The barkeep brought them another round, the muscles in his mighty arms roiling in a most interesting fashion beneath the rainbow colored fish tattooed upon his bicep. Imrahil watched, fascinated.
"That is a really wonderful tattoo, barkeep," he hiccupped, having spent the better part of the evening tossing back ale as if it were water. He and his new-minted crew were on shore leave in Pelargir.
Pleased, the man actually removed his shirt to show him others- a mermaid upon his other arm, a Gondorian barque upon his upper back, a dragon coiling upon his lower back. All were skillfully drawn and exquisitely colored. "Thank you, Captain. There's a Khandian fellow in the lower town who does them. Costs a pretty penny, but hey-you've only got one skin, after all."
"The expense was certainly justified," Dol Amroth's newest captain declared and drank the barkeep's health with the new round. Gratified by his appreciation, the barkeep gave him the name and address of the tattoo artist. "Come Andra," Imrahil declared, "I am remiss! As I am a sailor, I should have gotten a tattoo years ago. But thanks to this gentleman, I can now mend the lack. A Swanship, I think, on some waves. Wouldn't that be nice?"
Andrahar, who had drunk considerably less, and could calculate the level of Imrahil's intoxication precisely due to long experience, quietly agreed. Silently, he slung his liege's arm across his shoulders and cooperatively helped him through the streets. As he had suspected, the young Prince was too drunk to notice their destination was other than what he wished until Andrahar was actually unlocking the door to their room at the inn.
"Andra, I said I wanted to get a tattoo!"
"You are too drunk right now to make an informed decision," Andrahar declared firmly. "You might wake in the morning and find that you disliked the design, and there would be nothing you could do about it, as they cannot be changed. I have remembered the address-you can go on the morrow."
As Andrahar had hoped, his seeming capitulation and appeal to artistic sensibilities soothed Imrahil, and he allowed himself to be tipped into the room's single bed, unclothed and tucked in with no further protest. Andrahar made his own preparations for bed, set his sword within reach, crawled in beside Imrahil and endeavored to compose himself so that he could sleep.
Andrahar knew that he was in for an argument with his liege in the morning, and he had surprised himself in the tavern with the strength of his objection to Imrahil getting a tattoo. His own people used tattoos in varying degrees within the various tribes, to denote tribal and family affiliations. He had made a great effort to adapt to Gondorian customs, no matter how unpalatable he found some of them. Why was it that he was so troubled by Imrahil doing something that was a custom among his own people? Did he resent Imrahil for usurping that Haradrim custom? Was it because it was also a sailor custom, and Imrahil's insistence was an indication that he ultimately preferred the Sea over the land, the same sea Andrahar loathed? Or was there some other reason? Mulling it over for a while, Andrahar decided in the end that, while the other reasons might be some part of it, the majority of his objection was based upon aesthetics. Imrahil was perfect the way he was.
I remember the first time I ever saw him, in the market in Umbar. He looked like a pale angel. Such beauty should not be defaced!
"Andra, you never let me have any fun!" came the oft-voiced complaint late the next morning. Imrahil had awakened massively hung over and was decidedly querulous as a consequence.
Andrahar, who had been up for several hours already and was washed, dressed, depressingly lively and unruffled, merely smiled in response and deposited an obscenely large breakfast on his liege lord's bedside table. He had his own subtle methods of punishing Imrahil for over-indulgence.
"On the contrary, you have me to thank that you did not wake this morning with 'Wilwarin forever' tattooed upon your arse. How do you suppose your future, high-born wife would have felt about that? Eat something. The eggs look good."
With a pained wince, Imrahil struggled up into a sitting position, the sheet falling down to his hips, and gave his oath-brother a baleful glare. "You know I can't face eggs after a night like that."
"Eat them anyway."
"I am going to get that tattoo."
"If you say so. Do you remember the address?"
The Prince's brow furrowed. "I think so." He frowned after a moment. "Not entirely," he admitted. "Things were a little blurry." Andrahar received an accusing look. "But I shouldn't have to! I remember you saying you knew where it was!"
"Then you can show me."
"I will not. It was not in a good part of town."
"Andra, the docks are not in a good part of town! And you promised!"
"I did not. What I said was that I remembered the address, and that you could go on the morrow. And you can, if you can find it. What I did not say was that I would assist you."
"Andra, why are you so set against this? Sailors do it all the time."
"Sailors, yes. Captains, no."
"Captain Erengar had tattoos. I saw them."
"High-born captains, then. It is not appropriate for a lord of your class."
"There are even a couple of Swan Knights who have tattoos, Andra."
"I know that, Imrahil. They are not our well-born brethren, as you well know. They are not princes." Andrahar set up the folding legs of the table tray, and set it in his lord's lap.
"I can always go back to the bar and find that fellow," Imrahil said mulishly. "Get him to give me the address again."
"You could do that," Andrahar agreed, realizing in dismay that he was in for a tougher battle than he had expected, that the Prince was truly set upon this. Reflexively, he dropped into the blank impassivity he usually displayed when he was displeased with Imrahil's indulgences. The Heir, who had been regarding his breakfast with a lack of enthusiasm, looked up and saw the expression. His surly manner softened.
"Andra, what is the matter? Why are you really so set against this?"
"I would rather not say," Andrahar replied stiffly. To his dismay, he felt his cheeks heating a little when he thought upon his reason for the objection. Imrahil's perfect body, which he had seen upon many occasions over the years, and which even now, after seven years of continual repression, still had the ability to powerfully move him. I have no right to ask…
Imrahil, who was looking more awake by the moment, noticed this as well. He patted the bed. "Sit, Andra. Talk to me. What is the matter-besides me being more provoking than usual?"
Andrahar did as he was bidden, settling softly to avoid dislodging the tray, his eyes averted from Imrahil's bare torso, which he was suddenly all too aware of. He found himself wishing fervently for a breakfast tray of his own. Imrahil's eyes narrowed.
"You have an objection and I would know what it is."
The Haradrim stared down at his lap, realized that his hands were fiddling with the end of his white belt, and stilled them. "I have no right to object."
The response was soft, and uncharacteristically hesitant. "Because I have no claim upon your body."
"No claim upon…"Imrahil started, startled, then trailed off. Cursing himself for a coward, Andrahar lifted his head to find his oath-brother looking at him steadily.
"State your objection, Andra. Claim or not, I do not mind."
Almost as if it belonged to someone else, Andrahar watched his right hand rise. Rise and reach, and trace a soft line down the outside of Imrahil's bare arm.
"I would not see this skin marred." It was little more than a whisper.
Imrahil, who was ticklish, shivered a little. His eyes locked with Andrahar's, and he studied his oath-brother for a long moment. Then he lifted an eyebrow, settled back against his pillows and picked up a piece of toast.
"Very well then. I shan't get one." His voice was matter-of-fact.
Surprised at the capitulation, Andrahar asked disbelievingly, "Just like that?"
The Heir to Dol Amroth nodded firmly. "Just like that. You need only have asked, Andra. No claim upon this body? You guard it with your life. You shared your blood with me. That's claim enough, in my book." He took a bite of toast, chewed, swallowed, then sighed. "Though I shall be a very boring captain, I fear."
Fire, but I love this man!"You could get an earring," Andrahar suggested. "Those are very dashing, I think."
"What? No objection to marring my earlobe?" Imrahil said, but his eyes were twinkling and he was obviously taken with the idea. "That might indeed serve. Distinguished yet piratical at the same time. I shall find someone to pierce my ear-"
"-I will do that!" Andrahar interjected hastily. At least if he did it, he knew the procedure would be a cleanly one.
"-and then I will shop for an earring. A pearl, perhaps." A moment's thoughtful pause, then Imrahil nodded. "A pearl would do nicely. Goes with everything. An excellent idea, Andra. There remains only your punishment to be determined."
"Yes, for sheer, bloody-minded obstinacy. And I think I have settled upon the perfect sentence." The plate containing the eggs was thrust towards Andrahar. "You will eat these, and get them out of my sight."
With a grin, Andrahar snatched a piece of toast of his own, and joined his oath-brother at breakfast.