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3
So long,farewell

So long, farewell
Auf Wiedersehen, adieu - Hammerstein

With grateful thanks to Virtuella and Raksha

Disclaimer: The characters are the property of the Tolkien Estate. This story is written purely for entertainment and not to make money.


~~~

Faramir joined the King at the mouth of the cave. "Alas, we are stranded here!" he exclaimed. "Our ladies will be most distressed when our horses return home without us."

"I fear so!" Aragorn said grimly. "No doubt they are halfway home by now."

"Perhaps we could swim to safety?" Faramir suggested, emerging out on to the hillside, closely followed by the King.

"It would not be wise as we have no idea what lies beneath the surface," said Aragorn. "Then what about your cold? You might develop lung fever."

"We will just have to wait for the water to subside," Faramir said glumly. He coughed miserably.

"I can take you home once I have breakfasted."

Aragorn and Faramir tried hard not to stare as the dragon emerged into the daylight. He was huge, far larger than almost all living creatures they had ever beheld before, rivalling the Mumakim of Harad. His scaly hide was black and shiny as jet, apart from the brilliant blue markings on his wings, which he now spread wide.

Aragorn and Faramir gasped in awe as the dragon's vast fan like wings were unfurled. For all his bulk, he was a creature of considerable grace and beauty. Around his neck he wore a great golden collar adorned with rubies.

The dragon suddenly plunged into the water and grabbed one of the struggling deer, which it devoured in a few gulps. It then seized another, a buck with large antlers. The dragon clambered back on the hillock and spat out the antlers. Aragorn and Faramir could only watch with a mixture of horror and fascination.

"Quite tasty, though I prefer cows," said the dragon. He plunged his head in the water again as if to wash his face. "Now tell me where you want to go and I will take you there."

"Excuse us for a moment," said Aragorn .He took Faramir aside and spoke to the Steward in Quenya. "We cannot ride on the back of a savage beast. You saw what it did to those deer!"

"It does not appear to eat Men, though," Faramir said calmly.

"If we let it bear us, we would be completely at its mercy," said Aragorn. "What if it carried us off to its master as slaves?"

"Are we not already in its power?" reasoned Faramir. "I sense it means well and knows nothing of guile. I know, mellon nīn, that we have been taught to hate and fear dragons, but is it not possible that his story is true and they are not all creatures of darkness? I used to believe that no honourable men dwelled in Harad, but since the war, I have met many good people from that land. I consider Ambassador Talik and his lady to be good friends. I admit I fear to fly upon the dragon's back, but I fear worse being stranded here more without supplies and not knowing when we shall see our wives and children again!"

"You speak wisely as always, Faramir," said the King. "I have taken greater risks than this by far in my younger days. However, we could hardly permit a dragon to land in the Court of the Fountain! "

"We could find a deserted corner of the Pelennor," Faramir suggested. "We could easily walk home from there or borrow some horses."

"Have you made your minds up yet?" demanded the dragon.

"We would be happy to accept your gracious offer," said Faramir. "We hesitated as we have no experience of flying."

"I can catch you if you fall," said the dragon. "Come!"

Before Aragorn and Faramir could react, he had extended a gigantic five taloned claw and very gently lifted them both up onto his neck "Hold on tight to my collar!" he said, as he soared up into the air, leaving the King and Steward clinging on for dear life.

Despite having more reservations about their mode of transport than his Steward, Aragorn adapted more quickly to this new mode of transport, having been brought up to ride Elven fashion without saddle or bridle. As soon as he grew accustomed to his precarious perch, he found the experience exhilarating. Many times as a boy when he had heard the story of Elwing and Eärendil, he had wondered what it might be like to fly and wished that he could do so. Now that boyhood dream was coming true!

Faramir, for his part, soon found that he was enjoying this new adventure, though he had to cling tightly to Aragorn's waist, as well as to the dragon's neck He looked in wonder at the landscape spread out beneath them. They soon passed by the flooded area. Beneath them lay woods, rivers and fields, the villages dotted amongst them looked like children's toys. Fortunately, the villagers must have thought the dragon some kind of bird when he passed high above them, as no one paid them any attention.

All too soon for the travellers, the familiar countryside surrounding the White City came in sight. "Could you land us behind those trees?" Aragorn asked the dragon.

"You live in such a remote place?" the creature enquired.

"You would not be able to land near our homes," the King explained. "The streets are too narrow."

"Very well." The dragon gracefully descended in a field surrounded by trees and lifted Aragorn and Faramir down. "How foolishly you Men design your cities!"

"We did not expect any friendly dragons to visit us," said Faramir.

"Thank you," said Aragorn with genuine gratitude. "You have served us well and proved a friend in need."

"I hope that you will soon find your rider," said Faramir, reaching out to stroke the dragon's soft nose. To his surprise, the creature gently nuzzled him like an affectionate house cat.

Before he could say anything else, he heard shouting and angry voices approaching together with screams of fear.

"Go!" cried Aragorn. "You are not safe here!"

"Foolish men to act like fearful babes!" grumbled the dragon.

"May Elbereth guide your journey!" said Faramir, giving the dragon a final pat. He felt oddly saddened to be parting from their giant companion. "Fly away swiftly and safely!"

"Farewell sons of Ilśvatar!" cried the dragon. He flapped his wings and soared aloft. Within seconds, he was indistinguishable from a bird as he soared higher and higher.

Aragorn and Faramir slipped away with the well-practised stealth of former Rangers, so that when the frightened and angry farmers arrived, they found only an empty space.

"I wonder if we will ever see him again?" mused Faramir as they walked back towards the City. "I feel we could become friends if we had time to get to know one another. Alas, we do not even know our new friend's name."

"You would count a dragon as friend?" The King did not sound greatly surprised, though.

"This is a new age in which anything is possible," said the Steward. "Just think of all he could teach us about the distant realm in which he dwells!" He coughed loudly.

"As you say, anything is possible," Aragorn replied. "For now all that concerns me is a good meal, a hot bath and mixing some herbs for your cough! But I agree, the dragon was kind to strangers whom he had no reason to trust."

"Why not send forth letters to all the garrisons in Gondor, describing the dragon and forbidding anyone to shoot him down?" Faramir suggested. "You could also have the creature's rider searched for and brought to you, if he can be found."

"I shall consider your words, friend," said Aragorn. "On the other hand might it not cause mass panic if it became known a dragon was at large?"

"I should not like our new friend to meet with harm if we could prevent it," Faramir replied.

"It would be difficult to injure a creature of such a great size and he seems to be faring well enough on his own," said Aragorn. "At the moment, my main concern is what our ladies will make of our latest adventure."

Side by side, the two friends approached the City Gates, glad to be home again.

TBC

~~~

A/N This concludes the part of the story written for the Teitho contest. There are now many new chapters to follow.

The dragon is inspired by Temeraire in the books by Naomi Novik.


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