Recap of Tale 5 . . .
The body was indeed Kyshri and she looked as she had dozens of times before; bathed in the blood of her enemy as well as her own, though this time the wounds were not as obvious as they usually were. Her normally lightly sun-bleached blond hair was stained a dark orange and her clothes were severely torn.
Legolas touched her cheek. [. . . Kyshri?]
Her eyes opened weakly. [It . . . is still . . . here.]
Quephiril lifted his head to the hill above us and neighed. Shadowfax answered clearly. I tried to raise my head but failed. Legolas attempted to pick me up, but there was a snarl and then shouts of warning. I felt the warg’s teeth in me again and helplessly allowed it to shake me violently back and forth.
When it dropped me and leapt back from Quephiril’s kick, I pulled what strength I had together and drew my sword, holding it toward the warg and its rider, oblivious to the carnage around me.
[If you wish me dead,] I roared, [come get me!]
The warg lunged. I dodged and swung the sword, slicing the rider’s head off. The warg stopped and turned, leaping again. I plunged my sword and arm down its throat and twisted my blade as it closed its jaws on my shoulder and tried to rip my arm off. But it was quick to weaken and I drew my sword back from within it and drove it into its head, between its eyes. Its death was instantaneous.
I retrieved my sword again and turned to find Quephiril standing there quietly by me, his nose out toward me curiously. I touched the end of his muzzle, but quickly drew my hand back. [I do not wish to soil your coat.]
And so he began to lick me, washing the blood from my face. I could not get away from his ministrations and save him the time; he merely followed my aimless staggering and waited until I collapsed to the ground again before resuming. I finally let him do it, for I no longer had the strength to get away from him. And he stood guard by me, protecting me from wargs and any of their riders that dared get within the range of his hooves.
The only thing I recall from the battle was watching Aragorn tumble over a cliff with a warg, though I was conscious through the entire event. But Aragorn’s fall stuck in my mind; my inability to help stirred my guilt and Quephiril had to pin me to the earth when I reacted belatedly.
When the battle was won at last, Legolas appeared again. A silver chain hung from his tightly clenched fist and I had only to touch his fingers with my Quephiril-cleaned ones to get him to open his hand and reveal an elven pendant; the one that I had always seen Aragorn wearing.
[Is he . . .?]
[I cannot say,] he answered softly, gently picking me up and carrying me to Arod. Quephiril followed, nickering quiet encouragements. [The river was below and there was no sign of him.] He found a cloth in Quephiril’s saddlepack and used it to wipe my sword clean before resheathing the blade. Then he set me carefully upon Arod’s back and leapt up behind me.
Quephiril, whose rider had dismounted to fight on foot due to the stallion’s refusal to leave me, allowed himself to be remounted but would not pass too far ahead of Arod to keep me in sight. The man riding him seemed annoyed, but did not force Quephiril to go on.
Leaning back against Legolas’ solid frame, for he would not let me sit up to keep from getting blood on him, I reached under and around his arm to grasp his free hand in mine. [Do not let my grip slacken,] I murmured. [Do not let it.]
His other arm curled around me, Legolas kept up a litany of soothing words that I focused on to remain awake. [You will be all right, Kyshri, I will see to it . . . Do not close your eyes, my lady, do not close them for a moment . . .]
That is how we arrived at Helm’s Deep. I was taken into a healing room and treated immediately, listening to the amazed whispers of the healers as they worked. Once they were done I was left alone. For an hour I drifted in and out of a healing sleep, knowing the orcs were coming and fearing that I could not do my part to help in the battle.
Then there was a knock at my door. I bade the person enter and smiled when I saw Legolas. [Come to see me finally?]
[I am sorry. I could not get away. The preparations are great. Men are thorough, if not sensible.]
I was wondering why he was still holding the door when I heard a soft clop in the darkness of the hall beyond. [Quephiril? Come inside!]
The stallion hesitated, but then came in–still fully saddled and bridled–and happily nuzzled me. Legolas closed the door and sat on the bed’s edge. [He would let none touch him until he saw you. The man riding him is becoming very upset with him, I believe.]
I stroked Quephiril’s face with my fingers. [Then I will most certainly take him back into my care should the man no longer wish to ride him.] Quephiril nickered softly and planted a second muddy kiss on my face. The other had been washed off and I laughed. [Thank you!]
Legolas had gone to the half closed window and was peering down at the rest of the fortress. [I wish you could see how they are preparing . . .]
[Then let us go outside! I am feeling much better!]
[Kyshri, you must—] He turned from the window and saw me standing already, using Quephiril’s neck as support. [Kyshri!] he scolded. [Lie down!]
[Why? I feel quite well. The healers are good ones.]
[You should be resting!]
[So I will not fight?]
He looked away and did not answer.
I growled. [If I knew it would do any good, Legolas, I would—] A loud cry disrupted my words and we all looked toward the window. [Ah! It has arrived!]
Legolas only then seemed to notice the absence of my falcon. [. . . Where is Telrak?]
[I sent him back to Veikai to get something for me.]
[That did not sound like Telrak.]
[Of course, he is far too small to carry all of what I sent him to get.] I moved slowly toward the door, Quephiril following at my heel.
Legolas came up behind me and said firmly, [If you insist on going out, I bid you use another’s legs.] With that, he lifted me to Quephiril’s back and continued out the door. [I will not claim responsibility for your lack of regard to your health.]
[I will not turn blame upon you.]
We exited onto a wide open platform. There was a great commotion, with people asking others questions and getting no answers. And directly below us was the reason for all the confusion.
[Rilloc!] I called. She looked up at me with one half closed eye, too pleased with the attention she was receiving from Gimli to do anything more. Quephiril then took me down the steep stairs and to where the greater eagle was standing. I saw the sack between her feet. [Many thanks, Rilloc!]
I pet her head and then moved on, forced to dismount after a bit to retrieve the bag. I peered inside and smiled. [Yes, this is exactly what I requested! Well done, Rilloc!] Legolas tried to look in, but I quickly pulled it away and closed it from his view. [Pardon you.]
[Kyshri, this is not the time for games. If you have something—]
[I have something to help me help here. That is all you need to know.]
[You are not fighting.]
I laughed wryly. [You cannot stop me! I will do as I please!] He tried to snatch the bag from me, but I danced from his reach and stuck my tongue out at him rebelliously. [I am Kyshri of Lothlorien! Patron of Veikai! I obey my own command and no other’s unless it suits me!]
And as he reached for me again I bolted from beneath Rilloc and up the stairs. I paused there and turned–[Thank you most graciously, Rilloc!]–then ran inside to my room. I was just changing when I heard the heavy click of the lock falling into place. I laughed to myself and finished changing, then went to the window and looked over toward the platform to see Legolas smuggly exiting with one of the fortress key-keepers.
He turned to me, more smug than before. [I will see you after the battle, Lady of Veikai!]
[Why? Will you not see me during?]
[I will not.]
I grinned. [Yes you will!]
And with that I dove headfirst out the window in what must have seemed a suicide leap. But I had fallen out of trees enough times to know when to pull back and land on my feet. Which I did with only a small tack of my armored boots on the stone beneath and a tiny cloud of rock dust to spread outward from my point of landing. I rose, dusting my leather-clad palms off, and waved up at Legolas.
I have decided not to repeat what exactly it was he shouted at me, but I found it hysterically funny, which only enraged him further. I busied myself with Rilloc’s care, telling her she could remain to give the Rohirrim hope or return to her nest in Veikai. She picked a spot just above the fortress tower and perched there proudly, surveying the land around us closely. The Rohirrim did seem to calm down from their frantic pace and take time to keep calm.
I found Aragorn (gave him a greeting hug, of course) in the armory with a little over a dozen of the Rohirrim, all finding armor that would fit them. I stopped short upon seeing the ages of some of the people. Most of them were extremely old or very young. Many of the young ones could not have been more than sixteen.
[Aragorn, what . . .?]
[Theoden has ordered for all males able to bear arms to find armor and join the ranks.]
As insane as it was, I understood Theoden’s concern for Helm’s Deep. I had done the same; it was how Istaq ended up facing the orcs that first day. Yes, he had volunteered, but I had not had the foresight to replace one of the city guards with him and bring the guard with me.
I walked past Aragorn to one boy whose mail hung off his small shoulders and knelt before him. He could have been no more than twelve or thirteen. “What is your name?”
“Asulai, son of Ashunai.”
“I am Kyshri of Lothlorien.”
His eyes widened. “Are you a sorceress like the stories tell?”
I smiled and produced a finch from thin air–it was a trick any elven child knew but one that fascinated mortals. The little bird fluttered from my hand to the boy’s shoulder. “I have such powers, yes. Do you fear me?”
Very taken with the trick, he considered it but then shook his head. “No, I do not suppose so.”
“Good. One should not fear their allies. Perhaps be awed or wary of them if you do not know them, yes, but not frightened of them.”
He gave me a long look, then leaned forward and whispered in my ear, “But . . . I am afraid. Not of you, but of the war.”
I smiled again and replied softly, “That is all right. Any good warrior is afraid of war; a fool is not. I shall even admit that I myself am nervous.”
“But you . . . Why?”
“Because as many battles as I have survived in my life, I must always wonder if the next will be my last, no matter its outcome.” I put my hand on his head as I rose, then thought better of my first decision to merely leave. Holding the boy’s gaze, I prayed, [May the Valar protect you.] then bent down and kissed his forehead. “Now the blessings of Elves go with you, whatever may happen.”
“. . . Thank you.”
[—They are all going to die!]
I spun around to see Legolas in a verbal match with Aragorn, who was not appreciative of the other’s pessimism. “Then I shall die as one of them!”
Silence fell over the room. Legolas, seething, gave no reply and stormed from the armory. I reached out and put a hand on Aragorn’s shoulder, drawing his attention to me. “Let me speak to him.”
He nodded and I stepped outside, where Legolas was glaring across the fortress, arms crossed. [Do not underestimate them.]
He whirled on me. [What is there to misjudge?! Fully half of them are too young for war! Most have never done more than hold a sword before!]
[Who are you to determine what they are capable of?]
[I do not need to be capable! It is obvious! Any with eyes can see it!]
[I will not fail them.]
That gave him pause. [. . . What do you mean? You are one against an army! An army of orcs, who care nothing for their lives if it will mean the fall of their enemy! How can you say that?!]
[I will do what is necessary.]
[You would let them take you and use you for their own pleasure? Let them beat you and trade you like a beast?!]
I had not actually considered that, but I was not about to tell him so. [If that is what it takes.]
His eyes became glassy. [You would throw away all I have tried to protect for men who will neither appreciate nor understand your sacrifice?! Who might all die regardless?!] Before I could answer, he struck me.
Taken by surprise, for I had not considered him capable of such violence particularly against one of his own race, my head snapped to the side, my neck aching in protest of the sudden movement. I left my head tilted that way for a moment, letting the sting in my cheek dull before straightening. Legolas was staring at his hand in horror and looked up in time to see my fist ready to connect with his face.
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!]
And the question(s) of the day is(are) . . .
So who really thinks Legolas would punch someone who wasn’t an enemy? Particularly considering that that someone was female? There’s no right or wrong answer, so go ahead and take a guess!