We swiftly descend the broken track leading from the Gates of Moria, fleeing despair, only to find it travels with us... but there is no time for mourning now, so I enfold my grief in a velvet cloth and tuck it away in the back of my mind to unwrap and weep over later. Now, we must move forward, as quickly as we may.
A marker of sorts rises close to the road and Gimli exclaims he must see the end of its path. It seems to be of significance to his people, and he bids me follow. It is only a short aside, he assures me. Aragorn warns us to make haste. I am weary beyond words, yet I possess not the strength to say, ‘No,’ nor am I able to deny him his anticipated joy of beholding a place of wonder to his ancestors, or the pleasure of sharing it with another, even if only a hobbit... two hobbits, as Sam is beside me.
The calm, cool, beauty of Mirrormere eases the fiery memory burned into my heart. Oh, to set awhile and soak in the serenity here, but there is no time... and we soon rejoin the others.
The Fellowship presses on. Sam and I slow for a moment, agreeing we will catch up to the others, as soon as we’ve caught our breath.
I nod my head to Sam with the wisp of a smile tugging at the corners of my mouth, “Quite the gash you’ve got on your head, good thing it’s hard...”
Sam nods back with a faded grin, “Yes, sir, and I imagine your side is feeling a bit worse for wear...”
I am certain his hurt is far worse than mine; I just wish I could breathe more easily... Try as we might, and despite our earnest endeavor to quicken our step, we lag farther and farther behind... The Fellowship is almost out of sight...
It seems Legolas noticed our flagging gait and pointed it out to Aragorn, who returns to us and determines to carry me, as Boromir carries Sam, to a spot where we might be tended to, but only for the briefest of moments, as we are even now being hunted, and time is of the essence... As Aragorn lifts me into his arms, I open my mouth to demand to be put down, then close it again, too tired to protest. I attempt not to note the jarring pain of every step...
As we pause in the dell Aragorn sought, Gimli builds a small fire to heat some water for bathing Sam’s wound. Athelas is added, and the soothing aroma lifts a bit of the gloom. Once Sam’s poor bloodied head is cleaned and dressed, Aragorn turns his attention to me.
I hear myself tell him, he need not bother, as I only need food and a rest. In truth, I am far too weary to argue the matter. I wish it to be done and over with. And yet, I am wholly unable to hide my reluctance to allow Aragorn to tend to my hurts. The pain reminds me I am alive, and it is better than the numbness enveloping me. Still, he ignores my protestations, and carefully removes my coat, waistcoat, and shirt.
As he eases off my mithril-coat he laughs.
“Look, my friends!” he calls. “Here’s a pretty hobbit-skin to wrap an elven-princeling in! If it were known that hobbits had such hides, all the hunters of Middle-earth would be riding to the Shire.”
Gimli asserts it would do no good, for no arrow could pierce such a hide, and marvels again at the workmanship and worth. My cousins are also duly impressed, as Aragorn urges me to wear it always.
I bite the inside of my lip to keep from crying out as he eases off the thin leather shirt separating the mithril-coat and me, more particularly over the patch of skin where a few of the links were driven into my flesh by the spear.
My kin catch their breath, noting the bruising spread across my right and my left side from the spear and being thrown against the wall, neither event I actually remember. The quaver in Merry’s voice belies his jovial tone.
“Dear cousin, had I but known you wanted to add a dash of color to your drab attire, gladly would I have lent you my yellow waistcoat, though admittedly, it is not nearly as colorful as what your skin now sports.”
I manage only a weak smile and struggle not to wince as I dress.
There is no time to tarry; we must move on. The orcs are relentless hunters. Dallying here only places us in greater danger; we must move on.
At least I do breathe more easily now.