Recap of Tale 6 . . .
Because my hand was armored, there was more destructive force behind my return strike. But I concluded that he deserved it for all the trials he had put me through recently. Due justice of sorts.
I smiled as he straightened from the three paces he had staggered and stared at me blankly, his hand over his cheek. [Ah! Much better! Now we are even!]
I was sitting between Rilloc’s feet, examining the rock. It was easily moved, if enough force was put to it; force Rilloc’s wings could easily generate. I retrieved some chain and tied it around some of the loose boulders that held the rest in place, then formed a loop for her to grasp.
[I want you to wait here. There are innocent women and children in the recesses of the fortress. If we fail, I bid you take this chain and pull the rock loose so it may fall and afford them some time to escape.]
Rilloc touched her beak to my shoulder and then looked out across the plain. I followed her gaze to the rectangle of gold that shimmered in the setting sun. Unfortunately, it was so far off I could discern no more. [What do you think that is?] She chirruped softly. [Truly?! Bend your neck, Rilloc! Take me to greet them!]
She crouched and let me onto her shoulders, then glided down to the rampart and paused so I could speak to Gimli, who was the only one in our path. “We are soon to be having guests, I believe. Be ready with the gate!”
“Rilloc says a company of my kin comes this way. I have seen the gold of armor, but no more. I trust her eyes.”
“The eyes of an Eagle are indeed keener even than those of the elves! I will be prepared.”
Rilloc took off once more and made a leisurely flight to where the army was. She glided over and around them and they each took a moment to break from their uniformity to stare up at her in awe, for Eagles were a sight to behold no matter how many times one had seen them. She circled and lowered her feet, bouncing on the earth and not quite landing each time.
[Haldir!] I cried happily. [Haldir! Haldir! How could you possibly know we needed aid?]
[It is a story I cannot tell you now. Go to the gates and allow us in. The orcs are moving here as we speak!]
[It is done!] Rilloc lifted away, flew back to the fortress, and perched directly above the gates, announcing the arrival of the company with strong cries of greeting that carried through the stone and drew everyone’s attention. Once they were all inside, Rilloc flew to her previous perch.
I leapt down and ran to the front court. [Haldir! Haldir!] I slowed myself as I bolted down the lower stairs, my armored boots tossing sparks to either side. I collided with him, our armor clanging together and protecting us from the force of the impact. My momentum, however, nearly knocked him over. [Haldir!]
He hugged me tightly and said quietly, [So I meet again the Kyshri who has not yet run away. What happened to the Kyshri I met recently in Lorien?]
I nuzzled into his neck, feeling tears welling in my eyes. I shut them firmly to keep the weakness back. [She has been highly stressed in the past few days and needed time alone.]
[I see. Then let us find a place to rest before the battle.] He turned to the elves behind him, keeping one arm around me. [Post along the battlements and wait for the signal!]
I lifted my head. [Tell me how you knew to come here.]
He turned to me, prepared to answer, then stopped and narrowed his eyes, taking my chin to turn my head to the side and inspect the bright red mark that was there. [. . . What is this?]
[Kyshri . . .] came the warning.
[It was an accident. I am fine.]
[Is it truly your business?]
[Everything is my business. You are not yet an adult; I am still responsible for you, though you have not made that an easy task.]
I snarled. [Though I am not an adult, neither am I a child who needs to have someone look over her shoulder!]
[I asked a simple question, Kyshri, and all I expected was a simple answer. You do not need to hide it from me.]
[I hide the truth from you in anticipation of your reaction.]
[I will only become more irritated the longer you hold it.]
[Tell him,] Legolas said finally.
Haldir immediately focused on him. [You did this?]
[. . . I did, though I am not proud of it.]
Haldir swelled angrily. [After all . . . How dare you—]
[No!] I interrupted happily, clapping my hand over his mouth. [Look at what I gave him in return to save you the trouble! Show him, Legolas!]
Legolas turned his head, revealing the dark bruise on his cheek.
Haldir seemed minutely pacified. [Kyshri is gracious. If it had been me in her place I might have drawn my sword and finished you. An elf with no control of his temper is a bane.]
Legolas shut his eyes and lowered his head in shame.
Now I felt guilty. [Haldir, that was completely—]
[Necessary,] Legolas finished. [He is right . . . Excuse me.]
Once he was gone, I turned on Haldir and bopped his head hard. [Why must you be so cruel? It was simple frustration! He had just concluded an argument with Aragorn and I foolishly said I would speak with him!]
Haldir ducked away from the second hit and caught my wrist. [Frustrated or not, he should be in better control of himself.]
I sighed; I could see I was not going to win this. [Oh Haldir . . .]
He released me. [Come, let us find a place to rest. I have a message for you from Lord Celeborn.]
So I led him to Rilloc’s perch, where Quephiril had predicted I would be. I introduced Eagle and horse lord and lord consort. [So what did Lord Celeborn have to say to me? Was it one of those grave warnings of peril that he and Lady Galadriel are so fond of predicting?]
He laughed. [No, it was no grave warning. He sends his scoldings for frightening us.]
I should not have remarked.
[Fighting a warg and its rider with neither horse nor numbers . . . You could have been killed!]
I lifted my gaze to the sky. And so it begins . . .
[Do not roll your eyes at me!]
[I did not roll my eyes.]
He ignored me. [It is truth!]
[Haldir, I had no choice.]
[There is always a choice!]
[Haldir. As quick on my feet as I am, I could not outrun a warg. I could have either run and died as a coward or stood and fought and died proud. I chose to die proud and the Valar spared me.]
He shook his head and clucked as though I was some errant child. [Kyshri, I am immortal yet you give me grey hairs.]
[Then I will trade you hair. With all that I have been through, I am surprised I have not yet found any of my own.]
He looked at me curiously, then reached over and drew me into a gentle embrace. I automatically wrapped my arms around his ribs and laid my head against his chest, finally letting free the tears I had been holding for days.
[Oh, Kyshri . . .] he cooed, stroking my hair. [Hush, my little Lady. All will be well in time. In time.]
Though I despised being called little, for I was fully-grown even if I was not considered an adult, at this particular point I was glad for the label; it took a great weight off me, reminding me that I still had the right to be a tad fussy at times and was not expected to be some savior.
[I wish I had never run away,] I sobbed.
I sensed his startlement. [. . . Why?]
[Because then I never would have been through what I have and I never would have gone on this journey. I would have remained blissfully unaware of all of this and not concerned myself.]
[But then you would not be who you are now.]
[Good. I abhor what I have become.]
[. . . I see nothing wrong with you.]
[I am a spectacle wherever I go. Others stare because I am a female elf who has separated herself from the archetypal gown-wearing sort, donned the clothes of a male, and battled against all possible evils. They stare because I am scarred; more scarred even than you, who has been alive millennia longer than I!]
He paused to think. [. . . I have not been to the places you have, nor seen the wonders that your eyes have beheld. I have rarely left Lothlorien and have certainly never trekked far from it; you have crossed many lands to find what you later deemed your new home and perhaps fought more battles than I to protect it. Lothlorien has many rumors and songs to shield it, but your city has no such safeguards.
[And as for being a spectacle, I find you a very attractive one. I am not surprised that others stare at you.]
[I have shamed my family,] I murmured, fidgeting in his lap, feeling an onset of isolation.
He reached out and gathered me in a still tighter hug. [Never,] he whispered. [You wished to follow in your father’s adventures and you did. I know he is proud of you for standing by your decision, even if it was perhaps the incorrect one at the time. And as long as you follow your heart, I know that your mother is just as proud of you.]
I looked up at him, my head still pinned against him. [And what of you?]
[I?] He blinked and looked down at me, bemused. [I am not blood relation–why seek my approval?]
[Because you are my father, if not by blood.]
He chuckled. [I do not understand why you ask me; no matter my answer, it would be wrong.]
[It would. If I said I was proud of you you would call me a liar and be angry with me for thinking you unable to handle truth. If I said I was still furious with you after all this time for leaving you would be upset as well as I. I am truly distressed when you are unhappy.]
[But are you proud of me? Without fear of my reaction, are you?]
He placed his lips gently against my forehead in a long, soft kiss. [As I said in Lothlorien, even not knowing what you have done, I am proud of you. You have returned to me alive and that is all I ever wished after you left. To survive alone and so far from home in such a world . . . I could ask no more of you.]
I nuzzled against him, allowing the child part of me that I had suppressed to rise to the surface again, and curled quietly in his embrace, tossing caution to the wind in the security of his presence. He was my guardian once more, as he had always been.
[Thank you for being here.]
He smiled and ran his fingers through my hair. [As you said, I am your father no matter what bloodlines say. I must come when you call.]
We were there until dusk. Then Aragorn summoned us to the front, where we took up watch with the other elves. It was little more than two hours before it began to rain and I yawned tiredly. Watch was dull and tedious at best–with not the least possible entertainment–no matter how many centuries one had done it.
“You could have picked a better spot,” Gimli muttered disgustedly from the other side of Legolas.
Legolas, who was directly to my left, smirked and started to reply, but Rilloc let out a shriek of warning. A scant moment later, all of the elves along the rampart shifted almost as one when the army of orcs and goblins stepped quietly into sight. But as the movement was hardly perceptible even to an elf, I was slightly surprised to hear Gimli’s gruff demand.
“What is it? What is going on?”
Legolas looked down at him. The dwarf was just short enough to not be able to see over the battlement’s outer wall. “I am sorry, my friend. Would you like me to describe it to you or shall I find you a box?”
“Pick him up and place him on your shoulders,” I suggested.
Legolas snorted and Gimli snarled at me. Silence fell again as the dark army drew nearer. Aragorn paced back and forth along the battlement between the first and second rows, speaking soft reassurances in Elvish to keep the rest of us calm. This, of course, did not work at all on Gimli, but his fidgeting did not distract us from our focus.
Then it happened. One of the archers of Men lost his grip and loosed an arrow into the army. It was a good shot, for the goblin fell, but that ended the standoff we had been in. The other goblins and orcs roared and rushed forth.
The battle had begun.