04 September 2010 @ 10:18 pm
Title: To Walk Blindly And to See Beyond
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Character: Haldir
Words: ~1,520
Warnings: None.
Rating: PG
Summary: A journey trapped in the heat of the desert sheds light on a matter that has been troubling Haldir.
Disclaimer: Belongs to J.R.R. Tolkien.
Prompt: [livejournal.com profile] mission_insane : 06. Desert {geography table}
[livejournal.com profile] tamingthemuse : As for those who disbelieved, their deeds are like a mirage in a desert (week 8 submission)
Author Notes: This week's prompt for [livejournal.com profile] tamingthemuse was very beautiful and wise, but I didn't have enough time to incorporate it into Gift of the Hidden Hero. Instead, I wrote this short piece that's a side-along to the main story. Set far before the events of the story took place, far before Legolas was born. Orophin and Rúmil were not yet born even. I would say Haldir is rather young here, around fifty years or so.

Also, Haldir made a mistake in this story. Camels don't carry water in their humps. It's fat, and it may disappear during long travels. However, since such science wasn't the strong point of the prehistoric world, I'll allow Haldir to make this mistake. :)

Try as he might, Haldir could never find the words to explain the frustration that settled deep in him, and it was not till he first stepped foot in the desert that he finally found the words to describe what was plaguing his heart.

The world around them was warm, very warm, with the ground beneath them as golden as the sun that shone high above their heads. An elf named Lithbeth lived deep in this desert, far from the usual cool climate of the elven realms in the North; Haldir’s family had followed him in hopes of finding a cure for Ullenn, Haldir’s mother, for she was fast fading from the world.

But Haldir felt nothing but distaste for the elf since the moment they met. His words to Ullenn were kind, but there was no affection behind each word. Despite the hot climate, there was nothing warm about the elf; his eyes were stone cold, his smile like that of...

The mirage. This was the word that Haldir had been searching for, the first time in which he heard it uttered by a man of the desert lands, this strange concept that troubled him to voice into words till he experienced the strange phenomenon for himself.

The experience happened upon one day when he offered to go on an errand to a neighboring village, by request of Lithbeth who was tending to his mother. A long stretch of land stood between them, but Haldir did not take one of the horses offered. His own sadness at seeing his mother ill did not deter him from becoming interested in selecting a companion that was unique in the South.

Haldir studied the camel, or the “desert horse” as he called it, before he called it to follow him. The camel followed him obediently, wearing a look that seemed to Haldir like a smile immune to everything that they endured along the way.

Their journey started off well. Haldir needed less time to stop and rest, for his elven blood made him able to withstand harsh climates more than any mortal man, and his companion seemed equally as strong.

“It is true then, that you carry a fountain inside!” Haldir said one hot morning, laughing lightly as he gave the camel’s shrinking hump the gentlest of pats. He had decided on the name Gelroch, or Joyful Horse, for the beast was very pleasant to travel with. As he smiled at Gelroch, he noticed a strange third eyelid that wrapped around its eye like a transparent shield protecting it from the sand.

“That is one trait that you have that I can never possess!” Haldir said, sighing. “But at least I too can carry water with me.” He brought his canteen to take another drink only to find that not a drop was left inside. “This is peculiar. I did not think I would run out so soon. The climate here is making me more thirsty than I have realized.”

Haldir frowned, realizing then that they had not passed one single oasis since they parted on their journey. He beckoned Gelroch to follow him, hoping it would not be long before they reached the village.

But the day dragged, and still his elven eyes could not make out the vaguest forms of the village. The heat burned against his back, and whatever he carried on his back was weighing heavier by the minute. His tongue seemed to have thickened, its dryness felt by every corner of his mouth. Gelroch was unaffected by the harsh heat, but Haldir needed to stop periodically either to rest or to remove another article of clothing, only to put it back on when he realized that the cotton material was helping to keep his body cool under the glaring sun. This, he learned, was why no desert-dweller roamed nude.

“I am beginning to think there is no village, and Lithbeth had set me to leave simply to rid of me,” Haldir confessed to Gelroch before slumping his head. Breaths left him heavily as the world around him blurred out of focus. Gelroch gave a soft grunt and poked his nose against Haldir’s back.

“You wish me still to walk?” Haldir said weakly. “There is nothing here. Perhaps we will walk forever and not find anything beyond this madness. Oh, but look!” He climbed back to his full height, a look of hope on his fair face. “There appears to be an oasis not too far! Do you see it? How the bright sun reflects off its surface! I thought I would never taste water again!”

He made for the oasis, but Gelroch let out loud grunts. He shook his head and continued along their path.

“Why do you not follow me?” Haldir asked. “You have given me not once any trouble during our journey. Why now?” Still the camel refused to follow him. Confused, Haldir stood for a moment unsure what to be his next move, but he decided to quickly grab some water form the oasis before dealing with the camel.

He ran and ran and still he never came to the oasis. He was ever so far, and soon when a cloud of sand blew around him he took a good look around himself once more and saw no oasis. Collapsing onto his knees, he dug his fingers into the hot sand, a scream threatening to spill out.

“What cruelty is this?” Haldir thought, fighting back tears. “I came to seek help for my sick mother, and instead I am fighting for my own life!” He squeezed his eyes shut as a gust blew sand dust across his face. He gasped in pain but could not rise to his feet, for when he tried, his balance would sway, and it was worsened by the fact that he could not open his eyes in this heavy storm. He called out Gelroch’s name, only to swallow a mouthful of dust. He coughed it out and fell back to his knees, crying freely.

Haldir dug into the sand again, and he thought of the elf Lithbeth and his insincere words of comfort to his mother. So much like this mirage he was, living and making deeds with a grace that disappeared before their eyes. Lithbeth, Haldir decided, was an elf who did not believe in the existence of anyone other than himself. His life was lived with the barest essence of meaning other than self-service: smiling at others only because it was custom to do so, aiding others with no intention of healing. Like the mirage, his own deeds left behind a cruel reminder of the isolation and helpless situation Haldir was in. Lithbeth was his own world that included none other, as this mirage only existed in its own world. There would be no relief for Haldir.

And nor would there be relief for his mother, Haldir realized, for no touch from Lithbeth could heal her, for each prayer turned to wisps of smoke before ever leaving his lips. The medicine he gave her to drink was very much like this mirage: a trick, a flicker of reality, an imagination of the devil.

Suddenly he felt something soft nibble on his shoulder followed by a grunt. “Gelroch!” Haldir fought his eyes open, looking into the shielded eyes of his companion. The strange third eyelid gave the camel an eerie ghostly look, but Haldir was all the way glad to have been reunited with him.

“And what is this?” Haldir took the object that Gelroch held in his mouth. It was a canteen that was heavy in Haldir’s hands. He untied the top to find the inside teeming with water. “Where did you find this?” But the camel just grunted and shook his head up and down as if shaking off his answer. “You want none of this?” Again, the camel grunted.

After giving a thankful sigh Haldir took great chugs from the canteen, relishing in the cool liquid as it slid down his throat. Gelroch gave a grunt of approval, and Haldir laughed.

“You have singlehandedly humbled an elf!” Haldir said. “I was wrong not to follow you, and I beg thee to forgive my foolishness. Indeed, I have grown to admire your kind during this journey. Though you walk blindly with that third eyelid, you can see beyond the cruel lies and flimsy promises that plague this world. Forgive me, Gelroch.”

The camel grunted softly and licked around his sweat-smeared face. With another grunt, Gelroch shook his head, moving up and down as though motioning for him to look.

“What is it that you wish to tell me?” Haldir asked. The camel kept making the gesture till Haldir stood and looked beyond the horizon. There far from them just visible was the village.

“So Lithbeth had not lied about everything,” Haldir said. “But is it true that I am seeing a village or is this another mirage?”

The camel gave another sound and motioned for Haldir to follow, and smiling Haldir obeyed, willingly to follow one who believed in the existence of others besides himself.
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