36. In Dark Places
Chapter 36 In Dark Places
Haldir went upstairs to Caladwen's residence. Nothing seemed out of place, which told him the intruder never made it up here. He went to the kitchen and found a cup of tea sitting on the table. Obviously, she had been sitting here before she disappeared. He went into the living area. Everything was arranged neatly. There was no sign of a struggle here at all. Finally, he made his way to her bedroom. The bed was still made, so she had not been woken up. The night must have still been young. He remembered the feeling he got on his way to the city. For a moment, fear filled his soul. Was this the moment she was abducted? It was early evening, right as the sun was setting. At that time of day, the streets would be fairly empty.
Haldir decided to try to reach out to her. He sat on the edge of her bed and picked up her robe, which was lying neatly next to him. The soft silky material felt good in his hand. He brought it up to his face and breathed deep. He had not smelled her scent in a very long time. He remembered it well. Closing his eyes, Haldir brought the garment to his chest, holding it close to his heart.
'I should have been closer to her. I could have stayed close enough to watch over her without getting in her way. Instead, I chose to ignore her when she asked for my help. Now she is in danger.' Haldir let his mind wander further while his soul opened up to her, wherever she was. 'Caladwen, please hear me. I must find you, if not for me, for those who love you most. Legolas, Eowyn, Elboron, they all need you. Call to me Caladwen. Feel my soul. Tell me where you are so that I can help you.'
His surroundings seemed to disappear. He was no longer in her room. There were different smells in the air. It was dark, dank and musty. He could hear water dripping and echoing. Was it a cave of some sort? He could not be sure. Haldir opened to her further. 'Caladwen, can you hear my thoughts? Please talk to me. Reach for me. I will not turn away, I promise.'
He felt himself wander deeper into this awful place when he saw movement in the shadows. Moving closer, he found Caladwen sitting on the floor of this horrid prison. Her knees were pulled to her chest and her hands were tied behind her back. Her head leaned on the wall and she would not turn to look at Haldir.
'Caladwen, I sense your presence. You must not be far but I do not know where this place is. Are you in a cave outside the city? Who is holding you captive? Are you hurt? Help me to find you and bring you to safety.'
She was silent and unmoving. Haldir began to worry even more. He was about to plead for help again when she finally answered him. 'You did not answer me. Why should I answer you?'
Her cold and unemotional voice was like a knife in his heart. It was as if she gave up any hope of ever being found. What had this monster done to her? Could the Marchwarden ever forgive himself for ignoring her calls? 'I'll admit I have been an utter fool lately. I have not fulfilled my oath to you and for that, I am sorry, but you must not shut me out now. You are in trouble and I need to find you.'
Caladwen was silent for a long while and Haldir began to worry about her condition. Just when he was about to ask again, she spoke. 'You would choose to lie with another instead of hearing my pleas. I should be full of rage, but I am not. I let you go. I told you I did not trust you. I sent you on your way. You were free to be with whomever you chose.' She paused a moment before she spoke again, this time reliving her nightmare. 'I tried to fight him off but he was ready for me. He knew my strengths and my skills.'
'I saw the remnants of the struggle. Did you injure him?' Haldir asked.
'I grabbed my bow when I heard someone downstairs. It was dark but I managed to injure his side. It did not lessen his strength. It only angered him.'
Haldir did not like what he heard and he did not want to know the answer to this next question. 'Has he injured you in any way?'
Again, there was silence and Haldir knew something had happened. Still reaching out with his mind and soul, he asked again. 'Caladwen, what has he done to you?'
He could hear her sobbing and his heart ached. If only he could take her in his arms and comfort her. 'Has he… touched you?'
'He weakens me so I cannot fight back. I have felt the back of his hand many times. He gives me only a little water but no food. His words are of harm and other disgusting acts I cannot repeat.' At this point, she began crying again. 'I don't know where I am for I was unconscious when he brought me here. It is dark and wet. I do not think it is a cave. The walls seem to have been carved from stone. He could not have taken me far with his injury. Look beneath the city, Haldir. Please find me. I fear what he has in mind for me.' She was silent again.
Feeling his own guilt rise in his chest, Haldir spoke again. 'Caladwen, I know an apology is not enough for you to forgive the things I have done lately. I just…'
Caladwen suddenly cut him off. 'He is coming and I do not have much time. Bandorion… that is his name. I must go. Please hurry, Haldir.'
'Caladwen, wait. Help me find you.' he cried but she was gone. He wanted to keep the connection so he could get to her. She had said to look under the city. It seemed the wound she gave him prevented him from leaving. Slowly, the dark stone walls disappeared and were replaced with the softness of Caladwen's bedroom. He opened his eyes and found he was not alone. Legolas, Aragorn and Gimli stood next to the bed, waiting for the Marchwarden to come to.
"What have you learned?" Legolas said sternly. Anger was still evident in his voice. Haldir figured it was the reason the other two were with him.
Haldir sat up and looked at their worried faces. "I believe she is still in the city. She wounded him enough that he could not get her past the gates without raising suspicions." He proceeded to explain the place she was in.
"She may be in the underground tunnels." Aragorn said. "We will start there."
Gimli laid a hand on Haldir's arm. "Don't you worry, laddie. We will find her now that we know where to look."
The three companions turned to leave Haldir alone a moment while he recovered from his trance. However, Legolas stopped and took a few steps back, now that the others left the room. Haldir was still weak from the soul searching and could not stand as he wanted to. Legolas stood over him, looking down upon him with dark eyes full of sadness and anger. "Thank you." he said in a forced tone.
Haldir was expecting another warning from the Prince and was surprised by his response. He did not answer Legolas, only nodded his head. He had used a lot of energy to contact Caladwen and his mind was still blurred. Soon he was strong enough and left Caladwen's home to gather his weapons and join in the search.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Caladwen waited for Bandorion to approach her. She had managed to speak with Haldir and tell him where to look for her. She hoped she was correct with her assumptions. Bandorion was injured enough that he was in pain. This did not play out well for her. He was angry and beat her. Her eyes were swollen shut and her ribs hurt from where he kicked her. She was frightened by what he might do next.
"Two days and still no one looks for you." he said to discourage her. "I thought for sure your father would have sent out an army by now. The city streets are quiet. Perhaps no one knows you are missing."
"They will know when I am not there to teach my classes. King Elessar may go easy on you if you turn yourself in. There is still a chance to do the right thing." Caladwen tried convincing him. He only laughed and ignored her pleas.
"Foolish girl, by the time they find you I will be long gone. We should not be here to begin with, but your aim was quite accurate."
"If that were true, you'd be dead." she said under her breath.
Bandorion came closer and squatted down to where she was sitting on the floor. Her hands were tied behind her back and she was vulnerable. He touched her leg, letting his hand travel to her knee and inner thigh. "Tell me, did the Elf sample this most precious gift to mankind? Or do you not favor their fair skin? Perhaps you are more accustomed to the smell of Man. After all, you were married to one. Which do you prefer?"
"I will speak of no such thing to you. You disgust me." she spat.
"Maybe I should refresh your memory of what it is like to be with a man." As he spoke, his hand went up the inside of her thigh.
Caladwen began to panic. "You would not." she sobbed.
"What are you afraid of? I know for a fact you have not chosen yet. If I were to take you, you would not fade as an Elf forced to perform against her will. Surely you have not given your heart to anyone." He was fishing for information and her expression gave him something to work with. "You have committed yourself to this Elf haven't you? Yet he is nowhere to be found. Maybe he still roles on the filthy ground with that whore."
Caladwen began crying and tried to block out Bandorion's cruel words. "He did not betray me as you have said. I released him from his oath."
Bandorion smiled an evil smile. "Still, it must hurt to know the Elf lies down with another. I see you have come to accept what I have told you as the truth." He grabbed her chin, forcing her to look him in the eyes. "You are not bound to him, but there is something there. He still loves you doesn't he? Maybe he will fade if he learns you have been soiled by another." Then he pushed her head away. "Maybe you should have included that in one of your classes."
Caladwen gathered herself for the moment. She needed to make him change his mind about hurting her and force compassion upon him. "Please don't hurt me, Bandorion. What happened to the kind young man who was almost too shy to speak to me? I know there is some good left in you."
Bandorion laughed. "I was very convincing wasn't I? Even fooled myself a little. No Caladwen, it was just an act. I know your type, always helping those less fortunate than yourself. I knew it was the quickest way to become your friend. I had hoped you would come to realize my feelings for you were genuine. But it seems you have given your love to a Firstborn." Bandorion took his hand off her thigh and grabbed her chin roughly. She winced at the pain she felt from his touch for her jaw was sore from where he slapped her earlier. He leaned in and captured her lips, forcing her mouth open to accept his tongue. She resisted and managed to bite down on his bottom lip. He jumped back and felt his mouth. When he saw blood on his fingers, his eyes grew dark with rage. He raised his hand and slapped her across the face. She groaned in pain and kept her head down, bracing for another hit but none came.
"You may have everyone else fooled but I see you for what you are. You are nothing more than a mutt, born to a woman and an Elf. You walk in neither world. You do not belong to either race. Yet you spew forth your 'knowledge' and make us see things your way. The world would be fine without you. They say you are a gift to mankind but they are fooled. You are nothing." He got up and kicked her leg. "And if you ever try that again, I will slice off your pretty little ears."
Caladwen listened as his footsteps faded away. When she was sure he was gone, she reached out with her mind. 'Haldir, please come soon. Bandorion is becoming more and more irrational and I am afraid of what he might do. Haldir, can you hear me?' She waited for his response, afraid she could not reach him again. Suddenly, she heard his voice loud and clear.
'You must do what you can to protect yourself. We are looking for you. Aragorn has sent guards to search all levels.' He paused a moment. 'Caladwen, your ada is in the city. He is very determined to find you. I have never seen him so worried, though he does not show it easily.'
'Please tell him I love him very much and I'm sorry I put him in this position.' she sobbed.
'You have done nothing wrong. I am the one who should be held responsible. Your ada is right. Maybe I do not deserve the title of Guardian. I let this happen to you. Caladwen, I am so sorry.' Haldir spoke with such honesty as she had not heard before.
She could not take it any more. The tears streamed down her face and she found she could not speak, even with her mind. Finally, she broke the silence. 'We are both at fault. Do not let my father's anger discourage you. There is no one else I trust more to be my Guardian. It was you who helped me heal after Leodred's death. It was you who saved me when I was shot by the Corsairs. You may not be there every minute but you are there when I need you most. I trust in the Valar and I know you will find me now. I will do as you ask and try to hold Bandorion off until you arrive. Come to me maethoren valthen [my golden warrior].'
This latest conversation took place while Haldir was strategizing with Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli. They had been going over maps of the tunnel systems of Minas Tirith when Haldir sat down on the floor, closed his eyes and remained silent. They knew he was speaking to Caladwen. Afterwards, Haldir was drained of his energy and needed a moment to recover. The others waited until he was able to speak.
"Have you spoken to her? Does she give you any new information on her whereabouts?" Aragorn asked.
Haldir could feel their anxiety, mostly Legolas. He could not tell him that she was practically blind from the beatings. "She is still unsure of where she is; only that she is in a tunnel of some sort. She most definitely has not left the city. We have no time to spare. The sooner we find her the better. I say we all split up and take guards with us. There is a lot of ground to cover being there are tunnels on each level."
Legolas helped Haldir to stand. "I will stay with Haldir. If anyone can find her it is him and I want to be there if he does."
Aragorn did not like having both Elves together. They were the most sensitive to Caladwen and he thought they should each take a separate level. However, Legolas was determined to find her and Haldir definitely had the best connection to her. "Very well. Gimli and I will split up. My captains will take their own troops. Now we just need to figure who is going to what level."
They devised their plan on how to capture this fiend. They would chase him out like a rat if need be. Aragorn's men would start on the upper levels but he felt it was unlikely they would find him there. Gimli took his group of guards and left with weapons in hand. Aragorn did the same. Before he left, he had a word with Legolas.
"You know I would rather split you and Haldir up. If anyone can find Caladwen it is an Elf." he said, worry in his voice.
"Or a Ranger." Legolas reminded him. "I have to go with the Marchwarden. He speaks to her and I must know how she is. If anything happens to her… if she…" Legolas could say no more. The pain was too great to think about her life coming to an end.
Aragorn put his hand on Legolas' arm. "Go where you must then. I will not keep you from following your heart. Remember, he loves her too and is in just as much pain as you."
Legolas nodded, strapped his bow and quiver to his back then went to where Haldir was waiting. "Let's go." he said to the tall Lorien Elf.
"We will find her." Haldir stated simply and they left, headed for the tunnels of the lowest level.