14. Saying Goodbye
Chapter 14 Saying Goodbye
A few months had passed since the funereal of Leodred. Caladwen tried to fall back into her loneliness and depression but Haldir would not let her. He kept her out of her room as much as possible and made sure she had plenty to keep her busy. He got her back into teaching by having the Rohan children gather every morning for lessons in the garden. It worked well and every day Caladwen let a little more joy into her life. Haldir stayed close but did not interfere. He saw her as a natural mentor. This made him feel proud and he hoped he had something to do with it.
In return, Caladwen helped Haldir to loosen up a bit and know it was alright to let his guard down. When he first arrived in Rohan, he was very reclusive, not interacting with the people. He understood they were frightened of outsiders after so many years of war and the trickery of Saruman. Things had changed considerably since Caladwen came to make the Riddermark her home. She taught them much of the beings who dwelled outside of their borders. They were very accepting of Haldir and wished to learn as much from him as they could. He was feeling quite useful during his stay there.
Haldir and Caladwen were enjoying a quiet moment in the hall of the Meduseld. They were each engulfed in a book, reading about the history of Rohan when Caladwen broke the silence. "It is time for me to go to my home." she said out of nowhere.
Haldir looked up from the book he was reading. "Which home do you speak of?"
"My home. The house Leodred and I shared. I have not been there since the tragedy. It is time for me to face my ghosts." Caladwen looked at Haldir curiously. "What home did you think I was referring to? I only have one."
"My dear, you have many homes. Rohan, of course, is your current place but there is Ithilien and Lothlorien. Those are your homes also."
"Lothlorien? How is that my home? I have not been there since I was a child." she said as if he was out of his mind.
"It is your birth land and will always be your first home even if you do not live there." He returned to the book he was reading. "I was wondering when you would be ready to go to your house." Haldir said matter-of-factly.
Caladwen sensed something in Haldir's voice like excitement when she merely mentioned the word 'home'. "Is there something you are not telling me Haldir?"
"What could I possibly have to keep hidden from you my lady?" he said not looking up from his book.
He is definitely hiding something from me, she thought to herself. "You thought I was speaking of Lorien didn't you?" She got up and went to where he was sitting, taking the book from him to gain his full attention. "Do you wish to go back to the Golden Wood?"
"My heart will always long to be amongst the mallorns but I will not return until I am sure you are healed." he said stiffly.
Caladwen said no more about it. It was obvious that Haldir was missing Lorien and was anxious to return. He was staying here for her. Everything he was doing lately was for her behalf. It was why he missed his opportunity to escort Nieriel to the Grey Havens. She suddenly felt very guilty. She had been so wrapped up in her grief that she failed to notice Haldir's suffering too. She smiled to Haldir. "I need to do this now. I feel it is time. Will you go with me?"
"Yes, of course." Haldir stood and walked with Caladwen to the steps of the Meduseld. They walked down a pathway that led to a house with a thatched roof not unlike the others. This house was larger and situated not far from the Golden Hall. It was almost like an added on building of the King's Hall, as if it were attached in some way. Haldir stopped and let Caladwen approach the house alone. This was her final test, the last thing she needed to deal with before the healing process could truly commence. She put her hand on the doorknob and looked back to Haldir. He nodded for her to go on. She turned the handle and slowly opened the door. She was not sure what it was she was expecting to happen. Maybe there would be the smell of mustiness or creatures scattering along the floor from no one living there in so long. Actually, it was spotless. There was no dust, no dirt. It smelled fresh and she noticed fresh flowers in a vase. The curtains were pulled back and daylight streamed into the house. It was just as cheery now as it had been when Leodred was alive.
She looked back to Haldir and he came forward and followed her into the house. "Haldir, there are flowers here. Do you know about this?"
"I arranged for your home to be visited every day by the maids and fresh flowers to be brought in."
"But why?" she said confused.
"This is your home and I wanted it to remain the same as when you left it. It has been waiting for your return and should be an inviting place, not a cave." Haldir spoke as if she should have known this.
"Well, thank you Haldir. It does feel the same, in a way. The only difference is that Leodred will not be here again." she said and Haldir sensed a return of her depression. He quickly began asking questions about anything in the room. He wanted to get her to open up and speak freely about the life she and Leodred had. She needed to know it was alright to look back on those times with joy and not let sorrow take over. He pointed out several knick-knacks that looked as though they had some importance. She would smile and tell him how he surprised her with this one or that one for birthdays or anniversaries. They spent many hours in the house going from room to room and reliving events big and small. Haldir realized her memory was very long and detailed like that of the Elves. She would never forget these years that she spent married to Leodred. They would always remain fresh in her mind.
The day was getting late. Haldir left her for a moment to call upon one of the maids to have the evening meal sent to Caladwen's house. The word spread quickly that she had returned to her home. Everyone was glad to hear about her progress. It was a big step and one that was long overdue for her recovery. Shortly after Haldir returned to the house, a maid appeared with a tray of meat and vegetables, bread, wine and sweet rolls. Obviously, someone knew of the sweet tooth Elves had. Haldir was glad for the treat. The maid left and Caladwen and the Marchwarden sat at the kitchen table and had their meal. He noticed how relaxed she seemed and wondered if she would remain here this evening.
"Will I be escorting you to your chamber in the King's home tonight?" he asked as they sipped their wine and enjoyed a sweet treat.
Caladwen took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I think I will sleep in my own bed tonight. I no longer feel afraid of this place nor do I feel lonely. I feel surrounded by love in this house, something I did not expect. Thank you for taking care of it while I was away. That was a very caring gesture."
"It was the least I could do, my lady." he said taking another draught of his wine.
"The least? Haldir, you have been with me every moment of every day since you arrived. I owe you much as I feel words cannot express my gratitude for your selfless deeds. You have truly been my rock, my light in the dark."
"I am merely fulfilling an oath that I never felt I kept to you. It is you who have made me feel grateful." Haldir answered. Caladwen could not add to his remark so she just smiled and handed him another sweet roll.
After a while, Haldir got up from his chair. "It is getting late, my lady. I believe I will take my leave. Get some rest. If you need me I will not be far, just call my name and I will hear you."
Caladwen went to him and kissed his cheek. "Thank you." she said simply and walked him to the door. She closed it and stood there a moment thinking about how helpful Haldir had been never once complaining. She would repay him for his kindness whether he wanted it or not. She made her way to the bedroom. The bed was made with crisp linens and fluffed pillows. Even she had never kept her house in such pristine condition. She went back to the kitchen and cleaned up a bit, feeling the need to keep the house in its original state. Then she headed back to the bedroom. Before she got in bed, she looked out the window. Just as she thought, there was Haldir standing off to the side, keeping watch through the night. He had done the same thing every night since he came here. It made her feel better to know he was not far. She climbed into bed and looked to the empty side where Leodred should have been lying beside her. "I can stay here no longer, my love. There is nothing for me here without you. It is time to move on with my life. Being here without you by my side is too painful. Haldir cannot spend the rest of his days watching over me to make sure I am fine. It is time I stood on my own two feet again. I did it once and I can do it again. I know you would not want me to dwell here in my sorrow. You may have been one of the only people to understand I have a destiny to fulfill, though even I know not what it is. But by staying here, I am only hindering myself. I will miss you terribly but I know I have only to look up at the stars and I will find you looking back at me. Watch over me and help guide me in the right direction, my love. I know you only want what is best for me. I trust you to send me on my way. 'No regrets' as Mother always says." Caladwen cried herself to sleep that night. It was the last time she sobbed so deeply for her late husband.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
The next morning seemed brighter than normal. Caladwen awoke to find she felt refreshed. The new day brought with it new life. She dressed and made her way to the living area when there was a knock at the door. Haldir stood outside, holding a fresh bouquet of flowers. "Come in, Haldir." she said and surprised herself at how cheerful she sounded.
"Good morning, my lady. I hope you slept well." he said noticing a change in her.
"Perhaps the best nights rest I've had in a long time." She took the flowers from Haldir. "Please will you join me for some breakfast?"
"I believe I will." he said following her into the kitchen. She prepared a simple meal of fruit, cheese and bread. They were silent for a while before Caladwen finally spoke.
"Haldir, you have been such a large part of my healing. I feel I can keep you here no longer. I think it is time to return to Lorien."
Haldir's expression remained unreadable. He looked her in the eyes searching for her reason to dismiss him from her company. "My lady, I think you have come a long way since I first arrived in Rohan but I feel I should remain with you a while longer, at least until you are sure what road you will take next."
Caladwen knew Haldir quite well and knew how to return his cold stare. If anyone else had been in the room, they would have thought the tension was too much to bear.
"You do not think I am ready to be on my own yet?" she said and there was anger in her tone.
"No, I do not, my lady, which is why I suggest…"
She forced a smile and interrupted him. "I am trying to make a stand here and do what I think is right. I cannot go on depending on someone to be with me every waking moment. I must stand on my own two feet."
"You did not let me finish. I understand there is nothing left here for you. I have seen your teachings. You are very good at what you do but I think the older villagers know enough to keep the lessons going on their own. You will be needed elsewhere eventually. So in the meantime, I thought it might be wise to return to Lorien with me."
Caladwen looked him up and down searching for some ulterior motive. "You want me to go to Lorien with you?" she asked curiously.
"It would be a pleasure to have you back. The Golden Wood was never as alive as it was when you were there, not since Lady Galadriel sailed west." Haldir spoke with much sincerity.
Caladwen was unaware of the effect she had in Lorien. She felt something deep inside urging her to go with him, though she thought it wasn't the place she was needed. Then again, she wasn't sure where she was to be at the moment. She knew she was not needed in Rohan and (as much as she loved her aunt and uncle) she just could not stay there any longer.
"I will go under one condition, Marchwarden." she said, eyeing him once again.
"And what might that be, my lady?"
"I have not had proper training with my archery since coming to Rohan. I would ask you to lesson me and refresh my abilities." she said waiting for his answer.
"The daughter of the Prince of Mirkwood, archer of the fellowship, Lord of North Ithilien would ask for teachings on her bow? And from the Marchwarden of Lorien, no less?" he said condescendingly. Then the corner of his mouth upturned slightly as he tried not to smile. "It would be my honor, my lady."
Caladwen smiled and went to Haldir, wrapping her arms around him. "Thank you Haldir. I know I must go forward but I must admit I am not sure where to go. I agree that Lorien is where I should dwell, at least until my mind is a little more clear. It will be good to live amongst the Elves once more." She released him and stood back to give him his personal space back.
"How soon shall we depart?" he asked and she sensed his anxiousness.
"I would leave tomorrow morning if that is not too soon for you."
"But what about your belongings? Will it not take some time to pack and…"
"There is nothing here I want to bring with me. It belongs in this place. I have my memories and a few treasured items but nothing more. I want to make a clean start in my life. I feel as though this chapter has ended. When I leave here, I will turn the page and begin anew."
"You are so much like your mother." Haldir said shaking his head. "Very well. We will leave first thing tomorrow morning. Take this time to be with your family. They will miss you greatly when you are gone."
"I will Haldir." she said and then the Marchwarden did something unexpected. He kissed her cheek. She looked at him a little surprised. "What was that for?"
"I am glad you are coming with me is all. And I am glad to be going home. I must admit, it has been a little difficult being away from the forest, any forest for that matter. I miss the trees."
Caladwen smiled and appreciated his confession. "So do I, Haldir… so do I."
She spent the rest of the day with Eomer and Lothiriel, telling stories and reminiscing. It was the most satisfying day. Her aunt and uncle was not the least bit disappointed with her decision to leave. They seemed to know this would happen. After all, if it were not for Leodred, she would never have come to Rohan on her own. She promised to visit when she could or send messages if she could not be there in person. She did not see Haldir all day until later that evening when she was taking a stroll through the garden. He came up next to her, silently, and they both stared out across the land. Haldir was thinking of his precious Lorien and Caladwen was thinking about Leodred. She realized she hadn't thought of him much all day until now. It would be sad to leave this place, his home. Then again, it would be a relief to move on. At least Leodred would always be in her memory.
Haldir watched as she removed a silk scarf from around her neck. She held it next to her face and felt the softness of the material one last time. It was obvious this was a gift from Leodred at one time. Caladwen tied the scarf around the branch of a small tree. She lovingly patted it and let the silk pass through her fingers. "This tree was a wedding gift from Leodred. He said it was to honor my elven background. He never wanted me to forget that part of my heritage. Together we would watch it grow and one day sit in its boughs." She paused a moment as a tear rolled down her cheek. She laid her hand against the small trunk. "Goodbye my love. I miss you." she said and went back to where Haldir was standing. He remained still and silent as Caladwen took her final moments remembering her life in Rohan.
She turned to leave the garden and retire for the night. Haldir stood a moment longer and waited until he was alone. "Namarie Leodred." [Farewell.] he said and he too left to take his rest.
The next morning, they said their goodbyes, mounted their horses and set out through the gate. Caladwen only looked back once, when the golden thatched roof of the Meduseld was almost out of sight. They paused for only a moment before going on to Lothlorien.