It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind – Paul Clifford - Edward Bulwer Lytton
Disclaimer: 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 Deandra.
Warning - This story mentions sexual matters, though not in an explicit manner.
The rain fell in sheets, so heavy that even the two mighty warhorses flinched when it stung their flesh. Lightning streaked across the sky while thunder boomed overhead. The two cloaked and hooded riders could hardly see where they were going in such conditions. Suddenly, the lights of an inn loomed out of the darkness.
One of the men reined his horse to a halt. "I think we had better seek shelter here for the night," he told his companion. "Much as I had hoped we would be at home with our wives and children ere sundown, this weather is against us."
The other nodded his agreement. The two had spent several enjoyable days in the wild, reliving their time as Rangers, catching their own food, telling tales by the campfire and sleeping side by side under the stars. Now they were eager for the joys of hearth and home, but after several fine, clear days, a fierce storm had suddenly broken overhead.
The older man dismounted and opened the door and called out to the innkeeper. "Do you have a room for the two of us this night? The inclement weather has forced us to break our journey."
"Indeed I do, masters, come within," said the man, giving them a conspiratorial look. He looked to be in his middle years and was well dressed for the keeper of a small tavern. "What names shall I call you by?"
"I am Beren, and this is my son, Dior," replied the traveller.
"Your every wish is my command, Masters Beren and Dior!" The man gave them a knowing wink as if travellers with such unlikely names frequented his premises on a regular basis. "I trust you can afford to pay?"
"We have sufficient coin," said the one who called himself Beren.
"I will see the horses are cared for," said 'Dior', unwilling to entrust the faithful beasts to a stranger to rub down and feed.
'Beren' took their packs from the horses and followed the innkeeper inside. The surroundings were far from inviting. Several men sat round a table in front of a small fire staring into their mugs of ale. They were surprisingly well dressed for patrons of a country inn. They wore their hoods concealing their faces and spoke neither to the stranger nor to each other. 'Beren' thought longingly of some of the better taverns he had visited during his travels also under assumed names. It seemed he was destined rarely be able to use his own without causing a commotion he preferred to avoid. The atmosphere at this inn was far from convivial, but on a night like this, any shelter would have to suffice. They would avoid their unfriendly fellow patrons by asking that a meal to be sent to their room and leave this place at first light.
The former Ranger was shown to a room with an unexpectedly large bed for a small inn. Two robes were spread across the bed. The rest of the furniture comprised a table and two worn looking chairs. A low fire burned in the grate. "Will you have hot water sent up for us to wash in?" he requested.
"Certainly, master," said the man. "Is that all?"
"Yes, for now." As soon as the man had gone, 'Beren' rummaged in their packs and drew out a mercifully dry change of underwear for each of them together with their towels.
He laid the fresh clothing across the bed, hoping fervently the blankets were not infested with fleas. He nodded his thanks to the subdued looking girl who brought the water, noting idly she appeared to originate from Rohan. As soon as she had gone, he secured the door. Thankfully, he peeled off his sodden garments, laying them by the fire to dry, splashed warm water over his goose pimpled flesh, and towelled himself dry. He donned his dry shirt and drawers, then after a moment's hesitation, drew the robe around himself. It looked far from clean, but it was better than spending the evening wrapped in a blanket. He was just tying the sash around his waist when 'Dior' returned.
"There was no one to help care for the horses," said the younger man, his teeth chattering as he spoke. He walked over to the meagre fire and chafed his hands in front of it. "I have rubbed them down well and given them some hay. I do not like this place. It has a strange feel to it."
"We will keep our swords to hand and leave at first light," said 'Beren'. "Now change out of those wet clothes! You look frozen and soaked to the skin!"
"I am," said 'Dior', peeling off his sodden cloak, closely followed by his tunic and shirt. He shivered as his hands fumbled to unfasten his belt."
'Beren' brushed his hand across the other's shoulder. "You are freezing, ion nín!" he exclaimed. "I will go and see if they will prepare some hot drinks and soup for us, and send up more wood for the fire." He snatched a blanket from the bed and put it by the fire to warm. "Wrap this around you once you have changed into dry clothing."
"Thank you," said 'Dior'. "A plague upon this weather! I hoped to be beside my lady tonight, and be able to tell my little one a bedtime story ere we retired."
"We will be with our beloved ladies and children tomorrow," said the older man. "I will return soon." He belted his sword around his waist before leaving the room.
'Dior' swiftly shed the remainder of his garments and vigorously dried his damp body and sodden hair. The water was already almost cold, so he simply washed his hands and face before donning his clean underwear and the remaining robe. He was still cold, so he settled himself on a chair by the fire, the blanket draped around his shoulders. It was not long before he began to feel drowsy, and he hoped his companion would hurry with the hot soup so they could eat and climb into bed.
A knock on the door roused him. He was surprised when a timid female voice begged admission.
Unfastening the door, 'Dior' was surprised to find a pretty girl, whose dark skin and hair proclaimed her to be a native of Harad or Rhûn.
"I have come to see what master requires," she said in heavily accented Westron.
"I am rather cold," said 'Dior'. "Maybe more fuel for the fire?"
"I can make master warm," said the girl. Her tone was seductive, but her eyes held an expression of abject misery.
"I do not know what you mean!" he replied.
"I know many ways to please, master," said the girl. To the man's horror, she slid her gown from her shoulders and started to unfasten the sash that secured his robe. "There is no need for shyness, master," she said, obviously puzzled that the object of her attentions was wearing his linens beneath the garment. "I teach you new delights of love!"
A/N This story was originally written in response to a birthday prompt for my friend Raksha who wanted a story about angry Faramir. I then revised it for the Teitho "Disguises" challenge.