The company now went down the road from the gates. For some time Opaline tried to keep up with the others; but Aragorn was leading them at a great pace, and eventually she fell even further behind than those who were far more assailed with wound or grief than she.
Or so it seemed at first. As Opaline finally sank down to her knees, she felt a stinging sensation along her scalp, and half in pain, half in confusion and half in concern she ran her fine hand through her red hair. She drew it back in pain and looked at the smears of darker red that came away on her fingers. She had been wounded, and had not known it.
At last Legolas turned, and seeing Opaline, and Jeowyn and Delphaen who between them were helping Boromir, were all now far behind, he called out to Aragorn, who halted the group. They spoke together in some concern, and then Aragorn set the now-conscious Namariarwen down on a convenient boulder and approached Opaline.
"I am sorry, Opaline!" he said penitently. "I did not know you were hurt. And I have forgotten Boromir also. So much has happened today, and such need for haste that we have had, that I have been remiss. A little further on there is a place where we may rest for a little..."
Aragorn looked around. Someone was needed to carry the fair Namariarwen. Boromir was dangerously close to having need to be carried himself, Legolas was still tenderly carrying the lovely Renyarwen, and the only remaining member of the fellowship with both the physical requirements and the overall state of health required to carry a wounded maiden remained- Sirius Black.
"Sirius..." Aragorn began.
"No!" shrieked Opaline, literally cowering. "No! I can walk!"
But it was clear that she could not. Nor would she stand to have Sirius within a five foot radius of her person. Finally Aragorn sighed.
"That remains myself," he said practically. "Sirius! Will you bear the maiden Namariarwen in your arms, whilst I assist Opaline, who has been grievously wounded?"
Sirius would. And thus they travelled on for some time, in as much haste as they could manage. They arrived just at a spot where a much smaller stream met the Silverlode and bubbled noisily down into a little dell. It was about three o'clock in the afternoon, and they were still a great way from Lothlorien.
Gimli and Merry and Pippin quickly got a fire going, and Aragorn gravely examined the wound on Opaline's scalp. It was not deep, but it looked ugly, and Aragorn was quietly concerned for a few moments. Finally he breathed a sigh of relief.
"Good luck, fair lady!" he said. "The cut is not poisoned, as I fear it might be. It should heal well."
This good news did not last as Aragorn tended Namariarwen and Renyarwen, both unscathed but as dazed as those could be who have undergone great mental assault. "We must make haste as soon as we can," was Aragorn's terse verdict; he knew that only the elven haven of Lothlorien and the wise and fair Elves there would know the secret to setting those two great minds at ease.
Last of all Aragorn turned to Boromir. "You did a foolish thing," he said, though his voice was not stern; Boromir had paid for his foolish action and all knew it to be so.
But it was Jeowyn that Aragorn turned to next. "Your healing powers are amiss. Why is that?"
"I don't know," she said blankly. "For it is my greatest desire to heal such a grievous wound."
"Is it?" said Delphaen suddenly. Jeowyn felt as though Delphaen had shot an arrow into her heart with her sudden question.
Boromir was loath to allow Aragorn to touch him, but it was all unnecessary as it was obvious his wound was serious- he bled still through the binds that Delphaen had set for him. There was nothing to do but to hasten to Lothlorien with all speed. Delphaen retied the binds on Boromir's shoulder hastily but skillfully as they made ready to leave.
"You don't have to help me," said Boromir to Delphaen in a low voice.
"No," she said briefly. "I don't have to help you."
"But you are," he pressed.
She pulled the ends of the tourniquet with some vim and Boromir grit his teeth.
"I help you because of old ties," she said equally as grimly. "I am a maiden of Gondor, though in exile, and we have spent many a happy hour in each other's company, though these you may choose not to remember. You are a Lord of Gondor, and I your subject. Where in this should I not help you?"
Boromir was a long time in replying. "I'm sorry," he said, and would say no more than this.
As for Jeowyn, her heart smote her deeply. She loved Boromir. She would die to save him. But she could not heal him- she was forced to stand aside and allow Delphaen, whose conventional medical skills exceeded her own, to tend the man she loved so deeply.
And it seemed to her that Boromir no longer looked at Delphaen with the shame and impatience he had previously. And in Delphaen's eyes, as she looked into his face before rising to wash her bloodstained hands in the Silverlode, there was a softness that Jeowyn had never seen in Delphaen's face before. It was there for a second, and then it vanished. Jeowyn settled her mind with the fancy that she had imagined it.
They travelled on, painfully slowly, until sunset had set in and evening was falling. The night-wind blew chill up the valley to meet them. Before them a wide grey shadow loomed, and they heard the endless rustle of leaves like poplars in a breeze. Here they paused to rest the wounded and the grieved alike.
"Lothlorien!" cried Legolas. "Lothlorien! We have come to the eaves of the Golden Wood. Alas that it is winter!"
"We shall not reach the safety of the Wood proper tonight," sighed Aragorn, "and I fear we must fend for ourselves. I wish it were not so. We are in dire haste."
The others made as if to go on, but Jeowyn did not move. Her heart suddenly misgave her.
"Is there no other way?" she said.
"No other way?" Aragorn smiled at her, the first time he had smiled since who knew when. "What fairer way would you go?"
"By a plain road, though it be thick with thieves," said Jeowyn. "Of the perilous land of Lothlorien we have heard in Gondor. It is said that few come out who once go in..."
"Law wanes in Gondor," said Delphaen suddenly. Jeowyn turned and looked about her. Namariarwen looked about to swoon again. Boromir was as white as paper. Opaline looked on the verge of tears.
"Lead on," she said miserably.
And Aragorn led them on, none with such a downcast heart as Jeowyn. She drew her hood over her face and her sleeve over the Elvish character on her arm, which she fancied pained her like the sting of a bee, and she said no more.