6. The Proposal
Chapter 6 The Proposal
"A message has just arrived for you, pen vuin." Eowyn said as she entered Caladwen's room. She smiled at her daughter knowing this bit of news would bring her joy. Caladwen had been very quiet and detached lately. When she questioned her about it, Caladwen only said it was nothing and that she was missing Leodred. Eowyn felt there was something else bothering her but she didn't push her for answers.
Caladwen saw her mother's smile and knew who the message was from. "Leodred arrives soon?" she questioned.
"I don't know. The message was for you to read, not me." Eowyn said handing her daughter the sealed parchment. Caladwen broke the wax emblem of Rohan and read the message. Indeed, it was from Leodred and he would be arriving in Ithilien in two days. Caladwen smiled and held the note to her chest.
"Two days Mother." she sang happily. "Only two more days and he will be here. He has completed his training and is officially a member of the Rohirrim guard."
"That is wonderful news. We should have a celebration." Eowyn said and Caladwen flashed her an uneasy look. "Not anything grand for I know how you hate such ceremonies. We shall only invite family and Haldir of course."
The mention of Haldir's name sent a shiver down Caladwen's spine. She had tried to forget the innocent kiss she gave him but it was always in the back of her mind. He had awoken something inside of her and she was confused by it.
"Mother, can I ask you something?"
"Of course, my dear. What is it that has been consuming your thoughts as of late?" Eowyn said as she sat next to Caladwen on her bed.
"How did you know you loved Ada? I mean… I know what it is like for a human for I have heard all the stories. But what was it like to fall in love with an Elf? And how did you know it was love and not just magic."
Eowyn was taken aback by her question and she thought back to the first time she realized she loved Legolas. "You know I love Faramir with all my heart and I always will. Times were different back then, when I met your ada. Faramir was gone from my life, or so I thought. I was free to love again, even though it was the furthest thing from my mind. Legolas was a light for me in those dark times. He was always there for me as a friend in the beginning. He listened to my hardships and helped me to learn from them, not dwell on the sadness of my situation."
"But what did you feel physically when you realized your love for him?" Caladwen asked, desperate for an answer.
"It was magical." Eowyn said remembering the first time they kissed. It was just before the war and they were traveling to Helm's Deep. "Every fiber of my being came to life and it was as if I was walking amongst the stars. I felt his very soul reaching out to me, though at the time I did not know the ways of elven love. It was like being locked in a spell that I never wanted to be rescued from. I felt his energy draw me in and I knew I was in love with an Elf."
Caladwen felt her heart in her throat as Eowyn explained what had happened to her. It was almost the same feeling Caladwen experienced with Haldir.
Eowyn studied her daughter's worried look. "Why do you ask?"
Caladwen could not tell her about Haldir. She was still unsure about her intuitions. "Well, I just wanted to know what it was like and if I have experienced something similar."
"But you asked about love with an Elf. Leodred is human." Eowyn said with a raised eyebrow. "What is going on Caladwen? Is there another who has earned your attentions?"
Caladwen panicked. "I am half-elven, Mother. I just wanted to know what you experienced and if it was different from my own." she said defensively.
Eowyn smiled. "My dear, you are still young yet. You have so much to learn. I hope you will not rush into anything you are not ready for. I know you love Leodred. He has a stout heart, just like his father. Make sure your heart is settled before you make any decision. If Leodred loves you as you say he does, he will be willing to wait a lifetime for you." Her thoughts were of Faramir and the love he held for Eowyn during all the difficult times they encountered. "For me, it was well worth the wait." she said looking at her wedding ring.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
There was a commotion at the palace gates. Caladwen flew to the window and looked out. There he was sitting upon his steed. There was no mistaking him for anyone else but a man of Rohan. His long auburn hair rested upon his broad shoulders. He was tall and muscular, his skin tanned from riding under the open sky. He carried himself with great pride for he was now one of the Rohirrim, a Rider of Rohan. Caladwen watched as Leodred jumped down from his horse and immediately began looking around the courtyard, his eyes anxiously scanning every person he saw. He was looking for her and her heart swelled in her chest. He came back just as he said he would for he loved her like no other.
Faramir approached the young man and welcomed him to Ithilien. She could see them exchange words and then Faramir patted Leodred on the shoulder. He was pleased with this Rider of the Mark. Next, Eowyn went to him and Leodred bowed respectfully. They spoke a moment until Eowyn turned to the window Caladwen was looking out of. It was her cue to come down and join them. Eowyn and Faramir were giving her their permission to be with her love. Caladwen flew from the window and rushed down the hall. She pushed open the heavy doors and went to the courtyard. She wanted to run to him and wrap her arms around his strong body. However, it was considered inappropriate so she maintained her composure and walked gracefully until she was standing by her parents. Her heart was beating rapidly as she looked upon the man who she had known since childhood. She had not seen him in many months. Caladwen noticed how much he had changed since last seeing him. He was no longer a boy. He was a man, a very handsome man. She suddenly felt silly for ever thinking she could love another, and Haldir of all people.
Eowyn glanced over at Faramir who was trying to keep a straight face. Neither one was ever very fond of protocol and right now they were only keeping up a façade for the sake of the court. Finally Eowyn spoke up. "Is this how you two greet each other after so long of an absence?" she said smiling.
Caladwen was shocked and looked at her mother as if she had three heads. Unsure of her reaction, Caladwen looked at Faramir and a warm smile spread across his face. "What are you waiting for? Go to him." he said with a wink. She looked across the courtyard to Leodred. He was waiting for her. Caladwen ran to him and he met her in the middle. They embraced each other and Leodred lifted her off her feet. She giggled as he twirled her around. After lowering her back to the ground, the young couple gazed upon each other.
Faramir stood next to Eowyn with his arm wrapped around her waist. Looking at his wife, he saw her joy in seeing her daughter finally reunited with her young love. Faramir leaned towards her and kissed her cheek. "They remind me of us once upon a time, when we came together again after such a long separation."
Eowyn smiled. "It was the night you proposed to me. I was the mysterious lady you said had stolen your heart. Very tricky of you to lead me to believe otherwise." she laughed. "You gave me the white rose and…"
Faramir lifted his hand and in it was a single white rose. He handed it to Eowyn who had a tear in her eye. "You are now and will always be my heart's desire." he said and kissed her passionately. They parted lips and glanced once more to Caladwen and Leodred who were holding hands and talking. Faramir whispered into Eowyn's ear. "They will be busy catching up with each other for hours. We should not waste this opportunity."
Eowyn smiled wantonly. "I was thinking the same thing, my love." She kissed him once more, letting her tongue caress his. They quietly left the courtyard and were not seen or heard from for the remainder of the day, (well, almost not heard from).
Caladwen and Leodred were inseparable the rest of the day. They walked the grounds of the palace and toured the city itself. She was so happy to be with him again. It felt right to be near him. On the other hand, she was dreading the moment when he would ask for her hand in marriage. She was still unsure of what she should do. She tried not to think about it and just enjoy this time she had with her love.
"And what about your father?" Leodred asked. "Does he still disapprove of me?"
"It is not you that he rejects, it is our relationship. He thinks I am too young to be involved." she said as she rested her head against his chest. "Word has reached his ears about our discussion of marriage and he worries that we are not mature enough to make such an important decision."
"You know I love you, Caladwen, but I would never pressure you into doing anything you were not willing to do. Nothing would make me happier than to have you as my wife." Leodred placed his hand on the back of her head and cradled her against him. "I think I might agree with Prince Legolas and say that we need more time yet. Now that my training is finished, I have some time for my own and I would like to make use of it here in Ithilien." Leodred released Caladwen from his embrace and held her hands in his. "I would only ask one thing of you this evening."
"And what would that be?" Caladwen whispered as she felt her heart pound in her chest.
"I would ask to court you properly and in one year we will marry, if you will agree."
Caladwen was never as relieved as she was right then. "That is exactly what I want. I do not think we should rush things. I know I love you, Leodred. I accept your proposal. I will marry you."
"You have made me the happiest man in Middle Earth." he said smiling. Then he kissed her, just lips touching lips.
"We will announce it tonight at the festivities. There is someone I want you to meet. He is a close family friend, my guardian and teacher." Caladwen said excitedly.
"I know of who you speak. Haldir is it not, the Elf from Lothlorien, your birth land?"
"Why yes, how did you…"
Leodred laughed. "Caladwen, you have only spoken of him a million times since I have known you. I did not know he was here."
"He temporarily resides in my ada's city. I have talked of you much while you were away. He has helped me to understand my role as a Peredhil much better. There are some things I need to discuss with you but not tonight. Tonight is just about us becoming reacquainted with each other." She reached up and lightly kissed Leodred on the lips. He returned the sweet kiss and once again held her in his strong arms.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
The celebration was very simple. Only family and close friends attended. Before the meal, Faramir introduced Leodred and toasted to his completion of his training. He seemed to be well accepted by all, even Legolas who was still unsure of the man's relationship with his daughter. Caladwen had told her father about their courtship and it pleased him that they were not rushing into anything. Faramir and Eowyn were also pleased with their decision. It was a delightful evening amongst family.
After the meal, Caladwen took Leodred by the hand and led him to Haldir. "Haldir, I would like you to meet my fiancé, Leodred." Then turning to Leodred she said, "This is my guardian, Haldir of Lorien."
Leodred gave a proper elvish bow. "It is nice to finally meet you. Caladwen has spoke of you often over the years. You have made quite an impression on her."
Haldir stood tall and stiff as he looked down his nose at the Leodred. "I could say the same about you, Leodred of Rohan for she has told me much about you since my arrival to Ithilien. It seems congratulations are in order." He turned to Caladwen and added, "I am glad you have decided to wait a bit on your marriage."
Caladwen felt Haldir's eyes bore down to her very soul. Why did he make her feel this way, like she was trapped and could not escape? Did he know he had this affect on her? "Yes, it was a mutual agreement." She lifted her eyes away from Haldir before she blushed. If he was doing this on purpose, she wished he would stop.
"And what about after you marry? I assume you will be settling in Rohan." Haldir asked turning back to Leodred.
"Well, yes of course. My duty lies in my city. I hope to one day be promoted to a Marshall of the Mark, like my father before me. Caladwen will be very well taken care of. I can only hope to do half as well as you have in becoming her protector."
This was something that had plagued Haldir's mind ever since learning of a marriage. Caladwen would have a husband and would not need the Elf anymore. It saddened his heart to think she would no longer need him. He would probably return to Lorien at that time for there would be no reason to stay in Ithilien. Then there was Nieriel. They had become quite close lately and although there was no commitment for either of them, he would very much like for her to return to the Golden Wood with him. He was not sure she would. Ithilien was her home, the city of her kin. Would she leave behind her people and her job to live a leisurely life in Caras Galadhon? Would he even be able to ask such a thing of her?
"I have only just met you but already I sense your truth an honor for the Lady Caladwen. I believe you will make a fine husband for her." Haldir looked once more at Caladwen. "She is very special and has much to do in this world. May the Valar bless you and help guide you to your fate, young one." He touched the side of her face and her skin tingled where they made contact. Haldir pulled his hand away, surprised by the charge he felt run through his fingers and up his arm, only to settle briefly in his heart before the feeling had dissipated. He looked at his fingers and then back to Caladwen. Anyone who did not know Haldir would not have seen his emotion. But Caladwen saw his confusion. She wondered if he had felt it the other day, when she kissed his cheek. Is this why he had been so distant lately? Her curiosity was peaked and she would make a point to ask him about it, but not now.
As they were talking, Nieriel approached them. Haldir held his arm out for her and she placed her hand in the crook of his elbow. "Leodred, this is Nieriel. She is the Head Mistress for Prince Legolas."
Leodred bowed politely. "Good evening my lady. It is nice to meet your acquaintance. I look forward to visiting your lovely forest. Perhaps tomorrow Caladwen will lead me there."
Caladwen glanced out of the corner of her eye and saw how Haldir eyed the dark haired Elf. There was definitely something going on with these two. She hadn't realized that Haldir may have found someone while he visited, though she was surprised it was Nieriel. Caladwen had known her ever since she came to Ithilien. She was very smart and beautiful, headstrong and sensible. She did not bend from the rules so easily as Caladwen found out when she was a child asking for a few extra treats. Legolas thought the world of her for she always made sure thing ran smoothly in Ithilien's Forest. He had put her in charge when he had to travel. Caladwen always thought that Nieriel and her father would have made a good pairing, had Legolas not already loved Eowyn. His heart was taken and would never belong to another. So why was she here with Haldir? He was the opposite of Nieriel. They were like water and oil, fire and ice. Haldir could be quite vein at times and Nieriel seemed like the type to not put up with such an exaggerated self-opinionated Elf. 'And why should I care who Haldir is seen with? I just hope Nieriel knows what she might be getting herself into.' she thought to herself.
"Part of my reason for being here tonight," Nieriel said emphasizing the word 'part' and slyly smiling to Haldir before turning her full attention on Leodred, "is to inform you that Prince Legolas would like to meet with you first thing in the morning. He has some things he would like to discuss with you."
"Please inform the Prince that I will be there first thing and that I look forward to his counsel." Leodred answered. Caladwen could sense his nervousness at the thought of meeting with her father but he did not let it show outwardly.
Nieriel smiled to the young couple and bowed. "It was a pleasure to finally meet you, Leodred. Caladwen, I will see you tomorrow as I assume you will be escorting this handsome young man to the Elf city?"
"Yes of course. Until tomorrow, Nieriel." Caladwen answered. She watched the she-elf turn from them but not before leaning into Haldir's ear and whispering something. He nodded his head and looked back to the couple.
"If you will excuse me. I have some other business to attend to. Leodred, it was a pleasure. Caladwen, until our next lesson." Haldir said and went off in the direction Nieriel went.
Haldir walked out onto a balcony where he thought Nieriel had headed to. He stepped outside and looked around but it was empty. This was not the first time he had lost sight of her. She was very good at disappearing when she wanted to. Not many escaped the keen eyes of the Marchwarden but Nieriel had done it twice now. Had she been in Lorien, she would not have escaped so easily. He stood there a moment longer, wondering where she might have gone when there came a rustling of leaves. He looked up at an oak that grew near the balcony and found the she-elf looking down at him. Nieriel giggled with such delight that Haldir was allured by the sound of her voice, so delicate and feminine. He walked to the edge of the balcony and leapt onto a nearby branch with the greatest of ease. Haldir climbed up to where Nieriel sat straddling a large branch, a leg hanging over either side. He joined her and sat with both legs dangling over the same side of the tree limb.
"I did not expect to find you here this evening. Had I known, I would have escorted you here myself. Why did you not tell me?" Haldir asked.
"I do not need to tell you everything I do. Besides I wanted to surprise you." she said and moved a little closer to him. "It was a pleasant evening don't you think?"
"Very agreeable, maybe now even more so since you are here. You look lovely this evening." Haldir said in a very sultry voice, glancing at her from the corner of his eye.
"Why thank you Marchwarden." she said moving closer still until their dangling legs were touching. The position she was in allowed her to face Haldir as he sat looking straight ahead, into the window of the Hall where others were now dancing. He was watching Caladwen and Leodred dance, wondering about the sensations he felt when they touched.
Nieriel followed his stare. "Caladwen seems so happy now that her love is back. They seem right for each other."
"Yes, but I am not sure he is her soul mate. Don't get me wrong, Leodred is a very noble young man and he loves her very much. Caladwen is special." he said and Nieriel noticed a twinkle in his eye as he spoke of her. "She is a gift from the Valar given to a mortal and a Firstborn. That in itself is a rarity. I cannot help but feel she has more to offer the world of men. I worry for her also. Should she choose to bear a child with this man, she will give up any right she has to reaching her Deciding Day. That is where her true path lies."
"You speak so passionately about the young Caladwen. She is very special to you, is she not?"
Haldir thought back to the first time he held her as a baby. "I feel as though I have known her longer than she has been on this earth yet I do not understand the connection. It is the reason I became her teacher. I felt there were things that only I could show her. Eowyn raises her as a human and does not fully understand her elven side. Legolas is very overprotective and will withhold certain information from her, hindering her growth. She is hindered by both. I feel I can give her something no one else can. I am familiar with the Peredhil having seen Arwen raised in Lorien. This is the part of herself she needs to understand more fully."
"Then the Valar have chosen wisely to allow you to be her guardian." Nieriel leaned forward and kissed Haldir on the cheek. "You can be very kind and considerate when the mood strikes you, Marchwarden." she whispered in his ear. "You have such strong devotion when the cause is just. I guess that is what drew me to you. This is the Elf I wish to know better, though your seductive side is very hard to resist."
Haldir felt his blood begin to race through his veins at the feel of her warm breath in his ear. "If I didn't know any better, I would say it is you who is doing the seducing now." He turned his head and captured her lips.
The kiss set Nieriel's body on fire with passion. Haldir had behaved himself since their agreement a few months earlier and she was afraid she made a mistake. She wanted more than friendship from him and now it seemed she would get her wish. His tongue searched for access and she allowed it by parting her lips. Her heartbeat raced as his hand traveled up her arm and over her shoulder. His fingers lightly traveled along the side of her neck and came to rest at the base of her hairline. He was dangerously close to brushing her ear and she was so lost in his delicious kiss that she moaned into his mouth.
Haldir was quite proud of the effect he was having on her. Nieriel had always managed to keep her composure around him. Now, she was letting go and giving into the moment. They parted lips and looked longingly into each other's eyes.
"My lady, you are so beautiful and I find it hard to keep myself restrained when you advance on me this way." Haldir said to her as she smiled.
"And I promised I would not love you, not that I did not want to be loved upon by you." She broke free from his stare and covered his mouth with her own. He let his other hand travel from her waist and along the curve of the side of her breast. Her back arched into him as she found it hard to control herself with this desirable Elf.
Haldir was lost in the moment himself. He broke the kiss and moved her hair from her shoulder, exposing her neck. "Oh Nieriel." he said in a breathy hot whisper sending shivers along her spine.
Nieriel was lost to his charms but this time she was allowing it willfully. There was no reason to hold off on the inevitable any longer. She wanted him and had so since first laying eyes upon him. She gave into his warm kisses and moaned softly, letting her fingers travel up the inside of his thigh, feeling the soft wool of his leggings. She was so close now to knowing him more intimately.
Haldir's arousal grew painfully tight beneath his leggings as her hand traveled ever closer up his leg. She moaned as he kissed her and it was almost too much. It had been quite some time since he felt an elleth's touch and he wasn't sure how much more he could take. It was a good thing they were sitting on a tree branch. Had they been the ground, he would have already pounced on her. 'She would no longer be bound within this corset' he thought as his fingers played with the laces in the back. He was just about to begin untying them when Nieriel giggled faintly. "And what do you find so amusing, my lovely." he growled.
"The tree speaks to me is all. It says it is enjoying our display of affection but worries for our safety amongst its boughs. It says it is time for us to move somewhere safer if we mean to continue on with our 'dance'." Nieriel giggled again as she spoke in elvish to the great oak. "Let us go back to the forest city where we can find a more private place." She kissed Haldir once more before leaping back to the balcony below. He followed, checking to make sure there was no sign of 'swelling' that would be noticeable to any of the party guests.
"Thank the Valar for loose fitting robes." he muttered to himself.
Nieriel laughed again. "The easier it will be to strip you of them." she said wantonly.
Haldir cocked an eyebrow at her. "You are not helping." he said as he adjusted his leggings.
As they were saying farewell to Faramir and Eowyn, Caladwen noticed how intimately Haldir and Nieriel held each other. She knew what they were about to engage in and felt the slightest twinge of jealousy as they left the Hall together. She quickly swept the thought from her mind and looked back to Leodred. How could she ever think such a thing when she had her childhood love at her side? And why could she not feel so free to love someone? Sometimes life could be so confusing.