32. The White City Calls
Chapter 32 The White City Calls
For weeks, Caladwen played that dream over and over in her mind. She decided she needed to do something to take her thoughts off Haldir. Besides, she had made it clear that she wanted nothing more than friendship from him. It was time to move on and she decided to get back into teaching. Minas Tirith was not far. She felt comfortable leaving Eowyn for short periods of time since Legolas moved into the palace. Although her mother was still quite sad for the loss of Faramir, she was making slow progress. Legolas agreed with Caladwen.
"You look as though you have not had a good night's rest in many weeks. I think it will be good for you to resume your teachings." he said to his daughter.
"I will not be far if you need me, only a few hours. I will come back when I can to see Mother. I think she needs you now more than ever. Her heart is broken. Is it not the ability of a Chosen One to heal?"
Legolas smiled. "Only if she wishes to be healed. She knows of my love for her. I would never abandon her. She needs only to ask and I will be there and do what I can to comfort her."
Caladwen reached up and kissed Legolas on the cheek. "I love you Ada."
Legolas tucked her braid behind her ear. "Go and do what makes you happy. Worry not for your mother. She will be fine."
As Caladwen made her way to Minas Tirith, she thought about Legolas' words. He was so devoted to Eowyn. She wished her own true love had felt the same. Haldir was nothing like that. He was stubborn and set in his ways.
When she realized she spent half of her journey to the White City thinking about what might have been with Haldir, she made up her mind to move on. Teaching was what she needed to focus on now. She thought about the people of Gondor and how they perceived the outside world. They had thought themselves to be superior to other kingdoms, especially Rohan. Having Aragorn as their king made some of them change their views and see others as equals. Still, there were those who thought of the Rohirrim as being uneducated oafs. This could never be farther from the truth and it was time to bring those people around. There were also some who did not trust the Elves and they needed to be educated on that subject also. It seemed Caladwen had her work cut out for her. There was no better time than right now to set things straight. With Eowyn still in mourning, she knew she was staying in Ithilien for a while. She heard her calling and it was Minas Tirith.
After meeting with the King and Queen about her ideas, she set up classes right away. Aragorn gave her the perfect place. The bottom floor could be set up in a classroom fashion while the upstairs made a perfect living space. There was a kitchen, dining room, living room and a cozy bedroom. It was perfect. While she set up shop, she pushed Haldir further into the back of her mind, though he was always there.
Classes were slow at first but soon word got around about the well-known Peredhil. Most had a great respect for her, being their own Queen was of the same background. The learning process was soon underway. She increased her teachings to three days a week to make smaller classes. The people had many questions, most about the Elves. Like Rohan, they thought them to be magical and dangerous. This helped her to tie the people of Gondor to those of the Rohirric. They had a lot in common and when they learned of Rohan's acceptance of the Elves, they thought they had better match their understanding.
As Caladwen was finishing up with one of her classes, a very handsome man approached her. He was tall and had dark brown shoulder length hair. His eyes were hazel and bright. His smile was warm and made him seem very confident. He was a Gondorian through and through, probably a son of many generations.
Caladwen pretended not to notice him as he approached her. "Lady Caladwen?" he said softly.
She looked up as if surprised by his voice. "Oh, yes. Is there something I can help you with?"
He smiled and she noticed how his face lit up. He was very attractive. "Actually yes there is. I have been attending your class for the past couple weeks and I have been trying to find the courage to approach you."
"You should never be afraid to approach your teacher. I would be glad to help you in any way I can. It is my job after all." she laughed.
His smile never faded even when he looked to the ground in embarrassment. "My question is not about your teachings. I understand that very well. As a matter of fact, I'm not sure why I'm here."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, pertaining to your teachings, I do not see myself as superior to others nor do I fear the fair folk." he said and his face blushed red.
Caladwen was curious why he was here. "Then what is it that you find you need my teachings, uh… I am sorry. I do not remember your name."
"My apologies my lady. My name is Bandorion." he said with a bow.
"You need not bow to me. I am only a teacher. I am related to no royalty here in the city."
"But you are of royal blood, my lady. With an Elven Prince as your father and the White Lady of Rohan as your mother, there is no mistaking your royalty." he began to bow again but she stopped him by grabbing his arm.
"Please Bandorion, I do not view myself as such and neither should you. Is this how others see me?" Now she was curious.
Bandorion laughed. "You are more well-known than you might think, Lady Caladwen. Many who believe in the tales of old know your story. One of the last of your kind, you are to bring peace and hope to the hearts of men." He spoke as if he knew the stories quite well.
Now it was Caladwen's turn to blush. "I wish you would not call me as such. I merely have a gift that I wish to share with others. However, I am quite sure that despite the stories, one who does not need my help does not attend my classes. Yet here you are, taking up a chair that might benefit one more needing of it. You still have not answered my question."
Bandorion was now quite embarrassed. "I'm sorry, Lady Caladwen. I did not mean to take up a moment of your precious time. If there is someone in need of your teachings, I will gladly give them my seat." He turned to leave the classroom.
"Bandorion." she said, stopping him in his tracks. "Perhaps you do not wish to share your reason for taking my class but I do have a problem that you might help me with."
He approached her again. "Anything my Lady. How may I help?"
"I have a student having a difficult time attending one of my classes because of the day. Being that you do not really need my teachings, could I persuade you to exchange days with her?"
Bandorion was afraid she was going to ask him not to come at all. "I would be more than willing to do so. You do not mind if I take up a seat?"
"I would never turn anyone away." Suddenly a thought occurred to her. "You say you already have an understanding of the other Men and races?"
"Yes my Lady. I come from a long line of women in my family who believe it is important to know and understand all races. There is no way for any of us to advance without such knowledge."
Caladwen smiled. "What is it you do in the city, Bandorion?"
"Right now I work as a blacksmith but it is not my dream. There was a time I wished to be a healer, but alas those days are beyond me now."
Caladwen raised an eyebrow. "So your interests lie in helping others?"
Bandorion thought about that for a moment. "I guess so, my Lady. I never thought of it quite like that before."
"You know, I am becoming very busy what with teaching three classes a week, three full classes. I could use an assistant, someone to help me plan my lessons and make sure I am keeping up with the interests of your people."
"Are you asking me to be your assistant?" he said surprised.
"Are you willing to give up the smithy?"
"Very much so."
"Then are we in agreement, Bandorion?" she smiled.
"When do I start, my Lady?" Today could not have been a better day for Bandorion.
"You can start now by referring to me by my given name. Caladwen will do."
Bandorion smiled sweetly. "Of course. Caladwen it is then."
"Now, if you have nowhere to be this moment, I would like to talk to you, ask you questions and find out what all you know. We could actually do this over dinner. Would you care to join me?"
"Absolutely, Caladwen." he paused a moment, looking at her. "That is a beautiful name… referring to the elvish word for light, is it not?"
"You are correct. It seems you may know more than I thought." she said with a laugh. "Come now Bandorion. I am famished." He held his arm out for her and they were off to the dining hall.
After a fine meal and much discussion about his knowledge, Caladwen felt confident that Bandorion would be a great help to her. They got along very well and they were comfortable in each other's company. She was surprised at just how much he knew and she wondered why he took her class.
"Can I walk you home?" he asked.
"I don't see the harm in that." she answered and took his arm. "Actually, you can take me back to my teaching building. I live upstairs."
"That is very convenient. You must have friends in high places." he said jokingly.
"I guess you could say that." Caladwen said smiling at the handsome man.
Bandorion walked her all the way to the door of her building. He released her arm and looked to the ground. "I want to thank you again for this unique opportunity, Caladwen. I look forward to helping you."
"I'm just glad you accepted. I was beginning to wonder how I was going to manage all of this. Three classes a week is a lot for one person. Minas Tirith is the largest city I have taught in."
He let himself gaze upon her for longer than he thought appropriate. "Well, goodnight."
"Goodnight." Caladwen opened her door and entered. Just before she shut it, she called to him. "Bandorion?"
He quickly turned. "Yes." he said hoping she would ask him to stay a moment longer.
"Do you think you can be here first thing in the morning? There are some things I would like to go over with you before the class starts."
"But I thought I wasn't supposed to start until the following class."
"Is that a problem for you?"
"Not at all Caladwen. I can be here as soon as you need me." he said surprised.
"I will see you tomorrow then. Goodnight."
~ ^ ~ ^ ~ ^ ~
The next day, Bandorion was knocking on her door just as he said he would. Caladwen opened the door and let him in. The first thing she noticed was how well groomed he was. Not a hair was out of place. His beard and mustache were neatly trimmed and he smelled fresh. She was glad to see he took pride in his appearance. That was important for any teacher.
"Shall we get started?" she asked, pulling a chair up to her desk.
"Let me." he said politely as he took the chair from her and placed it where she wanted it.
They started by going over the lessons for the day. He was very attentive and took his own notes. She had a few questions about some of the material, whether it was as important as she thought it was. Bandorion filled her in on what the people of Gondor understood as truth or fables. She adjusted her lessons accordingly. Soon they were finished and Caladwen felt they were well prepared for the day's lessons.
"Well, that should do it." Caladwen said looking up from her work. "Our first class will be here soon but there is just enough time for breakfast. Have you eaten yet?"
"I'm afraid I skipped breakfast as I was in a hurry to get here." he answered. She was already up and walking to a set of stairs.
"Good. Then I will test my skill out on you." she said. She took a few steps and stopped. Should she invite him upstairs or make him wait down here?
"Beg your pardon my lady?" He was not sure what she was referring to.
"I thought I'd make us breakfast since there's not much time. I will not be long, I hope. Cooking has never been my stronghold." Caladwen definitely took after Eowyn in that aspect.
"I'm sure whatever you make will be delicious." he answered with a smile.
Caladwen headed upstairs and began preparing a simple meal of eggs, bacon and bread. She felt awkward for having not asked Bandorion to join her. He was a very nice, respectful man and it had been a long time since she had anyone to talk to. Some company would be nice. Caladwen yelled down the stairs. "Bandorion, would you care to join me while I cook?"
"Oh, well, I'm not sure I should…"
"It's quite alright if you do not want to. I understand some people find it inappropriate to be in another's house, alone. I promise not to tell a soul. I just want a little conversation." As she spoke, she felt like a fool, begging him to join her. She let her words fade away, regretting asking him such a thing. Next thing she heard were footsteps coming up the stairs.
"Are you sure it is alright?" he asked. Caladwen thought he looked so young and innocent.
"Bandorion, we are colleagues now. If we want to share a meal together, we should be able to do so without discomfort. Please have a seat. The tea will be ready shortly." She smiled and got back to cooking. Unfortunately, the bacon had been cooking a little too long and it was starting to turn black and smoke. She quickly removed the pan and scraped what she could from it. Next, she added the eggs but the pan was too hot. She started mixing them around when the kettle of water for the tea began to boil. She ran over and grabbed the handle, forgetting to use a towel. She burnt her fingers and jumped back. The kettle fell from its hook into the smoldering fire. The smell of burning eggs wafted through the air and she ran back to the stove. It was too late. They were brown and inedible looking. Completely flustered, she sighed deep and sucked on her burnt fingers.
The whole time, Bandorion watched the scene unfold in front of him. There was nothing he could have done as everything went wrong at the same time. He laughed to himself. "You were not exaggerating about your cooking abilities."
Caladwen turned to him, an expression of failure written on her fair face. "I'm sorry. I should have known better than to even try." She stuck her fingers back into her mouth, trying to relieve the pain of the burn.
Bandorion thought she looked absolutely adorable standing there. He got up and walked to the other side of the table. "Let me have a look at that." he said reaching for her hand. He held it gently and looked at her injuries. The tips of three of her fingers were very red and already beginning to blister. His brow crinkled as he looked at the burns. "You did quite a number here but it's nothing a little elvish salve could not cure. Do you have any on hand?"
"Yes, in the bathroom. I'll get it."
"No, you sit down and let me get it. Might I find some bandages there also?"
"Right next to the salve."
"Just sit and relax and I'll get you all fixed up." Bandorion started down the hall but paused. "Which room is the bathroom?"
"Down the hall and on the left." she answered.
He came back with a small jar and the bandages, pulled a chair up to where she was sitting and took her hand again. Caladwen could not help but notice his rough hands. They were definitely the hands of a blacksmith. He opened the lid to the jar and dipped a piece of cloth into it. Then he carefully rubbed the salve onto her burns. She jerked her hand away when he first touched her. It was quite sore.
Bandorion noticed her reaction. "I'm sorry. I do not mean to hurt you, but it cannot be helped."
"Story of my life." she whispered under her breath.
Bandorion smiled. "We have all had our hardships."
"And what trouble have you seen in your young life?" she asked.
"I may seem young to you but I am older than you think, though not in the way of the Elves. I am of Numenorean descent, blessed with long life. Why? How old do you think I am?" he smiled.
Caladwen studied his features as he was busy wrapping her hand. "I'd say you look to be a man of about thirty years. Are you saying you are older than that?'
"Quite a bit older. I am almost fifty." He looked to see her expression of disbelief. "My father was one of the Dunedain Rangers."
"Then he must know your King, for Aragorn is from the same descent."
"Yes, he knew him. He traveled with him during the Ring War until which time they split off into their different paths. He did not go to Pelennor or Mordor during that time. He went with the other Rangers to fight against the enemy in different parts of the countryside."
"There are not many Rangers left. Why did you not follow in your father's footsteps?"
"It was not my calling. Besides, he left me in charge to help take care of my siblings. They are much younger than I am and were young children at that time. My mother was struck with illness and needed help. She could not work so it was my responsibility to provide for us all. As I said, I wished to become a healer but I did not have time to study. Therefore, I took a job with the blacksmith. It was steady work in a time of war. There was a never-ending need for weapons then. I was able to care for my mother, brother and sister."
Caladwen was intrigued by his story. "Does your family still reside in the city?"
"My brother does. Alas, he became a healer." Here he paused and laughed to himself. "Like I said, there was good money to be made as a blacksmith. It was his dream to become a healer. Who was I to prevent him from following his true course? My sister recently married. She now lives in Osgiliath. They are expecting their first child in a few months."
"And what of your parents?" she asked curiously.
"My father never returned from the war. He met his end in battle."
"Oh, I'm so sorry."
Bandorion smiled. "It is alright. He died doing what he loved. He was a warrior through and through. I am very proud of him."
"And your mother? Did she recover?" Caladwen could see the answer in his eyes.
"Alas, my mother was defeated by her illness. I had a hard time accepting her death. I kept thinking, 'If I'd only become a healer, maybe I could have saved her.'"
Caladwen thought of Haldir and the guilt he felt for his mother's fading. "I know someone who suffers from the same anguish."
"Did they lose someone close too?" Bandorion hoped to learn something about her.
"He lost his mother and blamed himself for many years. He still does." she said, her voice sounding very glum.
"Did she die in the war?" he asked.
"No, she died thousands of years earlier."
"You speak of the Elves then." Bandorion went on.
"Yes. His mother faded after the death of his father for that is the way of the Elves. But he never got over it. He always thought there was something more he could have done to make her stay. However, the bond was broken and she faded. It had nothing to do with their children."
As Caladwen spoke, he sensed something more between her and this Elf. "He is special to you. I can see it in your eyes. Why does he not reside here with you, in Minas Tirith?"
"He would have come if I had asked him. Things are so complicated. My Peredhil background plays a big part in all of this. Do you know about the half-elven, Bandorion?"
"I know very little. There is not much on the subject here in the city." he answered.
"Remind me to add that to the lessons." she laughed. "You see, I will one day be faced with the choice to become mortal and join the world of Men or live forever like the Elves and hopefully sail to Valinor one day."
"That is a big decision. When will that day come?"
"I do not know. Only the Valar know." She sighed and looked to the ground.
Bandorion could see the sadness in her eyes. "This Elf you speak of, he is afraid you will chose mortality?"
Caladwen thought about it. It was something she refused to admit, but Bandorion brought it to the surface with his question. Suddenly a flood of thoughts came to her mind. She thought about Legolas and how he chose to stay by Eowyn's side, even though she loved another. She thought about Leodred and how he loved her no matter what choice she would make. Then Faramir came to her mind and their last conversation they had. He was so sure Haldir would come around and let his love for her flow freely. Her eyes misted over as tears began to form. It was too much to think all at once. The grief she had held back for so long finally let loose and she was crying.
Bandorion felt the guilt for making her remember something she had obviously been trying to conceal. "I'm sorry. I should not pry."
Caladwen looked up at him, her blue eyes full of anguish. There was only one thing to do. Bandorion got up, walked to the other side of the table and wrapped his arms around her, letting her cry into his chest.
She let her soul search across the miles. She needed him but he was not here. Haldir was far away in Lothlorien. Besides, she had sent him away. She suddenly let the feel of Bandorion's embrace comfort her. It was not the same as Haldir, nothing ever could be, but it eased her sorrow just the same. She got a hold of herself and sat up, looking at Bandorion. "I do not mean to get so emotional. I have been through a lot lately and I have not had the chance to grieve."
Bandorion took her hand in his. "I did not mean to pry. If I caused you any discomfort…"
"You have helped me open up and face my sorrow for I have kept it buried too long. Thank you."
He looked at her, confused by her words. He had made her cry yet she was thankful. His heart raced as he gazed upon her beauty. What started out as admiration was blooming into something more serious. He was falling in love with her and he was falling hard. He studied her blue eyes, how they resembled the summer sky. Her creamy skin was so soft and smooth. Long wavy golden hair the color of wheat draped over her shoulders. He needed to touch her, feel her, and kiss her. Slowly, he reached for her, taking her chin in his fingers to tilt her face up to meet his. He looked into her eyes. There was something there, something ancient just waiting to be discovered. He leaned into her, caught in her gaze. Her lips looked so inviting. Just one kiss was all he wanted.
Caladwen was lost in the moment. The whirlwind of emotions made her loose herself as she leaned toward him. He was so kind and gentle, yet she had not known him long. He brought her comfort, something Haldir always ran from. Why was it not him, the Elf of her dreams, who was with her now? Her mind wandered again as she closed her eyes and thought of him, her golden warrior.
Their lips touched ever so lightly. It was everything Bandorion ever imagined it would be. She was sweet and soft. Her lips were inviting and he accepted them but as it was with all men, he needed more. The kiss became more demanding. She answered to him by parting her lips and allowing his tongue entrance. He let his hands travel to her hips, then up her back and finally resting behind her head. He had her where he wanted her.
Caladwen envisioned Haldir kissing her. She felt his love pouring from him and enter her soul. Between breaths, he whispered to her. 'I love you, Caladwen. I miss you.' Her mind went out to him as she answered him by deepening the kiss. Soon things began to feel awkward. Haldir had never kissed her so roughly. Her mind came back and she opened her eyes to Bandorion. What was she doing? She did not feel this way about him. She had thought it was Haldir. Her hands came up to his chest and pushed him away. He did not let go easily as he was still holding onto her. She pushed harder.
"Bandorion, no." she managed to say and pushed him with a strength she did not know she possessed. "I cannot do this."
He was trying to catch his breath. His own mind came back to him and he realized what had taken place. He looked at her, trying to recapture what they just lost but the moment passed. Caladwen looked away from him in embarrassment. He could see she was flustered and calmed himself as well. He did not want to lose her trust. She could be easily frightened away. It was obvious that something like that happened with her and the Elf. Bandorion would need to take a different approach with her. He hoped it wasn't too late and she was scared now. Why did he always have this affect on women? Why could he not take things slow and let it happen naturally? Why did he have to act out of desperation? "I am so sorry. I did not mean you any disrespect. Please forgive me." he pleaded.
Caladwen got up and straightened her dress. "It was my fault just the same. I let my mind wander. I did not mean to give you the wrong idea. Bandorion, you are very sweet but I cannot do this. We hardly know each other and if you are to work for me this can never happen again."
Bandorion felt like the wind was knocked out of him. He could see she still loved this other one she spoke of. This just would not do. If she were to fall in love with him, he would need to help her forget the Elf but he had to be careful. This one was a challenge. He smiled to himself internally. He was always up for a challenge. "I understand and again I apologize."
"Let's just forget about it. We have a class to teach shortly." she said and smiled. He smiled back and she knew everything would be alright.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Meanwhile, somewhere at the northern borders of Lorien, Haldir had a feeling wash over him. His body warmed as he felt some kind of invasion. His eyes closed and he concentrated on the feeling. It was Caladwen. She was reaching out to him. He could feel her love again. His lips warmed and it was as if she was kissing him. Haldir let his mind reach out to her. 'I love you, Caladwen. I miss you.' he whispered in his mind and then the connection was gone. Was she dreaming of him, calling out to him, needing him again? The moment passed as one of his captains called to him. Maybe tonight he would try to reach her again, through their dreams.
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.