B2MeM Challenge: Xenophobia
Format: short story
Genre: hurt/comfort, friendship
Warnings: injuries, adult themes
Characters: Aragorn, Faramir, OMC
Summary: Ambassador Tahir is shot.
Disclaimer: The characters are the property of the Tolkien Estate. No profit has been, nor will be made from this story.
A/N;I have had this story in my head for a while and BTME inspired me to write it down. I might well expand and revise it in the future.
It will make the story clearer if you have read “East is East” (written for BTME 2 years ago)
Wars and Rumours of War
I hope,though it can be enjoyed on its own.
Faramir was in an uneasy mood that morning. He was not certain why that that should be. Maybe it was because he had turned down Aragorn’s invitation to ride to Osgiliath with him to see how the rebuilding was progressing. Even though years had passed, the ruined city still held too many memories for the Steward and he only went there when duty demanded that he must. It had been foolish, though, to decline the chance of a ride with his friend and lord.
Faramir picked up a trade agreement he was working on and forced himself to concentrate. He had only reached the second paragraph, though, when someone banged on his study door. “My lord, come quickly! The Ambassador from Harad has been shot!” the man cried as soon as Faramir bade him enter.
Faramir paled and gripped the side of his desk. Tahir was one of his dearest friends. “What happened?” he demanded of the young guard.
“My lord, I know little, only that the Ambassador was shot by an arrow as he walked through the market place with his wife a short time ago. The attacker escaped in the confusion.”
“What of the Ambassador and his wife?” Faramir demanded more impatiently than was his custom.
“The Ambassador has been taken to the Houses of Healing,” said the guard. “His wife is unhurt. The Warden has requested your presence at the Houses, my lord.”
Faramir paused only to snatch up his cloak. Then mindful that despite his concern for his friends, he must not neglect his duties, he scribbled several notes, one to the Captain of the Tower Guard asking him to obtain statements from any witnesses to the stabbing and send them to him; one to officials he had planned meetings with later that day, and a third to Éowyn to inform her what had happened. He gave the notes to a servant with instructions to see that they were despatched at once.
He then almost ran to the Houses of Healing, his guards struggling to keep up with him.
One of the apprentice healers took him to the room for honoured guests where Tahir had been taken. To Faramir’s surprise, he heard raised voices and when he knocked was bidden to enter. He had expected the healers to be busy removing the arrow.
When he entered, he was surprised to find a fully clothed Tahir lying on top of the bed with the arrow still protruding from his shoulder. A weeping and heavily pregnant Lady Adiva was sitting beside the bed with Dame Ivorwen standing beside her. The Warden, Tarostar, and Aedred, his assistant were standing at the foot of the bed and glaring at the Ambassador.
“I am glad you here, Lord Faramir, “ said Tarostar. “Maybe you can make the Ambassador here see reason. He refuses to let us remove the arrow."
Tahir raised his head and struggled to sit up. “My esteemed friend, please you must make them understand that I can only permit a healer from my tribe to tend my wound,” he said.
“This is madness!” Tarostar interjected.
“Do you have a healer from your tribe here in the City?” Faramir asked.
“I do usually, esteemed friend, but he is Harad for the wedding of his eldest son,” Tahir replied.
“I will send messengers then to see if another healer from your tribe can be found in the City,” said Faramir.
“You are kind, esteemed friend, but I fear you are unlikely to find any,” said Tahir with a deep sigh. “Few healers dwell here from the warrior tribe that I am a son of.”
“Master Tarostar and Master Aedred are highly skilled,” Faramir said reassuringly. He patted Tahir’s hand. “Please, my friend, I would not lose you.”
“I am so sorry, but you do not understand, esteemed friend,” said Tahir. “It is written that should I permit any not of my tribe to tend my wound, I will be forever barred from the Celestial Oasis. I shall be doomed to walk forever in the everlasting desert of desolation!”
“You cannot die on account of a foolish superstition!” Tarostar said angrily. He turned to Adiva. “Maybe you can make him see reason, my lady?”
“I would not lose my honoured husband in this life,” said Adiva, “but it would be a crueller fate still to be separated from him for eternity! Alas, for my child, doomed never to know its father!”
“I have tended you and delivered your babes and you have asked me deliver the child you are carrying now,” said Ivorwen. “I am most certainly not of your tribe, but you did not make all this fuss!”
“It is different for a woman,” said Adiva. “We would only be banned from the celestial oasis if we permitted a man to tend us. Thus it is written and decreed.”
Tarostar glared, opened his mouth to protest and then shut it again at a gesture from the Steward. “A word in private, if you please, Lord Faramir,” he said. Faramir nodded and the Warden led him into his office.
“If you but say the word, Lord Faramir, I will operate to remove the arrow from the Ambassador,” he said.
Faramir shook his head. “He refuses and that is his right, much as it grieves me.”
“I have had the same problem with prisoners of war, what few Haradrim that did not fall on their own swords,” said the healer. “The merchants now, are sensible folk who will let us tend their wounds.”
“The Ambassador is not a prisoner, he is our honoured guest,” said Faramir. “We must extend to him the same rights and courtesies as any man of Gondor. As for the merchants from his land, the merchant tribes have different customs and beliefs that the warriors, so my Lord King has told me.”
“And what will their temperamental ruler say if the Ambassador dies? We are doing our best for him. It is not as if we suggested a woman should treat him or an apprentice! The merchants of his folk are happy enough to be treated.”
“I think the Great Khan would be most displeased if we violated the Ambassador’s wishes,” said Faramir. “The Khan is of the same tribe as the Ambassador and shares his beliefs.”
“Deluded foreign superstitions!” cried Tarostar. “These foreigners are savages who believe tales a child would laugh at. Celestial oasis indeed!”
“We all have our own beliefs that are dear to us,” said Faramir. “ Who knows where the souls of the Haradrim dwell when they leave the circles of this world? Send out messengers to try to find a healer from the Ambassador’s tribe. His wishes must be respected as if he were a Man of Gondor.”
“Infection will set in and kill the Ambassador long before you find one, my lord,” said Tarostar.
“We must pray to the Valar that it does not." With that, Faramir strode from the room. The Steward’s mind was in turmoil. He could not bear to lose his good friend, but neither could he defy Tahir’s beliefs. Then how could it be right to keep a man alive who believed he would be forever separated from his loved ones once he died? He knew all too well the lengths the wounded Haradrim would go to prevent foreigners from tending their wounds. He knew too of Haradrim prisoners who had been treated here, only to take their own lives or fall into a deep melancholy.
His heart heavy he returned to the Ambassador’s chamber and asked Aedred to leave him alone for a few moments with Tahir while Ivorwen took Lady Adiva for some refreshment. “It saddens my heart that you refuse our help, my friend,” he told Tahir. “I have ordered the healers to respect your wishes.” He reached out to clasp Tahir’s’ hand. Never had he thought that a former enemy would have become so dear a friend to him.
“Thank you, esteemed friend,” said Tahir. He gripped Faramir’s hand like a drowning man. “Alas! I had not thought to die so soon. The Moon God and Goddess must be angry at me for shaming the prisoner, vile traitor that he was!”
“You only cut off the lad’s sleeve so you see his tribal markings,” said Faramir. As he spoke, a sudden insight dawned. “Is that why our healers may not tend you?”
Tahir nodded. “It is written for the warrior tribes that no man not of our tribe may see our markings.”
“I understand.” Faramir realised the taboo usually made perfect sense. The warriors tattooed their allegiances on their skin and in a society like Harad if the wrong eyes saw the markings, it could spell torture or death for many others of the tribe. Yet Tahir had permitted him to see his intricate markings and Aragorn too. A sudden flash of inspiration came to him.
“When the King and I shared the hamam with you, you called us brothers and members of your tribe. Does that mean the King could tend your wound without you being denied the Celestial Oasis?”
“Of course, esteemed friend. Sharing the hamam joined us together as brothers of one tribe. I could not ask so great a favour of the esteemed Lord King, though.”
“There is nothing he would grant more gladly,” said Faramir. He opened the door and called for someone to print him parchment and ink. A surprised apprentice healer brought it to him and Faramir sat at the desk provided for the use of the honoured guests and scribbled a hasty note to Aragorn asking him to return at once as a dear friend’s life hung in the balance. He sealed it with his ring of office and called to one of his bodyguards, a trusted man called Cirion, to ensure that that a messenger rode out to Osgiliath on the swiftest horse that could be found.
Now all they could do was wait. Adiva had returned and sat patiently at her husband’s bedside, clasping his hand. Once she learned that Aragorn had been sent for, she dried her tears.
Faramir talked reassuringly to the couple, telling them how Aragorn had saved his life on several occasions using his skills as a healer.
“I have been wounded many times before,” said Tahir. He smiled wanly at his wife. “Surely with such a healer as esteemed Lord Aragorn I will soon recover.” He bit his lip and Faramir noticed that it was bleeding. His friend was obviously in pain but too stoical to complain.
“Have you been given poppy juice?” the Steward asked.
“They offered it me, esteemed friend, but I feared it might cloud my judgement,” said Tahir. “The sons of my tribe learn to bear pain from our youth.”
“Please take it now, for our friendship, ” said Faramir. “It will ease your pain and mean the King can tend you more quickly. You have my word that he alone will tend you.”
“Very well, esteemed friend.” Tahir sighed with a mixture with of relief and resignation.
Faramir called for the pain relieving draught to be brought and asked the healers to make everything ready for when the King arrived. One of his guards then brought the eyewitness reports to the shooting that he had asked for. They proved depressing reading. One witness said, “I didn’t take much notice. These foreigners are always fighting amongst themselves. “Another said, “I paid no heed. It is just one less of these Haradrim. There are too many of them here. Anyone would think they won the war!” Another said, “I’d shoot the vermin myself if I didn’t know I’d hang for it!” Faramir tossed the statements aside in disgust. If only these people knew just how hard Tahir worked for a lasting peace. It horrified him that one of his countrymen should seek to kill the Ambassador in cold blood. Then another statement caught his eye. “These foreigners are savages trying to kill one another. At least none of our folk got hurt.”
Faramir had assumed the attacker was Gondorian as the arrow had Gondorian fletching.
The Steward returned to the Ambassador’s bedside and asked, “Did you see who attacked you, my friend?”
Tahir forced his eyes open. “One of our people, esteemed friend. I could not see his face, though. There were two of them, one tried to stop the other, which deflected his aim from my heart.” He spoke very slowly, fighting to resist the poppy juice.”
“Sleep, my friend,” said Faramir. He was thankful that no Man of Gondor had attacked Tahir, but this meant there were violent Haradrim in the City, no doubt supporters of the previous Khan and his tribe. He called for a guard and asked that a close watch be kept for armed Haradrim. He had little hope of the attacker ever being found, though.
Tahir was now sleeping deeply thanks to the poppy syrup. Faramir suggested to Lady Adiva that she return home to tell her elder children how their father was faring and arrange for Tahir’s body servants to come and help with his care. He also suggested that she rest a while for the sake of the baby. He had no wish for the gentle lady to be within earshot when Aragorn removed the arrow. Adiva reluctantly agreed and returned to her home, which was also in the sixth Circle, attended by Ivorwen and the Steward’s guards. Faramir promised to send for her at once should Tahir need her.
Faramir had only just acted in time as Aragorn arrived soon afterwards. He asked for hot water, towels, and the instruments he needed to be brought and swiftly set to work. Faramir had little stomach for wounds and bloodshed, but willingly agreed to help his lord. Together, they cut away the clothing from around the arrow and Aragorn carefully examined it.
Tahir stirred and opened his eyes.
“I am here now,” said Aragorn. “May I remove the arrow?”
“Please do it swiftly, esteemed Lord Aragorn,” said Tahir. “Forgive me that I am so lacking in courtesy and cannot rise to greet you.”
“It is well, my friend, I take no offence,” said Aragorn. He placed his hand on Tahir’s brow, trying to give the wounded man strength and calmness with his healing powers. He nodded to Faramir, who moved to hold Tahir in position while he made several cuts around the arrow then dug it out with a spoon shaped implement.
Throughout this gristly procedure, Tahir neither cried out nor attempted to struggle. Only when Aragorn took his pulse, did the racing heartbeat indicate the pain the Ambassador was enduring.
With Faramir’s help, Aragorn staunched the bleeding, applied salves to fight infection and carefully bandaged the wound.
“It is done,” he told Tahir. “Now I can only pray that Estë grant you healing.”
“Thank you, esteemed friend,” Tahir murmured.
“Small wonder these warriors made such formidable enemies,” Aragorn remarked later when Tahir was sleeping. “It is rare to see Men who bear pain so well with such courage. In battle, they often wear silken shirts, pull out the arrows that pierce them and continue fighting! Tahir is the first warrior from his land I have ever treated.”
“Will he recover?” Faramir asked anxiously.
“He is strong,” said Aragorn. “He has a good chance. I will do everything I can for him.”
“Will he wish to remain here, I wonder, after what happened?” Faramir mused.
“Gondor would be poorer without him,” said Aragorn. “The customs of the Haradrim seem strange and are very different than ours and they are a fierce people. I have learned there are jewels amongst them, though.”
“We must invite more healers from Tahir’s tribe to dwell here,” said Faramir.
“A wise suggestion, mellon nîn,” said Aragorn.
Three days later, Tahir had thrown off the fever he had developed and, although still very weak, was on the mend. He greeted Aragorn and Faramir with a warm smile when they came to visit him and beckoned his body servant to withdraw.
“How can I ever thank you, esteemed friends for your kindness to this unworthy one?” Tahir exclaimed.
“We were happy to help you,” said Aragorn.
“You are our friend,” Faramir added.
“How the Moon God and Goddess have blessed me!” said Tahir. “I have found not only a home in Gondor, but new brothers of my tribe.”