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In the Court of the High King  by Dreamflower

Chapter 4  

A page from the citadel, a young boy named Sador, led Freddy and Berilac back to the guesthouse after their meeting with the King, for the other hobbits had already gone back there.

“I think you will soon find your way, master hobbits,” he said.  “Sir Peregrin learned his way around very well in only a short time, and it did not take too much longer for Sir Meriadoc, Lord Frodo and Lord Samwise to learn as well.  But the levels of the City can be confusing to newcomers at first.”

“Did you know my cousins while they were here?” Freddy asked.

Sador nodded, and blushed.  “Sir Peregrin was very kind to me during the siege.”

Freddy and Beri looked interested, so the child took heart, and explained further.  “I was the youngest of the errand lads up at the Houses of Healing.  And I was horribly frightened during the siege.  Sir Peregrin found me hiding away from all the dreadfulness and he talked to me and sang for me and cheered me up.  Afterwards, well, I was one of Bergil’s friends, so I got the chance to spend time with the hobbits sometimes.”  He sighed.  “I miss Bergil.  I wish I could have gone to see Shire when he did.”

Freddy smiled. “The Shire.  I notice that you call us ‘hobbits’ and not pheriain.”

“That is what Sir Pippin said you liked to be called.  I always try to remember!  And the King always says ‘hobbits’!” They took a turn, and there was the guesthouse.  “Farewell, Master Fredegar and Master Berilac!  I am sure I will see you again!”  He waved cheerfully, and then turned and went back the way they had come.

Avor and Tadiel,  the married couple who had been assigned to care for the delegates and see to the guesthouse had prepared a noon meal for all in the dining room.  It had been set up with a hobbit sized table and low benches.  Freddy noted how well the huge house had been adapted to hobbit needs.  But of course, the Gondorians had months to make all the alterations.

Luncheon consisted of salad, a basket of flat bread, a platter of cold meats and cheeses and a large bowl of fruit, some of which did not look at all familiar, but most of which proved refreshing and delicious when sampled.  The food was abundant, and the hobbits set to with gusto.

Tadiel was gratified by their compliments on her cooking, and she blushed and told them what an honour it was to be working for them.  “And I have been told by Master Ondahil that it is the way of your people often to cook for yourselves, so I will not be offended if you wish to prepare some of your own meals.  Just let me know ahead of time when you wish to do so, and I will see to it that you have everything you need!”

“Thank you,” said Freddy.  “We are most grateful for your cooking!  And I am sure it will be a few days before we wish to take on some of it ourselves.”

“But, begging your pardon, Mistress Tadiel, we’d not take it amiss if you’d show us about the kitchen and where everything is, and all,” Jolly put in.

And so after luncheon was finished, she showed them the kitchen.  “Many of the things you see here were done in the months when Lord Frodo and his friends stayed here.”  She pointed out the rolling stepladder which would enable hobbits to reach the upper cupboards, the hobbit-sized pots and pans kept in a chest near the hearth, and the two tables in the center of the room: a large one, sized for Big Folks and a small one sized just right for hobbits.  She also showed them the well-stocked larder, and the cellar where the wine and ale were kept.

After their tour the hobbits retreated to their rooms to begin preparing for the feast that night.  It would begin somewhat earlier than the hobbits would have had their suppers in the Shire, but later than teatime. 


Mistress Poppy and Miss Viola were accorded the first use of the bathing room.  The bathing pool was far different from the common bathtubs of the Shire.  It was of marble, and set into the floor with steps upon which one could sit as one bathed.  The water was piped in—something only seen in the greatest smials in the Shire.  There was piped in water at the Great Smials, a thing which Mistress Poppy had thought quite handy.

As they soaked, Mistress Poppy informed Viola that on the following day, they would be taken to the Houses of Healing, and introduced to some of the healers there, so that they could start doing what they’d come for—to learn of some new healing methods.

“I have to say, Viola, I am really looking forward to this!  But mind you, we need to also keep our hobbit sense about us!  We don’t need to swallow everything they tell us whole!  Keep your eyes and ears open, my lass, and don’t be afraid to ask questions!”

Viola smiled at her mistress’s emphatic words.  She was nervous, she had to admit to herself that much.  These Big Folk all seemed so sure of themselves!  But she was not as fearful as she once had been.  The weeks of travel and the time spent at the court of Meduseld had worn off the edge of her timidity around Big Folk.  At least, their size and their noisy ways no longer made her wince. 

The two went to finish getting ready and to leave the bathing room for the other hobbits.  Viola was looking forward to wearing her blue dress for the first time.  She wondered what Berilac would think of it…


The Gondorians called it the eleventh hour, but by Shire reckoning, it was about five o’ clock, when Master Ondahil and two Guardsmen came to escort them to the feast hall, which they had been told was called “Merethrond”.

“Imagine that,” said Rolly to Denny, “having a name for a room!”

“But,” his brother replied, “it’s not so far-fetched as all that!  Most of the gentry have names for their smials, like Bag End or Brandy Hall.  And you know, these rooms is as big as a whole smial, like as not!”

Rolly chuckled, and admitted he had the right of it.  “I suppose it makes sense at that!”

Once more, the hobbits found themselves waiting to be announced by the herald.  Rolly supposed they would have to get used to it; it seemed that no one ever came before the King without having their name shouted out for all to hear.  It seemed a funny way of doing things to him, but maybe that was because he wasn’t used to it the way the gentry were.  But he kept his da’s words in mind:  ”Lad, I’m sending you off a-cause whether we will or no, we’re gentry now.  You and your brother need to get used to dealing with high folk—and there’s none higher’n the King to my mind.” 

And so Rolly tried to remember that.  But he’d been a working hobbit all his life up to now, and he didn’t suppose he’d ever forget that it was the traitors’ fault he’d been gentrified!  If the former Banks hadn’t’ve been so proud and high and mighty, he’d never’ve thrown his lot in with Old Pimple.  But at least Rolly knew from the Brandybucks, and from some of the other gentry that not all of them were like that.

Soon enough, they were taken to the King’s own High Table, bigger and longer and fancier than the King’s table in Rohan!  At least he and Denny were down near the end.  Mr. Freddy and Mr. Beri was right up there by the King, and Mistress Poppy and Miss Viola was next to the Queen.  Down at the other end was Mosco and Jolly.  No one sat down at first; this was something they’d been told about, and Rolly stood with all of the other folk, looking to the West, for a minute of silence.  It was right solemn, and made him feel rather queer to be a part of it.  Then they sat down and the feast began.

Right by the end of the table, next to Denny was a jolly looking Man.  He had still a bit of ginger amongst the grey hairs on his head, and he smiled at the two hobbits.  “Good evening, Master Rollin and Master Denham! I am Menelcar the Minstrel, at your service,” and he sketched a little seated bow to the brothers.

They offered their service politely in turn, and then looked up eagerly as the servants came with the first of the dishes!

There was white bread and butter, a soup that Menelcar said was called “tredure” – seemingly made up of bread and spices and eggs, raspberry tea and – oh glory! a mushroom-and-cheese pie!

“This is but the first remove,” the minstrel said.  “Though I doubt much that will make a difference to hobbit appetites!  Tell me, how does the Shire fare?  I know that even there the enemy made his presence felt, and it saddens me to think of its fair fields and woodlands spoiled by his evil.”

“You know the Shire?” asked Denny, surprised.

“I was there some years ago, and came to know Sir Peregrin well during his youth—he was but a young tween at the time.”  He launched into the tale of how he’d first met Pippin, and Rolly and Denny found themselves easily able to believe the trouble that Took had nearly caused!

The three spoke pleasantly as the hobbits devoured the delicious food.  Soon enough it was taken away, and more food was brought: stuffed goose, pork meatballs, a cheese-and-onion pie, a delicious salad of greens and fruits dressed with vinegar and sugar, and a pear compote.  Rolly thought it rather an odd combination of dishes, but all were tasty!  The raspberry tea was replaced by wine, which Rolly sipped carefully—ale was more to his taste, and he didn’t wish to overdo and disgrace himself.

“There will be a pause before the next remove, and then the subtleties will be brought,” said Menelcar.  Rolly nodded—they’d had subtleties in Rohan too.  Just another name for extra fanciful afters, so far as he could tell. 

“At any rate, I must prepare to sing for my supper during the pause,” said Menelcar, and he rose, bowed to them, and then went off.  Rolly and Denny returned their attention to their food, but then noticed the room grew silent.  They looked up to see that Menelcar had returned with a harp, and was standing before the King and Queen.

They listened as he launched into a stirring song about the King’s return, though they didn’t understand some of it.  And then he said quietly:

“In honour of the friends and Kinsmen of our saviours, the Lord Frodo, Lord Samwise, Sir Meriadoc and Sir Peregrin, I present this tribute:

"We hearken to the harp and hear
of deeds of Elves and Men…”

By the time Menelcar finished the song all about what the four Travellers had done, Rolly had tears in his eyes.

But they did not last long, for right off, Master Menelcar launched into a jolly song straight from the Shire, that had both Rolly and Denny tapping their toes on the rungs of their chairs!

Then he began to play his harp with no more singing, and some low talk returned.  So did the food.

There was a venison pie, herb fritters, a dish of rice and almonds, little cabbage sprouts*, and an apple-raisin pudding.  They were still eating when Menelcar finished his playing and returned to his seat.

“I’m just in time for the grand finish,” said the minstrel.

“That was some mighty fine music,” said Denny, and then blushed.

“Thank you,” said Menelcar simply.  “Ah!  Here we are!”

With great fanfare, servants were bringing in large pies.  “I have it on good authority,” said Menelcar, “that they are strawberry!”

Rolly, who had thought he had almost eaten enough, found his appetite renewed at the announcement.  Imagine!  Strawberries this time of year!


*another name for brussels sprouts

This feast is described in more detail at Goode Cookery.

It's an actual feast, based on actual period recipes and redacted for modern use.

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