Also written for the Advent Mathom Challenge, for the prompt above.
Of all the cursed luck! Captain Faris swore to himself despairingly. He had put out of port almost immediately in hopes of fleeing the fever, but some of his men had gone ashore and now fifteen of them burned below decks in the throes of contagion. The rest of them were demoralized at the prospect of a foe they could not properly battle, and now this Gondorrim ship had shown up at just the wrong time to test their mettle.
He looked at the name blazoned on the ship’s prow, Olwen, and his heart sank further still. Fire take him, but the fates must have marked him for doom from his day of birth. T’was not just any ship or captain, but the Black Swan of Dol Amroth himself!
Then he noticed that the Gondorrim were flying the yellow flag that signified contagion as well. The ships drew near to each other, orders were shouted, and their remaining crews scurried to battle stations. But before battle could be joined a beautiful voice speaking in fluent Haradric floated across the intervening water.
“I would parley with you ashore, Captain, if you would be so kind.” And a white kerchief was waved in the breeze.
“I will meet with you there, Captain,” Faris responded after a moment‘s astonished silence, trotting his own excellent Westron out for the occasion. Acquiring a white flag of his own, he had a boat lowered and swiftly joined his Northern counterpart on the beach.
The Heir to Dol Amroth was every bit as handsome and imposing as Faris expected, but he was also younger than expected and his expression was as tired and strained as Faris’ own. One of Faris’ own countrymen stood in Swan Knight livery at his side, and there was a guard of six others at his back. Faris’ own escort were nowhere near so impressive.
“I see you brought your Tiger with you, my lord,” Faris told Prince Imrahil, indicating the Haradrim and there was a flash of white teeth in response from the Heir’s shield man.
“Always,” the Black Swan said simply. Then he added, “And I see that you did not escape the fever either. How bad?”
“Bad enough,” said Faris, unwilling to disclose the extent of his weakness. “And you?”
“The same.” There was a long moment’s silence while the two parties eyed one another warily. Then the prince spoke again. “I think…I think that we both have a bigger battle to fight this day, Captain…”
“Faris,” Faris supplied.
“Captain Faris. The fever is no respecter of men or nations. What would you say to a truce?”
A gleam of hope entered Faris’ heart. “What terms would you give, my lord?”
“That for the duration of our difficulties, we are at peace. That we bring both of our ships into this harbor and do what we can to aid our sick men and help each other. That when the fever has run its course, we depart in peace and sail a day out before we resume hostilities. And that if there are not enough men left to crew both vessels when the fever has run its course, then whoever has the most men left will take the others upon his vessel and sail for his home port while guaranteeing the release of the other crew to their ambassadors. Are these terms acceptable to you?”
“The terms are more than reasonable, my lord prince,” Faris said, trying not to sound surprised. “Will you give me a moment to confer with my men?”
“Of course.” The Prince turned towards his men and Faris took his own a few paces away. There was some half-hearted objection, but not much-Olwen was not a large ship, but she was larger than Faris’ own and there were those half-dozen Swan Knights in the crew… Swan Knights figured prominently in Haradrim mothers’ threats against unruly offspring, and consequently held an exalted place in the list of Haradrim foes.
“I agree to your terms, Prince Imrahil, and will inform my crew of them, “ Faris said to the young captain upon his return. “I, Faris son of Farikheen of Umbar swear that I will hold to the terms of this truce.” He extended his hand.
“And I, Imrahil son of Adrahil of Dol Amroth swear that I will hold to the terms of this truce.” The prince’s forearm in its swanship-engraved greave was offered in its turn and the two men clasped arms.
“We had both better be getting back to our ships,” Imrahil said when they had released each other. “Why don’t you take the left side of the beach and search that side of the island for water and I’ll do the same on the right? Whoever finds some can tell the other.”
“That sounds good, my lord,” Faris said and turned to make his way back to his boat, feeling much more hopeful than he had just an hour previously. He thought the Prince looked relieved as well. The Gondorrim are not so different from us when all is said and done, he thought bemusedly. No man of reason will war if an alternative is available. As if to emphasize his enemies’ humanity, a stray breeze brought to his ears a querulous complaint from the Prince.
“Andra, why is it YOU always get to be the animal with TEETH?”