Where no Birds Sing

Author: Linda Hoyland

Nominator: Raksha the Demon

2011 Award Category: Horror: General

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Short Story

Rating: Teen  ✧  Reason for Rating: Disturbing Imagery/Themes

Summary: A stormy night, a strange encounter, and a lost doll pull Aragorn and Faramir into a mystery, when they happen upon an old hunting lodge that may not be as empty as it seems.. Written for the "Teitho" "Five Ingredients" Challenge.

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Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon  ✧  Score: 10

Prolific fanfic writer Linda Hoyland reveals her versatility with this short story. The caring friendship and respect between Aragorn and Faramir forms a familiar backdrop to a mystery that is both chilling and tragic. Instead of having her heroic protagonists be set upon by bandits or orcs when they ride out alone to escape the tedium of governance, Linda has Aragorn and Faramir stalled by the prosaic yet effective device of one of their horses having bruised its hoof, and then the stronger and more dangerous menace of a storm. And then, the mysterious hunting lodge, the refuge to which the weary men have been directed, is strangely cold. But that's not the worst of it. Another writer might have brought out deadly wights or otherwise sinister supernatural creatures to attack Aragorn and Faramir as they try to sleep in the cold, inhospitable house. Instead, the ghosts come out; not as wispy shadows, but as a frightened family trying to gather their belongings in haste, the child upset because she cannot find her doll. The lack of interaction between the mysterious family and Aragorn and Faramir works particularly well; truly the two sets of people are moving in different worlds. The eventual truth about the family, learned the next day in a more hospitable and prosaic inn, reveals the tragedy of the story - the mother and father and little girl were killed by Easterlings during the Ring War. The implication is haunting, that the moments Aragorn and Faramir saw in the family's life, as they hurried to leave, were probably among the last before their murderers invaded the lodge they had hoped would be a refuge from war. This development works better than if Aragorn and Faramir had heard the screams of the dying; the poignant image of this father and mother and little girl rushing around the lodge, preparing hastily to leave, but still strong and living, leaves a strong contrast with the reader's knowledge, and Aragorn and Faramir's knowledge, that the family was mercilessly, and rather unpleasantly, killed. An excellent reminder that not all the victims of war are warriors; that innocent bystanders can suffer as well; and that sometimes there is no refuge from war's horrors. And an effective ghost story too.

Reviewed by: Virtuella  ✧  Score: 8

Dear Linda, you have explored the ghost story genre here very effectively within the parameters of the five ingredients challenge. Aragorn and Faramir appear as rational and practically minded men; there is none of the typical scaremongering that often goes with ghosts stories, instead the creepiness is conveyed purely through the description of the setting. The two men have nothing but down-to-earth communications to share and even when they encounter the ghostly family, they think in terms of a natural explanation. It is only when they hear from the man on the road the following day of the background story of the house that they begin to think differently about the experience of the previous night. All the usual parameters of a ghost appearance seem fulfilled. When Aragorn proceeds to set those trapped souls free, the change in the surroundings confirm the suspicions. I like how both men remain composed and solution-orientated, which is a fitting characterisation for them. A well-structured and well-rounded story.

Reviewed by: The Lauderdale  ✧  Score: 7

When Aragorn and Faramir stay the night in an abandoned hunting lodge, they have an odd encounter with a little girl who claims to live there with her parents. The next day, they learn something more about that house and its former occupants. While this fic is best read as a ghost story, I like the way it does not fully commit itself - after all, as Aragorn says, [there must be many crippled soldiers and their families who seek shelter where they can. I try to help them, but some are too proud to accept charity.] Whoever or whatever he and Faramir saw that night, there is certainly something unnatural about the house: an overwhelming chill and an absence of birdsong attend it. But Aragorn has some experience with the Dead, and he does his best to put whatever haunts the property to rest. The final paragraph is exemplary for its restraint and simple beauty. I also think that [Where no Birds Sing] is as much fairy tale as ghost story: the initial discovery of the house, and the way each man tries to quell the other's unease, owe something to the use of repetition in tales like [Hansel and Gretel], [Goldilocks], and [Red Riding Hood]. A nice piece of storytelling.

Reviewed by: Darkover  ✧  Score: 7

This is an engrossing story that begins simply enough; King Elessar and his Steward are enjoying a day off from their usual duties--as Elessar observed, as a Ranger, he needs the occasional day in the sun and the fresh air--when the King's horse goes lame, a storm is rising, and they need to take what shelter they can. After that, things begin to get strange. As usual in any story written by this author, the dialogue and the characterization are both well written, and the friendship between the King and his Steward is portrayed in such a natural, effortless way. The descriptive style is well done, and the plot is finely concocted, too. What I especially liked about this story is how Aragorn/Elessar regards *all* of his subjects as his responsibility, even those he meets under circumstances as unusual and remarkable as they are in this tale. Although the story does not have an ending that is emphatically clear, the reader will be satisfied.

Reviewed by: Thundera Tiger  ✧  Score: 6

Ah, a very worthy ghost story! Linda Hoyland paints a dreary picture of Aragorn and Faramir, stranded on the road with a lame horse. It's not a life-threatening situation by any means, but it is a situation that forces them to seek shelter at the nearest available lodgings. The storm prevents them from noticing a few critical clues outright, but their horses are very aware that not all is as should be. It sets the stage for a very creepy night full of strange sounds and sights. Their efforts to dismiss what they hear are admirable but ultimately doomed. As readers, we know very well what is going on, but caught in the midst of the story, Faramir and Aragorn keep looking for explanations. They find those explanations in the village, but even then, it takes another discussion at the inn to convince them of what happened. A wonderfully chilling little tale.

Author response: Many thanks for your much appreciated review . I am so pleased that you enjoyed my story. It was one I greatly enjoyed writing.

Reviewed by: Erulisse  ✧  Score: 4

I love a good ghost story. And this one is a great story. As Aragorn and Faramir seek shelter from a storm, they stay in a ruined house with some very unusual otherworldly inhabitants. But what was most sad was the confirmed knowledge, the next day, that those characters seen the night before died shortly after the events they were portraying. Wonderfully written in a universe and timeframe that Linda handles so deftly, you owe it to yourself to read this short contribution to a Halloween's future tales.

Reviewed by: Ellynn  ✧  Score: 2

In this story, Linda shows us that she's very good with horror stories, too. The atmosphere is scary and mysterious, very well written, and the end is very touching.