Dark Visions

Chapter 4

by Cassia and Siobhan

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The soft, blue hues of night had settled once more upon Lothlórien.  Beneath the quiet trees, a lone figure slid silently across the grass near the southern borders of the wood. 

Aragorn was very nearly holding his breath in an attempt to remain perfectly quiet.  Thus far he seemed to have escaped notice, but he would not relax until he had left the forest behind him. 

Elrond and Galadriel meant well, and he knew they were concerned for him, but his heart was telling him that he had already waited too long.  Aragorn slid silently behind a thick tree trunk as he saw several elf sentries pass noiselessly by in the distance. Holding his stiff right arm against him, he tried to keep the white sling hidden in the shadows.  The bones were more or less mended now, but the arm was still weak from forced non-use and the new bones were thin. 

Aragorn wished he had his cloak because that would blend better, but he had been unable to get together many supplies before leaving, since he had wished to avoid detection. 

Once the coast was clear the young ranger moved on again.  After several hours he was finally free of the woods and in the open plains below Lórien.  Breathing a sigh of relief, Aragorn let some of the tension leave his aching body.  He was still more worn from his experience with the mirror than he wanted to admit, but at the same time a dreadful urgency had filled him.  Legolas was in danger.  And the fear that he was already too late gnawed at him incessantly. 

Aragorn shivered slightly.  The night was cold, and it seemed to have gotten even more so as soon as he left the protective borders of the Golden Wood.  He wished he had his cloak even more now, but there was no use thinking about that.  He pressed on, working his way slowly and carefully down a steep incline.  The grass and loose earth was slick with nighttime dew and his boots slid treacherously in the dark as he cautiously edged down the slope. 

There was no warning.  He heard no footfalls, no rustle of movement.  Nothing to indicate that he was not alone.  However, some inner sense made the young man turn sharply to the right and look around.  Unfortunately the abrupt movement on the steep incline was not a good idea. 

Aragorn’s boots slid on the slick grass and he lost his balance.  His arms cut through the dark air as they waved in a useless attempt to regain his lost footing.  He felt himself starting to tumble as his feet slid out from under him... Suddenly a strong hand caught his flailing left arm, pulling the young ranger up short and spinning him part way around. 

The young ranger jerked in surprise and alarm.  He couldn’t see his attacker from this position and trying to turn was only going to make him slip again.  He didn’t know who or what else was out here, but it had him at a disadvantage.  Automatically, he pulled free of his sling, trying to go for his sword with his right hand since his left was caught firm.  His tenuous footing slipped and he slid further as he tried to pull free of whoever had grabbed him, or at least turn towards the being, but the strong hands that held him grappled against his forward momentum, pulling him back and catching his good arm in a position that effectively rendered him unable to struggle further. 

“Estel, what are you doing?  Be still or you’ll fall!” 

At the sound of the voice Aragorn instantly stopped struggling and allowed the grip on his arms to pull him fully upright and set him on his feet again on a more stable patch of grass and rocks. 

The hands released him then and Aragorn pulled away, turning around to face the being behind him. 

Elrond was smiling wryly at his foster son, one eyebrow cocked. 

Aragorn’s breath was still coming quick and fast and his heart was pounding in his ears from the adrenaline surge a few moments ago.  “Are you trying to kill me?” he panted out, shocked at seeing the elf lord. 

“Actually that’s what I was hoping to avoid,” the elder elf said calmly, his smile growing as he saw how flustered the human was.  Elrond shimmered faintly in the moonlight, but only faintly.  To an extent he could control or hide his inner radiance depending on what the situation called for. 

Aragorn shook his head and put one hand over his slowly calming heart as he glared accusingly at his father’s amused look.  “And I thought my brothers were bad about sneaking up on me!”  The truth was they held nothing on their father.  Elladan and Elrohir Aragorn had learned to detect, but Elrond was another matter all together. 

“Perhaps if you didn’t always feel the need to take off in the middle of the night, you wouldn’t have to worry about it,” the elf lord fixed his son with a somewhat stern look.  Yes, Aragorn was plenty old enough and capable enough to look after himself, but still... 

Aragorn closed his eyes for a moment and passed his hand over his face.  He didn’t bother asking what Elrond was doing here, he figured he knew. 

“I’m not going back,” the ranger said quietly, meeting the elf lord’s eyes and hoping he understood, but prepared if he didn’t.  He gestured to his right arm and the sling that was right now hanging uselessly around his neck.  “I am nearly well again.  I will be all right.  But Legolas is in danger, I know he is, and I must go try to find him.  It is no more than he has done for me.  Please understand, this is something I have to do.” 

“Are you through?” Elrond waited until the human had finished speaking.  “Good,” he nodded when Aragorn did not respond.  “As so often is the case you are not nearly so well as you think, Estel, if tonight’s little altercation is any indication.  What would you have done if I had been an enemy?  I cannot allow you do this alone.” 

Aragorn’s eyes turned hard with determination.  “I’m sorry, Father, but you cannot stop me.” 

“Who said anything about stopping you?  If I had wanted to do that all I would have had to do is say a word to Galadriel and the Galadrim would have halted you long before you got anywhere near the borders of the woods.  Yes, Estel, don’t look so shocked, the Lord and Lady of the Wood know everything that happens in their realm and I know you at any rate,” Elrond added with a twinkle in his eye at Aragorn’s surprised look.  “I knew you’d never stay put.  Of course you are going to find Legolas, and since I cannot with good conscience let you go alone in your condition, I am going with you.” 

Aragorn blinked, utterly taken aback by this new revelation.  “You are?” 

“I’m glad my companionship is so highly rated,” Elrond remarked dryly at his adopted son’s nonplused expression. 

Aragorn flushed.  “That’s not what I meant, I mean, there’s no one I would rather have with me, but it’s just-” 

“Just that you’ve never seen me leave Rivendell?  I’m not a fixture there, Aragorn,” he laughed.  “I dare say I will not be a burden to your travels,” he cut the young man off with a wave of his hand before the ranger could again protest that that was not what he had meant.  “Besides, I think you forgot a few things...” 

Un-shouldering the pack that up until now Aragorn did not even realize the elf lord was carrying; Elrond dropped the weighty knapsack on the ground with a thud.  “How far did you think you were going to get supplied like you are now?” the elf shook his head with an amused smile.  “I know I taught you better than that, Estel.  Look at that, you didn’t even bring your cloak... well I don’t have yours, but I have a spare.”  Elrond pulled the cloak off his own shoulders and wrapped the warm fabric around the young human’s, his look brooking no protest. 

Aragorn pulled the dark cloak closer around him with his good hand.  With minimal difficulty he pulled the small brooch off the shoulder of his tunic and used it to hold the cloak closed about his neck.  After it was fastened, the ranger let his fingers linger on the small star-shaped clasp that Elladan had given him many years ago as he broke into a large grin.  Touching Elrond’s arm, he caught the elf lord’s gaze again. 

“Thank you,” Aragorn meant far more than the cloak and his eyes said that clearly.  Just how far Elrond was willing to go to support him touched his heart deeply. 

Elrond brushed his son’s unruly locks with the back of his fingers, his smile both fond and proud.  “You are becoming a man, Estel.  Indeed, you have been one for some time.  Our paths will lead us apart very soon, I think, and it may be that we see less of one another than in former years... but at least this journey we will make together.” 

Aragorn smiled softly in the darkness.   “Then I will treasure this time, as I have every moment I have lived in your house.  Thank you, you ease my mind in more ways than one.  If Legolas is injured in some way, he could ask for no better care than yours.” 

“Indeed,” the elf lord’s smile turned wry again.  “So instead of dragging him back to me you are dragging me out to him are you?  This should prove interesting.  Perhaps I will finally see just how it is that you two manage to get yourselves into so much trouble!” 

“I’m sure we’ll have no trouble with you around, Ada,” Aragorn said innocently. 

“Why do I doubt that?” Elrond shook his head with a soft laugh, stooping to grab one strap of the pack that was still sitting on the ground.  “Well?  Are you going to take your things out of here or not?  If you think I’m going to carry everything you are gravely mistaken...” 

Aragorn chuckled as he helped his father sort his share of the supplies out of the pack.  He was glad for the elf lord’s company.  He had traveled many times with his brothers but rarely ever with his father.  The visit to Lothlórien had woken many questions in his mind that he had never stopped to consider before about Elrond and his past.  He supposed it was part of truly growing up when you began to see someone as more than just your father, but as a person, a person he would like to get to know better, especially since Aragorn too felt that their lives would soon begin to undergo many changes. 

This was going to be a very interesting trip indeed. 

Aragorn shouldered his own pack once more and turned back in the direction he had been going.  He took a deep breath of the night air and an unexplainable chill ran through him. 

Elrond noticed the troubled look on his foster son’s face and touched his shoulder gently as they started descending the steep slope once more.  “You fear for Legolas.” 

“Yes,” Aragorn was not ashamed to admit it.  “I have the awful feeling that somehow I have already waited too long... I fear I will be too late.” 

Elrond was silent for a time, but when they had reached the bottom of the hill he spoke, his voice quiet, but firm.  “We cannot do more than we are doing now, Estel.  There is nothing more ultimately destructive than focusing on what might have been but can no longer be changed.  Have faith.” 

Elrond could not promise that all would be well, for that was more than he knew, but Aragorn took comfort in his father’s wisdom and nodded, silently praying that his dreams would not come true.  That they would not be too late. 


A tall human with sandy blonde hair pulled back in several rough braids was swearing prodigiously, an empty halter clamped in his hand.  The falling rain made the leather slick and was steadily worsening his disposition.  “Any sign of them up there, Léod?” he called up to his companion on the dark, shale covered ridge above. 

“No. You know Freca’s gonna have our hides if we don’t bring them back,” the second fellow responded helpfully.  

“Thanks, I never would have guessed,” the first man grumped, swearing a little louder, his voice echoing off the walls of the curving canyon he was descending into.  “I hope they haven’t tangled it up with any of those stinking lhygians.  You did bring the anti-venom kit with just in case, right?” 

A grunt from above answered to the affirmative.  “Yes, Fastred, I’m not stupid you know.  After all, it wasn’t I who let them get away...” 

These men were horse-breakers by trade, in search of some of their stock that had run off and made for the hills.  This light rain was not making their search any easier, or any more pleasant. 

Fastred kicked a loose piece of shale angrily as he rounded a corner, holding on to the cliff face next to him to keep from slipping on the sharp incline and shifting stones as he rounded the bend.  Any horse that came down here stood a good chance of breaking a leg or worse and that would be a tragedy, not only because of the loss of a good animal, but because these horses did not belong to the breakers, but were entrusted into their care by individual clients to be tamed and made saddle-ready.  To violate such a trust was a serious thing and not one that their employer would take lightly. 

“Well I certainly hope that none of them were foolish enough to come down through... here.”  Fastred pulled up short at the sight he found himself confronted with.  A still body lay sprawled on the ground at the base of the cliff and on its chest... 

The lhyguan leaned down close, ready to taste the elf’s blood when a heavy stone hit it full in the back of the head, making it reel before turning around and hissing loudly, its flat broad head swiveling to find the source of the new threat.  

“Hey, get away!  Get away!” Fastred threw another stone, narrowly missing the second lhyguan.  “Léod!  Léod!  Get down here quick!” he shouted, snapping a long thin branch off one of the spindly trees nearby.  Edging forward, while trying to keep out of the reach of the deadly lhygians, Fastred swatted at the creatures with the leafy end of the branch, continuing to shout loudly, since he knew the reptiles were sensitive to loud sounds. 

The lhygians hissed and retreated a few paces in fear and anger, but they were reluctant to leave the prone body of their intended prey. 

Léod quickly slithered down the steep incline behind his friend and immediately seeing what was going on, he drew a knife from his belt. 

Two of the great lizards were still perched atop the unmoving body of the stranger on the ground and one, closer at hand, was staring at the newcomers with small deadly eyes. 

Just at that moment, the one closest to the two humans lunged forward, straight at them.  Quick as he could, Léod hurled the knife in his hand, catching the creature in the back.  The lhyguan made no audible outcry, but it thrashed madly, turning and writhing on the shale in its death throes.  There was a flurry of movement from the lhygians standing on the unconscious being, but when the two breakers moved towards them they fled with a scuttle and a hiss, disappearing into the shadows of the rocks. 

“Who in the world is this?” Léod knelt next to Legolas, turning the prince’s head towards them and checking his pulse. 

Wet golden hair pulled away from the elf’s pointed ears and Fastred blinked in surprise.  “What in the world is this?” 

Léod kicked his friend’s boot.  “Don’t be an idiot, it’s an elf!  Haven’t you ever seen an elf before?” 

“Oh, and you have?” Fastred shot back as he checked the prince over for injuries.  His friend ignored him.  “I wonder how he got out here?” he muttered quietly, thinking out loud. 

“Oh damn,” Fastred murmured as he turned the elf’s right hand over and lifted it up.  A small, but deep wound marred the pale, flawless skin of the prince’s palm, just below the base of his thumb.  The bite had an odd, irregular shape and in the deepest part of it were two nearly identical punctures about an inch or more apart.  The flesh around the wound was already red and beginning to swell. 

“Lhyguan poison,” Fastred muttered with revulsion.  “One of them got him before they ran off.”  Under normal circumstances, the elf would die in a matter of minutes as the deadly venom spread through his body, swelling internal organs and wreaking havoc with the nervous system. 

Léod dropped the pack off his back and rummaged through it quickly.  Pulling out a jar and a small flask he passed the vial to his friend while he opened the jar.  Ladling out a generous amount of the gooey yellow substance inside with two cupped fingers, Léod spread the mixture onto a strip of cloth and pressed it tightly against the bleeding wound on the elf’s hand, working it into the puncture and binding it off.  That would slow the poison and neutralize it at its point of entry. 

Meanwhile, Fastred had mixed the contents of the vial with the water in the drinking horn he carried.  Tipping the unconscious elf up into a sitting position, they put the end of the horn in Legolas’ mouth and slowly poured the water in, waiting for the natural swallowing instinct to take effect before administering some more, a little at a time. 

Léod glanced at his friend as they slowly administered the anti-venom to the unresponsive elf.  “Whoever he is, he’s lucky we had some of the AntiVen with us.  But... this batch was mixed up for horses... do you think it’ll work on a human or an... an elf?” 

Fastred shrugged.  “I have no idea.  It ought to still work on a man, although it might be a mite stronger than necessary... we’ll know soon if the same holds true for his kind.” 

The rain was intensifying and they tipped the drinking horn one last time, administering the last of the anti-venom serum. 

“Come on,” Fastred dragged the limp elf upright as he stood, throwing Legolas over one shoulder and finding that the prince was remarkably light.  “Let’s get him back to Émuseld.  If he makes it, he’s gonna need a fire and dry clothes to see him through the shakes.  We’ll keep looking for the horses after the storm breaks.” 

Léod nodded.  “At least this way Freca can’t complain about us coming back without the horses.”  Both men were glad for a reason to not prolong their search in the midst of such inclement weather. 

Fastred rolled his eyes.  “You wish.” 


“Ada?” Aragorn waited until the elderly elf met his eye across the fire. The sparks from the pitch that burned on the wood leapt high into the night sky and painted the ranger’s face in warm amber tones. “Tell me of Mother.” He asked quietly. “I never hear you speak of her.” 

The elf sat cross-legged on the far side of the fire. His hair normally braided in intricate elvish design was simply pulled back and pleated into one long braid behind his head, in the fashion that Aragorn had seen warriors sometimes wear theirs. The elf lord wore no distinguishing garments that would set him apart from any other elf if they happened across travelers on their journey south. His royal clothing had been given up in exchange for a dark brown under tunic the color of the woods. It was overlaid by a simple suede jerkin that laced up the front. The impressions of hand tooled leaves decorated the borders of its edges as it swept down his slender frame tapering mid-thigh and was belted about his waist by a nondescript leather belt. He wore dark leggings that contrasted slightly with the ornate sheath at his side. The elf had also brought his bow and quiver; they lay beside him within easy reach of his hands. 

Aragorn had stared long at his father wondering about his early life. He had never seen the elf lord dressed as he was and it had occurred to the ranger that there was much he did not know about his father. Oh he had heard stories of the courage and strength of Lord Elrond, but never from the elf himself.  In a way it was strange really. Elrond was the lore master and storyteller and from him Aragorn had learned much of the history of Middle-earth over the years... but very few tales that involved the elf lord’s own past.  Those thoughts had surfaced questions in the ranger’s mind and so he had finally gotten up the courage to start asking. 

Elrond frowned in confusion at the human’s statement. Aragorn had always been told everything he wanted to know about his birth parents.  “You ask of Gilraen?” 

With a small shake of his head Aragorn cast his gaze down, slightly unsure of how his father would respond.  Did Elrond not speak of the past because he did not wish to?  The crackling fire cast odd shadows about them and Elrond tipped his head slightly trying to see into the shaded eyes of his adopted son.  He waited out the human, while the young man thought through his question. 

“No.  Not her.”  When he spoke again Aragorn’s voice was soft and low but the elven hearing quickly picked up the quiet tones. “You have told me much about them, and I thank you, but... although I know she is my mother by birth, as Arathorn is my father, still if...if your wife were yet in Middle-earth she would have been the mother I came to know.  Elladan and Elrohir talk of their mother often and I have come to think of her in such a way through them.  I did not mean to be presumptuous.”  Silver eyes searched the blue ones that watched the ranger closely.  Elrond gave his head a slight shake, letting Aragorn know he had done nothing wrong, but he did not speak. 

“You never speak of her, Ada.”  Aragorn repeated quietly.  There was so much about Elrond that Aragorn realized he really did not know, even though he had lived with him all his life.  He had never thought much about it before, but now he wondered about the woman who had captured his father’s heart. 

Elrond looked quickly out into the night, unconsciously shielding his inner soul from the piercing gaze of his son.  No, he rarely spoke of her anymore.  The years had fled so quickly and the past seemed more like wisps of remembrance with barely any substance. 

Afraid he had hurt his adoptive parent, Aragorn quietly stood and rounded the fire, seating himself near Elrond’s side. 

The soft sounds of footsteps did not register in the elf’s mind as his thoughts were flung eons into the past.  It was the gentle touch of his son’s hand on his knee that brought the elf back to the present. 

“I’m sorry.”  Aragorn whispered softly. “I did not mean to bring you pain. I was only curious.  I thought perhaps it would be easier to speak of her without my brothers here, but obviously I was wrong.  You don’t have to remember for me. Its all right to let it go.” 

Elrond smiled gently at the human that was seated next to him.  Why wouldn’t his son ask him such questions? 

“No Aragorn, it is well.  You are correct I do not speak of Celebrìan often and if she had stayed in Middle-earth she would indeed have taken the place of your departed mother.”  His smiled widened as he thought on his wife. “She would have loved you.  You have the same spark and joy of life that always marked her.  I find it odd but you, all of you, in one way or another remind me of her.  And I see reflections of her soul in yours.”  He laughed slightly, for Aragorn was no physical relation to his wife, and yet as in his own sons, he saw a kindredness of spirit.  “Her heart was big enough for all of Middle-earth, not unlike your own, my son.” 

“How did you meet her?” Aragorn pressed gently, noting that his father was opening up to him. 

Elrond laughed, his face flushing slightly with embarrassment. “Oh, now that is a tale.”  He shook his head, a smile widening on his face, “A very long one.  It took place on the face of an earth that was very different than the one you now know, young one.  You recall that before the forging of the Rings of Power, there was a great elven kingdom in Eregion, which men now call Hollin.  Galadriel and Celeborn dwelt there and governed the people.  Ost-in-Edhil that realm was called in the days of Celembrimbor, when the dwarves of Moria and the Elves of Eregion lived in peace.  Now when my brother and I were quite young, after our parents left but before the founding of Númenor, we left the house of Maglor whose keeping we had been in, and joined the elves in Eregion.  There we would go out hunting with our friends near Ost-in-Edhil from time to time and for the most part, we younger ones would stay away from the main citadels and hunt the outer edges.”  The elderly elf stopped, deep in remembrance a frown slightly marring his noble face and Aragorn was amused to see that he bit his lip exactly the same way Elladan did every time the younger elf was lost in thought.  “I can’t remember why,” he finally continued, “But this particular time we had ridden into the inner sanctuary and were on our way back out when she passed by.” 

“Father!”  Aragorn gave the elf a gentle shove as his elder started laughing, interrupting his own tale.  The elf lord picked up a stray piece of wood and tossed it on the fire before continuing his story. 

“I couldn’t take my eyes off of her.  I think my mind had all but frozen, for she was the most beautiful maiden I had ever seen.  She was walking beneath the trees with a group of her friends but I saw none of them save her.  And that of course was exactly the time that my brother chose to spook my horse.  He admitted later that he did it on purpose when he saw the look on my face.” 

“Ah, so that’s where Elladan and Elrohir get it from.” Aragorn laughed aloud and ducked a playful smack. “I knew you had to be a ruffian when you were younger, get in lots of trouble did we?”  He snickered at the glower his father laid on him. 

“Do you want to hear the story or not?”  Elrond threatened lightly, unable to contain his own mirth. 

“No please, please I wouldn’t miss this for all the world.” 

With a shake of his head the elf lord continued, “Needless to say my horse reared up and I was thrown from it.  I broke my arm in the fall and when I did not rise immediately the commotion gathered quite a crowd.  The first one to reach me was Celebrìan and hers the first voice I heard.  But it was her eyes that held me captive. Oh her eyes, by the Valar, Aragorn, I swear they held all the stars of the universe in their depths.” Elrond was smiling softly, lost in memories as he stared into the sparking fire. 

Aragorn smiled in kind as he watched his father recall his past, swept away to the younger days of Middle-earth and enraptured by the tale the elderly elf told. 

“And her hair, it was thick and long and it shown like flax on a summer's day.  It smelled sweet like the meadow flowers.  I can still recall the scent...” Elrond’s voice dropped off and he glanced down to his hands, “None of our children carried on that trait.”  He turned and looked at the human next to him, gently touching an errant strand of Aragorn’s unruly locks.  “None of them.  You all have the darker hair of my side of the family.” 

Aragorn did not speak when Elrond turned back to gaze once more into the firepit.  He did not continue for some time and the ranger gave him space to be alone with his thoughts, idly stirring the fire with a stick he had found on the forest floor.  The quiet sounds of the forest about them filtered through the night, bringing with their song a calm and a peace that all was well in the woods and it seemed as though that serenity stretched through the whole of Middle-earth if it were possible. 

“She was the first one to reach my side after I fell and the only one I can recall being there.”  Elrond laughed softly at himself as he picked up the story where he had left it off.  “I couldn’t even speak. Her beauty held me in sway, much to my brother and his friend’s amusement.  Thank the Valar her mother rescued me, having witnessed my accident and saved me further embarrassment by taking me with her to have my arm set.”  He laughed out loud, “That was the first time I met your mother...I mean Celebrìan.” He corrected himself quickly.  It was hard to remember sometimes, that Aragorn was not truly his son the way Elladan and Elrohir were. 

“Its all right father, you can call her my mother, for, meaning no disrespect to the dead, I consider you my true family.”  Aragorn smiled up into the dark eyes that watched him intently, “Tell me, how long before you decided she was the one?” A mischievous grin spread across the young human’s face. 

“Oh that very day, when I looked into her eyes. I knew I would never be able to live free of her enchantment.  So it was that I began to visit often, very often.” 

Aragorn raised an eyebrow in silent question. 

“As in daily.  I couldn’t get her out of my head.  She of course made a merry chase of it, but I knew that she felt the same way and it was only a matter of time.”  Elrond frowned mockingly at his son who could barely contain himself, trying hard to fight back the giggles, “Don’t look at me like that.” He gave the ranger a good shove.  “As if you haven’t been the same. I’ve seen that far off look in your eyes a time or two.  You know how women are!” 

Aragorn’s mouth dropped open. He was at a loss of what to say.  “You...how... I never!” 

“You have and you know it! Your brothers have seen it, I have seen it and,” he sighed deeply in resignation, “The Valar know Arwen has seen it.” 

The silver eyes that held his gaze suddenly sought the forest floor. 

“O, Estel.” Elrond’s voice was tender and soft and Aragorn glanced hesitantly back up at his father, “I have tread the path that you have and though our destinies lie in different places, we are not so far removed from one another that I can not understand the heedless choices of the heart.”  He gently touched the young man’s chin, lifting the ranger’s head until their eyes met. 

“You said we would not speak of it for many years yet.”  Aragorn’s voice was low and slightly hesitant. 

“And so we shall not for the future is uncertain, and the time will come.”  He smiled at the ranger, “But not now, however. You did want to know about Cele...your mother, did you not?”  He matched the youth’s suddenly mischievous grin. 

His smile broadened as Aragorn nodded.  He was glad that they had this time together alone; they needed it – father and son.  “We spent many happy days together, for we were young and the world seemed full of nothing but time... however peace did not last.  Sauron bred discontent among the elves and they rebelled.  Galadriel and her family were chased out of Ost-in-Edhil by their own people.  With the aide of the dwarves she and Celebrìan passed through Moria and so escaped to Lothlórien, although that was not yet its name.  Celeborn refused to pass into the dwarf realm.  He, I and the other elves that followed Gil-Galad and were not part of the doings in Hollin remained on the west side of the mountains.  Then Sauron unmasked his evil intents and war came for many, many bitter years.  I did not see Celebrìan again until after it was all over and she and her mother came looking for Celeborn, who was staying with me in newly founded Imladris.  It had been so long by then... I said nothing to her at the time, fearing that the bond made in our youth was forgotten.  But it was not so, and that soon became clear.  By the time I asked her if she would stay with me forever, her answer was not the yes I had hoped and expected, but rather she lectured me on taking so long to ask her!” 

“She lectured you?!?!?” Aragorn was laughing hard, “I wish I had seen that.” 

“Yes, well asking her was nothing compared to finding the courage to speak with her parents about our intentions.”  Elrond let his breath out in a rush, shaking his head.  “I may have stood beside Celeborn in battle many times and faced death, but that was nothing compared with the thought of asking for his daughter’s hand!” 

“Are you telling me you were nervous?” Aragorn asked incredulously. 

“Yes!”  Elrond glowered at him playfully, “Being an elf lord is no easy business and I have been nervous many times in my life since, but none more than then.” He elbowed the youth next to him, “Stop laughing. Celeborn and Galadriel have been good relatives through the years, helping me raise two boys and one girl without their mother.” 

The young human had quieted, listening intently once more. 

“I tell you, Estel, living with a woman half one’s life is far different than raising one.”  A deep sorrowful sigh escaped the elf’s lips and Aragorn leaned forward slightly, “Her leaving was one of the hardest things I have ever had to endure.” Elrond’s voice softened as spoke of Celebrìan’s departure, “When she left, much of the beauty of Rivendell passed with her and ere then it has fallen into autumn as though the very woods themselves mourn her leaving.” 

“You miss her greatly don’t you?” Aragorn whispered. 

“Every day.” Elrond smiled sadly, his eyes fixed on the brightly burning fire.  A look of peace crossed his face and the lines etched in his brow eased as he continued, thinking now on the future, “But we will yet be together once more, when it comes my time to leave this land.” 

The wistfulness in the elf’s voice pained the human and Aragorn found himself glancing out into the dark of night, his own thoughts furrowing lines of sadness onto his face. 

Elrond noticed the abrupt change and turned towards his son. “Estel?  What is it?  What have I said that has caused you pain?” 

Aragorn shook his head slowly, “You will one day all leave me and I will see you no more.” His voice was a mere whisper when he finally spoke his fears.  They were no secret and he had voiced them before, but that didn’t mean they had ever truly gone away. 

Elrond’s fingers gently hooked beneath the ranger’s chin, tipping Aragorn’s head back up and forcing him to look at the elf again.  Tearful eyes met the blue and the elf lord closed his own at the intensity of the emotions.  “There is much, young one, that is not revealed of the future.  Do not weary your heart with worry.  It does you no good and besides,” he smiled gently at his son, “you’ll not be rid of me anytime soon nor your brothers I fear!” 

Conceding the point, Aragorn nodded and returned the smile.  He started to respond but his father cautioned him to silence, suddenly alert.  The sounds of the forest around them had grown silent and Elrond glanced about them listening, his hand shifting slowly to the pommel of the sword sheathed at his side. 

Aragorn moved quietly into a crouched position, drawing his own weapon, the steel of the blade ringing softly in the dark stillness.  He could barely hear the shifting of heavy feet and he swiveled out of instinct bringing his sword up before him as the moonlight caught the edges of the heavy orc blade that swung towards him. 

The foul creature's weapon descended on the ranger with a vengeance and Aragorn stumbled slightly under the blow.  His collarbone, though mended, was not quite fit for battle and the strain he was placing on it was obvious as a deep throbbing ache set in.  Without time to worry about it, the human ignored the warning signals and spun towards his opponent, smashing his fist into the orc's face before driving his blade through the evil beast. 

To his right he could hear his elven father struggling in his own battle.  The elf parried a glancing blow and brought his blade up in a high arc; twisting in a tight circle on his boot-heels he swiftly decapitated the orc that advanced on him from behind.  Elrond was fast, too fast for his opponents.  His style of graceful, efficient warfare took his clumsier adversaries off-guard and he dispatched his attackers with ease and swiftness.  Running his sharp elven sword through the heart of the orc before him, Elrond realized he was momentarily free from the dark wave and turned to see how Aragorn was faring. 

The ranger was locked in combat with an orc nearly twice his size and a good head taller than the human.  With a deft twist of his blade Aragorn disarmed the foul creature but, before he could finish it off, the orc lunged at him, bringing his fists down together on the human's newly healed shoulder.  The blow swept an agonizing wave of pain through the ranger and he was momentarily thrown off his guard as he collapsed down to his knees, bright sparks of pain flashing on the edges of his vision as he gasped, trying to catch his breath. 

He heard Elrond call his name and could see the elf out of the corner of his eye as the elven warrior raced to his side.  But there was no time; the orc, having reclaimed his scimitar, raised the weapon above his head intending to kill the human. 

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