Title: Just a Cold
Author: Ainu Laire
Rating: PG, K+
Warnings: Some language, but nothing too coarse or overdone.
Summary: Another day in Minas Tirith and the King does not feel too well. He has never let a little cold stop him before, though.
Disclaimer: All recognizable characters, places, and things belong to the Tolkien Estate. All original characters and this little plot belong to me.
A/N: This idea came to me when I had a terrible sinus infection a couple years ago. Aragorn suffers for my sinus infection. I almost feel sorry for him.
MAP: Also, a map of the seventh circle of Minas Tirith, if you want a visual, can be found at tuckboroughDOTnetSLASHminastirithDOThtml. Obviously replace the capitalized words with the symbols. Either scroll down or click "City Map" to see the map. It was very helpful. Something of my own creation that is not marked on the map is a long enclosed hallway that connects the second story of the Tower of Ecthelion to the second story of the King's House.
WEATHER: I did weather research by using "The Atlas of Middle-earth" by Karen Fonstad, may she rest in peace, but, using the Long Winter as reference for even snow coming to the south, and my own experience with snow in Malibu, took liberties with the weather.
TIME: The bells in Minas Tirith start to toll at dawn (according to ROTK, Ch 1), which is 6am in that chapter, which is in March. In Cairo, Egypt in mid-March, the dawn is also at 6am. However, in January, the dawn is much closer to 7am in the winter, so it shall be the same in Minas Tirith's winter. The third hour (three bell tolls) in the winter is 10am, six tolls is 1pm, and the final toll, at dusk, is at the 10th hour in the winter, or near our 5 o clock. This is to give you all a clear picture on the timeframe of the day.
MEDICAL KNOWLEDGE: Is nearly non-existent. So, yes, sorry for any consistencies in that area. Most of it is just based off of my rather awful experiences in which Murphy's Law likes to stick its face in.
A/N: It is supposed to be book-canon, or, well, my version of it, especially my interpretation of some of the characters. Everyone interprets the characters differently, after all. And, while in a book-canon-like world, my writing simply does not match the level of skill of Tolkien's writing. The canon follows the canon set in many of my post-War ficlets in "Tales of Life", but it is not necessary to read those to understand this. Hope you all enjoy.
Winter, 3020 TA
When he woke up with a slight headache, King Elessar should have taken that as a sign to cancel all appointments and meetings. However, he being one to ignore such trivial symptoms, continued on with the day as any other day. He got out of bed, dressed himself in clothes that were as simple as a king could get away with, and had a quick bite to eat before his very first appointment. That morning he was to meet with the Lord Bavanor of the Masonry Guild concerning some stonework that still needed to be done in the City. Despite the fact that Sauron fell over a year and a half ago, His destruction was still apparent in some parts of Minas Tirith.
The long, tedious meeting left the King feeling worse. His headache had grown quite a bit and he felt a very uncomfortable tickling in his throat. He simply ignored these annoying, trivial symptoms and went down to the council room, one of the larger enclosed rooms within the Tower of Ecthelion. There an important meeting concerning a peace treaty with one of the largest tribes of Harad was taking place that very day. He hoped that once this treaty was signed, other tribes would follow suit.
The first hour of the discussion he handled fairly well. Right after luncheon, however, things went downhill from there.
He was relatively proud of his ability to retain his composure when he was not feeling well, whether it was when he was sick, injured, or irritated. However, this facade he usually managed to pull off so well wavered as his head started pounding harder. 'Damnable headache.'
"… I am, however, concerned about the… King Elessar?"
Aragorn blinked and focused his attention on the speaker. "Yes, lord?" the King asked.
The Haradric man frowned. "Are you alright, Lord Elessar?"
He nodded, looking slightly puzzled. "I am quite alright, thank you."
The other man nodded in acceptance, and turned back to the rest of the council. "Now, as I was saying…"
'Perhaps you are worse off than you believed,' the thought popped up suddenly. He quickly willed it away and focused all of his attention on the council.
The meeting continued for about half an hour longer before King Elessar realized that he was not processing anything that the people of the council were saying. Once another man of Harad finished his lengthy statement, Aragorn held up his hand. "I believe we have heard enough for now, my lords. We shall continue this meeting tomorrow. Supper shall be sent to you after the seventh hour. Have a good day, gentlemen." The diplomats of the Haradric tribe and various lords and nobles of Gondor stood up, and with short bows and quiet farewells, left the room.
The meeting room was empty except for one tired and aching King and a quiet lord who stood near the doors, waiting for his liege. When Elessar did not rise from his chair and massaged his forehead instead, the man spoke.
"It does not look as if you are quite alright, Lord Elessar."
Aragorn looked up at the intruder. "I am perfectly fine, Faramir," he replied.
'Liar', another unbidden thought interrupted his denial. He forced himself not to scowl and mentally chased the nagging words away.
His Steward simply walked over and stood in front of the King. He raised an eyebrow, and for one moment Aragorn was reminded of Elrond. "Are you sure? You do not look well, Aragorn. Perhaps I should send for a healer-"
"No, no, that will not be necessary," Elessar said quickly. "I just need a bit of fresh air."
"Yes," Aragorn said firmly. "I… I need to see the people."
Faramir's other eyebrow raised. "You need to see the people."
"Yes, I need to see the people." If he were to be honest with himself, he was not quite sure why he needed to see the people, but since he had already started down this path, there was no way he was backing down now. "It has been awhile since I have mingled with the people of Minas Tirith." Now that he thought about it for a moment, he actually liked the idea.
"Mingle with the people." Faramir's eyebrows were still raised.
"Yes. And stop repeating everything I say." The king stood up and headed towards the double doors that were the only entrance into the large council room.
"So you wish to go outside and see your people," Faramir clarified, following him out of the room.
"Yes." Aragorn turned left into a long hall that connected the Tower to the King's House. Faramir followed.
"Despite the fact that you are ill."
"I am not ill," Aragorn argued. "I just need some fresh air. And look, it is a beautiful day outside." Faramir glanced out of a window they were passing. Despite it being early afternoon, the sky was dark with storm clouds, and it looked as if it was about to rain or snow at any time.
Faramir glanced at the king. "Beautiful day? You jest. I've seen more beautiful days in Mordor."
"Now you are the one who jests," the king pointed out. "And besides, there is some sort of strange beauty in those clouds." Faramir's eyebrows raised once more, which, strangely enough, irritated him. "And for Elbereth's sake, stop looking at me like that. You look ridiculous."
Faramir complied and said nothing, and the king cursed himself. He was usually not one to anger so easily.
'It only happens when you're sick,' the nagging voice in his head told him. He was tempted to order it to be silent, but if he started ordering his thoughts to be silent and his steward found out, he may just be put in a cell to keep himself safe. Or worse, a sickbed.
Aragorn simply continued down the hall to his home, though to his annoyance Faramir did not leave him alone. "Shall I call for your guard, my lord?" the man asked.
Aragorn cursed to himself again. Faramir only called him by title with that tone of voice- the calm, unemotional, completely diplomatic tone of voice- when they were in a public, formal setting, or when the king was acting unreasonable and irrational. "That will not be necessary," he responded, making sure his tone was calm and pleasant. "I would like to see the people in anonymity; I want them to be completely oblivious to my presence."
He nodded pleasantly to the two guards who watched the entrance of the hallway to the house. They saluted as he and Faramir passed. He turned a quick right and made for his chambers.
"Sire, I am not so sure that is a good idea," Faramir said.
"Do not worry, my friend," the king tried to assure his steward, "I am in my own city. What is the worst that could happen?"
"Do you not remember what happened the last time you went on one of your strolls?" Faramir put in, his words stopping Aragorn in his tracks. "You were nearly killed by those madmen!"
Aragorn shook his head and continued walking. "That was over a year ago, Faramir, and that time I did not tell anyone that I had gone out. I am sure you wasted many valuable hours simply searching the Citadel." He had finally reached his chambers. He nodded to the two guards that stood at its doors, but, as was his wont, opened them himself. He let Faramir in before he closed them. "And besides, if anyone else wanted to kill me, I'm sure they would have tried to do so by now."
"That is not very comforting," the Steward muttered. "But what shall I tell the Lady Queen: that her husband has gone off to explore Minas Tirith with no guard, and is ill as well?"
"I am not ill," Aragorn growled.
"Of course," Faramir said in a very diplomatic manner. Aragorn shot him a look before reaching into his pocket for a set of keys. He brought them out, quickly found the right key on the ring, and bent down in front of a large trunk. "But truly, my lord, I do believe she would have my head if I let you go-"
"What she does not know will not hurt her," Aragorn replied.
"Aragorn!" The king grinned to himself as his steward's diplomatic facade broke away. While they had only known one another for less than two years, he knew quite a bit about the younger man, including how to break the frustratingly tough mold of diplomacy he often wore. He opened his trunk, but then turned to his steward, his grin gone and his eyes serious.
"Faramir," he started, looking at the other man straight in the eye, "do not worry about her, or me. Nothing shall happen. I have just a cold; it is nothing worse than that. However, I need some time to myself. The meetings today left me feeling worse, and I need to clear my head without ten others hovering over me. Please, my friend, you were once a Ranger yourself, and I know you well enough that you get this same feeling from time to time."
The steward shook his head, and then finally bowed it in defeat. "You know me too well, my friend. I surrender." Aragorn grinned, but Faramir was not done. "However, if you are not back here by the time the bells ring ten times, I am sending your guard after you. Deal, my Lord King?"
"Deal, my Lord Steward," Aragorn replied, still grinning. "I shall never have the courage to disobey your will."
"And do not leave the City, either," he added, ignoring the slight barb.
"Yes, naneth," Aragorn said, raising an eyebrow. Faramir raised one in return, and Aragorn laughed. "Very well, very well, I shan't. Not in this weather, certainly." He finally turned back to his chest, and pulled out an old, careworn coat. "You know, I do believe Arwen wanted to burn all of my old clothing, but I simply could not part with this coat." He then pulled out an old cloak. "Nor this cloak, either. In fact..." He slightly frowned as he looked through the rest of his trunk. "I think Arwen was lying. Quite a bit of my clothing is still here."
"Perhaps she forgot about it," Faramir suggested.
"Perhaps," Aragorn said, the slight frown still on his face. "Or she is waiting for me to forget about these items. Unlikely." He buckled a knife to his waist, and put on the coat and cloak. He doubted that he would need the weapon, but he would rather be safe than sorry.
Faramir smiled as the king pulled up his hood. "You look very much like a scoundrel, I would have you know. Your fellow Northern Dúnedain are better kempt."
Aragorn grinned. "I know." Instead of going out the front door to his chambers, he went through the back way, which led to his private gardens and down various corridors to the front of the Citadel.
"You do realize, Sire, that as King you could simply order the guards to let you pass, correct?" Faramir asked as he followed him out.
"I could," Aragorn agreed. "But you know how they love to gossip. And I am sure the captain of my personal guard has all of them under his thumb."
"Ah, yes, Galdir. He is a very persuasive man."
"Exactly. And within thirty minutes- perhaps closer to ten- he would know of my absence, and despite my wishes, would surely send out every guard in the Citadel to find me. That will ruin the whole purpose of this venture."
"Of course. But how do you plan on sneaking out, if I may be so bold?"
Aragorn grinned once more. "The same way I did last time."
"You did not."
"I did so."
"Truly this is low, Sire."
"I never knew you would sink to such levels."
"I've done worse."
A pause. "So, how many children have you bribed in the past?"
"This is not bribery."
"Giving a boy a copper to distract the guards is indeed bribery."
"It is not."
"It is, though."
"I shall not argue with you, Sire."
"You are no fun at all, Faramir."
Faramir held back a chuckle when he saw the look on Elessar's face. "Still, my lord, having children do your dirty work…"
"It is not my dirty work. He is simply distracting the guards."
If one were to look behind the northeast corner of the Great Hall of Feasts, they would find a most peculiar sight. Huddled together were the King and Steward of Gondor; they may have not recognized the king right away, however, seeing as his old leather cloak covered most of his body, and the hood was up to keep his features hidden. They both watched a son of one of the servants of the Citadel walk up to the two guards at the seventh gate's entrance, a new, shiny copper coin in his pocket. Faramir glanced once more at Aragorn.
"I suppose I should not tell an enemy that in order to get onto the seventh level, all you must do is bribe a child to distract the guards?"
"No, you should not," Aragorn replied lightly. "Alright, there he is. I go now, Faramir; if something goes wrong, distract them."
"What? Elessar, wait!" But Aragorn was already gone and making his way casually to the seventh gate, his feet making no sound on the new grass that had replaced much of the stone on the seventh level. Faramir groaned, yet did not move from his hiding place. His eyes were ever on Aragorn.
The king strolled southeast towards the gate, ignoring the guards of the Court of the Fountain to his right. Their only job was to guard the White Tree, and so they did not bother him. He knew that they took their job of guarding the Tree very seriously, so their disregard for anything but the flora served Aragorn's purposes. Besides, if a real enemy ever came through the seventh gate, they would be ready to guard more than the Tree- or so he hoped.
He was close to the entrance when he realized that the guards were sending the boy away and turning their attention back to the gate. He stopped in his tracks and thought about running, but that would not serve his purposes. It would just make him seem all the more suspicious. This was not turning out as he had planned.
He quickly made his way to the closest tower; it was one of the seven towers that surrounded the Citadel. He planted himself on the wall, out of sight of the guards at the gate. He spared a quick glance around the tower to the gate, and found that he was not even one hundred yards from it. He sighed and tried to figure out how to get past them without drawing their attention.
But fortunately for him, Faramir read their gestures correctly. He immediately jumped out of his hiding spot and made south, just barely turning east as he walked. He quickly found himself on the stone path that led to the Court of the Fountain and the Tower of Ecthelion. The steward then turned and walked hurriedly east over to the two guards at the gate. When they spotted Faramir and stood to attention, he slowed his pace, putting on the calm mask of diplomacy. He did his best to keep his glance away from the shadows of the tower to the north of the gate. The steward gestured the guards over to him and they readily left their post, not seeing the hooded man that waited for their departure.
"Lord Faramir," said one with a short bow. "Is there aught wrong?"
"No, no," Faramir said quickly, ignoring the figure sneaking his way to the gate. "I was… I was just wondering if there have been any disturbances lately… have there?"
"No, my lord," said the other with a bow. "All has been quiet, other than a curious boy. But we have not seen anyone worth note."
"And if we do, we shall inform you immediately," said the other once more. "No one will get past us without our notice."
As Aragorn slipped through the seventh gate and out of sight, Faramir did his best to maintain his calm, diplomatic facade. If his face cracked, however, the guards said nothing about it.
"Good, good," he said, quickly gaining his composure. "Well, then, continue with your duty."
"Aye, my lord," they said at the same time with identical bows, and then left once more to guard duty. Odd, how guards often did that.
Faramir turned and headed back towards the Tower of Ecthelion, chuckling quietly to himself. He should demote the two of them, perhaps, but then again, they were looking for strangers to come through the gate to the seventh level rather than out of it, and they did that job with enough competence. Besides, the King would have his head if he had to find another way out.
He stopped by the White Tree and made eye contact with one of the guards. Judging by the expression in his eyes, he had seen the whole episode and was quite bemused by it. All of the guards saluted him as he passed, and he acknowledged each of them. He gave the bemused guard a large smile, but turned away towards the Tower of Ecthelion before he could see his reaction.
Once Faramir was inside, he quickly found an empty room. He quietly shut the door, shook his head, and finally burst out laughing.
"For that, my lord, you are in my debt." With one last chuckle, he exited the room to continue his paperwork while his king got some well-deserved time off.
Once Aragorn was on the sixth level and out of hearing from the guards, he burst out laughing. He played with the thought of demoting them and finding guards more aware of their surroundings, but quickly decided against it. The look on their faces when they stopped and questioned him on his way back to the Citadel would be well worth their incompetence. Besides, they made escaping the Citadel much easier for him.
His laughing soon developed into a coughing fit, and he stopped in his tracks and waited for his coughs to subside. Once they were gone, he gently caressed his throat. Perhaps he was coming down with something more than a cold… but no. That was ridiculous. He was a skilled healer; he would know if he had something worse and would be in bed right now if he did. With that optimistic thought in mind, he continued his way down the streets of Minas Tirith.