Visions And Dreams
Chapter One – Dreams Of Fire
Elladan set his book down and stretched. He reached for his wine and took a sip, leaning back in the chair comfortably. The room was quiet, the only sounds the slight scratch of Elrohir's pen, the hiss of the logs burning in the grate, and the sounds of the night from outside. Thunder muttered distantly, and he could feel a stormy heaviness in the air. Inside, though, all was peaceful.
He and Elrohir had spent the evening together in companionable silence, as they often did – on this occasion, Elrohir writing a report on the novices he was training while Elladan read. And for once, Elladan had no cause to feel guilty for relaxing while his brother worked – his own training reports were not due for another two weeks. He glanced at Elrohir, wondering if he had finished, but he was still deep in thought, frowning at the sheet before him, one finger idly tapping on the desk as he concentrated.
Elladan sipped the wine again, cradling the goblet in his hand. A flicker from the fire drew his attention, and he turned to look at the flames. They seemed to flare and waver oddly, holding his gaze, and he stared at the blaze in fascination. The flames grew larger and brighter, drawing him in until he was unable to tear his eyes away. Mesmerised, he stared at the flickering, flaring flames as the inferno grew and grew, blotting out the rest of the room. All awareness of his surroundings faded, until the only thing he could feel was the heat of the blaze on his face, the only thing he could hear the roar and crackle of the conflagration, and the sharp crack of splintering wood. He watched the flames as they leapt higher and higher in their deadly dance, staining the night sky red. Glowing sparks drifted this way and that like fireflies. He could smell the thick, acrid smoke on the air. And he could hear the cries …
Elrohir finished the report he was writing, put down his pen, and flexed his aching hand thankfully. He looked at the names he had jotted down consideringly. Although Elladan was responsible for his own group of novices, they both found it helpful to discuss their charges together. "El?" he asked absently. "I was thinking of moving Edrahil and Derrilyn up into the next training group. They both show great promise. What do you think?"
There was no reply. "El?" Elrohir turned towards his brother, who had not moved. It looked as if Elladan had dozed off while reading. He gave a wry grin of exasperation. "El! Wake up!" He crumpled a sheet of his rough notes into a ball, about to toss it at his twin when he stopped, sensing that he was not asleep. Crossing to the fireside, he knelt and looked at Elladan more closely. He sat motionless, staring at the fire, his book forgotten on the floor. "Elladan?"
There was still no response. Elladan gazed fixedly at the dancing flames, his eyes unblinking, face ashen. The glass in his hand – fortunately only half full – tilted at a dangerous angle, the contents close to spilling. With a sigh, Elrohir gently took it from his lax fingers and set it on a table. Then he waited.
He was growing familiar with his twin's sudden spells of inattention. For most of his life, Elladan had been prone to visions and waking dreams. They came rarely, at odd times, and in odd ways – in the glitter and sparkle of sunlight on water, in a single drop of rain, or in the flicker of a candle or firelight – as now. Sometimes they would come and go in an instant, and none would be the wiser – though Elrohir usually knew.
After a few seconds Elladan came to himself with a start. He blinked and shook his head slightly, rubbing his eyes.
"Here – drink this." Elrohir held out the abandoned glass, only releasing it when he was sure that Elladan gripped it firmly. He watched as Elladan sipped the wine slowly, then leaned back with a sigh.
"How long?" he asked in resignation.
"A few moments – no longer," Elrohir replied. "What did you see?"
Elladan was silent for a moment, then replied slowly, "A fire." He said nothing more at first, but Elrohir waited patiently. He did not point out the obvious, that the fire Elladan had been staring at so intently was there in front of them both. He knew that was not what Elladan meant.
"Where?" he prompted.
Elladan massaged the back of his neck before replying. "The stables," he said at last. "The straw was burning. Everything was burning. I could hear the horses – they were terrified."
Involuntarily, Elrohir glanced towards the windows in a gesture he knew was futile. The night was quiet and still, and only the cries of night-birds drifted through the open window. There was no crackle and roar of leaping flames, no stench of burning. Whatever Elladan had seen, it could happen at any time in the next week, the next year, the next century – or never. He had never doubted the veracity of Elladan's visions, but the vagueness frustrated both of them. They came infrequently, but when they did it was often difficult – or impossible – to pinpoint a time or a place until after the event, too late to take any action to prevent or alter what may occur.
"Was there more?" he asked at last, when Elladan remained silent.
Slowly, Elladan nodded. "Someone – I did not see who – must have gone in to release the horses. Some of them came racing out past me, so close they brushed against me. But not all. I think some were still inside, when – when the roof collapsed. The rest of the horses – and whoever had gone in after them – were still in there. Trapped." He shuddered, and drained the last of the wine.
Elrohir shivered. The mere re-telling was bad enough to imagine, but for Elladan it would be as vivid and real as if he had been there, and witnessed this horrific event – which, in a way, he had.
He placed a reassuring hand on Elladan's arm. "It has not happened," he reminded his brother softly. "It may never happen. But did you see anything else? What caused it? Do you know when?"
Elladan shook his head. The horror was leaving his eyes, but now he was frustrated. "No. I wish I could tell more! When – why – who? But there is nothing more!" He struck his fist on the arm of the chair in irritation at himself, then stood, beginning to pace the room restlessly. "You know what it is like, El! There is never enough detail to pinpoint when, or where, or how. If only I could do something to prevent what I see happening!"
"What may happen," Elrohir reminded him. He paused, thinking. "A fire … it could be caused by a lantern. I nearly dropped one a few days ago, when Hithil suddenly nudged me. We should …" he broke off as Elladan's attention drifted again.
"Hithil," Elladan repeated. "I saw her, fleeing the blaze. There was a foal with her."
Their eyes met, and Elrohir felt his stomach sink at this apparent confirmation of the imminence of the event. He sighed. "She is due to foal in a few days. Soon, then." He nodded decisively. "I will warn the grooms. They still have to use the lanterns at night, but some of them have become careless – placing them on the ground, rather than using the hooks; not extinguishing them as soon as they should."
"Marach would never have allowed such laxity," Elladan observed.
"No. Aradan is not the elf his father was – but he is wonderful with the horses," Elrohir pointed out in fairness. He did not particularly like Aradan – who had charge of the stables – finding him difficult to work with. The elf tended to take any comment or suggestion as a personal criticism. It made attempting any change or improvement in the stables a tedious affair. His shortcomings, though, were overcome by his truly amazing rapport with the horses. "He cares more for them than he does for those who work under him," Elrohir continued. He sighed. "Anyway, I will talk to him – tonight."
Elladan frowned. "Tonight? Do you have to? Hithil has not foaled yet. Whatever happens, it will not be tonight – there is still time."
Elrohir hesitated. "El – I do not doubt you, you know that. And yet – the details are not always … accurate. You could be mistaken about the timing. Or …"
"Or it may never happen at all," Elladan finished. "I know that! And yet I feel somehow that this is close. It will happen – soon. A matter of days, perhaps."
Elrohir shrugged. "Then the sooner I warn Aradan, the better. It will not take long." As he stood, he gazed at Elladan. "El, go to bed. You look exhausted – I know how these things tire you. Goodnight."
Elladan scowled. "Are you worrying about me, little brother? I thought that was my job."
Elrohir gave a grin. "I am allowed, you know. I will speak to Aradan now, and see you in the morning. Goodnight."
Elladan tried to frown, but yawned instead. "Oh, very well," he grumbled. "You win. Go and talk to Aradan, if you have to. I wish you luck. Goodnight, little brother."
After Elrohir had left, Elladan remained in his seat, twirling the empty glass between his fingers. He tried desperately to recall more details of what he had seen, but nothing would come. The vagueness and lack of clarity were the most frustrating things about the visions, for it was all but impossible to predict when or how something would occur. Although disturbing, he would gladly welcome any number of these dreams and nightmares if it meant that he could prevent disaster or tragedy. He knew though, from talking with his father and grandmother, that seeing such things meant little. They may or may not occur, but none knew – until it was too late – which dreams were true and which were inaccurate.
It was not all insubstantial and unclear, to be true. There had been small triumphs – he had once seen Galadriel and Celeborn travelling to Imladris the day before they arrived on a surprise visit for the twins' conception anniversary, and one day had pulled his mother out of the way seconds before a heavy copestone had toppled from one of the archways.
These little victories, and others like them, were enough to convince him to trust his instincts and accept what he saw. Caught by a sudden idea, and a nagging need to know more, he set the glass down and leaned forward, staring intently at the fire again, trying to recapture the earlier visions. But try as he might, he saw only the gentle flames dying away, and the logs settling into ash. He watched until his eyes ached, but there was nothing more.
Finally admitting defeat, he extinguished the last two candles, leaving the room in darkness. Distant thunder rumbled, and a faint, far-off flash of lightning flickered dimly. He had not heard Elrohir return, but his brother would have gone straight to bed – as he should himself.
In bed, however, he found sleep elusive. He tossed and turned restlessly, seeing again images of the burning stables, the billowing smoke, and the leaping flames. He felt a growing sense of impending doom, and an increasing urgency gnawed at him. Why? Why this mounting apprehension? His eyes still ached, and he closed them wearily, trying to rest. Thunder boomed again, closer this time, and he could see the subsequent flash of lightning even through closed eyes.
Suddenly he sat bolt upright, wide awake and all weariness gone. He knew in that moment, without any doubt at all, what would happen – and when. Rising, he dragged his clothes on again quickly, thrusting his feet into boots, and ran through to Elrohir's room.
"Elrohir – wake up, now!" he snapped. "Get up – we need to hurry!" He stopped. Elrohir's bed was empty, unslept in. The sense of looming disaster and dread mounted until he could scarcely think, but he could not afford the time to stop and worry
Leaving the house, he ran along winding paths down towards the stables, praying he would not be too late.
To be continued …