Haldir remembered the first time he met Lindir. They were youths who had had been born on Erulaitalé of the same year. But that was about as far as the similarities went. Haldir had been certain that Lindir’s thin, delicate body was that of a sissy and not of a strong warrior-in-training like himself. Determined to prove his theory, Haldir had caught a baby field mouse, and slipped it down Lindir’s tunic. Predictably, Lindir had gasped in shock. Lindir then (also somewhat predictably) had carefully removed the tiny creature from his tunic, carried it away from the terrace and set it free. Then – most unpredictably – Lindir had turned and punched Haldir in the face, hard.
Haldir had staggered back for a moment before throwing himself forward, knowing that he would soon put Lindir in his place. But to his great surprise, Lindir’s slighter frame proved to be about as delicate as a bowstring. They had scuffled around for a few minutes before drawing apart, both puffing slightly.
Haldir never knew if they would have continued their fight or not, for the next thing he heard was Lord Celeborn’s voice.
“Enough,” Lord Celeborn said in his quiet voice. “Now shake hands and be done with it.”
The two boys shook hands and then looked up at the Lord of the Golden Wood, wondering what would happen next. Haldir knew the rules of Caras Galadhon well, and he had broken one of the most important ones: no fighting with a guest.
“Now go somewhere and rest yourselves.” Lord Celeborn handed each of them a sweet pastry, still warm from the kitchen. “And do not come back until you have cleaned up.”
“Yes, my lord,” they chorused as they watched Celeborn turn and walk away from them and back up the stairs to the court chambers. They looked at each other then, feeling rather shame-faced.
“I know a place where we could swim.” Haldir said as he balanced the warm pastry in his hand and looked shyly at Lindir. Lindir smiled hesitantly at him and nodded in agreement.
As they walked down the cool, shaded path and nibbled at their pastries, Haldir pointed out several of his favorite places. One of the most special was the shop where Haldir’s father had once worked; it was also where the famed Galadrim bows were crafted. As Lindir heard the special note of pride in Haldir’s voice, he also felt the beginning of a song stir in his head and began to hum faintly.
“What’s that song?” Haldir asked. “It sounds almost familiar.”
“Nothing yet,” Lindir replied with a faint smile. “Just an idea I have.”
“Oh,” Haldir said uncertainly. “Well then, we are almost there.”
By the time the afternoon was over, the two had returned to Caras Galadhon and were fast friends.
When Haldir reached his first long-year, Lord Celeborn came to him.
“Haldir, I wish you to leave.”
“What have I done, my lord?” he cried. Haldir tried to think back on what he could have done to deserve banishment.
“Calm yourself, little one. You are not banished, Haldir.”
“Then why am I being sent away?” Haldir’s eyes were bright and the sudden moisture he felt on his face was probably due to nervous sweat. Haldir knew it wasn’t tears; he was a warden-in-training and wardens-in-training did not cry. “I don’t want to leave. I never want to leave! Why would I, when everything I want or need is here?”
“Come, Haldir. Walk with me.”
Obediently Haldir fell into step beside his lord.
“Haldir, I have many hopes for you.” Celeborn began. “You are one of the best wardens-in-training I have seen for many yeni. But there is so much more you must learn if you are to advance.” He paused. “Do you know what being a March-warden means?”
“Yes, I do.” Haldir was sure of himself now.
“Ah youth,” Celeborn smiled and placed his hand on Haldir’s shoulder, “so very certain that you know everything.”
Haldir remained silent for he sensed that his lord was not speaking to him but merely thinking out loud.
“Haldir, to be a March-warden is demanding in ways you cannot possibly imagine. It means you must give up a good many things. Sometimes, it will be things that you do not even know you are giving up until you are much, much older… and then you might think the price you have paid is too high.”
“I don’t understand, my lord.” Haldir looked questioningly at Lord Celeborn. “What do you mean?”
“That is why you must go out in the world, Haldir.” Celeborn turned and faced him. “You must go to other places, do other things, see other people and how they live… you must do all of those things before you can make a real decision and say with complete honesty, “I wish to become a Marchwarden of Lórien.”
“Yes, my lord.” Haldir bowed his head. ‘Not Mirkwood, please not Mirkwood,’ he thought frantically. Haldir had little liking for Thranduil or any of his family, for his father had been killed in Oropher’s mad charge at Dagorlad and he was certain the feeling was mutual. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Thranduil was quite fond of his younger brothers Orophin (who had been named in honor of Oropher shortly before the Last Alliance had been formed) and Rúmil (despite the fact he had been named for the famed linguist and lore master.) “Where must I go?”
“First, I am sending you to Rohan and Gondor. You will be travelling with Lindir. You are friends, are you not?” Haldir smiled slightly, nodding at the memory of their first meeting. “Also, you will tell any who ask that you are training to be a messenger.” At Haldir’s startled look, Celeborn smiled grimly. “I do not wish any to know that potential March-wardens ever leave Lórien for any reason. The smallest slip could provide the Enemy valuable information.”
“When do I leave?”
“A week, perhaps two. You will travel with Gildor when his group leaves.” Here Celeborn paused for a moment. “Though he usually travels first to the Havens to see Cirdan… but you have no worries on that account. Your mother is part Teleri, and so you will not be affected by the sea longing, as so many of us are.”
“Yes, my lord,” Haldir said in a choked whisper.
“Now go. Take your leave of your family and prepare for your journey.” Celeborn gripped his shoulder firmly. “Do not look so sad, Haldir. Your mother will worry less if she sees that you put a good face on it.”
“Yes, sir.” Haldir swallowed hard and nodded.
~ Two Weeks Later ~
The day of their departure finally arrived and Haldir had to admit that he did feel some excitement. Lord Celeborn had spoken to him just before he left, giving Haldir a travelling bow made of yew and a small sack of silver coins. Haldir had gasped in surprise at the sight of them, for there was not much need for coins in the Golden Wood.
“I do not wish for you to travel as a beggar,” Lord Celeborn had told him. “You have worked and studied hard and it is a reward for all of those long hours. You may find you wish to buy something – sweets for yourself, perhaps, or a small present for your mother and brothers.”
“Thank you, my lord.”
Meanwhile, Lindir was taking leave of the Lady, who was giving him much the same speech as her husband was giving Haldir.
“You will watch out for him, won’t you?” She asked him. “He is very dear to – us.”
“Of course I will, my lady.” Lindir replied. “But unlike myself, Haldir has no real interest in anywhere but here. I know he will return the moment he can.”
“He is lucky to have you for a friend. You understand him so well.” She gave a tiny sigh before she leaned down to kiss him on the forehead. “Go now, Lindir, and may your journeys be fair ones.”
“Thank you, my lady.” Lindir smiled and bowed to her.
As they climbed into the travelling cart, they could not help but take one last look around. It was strange to think they would not be back for nearly half a long year.
“When we begin to leave the cover of the trees, I want you two to hide,” Gildor called back to them from the front seat. “The less the enemy can guess at whom or what might be leaving here, the better. When we cross the Limlaith and are nearer to the plains, you can come out.”
The journey seemed very long to Haldir and Lindir, who were unused to being so still for any length of time, let alone cooped up in a wagon. To pass the time, they took turns reading aloud, with Gildor occasionally adding his own comments and observations. They often played a game of ‘kings’ (chess) varying it with the old Silvan game of ‘Go’, which remained largely unknown to those not of Silvan origin. But ‘the game of ‘kings’ was very popular among Men, so they decided to focus on improving their game.
They also spent many hours practicing Westron with Gildor as the wagon continued to move forward and on some rainy days, Lindir was able to coax Haldir into accompanying him on the flute, while Lindir sang and played a small lap harp.
One day the wagon jolted to a stop, and the boys curiously looked outside.
“We are entering the land of the Horse Lords,” Gildor told them. “Come, it is a good time to stretch your legs.”
Haldir and Lindir quickly jumped down, welcoming the chance to move freely. As they stretched, they looked around.
“It’s so open,” Haldir whispered, “so… *flat*. There are no trees anywhere.”
Lindir could tell from Haldir’s voice just how foreign the grasslands were to him, and that the dearth of trees caused him to become agitated.
“It’s scary,” Lindir said quietly. “We are so exposed.”
They looked up at the sky where a few small clouds drifted along, and then looked back toward the ground at the seam of the horizon, for it seemed to them that the wide expanse of grass went on forever. A light breeze whispered through the grass, welcoming them.
“It takes some time to get used to,” Gildor said, breaking the silence. “But you will come to see its beauty in time.”
Haldir was openly skeptical of that statement but he said nothing. Instead he continued to stare at the vast empty land that stretched in front of him.
“How much longer before we come to Edoras?” Lindir asked. “Or are there other towns before it?”
“There are a few small holdings, I believe, but no other towns,” Gildor replied. “A week. Perhaps a little longer.”
“A week!” Haldir exclaimed. Surely that was a jest. “But we have come so far already!”
“Our journey has only begun, Haldir. These are but the first steps.” With that, Gildor walked back to the wagon and Haldir was left staring blankly at his retreating back.
“It is not as bad as all that.”
“Not so bad how?”
Haldir turned and looked questioningly at Lindir, who had been standing near and had heard every word. But unlike Gildor, Lindir had seen the sudden bleakness in Haldir’s eyes.
“We must think of it as exploring. We will discover many new things, and soon we will be home again with our reports.”
“You are right Lindir.” Haldir managed a shaky smile. “Every step will take me closer to home.”
A week later, as they prepared to enter Edoras, Gildor took them aside for some last words of advice.
“Try to ignore the stares,” Gildor said. “They see few strangers and to see elves is considered good luck. Furthermore, many of the boys will be dared by the older ones to see if they can touch you without your noticing.”
Haldir laughed openly at this and even Lindir snickered a bit. As if such a thing was possible. NO Man could ever sneak up on an Elf without the Elf permitting it.
“Of course, you will permit one of them to ‘touch’ you eventually,” Gildor continued. “The youth will gain much status with his friends and after all we do not wish to seem too superior to Men.”
“Yes, sir.” Lindir and Haldir nodded in agreement at his advice.
“There is one last piece of advice I have for you.” Gildor looked sternly at them. “You will find that the women are very attracted to Elves, like flies to honey. So you must be very cautious. Even a smile will be imagined to be more than friendly by some and as for others…” Here Gildor let out a quiet sigh. The boys were young, and handsome, that would attract even more than the usual interest. “If you have any troubles or questions, come to me immediately. Understood?”
Despite the advice, Haldir was still unprepared when they passed through the city gates. He was overwhelmed by the presence of so many people, and in such a close, tight space. Everything was so loud and garish; worse, it seemed that all eyes were trained on him. It was disconcerting to say the least. Life moved far more quickly than in an Elven realm. But worst of all was the smell. Haldir nearly gagged at the stench of the town and raised a small handkerchief to cover his nose. Gildor claimed that this was one of their larger and more developed towns and if that was true… Haldir shuddered. He wondered how he would manage living among Men for even a few days, let alone a lengthy stay.
Lindir was just as uneasy as Haldir but for a different reason. With all of the noise and din, he could barely hear the Song. It was there but very faint. He wondered if this was the reason Men were so loud or if it was the presence of Men that had nearly silenced the Song.
After they had settled the horses and unloaded some of the wagons, Gildor told the boys to follow him.
“I am taking you with me to meet the new king. He promises to be a fine man and a good ruler, and it is tradition for all newcomers to be formally introduced to him.”
They stared at the big wooden structure with the golden roof. It was very strange to their eyes – so solid and heavy. How could anyone bear living in such a place? But their questions would have to wait for Gildor was being greeted at the steps of Meduseld by Thengel King.
“It is good to see you, my friend. And you have two apprentices with you I see.” The big blond Man smiled at them and gestured for them to follow him into the Hall. “Come, there is much to tell you. Gondor has a new Steward (Ecthelion II). He is a fine man. I knew his father well.”
And so Haldir and Lindir entered a new chapter of their lives.