By the time I neared the southern gate he was wriggling in my arms and pestering me to put him down because he felt fine and he wanted to walk the rest of the way in. So I stood him up and led him to the gate, where we were commanded to halt by a voice from nowhere.
I glanced around sharply, spotting several elves perched in the trees around us. We had walked right into a trap and would probably be dead if we were orcs . . . or perhaps anything but elves. I straightened. [Stand aside.]
A shadow detatched itself from the base of a tree, taking form as another elf in disguise. He threw his hood back and stared hard at me, obviously wondering if I was someone he knew who had such authority to call him off.
I looked through the open gate. [Orophin!]
He jogged out, waving the now gawking elf away. [Why are you here alone? Where is my brother?]
[I came ahead by myself. Haldir is with my companions, leading them here. Rumil stayed on the other side of Celebrant to watch for orcs.]
[How far are they?]
[Still a day’s journey.]
[Truly?] was the disbelieving answer.
I shook my head. [The dwarf Gimli would not budge if he was blindfolded and so Aragorn had them all blindfolded.]
[I see. I shall go and meet them.]
I saw him off and then took Legolas’ hand. [I do not want you to wander off and become lost before I have a chance to treat your wounds.]
Home was exactly where I had left it. Beside it was my birthhome, which I had not often set foot in after my parents’ death. I led Legolas inside and to the bathing room. I drew him a bath and almost had to strip him before he decided it would be prudent to go along with my orders.
I told him to relax and left him there for an hour, then went back to check on him. He was apparently asleep again, so I made sure to be quiet. I knelt by the bathing basin and brushed a soft cloth across his face, dislodging the blood that had dried there. He woke at my touch and blinked at me, then yelped and let out a pitiful wail.
[Have you no scruples?!]
I returned a flat stare. [Legolas, you are not the first male I have taken care of in my life. You have nothing that I have not seen before. Or at least you should not. I will not . . . ogle.]
His face went red, but he snapped, [Then pardon my insolence for falling on custom.]
[There are times when custom must be tossed aside,] I shot back. [The only problem is knowing when such a thing is necessary. And as you so happily made yourself a target for those orcs, this is one of those times. Someone has to repair your blunder.] I was quite a moment and then added as an afterthought, [Besides, even if I was that crude, the fact that you emptied the entire container of flower petals into the water is a sufficient barrier from prying eyes.]
He snorted and looked furiously the other way, out the window, and I resumed brushing the blood off his face. Once done with that, I managed to make him let me wash his hair out. His posture was horribly stiff, especially when I went to rinse his hair, but the longer I kept him laid back with his neck braced firmly in my hand, the more he seemed to calm down and relax.
I paused. [You know, it would be interesting to compare . . .]
He caught on right away. [Kyshri!]
[ I was jesting, Legolas!]
However, curiosity had too strong a hold on him. [. . . What do you mean `compare’?]
[I told you you were not the first male I had cared for.]
[No, I did not look!] I spat, feeling my face flush self-consciously. [I . . . noticed! Truly, how am I not supposed to see when the injury in on one’s hip?]
He gave me a sideways look. [Who else have you embarrassed in this way?]
Was that actual jealousy I heard in his tone? [Just Haldir, Sulaine, and the other Patrons,]–two of which were dead . . .–[and they were all fidgety like you are now. It would have been far more amusing if they had not been flinching every time I got near them. They have gotten over it.]
[Has anyone ever seen you?]
Now I am sure that was jealousy. [Only Haldir and Sulaine. Both times were accidents caused by my own miscalculations. Do not be jealous.]
He coughed. [Jealous . . .?]
[I can hear it.] He fell silent and I finished my work. [The antidote should have completed its work by now. Do you want to try removing the arrows?]
He sat forward and I moved to his side. The first arrow practically fell out of his arm, but a few of the others were not so simple. The third caught in his muscle and tore it so easily that I was not aware I was doing damage until he let out a yell of pain and nearly jerked away.
I stopped immediately and placed my forehead against his temple, my eyes closed, and whispered, [Forgive me.]
He turned toward me a little and let out the long breath he had been holding. [Forgiven.]
I peered into the wound. [It is caught . . . Wow, what a job I did . . . Wait, I think I can . . . Yes! All right, hold still because this will certainly hurt.] I bent the arrow up, freeing the forward tip from his flesh. Then I pushed it down slowly, dislodging the rear prong that had done so much new damage.
He gasped, but that was all. I went for another arrow, surprised when he asked with a hint of pain in his voice, [I thought you said they called you `Lady’ in Veikai only because you are a Patron.]
[Why do they address you the same way here? Are you a princess?]
I sighed. [No. It is very difficult to explain, but if you are that willing to listen, I will try.]
[My father, Haldir, and Lord Celeborn were the best of friends when they were children. When Lord Celeborn became the Lord of Lothlorien, he appointed Haldir and my father consorts who would take his place if anything were to happen to him. Father was out travelling so often that he knew little of what was happening, so Haldir became Lord Celeborn’s primary consort.
[In the event of my father’s death, my mother automatically became a consort in his place. But she died as well.]
[And it fell to you?]
[No. I was far too young and deemed unable to take their place, especially when I was in mourning. However, Haldir made me his replacement when he took me in. I would still not have been titled except that Lady Galadriel assured everyone that I was a good choice, for though I was suffering, I had continued with my usual duties and not sought pity as so many children my age did. I bore `a mysterious wisdom’ and she advised Lord Celeborn to accept my placement. He did so and here I am, having abandoned him with all my `wisdom’.]
[But you returned.]
[And the difference is . . .? I still abandoned him, turned against him. I cannot say I would be surprised to find that I am going to be banished as soon as he hears that I am here.]
[You will not.]
[Oh, are you saying you have seen the future?]
[I just know.]
He entered the chamber at a fast walk and knelt in front of the elaborate chair and the one sitting in it. [Lord Celeborn.]
[Please do not say that,] was the reply as the Lord of Lorien rubbed the bridge of his nose. [I have had as many `Lord Celeborns’ today as I can tolerate.]
[Questions of the orcs, the goblins, the Nazgul, Mordor, Sauron, dwarves, humans, hobbits, our kindred in Rivendell and Mirkwood . . . Since afternoon I have had a strong desire to join you in the quiet of the forest.] He waved at a less ornate but still grand chair to his right. [And what brings you to torment me at such an hour?]
Haldir sat. [No torment, I would hope. Only good news.]
[For the sake of Orthid, Celeborn, I am not jesting.]
[I pray so.]
[Do you want to hear what I have to say?] came the annoyed demand.
[Why not? It cannot be as horrid as what I have gone through.]
[If you are going to receive it in bad taste then I will not tell you.]
Celeborn sighed. [My apologies, Haldir. Tell me this news of yours, for it must be important if you have come to me this late.]
[Kyshri has returned.]
The Lord of Lorien sat up, shocked. [Kyshri . . .?]
Haldir rose as Celeborn did and followed him out of the chamber at a near run. [I debated telling you, for I know her leaving hurt you and I do not know how long she will stay, but she is here.]
[You do not know how long she will stay?]
[She has come with Elrond’s Fellowship and seems set on remaining with them, if the story she told me was any indication.]
[What has happened to her? How is she?]
[She is well. What has happened to her is a very long story and one that she herself should tell you.]
They entered Haldir’s house and went to her room, which had been empty for millennia. Haldir listened to the door, then eased it open and peeked it, opening it the rest of the way and leading Celeborn in. The Lord of Lorien rushed to and knelt by the chair in which Kyshri was slouched, asleep.
Haldir caught Celeborn’s hands as the latter moved to shake her awake. [Do not wake her,] he whispered. [Let her rest. There will be time to speak with her later.]
Celeborn withdrew his hands and contented himself with observing her sleep. He was so busy musing over how her clumsy child’s body had matured into such a lithe frame that it took him a moment to realize she was covered in scars; some old, some new.
He was nonplussed. [. . . She . . . She left us for . . . these?]
Haldir shook his head. [I told you what I did.]
[Yes, but a simple mention of marriage, even if it was in anger, should not have driven her to such measures.]
[Recall the stories Malyr told her. She wanted to see Middle-earth, not be bound in marriage. I do not place blame on her. Not completely. She is a female and has a strong will . . . Really, I saw too late that she would not make a good lifemate for one who did not understand that.]
Celeborn, try as he might, could not stay angry at Kyshri. He had at first been furious with her for leaving and even after Haldir admitted that he had caused it he had not been able to forgive her. Both Malyr’s and Irelia’s last spoken words had begged he and Haldir to take care of Kyshri. Her running away had destroyed their ability to honor the request.
Now she was back, but not staying . . .
He stood. [Please tell me when she wakes.] Haldir nodded. It was then that Celeborn spotted the occupant of Kyshri’s bed, tucked beneath the covers. [Who is that?] he demanded, scrutinizing the intruder closely. [He is not of Lorien.]
Haldir coughed, trying not to laugh or even smile. [He is a mountain elf. Legolas, son of Thranduil.]
[Thranduil? King of Mirkwood?]
[. . . He may stay.]
Haldir snorted, unable to hold his amusement.
[What are you tittering at?]
[You should see your face!]
[I have never seen such envy!]
[Stop repeating everything I say! Yes, envy!]
[What have I to be envious of?] Celeborn snapped. [Unless it is the same reason you are envious!]
Haldir abruptly quieted. [. . . Yes.]
Celeborn sighed. [Woe to our overprotective natures.]
He shook his head. [Again, please let me know when she wakes.]
[I shall.] Haldir watched him go, then took another look at Kyshri and the injured earth elf, shook his head as Celeborn had, and left.