Format: short story
Genre: angst, h/c, drama
Warnings:injuries and blood
Characters:Aragorn, Faramir, Arwen,OMCS, OFCS
Pairings:Aragorn/Arwen, Faramir/Éowyn, OMC/OFC
Creators notes: Tahir is a good friend of Faramir's
Summary:The Kha Khan's visit causes headaches for Aragorn, Faramir and Tahir.
“Our warriors are the finest in the world, great King!” proclaimed the Kha Khan. He waved to a servant to bring more wine. Beside him, his kinsman, Tahir twirled the goblet anxiously in his hand. The Kha Khan was paying a state visit to Gondor to negotiate a trade deal. He had decided to stay at the Ambassador's House where the décor and food were more to his liking than at the Citadel. Aragorn could see that the poor Ambassador was a bundle of nerves at being chosen for this dubious honour.
Tonight, together with Faramir, he was attending a reception for the men, while Arwen and Lady Adiva entertained the Kha Khans many wives and concubines at the Citadel. Éowyn was detained in Ithilien as Elboron had caught a slight fever. Aragorn was certain that although Éowyn would be sad her son was unwell, she would be delighted to miss the Kha Khan's visit.
“Do you not agree our warriors are the finest in the world, esteemed King?” the Kha Khan repeated.
“Other nations have fine warriors too,” said Aragorn as diplomatically as he could.
“Our warriors can fight wielding scimitars in flowing silk garments without armour, honoured lord,” said the Kha Khan. “Can that be said of your warriors with their heavy swords and heavy armour?”
“We can still fight well despite the burden,” said Faramir. A servant refilled his goblet.
“Drink up!” cried the Kha Khan. “This wine is our finest. The grapes are grown in our fairest oasis.” He beckoned to one of his bodyguards, “Hand me your scimitar, man!”
“May the Kha Khan live forever!” said the Guard unbuckling his weapon and handing it to his Lord.
The Kha Khan handed the scimitar to Faramir who took it cautiously. It was an evil looking weapon but surprisingly light compared to his own blade. “It is lighter than my sword,” he conceded, handing the weapon back to the Guard. The Guard nicked his finger on the blade before sheathing the weapon. In Harad, it was considered ill luck to draw a weapon without drawing blood.
"Using a scimitar takes great skill," said the Kha Khan."Only a man of Harad can master such a blade. Your men rely overmuch on weight to better their opponents."
"The men of Gondor would protect our beloved land whatever weapons were available," said Faramir. He spoke rather more heatedly than was his custom.
“How about a sparring match, honoured King of the West?” suggested the Kha Khan. “My man,” he gestured towards Tahir,” against your esteemed Lord Faramir?”
Aragorn hesitated trying to think of a diplomatic way to refuse. Tahir looked horrified at the suggestion.
“I will uphold the honour of Gondor,” said Faramir.
Aragorn groaned inwardly. He could not think of a way he could stop this now without belittling Faramir and Gondor's honour in front of the Kha Khan.
The Kha Khan laughed."I look forward to splendid entertainmen on the morrow, esteemed lords."
At breakfast with the King and Queen the next morning, matters looked very different to Faramir. “Why ever did I agree to the Kha Khan's suggestion?” he mused as he rearranged the food on his plate. “I have no idea how to fight wearing robes and wielding a scimitar? What if I fail? It will look ill for Gondor.”
“Foolish men!” said Arwen as she sipped her tea. “This would not have happened had I been there. The Kha Khan is wily. It sees this as a way to amuse himself during his visit and enhance his glory back in Harad. He plied you with wine to get his way.”
“You do not have to do this, Faramir,” said Aragorn. He took a bite of crusty bread. “Go home to Ithilien. I will tell the Kha Khan your son is unwell and has need of you.”
“An excellent plan,” said Arwen.
Faramir shook his head. “No, I am anxious to acquit myself well for the honour of Gondor. It is not as if I am in any danger. Tahir is my friend and would never harm me. He is lending me some of his robes and a scimitar for the match. At least Éowyn need never know of this. She is far more likely to kill me than Tahir if she hears of it!”
“When is this match of madness?” asked Arwen.
“This afternoon on the practise ground,” said Faramir.
“I intend to be there,” said Arwen.
“I do not think the Kha Khan would approve, my lady,” said Faramir.
Arwen glared. “I care not what the Kha Khan thinks nor his entourage. I am Queen of the Reunited Kingdom and I will go where I will. Now I am going to spend some time in the nursery then I have a Guild meeting. I will see you this afternoon.”
Her eyes flashed as she swept out of the room. She reminded Aragorn very much of her Grandmother Galadriel at that moment.
“I have promised to show the Kha Khan around the City,” said Aragorn.
“Tahir is going to lend me some robes and help me practise with the scimitar while you entertain the Kha Khan,” said Faramir. He pushed his scarcely touched breakfast aside. “I intend to show him that Gondor's warriors have no equal. I will see you later, mellon nîn.”
Aragorn sighed as the Steward left. He had so hoped that Faramir no longer felt in the shadow of his father and brother. It seemed that the Kha Khan's challenge had stirred up his old anxieties. At least no one's life was in danger today. He only hoped Faramir would not take it too badly if Tahir bested him, hampered as Faramir would be by unfamiliar clothing and weapons. The King felt badly for Tahir too as the Ambassador was at the mercy of a capricious potentate. He intended to intervene if the Kha Khan tried to punish him if he lost, diplomatic repercussions or not. As Arwen had rightly pointed out they were in his lands.
At the appointed hour, the Kha Khan and his entourage assembled on the practice ground. Aragorn had ordered his servants to provide seating for his illustrious guest. He and Arwen were there to support Faramir together with their Guards and a handful of curious citizens, both men and women, who had noticed something was afoot.
“You allow your women to attend, esteemed King?” asked the Kha Khan.
“Our women do as they will,” said Aragorn.
“Most strange, great King,” said the Kha Khan.
The two combatants appeared, Tahir was wearing the warriors scarlet robes which he usually shunned in Gondor, while Faramir was wearing the blue silk robes which Tahir usually favoured. They were somewhat too short so he wore his breeches beneath them.
The match began cautiously with each man trying to gain the measure of the other. They often matched each other at chess but had never sparred before. Tahir was obviously trying to be careful to compensate for Faramir's lack of experience with a scimitar Faramir held his own though and the match intensified as the combatants ducked and dived with their blades.
The spectators cheered at such a feast of skilled swordsmanship. Neither man could find a gap in the other's defence.
A stray dog wandered into the practise ground and several of the spectators tried to shoo it away. The Kha Khan and his entourage scowled, regarding the animal with great distaste. Dogs were seen as unlucky in Harad.
Faramir was accustomed to such distractions while practising. Tahir obviously was not, distracted, he lost his footing while swinging his blade. He pitched forward, the scimitar cutting into Faramir's chest. Both men fell at the same moment, with Tahir landing on top of Faramir.
The Ambassador scrambled quickly to his feet. Faramir lay motionless in the dust, blood pouring from the wound in his chest. Tahir threw down his blade and dropped to his knees and let out a low keening wail, the cry of mourning used in Harad for the loss of a beloved comrade.
Aragorn rushed to Faramir's side with Arwen close behind him. He knelt beside Faramir, trying to staunch the bleeding with his hands and cloak. He then made a makeshift bandage with a wrap Arwen handed to him. Guards rushed to surround them. One chased off the dog which looked about to lick Faramir's blood from the ground. “Carry Lord Faramir to the Houses of Healing with all haste!” Aragorn commanded. He glanced across at Tahir who was still keening. The Kha Khan's Guards looked as if they were about to drag him away. Aragorn felt like striking the Ambassador. The life of Aragorn's dearest friend hung in the balance because of him. It was not Tahir's fault, though. It was a tragic accident. He called to three of his Guards. “Escort the Ambassador to the Citadel, please and keep close watch on him. He then turned to Arwen. “Stay with him until Lady Adiva can be fetched to comfort her husband. Have the servants take the Kha Khan to the Great Hall and bring him refreshments.”
He then sprinted after the Guards who were carrying Faramir to the Houses of Healing. Fortunately, the Houses were only a short distance from the Practise Ground.
Tarostar, the Warden of the Houses, came out to meet them with attendants carrying a stretcher. “Take Lord Faramir to the honoured guests' room,” he commanded. “Send Master Aedred to assist me, please. I need hot water, bandages and salves.”
The attendants laid Faramir on the bed in the room reserved for dignitaries and Aragorn dismissed them. Aragorn was anxious to examine his friend. He knew that he at least lived as dead men did not bleed, but how severe were his injuries?
Faramir groaned as he cut away the silk robes but did not regain consciousness. Aragorn was puzzled. He did not think his friend had lost enough blood to make him swoon and his pulse was strong and not alarmingly rapid. The mystery was solved when he felt a swelling on the back of Faramir's head. It seemed he had knocked himself out when he fell backwards.
Aragorn carefully bared the wound on Faramir's chest. He could have wept with relief when he examined it. It was a long wound and bleeding profusely now the makeshift bandages were removed, but it was not deep. It would not even need stitching.
Faramir's eyes flickered open. Aragorn gripped his hand. “You are safe, ion nîn,” he said. “All will be well.”
Faramir grimaced. “I have such a headache and I made a fool of myself and disgraced Gondor.”
Aragorn smiled broadly. Faramir was lucid. It seemed he was not badly hurt. He would have to watch him carefully until the morrow, but it seemed his brain was not damaged. “You could never disgrace Gondor, ion nîn,” he said, squeezing Faramir's hand. “The match was a draw. You and Tahir both fell at the same time. Honour is satisfied for both Harad and Gondor.”
“What of Tahir?” asked Faramir. “He will be distressed and the Kha Khan's wrath might fall upon him.”
“I ordered him to be taken to the Citadel,” said Aragorn. “Arwen is with him and has sent for Adiva.”
“I should like to see him,” said Faramir.”
“You shall as soon as your wounds are tended,” said Aragorn.
Just then there was a tap on the door. Aragorn tucked the sheet around Faramir as Aedred and two attendants entered with hot water, bandages and salves.
“I should like some ice too, please,” Aragorn told the attendants.
“We have some in the ice house and will bring it at once,” said one of the men.
Once the ice was fetched, Aragorn and Aedred placed a chunk of it on the lump on Faramir's head to bring down the swelling. They then cleaned the wound and applied buckthorn oil to it and carefully bandaged it.
While Aedred took the supplies away, Aragorn helped Faramir change into a nightshirt. “You should be able to return to the Citadel tomorrow, though you will need plenty of rest for a week or so,” he said. “I will stay here tonight with you to ensure you have no ill effects from the blow to your head.”
“What about the Kha Khan?” Faramir fretted.
“Arwen is more than capable of entertaining him,” said Aragorn. “If that does not please him, it troubles me not. It is time he learned that women are more than ornaments for his harem.”
“I want to see Tahir,” said Faramir. “What if the Kha Khan punishes him and dismisses him from his post?”
“I shall tell the Kha Khan his treaty is dependent on Tahir remaining here as ambassador,” said Aragorn. “These are the times I enjoy using the power invested in me.” He grinned. “ I will ask one of the Healers to sit with you for a while and fetch Tahir,” he said. He stooped and kissed Faramir on the brow then took his leave.
The healers were busy that day so Mistress Morwen the Herb Mistress came to sit with Faramir while he waited for the Ambassador. After a few polite exchanges, she sat with her nose buried in a book of herb lore. Faramir waited anxiously for Aragorn to return with Tahir.
At last, after a rather hesitant knock, the door opened and Aragorn stood there with Tahir beside him. Morwen took her leave and departed, book in hand.
Tahir dropped on his knees beside Faramir's bed. “I thought you were dead, esteemed friend,” he cried. “A thousand apologies from your most humble servant. May the sun's rays smite me for what I have done!”
Faramir reached out and gripped Tahir's hand. “There is nothing to forgive, my friend,” he said. “I am not badly hurt. I have a flesh wound and a headache, that is all. Accidents do happen when sparring.”
Aragorn stepped forward. “No great harm has been done. The Kha Khan is cutting his visit short, but he is signing the treaty ere he leaves on the morrow thanks to the Queen's diplomatic skills.”
Tahir led out an audible sigh of relief. “It is a great honour to entertain my esteemed kinsman but I will welcome my old routine back.”
“I hope we can enjoy our usual game of chess next week,” said Faramir.
“I look forward to it, now I will leave you to rest esteemed friend,” said Tahir. “You look weary.” He bowed low and took his leave.
“I will give you a draught for the pain,” said Aragorn. “You must rest and allow your body to heal.”
Soon Faramir was sleeping peacefully. Aragorn sat beside the bed his heart filled with thankfulness. Today could have ended so differently. All though was well, the friend he loved as a son would quickly recover, a diplomatic crisis had been averted and his beloved wife had once again proved her skills.