3. The People of the Old Kings
asking for Gil. Butterbur directed them to his room
but Mrs. Butterbur blocked the stairs and gave them a
good tongue lashing for not looking after their
They listened in patient silence, with perhaps a
trace of amusement, until she got to the Barrow
Wights. Then a flash of alarm crossed Treebole's face
(1) and he picked her right off the steps, set her
gently to one side and shot up the stairs with
Silverlock (2) right behind him and Mrs. Butterbur hot
on their heels as soon as she got her breath back.
Gil was either awake or wakened the moment they
entered and smiled at them. "What's all the noise?"
Treebole crossed the room in three long strides,
took his wrist in one large hand, studied his face,
then shook his head. "Didn't I say you were using
yourself to hard?"
"Mrs. Butterbur has already given me one good
scolding," Gil pleaded, eyes twinkling, "I don't need
"Might as well save my breath for all the good it'll
do." Treebole agreed ruefully.
"Tackling Wights in your state," Silverlock shook
his head, "what were you thinking?"
"Of the two children they'd carried off." Gil
The Rangers exchanged a glance and a sigh. "There
was no help for it then." Treebole said resignedly,
gently laying down his arm. "Very well then, Rover,
we'll spare you more reproaches."
"Thank you. Do one thing more for me, see the
Barrow is cleansed. I couldn't do it last night and
Mrs. Butterbur has forbidden me to get up without her
permission, which I fear will not be given just yet."
and he gave the hostess, hovering in the doorway, a
smile that made her blush like a girl.
Mr. Butterbur was waiting for them at the foot of
the stair. "Begging your pardon, but I wanted to ask;
what should we do about this?"
'This' was the golden jewelry that had adorned the
two children, piled neatly on the Rangers' corner
table with Beomann's sword lying beside it.
"Keep it if you like," Silverlock answered, fingers
brushing lightly over rings and chains, "There's no
taint on it that I can feel." then he picked up the
sword and stiffened, eyes flashing outrage. "Mandos
consign them to your deepest dungeons!" he whispered
with frightening venom. "That they would *dare* -"
looked at Treebole. "It was Aradan's tomb."
The other Ranger set his mouth in an even grimmer
line and nodded upward. "Does *he* know that?"
"I don't see how he couldn't."
"Aradan?" Butterbur echoed blankly. "You mean King
Aradan who was killed in the Witch Wars?"
Both Rangers turned to look at him in surprise.
"That's right," Silverlock said, "You know the name?"
The Innkeeper glared. "We remember the Kings, we
fought for them in those wars."
"Indeed you did," the Ranger agreed somberly, "and
bravely too." he looked down at the sword in his hand.
"Aradan and his sons fell before the gates of their
citadel and were buried together with the knights
who'd stood by them at the last." raised dark blue
eyes to Butterbur's. "Your kin as well as ours lie in
that barrow." suddenly he extended the sword, hilt
first to the Innkeeper. "Give this to your son. The
brave Man who bore it would be glad for him to have
Butterbur took the sword automatically, eyes never
leaving Silverlock's. "The King's People," he breathed
wonderingly, "that's who you Rangers really are. You
didn't die or go to the Elves, you've been right here
"Where we belong." said Silverlock.
Several of the Men who'd followed the Rover out to
the Downs the night before, including Butterbur
himself, decided to go back with Treebole and
Not that they could be of much help in finding the
barrow, what with the fog and the dark and all. Luckily
the Rangers didn't need assistance but followed a trail
the Breelanders couldn't even see, unerringly to the
long Barrow beneath the steep face of a down. The door
gaped blackly as ever by daylight and a slight chill
still hung about the place.
Treebole knelt down to cut a big square in the turf
and roll back the dry winter grass. Then he and
Silverlock went into the barrow to bring out the bones
and pile them on the bare earth.
It was a nasty job but Butterbur remembered what
Silverlock had said about some of those bones
belonging to his kin, gritted his teeth and pitched
in. And after some hesitation the other Breelanders
When they finished the bones, including some ten or
fifteen skulls, were in a big heap and the Breelanders
drew back a little, uncertainly, to see what the
Rangers would do next. First they covered the bones
with shreded silk and tufts of dry grass, then
Silverlock took a crystal from his coat and used it to
focus the sun's rays on the tinder. After a long
minute it began to smoke then caught little pale
flames running all over the pile.
Butterbur cleared his throat. "Why -?"
"Sunfire cleanses." Treebole explained quietly,
glanced at his troubled face and added: "If we just
buried the bones the Wights could reclaim them. This
is the only way to keep that from happening."
"Oh." There was something funny about the fire, the
flames were pale but burned very bright and hot -
almost like the sun.
Then Silverlock began to sing, a strange, slow song
in words Butterbur couldn't understand but which
filled his head with visions of high walled cities and
sceptered kings, a golden land patterned with
prosperous farms and towns and a darkness held
at bay by shining swords.
The song ended. Butterbur sniffed and rubbed away
the tears rolling down his cheeks with his sleeve. His
neighbors' faces were wet too, but none of them could
Silverlock and Treebole went back into the barrow
and came out carrying armloads of treasure; gold and
silver jewelry glittering with gems, swords and
daggers, and shields ensigned with stars and trees and
ships and other devices. This they spread on the grass
and invited the Bree Men to take whatever they fancied
and leave the rest lie in the clean sunlight, free to
"But - it's wrong to rob the dead." Will Rushlight
"The Wights have already done that," Treebole
answered, "this is how we break their hold and cleanse
the barrow of their presence."
"The King and his knights passed long ago beyond
the circles of this world," Silverlock added kindly,
"they care nothing for treasure now."
He bent and took from the heap a circlet of tiny
leaves in bright silver with a green beryl stone set
above the brow. Looked at it rather sadly for a
moment, before saying; "I chose this."
Treebole silently selected a big red-golden broach
in the shape of a coiled dragon. Thus encouraged the
Breelanders began to pick through the glittering pile.
Butterbur chose a chain of gold and pearl for his
Missis, another of adamant and beryl and topaz for
Peggy, a pair of wide silver bracelets set with
sapphires for May and an opal ring for Lusey. After a
moment's hesitation he also took a long dagger, its
blade damasked in a flame pattern of red and gold, for
young Gerry, since Beomann already had his sword.
For himself he took one of the shields, bright
gold, ensigned with sprig of butterbur in green with
purple flowers. Why a knight of old would have been
carrying it he couldn't imagine, but it would look
well over the bar.
1. So called for his height, even greater than that of
most Rangers. His real name is Arallas son of Dornlas,
(the same Arallas who is Captain of the Gate of Swords
in 'Return') at one hundred and nineteen years he is
accounted old even by the Dunendain.
2. So called for his silver blond hair. His real name
is Elfaron son of Ithilion. His ancestors were nobles
holding land on the River Lune. He inherits his silver
hair from an ancestress who was a Nandorin Elf of the
The Nandor, btw, are Elves who left the Great
Journey to settle on the banks of the Anduin and in
Eriador. Though accounted 'Dark Elves' they are
considered a cut above the Avari who refused the
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.