Warnings: very mild horror
Characters: Aragorn, Halbarad,OMCs
Summary: Three Rangers make camp amongst the ruins of Fornost.
These characters all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. This story was written for pleasure and not for financial gain.
“We will make camp here for the night,” said Aragorn. “The ruins should offer protection from the wind, as should the trees.”
“But it’s haunted here,” said Gilavir, a tall lanky lad of some twenty summers.
“You have seen the ghosts then?” Halbarad teased.
“No, but the Bree folk call Fornost, Dead Men’s Dyke.”
“You don’t want to be listening to old Butterbur’s tales,” said Aragorn. He unrolled his bedroll beneath a mighty oak, while Halbarad kindled a fire.
“But there was a great battle here to drive out the Witch King and many were slain. It feels creepy here amongst the ruins.”
“It is only because all ruins look sinister in the fading light,” Aragorn said calmly. “I have been here on a spring morning and it is fair enough then. Violets and pansies grow so profusely that it is like walking on a purple carpet. Many birds nest in the great oaks here and amongst the broken stones. It saddens my heart to see a once great city in ruins, but I dream that one day it will be rebuilt and flourish anew.”
“The times are so dark, but you never lose hope,” Gilavir looked at Aragorn in wonder.
The Chieftain was silent for a few moments. He sat warming his hands by the fire. “I was named Estel as a child,” he said at last. “I try to live up to that name. Look up there, lad, can you see the stars?”
Gilavir looked up at the heavens. It was dark enough now to see the stars twinkling.”
“I have travelled far,” said Aragorn. “Even to lands where the stars are strange, but on all my journeys, especially when times have been hard and I have not been able to see the way forward, I have looked up at the stars and found hope again, especially from Gil-Estel. So let not your heart be troubled, lad, hope yet remains, even amongst these ruins.”
“When you are king and have built your palace here,” said Halbarad, “we will expect an invitation to dine with you. We shall recline on purple cushions and drink Dorwinion.”
“I would prefer Annúminas as my capital,” said Aragorn. “But Fornost would do nicely too.” He yawned. “But let us continue our dreams in our sleep. I am weary.”
“I will take first watch,” said Gilavir. “I do not feel like sleeping yet.”
The two older Rangers thanked him and settled down in their bedrolls side by side.
Gilavir remained staring at the fire. He decided to polish his sword to while away the time. Taking a cloth from his pack, he rubbed it until it gleamed. He then felt the need to answer a call of nature. Taking his dagger for protection, he disappeared behind the trees, leaving the sword propped against the great oak.
Away from the shelter of the campfire, Gilavir’s earlier unease returned. The ruins looked so eerie by starlight, while the oaks could almost have been trolls! He hastened back to the campfire.
Then he heard it, an unearthly sound beyond description, a horrible squelching, creaking sound. Gilavir’s nerve failed him and he cried out in alarm.
“What is it, lad, Orcs?”
Aragorn and Halbarad were beside him in an instant, their swords drawn.
“I don’t know, it’s that dreadful sound. I fear it is unquiet spirits that resent our presence in this place!”
Aragorn listened intently for a few moments .then he laughed. “I will show you your ghost!” he said. He picked up a dead oak branch and thrust it in the fire to make a torch, then cast the light in the direction of the sound. “There is your culprit, lad!” he announced triumphantly.
Gilavir looked. His sword gleamed brightly in the torchlight. “That is but my sword,” he said in bewilderment.
“Look more closely,” said Aragorn.
Gilavir looked and beheld a snail crawling along the polished metal.
“A snail has hundreds of tiny suction pads to help it climb,” Aragorn explained. “I recall one stormy night in Rivendell when I was a child wondering what the strange noise outside my window was. My mother took me outside and we found a snail climbing up the glass. The next day, Master Elrond explained about the suction pads and how they make a noise rubbing against shiny smooth surfaces.” He gently removed the snail from Gilavir’s blade and cast it into the long grass. “There , we should get some sleep now,” he said. “You will have to polish your sword again,though, Gilavir. After you have done so, replace it in the scabbard. For a Ranger must cherish his sword.”
“I’m sorry.” Gilavir flushed scarlet.
“We were all young once,” said Aragorn. “It is indeed a strange sound the first time you hear it.” He patted Gilavir’s shoulder reassuringly.
Soon all was quiet save for the gentle snoring of the weary Rangers.