Written for the March 2017 LOTR Community Monthly Challenge (element - hellebore)
Winter had not yet given up its hold in Ithilien. Despite several days of a burgeoning Spring, a strong clasp of cold air had settled over the lands, delaying plough teams and forcing people to not yet abandon their heavy cloaks and warm boots.
On the first day of the cold snap, the youngest of the residents of Emyn Arnen fell sick with fever. For two days …owyn and her most trusted healer tended to young Halwyn, preparing tinctures and applying poultices to the bottoms of her feet to bring her temperature down. Halwyn hated the taste and smell but accepted all the ministrations with only a few words of complaint. Her reward for being such a good patient was often a soak in a cold bath, her mother combing her fingers through her hair and singing songs about Rohan warriors and their mighty steeds.
But despite her steady progress, Halwyn could not find rest. Her dreams had become tainted with the heat of her fever, turning even the most innocuous images into a miasma of horrors. No amount of comfort could put her mind at rest, and there was worry her ailment would linger or worsen if she did not begin to get enough sleep. Faramir listened to the discussions about Halwyn and resolved to find a solution to her fitful dreams.
That night he entered her room with a large bowl of hellebore blossoms floating in a bath of slightly warmed water. He placed it beside her and sat on the edge of the bed, taking her hand in his.
"What is that?" she asked, her soft voice still gravelly from her illness.
"Something to help you sleep."
"I would rather stay awake."
"I know. But tonight the sylkyrie will keep you safe from your dreams."
"The sylkyrie. They live in the forest, born each year when the hellebore bloom."
Halwyn rolled her eyes. "I'm too old for fairy stories."
"Sssh!" Faramir's eyes widened as he raised a finger to his lips then looked furtively toward the bowl of flowers. "They might hear you and if they're offended they won't help."
Halwyn pushed up onto her elbows and suspiciously eyed the flowers for a moment before plopping back onto her pillows. "Something is living in there?"
Faramir smiled at the skepticism in her voice. "A small clan of sylkyrie, one or two nestled in the centers of each blossom. You've seen the bunches of hellebore on our walks, how their blooms angle down toward the ground. It serves to focus the sylkyrie's energy, using the earth to channel their powers across great distances."
"What powers do they have?"
"I never learned the correct name, but my mother used to call it 'banshee whispers'."
At that Halwyn's eyes grew big and all lingering doubt vanished from her face. "Your mother told you about them?"
"Yes, when I was a little younger than you. I, too, was having a difficult time facing my dreams, so she brought the sylkyrie to me," he nodded at the bowl, "just as I have done for you now. She said their banshee whispers frighten the slutagh, evil creatures who take pleasure in haunting dreams, twisting them into something grotesque and horrifying. But when they hear the sylkyrie's whispers, they run as far as they can, leaving us free to sleep in peace."
"But hellebore do not grow all year. Where do the sylkyrie live when the flowers are gone?"
"Sadly, when the hellebore fade so do the sylkyrie. But we benefit from their magic all year long. By the time the sylkyrie's time has ended, the slutagh have run so far and have hidden themselves so well they can cause no more mischief in our sleep. And if they ever do manage to give someone a bad dream, all it takes is a little whistling to send them on their way. They've become so jumpy that any sound even vaguely resembling the sylkyrie's whisper makes them scurry."
"And you brought the flowers here because the forest is so far?" Halwyn's sentence ended on a broad yawn she was unable to stifle.
"Exactly. Every Ranger will tell you they get the best sleep when lying under the trees. That is because it is in the woods, close to where the hellebore naturally grow, where their power is the strongest. For acute cases of slutagh torment, such as I suffered as a boy and what you are fighting with now, it is advised to bring the patient a small number of sylkyrie so that they may feel the full effect of the banshee whispers during their sleep."
Halwyn propped herself up once more and turned toward the flowers, giving them a slight nod before settling back down on the bed. "I am sorry I thought you were just a fairy story, my little sylkyrie." She looked up at her father, her eyes growing heavy with sleep. "Thank you for helping me."
"You are most welcome." Faramir stood and tucked the coverlets more tightly around her. "And after such a polite acknowledgement, I suspect they will whisper extra loud for you tonight." He bent and kissed her forehead then slipped out of the room as his precious daughter fell into a restful sleep.