Legolas scooped Zandra’s motionless form into his arms, he felt his body and mind going numb. He dimly noticed Gimli running to fetch Aragorn. His thoughts were disjointed. This can’t be happening. She can’t die. I can’t lose her like this. She just remembered her family, she can’t lose the chance to find out more. It’s not fair. It’s not fair. . . He kept repeating that to himself. Surely Eru could not be so cruel. He gently stroked her hair, pushing it away from her face, and gazed down at the still features. “Zandra,” he whispered brokenly, tears streaming unheeded down his cheeks.
Suddenly Aragorn was there, kneeling beside where Legolas cradled Zandra in his arms. He put his fingers to the base of her throat.
“She lives,” he whispered. Then he turned to examine her wound and swore softly. Then looked up at Legolas, his expression grim. “This arrow is poisoned.” He said shortly.
Darkness swirled around Zandra. She heard voices echoing in her head, but could not understand them. She felt as if someone were holding her, but she could not see who it was.
“Daddy?” she whispered into the darkness. She remembered once when she had been dreadfully sick. At her request, her father had held her the whole time. She had nearly died, but it was his presence that had brought her back. He was so strong, she had known that as long as she rested in his arms she was alright. Her father could do anything.
“But you can heal her.” Legolas said. It was not a request. Aragorn hesitated, but then shook his head.
“I used the last of the athelas that I had on Frodo, before Lothlorien. There is little that I can do. It may be that there is nothing that I can do.” Aragorn saw the sudden despair in Legolas’s eyes. “I will try.” He said at last. He glanced back toward where Boromir lay. He thought on his parting words. Where was Frodo? He worried that if he delayed to attempt to save Zandra that all that would be accomplished would be Saruman’s gaining the Ring. But can you just abandon her like that?
The light played across the water, nearly blinding five year old `An’ra with it’s brilliance.
“`An’ra,” Jaessa called, using the nickname she had given her little sister when she was born. It had been to difficult for her to say `Zandra’ so she had shortened it. “Come back, the water is strong over there.”
`An’ra merely turned and stuck out her tongue. Jaessa was such a worry wart. “Come and get me if you’re so worried!” she called back to her elder sister. Then she turned and walked further out to the middle of the stream. Suddenly her feet were swept out from under her, and she gasped in shock, only to find her mouth full of water. Sudden panic came over her, and she thrashed her arms futilely, trying to keep her head above the water.
“`An’ra!!!” Jaessa screamed, “Mom!!!! Dad!!!!! Zandra’s being carried away!!!!!!” Dimly through the water `An’ra saw the shadows of her family on the shore, as she was swept further and further away from them. She felt blackness creeping in the edges of her vision, and reached out to she did not know what. As unconsciousness crept closer she felt herself lifted upward, though she was still surrounded with water. Then the water was gone, and she was swaying on her feet, and her family was running towards her.
“First we must remove this arrow.” Aragorn said, and Legolas nodded in relief. For a moment he had worried that Aragorn meant not to try. “Hold her tight, this will hurt, and it will not help if she moves.” Aragorn said shortly.
Legolas braced himself, and tightened his grip on her, “It’s alright,” he whispered half to her and half to himself. “You will be alright.” Aragorn wrapped his callused hands about the arrow, and pulled. Zandra’s eyes flew open for a moment, per pupils tiny points of black. Her surged up and gave a huge gasp of pain. Then collapsed again limply.
Legolas swallowed, vainly trying to suppress the hollow sensation in his stomach. She couldn’t die, she just couldn’t.
Aragorn again examined the wound. “Legolas, the poison has spread too far. There is nothing I can do. And the Uruk Hai may have taken Frodo. We have a responsibility. We must leave.”
“NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Legolas cried, once again tightening his hold on her. “We can’t do that!!!! We can’t just leave her to die!!!!!”
“Legolas, she is going to die anyway. I cannot risk the time, she is strong she may fight the poison for a long time, but eventually she will succumb. Who knows what will happen in that time.”
“She is strong!!!” Legolas said, grasping at Aragorn’s own words to convince him. “There is a chance she will survive. We don’t know how strong she is. What if she is strong enough to survive?”
“I will go down to the river, and get some water, if she revives at all, then we will wait, but if not. . . we must go.”
The water from Aequo Falls fell in a white sheet before her, it’s beauty mocking the tears that fell down her cheeks. How could `Nania do this to her? How could she leave? It was not fair. Her family was going to be torn apart. And her parents were behind it.
“Zandra, dearest?” It was her mother.
“Go away!” she cried. The stream of water parted and her mother walked slowly into the small cave that lay behind the falls.
“My love, are you ok?” Zandra turned away from those tender blue eyes, Tinania’s were exactly the same. She felt arms around her, and instinctively turned into her mother’s embrace.
“How could you let her go?” she whispered disconsolately.
“Oh, Zandra,” she sighed. “You knew that this would come, this is what she has been training for. You will have your turn as well.”
“No. I will not go. You cannot make me.”
“I know it seems hard, but it is our calling. With power comes responsibility.”
“I know. But, . . . it’s just, . . . I miss her.”
“Oh my love, so do I.” Zandra pulled back, as her mother’s voice quavered. The tears in her own eyes were reflected in her mother’s. She leaned back into her mother’s arms, and wrapped her own about her. Sobs escaped her, and she let the tears flow, as they had not previously.
“Did I ever tell you about your name?” her mother asked when her sobbing stilled. She shook her head in the negative, and her mother continued, “Zandra means `helper of mankind.'” Zandra felt her eyes grow wide.
“Helper of mankind? But what does that mean?” she asked breathlessly.
“When you were born, and I looked into your beautiful green eyes, staring up at me so trustingly I knew that you were destined for something great. I searched through all of the names in the library, and found yours. As soon as I saw it, I knew that it meant you.”
Legolas gazed desperately down at Zandra’s face, searching for any sign of improvement. Her face was far too pale, and she had not moved, not even the restless movements of illness.
“You cannot leave me.” he said, “You cannot die.”
“Legolas!” Aragorn called, and Legolas looked to where Aragorn was rushing up the hill, a water bag in his hand. “One of the boats is missing, as are two of the packs, I am certain one is Sam’s. The Uruk’s do not have Frodo!!!” Legolas felt a slight sense of relief, he too had been worried for Frodo, but his concern for Zandra had outweighed that.
“Here is the water, lets see if we can get her to swallow some. With her affinity for water this may help her.”
Legolas nodded wordlessly, and tipped her head back, her mouth fell open slackly. Aragorn tipped the water bag, and a slow stream of water flowed through her parted lips. Legolas gasped in relief, as her throat tightened, and relaxed, swallowing the water. It was the first sign of life that she had shown since Aragorn had removed the arrow.
“Zandra?” he whispered, “Please wake up. Please, you must.”
Darkness swirled about Zandra again. Dimly she could hear a voice speaking to her. It seemed very familiar, but she could not remember. It was almost pleasant, drifting in this darkness. She felt no fear, though she dimly remembered being afraid of the dark. There was no sensation at all, merely a sense of calm, such as she had never felt.
“Perhaps I am dead,” she thought, maybe this is what it is like to be dead. She felt that this also ought to scare her, but she felt only that calmness. She had never really considered what it would feel like to be dead, had never considered that she really would die, even when she had pleaded for it. Her life had lasted for so long, and she did not remember ever worrying that any of her family would die either.
The voice echoed in her head, though this one was different. Commanding. But still familiar. She felt a slight yearning feeling, Please, come back, she thought. why does that voice fill me with sorrow, and with such yearning, such joy?
“Zandra you must go back. It is not your time.”
“What do you mean? I don’t want to go anywhere. I could stay here forever, then I would never have to worry. I wouldn’t have to fear.” she pleaded with the voice. She could not go back to facing the world, she was suddenly certain of that.
“Zandra means `helper of mankind'” the voice was now her mother’s. That voice she would never now forget.
“Please.” she was not sure what she was asking for now.
“With power comes responsibility. You have a great destiny. Dae Kular do not quit.”
“What is Dae Kular?” she pleaded.
“You have a destiny, you are Dae Kular.”
“I am Dae Kular.”
Zandra’s eyes fluttered open. She was surprised to find herself in Legolas’s arms. Was his the voice that she had heard in the darkness. When he saw that she was awake he buried his face in her shoulder.
“Zandra!” he whispered.
“Legolas? Aragorn? Gimli?” She said in confusion. “What happened?” then she remembered what had happened before she lost consciousness, “Frodo!” she cried, attempting to sit up. Legolas restrained her.
“No! You are not yet well,” Legolas said.
“Frodo is out of our hands now.” Aragorn said solemnly. “First we must take care of you, then we will decided what to do.”
Tears filled her eyes. Frodo was gone, out of her hands. She had failed again. Oh for the calm of the blackness. But that was the way of true failure. “The path was already chosen.” she whispered. “There is nothing that we could have done. This is what was meant to happen.” she sighed deeply, then gasped as fire burned in her shoulder. The arrow. “Take me down to the river,” she commanded. Legolas obediently stood, and carried her down to the river bank. Aragorn and Gimli had carried Boromir down, and he was all arrayed in one of the two remaining boats. Tears filled her eyes, it was truly a tragedy that this man should have fallen prey to the Ring. One more reason to continue the fight. If we don’t fight then who will
“Set me down,” she said when they got there. Legolas hesitated for a moment, then, responding to the authority in her voice, obediently set her down. She swayed on her feet for a moment, as pain engulfed her. She could feel the poison still spreading in her veins. Then she leapt into the swirling midst of the river.
Legolas nearly leapt in after her, fearing for a moment that she had fallen, but Aragorn’s hand on his shoulder stayed him. “We must take care of Boromir. Zandra knows what she is doing.” Aragorn said, and Legolas nodded. When Boromir was out of sight down the Falls, the three discussed what was now to be done. They knew that Frodo was now out of their hands, but they did not know about the other two hobbits, so it was decided that they should follow the Uruk Hai, to see if they could discover their fate.
Legolas’s eyes kept returning to the river, as did the eyes of the other two. Where was Zandra? Finally, when they had gone through all the packs, to decide what should be left behind they turned around to see Zandra walk from the river, dry, and wholly healed.
“We have decided that our course must be to pursue the orcs, to discover what we can of the young hobbits,” Aragorn said. Zandra nodded, picked up her pack, and set off, leaving the others to follow, and wonder what she was.