Disclaimer: I don't own 'em, but if I did, I'd be playing with them right now! I make no money, but contributions to my bank account would be accepted and written off on my taxes. EG
Summary: Haldir has served his Lord and Lady faithfully for centuries, but his life is stuck in a rut. He has increasingly become cold, arrogant, and aloof from all others, including his brothers. Fearing that Haldir may be headed down a dangerous path, Rúmil pleads with the Lady to give Haldir a respite. The Lady agrees and sends Haldir on a 'mission' that is mainly for his rest and relaxation. During his travels, Haldir finds something very interesting and brings it home, much to the curiosity of his siblings.
Flashbacks are denoted by and will be separate chapters.
AN: If this story is a success, which means many reviews and curious questions, then I will write supplemental chapters stories that will give more details in Haldir's travels. There is much background to be established and many avenues to pursue, so if the reader is willing, and polite about reviews flames only encourage my dragon and he's fiery enough then I get to work on the background and post them as soon as I can. Thank you!
Time Line: I say about three hundred years before the War of the Ring, give or take a decade. Its when it was safe to travel without too much orc activity.
Archive: Email and ask and I'll give permission… though for the life of me I don't know why you want it.
Special Thanks: To El, who's the world's best damn beta in ME or Earth has ever seen! Thanks for putting up with my ramblings and my mistakes. Your help is much appreciated
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"My Lady," Rúmil bowed respectively. "I am honored by your presence."
Galadriel, Lady of Light and of the Golden Wood, smiled sweetly at the young elf, "Rúmil, it is not often I am asked to meet with Wardens for a special audience."
Rúmil nodded and fidgeted, something he only did when very nervous, "I am sorry to have to request such a thing my lady, but I feel that there is no alternative."
"Then speak, and do so freely, for there is no need to hide or soften words," Galadriel responded, her tone pleasant and soothing to the nervous elf before her.
Rúmil took a deep breath, wondering how best to describe the situation. Feeling a knot form in his stomach, he gulped and gushed the words, hoping to say all that needed to be said quickly, so he may go and throw up behind the nearest Mallorn. "Haldir needs some time off."
Galadriel rose one, elegant brow questioningly, "And why does your brother need time off?"
Rúmil's eyes were wide and pleading, "My lady, perhaps you do not realize this, but Haldir has become unbearable."
"How so?" Galadriel asked, wondering what Haldir's youngest sibling could be rambling about.
"My lady, he has worked hard, as you know," Rúmil started and continued when Galadriel nodded in response, "But as the time goes by, he has become withdrawn. He no longer shares a life with others of Lorien, not even his own kin."
"Perhaps his mind is elsewhere?" Galadriel inquired.
Rúmil shook his head, "That is not what I meant. What I am trying to say is that, though he guards the borders with much dedication, it seems as though that is all he is interested in."
"He has many responsibilities now that he is March Warden," Galadriel said with a curious glance. "He has many under his command. He must be ready for things at all times. He knew this when he took the position."
"Yes, My Lady," Rúmil stammered, his nerve now lost completely. He felt himself tremble and throwing, and all caution aside, he spoke more forcefully, "It is true he has many responsibilities, but as the time has passed, he no longer enjoys life as he should."
Rúmil took a deep breath, steadying himself and looked directly into the fathomless eyes of his Lady, "He does not interact with any other unless it is to give orders. It has been many years since he sang, danced, even laughed, My Lady. He does not even enjoy the jokes that Orophin and I have played on him. I have not seen him smile in almost a century. I am worried, My Lady, Worried that he may allow his work to become his life and he will fade."
Galadriel's smile faltered as she thought back to the last time she saw Haldir having a good time. She frowned, remembering his absence from the last festival, and when she thought hard enough, his absence from festivals over the past five hundred years. Slowly, she spoke, "You seem to be right, Rúmil. I do not remember the last time I saw your brother at a gathering."
"Will he fade?" Rúmil asked timidly, fearing the worst.
Galadriel softened her expression when she saw the fear behind the blue eyes of the Warden's youngest sibling, "No, my dear Rúmil. Haldir will not fade, but he will cause himself damage, nonetheless. His dedication is admirable, but too much of it can be hazardous. I will speak to him on the matter promptly."
Rúmil breathed a sigh of relief and bowed his head, "Many thanks, My Lady."
As Rúmil turned to leave, Galadriel called, "And young warden?" Rúmil turned with a frightened look that made Galadriel laugh, "I do not bite. You do not need to be so wary of me. Please, feel free to speak to me about whatever you wish. I am not as distant as you have been led to believe."
Rúmil bowed his head and smiled, "Thank you, My Lady. I shall remember your words."
Galadriel watched Rúmil disappear down the spiral stairs and called for her personal guard that was waiting a few paces away. She sent him to fetch a certain March Warden for some counsel.
Rúmil felt as if he could fly, so lightened was his heart. For many years, he had witnessed the total isolation of his brother from the others, especially to his own kin. The treatment had been first thought as of as just a phase, one that needed time to pass while the brothers adjusted to their new positions in the Lady's ranks. The cloud of doubt and hurt that had hovered over Rúmil's spirit had seemed to abate, leaving him to bask in the glow of the sun and of the wonderful fulfillment of nature that thrived around him. The whispers of the trees, the song of the birds, the teasing of the wind, and many other voices of the wild that surrounded him. Today, he was particularly glad he was an elf.
"Rúmil!" a voice snapped.
Feeling himself pull out of his submersion in nature, Rúmil sighed and walked towards his brother, who was stalking towards him like a hungry warg. "Good day, Haldir. It is a lovely day, is it not?"
Haldir gave Rúmil a sour expression and snapped, "I do not have time to dally with the conditions of the day, Rúmil. I have come to make sure you remember that you are assigned to the eastern fences this next rotation." Haldir gave Rúmil a suspicious look, "Why are you so happy?"
Rúmil gave an exasperated sigh, "Yes, Brother, I remember I am to take duty on the eastern fences and that my shift, indeed, does start in two days time and will last for the next week, wherein I will return and you will take my place." Rúmil gave Haldir a bewildered look, "And I am happy because it is a beautiful day and that there is much to for which be thankful. Have you not noticed the wonderful blessings that surround you?"
Haldir looked around the immediate area, then back to his brother and gave him a sardonic look, "I see only elves and trees. Nothing unusual about any of those things. Honestly Rúmil, you seem to find too much joy in simple things."
Rúmil scowled at Haldir, "Perhaps I am making up for those of us who do not appreciate such things?"
Haldir opened his mouth to argue with Rúmil, but a sentinel had just approached the two, inclined his head slightly to Haldir, and said with a commanding voice, "The Lady wishes to speak with you, Commander Haldir. Please follow me."
Haldir nodded, dumbstruck as to the reason of the summon, but bade Rúmil an awkward good-bye and followed the sentinel. Rúmil waited until Haldir was out of sight before looking skyward and saying softly, "Thank the Vala!" With his heart light as air, he flitted through the trees in search of Orophin, knowing that soon enough, Haldir will come to them as strong and intimidating as a seasonal storm. There would be fuming, angry booms, and the occasional explosion, but Rúmil thought that, for the first time, he was looking forward to the future eruption.
Haldir bowed low when the sentinel left him in Galadriel's presence. He remained quiet, allowing the Lady to be the one to speak first.
After a couple minutes of silence, Galadriel spoke, her voice soft and relaxed, "It has come to my attention that it has been a long time since the Guardian of the Sacred Wood has had any enjoyment."
Haldir started, momentarily caught off guard. He cleared his throat and spoke, "My Lady, I live only to serve the sovereigns of this land and protect the people from the evil that lurks outside our borders."
Galadriel stepped before her Warden and gave him a cynical look, "Though it is a noble cause, it is one that has taken much from you. Do not argue with me on this," Galadriel raised her voice when she noticed Haldir opened his mouth to protest. "I have seen for many years that though you live within these borders, you take no solace in them. I am not questioning your dedication, nor your conviction, so you may allow those thoughts to slip from your mind."
Galadriel allowed a minute to pass, giving Haldir time to clear his mind of disappointment before she spoke again, "I wish you to enjoy yourself once more. So, come the morrow, you will relinquish your command to another and take some well deserved rest."
Haldir fell to one knee and pleaded, "My Lady, please, if I have done anything to offend you, know that I am deeply sorry. I shall endeavor to do my best to please you."
Galadriel sighed and placed her hands on Haldir's shoulders, feeling them tremble. She felt like weeping, seeing him prone in such a way, but such a thing was necessary, even if she did not like it. "Haldir, I am not stripping you of your rank, nor of your privileges. I am giving you a respite. A vacation, as the humans call it."
Haldir kept his head bowed and flinched as the Lady touched his shoulders. He felt her pull gently at him, bidding him to rise. He obliged, but kept his face bowed, hoping that this was some sort of a horrible dream, "A… vacation?"
"Yes, Haldir. A vacation," Galadriel said, tilting his face up so they were looking at each other in the eye. She gave Haldir a warm smile, "For all the years you have shown loyalty to the land and to its people, I am giving you a chance to enjoy some time off. Breathe freely and not concern yourself over duties that others can perform."
"I can not simply appoint another to my position," Haldir stammered. "I am capable of remaining on duty and doing what is asked of me."
"Of that I have no doubt, Young Haldir," Galadriel said.
Galadriel motioned to a bench and seated herself next to Haldir and gave him a tender look, "I know that you do not see what you do as a burden, but I think it has more weight than what you realize. You once enjoyed the city, being with the people and enjoying the jokes played by your brothers, but now," Galadriel paused and gave Haldir a withered look, "Now you are cold and distant. There is no more joy in your eyes. No more spark within your soul. You have a life to live, Haldir, and it does not revolve around a guard post or duty assignments."
Haldir nodded, not able to trust his voice. He felt as if his world was crumbling, tearing apart at the seams and he was helpless to stop it. What had brought this to the Lady's attention? Was he that obvious in not enjoying the city, choosing to sulk about and worry about what could or would happen on the next rotation? With a meek voice, Haldir spoke, "What am I to do, if I am not to be a Warden?"
Galadriel straightened abruptly, her regal bearing giving her the air of one to not be questioned, "You will always be a Warden, Haldir. This is not a punishment. This is a reward. If you must insist on thinking of this as a punishment, then I shall give you an assignment to complete. Perhaps then, you will feel as if you have earned a respite, and realized that this is the best thing for you."
Haldir frowned and asked, "And what is it that you ask of me, My Lady?"
Galadriel narrowed her eyes in thought. With a curt voice she said, "You will enjoy yourself. I want to see you laugh, dance, play pranks with your brothers, and I wish to hear you sing."
Haldir seemed mortified, "My Lady? I can not do such a thing!"
"And why not?" Galadriel asked with a smug look. "You are an elf, are you not?"
"It would be most improper!" Haldir gasped.
"Most improper to be an elf? To be oneself is to be whole and content," Galadriel said. "Perhaps such an assignment is indeed improper. Perhaps you need something else to give you a spark?"
Haldir swallowed hard, not liking the tone the Lady was adopting, nor the contemplative gaze she was giving him.
"Haldir, you will spend the next year traveling," Galadriel said with a note of triumph.
"Traveling? For a year?" Haldir asked. Though the time itself meant little to the elves, a year away from his duties seemed an eternity to Haldir.
"Yes, you will travel these lands and enjoy nature once again," Galadriel smiled to herself, liking the look Haldir was giving her. "I wish for you to spend the next year traveling. You are to explore our world, learn of other cultures and return to tell of your adventures. If you would be so kind, perhaps create some new maps, and give more details of the world beyond our borders?"
"Explore? Maps?" Haldir repeated faintly. He had of course been to many lands on missions for the Lady, but never had she sent him on the errand to document landmarks and learn of other cultures for the simple cause of sharing the experience with others. The whole adventure sounded as if it was a colossal waste of time. "Tell tales of other cultures?"
"Yes, and you will have everything you wish at your disposal," Galadriel said.
"Then I wish for a replacement," Haldir groaned, wondering what in the name of the Valar he was going to do with such a ridiculous assignment.
"That is another thing that is gone from you, Haldir," Galadriel said, her voice was no longer happy, but saddened and remorseful, "You have lost your sense of adventure. Do you not see it? Are you blind to the change?"
Haldir thought back and realized, yes, millennia ago he would have jumped at the opportunity to go on such a mission. He frowned, wondering when this change had occurred, and why he had not noticed it sooner.
He realized that he missed adventures, hearing of tales and daring rescues and beautiful maidens. He hadn't quite recognized that the hollow feeling he felt of late was due to a part of him hidden in shadow. His spirit was withdrawn, and with a sudden comprehension, he wanted it to thrive as it once did.
"The mission is accepted, My Lady," Haldir said rather firmly.
Galadriel's smile widened as she watched the thoughts flash across Haldir's face, "I will have all you require prepared. You will leave on the morrow."
Haldir nodded, caught between a state of confusion and excitement at the prospect of having a long-awaited adventure. He rose and, as in afterthought, turned on his heel and bowed low, "Thank you, My Lady, for all you have done."
Galadriel returned the gesture and rose, calling for the sentinel to make provisions ready for Haldir's departure.
Haldir went to the stable, finding the elf in charge and relaying what he would need for his upcoming task. The elf bowed and hurried to his assignment, finding the right Elven horse and polishing the saddle. The stable master whistled a tune as he cleaned the tack that Haldir had used on his many journeys, thinking to himself that it was about time that the tacks are put back into use.
Haldir felt a strange sensation as he climbed the many stairs that led to a large talan that held many volumes of Elvish lore. He remembered climbing here as a young elfling and spending hours absorbed in the tales of old, experiencing the adventures with childlike imagination. He found the librarian among many dusty tomes and explained what he required. With a nod, the librarian set about collecting spare parchments, durable quills, and a blank book, bound in leather and pressed with Elvish runes. When the librarian was finished, Haldir's arms were burdened with rolled parchments, the blank book, and three old, but reliable, quills tucked into a small pocket in his tunic.
Haldir entered the talan he shared with his brothers to find the place empty. With a frown, he went to his room and quickly packed the items the librarian had given him, careful of the delicate quills and rolled parchments. He packed several changes of clothes, using the fabric to cushion the writing utensils and keep them safe during his journey.
Just as Haldir finished with the last fastening, he heard his brothers enter the talan. He ventured into the living area and gave them a lopsided smile, "Brothers!"
Orophin held out his arm, keeping Rúmil from advancing and giving Haldir a strange look, "Who are you, and what have you done with Haldir?"
Haldir frowned at Orophin and growled, "I am Haldir, you troll."
Orophin relaxed and lowered his arm to allow Rúmil to pass, "Now that sounds like the Haldir I know."
Haldir narrowed his eyes and glared at his sibling, "And what is that supposed to mean?"
"Oh, nothing," Orophin said nonchalantly and planted himself on a cushioned chair.
Rúmil scattered his arrows on a table and began to check their fletchings, trying to make it appear that he was concentrating hard while he stole glimpses at Haldir from the corner of his eye. He wondered if Galadriel had spoken to him, and if she had thought of a way for him to get some rest and relaxation. From the looks of Haldir's posture and his ill temper, he guessed that Haldir was just the same as he always was: dull and lifeless.
"I am leaving on the morrow," Haldir said without preamp. "I will be gone for a year and while I am away, I do not want to return to this flet being in a state of chaos. Am I understood?"
"Leaving?" Orophin asked, standing quickly and walking to Haldir with wide eyes.
"For a year?" Rúmil threw aside his arrows, stalked to his eldest brother, and stood beside Orophin, glaring at Haldir.
"What do you mean by 'leaving'?" Orophin asked, his voice pitched slightly from hysterics.
"I am leaving by traveling around our lands and learning what I can," Haldir explained slowly, as though addressing a child. "I will return. Perhaps with many tales of my journey and a new view of the world around me."
"What brought this on?" Rúmil asked, hoping to sound confused so Haldir wouldn't suspect his hand in this decision.
"The Lady believes I have lost my spark," Haldir said, noting the triumphant gleam in Rúmil's eye. "She requested I travel and record my findings. She said this is to be a 'vacation,' a time for me to relax and enjoy myself." Haldir sounded foul as he spoke, making a disgusting face at the word 'vacation.' He seemed to doubt this would be a very educational experience.
"That is wonderful!" Rúmil chimed in, his face alight with happiness. "That is perfect! You will be able to rest and relax and return to your old self. I knew the Lady would find a way to help you."
Haldir's face changed from disgust to suspicion in the blink of an Elven eye. He glared at Rúmil and then realized why his brother had been so happy, and why he was now looking overjoyed. "You spoke to the Lady about this, did you not?" Haldir's voice was barely over a whisper, but the words carried nonetheless.
Rúmil noticed the change in Haldir's manner and tried to look nonchalant, "The lady is wise and insightful. She merely saw what those of us have noticed about you lately."
Haldir took a step towards his brother, keeping his voice at a dangerously low level, "You spoke to the Lady and asked her to do this to me. Admit it!"
Rúmil swallowed the lump in his throat and nodded slowly, "'Tis true. I was worried about you fading from having too many responsibilities, and the Lady said she would speak to you on such matters."
Haldir stood barely an inch from Rúmil, his breath ragged and deep, "I have been relieved of my duties, AND my title because you decided to go over my head and speak to the Lady, when you only had to address me personally!"
Rúmil cowered slightly at Haldir's towering form, though he was barely an inch taller, "I was worried about you, that is all. I did not intend for you to lose your title and duties. I only wished for you to be happy."
"I WAS happy!" Haldir boomed, clenching his hands into fists. "I was happy to spend my days on the borders, protecting those I love from what lurks in shadows. Because of your idiocy, I am now cast from the wood I love and forced to travel to places I do not care about and see things I do not wish to see! I hope you are happy with what you have done, Rúmil!"
Rúmil flinched from Haldir's sharp tongue and cast his eyes down. He felt a terrible guilt settle itself in his stomach, knotting and twisting like a poisonous serpent, "I am sorry, Haldir. I did not mean for this to happen."
Haldir grit his teeth, glaring at his sibling with contempt, and said harshly, "Nothing you can say will make me forgive what you have done this day. I have pledged my life to serve the Lady and Lorien, and now I am to be denied that which I love. You have caused me much torment, Rúmil, and I hate you for it."
Haldir spun on his heel to stomp back into his room, but Orophin had reached out and grabbed his shoulder, preventing him from making a hasty retreat.
"Haldir! How could you say such a thing?" Orophin snapped, watching Rúmil sink to the floor in slow motion. "Rúmil only did what he thought was best! He was thinking of only your life, and how much you have withdrawn lately."
"I was withdrawn because I have to be the one with a level head. Others are counting on my orders, my experience, to get them through the battles that rage on our borders," Haldir snarled, pushing Orophin's hand off his shoulder.
"Loyalty is one thing, Haldir," Orophin said, trying hard to concentrate on Haldir's fuming form and not see Rúmil trembling on the floor, "But too much can be dangerous. You have taken on too much responsibility. It has eaten away at your soul and left you lifeless and cold."
Haldir recoiled, recalling the words that Galadriel had spoken earlier. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, hoping to calm the horrible feeling he was experiencing at the betrayal of his kin. When he opened his eyes, he glared menacing at Orophin, "You would have gone to the Lady yourself, had Rúmil not done so?"
Orophin seemed hesitant and slowly nodded, "Yes, for I worry about you, Brother. The two of you are all I have on these shores, and I will not lose you so easily."
Haldir felt as if he was going to vomit, but shook his head and sidestepped Orophin, "Your actions have done what you feared. Your betrayal can never be forgiven. When I return, I shall ask for a new flet, one away from the treachery that dwells here."
Orophin felt as if he was physically stabbed in the heart, but his hand flew out, landing on Haldir's chest and preventing him from progressing, "There was no betrayal here, Haldir. There was only love and concern for our kin. Do not turn your back on ones that care for you."
Haldir fumed at Orophin's words. Without thinking, his hand connected with Orophin's chest and sent him reeling onto his back, where he lay sprawled on the floor, looking sadly at his elder brother. "Ones that care for me would not betray me in such a way. Enjoy the time I am gone, for when I return, I shall remember this and punish my subordinates accordingly."
With Haldir's last words lingering in the air like a black cloud, Orophin crawled over to Rúmil who was still slumped to the ground and wrapped his arms around his youngest sibling, "Be at peace, Rúmil." Orophin whispered, feeling the young elf tremble and clutch him tightly as he cried, "The Lady is wise. She will have her reasons for sending Haldir on such a quest. This will be a good thing, you will see."
Rúmil did not answer. He kept his face buried against Orophin, feeling Haldir's words rip him to pieces and shatter his soul.
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The next morning, Haldir checked the fastenings on his mount. The air was unnaturally chilled, whipping around his face and causing his green-gray elven cloak to billow. He had expected a quiet departure and was quite surprised when Galadriel and Celeborn had stood awaiting him. Haldir bowed low and placed his hand over his heart. When he rose, Galadriel met his gaze with a look of clear disapproval.
"May you journey safely," Celeborn said, giving the gesture of farewell.
Galadriel's voice lacked the warmth of her husband, and gave Haldir a very curt farewell, "Here are some gold pieces to aid you in your travels."
Haldir thanked the Lady and took the leather pouch she offered, tucking it in a hidden place on his saddle. Making sure his pack was secured, and the fastenings tightened, Haldir turned to address the two sovereigns, "You have my thanks, My Lady."
Galadriel gave him a steely look and said sternly, "May you learn well."
Haldir drew his brow at the tiding and with a confused look, mounted his horse and steered him onto the path that lead out of the great Elven city. "May the lands remain safe while I am away."
Celeborn nodded and nearly dropped in surprise as Galadriel turned a cold shoulder and started up the spiral stairs, not even glancing behind her. Celeborn saw Haldir frown and signal his horse into a gait, taking him from the city he loved and guarded with his life. With a curious expression, the Lord of the Wood followed his wife to their flet.
As Haldir rode from the city, he passed by two familiar elves, standing at the base of a large mallorn. Haldir gave a curt nod, then focused his attention to the road ahead and did not turn nor offer any words of farewell. Orophin placed his arm around Rúmil's shoulders, wishing he could ease the young elf's distress, and steered him back up the stairs beside the mallorn that the brothers had called home for many millennia. For a desperate, vengeful minute, Orophin wished the Lady had exiled their brother from the land, never to set foot again in the wood he sacrificed so much for.
Well, what do you think? I have been away from this genre for a long time so I hope I can finish this up without too much confusion. I know the elves don't have a word for vacation, but to prevent confusion for my readers, I used a common word/expression that everyone can understand and don't need to go searching on translation websites. Please take a minute to click the little button and tell me what you think of the beginning. I'm not sure how many chapters this story will be, but I am nearly finished with the ending so I can update at a regular schedule.