hazel. Plain and simple.

 

Hazel found herself slipping.

Some days she’d be focused on doing something- helping out Rolf and Luna, finding new books at the bookstore, sketching random things in muggle coffee shop- and others… she’d slip into nothingness.

The first time it had happened was after a nightmare.

Hazel had woken to get some water, downing a glass to clear her mind of the feeling of blood slicking her skin, and returned to bed to fall back asleep. However, when she woke, it was somewhere between sleep and not, hearing the sounds of life around her but knowing that she was not truly in the material world.

And when Luna shook her awake, telling her it had been three days, she wondered if maybe that was what it felt like to die- awake, but not really there.

Hazel found she only really ‘slipped’ when she wasn’t doing anything, when she found herself bored with mundane life and so after an evening reading Dr.Seuss books to Luna’s kids, she left the magical world so she could find something worth paying attention to.

 

Talking with magical scholars at excavation sites for ancient religions, learning about every type of magic and reading anything that she could get her hands on, she found that maybe there was something less than human about her.

And when she came back to the small blue house whose flowers painted on the sides changed with the weather, Lorcan opening the door before she could reach it like his mother used to do and he set out chamomile tea that he watched her drink before telling her that Luna and Rolf had died mere months of each other the year before.

The signs were there.

The way that Luna’s child she remembered being 14 or 15 when she last saw him was now as tall as her and clearly an adult, how she could tell the house had been slowly aging with the years, how… nothing smelled like Luna anymore.

It wasn’t upsetting to know the world had moved on without her.

It was upsetting because she hadn’t even noticed until now.

“Who have I missed?” There was little inflection in her tone, except for a slight waver, but that was more than she’d given in years.

Lorcan Lovegood leaned back in the same chair Luna used to sit in, with the same look of sad understanding in his eyes. “Ron Weasley perished in a raid. Daphne Greengrass was killed by an insane Theodore Nott. Dennis Creavy committed suicide-”

On and on the list went.

When she left the house, she found she didn’t have much effort to do anything but go back to the muggle hotel she was staying in and curl up in the wide bed, grieving over every one of her friends she’d lost without even knowing.

More and more these days, with every period alone only broken with letters Lycan sent to her about people's lives moving on, she found herself slipping further and deeper into what she could only assume were the shadows, falling back into the peace of unfeeling.

Because the shadows held all that was in between- dreams, conversations, secrets.

But when she woke every time to more time having passed, she wondered if there was something to her not being human anymore.

 

Hazel stood, the three Deathly Hallows laying on the table before her. Part of her research in traveling had been how to destroy the objects, make it so they were never taken and used for harm by another, but there had been no way she had found.

Except… they were hers, weren’t they? 

The cloak like a second skin, the stone like her set of eyes into the veil, the wand and extension of her arm and core... so why not make it permanent?

It took a long while to set up, buying sterile gauze and cleaning fluid that was used in hospitals, needle drivers, retractors, skinning knife, a mirror, and other such stuff. Then along with that, she had to get a hammer sturdy enough to crush the Resurrection Stone (which she made sure to test, not surprised when it appeared moments after, whole again).

Stripping naked, she laid down in the bathtub of the hotel and made sure that her tools were all clean, potions sitting on her toilet ready in case she needed them.

Now she just had to not die before it was done, as that would probably be the catalyst.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Taking a deep breath, she picked up the scalpel with hands that probably shouldn’t have been as steady as they were, slowly testing the blade as she pushed it into the skin of her stomach just below her ribs. When she felt it sink through the layers of skin, she clenched her other hand on the tub and proceeded to cut herself open until a thin line from side to side was bleeding down her stomach, curling down the inside of her thighs in warm sticky rivulets.

Reaching for the Elder Wand, she proceeded to set it on the stool she was using and take a knife to split down the middle of the wand, carefully removing and setting aside the woven strands of thestral hair. Then cutting it a little more than half, right under the third knot, she gently placed it to the side.

Using the retractors to spread the skin of her stomach so she could get inside herself- oh god that was a sight- she took the wood sliver that was about five inches in length and with a sickening squelch, she pressed her hand inside and up.

Stomach turning (perhaps that was just her hand though), she felt something hard slip against her finger and swallowed thickly when she felt over it slightly- ignoring how the skin on her chest seemed to ripple and move sickeningly as she did- and at finding it was her ribs, felt to the bottom middle where the lowest part of her sternum sat, closing her eyes tightly at what she was about to do. 

“Diffindo.”

Letting out a long and tortured hiss as the nerve endings on the inside of her sternum were severed from bone, quickly pressing the wood sliver to the bone and muttering as spell she’d found for fusing two different materials. Gasping around the heated burning feeling, she slowly pulled her hand from inside her chest, trying to breathe through her mouth as she looked at where her arm was covered in her blood and bits of fleshy entrails.

“Oh, Merlin that’s disgusting.” Releasing her skin from the retractors, she moved to pick up a set of needle drivers and thread, holding her skin together with her already-bloody hand as she slowly and methodically stitched herself up. 

Downing a blood-replenishing potion, she then took the skinning knife and stared at it before setting it down on the side of the tub, using her holly wand to clean up some of the blood. Grabbing a pair of scissors, she cut off three good-sized patches of the cloak, taking only the very top layer of the fabric and putting them to the side. Then with a soft grunt, she took the skinning knife to her lower stomach, slowly carving away the top layer of her flesh. When she was content it was roughly the same size as the piece of fabric, she carefully put it over the patch of skin and whispered the fusing spell, clenching her jaw so she didn’t scream and bother anyone in the rooms around her. 

Repeating the same treatment to the skin of her thighs, she wondered what Draco would say about her medical technique if he was alive for her to tell.

But then again, he’d probably tell her that she was insane if not that this whole idea was madness.

She just shrugged that off.

Too late.

As she lay her head back against the tile and took a breath, she wished that the numbing potion that she was able to make (and remembered how to brew) wasn’t liable to thin one’s blood. 

Looking over and realizing the wand wasn’t fully part of her yet, the thestral hair laying out forgotten, she grabbed the scalpel and started to cut into her left forearm. Once again using the retractors, grabbing a blood replenishing potions and downing it, Hazel then braced her arm limply against her stomach as she started to cut into the bone. When it gave way to bone marrow with aching pain, she carefully set three of the multiple strands of thestral hair into the bone, and then slowly stitch her skin closed again.

Her other arm was less easy to manage as she was shaking with the effort and the pain as she did it, but she only cut herself a bit trying to cut into the bone, stitches a little sloppier.

Hazel wasn’t that worried about it. She'd heal when she died.

Looking to where the hammer and the Resurrection Stone were laid out, she reached for the tool- When knock on the door had her freezing.

“Housekeeping!”

Her heart jumped in her chest.

Bugger. That was what she’d forgotten. The bloody sign on the blasted door.

Taking a deep breath, she hoped she sounded somewhat not in pain. “Not today, thank you!”

Only when she heard soft footsteps move away from her door did she gain back her ability to breathe, taking another second before reaching towards the hammer, as she had to finish this or it was all for naught. If she stopped now the shock would surely kill her and she had to finish before she died.

Moving as best she could forward, ignoring the pain, she smashed the stone to fine dust, then scooping it up and mixing it with saline before drawing the cloudy liquid into two syringes. 

Then taking the mirror and putting it between her thighs, she carefully took both syringes in hand and made sure that she was fully ready to complete this madness. With a small sigh, she then stuck the needles into the lenses of her eyes at the same time, slowly pumping the fluid into herself.  When about halfway done with the filled syringe, the fluid running down her eyes and cheeks as if she was crying, she pulled them out and set them to the side again with hands that were practically spasming with tremors.

Hazel then closed her eyes against the pain of it all and the wetness, feeling herself shake as her breath came out short…

And then she felt bliss all at once, knowing she’d died out of pure shock.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When she woke after wandering the grey of King’s Cross for a while like usual when she died, she found that the mirror between her thighs had broken. With a slight shake of her head, she carefully climbed from the tub, walking to the mirror of the bathroom and studying herself.

Where she’d grafted bits of the cloak there were no noticeable marks, but there were visible pinkish scars on her arms and upper stomach. Not to mention, leaning closer to the mirror, she marveled at the color of her eyes. Where they’d been bright green before, now they seemed to shine and almost glow as if neon.

Hermione had always told her that her eyes would glow when she was upset or doing particularly strong magic, but now… now they were radioactive green.

Arsenic green.

Other than that though, she could find little to no big differences. 

And then when she fell asleep that night, the bathroom spotless again and stitches taken out, it was as if she’d fallen into the shadows instead of fallen asleep.

Because instead of the Master of the Hallows, instead now she was the Hallows… and what was more the Hallows of Death than the space between the light, filling each crack of the universe?

Chapter Text

One thing you learn to do when you’re either fated to die and/or immortal is how to watch what’s going on around you.

Hazel remembered when she was working for the Ministry that after going into the worst places of the world and coming out with both blood-stained hands and the small flicker of hope that what she was doing was for a good reason, she’d just sit down at a coffee shop and watch the time pass.

Except this watching now was much longer, with time spinning around her like an out of control Ferris Wheel.

So Hazel took to finding places in the woods that would keep her away from other people as she tried to sleep away her loneliness because at least in her sleep she could talk to people and listen to people’s worries without being feared.

She’d found that when she slept like that, in the shadows, unless there was some reason her body had to stay whole it would just… disappear.

(Funny story, she’d found this out by renting a hotel room and then appearing six months later, thinking it had been days and wondering why there were strangers having sex on her bed… It was interesting, to say the least.)

And just as the man that had taken the place of a grandfather had told her, as soon as she lost herself to the dreams, she forgot how to live.

She forgot that feeling alive in your dreaming wasn’t all there was to life.

 

In between one blink in the next was how it felt even if she didn’t actually know how long it had been, but at that moment she was woken from her strangely dreamless sleep by the feeling that something big had happened.

And in fact, it had.

The last living thing had died.

Hazel just knew when she woke to a world of rock and ice that there was nothing left. It was as if someone had taken something so crucial to her, leaving a gaping hole in her chest, and as she wandered the icy barren wasteland there was little to do but watch the stars and wonder what would happen to her now.

Slowly the days got darker with only the faintest light from the sun and the stars and she forgot how to truly breathe, as the atmosphere had long gone with no life to sustain it.

It was almost peaceful- that is if her clothing hadn’t pretty much been worn to rags and she was now nude.

In space.

Well… at least there wasn’t anyone to see her.

And so with every day that gravity was lost and the Earth broke into pieces that floated into the stars that went out, the sun slowly dying, Hazel lost the smaller pieces of herself to the blackness of the void.

What did sunshine feel like?

Or to fly, soaring through the wind?

Finally understanding that it was guilt and sadness that tied her to this barren rock, she closed her eyes and let go, letting the darkness of the space between stars become her home and her consciousness part of the pulsing void.

 

There was nothing.

Darkness.

And then… light.

Hazel was almost comforted by this new light, this life so opposite of her consuming nature, so she gently pulling back her crushing pressure and listening in interest when after growing in strength without the oppressiveness of space, how the light started to sing.

Or, well, that was the word that instinctively came to her when the shining being trilled softly, reaching into her void to pull stars and comets to it. Voice ringing out around the being, it almost looked to be singing life into the celestial bodies.

Watching in awe, the simple planets and stars became beings of power that then seemed to join the first being in something that moved her heart so much, that at that moment that she promised herself she would not submit these beings- nor their creations- to her crushing darkness.

Out of the fertile soil of what had been the Earth came the soft motherly hum that spoke of nature and life, the barren and sun-stained Mercury was made into the brash and brave notes of a hunter, the boiling lava of Venus shaped into the rough voice of a builder and an innovator. She watched as the planet and the cosmos were pulled together to shape every voice, and then finally the small dwarf star she recognized as Pluto was made into the final voice- one of pain that seemed to echo the hurt in her very heart.

However, as she listened, feeling the sun-bright soul of the creator being sing to the others as if to show them how to be and how to shape, her ears instinctively found a voice that was far too familiar to her.

A voice of discord, of fear and hate.

Keeping her crushing presence just far enough away from the new planet they seemed to be making until they were done, she let herself coil around it just slightly, backing away quickly when she found that the young beings had not thought to give their creation any sort of atmosphere.

Foolish children.

Taking her darkness into herself, she breathed a barrier of her own magic over the world, letting it be still and safe from the harm of the void so she could then curl protectively around the planet and watch in curiosity these new forms of life.

In a way, their petty nature and sibling squabbles reminded her of the Greek and Roman gods she’d heard about. And when the one that sung of disharmony and fear ran to her, instinctively curing up to hide in her side, she decided that maybe if they should continue to be interesting that she would shape herself a body once more and join them.

Because as she brushed back the long silken hair of the wayward Valar (as the beings called themselves), she whispered about being cunning in order to not be hurt and remembered for the first time in many millennia that she’d said the same thing to Luna’s boys when they were getting teased for being ‘weird’.

The Valar made light other than themselves that pushed her further away, but she couldn’t fault them, just watching in interest as Melkor (the wayward one of the group) crafted towers and fortresses of black stone.

(She wondered if it was his time with her that made him more comfortable in the darkness than light, or if that was just how he was.)

Watching Melkor destroy all that he touched made her think of a dark-haired boy, misunderstood and left to turn himself into something that could stand up to others, foraging himself into a weapon.

Varda, ever reflecting the serene beauty of Saturn, gathered soft light from the new gleaming trees Yavanna had made for the stars.

And though they punched holes in her skin and her darkness was spread thin around the small planet, she admired their light and enjoyed the company.

 

From the bright light of the Creator Being came those that shone like tiny pinpricks of light that she knew as the different animals, joined by those Eru (the Creator Being) called the ‘elves’, the ‘ents’ of Yavanna’s hand, and master crafters called ‘dwarves’ that were made from the forges of Aulë.

The one called Oromë that was as quick-tempered as the planet he'd been shaped from befriended the elves easily and taught them to hunt like no other species, the elves, in turn, teaching the ents to speak the languages of man while the dwarves made a home out of the mountains.

Hazel watched the Valar turn on Melkor, chaining him up in the halls of Mandos, and knew in her heart that it would not change him but to turn him towards revenge and madness.

History was, after all, doomed to repeat itself.

And with a small frown, she watched a creature more terrifying and monstrous than even Aragog had been crawl from where it had been hiding in her void (ugh, she was disgusted to even think of it), coming to aid Melkor in his chaos and destruction.

However, her thought of going down to try to keep the destruction minimized was cast from her mind when she saw the first group of Eru’s children turn on each other.

The meaningless blood was enough to pause her hand, making her think of another war where the grass of a once peaceful and quiet place had run red with the blood of many in her family, how she had been cast from the world because of the blood on her hands.

 

It was only as the Valar came together over flower and fruit to create the planet’s Sun and Moon, pushing her even further and making it hard to watch over the planet, that she decided she would rejoin the presence of the living. 

Thinking of the body she’d been born into- the only physical skin she knew- she let the void part, walking into the land of Aman on slightly unsteady legs as if a newly born fawn. 

Too busy watching her feet to make sure she didn’t fall, hands extended to her side like Rose Weasley did when trying to balance on something wobbly, she startled slightly when someone stepped in her path. Stopping and looking up, she stared at where a tall man with golden hair and muscles for days stood, looming over her, and spoke in the language she’d watched be shaped by these young gods. “Oh. Hello, Tulkas. Are you watching the gates?”

“Indeed I…” The man seemed to blink. “How- how do you know my name?!”

Shrugging, she moved past the man nimbly, starting down into the halls and ignored where he started after her with heavy footsteps. Weaving through the beings of small light and sparing glances to where the former planets watched her with something close to shock, she found her way to the main room and spun around. “Where is…”

“You are unknown to me. What is it you come to my lands for, Unknown?” As if from nothing, the Creator Being, Eru, stood before her staring with impassive eyes. 

She felt the relief of having someone that would understand start to crest over her like a wave when it was frozen by the familiar smell of sourness in the air. Feeling her heart sink slightly, lips pressing together as not to wobble, she looked at the source of light she’d thought so beautiful, knowing that it feared her very existence. With a try for a small smile, as crooked and wrong it came out, she spoke naught but the truth. “I am only unfamiliar to you because I cannot sing, but I am known to you surely as the void between the light… and I come before you now in hopes that I-... that I could have company.”

The man narrowed his sharp golden eyes on her, judging and weighing for a long moment.

“Oh, you are the one!” Small warm hands took her wrists, turning her to look at a woman with long silvery hair and a grey dress, tears streaming down the pale cheeks. “You were the one I felt in so much pain that I had to sing out for… you were there for us when we came to be, weren’t you? The dark that let us space to sing because you were so alone and hurt...”

Blinking as she was drawn into an embrace, she slowly moved the hand at her side to pat awkwardly at the woman’s back, not knowing what to say.

Eru, though, did seem to know what to say. “I did not create you, nor had I any intention to. The darkness and the death of the void have no place near life.”

“I apologize, but I think you misunderstand.” Gently pushing the silver-haired woman away, she looked to the shining man blankly. “Both will exist even if you refuse my staying here. I can control them to an extent when I am nearby, but from thereon it is out of my hands. Not to mention that I myself am no threat to the balance of life… why would I be when I already gave that planet of yours my protection from the void?"

The golden burning eyes watched her and she watched back, but after a long moment of thick tension, the man then nodded slowly. "You may stay. For now." Then she was left alone again, the creator’s light leaving her immediate presence for the moment.

However, with the way she realized most all the other Valar were wary of her, she thought that her victory didn't taste all that sweet anymore.

"Come, we shall get you clothes to garb yourself in, as in our culture it is improper to bear all of one's skin so easily." Nienna took her hand gently, fresh tears dripping down the woman’s face. "I am sure you will get along with Mandos and Vairë easily."

"...alright." She did nothing but let herself be led away, not knowing that this would determine her fate be interwoven into Arda's survival.

 

Nienna was, without a doubt, the most curious woman she’d ever met. Crying silvery tears and sometimes having to stop so she could take a deep breath and sob silently, she was strangely bubbly otherwise. “Oh, should we have Aulë make you something of finery? I should think that Vairë would have something for you to wear, but I’m not sure if such plain things would-”

“If it bothers you so much, I will dress myself.” Then in thinking of a simple black cloak, her shadow moved to drape around her in a fashion eerily similar to how the Cloak of Invisibility had looked after the war. Hood dark and covering her long blood-red hair, she knew that she must have looked much like a dementor if not for the way her eyes would glow- even in the shadows.

The other woman gave her a smile, but it was- at its core- saddened. “You know that you do not have to think of yourself as a burden to the others here. Fear is not the fault of the feared, it if the fault of the fearing, as they find comfort in the hate behind the unknowing without even bothering to understand.”

She nodded slowly, feeling something loosen just slightly in her chest. “Thank you.”

Nienna offered up another smile, this time with less sadness in it. “Come, we must have you meet the others and see Mandos’ halls.” 

Her sight from amidst the stars had reached far into the halls of the Doomsman Valar, and yet now, walking into the halls of black stone that somehow seemed to shine even in the dim light, she was breath-taken by the intricate beauty. In the past, she’d found quite the passion in architecture and the way old buildings (like Hogwarts) could not only take her breath away but had this smell of wet stone and dust that made her feel at peace.

So with a hand moving to brush reverently over the stone, she found herself having to press her forehead to the stone so she could breathe in the comforting smell and tell the stone it was the most beautiful thing she’d seen in such a long time.

“You speak with familiarity to the stone.” 

Turning to see a man with copper hair covering his head and face with a gold crown on his head, who was standing next to a woman with light green skin and hair that almost reminded her of tresses of moss, she slowly pulled back from the pillar of stone and looked at them in curiosity. (Would the two life creators fear her as Eru had foretold?) “I should be, as this stone came from many of the lone comets drifting in my void, come together into Arda along with many other raw materials when you all sung it so.” Then, reaching back out to press her hand to the stone, she kept her eyes still on the two Valar. “I am surprised you do not hear it, but it still sings with a song I believe is mostly yours.”

With just the slightest push of magic to amplify the voice she’d heard before, she closed her eyes, listening as a low baritone hum of innovation and curiosity rung forth to echo across the wide halls.

“I would think the trees of Arda ring with a different, more nurturing song.”

To her surprise, Yavanna smiled while her husband gave a loud belly-laugh, Aulë moving forward to clasp her shoulder in the way Ron used to do (after he’d had a couple of drinks and his apprehension to touch her faded, of course). “You are most interesting, Lady of Shadows! I welcome thee in my forges anytime, but first, you shall give us a name to call you, so we can accredit the things you teach us yet!”

A name.

Hazel would be the one she would usually give… but she had little doubt that her name of birth was something of power and could be used against her- yet that left her with coming up with a name to fit herself.

Seeming to understand her predicament or at least part of it, Aulë smiled and patted her shoulder again. “Would you like to receive a name as we did?”

“I think…” She nodded quietly after a moment. “I would.”

A friendly grin. “Then you will be named here, Mettanyë.” 

The name, literally translating to ‘I End’, was… surprisingly fitting.

Chapter Text

Mandos reminded her much of Sirius, silent and brooding, but with a quick tongue that held no resistance to lashing out with sharp wit that matched her dry humor well and she was content to linger in his halls or at his side to watch him judge the spirits that passed through. Neinna was another she stayed close to, along with Vairë, whose humming as the woman wove the looms of history and fate she often used to put herself to sleep.

Outside the stone halls, she was met with less welcoming stances, but her presence in the gardens of Yavanna and the mountain forges of Aulë was most of the time met with little to no reluctance.

Mettanyë (as that was her name now), had found that though Mandos’ brother Lórien and his wife Estë were welcoming in their lands of rest and reprise, that it was more likely she would see those that didn’t take kindly to her there and thus tried to avoid the lands.

Early on, the Lord of Hunting, Oromë, had made it quite clear that because his wife Vána (a woman who reminded her much of Persephone to Yavanna’s Demeter) was scared of her, that he would give her a death-glare whenever in sight of him.

Which was honestly just tiresome.

She’d yet to meet Ulmo or Uinen (his wife), as the two beings of water lived far under the sea and most of the Maiar- that were basically just lesser Valar- tended to avoid her out of either fear or dislike.

Though a man that reminded her of Dumbledore for all his cryptic sayings and an affinity for having a long grey beard, Olórin, who was a Maiar of Varda and Manwë often sought her out for conversation.

He seemed to have a knack for finding her right as she was trying to avoid someone else though, and it irritated her with the amount of old-man-Dumbledore charm he had, as he was quickly worming his way into being one of the few people that could make her carry a conversation with him.

 

This passing of the sun she was hiding behind a pillar in Nienna’s halls from Gothmog (a Maiar who had got the idea in his head that she would become his wife) when a grey-robed figure moved to stand before her. 

Startled, she had a long sword of shadows in hand before the other could even blink.

“I did not mean to startle you so badly...” Olórin smiled kindly, waiting patiently as she glared but slowly drew back her weapon. “Are you hiding?” The man in grey then leaned over as if to look around the pillar, raising an eyebrow. “Ah… Gothmog bothering you again? I had wondered why he was so far from his usual place lingering around Oromë.”

Mettanyë huffed softly, voice a whisper. “He is determined to wed me.”

This had the man across from her raising an eyebrow.

“I would rather cut off his head, but for now I restrain myself to avoiding his presence because… certain parties would surely find my violence reason to cast me from Arda.” She had no wish to say Eru’s name and attract his attention to her but was pretty sure her tone got the point across.

Olórin nodded slowly. “I see.” Then he moved from his spot, heading the way she could tell her pursuer was. His voice was cheerful from where it echoed in the hall, but still, she could hear the slight dislike in the undertone. “Ah, Gothmog, it’s not every day you are brought to the halls of my mentor… may we help you find compassion over something? Or are you here to seek advice from Lady Nienna?”

“I am searching for Lady Mettanyë.” The voice was rough and grating, her hand clenching in hope that Olórin would not sell her out and make her run from the Maiar yet again.

“I am afraid you have come too late.” Nienna’s voice was a balm to her soul, soft and yet surprisingly without the mercy she was so beloved for. “Mettanyë only stopped by to tell me she was off to see Varda and Manwë about a matter with Eru… something about having a great love for one of their Maiar, as she must have met them through Olórin taking her to Manwë’s court not too long ago.”

Olórin seemed to hum. “Ah, yes, I remember her telling me something like that…”

Gothmog gave a growling sound of fury before his mighty footsteps echoed out of the otherwise peaceful halls and she sighed in relief.

The journey to the halls of Varda and Manwë was a long one and she was grateful.

 

It was with the news that Eru had cursed the race of men that she found herself in the halls of Varda and Manwë, fuming over the news.

Eru had met her, his bright light clashing with her darkened and angry shadows.

“You had no right.” Her voice was a low growl, seeming to echo with vibrations through the mountaintop hall.

The gold eyes of the Creator Being were cold as they looked at her. “They turned from my will to worship chaos. They have no right to be gifted with a long life and the choice of death.”

“ THAT IS NOT YOURS TO CHOSE !” Her voice boomed, the floor cracking beneath them and her shadows consumed his light for a moment, leaving him a flickering candle in thick and endless darkness. Taking a breath, she lowered her voice slightly, even if the fury was still clear. “You have twisted my gift to them because in your selfish and narcissistic view you think that everything has to be done by you, that you are the center of the universe because you made yourself that way.” Leaning forward, her voice a hiss, she narrowed her eyes. “Fool yourself no longer. You are only the center of this universe because I liked your voice. To me, you are nothing more than a pretty face. ” 

Eru looked at her with fear in his eyes- fear that he was not all he thought- but after a long second, it was gone. “I do not expect you to understand, made of the same chaos that of men now worship, but bad deeds need punishment.”

At this, her shadows slowly thinned and sunk back to herself, letting his light grow bright once more. “No…” She let out a long breath and reached into her hood so she could rub her face tiredly, as she was now realizing she put far too much power into the hands of a man who had the mindset of a child abuser. “You’re wrong. With this type of harsh punishment, they will just learn to hate you more, perhaps even abandon you and your children entirely. However if you had consulted me first I would have told you that bad behavior needs to be gently corrected, less the message not be received and they think you are being cruel for the sake of being cruel.”

“What would you know of life, Void Mistress?” The man’s voice turned to a cruel mockery, eyes shining with hate at being told off.

“More than you ever will, Flaming Idiot, as I have lived a life other than one playing god and I have seen that world crumble around me. And know this: one day there will be a man who is good and pure and will not bow to chaos, but be bright as light and he will break your curse by just existing. There will come that man and maybe then you will realize you are not the ultimate power after all.”

Then with the words of an unknown and unspoken prophecy hanging in the air, she slipped into the shadows between the stone and went to find Nienna so she could grieve over the lives the overpowered narcissist had cut short.

And as they grieved together, Vairë wove a new tapestry: one of a dark-haired man breaking a long-forgotten curse.

 

It was lying among the silks of Vairë’s halls, watching the tapestry on the ceiling above her move in a recreation of Varda hanging the stars and admiring it without the burning pain of it actually happening, that Mandos found her with Varda herself at his heels. “Mettanyë, you have summons.”

Varda stepped forward, voice kind even as her brows were drawn slightly together as if she disagreed at what she had to say but was to say it anyway. “My husband and many of the others are going to fight Morgoth for the sake of Eru’s children… and Eru himself has made a decree that you shall either fight or be cast back to the void from whence you came.”

“Did he?” Her voice was a soft rumble in her chest, not moving from where she lay in the pile of silks. “...fascinating .”

She could see Vairë smiling slightly out of the corner of her eyes, lips tugging up slightly as the woman continued to weave.

Varda, however, clearly lost some of the kindness from her voice when she spoke again. “The war against Morgoth will either damn all of Middle Earth to his evil or let the people of Arda be free once more of his evil! If you do not fight then you are just proving you are no better than him!”

“Hmm.” Feeling her voice sink to an irritated growl, she finally moved, standing slowly so she was eye-level with the woman. “You say that he was the one who created fear and evil- and yet not only do I see fear when you look at me, but you were the one who foolishly helped create the objects that caused the first kinslaying of the elves… did Melkor make you do that?”

“Morgoth corrupted my creation!”

Mettanyë stared at her. “And yet you are the ones who drove him to be the evil that he is. Because with every form of life he tries to create, you label him evil, thus making him feel the need to follow your stereotype in hopes he will gain approval.” Scoffing, she bumped shoulders with the woman as she walked past her. “You cannot even call him by the name he chose. It makes me wonder which side is truly evil.”

“You have to fight or be cast out!”

“And I will.” Then without a thought past the fact that the front of her dress was higher up than the back and it would be easy enough to move in, she strolled across the fields with Varda to where the white ships would leave Aman.

Looking around the sea of elves that were peering at her with wide eyes, as she made a habit of not going near the places where elvenkind would bother her, she could only find Manwë and Eönwë standing with the elves. 

“You mean to tell me you expect Melkor, with his legions of dark creatures and such to be brought down by just us? She sneered lowly at the two Valar, dismissing the Maiar (Eönwë). 

Varda raised an eyebrow. “I am not going.”

Blinking slowly, as if trying to comprehend that, she scoffed. “So Eru just expects me to fight in a war I don’t care about and yet does not make any of his other more willing people fight just because I question him?”

Manwë put a hand on her shoulder. “Mettanyë, this will show Eru and all of Arda you are to be trusted. That you will fight for Eru’s will.”

Wanting so badly to scream that she wasn’t for Eru’s stupid will and he could shove that up his arse, she took a deep breath and then slowly released it in a sigh. 

She was tired. 

Tired of being left to other’s dirty work, tired of being distrusted for something that was part of her inherently, tired of feeling as if she had no choice.

“Well…” She let her shoulders intense slowly, Manwë’s hand falling off her shoulder, and she looked up at him with the smile she’d been practicing whenever Olórin was around. Seeing him soften slightly to her facade, she nodded gently. “I was the one who said I wanted company and if this will make Eru finally accept me… Then I’ll do it.”

Getting on the ship, barefoot and in the silvery blue dress that Nienna had given her- a picture of innocence in her unaging form- she wondered if Eru would accept her if she fought Melkor.

 

Aboard the white ships, Mettanyë sat on the bow of the first boat that carried the two beings of bright light and many more beings of smaller light. The Valar tried many times to engage her in conversation, as she found that he was a kind and usually unafraid presence, but she kept her silence as she was content instead to listen to the wind sing around her.

When they docked at the shores of Middle Earth, an army of men and elves meeting them and helping dock the many white ships, Manwë held out a hand to her. “You have been quiet, Mettanyë, are you regretting your choice to come to Arda?”

Accepting the hand, she gracefully slid from the bow of the ship and then brushed herself off as if some dainty maiden. “I regret not hitting Eru in his smug face last he decided to grace me with his presence.”

“Lady Mettanyë, to speak such things-”

Cutting off Eönwë being a tight-ass by just holding up her hand, she started away from them towards where she knew Melkor lie in wait for them. “Please, I have put up with your whining about how I speak for far too long now, I bid you, learn to be silent.” Then with a smirk on her lips at the way both men were left sputtering, she marched towards Angband.

One of the elves spoke up, sounding concerned as she passed. “You are headed into the territory of Orcs, my Lady, you should not be without a weapon or armor of some-”

With piercing cries, what seemed to be a band of scouting orcs lept from the nearby line of trees and in her irritation she called forth her shadows to form a scythe taller than even her, flicking her wrist so it spun around her like a shadowy hurricane that cut through the creatures within instants. Catching it and then tilting her head back to look at the elf that had spoken, she simply smiled. “Don’t worry. I have no intention of letting them get close enough to worry over my lack of armor.”

The lack of fear in their faces had her smile widening, as these were warriors indeed.

“Come on then, I’m not going to wait for you lot to catch up.” Shaking her head slightly, she stalked into the trees, hands brushing them as she went and gathering information about where the earth knew her enemies lie in wait while her other hand directed her scythe to cut them down.

Her patience was running thin for Eru's rubbish.

Chapter Text

Mettanyë dismissed her scythe when the wind and trees told her they weren’t in danger of conflict, sure she could call on it within a second’s change, but it was easier to walk without it hovering over her.

The men had long started to fear her, as she suspected that it was only delayed out of shock, but many of the elven leaders only kept their quiet respect. 

One of the female elves that had been on another of the accompanying ships, clad in gold armor over what looked like a white flowing dress, took to her side keeping pace easily. The woman was closer than the others had dared to get to her as if she needed some sort of pre-determined space.

However, that was the least of her worries as their army marched across the open plains and she headed the fight against many orcs and other foul creatures.

Mettanyë finally looked to the woman whose hair was like spun moonlight who was sitting down close to her after a long day in the sun marching through the mountains that the elves affectionately called the ‘Mountains of Terror’. “Tell me, why is it you stay so close to one many of the Valar themselves fear the presence of?”

The silver-haired elf paused on the outcropping where she was maintaining her sword, before looking up with more grace than Mettanyë thought she could ever emulate. “You wear no armor, yet you put yourself at the front line because you see yourself as stronger than any of us even without the extra protection, whereas Lord Manwë stays in the middle of our forces. You call the Dark One we fight by his given name… There are many reasons I think you worthy of following closely, my Lady if just to observe.”

“And the real reason?” She smiled at the elf’s evasive but astute observations.

“By the scars on your arms, you would not hesitate to meet your end if needed- and I find that I wish that not to happen.” The woman’s voice was soft with a silvery tone that barely carried over their sparse distance.

For the first time in what felt like eons, she found herself laughing, the sound ringing out across the valley as she put her head back and delighted in the irony of someone trying to protect her from death. When she had caught her breath, a smile still stretching her face, she shook her head slightly with one last chuckle escaping. “And am I allowed the name of my gallant protector?”

The woman looked at her with a look of slight bewilderment, though she still answered. “Galadriel, Lady Mettanyë.”

“Galadriel then.” Smile turning wry when she thought about how much the woman reminded her of Luna in her determination to protect her, she let herself slip into seriousness for a moment, meeting the woman eye-to-eye. “Neither of us will die in this war, I assure you. Mostly because then Mandos would get upset with me and I’m not fond of his lectures when he’s upset.”

Galadriel chuckled softly, smiling at her. “If you say so, my Lady, then I will take your word for it.”

And if she noticed other elves fighting closer to her after that, she only smiled slightly.

 

It was closer to Angband that they met the first thing that was not an orc, troll, or warg.

It was a massive beast made of fire and what looked like metal plating, its horns curved in the likeness of a ram.

Galadriel moved a bit closer now that her scythe had stilled in her hand. “A Balrog. They’re corrupted Maiar and they have taken the lives of many fearsome elvish warriors. Be careful of how you attack it, my Lady.”

It went unsaid that she was going to attack, fingers tight of her weapon of shadows, leaning forward slightly. “Maiar, huh?” In a flash she wondered if this was where Gothmog had gone, realizing that she hadn’t seen the annoying lug around for a long while…

The beast lumbered forward, a long-spined tail and wings like a bat following the slow steps and it roared as if trying to tell them its intentions to kill them.

“Fun.” Walking forward slowly to meet the beast, she let her scythe melt into two swords, blocking a slash of claws as she met the Balrog. They danced around each other, claws and swords, wings and magic until she was able to glean a bit of a pattern in the slashes. Dancing in and stabbing the creature in its chest, she danced away before it could punish her for it even as she had to abandon one of her swords and let it melt into nothing again.

Roaring loudly, her other sword barely raised in time to block the onslaught of orcs that attacked her while she was unengaged from the beast and she cut them down, ducking so she wouldn't be clawed in half by the fiery creature.

As it raised its claw to slash her down again, she was already swinging and her sword cut through its chest from right hip to left shoulder. When the Balrog fell she had little time to do anything but fight more of the orcs, though she felt a bit bad about killing a Maiar, even as corrupted as they’d become.

War was not smooth, nor like a duel of magic.

There were no lines and just like with the Battle of Hogwarts, there were enemies on all sides.

She could feel the vibration of blood and death ringing in her veins, making it somewhat hard to think as she turned and spun with her scythe becoming purely an extension of her arm.

Her dress was almost black with the blood of the tainted creatures slicking her arms and chest as she danced through the waves of enemies like the killing curse itself.

Hearing a shout from her side, she saw a young dark-haired elf under the blade of an orc, and without bothering to think she sent her scythe forward so as to slice the beast in half, though a second later she heard Galadriel make a half shout of warning as she felt a sword sunk into her side. Pulling the small elf from his position to her side with her magic, she manifested her scythe back in hand instead of waiting for it to return then sliced down the beast that had the audacity to stab her.

“My Lady?” The small elf’s voice shook slightly and she, in a moment of realization, saw this was no more than a child in adult armor. The boy was looking down, eyes wide and fearful at the sight of a jagged sword in her side, lower lip wobbling slightly. “I- I’m so so sorry-”

“No apologies. You fight for your people, I understand, but if you wish to do so then you must stay behind me or turn around and leave this war now.” As soon as she got a nod, she pulled the blood-slicked sword from herself with a grimace and then threw it with her magic propelling the blade into one of the three orcs Galadriel was fighting. Gripping her scythe to steady herself, moving to scoop up a sword and handed it the elfling.

With a slight frown, she then whirled her scythe out ahead of her and the two elves, moving to Galadriel with the boy close behind. The woman cut off the head of an orc, then looked to the elfling with her eyes widening in surprise. “What...”

Mettanyë huffed a small laugh. “He is to fight with us, but I have instructed him to stay close. Now shall we deal with those cave trolls or talk more?”

Glancing at the boy, the woman straightened with her sword in hand. “Fight, my Lady.”

Her gaze fell to the dark-haired boy and he clutched at his sword with a determined nod.

“Good.” She hummed noncommittally while catching her shadow weapon, taking a deep breath before sending it forth again, continuing her dance of blades and blood.

 

Mettanyë wasn’t sure if it had been hours, days, or even weeks when they reached the gates of Angband, but it was then that the wind shifted with the warning of danger and fire.

Looking to the sky, as she knew of only one creature that description fit and it came from the skies, she spotted a winged dragon diving for them and swallowed thickly. Looking at Elrond (the child), who she knew had seen what she had, she put a hand on his shoulder. “You will not die in this war, young one… but I have to leave you now.”

“I-... be safe, Lady Mettanyë.” He nodded slightly in respect.

She, in her last life, had been able to turn into a red-tailed hawk, and even if she wasn’t sure if that had changed with the Deathly Hallows, she was going to have to take the dragon’s attention away from the armies so she could kill it. 

With a deep breath, she thought of wings and being able to fly on the currents of the wind, feeling herself change into her animagus easily.

There were gasps, opening her eyes to see the elves and even orcs had paused for a moment to stare at her, tilting her own head to do the same as she lifted herself into the air with steady wing beats.

Where once brown and red feathers sat were feathers that seemed to gleam with some sort of… fire? 

Merlin's saggy left testicle. 

She was a friggin’ phoenix.

Pushing aside her internal freak-out, she tried to cry out sharply but instead, it came out as a trill of music ringing through the air. Then with eyes turning back to where the dragon was getting closer, she flapped her wings and rose to meet it.

Diving faster than she could rise, the beast plummeted through the air. At the last second, she swerved, trilling in a taunt and finding that the beast’s eyes locked on her small form, turning to follow her. Hurtling away from the battle and trusting her agility from being smaller to evade the sharp teeth, she dove to an empty patch of barren ground and landed, shifting smoothly. 

What she saw before her as the dragon five times her size landed, were six other dark shapes barreling towards her. 

So holding up her scythe, she yelled out a war-cry and then engaged the dragon in front of her.

 

What they didn’t tell you was that Dargonfire hurt, because not only should any common idiot be able to guess that, but because no one that suffered Dragonfire survived. Because the hottest fire she knew was fiendfyre and funnily enough that was the fire that had been made by humans so they could have their own version of Dragonfire.

So with visions of Kings Cross flashing through her mind as excruciating pain was set to her body- each dragon landing and adding more fire, more pain- she planted herself and reached out past the meager shadows she could summon from the sun-soaked world.

Magic gripping the edge of her void, shaping a weapon of pure intent to kill, she pulled.

In between what felt like one instant and the next, the sun was covered in pitch black as if the world had gone dark, but when, a second later the darkness disappeared and she was standing in a pile of ash with seven severed dragon-heads at her feet. 

Rolling her neck, she could feel her skin slowly cooling, healing to what it was meant to be, and shedding the old burnt scabs like a snake. When she felt it done, she opened her eyes and let the thin shadows around her curl into some form of clothing, striding purposefully for the other side of the battlefield where she saw Melkor in chains and the armies of elves and men staring at her.

“Melkor.” Stopping before the snarling man in chains, she raised a single eyebrow. “That was unpleasant. I thought I gave you such good advice to be cunning but not cruel and this is how you treat me?”

The man’s eyes widened just slightly. “You-”

“Indeed.” Turning and studying the faces still in shock, she looked to Manwë. “What is it? You are all staring at me as if I just did something horrible.”

“The Dragons.” It was Galadriel that spoke up, stepping from the side and her eyes looked slightly different. “We thought you had burnt alive many moons ago and didn’t understand why the creatures stayed as they did.”

Mettanyë took a second to let that sink in. If the woman was saying as she thought, then it had been longer than just a few moments under that Dragonfire… much longer. “I see.” Her voice was soft, eyes catching on where the elven boy that she’d fought with seemed to have grown slightly. “Time is not something I am good at and it must show clearly.”

A light cast her shadow in front of her, strangled gasps echoing across the field. “It shows that you are reckless and irresponsible, revealing in the very same chaos as that who defied me.”

She turned with a soft smirk. “Ah, Eru. Come to tell me that I finally have your favor and all I needed to do was kill the things you didn’t deem important? Because that’s mighty selfish of you, not wanting anyone else to make things, or is that fear of the unknown I smell wafting off you- because honestly, you stink either way.”

“You did not fight for my favor. You fought because you like to kill, do not lie.”

“I fought because YOU MADE ME!” Her voice shook the ground, the sky darkening for a moment, though Eru didn’t even blink, seeming smug. Her blood boiled, voice a growl. “Do not get me wrong, I fought not because you are strong enough to keep me away from the very planet I let you make or because I fear you, but because I wanted to not have to deal with your whining while I try to exist in peace.”

The man scoffed. “Peace? Look around you, Void Maiden. None here want the peace you bring. Do you think I am afraid of you? Look around and see what fear you bring to those you are around! Think, because maybe- just perhaps I am not the monster here.”

Drawing her eyes to the sides, she then realized it was not Eru that stunk of fear, but those she’d fought with- fought for- leaning away from her as if she was a plague or a beast so foul.

“And slaying another Maiar…” Eru stepped past her, elves parting so the man stood over the body of Gothmog, wearing a wound across his chest that looked like an exact match to where she’d cut the Balrog even if the body was different. “Just think of the tears Nienna is weeping for her friend.”

She flinched back, an elven voice yelling out a slur in their native language, another voice joining in after another until she was only surrounded by curses. Feeling something being thrown at her, she held up her hands to guard her face and hunched slightly, feeling another object be thrown and another until she was sure the elves would try stoning her to death. 

Mettanyë was tired.

So tired that her very bones ached with it.

Eyes slowly rising to meet where Eru was standing tall and proud, she took a shaky breath, voice small when she spoke. “What do you want?”

“From you?” Eru moved forward, the objects not being thrown anymore, and he caught her chin in his hand before frowning like a disapproving father. “I want you to leave and never return to my world again, creature . Keep that thing over there company when I throw you two into the void.”

Eyes sliding to meet Melkor’s dark ones where he was so curious in his gaze, she nodded just barely. “Fine.”

Letting go of her chin, the man watched her sink to her knees in cruel amusement. “I would say it was nice to see you, but it never was and I’m quite pleased you understand where you belong now.”

With a sickening sound, Melkor’s legs were practically torn from his body (his crown as she now noticed already wrapped around his throat like a collar), and then with a bright light consuming them, she felt herself be dropped into the void of space once more.

Chapter Text

“You sit there and watch the world as if they did not throw you aside the second it got what it wanted from you.” The voice of Melkor drifted closer to where she floated, his cold black eyes watching Arda from behind her with disdain when she glanced at him. “Why?”

She shrugged. “It is something to do, is it not?”

The man laughed chillingly. “There are many things to do that are better than that, Mettan-”

“Do not call me that.” Her voice was sharper than intended on coming out and she felt the man flinch slightly, letting her voice soften after a moment. “I don't much care for thinking about those that left me to be thrown from this world and would like it if you gave me another- I do not mind its meaning.”

“You reject the name given to you by those that threw you out…” The voice was musing. “Well, that is a good sign in my eyes.”

She gave no visible tell of if she agreed or disagreed, watching as many of the elves were pardoned and given right to sail to Aman. It was quiet for a long while as she watched the ships crash against the blue waves, trying to picture herself on them, hair fluttering in the wind and the spray of the ocean against her skin.

Though her imagination was broken with a question.

“What should I call you?”

Knowing not to offer up her name of birth, she spoke softly, her voice a sigh. “I do not know Melkor. Anything but that other name.”

There was a long pause again, letting her sink back into that memory of feeling alive…

Melkor grunted. “Help me. Please?”

Turning, about to snap at the man for being annoying, she saw that he was drifting through the void slightly upside down, struggling to try to grasp one of his legs that were just out of reach.

Lips curling up, she gave the man an amused head shake. “You’re adorable.” Then, ignoring the glare that got her, she walked calmly over to the man’s body and turned him upright easily. “I will let you feel some amount of control over the void, if just so you don’t float away, but know there is no sense using it against me as I am in part the void itself.”

“...understood.”

Moving forward slowly, she ran her hand down his spine, curling a tendril of weight on him so he would not drift so easily and could walk- er- crawl around.

Backing away, eyes studying for a moment, she then retrieved his legs and placed them by him. “For a father figure that is supposed to be understanding, this all reminds me a bit too much of the tales of Christianity that Hermione used to tell me.” And yet as soon as the foreign word that didn't translate rolled off her tongue she could see Melkor scrunching up his nose in confusion.

“I do not… understand.”

Sighing and sitting down across from the man, she gently took one of his legs in hand, making a long needle and thread out of her darkness. She would tell him a story then and fix his legs, as no one should have to lose something so vital to their being “In a world far before even Eru existed, there was once an Almighty Creator Being that lived in a place most called paradise though I would compare it more to Yavanna’s gardens.”

And the void was suddenly shifting to make room for where a dim light like white flame illuminated the outline of a tall man with white robes. 

“That is…” Melkor’s eyes were awed as they looked to her. “I saw the bird of fire, but I did not realize- you possess the gift of the eternal flame? You can shape the light?”

Nodding, she then had the illusion of light form a figure next to the first figure, a white-winged man with dark hair and an angular face. “This creator being made his first children, which he then made from light and who had wings of great beauty spread from their back. One of his sons, named Light-bringer, was curious about seemingly everything but with every question asked the Creator refused to answer because he thought his son not worth it.”

“Like me.” Melkor’s eyes were bright as they watched the light of the second form flicker like a candle’s flame in the darkness.

“Like you.” She continued to stitch back in the man’s right leg with threads of the darkness. “And with this son came many more, but he was generally unappreciated and unliked for his questions, as the others had no will to question their father.”

The light spread into a whole group of angelic figures, surrounding the two original figures.

She glanced up, seeing the man entranced, and then continued softly with the tale of how the angels lived in Eden, peaceful until the making of man.

“But why-” Melkor’s voice broke just slightly, looking for all he was worth a child that didn’t understand. “Why would he create more children, give them more attention and special treatment if… if he already had ones that just wanted his attention?”

Gently, she took her hand from where she had just tied off the stitching for first of the ex-Valar’s legs, setting it on his head gently so he would look at her. “I cannot tell you why people do things like that, but I would think that this Creator Being realized that by having his first children so close, he wouldn’t be able to make them worship him as much. And that was what he wanted. Worship, not love.”

When the man’s eyes glistened softly and he looked away with far-away eyes, she moved to sit beside him, extinguishing the lights and sending him a small smile when he seemed like he was going to ask for more. 

“Sit and watch the boats with me. Let the story sink in, as I will continue it when you are ready.”

And as they sat in the darkness of the void, watching the men, elves, and dwarrow rebuild their lives- at the same time Vairë sat in her room to the side of the halls of Mandos weaving a new tapestry.

A stunning picture of a woman with red hair slowly stitching back together a wounded man, with beings of light surrounding them both, a single tear gleaming in the man’s eyes.

Vairë named it ‘Rehtië’ with a small but amused smile on her face.

 

“Your eyes…” 

She looked over to where Melkor was looking more at her than the rising sun, tilting her head just slightly in an unvoiced question at what he saw.

“There, in the light of the sun, your eyes have this form in them like a mist covering them- but in the shape of some three-sided object.” He leaned closer, studying her eyes intently. “This green, it is not surprising that the one that had lived before the world would have the one color not even the brightest emeralds of Aulë or all the plants of Yavanna could replicate.”

“Some things cannot be made more than once and when they are completed, the universe will not allow them to be duplicated, their cast broken.” Her voice was soft, looking back to where she’d been watching as the elf Celebrimbor worked to make fine smithing things in the fires of his forge, working in harmony with the dwarves of Khazad-dûm to share crafting secrets. “The universe seems a bit hypocritical, as it allows other things to be repeated over and over… but I am not here to question the semantics of fate, just try to help change the outcome.”

They sat in silence for a long while and watched the sun pass by.

“What happened to the Light-bringer?”

Looking to Melkor, she tried to study his face. “Are you ready to hear the rest of the story? If so, I will try to mend your other leg while I speak, if that is alright with you.”

The man’s eyes turned soft as he met her gaze with a nod, voice barely above a whisper. “Thank you.”

Nodding, she slowly moved to draw on the shadows, moving closer to his side so she could work. Out of the darkness came the illusions of light again, the angels surrounding ‘God’. “As the Father Creator wanted to be worshiped, he created the race of Men and told his first creations that they were not, in any way, to cause problems for the smaller and weaker race. However, with this, the Father basically all but disappeared from the lives of the angels and expected them to do the work while Man worshiped him.”

“Arrogant swine.”

With a soft chuckle, she smiled up at where the man was frowning slightly. “Agreed.” Then turning back to her stitching, she let the light figures fade to the original two. “However, the Light-bringer was not content with this and instead kept asking questions. Why was Man allowed to be on the planet the Father had created and yet not them? Why was Man so special? Why couldn’t they do anything against Man? And finally, the Father had enough of the questions, throwing him from paradise to a place that was the exact opposite, where not a blessed drop of the suns’ light would shine.”

Melkor gave a soft sigh that sounded saddened to her ears. “Yes, the void of no light… how original.”

She felt her lips quirk up at the small jibing comment, but the smile slowly faded from her face as she looked away from his eyes and to the leg that she was stitching up. “Children that are left alone for long periods, without guidance… they don’t know what to do with themselves and usually cling to the first thing that they find makes them feel good.”

“I came here before Eru made Arda and shut the gates of the world, seeking out a place to hide... I remember the darkness curling around me comfortingly and whispering that I was not alone for once.” The pale hands at the man’s side clenched tightly. “And then they made light and it was so bright and I was so alone-” 

Letting him have the silence as she slowly stitched him back together, she spoke up quietly when she thought he had calmed. “No one is truly alone, but I fear that there was a disservice to you, as someone should have told you that the light is nothing to fear. But with every time you tried to lash out in hope to maybe feel that comfort the darkness provided, Eru had more reason to punish you.”

The Dark eyes drifted to where the sun was inching across the sky. “I thought that his love was unattainable. So I tried to create something that would love me, but all that came- all I could create... were monsters.”

“I remember in the place I came from, I read a script a wise man had written about children, and it stuck with me, as the people that raised me were not all that nice either. His name was Maslow and he said that a person who has experienced only a little love but that it was not from a stable source will seek out a source to get the same type of comfort, sometimes satisfying the need for love in a way that is not- well- morally good.” She didn’t look up, tone gentle as she kept her hands busy. “I do not believe you are past redemption nor love, Melkor, I just believe you have to want it .”

There was little to no response from the other as she slowly finished her stitching, tying off the darkness.

She stood. “If you want, I will not speak more of the-”

But then a hand reached out, grabbing her wrist softly, and she finally looked into eyes glistening with tears that were on the verge of falling. “What-what happened? To the Light-bringer?”

“I am afraid he does not have a happy ending… he fell and like you, tried to create his own family, but he could only create things most found ugly and foul. And from there, he was blamed for all the evil and wrong things in the world.” Her smile was small and cast small, sad shadows over her face. 

“Oh.” There was a small frown on his face, but it smoothed out again as he looked up at her. “Well, I guess that was because he didn’t have you with him.”

And it was then she knew that her hope was not for nothing.

 

The void was by nature silent in its pulsing shadow and cold chill, but as she smiled reassuringly at where Melkor was frowning and leaning on her as he re-learned to walk it seemed a little less vast and threatening.

Cursing softly in the Black-Speech of his creations when his left leg buckled under him, she was quick to not let him fall, her arm across the shoulders of his back keeping him leaning against her side. 

Not that the other had anywhere to fall, but it was more the principle of letting him know she was here for him than anything. “Are you alright?”

“I- Is it always like this?” Melkor looked up at her with frustration and desperation lingering in his eyes, hands clutching at her arms like a life-line. “You told me that whence you came there were others with problems, the likes of which I seem to be facing- is it always so painful? So frustrating?”

“I remember when I was young... a man broke a few of my ribs and for a long while it hurt to breathe too deeply because it was never set properly, but it had been there for so long that after I fought in a war and the healers found it under all my other injuries they almost couldn’t fix it.” Her hands tensed at remembering the pain of having to regrow her ribs, the pain of bone pushing aside her insides as they knit together. “It was a long time in pain, but I was better at the end of it, just like you will be.”

The man looked up at her when she slowly lowered them both to where he didn’t have to place weight on his legs. “Were you in battle too? What kind of terrible foe was mighty enough to cause you such injury?”

“Ah- it was no foe,” her eyes instinctively found somewhere else to rest as she bore the scars of her childhood, “no, the man who had wounded me was one of the people supposed to be raising me.” 

Melkor’s face was a mix of rage and horror when he reached for her hands, her eyes finally rising to meet his. “What you went through-”

Sighing, she too sat down, looking at where her hands instinctively found each other to curl around. “See, not all great power comes to be as great the day it is first made. Some, like me, are instead born weaker than the men that roam Arda and then are shaped to greatness through many hardships and trials. But- and listen to me well- the ones that make themselves strong instead of being made strong? They are the ones that are liable to destroy worlds.”

“So you were… forged?” Melkor tilted his head just slightly, a glimmer of something she thought was respect in his eyes. “Like how Varda crafted the stars?”

Her smile was bright. “If you wish to call me beautiful, you could have just done that.”

Rolling his eyes he earned himself a chuckle from her, then grinned slightly. “Arrogant.” Hissing as she jabbed a finger at his ribs for the comment, he batted her away softly and then shook his head as he held out his hand. “Help me up, as there may be a compliment in it for you.”

“Rude… but alright.” With a small huff, she stood once more before taking his hands to help him stand. After a few steps, her arms making sure he was steady, she raised an eyebrow. “So?”

With a glance at her, his eyes found his way back to his legs. “You are stronger, if not more, than any trial you have been put through. And yes, you are as pretty as the stars.”

Shock must have been clear on her face because he started to backtrack, but before he could she smiled brilliantly and pulled him into her arms for a hug. “Thank you, Melkor. I think you are more kind at heart and brilliant a person than they give you credit for.”

Seeming to flail a second before settling his hands on her back in a soft, if slightly awkward pat, his voice was teasing. “Is this where I tell you I hate the stars?”

Flicking his ear, she hid a smile behind where he couldn’t see when his laughter rang out around them.

Truly, she did not think she could hate him even if she wanted to.

Chapter Text

“You hold the fire of anger in you. I know, as I saw it when the... creator accused you of fighting for yourself.” Melkor’s voice was soft, as he was often the first to break their silence from where they drifted in the blackness of the void. “So why did you look so hurt when he called you a monster? Why did that extinguish the fire of anger you hold so tightly?”

“Because I have been called that before.” 

The dark-haired Valar looked at her curiously. “Then why does it bother you so much? You cowed back- which from what I have seen, does not seem like something you would normally do.”

It wasn’t.

She used to be a fighter, one that would have clawed her way to where she wanted to be even with blood on her hands rather than even think of giving up- but a lot had changed.

“There was a war when I was barely old enough to understand the world around me, one that I was made to be a general of. Many on my side of the war were children, fighting adults that had no issues in killing us…” Her eyes were unfocused as she saw the trail of blood and pain the war had left. “So I decided to forfeit my innocence and kill without mercy. To protect everything good my side fought for. To keep my family safe… To win. But it changed me, as decisions like that often do. During the war, all I could smell was the rust of blood and the sour salt of sweat, something that seemed to integrate itself into the very base of my personality. After the war, I was told to go back to living like a child when all I felt was… old. I was told that I did good things, but I couldn’t accept that, as I saw the grief that my choice had made. And I think, as a way to protect myself… my magic gave me the ability to tell me when others around me are afraid because I know better than most that those that are afraid are dangerous. They smell like blood and sweat... Like war.” 

Melkor reached over, gently taking her hand and twining their fingers together. “And such, it makes you feel like you are the monster they call you.”

She closed her eyes, squeezing his hand gently as she nodded.

“I am not afraid of you.”

Her laugh was soft, bitter as if rung though the void and she wondered if the stars were listening to their words from their places in the sky. “Everything around me seems to wither eventually- no matter if you are not afraid of me, there will always be people who will. I am… poisonous.”

A soft laugh and the hand holding hers drew her into his arms so he could tuck her into his chest, holding her close as he stroked her hair. “No, dear one. You are venomous and it shows your character that even when people are afraid, you chose not to use your fangs.”

Burying her head against his chest, she chose not to speak through the wet lump in her throat.

They stayed like that for anywhere between years and days, as time was fluid and unreachable in the void. 

“Do you still wish for me to name you?”

“I do.” Her voice was wet, but she answered softly.

Shifting them so she could look up at him, he smiled slightly with a hint of mischief in his eyes. “Then I name you Lissë Hloirë.”

She blinked and then started to laugh softly, shifting to muffle her amused laughter in his robes as she tried to quell her humor at his idiocy. “You are choosing to name me ‘sweet venom?’ Why in all the stars would you do that?”

“Because you say you’re deadly, but I think that if so, then you are the sweetest form of death.”

Her smile was bright as she wrapped him in her arms. “Well, you're not entirely wrong.”

 

It was easier to go by Hloirëa, as it was a name that was simple and not too long, even if that changed the meaning just to ‘venomous’ but even as Melkor rolled his eyes and muttered that she had ‘taken away the purpose’, she was stubborn.

Plus, then Lissë Hloirë would be theirs. 

No one else would know it but them and the stars- and it felt like a promise in a way.

 

“The creator,” they stayed away from names out here where Eru could see them (if he wanted to) without them having any type of way to hide, “made a prophecy. He said that when Dagor Dagorath comes, the final battle, I will be the one to snuff the light of the sun and moon from the world, then die along with all my creations. And when there is no more evil in the world, they will sing another world into creation. One that is better… One without me.”

Hloirëa gave a long sigh. “Do you want to do that? To destroy the sun and moon? To fight the Valar? To die?”

Melkor looked at her in sort of a lost way. “I have no choice. It is prophesied.”

“And yet Eru gave you the ability to choose, didn’t he? Yes, I followed my prophecy, but only because, in the end, it was the right thing to do.”

This seemed like a novel thought to the man, furrowing his eyebrows as he thought about that. “But if I do not… then that would mean that the father is not always correct and he- he has never been wrong before. And- and what if my defying the prophecy only makes things worse?”

She smiled fondly. “The fact you can worry about the situation making things worse only proves that you are not wholly evil. Plus, he is only right so often because he has made a whole long plan to make sure what he wants happens.”

“So how would I change anything?”

“Well, I bet that plan has one wrinkle- me. I came before the fiery creator, so I am the outlying variable in his plan. He wasn’t able to plan for my intrusion.”

Melkor looked at her. “Is that a good thing?”

Her laugh was amused. “I sure hope so. And even then, I don’t plan to wreak anything, just help out whoever I can- whether that be physically or through advice.”

“And… that will change things?”

She shrugged. “Suffering is part of his plan too- and any part of his plan I can disrupt is a good part in my books, as I believe that given the choice that most all will choose to be good, not evil.”

“You hold a lot of hope for the race of men.”

“As I told you before, they are people that can forge themselves into beautiful weapons or pillars of strength if given the opportunity.”

The Valar nodded slowly, even if he seemed to think about her words for a long moment, turning them over in his head. “The elves- the creator made them first... and yet you seem more fond of men. Why is that? Even in my trouble with shaping creatures, men- or my bastardized version of them- are easier to create then Elves.”

Humming, she thought about that. “Perhaps I am just more fond of Men because they are predictable to me and that is somewhat comforting. Elves… one moment you think they respect you and think that your might is something of awe, not fear, and the next they are turning on you for the very same reason. Though that is probably because I have not been around them enough to feel wholly comfortable.”

“Doesn’t that make you like them, fearing what you do not know?”

He seemed to regret the words once they left his lips, but she just smiled slightly, glad that he was expressing his thoughts so easily to her. “Perhaps. Though fear and caution are not the same, not to mention I would never act violently on the wariness I hold for that which I do not know unless attacked first.”

Melkor chuckled lightly. “I pity those that chose to attack you on the underestimations your appearance brings.”

“You should.” 

They shared a small but vicious smile between themselves.

 

“Why did you steal those jewel-things?” Hloirëa was helping him walk on the surface of the void that held them up, his arm around her shoulder as his legs would sometimes shake and his slightly sharp fingers dug into her skin (not that she ever protested).

He gave her a look of utter amusement with a hint of bewilderment. “The silmarils?”

“Sure. Those things.” She just grinned when he peered at her in exasperation. “Why’d you steal them?”

“Because they are more beautiful than anything the Valar had ever made before, filled with the purest light and they shone so brightly in my crown that the halls of Angband were always lit with the soft glow of power.”

Her laugh was a soft one that echoed in the void and the stars above them seemed to shiver at the echo’s caress. “So you stole them because they were pretty?”

Melkor seemed to flush a burnt orange color like lava under his skin, turning his head away from her as he scowled in the way Ron used to do when he was embarrassed. “What- do you have a better reason for taking something from the family that abandoned me?”

“No, no- I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, necessarily, for you to want something from the people who have hurt you... I just think maybe there would have been better ways to do such a thing without such violence.” Then stopping them and moving in front of him, she looked in his eyes to gauge his mood as she gently pulled the warped metal of his former crown from around his neck. Then running a gentle hand over where the dark metal had dug into his skin, soothing the wounds with her magic, she let herself twist the misshapen metal back into a proper crown. 

Looking at her, he slowly ducked his head so she could reach up and set the crown amongst his inky black locks again.

His eyes were soft in their confusion. “How would you have done it?”

“Like this.” Letting herself melt back into the shadows for just a moment, feeling everything the darkness touched across both void and Arda, when she came back to herself there were three shining crystals in her hand. 

Looking from the crystals to the sky, he seemed to understand in a second, voice unusually choked up when he spoke. “You would pull the stars from the sky… for me?”

“I would, because if anything, you deserve something good and light in your life.”

“I… I do not know how I will ever repay you- there is nothing I can shape or make to equal the kindness you have shown me.”

Hloirëa’s smile was soft as she let herself float a bit above him, fitting his crown with the three stars- the brightest three in the sky. “I think you misunderstand, my dear. This is not kindness... This is love.”

His eyes were wide.

She just smiled, brushing a hand along the plane of his sharp jaw and then leaning in to gently rest her forehead against his. “And there is no need to repay love, as it is freely given from me to you.”

The tears that slid slowly down his marble features landed softly in the void and spread out to shimmer like the aurora borealis against the blackness as they held each other close.

Chapter Text

“Do you think,” Melkor’s voice was soft as they sat together at the edge of the void and watched Arda continue without them, “that you could go back?”

Hloirëa’s voice was soft, eyebrows drawing together as she looked over at her companion in confusion. “Could? Do you mean without Eru’s permission or if they invited us back?”

“Without his permission. Could you get past the world barrier to enter Arda?”

“It’s funny that you still think Eru was strong enough to make the world barrier that keeps the void out.” When Melkor’s face lit with understanding, she smiled. “I could return, just as you could, though I think that you would draw Eru’s attention.”

The man’s eyes looked to her, serious in a way she hadn’t seen in a long while. “Then you should go. Return to Arda and live a life better than you can have here in these shadows. Be admired and feel the sunshine you have taught me not to fear.”

She felt her lips curl into a small frown. “But… why? Why do you ask me to leave you here when you sound as if you will not join me?”

“Because, as you said, Eru will see me shall I enter Arda. So leave me here and I will live vicariously through all you take to doing, as I know you will do whatever you end up choosing to focus on well. Give back a bit of light to the world in my stead.”

Hloirëa reached out to clasp his hand. “You speak nonsense, my dear. Put that thought from your mind, as I made a silent vow not to leave you alone and I have no intention to break it.”

Melkor huffed softly. “You cannot stay with me here until the day the sun and moon go out-”

“Yes, I can!”

Smiling at her gently and covering her hands with his, eyes fonder than they had any right to be, he smiled. “But I will not allow it. I may be trapped here, but I will not keep you in such a prison when you can get out so easily. At least that way one of us will be able to feel the sun on our skin.”

Pulling him in, curling together like cats as they tried to soak up each other’s affection, she sniffed slightly. “You really wish for me to leave?”  

“I want you to live free, as your very doing will ruin the Father’s plans and then when he expects me to come to the end the world, instead I will find peace with you in a world that is without control.”

“Not all of it, though. Some control is necessary.”

Melkor nodded, lips curved in a small smile. “Not all of it then.”

They both knew it was in false bravado that he wished her to leave as he probably didn’t believe he was going to see her again, but at the same time, she was now determined to get him out of the dark void they had made a home out of for so long.

She held onto him still, unwilling to leave just yet and he must have felt the same, arms still wrapped around her tightly. Her voice was small. “Anything you wish for me to do until you are able to join me?”

“Have an adventure.” At her raised eyebrow he matched her with a stubborn stare. “You need to have at least one adventure before you spit in the creator’s face- that is just common sense.”

“Something you obviously don’t have.”

He nudged her side softly. “Rude.”

Slowly, she pulled back so their hands were all that were touching. “Anything else?”

“Maybe could you see how Mairon is doing? He was one of the only ones to follow me after I caused so much…” He drifted off, before looking at her with a sort of wry smile. “Who knows, maybe with you by his side he will heal as I did.”

“Then I will go to see him.” Not promising anything she could not deliver, she leaned in to press her cheek to his for a long moment before pulling back entirely. “You and I will meet again, Melkor.”

And with the promise hanging on her lips, she closed her eyes, thinking of Mairon as she let herself slip into the shadows.

 

Stumbling on her way out of the shadows, as gravity was worse than she remembered it being, she was grateful for the hands that caught and steadied her. “Ah, I seem to have forgotten how to walk. Thank you, kind sir, for helping me.”

The man in fine robes who was holding a golden scepter in one of the hands he was steadying her with had a look of utter confusion on his face. He spoke a language that she did not fully understand, but he sounded upset- probably at her state of undress.

Space and time were hard on clothes.

“Ah, Mettanyë… it’s been a long time since I have seen you- what, did you slip by the gaze of the Valar to return to Arda?” A cloak was draped over her, a handsome red-haired man replacing where the other was to help hold her up. “Surely it must have been so, as you were sent away to the same fate as my Lord Melkor.” 

Seeing that the man who was surely Mairon had some sort of hope on his face, she did her best to try to comfort the Maiar as she broke the (somewhat) bad news. “Yes, he said for me to find you, Mairon. Unfortunately, though, he is not able to pass through the world barrier still.”

A deep frown lined the handsome face of the Maia, passing after a long moment as the man sighed and smiled at her slightly. “Well, you are a welcome sight, either way, Mett-”

“Please- my apologies, but I don’t go by that name anymore. Melkor calls me Hloirëa now.”

Studying her, Mairon smiled and dipped his head. “If so then I would appreciate it if you called me Sauron, as that is the name that I have made for myself during this time.”

Laughing softly, she finally drew herself from his hands, appreciating the deep silver cloak that had been hung over her as shadows were harder to manifest into clothes when the sun and moon were so close. “To names that we find ruin first meetings then.” 

“Indeed.” The man settled a hand on her back walking with her through the sunshine-filled halls slowly, seeming to not even notice the men and women staring as they passed. “If you would like to stay, I am sure I could offer you lodging for a while, as any friend of Melkor is a friend of mine.”

She sent him an appreciative smile, but it faded when they passed a girl who smelled of fear, all at once feeling sick and remembering the feeling of those she’d befriended in battle turning on her. “I… have a mission to confront the Valar about the way they treated Melkor, so I will probably be leaving soon, I just mostly wanted to see if you were doing alright.” Her eyes glanced to where he was watching her closely before looking away again. “He was worried about your being alright without him.”

Sauron smiled and this time it seemed to reach his dark orange eyes, brightening them slightly. “I am doing well, though I wish I could see him again. I was worried, what with his legs…”

“Oh, no, I fixed that right up! He’ll be walking- or probably running- across that barrier once I fix Eru up with a kick in the-...” Her grin was wide and just slightly mischievous. “Well, you get the idea.”

“If you plan on striking upon the Valar, then you will surely need armor, if not some clothing. Let me help you get vengeance for my Lord. Stay, just until we can get you fitted with armor befitting the Forgotten Valar.”

Hloirëa relented, offering up a small but thankful smile. “Alright then. I will stay until then if just to have such pleasant company a little longer before I go to see those fools the men call gods.”

Sauron laughed brightly and she felt something ease in her chest as they walked to where her rooms would be.

 

It was with pleasant surprise she found that many of the men on the island of Numenor did not fear her. Though some did, many of those that Mairon stayed close to were respectful and often very nice to her, whereas many of those that feared her were quite rude.

Whenever she would walk through the halls and especially the gardens some of these fearful men would spit at the ground as she walked by, earning a swift and enraged glare from Sauron (if he was nearby), though she was always quick to tell the Maia it was alright and that they would learn in time, as that seemed to calm him from doing something irrational.

Hloirëa’s favorite place, however, was the gardens of the Numenorean Palace, as there were never many occupying them. Also, it might have been that they reminded her a bit of Yavanna’s kind greetings and warm hugs.

It was there that Sauron found her, lying in a sunny patch of grass in a fine dress of silvers and greens, eyes closed as she soaked up the feeling of the sun. “You seem to enjoy the sun’s light more than I thought for a creature of darkness.”

“Ah, but I have been without it for so long in the void and I did miss it so.” 

A pause and her eyes fell open to see Mairon seemingly in thought. “...what did you say you would do to the Valar when you left here?”

Sitting up with a small smile of confusion, she tilted her head. “What do you mean? I told you I wanted to knock Eru down a peg, but I don’t have an issue with most of the other Valar. Plus, I am mostly going to quarrel with Eru because of how he threw me and Melkor into the Void without even a trial. It would have been nice to see Mandos at least before he did…”

Mairon then smiled, but it seemed a bit strained. “Of course.”

“Are you alright?

The man nodded as if dismissing it, before sighing as if tired. “Just so much to do, though I mostly came by to tell you your amour is done- well- all but one piece I almost forgot.”

Her smile was bright and thankful. “Thank you, really, Sauron. It’s a big help.”

With a wave of his hand, the man seemed once more lost in thought as he walked away.

 

“Hloirëa~”

She smiled and turned from where she was watching the sunrise over the water. “ Do I hear news in your tone?”

“News indeed.” Sauron grinned and then held out a hand to her. “I have commissioned your armor, made by the best craftsman I know.”

With excitement alighting her stomach, she took the offered hand to stand from the bench and didn’t let it go even as she followed him through the halls she already knew fairly well. Guided into an armory bathed in red flame, she was pulled before the finest armor she’d ever seen.

Simple, with black plates that didn’t look all that heavy or constricting, it was lined with gold edging and she absentmindedly stepped forward in awe to run her hand over it. “This… oh, this is beautiful…”

“If you want, you could try it on now- there are clothes to go under the armor on the side of the table.” Sauron smiled encouragingly, turning around and she was so excited to try on the beautiful armor she quickly slipped from her dress and pulled on the comfortable underthings ignoring the ‘bra’ (that seemed more like a torture device) as she slipped on the plain leathers. 

“I’m not sure…”

The man took a second before glancing back to her, smiling when he saw she was looking at the armor with hesitance. “Here, I’ll help you, not to worry.”

Helping her into the different plates, even putting on the socks she’d forgotten before he strapped up the armored boots and put a plate down over the lacings, he paused for a second and then took something off the table from where it was wrapped in a pelt. 

“What is that?” Hloirëa was beyond amazed with the armor as it fit her like a glove and was light but felt strong enough to break an elvish sword, so her grin must have been infectious because Sauron matched it.

“The final piece.” He slowly unwrapped the pelt to show off a dark black helm with two horns curling upwards like the demons she’d told Melkor about. “Every warrior needs a helm to protect their head.”

Looking at it, she faltered slightly when she found that it was low enough on the front where it would surely cover her eyes, only leaving the lower part of her nose and mouth uncovered. “I love it, truly, it’s beautiful, but… I’m afraid I won't be able to see a single thing in it.”

Sauron looked at it with a small frown, before sighing as if he hadn’t noticed. “I… I wanted to get it done so you would have it when I gave you the armor, but, well, I guess you’re right. Not to worry, I’m sure I can fix that, though it might take a bit of time with-”

“No-” Hloirëa reached out to set her hand on his wrist reassuringly. “I’m only going to need it to confront Eru and I don’t exactly need my eyes for that, as my darkness will guide me well enough.” Reaching back and slowly twisting her long hair into a messy pile atop her head, she nodded in encouragement. “I’ll just come back to have it fixed when I’m done.”

“Right- when you’re done…” Eyes glinting slightly, the man smiled, though there was an edge to it as he held up the helm. “Ready?”

Using just a bit of her shadows to hold her hair up, she smiled excitedly. “As I’ll ever be!”

The helm slid over her head and she worried it would be a bit too loose, but then as soon as it was all the way on, it fit the mold of her head. 

Frowning, she could feel something wrong, like the faint sense that something was-

In her mind.

So long she’d left her mind barriers unattended, left with the thought that in space there was no reason to protect her mind and she hadn’t thought there was any mind magic in this world, so when something crashed against them like a battering ram she almost fell to her knees with the pain of the thin left-over barriers starting to form a spider web of cracks.

“What- what the hell was that? Sauron-” She pushed and pulled at the helm, but it wouldn’t budge. “Get- help me get this-”

“Shhh, my dear…” Cool hands caught hers, pulling them away from her head. “Let it happen. Let the corruption take over and it’ll all be alright. You’ll be strong, stronger than any orc or Balrog before you- something precious. Oh, my Lord will love you...”

Feeling the foul darkness slam against a different part of her mind, the cracks spreading, she decided she knew when to retreat from a losing battle. 

Instead of letting it corrupt her mind and personality and memories fully, she drew all of herself into the smallest ball in the darkest corner of her mind away from her own body, layering wall after wall over herself of magic straight from the Deathly Hallows living inside her… And watched as the barriers over her mind shattered, sickly corruption spreading itself in like a flood of dark water.

She didn’t feel her body be taken over by the corruption.

She didn’t feel her magic itself rebel and start to try to burn the corruption out of her from the inside out, lighting the inside of the armor in fiendfyre.

She didn’t hear the sky shaking roar that she gave- of agony, not rage.

All she knew was pain and unbearable heat.

 

Hloirëa ceased to exist.

Eru came down to Aman to tell Manwë that Hloirëa had, in the knowledge she had caused so much pain, simply ceased to be

The Valar grieved, all but one feeling the pain of not doing enough, while that one instead shook her head and continued to weave a tapestry of a Knight that burned as if from the primordial flame itself with horns curving up past cheeks stained with tears. The Knight’s armor had twisted, thickening until it more resembled dragon’s scales than fine metal and a sword of fire was held in its hands, blood dripping from its black armor.

And when Nienna found herself weeping so uncontrollably she had to find solace in the Weaver’s chambers, the wife of the Doomsman just smiled understandingly and let her in, hands soft as she pushed back the woman’s hair. “Do not worry, Nienna. It is just the beginning.”

“Wh- why am I so- so sad?” The woman’s voice was broken between sobs.

Vairë just looked at her tapestry sadly. “Because someone you love was done wrong by... Because contained, the fire will never be strong enough to burn away the evil.”

Nienna was too distraught to understand, crying harder instead, but it was no matter. 

It would make no difference to fate.

 

Hloirëa ceased to exist.

Melkor watched in the void as his savior was ripped of her sanity and free-will by the very hands he’d helped shape.

Horror grew in his stomach as the tendril of darkness holding him to some amount of gravity disappeared and the darkness grew more and more oppressive with every moment that passed.

This- this had been his fault.

His legacy had guided the hands that had crafted her prison, been the name to lead her to such a fate… he had killed the one that saved him.

 

Hloirëa ceased to exist.

It was with a whisper from a small moth that the one the elves called Mithrandir heard the news and it was from his weary lips that he told Elrond, as he was staying in the halls where the younger elf resided. 

Elrond Peredhel, having risen through the ranks as he’d fought in the War of Wrath and was known to be unshakable, did what no one expected him to. He broke down crying, clinging to the grey-robed Maia like some small elfling, sobbing about ‘not getting to repay the favor’.

And such it was to the discontent of all in Lothlórien when Galadriel wept for seven days, voice ringing across her forests with a lament for one most had been told was evil, her voice breaking each time the name of the Unspoken Valar was uttered.

All this while Mithrandir stood with the Silver Lady silently and mourned in his own way.

Not for lost chances or regrets.

But for a friend.

 

Hloirëa ceased to exist.

Instead, a Burning Knight made from pain and betrayal found the deepest pit of lava that was far cooler than the flames of magic licking the metal, far under a mountain in the middle of Middle Earth, and tried to find bliss from the agony in sleep.

Chapter Text

“Lady Mettanyë, you may not be able to hear me wherever you went, but I wanted to say thank you.” The voice that drifted past the sleeping corruption and to her consciousness was soft, sounding grief-stricken but accepting at the same time. “Gandalf- or Olórin, as you know him by- told me that he doesn’t know where Valar go when they die because it’s never happened before, but that if I talk to you that you might hear me... Wherever you are.”

Right now she believed her body was lying in a pit of lava, deep in slumber now that the magic trying to burn her from the inside was cooled by the earth. 

But that wasn’t really important, she guessed.

“I’m to be married to the most beautiful elf I’ve ever seen- Galadriel’s daughter- and I… well, I mostly wanted to thank you. Because you saved my life in that war and made me strong enough to fight on my own, I am to be married to the woman I love.”

She felt happy.

So the elfling had survived and now was getting married? Excellent.

The world needed more good people (that weren’t arrogant back-stabbing liars).

 

“My Lady, each day that passes I do not know whether to fear the encroaching future shrouded in shadow or to mourn the present.” Galadriel’s voice was a balm to her loneliness, though the woman’s tone was mournful. “I find myself doubting all that Eru said, though I will tell none about that for fear that I am wrong. The wounds of that Maiar were the same as the Balrog you fought and- and you were forced into battle and then he said that you wanted nothing more to fight and-!” She drifted off with a sigh.

Her words were soft, just a whisper of her mind back to the woman. “Doubt is sometimes healthy, my dear... do not fret”

Taking a breath that sounded shaky, the woman continued. “I almost understand why you left us, as we- we did not deserve you. Not when I should have stepped in or stopped the others from throwing things.” A bitter sigh. “We say we are better than those of Men, but when we are told to turn from the woman who saved most of our lives, we do so without thought... It haunts me, as I don’t remember a single man saying a crude word or throwing stones.”

She could have nodded. “Strength is found in the most admirable of places, even Men.”  

“I hope it is your darkness that curls around my gaze, obscuring the future, but I know that my fate cannot be that kind.”

“Have hope yet. Fate is fickle but kind to those she respects, Silver Lady.”

Galadriel took a breath and after so she seemed to feel better. “But… I will hold out hope yet, if only for you.”

 

Between the voices talking of wars, battles, and strife, there were others who spoke of new birth and finding homes. 

Sometimes Elrond spoke to her of little things like his children and wife, others he would speak of the Wargs growing more prominent in his woods and how he felt something coming. Galadriel spoke to her many times, always asking questions or pondering things that sometimes she would not know how to answer, but she tried her best to give advice and it seemed to help guide the silver elf. And occasionally, Olórin would mutter a solemn blessing for her soul under his breath.

Then, with the sound of metal and rock, something woke her body.

Thunk. 

Thunk.

Thunk.

Hloirëa hoped, for Merlin’s sake, that whoever was mining so deep into the mountain would just… just leave before she- before the corruption woke.

But with one final ringing sound of metal hitting the rock, she knew it was not to be, the black slime controlling her brain waking as it surged forth in her brain and the rock broke away from herself fully. 

Faintly she could hear yells, could feel the way the corruption used her body’s latent magic to form into a sword of fire and how cool liquid hit the metal plating, sizzling. And while her body was used to slaughter what she guessed was a mountain full of dwarves, she could do nothing but listen.

Each of their cries- some pleading and some of agony- rang through her head.

But the corruption didn’t care, didn’t feel. It was made of rage and agony, only wanting the mountain to be silent so it could sleep away the burning pain. So it carved through the innocents and then roared- roared so that no more would interrupt the bliss of sleep, and then when the mountain was silent once more it retreated.

Once again it buried itself into the molten liquid that felt cool against the burning flame it was encased in and then rested.

And it left her with a sickness she could not purge, a self-hatred festering with every scream that rang out in the small corner of her mind, and the need to cry even when she had no way to.

Surely Nienna wept for her... but this time, that didn’t feel enough.

 

“Celebrían, the star of my sky, is to come to Lothlórien to visit me as I have not seen her since she married Elrond. And although I am avidly awaiting my daughter’s return to me I fear her safety on the passes, as many orc packs have come recently to roam the mountains... however the future is shadowed in a haze as if your cloak of shadows is covering what I worry to see.”

“A good mother knows her child but also trusts her instincts.” Hazel thought back to the woman, who she found could hear her (but seemed to not think it was anything but her own mind), hoping Elrond’s beloved would be safe.

Galadriel sighed softly. “A good mother trusts her instincts... I wonder if that was why you saved my son-in-bond? The only elfling in the whole of the army and you happened to end up right next to him…” The woman's voice was almost not speaking to her, instead wistful as if talking to herself. “I would have named you kin in a heartbeat and I know Elrond thought of you like kin already- I wish every day you could have seen the forest Lothlórien has become. You would have loved it here.”

Her voice was soft, saddened by the thought that she might not get to see such a place. “And I would have loved it even if it was horrible if just to see you smile.”

“Well then, I have decided. The Marchwardens of Lothlórien will march to meet my daughter on the Redhorn Pass, make sure she gets back here safe.”

“Good. I’m glad.”

There was a pause, then- “I miss you, my Lady.”

 

The dead were not silent- not when she was the one that killed them in cold blood- but when the faint sound of a horn echoed down to where she slept, the dead were not angry either for once.

So instead of waiting for the corruption to wake slowly, she pushed out her mind-shields and killed two birds with one stone. Not only did she get a bit more space, but the blackness in her mind writhed, body rising and walking heavily towards the surface where they could both sense foul creatures lay.

And though the corruption hesitated in killing the creatures, as they smelled like its creator, she pushed out her mind barriers again until it was too in pain and full of rage to care what it killed. 

Listening in dark glee as the corruption killed and maimed the tainted creatures, she heard some foolish orc proclaim themselves the ‘Lord of Moria’ and could have cackled at the anger it caused the corruption.

This mountain was to be quiet, and if the corruption had to make sure it was that way by killing all the foul beasts that were making the noise, then so be it.

With a roar as it tore the self-proclaimed lord’s head from his body, the corruption cut down the few orcs outside in the sun, if just to keep the mountain empty. About to turn back, another heartbeat caught the corruption’s attention.

Fleeting and fast, the creature was obviously scared, but quiet and still.

The corruption burned, just wanting to sleep, so it turned and instead lumbered back towards the mountain. One single word rumbling from its mouth with a voice gravelly from disuse.

“Leave.”

And leave the scared creature did, its footsteps fast as it ran far away from her mountain. The dead, for the first time since that slaughter in the mountain, did not scream or cry for her blood as they had been avenged. 

However, while she slept, a new story arose among the dwarves of a knight burning with fire carrying a sword of flames and killing anything no matter how morally good.

 

“I fear the worst, my friend.”

She perked up slightly at Olórin’s voice, even if it sounded tired and grave. “What is it you fear? Tell me how you have been, for I have longed to hear your voice.”

There was none of the usual cheer or even mischief in his voice when he spoke again, barely even a murmur. “Even as we struck Sauron down… he is stronger than us and without your guidance… maybe I will come to join you wherever you now rest soon.”

“No…” Her voice was soft, a whisper as sadness curled around her. “You must not give up, Olórin. Fight, dear friend. Fight for me.”

There was a long moment where she knew not what had happened to her friend, where everything was uncertain and her mind spun like a hurricane in its small fortress where she hid from the corruption.

Then a soft voice, familiar and soothing spoke into the wind which carried it to her mind. “Olórin has come to trouble, my Lady.”

If Hloirëa could have nodded impatiently, she would have, as she was immensely worried for her oldest friend.

“The Necromancer of Dol Guldur has taken him, but I will not rest until he is safe.” Galadriel’s voice was satin concealing iron, determination clear in her voice. “I will not lose another of my kin without a fight- not when this time the only thing I face is death by the hands of the enemy instead of the blinding judgment of the Creator.”

Her mind softened from a hurricane into a small whirlpool. “Thank you, my friend… May the luck of the Valar be with you.”

“May the luck of the Valar be with me.”

Hloirëa waited, as that was one of the many things she could do, shivering in delight when she felt a wave of magic ripple across the sky, pure and bright, even if it made the corruption shift.

She held her breath, watching the black ooze of the corruption and then settled her agitation when the sickly darkness smoothed out once again in sleep.

But again, there was more magic.

The magic of Maiar she had not seen for years, the pulse of a flame that she knew belonged to her elfling, and the steady light of Galadriel.

And this caused the corruption to stir slightly, prickling up like a cat raising its hackles even if it tried to sleep on. 

Shushing the sleeping corruption, she sent a soft lullaby it’s way, hoping for it to sleep forever.

“Come to me.”

Hloirëa stiffened at the voice, fear, and hate making her lullaby stop short.

It had been a hopeless dream to think Sauron would forget about her. To let her sleep away the pain and avoid the corruption. To think that he would never call on her- his favorite monster- his darkest knight.

She just wished it was not to fight the ones she loved.

“Hloirëa…”

She could hear his voice, Sauron, calling to her in the depths but she didn’t dare think a thing in case she woke the sleeping corruption.

“Hloirëa, come to me… Fight by my side…”

The corruption stirred and she wished it back to sleep, but there was no stopping it. The writhing mass of blackness awoke and the body rose slowly. Its voice was rough. “Master…”

“Yes, come to me Hloirëa…”

She felt magic not her own- that was twisted like the blackness in her head- take hold of her, and suddenly she was standing in a mass of flames, Sauron’s black-speech ringing out around her. “The age of orc has come…” With a shuddering laugh, the evil voice then seemed to direct itself at her. “Kill them, servant.”

She could not see the corruption raise its sword of fire, but she knew one thing: she would no longer kill on someone’s orders. Pushing out her mental barriers and knowing the flaming sword flickered into a scythe of shadow for a moment, she took over the controls to her speech. “I am no… servant!”

The corruption pushed back just as strong, shoving her back, as it was strong here under its master's magic. “Master... says…”

Sauron’s voice held only anger. “I said KILL THEM!”

Once more her shadows faded to flame and rage, but her magic could feel her fighting and burned hotter until the corruption could only roar in agony at the feeling, unable to move.

In its weakness, she shoved back. “I will not fall… again… for your tricks.”

“It cannot be…” Someone breathed something, the voice familiar, but she was too caught up in fighting off the corruption to focus. “That is-”

“Mettanyë.”

Pushing harder at her name, she felt her barriers start to weaken slightly. “Help-... the helm…"

“I, with the power of Manwë, release you!” There was a thud, resolute and ringing, as something hit her over the head.

And with a slow and satisfying cracking of metal, the helm covering her eyes falling to pieces upon to blackened stone at her feet.

With one last push, her magic flaring up so she was consumed in a pillar of flame, the corruption was purged from her mind and her barriers fell into place once more protecting the ruins of her mind.

The fire faded, her eyes slowly adjusting as she felt the thick armor once more become a light plate, hair falling around her like rivulets of blood. Her voice was hoarse, dry as she stared at the shards of what had been her prison where they were laying at her feet. “I gave my trust to you, Sauron. I gave you the chance to redeem yourself as your Lord did… and you spit on the hand I extended.” Slowly she turned, feeling the dusk pulse with her anger as the shadows around her grew, eyes narrowing hatefully on the flaming eye. “And for that, you will suffer.”

Like sharks gathering on a bloodied seal, her darkness tore at the flaming eye, consuming and tearing it apart bit by bit until the rest had no choice but to retreat.

Falling to her knees, the armor ringing out against stone, she smiled grimly at the old wizened man who stumbled to her side with tears in his eyes. “It has been a while, I’d imagine, Olórin, but there will be no more… prayers.” Then, as her magic had been burning since the helm had been placed on her head, her eyes rolled back in her head.

And for the first time since she’d absorbed the Deathly Hallows, she fell asleep without her body disappearing into the shadows, as her magic was all but depleted.

Chapter Text

Leaving the company of dwarves (and one hobbit), Gandalf turned towards the ruins of Dol Guldur with one of his oldest friends. 

Aiwendil was one of Yavanna’s Maiar, a kind-hearted spirit that had been one of the few Maiar to have made Lady Mettanyë smile and Gandalf had long come to respect the other that now called himself Radagast. However the other was not one for war- Yavanna’s Maiar were never that drawn to conflict- and it was really only the reminder of Mettanyë that kept him nervously hurrying along at his side. “Do you think the Necromancer is somehow related to the Lady?”

“I think…” The Westron was easy to speak after all these years, but it almost felt wrong to speak the language of men when they were so close to the old magic that the ruins seemed to give off, something dark and lingering that made his bones ache. “I think there is darkness here… but it does not feel like anything the Lady would create willingly.”

Radagast didn’t comment on the switch to Quenya, as he seemed just as unnerved and the familiar language eased the tension a bit. “You feel it too then…”

Sharing a look, they moved quietly to the hill, staring out onto the seemingly empty ruins. They hummed with that strange-wrong-unfamiliar darkness, as well as the faint glimmer that he would guess was a strong spell of concealment. 

The shorter man fiddled with his long sleeves nervously, gripping his staff tightly. “I wish that Mettanyë was here…”

“Yet she is not and all we can do now is do our best to honor her.” Taking a moment to lay his hand on his friend’s shoulder with a gentle hand, he let there be a second of silent sorrow. Then he straightened and pushed the loss aside. “Carry a message to the Lady Galadriel. We must force the Necromancer’s hand.”

Wary brown eyes darted between his own like a skittish deer.  “What if it’s a trap?”

“It’s undoubtedly a trap.” Taking his hand away with a wry smile, he drew his sword. “Why else would they use darkness and call themselves a name that claims to bring back the dead? It is a taunt, dangling the promise of the Forgotten Valar over our heads… and I am displeased enough to take their bait.”

Radagast watched as he moved down the stone steps and started across the bridge, but he did not look back.

When walking into battle it’s best not to blink or look back because then you will lose all the strength that you have gained. Just as Orpheus, who lost the woman he loved because he could not stop himself from looking back, you too will lose everything. It’s always best to remember that love will be at your back no matter where you go and that death is not unkind, if very prideful. So keep your eyes forward, Olórin, and great death with no less familiarity than you would Lady Yavanna as then it will greet you back just as kindly.

He remembered the story of Orpheus and let the memory of his Lady’s voice lead him.

 

“You hold no control over the darkness!” Gandalf’s voice was thin with strain, holding up his staff and letting his fire feed the light that he kept up in a shield. “You have no right!”

There was a low ominous chuckle, a voice that was raspy with the undertone of Black Speech. “That is where you are wrong, little wizard… I claimed that which controls the darkness, thus it is mine.” The dark tendrils of force slammed his shield back.

Stumbling, he got his footing back, meeting the darkness in the middle with the light. “You have… no power here!” His voice was hoarse, cracking in the pressure. “Darkness is nothing more than… the absence… of light!”

The light pulsed out, pushing the darkness back.

With a sharp bark of a laugh, his shield was crushed with the force of the next wave but then the darkness was forming a large eye, flaming and very very recognizable. He held up his staff as if that would shield him, but the wood was crumbling away to nothing in his very hands.

“Is that something that your Lady taught you so you wouldn’t fear her?” Picking Gandalf up into the air, Sauron slammed him back against a pillar of stone, cruel laughter echoing around him. “Maybe, when all your little friends come to rescue you… I will show you exactly how much power I have, as even without my ring, as long as I have your precious lady wrapped in my hands I will never die.”

A tear slipped down his cheek even as he glared at the flaming eye. “Lies.”

The darkness started to curl around him slowly, the voice softening to just a taunting whisper in his ear. “We shall see.” And then the blackness consumed him.



Galadriel could feel Mithrandir’s faint but familiar magic close to her woods, pulsing with determination, and stood slowly from her place of meditation when she felt it fail.

“My Lady?” The Captain of the Marchwardens stepped forward, having been the one to personally escort the frazzled Istari to her. “Does the Brown Wizard speak the truth? Is the darkness that clouds your vision that of the Necromancer?”

She knew what he was asking her, but in this case, she truly did not know. “It feels different, but yet much the same. I do not yet know, Haldir.”

Radagast fidgeted, looking worried. “My Lady, we need to call the council!”

“We ride to rescue rather than to join a fight, my friend. We will want to be prepared and cautious.” Moving to the Brown Wizard’s side, she put a hand on his shoulder. “Mithrandir has caved under the darkness.”

The Istari looked distraught. “Is he-”

“Gandalf is not defeated just yet.” Saruman moved into the clearing with Lord Elrond at his side, as she had called them as soon as her vision was obscured, the White Wizard’s face drawn in a slight sneer. “And knowing him, the fool will fight until his last breath and then call it ‘honor’ as if the Valar he reveres is worth any more than just the ash under Eru’s boots.”

Haldir looked ready to take his saber to the wizard, Elrond’s back unnaturally straight as well, and Radagast looked ready to set his animals on the other Istari.

She stepped forward, voice cold. “We fight with him, no matter who he prays to.”

It seemed then the man remembered who he was speaking to and what he was saying, his sneer dimming just slightly when he realized he was outnumbered, turning in a swirl of white robes. “Then we fight.”

 

Galadriel could feel the pain and madness of the stone under her bare feet, the darkness shying away from where she stepped as she walked with the light on her side. 

Even in the War of Wrath, Mettanyë had often looked at her with a small smile of hidden humor and commented that her shadows were in awe of a woman so bright- that she reminded the Lady of a woman before with a spine of steel and magic like a whip that’s mind was more brilliant than the stars in the sky.

So to see the darkness curling away from her the same way it had done when the Day of the Dragon’s Blood had come upon them and the darkness had spilled over everything so that her Lady could kill seven of the eight living dragons, she felt hope for the first time in a long while.

Hope that her friend, her Lady, was out there somewhere.

That hope had her light blooming even brighter as she stepped up to where an orc was holding the bloody form of her friend to a surface, getting ready to part him from his ring of power.

The beast paused and she looked at him cooly. “I come for Mithrandir. And I will leave with him.”

Snarling, the hideous creature pushed the Istari to the side roughly, holding his sword as if getting ready to attack.

“If you try to stop me, I will destroy you.” Then when the beast roared, she pushed her magic out with an intent wave of her hand, her light killing the beast instantly and then rippling out across the sky. Picking up the bloodied and half-unconscious Istari, she shushed him softly, brushing back his hair in the way Mettanyë used to do with Elrond. “All is well, my friend… I am here.”

“Sau-... Sauron…”

The mutter was weak and she pretended she did not hear it, walking calmly down the stone steps, if not a little quicker than before. Her mind was denying her friend’s claim, but there was a tight knot in her chest that told her he would not play games with her on this. 

Not now, not here.

It was not surprising, the Black Speech that curled and twisted like the wind around the blackened ruins, but she still felt her breath catch in her throat. Holding Mithrandir close, she backed herself to a place where Elrond and Saurman would be able to defend her and tried to wake the Grey Istari.

Sauron laughed.

And it was only her that saw a delicate wisp of the darkness reach out, skirting her light just enough to press to Mithrandir’s forehead in a gentle press, the Istari gasping softly as he woke with light in his eyes. 

Looking at her, the man pulled himself up slowly, helping her do the same and she found comfort in the way his light seemed to burn brighter than even hers in that moment.

 

The fight was not easy.

Elrond had tossed him an extra curved saber as soon as he was on his feet and they worked together- force and grace- to dispatch the wraiths while Saruman fought alone as a force of nature, Galadriel’s light alone keeping their backs safe, but it still was to their wariness that the nine had been cleared from Dol Guldur.

Elrond pressed a hand to his upper shoulder, words of greeting and familiarity were spoken wordlessly in just a moment as he took back his second saber. Then he moved to where the Lady Galadriel was kneeling, curled in on herself, his hand steadying her. “My Lady?”

“He… is here.”

One of the archways that led to seemingly nowhere burst into flame and the harsh rasp of Black Speech filled the air. 

"It has begun. The East will fall.” The flaming eye was then surrounded by the vague shadowy shapes of the nine. Sauron continued. “So shall the Kingdom of Angmar rise." 

Saruman lifted his staff as if trying to block the brightness of the flame, whereas Gandalf tried to see it better, his eyes deceiving him as a dark figure seemed to be walking forward from the very center of the eye. 

But without the ring… how was he able to take form?

“The time of the Elves is over… The Age of the Orc has come."

The shape finally moved out from the flame, its movement unnatural in its harsh jolted steps, as if a puppet on strings. The black armor was thick, the curved horns reminding him of a balrog, bright white flame licking at its form with a sword of equally hot flame in its hands.

Elrond pulled Lady Galadriel back, looking to him and the other Istari, but there was no name they could put to this creature other than the terror that curled around all their spines in an instinct to flee.

“Kill them, servant.”

The knight of flame and destruction stepped forward with its sword in hand, Elrond moving in front of the elven Lady determinedly even if Gandal knew that it was no use…

But the beast did not swing.

There was a low whine, as if a cry of pain, the sword of flame flickering out for a moment. Then the creature spoke, a voice harsh and cracking even if the tongue was Quenya. “I am no… servant!”

The black armor seemed to shudder, Black Speech coming out a moment later as if fighting itself. “Master... says…”

“I said KILL THEM!”

The flaming eye pulsed angrily and in response the fire around the beast crawled higher, another moan of pain turning to a roar that he noticed only held agony.

What tortured soul…

It spoke again, voice broken but somewhat familiar. “I will not fall… again… for your tricks.”

“It cannot be…” Elrond’s eyes were wide, looking to him. “That is-”

“Mettanyë.” He knew this, only he was at a loss of how to help, and even if he wished nothing more than to hold his friend in his arms and see her piercing green eyes, the heat of the fire surrounding her was enough to make him rethink that.

There was a soft broken mutter, a plea crying out for help as if finally realizing she was not alone. “Help-... the helm…"

Gandalf’s hand was taken by Galadriel and in a bright wave of light, he found himself once more holding his staff. Even if the Lady crumpled after that, he could focus on anything other than the trudging steps he forced himself to take, getting slowly closer to the burning knight. His voice was loud as he raised his staff, the words echoing out across the night. “I, with the power of Manwë, release you!”

The staff hit solidly, ringing out around them and the vibrations knocked him back to where the others are trying to seek shelter from the magic pulsing around them. There was the sound of something cracking that he would have thought was the very stone of Dol Guldur breaking beneath them if he wasn’t able to see the flames breaking jagged cracks into the metal of the black helm.

Falling like metallic rain, the metal shards of the helm hit the stone.

Then white flame was consuming the figure and he had to cower back, covering his eyes and feeling unrelenting heat press against him as the world was lit by white light- only for it to fade a moment later.

The Lost Valar stood in delicate black and gold armor with her head tilted down as if in mourning. Her hair, that had always made him think of spun blood, fell around her and pooled at her feet in a sign of how many thousands of years it had been.

“I gave my trust to you, Sauron. I gave you the chance to redeem yourself as your Lord did… and you spit on the hand I extended.” Turning slowly, voice promising retribution, the woman looked directly at the eye hatefully. “And for that, you will suffer.”

The darkness that Sauron had claimed to control then was tearing at him, the flaming eye pulsing hatefully before retreating.

Then the woman fell, armor ringing against the stone.

Gandalf moved before he could even think of doing so, eyes misty as he moved to his Lady’s side, reaching out and steadying her. “You’re here now. You’re safe and your magic tonight will be a reminder to all of Middle Earth that the darkness was once their friend.”

Seeming to not hear him, eyes distant, she just smiled stiffly. “It has been a while, I’d imagine, Olórin, but there will be no more… prayers.”

He caught her when she went limp, pulling her form closer to him and brushing back her hair gently before he looked up. Catching the eyes of the three (and Radagast, who had probably been curious about the burst of magic), he laughed, equal parts joy and relief making his eyes and throat wet with emotion. “Lady Mettanyë... she’s been returned to us.”

 

Elsewhere, in the blackness of the void, the Vala of Chaos wept- relief pulsing through his veins as he can once again taste salvation on his tongue.

And for the first time in what felt like ages, the darkness curled around him kindly.

Chapter Text

When Hloirëa woke it was to the feeling of being jostled and she blinked as she found herself on what seemed to be a bobsled with rabbits leading it. 

A figure leaned forward over her. “Ah! My Lady, you’re awake!”

Tensing in surprise, she relaxed a bit when she recognized the face of one of Yavanna’s Maiar. “Aiwendil… where are we headed for at such a fast speed, dear friend?” Her lips curved slightly, but it was stiff, her face unused to smiling. “Are you stealing me away? How gallant, though I think Sauron was gone before I fell.”

A laugh came from her side, the galloping of hooves taking her attention, and Olórin smiled cheerfully at her from atop a mighty steed that reminded her a bit of a Clydesdale. “We ride to battle!” Then with twinkling blue eyes, the Maia smiled at her softly. “I hope you are feeling better, Lady Mett-”

“I go by Hloirëa.” Her voice was tired. “I have since Eru threw me out and the Valar did nothing to help.” Then leaning back so she could watch the sky, she spoke softly, knowing they would hear her. “And why should I help you fight in whatever battle you are heading towards? The last battle I chose a side in caused me only grief.”

Olórin sighed . “Neither of us will make you fight, Mett- er- Hloirëa, but know that Sauron’s forces march on Erebor where dwarf, men, and elf are all in danger. Elrond and Galadriel wished to come to fight with you, but the Lady was fading after confronting Sauron.”

At this, she looked over sharply . “Galadriel? Elrond? They were with you when I faced Sauron? They know I am alive?”

“Everyone knows you are alive by now, Hloirëa. We Maiar do not waste time in our gossip.” The man winked at her with a smile. “So does that mean you will fight with us for the free people of Arda?”

“Only if some glowing idiot does not try to kick me out again.”  

 

Once she had wrangled her hair into a thick braid and then tied that up in a bun securely, she looked to her old friend whose face had grown older and name had simplified. “Shall I ride with you, Olórin? I think Aiwendil will not want to see battle, will you dear?”

The Maia that took specialty in all animals smiled but shook his head. “No, I will not, my Lady. I must go check in on the Lady Galadriel.”

“Then it is settled.” Standing and bracing herself on the sled, she reached out. 

A deceptively frail-looking hand grasped hers firmly and she was pulled up easily behind where Olórin sat upon the massive horse (that the man had informed her was named ‘Cabbage’ proudly). 

She smiled at Yananna’s Maia. “It was nice to have your company, Aiwendil, and I hope to see you again soon.”

With a wave, the other Maiar turned in a wide arc, his bobsled shooting the opposite way. “Luck be with you, my Lady!”

“He is to meet us with reinforcements for the battle. We will meet again.” The gray-robed man soothed her worry, voice steady as always.

“And here I thought I was all the reinforcement you needed.” 

Olórin smiled back at her, but it held a hint of worry. “You have been gone for a long time, my Lady. I bid you fight, as we will need your help, but it is also concerning that you were unconscious for the last few days as we rode this far and you should not push yourself more than what is needed.” Then before she could make a jab at him for being a mother hen, he kicked the steed into riding faster than before and she was made to clutch to his grey robes. 

Huffing but not saying anything as she tried to not fall off the horse, her companion chuckled, earning himself a reprimanding poke to the side.

When they made it close enough to see the town of Dale, she admired the stone architecture rising from the hill as she let her black cloak drape over herself. “Beautiful...”

“I think they would be very pleased to hear that themselves.” Glancing back at her, his keen eyes took in her cloak, his lips turning down slightly. “You wish to not be known? Why? You have never hidden before.”

“And before, I was feared to be a monster. Let me have my peace.”

His lips tightened, but there was no comment as he pushed the horse to thunder up the bridge into the city, massive hooves stampeding through the streets and she sighed as she pushed men and women out of the way with her magic. “You worry too much and ride too fast.”

“I worry just enough when war is on the horizon.” Sliding from the steed and helping her down, the man eyed the elves walking around, before moving away while she paused to take the sights in.

The men were training with swords and axes, forging weapons in the street, while the elves kept watch and moved around like troops of golden penguins marching to a beat. Holding up a hand to catch the attention of one of the golden warriors, she was ignored firmly, frowning to herself. “...Rude.”

Stopping to a halt, the eight warriors looked at her, a man stepping from the front to assess her. “We do not speak Westron, but if you know our language we will do what we can to assist.”

Hloirëa blinked slowly beneath her cloak. “I wondered where your leader was... And what land you come from.”

“We are the elves of Taur-e-Ndaedelos. Mirkwood."   The elf looked from her to the distance behind her, pointing to where Olórin was standing with a dark-haired man and nodding his head. “Mithrandir has found the King of Men and King Thranduil is not far behind.”

“My friend!” Her friend in grey robes waved at her. “This way!”

Looking back to the elves and dipping her head, she threw the words ‘may the Force be with you’ over her shoulder to confuse them as she strolled over to Olórin. He put a steady hand on her back, introducing her to the ‘King Bard, the Bowman’ as they made their way towards a yellowish gold tent. 

Inside they were met with the sight of a handsome elf with a crown of fine branches and long white hair that reminded her a bit too much of Lucius Malfoy. Only giving her a single glance past Olórin verifying she meant no harm- whereas the dark-haired king kept her in his sight with studying eyes from across the tent- he then decided to sigh and roll his eyes through Gandalf’s talks of war.

Hloirëa sort of wanted to hit him. Badly.

“What are you talking about?” The King of Men was curious, stepping forward, and she was grateful she knew a bit of the language of men, even if she dared not butcher it by trying to speak it.

However before Olórin could speak for himself, the elf stood and drifted across the tent for a glass of something that looked like wine. “I see you know nothing of wizards. They are like winter thunder on a wild wind, rolling in from a distance, breaking hard in alarm... But sometimes a storm is just a storm. 

“Not this time.” Olórin looked tired, as if he was used to being unheard, but wished differently just this one time. “Armies of orcs are on the move. These are fighters, they have been bred for war. Our enemy has summoned his full strength.” 

The Elven King did not seem to believe this. “Why show his hand now?” 

“Because we forced him.” Leading the two out of the tent, he waved at where the balcony held a perfect sight of the Kingdom under the Mountain. “We forced him when the company of Thorin Oakenshield set out to reclaim their homeland. The Dwarves were never meant to reach Erebor, Azog the Defiler was sent to kill them. His master seeks control of the Mountain, not just for the treasure within, but for where it lies, its strategic position. This is the gateway to reclaiming the lands of Angmar in the North... If that fell Kingdom should rise again Rivendell, Lórien, the Shire and even Gondor itself will fall.”

“These Orc armies you speak of, Mithrandir...” The elf sneered at her friend. “Where are they?"

Moving to put a hand to her friend’s shoulder as his face had fallen with the King’s statement, her voice was soft. “Are you sure about this, my friend? These are the people you wish to fight for, who show you such disrespect?”

The Istari nodded. "I learned my love for the races of Middle Earth from Nienna- from a woman with hair like blood who stood up to Eru Ilúvatar himself for the race of men even though they did not know her name." Putting a hand on her shoulder in return and seeming to ignore how she flinched, the man held her in sad eyes. "When did you forget how much hope you held for the races of Middle Earth?"

She avoided the question, voice thick with emotion. "And what happens when the battle is over? Will you drag me into another?" Her voice broke softly in her grief and she tried to ignore the tear slipping down her cheek, knowing with her cloak no one could see it. "How many wars must I fight before the world just lets me be?"

"Only as many as you want. I, nor anyone else, should dictate where you fight." Her friend clasped her shoulder tighter, steadying her with an understanding smile. "You can say no to me in fighting with me in this battle, my Lady. You need not stay here."

With a deep breath, she shook her head, backing away slowly. "I… I must think."  

Before anyone could say another word, she had melted back into the shadows, disappearing.

 

The Dwarven King had white gems in the mountain that the Elvenking wanted but was too prideful to give them up. The men wanted their share from the dwarves too, as their king had been the one to kill the dragon that had been infesting the dwarves’ home and the dwarf king… well, he was mad. As well as that, there was a stone that reminded her of a silmaril (if she had not known those were all lost) at the center of this nonsense.

And all this would again end with the mindless creatures Melkor had made out of loneliness and desperation but which had been twisted by Sauron into nothing more than a plague of evil.

The sound of men and elves facing off against the dwarves of the mountain had her focusing, lingering at the very edge of shadow and light as she listened to the two (well, three really) sides argue over who deserved this ‘Arkenstone.’ 

Watching as a passive observer, she saw a small man (that was of a race she was sure Yavanna had told her about but who she could not fully remember) go forth without hesitation to claim his part in the game of hot-potato that was being played with this stone, even when the gleam in the dwarven king's eyes spoke of madness.

"THROW HIM FROM THE RAMPARTS!"

Well, that escalated quickly- though she did know something or two of madmen and they tended to lose their shit faster than most.

Stepping fully from the shadows, she moved to put a hand on the smaller being's shoulder. "How about we don't?" With a twist and an echoing crack, they were standing instead by the Elvenking and the dark-haired leader of men.

The smaller figure heaved and she gently rubbed its back until the strain of apparition left. "What- How-"

"Ah, how kind of you to join us, Hloirëa!" Olórin moved forward through the elves easily, a smile on his face.

Ignoring the shouting of the mad king in the mountain, she peered at the Maia, her cloak of shadows still covering her form even if her eyes were visible. "I come with news of war, not merry greetings. The orcs have the ancient Earth-Eaters... and from Angbar," her voice was a low growl at the foul name, "come the bats.” Her eyes traveled over the elves, lingering on each of the three kings. “There is no time for petty arguments, nor the standoff of the dwarves that come from the hill yonder, but I know that the others will not listen to my words. I wanted you to know though my word is not good for much these days, I will not stop fighting the forces of The Abhorred even if the mountain falls and I am the last left standing."

The Istari’s face was solemn as he bowing his head. "Thank you, my Lady, I know it was not my place to ask you to fight and I owe you more than the whole mountain of gold that you trust me enough to come back."

"Olórin..." The sigh of his name was soft, brushing a gauntlet over his shoulder in a moment of reassurance. Her other hand extending so that she could manifest her scythe of shadows, she swung it once to refamiliarize herself with the balance and the way it rang with sound as if cutting through the air itself. “I fight because I wish to darken my blade with black blood, not as a favor. You owe me nothing.”

Her friend’s brows pulled together, obviously knowing her words were not entirely truthful, but as the army of dwarves crested the hill, she walked instead purposefully towards the mountains next to Dale where she’d seen the earth-eaters tunneling.

The elves broke rank to get out of her way, a sea of gold parting for her black figure.

"Where are they going? What did they say?" That was the smaller creature, seeming confused.

The grey Istari’s voice was grave. “There is nothing I could give to have her stay and interfere in this madness, as she has no use fighting for power. In the end, it is the blood of the tainted creatures that infect this world that she seeks, as their master owes her repayment of what he took from her.” 

Her lips curved up at that even as she marched towards the hills facing Erebor, scythe starting to spin in her hand the second she was clear of elves and men. 

Behind her rang the sounds of a battle she did not care for, as she had no intent to pick sides between those that held Eru's light in their chests, nor encourage them to kill each other.

Instead, she planted herself in the middle of the dip of the valley, watching the mountains as she grinned something dark and bloodthirsty. Her voice rang out around the valley, laced with rage. "Come, meet your deaths by my blade, creatures of Sauron the Betrayer! Let me wash the earth with your blackened blood! "

As if answering her demand, the were-worms broke the earth with screeches that split the air before sinking back. She heard the horns and her eyes darted up to a hill where a pale orc sat on the ruins of a tower. 

Pushing the leader aside for later as she had plenty of enemies to fight here, she took a deep breath to center herself and her magic.

The orcs ran towards her, but she was ready.

Fueled by years of lost time and rage for all those Sauron touched, she sent forth her scythe into the fray, starting the dance of blood and blades she had perfected in the last war.

This time, there were no reinforcements to worry about hitting or elves to worry about protecting, her darkness fueling the blade that whipped around her like a tornado, ripping apart anything it touched.

There were no dragons to keep her subdued, no Balrogs to stall her, just simple orcs and trolls. A flick of her wrist sent a sword of darkness to skewer a troll that rushed towards her, doing the same to another beast she saw about to overtake the dwarven war sled that had caught up to her.

There was a yell of delight from the dwarves and she smiled slightly, feeling repaid.

Except there were more trolls than the dwarves could handle for long and drawing back her scythe to her hand, she took a deep breath as she wound up. Then with a spin, she threw her scythe out across the field in an arc, a black disk of destruction. Spinning with a ringing sound, she saw it cut through three of the beasts and called it back to her hand. “Seek your death at my blade instead, fell beasts!” 

With a roar, the beasts- there were… ten (ish) of them- all converged on her.

Well.

It goes to show she still had that pesky saving-people thing.

Splitting her scythe into two swords, she ducked and rolled, using her smaller frame to slash out at the beasts while evading their massive fists. Black blood rolled off her gauntlets and blades, the beasts falling as she cut through them with ease.

Hearing another set of horns, she looked up from where she was surrounded by the deformed bodies to see troops marching on the city of Dale as well.

“That… is just rude.” Pursing her lips, she decided to focus on the massive trolls twice the size of a cave troll with slingshots strapped on their backs that were lumbering out of the holes in the earth. 

Of course, Sauron had to make something uglier than a normal troll. Bloody mountain trolls. 

Sending out one of her swords, she beheaded one of the abominations and then conjured a scythe when she threw her second sword, as the orcs she was in the midst of were upon her again. 

Still cutting through the orcs, she reached out to the earth and with a wave of magic, covered Dale in a spell of intent- do not let them break these walls.  

The first of the rocks were launched by the mountain trolls and she watched as they seemed to disappear in a ripple of air, flying back out of that same place a second later in the opposite direction, mowing down the lines of creatures. Not seeming to realize this was not a one-time thing, the orcs kept firing and she laughed as her magic directed the massive stones to knock out waves of orcs or fling them back at the mountain trolls.

A regular troll ran towards one of the walls, throwing itself at it, and her magic threw it right back out like a troll toboggan that crushed the orc troops that had been following it.

Seeing that the elves and men were defending the bridge to Dale fairly effectively, she drew a deep breath and shadow-walked to the shade near the hulking beasts she'd not the pleasure of seeing up close yet. Cutting its arms off one by one to make their support for the catapults useless, she waved her hand and the wooden structures were set alight with fiendfyre, watching as the beasts thrashed around- crushing the surrounding troops in its pain.

Turning from them, she shadow-walked again, rising from under the shadow of a troll, stabbing it and looking to where she saw the elven king surrounded. "It looks like you lost your elk. Would you like some assistance?"

The blonde-haired elf stood proud without looking at her, lips curled into a sneer as he raised his swords. "Find someone else that doesn’t need you and bother them instead."

Because Hloirëa was petty, she made sure the surrounding orcs were clean of their heads before she turned on her heel to cut down orcs. "This is why I like Elrond better."

Blades whistling around her, she walked towards the main field of fighting and proceeded to cut through all those of foul blood who stood in her way. And if she saved an elf or helped a dwarf back to their feet, it was because then they wouldn’t get in her way, not because she liked them or anything.

Scythe trading out for dual short swords, she cut and danced through the orcs.

Though when someone yelled, she had to duck to not get brained by a massive hammer. Her eyes narrowed on the Lord of the Iron Hills. “Watch it!”

“Ah, get out o' my way you elvish bastard!” 

“I am no such thing!” Hloirëa huffed, purposely getting in his space and cutting through one of the orcs he was about to smash with his hammer, though she just grinned as he cursed at her back. 

Though it was easy enough to fight at his side (or more like in the same area but far enough away not to get flattened by his war-hammer) when the orcs converged on them, as she wasn’t about to let the gruff dwarf end up a blood-stained pancake because he was distracted by insulting her- which she found quite amusing. Plus it was fun to dance around him and good practice too, as where she was all lethal grace and dancing steps, he was headbutting the enemy or squishing things with his hammer.

“Let these lands run red with blood!”

Shooting the white orc an unamused scowl, she heard the orders to fall back, the dwarf lord tugging at her cloak. “Elf! Fall back you stupid woodland twat!”

Turning to him, she settled a hand over his own and made sure he looked into her eyes.

There were no words she could say that he would understand at this moment, but he didn’t seem to need them as he let go and stumbled a few steps back. “You’re no elf.” Staring at her for a moment, he seemed to shake himself, running for the lines of his men, looking back only once.

 

The shadows were few and far in between in the rising sun but she still stood in the middle of the field between dwarf and orc with a scythe in her hand, unrelenting.

They would not pass her so easily.

Eyes lifting to see that the city was still holding strong even as her magic had long since faltered and there were a few breaks in the walls- she had given them enough time to make the assault easier to handle, to get the innocents behind thick walls and reform ranks.

The lines of orcs broke to show five trolls in armor ambling forward, as they would surely run her down, and her hands tightened on her scythe as they started to run. A horn blew just as they started to charge, echoing out across the valley and she glanced back to see the makeshift ‘gate’ of Erebor break, the King Under the Mountain charging from where he’d previously holed himself away. 

Hloirëa smirked, sending out her two swords to cut down the trolls that had paused and when they came back to hand, she was running. Time to cut down some of these beasts, plus, perhaps she'd make a path for the king.

Once out the other side, blood coating the ground, she looked up to the mountain where a single pale orc directed the armies.

Looking across the field to where Olórin was on the walls of Dale and seeing his nod to the tower where the white orc controlled the battlefield, she transformed in a bright ripple of flame, catching the wind currents, soaring to the top of the tower. High above the white stone, she shifted mid-flight to land on the platform with her scythe coming to hand.

Chaos reigned.

Hloirëa spun, blocking swords and slashing in return. An orc tried to get at her and she punished it when a kick that sent it and an orc behind it over the side of the high platform.

Though these orcs were much tougher than those down on the battlefield, attacking so swiftly she had to sometimes play defense instead of just all offense, they were still no match for the speed of her sharpened shadows. Cutting down their communication signaling towers, she then made her way down the old stone steps of the structure, catching those she came across by surprise.

Blood slicked the walls, the gold on her gauntlets stained black.

Gutting the last orc she could sense in her immediate vicinity, she heard a noise behind her and spun around only to stop her scythe an inch from a dwarf's throat. 

Staring at each other, the dwarf held up his hands. “I- uh- didn’t mean to startle you.”

The blade slowly dispersed into nothingness, looking at the young blond dwarf and stepping past him to see another younger dwarf with dark hair come from around the building, she made her way out to the ice to look towards the North. 

“Where- did you see the orcs up in the tower?”

Eyes sliding over, knowing her gaze was visible even under her hood, she nodded but then drew her hand over her throat to symbolize they were dead. Though to emphasize, she said the word in Quenya. “Qualin.” ((Dead.)) She pointed to the tower and repeated her gesture. “Intin qualin.” ((They are dead.))

"I think..." The darker-haired of the two leaned towards the taller blonde. “I think he killed the orcs in the tower.”

The blonde, who she assumed was older, raised his eyebrows. “Okay… uh- I think he can understand us so… Hey, uh, what are you standing here for?”

Pointing at where the army from the North had just started to crest the peak, her senses seemed to vibrate in warning and she lunged forward with a staff of shadows appearing in hand to block the double-pronged sword that was aimed for the younger dwarf’s back, grunting slightly as the pale orc used the leverage to push her back.

The two dwarves scrambled away, three other figures finding them and there was the sound of voices and explanations, but she was busy blocking attacks from the pale orc to look. 

“You are a formidable fighter.” The Black-Speech, unlike Westron, rolled off her tongue easily given how often she and Melkor had slipped into it on accident or to tease the other. “But that is only because I am rusty.” Then with a spin, she kicked the orc away, prowling out in a semi-arc while it had to struggle to regain its footing on the ice.

“You smell of Sauron yet you fight for humans .” The orc grunted in the rough language, moving to pick up the long mace from a slain orc and whirling it around. 

Hloirëa chuckled softly. “What you smell on me is not of Sauron.” Clashing, her shadows cutting the mace in half easily and throwing the orc off balance, she let her shadows thin around her face so her gleaming eyes could stare down at him as she grinned toothily. “It is of one much older- the one who made Sauron.”

Then just as the orc’s eyes widened with realization, she departed the pale head from its shoulders.

It was with slow footsteps that she saw the dwarf king approach. “You saved my nephew… How can I repay you?”

Looking up at him- her shadows still thin enough she knew her eyes were the color of greek fire, she shook her head. There was no payment for saving a life but to give another in service and she would not accept that. 

“Uncle, he doesn’t seem to speak Westron but can understand it. That and I think he’s speaking elvish, but just- just differently than the other elves? More, uh, song-like?” The young dwarf looked to her as if she would oppose this and when she just turned back to look at the approaching army, the dwarf seemed to sigh.

The King Under the Mountain, however, did not sound happy when he spoke. “A creature of shadow that speaks old elvish and black-speech alone is no creature we should be near. Come, we will regroup with the others to fight off-”

However the air was split with sharp cries, the Eagles of Manwë swooping down to wreak havoc on the armies, Aiwendil cheering as he flew on one of the great eagle's backs.

With a small turn of her lips, she let her shadow weapons disappear, voice a soft mutter. "It seems I will get rest after all…" She could hear the dwarves discussing whether or not to help the Maia and the holy beasts battle, but Hloirëa moved back to the path down the mountain, content to get back to where the fighting was already dwindling at her own pace. 

No one needed her right at the moment and anyway, she was enjoying the opportunity to stretch her legs.

Chapter Text

“Kili!” A copper-haired elf rushed over the trail, stopping by her with wide eyes with frantic words in Westron. “You- have you seen Kili?”

Hloirëa wasn’t sure what to say but supposed that perhaps some of her words might translate into the elvish of whatever realm the woman was from. “I do not know who you speak of, but a few dwarves are watching Aiwendil and the Eagles fight on the ridge.”

“What- I don’t-”

“They said there are dwarves up on the hill watching the eagles.” Another elf with piercing blue eyes and long blonde hair moved to stand beside the first, giving her a long look before nodding to the other woman. “Go. Kili may yet be alive.”

When the copper-haired elf ran off hurriedly, she merely gave a short hum and started down the path past the fair-haired elf.  

“Not many speak Quenya anymore.” Apparently the elf wanted to follow her because even if she couldn’t hear his steps and she didn’t bother to look back, his voice stayed close as she marched towards the city of Dale in hopes of finding Olórin. “It is almost a dead language, though the Istari still know it, along with many of the older elves… So which are you?”

She snorted softly. “Neither.”

This earned her a bit of peace, probably as the man was trying to puzzle out what she meant, but as they got onto the field littered with bodies, the elf spoke up again. “I have heard stories of the two blue wizards, but no one seems to ever remember what they look like. I would understand if you didn’t want to be seen and so denied being-”

Spotting her friend in grey, she called out to him, ignoring the elf following her. “Olórin! Did you or Aiwendil think to tell me that the Eagles of Manwë were going to interrupt my fight?! No? I thought not!”

Looking chastised, the man tugged at his beard with a sheepish smile. “Ah, did Aiwendil not mention it? Well… you were reluctant to fight anyways, so I thought it might not matter.”

“As usual.” She scowled at the man, who just smiled in return, and proceeded to then mutter under her breath about him ‘always ruining her fun’ as they both knew she was just using it as a reason to gripe.

The battle was pretty much done by now and there was nothing left to do, so she felt alright standing with her friend, the weight of tiredness resting on her shoulders after fighting so long.

With a wide smile, as if feeling accomplished for making her grouse, Olórin chuckled good-naturedly. “Either way, since you are here, I was wondering if you wanted to help me and Radagast do some magic and help dispose of these bodies? Maybe even say some prayers for the departed allies?”

Hloirëa gave him a flat look. “And by that you mean I will be doing the magic and you two will be smoking pipe-weed and watching.” She cast the same look to where Aiwendil ambled over with a smile from an eagle that had dropped him off on the battlefield.

“...Yes.” The Maiar both just kept smiling.

“Only,” she sighed, “if after this I can be left alone for a good long while.”  

However, before Olórin could say anything there was the precession of hooves and the three of them looked up to see the dwarven king and his kind come to stop before them on their mountain goats. The elves and men were starting over, the dwarves of the Iron Hills doing the same, so she stayed still as they all sort of coalesced into a loose circle around the two Maia and her even if her magic tingled under her skin.

Aiwendil obviously felt cornered as well, eyes darting around. 

The King Under the Mountain slid from his ram/goat/thing, moving forward to stare at her. “Unnamed and unknown, I will offer you shelter and food in my halls as I plan to do with the rest of those surviving since you fought for our side, but there is one more thing you must do first. Remove your cloak.”

 The Brown Istari made a rare sound of anger, raising his staff. “How dare you demand this of-”

“Aiwendil.” Setting her hand on the man’s shoulder, she chuckled softly. “It’s not worth it. However, for his price and also the life debt of his nephew he must do two things: let the nephew I saved marry the woman he loves and let me purge the gold sickness from his mind.”

Giving her a long look, the grey-robed Maia frowned deeply. “Are you sure about this?”  

When she nodded, Olórin repeated the terms to Thorin Okensheild, who after a second, accepted easily.

“Tell him that it will be a moment.” Her voice was light, but she sat down on the ground with slow weariness. “I have a few things to fix, as I said I would awe you, peasants, with magic, did I not?”

Aiwendil snorted and she could tell that Olórin was rolling his eyes, smiling even as her eyes closed.

Taking a deep breath and letting the shadows swirl around her as the sun was close to setting behind the ridge of the mountain, she let them spread out until she could feel the whole expanse of land. Then the darkness curled, the bodies of Sauron’s beasts pulled underground all at once as if swallowed by the very earth.

When all that was left were bloodstains, she drew her shadows to Dale where they put out fires and repaired the walls. Slowly her magic swept over the lands, cleaning each innocent allied body that lay slain, crossing their arms and setting red poppies in their hands.

Slowly, magic settling, she found her mind returning to a massive headache as she had used more magic than she thought.

“Hloirëa, you should be more careful with how much you do. You were just under the torture of Sauron himself, you should be taking in strength, not using it all.” Aiwendil huffed and then helped her stand up again, handing her a small gord to which she found was slightly sweet water. 

Drinking greedily, she raised her hand to wipe her mouth and drew a few steadying breaths. “I am not done yet, my friend. ” Then she walked slowly to stand before Thorin, King Under the Mountain. “I have yet to heal a mind and break a dragon’s curse… It can’t be harder than killing seven of Melkor’s finest- Right?”

“What are they saying?” Thorin demanded.

“They are saying that this will hurt, but you already agreed.” Olórin sounded grumpy.

Thorin frowned at her. “Tell it to take off its cloak and reveal the creature underneath first! I will not have something I cannot see meddling in my mind!”

As prompted, she let the shadows slip from her form, still clad in gold and black armor with her long hair that had come loose in the fighting spilling down her back like a waterfall of blood. She knew her eyes, completely unshadowed, were brighter than even the light of the full moon, almost luminescent in the dimming light. Slowly, with a smirk curling her lips, she moved to kneel so her face was at height with the dwarf’s. “Ask him if he is afraid of me.”

“Lady Hloirëa, the Vala of the Void, asked if you are afraid of her.”

And there- not from Thorin, but from some of the men and other dwarves around them that had gathered to watch- was the smell she so hated, like as if copper had rusted and all she could taste was that metallic sourness on her tongue.

She suppressed a cringe.

“I am not afraid of death, nor am I afraid of a beautiful woman. Not when I had expected a spy of Sauron.” Thorin stood tall.

Her laugh was small, turning into giggles until she had to sit back and cover her mouth in mirth at the ‘beautiful woman’ comment, shoulders shaking as her laughter rang out around them. 

“Is that funny?”

“She’s not laughing at you, Dwarven King.” Aiwendil’s voice was soft.   

Finally coming down from her humor, a smile lingering on her lips, she shook her head and wiped her eyes. “I apologize- that comment caught me off guard.” Pushing herself up and pulling off her gauntlets, she held out her hands. “You must invite me into your mind, Okensheild. I will not enter without permission.”

The man looked past her, to her two unofficial translators. 

“She will not enter your mind without permission.”

Looking back at her seriously, the man then reached out to place his calloused hands in hers, nodding. “You have my permission to clean the sickness from my mind. Nothing else.”

Smiling slightly, she then nodded and with a push of magic, dove headfirst into his mind.



Gandalf the Grey- the Maia named Olórin- one of the five Istari- leaned on his staff heavily and watched as his old friend (in both meanings of the word old) kneel before the dwarf king, every instinct telling him that it was wrong to see her in that position.

In the light of the setting sun, her hair seemed to burn, eyes casting a greenish glow on the face of Thorin as she stared into his eyes. After a moment, they both went stiff, the King echoing a pained gasp though they didn’t break eye contact.

“What is she doing?!” Fili looked at him as Thorin once again gasped as if in pain. 

“I do not yet know all of Hloirëa’s secrets, as I know better than to ask.” He knew his tone was dry, but he could not help it. Not when the woman had spent more than a bit of her magic and energy trying to help and still she was still deemed a threat. “However if I would guess, she is burning the infection from the mind of your king so it has nowhere to root again.”

This started whispers between the dwarves, however, Thranduil was the one that caught his eyes, the Elvenking’s bored-sounding voice carrying over the space easily. “And why is it that the Vala said to be cast out into the void with Morgoth himself, is here anyway?”

Radagast glared at the man.

He closed his eyes for a long moment, wishing for the strength not to knock the Evening upside the head, as the other Istari was surely also doing. “She is here to help, as she never really did anything wrong, to begin with.”

The Elvenking merely hummed noncommittally. “...Interesting.”



Thorin’s mind was like the twisting corridors of Khazad-Dum, but luckily it was only a matter of burning away the curse and not re-ordering the King’s mind, so she just wandered- letting her magic kill whatever of the curse she could find.

Humming the lullaby she used to sing to Teddy and Elaine when they were young while she worked so that Thorin would stay somewhat calm, she patted the walls when the last of the rotted gold fungus eating at the stone was gone.

“How do you feel?” She could project thoughts to him, as this was his mind and he would understand whatever she said.

The internal thought from the man- not a voice but still sounding much like one- was calm when it spoke back to her. “Worthy of being King again. You have my many thanks, Lady Hloirëa.”

Humming softly, she pulled from the king’s mind and then went to move back, standing before feeling a wave of nausea rise over her. Taking a few steps back and bending over, she proceeded to dry heave onto the ground, feeling Olórin’s hands move to pull back her hair as she closed her eyes so she didn’t have to see where she was coughing up slick red blood.

“My Lady... are you alright?” Aiwendil hovered slightly, his hands not touching her but obviously worried. 

“What is it? A wound?” It was Thorin who spoke up with some concern in his voice.

Taking a deep breath and then spitting another gob of blood from her mouth, she took the offered gourd, slowly sipping the sweet water as she leaned on Olórin’s hands. When she’d gotten the taste of blood from her mouth, she spoke softly. “Sometimes, when I find myself without magical reserves the intentional use of my gifts takes a physical toll on me, as a sort of reminder I cannot do everything.” 

Thorin looked to Olórin, who summed up what she’d said tiredly. 

Reaching out to place a gentle hand on the King’s shoulder, she smiled softly and then brought her hand to her chest before pressing it to his in a way that she was thankful for his concern.

The King looked at her for a moment longer but then nodded, turning to the others. “Night falls fast and all that are here are welcome in the halls of Erebor, though we do not have many supplies other than ale and gold.” The dwarves all cheered, as that seemed good enough for them, but the elves were quick to send off a small party to get some rations from Dale.

Taking a moment to lean on Olórin, muttering about how her hair was driving her insane, she felt the Maia shift, and then there was a sharp ‘snick’. Looking down, she saw her hair pooling on the ground, cut at the curve of her spine. 

“Well… that is one way to deal with the issue.”

“I thought that you would feel more yourself without the reminder of the time you lost.” Her friend’s eyes were kind, a faint smile curving his lips. “Better?”

Punching him solidly in the arm, she pulled away. “Neinna would hit you upside the head for touching a lady’s hair without her permission, so be glad that I don’t mind.” Then heaving a deep breath, she started to trudge towards Erebor, hands pulling her hair up into a ponytail with a black ribbon she conjured.

Aiwendil huffed. “Stop using your magic! You will drain yourself dry!”

Rolling her eyes and then magically sending her armor to wherever the Maia’s bobsled was, she laughed when he squawked, even if she stumbled slightly. Thankfully, an elven warrior steadied her and she murmured a word of thanks to them as she straightened herself.

Eager to sit, she moved into the dwarven halls with a glance around, following the others to stand on a platform of gold in the middle of a massive hall. Almost crumpling to the ground, she smiled at where the two Maia were walking after her like concerned parents. “I do not need your hovering- there are others that are in worse shape. In the end, all I will need is some food.”

Glancing at each other, Olórin moved away to get such while Aiwendil sat next to her.

“How long does your magic take to come back fully?”

“It will be back with the dawn, my friend. Do not worry, I am just a little tired from keeping Sauron out of mind for… how long has it been?”

Looking at her with a furrow of his eyebrows, the Maia looked away. “The Creator told us all you were lost at the end of the second age, almost two hundred years from its end.” She was about to say that it wasn’t as bad as he thought, but he spoke before she could. “That was almost three thousand years ago.”

She sucked in a sharp breath.

Three thousand two hundred years of her magic trying to burn away the corruption.

Three thousand two hundred years of constant pain and fire and hate.

Three thousand two hundred years she’d lost.

Hloirëa looked down at her hands, chest feeling hollow and voice bitter. “My magic has been burning for three thousand years, trying to undo the torture of Sauron fucking with my mind… Then I suppose that’s why I feel so unsteady, isn’t it?”

“It might be the root of the cause.” Moving to sit and hand her half a loaf of bread, Olórin looked her over. “Will you be alright?”

“I will. Eventually.” Tearing a bit of bread off, she ate it slowly, savoring the warmth.

And as the men, dwarves, and elves settled around their loved ones to celebrate quietly, the small creature of Yavanna moved to stand before where she sat between her two friends. “Uh, miss- er- Lady- Ladyship?”

She just smiled at him in quiet amusement.

“I owe you. For pulling me from the mountain where I don’t know if Tho- the gold sickness would have killed me or not.”

Tired of the translations, she scrunched up her nose and just put up a translation spell so no matter whatever language she spoke in, whoever heard it would understand. “Put it from your mind, small one.”

The golden-haired fellow scrunched his nose up. “You sound like a... noblewoman? But it’s understandable with Westron not being your first language.” Smiling, the smaller figure ( what were they called- Habbots? Hibblets? ) sat down on ‘Gandalf’s’ other side. “How old are you anyway?”

With a soft chuckle, she glanced to Olórin, who raised an eyebrow as if to ask if she wanted to answer. “Old enough to call you young… Yavanna, she is your creator and yet I do not remember-”

“I’m a Hobbit. Bilbo Baggins of the Shire, to be exact.” Bilbo said this with no little amount of pride, back straightening.

“Ah,” she smiled, “a name for a name then. I am Hloirëa the Unwanted, Mistress of Death... Tell me, do many Hobbits ask to have debts be called against their names when none is demanded?”

The hobbit smiled somewhat sheepishly. “Well I did come all this way learning honor from one of the most honorable men I’ve ever known, so-” Bilbo stuttered slightly over his words, flushing. “So I would like to honor my debt to you.”

Eyes finding where a certain dwarf king was staring at them from across the hall, his cheeks dusted with a light red she felt her lips pull up into a small mischievous smile. “I will suggest two things to you for payment of your debt and from there you will choose one. Alright?” When he nodded she moved to lean forward with a cupped hand, her voice soft in his ear.

Flushing brightly as she sat back, Bilbo opened his mouth a few times without sound, closing it before repeating. Finally, he spoke, voice sounding as if it was three pitches two high. “I uh- don’t know the first… I’m not- that’s not-”

“Then a simple trinket that you find meaningful will do.”

“I- I don’t know anything I have to give either…”

Hloirëa shrugged just slightly. “You will find something eventually to give me, even if it is a wildflower from your garden, as I will not hold my breath until you give it to me… Though I could.” 

They spent some time speaking of Hobbits and Yavanna’s gardens, trading stories. 

After a while, though she slowly picked herself up from the hall of gold, nodding to Bilbo and looking to the Brown Istari. “Aiwendil, am I alright to stay with you for a little while while I recover?”

The man nodded, standing as if he’d waited for her to ask her such a thing for a while so he could leave the underground halls. “I will get the rabbits ready!”

Smiling as he scampered off, she leaned down to press a kiss to Olórin’s forehead. “I am due to see the ones I once fought side by side with, but first I will recover. Be well without me for a little longer, my friend.”

The grey-robed man reached up to squeeze her hand with a slightly sad smile lingering on his lips. “You as well, my Lady.”

Taking her hand back slowly after a long moment she then walked to where the King Under the Mountain was holding court with his company, smiling knowingly in the way most people hated. “Take care of your line, Durin’s son, but also take care of the gem you hold other than the Arkenstone because if you are not careful it will surely leave.” Her eyes slid to where Bilbo was, getting the point across clearly.

“Wha- I don’t-”

The other dwarves though guffawed with laughter, slapping the king’s shoulders and making him turn red. 

“Ahahahaha!” A burly tattooed dwarf was laughing gleefully. “She got you there!”

“She was in my mind! Quiet!” The king punched the dwarf back.

With a smile, a white-haired dwarf caught her gaze. “It would be an honor to have you stay, record the story of the warrior that saved the line of Durin in one fell swoop.”

Hloirëa blinked slightly for a moment, then giving him a kind smile. “I have never belonged underground. Thank you. But I cannot stay.” Then winking at where the dwarven prince and the copper-haired elf were sitting together, she moved to look at where the Elvenking was sitting on a throne that the elves must have carried with them (because they were just that extra). “I have never met a King of Elves… You are Oropher’s child?”

“I am.” The man’s eyes narrowed on her.

He did look like his father, who she had mostly seen from a distance except for the one time he’d come over to check on Elrond after the news spread of an elfling among their ranks during the War of Wrath.  

She didn’t tell him that nor that his father and she had gotten along well, just nodding. “I see.” Then she studied him, trying not to focus on the sourness of his fear. “There is something else that I find curious. You fear death even though you know your kin go to the Halls of Mandos… why is that?”

“Because the one who controls Death is cruel and fickle.” Eyes like grey steel stared at her flintily.

“Being Mistress of Death does not mean I pick and choose who is to die and who is to live, it means I get a bit of leeway when I choose to meddle. However, unlike the Creator you hold in such esteem, I do not plot out every single fate of every person, as I believe free will is a beautiful thing. So tell me… had I not been here to disrupt the fine strings that the Father laid out for everything, weaving together a battle for his entertainment… how many more would have died?”

Thranduil's lips tightened.

Hloirëa sighed. “If you still think of me as shameful and accursed, then perhaps I should not do this for you, but Nienna said my heart was always too soft for what I represent.” With a flick of her hand, she felt the veil waiver, the misty spirit of a woman stepping forth and she turned away as the Elvenking made a small wounded noise at seeing his wife again.

The leader of Man looked at her with curious eyes when she paused by him. “Come to offer me more kindness? You have already done more than I could have ever repaid you for.” 

“Be a good king then.” She was tired, her smile fading to just a small sliver. “Powerful men rule through cruelty and anger, but good men rule through listening to the words of the people around them. That is all I ask- that you listen.”

The man dipped his head, pressing a hand to his chest. “I will strive to always do such.”

Wondering if he would be the one to break Eru’s curse, as his soul and mind were of good intent, she looked at him only to see he was held back by a pang of weighted guilt in his eyes. With a slightly rueful smile, she tilted her head. “I never got your name.”

“Bard. Bard the Bowman.”

“And the slayer of the mighty Smaug!” Other men across the room called, raising another cheer.

Humming, she studied the man. “Well then, Bard, I hope you live a long and happy life.”

Then she left the Halls of Erebor for the first and last time, finding that the ground of the valley and all along the hills had sprouted with a sea of small blue flowers, Aiwendil waiting with his rabbits. “What are these? I’ve never seen flowers like them…”

“That’s because they’re not of this planet, but of one that died a long time ago.” Scooping down to pick a few sprigs of the flower, she moved to lay in the furs of Aiwendil’s bob-sled while twisting the stems in her fingers. “They’re called Forget-Me-Nots.”

“...I get the feeling they never will. Forget you, that is.”

She only hummed, leaning back and watching the stars as they raced over a sea of blue.

Chapter Text

“I see you are enjoying your time with Radagast, old friend.” The Grey Istari moved over to where she was laying in a soft patch of moss-covered rocks, a small rabbit curled up in her lap and cast her in his shadow as if it was a coincidence.

Without even twitching a finger, the shadow moved enough to the side that she could feel the sun. Her Westron, by the help of Radagast (and the occasional trip to the nearby town of men in a glamour), was now without pronunciation issues, though it tended to hold a more lyrical lilt to it because of so long speaking Quenya. “Gandalf, traveling wizard, and master of fireworks… what is the pleasure that brings your company to me, old friend?”

With an amused smile, ‘Gandalf’ moved to sit on a mossy rock by her head. “Just wondering when you’re going to come out of self-imposed exile. Elrond and Galadriel were so happy to hear you had been back and yet you have sequestered yourself away here for the last many years.”

“It’s peaceful here.”

“Bilbo and Thorin got married. Just a year ago they gave the throne to Fili and went to live in the Shire, though they speak of often traveling to Erebor. Kili and Tauriel are bound in elven ritual too as of recent years.” Gandalf seemed to be trying to prod her into reacting somehow, but she just let him say what he wanted. With a huff, the man got out his pipe, fiddling with it. “Dale is flourishing, not to mention that Fili and Thranduil worked out a peace agreement and the elves of Mirkwood are doing more to communicate with the other elven settlements than they have done in many years.”

Hloirëa hummed slightly, not moving or looking up from where she was petting the soft rabbit in her lap. 

She swore she could hear Gandalf rolling his eyes. “ So ? Why not come with me, go to see the realms of men and dwarf and elf! Pick yourself up from this pasture, stop growing moss, and do something!”

Dismissing the frustration he was taking with her because she wasn’t in the mood to argue, she gently picked up the rabbit to put it to the ground, standing and stretching before starting to walk away. “No.”

No ?” Scrambling after her comically, the Istari frowned deeply. “Why not? Give me one reason why not.”

“Because not everyone lasts as long as you and I, my friend.” Finally, she turned to face him, eyes sad and tired. “Because there will be a day when this world will die like mine did and I will have to grieve over people I could not stay with. Because it hurts, Gandalf. Deep in my chest, it hurts that those I have only met once before are already married and halfway through their lives.”

Because she would be happy to waste her days growing moss waiting for the day Melkor would join her.

Gandalf just smiled sadly, resting a deceptively frail hand on her shoulder. “You have to come out sometime or forfeit having a life altogether. Plus, I guarantee that you will find the races of Arda much more resilient than you think.” Pulling her slowly into him, he held her head close as she clutched at the grey robes as if it could ground her unsteady heart. “The elves, I think, have come a long way since the War of Wrath.”

She considered this a long moment. “...Fine. I will go to Lothlórien- but only to see the Silver Lady.”

She could feel the man’s smile even from where she had her head resting on his shoulder. “Wonderful! Radagast will surely agree with me that you need some dust and dirt from traveling to make you feel good about life!”

To no one’s surprise, the Brown Wizard did not feel that way, but he reluctantly let her go anyway though he offered up every possibility of an animal companion as he did it.

With a simple smile as she shook her head softly, she decided maybe she could try her hand at creating something ‘companion-like’ and shaped her shadows into a horse-like form, breathing all the memories she had of Thestrals into the shadows. And smiling widely, she took in her lovely new riding companion, laughing softly with its boney head bumped against hers. 

 

Cloaked in the shadows she imagined she looked a bit like a dark vaguely person-shaped storm cloud floating along next to Gandalf because of the Thestrals' innate properties, but other than some strange looks and hissed words of ‘evil’, most of those on the trail stayed far away from them.

They slipped back into old rhythms easily- speaking in the ancient elvish tongue, trying to make each other laugh, and just being comfortable in the silence of the night watching the stars glimmer in the sky. Talking about nothing important, she listened to him tell her of his wanderings and in turn, told him some of the same stories she had told Melkor in the darkness of the void.

Traveling south, staying off the main roads as much as they could, it was a few weeks before they got to the edge of the forest. 

“From here we travel on foot, as we don’t wish to invoke the wrath of Lothlórien’s Marchwardens. I find it is usually better to not have a quiver full of arrows stuck into me.” Gandalf gave her a smile with amused eyes when she chuckled softly. “You laugh now but you’re to be the one that has to tell Nienna you got me killed if you do something foolish. The marchwardens are worse than Tulkas when they think they smell danger approaching.”

“Then they must be fearsome warriors indeed, making the mighty old man with the grey beard and pointy hat so afraid.” At his scowl she grinned right back, knowing even if he couldn’t see if from under her hood, he knew her well enough.

Gandalf dismounted with an eye-roll, then helping her down. His white horse wandered away from the forest, but her thestral just followed them like an excited puppy. He eyed the creature after a while of walking in silence. “Will it not disappear?”

“Why would I destroy the creature I so lovingly made?”

Blinking, the man slowly put a hand on the Thestral, eyes widening. “It’s... warm. You- you created a new creature! Hloirëa this is-”

A curved bow cut him off, seeming to come out of nowhere to press to his throat. She could feel a presence behind her, turning and raising her arm to defend herself, blinking when she felt a sharply curved saber sink into her forearm easily.

“My Lady!” As if forgetting his earlier words, Gandalf struck his staff at the elf, sending them back with a spell, but before the Maia could get to her another blade was held to his throat.

A man with sharp eyes and blonde hair stepped forward, looking at them. “State your business in these woods and why you speak in the tongue of-” The man blinked as if seeing Gandalf for the first time. “Mithrandir? What- Lady Galadriel told us the patrols were shadowed with dark intent and to be ready for an attack. What are you doing here and who is your companion? Answer quickly and we may be able to heal them!”

With a long sigh, she slowly raised her other hand to show she was of no harm, turning her arm just slightly under the sword and letting out a sigh of relief. “That was uncomfortable. You hit me right on a nerve and it was painful for a brief second. As for your problem with shadows, that’s probably my fault so I can’t be mad about the whole having a sword in my arm.” 

“Perhaps now would not be a good time to convince the Marchwardens to kill for rambling, Hloirëa? I think it’s safe enough to maybe… take off the cloak?”

Giving a pained grunt as that nerve was pressed again, she looked to the elf who was still holding their sword (that was stuck in her arm). “Do you mind? Either cut my arm off or back up just a bit.” When they withdrew, she let the cloak melt away, studying the long wound across her forearm that was staining her hand red with blood. “Annoying.”

Gandalf was instantly by her side, hands hovering as his lips were pulled into a deep frown. “Are you alright? Maybe you should have worn your armor…”

“Stop worrying, old friend. It is not the first time I have bled a bit because of my foolishness and I would be self-absorbed to say it would be the last. Now, can we go see Galadriel? I hear she got married and even has a daughter who got with Elrond but I can’t imagine the stubborn elf I fought with in the War of Wrath to ever have settled down- either of them for that matter.”

“Lady- Lady Mettanyë? I- oh by the fates- are you alright?” The blonde elf that had been so cool a second ago seemed to be having a minor panic attack.

Blinking, she smiled crookedly. “Perfectly. And if you would, I go by Hloirëa now.”

“You’re bleeding- a critical wound-”

Gently placing her good hand on the elf’s shoulder, she waited patiently until he seemed to calm, her smile growing just a bit sharp. “All you need to do is take me to Galadriel... Alright?”

It was to her great pleasure that they were quickly led through the outer woods and to the base of what seemed like a palace built entirely in the trees. The leader split off to take them up the spiraling stairs, she was too busy admiring the honest-to-god magnificence of the architecture to focus on how she was still bleeding.

Ears tuning out all the noise around her, she was absorbed in brushing her (non-bloody) hand over the bark of the trees, the song that resonated from them soothing all of the worry and nerves from her body as it rang out around her.

“Hloirëa.” Her name was a gasped mutter, making her finally look to where a woman with silvery hair and familiar eyes was standing before her.

Her grin was easier and more relaxed than it had been since she’d gotten anywhere close to the looming forest. “Galadriel. I see you are doing well. I hope that you are feeling better? I heard that you helped rescue Olórin before Sauron pulled me from where I was trying to drown myself in Lava.”

“You’re bleeding!”

“I do tend to do that when I am injured- though I thought you’d know that, as I swear I remember taking a sword for a silly little elfling who tried to get himself killed in battle.” 

Galadriel didn’t look all that amused at her nonchalance, moving forward and grabbing her arm roughly. Poking at the wound and making her grimace, the woman huffed as if angry. “You’re ridiculous. Fix yourself and then wipe your blood from my floors or I will tell Elrond you hate him.” At her frown, the woman stared at her stubbornly. “You have no excuse to dismiss your health because you are distracted.”

“Apologies.” Magic surging up to heal her arm and vanish all her blood within a few kilometers, she tilted her head back to look at the ceiling of the platform in the trees so she didn’t have to see the woman’s expression. “I sort of forgot that blood likes to obey the laws of gravity and fall to the ground... but I admit it was mostly intentional other than that. I thought perhaps maybe if your people saw I could bleed and such be harmed by normal weapons then they would not fear me.”

The stars did nothing but twinkle and so she looked instead to the floor of the platform they were on.

Hloirëa could feel the eyes on her, as there had been elves there before and more had followed them up, but none spoke. “...sorry. Mithrandir told me that I could stay, perhaps live in these woods while I am healing from- well- a lot of things, but I’m so tired of being feared that I guess I sort of over-thought it and-”

A soft pained noise had her eyes rising, her gut twisting when she saw Galadriel had her eyes closed and her head bowed.

Glancing at Gandalf with wide-eyes only to see he was leaning on his staff heavily and not looking at her, she held up her hands to Galadriel hesitantly. “Galadriel? I’m sorry- Did I say something or-”

“Let me, my Lady.” An elf with similar hair-coloring to the lady moved forward, taking Galadriel into his arms just slightly.

She let her hands fall at her sides limply, feeling her weariness set in like a chill that made her bones ache, bringing a hand up to cover her face. Sighing deeply, she spoke softly, hoping Gandalf could hear her. “I swear, I was fine covered in rabbits staying with Radagast, but no, we had to go on an adventure. At this rate, I’d rather be burning alive because you wanted to try to tame a dragon.”

There was a familiar snort from beside her, but the Istari’s voice was soft and tired when he spoke up. “Sometimes I wonder if Nienna doesn’t weep just because of you alone." A warm hand was set on her shoulder. "Hloirëa, listen to me, there are none here that have not been taught that every story has two sides. I brought you here because I knew that any who were still wary of you would come to realize you have no more intention to hurt someone than to eat the worms off the ground.” 

She wrinkled her nose, causing him to raise an eyebrow. “Disgusting metaphor… but please, continue.”

“You-... No other would think for a second to let themselves suffer a bleeding and painful wound if just to put others at ease.”

Hloirëa looked away, feeling for all her unsteadiness like a small child being scolded by their parent.

The Maia sighed and pulled her head forward to press his forehead to hers. “Imagine if Mandos stripped himself bare, forsaking his dignity just so those that entered his domain would not be as scared. You are not something that should ever be broken for the comfort of others, Hloirëa, and it saddens us as your friends to see you do such.” 

Feeling her insides twisting, the words hitting too hard for her to do anything but close her eyes against the rising tears, she took a ragged breath. “I apologize for upsetting you, my friend. Perhaps Radagast was right and I should have stayed with him.”

Gandalf's presence was a steady comfort keeping her in place, a gnarled hand moving to stroke her hair gently as if she was the younger of them, but she couldn’t bring herself to fault him for it when it felt so comforting. “If that is what you want, then I will not stop you.”

Taking a moment to draw on that inner strength she was slowly running out of the longer she went without people that could truly see her, she straightened and turned to where Galadriel was holding her husband’s hand tightly. “I am weary, my friend, and though I may not be the best guest or conversationalist… if you will let me stay in your woods I will do my best to help where I can with whatever you need.”

“My Lady,” stepping from the man at her side, Galadriel approached her slowly. At the little twitch she gave from being called a title like that from her friend, the woman smiled and relented. “Hloirëa... I had planned, from when I last saw you, to help you make a home here. It would be my pleasure to have Lothlórien become your place of rest and sanctuary as it is mine.”

That was all she needed, moving forward to pull the woman into her arms. Then remembering that the elves of Eru weren’t nearly as physically affectionate as the Maiar and Valar were, she started to pull away.

Galadriel though just pulled her back in tightly. “Don’t think I don’t remember you told me this is how even Aulë greets you, and if the Vala of smithwork and solitude does as such, then I will too.”

And as she felt the ugly knot in her chest ease, a fond smile teased her lips as with a deep breath the stench of soured rust was nowhere to be found in the crisp air.  

 

After half a day of rest, getting her few things put in a small room down the hall from where Galadriel (and her husband, Celeborn) stayed and washing the dirt of travel from her skin, she was finally slowly introduced to the inhabitants of Lothlórien.

It was an interesting experience to sit down for the first meal in one of the great silver halls, sitting to the side of Galadriel with a view over the elves that she saw trying to sneakily study her, preparing for the inevitable prayer to ‘the almighty father’ only for a song with different people singing prayers to different members of the Valar to grace the air. 

As a woman sang a lone lament to Nienna to help her get over the loss of her son, Galadriel had to calmly explain what was going on. “You see, after the War of Wrath, when the tales and legends contradicted what had happened, I decided that every one of the Valar was just as great as Eru. So slowly over time, Lothlórien came to say prayers, not to just Eru, but those that could help us most. The craftsmen sometimes get dreams of Aulë’s forge in times of indecision, those grieving will dream of Estë’s waters, and I… dream of Vairë humming while at her loom.”

“That-” Smile soft and fond, she nodded. “That is beautiful and I thank you, for I know they could not wish for better inspiration to help them continue with their duties than hearing your voices singing to them.”

And when she was done with her food, she moved from the dais she was sitting with the others at, brushing against Gandalf as she did. 

Walking slowly, she moved to stand sort of stiffly by the woman who had sung the lament to her dearest friend. “If you would let me, I know that my gifts may not seem all that helpful to healing from grief,” lowering herself to a knee in front of where the elf was sitting so she wasn’t having to look down on the woman she offered up a half-smile, “but I may be able to do something if you are willing to trust me.” She offered her hand.

“I… I do not know what you offer, my Lady, but I trust you.” And with a weak smile, the woman took her hand.

“Your son, how old was he? And if you have a name? That would also help.”

Voice wavering, the black-haired elf nodded slowly. “His name was Aredhel, my Lady, and he was barely sixty years past.”

“I see.” Then closing her eyes, she called into the veil, waiting until a young elf that almost reminded her of Elrond emerged to meet her, explaining that his mother wanted closure. When he agreed, she opened a small door in the veil so he could step through, opening her eyes to smile at where the elfling stood beside her. “The door will close in two hours, but most find that is more than enough time.” 

The woman tightened her grip on her hand, face full of joy and awe. “Thank you! Oh, praise be, you brought my son back to me...”

“Not fully. No elf that passes over though that veil can fully come back. This is him, though he can only stay for a limited time, so use it well.” Slowly, she took her hand from the woman’s. Watching as the woman turned her full attention on the elfling's spirit with glistening eyes, Hloirëa sighed softly and wandered to where Gandalf was standing and smiling at her. She scowled at him. “What’s that look for?”

He just smiled wider, eyes twinkling in the fond way Dumbledore’s eyes used to do. “You. You’re being quite nice for someone who thinks themselves a monster.”

Hloirëa’s darkness solidified in a second, but the old man knew her too well, staff meeting scythe with a crack of sound. Wrapping her hand tighter around the long handle of the weapon, she spun and it morphed to a sword in her hand, the staff of light meeting every single one of her attacks. A smile crept onto her face, darkness disappearing as she kicked up to dislodge the staff, hitting a flat palm to the man’s chest while he was exposed.

Falling to the floor, the man started to chuckle after a second, propping himself up to smile at her. “Why is it I can never seem to expect what you will do? Most warriors are afraid to leave their weapon behind.”

“Mithrandir, you forget if Hloirëa was afraid of fighting without a weapon then she would not have saved Elrond’s life.” Slowly moving from the dais, Galadriel helped the Maia to his feet. “Though I will have to disallow the use of my halls for fighting, there is a training field and I am sure the Marchwardens would be more than happy to spare you the space to train as you wish.”

“I might just take you up on that. Are you coming with me, my friend?”

Gandalf shook his head with an amused smile. “I have seen when you would train with Tulkas and I think even he agreed your version of training is just plain torture.”

Laughing lightly, she laid a hand on his shoulder for a moment in search of the grounding presence, before turning to go explore in hopes that she would eventually learn her way through the winding halls.

Chapter Text

Hloirëa managed to get lost within about three corridors of the twisting paths of the tree-top palace while on her way to where she’d thought the staircase down to the forest floor was. Sighing softly, she just then decided to wander, ignoring the looks her mid-thigh trousers and plain tunic got. She suspected that it had something to with the fact that she hadn’t seen a single thigh or hint of cleavage on a single of the elves whereas she was blatantly baring half her legs, the strings to lace up the front of her tunic hanging loosely as she walked, but couldn't bring herself to care all that much.

Finally, exasperated and just wanting to go on a run so she could feel better about slacking off while living with Radagast, she stopped when she passed a balcony and backed up slowly.

That balcony across the way looked close enough to jump to and if she fell there was a ledge on the way down...

Judging the distance and the height of the railing, she backed up to where she thought it would work fairly well, then narrowing her eyes in concentration. Running for it, she jumped up, a foot landing on the balcony ridge so she could then propel herself forward.

“Lady Hloirëa!”

Landing on the edge of the railing on the balls of her feet and wobbling, she tilted her weight forward so she could fluidly step down from the railing with a slight hop, landing on the balcony with exhilaration coursing through her veins. She'd forgotten what it felt like to run across rooftops, leaping and trusting only her instincts that she could make it to the other side. Looking back up to where a few elves were staring at her in open-mouthed shock from the balcony she’d been on, she smiled at them in question.

One, dressed like a Marchwarden and assumedly had been the one to yell her name, spoke up in a shaky voice that barely reached across the span of the balconies. “What- my Lady, what are you doing?”

“I got lost and decided to find my own way down to the forest floor!” Her grin was fueled by adrenaline, loving the way her heart was thumping in her chest rather than its normal steady pace. “Don’t worry though! I’ve done this many times before!” Then in backing up again, she let herself jump, landing on another platform in a roll that jostled her shoulder but made her laugh. Clambering back up without hesitation, she spotted another balcony across the hall, starting to run again.

"Oh!” An elvish woman carrying a basket of what looked like freshly washed linens froze in surprise at seeing her, right in her path.

It seemed the flight/fight/freeze response was true to elves too.

With half a second to spare, she threw herself to the floor, skidding under the woman's basket across the polished floors. Calling out an apology, she caught her feet from under herself just in time to stand and jump up.

Her foot slipped, thrown off by the woman, and her push to clear the distance wasn't enough. 

With fear and exhilaration coursing through her, she caught the bottom of the railing- hands slipping slightly as she scrambled for a better grip. Mentally cursing herself for not seeing the woman sooner, she swung herself forward and let go to land on a balcony below her with a small grunt.

Another Marchwarden startled at her sudden arrival, eyes widening. “Lady Hloirëa?”

“Pleasent day isn't it?” Hloirëa smiled at the woman in the grey cloak conversationally as she hoisted herself up on the railing, arms extended to maintain her balance.

"It- What are you-"

Her smile was wry, sending the woman a wink. "Having more fun than I have in ages. Good day!" Jumping, she caught the railing and then landed on the longer balcony below herself with a wince- knowing she was probably a bit out of shape. With another drop to a branch and then a swing, she landed softly on the ground in a roll, standing to see a group of elvish women gathering plants at the edge of the palace grounds staring at her with wide eyes.

With a smile and a nod of her head as she bushed some dirt off her tunic, she then started to jog the other direction, staying in the woods to challenge her self-awareness but close enough that the palace was in sight essentially just mapping the perimeter in her mind.

Lothlórien was beautiful no matter the time of day- the limited sun that crept through the leaves of the massive trees gleaming off the ashen wood of the elven palace and seeming to give it an ethereal sort of glow. 

Hloirëa jogged, slightly out of breath, and knowing she should have stretched- it was the first time doing more than just relying on her magic for a very long time and this just confirmed she was out of shape. Mostly she just found herself irritated at the loose linen tunic. Huffing, she just pulled it off, looping the fabric under the drawstring of her trousers. She had cloth bindings across her chest anyway (a type of sports bra in this world) and that was more than enough modesty for her.

 

When the sun had moved from forty-five degrees to about eighty degrees in the sky, she decided she’d run long enough, stretching her arms and legs before slowly making her way back to the palace. 

From the bottom up she was able to somewhat remember where she was going, re-braiding her hair as she made her way to find some better-fitting clothing so she could go to the river to bathe.

Humming to herself, she made her way along the path she was 80% sure was the right one to take, she turned the corner and found her song cutting off. Three Marchwardens, two of which she had seen while doing her parkour experiment, were standing in front of Galadriel who didn’t look all that pleased to see her (and who was eyeing her state of dress with pursed lips).

Acting as if nothing was wrong, she tried to walk past them to her rooms hoping that she wasn't already in trouble her first day here.

“Hloirëa.” Galadriel’s tone was sharp and made her pause. “Care to tell me why my Marchwardens are scared you will try to throw yourself off my balconies?”

Stopping and slowly turning to look at the woman, still riding her adrenaline, she licked her slightly chapped lips before answering honestly. “I wanted to run the perimeter of the palace a few times, but as I couldn’t find my way down I instead relied on my training and made my way down.”

Galadriel studied her. “And your current state of undress? Even in the War of Wrath, you had the sense to wear a dress, if still barefoot.”

“I disliked running in loose clothing. Plus I existed in the void with Melkor for more than enough time without a stitch of clothing and he never once commented on it.” Seeing the woman's eyebrow twitch, she swallowed a smile and dipped her head in a show of respect and apology. “Apologies. I seek not to offend anyone.”

"I know that you are less than familiar with our culture, but perhaps then you will seek me out so I may correct that?"  Galadriel's eyes were faintly amused as she stood though, moving to brush a strand of hair behind her ear that had escaped the leather tie Radagahst had made her. "There is a stream down to the west if that was the other question you are holding in your eyes."

Her smile was fond, dipping her head again slightly. "Eduqitte lessons with the Silver Lady. Well, I think I will bathe first, as she sounds quite intimidating." Smiling when the woman gave her a look akin to rolling her eyes, Hloirëa reached out to brush her fingertips with the woman's and then turned to where her room was.

Galadriel spoke up, tone hinting at exasperation. “Haldir, you are to follow Lady Hloirëa and show her how to navigate my halls for the next two days. See that she does not get into more trouble than is necessary and bring her to my gardens after she bathes.”

Though it was spoken to the golden-haired Marchwarden, it was a jab at her, as if telling her not to do anything stupid.

Smiling slightly where the woman couldn't see her, she just continued towards her room, slipping through the door and moving to where her light pack was. It only had a few things- her armor and leathers, rope, some dried meat, a small jar of bathing oil, and a few ill-fitting clothes she'd gotten from the town of men by Radagast's home- so she just grabbed a pair of more comfortable clothing, leaving the white shirt she’d had on by the bed.

“Perhaps you should wear that down to the river, my Lady.” The elf that had led the Marchwardens that Gandalf and her had met upon their arrival leaned against the frame of the door to her room, dark brown eyes unreadable as his eyes stayed firmly on her face.

Hloirëa wondered idly if this was like being in the same room as someone essentially naked to him and how long the whole 'my lady' business would stick if she was living here, as eventually, the elves would have to see she wasn't anything special outside of her magic- just an emotionally stunted woman with too much power.

She just tilted her head, pushing that thought away. “Perhaps. If you would lead me to the river, I would greatly appreciate it.”

"Enough to clothe yourself?"

Laughing softly, she gave in, grabbing the shirt and throwing it on again. Sending the man a small smile, she gestured to the door, allowing herself a small head-shake of amusement when he moved to read the way through the twisting halls.

 

It was at the river that she laid out her clean clothes on a dry rock, shedding her trousers and folding them. Looking up, she was slightly startled to see the Marchwarden looking straight at her with an unreadable flat expression rather than turned away. At her raised eyebrow, the elf furrowed his own. “Why is it you have such a variety of scars on your skin? You are a Valar, one of the Ladies that had a part in creating this very universe- you shouldn’t have to fight.” 

Snorting softly, she shrugged and started to unwrap her chest, unbothered by the eyes if the elf was more concerned with looking at her scars to notice she was getting naked.

“Furthermore, your training- why would even another Valar think it torturous? What do you train for?”

“Just because I may have the pleasure not to have to fight now does not always mean that it has always been that way.” Wading into the knee-high water with only a slight shiver, she migrated to a part of the stream where the trees had allowed the sunlight to get through, sitting down so she could tilt her head back and wash her hair.

The man said nothing more, so she laid back and let the water wash away the light sweat she’d worked up. Murmuring a spell in Latin under her breath, she felt the water and the sunlight come together in a ritual of wild magic to take the dirt and grime from her body and hair- better than the bathing oils that Radagast had given her. When she stood, twisting so she could crack her back, she moved over to the shore and dried herself as she stepped from the water.

While she had been bathing Haldir had turned away, pointedly not looking anywhere close to her, the tips of his pointy ears slightly red as if sunburnt.

(Could elves get sunburnt? She'd have to ask Galadriel.)

Pushing the ramblings of her brain to the side, she kept on the topic they had been conversing about as if to firmly ignore the plain awkwardness of his frame in hopes he wouldn't shy away from her and instead just accept that he didn't have to care if she didn't. "I was trained to fight long before I became a lady of this world. The place in which I came from was a place where people held little appreciation for the honor of a fair fight, so strength and cunning were often useful skills. Many of my scars and instincts came from that world.”

“You say 'lady of this world' like you are not part of it."  

"Do I?" Hloirëa hummed, wringing the water from her hair as she smiled faintly- feeling strangely proud of the sharp observation from the Marchwarden. "Perhaps that’s because some days I do not feel as if this world is real- some days I look at the world around me and wonder if this is all a dream."

The man's eyes turned back to her once she was dressed, searching her face. When he spoke, his voice was without judgment. "Does that make it any less real? Even if it's in your head, does that mean you are not experiencing it?"

Thinking about that, she worried at her lip, starting to walk with the man back towards civilization as he fell into step with her easily. "That would mean the only thing that differentiated my nightmares and reality would be how much control I could exert over the world around me." Catching his inquiring look, she smiled thinly. "I don't dream anymore. Any actual sleep I get is rare and usually overtaken by nightmares."

"You say dreaming is to give up control and yet you compare living to a dream- have you been living without care of where your life goes?"  

She huffed softly, finding herself smiling at the man's quick wit, as it seemed she couldn't get anything past him. "I would not go as far as to say without care, but I have not felt like I held the reins to my fate for a very long time."

Letting silence settle around them as they reached the gleaming halls once more, she let him take lead by a few steps, following and doing her best to map a bit more of the twisting halls in her mind. Eventually, the gleaming halls gave way to a small clearing where Galadriel stood by a basin of water that seemed to shine as silver as her hair in the light. 

She was just questioning if this was a good idea when Haldir met her eyes, dipping his head before he turned, leaving her there.

"I see that Haldir has taken to his task quite well." Galadriel's smile was small but reminded her of the teasing way Lavender and Pavati used to smile at her during her fourth year when Cedric was around, the woman looking greatly amused with herself. "Usually he despises being assigned to watch over guests of the forest, rather being out at the borders with those he commands."

She moved to sit on a stone bench that was wrapped with vines, keeping her face neutral. "As fascinating as that is, I thought I was here to finally take you up on learning about elvish society?"

"And our first topic of question will be the different kinds of relationships within elvish society."

Hloirëa had a vague sense this evening was going to be a long one.

 

The small courtyard clearing was lined with stone walls and in the middle was a stone basin that held silvery water- a basin of seeing, as Galadriel had told her.

As the evening passed, they shared stories of their different societies, even if the woman had given her a long considering look when she’d admitted she was of a world before this one.

Hloirëa spoke of things that didn’t hurt- of magic and the world, but she didn’t tell the stories she held close to her chest, as they were still tender. But when the woman stood, as it was growing close to dinner, she stayed sitting. 

“It’s never wrong to miss what you lost. Take the time you need.” Galadriel left her there, brushing her fingers across her shoulder in a faint reassurance as she glided past her.

There was no question of if she was coming to dinner- they both knew she wasn’t.

Staring at the stone basin, the silvery water shimmering as it rippled slightly in the soft breeze, she wondered if the trees had been grown around these very ruins- if this was the heart of Lothlórien, with the gleaming wood and trees giving life to the crumbling stone.

“More contemplating?”

Looking up at where Haldir was standing in the crumbling archway, two wide leaves that were surely filled with food in his hands, she moved over and waved a hand as if to offer him a seat next to her. “Wondering how Galadriel reads me so easily.”

“Sanwe-latya, probably.” Sitting down, he handed her the wide leaf carefully, continuing when her eyebrows furrowed. “Lady Galadriel is accomplished in many mind magics that only the oldest of the elves have been able to master.”

Frowning at the Quenyan words that meant ‘thought opening’, she wet her lips. “My mind should be protected from such prying magics- I will have to ask her about that. If she can get in I need to know how to be able to block such a thing in case Sauron uses it to his advantage.”

"It cannot enter an unwilling mind. Perhaps your worries are clearer on your face than you think."

Her lips pursed. "And yet you say that as if it's laughable I have worries at all."

Haldir handed her a carved utensil sort of like a spoon, his eyes crinkling slightly. “In all the songs about you, they speak of a being with eyes like the finest emeralds and hair like blood that brings judgment to those with Eru’s light. Someone otherworldly. Untouchable.” His eyes looked between hers. “However I somehow doubt any of the composers of those songs have met you, as I believe their songs would be far different if they had heard you laughing as you lept from a balcony.”

“Perhaps you should inform them of that.” Having to look away, as she didn’t want to acknowledge that she thought him attractive, she took a bite of the fish that was laid over a spread of berries. Eyes closing as it seemed to melt on her tongue, she savored the wonderful food- as both Radagast and Gandalf were a bit helpless at cooking outside the basics.

“Perhaps I will.” When she glanced up at the murmur, the man was looking at his food, the tips of his ears red again.

She’d forgotten to ask Galadriel if elves could get sunburnt.

 

The next day she was followed by Haldir’s lingering shadow, the uncomfortable feeling of being followed finally making her stop and ask him to show her around the halls- as doing something together was better than him lurking at her back until Galadriel thought she could be without being babysat. However, when a Marchwarden stopped them to talk to the light-haired elf, she took the opportunity to have some time of her own.

Quietly ducking around a corner and moving to a nearby balcony, she climbed over it, holding on and lowering herself so she was hanging from the bottom of the floor she'd been on. Balancing on the raining of the level below her, she stepped down silently and then let invisibility flow over her skin like a rippling cloak, knowing it would be easy to track her down if she was followed by whispering elves.

It was to her little surprise that when she walked into the Great Hall the next morning for breakfast there were more than a few whispers following her footsteps.

Elves, as it turned out, were a surprisingly gossipy bunch.

Luckily though if there was a faint smell of the sour rust in the air it was covered by the smell of lavender, as she’d decided to spend the evening collecting the herb and making it into a sort of watery oil by the river because she’d been bored.

Sitting down next to Gandalf, she grabbed a berry off his plate nonchalantly. “What’s the excitement?”

“When you came to Valinor and I asked you if you were a Valar I had not yet met because I did not recognize you, you told me that perhaps I had not been looking because you had been there the whole time.” The Maia’s eyebrows were furrowed and his lips pulled into a frown. 

Hloirëa looked at him with a questioning look, wondering if he was asking what she suspected he was.

“Why did you never tell me that you had not been of Eru’s creation? Why then did you let him cast you into the void? Why would he do that?”

“Would you have first approached me as easily? If I had told you that the pain of being alone and watching my world die was what Nienna felt and cried out for the moment after she awoke, would you have treated me like an equal?” At the man’s contemplative look, she sighed softly and brought her legs up to fold next to her in the chair, poking at her food. “I apologize for not giving you that choice, but I don’t regret it.”

It was a quiet meal at the head table and as soon as she was done, she stood without a word, simply making her way back to the river where she’d made jars of lavender seeds and oil sitting on a rock in the sun.

“Where did you get the oil?”

Looking up in surprise, she blinked at where Haldir was standing as she hadn’t heard him approach, before smiling crookedly. “You sure take your job seriously… I can transform most base materials into a different material as long as the exchange is equal.” When he just stared at her, she looked away and started to study the different plants. “Blood. I gathered my blood and then made it into oil.”

There was a soft sigh, like the ones Gandalf gave when he was exasperated with her. “Had you asked, I would have gotten you some from the kitchens. What are you doing anyway?”

“Seeing if I can combine any of these plants into a salve or potion. In my old world, there was an art to making potions and they could be made by even those without magic to cure near-fatal wounds or many other things.”

Moving without any sound, though she knew where he was by the light he carried, the elf stalked to her side and pointed at a plant to her left that was green but other than that unknown to her. “If for healing, that is Athelas and is said to be one of the only plants that the old elvish healers used because it was so potent, though many have lost the knowledge or skill to use it in healing.”

Making a mental note of his words, she collected the leaves before pointing at a plant that looked similar to a mandrake leaf. “Do those scream when you pull them up?”

“...what?”

Hloirëa decided to just go for it, uprooting the plant to see instead of an ugly baby there was just what looked to be a potato. “Hmm. Well, I’ll hold out hope that it has some of the same properties as a mandrake.” Then pointing at a plant that reminded her almost a form of tropical lettuce, she looked up at Haldir. “And this? Is it edible- maybe even bitter?”

Haldir nodded slowly, seeming confused. “It will sate your appetite without killing you, but then again, the kitchens are-” When she picked some and chewed on it contemplatively, the man sighed again. “If you are still hungry, the kitchens-”

“I'm not hungry, I had to make sure it had the properties I wanted.” Sending him an amused smile, she continued to ask about the different plants, collecting what she needed. And when she finally moved back to the river with her haul of plants, she found a group of elves looking curiously at the jars of oil and lavender. “Those still have a couple of days until they are ready.” 

“Apologies, my Lady.” The elves holding the jars set them down and moved back to where they seemed to be washing clothes and linens in the river downstream as if her presence had caused them to scatter like dandelion seeds in the wind

Washing the plants she’d collected and then laying them out along a large boulder neatly, ignoring the faint discomfort that came from the feeling of eyes on her back, she looked at Haldir. “Do you have a knife on you?” 

The elf reached down to pull a small dagger out of his boot but then paused, something flashing across his eyes as he looked at her. “What are you going to use it for?”

“For cutting up my plants.” Holding out her hand, she put the knife he handed her down next to the plants and then wandered over to the river, picking out a good-sized rock and transforming it into a cauldron. Humming and studying it for a moment to make sure it was usable for potion-making, she knelt by the stream to collect a good amount of water in it. “I should send Gandalf to Erebor. I could use a real cauldron and maybe even a nicer stirring rod...” 

The murmur was absentminded, but when she heaved the cauldron of water back onto the flat rock, Haldir had a pinched look to his face.

Hloirëa studied him, trying to understand why he looked upset. “What?”

“The dwarves? You would turn to them for craftsmanship that could be done here and for a lesser price?” And to emphasize how grumpy and stubborn he was, Haldir crossed his arms.

“I can’t tell if you’re being biased against the dwarves themselves or you’re experiencing some sort of second-hand jealousy.” With a small flick of a finger to heat the water, she started to cut the Athelas into the smallest pieces she could. “I forgot that there might be craftsmen here as well, stop frowning at me.”

The elf didn’t say anything in response, so she took the peace in stride and worked silently to make a test batch of blood-replenishing potion to see if the potion would turn out with the substitute ingredients, finding that the latent magic from Arda mixing with her intent more than made up for the wrong ingredients. It was almost stronger than the potions she’d made before with the amount of magic Arda's wild plants had, thick with wild magic. 

Bottling the shiny red liquid in transfigured vials and setting them aside, she looked up to ask Haldir if anyone needed a particular type of potion but lost the question when she found a whole group of elves in fine robes sitting and watching her.

She stared at the elves.

They stared back.

Wetting her lips, her eyes darted around, landing on where Haldir was leaning up against a nearby tree. “I didn’t know I had company.”

“I’m not surprised. You were keeping quite an intense concentration- I doubt that you would have noticed if I stabbed you.”

A few elves looked at the Marchwarden sharply, but she just laughed softly, shaking her head and starting to set her vialed potions to the side, vanishing any potion residue in the cauldron. “I tend to block out the world around me when I’m focusing. It’s an old habit.” Moving to collect more of the different plants she knew would work for several healing potions, the elves parted for her hastily, though they seemed to watch in astoundment as she knelt down to pull up the shoots for the different plants. “That, however, doesn’t tell me why I seem to be the chosen entertainment for the evening.”

“Entertainment?” The word was said scornfully.

“We heard you were working healing magic unheard of before now and came seeking the chance to watch.” A tall elf with darker brown hair looked at her with his head held stiffly, meeting her eyes almost defiantly when she stood, even if she was shorter than him by almost a whole head.

A woman by his side with blonde hair that had just the slightest red touch had the same stiff posture, nodding as she seemed to come to the first elf’s defense. “As the healers of Lórien, we thought it would be enlightening to see what these remedies you are making were, try to understand.” Then the woman nodded, looking up. “As for them, they wanted to see if they could use any of these remedies in battle.”

Hloirëa followed the woman’s gaze with her own and found that more than a few Marchwardens were perched in the lower branches of the surrounding trees in their grey cloaks- bows and quivers strapped to their backs. Blinking slowly, she found herself humming and then retreating to wash the plants off in the stream, organizing them on her rock with what extra she had from the last potion as she tried to think of all the potions she knew. Picking up the knife and flipping it in her hand easily, she narrowed her eyes at the ingredients she’d picked.

“They will not interrupt.” Haldir sounded almost nervous, looking between her and the group of elves. “But if this is something that you would like to be alone for-”

“Potion-making is an art that can be done with even those without magic, though I will admit that controlling the heat of the flame is easier with it than without. However, it is a craft and some potions should not be attempted without many years of experience, so I am trying to think of something that would be easy enough to teach.” Looking up, she tilted her head at Haldir, giving him a faint smile. “I am not unused to stares nor will I be offended if it’s for the sake of pursuing knowledge.” 

The elves seemed to relax slightly, the man that had spoken before dipping his head. “It would be an honor to learn what you have to teach us.”

Looking at the man, she studied him for a long moment, wondering how long it had been since someone had wanted to listen to her- since a group of people had stayed long enough to hear what she was speaking about.

Probably not since the DA.

Realizing the man had gone still and realizing she was staring, she shook that line of thought from her brain, taking a moment to make sure her ingredients were all nice and neat. “I will explain most of what I am doing, but should you want to do this type of work please be careful, as too much of a certain ingredient or not prepping a component the right way can have very different effects on the potion. In fact, should you wish to make a potion then you should probably make sure I am around so I can help out.” Directing her attention upwards, she smiled faintly at the elves that she thought looked a bit like grey doves perched in the trees. “I intend to make a simple salve from just a few ingredients that would be quite useful in situations without a lot of time, so if you wish to come closer to study what I do, I won’t mind.”

Slowly, as if unsure, the elves climbed and slid down from the trees to make themselves comfortable, though most of them migrated towards where Haldir was standing.

“Haldir,” her eyes traced the blade of the knife in her hand as she thought it seemed almost too sharp, “do the kitchens have any type of thick oil or wax?”

With a small thoughtful frown, the fair-haired elf seemed to try to recall as such. “I believe that they might have some thicker oil if you wish for me to fetch some.”

Turning and casting her gaze around, she moved to scoop up a rock the size of her palm, tossing it a few times. Catching it and transfiguring it into a glass container reminiscent of a mason jar, she set it down on the flat boulder, voice soft. “That’s alright.”

“What are you-”

Hloirëa dragged the dagger across her wrist without hesitation, watching slick red blood run down her wrist into the jar, worrying at her lower lip to distract from the pain.

There were a few noises, a few whispers, and murmurs, but she ignored them as she crouched down to eye the side of the jar.

Looking at the knife in her hand, she flicked it sharply to rid it of the blood, snorting softly when she saw the red liquid fall to the dirt. “To the Earth, we all return.” Clenching and unclenching her hand to keep the blood flowing, she brought her wrist to her mouth when the jar was ¾ of the way full, letting her magic heal herself. Mouth tasting of blood, she let her wrist fall to her side when it had stopped bleeding, snapping and watching as the blood turned to yellowish blocks of what looked like beeswax.

Vala wax. Yummy. Good thing this salve wasn’t meant to be eaten.

With a quick smile of dark humor, she then tipped the jar over into the cauldron before starting the heat. When it had become a thin clear substance she ground up some of the dried herbs and mixed them in, using a bit of conjured witchfire to burn the Athelas leaves before adding the ash in. Mixing until the wax had taken up much of the herbs, she moved to her jars of seeping lavender and added just a bit of the oil from the top.

Explaining as she went as well as what the salve was good for- healing bruises, relieving aches and pains, and sometimes even helping to clot wounds for healing (depending on if you used Athelas extract)- she conjured up a ladle and transfigured some small tins so she could pour the liquid into them to cool.  

She answered some of the healers’ questions as the liquid hardened, handed out a few of the small tins to the Marchwardens, giving a larger part to the healers.

As it was getting late, the elves started to clear out, and she made sure to look busy- even if unlike the usual potions set up, she didn’t have much to clean. However, Haldir stayed behind, moving to pick up his knife with a look she couldn’t identify on his face as he stared at it for a moment before sliding it back in his boot. “You used my knife to hurt yourself.”

Looking up at his face, she glanced between his dark eyes, voice curious. “You sound upset.”

“I do not know if I am allowed to be upset with you.”

A quizzical smile crested her lips. “You are the one in control of your emotions. Why wouldn’t you be allowed to feel them?”

His jaw flexed. “Then yes, I am upset with you.”

“I apologize, as I didn’t mean to make you worry.” When she moved to start walking, half expecting him to walk with her, she looked at him when he didn’t move and tilted her head. He seemed more upset than she'd expected. “If your knife meant that much to you, I will pay what I can to replace it...”

Haldir frowned deeply as if that had been the wrong thing to say. “It’s not the fact you used my knife to hurt yourself- but the fact you hurt yourself in general.” When she just looked at him, he shook his head as he turned and started to walk away.

Moving to catch up with him fairly easily, even as he walked faster than her usual pace- his legs being longer- she studied his profile when he wouldn’t look at her. “I don’t see the point of being upset about such a thing when I can heal myself easily and it won’t even leave a scar.”   

“Do you always make people worry about you- even though you are far more powerful than them?”

Hloirëa’s eyebrows drew together. “That would depend on your definition of power. To me, Galadriel is much more powerful than I am, as she is a leader of a whole community.”

The man looked at her with an inscrutable expression before shaking his head, walking faster yet.

Knowing he didn’t want to be caught up with, she just slowed her pace to something more comfortable and directed her gaze to the sky for a moment, sighing. 

 

Gandalf seemed to have been stolen by the Marchwardens at their long table, though he caught her eyes with a studying look under furrowed eyebrows when she entered the hall, making her roll her eyes in return. 

Stalking up to the head table, she sat down heavily and wondered if the elves would start to think of her as something to be pitied. It would be better than being feared, but she might leave anyways- as pity made her uncomfortable.

“I have heard many whispers about your day, my dear friend.” Galadriel seemed to glide up to the dais, sitting down gracefully. “Will you tell me about it yourself?”

“Well, I’m in the process of making lavender oil, as I found a patch of lavender growing out in a clearing of the woods. It’s infested with bees and I also had the idea of building a habitat for them so I could collect their honey, just like Radaghast does.” She poked her salad, trying to ignore the knot in her chest. “Bees are often said to have their own magic, just like cats and snakes and toads and a few types of birds… Does this world have snakes?”

Galadriel’s smile was thin. “Morgoth corrupted the snakes into dragons.”

“Melkor.” The correction slipped out before she could stop it.

The woman just dipped her head, apologizing silently for using the wrong name for the Valar.

“That’s a shame. I like snakes.” Hloirëa poked her salad again, picking out a berry and crushing it between her teeth in a burst of tangy sweetness. “…perhaps I’ll start a wild garden out by the lavender patch and then create some non-venomous snakes to keep the rabbits and other small animals away from my plants.”

“Whatever you do, I am sure it will be wonderful.” Reaching over, the woman put a hand over her wrist, looking at her knowingly as she stilled. “Is there anything else you wish to speak about that happened today?”

Meeting the woman’s silvery-grey eyes, she sighed deeply. “Nothing I wish to speak about.”

Squeezing her wrist, Galadriel smiled faintly and pulled back. “I am glad you had a good day then.” Leaning back in her chair, the woman watched her eat her food, amusement lingering in her eyes. “You said that bees have their own type of magic?”

Turning slightly in her seat, she let the familiar topic calm her internal turmoil, telling the woman about the way bees were responsible for pollinating plants and how they were seen as a symbol of immortality in ancient cultures. 

Celeborn leaned forward slightly, joining in with his own quiet story about how Galadriel had been afraid of the bees when she first came to Arda, never having seen them before. He had the voice of a storyteller and before long her delighted laughter was ringing out across the hall, Galadriel hiding a smile behind pursed lips.

It felt good- almost like family- and when she asked Gandalf to travel to Erebor and stop by to visit Radagast on the way back, she figured that there was no reason to worry her friends if she could help it.

Chapter Text

How to Train like an Auror

“Is defying expectations one of the things you strive to do, or does it come naturally?”

Hloirëa looked up from where she had her hands in the dirt of the small area she was using to convert to a makeshift garden, as she was picking out plants from the area that she didn’t want and moving a few plants she’d collected so they could flourish, she brushed the strands of hair out of her face with the back of her hand as she smiled crookedly at Haldir. “I’m not sure. What expectations am I defying? If you tell me, perhaps I can further clarify if I intended to do so.”

Moving to stand by her side, the elf looked from her pet project to her with a sort of helpless smile. “Getting up before the sun to run the border?”

“I was bored.”  

“Working in the dirt without any type of magic?”

Tending to the Athelas plants she was planting together in hopes it would start a nice big patch, she looked up and raised an eyebrow. “Magic? Why would I use magic?”

Haldir waved his hand as if trying to find the right words. “Many were under the impression that you could change the world around you to your will with just a wave of your hand.”

“Well, maybe, but that would be quite rude of me to assume I know better than the forest itself.” Sitting back and moving to cross her legs, she brushed the dirt off her hands, looking at the elf calmly. “This way I am almost asking for permission. If the forest approves of my choices, it will let the plants flourish where I put them, but if it doesn’t then it will let my work be overgrown and I’ll find somewhere else to garden.”

“There are gardens in the palace.”

She felt a fond amusement curl in her chest. “Do they usually cultivate inedible weeds used for potion-making?” 

The fair-haired elf cast an eye over her garden skeptically but seemed to drop the idea of dissuading her from her project, instead turning and holding out a hand. “The Healers deemed me a suitable candidate to fetch you for them.” 

“Oh? And here I thought you were here to enjoy my company.”

His eyes were amused as she cleaned her hands of dirt before letting him help her up. “I have been promoted to being the messenger between you and whoever is too afraid to come close enough to see what a mess you’ve made of yourself.” Making his point, he reached up to brush some dirt off her forehead. “Liking your company is not an issue. I think liking your company is the reason I acquired this task in the first place.”

“Or perhaps it is because the big scary Vala seems to like you.”

“Big? Scary? Are we still talking about you?”

Scowling playfully as she leaned over to bump shoulders with him, she paused as he stumbled slightly and gave her a sort of startled look, laughing softly as she raised a hand to cover her smile. “Sorry- sorry I- that wasn’t meant to offend you.” Hand reaching out as if to steady him but stopping before she touched his arm, she just smiled widely. “In my people, affection was much more touch-based. My friends and I used to do something akin to the play-fighting.”

Haldir looked at her, nodding just slightly and they started to walk together again. “I had observed how Lady Galadriel often participated in physical expressions that are usually reserved for close family or bonded pairs.”

The words ‘usually reserved to families and bonded pairs’ didn’t pass by her attention, making her think there was more to their customs of touch than she’d thought. But still, she kept her voice light and smiled in amusement. “And it was just you that noticed this?”

His eyes darted to hers- as if making sure she was still in a good mood and not about to smite anyone- before giving her a faint smile. “It has been… discussed by many, as it is quite rare that such displays of affection are displayed publicly, much less by Lady Galadriel.”

Meaning that it was inappropriate and people were whispering.

Hloirëa nodding slowly. “I’ll speak to her about the subject.” (Maybe.)

Haldir looked between her eyes, seeming to be searching for something, before nodding ever-so-slightly. “Perhaps that would be best.”

Humming and looking away to study the trees as they walked to the healing wing, she did her best not to let the pit in her stomach have a place on her face- she was living as a guest in Lothlórien and it was only polite to adapt as best she could to its customs if she was going to stay.

 

The couple weeks after her impromptu lesson in potions were taken up almost completely by the healers, who had demanded the forge-masters make them supplies to brew in just so she could teach them further potion theory. She was able to escape for the dark hours of the night- most of which she used to work on her garden- but other than that, the knowledge-hungry scholars consumed her time.

Given she was sort of avoiding having a very awkward conversation with Galadriel about how her people thought they were having an affair because she was a needy child that melted like ice cream in the hot sun at someone touching her hand, it was partially her fault she was so busy, but it was still sort of exhausting.

Hloirëa had kept up the routine of running the perimeter every other sunrise- to the disappointment of the healers- and sometimes seen Marchwardens following her at the same pace for extents of time, but they never were able to keep up her pace for the distance she ran. Other than that, Haldir was absent on the eastern borders overseeing trade with the nearby Kingdom of Men, and she was… lonely.

Lonely was the best word for the series of emotions she’d felt for so long now- aching with something hurt and jagged in her chest every moment she kept silent and smiled even when she didn’t feel it.

So in a stroke of genius, she taught each of the older more experienced healers one of the many potions she knew, letting them teach each other instead of all relying on her so she could escape. 

 

The training grounds were barren of elves when she found them, having been wandering the side paths of the twisting halls under the dim light of the stars, as something restless paced inside her chest and laying down hadn’t done her any good. 

Only glancing at the archery range, she peered around the open space, wondering what Moody would have had her start with if he was here- as he’d been her Auror mentor for years and he’d know how to deal with this restlessness.

“Aren’t you supposed to be sleepin’, pipsqueak?”

Spinning around, she gaped unceremoniously at the silvery figure of Mad-Eye Moody leaning on his gnarled cane, before blinking. Right. The Resurrection Stone. Shutting her mouth, she gave the man a sarcastic grin. “You should know I never sleep, old man.”

Moody gave her a look with his good eye as if to say ‘you’re still a brat', hobbling over to sit down on a large rock as if he wasn’t a ghost. “Twenty pushups for the cheek.” He sent her a grizzled grin when she raised her eyebrows. “And twenty more for being out of bed after your bedtime- but you better stretch first, kid, or I’ll go get Molly Weasley to yell at you.”

Sending him a two-fingered salute and earning herself more push-ups, she was glad she was in her loosest set of clothes, sitting down in the worn-down grass. Spreading her legs into a ‘V’, she folded one of her legs and extended the other, reaching out to grab the ball of her foot, tucking herself down as she felt her hamstrings burn slightly.

“You’re out of shape.”

“You would be too if you had been taken as a puppet of a Dark Lord for three thousand years.” Her mutter was bitter, even as she diligently switched legs.

“Hmph.” The man grunted, eying her with his blue eye, brown one swiveling around as if to look at their surroundings. “If you were constantly vigilant you wouldn’t have been tricked by some prissy evil overlord.” 

“Yes, well sometimes being overly paranoid isn’t good for one’s soul.”

Moody snorted harshly. “Looks like mine’s alright enough.”

Rolling her eyes, she bent both her legs in and folded herself over them. “You’re still ugly. Should I blame that on the paranoia, or is that just how you’ve always looked?” 

“Do you want more pushups?”

With a small grin hidden from view, she shook her head, happy to fall into the familiar rhythm of following the sharp commands, knowing that Moody would push just as hard as she would herself but know when it was enough. 

Hloirëa was in the middle of grumbling her way through another pull-up, having lashed a thick staff to two trees when Moody hit the tree next to her with his staff.

“You’ve got company, pipsqueak.”

Pulling herself up and holding for ten seconds like Sirius had suggested when he and Remus had shown up as well to make her life harder, she turned her head slightly to see Haldir and a few other elves watching her. “Mmm.” Then releasing slowly, she hung from the staff, knees bent. “They’re the warriors that defend these lands.”

Remus studied the elves closely and she wondered how much restraint he was employing at not just going up and poking at them in curiosity. “Interesting. You said that this is another world- do you know their language? Is it close to anything I would know?”

“I would say Elvish is pretty close to Finnish or Welsh in terms of grammar… but the vocabulary is way different.” Then with a soft sigh, she nodded to him. “You could try to talk to them, but I’m not sure if they’d understand you since Westron is sort of like very very very old English.”

“Enough gabbing, pipsqueak! More pull-ups!” Poking her with the end of her staff, which was sort of like being touched with an invisible ice cube, Moody scowled deeply at her.

With a small huff, she pulled herself up again with a soft exhale of air. “Mean crotchety old man.” Closing her eyes, she listened to Remus and Sirius softly bickering, Moody’s orders cutting through them once and a while. When she finally unbent her knees and stood, she groaned softly with the effort, letting herself fall into the soft grass rather than standing. 

Moody’s unimpressed stare was almost audible. “You giving up, kid?”

“Hurts.” Her voice was a soft mutter, not having trained like this for quite a while (since she lived in Valinor, actually). 

“And it’ll continue to hurt until you get used to it! Now up and give me twenty!”

Grumbling about her old Auror mentor being a wanker, she grinned when he whacked her side with his staff and continued to do her pushups. 

Though she heard the soft thwick of an arrow and looked up to see it had sunk in a tree by the side of Moody’s head as if a warning shot. Haldir stood with a bow in hand, eyes glinting darkly as he glared at Moody. “Begone, fell spirit!”

Putting her knee down and looking at where the Marchwardens were all tensed, Remus and Sirius both quiet in where they were sitting, she then looked up at Moody.

The old Auror peered down at her with one narrowed blue eye. “Well? Bloody translate!”

“At least I know a threat when I see one, Moody.” Sirius grinned at her wolfishly. “So, what’s with blondie over there?”

Hloirëa sent Sirius a glare, pushing herself up and looking Moody in his good eye, as the glass one was peering at the Marchwardens. “Look, they’re fairly anti-touch and don’t seem to understand the play-fighting we’re used to so… I’ll call on you later, alright?”

Eyeing the elves warily, the man scowled. “Arsewipes.” But the word was just a grumble, leaning heavily on his staff and eyeing her. “I trust you’ll finish with stretching before you keep those two mangy mutts company?” When she nodded, he gave a gnarled grin and slapped her shoulder- fading to nothing right as another arrow shot past where the man’s spirit had just been.

Sirius huffed, yelling at where the man had been needlessly. “Mangy mutts my ass! I’m a bloody specimen !”

“Sure, snuffles. Keep dreaming.” Her eye-roll was exaggerated.

“Oh? You wanna go, kid?” The man stood up, chest puffed up as he tried to loom over her as if he could be intimidating. “I could bench you in my sleep.

Her laugh was soft, dancing back and forth around his teasing jabs, grin wide. “Really? You bench anything more than a spaghetti noodle and I’ll be pleasantly surprised- you’re more scarecrow than ‘specimen’.”

With a barking laugh, the man barreled into her like a wave of magic and they both laughed as they rolled in the grass, elbowing and shoving at the other like a pair of unruly children. “This is treason against the Marauders! A crime of the highest order!” He dug his fingers into her sides, eyes bright as she whacked at him, breathless with laughter. “The Pup insulted her godfather!”

“Wow. What a crime.” Remus’ voice was dry as he moved over, kicking Sirius off her and offering her a hand up. The man rolled his eyes, straightening her grass-stained clothes with a small smile. “It’s good to see you, cub.” 

Hloirëa smiled easily, the tension in her chest gone as she leaned forward to rest her forehead against his semi-solid shoulder, soaking in the way his hands smoothed out her hair. “Miss you already.”

Sirius patted her back, grinning when she looked at him. “We’ll be here.”

“Always?”

Both men nodded, stepping back from her and starting to fade. “Always.”

Staring for a second longer at where her godfathers had stood, she rolled her shoulders and moved to sit down in the grass so she could stretch out her sore muscles.

“What was that?” Haldir stopped by her, his voice flat. “You invited such spirits here, speaking their language?”

“The older man was a mentor of mine long ago, the two others kin to me that died in battle. I wanted company, so they came to join me.” Looking up, she gave him a dry smile. “None of the spirits I call will do you harm, much less be able to do so.”

The elf’s eyes were frowning, even if his face was a mask of apathy. “The dark-haired man attacked you. Why were you laughing?”

“My species is different physically from elves. One of the many ways is that when sensitive areas of our bodies are touched it elicits an instinctual response of pleasure that often leads to laughter.” Keeping her eyes on her legs as she said this as blandly as she could, she shrugged . “It’s a form of social bonding between kin to make the others laugh.”

Haldir shifted his weight. “Like how you seek out touch.”

Looking up sharply- as even though the group with him were mingling around the field she knew they were surely being listened to- she studied his face. Something heavy settling in her chest at how closed-off he seemed, she turned her eyes away. “Perhaps.”

His shadow lingered for a moment more, before turning and moving away, calling out instructions to different elves.

She only stuck around long enough to stretch, almost running from the grounds at the stares lingering on her back when she was done.

 

Spending the day gardening as Luna’s spirit sat with her, talking about plants and laughing softly about how wonky her first few tries at making snakes came out, her attention was caught when Luna nodded at a Marcharden that had stepped from the trees hesitantly. “You have a visitor, dear.”

Hloirëa looked up, brushing the hair out of her face, and she blinked at the blond man that looked like Haldir- if not for the way his jaw was slightly more square-shaped. “What can I do for you?”

“Lady Galadriel wished me to tell you that Mithrandir has returned, the brown Istari at his side.”

“Oh! Lovely!” Scrambling up and then brushing off her hands hastily, she looked at where Luna came to stand by her. “I have to go, two of my friends returned.” 

Reaching out to put a hand on her shoulder, the contact slightly chilling but still appreciated, Luna smiled. “I understand. Call on me when you need it.” Then pressing a kiss to her cheek, the woman faded away.

Turning back, she started to walk as she picked the dirt from her nails and then ran a wordless cleaning charm over them. “What is your name?”

“Orophin, my Lady.”

“Are you related to Haldir?” At his look, she gestured to her face vaguely and then just felt like an idiot, looking away. “You look alike. Apologies if I’m overstepping my boundaries, I’m still adjusting to your culture.”

The man was silent for a moment. “Haldir is my elder brother.”

Hloirëa nodded slightly, slipping into a temporary mask of apathy as she did her best to ignore how awkward she felt. Steps measured by the beat of her heart, she focused on moving and getting to the main hall, back straight as she let herself escape to thoughts about her garden.

Stiffening when a figure stepped in front of her before she could even fully move into the hall, she almost sagged in relief when Rhadagast looked at her in vague concern. “Are you sick?” He got up in her space, prying open her mouth and then looking in her ears. “Not sick. Possessed?”

“What- No!” Laughing, she batted him away, looking at him in fond amusement. “I’m neither sick nor possessed, Aiwendil.”

“He is concerned, as you looked quite tense walking here.” Gandalf leaned against his staff, reaching out to brush some dirt off her nose. “I have not seen you that tense since you were ordered to fight in the war.”

Her scowl was prickly, brushing his hand away, and then stalking past both of them. “I am not tense, I was thinking.”

“Wonderful! Perhaps that thinking has something to do with returning with me? I do need someone to help watch the bees.” Radagast smiled at her, as doe-eyed as the old man could be.

Gandalf hit the brown Istari with his staff, huffing. “You two would hide away until the End of Arda if I was not around.”

Chuckling as she sat down, she smiled at Radagast, voice a mock whisper. “Maybe.”

They traded exaggerated winks as the grey Istari sighed heavily. “I brought back the tools and materials you requested, though I admit I overheard that you acquired the ability to summon spirits and am much more curious about that than anything I have seen.”

“I’d be more than happy to translate, but they’re not always as well-behaved as I am, so I usually call on them near my garden in the woods.” 

“Well-behaved? Surely they cannot be worse than the dwarves- why not have them sit with us?”

Hloirëa sent Gandalf a faint smile, shaking her head. “Another time, Olórin.”

The two Istari sent each other quizzical looks she pretended not to see, Radagahst leaning forward to squint at her. “Are you sure you’re not possessed? You’re acting stiffer than usual.”

She sighed, waving her hand. “I’m chafing slightly against the rules, but I’ll get used to them in time. Believe it or not, but I’d rather not be set on fire like in the witch trials.”

“Hloirëa, what are you talking about?”

Leaning back in her chair, she brought a hand up to pinch the bridge of her nose, closing her eyes so she didn’t have to look at them. “Cultural differences, I guess. I’m used to being physically affectionate but apparently, that’s practically scandalous here and it’s just… hard to get used to.”

Radagast frowned. “I thought you told Yavanna that where you came from children could die if not held enough when born.”

“That’s a rare case, but often children that didn’t get enough positive touch growing up were stunted in their growth and often had trouble socializing- like talking to other people and fitting in.” Her voice was soft as she poked at her food. “Positive touch is equated as affection and my species’ brains cope with stress. However, that’s not the point. The point is I would rather not be set on fire for being accused of having an affair with Galadriel or other such ridiculousness, so I am abstaining from touch.”

“And why would you do that?”

Looking up, she sent Gandalf a dry look. “It’s called adapting, dear friend.”

The man laughed softly, shaking his head and reaching over to put a hand on her shoulder. “Yes, it is not common for Eru’s children to be as physically expressive, but that does not mean you must abandon your culture for another’s. Galadriel, Elrond, Radagast, and I have gotten used to you- don’t you think that we would tell you if it bothered us?”

“Hloirëa.” Galadriel met her eyes from a few seats down, silver eyes kind. “Whatever was said, put it from your mind. There is no such rule and though I would be conscientious of outright hugging strangers, there is no reason not to show affection in the way you were taught with those that are willing.”

“I guess that makes sense.” Her eyes fell to her plate, pushing a small tomato fruit around with a sad smile. “I will keep that in mind, thank you.”

With a put-out-upon huff, Gandalf pulled her into a hug, patting her back even if his voice was a mock grumble. “Ridiculous woman.”

Her laugh was bright, patting his back as the sharpness in her chest eased. “Crotchety old man.”

 

The next day she was back at the training grounds doing pushups when a pair of boots stopped by her.

Putting a knee down and looking up at Haldir, she shifted so she was sitting, giving him her attention. “Back to playing messenger?”

“Wondering if you’d explain to me the reason for the different sort of training you do.” Moving to fold his outer leathers over a stone bench off to the side, he smiled faintly. “If you will have me as a student, that is.”

“Of course. I’m in the middle of my workout, so you’re welcome to join me if you wish.” Watching him do push-ups easily with only a few minor form adjustments, they moved to the pull-up bar and showed him how she held her hands and legs, before waving him forward.

He had trouble with doing more than a few, the frown on his lips making her laugh as she explained the different muscle groups and how each exercise trained another set- some of the muscle groups unable to be reached with just repetitive sword fighting like how they were currently training.

Eventually, that led to her spending a little while setting up an obstacle course like the Aurors had in a large gym- except using the trees and different wood markers. In turn, he introduced her to his other younger brother, Rúmil, and a few of the other marchwardens currently training, who had been watching from the side seeming hesitant to butt in.

Hloirëa shook each of their hands, smile small but genuine, and by the time they went to dinner they were laughing and teasing each other about the training.

It felt good- how the DA was supposed to have stayed.

Like how the Aurors should have been.

 

“I hear that you are submitting the Marchwardens to the same torture you put yourself through.” Gandalf smiled at her faintly the next morning as she feasted on the rich fruit that the elves seemed to have in spades.

Spearing a berry from her bowl of fruit, she gave him a playful glare. “It is not torture, Mithrandir, it is called strength training. The muscles are a part of the body that can get stronger through use and there are more of them than one might think. With my training, the Marchwardens of Lothlórien will be able to evade enemies better, work together to fight in hand-to-hand combat smoother, and be unpredictable in their movements and attacks.” 

The grey Maiar only smiled at her fondly. “Is it a habit to try to help with every problem you see or is that just your mission on Arda?”

“A friend used to ask me that.” Hloirëa’s smile turned sardonic, thinking of the violent way Melkor had always reacted to the stories of how she grew up. Then shaking her head, she smiled at Gandalf, standing as she finished her meal. “I’m sure that it’s a product of being trained to always sacrifice myself for others, but I don’t particularly think it a bad trait, as Death can be just as kind as it is cruel.”

Hloirëa had little thought with what she wanted to do, mostly wandering the hallways, and she found herself sitting on one of the lower balconies with her legs dangling off the edge. Her feet swung in the air like she used to do late at night sitting in the astronomy tower, except now the wind sang softly with voices in her ears, smelling faintly sweet with the elvish magic.

“Are you going to fight with Ada against the big spiders?” 

Turning in surprise, she found a small elfling with long blonde hair and big eyes staring at her. “I- what?”  

The elfling moved to sit down next to her, looking at her as if she was something he’d never seen before. “Why don’t you wear shoes? And why do your eyes glow? And why don’t you have a crown?” The big eyes turned almost accusing. “Lady Galadriel has a crown.”

She figured that answering the questions would be better than gaping, as she was currently doing, so she spoke up softly. “I like to feel the ground beneath my feet, my eyes glow because I can do magic, I don’t have a crown because no one’s made me one, and I don’t know what spiders you’re talking about.” 

  “Magic?” The little boy seemed to puzzle over that a second but then brightened. “And- and the spiders are evil! That’s why Ada’s going to go kill them!”

Used to the insistently questioning nature of children and not smelling any fear, she just smiled fondly. “Well, I bet your Ada’s the coolest, going to kill all those big bad spiders... I don’t much like spiders, do you?”

“They’re ugly.” The little elfling made a face.

Chuckling, she slowly stood up, holding out her hand. “That they are. Now, little one, where are you supposed to be?”

The small child pouted, even if he scrambled up and took her hand. “I don’t want to go back.” Then his eyes lit up with what she knew was an idea. “You should teach me how to do that thing you did, where you jumped from the balconies like a frog!”

“Maybe when you get older. But for now, we need to find-”

“Alaric!” A small girl barreled out of seemingly nowhere to fling herself at the boy. “Why’d you leave? Me and Faelar had to come find-... Wait, where did Faelar go?”

Hloirëa just reached over to tap the girl’s shoulder and smile as nicely as she could. “Excuse me, but where did you say you came from? And where did you last see your friend?”

Eyes widening, the small elfling looked to the boy and then beamed up at her. “I dunno, but Faelar was that way when I saw him last.” Then she pointed off down a hallway grabbing her other hand and starting to essentially pull her along. “I like your hair. It’s pretty! And red!”

“Yeah, it’s red alright.” Her tone was absent, looking around and when she spotted a child wandering a side-hallway, she felt immediately relieved. “Small one! Child!” 

Seeing them and bounding over, the slightly older elfling smiled at her excitedly. “You’re Lady Hloirëa! You’re the best! I heard that my older brother copied one of your fighting styles and he beat one of the swordsmanship instructors for the first time! He was so excited!”

Smiling at that, though she’d have to apologize to whoever it was that had been beaten, she crouched down slightly to look in the boy’s eyes. “I’m glad that your brother is doing so well, but can you tell me how to get back to wherever you three wandered off from? I’m sure whoever was watching you is very worried.”

“I took so many turns… I don’t remember.” 

“Okay... well, I’m still not familiar with all of these halls, so how about we stay right here? I’m sure that someone would find us pretty quickly if-”

“We should go to the river!” The first elfling interrupted her with a bright exclamation. “They would know to look for us there because we always want to play by the river! And, it’s sunny out and it’s almost midsummer so the water will be really warm!”

Hloirëa tried to stay strong, as staying in one place was the best idea in the situation, but she caved when three sets of puppy-dog eyes were directed at her. Sighing softly, she nodded reluctantly. “Fine, but if they don’t find us before dinner then we’re coming right back here.”

Three beaming smiles were directed at her. 

“Faelar!” 

Her exasperation rose when four more little elflings ran towards them, all looking equally excited when they both saw her and were told the group was going to the river. However she only guided them towards the stairs she knew led to the lower level, answering questions as they all tried to cling to her like little monkeys.

It was strange, not seeing anyone as they made their way to the river, but she knew that someone would find them eventually so she wasn’t too worried. When they got there, making them take off their shoes and roll up their pant-legs, she sat by the shore as they laughed and danced around in the water while splashing each other.

“Lady Hloirëa?” A small girl with big blue eyes moved to the shore where her feet were in the stream, putting small hands on her knees. “Can you do magic? I hear from my Amil that you’re magic like the old gray man.”

Laughing at that description of Gandalf, she nodded. “I can indeed do magic.”

“Oh, can you do magic for us? Please please please please?” Instantly she was overrun with small elflings clambering towards her, forgetting about the river.

“If you insist…” Waving her hand to dry them off, she then smiled secretively and held out her hand to the river. Feeling the ebb and flow of the water, the magic within Arda waiting to be pulled and shaped, she twisted her hand so the water floated up and shaped itself into what she remembered of Ron with his big smile and floppy hair.

The water-Ron then grinned and bowed to the small elflings, her magic making another figure, this of Lavender. Meeting hands, the two started to dance around the river as if it were a ballroom floor and they were at their wedding after the war.

Of course Ron and Lavender hadn’t lasted long, as she’d found that marriages during war-times were usually rushed... but the children didn’t need to know that.

Here her best friend could be happy.

One of the small girls grabbed the boy that had first found her and they laughed as they tried to mimic the steps the two magical figures took, the other children following them in their fun.

But one child was left- the smallest of the group, so she stood and held out her hand with a slight bow. “May I have this dance?”

“Yes!”

Smiling widely and taking his hands, she lifted the elfling so he was on her hip, spinning them around in the graceful waltz Draco had demanded she learn. Humming as she twirled, she lifted the elfling from under his armpits and then twirled faster, lips a wide smile as he giggled.

Finally, the dancing slowly stopped and they gathered around her as she sat back down. “Tell us a story?”

“A story… Hmmm...” Thinking of the stories that Teddy used to like, she settled on Brave, starting to tell the story of a wild princess that showed the world she could be great on her own with just a bow and determination.  

Slowly, the young elflings started to fall asleep and before she knew it, she had a lapful of small children all piled on each other like little kittens.

Hloirëa smiled softly, even if she was beyond confused as to why the hell no one had found them yet. And with a deep sigh, she cast her magic out in a perimeter ward, closing her eyes so she could meditate.

It was with a slightly uncomfortable buzz that she heard the sound of soft footsteps and when they got close enough she had her scythe in hand, held to the throat of- “Haldir?”

“Ah, I thought you were resting.” The man smiled, eyes bright when he looked at the small ones still curled up on/around her. “The whole Palace has been in great worry about the elflings and yet here they are safe and resting. How, if I may ask, did you keep them entertained? They’re all notorious for trying to escape their caretakers.”

“Magic. It’s a wonderful thing.” Then smiling at the other Marchwardens who approached on light feet, she slowly waved her hands to levitate the elflings, moving to collect all their shoes and put them back on the respective tiny feet. “Though I might need some help getting them back to where they stay, as I do not know where that is.”

The Marchwardens helping to carefully carry the children, she yawned slightly, shaking her head and waving it off when a few of the elves looked her way with concern. Though when she laid down in her massive bed she’d barely used, she was more than happy to let her body disappear into the darkness for a bit.

Chapter Text

It was a bright and early morning sitting down next to Galadriel that the woman turned to her with the face that usually beheld awkward conversations. “Hloirëa… I didn’t know you would join us this morning.”

“I was feeling like seeing your pretty face.” Then with a raised eyebrow, she studied where the woman was now trying to mask all her emotions from appearing on her face. “May I ask why you don’t want me here before I decide if I want to leave?”

With a small put-out sigh, the silver-haired elf turned slightly in her seat to fully look at her. “Hloirëa, I have something I didn’t fully explain to you. When you came to these woods with Mithrandir, I told you that many of the different Valar are prayed to for advice or guidance, yes?”

“Yes...”

“Well, you see, just as the smithers are dedicated to Aulë... The Marchwardens, when going into battle, sing to... you.”

It was with great difficulty she stayed in her seat and didn’t just return to her bed, feeling as if a full few days had just passed in the span of the last thirty seconds. Instead, though, she just took a deep breath and shook her head. “You’re funny.” She turned to her plate, stabbing the fruit on her plate more violently than even she expected, watching with absent horror as the plate broke. 

“Hloirëa... you are the one other than Mandos who presides over the passing of souls, so when they leave for battle they pray to you in the hope that death is kind to them in battle.”

Setting down her fork, she brought her hands up to steeple before her lips, willing herself not to do anything rash. “I do not think you understand, Galadriel. Not telling me this was because you fear my reaction, which is understandable because I’m slightly freaking out-... But to have people praying to me and-” Then a realization kicked her in the face. “They’re going to hunt the Great Spiders. They’re going and it’s today because you held off on telling me.”

“Hloirëa-”

But she was already out of her seat, running for the door. Stopping just long enough to see where Haldir was leading the armored Marchwardens down the long hallway, she shook her head and shadow-traveled to her room, grumbling as she did.

Hearing the faint hum of singing even from a story or two up, she quickly dressed and plated together her amour.

Finishing just as the last note was held, she shadow-traveled to the doors, pushing them open. The room turned to look at her but she stared straight at Galadriel. “I would not have those that pray to me let their words be in vain. Though I may not be as great about sending messages in the form of dreams, I think that riding to battle with my chosen would work just as well, don’t you?”

The cheer that arose from the Marchwardens had her grinning, even as it fell silent as Galadriel stood. “Thank you, my Lady. I will feel better knowing that my people are in your hands when fighting. Oh… And make sure to say hello to Thranduil for me.”

“Thranduil?” She swore her eye twitched.

“Did you not hear the song?” Galadriel looked to be withholding a smirk. “It is to the Elvenking’s aid that my people ride.”

With a mutter under her breath about rather letting the King get eaten by spiders, she forced a smile, dipping her head. “Well, then let him suffer my presence, as I would not forsake my friends for even a stubborn king.”

“Our Lady joins us!” Haldir grinned at her, raising his bow. “We march to Mirkwood victorious already!”

And march they did, though she paused when she felt a presence and beamed when her thestral bounded up to her, having not wandered this far from the palace in quite a while. However, she soon found herself gaping when a whole herd of the black-winged skeleton horses followed not far behind. 

“Oh, my dear… you’ve been busy.” Then with a grin to Haldir, she raised an eyebrow. “How do you feel about riding to Mirkwood rather than marching?”

 

It was after a fit of laughter when the first man they’d seen fainted that she had to explain what exactly thestrals were and how their magical properties worked. And though some of the Marchwardens she could tell were a bit wary of the creatures, they got to the edge of Mirkwood in record time.

Haldir halted the company, to which they dismounted (and she told the herd to stay close to the edge of the forest but not enter), following a path that looked to be more than a bit worn.

Feeling a sort of silky sickness trying to reach out for the group, she carefully wove a spell of clear-headedness around their group, frowning at the trees whose song got weaker the further in they went.

She hated spiders.

Seeing one of the elves reach out to try to touch a web in curiosity, she conjured a staff, stilling his hand before he could. “There is no better way to alert the creatures we are here and in the middle of their territory if they do not smell us already.”  

When she saw this sink into the faces of the group, she nodded solemnly and waved them on, giving a glance to Haldir who only bowed his head. Continuing down the small path, she could have cried a few tears of joy when she saw the doors of Mirkwood and the bridge in the distance in. 

Stepping to the side to let the others pass, Orophin taking up the back, she eyed the forest that seemed much too quiet for her liking. Wondering why she hadn't seen the movement of Eru's light in the Great Spiders said to inhabit the woods, she had a terrible thought as she felt something the opposite of the elves' light moving towards them like a rolling wave. She hadn’t sensed the beasts because they weren’t of Eru’s light, they had been born of Ungoliant, who had been made in her darkness by accident. 

Sword of darkness appearing in her right hand, she concentrated on the memories of her and Sirius laughing together, letting a silvery sword of light that reflected the same energy as a Patronus solidify in her hand. “They don’t want us to be able to get through those gates! Go!”

“My Lady-”  Orophin paused even as the others started to run, as he could probably see she wasn't turning to run.

“Go, Orophin!” Her voice was an order, leaving no room for argument and she could have sighed in relief when she felt him retreat to the safety of the elven stronghold so they could regroup with the Mirkwood Rangers.

Backing up slowly as the wave of blackness rolled forward, she withheld a shiver as it reached her and she could hear the soft scuttling clicks of the beasts filling the trees around her.

Her foot hit the stone of the white bridge right as a massive spider crept from the trees to loom over her, its massive fangs making her still even as its eyes like black marbles were fixed on a place behind her. She watched it start to speak in a half hiss, venom dripping to the stone and starting to bubble where it touched. “Void mother, let us feed on the pets you keep. Let your children feast on their squishy insides... Feed us the elves and we will love you once more...”

“I am not your mother.” Holding up her swords, she snarled. “You see… I hate spiders.” Then with a lunge, she plunged her sword of light into the spider’s head, grinning viciously when she heard the beast let out a scream of pain as it died. 

The others, enraged by their leader’s death, started down from the trees, coming at her like a wave. 

Sending her blade of darkness out and clenching her jaw when it did only a little damage, she dispersed it and fought harder with the sword of light. Spinning the blade of light out, kicking a spider in the underside of the head and pulling one of its legs to shove into the maw of another trying to bite her, she caught the returning blade as it cut the two spiders in half.

Backing up slightly to try to bottleneck them, she cut through the line coming at her.

Hloirëa knew that should the Marchwardens of Lothlórien and the Rangers of Mirkwood join forces there would be little stopping them as they cleared out the forest, but the spiders had seemed to realize this too and were attacking with the hope they could take out some of their foes before they could regroup.

Backing every once and a while so the spiders had to follow her, she felt a dark shape rise behind her, probably having crawled along the underside of the bridge, but a wave of light broke the gates and she felt an arrow cut through the air with a whoosh of air. Not looking back as the spider behind her fell, she smiled while she sliced the leg off a beast, whacking another with the limb as she stabbed another spider in the head. “Good timing.”

Running feet came at her and she crouched down as Haldir lept over her, onto the spider she had her sword in, firing an arrow into the next one. “We would never leave you to fight alone if we knew that you were not protected, my Lady.” Then with a sharp whistle, the man drew his long daggers and she kneeled as the Marchwardens hurtled her in following their leader.

Her smile was pleased, taking a moment to rest before standing and looking back at where the rangers of Mirkwood were watching the Marchwardens put their new parkour skills to good use. “Come, my friends. We have to catch up before they start having fun with this, Mandos forbid.”

“You-you're-”

“If you are still stuck on who you fight with, stay here, as you will only get my companions killed.” Shaking her head, she then waved her hand to set the spider corpses in her way alight with fire that quickly consumed them and left only ash behind, running for where she heard the sounds of battle.

Jumping into the fray, stabbing a spider in its ugly maw just as it was about to leap onto Rúmil, she then shadow-walked to a branch up above, leaping to another branch and killing a spider about to descend from above. 

Feeling a beast behind her, she spun only to find an arrow had found its target before she could. Eyes spotting a dark-haired elf wearing the uniform of an upper ranger of Mirkwood, she nodded once and then turned to swing to the next branch, kicking a spider off and stabbing another though. “Maybe a place of height would be of advantage to you, Haldir? You’re the best shot I know and you’d be able to lay down cover fire.”

“My Lady, if I could get up to the treetops, I would, but as of right now I’m not sure-”

Shadow walking to his side, she wrapped an arm around his waist with a small smirk. “Then hold on tight.” And with a small laugh at the slight falter in his steps, she pulled him through the shadows to the treetops. “You’re welcome.”

Haldir just smiled faintly (the equivalent of a grin as she’d found) and drew his bow again, eyes sharp as he shot down the coming spiders to give the troops a bit of room to breathe. “My thanks, Lady Hloirëa.”

Smiling, she jumped from the treetop, stabbing a spider on the way down and landing to pin her sword though another as she landed. Drawing her sword of light up, slick with black blood, she looked to Orophin. “Need a lift?”

“If you would be so kind, my Lady.” Having no problem coming forward to grasp her upper arm, she moved them to the other side of the group, stabbing the darkness that rose to greet them. 

Dropping down again, this time swinging down from the tree branches, she dropped at the front of the Marchwardens. Sword turning into a scythe, she ran for the oncoming hoard of beasts, jumping atop some of them so she could land right in the middle of the darkness. Feeling the spiders try to bite through her armor, she drew in her magic, shaping the light of her good memories- Sirius, Remus, Luna with chamomile tea, Ginny laughing, Hermione and her dancing, young Elrond smiling- into sharp spikes before sending them out in an explosive wave. 

Grinning when the spears of light skewered the beast to the trees, she then turned to the wave of black that was surrounding her, writhing as if waiting for the right moment to attack.

“Lady Hloirëa!” The cry of Haldir from a treetop far above was sharp and almost afraid, but it was distant, too far away.

That was okay, the fewer people around, the less she had to worry about her magic hurting anyone.

And as the sides of the wave of darkness enveloped her, she closed her eyes, focusing. If she had somehow given life to Ungoliant by accident in the depths of the primordial void, then these spiders held a bit of her in them… and it was time she took that back. Reaching out with her darkness, she latched onto every spark of darkness she could find, seeming to make the spiders stronger for just a moment before she pulled .

Like being unmade, the darkness was pulled back to her in a rush of power, whereas the wave of dark shapes around her seemed to turn to dust.

Looking across the forest floor at the elves as the rest of the spiders crumpled to dust, she brushed herself off. “Well... that was fun, but now I feel as if I need a bath.” She eyed the spider web covered trees. “I know the forest does.”

“Lady Hloirëa, you’re alright.” Haldir slid from a nearby tree, a small but relieved smile on his face. “Thank the Valar.”

“The Valar accept your thanks.” With a quirk of her lips, she then turned away from the elves, raising her arms to the sky. Reaching her mind into the darkness, she sent a polite question to Manwë. And when the sky rumbled a second later, she looked back to the elves. “You might want to get out of the forest. This will be quite the storm.”

Watching the Marchwardens turn and jog for the bridge, the Rangers following them a second later, she smirked at the sky.

“Give me your best, big guy.”  

And with a loud crack of lightning flitting across the sky, she felt the spiderwebs and filth of the spiders be washed from the trees with the pouring rain, her magic reaching out to wake them lightly. Smiling when the forest seemed to shake itself off the melting spiderwebs, the leaves of the trees parted in some areas to let light filter down like it did in Lothlórien. 

Manwë’s rain and her magic cleaned the land of its corruption, making the ground and soil wake up again, the forest seemed to ring with a song as if thanking her for helping it heal.

“You’re welcome. Now no more letting in dark creatures. Except me. And maybe my thestrals, as they won’t be of harm to you.” Soaked to the bone, she still felt satisfied when a clear happy tone rang out around her. Patting a tree as she trudged to the bridge, she grinned at her company. “Well… I got a shower.”

Rúmil snorted, turning away from the forest. “My Lady, you look like you almost drowned.”

“And you look like you got covered in tar, so I think I’m the one in better condition here.” Rolling her eyes, she started to take off her amour and hang it on a nearby tree. Unbraiding her hair so it would dry easier, letting her hair hang down her back, she spelled most of the water out of her clothes, even if they were still slightly damp. 

“Don’t tell me you plan on going like that to meet the King.” Haldir raised an eyebrow at where she was barefoot and in her leather under-armor. 

She just winked at him, making sure he knew that was exactly what she planned. “What is he going to do? Refuse me from his halls after I had to ask for Manwë’s help to purge his forest of sickness?”

 

Thranduil and her stared at each other from their opposite sides of the great gilded hall. “No. You are not allowed in my halls.” The King turned up his nose slightly. “Had Lady Galadriel told me she was harboring such a creature I wouldn’t have asked for her help.”

Haldir stepped forward, his brothers on either side of him, but she held up her hand with a small shake of her hand. 

Slowly, she stalked forward towards the king. “It’s funny… you speak to me as if I am merely what I look like- some small girl without a thought in her brain.” 

Not even bothering with the guards as they came forward to stop her, she just passed right through them as her darkness blurred the edges of her form and then solidified. 

“I have been underestimated my whole existence, Elvenking, for every reason you could think of. Because of my gender, my hair, my eyes, my scars, my height, my birthright, my blood...” She stopped right before the sitting man, putting her hands down on the arms of the gilded throne and looking the man right in the eyes, the dangerous hiss of parseltongue edging her normally soft words. “But there is one truth to my existence. One that was carved into me by a madman right after he slaughtered my family…. Do you want to hear it?”

The smell of rust and sour limes poured off the man even if he sat with a face of stone, raising a single prim eyebrow. “And what is that?”

Her voice was just above a whisper, leaning in so her cheek almost touched his. “I find those that pretend to hate me so much… usually, just fear me. And though I might have been created into the monster you fear I am by the hateful words of others, I have no love for blood, nor the smell of fear. So I will leave your halls, but you will either have to feel that fear coil around your lungs every time you walk outside to see your beautiful new forest or you will have to learn to accept me, darkness and all.”

Feeling the man give a small shiver, unspeaking and unmoving, she slowly pulled back to see the hate still in his eyes.

Then she turned on her heel and walked for the doors. 

“My Lady?” Haldir stepped in her path, eyes concerned. 

Giving Haldir a shadow of a smile, she reached out to place her hand lightly on his shoulder. “Rest. Eat. If the Elvenking wishes not to see me then I will make peace with heading back early. Perhaps I will go on another adventure- this time supervised- with the little ones down to the river.”

It was with great reluctance in their eyes that she saw the Marchwardens nod, letting her pass. 

Humming a song under her breath as she walked down the aisle of the Great Hall, letting her magic weave her hair up into a messy bun, she yawned softly behind her hand at the amount of magic she’d used and started to push open the large doors to the hall.

Feeling strange darkness, the doors were pushed open and she was jumped by a massive spider, feeling it bite into her shoulder as she fell. 

Time seemed to slow.

Her shoulder burned, spreading like a forest fire through her veins. Her back hit the ground and he gasped at the pain as her head hit the stone with the impact.

Pulling back, the spider turned its beady eyes on a nearby woman with a tray of food in her hands.

The tray fell to the floor.

Someone yelled something.

The spider lunged.

Everything smelled like blood and sweat- 

And then she was standing in front of the elvish woman, inhaling sharply as she felt the sharp pincers sink into her stomach. Raising her hand, she tightened her fist and felt her magic darkness twist, a black blood-slicked spike of stone rising from the floor itself to impale the creature.

It shrieked, but let her go.

Slick with blood, she felt her knees give, the woman she’d saved gripping at her and saying something but everything was slow and hazy even as the venom burned through her veins.

With a silvery light, the figure of Luna Lovegood moved to kneel next to her as if an angel, brushing her hair to the side gently. “I bet it hurts more to smell their fear than having your stomach ripped open... but then that was why you threw yourself in the way, didn’t you?”

“Lu- Luna...” She could feel numbness slowly spread through her body, even if her hand reached out to try to clutch at the woman, trying to keep her there even if she had to claw at her to do it. “Luna don’t- don’t leave me-... I… I never....” Her throat felt as if she was choking, lungs not allowing her air as the poison wreaked havoc on her body.

“I know. You never got to say goodbye.” Feeling a gentle kiss press to her forehead, Luna’s voice was a whisper in the background.

A tear dripped down her cheek, shining, as the venom choked her with her blood, her vision spotting and her grip getting weaker.

“...sleep now, Hazel.”

 

“-must have known-... last of its kind-... driven by rage to attack-...”

Words drifted to her in the darkness of the shadows, but it was as if through a fog. 

She knew that her body was going to heal slowly if not fully in the shadows, but right now with people around her and hands doing something to the wound on her neck, it went against all her instincts to just disappear .

“But-... recover from the-...”

“-not a high-... chances-... go give the news-...”

Pushing aside her instincts, she let herself fully disappear into the shadows, feeling her wounds start to knit together faster and the venom burn away under her magic’s flair. There was peace and bliss in the dark, but panicked voices made her realize even if she hurt, she was healed enough and it was time to go back.

Opening her eyes to an intricate wood design above her, she let out a soft groan of pain at the wound, having only really healed it to where she wasn’t in a critical state. “Owww.” Her voice was a pained mutter. “This is why I hate spiders- they have no respect for being predictable.”

A long breath of air and the side of the bed sunk as Haldir moved to sit by her, leaning in to press his forehead to hers. “My Lady. You were bleeding out and then you just disappeared-” His voice sounded almost choked. “The healer was about to send me to tell the others you had passed onto the other side of the void and…”

“Ah, dear, I don’t die that easily.” Running a thumb across his cheek gently, fondly, she smiled. “Plus, leaving my chosen to ride back from victory alone would just be bad manners.”

Haldir smiled faintly at her words but started to frown again when she started to get up from the bed. “My Lady, you aren’t healed enough to-” When she just showed him where her stomach was red but mostly closed up and not bleeding, his eyebrows raised but he helped her up. “You heal quickly.”

“Only when I retreat to the shadows and let the darkness heal me.”

 They walked slowly, her arm over his shoulder even though he had to lean down slightly to support her. It was a sight when Haldir led her to the hall- once again full of elves, as it seemed the day had receded to night- and the group of Marchwardens that were sitting in somber silence caught sight of her, springing up with immediate excitement.

Accepting the small touches of reassurance, the hugs from some, she laughed brightly. “It’s like you think I would leave you! And have you break your necks trying to learn to jump from the balconies? Galadriel would drag me back from the void just to reprimand me herself!”

“Oh and we all know that Lady Galadriel’s the only one Lady Hloirëa listens to.” Orophin grinned at her widely. “Not like our wild Lady ignores the rules of wearing shoes or those that look under the age of majority not being able to pick up weapons!”

The company all gave soft chuckles and she smothered her smile behind a false glare. “I could knock you to your back without weapons, Orophin, I just use them so you can sleep at night.”

A few others ‘oohing’ softly, the second Head of the Marchwardens just smiled fondly. “I’m glad you’re alright, my Lady. Haldir here would have cried all the way home if you weren’t and that would be quite a pathetic sight, even for him.”

“That’s nonsense.” Haldir punched his brother in the shoulder, cheeks a bit flushed.

“Lady Hloirëa.”  

The chatter died, her friends' faces turning to stone as she turned to meet the gaze of the Elvenking. “King Thranduil. Excuse my company’s noise, we will soon be out of your hall for good and if you want, I will not return. So if you would give us just a moment more, we will-”

“Stay.”

Turning wide eyes to the King, she blinked. “Sorry, what the fuck ?”

Lips pursing slightly, the tall man studied her for a moment and she just now realized how small she stood in comparison to him… and most of the elves, really. 

(Not that she’d been relatively tall as a kid, what with being starved and such… but she was still almost a head shorter than him.)  

Thranduil then brought up his hand to his heart in a fist. “You have proven yourself by putting yourself between death and one of my subjects. Stay and rest for the night and ride when the sun is upon the sky.”

“We accept your offer of hospitality thankfully.” It was barely that she stopped herself from blinking owlishly at him, just forcing herself to accept it. “I hope that you like your new forest then, after all, Elvenking, now that it is not haunted by guilt.” And with a small, barely-there smile, she brought her hand to her chest as well. 

Haldir let her do this, then turned them to the table the Marchwardens had occupied before, as if not letting the Elvenking offer any more things she’d feel as if she had to accept. Giving him a small smile, she let herself sit with the company and just enjoy their easy acceptance.

Though when she laughed brightly at the bad jokes they told and told worse jokes or little stories about the ways she and Galadriel had entertained themselves while waiting for the men to rest in the War of Wrath (featuring stacking rocks on one man’s forehead silently and judging how some of the men slept with their eyes open), the other Rangers around them seemed to join in with less trepidation.

Orophin and her were in their daily sniping contest about how she looked like she was barely old enough to be holding a sword, when Rúmil finally sighed, seeming he’d had enough of their bickering. “I would assume the Lady that lived before even Eru has a right to look as she pleases.”

“Yes, but she is tiny!”

“I stopped aging physically in my eighteenth year. It was the first time I died, but my race, we are not supposed to come back. And, well, I did.” She speared a piece of fruit that looked interesting and popped it in her mouth with a crooked half-smile. “I’ve been of this same body since before my world collapsed and I became one with the void, but it is the same one I was born into, so if I could choose to be an old man like Mithrandir… Well, I think that’d be fun, wouldn't you?”

The roundish grape-looking fruit tasted like strawberries and she speared another, this time looking at it closer, cutting it open to see what it looked like on the inside.

Orophin chuckled from across the table. “Ha! I told you the Lady was small for a reason!”

Fascinated with the soft blue insides of the strange fruit, she hummed, poking at the seeds and deciding to take a few back to grow in her garden. Her voice was absent-minded. “I mean, my small stature is mostly because I was starved as a child, though I guess my lack of aging didn’t help too much either.” She nudged Haldir. “What’s this fruit called? I haven’t seen it in Galadriel’s woods.”

There was a moment of pause and she glanced up to look at the man whose lips were pressed into a flat unhappy line, though he answered slowly. “It’s native further to the East, but it is commonly known as the name given to it by the west- Luinyáva.”

“Blue fruit.” Her eyes crinkled as she grinned, continuing to pick out the seeds so she might grow some of her own. “How... creative.”

Rúmil cleared his throat. “May we talk about your earlier comment- You were starved!?”

Hloirëa looked up and nodded slightly. “You always poke at me about my small stature, I thought I might finally explain to you why that is. I didn’t say it to get pity from you, only to explain.”

The blond elf blinked slowly. “But that is- It is an outrage! You- Why-... you said you were a child?”

“I had to have been created some way, so yes, at one point I was a child. And when I was a child I did not have the power I do now, so I could not have done anything to help myself.” It was hard to admit, her focus returning to the task of dissecting her fruit. “I shouldn’t have mentioned it.”

“But who would do that to a child?” Orophin’s voice was soft with hurt. “What evil lived in the hearts of your people to do such a thing.”

Looking up sharply, she gripped at the knife in her hand. “Evil is a very harsh word to use in this case, Orophin, and I do not appreciate the slander on my race.” When he drew back slightly, murmuring an immediate apology, she took a deep breath and let it out in a long sigh. Her gaze softened, setting the knife down so she could rub at her face. “My race was not altogether evil, but I can admit that neither were we good. Like the race of men here on Arda, we lived in shades of grey and though there were those of light, there were also certain groups and people that had fallen to evil.”

A hand moved to rest on her shoulder, the weight of Haldir's palm comforting something agitated in her chest. “And those that raised you?”

“Though it was not uncommon to have children treated as if they were a hardship instead of a gift… those that raised me made it clear they did not want me to continue living and if I died in my sleep they would not be unhappy.” Her voice was stiff, her magic pulsing under her skin for a moment with bitterness, but she shook it away after a moment, looking up to meet the eyes of her friends with a small smile. “I do not often miss my old world in comparison to Arda, just the people that I made my family.”

Haldir’s hand squeezed gently, looking at one of the Captains of the Mirkwood Rangers. “Have the Great Spiders been coming from Dol Guldur? If word is sent to Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn, we may be able to stray from our intended path to clear the ruins of the beasts.”

A dark-haired elf dipped his head, his hand coming up to his heart. “It would be much appreciated. King Thranduil may yet send us to help clear the sickness out for good.”

“I can ask.” Standing, she found her three Captains frowning slightly and smiled in amusement. “Do not worry about me. If I could convince Aulë to let me work in his forges, then I am sure that Thranduil will be easy to convince.”

Chapter Text

Thranduil didn’t smell as much like fear now, just a faint undertone that she could ignore and pass off as wariness. The man sat at the head table, legs crossed lazily at the knee with his foot pointed out as his frame draped elegantly across the throne of wood brambles. “You wish to ask me for reinforcements to clear out Dol Guldur, the last place where Sauron himself inhabited?”

Hloirëa nodded, hands clasped behind her back and back straight like she was used to standing before foreign dignitaries when she’d been the Ministry’s weapon. “If the sickness is burned away at its roots, it will have no way to keep growing.” Her nails curled into her palm slightly, thinking about the battlefield where she’d given up the last of her humanity, voice turning a bit more bitter. “Sometimes there is no other choice but to fight, knowing that if given the room that evil would take root as many times as it needs to kill all that is good.”

“Hmm.” The Elvenking waved to an empty seat next to him. “Sit with me.”

Looking at him and then bowing her head slightly, she walked around the long table, pursing her lips at the way the high elves stiffened as she walked behind them. Pulling out the chair, she sat down, looking at the bowl of stew that had been placed before the seat and then up at the king. “My thanks for the invitation and the company, Elvenking.” Picking up the shallow wooden spoon, she poked at the stew for a moment. “If I may ask, what exactly changed your fear to just mild wariness?”

“You begged.” When she paused at that, the man rested his chin in his hands and looked at her levelly. “When you were dying, you begged for that woman- the one of light- to stay with you. It was… surprisingly familiar.”

She looked away, nodding slightly. “I was once just as mortal as the men that roam this planet. I had family and friends just like me. Except I never got to say goodbye.” Her eyes closed, head bowing in grief. “Imagine closing your eyes for what felt like just a moment and opening them to find everything you’d loved was gone.”

Thranduil’s voice was a murmur. “I know the feeling well enough.” 

Hloirëa looked up at him with a sad smile. “Your wife?”

Some of the conversations around them seemed to drift off at that, the tension in the air thickening, but the elf only dipped his head. “I do not think I ever thanked you for letting me see her.”

“Am I to expect your pride will allow you to do so?” Her lips curved into something a bit more teasing.

“Am I to expect you will ever think you will recognize I am just as personable as Elrond?” 

That startled a laugh out of her, shaking her head. “Perhaps, but I have to warn you that Elrond and Galadriel are part of my family, as we have each other’s blood on our hands from the War of Wrath and that is not something easily replicated.”

Thranduil raised an eyebrow. “And yet Lady Galadriel’s Marchwardens treat you as an equal.”

“Oh, so I’m not allowed friends now?” Her quick grin was amused, drawing her legs up so she could cross them, leaning back in the chair so she could see him a bit better. “Does having power mean I cannot wish to be kind? Do you never talk to those around you for the sake of having pleasant company, because if so, then I am sorry.”

The man blinked in a way she knew was equivalent to him rolling his eyes. “Do not put such words in my lips. I have those I am friendly with, though none with such nerve to use such blatant sarcasm while sitting at my table."

Hloirëa took a spoonful of stew and sipped it while studying the man, finding it still a bit hot for her. Blowing on it softly, she sent the Elvenking a bland look. "Your choices then are to have me leave or accept that my sarcasm is just as much a part of me as my eyes are."

"It is not hard to part someone of their eyes."

"And yet mine will always grow back." Her murmur was amused as she finally tried the stew- something warm and almost familiar tasting that had her settling into the chair further, relaxing. It tasted like Rolf's homemade stew and she found a soft cloak of shadows curling around her shoulders, already sipping at another spoonful slowly as not to burn her tongue.

"What strange and yet simplistic mannerisms you have up close."

Doing her best not to tense and most likely failing, Hloirëa looked at the king out of the corner of her eyes, seeing that he was leaning back in his throne with his chin in his hand almost lazily- almost mockingly. Finishing the spoonful of soup and finding that its novelty had all but fled under the scrutiny of the man, she pushed the stew away slightly. "Thank you for the company but I think it is time for me to insist upon an answer. Shall I tell the others that we are making camp in the woods or will we be riding back to Lothlórien?"

Thranduil peered at her for a long moment and then smirked slightly in a way that got on her nerves. "Have word sent to the Lady Galadriel of your wish to enter Dol Guldur and when her reply is returned, you and your men will have the support of my people. For now, you will be given space in my kingdom to stay."

Frowning ever so slightly, as the time it would take to pass a letter to Galadriel and get a reply would be longer than she wanted to wait here, Hloirëa inclined her head ever so slightly. "If you insist."

"I do." Peering at her in thinly veiled interest as one would have for a mildly curious bug, the Elvenking grinned at her toothily. "And as for the time being, I think your company will be a refreshing change."

Humming, she stood. "Perhaps. I rather think in a few days one of us will be wishing to cut the other's tongue out… but maybe I am just pessimistic. Excuse me." Brushing a strand of hair behind her ear as she slid between the chairs, she started away without looking back.

Haldir met her with inquisitive eyes when she sat down next to him heavily. "An interesting conversation?"

She snorted softly, resting her cheek in her palm and closing her eyes. "He has taken a liking to poking me and seeing what will happen, finding amusement in making me uncomfortable, and for all my willpower it is working so far."

“I see.” Looking away and directing his eyes up to the head table for a moment, Haldir turned back with a slightly tight smile. “And for the quest to Dol Guldur?”

Hloirëa sighed faintly, sitting up and rolling back her shoulders to release some of the tension they held. “The Elvenking wants Galadriel’s approval of the idea before he provides us with backup.” Taking the spoon of Rúmil’s soup and rolling it between her fingers so it turned into a quill, she conjured a piece of parchment, transfiguring some nearby wine into ink. “So I will do as he wishes and send her a letter.” Dipping the nib into the ink, she started to scrawl out a simple message to Galadriel in elvish.

“Why do I feel as if you are using a loophole to counter his so-called ‘poking’ with similar behavior?”

Signing her name with a scrawl and a heart, she set the quill aside. Blowing gently over the letter to dry it, she folded it, whispering a weather-proofing spell over the paper before she grinned up at Haldir toothily. “Because you know me.” Standing with a chuckle when the elf sighed, she flicked her hair over her shoulder. “And anyway- he never said what method of travel the letter had to be sent by.”

Orophin’s snorted and murmured something lowly to Rúmil, but she was already striding across the hall to the main doors.

The guards at the doors of the hall eyed her a bit warily as she passed them, but she paid them no mind, slipping outside. It was a bit of a walk through the outer layers of the palace to the gate, but she didn’t mind it for the fresh air that met her when she walked out across the bridge to the forest.

Trees swaying in the wind happily, the sun shining through the green leaves and lighting the ground with golden light, she tilted her head back and breathed in the clean air.

There was a brush of darkness and then something light on her skin, making her startle- expecting a spider- but finding instead that a black butterfly with faint white markings around its wings was sitting gently on her shoulder. Her hand reached up slowly, letting it crawl onto her finger. “Oh, how pretty… Hello there.”

Glossy black wings fluttering slightly, she smiled as it took to the air up into the trees, a delighted sound of awe leaving her lips as she saw all sorts of black butterflies resting along the canopy. She could tell now that they had the same sort of darkness as the Thestrals- warmer and lighter than the spiders, like a black flame rather than a shard of dark crystal.

“The creatures were spotted emerging from the spots where the black ash of the spiders remained even after the rain.” An elf with piercing blue eyes stood slightly off to the side when she looked over, leaning against a tree with a familiar bow in his hands. In fact, the elf was faintly familiar in general.

Instead of dealing with whatever vague sense he was someone she should be paying attention to, she just nodded slightly, moving around the trees until she found one of the spots he had talked about- the ash from the spiders having crystallized into a cocoon. Her laugh was soft, thoughtful. “The basic laws of magic are that nothing can be created or destroyed permanently, only transferred in energy. Thus my will to destroy the creatures plaguing these woods must have only transferred the energy into creatures that would guard this place...” Her finger brushed the cocoon lightly before she pulled away and looked at the elf curiously. “You’re a Ranger of Mirkwood?”

He tilted his head slightly. “I’m one of the Captains of the Guard.”

Hloirëa got the faint impression that she wouldn’t get much more from the elf, humming as she turned away and put her fingers up to her lips to whistle sharply. Hearing the steady beat of hooves on the ground, she met the large thestral where it trotted over to her, the others lingering a little further away in the trees.

Its whinny was a faint echoing noise that would have been haunting if not for the plain daylight, the beast nudging at her with its bony snout.

"Yes, you're beautiful and I adore you, don't I?" Cooing at the creature as she pressed her forehead to its own, she smiled brightly when it nudged her back affectionately. Holding out the slip, she let it take the parchment gently in its beak-like snout. "Take that to Galadriel, will you, darling beastie?"

The thestral dipped in a bow.

Pressing a kiss to her hand and then brushing its flank, she smiled when the thestral started to gallop away, its wings unfolding in a flutter of air as it soared into the sky.

"I have never seen a creature quite that… unique."

"I think you mean ugly." She sent the blond elf a smirk.

His lips turned up slightly, but he hid it well behind a familiar scowl. "I mean what I said. I may not find it all that pleasing to the eye, but I have no intention of calling it such names."

Hloirëa snapped her finger, pointing at him. The elf seemed to stiffen a bit as if not expecting her sudden movement. "You're related to Thranduil! You have the judging eyes and the disappointed eyebrows and the same sharp scowl!" Her snigger was soft when the elf looked surprised and almost offended at that assessment.

"Prince Legolas." Haldir moved over on silent feet, smiling thinly at the elvish prince before looking at her. "I see you have met Lady Hloirëa."

"Yes, indeed." The elf- Legolas- pulled himself from his surprise quickly, nodding in the solemn respectful way the elves were used to doing with each other. "I could not fight with you against the Great Spiders because I was guiding the visiting company from Erebor through the forests safely, but I am thankful to the Marchwardens and their Lady," he glanced her way, "for the assistance provided to my people."

“It was my pleasure.” Turning and spreading her arms open as she gazed out at the forest, she felt the light of the sun dance across her skin. “I can think of no further gift I have been given but to know that this world will always see the beauty in nature.”

The trees around her seemed to hum back to her softly with the wind in their leaves.

Her eyes slipped closed as her lungs filled with the cool fresh air that reminded her so much of the Scottish hills she’d found her family in. “I have had the dream many times of walking into the woods and never returning, but here it does not haunt me. Here there is kindness in the silence, sweetness in the air.” Arms falling to her sides, she opened her eyes to look out upon the seemingly endless sea of green and brown. “Now Yavanna’s trees can sing freely again.”

“Do they sing to you, my Lady?”

Looking back to Haldir, she nodded and then moved to place a hand against a nearby tree as she hummed softly.

The forest vibrated back a higher note and the butterflies fluttered softly in the breeze it made, like twinkling black stars against the canopy of green and blues. 

Her breath out was soft. “Beautiful.”

The trees swayed in the gentle wind, a song echoing out across the forest like a thousand soft voices singing from the heavens. It reminded her of how Luna used to play Enya whenever she’d come over and though she would protest most of the time, she would always end up feeling more relaxed by the time she’d need to leave.

Hloirëa finally pulled her hand from the tree when the voices started to quiet, murmuring a soft thanks to the forest for its music before turning to smile at Haldir. “Yavanna’s children are always so polite- I do adore them.”

“It is a gift to hear them sing.” The elf looked at her with a faint smile. “But as much as I would like to set you loose in the forest if just to see the Elvenking’s reaction should he find you talking to his shrubberies, it might be best to show you to your rooms as you are still healing.”

Her laugh was amused. “That was one time and I was talking to myself, not the shrubberies! They make horrible conversation partners!”

The Prince’s eyes crinkled just slightly. “I do not think talking to yourself is much better.”

“You know what?” Throwing up her hands as she couldn’t help but giggle at the ridiculousness of the memory, coughing to cover it up so she could point at the elf with an exaggerated frown. “You’re on thin ice, your highness.” 

“Oh?” A single eyebrow raised in her direction. “Somehow I do not think you mean that.”

Hloirëa scrunched her nose to keep from smiling. “You seem to have more of a sense of humor than your father, I’ll give you that.” Starting to walk to the gates, the two moved to walk with her. “Do Captains of the Guard usually travel with company from other lands?”

Legolas shook his head just slightly. “Not often, no, but one of the Ladies of Erebor is a good friend of mine and I wished to see that she and her beloved were well.”

“The copper-haired elf that married the dwarvish prince?” When the man nodded, she hummed softly and thought about that as they entered the outer gates, her smile turning a bit more melancholy. “I hope them well, as it is rare to find such a person that compliments us so well they should want to stick together for as long as the other lives.”

The man frowned just slightly, but before he could speak, Thranduil rounded the corner to spot them with a thin smile. “Ah. Legolas, Calanir said you had returned. Come, walk with me.” The Elvenking nodded to her with faint mirth in his eyes before ushering his son off as they spoke in muted voices.

Haldir touched her shoulder just slightly when she was trying to figure out what Thranduil would pull next, walking her to her rooms silently before giving her the instructions for the different amenities.

And though the room was beautiful, she still found herself wandering the forests when the sun had set, finally falling asleep beneath a large tree with her thestrals.

 

It was not hard to find things for herself to do within the Greenwoods, as it was a whole new kingdom to explore and she even found herself venturing to the river at the edge of the kingdom with more than a few of her friends to see the shining waters- though she was not as pleased when Rúmil pushed her in. She returned by knocking him into the river with a wave of magic, the elf pulling his brothers in with him. 

It had started a war of splashing and the occasional hand-to-hand combat that ended up with her tackling Orophin into the water, only to find that the contingent of dwarves had found them. 

And while the three brothers, Masomir, and Helandri were more than a bit stiff at the way the dwarves were laughing, she just waded over to the bank and held a hand out to the dark-haired dwarvish prince. “Prince Kili, it’s good to see you again. May I have a hand?”

Tauriel, the copper-haired elf that was wed to the prince, knew what she was going to do but only smiled. Though the woman did laugh brightly at the man’s sound of surprise when she pulled him in.

Sputtering, the dwarf with sparkling eyes stood and smiled at her faintly. “I should have seen that coming.”

“You really should have.” Her smile was wide and amused. “For being one of the troublemakers Gandalf often tells me stories of, you seem to have lost some of your sharp wit.”

He just splashed her in the face, Orophin snorting from behind her.

The only one who seemed unamused by their fun was Thranduil, eyeing them in distaste when they came to dinner in slightly damp clothes, their two groups meshing easily. And for the life of her, she couldn’t stop laughing over her dinner as Orophin’s dry humor matched Kili’s.

Though at the end of the night Kili looked at her seriously. “I wanted to apologize for the behavior that my kin displayed at the Battle of Five Armies, as we thought nothing but ill of you when you had come to our aid of your own accord.”

“Gandalf sort of dragged me there because he knew I would not be able to leave seeing those in danger, no matter how long I had not been myself, so to say it was of my own accord...” She pulled an exaggerated grimace. “He is my oldest friend in this world, and, unfortunately for me, he knows me a bit too well.”

While a few of the Marchwardens chuckled, having seen that first-hand, Kili frowned. “What do you mean, you had not been yourself?”

Hloirëa hummed for a moment, thinking about how to phrase what she wanted to say. Finally, she just took a drink of her wine and said it. “When I returned from the void, Sauron took me under his wing on the Isle of Númenor, as I was unaware of his plan and he still looked like he had as a Maia. When he found that I would not follow him, he gifted me a set of armor, and with it was the gift of a helm that he had made so when I put it on I lost all of my reason to his corruption.” Her eyes found her hands that she could see wielding a flaming sword, looking up calmly at the dwarven Prince as she clenched her hands into fists. “For over three thousand years I was locked inside my own mind and for that, I have sworn to kill as many of those that Sauron commands as I can.”

“Why not just kill him?”

Her smile was thin. “Because I want him to see the end of days. I want him to see when Melkor returns from the void, his beloved lord of darkness . I want to see the hope drain from those burning orange eyes of his- then I will rip his fucking heart out, all as he looks upon the one he chose to betray me for.” When the table was silent, she stood and set her napkin down on the table lightly. “But then again, I might just let Melkor deal with his lover so I don’t have to.”

Chapter Text

Lady Tauriel had taken it upon herself to show Hloirëa the inner workings of the Elvish city and though she absolutely loved the chance to see more of the architecture as well as looking at the fine crafts that were hand-made by the residents of the halls, it was a bit strange to have elves come up offering small gifts for her help in clearing the forest.

Strange in the way that she had never been good at gifts, as she was told again and again that she didn’t deserve them at a young age and even as she knew now that those giving them thought she deserved them and it was rude not to accept… it still felt like she owed them something back. Because trading was equal and she didn't have to feel like she owed people.

Many called her ‘generous’ or ‘too kind’ and that too made her feel a bit uncomfortable- as if itchy somewhere deep inside she couldn’t reach.

“I have heard you are close to Lord Mandos and Lady Vairë?”

Knowing the conversation was a way to trick her into relaxing but willingly letting it do just that, she looked at the woman with the hair that reminded her of autumn. “Lady Nienna was the one who first recognized me when I had come to Valinor, though most often I stayed in the Halls of Mandos, keeping Vairë company as she wove.” Smiling at the thought and remembering the woman’s gentle smiles as she listened to Hloirëa tell stories to Olórin when he would come by to see them. “The tapestries of time displayed out around the halls, the woven stars hanging up on the high ceiling… Yes, I often found solace there from those that were not as fond of me.”

Tauriel looked at her curiously, the time the woman had spent with the dwarves making her much more used to expressing her emotions in body language and facial features, though she did not ask the question lingering in her eyes. “And after the War of Wrath… you were sent to stay in the void?”

“That's a kind way of saying I was banished.” Turning away from that conversation, she moved away from the woman as she looked over the wares displayed along the markets. 

Pausing at a table as she spotted a small disk of semi-clear crystal like an ashtray, she picked it up gently and then slowly used her magic to clear it until it was like glass, shaping it like a convex slowly as she held it out until the sunlight that went through it was filed down into a small point. 

Turning, she looked at Tauriel with the magnifying glass in front of one of her eyes. “I spy with my big eye…”

The woman laughed in surprise. “What- your eye is huge!”

Duplicating the magnifying glass, she held them both up to her eyes and blinked slowly, having to lower them when she felt a headache coming on. “Dear gods, that is bad for my eyes.” Then setting one down, she held out her hand. “Hand.”

With a quizzical look, the woman put a hand in hers, though she gasped softly when Hloirëa showed her how it magnified her ring.

“It can take the light and bend it, making things look bigger than they actually are. Cool, right?” With a half-grin, she set the disk back on the table and nodded to the vendor before strolling away. “Sometimes I hate places like this because I go to find one thing but get distracted enough to forget that thing, meaning I end up with twenty different things, all of which I didn’t need.” 

“I doubt I can help you there, my Lady, as you didn’t say you wanted anything in particular when I suggested bringing you here.” 

Hloirëa hummed with a small frown, looking at a wooden table holding different stones and gems surely traded from Erebor, she wandered over and stared at the different items. “It’s going to bug me nonetheless.”

“You totally wanted sunglasses.” Leaning against the table when she looked up, Sirius grinned at her. “Admit it- you’d look badass in a pair of circular sunglasses made of black stone.”

“You’re not wrong.” Picking up a thin sheet of black Micha, she held it up across her eyes with a grin, laughing when he gave her two thumbs up. Putting the rock down, she reached out a hand to pat the man’s semi-solid face before moving past the table. “But I don’t have a ton of expendable income.”

Sirius grinned wolfishly as he bounced along at her side, ignoring the elves he startled by going right through. “We both know you could easily make more by shaping gems with your shadows- do you think this world has diamonds?”

Hloirëa held out a hand, concentrating on her shadows and letting them slowly come together to form a big blue diamond reminiscent of the Hope Diamond. “If it didn’t before, it does now. Here, hold this.” Tossing the diamond at the spirit, she grinned when he fumbled to catch it, even as it went right through him, Tauriel catching it.

The woman looked at her with wide eyes. “What is… did you just create this?”

“Creating things isn’t any harder than conjuring them.” She glanced back at the woman then pointed at Sirius. “It was his suggestion. Blame him.”

The man put a hand over his chest with wide eyes as if to say ‘who, me?’ before shaking his head and pointing back at her. “You can’t understand me, obviously, but it was totally her fault. She’s the one who called on me!”

“I didn’t call you! You came to annoy me with random ideas to distract me from-” Her eyes widened, snapping her fingers as she remembered, surging forward to pull Sirius into a hug so she could kiss his misty cheek before pulling away. “My potions! I was going to get herbs!”

Sirius laughed heartily, putting a hand on her head as he shot her a wink and then disappeared. 

“What was-”

“I remembered what I wanted to get.” Taking the gem from Tauriel lightly and slipping it into the small pouch at her side, she moved through the vendors and stalls looking for herbs. Finding a stall that was nicely laid out with the different plants and salves, she looked through what was being sold with keen eyes. Finding a plant she didn’t know, she straightened and looked at Tauriel, though she paused when she found the Prince and a dark-haired elf that seemed slightly familiar with the woman.

Tauriel went to speak, but before she could, a hand hit her shoulder lightly.

With a roguish grin, Orophin raised an eyebrow at her. “Where’s Haldir?”

“I’m not his minder, ‘Phin. Hey, since you’re here could you tell me what this plant here is? The one with the slightly prickly leaves?” Her gaze went back to the plant, studying it. “I’m trying to find more potion ingredients.”

“Really thought he’d be following you around…” Wincing when she jabbed him, he rubbed his side and then looked at the plant. “That looks like Azuradan. It has sweet roots and when ground up it can be used for headaches, I’m fairly sure.”

Hloirëa made an ‘ah’ sound. “Pain relief. Is it native to certain temperatures?”

“Not that I know of?” Orophin shrugged just slightly, before putting a hand on her head. “Look, don’t get into trouble or set anything on fire, child, I’m going to go find Haldir.”

She kicked him in the shin. “Get out of my sight you overgrown wheat stalk.”  

Chuckling, Orophin nodded to the other elves and then started to walk off, though he paused where he probably thought she couldn’t see to rub at his shin (making her smile to herself).

The dark-haired elf stepped forward, though he seemed to steel himself when she looked at him and her smile faded slightly. “I was sent to invite you to dine with King Thranduil this evening at the high table, Lady Hloirëa.”

She looked at the man for a moment before nodding idly. “As the King wishes.”

Looking relieved, the elf dipped his head and then moved away from them with quick strides.

The Prince, however, stayed by Tauriel’s side. Seeming to see her look, he raised a single eyebrow just slightly. “Even if I am on thin ice, am I not able to have time to see my friend when she is with you?”

“I didn’t-” Realizing she was scowling slightly, she scrunched up her nose and then took a deep breath to make herself chill out. “I apologize for my face-... your father irks me.”

Sharing a glance with Tauriel that was laced with humor, the man tilted his head just slightly. “I could sit between the two of you should you wish for a sort of barrier.”

“Please.” The word breathed out, her shoulders relaxed and with a crooked smile coming to her lips, she looked between the man’s eyes before holding out her hand. “I’m Hloirëa, though no one seems to like to call me that.”

“It seems a bit wrong to call you a name meaning ‘venomous’ when trying to be respectful.” But the man took her fingers, bending as if to kiss her fingers.

She pulled away and snorted when he looked at her. “My full name is better, but only known to the one who gave it to me.” Then reaching out, she turned his hand and slid their hands together with a small chuckle. “And should you ever wish to reside in the towns of men for any period of time, this is how you shake someone’s hand, your highness.”

“Are you allergic to all forms of respect?” 

Hloirëa snorted softly. “If I was I would have died already. No, I just think that real true respect comes from knowing something and choosing to accept it in all its flaws. As well, manners are always good, but lowering one’s self to make another feel like higher is not respect- it is ignorance to your own self-worth.”

The blonde elf looked at her for a moment before nodding slowly. “If I am to call you by your name, then you should call me by mine. I am Legolas Thranduillion.”

“Well met, Legolas.” Her eyes crinkled when she smiled, feeling that warm happiness she got whenever she met people that actually seemed to like her, though she pulled away a second later. “Now can you help me figure out what these plants are? I have no idea what anything is and I’m fairly immune to poisons because of a biological thing, so I should not be left alone when trying to make potions for the healers to replicate.”

Nodding again with a faint uptick to his lips, he moved to help talk through the different properties of the plants she didn’t understand, getting so into their discussion on how they were used by the Mirkwood elves vs how she used them that they almost didn’t notice when Kili stole Tauriel away for lunch.

With a basket of plants on her arm, she pulled out the diamond and then held it out to the vendor that had been watching them in amusement and sometimes chiming in things neither of them knew. “For taking up so much of your time.”

“Oh- that...” 

“You have no idea how priceless that kind of gem is, do you?” Pushing her hand back towards her, Legolas gave her a dry look. “Do you have gold coins?”

Scrunching up her nose, she put the gem in the elf’s hand heavily and then knelt to put a hand to the dirt, closing her eyes. Darkness spreading out into the earth, she felt it catch on a vein of metal, tapping each of her fingers once against the earth as it vibrated just faintly- a small hunk of silver metal coming to her hand. Standing and brushing off her knee, she held it out to the elf. “Trade this to the dwarves for coins. It’s Mithril.”

Taking the Mithril with a look between her and Legolas, the elf dipped his head. “Too kind, my Lady.”

“No problem.” Turning and sending Legolas a look when he walked at her side, she gestured to the gem he held. “It’s pretty, isn’t it?”

“Very. Though I have always thought blue sort of… wistful.”

Hloirëa smiled faintly. “Its design is based on one of the most precious yet tragic diamonds in my old world whose owners all died horrible deaths, so I suppose the blue fits it rather well, don’t you think?” Holding out her hand, she took it back and let her shadows enclose it in a simple silver setting that hung the gem against the slope of her chest.

Legolas nodded, though his words were a clear warning. “My father has long had an eye for gems since my mother passed as he cannot seem to find anything else to match her beauty, so should you have an attachment to that, I would not wear it so visibly.”

“Oh, I don’t mind. I would love to haggle prices with a king.” Her grin was wide as she swung her basket at her side and she felt better when the man’s eyes only crinkled in humor.

 

After a walk of the medium-sized gardens where they continued their friendly discussion on the different plants, as she found she knew a few of the flowers to be ones that were very closely similar to ones from her world, otherwise just suggesting what they might be used for.

Though that friendly discussion turned into a friendly argument when Legolas went to pull a red flower from the ground, muttering that it was a weed, and she stopped him as she was more than sure that it was a poppy flower.

“Hloirëa, they’re a poisonous weed that tricks people with their vibrant color.”

“Poisonous! They’re rich in calcium and not horrible tasting either- plus you can use them for helping with certain intestinal issues and they’re almost vital in sleeping potions!”

Legolas huffed. “Sleeping potions, yes, if you want the person to never wake!” His voice was dry. “I almost went into a sleep-like death when I was a child, eating these!”

She paused at that, tilting her head. “...what happened?”

“The healers said that my throat almost closed up, though luckily not enough where I couldn’t breathe- though they told me my passing to the undying lands would have been inevitable had I eaten any more than I did, so father forbids them to grow, for the protection of the people.”

Hloirëa looked at him in amusement. “That doesn’t mean they’re poisonous, Legolas. Many of the elves in Lothlórien use them in muffins and loaves of bread without any downsides to their health, though it does mean your body doesn’t break down the components of this particular food right and you should steer clear of them.” When the man furrowed his eyebrows, she reached out to put a hand on his shoulder for a moment. “Your father probably banned them because he was scared of losing you.”

After a moment of looking at the flower, he nodded and then looked at her with a much more neutral expression. “Perhaps I could show you around the library?”

“I do love a good library.” Hand dropping, she smiled faintly. “And they’re practically harmless- unless your people have a restricted section of books on dark magics that are liable to hurt you, of course.”

At his raised eyebrows, she laughed and started to explain Hogwarts to him as they walked through the halls. 

The library was peaceful just as Legolas had promised, though it seemed to amuse him how easily she immersed herself into the shelves, finding the fiction section all on her own from just skimming random works and finally starting to sit down on the floor when she found a book she liked. Though that led the blonde elf to wave her over to a chair by the corner, huffing when she sat down on the floor and rested her back on the side of the chair.

“You know that the chair was meant for you to sit in.”

“I like the floor.” Her smile was small as she read the words slowly, as she was much better with spoken word than the written one, having been teaching herself slowly (with some help from Galadriel and occasionally Celeborn) since she’d gotten to Lothlórien. 

Walking back to the stacks and returning a moment later with a book as well, Legolas sat down in the chair. “Suit yourself.”

Reading quietly until she got frustrated enough to tap the chair and heft up the book to point at a word so he could translate it, they sat quietly as she read, though the next time she got stuck on a word he translated it for her without her asking. 

When she tilted her head back, Legolas was leaning against the side of the chair looking down at her book. “You have had your finger on the word ‘terrified’ for a while now.”

Hloirëa just held the book up higher, setting it on her knees with a smile. “So you don’t have to strain your eyes.”

“No matter that elvish eyesight is renowned for being able to see across whole valleys, another arm’s length would be far too much.” His voice was dry.

“Would you like to read out loud then, Mr. My-eyesight-is-impeccable?”

With just the slightest smile, leaning further towards her, he started to read. “-as the great beast has six heads and teeth like knives...” 

Reading along with his voice, committing new words they came across to memory as she turned the pages occasionally, they sat there as the light of the library flowed across the wood floors like molten gold flecks running through an hourglass.

Eventually, though, footsteps made them pause and they both looked up to find Haldir walking over with a letter in his hands. “There is news for you, my Lady.”

Pushing herself up hastily and taking the letter, she read the loopy script hastily, laughing faintly when Galadriel signed with a note that she was surprised to be consulted over the Valar of Death. “News indeed. We’re riding to Dol Guldur first light!”

“And will you return after?” Legolas stood up slowly, moving to pick up the book she’d set aside, his eyes curious. 

“I… do not know yet. I have not truly thought about my plans in the future, though now that your people have less fear of me, I guess I have no reason to stay away.” She smiled and then waved the letter. “But first I wish to see King Thranduil’s face when he realizes my letter arrived far before he thought it would!” Her grin was slightly evil, along with her laugh.

Haldir huffed. “Perhaps heading to the main hall would be best then. I will let the other know that our stay is coming to an end so they will rest early and pack in the morning.”

Nodding, she helped place her book back where she’d found it before moving to follow where Haldir and Legolas took the lead, falling into step with each other easily. 

 

The Main Hall was lit with the light of the stars reflected off the white wood of the architecture and though the light was cold and reminded her of pain, it was still beautiful. Pausing just a moment to admire the sight as she looked around, her eyes caught on a tapestry that she had not noticed before now. 

A dark shadow with three recognizable gems set into a crown she had helped to pry from blackened skin stood over a much smaller figure with a glowing sword, a mace of fire held in black-gauntleted hands, eyes seeming to glow a bright yellow even though the tapestry.

“Melkor.” Her breath was soft, moving to the tapestry and then reaching up to brush a hand over the crown her dear friend was wearing. The tapestry shifted under her fingers for a moment, the yellow seeming to drip down the black helm as the anger in the figure’s frame shifted to something like fear.

“The Legendary Fingolfin, facing down the monstrous Morgoth. It is a reminder to my people that evil cannot win forever.”

Her hand pulled away and the tapestry shifted back even if she was still able to see the wrongness in the threads. “Evil? No.” Her voice was a whisper. “Evil is a mindless corruption seeking out blood because it likes the smell of death. Evil is that which has been created with the sole purpose of destroying and thus will cannibalize everything around it and then itself in the process, as it is in its nature.”

“They say that after the kingdoms of the Ñoldor were almost destroyed by Morgoth, Fingolfin mounted his horse and rode to challenge the monstrous Lord of Evil to single combat, mistaken for the Vala Oromë as he rode to Angband.”

Hloirëa flinched at the name of the fortress, wrapping her arms around herself. She could see it now, the elf mistook as the one Vala that hated all things ‘abnormal’ with a passion riding to kill her friend for defending his lands as best he could... “And Melkor felt fear.” 

The King’s voice was amused. “He should have, had he more emotions than that of a mindless evil beast, as King Fingolfin was able to wound the Dark Lord seven times!”

“...And as he fell with burning wings, he wondered if his father ever loved him at all.” Cracking her fingers as she stared at the tapestry, she shook her head and then turned away. “It is no wonder your kind look at the cold and distant stars to find warmth instead of the burning sun- you are far too comfortable with finding emotions irrational when you are not allowed to feel so strongly.”

Thranduil’s eyes followed her as she walked up to the head table and sat down gracefully next to Legolas instead of the seat next to the King. 

Holding the letter from Galadriel to the man, she looked at her plate. “Pass this to the King, please.”

Taking it, Legolas passed it silently to his father. “Do you not like the stars?”

“I think they are pretty if that is what you are asking.”

“You know it is not.”

Hloirëa poked at her fork for a moment before turning to him. “I think they are pretty trinkets that hold no real value to the world. Sure one of them is useful for navigation, but what do the rest do? Give you false prophecies? Sparkle meaninglessly?”

Legolas’s eyebrows did a funny thing she didn't understand. “I suppose... they are there to make the void less terrifying to those that do not understand that the darkness itself is not the enemy but that which knows how to use the darkness to their advantage.”

Looking between his eyes, her frustration abated, she nodding slightly as she turned back to her food. Eating a piece of the fish before her in thought, she chewed before speaking. “I like the moon far more than the stars. Her light is soft, but not unkind, and her light will never lead you astray.”

“And what does the moon say of Dol Guldur?” Thranduil’s voice was sarcastic, leaning forward to look at her as he waved the letter like a fan. “I did not think that a letter would reach my hands for another few days at least.”

“I never specified the method of travel it would reach ‘Ladriel’s hands. And frankly, I have not heard from La Lune since I came to Arda.” 

Legolas gestured to her necklace. “Why not make something that would help you communicate with her?” When she tilted her head slightly, he continued. “You said creating things is not hard for you, so why not that?”

Hloirëa smiled slowly. “Brilliant.”  

Darkness curled from the shadows of the balcony to her side, creeping slowly across the floor like vines and then curling up in her hand, brushing against her fingers like an affectionate cat. Leaving just enough darkness to pool in her hands, the vines disappeared as if melting in the light. 

Closing her hands around the darkness and bringing it up to her lips to blow her magic into the darkness, she felt it slowly take form in her hand.

She looked up with a grin. “It’s alive...” The creature jumped, making her startle into laughter as she brought her hands up to look into one of the cracks. “No, no, honey, don’t- I’m not a danger to you…”

There was a low echoing noise like a bass opera singer and then a small pale green frog with big black eyes poked its head out of the hole in her hands. 

Legolas leaned further her way. “What… is that?”

“It’s a moon frog.” Separating her hands slowly and smiling at the small frog, she held it out to the man slowly, voice soft. “It’s okay, little frog, the elves won’t hurt you.”

Moving slowly at first it then sprung from her hands to land in Thranduil’s lap and she laughed brightly as he freaked out, standing up only to give a horrified noise when he found it sticking to his robes.

Hloirëa sipped her wine. “Did I mention that they like those with light hair because it reminds them of their mother, the moon?”

“Aren’t you its mother?” Legolas looked at her, both of them ignoring the chaos being caused by the small lightning-fast frog rampaging around the hall.

Watching the small frog leap off the balcony to evade the guards and snickering to herself, she leaned back in her chair. “Oh, no, they’re fully La Lune’s problem now, though I assume given a year or so they’ll be singing all over the forest.” Her smile was bright. “Maybe they’ll even migrate to Lothlorien!”