These Characters are the property of the Estate of J. R. R Tolkien and New Line Cinema. This story has been written for pleasure and no profit has or will be made from it.
The Spirit of Gondor – A Story for Halloween.
Alas, poor ghost! – Shakespeare Hamlet. Act 1:scene 5
A/N This story was written for Raksha's birthday last year. The events take place just over a year after "A Time to Reap."
With thanks to Deandra
"Please tell me a story, Uncle Faramir," begged Elbeth. She was sitting comfortably on the floor, stretched out in front of the fire. It was a chilly autumn evening outside, but the Steward's apartments provided a haven from the elements. No chill winds penetrated the thick stone walls. Faramir sat in his armchair, a book on his lap ignored. He was stretching out his toes towards the fire to warm them, gazing absently into the flames. Éowyn was absent, occupied settling Elestelle to sleep in the nursery.
"What sort of a story would you like?" asked Faramir. A gifted storyteller, he loved to entertain his niece by telling her the lore of their people.
"A ghost story, please," replied Elbeth.
"Would that not frighten you? It is almost bedtime. I do not want you to have nightmares."
"I won't, uncle, I promise! All the maids are telling them, now the Feast of the Dead is approaching. I've heard lots about people with no heads who leave bloody footsteps, but the maids aren't good at telling stories like you are! "
"They work too hard to have time to learn the art of storytelling," Faramir rebuked gently. "They can do all sorts of things that I am not very good at, like sewing, cleaning and cooking."
"I know, Uncle Faramir and I am grateful to them for looking after us, but please tell me a scary ghost story!"
"Very well," Faramir conceded.
Elbeth moved closer to him, so that her dark head rested on his lap.
"Once upon a time," Faramir began, "there lived a Steward who fell in love with a beautiful lady from the distant lands in the East."
"I thought you were telling me a story about ghosts; love stories are boring!" Elbeth interrupted.
"Patience, child!" said Faramir, thinking just how like Boromir she sounded, "Do you want to hear this story or not?"
"Just as long as it doesn't have any kissing in it," Elbeth said firmly.
"I promise there will be no kissing," Faramir smiled. He then continued. "The Steward became engaged to the lady and brought her to Gondor intending to make her his wife. She arrived at this time of year when the weather was becoming cold. It was so unlike her homeland where the clime was always warm. The poor lady felt cold all the time."
"What was her name?" asked Elbeth.
"I am not sure, but let us call her 'Sarah', which means ' Princess' in the tongues of the East," said Faramir, knowing if he failed to give the lady a name Elbeth would grant him no peace. " Poor Sarah always felt cold, even though the Steward gave her a fur cloak and fur mittens to wear and had warm fires lit in her rooms. When winter came, it was just as cold as it was when we were looking after Uncle Aragorn in the cave and it snowed nearly every day!"
"Did Sarah and the Steward play snowballs?" Elbeth asked.
"I think they might have tried, but it was just too cold for her," Faramir replied. "One day, Sarah caught a chill and became very ill. She grew weaker and weaker. The Steward sent for the best healers in the land but no one could make her better."
"Strider would have done!" Elbeth interrupted.
"I am certain that he would," Faramir agreed, "but this happened long before Uncle Aragorn was born."
"That must have been a long time ago then, Strider is very, very old indeed," Elbeth said thoughtfully. "He is even older than you are! "
Faramir laughed and then continued. "Poor Sarah grew so frail that she realised she would not recover," he said. "She called the Steward to her bedside and asked that she be embalmed when she died, according to the custom both of her own people and the nobility of Gondor. She wanted to be laid to rest beside her beloved when his time came to leave Arda, since they could not be united now in life. The Steward promised her that her wishes would be fulfilled. 'I will not let your promise be forgotten,' Sarah said and breathed her last. The Steward sent for the embalmers and a magnificent tomb was made for her in the Rath Dinen."
"What a sad story!" Elbeth exclaimed. She looked on the verge of tears.
"It is not over yet," said Faramir. "The Steward mourned Sarah for many years. He did not want to marry anyone else, but his people begged him to. After all, he was the Steward and a Steward needs heirs."
"I'm glad I'm not Steward!" said Elbeth her tears forgotten. "I wouldn't like to be made to get married!"
"Neither did this Steward," her uncle replied. "He knew, though, he must do his duty to Gondor. He decided to wed the daughter of one of the Lords on his Council. She was a beautiful lady with long dark hair and a perfect complexion. Her heart, though, was cold and hard. For a little while, she was nice to the Steward and bore him two fine sons and a daughter. However, he could not love her, for his heart remained true to his lost love. His wife was furious, for it seemed he still loved Sarah more than he loved her. She demanded that Sarah be removed from her tomb, where one day the Steward was to have been laid beside her and her body be buried in the earth with the common folk. For a while, the Steward resisted, but his wife complained to her father. He stirred up the other nobles to support his daughter's demands. There was famine in the land at the time. The people believed that Yavanna was angry and withheld her fruits, because a foreigner who did not honour her was buried in the Rath Dinen. After a few months, the Steward gave way and Sarah's tomb was demolished and her body buried outside the City."
"Poor Sarah!" Elbeth exclaimed sadly.
"Soon afterwards, the famine ended and the Steward gave a huge feast to celebrate. All the lords and ladies of Gondor were invited. While they were sitting eating and drinking, an icy breeze blew through the Hall, though the doors were closed and the night was warm."
Elbeth, now completely engrossed in the story, unconsciously snuggled closer to her uncle.
"A figure in white suddenly appeared amongst the guests," Faramir continued." It glided silently towards the Steward. The ladies screamed and fainted. The guards bravely drew their swords and commanded it to stop. When it failed to do so, one drew his sword and attacked the figure, but his blade went straight through it as if he stabbed the thin air. The guard fell in a dead faint. The figure stopped before the Steward. He recognised her as Sarah! She pointed an accusing finger at him and said 'You broke your sworn vow!' She then vanished and no trace could be found of her."
"What did they do?" Elbeth asked. She was trembling slightly.
"The Steward at once gave orders that Sarah's body was to be re-interred in the Rath Dinen and ordered a splendid new tomb to be built," Faramir said. "But no one could find her body, as many other people had died and been buried during the famine. Ever since then, her ghost has haunted the Citadel and may be seen on moonlit nights."
"That is a very scary story!" Elbeth exclaimed. "I liked it. Is it true? I do hope it is!"
Faramir already doubted the wisdom of having told his impressionable young niece one of the old legends his nurse used to tell him on chilly nights such as this.
"No one knows," Faramir replied truthfully. "It was all so long ago that no one remembers what really happed. It is said a white lady is seen sometimes, but usually only those who are very drunk tell such tales!"
"Your supper is ready in the nursery, Elbeth, nanny is waiting for you!" Éowyn had entered unnoticed and stood in the doorway. " Say goodnight to your uncle and I will come and tuck you in later."
"Goodnight, Uncle Faramir and thank you for the story." Elbeth kissed Faramir. He affectionately returned the gesture.
"You should not scare the child by putting such nonsense in her head!" Éowyn chided, once the little girl had gone.
"It is just an old tale; my nurse told it to me when I was about her age. It is less gruesome than the gory stories the servants have been telling her," Faramir replied. "It is after all, our custom at this time of year to tell ghost stories. I think the story of the white lady was invented to cover up the disgrace of one of my ancestors having taken a mistress."
"I must have a word with the servants. They should be careful what they tell an impressionable child," said Éowyn. She then sat beside her husband. He drew her close in a loving embrace.
A/N The story Faramir tells Elbeth is based on a local legend I grew up with.
Elbeth refers to events in "Web of Treason" chapter 30.
I intend to continue "A Time to Reap" after this four-part story for the season of Halloween and All Saint's Day.
I am naturally aware, that Halloween was not celebrated in Gondor, but as most cultures have festivals to honour the dead, I assumed it was not impossible that Gondor would too. As Aragorn summoned the spirits of the oath breakers in LOTR, I am certain they had ghost stories!