Recap of Tale 11
[I was going to ask you if you had looked in the mirror, but I suppose my question has been answered.]
[What more did you want to ask me?]
He seemed surprised that I knew he had more inquiries. [What you saw, if you are willing to share it.]
I shook my head. [Merely the sundered Fellowship and the events following my death. Nothing grand.] I realized then what I had said too late; he would surely be alarmed at the conceivable prospect of my fate.
[I will not let you die,] he swore with startling conviction.
[. . . How?]
[I will find a way.]
Touched, I looked up at him and smiled. Immediately I recalled what I had seen in the mirror and tears welled in my eyes. [Legolas . . .]
He looked down at me, concerned. [Kyshri? Did I—]
I hugged his ribs and snuggled against his chest. [It was nothing you said. I was only thinking of what I viewed in the mirror.] And how horrible it would be to lose you in such a way.
He closed his arms around me gently and began to hum a soft tune, holding me even as a new rain fell on us. I knew at that moment he would have stayed there with me all night if I had asked it of him, but I did not want him to catch anything and so broke the embrace to lead him back inside.
Aragorn was standing by the door. [We will leave tomorrow.]
I slept little that night. I was fidgety; my semi-fantasy of being able to remain here forever with the Fellowship vaporized. My discomfort became so obvious that I woke those with me.
[Go to sleep,] Haldir cooed tiredly, resting his head against mine.
[Drink this,] Lord Celeborn suggested groggily, taking a small phial from the table by my bed and handing it to me.
I examined it. [What is it?]
[It will help you sleep.]
So I drank it. Immediately I felt exhausted and settled down again, closing my eyes. I slept deeply and well the rest of the night and when I woke I was not still fatigued. I was ready to continue the quest, though my heart prevailed in its reluctance. I packed slowly, while my family slept on, and then went out onto my balcony for the mere purpose of sitting quietly. Such complete abandonment of awareness would be my death on our journey, so I would have to stop here.
[Kyshri, come along!]
Aragorn’s voice was sharp; I started and looked into my room. Legolas opened his mouth to give the man an earful, but I only shook my head and he desisted, however unwillingly.
We were met at the gate by a band of elves with their arms full of gifts. They gave us fresh lembas, of which Gimli devoured one and had to be warned not to eat more unless it was absolutely necessary, and new cloaks made of the soft nache that the elves of Lorien wore. I recognized them immediately and was rather surprised to see them here now. I had not been told they were for us.
“—You are indeed high in the favor of the Lady!” was what I caught of the lead elf’s last few words. “For she herself and her maidens wove these!”
Haldir and Lord Celeborn looked pointedly at me and I frowned, confused. [What sort of look is that? Is it that you believe they will catch on fire while we travel?]
They bestowed upon me a narrow-eyed stare and said together, [You do not weave.]
[I did not,] I shot back. [. . . It became more of a necessity when I left.]
[You made these?] Legolas asked, fingering the fabric and then examining it very closely.
[I helped,] I answered. [My weaving is not as skillfully wrought as the Lady Galadriel’s and the other maidens’. Let me see yours . . . Yes, I did some work on this one. You can see the imperfections.]
He gave a half shrug and slung it expertly over his shoulders. [I cannot tell. I am no weaver. As long as it does what it has been intended to do, it is excellent work.]
As sweet as it was of him to say that, I was about to point out that most of the things I wove did not do as they were intended when whispers behind me drew my attention.
[I fear she may be becoming . . . normal,] Haldir hissed under his breath in feigned concern. [What should we do?]
[Pretend as though nothing is wrong,] Lord Celeborn answered in the same whisper. [If it becomes worse, we will have to—]
I whirled on them and they automatically ducked. [What sort of elf do you believe me to be?! Deaf?!]
Haldir hopped forward and dropped his hands on my shoulders, giving me a little shake. [Kyshri, what has happened to you?! You used to be so different and now you are nearly . . . ordinary!]
I fumed. [If you—!]
He pressed a quick kiss to my lips, right in front of everyone there, and then lunged away. Naturally, they all stared, for Haldir was not so well known for his eccentricities. I flushed in embarrassment, then raged, [Haldir!] and leapt after him. He escaped temporarily behind Lord Celeborn, who stood still until he saw the look in my eyes.
[You expect me to bear her wrath for your stupidity?!] Lord Celeborn cried, trying to get out of my way.
[You are supposed to save me!] Haldir replied. [Make her stop!]
[You truly believe she will listen to me?!]
[. . . Interesting poi—Ack!]
I pinned his shoulders hard to the ground and sat on his chest. [Ha! You are trapped!]
Arms suddenly went around me and lifted me off him. I wriggled, but it did little good. I was flung backward over a shoulder and crossed my arms, glaring at everyone who laughed. Legolas just looked at me in concern, as though I might have contracted a terminal case of madness.
[I do not know why I bother doing this for you,] Lord Celeborn said to Haldir. [It would serve you right if I let her tear you apart next time.]
[You are a fair and just lord. You will not,] was Haldir’s knowing response.
[Oh, will I not?] Lord Celeborn started to put me down and I wriggled again, a bit more viciously, trying to slip to the ground. He kept a good hold on me, however, and I was not able to escape. [Here, Kyshri—]
[All right! I believe you!] Haldir rose and dusted himself off, muttering, [For the sake of Orthid, am I the only one with a sense of humor around here?]
I finally was released when Aragorn voiced that we should start out. But I only got so far before freezing. I was leaving Lorien again, unwillingly this time. I did not want to go . . .
I turned and ran back to where Haldir and Lord Celeborn stood, flinging an arm around each of them for a hug and then pressing a kiss to each’s cheek. [Do not kill each other while I am gone.]
[It will take more than that for me to want to kill him,] Lord Celeborn assured me. [He was a fool to begin with.]
Haldir snorted and turned up his nose.
I laughed and pulled away to rejoin the Fellowship–I had already held them up enough–but I was surprised when arms grabbed me and tugged me back. They came in, one from each side, and at the same time planted a slightly exaggerated kiss on my cheeks.
I blushed and murmured a second quick good-bye before joining the Fellowship, but just as I reached the gate I stopped and turned again. This time, the others noticed and stopped as well. My heart furiously debated leaving or staying and I felt tears well in my eyes.
Legolas stepped up behind me and lowered his head slightly to whisper in my ear, [You need not go with us. You may remain if that is what you wish.]
I turned into him a little. [No . . . I made a vow when I left Veikai. I will continue the quest with you.]
I looked over at Lord Celeborn and Haldir; both were smiling reassuringly, though I could clearly sense their concern for me. [Go on,] Lord Celeborn called to me gently. [Our prayers are with you.]
Haldir nodded. [Go and do not look back. We await your return.]
I gave a slow nod and finally set foot out of the gate. Legolas stayed at my side, facing me forward whenever it seemed I would try to look back. It was then that I barely heard the worried exchange between Haldir and Lord Celeborn.
[Why are we letting her do this?]
[Because she has proven her abilities as a warrior. She is not the defenseless child we promised to protect. She has her reasons for this journey and we have no right to hold her from that.]
[But what if . . .]
[Then we can only hope that Irelia and Malyr forgive us our stupidity.]
With that final thought to bear I left their range and went to the bank of the Silverlode, where boats had been set for us. We set off down the river, Aragorn with Frodo and Sam in one boat, Boromir with Merry and Pippin in the second, and Legolas, Gimli, and myself in the third, in which most of the group’s supplies had been stored.
I sat facing the eastern shore, eyes closed, listening.
I finally looked at Legolas, who fidgeted momentarily. [One of the times when you were not with us, Lady Galadriel gave us gifts for our journey. She gave me yours and I was asked not to give it to you until we were on our way. I do not understand its significance, but I was assured that you would.]
I accepted the gift with wide eyes; it was a beautifully crafted locket with swirly vine and leaf designs covering it. I knew indeed of it–my father had given this to my mother before their marriage. I clipped the chain around my neck and tucked the small golden locket into my tunic for safekeeping.
[I was also supposed to give you this.]
It was Lord Celeborn’s bow. I whirled to look back the way we had come, for surely he would need this if the orcs attacked Lorien. Then I looked more closely at it and I could see new etchings added to the traditional vine and leaf design. It was very small, but readable.
`Now I am with you always.’
I hugged the bow carefully; if this was Lord Celeborn’s (as it seemed to be, for it was a full head taller than I), it would certainly be strung with his hair as well and he would be with me as the etching said.
How did he hide these? I took the quiver of gold and silver arrows cautiously. Haldir had always been very particular about who handled it and it had been my childhood game to touch it without his knowing. I never could, for he seemed to be able to sense when I got too near it and would materialize from nowhere to stop me, as I expected him to do now.
It had etchings on it as well.
`For all those times you tried.’ And then: `Now I am with you always.’
I hugged that too.
[ . . . Yes?]
[Why are they so . . . odd?]
[The arrows can pierce anything save stone and if I cannot find them I can summon them and they will return to my hand.]
He was clearly impressed. [Where did they come from?]
I shrugged. [I have no clue. Haldir did not care to talk much of them. He merely impressed upon me that I not handle them.]
The rest of the journey was passed with little conversation and I resumed my listening, my eyes closed. I heard the quiet footsteps on the eastern shore once we reached the Anduin and tracked them silently; they were following us.
It was another few moments before the boat rocked a bit–Legolas had snapped around to face the east bank, suddenly aware of the orcs. [Kyshri,] he said urgently. [On the east shore . . .]
[You just now noticed?]
[You knew before?]
[Why did you not say anything?!]
[We were already on the river. There is nowhere for us to go. When we get to the falls we will have to stop. It may be there that we will be forced to make our stand for the Ring.]
He was quiet as we ran aground on the western shore for the time being. He spoke to Aragorn, but whatever words passed between them did not move us along. So he spent his time keeping a nervous watch on the forest around us. Not to spite him, but because I could not stand his edginess, I went into the forest to seek out our most likely roundabout path from the west to Emyn Muil.
It was an hour into my wandering, though I was not far from the shore, that I found my skin crawling with the knowledge that I was being watched. I stopped and looked all around; I could see nothing in or near the trees, but I knew that something was there.
A branch snapped and I whirled, coming face to face with an orc.
I did the only prudent thing possible at that moment.