His mother’s repetition of his name finally caused the boy to look up. “What is it?” he complained. “I’m busy; I’m carving.” He ran his thumb lovingly over the grain of the wood. It was not a very large piece, but it was of the rare dark lebethron, and he wanted to make it just right – he was carving an image of a musician playing the pipes, and the detail was not easy to achieve.
“I can see that, Haldir. But you’ve done enough for now. I need you to look after Rúmil for a while; I am visiting a friend this afternoon who has some rare plants that she is giving me for the garden, and I cannot take both him and Orophin with me.”
Sighing, Haldir uncurled from his chair. He rolled the half-finished piece in a scrap of soft cloth and slipped it into his belt-pouch along with his knife, and then followed his mother outside to where his younger twin brothers waited. Although he knew that his mother enjoyed her work tending the gardens of Caras Galadon, he sometimes wished that she took it less seriously. He liked tending the plants himself, but he would never apprentice himself to that craft when he came to his day of First Choosing, when every young Elf chose what he or she would first learn to a high level of skill. Sometimes he considered woodworking, but it did not seem important enough to be his first adult craft.
“We will be back by sunset,” his mother promised. “We will have a special supper tonight. So don’t eat too much fruit this afternoon and spoil your appetite, or let Rúmil do so.”
“Yes, Mother,” Haldir said resignedly. “Come on, Rúmil. What do you want to do?”
“Let’s go to the meadows!” Rúmil’s face shone with excitement.
They headed off to see if any of their friends were playing in the grassy fields. Several young Elves about Rúmil’s age were present, and they immediately began organizing themselves to race in competition.
“Watch me, Haldir, watch me!”
Haldir sat down under a tree at the edge of the meadow and waved at his brothers. He unrolled the cloth from around the little figure and began to carve again, looking up often to see what Rúmil was up to. From simple races the games evolved into a more elaborate competition, and more children joined in, including some of Haldir’s own agemates.
“Come and race, Haldir,” he heard Barthan say, but he shook his head, engrossed in the fine detail of the braided hair of his pipe-player. A combination of careful orientation and good luck had allowed him to make use of the wood’s natural grain to emphasize the strands of hair, but it still required attention to make it appear just right. He glanced up, spotted Rúmil on the other side of the meadow in a little knot of friends, and returned to his intense concentration.
The sinking sun glaring in his eyes made him blink and consider that perhaps it was time to collect his brother and go home; surely his mother and Orophin would be there soon, and his father not long after dark. He stood up, stretching, and looked around for Rúmil. The boy was nowhere to be seen. Haldir began to walk rapidly across the field, asking all the children he saw if they had been playing with Rúmil and knew where he had gone, but none of them could give him a certain answer.
Worried, Haldir circled around again, hoping to see his brother perhaps lying down and taking a rest in the grass, but Rúmil was nowhere to be seen.
By now Haldir was growing quite concerned, and ashamed of his distraction. Rúmil was old enough that he would not likely come to any harm, but he, Haldir, had been asked to watch out for his brother, and he had failed. He gripped the wooden carving – the source of his problems, he now thought – so tightly that his knuckles whitened, and wondered what he should do. His parents would not yet be returned, to scold, yes, but also to help find Rúmil. Then he thought of his uncle Bereg. Bereg would know what would be best to do. Haldir took one last fruitless look around the meadow, then ran off to find his uncle.
The talan where Bereg and his family lived was not far, and Haldir reached it in only a few minutes. Climbing up, the first person he saw was his older cousin Andúniel, who served the lady Galadriel and was learning the secrets of making lembas, much to the family’s pride.
“Mae govannen, Haldir – you look distressed. What is the trouble?”
“I’ve lost Rúmil,” confessed Haldir. “I was supposed to be watching him while Mother took Orophin to visit a friend, but we were over at the meadows and he wandered off somewhere when I wasn’t paying attention.”
“But he is here,” said Andúniel in surprise. “He said that he had told you that he wanted to come visit us, and that you waved him on, so he walked over by himself.”
Relief washed over Haldir, but relief combined with guilt. His mother always complained that he heard nothing while he was concentrating on something, and here was proof of that. If he had only paid attention, he would have known where Rúmil had gone.
“Shall I go and fetch him? I think Father took him off to look at a bird’s nest,” Andúniel said.
At that moment his brother appeared, holding tight to the hand of their uncle Bereg.
“Is it time to go home, Haldir? I want to tell Orophin that I nearly beat Sindo today when we raced.”
“Yes,” said Haldir. “I think we should go now. Thank you, Andúniel.”
“For what?” Bereg asked. “What has my daughter done?”
Haldir’s face turned scarlet. Now he had to admit his inattention to his uncle, who would tell his parents, who would scold him – just when he thought everything had worked out all right after all.
“I didn’t realize that Rúmil had come here,” he muttered. “I wasn’t really listening when he told me, and I thought he was lost. I only came by to ask for you to help me find him.”
Bereg frowned. “Why weren’t you listening?”
“I was carving.” He held out the little figure in explanation.
“Ah. Yes, your mother has told me about that talent of yours. Have you learned anything today?”
“I learned how to make carved hair look almost real,” said Haldir eagerly.
“That was not what I meant, Haldir. Have you learned anything about responsibility?” Bereg laid a hand on his youngest nephew’s shoulder.
Haldir flushed again. Of course that was what his uncle had meant by the question. “Yes, Uncle,” he said. “I won’t be so careless again.”
Bereg studied him, then nodded. “All right, I believe you. You really ought to think about looking up from your carving once in a while, though; I understand that you take delight in it, but don’t forget that you need to keep the whole body fit, not just your fingers. Last season you told me that someday you wanted to join the rangers. Do you think you will be able to do that if all you can do is sit and carve? I am not saying to stop doing what you so much enjoy, especially when it is clear that you have great ability, only to try other things as well. All right?”
“All right, Uncle Bereg,” Haldir agreed, grateful that this was all the reprimand his uncle seemed likely to make.
“Go on with you two then. It’s getting late and your parents will be wondering where you can have hidden yourselves.”
Rúmil chattered all the way home, but Haldir was quiet. Even though the meal that night included his favorite dish of venison cooked with his mother’s special herbs, he ate little and sought his bed early.
For many days he tried hard to be more active than he usually had been, wrestling and racing with his friends and working on the wooden carving only in spare moments. He had to admit that it was more fun than he had thought, although he cared little for some of the snickering remarks his friends made when a particularly pretty girl walked by them, and eventually had an argument with Barthan about it.
“You wouldn’t like it if someone said that about your sister,” he pointed out.
“I don’t have a sister, Haldir,” Barthan said with exaggerated patience. “And you don’t, either.”
“No, but I have a girl cousin, and I wouldn’t want her to have to hear you!”
“All right, don’t be so touchy. I don’t see why I can’t be appreciative, though. Just because you are so choosy and don’t like any of the girls doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t admire them.” But he held up his hands as Haldir glared. “I won’t say anything more where they can hear me, how about that? And I’ll apologize to Lalvenna.”
Haldir accepted Barthan’s offer of apology. He was glad that their quarrel had not been too serious and was happy to seal the agreement with an archery competition, which he won, to his surprise. His Uncle Bereg’s advice to try doing things that he had less confidence about was proving worthwhile.
He was telling his parents about his success that evening when his uncle stopped by, cousin Andúniel accompanying him. They congratulated him as well.
Bereg said, “My timing is, I hope, good then, and this can serve as a gift to celebrate your demonstration of ability.”
To Haldir’s great surprise, the parcel his uncle gave him proved to contain a book. Opening it, he found that it was written not in Sindarin, or even Silvan, but in a language he could not read.
“Since you like carving so well, I thought you might be interested in this. It was written by a Man about all the different kinds of wood he was familiar with, and what tools worked best on the various sorts, and what oils to use to preserve them, and so on. Of course he wrote in his own tongue, the Westron.”
“But I don’t know Westron,” said Haldir in dismay.
Andúniel handed him another book, this one rather more battered-looking. “This may help you; it gives the meanings of Westron words in Sindarin, and the other way around as well. One of the other maidens of Galadriel told me about it. Her grandfather often travels and trades with Men, and he used this book before he learned the Common Tongue well. She says you may keep it as long as you need, if you are careful.”
“You have to promise, though, Haldir, that this will not keep you from continuing to practice your other skills,” cautioned Bereg. Haldir’s parents added their voices in agreement.
“Strong interests are good to have, as long as you do not overdo any one of them,” his father said.
“If all I spoke of were my herbs, I would be dull to be around, would I not?” asked his mother. “Read these and continue your carving, but keep on as you have done lately and develop your other abilities as well – we are very proud of you, Haldir.”
“I will,” he promised. “I will only read this for an hour a day, and carve for another hour, at most.”
The adults looked at each other and smiled. Andúniel gave him a hug and whispered, “Congratulations on your victory over Barthan, Haldir. I heard about what he was saying about the girls and I’m glad that you’ve stopped him from that. It was very thoughtful of you.”
He smiled shyly at his cousin and hugged her back, then carefully took the two books to his chamber and put them away. He was anxious to read them and see what a Man could possibly have to teach about woods and carving, but tomorrow would be soon enough.
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.