A Glimpse through the Doorway
During his travels, Aragorn encounters a seer.
I borrowed the familiar characters from Tolkien. I make no money from writing this story.
Aragorn shifted the heavy saddle he was carrying to a more comfortable angle and wished that the merchant he called “master” had chosen a cooler time of day to visit the town to collect a new saddle for his favourite camel. The sun in Harad was merciless at this time of year.
“Come, Belzager,” said the merchant. “Maybe we can find news of my caravan in the market place.”
Aragorn, or “Belzager” as he had introduced himself to Fadil, repressed a sigh. Obviously, this meeting rather than collecting the saddle was the true reason for their visit to the town. Once in the market place, Fadil would spend hours talking to his friends and sipping the sherbet tea provided for the wealthy merchants as they sat beneath a canopy to shield them from the sun's blazing rays.
Fadil's fellow merchants replied to his questions with elaborate gestures and expressions of sympathy, as was the custom of this place, but none had any news of the whereabouts of the caravan of a dozen camels bringing spices from across the desert.
“Most honoured friend, you should consult the wise woman,” said one man, a tall fellow with a straggly beard. “She knows everything.”
“I thank you for your counsel, esteemed Master Fatin,” said Fadil. “I doubt,though she knows ought of missing caravans.”
“Faridah sees all and speaks only when the time is right,” said Fatin.”Those who do not fear her powers can learn much.”
“I do not fear this Faridah!” cried Fadil, leaping to his feet and knocking over his cup. “You insult me!”
“That was not my intention, esteemed friend,” Fatin said mildly. “I speak only of what men say.”
Fadil glared at him, his hand hovering over his scimitar.
Aragorn held his breath. He had learned the Haradrim were a proud people and even a merchant would fight if he felt his honour threatened. He had no desire for his master to get himself killed in a senseless dual.
“Come, Belzager,” said Fadil after a pause that seemed endless. “We shall consult the wise woman.” He nodded curtly to Fatin.
“She dwells in the old town,” said Fatin. “Seek the door of symbols.”
“I have passed the place many times, I know the way,” said Fadil. He made the usual elaborate farewells to his fellow merchants then left the market place and followed a winding track that let away from the crowded bazaar.
“Who is this wise woman?” asked Aragorn as he followed the merchant.
“No one truly knows,”Fadil replied. “She is old beyond the count of most men. Some say she was a priestess of the old faith that is no longer spoken of. You look surprised that she yet lives. Even the authorities and the priests of the Lord of Gifts fear her. Her curse can can make the victim's manhood wither and his camel go lame in the desert. Men shun her save in times of greatest need, which now forces me to seek her out. If my caravan has been lost, I am ruined!”
“I hope this woman can help then,” said Aragorn without much conviction.
“Be sure to show her all due respect,” the merchant cautioned. “We must do as she says or it will go ill for us.”
After a long walk in the merciless sun, they reached a doorway set back from the road. Aragorn could not but help but stare. It was entirely covered with symbols,. He recognised the moon and the stars, but most were strange to him. At least the symbol of the lidless eye was absent.
“Knock” the merchant commanded.
After a few minutes, a veiled servant girl opened the door . Aragorn made as if to wait on the threshold, but the girl beckoned him forwards. “Mistress desires to see you both,”she said.
Fadil eyed him sternly. “You must do as the wise woman bids.” He seemed unsurprised that the girl knew there were two of them.
Aragorn nodded and followed the merchant within. It were as if they had passed through a gateway to some other realm. They found themselves within a small exquisite garden, shaded by tall palm trees. In the centre was a fountain, which showered them with cool refreshing droplets.
In this desert land, such a sight was as rare as snow in June in his northern homeland. He surmised that the wise woman must have discovered some hidden oasis to dwell near.
Much to his surprise, the maid brought out two cups of sherbet tea. Usually, a servant was ignored, or at best given water. He sipped it and waited while Fadil paced uneasily around the garden. Aragorn enjoyed the chance to put down the saddle and rest in such pleasant surroundings and, unlike the merchant, was not worried about his caravan or meeting the formidable wise woman.
When the maid came to summon his master, though, she beckoned that he was to follow Fadil for an audience with her mistress.
They were shown into a room decorated with elaborate hangings. Around the walls were shelves laden with bottles of what appeared to be herbs and potions. The wise woman reclined on a couch in front of a low table, which was covered with shallow bowls surrounding a pitcher of water. Faridah was clad in a flowing scarlet garment. Her face was veiled, leaving only piercing dark eyes visible.
Aragorn took in the scene and decided she was some kind of soothsayer, who doubtless made a good living by telling her petitioners what they wanted to hear or cursing their enemies for a sizeable fee. He hung back as Fadil approached the wise woman and prostrated himself before her.
“Most honoured and esteemed Mistress Faridah, I come before you seeking your wisdom,”Fadil began. He placed a silver coin on the table.
Faridah ignored him and turned her piercing eyes upon Aragorn. He struggled not to flinch before her keen gaze. “It is this one whom I wish to see,” she said.
Fadil looked indignant. “He is my servant and a Tark as well. I wish to consult with you, esteemed one. I have good coin to pay you, o wisest of women.”
“Only if I look into his future too will I tell you what you desire to know.”
“Very well,” Fadil said impatiently.”But first tell me, o honoured seer, if my caravan be lost and ruin awaits me.”
“No words I speak in this room must ever be repeated on pain of my curse,” said the woman.
“I swear on my life and that of my sons, most honoured one. Now tell me, I beg of you, if you know what befell my caravan.”
Faridah took one of the bowls and filled it with water. She then grasped both of Fadil's hands and told him to breathe into the water. When it started to ripple she spoke, “ Seek for your caravan within the desert where the scattered rocks cast no shadow and the oasis is distant. A camel has gone lame and the caravan cannot travel onwards. Is there ought else you would know?”
“What does my future hold, o wisest of women?”
“You will not live long enough to see the moon emerge from behind the clouds, though your children and your children's children will walk in the light. You will marry more wives and sons will be born to you if you avoid the steam baths, which wither the seed. You tread a narrow path between light and darkness. Have a care not to take the wrong turning! Enough now, drink of this water and keep the bowl safe in your home, for it holds your fate. I would speak now with your companion.” She made a dismissive gesture with her hand.
Fadil rose to his feet and took the bowl in his hands. He raised it to his lips and drained the water.
Faridah turned her gaze to Aragorn. “Come nearer!” she commanded.
“I have not come to have my fate foretold, esteemed Mistress,” said Aragorn.
“Maybe not, but you need your hope renewed.”
Aragorn looked at her in surprise. How did she guess his innermost thoughts?
Faridah glared at Fadil. “Leave us now, I would speak with this one alone.”
“Of course, most honoured one, I thank you for your council.” He bowed low then hurried from the room.
“Come kneel before me,” said Faridah.
Somewhat reluctantly, Aragorn knelt before the wise woman.
“You are not as you seem,” said Faridah.
Aragorn started, but replied in a level tone. “You speak truly, Mistress. I am not a servant but a traveller in these lands, currently earning my bread by working for Master Fadil.”
Faridah poured water into a bowl and then took Aragorn's hands in hers. He felt a strange tingling sensation.
“Breathe upon the water and tell me what you would know,” said Faridah.
Aragorn thought for a moment, seeking a question that would give little away. “Will I marry and sire children ?” he asked at last.
“Your union will be happy and though your sons will be few,your line will endure as long as the moon rises,” said the wise woman with conviction. Her eyes then glazed over as if she were in a trance. In a loud clear voice she pronounced, “You are one chosen to overcome the darkness, your blade will pierce it like a flame. You are the enemy of Harad, but also her greatest friend. Your hands will bring healing and the moon will rise again at your coming. Hear me and mark well my words!” She closed her eyes and released Aragorn's hands. “Now drink of the water and keep safe the bowl.”
Aragorn drank. The water was fresh and sweet. He felt dazed as hope mingled with questions flooded his mind. How could the wise woman know the destiny he longed for? Had she truly looked through a doorway into his future? What was this old religion that Faridah followed? No man dared speak of it, yet it seemed dear to the hearts of many in Harad. And what would Fadil make of the seer's interest in him?
He fumbled in his robes for a coin to pay her.
“I will take no coin from you,” said Faridah. “You have brought hope of the moon's rising and my heart rejoices. If you seek to know more, there is wisdom to be found in the desert. I am old,but the children will be shielded from the burning eye.”
Aragorn rose to his feet but kept his head bowed. “I thank you, esteemed wise one,” he said.
Faridah called for her servant who hustled them out into the street. As the door closed behind him, Aragorn felt almost as if he had awoken from a dream. He was now back in the dusty street wondering how to explain the seer's interest in him to the merchant.
“What did the wise one want with you?” asked Fadil.
“The wise woman speaks strange words,” said Aragorn. “She told me, though, I would one day sire a son. Maybe she had not met one of my people before and was curious.”
“ Strange then she was so mysterious about you,” said Fadil. “It seems then you will earn enough to buy sufficient camels to win the lady your heart desires. I care not why she favours a Tark as long as I find my camels.” He chuckled. “Mistress Faridah likes to speak in riddles, but I shall send a search party out to look for my caravan at once. I am certain they will be found.”
“I have no doubt of it.” Aragorn glanced back towards the doorway set in the wall and the moon and stars seemed to twinkle at him. Maybe it was time to leave this burning land, but first he would try to find out more about the desert and the mysterious old faith that was still revered. He pondered Faridah's words and wondered could he truly wield the flame to smite the Dark Lord? Time alone would reveal the truth of the seer's words.
A/N Written for the Teitho Contest , “Doors” a few years ago where it was unplaced.