Chapter 35 Missing
Caladwen reached out to Haldir time and time again that night but she could not make contact. He was blocking her. She did not blame him. It had been almost a year since they last saw each other or even spoke. They did not leave on the best of terms. She let it be known that she did not trust him to come to her aid should she need him. Her worst fear was coming true. Haldir seemed to reject her. Now, Bandorion was stalking her, watching her every move. It was not good to feel vulnerable. Although she was trained in swordplay and archery, she wasn't sure this could help her if he caught her off guard. Besides, people of the city did not walk around carrying their weapons. Maybe it was time to take Arwen up on her offer and have guards outside her residence. As she thought about this, she saw it as a sign of weakness. She should be able to protect herself. No man was going to scare her into thinking she could not defend herself. Her weapons, which hung on the wall as decoration, were set close where she could retrieve them if need be.
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Meanwhile, in Lothlorien Haldir had just left Bellethiel's talan. He could think better without the she-elf around. The pathways were clear and Haldir was making his way back to his own city flet. There was a sudden pulling at his soul and he blocked it as he always did. This ritual was beginning to wear him down. Never had he felt the draw of sleep so intently. He stopped for a moment to look out across the mallorn trees. Haldir was thinking about Caladwen's pleas. She had said herself that she did not need him anymore. Why did she not turn to the man he saw in his vision? When she was married to Leodred, she did not call on him. He thought this was the way things were meant to be. He was content, safe from the outside world, far from Caladwen and her ever-calling soul. Yet he could not be rid of the urge in his heart. She had made her mark there and he would always feel her love.
"Why do you not answer her?" said a soft low voice from behind him. Haldir knew whom it was and did not turn around.
"She made it clear that she does not need my help any more. She needed her space and I have given it to her." Haldir said sternly.
Lord Celeborn put a gentle hand on the Marchwarden's shoulder. "Had you been listening, you would have noticed her change of heart. This is not like you, Haldir, to ignore the one you swore an oath to."
Haldir remembered the argument he had with Caladwen. "She freed me of that oath. I am merely regarding her wishes." he said, even though he knew it was his decision to turn from an oath, not hers.
Celeborn could see Haldir was not about to budge on the subject. He recently had a vision of a more serious nature referring to Caladwen though he knew not what it was. He somehow needed to convince Haldir to go to her, make sure she was alright. "I do not think it is wise to ignore her calls this time Marchwarden. I have felt something, a darkness surrounding her. I fear some harm may come to her." At this point, his voice became a little bitterer. "You might have known that had you been listening and not satisfying your own cravings." As he said this last part, he glanced back in the direction Haldir just came from.
Haldir turned and dared to glare at his lord. "My personal life is of no concern to anyone."
Celeborn ignored his outburst. "Rumil has felt it too. You must go at once. If you do not go willingly, I will use my ranking and order you to go." It was not often that Celeborn had to order someone to do his biding and when he did, it always seemed to be directed at Haldir. He let his voice soften a bit. "Please do not let these past disturbances affect your responses. Go to her Haldir and next time, listen to her calls. I believe she needs you this time. I fear for her. Please do this for you are her Guardian. No one else can do this."
Haldir heard the seriousness and concern in Celeborn's tone. He was silent for a moment, not wanting to give in so easily. After all, he took pride in his stubbornness. He turned his attention back to the vastness of the city in the trees. "I will leave on the morrow, my lord. You need not make it an order for I go willingly."
Celeborn finally let go of the breath he was holding. "Thank you Marchwarden." It was all he needed to say and he left Haldir alone to ponder his thoughts and hopefully listen for Caladwen's pleas.
The next day, Haldir went to Orophin and Rumil. He told him he was journeying to Minas Tirith. He did not explain the reason, only saying he was checking on their progress. His brothers smiled inwardly, knowing he was going to see Caladwen. There was no other reason for him to go all the way to the White City. They were given their orders and put in command of the Guard. Orophin reassured Haldir that all would be well in his absence.
"Tell her we send our regards." Rumil yelled to Haldir just before he turned a corner. Rumil smiled and laughed to himself.
"You will pay for that upon Haldir's return, you know." Orophin warned.
"I know. I have become quite accustomed to protecting the compost heap." Rumil said lightheartedly.
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Haldir could travel in half the time by himself and was only a day away from Minas Tirith. He was considering stopping first in Ithilien to check on the well-being of Eowyn when an overwhelming feel of urgency hit him. He slowed his horse to a halt and jumped down, making contact with the earth. Closing his eyes, Haldir listened to the wind for any changes. Nothing. He was about to jump back onto his horse when he felt it again. This time it nearly knocked him over. Something was happening, something bad. For the first time in a long time, he lowered his shield and let his soul reach out to find Caladwen. All was silent but his heart ached. He did not like being in the dark. Celeborn's words came back to haunt him about a darkness surrounding her. Haldir did not like what he was feeling at the moment. He could sense her soul but everything was black. He leapt back upon his horse and urged her to ride as quickly as she could.
He arrived at the city gates the next day, met by the guards. It was as if they were expecting him, and they were. "The King awaits your arrival, Marchwarden."
"What is this about?" Haldir barked.
"We were told to have you meet with King Elessar. He will explain." answered one of the guards.
Haldir did not like their response but had no choice but to find Aragorn. He was on the forth level of the city when two more guards stopped him. Haldir's anger was rising. "I have been summoned to the King." he said, not wanting to stop and explain.
"You need not go any further. The King is here." said a guard and led Haldir to one of the buildings.
Haldir jumped down from his horse and approached the doorway. His heart sunk in his chest when he entered. It was a classroom. He knew right away whose it was. 'Caladwen,' his soul called out but there was no answer. Looking to his left, he saw the Dwarf Gimli, his face very glum. Haldir's eyes drifted up and came upon two arrows protruding from the wall. A third arrow lay broken on the floor, blood on its tip. Some chairs were overturned. There had been a struggle of some sort.
"Haldir of Lorien, I had hoped you would arrive soon." Haldir turned to see Aragorn coming up behind him.
"What is the meaning of this? What has happened here?" Haldir said urgently.
"This is Caladwen's classroom. She resides upstairs." Aragorn paused, trying to find a way to tell Haldir what happened. "There is no easy way to say this… She has been taken, my friend." he whispered.
Haldir felt the life rush out of him. "Taken? By who?"
"We are not certain but we believe it to be a man named Bandorion. She befriended him not long after she settled here. It seems there was a misunderstanding and she turned him away. It was recently called to my attention that this man was following her, harassing her."
"Were there no guards posted at her door?" Haldir interrupted.
"The Queen suggested such but Caladwen cared more about her student's reaction rather than her own safety. From the looks of things, she tried to hold off her offender. These are her arrows and I am assuming that is his blood on the tip." Aragorn said pointing to the arrows Haldir saw upon his arrival.
"Are there any witnesses?" Haldir asked.
"There was a couple that came forward. They saw Bandorion at her door a few weeks back. They said they saw nothing out of the ordinary. To them it looked like they were saying goodnight to each other. When they heard of Caladwen's disappearance, they remembered the man at her door. He was the same one Caladwen released from his duty as her assistant. We feel very strongly that this is the same man who took her."
"Has this man been found yet?" Haldir went on.
"There has been no sign of him within the city." Aragorn laid a hand on Haldir. "I know you share a special connection with Caladwen. Can you reach out to her, find out where she has been taken to?"
Haldir thought about all the times she called out to him and he ignored her. What if she was calling for help? Was this the man he saw in his vision, the one he thought she cared for? Haldir was her Guardian but he let his arrogance get in the way. All those nights he found release in someone else's bed, had she been calling for him? He just ignored her. Why did he let thing go so far?
"Haldir, what say you?" Aragorn questioned again when Haldir did not answer. "Can you mentally find her?"
Haldir was brought back to the moment. "I will try but it may not work. We have not seen or spoken to each other in a very long time."
In the meantime, Legolas came running into the room. As soon as he saw Haldir, anger filled his blue eyes. "You were supposed to protect her!" he yelled. No one had ever seen Legolas in such a state of rage. He lunged at Haldir but Aragorn and Gimli each grabbed an arm, holding him back.
Haldir hung his head, feeling worthy of the hate Legolas held for him. "I am sorry Prince Legolas. I came as soon as I was warned of the eminent danger."
"You had to be warned? You should have known before anyone that she might have been in danger. You swore an oath to her. Now she is missing. My daughter is out there somewhere living some nightmare and you had to be told to come to Gondor." Legolas lunged again but Aragorn and Gimli still had a hold of him.
Gimli finally spoke. "Now my dear Legolas, I completely understand your outburst and would like to strangle the Marchwarden myself." Here, Gimli shot the Lorien Elf a nasty look. "But anger is not the answer at the moment. Your daughter is out there somewhere, frightened and alone. Haldir has a better connection with her than all of us put together. He may still be able to help locate Caladwen but he cannot do that if you should to send him to an early grave."
The only thing that calmed Legolas was hearing Gimli speak his given name, something he only did when he was being sincere. The enraged Elf looked down at his longtime friend and calmed himself.
Aragorn patted the side of Legolas' face and gained his attention. "You must calm yourself, my friend. What about Eowyn? Does she know what has happened here?"
"Eowyn is still in an unstable state over the loss of Faramir. To know something has happened to Caladwen could push her over the edge. I left very strict instructions to keep her sequestered for now, at least until we have more information. Only then will I tell her. Hopefully by then, Caladwen will be there to tell her side of the story."
Haldir stayed silent and watched Legolas as his life force seemed to dwindle a bit. It was then that Haldir realized there was more at stake than Caladwen's safe return. There were many more that would be affected if something happened to her. Legolas would fade and in turn so would Thranduil. Eowyn may never recover from the grief of losing her husband and daughter. He had never thought about this before. When he turned from Caladwen, he was turning from many people and the future of Mankind.
He watched as Aragorn and Gimli led Legolas from the room. "I will find her." he yelled to the Prince. "I will find her or die trying." Legolas ignored Haldir and left with his friends supporting him.