Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.- Matthew 5.9. The Bible.
These characters all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. This story was written for pleasure and not for financial gain.
With grateful thanks to Deandra.
Aragorn lingered longer in the nursery than he intended. Since Eldarion had met Súlion, his appetite for stories about dragons had become more insatiable than ever with the result that his devoted father spent many an hour thinking up every possible new adventure that the Eastern dragon might be having, in order to entertain his little son. Farawyn was too young to understand much of the stories, but she too remembered their dragon friend and listened intently, cuddling her favourite doll.
At last, the children’s nursemaids came to put their young charges to bed. Aragorn made a detour to Faramir’s room to awaken his friend. He was relieved that Faramir looked far better when he opened his eyes at the sound of Aragorn’s voice.
“I am just about to dress for dinner,” the King told his Steward. “I wish I could have let you sleep for longer, but Tahir will be here within the hour.”
“I need to speak to him,” said Faramir. He scrambled out of bed, moving with far less pain and stiffness thanks to Aragorn’s treatments. He reached for his clothes. “The sooner he can warn Khan Janab of the treachery within his own family the better.”
There had been insufficient time for the cook to prepare the spicy dishes of Tahir’s homeland to honour their guest. Instead, she had prepared a rich spicy sauce to go with the meal of roast venison.
Tahir embraced his friends warmly when he arrived, but his brown eyes were full of concern. “It grieves me deeply, esteemed friends, that rebels from my homeland should have violated your great realm,” he said. “I fear the treacherous tribe of Suhayb are forever a thorn in the flesh of our illustrious Khan.”
“I have grim tidings,” said Faramir. “The prisoners we took after the battle told us that they supported Khan Janab’s son, who now believes that the Dark Lord will rise again if sufficient blood is spilled.”
“Esteemed friends, I cannot believe this!” Tahir exclaimed.
“You told me yourself, my friend, that Khan Janab so many children he could hardly keep count of them,” Aragorn replied.
“That is true, my esteemed friends. Often his kindred rebel against him; but worship the false Lord of Gifts, never! If you but knew the folk of my tribe, you would not believe such lies. Ever we have worshipped the great Lord and Lady of the Moon who have granted us our prosperity.”
“It is true, alas,” said Faramir. “I heard it with my own ears what the prisoners told me. The invaders also carried a banner with a device of the serpent crowned by the Great Eye. There can be no mistake.”
Tahir buried his face in his hands and let out a low moan. He then tore at his outer robe in distress. “Alas, alas!” he cried. “This threatens to destroy my homeland, esteemed friends, if the folk of my tribe are turning to such evil ways! You and your folk will turn against us too and our days of peace and prosperity will be over! The honour of my tribe is besmirched!”
Faramir leaned over and patted Tahir’s shoulder. “You will always be my friend, Tahir, whatever happens in your homeland,” he said.
“You and your family could make your home in Gondor,” said Aragorn. “Whoever rules in Harad, we know you to be a good man who will forever be welcomed at our table.”
“Thank you, esteemed friends, you bring me great comfort,” said Tahir, though he still looked distressed.
“Come, sit down, and partake of some wine,” said Aragorn. He ushered the distraught ambassador to a couch and endeavoured to calm him with some Elven healing touches to his head and neck. Faramir then held the glass of wine to his lips.
“You are so kind, esteemed friends,” Tahir said after a few moments when he had somewhat regained his composure. “I fear I bring dishonour upon your dwelling with the actions of my kin.”
“You do no such thing!” said Faramir fiercely. Aragorn nodded his agreement.
“What do you plan to do with the prisoners?” asked Tahir suddenly. “It surprises me that you succeeded in taking any alive. It is not our custom to surrender.”
“We will destroy their weapons then send them back to Harad,” said Aragorn. “Or if they fear to return and swear an oath of loyalty to me and to Gondor they can remain and find work here.”
“You are most merciful, esteemed lord,” said Tahir.
“We do not harm captives of war,” said Aragorn. “If we did, we would be no better than the Dark Lord’s minions!”
“I have a favour to ask of you, o gracious one,” said the Ambassador.
“Ask and if it be within my power I will grant it,” said Aragorn.
“I should like to speak alone with one of the prisoners, if only for a few moments, esteemed lord.”
Aragorn raised his eyebrows slightly then nodded. “Of course, I will have one of them brought here on the morrow. It is too late tonight.”
“I thank you, esteemed friend.”
“It is but a small request to grant, ” said Aragorn. “Now let us eat, my friend. My lady would be most surprised if she returned and found we had not yet had dinner!”
Early the next morning, Faramir, accompanied by a group of heavily armed guards, went to where the prisoners were being held in an encampment just outside the City, to collect one of the men for Tahir to interview. The Steward had no idea what his friend intended. Tahir had never before made such a strange request and Faramir trusted him to have a good reason for it. It was difficult to know which prisoner to select. All were young and looked terrified. He selected one at random. The guards dragged the protesting man out of the tent and tied him to a horse.
“There is nothing to fear, lad,” Faramir reassured him in his own tongue. “Whatever you might have been told about the Men of Gondor is unlikely to be true.”
“The Lord of Gifts will rise again and come to my aid!” said the young man defiantly.
“You have been beguiled with lies,” said Faramir. “Sauron is no more and you need no aid. We do not harm prisoners in Gondor. What is your name, lad?”
“I am called Marid,” the boy replied. “I have answered your questions, so why do you not kill me now, o slave of a base born tyrant!”
“You will not goad me into eternally silencing you, foolish boy!” Faramir replied coldly. “I warn you, though, should you speak ill of my King again, I shall gag you until we reach our destination.”
Marid fell silent and spoke no further word.
When they reached the Citadel, Faramir ordered that Marid be taken into one of the guardrooms. Aragorn and Tahir were drinking tea with the Queen in her solar when Faramir announced that he had brought the prisoner.
“Thank you, esteemed friend. May you never be scorched by the sun!” said Tahir. “I will go and speak to the man now. I ask of you, honoured friends, not to interrupt me whatever you might hear.”
“I have promised the prisoner that he will not be harmed,” Faramir said somewhat uneasily. “I know you are a man of peace but…”
“Do not fear, esteemed friend.” Tahir smiled grimly. “He will suffer neither blow, nor cut, nor bruise at my hands. I give you my word.”
“I did not mean I believed that…” Faramir flushed.
“You are a good man, my friend,” said the Ambassador. “You show mercy even towards the least deserving.”
“We shall wait outside while you question the prisoner,” said Aragorn. “Arwen, beloved, we will return shortly.”
“Take care, Estel,” Arwen warned, but Aragorn was already out of earshot.
“Remember, esteemed friends, I implore you not to interrupt me,” said Tahir when the three reached the prisoner’s room.
“You have my word,” said Aragorn.
King and Steward, together with several guards hovered uneasily outside the closed door. First, they heard only the low measured tones of Tahir’s voice and then the prisoner’s. Both voices then grew louder and increasingly agitated. Aragorn and Faramir could not make out any words until the prisoner started to scream “Mercy!”
The guards made to enter the room, but the King ordered them to stay where they were.
The prisoner’s yells grew louder. Aragorn and Faramir exchanged worried glances. ”I cannot permit torture in my realm,” said Aragorn.
“Tahir gave his word he would not harm the boy,” said Faramir. “I believe we should trust him.”
The yells continued, followed by loud sobbing and then a torrent of words. Aragorn and Faramir strained to hear but the occasional word they could make out through the thick oak door made little sense. Aragorn paced impatiently while Faramir stood rooted to the spot, clenching and unclenching his fists.
Suddenly, the door was flung open and Tahir stormed out, his scimitar in his hands; Aragorn and Faramir beheld him with horror for an instant before rushing into the room Tahir had just vacated. A strange sight met their eyes. The prisoner was curled in a corner wailing piteously. There was so sign of a wound on him, but the sleeve had been cut from his scarlet robe, baring his right arm from the shoulder downwards. At the sight of the King and the Steward, he tried to cover his right arm with his left.
“Tell the esteemed Lord King of your treachery, you misbegotten cur!” Tahir snapped. The Ambassador had followed them back into the room, his scimitar now sheathed.
The prisoner said nothing but continued to wail.
“What have you done to him?” Faramir enquired of the Ambassador.
“I asked him to roll up his sleeve,” said Tahir. “When he refused, I knew he was not of my tribe, which is also the esteemed Khan’s tribe.” He grabbed the prisoner’s arm and raised it with one hand, indicating a tattoo just above the elbow. “Behold, the mark the sons of Suhayb, may the noonday sun forever blaze down upon them! I told you that no member of my tribe would worship the false Lord of Gifts!”
“Maybe this man simply chose to join the rebellion?” Faramir sounded baffled.
“We fight only beside the brothers of our tribe who carry the same markings,” said Tahir.
“But why should the prisoners tell us they were fighting for Khan Janab’s son?” asked Faramir.
Tahir glared at Marid. “Tell the esteemed Lord King the full extent of your wicked lies!” he demanded. When Marid simply continued to whimper, he added. “I will cut the robe from your unworthy carcass and show them the marks of your allegiance to the Dark Lord if you do not speak!”
Marid gave a final keening wail then spoke. “Our leader, brother of the most glorious Khan of revered memory, made us draw lots for who would suffer the shame of being taken captive. We were to tell you that son of the unbeliever Janab was behind the rebellion.”
“That way he hoped to destroy or at the least weaken the treaties between Harad and Gondor,” said Tahir. “My homeland has prospered greatly under the mighty Khan’s rule, not least because of our trade with your great realm, esteemed friends. If it were believed that those close to the noble Khan were turning back to the worship of the false Lord of Gifts, the ties with Gondor would weaken and the noble Khan lose the support of the powerful merchant tribe. That would make it easier for the sons of Suhayb to regain the throne.”
“I see,” said Aragorn. His head was beginning to spin. He considered the politics of Gondor to be complicated enough, but compared with the intrigues within Harad they were a model of simplicity.
Marid crawled towards the King. Faramir and Tahir tensed and reached for their swords. “Speak!” Aragorn commanded.
“When will you kill me, mighty one? asked the boy.
“I am not going to kill you,” said Aragorn in the tongue of Harad. “You will be sent home.”
“I beg you to kill this dishonoured one!” cried Marid, prostrating himself and clutching at Aragorn’s feet.
“No,” said Aragorn. “Then it would be I who was without honour.”
In reply the boy spat at him and cried, “A curse upon you, misbegotten son of a jackal!”
“You will not goad me into killing you,” said Aragorn calmly. “Stop this foolish behaviour!”
Marid started to wail and sob. “I cannot go home. They will dishonour my mother and sisters and slay my brothers in the cruellest fashion.”
“He speaks the truth,” said Tahir. “The leader of his tribe is a cruel man. As for the esteemed Khan, he would spare the lives and honour of the women in his family, but Marid and his brothers would be slain and the rest of the family shunned. He is doubly a traitor, both to the great Khan and to his own tribe.”
Faramir studied the prisoner and saw not a hardened criminal, but a weak and foolish boy, led astray by the lies of his elders.
“Maybe he could stay here?” he suggested in Westron. “We have many of his people living in the city.”
“He would be an outcast,” said Tahir. “The merchants who dwell here have little time for the likes of him.”
“I need strong men to help rebuild the North,” said Aragorn. “I will send him there, at first under close guard. He is young and can make a new life for himself if he works hard.”
“A wise and merciful judgement, esteemed King,” said Tahir in Westron. “Tell him, though that it is your punishment. He will accept that better.
Aragorn sternly informed Marid in his own tongue what he intended to do with him. He then placed one hand on the boy’s head and the other over his heart, trying to heal the darkness in his spirit.
Marid raised his eyes and looked at the king, but the boy’s mind was too clouded for Aragorn to know if he had helped him or not. He could only hope.
He called to the guards and bade them take the boy away and provide him with food and some clothes in the style worn in Gondor. The boy simply stared at him.
King, Steward, and Ambassador heaved a collective sigh of relief.
“How it gladdens my heart that our treaty between our peoples is secure,” said Aragorn. “I have much to thank you for, my friend.” He clapped Tahir on the shoulder. “Your wisdom has spared us much grief.”
“Do you not recall the day I showed you the tattoos I carry, esteemed friends?” said Tahir. “All the Men of Harad, and most especially the warrior clans carry such markings. If he had been of my tribe, he would willingly have rolled up his sleeve. I knew though, that no son of the Wakil tribe would ever worship the false Lord of Gifts.”
“One thing still puzzles me,” said Faramir. “I recall well your tattoos, my friend, but you bore the sign of the sun, not the moon.”
“Ah, but I do,” said Tahir. “The symbols of the glorious Lord and Lady of the Night Sky are tattooed on the soles of my feet, so that my Lord and Lady support me wherever I walk. Now, esteemed friends, I shall return home to my fair blossom and send a message to the glorious Khan to warn him of this latest plot. The ringleaders will soon know his justice!”
With those words, he embraced Aragorn and Faramir and took his leave after soliciting a promise that they and their ladies would soon visit.
“I too will be on my way,” said Faramir. “I shall have happier tidings than I had hoped for to share with Éowyn.”
“First you must share the midday meal with Arwen and me, then afterwards I need to apply more salve to your bruises before you depart.”
“Very well, ada,” said Faramir. “Your salve eased my hurts, but the news that we are not facing a war with Harad is salve for my soul.”
“What better salve for the soul could there be?” said Aragorn.
“Your bruises look less angry today,” said Aragorn. After an enjoyable noonday meal during which he had told Arwen of the morning’s events, he was examining Faramir’s bruises again. “Comfrey is most effective,” he said as he started to apply a generous amount.
“As are your healing powers,” said Faramir. He lay back while Aragorn continued his ministrations then said, “I wonder what will become of Marid now?”
“He will be too closely watched to pose any threat to our people,” said Aragorn, as he skilfully massaged the salve into Faramir’s shoulders. “The Valar alone know whether he and his fellow prisoners will prosper in Gondor or end up taking their own lives. It depends on how deeply their minds have been corrupted by their leaders. Such a tragic waste of young lives. Marid is hardly even of an age to wield a sword.”
“Many more lives would have been threatened if we had not uncovered the plot against Khan Janab,” said Faramir. “The Valar be praised for men of peace like Tahir.”
“And like you, ion nîn,” said Aragorn. “Would that there were more like you, who are reluctant to fight unnecessarily.”
“When I fight, it is to protect the land and the people I love,” said Faramir.
“Evil knows not the meaning of love,” said Aragorn.
“But love is always stronger in the end,” said Faramir. “Therefore we can live with hope.”
A/n This story is at an end, but I hope to write more about Tahir in future. You can read more about the tribal structure of Harad in “Tongues of Men and Angel”.