15. Lighting Lorien
Chapter 15 Lighting Lorien
Her arrival in Lorien launched a celebration as had not been seen in Caras Galadhon in many years. Haldir and Caladwen entered through the gates with the warmest of greetings by all who attended. It seemed word reached the city well before their arrival. It was unexpected by either and when she turned a questioning glance at the Marchwarden he merely nodded his head with approval. "Let there be no mistake of the loss we felt upon your departure from our woods so long ago. You are but a light of hope that the Golden Woods will not fade so quickly from this new age." Haldir bowed respectfully to Caladwen and she never felt more awkward. She remained silent and let Haldir lead her toward the winding stairs that led to a greeting area. Caladwen could not remember the trees looking so large and tall. She was too young to remember Caras Galadhon well at all. Her jaw remained dropped as she climbed the stairs and took in all the sights of the city. There were many more Elves here than she thought she would see. When Haldir talked about the Elves leaving for the Grey Havens, he made it seem there were not but a few remaining. To her, the city was still very much alive and buzzing with life.
She noticed how the canopy of the trees blocked out any evidence that there was sky above them, yet there was a glow as if a full moon illuminated everything it touched. Small lanterns hung in some of the branches of the trees giving the effect of stars. It was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. Then there was the sound of many voices singing in harmony. She could not see to whom the voices belonged. Every Elf she passed was silent, unless they magically sang with their mouths shut.
"They sing praises of your return, my lady." Haldir said as if he read her mind.
"How did you know what I was just thinking?" Caladwen asked, feeling the slight invasion.
Haldir chuckled softly to himself. "It is Elf magic."
She quickly turned to face Haldir but he was looking past her to the talan they approached.
"Ah, Lady Caladwen, it is good to see you again." said a familiar voice and she turned to see Lord Celeborn standing at the top of the stairway. She quickly faced him with her full attention and bowed in proper elvish style.
"Lord Celeborn." she said and stood back upright. "I did not expect to see you so soon. I wish I had time to freshen up first. It was a long journey from Rohan and I'm afraid the dirt and dust of many miles cover me."
"As with any guest of such importance, I make it a point to welcome you to our city immediately. I think I speak for all of Lothlorien when I say our hearts are greatly gladdened by your presence." Lord Celeborn spoke with such smoothness in his voice. She was suddenly very relaxed by his words.
"My lord," Haldir said. "The Lady Caladwen has agreed to make our city her home for the present. This is more than merely a visit."
"My mistake, Marchwarden. We will consider her a citizen from here on out, or until such time when she deems it necessary to depart from Lorien. We will have a talan set up for you shortly. It will be your permanent residence." Lord Celeborn said with a smile.
Caladwen bowed once more. "Thank you my lord. I have also asked to begin training again as I have not fired my bow in many years."
Some of the ellith who were attending the meeting gasped quietly at the request. Caladwen did not understand the reason for their shock nor the stern look on Celeborn's face. Haldir stepped forward to address him. "My lord, let us not forget she has been trained as the Elves of Mirkwood in the skills of archery." he said coming to Caladwen's defense.
"Haldir, you know we have rules that must be followed." Lord Celeborn said in return. Caladwen looked back and forth to the two Elves as they discussed the matter of her training. Their conversation confused her.
"Will you not make an exception as the Lady Galadriel once did for a dear friend of King Thranduil?" Haldir argued politely. He was of course referring to Nieriel.
Celeborn stood silently, his eyes darting from Haldir to Caladwen as if he sensed something. Finally, his demeanor relaxed as his eyes fell on the Marchwarden. "Consider the rules set aside for the Lady Caladwen, but you are her mentor and shall also be her trainer. If she is to become reacquainted with the bow, it will fully rest upon your shoulders." He turned to Caladwen. "Haldir is my most seasoned archer of the Galadrim." he smiled slyly. "I believe you two will work quite well together… very well indeed."
After a few more words of kindness and greetings, Haldir and Caladwen were dismissed from Lord Celeborn's counsel. As they made their way down the stairway, Caladwen spoke. "Haldir, why did the ellith sound surprised at my request to train again?"
"Only the ellon train in weaponry in Lorien. No elleth has every asked such a thing." he answered.
"I am no elleth, Marchwarden." she said rather offended by the thought.
Haldir smiled. "Which is why I reminded Lord Celeborn of whose elven blood courses through your veins."
"You stood up for me even knowing it was breaking the rules?" Caladwen stopped walking and looked up into Haldir's eyes.
"You would not have come to Lorien with me otherwise, or do you not remember the condition you charged me with back in Rohan." he said seriously.
Caladwen had not realized how literally he took it. She was so used to living amongst men, she forgot how genuine Elves were about promises. "Haldir, I would have come with you anyways. Conditions are something Men offer as a gesture of their good faith." She tried to make him understand but his brows creased in confusion. "You help me and in return I help you."
Haldir shook his head. "I'm not sure I will ever understand the race of Men. And they say Elves speak in riddles."
As Haldir led Caladwen to her talan home, she suddenly understood why she felt so strongly about coming to Lorien. This was where she was needed most. Since leaving her home in Emyn Arnen, she lived amongst humans and taught them the ways of the Elves so they could better understand them. Now it seemed the tables were turned. It was the Elves, in particular the Elves of Lothlorien, who she would teach the ways of Men. She had never considered this before. Why would Elves have a need to learn from Men, especially when they were departing from their world? No answer came to her but at least she knew what needed to be done. 'Maybe it is time to liberate the ellith of this male dominated city', she thought to herself. Her mother, Eowyn entered her mind and she remembered how many women came forward to train as Shieldmaidens after learning of her success against the Witch King of Angmar. She was never more proud of her mother than she was at that moment and she felt a strong connection to her human heritage. It was odd how she felt more elf-like when in the company of humans and human when around the Firstborn. She figured it was something only a Peredhil experienced and left it at that.
They came to a pathway that led to a small group of talans connected by walkways. Caladwen stood looking at them. "Which one is mine?"
"They are all yours, my lady. This will be your new home." Haldir answered.
"But there are three talans here. Each one is the size of a guest talan in my father's city. Surely you are not giving me all of these?"
"There are actually four flets in all. A smaller one is hidden from the path. That is your bedchamber. It was designed to be hidden from plain sight for more privacy. If this is not to you liking, I am sure Lord Cele…"
"No, no. I like it just fine." she interrupted. "I just wasn't expecting anything so extravagant. Do all Elves live in such beautiful homes?"
"Yes, my lady. Only the talans on the borders are more moderate. Those are for temporary residence when we are patrolling the borders."
"Do you have such a talan as this in the city?" Caladwen had never seen Haldir's home before.
"Yes, but I do not stay there often. It belonged to my mother and father and was where my brothers and I were raised. After they died, it was passed on to me, being the oldest sibling. Rumil and Orophin consider it more their home than I. I preferred to stay closer to the borders."
Caladwen thought about her home in Rohan and her fear of returning there after Leodred's death. It seemed Haldir felt the same about his parent's home. 'He's never dealt with his ghosts', she thought. "I would very much like to see both talans sometime."
"I can show you the one here in the city but I'm afraid the Galadrim talans are off limits to unwed females." he said arrogantly. He was avoiding something and Caladwen wanted to know what it was.
"But I thought you said Nieriel resided with you there. You were not married or bound." she countered.
Haldir did not like discussing his private life with anyone and Caladwen was very insistent. He resisted at first. Then he felt her hand cup the side of his face and it relaxed him. Her touch seemed very healing in a way he had never known. He turned to her but could not look in her eyes as he answered honestly. "Nieriel was the closest thing to a wife I think I will ever have. We were not bound to each other nor did we love each other as husband and wife but many thought of us as so. Her residence at the borders was… overlooked."
Caladwen felt a piece of Haldir's tough exterior break away just then. She had never known how much the Marchwarden cared for and missed Nieriel until that moment. "I am sorry you could not be with her before she left. Somehow, I feel it is my fault. It should have been you, not Rumil who escorted her to the Grey Havens." She dropped her hand from his face and turned away.
"Nay, my lady. Nieriel understood my oath to you. She saw it as being more important than my promise not to leave her before she sailed. It was she who insisted I go to Rohan and I did so with her blessing. She seemed to know something that I did not at the time."
"And what was that?" Caladwen asked.
Haldir thought about Nieriel's words to him the day he left Lorien for Rohan. 'Open your heart, Haldir. Let her in. It is you destiny.'
"That still remains to be seen." he said softly.
"I will not pester you any longer. If I am restricted from the borders then so be it. I would still like to see the home where you grew up." she insisted.
"In time, my lady. For now, though you should take this time to inspect your new home and see that everything is to your liking. As you said earlier, it has been a long journey from Rohan. I need to check on my brothers and make sure my Galadrim warriors are still seasoned. Rumil's leadership skills are a little more slackening than I would like. Where Rumil is weak, Orophin is strong and vice versa." he smiled to himself.
"Go then, be with your family. I will be fine on my own. I will see you this evening then. I hear there is a celebration of some sort." she joked.
"You catch on quickly, my lady." he said with a chuckle. Suddenly Caladwen saw a light in his gray eyes that was not there before… joy.
"Haldir." she called to him as he left her at her talan door. He turned to her and saw her differently. She was no longer a child in his eyes. She had matured much during these trying times. She was a grown woman, Peredhil.
"Yes my lady?"
"Please do not refer to me as such. Call me by my given name from now on." she said gently.
"As you wish… Caladwen." he smiled and nodded before heading down the pathway that led to his city talan.