9. Reality of Dreams
"Hey," Buffy said. Then - "This is a dream, isn't it?"
The Elf lady nodded. "In a way. But you know dreams are rarely meaningless."
"Yeah... for me, they're mostly freaky. And lacking in the sense, too," Buffy said with a shrug. "For me."
"You still see yourself in Elenya's shadow."
"Well, duh." Buffy blushed, she realized that that probably wasn't the right way to speak to an immortal Elf lady. "I mean, yes, but why not? She's a way better Slayer than I am. It'd be stupid to deny that, ya know?"
"Perhaps. But perhaps you are considering the situation from the wrong angle."
Buffy frowned up at Galadriel. "What do you mean?"
"It is true that Elenya is a more powerful Slayer than you. But it is likewise true that she has been the Champion for many, many more years than you. Give it time. More importantly, though, consider all you have accomplished in so short a time."
"What? Like staking a buncha dinky vampires?"
"I have looked into your heart, Buffy. I know the deeds you have accomplished. Truly, they are the equal of even the greatest heroes of any age, Elf or Man alike." Galadriel smiled fondly at the young Slayer. "You have saved the world many times, have you not? Why then do you think yourself any less than Elenya?"
"Well, yeah, but she's - "
"What you may yet become. Think of that and remember that deeds are what matters in the end, not skill in arms," Galadriel said with one last smile. Then the mist swallowed her up. An instant later, the dream ended and Buffy awoke with a slight gasp.
She was still on the flet, the tree-branch platform, safe and sound. Xander was nearby, snoring away. Buffy smiled over at his sleeping form, then laid her head down and was soon lost in slumber once again.
Elsewhere, Giles opened his eyes to the sound of a waterfall. He looked around and quickly realized he was in a distant corner of Lothlorien, perhaps near to where Galadriel had spoken to them all after dinner.
And he was not alone.
"Lady," he said, bowing his head to Galadriel. She did likewise to him then turned back to her examination of the small waterfall off to Giles's left.
"It's beautiful," Giles said when she said nothing for several minutes. He watched the water flow over the rocks and past a clump of grass sprinkled with tiny blue flowers. "Everything here is beautiful."
"Most things, yes," Galadriel admitted. "A pale, dwindling reflection of the Undying Lands, lingering even as time passes by in the rest of the world. Lothlorien will not long survive the turning of the next age," she told Giles.
"We have no record of it in my time. I'm sorry," the Watcher replied, genuinely remorseful. It wasn't fair that all of this should be lost forever. This was the ideal he had fought for all his life, even if he had not pictured it until now. But it was all for naught. The battle had been fought and lost before he had been born.
Galadriel nodded slowly. "Walk with me, Rupert Giles." Her long gown trailing in her wake, Galadriel walked down a footpath that meandered into the woods off of the waterfall. After a few minutes, she stopped again at a stone basin under the shadow of a green cliff. The basin was full of water, slightly steaming in the cold night air.
"Look into the water."
"Why?" Giles asked. He'd heard plenty of stories about scrying bowls, few of which were good.
"You need to see the entire truth," Galadriel replied. She gestured at the basin. "Look now and understand."
With some lingering reluctance, Giles walked over to the basin and looked down into the waters. For a moment, he saw nothing, then an image formed in the bowl.
A vast and dark fortress jutting out of a frozen wasteland, a thousand black towers raised in defiance of the heavens themselves, and an aura of dread over all that made Giles weak in the knees.
[Hell itself,] he thought.
The water rippled and the scene changed. A forest, much like Lothlorien, but overrun with hordes of foul Orcs and worse things - winged fire demons with whips of red-hot flame, dragons with black wings and burning eyes, and, worst of all, a towering figure in pitch-black armor wielding an adamant mace that shattered even the tallest trees as if they were toothpicks. Against that fell horde stood an army of Elves, but their ranks melted before the dark army and soon all were lost, and the trees set ablaze from horizon to horizon.
Another ripple disturbed the water and another new scene. This one even worse - a coastal city with many pale ships drawn up to wooden piers, two groups of Elves fighting, one to defend the ships and the other to seize them. The attackers won and killed all their foes that did not flee.
Again, the waters shimmered and a new image formed, of a lone Elf standing atop a cliff overlooking the sea. In his hand was a gem that glowed with a light so pure and fierce Giles could not look at it straight on. But then the Elf cried out and threw the beautiful jewel into the waters. It sank down, its light fading only gradually. When there was nothing but darkness, Giles realized he was weeping for its loss.
"Enough," he said in a raspy whisper. " Please."
"You have my sympathy, Master Giles. But you had to see."
"Why? I don't even know what any of that was."
"You need only know that this age, and all the others, are not the paradise you have begun to imagine them to be. In part, young Elenya has distorted the truth. Not intentionally," Galadriel said, raising a hand before Giles could object. "She knows only the legends of the elder days. I lived through them. I remember both their glories and their sorrows. Beautiful indeed were the forests of Beleriand ere the Dark Lord set flame and sword to them, but terrible were all the long days when he walked freely in Middle-Earth. Bitter was the sorrow when Elf first slew Elf on the quays of Alqualondë. And great was the grief of Maglor when his sins lead him to cast the last Silmaril into the deeps of the Ocean. Do you see?"
"I - I think," Giles said, even if so much of what she said was a mystery to him. Beleriand? Alqualondë? Maglor?
Galadriel smiled. "Think on it. Now, go and return to your rest. The journey ahead will be hard. Enjoy the comfort of Lothlorien whilst you can. Until the morning... farewell, Master Giles."
He nodded and closed his eyes, and did not open them again until the morning sun was warm on his face.
While the others dreamed of Lady Galadriel, one of Willow's personal guardians visited her. She sensed his presence in her mind, in her dreamscape, even before he was fully there. She also knew it was Frodo - each of the Hobbits had a distinct "feel" to him. Bilbo reminded her of a parent. Or what a parent should've been like, considering hers barely noticed her.
Slowly, her eyes opened and she sat up without uttering a single word. She noted the reddish glow had grown much stronger since her dream earlier in the day. The darkness covered Lothlorien like a blanket now, thick and unrelenting.
Then he appeared. Frodo crossed the flet, knelt before Willow, looked deep into her eyes then asked, "You did not believe her, did you?"
She shook her head from side to side as she gazed back into the innocent, young face. "No," she murmured. "I listened to her lies and double talk. She doesn't know anything." She snorted softly and rolled her eyes. "You should've heard the other Elves, though, saying all this crap about a dark shadow over their precious friggin' woods. You'd think it was the end of the world or something."
"They are afraid of it, afraid of what it means," Frodo explained. He gestured to her ring. "The witch has taken notice of your ring." He leaned closer to Willow, his voice dropped to a whisper. "Its power intoxicates."
Willow glanced down at her ring. "I did see her staring," she told him. "That other Elf - Arwen - did the same thing back in Rivendell. What if Galadriel tries to take it?"
"You need not trouble your mind with such worries, Willow."
The warm touch of his hand on hers relaxed her as well as stirred her deep inside. It was not this way when she had "physical" contact with Bilbo and it grew stronger with each visit. She never wanted to let go.
"I don't?" she whispered in a strangely absent voice, almost as though a spell had been cast over her. Her gaze left their clasped hands and met his bright blue eyes, so clear and reassuring.
"That is why I have come back to you," he answered. He looked over to Buffy, Xander and Giles on the far side of the flet. All three of them were in quiet slumber. "The witch poisons their minds with her lies as we speak." He met her gaze again and drew closer to Willow as he continued. "She convinces them that you are now a being of Evil and they must destroy you ... to save you."
Willow flicked her gaze over to the others, biting her lower lip nervously at the same time. So, the Elf-witch was responsible for the three of them resorting to murder? She knew those Elves were no good. They probably didn't even know anything about helping the Gang to get home - this was more than likely a wild goose chase. And now Galadriel filled the minds of her "friends" with a bunch of trash-talk against her.
Then she had another thought.
"Will she come here?" she asked suddenly, her eyes back on Frodo. An utter panic washed over her as she gripped both of his hands with hers. "What if she finds out that I know what she's up to, or about you and Bilbo? I can't protect myself from her, especially if she's in my head."
"She will not be able to enter your mind," he assured her. He sat down in front of Willow and smiled in a somewhat supportive manner. He released her hands and it took a moment for Willow to do the same. "As I said, that is why I came back to you, to keep you safe from her dream invasions."
"You?" Willow looked him over. He was a lot of things but a mighty protector surely didn't seem like one of them. She wasn't sure Frodo could hold off Galadriel anymore than she herself could. "You're going to be able to keep me safe from a gazillion year old witch? No offense, Frodo, but that's really hard for me to swallow."
"Judge not by size," he admonished with a short wag of an index finger. "Even the smallest are capable of amazing feats and great deeds, Willow. Come." He gestured to himself with open arms, inviting her to him.
As much as she wanted to do as he requested, she held back. She still didn't understand how this would keep her safe from Galadriel. "What are you -?" she began as one brow furrowed in uncertainty.
"In my embrace, the witch will have no power to enter your thoughts for our bond is stronger than she." The Hobbit, arms still wide open, smiled at her once more.
Willow remained skeptical that Frodo could do what he claimed. She sat back on her heels and regarded the warm and welcoming Hobbit before her. However, he'd not lied about anything in the past, why would he start now? She glanced at the other three and sighed. If Galadriel managed to worm her way into Willow's mind who knew what horrible fate would befall her?
"If you're sure..." she said, looking back to him.
"Of course I'm sure." He smiled again, yet this time something more seductive, for lack of a better word, laced it, and Willow's doubts fluttered away. The bond he and Bilbo always spoke of pulled at her. She wanted more than ever to do what he asked, and not solely because it felt like the right thing either.
The redhead repositioned herself so she had her back to Frodo and the upper half of her body rested upon his lap as if it were a pillow. Drawing her arms closer to her own body, she settled into his hold until she was quite comfortable. She felt Frodo's arms envelope her and draw her closer to him. The feeling inside stirred once more even though her muscles continued to relax.
Buffy, Giles, Xander, Elenya ... all of the rest of it melted away in that moment. Only the two of them existed in the dream world now. She was safe here. Any fear of Galadriel was a thing of the past. Also, somehow, being where she was, she felt at home. Slowly, her eyes drifted shut.
"You won't leave me, will you?" she whispered sleepily. She wasn't sure if she'd actually said the words aloud or if she'd merely thought them.
She had her answer, though, when Frodo's voice, ever so softly replied in her ear, "No, Willow, I will not leave you. I am with you. Always." She felt the touch of his lips against her temple and she smiled slightly.
"I know you are," she sighed. "I know ... "
"When you awaken, Willow," she heard his voice say as she drifted back to sleep. "Everything will be much clearer."
Xander slept uneasily that night and awoke many times, only to drift back to sleep after a few minutes.
When the sky was just beginning to turn from black to pale blue, he awoke once again only to find himself lying under a perfect blue sky on a sunny day. Grass was under his back and dew on his feet.
He slowly pushed himself to his feet and took a good look around. He was on top of a green hill thick with yellow and red flowers. Near at hand was a stone table that he recognized as a smaller version of the table in the great feast hall from the night before. It was bare, though, and only Galadriel sat at it.
"Good morning, Xander."
"Uh... g'morning," Xander mumbled as he rubbed his eyes. [Morning already? Can't be. And where am I?] Somehow, he realized it was a dream.
As if in confirmation, Galadriel nodded. "Sit, if you will. Or stand. But let us talk now, for I sense heaviness over your heart. Perhaps I can ease your discomfort."
"Oh. Well, I'm not really sure what you mean - " Xander began.
"Okay." Deflated, Xander sat down across from Galadriel. "Shouldn't there be a couch here? You're not going to ask me about my mother, are you?" he asked then grinned apologetically. "Twentieth century reference. Sorry."
"You needn't apologize."
"So... uh... heaviness over my heart?" Xander asked warily. This made him just slightly uncomfortable.
Galadriel shook her head just once. "You know of what I speak," she said, gazing deep into his eyes. Xander turned away after a few seconds.
"Okay, yeah. But it's Buffy. I can't just - she's Buffy."
"So I have heard," Galadriel said with a sly smile. "And you are Xander."
"I mean, she's the Slayer. I'm Mr. Nobody. Not even a vampire, ya know? Way long story - good vampire, a vampire Slayer, two star-crossed lovers, bad break-up, basically. Lots of angst and soap opera type stuff."
Galadriel nodded, for once appearing slightly bewildered, but pressed on nonetheless. "That is the burden pressing against your heart. Until you break those fetters, you will not be happy, nor will she."
"Yeah, right. Unless you know how to turn me into something other than a hopeless loser, I'm not sure how I can break those fetters," Xander replied.
The Elf sighed. "Xander, listen to me. You hold yourself back. I have seen the secrets of your heart. I know you have done many noble in your own fashion, often at great peril. You view yourself as beneath her notice with no cause. Trust me."
Xander shrugged uncomfortably. "Well, maybe."
"Consider this: Will Buffy think you worthy of her as more than a friend unless you yourself do? Your own doubts are what hold you back, I think, not any faults you imagine." Having said that, Galadriel rose to her feet. "Consider it, or set aside your feelings for her before they crush your spirit. I see no other way for you."
"Great. Kinda helpful. Really." Xander, buoyed by Galadriel's words despite what he said, looked around. "So is this the part where I - "
"Wake up, Xander!"
Buffy shook Xander again. "C'mon. The sun's been up for an hour already. Time for another pow-wow." She rose to her feet when Xander groaned as he forced himself to get up then went over to Willow. She was almost afraid to wake the redhead, not after the weird way she'd acted the day before. Still, Willow had to get up. There was too much to talk about. "Hey ... Will."
"Hmmm?" Willow's eyes slowly opened and it took a moment to reorientate herself. [Sunlight? Is it already morning?] She blinked a few times, looked down to discover she had her arms wrapped around her own body. Unwrapping her arms from around her, she sat up with a yawn. Pushing her hair out of her face, she looked up to Buffy. "What's up?" she sleepily asked.
"All of us, we need to talk." Buffy gestured for them to follow her and she disappeared from the wall-less platform, headed down the long flight of stairs to the ground.
Yawning, Xander stretched. "I tell you, I had the strangest dream last night, Will," he told her. He put his hands to his lower back then twisted at the waist, trying to work out the crick. He flicked his gaze over to Willow, who slipped on her boots. "Hey, Will ... do you ... do you think I'm a loser?"
Willow glanced up at him. "Why do you ask?"
"No special reason," he replied with a shrug. He walked over to her. "I'm just curious about what you think. Do you think I'm a loser?"
She finished with her boots, sighed then looked up at him. "Does this have something to do with the unrequited love deal with Buffy? The thing you've been bitching about for almost three years now?" She came off a little fiercer than she'd meant to, but at this point, she didn't much care. "What I think of you doesn't matter, Xander. You know better than anybody that what one girl thinks of you doesn't go for the whole sex."
"I was just asking a question, Willow," Xander said rather defensively. He glared at her for a moment. "You know, you need to stow this damn attitude and do it quick. I'm sick of this crap, and I know Giles and Buffy are too."
"Oh, yeah? What are you going to do if I don't?" she asked as she stood up. She put her hands on her hips and waited for his response. "I thought as much," she said when he didn't reply. "You need to deal with your issues, Xander. That's all there is to it. We're tired of you complaining all the time about how pathetic you are. Either change it, or shut up."
With that said, she headed down the stairs, leaving Xander on the flet, dumbfounded.
"Look in the mirror sometime when you say that," he grumbled as he followed after her.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.