26. Hardened Heart
Chapter 26 Hardened Heart
Caladwen and her company were close to the borders of the woods of Lothlorien. They traveled hard and made good timing with no trouble along the way. Now, with the forest in sight, they slowed their horses. She knew the Galadrim would be on guard and a hasty approach was not a smart idea. They could see for miles and would be suspicious of them. Slow and steady was how you entered the realm of the Lady of Light. When they were within a couple miles of the border, one of the Elves unfolded a banner which represented North Ithilien, her father's city. Not long after that, they saw three riders on horses advancing from the woods. They approached quickly. Caladwen's heart raced and she hoped one of the riders was Haldir. She raised her hand, signaling for her company to halt and await the advancing warriors. Finally she saw that it was not Haldir but Orophin who rode with two of his company. She was glad one of his brothers came to meet them.
"Caladwen, we were not expecting you." Orophin said as he jumped down from his horse. Caladwen did the same and went to him. They embraced and she smiled at the tall Elf.
"It has been long since I have laid eyes upon you, Orophin. It is so good to see you again. How go things in Lothlorien?" she asked.
"It has been quiet lately but there is news of ships on the Anduin. We have gathered at the eastern borders, just in case it is the Corsairs. With every attack, their numbers dwindle. They are fools to think they could take over any elven realm." Orophin said. "Come. We have food and shelter for you. Your journey was long, I'm sure. You must all be weary."
They mounted their horses once again and slowly rode toward the edge of the woods. When they got there, Elves met them and took their horses to feed them and let them rest from the journey. Caladwen and her company followed Orophin into the woods and towards the rope ladders where they climbed up into the safety of the trees. Once they reached the platform, Caladwen went to Orophin. He could sense her concern for Haldir but knew she was afraid to ask.
"Haldir is with the others. He will not be back for a couple days. I am assuming that is why you are here." he said in a hushed tone.
"How is he, Orophin? I have not heard from him in weeks."
"I think it is best that you wait for him. I do not want to represent my brother falsely." Orophin said sternly. Caladwen was confused by his answer.
"He does not want to see me does he?" she said with tears welling up in the corners of her eyes. "That is why he stopped writing to me. He has changed his mind and no longer wants my company."
Orophin had heard from Haldir about what he witnessed in the courtyard of the Citadel. He found it hard to believe that Caladwen would abandon Haldir in such a way but Haldir's mind was made up. He believed Caladwen was pursuing Eldarion and no longer cared for the Marchwarden. Orophin laid a hand on Caladwen's arm. "I will not speak for my brother. Whatever has transpired between the two of you is not my business. After you have spoken to Haldir, I will gladly speak with you or give you counsel but not before. Only Haldir knows what his heart feels but I will say this my lady. He has again become the hardened warrior he once was, maybe even more so than before. If anyone can get through to him it is you but it will not be easy."
Caladwen was tired of riddles. "I wish you would tell me what has happened. Obviously, Haldir has spoken to you about his dilemma."
"I am sorry, my lady. It is not my place to say." Orophin said in return. Caladwen turned from him. Sometimes Orophin could be just as hardened as Haldir. She went to join the rest of her party when he spoke softly once more. "If the eyes deceive, the heart hardens."
Caladwen turned but Orophin was already gone. What did he mean by this? She had never deceived Haldir. Why would he even think she was possible of such a thing? It seemed like she would have to wait for her answer. Haldir would be away for a while. She remembered Lorien and knew where he was stationed. She could go and seek him out but it was not wise. The last time she almost got herself killed by her hasty decision.
As the company of Ithilien Elves traveled to Caras Galadhon, they were greeted by Rumil. Caladwen was glad to see him but surprised he was not at the eastern borders with Haldir. It was unusual for the Marchwarden not to be accompanied by at least one brother.
"Rumil, it is good to see you. I did not think you would be here." she said smiling at the Elf.
"Caladwen, you are a sight for sore eyes. What brings you to Lothlorien? Should you not be in Gondor?" he answered.
"I am free to travel as I may." she said. Rumil seemed to act rather peculiar. "Is there a reason you would think in such a manner?" She hoped to draw some kind of information out of him. Rumil was the softest of the three brothers. She always could manipulate him when the need arose.
"Well, my lady, it's just… when Haldir told us of your…"
"What my brother is trying to say is that we thought you were needed in Minas Tirith for a while longer. Teachers are greatly needed in the city, are they not?" It was Orophin who interrupted.
Caladwen crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow. "Yes I suppose I have been busy lately, when I am not needed in Emyn Arnen." Orophin was always good at keeping Rumil's tongue from wagging.
"And how is Lord Faramir?" Rumil asked changing the subject to keep Orophin and Caladwen from acting upon the harsh expressions they were giving each other.
Caladwen's features softened as she turned away from Orophin and regarded Rumil. "He is stable now but he has aged beyond his years. The weapon of the enemy took its toll on him and it begins to show more and more with each passing day."
"Lady Eowyn must be beside herself." Orophin said.
Caladwen turned her attention on him and straightened her stance, hardening her face. "My mother is stronger than any woman I know. She helps Faramir live each day to its fullest and does not wallow in sorrow for the one she loves, not while he still breathes. Besides, my father does not foresee his end just yet. There is still much life in him." She looked at the two brothers. One looked as though he wanted to tell her everything she wanted to know and the other looked at her as if she were a nuisance. "It has been a long journey for me and my company. If you don't mind, we would like to continue on to the city where we can rest."
Rumil took a step forward. "Of course, let us be on our way. The city is not much further. Word has already been sent of your arrival and a meal will be waiting for you."
Caladwen took Rumil's arm and let him lead her on. "Thank you again for your hospitality, Rumil." she said. As they walked past Orophin she glared at him as if to say she would find out the truth soon enough.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
The sight of the city of Caras Galadhon took Caladwen's breath away. She always had this reaction whether she was away for a day, a week or several years. It was just as beautiful as it had ever been, this city in the trees. It was evening by the time they arrived and lanterns were lit, lighting their way. They climbed the spiral staircases higher and higher until they were on the level of the guest talans. Rumil led the way as Orophin was called away after they entered the city. She was glad to have a moment alone with him after the rest of her company parted ways.
"I'm sorry if I said something that got you in trouble with Orophin. I do not mean to make a stir. I am just concerned about Haldir. I am in the dark lately. He stopped writing to me a while ago and when I hadn't heard from him I became concerned. You know Haldir, you must deal with him in person otherwise you may never know the truth." Caladwen spoke in her most calm and charming voice. That always worked with Rumil.
"There is no harm done. Orophin only wants to protect you and Haldir. If he spoke for him, it would not be Haldir's own words. No one truly knows what the other is thinking, not even brothers as close as us."
"Can you at least tell me what Haldir told you? I just need to know why he has abandoned our communication. His letters were beautiful and I looked forward to each and every one. When he stopped writing, I thought something terrible happened to him. Then I was told he came to Emyn Arnen and left quickly without even seeking me out. I don't understand why he would do such a thing. Did someone give him false word? If so, I need to set things straight." she pleaded.
Rumil could see her desperation and could not believe Haldir's story. He knew he should not say anything but Caladwen was so desolate. She needed to know. "I should not speak of this anymore than I should have led you to the borders that time." He took her hand. "Come with me. We need to speak in private, away from elven ears, especially Orophin's."
They walked up another staircase which wound its way around one of the many mallorn trees until they reached a platform. Caladwen recognized it right away. "This leads to your parents talan does it not?"
"Yes. This is my home now. I spend most of my time in the city. Haldir and Orophin reside at the borders and have homes there. He is leaving now to join Haldir at the border." he answered.
"But I thought this belonged to Haldir, being the oldest." They stopped outside the door. Caladwen looked at the intricate details of the talan home. It was not as open as some of the others. This home was more private. It looked as if it was covered with vines but at a closer look she saw it was carved wood. "It looks so real, Rumil, as if the vines are alive. I never noticed this before."
Rumil smiled. "Our mother liked her privacy yet she wanted to hide any sign of walls. Our father built and designed it. It was important to keep the feel of nature without seeming too out of place."
"It is beautiful. I would love to live in a home such as this. I'm surprised Haldir does not claim it for his own." she said, rubbing her fingers over the wooden design.
"Haldir almost never comes here. Too many memories are attached to this place. He still mourns our parent's death. Elves never fully recover from such tragedies. I was too young and do not remember our parents though I remember their love. I suppose that is the one thing an Elf never forgets."
Caladwen considered his words. "If that is true, then I hope Haldir still loves me."
"He has always loved you, though he would not admit to it. You must understand where his fear comes from. Our mother loved us very much. When our father died, she could not weather his passing. The grief was too great and it took her away from us. Haldir took it personally. When it happened, he thought it was his fault. He swore to never again be the reason for someone's untimely death. From that day forward, he protected his heart and kept it hidden away. You are the only one to ever break down the walls. He never loved before you. You are his salvation." Rumil paused and looked back to the door of the talan. "Would you like to come in and see our parents home? It may help you to understood Haldir better." He laid his hand on the door handle.
Caladwen suddenly felt as though she was invading Haldir's privacy. "I should go. Haldir never allowed me to come inside for a reason. I would not want to offend him in any way. If he wanted me to be here, he would have brought me long ago." she said.
"I understand." Rumil answered. "Let us be on our way then. I will escort you to your old home."
Caladwen glanced once more to Haldir's home. "It will be good to see my old talan."
"Nothing has changed. We left it just as it was the day you left for Emyn Arnen. I knew you would come back to Lothlorien one day. After all, this is your birth land. It will always draw you here." Rumil offered her his arm and they walked on.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Two days slowly passed by and Haldir was on his way back to Caras Galadhon. Word reached him about Caladwen's visit. Orophin tried to convince him to see her but the Marchwarden was hesitant.
"Why is she here?" Haldir asked his brother. "Why is she not in Gondor?"
"I believe what you saw between Eldarion and Caladwen was folly. I saw her eyes and felt her emotions. She still loves you my brother. There is no other that occupies her heart." Orophin answered. Though he could be hard on Caladwen from time to time, he knew she was good for his brother. Haldir could be so stubborn at times.
"You did not hear the words they spoke to each other. They sounded like lovers. What other explanation could there be? I should have known she could not have tamed her human wants and needs. Too long has she lived amongst Men that she thinks and feels as they do." As Haldir spoke, his steps quickened.
"If you do not wish to speak with Caladwen, then why are your feet in such a hurry?" Orophin said noticing his pace. "Admit it, Brother. You are just as anxious to see her as she is to see you."
"I merely wish to get home and empty my mind of all this foolishness." Haldir stopped and looked at Orophin. "What of Rumil? Do you think he has spoken to her on my behalf?"
"Rumil finds it difficult not to comfort her but I made sure he would say nothing without you there. I cannot control him much longer though. Please speak to her Haldir. Even if you have changed your mind and heart, she needs to hear it from you, not me or Rumil."
They walked a little further before Haldir stopped and spoke again. "If she is here because Eldarion chose a different path, I will not be second choice." he said.
Orophin laid a caring hand on his brother's shoulder. "From what I have seen and felt, she has only made one choice and it is you."
They continued on and soon found themselves at the edge of the city. Before passing through the gates, Haldir stopped and sighed deeply. A part of him longed to see Caladwen, to hold her and touch her. However, it was his hardened heart that made him pause. If he stopped his emotions now, no harm would be done. He could send her away and continue on as the hardened Marchwarden. She could go on with her life and seek the path she was meant to choose. Her Deciding Day would come and her choice would be hers alone. He would not influence her at all. This was his greatest fear and he soon realized what it was he must do. Caladwen was meant to be on her own for now. He was not supposed to be with her in the ways of the heart. He was only her Guardian and that was how he should remain. It was time to confront her and make her understand his choice but this would be easier said than done.
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.