Amidst the Ruins
B2MeM Challenge; Rangers of the North- Fornost; Tolkien's Trees- Oak; Colours- purple; Beasts-snail; song lyrics-Go on a journey and roam the streets. cant's see the way out so use the stars.
Format: short story
Genre: general, humour, friendship
Warnings: very mild horror
Characters: Aragorn, Halbarad, OMC
Summary: Three Rangers make camp amongst the ruins of Fornost.
These characters all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. This story was written for pleasure and not for financial gain.
"We will make camp here for the night," said Aragorn. "The ruins will offer protection from the wind, as should the trees."
"But it's haunted here!" young Gilavir protested.
"You have seen the ghosts then, lad?" Halbarad teased.
"No, but I've heard the rumours. Don't the Bree folk call Fornost, Dead Men's Dyke?"
"You don't want to be listening to old Butterbur's tales," said Aragorn. He unrolled his bedroll beneath a mighty oak, while Halbarad kindled a fire.
"I don't, "said Gilavir. " But I do know there was a great battle here to drive out the Witch King and many were slain. It feels creepy here amongst the ruins."
"That is only because all ruins look sinister at dusk in the fading light," Aragorn said calmly. "I have been here on a spring morning and it is fair enough then. Violets and pansies grow so profusely that it is like walking on a purple carpet. Many birds nest in the great oaks here and amongst the broken stones. It saddens my heart to see a once great city in ruins, but I dream that one day it will be rebuilt and flourish anew."
"The times are so dark, yet you never lose hope," Gilavir looked at Aragorn in wonder.
The Chieftain was silent for a few moments. He sat warming his hands by the fire. "I was named Estel as a child," he said at last. "I try to live up to that name. Look up there, lad, can you see the stars?"
Gilavir followed his Chieftain's gaze and looked up at the heavens. It was dark enough now to see the stars twinkling brightly.
"I have travelled far," said Aragorn. "Even to lands where the stars are strange, but on all my journeys, especially when times have been hard and I have not been able to see the way forward, I have looked up at the stars and found hope again, especially from Gil-Estel. So let not your heart be troubled, lad, hope yet remains, even amongst these ruins."
"When you are king and have built your palace here," said Halbarad ", we will expect regular invitations to dine with you. We shall recline on purple cushions after the lavish banquet and drink Dorwinion long into the night."
"I would prefer Annúminas as my capital," said Aragorn. "But Fornost would do nicely too." He yawned. "But let us continue our dreams in our sleep. I am weary."
"I will take first watch," said Gilavir. "I do not feel like sleeping yet."
"Oh to be young again!" said Halbarad yawning. "Thank you, Gilavir; I am more than ready for my bed.
"I'll take the second watch," said Aragorn. "Wake us if you notice anything untoward." The two older Rangers settled down in their bedrolls side by side and soon were fast asleep.
Gilavir remained staring into the fire for some time. He then became restless and decided to polish his sword to while away the time. Taking a cloth from his pack, he rubbed it until it gleamed. He then felt the need to answer a call of nature. Taking just his dagger for protection, he wandered off into the trees, leaving his sword propped against the great oak.
Away from the shelter of the campfire, Gilavir's earlier unease returned. The ruins looked so eerie by starlight, while the oaks could almost have been trolls! He hastened back to the campfire. It was then that he heard it, an unearthly sound beyond description, a horrible squelching, creaking sound. Gilavir had never heard the like before. It were as if some unquiet spirit were forcing its away out of one of the many graves that must surely lie beneath the earth here. His nerve failed him and he cried out in alarm.
"What is it, lad, Orcs?" Aragorn cried. The Chieftain and Halbarad were beside him in an instant, their swords drawn.
"I don't think so." Gilavir' s teeth were chattering with fright.
"What then, lad?" Aragorn laid a comforting hand on the frightened young Ranger's shoulder. He gestured to Halbarad to return to his bed.
"That sound! Surely it is something not of this world!" Gilavir said with a shudder.
Aragorn listened intently for a few moments .then he laughed. "I will show you our intruder!" he said. He picked up a dead oak branch and thrust it in the fire to make a torch, and then cast the light in the direction of the sound. "There is your ghost, lad!" he announced triumphantly.
Gilavir looked. His sword gleamed brightly in the torchlight. "That is but my sword," he said in bewilderment.
"Look more closely," Aragorn insisted.
Gilavir looked and beheld a large snail crawling along the polished metal.
"A snail has hundreds of tiny suction pads to help it move along," Aragorn explained. "I recall one stormy night in Rivendell, when I was a child, wondering what the strange noise outside my window was. I was scared too. My mother took me outside and we found a snail climbing up the glass. The next day, Master Elrond explained about the suction pads and how they make a noise rubbing against shiny smooth surfaces." He gently removed the snail from Gilavir's blade and cast it into the long grass. "There, our intruder is banished," he said. "You will have to polish your sword again, first thing tomorrow, Gilavir. After you have done so, always replace it in the scabbard. For a Ranger must look after his sword and keep it ready for battle."
"I'm sorry." Gilavir flushed scarlet.
"We were all young once," said Aragorn. "It is indeed a strange sound the first time you hear it." He squeezed Gilavir's shoulder reassuringly. "Go to sleep now, "I will keep watch now."
"Thank you." Gilavir suddenly felt extremely tired. He stumbled towards his bedroll and settled down beside Halbarad.
Aragorn took out his pipe and gazed up at the stars. Gil-Estel was already halfway through his nightly journey. He sighed; there would be little rest for him this night. Then he thought of the noisy snail and chuckled softly.
A/n. The story of the snails is based on memories of hearing a most unearthly noise one October night. It turned out to be a large snail climbing up the windowpane.