B2MeM Challenge: Image prompt: Standing Stones
A group of standing stones. Why are they here? Where do they come from?
Format: Short story
Characters: Aragorn, Arwen, Faramir
Pairings: Aragorn/Arwen, OMC/OFC
Summary: An ancient circle of stones attracts the attention of the Ambassador from Harad and his wife.
One afternoon in early spring, Arwen and Éowyn paid a visit to Lady Adiva. They were surprised to find their hostess unusually excited. As soon as her devoted maid, Falah had served the sherbet tea, she said, “Are the stones not wonderful?”
The other ladies looked puzzled. Arwen glanced towards Adiva’s hands and throat, thinking that maybe the devoted Tahir had given her a new ring, necklace or bracelet.
Éowyn was more forthright; “Stones?” she asked.” What stones?”
“The stone circle on the Pelennor Fields,” Adiva replied. “When Tahir and I went out riding yesterday, we chose a different route than the one we usually take and we came across the temple.”
“Temple?” Arwen sounded baffled.
“The stones form a perfect moon circle, a temple in which to worship the Lord and Lady of the Moon,” said Adiva.
“Ah. Estel told me the stones were very ancient and no man knew exactly what they were used for originally,” said Arwen. “He thought it might have been a kind of calendar by which the ancients marked the passage of the seasons.”
“Exactly,” said Adiva. “The first full moon of spring will rise directly above the highest stone and the Lord and Lady will convey blessings on all who witness it. I wondered, esteemed Lady Arwen, if my husband and I might be permitted to worship there next week?”
“I shall ask Estel to find out to whom that part of the Pelennor belongs,” said Arwen. “I am certain something could be arranged if the King requests it.
“My thanks, esteemed Lady Arwen. May the sun’s ray never burn you!” Adiva smiled her gratitude. “If we are permitted to hold the ceremony, we would be honoured if you would join us that you might share in the Lord and Lady’s blessings.”
Arwen raised the matter of the stone circle when she dined with Aragorn that evening.
“I always believed the circle was something to do with sun worship,” he said. “Master Elrond told me that ancient man venerated the sun in the same way the Elves do the stars. Maybe your grandsire might know?”
“Adiva’s folk dislike the sun, as its rays burn so fiercely in their lands,” said Arwen. “She is convinced it was built to honour the moon.”
“Maybe the ancients worshipped both,” Aragorn mused.
“It seems to mean a lot to Adiva that she and her family see the full moon rise within the circle if the landowners permit it,” said Arwen. “She has invited us to attend too.”
“I will ask Faramir to find out tomorrow,” said Aragorn. “Then I will send a message to Tahir and Adiva.”
The royal couple said no more on the matter, but concentrated instead on the delicious meal of freshly caught trout that their cooks had prepared for them.
The next morning when the King and Steward began their work, Aragorn asked Faramir to find out who might own the stone circle. The King then turned his attention to studying a lengthy and complicated trade agreement with Rhûn. He was about half way through the document when Faramir entered, clutching an ancient looking parchment.
“I discovered who owns the stone circle,” said the Steward.
“Who?” asked Aragorn.
“You do,” said the Steward. “Or rather the Crown does.”
“I thought the Pelennor Fields were sold off to the farmers who tended the land in the reign of Calimehtar,” said Aragorn.
“When King Calimehtar sold off the land to the tenant farmers no one wanted to buy the field where the stones were,” said Faramir. “It was offered to several possible buyers, but two feared the stones would damage their ploughs, a third complained the stones would be impossible to remove and two more claimed the presence of the ancient stones unnerved them. Calimehtar decided it would be less trouble to keep the land rather than try to foist it off on some reluctant buyer.”
“Well that is good news for Tahir and Adiva then,” said Aragorn. “Some of the farmers might have objected to the use of their land for a religious ritual of a former enemy, especially so close to the anniversary of the great battle. For my part, worshipping the moon is as good a use for the stone circle as any other. I have always found the moon faith to be benign.”
“Welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, love the land, shun what is evil,and succour those in need, are the main tenets of Tahir and Adiva’s faith,” said Faramir.
“Members of their tribe who follow those beliefs once saved my life,” said Aragorn. ”Their beliefs are not very different to those of the Faithful. I think I shall accept their invitation to greet the spring moon. It will be a chance to ride out before the New Year celebrations have to occupy my time. Who would not want to celebrate this fair time of year?”
“I will come too,” said Faramir. “Éowyn and the children are returning to Ithilien tomorrow. It should be a pleasant way to spend an evening.”
“I will send a message telling Tahir and Adiva they can hold their ceremony,” said Aragorn. “I promised them I would tell them today.”
“They will be pleased,” said Faramir. “I hope, though, that they will not attract hostile attention from folk who have no love for Harad.”
“It is an isolated spot. I doubt they will be disturbed and they should be able to follow their faith in peace in my land. I would not act like the Dark Lord!”
“I agree with you,” said Faramir. “I just feel uneasy. That is all.”
“We shall see,” said Aragorn. “Now I would welcome your thoughts on this trade agreement.”
The night of the full moon was clear, but somewhat chill with a hint of frost in the air when Aragorn, Arwen, Éowyn, and Faramir rode out towards the stone circle. The air was fragrant with early spring blossom and the four enjoyed a twilight canter across the fields.
Tahir and Adiva were already present together with many of their household and their older children. The Ambassador was clad in ceremonial garb, a deep blue robe embroidered in silver with designs of the moon in its various phases, while his family were all wearing blue robes edged with silver in honour of the Lord and Lady of the Moon. Tahir and Adiva greeted their friends warmly and insisted that they stand beside them for the ceremony.
“Gracious Lord and Lady, we greet you at the hour of your union!” intoned Tahir, raising his arms towards the heavens.
“Gracious Lord and Lady, we seek your blessings upon us,” cried Adiva. “Hide your light not from us!”
As she spoke, the full moon appeared from behind the largest stone and the circle was bathed in silver light. High above the moon, bright stars twinkled. It was an awesome sight. No one spoke for a few moments as they drank in the beauty of the night sky.
Tahir and Adiva led their household in a hymn of praise to the moon.
“Behold how Lady Varda’s stars shine amongst the stones!” Arwen whispered in her husband’s ear. “I believe this place is sacred to her too. Maybe the Eldar built this place? I believe this circle is indeed a temple.”
“I have an idea,” said Aragorn. He drew her and Faramir a little aside to confer with them while the Haradrim finished their hymn. Once the ceremony had concluded, he called Tahir and Adiva to his side. “The Queen and I would like to give you this land to use as a place of worship,” he said. “We know you will cherish it and protect the stones.”
“Our joy overwhelms us, most honoured friends that you would give us such a gracious gift!” cried Tahir. “May you dwell forever beside an oasis!”
“The Lord and Lady will surely bless you with great abundance,” said Adiva. “May their light ever shine upon your path.”
“As I worship the One upon the mountain, it is fitting that you too should have a place to honour your Lord and Lady,” said Aragorn. “Your tribe always held fast to the light and are now turning your land away from the darkness that consumed it.”
Faramir was in a thoughtful mood as he rode home with his wife and the King and Queen. “Do you think that Lord Celeborn will be able to tell us about the history of the stone circle?” he asked after they had ridden in silence for a while. “It seemed fitting to worship here tonight with our former enemies so close to the anniversary of the great battle,” he said.
“I agree,” said Aragorn. “These fields need blessings after so much bloodshed. I believe Lady Yavanna has blessed our land since that time while Tahir and Adiva believe their Lord and Lady have blessed them too.”
“I wish I had thought to ask Mithrandir about the circle before he departed, but the stones were just something that were always there that I did not think deeply about,” said Faramir. “Maybe, if anything, I liked their air of mystery.”
“They were always a sacred place,” said Arwen. “The stars told me that tonight.”
“The horses seemed at ease in the place which tells me it is wholesome,” said Éowyn.
“Maybe it is better we do not delve too deeply,” said Aragorn. “The sacred will always be mysterious. Tahir and Adiva will bring new sacred mysteries to an ancient place. I believe a place becomes holy through the faith of the many who worship there, reaching out towards and praising the One revealed through the Great Music of creation.”