An Aussie in King Aragorn's Court~Part 21 - The Unseen Escort
The Unseen Escort
Legolas lay Coralie gently down on the bed that Galadriel had prepared for her, before the Lady of the Wood drew them both reluctantly away. They spoke quietly at the door of her chamber, as she wept.
"Come. You can do no more for her at present, though I perceive that if it were in your power to assuage her grief, you would gladly do so," said Galadriel softly.
Aragorn and Legolas nodded their assent.
"Her suffering is great, and not all of it can be accounted for by the wound on her arm. I fear there is a deeper wound to her heart." She continued. "You have done all you can. Allow me to care for her in my own fashion, Gentlemen. You are worn with care for i titheniel, and have need of comfort and rest of both heart and body, as well as she."
Aragorn looked sadly beyond Galadriel towards Coralie, before returning his gaze to the Lady.
"I entrust her to your care Lady, and know that she is in capable hands," he said. Legolas lingered by the door for a moment longer as Galadriel took him by the arm.
"Have no fear, Gentlemen. I shall tend to her as if she were my own daughter, for I perceive a glory in her spirit that is more than the usual wont of mortal women, though her trials of late have proven very hard. Am I not right in this?" She looked keenly at them both.
"Aye," replied Legolas. "You are right," as Aragorn nodded in agreement.
"And I would hear the full tale of this titheniel, who has captured both your hearts, and admiration, but now is not the time," said Galadriel. "You have done much for her already, but she is in sore need of the companionship and understanding that only another female's heart can provide."
"I understand," acknowledged Legolas.
"And I," added Aragorn. "Come Legolas. Let us go and find rest for ourselves. We can do nothing more here, and the Lady will call upon us if we are needed. But I for one, am very glad that it is she who will tend to Coralie herself, and that eases my heart greatly."
They watched as Galadriel entered the chamber to sit by Coralie's side, and gently embrace her as she sang sweetly, before turning away.
Daybreak broke softly into the chamber where Coralie had slept. On first awakening, she knew not where she was, being unaccustomed to the luxury of a bed for quite a while, and thought she may have woken from a dream, until the mallorn leaves rustled softly about her chamber. Scattered images from the previous day and night, floated through her memory. Her fingers strayed to her lips as if trying to recall by touch the faint tenderness of a kiss. Had Legolas really kissed her, or was that part of a dream? The sweet reverie caressed her spirit as she decided it had really happened, until the other memories came flooding in, and reopened the wounds that sorrow had graven upon her heart.
"Gandalf," she cried softly. It was now the fourth day since he had fallen from the bridge, and still his sudden loss gnawed painfully at her soul. Wiping away her tears with one hand, Coralie sat up slowly and looked about. Someone had brought in food and drink, and placed it on a small wooden table by her bed during the night. She could dimly recall a beautiful song from somewhere as it played on the edges of her thoughts. Then she remembered weeping in Galadriel's arms for a time, before sleep at last overtook her weary heart. Now, morning had broken, and the long sad night was behind her as a new song drifted into her chamber, soothing in its melody and intent.
"Am I to spend the rest of my days lying down in sorrow?" she thought as she rose. "This will never do. I can't do this anymore. The only cure for me is to keep busy and find some other way to occupy my time. I must distract myself, or I will surely go mad with grief." These thoughts crowded her mind, as she ate and drank, glad of the familiar satisfaction of a full stomach. When she had finished, she grabbed her pack, and quickly changed, wearing her bikini underneath a clean pair of leggings and t-shirt.
"Fair Dinkum!" she thought to herself as she changed. "I am absolutely rank. Surely there is a river around here somewhere I can bathe in. And my clothes! Strike a light! They could just about get up and walk by themselves."
After some reorganizing of her back-pack, Coralie attached her Clie to her pants and hung her earphones around her neck. Just as she was about to slip out the door, she spied a lute with a long strap attached in a far corner of the room. "Interesting," she thought as she took it with her. Stepping outside, she found herself upon the same platform that Legolas had carried her up the previous night, only lower down the great tree they had ascended.
"I am on the first floor after all," she smiled to herself. "Now I must take care of my own lingerie, or people will start avoiding me."
A lone Elf was standing on the platform near her chamber. She smiled at Coralie and inclined her head,
"Good morning Lady, I am here to attend to you. My name is Nólemíre."
"G'day Love! Pleased to meet you. Nólemíre is it?" The Elf nodded and smiled. "Well, can you point me in the direction of the river?" Stepping to the edge, Coralie took in the view as the land of Lothlorien swept out before her. But before the Elf could reply, Coralie answered her own question. "Never mind Love! I can see it. I will just follow the trees!" she said with a well-practiced eye for bushcraft, noting where they grew the thickest and greenest in a crowded line in the distance. Coralie looked over her shoulder at the waiting Elf.
"I'm going walkabout!" and with that she took her leave and descended the long narrow path to the bottom.
Reaching the bottom of the tree, Coralie looked over where the others still lay asleep in the pavilions that the Elves had erected for them.
"Good! Don't want to have another incident on the path, like the last time," she thought as she took a sniff under one arm. "Besides, anyone who wanted to try and get that close to me, uninvited or not, would have to be a fool!" Quickly, she scampered off in the direction of the river.
Her path wound leisurely through the forest of mighty Mellyrn that graced the land of Lothlórien. She had strapped the lute about her shoulders, and gently felt along its neck with her left hand as she familiarized herself with the instrument, while she walked. Coralie took her time as she drank in the beauty of her surroundings. She was in no hurry, and paced herself, stopping frequently for rests beside the path, as her former strength had not yet fully returned. At times she would sit with her back against one of the mallorn trees and gently strum the lute and hum, enjoying the texture of the wood and strings against her fingers. During these moments she almost fancied that the trees actually welcomed her playing, as the leaves seemed to whisper around her on the soft breeze that teased them. She played no tune in particular, just random chords and notes at first, developing rather a `feel' for the instrument. Coralie played the guitar rather well, and was pleased to find that the lute also, consisted of six strings, though the frets were not marked.
In this manner of short walks followed by pleasant musical rests, she eventually found herself by the riverbank around mid morning. The surrounding trees overhung the water intent on seeing their beautiful reflections in its depths. Finding a sunny spot in the long grass, Coralie put down her pack and the lute and undressed down to her bikini. After she took off her shoes and socks, she examined the wound on her left arm. A thin red line was all that remained of the ugly laceration that had been there before. Coralie grimaced as she remembered how she had obtained it.
"I can't believe, how quickly this is healing. Just what exactly is in those athelas leaves anyway?" she thought as she touched the wound gingerly with her right hand and flexed her muscle. "Maybe tomorrow, if I have more energy, I will put this arm to a test."
Standing up, Coralie took out her toiletries bag and all her dirty clothing and laid them on some rocks by the river. "Time to check out this shake and shiver and clean up before I wilt the flowers with my stench," she said as she slipped into the water. To her surprise, the water was not as cold as she expected, but rather had a refreshing quality about it. Soon the sweet smell of strawberries lathered the air with its fresh scent as not only Coralie, but all of her clothes endured a thorough scrubbing.
Joining her clothing she had laid out in the sun to dry, Coralie flung herself down upon her towel and let the warmth of the Lothlórien sun conquer all resistance regarding an early return to her chamber. She put all thoughts of worry concerning her whereabouts, on the part of the others, as far away from present mind as possible.
Indeed, Legolas had been the first to approach her chamber in the morning, followed shortly by Aragorn, only to be turned away by Nólemíre. She informed them both, that i titheniel had told her she was going `walkabout', and pointed them in the direction she had gone. Meeting up on the winding platform around the tree, they had decided that a walk to the river, may be a pleasant way to spend the morning, and as Boromir was nowhere in sight, it may also behoove them to go in search of Coralie.
Coralie felt the morning sun beating a path up her back, in spite of its welcoming warmth. "I better put some clothes on, or I will get so badly sunburnt, I will resemble a lobster. I wish my mother had married a Greek or an Italian, instead of a redhead," she sighed as she put on her leggings and t-shirt again. Grabbing the lute and attaching the Clie to her pants, she selected a music mix file to play as she walked up the path strumming the lute absent mindedly as she sought for the correct chords as she listened to the music.
Eventually her feet left the path, as she was drawn into the deeper beauty of the woods. Walking under the leaves of the forest, she reached out to caress the smooth grey bark of the trees as she passed by and slung the lute over her shoulder. The life within them beckoned her ever deeper into their sanctuary, until she found herself in the middle of a great grove of trees, the height of which she could only guess at. The air hung redolent with unspoken thought, as Coralie imagined the wood about her alive with conversation. Taking off the lute and placing it carefully at the base of one of the trees, she suddenly had an overwhelming urge to embrace it. Although her arms could not possibly reach around its great bole, she felt unusually comforted as she pressed her cheek against its smooth surface.
A new song began to play on the Clie as she stood there embracing the tree, and Coralie felt the tears well up in her eyes, as Mariah Carey's `One Sweet Day', with Boys II Men joined her in the mournful ballad. She had forgotten this track was in this mix. The sad, sweet sentiment of the song, pierced her heart afresh as she slid to the ground still holding onto the tree as though it were an anchor for her storm tossed soul.
Sorry I never told you
All I wanted to say
And now it's too late to hold you
'Cause you've flown away
So far away
Never had I imagined
Living without your smile
Feeling and knowing you hear me
It keeps me alive
And I know you're shining down on me from heaven
Like so many friends we've lost along the way
And I know eventually we'll be together
One sweet day
Darling I never showed you
Assumed you'd always be there
I took your presence for granted
But I always cared
And I miss the love we shared
Although the sun will never shine the same again
I'll always look to a brighter day
Lord I know when I lay me down to sleep
You will always listen as I pray
Sorry I never told you
All I wanted to say
"Oh Lord," she cried. "I can't bear this. My heart cries from a barren place, and you are so far away. You're so far away, and I can't find you. I am drowning in my own tears. Am I to be washed away? If so, then wash me away, Lord. Wash me away, for this is more than I can bear."
A great sigh seemed to pass through the tree as she wept at its base. Eventually, weariness of mind and body overcame her as she lay there clinging to the tree trunk, and she cried herself momentarily to sleep.
Aragorn and Legolas arrived at the riverbank, to find no sign of Coralie except for the faint scent of strawberries as the sun dried out her clothes where she had left them.
"Well, the clothes are a certain indication that she has been here, but where is she now?" asked Aragorn looking about him.
"I think all we have to do is follow the scent of strawberries, and we shall find her soon enough," responded Legolas. "I do believe she went that way," he said pointing beyond the path into the woods.
Aragorn laughed. "What are you? An Elf or a bloodhound?" He slapped his shoulder as he made to go in the direction of the trees.
Coralie opened her eyes aware that a presence had approached her as she lay at the base of the tree.
"Why are you so sad?" tinkled a small sweet voice.
Looking up through bleary eyes, she saw a small child standing in front of her.
"I heard you weeping through the night, and I heard the Lady Galadriel singing to you as well. I would have hoped that made you feel better."
Coralie sat up and wiped her face as she examined the child more fully. A young, golden haired girl, stood before her with the most exquisite expression of concern upon her features. A circle of tiny flowers crowned her head.
"I lost someone," replied Coralie as she leaned back against the tree.
"You must have loved them a great deal to be so sad. What is your name?" asked the girl.
"My name is Coralie, What is yours?"
"Támuríle," she said in reply.
"That is a pretty name. And so are the flowers in your hair. Do you think you can show me how to make one for myself?"
"Of course!" answered Támuríle holding out her hand to Coralie. Together they walked away into the distant sunshine that bordered the forest until they came out under the broad blue sky. The sweet smell of niphredil and elanor gently greeted the two as they sat down in the long grass amongst the flowers. Laying aside the lute, Coralie watched carefully as Támuríle showed her how to thread the flowers together in a chain. She laughed with delight.
"Oh! I haven't done this since I was a little girl, like you!" Bending her head forward, Támuríle placed the circlet of flowers upon Coralie's head.
"There! Now you really look like a princess Coralie!" smiled Támuríle.
"Why, thank you so much Sweetie. But I'm not a princess. Although I can pretend for a while, thanks to this little golden crown you just made for me," laughed Coralie in return.
"Oh!" said Támuríle. "I heard you were a princess."
"Sorry to disappoint you Love. But I'm just an Aussie instead," said Coralie looking down at' Támuríle s disappointed face. "But for you possum. I will be a princess if you want me to. Quick!" said Coralie, plucking a long flower from the grass and handing it to the little Elven child, "Dub me a princess with this
flower, before the magic wears off!"
Standing up with a most solemn expression, Támuríle held out the long golden flower.
"Kneel please, Lady Coralie!" Coralie did as she was bidden and adopted a similar solemn expression as Támuríle held the golden flower aloft. "I, Támuríle of the Golden Wood, dub thee Princess Coralie of the Aussie!" Lightly she dubbed each of Coralie's shoulders and head then, they both fell into the grass giggling.
Legolas and Aragorn arrived at the edge of the green forest drawn by the tinkle of girlish laughter, as it floated across the meadow. For a moment, they stood there entranced by the sight of Coralie and the girl, giggling gaily as only females can, when the mood is upon them.
"Ah! I see at last you have found what you have sought for so long," said Haldir stepping up beside them.
Legolas and Aragorn turned to greet the Elf, surprised to find him there. "Do not fear Gentlemen. I titheniel is safe and well, I myself have seen personally to that. You are not the only ones to follow after her this morning. I sent the others on their way." They both raised their eyebrows at Haldir, following his final statement. "Her privacy has remained, exactly that, and no one has disturbed her. I allowed the two of you to approach only on the basis that she had finished bathing and had disappeared into the woods, long before your arrival." Noting the exchange between Aragorn and Legolas, Haldir continued. "Do not be overly concerned, the lady's honour is intact. She did not undress entirely and bathed with some sort of clothing on, if you could actually call it that." Haldir gave them a reassuring smile.
"And how is it that you know what she wore?" queried Legolas suspiciously.
"It is my job to know these things, Sir. The Lady Galadriel has appointed me her unseen escort, until I return to our borders at the North. She would not have i titheniel feel the restriction of knowing I escorted her, but would rather grant her the freedom of the Wood as she wishes." he answered.
"Really? I would think that escorting i titheniel around Lothlórien, would be unworthy of your talents, Haldir," Legolas answered curtly.
"Come Legolas!" interrupted Aragorn. "This is Haldir, the marchwarden of the Galadhrim of Lórien, who has been appointed this task. The Lady Galadriel has shown Coralie a great honour, and you do Haldir here much disservice by taking this position." He tempered his reprimand with a steady hand upon Legolas' shoulder.
"Your pardon, Haldir. If I have offended you, I am deeply sorry. Unfortunately, this is not the first time I have felt the need to defend the Lady when she took a bath."
Haldir inclined his head at Legolas. "I have taken no offence from your remarks. Indeed, if the situation were reversed, I would probably be questioning you at length myself." For a moment, he looked out across the meadow as he watched Coralie and the little Elven girl play some sort of hand clapping game, as they sat in the grass together. Aragorn and Legolas followed his gaze. "The Lady Galadriel, also sent the child Támuríle to her, and as you can see for yourselves, the lady is safe, and may I even add happy? Is it not good to see her laugh again?"
"Aye. It does my heart good to see her in this mood. I do believe, Legolas, that Galadriel was correct about the need of some female companionship for a while," said Aragorn smiling at his friend. He looked up suddenly as the four hobbits came sweeping into view, with a weary Dwarf in tow, as they ran across the meadow. " I thought you said you had sent the others away Haldir?" asked Aragorn.
Haldir laughed. "I did Aragorn, but the hobbits are much too canny at woodcraft to be delayed for any great length of time, and as you can see, the Dwarf has great endurance. However, I sent the man via the long way!" They all laughed as the meaning of his words sunk in. "May I make a suggestion Gentlemen?" he asked turning to them.
Aragorn and Legolas looked at him for a moment before Haldir went on. "'Twould seem to me, that i titheniel had the right idea about taking a bath this morning. How long has it actually been Sirs? Before approaching her you may wish to make good use of that river over yonder first," Haldir winked at them both, before striding off across the meadow in a vain attempt to intercept the hobbits.
Aragorn laughed as he sniffed the air. "You know Legolas, Haldir is absolutely right. Perhaps we should take a bath first. I don't think the Lady will mind too much if we use her strawberry scented soap. After all, she is my sister!" he called over his shoulder as he ran through the woods.
"Not if I get there first!" laughed Legolas leaping after him.