The Two Towers: Kyshri's Story - The quest to destroy the One Ring told through the eyes of a runaway elf (part five of thirteen)
"Now Theoden, son of Thengel, will you heaken to me?" Gandalf asked of the stooped king. "Do you ask for help? Not all is dark. Take courage, Lord of the Mark; for better help you will not find. No counsel have I for those in despair, yet counsel I could give, and words I could speak to you. Will you hear them? They are not for all ears. I bid you come out before your doors and look abroad. Too long it has been that you have sat in the shadows and trusted to twisted tales and crooked promptings."
Theoden slowly left his chair as dim light returned. A woman I had not noticed before moved to the king's side to aid him up through the hall to the doors, Gandalf leading the way.
"Open!" he cried to the doors. "The Lord of the Mark comes forth!"
The doors opened and Quephiril was standing there, waiting. He let out a loud whinny when he saw me; the strength of which was magnified by our close quarters. I rushed forward to silence him. [Quephiril, have you no sense? Do you wish to deafen us? Please, be silent!]
The stallion turned to the side and looked at me. I crossed my arms. [Come now, Quephiril, I cannot simply hop upon your back when it suits you!] He tossed his head and reared a bit, his hooves clopping on the stone. [You are going to slip and fall if you are not more careful! Stone is slick to a horse's hoof!]
[You know, Kyshri,] Legolas said in my ear with a soft laugh, though others listening could still hear his words, [by the look of him I would say that he is madly in love with you.]
[Perhaps the same as Telrak being madly in love with you?]
[He is not.]
[Yet you are the first and still only male he has ever come to after I rescued him. He prefers you over me, his savior! Tell me that is not love!]
There was another snicker.
Legolas straightened. [. . . Very well. You prove a good point. But that does not change Quephiril.]
I stroked the stallion's neck a moment and then absently retrieved my weapons, considering. A run without worry would be a welcome recreation; however, if I was needed . . .
"Go on, Kyshri."
I turned sharply to Gandalf.
He smiled in amusement. "I do not believe he will remain in the stables until you do as he wishes."
I looked over at Theoden, but he was gazing over Rohan and was apparently unfazed by the sight of a horse upon his front steps. So I guided Quephiril cautiously back down the stairs and then leapt upon his back. I had hardly settled when he took off at a dead run.
[Quephiril, you are in the midst of a city! Slow yourself!]
But he did not. And I watched in horror as a small child tumbled from the back of a horse harnessed to a cart and into my stallion's path.
At the last instant, the stallion hopped lightly over the child and continued out the gates onto the plain. I looked back to be sure the child was all right.
[Quephiril! I swear to Orthid I will have you strapped to the earth if you cannot agree to my wishes!]
The stallion let out a laugh-like neigh and stopped, rearing high and striking out jubillantly with his front hooves. Then he dropped to the earth and began to graze as any other horse would.
I crossed my arms again. [Am I to sit here while you fill your belly?] He snorted. [Very well. Then I will sleep. Wake me should anything important happen.]
I never actually had any time to sleep, for five minutes after I had laid back, the stallion gave a small buck to wake me. I sat up and watched closely with my stallion as Grima Wormtongue passed through the gates of Edoras, beating the rump of his horse with the extra length of reins.
Quephiril pinned his ears and lunged into a gallop, coming up alongside the other horse, though out of range of the reins. He then whinnied, causing the horse to stop and begin a wild crowhopping that tossed Wormtongue a dozen feet. As soon as he was off its back, the horse quit its antics and trotted in a circle, its tail held up proudly. My stallion nickered a laugh at Wormtongue, who spat out a large mouthful of dirt.
"Curse you, Elf!"
I laughed as Quephiril danced in place, wishing to go after him but holding to my order. "Do not curse me, Wormtongue! I did not command my mount to run you down, though I could do so again if it pleases you, for I am sure he would have no qualms after you beat one of his offspring so viciously!"
"You will pay for this!"
I laughed again. "Not if you die first! Quephiril, he craves death!"
My stallion pinned his ears once more and leapt forward, his neck stretched out, teeth bared hatefully. I retrieved my whip and unfurled it with a crack. "Run, Wormtongue! Run for your life! Run!"
And so we chased him half way across the plain, me cracking the whip at his rear as he had done to the other horse.
"There will be retribution!" Wormtongue screeched when Quephiril finally gave up the chase and turned toward Edoras. I coiled the whip and replaced it in my pack once more. My stallion paused so I could grab the reins of the other horse and then headed for Edoras at a trot.
The guards did not ask questions at the return of the horse; they were laughing too hard to speak anyway. My stallion then took me up to Meduseld, prancing through the streets and tossing his head happily. It was as we were going that I saw several guards and messengers speaking to the citizens, who were nodding gravely at what was being said.
Quephiril took me up the stairs and through the wide-open and unwatched doors into the hall. [Quephiril, you are going to get me in trouble!]
Heedless of my words, he clopped into the hall, where Aragorn and Gimli were eating and Gandalf was arguing with Theoden. They all looked at me and I crossed my arms defensively. "I did nothing."
Legolas, leaning against a pillar nearby, asked, ". . . Kyshri?"
"He refuses to allow me to dismount!"
He snickered cruelly and began singing a centuries-old love song.
Quephiril bobbed his head and Aragorn laughed, calming down after a moment to explain the situation just as loudly and clearly to Gimli, who also found it extremely amusing and laughed at me as well.
"As much in love as you might be," Theoden said firmly, "I must ask for Quephiril's return. He will be needed."
"That is fine with me," I replied, "if he will let me down."
Which he did, finally, once Legolas had finished serenading us. [I want you to go back to the stables and obey them, do you understand?]
Quephiril turned his large, soulful blue eyes on me, but gave a sort of nod and turned dejectedly away to leave. I felt rather guilty for being so unnecessarily rough with him and Legolas compounded it. [I believe you may have hurt his feelings, Kyshri.]
I turned my back to him. [Do not dare speak to me, Legolas. All you have done this day is embarrass me; I do not need you to condemn me for obeying the orders of the King of Rohan.]
[You could have been gentler.]
I snarled. Who was he to dictate such things to me? [And you could have shown more sense!] I stormed toward the doors.
[Kyshri!] I whirled viciously, prepared to send a mass of sharp words to Aragorn, but he only said, [Theoden wants to move everyone to the fortress at Helm's Deep.]
As inane as the idea sounded, I gave a nod. [Then I will meet you all there.] I leapt down the stairs and headed for the gates, stopping momentarily by the stables, where Quephiril had already been bridled. I went to him and held his head, kissing his nose. [Forgive me.] He planted a muddy nuzzle on my cheek. [Thank you. Now I wish for you to behave yourself while another is riding you.] He nodded sadly and I rubbed around his ears before leaving.
[Kyshri!] He ran to the edge of the stairs and looked across the city, but she was not in sight. [. . . Kyshri?]
[Let her go, Legolas.]
He looked back at Aragorn. [But . . . But . . .] He gazed over the plain, finally seeing a lone figure heading northwest, toward Helm's Deep. [She will be alone . . .]
[It will not be the first time,] the mortal prince reminded him. [She longs to return to Lothlorien; I have seen it since we left there.]
[Then why did she not stay? I told her that if she wished she could remain there---]
[She made a vow to those in Veikai the orcs killed. She is bound to that vow, no matter what her heart wishes. Allow her to be alone with her thoughts. She will be fine alone.]
Legolas watched the figure disappear into a small forest and then bowed his head. [. . . I did not mean to make her angry.]
[She is not angry, Legolas. She is frustrated. Let her be. She will return to you in time.]
[But . . . But if something were to happen . . . She would never know . . .]
[Perhaps it is better that way. If something were to happen, would you wish such pain and fear upon her?]
The elf prince shook his head. [No . . . No, I would not. Thank you, Aragorn, for your counsel.] Once the other was in the hall again, he focused on the forest, vainly striving to see her in the trees. [. . . I shall wait for you and send my heart to keep yours company, maiden of Lorien.]
Telrak suddenly launched himself from the elf's shoulder and glided toward the trees, becoming smaller and smaller as he continued. Legolas sighed heavily and returned to the hall's interior.
[---And tell them Elrond sent you. Orthid knows they would panic if they knew where you had truly come from.]
Haldir looked up from the buckling of his armor at Celeborn, back over his shoulder at the battalion of elves that was very solemnly organizing itself, then at Celeborn again briefly before continuing with his armor. [. . . You expect them to believe that they all came from Rivendell?]
[They are in Rohan; they do not know. They think we all look alike as it is. They will believe you.]
[I think you underestimate them.]
[I think you give them too much credit. They will be too concerned about the war to bother trying to tell any of you apart.]
Haldir snorted and pulled the leather strap tight. Then, after a moment, he asked, [What of Kyshri?]
[Theoden has decided that all of Edoras would be safer in Helm's Deep.]
Haldir stared. [Surely you jest. All of Edoras?]
Celeborn nodded. [Down to the last child.]
[What fool idea is that?]
[Ask Theoden. Kyshri has gone ahead alone.]
[She has been extremely upset recently. It seems that she is being stretched between her vow and Lothlorien. She snapped at the prince and left Edoras for Helm's Deep.]
[But wargs are on the hunt in Rohan!]
Celeborn's grave expression did not change. [Let us hope they do not prey upon her.]
Legolas stared morosely down at Arod's withers, allowing the horse to travel without his direction. He lifted his head briefly in time to see the horse Gimli had been coaxed into riding bolt and dump him on the grass. Though he might have laughed any other time, he could not now muster even a smile.
[Legolas, can you not allow yourself a moment of freedom?]
He looked over at Aragorn. [. . . I smell wargs.]
If Aragorn had some of his attention elsewhere, he was now listening fully to what the elf prince said. [Wargs?]
[That is why the horses are so nervous. Have you not noticed?]
He glanced around; several horses were snorting often and acting skittish and all had their ears rotating constantly, as if listening for something only they would hear. Then, up at the front of the train, Quephiril whinnied loudly and reared. His rider kept from being thrown, but he could not stop the horse from dashing down over the hill in a frenzy.
Legolas urged Arod forward and felt his blood stop as his mount crested the hill and he saw Quephiril forcefully nudging a limp form on the ground. [Kyshri!] His shout spurred Arod into a run and the horse only stopped when he reached Quephiril.
The body was indeed Kyshri and she looked as she had dozens of times before; bathed in the blood of her enemy as well as her own, though this time the wounds were not as obvious as they usually were. Her normally lightly sun-bleached blond hair was stained a dark orange and her clothes were severely torn.
Legolas touched her cheek. [. . . Kyshri?]
Her eyes opened weakly. [It . . . is still . . . here.]