“Gentlemen, thank you for your aid in eliminating the threat to our Northern Borders. We are in your debt,” said Celeborn graciously. The four members of the Company, who had accompanied Haldir to fight the incursion of the Orcs, stood before the Lord and Lady of the Wood.
“I am indeed glad to see that you have returned to us safe and whole. We have dinner prepared, and pray that you will find refreshment once again, now that you have returned to fair Lothlorien,” said the Lady of the Wood.
Gimli bowed, “Indeed Lady, just to gaze upon your beauty is enough refreshment for me.”
Galadriel replied with a tinkling laugh. “Your words are fair, Sir Dwarf, I pray that you find our hospitality ever so. Come! You shall accompany me to the table.” Gimli quickly ran to offer the Lady his arm, as the rest followed to the tables where dinner was already waiting.
Tables, heavily laden with food greeted the weary combatants, who sat down eagerly to the repast laid out before them. Waterfowl, roasted vegetables, nutty breads and cool wine graced the tables. Many fair voices greeted them as Aragorn and Legolas, seated themselves opposite Celeborn and Galadriel, with Boromir and Gimli on either side. As they ate, many discussions were held regarding the possible reasons for the increasing incursions from the Orcs of late.
Presently, the talk turned to lighter subjects after dinner, as the Company felt the weariness of recent battle fade from their hearts and minds. Galadriel noted Legolas’ distraction.
“She is not here, Legolas,” said Galadriel softly as she leaned forward. Aragorn looked up at these words.
“I noticed the lady’s absence earlier, along with the Hobbits. She is not ill?” asked Legolas.
Galadriel laughed in response. “No Gentlemen, i titheniel is not ill. In fact, more the contrary.”
Aragorn and Legolas gave her a quizzical look.
“I will not keep you in suspense any longer. I titheniel, sleeps outside tonight, along with the Hobbits,” she said with a smile.
“Outside!” they both said aghast, half afraid that she, or perhaps the Hobbits had done something to offend their hosts and were forced to sleep outside rather than in the accommodation provided. However, they both felt that whatever may have occurred was probably more the fault of the Hobbits, than the lady’s.
“Have no fear Gentlemen,” smiled Galadriel, sensing the direction of their thoughts. “The lady and the Hobbits have only proven to be a source of charm and entertainment, and tonight have decided themselves to sleep underneath the stars of Lothlórien.”
“But, why would she choose to do such a thing?” asked Legolas, puzzled why Coralie would choose to sleep outside, when she had a perfectly good bed in her chamber.
“I do believe she called this activity camping, Legolas,” replied Galadriel. Aragorn and Legolas looked at each other with bemused expressions. Galadriel laughed as she noticed the exchange. “She is safe, happy and well escorted, Gentlemen. Apart from herself and the Hobbits, there is a whole host of Elves, both young, and even some older out in the woods with her tonight. Night and day, she is hardly alone, or even has a moment to herself, for if the Hobbits are not with her, then practically every Elf under the age of fifty, are her constant companions. Hardly surprising, for she is a complete enigma. The lady is holding her own court tonight, and has promised to teach them how to make something she calls ‘Billy Tea’ and ‘Damper’. Apparently, these are recipes from her own land. The Hobbits were laden down with flour, honey, butter, tea and even milk from our pantries when they left here this evening.”
“I am glad to hear that she is well,” said Aragorn. “I must say, that I am not really surprised to hear that she has found some way to entertain the Hobbits in our absence. They seem to be of mutual benefit to each other. Although Pippin is clearly enamoured of her, the others too, love her company. I am especially glad that Frodo seems to have gained some relief from his burden, and that she has provided him with ample distraction. But to hear of so many Elves with her? At least I have no fear about her safety, but I wouldn’t have thought that a mortal woman would hold so much interest for them.”
Galadriel smiled, as she acknowledged the truth of Aragorn’s words.
“She is the most unusual mortal woman I have ever met. Actually, even though she is a fully-grown woman, I have yet to decide how much of her is woman, and how much of her is really child,” she said.
“Well, she looks like a woman to me, but I suppose to you we must all seem like children,” said Boromir with a smile.
“It is more than that. It is the youthful spark she carries within her that has allowed me to overlook most of her strange behaviour.”
“What strange behaviour is that lady?” asked Gimli a little intrigued.
“She has been observed doing things that no mortal woman in Middle Earth would ever dream of…in fact, I’m not sure that even Elves would naturally engage in most of her activities.”
They all raised their eyebrows, wondering what activities she could possibly be up to.
“Let me explain further. You are far too anxious to ensure that i titheniel remains in my good graces. And I can understand this, for you know as well as I, that she is like no other woman here in Middle Earth. But be assured, that she has found a place in our hearts, and I know I speak for my Lord here as well.” Celeborn nodded to his wife in agreement. “I would also like to add that I find the gift she has in song, to be the most mysterious quality about her.’ responded Galadriel.
“I would dearly love to know what sort of activities she has been involved in, for I have forsworn i titheniel to myself as sister, and as I am the only kinsman she has, I am therefore responsible for her,” said Aragorn.
Galadriel looked warmly at him in response. “That was nobly done Aragorn. It is not good for a woman to be alone, without a kinsman to stand up for her. I had heard some news about this. Does she know?”
Aragorn shifted a little uncomfortably in his seat. “Not yet, Lady. I have been looking for the most opportune time to inform her.”
“Then you must do so. Do not keep anything from her Aragorn. She has bestowed her trust in you, and this is not something she is inclined to do lightly. But I feel compelled to tell you, that she is possessed of a very strong will, and may not understand your intentions. Women from her time are vastly different from the women of Middle Earth.”
“How so?” asked Aragorn.
“We have had some discussions about the role of women in her society. They have many more freedoms and responsibilities, than women here. It is not unusual for women to seek their own happiness and position in life, rather than accept their lot as only wives and mothers. I have laughed at her assertion that the females of Middle Earth need liberating. Her ideas are most curious. She sees herself as your complete equal in all things, Aragorn. Her lesser physical strength, is of no matter to her way of thinking. For then she would counter that she is your intellectual equal, and that it is only physically, she is different. In fact she has told me “Vive La Difference!” Apparently that means, long live the difference,” she laughed.
“I will drink to that!” said Boromir, raising his goblet. “I am completely in favour of this `difference’!” he said with a smile.
“Of course it is quite apparent, that she is a maiden, in spite of her odd behaviour, even more so considering the clothes she wears,” conceded Legolas as he gave Boromir a sideways glance. “Unfortunately, they do not leave very much to the imagination.”
Galadriel laughed. “Indeed I have despaired of ever getting the poor girl into a dress. I can tell by the expression on both your faces that you would be grateful if I could do so.” she said to Aragorn and Legolas.
They both nodded with a smile.
“This would be no easy task Gentlemen. She says that it is customary for women to wear breeches or pants in her culture, especially among the younger women, and `sportswomen’ as she likes to call herself. Apparently they are more comfortable to wear than a dress.
I titheniel has informed me, that dresses in her time are nothing like the dresses we wear here on a daily basis. For example, she has told me that my own dress would be considered an `evening gown’ and would therefore only be worn on a formal occasion, or may even make a nice wedding dress. However, from her description of dresses that women commonly wear during the day, in her world, they would be considered less modest than the clothing she wears now, so be glad of small mercies,” said Galadriel.
“What sort of dresses could these women possibly wear then?” asked Gimli trying to imagine anything less modest than Coralie’s leggings and t-shirt, which she commonly wore.
“Apparently, women wear dresses above their knees, especially in her own land where the climate is very warm. Coralie told me they are called mini skirts, and usually come to mid thigh. Hence she feels more covered in her breeches.”
“Dresses, that come up to mid-thigh?” questioned Gimli, hardly daring to believe that this was so.
“Apparently it is all too true,” sighed Galadriel.
“I titheniel drew me some pictures of what she considered fashionable clothing for the average `modest’ woman of her world, and I was shocked to say the least. Bare arms, bare midriffs, bare legs, bare backs, very low necklines, form fitting clothes that hug the silhouette, even transparent material are apparently the norm, and not the exception. I asked her if she would consider wearing a dress such as my own, but she refused, and said that it would be too restrictive, and limit her ability to run to the point of being a burden.”
“Run? What is she running from?” asked Aragorn, unable to imagine any threat in Lothlórien that would cause i titheniel to run.
“That is the most curious thing of all, Aragorn,” said Celeborn. “She is not running from anything, but rather runs for enjoyment. I know that sounds incredible…but while you have been away, she has almost run the length and breadth of our land twice over!” They shook their heads, trying to imagine what possible enjoyment, Coralie could gain from running everywhere. Celeborn continued, “She wears those little plugs in her ears when she does so, and has told me she can hear music through them. She also wears another piece of clothing altogether, that defies description.”
“She calls these pants, shorts, and sometimes I could swear that she also wears her underwear, but she has informed me, that they are her `gym’ clothes, and that her real underwear is underneath,” said Galadriel.
“I wonder what that could possibly look like then,” said Boromir as he twirled the wine around in his goblet.
“I think I know which clothing you refer to, I thought they were her undergarments,” said Aragorn.
Galadriel laughed. “No, she has assured me personally, that they are not undergarments, and that neither is that `bikini’, as she calls it, when she bathes in the river.”
“She wears that `bikini’ in full view of everyone?” questioned Aragorn a little shocked.
Celeborn spoke up, “Aragorn, do not be alarmed. There is nothing wanton in her actions from what I can discern. Rather she is completely unaware of the effect she has upon our sensibilities, but we are not offended. Believe me, Aragorn, we have grown accustomed to i titheniel’s strange clothing as well as her behaviour. I would rather have her wear this garment, than drown for the sake of false modesty. In fact, she spends an inordinate amount of time in the river. I think she is part fish!” he added with a laugh.
“What is she doing in the river that takes up so much time?” asked Aragorn, worried that she may come to grief if she went out too far. “It is quite deep and there is a strong current as well.”
“She swims!” laughed Galadriel. “I have never seen anything like it. Her new escort Artapel informed me of this particular activity. I was incredulous at first, but it is true, that she casts herself into the river everyday, and can swim mighty distances, current or no.”
“Have no fear that i titheniel, will come to grief in the river, Aragorn. She is the most accomplished swimmer I have ever seen. There are other things she does, which you may not find quite so alarming, but rather more intriguing. You also Legolas, may like to take note of this, as you are of Elf kind,” announced Celeborn.
“Such as?” Aragorn asked, almost afraid of the answer he may receive.
“She embraces the trees,” replied Celeborn with an amused smile.
“What do you mean?” they both asked together.
“Exactly that, Gentlemen,” laughed Celeborn in return. “It may interest you to know that she has informed us, that trees have feelings, in fact that all plants do, and that you can help them to grow better, by hugging them often, or speaking loving words to them.”
“How could she possibly know that?” Legolas was incredulous.
“Oh! But there is more,” said Galadriel enticingly. She had already had a few days to adjust to i titheniel’s mysterious ways, but this was obviously news to the rest of the Company. They looked at her expectantly.
“I titheniel has told me that we must never chop down a living tree, for the trees provide us with the air that we breathe, and must only be done under extreme circumstances at the least. Green plants convert light into energy, and also take in the air we breathe out, and give us fresh air in exchange. Therefore, they should be preserved. She calls herself a `Greenie’, and it is her habit, to stop whilst running, or walking the paths of fair Lothlórien to hug and sing to the trees. She also sings to the flowers in the meadows and gardens, telling them how beautiful they are. In fact it is all that Artapel can do, in order to keep up with her.”
Legolas shook his head at this news. It was almost inconceivable. “Is there more?” he asked with trepidation.
“Of course there is more!” cried Galadriel gaily, as she began to count on her long fingers the litany of all the stories that Coralie had been spouting. “She has told the host of young Elves that follow her, that in her time, men have flown to the moon, that there are nine planets in our solar system, that the sun is actually a star, that our planet, as she calls Earth, is the third planet from the sun, that it is round, and not flat as most men suppose, the Earth revolves around the sun and not the other way as supposed, she has named the other planets by the way, as well as various constellations in the night sky…. that the stars sing, and you can listen to them if you have the right equipment, …let me see, the Earth is the only inhabitable planet in our solar system, perhaps there is life on other planets, in other galaxies, but it would take light years to travel there, and that at the moment nothing can travel as fast as the speed of light, our solar system is part of a galaxy called The Milky Way, that we rest on the outer arm of its spiral….is there anything else that I’ve forgotten?” she asked looking at Celeborn.
“Apparently the Universe is expanding, gravity prevents us from spinning off into outer space, she would like to travel on a space ship one day, and see the Earth from space, or live on a space station, but she will probably never be accepted into the space program…. I think that is all,” added Celeborn with a laugh.
“Is she mad?” asked Boromir.
“No. To the contrary, she is mostly right in everything she has stated, but I fail to comprehend how men could fly to the moon, but if I know anything of the lady, then I’m sure she has an explanation,” said Legolas with wonder in his voice.
They all started to discuss amongst themselves, the mysterious things they had heard concerning
i titheniel. Seeing that Boromir, and Gimli were now in a lively conversation with Celeborn, Galadriel leaned forward to speak more quietly with Aragorn and Legolas.
“I have been awaiting your return, so that I may speak at length with you about i titheniel, but we must do so in a more private setting. There are matters, which should not be discussed openly. If you would care to join me Aragorn, Legolas?” Galadriel rose and bade good evening to Boromir and Gimli, who lingered in conversation with the Lord Celeborn. After excusing themselves, they followed Galadriel to a private chamber, whereupon she invited them to sit on the lounges that decorated the room, whilst she herself remained standing for some time.
“Gentlemen, I know what you have heard about
i titheniel’s behaviour, may cause you some consternation, but do not be vexed with her. She does all of these things from innocent motives. But that is not why I have brought you here. I have something more important to discuss with you. I have heard the tale from i titheniel’s own lips, as to how she came to be counted as one of the Fellowship. I find it almost impossible to believe, and yet have no other explanation for her presence here in Middle Earth. I would like to hear your version of the events that led to your meeting with her.”
Aragorn spoke first, followed by Legolas, together recounting all they could remember about their meeting with Coralie upon the slopes of Caradhras; her unusual entrance upon her skis, how she had warned them of the approaching Orcs, and the fact that Gandalf had so readily taken her into his confidence. Galadriel nodded at various points of their story. When they had finished, she was silent for some length of time, and stood there deep in thought, before pulling up a chair to sit in front of them.
“Gandalf was correct in his estimation of the Lady Coralie, concerning both her integrity and her origin. She is exactly whom she claims to be, Gentleman. However, I would like to hear about the events that occurred in Moria, when you were overtaken by the Orcs, and what happened to Coralie there, for she will not speak of it,” said Galadriel.
Aragorn responded to the Lady’s request.
“We found Balin’s tomb in the Chamber of Mazarbul, and learned of the last days of his folk, from an old tome that Gandalf found. They were all destroyed. It was there that we were first attacked by the Orcs, and then later the Balrog at the Bridge of Khazad-Dûm, where Gandalf fell. We did our best to protect both the Hobbits and the lady, but we were outnumbered. Our chief concern was Frodo, for he was the ring bearer, and had been captured by a cave troll. All of us fought valiantly to free him, however…” Aragorn paused for a moment, unsure how to proceed with the knowledge of finding Coralie in the well with the ring. Galadriel waited patiently for him to go on. “We had been cleverly distracted by the cave troll, and our efforts to save Frodo were not in vain. But we failed the lady. We found her in the well, with the ring, hanging on for her life. Somehow the ring had fallen from Frodo, and Coralie fought an Orc who had thought to steal it, and regained possession of the Ring at great cost to herself.” Aragorn’s voice became thick with emotion as he continued. “She was severely wounded. Her shoulder was dislocated and she had also been stabbed with a poisoned blade. Coralie had hung in the well, with only one good arm, and the ring between her teeth, for a long time before we were able to rescue her. We almost lost her the night we spent on the talan at your borders, Lady. It was a long dark battle, against not only the poison, but I fear against Sauron himself.”
“Why say you so?” asked Galadriel.
“Many times during the battle to save her life, she spoke not to us, but to some other unseen person. And when she at last she came back to us, in the small hours of the Dawn, she told me of a `Black Voice’, that had spoken to her.”
“I fear that this `Black Voice’, had been tormenting her for some time, before she finally collapsed near Lothlórien, Lady,” added Legolas. “Her grief at losing Gandalf, threatened to overwhelm her at times. We were too grief stricken ourselves to notice the signs as we travelled here, and took her change in behaviour for that of sorrow and shock, rather than the poisoning it actually was. I myself bear some fault in this. When we rested by the Falls of Nimrodel, I thought I saw a black shadow descend upon her as she lay in the grass, but did nothing as the Hobbits were round about and gave no alarm. It was shortly after that the poison from the Orc’s blade began to take full effect.”
“So the lady was a ring bearer,” said Galadriel. “I must say, that I am not really surprised at how she came to be involved in the melee of the Chamber, but the news regarding this `Black Voice” concerns me.”
“How so, Lady?” asked Aragorn.
“It is my belief that she was sent here, both to aid us in the Quest, and also for purposes that only Eru knows. I have seen only in part what i titheniel is made of, for her mind was closed to me,” she sighed for a moment, as she seemed lost in some recent memory. Legolas and Aragorn waited for her to go on.
“She has proven to be very important to the Quest, for who knows what may have happened if that Orc had been able to escape with the Ring? But now, it is more important than ever that we protect her from Sauron. He has become aware of her, now that she has borne the Ring. It would have been better for her not to have touched it all, but I see from your description of the events in the Chamber, that if not for her warrior spirit, all would be lost. We owe her a great debt.”
Aragorn replied, “She was prepared to lay down her life for us, Lady. We had only known her but a few days, and here this little maiden, fought on our behalf, and showed great valour in spite of her sex. I cannot fathom it. Coralie is but a maiden, and from what she has told us of her past, has no experience in any form of combat. I titheniel is no soldier, but rather a teacher of children, yet she fought with all the courage one would expect from a warrior. I saw no weakness in her that is usually ascribed to women, although it is obvious to all, that she is indeed very much a female.”
“I am not surprised in the least, Aragorn,” responded Galadriel. “I saw her, yes only in part when you all first came before me. And what I perceived, filled me with much sorrow and awe.”
Aragorn and Legolas looked up at these words. “She has a warrior’s spirit Aragorn, in spite of the fact that she is a maiden. Yet her heart, now that is another matter entirely.” Seeing their puzzled expression, Galadriel continued. “Let me try to describe what I saw. At first I saw a great castle inside of her. She has built a mighty fortress of many battlements and strong towers, with a great wall around about. However, she is not cowering behind these walls, Gentlemen as you may expect a maiden to. I saw her, both strong, and terrible clad in mail with a flaming sword in her hand. She keeps watch over her fortress with all the vigilance necessary to defend and maintain it. But it is what she defends that interests me most. There is a breach in the wall and that is where she stands guard both night and day. She is guarding her heart. For beyond the breach, I caught a glimpse of a small frail flower. So delicate and pale, that if you were to casually touch it, the very colour of the petals would come off on your fingers. The flower strains towards the light, for it grows alone in shadow, forlorn and sorrowing, with only the slightest trickle of water to sustain it. This is her heart Gentlemen. I could have overcome the warrior, and reached out to pluck that flower, and transplant it to some bright spot where it may grow and bloom more fully, but the one who was with her would not allow me.”
Aragorn and Legolas, looked gravely at Galadriel, trying to understand the meaning of the Lady’s words.
Galadriel went on. “I could not see His face. There was a very light within Him, so radiant, that it took my breath away. He would pour all of his light, upon that small pale flower, for that is His one desire, yet she keeps him also at bay. I asked him who He was, and he replied, “I am the lover of her soul,” Aragorn and Legolas gasped at these words.
“Yes. You’re assumption is correct. He was a being of such great majesty and power, that I do not doubt myself, that I indeed spoke with `The One’ himself,” she paused briefly for a moment, as if in contemplation, before continuing. “It is well within the scope of His power to overcome her warrior spirit, and heal her heart, yet He beholds her with such tenderness and mercy, that I felt my own heart begin to break for hers. He told me, that i titheniel is here to fulfill His own purposes, and that He will not abandon her. It is only when the warrior is subdued, that He will be able to perform that which concerns her. It is not for me to do such a thing.”
Aragorn sat quietly for some time as pondered the Lady’s words. “I do not understand how Coralie could have the spirit of this grim warrior, yet be so merry and light hearted at times.”
“It is true, that at times her joyful nature shines through, Aragorn. It is from The One that she draws upon. He is her source of joy and strength, yet the sorrowing girl lies just below the surface, and until He chooses to heal the breach I saw in her defences, her heart will never be whole. She has one of the strongest spirits I have ever seen in a mortal, and she has many gifts that I cannot account for, yet she must relinquish her post before her healing comes. He has told me that He will do this thing, but only if she is prepared to count the cost. There is much that she must lay down first. She must learn to forgive herself as easily as she forgives others. Then the process will begin.”
“What is it that she cannot forgive herself?” asked Legolas. “I have found no fault in her.”
Galadriel smiled warmly at Legolas before continuing. “We all have faults Legolas, some can be seen more readily than others, only The One is truly without blemish, for we live in an imperfect world, and are only made perfect through Him.”
“All of this troubles my heart greatly,” said Aragorn.
“I know,” Galadriel acknowledged. “In spite of the brave spirit which inhabits the lady, we must do all in our power to protect her. We must not let the Enemy take her. He is seeking her now, just as surely as he seeks Frodo. She has information, locked inside her that would be very useful to him. At the moment she can remember nothing that concerns the Quest, but on a deeper level she may. Sauron would find a way to extract that information, without mercy, and the end result would be her destruction.”
“Coralie must not go further with us. It is all we can do to protect Frodo, especially now we have lost Gandalf,” said Aragorn with resignation. “The paths we must tread are no place for her.”
“I titheniel will remain here with us in safety and peace, Aragorn. You do not need to ask. Even if her company did not prove to be as pleasant as it has, we would still do this thing, not only to ensure the success of the Quest, but for your sake as well as hers. At any rate, the Elves she has befriended here would be loath to let her go on such a perilous journey, myself included. Her name means `flower of the sea’ does it not?”
They both nodded in confirmation.
“Well, I have seen this flower, and I know her to be a wild rose. Savage and beautiful. I know you both love her after your own fashion, but do not try to pluck this `wild rose’ too early, nor be dismayed at her untamable nature, or you may find you will get pricked. She will test you both, before too long, whether knowingly or not. Of that I am sure. Do not be too harsh with her, Gentlemen. I know it will be your instinct to try and rein her in a little. My Lord and I are not vexed with i titheniel. You may find this difficult to believe, but we actually find her rather delightful, in an odd sort of way. Come, Sirs. It is now late, and you must be tired. You may go in search of i titheniel tomorrow, and rest in peace tonight knowing that no harm may come to her, here in our lands, for I know you are both anxious to see her.”
Aragorn and Legolas rose and kissed the Lady’s hand before taking their leave.
“Tomorrow I will see for myself what the maiden has been up to in our absence,” said Aragorn as they walked together to their pavilions.
“I know it is hard to accept most of what the Lord and Lady of the Wood have told us in regard to i titheniel, but the Lady reminded us not to be too harsh with her,” said Legolas.
“I will try not to think any more on it tonight. I have a full stomach, and my couch is soft. I shall sleep peacefully for the first time in a week. I’m sure the stories we heard, cannot be as bad as we are supposing,” said Aragorn as he cast his weary frame onto a couch.
“Tomorrow, we shall know for certain. And I am inclined to agree with you. Perhaps the stories about her are slightly exaggerated. We are more used to her ways, and have spent more time with her. I can’t imagine she has changed so dramatically since our departure,” agreed Legolas.
“Neither can I,” said Aragorn as he closed his eyes.
“Right! Everyone who wants to play this game, have you got a partner?” cried Coralie to the gathering throng of Elves, who had formed a large circle around her.
“Yes!” they all chorused back. They were near the edge of the meadow that Coralie and Támurile had found the first day she was in Lothlórien. Many lamps hung in nearby trees, as those gathered waited eagerly to hear Coralie’s instructions.
“Okay. This is how you play this game. Artapel here will demonstrate with me. First of all, I am going to play some good old Australian music on my Clie here, and you lot are to dance around the circle holding your partner’s hand. When the music stops, I am going to call out one of three commands; Knights! Chargers! Cavaliers! The last couple to adopt the correct pose is out, and we shall keep playing the game until we have a winner! Watch now, as Artapel and I show you how.”
Artapel moved into the centre of the circle and took Coralie’s hand.
“This is Knights!” cried Coralie as Artapel sank quickly to one knee and she sat upon it.
“That’s an easy one. Now here is Cavaliers!” and in one fluid motion, before Coralie had finished speaking, Artapel had swept her up into his arms and held her aloft.
“My that was quick!” said Coralie as Artapel laughed. “Okay, the last one is Chargers! Ladies, pretend you are riding a horse now,” and with that, Coralie jumped onto Artapel’s back, as he stood with her piggyback style.
The Elves, all broke out laughing with delight. “Are you ready?” she cried.
“Yes!” came the overwhelming reply.
“Are you ready my lady,” said Boromir, suddenly stepping into the light of the circle, with a sweeping bow. “I would play this game with you, if I may.”
“Boromir! You’re back! Are the others with you?” she cried, looking beyond Boromir’s shoulders, to see Gimli only a few feet behind him.
“Aragorn and Legolas remained behind to discuss matters of our recent campaign with the Lady, but they are well,” said Gimli, not wanting to tell her that it was really she who was the chief topic of conversation. He smiled to himself as he noted she wore the `pants that defied description’ and realised that they must be the shorts he had heard so much about. The top she also wore, with its little straps over her shoulders, also astounded him. “Well it is a warm night, I don’t think she will catch a cold,” he laughed to himself.
All the Elves waited patiently in the circle as Coralie was reunited with two other members of her Company. The Hobbits spotted Boromir and Gimli from the fire where they were preparing `Billy Tea and Damper, for all to eat after the games.
“Oy! Boromir! Gimli! Good to see you back!” shouted Pippin.
“Where are the others?” asked Frodo.
“They are back in the City talking with the Lady Galadriel,” cried Gimli.
“Well, be sure to have some supper later. We have cooked up a feast here, thanks to Coralie!” said Sam bending over the fire. Gimli wandered over to observe their doings.
Boromir turned to Coralie, and held out his arm for her to take. “Shall we?”
“But who will run the game?” she asked. Artapel stepped up and took the Clie from her hands.
“I think I have some skill in this, Lady. Allow me,” he smiled.
“Okay…just remember to mix up the commands a lot. Try to confuse us mate!” she cried over her shoulder as Boromir escorted her to the circle. Artapel pressed play on the Clie and up struck Coralie’s file of Australian Traditional Bush Dancing mix. Before she could catch her breath, she was being whirled around the circle by Boromir, along with all the other Elves as well.
Suddenly Artapel called out “Knights!” There was a mad scramble as everyone sought their partner’s knee. Boromir and Coralie laughed at one another as she sat quickly down. Two Elves were eliminated much to their disappointment and then everyone was up dancing around the circle again. Shortly after, Artapel cried out, “Chargers!” Taking charge, Coralie spun Boromir around and jumped up on his back. He grabbed hold of her smooth bare legs as she wrapped them around him.
“Hmmmmm,” he thought. “This is a delightful game!” Then just as suddenly, they were off dancing again as the music played. More and more Elves were eliminated. Now there were three partners, and Coralie and Boromir, made up one of them.
“Cavaliers!” shouted Artapel. Boromir swept Coralie off her feet and laughing spun her around. There were only two partners left now.
Again the music played, and everyone waited with baited breath to see who would win. Nólemíre and her partner Calentaeg, danced now in competition with Coralie and Boromir. Coralie looked up at Boromir, eyes twinkling.
“Let them win!” she winked. Boromir, following her meaning, nodded slightly.
“Knights!” cried Artapel for the last time. The two separate sets of partners, quickly made to perform the last action, but as Coralie went to sit down on Boromir’s knee, she missed and fell onto the ground. Boromir, laughed as he picked her up. Nólemíre and Calentaeg leapt for joy, and embraced each other as the other Elves crowded around congratulating them.
“Are you alright Princess?” asked Nólemíre, coming over with Calentaeg who bowed graciously before her.
“Yes, perfectly!” laughed Coralie as she dusted herself off.
“Then you must sing us a song!” cried Nólemíre in response. Suddenly other fair voices joined her as they too cried for i titheniel to sing a song.
“Honestly, I’d think you lot would have grown tired of my singing by now!” cried Coralie in response.
“Not I Lady. It has been a week since I heard you sing, and I crave to hear your fair voice in song again,” smiled Boromir, as he gave a small bow.
“Alright!” said Coralie as Artapel handed her the lute. “But I’m going to sing something modern. I’m tired of singing ‘Give me a Home Among the Gumtrees’, and ‘Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree’…You people are obsessed with trees!” she cried.
“We’re obsessed?” asked Artapel in mock disbelief. “You’re the one who runs all over our fair land embracing them!” he laughed. “And a jolly good time I have of keeping up with you as well.”
`Very funny Artapel. Just for that, I charge you to carry my lute around when you follow me, so I may play music to the trees also!”
“I am forever your servant,” he said bowing low with a grin on his face.
Coralie sat down cross-legged with the lute in her lap and strummed a few chords as all the Elves gathered round, forming a circle as they sat down together. Night had fallen softly upon them all, as they sat patiently waiting for a song underneath their starry canopy.
“This song is called `Mercy’ and it was written by Joseph Parsons, one of my favourite artists.
I want to hear what’s in my heart
it’s my heart I’ve been draggin’ around
if I could, you know I would
I would listen to every word, of my heart…………..most every word
So Mercy mother, father, free
won’t you help me in my hour of need
when my sorrow is filled and my runnin’ ain’t free
that’s my heart that’s breaking like a broken down wheel,
my heart…just like a broken down wheel
So let love be my way, let love be my way
into your night, you let it roll into your day
So let love be my way, let love be my way
into your night and day
See this valley, what a deep surprise
but I can’t see ‘less you’re in my eyes
there is a roller coaster here and a roller coaster there
but it’s the give and take Oh man that I need to share
with you… and no one else, no one else will ever, ever do
So let love be my way, let love be my way
into your night, you let it roll into your day
Come on let love be my way, let love be my way
into your night and your day
Doodoo dum dum dum
Doodoo dum dum dum
It’s just a little bit of mercy
Doodoo dum dum dum
Doodoo dum dum dum
It’s just a little bit of mercy
So let love be my way, let love be my way
into your night, you let it roll into your day
Come on let love be my way, let love be my way
into your night and your day.
But I ain’t gonna let dreams scare me no more
and I’m gonna have mercy
And I ain’t gonna let dreams scare me no more
and I’m gonna have…mercy
Just a little bit
I ain’t gonna let dreams scare me no more
and I’m gonna have…mercy
Pippin broke the spell, she had cast with a shout.
“Oy! Supper’s on!” The Hobbits had laid out the damper in baskets along with honey and butter. Frodo was busy pouring tea to eager recipients. Boromir looked at Coralie, sitting beside him on the grass. A golden strand of flowers encircled her hair, of which the soft starlight played amongst the gold and reddish coloured tendrils. This was her court, out here in the meadow beneath the twinkling lights of heaven, complete with Elven retinue. She shone more brightly here, than ever she did beneath the noonday sun, and Boromir found his desire for her increased its tempo with the drumbeat of his heart.
“Lady,” he said, slightly leaning toward her. “Would you like some refreshment?”
“Why thank you Boromir, that would be very kind of you. My throat is a bit dry from all the singing I am forced to do in order to keep these Elves happy!” she laughed, knowing full well, that Artapel sat close by.
“Princess, I will follow you with a water-skin as well as your lute. That way you can sing to your heart’s content, as well as ours,” he smiled in return.
“Then we shall at least start this new ritual, with some tea,” said Boromir, as he strode over to the Hobbits. In a few moments, he returned with two cups of piping hot tea, as well as Merry, who brought both a cup for Artapel, and a basket of provisions for them.
“Here you are Artapel,” he said as he handed the Elf a cup, “And here is a basket load of nice warm damper straight from the fire, with plenty of honey and butter to go round. Can’t have our lady starving now can we? What, with all the running around she does. It’s a wonder you have any energy left to even sing. Boromir, make sure she eats something will you?” he said over his shoulder as he walked back to the campfire to help with serving.
“Make sure she eats something? Boromir, this mere slip of a girl can almost outdo the Hobbits when it comes to eating. But I have no idea where she puts it!” laughed Artapel as Coralie began to butter a slice of Damper.
“Would you like honey, Boromir? That is the best way to eat it!” she asked as she playfully ignored Artapel’s comments.
“Yes thank you every much. You are too kind Lady,” responded Boromir as he accepted the damper from Coralie. She then handed Artapel a slice as well, before making one up for herself.
“Hmmm… this is good!” said Boromir. “This is a recipe from your own realm I take it?” Coralie nodded in agreement as she took a sip of tea.
“Yes it is an easy bread to make in the campfire. I love to make it when I go camping.”
“So is this what you call camping then?” asked Boromir, surveying the throng now happily eating their supper.
“Well, it is a bit unusual to go camping with this big a crowd, but it’s been done before,” she replied.
“So camping is not dangerous where you come from, Lady? There are no Orcs or bandits to worry you? I ask this, as I cannot comprehend you wanting to go into the woods by yourself without the protection of some man,” responded Boromir.
Coralie almost choked on her tea. “What do you mean by `the protection of some man’? If you’re fishing to find out if there is some man waiting at home for me, the short answer is no…been there done that mate. And I don’t need some man’s protection when I go camping, there are no Orcs or bandits. I have been known to go alone before. I was planning on camping out on my ski trip when I ran into you blokes, remember?” she said.
“Nevertheless, I cannot see what pleasure, you could possibly take from sleeping outdoors. I prefer a warm bed, as I have spent more nights than I can count, sleeping on the hard ground in order to defend my people and my city.” Boromir sighed at the sad truth he recounted.
“What city is that Boromir? You’ve never really told me much about yourself, you know. You are like this `mysterious stranger type’. I’m sure I knew all about you once, but as you know, I have lost any memory about the Fellowship that I might have possessed.” Coralie handed the lute to Artapel, so she could sit up better. He strummed an air upon it whilst Coralie hugged her legs.
Boromir looked at Coralie as she sat in the flickering glow of the firelight. His gaze followed the soft curve of her calf and bare thigh, and then drew upwards to her bare arms, before resting upon her profile.
“These Elves must have ice water in their veins,” he thought to himself before speaking.
“My father is the Steward of my city, Gondor. He rules in absence of the King. We are a proud and ancient family, and have never shirked our duty towards our people or our allies. I suppose one might call me a prince of sorts.”
“Really! You’re a prince? I’ve never met a real prince before. Well at least not to my knowledge,” said Coralie obviously impressed.
Boromir laughed. “You may have met more princes on this journey, than you bargained for Lady. But this prince is ever at your service. My city is also known as `The White City’, for it is a wonder to behold, especially when the first rays of dawn, fall upon it in all its splendour. Then it shines, dazzling and bright, the tower of Ecthelion, glimmering as a spike of pearl. I could swear that the golden light of the sun makes the very walls of my City sing, for my heart hears its music just at the mere prospect of seeing my City ere long. I would show you Gondor Lady, when this war is over, for it would be my honour to have you as my personal guest. You would enjoy the hospitality of The White City, as one befitting your position, and mine as well.”
Coralie wondered what he could possibly mean by her `position’, and looked over at Frodo. “perhaps he is a prince amongst the Hobbits,” she thought to herself.
“It sounds wonderful Boromir. I must confess, I am surprised to hear you talk so tenderly of your home. I always had this image of you as a fierce warrior with little time for sentiment, but then we haven’t really talked much, have we now?”
“Oh Lady. I can assure you that there is much more to me, than just the fierce warrior you now behold, and someday, I would like the opportunity to prove to you that I am skilled in other things, than just wielding a sword.”
“Would you like another cup of tea?” Gimli suddenly appeared before them.
“Thank you Gimli. That is most kind of you. But I am actually quite tired now. I think I ran about 10 kilometres this morning, and probably swam almost that much as well. I’m pretty buggered mate. But thanks for asking. Boromir and Artapel may like some more,” she replied.
“Lady, if you are tired, allow me to escort you to wherever it is you intend to sleep tonight,” said Boromir as he stood, helping her up.
“Thank you Boromir, but it is my duty to escort i titheniel. She will rest with the other maidens, under the stars tonight,” interrupted Artapel with a small bow.
“Goodnight Boromir! Goodnight Gimli!” Coralie said as Artapel led her away to join the other maidens who were gathering a little distance away.
“Come Boromir. We have seen the Lady and the Hobbits. They seem to be enjoying themselves immensely in her company, along with all these other Elves. But I myself have no wish to sleep out doors tonight. I have had my fill of it, and no doubt, we shall spend many more nights sleeping on the hard ground before this War is over. Tonight, I crave a soft couch,” said Gimli as he slapped his companion on the shoulder.
“You are right, Gimli. I fail to see the attraction of this `camping’ as the Lady put it. The pleasures of a soft couch are far more enticing than the hard earth at the moment. No matter how delightful the company, ” he said as they walked off together.
Boromir glanced over his shoulder at Coralie, who was now surrounded by Elven maidens who were laughing gaily as they laid out their sleeping blankets on the grass.
“Aye,” he thought. “I much prefer the pleasures of a soft couch.”