A Bit of Rope: 9. Galadriel's Mirror

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9. Galadriel's Mirror

            On the tenth day after the Company's arrival in Caras Galadhon, and a full two weeks after he was wounded, Boromir was released from his private tent among the healers and returned to stay with his companions. They rose as one and cheered as the Captain of Gondor walked slowly to a chair to join them for their evening meal. Boromir leaned upon a cane, and his resemblance to the leaner Aragorn was now striking. But his broad grin flashed as he basked in the warmth of welcome from his fellow travelers.

            "Many thanks, my friends," he said as he gazed around the pavilion. "For extraordinary help that I hardly deserved..." He paused and sought out Gandalf. He bowed his head, and the wizard nodded gravely in return. "And when I thought I might be cured of Orc-poison only to expire of boredom, my thanks to Master Took for many hours of excellent entertainment." Pippin climbed down from his chair and gave an exaggerated bow, to whistles and laughter from the others. "But most of all, my thanks to you, Aragorn," he said as he turned to the Ranger sitting at the far end of the table. Boromir's face grew solemn. "My pardon... My deepest thanks to you, my Lord Aragorn, for I owe you my life…indeed, my very soul."

            The others watched as he pushed up on the arms of his chair and rose to his feet. Boromir left his cane at his seat and paced slowly around the table. When he reached Aragorn's chair he dropped to one knee--but not from weakness. Every eye was on him. Aragorn sat utterly still.

            "I saw you, that first night, when I lay dying. You searched for me in the dark land where I was lost and wandering. I heard your voice call for me, and I obeyed...for it was the voice of command. I turned and beheld you beckoning to me, and I saw you as you truly shall be." He reached to his waist, but his sword had been laid aside; so he stretched out his hand. "I have no sword to offer, my Lord, so take my pledge."

            Aragorn reached out and took his hand. Their eyes, so alike, locked onto one another's.

            "I swear to support you when you come to claim your own," Boromir said quietly. "I pledge my service, my fealty and my life to you, Aragorn, son of Arathorn, Heir of Isildur and Elendil, and the rightful King of Gondor."

            Aragorn gripped his hand for a moment as he took in and released a long breath. Then he rose to his feet, and with both hands he raised Boromir up and clasped his shoulders. "I do not yet have the right to accept such a pledge. But if indeed I come to Minas Tirith in a day of light beyond the shadows that lie before us, I will be honored to count you, Boromir son of Denethor, as friend and brother. And if the day comes when my claim is accepted, I will be the most fortunate King in all the history of Gondor, Arnor and Númenor itself to have you standing beside me."

            The Ranger smiled and pulled the warrior of Gondor to him in an embrace. As Boromir returned to his seat, Gimli rose from his.

            "To the noble men of Gondor!" he cried. They raised their glasses, and the pavilion was filled with shouts and applause.

* * *

            During the next weeks, Frodo watched as the wizard held a private conversation with each member of the Fellowship. The morning after Boromir's return, Gandalf and Aragorn strode off together in the direction of the Lady's garden. No one saw them again until the evening. Aragorn was stern and silent, and the wizard appeared fatigued, rubbing his gnarled fingers across his brow. Gandalf caught Frodo's eye, and with a quick shake of his head he warned the hobbit to say nothing.

            Gandalf found the time to speak with Legolas, and he and Gimli visited the Golden Leaf together. Soon afterward, the wizard sought out Merry and Pippin and invited them to take a walk with him. Finally, Gandalf sat with Boromir for several hours.

            Three weeks after their arrival in Lorien, when the healers announced that Boromir's strength was now sufficient for the climb, the Lord and Lady invited the Fellowship to their high talan, to the Hall of Welcome, for a great gathering and feast. It was a celebration of the man of Gondor's recovery, and the Steward's Heir once more was dressed in his tunic of broidered velvet, much travel-stained but still magnificent. Gandalf wore a new robe, similar in style to his old one, but made of the finest grey fabric that the weavers of Lorien could make. But the mood of the evening was bittersweet, for all knew that the time of the Company's departure drew near. At the end of the meal, Celeborn called for silence.

            "My friends, we said on the day of your arrival that we would in good time hear the full accounting of your journey. Tonight, I ask that you speak, and tell all here of the long and arduous roads that brought you from so many lands to Lothlorien."

            They looked toward Gandalf, but he smiled wryly and shook his head. He in his turn glanced at Aragorn, who stared pensively at the wizard for a moment. Then a slow smile curled his lips, and he began to speak.

            "We have all, I suspect, been on the path toward this moment for all our lives. But for my part, the tale of this journey begins in the northern village of Bree, at the crossing of the Great East Road and the Greenway. It was September last, on a chill evening of pouring rain, and I was enjoying a pipe and a pint of ale in the common room of an inn called the Prancing Pony, when a very unusual traveling party arrived and gave the innkeeper, old Barliman Butterbur, quite a stir..."

            When every member of the Fellowship had had their say and the long tale was finished, Gandalf cleared his throat.

            "Our sincere and lasting gratitude, Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel," he began. "We Nine Walkers arrived on your borders in desperate straits, and you and your people have seen to our needs most generously. But while the Golden Wood has offered us shelter, rest and healing, we must soon go on." He looked about at the faces of his companions, and his gaze settled upon Aragorn. "In the last days I have spoken to each of you in private, and tonight the time has come for open discussion. This Fellowship was formed for a single purpose--to assist the Ring-bearer in his task. Perilous our travels have been, but what remains will be more dangerous still. Stealth and secrecy will be far more important from this point in the journey forward. Therefore, as you all now know, I advise that our Fellowship be divided upon our departure from Lorien.

            "What I propose is this: that Frodo and Sam travel with Boromir down the Great River as far as it is passable, to the great falls of Rauros. Boromir and whoever chooses to accompany him would turn west and south, to Minas Tirith, and the Ring-bearer and his faithful companion will continue eastward and south. I will go with them. I have journeyed there before, and know the way as well as any. For my heart tells me that only Frodo and Sam will be able to carry out the task that must be completed in Mordor, and the fewer who accompany them and draw attention to their secret journey, the better."

            Boromir was first to respond. "I have lived my life upon the borders of the Black Land, and I know it only too well. I believe Mithrandir's words are sound. Few, traveling as stealthily as can be, will be more likely to elude the detection of the Enemy's ever-watchful servants than many, however doughty or strong."

            "Yet, from the beginning I had thought to go with Frodo, to the end of his journey," Aragorn said, his voice cool and controlled. "I too have explored the road to Mordor, and have stood upon its borders. It is not clear to me that one more traveler would increase the risk so greatly as to overbalance the benefit of having two to protect and guide the Ring-bearer in his dangerous task."

            "And it is not clear to me what path remains before me, or the rest of us, if we do not continue on together," Legolas said emphatically. "I do not wish to have come all this way, only to abandon the task before it is half completed, leaving others to go on into greater peril!"

            "I do not pretend that dividing our Company will be easy," the wizard said. "But the rest of you, I believe, have other paths to take, and other vital tasks to accomplish, for not all our enemies are in the east..."

            Merry's face was red. "Gandalf, it just isn't fair," he blurted heatedly, "to divide us up like this, after all we've been through together!"

            "Aye," Gimli said. "If we do not accompany you and Frodo, where would you have us go?"

            Gandalf's rising impatience was easy enough to see on his face. He opened his mouth to speak, but Frodo interrupted.

            "You all seem to think that this is entirely Gandalf's idea," he said sharply. "Well, you're wrong. I've always thought it would be this way—that I would go on alone, to the end…or perhaps with Sam. The only part that I hadn't thought of before Gandalf spoke to me was that he would come with us." Frodo looked at the wizard and smiled. Gandalf bowed his head in reply.

            "But of course you'd think such a thing," Merry said. "Cousin Frodo, you are always the first to see to everyone else's safety and comfort, and give little thought to your own. Just because you've thought it would end this way doesn't mean it is right!"

            Pippin spoke up for the first time. "Well, my opinion probably counts the least, but I happen to agree with Frodo."

            "You do?" Merry said, blinking in shock.

            "Yes. I'd like to pretend that I want to go with Frodo and Sam all the way to...to where they must go. But if I've learned one thing on this journey, it's that I'm not courageous or strong, not in the least. So far I've just been in everybody's way. I must be honest with myself, and with you, Frodo. I don't think I should go with you. I'd probably just cause more trouble." His eyes flicked toward the wizard, who frowned in curiosity at the young hobbit. "And so, Boromir," Pippin went on as he turned toward the Gondorian, "I thought I might tag along and come with you to Minas Tirith, if you'll have me, that is. Perhaps there I can make myself useful in some out of the way corner. You could put me to work washing dishes at the castle, or whatever it's called..."

            Boromir struggled to control his grin as he bowed his head solemnly. "We call it the Citadel, and it would be my honor, Master Took, to have your companionship as I return to my home, and to welcome you to my fair City."

            "But Pip," Merry said hoarsely, "You've never said anything to me about this..."

            "That's because I knew you'd feel differently," Pippin said. "You're much braver than I am, Merry."

            The others watched as Merry stared at his young cousin for several moments in silence. The older hobbit then seemed to gather his strength for what was to come. He forced a smile. "Boromir, if you take my advice, you won't let Pippin anywhere near your kitchens. He'll eat your cupboards bare in no time."

            Boromir laughed. "Advice noted, Master Brandybuck. You would also be welcome to join us. Although I do not wish to deceive you—or any of you who might wish to come to Minas Tirith." He turned toward Aragorn. "The White City will soon be at the center of the gathering storm, and to journey there now could hardly be described as taking the path of safety and comfort. War is coming, and the first and mightiest blow will fall upon Gondor. Strength and courage, and the ability to lead men through the dark times to come will be needed there—desperately."

            "Yes, Strider," Frodo said. "I thought you'd be relieved to hear that you need not delay your return to Gondor. You belong there."

            Aragorn's face revealed the strain within him. "I do not deny that my heart desires it greatly," he said slowly. "Yet if my duty is to go elsewhere, where the need is even more desperate..."

            "Your duty!" Boromir cried. "You are the Heir of Isildur, and would be King! To come to Minas Tirith is your duty—and your destiny! The men of Gondor will rally to you, and the hope that you embody will renew their courage and resolve. Come with me! We need you, Aragorn."

            Several of the Company began to speak at once, and the discussion began to unravel in heated words. Gandalf tried to get their attention, but to no avail.

            Then, the Lady of Lothlorien raised one slender hand, and at once the clamor ceased. She gazed at Celeborn for a moment, as if to ask a question. He nodded.

            "Perhaps there is a way for the many questions you pose to be answered," she said. "I would like to offer an opportunity to any who desire it, to gaze into the Mirror of Galadriel."

            Aragorn gasped softly, and Legolas looked stunned. The others looked from one to the other, confusion on their faces.

            "My pardon, Lady, but what is your Mirror?" Merry said in a faltering voice.

            "It is but a simple, shallow basin that can be filled with water from the spring in my garden," she said. "But at my command, the water becomes a Mirror. It is not a mirror in the ordinary sense, merely a glass that reflects what stands before it. Rather, the Mirror of Galadriel enhances the ability of those who gaze into it to see truly. At times I may encourage the Mirror to reveal what I ask of it, or for some, I can show them what they desire to see. But the Mirror will also show things unbidden, and those are often stranger and more profitable than things we wish to behold. What any of you will see, if you leave the Mirror free to work, I cannot tell. For it shows things that were, and things that are, and things that yet may be, and other things that may never come to pass. But which it is that he sees, even the wisest cannot always tell. Some who gaze into its depths feel less sure of what action to take than they were before. Yet any of you who wish to may join me in my garden tonight, and look into the Mirror. And though I cannot say that all your doubts will be settled, much may be revealed to those who look upon it with an open heart."

            Gandalf bowed gravely toward the Lady. "Your offer is most generous, my Lady. My friends, I do not advise whether to avail yourselves of this rare chance or to forego it, for that is a decision each of you must make yourself. But I will say this much: since our arrival here, I have gazed into the Mirror of Galadriel more than once, and what I saw there gave me more certainty of the path before me, not less."

            "What did you see, Gandalf?" asked Gimli.

            The wizard dropped his eyes. "That shall remain hidden, until time reveals it, or until it proves to be what shall never come to pass. Not even the Lady Galadriel herself, by whose power the Mirror shows its images, can know directly what another sees. If I have any advice to give, it would be this: keep private what you see, and ponder it within your own hearts, until such time that secrecy is no longer necessary. For Galadriel's Mirror is a thing of great power, and what it reveals may be used for ill, if the knowledge gained were to fall into the wrong hands."

            The Company sat in silence, while Galadriel and Celeborn waited. Finally, Legolas spoke.

            "I will look in your Mirror, my Lady."

            "As will I," Aragorn said, "for my heart is heavy, and the path I am to take is obscured in shadow from me."

            Boromir spoke. "Fortunately for me, I know my path and my duty," he said. "Sometimes foreknowledge might be good to have, but in these perilous days, I would rather rely on my hope for the future of my people. Your offer is most generous, but I have no need to look into your Mirror, my Lady."

            "But I do," Gimli said. "I know not where to go, or what to do from here. I will look, if I may, Lady Galadriel."

            She nodded toward the dwarf, and turned to the hobbits. "The people of The Shire have not yet spoken," she said. "Do any of you wish to gaze into the Mirror?"

            Frodo's head was bowed, and he did not respond. Merry looked up.

            "I do, Lady Galadriel," he said firmly.

            Sam blushed. "I wouldn't mind taking a peek, with your permission, my Lady."

            "I'm not sure," Pippin said. "May I come, and decide later?"

            She smiled and nodded. "And you, Frodo? Do you wish to look?"

            "Do you advise me to look?" he asked.

            "No, I do not counsel you one way or another," she said. "You may learn something, and whether what you see be fair or evil, that may be profitable, and yet it may not be. Seeing is both good and perilous. Yet I think, Frodo, that you and your companions have courage and wisdom enough for the venture, else I would not have offered it. Do as you will."

            "Then I will look," he said.

            Galadriel nodded gravely. "In one hour hence, Elves of my household will come to escort each of you to my garden in the order in which you spoke. Legolas Greenleaf shall come first, and Aragorn second, and so on. The Shirefolk may come in pairs, if they so desire."

            "In seven days, you shall depart from Lothlorien," Celeborn said. "Think now and in these next days of what preparations you would undertake, or of any supplies and goods you might require, and my people will do their best to aid you."

            The Company rose and departed from the Hall of Welcome and returned to their pavilion. Only Boromir and Gandalf had no plans to visit Galadriel's garden that night.

            "Boromir has yet to be introduced to the Golden Leaf," Gandalf said with a grin. "They make no ale, but the Galadhrim distill a fine brandy, my friend."

            Boromir rubbed his palms together. "Lead on, Mithrandir!" he said. "There is much for us to discuss, and a glass of spirits will be just the tonic to loosen our tongues and lighten the mood."

            The others waited in silence. The hour passed slowly. Then two Elves garbed in white appeared, and Legolas rose and walked away with them into the heart of the City.

* * *

            Later that night, most of the Company lay sleepless, pondering what had been revealed in the still waters of Galadriel's Mirror.

            Legolas had seen a vast expanse of trees: the beeches and oaks of his homeland in early spring, their leaves stirring in the wind; then all was aflame. He glimpsed Elves, his kin, running through the burning forest, and Thranduil, his father, standing fast with his sword drawn. Then he was in another forest--but this one was moving. He rode beside a massive tree, an ancient beech, but it was striding forward on long legs. He felt its rage as they came to where trees had been destroyed. Then the trees vanished and he saw water stretching endlessly, as far as he could see. White seabirds wheeled and soared above him, and he felt his heart ache with longing. Then he was upon the Sea, on the deck of a ship. Sunlight sparkled on the waves, and dolphins leapt and dove in the foam; and just as the image faded he turned and saw Gimli standing at the rail. His beard was wet with spray, and the dwarf was roaring with laughter.

            When he gazed into the Mirror, Aragorn's heart had nearly burst with delight and yearning, for the first image he saw was of Arwen. She sat in a candle-lit room in Rivendell, her head bowed, intent over her needlework. He saw the delicate silver thread she worked onto a background of sable. Then she was gone, and a party of two dozen horsemen in grey rode swiftly through the night. He joined them and they rode at dawn to a great golden-roofed hall perched on a hill. Another glimpse came, of a high road beneath forbidding cliffs that led to a black doorway, carved all about with dreadful runes of warning. He stood near a half-buried stone at night, and gazed out onto a vast crowd of pale shimmering faces. He looked upon a fleet of ships at harbor with black sails; then the dark clouds dissipated and the ships sailed up the River. Minas Tirith glittered in the sunlight for a moment. Then he stood upon a cracked desert plain before black cliffs. About him was the aftermath of a great battle. He held something…no, someone, in his arms… A fallen comrade…but who? His burden was wrapped in dark cloth, and he felt tears streaming down his face--and then the Mirror reflected only the twinkling stars above Lothlorien seen through the branches of the trees above.

            Gimli gazed out from atop a wall of stone at night upon a sea of Orcs. Aragorn stood near him. He felt the despair of the soldiers with them, for they were outnumbered by twenty to one. Next he was surrounded by shades of smoke, pale wisps that stretched their icy fingers toward him. His heart quailed as he stumbled forward in utter darkness, alone with his terror. Then he saw himself in one raging battle after another, and in each scene he saw Aragorn; and it seemed to the Dwarf that he must protect the tall Ranger who fought with reckless fury. Finally, his last glimpse was of Legolas, his eyes bright in the glittering sunlight, smiling and beckoning to him to join him, but to where he could not say; then his visions faded.

            When Merry Brandybuck looked into the Mirror, he found himself back in The Old Forest, or so it seemed, for he was walking in a tangled, endless woods. Then he was lying atop a broken wall at the edge of a ruined city in sunlight, his legs crossed, smoking a pipe. Next he saw horses: hundreds, thousands of horses, jostling and tossing their heads, pulling at their bridles, running, running; and he was atop one of the horses, seated before someone wearing a mail-shirt and carrying a shield. They were racing through the darkness, and then through brilliant sunlight. Then darkness fell again, and he cowered, trying to hide. He saw a young knight remove his helm, and a flash of gold fell about his shoulders. Merry thrust his dagger up and forward...and the Mirror rippled in the breeze and showed only the reflection of the evening sky.

            Pippin hesitated for as long as he dared, before finally screwing up his courage to look. Instantly he wished he had not. The Mirror showed him only one image. He knelt in darkness in the smoking rubble of a ruined city. He saw a pair of crumpled wooden gates hanging from their great hinges, and the bodies of men and horses lying amidst the tumbled stones. Nearby lay a man, grey-haired, noble in appearance, his face like to Boromir's, or Aragorn's. He was dead. Directly beside the hobbit lay Boromir, his face contorted in pain. His lips moved—he was begging for help. Boromir reached out and grasped Pippin's wrist and drew him forward. Then Pippin clamped his eyes shut and fell back from the Mirror. Now he lay wakeful, his heart hammering, wondering how he could possibly find the courage to go on.

            Sam saw Orcs in a line moving past him on a winding path in the trees, and then heavily armed men marching in tight formation on a widely paved road. Next he caught a glimpse of Frodo far below him, sprawled at the bottom of a cliff. Then he saw himself fighting in the darkness, stabbing and lunging at something, but what he fought he could not tell. For a few fierce seconds Sam saw a blaze of fire all about him, and he could see no escape from it. Then Frodo was beside him, and Sam's heart broke to see that his Master's face was streaming with tears, through dirt and soot. Next trees were tossing, but it was not the wind that moved them; they were falling and crashing to the ground. He watched in horror as he saw his father trudging along a lane with all his possessions in a barrow, and behind him, the round wooden door of Sam's childhood home pulled off and the windows smashed. He had stumbled away from the Mirror and cried out, shouting that he must go home. But the Lady had spoken softly to him, and he had sat on the ground with his head in his hands, and realized he must go on, no matter what was happening back in the Shire. The only true path was the long, treacherous road forward. He had to go on.

            Frodo was the last to look into Galadriel's Mirror that night. At first he saw a fleeting image of Bilbo pacing in his study in Rivendell, his desk scattered with papers and rain pelting the windows. Then a mist came over the Mirror, and when it cleared Frodo saw the Sea, its surface raging in a storm. A ship with tattered sails passed from the West before the setting sun, and darkness fell. Then he saw the ship again, but sailing up a great river in full sunlight toward a beautiful white city with many towers, and on its banner was the emblem of a White Tree in flower. For an instant he glimpsed Gandalf gazing at him sadly in some dark, forbidding place, before he turned and strode quickly away.

            He saw a city of towers again, but lit with a sickly light; he looked down on it from above. A fierce storm raged, and flashes of lightning reflected off the surrounding cliffs and on the undersurfaces of the lowering clouds. Next, he thought he was back in Moria, leaning over the edge of the chasm, for he peered from a high place at something glowing with fire far below—but this fire was greater, and his heart thudded and raced within him.

            Finally, Frodo saw a red Eye in the dark abyss, and knew it was searching for him. It grew and grew until it filled the Mirror, and he nearly slipped forward as the Ring dragged at his neck. As Galadriel warned him not to touch the water, he caught a glimmer of starlight on the Lady's hand. He knew it for what it was. He tried to relieve himself of his burden, and was gently refused. Now, as he stared at the white fabric of the pavilion, Frodo dared not close his eyes, for fear of seeing the Eye once more, and for fear that It would see him.

            Gandalf the Grey did not seek sleep that night. He knew it would elude him, as it had for many nights. Instead, he stood on the green lawn outside the pavilion and watched the stars as they blinked on and off with the shifting of interlacing branches. In their weeks in Lothlorien he had gazed into in Galadriel's Mirror many times. He had seen much more than he had expected to see of what lay before his Companions on their scattered roads; and some of what was revealed to him gave him a glimmer of hope. But as those images faded, each time an identical vision came, and it haunted his mind's eye.

            A slimy creature emerged from the deep waters of pool, far beneath the ground. It searched through black tunnels until it found what it sought: the entrance to a stairway. Up, up it climbed, endlessly curving upward, until at last it emerged into brilliant sunlight and stepped out onto an icy ledge near the roof of Arda. Despite the fierce cold, the thing burst into flame, and with the agility of a monstrous goat, it clambered down the side of Zirak-Zigil toward the east.

            Then, the vision shifted, to scenes of terror and agony... Events beyond his control, yet somehow... No! This was never meant to happen! The sense that something had gone desperately awry tore at his soul, and in his heart grew an awareness that all this was somehow his doing...his fault. Her Mirror shows what may be. Perhaps there is yet another future I cannot see… But no other alternative was revealed to him. Only fire, and death--and at the end of every visit he made to Galadriel's garden, he saw the dark and grim path he must take: the only path remaining to him.

            Only Boromir of Gondor slept peacefully that night.


This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

Story Information

Author: Aiwendiel

Status: General

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - Ring War

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 01/06/12

Original Post: 02/25/09

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WARNING! Comments may contain spoilers for a chapter or story. Read with caution.

A Bit of Rope

Larner - 16 Sep 10 - 6:25 PM

Ch. 9: Galadriel's Mirror

To dream of the Balrog recovering its fire must have been terrible, particularly seeing it headed down the mountain toward Lothlorien!

A Bit of Rope

TariElfLady - 14 Aug 13 - 11:04 AM

Ch. 9: Galadriel's Mirror

What a fascinating chapter.  Eight of the nine were able to look into the mirror which I am sure made the road ahead even harder.  This is a gripping story.

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