Coralie was struggling to rise to her feet after Aragorn gave the order to strike camp. Frodo and Sam were about to reach down and help her when suddenly a strong arm grasped her elbow and gently raised her up. As she stood the world started to reel a little and she held the arm for support until the spinning stopped.
“Steady there. I’ve got you.” Boromir smiled down at her. “That’s quite a grip you have there M’Lady. `Tis no wonder, after the way you hung on in that well. No other maiden could have done what you did. In fact, I doubt even I could.”
Coralie tried to take a step and faltered once again. She grabbed for his arm.
“Ho now! Let’s just take this one step at a time, shall we?” Coralie nodded weakly and took a deep breath. She turned to look at Boromir who smiled encouragingly in return.
“Twould seem that purple would be a most striking colour on you, Coralie, if that bruise on your forehead is anything to go by. But I would prefer to see it anywhere upon your person, rather than on your fair face.”
She swayed a little as he held her, and was about to thank him for his courtesy, when the awful realization struck her, that she was about to be sick. Falling to her knees without warning, she vomited into the grass. Boromir reflexively jumped back a little, but he wasn’t quite quick enough. Some of the splash, found its way to his boots. He knelt beside her and offered her a kerchief from inside his tunic.
“I’m afraid it’s not the cleanest, but it’s all I have at the moment,” offered Boromir. Coralie thanked him as she took the kerchief and retched again. By now she was on all fours and looked a most pitiful sight.
“Looks like I just wasted a good cup of tea,” she barked between heaves. Boromir handed her a water skin, when it looked like the worst was over.
“Just rinse out your mouth now. Only take a little sip as well, or you will be bringing that up too.”
The hobbits were busy stamping out the remains of the fire with Gimli, when they noticed Coralie on all fours. They came running over as one. Boromir held up his hand.
“Give the lady some room now, lads.”
“I’m okay. Really I am,” she said trying to reassure them. “Just haven’t got my sea legs yet…that’s all.” Pippin was about to open his mouth and say something to the effect that they were on dry land when Merry nudged him in the ribs. He knew Pippin well enough.
Coralie made to stand up, and suddenly they were all fussing over her in an effort to help.
Acknowledging their concern, she gratefully took hold of their hands and stood up tentatively.
Pippin reached for her pack where it lay.
“I’ll carry your pack for you Coralie.”
“No. I’m going to carry her pack Pip,” said Merry making a grab for it.
“I offered first,” countered Pippin.
“I’m the strongest out of the lot of you,” argued Sam snatching it out of Pippin’s hands.
“I’m in charge, and I’m going to take it,” cried Frodo.
“No you don’t, Master Frodo. Not with that sore side of yours from the troll’s spear, you’re not,” said Sam grabbing it out of Frodo’s hands.
They were all yelling at once. Coralie just sighed and leaned against Boromir’s arm.
“What’s going on here?” thundered Aragorn. The hobbits immediately stopped arguing and dropped the pack on the grass at their feet. They looked up with guilty expressions at Aragorn and Legolas who had by now joined them, anxious to find out what all the commotion was about. Making dwarvish curses under his breath, Gimli continued to hide all traces of the fire after the hobbits had run off and abandoned it.
“Well, I wanted to..”
“I offered first…”
“Coralie’s not feeling…”
Aragorn held up his hands. “One at a time! I can’t understand a word your saying! Frodo. You first.”
Frodo dug his hands in his pockets, suddenly feeling quite foolish. “Um. Well, Coralie just threw up in the grass and we were trying to help her.”
“Yeah! I offered to carry her pack and then, Merry…..” Pippin’s voice caught in his throat as Aragorn’s face clouded over.
“What? You think you’re helping her, by fighting amongst yourselves like a pack of unruly children?”
Not daring to look up, they kicked the ground and shook their heads a little.
“Perhaps, you had better go help Gimli with the fire, and we will see to the Lady,” said Legolas calmly.
Marching off towards Gimli, Pippin and Merry could be heard muttering about whose fault it was, and who started what as Aragorn turned gravely to Coralie who was still holding onto Boromir’s arm for support.
“I am sorry you are ill, Lady,” he said softly as he walked over and placed a gentle hand on her forehead. She felt a little clammy to his touch.
“I think the worst of it is over,” Coralie replied.
“Nevertheless, I think that I should take another look at that arm of yours, and I regret that I did not do so earlier,” he looked up at the darkening sky.
Coralie followed his gaze and swayed a little as she looked up. Legolas reached out to steady her, then dropped his hand as he noted that she still clutched at Boromir’s arm.
“Look I’m fine. Really. I just couldn’t keep my tea down. That’s all,” she said bravely.
“Why don’t we wait until we make camp for the night. We are still too close to Moria for my liking, and I don’t want to hold you up,” she continued.
Aragorn looked hard at her. Some of the colour had returned to her cheeks, but she was still too pale for his liking. Her voice spoke bravely, although her eyes betrayed her. However, she was right about their position being still too close to Moria.
“Alright Lady. Then you will walk at the front between Legolas and myself. I am not certain of your condition, and feel that you would be better served by me, if I were near.” He turned to Boromir. “If you will carry her pack and see that the hobbits get up to no more mischief on the road, my mind would be easier. Dark is settling fast and we are not as far away from danger as I would like. We must make haste to find some decent shelter for the night. Then I can tend to the Lady’s wounds again, and make certain of the treatment myself this time,” he looked directly at Coralie as he spoke these last words. “Come. Let us tarry no more.”
Legolas took Coralie’s arm as Boromir picked up her pack. “Please Coralie. Let me help you,” he looked enquiringly at her.
She was not quite sure if she had forgiven him or not yet.
“Forgiven him for what? Why was I mad at him?” she thought as she shook her head trying to clear it. Everything was still a little blurry. Then she remembered the day’s events as they flowed as a river behind her eyes. Gandalf! He was gone! Grief stabbed at her heart.
Legolas saw the little shake of her head and the pain that shrouded her figure as he held her arm gently. He dropped his hand, at a loss, for what offence he may have caused now, unaware of the silent conflict that raged within her.
“It’s all your fault you know,” the black voice returned.
Aragorn called after them. Coralie stumbled blindly along, dragging her heart with her.
“Yes it is all my fault,” she thought.
Legolas walked carefully behind.
“So glad you agree with me,” the black voice sneered. “If you hadn’t held them up with that little dance you did in the well, Gandalf may still be alive.”
“Still be alive?” her thoughts followed the train of the black voice.
“Yes. You shouldn’t have bothered hanging on so long. It would have been better if you’d sacrificed yourself for the others.”
“But what about the ring?” she questioned.
“What of it? At least Frodo would have been freed of his burden. Now he has it back again and Gandalf is dead thanks to you.” The powerful logic of the loathsome voice assailed her.
“And now, you’re putting them all in danger again.”
“Danger?” she blinked and looked about her. Legolas noticed her half startled look.
“Yes danger. Look at you. You’re practically an invalid. They’ll have to go out of their way to protect you now.” The voice went on unabated.
“Practically an invalid?” this time Legolas heard her.
“Yes. You’re an invalid.” Her cunning demon continued.
“No!” she gasped, fighting the accusations that threatened to drown her in guilty recriminations.
The voice laughed at her futile attempts to justify herself.
“Yes. You’re slowing them all down now. It would be better if you left….. After all,” it sneered, “You are an invalid.”
Legolas touched her arm.
She whirled on him, suddenly furious.
“I’m not an invalid!” she ran after Aragorn, leaving Legolas standing there in confusion.
“I never said you were,” but she was gone and his assertion fell upon the stony ground at his feet.