16. Target Practice
Chapter 16 Target Practice
Caladwen settled into her new home. Presently, she was thinking of how she would go about asking Lord Celeborn for permission to begin teaching the Elves about the lives of Men. There was much they probably knew but did not understand. Lorien was a sort of safe haven for Elves. Time seemed to stand still and not many humans came across their borders. Many on the outside thought they cared not about anything that happened beyond their borders. Many Elves thought of humans as being hasty and brutal, not caring for living things such as the trees. Being labeled 'Firstborn', they thought they were beyond any learning of a race other than their own. This way of thinking disturbed Caladwen. She herself was half-human yet they thought of her as an equal.
She was roaming the city in the trees when Haldir approached. "You are deep with thought, Caladwen. Does something bother you?" he asked, joining her in the direction she was going. He noticed it led to Celeborn's talan.
"Haldir, why is it you seem to know more about the lives of Men than most other Lorien Elves?" she asked.
"I have been outside of the borders more than others and I represent my city. It is part of my job to know how to communicate with other races."
"But do you really understand them?"
Haldir stopped walking and looked at her. "I know their traditions and behaviors, how they rule their lands and how they deal with my kind. Is that not enough to know how to accept others as acquaintances?"
"That is enough if you are drawing up treaties." she said disappointedly. "Do you not want to learn more about them?"
Haldir rolled his eyes. "I know enough and sometimes that is too much." Caladwen turned from him after his arrogant response and he placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. "It did not mean any disrespect. What are you hinting at, Caladwen?"
Caladwen stood still a moment before facing Haldir again. "I want to teach the Elves about the lives of Men. There is more to their race than treaties and war. We are not insignificant just because we are mortal. Our lives may be short in the eyes of the Elves, but we live a full life just the same."
Haldir creased his brow. "You say 'we' as if you are one of them."
"In a way I am or at least I can choose to be. I have spent my whole life until now living in their world. I understand humanity much more than some of them. If the age of Men is to be successful, we all must understand each other on a different level. We must all respect each other, maybe even see each other as equals. No one race is better than another. We have our differences but we are all living breathing creatures."
Haldir smiled as if a secret had been revealed. "You have found your path. Lord Celeborn will be pleased."
Caladwen looked at him, confused. "What do you mean? You speak as if you already knew my course."
"I knew you would figure out which way you were meant to go but I did not know what your course would be. You speak with such passion, the true spirit of a counselor. I am proud of you." he said and leaned in to kiss her cheek.
Caladwen felt his breath on her skin as he pulled away. It sent a shiver down her spine, something she had not felt in a long time. "I have you to thank for my gift."
"Nay, it is the Valar you should thank. They gave you the ability. I merely assisted in showing you how to develop it." He held his arm out for her. "Come, Lord Celeborn will be anxious to learn of your ideas."
Caladwen laughed, "Something tells me he already knows. He was just waiting for me to figure it out."
They met with Celeborn and he agreed it was a splendid idea to work with the Elves. A special talan was set up for lessons and word went out to everyone in the city. She had planned to teach twice a week and that worked in the beginning. However, after a few months she added another day to her schedule. Caladwen was surprised at how many showed an interest for what she had to teach them. Many were young Elves (if there was such a thing) that were not ready to sail just yet. Some voiced an interest in leaving their home to journey to these cities of Men and experience first hand what Caladwen was teaching them. She thought it was a great idea. Rohan was close and the perfect place for the Elves to visit. They were already educated about Lothlorien and would be very accepting of them. Some wished to remain in their forest home but still wanted to know about Men. Then there were a few who cared not for what Caladwen had to say. They were sailing soon and did not wish to spend their final days being counseled. Most admitted that if the sea longing had not been so strong, they would have been her pupils. Caladwen's advice to them was to keep an open mind for you never knew who you might see in Valinor.
Sometimes Haldir stood at the back of the talan and observed Caladwen's teachings. She was very well respected by all. He noticed how rapidly she seemed to mature, for an Elf or a human. He also noticed how his lips tingled when they touched the warm skin of her cheek. He thought those feelings had subsided for he felt nothing during their time together in Rohan, or even the first few months in Lorien. However, he knew what he felt for it was familiar to him.
Caladwen had felt something much stronger. She thought about it as she lay in bed one evening, remembering her reaction to his innocent peck on the cheek. All the time they spent in each other's company in Rohan, she felt nothing of the sort. Her grief was overwhelming at the time and her thoughts were dark. Haldir was a comfort to her then but not in any way except to support her. Now, she was very relaxed and comfortable with her past. She could think of Leodred and feel joy for the time they had. He would not have wanted her to sit and let life pass her by. She was getting on with her life and that meant letting her heart open up again.
Haldir had always stirred something inside her. Even as she was about to marry, he was in the back of her mind. He remained there only briefly for she knew she was meant to be with Leodred. The stirrings she had then for Haldir felt out of place, or maybe not at the right time. Something was there and she wondered if it was time to discover their meaning. It was up to her since Haldir would never act on his curiosity, if he had any. Then she thought about his charge of being her trainer. Haldir, and maybe even Celeborn, had delayed it as long as possible. Caladwen was anxious to get back into her archery. It was a good start and a good way to spend some time with Haldir.
The very next day, she waited until Haldir came in for the morning meal and approached him. He could tell right away she was on some kind of personal mission by the look in her eyes. He had an idea of what she was going to ask and he had avoided it as long as possible. The look on her face reminded him of Eowyn when she lived in Lorien.
"Haldir." she called to him. He took a deep breath before turning to her. "Haldir, can I speak with you?"
"Good morning, Caladwen. I would ask you to join me this morning but I am in a bit of a hurry. Lord Celeborn awaits my presence with a report from the borders." he said. It was not a lie but for the fact that Celeborn could wait until after the morning meal. There was no hurry.
"I will only keep you a minute then. I would like to speak to you about my training. I know it is looked down upon and it may even cause a disturbance in the balance of things here, but we agreed that…"
"Yes, we agreed that I would help you get back your archery skills. You should not be so worried about being out of practice. Once an Elf learns his skill…"
Caladwen cleared her throat. "His skill, Marchwarden?"
Haldir put on a fake smile. "Once an Elf learns his or her skill, it is never forgotten."
"I understand that, but it must still be practiced. Please Haldir, I need something else to occupy my mind besides teaching. Don't get me wrong, I love to teach and see the joy of the Elves as they learn new things, but I need something more, something just for me to do." She made a slight pout with her lips and put her hands on his arm.
"Let me see what I can do. We must keep as quiet as possible about your training. As you know it is looked down upon for an elleth to wield a weapon." She started to say something but Haldir put his hand up to stop her. "I know… you are not an elleth. You have made that very clear which is why Lord Celeborn is overlooking your situation. Come to my talan two hours before the sun sets. That should give us enough time before daylight ends. Most others will not be practicing at that time."
Caladwen threw her arms around Haldir. "Thank you. Thank you so much. You don't know how much I have been looking forward to this. I will see you this afternoon." She let go of him and went off to get her things ready for later.
Haldir looked around to see who noticed their embrace. No one was looking in his direction except his brother Rumil. He was smiling and had a twinkle in his eye. Haldir rolled his eyes and gave him a death stare as he approached his youngest brother. "Tell anyone about this and I will see to it you are patrolling the compost heap for a month."
Later that afternoon, Caladwen arrived at Haldir's talan precisely when she was supposed to. Haldir was waiting for her. "Shall we be on our way?" he said blocking the door.
Caladwen had hoped she could finally see inside his home but it was obvious he was not ready for her to see his personal space just yet. "I am ready. I've inspected my bow and restrung it. I brought my own arrows. They are smaller than the ones the Galadhrim use and will fit my bow."
"Very good. I have found the perfect spot and already have targets set up. Let's be on our way then." Haldir led Caladwen down the winding staircase to the forest floor. They walked a path for a little ways and then cut through some smaller trees. He led her away from the busy walkways of the city. It was clear there was no particular path where they were going. The trees gave way and they were suddenly standing in an oblong shaped glade of dark green grass. Caladwen looked up and saw the sky above. Where they stood was a quiver full of arrows and a bow, obviously Haldir's. She wondered why he came empty handed. At the far end of the glade were three targets. One was rather large and looked easy to hit since there was only one colored circle in the middle. The second was smaller and there were three colored rings to hit. The third target was smaller still. It had five narrow rings with the center dot seeming to be not much bigger than the width of an arrowhead.
"Well, let's see what I have to work with." Haldir said.
Caladwen strapped on her quiver and slipped her bracers over her forearms. Haldir noticed how she was dressed. She wore a silk shirt and corset and a long skirt. It was not what she usually wore for practice but she did not want to draw attention to herself in the city. The others would definitely question her if they saw her in the tan leggings and dark green tunic she usually wore. She noticed Haldir staring at her. "There is not attire for a female to wear for such a situation. My own clothes would have drawn too much attention." she said before Haldir could say anything.
"I would ask that next time you bring them with you and change before we get started." he said dryly. "I'm afraid your sleeves may pose a problem with your aim."
"I will bring them next time." she said with a smile. It suddenly felt like old times, when Haldir came to Emyn Arnen and began lessons with her. It was good to step outside of the teacher role and become the student again.
"Let's start with the largest target." he said. Caladwen picked up her bow, notched an arrow, aimed and fired at the large spot. She was well inside its border but left of the center. "Very good. We won't need that target any longer. Let's move on to the middle one. Hit each of the three rings."
She fired the first arrow and hit the outer ring on the left side of the target. Her second arrow hit the middle ring to the right side. The third arrow hit the very edge of the center circle.
"Not bad for someone who has not fired their weapon in years. Your center aim is slightly off but it's probably due to your sleeves. Let's move on to the third target." Haldir said.
"I have always had trouble hitting dead center. My ada can hit it with one arrow and split the first arrow with his second." she said disappointedly.
"Prince Legolas has had more that three thousand years to perfect his aim. Do not be too hard on yourself. Besides, I have seen your talent with a blade and you surpass him in that way."
Caladwen notched an arrow and fired. She hit the outermost ring perfectly. The next shot landed inside the third ring. It was a good shot but she was aiming for the second. She looked at Haldir out of the corner of her eye. He didn't seem to think she did anything wrong so she continued. The third arrow hit the second ring on the very edge. A breeze blew across her face and she breathed in the wonderfully familiar scent of Haldir. She lost some of her concentration for the fourth shot and just nicked the outer edge of the fourth ring. Now for the center one. It was very small. She notched an arrow, pulled back on the string and loosed it. The arrow landed between the third and fourth rings to the left side of the target. She was very disappointed that she let Haldir get to her.
"I'm sorry. I broke my concentration." she apologized.
"Dead Elves do not apologize. You can never break concentration. It is the quickest way to die in a fight. Try once more to hit the center circle." He stepped back out of her sight.
Caladwen notched another arrow and fired. It was closer to the center but not a direct hit. Now the arrow landed between the forth ring and the center dot.
Haldir stepped forward. "I see where the problem lies. You must hold your elbow higher and look straight down the shaft of the arrow. Adjust from there whether you are overcompensating one side or the other. Try it again."
She took another arrow from her quiver, notched it and brought her elbow up as Haldir said. She started to pull back on the string. "Wait." Haldir said and she loosed her tension on the string. "Let me guide you." he said. Haldir stood behind Caladwen. He was very close and she could feel the warmth of his body against her back. "Raise your bow as if you are ready to fire."
She did as he said and his hands covered hers, one on the bow and the other grasping the string. His face rested to the side of hers as if he was trying to see what she was seeing. Any attempt to concentrate was lost to her. Haldir was a great disturbance.
His right hand released hers. "Now pull back, elbow up, good." he said as she followed his instruction. He pulled his left hand away from the bow as he backed away from her. "Look straight down the arrow shaft."
The muscles in her arm were starting to tremble a little from the tension of holding the string. She was just about ready to fire when she felt Haldir's hands on her waist. "Turn your body slightly sideways… good." He released her and she instantly missed the contact. "Fire when you are ready."
Caladwen's mind was filled by his scent and his touch. She could hold the string no longer and loosed her arrow. Unfortunately, she missed the target all together. She finally released a breath she hadn't known she was holding. Her shoulders slumped forward when she saw the arrow sticking into the ground next to the target.
"What happened? I had you lined up perfectly?" Haldir questioned, disappointment in his voice.
"My muscles were trembling. I told you it has been a long time. Even my arms have lost their strength." she said discouraged.
"Yet you can swing a sword with no problem." he countered.
"Different muscles are used and my arms are in constant motion. How do you expect me to stay in one position for so long?" She was becoming angry with the Marchwarden. She had wanted this to be fun but so far it was not.
"My warriors can stay in this position until I tell them otherwise. You must have control. Firing your weapon too soon could cause an unnecessary death. You must give time for your captain to have words with the enemy first but you must still be ready to fire on his command." Haldir explained. She still had a fire in her eyes and he wanted to use that energy. "Let's try again." he said and stepped behind her.
Again she felt his body pressing against hers as he positioned her arms on her weapon. She closed her eyes and tried to think about hitting the center of the target. He stepped away and she drew on the string. Haldir's hands grabbed her waist once more and she felt a spark ignite and spread up her spine. Prematurely, she loosed the arrow. It grazed the edge of the target and imbedded itself in a tree behind it. Caladwen felt anger rise, as if Haldir purposely touched her so she would lose her aim.
"Why are you having so much trouble?" Haldir said, frustrated. He knew she was a better archer than this, no matter how long it had been since she last trained. "You must learn to focus. Concentration is key."
"I know that but I am finding it hard to accomplish at the moment." As she spoke, her teeth remained clenched together.
Haldir took her bow from her. Quick as a flash, he grabbed an arrow, raised the bow, notched it and fired in one swift movement. The arrow hit dead center on the target. He handed the weapon back to Caladwen. "It is not your weapon but your mind." he said as he came around to face her. "Your mind is elsewhere. Do you not wish to be here? This was your idea in the first place."
"I do want to be here. It is hard to concentrate when… when…" She could not tell him.
"What is it?" he demanded. As long as she was not thinking properly, she would never learn to shoot straight.
"It is you, alright… it is you who disturbs me." she blurted out. As soon as the words left her lips she regretted it.
Haldir stood silent and stared into her crystal blue eyes. He could not read her expression. "In what way? Do I anger you? If so, use that energy to…"
"It's your touch, your closeness." Suddenly she felt very naked emotionally. Why could she not stop making these confessions. "It is like before, when you lived in Ithilien. When you touch me I get a charge. I always have and I don't understand it. Do you not feel the same?"
Haldir did feel it but was afraid to admit it. He had managed to bury these feelings long ago but now they were very much alive again. "It is merely the magic of Lorien. The forest is alive with a sort of life force not felt anywhere else in Middle Earth. Those born here are more susceptible to it. After you have lived here as long as I have, you become rather used to its power." It was not a lie. There was definitely something here that Haldir could feel nowhere else. It was part of the reason he decided to stay and not sail.
Caladwen only half believed his story. Perhaps it was her elven half, but the human half had felt attraction before and this was very similar but stronger, more physical. "Maybe it is better that we keep some distance between us until I can come to terms with this 'magic'."
"As you wish." Haldir stated simply. "I think we have done enough for today. We are losing our light anyway."
Caladwen nodded in agreement and gathered her things. Together they walked in silence back to the city. They properly said good night to each other and went in their separate directions to their homes. Neither one mentioned the episode again, at least for a time. Caladwen continued teaching and twice a week she met with Haldir for training. He kept a safe distance from her and she began hitting the target center more frequently.