Legolas and Coralie watched as the others approached the shelter of the trees. Frodo’s legs ached and his head was dizzy as he thought of the long and painful march downhill. Black specks swam before his eyes. He rubbed them, but the black specks remained.
“The birds again!” said Aragorn.
“Stone the flaming crows!” exclaimed Coralie. “What we need is some buckshot!”
“I have not shot a buck in a long time Coralie,” replied Legolas “but I think you’re out of luck as I cannot see any stones lying about the ground here. I should like to see you stone them.”
“What are they exactly?” she asked.
“They are spies of Saruman,” said Aragorn “twould seem that they have come back for a second look”. Gandalf looked grim, but resigned as he lent upon his staff. “Our passing has not gone unnoticed and I fear now they have some more news to deliver to Saruman.” he turned looking at Coralie.
“Yes I’m sure I made quite a spectacle of myself leaping in over the heads of those Orcs and the Fellowship as I did. You’d have to be Blind Freddy not to have noticed my little entrance…just wished I’d caught it on film mate! Warren Miller would have been impressed.”
“Who is this Warren Miller? Is he a great warrior?” asked Gimli eagerly.
Coralie laughed. “No way Jose, he’s pretty long in the tooth for that…strike me pink, I reckon he’s over 70 years old by now…he makes ski films for entertainment….sort of like moving pictures.”
Gandalf and Aragorn looked at her incredulously. “Well he is not so old. I still consider myself worthy of battle….and we won’t even mention Legolas’ age.” said Aragorn.
“Hruumph! Nor mine for that matter,” coughed Gandalf. “I have never seen a moving picture Coralie. You come from a very strange place indeed. As to our present predicament, we must go down at once. Not even on the knees of Caradhras will we wait for another night-fall!”
They made ready to leave. Coralie attached her skis and poles on her Chilkats backpack and took off her ski boots. She rummaged around in her pack and pulled out a pair of women’s Tecnica Vario GTX terrain running shoes. Quite pretty, feminine and durable to boot! The fellowship watched her with growing fascination. Boromir picked up her Raichle CRX 500 ski boot and examined it closer. Gimli was especially fascinated with the intricate detail of the buckles.
“Tell me Lady. Did dwarves make these boots of yours? I have never seen the likes of these before, but the workmanship smacks of dwarven make to me. We are very skilled at such things. Tell me what is the wire made of where you buckle them on?” Gimli asked pointing at the buckles of the red boots he held aloft.
“Well they are called bails Gimli and I do believe that they are made of plastic and steel!” answered Coralie.
Plastic!” wondered Gimli. There is no such metal found in Middle Earth, and I thought Mithril was good!”
Coralie finished packing as she accepted the boot back from Gimli. Still dressed in her ski gear, but now with better footwear for travel, she felt just about ready to face anything. She donned her pack and joined the others as they made their way through the brooding trees.
“What is that noise?” asked Frodo. The company stopped and looked about anxiously. There was nothing to be heard but the breath of the wind talking to the trees. They moved on again. “Wait.”
Aragorn held up his hand. “I heard it too.”
“What did you hear?” asked Merry anxiously looking at the trees suspiciously.
“The sound did not come from the trees, although it was like unto the movement of the leaves in the wind. Rather, it came from amongst us. Lady, please come here.” beckoned Aragorn. Coralie shouldered her pack as she walked towards him.
“Swish, swish, swish.” Her ski pants rubbed against each other with each step. Feeling very awkward, yet nonetheless relieved at the realization that she made the noise and not some dark and dreadful creature in the woods she looked down at her pants. So did the others.
“Well, this will never do,” said Gandalf. “We’ll have every orc and spy of Saruman knowing our exact whereabouts at this rate.”
“Then I guess I will have to take them off!”
“Lady!” We cannot allow you to disrobe amongst these men! It would not be seemly!” exclaimed Legolas.
“Relax gentlemen! I’ve got a pair of sport wool leggings on underneath, and a pair of jeans in my backpack. Besides…. I have to go see a star about to twinkle!”
Legolas looked up into the darkling sky. “It is not quite evening yet Coralie. There are no stars above,” he said with a puzzled frown.
Coralie winked at him. “I’m not talking about that kind of star Legolas”.
He smiled back at her. “Oh. I see.” He nodded knowingly.
Coralie picked up her pack and headed a little ways into the trees. “What does she mean…see a star?” asked Pippin.
“Yeah. I don’t see any stars over there,” said Sam still suspicious as he tried to watch the direction in which Coralie was going.
“Perhaps, Samwise Gamgee. This is not the sort of star you were mean’t to see.” said Aragorn as he stepped in front of the craning hobbit and gently turned him around.
“Oh!” he muttered with embarrassment. Frodo just rolled his eyes.
It was cold and the wind bit at their backs as they turned from the Redhorn Gate and stumbled wearily down the slope. Caradhras had defeated them. By the time they halted for the night, evening was approaching and the grey light was waning fast. They were all weary.
“We cannot, of course, go on again tonight!” said Gandalf. “We must rest here for a while.”
“And then where are we to go?” asked Frodo.
“We still have our journey and our errand before us,” answered Gandalf. Walking over to the spot where Coralie sat, munching on a snickers bar he sat down beside her.
“Tell me Coralie. What do you know of our errand?”
“I’m not sure Gandalf. I knew it when I first came upon you all on the mountain, but now…..I can’t remember all the details…something about a ring I think, and a dark lord and something about the end of the world…..” her voice trailed off, unsure of what to say next. She suddenly felt a little scared and out of her depth. Here she was in a very strange land with very strange people (even if some of them were hunks) and she still wasn’t sure if she’d actually hit her head and was dreaming or not. The loss of clear memory was the most disturbing aspect to her. She wondered if she had amnesia.
Gandalf patted her gloved hand. “There, there my dear. Do not fear. You are among friends. I don’t think you have amnesia,” she looked at him with wide eyes.
“But what’s going on? How did I get here? I seem to know you all, and then not as well. It is very confusing. I feel like I have one foot in the grave and another on a banana skin!”
Gandalf smiled in return. “There are many paths one could take in life, and for one reason or another, the Valar have sent you along this one with us. I see neither a banana skin, or a grave at the moment. It is true that I had not reckoned on your joining us when we started out on our quest. For better or worse, you are to be counted as one of us. There are many mysteries in the world, and your appearance seems to be one of them. I do not understand it, but I can accept it for now….as should you.”
“Where are we going now Gandalf?” she asked apprehensively.
“We are going to the mines of Moria. We cannot cross the mountain. We must go under.”
“Under?” replied Coralie, as she took another bite of her Snickers bar.
“What is that you are eating?” asked Sam. “Orc food?” He was still not convinced about Coralie’s authenticity. Gandalf sighed.
“Here,” she said handing it to him “Try it if you dare!” Sam gingerly handled the Snickers bar and smelt it suspiciously.
“Go on Sam. It won’t bite!” said Gandalf with exasperation. Sam took a tentative bite.
“Oh my!” he cried with delight! The other hobbits came rushing over.
“Is it good?”
“Here, let me try!”
“Wait your turn!”
They each took a bite of the chocolate and looked at Coralie with new wonder in their eyes.
“It would seem, Coralie, that you have at last made converts out of the hobbits,” said Gandalf with a wry smile as he stood up. He patted Sam on the shoulder as he passed by.
Sam reluctantly smiled and shrugged his shoulders. “Well, Lady Coralie….’twould seem I was wrong to misjudge you. That ain’t no orc food you’ve got there and no mistake”.
Coralie just laughed and tossed him another bar.