Main Page ~*~*~
“I tell you, I’m not making
it up,” Elrohir insisted, outraged at the very suggestion he was
lying to his siblings. “I saw it clear as, clear as I can see Wen
here. It – he came around the apple tree and was walking straight at
“Straight at you?” Elladan selected a nut from the bowl beside him
on the window seat and flicked it at his twin. “Yes, I’m sure it – he did.
And was there some reason you didn’t stop to ask who he was and why
he was skulking around the gardens in the dead of night… which
reminds me, what were you doing out there so late?”
“Rohir’s got a girlfriend, Rohir’s got a girlfriend,” Arwen crowed,
her tone suggesting how rare the possibility was. “Or a boyfriend.
Not sure any right-thinking girl would want one of you…”
“Shut up, Wen,” Elladan said good-naturedly. “I want to hear this.
You have a girlfriend you’ve not told me about, brother?”
Elrohir gave Arwen a scathing look, which had little effect on his
sister. “I do not have a girlfriend… do not currently have
a girlfriend, I mean. Because I’m concentrating on my studies.
Healing takes a lot of concentration. I wanted some air before bed,
that’s all. And that’s not the point. The point is, there was a – a
being of some kind in the garden. I didn’t try and talk to it, to
him, because I didn’t know what to say. Aren’t the Houseless
supposed to be dangerous?”
“Oh that’s just one of those stories people tell, like the one about
Grandmother turning into a bird,” Arwen scoffed. “Ada says they’re
imaginative but misguided. How can someone dead hurt us?”
Elrohir looked uncertain. Elladan, who had completed the basics of
his warrior training, tried to sound nonchalant. “She’s right, they
can’t really hurt us. Anyhow, I still think you saw a visitor or
maybe someone who lives down the valley that you don’t know by
“If it’s one of the Houseless, he’ll come back to the same place at
the same time till the moon phase changes,” Arwen said with
Her brothers stared at her. “How do you know that?” Elladan asked,
though the idea had a kind of resonance for him as soon as he heard
“I read it in one of Erestor’s books.” Arwen’s tone defied argument.
“And the moon’s just finished waning, so that gives us the rest of
the week to catch Elrohir’s unquiet fëa and find out what’s
“I’m going back, this is
“We’ve hardly been here any time at all. It just feels like it
because there’s no moon, but it happened round about now…”
“You said that ages ago. And this rock is getting damn hard under my
“Some warrior you’ll be, can’t even stake out a ghost.”
“You think he’s
a ghost. Are you sure this is even the right tree? There’s apple
trees all over the place down here.”
“Of course he knows which tree it was. Your friends will still be in
the Hall when we’re done, you don’t have to be in such a rush to get
back.” Arwen sat decorously on a flat stone eating an apple she had
kept with her from dinner.
Elladan glared at her and was about to reply when the air suddenly
seemed to grow cold and the shadows beneath the trees become darker.
Elrohir reached over and grabbed his twin’s wrist as he used to when
they were children. “There,” he hissed. “Over there. Look!”
A shadowy form stood where moments before there had been no one. He
seemed to be an elf, quite tall and of average build, but due
perhaps to the gloom beneath the trees, his features were strangely
hard to distinguish. The air grew colder still, chilling their skin.
Arwen had the apple half raised to her mouth and seemed frozen in
place; the twins sat motionless, staring as the figure moved slowly
towards them. Memories of childhood tales of Houseless elves
invading the bodies of the living were reflected in the horrified
gaze Elladan and Elrohir turned on one another and in Arwen’s almost
inaudible whisper of “Nonono….”
The ghostly figure raised a hand, beckoning, and the spell that had
seemed to hold the trio in place was broken. Arwen shot to her feet,
moving backwards, and the twins stumbled up as one. Elladan grabbed
his sister’s arm and the three fled back to the house, feet pounding
the ground far louder than was customary for an elf. Not looking to
see if they were being followed, they charged through the side door
with Elrohir marginally in the lead. There was no discussion, they
knew where to go. Their parents lived in the family suite almost on
the other side of the house, but there was a closer safe haven and
they headed straight for it.
It took more than one set of frantic knocks before Erestor opened
his door to them. Ordinarily the sight of their father’s Seneschal
in casual clothes and with his long hair unaccustomedly unbound
would have given them pause, but taking no heed they pushed their
way into his sitting room, all talking at once.
“It was there, right by the apple tree…”
“Erestor, we saw one of the Houseless, right outside the Peony
”Erestor, Elrohir found a ghost and it chased us…”
A calm voice from near the fire cut through the babble of
information. “A ghost? What in Arda is this about?”
No one had expected to find Glorfindel here. His hair was tousled
and his shirt partly untucked, but none of the young elves was in
any state of mind to take note of this or question his presence.
Instead, Elladan made an effort to pull himself together in the
presence of the legendary warrior. “Sir, my brother saw one of the
Houseless last night and tonight we waited for it and, and he came
back. Under one of the apple trees, just like Elrohir said. And he
Erestor favoured the three nodding heads with a jaundiced look. The
twins were taller than him now they had their full growth and Arwen,
who took after her grandmother in build, was eye level with him, but
he still managed to give the impression of looking down at them as
he had when they were younger. “Let me get this right. You’re
telling me you saw a ghost, a disembodied fëa …?” He held up a hand
to stem the new tide of description and explanation. “Outside. Now.
Glorfindel, who had tucked in his shirt, replaced his jerkin and
pushed his hair back out of his face, crossed to the door. Opening
it, he exchanged an eloquent look with Erestor then silently
indicated his lord’s offspring should go first.
“But it was there.”
They were back in the drafty entrance hall after a fruitless search
of the stand of apple trees. It was a quiet, seldom-visited corner
of the house, and the light from the torches in their wall sconces
did little to relieve the basic paintwork and plain wood flooring.
Glorfindel stood near the door, and not for the first time in their
lives, the twins and Arwen formed a dispirited little half circle
“Really Elrohir, I work a long enough day to have the right to
expect my evenings to be undisturbed by childish pranks. You are all
far too old for this kind of nonsense.”
“And as the eldest I expect you to know better, Elladan. Now go off
to your rooms or wherever you’d normally spend this part of the
evening, and I don’t want to hear another word about this.”
“But Erestor, it really, really was there. It was!”
Arwen turned huge eyes first on her father’s Seneschal and then on
Glorfindel, both to no avail even though Glorfindel was a relatively
new arrival in the valley and less likely to be immune to one of her
Erestor raised an arm and pointed down the hallway. “Go on, before I
decide to make the effort to speak to your mother. I don’t want to
hear another word about unquiet spirits or whatever that was
supposed to have been. Off with you! Right now!”
“It’s darker than last
“Of course it’s darker, it’s cloudy, no starlight. If you ‘re scared
you can always go back inside, Wen.”
“Am not scared,” Arwen said, raising her chin indignantly.
“We can light the lantern again when it’s time to go back,” Elrohir
reassured her. “Just don’t want to scare him off with light.”
“Why would light bother him? His eyes aren’t like ours, are they?”
Elladan wondered. “I mean, he probably feels rather than sees us. Or
– smells us…”
“Why would he be able to smell things if he can’t see? That doesn’t
Once more the air around them turned clammy and cold, and the night
seemed suddenly darker. “Hush! Look!” Elrohir hissed, putting a
warning hand on Arwen’s arm. “Just – don’t run this time. Wait and
see what he does.”
Elladan and Arwen turned as one to follow where he was looking, and
there under the same tree stood the indistinct form of the previous
evening. Once more the hand was raised beckoning, but this time
there was no rush of young elves. Instead, although they drew closer
together, they stood still and waited.
“Hello. Can we help you?” Elladan tried, putting all his disbelief
in things like restless spirits into the words. Arwen was about to
tell him he sounded like a prig when the spectre began moving
soundlessly towards them and then past them, almost gliding rather
than walking. The siblings exchanged uncertain glances then, with
Elrohir in the lead, started after him.
The shadowy being followed a neglected path that led around the side
of the house and up the rocky incline it was built against. This was
the oldest part of the Last Homely House, well away from the places
they had played as children, with rooms used mainly now for storage.
Stones slid underfoot, grass and small plants caught their feet,
overgrown branches pulled at clothing, and still ahead of them moved
the shadowy shape. Elladan no longer argued this was a visitor from
down the valley, not when the branches snagging their clothing
seemed to pass right through him.
He disappeared around a jutting part of the house, and when they
caught up he stood facing a grassy space enclosed on three sides, in
the middle of which stood what looked at first sight to be a heap of
stones. He must have waited for them, because only when they reached
him and stopped, confused, did he continue on his way. This time he
walked straight forward, reached the wall of the house – and
The night went on quietly around them, frogs croaked, somewhere in
the distance a fox barked. Little stones dislodged by their passage
rolled and skittered softly. Finally Arwen took pity on her
brothers, neither of whom would want to be the first to say this,
and asked, “Can we light the lantern now? He seems to have gone.”
Elrohir must have been standing ready because tinder scraped and
light flared almost instantly. “Hold it up so we can see,” Elladan
told him, moving forward.
“It looks like it used to be – I don’t know, a well maybe?” Elrohir
asked, moving the lantern from side to side to get a better look at
the remains of a round, stone wall.
Arwen went closer. “I think you’re right, it used to have a roof
over it and that’s gone now. It – seems to be filled with sand too.”
“Why would he show us an old well?” Elladan puzzled aloud, looking
around to see if there was anything they might have missed.
“I don’t know,” Elrohir told him. ‘But I think it’s time we went
back to see what Erestor has to say now.”
They found Erestor with Glorfindel again, this time in the Hall of
Fire, deep in conversation over a bottle of wine. They listened to
the night’s adventure in silence, mainly because every time Erestor
opened his mouth to say something, Glorfindel held up a hand to hush
him. When they finished the two older elves exchanged looks.
“May I speak now?” Erestor asked in an overly polite voice.
Glorfindel chuckled. “Yes you may. I thought we should hear them out
properly. No one tries the same prank twice running – at least my
brother and I were never that obvious.”
Erestor nodded reluctantly, looking at the siblings. “Where exactly
did you say it led you?”
“Round the side of the house, almost up to the cliff,” Arwen
answered at once. It was just the kind of place where they had been
forbidden to play as children for fear of falling rocks, but they
were grown now – almost. “There was an open space and what looked
like an old well…?”
Erestor considered, eyes half closed. “I don’t think I’ve been
around there at all, never had a reason to. But then I’ve only lived
here a few centuries…”
“Elrond will know,” Glorfindel suggested. “And I think it’s high
time he was told about this.”
After a long hard look at
his children, Elrond’s only comment was that the matter could wait
for daylight, that elves might be people of the moon and stars but
investigating old wells by lamplight was more than a touch
Morning arrived, and after a brief visit to the scene, Elrond
co-opted a pair of unwary young warriors to do some digging. The
twins and Arwen went along to watch. By daylight the spot was barely
less eerie and deserted-looking than it had been by lantern light.
The house surrounded it on three sides and the air had an almost
oppressive stillness. Elrohir looked up more than a few times to
make sure that no shadowy figure was watching them from one of the
Elrond only stayed long enough to see the work started, returning in
the afternoon to sit and watch from the remains of an ancient wall
built to hold back sand. “It was a well, yes,” he told Elladan in
answer to his question. “But that was back when the house was quite
new. That part over there,” gesturing to an indent in the wall, “was
once a door, and the well served the rooms along here. They were
mainly temporary quarters for refugees passing through…. Silvan
elves, the occasional mortal family…”
A call from one of the diggers interrupted his flow of thought and
he straightened up to look at the partially excavated well. Part of
the outer wall had been broken away and the hole was by now very
deep, with stones and sand piled on two sides. Both warriors had
stopped digging and Glorfindel, who had recently arrived, had gone
over to join them. Standing between them, he looked down into the
hole and then said over his shoulder, “My lord? You had best see
this for yourself.”
Age had bleached the bones white so that they stood out clearly
against the darker sand. So far only the skull and a part of the
ribcage had been uncovered, but Elrond had no hesitation in saying,
“A child, very young. And --- I think I know who this might be. Work
carefully, dig only with your hands. We’ll need to give her proper
burial when this is done.”
He looked around the space they were in, up at the dusty windows of
rooms now used for storage, at the bare cliff into which the back of
the house was built, and then in the direction of the small orchard.
His face was sad and thoughtful. Finally he gave his attention to
the twins who had come forward to look and were now speculating in
hushed voices as to who had been buried in the well and why.
“Come and find me after dinner. I’ll have a tale to tell you then.
Meanwhile, see that this is done with dignity, and give thought to
where we can bury her. That should be your responsibility, Elrohir,
as you were the one led here.”
Arwen was sitting on the spot he had vacated, and he stopped beside
her before leaving. “All right?” he asked quietly. Arwen was bright
and fearless, but had a tender heart and thought deeper than most
gave her credit for.
She looked up at her father and nodded slowly. “It was a long time
ago, wasn’t it?”
Elrond nodded. “Yes, it was a long time ago. Come tonight with your
brothers. I want to talk with a few people who were here back then,
to get the story clear again. Then I can share it with you.”
That night the phantom
visitor returned to the stand of apple trees, coming into view
around the old twisted oak at the edge and moving with slow
determination towards the house. Once clear of the trees, he paused
as a tall, slender girl rose gracefully from where she had sat
waiting on the grass. After a quick glance at him, she set out,
tracing his nightly route around the side of the house and towards
the cliff. Her intention was clear; this night the living led and
the Houseless followed.
When she reached the place where the well had been, Arwen turned to
face her ghostly companion. She stood very straight, her shoulders
set against fear, her eyes steady. “It’s all right,” she told him.
“We found her. It’s all done now. They took her out of the well and
we’ll bury her properly tomorrow.”
He seemed to become more tangible, despite the gloom in the shadow
of the house. She could make out his hair and clothing now, old
fashioned in style, like pictures she had seen of the Second Age.
His face was still shadowy and obscure, and she tried not to look
too hard in case she became scared again.
“We know what happened – at least my father thinks so,” she
continued, speaking clearly although quietly because the night felt
cold and strange. “She was a mortal child, very young, and when she
vanished everyone thought she had fallen into the river. Her parents
were distraught and left here not long after. Later that same year,
there was another tragedy. Someone hanged himself, back there in the
apple orchard, though Lindir says it was just a general thicket of
trees at the time. No one knew why. His name was Athradon, he was a
member of the garrison.”
She waited for a response but he stood unmoving, apparently waiting
for her to go on. She took a breath and licked dry lips, for the
first time feeling just the tiniest bit afraid. This side of the
house seemed very far away from people and warmth and light… “That
well had been failing and was meant to stay covered to prevent
accidents. What we think happened was that Athradon removed the
cover for some reason, and forgot to put it back. And the little
girl was playing,” on
her own, happy in the sun, maybe singing, thinking of toys and
dinner, “and fell in and drowned in
the shallow water at the bottom. And when Athradon realised, he was
afraid, and put the cover back, and said nothing.”
She shook herself, pushed away the image that had come unbidden of a
happy child with chestnut hair. Wherever that little soul was, she
was safe and far from this place and time. Instead she looked up at
her silent companion. “It was an accident,” she said gently.
“Careless but unintentional. It was a long time ago. You need to
answer the call now and accept Lord Námo’s peace. You were young,
too, probably not much older than I am now, and afraid. You’ve done
what you can to right the wrong and see her properly buried. You can
go home now. Go on, Athradon. Listen for his call and follow it.
It’s time to rest.”
Nothing happened for the space of some twenty heartbeats, but as
Arwen steeled herself to try again, Athradon’s fëa dipped his head
briefly and raised a hand to his chest. He began walking back
towards the orchard where his physical life had ended, and with each
step his outline became fainter and fainter until finally Arwen
blinked and when she looked again there was nothing there, just the
night and the trees, their leaves swaying in the light breeze.
She walked slowly over to the crumbling wall where her father had
sat earlier and sank down on it, her breath coming light and fast.
She was shivering, but it had nothing to do with the night air,
which had become far warmer now she was alone.
Light footfalls made her jump and glance instinctively towards the
yawning dark of the empty well before turning towards the sound.
Erestor came along the path wearing a casual robe and with his black
hair tied loosely back. He was making rather more noise than he
would normally, almost certainly to avoid frightening her.
Exasperation tended to be his usual response to her or her brothers’
misadventures, but this time he smiled as he reached her. “We
thought you might do this, it was in your eyes earlier. Is all well
She nodded, more relieved than she could say to see him, and got up.
“"It’s all over,” she said in a voice made husky by her dry throat.
“He’s moved on now. He’s gone home.”
Erestor put an arm round her shoulders. “And so should we,’ he told
her. “The nights are growing far too chilly for wandering around the
grounds like this. Let’s go to the kitchen and make ourselves some
tea. Then we can sit by the hearth down there and you can tell me
all about it.”
Beta: Red Lasbelin
AN: written for the LOTR Community's
or Not Challenge.