Chapter XI: CHOICES?
Aragorn rose early, even though there was no sign of dawn yet, as there were no birds singing, no sunlight, no sound at all that could announce sunrise. But he felt the beginning of the day in his bones. He also sensed a sound that had been missing in the dead still of the previous night. The river had awakened, it's water flowing again, bringing the promise of life back to the burned and blackened earth.
As he sat up and looked around the camp he shared with Gimli and Legolas, he saw the dwarf still asleep, snoring lightly, and his elven friend leaning against a tree, deep engrossed in his thoughts. Aragorn's mouth wore a little smile. He had seen a part of what had transpired between Legolas and Cyrene last night, while both had been distracted with each other. For the time he had been a friend to Legolas, the elven prince had been eagerly followed by many she-elves and admired by many women, who fell in love with his beautiful face and calm demeanor. But he had not held any relationship with any of them, though it was known to Aragorn that Legolas could have as many companions in his bed as he wanted, be it in Rivendell or Mirkwood, as he had done in his youth.
So, now, he had found his match in a very unlikely creature, an Amazon, no less. If tender feelings could still grow in the midst of darkness, blood and war, there was still hope for them in vanquishing Sauron's threat forever.
He thought of Arwen, as he held the pendant she had given him before leaving Rivendell and hoped that his friend could find the same light he shared with the Evenstar.
"Good morning Legolas, I hope you got some rest through this strange night." He greeted his companion.
Legolas looked up from the fire to Aragorn. "I did not rest Aragorn, my mind has found new challenges ahead. May the Valar light our way." He said and stood up, to prepare the horses, for they were to continue the ride soon.
The valley surrounding the tower of Orthanc was also devoid of trees. The once fertile ground was dry and broken.
But the mist had gone away and the sun shone timidly on the riders approaching the fortress of Isengard, which, to their surprise, was in ruins.
They rode through the remains of the once proud buildings, mostly under water, to the only one which still stood almost unharmed: Saruman's Tower.
Their eyes suddenly were drawn to a movement near at hand. On a pile of rubble were two creatures sitting, as if they were waiting for the new arrival. They were small, as tall as ten-year-old children, with curly hair on their head and rather big and hairy bare feet. Though they were only as tall as a grown man's waist , they looked as if they were also grown men. One was sleeping, and the other was calmly smoking a pipe. As he saw the group approaching, he gave his sleeping companion a kick to wake him and jumped to his feet. Standing in front of the riders he spoke: "Hail Theoden, King of Rohan! My companion and I have been bade to await your arrival and to welcome you to Isengard with all the honor due to your station. I am Meriadoc, son of Saradoc Brandybuck and this is Peregrin, son of Paladin, of the house of Took. The wizard Saruman is in the tower, locked up by himself with a man by the name of Wormtongue. You are welcome in this place and any thing that you may need shall be put at your disposal."
Gandalf couldn't suppress a laugh welling up in him by the sight of the hobbits and Merry's impressive speech. "Well done, Master Meriadoc! Was it Saruman who posted you here to guard the entrance to Isengard and receive the visitors?"
"No, Sir, Saruman has been occupied with some uninvited guests. He has not been out of the tower of Orthanc. It was Treebeard who set us to this post, since he has taken the government of Isengard." replied Merry.
Gimli couldn't stop himself longer from crying out "And you don't have even a word for us, your companions, for Legolas and for me? It was quite some chase you have led us on. And here you are, smoking, feasting and resting!"
Gandalf interrupted, "I would wish to speak to Treebeard, where can I find him Merry?"
"You may find him up north, having a drink from the only water here that can still be taken by man or ent, on the shore of the Isen river."
"So King Theoden? Will you come with me to talk to Treebeard? When you speak to him you will learn many a thing because he is also called Fangorn, and is the oldest living creature in this world," spoke Gandalf.
"I will join you, my friend". And the King of Rohan and his escort rode along with Gandalf to find Treebeard.
Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli stayed behind with the hobbits. As the escort rode by them, Legolas looked up to see Cyrene pass by. She didn't wear a helmet anymore , and was easily recognizable among the Rohirrim Archers. He smiled as she also looked back to him. Beside him, Gimli was observing both and quietly chuckling to himself.
As the friends sat together again, exchanging the tales of their separate adventures, Legolas sat silently by and didn't say a word. When Merry, Pippin, Aragorn and Gimli started to smoke their pipes, he walked away and lay down on the ground, looking up to the sky, enjoying the clearing sky. He had to think about many things: the quest, their adventures so far, Rohan, Cyrene and what was about the Amazon that preoccupied him so much.
He hadn't noticed much about her when he saw Cyrene tending to dinner in Meduseld, and when he intruded on the embrace between Cyrene and Eomer. He had been impressed by the archer captain at Helm's Deep, and surprised to find out it was a woman, and not a common one at that. Since then, he had been intrigued by the way the mortal female behaved and about the fact that she was an Amazon.
He also sensed some sorrow that lay deep inside of her, tarnishing her ever-present lust for life. This woman was in that regard like an elf, being drawn deeper into grief and only resigning to survive in this world, which wasn't hers.
But he couldn't deny that there was something else between them, every time they touched or were near the other. He hadn't wanted a female like he wanted this woman ever before in his whole life. It was almost as if they were drawn to each other by a force beyond their might.
And she wasn't aware of the power and effect she had over him. She seemed surprised and even annoyed by the sensations that went through them both. Legolas was also sure he had seen something like confusion and fear in her eyes, as they had awkwardly broken their embrace the night before. Cyrene was not a young girl anymore, not by human standards. But maybe it was different among the amazons … well, he was intent on trying to find out, before their roads parted again and she went back to Edoras with Eomer …
Eomer cared for Cyrene that was plain for everybody to see. And she cared for him too. But were they more than friends? Legolas felt his blood pumping faster by the thought of Cyrene and Eomer being lovers. How did he manage to complicate his life and forget the quest for a moment ?
His duty was towards the quest and the Fellowship. He should try to put aside everything else. Including his body and soul's craving for the raven-haired Amazon.
Legolas stood up and went to the circle of his friends, hoping he could forget her.
Theoden and Gandalf reached the Isen River and went to meet Treebeard while the escort made a pause by the stream, to water the horses and replenish their water supplies. Cyrene borrowed a canteen from the archers to also bring some fresh water to Gimli, Aragorn and Legolas, who had stayed behind by the tower. She went to the shore to fill the canteens and let the sight of the flowing water soothe her.
She smiled as she thought of how easily it was for her to remember her new friends. Gimli, the dwarf, who seemed to be harsh to everybody but had been tender and friendly to her. His wry sense of humor was very much to her liking. Aragorn, who had earned her respect in battle and aside of it. She could understand Eowyn's admiration for him. He was an exceptional man, and if he were her captain she would follow him into the fires of Mordor and beyond. She was in awe of the wizard Gandalf, as she had never met a wizard before.
And then, her thoughts turned to Legolas. Kind, brave, amazing, beautiful Legolas. The tall elf was an enigma to her. He was like a man, and still not quite like a man.
Since she had come to live in the world of men, she had learned much about them. She had earned their trust and respect as a warrior, and some of the archers and Eomer considered her a true friend. She knew some men might think of her in the way they thought about other women, in the way they wanted them for mating and sometimes joining their lives. But she knew that she wasn't born to join anybody's life.
Among the Amazon's there was no place for men, and even if some of her sisters had left the island and joined their lives to men, she was not looking forward to ever assume the life of women in this world.
Legolas made her feel treasured and secure; he gave her hope when she felt herself drowning in the dark thoughts about her fate. He also made her feel strange. His touch provoked in her longing and warmth and the insane urge to touch him likewise and lose herself into his arms and forget about anything else. The feeling scared the wits out of Cyrene.
She was well beyond the age in which the amazons began their travels from the island to the coast to mate and breed. She had been told how the mating between man and woman was supposed to be, and that it was her duty to endure it to preserve their society. But due to her position in the island and the fact that she had left the amazons for good, or so she had thought before Theoden's command to call upon them, she had never gotten to be together with any male.
Cyrene had doubts about what exactly happened whenever she and Legolas touched each other. And it frightened her, because she lost control of herself. It would be better if she tried to stay away from the elf, even though the thought left her yearning for the recently acquired friendship and camaraderie. She reminded herself that her duties were to bring honor and fame to the amazons and then to her service to Theoden. She had never forgotten her responsibilities, and it was bound to them, that she had left everything dear to her behind and was now in this world, in which she would never find a place of her own.
She turned from the water after having filled the canteens and walked over to her horse, to find Eomer waiting for her. "Cyrene, I have been waiting for you. I missed you." Said Eomer and put his hand over hers, as she was binding the canteens to her saddle. He had strong, warm hands, but she didn't feel anything when he touched her. She knew that he would be upset if she pulled her hand away. She kept her hand still and smiled at him, imperceptibly nudging her mare to move, so Eomer would let go of her. The horse obliged and moved, making Eomer take a step aside and draw his hand back.
"I am always there for you, my friend. You should know that." She said and smiled sadly at Eomer. Something in their friendship had changed since the night he had embraced her in Edoras. And Cyrene could not understand about his efforts to "claim" her as if she belonged to him. She had given him her friendship and really cared about Eomer and Eowyn, for they had welcomed her into Edoras when she was a stranger, alone, with no knowledge of their world and their people.
"Do you have any news of Eowyn?" she asked him. Eomer smiled at her. She was the best friend his sister could have. She had proved herself to him and to Rohan as loyal, brave and true. He was still thinking about the last time they had talked, and he decided he would not give up on her. Cyrene was worth it.
"No, Cyrene, the messengers have not come back yet. Maybe when we return to Helm's Deep we might have news. Do you miss her?" he told her.
"If I miss her? Well, Eomer, of course I do!!!! I wouldn't have wanted her in the middle of the battle, but I miss her smile and her company. I love her as if she were my flesh and blood."
"Well, I know you care much about my sister and I hope you care about me … but would you again consider what we talked yesterday and maybe let me try to convince you …" Eomer started.
Cyrene felt cornered. She didn't want to hurt Eomer, but he had to stop thinking about her as a possible mate. She just said. "Eomer, I love you very much as the best male friend I ever had. But I beg you, do not ever talk again of this … I told you before, you are now the Heir of Rohan, you need a princess. And besides I could never give you what you need and deserve. It is not in my nature … I just cannot. Forgive me Eomer." Saying this she turned away from him and mounted up, leaving him standing with unspoken words on his lips and sadness in his heart.