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Author's Chapter Notes:
This is a work in progress so please be patient. I have taken this one apart twice now and am seriously considering another go at it. I am not too sure I like where I've led myself. Please be patient, and as always constructive feedback is appreciated.
Disclaimer: I do not own anything that belongs to Tolkien. They are being borrowed and well played with, and will be returned unharmed. This story is not book or movie canon…so don’t bother.

Chapter One

The air rang with the sounds of men dying. She fought as hard as she could. She fought to stay alive, to keep her friends alive. The battle raged all around her. She could see in her peripheral vision the bodies of people she knew and loved, people who had been alive only moments before. Her hands were dripping with blood and covered with a thick gooey matter that she didn't really want to identify.

As she fought, memories of her family drifted though her mind like a sheer mist. Her mother laughing at a joke her father had just told. Her father, tall and strong, riding off to aid in the fight against Sauron. Her brothers chasing her through the woods near their home. The thought of never seeing any of them again held a bittersweet sadness that added to the heaviness in her heart.

Suddenly she was confronted with yet another of the huge snarling beasts that had ambushed the party of travelers. Focusing all of her attention and strength on bringing the ferocious giant down, she blocked the curved blade that sought to kill her. With a sweeping slice, she took the foul creature’s sword arm off at the elbow then lunged at it, driving her own blade into its belly all the way to the hilt.

Grunting in pain the huge monster stubbornly refused to give in to the fatal blow, grabbing her by the base of her braid and twisting it painfully. She pulled with all of her might, trying to free herself from the creature’s vice-like grip, but her strength was waning and with a flash of harsh realization she concluded that this was how her life would end.

Defiant to the end she fought on. “No! I will not die like this! Not at the hands of you, you unnatural spawn!” she yelled, spittle flying from her lips. With renewed resolve she pushed back on the creature, and was stunned at the lack of resistance she encountered. Her sword pulled free and she stumbled back from its hulking body, which fell face-first at her feet. Looking down she noticed the the tightly grouped shafts of arrows that were protruding from the back of the fallen orc.

Where did those arrows come from? The thought slid idly across her consciousness as she whirled to resume fighting. She barely escaped being skewered by a spear, turning aside at the last possible moment and slicing the latest attacker across its middle with her blood-drenched blade.

Sudden, unbearable pain shot up from her thigh and coursed like thick honey through her body. Looking down she saw the thumb-thick shaft of the black arrow sticking out of her leg. The injury was the final straw. She felt her strength and awareness ebb from her so quickly that she could not even brace herself before she hit the ground. Her last lucid thought was that she was going to die there after all.

****

Haldir watched the party of humans from a fair distance. Traveling south to Gondor, his path had paralleled theirs for many miles, though he had been careful to remain hidden from their sight. The stamina that this group of men had demonstrated was impressive to the elf. They had not made camp in nearly two days, a pace that most humans could not tolerate for long. The result of this was apparent to Haldir, whose keen vision could clearly make out the exhaustion in most of their faces.

They were pressing hard but not fast, at least caring enough not to founder their horses, but this much fatigue left them vulnerable to attack. Haldir had been a warrior far too long to think of anything in any terms other than strategic, and from his vantage he knew that this lot was ripe for an ambush.

As if in answer to his observation Haldir watched a large group of orcs emerge from the tree line on the other side of the men. The group was taken completely off guard and almost instantly was overcome. Horses screamed and men shouted what must have been orders, but the ambush was a complete success and soon the party was separated into pairs or individuals with little hope of survival.

With a resigned sigh Haldir dismounted and moved closer to the melee. The battlefield was already littered with bodies. Most were human, but to the credit of the ambushed men there were also many fallen orcs on the ground. The horses had fled in all directions, though some had been hamstrung and were writhing on the ground screaming in pain.

Haldir caught sight of one human, slightly shorter than the others, trying without success to break free from an orc. Oddly, the gruesome creature had an arm that was severed from the elbow down. The human was struggling to free the sword that had been driven into the orc’s belly, but the grunting giant had an iron grip on his hair and was not showing any signs of letting go. Without another thought the elf sent four arrows flying in rapid succession, all landing in a neat bundle in the orc’s broad back.

The human stumbled back from the creature, pulling the blade free and narrowly escaping being crushed by the falling corpse. With his heightened vision Haldir could see the man turn aside, the spear that had been aimed at him barely missing its mark. The human then turned and swept his blade across the middle of the attacking orc, stepping past as the sword made its cut. As the man turned, Haldir gave a start.

By the Valar! That’s a woman! he thought to himself with wonder. As the impact of the thought hit him, he saw her fall to the ground in a heap. Being a warrior he knew that now was not the time to worry over the dead and he proceeded to let his arrows fly. Once he was in the thick of the battle, he swung his bow over his head and one arm and unsheathed the massive sword on his hip, carving an ever-widening arc through the orc that flooded in trying to surround him.

Haldir fought silently with deadly precision and his added skill quickly turned the battle to the favor of the humans. In moments there was not an orc left alive on the field. There were not too many humans left for that matter, but the group had shown surprising resilience against terrible odds. The men left standing were already gathering their wounded under cover of the nearby trees. Haldir set out through the slaughter to find any wounded that still lived. He looked for one body in particular, his heart telling him not to hold out hope.

She was a warrior. She died with honor, he thought with regret, his heart heavy with a sadness he did not understand. Walking through the remains of men and orcs, Haldir found the body he sought. She was lying face down in the dirt, her body very still. She looked very frail. Kneeling down he turned her over in his arms and was stunned to find that she yet lived. Her breathing was shallow, but he could feel her fea still clinging to life stubbornly. Scooping her slight frame into his arms, Haldir carried the woman from the battlefield and into the trees.

“You will be alright, pinilyaer.” he whispered soothingly in a combination of common and elvish, carrying her limp form into the cover of a nearby copse of large trees.

Once inside the line of trees Haldir walked over to one of the massive trunks and gently laid the woman down upon the dense moss carpet, carefully avoiding the thick, gnarled roots that were peeking up out of the forest floor. He took in the injured female’s clothing, noting that she wore leather breeches and a coat of the same material. She was bleeding profusely from the wound in her thigh and she had many cuts and scrapes, some of which were clearly inflicted prior to the battle that had taken place that day.

With a start, he realized that something about her seemed very familiar. Studying her face, he knew that he had never met her before but there was still something that tickled the back of his mind. It was as though he could almost call up the memory, but not quite, like something long forgotten.

She fights like a wildcat, he thought to himself, a small trace of wonder and respect creeping into his ancient mind. She had been cutting a path through the orc with a fierce determination that Haldir had never witnessed in a human female. It had been a sight to behold and he did not intend to let her lose this battle with death after such a performance, if the Valar permitted him to intercede.

He looked over her visible wounds and the only one that was of any great concern to him was the one caused by the black arrow that stuck out of her right thigh. The shaft was as big around as his thumb and he knew the head was made for piercing plate armor, so it had made quick work of her unprotected flesh.

Taking a deep breath, Haldir snapped the arrow in two, several inches above her leg and pushed the remaining part of it the rest of the way through her thigh. Once the shaft was out of her body he clasped both hands around her leg, his long slender fingers encircling her muscular thigh and began murmuring a healing spell.

Closing his eyes in deep concentration, Haldir’s words came more rapidly and soon a warm glow was emanating from his hands. The glow seemed to seep into her flesh and he knew that the damage would be completely healed. She would be weak and hungry, but she would have full use of the leg as soon as she woke.

As he looked down into her sleeping countenance, Haldir whispered very softly “Quel kaima, astalder.” For no reason that he could think of, he pressed his lips to hers very gently, pausing there for less than a second before retreating back to his own space.

Haldir was not aware of it, but that kiss would haunt him for a very long time to come.

****

Pain. A great deal of pain. Her head felt like a rotted melon that had been left in the sun two days too long and she could not seem to open her eyes.

Focus. One thing at a time. You are injured, but if you can think you must be alive so focus, she told herself impatiently. With that thought in mind she finally managed to crack one eyelid open. As her vision adjusted to the invasion of light, she realized that she was not alone. She bolted up to a sitting position, realizing a moment too late what a bad idea that was as her head began to swim.

“Be still, pinilyaer. You are not strong enough to be jumping about like a cricket,” said a commanding voice. The voice was coming from a male, she knew that much. She also knew that he was sitting very close to her on her left side. Turning to look in that direction made her head swim even more and she felt strong hands grasp her shoulders and lower her to the ground again.

“You hit your head when you fell. You may be dizzy for a few days, but the injury is not serious. Would you like to try and drink some water?” came the voice again. It was all at once steely and comforting in its strength and authority. She nodded her assent, and wished ruefully that she had spoken instead. She heard a soft chuckle from her companion as she winced and she wondered who this kind soul was as she did not recognize his voice.

She accepted the proffered water skin that was brought to her lips, and was grateful for the hand that gently lifted her head up at an angle for drinking. The water was cool and she suddenly realized just how parched she was. Her lips were dry as saddle leather. When the kind stranger pulled the water skin back, she licked her lips and spoke.

“What happened? The last thing I remember is killing the one that was trying to spear me. I can’t seem to recall much beyond that,” she said, turning her head much more slowly this time, gaining her first real look at her benefactor.

Obviously tall, the being beside her was positively breathtaking. Lustrous long hair, the color of silvery moonbeams, hung down well past his shoulders, and she saw that it was braided over his ear in an intricate plait. His ear caught her attention next, the pointed tip clearly visible due to the braid.

An elf, she thought wonderingly. Beyond that she saw that he was broad of shoulder and deep-chested. Despite the heavy tunic he wore, she could tell that he was muscular and she couldn’t help the way her gaze traveled down the length of his arm, finally coming to rest on his hands. His fingers were long and slender, yet they spoke of a strength and dexterity that she somehow unconsciously knew they possessed. He was an archer unless she missed her guess and he had quite obviously saved her life.

Looking back up at his face, she marked his features as one would evaluate a piece of artwork. His eyebrows were dark, much darker than his silvery hair, which made them somehow more appealing. His cheekbones were high and defined and he had a strong chin, with a firm jaw line. His nose was large, but on him it was not unattractive. It added to his overall appearance of strength and masculine beauty. His lips were full and they gave his mouth a look of both sensuality and arrogance that made her pulse quicken slightly.

Her gaze met his and suddenly she was staring into the most beautiful smoky grey eyes she had ever encountered. His eyes held a depth of knowledge that could only be found in an immortal. He seemed to have been waiting for her visual inventory to come to an end, for when their eyes finally met he spoke in answer to her question.

“I simply carried you off the field, little one. You fought well, and would have continued to do so had you not been on the verge of exhaustion when you took the arrow in your leg. I saw you fall and was fearful that you might have been fatally wounded, but you seem to possess a strong will. You clung to life where most would have long since succumbed.” All of this was said with a tone of respect and… awe? She felt her cheeks flush with color at the compliments.

“Many thanks, ancient one,” she said respectfully. She heard that same chuckle again a moment before he spoke.

“You surprise me yet again, little one. There are very few humans who understand or speak our language so well,” he told her. As his statement sank in she realized that she had been speaking in Sindarin since she uttered her first words upon waking, and that since she had done so, he had spoken nothing else either.

“I must go and allay your companions’ fears. They are extremely worried about you. We shall have a talk about where you are going and what makes the journey so urgent that you and your fellows have not eaten or slept in two days now,” he said, standing to go and attend to the task.

“Wait. May I at least inquire as to your name?” she asked curiously.

“Indeed, little one. I am Haldir of Lórien. I am the Marchwarden of the Galadhrim, Captain of the Guard to the Lord Celeborn and the Lady Galadriel,” he replied. As he spoke he bowed deeply to her. “What, may I ask, is your name lovely one?” he inquired, the corners of his mouth turned up in a faint smile.

She felt herself blush more deeply and replied, “Amándra. My name is Amándra.”

He nodded and said, “Saesa omentien lle, Amándra.”

She looked up at him with increasing awe and watched him turn to go and tell her friends that she was awake and recovering.

No. The pleasure is all mine, she thought to herself as she watched him walk away.

****

Pinilyaer: Little one
Saesa omentien lle: Pleasure meeting you
Quel kaima: Sleep well
Astalder: Valiant one
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