Summary: "Tonight begins the Week of Silentin!" Week of Silentin, lock your doors and hide under your beds, pray that your ancestors did not kill someone that is now seeking revenge. Or else, you may just be in danger.
Beta: Tira (sidhnanledhiel)
Rating: Mature PG-13 (maybe R just to be safe)
Warning: There is a lot of spiritual type content in this. Ghosts, spirits, things like that. This fic is not for the faint of heart, or the easily scared, believe me! I know at the beginning it does not seem that way, but you have not read the rest. :D
Characters: Aragorn and a few OCs
Author's Note: I was inspired by a line from a book I read recently, Crime Scene Jerusalem by Alton Gansky, when I read the line a picture formed in my mind and it went from there. I at first had wanted this to be for the Halloween challenge Rhonda posted, but as the story developed, it wandered away from the qualifications Rhonda had for the challenge. Then I thought maybe this would be for Nina's birthday, which I missed anyway, but then I realised maybe this type of story might not be good for her health condition (I have been told by many others that the ending of the first chapter is creeping them out, and that is just the beginning of everything!).
"I tell you the truth ... He has crossed over from death to life." (John 5:24)
"Whoever believes in me ... streams of living water will flow from within him." (John 9: 36)
"Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:29)
"With authority and power he gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him!" (Luke 4:36/Mark 1:27)
Aragorn's mouth dropped open and moved slightly as he tried to say something, but no words came to him. Finally he managed a very fearful, "Who are you?"
The seemingly-young, ghost-man smiled enticingly. "Why do you fear me?" he asked, innocence decorating his wispy face. It was strange to look upon the man, to behold a face shrouded by a mist and yet somehow, despite seemingly consisting of the mist, it was also solid, fleshy. One moment the man seemed to be all but mist, the other he seemed to be standing behind a thin cloud, but nevertheless quite in the flesh on the other side.
It made Aragorn feel dizzy to think about how it changed from moment to moment, or maybe that was just the concussion acting up.
"Why?" the spectre prompted when Strider did not reply.
"I... I..." He knew why he feared the ghost; despite the entire situation, a discussion he had had with his family was lingering in his mind. When one encounters spirits and bogeys, it does not matter whether they are malicious or benign, one always feels fear. Spiritual encounters such as that simply do such a thing to one, Aragorn's older brother, Elladan, had told him. But Strider did not want to say that to the ghost, he did not wish to anger this spirit.
Besides, despite its outward appearance of being trustworthy, he felt wrong to the ranger.
"Do I look dangerous, like something worthy of fear, to you?" the spirit asked.
"No." There was something he could answer truthfully. The ghost did not look dangerous, so Strider shrugged the strange sense off as nothing more than the combined effects of his concussion, being in the dark, in a tomb with an unconscious child that had only mere hours ago been going on about ghosts haunting him; now he was facing one, and all of these things together must account for that feeling of wrongness.
"Come, then. No more fear, living one. Do not let my lack of life keep you and I from helping the other."
"How can you help me?" asked Aragorn cautiously; his face did not give away the thoughts stampeding through his mind, tumbling around far too fast for him to make much sense out of.
The apparition lifted a hand, a single finger upon it raised. "First, you must help me."
Alarm bells started clamouring at the statement; there was naught he could do though, except to heed the warning and tread forward carefully. "And that would be?" His caution was not lost on the spirit, for he shook his head slightly and smiled ruefully.
"Something rather simple and I promise no harm will come to you. I shall assist you in leaving this crypt if you help me."
At the prospect of leaving he felt cool relief flood his heart, and Aragorn's caution was cast to the wind. Before he could think more about it, the ranger quickly nodded his assent.
"Is that a promise?" Even as he asked, he stretched out his hands and stepped closer to the ranger and unconscious little boy.
Strider opened his mouth to affirm that it was a promise, but, for some reason unknown to him, his gaze dropped to the newcomer's hands. Around the fingertips, they were torn and raw looking as if the skin had been stripped away by something rough.
A deep fear chilled him to his core; it was so great and solid that every second he was there he hated with every fibre of his being.
"NO!" The phantasm seemed taken aback by his sudden outburst. "You stay away from me!" The ranger had suddenly realised what this ghost had been up to and who exactly he used to be. "And do not come any closer to the boy."
Without warning, the ghost began to laugh quietly in malice. "You think you can stop me from getting my revenge, living one?" A twisted grin turned his lips. He didn't look so friendly any more.
Aragorn's breathing sped up as his fear threatened to over-power him. 'After all,' his fearful side spoke up, 'what can you do against a dead spirit? It is not like you can kill it! It has no form; you cannot fight it and keep it away from Daryn.'
"Yes, that is right..." the bogey nodded at him. "You cannot stop me, you cannot touch me. I have no physical form that you can touch."
Strider could only wonder how the ghost-man was able to read his thoughts, but it was a trifling confusion and was not something he paid much attention to. There was a greater thought stirring in his mind. If he could not touch the ghost, then maybe the spirit could not --
"Yes, I can touch you."
In the corners of his mind, he was still in shock at the mind-reading this bogey was doing.
The spirit smiled maliciously, but did not seem in a very enlightening mood. "Ranger, you will give the child over to me." It was not a request, and the veiled threats were not lost to the young Dunedian.
"And if I say no?" Aragorn pulled himself closer to the boy, his head deciding to go for a short whirl made it hard for him to think. His question was not a bold one, but birthed from curiosity and a desire to know everything about the situation that he could.
"Look at you," the phantom shook his head as he spoke the words. "You are in no position to say no. You are afraid, I can sense it. If you do not let the child go, I will take him from you with force."
"You did not answer the question." Without realising it, Aragorn was trying to buy himself more time.
"I do not have to answer your questions," the dead man snapped. "But if you wish to know, I will show you!"
Aragorn felt a sharp pain erupt in his side and he stifled a surprised cry. He placed a hand to the area of distress as the pain numbed to several long stripes of a cold burning sensation on his abdomen. He suppressed a moan as his head revolved from the sudden hurt.
The daemon smiled malevolently. "You see, ranger, there is nothing you can do to stop me; there is nothing you can do to protect yourself from my higher power. I will have my revenge upon your friends soon enough, for you cannot protect the boy forever and his father lingers near."
Aragorn's eyes widened as he thought about it. With Adin outside, there was no way he could offer his protection, however small that was. He had to get Adin away from here. "ADIN, RUN! GET OUT OF HERE! YOU ARE NOT SAFE!" Strider paused for a breath before continuing, "TRUST ME AND JUST GET AWAY FROM HERE!!"
The revenge-seeker sneered at the man as he finished shouting. "You think Adin can escape? There is no where he can go that I cannot reach him. I will have my revenge upon this farmer."
"You only have a week, and you have to go through me first to get to Adin and his family."
"You cannot keep me from them, for already your strength is weakening. How are you going to stop me from taking him?"
He had to honestly admit that he had no clue how he, a living man, could stop a daemon from hurting the boy. Aragorn had no defence that he knew of against a spectre.
The ghost smiled knowingly as if Strider's thought showed up on his face.
"Nevertheless, you will not harm this family." Aragorn was surprised at the strength, determination, and boldness in his own voice.
"Then I will make you suffer for your intervention. You will endure the agony extracted from envious spirits." The bogey's eyes glinted with a certain twisted glee.
For a moment the mist in the room took on shapes, but then they disappeared and Aragorn had to wonder if they had been there at all. As Strider's belief in spirits of the dead wavered the mist took shape and then blended into nothing specific once more. Here before him was a phantasm, and he knew this was no dream for the pain was too vivid and fierce; his faith sparked and grew and he knew for certain that ghosts were indeed real.
As this realisation sunk in, the mist formed shapes of people and they stayed there. No more wavering - Aragorn found it to be eerie. He knew now why he had not felt alone and the whispering he had heard rushing by him. There had been spirits in this room the whole time. They had been taunting him long before he could see them.
What spooked him the most was that some particularly nasty ones lingered nearest to him. Somehow he just knew that they were the ones shrieking at him earlier. He doubted it would be the last time he had that sensation.
The bogeys nearest to him sneered and shifted closer, malice and jealousy glinting in their ghostly eyes. As he pushed his fear away from his tunnelling consciousness, Aragorn sent a wary glance around the room wondering just what he was up against.
There were other ghosts in the shadows, but they never moved. Two older, weather-worn men were crouched in one corner, their eyes staring straight back at Aragorn. A sad, young girl - Strider judged her to be about ten - looked sullenly at him from a small nook near the inner chamber door opening. Her sad countenance held a hint of anger that Aragorn wondered over whether or not it was directed at him.
In the doorway leading to the inner chamber, a tall man leaned against the door passage edge. Strider could not make out his face, or really anything about him, for he remained nothing but a shaped shadow.
Then his eyes met the stare of a middle-aged woman, who seemed wise even in death. Her dark, smooth skin and wise, ancient-looking eyes gave Aragorn a feeling of trust. Knowledge began to fill his head as he watched her.
The ones that he sensed evil from were jealous of the life that he and Daryn still held; they envied anyone still living and, while they had the Week of Silentin, they would not make the living world a restful one, though they could not disturb any other than those that were related to them, or connected to them directly from their lives, and any who intervened.
Some of the other spirits that lingered in the corners and shadows in the room were there because the unrest the evil ghost-man before Aragorn, Azazel, had spread had drawn them back to their resting place in the physical world. They stood indifferent on this subject, but could not leave till the matter was resolved.
Why then did they not just leave the Circles of this World?
Even in death, they are not yet at peace. They stay to come to terms with their deaths before they can move onto a resting place beyond the Circles of the World.
Something told the ranger he would get no help from anyone here. He almost despaired - for what was he against such spiritual forces?
In the time it took for him to survey the room and that information about the spirits to suddenly be in his mind, only a bare minute had passed; it seemed that was the only time he was allowed, for the daemons suddenly fell upon him, unleashing their terrible powers.
The ranger felt the explosion of sharp pain across his chest, and then they numbed to the cold burning sensation that still distressed his lower abdomen where he had first had a taste of the bogey's power.
Aragorn's eyes turned to a scary-looking woman's face, her fingers were raised in a clawing motion and Strider realised that she must have been the spirit to attack him both times. The revenge-seeker had not even touched him and Aragorn slightly wondered why Azazel - as he had just learned - had left some other spirit to do his dirty work.
But the information came back to him about how these bogeys sought to make the living world a painful place. They wanted to make him be in agony just as much, if not more so than, Azazel, who stood watching the proceedings with delight.
The woman laughed and laid another icy, burning tear across his ribs as she drug her mist fingers across him. Before Aragorn could comprehend what was all going on, he found himself lost into a strange, agonizing world.
The screaming voices rushing past his ears returned and it only stopped for mere moments when a heavy weight would come upon his chest making it hard for him to breath. The weight would lift and the screaming would come rushing at him and past his ears. The process was never-ending; it made Aragorn's heart race uncontrollably.
It was demonic: the screaming, the weight, and the coldly burning sensations. His head began to spin badly. His despair filled him. Strider's world had become nothing but ceaseless screaming and pain.
Unpleasant, distressing thoughts filled what little bit of his consciousness that was not a tunnel of swirling pain and shrieking voices. Aragorn believed them.
This was it. There was nothing else to life. Pain - both our own and others - was an endless body of water that filled the world; there was nothing else but those swirling depths.
Aragorn struggled, but quickly lost his fight to get away from those dragging waves, and he began to believe that there was nothing beautiful in this world. No peace, no beauty, no good things. Everything began to take on shades of gray as the pain, shrieking, and the weight upon his chest continued to cycle on and on.
As he began to give up and Azazel started to laugh at his resignation, a faint and vague picture rose in his mind, but it was squandered from an outside source.
"No..." Aragorn weakly denied the despairing thoughts in his mind. As he fought against them, holding onto that faded image, he began to realise that that voice inside his head that was speaking of those dark thoughts was not his own.
Somehow, between the knowledge of it not being his own voice - though it sounded so much like his own - and that image, he pried the dejected thoughts from his tired and pain-filled mind.
'All things are dark, there is no beauty.' A soft, seducing voice spoke inside of his head. Despite that inside his heart he wished to fight, Aragorn could still feel that voice draw him toward it.
In a desperate act of freedom, Aragorn opened his mouth to shout out his inwardly felt defiance. "Annui Fien!" His eruption caused the onslaught to retreat slightly. Aragorn glared coldly at them. "There is more than just darkness. There is life and light." The spirits began to snarl at him. The image returned to Strider's mind again, this time vivid and strong. With all of his being, he wished that he could hurl the image at them as testimony of what he spoke of.
As if his wish had become reality and he had struck them with the image, the ghosts flinched back from him. With deeply felt relief, Aragorn began to visualize everything he knew that he cherished. Slowly he felt a great cloud lift from his mind; things began - mentally - to seem brighter and less shrouded.
Several of the ghosts flinched and snarled at him, but kept their distance for a few moments. However, despite that he fought them mentally with every scrap of beautiful memories he possessed, the spirits came back with their own retaliations: the screaming and rushing, and heavy weight on his chest: all returned with a vengeance. Burning cold fingers laced across his skin, dragging their cold fire over his body.
His vocal chords worked of their own will and he moaned despite the fight he put up. Naturally his body would betray him, yet that would not stop him from fighting back with all of the life and light he could muster.
For time unknown Strider fought, in the only way he could, spiritually against the bogeys. Somehow, he was able to keep them at bay, keep them from overpowering him completely - though he moaned and he groaned at the abuse they gave to his body, Aragorn continued to do the only thing he could.
At times, the ranger found it most annoying that the ghosts had the power to somehow cross from the spiritual dimension to cause pain to him in a physical sense, but he was left with his hands going right through them if he tried to push them away.
At first Aragorn made the critical mistake of letting some of his focus slip and Azazel held none of the ranger's attention. Strider had not realised, so focused on the other spirits was he, that he had to hold them back practically individually.
Azazel drew nearer to Daryn, who had remained oblivious to the world through all that had happened thus far. Azazel had nearly reached his target when Aragorn noticed his plight and cried out against him. Azazel found himself being blocked by a spiritual force as Aragorn extended his spiritual protection, creating a barrier of sorts, but that did not mean Azazel was giving up. With a steely gaze directed toward the ranger, who had only stood in Azazel's way since he had first arrived, the ghost withdrew slightly.
At last, Strider felt a strange sensation, that almost felt like a breeze was blowing through his mind. For a moment he saw - in his mind's eye - a beautiful, peaceful meadow, with a feeling of love, safety, hope, and all things good radiating from it; a pleasant smell he seemed to smell. Then he blinked. His mind was jerked back to his bleak reality. Only it suddenly wasn't so bleak.
A light seemed to shine all around, yet it was only shining in one place - Aragorn could not explain it. In a corner of his mind, that meadow and pleasant smell remained, but Strider held a stronger connection to reality than he had when he first felt that breeze blowing through his mind.
Aragorn still fought against the spiritual beings, and yet somehow it was not quite as overwhelming and stressful. Some of the weight had been lifted from his shoulders - in a manner of speaking - but he still had spiritual warfare he was doing.
"Because you have stood your ground, you will see My salvation." The voice seemed to be all around Strider, but stayed in his mind. It confused the ranger to try and figure out how these things could seemingly be all around and yet just in one area and nowhere else.
The next moment, thoughts of this confusion were cast aside. Aragorn's spiritual eyes were opened even more. He saw that he was not alone in the fight for good. Nearby, scattered at random places around the sepulchre, a host of pure beings stood. They seemed to shine, but did not. Wisdom and grace were upon their brows, strength was in their fists, and power was theirs to command. Yet, Aragorn could sense a feeling of humbleness, a readiness to defend the common man.
They stood, swords at their sides, and girthed about in white robed armour, their forms alight with the light of Goodliness.
In an instant, Aragorn knew he was not to be fighting alone any more. This spiritual battle was not to be warred solitarily from then on; however, he still needed to fight. These beings were not there to protect him from these bogeys, but they were there to help him fight them.
Strider sensed, more than saw, the beings that had withdrawn from him the moment his battle had begun. In a wave of unexplained knowledge, he knew them to be guardians. They were spiritual guardians, there as wardens for all things physical, but not there for protection against spiritual.
The ranger's gaze lifted to the beings that were now preparing to fight back some of his enemies and he understood. These were the ones to help him in his spiritual warfare, but they would not do all of the work themselves.
It was something almost unexplainable, but Aragorn did not care to try and sort it out and force it to make sense rationally.
"Unggmmm...Strider..." a distressed moan from beside Aragorn drew his physical attention. The ranger turned to the boy, relieved that he had finally awoken. "Strider?!"
"I am right here." Aragorn tried to soothe the frightened child.
Daryn reached out a hand and Strider took it, saying gently, "Here."
Suddenly the lad stiffened, and in the dim light Aragorn could see him look around the room. "Are we in the sepulchre? I cannot see anything." Daryn whispered.
The ranger shifted closer to the boy, ignoring the vertigo his head saw fit to gift him with. It was getting harder and harder to focus on everything that was going on, but somehow Aragorn managed to still stay attentive of the ghosts and fighting them back, deal with his swimming head, and give the young child his attention.
"Daryn, what do you mean? There is light in here." Strider softly told the boy. "There is not a lot of light, but enough that once my eyes adjusted, I can dimly see you."
"I cannot see anything!" Daryn sobbed quietly.
"Shh, shh." Aragorn pulled the boy to him and wrapped his arms around the lad's shoulders.
"My head hurts, Strider... and moving makes me feel sick," the boy whimpered.
"Nausea?" Aragorn knew the boy would have it, but for a moment he had become distracted once more by the ghosts and had asked the rather - in his opinion - stupid question.
"Yes... and dizziness." Daryn felt so terrible he just wanted to curl up into a corner and cry. "Not to mention...how terrible...it is not...to be able to see..." the boy whispered dejectedly.
Strider's thoughts were flying through everything he knew, and there was no doubt in his mind that the hard knock the boy had gotten when he was thrown to the ground had bruised his brain so much that it had caused Daryn to be blind. Strider could only hope that with the proper treatment, and time, the boy's eyesight would return.
"Daryn...," the ranger began hesitantly, unsure of how the youth would take the news. "From what you have told me, I have deduced that when you fell and hit your head on the stone floor, you bruised your brain badly." Aragorn tried to put the information into words that Daryn would understand and not go into medical talk which the simple, country boy was surely not going to comprehend. "When that happens, you can lose your eyesight."
The lad became very quiet. Finally he whispered, "Will I always be blind, Strider?"
The man stifled a sigh. "I do not know for certain, Daryn." Suddenly, the ranger gasped in pain. It was something hard to give the boy his attention and at the same time keep a firm spiritual covering. At the sudden explosion of pain in his thigh, Aragorn's head went for a fast-paced, rough whirl.
"Strider?" the lad beside him asked in fear. Unexpectedly, Daryn straightened up a little and shifted further into Aragorn's side, despite the nausea and vertigo his movements caused. "I can see them... I mean... I cannot really see anything, Strider. I cannot see you or the walls or the floor, but somehow I can see the ghosts..." the child was whispering so quietly that it was hard for Aragorn to hear him, but the youth's hushed words held the ranger's attention.
Strider nodded his understanding, but had no response to the boy's declaration - he wasn't even sure if he was supposed to respond. Weariness was tugging at him and Aragorn could feel the call of the bliss of unconsciousness, but refused to let it take hold just yet.
Aragorn's head was beginning to reel once more as his weariness grew stronger; finally the ranger had to shift the boy in his arms and scoot back against the wall. The movement sent his head spinning faster and his world threatened to black out, but in the end Strider managed it.
Daryn groaned at being moved, and Aragorn had to remind himself that the lad was a lot worse off than him.
Leaning back against the wall, the man tried his best to ignore the spiritual battle going on around him without ever actually stopping his own fight.
'No one here to guide you,
Now you're on your own.
Only me beside you.
Still, you're not alone.
No one is alone. Truly,
No one is alone.
Sometimes people leave you,
Halfway through the wood.
Others may deceive you.
You decide what's good.
You decide alone.
But no one is alone.'
Aragorn softly sang, letting the words and melody hang in the air, trying to fill the heavy silence that dragged at their hearts and spirits. As he was slowly succumbing to the world of sleep, Strider tried to sing a tune that would help them relax, no matter its content.
'People make mistakes.
People make mistakes,
Holding to their own,
Thinking they're alone.
Honour their mistakes
One another's terrible mistakes.'
His voice began to get softer and softer as Aragorn's consciousness dwindled.
Someone is on your side
Someone else is not.
While you're sleeping on your side
Maybe you forgot: they are not alone.
No one is alone.
Hard to see the light now.
Just don't let it go
Things will come out right now.
We can make it so.Someone is on your side,
No one is alone.'
By the time the last words dissolved in the air, Aragorn had lost his grip on reality and began to tread the land of sleep, but rest was not something that he really acquired in his slumbering state. All throughout his repose, Strider had some of the strangest dreams - if dreams they really were.
Wispy shapes - almost firey with how they wavered and jarred and streamed out at the ends - morphed out of the darkness of his sleep. He stood in a place full of fighting, a war against darkness that he couldn't really quite understand, but knew he had to continue battling, was taking place.
At one point, Aragorn seemed to be looking through a tunnel into this strange world and saw himself - somehow he just knew it was himself - in the fray, battling back the unclean spirits.
Idly, Trish snacked on a light and fluffy, honey-based candy flavoured and thickened with the sap from the marsh mallow plant. Its sweetness filled her mouth as she distractedly fed small pieces to her daughter and stared off into the fire. Her thoughts were occupied with a feeling of foreboding creeping through her senses. Trish could not explain it, but she felt as if there was something wrong, somewhere.
The matronly woman's thoughts turned toward her family and the stranger, Strider, wondering where they were and how they were faring. It was getting on towards two hours since the three had gone off to the sepulchre. They had yet to return. What got to Trish so much as that she didn't think it should have taken so long to just figure out what had spooked Daryn and then come back... did it?
The warm light from the bonfire lit smiling faces and the activities taking place around it. There was music being played, and some people were dancing crazy jigs, some were holding discourse, but all around there was contentment and eating and drinking. It was not until hollering reached the ears of those attending the Hannen's bonfire that the joviality dimmed somewhat.
Trish jumped to her feet when she recognised her husband's voice and, placing Aideen on the ground beside a friend, she hurried toward where it was coming from. Soon, out of the growing shadows, the man appeared, looking quite out of breath and more than a little shook up.
"Adin," Trish began, worried. "What is the matter?"
"It's Daryn and Strider, Trish," Adin started, breathless. He locked gazes with his wife, knowing she, more than anyone else, would know what he meant. "Trish, something terribly wrong is at work. They're in danger."
"Where are they?" Trish asked, wide-eyed. Aideen had made her way over to her parents and, though young, had sensed her parents' distress. Tugging at her mother's clothes, the little girl begged to be picked up.
"In the sepulchre," Adin dropped his voice low, knowing that they had the attention of everyone there. "Trish, I know you won't believe me, but there are spirits there..."
Trish's glance turned sharp at her husband's words, surprised that he would speak of such things. "Adin," she began, as she bent down to pick up her daughter.
"No, Trish. Please, just listen to me. Strider, he said--"
"What is wrong, Adin?" Mr. Hannen had trailed Trish, concern for his friend showing clearly on the older man's face.
Adin glanced up at the other man, trying to decide what to tell them and not appear crazy. "Daryn is trapped in our sepulchre."
"Trapped?" the older farmer looked thoroughly confused.
Adin nodded; he began to explain what had happened.
"Say, Adin, what's this you mean?" A hunter, by the name of Wesh, spoke out.
"I need help getting them out of the sepulchre. The stone was moved back into place in front of the door, trapping them inside."
"Adin," Wesh started. "Honestly, are you trying to convince us that the stone just magically moved of its own accord?" With a disgusted shake of his head, the hunter turned away.
Adin sighed, and spoke, halting Wesh's movements, "There are greater forces, evil forces, at work." Sceptical expressions met his statement. "I understand some of you do not believe in spirits, but if you ever trusted me, please trust me now. I need your help."
Matthias Hannen glanced between the three. "Very well, Adin. I trust you, and I hope I do not find that trust to be mislaid. I am certain there must be a logical explanation for all of this and I hope you give us one. This had better be no trick."
The younger farmer shook his head, sagging slightly with relief.
No one wanted to admit that despite their words earlier to Adin, there was something strangely eerie as they approached the above-ground tomb. In the light of day it could be slightly unnerving to enter a tomb, a house of the dead, but in the dead of night - during Silentin? None of the adults would readily say it, but they were more than just a little unnerved as they strode towards the sepulchre on the first night of Silentin.
"Something strange is at work in this place," Matthias Hannen commented, his gaze far-off and his tone deep. "A spiritual stirring like nothing I have run afoul of before in my long life."
"Matthias, that is because of..." Adin trailed off. He knew what the other felt, but was unsure how everyone would take it. "There is a stirring, unrest growing amidst those that should be at peace."
"They should be beyond the Circles of this World, you mean...?" The older farmer glanced up at the sepulchre as they drew nigh unto it. "If there truly is ghosts a'hauntin' this place, I have to wonder why the spirits of those deceased have not travelled to their final resting place, far beyond this world."
"Are you saying you honestly believe in ghosts?" Wesh asked, a frown creasing his brow.
"I am saying that it is not at all impossible, Mr. Tenar," Matthias spoke cryptically. "There are many things unknown to us in this world, and a whole different plain, a spiritual one, inhabited with more things than we could ever possibly know."
Wesh fell quiet, contemplating the words of the old farmer, whom was well-respected and one of the wisest people this side of Tharbad.
"Matthias, I thought you didn't fully believe me about the ghosts... I thought you said there would be a 'reasonable explanation' for all that has transpired..." commented Adin, trying to understand the change he seemed to see in his older friend.
"And so there must be... just because something is of a spiritual nature does not mean it is unreasonable."
"But... what about... you seemed so cryptic when I said that there were ghosts playing tricks."
"That is because I do not see any reason for there to be ghost activity here or even surrounding you and your family." Matthias glanced off into the horizon, his face growing distant. "Usually, there is something much more... grandeur, more complicated than your simple life, that ghosts haunt." He shook his head. "It is all too involved and much too long a tale for me to tell and explain everything." The old man lay a hand on the stone covering the tomb doorway. "But come, you said there are people in need of help beyond this stone, let us see if we can be of assistance."
Strider wandered in and out of sleep, but he was never really conscious. His spirit was burdened, tired, but there seemed no rest for him, and as the man awoke he, at first, could not tell why. He felt the stirrings of his spirit, the distress and constant battle, but it took a few minutes for his head to clear.
When it did, Aragorn could not honestly say whether he was really awake or still dreaming. He sat in the corner of the room, but he was having an out-of-body experience. The ranger could see a strange thing, himself as it were, but with an ethereal beauty about his spirit that shocked him. What felt the creepiest, though, was sitting there on the ground, feeling the cold stone, his stiff limbs, the boy beside him, the breathing of them both, but he also saw things through his spiritual eyes, felt things through his spiritual body.
The darkness was overwhelming at times. Strider was quickly tiring. Being awake and aware while having an out-of-body experience was not assisting matters in the least. He pressed on, but his resolve was wavering. He needed a relief, a desperately desired reprieve from everything.
This whole experience was all very new to Aragorn, but over time he would grow stronger in spirit, and these spiritual battles would not be so hard to handle.
When the man felt his hope of release dimming, something shattered the darkness around him. Another light entered his world, this one similar to his own (that was quickly fading), that led him to assume that the newcomer was not at all like the shining, glorious beings he had seen join him at the start of this silent battle.
The being strode calmly into the room. Strider felt the wearying press of everything ease from him some, and the man blinked his eyes several times.
"Strider, Daryn!" A somewhat distant and strangely familiar voice spoke. It took a little bit, but Aragorn's conscious attention finally returned to the world of the voice's owner.
Adin knelt in concern beside Strider, a hand reaching out to touch his sleeping child. The ranger had not reacted and that did concern Adin, but the father in him was vying for his attention span and Daryn was first in his mind.
"Father...?" Daryn shifted and blinked his eyes open, though it did the child little good.
"I'm here, Daryn, finally." Adin assured, stroking the boy's hair. He moved to take his son into his arms.
"Be careful," Strider warned, startling the two who had not realised he had 'awoken.' "He's suffered a head injury. Jostling him around too much will only aggravate it."
"I cannot see you, father," Daryn whispered dejectedly. Adin glanced in slight confusion at Strider, though the youth could not see it. "Strider says my eyesight may return with time, but..."
The disheartened tone of his son made Adin's heart ache, and he gently, heedful of Strider's words, pulled his son close. Tears sprung into his eyes as he stroked his dear child's dark hair.
Strider smiled sadly at the family, and then his gaze travelled to someone behind Adin. There were several people in the doorway, but there was one person standing in the middle of the room that caught his attention. His presence felt familiar, and though it took Aragorn awhile, he realised with a start this was the newcomer he had seen on the spiritual plain. He also realised that it was because of this man that he was not still walking in the land of spirits; his burden had been eased by this man taking his place and forcing him to return into the physical plain.
Matthias turned around and caught Strider's gaze, offering the younger man a smile.
Strider returned the smile as several people filled the room, helping Adin to get the two of them out. The ranger doubted that these people fully understood the spiritual activity going on around them, though they felt that tension.
As they were ushered from the tomb, the cool night air rushed towards Strider and Daryn. The two paused for a moment, taking in the feel of life stirring around them.
Matthias lay a hand on Strider's shoulder and they exchanged glances, the ranger instantly understanding the other man. Matthias and he would talk later, but for now Strider's spirit could have a small reprieve.
There was something more Aragorn understood: in the days to come, he would still have a battle to fight. For not until the Week of Silentin had passed could he truly find rest and not be bothered so intensely by jealous and malicious spirits. He was not giving up though; his resolve was strong to protect those placed within his care. He had taken up the mantle of protecting this family that was not quite as in tune with the spiritual plain as his purpose seemed to be structured for.
The song Aragorn sings in this chapter was not written by me, but in fact by Victor Garber. The song's name is 'No One Is Alone', and I did change a few of the words around to make it fit better. Copyright infringement, naturally, was not intended.