12. Nieriel's Secret
Chapter 12 Nieriel's Secret
All welcomed Haldir and Nieriel when they first came to the Golden Wood. Orophin and Rumil had never been so glad to see their brother. The fact that he brought an elleth with him made them even more elated. They noticed a change in Haldir, though subtle. He seemed a little wiser and softer, though they would never tell him that.
Haldir settled back into his Marchwarden role quickly. He was back at the borders within days, patrolling with his brothers. Orophin and Rumil were only slightly disappointed when Haldir announced he would no longer be sharing a talan with them. He built a talan along the borders for him and Nieriel for he wanted her with him when he was on duty. She was glad he thought of her and took her along with him. At first, everything was wonderful. Nieriel made many friends and found Lord Celeborn to be very understanding. He made sure she was involved with any celebration events and soon she was doing every bit as much as she did in North Ithilien. But all the while, the sea longing was in the back of her mind. It seemed to grow a little every day. When news came of another ship sailing, she felt as though she should have been on it, afraid if she waited too long, there would be no more ships. The fact that Celeborn was still here made her feel good. She knew he would eventually sail and at least she would have a seat on his ship. Her call to the sea was becoming strong indeed and she did not know how much longer she could ignore it. This did not go unnoticed by Haldir. Often he would catch her standing at the edge of their talan, looking out toward the direction of the Grey Havens. She was lost in thought and he let her be. As soon as she sensed Haldir in the room, her attention came back to him and she would smile. "Did you hear that?" she would ask. Haldir would say he heard nothing and she would explain the sound the gulls made.
"My dear, there are no gulls even close to Lorien." he would tell her but she would only smile and say she heard them anyway.
After a while, she was becoming more and more distracted, some days more than others. Haldir went to Lord Celeborn and got permission to take her on patrol with him. Normally she would not be allowed being a female. However, Celeborn new about her background as a warrior and saw how patrolling could help as a distraction. Soon after, Haldir gifted her a bow of the Galadrim. She said she no longer needed a weapon but he insisted. Together they stood guard at the borders. It seemed to help her with the sea longing. Her mind instantly went into warrior mode. She always aroused Haldir when she was like this. On one patrol, a small group of ruffians was threatening them. They were told to leave and when they did not, the Galadrim had no choice but to defend their forest. Haldir and Nieriel fought side by side that day. He saw a side of her like never before. She was focused and hit every intended target. Haldir was proud to fight along side her. That evening, they made love like never before, like warriors trying to outdo each other. The next day they were exhausted and barely made it out of their talan. Many others had heard the commotion from night before as the lovers did not try to hide the sounds of their lovemaking. There was some talk the next day but it was quickly stifled when Haldir made his late appearance.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Five years had now passed since Haldir and Nieriel arrived in Lothlorien. Today seemed to be particularly challenging for her. The sea longing had recently become very overbearing and she was finding it much harder to resist its call. Haldir sensed her mood and approached her carrying her bow.
"Are you ready to head to the borders, melethril? I believe there may be some kind of disturbance. It will do you good to get out amongst the trees and join the hidden warriors." Haldir said to her as she stood looking out into the distance. She said nothing. "Nieriel?" Haldir said trying to break her spell.
Finally she spoke. "Not today melethron. I cannot not seem to will myself to move from this spot. Something has changed. I can feel it in the air… sorrow." Slowly she turned to face Haldir. She had a tear in her eye as she gazed upon his handsome face. "You will be needed soon and you must go then."
"What do you speak of? How do you know this?" Haldir said confused.
"The trees speak of great sadness. Word has traveled through all the forests until it has reached Lorien. From here, word will continue until all the trees have shared this information." she said dreamily.
"What has happened Nieriel? What is this sadness?" he asked.
"It is the Lady Caladwen. Her heart suffers but from what they do not say. The trees only sense emotion but not the story behind it." Nieriel's eyes shifted and she emerged from out of her trance. She approached Haldir, took his hand and walked him to the balcony of their talan. They sat down on a soft divan and she took his hands in hers.
"I believe the Lady Caladwen needs you. It is time for the protector to reinstate his oath. She needs you Haldir and you must go to her."
"But she has a husband to protect her now. She does not need me anymore."
"She will always need you, Haldir. Have you not sensed her or seen the gleam in her eyes when you are together?" Nieriel asked with a smile.
Their conversation confused Haldir. Why now of all times was Nieriel talking about Caladwen. "I believe mortals call it a 'crush'. She admitted admiration for me once but it is Leodred her husband which holds her heart. Caladwen and I are only friends."
"Your eyes do not see so clearly as long as you keep that barrier around your heart. I have seen your face as you mention her name. You have felt the tugging of your heartstrings yet you ignore the desire to see it through." Nieriel cupped her hands to the side of his face. "You love her, Haldir. I know you do. You have always loved her since you have known her. It was innocent at first but now it grows into much more. It is the reason you swore to protect her."
"How could you say such a thing?" Haldir said with an angry tone in his voice. "She is too young and have you forgotten that she is married and is deeply in love with her husband?"
"I know why you refuse to feel with your heart." Nieriel said in a deep voice almost like that of the Lady Galadriel. "There is something you do not know about me. I am much older than you think melethron. Haldir… I knew your mother."
Haldir was shocked by this news. "What? But how? I thought you were kin of Mirkwood. My mother never traveled to Thranduil's kingdom."
"No she did not but I did not always live in Mirkwood. It is true that it is my birth land. When I was still a young elleth, I traveled here to Lothlorien. My mother feared for me since the darkness was just beginning to spread through Greenwood. It was still known by that name at the time. The spiders were just beginning to invade certain areas. It was not such a problem yet. My mother had a vision one night and said I was to travel to Lorien. At the time, I did not understand why. She had seen something in my future and she feared for my safety. So I came here and met the Lady Galadriel."
Haldir had a stunned expression. "You never told me you knew the Lady."
"I did not say I knew her. I had only met her when I first arrived here. She put me to work as an elf maiden. That is how I came to know your mother. She was pregnant at the time and needed someone to help take care of her other two children, you and Orophin. So I came to work for her though it was not work. We became very good friends and we helped each other out in many ways."
"You say you helped my mother raise me and my brothers but I do not remember you." Haldir was wracking his brain, trying to bring up an image.
"It was a very long time ago. You and Orophin were merely elflings then and paid more attention to each other rather than me. She was very beautiful and kind, your mother. It broke my heart when your father died in battle. I saw how it affected her. I witnessed her fading and was with her when she finally lost her life. I loved your mother very much and wanted to stay with you and your brothers to help take care of you. The Lady Galadriel said it was not my place to stay. At first I was angry, angry with the Lady for not letting me help and angry at the evil that took your parents from you at such a young age. You were affected the most, Haldir. I watched you form your protective shell as soon as word reached your young ears of your mother's death. It is why you never loved another."
Haldir had not thought about that time in many millennia. "I remember it as if it was yesterday. She always told us how much she loved us. She called us her little warriors for she knew we would one day join the Galadrim. Then my father died and she began to diminish from this world. I tried to cheer her up many times but she seemed to look right through me. It was then that I knew how much she loved our father. I became angry and felt she loved him more than us. I did not know why she would not fight to live for her children. I did not understand at the time that she had no choice. When it was explained to me, I made the decision to never love someone so much that I could die from it nor bestow the same fate on anyone else if I should die. My mother's love was the only love I ever knew, that and my love for Lothlorien."
"And that is why you let your heart be consumed for your home. It is easier to love a thing rather than a being. But the days of darkness are behind us now. There is nothing to fear. You must learn to open your heart. The barrier has already been cracked and Caladwen somehow managed to find her way in, if only a small part. She will need you and soon she will need more from you than what you promised her in an oath." Nieriel was desperate to make Haldir understand but she knew it would take more than this one conversation to turn him around.
Haldir sat in silence for a long while. He remembered the kiss he shared with Caladwen and how something took affect then. He had tried to push it out of his mind and was successful up until now. He looked back to Nieriel. "What happened to you after my mother died?"
"As I said, I offered to take care of you and your brothers at least until family came for you. I did not know at the time that there was no one else. I was young then and Galadriel knew I was meant to do something greater. I think she looked into her mirror and saw something no one else could have known, that you and I would one day need each other again. During my stay in Lorien, I started training with some of the Galadrim. I felt a need to be able to protect myself. As you know, elleth in Lorien do not fight. It took some convincing to get them to teach me anything. I was a quick learner and I earned their respect so they took me under their wing and worked with me in secret. I always felt Galadriel knew this though and let it happen. As I said, I think she knew more than she ever led on. Eventually, she sent me back to Greenwood. By that time, it was renamed to Mirkwood. I returned to find the evil had grown rapidly. I then understood why Galadriel would not let me stay in Lorien. I was needed there and so I joined Thranduil's army and became a warrior. My accomplishments did not go unchecked. Thranduil himself was very aware of my grace and speed with a bow. He furthered my training and eventually made me a captain to one of his armies. On that day, his wife, the Queen and eventually Legolas' mother, gifted me that bow you saw hanging on my talan wall in Ithilien. It belonged to her when she was a warrior. After becoming Thranduil's wife and Queen of Mirkwood, she put down her weapon and it lay dormant for many years. She said I reminded her of her younger self before she married and that it was time her bow saw battle again. I accepted it graciously and it never lead me astray. A long time later, when she died, when Legolas was very young, I offered it back to Thranduil. I told him the young Prince should have it some day, being that it belonged to his mother. Thranduil said his wife would have wanted me to keep it. It was designed for an elleth and only an elleth would be comfortable with it. And so I kept the bow, stayed in Mirkwood, and did my duty. When I was not needed at the borders, I helped King Thranduil with his young son. I knew war could not last forever and I needed to remain skillful at something else besides weaponry. Years passed, wars ended and eventually, Legolas asked for a company of Elves to travel with him to North Ithilien and start a colony there. He asked me personally and I declined at first, knowing I would not be there long as I had already begun to feel the effects of the sea longing. Legolas would not hear of it. The rest you know."
"Did you know who I was when we met in Ithilien?" Haldir asked.
"I did not at first. After I left Lothlorien, I heard no news of you or your brothers. I had not known of your training with the Galadrim though I guessed that was your path. I had heard stories of the austere, bullheaded Marchwarden but it never crossed my mind that it was you. I think I tried to put that time of my life into the back of my mind. It was a very sorrowful time and it broke my heart to lose my friend, your mother. After meeting you that first night in Ithilien, I asked some of the others about you and realized who you were. I must admit, where other elleth may have found your charm to be alluring and irresistible, I saw a sadness there for I knew the real reason for your stern personality."
"Why did you not mention this before? Why did you hide who you were?" Haldir seemed hurt.
"I hid nothing. If you recognized me and had asked about my life, I would have told you. I did not see any reason to dig up the past. I only wanted to be with you in the present."
Just then, a messenger came to Haldir's talan. Haldir looked at Nieriel and turned pale. Nieriel merely sank into the background.
"I am sorry to bother you, Marchwarden, but a message has been sent to you from Rohan. It is very urgent. If you do not mind, I need to wait for your answer and deliver it right away." He handed the sealed parchment to Haldir and waited just outside of the talan door, giving Haldir his privacy. The Marchwarden walked out onto the balcony with Nieriel and broke the wax seal. The message was from King Eomer. He requested Haldir's presence in Rohan.
Haldir plopped down on the divan and let the letter fall from his hands. Nieriel went to him. "What does it say? What has happened?"
"It is the Lord Leodred. He was checking the borders with his troop when a group of Wildsmen attacked them. He was struck down by an arrow and did not survive. Eomer says Caladwen has barely eaten in days and will respond to no one. He fears she will become sick with grief. He knows of our friendship and asks me to come and be with Caladwen. Apparently, he feels I am the only one who can get through to her."
Nieriel picked up the note and read it then handed it back to Haldir. He seemed to be in shock by the news. "You must go then. She needs you Haldir. You are her Guardian, the only one she trusts right now."
Haldir got up and returned to the messenger. "Tell King Eomer that I will leave right away." The messenger bowed to Haldir and ran off to deliver Haldir's words but Nieriel stopped him.
"Wait." she yelled and the young Rohirrim stopped in mid stride. She turned to Haldir. "You should leave now. There is no time to lose. Go with this young man. He will get there no sooner than you and the King will still have his answer."
Haldir turned to the messenger. "Will you give us a moment? We will not be long and I will let you know if we travel together or not."
"Yes my lord." the young man answered and headed for the rope ladders to wait on the ground.
"Nieriel," Haldir started. "I said I would never leave you and I meant that. Will you not go with me to Rohan? Perhaps you can be of some help to the Lady Caladwen as well."
Nieriel smiled as if she knew everything that was to happen from here on out. "This is not my path to take, melethron. It is yours and yours alone. She needs you just as much as you will one day need her."
"But I will not break my promise to you." he said.
"You have not. You were the best thing that ever happened to me in my long life. These last few years we have spent together have brought me such comfort I have not felt in a very long time and for that, I am thankful. My time here comes to an end. I can no longer ignore the gulls call. I will sail soon."
"Will you at least wait for me to return to Lorien? I wish to escort you as far as I can to the Grey Havens. I want to stay with you until I can go no further." Haldir said with desperation in his voice.
"You will be gone longer than I can wait melethron. I must go. Another ship leaves soon and I must be on this one. It is my time."
Haldir went to her and embraced her. It seemed nothing he could say or do would make her change her mind. This was to be their parting. Haldir kissed her passionately and held her tight in his arms. "I will miss you Nieriel. I only wish we did not have to part like this."
"It is alright Haldir. You are needed elsewhere and I understand. Look for me when you get to Valinor. I want to look upon your handsome face again." Nieriel tucked his braid behind his ear and kissed him once more. He returned the kiss with as much passion as he could muster. "Now go. She is waiting."
Haldir gathered a few items from his talan and put them in his pack. He grabbed his weapons and went to the door. He turned once more. "Goodbye, melethril. Until we meet again." he said and then he was gone.
As he made his way down the rope ladders, Nieriel yelled to him once more. "Open your heart, Haldir. Let her in. It is you destiny."
Haldir paused on his way down and closed his eyes. He could not understand how it was his destiny to be with Caladwen. Surely, Nieriel was mistaken. Of course, he had felt something when he was with Caladwen but it was not love. It couldn't be. There was no time to think about such a thing. He had to get to Rohan and aid her in this time of grief. That was his only goal now. He finished climbing to the ground and met the messenger. "I will go with you back to the Riddermark. First, I must speak to my brothers and Lord Celeborn and then we can be on our way. Will you wait?"
"Of course Marchwarden. I will have your horse readied while I wait." answered the man.
"Thank you." Haldir said and went to find his brothers. They knew right away that something was wrong by the look in his eyes. He told them about Leodred and Caladwen's dire situation. They wanted to go with him but Haldir needed them to stay in charge. When they asked about Nieriel, he told them that she was to leave for the Grey Havens soon. Rumil heard the sorrow in his brother's voice and promised to escort her on her final journey. Haldir thanked his brother and felt slight relief that she would not go alone. He said goodbye to Orophin and Rumil then headed to Lord Celeborn's talan. Celeborn was waiting for Haldir. He already knew what had happened and bid Haldir farewell. He gave Haldir no counsel. There was nothing to add to what the Marchwarden already knew. This next path was his to discover on his own. He would have to tear down the wall around his heart and trust in his true feelings. It would not be easy and knowing Haldir, he would resist every step of the way. It was his choice now, to remain alone in the world or to choose a destiny that was meant only for him.
"May the Valar help to guide you, Marchwarden." Celeborn said and Haldir returned to where the messenger awaited his arrival. They rode off quickly and did not look back.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.