28. Final Farewell
Chapter 28 Final Farewell
Haldir arrived in Emyn Arnen to find a very somber atmosphere. It seemed Lord Celeborn was correct in his prediction; Faramir did indeed take a turn for the worse. He was now bound to his bed. Not much strength was left in him. These would be his final days but how many he had left, no one knew.
The first person he happened upon was Legolas. Haldir was unsure what he knew about his and Caladwen's situation. She was quite upset when she left Lothlorien and it had been a couple months since then. Still, Legolas greeted the Marchwarden with a humble smile and a proper elvish bow.
"It is good to see you again Marchwarden." Legolas said with a bit of sorrow in his voice. Haldir empathized with the Prince for he knew of the close friendship he had with Faramir.
"It is always a pleasure to visit this land, though my reason for being here is less than cheerful this time." Haldir said.
"I am sure you speak of Lord Faramir's bleak condition." Legolas answered and Haldir sensed a bit of austerity in the Elf's voice.
Haldir stood straight and tall as he answered. "I am here for no other reason than to help bring comfort to those who suffer."
"Good." came Legolas' short answer. He thought he was done with Haldir but something kept him from leaving. "She has been miserable these last few months and not just because of Faramir's deterioration." he said without looking at Haldir. It was all he had to say and he left the Marchwarden standing where he was.
Haldir watched Legolas leave and pondered this last statement. It hurt to know he brought sorrow to Caladwen's heart. If she was upset in his absence, there was no telling what her reaction would be when she knew of his arrival. He thought it was best to lie low for a while. He would see Faramir in due time. His thoughts suddenly went to Eowyn. She was his friend too and he wished to meet with her, find out how she was taking all of this. For now, he thought it best to seek out one of the maids and make arrangements for a room and a bath. The journey from Lorien was a long and dusty one. He would not meet with anyone in his current state. He approached the first person he came across and asked where the Lady Caladwen resided at the moment. When he found out she was staying at the palace, Haldir decided it was best to take up a guest talan in North Ithilien, in the forest. There was no reason to bring any more stress to an already stressful situation.
All was quiet in the forest and he managed to stay undetected for a couple days. Only Legolas knew of his arrival and he knew the Prince would keep this information to himself. Tired of feeling like he was hiding, Haldir decided to go to Emyn Arnen. He could feel a change in the air. Something was about to happen. He knew this could only mean one thing. It was time to pay a visit to Faramir and his family. He only hoped that he and Caladwen would be civil towards one another. He had never known her to be so angry before, and it was all because of him.
When he got to the palace, it was unnaturally quiet. As he made his way past the gardens, he saw Eowyn sitting under a great oak, by herself. He stopped and studied her a moment. Her skin was pale as if she hadn't been outside in weeks. Her hair was pulled back at the sides but looked as if it hadn't been properly brushed in a few days. The clothes she wore were dark and mirrored her presence of mind. In all the years Haldir had known Eowyn, he had never seen her in such a gloomy state before. She looked as though she could fade right in front of him. If she were an Elf that was exactly what she would do. A shiver ran down his spine as his mind was sent back to a memory of his mother as she grieved for her deceased husband. Suddenly, all he wanted to do was comfort Eowyn and help ease her misery. He slowly approached the garden gate and entered. Eowyn seemed not to notice him at first. She was deep in thought and Haldir felt as though he was invading her privacy. He thought about turning around and leaving but Eowyn caught movement out of the corner of her eye and looked up.
"Haldir? Is that you?" she said softly as if in disbelief.
"Lady Eowyn, it is a pleasure to see you again." he said. This was the first time they met that they did not play their game of exchanging playful words with each other. Now was not the time or place.
"When did you arrive and how did you know?"
"I arrived just two days ago. I have been in North Ithilien but today, as the sun rose, something told me to make my presence known. Lord Celeborn originally sent me on my way here." Haldir stepped closer and took a seat on the soft grass next to Eowyn. There was only one question burning in his mind but he did not feel right asking. However, Eowyn never missed a trick and saw it on his fair face.
"She is here with her brother. Elboron has been very busy in Osgiliath and just arrived. Faramir sent for everyone." She paused and looked at the ground. "He sent me out here for fresh air but I know his real reason for discharging me from his side. He wanted to speak to Legolas alone. He is giving his last requests and I am sure he will tell Legolas to look after me. Faramir will not leave this world until he knows for sure that I will not be left alone."
"You will never be alone, my lady. Caladwen will stay with you. Elboron and his wife are close. Legolas will of course look after you. Even I will be there if it need be. There will always be someone close to you."
Eowyn looked up at Haldir with a slight smile. "Thank you for being here, Haldir. It means the world to me. You are a good friend."
"Of course, my lady." he said returning the smile. They spent some much needed time in each other's company, revisiting the past. They shared some laughs and even a few tears. It was another rare private moment between the two friends.
"Mother?" came a sweet but concerned voice from the garden gate. "I thought I heard voices and…" She stopped as her eyes fell upon Haldir.
The Marchwarden quickly rose from his spot on the grass and he bowed respectfully to Caladwen. Their eyes locked and their heartbeats quickened but neither let it show on their faces. Eowyn could feel the tension between them. It upset her that they felt such reluctance towards each other. She decided to put an end to their misery. "I think it is time we all headed into the palace. Faramir will be wanting to see you both." Eowyn stood up and walked to the garden gate. Haldir followed and passed by Caladwen, not looking at her. His heart was in pain to act so cold and distant towards her. His elvish hearing told him she paused by the gate a moment before she followed. As he walked, he closed his eyes and tried to swallow his pride. He could take no more of this silent treatment.
Haldir caught up to Eowyn and whispered to her as they walked. "Go on ahead, my lady. We will be along shortly. I must speak to Caladwen first."
"Well, it is about time." Eowyn said playfully. "I was beginning to think you were an arrogant fool." she laughed. It was a subtle moment of enlightenment during such a somber time.
Haldir stopped walking and watched Eowyn continue on. He waited until Caladwen began to pass him by and then he gently caught hold of her arm. To his surprise, Caladwen stopped when he touched her. He wasn't sure what to say or how to behave. All he knew was that he could not let her go on without gaining her attention. He needed some kind of reaction from her whether it was joy, anger, even hate. It was silence which he could not deal with.
A spark ran up her arm and through her body when Haldir touched her. She would have kept on walking except her legs seemed to stop on their own. She was frozen where she stood, not even turning to face him. Somewhere deep down, she missed his touch, yearned for it. The energy he sent through her flesh was intoxicating. It took every ounce of will power not to throw herself into his strong arms. She recalled their argument a few months back. He had not been happy to see her after being apart for so long. Why should she not feel the same now? She wanted to yell at him, snatch her arm away, make him feel the pain of being unwanted. This was not her. She could not be so distant from the one she loved.
"Caladwen, I… I…"
"Say nothing, Marchwarden. It is not the time or the place. Faramir calls us to him and that is all which is important at the moment." Her voice was steady and cold.
Haldir let her go. "At least let me look upon your delicate beauty before we go."
His words were seductive and she resisted his request. "Haldir, please…"
"I am sorry I hurt you." he said. "I will not say anything more. Just know, if you need me, I will be close. I am only here to fulfill a promise I made."
Now Caladwen turned to him, fire in her eyes. "I released you from that oath. You owe me nothing of the sort."
"It was my oath to give and it is mine to take away." Haldir heard the anger in her voice. "If I am making you uncomfortable, I will leave from your sight but not from the city."
Caladwen knew he was right. It was his promise to keep. "There is no need to make things more complicated. As I said, today is not about us. I am willing to call a truce if you are."
"Very well then." Haldir extended his hand to her. "A truce… for now."
Caladwen looked at his hand a moment. "Since when do you gesture as Men do?"
"Since they have become as family to me." he answered sincerely.
Caladwen took his hand in hers and they shook on it. When she started to pull away, Haldir held her a moment longer. This made her look questioningly at him. When their eyes locked again, the magic was reignited between them, if only for a split second. Haldir looked away first, leaving Caladwen wanting more as he released her hand.
"After you, my lady." he said gesturing towards the palace. Caladwen turned and walked up the path that led to the front entrance. Haldir followed behind but at a slight distance. He knew he did not yet have her permission to walk too closely with her. For now he would follow her as any Guardian would do. After all, that was his main priority and the reason he came to Emyn Arnen.
When they got to the hall that led to Faramir's private chambers, they found Legolas and Eowyn standing outside his door. Legolas nodded and Eowyn gave a slight smile to see them come together. She went to Caladwen and gave her a hug. "Your brother is with him."
After a little while, Elboron came out. When he saw Haldir standing in the hall, he went to him and greeted him properly. "I did not know you were here. It is good to see you, even during such dire times."
"Your father has been my friend for many years. There is nowhere else I would be." As he said the last statement, he glanced over his shoulder to Caladwen.
"He wants to see you now, Caladwen." Elboron said to his sister. She smiled and nodded. Then without thinking, she turned and looked at Haldir. Suddenly, she needed his strength to get her through this moment. She knew this would be the last time she'd speak to Faramir and she couldn't get herself to go. Most of all, she hated admitting this to herself.
Haldir saw her anxiety as she took a deep breath. For a moment he thought she was going to say something. When she remained silent, he walked up to her and took her hand. He knew his touch alone would give her the strength she needed to enter the bedchamber. Instantly, Caladwen seemed to relax and she felt herself exhale the breath she was holding. Haldir gave her a slight smile and spoke with his eyes, telling her to be strong. She knew from then on, no matter where she was or what was happening between them, Haldir would always be there in her time of need. She returned the smile and squeezed his hand, letting him know she understood. Then she entered the room. The truce seemed to still be in place.
The moment passed quickly and no one noticed it, but Legolas saw the exchange between the Marchwarden and his daughter. He saw her strength renew as their hands touched. He saw the look in their eyes as they spoke their silent understanding. At that very moment, Legolas knew how much they needed each other. He'd never realized this before for he'd never seen them this way. 'Caladwen has made her choice whether Haldir realizes it or not. She will choose eternity one day and she will choose the Marchwarden to spend it with. I have seen it in her eyes and I have no doubt', he thought to himself. It seemed unavoidable now. No matter how much he might disagree with her decision, he would accept it and eventually have to welcome Haldir into his family. It was as if he saw a glimpse into the future and neither Caladwen nor the Marchwarden knew the outcome. They loved each other. Their souls had found one another. It was just a matter of time before they would come to accept it.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
"I have seen the looks and glances he gives you. Haldir may be difficult sometimes but I can see how much he loves you." Faramir said to Caladwen. They had been in a deep conversation about her relationship with the Marchwarden and the role he played in her life.
"I am not sure what will come of it. Sometimes I want to hate him and then he changes and I find myself wanting to forgive him." she said.
"You will be fine. I know in my heart that you were meant to be together. You have the power to bring those together who do not get along. It only makes sense that your soul mate would need you too." Faramir stopped and made a face as if he was in pain.
"Are you alright? Should I send for Mother?" she asked as she stood up.
"It only hurts when I move. I'll be fine." he said and laughed. "My dear Caladwen, you have been the greatest help to me. Now it is time to help your mother. She will need all of your love when I am gone. Do not let her tell you otherwise."
"I have no plans on leaving Ithilien any time soon. I will be with Mother day and night if it need be. She will be surrounded by love." Caladwen said and it finally sunk in that Faramir was leaving this world soon. She tried with all her might not to let her sorrow get the best of her. She would not cry in front of Faramir. "You were always like a father to me, even though I have an ada. You have helped me so much to understand Men and your wisdom will play a major part in my decision."
Faramir smiled. "Should you choose a mortal life, then I will see you again some day. I only see but one path for you to follow and it does not lead to where I must go. Still, that is your decision." He could see her eyes welling up with tears and extended his arms to her. Caladwen embraced him and let her emotion run out. Faramir wrapped his arms around her and comforted her.
When she finally got a hold of herself, she stood back up and Faramir reached up to wipe away the tears. "Be strong now, my daughter. Go and spread your light and hope to all you meet. There is still much for you to do. Osgiliath and Minas Tirith will need your teachings. They are eager to learn and will welcome you. Remember to look to the stars every once in a while. I will be there watching over you. Haldir is not the only one."
They embraced once more and voiced their final endearments before Caladwen made her way to the door. "Caladwen." he said before she left. She turned to him. "Send in Haldir next."
She nodded and exited the room. Everyone in the hall looked at her intensely. They could see she had been crying. Eowyn went to her and held her tight. Elboron and Legolas closed in and put their arms around her also. Haldir stood off to the side. This was a family moment and he only observed. Caladwen looked up over Eowyn's shoulder to Haldir. The other's released their hold on her. "Faramir would like to see you next." she said to the Marchwarden. He was not expecting to be called upon. He was just going to wait until everyone said their final farewells and then pay his respects on his own.
As he walked past Caladwen, she touched his arm. He stopped and looked at her. A smile adorned her soft lips. Haldir returned the gesture and Caladwen kissed his cheek. He closed his eyes and let the feeling travel through his tough outer shell. She was the only one who had the ability to break him of his harshness. This was a step in the right direction. They still had a long way to go but maybe now she would forgive him for his quick judgment.
She released his arm and gazed into his silver eyes. Haldir saw all of her pain in that moment. It was not just for Faramir but for the Marchwarden also. He had hurt her and for that he would never forgive himself. But behind the pain there was love, her love for him. He knew they would weather anything that came their way and together they would come through it unharmed. Haldir turned toward the bedchamber door and entered.
Haldir was not prepared for what he saw. Faramir was so pale and weak. His hair was grey, almost white. His face looked tired. It was a bit shocking. Haldir had seen the death of Elves and Men but only in battle. He had never seen someone in Faramir's condition. It made him realize how short the human life really was.
From his bed, Faramir extended his arm toward the Marchwarden. "Haldir, my friend, please come in. It gladdens my heart to see you once again."
Before Haldir took another step, he bowed to Faramir. "My lord, I am honored to have you call upon me again."
Faramir smiled, "Alright then, we got the formalities out of the way but I am no longer Lord of Ithilien. I have passed that title on to Elboron. He has been in charge in my stead and it is time he took on my title also."
"So this is to be your end?" Haldir asked innocently.
Faramir thought he sounded blunt, almost child-like. "I'm afraid so. I am ready to see my forefathers. I will not hinder my wife or my family any longer."
"Eowyn will be beside herself without you. She will be stubborn too." Haldir thought about her adamancy. "She will not accept help so easily."
"I know that better than anybody. She will be surrounded by those who love her. They will not let her suffer by herself. Talk to her often, Haldir. You always did seem to bring out a side of her that no one else could."
"I could say the same thing about her. Sometimes I think she knows me better than my own brothers." Haldir said, remembering their time in Lothlorien together.
The two friends talked for a while, reminiscing about the past when Faramir paused and closed his eyes. Haldir watched as the corners of his mouth turned up in a warm smile. Then Faramir looked the Elf in his silver-grey eyes. "Take care of her Haldir." he whispered.
"Lady Eowyn will not be alone." said the Elf.
"I am not speaking of my wife." Faramir continued to focus on the Marchwarden's eyes. "She will need you. You play a bigger part in her life than you know. Be careful with her for she is a lot like her mother. It does not take much for her to distrust someone."
"I'm afraid I have already found that out. I have hurt her, hurt her heart and I do not think she will ever trust me again." His voice was full of anguish.
"No, she does not trust you but she loves you no less. Take things slow. Be her friend, her Guardian, her protector. Earn her trust again but you must change also. You cannot keep your feelings buried. Open your heart, Haldir. Let her in and all will be well. Do not fear to let love into your life." Faramir's voice became softer and quieter as he spoke. Haldir could see he was tired and needed his rest.
"Thank you for your counsel, my lord, my friend. I will never forget your words." As he spoke, he stood up. "You need your rest now. Is there anyone else you wish to speak with?"
"I have said all I have to say. Please tell Eowyn to bring my medication now. I believe I do need to rest."
"Very well then." Haldir stood tall and looked at Faramir. He put his hand over his heart and bowed low in true elvish style.
Faramir nodded. "Goodbye my friend."
"Namarie [farewell], Lord Faramir of Ithilien… my friend." Haldir answered and smiled. He left the room and closed the door behind him.
Everyone remained in the hall. Haldir scanned the small group. "Lady Eowyn, your beloved husband wishes for his medicines now. He is quite exhausted from visiting with everyone."
"Thank you Haldir." she answered. "You all should go about your day, or what's left of it. The evening meal should be ready before too long, though I will not attend. I think I will have my meal brought here."
Caladwen hugged her mother before she left, as did Elboron. The two half-siblings walked down the hall side by side as if they were leaning on each other. Elboron wrapped his arm around her shoulders and they continued on.
Haldir bowed to Eowyn and Legolas. "My Lady, I shall see you in the morning then. Prince Legolas, I hope you do not mind, I have taken up residence in North Ithilien."
"You are always welcome in my forest, Marchwarden." Legolas answered.
"Are you sure you would not rather stay here in the palace?" Eowyn asked.
"I think it is best this way, my lady." was Haldir's simple answer.
"Then I will see you in the morning." Eowyn smiled and took his hand. "Thank you for being here."
Haldir returned her smile and bowed once more before leaving the hall. As he rounded the corner, he looked back to see Eowyn enter through Faramir's bedroom door. Legolas did not leave. He sat down on the floor, pulled his knees to his chest and leaned against the wall. Haldir knew Legolas would not be far from her now that Faramir was at his end.
The Marchwarden decided to forego dinner and take a walk around the grounds. The night air was pleasantly cool and the stars shown bright above. He had no desire to be under roof on an evening such as this. Seems he was not the only one.
"I thought I'd find you out here." she said in a soft voice.
"Caladwen… I thought you would be taking supper with Elboron."
"I have no appetite tonight. It seems no one does. The dining hall was quite empty."
Haldir looked up at the stars above. "The people know what is to come. Their hearts are heavy this night. Can you not feel the sadness carried on the wind?"
Caladwen closed her eyes and listened. "All I feel is the night breeze." She opened her eyes and looked at Haldir. "Why can I not feel as you do? I would think I could sense human emotions as the Elves."
"I believe it is because you are in between worlds. You are not fully human nor are you like the Elves. Until you make your decision, you will not experience fully as one race or the other." Haldir looked back to Caladwen. "Would you care to walk with me?" he asked.
"Haldir, I do not think it would be…"
"I only ask for a walk, my lady. I thought since you were here you must like some company."
He was good at guessing her needs. "I do not want to be alone right now."
Haldir held out his arm for her to take. It was something he did for any female. When she only stood there and looked at his arm, he realized there was something more in their touch. It probably was not a good idea to make physical contact with each other. Slowly he brought his arm back to his side and began walking. When he did not hear her following, he spoke without turning around. "Are you coming?" Still there was no answer so he stopped and looked over his shoulder. "Do we not still have our truce or are we once again at loggerheads?" he said in his Marchwarden voice. He could feel her stare pierce the back of his head and he smiled to himself. Footsteps could be heard coming up behind him. "Good. Shall we visit the garden or take the forest path?"
"The garden will be fine, Marchwarden." she said sternly. It was as if they had never had an intimate moment together. They just fell into some kind of general understanding and they were nothing more than acquaintances.
After their walk, which they remained silent much of the time, Haldir brought her back to the palace. He walked her up the stairs and to the main entrance. He bowed his head. "Goodnight Caladwen."
"Are you not staying in Emyn Arnen?" she asked, surprised.
"I have made other arrangements in North Ithilien. Your father has been very gracious in seeing to my housing during my visit."
"Of course. Well, I will see you tomorrow then. Goodnight Marchwarden." she replied and slipped inside.
Haldir thought that went well. He was treating her with respect and giving her plenty of space. It was deep in his heart where he felt the pain of their distance. However, if he was to win back her trust, this was where he should start. He did not want her to feel uncomfortable around him. He sensed her hesitancy when he asked for a walk. This hurt more than anything but he felt he deserved it after the way he treated her in Lorien. Faramir's words ran through his mind. He desperately wanted to open his heart to her but was not ready to take that step, just as she was not ready to completely trust him.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Something told Haldir not to go all the way to North Ithilien that night. He decided to find a cozy tree and climb up, making himself comfortable. He drifted off into reverie. Visions of Caladwen filled his head. He saw her in her many different moods. How many emotions had he been responsible for? Anger, disappointment, sadness… those were definitely his. Joy and laughter? Well maybe not so much because of him. Now comfort; that was what he wished to bring to her more than anything. He dreamed of a day when she would once again feel content having him close.
'There is only one way to achieve this', said a voice. 'You must gain the same contentment being with her. You are too guarded. Let down the shield that binds your love for her. Open yourself to all the possibilities, good or bad. Live no more in fear of fading. This was not how I wanted it to be for you.'
Haldir awoke with a start. Whose voice was this speaking to him in his dreams? He couldn't quite put his finger on it but it seemed familiar. As he tried to figure out who this was, he was suddenly struck with the feeling of great sorrow. The wind blew through the tree he was sitting in and caressed his fair face. He closed his eyes and felt the airy lightness of ones fea as it was departing from this world. 'Death and departure…' he thought. 'Lord Faramir is no longer in pain.'