5. No More Games
Chapter 5 No More Games
A few months passed and Haldir fell into a comfortable role. He set aside time everyday to teach Caladwen about Lothlorien. He taught her about the Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn, about their family history and the similarities Caladwen shared with Arwen. He thought she should spend more time getting to know the Queen of Gondor, being that they were both Peredhil. Caladwen was quite an eager student and a quick learner. He enjoyed the time they spent together. He was very at ease with her and able to be himself. Because of this, he made sure their lessons took place somewhere away from prying eyes. Caladwen understood this and made sure they picked just the right spot. She liked being around Haldir. He was patient and kind with her. He did not judge nor did he give her unneeded advice. He listened to her problems without interrupting.
"Your father does not think too kindly of this young man, Leodred. I know Prince Legolas and he is a very good judge of character." Haldir said as they were discussing her involvement with the Rohirrim.
"He worries that I will forget my elven background and choose to bind to him before my Deciding Day." she answered.
"And do you know what you speak of? Has anyone ever really discussed an elvish binding with you before?"
"Mother spoke lightly of it but she only knows a little. Ada says I am too young yet to worry about it but how am I supposed to know what it is about if no one will explain it to me?" she said flustered.
Haldir was beginning to regret his choice to open up these lines of questioning. Wasn't it the parents' responsibility to teach the facts of binding? "Caladwen, I'm not sure I am the one you should be asking about such a thing. Your father should be…"
"He will not speak to me about it saying that I am too young and to know such a thing will only spark my curiosity. He wasn't told about it until he reached his maturity but I can't wait that long. I am not like him. I am not even an Elf. I'm only half-elven growing up in the world of men. Two of my friends have recently married and one of them is starting her family already. Surely they have been taught the ways of the heart." At this, Caladwen began to cry. "Sometimes I don't know where I belong, Haldir. When I have questions, I am told I'm too young yet. My human side wants to know so I can prepare for what life has to offer. My elven side wants to stay lost amongst the trees and hear their whispers, begging me to play under their branches so that they can remain young like me, a mere child." She put her face in her hands and sobbed.
Haldir held her in his arms and tried to comfort her. "Your father wants the best life possible for you. He wants you to be prepared when your Deciding Day arrives. It will be the most important day of your life, Caladwen. But it must be your decision and yours alone, with no influence from anyone. Should you choose your elven blood, you will live eternally and one day sail to Valinor. If you choose your human blood, you will begin your aging process that day and grow old in the world of men. I can only imagine how difficult this is for you and as long as you have not chosen, you may feel like you are between worlds. Such a thing should not be rushed though. No one knows for sure what lies in their future. My dear, you are only eighteen and have a long life ahead of you, even in human terms."
As Haldir and Caladwen spoke, they were unaware that someone happened upon them by accident. Nieriel was out for a walk that morning and heard sobs coming from behind a close-knitted group of trees. She stopped to listen to whoever was in distress and that was when she heard a familiar silky voice. Very quietly, she climbed up into one of the trees and looked down onto a small glade where she found Haldir and Caladwen sitting together. So this is where he's been hiding himself she thought. Most of the day, Nieriel could just glance around her and see the Elf somewhere within her sight. But for a few hours every morning, he was nowhere to be found and she wondered what he might be up to. Haldir had been on his best behavior lately and she knew it was just a matter of time before he was up to his old tricks. It seemed the Marchwarden was doing something productive with his time. She listened closely to see just what he was teaching the young Caladwen.
"I have not seen Leodred for some time now and I know the day comes soon when he will enter the city of Ithilien. When he does, he will ask for my hand in marriage." Caladwen went on. "I love him, Haldir, and I want to marry him but not if it means I must bind to him. I am not ready to make that kind of a decision."
"You would marry him under the laws of man. This is not the way of the Elves and therefore it would not be considered a binding. You see, when an Elf commits it's not with trinkets and signed papers. We care not for such material things." Haldir took Caladwen's hands in his. "We join our souls for there is nothing we value more and to entrust someone with such a precious gift is to forever be bound mind, body and soul. Papers can be burned; rings can be traded but your soul, your very life force…" Haldir smiled. "That can only be given once."
Caladwen's heart warmed to hear Haldir speak of something so intimate with such passion. "Have you ever loved, Haldir?" she whispered.
"My dear, there is only one that holds my heart and that it Caras Galadhon. When I swore to protect it, I gave my heart and soul to the Lady's beautiful forest." he said with such affection that Caladwen had never seen from him before.
"And now you protect me. Why?" she asked. It was something she never understood.
"You are the last to be born in Lorien. You are a part of my land and therefore I felt the need to protect you as well. I never gave it a second thought. It just seemed like my chosen path. You are very special, Caladwen. They say you bring hope to Men but I feel it is the Elves who will prosper. You will one day give a part of yourself to mankind and because of this, the goodness of the Elves will dwell in their hearts for generations to come. This is why Legolas worries for you but I think you will make the right choices."
Nieriel listened to his words. Had she not heard it with her own ears, she never would have believed such a thing could pass his lips. He was very sincere in his meaning and now she understood why Haldir acted the way he did. He loved his home and that was safe. To love someone would mean to give up his soul and entrust it to another and that scared him. Why would someone as enduring and confident as Haldir be afraid of love?
"Now I'm not sure what I should do." Caladwen said after Haldir was finished speaking. "I love Leodred with my heart. Now that you explained the true meaning of a binding, I'm not sure I am ready for such a thing."
"You should take it day by day and do not rush your feelings. Friendship is very important in a relationship. From there, love can blossom into so much more. Make sure he is the one." Haldir smiled and Nieriel's heart melted. She had never seen his smile, his true smile. Why couldn't he be this way with her? This was the Elf that made her heart pound, the kind, understanding, sympathetic Haldir. When he was alone with Nieriel he was lustful, demanding, desirable. She liked that too but she needed more from him and seeing how he was with Caladwen proved what she had witnessed so far was merely an act.
"Well, I for one am anxious to meet this young man." Haldir said as he stood up and Nieriel saw it was time to leave before she was discovered. She quietly leapt down from the tree and returned back the way she came.
"Then you should not have to wait much longer. I have been counting the days and I believe he will be here near the end of the week, if my numbers are correct." Caladwen stood before Haldir and smiled at him. "Thank you for talking to me about this. I feel much better now." she said and embraced him in a hug. He loosely put his arms around her and allowed himself a brief and very rare moment of closeness. Caladwen released him and then reached up and kissed him softly on his cheek. Haldir felt something spark within his heart as he felt her soft lips on his skin. What was this new found feeling? Caladwen felt the same unexpected pleasure and her lips lingered longer then she intended. His skin was so warm and smooth. She slowly leaned away from him only to look into his beautiful silver-grey eyes. Haldir was looking back at her with the same questioning stare. Her heartbeat quickened as she was unable to turn from him. The moment lasted a little too long for what Haldir thought was appropriate and he quickly looked to the sky, checking the position of the sun.
"It seems our lessons are done for the day." he said trying to ignore this feeling he just experienced. It was not working as he could still feel a tingle where her lips had touched him. "Shall we be on our way then?" he said shakily.
Caladwen seemed to have lost her voice and could not answer him right away. "Haldir?" she managed to whisper. She wondered if he had felt the same thing.
He couldn't discuss this at the moment. He needed time to think about what had happened and why. He let the ice freeze back over his heart and stood tall and rigid once again.
"We should go." he said without emotion and Caladwen felt the separation from him. He offered her his arm but this time she refused, afraid of what she would feel if she touched him again. "I can walk without assistance." she said with sadness in her voice, hoping he did not notice a change in her behavior. 'Elf magic, Cal. It was just Elf magic.' she told herself.
Later, Caladwen sat in her room and thought about the moment with Haldir. She had never thought of him as anything but a teacher and a family friend. Sure, she noticed how radiant he was when she saw him after his arrival. She also noticed his strong arms and his mesmerizing lustrous eyes but thought it was just magic. Whatever she experienced in the woods had been something much different. It made her heart quicken its pace and her stomach flutter. Perhaps it was the allure of Lothlorien she thought. Caladwen was far from being naïve and had heard stories of the Galadhrim and their hold on elf-maidens, how they captured them with no more than a look or a brush of a hand. Once or twice she had let her mind wander and imagined what it would be like to be held captive by one. Of course, in her mind it was Rumil or Orophin, Haldir's brothers, which she thought of. Even that had been no more than a passing thought. She was a little older now and such things entered her mind more easily and more often but it was Leodred she saw when she closed her eyes. Then she wondered; had she ever felt that spark of life when she thought of him?
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Haldir managed to make himself scarce the rest of the day. He couldn't help but wonder what he and Caladwen exchanged that morning in the woods. Never had he felt something like that with anyone else, let alone someone so young. It was inappropriate to say the least. Yet it had happened and now he could not stop his mind from wandering back to the same situation. He decided to take a walk and stroll through Eowyn's garden. It was time to clear his head.
"Good afternoon, Marchwarden." came a sultry voice from inside the gate to the garden. Haldir looked up and found Nieriel standing there.
"Hello, my lady." he answered. Instantly, she noticed is lack of enthusiasm. "Care to join me?"
"Well, I was just leaving." she said trying to be difficult as Haldir walked past her. He did not even stop to wait for her. "But another stroll through the garden never hurt anyone." she said catching up to him. "Haldir, is there something on your mind? You seem to be many leagues from here. What ails you?"
Haldir hadn't realized he was acting any different than normal but this was Nieriel. He was always very attentive when she was near. He pushed his current thoughts from his head and smiled to the dark haired Elf. "It is nothing. I am glad for your company."
"It is a lovely day is it not? This is my favorite time of year. Everything is in full bloom, the trees are green and the sun is warm. What could be more wonderful?" she said as if lost in her own thoughts.
Haldir forgot about his current problem as he watched Nieriel close her eyes and breathe deep, taking in the summer air. 'She is so beautiful' he thought to himself. This made him think of the conversation earlier with Caladwen and the meaning of binding. This one would not play his game. She wanted something more. He knew she had probably walked the earth about as long as he had and would not be here much longer. It was something to think about now that the Elves were sailing more and more. He could give Nieriel no more than some earthly pleasures for he would not sail before Lord Celeborn.
When she came back to her senses, she went to Haldir's side. She wanted to wrap her arms around him and persuade the kinder Haldir to come forth, the one she witnessed in the glade. He was not even behaving like the lusty Haldir and she wondered why he seemed to have changed.
"It has been a very beautiful day indeed." Haldir said as he looked at Nieriel from the corner of his eye. Why was she here, alone with him in the garden? "Have you no duties to attend to?"
"Not at the moment. When things are quiet, I like to come down here to the garden. And what about you? What brings you here? Is there not some poor elleth in need of the attentions of the Guardian of the Golden Wood?"
Haldir was surprised at her playful comment. Maybe she would play his game after all. "It would seem I may have found a better companion." He stopped himself from saying anything more that would chase her away. He wanted her here. She diverted his thoughts from earlier and was thankful for the distraction. "So, Nieriel, which is your favorite in the garden?"
She walked over to a patch of ground covering flowers. "Simbelmyne is such a delicate flower, dainty and sweet." She picked one of the white flowers and handed it to Haldir. Then she walked to a plant with yellow bell shaped flowers and gently held it in her fingers. "My favorite would be this one, mallos. It is the Prince's most prized plant in the garden."
Haldir watched as her long fingers delicately caressed the flower and longed for her touch. Still, he was not sure how far she was willing to take things. "Mallos. That is a very bold choice."
"And being alone in the garden with the Marchwarden in itself is bold." she responded. Her answer pleased him and set his blood racing. Haldir walked over to her and tucked the white flower in her hair. The back of his hand lingered at the side of her face. She closed her eyes and a very slight smile adorned her full lips as she relished his touch. When she opened her eyes, his gaze was upon her but she felt he was looking straight through her. She turned from him and continued to walk down the path. This time it was Haldir who had to catch up to her.
Haldir didn't want to play this game any longer. He needed to feel her again. He reached out to take her hand but she pulled away from him. He creased his brow, confused by her reaction. "Do you not want me here, Nieriel? If I make you uncomfortable, I will leave."
"No, don't go. I'm sorry. I did not expect to feel your hand in mine." She looked at him again, baffled by his demeanor. "You confuse me, that's all. One minute you are trying shamelessly to seduce me and now you seem so aloof. I feel as though there is another you wish to be walking the garden with."
Haldir's mind flashed back to Caladwen and the moment they shared but he quickly shook it from his mind. It was pointless to dwell on it any longer. She was merely a child to an Elf's eyes though in truth she was more than that. Nieriel was here with him now. She was what he needed but he feared she wanted more from him. He looked down to her hands and held his out for her to take and she did.
"I am very attracted to you, Nieriel. You are beautiful and strong of mind, maybe too strong. You know what you want and you will take nothing less. I must admit, that quality makes me hesitant to pursue you any further. I fear you will want more than I can give." Slowly he brought his eyes up to meet hers not knowing what he would find on her countenance. Much to his surprise, she was smiling warmly at him.
"Haldir, I know of your feelings for me. I see it in your face, feel it in your touch. I also sense your reluctance. I think I understand why you feel this way." She brought her hand up and cupped the side of his face. "I am no fool. I know the time to sail draws near, at least for me. I also see that you are not even close to feeling the draw of the sea. There is still much for you to do on this earth."
"Then you understand that I cannot give you more than you might seek. I would like to know you better if you will allow it but I cannot commit my heart to anyone."
"And I cannot leave these shores with a broken heart. It is not love that I seek but companionship in my final days. But I will not be used for recreation either. That is why I am cautious of you. You came on very strong when we first met and I will not play such games with you." Nieriel let her fingers travel down Haldir's arm and come to rest in his hand. "We are the last of our kind. Our numbers diminish every day. Would it not be nice to have someone with you to spend what time is left?"
Haldir looked at Nieriel and saw such honesty in her face. He thought about what she said and she was right. There were fewer Elves in Middle Earth than he had ever known. Most who stayed had loved ones waiting for them in Valinor. It would be a shame to live out the rest of one's days without some kind of accompaniment. Nieriel could be just what he was looking for. "Indeed, it would be a nice change. It has been long since I have had such a relationship."
Nieriel reached out and fondled the braid that hung at the side of his face. "No more games, Marchwarden?" she said playfully.
"Agreed." Haldir said. His brow creased as he looked into her emerald eyes. "And you will not fall in love?"
Nieriel laughed at his seriousness. Of course she would love him to a degree but not to the point of wanting to bond. "It will be hard not to love you with all your charm," she said rolling her eyes. "But I will not fall in love."
Haldir studied her with a stern look before he finally spoke. "I believe we got started off on the wrong foot." He held his hand out to her and she laid her fingers gently in his palm. Then he lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it tenderly. "It is very nice to meet your acquaintance my lady. I am Haldir of Lothlorien. And might I add how lovely you look this day?"
Nieriel giggled and felt her face flush slightly. 'Here is the Haldir I wanted to know better' she thought to herself. "Haldir is it? The famous Marchwarden of the Golden Wood? Why it couldn't be. You are much too kind to be him." she said jokingly. "I've heard he is a very arrogant, boastful, pompous…"
Haldir, of course, knew she was playing and this made his body come to life. He quickly scooped her up and pulled her to him, capturing her lips to silence her. So long had he wanted to taste her mouth. Nieriel did not pull away as she returned the kiss. She wanted him just the same. He was so full of passion that she thought she had wandered into a dream. There was no doubt that he was good at what he did and she wondered what else he was good at.
Haldir ended the kiss reluctantly and stared deep into her eyes. "Oh, I am still very much all of those things but you will get used to it." He pushed her hair back over her shoulder exposing her neck. As he leaned in, she tilted her head, giving him better access. "Oh Nieriel." he whispered on her skin making goose bumps rise on her arms. "You are my dark haired beauty. I can't wait until I…"
At this, Nieriel stopped him from continuing by pulling away from him. "No games." she said.
Haldir regained his composure. "You did not let me finish." he said redirecting his train of thought. "What I meant to say was, I cannot wait to… to… escort you to dinner tonight, if you will allow me the privilege of your company."
"Why, Marchwarden," she said mocking surprise. "I would be delighted to join you this evening." She kissed him once more but on his cheek this time. Haldir's mind flashed to Caladwen for one brief moment but it had just about been wiped from his mind and he paid no more attention to it.
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.