[. . . Triumph?]
[Here you will find elves from every realm–outcasts, runaways . . . We gathered here to provide a haven for others like us. You are welcome to stay as long as you like. If anyone challenges you, just tell them I brought you.]
[Then may I have your name?]
I looked back at him. [Yes, forgive me. I am Kyshri.]
We continued into the city’s boundaries and I slid off of Damone. I patted his side, now coated with my blood. [Please find Sulaine and have him clean you up. I regret not being able to do it myself, but I must get answers.] Damone bounded into the city and I called off the guards. [You all may put down your weapons, they are with me. Where is Istaq? Could someone fetch him for me?]
He slid off his own stag as Kyshri continued to speak to the guards. [How long have I been gone since Istaq’s return?]
He blinked. She had been in the back of that lookout for four days and had survived with wounds like that in such a climate?
[I need a group assembled to bring back the . . . the remains of the others.]
[Immediately, Lady Kyshri.] A guard left to do that.
After a short time, a boy appeared with one of the guards. Kyshri crossed her arms, the arrows bobbing like porcupine quills. His eyes widened at the sight of her and he stopped, but the guard drug him forward by his scruff and set him in front of Kyshri, who glared darkly down at him.
He cringed under her gaze. [Lady Kyshri, I . . . I . . .]
[No excuses, boy. Nine good elves are dead because of your cowardice. You were supposed to be our last hope!]
[I know, but I was—]
[Scared, yes, I know. It was obvious.]
[I am extremely sorry, Lady Kyshri.]
[Apologies will not bring the dead back, boy!] she snarled, ripping an arrow from her arm and holding it in the boy’s horrified face. [You have betrayed us! If you were anywhere else you probably would be exiled for your stupidity!]
The boy–a river elf, from the look of his clothes–quivered with terror. [L-L-Lady Kyshri—]
[Get out of my sight!] she roared. The boy jumped. [And do not show your face before me until you are prepared to accept the responsibilities of an adult!] When the boy did not move, she barked, [Go!]
The boy fell back, then quickly scrambled to his feet and bolted into the market square. Kyshri began jerking the goblins’ arrows from her, muttering to herself the whole time.
[You should see the healer,] the guard nearest her suggested quietly, taking the arrows from her. [You have been gone for a long time; the wounds might—]
[They will not,] she replied, bending slightly to reach her leg. [The cold of the outlook was enough to keep any sort of disease away. I am far more hungry than I am in pain. Besides, I have guests to see to.]
[And if Sulaine comes looking for me, tell him I am at home.]
[Thank you.] I turned to my rescuers. “Please come with me.” I led them through the town to where a greater eagle and a greater owl were temporarily nested on the ground. The owl was asleep, but the eagle watched us approach with a sharp eye. [Rilloc, I need you to give my guests a lift.]
The greater eagle fluffed her feathers importantly and rose. She stepped from the nest and laid down again, lowering her head to give them easier access to her back. I instructed the only elf in the group, Legolas, up first so we could both help the rest. The dwarf Gimli refused to be helped, but I hefted him up anyway.
The human wizard, Gandalf, leaned toward Rilloc’s head. “I say, you look the same as the greater eagle that helped me.”
Rilloc blinked and clicked her beak. I translated. “She is. She says a forsith moth asked her for help and she gave it, that it was nice to be able to do something for a change, especially something helpful. She would also like to give her compliments to Lord Elrond for his hospitality.”
“I will be sure to let him know.”
I nodded. [Up, Rilloc.]
The greater eagle took off under her own power while I leapt up into the trees to my house. It was set at the highest possible point in a towering oak and spread all along the branches, using them as support. Being one of the first elves here, and the only female at the time, I had had my choice of places. This advantage had served me well upon my arrival, though now it cost for little since I was hardly the single representative of my gender.
Rilloc landed on the nearest branch and her passengers stepped off onto the stairway placed there for such purposes. I passed them in the opposite direction to pat Rilloc’s cheek. [Off to the east had been a herd. They may still be there, if you are interested.]
She clipped her beak and took off again. I went back down the stairs and led my waiting guests inside. “You may refresh yourselves if you wish. Down the hall, second door on the left.” The hobbits moved to do so immediately, but the humans and the dwarf did not. I gestured to the furniture. “Please, do make yourselves at home. You must be weary.” Wait, had there not been an elf . . .?
Someone bumped into me from behind. “Er . . . Lady Kyshri?”
I turned. “Just Kyshri, my friend—” My eyes fell casually on the large white tiger he was backing away from. “Well to patience, Ziro. They are welcome.” Ziro relaxed from her stalk and headed up the hall into my room. “Forgive her, she is very defensive of the house.”
“She just startled me,” Legolas replied. “Do you have anything else here that I should be prepared for?”
I shrugged. “Just my hunting falcon.”
“Nothing like the tiger?”
“Dragons stop by every now and again.”
He blanched. One of the humans–Aragorn, I believe–echoed, “Dragons?”
I turned. “I have the ability to summon dragons. A few drop in unexpectedly every once in a while, but I usually do not see them.”
“I thought that art was lost.”
“It was. I learned it, but it is very taxing. I do not like to use it. Dragons are difficult to control under the best circumstances.”
The hobbits reappeared then, dressed only in layered silk robes. “Where are our clothes?” Pippin demanded. “They disappeared!”
“They are being cleaned. Do not worry, they will be back in an hour. Please be patient.”
The dwarf crossed his arms. “I refuse to walk around in a robe!”
“Then I ask you to wait and go last and you may sit in the washroom for an hour until your clothes are clean.”
“Just go, Gimli,” Boromir snapped. “It is not as though you are the only one who will have to do it!”
“Should you not go?” Legolas inquired, concerned. “You are hurt.”
“I have a private bath,” I answered. “I was going to wait, but if you would feel better, I will go as well.”
“Yes,” Legolas and Aragorn answered right away.
“Very well. I shall return soon. Feel free to look around the house, but be careful with what you touch. Appearances can be deceiving.” I went back to my room and shut the door. Ziro looked up from her spot on my bed. [I asked you not to get up there.] She jumped down. [Thank you. And would you please go make sure they do not get into trouble?] I opened the door for her and she trotted out. [Thank you again, Ziro.]
It had not taken him long to get cleaned up and he had packed an extra set of clothes for special occasions, though he probably would not have worn them if he had given the robe more consideration. It was just an hour, really, so what was the problem? Besides how undignified it was, of course.
“Now that is unfair,” Gimli grumbled as he appeared from the hall. ” The elf gets clothes.”
“I will have you know,” he shot back, “that these are mine. I just happened to pack them in case they were needed.”
“You are ruining the uniformity, Legolas,” Aragorn pointed out. And indeed, everyone was dressed in greens and browns while he was in bright silver-white. It made him stick out a great deal, though precisely whether or not that was a bad thing he did not know. He would not think so, unless they were going to go hunting like this.
Suddenly, there was a burst of flame from the corner and a yelp. Merry had been inspecting a simple human teapot set in the corner when the hinged top popped open and flame briefly spewed out it and the spout.
On the floor against the wall, Ziro bared her fangs and breathed a quite distinct, “Ha ha ha ha.”
“It is impolite to laugh, Ziro,” the female elf’s voice admonished from behind him. “He could have been hurt. Are you all right, young Merry?”
“Y-Yeah,” Merry answered shakily. “Just surprised. Why in the world do you have that?”
“A few young elves thought they would play a joke on some human travellers. I confiscated it before they could use it. I myself kept it around to frighten the ill-meaning when they passed by my lookout. I ceased that practice when I set one on fire, but I have not yet disposed of it.”
He turned to look at her and froze in amazement. She looked completely different than she had. Previously dressed in chipped and broken armor with arrows poking out of her arms and legs and covered in char and fresh and dried blood, she had looked like a battle-hardened warrior. Now, clean and dressed in the black of mourning that hid most of her wounds, she looked like a fair maiden queen. A few scars still showed, but they were hardly of any concern overall.
He blinked and shook his head, feeling his cheeks warm. “Uh . . . Forgive me, I . . . did not catch all of what you said.” Behind him, he thought he heard Aragorn snicker.
She tilted her head curiously. “I was asking if you would sit down so I could put some salve on your face where I scratched you.”
“Oh, uh . . . Of course.”
He quickly sat down as she left. Aragorn was grinning. “Catch you a bit off your guard, did she, Legolas?”
“Bite your tongue! I was just curious about how well she looks after being trapped in a lookout for four days, that was all!”
“I had a few supplies, but it was enough to feed me once a day,” she informed him, sitting next to him and turning to face him. “You will have to look at me, Legolas. The marks are on the other side of your face and I cannot sit on your other side.”
He turned to face her slowly, aware of Aragorn’s smirking at him, and hoped she did not notice his blushing. She did not seem to, since she never paused in her work. She used a damp, warm cloth to wipe away the new trails of blood that had started and then quickly began to rub a healing salve over the cuts. She was very gentle, careful not to scratch him again, and he found himself wanting to close his eyes and lean into her touch. As it was, he discovered, he was already leaning into her touch the slightest bit. Mortified that she really had noticed this time and just said nothing for his sake, he stopped.
When she drew her hand away he took a deep breath, as though he had just awakened or was coming out of a reverie. “That should do it. They should not be there by tomorrow as long as you get a few hours of rest to heal.”
He found himself opening his mouth to ask her to rub some more of the salve in just in case, but quickly and firmly closed his mouth upon seeing Aragorn and Boromir snickering at him. No need to provoke them. He did, however, dare to say a short thank you.
“Not at all,” she replied, replacing the lid on the salve jar. ” It was my fault so it is my duty to fix it.” She rose. “I shall put this away and begin making supper. Any requests?”
He was the only one who did not say anything; she recited the orders and left, then went into the kitchen. He got up and followed her, pausing at the door when he heard outright laughter. He spun around to glare at Aragorn, Boromir, Gimli, and the chuckling Gandalf, all whom paid him absolutely no mind.
“You will regret it if you say anything,” he swore.
“Now why would we do that?” Aragorn said through his mirth.
“No,” Boromir agreed. “We certainly would not want to embarrass you, now would we?”
“Not at all!” Gimli concurred.
He could see that he would not win this. Glancing at the confused hobbits, who were not yet aware of the situation but would surely be told, he sighed defeatedly and continued on his way.
Author’s Note: The ‘greater eagle’ is simply an Eagle (I didn’t know that when I wrote this) and I fluctuate between the terms, so don’t be confused. And I am aware that Gwaihir saved Gandalf, but again, I didn’t know that at the time. Please bear with me. (Also, the ‘greater owl’ is a little smaller than of an Eagle; I found both the ‘greater eagle’ and ‘greater owl’ in a Dungeons and Dragons book and liked the idea.)