Author: Linda Hoyland
Title: Lingering Shadows
Theme: Believe it or Not
Beta: Raksha and Virtuella
Author's Notes: This story takes place a few weeks after "Roses have Thorns"
A sequel to "Roses have Thorns" also on this site.
Disclaimer - These characters all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. This story was written for pleasure and not for financial gain
"Is something troubling you, my friend?" Aragorn enquired of his Steward. "You seem somewhat distracted today."
Faramir hesitated for a moment before replying shortly, "It is Elboron."
"Is he unwell?"
"I do not think so, but …"
"Would you like me to look at him?"
Faramir swallowed and hesitated before replying. "Elboron seems perfectly well, though he cries more than Elestelle did, but sometimes on the rare occasions when we have left him alone for a moment, I have noticed him staring straight ahead as if he is watching someone; yet there is no one there and yet…yet sometimes I fancy I see a shadow."
"It could be a trick of the light," Aragorn suggested. "There is a tree outside the nursery window."
"It is not that," said Faramir. " Then one day Elbeth's cat got into the nursery. I found it with its fur standing on end staring at something I could not see. Sometimes I wonder if…it cannot be, though!"
"You fear some unearthly presence, maybe your father?" Aragorn asked shrewdly.
Faramir nodded. "I feared you would think I was losing my wits," he said. "It is a relief to tell you, Aragorn. I do not wish to alarm Éowyn as she was so ill after the birth and is still recovering."
"She would understand," Aragorn replied. "After all, did she not say that your mother came to visit her just after Elboron was born?"
"My mother's spirit spoke to me too," said Faramir. "I believe, though, that when life and death hang in the balance such things are possible. What if this visitation bodes some ill for Elboron? My heart fears for him."
"He strikes me as a very healthy child and Arwen too says his life force is strong," Aragorn reassured him. "I will come and visit your son this afternoon. Éowyn puts Elboron to sleep in his nursery after his feed, does she not?"
"Thank you, I will tell Éowyn that you will come to our apartments this afternoon," said Faramir. "The girls will be pleased to see you too."
Aragorn clapped him affectionately on the shoulder and the two men went their separate ways.
Éowyn greeted Aragorn with a warm smile while Faramir's niece Elbeth threw her arms around him and little Elestelle demanded to be picked up and told a story.
"How does Elboron fare?" Aragorn enquired once the demands of Faramir's daughter and niece were satisfied.
"I have never known a babe to grow so fast," Éowyn replied. "He is so good and rarely cries. Do you want to see him?"
"He isn't very interesting," said Elbeth.
"He's my brother!" Elestelle added. "I wanted a sister!"
"Maybe you will have a sister one day," said Aragorn. "Once I have seen Elboron, I will tell you a story about a little boy who wanted a sister or brother to play with."
They made their way to Elboron's nursery, a pleasant room on the ground floor, which opened out on to a terrace. The men wondered how they could be alone with the babe without arousing Éowyn's curiosity.
Elboron was sleeping peacefully in his crib watched over by a young nursemaid. He was quite a large baby for his age with a mop of dark hair. Éowyn dismissed the girl, and told her she could have the rest of the afternoon free, then proceeded to extol her baby son's virtues in great detail. The two girls were very bored and Elestelle eventually started to pull at her mother's sleeve.
"Mummy, my dolly wants to play!" she cried, gesturing towards the rag doll she was clutching.
"Why not spend some time with the girls while Aragorn and I watch over Elboron, beloved?" Faramir suggested. "I would not wish Elestelle and Elbeth to feel neglected."
Éowyn stole another doting look at the cradle before agreed that her husband's suggestion was a sound one.
"That was easier than I expected," said Faramir as soon as she had closed the door behind her and the two girls. "Now we need to wait in the other room and see what happens. Most likely nothing then you will think me most foolish for wasting your time."
"It is always a pleasure to visit you and your family, ion nîn," said Aragorn. "This afternoon is far from wasted."
"We will wait in the nursemaid's room," said Faramir.
The maid's room adjoined the nursery and did not have a door so that the girl could easily hear a crying child. The two men sat rather awkwardly on the edge of the low bed, their ears strained for the slightest sound.
Time passed and Elboron continued to sleep peacefully while the two men grew increasingly stiff and cramped. Then the baby woke and started to whimper. Faramir instinctively made a move to go to his son, but the King stayed him by grabbing his arm.
Suddenly Elboron ceased to cry and a strangely eerie silence fell over the nursery. The two men cautiously crept to the doorway. Elboron, his eyes wide open was watching something intently.
Aragorn caught a glimpse of a shadowy figure and his eyes lit up. "Old friend!" he breathed, his words more a breath than a whisper.
The figure smiled kindly at him.
"I am so sorry I had to leave. It almost broke my heart. If only I could have explained and bade you farewell!"
With another gentle smile the figure dissolved into a ray of sunlight that streamed through the window. Aragorn gazed after him for a moment as raptly as the infant who was gurgling contentedly again. He then lunged forward trying vainly to detain the fleeting shadow. Only the sunbeams remained dancing across the infant's cradle.
"Stay but a moment!" he cried.
"What ails you, ada?" Faramir cried in alarm. "Come, sit down. You have turned quite pale! To whom were you speaking? I saw but a shadow that vanished in an instant." He led Aragorn over to the rocking chair where Éowyn usually sat to nurse her babe. Once the King was seated, Faramir settled himself at his feet, gazing at him anxiously.
Aragorn blinked away a tear and forced himself back to the present. "It was your grandfather, Ecthelion, Faramir," he said softly. "I never thought I should see him again. He was very dear to me. I wish you could have known him."
Faramir looked bewildered. "My grandfather? But how could you and Elboron see him plainly, but I could not?"
"I could see the Army of the Dead," Aragorn replied. "It is some power that lies in my blood. As for Elboron, he could see him far more clearly than I. Babes and small children, so new in the world, can often perceive what their elders cannot as can animals. Our senses dim once we leave childhood behind."
"But if Elboron could see him, why not Elestelle too? She has the mental gifts of our people. I sense Elboron is more like Éowyn's folk in that regard."
"Elboron will be Steward of Gondor after you," said Aragorn. "I would imagine that your grandfather wished to look upon the new heir of the House of Húrin and give his blessing to the babe who is destined to become the twenty eighth Steward of Gondor. Ah, but it was good to glimpse him again, he was almost as a father to me. Deeply it grieved my heart to have to leave without saying farewell to him, but had I remained, it would have caused grave dissent, maybe even civil war. I believe your grandfather guessed who I was and might have offered me the throne, which your father would never have countenanced. Though I believe I made the right choice, to this day, it has troubled me that I was never able to say goodbye. He was so good to me. I feared he would remember me as an ingrate and believe that I never held him in the love and esteem that I claimed to." He buried his face in his hands.
Faramir placed a comforting arm around Aragorn's shoulders. They remained silent for a few minutes before Faramir said. "It seems then we have come full circle as you are now as a father to me. Maybe my grandsire came to bestow his blessing on you as much as on the babe. Tell me, ada, am I like him at all?"
"Oh yes, Faramir, you have his wisdom and his warmth too. People love you as they loved your grandsire. He did not have such strong powers of the mind that you and your father shared, but such gifts are very rare in these latter days. Ecthelion had the wisdom to seek good counsel, to listen, and to use lore wisely. He had some ability to see into men's hearts, but the gift was stronger in your father and stronger still in you."
"You remember my grandfather with great affection," said Faramir. "Yet you so rarely speak of him."
"That is maybe because I feel guilty for unwittingly coming between him and your father," said Aragorn.
"My uncle told me once that my father loved but twice," said Faramir. "Only my mother and Boromir warmed his heart. I believe you simply gave my grandfather the affection that his own son denied. You gave to him, what you have freely given to me. Now come, ada, I think it is time I took Elboron for a breath of fresh air before his next feed. It is time to think of the present and the future." Faramir tenderly lifted his baby son from his crib and took him over to the window. "Grandfather, Ecthelion, you are ever welcome in my home," he said in a firm clear voice.
His son in his arms and his King by his side, Faramir stepped out into the sunlit terrace. Aragorn glanced back as they walked, but could see no lingering shadows.
A/n. Written for the LOTR GFIC "Believe it or Not" Challenge. I have read many accounts of small children and animals who appear to be seeing things that no one else can. Look out for another seasonal story soon