Disclaimer: Not my pond, but I still play here, and sometimes I muddy the waters a bit.
A/N - Written for the Leaf and Stone Yahoo Group Fic Challenge #1: Halloween. This is not meant to be an historically accurate depiction of Halloween or any of its many celebrations. This is just for fun.
Ghosts and Ghouls
By Nieriel Raina
"What is this?" The Dwarf stopped to look at the carved gourd filled with candlelight.
Legolas stopped to look and blanched. "Come, Gimli, we must move on."
The dwarf's brows furrowed, but he followed the elf down the street of the small town. At least until he came across another shack with a carved gourd, candle and plate of some kind of sweets. "Legolas, what is this about, do you know?"
Legolas glanced at the odd items and sighed heavily. "We should not have stopped here, Gimli."
"But we need supplies, Elf. I can see a tavern up the way. We'll just go in, get what we need…."
"No, we must press on. We will not be welcome here. Besides, if you notice, the tavern also has these symbols."
The dwarf looked with more scrutiny and then noted what he had missed before. A large pumpkin with a ghastly face carved into it, lit by a single candle in its innards, sat on the top step of the building. "What is this about? And why are there no people on the streets?" He voiced his thoughts aloud as he became aware of the eerily quiet town.
"I have encountered this once or twice before. The people place these out to frighten away evil spirits. And if that does not work, the sweets are to placate the ghosts."
Now, Gimli felt uneasy. His head jerked around in different directions, looking this way and that. "Ghosts?"
His question brought a smile to Legolas' face. "So they think, my friend, but it is we who they will consider evil. It is most likely that these people are unfamiliar with our folk. It is a very out of the way town. I would not be surprised if Elves and Dwarves are merely myths. You remember how the Lady Galadriel was held in such fear and suspicion among the Rohirrim when we first encountered them?"
The Dwarf nodded. "I do. But they were quick enough to accept us."
Legolas shook his head, taking his friend by the arm. Gimli protested slightly, but an unusual feeling of dread had settled on his heart. He allowed the Elf to lead him back up the street in the direction from which they had come.
"As I said, I have encountered these kinds of beliefs before," Legolas told him as they walked. "It tends to be stronger in such places as these - isolated, small. We are not safe here."
Sure enough, no sooner had the Elf spoken, a curious face peered out a window of the first house they had passed. No doubt the sound of their voices had been too much for the young man who peered out at them. But upon seeing the tall, lithe creature that glowed faintly under the starlight and his shorter companion with the glowing eyes, the youth screamed and jumped away.
"Father! Father! I saw them! The ghouls are out there!"
Gimli needed no more prompting. He and Legolas rushed the remaining distance out of the town, and continued walking northeast. They would survive until they came across a less superstitious town.
Looking back over his shoulder at the flickering candles one last time, Gimli grinned. "They truly consider us ghouls?"
Legolas laughed. "Aye. But be thankful, Gimli. The last time I encountered such things, I nearly lost my life. Ghosts or not, they will throw such things as rakes, knives…pitchforks…."
"Someone threw a pitchfork at you?"
The Elf nodded. "They were rather surprised when they realized that ghosts bleed, and rather upset when I was dragged away by other ghosts, taking the pitchfork with them! It was only to prevent excess loss of blood, of course, but they did not see it that way. I heard that the people of that village contended that spirits could be chased away by pitchforks, but would take the tools with them."
Gimli threw back his head and laughed at the thought, but quickly sobered as he remembered who the injured 'ghoul' had been. "Were you badly injured?"
"One of the tines nearly pierced my heart."
Blinking at that, the Dwarf was speechless a moment. "And how did a villager sneak up on you to do such a thing, Legolas? I have seen you avoid the weapons of trolls, orcs, Uruk Hai! How is it a mere man could catch you with a pitchfork?"
If he had not been a Dwarf, Gimli might have missed the way Legolas' face reddened. But Durin's folk have eyes that can see well in only starlight. "Legolas?"
The Elf cleared his throat. "Well, um…the ghost had been celebrating a bit too much and was a tiny bit intoxicated…."
Dwarven laughter echoed off the trunks of the trees as they entered a wood. The trees rustled in delight as the elf disappeared in their branches, leaving the Dwarf to walk alone beneath their boughs. Gimli smiled as he walked, glancing up every now and then. But despite his efforts, he did not see the 'ghoul' again until they stopped to make camp, at which point, Legolas glared.
"I do not wish to hear one word! I did not have to tell you."
Gimli snickered. "I have not said a single thing…ghoul."
"I am not a ghoul," the fair being said with a flicker of mischief in his eyes. "I am a ghost. Everyone knows that ghouls are short and ugly."
Gimli smirked. "And ghosts are transparent and flighty. Now get a fire started. All this talk of ghosts and ghouls…" He glanced around the small break in the trees where they had decided to make camp and shivered.
Legolas disappeared into the forest to gather dead wood, while Gimli began removing his pack. A moment later, he jumped three feet off the ground as something dropped down in front of him unexpectedly.
Legolas was running before the Dwarf could collect himself.
Gimli did not get much sleep that night. But to be fair, neither did the Elf.
- o -
Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed this slightly late Halloween fic. Please take a moment to comment. Thanks!