Hope and Moonlight

The moon was just rising over the Isla of Tol Lochul as Finchley stalked her prey, moving soundlessly, barely breathing. Her small fists were tight with concentration as she moved, step by step, closer to her quarry. Everything depending upon her being able to approach without alerting resistance. Finally, she saw her moment as a cloud passed in front of the bright moon, and Finchley slowly stepped up behind Xandilif and peered over her shoulder. "... Whatcha doin', Lif?"

The elven champion was sitting beside a reflecting pool overlooking the sea, drinking from a flask of grog and meticulously cleaning her sword, SilverWand.  She had taken a moment to stare out to sea, but smiled as the predator became prey to the wily Finch.'Hey babygirl...ya need somethin? You ok?'

Finchley smiled and just plopped herself down unceremoniously next to Lif. "Eh... I am more okay than I was yesterday but maybe it is not quite permanent yet. We'll see." She folded her legs underneath her and glanced over at SilverWand curiously. The sword always unnerved her. Sometimes it felt like it was watching her. "Are *you* okay, though? I know I keep askin' but-..."

Xandilif paused her polishing..."Yeah...I guess....it...it just takes time. Ain’t like this is my first time dealing with this. Most of you late born are soft and squishy and easily broken.”

The dark haired girl frowned for a bit but then shook her head and smiled. "Maybe. But I'm not broken yet I don't think." She glanced up at Lif's face, as if trying to figure something out, and then looked back down to the sword. "Just cause it ain't your first time, doesn't mean that it doesn't hurt you, Lif."

The Banshee was silent for a while…still polishing, then nodded without looking up. "Yeah...and I guess he thought I was pretty hard on him....Don’t get me wrong...he was a royal pain in the arse, and enjoyed being one. I just...gotta look out for Rian...ya follow?”

Finchley tilted her head at the mention of Xandilif’s sister. '"I know... No one can blame you for that. If I had a sibling, I'd want to look out for 'em too."'

Lif tested the edge of her blade with her thumb, then got out a small whetstone. “Xanderian can get real stupid, especially once she gets her damn clothing off...if ya..well..ummm..” The elleth paused awkwardly, suddenly on uncertain ground. “..I know you were also sweet on the Hamst...umm...Gwaelion and all….and he was on you too....'

Finchley laughed yet again, mostly at the absurd sight of Lif acting awkward, though it trailed off as her smile looked a little painful for a moment. "I know... I just wish it had been enough. I don't regret lovin' him one bit. It just... wasn't enough to help him in the end."

With a silvery sound, like a bell ringing, the elleth began to sharpen the great sword. “Love ain't never stopped death, babygirl...love is part of life...death is, death. You lovin' him, Rian lovin’ him...no way that coulda changed nothing”

The girl nodded, surprised the sword didn’t make the awful rasping sound her daggers did when she sharpened them, but shrugged it off as elf magic. She had been doing that a lot lately. "I think that the worst part was knowin' that he didn't think much of himself, probably even at the end. It's such a horrible thing for me to think about - goin' to your death thinkin' badly of yourself."

Xandilif wiped down the blade again, then continued sharpening without looking at her...."One a yer nightmares, Sweetmeat?”

Finchley shook her head and pulled her knees to her chest. "More like... I don't want anyone that I care about to think like that about themselves. Not when I can see so much good... Sorry, I bet that sounds real silly. But it’s how I feel."

The elleth shook her head and stopped sharpening. 'Nah..ain;t silly babygirl...but in the end ya got no control over how someone feels about themselves...If Isilme didn’t make that chucklehead see himself different, then nuthin could'

Smiling again, Finchley shrugged. "I know. That's the hardest part. Would that I could... get a magical lookin' glass or somethin' that shows everyone how I see 'em when they look in it." She sighed and rested her chin on her knees, still glancing at that sword. "Isilme?... Xan said that name twice. Well I think it was her who said it the second time. Who's Isilme?"

The champion sighed…and turned to face Finchley. “Nobody....that's the point...After Rian died at Kheledul, or..well...sorta died...it took her time to sort out what was past and present and future...ya know?"

Finchley tilted her head. "Aye, she said somethin' about that too. Somethin' about seein' his mother and me getting’ garland kisses from Hawk and things like that."

"Merileth....she said she saw Merileth, did she?" Xandilif was watching Finchley so carefully it was making the girl nervous.

Finchley nodded slowly. "Mmhmm... She seemed real sad about not bein' able to see her anymore."

Xandilif went back to polishing the newly sharpened sword, holding it as if it weighed nothing. "Yer right, his mother, the Princess in Twilight...was named Merileth...but that ain’t who Rian saw, ain't who she was talkin about."

"If not her then who did she see?" Finchley frowned a little.

Xandilif went silent for a few minutes, staring deep into the pool, then when she spoke she sounded softer then Finchley had ever heard her. Even soften then she had when she broke the news of Hawke’s death to her in Rivendell. “Her daughter...Merileth, named for Hawke's mother...she had seen herself give the babe the mothername of Isilme. Moonlight, in Quenya. She saw her daughter, Finchley. Her and Gwaelion’s daughter, Isilme."

Xandilif dipped the sword in the pool and watched the water run off the silvery blade..."That's gone now... So yeah..she is mourning Gwaelion...but she is mourning Isilme who will never be, too. Before long, she won’t even remember what she was gonna look like. Time is like that once the future is fixed…just a dream.”

Finchley blinked and let out a barely audible gasp. "Oh... Oh Xan, no."

The elleth looked back at the girl, eyes warm and soft. "She wanted you to be happy with him, and him with you...knew you would be down the line...but Isilme...was the future she saw....and don’t see no more."

Finchley looked decidedly upset but steadfastly reeled it in."That's... horrible." She shook her head and bit her lip. "And she gave me Hawk's pendant and his room... She said she'd keep the memories for herself. But she'll lose that too... She'll have nothin' for herself. That ain't right."

'What do ya think we are, Babygirl....we are the past....we are a shadow of a world that is ending...we are the last guard. We ain’t gonna take anything out of here with us. This is your world...should a been Gwaelion's too, but shite happens.' Xandilif just shook her head.

Finchley trembled a little and leaned into Lif a little, still hugging her knees to her chest. "... Can I say somethin' real selfish and then we can forget I ever said it?"

The champion raised the massive sword so the moonlight caught it, one handed....and puts the other arm around the girl. "Yeah, Sweetmeat?”

"... I hope you stay as long as you can. I don't wanna watch you leave for where all the other elves are sailin' for a good long time."' Finchley nearly blushed as she said it, knowing how foolish she sounded.

Xandilif laughed and laid the sword in the grass. 'I ain;t decided yet...Rian has already cashed in her ticket...but either way, I ain’t in no hurry. I am havin' fun here. What would I have to do out West? Do I look like the sort of wants to swan around the undying land, eatin’ little cakes and contemplating how pretty my shoes are?'

Finchley covered her face in her hands and laughed a little wetly. "Is that what they do over there? Maybe the little cakes'll be worth it "

“I got no damn idea...what else they got ta do?' Xandilif spat. 'Nothing to fight, no monsters or nuthin….just...sitting around. Blackbird might like it...she can make gems for eternity...but she won’t have nobody to light on fire.

Finchley couldn’t stop laughing at the image of Xandilif admiring her pretty shoes. '"Too bad I can't come with. I'd eat all the cakes you don't want."'

'Don't worry babygirl...if I go I'll sneak ya on the boat' Xandilif ruffled the girl’s hair.

Finchley sneakily wiped those pesky teartracks from her cheeks. "I don't want you to get in trouble, Lif. All the cakes in the world ain't worth that."

Xandilif nodded...looking at the pool again, suddenly changing the subject. "Ya know why you goin ta Evendim chapped my ass, yeah?

Gigglesnorting just a little over that turn of phrase, Finchley tried to talk. "Maybe not down to the specifics. But Xan said somethin' about you havin' bad experiences there."

'Yeah...people don;t see what lurks in that place...it is a lot older and darker then folks realize...main thing is I didn;t want ya going alone.' The champion met Finchley’s eyes and for a moment the girl shivered as if all the joy had left the world. “Alone is always bad. But you thought I was sayin you were helpless and got all bent outta shape..and the hamster saw you were bent so he got all in my face...'

Shaking off that sensation, Finchley smiled. "... Lands sakes, Lif! You could've just said that!" She laughed a little and shook her head. "I wasn't alone. Not really. But I bet you don't count havin' my horse with me as not bein' alone."

Lif stared for a second, 'Yer horse?'

Finchley nodded. "Destiny's her name. Got her from Eogar. He warned me off her. Said she wasn't rideable. I wanted her anyway... She saved my life on the way to Tinnudir. And she-..." She broke off into giggles. "She bit a Ranger's butt for me."  She rested her chin on her knees again. "Hey, Lif, when you were in Evendim afore... Did you ever see a blue lady? Completely blue, head to toe."

Xandilif looked sideways at her. "Blue ya say? What she have ta say to you?

'"Well... I'm not even sure if she was even real. Maybe it was a dream after all. But she knew my name and everythin'. Then, I dunno, she was upset with me for some reason. Somethin' about ruin and abandonment and such. I think she was talkin' bout the old city? I was honest with her and tried my best to be respectful. Then she didn't seem so upset anymore. Mostly sad." Finchley paused for air. "And all that happened after I--... Uhhhhhhh..."'

The girl looked a little embarrassed. Xandilif smiled and pressed the point. 'After you what, baby girl?'

Finchley looked to the ground. "Well, I was fine takin' on a wolf but not a wolf AND a wolfman. So I tried to swim for it but I uhhh... Got clobbered in the head and, honestly, I thought I was a goner for a bit. I sank like a stone. But I didn't wake up at the bottom of the lake."'

Xandilif smiled darkly. “You woke up with Gwindeth then?'

Finchley shrugged. "Is that her name? That's when I saw her only I didn't see her at the bottom of a lake. I saw her before a shinin' city. Well, until she didn't let me see anythin' else anymore... And after all that I woke up in some sorta cave. Had no idea that it was even there. But after I left it could see why. There's a waterfall in front of it an' all..."

“Yeah..Gwindeth saved yer ass.” Despite herself Xandilif checked to make sure there were no wounds still on the girl’s head. 'But she don’t like having her grief disturbed. If like you said, you gave her respect...she was happy with that, and it likely saved yer life.”

Finchley frowned a little. "... So if she is real... Oh dear, I didn't even thank her properly."

The champion laughed and squeezed the girl tighter. 'Don;t worry yerself about it..ya try to find her you just might die...leave it go...But next time you are in Evendim, cast some flowers into the lake, say a prayer for the souls of the Kings of Arnor. She is angry...her kings are all dead and the fecking Angmarim piss in her lake.'

'I could tell that much... Eh, despite all that, I think I'd like to see the lake again someday. It was so beautiful, Lif." Finchley brightened at the memory. “You could come with me the next time I go. That is if you don't mind goin' places with me.”

'Yeah..well...” The Banshee stopped herself, and looking at Finchley’s earnest expression, shrugged. “Maybe it is time I tossed some damn flowers in the lake as well., huh? Sweetmeat….Ya think I was wrong?”

Finchley wiped at her eyes for a bit . 'Bout what?"

Xandilif looked up at the stars and lay on her back next to the girl and tried to find the words. 'Maybe I shouldn;t a stopped Rian....Maybe I was wrong..should a let her try and dive after Gwaelion...she has done crazy things before...'

Finchley shook her head. "And she might've gotten herself hurt. Or worse... Lif, you are smart and strong. You did the best you could."

“Yeah...I guess…” Xandilif did not sound convinced.

Finchley laid back on the grass next to Lif. "Maybe it was right and maybe it was wrong. But she's still here with us and she didn't get hurt more. Though I wish you hadn't got shot, I'm glad you did it."

'Eh..ain;t the first time she put an arrow in me' Xandilif smiled. 'That's what big sisters are for...am I right?'

Finchley smiled as well, but sadly. "... I ain't gonna lie. It scares me a little for you when you say it like that."

Xandilif went silent again, just staring up at the stars....then just at the point Finchley thought she had fallen asleep, she spoke. "Can't figger you out at all...yer like a dog with two faces

Finchley’s heart sank at what she assumed was a rebuke. "Maybe... Maybe I'm a little more messed up than I thought right now. I got too many thoughts and feelings and tryin' to feel 'em all and get everythin' straight without makin' everyone worried about me is like tryin' to thread a needle or somethin'... I'm sorry, Lif."

Xandilif rose and walked out to the edge of the garden terrace, looking out at the endless sea. "Ya don't follow me. I am what I am...what I was born ta be....Most people I take a shine to..the next day they are dead in one battle or another....or I close my eyes for too long, and they are old and grey. Since I first seen ya out in from of that wretched beerhall in Bree...you been different. Ya know the main difference between me and my sister?'

Finchley had followed the elleth out, but couldn’t bring herself to look out to sea, '"What is that, Lif?"'

Xandilif the Banshee, Champion of the Azure Faithful, Warden of the Planes of Gorgoroth, Silverwand’s Slut and Keeper of the Blade of Unsung Dooms, Last Defender of Caerfalla Redoubt, Sentry of Barad Dur and knight extraordinaire to Princess Lothiriel of the Azure Sea, Blood Royal whispered to Finchley of Bree as if she were a little girl telling tales out of class. “She still has hope'

Finchley stared '"... And you don't?"'

The elleth shook her head slowly. 'I ain;t never had any...not since I was a kid'

Wrapping her arms about herself, Finchley looked absolutely heartbroken. "Oh, Lif..."

Xandilif continued and Finchley got the feeling that she had never spoken of any of this to anyone..perhaps not even to her sister. 'Maybe part a me has always feared..or even thought,,,,my father was right. That this is all futile...we can;t win...all we can do is fight and suffer and die until we lose once and for all...maybe he was right to kill all those soldiers, ta spare them a worse fate in Dol Gulder.'

Finchley felt more teardrops fall down her face and she didn’t even bother to wipe them away. She shook her head a few times. "Oh, Lif..." She stepped over to her and wrapped her arms around her.

“Then I met you...and....yer just different…” Xandilif looked into Finchley’s eyes and saw she was still not getting it. 'Ya....Ya give me hope...and I love ya for that. In you..I see what will be when all this shite is over...when all of us who have been twisted by this endless war are gone. I see it all in you, and I think that might still be worth fighting for after all...'

The girl shook her head again. "Lif... what about you? Don't you want to be happy when 'all this shite is over'?"

'Lets just get there first, huh babygirl?' Xandilif put an arm around her again and watched the sky lightening over the sea.

Finchley smiled and gave Lif one tight squish before pulling back just a little. "... Oh for the love of-- I have got to stop cryin' like this! Look, I've got it all over the place." She began to wipe at her face yet again.

'Leave yerself alone, baby girl..you are fine' Xandilif gestured out to the horizon with her free hand. 'Look...sunrise over the Bay. We nattered on all damn night.'

Finally finding the courage to actually look out over the water this time, to look at the sea where Hawke died, Finchley sighed. "It's beautiful and big and scary... But good gracious, it hurts too..."

Xandilif nods...”Yeah...now ya get what the world looks like ta me, Sweetmeat.”

The two stood in silence, watching the water until the sun was high in the sky, not another word was spoken.