These characters all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. This story was written for pleasure and not for financial gain.
Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue.- The Bible: Deuteronomy 16:20
With grateful thanks to Deandra.
Warning - this chapter contains non-explicit references to matters of a sexual nature.
"Stop that at once!" 'Dior' said sharply, averting his eyes from her shapely curves and securing the sash tightly around his waist again. "I have a beloved wife I am true to. You should be ashamed of yourself!"
"Master downstairs says I must please you," said the girl. "You share pleasures with me that nice wife no like! If girl with dark skin no please you, my friends, Frieda and Hilde, they pretty and fair. You choose one of us, your friend the other." She gestured towards the bed. "You see, bed plenty big enough!"
Appalled, 'Dior' grabbed her arms and yanked her gown back in place. "What do you take us for?" he demanded. "We do not demean ourselves by consorting with women of low morals, neither would we betray our wives!"
To his surprise, the girl burst into tears. 'Dior' sensed the tears were genuine and blessed his ability to read human hearts. "I no slut!" the girl protested. "I come here when I promised good job as maid, but innkeeper say I must please gentleman customers."
"Why do you not go home?" 'Dior' asked, gesturing for the girl to sit down.
"Innkeeper says he will tell soldiers we girls Harad spies if we try to leave," said the girl. "He tell Frieda and Hilde bad things happen to them, too!"
'Dior' had heard enough. It was time to cast aside his disguise. Utterly outraged that any Man of Gondor should so abuse women under his protection, he snatched up his sword, which lay propped in a corner of the room. "Stay there!" he told the girl.
Hastening downstairs, he espied the innkeeper talking to a man in the corner of the room. Drawing his sword, he confronted him. "I arrest you in the name of the King!" he said sternly, his grey eyes alight with fury.
"Are you mad? Whatever for?" the innkeeper blustered, though he looked afraid. The men sitting at the table fled out into the stormy night, trying to cover their faces as they ran.
"For corrupting and enslaving young women, and running a bawdy house!" said his captor.
The innkeeper laughed nervously. "I'm simply giving men what they want," he said. "They come here from miles around! As for the girls, they are nothing but whores!"
'Dior' gazed at him for a moment, cold fury in his eyes. "These girls were innocents, seeking honest employment. You made them into what they have become!" He slapped him across the face. The innkeeper yelped in pain, and then looked away, unable to endure his gaze.
"Whatever is happening?" 'Beren' emerged from the back room.
"This fool hit me! He claims he can arrest me in the name of the King!" said the innkeeper, regaining his composure.
"And what makes you think he cannot?" 'Beren's' tone was chilling. "He is the Steward of Gondor, while I am the King!" He drew himself to his full height, revealing a hitherto concealed majesty, despite his less than regal attire. With one swift motion he unsheathed Andúril. "Behold the sword of the King!" he cried.
Terrified and white faced, the innkeeper fell to his knees at the sight of the legendary Flame of the West. "Mercy, my lords, mercy!" he cried.
"That is for the court to decide," said Aragorn. "We will take you with us when we depart on the morrow and you shall be brought to trial." King and Steward swiftly bound the man and locked him in the cellar.
"The Valar must have led us here tonight," said Faramir, spooning some rather tasteless soup in his mouth a little while later. They had searched the establishment and locked the servants in the cellar with their master, and sent the girls to their rooms, reassuring them that they were safe now.
"I have never seen you so angry before, ion nín," Aragorn remarked, grimacing over his own watery soup.
"A Man should protect women, not enslave them and put them to shame!" said Faramir vehemently.
"I shall punish the innkeeper, or should I say slave trader, with the full weight of the law," promised Aragorn grimly.
"What kept you so long downstairs?" Faramir enquired.
"It seemed that, as this establishment is not what we assumed it to be, they were taken aback when I asked for soup and hot drinks!" said the King. "It took all my powers of persuasion to get the fair haired girl to make some. I should have suspected something was very wrong. I simply assumed she was lazy, poor girl. After the trial, I will see the girls are either given sufficient money to travel home or found honest employment in Minas Tirith. Dame Ioreth can examine them to see if what they suffered has left them with any injuries. Alas, the mental scars may never heal"
"I am not an angry man, but some matters are worthy of fury," said Faramir.
Aragorn nodded his agreement. The two friends stared thoughtfully into the fire. "It shames me to find such an establishment in my kingdom!" Aragorn said bitterly. "I have several times closed down taverns where the wenches were willing to offer more than refreshment in exchange for sufficient coin, but this place is infinitely worst! I shall send men throughout the land to inspect remote country establishments to ensure no other young women are abused in my kingdom, and make it known should any of my soldiers frequent such places, they will be dismissed immediately."
"How could we have been so blind as to not notice what this place was?" Faramir mused, finishing the last of his soup. "I know we are neither of us familiar with such establishments, but surely...?
"We were drenched, exhausted and our heads filled with thoughts of hearth and home," said Aragorn. "We will know better in future." He yawned. "Come, let us rest. We shall leave at dawn and deliver this so called innkeeper to prison where he belongs. I will send guards to collect his accomplices and escort the girls to the Houses of Healing."
"Then we shall see our beloved ladies," said Faramir, checking the door was secured before rather reluctantly getting into the bed. "Whatever will they say about where we have spent the night?"
"That we cannot be trusted not to get into trouble when their backs are turned!" Aragorn said wryly, joining Faramir, and leaning back against the lumpy pillow.
His anger purged like the elements of their fury; Faramir soon fell into a contented, dreamless sleep huddled for warmth beside the man he regarded as both father and king
The moon rose overhead illuminating the sleepers' noble features through a crack in the shutters. All was silent save for Aragorn's snoring.