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Story Notes:
This has been a long work for me. I started this about 5 years ago and won't be done for a long while. 117 pages strong.
Korin's Journey Part I July 1, 2003
rev. Jan 29, 2004
Her horse shuffling nervously signaled to Korin that she had lingered for too long near the
tower of burning, reeking corpses. The flames that had initially drawn her attention earlier
that morning were subsiding now and the massive pile of bodies was turning to ash while
she watched, leaving very little recognizable in the aftermath. Without warning, the wind
changed its course and the full force of the stench of the burning bodies came to her,
causing an involuntary shiver of disgust. At her close proximity, the fires heat washed over
her, until she could feel the metal helmet she wore begin to scald the skin on her face.
Korin inched her mount back to a safer distance and turned away from the smoldering
heat.
Unceremoniously Korin pushed back the heavy silver helmet and drew her gloved hand
across her brow. She narrowed her eyes to block the wide ribbon of smoke that issued from
the ashes and without dismounting, reached behind her until she felt the smooth neck of
the water skin tied to the back of the saddle. She took a single unhurried draught and then
replaced the worn wooden stopper and refastened the leather loop that secured it.
Korin scanned the empty hills surrounding her and wondered how long she should delay
her quest here. Last night she had just situated herself to rest beneath the canopy of the
trees, when she had been woken by the sound of battle in the gray hour before dawn. She
had led her mount slowly toward the scene, hugging close to the side of the forest. For
hours, Korin had waited and watched in hiding. The men of Rohan had been swift and
lethal in disposing of the band of Orcs. And after they took care of their own wounded,
made fast work of piling the dead and burning their carcasses. Even from her secure
vantage point, Korin had felt the hatred coursing through the men as they viciously
skewered several of the Orc heads and set them up to announce their victory. The white
hand of Saruman adorning their helmets could easily be seen.
She had been glad to have the camouflage of the trees and did not for a moment let her
thoughts dwell on what she would have done if she had been detected. The horse lords
were known to her to be just and proud, but she was riding alone openly on their lands and
with no invitation. There was no disguise that could protect her here. It was a perilous time
she had chosen to ride through Rohan. They would see everyone first as an enemy and an
offer of trust could not be expected.
Throughout the morning, the clouds had thickened and it became difficult to see the time
of day, but the sun must have been at it's highest point when the men of Rohan finally set
fire to the mound of bodies and themselves rode away to the north. And then another full
hour had passed before Korin felt safe enough to venture forward to explore the scene
before her. Now there was indecision wrinkled upon her brow which was still well sheltered
beneath her helmet. Her next move was not clear at all. Korin knew when she had left her
home in the north weeks ago, that she had no real idea of where she would find the ones
she sought, just an ever-increasing feeling that it must be soon. She had reached the
dreaded crossroad of her quest. Her path had taken her past the Gap of Rohan and still
there remained no sign of her quarry.
An uneasy feeling was starting to bear down upon her. There should have been some sign
of their passing these many days hence. She had assumed that the party would have chosen
to come through the Gap of Rohan. But perhaps they could not risk passing so near to
Isengard. Doubts began to assail her as she allowed these questions to enter into her mind.
Had she missed their trail? Should she wait here or continue to seek them?
The oncoming thud of hoof beats stayed all of these questions for the moment and both
horse and rider jerked their heads in the direction of the sound. From what she could hear,
they seemed to be few and she wondered if the riders had sent back men to look after the
pyre they had created earlier that morning. Without waiting to count them, Korin turned
her mount abruptly and made her way back near the forest. She had little time to take cover
and gratefully found it just behind a large mound of stone some yards from the trees. Korin
knew once they arrived, she could not remain hidden for long. She looked to her side at the
beckoning branches at the edge of Fangorn, but the riders were now too close to risk
moving from her current place of concealment. There was nothing she could do but wait
and watch in breathless panic as the figures of the riders came into view.
It was beyond belief the sight that she beheld when the riders reined in their mounts. There
were two horses and three riders or at least two full-sized riders. Closely she watched them
as they circled the great pile of ashes and flesh. They had dismounted now and were
scanning the ground before them and were yet a short distance away. They seemed to be
looking for something among the bodies and it made her uneasy as she watched.
So much depended upon this moment for Korin that it was difficult to clearly reason. What
would she say to him? How would he hear this news from her? Years had passed since she
had last spoken to him, and so much had changed for them both. Korin took a deep breath
and turned away all of her anxiety. She should count herself fortunate to have found him at
last. With a sigh, she let out her breath and walked her horse forward to become visible and
then waited. It took only a short time for the three men to discover the lone rider watching
them. For what seemed far too long they stood and watched her and none spoke. Korin's
breath came fast and she fought to control her emotions. Everything she had ever known
and believed in now stood on the fragile edge of this long- sought meeting. She could not
allow her fears and uncertainty prevent her from stepping into her destiny. So when she
could no longer withstand the intensity she spoke, pleading with her voice not to falter.
"A man and an Elf and a Dwarf on horses of the Mark. I have traveled far as of late and
have seen many things, but this is a strange sight indeed." She used great effort to disguise
her voice, but still it sounded delicate to her own ear.
From this distance it was difficult to see the effects of her words. Korin waited briefly and
her patience was rewarded when Aragorn spoke and all at once a great flood of relief
flowed through her when at last she heard the familiar warmness of his voice.
"We have had words with the riders of the Mark and they have lent us these horses. I
would think they left a man behind to guard the fires, but I can see that your horse is not of
the Riddermark."
Aragorn had soon concluded to himself that this horse and rider were instead from the
North. The simplistic, once-black leathered clothes adorning both the rider and the horse
were seen solely in the Dunedain. The animal also was found only in the only in the North
with its dark gray coat and slightly smaller stature than the horses of the Mark.
"Why do you ride alone in Rohan and what is your business? The men we spoke to were
not eager to find outsiders treading openly upon their land."
His tone was not yet firm and Korin could also sense a certain weariness in his voice, but
the joy of finally finding what she had sought for so long overcame her wariness. She felt
the tension leave her and the hands that had been clenching her reins relaxed somewhat as
the familiarity of his face and even the memory of something as simple as the way he stood
came back to her. Korin carefully kept her voice lowered once again as she spoke to him
though. She could not restrain herself from discovering just how far her masquerade could
carry her.
"I can see that they were gracious enough to you."
Aragorn ignored her words. "We are searching for two companions we were traveling with.
We fear they were lost in the battle."
"You keep bad company when you look for companions among a pile of burning Orcs. I
believe I will bid you farewell and inquire no further of your business."
"Our two companions were not Orcs or Uruk-hai. But Hobbits of the Shire. Halflings if
you will."
Immediately, Korin felt admonished after learning the true reason for their mysterious
search through the remnants of the bodies. As Aragorn awaited her response, she took an
opportunity to wonder at his appearance. His clothes were slashed as with the blades of
many a sword fight and there was a look about him of pure exhaustion. She moved her eyes
from Aragorn to his traveling companions and sympathy filled her heart for whatever ill
had come upon this small band, for they all seemed to carry a weariness beyond
imagination. The Dwarf eyed her with suspicion and from behind the endless beard that
sprung from his face and the helmet that covered his head, Korin thought he seemed a
fearsome sort. One glance to the Elf revealed to her a bow and long-knife strapped over his
shoulder. She guessed his clothing to be the deep forest-green of the woodland realmKorin
had not yet dismounted and so they looked up to her now. She sat quiet and thoughtful
behind her mask and was about to reveal herself to them, when Aragorn spoke again. His
voice was even and expressionless.
"Are you from the north?"
"I am," Korin said.
Aragorn watched her carefully and questioned her again.
"Are your people those of the Dunedain?"
"Yes," she said.
"I am Aragorn, son of Arathorn and although it has been long since I have beheld my
home, I do not recall ever seeing you."
Korin was glad to be finished with this deception. Slowly she lifted the helmet from her
head to release a shower of long, dark hair that swept across her back and shoulders. The
face revealed was small and elegant, with features strongly resembling those of the Ranger
before her. "Perhaps you should not keep yourself away to such lengths, if you cannot
remember the ones you leave behind."
Behind their own astonishment, the Elf and Dwarf looked to Aragorn for his response. He
seemed to show no emotion though, or it was masked to such an extent as to seem so.
"I then must certainly beg forgiveness, for had I known what beauty grew in my absence, I
would never have strayed."
Korin set the helmet behind her on her saddle and stepped lightly to the ground. She was
still unsure of his response as she looked up to him. Yet before she could wonder to any
extent, Aragorn had reached for her and she was afforded only a glimpse of his grin before
he had swept her into his arms and placed a very rough bearded kiss onto her cheek. He
held her long and when he finally relinquished her, she peered into his face and found the
years had slipped away and he was unchanged from how she had remembered him to be.
As he released her, none could mistake the familiarity between them.
"You do not leave me to guess at your desire to see me then?"
"Behind their own astonishment, the Elf and Dwarf looked to Aragorn for his response.
He seemed to show no emotion though, or it was masked to such an extent as to seem so.
"I then must certainly beg forgiveness, for had I known what beauty grew in my absence, I
would never have strayed."
Korin set the helmet behind her on her saddle and stepped lightly to the ground. She was
still unsure of his response as she lookeKorin had not yet dismounted and so they looked
up to her now. She sat quiet and thoughtful behind her mask and was about to reveal
herself to them, when Aragorn spoke again. His voice was even and expressionless.
"Are you from the north?"
"I am," Korin said.
Aragorn watched her carefully and questioned her again.
"Are your people those of the Dunedain?"
"Yes," she said.
"I am Aragorn, son of Arathorn and although it has been long since I have beheld my
home, I do not recall ever seeing you."
Korin was glad to be finished with this deception. Slowly she lifted the helmet from her
head to release a shower of long, dark hair that swept across her back and shoulders. The
face revealed was small and elegant, with features strongly resembling those of the Ranger
before her. "Perhaps you should not keep yourself away to such lengths, if you cannot
remember the ones you leave behind."
Behind their own astonishment, the Elf and Dwarf looked to Aragorn for his response. He
seemed to show no emotion though, or it was masked to such an extent as to seem so.
"I then must certainly beg forgiveness, for had I known what beauty grew in my absence, I
would never have strayed."
Korin set the helmet behind her on her saddle and stepped lightly to the ground. She was
still unsure of his response as she looked up to him. Yet before she could wonder to any
extent, Aragorn had reached for her and she was afforded only a glimpse of his grin before
he had swept her into his arms and placed a very rough bearded kiss onto her cheek. He
held her long and when he finally relinquished her, she peered into his face and found the
years had slipped away and he was unchanged from how she had remembered him to be.
As he released her, none could mistake the familiarity between them.
"You do not leave me to guess at your desire to see me then?"
"Behind their own astonishment, the Elf and Dwarf looked to Aragorn for his response.
He seemed to show no emotion though, or it was masked to such an extent as to seem so.
"I then must certainly beg forgiveness, for had I known what beauty grew in my absence, I
would never have strayed."
Korin set the helmet behind her on her saddle and stepped lightly to the ground. She was
still unsure of his response as she looked up to him. Yet before she could wonder to any
extent, Aragorn had reached for her and she was afforded only a glimpse of his grin before
he had swept her into his arms and placed a very rough bearded kiss onto her cheek. He
held her long and when he finally relinquished her, she peered into his face and found the
years had slipped away and he was unchanged from how she had remembered him to be.
As he released her, none could mistake the familiarity between them.
"You do not leave me to guess at your desire to see me then?"
"Behind their own astonishment, the Elf and Dwarf looked to Aragorn for his response.
He seemed to show no emotion though, or it was masked to such an extent as to seem so.
"I then must certainly beg forgiveness, for had I known what beauty grew in my absence, I
would never have strayed."
Korin set the helmet behind her on her saddle and stepped lightly to the ground. She was
still unsure of his response as she lookeKorin set the helmet behind her on her saddle and
stepped lightly to the ground. She was still unsure of his response as she looked up to him.
Yet before she could wonder to any extent, Aragorn had reached for her and she was
afforded only a glimpse of his grin before he had swept her into his arms and placed a very
rough bearded kiss onto her cheek. He held her long and when he finally relinquished her,
she peered into his face and found the years had slipped away and he was unchanged from
how she had remembered him to be. As he released her, none could mistake the familiarity
between them.
"You do not leave me to guess at your desire to see me then?"
“No surprise it is that I find you here, cousin, but your traveling attire has been well suited
to you and has hidden your secret as was meant." Indeed, she did look like a slightly smaller
version of Aragorn to the others as they watched.
She felt at ease now and could not stop the wide smile that set upon her lips. How she had
missed this man, whom for years since her fathers death, had been the only family she had
known. The love between them was strong and this reunion brought to her the peace of
belonging that she hoped had endured through their long separation.
When at last he held her at arms length, Korin saw again a hint of despondency pass over
his features, although his warmth remained.
"I would press upon you the matter of our friends thatI would press upon you the matter
of our friends that are lost to us. They were captured from us at Tol Brandir four days since
and we have pursued them on foot until Eomer, Rider of the Mark entrusted these horses
to our aid."
She could sense the defeat and grief they must be feeling to realize that their friends were
lost to them. "I watched the battle in the early morning from the other side of the hill. Over
there." She motioned behind her to the north. "I came down only when the men of Rohan
had gone. I am sorry, but I saw nothing."
Aragorn turned to his companions, both the Elf and the Dwarf. "What then? They are lost
to us. They were captured from us at Tol Brandir four days since and we have pursued
them on foot until Eomer, Rider of the Mark entrusted these horses to our aid."
She could sense the defeat and grief they must be feeling to realize that their friends were
lost to them. "I watched the battle in the early morning from the other side of the hill. Over
there." She motioned behind her to the north. "I came down only when the men of Rohan
had gone. I am sorry, but I saw nothing."
Aragorn turned to his companions, both the Elf and the Dwarf. "What then? The hour is
late and already the shadows have lengthened, bringing to an end any light that would have
aided us in searching the wood. Shall we then rest until morning when we are better able to
find our way and what trace a Hobbit may have left?"
They agreed with Aragorn though it was the Dwarf who spoke.
"Although I cannot expect daylight to offer any more solace to those trees." He motioned
to the forest in an offhand manner, yet slightly underlined in awe.
Aragorn focused his attention back to the woman beside him. "My lady, may I present to
you Gimli, son of Gloin."
Korin bowed her head toward the Dwarf and gave to him a warm look. "My lord," she
spoke softly and looked down upon his great grizzled face and could not help but smile.
Gimli, immediately seemed uncomfortable in her presence and muttered something no one
was meant to hear. This had the effect of increasing her smile and she was immediately
drawn to his humble stature.
Eventually, he managed to find his voice, " my lady," was all that he said. He did manage to
look up at her briefly, but then just as quickly he became flustered once more.
Korins attention was then directed by Aragorn to the Elf.And this is Legolas, son of
Thranduil."
Such a simple introduction it was, yet his very words shook her. She looked sharply from
the Elf back to Aragorn, who had the shadow of humor on his face. He said nothing just
lowered his head in acknowledgment to the truth of his statement.
Korin could feel the color rising in her face and inside, waged war trying to keep her mouth
closed from astonishment. She returned her eyes back to the Elf, who to no surprise, had
the same shadow of humor on his face.
Korin could not stop the red heat that was encompassing her from her ears to her nose.
She lowered her eyes and willed her voice not to falter. "Forgive me my lord, I did not
realize-" She lifted her head to find the deep gaze of the Elf fixed upon hers and found that
she could not look away. Behind his eyes she could see the great depth of the years and the
pureness that was all of life.
He bowed his head to her and replied kindly, "My lady, may the friendship between our
fathers serve us as well."
Aragorn broke the silence that had fallen, "this is my cousin Korin, daughter to Hathor and
I am quite certain that we shall know soon why she is here."
"Let us stay here for the night then," said Gimli, "it seems there is much to say and I am so
hungry that I could eat even one of these trees."
"I wouldn’t say that in the company of them here, even at the edge of Fangorn," said
Legolas, "for they would not forgive you your axe."
The sun was setting far into the horizon and between the hill and the wood there was little
light left. Gimli peered cautiously into the trees which were now nearly blackened for lack
of light. "The warmth of a fire would be much welcomed, for already the night grows
damp. Could we not gather the dead wood on the ground? There is plenty to be found." He
seemed pleased enough with his plan and did not wait for reply, but began his work and
soon had a small, warm fire blazing cheerily.
Legolas stood resting one foot upon a stone and gazed into the emptiness of Fangorn.
"Celeborn warned us not venture far into Fangorn. I wonder what stories there are to be
told about this place?"
Gimli let his eyes graze steadily over the darkness that bordered them, but quickly riveted
his attention back to the light of the fire before him. "You will have a fight on your hands if
any of you think to drag me under that menacing tangle of firewood. I can see no good
coming from venturing into a place where we may not be welcome."
Aragorn came to Korin where she was busy tying the horses for the night. "She is a
beautiful animal. What do you call her?"
"She is called Avathar. She is young, but she is learning quickly." Korin patted the rump of
the horse and was rewarded with a soft whinny from Avathar. "And we have traveled far
together."
"It is a dark name for one so chosen."
Korin shrugged as if she had never thought about this. "She was a gift from Hathor. It was
of his giving. Perchance he could see the darkness of the time set for her service?" She had
kept her back to Aragorn while she attended the horse. A gesture of uncertainty on her
part.
"For the plight of our people Hathor has ever been blessed with foresight. Yet it has come
to me that even more abides with one born to his house."
Korin had kept her interest to the bags tied to her saddle, but stopped and straightened at
his words. "You have not yet asked me why I am here, my lord."
Aragorn beheld this woman, his kin, before him. Though it had been some years since he
had seen her last, he found her unchanged, save perhaps even more lovely. Age had also
seemed to increase the power of her determination. He could feel the naturalwarmth they
had always shared, yet he answered her slowly, measuring his words carefully.
"I thought you would tell me soon enough. And why should you call me lord? Have we not
known each other for so long that you need not address me so?" He smiled as he looked
down upon her.
Korin looked up at him, but her face was solemn. "Are you not lord of the Dunedain?" Her
eyes strayed away from his. "There is much that you do not yet know about my being here."
"There is time to speak of it," he replied.
"Aragorn, I would speak to you now, for there are things to tell you that I should keep
between us- at least for now."
Korin waited to see that he understood and then went on. "I have come to bear you news
of our people." Here she paused to regain her resolve.
Aragorn could plainly see her struggle, but waited beside her.
Soon she continued. "Do you remember how it was when you left us last? The men do not
understand this turmoil that is growing out of control. Our people seek only their own will.
Since father's death there is no leader. Again Korin paused only to find Aragorn’s face
saddened and stern. " I have managed to persuade some of the men to come, to join you in
the fight against Mordor. There are not many who are willing to fight, but there are some."
Aragorn looked grim still. "How many will fight?"
"There are thirty or so. Halbarad will lead them. And he is trying to raise more- even now.
He will ride forth with the Dunedain and meet with us shortly. He may already have
departed. It has been more than three weeks since I have left our home to bring you this
news."
Korin stopped and looked hard into his eyes for a short time. She reached to her side and
felt the leather scabbard that held her sword. She withdrew it and laid it across the palms of
her hands. It was small and light, and shone from a source independent from the golden
rays of the setting sun. She knelt upon the ground in front of Aragorn and held it out to
him.
"I have come to offer you my service. By Rilma, I pledge myself to you and every breath
that is left to serve the one who will be king."
Aragorn recognized the blade as that of her father. He could find no words at all to say to
this woman who pledged her life to him, but looked upon her in astonishment.
"You need not face this darkness alone. I have spent all of my life preparing for this day
and I will not turn away now." Korin looked steadily at Aragorn, "and I think you know
this as well."
Aragorn found he could do nothing but take the sword from her hands. He was lost for
words and for a minute stood mesmerized by its unearthly glow feeling the coolness of the
blade against his skin. He had always understood that his cousin had indeed been raised and
taught by her father for just this day. For as long as Hathor had lived, this evil had grown
across the land. Having no sons, he devoted his entire attention upon his only child. He
taught her how to read in the ancient tongues of Men and Elves and many of the now
forgotten histories of Middle Earth, even from the very beginning. He satisfied her thirst
for knowledge in the tomes of Rivendell and Isengard. And not only in writing and books,
but also with the sword. He taught her leadership and strategies of battle. From an early
age, it had captivated her and soon she had immersed herself in it. Hathor had never
directly told his daughter why she was learning the ways of their ancestors, but she had
always known that Aragorn had been born the Numenorean heir. She had never doubted
like he, that he would one day arise and reclaim the throne.
Aragorn was troubled now to think of his cousin and the days that were to come, but he
knew that she would not be denied. When he did finally find the words to speak, his
manner was thoughtful.
"You are right. I have also known for some time that this day would come. But now that it
has, I cannot find the words to speak. My love for you makes it difficult to assume this
service, knowing the danger that it brings onto you."
Without moving, Korin spoke, "Aragorn, no man alone can contain the peril that all of
Middle Earth is now facing. You cannot change it, only accept what will be." Her voice was
soft but insistent. At the same time she felt both nervousness for the position she had
placed herself in and a certain poignancy, for she did not doubt the sincerity of his words.
Aragorns hands were unsteady when he placed the sword back into the hands of Korin, and
accepted her promise to him.
“There is no one to keep you from this road and were he here your father would not have
stayed your hand.”
She still bowed before him. "There is no other place for me, but beside the one I love."
egolas and Gimli had not missed the exchange between the Lady Korin and Aragorn, their
friend. And it did not seem strange to them after all they had seen, that as the last rays of
light streaked down the trees, a lady knelt and offered her life in service to a Ranger. They
watched together as Aragorn and Korin found their way toward the fireside.
The company was indeed grateful for the warmth the fire provided them and all were quiet
for a time while food was shared and rest was gladly taken. It was Gimli who spoke first, "I
never thought I should be so grateful for dried meat and bread my lady. You have my
thanks. And the change from lembas, is very much appreciated."
"You did not seem to mind the eating of it these past days," Legolas reminded him.
"Yes, well it fills a stomach, but meat and bread have flavor to satisfy the heartiest appetite."
"I am glad you enjoyed it then, master Gimli," replied Korin.
The Dwarf leaned back onto the blanket that was to be his bed and propped himself onto
one arm, seemingly contented now. "Will you not share with us the story of your journey
my lady? And how you seem to know my good Elf friend."
"I will gladly relate my tale, yet I must first ask about your company. Is it true then? Was the
ring brought forth from the Shire of the hobbits? Is it indeed the same ring of Bilbo
Baggins? And where are the others? On the road I met with the sons of Elrond, and had
time enough only to learn that a 'fellowship' had departed Rivendell. I knew not who had
left, yet I had expected more to your company. Was Gandalf not with you?"
Korin saw all three faces before her suddenly fall. Gimli and Legolas looked to Aragorn to
explain and Korin could see that his story was difficult, yet she needed to know.
"Nine there was in our band, left from Rivendell. Myself and Legolas and Gimli. Boromir,
son of Denethor of Gondor, and Gandalf. And the four hgobbits. I have told you of a
battle at Tol Brandir. There Boromir was slain by the Orcs and there our Merry and Pippin
were taken by them. The ring-bearer and his companion Samwise, have gone down their
own path alone to Mount Doom.
"And Gandalf-" Here he paused and looked up into the black cover of night. "Gandalf was
lost to us in the mines of Moria."
t was good that the three were saddened enough by their recollection and could not see the
ladys bewilderment. The breath was struck from her with his words and yet she could
scarce believe them. Gandalf fallen? She did believe his words though and bowed her head
in respect.
"That is ill news you give me cousin." Although Korin inwardly had many questions, she
took his words to heart and pondered them long and kept her suspect to herself.
"How did he fall?"
"On our descent from Khazaad-dum there came a Balrog of Morgoth. Gandalf raised a
challenge and fell into the great void."
All at once, Korin found her breath again and it caused a great pain in her chest as she
sought to envision her old friend and the events of his passing. Doubt assailed her once
more, but she stilled further questions.
A great silence settled upon them, and for a time all were lost in private thought until Gimli
broke the awkward quiet.
"The ring now travels with Frodo and Sam, and we are left to find the others."
"Our journey has been troubled, and until now hope has been small." Aragorn caught
Korins eyes with his own as he spoke.
"But come," said Gimli, "I would discover how it is you know of Legolas."
"I have never had the fortune of knowing your friend before today, I must confess. Our
paths have never crossed, save for the bond between our fathers." Korin reached for the
scabbard laying beside her on the ground and slowly pulled the sword from within. The
blade was long and thin, as was the custom of the Elves. It was wrought in silver, save for
the hilt. This was layered in several shades of gold, woven together. In the middle there was
a crescent moon in the palest gold. Surrounding the moon, seeming almost to swallow it,
was a blazing sun in a darker golden color. It was the sword of Light. Forged when
Thranduil himself was young.
Legolas exclaimed upon its sight. "Rilma! You carry the sword of our fathers!"
Korins face was staid as she ran her fingers down the blade. "Hathor would not let its
strength die with him. He bade me hold it for him, in his honor."
"And now to war, it shall again be spent." Legolas could not help, but admire this
kinswoman to Aragorn.
"A tale of a sword is what binds you in friendship then," said Gimli.
"Not only the tale, but the sword itself. It had belonged to Thranduil since even I can
recall," said Legolas.
In the time of the wars between the Rhudaur and the Arthedain, my father wielded Rilma
and fought beside Hathor. In the midst of battle, Hathors own sword was broken.
Thranduil was himself wounded, but before he was taken off the field, he begged Korin's
father to take up Rilma."
All of them waited and Legolas continued. "After the battle, they traveled to the Dunedain
where Hathor tended my father. This started a friendship between the two that would last
until the end of their days." Here the Elf stopped and stared at Korin and his eyes were
strange to her, disquiet and reverent, as if finally he realized the very chance of their
meeting.
Korin met his gaze and he began again, seeming to speak only to her. "Out of their
friendship the two formed an alliance to keep at bay the evil that threatened their lands and
every year at the anniversary of the battle, a council would meet on a hill near the east of
the North Downs. Here, there was such a gathering of trees that encircled a great green
area. My people have always called such a hill a ‘korin‘ Thranduil had this place called
Kortirion, for this hill had so resembled to him the hill of Kortirion, in the time of the
Eldar.
By the words of my father, one year the spring came very soon to the land and the sun
warmed the earth earlier than usual as the time came for the council with Hathor and the
Dunedain of the North. And although the time for her to bear their first child was near,
Adanel, wife of Hathor attended with him. On the eve of the second day at Kortirion the
weather changed and a cold winter wind blew around the hill. It came time for Adanel to
bear her child. For two days she fought in her labors, but passed without ever knowing of
her. It is said that the trees there are still heard, mourning her passing in the gray winds of
an early spring." Legolas' eyes strayed to the small fire and he paused for a time as if
recalling some lost detail.
He looked again to Korin. "Here it is told me, by my father that he came upon the hillside
that next day, to find Hathor holding his tiny daughter and both weeping bitterly over their
loss. Then to Thranduil he spoke. ‘What man am I to have this child without mother or
wife?‘ And Thranduil had no answer for him. For a long while, they sat upon the hill and
when the baby slept, there came a quiet from the skies and the trees were still.
Thranduil told his grieving friend, ‘your daughter will forever have the solace of the trees
and they will call her their own. Our council has brought peace to this place and so may it
be with this favored one.’
But to Hathor, his words offered no comfort and he said, ‘Then will I call her Korin now,
and be thankful for that much.’
He took home his only child, and could not for his grief, ever return to Kortirion- and the
council ended." egolas’ voice fell off and for his silence was said more than words. His eyes
rested upon Korin and she was left to wonder at this narrator to her past. She was moved
beyond all else and could not properly reflect what emotion he had seized from its telling,
but for the depth behind her eyes.
Gimli spoke then, "how strange to never have met someone, only to find that they know
you so well."
In that moment, Korin was thinking just that and she lowered her eyes to her hands, but
not before she found the smile of Legolas. She felt the warmth of it course through her,
even while her face remained downcast. And never before had she seen anything so
beautiful in all her time and doubted that she ever would again.
Gimli slowly stood and extended his arms above his head and then toward the heated coals
of the fire. "We will need more wood if we wish for this heat through the night." He had
drawn the chance of first watch and so he departed in search of it.
Aragorn also stretched and emptied the contents of his long pipe into the fire. He watched
Korin for a moment and she returned his stare. A smile smoothed the creases from his
troubled face, and Korin was content to have brought some small peace to her cousin after
all. Within minutes he slept, but for herself, it was short in coming. She stood and ventured
to Gimli, gathering fuel for the night.
"The trees seem to enjoy your fire Master Gimli," she said. And they did seem so, bowing
their branches low over its warmth.
"I would think they bowed to you, my lady, after my friends story," he replied softly and
esteemed.
The words of the Dwarf were so sincere that Korin could not help but smile. "You leave
me without words, Master Gimli. I am not accustomed to such." She would get no reply
from Gimli though, as he pretended to stir the fire instead.
Korin bent to sit once more alongside the glow of the fire. Legolas also did not take to
sleep and he spoke now to her. "My lady, I wish to say that I am sorry for your father's
death. My people mourned long for him from my home, most of all Thranduil."
Korin could tell that his words were uncomfortable to say, but his condolences meant
much to her.
"How is it for the Dunedain, since his passing?"
"My people are no longer the people in the time of our father's fellowship. Perhaps it is
because of the ending of the council, but I think not." Her voice lowered even more now to
a whisper. "This evil plague of Sauron's is spread to all corners of the land." She did not try
to disguise the disdain in her voice.
"Even to the realm of Mirkwood, his power has laid waste. Wolves and Orcs have been
seen now on every border and they are closing."
How long will Thranduil hold there?"
"Much depends on the days to come." Legolas bowed his head again to watch the embers
of the dying fire. The light was fading from it, but still Korin could see his turmoil and
sadness. He looked once more upon her though, and she found her breath shortened.
Almost all light was gone now, from sun or from flame, and as he spoke Korin was taken
aback at the depth of sorrow she saw as the fire lit his dark eyes.
"Still, the Lady of the Wood did say to look for hope where it was not looked for. I wonder
my lady, how is it that you have come to us?"
Korin sat back and looked up through the canopy of trees and found the bare glint of the
stars in the black of the evening sky, and to Legolas she replied in the speech of the Elves.
"Long have my travels brought me. Over river and hill and plain. With no promise of
finding my lost kin. If no hope I can bring to you, then better had I stayed."
"I did not know you spoke the language of my people." Legolas did not seem surprised
though, and his voice was bright as he strained even his eyes to spy through the darkness,
but it was only the darkness that answered back to him.
"I should hope there are still a great many things that you do not yet know of me, my lord."
No more was said then and they laid and rested. But not before they woke Gimli again for
his watch.
No time had passed before a cloaked man, appearing to be stooped with age, emerged from
the darkness. This startled Gimli to such an extent that the others woke immediately.
"What can we do for you?" Aragorn asked, rising to meet the old man. Yet as soon as he
stood, the figure was gone and darkness was replaced. They heard a rustling towards the
horses and upon their arrival, found that all of them fled into the night.
Thoughts of Celeborn’s warning filled the thoughts of the three men. Could it be Saruman?
Caught in the peril of the dark, there was little else to do, but rest through the night. They
each took a watch and the remainder of the night came with no event.
uly, 7, 2003
In the clear cold of the morning Korin woke with a start. Had yesterday really happened?
Was she now here encamped with Aragorn and his companions? She looked to her side and
found this to be true. She let her thoughts wander back to the past evening and all she had
learned. Lost Hobbits and the ring went to Mordor. Boromir, son of the Steward and
Gandalf lost. Over and over again she pondered the possibility of the gentle Gandalf, fallen.
With all of her resolve she could not understand how he could be gone. She must believe
what Aragorn told her, yet then how could she explain her messenger. Her reason for being
here now. She sensed that Gandalf had been calling her to come away, bewitching and
insistent, as only he could impart. For two nights before her departure, she had visions of a
rider, white hair flowing with the mane of an equally white horse until you could make no
distinction between the two. It was the insistence of the voice that caused her to come to
Aragorn, telling her that the time had come.
Even the very vision taunted her. Like the wind was the voice bearing the message, leaving
only confusion and doubt in its wake. It was always this way, the visions that came to her.
Making good reason for Korin to keep them secret. And she would keep them this way,
until a time or cause was given to relinquish them.
She rose and moved toward the horses, but memory forced her to step back. Standing
beside the dying fire, she wondered if the others had considered that the horses seemed not
to be distressed at their flight last night. It was not as if they were led away, but of their own
will, vanished into the dark.
The others were waking now and though the sun brought no warmth, what it did bring was
light enough to see. Aragorn searched the grass beyond their place of rest and could find
nothing of the old man.
"A phantom that leaves no trace of footprint on the ground. It must be the work of
Saruman," Gimli said quietly.
"Whichever is the case, we may never know, " Aragorn offered. "Where now will we go?
Shall we go back and take the road through Rohan or risk the feared forest in front of us?
As finding Merry and Pippin was our course before, I say we chance to enter Fangorn and
find what we will."
Korin and Legolas stood at the edge of the forest straining for any sign to read from the
ancient trees. While nearby, Gimli appeared wary of every branch that moved.
"The wood did not stir as this in the dark of night. Now it has eyes that see, and ears that
hear all. Let it be said that I do not trust this plan."
Legolas tried to put him at ease. "I sense no good or ill from these trees, only a force, a
compelling power from within. But let me not dictate what forces lay waiting. It is Korin
who should accord for the forest."
For this morning, Korin had been grateful to rely on the others and their decisions. It had
given her time to ponder the thoughts she had earlier and could not yet still. She wondered
if Legolas did not feel the same unexpectedness that seemed to emanate from the
outstretched arms of the trees. Or was he hiding his doubts to soothe his friends' nervous
axe?
Korin returned her thoughts to the question at hand and looked to the Elf and then to
Gimli and said carefully, "my heart tells me that Fangorn holds many secrets. Though the
calm that has endured, is replaced with suspicion. I should guess we may pass without
event, master Gimli"
Aragorn wandered first through the sunlit borders, crossing into the warmth of the green
darkness. He glanced at Korin as he passed, and she was grateful that he seemed not to
notice how much the forest affected her.
She heard the sound of many voices that rose and fell together in a chorus, like an angry
troupe, barely checked and slowly gaining momentum. Although she had reassured the
Dwarf, Korin felt much trepidation and cautiously made her first step under the canopy of
leaves and twig. She felt the eyes of the Elf to her back and turned toward him. Without
speaking, Legolas said that he also went forward with some caution as he whispered to her.
"What force threatens to overtake here? There is a sense of expectation, like all breath is
being contained in waiting."
"I would not have this fear spread, my lord. Let us hope we may discover your answers
without harm to any here."
As Korin walked along, ducking and turning her way with the others, she felt as if every
step into the wood took her further from a life she would never recapture. In truth, she
welcomed this change. She had been estranged from her people for all of her life. Although
she had never felt like an outcast as Aragorn had at times, Korin could not help but sense
certain differences that were so evident.
From a very young age, Hathor had taken her any place his affairs took him. Later in years,
he would claim any opportunity to further her learning. All of her days studying and
learning the histories of Men and of Elves. Time spent in the Dunedain, while not abroad,
was filled with training of war and battle. Countless hours spent over maps and schemes
from the wars of her father's day. She had never recalled wanting anything else, though.
There were other daughters also trained in battle. And swordplay was common in the older
children as they yearned to imitate their fathers. Except for Korin, these daughters became
wives, while her training lasted well into her adult years. She had always accepted that she
would not be afforded this simple existence and it had never seemed a burden to her.
Korin's life had revolved around the time spent with her father, until his death just two
years past.
Korin lagged behind the others and stopped and turned. All that could be seen was a faint
glow of light from the forest border between her and all she was leaving behind. The cries
of the open wind upon the rocks and hills were slowly being replaced with a lolling hum
from the branches of the treetops as they brushed together in a concerted effort to capture
a glimpse of the sun. Without another thought, Korin turned again and concentrated on the
path before her.
They had covered much ground since morning, though the twisted branches and roots
slowed them. Aragorn did his best to distinguish the small footprints from among the litter
on the floor, but the tracks they found were already old, and some hours later they seemed
to vanish altogether in a small opening in the wood. Aragorn was at a loss. The rest could
see from his frown that the forest yielded no more clues.
Legolas found his way to the top of a wall of rocks that had created rough steps going to
the upper shelf of the trees. "Come up! The air is not so close."
Together with Gimli and Aragorn, Korin made her way to peer above the treetops. They
saw the plain and the tower of trees they had just climbed to come to the middle of
Fangorn.
Aragorn continued to explore the ground for signs of the Hobbits. The perspective
obtained from their perch still offered the company no evidence of their missing
companions though, and as it was, they made their way back down. As they came halfway,
they were every one stopped by the gaze of Legolas.
"Look- in the trees!," his voice hissed in whisper. He pointed to the figure of a bent, old
man dressed in rags approaching them quickly. Instinctively, the small group separated and
their hands went to their weapons. The figure drew nearer and seemed to move fast for
such an age. Each one watched warily and when the stranger continued at them, Gimli
prepared his axe.
"This stranger can bring naught but ill. Let us show our weapons and he will depart. Unless
he is more phantom than stranger."
Leglas fitted his bow slowly, as if the decision was difficult to make. Aragorn looked to
Korin and together they drew their swords.
"I wish to speak to you, my friends. Will you come down?" The old man broke the silence
and spoke in a soft voice. The hood of his cloak covered most of his face, but the point of
his nose and his long beard. His robes were gray and dirty, falling to the ground at his feet
and he held a wooden staff tightly in his hands. He made his way up toward them then, and
moving even more swiftly. He was in front of them now and spoke again. "What have you
to find here? Will you not speak?till, the old man talked kindly to them. He looked behind
him and paused there, as if to sit. As soon as he turned, the others relaxed their weapons
somewhat. But when they returned their attention, they saw the old mans' cloths part
slightly and noticed there were white garments beneath.
"Saruman! cried Gimli, his axe ready at hand and Legolas took up his bow once more.
Aragorn tightened his grip on the hilt of his sword, but Korin found the breath taken from
her. She fell to her knees onto the rocks and stood frozen watching as from afar, the next
events unfold.
"What have you done with our friends? Tell us or I will strike, wizard or no." Gimli raised
his axe and the men made ready to strike.
The stranger's hand went to his remove his hat and sent a shaft of light blinding all who
saw. The rags fell away to reveal a brilliant white that shone in the filtered sun from above
the canopy of trees. He lifted his staff and the weapons each of them held, clanged to the
ground.
"Mithrandir! cried Legolas.
His hair was white as snow and underneath his eyes shone bright and piercing. The
company stood in wonder at the sight of their lost friend. Yet the power they felt about
him, left them with fear and amazement.
"Gandalf. Beyond all hope you return to us in our need!" Aragorn’s voice faltered as he
spoke.
"Gandalf, yes. That is what I was called." And if he pondered this from his memory. "Yes,
you may call me Gandalf." His voice was merry now. "And so we meet again. The storm
will soon be upon us, but for now there is time."
He turned then to Korin who stayed still upon the stone, her head bent low.
Gandalf touched her shoulder. "My lady, you have found them." He smiled kindly upon
her.
Korin could not move. She willed herself to still the tears that loomed. He reached for her
hands and urged her to her feet and saw clearly the grief that he had caused. "My sincere
pardon lady. I meant not to cause this misunderstanding."
"Misunderstanding," she choked. "They said you had fallen."
Gandalf leaned close and touched the trace of the tear across her cheek. He spoke gently.
"And they were true."
Korin lifted her chin in childish defiance of his half-hearted apology. She was not yet ready
to forgive him. "And what is one left to believe then. Do we heed what is said or hearken to
what is not "
Gandalf raised an eyebrow at her question. "It seems that one should rely on their better
judgment in times of doubt."
She could almost smile at him and was glad at least, that his words did not betray her secret.
She rose then, and after a pause there was absolution.
Gandalf held her gaze and for a moment and Korin was overwhelmed by the strength
behind his eyes. No other heard what was said to her this time, as his lips never moved.
‘Time has come to cast off uncertainty. You must come to trust your judgment, for we will have need of it
soon enough.’
He let go her hand and turned to the others, watching with interest. Korin was thankful he
averted his attentions from her then, and she refused to meet Aragorns' eyes when they
searched hers in bewilderment.
"You have been searching for friends and their path has taken you into Fangorn," said
Gandalf.
They sat there, the reunited ones, and listened to the story of Gandalf and he, to theirs.
They marveled at the changes in the old wizard. No longer did age seem to assail him. His
moves were agile and he held such a power as to humble them all.
The company learned from Gandalf the impact of Sarumans treason at Isengard and the
hope of the ones to undo it. "Merry and Pippin are safe, I should tell you. They have been
taken into safety by Treebeard."
"Who is this Treebeard," asked Aragorn.
"He is Fangorn. Oldest of all the Ents. Oldest of all in Middle Earth."
"There is truth then to the old legends of the giant shepherds of the trees?" asked Legolas
in amazement.
"More than truth. They are gathered now, all of them to decide what their course should be.
Their wrath now overflows and the tide of it is turned to Isengard. They will take their
revenge against the one has wielded the axe."
Gimli quickly bristled at the thought of Gandalfs warning.
Suddenly, the wizard stood and spoke. "We must be gone soon. There are other matters."
"Shall we meet with the Hobbits then, and Treebeard?" Aragorn asked.
"Our path takes us apart from them now. To Edoras and the aid of Theoden the king.
Isengard has dealt its wrath to the people of Rohan and war will soon be upon them. We
should assist to them there." The old man rose and although somewhat crooked, his
command stood unequaled by man or king.
Next rose Aragorn to stand before them, a tall figure, stern as stone as he spoke. "To
Edoras then, and on foot, I suppose."
"Come if you will, but come now. The search for your companions is over. Gandalf the
White am I now, yet black forces still prevail. Each of you will choose now your course, but
quickly."
Legolas said to him, "Mighty you are now Mithrandir and to Rohan we will follow."
Korin had remained silent through all, and much had she heard that her attention required,
though now was a time for actions not thought. "You have my trust, dear friend, but to
Aragorn goes my allegiance. Where he should choose will also be my path."
Gandalf replaced his gray and tattered clothes then and together they descended the bank,
until again the grass was felt beneath them. But the long hoped for sight of their lost horses
was not to be found, and the plain before them was silent and lonely.
"A long walk it would be to Edoras." Gandalf seemed to speak only to himself and instantly
gave a long, piercing whistle. For a moment he waited and then was won the faint sound of
the whinny of a horse. And shortly the sound of hoof beats could be heard from the
opposite side of the ridge.
"Four horses do I see. There is Hasufel, Arod and Avathar. And a great white horse, the
likes of which I have not seen before," said Legolas as he looked to the ridge.
"The White Rider," whispered Korin to herself. Now she understood. Her vision-the hair
and mane and tail all flowing together as the rush of a river. "Shadowfax,” she whispered to
herself.
"Yes," said Gandalf. "He has come for the White Rider, to go to battle. He is the chief of
the Mearas, lord of horses." The animals quickly came to stop where their masters stood.
Shadowfax and Avathar stood close, their bodies touching, dancing together and when
Korin moved toward her bridle, the horse pulled back it's head. Once more Korin moved
to catch the reins and again her mount averted, each time rounding to the other side of
Shadowfax. He in turn seemed to place himself between Korin and Avathar.
Aragorn and Legolas were already seated with Gimli coming up behind Legolas, leaving
Gandalf and Korin to wonder.
"It seems that ‘lord of the Mearas’ is now preferred as master," said Korin.
"None can contain Shadowfax. He carries me at will. Should he not choose a mate then and
have care which he chooses?" Gandalf raised a hand and the muzzle of Shadowfax greeted
it instantly. Their bond shown to them all there.
"Korin, come here," he motioned to her.
She held out her hand to touch the face of the horse, stroking and speaking softly to
Shadowfax. She stepped closer and spoke then in words of old to him, proudest of all
horses. The great horse snorted and backed away. Korin reached again for the reins of her
horse and this time Avathar was stilled.
Korin mounted and then spoke aloud. "And to you Avathar, your betrayal is an injustice.
Whither will I find another to carry me?" Her voice was soft though and toned with mirth.
She patted the neck of her horse and waited beside Gandalf and Shadowfax. "Always at the
will of men," she murmured beneath her breath.
"At least we now understand last nights riddle," said Legolas. "They fled to meet their
master."
Korin had no time to sense any humor from the good elfs arrival.
Like lightning, Shadowfax broke the air and without urging, Avathar followed suit and then
Hasufel and Arod. They crossed the river and set a course due south. For hours their path
took them over field and bog. Shadowfax led the way through his familiar homeland, the
others trailing at a distance.
When the shadows of evening gathered they halted. For a few hours only, they took to rest
and all was silent, but the lament of the wind on the open plain. Gandalf stood to watch
and while Legolas and Gimli slept, Aragorn looked for Korin though his own weariness
was great.
He found her a short distance from them, watching the darkness of the land before her. He
knew there was nothing she was seeing in the black of the night and he wondered at her
thoughts.
"What words do you look for from the darkness, lady?"
Her response was long in coming and when she turned to speak he beheld the moonlight
reflected in her eyes. Her face was calm and Aragorn spoke again. "If I could ask questions
of you, would you be willing to answer me cousin?"
She smiled and shook away the tenseness. "I am sure that you could, my lord. I wonder
though, would you be contented with the answers you receive?"
"I am tired and have no wish of battle this night. Would you speak not in riddles, for I wish
to know much. Turmoil seems to come from all around you. You are at once the woman
that I left years ago whom I love, and then instantly filled with mystery. Tell me now what I
would learn. What of this silent misunderstanding between yourself and Gandalf?"
She looked to him now and though she was also weary, felt strength enough to begin an
explanation. Yet wondered how much she could tell. "Aragorn, when I came to you just
yesterday-."
Korin took a step away and again peered into the night. "There is so much that you do not
yet realize- and not enough time to tell-" her voice fell away and once more she turned to
him.
"It was Gandalf who brought me to you." It felt easier now having stated that much.
Aragorn listened intently.
"I had a vision of a rider in white. A haze of light and hair and mane flowing like a river. A
voice spoke to me, that of a friend I believed to be Gandalf. I I have ridden with him,
Aragorn, since Hathor’s death. We have talked much about the coming of evil. The days
that will decide." She searched his face and he seemed unsure of her words. "He bade me
come forth and find you. He was not lost in Moria and though I believed your words, I
could not stem my confusion. Perhaps it had not been Gandalf in my vision. And then to
find him in Fangorn. He asks me not to doubt, but-."
"You had a vision which brought you to me?" His amazement was apparent, but Korin
could not unsay what was said. Her mood changed now and suddenly, she was not afraid.
She looked up to Aragorn and was filled with a strength that seemed to emanate from
within. Quickly she seized it and held fast, without care where it stemmed from. She
breathed and still this fortitude held her.
"Do not pretend that you have never known. Always has it been so, though it is not
important now. All of these secrets I have hidden deep inside my heart. Hathor never saw
this in me and for that I am grateful. But you, Aragorn. I have seen it in your eyes at times
when you have looked long enough. Whether it is true, the tale of the trees at my birth I
cannot tell. All I do know for sure is that I do not understand it. Visions and feelings
-sometimes more of a burden than anything!" Korin gave a long pause and tried to change
the nature of her words. She shook off the tenseness and passed Aragorn a small smile that
told him there would be no more revelation this night.
" We should sleep while able and there will be another time to speak. I should be glad if
you should not trouble over my words. You carry burden enough."
The Ranger shook off his fatigue and carefully searched the face of the woman before him.
She reached up and kissed his bearded face and tread in silence toward the others, giving
him no more opportunity for dispute.
For a while longer, Aragorn stood and pondered what was told him, but in the end, he
could not still his own exhaustion and found a place of his own upon the cool ground.
The riders set out again before dawn. The waxing moon gave them little light to mark their
way, but the paces of Shadowfax were sure. And in its time, the dawn branded the new day
with a storm of red and blue, across the expanses and above the plain they rode. The sun
had soon shed a warmth upon them that lightened everyone's spirits.
The great white horse and rider paused then at the top of a flattened hill. There they saw
mountains to the south, tipped in white. The grassy lands where they stood, lay rolling at
their feet. Below the mountains ran a stream that gleamed golden in the rising sun.
Legolas shaded his eyes from the glare and scanned the mountains before them. "I see a
vale to the east and there are houses and buildings fenced all around. In their midst there
stands a great hall of Men."
"Edoras is it called and within, Meduseld, hall of Theoden, King of Rohan." Gandalf led
the others through the streams and rough, green ground that lay before the mountain-vale
of Edoras.
As they approached, they had to look up to see the great barred doors at the gate entrance.
Many men were gathered there. All of them dressed in coats of mail and armed with roughhewn
spears. There was a hard and distrusting look about the guards as they surveyed the
uncommon group before them, demanding from them both names and business.
"What brings you here strangers, in this time of unrest? No longer are any welcome but our
own. We have watched you from afar and never have we seen riders of your like. Strangely
clad and on horses so likened to our own."
It was Gandalf that responded and his tone was not so easy. "We have come seeking your
king and to speak to him of need. You may tell him that Gandalf the White seeks his
audience. With him are Aragorn, son of Arathorn, heir of Kings, and Korin of the
Dunedain. Also, our comrades Legolas the Elf and Gimli the Dwarf. We come bearing
horses that Eomer lent them two days past."
"I will go at your bidding, but do not hope, for times are grim." And the guard left them to
wait beside the gate. In a short time, he returned with answer. "You have leave to enter, but
any weapons you bear must be left behind."
They stepped down then and walked upon a paved terrace toward the stair's head. They
were greeted by Hama the Doorward of Theoden. "I must bid you lay aside your weapons
before you enter."
Each one complied then and laid down their gear to the Doorward. Legolas lifted off his
bow and long knife and Gimli laid down his axe. Gandalf set down Glamdring and Korin,
Rilma. Aragorn hesitated once more though, reluctant to part with Anduril.
Korin looked up then at the front of the hall and suddenly she was filled with panic. How
would she ever enter the company of this King of Rohan, without revealing herself? She
looked back to the floor, where were laid the weapons of her companions, and she thought
quickly.
"Lord, if you wish it , I will stay outside and look after our weapons."
Her eyes met Aragorns' and she willed him not to escape the meaning of her words, though
it was difficult to detect what thoughts had taken him at that moment.
He seemed to understand what she had indicated, but after consideration, he answered her.
"I wish you to remain with me." It was gruffly stated and in an offhand manner and she
took heart at least, that he had plans regarding her disguise. They followed the Doorward
inside and Korin was rewarded when Hama dismissed her with the same casual manner as
Aragorn had.
Gandalf was first to enter the hall and he leaned heavy on his staff as he walked forward.
Behind him came Aragorn and Legolas and Gimli. Yet behind them was Korin. She was
glad to be unnoticed, while they moved to stand in front of Theoden. Even from where she
was, she could see that he sat his throne with a heavy burden and was slumped with age.
The air was tense with their arrival as Gandalf addressed the King of Rohan. "Hail,
Theoden son of Thengel."
Slowly the king rose and with difficulty stood tall, "I will greet you, Master Gandalf, but in
truth your welcome is doubtful here. Trouble seems to follow you evermore. Tell me why I
should welcome you." Once more he sat down upon the throne.
Korin watched as the man beside Theoden spoke to his master. His face was gray as death
and he seemed as much to her. He was called Wormtongue and she thought it was indeed
fitting. He taunted Gandalf as he spoke to the king. Condemning him for taking Shadowfax
and his arrival of ill news.
When Gandalf had heard enough, he cast off his tattered robes and spoke in a harsh voice.
"Speak only what you know Grima Wormtongue or speak not at all. He raised his staff and
there was a roll of thunder. The hall became dark and the fire in the great hall faded.
Gandalf shone white against the blackened hearth. In the darkness they heard the hiss of
Wormtongue and then came a sound of lightning that spread from the hall. Grima
Wormtongue collapsed to the floor and hid his face from all in view. He scrambled like a
dog out of the hall and fled down the steps before action could be taken against him.
Once more Gandalf spoke to Theoden, "Counsel I would give, if you would ask for it.
Come away to look out the doors and into the light. Long have you sat in the shadows,
Lord of the Mark."
Theoden again lifted himself up and a light began to grow within the hall. He went with
Gandalf and the doors were opened. The wind came from the hills and whistled past the
walls and the hosts within. A woman came to Theoden's side and took the arm of the king.
She was regal in a gown of white and silver. Pale and fair was she, but also cool and stern,
her hair flowing below her waist in waves of gold. She looked with concern upon her uncle.
To all of them witnessing, Theoden seemed to shed his years before their eyes. Gone was
the darkness behind his eyes and his bearing returned until his shoulders no longer slumped
with age and lack of use. His very skin brightened once more as blood coursed faster
through him and revived his spirit.
"Leave us now, lady, I will care for him," said Gandalf
"Go, Eowyn, sister-daughter," said the king, "the time for fear is passed."
The woman walked away from them, but before she departed the hall, she turned and
beheld Aragorn. The light fell from the open door and rested upon her, where she stood.
Aragorn returned her stare for a moment. With no more words, she picked up her skirt,
and gracefully fled the room.
Theoden led himself to stand beside Gandalf at the door. The wind that gathered, seemed
to chase from the sky any lingering clouds, and sunlight streamed into the hall. Slowly, it
engulfed the Golden Hall and its coming eased the tension that had built around all who
waited.
"I doubted your welcome, but now wish it had come sooner, Gandalf. Too long have I sat
in confines. Strength returns to me now, though. Tell me then, what is there to do?"
They retreated to the throne once more and Gandalf sat at Theoden's side and spoke to
him of their need. Fast and low were his words that reached the king. Words none were
meant to hear, save Theoden.
Korin looked about her and wondered at the Golden Hall. She yearned to leave the
shadows and see closer the colored cloths upon the wall and the weapons and armor of
silver that flashed in the beams of sunlight. She checked her place though, and remained
behind all, slightly out of sight.
The service of his hall was then offered the weary travelers, but Aragorn declined.
"We shall not take rest, though we are weary. Haste is in need this day."
They did retire for a short time, to a room just off the hall. It was smaller and darker, yet a
huge fire warmed and lighted it. The woman, Eowyn attended the king and men came
bearing arms and offered shields and mail to Aragorn and Legolas. Gimli chose only a
shield bearing the emblem of the House of Eorl.
Korin swayed back toward the wall from the chair where she sat behind Aragorn and the
men passed by without notice. She wore still the helm that covered her hair and most of her
face. Entirely, her hands were encompassed in gauntlets too large for her hands and the
long darkened coat she wore concealed her slender frame.
Food and wine were then brought and the lady Eowyn brought the cup to all in honor of
the ride of Theoden. When she stopped at Aragorn her eyes were bright. Their hands
touched and he smiled upon her. Again Korin reached back toward the shadows of the wall
and gained solace there.
Aragorn rose and left her alone. He crossed the floor in order to speak to Gandalf and the
king.
Korin strained to hear what was said, but when she could hear none of their conversation,
instead contented herself with the plate of food before her. She kept her vigilance and only
when Legolas sat down before her did she dare to speak.
He approached the table and wore now the armor given by the king's men. Legolas had
chosen a sturdy leather vest that hung from his shoulders and down across his chest. Over
this, was his bow and quiver and the long knife that he carried. Replaced then was the cloak
of Lorien. She remarked to herself the difference of him.
How fare the shadows of Theoden's hall?" He leaned back also toward the wall from across
the table and spoke to her softly.
"A fine keeper they seem to be. So long as I can be unnoticed," she said to him.
"Are you certain your deception is necessary? Would it not be easier to let yourself be
known?"
He was genuine with his concern, but Korin knew better. "I know nothing of Theoden or
these people. I could not bear to be sent away or made to stay where I do not belong. Such
a time may yet come when I will cast off this disguise, but for now I will continue."
Such were her words, but to Legolas it seemed a great price to pay. He admired her for her
allegiance to Aragorn. There was never any choice for Korin, but to rise to her cousin's aid.
Though Legolas was left to wonder at its end. He sought for a glimpse of her dark eyes, but
only a flicker was found by what scarce light was afforded from the confines of the wall.
Korin pretended to eat from the platter provided, yet he noticed that her eyes constantly
surveyed the dim room. He spoke to her quietly again. "You pay great homage to your lord,
but will you ride even to war, my lady?
This time he was rewarded as she switched her eyes on him and though her face was hidden
from his sight, the bold gleam she returned him told him what she would say.
"My intention is to fulfill my service to the one that will claim the throne. Ever has this
been my object and desire.” Korins let her emotion fill her voice and while still quiet, it
carried her meaning well. “Our people have not fully forsaken the line of kings. Where now
only one stands beside Aragorn soon there shall be more!"
Korin set her eyes toward Aragorn for some time before she faced Legolas again. Now her
words were again thoughtful, though somewhat more wan. “I will not offer any apology for
aiding him, for surely my course will not falter now after all of these years.”
She attempted to smile beneath the shadow of her helmet and wondered at the boldness of
his question. Was it simple curiosity or did she detect a motive behind his concern?
The two of them did not notice for a moment as Gimli came before them and sat. "What
matters are spoken between friends in the confines of the shadows? Have you not heard the
call for war that you sit with smiling faces? Although, I will not fret over a chance to wield
an axe." He hefted his weapon then, but deposited it and the shield upon the table's edge.
"Will no one speak then? Must I listen to myself prattle about?"Legolas turned his still
bright face toward the Dwarf. "We were only just speaking of the same. A chance to ride
forth. If this will be the beginning, let us rise to it."
Continue to Part II
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Korin's Journey Part II
July 17, 2003
As the three sat, a call of arms rose from the great room and the men gathered together in
loud voices. Theoden went forth and Gandalf followed him. Aragorn looked to the table
and Korin and Legolas and Gimli also stood and came forward.
Their horses were brought to them, but without Shadowfax and Avathar. They rode wild
upon the open plain, coming only at the shrill whistle of Gandalf.
The others had already mounted, but Korin looked nervously to Gandalf. He reassured her
by handing her Avathar's reins. He bent toward Korin. "We shall try reason."
And then to Aragorn and Theoden he said. "I shall meet you on the morning of the fifth
day. If help will come, you will see me then." Gandalf grasped the bridle of Shadowfax and
communicated his need to the lord of the mearas.
Korin held Avathar's reins and stroked her neck. She spoke to her, though her words were
silent to all, save Gandalf. 'for only a while must you part. Carry me now for the time for war is near at
hand, my friend. Sacrifice for me and in the end you shall have your will to choose as you will.' Korin kept
her back to the men and bent to the head of the gray horse, stroking her gently.
She doubted that there was any among them who did not realize what was happening, for
they waited quietly amid whispers of the mare that would be chosen by Shadowfax and the
rider that would claim her. She mentally checked her clothing and all of her disguise and as
Avathar allowed, sprung onto her back. Shadowfax moved closer to her and casually
brushed his snowy, maned head against the neck of Avathar. This gesture was done with
care, yet Korin guessed that he could have unhorsed her had he any inclination. 'lord of the
mearas, protect one I hold dear as I will protect her for you.'
The two horses shuffled together for a time and then Gandalf lifted himself onto the back
of Shadowfax. He looked at Korin and his smile told her that all would be well. She forced
herself to return his smile through the sanctity of her helmet, but was, in truth, troubled by
his leaving. She wished him well though, and with a quick nod to Theoden and Aragorn,
Shadowfax sped him away across the plain.
Avathar reared and whinnied in farewell to her mate and Korin could feel the horses' flesh
beneath her shake with desire to follow him. She fought to steady herself in the saddle and
then the White Rider disappeared out of view. Avathar surrendered into submission for her,
and Korin was grateful to have the attention drawn away from herself at last.
With a great shout for the Eorlingas, Theoden raised the spirits of his men who followed
him on what was to be his last ride into battle. Emotions were high, as spears clanged upon
shields and voices rang clear into the air which was heavy laden beneath the unmistakable
air of war. "Forth to Helm's Deep," was the cry of Theoden. He shouted loudly and all of
his people were gathered there to travel to their northern keep. Among the Mark were also
all of the people of Edoras. They brought forth with them much as could be carried on this
treacherous journey through the hostile land. And none were left behind. Women and
children, and men, well worn in their age and unable to fight, walked behind or were carried
in litters. A great host were they, leaving Edoras to seek the confines of Helm's Deep and
the caves that would protect them.
Korin watched in amazement, the sight of the hold at Edoras, an endless stream of people
flowing from its gates. She looked to Aragorn todetermine his thoughts. It had been
difficult to convince Theoden to war, and in the end, Aragorn had voiced his concern of
escorting all of Edoras away to Helm's Deep. He still seemed to her, distressed by the loss
of precious time, for there were not enough men to protect such a mass. Theoden would
not be moved though, and Aragorn could do nothing more to convince him of their need
for haste. He must have sensed her eyes upon him, for he turned and cast her a questioning
look, as if he was considering all possibilities.
Korin's mood was anxious as she waited for the procession to begin. She would ride beside
Aragorn and Legolas. Out of sight from Theoden and his men, who were already too
interested in her earlier escapades for her liking. She looked once more to Aragorn and felt
as the men of Rohan felt at the riding of their king. How noble he appeared with his dark
head held high to catch sight of the caravan as it formed into motion. The high morning
breezes caught in his black hair and for a long time Korin watched him thusly. Kingly as
Theoden, Aragorn sat his horse and surveyed the line of wanderers and seldom had he
looked so bold to her. Pride for him caught in her breast and she felt a confidence in him as
never before..
No more could she distrust her reasons for coming to him or the course it would lead them
all. Her visions had foretold his succession to her. It should be as Gandalf advised. She
must come to trust in herself and, though much unbidden, also in her visions. The day will
come when Aragorn will be tried and through victory, will deliver our people. Never had
she felt this so strongly. Korin did not know yet what part she should have to play in this
future, but she promised herself that she would not fail.
Low and looming, the clouds weighted their departure. Yet soon they traveled from the
mountaintop and down onto the open ground. With every effort, the sun tried in vain to
break through the veil of gray, but instead resolved to sift through the clouds, changing
them at least to a lighter shade. All about them now was the grassy plain that swelled and
sank with the gentle roll of the hills.
Theoden sent men forward to search for any evidence of spies or followers. Every one
returned to him with no account. The rest of their company moved slowly and Korin
wished for a chance at conversation, but all around were the men of the Mark and she
would not speak for fear of attracting more attention. She felt their eyes upon her from
every direction, and so her time passed in silence, surveying their surroundings.
The sun climbed higher into the day and eventually forced through to cast a cheery glow
upon the ground. The mood of the host of people lightened and Korin could hear Aragorn
speaking with Gimli and the Lady Eowyn. Her laughter lifted on the air as they walked now
together. Korin spun her head around at the lighthearted sound of it and somehow it
relaxed her. She longed to partake in their revelry, but forced her mind away.
The riders were sprawled out upon the land in a more informal manner now, and Korin's
eyes were drawn to one far ahead. She recognized the brilliant, golden head of Legolas, as
he searched the hillside far beyond them.
Avathar showed her unrest and Korin gave her head to break through the other riders. She
relished in the freedom of being out of sight from them and chuckled at the antics of her
horse. She stopped beside Legolas and firmly checked in her mount, yet still Avathar
continued to shuffle her hooves and shake her head in disorder.
Immediately, when he looked up to her from a small grassy knoll, where he was standing,
she could sense that he was troubled. His eyes were narrowed to filter the sunlight as they
met hers and his vice was apprehensive.
"Can you not feel the earth trembling as we cross it?" And looked to Avathar. "She can feel
it."
"Saruman's servants could have already begun their march, I suppose."
"Perhaps," said Legolas. "But this moves faster than the march of an army." He sounded
sure now and paused again to listen.
Korin held her breath while he stood tall to view the landscape. There was nothing to see,
but the vast green before them and the endless train of people behind.
"It draws close, but is hidden from my sight." His face tightened in a frown of concern.
Now, Korin looked up to scan the hills and struggled to find words to subdue his
foreboding. "Let us pray that we may remain unnoticed in our crossing. Helm's Deep is
nearer now."
He looked once more upon the company as they traveled on far into the horizon. Legolas'
face was grave, and Korin longed to remove the helmet covering her face to assure him.
As if he had been thinking much the same, he said to her. "It is difficult to know who is
beneath the disguise, my lady, while your face is hidden from my view." His manner was
unburdened now, as he dismissed his former state of caution. He added in his own words.
"Far too long have the graces beneath remained unseen."
Legolas could not stop the words from moving through his lips and found that once said,
he could not wish them unsaid. He was in constant thought over this lady of the Dunedain,
since first he had beheld her. When Korin had first released her dark hair and uncovered
her striking, strong face to them at Fangorn, he had at once been drawn to her like no other
before. Now, while she remained completely disguised, his interest was fueled even further.
Korin would not turn his way, but instead took to heart the words of the Lord of
Mirkwood. His Elven phrase had disturbed her and caught her off guard, so she could
think of no ready reply. The greatest reason for her shock, came from her own response.
When his words reached her, she could not contain her heart from bounding within her
chest She knew she had not mistaken the meaning of his lowly spoken words. Yet there
should be nothing to hide from at his statement. It was a simple compliment. She had
received them before. Why then did his fill her with such a terrible, disconcerting lump
deep within her throat?
Abruptly, Korin shook off this feeling that threatened to overwhelm her good sense. When
Legolas spoke next, all of her doubts left her and once again she concentrated on this
breathless unexpectedness that surrounded them.
"I can not escape this dread. It threatens ever closer now."
She turned around in her saddle to watch the multitude of people streaming endlessly
behind them, wishing that there was something she could do to allay the gnawing tension
that was building. And then she seemed to see the next events happening as if she was
watching from a distance. She knew that what seemed like entire minutes, were but
seconds, yet it took forever to find her voice.
When Korin had turned to see the rest of the caravan, she noticed two men of Rohan
riding toward her and Legolas. The sun was caught between them and she could not clearly
tell who they were. She noticed one of their horses dancing nervously, as Avathar had.
In the instant that she looked back to Legolas, a great furred beast flew from the bluff
above the men of Rohan and had knocked one of the riders to the ground. Korin found
herself torn between leaving Legolas without a mount or riding to the aid of the man
already on the ground. He gave her a fast nod of his head and she jabbed her heels deep
into the side of her horse, leaping ahead to the direction of the other rider.
They were some thirty yards ahead of herself and Legolas, and it took only moments for
her to reach the men. She recognized Gamling as he slew the Warg. It had already killed the
man that it had unhorsed. Korin could see that it was Hama, the guard that had greeted
them at Meduseld.
An arrow rushed past her head so closely that she could hear it as it flew by. From his place
behind her, Legolas had shot the Orc where it lay upon the ground. Korin waited with
Gamling and watched as the Elf stepped lightly over the rocky ground to a higher point.
There, he began firing arrows rapidly into the onslaught of the other Wargs that were fast
approaching. There was no need to turn to see the advance of the rest of the men of
Rohan. She could feel the ground beneath her pound with the cadence of their horses as
they drew their swords and raced toward the sounds of the battle. Distinctly, Korin could
hear the voices of Aragorn and Theoden above the the rest
The alarm had been sent throughout the people and Theoden sent his niece, Eowyn, to
retreat to the south and west with those who could not fight. The Rohirrim continued their
charge and Korin drew her sword. With Gamling at her side, they rushed forward before
the other riders overtook them. She checked to be sure that Legolas had regained his mount
and then the Wargs were upon them.
All around her, the Rohirrim charged upon the beasts, but the Orcs were just as swift. The
beasts were large and it proved to be an advantage for their riders who easily unhorsed the
Men of the Mark. The Wargs' speed seemed not to suffer from their size. They snapped
quickly and took rider after rider, until shortly, the grass was littered with the bodies of the
men of Rohan. When it was finished, the Wargs had been stopped, although not without
great loss.
The remnants of the riders brought in their mounts and checked their swords on any of the
loathsome creatures that may have survived. Some of the men of Rohan leapt to the ground
to check on comrades fallen in the battle.
Korin was still far from the rest of the men. With a final thrust, she finished her opponent
and grimaced at the stench of the Orc blood upon her blade. She spun around and guided
Avathar through the maze of the dead and dying foes, toward the others. The sight of
Legolas and Gimli crouched upon the grass immediately won her attention. She watched as
they bowed long over the figure of a solitary Orc, who had been left for dead near the edge
of a cliff, many feet from the bluff where it had descended from. As she drew nearer, Korin
could hear the sound of rushing water and realized there flowed the River Snowbourn,
from the snow-covered peaks of Ered Nimrais to the west.
With a fast and heavy hand, Korin reined her horse, but did not dismount. Legolas stood
and stared up at her. In his hand he bore the jeweled necklace given to Aragorn of Arwen
as token of her troth, many weeks before in Imladris. Korin found her mouth open to
speak, but nothing would come. She watched as the Elf walked to the edge of the ravine.
The disgraceful laughter of the Orc followed him there, until death quieted him from his
wounds.
Korin knew what they would see- even before they turned and faced her. Gimli looked to
Legolas and then to Korin and she saw no light of hope upon his bearded face. She moved
her eyes to Legolas and the sorrow she observed there was like a fist thrown into her
stomach.
With her jaw set against them, she raced back between the slopes of the bluff, slowing to
closely inspect every body that lay upon the ground. Viciously, she drove Avathar into a
frenzy as she barreled around the dead men.
When Korin had covered all the distance between them and found herself again at the base
of the bluff, panic began to wash around her. With as much dignity as she could muster,
she rode back through the group of men and closer to the verge of the precipice. She
wrestled with Avathar to creep nearer the void, but the horse resisted.
Gently now, Korin urged her just near enough to peer over the edge. She saw nothing save
the sharp rocks of the cliff and the torrential current below.
uickly, Korin's thoughts sped over and over again, contemplating Aragorn's fate, until she
forced them to her will. When she looked up, she knew that all hope deserted the company
of men assembled before her, but she would not relinquish her faith. Momentarily, she
closed her eyes and taking a deep breath, she spoke to Theoden.
"How does one come to the bottom of the river from here, Theoden King? I would go and
search for my lord." She managed to keep her voice lowered and masculine, but to herself it
trailed soft and breathless.
"Your allegiance is well-suited boy, yet hope is not to come to your master this day, I
think." Theoden's voice was kind and wearied as he spoke to Korin. "Such skill and dignity
were possesed by the heir of Elendil, Aragorn of the Dunedain. Alas, he will not rise to
battle again."
Korin took a deep breath and let it flow in through every part of her. Her eyes closed and
she concentrated on cleansing her mind. Yes, the time had come to set aside this deception
as she would have need of Theoden's aid.
She glanced to the company of men around her and then fixed her gaze on Theoden. She
set down her reins upon her saddle, and pulled the overly large, leather gauntlets off of her
hands. When they were freed she lifted with both hands, the helmet from her head and
revealed to all ,her long-kept secret. Her hair fell once more to her waist in a stream of
waves. And even still, her efforts in battle had produced damp ringlets around her face,
which she brushed back impatiently with the sleeve of her coat. Gasps set forth from all
who now beheld the lady revealed before them, save from Gilmli or Legolas.
Korin warily returned the stares of each man there, her breath quickened and she
contended within herself to control her speech. She spoke now to Theoden once more.
"Korin am I, daughter to Hathor and cousin to Aragorn of the Dunedain. Please forgive my
deception, my lord Theoden. I have traveled far to serve him and I would do him no honor
should I leave here without knowledge of him, alive or else. Surely, you would not deny me
this request?"
The king showed no surprise as Korin revealed herself to him. Instead, he tried with great
difficulty to make the woman understand the futility of her chase.
"My lady, there could be nothing but death to have fallen to such lengths. I am sorry for
your loss, but haste is needed as we have already been delayed for too long a time. Your
deception is forgiven you and I pray that you will take what condolences may be offered for
the grievous loss of your kindred." His manner was courteous and kingly as could be
expected and he bowed his head in respect to Korin when his plea was finished.
Korin made no reply, but lowered her chin to rest upon her chest and caused a landslide of
silken strands to shade her face from view. She would not leave here without knowing for
certain the fate of one who was as much a brother to her. How would she convince the
king, and all those in doubt, facing her now?
Deliberately, Korin raised her head slowly and keeping her eyes fixed fearlessly upon
Theoden, spoke evenly. "Master Gimli, would you please ride with Theoden and his men to
the confines of Helm's Deep?"
And then to Legolas she asked just as carefully, "Will you come down to search the
riverbed with me, my lord? For I fear I have not the strength alone to carry..." Almost, her
voice faltered with her last words, but she valiantly tossed back her head to disguise the fear
and emotion that threatened to engulf her.
Theoden tried once more to dissuade her. "My lady, you must cast off any false hope and-."
"Theoden!" Korin was fervent and had lost all control and was broken, even past the point
of reason. Her voice exclaimed her impatience and intolerance.
"I have heeded your words. Now I beg you, heed mine. I will not leave with you while one
whom I love lies in need, however great the risk. I will learn from you now the path to take
down to the river or I will ride this horse over the side, here before you!" Her consternation
rose with each word until her breath came in heavy bursts and her eyes struck Theoden,
emblazoned with her demands.
There was a long pause while the king weighed her words. He glared back at Korin with a
fierceness that nearly caused her to waver, but she held her head even higher to contend
with her cowardice. Gradually, Theoden changed his manner though, and finally he could
not begrudge her wishes. Still, he spoke coolly to this woman who dared to challenge him.
"One mile north, you will find a crevasse that your horses may climb down from, I should
think." He breathed deep and lightened his harsh glare somewhat then. "I should not hope
to find what it is you seek though, lady."
His words fixed on Korin a great tide of grief that threatened to rush forth. Angrily, she
thrust the impression of his words away from her. She would choose to hold to her
convictions and would not entertain any other possibility.
She turned her horse to check Legolas' response to her request. He was waiting for her,
mounted and ready. Gimli looked up to Korin and although his countenance was grim as
the men surrounding her, he made no move, but stood his ground beside them. He had no
words to depict his grief for another lost comrade. Although, Korin thought she may have
glimpsed some small measure of faith remaining beneath the crease of his brow.
Avathar pranced and spun upon the ground, feeling the heaviness of mood from her
mistress. Korin gained control and looked to Theoden who spoke to her again, but this
time his demeanor was gentle.
"May fortune go with you, daughter of the Dunedain, and bring you swiftly and safely to
Helm's Gate, for any battle fought would be faster won by the skill the two of you would
bring."
Her path was clear now, and so was it also from within. She reached down and called on
what courage was left to her and looked with favor upon Theoden. Korin vowed to him
calmly with her last words.
I would bring you three."
Abruptly, she yanked at her reins and darted past them all, and gave no sign to Legolas.
Korin's Journey Part III
July 27, 2003
Legolas needed no prompting from the woman riding before him. She had thrown all
caution aside as she furiously sped beside the cavernous crack in the land. Arod fell into
paces promptly and Legolas briefly glimpsed Korin at his side. She did not return his glance,
but kept all attention riveted toward the point where Theoden told them the easement to the
river would be. He watched her as one possessed, the racing wind caught her hair and cast it
behind her like a darkened cloud. Korin's face was set as hard and sure as any man he had
ever seen, and although Legolas feared for the fate that would await them at the river, he
would say nothing. He set his own eyes with vigilance to the rolling hills around them,
spying for any sign of the enemy.
Korin slowed her speed slightly to better sight the trail they would take to their descent.
Legolas moved beside her, but could obtain no clear vision of her emotions while her face
remained unmoved. When he again looked forward, he spied an indent into the side of the
cliff. Its edges were bare and muddied. Without a word, he pointed in the direction of it.
Korin looked back at him now for the first time. Her pallor was pale and gray, and all life
seemed drained from her usual spirited facade.
She drove onward and bounded ahead of him again, until she was at the neck of the ravine.
Avathar knew instinctively of her intent and sharply veered down the wide path, barely
breaking her swiftness. Legolas proceeded with more prudence. It could prove ill for them
to be detected here away from any aid the men of Rohan could proffer. Korin reached the
ground beside the river and hesitated to peer in either direction.
"What would your eyes have to tell us, my lord?"
Her manner was impatient, but Legolas reached over and grasped her reins to prevent her
from fleeing. Gently, he spoke to her, for he reasoned Korin was beyond concern for safety.
"My lady, let us move forth with care. At the water's edge we are open to be seen. From
here we can walk and better see any trace of his fall."
As he spoke, he looked down the riverbank in the direction, they had just ridden. He
returned his gaze to the ground though, because he could not bear to look upon her grieved
face. Her hands relaxed on her reins somewhat and she also scanned the riverbank, back
toward the battle scene. Legolas watched as she struggled with her thoughts and then slowly,
she slid to the ground.
Korin stood still as she stared at the way they would now take, and compelled herself not to
give in to this sudden dread that threatened to gain control over her ability to move. Ahead
of them, the Snowbourn wound it's way east, the current coming directly from the mountain
snow, flowed wide and swift, cutting great walls from the exposed soil and stone. Where the
two companions stood, they could hear the rushing sound behind them, but gradually it
eased the further they walked on.
Progress was made slow by the low brush and fallen trees that blinded the path from them
as they led the horses deliberately atop the sandy shores. Korin's face remained downcast,
scanning water and land, silently pleading for sight of any clue to continue their search.
Beside her, Legolas forced himself to survey the same landscape hoping to see what she
could not. Yet continually, he found his eyes searching Korin instead. Inside, his heart ached
for her pain and his own as well. So unusual to him were the losses sustained since joining
the fellowship. At times, he could not breathe, for the sadness was so intense it consumed
him But also, it brought to him more depth than he had experienced in his entire existence.
He had not intended this course of grief and loss of the mortal men, but neither would he
prevent it. The friendship between Aragorn and himself had been long lived and Legolas
would not now take back the years. He had learned this value from Thranduil. His father
ever bore the love of Hathor. Even past his days on this earth. Legolas often heard him
speak of his friend and the memories of their time together. But so much more than friend
was Aragorn to Korin. And the loss of kin, Legolas knew, he would never need endure.
The Elf found himself continually wanting to reach out to her and even once stopped his
hand from doing so. Legolas called from inside to the powers of his home and silently asked
for deliverance for Korin.
She in turn, could feel his eyes on her and sensed what he was feeling, but could not for
lack of words, look upon him. She fought her own battle inside. Her breathing was
increasing as they led the horses further upstream toward the place of Aragorn's fall and
panic was welling for what would be found. What hope remained seemed to come and go
like the flicker of a dying candle, and a hysteria she had never before experienced crept upon
her now?
Legolas stopped beside her and bent forward to peer into the distance. Korin watched the
slight widening of his eyes and in an instant knew his reasons. With a heavy feeling of
foreboding she willed her eyes to where his rested. There upon the shore stood a horse,
shaking nervously, but standing firm beside the prostrate body of Aragorn. He was lying half
out of the water. his face against the sand, unmoving.
Korin was frozen and could not muster courage enough, to satisfy her legs’ desire to run to
him.
It was Legolas who first moved. Gently, he pried the reins from her hands and left both of
them to drop to the ground. His light feet stepped surely over the rocks and trees between
them and the man lying by the river's side. Korin felt somewhat detached from the situation,
as she watched Legolas bend over the body of her beloved Aragorn.
"He breathes still," said the Elf, as he tentatively, but speedily turned the unconscious body
onto its back.
Korin let her eyes rest only on Legolas' as she heard him. Her breath came faster now and it
took some moments before his words reached her understanding. Without her noticing,
Korin's legs had moved her to where Aragorn's motionless body lay.
A great pain gripped her chest and she fought to control her breathing, but could not. She
stood above them both and pressed her hand below her bosom, to still the pain of the
emotions that threatened to rush forth. Ashamed, Korin turned aside to quiet the great
gasps that were released. But in the end, relief and torment together claimed her body, and
she could stop neither. Legolas rose and stood before her, but still her sobs endured.
With great travail, Korin contended to bring herself back from her labored breaths, but
found she could not for her disgrace, meet Legolas' gaze. When she spoke, her voice held a
meekness as it never had.
"I have been alone for so long." It was offered as her only explanation for her vulnerability.
Her face was hidden from his view by the smooth veil her hair created between him and her
bowed head. This time though, Legolas would not check his hand. He gradually lowered it
to her hair and cupped his fingers to gently draw it back to look upon her. He understood
now this woman's fear as she openly bared it to him and his voice held warm and strong.
"You are no longer alone, my lady."
Korin resisted the urge to start when his hands brushed her hair. She could feel the warmth
of his hand beside her cheek and she moved her head toward him at the pressure of his
touch. Her eyes were wide as they were held by Legolas' pensive gaze. And shortly her gasps
subsided and her breathing steadied.
Movement from the man at their feet broke the contact between them. Immediately, it
brought Korin back to herself and dispelled almost all evidence of her upset. She stooped
down, and for the first time put her attention upon Aragorn. She took note of his position
and felt the entire length of his limbs for any trace of harm. She was astounded at the
soundness of him. But for a large gash upon his arm, he had no other injuries. And all at
once, true hope began to renew in her mind. It shone on her face when she turned toward
Legolas. And only a slight shaking remained in her voice.
"Go to Avathar and bring to me the smallest of the leather bags you find there."
Fast, he returned with a worn, brown leather bag containing bandages and leaves of herbs.
As Legolas handed her the bag, he caught her eyes and passed her a small warm smile that
made Korin feel much more calmed. He crouched across from her on the other side of the
man she was tending.
Her hands were once again steady as her fingers worked deftly to tear away the sleeve, from
where it clung to the wound. She rose and walked to the river to wet a cloth which she used
to wipe clean the gash in Aragorn's arm. She picked out from the bag a few of the leaves
from inside and put them in her mouth. She chewed the leaves until they were torn and
moistened and then she placed this poultice onto the wound. Then she withdrew a ball of
cloth and unwound this and fashioned from it, a bandage for his arm.
During his treatment, Aragorn moved only when Korin tightened the bandage. Then he
swung his head, from side to side and murmured words of no understanding to them.
When Korin finished, she looked to Legolas and he spoke with the same slight smile he
had given her only before.
"I have never acquired a healing hand, as should be with my people."
Korin placed her cool hand upon Aragorn's moistened brow and then turned to Legolas
again. "Hathor has told me of my mother's healing and he believes I have her skill."
"Its power belongs only to the line of Numenor," said Legolas.
"I heal only out of the desire to do so."
Behind him, Legolas heard the horses stir and instantly he stood and became alert to their
precarious position once more. He moved slowly toward the animals to keep them calm and
when he had them secured to the bushes next to them, he helped Korin move Aragorn.
Together, they propped him against the slope of rocks above them.
"Can we risk a fire?" Korin then asked.
Legolas searched the shores with his keen eyes and waited another moment before
answering her. "The coolness of the water will not speed his healing and we have no heavy
coverings to keep him warm." He motioned with his head to Aragorn.
They gathered wood and soon had a small warmth created for them all. Evening was swift
approaching, and before a camp could be made, a fire would be needed for light as well. A
thin crescent moon cast its glare upon the rapidly moving river and made all shadows seem
to dance incessantly.
Korin walked to the river to rinse the blood-soaked cloths she had used, but Legolas put his
hand on her arm to stop her.
"Better to bury them than send the scent of blood downstream." He took them from her
and buried them away from their camp and the horses.
Korin knelt and dipped a small cup for water into the river and returned to Aragorn's side.
She tried to wake him enough to get him to drink, but he would not stir. He seemed to rest
more at ease though now, warmed by the fire.
Nearby, Legolas sat upon the ground and took from a cloth, pieces of the Elvish waybread
and offered Korin a measure to ease the hunger that they had not satisfied all of that day.
She took it gratefully. And soon after her appetite was satisfied, she felt the weight of the
past hours press upon her. Korin felt physically drained, but she knew sleep would be no
part of this night.
"I shall tend to Aragorn and watch first," she said. "You should rest, for tomorrow- we will
need much strength."
As Korin's words trailed off, Legolas noted the dark shadow that lingered on her face.
"Rest for now I will, yet you must also take some before morning yourself, my lady."
Through her weariness, Korin smiled at his words and promised to wake him.
Shortly, Korin heard his breathing slow, and was grateful he should sleep. She reached for
her bag once more and removed more cloths. She tried not to make a sound, as she went to
the river and stooped to wet them. Before she returned with them though, she removed her
heavy coat and shirt. Underneath, she wore a thin white bodice that contrasted soft and
feminine beneath her harsh soiled overclothes.
She closed her eyes and wiped away the heat and dust of the day. And the cool water
brought back a small portion of her ability to cope with the events transpiring before her.
Deliberately, she drew the cloth over her neck and arms where she had bared them. Korin
ran her wet fingers through her hair to comb out the tangles and then stood again and with
her hands to her back, stretched backwards to ease her tensions and fatigue. For another
minute, Korin stood by the water, mesmerized by the light dancing atop the waves. And
when she came again to Aragorn's side, she felt refreshed as she applied the cloth to his
forehead and face. The fire needed to be tended as well and Korin settled herself on the
ground beside her patient and poked at it to fuel the flames once more.
Tired as he was, Legolas could not easily take rest and instead thought of the time since the
company had left Edoras. He mused over the image of Korin revealing herself to Theoden,
amidst the bodies of the wolf-riders and men on the battle ground. The Orc and the
necklace he had discovered and the realization of Aragorn lost to them. And then their
recent descent to the river in search of him.
Before long though, his consciousness slowly left him and somewhere between dream and
wake, he glimpsed a vision of a beautiful woman bathed in blue and silver rays of moonlight.
With a struggle, Legolas wrested himself from the dream to apprehend what he saw was real
and before him. Her skin and dark hair glowed from the light reflected off the river where
she bent to the water. The slow motions of her arms as they were raised and put through her
hair, enchanted him, until he was sure that she would detect his stare. He tried to keep his
breathing even, but with every move she made, this took more control.
He noticed where her skin was moistened. It glistened with even more light. She reached
back her head and drew the cloth down the graceful curve of her neckline and Legolas
turned away his long gaze. But only for a moment. He looked again to see her stand and
stretch, her long, shining hair falling almost to the ground.
The moonlight came between himself and the woman and engulfed her in a radiant, blue
light. He could not mistake any detail. The curve of her neck and bared shoulders. The
shadows in the hollows of her cheeks and eyes. The elegant movement of her hands.
Legolas blinked his eyes and felt he should blame this vision on an exhausted dream, but he
knew this woman to be sure. And from within he felt a yearning as he had never known. He
had no time to explore this vast feeling though, for she was leaving the edge of the water.
With great constraint, Legolas slowed his breathing before Korin took her place beside
Aragorn. For the first time he had ever known, he wished to close his eyes to sleep. Yet
when sleep was finally granted him, and he lay unmoved in his dreamlike state, the vision of
the woman in the moonlight followed him there, as he knew it always would.
It was remarkable to Korin how peaceful the night seemed once the sounds of the day
faded. Even the fire was subdued to a mere glow of embers now. How many hours had it
been since she had watched? The moon was above and north now and Korin figured it was
maybe three. Just long enough to begin to nod her head in weariness, she expected.
She was given no more time to contemplate this though, for Aragorn moved beside her
now, in a state of feverish delirium. Although he felt to Korin, cool and dry, he moved his
head from side to side and again mumbled words she could not discern. She was able to
assist him in sipping some water from the cup she provided, but his eyes remained closed
and his face vacant.
"Aragorn," she spoke softly, but firmly to him, "come back to us. We are here with you."
Her words, she whispered in the Elven tongue to him. Korin lifted his head and set it to rest
upon her legs while she brushed his hair back with her hands, in compassion. Her motions
woke Legolas, who spoke of his concern.
"He seems worsened. Is there nothing more you can do for him?"
"I have done all there is. He contends his desire to heal himself now." With a sigh, she
added. "Burdened by his past and fettered by his future, yet he must believe in his fate."
"How is it that you come to have more hope in the reclaim of the throne, than Aragorn?"
His words were meant to be light, but Korin received them genuinely. For a short time she
sat pondering his question, eyes averted to the firelight.
"I have always seen this day when white sails will unfurl and the great ships bear my lord
from the land of Mordor to the White City, where he will restore the kingdom there. Over
and over, this has been my vision until I could no longer cast it aside as naught but a dream
of hope." Korin could not identify her reasons for speaking to him of this, but by some
means, she trusted him to understand.
"Aragorn does not know this." He spoke this as a statement to her, not a question.
"My people are no longer what they once were. I have been taught by my father to honor a
way that has not been accepted for many generations. I cannot explain why I have held so
fast to my father's beliefs or why he has always recognized what must be. In the past, this
has brought much confusion to me. But this I hold to. He will be the one to raise again, the
honor of Numenor."
"This is your place then? Your destiny? To assist him in redemption."
Korin only shook her head at his query. Legolas asked her again. "Is your course
appreciated by the Dunedain or does Aragorn alone understand this?"
"I do not fully understand this myself, how could I expect him to understand also?" Korin
relayed his question back to him. "He has been gone long from our home and in some ways
does not realize how our people have become."
Legolas listened to her and then dropped his own eyes down to the fire. "It is this way with
my own people also."
Korin looked away for a second to soothe Aragorn with the cloth she still held, but
returned her attention back to Legolas as he spoke once more.
"Even Thranduil has no clear vision of what will come. Some of our people have already
taken to the ships, but many vow to stay until the end. The threat has overtaken our borders
on the south and west and our strength alone, will not subdue this threat."
Korin felt unsure asking what she desired to know from him, but spoke nevertheless. "And
you my lord, at the end of the age, will you linger on these shores or seek the solace of
another?"
"I have seen many fair sights in Middle Earth, and to take more years to explore them
would be my hope. But alas, the lady of the wood sent message with Gandalf. Bidding me
warning, should my ears hear the call of the gulls."
His face was far away as if he had just comprehended his chances of seeing what he still
wished to see, but then his gaze rested again on Korin and he smiled in an effort to lighten
the air. "Much has needs to pass before I will entertain such thoughts as these."
Korin also smiled again and pushed from her mind all matters that were too dim and distant
to foresee.
"Will you take no rest for yourself, my lady?"
Instead of answering him, Korin spoke of Aragorn. "There is no sign of fever, no other
injury. He should have wakened."
Lowly to herself, Korin mused. "Perhaps another lady would have effect, where I cannot."
She paused for a moment to gently stroke Aragorn's bearded face with the back of her
fingers. Then Korin began to sing faintly to him.
Legolas expected her words to tell of her fear for him and her desire to see him rise again.
Yet the soft, elvish words she chanted were not for Aragorn. He listened intently and closed
his eyes as the lilting chant inspired images of his own home.
"High overhead, the stars in their brilliance
Quiet to those who seek their guidance.
Deep into the evening her love lies wounded.
For all Imladris shines its own star,
Beloved of her people, Evenstar.
Across the distance, will your love rest,
Upon the one whose heart is lost?
Evenstar! Evenstar!
Your touch to heal a wound forsaken.
Fast before the dawn comes breaking"
As she fell silent, Korins’ eyes closed in prayer that her words were heard by one who could
cast this veil of depression from her cousin. Quiet as her singing had been, she knew
without doubt that her companion had heard her words. Yet her need of them had been too
great to fear their consequences.
Legolas did not speak soon. Instead he watched the orange glow of the charred wood as it
pulsed with the mild breeze that reached them from the waters' edge. His mind worked to fit
together pieces to this puzzle that had challenged him from their first meeting.
He had always thought that what his father had told him regarding Korins' birth at
Kortirion, was said to comfort the grief of an old friend. There was something more to her
song than lament. With no mistake, Legolas had felt her words slip into the night and drift,
as real as if they had been a physical thing one could almost touch. Also, they were intimate.
It was as if Korin knew exactly what she was saying and that she would be heard.
"You have called upon the graces of Arwen Undomniel before, my lady."
"Her interests follow the same path as mine and so she has sent with me her blessing."
To Korins' wonder, Legolas said no more. He seemed to find the answers he had sought.
And she was glad for having no more questions about the occurrence. Yet when she relaxed
once more to see to Aragorn, her throat constricted and she could not swallow the large
swell that had formed there. She had just revealed to this man beside her, the entire truth
concerning her past. Secrets she alone had controlled for so long. He had not stared, as if
she was something treacherous to distrust. He had not pried her for more knowledge of her
disclosures. In only three days time, Korin had shared more of herself than she had ever
done with another. This insight brought no comfort to her though.
Korin was saved from further disquiet by the stirring of Aragorn at her side. His head was
raising and his eyes open and unsure of his surroundings. His breathing was still calm
though, and after several efforts he lay his head back to the ground and closed his eyes once
more. Slowly, Aragorn began to move his hand upwards in the direction of Korin, who
entreated him to wake.
"Aragorn, Aragorn, come to us. Cast off the demons that menace your dreams." Her voice
was insistent and she shook him slightly.
He answered her in heavily slurred, elvish words. "Long have I toiled to an end I do not
predict, so let me linger awhile in this place real or dream. To have your love beside me shall
be my strength, Arwen Undomniel."
His hands outstretched to reach for her, but Korin grasped them and spoke even more
insistently.
"Aragorn, it is not your love with you but I, Korin. Cousin to you. My lord, I beg you
awaken and bring yourself here with us. Legolas is also here with me. You fell from the cliff
down to the river." Korin's voice grew, incessantly pleading with him to return to his
senses.
Aragorn opened his eyes again gradually. He looked upon her now with steadiness and
comprehension.
"Korin, I thought you were my Arwen come from Imladris. The height of the fall must
have injured to my hearing. Or did I mistake her voice? Calling me to her light. How long
has it been since I fell amidst the battle? I remember nothing after."
"We have tended you since late last evening when we found you here. Legolas and I came
alone, while Theoden continued to Helm's Deep."
With effort, Aragorn pushed himself to sitting and touched the bandage that circled the
gash on his arm. Gingerly, he moved his arm, but Korin stopped him. "You must rest this,
much as you can. I have only just bandaged it."
Aragorn did not disagree and set his arm at his side again. He then turned his attention
toward Legolas. "I am glad to find my cousin well escorted and my friend much alive, but
tell me that Gimli goes forth with Theoden's men."
Legolas reached his arm to his comrade and grasped it. "He does indeed travel with the men
of Rohan. I am also happy to see that you will live to fight again. You have given us a night
full of worry, but I shouldn't wonder at your recovery, for the aid of this kinswoman of
yours."
All around them, the stillness of the night was coming to a close. The increasing light made
slight outlines of the brush and trees that grew beside the river causing them to twist and
turn in their own fashion. Sounds were stirring from the birds and other creatures as well, as
they rose from their slumber and echoed across the ravine.
To Korin these awakenings imposed a foreboding image of what would come this day.
Soon they would need to ride forth. Korin watched as Legolas handed Aragorn the jeweled
necklace he had wrested from the wolf-rider. Araogrns' eyes widened and his uninjured arm
reached for his neck where he had known it to be. He humbly bestowed his gratitude upon
his friend for rescuing for him this most precious gem.
Korin had been checking the sky, observing what light they could employ for their ascent to
the plain this morning. Apprehension was growing inside her, and she neatly tucked away
any sentiments she had regarding Aragorn's improved state. She had made a promise to
Theoden, as had Aragorn.
She stood and moved to the horses. Upon her return, she emptied the leather bag that had
held their water onto the remains of the fire. She retrieved the leftover supplies and
fastened her healing bag onto her saddle. With a strength she did not feel, Korin set her jaw
and once again approached her companions. She opened her mouth to speak, but was won
by Aragorn instead.
"Korin, will you not cease and allow me to properly thank you for your healing and care?"
There was such a tenderness to his words that Korin could not mistake his show of regard.
It tore at her, how she must contend her desire to acknowledge his plea, but this was not the
time for faintness. The burden of the night was taking a toll on Korin and she could illafford
to break down now. Also, her lack of sleep proved to be most wearing on her nerves.
Her eyes met his for only a moment, then she turned her gaze to the lightening sky.
"We must hasten to Theoden. He will hold me to the promise I gave him when I came to
you."
She bent toward Aragorn and began to help him to his feet. With Legolas at his other side,
he was brought to stand.
"Can you ride?" she asked him. Although from her set manner, it was not a reply. "We
must leave now. Legolas and I will ride beside you and assist." Korin glanced only briefly
into Aragorn's eyes, while Legolas readied the horses. "There will be time to talk at length
when we are safe at Helm's Deep, my lord."
Strength was flowing back into his body now and though Aragorn desired to inquire further
into Korin's apparent distance, he had no choice but to acquiesce. Without ceremony, he
dropped any precursor of emotion and set his face with bleakness.
"To Theoden. And what resistance we may offer then. If you could see to keeping me on
my horse's back, we will make speed to Helm's Deep and whatever Saruman dares to place
before us."
Korin left them to fetch the horses and waited while Legolas helped Aragorn into the
saddle. It was with extreme effort that she kept her distance from one she loved so well.
Every part of her longed to feel his arms envelope her. So she could apprehend for herself
that he was indeed well and standing beside her once again. But she dared not let her
feelings control her now. Not when so much relied upon her ability to clearly reason.
Legolas handed Aragorn his reins and moved to stand behind Korin. The pressure of his
hand upon her shoulder, caused her to start. She whirled to face him and was, abashed by
her reaction to his gesture.
"Forgive me, I was- lost in thought."
"We are ready, my lady. I believe his strength is returning rapidly." His voice was lowered
for only her to detect. "Do your thoughts stray to reasons you would keep such a secret
from one so close to you? Or to what you will tell him when he will no longer be put off by
your dismissal?"
Legolas' words astounded Korin to such an extent that she was certain her mouth was ajar
as far as her eyes. For a moment she could find no retort and when finally, she regained
control, she also kept her voice quieted.
"My reasons are my own. And although they may not seem just to you. I will ask you to
keep this between myself and Aragorn." Korin spoke as decently as she could. His nearness
affected her though and she was strangely touched that he should offer such concern for her
feelings for Aragorn.
All at once, she yearned to visit longer in this place that had brought this magical
understanding between herself and Legolas and the closeness they had shared tending
Aragorn through the night. She found her concentration slip and she desired to be nearer,
but at the same time she fought to break away. Her arms felt overly heavy holding her reins
and she knew this was not caused by any lack of sleep. Korin's eyes remained fixed to his
and she could not move. Legolas spoke at that time and suddenly, she wrought herself back
to where they now stood.
"It will be as you wish, but I do not think you will keep your secret long."
Legolas did not understand why he should be involved in her deception. He was aware
though, that he did not wish her any more pain that could come from it. Now that the time
had come for them to depart, he realized he did indeed want to be involved in anything that
she was concerned with. And from without, he tried to reason with himself that this would
soon pass. But from within, it was evident to him that this interest would not be quieted.
Amid this certainty came an awareness of finding something both ethereal and tangible, and
at the same time strong and fragile.
Legolas waited and looked back toward the river one last time and although the moonlight
had vanished with the cool gray of the dawn, his vision had not departed. Swiftly, he
mounted and followed the other two riders, already in motion.
Korin's Journey Part IV August 10, 2003
The three riders made fast, the ascent from the ravine and soon they were galloping fullspeed
toward the uncertainty waiting them at Helm's Deep. They journeyed silently. Each
lost in individual contemplation. Aragorn's vitality was rapidly restoring and when Korin
glanced toward him, she found a stern determination had overtaken him and though, she
hoped this was not caused by her refusal to speak to him, she was satisfied to find him once
again bent to their purpose.
Now that they had departed the riverbed and were once more upon the open plain, she felt
exhilarated and more sure of her course, but at the same time also haunted. Like a shadow
had somehow attached to her from there and followed, even still. It was not shaded or evil
as would be an enemy pursuing, but rather, it was warm and inviting, beckoning her with
many arms of light, and unsettling within the pit of her stomach. This unfamiliar specter
became a nuisance to Korin, who knew that the next days would be most demanding and
did not wish for further trial. But as they rode faster and closer to their destination, still the
shadow persisted. And not even the freedom she felt at their break-neck speed would dispel
it. The wind caught her hair, which she had not bothered to cover when they left in the
early morning and Korin reveled in the sense of being unfettered for once. Here, within the
ranks of trusted companions she could experience a precious time of peace.
They each drove on with one single purpose in mind, to make all speed to the aid of
Theoden. Each of the company realized that a cloud was growing about them as the
morning drew on. Not only was the sun obstructed by clouds from the north, but as they
rode on, it appeared to grow even darker, an unnatural evil, looming just out of their midst
and pressing further every minute toward their shared destination. Just barely, like a last
glimpse of sunlight they viewed an orange glow far in the north facing the course they
traveled. Could it be the furnaces and fury of Isengard, stirring for the battle to come?
Between them, there was no need to voice their thoughts, only a call for added speed.
Urging their mounts even faster, they set a straight path for the stronghold where they were
expected. Korin was glad for the steadiness of Avathar, who had not faltered in service to
her since Shadowfax and Gandalf had left them far behind in Edoras. She wondered briefly
what befell the horse and rider that had been so close only days prior. Quickly, she
dismissed her worry for that which she could offer no control and bent her mind instead to
Aragorn. She had never seen him so driven before. His eyes moved neither to the side nor
to the rear, but steadfast toward their end. With no regard for Hasufeld, he pushed his
mount unmercifully, until Korin could see that both horse and rider were beginning to
wear. She was torn inside between guilt for offering him no concord and approval that he
should harden himself, even to her, to satisfy this conquest. Using every effort left to her
horse, she tried to gain to his side, but failed. In the end, Korin let him have his lead and
settled behind him with Legolas at her side.
Legolas did not turn to her, but kept his eyes upon Aragorn. Korin longed to explain to him
her reasons for holding her cousin at length. Yet rationalized that she must not allow
herself the luxury to dwell upon this for too long. In truth, there would be no break to
think about these matters, for Aragorn had stopped his horse high above them and now
rested behind a crag of large rocks. In moments they had reached him and wordlessly, he
halted them beside himself at the crag.
His face was ashen and it seemed to Korin that the vigorous ride of that morning had at last
begun to take its toll on him. She did not have long to wait though, before the reason for
Araorn's appearance was known to her. From their place of hiding, Aragorn motioned for
them to peer down the hillside.
A multitude of evil hosts sprung forth from the land and massed as far as could be seen.
Their numbers could not be judged by the single glance that was afforded them, but were
surely in thousands. Much below the three riders marched the army of Uruk-hai from
Isengard and the clamor of their steps set upon the earth an overwhelming cadence. There
were no words to describe between them what had been revealed, so carefully, avoiding the
hillside to escape detection, they renewed their rush for the keep of Rohan.
There were few miles left to them before they spied the rough stone walls that appeared
steadily as they reached the topmost swelling of the plain. Aragorn seemed to drive even
harder toward the massive fortress spreading before them. Immeasurable, steep walls
stopped abruptly at the front of two massive wooden doors and behind them, barely seen,
was the hold itself. Impressive was its strength to them, as they beheld Helm's Deep for the
first time. Carved into the very mountainside, its foundations were aged with indiscriminate
time and the scars of many battles.
Legolas slowed his speed somewhat and motioned to Korin the rising, glowing, red-orange
haze beyond the walls and the mountains. Its borders crept closer to them now, and moved
swiftly for such a mass. There was no mistaking the arrival of the enemy and what little
time remained. He slowed Arod to stop and survey the spectacle. Korin also stayed at his
side, It seems we have come in time," said Legolas.
"Yes, but in time for what? These Uruk-hai of Saruman travel so boldly, as if they would
march right through their destination."
Together, they watched as Aragorn closed in upon the fortress. They were also very near
now and Korin could see for herself the miniature sentinels at the gate as Aragorn
approached.
Legolas fixed his eyes upon Korin again and to his revelation, he found his thoughts
instantaneously yearning to rein their horses to the reverse of their present course. Though
externally, this woman appeared to be as determined as a Ranger of the Dunedain would,
he could not prevent himself from desiring to shield her from any malevolence this war
could bring her. From the time he had first looked upon her, he had been captivated by this
woman he had known of for so long, yet had never before encountered. Legolas found
himself wondering often, how it had come to pass that she, daughter of Hathor, had been
placed in his path.
Was it loyalty to a fathers' friend that commanded his attentions to her? Perhaps it was her
kinship to Aragorn that bade him this constant vigil. All of this, Legolas much doubted
though, and reckoned this urge to protect her stemmed from nothing more than his own
desire to do so.
"Legolas." She had never before used his name and the sound of it escaping her lips burst
his concentration.
"I wish to thank you for following me to Aragorn's side. Very brief had been our meeting,
yet still you did not hesitate, but trusted instead. I am sure that my cousin realizes the
greatness of his friendship to you, but for me, I must voice my gratitude for that which you
have imparted."
Her demeanor was earnest and subdued, so unlike her forthright behavior with Aragorn
that for an instant, Legolas remained thoughtful. Abruptly, he concluded the difference in
her conduct and wondered why he had not realized it before. Of course, Korin must not
allow Aragorn to see any portion of frailty from her. No matter how much she loved him.
She was here for the sole purpose of serving him and no shortcomings could be afforded
her.
What small fraction of his heart he held yet for himself, fled Legolas in that instant, and the
impending fires of Isengard could not prevail the flame in his eyes when he told this to her.
"You have gained much more from me than friendship this night, my lady."
The shadow that had pursued Korin, since morning had begun their passage, swept over
the land and like a swift breeze caught up to her where they had paused. She felt the weight
of it settle upon her and she knew that it would crush her with its weight. Immediately, she
struggled to escape this overwhelming sensation, but it would not be moved. Had she
measured his words correctly?
As in response to her private turmoil, a terrible, low rumble descended from the north and
its sound made their mounts dance to the side nervously. The riders were forced to break
the moment that had suspended them with its magnitude and there was nothing even to be
said for it. Together, Korin and Legolas bolted forward to regain their position with
Aragorn, who was by now at the gate.
August 17, 2003
The sentinels outside the fortress had been told of the skeptical return of the lost ones. And
so it was, when the man and woman and Elf appeared, all who saw them could scarcely
believe that they had made it safely back to the keep. At once, Helm's Gate was thrown
back to accommodate both riders and horses.
Neither Aragorn, Korin nor Legolas had long to wonder what they would find inside the
gates. Within the Hornburg and throughout was the pandemonium of of voices in
command and also in lament as the men within prepared for battle. Women and children
were gathered and brought to the back caves beyond harms reach. The people were all
around and spilled into every corridor that would hold them.
The lady Eowyn was first to take notice of Aragorn standing amidst the turmoil. To her he
appeared as bedraggled as a man could be, but then he had just cheated death to come back
to them. Eowyn had wondered sorrowfully that so few of the men had returned from the
fight with the wolf-riders, especially for Aragorn. So noble he was, he had touched her heart
from the first she had seen him. Now he stood before her, tired and hurt, but alive. And
her gladness shone to all who could see.
Korin watched as she embraced him and he was moved to return her affections. She had no
energy of her own to speculate this shared emotion between them, but immediately
searched for Theoden. Instead, it was Gimli whom Korin first encountered among the
endless throng of unfamiliar faces.
"By all the jewels that shine, lady. You have found him!" His warmth filled her tired body
and took away some of the tension that had built from the day.
She stopped and knelt in front of him and through her fatigue, she smiled as brightly as she
could. "Master Gimli, will you please forgive my hasty departure on the eve of yesterday? It
was not my intention to dismiss you so callously. I found no time given to me for proper
consideration."
"My feet were happy to be on the ground for the remainder of the journey, actually. And to
see Aragorn alive and walking-. I must admit, I doubted the- gravity of your choice. But for
this you must also accept my apology and we shall speak no more of it!"
“Your feet were happy to be on the ground? Then you will no longer be needing the
services of a horse to sit upon? Perhaps you were not content with the rider? Shall I take
insult and be left to question your desire to have both returned?" It was a pleasure to hear
the lightness in Legolas' voice, taunting the Dwarf.
"I never thought to be admitting it, but yes, I am glad that Arod has returned unharmed."
Gimli laughed merrily at his jest and then said, "you may never hear a Dwarf glad to see an
Elf." He clasped his arm to Legolas' in friendship though, and underlying the animosity of
his statement, his intent was genuine.
Korin left them and searched again for Theoden. She noticed that Aragorn was also gone
and she figured he had the same intent in mind. For a minute, she looked around her for
any sign of the direction Aragorn had fled. She stopped to question a guard nearby. He
pointed toward a pair of open doors atop a short flight of stairs, which she guessed to be
the kings private chambers. She thanked the man and turned to ascend the stair when, from
the corner of her eye, she glimpsed the lady Eowyn watching her from a distance. Briefly,
their eyes met and Korin was given no time to speak, only a sense of curiosity that
emanated from the glance of Eowyn to her. She felt a longing to stay and speak with the
lady, but before her mouth could form any words, the lady Eowyn was gone behind the
wall. Korin had an odd appreciation for the fate of this woman which also rested solely
upon the will of the lord whom she served, save with extremely different consequences. She
blinked hard to shake off this idle notion and continued to the doorway.
There was a renewed invigoration to his steps as Aragorn dismounted and climbed the
steps to the chamber of the king. He was continually surprised at the speed with which his
body was mended. There was no pain from the cut on his upper arm, sustained in the battle
with the wolf-riders and gone was the ache and soreness from the fall that had soon
followed.
Very soon he reckoned, he would have some resolution to these great mysteries that
troubled his mind of late, concerning what had passed since the lady Korin had entered into
his days. His jaw set firm at the prospect of confronting his cousin. Too often had Korin
put off his questions and kept her intentions hidden from him. But first there was Theoden
to contend with. He wondered what response he should expect from the king. This news
he brought him would not be easy to comprehend. And so it was with profound
impatience, Aragorn scaled the steps two at a time, and with a mighty shove, flung aside the
great doors that separated the king's room from the hall.
Theoden looked up to see Aragorn enter the chamber and his face seemed marked with
lines of age from the shock he harbored at seeing him standing there before him. There was
tension creasing his brow, but he hid it well and extended his arm in alliance to Aragorn.
Your feet were happy to be on the ground? Then you will no longer be needing the services
of a horse to sit upon? Perhaps you were not content with the rider? Shall I take insult and
be left to question your desire to have both returned?" It was a pleasure to hear the
lightness in Legolas' voice, taunting the Dwarf.
"I never thought to be admitting it, but yes, I am glad that Arod has returned unharmed."
Gimli laughed merrily at his jest and then said, "you may never hear a Dwarf glad to see an
Elf." He clasped his arm to Legolas' in friendship though, and underlying the animosity of
his statement, his intent was genuine.
Korin left them and searched again for Theoden. She noticed that Aragorn was also gone
and she figured he had the same intent in mind. For a minute, she looked around her for
any sign of the direction Aragorn had fled. She stopped to question a guard nearby. He
pointed toward a pair of open doors atop a short flight of stairs, which she guessed to be
the kings private chambers. She thanked the man and turned to ascend the stair when, from
the corner of her eye, she glimpsed the lady Eowyn watching her from a distance. Briefly,
their eyes met and Korin was given no time to speak, only a sense of curiosity that
emanated from the glance of Eowyn to her. She felt a longing to stay and speak with the
lady, but before her mouth could form any words, the lady Eowyn was gone behind the
wall. Korin had an odd appreciation for the fate of this woman which also rested solely
upon the will of the lord whom she served, save with extremely different consequences. She
blinked hard to shake off this idle notion and continued to the doorway.
There was a renewed invigoration to his steps as Aragorn dismounted and climbed the
steps to the chamber of the king. He was continually surprised at the speed with which his
body was mended. There was no pain from the cut on his upper arm, sustained in the battle
with the wolf-riders and gone was the ache and soreness from the fall that had soon
followed.
Very soon he reckoned, he would have some resolution to these great mysteries that
troubled his mind of late, concerning what had passed since the lady Korin had entered into
his days. His jaw set firm at the prospect of confronting his cousin. Too often had Korin
put off his questions and kept her intentions hidden from him. But first there was Theoden
to contend with. He wondered what response he should expect from the king. This news
he brought him would not be easy to comprehend. And so it was with profound
impatience, Aragorn scaled the steps two at a time, and with a mighty shove, flung aside the
great doors that separated the king's room from the hall.
Theoden looked up to see Aragorn enter the chamber and his face seemed marked with
lines of age from the shock he harbored at seeing him standing there before him. There was
tension creasing his brow, but he hid it well and extended his arm in alliance to Aragorn.
Korin's words expended the last ounce of life left to her. With a small sigh, her shoulders
dropped and she spoke again, "My lord Theoden, I beg your leave now to go and take some
rest. The night has been over long, and I would venture, this night coming will prove just as
long."
Theoden ordered a guard standing by to have her taken to a quiet place to rest. A quick nod
of her head was all that she passed to Theoden. The others, she abandoned without words.
Once outside the doorway, Korin closed her eyes and was glad for her part in these affairs
to be finished.
The guard led her down a narrow hall to what appeared to be the end of the long trail of
people scattered in all locations. He gave her a queer look when he took his leave and asked
if there was anything else she should need. She smiled at him, for she was quite used to
being viewed as a curiosity of sort, but dismissed him with her thanks.
Korin had just begun to unbuckle the scabbard at her waist, when a slight shadow darkened
the wall facing her. Even through her exhaustion, she whirled to face Aragorn. She should
have known that he would follow her, that he would not let her rest until he had settled his
suspicion.
Calmly, Korin resumed dismantling her outer clothes, offering no attempt at conversation.
Until it was Aragorn who was forced to speak first.
"Have I done something to deserve your mistrust, Korin?" He leaned his side against the
wall and his eyes stayed to the floor. When Aragorn finally looked upon her, she was struck
by the feeling in his voice.
"Why do you hide behind pretenses instead of facing me?"
He spoke so softly, she could not be affronted. Instead, it was remorse that assailed her
thoughts. She had never intended to elude him, and now it all seemed to no consequence.
At the very least, she should offer some form of explanation.
"Aragorn, do you remember the night I discovered you at the edge of Fangorn? I told you
there was much that you did not yet realize about the reasons for seeking you."
Against her own will, she sighed and slid her back down the coldness of the wall and sat
upon the floor, fighting to stay alert enough to continue. Her eyes searched for his and she
smiled. "Come sit down and let me have a look at your arm." It was better to have her
attention fixed upon his wound and not his probing stare. "It is beginning to mesh already,
but you must rest it -as much as you can hope to."
With his other hand, Aragorn reached for Korins and held it away from her task.
"What of the healing touch it has received? How is it that the voice of Arwen Undomniel
spoke to me in my delirium? How is it that you knew Gandalf to breathe, when we told you
he had fallen? How long shall I harbor this doubt and wonder at your behavior, my lady?
You are the same as I have always known you to be, but again, much of you is changed.
No, not changed, but added to-. More...influential." He paused as in uncertain of his own
words and bent his head to force her eyes to meet his.
August 25th, 2003
Although Korin's countenance outwardly stayed serious and unmoving, inside her heart,
she yearned to tell him what it was he wished to hear. She had for so long protected these
secrets about herself. Would he understand if she told him of her differences and the
endless problems they had caused for her? She was not sure he fully realized what their own
people had become. So distrustful of the outside were they. Relating to Aragorn the burden
of her past could not help him in any way she could comprehend. But now the hour was
late and circumstances had made it necessary for some explanation. Perhaps she should
take her cue from Gandalf. He had seemed unconcerned how Aragorn would react to
questions regarding her history. But Gandalf was not here facing him with her now.
Anyway, Korin could not begin to relate a story with so much history in the small gap of
time she was given and certainly not in her present exhausted state. Something would need
to be said though, and with hesitation, Korin took Aragorn's hand.
"My lord, when I came upon you in Rohan, I told you that there were many things you had
no knowledge of yet."
Aragorn could see that she was weary and that his insistence was distressing her further, but
he had to know what it was that was changed. How could he relate to her, his own blood
and all he had with him now, if he could not identify with these factors that came between
them? He grasped her hand she offered and reached for the other and held them
reassuringly.
"I know your weariness and I can see that you falter, but I do not understand your lack of
trust. Have I not always held you in the highest regard, cousin? There is naught that you
would relate to me that would catch me off guard. For all that I have known of you, my
lady."
"It is not for lack of trust, but lack of confidence in your response that I hesitate in telling
you what you wish to hear from me. I do not wish to see the fear and doubt I have seen in
others' eyes for their discovery of these 'differences' I speak of. I do not wish to feel the
isolation that comes with what I tell. For I am changed, Aragorn. There are reasons why I
doubted Gandalfs' passing and reasons for all of the occurrences that you have seen since I
have come to you. But I pray you, do not press me at this time for your answers. I am tired
beyond words and the answers you seek can wait until there is more time to dwell on the
response. Please accept my explanation for now and my promise that very soon there shall
be time enough to speak of it."
Korin did not wait for a response from Aragorn, but instead settled her head against a
pillow fashioned from her outer coat and presently fell fast asleep, leaving her cousin to
wonder still.
Aragorn stayed for a moment and watched the creases of worry smooth from her brow and
marveled at how quickly her breathing became slow and steadied. This further fueled his
frustrations. What was it that had happened this past night? Was it just the care she had
given him that kept her awake throughout the many twilight hours? All of this weighed
heavy upon his shoulders and for some time Aragorn stood pondering how he could find
the answers he yearned to know. The clamor from the inner chamber soon brought his
thoughts back to the impending battle though, and he strode quickly from the back hall to
find a task he could accomplish with less conflict.
With every step he took toward the inner chambers of keep, the voices of the people rose
until it became a singular roar. The flurry of bodies preparing for war was all around. Most
of the women and children had been escorted to the deepest caverns inside the Hornburg.
Aragorn noticed that few men were left to defend her. His strides were full of purpose, as
he went in search of the one who could offer clarification for the events of this last night.
Korin's Journey part V September 16, 2003
When Aragorn had again reached the great hall, he stopped and searched for a glimpse of
his Elf friend. He found Gimli and Legolas in the company of Theoden. They were
standing above him some distance, upon the Deeping Wall. Aragorn could see there would
be no chance to speak to Legolas now though, so once again he put aside the issues
between himself and Korin for another time. Quickly, he leapt up several flights of steps
and was soon beside them on the parapet.
Aragorn and his companions were silent while Theoden led them across the expanse of the
wall, stopping in places to speak to guards and soldiers positioned upon it. The king
described to them all, the defenses of his great fortress and what plans were to be made for
the coming invasion. Although Theoden boasted of the strength of the Deeping Wall and
the fact that it had never been scaled, Aragorn could sense concern behind this facade that
was not voiced. He also had his own suspicion that the king did not fully understand the
capability of this army of Uruk-hai. Theoden spoke of outlasting the enemy, but Aragorn
understood the relentlessness of the Uruk's and knew it could be their undoing.
The air hung heavy among them all for what remained unspoken, and Aragorn knew
Theoden was setting a brave front for the men around them, but he pleaded with him to
send for reinforcements to aid them in the battle. However, there seemed to be nothing
that would alter Theoden's outlook on the reliability of any allies that might yet be sent for.
The words between Aragorn and Theoden grew heated and in his exasperation, the king
strode away from them and back to the hall.
Aragorn looked from Legolas to Gimli and they returned his concern for the integrity of
Theodens' expressions. Yet with nothing left to do, they in turn followed him from the top
of the wall and back to the great hall.
The three stayed among the men of Rohan, busying themselves with the measures that were
necessary for the siege, while Theoden King held his head high until his strides bore him to
his own rooms where Gamling awaited him.
September 23, 2003
Korin woke to the clang of metal dropping to the stone floor. The harsh sound of it echoed
down the hall and caused her to start. Immediately, she was reminded of what was
happening around her everywhere in the fortress and for a minute she sat still upon the
cold dampness of the floor and gathered her thoughts together. By the sounds she could
hear, the men were yet readying for battle. Again Korin closed her eyes and knew from the
throbbing that continued, she had slept only a short time. She looked around her and was
grateful she had remained unnoticed for so long.
Her thoughts wandered from the endless rock and people inside the Hornburg, to earlier
that day when they arrived at Helm's Gate. It seemed now that it must have been a day ago,
but was in fact, only a few hours previously. Korin recalled Legolas' words to her and his
face floated in the back of her mind. What exactly had he meant when he told her, 'so much
more than friendship'? No, she would not pretend that she did not understand his
declaration. Her own treacherous heart had felt as much while she listened to him
confidently express what had since been unsaid.
There must be a logical explanation for her feelings. Legolas had been trusting and kind
since they had met only days ago at Fangorn. And perhaps it had simply been too long
since she had been able to trust anyone and his sympathy had offered her comfort. There
was so much more than kindness in his gaze this morning, though. Korin had seen the
same look in others' eyes before, but until today, had never felt anything in return. She
remembered the feel of his fingers when he touched her face by the river, and as if he was
with her there now, she could not stop the pounding of her heart. In order to relieve herself
of this dreaded realization, Korin pressed her hands flat against the icy coldness of the
stone wall, and rested against it momentarily. Although she wished it to be otherwise, she
knew from deep within her that any relief she could feel would be short-lived.
How had this happened? She knew better than anyone that the differences between them
made anything but friendship, beyond the realm of possibility. She was not of his people
and he was not of hers. And if she was not careful there would be grief from the very trust
and friendship that they shared.
Korin forced herself to remain focused and made this resolution to herself. There could be
no more private moments between them. She would avoid conversation altogether and
effectively allow no instance for them to speak at all. She wagered that avoidance should
prove easy enough to achieve, because of the demand that would be placed upon them all
tonight.
Promptly, Korin replaced her coat and fastened her sword to her side. Now was not the
time for further complications, but for action. She must find Aragorn and discover what
she could offer to the preparations for the impending battle. Here at least was one matter
that no longer proposed conflict for her. She would face Aragorn with determination and
would not concede. He must realize by now, that she had every intention of fighting beside
him with the men of Rohan, for she had not made this journey only to bring him tales of
their slowly weakening people. Neither had she come to fall victim to the very senses which
were so vital to her now. She must not permit these flagging thoughts to plague her. Not
now, when all she had ever known, was rising to be challenged by a future that was
interminably unclear.
With light steps, Korin approached the end of the corridor she had stayed in to deliberate
her course of action. Her head was clearer now as the light began to spill in from the great
hall, which was her current destination. She halted just at the end of the passage and
searched for the figures of the people that belonged to the lengthening shadows on the vast
walls.
Korin was astonished for how little daylight there seemed to be left. Already a mellow glow
from the setting sun spilled everywhere throughout the keep and turned golden the armor
and weapons and inhabitants still rushing about in preparation. Time had grown short while
she slept, and without hesitation she stepped into the mass of people and set out in pursuit
of her cousin.
September 25, 2003
Together, Aragorn and Legolas loitered near the armory where the men were fitted with
armor and sword. There seemed to be nothing left to say as they watched helplessly while
all of Theoden's men plodded through. Most of them appeared to have no experience in
fighting and were no more than bodies needed to protect the people of Rohan.
It was then that a moment of opportunity presented itself to Aragorn. His eyes stretched
across the room and found Gimli resting, away from them on the far side of the wall. For a
long time he and Legolas concentrated upon the same stone set in the floor before them.
Now that a chance had come, it seemed the words would not.
Legolas was the first to break the tense silence. His soft, elvish speech raised no attention
from any around them. "She has not answered your questions as you had hoped, has she?"
"She was so exhausted that she slept, even before I left her." Aragorn spoke cautiously, as
he desired to confront his friend, but did not wish to bring any differences between them.
But at last, his decision was to be direct.
"Help me to understand why she will confide in you and not me. Is there something that I
have done?"
Legolas struggled with his reply to Aragorn. He had promised Korin that he would not
interfere with her decision to wait to speak to her cousin, but he also knew that Aragorn
would not stay contented for long with no explanation. He looked to the floor once more
and a small sigh escaped with his breath. "You have done nothing, my friend. And it was
not her intention to 'confide' in anyone. I simply happened to be there when she needed...
someone. Aragorn, she has asked me not to become involved. You must trust that she will
come to you in time."
There was a small stretch before Aragorn spoke. Carefully, he considered Legolas' words.
And when he finally did speak, his voice was quiet and slightly saddened. "I find her so
changed from the woman I remember her to be. I can scarcely recognize who she is
anymore.
“She has carried much of the burden of your people upon herself. She has lived among the
Dunedain and watched while they have forsaken the old ways and made their own to suit
them. All of her life, she has been taught to honor your forebears and to hold true to the
Numenorean line."
"I blame myself for my absence, Legolas. Would that it had been me taking the burden of
our people as it has fallen upon her in my stead." Aragorn finished with a sigh of is own. "I
cannot change the past, but I would bring light to her future. My one regret is this. That
this service that she offers me, may prove more costly than I can withstand."
Legolas' head snapped up at Aragorn's mention of Korin and her role in the conflict
tonight. "Do you doubt the lady's capability, Aragorn?"
"No, I do not doubt her competence. It has been long known to me her effect with a
sword. And her thirst for triumph for our people."
The next words Legolas chose made him feel uneasy, but even as prudent as he desired to
be he could not stay his tongue. "Are you not her lord, Aragorn? Should you wish it, you
could force her hand in the matter."
"Of course, I would like nothing more than to dissuade her from fighting, but Legolas, how
can I deny her this when all I see around me are farmers and old men?" Even though he
spoke in the Elven tongue, he quieted his voice at the end of his words.
Aragorn expected to feel soothed speaking of his predicament to Legolas, but instead his
mood became more disquieted. Between the rashness of Theoden and his own reflection
on the past, a restlessness grew inside of him and his frustration mounted as the minutes
went by, but no more was said by either of them.
Legolas was grateful to have no more spoken about Korin and her reasons for distancing
herself from Aragorn. Now that he had more time to dwell on her coldness to Aragorn, he
knew that for her, there was no other way to do what she must. He found himself torn
between them. No he was not torn, but understood them both differently. He saw
Aragorn's concern and sympathized with him. Moreover, he saw Korin's conflict and
sympathized with her.
A sense of urgency was beginning to well inside of him now though, as he thought more on
how the events of this night would unfold. Legolas had seen for himself Korin's skill with a
sword in the skirmish with the wolf-riders of Isengard. And if that was not enough, he
witnessed her courage again when she opposed Theoden. None of this seemed to matter to
him now and the unease he felt at the prospect of Korin wielding a weapon in a war that
could not be won was beginning to take a toll on his sensibilities. In spite of his efforts to
reason the futility of his reaction, Korin was creating an important presence in his life. And
this realization was causing Legolas an intense anxiety that he could not hide.
October 2, 2003
As soon as she rounded the first corner, Korin could distinctly hear Elven words raised in
anger above the grating wheels of the sharpening stones. There was no mistaking Legolas'
voice, though she had never heard anything so harsh escape him before now. She was not
yet close enough to ascertain what he had said, but her heart raced up to her throat when
she wondered what could possibly force him to speak so heatedly. For an instant Korin
panicked to think that something had been expressed concerning herself, yet as soon as the
notion entered her head it was dismissed with what she heard next. It was Aragorn who
spoke then, and if possible his words were even more enraged than were Legolas'.
"Then I shall die as one of them!" was all he shouted back.
As Korin reached the hall, she observed the rest of the men gathered there. They stood still
in nervous anticipation and seemed to her, wide-eyed and terrified. There were so many
bodies in the hall that they pressed into the doorway and no one took any notice of Korin
when she entered the room.
She looked into the center of the men and watched as Gimli, held Legolas back from
following Aragorn. Legolas' eyes were lighted with his frustration and fixed to Aragorn as
he stalked from the room, but gradually fell upon Korin, where she stood by the entrance.
For a moment, she glimpsed from him the futility he felt before he quickly forced his eyes
to avert hers, and then she knew all that she had not heard of the quarrel between him and
Aragorn. His was now the same disappointment he had voiced to her days ago, and her
heart went out to him when she realized how much longer he had felt the sting of fighting
in the absence of allies.
It seemed very poignant to her that she should witness this vulnerability from Legolas and it
threatened to take away the determination she had just instilled within herself to keep a
distance from him. Korin looked to Gimli, who kept his hand on Legolas' arm, though now
more in support than to hold him back. His troubled brow was lowered over his own eyes.
Once more she glanced up, but was stopped short as the figure of Aragorn appeared
directly in front of her. His anger was also still apparent to her in his eyes and as there was
little room to maneuver, she found herself face to face with him. Korin's mouth opened to
speak and with her eyes, she tried to give him some small measure of comfort, but in the
close confinement with the men she forced it shut again and met his gaze. Aragorn rested
his eyes on her only for a moment and he spared her none of the effects of his anger before
he pushed past her and continued to stalk down the corridor.
Korin watched Aragorn quickly disappear down the hall and when she could see him no
longer, she turned back to the other men. She tried to ignore the stares she received as she
found her way to where Gimli and Legolas stood. Neither of them spoke to her for lack of
words to convey the heaviness of the mood which was felt among them.
She looked up to Gimli and he tried his best to appear nonchalant about the happenings
around them. Legolas had wandered to the far edge of the wall and from there he leaned
against it, his upset seemingly subdued for now.
"I shouldn't worry about any harsh words passed between friends at this point, my lady. It
is a fair gamble, this battle against Isengard and it heats even the coolest of heads."
"It seems we are all caught in something that was not intended," said Korin. And she
longed for more to say to ease the threat they all faced, but knew that there was nothing.
After a while, Gimli pardoned himself from her company to seek his own armament. She
passed him a slight, warm smile in departure and settled herself back against a wide column.
Korin removed her sword from it's scabbard and took out a small stone from a pocket of
her coat. As she drew the stone slowly over the blade, her thoughts and her gaze could not
stay away from the one they were drawn to, against the other side of the wall.
From the distance where Legolas stood across the hall from her, his face remained
unreadable. His head was turned to watch the corridor from which Aragorn had just
escaped down and then slowly, he turned his eyes toward the floor and contemplated his
unmerited retort directed at his comrade. However, there was nothing subtle about his
thoughts and while Legolas could not reclaim his words, he regretted the level of animosity
behind them. He had thus far excused himself of his outburst, stating lack of rest,
disappointment, and flaws in leadership among many other reasons for his attack on
Aragorn. Yet Legolas recognized the real basis for his impassioned speech. And what made
the notion even worse for him to bear, was the impossible task of denying himself this
truth.
He glanced to where Korin stood speaking with Gimli, and he wished he could blame her
for some part of it. But he rejected the idea, knowing that she had done naught to deserve
even the thought of it. Nothing that had occurred this evening had been the fault of any,
but himself. Somehow this woman had come to affect him in the few days since their
acquaintance and now he could not abide with the consequences.
Of course Korin was going to do everything that she expected of herself to assist in this
dreaded encounter that would soon be set upon them. In many respects, this was what
drew him to her from the beginning; her devotion to Aragorn. There must be some way for
him to face this reality, without such an insistent fear for her safety. Perhaps if he would
just speak to her, his concerns would prove infallible to him. And then, there was always a
chance that Aragorn would keep her away from any harm.
Legolas looked toward Korin once more and doubted every word he had just convinced
himself of as he watched her move the stone over the blade of Aluin. He tried to see her
for what she was, standing among the men. All of her travels had left her appearance quite
as disheveled as everyone else here, and for her part she was every bit the Ranger he knew
her to be. Yet to him she had become so much more. She was a part of him now, whether
she realized it or not, and he would not heed what selfishness it was to insist on watching
over her. With his jaw set firm, Legolas nimbly dodged through the crowd to stand at her
side.
Korin's attention was directed entirely to the sharpening blade that she held in her hands
and for a short time did not notice the familiar shadow that appeared just over her head.
"I trust you rested well, if not fleetingly, my lady?"
His voice was kind and Korin let her arm drop from her task. She took her time responding
to him as she let her sword fall to rest on its tip on the stones below.
"It seems all time for rest has come to an end, my lord."
For a while they stood in silence, neither daring to speak, while the dark lines of night fast
approaching spread throughout the keep. And still the sounds of preparations imbued the
hall with a constant tumult of voices and crash of metal upon metal.
With all of the courage she could muster, Korin asked what she had desired to know about
the quarrel between Aragorn and Legoas. She tried to sound genuine and hoped for her
words to retain a tone. "Your words with Aragorn, just now. I hope that I did not burden
you- that your reasons for arguing were not because of the confidence I trusted to you. I
never meant for you to be thrust between us and I am sorry to have caused any problems
because of it." Korin could not look up to him and while she spoke and wisely kept her
gaze averted to the floor.
Legolas also stared toward the floor and when he spoke to her, his voice was quiet and
melancholy. "Aragorn did ask of me why you would not confide in him, and that he did not
understand what seemed different about you, but I have urged him to speak to you, for
what he wishes to learn."
Korin felt as if a weight had been placed upon her heart with his revelation to her, and
though she tried, she could not still the heavy sigh that came as her shoulders sagged low.
But Legolas spoke again and her head rose up to check the reality of his next statement.
"This was not the object of our quarrel though, my lady." His voice sank lower and
sounded tired to Korin. "Our quarrel stems from nothing more than frustration within the
ranks of this stronghold." Legolas gestured with his head the men surrounding them. "My
words were my own and there is none to blame, but me."
"You cannot blame yourself, my lord. Although, I appreciate that you would spare me, I
should never have done what I have done. I should have dealt with my cousin differently
and been honest and forthright with him from the beginning- as I was encouraged to do."
"Aragorn will empathize with you when you find the fitting time to speak to him. Perhaps
you were right to wait? Our precarious position here has left all of our tempers and senses
shortened."
It is distasteful to sit and await this Uruk army of Saruman's when no aid will come. Yet
soon enough I suppose, our wait will be over."
Korin's words struck Legolas with an opportunity to glean the answers from her that he
needed to know. But now that he was near her, he did not find it easy to be so bold. He
watched the small lines on her forehead grow with her concern and saw the staunch gleam
in her eyes that rose above any other in the room, and he knew that questioning her place
in this battle would be like questioning who she was. He would not risk her pride, not even
for his own fears. Legolas knew then as he looked upon her face, one that he held in the
highest regard, that he would rather see her fight freely without restraint come what may
than see her broken by the sanctity of any mans judgment. He realized the treachery of his
own feelings for this woman, for she was not of his kind, but lacked any desire to change
them. Legolas was beginning to believe that their meeting was no coincidence and he
doubted very much that he would ever be who he was, before this encounter had brought
them together.
Although Korin looked toward the wall and pretended to watch the commotion in the hall,
she did not have to see Legolas to feel the transformation that had befallen him. The
warmness of his gaze broke through the chill from the room and she realized abruptly the
need to escape it. She chastised herself for allowing even this small measure of contact and
knew that she must get away before more was said than she could face right now. She
would seek Aragorn and clear the air of this nuisance she had created.
Swiftly she replaced her sword to its scabbard and said lowly, "I will go now and speak to
Aragorn and put an end to all of these secrets I have kept, before more harm comes from
them." She looked quickly to Legolas and tried to smile through her tenseness.
"No, my lady, it is I who should go to him and apologize for my harsh words. He was
undeserving of them. May I leave you with my thanks for your understanding?" His voice
was but a whisper, as his hand reached out to hers and clasped it with a gentle pressure.
Korin was almost glad for the constriction in her throat at the touch of his hand. It
commanded her immediate attention to stop the connection arising between them. Yet
after a moment, when Legolas released her hand, the heat of his touch lingered on her skin
and erased from her concentration any words she hoped would form. For another minute
his eyes stayed on hers, and then he left her, his feet making no footsteps upon the floor as
she watched him disappear down the hallway.
October 27, 2003
When Legolas had disappeared from her sight to the far end of the corridor, Korin turned
back to the center of the room. A few of the men were examining her with curiosity. Korin
thought it somewhat ironic that for once, she did not feel uncomfortable with their stares.
For now, she had far more important matters to sort out.
The incident between Aragorn and Legolas had forced Korin to rethink her strong desire to
prove herself to Aragorn. Perhaps she should merely allow things to fall into place, instead
of forcing her station in the order of things. She tried to relate to how Aragorn must be
feeling and the pressure she may have put upon him, just by being here. The last thing she
had wanted was to burden her cousin with additional strain from a situation that she had
caused. She wondered what she could do to reduce the amount of worry that he would feel
from her fighting, but also be of use against their foes Her thoughts proved so strenuous,
that within minutes she held her fingers to her temple to alleviate the pain that was
beginning to form there from her interminable lack of sleep. Impatiently, she gave up the
idea of deciding anything for the time and turned and left the hall. Her strides were long
and quick as they carried her in search of the armory, where she hoped to find Gimli. He
had proved once before to be a refreshing change from the stress of the day. Perhaps words
between them could transform her mood.
"You sent for me, my lord." Aragorn addressed Theoden respectfully. Still, he was anxious
to determine the king's reasons for seeing him at this late hour, when so much was yet to be
done. He found only one other in the room with them. It was Gamling, who was preparing
to dress the king in his armor. Aragorn looked quickly to him and nodded his head in
acknowledgment.
Theoden wasted no time in revealing to Aragorn his intentions for their meeting. His back
was turned to the other two men and for a time, he watched out the small window that his
room provided as he spoke. "I am old. Gamling is old." Without moving, he gestured to his
manservant.
Again, he pressed forward with his words. "My son, Theodred is gone from me. It would
seem that all virility in youth is laid to waste in these last days." His voice seemed to stray
from time and purpose, but when he turned suddenly to face the younger man, the
implication of his words seized Aragorn. "I wonder, my lord Aragorn, if you would afford
me the skill of your beloved lady, Korin, that she could offer her service to me this night?"
Of all of the reasons Theoden had to speak with him, Aragorn could not believe his good
fortune. To have his responsibility for Korin's well-being taken care of by this most unlikely
of persons. It was obvious to Aragorn that the king had also spent some time deliberating
the most respectable way to handle this situation. Now all he had to face was Korin's
reaction. Would she see behind the decency of this offer of Theoden's? Of course she
would.
With a small sigh, Aragorn dropped his eyes from the king in order to further concentrate.
He was actually no closer to a solution than he was before. He looked up to Theoden and
began to speak, but was stopped short when Korin entered the chamber and gave her own
answer.
"I should be honored to fight at your side Theoden King." She paused and gave the king a
square and steadfast gaze. " And when the battle falls upon us, you shall look to your side
and find me there, as Gamling will be at your other."
Korin took two steps toward Theoden and stopped. She nodded her head slightly, but
graciously. Without any doubt, she had understood only too well, the motive behind
Theoden's offer. Yet it did solve the dilemma of her place here, for the time being. Also she
knew, as they all knew, that this fight would come to them on all sides and none would be
protected, not even the women who waited in the caves. It must be enough for her then to
be limited here and not confined to those very caves, as fate could have dictated.
"It would seem, Theoden King, that my cousins' intention will be to stand and fight beside
you. If this is her will, then let it also be mine."
His voice seemed strained to Korin, and though she could not discern his reaction to her
decision, she hoped that it would alleviate some of the burden he felt. Yet Aragorn
appeared unmoved and when she tried to catch his gaze, his eyes would not leave the king.
"If there is nothing else, I shall leave you." Aragorn did not wait for Theoden to speak. He
abruptly turned toward the doorway. When his eyes finally came to rest on Korin, he
nodded his head to her and said softly, "my lady," and was gone.
Even after he had left the room, Korin watched the place where he had stood. With all of
her heart, she wished to chase after him and clear the air between them. She felt weighted
by his empathy and it caused her more pain than she had thought it could. Promptly, she
reminded herself of the need for staunchness and looked again to Theoden. He stood yet
by the light of the uncovered window and as he posed himself halfway between its filtered
glow and Korin, she was given a glimpse of his ageless dignity. The golden shafts played
across his face and struck upon his head and the shining circlet that lay across his brow.
This image was forever ingrained in her mind and made her somewhat uneasy to stay in his
presence, though she could not easily say why. Theoden seemed preoccupied with his own
thoughts for a time, and Korin cleared her throat to bring his attention to her.
"My lord, if you will excuse me, I would ask my leave to allow for preparation."
He twisted his head slightly toward the sound of her voice and Korin recognized
immediately what had made her uneasy. The king's countenance was stricken, almost as if
he had seen some horrific scene played out before his eyes. He took such a long moment to
respond to her statement that she was about to inquire whether he had ever heard her, but
abruptly he turned and stepped nearer to her and came into the shadow of the room.
Instantly, he was transformed by the warmer radiance of the torchlight and an ardent smile
replaced the look of horror she had seen. Korin hoped her own reaction to his
transformation had gone unnoticed, as his expression was gone so swiftly that she was
unsure if she had actually witnessed it.
No longer did she feel disquiet in his presence as before, but as he stood close to her, she
found him likened to her own father in appearance and was comforted instead. He gazed
thoughtfully down at her for a while yet, before he responded.
"You do not trust that all precautions are being taken, my lady?"
Korin could guess that he teased her with his question, but nevertheless offered apology for
herself. "I meant not to offend you, Theoden King. I only believed-."
Theoden held up his hand to her in an effort to suspend her words. His smile deepened and
he seemed to become more relaxed.
“We shall speak no more of it, other than I should not have baited you with my mockery. I
would ask one thing of you though, before you leave me. I wish to know how you have
come to be here in Rohan. What father would send his daughter on a campaign that could
very well end in war? I am curious to understand something of yourself, my lady."
For an instant, Korin panicked. Was he to use any information she gave to him, to have her
sent away from the battle? Perhaps he meant to settle the score for her deception at the
river. She thought hastily and decided to answer his query truthfully.
She started patiently, but steadily. "My lord, I have come to Rohan to serve my cousin,
Lord Aragorn. He is the son of Arathorn and as the last in the line of kings of Numenor, he
holds the right to the throne of Gondor.. All of this, you already know. What you do not
know, is that my father, Hathor was chief of our people and since his death, I have been
charged with binding our people, the Dunedain. To upholding this line of kings. I assure
you Theoden King, that before his death my father realized and encouraged my chosen
path. He was a strong leader and much-loved to me. I understand that these ways may seem
different to you, but then none could have predicted what threat we would face now."
November 22, 2003
It took a moment for Theoden to respond to Korin. She watched with consternation as his
face changed to a brooding thoughtfulness. Every second that he delayed forced her to
conceal the nervous expectation she felt as she awaited his response. When at last he spoke,
Korin could not discern any emotion at all from the sound of his voice.
"You are right in saying that we could not have predicted the effects of Saruman's treason.
Still, I am left to wonder at what hand there is yet to play."
His voice trailed off to such a whisper that Korin could barely hear his last words. Before
she could place any thoughts from his statement, Theoden continued. And presently his
tone was again congenial as was his expression when he looked upon her.
"I think I understand now your place here, my lady. Although I should choose to gain more
influence over Lord Aragorn's complacency with your ability in battle, I find myself in a
position that dictates the use of your skill. Such need being the issue, I will be much pleased
to have you near me when it begins."
It was then that Korin reluctantly understood the basis of Theoden's questions. She looked
deeper into his eyes. And beyond the warmth of his expression, she saw the pride and
concern only a father could afford. Nothing could have gained more respect from her, than
this softness he showed her now.
Korin took away the gruff exterior from her voice that had become so natural to her and let
her delicate, soft tones carry her feelings to the king. "I shall seek your company, my lord,
ere the first arrows fly."
Then, she pivoted on her heels and retraced her steps back into the great hall. Before she
stepped into the room, Korin halted and searched the room and was just about to go back
into the shadows of the corridor when Gimli stopped her.
December 10, 2003
"Where have you been? Since my return from the armory there were none to be found."
"I have come from the company of Theoden King."
"Have they managed to secure you a position far enough from the edge of danger, my
lady?"
Looking closely into the Dwarf's face, Korin searched for meaning behind his
presumptuous statement to her. She saw the corners of his heavily moustached lips curled
wryly and a slight twinkle of glee in his eyes.
"You speak with such candor. I must wonder what your words convey to me, Master
Gimli?"
He did not directly answer her query. "A Dwarf woman would not be stayed should she
have a desire to make war. It is a quality that is valued among us. You have proved your
worthiness on the field with the beasts, the Wargs. Is it not your desire to stand beside
Aragorn?"
With a small sigh, Korin wished that he had not asked her this particular question.
Honestly, she desired for all attention to the matter to quell and let the dust settle upon it
completely. She traced the patterns of the stones on the floor with her eyes.
"There is more for me to consider than my own desire to fight. I fear I have already caused
far too much strain, just by being here."
"If you speak of your cousin, you should know that I have just left him."
Korin snapped her head in interest to what Gimli had to say and waited for him to explain
himself.
"The two have taken back their hasty words and all is well with them again. My lady, I
believe that you place far too much burden upon yourself. If you will pardon me saying
this?"
I do indeed pardon you for saying that much," said Korin with a chuckle and smile of relief.
"And after all, I shall take compliment to your pardon, for I do not recall you ever asking
for it before."
This time it was Gimli who returned her grin. "I must take care that I do not allow you to
get to know me any better, my lady."
Korin glanced around the room and realized what a spectacle they must have seemed. A
woman and a Dwarf engaged in cheery conversation while awaiting the doom of war.
Already the lengthening shadows had vanished far into every corridor and the stifling black
of night was around them. Unnaturally closed, the air seemed as clouds swirled in from all
directions with no wind to carry them. And it was not difficult to make out the glowing
horizon and the threat the approaching torchlight proposed.
A small, but perceptible tremor upon the land was beginning to be noticed by all who cared
to listen and an eerie calm had settled among the men congregating around the fires. Their
speech now came in hushed tones, if at all.
Korin's heart was gladdened to know that any ill between Aragorn and Legolas had been
healed. She put any menacing thoughts out of her head and turned her attention back to
Gimli and tried to keep the conversation light.
"So you have visited the armory. Did you find what you needed there?"
"There was little there I found to my liking. I cannot have contraptions distracting me, in
any case. What about yourself? Will you fight with no armor or helmet?"
"In truth, I have left it with Avathar." She shrugged her shoulders. "In any case, I should
see nothing with it upon my head." Korin bent closer to Gimli and added slyly, "besides, I
shall use the surprise of my enemy to my own advantage."
Gimli turned abruptly and started at her comment, but was saved from supplying a retort.
January 12, 2004
Through the increasing canopy of darkness, came the piercing blast of a horn. The
sharpness of it's pitch was somewhat veiled by the heaviness of the air the mounting clouds
presented. Still, the muffled tones floated unmistakably to the ears of them all. The horn's
call echoed once more through the stifled air and this time it was closer and more clear.
Moments afterward an order was heard to open the front gates.
Glimli looked in astonishment to Korin, who returned his bewildered stare. The two of
them bustled through the crowd that had begun milling toward the newcomers. They were
rewarded with a sight that dazed them even more than the horn cutting through the hush of
the night.
A sea of crimson capes flooded the causeway, which curved around the tower of the
Deeping Wall. Row upon row of golden helmets adorned the tops of these caped soldiers.
From where she was, Korin could not see the faces of them, but at once recognized the
bow of the Galadrhim that each one of them carried.
As she and Gimli pushed through the others gathered to witness the sight, she could see
their leader speaking to Theoden. His head was uncovered and Korin's breath was taken,
when she became aware that these were Elven warriors supplied for Rohan's campaign.
From her vantage point she could not discern where their numbers stopped, but reckoned
there were at least two hundred in view.
So busy was she straining to count them, Korin did not notice Aragorn and Legolas pass
between herself and Gimli, in their rush to greet the Elves. Aragorn reached them first and
spoke to their captain. And Korin was not surprised to see him clasp the chest of the Elven
warrior to him in friendship.
The men of Rohan did not push toward their guests to listen intently to the exchange, but
held back instead. Preferring to respect them from a revered distance. Gilmli and Korin
also stayed. There was ample room provided for the two of them to pass and capture the
words of the Elf to Aragorn, yet as they glanced between them they hesitated. Almost
perceptibily, they could feel the air lift slightly and the hopeless despair that had permeated
throughout the crowd changed in one single breath to a joyful exhilaration.
Gimli left her side in his impatience to see above the other men and to find out first- hand
what news had arrived with the newcomers. But Korin did not come forward. She watched
as Legolas stood among the Elves, his pride in his kinsman evident for her to see. All of her
gladness went out to him, for it had been proved wrong to them both, the indifferent plight
of his people in what would become the last stand of Men. A certain pride was felt by
Korin to see him so gratified.
Korin was still out of earshot and could only watch speechlessly as the troupe of Elves
marched behind the beckoning of Theoden. They filed row by row up the remainder of the
causeway and spilled onto the widest part of the Wall. Behind her, the rest of the crowd of
men also began dispersing. She felt more calm than she had in many days and was content
to silently observe the procession filing past her.
When every last Elf had filed past, Korin let her gaze follow their backs as they shifted
themselves to the far side of the Wall. And her lips held a satisfied curve to behold the sight
of them as they amassed there to learn their orders. Her eyes held for a long moment as if
to savor the security that this picture imbued. Without turning her head, Korin could hear
that she was now alone. She turned and intended to walk to the edge of the Deeping Wall
and spend a few precious minutes in solitude. Instead, her plans were interrupted. For as
her eyes came to follow her thoughts, they recognized that she was not alone.
Aragorn had stayed. Though she thought he had left with the rest, he had stood some yards
from her, undetected. He started toward her and it was a small time before Korin could
determine his thoughts. His face also seemed more calm. He moved slow and deliberately
to her and she sought to empty all preconceptions from her mind. It was a difficult task
with all that had transpired between them, and after a moment, she let her gaze fall to the
floor. Soon though, Korin knew him to before her, and all that was left between them was
the dim cover of the nighttime that once more strangled the air with it's heaviness.
At last Korin found her courage and she raised her eyes to meet his. Gone was any trace of
misgiving or resistance from his face. Any hurt or malice she may have encountered
recently, had been replaced by gentleness. And it was thusly, that Aragorn reached his hand
out to touch her shoulder.
My heart tells me, I should come to trust in you, more than the measure I have shown since
you have come to us." Aragorn's voice was softened and not only from the affect of the
privacy of his words. "I find no use for these feelings of guilt that rest upon me and wish
you away from my side. I will no longer allow reproach to cloud my judgment, dear
cousin." His voice dropped below a whisper. "For I question if authority was ever mine to
contain the forces at hand."
Aragorn raised his hand from Korin's shoulder and brushed the back of his fingertips
across her cheek. His tired, but contented smile warmed Korin through. He struggled once
more to speak. "That so much could be undone..."
Korin silenced him and reached up to grasp his hand and held it for a moment to her face
before letting it down to his side. She needed no more words to soothe her. She passed the
strength of her confidence to him in farewell.
"I will greet you here, where we now stand, with the coming of the dawn." Korin could not
help the challenge that lit in her voice at her offer to Aragorn. And neither did he dismiss it.
His smile broadened as they turned and made their way toward the others.
For once, there was no hesitation in Korin's steps as she left Aragorn in the company of the
Elves. Although, every one of them stared intently, she was at ease and resisted the urge to
look further than Aragorn.
With nothing more to be said, she paused with him only briefly before she pivoted upon
her heels and headed for the staircase leading up to the platform where Theoden awaited. It
became impossible for her not to become self-conscious of the attention her movements
were gaining and Korin stopped in the doorway and took a deep breath. She looked back to
take one last view of the men. They were an odd assortment of boys, much smaller than
herself, old men leaning heavily upon their weapons and tall, gleaming Elven warriors. Yet
among them, there was shared one shared trait. No longer did a shadow of death hang
behind defeated faces, but an intense, undying pride played upon the expressions of all she
saw.
Glancing back to Aragorn, Korin cast him a small but wicked grin. To her surprise, he did
not return her smile. Instead he bowed his head to her in silent respect. Gradually, she
turned again toward the staircase, but as she made to move, from the corner of her eye she
spied the figure of Legolas standing near the doorway where he had not previously been.
Korin's hand was poised upon the side of the doorway and she had set her foot upon the
first step, but she could not stop herself from meeting his gaze and she paused.
For a small time, she forgot that anyone was there with them as he captured her eyes so
well with all that he could not say to her. He made no offer to speak, but Korin noticed that
a change had come upon him The confidence of the Eldar standing beside him seemed to
strengthen his posture. It seemed a long time that he held her there and Korin knew, if she
did not break away, it was certain that even more unwarranted attention would be cast her
way. She did not wish to leave without words, yet she had to escape him now. It was
dangerous to feel. Not now, not ever. She supposed that the pain of this realization showed
upon her face to him and caused Legolas' eyes to widen slightly in wonder. Korin forced
herself to look away though. And it did not escape her notice, the speculation she saw from
Aragorn before she took the steps out of the sight of them all .
In a matter of moments she was securely stationed beside Theoden, high upon the parapet
above those from which she had just taken her hasty retreat. Away from any uncomfortable
gaze, but in essence, alone once more. A clear observation was given from this perch to the
ones her heart went with and her eyes fell upon each of them with equal measure.
The deep, reverberating undercurrent that had grown incessantly throughout the evening
hours grew louder, until it was obvious that it was indeed thunder itself now. A collective
gasp could be heard and all eyes went to the sky as a blinding flash of lightening revealed
the first torch lights rounding the crest of the hill from the east. A hush borne from stillness
came upon the keep of Rohan. And the very earth pounded with the footsteps of the Urukhai
and the plummeting rain.
Instantly Korin's gaze jumped from the tops of the heads of the men below her to the
revealed army amassing into the horizon. The lash of the torrential rain stung her eyes and
after the initial shock of the unspeakable sight before her, she closed them again partly. Her
entire body shuddered from both this horrific spectacle and the icy wetness that soaked
down to her skin.
Korin's Journey Part VI March 1, 2004
The Uruks advanced slowly. The rain had no effect on the numbers of their torches and in
truth their glow provided the only light with which to view the approach. Korin imagined
that every battle must suffer this dreadfully prolonged delay. And then when the Uruk-hai
had taken their last step, the insufferable wait was replaced by a drawn-out silence.
In the years that were to come, when Korin would draw upon this moment and pull it from
her memory to dwell within its bittersweet power, she would not remember what she would
have considered significant. She did not firstly recall the weakness in her knees at the
thought of this incredible battle and the odds that were so out of favor. Nor would she
think of her comrades and the peril they too faced. Instead she would remember the sound
that now reverberated up the mountainside. The deafening thud of the weapons of the
Uruk-hai as they beat them upon the bare ground. Even after the drowning showers had
turned the top layers of the soil to mud underneath their colossal numbers, it could still be
defined. Their beats were out of unison and seemed placed wildly at random in some
disturbing primeval orchestration.
To her shame, she lifted her hands to cover her ears, but before they reached her head the
pounding stopped with such a jolting suddenness that an audible breath could be heard
from everyone around her. In an effort to clear her senses, Korin shook her head slightly
and the very next sound she heard was Aragorn, his voice ringing amazingly clear through
the night air. A single command to 'hold'.
And then she realized what had made the Uruk-hai stop their incessant derision of the men
surrounding the keep. One of the Uruks in the front line had fallen forward to the ground.
She smiled to herself as she imagined what had taken the Uruk down, but from her position
behind the wall she could not know. Quickly then all thoughts of humor fled as the
tremendous body of Uruks rushed forward with their assault. The men beside her were still
as Theoden was heard. "And so it begins."
Still some amount of gruesome satisfaction persisted for Korin and a queer exhilaration
overtook her in the seconds that followed while she watched the advance. The enemy
approached remarkably fast and yet it seemed a long time before Aragorn's front lines fired
into their midst. Soon afterward, came another round from the archers flanking the wall
behind Theoden's companies. It was difficult to remain still with so much engagement
around her, but she moved only her eyes for now.
Arrows flew back and forth. Korin could almost count the number of arrows the Elven
archers let go simultaneously and knew that their numbers must already be close to half
spent. But their arrows expertly found their marks and the Orcs stopped unexpectedly as if
falling from an invisible wall and Korin could see a gradual decline in their masses charging
forward. The ladders were now being hoisted up the side of the wall, yet the defense
seemed to be maintaining their ground and Korin gave a silent prayer for this small
advantage. The Uruk-hai had now fully amassed upon the ground below the Deeping Wall.
Every man's attention was fixed upon this scene and as it was, none of them were prepared
for the wrenching explosion that halted every opinion and reservation of the tide of this
battle. Like a dam breaking, the middle section of the Deeping Wall fell in a slide of
mammoth rocks. From those recovering their footing and watching from the inner
courtyard, these appeared much smaller than they actually were, but Korin knew better. A
full third of the wall had been thrown down from the blast that had staggered them all.
Where moments before had stood Elves and men, now only a great void remained.
Korin's heart sank so quickly, she almost moved her hand to her stomach to still her
distress for the peril of the ones she loved down below her. Throwing aside pride and
decorum, she scrambled past the other men to the side of the wall to gain any glimpse of
Aragorn, as Theoden and the others watched helplessly for a time, unsure of what to do.
She had not expected the amount of anguish that would consume her at being forced to
keep her vigil and distance from the battle and it was unlike anything she had ever been
forced to endure.
Korin found no trace of any familiar figures in the rubble that had once been the wall and
in her grief, she moved her eyes above the devestation to the almost imperceptible black
void that symbolized the forest of Fangorn. For a moment, it was as if the trees were parted
and she was given a clear path of sight up to the tower of Orthanc. Her thoughts went back
in time to years when the treason of Saruman was not so well known. She had traveled with
Hathor as far as Isengard and had stayed for a small number of days with the old wizard
while her father's business took him away. Many times she had come to Isengard and
Saruman had welcomed her and encouraged her to take any knowledge she would gain
from his libraries. Korin recalled fondly, afternoons spent under the shaded canopy of the
trees in the gardens with one or several volumes at her feet. But this particular visit had
somehow seemed different to her. There was no speech from the same trees she sat among
this time. She could detect no freedom in their movements in the slight breeze that blew
through their limbs. While Korin was no longer a child at this point, neither did she have
any grasp of her unique abilities and all she could determine was that something had felt
strange and disquiet. She had thought no more of it until Hathor had come and they
departed together. Even now in the intensity of the battle, she could still recall Saruman's
piercing stare as she turned to offer a last farewell. Her eyes seemed to penetrate beyond
his, almost as if she could grasp for an instant what were his thoughts. She felt an icy
coldness creep under her skin and a panic rose within her as an image seized her of the
beloved trees falling down around them. And then just as quickly as it beset her, she was
freed. But when his eyes were brought back into focus, the coldness remained and his voice
spoke to her though no words did he form, only a well-devised threat from the wizard. He
had sensed her incursion and for now this would be warning enough for her. Their horses
led them further from Isengard and it was not until a few miles had been spent that the full
understanding of his revelation fully weighed upon her. She had never spoke of it though
and it was the last time that either Korin or her father had visited Isengard.
Korin's thoughts were jarred back to the parapet where she stood as the Uruks quickly
filled the courtyard behind the wall and began breaking in the wooden door where the wall
met with the causeway. Finally, Korin was able to locate Aragorn's uncovered dark head
among the fallen bodies and the warriors still standing and only faintly heard Theoden
ordering Aragornto fall back to the security of the keep. She watched then as he in turn,
looked to the leader of the Elves, to Haldir and repeated the command. A strangled sound
escaped her lips as she saw Haldir drop to his knees from a strike from behind. Aragorn
called to his fallen comrade and leapt to his aid and Korin was ashamed to find herself
silently bidding her cousin to hasten away from his side as the tide of Uruks charged from
behind the wall. Slowly from within, the horror of the battle was beginning to ebb and in its
place was building an insistent desire for action. She stepped back from the wall and her
hand went impulsively to her scabbard. Theoden and his men were preoccupied with
watching what was happening below. Would they notice if she slipped silently to the back
of the wall and down the stairs?
She heard the wood splitting as the door was breached by the battering ram of the Urukhai.
They had broke through the wood, but not the forged bolt that secured it. From the
other side of the sizeable gap, arrows went sailing into the room and spears were thrust
through. In the second that Korin hesitated at leaving Theoden or going to Aragorn, the
king was wounded. Gamling supported his master with his own shoulders and pulled him
away from the door. He steadied Theoden and placed his sword into his left hand and
focused his attention to barricading the door. Korin watched his back and then turned to
the king.
"Go now and bring any who are left standing into the safety of the Hornburg." Theoden
grimaced in his pain, but gripped her shoulder as he sent her from him and his eyes were
yet bright and forceful.
Korin looked once more toward the door and before she could offer any words to
Theoden, he was gone from her side and engaged once more with the blockade. With no
more hesitation, Korin drew her sword and moved to the door. She cautiously drew it open
and scanned the hall in either direction before she stalked out of the room. The exhilaration
she felt at being freed from the confinement of the keep was increased as a bruised and
bloodied Aragorn was presented in her path. She was grateful to see him unharmed and
with Gimli at his side, but the outcries of the fighting reached her ears at the same time.
Her lips formed an uncertain smile as she looked past him and knew she could not stay at
his side. He raised his arm to hold her back, but she escaped his grasp and continued her
quick pace down the hall. "Go to Theoden," Korin threw to him over her shoulder as she
sped to the aid of those left behind.
June 1, 2004
Once she had descended the short stair behind the wall and stepped into the night it took a
moment for her eyes to become accustomed to the blackness surrounding her. The enemy
was everywhere. They had taken the remainder of the wall that was yet left standing and
already their banners could be seen ascending the bodies of the dead and wounded.
The hours of waiting were coming to a close for Korin and even the thought of the
destruction she would now take part in could not still her desire or her thirst for it. Her
hand tingled for the warm wetness of blood and the yielding of flesh beneath her blade.
The fortitude that had been so carefully kept under her control until now was set free.
There was no longer any numbness to her limbs as Korin crouched down and dove under
several attackers, tripping them with her arm and sword. She scrambled to her feet close to
the other side of them and with a great force stabbed the Orc in the side of its armor and
another near the neck. Immediately there were more to contend. With the use of both her
feet and sword, she pushed and slashed herself out of harms way, taking as many
opponents down as was possible. Heat quickly rushed through her and her vision was
reduced by the sweat of her efforts, but she took no notice and pushed further down the
wall. The force that was exerted in falling the Orcs had undone the tie that had bound her
hair neatly behind her neck and the bulk of it now swirled around her as she swung her
sword with both of her arms. The enemy that had surrounded her ceased their efforts and
gaped openly at her sudden change in appearance. But it was not only her exposed secret
that stayed them. Korin looked down the length of her blade and gave the Orcs a satisfied
smirk as she watched their expressions turn to fear. The moonlight had chosen that exact
moment to shrug off the last of the clouds that had drenched the battle with rain at the
beginning. The sword seemed to attract the shafts of light and reflected them to burn with a
warm yellow glow.
A slow trickle of men were beginning to ascend to the top of the walk where Korin was yet
engaged with the Orcs. They came up to the rear the enemy and stared in wonder at the
sight of the war-maiden and the sword that burned with its own light.
While the enemy was stalled in their actions and undecided how to strike, she watched
without revealing to the Orcs the small band of men that crept from behind. When they
had gained the small space between herself and the enemy, Korin spoke under her breath,
"My surprise, my advantage."
Ceremoniously, she raised Rilma above her head, gathering the attention of the Orcs and in
a slow spiral it descended while all around her watched in suspended silence. "Strike them
now!" she shouted to the men and with an upward thrust she found the soft underside of
the closest opponent.
The men were outnumbered at least by twice, but with a unison of shouts, they heralded
one last effort and rallied for Korin, though she could see that they were well spent. They
fought beside her with whatever weapon was still in their possession. Some had lost the
sword or spear that was given them from the armory and bore only jagged stones that were
left after the wall had fallen. Like a fire burning upon the grass, the force of their courage
gained momentum until they had defeated their enemies and left them laying at their feet.
When, for a moment, they had secured a small reprieve from the assault and there was a
pause to look for what would come next, they were given no time to revel in their victory.
A tremendous horror filled Korin as she watched the massive ladders that were now being
hoisted to the edge of the wall. They could not even aptly be described as ladders. More
akin to trees they were with long branches in both directions that Orcs and Uruks clung to,
suspended by great grappling hooks to the wall itself.
An arrow whizzed past her ear and it seemed strange to her, since there had been no others
fired all of the while she had fought there. Unexpectedly, one of the huge ladders began to
fall backward. Slowly at first, but then smashing to the ground with great speed. Her eyes
scanned in the direction the arrow had alighted from and found the figure of Legolas
perched on a rock some yards away. He had already leapt down and was followed by
another assembly of men.
Korin fought to gain ground between them and cleared a path for the men he was leading
to the keep. With all haste, she led them the remainder of the space to the doorway into the
mountain and then turned and looked for Legolas to follow. They paused together at the
doorway and watched as flag bearers brought poles supporting long black banners
imprinted with the white hand of Saruman up to the wall. The sight of them gloating with
their spoils, disgusted Korin that she could not help herself from lunging forward to wipe
away their mocking gestures. Her motion stunned even herself for she had no real intention
of fighting the Uruks alone. Legolas caught her arm nonetheless, but his voice was gentle.
"There is nothing more to be done. We must go." In her anger, she glared for another
second and then sprang through the entrance and he shut the door behind them.
Once the threat of pursuit was ended the men stopped briefly to catch their breath and to
regain their sight within the darkness of the walls. All torches had long since either burned
or were taken to the deeper passes of the mountain. The only faint glow that could yet be
seen was from the chamber where Theoden was still holding the causeway. From there, the
sounds of battle could yet be heard and were reassuring to Korin. She pushed the men
forward past the stairway to the king and turned to speak to Legolas. Instead, she found
herself alone between the men and the door and cursed under her breath at having been
deluded into believing that he would retreat with them. There was no time to change her
course now though, so with a deep breath she returned her attention to those who stood by
her, as if they were awaiting some order.
In a single glance, Korin could see through what dim light was offered. The men that were
left to follow her were men of Rohan. Their lot was of the men untrained in warfare, both
the young and the old. She remembered Theoden's words to her and approached a weary,
but sturdy gray-haired man in their midst. He leaned heavily on the hilt of his sword and
appeared to her more in control of his fear than any other.
"Do you know the way to the caverns from here?"
The older man answered with a single nod.
"Hasten then to your ancient retreat and may you find comfort there in the arms of your
wives and mothers. Go to their sides and protect them there, for I fear that this wrath will
not stay contained outside these walls." Korin scanned the sheer, glittering rock on both
sides of the group as she spoke.
The man of Rohan stepped toward Korin and asked her, "will you not come into the deep
with us, my lady?"
"My kin lies not inside the Hornburg and I would look upon him with my own eyes now,
lest it be my last." She finished her words with him softly, "fortune go with you," and she
left them and hastened to the king's chamber.
She ascended the short flight of stairs, but the spectacle that Korin met with in the room
was not encouraging. All around her the men had ceased and looked to their king for
guidance. But Theoden stood to the side in a despondent state. His eyes appeared sightless
and his thoughts were not upon the siege at hand. She looked to Gamling, but he only sent
his gaze to the voiceless stones below. There was no sign of Aragorn or Gimli and Legolas
had left her at the Deeping Wall. Korin pushed through the possibilities that crept into her
mind and hardened her resolve. She strode regally to the men behind the failing door.
“Who ordered you to cease the barricade? Have a care as to what the Orcs on the other
side will do to you- to your king, if they are permitted to enter!"
Korin shouted her orders above the noise of the battering ram. She was abrupt and her
tone left no room for wavering. Angrily, she sheathed her sword and tipped a large table
near the wall. It took only a moment before others rushed to assist her and soon they had
moved it to lean on the doorway. There were other large pieces in the room that could be
fashioned into blocking the door and Korin set herself directing the men to work together
in using whatever was of any use to them.
She could not afford to turn to watch as her three companions made their passage into the
room and instead kept the men engaged with her commands. She would not allow them to
witness the confrontation between Aragorn and their leader only to lose hope and
surrender their labors. Legolas was beside her and offered his strength in moving scraps of
heavy wooden beams to the doorway. Just vaguely, she heard Gimli in his familiar brusque
voice, "the sun is rising!" Some moments later she heard Aragorn in his final attempt to
rally the king. "Ride out with me!"
She looked to her side at Legolas. At last there would be some deed worthy of acting upon.
They stood back from the barricade, breathless with exertion and shared a grim smile
between them.
If the passing of time could be stilled one would notice that the room was now less dark as
this night of despair was releasing them from its spell. But there was no time left for
reflection. Already the horses were led out and a feverish current spread through the riders
as they mounted their horses and withdrew their arms. Very few of Theodens men would
join them in the campaign, for he was once again strong in his command and would not
bring them to that which he would name his last ride.
Korin gave silent thanks for not being stayed as she made to mount Avathar and follow
them out. The words 'I will not die here in Rohan' formed in her mind, but yet no need had
come to speak them. She remained unafraid and wished to be free of the walls which had
become a prison where they had been cornered like rats in a sewer. The sun was coming
and she would feel it upon her face before the hour was ended. It seemed strange how calm
the horses stayed, unaware of the destruction they would soon meet when the doors were
breached.
The deep voice of Theoden cut through her thoughts as the host was ready to ride.
"For wrath! For ruin! And the red dawn!"
Not a second was offered to glance to either side of her as the men at the barricade stepped
away. Immediately, there was one last crash as the battering ram shattered the remaining
metalwork, barely holding intact the splintered pieces of their one defense. Such a pressure
must have been set against the doors by the enemy, that their front ranks fell in a heap at its
sundering.
"Forth Eorlingas!" was cried by the king and he raised his arm to direct the shaft of his
blade straight toward the rush of Orcs.
Aragorn rode in front of the procession with the king at his side and though his adornment
was less stately than that of Theoden, his dominion was seen to be equally imposing. The
Riders of Rohan came up behind her and Legolas rode beside her. Korin gave a silent
farewell to the Dwarf as the horn of Helm Hammerhand sounded from the tower. It rang
across the stone and gained as it smashed through the Hornburg, its devoted call raised the
spirits of the riders and offered a warning to the Orcs who awaited.
The next moments seemed to crawl by Korins notice as soon a strange sensation could be
detected of flesh under hooves and then the sudden jolt as their mounts reached the solid
footing of the causeway. Little room was given for movement as swords were used to hack
and pick their way slowly down the rounded decline.
By the time half the distance had been scaled, the surprise had worn and the fighting
became intense. Her legs began to cramp with the force exerted on clenching her only
safeguard. It was madness. And by the time the final descent was at hand, it seemed all that
would be gained by it was a total surround of the several thousand Orcs that remained and
the scores of Wild Men that had been held back until the end.
Korin doubled her efforts with her blade and as if from afar she could hear cries of fury
escape her lips as Rilma swung from side to side. Some of the Orcs stood stunned as the
brilliance of its light came upon them with the first red shafts offered by the rising sun.
Avathar reared once at the unnatural footing and as Korin fought for control, her leg was
seized by one of the Wild Men. She was presented only a glimpse of her attacker. His hair
and face were black and filthy and indeed the only color to be seen was the white ring
around his eyes that were also black and devoid of anything but murder. The Wild Men
were short of stature, but strong and he had the leverage of footing and pulled her with all
of his body. She brought the hilt of her sword down hard upon his head, but he had loosed
her foot from the stirrup and the momentum of her swing had placed her weight off
balance. From somewhere at her side, she dimly heard Legolas' shout to her, but it was lost
as she swallowed a shriek and clutched desperately for her reins.
August 25, 2004
Legolas pushed Arod for all that he could through the mass of bodies to gain Korin's side.
The fighting ceased to exist for him as all of his concentration was aimed at stopping her
fall. He placed his sword in his left hand along with his reins and lifted himself out of the
saddle in an attempt to secure Avathar's head. But the horse had stumbled among the
crushing bodies below and to Legolas' horror, the animal went down beside him. He thrust
his arm toward Korin and firmly grasped her waist. There was a terrible moment of
resistance that threatened to unseat him and he could see that she was losing her grip on
her sword which was wedged deeply in the flesh of her foe.
"Korin you must let it go!" He despised the words as soon as he felt the need to speak
them, but knew that his grip could not hold for much longer.
Everything was slipping from beneath her all at once. Korin could feel Legolas' grip on her
tightening and still she held on. Her breath was quickly leaving her as it was squeezed from
her leaning over his arm.
"It is only a sword!" he shouted to her again, his voice now pleading.
With no more hesitation, Korin's hand left the hilt of Rilma. She placed her foot upon
Legolas' in the stirrup and allowed the momentum of his strength settle herself in front of
him upon Arod. Although she would have stared in her shock as her sword and mount
were swallowed by the tumult of the battle, his free arm pulled her closer as he tucked her
head safely below his chin. For a time Korin could not think clearly. She watched
despondently behind them as Legolas drove them away from the worst of the fighting.
Sooner than she would have cared to, she brought herself back to the present to realize
how vulnerable her position had left them and hovered lower and stilled herself to give him
a clearer path of sight. An emotion between misery and security was winding its way
through her as Legolas turned the horse around at a safer distance. She could not
distinguish if the sounds of battle were diminished for them both or solely for her in her
disbelief. They spent a short time watching the scene together and then she felt a slight
shudder from behind as the side of his face rested lightly upon the top of her head. Legolas
repeated his same words of moments before now barely a whisper, "it is only a sword."
With his words, Korin closed her eyes and felt too heavy to move. It was remarkably easy
for her to dispel all of her thoughts and only when fleetingly, she became aware of the irony
of being warm and sheltered amidst all of the chaos around them, did a small measure of
reality finally seize her. By then the light atop the mountainside was now unmistakable, its
purity washed away the dullness and desolation of the night past and once the sun had
gained its zenith, it blinded the valley for an instant before revealing a lone figure drenched
in its wake. It was Legolas who first moved and raised his head and she followed his gaze to
where it stopped to the east. "Look, it is Mithrandir. He has kept his promise."
The rising sun offered its radiance to the White Wizard as he paused at the top of the cliff.
Beside him came Eomer with the Rohirrim amassing the banks as far as could be seen. The
Uruk-hai turned their front ranks to this new threat and settled their spears against the
advance.
September 9, 2004
The Elf and the lady moved their heads as one to observe the reaction of the remainder of
the Orcs. To their great relief, the entire bulk of the Orcs had taken all awareness from the
small number of horsed riders in the sudden turn of events.
Korin seized this moment of gratefulness and held onto it to keep her wits. She
straightened in the saddle before Legolas. "Put me down here. You should go to the fight."
The words sounded childish even as she spoke them, but she felt a need of some pretext to
put distance between them. Although she heard no sound from him, she could feel the
heavy leather mail brush her back as he chuckled at the possibility.
Legolas' voice was incredulous. "Put you down? And with no sword or mount?!"
Korin felt uncomfortable now with their closeness and stiffened. There was nothing she
could trust herself to say that would not make her seem more foolish than she already did.
She was silent and stared down at her hands.
"I would wager that the battle is already reclaimed, my lady." The sounds of victory were
enough to back his words and Korin did not lift her eyes. Legolas sensed her stillness and
misread the reason. "I am sorry for your loss," he offered gently.
Her sigh made her relax again slightly. "It is not the blade, but the memory of my father I
will grieve for this day."
The shouts for the absolute defeat of the enemy were growing in intensity and even Korin's
crushed spirits were responding. She lifted her head and a renewed sense of satisfaction was
beginning to form within her despite her personal cost. She had expected that her partner's
gaze was also fixed upon the scene of excitement, but instead Korin found that it rested
upon her. There was a calmness set to his expression that warmed her, but also left her
unarmed when his head bowed down toward her own. Korin found that she could not look
away and in fact felt herself drawn in until her eyes began to close in expectation.
It was the sharp whinny of a horse nearing them that stopped the contact from completion.
Aragorn was riding toward them unhurriedly and at his side walked Avathar. He held her
reins close and spoke soothing words beneath his breath to keep her from bolting after the
physical terror she had just endured. "Are you hurt?" he asked Korin and let go his control
of the horse as the frightened animal sprang forward at sensing her mistress.
Being thrust into the motion of the changing events was to be Korin's salvation. Although
she was quite sure that Aragorn had been afforded a glimpse of what had almost came to
pass, Korin ignored this and leapt to the ground below with only a small plea that her legs
would not betray her steadiness. Once she was sure of her strength, Korin shook her head
to his query. As she reached out for Avathar and stroked the horse to further quiet her,
Aragorn moved closer, touching her arm and moving his eyes down the length of her to
reassure himself of the answer he had received. In the next second, he took a step back and
there was a crease to his brow as he looked up again. "Where is your sword? Where is
Rilma?"
Korin could not know how the long shadows still remaining in the valley played across her
face and showed to Aragorn how stricken she was, though she tried firmly to conceal it.
"The Sword of Light shall bring light no more."
Nothing more was said by her cousin, nor she would have had the power to speak if the
need had arisen. With Avathar at her side, quieted now, Korin rested her head against the
familiar warmth of the animal's neck. She could detect the remainder of the forces
assembling behind her and though their numbers were great, the air was strangely quieted
as if in expectation of some further disturbance. For once, none of this stirred her until
Avathar pulled away abruptly and circled to face the advancing men. Moments before she
could turn she heard the rich confident tones of Gandalf as he spoke forcefully in his usual
attempt to gain attention to his words.
"The Sword of Light shall yet bring hope to the dark days of Men."
For some time, Korin concentrated on the back of her mount as she marched the few steps
to Shadowfax, but the reprieve would not last. In the next instant, her eyes were forced to
the hem of the white robes of the wizard. She swallowed her disbelief and dared to lift her
gaze to his full form. The image was anti-climatic as all Korin saw was Gandalf holding the
hilt of her sword in return toward her, everything else was her own design of pure emotion
at Rilma having been spared. Gradually, she raised thehand that had last held it. The sleeve
of her coat was yet specked with mud from the torrential rains of hours before and small
trails of dried blackened blood ran from her fingertips and down past her wrist, a small
consolation of the grim reminder that her loss had not been in vain. The blade in contrast
was cleaned and as the rays of sun touched it, a band of light seemed to reach from its point
and disappear upwards into the clearness of the sky itself so that Korin was hesitant to
grasp it. But she did take hold of the hilt and as she brought it down to rest before her eyes
the beam did not leave and all those gathered there became witness to the ageless power
that it possessed.
From within a confidence settled upon Korin and as she finally replaced the sword into her
scabbard a the tension of the battle eased from her face. "Your tidings have been well given
this dawn Gandalf the White. All light you have harnessed and restored to Men in this dark
hour." But in the back of her mind she formed these Elvish words to him, "Mithrandir,
there are no words of thanks that could ever be enough."
Not all of the Rohirrim had paused to view the unusual exchange between Gandalf and the
lady. Nearly half their numbers had rounded the back side of the ravine and were steadily
pushing the enemy to the brink of the forest. The Orcs had fled hastily beneath the dense
branches, but most of the Wild Men had stopped short of the dreaded trees.
Korin knew a second of coldness that quickly replaced the confidence that she had found.
She writhed inside as she felt the absolute fury of each individual voice that stormed
through Fangorn and rose in a tide of hatred against the Orcs. She was barely aware of the
voice of Gandalf inside of her, warning her not to let the terrifying grip of it overcome her.
It was fortunate for Korin that the crushing slaughter of the Orcs was over in a small
passing of time and as suddenly as it had come, its hold was ended and mercifully left
nothing to remind her that she had felt anything at all.
September 15th, 2004
At once there arose a flood of activity in the war ravaged valley. The people were coming
out of their hiding from the mountain and they joined the riders on the battlefield. Left to
surrender, the Wild Men were spared and taken captive, their weapons released to Theoden
and his captains. As the sun climbed higher in the sky the king took counsel with Gandalf,
who bade him follow to Isengard if he would. And though Theoden argued the judgment
of the wizard for storming a fortress so protected, Gandalf would offer him no reason only
a promise to see what strange things were at work there as he had need to speak with
Saruman. Theoden agreed without dispute and did not question his counsel at any length
thereafter.
"Let all who are to ride with me rest now, said Gandalf. "We will travel under the shadow
of evening. Our journey will be marked in secret henceforth, but let it be known that we do
not go to a fight, but a parley."
While Korin stood aside with Aragorn and Legolas listening to the words of the king with
Gandalf, Gimli the Dwarf came to join them from the Hornburg, where he had stayed
since the the battle had been won. His steps were slightly staggered and his helmet was
missing. As he approached, Korin could see that he carried a tattered and bloodied bandage
above his eye. Aragorn bent to to touch the wound and Gimli did not stop his hand.
It was a small blow and it would take more than a strike from an Orc to bring me down,"
he said fearlessly.
"Let us rest a while and I will take a closer look to it," Aragorn insisted.
Korin was glad for the distraction which allowed her to slip behind her friends where the
talked together of their tales of battle and the wondrous turn of events which had led to the
victory. She looked toward the mounts of the Riders of the Mark and the posts to which
they were tied and then spied Shadowfax without saddle or bridle gently nibbling the grass
near them. There would be no need to tie Avathar with the other horses as she would
simply break free to be with him, so Korin tied her reins to the horn of her saddle and
shook her head in submission as she watched the mare trot softly near the stallion.
Although the emotion of her near fatal fall and the precarious position she had found
herself in afterward were still very fresh in her mind, she could not help but feel lighthearted
as she sought the crew of soldiers that were carrying out their orders from the king
to set the Wild Men of Dunland that remained to building mounds to bury the dead. Korin
could not take her rest near her companions and felt she had not need of it presently. With
what strength was still remaining she put forth in the effort of filling the graves and offering
her help wherever it was needed. And for the remainder of the morning and even as the sun
climbed to its highest peak, she used this reprieve to prevent herself from dwelling on
anything beyond the blood-soaked mud and the pursuit of her labors. The constant motion
and the sweat that streamed from her face proved to be her salvation and by the time she
could spare a second to peer up from her work, the sun had descended from it highest
point and lay before her, lengthening the shadows of the great mounds that were forming.
Korin was greeted with a moment of faintness as she straightened and bent backwards to
ease away the stiffness. It had been hours since she had either eaten or drank and though
she dreaded leaving the quiet rhythm of the work she had been about, she did leave in
search for something to ease her hunger and thirst. She reached a tent that had been erected
to provide food for the men busy with the burials and stopped at the entrance to wash her
hands and face at a large golden bowl upon a stand. The coolness of the water immediately
struck the heat of the day from her body, but did nothing to satisfy the growing space
inside her belly that already begged at the smell coming from the tables that had been set
out for the meal. Korin filled a plate with cold meats, fresh vegetables and bread and stood
to drain a goblet of water and refilled it again before taking a seat on the benches. Amid
stares from several of the soldiers at the other end of the table, Korin quickly emptied most
of the plate until she was satisfied with biting upon the last piece of bread. She felt the
bench sag even before she knew it to be Aragorn there beside her and waited for him to
speak first. "The day has seen much done since I have last closed my eyes."
She wished to steer his words away from their meaning. "Your time seems well-spent my
lord, as you appear refreshed. Take up a platter so you may take repast." And to Korin's
surprise he did just as she suggested and plied her with no more words. She was grateful
that he did not beg her to rest and inquire why she had separated herself for the better part
of the day. Deciding to play his game of pretense she asked him, "When does Gandalf
make ready for Isengard?"
"We will ride into the setting of the sun. He wishes us to go unbidden from here."
Korin did not answer directly, but set her attention to finishing the last of her meal. "Tell
me how Master Gimli is fairing." And could not stop the smile that crept into her eyes at
his mention. "Was he quite stunned from his Orc-blow?"
"He shall mend soon enough. It was not deep and his stoutness will not able him to fall
behind." Aragorn too seemed more calmed at the change in topic. "I am glad to find that
there is much to be thankful for this day, but I fear what may still lay ahead of us. Gandalf
will not speak of Isengard except that we will see wondrous things, yet Isengard is only one
of the foes which stands in our way."
"Do not dread that which you cannot even see in front of you. None, even Gandalf has
seen what will take place. Let it be sufficient for us now that Saruman's evil has spread no
further. Though his ways seem elusive to us, we must trust that Gandalf will strive to keep
us one step ahead of the enemy. I do believe that all sides have yet to clearly define
themselves and we must trust that aid will come when it is most needed." Her words trailed
softly at the end and Korin stared thoughtfully at the tankard in her hands.
Aragorn did not fail to notice the meaning of her words. "You speak of Halbarad."
"And others as well. Sauron has still more foes than friend in these lands." After a pause
she wondered, "Do you doubt that our people will come, Aragorn? For I assure you that it
was no whim which set my plans in motion. Very soon we will find them here as this was
the course I set upon them."
Korin's voice had raised slightly at the turn of her phrase and forced Aragorn to regard her
in a new light. So it was as he had guessed. It was she who was leading the Dunedain down
from the North and he felt his tribute to her deepening for all that she had done. "I harbor
no uncertainty, my lady of the fealty and love that would cause our kindred to beckon to
your call, as I have seen it for myself these many days."
Her response was soft, but steady, "it is not I who will lead them ere the time they will ride
forth to meet with us."
September 21, 2004
There was nothing more said between them as Korin made her excuses hastily and
retreated before Aragorn could answer her. In truth she did need to prepare for the journey
to Isengard and left in search of Avathar. As she exited the tent, she fought to control the
quickening of her blood at the realization that her time of hiding was come to an end and
she must now face closer quarters with the one she had been avoiding for most of the
daylight hours.
The Riders were also securing their mounts and readying for the hour in which their king
would have them set out. Although he would have raised a great march, Theoden had
chosen only twenty men as Gandalf had suggested that no great escort would be needed to
cross the Fords of Isen into Saruman's realm. The only others in the company were
Gandalf himself and Gimli, Legolas, Aragorn and Korin. The waning sun was just
beginning to present a crimson cast to the broad expanse of the battlefield and onwards to
the foot of the mountain slowly creeping up it's steep slope and returning to the clouds in a
full-circle. Gandalf and Shadowfax began the motion of the of the procession, but Theoden
paused to steal one slow glance back towards the keep and devastation that had been dealt
upon his people.
orin's Journey Part VII
July 23, 2006
In the first calm, cooler breezes of the evening, the riders set out with no fanfare raised
and though wearied with the efforts of their victory fresh in their minds, a disquiet fell to
each as Gandalf was first to lead them through the encroaching vines of the trees. Soon all
knew the heaviness of the air surrounding them and the echoes of unrest that grew between
each twig and leaf and stayed barely unchecked in the night air. Yet the distance that
spanned them from Helm’s Deep to the Fords of Isen was narrowest at this point and
when the moon had not yet made its way to the highest point, Gandalf, Theoden and the
rest came to the threads of the rivers that converged there where trees became water. The
brightness meeting them at the fords was at remarkable odds with the darkness of the
forest they left behind and made even brighter for the full light of the moon as it touched
the tops of the swirling water where its currents gathered and recessed toward different
lands.
A natural pause came from the riders once all had passed the shadows of Fangorn. For
her part, Korin had kept to the rear of the procession making room between herself and the
few men at arms that had accompanied Theoden. Her need for solitude was great and she
offered no company to any for the first hours of their travel. One sweeping glance showed
that she was indeed the last to leave the quiet of the forest and she looked up to the peaks
of the green trees in solemn gratitude for the peace they had afforded her for the past
hours. A slight snort and an abrupt turn from the horse who’s back she had been
concentrating on ignoring this evening caught her attention, as did the voice of the Dwarf
who sat behind Legolas.
“Do as you wish, but first let me down from the back of this beast. I wish to stay no
longer in the company of the woods!”
Arod was directly in front of Avathar and Korin had to rein in sharply to keep the two
from colliding. From the group of riders, she heard Gandalf tell Legolas to stay his course
and leave the trees behind. As if waking from a dream, she looked to the Elf to see what
had made him turn so and as she did, a multitude of voices rose upon the air and blasted
her head with a shattering jolt. Korin could see Legolas’ eyes widening even more as he
looked beyond her and shifted his nervous mount out of the path of the walking trees that
seemingly ignored them all and in three great strides crashed through the thicket and
crossed the river out of their sight. And then as suddenly as the incident had came it left
them watching breathlessly to where the creatures had fled. Gandalf could be heard relating
to the shocked riders the telling of the “Shepherds of the Trees” and to put their weapons
aside and give them leave to pass without conflict, for they had business away from here
and would not stop to speak of it tonight.
The two remaining horses stood for one more moment with their backs to the others and
yet gazed back through the dense wood. It was Gimli fidgeting and muttering behind
Legolas that brought Korin out of her intense vigilance. She searched for another glimpse
of the creatures, but the forest had returned to its barely checked hibernation. The incident
seemed to have far more effect on Legolas, who stared wistfully forward still. With a
softness she had not felt for some time, Korin spoke to him in the words of his people.
“Let us continue to on to see what other hidden treasures this world has to show us.”
Her tone was light and also appeared to ease the Dwarf and finally Legolas slanted his head
to peer across to her and searched her eyes for what seemed a long time and then quite
calmly nudged his mount forward without looking back. Korin followed closely and
surprised herself that she also had to stem a desire to stay behind. She sighed to herself and
felt the tiredness of the days work begin to strain the muscles in her arms and legs and for
once yearned to end her constant roaming and come to rest for even a short time. In the
light of the moon, she caught a glimpse of a pale golden head which rocked gracefully with
the rhythm of the saddle and just higher than the Dwarf’s helmet before her. This was also
a cause for her listlessness. Every hour that crept forward seemed to lessen her resolve to
take no action upon the emotions that had been awakened to her these past days. Korin
found she could not continue to separate the sureness of what her head told her to do with
the strength of what her heart whispered to her
They followed Gandalf then beyond the last branches that swept out into the grasscovered
knoll that bordered the rivers. Their horses crossed the river and for several miles
they rode in silence. The gleam of the moon was waning and a mist was beginning to rise
and suspend just above the ground. It thickened as they moved onward and came to several
great mounds of freshly piled earth. Above this and in the valley below hovered many black
birds feasting on the bodies left upon the field of battle which had recently been ended
there. Here Theoden paused and was not comforted by Gandalf’s account of the siege here
the night before. The night was becoming darker and the mists surrounding them were
even more black or gray than the usual fog that would accompany the cold of the night. For
a time they lost sight of the river and the last shafts of light from the sky, as the moon
slipped out of sight and was not to be seen again. It was by the feet of the Misty Mountains
that Theoden ceased and called a rest for himself and his men, who had none since the day
before the battle. The mountains could only be known for the mist that stopped there and
swirled back upon itself amassing momentarily and then slipping upward to the black peaks.
Too weary to camp, riders loosened the girths of their saddles to offer small comfort to
their beasts and laid at their feet upon their cloaks dampened with the heaviness of the air.
Soon the entire party was asleep, though there was little comfort from the place that had
been chosen.
Korin woke with her mind still in the midst of a dream that had unsettled her. Her
sleeping eyes beheld the very trees of Fangorn moving out toward the mountain in the
direction of their camp. She leapt up from the ground and found the old wizard standing
some feet away and noticed that the mist from the ground did not encircle him, but stayed
away, and Korin wondered if her dream had followed her. She walked the short distance
between them and stood beside him silent for a minute. Gandalf did not look her way when
she spoke, but she knew that her barely whispered words were well understood.
“The forest is returning to reclaim what was lost.”
Gandalf chose not to speak, but turned his eyes to her and Korin could just begin to see
his unburdened expression by the approaching dawn as instead he put his thoughts to her
mind.
“If they have taken action then it was as right. For they have cried out against the usurper
and finished what needed doing.” Gandalf then put his thoughts into words and leaned
closer to quiet them. “No doubt we shall find Isengard much changed, though even I do
not know what matters have developed there since I left to battle on the eve.” After a
pause, he continued, “I fear for you, my lady in the face of the wizard. The depths of
Saruman’s treason are unclear to me and I would keep you out of his path, for his mind is
yet strong I sense and I do not wish him to read the secrets of our journey. If your thoughts
can be shared by one wizard I would not risk another who’s devices are wrought with evil
these times.”
Korin spoke through a small smile, “You do not trust me Mithrandir?”
The look he sent her was admonishing. “My dear, it is good that you may still find
humor.” And then he saw her turn intent once more and waited for her to speak.
“I believe that he knows my secret. Once in the years before my father passed, we shared
a strange visit, Saruman and myself. I remember his eyes looking through me as I rode
away.” Korin peered up to Gandalf to check the effort of her words and then continued.
“I will enter the wizards lair and do my best to keep hidden from his sight, for it is as you
have said, I too believe that he would come to use me as a mirror to our demise.”
She hung her head and dropped her shoulders and when she straightened and took a deep
breath it shuddered through her. “So much treachery, so much destruction. I thought
when the time came, I would be ready. I have seen the result of war before, but never
this...”
Beside her the wizard’s deep, low voice was kind. “No one could prepare for hatred of
this magnitude. I have seen more than my share of troubled times and know this, if we were
to harden ourselves to the harshness of war there would be no compassion left to this
earth. But take heart, what you deem as weakness may in time come to be a strength to
you.”
She lightly grasped his arm and laid her forehead against his shoulder in moral support for
a brief moment and then took her leave to go see to Avathar, but in the instant that she
turned, a great rumble of the earth was heard from a distance and this time it was no dream.
The entire camp was stirred to their feet and all looked in the direction of the sound.
It echoed as it grew nearer and now all who had lain were upright and afraid. The branches
of the trees began to bounce up and down with the force of the movement and the sound
of it was like a wind storming wildly through the leaves. There were voices groaning and
heaving also with the motions of the ground and though the stars shone brightly above, the
men were surrounded by a black fog that threatened to panic them all, but Gandalf gave
warning to let it pass and it seemed many minutes while each breath was held and at last the
shadow passed.
The riders departed from their makeshift encampment as none would dare to close their
eyes again before the blackness of the mountainside there. Before any hint of dawn could
be seen, they set out for Isengard once more. Just barely through the mists they could spy
the foot of the mountains rising on their left as they passed into the Wizard’s Vale, Nan
Curunir. Once it had been a fertile, shallow valley where fields had been tilled and dotted
the side of the hill and many trees sprung from the edges of the fields. As Theoden’s group
came by it held nothing of its past charm. Only stumps remained where the grand old oaks
had canopied the furrows of crops and where this had been was left only weeds and
brambles that had overtaken the stumps. Angry thorns twisted through the brush and laid
testament to the devastation wrought here. As they followed the path to the fortress the
decimation worsened. The ground beneath the black tower was worn and muddied from
the Orcs trampling and flooding waters that had recently been pushed from the banks of
the river to fuel the greedy furnaces of Saruman.
Of all the changes and revelations she had been greeted with since setting out from the
north these many weeks, the demise of Isengard was hardest for Korin to face. She could
not appraise even the locations of places she had visited as a child and save for the pillars at
the entrance of the gate and the mountains to her rear, she could not even recognize the
direction they had traveled in from. Her breath was drawn in sharply and it was heard by
those around her and despite the replacement of the steel helmet upon her head, Korin
doubted that she could have checked the shocked and dismayed tears that fell now in any
case. All that had once been green and fair and alive was replaced with death and
desolation. She continued to hold to the back of the procession and was the last to behold
the ruined gates no more supported by the statuesque stone columns. The massive wooden
doors had been thrown down, cracked and mangled at their very feet. A coldness was
gripping her heart and for an instant she wished she had made no promise to keep away
from the one responsible for such despicable ruin. Lost in such brooding thoughts, Korin
could not believe her ears as voices raised in light-hearted banter and then even laughter
were sent down through the ranks. Curiosity beset her, but she stayed with her plan and
kept to herself. And then finally she saw the interest of her companions. There were two
Hobbits of the Shire sitting atop the great stone wall facing them all. She reckoned these to
be the very lost ones that Aragorn had been searching for when she happened upon them
in Rohan. It was a merry sight to see smiles upon the war-torn faces of those accompanying
her and it lightened her spirits and she yearned to stop to and learn of their escapades.
The pair of Hobbits climbed down to ride long with Aragorn and Gandalf and then the
company entered the gates and stepped into the flooded, muddied avenues beneath
Orthanc. They waded through mud and water up to the knees of their mounts in places and
where the waters had subsided some, was left behind a blackish sludge that stayed behind
and coated the wreckage with its thick slime. Together they rode a ways into the yard of
mangled wood and stone and steel picking their way carefully until they reached a higher
place to stop and survey the sight.
Gandalf entreated the king to away with him to speak to Treebeard and learn of the
events of the past evening here, but the others stayed back with their reunited companions
to learn of their own escape from the Orcs. Korin stayed with Aragorn and the others,
though she had momentarily considered following the wizard to keep from the unrest she
would feel in such close quarters. Then also, she did not want to intrude upon these friends
who had much to speak of. Yet she had been presented no opportunity to separate herself
and the two riders left in as much haste as could be afforded through the obstacles of war
below their feet. Wordlessly, she followed Aragorns example and let Avathar loose to seek
some small plot of grass with which to nibble, but not before she removed her helmet and
thread it through the leather loop of her saddle. She watched for as long as she could as the
horses wandered out of sight until she could no longer put off her revelation to the
Hobbits. Korin offered no comment and she received a queer and awestruck stare from
the little ones. After a moment, Aragorn made a brief introduction.
“Meriadoc and Peregrin of the Shire, this is my cousin, Korin, daughter of the chief of my
People, the Dunedain. She was met with us upon the Gap of Rohan at the sight of the Orcbattle
where the two of you so cleverly escaped.”
The Hobbits bowed as low as they could, but in their astonishment they did not lower
their eyes and came up hastily. “My lady,” they let out together, “We are glad to know a
cousin of Strider,” finished Merry.
Aragorn spoke again, “Korin this is Merry and Pippin as we have called them from
journey’s beginning.”
Korin responded warmly, “My good Hobbits I, as well as Aragorn have come to know
the borders of your lands well and am glad to know you, though I wished it could have
been in happier times.”
Gimli broke in, “ They spoke of salted pork and fresh pipeweed, I can think of no
happier time. Lead us to your plunder you rascals, as it seems days since a good meal has
been met with!”
A relaxed mood settled upon the small group then as they were led down a long corridor
and into the remnants of a once great hall that was now exposed on the right side from an
enormous blow and a clear view was now given of a flight of stairs that wound down
toward a stream and before this laid an expanse of still green lawn seeming untouched by
the past days flooding. The hall was open except for three smooth stone pillars down the
center. These were engraved artfully with vines and leaves that seemed to come alive out of
the very stone from which they sprang. The ceiling was low though, and it offered a small
measure of comfort for the hungry travelers to share their tales.
The far side of the hall was dark and could not be made out and yet this is where the
small companions disappeared to retrieve the food that was brought out to their friends.
When Korin and the others had begun to partake of it, they started in with their questions.
Aragorn and Gimli and Legolas did their best to provide answers as speedily as they were
asked, but after a time it was them that had won out on the Hobibt’s desire to speak of
their excitement the past days and shortly a rhythm settled to the storytelling. Korin was
content to sit back and enjoy the enthusiasm of the small ones and found a harmony that
seemed out of order, but desirable. She watched each of them in turn, even Legolas as he
was all absorbed into the tales and wished that nothing more complicated than this would
need be thrust in their direction for a long time and it was thoughts such as these that took
her away, unnoticing that the conversation had turned to herself. The group of them had
broken into hearty laughter and when gazing up from her silent musings, she found all eyes
turned attention to her. And it was Gimli who finished the account with a big booming
voice and chuckling so hard as to bend over in his efforts.
“And then she took off her helmet and the very Orcs on the ground could have jumped
up and hewn us in two and we would scarcely have noticed!” At this Aragorn himself gave
a hearty laugh and Korin beamed at her joy of hearing it after all of the trials endured of
late.
As the merriment died down to a lesser degree Korin bowed her head to regain some
sobriety, yet her face remained bright and as she looked up once more her gaze was
captured by Legolas and to her discomfort found that it took her far too long a time to
look away. Her blood was warmed and she knew her heart would betray her if she lingered
here for any longer.
The storytelling had wound itself down to good-natured ribbing and Merry and Pippin
suddenly jumped up and were gone for but an instant and then returned with the pipeweed
they had promised. As the men drew out their pipes, Korin decided to take this time to put
some distance between herself and the piercing eyes of the Elf which she saw even when
they were nowhere near her at all. She made quick, but courteous excuses and all of them
rose as she made her way lightly to the steps that led down to the river.
The second half of the day had brought a great deal of sunshine upon the land and
perhaps it was fitting now that all of the evil seemed momentarily contained and a slight
peace and calm had settled across the land. Yet as if in warning not to trust in the false
security, a crimson band was stretching across the skies as the first rays of the sun slid
slowly to the ground. Still there seemed no harm in clutching to the moment and holding it
for what could be wrung from it and Korin situated herself on the smooth side of a large
rock and gathered her knees under her chin and searched the listless swirling waves for
permission to be still for a while. She supposed that the mesmerizing currents coupled with
delicious relaxation must have caused her to nod off and whether it was Gandalf at her side
or the faint whiff of pipe smoke, she jolted awake blinking a few times to come to terms
with her surroundings. The wizard took no time with his words and soon Korin knew the
reason for his disturbance.
“The time has come to pay visit to our captive. There are none that will stay behind.
Saruman is to be tried by all who would call him on his deceitfulness. Will you stay, my
lady? My anxiety is no less than it was on the eve.”
“Of course, it is a small thing that you ask of me,” the lady replied. “I have no business
with the wizard and I do not doubt he will be justly tried.” In truth, Korin was glad to be
uninvolved with the whole business and smiled to Gandalf to satisfy his questioning. She
silently thanked the old wizard for leaving her away from other watchful eyes, as she need
answer no questions concerning her reasons for staying behind.
She waited until she heard the gathering voices behind her fade before she picked herself
up off the rock and stepped to the ground. For a distance she wandered north alongside the
stream until shortly a bend appeared. Korin hesitated and heard in the near distance the
booming voices of the Ents going about their tasks and could not still her curiosity. The
bank flattened as her direction once again came back around to the tower of Orthanc, but
on the other side. She watched in wonder as their huge, mossy trunks groaned bending in
their labors and the sight and sound made her giggle in girlish pleasure. She spied Treebeard
himself or so she took him to be and grew bolder, stepping onto the washed out sand to
stand and peer openly upon him. A slight eveing breeze collected down from the riverbed
and blew past her, gaining speed as it leapt up into the open air. Treebeard leaned his head
to one side and sniffed audibly. He began muttering in words too ancient for Korin to
comprehend and would she have understood them, perhaps she would have had time to
think before he turned as abruptly as one his size could and fixed his penetrating eyes upon
her. Korin thought for a moment to retreat, but stayed and welcomed the scrutiny even
returning it as she strained to look up as far as his topmost boughs. The two stopped and
regarded each other for a long while and Korin lost all fear.
“Winds from the north...the smell of the hills that I have not known since even my
branches were new and supple. When in my traveling days far and wide I did wander. A
whisper of a voice of my kin from afar and the memory strangles the reaches of my past.
What wizardry is this you brought with you? You do not seem like a wizard to
me...harummmm!” Treebeard’s speech was not unkind when finally it was let go and Korin
found herself drawn by it and swayed as if in a trance with the beautiful rhythm of his
words. Indeed when he waited for a response it took several moments for her to reply and
she disliked the pause of his speech for it had been pleasing to her and now that it had
ended, she was filled with regret over its ceasing.
For still a while longer, Korin looked up silently at the great Ent and then her words
seemed to come easily as if they had been waiting inside her since the beginning.
“Great Shepherd of the Trees, I am no wizard. I am Korin of the Dunedain. And though
I have come from the north, I know not how a wind from your past came to be with me. It
has been told by some that the trees were moved to sorrow over the death of my mother
and my birth the same day upon the hill of Kortirion, as the Elves call it, yet I know very
little of this and cannot tell how these things have come to pass. But if there is anything you
can tell me about this I should be eternally indebted to you” Korin bowed her head in
respect to Treebeard and waited for a reply, stretching her neck again to peer into his eyes
which seemed as warm and familiar to her as her own father’s had. He seemed to take her
words to heart and ponder them deeply and Korin found herself longing for his voice to
speak to her again.
“Hmm....hmmm,” he seemed almost asleep, but she knew he was not. “Alas, I have not
walked in the place of your people for many ages of men and I do not have any recollection
of these events.” He stopped and took a long breath and begun again,
“Yet I do not wonder at your tale little lady of the north for I have never before had these
memories brought to me by the wind.” He looked back and forth slowly and gracefully and
then his
tone saddened. “I will have much to do here righting what was wronged, yet perhaps one
day I will desire to venture forth into the world of men again. This dirty business of war has
come and gone in all of my days, but no so now. The greed of making metal has made the
taking of my charge too common and I must not allow myself to think that we are
invincible any more.”
Korins’ heart was moved as she listened to the events as he described them.
“Great Fangorn, I too share your pain, for many a time I have lingered here in lighter
days of my youth and listened to the whisperings of your kin. It grieves my heart to see
what has become of the beauty of Isengard. Though it has been long since I have sat
among them and heard their voices, I fear none could hear their recent cries.” She lowered
her head in reverence to the memory.
Treebeard bent low and studied her for a time, seemingly searching for more. “You do
great honor to my kin, lady from the north. But do not spend much time grieving. Soon
more of us will come to the vale and settle and with time the beauty will return.” He raised
himself back to his full height, which was no small task and Korin stepped back with the
force of it. “I must leave you now before the darkness puts a hand upon us all, farewell to
you and may we meet again in gentler times than now, my lady.”
She smiled in return and watched as he turned in one great movement and swept up the
bank and back to his tasks. Quietly, she jumped back down to the river’s edge and found
her way back to the hall. It was growing much darker now as the long shadows of the
broken fortress stretched across the water and made it seem an endless black
mirrorThere was still no sign of anyone having returned, so Korin decided to make use of
the cleanness of the water here and removed her scabbard and outer jacket, then rolled up
the white sleeves of her linen undershirt and dove her arms deeply into the lazy stream. She
refreshed her face and neck using only her hands to wipe the dust and tiredness from her
skin and then wet her hands again and slid them through her tangled hair several times in a
haphazard attempt to straighten the strands properly. The moon was just beginning to lift
itself above the far horizon, but as it appeared a dark cloud swept by covering it from her
sight. She sighed and stood as still as the glassy surface before her in the tall reeds yet
undiscovered by the meandering current of the stream.
The meeting with Saruman had gone much as expected. The evil that abound within him
would not let go its hold and they received none of the precious help Gandalf had sought.
It was agreed for Theoden to take his men and his leave of Isengard to await news from the
wizard. Aragorn and the others were left to themselves while Gandalf went in search of
Treebeard to recount t o him Saruman’s lack of cooperation.
Upon reaching the hall where they had all sat and supped and regaled their stories,
Aragorn found only Legolas standing among the shafts of light and shadow that struck the
war-ravaged edges of the room. He was looking intensely toward the river’s side, and
within a moment, Aragorn caught sight of the object of his interest. She was watching the
flow of the stream and stood holding her arms against the coolness of the evening breeze.
Her hair flowed long and unhindered, a dark mass against the white of her undershirt,
shimmering in the last of the sunlight.
Even the skill of a Ranger could not quiet his steps enough to go undetected by his
friend, so Aragorn made no effort to hide his approach. He stayed silent for a time beside
Legolas. And when the Elf made no mention of his presence, Aragorn spoke. “Your eyes
never leave her.” It was not a question or an accusation but was quietly stated.
Legolas did not break his vigil from the woman standing by the waters’ edge.
“For longer than I desire to recall they have searched in vain for one to rest upon.” His
voice did not attempt to disguise the weight of his reply. “It is only now that I see why such
diligence was needed.”
Though the thought of speaking further upon the matter decidedly made Aragorn
uncomfortable, he felt warranted to caution his friend. He spoke carefully and kept his
tone impartial “Amazing joy you have found in such desolate times, and yet much lies in
her path that would affect her before the end.”
“I would not stay her hand. She is not the least daughter of the Dunedain and I am
deceived not for the peril that awaits her. But does not the same peril face us all?”
Aragorn considered pressing on, but the words were difficult to find, and he decided that
he should have no judgement in whatever should arise between the two of them.
Aragorn asked lowly. “Will you go to her?”
Legolas at last turned to regard his companion, but his only reply was a warm smile as he
stepped lightly down to the lawn beneath them both.
This ‘situation’ was no surprise to Aragorn, for he knew Korin well and had sensed that
for some days that she had been distant and quiet, yet now he spent little time speculating
as it was out of his hands. He let his gaze trail to his cousin for another minute more and
then slowly turned and withdrew.
Korin heard no sound from behind to signal Legolas’ nearness to her, but needed none as
she glimpsed Aragorn leaving the stone hall and knew for all certainty why he did not bring
her details of their meeting with Saruman. Legolas was still several paces from her back
when she twisted her shoulders toward him, but her eyes she kept fixed to a point in the
horizon. The coolness of her voice sounded feigned to her. “Again you have honored
your oath of friendship at the Hornburg, my lord. And again I am grateful.”
Even now she did not trust herself to look upon his eyes when he made the last few steps
and stopped very close to her side.
“I have not come to you this night out of friendship, my lady.”
“Then you should not have come at all, for that is all I have to offer,” Korin returned to
him, though it hurt her deeply.
Legolas expected this reaction and was not deterred from his course. “Why do you turn
away from me? What has hardened your heart so that you will not feel?”
His statement should not have offended her, instead it left a sting deep inside her throat,
which she swallowed hard to dispel and replied evenly, “what do you tell yourself that
allows you to cast aside our differences?”
“I do not cast aside our differences, but have grown to admire them more with every day
that passes,” Legolas responded truthfully. “ Though it may seem untimely, I will not stay
this meeting between us.” He had been standing too close to look upon her face and took
a half-step back and forced her eyes to see his.
Korin summoned all of her strength and tried to speak as levelly as she could. “As for
me, I will fight this with every force that I posses.”
Her words still proved no effect to him and Legolas reached for her hand and pressed her
further. “There is one measure of brightness in this shadow that creeps upon the earth and
threatens to consume all. I will not believe you would not hold to this as I have. Will you
tell me now that you feel nothing?”
She could not answer and dropped her head to the side, all arguments she had meant to
use eluded her.
Legolas grasped her other hand and held them in front of himself. “You have already
given me the answer that I seek. In the first light of the dawn, I felt your heart sway to
me.”
This interlude had gotten out of control and Korin fought to regain her stance. “I cannot
be responsible for the path that you would put forth.” Her voice broke into a crushing
whisper, “it would be like death inside of me for this to come to pass.”
“It will be the same for me if it does not!” He was adamant in his declaration and Korin
was frightened by it. She felt her resolve melting away and she reached out her hand and
lightly touched his cheek with her fingertips to ease his dismay. She spoke softly in Elven
words, “Son of Thranduil, fair as the cloudless sky, swift and fierce as the summer
storm...”
Her voice trailed off and disappeared as Legolas reached for her and touched her lips with
his.
There was in an instant both warmth and light, even though her eyes had fallen closed.
Korin had lost her ability to control her thoughts and along with her body, they slipped
away toward the one who claimed them for his own.
Legolas held her near to him and the rhythm of his lowly spoken, ancient words caressed
her hair where they were breathed. “I do not know what road may lie before us in the end.
You are not yet free to choose. You must do what you must, yet one day, when your service
is done you will be unbound, to determine your own course. Have the same faith in
yourself as you give to others! The war that has begun will consume even my people and
we will find little recourse of our own. The warriors at Helm’s Deep knew this, but yet they
chose to fight. Give us that same chance.”
Korin stayed still while she listened to his plea and in time, she could sense a small cloud of
lucidity hovering far below the surface, but she could not grasp it. And even, it seemed to
mock her for the endless conflict she had produced from her efforts to keep them apart,
for in the end, she had been powerless to hinder it. Since the night at the river, where they
had found Aragorn, she had realized that their differences seemed to dissipate the nearer he
was to her and now there was nothing between them and it was as if they were one. Where
were her cares, and more importantly, what had they been?
The answers to her questions came to her leisurely, like a bubble rising to the surface, but
once they broke, the force of it was hard, as if she had been hit low in the stomach by a
physical object. She stepped away from his embrace and blinked several times to clear her
head, raising her hands to her arms to dissolve the impression of his hands where they had
lingered there. Tears caught in her throat for the figure Legolas presented to her, but she
also saw other figures. A picture formed in the back of her mind of the Elves at Helm’s
Deep, and in horror, Korin recounted what she had seen from Theoden’s side that night.
She stumbled back a step and her gaze was filled with torment as the truth of her doubts
raced back to her.
Faintly, as in a trance, she whispered, “like the rain-.” Legolas cast her a concerned stare,
but she continued as one stricken. “Like the rain, I watched your people fall from the the
heights of the wall.” Korin was sober once more and protested his embrace, forcing herself
to meet his gaze unwavering, her voice beginning to sound panicked. “You say that the war
will come to all sides. Yes, it is true, but you have a choice. Your kind will leave this land
and you shall as well. Even you Legolas. Did not the Lady Galadriel already warn you of
the call of the sea? Do not remind me of obligations.” Her breath was heavy and her eyes
wide with her efforts to convince herself of this doom she so feverishly opposed.
Legolas now understood the depths of her fears and the reality to with which her
responses had been set. His patience was receding though, as he was not sure that his
words would give him the desired outcome he sought. “None have the ability to see what
may be. I do not fear the sea, for the call of the gulls upon the white waves could never
compel me as deeply as this.” He reached out for her, but she had backed away and held up
her hand to stop him. Legolas let his arm drop to his side and pleaded with her. “Do not
look upon what differences you see and a future that is still not set.”
A wave of horror struck her at the thought of the one she loved forsaking the ships for
her and her voice faltered once more in astonishment until her words were choked. “You
cannot ask me to choose this for you!”
Legolas’ voice was as adamant as Korin’s, even angry as he replied to her, “there is no
choice for me. It is done! Or have you lived with your debts for so long that you fear the
end of your service?”
There was a great silence after his words and Korin almost regretted provoking him, but
she knew that there would be no further chance to put an end to their fate. She could feel
his anger and took the full force of it and buried it deeply inside her heart. Korin attempted
to straighten her stance and harden her gaze, but her lip trembled and she could not deny
the pain her words had caused both of them.
The determination did not leave Legolas’ face, but it was tempered with grief now and his
eyes pierced hers with it, but she continued to face him as he struggled to control his
breathing. He turned rapidly and took a long step as if to abdicate his position and then
spun on his heel and spoke into the darkness that encircled them.
“When all of this is done. When your service to Aragorn is finished, I will come for you.
Our time does not end here.” After his words were ended, he was gone, in the same quiet
manner with which he had come to her.
Korin was left behind to realize that his words contained no anger as she watched until
his gray figure disappeared into the night. She bowed her head, but no tears would come to
ease her pain. After a time, she lifted her eyes to the sky and waited for the hopeless grief to
consume her, and still, she felt no absolution by turning him away. It was as if her words
had no effect and instead, she was left with only doubt and confusion. Yet, Legolas’
passing words held on to her even after she moved to take her leave of the place. Korin
approached the ruins of Orthanc once more and in the cover of darkness the devastation
assumed an evil, twisted form. She climbed the steps heavily and listened for movement,
and whether the lack of familiar voices was a positive matter for her solitude or a
lamentation for her loss, she could not tell. She was not used to being burdened by feelings
of emptiness and was unaccustomed with her current lack of purpose, so she deposited
herself down upon the stone and waited,
quietly absorbed in her melancholy. Korin was unaware how many hours she had been
still, her eyes fixed to nothing and her mind the only thing moving, but when she at last
heard footsteps drawing near and shifted, her cramped muscles protested
intensely. The blackness was so dense that she could not have known the identity of the
approaching body save for the unmistakable placement of his steps, which told her that it
could be none but Aragorn. He did not sit when he reached her side, but spoke with such
constrain that Korin’s concentration was immediately placed upon him.
“I have need to speak to you times to come, cousin. Events have passed this night that
require Gandalf’s attention away to Minas Tirith with all haste.”
Korin looked quizzically at him as she stood. When she had had a moment to
absorb his words, he continued, “the Hobbit Pippin came upon a Palantir that was found in
the depths of destruction below the Wizard’s Tower. While Gandalf slept with this terrible
discovery the Hobbit took it upon himself to peer into it at length.”
Though her brow raised incredulously at what this may mean for their campaign, yet she
did not respond because she could see that Aragorn was not finished with his dubious
message.
“He swears that he said nothing to jeopardize our position. Gandalf is certain that with
what little time may be allowed, his course must run straight to Minas Tirith to warn them
of the coming of Sauron.” Aragorn waited again for Korin to master this information and
then kept on. “There is a part in this that I must ask of you, Korin.”
She accepted quickly what she felt he would have from her, and was intrigued as she told
him solemnly, “If my presence in Gondor can offer any easement to you, then I shall be
glad to fulfill this duty. You have only to ask.”
Aragorn started, “Hathor has taught you well the strategies of war and leadership,
qualities you have shown true in your time with me. With Gandalf’s counsel, I have
arranged a station for you in the city of Minas Tirith.” He stopped abruptly and cast his
eyes over her head to the side of the tower. Korin turned and waited expectantly as the
wizard hurried to confront them. She noted the distress in his voice as he addressed both
of them. “We must make haste. Have you spoken with her?” he asked of Aragorn.
Korin was wary now. “What devices have the two of you conjured in the darkness?”
Again, Aragorn spoke directly to her, “I do not know what path I shall yet take to the
White City and I would ask you to stand for me, if I come too late to engage the shadow
ere it arrives. With Gandalf, you could lead the people, as he informs us that the Steward
sits frozen with hopelessness.”
With Gandalf, you could lead the people, as he informs me that he does not trust the
Steward to stand and fight.”
Korin was dismissive,. “This has never been done. An army will not follow a woman, a
wizard perhaps, but... Forgive me, I sense this plan may be futile.”
Aragorn answered her, “no one need know that you are a woman at first. And there is
another reason also.”
His voice had lost all of its candor and a sudden hesitancy came through that disturbed
Korin. Again, he further alarmed her by taking her hand in his and entreating her with a
well-woven plan. “If Frodo should succeed and the ring is destroyed and something should
happen to me, the people will need a leader. If Gondor cannot hold back the dark power
and Frodo cannot destroy the ring, the people will have nowhere to turn.”
Warily, she asked him, “Aragorn, what are you saying?”
“I ask you to go to Minas Tirith and take your place there-if a need comes of it. This is
where our time comes to make our stand and I want you there, for this is also your right of
birth. As Aragorn finished he seemed almost to wince as if he should prepare himself for a
blow to the head.
Her voice was filled with astonishment. “You want me to go to Minas Tirith as your heir,
heir to the throne?”
Aragorn was politely adamant as if he had practiced this very scenario. “You have sworn
fealty to me and now I would call you to move upon your oath.” His eyes lowered to her
feet and then raised again to meet hers and his jaw was set hard as he awaited her response.
Korin stared at him for a minute and fleetingly thought that this conversation felt a bit
rehearsed. Her gaze strayed to Gandalf who stood by silently and when her eyes reached his
he understood her thoughts, ‘he does not understand what he asks of me.’
‘Aragorn has requested that you stand for him-to rally the people of Minas Tirith,’ the wizard told her
calmly.
‘What sense can there be to have a leader of men if there is no free land left to them?’
Gandalf glanced to Aragorn as he passed by him and grasped Korin’s arm, “walk with
me.”
She was given no choice and soon found herself some yards away in a small corner of
shrubbery miraculously salvaged from the battle. It was dense and much taller than either of
them and mirrored her perception of being captured with nowhere to escape.
When the wizard stopped and turned to her, she was the first to assail with her questioning.
“Gandalf, how can you stand before me and support this idea, when yo know of-my
visions? Aragorn will ascend the throne. Was it not yourself who bade me to believe in my
abilities? I have put all of my faith in him, but he must also step into his fate.”
He took a long breath before he replied, “when you came upon Aragorn, he was not
convinced of his fate, was he? You have shown him his path. His love for you and his
responsibility for the Dunedain have swayed him. He asks only for this reassurance to
protect the people-to protect you, should he fall.”
“Surely, there is someone better suited. The Steward’s people will not follow an outsider.”
“You are the next in line. It has been done before. If you have no fear of Aragorn’s
return, then you shall just place yourself as emissary in the White City and no one need
know it has any more substance than that.”
Korin could sense that the wizard was getting impatient with her, but she dismissed it for
the gravity of what was being considered. “I will know,” she answered stubbornly. “There is
a Steward of Gondor for a reason. What of Denethor, will the people not follow him?”
Gandalf tempered his words again, but barely. “Too long has Denethor sat his vigil on the
edge of doom. His heart is failing his rule and I fear when the time comes, he will not rise
to the call.”
Korin was still doubtful. “This goes against everything I have ever believed in, everything
I have ever known to be true!”
“Not all paths are marked to follow, some must be made-forged along the way.” He
shifted his feet. “Time is short, my lady. Your decision must come before the light.”
Indeed, as she glimpsed into the sky the deep black was reverting to a shade of blue.
She felt as if she would be pulled in two by the distress of the choice she was facing. “There
are times when I wish the counsel of my father had not been taken from me so soon.”
Gandalf turned to her sharply. “Your father-!” He stopped abruptly and turned his back
to Korin.
Her head snapped up. “My father, Gandalf. What does he have to do with this?”
He would not turn to speak to her and shifted nervously from foot to foot, a motion that
was extremely out of character. As she watched his back, her breath quickened and the
wizard’s guilt was bared by her own reaching thoughts. Her words came in short bursts.
“He knew...all of this time. How could he know this day would come to pass, that I would
be here?” Korin put her had to her forehead to attempt to comprehend the weight of it
crashing to her. “How could he know that these events would come to pass?” As soon as
the question left her, she knew the answer.
Gandal f revolved slowly to face her, and his gaze offered little apology for hi s secrets.
He sighed heavily and sat upon a large overturned log upon the ground.
“It was never known to any what the future would hold, but there came a time some years
after you r birth when Hathor spoke to me of his concerns. Your father loved Aragorn,
and were he alive today, he would ride beside him-of that I have no question. But he
became skeptical of his upbringing more and more. Years were spent away from the
Dunedain and he felt as if he was forced to choose or the fate of men would rest in Sauron
instead.”
Korin had an uncomfortable impression that she was watching her life, as she had always
known it, through someone else’s eyes and she was overwhelmed. “All of the learning...the
travelling and the skills...Has there been one small measure of my life that has not been
predetermined?!”
Gandalf chose to ignore her interrogation. “I will not now recall my judgement on the
matter!” His anger brought with it a distant rumble from the hills, but Korin was not
moved by the power of his words. He continued in a milder tone, “Can you say that you
have not been afforded the free will to choose any path you would?”
She was incensed that he always managed to maneuver into her good graces, but this time
it was she who sighed audibly. “It is no plan or teaching that has brought me to Aragorn’s
side, but my own heart. I will do you r bidding , though I do not understand why you have
taken me aside to say this to me.”
He raised his eyebrows, “Aragorn does not know what I have spoken to you. There
remains only yourself and I to carry this secret.”
Korin stepped to where he sat and examined him for a moment before offering her hands
to him. Gandalf grasped them and seemed aged as she helped him to his feet.
“Ever have you befriended my father and myself as well, Mithrandir. You have helped me
through almost as much confusion as you have given in turn. “If this is to be our course,
then let us hasten away, before I change my mind.” A tiny smile played upon her lips, but in
actuality, her thoughts were much more daunting.
They found Aragorn waiting for them as they made the short walk back to him. As Korin
stepped toward him, she found Avathar and Shadowfax standing quietly, munching on a
low-growing bush. She raised her eyebrows to him and he shrugged his shoulders to her
mute query.
“I will go to the White City in your name and it will honor me to do this for you, my
lord.” She bowed her head slightly in respect. “Though our meeting has been too brief for
my liking.”
Aragorn could sense the sadness behind her eyes and knew it did not entirely belong to
him. He longed to reach out to her, but resisted to hear all she had to say.
“I will do this for you, and in return I ask but one thing from you.”
“What could I have to offer you?” he asked mildly.
“You already posses what I shall ask of you. I would have you go forth boldly now- to
cast off the image of Strider and raise your head to the horizon of your future.” She took
his hands in hers and continued with elvish words, “promise me you will not doubt, Estel.”
He knew her request was not lightly asked and he took a moment to form his response.
“It is a fair tiding I send to the people of Minas Tirith to come before the heir to the
kingdom. You have my word as the son of Arathorn that I will abide you r entreaty.” And
he kissed her forehead in troth to their vows.
Her smile came easier and with slightly less pain as she stepped back. Gandalf had left
them and returned with the Hobbit, Pippin and climbed behind him on the great, white
stallion and waited for them to say their farewells. Korin walked to Avathar and took a
final sweeping look around her and sought a silent prayer of protection for all that remained
behind in the days that would come. Her chest hurt dreadfully as she thought of the
distance she had already put between herself and the one she would not speak to, perhaps
ever again.
With Shadowfax in the lead, they wound their mounts carefully through the waste at their
feet until they breached the edge of the keep and were bathed by the approaching dawn.
Then with no pause, the lord of the mearas burst forth at no urging from his rider Avathar
was not to be left behind and sprang forward before Korin touched her heels to her side. A
shimmer of shadow caught her attention from the edge of the outer gate and Korin reigned
in sharply to spy what the disturbance was. She could clearly see as the rays of light filled
the land, Legolas as he stooped to wake the others and make ready to take their leave. She
watched as he snapped his head up at the sound of the departing hoofbeats and spied her in
the distance. Korin’s throat constricted bitterly as she saw him stand slowly and stare. She
prepared herself for the pain and displeasure she would find coming from his eyes for their
grievous deadlock just hours ago, but there was none of that now. Legolas held her gaze
and challenged her with it, sending her the message that all was not over or done between
them and Korin could not look away. They stayed locked together for a long moment until
her mount gave an impatient cry and upraised her mistress off the ground in protest for
being delayed. Korin left her heart with him and raced across the rolling plain after
Shadowfax with a driving purpose.Chapter VIII
The riders crashed through the river wherever it wound its way across their paths, Gandalf
being set on a fast and direct course to the lands of Gondor. The wide open plains that
seemingly stretched on and on to the sea, in shades of color not seen in the more wooded
hills of her home, ordinarily would have thrilled Korin to have experinced, but this day her
thoughts were controlled by everything except the scenery.
Also, much of her concentration was aimed upon keeping herself situated atop her horse
and retaining the incredible speed that Shadowfax was demanding. She mused to herself the
happenstance of her journey with Gandalf and the Hobbit. The situation seemed readymade
just for her. Avathar would keep her company with her mate, and she had found an
escape from a matter that had become out of her control and could lead to only misery in
the end, of course she had to leave them all behind to do this, but nothing was as she had
expected it to be at all since she had left the Dunedain. Korin was saddened to have to
leave all thoughts of her companions at Isengard and yet she reasoned that there was
nothing left for her to do but grasp the only future she had been handed and make certain
that she did not fail them. There had been little time to speak of reuniting, even with
Aragorn and she was thankful for that now, for had she given their farewell a second
moment’s thought, she may have been too emotional. She tried to give consideration to all
of the extraneous events that had led to her journey to Minas Tirith, the disconcerting
knowledge of her past and Gandalf’s part in it, her confrontations with Aragorn, but in
truth, she clung to these happenings to keep her mind from being entangled by her heart.
It would not do to be in constant turmoil when her attentions were needed plan to how she
would infiltrate the city, when they reached it. Korin shook all of these ideas and freed
herself to listen to the brief words exchanged by Gandalf and his small friend.
“Ah, Korin, my dear, you have decided to notice that we are here. I was just about to
explain how you happened to be with us this night, but perhaps you could give me a
moments ease from Master Peregrine’s incessant questions.” Gancalf’s voice was lighthearted”
“Not at all, Gandalf,” she acknowledged, with a bit of her usual vigor returning. “I was
just about to apologize to him for my quietness for these long hours. I am sorry that I was
inattentive and if there is anything I can do to make my excuses Master Peregrine you
would let me know, wouldn’t you?” Korin ended politely.
The Hobbit started timidly, “well, there is one thing. Would you do me the honor of
calling me Pippin as I am somewhat more accustomed, my lady?”
“I will call you Pippin, if you will not call me ‘my lady’, but Korin instead,” she said to
him.
Pippin began again, “I wonder if you would tell me about yourself as I am interested in
knowing about a relative of Aragorn’s.”
“You did not ask if I was interested in answering your questions before the asking,”
grumbled Gandalf.
Korin could tell that Pippin had been embarassed. “I would not mind at all.” And she
passed Gandalf a falsely stern glance as she continued. “My own father and Aragorn’s were
brothers, making him and I cousins, by birth. Aragorns father, Arathorn was killed when
he was very small and his mother took him and went to live with the Elves to protect the
heir of Isildur. My own mother died when I was born and my father was left to raise me on
his own and we have always been very close, as have Aragorn and myself. And now I have
come to him to aid him in the war against the ‘dark lord’. “And what of your father. He
does not mind that you have come to war?” asked Pippin in disbelief.
“Because I am a woman, you mean?” she teased him. “My father has been gone for some
years, but when he was alive, he encouraged my skills in battle and even helped to teach
me most of what I know.”
“I am sorry, my lady.” he said to her.
“You are sorry that I have been taught to defend myself?” Korin could not resist a little
fun.
The Hobbit stammered now, “N-no, I meant I am sorry for your father’s death, my lady.”
“It is I who should be sorry, Master Pippin. I understood the meaning of your words, I
just could not help myself. Indeed, I should thank you for a bit of pleasantness as the past
days have been rather humorless, I fear.”
The lady’s tone had begun to sadden and Pippin was so glad to have another to post his
questions to that he tried in earnest to engage her again. “And now, my lady, what is your
cause to come to Gondor? I understand why I am dragged along with Gandalf, but you, I
cannot tell.”
Gandalf interrupted, “perhaps being dragged is what you deserved after your
inquisitiveness, Peregrine Took,” he muttered. Then suddenly the wizard looked very
pleased with himself and spoke once more. “Korin is going to Minas Tirith as emissary to
Aragorn, to prepare the people for the coming of the king.”
Korin was stunned to hear him so flatly state the truth to the Hobbit. “Gandalf!
I cannot believe that you would speak of this so openly!” But she did trust him to know
what he was doing.
“My dear, is this not what your intentions are?” asked the wizened Gandalf. “Although I
would prefer that Denethor not know the full extent of your designs until a later time, I see
no reason why Pippin should be kept from the truth.”
She eyed him distrustfully and spoke to his ears alone, ‘are there any more surprises you
might spring upon me ere we close in on our destination or are you simply enjoying
yourself, wise one?’
‘I would have your full attention to whom you may trust after this day and that is not
always as clear as you may believe.’
Korin bowed her head slightly in acknowledgement that she knew full well what he was
telling her, though she did not always approve of his methods.
The sun had made its full circle, gliding effortlessly past the hazy clouds that were not
threatening enough to hinder any of its glory, until later in the afternoon, and then as the
riders approached the flat lands before Theoden’s city, the white mists thickened and
expanded toward the ground, swallowing the sun for the remainder of the day. There were
still several miles to reach the comforts of Meduseld and Korin was in no condition to
protest a warm bed, if only for a few precious hours. Whereas Shadowfax raced across the
ground leaving any he carried comforted by his smoothness, Avathar could claim none of
his mastery. This Korin could fully feel the strain in every corner of her body as the paces
of her mount struggled to a slower pace and was hard-pressed to make the final ascent to
the king’s hall.
Gandalf left the stables immediately to speak with Theoden, carrying the small bundle of
the Hobbit wrapped neatly in his cloak, still slumbering sedately. Korin waited and stayed
behind to find feed and water for their beasts. The horses ate little, though and soon fell to
their knees and laid upon the cool bedding too exhausted to stand and drink. Korin left
them and brought herself up the staircase and into the hall, seeing nothing but the roaring
fire and the food that had been set for them upon a long trestle table.
The hall was emptied except for a sentinel near the door and if she had listened, would have
heard only the muffled voices of Gandalf and Theoden from his chamber across the hall.
She ate a little from among the platters spread across the table and then slowly made her
way to one of the fur-covered chairs she had spied earlier near the fireplace. In moments,
she was barely clinging to lucidity and did her best to remain alert to await news from
Gandalf, but she had gotten no sleep the night before and another was coming fast. As the
warmth of the fire spread from her face and down through all of her aching muscles, she
allowed herself to rest her eyes-just for a while.
Korin was startled awake to suddenly find the room filled with activity. More tables had
been brought in and were entirely covered with emptied dishes and pitchers and tankards of
ale. The men’s spirits were high from the battle two days hence and she was surprised that
she had just now been awakened by their ardor. She looked toward the open window and
saw that the sun was still high in the sky and realized that it must be early afternoon and it
was the midday meal that was left upon the tables, and she was relieved that she had not
slept past her due. One more glance around the room showed Gandalf smoking his long
pipe and speaking with the king, while Pippin entertained a group of men with his stories of
his adventures with Treebeard.
Korin rose slowly and grimaced as her body protested in stiffness and soreness against
the abuse it had recently received. A woven blanket fell the rest of the way to the floor as
she stepped lightly to the shadows of the wall without detection and made her way to the
stables to see to the horses. She strode briskly, though the heat of the afternoon sun
warmed the thatched buildings and there was no breeze to reach between then and disperse
it. Her aches began to recede as her exertions brought fresh air into her lungs and
movement back to her limbs and within a few strides, she felt somewhat better. Korin
reached the stable and reassured herself that Avathar had come to no ill effects from being
pushed so hard in the early morning and after she had her readied, made haste returning to
the king’s hall.
Gandalf was awaiting her by the entrance, the great doors propped open to allow the light
to lift the darkness from the room. He was alone as he spoke to her and she could sense the
thankfulness he offered her. “Everything is ready for us to take our leave, my lady?”
“For my part I am prepared. We can go at your word.” Korin was pleasantly surprised to
find the wizard in a congenial mood. She was at ease in his presence and found herself
considering it a good fortune to be here with him, for if she was not able to be with
Aragorn, there was no one else she could choose to follow.
“The sooner we make our way, the faster we will be able to bring news to Denethor.” He
scrutinized her closely, as if he wanted to speak of many issues, both current and past and
then he looked away and Korin knew it was because he did not want her to read his
thoughts. She reached for the sleeve of his robe and caught his hand, gripping it
momentarily, and caught his eyes. ‘There will be time to speak of what must be done in Gondor, not
much, but some time should remain.’
Gandalf returned her gaze briefly before he supplied an audible, “hmph,” and then
replied, “Let us remind Theoden of his course of action and be away then.”
The two of them went together in search of the king and gathering Pippin along the way,
said their farewells.
Theoden spoke first his promise to them. “We will rally by day’s end tomorrow at our
encampment, the Rohirrim will assemble there and we will ride out as quickly as can be
done.”
Gandalf nodded his comprehension of the king’s words and grasped his offered rm in
token to his promise. Theoden turned to Korin and she bowed her head in love and respect
for him. “You have made me quite welcome to be among your people in a time when
strangers were to be suspect, my lord. It would please me to stand beside you once more
when the time for peace rests upon us all.”
“Farewell, lady of the Dunedain. I wish for peace for you as I wish it for my niece,
Eowyn, and any other thing of beauty left on this earth, may it come in a day when an old
man can reap its reward.” His eyes shone with a steady light and for a time, there was no
fear or doubt of hope, only a remembrance of days of happiness and less loss.
Korin refused to believe that the odds were against what they were speaking of, as she
followed Gandalf and Pippin down the steps and into the dimly lit stable.
They were off in an instant that matched the speed of their arrival to Edoras and
quickly, as their backs were put to the village, all thoughts disappeared of their brief visit
with the king and engaged to the road ahead instead. Korin found herself dwelling on the
knowledge that Halbarad and her kinsmen had not come to Rohan yet, as she had expected
of them. Perhaps, she silently prayed, they would come to Aragorn while he was upon the
road from Isengard to the king’s side. Her thoughts also strayed to Legolas and was glad
that they had not arrived before her departure. She could face no more farewells today.
For leagues upon leagues, they passed through hill and stream and low-growing trees that
stood against the horizon occasionally. The Hobbit had slept comfortably most of the
morning hours in front of Gandalf as Shadowfax rocked him to sleep with his smooth gait
and now was in desperate need for companionship as Korin found after the first few miles
of their journey. They spoke of many things: how Korin had come to find Aragorn on the
edge of Fangorn forest, what had happened to Pippin and his cousin Merry after Treebeard
had caught them, and the battle at Helm’s Deep. Pippin was astounded as she recounted to
him the descent from the Deeping Wall and Gandalf as he appeared to blind the Uruk-hai
and defeat them with the Rohirrim. “And Gandalf told me that Elves came from Rivendell
and Lothlorien. That they came as the battle was beginning and killed four times as many
Orcs as themselves.”
Pippin’s high-pitched excitement fell from Korin’s hearing at the mention of the Elves at
Helm’s Deep. ‘Like the rain,’ she repeated to herself. Those were the words she had spoken
to Legolas at Isengard. She could still vividly see in her mind, like she was standing next to
the king with the rain pounding down around them as the immortal souls dropped to the
ground. All of the pain she had been pretending to hide came rushing to her as she saw
Legolas’ face among the armored warriors, who had known what odds they faced against
the enemy. Certain death, that is what her love for him was to her and why the helplessness
of watching the Elves fall, was the image that she assimilated this to. The conversation had
come to a stop and Korin looked to the Hobbit once more and tried to erase the lines of
distress from her face. She raised her eyes and attempted a more pleasing look. “How did
you find the people of Rohan, Master Pippin?” she asked him.
He answered quickly enough, though he had seen some of her grief when he had
mentioned to Elves at Helm’s Deep. “Theoden is a kindly king, and the people of Rohan I
found to enjoy the more simple pleasures, as my own kin. It made me miss the Shire, I
suppose, to hold a mug of ale and sing of times when there was less to fret about.” He
seemed to ponder this for a moment and then asked aloud, “what is this city like where we
are going?” And then he muttered his own answer to himself, ‘I expect it will not be like
King Theoden’s house.”
Korin tried to reassure him, “I do not know, Pippin. I have not myself ever beheld the
White City.” Mischief rose in her voice as she offered him, “perhaps you should ask
Gandalf. He is the only one of us who knows the answer to that question.” She
aught the wizard’s glare out of the corner of her eye as Pippin posed his question to him.
Korin listened half-heartedly as Gandalf gave a brief description of the Minas Tirith, just
enough to satisfy a curious Hobbit. But for the most part, her thoughts were entangled
with the ones she had left behind. The task of entering the city under false pretenses and
finding a way to let herself be known without outwardly challenging the stewardship as it
now stood, should have daunted her to no end, yet this seemed a small task compared to
what she had already endured. There was no pain greater in battle or imprisonment to
compare with the one she had brought upon herself in denying what she wanted with every
breath that she took. For Aragorn also, she ached. The loss of his company after finding
him once more, returned her loneliness she had felt for so long. She recalled the night at the
Snowbourn when Legolas promised her that she would have no need to be alone, yet, she
was the one who had brought it upon herself now. All of this plagued her for most of the
morning and though she could not fixate upon one of these dilemmas and find a single
solution, it kept her occupied enough to not notice the soreness she was enduring at the
breakneck pace they were keeping.
The remainder of the afternoon left them as the sun faded in the sky behind the two
riders. Gandalf did not ask Shadowfax to slow as the open plain before them turned a brief
shade of crimson from the far reaching shafts of light still touching the earth. The red
shadows lifted slowly, not quite willing to let go of the day, before finally abdicating and
receding to come again in their time. Korin pushed Avathar along and thought how strange
it was that she had not balked at the distances that was being demanded from her. Perhaps
her desire to stay near to her mate made her keep his head. At any rate, it was herself that
Korin now thought of as the night drew on and they still raced on by the dim light
provided by the rising moon. Pippin had long since lost his battle with fatigue and laid
peacefully against the robes of the wizard. But even more hours were laid before them and
Korin began to wonder if the horse or rider would ever have need of rest, when finally
Gandalf looked to her and beckoned to a trickle of a stream laying in their path a short
distance ahead.
Gandalf handed her the sleeping Pippin before climbing down himself, his age apparent
from the stiffness of his movements. They turned the horses free to fend for themselves
and laid down where they stood, their traveling cloaks the only protection from the settling
mists of the night. In moments, they drifted off after agreeing to wake at first light to
ensure they would reach the lands of Gondor by afternoon that day. Korin slept fitfully,
her dreams undetached from the feel of the land beneath her body. For most of her life,
she had been left to wonder about the paths her ancestors freely roamed since the days of
the Numenoreans. The fields of Anfalas and Anorien and the peaks of Ered Nimrais,
south to the trees of Ithilien. She imagined the role of the Dunedain in the countless
battles that had shaped the very lands where they were fought and their choice to move
north and settle beyond the borders of Eriador. The time had come again to settle the
boundaries and hope to disarm the evil of Saruman for another age to come. She felt so
small now, a mere speck in the vastness of it all and could not discern what possible
measure a single soul could hope to accomplish against such a terrible threat. And then in
her dreams, she thought of the humble Hobbit who carried the smallest weapon of all.
Korin had never seen the ring, but imagined it with its unearthly glow and all of her nighttime
visions swirled around it, the battles of long ago flowed with the battles still to come
until she was caught up into it and could not pull free from the power of its sway. Faster
and faster the images encircled it and she struggled to look away. In an instant, the thread
was broken and she opened her eyes to the reality of her surroundings. She alone was alert
to theaded beginning of the day, her breath was quick from the turmoil of her sleep and a
cloud of steam gathered from her efforts. The others did not stir as she rose and walked
quietly in search of the horses. Korin found them a short distance away standing at the edge
of the stream drinking sedately. She clucked her tongue lowly to them and they raised their
heads sharply and trotted toward her. Upon returning to Gandalf, she saw him rising also
and he cast her a weak smile as he stretched backwards to alleviate the ill-effects of
slumbering upon the cold ground.
Korin did not keep her voice overly low as she had no intention of allowing Pippin to
stay asleep. “At the risk of sounding like a curious Hobbit, how many more miles do you
suppose the day will bring?”
Gandalf had been moving to Pippin’s side to wake him as she spoke and stopped his task
only to raise his eyebrows slightly at her query. He continued to shake the Hobbit’s
shoulder until he was satisfied by the amount of stirring the bundle at his feet created, and
then answered her. “I should think that another fifty hard put miles should bring us to the
gates at the bottom of the city. Providing we be on our way and unbothered by needless
chatter, we should all be sleeping in high chambers with pillows and curtains this evening.”
“That sounds wonderful to me, ’’ yawned Pippin. “Will we also be receiving breakfast
tomorrow morning, Gandalf?”
The wizard scoffed at Pippin’s complaint about the accommodations of their journey and
strode to the side of Shadowfax.
Korin broke in to salvage Pippin’s feelings, “let us away at once before he sees you
without breakfast even tomorrow morning.” She grabbed Avathar’s reins and held her still
while she rummaged through the bags she carried beside her saddle. She retrieved a piece of
dried meat and offered it to him. “Perhaps you will have a moment to gnaw at this as we
ride Pippin. It is all I have to offer, but at least it may occupy some time and you can
pretend it is a lovely roast which has simmered for an entire day on the fire.” She meant
only to tease him, but in the process she caused her own stomach to miss the taste of a hot
meal and was immediately sorry.
They set out again only moments after waking, resuming their paces, the constant
importance of reaching Minas Tirith with the news of the advancement of the enemy
dispersing all thoughts of discomfort from their minds.
Pippin gnawed at the tough fare offered to him and seemed contented for a time, but as
the sky began once more to lighten, he fell back into his dozing. Korin had been waiting for
him to disappear behind the fabric of Gandalf’s cloak to assure herself that his ears were
not involved in listening and began her questions.
“What state is the rule of Denethor since last you visited the White City, Gandalf?”
He turned his head at the prompting of her voice and his eyes shone warmly through the
softly rising light and the keenness of his gaze startled her, for though she expected to see
weariness beset upon the lines of his face, she found him to be alert and full of eagerness.
“It is high time to be asking questions now as we come upon Anorien.” He used the
language of the Elves and Korin followed suit as it gave them the ease to speak at their
leisure without risking further fright to the Hobbit who could come in and out of sleep at
any time.
“Much has needed sorting through my mind and the hours have been used well, so I will
not make excuses for my lack of attention to my task now at hand.” Her words were curt,
but her voice was tired and her eyes remained downcast and no challenge was meant as she
awaited his response.
“And have you found any relief through the hours of your sorting, my lady?” Gandalf
asked her softly, for it was still fresh in his thoughts that he had been much of the cause for
the questions she must now face. Indeed, as he put his mind to it, Korin had been given no
indulgence of time to make her decisions for her future. Aragorn ad a lifetime to choose
between taking up the line of his father’s ancestors or living a solitary existence. Though she
had been no one’s puppet in this dark game, Korin’s future had been thrust upon her and
in an instant she had to determine which course she would follow. Gandalf knew without a
doubt, that her love for Aragorn was what led her beside him now to endure the folly of
Denethor, but as he watched her, solemn and bold in the trail-stained, worn cloth of her
days as a Ranger, he felt no fear for the position he had placed in front of her. Chin set as
hard as the path that they tread and her dark hair flying in defiance of any who would
hinder her coming, she issued more strength than many men known to him. And the
wizard was no fool concerning the necessity of her authority these many days, to come into
a world ruled by the sword of men and hope to make any difference with the skills she
possessed. Korin would be challenged by all sides and she would have to stand for herself
or no one would. For now, Gandalf let go the part he had played to bring her here and
concentrated on answering her curiosities of the city.
“Yes, well, the reign of the Steward is as strong as ever and perhaps even more so with
the distress that borders their lands. He will be suspicious of anyone he does not know to
be an ally, this I am sure of.” Gandalf stopped and waited for Korin to heed his words
before going on. “But also there is weakness in his mind. I cannot grasp exactly what it is,
but there is something that has lessened his will over the years.” He looked ahead to the
horizon. “Without question it will be difficult to place yourself in the city at all. Have you
thought of a way?”
Korin shook her head and replied, “I will once more don the disguise of my helmet and
try to become invisible if possible. Once I am in the city it should not be difficult to lose
myself, it is getting past the guards that concerns me.” Gandalf nodded to himself and
spoke under his breath, “we shall see soon enough.”
Gandalf and Korin spoke most of the daylight hours as the earth passed fleetingly
beneath their horses hooves. He was full of information of the customs and daily business
of the people of Gondor and Korin was grateful for the lessons. It had been many years
since she had recalled the stories of her father of the White City and then it had seemed like
another world, one which she may never have reason to visit. Now it seemed her entire life
was encircled by it and when a king sat in the throne room and not a steward, she would
call it her home she supposed. Pippin listened now and then, but spoke little and seemed
contented to allow the bigger business of those he did not understand take precedence.
The last shadows of light were retreating, signaling the end of another day and the small
company paused only briefly as the moon began it’s ascent, pulling a blue curtain of stars
with it almost reluctantly. A small refreshment was all they could take and within minutes
they were plunging into the darkness and across the field once more. The cooler
temperatures of the night brought a dew upon the ground and it settled into the precious
spring grasses attempting to sprout through the thick carpet of debris which was all that
remained from the death of winter. The trampling of the horses digging through the new
grass and fresh earth and released a sweet, pungent odor that infused the air and invigorated
Korin as no rest or food could. As she looked up to check the visibility of the stars, she
thought of how absurd it was to experience the beauty of such a brilliant full moon
combined with the green fertile dirt beneath her affecting her senses when so much death
seemed to be in front of them, and now so close. She knew that if she breathed the
tranquility of the night would be gone and she willed herself to hold her breath with the
childish notion that perhaps the natural wonder of the evening would overcome the
foulness that awaited them in just a few short miles. Korin closed her eyes and concentrated
on the image of the perfect sky and the drum of the hoof beats, but when she could no
longer hold it in, she let out her breath in one great sigh. A small smile played upon her lips
as she dismissed her innocent effort to contain a moment in time, but before she could put
her thoughts to something else, Pippin started in his seat.
“Look, there is a fire in the sky! Gandalf what is this? There are no dragons left Gondor
are there?”
Korin knew immediately what she was witnessing and the breath she had just let out,
leapt back again into her throat. They were seeing the Beacons of Gondor lit. Never in her
lifetime had they been used and it was with a dread upon her heart that she watched them
spring up now. Amon Din, Eilenach, Nardol, Min-Rimmon and Calenhad, and on to
Rohan and a fiery cry for aid in the defense. She heard Gandalf call to Shadowfax in the
darkness asking him for speed, yet instead, the lord of the Mearas hesitated in his step and
slowed for a few paces. He threw back his maned head and whinnied loudly as three riders
sprang past them without pause to vanish into the blackness.
There seemed to be no words which could be passed to speak of this new intelligence and
so they spurred on even harder to reach the city in their haste. After the excitement, Pippin
again slept in front of Gandalf and all was silent in the following hours. Shortly before
dawn, when the stars blinked briefly before fading and the coldness of the air brought with
it a dampness that descended upon the earth, they came to the wall which skirted the city,
built long ago to contain or to deflect, whichever need would arise. There were a number
of men with torches working to make repairs with a hammer and stone. Gandalf peered at
her in the burgeoning light, but offered no assistance to her in her time of trial. Korin was
struck to cynical humor to realize that not even a wizard could bring her through safely to
the other side of the wall. Such a simplistic task, to cross a low, broad and somewhat
decomposing stone barricade to converge with a people that dwelt where her ancestors
once called home and assist them with whatever power she may, against a common enemy.
Her mind was blank and her cavalier, unburdened attitude was much more welcome than
being gripped by fear. Korin secured her muddied helmet upon her head, gripping the
saddle tightly with her thighs as their mounts slowed to a stop before the men of Gondor.
She listened as the man who spoke made known their wish to have no strangers pass into
their lands with the threat of Mordor at their very feet.
“Yea do we know thee, Mithrandir. But your companions are not known to us. The one
before you, is he a Dwarf from the mountains in the North?”
“No Dwarf have I brought you, Ingold, but a Hobbit of the Shire,” said Gandalf taking
his time to ensure that he was understood. “Let not his size dictate his heart or his valor,
and both I will avow are at least as great as a man equal to your size.”
Pippin had caught on to his mention and woke to defend himself. Korin looked to either
side of the wall and noticed the men were near complete with the repairs and would soon
depart themselves. None noticed her much as the wizard and Ingold, the man of Gondor
spoke of Pippin and the breaking of his company with Boromir at Amon Hen. Aragorn had
told her the story of the death of the son of Denethor and it seemed that the guard had
more interest in the Steward learning this news than attending to the silent stranger who
rode beside Mithrandir. Ingold was about to allow them to pass, but once again addressed
Gandalf. “Why does your companion not remove his helmet? Is he also from the North
and will you also vow to us his allegiance, Mithrandir?”
Korin had kept Avathar a small distance behind Shadowfax, but now she walked her the
few steps to come abreast of him. Gandalf spoke for her, keeping his tone even and
charitable, “Yes, I will vow allegiance for Korin, my own charge in the years since the
passing of...” He did not finish, but was stopped by Korin’s hand as she held it up in her
defense. “No, Mithrandir I will not have you speak any untruth to our allies of Gondor.
You cannot call the grass a flower.”
She lifted the helm from her head while holding the eyes of the wizard and when she turned
to the men, Korin focused on speaking with Ingold only and paid no heed to the
whisperings of the other men.
“I am Korin, daughter to Hathor of the Dunedain in the North, and if Mithrandir wishes
to claim a charge of friendship then I will answer, but I will speak for the Dunedain who
once called this land their home. I have come with him on a long journey and have fought
the enemy in other lands as well, but a common evil it is we share and will offer what I can
in token to your plight if you will let us pass into the city.” She bowed her head slightly as
she finished her words and waited for a response.
Ingold seemed unmoved by her appeal and questioned her further, “You are armed?” It
was not a question.
“I am,” Korin replied.
Only now did Ingold seem to be at odds with the dilemma she had supplied him. “Then I
see no conflict in my decision. I will allow you to enter as a charge of Mithrandir, but your
sword shall be kept until the Lord Denethor can determine what cause you have to be here
in Gondor.”
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