30. More Wine Please
Chapter 30 More Wine Please
Haldir parted ways with Caladwen as friends, though distant. He returned to Lothlorien with her always at the back of his mind. As he tried to push her further into the recesses of his thoughts, he fell into his usual Marchwarden routine, spending weeks at a time at the borders. But now he was coming back to the city for a much needed rest.
While he was away in Ithilien, Orophin began training some new recruits. One was a childhood friend of Orophin's. Daeron [Dire-on] was a seasoned archer though he had never served as a Galadhrim. He had assisted the healers for most of his years. Daeron had decided to join the elvish army after the Corsairs killed his brother during one of the many attacks. His healing skills could come in useful at the borders. Everyone agreed it was a good idea to have a warrior who could also assist in healing. Haldir was informed of the change and agreed with Orophin's decision.
"If it will help save more lives then it is a welcome change." he told Orophin. Most healers were not warriors and most warriors were not healers. It was considered a conflict in interest. It was unusual for an Elf to have both skills and those who did only concentrated on one career.
Upon Haldir's return, Orophin and Rumil decided to invite Daeron to their talan for a celebratory meal. Haldir was tired from his long journey from the borders and was not much in the mood for company but it was already arranged. He agreed anyways and looked forward to the reports from his brothers while he was away. 'At least it will be an evening with the Galadhrim, no females,' he thought to himself. He was done with the opposite sex for a while. Caladwen had taken every last ounce of energy from him and he wished to forget about their situation for a while. A hearty meal and a strong wine was all he wanted now.
Later, there was a knock on the door. Orophin gestured for his friend to enter. They bowed to each other and Daeron entered. Rumil and Haldir were just setting the last of the food on the table. Everyone took a seat and enjoyed a wonderful dinner. When they were through, they walked out onto the balcony of their childhood talan. Rumil uncorked the wine and poured everyone a glass. The conversation was of war and battles, the borders and the wounded. They learned about Daeron's brother.
"I remember him quite well." Haldir went on. "A very talented warrior he was. I am sorry for your loss, Daeron. Your brother was an honorable Galadhrim and a great help in securing our borders at that time. I was honored to have him among my troops."
"You also have my condolences, Marchwarden. I understand Ithilien recently lost its ruler, Lord Faramir. He was a close friend of yours was he not?" Daeron asked.
"Indeed he was. I was very fortunate to be able to speak with him once more before his passing. He will be missed by his people and all those whose hearts he touched."
Rumil spoke next. "And how is the Lady Eowyn dealing with the loss of her beloved?"
"She has begun the grieving process but I'm afraid it will take its toll on her. She misses him greatly. Fortunately, she is surrounded by her loved ones. They will take care of her and see her through these dark days."
"I imagine Elboron and Caladwen are at a loss also." Orophin added.
Haldir knew what they were doing. They were trying to get information about him and Caladwen. This was not what he wanted to talk about now, especially in front of their guest. "Yes they are quite saddened by the loss as well. However, Elboron has been very busy now that he has been named Lord of Ithilien."
"And Caladwen?" Rumil added. "How is she coping?"
Haldir stared into his wineglass and Rumil saw his despair. The Marchwarden was done with this topic and stood, ignoring Rumil's question. "I believe I am in the mood for more wine."
"We have emptied the bottle, Brother." replied Orophin.
"Then I will retrieve another. Come now, the night is still young." Haldir boasted. "I shall not be long." He left the balcony and headed for the kitchen. That was when he noticed the pleasant affect of the wine and he felt slightly off balance. He ignored his condition and went in search of another bottle. Tonight was the best he had felt in a long time and he was not ready to quit just yet. Being his brothers stayed here more often than he did, Haldir was having trouble finding more wine. By now, he was feeling quite tipsy. When he had not come back to the balcony, Orophin decided to see what was taking so long.
"Haldir, where is that bottle of wine?" he said, slurring his words.
"I can't seem to find the blasted thing. Honestly, how do you and Rumil find anything in this place?" As soon as he said that, he opened a cabinet and found the wine. "Ah, here we are. There seems to be one for each of us." he laughed picking up two bottles and tossing one to Orophin. It almost slipped from his hands but he managed to grab hold of it before it hit the floor.
"You must be more careful, Haldir. This is not just any wine. It is from Mother and Father's private stock." Orophin said.
Haldir looked at him confused. "Private stock? I know of no such thing."
"Of course not. You are never here. Rumil found it years back. Do you even know that Caras Galadhon has cellars?" Orophin said incoherently.
"Well of course I know but they are reserved for only the most…"
Orophin smiled mischievously in a way that reminded Haldir of the Hobbits that once visited the Golden Wood. "…most high ranking Elves?… yes I know. Like I said... their own private stock."
Haldir's mouth was agape. Were his parents once seen as high ranking? Orophin looked at his brother and burst out laughing. "Close your mouth, Brother, or you'll catch a fly." He uncorked his bottle and threw the corkscrew to Haldir who missed it. "Honestly, do you know nothing about our parents past, before the three of us arrived?"
Haldir did not like his tone. "I know enough." he said in a low voice.
"Obviously not or you'd know about the wine. Now, let us get back to the balcony. We should not keep the others waiting."
Orophin and Haldir brought two bottles of wine out to the balcony where Rumil and Daeron were deep in a conversation about herbs and other medicines. Rumil had always had an interest in the art of healing but never pursued it. He was raised as a warrior and his path was already chosen for him. All three brothers were to follow in their father's footsteps. Had Rumil been able to make his own decision, he probably would have been a healer, though he was not unhappy with his current role. It helped having a brother who was the captain of the entire Galadhrim.
The night wore on and it was getting late. Every one of them was quite inebriated and it looked as though they were ready to end the night when there was a soft knock at the door. Haldir seemed to be the only one to hear it, or the only one able to walk straight enough to get up and answer it.
"That's probably for me." said Daeron, eyes half closed. "I told Bellethiel where I would be. She's probably worried since I didn't come home."
'Great,' Haldir thought to himself. 'Just when we are relaxed and enjoying ourselves, here comes an elleth to burden us.' Haldir went to the door and opened it. Before him stood a very beautiful she-elf. She was tall and slim, eyes of green and hair the color of wheat. His eyes traveled down and back up again to meet hers. She wore a worried expression and he knew whom she was here for. "Good evening lady. You must be Bellethiel (Behl-ehth-ee-ell) [strong one]."
"Yes. Is my…"
"Daeron is out on the balcony with my brothers. Please excuse our condition as we have been enjoying some well-earned comforts. We were just celebrating our newest recruit. Your husband is quite an honorable Elf."
Bellethiel's eyes were as big as saucers. Standing before her was the Marchwarden of Lothlorien. She had only ever seen him from afar and never up close and personal before. "I believe you are mistaken, Marchwarden. Daeron is not my…"
"Come in, come in. Would you care to join us for a glass of wine?" Haldir was slurring his words. "It seems I have recently discovered we have stock in the cellar." he laughed to himself.
Though his words confused her, Bellethiel thought he was quite charming, even in his current condition. "I mean not to intrude in your personal dwelling, my lord." she said in a mousy voice.
"Nonsense. Come in and join us if you like, but I am afraid Daeron may have to stay the night. He is too unstable to navigate the walkways."
Bellethiel entered the talan and followed Haldir to the balcony. "This is a beautiful home, Marchwarden. Is this your talan?"
"It is, but my brother's dwell here more often than me. I prefer the borders." he said and they walked out onto the balcony.
"There you are." she said to Daeron. "You were supposed to be home hours ago. I was worried you were already called away on a patrol."
Daeron smiled. "Not yet. I must first complete the training." He got up and put his arm around her waist. "I would like you to meet my fellow warriors. Of course you know Orophin." he said pointing to the Elf.
"It is good to see you again Orophin." she said bowing her head.
"It is always a pleasure to see you, Bellethiel." he answered.
Daeron turned her. "And this is his brother Rumil."
"Hello Rumil. Orophin has spoken of you before. It is nice to finally meet you."
"Likewise my lady." Rumil answered as he staggered to his feet. Bellethiel could not help but laugh to herself. It was obvious they had all had too much wine this evening.
"And this," Daeron said as if saving the best for last. "is Haldir, brother of Orophin and Rumil."
Bellethiel curtsied and bowed. "Captain of the Galadhrim, Marchwarden of the Golden Wood. Yes, I know who he is."
"It is a pleasure to meet you, Bellethiel. Your husband will make a fine addition to my troops. It is not often we have a healer in our midst."
Suddenly, from across the balcony, Orophin burst into laughter. Haldir shot him a slant-eyed glare. "They are not husband and wife." he said laughing again. Haldir did not see the humor.
Daeron smiled. "You are mistaken, Marchwarden. Bellethiel is my sister."
Haldir bowed. "Forgive me lady. You were trying to tell me that earlier and I interrupted you. Daeron never mentioned having a sister. I just assumed…"
"There is no harm done, Marchwarden." she said and looked at her brother. He had lain down on the divan and was falling asleep. "Are you sure it is alright for my brother to stay here?"
"It is quite alright. I must apologize for our behavior. Had we known…"
Bellethiel smiled but would not look Haldir in the eyes. "I understand the need to release tension every so often. Besides, this is your home. You owe me no apology. I should not have interrupted your get together. I must be going now."
Haldir felt himself sobering up a bit. "Are you sure you would not stay for one glass? It is a rare fine wine, or so I have been told."
Bellethiel could not believe the offer of sharing a drink with the Marchwarden. She knew she should let them get back to their soiree but found it hard to refuse. "Maybe just one glass." she said and hoped she would not regret her decision.
Four glasses later and Bellethiel was just as tipsy as the others were. She told them about her deceased brother, how he had lived out his goal of becoming a Galadhrim. It was something their mother strongly disapproved of. Her family were all healers. It was honest work and much safer than being a soldier. Her parents had sailed to Valinor a year ago and now Daeron was pursuing his dream of becoming a warrior like his brother. She told them how she disagreed with her brother. She worried that he would suffer the same fate. Daeron's mind was made up.
As the night went on, Orophin and Rumil both took their leave of the party and headed off to bed for some much needed rest. Only Haldir and Bellethiel were still awake and they were enjoying each other's company. They talked about many things; family, work, likes and dislikes. The wine in Bellethiel's system helped her to open up and be herself.
"So how is it the Marchwarden, Captain of the Guard, has not found a wife? Surely the ellith must be throwing themselves at your feet." she said quite candidly.
Haldir enjoyed their conversation but was not ready to go into the lengthy story of his love life or the lack thereof. "I guess the right one has not come along yet."
She heard his answer but sensed there was more to the story. Haldir intrigued her. Of course, she had heard all the rumors about the arrogant Marchwarden. This Elf in front of her seemed nothing like the stories. There was something quite sad in his demeanor. She decided to find out more. "You sound as though you have recently lost love."
"I guess you could say that." It was a short and simple answer. She could see he would not willingly talk about it.
"I'm sorry, Marchwarden. I do not mean to pry." She decided to back off.
Haldir took a deep breath. Although he had managed to escape his thoughts of Caladwen for a few hours, the strongest wine in Middle Earth could not make him completely forget her. There was no use trying. He looked at Bellethiel. She was very beautiful and kind. She was only trying to make conversation. "Her name is Caladwen."
Bellethiel was surprised by his response. "That is a beautiful name. Does she reside in the city?"
"She has from time to time. Right now she lives in Gondor." Haldir was very vague with his information.
"Will she be coming back to Lorien?"
"I do not know. She goes where she is needed. She is a teacher of sorts." Haldir walked to the edge of the balcony and looked into the distance. "She was my student at one time. Now she passes her knowledge on to those willing to learn."
Bellethiel thought about this. 'He speaks of the Light of Lorien. This must be the reason they are no longer together,' she thought. 'She travels around Middle Earth while Haldir is bound to his home and his duty as Captain.' She decided not to let him know of her familiarity with Caladwen.
"I hope you will see her again. The responsibility of being a teacher is a notable one." She could see she had lost his attention as he stared off into the dark night. "Well, it has been a very enjoyable evening but I must be going."
Haldir turned to see her walking to the door. "Please my lady, allow me to escort you home."
Bellethiel smile. "I will allow it if you promise to call me by my given name from now on."
"I make the same offer, Bellethiel. Haldir will suffice from now on." he said nodding his head. He opened the door for her and held out his arm. She took it and they were on their way. They did not speak much as they walked. It seemed the mood had turned somber as she had stirred up some hidden feelings.
Finally, they reached her talan. Bellethiel released Haldir's arm and turned to face him. "Thank you again for looking out for my brother. Though I do not agree with his decision to become a Galadhrim, I feel some comfort now that I have met you." She did not know if it was the wine or the sympathy she felt for Haldir but she did something she would not have normally done. She reached up and kissed his cheek. "Goodnight Haldir."
"Goodnight Bellethiel." he said as she finished kissing him. Before she turned toward her talan door, their eyes locked. The wine in Haldir's system had altered his reasoning. This elleth was very beautiful. He could take her if he wanted to. It would be so easy to fall back into his old ways. He could easily seduce her. How long had it been since he had felt companionship. They both had had too much to drink. It would make a good excuse in the morning as to why they should not let it happen again.
Bellethiel was behaving out of character. She was not usually like this. Then again, she had never been prey to the Marchwarden's stare. He held her captivated and she could not turn away. All she had to do was invite him in and she would find out for herself if the rumors were true. It was a well known fact amongst the ellith that the Marchwarden was a magnificent lover. The thought of him hovering above her naked body made her blood race. It would be so easy. Daeron would not be home tonight. They would be alone and undisturbed. The wine made her head swirl as she felt herself speaking before considering the consequences. "Would you like to come in Marchwarden?"