Format: short story
Genre: adventure,h/c, humour
Characters:Aragorn, Faramir, OMC, OFC
Creators notes: With thanks to mrowe. It was customary to share beds at inns in the olden days often with complete strangers. The Great Bed of Ware can accommodate 15 people!
Summary: A mishap forces Aragorn and Faramir to seek shelter at an inn.
“Come on, girl,” Faramir coaxed the mare to enter the water.
“It is only shallow,” Aragorn called from the other side where he sat astride Roheryn.
Iavas was not especially fond of water and only entered the stream reluctantly at her master's urging. Half way across her hooves stumbled on the slippery stones that formed the bed of the stream. She stumbled and reared. Faramir tried desperately to hold on but in vain, he tumbled into the water. Iavas regained her footing and reached the other side.
“Aargh!” cried Faramir as he emerged from the stream, water dripping from his hair and clothing.
“Are you hurt?” said Aragorn, leaping from Roheryn's back and making as if to enter the water. “You are bleeding!”
“It's just a scratch,” said Faramir. “Stay there! There is no point in you getting drenched too.” He waded slowly across to the far bank and gripped Aragorn's outstretched hand, allowing the King to help him out of the water.
“It looks worse than a scratch to me,” said Aragorn. “You are limping, breathing heavily and your face is covered in blood!”
“It is just the shock of falling,” said Faramir. “It knocked the wind out of me. I must have scratched my face on a sharp rock. At least my pack did not get wet.”
Aragorn regarded his Steward carefully, looking him up and down. “We passed an inn a quarter of league or so back,” he said. “We will make our way back there and you can change into dry clothing and I can tend your hurts.”
“There is no need,” said Faramir. “The sun and wind with soon dry my clothes and I only have a change of linens with me. I have known far worse during my time as a Ranger.”
“You did not then have me facing the prospect of Éowyn's wrath if I did not bring you home in one piece,” said Aragorn. “Your pulse is rapid and you are shaking, ion nîn. I would be remiss as a healer to let you ride on in this condition.”
“Very well, then, mother hen, we will go to the inn.” Secretly, Faramir much appreciated Aragorn's concern. The King had become the loving father to him that Denethor had never been and truth to tell, he did feel rather shaken. It was a very rare occurrence for him to fall from a horse.”
Aragorn helped him mount Iavas again and they retraced their route. This time, the mare navigated the stream without faltering.
King and Steward had endured an especially gruelling round of negotiations with Khand, trying to improve relations between the two countries. The Queen had told her husband he needed a few days in the wilds away from the City. For her own part, she wanted to try negotiating on her own as she knew the rulers of Khand would think any suggestions made by a woman were inferior and agree to them, thinking they were getting a better deal, when in fact, her terms were tougher than those Aragorn had suggested.
The two men had readily agreed to her suggestion and had been greatly enjoying themselves prior to the current mishap. They had slept beneath the stars and hunted and foraged for their food and enjoyed being simple Rangers again for a time. The weather had been exceptionally fine too and it felt good not to be cooped up within the City walls.
The sun was setting when they reached the old inn, a quaint building, which had doubtless refreshed weary travellers for many generations. Rather incongruously, the inn was named “The Great Whale” though they were many leagues from the sea. The sign had been freshly painted in contrast to the rest of the building.
King and Steward dismounted and tethered their horses to the fence. Faramir looked down at his sodden clothing decorated with patches of algae. “I hope they let such a disreputable-looking fellow as I onto the premises,” he said glumly.
“They will,” said Aragorn, a hint of steel in his tone. He strode into the inn with Faramir following. “I need a room for myself and my son and a hot bath for him,” he told the innkeeper. “His horse threw him and he landed in yonder stream by the woods.”
“I'm about to, “ the innkeeper began.
“We pay good coin,” said Aragorn in a tone few would dare to disagree with. “We appear to be your only customers so there is no good reason you cannot serve us.”
“Very well, good sirs. This way, if you please.” He led the King and Steward up a short flight of stairs to a small low chamber with a low oak beamed ceiling. The only furniture was a bed, a small table, and a chair.
“I need some extra blankets,” said Aragorn. “They had better be clean.”
“I pride myself on keeping a clean house. My serving maid and I will bring up the bathtub and hot water.”
“Thank you, Master?”
“My name is Sador, son of Maglor,” the innkeeper said as he bustled away.
Faramir sat down glumly. The chair looked as ancient as the inn itself. “Had I not fallen, we would still be enjoying the fresh air,” he said glumly. “I should have controlled Iavas better. I will never hear the last of this from Éowyn.”
“You are an excellent horseman, ion nîn, “ said Aragorn. “Even the best horse and rider can have a mishap when the stones are so slippery. Blame the warm summer for causing more algae to form. The stuff is as slippery as eels!”
“I had better get my clean linens from my pack,” said Faramir.
“You are touching nothing until you have had a bath,” said Aragorn. “At least the cut on your face has stopped bleeding.”
Faramir sighed but before he could say anything the innkeeper and a serving maid arrived with a hip bath, jugs of hot water and towels and blankets.
“Give me your son's clothes to dry by the fire when he is ready,” said the innkeeper.
“Thank you, Master Sador.”
The serving maid lingered to fill the bath and Aragorn gave her a coin before she left.
Aragorn put the catch on the door and helped Faramir out of his sodden garments. As well as the cut on the Steward's face, he also had a large bruise on his side and another on his knee.
“You see,” said Faramir. “Just a scratch.”
“I will salve your hurts after your bath,” said Aragorn.
Faramir clambered into the hip bath. It was very cramped but the water was warm and it felt good to wash the mud and algae from his skin and hair. While the Steward was bathing, Aragorn unpacked his healing supplies.
It was harder to get out of the cramped bath then to get in it as he felt stiff from the fall. Aragorn placed a towel by the side of the bath for Faramir to step on to and helped him out.
“This makes me realise we are so fortunate to have large roomy baths at home,” said Faramir. He towelled himself dry and pulled on his clean drawers. He then sat on the bed while Aragorn applied a comfrey salve to his bruises and scratches. “Than you,” he said. That feels much better.”
“You will live, “ said Aragorn. “You seem to have recovered quickly from the shock. We can be on our way soon after sunrise.” He rolled up his sleeves and took up Faramir's discarded garments and started to rinse them in the bath water.
“I can do that,” Faramir protested.
“You concentrate on getting dressed,” said Aragorn.
“I only have a dry shirt.” Faramir pulled the garment over his head. “I shall have to stay here while my clothes dry downstairs.”
“I asked the innkeeper for plenty of blankets,” said Aragorn. “You can drape them round you while until your garments are ready.”
“I can hardly walk around wearing a blanket,” said Faramir.
“We are the only customers here and the innkeeper saw you looking far worse covered in mud,” said Aragorn. “ You will be perfectly decent. This room is too cramped to stay here until morning and you need to eat.”
Faramir tied a blanket around his waist and draped another over his shoulders. He scratched his calf. “These blankets itch! Valar be praised I have my linens.”
“I can smell something cooking,” said Aragorn. “Come and see if good Master Sador can feed us”
Holding tightly to the blankets, Faramir followed his King downstairs. Aragorn carried the bundle of wet clothing wrapped in a towel.
“My wife has a hearty stew in the pot,” said Sador. “And I serve fine ale if you care for a drink, sirs.” He did not raise an eyebrow at Faramir's strange attire.
“Two plates of your stew and two mugs of your finest ale, please,” said Aragorn. “And could you dry these clothes so we can be on our way on the morrow.”
“I'll take them, “ said the serving maid. “They'll soon dry out by the fire.”
Aragorn and Faramir sat down at the table and were soon tucking into Sador's simple but delicious stew followed by apple crumble and sipping their ale.
“Your food is delicious,” said Aragorn. “I am sorry you do not have more customers.”
“I'm usually packed out,” the innkeeper replied. “It is the annual village fair today and everyone will be there enjoying themselves. I was about to close early when you travellers turned up on my doorstep.”
“We thank you for your hospitality,” said Faramir. “May I ask you a question?”
“Ask away,” said Sador.
“Why is this inn called “The Great Whale? We are many leagues from the coast.”
Sador laughed. “This inn has been in my family for six generations and will pass to my son when I'm gone. I didn't want to be an innkeeper, though, I wanted to be a sailor and ran away to sea, nearly breaking my poor father's heart. I enjoyed life and sea and rose to become First Mate. Then I was shipwrecked and almost drowned. I lost my taste for seafaring after that and came home to help my father and eventually take over the inn like my fathers before me. I did change the name, though. The inn used to be called “The Nag's Head”, but I decided to change it.”
“But why to “The Great Whale”?” asked Faramir.
“Because it was a bloody great whale that sunk my ship and made me decide to become an innkeeper,” Sador replied. “Oh, the stories I could tell you!”
“We would like to hear them,” said Aragorn. “We can then tell you some of our tales if you wish.”
The evening passed pleasantly and Faramir had almost forgotten that he was clad in blankets as the innkeeper marvelled at his tale of seeing a Mûmak.
“What tales you pair can tell!” said Sador.
“As can you, Master Sador,” Faramir replied.
“I reckon you two should go to court and apply to entertain the King with your tales,” said the innkeeper.
“I am certain he has heard many such tales before,” said Aragorn struggling to keep a straight face. Faramir developed a sudden coughing fit. “Thank you for an enjoyable evening, Master Sador, now may we please have a candle to light us to bed.”
The two fell asleep at once, despite their feet hanging over the edge of the bed. Faramir did not even awaken when Aragorn snored loudly. They rose at dawn and were relieved to find that Faramir's clothes were dry and did not smell too bad. Soon they were on their way and “The Great Whale” faded into the distance.
“I liked that inn,” said Faramir, “though not the circumstances that led us there. Maybe we can visit again one day.”
“I hope so,” said Aragorn. He urged Roheryn forward. “We should be home ere sunset. I cannot wait to see how Arwen fared in the negotiations. She is as wise as she is fair.”