Buffy awoke the following morning feeling completely well rested and content despite the previous nightÂ’s activities. Mablung, who was already wide awake, had been watching her sleep.

“You are awake at last,” he said. “I hope that you slept well.”

“Oh, yeah,” she replied as she shifted her position. “Have you been watching me sleep?” she asked with a yawn. “Cause I’m not much to look at in the morning.”

“You are beautiful despite your disheveled appearance,” answered Mablung teasingly.

“You really know how to woo a girl, don’t you Mablung?” she said with a snicker.

“Are you complaining? As I do not recall any complaints last night.”

“Nope,” she said as she wrapped her arms around him and gave him a kiss. “You won’t get any complaints from me.” The sound of rain began beating upon the rooftop of the house. “Oh goody. Rain,” said a dejected Slayer. “I was hoping we could explore Ossiriand today,” she whined.

“Shall we let a little rain stop us? I think not. If my Bella wishes to explore, then explore is what we shall do.”

“Sounds good to me,” she sighed. “But now I don’t know if I even want to get out of bed… Rainy mornings make me want to stay in bed longer. Doesn’t it do the same for you?”

“No. We will not stay in Ossir long. If you wish to see the land then we should start the day, rain or not.”

“Okay, okay.”

Buffy and Mablung got dressed and made their way to the lower level of the House. There they met with other members of their company and the green elves. After breakfasting, they headed down the various boardwalks throughout the land. The rain had stopped and the sun was now beaming down upon them. They had explored the north-west area between the rivers Gelion and Ascar. Buffy had fallen in love with this place. It was a place of peace and great beauty. As she and Mablung walked along the rivers, she sensed a great power about them. Perhaps it was the power of Ulmo, who protected the land. Buffy was hoping to get a glance of the Vala. SheÂ’d like to see him face-to-face.

It was during their expedition that Thingol met with the leaders of the green elves.

“We have already seen the might of Bauglir,” he had said at the council. “I foresee many more battles are yet to come. Any of your people who wish, may enter my realm in Eglador. For when I return to my land, we shall secure our borders more than before. There you may live in peace and will not be called to battle, if that is your desire.” Word of Thingol’s offer spread quickly through Ossiriand. Surprisingly, many of the green elves took Thingol up on his offer including many people in positions of power within that realm. He had made this offer because of the sorrow within his heart. The green elves had suffered bitterly and he wanted to atone for their loss.

So it was on the following day that Thingol with his ever expanding train of people left the beautiful woods of Ossir and headed back north to his realm. Before departing, Orchal had pulled Buffy aside.

“I must say that it was a pleasure to meet you Bellaseth Dagnir. I have seen many peoples in my long years yet I have never met one as intriguing as you.” He smiled at her and put his hand on her shoulder. “My heart tells me that we shall meet again… and under more desirable circumstances, I hope. You will always be most welcomed.”

“Thanks Orchal. But why don’t you come with us. Come to Menegroth. You know that you’re welcomed there.”

“My place is here,” he said softly. “We only wish to live in peace.” Buffy noticed that his gaze shifted towards Amon Ereb. “Must we be subjected to death? Is that what the world is coming to?” He looked back at Buffy. “Forgive me. The loss of Denethor still grieves me so.”

“I understand. I’ve lost many loved ones to war. It’s never pretty. And I’m afraid, Orchal, that it’s gonna get a lot worse before it gets better. It always does.” Buffy understood the reality of big bads more than anybody else except maybe Melian. And Bauglir was the biggest and baddest of them all.

Pédacar sounded his trumpet signaling that it was time to depart. “It is time for you to go. Farewell, Bellaseth.”

“Take care,” she replied as she mounted her black steed and joined the others. Buffy couldn’t help but look over her shoulder and watch as the beautiful woods of Ossir became smaller and smaller in the distance. The train by-passed the area where the battle took place as the rocky ground was still littered with the decomposing bodies of the enemy. Even though they had gone out of their way to avoid them, the stench of their mutilated corpses was thick in the air as was the cawing of the crows and ravens. And the buzzards were having a field day too.

It took nearly a week for them to arrive back at Menegroth. There was much celebrating upon their return. It was at this time, after a lengthy council, that it was decided that Melian would cast a spell of enchantment around the borders of Eglador. Messengers were quickly dispatched to notify the wandering elves outside of the forests of Region and Neldoreth to relocate to those woods. There they would be safe from the evils of Bauglir. When this was done to the King’s satisfaction, Melian performed her spell of protection which prevented anyone from entering their borders without their leave. Meaning no one could enter their realm unless they had powers greater than Melian. It was more or less a force field of bewilderment. When this was done, their country was renamed Doriath ‘the land of the girdleÂ’ in the elvish tongue.

Now at this point it must be mentioned that while Thingol and his men were leading their people back to Menegroth, yet another war was being fought in Beleriand. Not the one involving Círdan and the people of the Falas. This war was with Fëanor and the returning Noldor. Their ships had come ashore at the north-western seaboard at the Firth of Drengist. The newcomers were attacked by both the yrch from Angband and the survivors of the assault on the Falas. The Noldor battled with the yrch for ten days before achieving their victory. But it came at a price, as was later discovered, that Fëanor, eldest son of Finwë, perished at the hands of Bauglir’s mighty demons of fire, the Balrogs.

A few days after Buffy returned to Menegroth she came down with that tormenting ailment known as insomnia. No matter what she did, she couldnÂ’t get any sleep. Neither the healerÂ’s potions or tonics worked nor the elves magical wine that normally puts one into a deep slumber. Even MelianÂ’s attempts at curing her were to no avail. Nothing is worse than not sleeping as the Slayer soon found out. She became lethargic and sullen. One minute she was laughing and the next she was bawling her eyes out for no apparent reason. She couldnÂ’t think clearly or make any sound decisions. She was a mess.

It was Mablung who was most disturbed by this malady that overtook his beloved. He spent many nights trying to soothe her to sleep by playing his harp and singing to her softly. Normally this would work but it surely didn’t this time. He took his concerns to Thingol and Melian who were also his closest confidants in Beleriand. “It troubles me to see her suffering so,” he had said to them in their private chambers. “My heart tells me that this is being done to her.”

“Do you believe that this is some new device of Bauglir’s?” asked Thingol with growing concern. “A form of torment that one can do from afar?”

“That I do not know,” replied Mablung as he looked to the Queen. “You are the only one here who knows him. The enemy. What say you, my Lady?”

Melian sat there for a moment. “I cannot answer that question. I will say that I deem that there is some higher power at work here. Yes, my friend, even stronger than me. Bear in mind that not even the Draught of Melian could cure her illness… As far as who is harnessing that power over her, it is unbeknownst to me. The Valar most surely possess those types of power… including Melkor Bauglir.”

“That is what I fear,” responded Mablung with a sigh. “She must find some relief or I am afraid of what may happen to her. I cannot stand to see her in such deep despair, I fear that she may… ” he stopped.

“Fear that she may… what, Mablung? What is it?” queried Thingol.

“I fear that she may take her own life.” Thingol and Melian were aghast by those words.

“Surely you jest, Mablung,” said the Queen anxiously. “It is not in Bellaseth’s nature to do something so extreme no matter what ails her… ”

“Hope fades from her with each passing day. I see that. When one loses hope, what is left? She has died before as you know well. There she found peace. I worry that she may look for an escape… even death.”

Melian shook her head as Thingol began speaking again. “What can we do, my friend? We have tried all the remedies in Menegroth but they were ineffective. Do you have any suggestions?”

“Yes, my Lord,” responded Mablung. “I would like to take her to the healers in Ossir. It is said that the green elves are truly masters of the art of herbs. Not even our people can surpass them. I would like to take her down there and see if we can find a cure… with your leave, of course,” he added.

“Our borders are now well protected. Take Bellaseth to Ossir. Take an extended holiday if it is needed. You have my leave,” stated Thingol.

“And mine as well,” added Melian. “Do not delay, Mablung. I suggest that you and Bellaseth leave at once. Good luck.”

Mablung quickly returned to his chambers where he packed his satchel with spare clothing. He continued on to the kitchens in order to get provisions for the trip before seeking out Buffy. He found his beloved sitting on her bed in the lotus position, her arms were folded about her, staring into space and rocking back and forth. Not a good sign! Mablung thought to himself. He spoke to her about going to Ossiriand as he began rummaging through her bureau pulling out various garments for her to wear. The Slayer merely babbled incoherently. It was heartbreaking. She had been suffering from this ailment for thirteen days straight.

Mablung led Buffy to the stables and as she sat on an overturned barrel he got their horses. He placed all the bags on her horse as he didn’t think she was capable of riding by herself at this point. He decided it would be much safer for her to ride with him. He picked her up and put her atop Nínim, his white steed, before heading south. It was already late afternoon when they departed Region and they rode well into the night.

It was just after sunrise on the third day of their journey when they entered the great woods of Ossiriand. They headed east after crossing the ford at the river Ascar and could immediately hear the fair elvish voices singing in the treetops. The green elves were still lamenting their fallen king. Unlike a few weeks ago, the elves kept themselves hidden until Buffy and Mablung approached the Great House. There they were met by several elves of the House of Denethor.

“Orchal awaits you, my friends,” said a tall dark haired elf. There was no way Buffy could ascend the rope ladder that led up to the House, so the elves lowered their ‘lift’ as they had done for Thingol on their last trip. Buffy’s strength was depleting more day by day. It left her in an incredibly vulnerable state. And if Melkor Bauglir caught wind of her condition it could be catastrophic.

Mablung held on to Buffy tightly as they ambled down the boardwalk that led to the House. They were taken into a great chamber where many elves were waiting. Orchal was sitting on a divan at the far end of the room. He rose when they entered.

“Mablung… Bellaseth… ” He gasped when he saw her appearance. By now, Buffy had dark circles under her eyes, her face was pale and she looked sickly. “My dear Bellaseth,” he began again as he placed his hands on her shoulders. Her tear filled eyes met his. “It pains me to see you in this state. But we knew that you were coming and Nestor here,” he pointed to a golden haired elf dressed in green robes, “is a most exceptional healer. He foresaw your ailment at the time of your last visit and has been brewing his potion since that time… ”

Nestor took a few paces forward and interrupted Orchal. “My Lord, we have need for haste. Let us take Bellaseth to her chamber, so I may begin. We do not have much time… ”

“What do you mean by ‘we do not have much time’?” interjected Mablung.

“Forgive me Lord,” replied Nestor. “I can stand here and debate that issue with you until the stars come out or I may attend to the Lady and cure her ailment. Shall I let it be your call?”

Mablung glared at Nestor. He didnÂ’t want to get into a knock down drag out fight with BuffyÂ’s potential healer although the temptation was there.

“Work your charms, Nestor. All I care about is Bella getting the rest that she needs.”

Nestor bowed his head and led them to BuffyÂ’s chambers. The room was quite impressive and much larger than the one she stayed in on her previous visit. The room was decorated in green, gold and white. A large bed was situated at the far end of the room with a canopy that resembled the green leaves of the mighty elm trees. If Buffy wasnÂ’t so exhausted she would have loved to have taken a closer look at the intricate details of the canopy. A few feet from the bed was a screen for her to change behind; the elves had provided her with a white nightgown to wear. Mablung assisted the Slayer into her nightclothes. Shortly afterward, she climbed into the bed awaiting NestorÂ’s instructions. Mablung sat on the edge of the bed caressing her hand and speaking words of encouragement. Nestor had his back turned to her as he prepared his tonic.

“What is it that you will be giving to her?” asked a troubled Mablung.

“It is a concoction of herbs, roots and berries. The process is most difficult as it must be brewed, stewed and cooled three times a day for fifteen days. I am afraid that it is not the tastiest of draughts but it should provide Bellaseth with the relief she so desperately needs.” At this point, Buffy would have drunk orch piss if it would make her sleep. Nestor soon turned around with a wooden bowl in hand. He sat on the edge of her bed. “Drink this up,” he ordered. He put the bowl to her lips and turned it up as she drank the magical liquid. It tasted very… earthy. If there were berries in there, Buffy couldn’t taste it. It was bitter, but no more bitter than black coffee.

When Buffy emptied the bowl, she asked in a faint voice, “How long before it takes effect?”

“It should not be long… ” Buffy didn’t hear anything else after those words. She had immediately drifted off into a deep sleep.

How many hours Buffy slept, she couldnÂ’t tell you. But she awoke in the wee hours of the night; all was quiet except for the rhythmic breathing of Mablung who was still sleeping soundly. The room was dark except for a lone candle faintly burning across the room. She felt totally awake. Invigorated is actually the word that described how she felt. As she lay there staring at the ceiling, she heard a faint sound in the distance. Gradually it was becoming louder and louder. She looked at Mablung, who still lay there, unaffected by the music that was becoming clearer and more pronounced by the minute. She was compelled to find its source.

She climbed out of bed and went quietly out the door. She made her way down the staircase and out the massive front doors onto the wide boardwalk. She headed in the direction of the music and was surprised that none of the elves were wakened by the boisterous notes. When she realized that the sounds came from below, she jumped from the walkway some two hundred feet to the earth below. She landed with ease and hastily made her way into the dense forest.

After ten minutes of walking she finally reached a clearing with a pool in the midst of the woods. The pool was maybe twenty feet in diameter. The music was coming from a man who was sitting on a flat stone overlooking the water; from her position she could see the back of his head which was covered with long silvery hair. It looked like a light was emanating from him.

When the last note faded, he spoke, “Hail Bellaseth. Won’t you come and join me?” He never turned in her direction but patted the large stone next to him. Buffy’s heart was racing as she approached the stranger. She took a seat next to him and noticed that in his hand was a strange instrument made from conch shells. Upon closer inspection, she noticed that he resembled Ulmo. He had that same long beard and mustache and the most magnificent blue eyes.

“Who are you?” she inquired as he sat the instrument to the side.

“I am called Salmar by the elves in the West,” he answered in a powerful voice. “I am a trusted servant of Ulmo.”

“Oh,” Buffy replied. “I guess I don’t warrant a visit from Ulmo himself. At least, not in real life.”

He looked at her with a scornful expression. “That is not true. You are very worthy of a visit from Ulmo, but he is elsewhere at this time. He sent me in his stead.”

“Why?” she asked.

“Things are changing… this world… everything. Some of it will be good, some not so good. I was sent here to take you on a journey.”

“What kind of journey?” she inquired.

“Do you know why you are here, Dagnir?” She shook her head. “I did not think so. You see, dear Bella, you are confused as to why you were brought here.” Salmar noticed her facial expression, “Yes, I said brought here. It was the Valar that brought you here by means of the amulet that you wore. Melkor was extremely troubled by that and attempted to destroy you whilst you were on your journey to Middle-earth.” Buffy recalled that black foggy thing that ensnared her as she was fleeing the Hellmouth. Before Buffy could ask why, he continued, “Your life that you led before… I believe you understand that you were living in the End of Days.” He now looked thoughtfully at the pool. “Two of the Valar foresaw what was to happen to you, other than Melkor that is; Námo and Ulmo. You think that you have been sucked through some portal into another dimension, but that is far from reality, my friend. You have gone back in time… to the beginning of time… before man… ”

“You mean there are men in this world?” she asked excitedly.

“I said before man. Man has yet to be wakened, but soon will be. The war you have waged with Melkor cannot be won unless you know more about the enemy. You cannot find that information in any of those books in your ‘modern’ world. The only way to defeat him in the future is to understand the beginning. To relive the past…”

Buffy interrupted him. “What do mean ‘relive the past’? IÂ’ve never been here before. IÂ’m only twenty-five, ya know.”

Salmar chuckled. “Twenty-five,” he uttered. “Yes, indeed!” His look turned serious. “None know Melkor better than you. You understand evil… You are drawn to it.” Before Buffy could protest, he motioned for her to be quiet and continued. “None know his weaknesses like you do. In time you will discover these things for yourself. But now I must insist on taking you on that journey. And no, we will not be traveling by foot or by steed. I will take you to the Dark Lands where your greatest adversary dwells.”

“Mablung would probably like to come along.” She got to her feet. “Let me go and get him.”

“No!” Salmar bellowed as he too got to his feet. “This journey is not for your elven lover. It is for you to take… alone. Have you already forgotten that you are still the Chosen One? No matter what age of the Earth you dwell in, as long as you are living and breathing, you are The Slayer.”

“Lucky me,” she mumbled wistfully. “I do a spell to activate all the Potential Slayers, but I’m still the Chosen One.” She looked up at Salmar. “How come I always get the shaft? All I ever wanted was to be normal like everyone else… ”

“You are unlike everybody else in this world or any other. ‘You think you know… what’s to come… what you are… you haven’t even begun’.”

Buffy folded her arms across her chest attempting to stifle the fury that was growing within her. “Why do you people have to constantly taunt me with those words? I’m sick and tired of everyone knowing more about me than me! When the hell is someone gonna tell me what that means? Huh? What the hell am I? Can you answer that question?”

“Calm down, Bellaseth. In time… ”

“I’m tired of that ‘in time’ or that… that ‘as you get more wisdom’ crap. Can’t you people just give me a straight answer?”

Salmar seemed to be enjoying Buffy’s little tirade. “I am sorry my little friend. All that I can say, and do not attack me in the process, is that you will discover things… in time. I am not in the position to say any more… Do not take your rage out on me!”

“Whatever.” Buffy’s mounting frustration was becoming more difficult to quell. She took a few deep breaths in an attempt to calm herself.

“Let us go on that journey,” Salmar said boldly.

“Fine. So how are we gonna do this if we’re not walking or riding? You’re a servant of Ulmo’s. Does that mean we’re going by boat?”

“Not quite.” Salmar shoved Buffy into the icy water. She sure wasn’t expecting that. But what frightened her even more was that she was quickly sinking to the bottom. She was a good swimmer being a California girl and all, but here she was desperately flailing her arms and legs yet she continued to sink to the bottom like a heavy anchor. Her slayer strength did not help in the slightest. Buffy could see Salmar peering into the water from above beckoning her to come. As she hit the bottom, she could feel the air being squeezed from her lungs. She frantically tried to hold what air she had in but it was rapidly escaping. She saw the final bubbles rise in the water above her. She was out of air.

Buffy then felt her spirit leave her body. She shot straight out of the water and landed next to Salmar. “What the hell’s wrong with you? Are you crazy?” she screamed at him. “You freakin’ killed me!” She took a swing at him but it merely went through him. Without her body she was powerless to inflict some serious pain on Salmar. She looked into the depths of the pool only to see her physical body lying motionless on the bottom. Wisps of her blonde hair were swirling about her expressionless face. Salmar laughed, backing away from the Slayer and then he dove into the pool. Buffy cursed him as she examined herself. She looked totally normal except for the fact that she was an apparition. And a very pissed off one at that!!

Within a few seconds, Salmar was beside Buffy again. His body now rested on the floor of the pool next to hers. A wide grin was on his face. Buffy continued to hurl curses at him. “Compose yourself, Bellaseth,” he said between fits of laughter. “You are not dead. Your fey has left its house, but only temporarily. I promise. You will return to your body shortly and all will be fine.” Buffy began to regain her composure.

“You could warn a girl, ya know. It’s not every day something like this happens to me.”

“I much prefer the element of surprise,” Salmar replied. “And I must say this means of traveling is by far quicker than any mortal means…”

“So, is this like astral projection or something?” she asked as her nerves finally settled down.

He pondered her words for a few moments. “Yes. There are those who have the ability to leave their physical abodes for a period of time. You possess that ability, Bellaseth. Our bodies lay in the bottom of this mystical pool as a means of protection.” She looked up at him curiously. “There are some houseless feys roaming about that would be delighted to possess our forms. As long as we are immersed in its depths, none can make any claim to our bodies. We are protected by the power of Ulmo.”

Buffy looked back into the water. “Do the elves know about this place?”

“No. There are enchantments about this place. No one may approach it nor enter it without the blessing of Ulmo, and that he does not give to any… other than his kin… and you.”

“Why?” she asked, not understanding this strange thing that was happening to her.

“Because you need to know. You need to see this world as it is. Or in your case, as it was before it was changed and… shall be changed again.”

“What do you mean by ‘change’?” she inquired.

“Let us speak as we travel. There is no point in staying here wasting time.” Salmar’s spirit began to rise from the ground. Buffy stood there like an idiot not knowing what to do. “All you need to do is will it. Think about what you’re attempting to do and your fey will comply.” A moment later, Buffy felt herself lift off the ground.

“Cool,” she said as she rose higher and higher. “Can we scare people? I mean, we’re like ghosts, right?” Buffy was really enjoying the experience.

“Now why would you want to do that?” he asked in an appalled tone.

“Oh, I don’t know. I guess it’s just the mortal in me wanting to have a little fun.” She began doing flips in the air as they began heading north. Despite the initial shock of being thrown into an ice cold spring, Buffy was really enjoying her newfound astral projecting self. She felt free… liberated. She flew towards a flock of birds that broke formation and bypassed her spirit. “Can they see me?” she asked Salmar.

“Animals have an acute ability to visualize a fey when others cannot. Most of the times they may sense them, but as aÂ…”

Buffy interrupted him. “Yes would have sufficed! There’s no need to be long winded about it.”

Salmar kept quiet for a while after that. When he finally spoke again he asked Buffy numerous questions. “What are your intentions now that you are in Middle-earth? Are you now a follower of the elven king?” He cast a glance in her direction. “I would think that the great Buffy Summers would continue with her normal routine in this world. What happened to the daily patrols and the hunting of the lairs of the evil ones? Are you stepping down from your life’s mission in order to have a more peaceful existence?”

The Slayer didn’t like the tone that Salmar spoke in. “What do you expect me to do?” she shot back. “I don’t know anything about this place. It’s not like Rome or London or even Sunnydale. Evil doesn’t walk as freely here as it does in my world. Isn’t it pretty much confined to Angband?”

Salmar scowled at her. “Is that what you think? You have fought the monstrous spiders and the yrch before setting foot in Eglador and you ask me if the evil ones are confined to Angband! That is a foolish question. Evil abounds. Melian may cast her spells to keep their land protected, but outside… outside their lands, oh my dear Bellaseth, evil lurks around every corner… and in more ways than one. Melkor has many emissaries.”

“So what do you want me to do about it?” she asked angrily. “You want me to leave Mablung and the elves and wander aimlessly about in this world when I don’t know a damn thing about it? Sounds more like suicide to me.”

“Your standing in this world is greater than being accounted amongst the mighty knights of Thingol. You are a hero with unspeakable abilities. You can perceive evil that others cannot. That is a quality that even many of the Valar do not possess. It is a gift from Eru Ilúvatar. But it is up to you to use that gift and to use it wisely.”

“IÂ’m sorry Salmar,” Buffy replied. “But thereÂ’s no way that IÂ’m gonna walk away from the life that I have made here. IÂ’m not the Messiah. IÂ’m just BuffyÂ… or Bellaseth. It doesnÂ’t matter what name you wanna call me – itÂ’s all the same. The Slayer works differently in my world. Evil has infiltrated it. You canÂ’t go anywhere without running into some demony creature. You find them in the local hang outs and stuff. That just doesnÂ’t happen here. Evil may be lurking but it hasnÂ’t truly invaded this world. Not yet, any way.”

A look of disappointment came over the apparition of Salmar. “So that is it. You choose to avoid your Calling in hope that you may live in peace. Then this is truly a very sad day.” He sighed.

“I’m not saying that I’ll never slay a demon or something. If some bad ass gets in my way – I’ll take him out. But to expect me to be some lone demon hunter – forget it. That’s not my style.”

Once again their conversation ceased as the massive snow covered peaks of Ered Engrin (the Iron Mountains) came into view. A deep sense of foreboding encompassed the Slayer. She could not turn her eyes from the mighty fortress of Melkor Bauglir. All the while, Salmar watched Buffy intently. As they proceeded on she noticed three huge mountains in the foreground – Thangorodrim, it was called in the elvish tongue (translated literally into our modern language as ‘oppression-mountain-group’ or more commonly known as ‘The Mountains of Tyranny’). It didn’t take a brain surgeon to notice that Thangorodrim were actually volcanoes. Buffy had seen many in her life time and knew instinctively that these peaks would play a major role in upcoming battles. Buffy looked upon this fortress and was very much in awe of it as she was with Menegroth. While Menegroth was a place of great beauty and happiness, Melkor’s home gave one the feeling of terror and dread. She had this overwhelming sense that they were being watched. Melkor knew that they were there. That thought would have given her mortal body the shivers. She recalled her battle with Glory, the hell god, and knew that without Giles intervening on her behalf she would not have defeated her. While her blood shut the gates to hell, Giles was the one responsible for Glory’s demise.

“Why did you bring me here?” she finally asked Salmar.

“Should you not know where the enemy dwells? All evil originated in this very place. Your vampires and demons in ‘modern’ times – this was their birthplace ages ago,” he replied in a solemn voice.

“And what am I supposed to do about it? Melian said that only The Powers can defeat him. There’s nothing I can do… ”

“Perhaps,” answered Salmar. “Perhaps that is true. The Ainur cannot foresee all future events clearly. And some can see more than others. I want you to see where it all began. It is important that you know this. It may help you in the future.”

“I’ve seen enough,” she finally said. “I don’t wanna see any more.” She faced Salmar who seemed frightened at the sight of Angband and its fortress. “Ya know Salmar, I was really enjoying this whole fey traveling thing, but now… you’re a real buzz kill!”

For the first time since their meeting, Salmar laughed heartily. “I have completed my task. Let us go back.”

“Your task?” questioned Buffy as they turned and headed south again. “What do you mean ‘your task’?”

“I was instructed to show you Melkor’s fortress. He has brought much sorrow into Valinor. Now that he has returned to his fortress, he shall once again cause much sorrow here.” Salmar didn’t offer any more details about the havoc that Melkor instigated in the Blessed Realm. Instead he made small talk that really had no relevance in the telling of this tale.

When they reached the pool in Ossir, he did share his final thoughts with her before diving into the icy water. “Soon Mablung will ask you to be his wife.” His tone and facial expression were grim. “You will accept his proposal. All I ask of you is to wait. Do not bind yourself to him too hastily no matter how much you claim to love him. Tell him he must wait until you reach your fiftieth year in Middle-earth. At that point, I deem you shall be ready… Farewell, my dear Bellaseth and good luck!” Before Buffy could ask more questions he dove into the water.

She called after him, “What do you mean my fiftieth year? Salmar… Salmar that would make me seventy-five years old.” Not only did he enter his body, but it somehow disappeared from the depths of the pool altogether. He was gone. Buffy’s fey remained motionless as she pondered his last words. She was completely baffled. She, too, then dove into the cold water. The cold water took her breath away and she gasped for air.

Buffy found herself wide awake in her bed at the House. She was still gasping for air as Mablung looked up at her utterly shocked by her mannerisms.

“Bella, oh Bella,” he cried as he got up from his chair where he had been eating his meal. “You are awake at last. Do you not feel well?”

Buffy caught her breath at last. The coldness left her and she was once again warm and content. She was amazed that she was still in her bed. Was the journey just another vision? It seemed so real to her. It couldnÂ’t have been.

“I’m fine,” she finally said. “Have I been here the whole time?” she asked calmly.

“You have not left your bed for over six months… ”

“Six months!” Buffy exclaimed in disbelief. “How is that possible?”

“Nestor deems that his draught was too potent. Yet its sustenance must have kept you alive all that time. Did you experience another one of those prophetic dreams?” he asked as he held her hand tightly in his.

“You can’t imagine what I saw… ” Buffy then described her ‘dream’ to him in every vivid detail except for the proposal part. That was just too weird. “I wanna take you there Mablung. I know I’m not crazy or imagining that mystical pool I was in. I don’t think I’ll have any peace of mind until you see it.”

“But,” he began. “Salmar says that the elves are not meant to see it. If I go with you, the ramifications could be disastrous.”

“I say we take our chances.” Buffy climbed out of bed and immediately changed her clothes. “I’ve gotta see that place. I know it exists.” Once she was dressed they made their way outside to the boardwalk. Instead of leaping off it like she did in her dream, they descended down the rope ladder. Buffy noticed that the leaves on the trees were changing color indicating that fall had arrived. “Can you believe that?” she said to Mablung. “I’ve been looking forward to spending spring and summer here and now it’s gone. Now I have to contend with the cold! What a raw deal!”

No one paid any attention to them as they went deeper into the forest. As they got closer Mablung said, “I forgot something. I need to go back… ”

“What could you have possibly forgotten?” asked Buffy.

“Uh, I need my… sword. Yes, I must get my sword,” replied a confused Mablung.

It took Buffy a couple of minutes to realize that the enchantments of Ulmo were at work here. She laughed. “Well that tells me that that pool does exist. You’re coming Mablung even if I have to carry you.” She grabbed his hand and pulled him along. “ItÂ’s not much further.” It didnÂ’t take long for them to stumble upon that mystical place. They literally stumbled upon it. BuffyÂ’s foot got snagged on a root and she fell dragging Mablung to the ground with her. But when they looked up, they were there. “This is it!” she exclaimed with an air of excitement in her voice. Mablung was still hesitant but Buffy continued to pull him closer to the pool.

“I do not think I should be here,” countered an apprehensive Mablung. “If Salmar said that none are permitted to be here save for Ulmo’s kin… Wait a minute… Bella, if only Ulmo’s kin are permitted to be at this place, wouldn’t that make you a Maia like Salmar and Melian?”

Buffy chuckled at the suggestion. “That’s crazy talk. I’m just a super-enhanced mortal. A Slayer. Nothing more, nothing less. To even insinuate that I’m one of the Maiar is blasphemous.”

“It makes sense to me,” he replied. “That is why Melian has been teaching you her magics. For some reason you were not taught how to use magics. You relied on others to do your bidding… ”

“That’s insane,” the Slayer said somberly. “I’m not one of the Powers so just drop it.” They sat there for a few moments in silence. Don’t think for one second that that same thought did not occur to the Slayer. It did. But how could she determine if it were true? None of the Ainur that she met in dreams or otherwise would reveal anything about who she truly was… or is. They keep saying those same words that she’s heard over and over again. ‘You think you know… what’s to come… what you are… you haven’t even begun…’ Maybe it was time to put that theory to the test.

Buffy stared intently into the depths of the pool as she still clung onto Mablung’s hand. “Maybe I need to see what kind of powers I possessÂ… ” she began in a faint voice. She turned and faced Mablung. “IÂ’m going in.” She kicked off her sandals. “IÂ’ve gotta see once and for all if this was just some weird dream or if I can actually do this astral projection traveling thingy.” Mablung didnÂ’t want her to do it, but he knew that she would have no peace until she at least attempted it. “I donÂ’t know how long this will takeÂ… Just donÂ’t leave me.”

“I would never leave you.” Buffy smiled and kissed him before leaping into the pool. She experienced the same sensations as in her dream. Her body plummeted to the bottom and the air was squeezed from her lungs. She felt her spirit leave her body. When she resurfaced, Mablung was gone. Since she no longer had him in her grasp, he fled as soon as she dove in. The enchantments of Ulmo were much too strong for him to overcome.

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