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The Mathom House  by Baggins Babe

Minas Tirith. Year 2 FA (1423 SR)

       "I have only one word of advice about drinking with hobbits," said Legolas firmly. "Don't!"

       Merlindor glanced at Gimli, who was grinning broadly. "Why's that?"

       "Because the little buggers will drink you under the table!" said a cheerful voice behind him. "And dance on top of it afterwards!"

       The merchant jumped up and turned. "My lord King!" he began, but Aragorn waved a hand to indicate that he did not wish to be publicly acknowledged.

       "I'm incognito - I'm a simple Ranger of the North, enjoying an evening out." He and Faramir set down the drinks and settled themselves.

       Merlindor had been enjoying an evening at The Merry Mumak, to which he had been introduced a few weeks previously by Merry and Pippin. They declared it to be their favourite inn - the most 'hobbity' they had said - and the merchant found he liked spending time there, even after the irrepressible pair had left to return to the Shire. He continued to visit, often eating his evening meal and talking with Adamir, the innkeeper. He had noticed a group of cloaked figures enter the inn as he finished his meal. Two of them went to the bar and suddenly the stout figure of Gimli had appeared beside him and issued an invitation to him to join them. He had no idea that the two Men were the King and his Steward - one would never have found Lord Denethor in an inn.

       Adamir followed the two Men and placed a bowl of food on the table, together with three different dipping sauces.

       "Breaded mushrooms," Gimli explained. "Now you know why the hobbits liked this place so much. When it re-opened just after the Coronation, Sam showed Adamir how to prepare them, and taught him several hobbit recipes. This is what they would have as 'nibbles' in a Shire inn."

       "I gather you like The Jolly Oli?" Faramir enquired. "Trust our hobbits to have another name for it. This seems to be common in the Shire. This is their favourite inn in the city, and they grew very fond of Adamir because he was recovering in Ithilien when they were, so they spent a lot of time with him."

       "He is saddened that Frodo has left Middle-earth, although he understands why he had to go. He is a brave and generous soul." Legolas sipped his wine. "He fought valiantly at the Black Gate."

       "We ate here a couple of hours ago, but there was an accident nearby - a builder fell from a roof and impaled himself on some spiked gates below.. I went to help and see him safely to the Houses." Aragorn savoured his ale.

       "Poor man. Was he badly hurt?" asked Merlindor.

       "He was very lucky. The spike missed all major organs and blood vessels. He is now in a healing sleep, and his leg must be watched to guard against infection, but he should recover completely."

       "Does Adamir know who you are, sire?"

       "I suspect he does. He's very perceptive and intelligent but he is also tactful and discreet. If he does know he has not said so."

       "The hobbits certainly have a great capacity for drink. I must admit I never tried to keep up with Merry and Pippin when we came here," the merchant admitted.

       "Very wise," said Aragorn drily. "They have always said that their ale is much stronger than the ale of Men or Dwarves, but I must admit I took that with a pinch of salt." He grinned boyishly, looking a lot like Captain Thorongil. "I was wrong."

       "Dare I ask if there is a story behind that comment, sire?"

       Aragorn groaned and Faramir covered his face. "Yes, my friend, there is indeed.............."

                                                   ********           *********             ********

       Faramir knocked on the massive door and heard the King's voice call 'Come in.' He stepped inside and found Aragorn examining an ale keg which stood on a side table. Attached was a large label with a picture of a green dragon and ornate lettering which read: Bywater, The Shire.

       "Your Mettarė gift. Have you tried it yet, sire?"

       "No. I was just about to though. Want to help me taste it?"

       "I thought you'd never ask!" The young Steward was now confident enough in his sovereign's company to speak with him as a friend.

       Aragorn rummaged in a cupboard and found two tankards. "Emergency supplies," he explained with a smile.

       "Naturally. For medicinal purposes?"

       "Exactly! Besides, we have to make sure this ale has travelled well, don't we?" He released the tap and a stream of rich brown foaming liquid poured into his tankard. "It smells good."

       When both Men had a full tankard they each took a long sip, tasted, swallowed and looked at each other.

       "By the Valar! that is the finest ale I've tasted!"

       "Nectar! No wonder our friends sing its praises so often and so loudly."

       Aragorn took a long pull and savoured the rich, nutty flavour of the Green Dragon's finest brew. He grinned at Faramir, and they downed the rest with gusto.

       "Another? I'm still trying to decide if its excellence is due to the barley, the pure water or the brewing method. After all, the hobbits are half our size. How strong can it possibly be?"


       Later, Aragorn thought the third pint might have been a teensy mistake. Or was it the fourth? He started to think this about the time he realised he could no longer feel his knees. This was when sitting upright on a chair became difficult, which was why he was sitting on the floor, leaning back against the wall. His Steward was already down there, flushed and glassy-eyed.

       "Far'mir?" said the King cautiously. "Can you feel your knees?"

       The young Man blinked, then prodded his own knee with a finger. "Yes!" he said triumphantly. "Those are my knees!" He giggled.

       "No, silly. I mean can you feel your knees without ......touching 'em?"

       Faramir considered this question very carefully. "No," he said at last.

       "Can't feel mine either."

       "No, I can't feel your knees. I don' think that would be proper, sire."

       "No, I mean I can't feel my knees. D' you think tha's because it's hobbit ale? I's trying to make us shorter."

       "Does tha' mean we'll grow fur on our feet?"

       "I hope not! Arwen won't like that, you know."

       There was a pause while they considered the implications of furry feet. "I think the third pint might have been an error," Faramir mumbled.

       "An' the fourth was sheer recklessnessness..........ness. Funny word - not sure how you stop saying it."

       "How many pints do the hobbits manage?"

       "Pip said they often drink ten half pints or more. We've been beaten by our small friends again."

       "They eat more, they drink more............ " Faramir fell silent for a moment, then pointed upwards. "Should tha' be up there?"

       Aragorn squinted in the direction indicated by his Steward's unsteady finger. "The ceiling? I think so. 'm almos' sure it shouldn' be down here."

       "No, no. 's at a funny angle."

       The King looked up, then down, and finally focussed on Faramir. "I think we're at the funny angle, my friend. You know where we went wrong?"

       "The third pint?"


       "The first pint?" Faramir asked brightly.

       "No, not even that. We undereshtimated the hobbits," Aragorn said mournfully. "Never under......eshtimate hobbits."

       "Never have drinkin' contests with them either."

       "See! Tha's why you're my Steward. Ver' wise man."

       "Thin' I'll have a nap here. Not so far to fall if you sleep on the floor."

       "Good idea........." A thought managed to struggle to the surface. "The ladies are going to be cross, you know."

       "P'haps they won' notice if we creep in later.........." Faramir's head rolled forward and he fell asleep. The King sat for a while, trying to work out why hobbits could drink five pints of the stuff and still walk home afterwards, but the effort of rational thought was too much and he fell asleep too.

       When Arwen and Eowyn peeped round the door an hour later, they found their menfolk on the floor, leaning against the wall and each other, snoring loudly.


       Faramir was wrenched out of sleep by someone beside him saying 'Aaaaarrgghh!" Reluctantly he cracked one eye open; unfortunately he did so at the precise moment the sun climbed above the Ephel Duath and straight through the window. The King had crawled behind the desk and had flung both arms over his face to shield his eyes.

       "Ow!" Faramir murmured, attempting to speak without opening his mouth.

       "I'm going to kill those scoundrels when they arrive," Aragorn whispered.

       "You can kill Merry, but I want to kill Pippin."

       "If we tell them about this, we'll never hear the end of it," said the King. "We'll never live it down."

       Faramir pondered for several moments, trying not to breathe too loudly because it made his headache worse. "One thing I still don't understand. The Shire-folk eat .....- what - seven meals in a day, and they can drink far more ale than we can. What is the explanation?"

       Aragorn winced and rubbed his face. "I do not know the answer to that, my friend, but I will merely quote our good friend Mithrandir."

       "And he said.............?"


                                                     *******           ********           *******

       Legolas, Gimli and Merlindor could hardly believe their ears. The thought of the King and Steward, sprawled on the floor, drunk on hobbit ale, was too amusing for words. All three were laughing loudly. Aragorn and Faramir pretended to be indignant but their own amusement started to bubble to the surface, and by the time Adamir brought more drinks to their table, all five were chuckling and wiping their eyes.

       "Did you tell Merry and Pippin?" Merlindor asked at last.

       "Eventually. They thought it was the funniest thing they'd heard, and promised me they will tell Sam and Rose as soon as they arrive in Hobbiton."

       "It will become one of the great tales," added Legolas mischievously. "Perhaps it will go into the books and be told to young hobbits many years hence."

       Aragorn turned to Faramir. "There you are. We shall be held up as an awful example of how not to behave,"

       "As well as an example of the powers of hobbit ale."

       Merlindor raised his tankard. "There is only one thing to say." Aragorn raised his eyebrows in query, and the merchant and Gimli spoke as one.



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