Format: Short story
Characters: Aragorn, Faramir, OMCS
Pairings: Aragorn/Arwen, OMC/OFC
Summary: Aragorn reminisces about his first visit to Harad.
The characters are the property of the Tolkien Estate. No profit has been nor will be made from this story.
A/n; Fadil’s time with Aragorn is told from the merchant’s point of view in “A Gift of Tongues” and his adventures in the desert are told in “Desert Skies”.
A revised version of a story posted here a year ago
“I thank you, honoured friends,” said Tahir, as he finished his meal and licked his lips appreciatively. “You honour me beyond measure by inviting me to your table and serving me with such delicacies. My fair blossom will be most sad that she had to miss such delight.”
“The cook was happy to prepare your food in the way you like it,” said Arwen. “We keep a supply of your favourite spices for when you visit us. You must come again and bring Adiva when your little one is recovered. Éowyn should be able to join us as she is in the City next week too. ”
“Few would be as kind to a former enemy as you are, esteemed friends,” said the Ambassador.
Arwen rose to leave the table and the men followed her into the living room where Aragorn, Arwen, and Faramir settled themselves on comfortable chairs and Tahir reclined on cushions that had been placed there for him.
A servant served drinks. When they had departed, Aragorn spoke. “Once I believed, as some sadly still do, that all the Men of Harad were cruel and violent and very different to the Men of the West. It was not until I met Fadil that my opinion changed.”
“Who was Fadil?” asked Faramir.
“You have heard me speak of him before, melon nîn,” said Aragorn. “He was the merchant whom I served for a while. He taught me to speak the Tongue of Harad.”
“Ah yes, I recall you mentioning a merchant,” said Faramir.
“You were a servant to a merchant, esteemed Lord King?” Tahir sounded horrified.
Aragorn laughed. “I have been many things in my life. I found my time with Fadil most profitable. It is a long story.”
Faramir glanced at the Ambassador and noted the eager gleam in the eyes of the Man of Harad. Tahir was far too well mannered, though, to demand a story, so he said, “I should like to hear it, if you would share it with us.”
“Gladly,” said Aragorn. He took a sip of his drink and closed his eyes as he remembered. “It was long ago. I had been serving in Gondor under the guise of Captain Thorongil, but it was time for me to leave there. I felt somewhat at a loss. I knew I should return north and take up my duties as Chieftain again, but I felt I had not learned all that I could in the South. I had fought against the Haradrim and I desired to know more about them. They were after all, Men ,not Orcs and I wondered if they all truly venerated Sauron or were they simply in thrall to him.”
“By no means, esteemed friend,” said Tahir. “Many of us never bowed the knee to the false Lord of Gifts, even if it cost our lives.”
“I had much to learn,” said Aragorn. “One day, I was in a tavern in Umbar wondering how I might travel to Harad without arousing suspicion, when I heard a dreadful commotion outside. I hastened to see what had happened and found a young man writhing in agony on the ground. From the angle of his leg, I could see that it was broken. He had been kicked by a camel. To my dismay, everyone seemed more concerned about the camels than the injured man. I realised he must be a slave. His master seemed more angry with him than concerned. I tried to offer my help. At least his master spoke the common tongue. A soldier drew a dagger as if to despatch the poor fellow and the slave’s owner looked about to agree. It was all I could do not to draw my sword to defend the injured boy, but I was heavily outnumbered and surrounded by angry Haradrim. My glare must have impressed the slave owner, though, as he agreed to let me tend the lad.”
Faramir laughed. “There are few who can withstand your gaze!”
“Only my lady, I believe,” said Aragorn, patting Arwen’s arm affectionately.
Arwen laughed. “Your glare pales in comparison to that of my beloved Grandmother!” she said. “She taught me to flinch from the gaze of neither Man nor Elf.”
Aragorn stretched out his long legs and resumed his story. “I soon realised there was more to Fadil, as he told me his name was, than I first thought,” he said. “Once he had made up his mind to let me tend his slave, he hired a room at the tavern and assisted me while I set the broken leg, though I could see he had little stomach for the task. When I examined the boy, whose name was Kedar, I found so marks of ill treatment on him and he looked to be properly fed. I cannot condone slavery, but it seemed that Fadil cared for Kedar in his own fashion and Kedar cared for him. Fadil paid for a room at the inn until he came that way again to collect his slave, though he grumbled about the expense. He was concerned about the prospect of travelling alone through the desert. It was then that I seized my chance and asked to go with him as his servant if he would teach me the Tongue of Harad. It was not easy to convince him as he had no love for tarks.”
“Foolish man not to realise the honour you were granting him!” exclaimed Faramir.
“He agreed in the end to take me in exchange for having tended Kedar,” said Aragorn. “He first insisted that I change my clothes for those worn by his people.”
“We consider the clothes that Men of the West wear indecent,” said Tahir. He looked uncomfortable. “My apologies, honoured friends, I should not have spoken of such matters.”
“I never knew that,” said Faramir. “Why is that, my friend?”
“We believe all garments must cover the limbs and the form of the body,” Tahir explained. “Your ladies follow our custom of decency, but not your men. My people believe only undergarments should cling to the limbs.”
“I had to learn to become accustomed to wearing robes over close fitting undergarments,” said Aragorn. “We set out into the desert a few days later and I soon learnt my new duties of caring for camels.”
“Not an easy task, esteemed friend,” said Tahir.
“Indeed not,” said Aragorn, “It felt simple, though compared with learning your language.”
“Very few Men of the West ever master it,” said Tahir. “We find it easier to learn your Common Speech than to teach others our tongue.”
“Fadil was a hard taskmaster, but a fair one,” said Aragorn. “By the time we reached Harad, I was proficient enough in the language and customs so as not to stand out. The merchant said I could stay with him as his servant. I had told him that I sought to make my fortune to win a lady who had captured my heart.” He looked fondly at Arwen as he spoke. “Fadil thought all I needed to do was earn sufficient coin to buy a herd of camels to offer to your father as bride gift!”
Arwen and Faramir both burst out laughing.
“Whatever would my father have done with a herd of camels!” Arwen exclaimed.
“Fadil was a good man in his own fashion,” said Aragorn. “Not that he liked to be seen to do good. Those were harsh times when to show kindness was to disobey Sauron’s edicts. Fadil was devoted to his three wives and twenty children he never ill- treated his slaves or those whom he employed. He was harsh but fair and honourable. I learned a great deal from him, though servitude did not come easily to me. I especially disliked having to scrub him in the hamam!”
“I can well believe that, esteemed friend,” said Tahir. “A most demeaning task for a great lord such as you.”
“It was hot as Orodruin,” Aragorn replied. “I, naturally insisted on keeping on my robe for decency. He would spend half the day bathing.”
“Such is our custom,” said Tahir. “If a man can afford his own baths, he makes full use of them.”
“Did Fadil revere the Dark Lord, though?” Arwen asked.
“I think not,” said Aragorn. “Such matters were never spoken of aloud, but never did I see him attend any of the sacrifices when prisoners of war and those who disagreed with Sauron’s rule were given to the fire. I would sometimes come across him looking up into the night sky, but he always looked down quickly if he realised he was being observed.”
I believe he venerated the Lord and Lady of the Moon in secret,” said Tahir. “I wonder if he were of the merchant line of my tribe?”
“I often wonder what became of Fadil and his family,” said Aragorn. “I worked for him for several months and then took my leave and told him I desired to travel further to learn about the desert folk. He paid me generously for my services and even insisted I take a camel, which I had to sell before leaving Harad.” He took a draught from his glass and looked thoughtful. “Fadil will be long dead now, but I owe him a good deal for all he taught me. He was taking a risk in employing one who could have been a foreign spy, which in a way I was. He believed I was native to Umbar. I hope his family have prospered.”
“I will try to find out,” said Tahir. He rose to his feet. “I must take my leave now, esteemed friends, my fair blossom awaits me.”
Faramir rose too. "I leave early in the morning for Ithilien," he said."So I must bid you goodnight too."
“You must dine with us again soon, Tahir,” said Aragorn. “We welcome your company and your friendship. Fadil was my first friend from your land and I am glad he was not the last.”