34. The Dark Tower
With thanks to Virtuella.
A belated birthday gift for Silivren Tinu
Child Rowland to the dark tower came,
His word was still 'Fie, foh, and fum
I smell the blood of a British man.
King Lear, Act 3, scene 4; Shakespeare
Everyone avoided the tower. It was said that the forbidding edifice was where a cruel lord had imprisoned his daughter when she rejected the rich merchant he desired her to wed and instead set her heart instead on a brave but poor soldier.
Neither the girl nor her lover were ever seen again. Rumours flew amongst the country-folk who lived nearby. Some said the girl had starved to death and her bones were in the tower still, others said she had hurled herself to her death from the topmost window and her unquiet spirit haunted the tower to this day.
As for her lover, it was said that he had thrown himself despairingly into the heat of battle and been slain by the enemy.
Whatever the truth, the tower had stood empty for many years and the stones were starting to crumble. Dwellings were still in short supply after the war, as was masonry, but no one would make use of the abandoned tower.
One day Aragorn and Faramir were out hunting in the woods near where the tower stood.
"I wonder why that tower is derelict," Faramir mused.
"For a good reason no doubt," Aragorn replied.
Aragorn did not appear interested, but Faramir's curiosity was aroused. He spotted a woodcutter and rode over to speak to him. He enquired why the tower had been left derelict. The old man faithfully related the stories he had heard.
"I would like to explore it," said Faramir.
"You do not fear the ghosts then?" Aragorn teased.
"Not when I am with one who had power over them!" Faramir retorted. "Or are you fearful of meeting any more unquiet spirits?"
"No, but I would liefer let the ghosts of the past remain buried there," Aragorn said gravely.
"I have never known you resist a challenge," said Faramir. "My curiosity is piqued. I should like to take a look, unless you expressly forbid it."
"Why would I do that?" A faraway look flickered in the King's eyes.
"There is something you are not telling me. Do not forget that I can sense your thoughts, my friend."
Aragorn sighed and shook his head resignedly. "I will race you to the tower then since you are so eager to see it!" he said, preparing to urge Roheryn into a gallop.
"Please, sire," said the Captain of the King's bodyguards. "Do you think this is wise?"
"Tell the men to set up camp beneath the great oak and prepare our evening meal," said Aragorn. "We will meet you there at sunset." He galloped after Faramir who already had a good start. The Steward was waiting for him at the entrance to the tower. "I thought you would have already explored?" said the King sweetly.
"I would not deprive you the pleasure of chasing a few ghosts away should we find any," Faramir replied. He cautiously pushed the door open. It was dim inside, the only light coming from a tiny window. Everywhere was covered with dust and cobwebs. The two men had to brush them aside to enter. They found themselves in a small round chamber with a staircase leading upwards.
Faramir sneezed. Then he heard it, a low guttural voice intoning words he could not understand. The words sounded like "Yock, hock hymie." Then another similar voice took up the chant.
"Alas!" cried Faramir. "The Dark Lord's minions must linger here!" He drew his sword as a dark shape loomed out of a dusty corner.
There was an ear piercing shriek and two cats, their fur standing on end and their tails as bushy as squirrels, raced down the stairway and out through the open door.
Faramir breathed heavily. "How did they get in?" he asked.
"Through the window no doubt. It seems we have disturbed two amorous toms seeking the attention of their lady love!" He patted Faramir's shoulder reassuringly. "You look as if you have seen a ghost!"
"I have not heard cats sound so human before. Let us go and see what is upstairs."
The staircase was long and winding and covered in cobwebs. Faramir sliced through them with his sword, but they still brushed against his face and hair.
The steps led to a small room at the top of the tower littered with broken furniture, which looked to have been smashed in a fit of rage.
"Something dreadful did happen here," said Faramir, surveying the wreckage. Just then, he felt something touch his face. He gave a cry of alarm, but when he looked up, he realised he had merely disturbed a bat.
"Let us leave the bats in peace," said Aragorn. "Come outside into the sunlight. I have a story to tell you."
Moments later the two friends had divested themselves of all traces of cobwebs and were sitting side by side on a grassy knoll and plucking sweet blackberries that grew in the bushes surrounding them.
"Long ago a Captain came from Rohan to Gondor to seek knowledge and experience," Aragorn began.
"Captain Thorongil?" Faramir asked his eyes wide with interest.
"The same, but he did not come alone. With him was a young Rohir who was skilled with the sword, but had the misfortune to be a poor horseman. This youth thought he might as well seek his fortune in Gondor, where he prospered and soon gained promotion. He met a young maiden, the daughter of a lord, and he loved her truly, as she did him. Her father, though, was determined that she advance his fortunes by marrying a merchant. The lord, you see, had lost most of his fortune in a Corsair attack on his lands in the South. As the young lady was determined to go against her father's wishes, he locked her in one of his watchtowers, there to stay until she relented.
I was the young man's Captain and he asked for my help. I would not usually have interfered in such matters, for under Ecthelion's laws, a noble could compel a daughter under the age of twenty- five to marry a man he chose for her. It came to my attention, though, that the merchant had already buried one wife. I had discreet enquiries made and learned that the merchant was known to visit brothels where even the women who worked there were loth to fulfil his needs; they were so perverse. I decided it would be wrong to give a dog to such a man, never mind a gentle young woman.
There are few locks barred to those brought up by Elves, so it was easy enough to unlock the door of the tower. I heard the young couple's vows and they were hand-fasted before me. Then they made their way to Rohan together. The girl was a better rider than her sweetheart was. So off they rode together, sharing one horse with the young lady taking the reins.
"Then what happened?" Faramir was so engrossed in the story that he had hardly drawn breath during its telling.
"They opened a tavern in Edoras. I visited them when I was last there, they are old now, but contented enough. They reared seven fine children, who fortunately favoured their mother and were good riders." Aragorn smiled and plucked another blackberry.
"But how did the story of the haunted tower come about?"
"I believe that the father smashed the furniture in a rage. Because of his power and influence; soldiers were sent out to look for the girl. I was one of them." Aragorn stretched out his long legs. "I reported that I had come across the runaway pair slaughtered by Orcs and buried them where I found them. I did not enjoy lying, but neither the lord nor the merchant would have rested until they destroyed the young couple otherwise. I must admit I helped spread some of the wild rumours that grew up around this place so that no one would suspect the young lovers had escaped with my help."
"So nothing evil happened at the tower at all?"
" Much could have done, but the cruel fate intended for the maiden was averted. I think now time has passed I will order the present lord to repair his watchtower and put it to good use. I have never spoken before of what happened all those years ago. You know now why I did not share your desire to explore this place."
"I will not speak of it either," said Faramir.
"I knew you would not, my friend," said Aragorn.
"It will be a good thing if the tower is repaired and inhabited," said Faramir. "Then no one need fear the place again". He clambered to his feet. "Now we had better re-join the guards ere they think the ghosts have spirited us away!"
Aragorn laughed. "We will tell them that the tower harbours no horrors. Not that they will believe it, though, as everyone likes a ghost story to shiver over round the fire on a chilly night!"
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.