Chapter Six: The First Fall
Haldir sat leaning against a tree listening intently to the conversation going on several meters behind him. It wasn’t polite to eavesdrop, but he had promised Celeborn he would keep watch while most of the Elves went off on their hunt and it just so happened that from this particular position he could see the entire field as well as the path leading down to the rivers edge. Was it his fault that Legolas had led Elienne to the grove of trees just within his hearing?
He watched Arwen, Muriel and Galadriel dancing and singing with the she-elflings and smiled at the way that the male elfing was running around trying to catch Sullendry. If the horse seemed at all to mind it, he would have interfered but as it was the two of them were getting along well. The lack of danger here had begun to sink in and Haldir finally accepted that Rivendell was almost as enchanted as his beloved golden wood.
“Why will you not sit by the water?” Legolas asked. “There are no such falls in Mirkwood. I would like to enjoy them closer.”
“You may go,” she said. “But I prefer to stay far from the rivers edge… the moving water makes me light headed…”
“You seem afraid,” he said.
There was a slight pause and she whispered, “Look your mother has followed us. We should keep hidden so we may enjoy at least one private conversation.”
Haldir smiled as he heard her say it. Perhaps he should stand and make himself known.
“She has Feldor with her…” Legolas said. “My hope is that he will remind her enough of me when I was his age that she will lose her need for her own sons companionship.”
“You honor her greatly with your duty to her,” Elienne said. “It is no wonder she loves you so.”
“But to the failing of my duties to others,” he said. “For I fear you have been neglected because of it.”
Hearing the lover’s tone in the young Princes voice, Haldir was about to get up and move when Elienne responded.
“You have done nothing but serve me, Prince Legolas. All day yesterday, in fact… even when I was not present. Tell me, what is it that you said to Lord Haldir? I have thought of little else since you told me you would set him straight.”
Haldir settled himself to be comfortable as he listened to what the young prince would say.
“I understand that you were injured, but I did not receive warning in my heart that he meant to do you harm,” Legolas said. “He is arrogant, of that there is no doubt. But he merely sought to teach you a lesson, not to insult you.”
Haldir smiled and nodded, pleased that the prince was not blinded completely by his own prejudices but had been swayed by the argument of an Emissary.
“If that is true,” Elienne answered. “Than I have been a poor student. I did not take the lesson well and was very harsh with him. He must think me very childish.”
“I am loath to admit it,” Legolas said. “But I did not get the sense of that either. He spoke very flattering of you. Though I cannot fault him for that.”
Elienne’s small giggle made Haldir again feel it was wicked of him to listen to the conversation. He took a good summation of the elves in the vicinity and was just about ready to stand when Elienne spoke again.
“And I cannot say I am surprised. I do believe the Emissary to be developing feelings for me beyond friendship,” she said.
Haldir’s eyes grew wide and he laughed, “Ha!” Cursing himself inside he instantly hoped he hadn’t been heard because now he most definitely wanted to hear this conversation run to its conclusion. They continued to talk and he was relieved that perhaps since they were closer to the falls their ears were more full of the water’s rumbling than were his own.
“What ever would give you that notion?” Legolas asked, a slight sound of panic in his voice. “You do not believe the things he confessed to you under your disguise?”
“This flower was his gift,” she said. “Despite my harshness to him, he has sought to offer me a token of his affection. Is that not sweet?”
“And you wear it?” Legolas asked. “Are you encouraging his behavior?” Though it seemed to go unnoticed by Elienne, it was clear to Haldir that there was some bit of jealousy in his voice.
“I thought I might, for the sport of it,” she said. “But he is too wise. I think he knows full well I am not much interested in him, but he is imperious enough to posses the thought he can change that. Do not worry that he will misunderstand me, he knows I wear this flower because I am only a tease.”
“Are you?” Legolas asked.
She was not much interested in him? That was an odd way to put it, Haldir thought. As he listened, he glanced over to where the Mirkwood queen and the elfling Feldor were walking near the water. They were quite cheerfully throwing stones in, but the attention of the Queen seemed fixed upon the grove where Elienne and Legolas sat. On many fronts, the couple was not as hidden as they assumed.
“Of course I am a tease,” she said. “Aren’t all young she-elves? In fact…I meant to speak with you about that kiss I gave you last night.”
Haldir frowned at the thought of such a token of affection being exchanged between the two. If Elienne had kissed the Prince in any sort of fashion other than a formal greeting, considering Legolas growing fancy for her, it would be by far worse than anything Haldir had done to her. He thought ill of himself for listening, but could not bring himself to stand and walk out of hearing distance. He watched Feldor run about looking for more stones.
Legolas voice was timid and yet thoughtful. “I have wondered a great deal about that kiss and what you could have meant by it… but mostly I questioned if my response was… less than what you hoped for.”
Haldir looked up to the clouds, imagining just how poorly a timid elf such as Legolas would behave under the romantic approach of a she-elf. If the prince ever came into his company, Haldir would have to speak with him at length about it. No elf should be left to fend for himself in such a circumstance, or he would be as doomed as a mortal under the enchantment of the she-elf spell.
“Please do not worry yourself over your response, sweet Prince. I truly had no hopes at all,” Elienne said gently. “Save to express my gratefulness to you for your understanding of my suffering.”
There was silence for a bit and Haldir leaned around the tree to see if there was more of this ‘expression of gratitude’ going on. But instead of the kisses of young love, he saw Elienne standing and looking towards the river.
“M’Lady, do not let him out on the rock, it is slippery from the mist!” she shouted.
Haldir stood in alert and found himself at three paces and eye to eye with Legolas.
“I will fetch him,” the Mirkwood Queen said in an annoyed voice.
“You were listening?” Legolas gasped.
“Careful!” Elienne cried, her voice chilled with fright. “The water appears still, but it runs deep and swift below the surface.”
Haldir didn’t answer Legolas challenge, but took strides towards the running water. When he reached the other elf a hand grabbed his arm and he said, “Is it so soon that you and I must have words again?”
“We will have our words,” Haldir said to the Prince. For one so slight in comparison to Haldir’s build, Legolas was perhaps less timid than Haldir had thought. “But now I must see to this urgency…”
As he was speaking, a scream of the most soul piercing terror rang out and Legolas turned as they both ran swiftly towards the water. Haldir saw a lavender flash jump into the water and realized there was no sign of either the Mirkwood Queen or the elfling.
“Elienne!” Legolas shouted after her.
They got to the edge and Haldir saw she was just over the edge of a rock, bobbing up and down and scrambling to hold the boy above water.
“Take him from me! Take him!” she spat, the water choking her.
He laid down flat on the rock and reached into the water with his arms towards the boy. Out of the corner of his eye, Haldir saw Legolas had grabbed on to a tree and bent it low. He was hanging from it and fishing in after his mother.
The elfling flung his arms about, kicked and cried out, making it all that more difficult to get a hold of him. Once he had a good hold, Haldir began to pull him out of the water and the boy squeezed his arms firm around Haldir’s neck.
Legolas had gotten a hold of his mother and was now attempting to lift her out of the river just as the rest of those from the field made their way to the scene.
Below Feldor in the water, Elienne’s face was full of terror as she tried to push him the rest of the way up. The elfling, still desperate to get out of the frigid water kicked one last time. He managed to get himself up out of the water, but also gave Elienne a good blow in the chest, knocking her far from the rock into the white water.
Her scream rang out again but quickly went silent as she disappeared under the foam.
“No…” he said, scrambling back on the rock and trying to peel the child away from him. Galadriel was there and took the elfling from him, as the she-elf who was probably his mother sobbed and kissed him over and over.
The boy began to cry loudly saying, “Elienne drowned! She’s drowned!!!”
“Peace child,” Galadriel soothed, walking him away and looking back over her shoulder at Haldir.
Haldir turned towards the water and searched for her.
Legolas pulled on his mother to bring her and the many soaking wet layers of her garment to the shore. Even in his struggle he found the energy to shout angrily at Haldir, “She fears the water. She will fight it… don’t let it take her!”
Not needing the criticism, Haldir ignored the prince, eagerly searching for any sign of her. She could be caught against a rock, or below the surface. Then, he saw her hand pop up much further down the stream than he expected and wondered how he could ever reach her. He thought to jump in and swim to her, but Arwen came and held his arm fast. “Don’t!” she said, guessing his intention, “The rapids have taken her, you will not catch up in the water…. Run along the side, I will call the water still and you can pull her from it more easily…”
Haldir nodded and took off running swiftly through the over grown brush along river’s edge. He scanned the water trying to keep his eye on her. She seemed to spend more time under the water than above but when she was above, he could no longer hear her crying out. While he was able to keep her in his sight, he neglected to make sure of where he was going and took a few good blows to the face by branches and even uncharacteristically stumbled once, bringing more distance between them.
Then he noticed that slowly, the water seemed to be affected by Arwen’s spell and it grew shallow. Ahead of him Elienne was almost all above the water as she stroked with her arms and moved towards the edge. It was little relief to him, and he continued to run full speed towards her. As he came closer, he was amazed that someone else had made it there first. The noticeable dark hair and red robe let him know it was Elrond, back early from the hunt. Haldir slowed and reached them just as the Lord of Rivendell had her full in his arms on the muddy bank. She was quaking and he was trying to sooth her.
Elrond said. “You’re out now… you’re safe.”
Slightly out of breath, more from the fear of death than any exertion, Haldir came to a stop a respectable distance away. He fell to his knees, closed his eyes and breathed a sigh of relief. He had only ever lost a few on his watch and not for over a thousand years in anything but brutal battle. He cursed himself for his distraction and allowing himself to believe it was safe enough to let down his guard. He opened his eyes and looked at her wide eyes staring out into nothingness, most probably looking her own existence square in the eye. He wondered at how she had jumped in so swiftly with no thought to herself. His own guilt laid heavy on his shoulders but Elrond looked up at him and speaking no words, gave a silent nod of absolution.
Haldir did not feel he deserved it. He knelt there, watching them when Elienne turned his way.
“Feldor?” she said. “Legolas and the Queen?”
“They are safe,” he said, his voice hoarse with emotion. “Though they fear for your life.”
Elrond took the she-elf’s face in his hands and said, “You must be brave. Return and show them all is well.”
“Should she not be taken back to rest and recover?” Haldir asked, a bit miffed at the seeming lack of concern. She had almost died and looked as though she was still very shaken.
“Yes, M’Lord,” she said to Elrond as dutifully as he had cast a spell on her and brought her to her senses. “I am fine,” she said, trying to stand in her wet gown. Then with a nervous laugh she added, “Though a bit water logged…” She looked very much as though she was embarrassed. “We have quite a hike back, do we not?” She headed for the steep incline and said as if to herself, “Though I did not make it quite as far down on that trip…”
“This was not the first?” Haldir asked, amazed even more so that she had jumped in after the boy, knowing what awaited her.
“This is the fourth time,” Elrond said, none-to-happy. He whistled for his horse and when it came close enough, he swung up to mount it. He looked at Haldir with raised brows and asked in a patronizing tone, “You will go with her, won’t you?” Haldir blinked and nodded, coming to his own senses. Elrond continued in a lighter tone, “Our hunt is not yet over. As we speak Celeborn and Thranduil are waiting in a patch of thickets for me to flush out our prey… by now they may have decided I’ve abandoned them.”
Haldir nodded and said, “Yes, M’Lord…. If I may… how did you know?”
Elrond sighed thoughtfully. “When one hears a scream in his nightmares, it is impossible to miss during the day… no matter the distance. That sprite fears but one thing… and you have been most unfortunate to witness why.” The Lord of Rivendell clicked again and his horse took off away from Haldir, next to the water’s edge. Haldir noted that it was starting to flow quickly again. He guessed Arwen and the others had somehow heard that all was well.
Up on the ridge, Elienne slipped, but caught herself. Haldir quickly got up behind her in case she managed to fall backward. It would be even more of an embarrassment to him if she survived the river unscathed and then received injury on the trek back to the picnic.