The Two Towers: Kyshri's Story - The quest to destroy the One Ring told through the eyes of a runaway elf (part eleven of thirteen)

Recap of Tale 10 . . .

It was not until the rites were truly complete that I found that I had the will to move. I placidly allowed Lord Celeborn to guide me away from that place back to Haldir's house. He returned me to Haldir's room and settled me on the bed, drawing the blankets around my shoulders. [There will be a supper later tonight.]

[I am not hungry.]

He made a concerned noise. [Kyshri . . .]

I lifted my head. [Please, my lord. I know you wish to see me eat, but I cannot. Not right now and perhaps not for many days. But I will live, I assure you; you need not fear I will starve myself unnecessarily. I made a promise long ago.]

He gave the barest nod and left me alone.

Tale 11

I existed in a sort of trance for an indeterminable amount of time. Wandering aimlessly when I left the house, I usually somehow ended up with Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn, neither of whom ever seemed surprised to see me, even the time when I was drifting around in the early hours of the morning and fell asleep in Lord Celeborn's chair so as not to disturb their rest. One would think it would be a surprise to find a full-grown elf splayed rather indelicately across her lord's chair and clutching a handful of her own hair like she did when she was a child, but apparently it was not.

When I found them during the day, already in their chairs and discussing all sorts of matters quietly, I never wanted to intrude and always began to back away, but the ears of Elves are not to be deceived (I was still too upset to mask my steps well) and they knew exactly where I was, even if I was in a small space of shadow along a wall.

Every time I was placed in a chair not as tall or grand as theirs, but still a chair of great importance. It was actually Haldir's chair--the consort's chair--and while it had not previously been so close to Lord Celeborn's, it was now. It was so close, in fact, that if I chose I could pull my feet into the chair and rest my head on the arm of Lord Celeborn's chair easily. I did not do this, of course, but I did lay my head on the arm of the consort's chair and at some point or another Lord Celeborn would reach over absently and begin petting my head. The way he did it was extremely . . . intoxicating, I suppose is what I am looking for, as improper as it sounds; it always put me to sleep for some reason.

While alone I sat still as stone for countless hours; staring at nothing, seeing nothing, thinking nothing. It was at those times that a vague, far corner of my mind would take notice of a dim purple light that pulsed gently in my chest. Disinterested in focusing on it, I would ignore my mind's frantic attempts to point it out.

When I woke from the empty daydream I could recall nothing beyond a faint mention of the purple light and the dull pain it caused. The nearly excessive passage of time did not concern me as I no longer kept track of the days.

Otherwise, I busied myself with the repair of my clothes. The damage was extensive and required patience which was a virtue that, for the time being, I possessed mountains of. I sewed up the tears for hours, both in my tunic and my pants, and passed the time that way.

Finally, as more time progressed and the restlessness of my runaway nature asserted itself, I grew bored with that and went on excursions into the woods. One afternoon I climbed into a mallorn tree and settled on one of the highest of the tree's branches, relaxing in the forest's canopy with the face-sized brown leaves that still clung to the tree rustling around me.

I fell asleep there, on my stomach with one arm pillowing my head and the other dangling toward the ground. I was in such a deep sleep that I did not hear the rumble of thunder from an oncoming storm and by the time I did, it was right over top of me and rain had begun to pour.

Grasping the wet tree limb, I flinched at every bolt of lightning that flashed across the sky above me, forking from cloud to cloud like a river delta in the sky or, more likely, a trap net of blue-white fire. Whimpering softly, I waited, wondering if I was to be speared once more by a bolt of malevolent light.

Eventually, I decided that being a moving target was better than being a stationary one and carefully prepared to leap to the ground. I moved to the juncture of branch and trunk and had crouched to leap when a stroke of lightning struck the branch only a few feet from where I was. Terrified, I made a wild lunge into the air. I wanted to be anywhere right then, anywhere but where I was.

Unfortunately, panic can be blinding and in this case I was no exception. I lifted my head to see where I was going just in time to collide with the trunk of a nearby mallorn tree. My spine crunched painfully against my skull and agony lanced through my body.

I managed to let out a sharp yelp before consciousness left me.

~*~

Sitting in his chair, Celeborn let out a quiet, annoyed breath. Drumming his fingers impatiently on the chair's arm, he looked out at the storm, waiting for some word on Kyshri. He had expected her to appear at the first rumble of thunder, seeking comfort from the storm's fury.

But she had not come. Prepared to search for her himself, he had allowed Rumil and Orophin to convince him to let them look for her. Now he sat, acting in a most uncharacteristic manner by displaying his agitation openly.

Galadriel, sitting beside him, said nothing to him and he supposed that no news was good news. Either that or Kyshri had somehow managed to die and his wife just did not wish to tell him as she did not inform him of Haldir's death. He was not sure he could handle two deaths so near to each other--Malyr and Irelia had been all he could take.

The chamber doors opened and Rumil and Orophin entered, completely drenched with water running off them so quickly that puddles formed at every step they took. They approached and knelt respectfully before the dais. [My lord, we could not find her anywhere.]

Celeborn rubbed the bridge of his nose. He wanted to call them incompetent, but he knew that he could hardly have done better. Kyshri had a knack for disappearing; she had been watching out for herself for so long that she did not trouble herself to tell anyone where she would be.

A dull pain ran through his neck and he reached back to massage the spot absently. Haldir had always complained that Kyshri's Malyr-inspired adventurous nature gave him grey hairs and Celeborn had always laughed at him for the exaggeration, for Elves could not naturally grow such hair, but now he wondered if his friend's griping had not held some truth. Now that Kyshri's care had fallen to him, he was starting to appreciate Haldir's resilience to mental exhaustion. It was very difficult trying to pinpoint where Kyshri could be and he felt himself teetering on the edge of a full-blown tantrum of frustration.

He looked up as the chamber doors opened again. Firdon entered, as soaked as Rumil and Orophin, and remained by the door as he bowed. [Nothing to report, my lord. All is quiet.]

[Thank you, Firdon. By the way, have you seen Kyshri?]

If Firdon's attention had been wandering, it was no longer. [She did not return?]

Celeborn straightened in his chair. [Return? What do you mean?]

Firdon gestured behind him to the forest. [I saw her entering the forest a few hours ago. She seemed distracted, so I did not speak to her. I did not think to look for her because I thought she would return before the storm.]

Celeborn did not have to give orders. Rumil and Orophin were already on their feet and running for the door. Firdon slipped out first and the brothers quickly rushed out after him. The lord of Lorien let out another annoyed breath and then slumped in his chair with a heavy sigh. He glanced back and forth for a servant who usually waited just out of sight, then asked the air, [Would someone please clean up that water?]

[She is not as easy to watch as you thought, is she?] came Galadriel's amused query.

He straightened in the chair once more. [Celebrian was never this difficult to tend. Kyshri can get into more trouble in one hour than Celebrian ever did! How was I supposed to be aware of that before I agreed to care for her?]

[You might have paid more attention to what Haldir said,] was the wise reply. [He had first-hand experience.]

Celeborn muttered to himself, then said aloud, [Haldir always had a rather aggravating tendency to magnify something beyond believable proportions, particularly in our youth. I was perfectly within my rights to not believe him, for I had already raised a daughter myself and he had not.]

Galadriel laughed at him softly. [Excuses will not protect you forever.]

[It is not my fault that Kyshri is uncontrollable.]

[Then whose fault is it?]

Celeborn was silent.

[Certainly you are not saying Malyr and Irelia raised her incorrectly?]

Still silence. Then: [Malyr made one mistake. He filled her head with tales of the world outside the forest and she has been impossible to predict ever since then. Irelia said so, then Haldir. Now I am saying it. She is just like Lomuial.]

Lomuial . . .

He would have to find some way to get word to her about Haldir . . .

[And what is wrong with imagination, with the strength of will they possess?] Galadriel asked. [Malyr gave those gifts to both; are you attempting to imply that as a female Kyshri should have been conditioned for a simple existence in Lorien? That she--as well as Lomuial--is an embarrassment to our people?]

[No. I am saying that . . .]

But he could not finish. He did not know what he had meant by what he said. Perhaps he was saying Kyshri should have been groomed for a quiet life in Lorien. It just seemed so . . . improper for a female to be frolicking across Middle-earth in a male's clothes, though Lomuial had and was doing so as well.

Was she an embarrassment to the people of Lorien? He had heard rumors and cruel remarks whispered behind her back . . . Should he try to discipline her for her disobedience? She had run away, after all, even if it had been nearly three millennia ago.

[. . . Husband?]

[. . . I was merely thinking . . .] he trailed, still deep in thought. [. . . It is rather privately disapproved of when a female joins the guard ranks and I have heard so much talk about her cavorting all over the countryside . . . Do you think she deserves discipline?]

If Galadriel did not appreciate the fact that he was considering the question, she did not let on. [For someone her age, Kyshri is extremely wise. Even before she ran away this was true. I account that to Malyr's insistence that she learn the Common Tongue as well as study beyond what is normally decreed for females. He could see her potential even if no one else could. The fact that he told her tales of his travels means little. He did not hide anything from her; she fully understood the perils of Middle-earth as well as its beauties and felt that the perils were worth risking to see the beauties.]

[. . . Malyr wanted a son.]

[So did you.]

[We are not talking about me.]

She ignored the snap. [You both wanted a son. However, you both received a daughter instead. How did they turn out so differently?]

Celeborn looked over at her, waiting for the explanation, and when it became obvious that she wanted him to explain it, he looked away. [How am I supposed to know?]

[It is not difficult.]

[Then explain it to me! Are you saying I was a bad father?]

Galadriel did not flinch at his outburst. [No. It is simply that Malyr tried to rectify the mistake.]

Celeborn looked at her, then laughed. He could not help himself. It all made perfect sense now. [You mean Malyr tried to make Kyshri a boy?!]

[He did not always know when to give up,] Galadriel conceded.

Celeborn barely kept his laughter under control. While he had always respected Malyr, he admitted that he sometimes wondered how the other Elf had survived in a harsh world like Beleriand with such childish ideas. No wonder Lomuial turned out as she had; Malyr had treated her as a brother instead. [If I had known . . . Why did he not merely try again? That would have been far simpler!]

[He knew that Kyshri could do as well as any male. He taught her as he had taught Lomuial. Also, he did not enjoy taking `no' for an answer.]

Neither did Kyshri. Celeborn fell silent. Should he discipline her? It would be for her own good; her father as well as Haldir had died far from home. She would be a great deal safer if she remained in Lorien. And he could put a guard on her to be sure she did not run away again.

[And would you be willing to place her under such guard for the rest of her life?] Galadriel inquired. [To have her watched for every minute of every day? Are you so willing to confine her spirit? Assuming that she did not manage to escape, which I believe to be highly doubtful, are you so willing to keep her from what is nearly the only life she has ever known?] Celeborn frowned. [She would go mad in a matter of weeks, if not days.]

He looked at Galadriel, surprised. [Surely you jest . . .?]

[My Lord Celeborn, if you were to confine Kyshri to Lothlorien, what would she do with the knowledge she possesses? It would fester in her mind, taunting her with possibilities. Do you wish such an existence upon her?]

He did not want to believe her, but he knew she was right. With a heavy heart he declared quietly to his lady, [. . . Then she will remain unfettered, even if it brings her death.]

Galadriel reached over and took his hand. [If she were to die, husband, she would die as she has lived--a free soul. She would blame no one.]

[I would blame myself,] he murmured, pained merely by thinking of it.

Before Galadriel could reassure him, the chamber doors opened and Rumil and Orophin stumbled inside, freshly soaked. [We found her!]


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