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82
Brothers of the Tribe

Brother of the Tribe

Disclaimer - These characters all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. This story was written for pleasure and not for financial gain.

A/N Written for the BTME13 Prompt ĖXenophobia

It will make the story clearer if you have read "East is East" (written for BTME 2 years ago) and

"Wars and Rumours of War" to which this story is a sequel.

I hope, though it can be enjoyed on its own.

Faramir had been in an uneasy mood ever since he had awakened that morning. He was uncertain why that that should be. Maybe it was because he had turned down Aragorn's invitation to accompany him to Osgiliath to see how the rebuilding was progressing. Even though years had passed, the ruined city still held too many memories for the Steward. He only went there when duty demanded that he must. It had been foolish, though, the decline the chance of a ride on a fine day with his friend and lord for no better reason than painful memories.

Faramir picked up a trade agreement he was working on and forced himself to concentrate.

He had only reached the second paragraph, though, when someone banged on his study door. "My lord, come quickly! The Ambassador from Harad has been shot!" a voice cried.

Faramir paled and gripped the side of his desk. Tahir was one of his dearest friends. He quickly collected himself and bade the messenger enter.

"What happened?" he demanded of the young guard who almost burst into the room.

"My lord, I know little; only that the Ambassador was shot by an arrow as he walked through the market place with his wife a short time ago. The attacker escaped in the confusion."

"What of the Ambassador and his wife?" Faramir demanded more impatiently than was his custom.

"The Ambassador has been taken to the Houses of Healing," said the guard. "His wife is unhurt. The Warden has requested your presence at the Houses immediately, my lord."

Faramir paused only to scribble several notes, one to the Captain of the Tower Guard, asking him to obtain statements from any witnesses to the stabbing; another to officials he had planned meetings with later that day, and a third to …owyn to inform her of what had happened. He gave the notes to a servant with instructions to see that they were despatched at once.

He then snatched up his cloak and almost ran to the Houses of Healing, his guards struggling to keep up with him.

One of the apprentice healers showed him to the room for honoured guests where Tahir had been taken. To Faramir's surprise, he heard raised voices and when he knocked was bidden at once to enter. He had expected to be bidden to wait while the healers were occupied with removing the arrow.

When he entered, he was surprised to find a fully clothed Tahir lying on top of the bed, the arrow still protruding from his shoulder. A weeping Lady Adiva was sitting beside the bed with Dame Ivorwen standing beside her. The Warden, Tarostar, and Aedred, his assistant were standing at the foot of the bed and glaring at the Ambassador.

"I am glad you have come, Lord Faramir, " said Tarostar. "Maybe you can make the Ambassador here see reason. He refuses to let us remove the arrow."

Tahir raised his head and struggled to sit up. "My esteemed friend, please you must make them understand that I can only permit a healer from my tribe to tend my wound."

"This is madness!" Tarostar interjected.

"Do you have a healer from your tribe here in the City?" Faramir asked.

"I do usually, esteemed friend, but he is Harad celebrating the wedding of his eldest son," Tahir replied.

"I will send messengers then to see if another healer from amongst your people can be found within the City," said Faramir.

"You are most kind, esteemed friend, but I fear you are unlikely to find any," said Tahir with a deep sigh. "Few healers come from the warrior tribe that I am a son of."

"Master Tarostar and Master Aedred are highly skilled," Faramir said reassuringly. He patted Tahir's hand. "Please, my friend, accept their help for I would not lose you."

"I am so sorry, but you do not understand, esteemed friend," said Tahir. "It is written; should a man permit any not of his tribe to tend his wounds, he will be forever barred from the Celestial Oasis. I would be doomed to walk forever in the everlasting desert of desolation, separated from all whom I love!"

"You cannot die on account of a foolish superstition, Ambassador!" Tarostar interrupted impatiently. The healer turned to Adiva. "Maybe you can make him see reason, my lady?"

"I would not lose my honoured husband in this life," said Adiva, "but it would be a far crueller fate to be separated from him for all eternity!"

"I have tended you, Lady Adiva, and delivered your babes," said Ivorwen. "I am most certainly not of your tribe, but you did not make all this fuss!"

"It is different for a woman," said Adiva. "We would only be barred from the Celestial Oasis if we permitted a man to tend us. Thus it is written and decreed by the gracious Lord and Lady of the Moon."

Tarostar glared, opened his mouth as if to protest, and then shut it again. "A word in private, if you please, Lord Faramir," he said. Faramir nodded and the Warden led him into his private room.

"If you but give the order, Lord Faramir, I will operate to remove the arrow from the Ambassador's shoulder," he said.

Faramir shook his head. "No, I forbid it. He refuses our aid. It is his right, which I must respect, much though his decision grieves me."

"I have had the same problem with prisoners of war, what few Haradrim that did not fall on their own swords," said the healer. "We did what was best for them."

"The Ambassador is not a prisoner who was captured bearing arms against us, he is our honoured guest," said Faramir. "We must extend to him the same rights and courtesies as any man of Gondor."

"And what will the temperamental ruler of Harad say if the Ambassador dies? We are trying to help him. It is not as if we suggested a woman should treat him or an apprentice! The merchants amongst his folk are happy enough to be treated."

"The warriors are another matter though," said Faramir. They prefer death to accepting help from outsiders."

"So we are just to sit here and watch a ferocious warlord's Ambassador die?" Tarostar asked angrily. "What if he invades as result?"

I think the Kha Khan would be most displeased if we violated the Ambassador's wishes," said Faramir. "I believe he will abide by the treaty we signed. The Kha Khan is of the same tribe as the Ambassador and shares his beliefs."

"Deluded foreign superstitions!" cried Tarostar, sweeping a book off his desk in his fury. "These foreigners are savages who believe tales a child would laugh at. Celestial Oasis indeed!"

"Who knows where the Haradrim go after death?" said Faramir. "We too have our own beliefs that are dear to us. Send out messengers to try to find a healer from the Ambassador's tribe in the City. His wishes must be respected as if he were a Man of Gondor."

"Infection will set in and kill the Ambassador long before you find one, my lord," said Tarostar grimly.

"We must pray to the Valar that it does not." Faramir strode from the room, fighting to maintain his outwardly cool composure. The Steward's mind was in turmoil. He could not bear to lose his dear friend, but neither could he defy Tahir's beliefs. How could he force his friend to live, believing his soul was forfeit? He knew all too well the lengths the wounded Haradrim would go to prevent foreigners from tending their wounds. There had been Haradrim prisoners who had been treated here who had afterwards taken their own lives or fallen into a deep melancholy from which they could not be roused. Then despite his words to Tarostar, he feared that the Kha Khan's wrath might indeed fall upon Gondor if Tahir died, just as much as it would if they violated the Ambassador's beliefs.

His heart heavy, he returned to the Ambassador's chamber. He asked Aedred to leave him alone for a few moments with Tahir and suggested Ivorwen took Lady Adiva for some refreshment. "It saddens my heart that you refuse our help, my friend," he told Tahir as soon as they were alone. "I have ordered the healers to respect your wishes, though. Alas, that is all I can do for you!" He reached out to clasp Tahir's' hand. Never had he thought that a former enemy would have become so dear a friend to him.

"Thank you, esteemed friend," said Tahir. He gripped Faramir's hand like a drowning man. "A favour I must ask of you, please take care of my fair blossom and my little ones once I am gone."

"I shall, my friend." Faramir pressed Tahir's hand reassuringly. "Do not give up hope yet, though, I am doing all I can to try to find a healer from your tribe. There must be one somewhere in the City!"

Tahir shook his head sadly. "I fear it is unlikely. Alas! I had not thought to die so soon. The Moon God and Goddess must be angry at me for shaming the prisoner, vile traitor that he was!"

"You only cut off the lad's sleeve so you see his tribal markings," said Faramir. As he spoke, a sudden thought struck him. "Is that why our healers may not tend you?"

Tahir nodded. "It is written in the ancient laws of the warrior tribes that no man not of our tribe may see our markings."

"I understand." Faramir suddenly realised the taboo made perfect sense within a deeply divided tribal society. The warriors tattooed their allegiances on their skin and if the wrong eyes saw the markings, it could spell death for the entire tribe. If a warrior died without revealing the markings, he could not be forced to tell what they meant and betray his family, his faith, and his allegiances. Yet Tahir had permitted him, Faramir of Gondor, to see his intricate markings and Aragorn too. A sudden flash of inspiration came to the Steward.

"When the King and I shared the hamam with you, you called us brothers and members of your tribe. Does that mean the King could tend your wound without you being denied the right to dwell in the Celestial Oasis?" Faramir asked.

"Of course, esteemed friend. The hamam joined us together as brothers of one tribe henceforth. I could not ask so great a favour of the esteemed lord king, though."

"I am certain that there is nothing he would grant more gladly!" said Faramir. He flung open the door and called for parchment and ink. A bewildered looking apprentice healer brought what he asked for. Faramir sat at the desk provided for the use of the honoured guests and scribbled a hasty note to Aragorn. He asked him to return at once as a dear friend's life depended on him. He sealed it with his ring of office and called of his bodyguards, a trusted man called Cirion, asking him to despatch a messenger to Osgiliath on the swiftest horse that could be found.

Now they could do nothing save wait. Adiva had returned, after being coaxed to take some raspberry tea by Dame Ivorwen. She sat patiently at her husband's bedside, clasping his hand. She dried her tears and thanked Faramir fervently when he told her of his plan. The Steward told them how Aragorn had saved his life on several occasions using his skills as a healer. "I believe there is none better who now dwells on Middle-earth," he said.

"I have been wounded many times before," said Tahir. He smiled wanly at his wife and friend. "Surely with such a healer as esteemed Lord Aragorn, I will soon recover." He bit his lip and Faramir noticed that it was bleeding. The Ambassador was obviously in great pain.

"Have you been given poppy juice?" the Steward asked.

"They offered it me, esteemed friend, but I refused as I feared it might cloud my judgement," said Tahir. "The sons of my tribe learn to bear pain from our youth."

"Please take it now," said Faramir. "It will ease your pain and enable the King to tend your wound more swiftly. You have my word that he alone will tend you."

"Very well, esteemed friend." Tahir sighed with a mixture with of relief and resignation.

Faramir called for Tarostar to bring the pain relieving draught.

"So you have finally come to your senses, Lord Ambassador," said Tarostar, as he measured out the draught.

"Esteemed Lord Aragorn is a brother of my tribe," said Tahir. "Allowing him to tend me will not bar me from the Celestial Oasis."

Tarostar rolled his eyes. It was obvious he thought the Ambassador was becoming delirious. "I, or my assistants could treat you equally well and without this needless delay," he said.

"You are all good men, but you are not brothers of my tribe," Tahir replied.

Tarostar shook his head in bewilderment.

"Please make everything ready for removing the arrow when the King arrives," said Faramir.

"Very well, my lord," Tarostar said coldly. "One of the apprentices will bring what is needed. I will go now to patients who need me."

Cirion then entered, and informed Faramir that a rider had been despatched to Osgiliath. He brought with him the eyewitness reports to the shooting that Faramir had requested. They proved depressing reading. One witness said, "I didn't take much notice." Another reported, "I paid no heed. It is just one less of these Haradrim. There are too many of them here. Anyone would think they had won the war!" A third statement read, "I'd shoot the vermin myself if I didn't know I'd hang for it!" Faramir tossed the statements aside with an exclamation of disgust. If only these people knew just how hard Tahir worked to achieve a lasting peace. It horrified him that one of his countrymen should seek to kill the Ambassador in cold blood. He realised there was still one statement he had not read. "These foreigners are savages trying to kill one another. At least none of our folk got hurt," it said.

Faramir's attention was caught. He had assumed Tahir's attacker was Gondorian as the arrow had Gondorian fletching. This witness suggested that Tahir had been attacked by one of his own people. The Steward hurried back to the Ambassador's bedside and asked, "Did you see who attacked you, my friend?"

The poppy draught had obviously taken effect. Tahir was very drowsy. He forced his eyes open with an effort. "One of our people, esteemed friend. I could not see his face, though. There were two of them, one tried to stop the other, which deflected his aim from my heart." He spoke very slowly, fighting to resist the effects of the poppy juice."

"Sleep, my friend," said Faramir. He was thankful that no Man of Gondor had attacked Tahir, but this meant there were violent Haradrim at loose in the City, no doubt supporters of the previous Kha Khan and his tribe. He scribbled a note to the Captain of the Guard demanding that a close watch be kept for armed Haradrim and asked Cirion to deliver it. He had little hope of the attacker ever being found, though. Doubtless he was on his way back to Harad by now.

Returning to Tahir, Faramir was glad the Ambassador was now sleeping deeply, thanks to the poppy syrup. After promising that he would send for her at once if Tahir needed her, the Steward suggested to Lady Adiva that she should return home to her children and arrange for Tahir's body servants to come and help with his care. He also suggested that she rest a while for the sake of the baby. He had no wish for the gentle lady to be within earshot when Aragorn removed the arrow. Adiva reluctantly agreed and set out for her house, which was also in the sixth Circle, attended by Ivorwen and the Steward's guards.

Faramir had only just acted in time. Aragorn hurried into the room only a few moments later.

"Praise the Valar you are here!" cried Faramir as Aragorn embraced him in greeting. "Tahir has been shot and will only permit a brother of his tribe to remove the arrow!"

Aragorn glanced at the table at the far side of the room. It already contained all the instruments he needed, a healer's robe and a pile of clean towels. "You have done well," he told the Steward. "I need hot water," he told a hovering apprentice. "Faramir, I need an assistant to hand me the instruments while I work. Can you help me?"

"Of course," said Faramir. "Tahir is my friend. "In truth, the Steward had little stomach for wounds and bloodshed. There was little he would not do to help a friend, though.

"Good," said Aragorn. He was already washing his hands. Faramir did likewise.

Aragorn took up a knife and cut away the clothing from around the arrow. He carefully examined it. It was high on the left shoulder, embedded deeply in bone and muscle. While Faramir held the Ambassador steady, he began to saw through the shaft to make the tip easier to remove.

Tahir stirred and opened his eyes.

"I am here now," said Aragorn. "May I remove the arrow from your shoulder?"

"Please do it swiftly, esteemed Lord Aragorn," said Tahir. "Forgive me that I am so lacking in courtesy and cannot rise to greet you."

"It is well, my friend, I take no offence," said Aragorn. He checked Tahir's pulse and found it to be racing; therefore he placed his hand on the Ambassador's brow, trying to give the wounded man strength and calmness with his healing powers. Then, the King nodded to Faramir, who moved to hold Tahir in position while he made several cuts around the arrow then dug it out with a spoon shaped implement.

Throughout this gristly procedure, Tahir neither cried out nor attempted to struggle. Only his racing heartbeat indicated the pain the Ambassador was enduring.

With Faramir's help, Aragorn staunched the bleeding, applied salves to fight infection and carefully bandaged the wound.

"It is done," he told Tahir. "Now I can only pray that EstŽ grant you healing. Try to rest after you have drunk the medicine I am going to mix for you."

"Thank you, esteemed friend," Tahir murmured.

Ooo

"Small wonder the Haradrim warriors made such formidable enemies," Aragorn remarked later once Tahir was sleeping. "It is rare to see Men who bear pain so well and with such courage. In battle, they often wear silken shirts, pull out the arrows that pierce them and continue fighting!"

"Will Tahir recover?" Faramir asked anxiously.

"He is strong," said Aragorn. "He has a good chance. I will do everything I can for him."

"Will he wish to remain in Minas Tirith, I wonder, after what happened?" Faramir mused.

"Gondor would be poorer without him," said Aragorn. "Though the customs of the Haradrim seem strange and they are a fierce people. I have learned there are jewels amongst them."

"There are indeed," said Faramir. "Tahir is a true jewel of his people."

Ooo

Three days later, Tahir had overcome the slight fever he had developed as result of his wound. Although still very weak, he was on the mend. When Aragorn and Faramir came to visit him, he greeted them with a warm smile, then gestured to his body servant to withdraw.

"How can I ever thank you, esteemed friends, for your kindness to this unworthy one?" Tahir exclaimed.

"We were happy to help you," said Aragorn.

"You are our friend and brother," Faramir added.

"How the Moon God and Goddess have blessed me!" said Tahir. "I have found not only a home in Gondor, but new brothers of my tribe."

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