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A/N: to understand this story thoroughly it would be advisable to read part 1.
Warning: the story is rated PG-13: this chapter contains violence, disturbing themes, and death
Chapter 3: taking action
Elrond hastened down the grand staircase leading to the secret garden of Galadriel. He was not surprised but relieved to find the Lady of Light standing at the rim of her mirror.
Only two times before, he was fortunate to see Galadriel asking her mirror. The surface had swirled and darkened, circled with light streaks before a vision was established. However, it was always to the interpretation of the lady what the mirror showed.
Now the surface was black. No ripple, no swirling—nothing.
Galadriel looked up just as Elrond had reached the bottom of the stairs; a frown etched on her beautiful features.
“My lady?” Elrond asked, curious to know what had disturbed the she-elf in such a manner. He had not forgotten the harsh retort from earlier, yet if he could help, he would more than oblige.
“The mirror is not responding to me. Something or someone is blocking it too.”
Elrond took a deep breath. The unknown force could attack not only the elves minds but also block the powers of the elves of old.
Galadriel´s gaze, distant before, was now directed at the healer.
“And that´s the very reason why this has to stop now. It´s the third time, and now we will strike back.”
Elrond´s head snapped up; his gaze had again traveled to the black surface of the mirror.
“Third time?” he asked irritated.
“Are you telling me that another elf was attacked?”
Galadriel´s eyes narrowed indignant over her careless spoken words.
Seeing the unwillingness in the other´s eyes, Elrond inched closer.
“You should have told me,” he said in a low voice.
Galadriel raised an annoyed eyebrow.
“Let me decide, Peredhel, what I do and do not tell you. You are much too close to this obscure Istari for me to feel comfortable.”
Elrond swallowed. Galadriel, also a member of the white council did long harbor doubts about their leader. This was going on for some time, but now the white council was falling apart. Even the other members suspected that Saruman was not what he wanted them to see in him. Often did he follow according to his own plans. King Thranduil had even left the council long ago.
Galadriel had made no secret of her aversion against the wizard. This informal meeting was a clear sign of this development. Elrond had always counseled caution to affront the Istari openly. He could and wanted not to imagine that the leader of the white council would betray them to the enemy.
“Accept it, Elrond. Saruman had long slipped past our perceptions. I even assume him behind these attacks.”
The Master of Imladris stepped back in shock. Where did Galadriel take this information?
Suddenly he felt her breath in his ear.
“I even go one step further. New malice has again taken residence at Dol Guldur. Either it is Saruman or a force supported by him. These attacks are too cunning for orcs. Why are our leader or ring bearer always the target?”
Elrond panted heavily. He was not even aware that he had spoken aloud one of his thoughts.
They had long feared that a dark force had again taken up the dark fortress, but Galadriel already stated this as if she had proof.
He looked at her sharply.
“Who was the victim of the third attack?”
Galadriel closed her eyes briefly.
“This infuriating elf from Mirkwood.”
Now Elrond felt sick. King Thranduil had also fallen victim to a mind attack?
He had never learned of this. Even if his dealings with the elves of Mirkwood were not as vivid as he had wished of them, he deemed this incident significant enough to let the other rulers know.
“Thranduil showed extraordinary resilience, and he even confirmed my concern about a new threat at Dol Guldur.”
Elrond narrowed his eyes.
“And you intended to tell me all this when?” he asked unable to banish anger from his voice.
Galadriel looked at the healer frowning.
“I called for this council, and you have now heard of all this. You are not the only one guarding Middle-earth, Elrond.”
The Half-elf sighed deeply. Galadriel would never change. One question, however, was still gnawing at the back of his mind.
“How had Thranduil managed to counter the attack? He did not even have a ring of power.”
Elrond felt slightly abashed at the news. He has a ring of power, but without Glorfindel´s help, he would have presumably succumbed to the assault.
Now Galadriel smiled a thin smile which did not quite reach her eyes.
“We should not underestimate our neighbor ruler. My dear husband´s cousin is always good for a surprise. As much as I could perceive he used the power he inherited from his father.”
Elrond nodded absentmindedly. He had already encountered the enchanted river on the east border of the great Greenwood. Even without a ring of power, Thranduil was not as defenseless as he made all believe.
Before he could retort, they heard a call from Haldir. The Marchwarden was standing on the top of the staircase.
At seeing the Master of Imladris, he hesitated briefly to address his lady. Regarding the encouraging nod form Galadriel, he took a deep breath.
“Mother, come quickly. Father´s condition has worsened.
Elrond looked at the Lady of Light aghast. Galadriel, however, was already climbing up the stairs. He could barely follow the swift steps.
When he had reached the top stair of the great staircase, he quickly traversed the huge platform and entered the spacious abode of the ruling couple. Galadriel and Haldir were already there. Elrond suspected that the wood elves had a secret, swifter way to reach their talans.
Calan, the Golden wood´s chief healer, was sitting on the big bed where Celeborn was placed. He had undoubtedly called for Galadriel.
He was just about to inform his lady but stopped when Elrond entered the tent.
“Go on,” Galadriel said. “This concerns him as well.”
Elrond stepped closer with an acknowledging nod. He directed a quick glance at the silver-haired elf. Unlike him, Celeborn was reacting outwardly to the torment. However, while he had thrashed and cried before, he was now shivering and moaning as though he was in intense pain. Dying almost.
The next words of the healer confirmed Elrond´s fears.
“My lady,” he said his voice forcibly steady.
“Your husband is dying. He´s caught in some death throws. His system is moments from shutting down completely.“
Elrond looked at Galadriel swallowing. He did not doubt his colleague’s assertions. Celeborn’s skin color was as pale as the sheets he was resting on. Cold sweat was on his brow, and his whole body was shivering with a cold that had nothing to do with the day´s chill.
Celeborn let out an unearthly cry, and after some more tremors, his body went still. Elrond could see the chest still rising, yet he was sure this would end at any time. He looked first at Calan and then at Galadriel. Should they intervene—could they even?
Galadriel´s lips were pressed into a thin line while her gaze briefly went distant. Then she walked forward, bent low and placed a gentle kiss on her husband´s slightly parted lips. She whispered something in his ear and straightened again.
Before anyone could say or do something, she had rushed out of the room. Arwen just in the process of entering nearly collided with her.
“Daernaneth? she asked bewildered, yet Galadriel did not even notice her.
Haldir also turned and swiftly followed his foster mother out. Elrond directed a last glance at the prone elf and followed the others out.
Galadriel was standing at the reeling, her face turned upwards, and her hands raised high in the air. Elrond looked at his mother-in-law with a frown after stepping out.
The healer turned when he felt a presence behind him.
“What is she up to?” Elrond asked Glorfindel.
The warrior had narrowed his eyes.
“She´s leaving to put an end to all this.”
Elrond looked back at the she-elf startled. What was the meaning of this? He did not like the sound of Glorfindel´s statement.
Before he could ask or do anything, Galadriel had turned and vanished into her abode. Again, Arwen just emerging had to move aside swiftly to grant her grandmother entrance.
She walked toward her father, her face tear-streaked.
Elrond gathered his daughter in a gentle hug.
“Ada, what is the meaning of this. Where is Daernaneth going?”
“I do not know, my child,” Elrond retorted.
Just a moment later Galadriel emerged again. Elrond blinked.
She was clad all in black—trousers and boots in a soft midnight black leather, as well as a dark tunic completed with a black cape reaching to her waist. Her hair had been braided in a single thick plait down her back. She donned black gloves.
She looked no less imposing as in her wont brilliant white dresses.
Again, Elrond had not the chance to say anything. A faint hissing noise was heard, coming from above the trees and growing louder with every moment. All elves gathered on the platform looked upwards, all eyes directed at the leaf canopy.
Galadriel was not looking up. She sheathed a knife to her right hip and a short sword to her other. Additionally, she attached a leather bag to her back.
Soon the leaves of the great mallorns were parting by a mighty gush of wind eliciting a few startled cries from all elves witnessing this.
With a few powerful flaps of wings, a great eagle was maneuvering down until he landed at the clearing around the ruling couple´s talan. The bird looked up, though his height nearly reached the top of the talan. With a loud screech, he folded his wings and grew silent after ruffling his feathers.
Elrond swallowed. Only one or two times before was he fortunate to encounter one of Lord Manwë´s eagles. He was not aware Galadriel had the power to call for the great birds.
Without a further word, Galadriel turned and was just about to descend the stairs when Elrond hastened forward.
“My lady, wait. Where are you going? You cannot leave like this.”
To emphasize his words and out of desperation, Elrond had grabbed the she-elf´s arm. Galadriel was raising an annoyed eyebrow with a pointed look at the fingers clenched around her upper arm.
“I was not under the impression that I need anyone´s permission to leave,” she said tugging loose of the grip.
Elrond lowered his gaze and stepped back.
“Mother, please listen. You cannot venture into Dol Guldur alone. It´s too dangerous; even for a powerful elf like you.”
Haldir´s first demanding voice had changed into near pleading.
Had anyone standing on the platform hoped for the Lady of Light to cave in they were taught otherwise.
“The time for discussing and planning is over. I will not let another elf fall prey to this malice. This must stop once and for all. My chances of success will be higher if I go alone. They will neither see nor expect me. So, stay back. I can certainly look after myself.”
Too stunned to answer, Galadriel used the shock of the elves digesting her news and hastened down the staircase. With a graceful leap, she landed on the back of the great bird. The big animal instantly spread its wings and was air-born a moment later.
Arwen sank to her knees sobbing.
“She will die there alone,” she cried, her slender frame shaking violently.
Elrond knelt next to his daughter enveloping her in a gentle hug. His head, however, snapped up when Glorfindel stepped out on the platform clad in shining armor, his mighty sword attached to his hip and a longbow on his back.
“She will not be alone!”
The gathered elves were a second time stunned when the Balrog-slayer leaped over the railing and glided down on a thick rope to precisely land on the back of a waiting Asfaloth.
Rider and horse had soon vanished out of sight.
To be continued…
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