Title : A Sting in the Tale.
Summary: Eldarion plays a prank with disastrous consequences.
Disclaimer: The characters, places, and recognizable events mentioned belong to Tolkien. This story is written only for entertainment.
A Sting in the Tale
Eldarion had decided that he did not like Uncle Faramir. The Steward was so dull and sedate. He was usually to be found discussing what the grown ups called "affairs of state" with Eldarion's ada when the little boy wanted to play. He was not even Eldarion's real uncle, just a dull grown up who happened to be his ada's best friend. Worst of all, tomorrow Uncle Faramir was going fishing with the King. Eldarion had begged to be allowed to accompany them, but his ada said he was not old enough. Sometimes ada and Uncle Faramir would stay away for days on end. His naneth had told Eldarion that it was because they both used to be Rangers and needed to go out into the wilds sometimes, but Eldarion did not like it all. Even his naneth was very busy nowadays with his new baby sister. Eldarion did not like babies any better than he liked Uncle Faramir!
If that was not bad enough, Eldarion had so hoped that when his ada had returned early from the council Chamber that they could play this afternoon, but before he could even ask his ada for a game of 'hide and seek' Uncle Faramir had arrived and Eldarion had been sent outside to entertain himself. Again, the Steward had taken his ada from him!
At least he had the company of two boys near his own age today, sons of his ada's guards. They did not know any stories, though, or how to track a squirrel through the gardens, or how to imitate a birdcall. It was even dull playing "hide and seek' with them as they were too easy to find. When Eldarion played with his ada, the King seemed able to vanish into thin air!
It was a warm afternoon and the nursemaid was drowsing in the shade of a vast oak, leaving the three boys to their own devices.
It seemed the oppressive heat was even affecting the King and his Steward. Eldarion saw the two men come outside in their shirtsleeves, so engaged in earnest conversation that they hardly noticed the admiring stares of two of the lads and the sullen glare of the third.
Eldarion tried vainly to catch his ada's eye, but the King never noticed his son and soon went back indoors, leaving his Steward sitting on a bench perusing a sheaf of papers.
"I hate him!" Eldarion exclaimed vehemently after the King closed the door and once he was certain that he and his playmates were out of earshot.
"Who?" enquired Hador, the eldest son of one of Aragorn's captains.
"The Steward!" snapped Eldarion.
"Lord Faramir?" The other boy sounded shocked. "But he is a good man and a great war hero!"
"He is so dull," Eldarion insisted. "And he didn't ride out to defeat the Dark Uncle like my ada!"
"He was brave enough not to run away from the Witch King," said Hador. "My ada said his courage saved most of his men."
"His wife killed the Witch King," Eldarion said scornfully, "and the dragon creature he rode. Uncle Faramir just ran away from them!"
"I still think he is brave," said the boy, then seeing the look on Eldarion's face added hastily. "But your ada is the bravest hero of all."
"Let's play something," said Valandil, a tousle headed boy, the son of a sergeant in Aragorn's Guard.
"We can't play ball or hide and seek or she'll wake up," said Eldarion glancing towards his nurse.
The three ambled along the path leading to the herb garden, which was left to grow somewhat wild, the better to encourage such medicinal herbs as nettle and dandelion to thrive.
Valandil's eyes lit up when he caught site of a large clump of herbs on the far side of the nettle patch. "Will anyone notice if we pick some of this?" he enquired.
Eldarion shook his head. "It is only goose grass. Ada keeps some to treat people who are hurt with it, but he says comfrey works better usually."
"We can play cleaver's tag with it," said Valandil. "I try to hit you without you knowing and see how long it will stick to your clothes."
The three boys were soon chasing one another around and hurling sprigs of the plant at each other until their tunics and breeches were quite covered in the leaves.
"Someone's coming!" Eldarion warned, his hearing sharper than that of his fellows. "Shush, or nurse will make us go back inside."
It was not the nurse who appeared from round the corner though, but Uncle Faramir. The Steward now wore his customary black tunic and breeches and was attired as if for a meeting. He carried his cloak across his arm. Eldarion knew that his ada sometimes took a shortcut this way, as there was a gate in the wall directly opposite the Court of the Fountain. A sudden idea struck Eldarion. He could make the ever so dull and serious Uncle Faramir look ridiculous. It would serve him right for taking so much of the King's time. Hiding in the bushes he took a handful of the sprigs of cleavers and prepared to take aim.
"No!" whispered Hador urgently.
"Why not?" Eldarion retorted in a whisper.
"We'll get into trouble," Hador replied.
"We won't as he'll never know it was us!" As Faramir rounded the bend, Eldarion took aim and landed the handful of sprigs in the middle of his back. The Steward immediately stopped in his tracks and looked around him.
Eldarion heard rustling as his two companions made themselves scarce. Suddenly afraid, he started to run. If his ada found out he would be angry and disappointed with him for being so disrespectful to Uncle Faramir. Uncle Faramir would be angry too, and hurt that Eldarion should play such a prank upon him.
The little boy ran like the wind, dodging around the trees and bushes in the overgrown garden. He could hear Uncle Faramir behind him in hot pursuit. Suddenly his foot caught on a root and he stumbled. Unhurt, Eldarion scrambled to his feet. Then a sharp pain pierced his arm and the sound of loud buzzing reverberated in his ears. He had tripped over a wasps' nest!
"Come, Eldarion, I will not let them hurt you."
Strong arms seized the frightened boy and pressed his face across his broad chest. A cloak was flung over his head. Eldarion had no idea Uncle Faramir could run so fast. Even so, he was frightened, as the buzzing grew louder. He felt another sharp pain, this time on his hand. He could hear other voices now. A door opened and he was thrust inside. The door closed again.
Terrified, Eldarion realised he was in a summerhouse. He looked out of the window. The wasps were buzzing around Uncle Faramir still. The Steward ran towards Eldarion's naneth's fishpond and jumped in. A few minutes later he emerged, dripping and covered in pondweed. Worse than that, his face looked red and swollen. Eldarion suddenly felt ashamed and started to cry. He didn't like Uncle Faramir, but he didn't want him to get hurt. His own arm and hand throbbed painfully. The Steward stumbled. Two guards who had rushed to the scene of the commotion hastened to help him. Then his ada appeared and hurried to Uncle Faramir's side. Eldarion knew his ada was going to be very angry with him. The King was scary on the rare occasions his fury was unleashed.
A moment later the summerhouse door opened and his ada called to him. "Are you hurt, Eldarion?"
Before the little boy could answer Uncle Faramir replied, "He was stung. You should tend his hurts first."
"Where?" the King demanded, his voice anxious.
Eldarion held out his throbbing arm and hand for his sire's inspection.
"Some vinegar will soon ease that," said Aragorn. "Captain, will you carry him? Take him to my study. His naneth is, alas, at a meeting. Where is his nurse?"
"She collapsed with hysterics when she saw the wasps," the Captain said glumly.
The bedraggled procession soon arrived at the King's study. Servants were waiting with hot water, towels, blankets, and a flask of vinegar. Aragorn told them where he wanted everything and then dismissed them. He spread a towel on the couch and helped Uncle Faramir sit down. The Captain put Eldarion down on a chair and Aragorn hastened to his side.
The King started to clean the two small red wounds on Eldarion's hand and arm. The boy noticed that his ada looked old and drawn. "Never go near a wasp's nest again!" Aragorn chided. "I shudder to think what could have happened had Uncle Faramir not been nearby! There, some vinegar should ease the stinging. You are lucky that wasps rarely leave their stings behind, unlike bees. How did this happen?"
Eldarion swallowed hard.
"We were playing a game," Uncle Faramir suddenly said from across the room. The Steward was struggling to remove his sodden tunic. His eyes met Eldarion's and they locked briefly. Aragorn raised his eyebrows quizzically. The Steward then exchanged a look with Eldarion's ada that the boy did not understand. "I see," the King said. "Now, son, you will have to wait for the stinging to go away. Tell me at once if it gets worse." He tenderly wiped the tears from the little boy's face.
Aragorn pressed a light kiss on Eldarion's brow then turned his attention to Uncle Faramir, helping him to finish undressing and swathing him in towels and blankets. The Steward seemed to be covered with stings over much of his arms, face and neck. He made no complaint as the King, kneeling beside the couch, cleaned the stings and dabbed them with vinegar. Aragorn's face was grave as he tended his Steward.
Forgotten, Eldarion sank into the chair, trying to make himself invisible. Uncle Faramir was so brave. He had not cried at all, unlike Eldarion, and his stings must be very sore indeed! The boy realised that he did not hate Uncle Faramir after all. He was just cross that he took up so much of his ada's attention. In fact he would not mind being like him when he grew up, if he were not like his adored ada.
"I will send for some ice, mellon nîn," said Aragorn, rising from his kneeling position. "It might ease you." He went outside to summon a servant.
Eldarion raised his head. "I am sorry," he said.
"You did not know the consequences of your foolish prank," said Faramir. "I am certain you will have learned your lesson and will be more careful of the wasps in the future."
"I promise," said the boy. "I'll not go near the nasty creatures again, nor play silly pranks on you."
"Wasps are useful creatures," Uncle Faramir said gravely. "If you respect them and leave them alone in future, they will not hurt you again."
"I will do my best," said Eldarion.
"I know it upsets you that I spend a lot of time with your ada," said Uncle Faramir. "My duties demand that I do, and he is not only my lord, but also my friend. Not only that, but I owe him my life, as much as you do, albeit in a very different fashion. He is your sire and my renewer, which you will understand when you are older. I think, though, that you will soon be old enough to accompany us when we go fishing. I know your ada is looking forward to when he can take you."
"Truly?" Eldarion's eyes lit up.
"I should like us to be friends again," said Uncle Faramir.
Eldarion hung his head recalling all the stories Uncle Faramir had told him, and the games they had played when he was little, before he had decided that he didn't like the Steward. "Yes, please," he whispered. It felt as if a great weight had been lifted from his heart.
A/n. A slightly different version of this was written for the April Teitho Contest "Pranks" where it was placed second. You can see the lovely banner I received on my website.
The events take place a few months before "A Hunting we will Go."