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An Honest Ghost Print

Written by Eschscholzia

23 March 2021 | 2561 words

“Touching this vision here,/It is an honest ghost, that let me tell you.”
Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 5
William Shakespeare

A gentle knock on the door startled Faramir out of his reverie. “Enter,” he called.

A matronly woman backed into the room holding a large tea service tray. She placed it on the table and brushed aside a stray lock that had escaped her otherwise-tidy black and silver bun. “Your tea, Master Faramir.”
Faramir set his paperwork aside. Tea time at last! He crossed the room to accept the proffered cup. “Were you able to find any more of the ginger cake, Tiraneth?”

She sighed. “I thought I had a piece set by for you, but it vanished overnight.”

“Truly?”

“Clear gone.” Tiraneth wrung her hands. “There’s a nice lemon bun, though, that I brought you.”

Faramir rubbed his tongue on his teeth as he accepted the cup. Its warmth soaked into his hands as he returned to his seat. “Thank you, Tiraneth. I suppose it can’t be helped short of posting a guard dog at the entrance to the larder.”

Tiraneth threw her head back and laughed. She wiped her eyes on her ample white linen apron. “The poor dog would make himself sick eating all the pastries just himself.”

A rueful smile stretched his mouth. “No, I suppose you’re right,” he murmured into his cup. “Thank you, Tiraneth.”

She curtsied and took her leave. Faramir smiled into the air, thinking of the times he and Boromir had snuck into kitchens to steal sweets themselves. Some poor hall boy would receive Tiraneth’s ire now. The time she caught him and his brother helping themselves to an unapproved repast, they had scrubbed pots in the scullery for an afternoon, Steward’s sons or not. At the end, arms raw, they were given strict instructions that if they were going to steal jam tarts again, to take them from the batch that was leftover, not the batches counted for the evening’s banquet. He carried the lemon bun to the window, staring out the casement at the bustling courtyard below and the city beyond while he ate.

All too soon it was devoured. Faramir sighed and poured himself some more tea before resuming his place behind his desk. Despite diligent work of several hours, only a few things had moved from the “in” stack for review to the “out” stack for filing in the archives. He rubbed his forehead to unpinch his eyes. Purchasing winter wheat from the western ends of Gondor to make up for the destroyed Pelennor planting season, supplies vanishing from the palace larder, and a shortage of footmen for the new royal household. It was any wonder he could keep the country going while the new King solidified his support in the High Council.

He picked up the next piece of parchment. It was the report of the watch. Which reminded him, he had his fortnightly meeting with the captains of the night watch in less than a candlemark. Faramir touched the agenda laid neatly on the corner of his desk to reassure himself that it was still there.

Soon afterward a light tap on the door interrupted the soft scratching of his pen. “Come,” he said.

The two leaders of the night watch entered and took their seats in front of the Steward’s desk. One was a shorter man with brown hair indicating his origins amongst the western regions. The other was taller with dark hair. Both wore the beaten silver badges of captains of the Watch. After the usual pleasantries, Faramir picked up his agenda and dove in.

From duty rotations to coal for the night-time braziers to and the upcoming schedule for the week, they covered a wide range of topics. Soon Faramir’s finger reached the bottom of the page. They were nearly done. “Is there anything else you want to bring up?” Faramir asked.

The taller man twisted his hood in his hands. “Well, there is one thing, sir.”

“Yes, Ihuchion?”

“You see, we have a problem with a…” his voice trailed off as he stared at the hood crumpled in his lap.

Faramir leaned forward. “I beg your pardon?”

Ihuchion looked up. “A ghost, my lord.” He swallowed hard.

“A ghost.” Faramir’s pen fell from his hand to the blotter with a small plop.

The watch captains looked at each other. Someone’s feet shuffled in the reeds on the floor.

“For the last two weeks, around the time of the first bell, a spectre has shown itself upon the allure.” Ihuchion looked Faramir in the eyes. “It appears to wear the cloak of a Ranger of Ithilien.”

“And there are no other Rangers or guardsmen missing from their posts or barracks at this time? No other possible explanations than a ghost?”

“Everyone is accounted for, my lord,” Ihuchion replied.

“Has it a visage? Do we know who it is? Have you any idea what it seeks? What grudge it keeps?”

The other watch captain simply shook his head sadly.

“Its face is hidden within its cloak; none have seen his face,” Ihuchion replied.

Faramir turned to the second watch captain. “Gwaethor, what do you propose?”

Gwaethor spoke up, “If we lie in wait for it, perhaps we can confront it and question…”

“That’s rubbish, who ever heard of talking to a ghost?”

Faramir steepled his fingers. “Peace, gentlemen. Perhaps I should come see firsthand what you yourselves have seen?”

Gwaethor and Ihuchion nodded. “This is beyond our expertise,” Gwaethor acknowledged.

“And shades are part of mine?” Faramir laughed. And then he remembered his dream visions. He’d seen some odd things in his life. He sobered up. He took a deep breath, then exhaled. “Shall I join you this evening?” He raised his eyebrows at the two captains.

“Meet me at the watch office tonight at the changing of the guard, sir,” Ihuchion offered.

“Very well, then.” Faramir stood to show them out. He needed to retrieve a warm cloak from the clothespress before nightfall.


Faramir stared up at the sky. The constellations twinkled in the clear night sky overhead. The Dwarf, his favorite, stood ready with his axe. Faramir stomped his feet to keep warm. Looking back to the west, a thin wisp of clouds blurred the stars, but Carnil loomed over the tower’s edge.

He pulled his spare ranger’s cloak tighter around him. The thick wool smelled of woodsmoke and leather oil. It whispered comfort and familiarity of the caverns at Henneth Annûn.

“Here.” Something nudged Faramir in the ribs. He looked down. One gauntleted hand held out a flask.

“Oh, nnno, no thank you,” he stammered. “I don’t drink on duty.”

Brôgnorn shook his head. “This isn’t for recreation. This here is medicinal. Got to keep warm on a spring night like this.” Brôgnorn was a grizzled veteran of the watch, whom Faramir knew by sight but had never interacted with closely. It would not do to hurt his feelings.

Faramir let the merest drop wet his lips in politeness. He got a brief taste of plum before he handed it back. How much longer would it be? The first bell of the night had just rung; he had been sitting here since before midnight. An owl hooted in the distance.

“There, my lord!” The sentry pointed along the allure. A figure in a cloak emerged from an opening in a tower across the courtyard from them. It lurched unsteadily across the battlements, and then disappeared into the corner bastion.

Faramir sat back in dismay. He rubbed his chin. What could this be? “Is it gone?” he whispered.

Ihuchion laid his hand on Faramir’s shoulder. “Stay, my lord.”

In a few moments, the figure emerged through the archway at the bottom of the tower, having apparently taken the stairs. It lurched ungently across the flagstones. It passed under the archways, where it vanished.
“Does this happen every night?”

Maethor (Brôgnorn’s partner on this stretch of the battlements) nodded. “Not quite every night, m’lord, but often enough. The phantom varies in his path. Sometimes he’s one place one night and then somewhere else on another.”

“Will it come back?”

“That also depends.” Brôgnorn stretched his hands over the brazier.

“Sometimes it does, sometimes not,” Maethor shrugged.

Faramir turned away from the light of the fire and willed his eyes to adjust for another glimpse.

Ihuchion joined Faramir, peering into the dark. “You can begin to see what we’re up against.”

“Aye, I do.” Faramir turned to face Ihuchion. “Tomorrow I will return. We must try to make contact with it.”


After what felt like (and was) an abbreviated night’s sleep, Faramir plodded through his day of work. This time he met Gwaethor after nightfall; it was his evening as the officer in charge of the night watch.

Where Ihuchion had been jolly, Gwaethor was more reserved. Faramir only received a few words of answer from his attempts to make polite conversation. It was well enough. He drifted into a reverie, only half-listening to the jests between Maethor and Brôgnorn. In tone, if not substance, it reminded him of the days in the cave of Henneth Annûn. A log snapped in the brazier beside them, sending crackles of sparks into the air. Was the air on the wall walk beyond them growing misty? Faramir waved an arm experimentally outside his cloak. It did not feel damp enough for fog to grow.

No, there was a definite blur. He rubbed his eyes. When he looked back, the form of a cloaked Ranger looked back. Designed to obscure, the cloak faded into the dark, but there was yet a distinct silhouette against the stars.

The shade.

His companions fell silent as well. Faramir took a step forward.

“What do you want?” he called into the night. “Who were you in life?”

He gained no answer. The phantom receded along the walkway. It made no sound as it went, gliding smoothly as a swan upon the lakes of Dol Amroth.

Faramir leapt into pursuit. As quickly as he moved, it evaded him, with such an advantage of distance over him already.

Faramir increased his pace, but his soft-shod boots slid on the stone. He wrenched his back. A sharp pain stabbed through him where he had been wounded on the Pelennor. Faramir cursed his decision to choose stealth over hobnailed-traction. He stopped to lean against a convenient merlon. Panting, he clutched his incompletely-healed wound. The ghost continued on its progress, silently drifting away from him like a soap bubble carried on the wind, further and further out of his reach. Gradually it faded from view, until he was left staring into nothingness. He slid down the wall until he met the cold stone pavement. Faramir sat, willing himself to catch his breath. It had eluded him.


Faramir dozed off the next afternoon, after two short nights in a row. Tiraneth clucked her tongue when she found him inadvertently napping, clutching the report on refugee resettlement in one hand. He shook himself awake and gratefully accepted the tea, along with the second pot she sent up to the Steward’s office later.

After his evening meal and catching a brief moment of watching the sunset with the Lady Éowyn, he once again shrugged into his cloak and pulled on his gloves. For the third night he met Ihuchion, Brôgnorn, and Maethor at the guard office, rejoining them on the citadel wall. Once again he listened to their banter, accepted a third polite sip of plum brandy, stirred the coals in the brazier, and peered into the darkness.

Again, sometime after the midnight bell, the ghostly ranger emerged from the bastion opposite the courtyard.

Faramir caught the others’ eyes. He signalled to them: Go around the other way; encircle it. They nodded.

Faramir scrambled down the nearest staircase, while they headed the opposite direction. His scabbard banged against his legs as he tried to draw his sword while running. What good would a sword do against a shade? Who knows? But perhaps it would be stayed in its progress.

The caped figure picked up pace. Faramir and the guardsmen charged after it. The ghost scurried along the pavement, in the shadows of the colonnade. Faramir cursed protocol and darted across the grass, ignoring all the childhood injunctions to stay on the paved walkways. He cut it off before it could vanish into the darkness of the entrance to the storage rooms.

Tall as the tallest of the Númenoreans, it loomed over him, still a head taller than even he.

The trio of guardsmen pounded to a halt in a semicircle behind the ghost. It was surrounded.

Faramir carefully pointed his sword at where he assumed its heart would have been in life. “Halt, Spirit. How come you to traverse the Citadel? What business do you have here?”

Silence.

“Who were you in life, that now in death you must disturb the nighttime peace?”

Did the phantom… wobble?

It uttered a low moan. Instead of sounding fearsome, it sounded like a cow stuck in a bog.

Maethor and Brôgnorn looked at each other from opposite poles of the circle.

“Right, then,” Ihuchion said. He stepped forward, and reached for the swale of the phantom’s cloak. It came away in his hand, revealing two hobbits. Pippin sat on Merry’s shoulders, clinging mightily to Merry’s head, distorting Merry’s eyebrows in a ghoulish grimace. Pippin flailed one arm, overbalanced, and crashed to the ground. Thankfully he fell to the side of the grass rather then the flagstones.

The first bell rang in the tower as they all stared at each other, stunned.

Brôgnorn hauled Pippin up by the collar.

Faramir sheathed his sword. He rubbed his forehead to buy time, then his mouth for good measure, too. Finally he regained enough composure to speak. “What are you doing out so late, past the time when anyone with legitimate business is asleep?”

“We were hungry,” Merry muttered.

Pippin nodded in the baffling innocent way that only he could. “Hobbits often need late night snacks. Many hobbits have segmented sleep, y-”

“Segmented sleep,” interrupted Ihuchion. “You want us to believe that you halflings wake up even to eat?” he scoffed.

Merry rubbed his elbow. “I’m sure Gandalf can back us up.”

Pippin nodded his agreement.

Faramir exhaled. Nobody should go hungry, but at the same time, stealing from the kitchens when they could just ask? Did they eat the last piece of ginger cake?

“Sir,” Maethor tugged Faramir’s sleeve.

Faramir threw him off. “Was it you who ate the last of the ginger cake? Do you have no respect for the cooks and their meal planning?”

“We have great respect for the Citadel cooks.” Merry stared at his foot, tracing the flagstone joints.

“Sir,” Maethor began again.

Pippin looked up at the wall walk behind them. He pointed up over Faramir’s shoulder. “Up above, what’s that?”

Faramir turned and followed his finger. Silhouetted against the slanting moonlight, glided a pale figure in a ranger cloak.

“But, if you’re down here, who’s up there?” asked Brôgnorn.



This story was an entry in the Joker 2021 contest on the October 2020 picture challenge prompt.

The inspiring picture can be found here

Thank you to Evilmouse and the Silmarillion Writers Guild for cheering me on. Thank you also to the readers of the Teitho Contest for considering my story.

NB: Please do not distribute (by any means, including email) or repost this story (including translations) without the author's prior permission. [ more ]

Enjoyed this story? Then be sure to let the author know by posting a comment at https://www.faramirfiction.com/fiction/an-honest-ghost. Positive feedback is what keeps authors writing more stories!


1 Comment(s)

That was wonderful and slightly spooky fun. The image was creepier than the story, but it was a good read and all the more surprising for showing up in March instead of near Halloween

— Bell Witch    Tuesday 23 March 2021, 6:28    #

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About the Author


Eschscholzia

Hello! Welcome to my author page. I have been reading and enjoying fan fiction for many years, but only recently started writing it. I have other non-Faramir and non-Tolkien stories posted under the same user name at AO3 and Fanfiction.net. My Tumblr handle is “arizonapoppy.”

My writing style is short and slightly irreverent. I aspire to someday achieve writing something serious and long and angsty.

My Hogwarts House is Slytherin.

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