With grateful thanks to Raksha.
“Shall we go for a walk before dinner?” Faramir asked his friend.
“That is a good idea. I am stiff from being in the saddle all day,” Aragorn replied.
The two friends were spending the final days of their coastal tour with Faramir’s uncle. After warmly greeting his guests, the Prince of Dol Amroth had left them to rest, but both men were weary of sitting.
“I would like to show you a favourite walk I often took when Boromir and I visited as children,” said Faramir as he led the way towards the cliff path. Aragorn had not the heart to tell his younger companion that he knew the path well from his years of service in Gondor. He found himself wholeheartedly embracing the younger man’s enthusiasm, though, for it was indeed a beautiful walk with sweeping views of the bay. When they reached a bench Faramir stopped and traced his fingers tenderly across the carved stonework. “Naneth used to sit here and gaze out to sea while Boromir and I gathered shells on the beach,” he said rather wistfully. ”How I wish she could have met Éowyn and the girls and known you were King!”
Aragorn squeezed his friend’s shoulder sympathetically. ”I know she would rejoice in your happiness,” he said. "She was a wonderful lady. Had I not already given my heart to Arwen, it would have been easy to fall in love with her.”
Impulsively the two men sat down beside each other on the bench and gazed out to sea in companionable silence, watching a flock of gulls that screamed and wheeled overhead.
“What was that cry?” Aragorn asked suddenly.
“Just the gulls. They sound almost human at times. The old sailors say they hold the souls of folk who drowned.”
“It sounded like a cat to me.”
“A cat here?” Nevertheless, Faramir rose to his feet and peered over the cliff edge.
“Be careful, ion nîn!” Aragorn cautioned, not wanting the one he loved as his son to plunge over the edge. He hastened to his side, gesturing to Faramir to take a step back, before peering over himself.
“Be careful!” cautioned Faramir.
“Look, down there!” cried Aragorn momentarily forgetting the need for caution. He gestured towards a ledge some ten feet or so beneath them on which cowered a tiny striped kitten.
“Poor little cat!” exclaimed Faramir. “However did it come to get down there?”
“No doubt some cruel person abandoned it,” Aragorn said grimly.” No matter how severely I try to punish those who ill-treat animals, it seems some still ignore my edicts. I am going down to rescue the poor creature.”
“No!” Faramir protested. “Let me climb down instead! You are the King and I am younger than you.”
“But I am the better climber!” Aragorn retorted. “If you recall, old though I might be, It was I who had to help you climb Mount Mindolluin! Just help lower me on to the ledge and I can soon rescue the poor kitten.”
Aragorn removed his cloak and sword together with the satchel of healing supplies that he carried everywhere with him.
“Please have a care!” Faramir pleaded as the King carefully lowered himself over the edge of the cliff. For a moment, he held on with his arms, then jumped the remaining two feet or so on to the ledge.
“I am safely down,” he called to his anxious Steward who knelt on the edge. Aragorn cautiously turned to face the kitten, which gave a high-pitched mew of fright. Its striped fur stood on end.
“I need something to carry it in,” Aragorn called to Faramir. “Tip the healing supplies out of my satchel and hand it down to me, please.”
The Steward tipped out a supply of bandages, salves, and dried athelas leaves on to Aragorn’s cloak. “Is the kitten hurt?” he enquired.
“I can see a few cuts, but it does not appear to be seriously injured,” the King replied. He started to sing softly in Elvish. The kitten pricked up its ears listening, a puzzled expression on its tiny whiskery face. Swift as a hawk, Aragorn grabbed the little creature and stuffed it inside the pouch. “Easy now, little one,” he soothed as he secured the worn leather straps tightly.
“Hand it up to me!” Faramir called from above. He lay down on his belly and dangled his arms over the cliff edge, feeling for the satchel as Aragorn handed it up to him., a satchel from which loud mews emanated that wriggled and hissed. Faramir straightened up, still clutching the satchel as Aragorn scrambled back over the cliff edge. The King looked anything but kingly. His hair resembled an unruly mop decorated with twigs and leaves, his face and hands were disfigured by grazes and scratches, while his tunic was dusty and torn.
“I fear the sight of you will give my uncle a shock,” said Faramir, his casual words concealing the intense relief that he felt at seeing his friend safe.
“You look little better!” Aragorn retorted. ”The front of your tunic is as bad as mine! Come, we had better take this little one home swiftly. You bring my sword and healing supplies, wrap them in my cloak.”
Much to Aragorn and Faramir’s relief Imrahil was occupied with an unexpected visitor when they returned. Ignoring the servants’ raised eyebrows at their untidy appearance, they hastened to the chambers they had been allocated. Aragorn cautiously unfastened the satchel and lifted out the kitten, grimacing slightly at the puddle it had left. “At least it has a better chance of surviving away from its mother, if it can relieve itself,” he remarked. ” Hold it still while I examine it.”
The kitten mewed indignantly as Aragorn carefully checked its small body for injuries and applied salve to a few minor cuts. It regarded its rescuers soulfully out of large green eyes.
“We need to give it some milk,” said Faramir after Aragorn was satisfied that he had done all he could.
“Or better still find a foster mother for it. Does your uncle have barn cats?”
“He keeps quite a few. Mice and rats escape from the harbour; and the Princes of Dol Amroth have long insisted on keeping kitchens and store-rooms clean.”
After quickly trying to make himself look more presentable, Aragorn carefully carried the kitten towards Imrahil’s main hall. It was calmer now and purred when the King and Steward stroked its stripy fur.
Suddenly a Belfalas greyhound with a fine blue-grey coat ran towards them, and barked.
“Heel, Mista! ”called Imrahil. The dog hesitated, and then lifted her head as she sighted the King of Gondor.
Then she sprang forward with amazing swiftness and leaped up upon him, trying to reach the kitten. Even standing on her small feet, Mista's front paws did not reach Aragorn's thighs; but the kitten took fright. To Aragorn's dismay, the kitten wriggled from his grasp and fell to the floor less than a foot from the dog! “No!” he cried as Faramir made a frantic, but doomed grab for the tiny animal. Mista picked up the kitten in her jaws, but instead of biting it, carried it towards her basket. She flopped down on her side and within moments the kitten was greedily suckling one of Mista's full teats.
“She has lost her puppies and has been pining for them,” Imrahil explained. “It seems you have found me a new mouser!”
Aragorn nodded. Much though he would have liked to take the kitten home with him, it would have been hard to confine it during the trip back to Minas Tirith. And even with a foster-mother to nurse it, the kitten was too young to take so long a journey.
“Mista seems a remarkable dog,” Aragorn remarked as the two friends prepared for dinner.
“Belfalas greyhounds are special,” said Faramir, pulling a tunic embroidered with the swan of Dol Amroth over his head. “I can just about recall my mother’s faithful hound; we called her Mousie. She was much like Mista who is descended from her. She loved all animals, did my mother.“
“Then she would be proud of you today,” said Aragorn smiling.
A/n The idea of a Belfadas greyhound belonging to Faramir’s mother is borrowed from Raksha’s “Birthday Kisses” at
http://www.akc.org/breeds/italian_greyhound/photos.cfm Belfalas Greyhound photos..)
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