An Aussie in King Aragorn's Court - Chapter 19 ~ Sleeping Beauty
The Company gathered together at the bottom of the trees before setting out for Lothlórien. The pale light of the morning sun filtered through the golden leaves of the Mellyrn trees above. Seeing Coralie's limp form in Legolas' arms, the hobbits rushed forward as one.
"How is she?"
"Is she alright?"
"Oh! Poor Coralie!"
They all spoke at once in their nervous rush towards Legolas. Aragorn suddenly stepped in front of them and held out his hands.
"Hush now!" he said placing a finger to his lips. "The Lady is alive, but she is very weak, and sleeps now. Do not disturb her."
Frodo looked up at Aragorn searchingly, as Pippin, Merry and Sam savored stolen peeks around him at the burden that Legolas carried, only half convinced that he spoke the truth. Not much could they see though, as she was wrapped securely in a warm blanket.
"Are you sure Aragorn? We heard that she was poisoned by that Orc's blade, and Legolas came for Haldir during the middle of the night, and then I think that it was that creature Gollum that woke me up....."
"Gollum? What do you mean that he woke you up?" interrupted Aragorn.
Haldir came striding over with his brother Rúmil.
"It is true that this creature Gollum, had attempted to climb the tree where the hobbits were, but when he spied me he fled. Such a strange creature! Our scouts will be on the look out for him. How does the maiden fare this morning?"
Aragorn placed a reassuring hand on Frodo's shoulder as he answered Haldir.
"The maiden will live, and sleeps in Legolas' arms. She is very tired after her long battle through the night. I do not expect her to wake soon unless," and he looked down sternly at the hobbits, "someone disturbs her rest."
"Oh we won't make any noise! We promise!" piped up Pippin in a loud clear voice.
"SSSH!" said the other hobbits and Aragorn at once.
"Let us be on our way. We still have far to travel," said Haldir as he led the hobbits after him. Looking back, Frodo caught a glimpse of the white spray of the falls of Nimrodel through the grey tree trunks. The music of the falls caressed his ears with their lilting melody, cascading with interwoven harmonies as it ran on its way. He thought that he would never hear such beautiful water music again.
"Farewell Nimrodel," he sighed as he joined the path with the others.
Following Haldir, they rejoined the path beside the Silverlode, and continued southward for some way. The tracks of the Orc's could be clearly seen in the earth, though no sign of them was to be found. Turning aside from the path, Haldir gathered them under the shadow of the trees on the riverbank.
"There is one of my people yonder across the stream," he said, "though you may not see him." The low call of a whistling bird escaped his lips, and out of the trees an Elf stepped out, clad in similar garments to Haldir. His hood was thrown back, and his hair glinted like gold in the morning sun. Skillfully, Haldir cast a rope across the water to the waiting Elf, who tied it around the base of a nearby tree.
"Celebrant is already a strong stream here, as you see," said Haldir, and it runs both swift and deep, and is very cold. We do not set foot in it so far north, unless we must. But in these days of watchfulness we do not make bridges. This is how we cross! Follow me!" Making the end of his rope fast about a tree near the bank's edge, he lightly ran across the already suspended rope across the stream, and back again, as lightly as if he were on a road.
"I can walk this path," said Legolas; "but the others have not the skill. Must they swim?"
"No!" said Haldir. "We have two more ropes. We will fasten them above the other, one shoulder-high, and another half-high, and holding these the strangers should be able to cross with care."
On completion of this slender bridge, the Company passed over. Legolas was the first to cross, and in spite of his sleeping burden, did so lightly and quickly. Pippin was the surest footed of the hobbits and crossed more easily than the others, as he kept his eyes fixed on the bank ahead and did not look down.
Gripping the rope with both hands, Sam shuffled along as if he were crossing over some deep chasm, as he gazed into the eddying waters below.
"Live and learn! As my gaffer used to say!" he sighed with relief when he finally set foot on the far bank, "though he was thinking of gardening, not of roosting like a bird, nor of trying to walk like a spider. Not even my uncle Andy ever did a trick like that!"
After the last member of the Company had passed over the river, the Elves untied the silvery ropes and coiled two of them. One was thrown back over to Rúmil, who had remained behind. Slinging it over his shoulder, he waved as he went back towards Nimrodel to keep watch again.
"Now, friends," said Haldir, `you have entered the Naith of Lórien, or the Gore, as you would say, for it is the land that lies like a spearhead between the arms of the Silverlode and Anduin the Great. We allow no strangers to spy out the secrets of the Naith. Few indeed are permitted even to set foot there. As we agreed, I shall here blindfold the eyes of Gimli the Dwarf. The others may walk free for a while, until we come nearer to our dwellings, down in Egladil, in the Angle between the waters."
"The agreement was made without my consent," murmured Gimli. "I will not walk blindfold, like a beggar or a prisoner. And I am no spy. My folk have never had dealings with any servants of the Enemy. Neither have we done harm to the Elves. I am no more likely to betray you than Legolas, or any other of my companions."
"I do not doubt you," said Haldir. "Yet this is our law. I am not master of the law, and cannot set it aside. I have done much in letting you set foot over the Celebrant."
Obstinately, Gimli planted both feet firmly apart and rested his hand on the haft of his axe.
"I will go forward free," he said, "or I will go back and seek my own land, where I am known to be true of word, though I perish alone in the wilderness."
"You cannot go back," said Haldir sternly. "Now you have come thus far, you must be brought before the Lord and the Lady. They shall judge you, to hold you or to give you leave, as there are now secret sentinels that you cannot pass. You would be slain before you saw them."
Gimli drew his axe from his belt as the Elves bent their bows.
"A plague on Dwarves and their stiff necks!" said Legolas.
"Come!" said Aragorn. "If I am still to lead this Company, you must do as I bid. It is hard upon the Dwarf to be thus singled out. We will all be blindfold, even Legolas. That will be best, though it will make the journey slow and dull."
"A merry troop of fools we shall look!" laughed Gimli suddenly. "Will Haldir lead us all on a string, like many blind beggars with one dog. But what of the lady? Surely you don't expect Legolas to carry her blindfold?"
"I shall carry her myself!" replied Haldir.
"Come! Haldir bind our eyes. We shall all fare alike!" interjected Aragorn, seeing the cloud that had passed over Legolas' face.
"I shall claim full amends for every fall and stubbed toe, if you do not lead us well," said Gimli as they bound a cloth about his eyes.
"You will have no claim," said Haldir. "I shall lead you well, and the paths are smooth and straight."
"Alas for the folly of these days!" said Legolas. "Here all are enemies of the one Enemy, and yet I must walk blind, while the sun is merry in the woodland under leaves of gold!"
"Folly it may seem," said Haldir. "Indeed in nothing is the power of the Dark Lord more clearly shown than in the estrangement that divides all those who still oppose him. Yet so little faith and trust do we find now in the world beyond Lothlórien, unless maybe to Rivendell, that we dare not by our own trust endanger our land. We live now upon an island amid many perils, and our hands are more often upon the bowstring than upon the harp. Come! Give me the lady, so we may be on our way."
Reluctantly Legolas eased her into Haldir's arms, and permitted himself to be blindfolded. The Company filed slowly behind Haldir, along the path through the wood, while the other Elf walked behind. The ground beneath their feet was smooth and soft, and after a little while they walked more freely.
Frodo found that being deprived of sight actually sharpened his other senses of sound and smell more keenly. All manner of scents and sounds from the surrounding forest washed over him. The scent of fresh, green trodden grass, and the gentle rustling of the golden leaves overhead delighted him. A strange feeling had overcome him, as soon as he had set foot upon the far bank of the Silverlode, and with each step that took him deeper into the realm of Lothlorien, more and more he felt the weight of passing years fall from his shoulders. The memory of ancient things still lingered in Rivendell, but in Lórien the ancient things still lived on in the waking world. Time almost seemed to be of little consequence in this corner of Middle Earth, and he felt that he had crossed a bridge into some distant memory of the Elder Days, when the world was still green and young.
Far, the Company walked that day, until the cool of evening fell upon them, whereupon they ate a little and rested on the ground for the night, as their guides would not allow them to unbind their eyes, and they could not climb into the trees for shelter. Haldir laid the sleeping girl down gently amongst the roots of a mallorn- tree and then led Aragorn and Legolas over.
"Here lies the lady, Gentlemen. She still sleeps, and if you wish, you can spend the night beside her on either side, so you can be assured of her well being for yourselves. I myself have tended to the wound upon her arm, and have carried her well, and her sleep remains undisturbed. The wound is healing well now, but grievous must have been the poison used upon her, for her to sleep so long."
Thanking Haldir, Aragorn and Legolas settled themselves wearily beside her. The long, tiring hours that had passed since leaving Moria, traversed their tired bodies with unrepentant fatigue.
"I am glad at last to truly rest," said Aragorn softly, "it has been a very long two days, and I am in sore need of sleep myself."
"How long do you think the maiden will sleep, Aragorn?" whispered Legolas concerned that she had slept all that day without awakening.
"I do not know, Legolas. I am not really surprised that she still sleeps considering all that has happened to her. I myself am very weary and expect to sleep long and well tonight. Take some rest for yourself Legolas, as the lady does, and as I intend to do," and with that, Aragorn fell away into sleep, whilst Legolas, with relieved acceptance of Aragorn's explanation, at long last, drifted into the quiet dreaming of the Elves.
The next morning, the Company arose and continued in the same fashion as afore, led by their Elven guides. Haldir carried the still, sleeping form of Coralie lightly in his arms. He could tell that she was resting soundly, by the slight fluttering of her eyelids, and knew that she dreamed. The bruise upon her brow, was now in the full bloom of it's ripening, and only served to deepen his sadness at her hurt. Presently a marching host of Elves had come upon them silently, on their way to the Northern borders to guard against any attack that may come from Moria. The leader spoke in quiet whispers with Haldir. Turning to the Company, Haldir now addressed them.
"You are to walk free and may unbind your eyes. The Lord and Lady of the Galadrim have declared this, and apparently each one of you is known unto them. Even the Dwarf Gimli, may go freely through our land. However," he said whilst looking down at Coralie, "this one won't be doing any walking it seems today, whether blindfolded or not. I pass her back into your care Legolas, knowing full well that it has been with great reluctance, and yet also graciousness on your part, that has permitted me to carry your fair burden, whilst having to endure being blindfolded by your own kinsmen."
Carefully he passed her over into Legolas' arms as Aragorn approached after his eyes were unbound.
"She still sleeps, Aragorn," said Legolas.
"Perhaps, she will awaken some time this morning," answered Aragorn, noting that a healthy colour once more bloomed in her cheek.
As Frodo's eyes were unbound, he looked up and caught his breath. The Company stood in an open space upon a lush green sward as Spring-time in the Elder days. A great mound stood to their left on which two circles of trees grew upon it as a double crown; the bark of the outer was snow white, whilst the leaves of the inner mallorn- trees were covered in pale gold. A white flet gleamed in the centre of the trees high above the ground. About their feet, and all the surrounding hillsides, little golden flowers, shaped like stars, nodded their heads on slender stalks, whilst others of white and palest green, shimmered richly through the verdant grass. The afternoon sun played gently upon the blue sky above.
"Behold you are come to Cerin Amroth," said Haldir. "For this is the heart of the ancient realm as it was long ago, and here is the mound of Amroth, where in happier days his high house was built. Here ever bloom the winter flowers in the unfading grass: the yellow elanor, and the pale niphredil. Here we will stay awhile, and come to the city of the Galadrim at dusk."
"Good afternoon Sleeping Beauty," spoke Legolas softly as he met the grey-blue eyes that finally opened and blinked up at him.
"I thought Sleeping Beauty was awakened by the kiss of a Prince?" whispered Coralie, from the twilight realm of half wakefulness.
Legolas laughed softly. "Then you shall have it." Leaning down, he softly brushed her lips with his own.
"I think this must be part of my dream," she smiled as Legolas gently embraced her as he knelt upon the grass.
"Tis no dream Lady," said Legolas as he caressed her cheek. "At long last, you have returned to us."
Coralie looked up at him with a puzzled expression. "Where have I been?"
"You have been very ill with a fever, Titheniel, but now you are well, thank Eru," responded Legolas.
"Who's Titheniel?" wondered Coralie.
"Mae Govannen Titheniel!" said Aragorn kneeling beside the two of them as he took Coralie's hand in his own and kissed it.
"What did you just say?" she asked drowsily.
"Mae Govannen Titheniel," repeated Aragorn.
Coralie shook her head slightly. "Well it sounds pretty, but I haven't got a clue what you just said."
Aragorn laughed lightly. "Well, I guess she doesn't speak Elvish, after all Legolas!"
"Elvish! What are you talking about? And furthermore..." she was now peeking under the blanket, "Where are my clothes?" She had noted that she was now dressed only in her gym gear.
Aragorn and Legolas raised their eyebrows at each other before Aragorn spoke at last.
"Ahem...We had to take them off. You had wet them through..."
"What? I wet my pants? Oh no! How embarrassing," groaned Coralie.
Aragorn and Legolas laughed, which only served to increase her anxiety.
"Stop laughing at me!" she cried as the tears flowed freely down her cheeks.
Legolas kissed her cheek. "Oh I'm sorry Titheniel. I didn't mean to make you cry."
"Nor I," said Aragorn taking her hand again. "We are just so glad to have you back. Forgive us. Please. Let me assure you that the only reason we removed your clothes was to prevent you from catching a chill, as you had wet them through with perspiration from your fever."
Coralie tried to smile through her tears. "So you're really just glad to see me? Not for any other reason?"
Aragorn lightly kissed her hand. "We are overwhelmed with joy Lady, and we laugh only to see that you are indeed well and whole."
Legolas brushed away the tears that had fallen onto her cheeks. "Do not cry Lady Coralie. You are well and our hearts are merry. Look! We have come into the land of Lothlórien, the heart of Elvendom on earth."
Gently he sat her up, so she could look about her. Legolas felt the small intake of breath she took as she leaned against his chest. Everywhere she looked was more beautiful than she could ever have imagined. The very air about her seemed to shimmer with golden light as it fell upon the little flowers that turned their sweet faces up to greet the sun. Exquisite shades of colour and scent delighted her senses. Carefully she plucked one of the star shaped flowers and inhaled its sweet scent as tears dropped from her lashes."
Sensing the change within her, Legolas bent down and whispered. "And why do tears fall from your sweet eyes now, Lady?"
"Because it is so beautiful Legolas," Coralie sighed. "It is like a fairyland. Are you sure I'm not in heaven?"
Legolas laughed and kissed the top of her head as they sat together amongst the gently scented elanor and niphredil.