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3
The call of the running tide.

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying. – John Masefield – Sea Fever.

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 Virtuella.


~~~

The August sun beat down remorselessly upon the small group of riders travelling along the coastal road. Aragorn and Faramir had long since removed their cloaks, and given their guards permission to do likewise, but they were still sweltering in the heat of the afternoon.

The constant glimpses of the sea from the road only served to make matters worse. After the troubles in Linhir and their frosty reception, they were not greatly looking forward to the rest of their trip. Still, duty demanded that Aragorn visit all parts of his realm while at least Prince Imrahil would welcome them.

“We are not due to arrive in Belfalas until nightfall,” said Aragorn. “Maybe we could rest awhile?”

“Looking at the sea without being able to bathe in it would only make me hotter,” sighed Faramir, who rode alongside his lord.

Aragorn echoed his Steward's sigh. Even if they were not both naturally reticent men, a king could hardly bathe in full view of every passing subject. The royal dignity had to be maintained at all times.

The party rode onwards until they approached a curve in the road. A little way ahead some trees promised much welcome shade.

“Look!” exclaimed Faramir. “That secluded cove would be perfect for a quick swim. The currents are not dangerous in these parts and we could not be observed from the road.”

Aragorn surveyed their surroundings. Faramir was right. A narrow path led down to the beach, while the trees screened the road. He called the company to a halt. ”Rest the horses awhile beneath the shade of the trees,” he said. “Lord Faramir and I wish to refresh ourselves in the water. Take it in turns to see no one approaches.” The King dismounted from Roheryn, handing the stallion's reins to the nearest guard. He paused only to grab a towel and change of linens from his pack, before he hastened down the track leading to the sea with Faramir.

As soon as they set foot on the beach, the two men joyfully pulled off their boots and stockings. The sand felt delightfully cool beneath their feet. The salty tang of the air and aroma of seaweed immediately refreshed their spirits. Leaving a trail of scattered garments in their wake, they undressed down to their drawers and plunged into the inviting waves.

“This is bliss!” Aragorn exclaimed as he immersed himself. He felt as free as the gulls that circled overhead.

“Mmm,” was Faramir's only reply.

The two swam until they felt cooled and refreshed. Reluctantly, they left the water and then started to gather up their clothing.

“I have never known you fail to fold your garments before when going swimming!” Aragorn remarked.

“Obviously your bad influence has rubbed off on me!” Faramir retorted. He dried himself and donned his breeches. Skilfully, he dodged a playful blow from his sovereign.

“You were simply too hot to care!” Aragorn laughed while he pulled his shirt over his head. “If only we could stay here on the beach a while longer, but it would be irresponsible to leave the men waiting “

“We could always tell them to come and swim too if they wish,” said Faramir. “The horses would enjoy the water as well.”

“As ever you are wise, mellon nîn!” Aragorn grinned. Without bothering to don his boots and stockings, he went to call to the guards.

***

An hour or so later, the once peaceful cove was filled with men and horses frolicking in the waves. A little apart from them two figures lay drowsing in the sun. Faramir lazily opened his eyes and dug his toes deeper in the warm sand. He studied the position of the sun. It was not yet starting to sink over the horizon, so they could linger here a little longer. Belfalas could wait. The sea had gladdened his heart and he felt far more confident that they would be made welcome. He closed his eyes again and went back to sleep beside his softly snoring lord.

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