|Illustration drawn by Jamberry
Like Beams of Gold
Reminiscent of a Meeting
Through the dusk, I saw them retreating. Their black forms were bent over and could scarcely be told apart from the masses lying about on the ground. The horses of the Rohanian riders pawed over them and crushed them into the ground.
The day had been long. If Gandalf hadn't come with reinforcements, I don't doubt I would have been dead by now. But come, he had. And I was very much alive, though sore. There was a long gash on my right arm where it had taken a blow from an enemy's sword. My muscles ached, the pain traveling from my calves, through my thighs, up into my back, and ending in a dense ball at the very center of my skull.
Now it was time to see to the wounded and dying. Their cries and moaning rose into the air all around and I pitied them. My eyes followed the line of the wall, lingering on the part where it had been breached. We'd held. I could scarce believe we held the fortress!
It was then that I realized suddenly that I didn't know who had survived the battle and who had not. Putting my hands to my head, my thoughts raced. Haldir! He had arrived with Elven soldiers to come to our assistance in the rain. Oh noble creature!
"Legolas!" I called into the air. At first, nothing came out save a croaking semblance to my voice. I cleared my throat and called again, and this time his name rang up above the masses of bodies lying about the ground.
"Aragorn! Aragorn!" I closed my eyes tightly and smiled with relief. So, he had come out all right.
I prepared my throat to cry out for the son of Gloin, but his voice reached me first. "Aragorn! Dammit Strider, speak ta me!"
"Gimli, Son of Gloin! When will you learn some manners?!" I shouted back with a laugh. I could hear him laughing too, a low rumbling in the murky darkness.
I breathed in deeply of the air and thought about the person who first came to my mind. It surprised even myself! Had I been that grateful to him for what he'd done that I'd forget about the ones I'd spent my entire quest with from the very beginning?
His image filled my mind, and I felt suddenly strange. Ashamed. I recalled the first time I'd seen him, years ago...
Lothlorien's light shone down and I was trying to help my Elven brothers, sons of Lord Elrond of Rivendell, find their way to the palace there. It was a joke. They insisted that their memories were not too keen of the place, and that they had forgotten the way over the many years it had been since they'd last had trod that forest. So they decided that we should split up and try to discover the right trail that would lead us to the place. I was told that if I found it, I was to call them and we would converge together. The twins knew that I was a far better hunter than they. I had the makings of a great Ranger. Yet... This "trail" eluded me. I searched high and low, not knowing at all that the whole time I was being watched; being hunted myself.
Finally in the traces of moss, I fancied I had found the path of Elven footsteps. And just as I stood to call out to my brothers... There he was.
There was an arrow pointed at my throat from inches away. My jaw dropped and my eyes followed the tip of the weapon up to the hand that held it in its string, and then beyond that to the surreal yet handsome face at the end. He was magnificent, standing stone-still as a statue... As if he had always stood there. I had not heard footsteps nor even a subtle sound of breath or the ruffle of movement. All had been perfectly silent.
I thought him exquisite, standing there so calm and measured, the sunlight falling in white beams upon him and all around. He spoke. It was a form of Elvish but I did not understand, so he spoke again to me in Sindarin. I knew Sindarin, but I was occupied by something else: his voice. It was so soft and smooth, just like the graceful sound of the leaves as they brush against each other on a light refreshing summer breeze. If it could be visualized, it must look like the light dancing off of a beautiful mountain brook. I was caught completely off guard. It... it was enthralling... I could not help myself, I wanted to reach out and touch that ivory hair...
But I held myself back. He led us to Lothlorien for my brothers had revealed themselves then, laughing at their little joke with which the Elven archer was not pleased. I did not see any more of him until late the night of the feast thrown in honor of our visit. There, I caught a glimpse of him again as he was stepping out of the room. Our eyes locked for what seemed like an eternal moment, and it was his eyes that fell. I watched him until his pale head was out of sight.
"So you have met Haldir of Lorien, High Guardian of this place." Said the Lady Galadriel with a laugh.
"Yes...He tried to kill me." So, he was the guardian of Lothlorien? That was why he held an arrow at my throat. He seemed to me the greatest hunter I had ever known for he had come upon me and revealed himself in broad daylight. He put my skills to shame. And the way he carried himself! So regal; such grace. He seemed both mysterious and all-knowing at the same time. It made my stomach leap to think about him... I didn't know why. These were strange feelings even for me. Then I realized I had felt the same feelings often enough when I saw or thought of Arwen. This frightened me, and I forced the Elven guardian out of my mind.
Until fate brought us together again. Scarcely had we left Moria and the memory of Gandalf's fall behind us, when my mind leapt forward to Lothlorien...to him. The hobbits lay on the rocks, and even Legolas was consumed with grief at Gandalf's departure from us. But I? I could think of nothing else beside his pale hair and exquisite pointed face. And so I forced them up with the promise of danger at nightfall. And we dashed into the welcome sanctuary of that forest. I before all the others, because I could not wait to see him...
And there he was! Just as I had seen him last. But he was not alone. Many Elves were at his side this time and he did not even have his bow and arrow drawn. Somehow, this disappointed me... But then he spoke, his voice passive and soft like cloth rubbing together...
He did not want to let us pass. They held us there at the edge of the wood for hours, and it was late into night when I found he'd sent a scout up to the Lady Galadriel, asking what should they do with us? She'd sent back word to let him decide at his own discretion whether he should allow us passage. So we were gathered together before him, and he paced back and forth deep in thought before barraging us with a series of questions. I answered for us all, and kindly even though I knew the others were tired, irritated and irate at him. The questioning went on and off throughout the evening, and he couldn't seem to decide. I alone knew the weight of the decision placed upon his shoulders: should he let us pass, we could cause great potential harm. It would be his fault if that occurred. Yet, if he did not let us pass, something horrible could happen to our party... and it seemed like we were indeed on an important quest. It would be his fault too, if our fate were demise at the hands of enemies he could have prevented. My heart went out to him.
I saw the others becoming more irritated by the moment. The hobbits sat tiredly off to the side. I noticed Frodo gazing about as if in a trance. Sam was looking concernedly over him, speaking to him in hushed tones. Merry and Pippin leaned against each other; they held their stomachs and I knew how hungry they must have felt. Gimli had removed his helmet from his head and was sitting tiredly studying it and wiping his forehead with a crumpled cloth.
My attention was suddenly drawn away from my companions as Haldir's voice penetrated my thoughts. He spoke in Elvish to me; it was a final question about our quest, and asked with all courtesy in a softer tone than what he'd been using. I prepared to answer, but Gimli broke in. "Use a tongue we all can understand!" And then he proceeded to insult the Elf.
I could not take it... How dare he! Insult the very guardian of Lothlorien! What gave him, a puny dwarf, the right to insult Haldir of Lorien?! My hand clenched into a fist and before I could stop myself, I turned to him and gave him a rough blow to the shoulder. "That was not so courteous!" I growled gruffly.
Then I realized what I had done. Pulling away, I saw Haldir staring at me, speechless. My face felt hot, and silently I prayed that no one could see me blushing in the dim light. How old was I? And how secure in my love for Arwen, that this Elf could cause such... feelings in me?
"You can go no further..." He went to move away, but I caught his arm.
My heart was pounding. "Please, good Haldir...of Lorien... We need sanctuary! We need to pass through Lothlorien. I mean us not to stay, but just let us pass..." I tentatively let go, wanting only to linger.
He studied my companions once more before turning to me again. "Come," he said softly in Sindarin. "Tell me what you are planning to do... Perhaps then I shall be able to decide whether or not it is a worthy cause."
For hours it seemed, I was forced to argue with him. He opened his mind to me, for he knew that I must know the weight of the issue. All the while we bickered, my heart was not in it. I studied the lines of his face, the gentle curve of his high cheekbone... I felt strangely detached from what was going on, and instead contented myself only to look at him before me. Never had I been so close to him... I could almost feel his breath upon my face... Yet, he seemed so far away. I avoided his eyes; I could not touch him for there were others around. His Elven archers watched us closely with curious eyes, interested in what I had to say of our fellowship.
Finally, at the mention of Elrond's council, his resistance gave away. I am still not certain why, exactly... But he turned to the others. "Follow me, and do not fall behind." He took two of his archers, intending to leave the others behind to guard the border.
We followed him all through the night and into the wee hours of the morning. It was nigh dawn when we came upon the very heart of the forest... the Palace of Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel. Haldir stood upon the ridge of the hill overlooking the fair place, and spoke of it in a voice so fondly... I had never heard that tone before. My eyes were glued to his figure, and as the dawn broke, it fell upon him in a pool of silvery white light. My being churned... Arwen was forgotten; I wanted only to wrap myself around him.
Once again, in Lothlorien I saw no more of him. But it was of Haldir that I was thinking when our boats pulled away from those shores...
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A Blood-Red Eve
Elven bodies littered the ground everywhere, their limbs and blood entwined with those of both men and Orcs. I raised my head and cupped my hands around my mouth. "HALDIR!" I shouted as loud as I could.
I remembered the hug. How could I forget it? Wrapping my arms around his body was the closest I had ever come to him. I had buried my nose into his shoulder, not caring who was there to see me or what circumstance that I was in; I was so very glad to see him. And to my utter surprise, he had hesitantly closed his own arms around my back. It filled me with complete bliss and I thought I could die there... A feeling I only shared when I held Arwen... More! I yearned for more! But now was the time for battle and I had to face that fate before I could even consider really speaking with him. We parted, but the feel of him and his scent in my nose lingered long after. I thought about him on the ramparts before the battle began.
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There was no answer to my call. I shouted again, "HALDIR!"
There was still no answer.
Oh no... I began to panic. Running from one healer to the next, I asked if they had seen him. The reply was the same: there are hundreds of dead, dying, and wounded elves, and nearly every one of them fits your description. How are we to know which one is he?
I left them and began the search myself. First, I went all around the courtyard where the breach had been and the Orcs had poured over the fallen wall and into our ranks. The worst of the hand-to-hand fighting had occurred there. There was no trace of him. I moved then to the wall, where I searched all along the base. I met Legolas there, who embraced me quickly with a smile of relief on his face and a glow in his eyes. "Aragorn! So glad am I to see you, so glad..." He gave my arm a warm squeeze.
"And I you! ...Have you seen Haldir? I'm looking for him, I have not seen him..." My voice was detached and impatient; the concern must have shown.
"I have not seen him... But I am sure he is well somewhere... Did you check the infirmary?"
I shook my head. "No good... I will find him. Good care, Legolas! I will speak to you later... So good to see you've made it through as well!" I said smiling before moving off.
A stairwell led to the top of the wall where I had been at the start of the battle. Up there, I paused and closed my eyes trying to think of my last memory of him. That was right! He was half a wall down from me. I remembered marking his location and waving from my post to him at the end of the watch, at the beginning of the Orcan approach. He had nodded his head.
I moved in that direction. Bodies littered the crossway and I had to push them out of the way. The Orcs I just threw off the wall, unceremoniously onto the bloodied ground below. Then I stopped in my tracks. I saw him.
He lay with his back propped against the wall and his head hung down over his shoulder. He was slumped and I saw no movement... I began to breathe in deep panicked breaths and broke into a run.
But I slowed as I got nearer. No, I did not want to believe it... I did not want it to be true... Kneeling beside his lifeless form, tears welled up in my eyes. "Haldir..." I whispered. "Haldir..." With a shaking hand, I reached out and stroked his soft cheek...
And was greeted with a shock! He moved!
"Haldir!" His eyes opened into narrow slits and he peered at me through the darkening evening.
"Ara..." But his teeth clenched before he could finish. I felt my brow furrow. Something was horribly wrong with him.
"What happened?" It was then that I noticed he was clutching his side. Gently, I took his arm and pulled it away.
There was dried blood caked on his hands in black gobs that shone in the dimming light. His side had been gashed open by an enemy's sword. "I... fell quite ear...ly..." That voice said in a raspy whisper. "I...I'm so...rry..."
I was shaking my head as the tears steamed down my face. "No... Do not be sorry. Never be sorry!" I wrapped an arm around his back and another underneath his armored legs. And with a deep breath, heaved him up so that I could carry him. I heard him wince with pain. "Shhh.... I am taking you now to the healers... be still, gentle Haldir." His head fell limply against my chest. He had lost so much blood and had lain there in the cold I know not how long. I knew I must hurry if I were to save him.
I moved mechanically and didn't even feel the strain on my battle-worn legs. His body seemed light as a feather. I was near the bottom of the stairs leading down when my foot caught on an Orcan shield and I tumbled. We flew to the ground and I felt my heart break. He lay where he'd fallen, his head back and his eyes glazed over with pain. I saw that he was already more than half dead.
"Leave...it...be... I am finished..."
"No! I won't let you, I cannot let you die!"
"So...cold..." His head fell to the side so that it was facing me. His grayish blue eyes were dull and drained of the once vibrant vivacity that had once lodged there. "Thank...y...o...u..." He managed.
I wept freely. I could not get up. So I crawled to him and ripped my breastplate off of me, casting it to the side as best I could, and pressed my body over him trying to warm him. His breaths were growing shallower and he was so cold... Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a healer.
"Help! Help over here is needed!" I caught their attention and smiled weakly as they came running towards us. And then the world went black...
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Like Beams of Gold
I was dreaming...
The bed beneath me was made with velvet pillows and thick silken blankets. An ornately woven tapestry hung above my head. I stared at it blankly. Somewhere, music played: a harp. I rolled over and as I did, the great oaken door to the room was pushed open.
Arwen! Dressed in blue finery, a long satiny dress and lace at her shoulders. Her dark hair graced her back and was braided with pearls. She smiled as she moved towards me, and I saw that she carried a large bejeweled crown.
"How fare you, my love?" Her whisper was gentle and sweet. She spoke as she leaned down on the bed beside me and wrapped an arm around mine. "Something troubles you, dearest... Tell me what it is? We do not keep secrets from each other."
I looked deeply into her eyes and was lost there. "The war. The war troubles me. It weighs down on my heart."
Arwen's hand found its way around the back of my neck and gently she stroked my hair. "War is a horrible thing... It turns men to monsters and soaks up life like blackness does the light." Sadly, the Elven princess tilted her head. "My dear Aragorn... My king. All will soon be over." I lowered my head, but she took my chin into her hand and lifted it until our eyes met. "Do not forget my promise to you." A small smile lingered on her lips as she rose and drifted back out of the room. She stopped to turn back and look at me one last time before letting the heavy door fall shut.
I did not want to see her go. I wanted to hold her; I wanted to weep. "Arwen... Arwen! I love thee!..."
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I awoke in a strange bed. At first, I did not know where I was. Sitting up, I realized I was not in a bed at all but on a low bunk in a great stone hall. In rows all around me were similar bunks. They held the bulky forms of bodies. Not fully awake, I stared at everything with mouth agape.
"You are in the infirmary." Droned an old familiar voice. I turned quickly and saw Gandalf sitting in a chair beside my cot. "Do you feel better?" His eyes showed some trace of concern.
I was trying to think. "How did I get here?"
"You were calling for help, and were wounded."
I'd found Haldir. Haldir... I... I had forgotten about him! "Haldir!" I threw the covers off and jumped up off the cot. But blood came rushing to my head and I almost toppled right there.
"Calm! Calm yourself!" I felt a firm hand take my shoulder and force me to sit back down. I let my head fall into my hands.
Gandalf sat back down as well. "Haldir is well for the time being. They are caring for him."
So, he was still among the living! "Haldir is alive?"
He was idly chewing on the stem of his long pipe. "Yes, and thanks to you." He shot me a curious glance out of the corner of his icy eyes.
I pretended not to notice. "What happened?"
"The Orcan army was all but decimated. Isengard fell under attack from the forests. It seems your friends Merry and Pippin have made good use of themselves for once! They and the Ents broke the dam and flooded the Isengard plane. ...Sauruman is dead." He added.
Hardly any of this registered with me. My dream of Arwen... My beautiful princess... Yet only awake for a few minutes and I was thinking again of Haldir. No! My hands clenched, forcing the fingernails into the tender flesh of my palms. The pain felt good...
Gandalf gave me another curious look, then leaned over with a sigh to pat my shoulder. "Rest now. There will be plenty more time to talk of these things later." I merely nodded. He stood and moved away from my bunk towards the carved double doors at the end of the great hall.
I did not want to rest. I lay back down. A million thoughts seemed to barrage my brain all at once, leaving me out of breath. The beginnings of a headache tentatively spread from my temples. I shut my eyes.
I knew that whatever feelings I felt towards the guardian of Lothlorien were wrong and must be suppressed. Was that not right? A man and a male Elf could not love... It was... unheard of! Preposterous! Morally wrong! I shook my head, for these thoughts tormented me. Why then did I feel for him? Why couldn't I force these emotions away and be done with it? My insides seemed to burn. Arwen was my love, my only one true love. She had stood by me through every ordeal that I could remember. She had promised her heart and her body to me; she had consented to be my wife. What was Haldir? An Elf I hardly knew. Angrily, I forced the saying of "first sight" out of my mind and tried to remember the times I'd spent with him. There were precious few...
I frowned again. I had spent years with Arwen! I had loved her the very first time I had ever seen her. She was dancing among the trees and I had mistaken her for the ghost of Luthien, come back to dance the beautiful forests of Middle Earth. Her dark hair and full lips, those deep eyes... She was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. She could hunt and ride, she was educated in the lost ways of magic of her people. Her will was strong, and her love was deep.
He was somewhat small for an Elf, delicate and graceful as a swan. I suppose that was good for moving through the forest quickly without being seen. His round face was pointed at the chin, nose and brow... Almost like a living contradiction, but beautiful... Beautiful in a different way, like the chiseled statues of old. He was silent and mysterious, decisive, and a soldier ruled by an inbred sense of honor. He had never known love. He had never had time nor did he care much for it because Lothlorien was his life. He was full and whole, completely unified with himself. He needed no other.
But I needed someone... Someone to love. Yet, who would it be? And when the time came, would I choose the right one? Arwen, with her dark beauty, her solid support and her promise of deep intimate love?... Or Haldir, forbidden from me but enticing, with his silent mysterious ways and his pale hair like beams of gold in the sun?
I breathed deeply. The air was damp and cool, and it smelled of old stone and moss. I will find some way to rid myself of the strange feelings I have for him, I told myself. Somehow, I felt I must do that one thing... Both for myself, and for him.
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A Wistful Reunion
We had to leave Helm's Deep. The final battle was fast approaching and it seemed that everyone knew the fate was mine to play an important part. I made ready to go as soon as I was recovered enough.
But I wanted to see him one last time before we left. The healer that was in charge of his care, a female with a chubby face and arms as strong as a troll's, did not like the idea of someone seeing her special patient. It was Legolas who brought me to her, and it was he who said, "You shall let Aragorn in to see him for he is the one that saved his life!"
She turned to look at me with eyes that showed new respect. I blushed. It was not the first time my friend had embarrassed me with one of his outbursts. I merely nodded. She led me through the door and down a short passage past many doors to rooms housing fallen officers and the worst of the wounded. Then, stopping at a door near the end of the narrow hallway, she motioned for me to enter.
The room was silent save for the light breathing of its occupant. Nervously, shyly, I moved towards the broad bed. He was sleeping, or at least I thought he was, with his head turned towards the wall. His pale hair was flayed out across the pillow.
I stood there for a long moment just staring, not knowing what to do. Part of me wanted to wake him, but I didn't dare. The last thing I wanted to do was disturb his rest. So I very gently pulled the covers up over his white clothed shoulders where they had slipped down. Then I ran my hand hesitantly over a lock of his silken hair before turning quickly to go. I did not look back. But when I left the room, there were tears in my eyes.
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I went and fought my battles, and with my friends, won them. The Ring of Power was destroyed, and I was finally freed from the vile thing that kept me so many years in fear. Arwen became my bride; I made my claim to the throne of Gondor.
I was happy. My love for Arwen consumed me and I never knew a better time in my life. The One Ring was gone and it could never torment me again. With my beautiful and intelligent wife at my side, we ruled our lands justly. I gradually forgot that empty tug at my heart... the pale-haired Elven guardian slowly slipped from my mind and my feelings for him faded away.
Years passed. Finally, one day I discovered that the yearning in my heart for the wilds returned. My days as a Ranger were passed lonely but contentedly. But I missed the roadless meadows and forests, I missed the tug of the earth at my feet that called me to roam.
Arwen must have sensed it. She came to me and sat beside me on the wide window seat. "The land calls to you; you must answer it, my love."
"Come with me, for I do not wish to leave you..."
Her smile was soft and I could tell that she was touched. "I will be here when you return. Someone must preside over the happenings of the kingdom. Besides, my love, I think you must have time to yourself. Since you came to the throne, you have done nothing but think of the needs of others, very much neglecting your own." She said with a certain instinctive wisdom.
She had eyes in the back of her heart. "You always know how I feel... You always know just what I need and just what to say to me... I shall never cease to wonder at it." Then I took both of her hands in mine and kissed them.
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The air felt good at my back and in my hair. I departed at the break of dawn and looked back only to wave a last kiss to my beloved queen. She stood, clad in imperial white on the balcony. I could not see if she felt sadness or gladness at my leaving, but I imagine it must have been a mixture of both.
I could wander for an entire month. My road took me far from Gondor, to places I'd trod before. Rivendell... It was so empty. There was hardly a trace left of the Elves that dwelled there once. The magnificent buildings were faded and overgrown; vines claimed the well-wrought sculptures. I camped there one night and could not bear the void.
So I wandered longer. Soon, I was not so far from Lothlorien... And suddenly, I remembered...
I lay sprawled across my bedroll recalling the last time I'd seen him. Long it had been since I had even thought about him. He was probably off in the west with the rest of the Elves, separated forever from this world. Yet, I wondered... Some silly part of me desired nothing but to go to Lothlorien. Shoving that idea from my thoughts, nevertheless the morrow brought me that way.
It was less magical than I remembered it. Reminiscing had a way of doing that: things seemed so vivid and beautiful in the mind and then so disappointing once you returned. My heart leapt at every breeze that pulled at the arching ferns, at every twig that snapped under a stag's hoof, at every call of a bird. So much did I hope to see him... It was an empty hope. I knew these woods had long since been abandoned.
I found the way to the palace easily. With nothing more to protect, the ancient spells had outgrown their uses and wore off. It was no longer a palace, of course. Reduced merely to a great clearing with a hallowed, hushed feel to it, the heart of Lothlorien boasted neither graceful Elves strolling nor great tree towers reaching for the skies. I knelt sadly where the sun fell through the canopy in a pool of light. It seemed like ages ago...
"What brings you here, Aragorn of Elessar?"
My eyes went immediately wide and I did not dare to turn around for a long moment. Was I imagining things? It could not possibly be!
Turn around I did, and there he was... Haldir of Lorien.
I thought I must be dreaming, but then he pulled himself up from the tree that he was leaning against and walked towards me. He stopped before me and we just stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity of silence.
More than eight years had passed since I'd seen him last. I had aged well, maintaining my lean muscles and my dark hair. Only a few strands of silver or gray could be found on my head. The only wrinkles I had were those that pulled at the corners of my eyes. But he? He looked exactly the same as he had when I saw him the very first time. His hair still shone like white gold; his skin was still pale and fair, almost translucent. Only his eyes had changed: they were no longer stormy gray as they had been before Helm's Deep. They were deep and sorrowful, almost resentful.
I stood slowly, and tried to think of something to say to break the awkward quietude. "How fare you?"
"I am empty, like Lothlorien."
"You did not leave with the others when they sailed..." I said with some uncertainty.
Haldir stood with his chin raised. "Long have I guarded this sacred place, and I guard it still. My blood is bound to this place, as it can be to no other; and so are my heart, mind, and spirit: I could not bring myself to go. Here I stay until I pass from this earth."
He spoke with conviction. It touched me, and seeing him again awoke something in me that I had thought was long gone: the old stirrings returned and I realized that I was completely and perfectly alone with him for the very first time...
We stood speaking for hours. I did not know what to say at all to him, but somehow found the words in me to carry on the long conversation. We spoke about the end of the war, about Gondor and how it was faring. We talked until the sun hung so low in the sky, it cast red fire over the landscape.
"You never did answer me... What brings you here to Lothlorien?" There was a friendly tease in his smooth voice.
Forcing the reason away from my, I explained instead how I had missed my ways as a Ranger and a hunter. Then an idea sprang to my mind. "I camp here tonight. Would you... join me please tomorrow for a hunt?" My eyes were hopeful. I wanted to spend some real time with him for once.
Silently, he thought for a moment, studying the ground without moving. Then he raised his head. "I will join you here when dawn breaks over the trees. I will bring only my bow and suggest you do the same."
I nodded and bade him goodnight.
He disappeared into the darkening forest. I watched him go, then rolled out my sleeping mat on the soft mossy floor of Lothlorien. I did not know what waited for me tomorrow, but I eagerly anticipated the coming of the sun.
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At Restful Peace?
The feel of morning dew upon my skin woke me, and I readied myself with a heart full of happiness.
I met him in the clearing again. He carried an exquisitely carved bow, a last weapon of Elven origin. He did not look quite so happy as I did, but I did not care. To be with him, near him was all I wanted. My skin tingled at the sound of his voice and made me ashamed again of my absurd feelings. Hopefully, I prayed he did not notice.
We decided to hunt for deer. I had never hunted in Lothlorien; it was forbidden to all outsiders during the reign of the Elves. Now, however, the game was not the main source of sustenance for a large group of people anymore. I could hunt there freely as I wished.
Through the trees at the western end, I saw a white stag. His head was lowered to the ground where he nibbled at the grass, blissfully unaware of any harm that could befall him. The size of his rack told me he was a yearling. Still, it was muscular and strong by the look of his angular shoulders. He moved slowly as he grazed.
I went to motion to Haldir that I wanted to get closer, but he had gone. Figuring he had already seen the deer as well, and that he had probably gone ahead to meet me, I moved forward alone. My leather-booted feet were silent on the mossy forest floor.
Moments later, I was so close I could hear the animal's teeth quietly grinding at the grass. Drawing a bead on him, I strung my bow with a black feathered arrow and waited patiently for the right moment...
Only to have the deer suddenly made aware of my presence. He dashed away from me forever into the trees and was gone. I frowned and stood.
Haldir appeared near to me. "Well, he made off with his life today." I tried to make light, but I was disappointed.
"There are yet others." He answered quietly in that voice of his. I turned away before he could see my face flush crimson.
A few hours later, we faced a female deer and her fawn. Looking down at my weapon, I considered it. Then I felt something softly brush against my shoulder. Gray eyes bore into mine. "Leave these two..." I nodded, frozen to my spot by his touch. Only when he moved away again could I breathe freely.
So the day wore on, and we had nothing to show for our time. Every time I came upon an animal, it would somehow be alerted to my being there; or else Haldir would intervene on the creatures' behalf. When I finally realized what went on, I couldn't help but to smile and shake my head.
"Shall we stop now... the sun is making its final arc in the sky."
Haldir looked up at it before nodding.
"I have nothing to offer for as dinner, for we met with no success today."
"There is a river full of fish." He turned and pointed eastward.
He thought it over. "If you wish." I nodded.
We removed our boots, rolling up our leggings to wade into the swiftly flowing shallow water. He was right: the fish in the river were so plentiful, we could catch them easily with our bare hands. I watched Haldir roll up his sleeves and dip his arms in, then I did the same. It was not long before we had enough to feed us both.
He built the fire while I cleaned and scaled the fish; most of this was done in utter silence. I am not certain if he knew it or not, but I kept looking at him wishing for something to say. He seemed unaware as he carefully placed the kindling twigs in a circle in our pit.
When the fish were on to cook, we sat back and watched the stars that had been hung in the sky. "Tell me the stories..." I blurted suddenly, "For I have forgotten them."
He told me of Luthien, of the Silmaril that glowed, about the seven beloved stars of the Elves and how they had come to be. Closing my eyes, I listened fully contented just to be there.
I noticed he ate very little. He seemed so sad... so lonely. The fire cast an orange glow upon his face that seemed to heighten the downward turn of his eyes. The way it shone, it almost looked as though there were tears there. I moved closer to him, well aware of my churning stomach and how hard it had become to breathe.
He raised his head slightly to show that he was listening. "There is something..." I stopped myself. How could I tell him? How could I say to him all the things I was feeling? But he had a right to know, didn't he? I bit my lip. Then moved closer so that I was so close, I could smell the scent of freshly carved wood and mossy earth that always permeated his clothes. "I must tell you something..."
Turning slightly, he gave me a queer look. My breathing became quicker and I pressed forward. "I have long felt something for you that I have felt for no other... Many times, I have pushed it from my mind, willing myself not to act on these emotions and to not even acknowledge them... Yet, they remain..." Blood rushed to my face; I felt so stupid.
"What is it exactly that you are trying to tell me?" His furrowed brow and the look of confusion in his eyes told me that he did not understand. I stared into his face, and could stand it no longer. Slowly, I took his chin into my hand, then leaned forward and brushed his lips with mine.
He pulled away immediately. "What mean you by this?!" He appeared horrified.
I was frozen to my spot, staring at the ground. "I'm... I'm..."
But it was too late, he was up and moving quickly away from me. I was on my feet in a flash and extended my arm after him. "Haldir! I'm sorry! Please!....Don't go, please Haldir!...Don't... go..."
To my surprise, he stopped.
"Please don't go... I... did not know that I would... I..." could not think of anything to say. I buried my head in my hands. "I've tried to stop... I've tried... It is not right, I know it isn't... I can't..." My mind was whirling, my stomach churned. "My heart is torn in twain. I love Arwen, and yet I cannot stop thinking of you in a similar way... Ever since I first saw you, in all your splendor, right here in Lothlorien, I could not drive you from my mind..." Exasperated, out of breath, I sheepishly raised my eyes to hazard a glance at him.
I could see the torn look on his face. He was a rabbit wanting to flee yet at the same time, urged to stay. For a moment, I thought he would dash off and I wouldn't ever see him again.
After a moment of deliberation, he finally said softly "Tell me the real reason why you are here."
My shoulders slumped in defeat. "I... needed to see you. I didn't know you actually remained behind, but I hoped." I studied the ground, feeling so foolish I wished I could die.
There was no answer for a long time, and my heart began pumping with the fear that he had left me standing there. I did not want him to go yet. "Haldir?" Swallowing the lump forming in my throat, I looked hesitantly up again.
He still stood there, but in the dark I was shocked to see he was trembling. Tears welled up in my eyes. I hated myself, every bit of myself I hated for this.
He stepped backwards until he fell against the trunk of a tree and leaned heavily against it, hand to his head, looking bewildered. "Why?..."
His voice was small. At first, I could not answer him. "I...don't know. I thought maybe by being with you alone for a time would help me sort these issues out in my mind. It seems, however, that I have grown all the worse for it." I was miserable.
Then, his voice changed. It became hardened with resolve. "What is it you want from me?"
I stared in disbelief. "What?"
He straightened himself up. "I asked you, what is it you want of me?"
It wasn't registering. "What... what do you mean?"
"Ask of me what it is you have come to me for."
I was shaking. Cautiously, for I did not want to frighten him off, I moved towards him until I was directly in front of him. Then I knelt and took his hand in mine. "Lie with me... Just for tonight. It is all I ask." It seemed in my mind that if I could have him beside me for one night, I would be able to finally live in peace. The thing that drew me most to him was his secretive, mysterious demeanor. Should he open himself to me, even just once, there would be no more. It will have fulfilled that yearning and I would no longer live with the torment of wonder.
He stared at me indecisively. "I have never lain with Elf nor human."
"I do not want to take you, only to hold you as I've yearned so many times..."
Inner conflict tore at his heart and his mind. Then he seemed to shrink within himself, and his voice was soft as he spoke. "Helm's Deep... Had not you found me on that rampart, I would have died up there." His voice grew quieter still. "I owe you my life..."
I blinked. He let out his breath and closed his eyes. "I will lie with you..."
Could it be? My heart fluttered, but then I felt so incredibly awful. I felt dirty, as though I had just tricked him out of his soul. I knew it was so incredibly wrong to ask it of him...
Our love was chaste. I stroked his face, and then wrapped my arms around him. He let me kiss him, and he tasted differently from Arwen. She was sweet like the nectar of summer honeysuckle... His lips tasted fresh like the water of a wild stream. I buried my nose into the nape of his neck and held him. His flesh was full and supple, as though he were still in youth.
I rested my head on his chest and drifted half in sleep half in consciousness. He stared up at the stars, gently stroking my hair and the soft rise and fall of his bosom as he breathed lulled me further and further away. I felt at peace just lying there with him so near...
Then he moved and I felt his warm breath upon my ear. In a whisper, he said ever so softly, "Aragorn..... Kill me, please..."
----------- ------------- ------------
A Thousand Empty Years; A Thousand Lonely Tears
"Aragorn..... Kill me, please..."
I pushed myself up and stared down at him speechless. In the inky darkness, his eyes seemed to glow and I realized that he was weeping. With very tender fingers, I brushed the tears away. "Why? How could you wish such a thing on yourself?" I scolded gently.
"I asked because I wish it more than anything..." He paused, then pulled away from me so that he could sit upright. "Look around you, Aragorn. My people are all gone, never to return. No longer do I protect this realm for any reason." Growing quiet, he lowered his head. "I realized what an empty existence I've always led only after they'd gone."
What could I say to that? "It was not empty; the Elves that once dwelled here owed their safety and their gratitude to you..."
Cutting me off with a shake of his pale head, Haldir continued. "I was nothing to them. Never included in the inner circles of Lothlorien because I was never around. They spoke to me when they had to, then lived on without so much as a thought." He leaned over and hugged his knees tightly. "I should have died at Helm's Deep... I wanted to die."
Earnestly I embraced him, entwining my fingers in his fair hair. "The world would not have ever been the same without you... I saw... I care and have cared."
He grew rigid. Cold. I let my embrace fall and pulled back to look at him. Whatever had caused him to open up to me momentarily had passed and he had retreated again behind his mask of detached silence.
That question, I knew I couldn't answer. "Even now, I am not sure..."
We sat in silence. Neither of us dared to move or speak. The sky was growing lighter over our heads, and the trees looked like stark skeletal outlines against it. The sun brought thoughts of Arwen to me. The desire to be home again with my beautiful queen tugged at my heart.
Haldir pulled his tunic closed tightly around his shoulders.
"I am sorry..." He looked up at me again and I felt terrible and guilty under his gaze. "I should not have come back here. I should not have forced you to... to do something that you had no wish to do. I have made your life miserable in so many ways."
To my surprise, he stood. "...My needs and wishes have never been known to anyone... Therefore, I have never expected that anyone ever concern themselves with them." Before I could say a word, he turned quickly and walked away from me.
He paused. Turning to me, he looked uncertain. Then he pursed his lips. "When you return here next, if ever you return... I will no longer be here. Do not come looking for me again. I... I thank you, Aragorn of Elessar." He added softly but loud enough for me to hear.
He waved his hand to silence me. "Perhaps it was a night that I did not wish for. But then again, it has been a life I did not care to live. You were the only one to ever feel anything for me, that I know of... And I cannot think of why. ...I am nothing."
I gasped. So that was it... Just like that, the bright light of realization burst into my mind. The many times he had been so cold... His perpetual impassive expression that rarely changed on his face... The reason why he had granted me my bizarre and terrible request for a night... My jaw fell open. Everything I had ever thought about him had been wrong... His cool detachment had not been because of his mysterious personality, but he had grown into that image due to the many years he had spent so painfully alone knowing that no one had ever cared anything for him. Angrily, I clenched my fists. How could they have taken such advantage of him?! He continued...
"Now return to your beautiful city, to your Arwen who could never choose a greater, more kinder man to love... I only wish that I will no longer haunt you as I must have done these many years past, when I was unaware of it. Live your life long, for you are worthy of the air you breathe; you deserve the life you live. In a way, I almost envy you... Alas, I cannot feel even that. I don't know how to feel anything but remorse... Remorse for things I have never known."
He was the saddest creature I had ever seen just then, his eyes full of sorrow and pain that had never been released but had accumulated in him over the many years that he had been guardian of Lothlorien. I had thought myself lonely many times in my life, but I had always looked forward to the times that I would share with my friends and companions. I had memories full that I could look back on when I was lonesome; so, in a way, I was never truly alone. Not like him, not like this beautiful, wonderful elf before me... There was nothing but loneliness in his life; it was his meager existence and he had nothing to look forward to, ever. I could never live like that, I knew, and felt all the worse for my desperate selfish needs that had caused me to preserve this existence at the fortress those many years ago in the battle for Helm's Deep. I could do nothing but pity him, and hate myself yet more.
"Farewell, good Aragorn of Elessar... Good care." After he had finished those last words, he turned and faded into the woods and faded out of my life forever.
Now, he is only a sorrowful memory that I still recall atimes. All those many moments in the past that I wished for and needed him, I never could have guessed that perhaps he needed someone too. Something in me sometimes wishes that he were still around somewhere, but far more of my heart rejoices in the fact that he is now somewhere far from the pain and loneliness that was this world to him.