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Let Hercules himself do what he may, The cat will mew and dog will have his day. Shakespeare - Hamlet. Act v.
The characters are the property of the Tolkien Estate. No profit has been, nor will be made from this story.
With grateful thanks to Raksha and Virtuella.
The late afternoon sun streamed through the windows bathing the couch where Aragorn and Faramir sat in its golden rays.
The King rose and looked out at the view of the sea. “A ship is just about to cast anchor,” he told Faramir.
“Shall we go for a walk before dinner?” Faramir sensed his friend’s restlessness.
“That is a good idea. I am stiff from being in the saddle all day,” Aragorn replied.
The two friends were enjoying spending the final days of their coastal tour with Faramir’s uncle. They were looking forward to being able to relax. Although it was an official visit, they would only be expected to attend one meeting and a formal banquet after an official tour of the town.
Their visit to the coastal regions had turned out far better than they expected. Aragorn and Faramir had not expected to be well received in Lamedon after Fontos’ involvement in the conspiracy against Aragorn, but it seemed most of the problems were caused by corrupt officials, rather than opposition to the King. They had encountered several less than worthy officers, whom they intended to see replaced, but on the whole, the rest of the region appeared peaceful, prosperous, and the people either loyal to the King, or indifferent to whoever was in charge as long as they were not oppressed and had sufficient to eat.
After warmly greeting his guests, the Prince of Dol Amroth had left them to rest, while he met with some local farmers to discuss arrangements for the harvest feast. Both men had quickly grown weary of sitting doing nothing save anticipate the fine meal that Faramir’s uncle was sure to give them.
The two men asked a maid to bring their cloaks and hastened outside after having left a message to tell Imrahil that they would be back in time for dinner.
“I would like to show you my favourite walk from when Boromir and I visited here as children,” said Faramir as he led the way towards the cliff path. “Just look at that view of the sea!”
Aragorn realised that he knew the path well from his years of service in Gondor. He found himself wholeheartedly embracing the younger man’s enthusiasm, 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 watch the tide going out 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 that you were King!”
“I know she would rejoice in your happiness,” he said. “She was a peerless lady. Had I not already given my heart to Arwen, it would have been easy to fall in love with her. I think your uncle would have welcomed the match had either of us been inclined towards it.”
“Then you would have indeed been my father!” said Faramir, pondering how his life might have turned out differently. “That is, if Yavanna had given you children, but then I suppose I might be a very different person.”
Aragorn laughed at his usually level headed Steward’s fanciful train of thought. “Had I sired you, you would not be the person that you are, and I would not have you otherwise,” he said. “Then where would I find such a worthy Steward if you were the Heir instead? I think everything turned out just as it should. We both have wedded the ladies whom we gave our hearts to, as did your father. And you have become the son of my heart, as I believe you were meant to be. You could not be dearer if I, rather than Denethor, had begotten you.” Aragorn patted his friend’s shoulder affectionately.
Faramir’s eyes lit up. The two men sat down beside each other on the bench. They gazed out to sea in companionable silence, and watched a flock of gulls that screamed and wheeled overhead.
“What was that cry?” Aragorn asked suddenly.
“It will be the gulls. They sound almost human at times. The old sailors hold that they are the souls of folk who drowned.”
“I know that story well, “ said Aragorn. “However, I would wager that was no seagull mewing. It sounded like a cat to me!”
“A cat here?” Faramir sounded far from convinced. Nevertheless, he 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, and gestured to Faramir to take a step back, before peering over himself.
“Have a care!” cautioned Faramir.
“Look, down there!” cried Aragorn. 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?”
“Either it wandered away from its mother or some cruel person tried to throw it into the sea at high tide, but it landed on the ledge,” 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, then I can soon rescue the poor kitten.” As he spoke, 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, Aragorn held on with his arms, and then jumped the remaining two feet or so on to the ledge.
“I am safely down,” he called to his anxious Steward who was kneeling 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 minor scratches, 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. 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, which now wriggled and hissed. Faramir straightened up, still clutching the satchel while Aragorn scrambled back over the cliff edge. The King looked anything but kingly. His hair resembled an unruly mop decorated with sand and bits of marram grass, 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 quite a shock,” said Faramir, his casual words concealed 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 still occupied with the visiting farmers 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. He grimaced slightly at the puddle it had left. “At least it is old enough to have a chance of surviving away from its mother,” 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 a fair number or rats from the harbour would overrun his storerooms,” Faramir replied.
Aragorn carefully carried the kitten towards Imrahil’s main hall. It was calmer now and purred when the King and Steward took turns to stroke its stripy fur.
Suddenly a Belfalas greyhound with fine blue-grey fur ran towards them, and gave a bark.
“Heel, Mista!” called Imrahil, emerging from his study. 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 when she stood upright on her two back legs, Mista's small front paws did not reach Aragorn's thighs; but the kitten took fright. To the King’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, which had landed safely, albeit unsteadily on its four paws. Mista immediately picked up the kitten in her jaws.
King and Steward froze in horror convinced that the dog would kill the hapless kitten.
“Leave it!” cried Imrahil.
Mista ignored him, but instead of biting the kitten, she carried it towards her basket and dropped it inside. She flopped down on her side and within moments the kitten was greedily suckling one of Mista's full teats.
“She lost her puppies and has been pining for them,” Imrahil told them.
“We found the kitten abandoned on the cliff, uncle,” said Faramir. “We were hoping that one of your barn cats might serve as a foster mother.”
“I think Mista has claimed the kitten for her own,” smiled Imrahil. “It seems I will have a new mouser once he has grown.”
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. “I thought your uncle’s hounds were bred solely for the chase.”
“Belfalas greyhounds are special,” said Faramir. He pulled 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 loved all animals, did my mother.”
“Then she would be proud of you today,” said Aragorn and smiled.
A/n The idea of a Belfadas greyhound belonging to Faramir’s mother is borrowed from Raksha’s “Birthday Kisses” which you can read here
The Belfadas greyhound is actually the Italian greyhound as seen in mediaeval art.
Wishing all my readers health and happiness for 2010.
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