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I Am Not So Brave (R) Print

Written by Bell Witch

20 December 2008 | 9711 words

Title: I Am Not So Brave
Author: Bell Witch
Rating/Warnings: R for serious suggestiveness, non-con, violence.
Word Count: 9331
Author’s Notes: Written Nov-Dec 2008. Beta by Iris, who helps keep my ridonkulous inconsistencies to a minimum. _Facepalm._

Written for the 2008 Midwinter Swap.

Request by Vanwa Hravani: Faramir at the mercy of the Haradrim (physical/psych/sexual torture as you wish) – for a —long— time (long in time, not necessarily in text; can be flashback reference). Either escapes or is dumped senseless outside Harad’s borders and found by your choice of elves and/or men who may or may not know who he is. Faramir is not a whiny milksop. Sex is good, force and pain works, BDSM is lovely, resolution possible, not required.
Extra points for real emotions, reasonable psychological reactions, and/or a significant role for Melpomaen (possibly with a dark past). Please avoid the phrases: ‘mien’; ‘eternal/ancient dance’; and ‘his soon to be lover.’

It was the pain that woke him, pain in his head and chest, coupled with shoulder muscles that ached and tensed in the slight wind. Faramir lifted his head just enough to note that his left wrist was still tied to the barrel he had ridden out the storm on before lowering his cheek to the sand. The slaves had as much chance as the crew when the galley took on more water than she could hold during the squall and started to go down.

That thought snapped his head back up. The crew could be anywhere; they could be looking for him and any others who escaped. Ignoring the pain, he pushed himself to a sitting position and looked about, drawing the barrel in to undo the knot around his wrist.

From what he could see, it was an empty beach. The waterline was some little distance behind him, proof that the waves had been high. The sea was calmer now, but not clear. It was likely that there was more ill weather on the way. Wrist free from its tether, Faramir turned his attention to the barrel.

He had chosen it for its markings. Even in the panicked atmosphere of the sinking galley he had thought ahead, quickly picking one of the more likely barrels. If what he saw branded into the wood was correct, he had chosen well.

After a quick hunt, a solid piece of driftwood gave him the leverage to pry the lid off. He sighed from sheer relief: he’d been correct that the barrel held dried meat. The lid went back on and he rolled the barrel closer to the waterline. He had yet to determine which way he would go, but he’d let the ocean cover his tracks against anyone who might be looking for him. He hefted the barrel and started to walk.

“Fresh water and shelter,” he repeated over and over in his mind. At least he had food, and the water should be simple enough as there would be puddles left over from the rain, if nothing else. And there would be more rain soon. “Shelter and fresh water…”

He was so absorbed in watching the coast and out to sea that he did not pay enough attention to the rocks and grass inland. There had been a few rabbits scurrying away, but nothing else. He was tired, his arms hurt from carrying the barrel—it had been bad enough just keeping hold of it on the wild waves.

Faramir stumbled from exhaustion, caught himself, and looked up. His first thought was that he had been found, but the dark hair was not that of a corsair. It was smooth and fine and very long. The figure moved with grace and Faramir thought next that it was a woman, high born with very fair skin. He opened his mouth to call out; this was not an enemy, surely. Before the words could form he saw them—pointed ears.

There was no time to even think that he had finally seen an Elf, one of the immortal beings he had read so much about, before he had sunk to his knees. The barrel dropped as Faramir’s eyes rolled back and he collapsed into the sand, unconscious.

Faramir plunged forward, slamming into his oar again with the pitch and yaw of the galley fighting against the storm. He knew little of galleys, but enough of ships thanks to learning about both merchant and fighting vessels from his uncle. They were making no headway, taking on more water than they could bail, and would be beneath the waves in two hours’ time; unless galleys were very different from ships with sails.

“We must get up on deck!” He shouted to the other slaves at the oars. Nearly half were gone already, taken away to bail. None wore chains, the captain deeming them unnecessary when out to sea—if a slave wished to try to drown himself, let him.

“No one is paying attention to us and we need to go!” He rose, as did the two men nearest him, with the others following as soon as they saw what was happening. Faramir, or Elthion as they knew him, had education and could be trusted. If he was leaving, then no one else need stay.

Several crew members had already loaded and moved off in the first longboat: the second was soon to follow, though there were arguments because the whole crew would not fit—several fights broke out. The losers no longer had any need for boats.

This left the slaves. Some ran about in a panic until they were calmed by the others under the direction of the few ‘leaders’ among them. Faramir went to call up those set to bail the ship so that they, too, would have a chance. Though what chance would any of them have? They looked to their leaders, unofficial though they were.

Three of these men were old sea dogs, captured by the corsairs. One of them was certain that there was no hope but another claimed that he had been rescued, such as it was, clinging to a plank of his broken-up ship—but they were sinking, not breaking up. ‘Elthion’ was younger, much younger, and was certainly no sailor. No one really knew what he was, only that he had been strong enough to pull oars when he had been brought on board, luckily for him. He had a beard now, but he hadn’t then and had caught the eyes of several crew members. He had shown no weakness and the captain told them to leave the odd Gondorean alone. And where else could he have originated but Gondor? Just because they had found him hiding near Umbar did not mean anything. The other oarsmen knew that things could have gone far worse for Elthion.

It was he who had the light in his eye that made old Lieutenant Dagnir shake him and ask what he thought. Elthion then related a story he recalled from his boyhood, a story in which a band of Dwarves passed the dangers of Mirkwood Forest by riding barrels down the Forest River1. A few scoffed but another man nodded—he had heard such a story also. There were enough barrels for all of them, and they set to work. Each man’s off hand would be tied to the barrel, while his sword hand had a loop to hold onto. It was all they had. There was great scepticism and fear, but the galley was obviously sinking now and there was no other plan. Elthion, Dagnir, and a former captain named Guilin were last to depart, each bidding the others good luck and hoping not to see them soon should they find themselves in Mandos’ Halls before too long.

Then all that existed was water, pain, and desperation.

Faramir was warm and almost comfortable. His body fought waking, but the hand on his shoulder broke through his defences and he slowly opened his eyes.

It was the Elf again, his face beautiful even with the lightly puzzled expression on it. The gentle hand pulled away from Faramir’s shoulder and re-settled the rough blanket; Faramir noted the Haradric pattern on it but pushed that detail away.

“Hello,” he said roughly. His voice was raw and he felt embarrassed for that as well as for his stupidly cultured greeting, simple as it was. They were in a cave, not a hall, and certainly passing out had destroyed any decent first impression he might have made. He’d wanted to meet an Elf for so long, and this is how it happened.

“Greetings, Man of Gondor. That is what you are, I deem. I am called Melpomaen and come from Imladris, though surely they believe me dead.” All outward show of expression melted away leaving Melpomaen’s face perfectly calm to mortal eyes.

“My name is Faramir and I am a lieutenant with the Ithilien Rangers, though my family lives in Minas Tirith. Perhaps they believe me to be dead also.” He attempted to sit up; his face contorted with pain. Elven hands eased him back down with care.

“You are hurt, Faramir. I have not yet been able to look, though now that you are awake I can try to assess how badly.” Deliberate though gentle hands began to seek injuries.

Faramir grit his teeth when Melpomaen touched his left wrist, raw from being tied to the barrel. He lay stoically until the blanket was pushed aside and cautious touches moved down his ribs to his waist and hips. No…

“Stop—do not touch me!” Faramir snapped, lashing out and shoving the Elf away. His eyes were wild and angry, making Melpomaen lean back and hold his hands in a defensive position.

“I shall not hurt you,” he said softly. His eyes grew sad, knowing now that Faramir’s slavery had encompassed more than brutally hard work. It was not bodily injury that plagued the young man, but something much more difficult to heal. “I do not think there is anything seriously wrong with you physically. You shall recover.”

Faramir nodded, glancing about, though never quite looking away from Melpomaen.

“Could I have some water? And the barrel I had—it contains dried meat. If we are not too far away then I need to go get it.”

Melpomaen shook his head.

“I will get you some water, but you should rest. I will get the barrel.” He fetched a large shell filled with fresh water and waited until Faramir had drunk it, filling it a second before Faramir was finished. “I’ll be back within an hour. Rest.”

Then he was gone without a sound.

Faramir’s feet hurt badly in his stolen boots but he dared not remove them, even hidden as he was. He had come so far already and now he needed rest before attempting the second extremely dangerous part of his plan. He would attempt it, but after he slept. Not even the small amount of food that remained could tempt him to remain awake any longer.

For more than a week he’d travelled—running, scavenging, hiding, using all the information the Southron scholar told poor, young Elthion at such peril to himself. Ill-clothed but as prepared as was possible, he’d been smuggled out of some moderately-sized city in a pile of merchant goods, left his hiding spot there when the track turned south and continued his way to the sea.

In Umbar, hopefully, he could find some ship bound for Gondor. There still were ships that traded with the south, though fewer all the time. He just needed to find one and sneak down to it to arrange passage.

Observing the harbour from a hill overlooking it, there were no ships from home as of yet. He had water but no food. In a few days, he’d have to risk getting some.

There weren’t a few days. He’d been spotted—he ran. He stayed away from his hiding spot so it would be safe if he was able to return: he was not. Captured, the concealing hood of his cloak was removed and it was discovered that it wasn’t just any escaped slave they had, but a man of Gondor. The slavers had laughed as they dragged him, bound, to a lone quay where a few coins had changed hands and Elthion became the Sea Wolf’s newest oarsman2.

The sailors hooted as they prodded him below decks, a few looking at him hungrily.

“Don’t touch me.” He knew it wouldn’t matter, it never mattered. The pressure in his chest grew until it seemed his heart would burst. “Don’t! Don’t touch me.”

The hand on his shoulder was soft, not harsh. How did they know his name? As far as anyone in Harad knew, he was called Elthion.

“Faramir,” Melpomaen said softly. “You are having a nightmare, and no wonder. You must wake.”

Wake? He had been sleeping? It came back to Faramir slowly, that he was no longer on the galley and his companion, for want of a better term, was an Elf from Imladris. He opened his eyes.

“What… what did you hear?” Faramir wanted to know. He was dirty now, unclean. It was not his fault and he’d fought—desperately—but surely someone as pure as an Elf would be disgusted by him.

“Nothing that should worry you,” Melpomaen said, reading the worry on the young one’s face. “I’ve seen things.”

No! Melpomaen looked so serene, so clean and perfect.

“You could not have,” Faramir said. How could anyone see such things as had happened to him and remain so unspoiled? “I know that you wish to help me…”

“I have seen,” Melpomaen hissed. “My companions taken, tortured, destroyed. I saw them and knew that I would be next. They told me that my turn was coming and how I would suffer before the end!”

Eyes wide, Faramir remained motionless.

“I didn’t know.” It was barely audible but Melpomaen heard.

“You did not. No one knew, save myself, as all the others are dead.” The Elf stared into the black nothingness of the cave. “They killed all of them, or they’ve faded by now. And here I wait, alive and healthy. How dare I try to return home?”

He sounded so lost and young, this immortal being. What advice could a man of twenty-five3 years give? Faramir sought for something.

“They will want to know what happened, surely? As terrible as the truth is, certainly the people of Imladris will wish to hear it?”

“Imladris and the Havens also,” Melpomaen said. “We took ship there and sailed to Dol Amroth. It was on the return voyage that we were assailed.”

“I did not know that Gondor had dealings with the Elves!” Melpomaen’s lip quirked up cynically at this outburst.

“Few know. With Steward Denethor’s antipathy towards us, our dealings are kept quiet and as far away from him as possible.” Yes, the Elf knew who Faramir was, who he had to be. “Prince Imrahil never would have told you.”

Faramir nodded and ignored the sharp tone, knowing the truth of this. It would have been too dangerous to give such information to Denethor’s own son. But, Elves! It was all so distant from his daily life in Ithilien. Fighting, patrols, scouting missions…

They had been on a scouting mission, an ordinary scouting mission in south Ithilien when his small company had run across a patrol of Haradrim. There were four rangers and a mere six Haradrim, which had made little sense to Faramir, who wondered where the rest of their troop was. They had watched for several hours and observed the movements of those six men, men who did not anticipate any rendezvous—both Faramir and Elurín knew the language of Harad and overheard nothing that hinted of others.

With surprise on their side, the rangers could have killed six easily—if Faramir had wanted them killed. The orders were to capture, if possible, and Bregolas would be stationed with a good view of the clearing, the implied bulk of the lieutenant’s patrol covering the three taking the risk. No, Faramir steadfastly refused to be the one in relative safety.

It went as planned, the sentry was knocked unconscious without a sound and four of the rest taken in their bedrolls. The prisoners were nearly secure when a crashing sound came through the trees; from Bregolas’ direction. The three rangers froze, listened, and looked up almost as one.

“Run!” Thoronhen4 shouted. Faramir yelled ‘go’ shortly after, and waved the other two on. He saw one of the prisoners jump up and grab a partly-burning log from the fire and lash out at Thor’s leg, continuing the beating until the big man went down. Elurín made it to the tree line and Faramir almost breathed a sigh of relief—the ranger could tell what had happened here and someone would be set to find them. The sigh became a gasp when agony ripped through Faramir’s left leg. He fell and turned over to try and defend himself, seeing a blur of dark figures and rushing movements. One blow was deflected but several made it through and darkness reigned.

It was hot and his head hurt: it was terribly hot, his head severely hurt, and his left leg throbbed. Faramir thought he was going to be sick and moaned, trying to fall back into wherever he’d been that hadn’t been filled with pain. A rough-skinned hand touched his forehead.

“The fever has broken, Elthion,” a familiar voice said. Faramir’s eyes opened a crack, then shut against the too-bright sun. His ‘pillow’ moved as the man chuckled. “Yes, it is I, Erynadan.”

Faramir’s eyebrows went up, though the eyes stayed closed. He grimaced with even that small effort.

“Yes, Erynadan. We’ve served together for several years, Elthion,” the deep voice patiently explained. “You’ve had a fever for nearly a week now—your leg infected and we almost lost you. Well, it is only I now.”

Thoronhen, now Erynadan, let this thought settle a moment.

“Elurín was killed before he could escape and they tortured Lieutenant Bregolas for information and he died three days ago.”

Faramir clenched his eyes tighter against the burn in them and he felt a calming hand on his shoulder. Bregolas had lied, taking Faramir’s place while he was unconscious and had been killed for it. He swallowed heavily, willing himself not to cry. He was a lieutenant now, and commanders lost men. Bregolas deserved more than a teary-eyed child to remember and honour him. Faramir took a deep breath, braced himself against the brilliant sun, and opened his eyes again.

“And you… Erynadan, how do you fare?” Faramir recalled the false name in time.

“Well enough, considering. I have a few bruises here and there, a few chafe marks, and a burn from that log the first night.” This was said calmly, stoically, then the familiar face tightened in remembered pain.

“What is it?” the newly-named Elthion asked.

“Worry not, Elthion. It will heal.” If given time. “You might not be able to walk yet, but at least you’ll be beside me when we reach the city tomorrow.”

It was a dubious honour—entering the city, not sitting by his fellow ranger. They were a grim pair as they watched their caravan of soldiers enter the city gates. His heart sank—what would happen now?

They were taken to a strange building that looked like a barracks and sounded like a marketplace. Several men came to speak to them, assessing Faramir’s leg and deciding that he did not need to be killed. The conversation soon lost Erynadan, whose knowledge of the Haradric language was very limited. One look at his size and strength, he’d been checked over thoroughly and taken away.

“Labour!” Faramir had shouted in Westron, so that his fellow ranger would know where he was going. “Building or farm…”

Erynadan was gone and Faramir turned to those considering him. His name was Elthion, he was twenty, had followed his brother into the army though he was himself a scholar.

The Haradrim were astonished, showed him something on a parchment, which he read. In another room, he was asked to write a few simple things in the language of the Haradrim and did he know his sums as well? No one even cared about his leg—Faramir was given a short staff to aid his walking and they led him to a room where he was allowed to sit. People came to see him, though the Haradrim did most of the talking, referring to the parchment Faramir had written, pointing, and nodding.

Eventually it was over, and Faramir was offered a hand up. Several soldiers almost carried him to a cart where he was seated and his staff taken away for now. There were others in the cart, all people of Harad. They were chained. They sat unhappily in the sun for perhaps an hour before they set off. They moved through the city’s dusty streets at a good pace, Faramir understanding that most people had to get out of their way. The complex they entered confirmed what he’d guessed—these soldiers were from a very wealthy household.

Most of the slaves were taken one way, while Faramir and two others, both women, went another. He was separated from them and taken to an area of bathing. There were too many of them to fight, and Faramir’s clothes were so disgusting that he didn’t want to. Despite being embarrassed to bathe in front of others—his rangers were different—it was worth it to be clean. He saw his injured leg for the first time and realised how lucky he had been. The infection was gone and the injury would heal with no permanent damage. The archer had aimed to stop him, not damage him.

Out and dried, they shaved him—slaves were not allowed beards—and gave him new clothing that was grey and white with a blue tunic. It was comfortable and soft, if simply made. It was sturdy. The slippers they gave him to wear were too tight. For now, he could walk barefoot since he was indoors. They gave him the staff back, though it looked as though it had been brushed clean and the bottom end was covered with padded leather now.

They led him through what seemed a maze of corridors, a few stone, most brick, and a very few wood, until he was nearly lost, tracker though he was.

“We will show you to your quarters later, but there is someone who must meet you first.” If Achim5 did not agree, then this Elthion would be returned and the merchants given a severe talking to.

Books, there were books nearby. Faramir smelled them before he could see them. Actually, there were not so many finished books as books being made. A very short older man in fine robes came to greet them, looking most curiously at the injured man, obviously not of Harad.

“What brings you here?” he asked. He was polite in a way that made it understood that he was polite to everyone, and he was unafraid of the guards. He looked at Faramir. “And who is this?”

“His name is Elthion, from Gondor. Good luck, Master Achim, you have been gifted with the first slave in this household that reads and writes.”

It was the first time he’d heard the word with relation to himself, and Faramir shivered.

The human was sleeping again, and Melpomaen was trying not to be frustrated. He’d never really known any mortals and hadn’t considered just how much they could sleep. They also ate more than Elves, but Faramir knew how to hunt and find things for food better than Melpomaen did, which meant that they were not in danger of starving once the dried meat ran out, as he had feared.

There were so many more fears now. He had been here for several years and existed in a relative state of calm after the first few months. He’d really had no reason to fear, as his escape was rather different than Faramir’s—and much less dignified.

Melpomaen closed his eyes and shook with the memory. His eyes had been closed then, too, and he was lightly wrapped in the blanket that had been chosen for his shroud. Please, they had begged. They would do anything for the guard, anything at all, if only they would take the body of their friend who had died and throw it into the sea. If the guard would not, then the body would be desecrated, and would they be allowed no dignity, even in death?

He’d had to remain perfectly still, listening to the pleading voices and the violation they endured to seal the bargain. The stink of the blanket and the motion of being carried nearly made Melpomaen vomit. No, he couldn’t, he owed it to the others to escape while they paid with their very souls.

He’d escaped, made it to the nearby shore and walked, dragging his blanket-shroud with him. The caves had been a lucky find and here he stayed. He’d not even been able to guess his location until Faramir explained why they had to be in Gondor. With the maps the Man had seen, where they were along the water, they could only be near the Anduin River delta. Some eighty miles up the river was Pelargir, but there were closer places that would be safer to get to.

Melpomaen had been irrationally annoyed to learn this information. He’d snapped that Faramir could go himself and risk recapture: the young man was so shocked that he’d sat wide-eyed and said no more.

Faramir’s dreams, his nightmares—the sweating and cries—brought it all back. Elven memories could not fade, not like their bodies did, and when he shut his eyes he was back on that ship listening to his companions’ suffering and wondering always when it would be his turn.

None of it was Faramir’s fault. Still, Melpomaen wished that he was still alone here, wished he didn’t know that he was so close to rescue all this time, wished Faramir would be silent. He yearned for the days before the mortal’s arrival, despairing that it had happened at all.

Elthion the slave had a tiny room of his own containing a small bed, a shelf, and an ill-made wooden chest to store clothing in. Considering the cold, shared quarters of Faramir the ranger, he really didn’t think the arrangement half bad.

Nor was the work difficult. He had a small place in the scriptorium as well, with a large pile of fairly unimportant documents that he would make a copy of and move on to the next. It was dull, and Faramir’s hand throbbed by the end of the day, but he thought of Thoronhen and knew that he himself had no right to complain. Besides, he was learning so much about minor disputes of the Southrons, mostly over land or contracts—the knowledge was fairly useless, but he was learning something.

The master scribe, Achim, was fair with him. There was a guard set to watch Elthion at all times, though Achim had ordered the guard to fetch things for Elthion, as his injured leg made getting up and sitting down difficult. Achim was very pleased with Elthion’s hand. Being used to writing Westron letters, his Southron script was more precise and elegant than the nearly illegible scrawls of so many. Because of this, some of the documents that passed over Elthion’s table began to be more important, though they were mixed in with the others.

Faramir knew the difference.

He’d seen the two women that he was brought in with. They served on this side of the compound as well, one as a weaver and the other a seamstress. He was somewhat surprised at the efficiency of the household, and the relative freedom that these more skilled slaves had.

But they were still slaves, and every time he had to bend his head or endure sneering looks his pride ached: it burned when he was forced to kneel before the actual lords of the house. It did not happen very often, but he detested it.

The guards, for the most part, treated the slaves like the workers they were—these were more expensive, trained slaves, not ordinary labourers who could easily be replaced. But there were a few that watched after Faramir wherever he went, laughed that such a young man would need a staff—were they so weak in Gondor? They called and taunted and gave him the occasional shove, though Achim had blistered the ears of one of them when he’d seen this happen. What would that guard do if Elthion fell again and injured his hand this time? It was not as though that ignorant son of a camel could read or write!

After seeing how useless Elthion’s personal guard was, Achim dismissed him. The slave from Gondor wasn’t going to run, though his leg was nearly healed, and the lazy dog of a guard didn’t even bother to aid him.

When he was given leave to move about certain areas of the household on his own, Elthion had been very surprised—and showed it. Achim had explained why this was allowed for the more trusted slaves and laughed as the astonishment on the young man’s face.

“Trust you or not, ghost cat6, you could not leave this place. Your appearance would give you away in an instant and so you are too intelligent to try to run.”

That was true enough, and Faramir’s free time became more interesting. His working hours were long—as long as there was light, the scriptorium was busy—but in the evenings he could go out to the terraces where slaves were allowed, walked in their humble gardens, and even spoke to some of the others. They mostly asked him questions about the north, which he answered as honestly as he could. He didn’t have friends, but close enough.

He certainly had enemies. There were five of them now, five guards whose voices grew louder and made elaborate threats, they kicked at him and shoved him, hitting and bruising, but never where anyone would see. He was punished with five lashes when an altercation with them had left his shirt torn—slaves were expected to treat their clothing well and that shirt would need mending.

Oh, how he wanted to hit back! These guards were poorly trained and no match for Faramir, even without a weapon. But they were soldiers and he a slave, no matter that he was actually of more value to the house than the lot of them, so he grit his teeth and endured.

Melpomaen’s entire being strained, trying to block out the cries of fear that the mortal emitted during yet another of his nightmares. He hated feeling this way, feeling so powerless to help and having to sit here, night after night, listening and doing nothing. He grit his teeth and fretted, pacing outside at times, until Faramir woke on his own. One more night of anguish over, another day of strain beginning. Faramir insisted that they make their way to safety while Melpomaen was sure that the surviving corsairs searched the shore for them.

“I say we can wait. A few weeks’ time more will do no harm.” Melpomaen knew that he’d not leave in a few weeks, or likely even a few months, he simply wanted to put Faramir off—the cursed human would not listen!

“I am only a mortal and cannot wait here as you can. Moreover, I have information about the strength of the corsair fleet that is vital to our defences. Certainly some of the political information I copied in Harad is also important.” Faramir was trying to understand Melpomaen’s fear as best he could, and weighed it against the knowledge that the corsairs would, within the year, have a hidden base in Tolfalas, near enough and powerful enough to damage Dol Amroth and Belfalas. “The Eldar in the stories I have read are strong, brave people.”

This last was more thinking aloud but it set Melpomaen’s temper smouldering.

“I am a real, living being, not a character in a story,” he hissed. “I am not yet ready to give up my life for a mortal with no patience!”

The dam burst and Faramir’s forbearance was shattered.

“My people stand between Mordor and the rest of Middle-earth; the information I carry may help them. The Eldar may have the choice to sail west but the rest of us must stay, and there will be nowhere to stay if we do not fight successfully.” Did the Elves simply not understand that some things must be done now? “We cannot wait and we cannot run. I do not wish to die either, but I must try and warn people of the coming threat.”

Time was of the essence, and Faramir could not wait for years and years even if it hadn’t been. Melpomaen narrowed his eyes.

“I will not take such a risk. I have seen what they do to their captives, watched my companions suffer.” The Elf shuddered at the memories—Faramir did not know that he relived them with every horrendous dream the mortal had. He would not escape that same torture if he and Faramir were taken.

“Then I will go alone,” Faramir stated with a calm voice barely above a whisper, his eyes distant. “I have seen what they do and experienced it. I have bled and hurt and been used as no one should ever be used. But I will go.”

Elthion was in the servants’ bath mostly alone. The guard on the door was outside and the attendants in their place, waiting until they were needed.

He preferred to wait until the baths were empty, or nearly so, because his fair skin and light eyes had always made people stare. Some of them held a strange look in their eyes that made Elthion feel like he was a rabbit and they hounds, though most were merely curious; it was still embarrassing. Bathing during less crowded hours was the solution to the problem, and it had worked very well.

After some months, one of the door guards was changed—it was one of the five who tormented Elthion’s existence in the Southron household. Elthion ignored him, knowing the one man would not act alone.

He didn’t. Not a week later, the other four came into the baths and told the attendants to get back. None of this was their business, did they understand?

Elthion was difficult to hold onto, wet as he was. It was easier to land blows in the most painful areas with no clothing to hide his body, though. Still, they wondered why the man fought back when he never had before—and he fought with strength and skill they hadn’t expected from a scholar.

“Don’t touch me!” Elthion grit out before putting a fist in someone’s face. “Don’t you…”

“Look at him, sergeant,” one of the guards said. It shone in his eyes that the slave was afraid when always before he’d been angry. He didn’t fight back when he was angry, but he did fight when he was afraid; what was he afraid of?

“Pin him, get him down!” The sergeant ordered. They’d find out and exploit any weakness. Unfortunately for Elthion, they found it out almost immediately. A reaching hand grabbed the wrong thing and the fear turned to terror. Unfortunately for the four guards, Elthion hadn’t been pinned when the one had laughingly told the others of the pretty Gondorean’s worry.

Two black eyes and numerous bruises later, they had thrown a towel over Elthion’s head. He could barely breathe and the fight went out of him quickly, enabling them to pin him flat on his back. One of the four had been kicked solidly in the groin and would not be able to participate in the upcoming degradation. Charitably, he’d gone out to his companion at the door and told him that he would take his shift over if the other guard wanted to give Elthion a good pounding on his behalf and the other guard accepted.

Even not being able to breathe, some of the struggling began again when bath oils were used to ease the way. Elthion was only a slave, but he was valuable. As long as he was still in condition to work, which meant being able to sit, then they were certain they could get by with this.

So they’d readied him, one man each sitting on his legs while another knelt on his wrists. They mocked him the whole time, turned him over and laughed that his white skin made him look like a maiden from this side. Oh, but he was tighter than any maid the sergeant had ever had.

It had burned so badly, up through Faramir’s gut into his soul. Each thrust hurt more, even after his body started to numb and he was light-headed from lack of air. Sometimes one of them would… touch something… and it almost made him sick because in those moments it did not hurt. They were fleeting, unlike the rest of it, which lasted forever. There were more than four, or someone took him more than once. They were all the same with the towel muffling their grunts and moans.

He knew it was over when someone said so, slapping him sharply across the bum and giving him thanks for a fine evening, as if he was the lowest of prostitutes. He pushed the towel away and nearly crawled toward the bath. He didn’t feel clean when it was over nor did the bath attendants come out to help with towels or clothing. It took all of the strength left in Elthion’s body to stand up straight and walk out the door past the guard who had used him so disgustingly. The crude remarks fell on ears that did not seem to understand the Haradric tongue.

Elthion was at work the next day. If he was sitting a little more stiffly than normal, then no one seemed to notice. He said nothing: what was there to say? He was only a slave.

“They came for me regularly after that, never physically hurting too badly.” There was a glistening in Faramir’s eyes: he blinked any tears away. “They made sure I could work, but the humiliation grew each time.”

Their words were cruder, their violations deeper and more varied until he had almost wished to die. If not for dreams of home, he surely would have given up.

They sat in silence for a while, Elf and Man, neither knowing what to say or, more accurately, knowing there was nothing more to be said right now. At last Melpomaen spoke in a soft voice, though one filled with compassion.

“I am not so brave as you, Faramir of Gondor, but courage such as yours should not end here, and certainly not because of my cowardice.” He looked over at Faramir. “I have waited so long because I was ashamed. I feared that I would be looked upon with disgust and could not live with the thought of being so ostracized. Then you came here and you have suffered so much more than I, yet you do not fear to face the world.”

Melpomaen looked away a moment, then looked back.

“The way I have treated you is a greater disgrace than anything that happened to me, worse perhaps than what happened to my friends. They could not help it, even as you could not. I should have given you any aid you needed and not kept you back because of my foolish pride.” He held up a hand to clasp, if Faramir would take it. It was what Men did and a gesture of peace. “Forgive me, please?”

Faramir’s arm came up against Melpomaen’s, warm and solid in a warrior’s clasp.

“I forgive you, though you have no need to ask. You too have been through a great trial and must have looked back every day remembering those you had to leave behind, even as I had to leave behind Thoronhen.” Did the man even live still? He could be anywhere in the land and Faramir did not even know the actual name of the city where he’d been.

“We will go,” Melpomaen said. “Gather the food and water as best we can and leave in the morning. Would that I could have seen things differently a few weeks ago.”

“Perhaps I’d not have been as strong then,” Faramir returned. “I am now. It is about twenty-five miles to the township of Linhir, over land and away from any who might be seeking us. We will arrive there the day after tomorrow.”

It was better to go slowly along the way, in case there was anyone seeking them. It did not seem likely, but they had no weapons and had come so far… there was no going back.

They did not have much food, but they would not need it. Melpomaen would not need to eat at all on such a short walk, not if he did not wish to. Their small container carrying water was wrapped in the blanket. Aside from these things, they each had a staff picked up along the way in case they needed to fight. They would have looked a fair pair of beggars were it not for their noble carriage and Melpomaen’s radiance even in hardship.

Setting out was the worst; as they knew not what to expect. There was no one along the shore and no sign of ships out to sea. From what little Melpomaen had explored of the area, there were no dwellings for farming or fishing for several miles. The ground was a bit rocky here, but it wouldn’t be a bad place to build—just not a good place to farm. With Pelargir so close, there was no need for a trading village on the shore. It made for an uneventful walk in companionable silence, with an occasional stop to drink and get more water.

“We do not need sleep as you do, my friend,” Melpomaen said as they stopped for the night. Faramir had been willing to continue, as Elves could see well enough in the dark and he trusted his companion. But there was no need and so they stopped. Faramir’s deliberate look of childish petulance made Melpomaen smile. “That tenacity of yours made me agree to come with you: it will not aid you now.”

Faramir muttered something about stubborn desert cats7 as Achim might have and prepared to sleep. He would be safe in the night and there were no dreams.

They continued just before sunup, with Melpomaen asking how Faramir had slept and Faramir splashing the Elf’s clothing for being a miserable jester. No longer did Melpomaen treat him as a child as it seemed back in the cave by the sea.

“Have I changed for you somehow?” Faramir asked at last. He would not get a chance if he did not take it now, as they would be close to Linhir soon.

“You have changed some, but I have changed more,” Melpomaen replied. “You are young in years but wiser than I was. My people do need to know what happened to us—I was simply too lost in my own shame to see it. You have more concern for your land than for yourself and reminded me where my duty lay.”

The tall Elf gave a graceful shrug and a little smile.

“Also, out here on the land, you know more of survival than I do.”

“Ah.” Well, Melpomaen wasn’t a ranger.

Not long after, they spotted a farm and another soon. There were wheel-ruts through dried mud making trails toward the northeast. There were sounds of animals in the distance, and more soon enough. An older man rode by on a wagon filled with wooden crates. He looked at them sideways, taking in the condition of their clothing, lack of gear, and Melpomaen’s ears. That made the man’s eyes open wide.

“Kin I help you lads?” he asked. Elves weren’t anything he really heard of.

“We are travelling to Linhir, as surely you can tell. Have you room enough for us to ride? Even just a little way would be helpful.” Faramir sounded like himself, not realising what he looked like, and the man stared. This wasn’t right, somehow, but giving a ride was simple enough. Poor boys looked like they could use a meal and a roof too, but that was women’s business.

“Yep. Skinny as you are, you kin both fit up here with me.” He gave them time to come on up, though he didn’t offer an arm. “Now, ‘f you was like my wife’s brother, then we’d have a problem.”

He clicked to the horse, which started walking. They were not going much faster than they had been, but it likely saved them a lot of time in people asking them what they were up to and the like.

The man was going to the township, the boxes containing goods sewn by the women of his farmstead. Kept them busy, the man said, and earned a little more money so they’d have more than their crops brought. It sounded as though the people in this area were fairly prosperous and content, which was pleasing to hear. Had the man known Faramir’s identity, he’d likely have said nothing at all.

“Farewell,” Faramir said with a nod as they parted ways. “I will thank you as soon as I have the means to do so.”

“You go right ahead, lad,” the man returned with a toothy smile. Sharp young man, looked like he’d go far if he had a bit of luck. Maybe this trip to Linhir would be good for him.

The hardest part was gaining access to the Lord of Linhir. He wasn’t a great lord, but he held a title. This made a few of his assistants think that they themselves were more important than other people. The appearance of a pair of beggars, one apparently a ruined Elf, set them to bristling.

“You cannot see the Lord of Linhir dressed as you are!” The man’s secretary said with great authority. “And what business could a beggar have with such a great man anyway?”

He sneered in Faramir’s face, ignoring Melpomaen completely, as Elves were strange, mysterious beings who obviously could not understand Westron and certainly dressed as though they slept in the dirt. Wait, didn’t Elves live in trees?

“The lord will wish to speak to me, I guarantee it,” Faramir said. He was as patient as he could be under the circumstances. Were he Boromir, his next action would be to break down the door. There was a certain directness to that, Faramir had to admit.

“How do you know what he wishes?” the secretary laughed. “What you want is a bath, cold would do, and a sound thrashing for impudence.”

“What you need is a lesson in manners, sir. I have important information that your lord will wish to relay to Dol Amroth as soon as possible. I myself would like to speak to Prince Imrahil as well.” Melpomaen’s lip quirked up as Faramir snapped at the self-important bureaucrat; quirked more when Faramir stiffened in irritation with himself for losing his temper. The smirk became a grin as the secretary spoke again.

“What reason could you possibly have to speak with Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth?” The man put a hand on his hip, waiting.

“He’s my uncle.”

The Lord of Linhir listened to Faramir’s story, and Melpomaen’s also. They were offered rooms at his own house, if they wished it, while a swift messenger was sent to Dol Amroth and another to Belfalas. A third was sent out to Minas Tirith, letting them know that Lord Faramir lived. Even the lord of the township had heard he was gone, and he was honoured as he could be to offer aid. His secretary? An idiot cousin of his wife who really could be replaced as far as he was concerned. He’d have to ask his wife first. Then he shrugged.

“I’m clean and I’m never coming out of my bath,” Melpomaen called to Faramir, who had finished his and dressed already.

“I will tell Lord Mallor that you’ll be having bathwater as this evening’s meal. I’m sure neither his lady nor his cook will be at all upset.”

Faramir understood every word of Elvish his friend spoke, and figured that Melpomaen had to know he understood. He laughed and prepared for dinner.

They waited for the Lords of Belfalas and Dol Amroth, resting and healing. Faramir wrote down everything he could remember about the fleet hidden on Tolfalas and the plans to further endow it. There were a number of documents that he was trying to remember verbatim, things he’d copied in Harad, but he could not. Bits and pieces and the general context were the best he could do. Some areas of the land were more loyal to Sauron than others, of course. They also had some trade routes and moderate-level military plans.

When Imrahil arrived, he demanded to see Faramir. The secretary’s eyes grew very wide when the prince did actually embrace the young man and call him nephew. Oh no…

Melpomaen did not have as much information of political importance, but the loss of his companions was noted with sadness. Imrahil had the name of the ship and there would be a special reward put out on it. Their terrible deaths would be avenged and Melpomaen had his choice of routes home. To Dol Amroth and back to the Havens by ship or with Faramir to Minas Tirith and from there home. The Elf was not yet sure but was grateful for they sympathy shown. Dol Amroth was a good friend to the Elves.

They took ship, Imrahil’s own personal vessel, and sailed up the Anduin for Gondor’s capitol. Plans had already been made and would be ready when Prince Imrahil returned—the corsairs’ base on Tolfalas would be destroyed and as many of their ships captured as possible. Umbar would be in for some interesting times in the next few years.

Melpomaen had been leery of going to Minas Tirith, though Faramir felt that saving his life might make the Lord Steward more kindly disposed towards Elves. Prince Imrahil concurred; if naught else, Boromir would wish to meet the Elf and would smooth things over with his father.

“Stop it, you’ll chew your fingers off,” Melpomaen said. Faramir was biting his nails as they pulled in at Osgiliath.

“I am not chewing.”

“Well, stop sucking then. You’re not a bird and they aren’t worms.”

“I’m nervous.”

“I know. You make me nervous as well, and I have never met your brother.”

“You’re about to.”


Had Melpomaen not known of the great love between the brothers and heard of the elder’s exuberance, he’d have been worried that Faramir might have gone through great trials, injury, and escape only to be crushed to death in the captain-general’s arms. The brothers were talking rapidly, smiling and crying at the same time. Boromir did not yet know the worst, but that was for later.

“I’ll look at those things in good time, little brother. And we can find some fine cloth for that farmer and his wife—that brocade left over from my court tunic will work for their sewing, and they won’t have a chance to make anything else out of it for me. Uncle Imrahil has dealt with all that needs seeing to immediately. For now, my little brother has returned.” He glanced over at Melpomaen with a curious look in his eyes. “My little brother and a friend. Come, join us Elf of Imladris, you helped save my brother’s life.”

He’d been unable to resist Faramir’s words. The stubborn mortal had worn him down, made him understand that he could not hide forever. Against both sons of Denethor he had no chance. Well, there was nothing wrong with the company of Men.


“Oh, great will be my chastisement, who has already lost my slave!” wailed Master Scribe Achim to the assembly.

The house master K’mir, most of the slaves and guards, and even a few members of the great house itself were watching to see what might happen. It was extremely rare that a slave should escape and the punishment would likely be great. A few guards grinned but most of the slaves were worried. The chief scribe kept to himself and never went out of his way to hurt anyone. This slave had been the very first in his keeping.

“That is why we are here, sir. You have lost your slave.” The house master was in charge of all servants and, since the slave master was under his control, technically all of the slaves as well. He had allowed Achim the scholar of Gondor for his own and the man had fled—he needed to know how and why to keep from being punished himself. “How could he have escaped, man? He was alone and injured.”

“Not injured anymore, healing,” said Achim. Healed, in reality. “But surely alone—all alone in this place so far from all he knew!”

There were little nods in the crowd, as nearly all knew about captured Man of Gondor who was educated enough to be in the scriptorium.

“And it was my own fault,” the old man continued. “I did not take enough care for my slave and so he was taken from me.”

“What do you mean? Who took him?”

“Fate took him, or moved his feet to take him away. Were I not such a selfish old man, I might have him yet!” Ink-stained hands clutched at the formal silk robe that Achim had worn to this inquisition. “No, I did not care for him at all—this is all my own fault.”

The house master was confused, knowing his counterpart in the scriptorium was not a cruel man. He had heard of no problems until this.

“How is it your fault?” K’mir’s boomed, silencing the speculating whispers that had begun to grow.

“He was under torment, honoured K’mir, and I turned away.” He made looked directly at the senior servant as he ought. “It went on for a long time and I did nothing, I cared not at all, as long as Elthion was able to do his work. He was, and without complaint. Had he complained, I’d have been bound to help him but he said nothing and so I turned a blind eye to his suffering. He must have decided that risking death was better than living as he was: I lost the only slave I have ever been given and it is a just punishment for what I have done!”

There was murmuring in the crowd. Slaves were mistreated all the time, everyone knew that. Still, slaves did not know how to read and write—Elthion was the first and a catch of great value.

“You did nothing to protect your own slave?” Though the man had belonged to the household, his direct care was Achim’s responsibility.

“He was under my eye and able to work: I turned away,” the scribe said miserably. “I should have spoken to him, or to those responsible. My shame is vast.”

So was his inner smile.

“The ones who did this were known to you; your shame should be vast. Name them.”

“They are guards here, and their names are not known to me. Their faces, that is different.” Achim scanned the crowd and pointed. “Those four, though there is one other who will currently be stationed in one of the cross-halls between the scriptorium and the quarters for house slaves.”

There was nowhere for the men to run, and K’mir shouted for other guards to take them. There was a great scramble and Achim knew that his part in this was nearly over. Losing a valuable slave would be considered punishment enough and the five guards would be split up and almost certainly transferred to less comfortable units where they would have to stand outside, or even go into combat. They deserved worse for what they had done and Achim knew it.

For himself, he only hoped that the man he knew only as Elthion had truly escaped. It seemed likely, since he had not been brought back after three days. He’d be somewhere else, making his way home, and Achim prayed to the sun and the moon that the kind Gondorean would get there.


Author’s notes:

1 The story about the Dwarves barrel-riding is a deliberate mistake on my part. Faramir remembers the story as he heard it, it was the man who told it who likely misheard it from someone who misheard it. It has been some sixty years or so (depending on book or film) since Bilbo and his not-so-merry Dwarves made their escape from the King of Mirkwood’s realm and the details are sketchy in the minds of most of the people of Dale.

2 The name Sea Wolf was shamelessly ripped off from the Jack London novel.

3 Faramir begins the story (chronologically) at 24 years old but is 25 when he escapes the corsairs.

4 Thoronhen means Eagle-eye and Erynadan is simply ‘woodsman’. Naming is Tolkien’s strong suit, not mine.

5 Achim is pronounced ‘Ahk-heem’. He is based on a little old dude (middle-aged, really) about the size of a short/average woman who was an X-level black belt in karate and a really cool guy.

6 Ghost cat is simply a pet name given by Achim. In our world, ‘ghost cat’ meant white tigers from India. This is in reference to Faramir’s pale skin. Since white tigers also have blue eyes, I guess I’m finally coming down from the fence in this story, re: book Faramir or film Faramir. Appearance only.

7 When I say desert cat I am referring to small African wildcats like servals or caracals with very large ears or tipped ears—it is something you can ‘mock’ about Elves, if so inclined.

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7 Comment(s)

NB: Comments may contain spoilers!

I am so excited!!!! Bell Witch, I can’t wait to read this – Knowing you, I know I’m going to love it, I’m leaving on a road trip right this minute – this will be taunting me the whole way, saved as .pdf and ready to go. Maybe I can read it at toll booth lines…Okay, I must wait a few hours. Just wanted to say thanks ahead of time so you know I’m out here, being consumed by anticipation, fingers itching to open my laptop as I drive. I’ll send another comment as soon as I get in tonight and get to read read read!!!! Thank you!!!!

— Vanwa Hravani    20 December 2008, 17:49    #

Vanwa Hravani—
I am going to feel like frozen pondscum on a stick if you end up not liking this story. I really hope you enjoy, as I gave the semi-annual fret in honor of it. I try to kick start my writer’s block twice a year doing the challenges here. Cross fingers

— Bell Witch    21 December 2008, 00:25    #

I liked this a lot!

Isis    21 December 2008, 02:03    #

Bell Witch –
No pondscum needed. I loved it! I asked for a story, I got an epic. You created a whole nother world and series of potential episodes. Yay! Particularly disturbed by Mel’s corpse escape – truly creepy and so minimalistically presented. And Achim’s revenge – perfect. So much character development for him in so few words. Your respect for him as a character and person is clear, and contagious. Very nice. Thank you thank you thank you!


— Vanwa Hravani    21 December 2008, 12:45    #


Very glad I’m not pondscum. As for epic… I get the bunny into my head and that’s what gets written. If I had written longer chapters instead of vignettes, it could have been skeery indeed. This is my ‘open season’ on filling out any of those segments.

Melpomaen’s escape had to be pretty bad because I couldn’t do anything physical to him or he’d fade. Being thrown for a corpse is degrading as well as frightening. Achim is the good Samaritan. It’s my thought that Faramir considers Men of Harad as though they could have been allies if their lords had not chosen to follow Sauron. They are men just as Gondoreans are, good and bad. Scholars should stick together.

So glad you enjoyed.

— Bell Witch    22 December 2008, 04:48    #

Love it!

Love the young Faramir, brave and proud, who manages to retain his dignity after all he endures. His terror is so insightful. And of course Haradrim people couldn’t be all bad. Your description of their world makes me think a lot of Calormene in the Chronicles of Narnia.

Nerey Camille    28 September 2010, 18:31    #

Nerey—thank you. Not just for your kind words but for poking me. Somehow I lost all copies of this story and your comment reminded me. I can now copy it to my files so I have it again.
If Tolkien had written more about the Haradrim, we might have found them very much like Calormenes. They’re just people who grew up under a very different system. The household Faramir was in was a practical one, and Achim was a smart old guy. (In truth, it’s out of character for him to not have helped with those guards. It was a plot point and I’m ashamed of myself for doing that to the man.)

— Bell Witch    28 September 2010, 21:04    #

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About the Author

Bell Witch

Most of my fanfiction is linked through my livejournal Feed link

Finally an update of my profile. I’m behind on linking fics posted here on my LJ, so these are pretty much my LotR fics. The Harry Potter links are on the LJ below a lot of silly quizzes and memes. For sillier results, my online RPG Faramir takes these quizzes also—in character. Most of his results are better than mine. His journal is faramir_hurin, for those so inclined.

I’ve also written a number of segments for the interactive story linked through this site.

I’ve been writing fanfiction for four or five years and I haven’t progressed into writing for many fandoms yet, which may be a blessing for all of those fandoms I’ve not written for. I don’t really count the online RP as fanfiction, though some would. That adds a few fandoms and a new dimension to LotR, as I now play Sauron in his Annatar persona.

As you can see, I am still not skilled at writing author profiles.