21. No Greater Love
Chapter 21 No Greater Love
Caladwen and Haldir went back to their regular lives. She continued to teach and arrange trips to Rohan for the Elves who wished to visit. He spent a good amount of time at the borders, protecting Lorien. They resumed their evening walks and used that time to get to know each other better. They shared stories of their past lives. Caladwen spoke of Leodred and Haldir spoke of Nieriel. She learned of his fondness for Nieriel and his regret for not being with her in the end. Although he was not in love with her, she helped him a great deal when it came to relationships. Caladwen also felt that her short time with Leodred prepared her for what was to come now that she was with Haldir.
They were taking things at a slow pace. It was easy to do that in Lorien where time seemed to stand still. Although they shared a kiss from time to time, it was always innocent and never when others were around. Caladwen was a little disappointed with Haldir's need to keep their newfound love hidden from the others. He said it was none of their business and he liked to keep his private affairs private. She thought it would be good for the others to see their hardened Marchwarden also had a softer side, though maybe that was not the right word to use. There was never anything soft about him. Even when he was understanding and loving, there was a stiffness about him. His heart may have opened up but his outer presence was still stern and rigid. It was something Caladwen would have to get used to. She thought back to Leodred who was never afraid to show his love for her no matter where they were or who was around at the time. He was proud to let everyone know how much he loved her. Haldir was quite the opposite. The only time he was completely relaxed was when they were alone, which was not often. It was forbidden for either one to enter into the others talan so they would slip off to Galadriel's garden or some hidden glade. Even then, they remained well behaved. They held hands and occasionally Haldir slipped his arm around her waist. Their time together always ended with a peck on a cheek or a light brush of the lips but nothing more. For Haldir it was enough for he felt their strong connection every time they touched. It could be quite overwhelming and he was afraid of what would happen if he were to let go and let the feeling consume him. He thought back to the kiss they shared when he healed her. It was so full of passion he felt he would never again touch the earth. He was afraid he would lose himself, lose everything he ever worked at to become who he was.
Caladwen was able to control these feelings much better. She could give as much as she wanted to give and hold back when it was necessary. Then again, she was only half-elven and had spent the better part of her young life living in a world of mortal minds. Elves could spend centuries being content with holding hands and quick kisses. Humans were much quicker paced being their years were limited. Love came on swiftly and romance soon followed. There were only so many years to procreate and keep their lineage on going. Her Elf side had a hard time understanding how hasty the whole process was. Her human side lusted for the feeling of satisfaction from being in love. This was what became difficult for her recently. Haldir was very handsome and made her heart pound when they were alone. She wanted more from him. The brushing of lips was not enough to satisfy her human cravings. It overpowered the rational Elf side of her personality. Could he sense this about her? Was this why he kept at a safe distance when they were alone? She decided to test him.
One evening, when they were walking on a starlit path in the garden, she took the initiative and reached for his hand first. It was subtle but it was a start. Haldir seemed not to notice or if he did he did not react. She brought her other hand up and wrapped it around his arm while they continued down the pathway. She snuggled into him and breathed in his musky scent.
"Are you chilled, meleth?" he asked.
"Not at all. I am just enjoying our closeness." She smiled up at him and their eyes met. "Can we sit? I feel my feet could use a rest."
Haldir led her to a large stone bench. He waited for her to sit first and then joined her.
"You have not called me that since the night you healed me." she said. "I remember it very well. My soul sang to hear the word pass your lips. It was then I knew you felt as I did."
"I remember also. It was the first time I had ever called anyone that. I didn't even think about it. The words came so naturally to me. I still feel that way." he said and kissed her cheek.
Caladwen took his chin in her fingers and turned his head so he was facing her. Her other hand came up and cupped the side of his face. She looked deep into his silver-grey eyes and saw the love he carried for her there. She needed to bring it out of its hiding place. Slowly, she leaned into him and lightly kissed his lips. Haldir accepted the kiss politely as any Elf would.
"That feels nice." she whispered and kissed him again, this time with a little more pressure. She could feel his body tense as he resisted the urge to let go. "It is alright, Haldir. Let this happen." she whispered in his ear. Her warm breath caressed him and sent a flood of heat rushing through his body. "I need a little more than hand holding. Do you not also feel the need to become a little more intimate?" Her seductions were working at the moment.
Haldir closed his eyes and let the feeling wash over him. "Yes, I feel it every time we touch but I fear I may lose myself. I am not sure I can control it."
Caladwen pulled away so she could look at his face. His expression was full of concern. "What do you mean?"
"You said I could learn to control it and maybe one day touch you without this overwhelming feeling. So far I have not found a way to do so. Just a brush of your hand makes my whole body jump to life. It is greater than anything I have ever experienced and it frightens me to think what would happen if I gave into it completely. I feel as though I may lose my entire soul and never get it back."
"I would not let that happen." she said. "I would bring you back to your earthbound body. Do not let what you don't understand hinder your true feelings. We share a love like no other but we will never understand how to deal with it if we never try." She wrapped her arms around his waist and held him tight. "This is what I need right now. I just want to feel closer to you. I want to touch you and not have your body resist. I need to know you want the same thing."
"I do meleth. I want to touch you and know I will not be consumed." Haldir closed his eyes and let the love he felt wash over him. It was building within him and going straight to his rapidly beating heart.
"Do not resist it any longer. Just let love win." she said and he understood her meaning.
Haldir held her against his chest and wrapped his strong arms around her. They remained that way for some time, feeding off each others energy. He could feel her smiling against his chest and he buried his face in her soft golden hair. He breathed deep. "Your scent… it is like a meadow blooming in spring. It will forever be etched into my mind."
"And you smell like the greenest grass at the height of summer. I would know you anywhere now." she said lifting her face and burying it in his neck. "This is nice. You see, Haldir. We have connected on the next level and you are still here. Your soul is still intact."
"It is nice, my love." He paused a moment. "What is the next step?"
She smiled. "I thought you would never ask." Caladwen took his face in his hands. "Kiss me." she whispered.
They slowly leaned into one another and their lips touched. It seemed to last forever but then Caladwen pulled back. She searched his eyes for his response and found it when he pulled her in for another more heated kiss. This time their lips parted as his tongue searched for hers. She met his and they twisted and twirled together. The smell of his skin enveloped her mind. She moaned into his mouth and he deepened the kiss. Haldir laid his hands on the small of her back and pulled her into him. Her left hand rested on his chest, feeling his muscles through his shirt. Her right hand snaked behind his neck, brushing his earlobe as it did. She was careful not to caress his sensitive tip.
Haldir's breathing became more rapid as he felt his desire spread throughout his body. He was trying very hard to keep in control. He broke the kiss. "You are so beautiful, Caladwen. When I saw your fea it was breathtaking. Never before have I witnessed anything so radiant. I can still see it when I look into your eyes. I hope that one day we may share our souls the way they were meant to be."
Caladwen looked up at him and smiled. "Are you asking to one day bind yourself to me?"
Haldir could not believe the words were flowing so freely from him. "Yes, meleth I am. I do not know when, but I know I want that more than anything on this good earth. I have spent my entire life protecting myself from this very thing. It still scares me to know my soul will not be my own. I trust you, Caladwen. I know you will not let anything happen to me just as I will not let anything happen to you."
"But I still have a choice to make one day. What happens if my Deciding Day arrives and my heart desires a mortal life?" she asked.
"You would still consider this even after I gave you my soul? You would risk my life and let me fade?" Haldir was shocked. He felt she had already set her course to become a Firstborn.
"I must choose without any outside influence. Did you think you could bind to me and my mind would be made up for me? This is not how it works. I still have no idea which path I will choose. There is so much yet to learn which in turn must be taught. Haldir, I cannot promise you that I will choose immortality."
Haldir let go of her and looked away. "Then why do you lead me in this direction. I have never felt a need to bond to anyone. Just the thought of binding my soul to another scares the life from me. This is why I have kept a safe distance from you. Caladwen, I love you but I cannot give up my life. I will never put myself in a position where fading is an option. I saw the pain it caused my mother." The truth was coming out now. "She always told me how much she loved me and my brothers." Haldir went on reliving his past. "In the end, our love was not enough to hold her to this earth. Do you even understand how that felt?" His voice was becoming angry. Caladwen could feel the chill in his words as the ice began to reform around his heart. "My love for my mother was not enough to keep her from fading. I was not strong enough. I swore at that very moment to never let this happen to me. I swore to never let someone else die because of my love."
"Please, Haldir don't do this. Can you not see that was a different kind of love?" Caladwen pleaded. She was not about to let him digress back to his former self. She took his hands and held them firm. "Your mother never stopped loving you. A love for a child can never be broken. It was the separation of the love of your father that brought her to that fate. You could not have stopped it no matter what you tried. But know this; what we have is different than what your parents had. We are connected on a whole different level. You are my Guardian. I was dying and your love saved me. You alone brought me back to life and that is something no one else has on this earth. Why do you fear death and loss of love when you have the power to prevent it?"
Haldir had not thought of it like that before. He had saved her. He gave her his own life to bring her back. They sat there looking at one another and Caladwen saw his face soften. She felt the warmth return to his heart. Before she knew what was happening, Haldir grabbed her and pulled her to him, kissing her with all the love and passion he could muster. She felt herself floating above the clouds as they shared their love in that one kiss. Finally, they came back down and found themselves still sitting in the garden.
"I am sorry, Caladwen. I guess I still have much to learn. I want to be here with you. I love you more than anything on this earth. I will never again assume that I can change your path or lead you to choose differently than what your mind foresees. There is no other love like ours so we have no example to go by. I will always be your protector. It is too soon to try and guess what the Valar have in store for us. I am just thankful they chose me to be with you. You are a most precious gift to all, but especially to me." He kissed her once more, pouring all of his love into it. Tongues entwined once more as hands roamed.
"I want you Haldir. I need to feel you." she whispered against his neck. "Let us go to my talan and see how far this love is meant to take us. Make love to me."
Haldir needed no more urging. He stood up, taking Caladwen with him. "I have waited for so long to hear you say these words. From now on we will live for the moment."
They decided it was best not to think to far into the future and just enjoy the present. Caladwen now knew he was willing bind to her if they chose that path and Haldir understood better his power to protect and heal. Their love deepened that evening in Galadriel's garden. It was meant to strengthen for there were many challenging roads ahead. The first one came none too soon. As they were walking hurriedly, arm in arm, heading for her talan, a messenger approached them.
"Lady Caladwen, I have a most urgent message from Ithilien." he said and handed her a sealed parchment. The wax seal was that of Eowyn's personal symbol. Caladwen let go of Haldir and cleared her mind.
"It is from Mother." she said and worry graced her lovely face. Haldir instantly held her by the waist and for the first time did not care who saw their closeness. Caladwen noticed briefly before her mind went back to the situation at hand. She broke the seal and read the letter. She handed it to Haldir and buried her face in his chest, sobbing slightly.
Haldir read the note. It was indeed in the Lady Eowyn's handwriting. Faramir had taken a turn for the worse. He was not yet dying but he was weakening at a faster pace now. Haldir wrapped his arms around Caladwen tighter and held her while she cried. Other Elves passed by and felt her anguish. They read her thoughts and were saddened by the news of the Lord of Ithilien. Instantly, laments were sung for his well being and also for the ease of his pain.
Back during the War of the Ring, Faramir suffered a wound at the hands of the enemy very much like that of Frodo's. The pain would return every year on the anniversary of that dreadful day. It was sure to shorten his life and the pain would become greater. No one could ever have imagined it happening this soon however.
"I must leave in the morning." Caladwen finally said, looking up at Haldir. "Mother is beside herself. She did not expect things to deteriorate so soon. They knew his life would be shortened but not now. Ithilien is where I am needed now. I will have to put my teachings on hold for a while. I will not leave my mother and brother to grieve alone. Faramir was always like a father to me. I do not ask you to go with me, Haldir. I know you have duties to attend to here in the Golden Wood."
Haldir kissed her, not caring about the Elves that were gathering around, ready to console Caladwen. "I made a promise to never leave you alone in your time of need. I will go with you, though I may need to return before you can leave Ithilien. Let us both part in the morning. When we get to the palace and access the situation at hand, then I will know better how long I can stay away from my home." Haldir walked Caladwen to her talan and said goodnight. "It would not be proper to continue with our plans." he smiled.
"I agree." she said touching the side of his face. "We have waited this long."
"I will come for you in the morning and together we will leave for Ithilien." Haldir kissed her once more and watched as she disappeared inside her talan. He went off to tell Orophin and Rumil that they were once again in charge. When he found them, Lord Celeborn was already there and knew what had happened. He gave Haldir his blessing and allowed the exchange in power from Haldir to his brothers. Celeborn of course told him to do what was needed to help Caladwen through such trying times. Haldir bowed to his lord but he assured him he would not remain there for long. He knew he was needed in Lorien. He would only stay away as long as he saw fit. Caladwen was strong and she was needed by her family, maybe more so than he needed her at the moment.