A Glimpse through the Doorway|
During his travels, Aragorn encounters a seer.
I borrowed the familiar characters from Tolkien. I make no money from writing this story.
Aragorn shifted the heavy saddle he was carrying to a more comfortable angle and wished that the merchant he called “master” had chosen a cooler time of day to visit the town and collect the new saddle for his favourite camel. The sun in Harad was merciless at this time of year.
“Come, Herumor,” said the merchant. “Maybe we can find news of my caravan in the market place.”
Aragorn, or “Herumor” as he had introduced himself to Tarek, repressed a sigh. Once in the market place, Tarek would spend hours talking to his friends and sipping the sherbet tea provided for the wealthy merchants as they sat beneath a canopy to shield them from the sun's blazing rays.
Tarek's fellow merchants replied to his questions with elaborate gestures and expressions of sympathy, as was the custom of this place, but none had any news of the whereabouts of the caravan of a dozen camels bringing spices from across the desert.
“Most honoured friend, you should consult the wise woman,” said one man, a tall fellow with a straggly beard. “She knows everything.”
“I thank you for your counsel, esteemed friend Fatin,” said Tarek. “I doubt,though she knows ought of missing caravans.”
“Faridah sees all and speaks only when the time is right,” said Fatin.”Those who do not fear can learn much.”
“I do not fear this Faridah!” cried Tarek, leaping to his feet and knocking over his cup. “You insult me!”
“That was not my intention, esteemed friend,” Fatin said mildly. “I speak only of what men say.”
“Come, Herumor,” said Tarek. “We shall consult the wise woman.”
“She dwells in the old town,” said Fatin. “Seek the door of symbols.”
“I know the way,” said Tarek. He left the market place and followed a winding track that let away from the crowded bazaar.
“Who is this wise woman?” asked Aragorn as he followed the merchant.
“No one truly knows,” Tarek replied. “She is old beyond the count of most men. Some say she was a priestess of the old faith that is no longer spoken of. You look surprised that she yet lives. Even the authorities and the priests of the Lord of Gifts fear her. Her curse can can make the victim's manhood wither or make his camel go lame in the desert. Men shun her save in times of greatest need, which now forces me to seek her out. If my caravan has been lost, I am ruined!”
“I hope this woman can help then,” said Aragorn without much conviction.
“Be sure to show her all due respect,” the merchant cautioned. “We must do as she says.”
They reached a doorway set back from the road. Aragorn could not but help but stare. It was entirely covered with symbols,. He recognised the moon and the stars, but most were strange to him. At least the symbol of the lidless eye was absent.
“Knock” the merchant commanded.
After a few minutes, a veiled servant girl opened the door . Aragorn made to wait on the threshold, but the girl beckoned him forwards. “Mistress desires to see you both,”she said.
Tarek eyed him sternly. “You must do as the wise woman bids.”
Aragorn nodded and followed the merchant within. It were as if they had passed through a gateway to some other realm as they found themselves within a small exquisite garden, shaded by tall palm trees. In the centre was a fountain, which showered them with cool refreshing droplets.
In this desert land, such a sight was as rare as snow in June in his northern homeland. He surmised that the wise woman must have discovered some hidden oasis to dwell near.
Much to his surprise, the maid brought out two cups of sherbet tea. Usually, a servant was ignored, or at best given water. He sipped it and waited while Tarek paced uneasily around the garden. Aragorn enjoyed the chance to rest in such pleasant surroundings and, unlike the merchant, was not excepting to have to face the formidable wise woman.
When the maid came to summon his master, though, she beckoned that he was to follow and bade him leave the saddle in the garden.
They were shown into a room decorated with elaborate hangings. Around the walls were shelves laden with bottles of what looked to be herbs and potions. The wise woman reclined on a couch in front of a low table, which was covered with shallow bowls surrounding a pitcher of water. Faridah was clad in a flowing scarlet garment. Her face was veiled, leaving only piercing dark eyes visible.
Aragorn took in the scene and decided she was some kind of soothsayer, who doubtless made a good living by telling her petitioners what they wanted to hear or cursing their enemies. He hung back as Tarek approached the wise woman and prostrated himself before her.
“Most honoured and esteemed Mistress Faridah, I come before you seeking your wisdom,” Tarek began. He placed a silver coin on the table.
Faridah ignored him and turned her piecing eyes upon Aragorn. He struggled not to flinch before her keen gaze. “It is this one whom I wish to see,” she said.
Tarek looked indignant. “He is my servant and a Tark at that. I wish to consult with you, esteemed one.”
“Only if I look into his future too.”
“Very well,” Tarek said impatiently.”But first tell me, o honoured seer, if my caravan be lost and ruin awaits me.”
“No words I speak in this room must ever be repeated on pain of my curse,” said the woman.
“I swear on my life and that of my sons, most honoured one. Now tell me, I beg of my caravan.”
Faridah took one of the bowls and filled it with water. She then grasped both of Tarek's hands and told him to breathe into the water. When it started to ripple she spoke, “ Seek your caravan within the desert where the rocks cast no shadow and the oasis is far. A camel has gone lame. Is there ought else you would know?”
“What does my future hold, o wisest of women?”
“You will not live to see the moon emerge from behind the clouds, though your children and your children's children will walk in the light. You will marry more wives and sons will be born to you if you avoid the steam baths, which wither the seed. You tread a narrow path between light and darkness and must have a care not to take the wrong turning. Enough now, drink the water and keep the bowl safe in your home, for it holds your fate. I would speak now with your companion.”
Tarek rose to his feet and drained the bowl of water.
Aragorn stepped forward to take his place and knelt before the wise woman.
“You are not as you seem,” said Faridah.
Aragorn started, but replied in a level tone. “You speak truly, Mistress. I am a traveller in these lands, earning my bread by working for Master Tarek.”
Faridah poured water into a bowl and then took Aragorn's hands in hers. He felt a strange tingling sensation.
“Breathe upon the water and tell me what you would know,” said Faridah.
Aragorn thought for a moment, seeking a question that would give nothing away. “Will I sire children ?” he asked at last.
“Your sons will be few, but your line will endure as long as the moon rises,” said the wise woman. Her eyes glazed over as if she were in a trance as she pronounced, “You are one chosen to overcome the darkness, your blade will pierce it like a flame. You are the enemy of Harad, but also her greatest friend. Your hands will bring healing and the moon will rise again at your coming.” She closed her eyes and released Aragorn's hands. “Now drink of the water and keep safe the bowl.”
Aragorn drank. The water was fresh and sweet. He felt dazed as hope mingled with questions flooded his mind. How could the wise woman know the destiny he longed for? Had she truly looked through a doorway into his future? What was this old religion that Faridah followed? No man dared speak of it, yet it seemed dear to the hearts of many in Harad. And what would Tarek make of the seer's words?
Faridah called for her servant who hustled them out into the street. As the door closed behind him, Aragorn felt almost as if he had awoken from a dream. He was now back in the dusty street wondering how to explain the seer's words to the merchant.
“You are a man of secrets so it seems, Herumor,” said Tarek.
“The wise woman speaks strange words,” said Aragorn. “I bear no sword and carry no flame. I swear I am no enemy of yours.”
“I care not what her words mean as long as you care for my camels,” said Tarek. He chuckled. “Mistress Faridah likes to speak in riddles, but I shall send a search party out to look for my caravan at once.”
Aragorn glanced back towards the doorway set in the wall and the moon and stars seemed to twinkle at him.