Prompt: The old, dark, Haunted Castle, by Jorge Jacinto
Summary: Arwen fears that Aragorn is in danger.
Warnings: mild horror
Author's Notes: I am well aware this is rather a wild and far- fetched yarn. I’m not sure if it actually “happened” or not in my sub universe, but it was fun to write!
Disclaimer - These characters all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. This story was written for pleasure and not for financial gain.
“This is no place for you, my lady, we should turn back,” said the leader of Arwen’s escort.
Arwen reined her horse to a stop and gazed at the looming fortress ahead in the very centre of Minas Morgul. The very sight of it filled her with horror. She would have liked nothing better than to turn around and flee from this dread fortress of the Dark Lord. Estel was there, though, and her heart sensed that he had need of her.
“The Dark Lord and his minions were destroyed together with the One Ring,” said Arwen. “We go on. There is nothing to fear.”
The man blanched. Arwen could see now that he was trembling. “Men say that dark magic lingers here,” he said. “The King himself decreed that no man should dwell here for seven years.”
Arwen nodded. Estel was indeed aware of the evil of this place, which was why he himself, together with men who had volunteered had been determined to personally oversee the start of its destruction, before handing the task over to Faramir and the White Company. Aragorn had promised to return to her though, once the work was underway. That had been three days ago, though, and there had been no word from him and his companions, nor from the men she had sent after them.
“I am the daughter of Elrond of the line of Lúthien,” Arwen replied. “I have been taught how to resist dark magic since my youth.” She spoke firmly but her heart was pounding. She urged the horse forward, but the faithful steed was loth to move. She murmured soothing words to her, known only to the Elves, and the mare cantered on. Behind her, Arwen heard a frantic whinnying as the horses of her escort refused to move. She decided that they and their whey- faced riders would hinder her rather than help. She rode on alone. The men were too preoccupied in trying to control their mounts to stop her.
Arwen reached the entrance to the fortress and dismounted from the mare. She tied her horse to a withered tree. She heard a neigh and when she turned a corner, there was Roheryn, tethered in a similar fashion. The stallion looked haggard as if he had not eaten. Estel would never neglect his faithful steed thus willingly.
The feelings of dread that now assailed her were almost unbearable. Where was Estel and his companions? Where were their horses? She called out “Varda, Lady Star Kindler, protect me now!” Arwen kept repeating Varda’s name as she climbed what seemed an endless stair into the castle. She rummaged inside her cloak for the plentiful supply of athelas leaves she had brought with her and crumbled one in her hand. The wholesome scent gave her fresh courage to face whatever horrors lay within the fortress.
Arwen cried out Varda’s name in a loud voice as she went within the open doorway to the castle. She cried out as she almost stumbled over a body in the hallway. It was one of the men who had ridden out with Estel. Frantically, she felt for a pulse. To her relief, he still lived, but she could not rouse him.
Arwen lit a torch she had brought with her and placed it in a sconce. She cautiously made her way further into the chamber, still speaking Varda’s name aloud. The room was filled with sleeping men. Arwen walked past each one, seeking her husband. Aragorn had made it further into the chamber than any of the others.
Arwen knelt by his side, her heart pounding. She reached out a trembling hand to feel for a pulse. Her heart soared when she found what she sought. Estel lived! She called his name and crumbled another athelas leaf under his nose, but he did not stir. Obviously, he was under the grip of some dark enchantment.
Arwen recalled the magical songs of Lúthien that had been handed down to her. Maybe only light magic could fight against dark magic?
Arwen closed her eyes against the horror of this dark place, uttered another prayer to Varda and then began the sing the magic songs of her foremother. Sweet and clear was her voice, like a ray of sunlight penetrating the darkness. As she sang, her courage increased, as did the volume of her singing.
All around her, she heard the sounds of men stirring. Arwen opened her eyes just as Aragorn’s eyes flickered open. She smiled at him, but continued to sing, silencing him with a gesture, when he made to speak. She continued to sing until all the men were awake.
“Flee from this place while the spell lasts!” she cried. “May Varda protect our footsteps!”
Aragorn took her hand and they led the stumbling men out into the fresh air, Only then, did he speak. “How have you come to be in this dread place, my love?” he asked.
“When you did not return, I feared some evil had befallen you,” said Arwen. “I sensed that I alone with the knowledge of my foremother could aid you.”
“I thought I had taken all precautions, but dark magic lingered in the fortress and overcame us when we entered it,” said Aragorn. “Our horses were half crazed with terror and most of them fled. A great weariness came upon us all and we fell into an enchanted sleep.” He took out his water bottle. “Stars! I am so thirsty!”
“You have been three days without food or water,” said Arwen.
“You saved our lives, vanimelda!” cried Aragorn. “Most surely the enchantment would have caused us to die of thirst and hunger while we slept.”
“There are men and horses a little way down the road,” said Arwen. “They could come no further. Roheryn is still here and my mare.”
Aragorn made his way towards his horse as swiftly as his weakened condition would allow. He poured some water into his helmet and gave it to Roheryn to drink. In the daylight, Arwen could see how haggard and pale he looked. She shuddered her husband had had a narrow escape. “Before anyone sets foot in this place again, you need to study my father’s lore about combatting evil spells,” she said. “I believe the correct enchantments will render the fortress safe enough to tear down.”
“Until then, let us be gone from this place,” said Aragorn.
Arwen offered him her arm for support, which he took. She let led him to her mare, which they mounted together. Roheryn ambled along alongside them, too weak to bear his master. The men supported each other as they stumbled along the road.
Fortunately, they had not gone far before coming upon Arwen’s shame faced escort. The King’s men were divided between the horses and they rode away from the dark tower, their hearts filled with gratitude towards the valiant Queen.