Chapter 3 Nieriel
"The Lady Galadriel would be proud of the work done here, Legolas. The trees are glad you and your kin have restored their lives." Haldir said as he walked through the forest with Legolas.
"It is because of the Lady that the forest thrives like it does. It was the gift she gave me, the soil from her own gardens, which aids with the growth here." Legolas and Haldir arrived back at the rope ladders which lead to the talans above. They climbed up and headed for Legolas' own talan. He was glad the Marchwarden decided to stay in Ithilien and take up residence in the forest. He would be staying in the guest talan which was currently being readied for him.
While they waited, Haldir and Legolas became more acquainted with each other. Though Legolas had heard many stories about the Marchwarden, he did not know him so well. Their encounter during the journey with the Ring was brief and they hadn't had a chance to talk much. Legolas knew Haldir was a great help to Eowyn when she resided in Lorien during her pregnancy and after Caladwen's birth. He understood the reason for Haldir's recent decision to live in Ithilien. Legolas knew all too well about promises made and kept. Haldir would be good for Caladwen. He managed to keep himself separate from mortals for many millennia and followed very strict elven laws in his own home. He could teach her much about Lothlorien and the Elves that dwelt there, their customs and histories. Legolas wanted his daughter to know as much as was possible about all Elves of Middle Earth. He hoped it would help her to choose the right path when her Deciding Day finally arrived. Never the less, it did not escape his mind that it was Haldir who chose to be Caladwen's Guardian. The Marchwarden was the last Elf in Middle Earth (or Valinor for that matter) that Legolas would ever have thought of for this task. As far as he knew, Haldir cared about Haldir and nothing more. The only thing as important was his position as Marchwarden of Lothlorien. He knew how proud Haldir was of his record there and was surprised to learn of his temporary leave of his position. He must truly be committed to Caladwen to leave Lorien, even if only for a little while.
The two Elves made themselves comfortable in Legolas' talan home, enjoying a light meal accompanied by fine Rivendell wine. Haldir couldn't help but notice how different Legolas seemed now than when he first met him years earlier. Back then he seemed young and foolhardy yet very committed to his fellowship companions. He showed that same commitment now to his forest home and his elven kin. The royal blood that flowed through his veins was evident in the way he carried himself. Legolas had matured a great bit since the days of the Ring War. Even though Haldir was a few thousand years his senior, they seemed to be on an equal level now. The one thing that was not evident was the fact that he was the son of Thranduil, King of Mirkwood. Haldir knew the king and of his harsh rule over his kingdom. He could certainly relate to his stringency. Legolas was completely opposite allowing more freedom amongst his people and those who visited the Northern Forest.
"So, Caladwen seems to be developing quite well." Haldir said after they finished their meal.
"Yes, maybe a little too well if you ask me. Have you heard of her involvement with the young man of Rohan?" Legolas asked and Haldir could hear the disappointment in his voice.
"She has told me about him. You must realize though, she grows up in the world of men and is doing what seems natural in their world. Caladwen has a good head on her shoulders. If she has been taught of her elven background, I think she will make decisions cautiously." Haldir said and Legolas was surprised by his tolerance of the situation.
"Do you not think she is much too young to be committing herself to one person? Even Eowyn and Faramir think she acts in haste. She talks of marriage and that worries me. What if she binds to him, then what?" Legolas said with a raised voice. Maybe for the first time, Haldir saw a bit of Thranduil in the Prince's mannerisms.
"She must be allowed to choose her own paths in life. All you can do is support her and be there when she falls. Caladwen is a smart girl and knows of her importance in this world. I believe she will do what is right. Besides, you cannot stop true love. You most of all should know that." Haldir's arrogance was showing and Legolas glared at the Elf for a brief moment, even though he knew the Marchwarden was right.
Just then, a dark haired elleth entered the talan. She poked her head around the archway, having heard the tense words just moments earlier. Legolas sensed her and said no more about Caladwen. He looked up at the elleth with a kind expression and a smile that would have melted the caps of Caradhras. She smiled in return and then her eyes fell upon Haldir. She had heard of this Elf of Lorien and of his beauty and disdain, but it was nothing in comparison to actually seeing him. He was tall and broad shouldered much more so than the Elves of Mirkwood. His hair was more silver than gold, long and flowing. He had a glow about him that even showed in the light of day. And his eyes… his eyes were silver-grey and looked as if the stars themselves dwelt there. She was drawn to him at first glance and felt a heat rise to her cheeks. Haldir's eyes locked with hers only briefly and she felt like he could see into her soul. This Elf could be dangerous to the heart if you let him.
"I'm sorry to bother you. I have come to inform our guest that his talan is ready." she said very timidly, turning her attention back to Legolas.
"Thank you." Legolas said kindly. "Come in mellon nin [my friend]." he said and the elleth came into the room. "Would you be so kind as to escort the Marchwarden to his talan?"
The elleth's heart leapt to her throat. This was quite a unique opportunity, to escort one of such high authority. She bowed her head in response to Legolas' request. "Yes my Prince. It would be my pleasure." She had met Lorien Elves before but never one like this one. This was the Captain of the Galadhrim Guard. She held herself straight and tall and did not falter in his presence. She had heard the stories of the ellith who became involved with Haldir and she would not fall prey to him, no matter how beautiful, fair and desirable he was.
Legolas and Haldir bowed to one another. "I will see you at the evening meal. Eowyn, Faramir and Caladwen will be joining us tonight. I think a celebration is in order for our temporary resident." Legolas said.
Haldir's stern countenance returned at the thought of this latest news. He was never one for fanfare since he spent most of his time hidden from view of others. This was not something he would ever get used to and for a brief moment, he wished Celeborn had not sent him away. Then his eyes fell on the dark haired beauty once more and he forgot about his anxiety. He walked over to where she stood.
"If you would please follow me, Marchwarden." she said not looking at him. She went down the walkway, leading Haldir to his talan.
Haldir was used to this kind of treatment. He prided himself on it. Elves would turn from his stare or change course just to avoid him. It was perhaps the reason Haldir seemed so cold at times. However, he was not in Lorien and felt awkward having this elleth avoid him. This was not his realm and he should not be feared here. He had no authority in Ithilien being merely a guest. As he followed her, he noticed her dark, almost black hair hanging down her back. She was slim and tall, a most beautiful she-elf. She walked with the grace of the Elves as she guided him to his new home. Every once in a while, she would glance over her shoulder to make sure he was still following. Then he could see the profile of her smooth face and glowing skin. It was in contrast to her dark hair. He found her to be very appealing and wanted to get to know her better.
They stopped on a platform where there were two choices of direction. The elleth turned to face Haldir and for the first time he saw her fully. Keeping her eyes focused on his chest she spoke. "The way to the right will take you to the guest quarters. To the left is the Great Talan Hall where the celebration will take place tonight. It is reserved for only those of great importance such as yourself." She did not look directly at him but could feel his eyes upon her, warming her body.
Haldir took a step forward and reached his hand out to the elleth. His fingers touched her chin and tilted her head up to face him. Her eyes were closed but slowly opened to fall upon this most handsome Lorien Elf. He did not smile but just gazed upon her pale beauty. "Why do you avoid me? I am merely a guest in your city. You need not fear me for I have no influence here."
She looked into his silver eyes and thought she could have melted into a puddle at his feet. "You are a friend of the Prince and that gives you much influence." she said and backed away from his touch. Haldir's hand lingered in the air a moment before he lowered it. He watched as her green eyes once again turned to the ground. The elleth turned her back to him and kept walking down the pathway to the guest talans. Haldir stood for only a brief moment before following her. This elleth intrigued him and he wanted to know her better. It was not often his gaze was ignored and he thought either she was not interested or hid her emotions quite well.
They came to the talan doorway and stopped. "This will be your residence while you stay in Ithilien. I hope everything is to your liking. If there is anything you need, please do not hesitate to ask. We are very accommodating here." she said as if it were rehearsed.
"I am glad to know this." Haldir said in a sultry voice, grabbing the elleth's attention. Once again he locked eyes with the she-elf and held her in his gaze. It did not last long and she broke away from his stare. This one would be a challenge for him. It seemed the Elves outside of Lorien did not know him as well as he thought. He may have been known for his sternness and ego but not for his seduction of the opposite sex. It had been a long time since the Marchwarden felt this way for an elleth. He was very careful about choosing someone when it struck his fancy. Love was a dangerous thing to Haldir, something he did not believe in. When he felt the need for companionship, he looked for someone who felt as he did. He did not want commitment, only release. The long years of his life had helped to teach him which elleth to approach. Too many times did the Marchwarden involve himself with someone only to have to break their heart soon after. This elleth which stood before him seemed like the type he was looking for as long as he stayed in Ithilien. She would make a fine plaything if she was what he was looking for. It was time to test her.
She turned to leave the Elf, thinking she was done with her duty but he laid a gentle hand on her arm, stopping her instantly. His touch sent heat through her body. She could easily loose herself to him but that was not how she carried herself. Her guard went up immediately. It was time to take back control.
"Will you not show me around my talan so that I should know where things are?" he asked.
"I'm sure you know your way around a talan quite well." she answered, playing his game. In all actuality, her heart was pounding so fast she thought he would hear it. The thought of being alone with this magnificent Elf in his talan was too much. However, she held her composure not letting him in on her secret.
He smiled at her wolfishly. "I thought you said you were accommodating in your city." He had her there.
She looked at Haldir as if he was causing her extra unwanted work, but in her mind she was thinking of how many ways she could ravish him. "Very well then." she said brushing past him and entering the room. As she did, he grabbed her forearm once again and she looked down at his long fingers holding her there. She could feel his strength and it made her wonder if he was a rough lover.
"I cannot let you enter my private chamber without first knowing your name." he said and she felt his breath on her cheek. She turned to face him, which she knew was a mistake as he locked eyes with her again.
"I am Nieriel." she simply stated unable to turn from him. His silver eyes boar into her very soul and she felt trapped by him. He could have pounced on her and done with her what he wanted and she would not have denied him. Why did he have this affect on her?
Haldir thought she would be easy to seduce. He wanted to know more about her first. He let go of her arm and released her from his stare as his eyes traveled down her body. Nieriel felt his eyes undressing her and her hair stood on end. She willed her legs to move as her feet seemed to be mounted to the floor. Finally, she entered the talan with Haldir following behind.
"As you can see, it is not so luxurious as what you may be accustomed to back in your land but you should have everything you need." she said standing in the open front area of the talan. "This is your sitting area and study. Here is your desk and over there is a place for a fire should you need one." Nieriel pointed to the different areas of the talan.
Haldir noticed a dividing wall towards the back of the room. "And what is back there?" he said gesturing with his head.
She looked at him with confusion. "That is your bedroom, of course. You have a very lovely view of the gardens from this room." She turned as if to leave, thinking her job was done here. The she-elf kept her composure making him think she cared not for this gorgeous creature before her.
"Nieriel." Haldir said stopping her from going any further. She felt a shiver run up her spine after hearing his voice say her name for the first time. "I may be too bold in asking you this, but…" he hesitated. This was how he played his game. "Would you honor me by letting me escort you to the festivities tonight?" He waited for her to say yes.
Nieriel turned back around to face Haldir again but this time she felt she had the upper hand. "And what makes you think I am not already being escorted by another?"
Haldir took a step towards her. "Well, are you?" he said with a raised eyebrow. He was close to her now and she could smell his woodsy scent. He seemed quite pleased with himself and Nieriel wasn't about to let him win this round.
"Well, no but…"
"Good. Then you will go with me." he said sure of himself and secure that she would not argue.
"You did not let me finish. I have not been asked because everyone knows I will be working at the celebration. I am in charge of many things around here and tonight's activities are no different." She was matching Haldir's arrogant mannerisms quite well.
"Then I will ask Prince Legolas to give you a reprieve for tonight so you can accompany me." he said thinking he found an easy solution.
It was obvious Haldir was not used to being refused and Nieriel was not used to being told what to do by anyone other than her lord and ruler of Ithilien's forest. On the inside, she was screaming with joy at the fact that Haldir had an interest in her, but she was not about to be his souvenir from his visit to Ithilien. She heard the stories about the egotistical Elf and always wondered what was so fascinating about him. Of course, to look upon him made her stomach flutter but she did not much like this feeling. She would not give in so easily and he would have to prove his worth to her.
"Are you not the Marchwarden of Lothlorien?" she asked.
He looked at her confused. "Well of course I am but you know…"
"And I assume you take your job very seriously." she went on.
"My lady, I assure you I am the best at what I do." he said, hoping she would take his meaning in more ways than one.
"And no one can or will ever do your job as good as you." she said crossing her arms. "Well that is how I view my job. I have been the Prince's Head Mistress since he first arrived here. I am one of the original settlers to Ithilien's forest and things run smoothly around here because of me. I am in charge of overseeing the activities for tonight and if I am not there, things will not be cared for properly."
Haldir, thinking she was blowing things out of proportion, began to retaliate but Nieriel cut him off. "Marchwarden, has anyone ever gone to your Lord or Lady and asked that you not guard the borders merely to spend a fine evening with you?"
"Of course not. No one would think such a thing and besides, I would be the laughing stock of the Golden Woods." he said thinking her reasoning was ridiculous.
"Then please don't bestow the same kind of embarrassment on me by going to the Prince. I have a job to do and I take pride in the fact that no one else does what I do. Surely you can relate to that?" Her features softened as she seemed to beg Haldir to drop the whole thing.
He understood her completely. He had not realized her standing within the community. He thought she was no more than a maid because of how she carried herself when he met her. She seemed timid and shy. It seemed his seductions were wasted on this elleth. "Please accept my apologies. I did not mean to cause you grief. I will let you get back to work now." he said and she saw his interest slip away. It was not that she wasn't interested in Haldir but she had more important things to tend to. She had no time for cavorting around with one of the guests, even one as handsome as him, when others were counting on her.
"I'm sorry, Marchwarden. I did not mean to…"
"Please, call me Haldir." He put on his best look of disappointment as he heard the regret in her voice. So it seems she is interested after all, he thought to himself. He would need to change tactics if he was going to win this elleth. He was always up for a challenge and she was proving to be just that.
Haldir bowed to her. "Then I guess I will see you tonight… as you are working of course."
"Until tonight then, Nieriel." he said, his voice like satin.
"Tonight then, Haldir." she said noticing how his name rolled off her tongue. She exited the room and realized she had been way too tense in his presence, something she did not feel often. There was something about him that made her want to crumble into a pile at his feet and she hated it. All her life she had been very independent and she was not about to change for some high authority, conceited, pompous… radiant, desirable, tempting… Her thoughts took over and she decided it best to take a moment to gather her right mind. Right now she just needed to think about tonight's festivities and nothing more.