Recap of Tale 7 . . .
He looked away once more. [. . . You said that you had almost been married and—]
I could not help it. It was just as I had thought it was and just as ridiculous as I had known it would sound when I thought of it. [What, you thought Haldir was the one . . .?]
I burst into near-hysterical laughter and collapsed onto him. He let out a soft grunt as I landed and blinked at me. Once I had calmed down, speaking between laughs proved difficult, but I managed. [Goodness no! . . . You are a tad bit . . . off, Legolas . . . Haldir is my adopted father . . . not my betrothed . . .]
[. . . But he struck you.]
[Would you not strike your daughter if she had left without a warning as to where she was going and then suddenly showed up three thousand years later?]
[Do not lie. I did not think Haldir would do it either; he is so mild-mannered that I thought it impossible. Rumil or Orophin, perhaps, but never Haldir.] I dusted myself off as I stood and then held out my hand. [Come on, get up. No more sulking or I will drag you into a tree and drop you.]
He took my hand and I pulled him up, then spun him around and brushed all the leaves from his hair. He picked them from mine as we rejoined the rest of the fellowship (except for Haldir, the Lorien elves had scattered once more and I could barely see them in the trees). Haldir directed the hobbits up onto the talan where Rumil and Orophin sat; I leapt up there for a brief greeting to my `uncles’ and then hopped back down.
I climbed up onto another talan with Aragorn, Boromir, Gimli, Legolas, and Haldir and sat across from my adopted father. Legolas had respectfully gathered the others on the opposite side and I nodded to him in thanks. He gave a half smile in return and went back to rebanding his bow.
[So tell me what has happened to you,] Haldir prompted. [You have changed so much I would never have recognized you had I not heard your name.]
[Surely I have not changed that much,] I replied, a tad embarrassed. I had known Haldir since I could first recall and I had always viewed him as a surrogate father, as mine was gone so often, and it had allowed a smooth transition when he took me in for good.
[You have,] he insisted firmly. [You have become taller and now mirror your mother’s beauty.] I flushed and looked down at the talan. He put his hand under my chin and gently lifted my head. [You need not be modest.]
[You flatter me,] I answered softly. [My scars are not pretty.]
[Your scars mean little to me. I am looking at what is beyond them. I see your heart, how kind it is even taking into account what you must have suffered. Even without knowing what you have done while you were gone I know your parents would be proud of you because I am proud of you as well.]
I did not understand. [But . . . But I ran away.]
[You did. But you survived. Your childhood playing in these trees could not possibly have provided you with all you would need for the length of time you have been gone. And I must take equal blame for that. I should never have forced you into marriage.]
[I should not have run away.]
He chuckled softly. [I should not have made the proposal in anger. You took me far too literally.]
Sitting there, seeing him for the first time in three millennia, I felt a part of me that had been empty become whole again. I was once again where I had played as a child–in this same forest under these same trees–and once again my guardian was with me, as he had been so long ago.
I did not realize the feeling was readable until he brushed his thumb across my cheek. [Kyshri? What are these tears for?]
The tears clouding my vision, I pushed past his hand and practically collapsed in his lap, wrapping my arms around his ribs and hiding my eyes against his neck. [I had never known how terribly I had missed you and Rumil and Orophin and Lothlorien until now. I am so sorry I left!]
[Hush,] came the gentle command. He closed his arms around me lightly; it was plenty to make me feel secure. [Do not be sorry. You have learned much along your path, perhaps even more than I myself know.]
[Never!] I gasped, unable to comprehend such a thing. Me, with more knowledge of the world at three thousand than Haldir, who was edging on nine thousand? How could that be?
He gave me a quick squeeze and rubbed my arm. [You are so big I do not think you will be able to play with the other children anymore.]
[I would probably hurt them,] I acknowledged sadly.
[You wrestle well.]
He laughed and sat me upright. [Now tell me how you have been.]
It took a few hours, but I was not interrupted. As dusk became night I concluded my tale. Haldir told Legolas and I to get some rest (the others were already asleep). I agreed, but reluctantly.
[If you insist. But do call us if you desire assistance.]
He nodded and leapt to the tree where Rumil and Orophin and the hobbits were; my `uncles’ rose from where they had been keeping watch and followed him to another tree, farther into the night.
I yawned and stretched and then settled down on my stomach, resting my cheek on my hand. Legolas laid beside me, his head pillowed on my shoulder. But this cozy arrangement was not as conspicuous as one might think. Being immortal, elves prefer solitude but are not adverse to `cuddling’ even if the ones involved do not know the other well. It allows a sense of unity and comfort–as inane as that sounds.
So we fell asleep that way and remained undisturbed for a while. It was then that I woke to soft steps. I shifted, waking Legolas, and sat up to listen. Haldir landed silently on the talan. [Orcs,] he whispered to us.
We got up and followed him from tree to tree, Legolas a bit less at home but still able to keep up easily enough. We joined the group of elves that had first cornered us, were given a brief overview of the troop’s size by Rumil, and then walked toward the edge of the forest as planned, talking and laughing.
After a bit, Haldir leapt into a tree and went back to track the orcs following us. He used the call of a nocturnal bird to alert us on the proximity of the orcs. Since they were much closer than we first thought, we hurried out of the forest, then hopped into the trees again. Legolas hooked his arms around mine and hung on as I leapt, remaining that way–hunched over me–as the orcs’ soft footsteps sounded below us.
He rested his chin on my shoulder to whisper, [They are not moving.]
I twisted my head around to reply. [They are waiting for their leader. He will direct them now that they have not found us.] We sat there for close to an hour before the orcs moved on. I dropped my head and sighed. [That was close.]
There was a bright chirrup to my northeast. I answered, as well as all the other `birds’. I had to elbow Legolas, who made the chirp noise more out of surprise than understanding the point of it.
[What was that for?] he asked in a hurt tone.
[Haldir was making sure the orcs were gone. If you had not answered, he would only be able to assume you were still surrounded by orcs. Do you not have something like that where you come from?]
[. . . Yes.]
I snorted. [If I could reach back there I would slap you.]
[Well the system I know does not work as yours does!] he shot back defensively. [Our methods are different!]
[. . . I will let you get away with that.]
He let me go suddenly. [I will make sure they are gone.]
I whirled–[Legolas, no!]–but he had disappeared.
Haldir soon found me. [What happened?]
[He is following the orcs to be sure that they do not return!] I went the way Legolas had gone, but it would be hard to find him once he was on the ground.
Unfortunately, it was not as hard as I had thought. We might never have found him if he had not been wounded. We heard the cries from the orcs and the twang of several bows, then a mad scramble of the entire troop. They settled under their leader’s roaring and we moved on to find Legolas.
We easily tracked him to a secluded thicket far off the main road. His left side had been skewered by goblin arrows probably much as I had been when we first met. He was on his right side, apparently having collapsed on the move, his back to us.
He twitched as we approached and tried to rise. I hurried forward to keep him down, cradling his head and stroking his blood-stained hair. [Fear not, Legolas. You are safe.]
His eyes were clouded with pain and I was sure he could barely hear or see me, but he nuzzled into my hand trustingly. I pressed my cheek briefly against his fevered one and then reached for the arrows.
Haldir put a hand on my arm. [Wait.]
He checked the shaft of one arrow and shook his head. [They are poisoned. We cannot remove them or he will bleed to death.]
[Then how are we supposed to move him?]
We quickly fashioned a sort of stretcher out of my cloak and cautiously moved Legolas onto it. Then we snuck back across the plain into Lorien. Placing him on the talan we had been on before, I sat up the rest of the night with his head in my lap, running my fingers through his blood-caked locks. His body shook at odd intervals in varying degrees of fierceness and they reminded me unpleasantly of convulsions. I cradled him, silently begging him to live, willing my own life to keep him alive. I could not lose another to orcs. Tirash and Ceripe were still fresh in my mind, still driving me on. I did not want to add Legolas to the list.
Haldir returned around dawn with a phial of some clear liquid. [Here. This will counteract the poison.]
I shifted Legolas and was able to get him to drink some of it, but I had to wait a few hours for him to be lucid enough to drink the rest. His eyes were still filled with pain, but he seemed more aware of his surroundings than before and quite clearly recognized me. [Kyshri . . .]
[Stop fidgetting,] I scolded. [Drink this.]
He obeyed, relaxing against me once he had finished and closing his eyes to the rising sun. He settled into sleep quickly, obviously at ease.
But we had to get to Lorien. It was too dangerous to sit around while the orcs were so near. They would smell the blood and track it back here. I wrapped my cloak around him as much as possible without aggravating his wounds, then lifted him up and hopped from the talan. The impact with the ground jarred him, but he only let out a sort of whimper and sank back into sleep.
We headed south on the west side of the Silverlode; orc-prints proved that the `fire elves’ had been this way, moving northward. It made me highly uncomfortable and I startled at the smallest things. Thankfully, Haldir took us off the road and onto the bank of a river. I spotted the elf hidden by a tree and looked curiously over at Haldir, for he was leading us.
He nodded and mimicked a bird call. The other elf stepped from the tree’s shadow. Haldir tossed one end of a rope to him, which was caught and wrapped around the tree trunk, then tied the rope off on the near side as well.
“We do not usually need bridges,” came the explanation, “for we can jump great distances, but we carry rope for such occasions as this.”
It turned out that the others were not as trusting of the rope as we elves were. I volunteered to go first (I wanted the trip to be as smooth as possible for Legolas), stepping onto the makeshift bridge and walking lightly across it on my toes, Legolas still asleep in my arms.
My success, however, was not encouraging. Two more ropes had to be strung across the water and even then Sam was nearly dragged over. More trouble brewed on the other bank as Gimli refused to be blindfolded.
“This is our law,” Haldir replied. “I am not the master of the law and cannot set it aside. I have done much by letting you set foot over Celebrant.”
Gimli, however, would not bow to elven law. Aragorn finally brought up a compromise. “We shall all go blindfolded.”
“I will most certainly not be blindfolded,” I informed him indignantly.
“Please, Kyshri, we must move on.”
“I will not,” I repeated firmly. “Lothlorien is my birthplace. I was raised here and played among the trees in the time before any of you were born. It is no secret to me. And even if all of that was not the truth, I carry an injured ally.” As though to prove my point, Legolas stirred in his sleep and stretched a hand from my cloak, clutching fiercely at my tunic. “I refuse to be blindfolded. In fact, I will go on alone. I know my way.”
Before anyone could stop me, I turned and sprinted for home. The way was long, but I took shortcuts that I had created in my childhood and reached Lorien by dusk. I stared up at my home from the top of the final hill, still as overcome with reverence for the ageless feel of the city as I had been three millennia ago.
[The tales did not do it justice,] came the soft, awed voice.
I looked down at Legolas, who tore his gaze from Lorien to look up at me. [I was hoping you would wake long enough to see it.]
[I as well.] He turned to Lorien again. [You must have been truly miserable to run away.]
I began to walk toward my home, memory resurging in my mind. [Yes,] I agreed quietly. [Very miserable.]