Keeper of Realities - Part 3 - The Power of the Lady of the Wood
The Power of the Lady of the Wood
Laurie stayed mostly silent after her song. Whenever she did speak, it was only to answer a direct question pointed at her by one of the Fellowship.
Nightfall came quickly now, as did Boromir's doubts concerning Lothlórien. "I did not come in the Golden Wood by choice," said he, "for in Gondor we have many tales that tell of its perils. None come out unscathed - if at all!"
"Not `unscathed,'" answered Aragorn, "but if you say `unchanged' you may be speaking the truth."
"I still follow," said Boromir, "but I repeat: Lothlórien is as perilous as the witch in our midst."
"Yes," responded Aragorn with a glance in Laurina's direction. "Fair and perilous, but only to those who hold evil within their hearts. We have nothing to fear." Laurie did not seem to react to this last comment, though she listened keenly.
On they passed through wood and Nimrodel to a cluster of mallorn trees.
"I will climb up," said Legolas, "for I am at home with trees of all kinds. Perhaps we may sleep here for the night." So saying, he sprang lightly off the ground and hung for a moment on a branch.
"Daro" said a commanding voice, and Legolas dropped to the ground in fear and surprise, shrinking against the tree.
"Stand still!" Legolas whispered, "Do not move or speak." Laurie faded slightly into the shadows at her right, but no one noticed.
Soft laughter sounded from the tree, and clear elven voices spoke, and Legolas answered. Laurie listened with interest. She heard and easily understood what was spoken without having Legolas translate a moment later. "They are elves," said he, "and have known of our presence for some time. But they did not attack us, for they heard my voice singing of the Nimrodel. Now they bid me climb up with Frodo; the others they ask to wait a little, and keep watch at the foot of the tree."
Legolas sprang up the tree; Frodo and Sam climbed a rope ladder slowly behind him, while Sam attempted to breath softly. Greetings were exchanged, and the elf who had spoken to them called Haldir.
"We have heard rumors of your coming," he said, "and are willing to accept you for you travel with an elf, though hobbits are unknown to us. However, it is not our custom to lead strangers through our land. But you must stay here tonight. How many are you?"
"Eight," said Legolas.
"Nine," corrected Frodo softly. Haldir turned his eyes on the hobbit for a moment before Legolas continued.
"Nine," Legolas replied. "Myself, four hobbits; and two men, one of whom, Argorn, is an Elf-friend of the folk of Westernesse."
"The name of Aragorn is well known here in favor. But you have yet spoken only of seven."
"The eighth is a dwarf," said Legolas.
"A dwarf!" said Haldir. "That is not well. Dwarves are not permitted in this land; he cannot pass."
"But he has been chosen by Elrond, and is from the Lonely Mountain," Frodo interjected. "He has been brave and faithful."
The elves spoken among themselves in their own language for a moment at this. Laurie, though several yards away, heard them: a dwarf? We cannot allow it. We must. Legolas, is he trustworthy? The Lady said . . .
"Very good," said Haldir at last. "We will do this, though it is not to our liking. But he must go blindfolded. But now we must debate no longer . . ." Haldir stopped for a moment, confused. "You said there were nine companions. What about the ninth? Of what kind is he?"
Legolas looked at Frodo for help. "I do not know," said the hobbit. "I have never asked. But she is not dwarven, and I have never known her to be unfriendly."
"Her? She? You have taken a female on this quest?" Exclaimed one of the elves.
"She is a friend of Gandalf's." Said Sam stoutly. "And we didn't take her. She came."
Haldir turned to Legolas, who said helplessly: "I have seen no harm in her. She is a friend of Frodo's; I believe her to be trustworthy."
"Then she and the hobbits can stay here," Haldir said after some hesitation, "for it is perilous to remain on the ground so close to Moria.
Legolas then went immediately to carry Haldir's message; soon afterwards Merry and Pippin clambered up on to the high flet. They were out of breath and seemed rather scard.
"There!" said Merry panting. "We have lugged up your blankets as well as our own. Strider has hidden all the rest of our baggage in a deep drift of leaves."
"You have no need of your burdens," said Haldir. "It is cold in the tree tops in winter, but we have plenty of skins and furs to spear as well as food and drink."
"Where's Laura?" asked Frodo after a moment, "I thought she would be coming up with you. Is Strider speaking with her?"
"No!" replied Pippin. "We thought she was with you!"
"I am here," said a low voice from behind Frodo. Hobbits and elves alike jumped, for they had not seen the small, green cloaked figure ascend the tree.
"So this is your friend," said Haldir to Frodo in a soft voice, trying to see under Laurie's hood. "Why does she not remove her hood."
"Because she does not wish to." Laurie replied, hearing Haldir quite well. "But she has her reasons, be assured."
"We cannot allow you to pass in the Golden Wood fully shrouded," answered Haldir, a little taken back at being overheard. "If we did, any minion of the Dark Lord might pass unseen."
Laurie hesitated for a moment, before drawing her left hand from under her cloak for Haldir's inspection. "The Nazgul do not have flesh," she said in a voice that made a slight shiver run down Frodo's spine.
"Remove your hood," said Haldir, trying to look under it once more. Laurie looked up and caught his eye through the shadows. Haldir winced slightly, and quickly drew back his gaze from the two bright emeralds gazing out. "Please," he whispered.
Laurie was silent - though Frodo imagined that would be a sigh for anyone else, then spoke: "I will remove my hood - but only for a moment - on the agreement that you will not hinder me in Lauralindorian."
"I agree," answered Haldir. At this, Laurie turned so that only Haldir could see her, and drew back the hood slightly. "I see!" He said, quickly; she replaced it. Haldir looked very . . . embarrassed. Like a school boy who has been put in his place. He bowed quickly and then sprang down the tree. Laurie leaned against the trunk. To Frodo's eye, she appeared to be laughing softly.
"What did you show him?" Frodo asked her in a low voice while the others were eating. "He practically ran away." He offered her a cake which she refused. The Qua ate very sparingly, it seemed to him, even in times of plenty.
"Just a little reminder," she replied. "To remember his place and not to meddle in the business of others."
"An illusion then?" he asked.
"Perhaps," was the only reply he could get from her, though he asked until the other hobbits fell asleep. Frodo himself gazed up at the moon for a while, and could get little rest. But in all that time, though Laurie faded into the shadows until he thought her only a spirit, he was sure she did not shut her eyes or sleep.
In the morning, they were all duly blindfolded - though Laurie refused any guide, saying she didn't need her eyes and it was quite useless to have one, giving the elves something they laughed over until she proved herself right, much to their surprise - and lead to the heart of Lothlórien.
The company, led by Haldir, climbed slowly up many ladders. Though it was a long way, Laurie's light step never changed; nor did the way she seemed not to even need her hands while ascending. But this was little noticed by the Fellowship, save Aragorn, for they were still taking in Lothlórien with awe.
But the ranger did see, and he wondered: Surely, I have been in Lothlórien many times before; but I have never before met this Laurina. Who and what is she? But they came to the Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn before he had found an answer.
Each companion the Lord named and welcomed as they approached, save Laurie who stood a little back from the rest, never moving forward, never shying back. "Here there are eight companions and one other," he said. "Nine were to set out: so said the messages. Yet here come one fewer and . . . another. Has there been a change of counsel?"
"Nay, there was no change of counsel," said the Lady Galadriel, speaking for the first time in a clear but deep voice. "Gandalf the Grey set out with the Company, but he did not pass the borders of this land. Of the girl, I do not know. Of what people are you, Lady - "
"Laurina, or Laurie if you wish," answered the Qua, with a bow, not low, but elegant. "I am a healer."
"I have not heard of Healers as a people."
"I am the last of my kind," answered Laurie, speaking the truth, though not as it sounded. Indeed, she had all the gifts of a people, but for her own - she was both the first and the last. Her people - she - had no name for herself save the many aliases she took.
"I see," said Galadriel, not understanding at all. But she continued on a different line, as to not seem so. "Yet I desire much to speak with Gandalf, where is he?"
"Alas!" said Aragorn. "Gandalf the Grey fell into shadow. He remained in Moria and did not escape." Laurie said not a word, but thought: Not yet, that is.
The company and Aragorn then fell into telling their journey and the fall of Gandalf, but not once did Laurie speak. Yet she soaked up all the expressions and words of those present; she would remember them always.
The eyes of Lady Galadriel searched the Fellowship, and landed lastly to meet Laurie's - she had raised her head, and two sparkling deep-green eyes could be seen shining out of the shadow upon her face.
Galadriel reached to the Qua's mind, feeling, trying to find her thoughts. From beneath her hood, Laurie smiled, a little sadly.
"Why can't I read you?" Galadriel asked in a half-panic. Nothing - not even Nenya - could get through the barrier in the Qua's mind. Every time Galadriel tried, she was struck with such pain that she had to lean on the Lord's arm heavily, to stop herself from collapsing or wincing in front of the guests. "What" are "you?!"
"I am a healer, and a friend of Gandalf," was Laurie's reply. "Do not try and see my mind, you will not succeed. I do not wish to cause you pain." The Lady Galadriel looked harder, but it was she who turned away first, unsuccessful.
Who is she; could she see my mind? Galadriel wondered, but never found an answer.
After the others of the Fellowship had gone, Laurie came to the Lady and laid her right hand on Galadriel's arm. She said not a word; but a cool healing shot up the Lady of the Wood's arm. Why does she help me? How?
Sorry that took so long to get out. I beg all of your forgiveness.
Please comment - tell me if everything was clear etc. Wow. I am tired.