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Things of Middle-earth

Faithful Stone, The

Type: Songs & Stories

Description:[Though] they held the Drúedain in love and trust, many of the Folk of Haleth believed that they possessed uncanny and magical powers; and among their tales of marvels there were several that told of such things. One of these is recorded here.

Unfinished Tales, Part 4, Ch 1, The Drúedain

The Faithful Stone

On a time there was a Drûg named Aghan, well-known as a leech. He had a great friendship with Barach, a forester of the Folk, who lived in a house in the woods two miles or more from the nearest village. The dwellings of Aghan's family were nearer, and he spent most of his time with Barach and his wife, and was much loved by their children. There came a time of trouble, for a number of daring Orcs had secretly entered the woods nearby, and were scattered in twos and threes, waylaying any that went abroad alone, and at night attacking houses far from neighbours. The household of Barach were not much afraid, for Aghan stayed with them at night and kept watch outside. But one morning he came to Barach and said: "Friend, I have ill news from my kin, and I fear I must leave you a while. My brother has been wounded, and he lies now in pain and calls for me, since I have skill in treating Orc-wounds. I will return as soon as I may." Barach was greatly troubled, and his wife and children wept, but Aghan said: "I will do what I can. I have had a watch-stone brought here and set near your house." Barach went out with Aghan and looked at the watch-stone. It was large and heavy and sat under some bushes not far from his doors. Aghan laid his hand upon it, and after a silence said: "See, I have left with it some of my powers. May it keep you from harm!"

Nothing untoward happened for two nights, but on the third night Barach heard the shrill warning call of the Drûgs – or dreamed that he heard it, for it roused no one else. Leaving his bed he took his bow from the wall and went to a narrow window; and he saw two Orcs setting fuel against his house and preparing to kindle it. Then Barach was shaken with fear, for marauding Orcs carried with them brimstone or some other devilish stuff that was quickly inflamed and not quenched with water. Recovering himself he bent his bow, but at that moment, just as the flames leapt up, he saw a Drûg come running up behind the Orcs. One he felled with a blow of his fist, and the other fled; then he plunged barefoot into the fire, scattering the burning fuel and stamping on the Orc-flames that ran along the ground. Barach made for the doors, but when he had unbarred them and sprang out the Drûg had disappeared. There was no sign of the smitten Orc. The fire was dead, and there remained only a smoke and a stench.

Barach went back indoors to comfort his family, who had been roused by the noises and the burning reek; but when it was daylight he went out again and looked about. He found that the watch-stone had gone, but he kept that to himself. "Tonight I must be the watchman," he thought; but later in the day Aghan came back, and was welcomed with joy. He was wearing high buskins such as the Drûgs sometimes wore in hard country, among thorns or rocks, and he was weary. But he was smiling, and seemed pleased; and he said: "I bring good news. My brother is no longer in pain and will not die, for I came in time to withstand the venom. And now I learn that the marauders have been slain, or else fled. How have you fared?"

"We are still alive," said Barach. "But come with me, and I will show you and tell you more." Then he led Aghan to the place of the fire and told him of the attack in the night. "The watch-stone has gone – Orc-work, I guess. What have you to say to that?"

"I will speak, when I have looked and thought longer," said Aghan; and then he went hither and thither scanning the ground, and Barach followed him. At length Aghan led him to a thicket at the edge of the clearing in which the house stood. There the watch-stone was, sitting on a dead Orc; but its legs were all blackened and cracked, and one of its feet had split off and lay loose at its side. Aghan looked grieved; but he said: "Ah well! He did what be could. And better that his legs should trample Orc-fire than mine."

Then he sat down and unlaced his buskins, and Barach saw that under them there were bandages on his legs. Aghan undid them. "They are healing already," he said. "I had kept vigil by my brother for two nights, and last night I slept. I woke before morning came, and I was in pain, and found my legs blistered. Then I guessed what had happened. Alas! If some power passes from you to a thing that you have made, then you must take a share in its hurts."

Unfinished Tales, Part 4, Ch 1, The Drúedain: The Faithful Stone

Contributors: Tanaqui 14Jan05

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