[Stop! Stop!] Legolas cried, falling back to the elven language in his frustration. Once I had calmed a little, he grasped my arms as I had grasped his and said, [Now tell me what happened. Slowly.]
[I do not know what happened! I was not there then!] I wailed. Now that I was away from my city–my home–and did not have to be strong for others, I was collapsing emotionally. [Istaq only told me that the orcs came from the south–they were totally unprepared for the attack–and destroyed everything!]
[All right, all right,] he soothed, tugging me toward him. I tried to wriggle away from him, for I did not wish to be coddled, but the attempt was half-hearted and he caught me anyway. I gave up and rested my forehead against the side of his neck and his jaw, taking an odd sort of comfort in the bit of shadow the sun made his head create. [You will have your revenge.]
It was strange that he knew that, for I had not spoken a word about it. But I suppose it was obvious if I came all this way immediately.
[You know you should have stayed there and helped out. The people need you to show the way.]
I shook my head. [I asked Sulaine to take my place. They do not need me. I could not possibly do anything for them because I was absent when it happened. I cannot even sympathize with them. My comforts will not bring back the dead or rebuild the homes.]
[Neither will this return strike you intend on dealing.]
[You did not step into that city and feel the lost souls crying their pain. They were abandoned; left behind by the living world. Rebuilding the city so the orcs can destroy it over and over will not put them at rest. Keeping the orcs from killing another time will not put them at rest either, but it will ease their pain knowing that they have not been forgotten.]
I pulled away and went to sit under an overhanging rock decorated with a tangle of thistle, drawing my knees to my chest and looking at the ground firmly, prepared to ignore anyone who tried to talk to me.
“What’s that?” Sam inquired.
I automatically lifted my head to look at the black cloud that had been pointed out and narrowed my eyes at it. There was something . . .
“It is nothing,” Gimli replied. “Just a whisp of clouds.”
“It is moving too fast for a cloud,” Boromir corrected.
“And against the wind,” Aragorn added.
“Crebain!” I snarled. “Get down! Hide!”
The obedience was astounding, as though it had been well-rehearsed. Legolas dove into the space with me, since there was plenty of room, and we stared up at the crows as they flew overhead. Once they were long gone we reemerged and Gandalf announced that we would take the mountain pass of Caradhras.
It was difficult going. Not right away, for the mountain shoulder was merely layered in snow. Our success, however, relied on the others. Legolas and I had no trouble walking on the snow, but the others were far too heavy for the snow to support their weight.
It was one of the times when we had gone ahead to look out for enemies, standing shoulder to shoulder, him facing down toward the others and guarding their approach and me staring up the opposite direction, at our future path. I looked up at the sky, uneasy. I was not afraid of more crebain, but whatever it was had caught my attention and not allowed me rest.
[What is it?]
I started. [Hm?]
[You are very tense.]
I shook my head. [I do not yet know. I see no crebain, nor do I sense the darkness that precedes their coming. I hear and smell nothing more than an oncoming snowstorm, yet . . .] I shook my head again. [I do not understand it.]
[I have felt the same way ever since the beginning of the journey. As though we are being . . . watched.]
[Do not be ridiculous. Of course we are being watched. The Ring itself is in our midst. There is nowhere with it we can go where it or we will be safe.]
[Speaking of the Ring . . .]
I turned. Frodo had slipped and rolled down the slope. Aragorn stopped him and helped him up. He automatically and wisely checked for the Ring. It obviously was not there, because then I noticed it a distance up the path. Boromir retrieved it, holding it by the chain.
[Kyshri, what are you doing?!] Legolas hissed.
I strung the arrow and sighted along it. [Even if you do not wish to hurt him, I have no problem with doing so.]
[Do not!] he commanded.
[Fear not.] I released the arrow. It went through the Ring and slammed into the snow in front of Frodo. He quickly retrieved it and looked up at me as everyone else did. I returned the look flatly.
Boromir snorted. “I was going to return it.”
“I know you were,” I replied. “I was just ensuring it.”
“You do not trust me!” he accused.
“I do not know you well. Of course I do not trust you. Any of you. Not fully, at least. And I would hope that none of you trust me fully either. Blind trust is a fool thing to allow.”
In a spurt of rage, he stomped toward where I stood. “You trust him!” he snarled, pointing at Legolas.
I stepped nearer to Boromir. He seemed to still be a little under the Ring’s control. I should not aggravate him, but . . . “Do not involve him.”
After a few moments he calmed visibly. Aragorn nodded. “Let us continue. We still have a long road ahead of us.”
That relieved some of the tension and we moved on. The snowstorm I had predicted struck hard at the most inconvenient point–along an exposed, narrow ridge on the mountainside–and the wind grew so intense that the others had to stop and try to protect themselves from it.
I tilted my head as I heard what sounded like a voice. [Do you hear that?]
Legolas glanced at me. [I thought it was my imagination.]
We passed by the others, still walking easily on the piled snow, and I leaned into the gale experimentally. It did not support my weight at all, so it was not wholly wind. It was part magic too.
We tried to report this, but at that instant a wave of snow crashed down. I leapt into the cover of a small overhanging space and then reemerged when the snow had settled. I stood in the blasting gusts, wondering where to start to retrieve the others. A manual search would take far too long.
Then, almost miraculously, the snow between my feet parted and Legolas appeared. I stepped back quickly and knelt down to provide some sort of shield for him. His face was red from snow- and wind-burn and he blinked at me curiously. I hooked my arms under his and hauled him from the snow, flouncing back onto the drift behind me.
[I need your help to find the others.]
It was not hard by then. The others were wriggling to free themselves and we only had to reach in and lift them out.
“We should go through Moria!” Gimli insisted, as he had been suggesting the whole time we had been on the mountain.
Gandalf did not say no this time. “Let the Ringbearer decide.”
All eyes went to Frodo. I could see the half frozen gears turning in his head and saw that he was envisioning a warm bed. “We will go through Moria.”
I shifted uneasily. I was probably too young to have been alive at the time, but I had heard many tales of the dwarves mining too deep and uncovering a terrible creature. I was not eager to meet the thing, but I went ahead with Legolas and it was night before we found the place.
Gandalf read the old Elvish inscription. “The Doors of Durin, Lord of Moria. Speak, friend, and enter.”
“So what do we do?” Frodo asked.
“Obviously, if you are a friend you speak the password.”
I settled in for a stay. I was content to wait out here, for it was no longer storming and there was little of the chill breeze to worry about. Legolas leaned against the wall beside me, blocking most of what tiny wind there was, our shoulders barely touching. I discovered then how tired I really was and half turned to rest my head comfortably on and against his shoulder. He lowered his head near mine, apparently as tired as me. We cat-napped, still well aware of the goings-on of our environment.
“Wait,” Frodo said. “What’s the Elvish word for `friend’?”
For the sake of Orthid, I could have told them that that was what the door had meant and I had never even been here before (the only reason I had not was because I had no wish to enter the mines).
The doors cracked and broke open and everyone gathered their packs and headed inside. I had barely reached the threshold when the powerful scent of death struck me. I reeled back, right into Aragorn.
He caught me reflexively. [What is it?]
[They are all dead! We should not enter!]
[But we must,] Legolas persisted gently.
[I am not being prudish!] I snarled. [I am not falling on custom and I am not frightened of the dark! Whatever killed them did it recently!]
Just then there was a cry behind us. I turned and my first thought was a bland: `Well, we cannot leave now.’
A monster hidden in the lake had caught Frodo and drug him into the water, holding him high above us. There was little reaction at first except from Sam, who attacked the thing with his knife while everyone else gawked. I ran to the edge of the lake and leapt to the creature’s head, then to the tentacle waving Frodo around in the air.
Climbing it was like climbing a wet, moss-covered tree trunk, but I had little trouble reaching him. I drew my sword and sliced the tentacle, which writhed in its pain and nearly threw us off, then grabbed Frodo and tossed him at the others. I landed on the beast’s face and it, naturally, tried to eat me. I knew the others could kill it if I could just get out of the way, so I made a leap for the bank.
A tentacle wrapped around my ankle and jerked me back; the thing sank into the deeper water and pulled me with it. I belly-flopped gracelessly onto the lake surface and was drug down into its black depths.
He tried to follow her but only got a few steps into the lake before the rest of the Fellowship grabbed hold of him and fought to pull him back onto the rocks. They would not let him go after her.
After a few minutes of struggle he gave up and stared blankly at the calmed surface of the water. There was a little flash of light, but he merely passed it off as his imagination.
[Kyshri . . .]
It was another minute or two before the water rippled again, near the shore. He continued to stare at it, unconcerned that the Watcher might be back to claim another victim.
[Kyshri . . .?]
He absently noted the hiss of a sword being drawn from its scabbard behind him. ” Legolas!”
The water parted and with a huge breathy cry a form was flung onto the rocks at his feet.
I twisted to face the creature and closed my eyes, placing two fingers against my temples as I spoke before pointing them at the Watcher. [I call upon the power of Fire. Strike this beast with your fury!]
Luckily, using my mind to speak worked as if I had said it aloud. The water monster was incinerated from the inside and I was able to wriggle from the loose tentacle and swim for shore.
It was exhausting, for I had not gotten air for several minutes and I was running out of it quickly. My muscles screamed for fresh breath and my brain tried to force my lungs to obey. They spasmed and I bit my lip quickly to keep from opening my mouth.
I swam until the bottom rose under me and then along it, surprised when it sloped suddenly upwards onto the shore. I pushed my hands against the rocks to avoid running into them and broke the surface. The cold hit me like a hammer and my automatic reflex was to gasp, which I did.
I slumped onto the rock shore and laid there for a moment, panting, and then pushed myself up to figure out where I was. I was on the correct bank and directly above me was . . .
[. . . Legolas?]
He fell to his knees and collected me, carefully squeezing the lake water out of my hair with one hand, then fell to petting me. As strange as his behavior was I appreciated the warmth he provided in the breeze that was like liquid ice and made me shiver violently.