Imladris – The Last Homely House
//Hurry!// Her mind screamed. //Hurry or you will be too late!!//
Rían urged the galloping horse even faster, her entire body soaked in a cold sweat. Suddenly there were dead wargs as far as her eye could see. She leapt from the horse’s back, her sword in hand, as she looked around frantically. Rían wanted to call out and, to her horror, found she could not. She grew panicked as she continued to search; the minutes seemed like hours even days.
Where was he?! Would she ever be able to find him amongst all the carcasses strewn about?
As the warg tore into him from behind, Haldir heard the call of Námo. He fought the gentle summons; he did not want to leave! Alas, only moments later he found himself staring down at his own body. His spirit watched in confusion as Rían jumped from her horse. He wanted to warn her, to tell her it was not safe, but this form had no voice. He could only watch helplessly.
He saw the fear and desperation in Rían’s being as she scanned the ground, her movements clearly showing her agitation.
Who was she looking for? He wondered. As each moment passed, he could see the tears building in her eyes. Dear Valar, was Erestor out here? He prayed not but it would explain why she was so upset.
Rían froze and Haldir felt his heart clench with dread.
She saw him! Laid facedown in the grass, his bow broken at his side. Gasping his name, Rían dropped heavily to her knees and gently rolled him toward her. Hot tears spilled down her cheeks when she saw those beautiful grey eyes empty, void of light.
//I was too late!! Sweet Elbereth, no!!//
She had been looking for HIM?! Haldir was stunned.
He continued to watch as she gently stroked the hair from his face. Her hands trembled uncontrollably and her breathing came ragged and choked with grief. He wanted to comfort her but his hand passed through her as mist. She did not notice as she continued to stare at his body, her fingers running absently along his hair.
Rían fought for each breath as she tenderly stroked his golden hair; disbelief and grief overwhelmed her. She was unaware of her own body growing colder as her heart shattered.
“You do not have to be apart, Child. Call to me if you wish to follow…I shall answer.”
The voice washed around her; commanding, gentle, and filled with compassion. Rían never heard the voice before but knew it nonetheless.
//Yes,// she sighed to herself.
Haldir spun around, looking for the voice.
“I will answer if you call me.”
He was already dead so whom was the Lord of Mandos calling? He stopped as he felt Rían sigh.
“I am ready,” she whispered to his corpse.
Immediately he felt the pain she carried and knew it was mortal. She would call to Námo because of him?! She would follow him to death? That could not be!
//No, Rían!// his heart screamed. //You must stay here! Do not do this I beg of you!//
Before Námo’s name could pass her lips, Rían became aware of another presence. She turned her head, blinked the tears from her eyes, and saw an elf child standing next to her. At first, Rían thought it was Orophin when he had been much younger, but this elfling’s eyes were darker and his hair a deeper gold.
The child stared at the body and his eyes filled with tears.
“Why will he not wake up?” the little voice trembled. He looked to Rían with such trust and hope; she felt the remaining shards of her heart break anew.
Tears blinded her again as she watched the elfling kneel next to her and gently pat Haldir’s forehead, the whole while whispering, begging him to awake.
What was an elfling doing amongst this carnage?! Haldir wondered. Where was his family?
He felt his heart stop as the child looked up to Rían, beryl colored eyes silently beseeching her to help.
“Why..” the elfling began to say. “Why won’t Ada wake up, Naneth?”
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
With a strangled scream, Rían bolted from her bed. She found herself halfway to the door before forcing herself to stop. Her entire body trembled violently as she remembered the nightmare. As the full realization of it hit her, she slid to the floor and broke into sobs.
A moment later, the door that joined her and her uncle’s rooms opened. She felt a robe drape around her shoulders just before being enfolded in a familiar embrace. Rían held tightly to Erestor as he rocked her gently, her tears falling harder.
“Shhh, dae-tithen-nîn,” he said softly as he tucked his niece closer. “It will be all right, shhh.”
Haldir raced silently through the deserted corridors then found himself stopped outside of Rían’s door. He did not know how he knew where her rooms were and did not question it. The only thought driving him was to make sure Rían was unharmed. When he woke from the nightmare, he had been painfully aware of her fear and her scream still echoed through his soul.
He was about to open the door when he heard crying but stopped as Erestor’s calming voice reached him.
//Her uncle will take care of her and you did not need to involve yourself further// Haldir’s logical side told him. But as he slowly turned away from the door and made his way back to his room, he felt he was missing a part of himself.
Rían’s heart beat as fast as a hummingbird’s and her breathing came in painful, rasping sobs as Erestor held her. He grew concerned as he could not recall her ever experiencing a dream this bad, even when her parents had died.
“I was too late,” she said through her tears. “He was dead, Uncle. I-I was ready to follow…Lord Námo called, I felt his call and I wanted to follow. I still want to follow.”
Erestor felt his heart skip a beat as Rían spoke of the Doomsman of the Valar but forced himself to stay calm. He continued to comfort his niece, the daughter of his heart, and he stroked her hair from her face and he rocked her gently until she calmed.
Carefully, he guided her back to her bed, tucked her in, and placed a tender kiss to her brow. Erestor sat down in a nearby chair and watched her, ready to guard her sleep.
He was dead, Uncle, were her earlier words and Erestor was afraid he knew whom she spoke of.
As the exhausted elleth fell back into reverie, he noticed her left hand clenched about an object. He looked closer and saw it was a gold ribbon.
Haldir stood out on the balcony and tried to calm his harsh breathing. When he returned to his room, he knew there would be no more rest for him. He took a deep breath and let the tranquility of the night soothe his frazzled nerves.
He was glad his brothers were not here, there would be too many questions for him and he knew none of the answers. Haldir then smiled, remembering why his brothers were not in the room where they would normally be. It was not long before his thoughts drifted to the moment that made his heart thunder even now.
When Rían had spoke of Valinor, of being far from the evil of Sauron, his soul knew what she hinted at. Her eyes had darkened to a deep emerald while she looked at him and a sad smile graced her face. He had been fighting the urge to touch her, to hold her, practically all evening and when she reached up to tuck back his hair, he let his heart lead. He had caught her hand in midmotion and his lips brushed briefly across her palm.
His body quaked minutely at the memory. The pulse of energy had set them ablaze and for a moment, his heart knew peace. He was not going to ask what it meant…he knew.
Even though Rían and Haldir appeared not to get along, it was only because they were so much alike; they shared the same dreams and the same fears. In the stillness and solitude of the early morning darkness, Haldir could admit, to himself at least, that a part of his soul recognized Rían’s soul. Only when together; even arguing, did he feel at peace.
But it could not be!!
As memories of the nightmare invaded him once more, he felt as if someone had slammed him in the chest.
It was only a dream, he told himself. But if that were so, why could he not shake the coldness from his body? Why did the thought of Rían following him to the Halls of Mandos make him feel as if his heart would break?
The marchwarden gripped the railing until his knuckles turned white under the pressure. He knew very well the dangers of this world. He spent most of his life trying to protect his brothers and knew how difficult it was. He loved Rúmil and Orophin very much and Valar forbid if anything happened!
But how much more horrible would it be to lose your bonded, the one who held your heart?
Haldir clenched his jaw as he vividly remembered his mother’s pain at her husband’s death. She had tried to go on for her sons but the loss was too much. Rían’s father, a formidable warrior, followed his wife the very day she died.
//Why won’t Ada wake up, Naneth?// Haldir felt his eyes burn with tears as he recalled again the elfling in the dream.
Never!! He would not leave behind a wife and child! He would not let history repeat itself!
//No! You will hold the memories closely of this time here in Imladris but no more.// The marchwarden vowed to himself. //You will return home with your brothers and continue to safeguard the Golden Wood. You cannot afford to waste your time and torment your heart with what-ifs.//
With a heavy sigh, Haldir ran his hand through his hair in a weary gesture. He stopped upon encountering the gold ribbon still in his braid. He carefully removed it and held it up to the moonlight.
//The memories will be bad enough. Do you need a material reminder of Imladris, of Rían?//
Steeling his resolve, Haldir opened his fingers to release the ribbon. It fluttered gently in the breeze but refused to leave his hand. Just as he was about to drop it, a gust of wind raced across the balcony and blew the ribbon back into his room where it landed silently somewhere in the darkness.
dae-tithen-nîn – my little shadow