B2MeM Challenge; Solar Eclipse
Since a partial solar eclipse is happend in parts of Europe, North Africa and a bit further a while ago, I'm wondering how the inhabitants of Middle-earth will react to complete solar eclipse, or what they will make of it. It would be particularly awesome if they were Elves who still carry the memory of the time before sun and moon came into existence.
Format: Short story
Characters: Aragorn, Arwen, Faramir, OMCS
Summary: A solar eclipse causes unrest.
The list of Aragorn's titles is taken from "The lord of the Rings".
With grateful thanks to my friends on LJ for all their help and suggestions.
The characters are the property of the Tolkien Estate. No profit has been nor will be made from this story.
A revised version of a story written for BTMEM 2015
It began as a perfectly ordinary day. Aragorn had spent the morning attending an excessively tedious meeting, during which the Council had debated for three hours whether or not the levy on silk imported from Harad should be reduced or not. By the time the debate was concluded, the King was hungry and looking forward to enjoying the noonday meal with Arwen. Faramir was also invited, as was Ambassador Tahir, who had been invited to put the case to the Council for reducing the taxes on his country’s imports.
The King and his guests were enjoying a glass of wine prior to the meal when the light began to dim.
“It looks like rain,” said Faramir. “Yet, there was not a cloud in the sky when we left the meeting!” He walked over to the window and looked out. “Strange,” he said, “the sky is almost cloudless, but there is a small shadow over a little of Arien’s brightness. I think it might be an eclipse! I have not seen one in years.”
“The astronomers told me that they believed one was imminent, but they are far harder to predict than when Arien’s light obscures Tilion’s,” said Aragorn. “I think I should order the Citadel Guards to patrol the streets in case the eclipse alarms the people.”
“A wise suggestion,” said Faramir. “They will remember all too well the foul darkness of the Enemy’s making that obscured the sun.”
Tahir had fallen to his knees in front of the window. He raised his arms skywards. “The Lord and Lady be praised! Today they challenge the burning one’s might! If my honoured friends would excuse me, I must go at once to the temple to worship the Lord and Lady.”
Arwen smiled understandingly. “Of course, we excuse you. You are welcome to dine with us another day, Tahir.”
Tahir hurried away while Aragorn despatched a message to the Captain of the Citadel Guards.
“Eldarion must see this,” said Arwen. “I will tell the servants to postpone serving our meal and ask them to bring a piece of smoked glass so he can safely behold Lady Arien.”
“He should not gaze at the sun for more than the briefest instant even through smoked glass,” said Aragorn. “I would not have him damage his eyes.”
“You are ever the healer, my love,” said Arwen. “We shall be very careful, I promise you.”
“I think I will take a ride through the City,” said Aragorn. “If the eclipse makes my people nervous, it might reassure them to have me come amongst them.”
“I will come with you,” said Faramir.
“I will be glad of your company.”
The King and Steward found that an eerie silence had fallen over the City. The everyday hustle and bustle had ceased. Few birds sang. The marketplace was deserted and most folk appeared to be within doors. Some folk stood outside their houses gazing apprehensively at the ever- darkening sky.
“There is nought to fear, ‘tis simply the shadow of the moon falling across the sun,” Aragorn reassured an anxious looking woman.
“I know, sire,” she replied. “It is just that darkness in the day seems so unnatural. It reminds me of the war. I shall stay at home until it passes.”
“That is wise, mistress,” said Faramir.
Aragorn and Faramir paused to speak similar reassuring words to others they encountered, assuring the people that the sun would return and this was not the work of some new enemy, nor the old one returned.
In the lower circles of the City, there were far more folk abroad in the streets and they all seemed uneasy. The presence of the patrolling Guards did little to ease the tension. Folk here lived by their wits and saw the Guards as a hindrance rather than a protection in their everyday lives, unlike the more prosperous people who lived higher up. Aragorn did all he could to ease poverty and ensure his subjects did not go hungry, but many of the poor were suspicious of anyone in authority.
The notable exceptions to the overall mood were the Haradrim, many of whom had come to seek their fortunes in Gondor after the war and dwelt in the somewhat dilapidated first circle while working towards better times ahead. They were in a joyful mood and whole families were making their way towards the City gates.
The Guards at the gate eyed them suspiciously. “Where might all you folk be a- going?” he asked. “You don’t know something that we don’t do you? They say rats dessert a sinking ship.”
“We go to worship our Lord and Lady, honoured sir,” said one woman in heavily accented Weston.
“Let them through,” said Aragorn. “I gave them the stone circle in the fields as their temple and my permission to worship there.”
The Guard opened the gates albeit with bad grace, muttering under his breath about “foreign ways.” A small crowd of Gondorians had gathered to watch.
“I reckon them foreigners ‘have something to do with this here darkness,” said one man.
“It just ain’t natural,” said a second.
“They worship the Dark Lord,” said a third. “They be using dark magic to blot out the sun!”
“The Haradrim who worship the moon were ever against Sauron,” said Aragorn. “They fought because their leaders told them they must.”
“It didn’t stop them killing our loved ones though!” the man replied.
“Our long fathers taught us of the darkening of the sun, but did Sauron teach the Haradrim to veil Arien’s light at will?” said a fourth.
“Nonsense!” said Aragorn. “We are experiencing a natural event where the moon briefly overshadows the sun. It will pass soon and the sun will return.”
“Who are you?” asked the first man.
“Your King,” said Aragorn.
“The King wouldn’t be down amongst the likes of us,” said the second man.
“He is here,” said Faramir. “As am I, your Steward.”
Aragorn’s Guards moved closer, their hands on their swords. Aragorn gestured them to stay where they were.
“I am your King and I tell you there is nought to fear,” said Aragorn.
The three men and glanced at the Citadel Guards and slunk away.
“It is unwise to stay in this part of the City, sire,” fretted one of Aragorn’s Guards. “The people are afraid and restless.”
“All the more reason I should be here.”
“I beg you, my lord, consider your safety!”
Aragorn looked around him. The streets were deserted. In the strange half- light, all seemed calm enough now. The City seemed oddly oppressive, though. He would be glad when the sun returned.
Faramir looked up at the darkening sky and he was filled with foreboding. He guided his horse closer to Aragorn’s and spoke in a low voice. “ It is too quiet. I sense some mischief afoot,” he said. “I fear some attack on Tahir and his people.”
“They are out of sight at the Stone Circle and should be safe enough,” said Aragorn. “We could ride out in that direction, though. We would get a better view of the eclipse on the Pelennor and I would be glad to escape the City.”
“Thank you,” said Faramir.
Outside the gates, he could see the Haradrim hastening in small groups towards the circle. They were chanting a hymn of praise to the moon. He was struck with a sudden desire to join them in welcoming the eclipse rather than treating it as some disaster. “I have decided to ride out to the stone circle to view the eclipse from the Pelennor,” he announced. He gestured to the guard at the gate to let the small party through.
It had grown ever darker. A confused owl began to hoot as Aragorn and Faramir rode out across the Pelennor. Both men were accustomed to riding in the countryside at night from their Ranger days. Somehow, the darkness seemed less unsettling away from the City walls. A few of the brightest stars could be seen twinkling overhead.
They rode in the direction of the stone circle, which Aragorn had given to Tahir and his people to use as a temple, but they kept a discreet distance, not wishing to intrude upon their devotions. The Haradrim were all on their knees, singing hymns of praise to the moon.
The guards eyed the worshippers somewhat suspiciously. One murmured, “It doesn’t seem natural to worship darkness like these folk do.”
“They do not, “Aragorn said curtly. “They venerate the moon. If you lived in a land where the sun’s rays seared you mercilessly by day, you might well do likewise.”
One of Faramir’s guards spoke. “The sun was indeed hard to endure when I accompanied you, my lords, on your recent visit to Harad. A few days were more than enough for me!”
“Quite so,” said Aragorn.
The eclipse would soon near its climax when the sun would be completely blotted out from view. The worshippers’ songs grew ever more joyful.
Suddenly, Aragorn became aware of the sound of marching feet and shouting. He wheeled his horse around. His heart sank as his keen eyes made out a mob marching towards the stone circle. They were armed with a variety of weapons, no doubt left over from the War of the Ring. He turned to Faramir, who had also turned his horse around. “I fear your forebodings have come to pass,” he said.
“We must stop them,” said Faramir. “There are women and children at the stone circle”
Aragorn nodded grimly. Not to mention the threat of war with the Kha Khan and the prospect of many dead and wounded. The Haradrim who dwelt in Gondor were mostly peaceful folk from the merchant clans, but they came from a fierce people who would fight to the death if their families and their faith were threatened. The eclipse was nearing its zenith. It would last but a moment, but much mischief could be wrought in a very short time.
The guards had finally noticed the approach of the mob. “My lords, we shall escort you to safety,” said one.
“I am your King, the victor of many battles, not a frail babe in arms,” said Aragorn. “Shame on me if I should flee from a handful of rogues!” He drew Andúril and rode full tilt towards the angry mob. Faramir rode close behind him, his hand on his own sword.
Aragorn brought Roheryn to a halt a short distance from the mob. The warhorse pawed at the ground and whinnied, sensing his master’s mood. “Men of Gondor, go home!” he cried in his most commanding tone. “Your King commands you!”
“Begging your pardon, sire, but we can’t let those foreigners harm Lady Arien,” cried one. “They’re allowing Tilion to ravish her using the Dark Lord’s evil magic!”
“We mean to save Lady Arien,” cried another.
“Within the hour, Lady Arien will shine as brightly as ever,” said Aragorn. “An eclipse is rare, but it is natural and the sun is unharmed. Go home now and you will not be punished and no one will be hurt. You are stout men and true, but there is no enemy here, save fear.”
The men hesitated but did not turn around.
“Do you not trust your King?” cried Faramir.
The crowd murmured amongst themselves.
“I Aragorn, son of Arathorn, Captain of the Host of the West, bearer of the Star of the North, wielder of the Sword Reforged, victorious in battle, the Elfstone, Elessar of the line of Valandil, Isildur’s son, Elendil’s son of Númenor give you my word of honour that the sun will return. Now return to the City!” Aragorn swung Andúril aloft and cried out in a loud commanding voice.
There was a moment’s silence then the men turned around and started back towards the City gates.
Aragorn and Faramir watched them depart then turned back towards the stone circle, just before the last slim remnant of the sun slipped behind the largest stone. The stars twinkled brightly thought it was not long past the middle of the day. The voices of the Haradrim soared in praise.
Then within moments, a slither of the sun reappeared, looking like a crescent moon only far brighter. Aragorn and Faramir looked away to protect their eyes. The Haradrim began a lament, a mournful wailing dirge.
“How differently, our two peoples see the sun and the moon,” said Faramir. “We are blessed that we can enjoy the light of both.”
By the time, the two wheeled their horses about to return to the City, the sun was shining, though still partially obscured by the moon. The birds sang merrily in the treetops. It had returned to being an ordinary day.