1. Circle of Faith by Linda Hoyland
2. Eclipse of Reason by Linda Hoyland
3. The Darkening of Valinor by Linda Hoyland
4. The Dark of the Moon by Linda Hoyland
B2MeM Challenge: Image prompt: Standing Stones
A group of standing stones. Why are they here? Where do they come from?
Format: Short story
Characters: Aragorn, Arwen, Faramir
Pairings: Aragorn/Arwen, OMC/OFC
Summary: An ancient circle of stones attracts the attention of the Ambassador from Harad and his wife.
One afternoon in early spring, Arwen and Éowyn paid a visit to Lady Adiva. They were surprised to find their hostess unusually excited. As soon as her devoted maid, Falah had served the sherbet tea, she said, “Are the stones not wonderful?”
The other ladies looked puzzled. Arwen glanced towards Adiva’s hands and throat, thinking that maybe the devoted Tahir had given her a new ring, necklace or bracelet.
Éowyn was more forthright; “Stones?” she asked.” What stones?”
“The stone circle on the Pelennor Fields,” Adiva replied. “When Tahir and I went out riding yesterday, we chose a different route than the one we usually take and we came across the temple.”
“Temple?” Arwen sounded baffled.
“The stones form a perfect moon circle, a temple in which to worship the Lord and Lady of the Moon,” said Adiva.
“Ah. Estel told me the stones were very ancient and no man knew exactly what they were used for originally,” said Arwen. “He thought it might have been a kind of calendar by which the ancients marked the passage of the seasons.”
“Exactly,” said Adiva. “The first full moon of spring will rise directly above the highest stone and the Lord and Lady will convey blessings on all who witness it. I wondered, esteemed Lady Arwen, if my husband and I might be permitted to worship there next week?”
“I shall ask Estel to find out to whom that part of the Pelennor belongs,” said Arwen. “I am certain something could be arranged if the King requests it.
“My thanks, esteemed Lady Arwen. May the sun’s ray never burn you!” Adiva smiled her gratitude. “If we are permitted to hold the ceremony, we would be honoured if you would join us that you might share in the Lord and Lady’s blessings.”
Arwen raised the matter of the stone circle when she dined with Aragorn that evening.
“I always believed the circle was something to do with sun worship,” he said. “Master Elrond told me that ancient man venerated the sun in the same way the Elves do the stars. Maybe your grandsire might know?”
“Adiva’s folk dislike the sun, as its rays burn so fiercely in their lands,” said Arwen. “She is convinced it was built to honour the moon.”
“Maybe the ancients worshipped both,” Aragorn mused.
“It seems to mean a lot to Adiva that she and her family see the full moon rise within the circle if the landowners permit it,” said Arwen. “She has invited us to attend too.”
“I will ask Faramir to find out tomorrow,” said Aragorn. “Then I will send a message to Tahir and Adiva.”
The royal couple said no more on the matter, but concentrated instead on the delicious meal of freshly caught trout that their cooks had prepared for them.
The next morning when the King and Steward began their work, Aragorn asked Faramir to find out who might own the stone circle. The King then turned his attention to studying a lengthy and complicated trade agreement with Rhûn. He was about half way through the document when Faramir entered, clutching an ancient looking parchment.
“I discovered who owns the stone circle,” said the Steward.
“Who?” asked Aragorn.
“You do,” said the Steward. “Or rather the Crown does.”
“I thought the Pelennor Fields were sold off to the farmers who tended the land in the reign of Calimehtar,” said Aragorn.
“When King Calimehtar sold off the land to the tenant farmers no one wanted to buy the field where the stones were,” said Faramir. “It was offered to several possible buyers, but two feared the stones would damage their ploughs, a third complained the stones would be impossible to remove and two more claimed the presence of the ancient stones unnerved them. Calimehtar decided it would be less trouble to keep the land rather than try to foist it off on some reluctant buyer.”
“Well that is good news for Tahir and Adiva then,” said Aragorn. “Some of the farmers might have objected to the use of their land for a religious ritual of a former enemy, especially so close to the anniversary of the great battle. For my part, worshipping the moon is as good a use for the stone circle as any other. I have always found the moon faith to be benign.”
“Welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, love the land, shun what is evil,and succour those in need, are the main tenets of Tahir and Adiva’s faith,” said Faramir.
“Members of their tribe who follow those beliefs once saved my life,” said Aragorn. ”Their beliefs are not very different to those of the Faithful. I think I shall accept their invitation to greet the spring moon. It will be a chance to ride out before the New Year celebrations have to occupy my time. Who would not want to celebrate this fair time of year?”
“I will come too,” said Faramir. “Éowyn and the children are returning to Ithilien tomorrow. It should be a pleasant way to spend an evening.”
“I will send a message telling Tahir and Adiva they can hold their ceremony,” said Aragorn. “I promised them I would tell them today.”
“They will be pleased,” said Faramir. “I hope, though, that they will not attract hostile attention from folk who have no love for Harad.”
“It is an isolated spot. I doubt they will be disturbed and they should be able to follow their faith in peace in my land. I would not act like the Dark Lord!”
“I agree with you,” said Faramir. “I just feel uneasy. That is all.”
“We shall see,” said Aragorn. “Now I would welcome your thoughts on this trade agreement.”
The night of the full moon was clear, but somewhat chill with a hint of frost in the air when Aragorn, Arwen, Éowyn, and Faramir rode out towards the stone circle. The air was fragrant with early spring blossom and the four enjoyed a twilight canter across the fields.
Tahir and Adiva were already present together with many of their household and their older children. The Ambassador was clad in ceremonial garb, a deep blue robe embroidered in silver with designs of the moon in its various phases, while his family were all wearing blue robes edged with silver in honour of the Lord and Lady of the Moon. Tahir and Adiva greeted their friends warmly and insisted that they stand beside them for the ceremony.
“Gracious Lord and Lady, we greet you at the hour of your union!” intoned Tahir, raising his arms towards the heavens.
“Gracious Lord and Lady, we seek your blessings upon us,” cried Adiva. “Hide your light not from us!”
As she spoke, the full moon appeared from behind the largest stone and the circle was bathed in silver light. High above the moon, bright stars twinkled. It was an awesome sight. No one spoke for a few moments as they drank in the beauty of the night sky.
Tahir and Adiva led their household in a hymn of praise to the moon.
“Behold how Lady Varda’s stars shine amongst the stones!” Arwen whispered in her husband’s ear. “I believe this place is sacred to her too. Maybe the Eldar built this place? I believe this circle is indeed a temple.”
“I have an idea,” said Aragorn. He drew her and Faramir a little aside to confer with them while the Haradrim finished their hymn. Once the ceremony had concluded, he called Tahir and Adiva to his side. “The Queen and I would like to give you this land to use as a place of worship,” he said. “We know you will cherish it and protect the stones.”
“Our joy overwhelms us, most honoured friends that you would give us such a gracious gift!” cried Tahir. “May you dwell forever beside an oasis!”
“The Lord and Lady will surely bless you with great abundance,” said Adiva. “May their light ever shine upon your path.”
“As I worship the One upon the mountain, it is fitting that you too should have a place to honour your Lord and Lady,” said Aragorn. “Your tribe always held fast to the light and are now turning your land away from the darkness that consumed it.”
Faramir was in a thoughtful mood as he rode home with his wife and the King and Queen. “Do you think that Lord Celeborn will be able to tell us about the history of the stone circle?” he asked after they had ridden in silence for a while. “It seemed fitting to worship here tonight with our former enemies so close to the anniversary of the great battle,” he said.
“I agree,” said Aragorn. “These fields need blessings after so much bloodshed. I believe Lady Yavanna has blessed our land since that time while Tahir and Adiva believe their Lord and Lady have blessed them too.”
“I wish I had thought to ask Mithrandir about the circle before he departed, but the stones were just something that were always there that I did not think deeply about,” said Faramir. “Maybe, if anything, I liked their air of mystery.”
“They were always a sacred place,” said Arwen. “The stars told me that tonight.”
“The horses seemed at ease in the place which tells me it is wholesome,” said Éowyn.
“Maybe it is better we do not delve too deeply,” said Aragorn. “The sacred will always be mysterious. Tahir and Adiva will bring new sacred mysteries to an ancient place. I believe a place becomes holy through the faith of the many who worship there, reaching out towards and praising the One revealed through the Great Music of creation.”
Eclipse of Reason
B2MeM Challenge; Solar Eclipse
It began as a perfectly ordinary day. Aragorn had spent the morning attending an excessively tedious meeting, during which the Council had debated for three hours whether or not the levy on silk imported from Harad should be reduced or not. By the time the debate was concluded, the King was hungry and looking forward to enjoying the noonday meal with Arwen. Faramir was also invited, as was Ambassador Tahir, who had been invited to put the case to the Council for reducing the taxes on his country’s imports.
The King and his guests were enjoying a glass of wine prior to the meal when the light began to dim.
“It looks like rain,” said Faramir. “Yet, there was not a cloud in the sky when we left the meeting!” He walked over to the window and looked out. “Strange,” he said, “the sky is almost cloudless, but there is a small shadow over a little of Arien’s brightness. I think it might be an eclipse! I have not seen one in years.”
“The astronomers told me that they believed one was imminent, but they are far harder to predict than when Arien’s light obscures Tilion’s,” said Aragorn. “I think I should order the Citadel Guards to patrol the streets in case the eclipse alarms the people.”
“A wise suggestion,” said Faramir. “They will remember all too well the foul darkness of the Enemy’s making that obscured the sun.”
Tahir had fallen to his knees in front of the window. He raised his arms skywards. “The Lord and Lady be praised! Today they challenge the burning one’s might! If my honoured friends would excuse me, I must go at once to the temple to worship the Lord and Lady.”
Arwen smiled understandingly. “Of course, we excuse you. You are welcome to dine with us another day, Tahir.”
Tahir hurried away while Aragorn despatched a message to the Captain of the Citadel Guards.
“Eldarion must see this,” said Arwen. “I will tell the servants to postpone serving our meal and ask them to bring a piece of smoked glass so he can safely behold Lady Arien.”
“He should not gaze at the sun for more than the briefest instant even through smoked glass,” said Aragorn. “I would not have him damage his eyes.”
“You are ever the healer, my love,” said Arwen. “We shall be very careful, I promise you.”
“I think I will take a ride through the City,” said Aragorn. “If the eclipse makes my people nervous, it might reassure them to have me come amongst them.”
“I will come with you,” said Faramir.
“I will be glad of your company.”
The King and Steward found that an eerie silence had fallen over the City. The everyday hustle and bustle had ceased. Few birds sang. The marketplace was deserted and most folk appeared to be within doors. Some folk stood outside their houses gazing apprehensively at the ever- darkening sky.
“There is nought to fear, ‘tis simply the shadow of the moon falling across the sun,” Aragorn reassured an anxious looking woman.
“I know, sire,” she replied. “It is just that darkness in the day seems so unnatural. It reminds me of the war. I shall stay at home until it passes.”
“That is wise, mistress,” said Faramir.
Aragorn and Faramir paused to speak similar reassuring words to others they encountered, assuring the people that the sun would return and this was not the work of some new enemy, nor the old one returned.
In the lower circles of the City, there were far more folk abroad in the streets and they all seemed uneasy. The presence of the patrolling Guards did little to ease the tension. Folk here lived by their wits and saw the Guards as a hindrance rather than a protection in their everyday lives, unlike the more prosperous people who lived higher up. Aragorn did all he could to ease poverty and ensure his subjects did not go hungry, but many of the poor were suspicious of anyone in authority.
The notable exceptions to the overall mood were the Haradrim, many of whom had come to seek their fortunes in Gondor after the war and dwelt in the somewhat dilapidated first circle while working towards better times ahead. They were in a joyful mood and whole families were making their way towards the City gates.
The Guards at the gate eyed them suspiciously. “Where might all you folk be a- going?” he asked. “You don’t know something that we don’t do you? They say rats dessert a sinking ship.”
“We go to worship our Lord and Lady, honoured sir,” said one woman in heavily accented Weston.
“Let them through,” said Aragorn. “I gave them the stone circle in the fields as their temple and my permission to worship there.”
The Guard opened the gates albeit with bad grace, muttering under his breath about “foreign ways.” A small crowd of Gondorians had gathered to watch.
“I reckon them foreigners ‘have something to do with this here darkness,” said one man.
“It just ain’t natural,” said a second.
“They worship the Dark Lord,” said a third. “They be using dark magic to blot out the sun!”
“The Haradrim who worship the moon were ever against Sauron,” said Aragorn. “They fought because their leaders told them they must.”
“It didn’t stop them killing our loved ones though!” the man replied.
“Our long fathers taught us of the darkening of the sun, but did Sauron teach the Haradrim to veil Arien’s light at will?” said a fourth.
“Nonsense!” said Aragorn. “We are experiencing a natural event where the moon briefly overshadows the sun. It will pass soon and the sun will return.”
“Who are you?” asked the first man.
“Your King,” said Aragorn.
“The King wouldn’t be down amongst the likes of us,” said the second man.
“He is here,” said Faramir. “As am I, your Steward.”
Aragorn’s Guards moved closer, their hands on their swords. Aragorn gestured them to stay where they were.
“I am your King and I tell you there is nought to fear,” said Aragorn.
The three men and glanced at the Citadel Guards and slunk away.
“It is unwise to stay in this part of the City, sire,” fretted one of Aragorn’s Guards. “The people are afraid and restless.”
“All the more reason I should be here.”
“I beg you, my lord, consider your safety!”
Aragorn looked around him. The streets were deserted. In the strange half- light, all seemed calm enough now. The City seemed oddly oppressive, though. He would be glad when the sun returned.
Faramir looked up at the darkening sky and he was filled with foreboding. He guided his horse closer to Aragorn’s and spoke in a low voice. “ It is too quiet. I sense some mischief afoot,” he said. “I fear some attack on Tahir and his people.”
“They are out of sight at the Stone Circle and should be safe enough,” said Aragorn. “We could ride out in that direction, though. We would get a better view of the eclipse on the Pelennor and I would be glad to escape the City.”
“Thank you,” said Faramir.
Outside the gates, he could see the Haradrim hastening in small groups towards the circle. They were chanting a hymn of praise to the moon. He was struck with a sudden desire to join them in welcoming the eclipse rather than treating it as some disaster. “I have decided to ride out to the stone circle to view the eclipse from the Pelennor,” he announced. He gestured to the guard at the gate to let the small party through.
It had grown ever darker. A confused owl began to hoot as Aragorn and Faramir rode out across the Pelennor. Both men were accustomed to riding in the countryside at night from their Ranger days. Somehow, the darkness seemed less unsettling away from the City walls. A few of the brightest stars could be seen twinkling overhead.
They rode in the direction of the stone circle, which Aragorn had given to Tahir and his people to use as a temple, but they kept a discreet distance, not wishing to intrude upon their devotions. The Haradrim were all on their knees, singing hymns of praise to the moon.
The guards eyed the worshippers somewhat suspiciously. One murmured, “It doesn’t seem natural to worship darkness like these folk do.”
“They do not, “Aragorn said curtly. “They venerate the moon. If you lived in a land where the sun’s rays seared you mercilessly by day, you might well do likewise.”
One of Faramir’s guards spoke. “The sun was indeed hard to endure when I accompanied you, my lords, on your recent visit to Harad. A few days were more than enough for me!”
“Quite so,” said Aragorn.
The eclipse would soon near its climax when the sun would be completely blotted out from view. The worshippers’ songs grew ever more joyful.
Suddenly, Aragorn became aware of the sound of marching feet and shouting. He wheeled his horse around. His heart sank as his keen eyes made out a mob marching towards the stone circle. They were armed with a variety of weapons, no doubt left over from the War of the Ring. He turned to Faramir, who had also turned his horse around. “I fear your forebodings have come to pass,” he said.
“We must stop them,” said Faramir. “There are women and children at the stone circle”
Aragorn nodded grimly. Not to mention the threat of war with the Kha Khan and the prospect of many dead and wounded. The Haradrim who dwelt in Gondor were mostly peaceful folk from the merchant clans, but they came from a fierce people who would fight to the death if their families and their faith were threatened. The eclipse was nearing its zenith. It would last but a moment, but much mischief could be wrought in a very short time.
The guards had finally noticed the approach of the mob. “My lords, we shall escort you to safety,” said one.
“I am your King, the victor of many battles, not a frail babe in arms,” said Aragorn. “Shame on me if I should flee from a handful of rogues!” He drew Andúril and rode full tilt towards the angry mob. Faramir rode close behind him, his hand on his own sword.
Aragorn brought Roheryn to a halt a short distance from the mob. The warhorse pawed at the ground and whinnied, sensing his master’s mood. “Men of Gondor, go home!” he cried in his most commanding tone. “Your King commands you!”
“Begging your pardon, sire, but we can’t let those foreigners harm Lady Arien,” cried one. “They’re allowing Tilion to ravish her using the Dark Lord’s evil magic!”
“We mean to save Lady Arien,” cried another.
“Within the hour, Lady Arien will shine as brightly as ever,” said Aragorn. “An eclipse is rare, but it is natural and the sun is unharmed. Go home now and you will not be punished and no one will be hurt. You are stout men and true, but there is no enemy here, save fear.”
The men hesitated but did not turn around.
“Do you not trust your King?” cried Faramir.
The crowd murmured amongst themselves.
“I Aragorn, son of Arathorn, Captain of the Host of the West, bearer of the Star of the North, wielder of the Sword Reforged, victorious in battle, the Elfstone, Elessar of the line of Valandil, Isildur’s son, Elendil’s son of Númenor give you my word of honour that the sun will return. Now return to the City!” Aragorn swung Andúril aloft and cried out in a loud commanding voice.
There was a moment’s silence then the men turned around and started back towards the City gates.
Aragorn and Faramir watched them depart then turned back towards the stone circle, just before the last slim remnant of the sun slipped behind the largest stone. The stars twinkled brightly thought it was not long past the middle of the day. The voices of the Haradrim soared in praise.
Then within moments, a slither of the sun reappeared, looking like a crescent moon only far brighter. Aragorn and Faramir looked away to protect their eyes. The Haradrim began a lament, a mournful wailing dirge.
“How differently, our two peoples see the sun and the moon,” said Faramir. “We are blessed that we can enjoy the light of both.”
By the time, the two wheeled their horses about to return to the City, the sun was shining, though still partially obscured by the moon. The birds sang merrily in the treetops. It had returned to being an ordinary day.
B2MeM Prompt and Path: The Darkening of Valinor. Purple Path.
Format: Ficlet, chapter.
Genre: Childhood, drama.
Characters: Aragorn, Eldarion, Morgoth, Ungoliant
The characters are the Property of Tolkien and his heirs.
"Ada, you're home!" cried Eldarion as his father appeared in his bedchamber that evening. He sat up straight in bed. "You missed the eclipse, it was such fun."
Aragorn planted a kiss on his son's forehead and gestured to the nanny to leave. "I didn't miss it, ion nîn, I watched it with Ambassador Tahir and his family in the stone circle."
"Why couldn't you have watched it with Naneth and I?" Eldarion pouted.
"Some of the people were frightened," Aragorn explained. "As King, it was my duty to be there to reassure them."
"I wasn't frightened at all," said Eldarion. "Naneth's maid was, though, she said it was like the darning of Valinor. What's that Ada? Did the Elves have holes in their stockings?"
"The Darkening of Valinor," Aragorn corrected.
"What's the Darkening of Valinor, then? I know Valinor is where the Elves and the Valar live, but why do they want to live there if it's dark?"
"I had come to tell you a bedtime story while Naneth feeds your sister and puts her to bed, but the Darkening of Valinor is a scary story with an evil monster best kept for the morning light."
"I'm a big boy now, I don't get scared. I wasn't scared at all of the eclipse. I like monsters too!"
Aragorn sighed and settled himself on the foot of the bed, disturbing the nursery cat who had been sleeping there. The cat gave him a baleful stare and started to groom herself.
"Very well," said Aragorn. "I hope you do not have nightmares, though." He remained lost in thought for a moment, remembering when Master Elrond had told him his story and wondering how much he should tell Eldarion. He absent mindedly stroked the cat as he began. "Long, long ago there was no sun and no moon and Valinor was illuminated by the light of two beautiful trees."
Eldarion looked sceptical. "Two trees? How could they be big and tall enough to light everywhere?"
"They were magical trees and things were different in that long ago time," said Aragorn. "Ask Grandfather Celeborn when he next visits, as your Grandmother Galadriel remembers the trees and would have told him about them. Our own White Tree is the image of Telperion, the tree that gave light at night."
"Oh." Eldarion lapsed into silence.
"Long, long ago, the King of the Valar, Lord Manwë , held a great feast and all the Valar and the Eldar were invited. The Enemy in those days was Morgoth and he was even more terrible than Sauron. He devised a wicked plot as he hated both the Valar and the Eldar."
"Why?" asked Eldarion.
Aragorn had to think for a moment. "I suppose because he was jealous of them. They could make beautiful things and he could create nothing."
"So what happened?" Eldarion demanded. "What did this Morgoth do?"
"Morgoth asked an evil giant spider called Ungoliant to aid him with his wicked plan. Ungoliant helped Morgoth reach the Two Trees by shrouding both herself and her ally in magic webs of pure darkness. Ungoliant drank the sap from the Two Trees and with it their light, after Morgoth wounded them with his great spear. The trees withered and died and Valinor was plunged into darkness."
"For how long?" asked Eldarion. "The eclipse didn't last very long. Was it for longer than that?"
"Fifty long years the darkness lasted, while by the light of the stars alone, the Valar created the sun and moon from two fruits that Lady Yavanna and Lady Nienna managed to save from the Two Trees."
"What a long time it took them!" said Eldarion.
"I doubt fifty years is very long for the Valar," said Aragorn. "That time is known as the Long Night, though."
"What happened next? Did the Elves get lost in the dark?" Eldarion asked.
That is another long story for another day, ion nîn," Aragorn said firmly. "It is time now for you to sleep." He dislodged the indignant cat, which had settled on his lap and rose from the bed and tucked the covers firmly around Eldarion.
"Ada?"Eldarion's voice trembled a little.
"Yes, dear one?"
"Could anyone destroy the sun and the moon now like they destroyed the Two Trees in olden days?"
"The sun and the moon are quite safe, ion nîn." Aragorn smiled at his son and walked towards the door.
Aragorn turned back to face Eldarion's bed. "Yes, ion nîn. What else troubles you? I warned you this story might give you nightmares."
"I'm not scared, Ada. I told you I'm a big boy now. I just wanted to ask you if you'd take me to see the stone circle. We've passed it at a distance and it looks fun."
"It belongs to Ambassador Tahir now so we will have to ask him if we can visit. Maybe one day we could watch the moon rise above the stones if he agrees. Would you like that, Eldarion?"
There was no answer. Eldarion was already asleep. Aragorn made to extinguish the lamp. His hand faltered slightly as he thought of the Two Trees. He glanced out of the window at the moon shining serenely in the sky. He extinguished the lamp and went to join Arwen and his baby daughter. It had been a long day, but tomorrow the sun would rise again over a kingdom at peace.
Title: The Dark of the Moon
Theme: The Stars at Night
Author's Notes: This is part of my story “Circle of Faith”, but I hope may be read alone. It is actually the shadow of the earth that causes a lunar eclipse.
Summary: Arwen is invited to witness a lunar eclipse at the Stone Circle, but does the prescence of Carnil in the sky foretell danger?
Arwen reluctantly got up from the cushions on which she had been reclining. “I promised the children I would eat the noonday meal with them,” she said. “So I must bid you farewell. Would you and Tahir like to join Estel and me for the Day meal in a week's time?”
“Alas, most honoured friend, but we cannot. Next week is a day of mourning for our people.” Adiva wrung her hands sadly. “The cruel Wolf of the Sun will devour our Lord and Lady of the Moon. We must spend the day in prayer and fasting that he will spit them out again.”
“I have not heard you speak of the wolf before,” said Arwen.
“I shall tell the story to you as it appears in the sacred scrolls, esteemed friend. The Sun desired to rule both the day and the night and all creatures to worship him. He went travelling throughout Middle-earth. One day, he came across ashe- wolf and her cubs. The wolf told him to go away as she wanted to howl praises to the moon. This angered the Sun and he stole one of her cubs and using dark magic, taught him how to devour our Lord and Lady. However, the she- wolf told the High Priest and Priestess of the Moon what had happened and they taught them special chants and prayers to make her cub regurgitate our Lord and Lady. Until this day, our prayers have saved them, but it is a day of mourning for our people.
“I am sorry,” said Arwen.
“Do not be, esteemed friend, for now we are free to pray for the rescue of our Lord and Lady. When the followers of the false Lord of Gifts ruled our land, they would celebrate and dance and sing while we had to pray and grieve in secret. Now we can practise our faith openly. We will hold a ceremony in the Stone Circle at moonrise and you are most welcome to join us, esteemed friend, together with your most honoured husband.”
Arwen was thoughtful for a moment. Although, she did not share her friend's faith, she loved to be beneath the stars. “I will think about it,” she promised before embracing Adiva and bidding her farewell.
That evening, as was their custom, the King and Queen dined together.
“You look troubled tonight, Estel,” said Arwen. “You have hardly spoken to me.”
“I am sorry, vanimelda. I have much on my mind. This afternoon, the Guards found two merchants from Harad murdered in the first circle. This is the third such attack in the space of a few short weeks. Ambassador Tahir fears the rebel factions are gaining in strength as those killed were either favoured by the Kha Khan or fervent devotees of the moon faith.”
“How can you be certain that the murders are connected with the rival factions within Harad, Estel? There are, sadly, some men of Gondor who bear grudges against their former enemies.”
“All the murder victims had the Lidless Eye carved into their flesh either just before or shortly after they died,” Aragorn said grimly. “The Men of the West hate that mark too much to use it even on their worse enemies.”
“I know that remnants of the Sauron supporters are still active in Harad,” said Arwen. “But why should they kill their fellow countrymen who have settled here?”
“Tahir believes the murders are seeking to frighten the Haradrim to return home and weaken the alliance we have formed with the Kha Khan,” said Aragorn. “The prosperity increased trade between our peoples brings helps him retain his grip on the diverse tribes.” He sighed. “As soon as one rebel faction is defeated, another springs up. I will meet with Tahir again tomorrow to discuss the situation. But enough of such gloomy talk. Did you enjoy your visit to Adiva this morning?”
“She is always pleasant company,” said Arwen. “Today, though, she was lamenting that the Wolf of the Sun was about to devour the moon. She invited me to attend the ceremony at the Stone circle to prevent the catastrophe.”
“I had forgotten about the eclipse,” said Aragorn. “My grandmother always said there was trouble afoot if an eclipse occurred when Carnil was bright in the night sky.”
“I cannot recall my father saying anything about that,” said Arwen.
“It was most likely an old wives' tale. After what happened at the last eclipse, though, I am taking no chances. I am posting as many Guards as can be spared along the route to the Stone Circle. You should accept Adiva's invitation . I might even join you there myself, we should show our support for those from Harad who desire to dwell peacefully in our midst.”
“I always feel close to Lady Varda beneath the night sky,” said Arwen. “We shall accept Adiva' s invitation.
Arwen was in a thoughtful mood as she rode out of the City Gates. Watchful guards were everywhere. It seemed that every native of Harad who dwelt there was also on their way to the stone circle. Beside her, Aragorn was equally pensive. During the last few days he had seemed preoccupied.
He now turned to her and said, “I fear I have other business to attend to tonight, vanimelda, I will explain all later.” He melted away into the shadows. From those same shadows, another figure emerged. For a moment, Arwen thought her husband had changed his mind. Then she saw the newcomer was Faramir wearing a near identical cloak and sitting on a near identical horse to Roheryn.
“I fear I am but a poor substitute for your husband but I hope I may play his part tonight and escort you , my lady.” said the Steward.
“I shall be glad of your company,” said Arwen. “I trust Estel will explain all later.”
Just then Adiva approached them accompanied by her maid and her children. There was no sign of Tahir. “May the sun never burn you, honoured friend!” she said. “I am glad that you can join me on this doleful night. Alas, my esteemed husband is stricken with a sudden severe malady and he cannot rise from his bed! He said that I and our eldest son should lead the ceremonies.”
“Alas,” said Arwen. “That is ill news indeed. Have you sent for the healer?”
“My honoured husband had me send for him, esteemed friend, but he cannot tell what ails my husband and can do nothing. Our people are most upset. It is most inauspicious that my honoured husband should fall ill upon this doleful day. I did not like to leave him as all the servants are coming to the ceremony tonight, but he insisted.”
“Maybe Estel could heal your husband,” Arwen suggested. “He was to be here too, but other matters called him from my side.”
Adiva glanced up at the sky. “We must hurry or our prayers will be of no avail to the Lord and Lady of the Moon.”
Arwen had always been told that a lunar eclipse happened when Arien became angry with Tilion's pursuit of her and blotted out his light with her chariot for a time. She doubted, though, it would ease Adiva's sorrow to tell her this and she remained silent. The devout Ambassador's wife believed fervently in her people's faith.
It seemed that the entire population of immigrants from Harad were assembled within or around the Stone Circle. There were also a few Gondorians who knew this was an excellent place to get a good view of the eclipse. They stood a little way apart from the moon worshippers.
The moon shone brightly in the night sky. Arwen, as always looked for the Star of Earendil. How often when she and Estel had been courting, had she been comforted that it light shone upon them both. Tonight she could see Carnil'sreddish glow nearby. She hoped that Dame Ivorwen had been wrong about it signifying trouble. She glanced around her. The presence of the Guards, hovering in the shadow would surely prevent anyone trying to disrupt the worship here tonight. The stars twinkled like diamonds against an almost black sky. It was beautiful and Arwen sent up a silent prayer of gratitude to Lady Varda.
Suddenly, a shadow fell upon the edge of the moon. The Haradrim let out cries and moans of distress. Some fell to their knees while others raised their arms to the sky.
Adiva and her eldest son cried out together in a loud voice, “Be of good cheer, great Lord and Lady, we, your faithful servants stand beside you in your hour of need. Cruel Sun, tether your savage wolf! The day is your domain! Do not covet the night which belongs to our Lord and Lady.”
The chanting and crying continued as more and more of the moon disappeared. For a while it appeared as if indeed some giant beast were nibbling at it. Time passed and Arwen marvelled at the patience of the mo0n worshippers. In her experience, the second born children of Eru Ilúvatar usually were restless and prone to fidgeting. In the background, the Guards coughed and yawned, but the Haradrim maintained their vigil.
When the last sliver of light vanished and only a dim reddish circle was left, the crowd fell silent, If a leaf had stirred in the breeze, Arwen would have heard it. The Haradrim began to weep and Adiva spoke a prayer in a tongue that Arwen had no knowledge of. She then started to howl like a wolf and the others joined her. Arwen shivered.
“Are you well, my lady?” Faramir enquired.
“I am, but the sound is quite disturbing.” Arwen had almost forgotten the Steward's presence at her side. In the darkness, he could easily pass as her husband.
She gazed up at the stars, which now seemed to shine more brightly than before.
A tiny sliver of light appeared on the moon's surface. The crowd seemed to be holding its breath as the sliver grew larger.
Arwen started as Tahir's voice cried out, “Return to us, Lord and Lady! May our prayers give you strength!”
“Vanimelda, mellon nîn!” He took Arwen's arm and led her away from the worshippers. Faramir followed.
“Did you heal Tahir?” Arwen asked.
“He was never ill. I am sorry I did not confide in you,vanimelda, but I feared you would wish to reassure Adiva about her husband's health and it was vital that all the Haradrim thought he was helpless and confined to his bed.”
“And I took the King's place tonight so everyone would think the City was devoid of her ruler and most of her Guard,” said Faramir.
“You gave me the idea, Arwen, as to how we might catch the killer who has been preying on the Haradrim merchants when you told me about the ceremony for the eclipse,” Aragorn continued. “I feared that the killer might next attack Tahir as the leader of the peace loving Haradrim in Gondor, so we laid a trap. We knew the murderer was a follower of Sauron and would not go to a ceremony to honour the peaceful moon deities whom they despise, so Tahir pretended to be ill in his bed, while I and six of my best men concealed ourselves nearby. We caught the killer climbing in through the window with a knife in his hand. The Guards took him away to await trial. He was yelling “All hail the Lord of Gifts” as we took him away.”
Arwen shuddered. “I am glad he will prey on the innocent no more,” she said. “It saddens me that although Sauron is no more, his evil lingers and-”
A sudden shout of joy from the Haradrim worshippers interrupted her. She looked up and saw that more than half of the moon was shining brightly again.
“There will always be evil but there is also much good,” said Aragorn. “Let us rejoin our friends as they celebrate.”
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