Haldir stood in his talan with his back towards Mebedir. The search party reached the encampment a few hours after midnight. Haldir has seen to it that the lady and master Annoguil received the best treatment he was able to provide. Though still very much fractious with the elleth, he would grant her a day's rest without his judgement. But Mebedir on the other hand neglected his duties and will be punished.
Mebedir was calm though in his heart he knows his punishment would be severe. Haldir was not known for his empathy when it comes to the duties of a warden. He was not named the Marchwarden for no reason. Each and every warden knew a breach of duty was not something he tolerated. Mebedir stood silently, waiting for his captain to speak.
Haldir turned and faced the warden before him, "Mebedir, mellon nin. You have been my companion in arms for many eons now. I could not but think you of all people capable of taking your duties lightly. You have been fierce in carrying out your duties before. What had happened mellon? You have risked the life of one of Lady Galadriel's maiden. Do you not know the penalty?"
Mebedir looked at his captain with forlorn eyes, "Aye, that I do my lord. I have told you my accounts of the incident. I was indeed distracted by something. I had to ensure that it was not any orc. Alas, when I returned to her, she was no longer there."
Haldir sighed, "You are not making this any easier on me or yourself Mebedir. You know the punishment on someone in such a high position as you. You will be relegated and I for one do not wish to lose you as my right hand. There must be more to the story. The lady must know the truth. I will seek her on the morrow and ask her of her account on this matter. You are dismissed Mebedir and may the Valar reveal the truth to me."
Calavénë sat on the bed in the healing tent. Master Annoguil has fixed her ankle and now she felt more comfortable. Two female wardens helped her wash and soon she felt clean and at ease. She once again braided her long golden hair. Her braids needed to be undone for grimes and dirt found their way in between them.
Not long after, Master Annoguil entered the tent. In his hands was a tray and on it was a hot bowl of broth and some lembas, "Here hen. Eat. You need all the nourishment to help heal your broken ankle. Calavénë pen dithen, I must return to the main camp on the morrow. I am afraid I have to leave you here for the time being. I have spoken to the Marchwarden and to his brothers. They have agreed to keep a watch on you until I return again next week."
Calavénë nodded. She did not wish to stay longer in the company of the Marchwarden but seeing as how her health may not permit travel, she reluctantly agreed. She took the bowl from Annoguil and ate silently.
The master healer settled his body upon a stool nearby. He looked at his charge with concerned eyes, "What happened pen neth? I know you as one that is cautious and alert. Your mind was elsewhere today. What made you wander off far away from the path?"
Calavénë set the bowl down by her side. She smiled, "You have guessed so perfectly herdir. Indeed I was distracted by a little creature. I did not realize I had wandered off far until my foot became tangled in the roots of the mighty tree."
Annoguil was intrigued, "Creature you say? Pray tell what it was?"
Calavénë recalled her encounter with the strange creature, "It was a small being, much like a butterfly but the closer I looked, I saw tiny legs and arms. It was a miniature elf with wings. The creature glowed blue when I approached it. It had a wonderful smell, sweet and inviting. I do not know what came over me but I was inclined to follow it."
Calavénë watched as a smile formed on the wise elf's lips, "My dear, I believe you have met your very first night wisp."
Calavénë frowned. A night wisp? What in all Arda is a night wisp? She looked at her tutor with questioning eyes, "What is a night wisp herdir?"
Annoguil chuckled. He sometimes had forgotten how young Calavénë was for she had always carried herself with maturity and grace. He sought to have her understand, "Night wisps are creatures of magic. They are the size of a small phial and have a tiny voice. Few have ever seen a night wisp. A night wisp cannot be seen during the day, only at night. They emit a tiny flare of warm light that gives everything around them a silvery cast. It has been said that night wisps have the ability to entrance beings that are in love."
The revelation took Calavénë by surprise, "In love herdir? But how can I possibly be entranced when I am most certainly not in love?"
Annoguil laughed, "That I do not know pen neth. Perhaps the legends of the night wisps are indeed, legends. But to my knowledge, those whose hearts have been touched by love are the only ones capable of smelling the sweet scent night wisps emit. Perhaps you should give it a thought as to who your heart desires. I shall leave you to rest for now. Sleep well pen dithen."
The healer's last words stirred her calm heart. I am in love, she thought. But with whom? Calavénë knew it was not her place to fall in love seeing as her future was no longer in her hands. But if she was indeed in love, who could it be? She did not feel attached to anyone as of now. She adores Orophin but nothing more than just a friend. It could not be Haldir. She could never love an arrogant elf like him but she will not deny the attraction she feels for him. But that is just some degree of lust, not love. Isn't it?
She laid her body slowly on the bed. Though her ankle was now securely bandaged she moved with caution not wanting to cause further injury to her delicate ankle. She lay restless in her bed. The myths about the night wisps are just that, myths. She was weary thus she was easily spellbound by the mystical creature.
She closed her eyes; sleep began to course through her being again. She smiled. Master Annoguil has a subtle way of administering sleeping draught. No doubt her broth was laced with it. She welcomed the drowsiness for it chased away the troublesome thoughts from her mind. Soon the only sound that could be heard from the tent was the slow deep breathing of a young beautiful elleth.
Haldir watched as Annoguil left the tent below. No doubt the lady was now resting. He felt anger coursing through his body. This elleth might be the cause for the lost of his most trusted officer. Annoguil should never have brought her with him. He muttered a curse to the silent night. This elleth has proved to be more of a bother than help.
"You question my judgement, my brave warrior?" The sound of Galadriel's voice echoed in his mind.
Haldir was caught off guard, "Nay, my lady. I do not question your judgement. I was merely stating that this elleth has managed to cause more trouble than help alleviate it."
Haldir could hear the lady's laughter in his mind, "My dear Haldir. Your courage and your devotion for duty have won me over years ago but I fear your early judgement of others might be the very end of you. Assist her for she is young in the ways of the Eldars. In time you will see the gain it would do the both of you."
Haldir pondered at her words, "My lady? What are you implying?"
Galadriel laughed again, "In time Haldir. I must retreat now for my dear hervenn requires my attention. Maer dû."
Haldir felt uneasy at the words of the mighty Galadriel. What could this elleth possibly teach him? He was by far thousands of years older than she is. What can a mere hên tell him that he does not already know?
His gaze roamed the encampment once more. Some of the wardens are resting. At the edge of the encampment he could see his brothers, Rumil and Orophin standing guard. His gaze returned to the tent below. He sighed. Perhaps it was wise to keep an eye on Calavénë and make sure she is comfortable.
With a swift movement, Haldir landed successfully on the ground. He tied the rope ladder to the trunk of the great Mallorn tree. He treaded through the growth and made his way to the healing tent where Calavénë was resting.
He pushed his way into the tent. He stopped abruptly when he saw that the lady was sound asleep. Haldir swallowed hard. The hem of her dress was drawn up to her calves and he could clearly see her shapely legs. Her bandaged ankle was placed on a small pillow. He walked closer to the elleth. She did not stir. Perhaps the healer has given her some sleeping draught.
He ran a finger along the length of her calf. Her skin was smooth and soft. There were scratches near her ankle. His finger lay idle for a moment, lingering on her skin. She did not rouse. Haldir smiled at the thought of the things he could do to her right now. He shook his head and held the hem of her sleeping gown again. This time he pulled the hem down to cover her exposed legs. He spread the blanket over her small body and leaned in to breathe her scent. He made his way back towards the exit and with one last glance to the sleeping form on the bed, he left the tent.
Calavénë woke up at the signs of first light. Birds were chirping and sunshine poured into the tent. She felt refreshed and rested. The encampment was silent. She took hold of her walking stick and hopped her way outside.
There were a few wardens around but most of them have moved out to their posts. Calavénë felt discouraged. She had hoped to find Orophin to help her with the dressings on her ankle. She also needed a companion to take her to the river for a bath. She could not see any signs of a female warden. Finally sighing her defeat she made her way back inside.
Calavénë carefully sat on the bed. She really did crave a bath. The feel of the cold water was hoped to help cleanse her mind of her impertinent thoughts about Haldir. Despite the sleeping draught given to her last night, her dreams were haunted by the images of the Marchwarden. She could feel the moisture in between her legs. She needed to wash urgently.
Calavénë froze as Haldir walked into the tent. Speak of the devil, she thought. Haldir nodded curtly, "Maer aur, arwen en amin."
Calavénë tried to stand up and give Haldir a proper greeting but her ankle prevented her from standing correctly. Haldir approached her, "Nay, pen dithen. You are not well."
She sat back down and looked at the Marchwarden, "What brings you here, my lord?"
Haldir settled on the stool across her, "I came to enquire on the events that transpired last night, my lady. Mebedir has breached his duty and before I could set a suitable punishment on him, I wish to hear your side of the tale."
Calavénë told him of the night wisp and how indeed it lured her away from the path. She could see that Haldir was sceptical but she continued her tale. She looked up at him with pleading eyes, "Please Haldir, Mebedir had no fault in the matter."
Haldir stood up, contemplating the truth of the story, "I have heard of night wisps before but never have I seen them with my own eyes. How do I know that you are not fabricating this tale to help save Mebedir?"
Calavénë smiled at Haldir, "Why would I do that? It is the truth. Mebedir is a good ellon. He would not have abandoned me on purpose. He knows his duty."
Haldir pondered her last words. He sees no deception in her words. A sense of relief washed over him; he did not have to punish Mebedir. He turned and faced the elleth, "Hannon le, my lady. You have saved me from making a grave error."
"It is I who should thank you, my lord. You sought me out and for that I am grateful. But as to whom the blame should lie with, I am afraid it is with me," Calavénë continued.
Haldir shook his head, "Nay, my lady. I do not see the fault resting with you either. It was an unfortunate event that is now behind us."
Calavénë remembered the conversation the two orcs had in the forest, "My lord. When I was in the forest, the two orcs spoke of their efforts in gathering more forces. Forgive me but I must ask to what are they referring too?"
Haldir rubbed his chin. He was not the one to tell the story to her, "Are you familiar with the war of the last alliance?"
Haldir watched as Calavénë nodded. He continued on, "The Last Alliance of Elves and Men was formed by Gil-galad, the High King of the Noldor, and Elendil, the High King of Gondor and Arnor. They united to oppose Sauron, who had attacked and captured Minas Ithil. Sauron was irate that the survivors of Numenor had founded the Kingdom of Gondor near his realm, and he sought to destroy them.
Elendil took counsel with his friend and ally Gil-galad, and they realized that their races needed to unite against Sauron or all of Middle Earth would be in danger. Gil-galad set out with an army of Elves from Lindon, along with Cirdan from the Grey Havens. Together they travelled to Rivendell, the home of Elrond, who was to act as Gil-galad's herald and commander on the battlefield.
The army of the Last Alliance set out for Mordor, crossing the Misty Mountains, marching down the Anduin. They were joined by Elves of Lothlorien and the Elves of Greenwood the Great. Both my father and grandfather joined the elves of Lothlorien. Some Dwarves of Durin's line from Khazad-dum joined them as well as a small number of Dwarves from other houses.
The armies of the Last Alliance and Sauron met in battle outside the Black Gate of Mordor on the great plain known as Dagorlad. The army of the Last Alliance consisted of the forces that had marched from the north and the Men of Gondor who had been defending their borders.
Sauron's forces consisted mainly of Orcs and Men. Many of the Men who fought for Sauron came from the lands of Rhun in the East and Harad in the South. There were also some Men of Numenor who had been corrupted by Sauron and were called Black Numenoreans.
A small number of Dwarves fought on Sauron's side, though none from Durin's line. Sauron also had at his command trolls and other creatures as well as his deadliest servants, the Nazgul.
The main forces led by Elendil and Gil-galad were victorious against Sauron in the Battle of Dagorlad. The enemy could not withstand the united front of the Elves and Men of the Last Alliance. Sauron retreated to Mordor and barricaded himself in Barad-dur.
The Siege of Barad-dur lasted for seven years. The army of the Last Alliance entered Mordor and surrounded the Dark Tower, but they could not break its defences. Finally, Sauron came down from his tower in an attempt to break the siege. He made his way to Mount Doom, where he was confronted by Gil-galad and Elendil. The three fought on the slopes of Mount Doom until all of them fell. Gil-galad was burned to death by the heat of Sauron's hand, and as Elendil died his sword Narsil broke beneath him.
Sauron's physical body was also cast down. Isildur cut the One Ring from Sauron's hand with the hilt-shard of Narsil. Elrond and Cirdan advised him to destroy it immediately in the fires of Mount Doom, but Isildur refused and kept the Ring for himself. Because the Ring which contained much of his power remained, Sauron's spirit endured.
Many elves and men lost their lives during the seven years of the siege. One of them was my father. My grandfather returned alive but scarred by the battle forever. He sailed to the Undying Lands last winter."
Haldir paused. The pain of losing his father was evident in his eyes. He took a deep breath and continued the tale, "The ring betrayed Isildur to his death. The ring passed out of all knowledge for two and a half thousand years.
Not long after, it ensnared a new bearer, the creature named Gollum. It poisoned his mind for five hundred years and when the rumour of a shadow growing in the east spread, the ring perceived it's time has now finally arrived. It left Gollum and he still searches for it now.
That my lady, is the extent of my knowledge of the ring. My grandfather told me of the battle before he sailed to Valinor. I have heard whispers that the ring has resurfaced. Whether it is the truth I do not know. This is what the Orcs were referring to. There are rumours that Sauron has finally returned and he is seeking for the ring. That is why we have doubled our efforts to keep Lorien sound."
Calavénë was lost for words. She did not know the importance of the wardens' duties until now. A sense of respect bloomed in her heart for Haldir and his companions, "Thank you my lord for acquainting me with the history of the Eldars."
Haldir stood up, "If that is all, my lady I take my leave."
"My lord…" Calavénë called out to him.
Haldir turned and looked at her, "Yes?"
Calavénë blushed. What she would ask of him now was too close of a resemblance to the encounter they had under the cataract, "I would not have troubled you with this but I could not find Orophin or any other female warden to help. I need to change the dressings on my ankle and I would really appreciate a bath. Could you please help me to the river?"
Haldir hesitated. The river and a naked elleth proved to be a dangerous mix for him. He could help her with the dressings but to take her to the river for a bath? It was too much for him to oblige.
Calavénë sensed his reservations, "You do not have to wait on me Haldir. Just help me walk to the river and you can be on your way."
Haldir sighed dejectedly. He was at wits end. He could not leave her alone to fend for herself if an orc came upon her. He would have to trust himself to be around her and to be morally sound. With a heart filled with doubt he agreed, "Very well, my lady. I shall help you to the river but I must insist on waiting. I would not want your life in danger. I hope that is suitable to you."
Calavénë nodded, "Thank you Haldir. I will not be long. I just need to gather my belongings."
Haldir bowed, "I will wait for you outside. Call out to me if you need any assistance."
Calavénë watched as Haldir slipped outside. Was this a wise suggestion? The last time she went close to a water source, the both of them were caught in a heated turmoil. She swallowed hard. Could Haldir contain himself? Worse still could she soothe her raging heart?
Maer dû – good night
Maer aur, arwen en amin – good morning, my lady
Pen dithen – small one
Pen neth – young one
Herdir – master
Night wisps are creatures from the book sword of truth by Terry Goodkind)