A Magic Deeper Still – Linda Hoyland
Though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know – CS Lewis – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Disclaimer: The Tolkien estate owns the familiar characters, only the OCs are mine. No money is being made from this story.
Summary- When Aragorn and Faramir visit Harad they find that magic flourishes there.
"At last, a few hours to ourselves!" Aragorn exclaimed in a low voice to the Steward at his side. "The Kha Khan is most welcoming, but his hospitality can be somewhat overwhelming."
"I am simply thankful that he did not insist on us taking a troop of his palace guards with us on our outing," said Faramir, glancing at the two trusted guards of their own who followed at a discreet distance.
"At least we look less conspicuous in these robes the Kha Khan presented us with on our arrival," said Aragorn. "They feel cool to wear too."
"I still feel strange wearing what resembles a woman's gown," said Faramir. "I know all the menfolk wear them here, but few have so much embroidery!"
"I want to experience the marketplace here as it is," said Aragorn. "Being dressed as one of the Haradrim will help."
"I thought you lived here for some months many years ago?" Faramir questioned. "Did you not visit the market then?"
"I did, but it was very different from what it is today. The Dark Lord demanded heavy tributes and there were shortages of almost everything. Most of the stalls sold weaponry or cloth for making military uniforms. Sometimes, I found it hard to breathe; the air was rank from the stench of the human sacrifices being offered up."
Faramir shuddered. "My blood freezes at the thought!" he said.
"That is all the more reason to enjoy the silks and spices that the merchants of Harad now sell," Aragorn replied. "Ambassador Tahir tells me that haggling with the merchants nowadays is quite an experience, which we would miss out on if they knew who we were."
"If they are anything like the merchants at home, they would give us more of their wares than we could carry. Then we would need to purchase a camel to carry everything home to Gondor!"
Aragorn laughed. A stall selling silks as delicate as gossamer then caught his eye and he paused to buy a length in a deep, rich shade of scarlet that he was certain would show off Arwen's raven hair to perfection. Rather to his disappointment, the merchant was too eager to make a sale to haggle with any vigour. He even offered the King a discount, which prompted Aragorn to purchase more silk in a rich, deep shade of blue.
"Éowyn would look fair beyond measure in the green or the blue," Faramir commented. "Sadly, she has little interest in gowns that are not practical as well as pleasing to the eye." The two men then caught sight of some very finely woven cream silk. "Maybe Éowyn would like a silk nightgown?" he mused. "I will take a roll of the cream silk," Faramir told the delighted merchant.
The Steward hesitated, as he prepared to pay the merchant. "I think I will take some of the green silk too," he said. "Éowyn will need a new gown for the Mettarë celebrations, and green is her favourite hue."
Aragorn beckoned to one of the guards to carry their purchases. "I need to find a gift for Eldarion," he told his friend. "My son would not thank me for dressing him in silks, though!"
"There are some interesting looking smaller stalls over there," said Faramir.
"I need to find him a gift today," said Aragorn. "I doubt that we will escape so easily again, though we can try. There is the state banquet tonight and then negotiations over the border dispute the day after. I hope they will conclude in good time so we can return home."
"Maybe I can find something for Elboron too," said Faramir. "I wonder if they sell model horses in this market?"
"Maybe that stall can conjure one out of the desert sand for you?" Aragorn jested, with a nod towards the smallest of the displays, set a little way apart from the others. Above it hung a sign, which in the tongue of Harad read 'Everything you need to perform powerful magic'.
"Hardly," said Faramir. "Remember how Mithrandir could create smoke horses? Sadly, they vanished within the twinkling of an eye. Elboron would prefer something more substantial."
The two men cast a curious eye over the stall, wondering what passed for magic in Harad now that the Dark Lord was no more. An assortment of jars contained what looked like dried body parts of various reptiles, there were bunches of feathers hanging up from various exotic birds and more jars filled with brightly coloured powders.
"I wonder if those pink feathers would make good quills?" Faramir mused. "They might amuse Éowyn or Elboron. I will buy two of the pink feathers," he told the stall holder.
"Very powerful love magic you have there, noble sir," said the man, as Faramir handed over the coins. "If you touch the object of your affections with one on the night of the new moon, she will be yours forever!"
Faramir flushed slightly and stuffed the feathers into the folds of his robes.
"How about some mermaids' tears, honoured sirs? Any maid you give one to will burn with fervent desire for you." The merchant held out a tray of poor quality seed pearls.
"No thank you." Aragorn and Faramir both looked highly uncomfortable at the turn the conversation was taking. They turned their attention to the other wares on the stall. Of more interest to the King and Steward, were a selection of finely cut crystals which split the sun's rays into all the colours of the rainbow.
"Eldarion might like one of those," said Aragorn. "Master Elrond explained to me how a prism works, but to a child it indeed seems like magic."
"These most rare stones make powerful healing magic, o illustrious sirs," said the merchant. "To keep their virtue you must wash them when the moon is full then dry them by the rays of the sun while reciting words of power."
Aragorn struggled to repress his mirth as he haggled with the merchant over the price. If the man but knew of the virtue of the stone he wore concealed beneath his outer robe! At least, he had found a worthy opponent to haggle with. When the deal was concluded, the stone was carefully wrapped in a square of black silk before being handed to the King.
By now, the two were thirsty in the heat of the afternoon and wandered over to another stall, which sold refreshments. They ordered glasses of refreshing sherbet tea, which they sipped slowly. The magic stall was in a shady corner of the marketplace so the two friends wandered back there to enjoy their drinks.
"Maybe I will buy one of those crystals for Elboron too?" said Faramir. "We could hang it in the nursery to catch the morning light."
The merchant was now engaged in an animated discussion with a woman and paid little heed to the King and Steward.
"You need three peacock feathers, scales of a sand viper and a crystal forged in the fire of the holy mountain for the spell to work," said the merchant.
"I have only enough gold for one feather," said the woman. "Let me take what I need and I will pay you back as soon as I can, illustrious sir."
"Do you take me for a fool, woman? I give you only what you can pay for!"
"The darwisa said my son will die if the spell is not cast. Have mercy, I beg of you!"
"It not my fault your son is ailing."
Aragorn could listen in silence no longer. "Would it not be better to take your son to a healer, mistress?"
The woman looked at him impatiently. "I paid the healer to examine my son and he took all the coin I have. He could not help me and told me to send for the darwisa. She examined my son and confirmed that he is under a curse. She told me that only magic can save him and to call her back when I had what was needed for the spell."
"Maybe, I could be of some assistance, mistress? I am a healer of some experience."
The woman laughed harshly. "I tell you my son has been cursed! I see from your pale skin and grey eyes that you are a tark. What do tarks know of magic? Only your terrible king, who commands the dead to obey his every whim with his enspelled sword is said to have magic amongst the tarks!" She turned back to the merchant, pulling a ring from her finger. "Take this, it is all I own, in exchange for the magic ingredients!" she begged.
"It is not enough," said the merchant. "Now be off with you. I have other customers waiting with good coin to spend."
"I beg you, sir have mercy!" The woman flung herself to her knees.
The merchant emerged from behind his stall and towered menacingly above her. "Be gone, you miserable hag!" he shouted. "You are upsetting my other customers. I will call for the Kha Khan's guards to arrest you for causing a disturbance!"
The woman got up and stumbled away. Aragorn hurried after her while Faramir gestured to the guards to keep their distance. "Please, mistress, let me help you," said the King.
"You would give me the money to buy what I need for the spell? I will do anything, anything in return!" A gleam of hope flickered in her eyes.
"I have no intention of paying that merchant's extortionate prices for his dubious remedies," said Aragorn. "I will gladly visit your son and see if I can be of assistance, though."
"Did you not hear me?" said the woman despairingly. "My son is under a curse! Only the most powerful magic might save him."
"What manner of a curse?" asked Aragorn.
"Jawhar was out playing with the other lads," the woman said wearily, almost as if she considered Aragorn to be slow witted. "I've told him not to play in what is left of the temple, but he would not listen. An old man lives amongst the ruins; they say he was once a priest who offered sacrifices to the Lord of Gifts. The boys ran when they saw him, but my Jawhar tripped and fell and the old man cursed him. He managed to stumble home and tell me what had happened, and then he fell into a stupor from which I cannot wake him. He is lost to me in some dark dream. My boy, my only son is dying!" The woman burst into tears.
"Dry your eyes, mistress, and take me to the boy," said Aragorn. "I do not know if my magic will be powerful enough, but I can try."
"You have magic?" the woman asked between sobs. "Why did you not say so before? What will your magic cost?"
"Nothing," said Aragorn. "I just need to speak to my assistant, and then we will come and visit your son."
Aragorn returned to where Faramir was standing a little way off by the refreshments stall, to which he had just returned their glasses. Speaking in Sindarin, he swiftly informed the Steward of his plans and bade him tell their guards to follow, but keep their distance.
"You made out that we were wizards?" Faramir said incredulously
"It was the only way she would agree to let me see her son so we must act the part."
"You have spent your life under various guises, I have not."
"You simply need to follow my instructions, something you always do well. I believe your father called you a wizard's pupil for following Mithrandir's teaching, so I am certain you can play your part."
"Very well. I only hope you can help the poor woman and her son."
"So do I."
Aragorn strode off after the woman, who led the way to the poorest quarter of the town.
"I like this not at all," muttered one of the guards. "We should be at the King's side with our swords drawn."
"The King was defending himself against far mightier enemies than a lone woman and a sick child since before you weaned," said Faramir. "Now wait here, we will call if we have need of you."
The woman led the way inside a shabby hovel, its walls made from dried mud, as was customary in these parts. The single room was dimly lit by an oil lamp. At the far side of the room was a low pallet, on which a boy of about nine or ten years lay motionless. Beside him, crouched an old woman. She rose at the entry of the newcomers. "Jawhar has neither moved nor spoken since you left, Maisha," she said. "But who are these men?" She drew her shabby cloak more closely around her thin body.
"A tark healer and his assistant who claim to have knowledge of magic," said Maisha.
The old woman snorted. "Shame on you for letting a tark cross your threshold after they slew your husband. His spirit even now is thrall to the dread King of the West! Maybe these tarks steal souls too?"
Faramir could endure it no longer. "The King of the West holds no man in thrall, neither dead nor living. Neither does any Man of the West steal souls."
"The tales say they do," said the old woman.
"The tales speak falsely," said Aragorn who was already casting a keen healer's eye over the motionless boy. "Tell me exactly what happened, Mistress Maisha," he said in a commanding tone.
"I'm not staying here with tark magicians," said the old woman. "I'm off before they put a curse on me too." With that, she hobbled out into the street.
"She is a good woman, my neighbour, but she lets her tongue run away with her," said Maisha.
"It matters not," said Aragorn. "Just tell me exactly what your son said when he came home." Seeing her hesitate; he added. "It will help me prepare a spell."
"Jawhar stumbled through the door crying, The old priest cursed me. He said I would die ere the moon rose for desecrating the holy shrine with my presence."
"And you replied?" Aragorn pressed.
"Alas, my son, today you will die!"
"Then what did the healer you summoned say?"
"That my boy's illness was caused by magic and that I should ask the darwisa for help. He charged me four gold pieces for his advice. I ran at once to fetch the wise woman."
"And she told you?" Aragorn prompted.
"She charged me three gold pieces for telling me what I already knew that my boy was dying and that powerful magic alone might save him. She told me to get the ingredients so that she could perform a healing spell and then come and fetch her back."
"Thank you," said Aragorn. "Now I must thoroughly examine your boy." He pulled back the shabby covers that covered the ailing child. The boy's skin was cold to his touch, but apart from a few minor scrapes and bruises, Aragorn could discover no injury to account for his condition.
"I need you to heat some water for me to perform my spell," he told Maisha.
"Can you undo the curse?"
"I know not, mistress, but I shall try my utmost," said Aragorn.
"What truly ails the boy?" Faramir asked in a low voice in Sindarin while Maisha was engaged in placing a pot upon the fire.
"I believe it is something akin to the Black Breath," said Aragorn.
"But how so? Sauron is no more."
"I believe some residual evil might linger in the place where so many innocents were sacrificed," said Aragorn. "Also, words have a power of their own. Master Elrond told me that fëa and hröa are closely entwined. If the fëa believes that death is approaching the hröa can expire." He reached inside his robes for the Elessar brooch that he always wore, which he had kept concealed in the marketplace, and pinned it on the breast of his outer robe, where the gem gleamed like green fire. A sudden inspiration struck him and he unwrapped the prism and placed it on top of the unconscious boy over his heart, where it reflected the rays of the Elessar stone. "These stones work powerful magic," he told Maisha in a loud clear voice. "My assistant has feathers even more powerful than those of the peacock."
Faramir rummaged inside his robe and brought out the pink feathers. At a sweeping gesture from Aragorn, he began to stroke the child's feet with them.
"The hot water, masters," said Maisha, appearing at the bedside with a steaming bowl.
"Thank you, mistress, I shall now speak a powerful incantation, then I will call your son. I want you to call him too. He knows your voice and will follow you back into the light."
Aragorn raised his hands heavenwards and said in Quenya, "Hear me, Estë, healer of hurts and weariness. Look with favour of this child and restore him. Let my hands be the instrument of his healing!" He then rummaged within his robes and took out the pouch of healing herbs that he always carried and took out two dried athelas leaves and cast them into the bowl of steaming water. At once, a living freshness filled the miserable hovel.
Aragorn handed the bowl to Faramir who held it in front of the boy's face. Aragorn knelt on the dusty floor and took the child's hand in one of his own. The other hand he placed on the boy's brow. "Jawhar!" he called. "Awake, the power of the curse is broken!"
Jawhar stirred slightly but did not open his eyes.
"Awake!" cried Aragorn. "With my might, I banish the dark magic. You are freed from the evil spell. Jawhar, Jawhar, come to me, open your eyes!"
Still Jawhar's eyes remained closed, though he was now breathing much more deeply and his skin no longer felt deathly cold beneath Aragorn's touch.
"Mistress Maisha, call your son's name and tell him the curse is banished," said Faramir urgently. He put down the bowl for a moment and waved the feathers with a sweeping gesture for an added effect.
"Jawhar, my son, wake up. This powerful wizard has freed you from the curse," said Maisha in a somewhat tremulous voice. Aragorn nodded his approval and Maisha repeated her words this time more strongly. Meanwhile, Aragorn continued to call the boy. "Wake up, Jawhar, no one is angry with you, the curse is broken, awake!"
Jawhar's eyes finally flickered open and he regarded the strangers curiously. His eyes then fixed on his mother who had begun to weep. "Mother, I'm hungry!" he said. "Why are you crying and who are these strangers?"
Maisha hugged the boy tightly.
"Give him something to eat," said Aragorn. "He will suffer no lasting ill effects, but should not go near the ruined temple again. It is not a wholesome place."
"I will get you some bread, my son," said Maisha. "It is all we have."
"You were widowed during the war, mistress?" Faramir asked. "Times have been hard for you."
"My husband was a wealthy silk merchant and we lived in a fine house once, little though you might believe it." Maisha laughed bitterly. "Then the war came and my man, together with the rest of them, was forced to fight in the army of the Lord of Gifts. He fell and I lost everything. Jawhar was still in my womb when his father was slain."
"I am sorry," said Faramir. "Alas, many good men lost their lives. Maybe we could help you?"
"I am no beggar," said Maisha. "I accept no charity. It is bad enough that I cannot pay you for your magic."
"Before we leave, I will cast a spell for protection and prosperity around your house," said Aragorn. "We will do it while you fetch food and drink for your boy."
Aragorn beckoned to Faramir and the two went outside.
"The Valar be praised you could save the child!" said Faramir.
"There was very little I needed to do," said the King. "It was his own mind that healed him, once I freed his thoughts. He believed the curse would kill him and his mother's belief he would die convinced him that he would all the more. That was why I needed her to call him back too. Now quickly, help me move these pebbles. We had better sing, as if we were performing some ritual."
Faramir began to sing the hymn to Elbereth and Aragorn joined in as the two scooped aside the stones around a stunted bush in the courtyard behind the hovel. Aragorn then reached inside his robes for his purse and scattered the gold coins on the rocky soil. Faramir did likewise. Still singing, the two replaced the pebbles, then concluded their song.
"We must hurry back," said Faramir. "The moon will rise soon and the feast will be starting. The Kha Khan will send his guards to look for us."
"I shall speak to the Kha Khan about the temple ruins and the malevolent old man," said Aragorn. "Other children should be saved from what was almost Jawhar's fate."
"Maybe Tahir could help too?" said Faramir. "His kinsman pays heed to him. They are both anxious to return all of Harad to the worship of the benevolent moon deities."
" I shall speak to him, " said Aragorn. "We have finished our work here just in time. He went back inside and found Jawhar eagerly devouring an unappetising looking crust and a mug of water. "We will take our leave now, Mistress Maisha," he said gravely, as he gathered up the prism and the feathers. "My assistant and I have performed ritual for blessing and good fortune for this house. When the moon has risen tonight, gather some pebbles from beneath the bush in your courtyard and you will not want for many days."
Maisha prostrated herself at his feet in the fashion of her people. "You saved my son's life, o powerful magician!" she said. "How might I ever thank you?"
"I have my reward in seeing Jawhar restored to health," said Aragorn with a smile. He lightly laid a hand upon her brow in a gesture of blessing and then slipped from the house, followed by Faramir. The two guards emerged from their hiding places and the small party made their way back towards the Kha Khan's palace.
"This will be a fine tale to relate to Arwen when we return home," Aragorn said thoughtfully." I have been many things before in my life, but never a magician."
"You may not call yourself a magician, but you have always had magic," said Faramir. "You are a child of Lúthien and her power is in you too. I perceived it from the moment I first beheld you; you are more than just a man with Melian and Lúthien as your foremothers. While you and your line endure, there will always be magic in Middle-earth."
A/n In some parts of the world beliefs persist that curses can cause real damage and even kill. There have also been cases in the West where patients have died after being told they have a serious illness, even if it is treatable, simple because they believe they will die.