Dark Visions

Chapter 3

by Cassia and Siobhan

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The breeze was cool, rustling across the emerald grass and making the heads of the blooming elanor and niphredil wave and bob peacefully beneath the trees. The Lady Galadriel was dressed in white as she almost always was, and looked very at home among the slender pale flowers. True to his word, Elrond had taken the ranger to speak with the Lady of the Golden Wood. 

It was late afternoon now, and Aragorn had chafed all day for this opportunity, and yet now he hesitated.  Now that he was faced with actually asking the question, he wasn’t sure how to do so and felt as if his tongue had grown limp and uncooperative. Elrond may have been perfectly comfortable with Galadriel, but she was still a stranger to Estel, one that he was more or less in awe of, and it was a slightly awkward situation. 

The young ranger resisted the urge to fidget with the edges of the sling that held his immobilized right arm and shoulder bound tightly to his chest.  His mending injury had been hurting him this morning after his un-cautious moves last night, and Elrond had insisted he wear the immobilizing sling again today. 

“There is something you desire, Estel?” A hint of mirth in Galadriel’s wise eyes suggested that she knew exactly what he wanted and how he was feeling.  However, if she did, she said nothing.  Aragorn sighed inside.  Just like his father.  They could know perfectly well what was on your mind, but would insist on waiting to hear it from you in person.

“For some time now I... have been having disturbing dreams,” the young ranger started slowly. 

“So I have heard.” Galadriel glanced at Elrond who stood quietly behind Aragorn, watching his human son.  “You think they are something other than dreams.”  It was not a question. 

Aragorn nodded, also glancing back at his elven father.  “Lord Elrond told me that in some small way, I also have the gift of foresight because of my heritage.  I fear this is true and I feel certain that my friend, Legolas, is in terrible danger.  After the word Trelan brought and the condition he is in...” he hesitated before plunging onward.  “I came to ask if... if you would permit me to look in your mirror. If this has been so strong in my dreams, I had hoped...” he left the statement open, waiting for her response. 

Galadriel smiled softly.  She understood why her son-in-law had such affection for this one; he had an honest, open quality that made even his uncertainty more sincere than some people’s boastful show of confidence.  “You hope that you may see something to help you,” she finished for him with a graceful nod.  “Come with me.” 

The Lady led them across the green grass of Caras Galadon and down a curving set of stairs set into the earth which led to the simple basin that all of them knew was much more than it seemed. 

Aragorn stopped in front of it and watched, transfixed despite the worry eating at his heart, as Galadriel filled the basin with water from her fountain.  The Lady of the Galadrim breathed upon the water, which almost immediately took on a different hue, and then stepped back. 

Replacing her pitcher she fixed Aragorn firmly in her gaze.  “I will allow you to do this Aragorn, son of Arathorn, although few are the mortals who can say they have gazed into the Mirror of Galadriel.  Lord Elrond has told you truly: you have both the foresight and the strength of will to use the far-seeing tools of both elves and men... but be careful, Estel.  Your skills are yet young and untrained; if you are unwary you can injure yourself.  Take a care where you look and for what purpose.  The mirror shows not only the past and the possible future, but many things that will never come to be... it is a dangerous guide.” 

With these words of warning, Galadriel backed away from the pedestal, allowing Aragorn access. 

Slowly, Aragorn stepped up to the graceful basin, gripping one edge of the cool stone lip with his good hand and looking down to peer into water that was strangely dark and reflective for such a shallow bowl.  Both Elrond and Galadriel had their eyes silently fixed on him, but he tried not to think about that.  Instead his thoughts went to his dreams, and to Legolas, as he gazed down at his own wavering reflection in the dark water.  For a moment that was all he could see, his own reflection, but presently the water seemed to become darker and deeper, as if opening out into a vast, swirling vortex before his eyes.  Yet the water itself was not moving.  Beyond sight and consciousness, Aragorn seemed aware of a thousand different things in the seemingly endless depths of the mirror. 

He saw many images swirl by as if caught in a gale.  Some the ranger recognized as scenes from his own childhood, but others he could not even begin to guess at unless they be from tales or things that happened either very long ago, or possibly had not yet happened at all.  As Galadriel had warned, some things that the mirror showed never came to pass at all... it was difficult to know what to trust. 

The pictures flickered by almost faster than the young man could comprehend. 

A man with a blazing gem in his hand standing before a great, hideous wolf. 

The bright stars of the heavens in elder days before the shape of the world was changed. 

Tall Númenorean ships... a white tree, young and graceful with stars caught in its branches like jewels woven into the hair of a beautiful lady. 

Elrond dressed in armor and locked in desperate battle in the middle of a body-strewn plain.  

Rivendell, filled with many, many more elves than currently called it home and surrounded by enemies, a lone refuge in a dark sea.  Elrond stood on a balcony looking out from a distance at the dark, hopeless sea, his face grim and a bloody cloth bound round his arm. 

Elladan smiling at a small human boy, Estel, when he was young.  The older twin was teaching him how to hold a bow. 

A fiery mountain.  Small beings toiled up the side on some great and perilous errand. 

Arwen... Arwen’s face... he was almost tempted to try to look closer, to see what the future held if he could... but he pulled back.  That was not his purpose here. 

Focusing his mind more closely and attempting to weed out distractions, Aragorn found the images becoming clearer and slower, coalescing under the guidance of his unspoken thoughts.  Legolas.  He forced that to be the one overriding thought in his head.  Legolas. 

As if at his bidding, Legolas' face swirled into view, but the prince looked younger somehow, if that were possible for an elf.  There were men and they were hurting him... Aragorn nearly jerked physically back as his mind recoiled from the images that he knew to be coming from Legolas’ past. 

Elrond, standing a ways back, could not see what Aragorn was seeing, but he saw the young man tense and recoil and only just kept himself from stepping forward.  Not everything the mirror showed one was pleasant. 

Galadriel met his eyes.  This was Aragorn’s test of strength and will; he had to pass it alone if he would accomplish that which he sought. 

Aragorn’s emotions caused the pictures to wobble and spin out of focus again and for a few moments he was left groping to pull them back into focus again, but slowly he did.

Legolas’ face appeared once more, but he was laughing this time, talking with... with Raniean and Trelan it looked like, while riding next to Elrond.  Other scenes, ones that Aragorn remembered from their own not so distant past together surfaced: Mirkwood, fighting the spiders, Lord Thranduil’s halls, Rivendell, the Witch King, the cold snow of the mountains and the burning heat of Harad... all of them swirled past in the blink of an eye, before Aragorn once again found himself faced with unfamiliar images, but it was hard for him to know whether he had just moved forward or backward in time since the mirror was not showing him things in any kind of order, chronological or otherwise. 

A river.  Two riders crossed it... they were elves. One was Legolas. He couldn’t see the other; it might have been Trelan. 

They were attacked, separated... he saw Trelan caught beneath the horses’ hooves and flinched hard, everything seemed so real.  Aragorn struggled to see what happened and where Legolas was, but he could not and the scene slid away from him.  He did not seem to have the skill to look more than surface deep into anything he saw.  That frustrated the young man and he tried harder.  Of course, being able to bend the mirror to his will at all was no small feat; however, Aragorn had no way of knowing that. 

A scene snapped clearly into focus.  Legolas, lying pale and still on a slanting bed of grey shale.  Behind him in the distance a faint, foggy mountain range formed a striking resemblance to the image of an old, hook-nosed man.  Something moved in the rocks.  Aragorn could not see what, but he knew it was danger for Legolas.

Mentally he screamed for his friend to wake up, attempting to force the image to stay, but it slipped away like sand between his fingers and he had no way of even knowing if it were the past, the present or the future that he was seeing.  Aragorn’s left hand tightened vise-like on the edge of the mirror basin, causing the stone to dig roughly into his fingers. 

The image wavered.  He was closer to Legolas now; he could see his friend’s face and the elf was awake.  

“Don’t be angry with me, Estel...” Legolas’ voice was weak and soft.  “I’m sorry...” the elf seemed to reach out for his hand, but was not strong enough to do so and the prince’s arm fell back to his side.  Legolas’ eyes closed and his spirit fled as death reached up and swallowed him.  

“No!” Aragorn didn’t realize that he had shouted it aloud.  With all his will he fought to hold the picture he was seeing, to know what was wrong and why his friend was dying... but he could see nothing.  The elf seemed uninjured.  The scene replayed itself again, exactly the same way and it was like being stuck in a nightmare all over again.  Legolas’ hand fell limply back to his side and Aragorn reached out, trying to take hold of it, his whole concentration and will bent on the horrible scene in front of him. 

“Do not touch the water.” Galadriel’s quiet warning went unheard and unheeded. 

Aragorn’s good hand slid over the lip of the bowl, reaching for his friend out of reflex and anguish, even though he knew he wasn’t really there.  The instant his fingers touched the water the pictures went into a nauseating spin as the seemingly cool liquid bubbled tumultuously, searing the hand that had violated it.  The young man cried out in surprise and pain as he was mentally ripped free of the scene he was concentrating on and jerked back to the present.  

One of Galadriel’s slim, strong hands was on his shoulder and the other firmly grasped his left wrist, lifting his hand out of the water and anchoring him back to reality.  “Estel?  Estel...” she spoke his name like a call but for a moment he did not respond.  

Her eyes fell quickly upon Elrond but he needed no summons, he was already beside them, touching his son’s face and bringing Aragorn’s head around towards him.  “Estel. Estel, answer me.” 

Aragorn blinked twice and took a deep, shaky breath, looking around as if not sure what had happened. 

“I’m sorry...” he apologized for the concerned looks on their faces, a deep humiliation flooding him.  “I’m sorry.  I-I think I must have done something stupid, didn’t I?”  He dropped his head and his gaze as everything came back to him. 

Elrond touched his shoulder gently as Galadriel released the young ranger.  “You are brave, Estel, but you have to be more careful.  Your time will come, but you are not yet skilled enough, young one, to understand nor wield the full power inside of you.  Now look at me, look at me, Estel,” he insisted and Aragorn slowly met his searching gaze. 

Elrond sighed softly.  Aragorn was all right.  Weary beyond measure from exerting himself and his untried abilities far too much while in an already weakened condition, but ultimately unharmed by his experience.  His foster son was, however, deeply troubled and he could see that.  “What did you see?” 

“I saw Legolas,” Aragorn was slightly breathless but quickly got control of himself.  “He was in danger.  Grave danger... I saw him die.” 

The raw pain behind Aragorn’s eyes made Elrond’s heart ache.  He knew what the prince meant to his son.  “It is not the certain future, Aragorn. It may not even be the future at all.” 

Aragorn was already shaking his head.  “No!  He is in danger.  I know it.  I can feel it.  Ada, I know where he is!” 

Elrond glanced at Galadriel but returned his gaze to his youngest son.  “What do you mean, Estel?” 

“I saw him,” Aragorn wavered slightly and had to grip the mirror pedestal with his burned fingers again to keep steady.  “I saw him, and in the background I could clearly see the old man in the mountain.  It was distant and faint, but there.” 

Elrond’s brow creased.  The only vantage point from which the mountains lined up right to create that unique picture was Northern Rohan, above Fangorn.  But what would Legolas be doing that far south of here? 

“But can you be sure?  The mirror can show us that which we wish, or that which we fear, as well as that which is true,” Galadriel questioned quietly. 

“No,” Aragorn’s mind was made up and he battled the dizziness working on him.  His shoulder and arm were hurting again; a lot.  He was very tired but fought off the sluggishness.  “No, he’s there.  I don’t know how I know it, I-I just do!  You have to believe me.  I know what I saw and if something is not done he is going to die.  I have to go, I have to...” the young Dùnadan’s knees buckled. 

Elrond caught his foster son and supported his weight gently.  “You are not going anywhere in this condition, Estel.  Your own body will not allow it,” he remonstrated as he gently eased the ranger down onto a nearby bench. 

Aragorn’s breathing was quick and fast.  His whole being was exhausted from his efforts and frustrated with its own frailty.  He winced slightly as Elrond checked the burns on his hand, but they were light ones only and not serious. 

Worn as he was, the human was still protesting and attempting to rise.  “I have to go, I have to...” 

Galadriel touched his forehead lightly with her fingertips, brushing them across his clammy brow and the young man’s hurting, agitated body relaxed almost instantly, slumping into Elrond’s arms. 

Īdh si, rest now,” the elf lady murmured as Estel’s eyes closed. 

“That’s not fair...” Aragorn murmured before sweet, dreamless slumber pulled him under. 

Elrond gathered the young man easily in his arms; careful of the Dùnadan’s mending bones.  “I suppose it’s not,” the elf lord whispered to his unconscious son with a soft smile, “but it is best for you.”  Aragorn would only hurt himself at this point by trying to do too much in such a critically weakened condition. 

“That works slightly better on him than it ever did on the twins,” Elrond remarked quietly, directing his amused gaze towards Galadriel as he carried Aragorn back to bed in one of the ground-level bowers. 

The elf woman laughed softly at the memory they were both recalling.  It was a wonderfully musical sound.  “They were young and overactive.  This one does not have that much energy now.” 

Elrond chuckled as he laid his human son down on the soft, silky cushions of their resting-place.  Like most of Lórien it was both indoors and outdoors at the same time and the sweet fragrance of niphredil hung like a healing balm in the cool air. 

“You haven’t seen him when he is well.  At full strength I would say he could challenge them both when it comes to energy and exuberance,” the elf lord remarked with a soft smile. 

Galadriel settled the ranger’s mending arm comfortably on his chest and pulled a light covering over him.  It had been a long time since she had helped tuck anyone into bed and it amused her.  “I do not doubt it.  Your and your brother’s descendants have always been a handful.  I’ll have you know that you were no different when you were young.”  Her smile was soft. 

Elrond just shook his head as they moved quietly away, leaving Aragorn sleeping.  “That was before I married Celebrían.  Being a father changes many things.” 

Galadriel cast her gaze back towards Estel’s still form, her eyes distant as she thought of her daughter.  “She would have liked him.  Many would not have taken him in or taken him to heart as you have done, yet the fate of the world may someday hang on such quiet beginnings.  My daughter chose well.”  She rested her hand lightly above her son-in-law’s heart. 

They did not often speak of Celebrían now that she was gone and Elrond touched Galadriel’s hand in a gesture of thanks.  It did not hurt now to think of his wife.  He would always miss her until the day they were together again, but he knew she was happy. 

“The boy has a good heart and a fierce loyalty.  He will go after Legolas if we are not careful.  Yet... I am also troubled for the young prince,” Elrond said as they walked amid the trees together.  “Estel’s visions are correct if what my heart speaks is true.  He is in danger.” 

Galadriel nodded, she felt the same.  “I fear you are right, but I will admit I do not know him as you do. We have never met and his fate is hidden from me.  For Estel to feel the danger so acutely, his connection with Legolas must be a strong one.” 

“It is,” Elrond nodded, clasping his hands behind his back.  “It is.” 


Thunder rolled lazily across the cloudy sky.  The air was thick and oppressive and the gentle drizzle that was beginning to fall did nothing to lighten it. 

Jagged, craggy, grey rocks and loose shale formed the face of the landscape, absorbing the raindrops with little effect, save that the shale slowly darkened in color, as if trying to disappear into the overcast sky.  

Water beaded on a grey cloak, nearly the same shade as the shale, before slowly seeping into the light fabric and running in small rivulets off of unmoving fingers.  A pale face with closed lids stared up unseeing at the grey sky while moist air and misty rain made long, black eyelashes glisten and soft golden hair cling to the unresponsive form.  Thin streaks of crimson mingled in the rainwater, as blood seeped slowly from a deep abrasion across the still being’s right temple. 

A tall, slippery knoll rose high above the unconscious figure on the left, barren and above the tree-line.  In the distance the Misty Mountains rose faint, yet distinct, forming the shape of an old man’s face. 

The shale on the knoll above was hard and yielded up no secrets.  Not even an elf would have been able to read the struggle that had taken place up there.  Not even their keen eyes would have been able to see where the larger group of horseman had backed the lone rider up against the edge of the slippery cliff, whooping and yelling, shooting arrows and snapping whips, attempting to unsettle the agitated elven horse. 

Thala... thala, lasto beth nín, Avornwen,” the blonde-haired rider tried to calm his horse as the dappled grey backed skittishly towards the cliff-edge, her hooves slipping and sliding.  His bow was gone, he was too far away for his hand-to-hand weapons to be any use, he had no idea where his friend was now and that last worried him to no end. 

Not even the strangely melted shale or burnt tree stump would have offered a clue as to how the elven horse, extremely unsettled by the harassing presence of the others despite the calming reassurances of its rider, had reared suddenly when lightning struck the earth not fifty feet away, melting stone like butter and sending the tree bursting into flames. 

No skid marks.  No trail.  Nothing but the still body at the base of the cliff to mark the elf’s passing when he was thrown clear of his horse, glancing off the ragged cliff face three times before slipping and sliding into this narrow rift where he had lain since, unmoving. 

The grey horse bolted and the riders took off after it. No one thought of what had happened to the elf.  No one cared. 

Water pooled in the folds of the elf’s clothing and beaded off his skin, but the sensation did not wake him.  Neither did the soft sounds of scrabbling, and the scraping of scales across stone. 

A long, strong-bodied lizard, larger than a cat but not quite so big as a dog, dragged its scaly underbelly along the ground as it inched cautiously forward on four short but powerful legs.  Mottled grey, brown and green patterns enabled the reptile to blend in with its surroundings while keen senses drew it towards the only thing in these dead, craggy paths that was radiating heat. 

The lhyguan flicked its long, thin tongue out, testing the air in an almost snake-like manner.  It smelled blood.  And the blood smelled sweet. 

Seemingly from nowhere, two more of the creatures appeared, called by the scent of blood and the silent summons of the first lhyguan.  Warily, the beasts half waddled, half slithered forward towards the still body of the elf prince.  Unresisting prey was too tempting to pass up and the lhygians looked at one another.  The first one opened his mouth in a soft hiss that was almost a growl, revealing two small but razor sharp rows of teeth.  He had found this one first; the others could share in the spoils, but the kill was his. 

Slithering forward until he was standing on the unconscious elf’s chest, the lhyguan dipped its head towards Legolas’ neck; its bite loaded with enough venom to kill a small Oliphaunt given enough time. The other two creatures edged closer, waiting for their opportunity.  But Legolas remained unaware of the danger.  The prince did not stir. 

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