13. Tragedy In Rohan
Chapter 13 Tragedy In Rohan
Haldir arrived in Rohan to find a silence draped across the land. So many desolate faces greeted him. He followed the messenger to the Meduseld where they were greeted by Eomer.
"Thank you for coming, Haldir of Lorien. Please come join me in my home. I feel I need to fill you in on all that has happened." Eomer said leading Haldir up the steps and into the Golden Hall. They entered through a pair of doors off to the side at the back of the hall. This was Eomer's study. Haldir took a seat while Eomer excused the messenger from the room. He thanked him for his speedy return. Eomer closed the door behind him and joined Haldir in the chair next to him.
Haldir spoke first. "How did this happen?"
"It was unexpected. There have been no recent outbreaks of violence. We have had some trouble with the Wildsmen but nothing like this. It was a surprise attack. Leodred's troop was besieged from behind without any warning. They were not aware until they were fired upon. Leodred's friend was hit with an arrow first. He went to his friend to help him instead of staying with the others. A witness said he protected his dying friend while he waited for help from the other Riders. Leodred shot down five of the enemy. If not for him, his friend would have been tortured before they killed him. The man died in his arms. Leodred would not leave him and stayed to defend him even after he died. It was then that Leodred was overrun. He was shot six times before the final arrow pierced his heart and he was lost to us. He fought valiantly protecting his friend but it cost him his own life." Eomer said disappointment in his voice.
"Would you not have done the same thing my lord?" Haldir questioned.
"Indeed I would have. I would protect any of my brothers in arms and I have." Eomer answered, hanging his head.
"And where is Caladwen? I must see her." Haldir said becoming concerned as to whether or not she knew all the gory details of her husband's death.
"She has taken up residence in Eowyn's old room. She says being in her home is too painful a memory right now. Come, I will show you the way." Eomer led Haldir through another door in his study different than the one they came in through. It led out into a dark hallway. There was a door near the end of the hall. They stopped and Eomer knocked lightly. "Caladwen, there is someone here to see you."
"I am taking no visitors or mourners right now, Uncle." said a hushed voice from inside the room.
Eomer looked at Haldir. "I'm afraid this is always her answer. We have not seen much of her since the tragedy. She keeps to herself and stays locked in this room."
Haldir laid a gentle hand on Eomer's shoulder. "Would you give us some time alone? I believe I can get through to her and I promise you will see her for the evening meal."
Eomer nodded his head and bowed to Haldir. "Thank you, Marchwarden." he said and went back down the hall and into his study.
Haldir looked at the wooden door and got his thoughts together. He took a deep breath and knocked on the door. "Lady Caladwen, I have traveled far to be here. I would very much like to speak with you."
"Haldir?" said a quiet voice.
"Yes, my dear I am here. Please allow me to look upon you once again."
Haldir heard movement and then footsteps coming closer to the door. It slowly opened and a pair of red swollen eyes met his. The door opened fully and Caladwen leapt into Haldir's arms. She began sobbing right away. Haldir just held her and cradled her against his firm chest. He whispered soothing elvish words in her ear to try and calm her. It seemed to work and when she regained her composure she led him into her room. She sat down on a couch beside a window which was covered by thick curtains. There was no light in the room except for the glowing embers of what was left of a fire. Haldir remained standing, waiting to be invited to sit. Caladwen just looked straight ahead into nothingness. She was a lost soul and Haldir felt the need to comfort her. Finally he sat next to her, sitting straight and tall. If it wasn't for the situation at hand, he would have felt rather uncomfortable being with a female in her bedchamber with the door closed. But this was no ordinary female nor was it an ordinary situation.
Haldir finally broke the silence. "I am so sorry my lady."
"Please just call me Caladwen. No one seems to call me by my name recently except Uncle." She looked towards Haldir but not at his face. Her eyes looked down to his hands. "Why did this happen Haldir? Why was he taken away from me so soon? Did I do something wrong in the eyes of the Valar? Maybe they did not want me to marry a mortal. Am I being punished?"
Haldir moved closer to her so they were sitting side by side. "My dear, the Valar do not chastise by taking away another's life. You did nothing wrong. It was simply his time. Maybe he is needed more in the heavens of his people than here on earth."
"But I needed him Haldir. I loved him so much. We had plans for our life together. Everything was as it should be. Our world here was wonderful and fulfilling. There was so much we wanted to do."
"Sometimes things do not go as we expect them to. We are given challenges that only we are meant to endure. The Elves think of them as tests from the Valar." Haldir said.
Caladwen looked at him then, a fire in her eyes. "Why would they test me in this way? My life has been nothing but confusion until I married Leodred. For the first time I felt I had a purpose and a place. It seems the Valar never want me to learn who I truly am."
"Or maybe this is part of the process of figuring out just who you really were meant to be. Please do not lose faith in the Valar. They will still help guide you if you let them and do not resist." Haldir stood up and went to the window. He drew back the heavy curtains and let the sunlight stream into the darkened room. Caladwen shielded her eyes and Haldir knew she had not seen daylight in a long time. "You must come out of hiding, my dear. You have duties to attend to. When is the funeral for Leodred?"
"The day after tomorrow, but I don't know how I am going to…"
"I will be by your side the whole time. You must do this. The people will want to pay their respects to you. It is time to feed off of your elven energy and face the tasks that lay ahead. If you falter, I will be there to catch you. I will be with you every step of the way. I will be your crutch when you cannot walk. You will never be alone, I promise my dear Caladwen." Haldir went to her and held his hands out to her. She took them and he helped to pulled her up. She looked into his eyes and saw the strength she needed to go on.
Haldir smiled. "This is a good start. Now, we must get you cleaned up and dressed proper. You are joining your aunt and uncle for dinner tonight."
Caladwen shook her head. "No, I am not ready to face…"
"Nonsense. You have barely eaten lately. You must regain your strength if I have to feed you myself. Besides, I promised King Eomer you would join them this evening and you know I never break a promise." He raised an eyebrow and gave her a disciplinary look. She seemed frightened to go on. Haldir softened his features. "Please, Caladwen, you cannot hide away and face your sorrow on your own. You are not alone. Many grieve his loss. I saw their faces when I arrived. You can comfort each other and heal together."
Caladwen glanced out the window and saw what it was that Haldir spoke of. Many long faces could be seen walking the grounds below. "I will come out but only for dinner. I am not ready for condolences yet."
"Tomorrow we will work on that. Tonight you just need to be with family." Haldir made his way to the door.
"Where are you going?" Caladwen asked.
"It was a long journey from Lorien and I would like to clean up a bit. I will let your uncle know you will join him later."
"Will you come back? I don't want to be alone anymore." she said in a whisper.
Haldir's heart ached for her. There was such sorrow emanating from her. He hid his pity and smiled warmly. "It is good to hear you admit that, my dear. I will be back. Rest now, pen vuin. I will return in a short while." He watched as she went to her bed and lay down. He left the room and Caladwen cried herself to sleep.
When she woke up, the sun was setting. The window was still open and a reddish orange glow lit the dark room. She could barely make out a shadowy shape standing in the corner. "Haldir?" she whispered. He stepped into the light streaming in through the window. The sun lit up his silver hair making him look as if he was on fire. With the light behind him she could not see his face, just his outline. Caladwen rubbed her eyes as if she was seeing an apparition. He was absolutely glowing. He looked like an angel, her guardian angel sent to protect her. He approached her and stepped out of the light and she could now see him plainly as she had ever seen him. The moment passed but Caladwen never forgot how he looked right then.
"How are you feeling, Caladwen?" he asked.
"I guess I am a little hungry." she admitted. There was no use fighting against the Marchwarden. He would not stop until she did what he wanted.
Haldir smiled. "Good. I have sent for the maids to come and help you bathe and dress. Then we will go to dinner, together." There was a knock on the door and two young maids walked in. One carried some jars of soaps and oils. The other carried a simple light blue dress. Caladwen recognized these things as being from her home. "I asked them to go to your house and pick out what they thought you would need to get ready. I hope you do not mind the invasion." Haldir said.
"Of course not. Thank you." Caladwen said to the maids who nodded. Haldir left the room to let her get ready.
"I will come back for you when it is time." he said and disappeared down the hall. The maid with the bath things went to the end of the hall where the bathing room was and heated water for a bath. The other maid helped Caladwen get out of her corset and undo the braids in her hair. She was silent as she worked but finally mustered the courage to talk to Caladwen.
"Is it true that he is an Elf from Lothlorien, my lady?" she said quietly.
"Yes. He is Haldir, Marchwarden of the Galadrim and he has been my friend and Guardian since before I was born." Caladwen said looking at the door where Haldir exited from.
"My lady, you are very lucky to have one of such importance to watch over you. I cannot remember there ever being a Lorien Elf at Edoras. For so long we have thought of that forest as being bewitched. Since you have come here, we have a better understanding of the Firstborn, especially those from Lorien."
Caladwen cracked a small smile. "They have quite a reputation for magic but I assure you, they have no such thing. The Lady Galadriel was the closest thing to being magical but even she held no real trickery. She was very genuine, kind and loving."
The maid finished releasing the last braid. "I hope this dress is alright. You have many to choose from. I picked this one because I thought it was the prettiest."
"It is a fine choice." Caladwen glanced at the maiden. "I'm sorry I have not been myself lately."
"My lady, there is no need to apologize. You have suffered a great loss. We all have. Just know, during trying times such as these, we must find comfort in each other."
Caladwen smiled. "A good friend told me the same thing."
"Your friend is very smart, my lady." said the maid as she picked up the dress. "Shall we go to the bathing room now?"
Caladwen nodded and stood, turning to the maid. "Thank you for your help. I don't think I could have done this much on my own."
"I'm just doing my job, my lady." the maid said and they went to the bathing room. The two maids left her alone.
After her bath, she dressed and returned to her room. Both windows were open and a cool night breeze blew across the room. Her bed had been changed and neatly made. Her old clothes were gone. The room had been dusted and straightened. It even smelled fresh as there was a vase full of fresh flowers. There was a note lying on the table next to the vase. She picked it up and read it.
'Some fresh flowers for a fresh start… Haldir.' It was simple and to the point just like him. Caladwen had to smile.
There was at knock on the door. "Come in." she said.
Haldir strode in standing tall and straight. "That is a much better greeting than the first one I got." He looked at her dress and her hair. "You look much better. Are you ready to go down for dinner?"
"I am. I won't make any promises that I will eat much or be much for conversation. Just leaving this room is quite a difficult thing for me to achieve."
"I only asked for your presence at dinner. If that is all you can do then so be it. It is more than the others will expect from you." Haldir held his arm out for her and she laid her hand on his forearm. He led her down the hall, around a corner, through a door and down another hall. They passed the maids who helped her get ready. The young women bowed as Haldir looked at them. Caladwen noticed this and did not like their response. She thought of them as friends and equals. She stopped Haldir and let go of his arm then went to the two women who were still in a bowing position.
"Please, you do not need to do that." she said. The maids straightened and looked at her confused. Caladwen then embraced them both. At first they remained stiff, unsure what to do. No one had ever behaved in such a manor. The maid who brought the dress relaxed and hugged her back. "You look very beautiful, my lady. Now go and enjoy your meal."
Caladwen released them. "Thank you for your help and for not showing pity on me." They smiled to each other and Caladwen went back to Haldir. She took his arm again and they went on their way.
They approached the doors to the dining hall and went in. All eyes were on them as they approached the King's table. Eomer stood and smiled warmly at her. Lothiriel gestured for her to have a seat next to her. Caladwen went to her aunt. They hugged and Lothiriel tucked a stray hair behind her ear. "It is good to see you, Caladwen. This was a big step you have made. I am proud of you."
Eomer asked for Haldir to have a seat and join them. Also at the table were two of the Marshals of the Mark. One had been in charge of the company Leodred was assigned to. They had many questions for Haldir, being they had never met a Lorien Elf. Everyone was involved in some kind of conversation as they enjoyed their evening meal. Haldir noticed how distant Caladwen was but that was to be expected. Nevertheless, he always made sure to keep an eye on her, monitoring how much she ate and how much she only pushed around on her plate. He figured she had been there long enough and stood to speak for the both of them. "My Lords and Ladies, this has been a fine meal and great conversation but I believe the Lady Caladwen and I are due for some fresh air. If you will excuse us." he said looking at Caladwen. She seemed relieved.
Eomer and the other men stood up as Caladwen did and nodded to her. Eomer went to her and embraced his niece. "Thank you for joining us tonight. I know how difficult it was. I think it will only get easier from now on. Maybe tomorrow we will see more of you."
"It was good to be amongst family. I'm sorry I was not more talkative. I will try harder tomorrow." she said.
"All in good time, dear Caladwen. All in good time." Eomer watched her take Haldir's arm as they headed out of the hall.
"I'm afraid I do not know my way around your city so well. I would like to walk with you if you feel up to it." Haldir said.
"I would like that. We can go to the courtyard. There is a garden there but I'm afraid there are no trees."
"Do not worry for me, my dear. I can adjust to my surroundings quite well." he said as they entered the courtyard. There was no moon that night so the stars shone bright up above. Caladwen noticed how Haldir seemed to glow in the starlight. He stood at the edged of a low rock wall looking towards the West. He seemed to be lost in thought.
"You have told me no news from Lorien. How fares the Golden Wood?" she asked.
"It has become very quiet. More and more Elves leave for the Grey Havens. Although those that leave find joy in their mission, it is still a very sad thing to see them leave. Those of us who stay behind will miss them." He seemed far away as he spoke.
Caladwen caught a hint of despair in his voice. "Where is Nieriel? Why did she not come with you?"
Haldir remained silent a little longer gazing out over the land. "She travels to the Grey Havens. The call of the sea became too strong and she could ignore it no more."
"I'm sorry, Haldir. I know how much you cared for her. She was very special."
"That she was indeed." he said before turning and joining Caladwen on a stone bench. "We knew it would happen one day." There was regret in his tone.
"Did you see her off?" she asked.
Haldir looked down, closing his eyes as he did. "No." he whispered.
"But you promised to see her off didn't you?" Caladwen looked away from him. "Instead, you came here for me. I'm sorry. I have forced you to break your promise to her." Caladwen said sadly.
"She did not go alone. Rumil went with her. It is better this way. I was never one for long goodbyes."
They sat in silence for a while, observing the stars. Finally, Caladwen spoke. "I taught Leodred about our elven stars, their names and songs. We used to sit right here and I would teach him. He was a quick learner. And then he was gone more often on training exercises. We didn't see each other much for about a year. Then one day he came home early from one of his patrols. He was promoted to Captain of his troop. Leodred was so proud and so was I. He worked very hard to accomplish this and managed to do it in half the time it normally took. He said he did it so we could be together again. We desperately hated being separated from each other though I knew it was part of his job. He had a little more spare time as a Captain. He was recently working on his goal of becoming a Marshal. It was within his grasp. This last patrol was to be his final one before he was promoted. We would sit and talk about how proud his father would have been."
"I believe he is with his father now and he is proud of him. Leodred was a good man. I am pleased to know how well he took care of you." Haldir said.
Caladwen let her thoughts take over as she envisioned Leodred and his father embracing for the first time in years. He would see what a strong man Leodred became and they would be happy. Tears filled her eyes as her mind lingered too long on this thought. She began to quietly sob and Haldir pulled her into his embrace. After a while, he took her back to her room and had the maid help her to bed. It had been a long and trying day for Caladwen but she did well, Haldir thought.
The next morning, he was at her door bright and early. He had plans for them that day. For the first time since Leodred's death, she stepped out into the sunlight. She smiled slightly as she felt the warmth of the sun upon her face. Haldir made this day about her. He acted as if he needed help finding his way around the city. She took him to the different places that were special to her. Every time they went somewhere new, Haldir managed to get her to tell some story of why these locations meant so much to her. Of course, they all had something to do with Leodred. Caladwen began to realize how much of Leodred's memory was still embedded within the city. He would always be there in some way and that could never be taken away.
That night there was a gathering at the evening meal. Most were Riders of the Mark. It was customary for the soldiers to have a meal in honor of a fallen comrade the night before his funeral. Haldir attended the meal with Caladwen and never left her side. She fed off his strength, his support. Many stories were told about the times they shared either in training or on patrol. She never realized how much respect they held for him. These men were more than his friends, they were his brothers.
At the end of the meal, a special toast was given by King Eomer. Many kind things were said about Leodred and then he announced something that not even Caladwen knew of. "He worked very hard to become a Marshal of the Mark and he accomplished his goal. Tomorrow was to be a celebration of the advancement in his position from Captain to Marshal. Instead, we are burying our fallen brother. Let it be known, he will be put in his tomb as the Marshal he had become. He has officially been promoted though he will never serve under his new title. It was justly deserved by one as noble as Leodred." Eomer finished his speech and approached Caladwen. "As is customary in Rohan, the badges he wore are to go to the wife of the fallen. He never had a chance to wear these but he earned them just the same." Eomer handed Caladwen the metal badges he would have worn for this ceremony. Then he bowed low as did the rest of the company in attendance. Caladwen looked around the room and she never felt more proud of Leodred than she did at that moment. She felt as though he was with her right then, looking upon the scene in the hall and he knew Caladwen was proud.
The next day was the funeral. Early that morning, Eowyn, Faramir and Legolas arrived. When Caladwen saw her mother, she ran to her and cried. Eowyn held her in her arms, comforting her as any mother would do for a hurt child. Faramir came up to them and embraced them both. When she collected herself, she looked up to see Legolas standing with a company of Ithilien Elves. Caladwen ran to him an hugged him. Legolas whispered in his native tongue, easing her pain with his words. It was a bittersweet reunion. Haldir stood back and let her have this much needed time with her family. They would not stay here for very long. In just a couple days they were to head back to Ithilien.
Soon after, it was time to begin the ceremony. Everyone in Rohan lined the streets as the cadence proceeded to the burial mounds. Leodred's own mother stood next to Caladwen at the entrance of the tomb and sang a haunting melody of a brave soldier, an honorable son and a caring husband. It was the only time Haldir was not next to Caladwen. He felt it was not his place to be at the moment. He stood with Legolas and his company of Elves, waiting until the ceremony was over before he approached Caladwen again.
Leodred's body was placed in the tomb and sealed shut. The crowd began to dissipate back to the city. The soldiers did not leave until the townspeople were gone. Eomer did not leave until the troops left then he escorted Leodred's mother back. Caladwen was the only one left. She remained at the tomb, sitting on the ground in a kneeling position, looking at the white flowers of Simbelmyne that grew there. Haldir remained at the top of the hill where the pathway led back to the city streets. He watched over her from afar, giving her these last few moments alone with her husband. She stayed there for hours and yet Haldir never moved from his position. He knew when she was ready to leave, she would come to him. Finally she got up and began walking the path back to the city. She hardly even glanced at Haldir as she approached him. As she walked by she spoke in a whisper. 'We can go now. I have no more words to speak or tears to cry. It is done."
"Very well, my lady." Haldir said and followed her back to the Meduseld. She sat by the fireplace in the middle of the hall, the same one where Eowyn sat and grieved over the loss of her cousin Théodred. Haldir stood in the shadows and let her have her solitude. She finally stood up and acknowledged Haldir's existence.
"Will you walk me back to my room?" she asked.
"Yes my lady and I will keep watch outside your door while you sleep this night." he answered and offered her his arm. They strolled down the hallway in silence until they came to her door.
"I'm afraid of what my dreams may bring this night. If you don't mind, I would rather have you watch over me while I sleep. If I should have a nightmare, I would like to find my Guardian keeping watch instead of the emptiness of a dark room."
"As you wish." Haldir answered. He waited until she was in her night clothes and she called to him. Then he sat on the windowsill next to her bed and remained there until morning. Caladwen never even stirred the entire night. Haldir made sure her sleep would remain sound by whispering elvish words of comfort in her ear just after she fell asleep. It was the best night's rest she'd had in a long time.
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.