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Mistress Poppy smiled at the sight of her apprentice in sleep. The lass had the expression of one who was having very pleasant dreams, and it seemed a shame to waken her, but this was a day Mistress Poppy had been looking forward to for a very long time. At last she would get a look at those famed Houses of Healing, and have the chance to meet some of these Southern healers. She gave Viola’s shoulder a little shake.
Viola wakened instantly, needing little more than a couple of blinks to realise that it was morning and time to rise. One of the first things an aspiring healer needed to learn was to waken easily and to be alert when doing so.
She sat up and put her furry feet to the floor. “Mistress Poppy?” It was a simple appeal for instruction, as her mistress knew.
“It’s time to rise, dress and breakfast. Master Ondahil will be coming by to take us to the Houses of Healing and to introduce us to the Warden of those Houses. Please dress neatly but practically. We’ll be touring the place, and we also may see healers at work, or even some patients.”
Viola was already making her morning ablutions at the washbasin. She scrubbed her face, and then quickly combed her hair and bound it into a braid about the crown of her head. She looked at her yellow hair ribbon, but put it aside with a sigh. It wouldn’t do to let anything happen to it. Mistress Poppy nodded in approval, as she laced herself into her own practical and sturdy workaday dress—a bodice and skirt of a sturdy light brown wool over a creamy linen chemise. Viola’s garb was similar, though her bodice was dark brown and her skirt was green. Both of them donned black pinafore aprons, and then carefully brushed their feet, and hung their pendulums about their necks.
Mistress Poppy made Viola turn around in front of her, and then nodded. “You’ll do, lass. Do I make a respectable showing?” she asked.
Viola smiled, and reached up to tuck in a grey curl that had escaped from the neat bun atop her mistress’s head, and said, “You look quite respectable, Mistress Poppy.”
The two made their way to the kitchen, where a first breakfast of freshly baked sweet rolls, butter, fruit, and juice awaited. There was also a pot of tea and…
“Coffee!” Mistress Poppy exclaimed in delight at the invigorating aroma. It was a rare treat in the Shire, but Pippin had told her it was more common in Gondor. Viola made a face. She had never learned to like the bitter brew, though she had tried it a few times.
Jolly was already there taking his own breakfast, and he greeted the two healers politely with a nod, as his mouth was full. The two sat down at the table with full plates, and were soon joined, one by one, by the other hobbits.
Mistress Poppy was amused to note that each time someone new entered the room, Viola’s head shot up in expectation. But Berilac was the last to arrive for breakfast. His smile made the apprentice blush becomingly, and he loaded his plate and sat down by her hopefully.
But Viola had finished her own breakfast. Mistress Poppy stood up. “Come along, Viola!” and was amused at how crestfallen the young Brandybuck looked. “You will have to learn to rise earlier, Mr. Brandybuck, if you expect to keep company with a healer!”
Viola grinned at him, and followed her Mistress obediently. They could hear the other hobbits begin to tease Berilac as they left the room.
Master Ondahil awaited them, and they followed him as he led them toward the Houses of Healing. The Houses were on the same level as the guesthouse, but nearly halfway around the Eastern side of the circle.
Mistress Poppy looked curiously as they approached. There was a low stone wall enclosing the grounds, no more than shoulder height for a Man, but well over the head of a hobbit. They entered through a wrought-iron gate, and found themselves on a path of white flags. Creeping thyme grew between the smooth paving stones. There were several buildings—three large ones that appeared to be of two or three stories, a medium sized two story building that was directly in front of them, and scattered about were a number of smaller buildings of only one floor. All of the larger buildings were of the same white marble as the rest of the city, but the smaller were built of stone and half-timbers, though plastered over with white. Garden beds were scattered about the grounds, the first she had seen since her arrival, and the air was filled with the invigorating scent of herbs.
Master Ondahil led them to the medium-sized building, and knocked. The door was opened by a tall Man of middle years.
“Master Sardos, as we had discussed, I brought the visiting healers to you. They are eager to learn about our ways of healing here in Minas Tirith.” He turned “This is Mistress Poppy Burrows of the Shire, who has been for many years the family healer for the Thain of the Shire. And this is her apprentice, Miss Viola Harfoot.”
“Mistress Poppy, this is Sardos, the Warden of the Houses of Healing. I will leave you in his capable hands.”
Serindë put her head in her hands, as she looked over the paperwork on her desk. She sighed. Life was much easier in the middle of a war, when all one had to deal with was blood and gore and life and death situations. A new crop of apprentice surgeons, however, presented a completely different set of problems. She looked up in irritation at the knock on the door.
Jolly wanted to offer to help with the washing up after breakfast, but felt somewhat shy about it. He did not wish to offend Avor and Tadiel, but he felt at loose ends. He was used to being busy, he was, and now that they weren’t travelling, he wondered what he would be doing. Captain Freddy, and Mr. Beri and Mr. Mosco, they was gentry, and they’d be doing gentry things; all the talking with the King and such was their duty. He’d thought to be of some use to Captain Freddy, as Sam had to Mr. Frodo, but he’d soon realised Mr. Freddy didn’t really need him in that way. As he stood there wondering, he heard his name spoken.
It was Mr. Mosco. “Yes, sir, Mr. Mosco?” he asked.
“Jolly, please don’t call me ‘mister’; you are a delegate just as I am. While we are here, we are equals.”
“It’s hard to break a habit. What did you need, M-Mosco?” he stumbled slightly, but he’d try to honour the other hobbit’s wishes, instead of being as stubborn as a Gamgee about it. But in his head, he could still feel that “mister” wanting to come out.
“Freddy and Beri are going to the Citadel to see the prisoners, and I think Rolly and Denny are going with them. I was wondering if you would like to see some of the City with me? I’d like to see more of it, but I would feel very strange about going alone.”
That sounded like a right good idea. It was better than just sitting about in this great stone house, it was. “Did you have any notion of which way we’d go? And of how we get back, sir?” It wouldn’t do to get lost here, that was for sure!
“I spoke to Avor. He said that as long as we stay on the main streets, and don’t go into any of the side streets or alleys we should find our way back easily enough. He wanted to send for a guard to go with us, but I told him I didn’t think it was necessary.”
“I’d feel mighty funny, having a guard trailing me about,” Jolly replied, “so I’m just as well pleased not to have one!”
"I know what you mean," answered Mosco. "I'd feel very foolish having some big soldier following me everywhere. And from all we were told by Frodo and by Merry and Pippin and Sam, Gondor is at peace now. There should be no reason for us to need guarding."
Jolly shook his head. "I think the Big Folk hereabouts have lived with danger for so long they don't know any other way to be."
"You could be right. I know from the things we heard on the journey that Gondor was at war with the Dark Lord for generations."
The two took their time, pausing as they passed through the tunnel-like gate leading to the Fifth Circle to decide which way to go. "I don't think it matters," said Mosco. "There will be another one of these a quarter of the way around, leading down to the next level. But one cannot pass straight down. That's very clever!"
"What's clever about it, M--Mosco?" Jolly was going to get the hang of not "mistering" if it took him all day. "It means you can't go straight to where you're headed!"
"Yes," said Mosco, "but it means if enemies get in and are coming up from the other direction, then neither can they!"
"Oh!" Jolly looked at his companion. "I would never have thought of that."
Mosco shook his head. "Neither would I have, on my own. But when I asked Artamir about it as we rode up, that was what he told me."
"Seems to be mostly big houses on this street."
Indeed, nearly all of the white marble buildings they passed looked to be generally the same as the house they were using one level up. Some were larger, some the same size, but none were smaller.
"I think this must be the part of town where the gentry lives," Jolly added.
"I'm sure you are right. Look at that balcony, though." Mosco stopped to examine it closely.
Jolly stared, not sure what had drawn his companion's attention. He shook his head. "What's so special about it?"
"Most of the other balconies we have seen have low stone walls or columns of stone for railings. But that one seems to be made of finely wrought iron."
"Oh," he said, "you are right about that, sir. I would never've noticed that."
"I think all these buildings are very interesting. They are beautiful."
Jolly shook his head. "Too much stone and not enough green to suit me," he said. "Now I liked Edoras just fine! It was different enough to be interesting, but it still felt kind of homelike in a way. This place, well, I'm glad we're just visitors."
They had come to the tunnel-gate to the Fourth Circle. The two looked carefully at their surroundings before going through. The street below was slightly narrower than the one they had been walking along, and unlike the first street, there were actually people walking about their business. They'd seen not a soul on the Fifth Circle, though there had been the occasional sound of a voice or a barking dog which let them know there were occupants. But they could see people who seemed to be shopping or doing business of some sort.
"The pavement is different," said Mosco.
"What do you mean?" asked Jolly, his eyes on the Big Folk who were strolling about, some carrying baskets or string bags or parcels.
"Back there," he gestured behind them with a thumb, "the cobbles were laid down in a pattern, rather like the weave of a basket. These cobbles are just...cobbles."
"Oh." Mr. Mosco-- Mosco-- noticed the oddest things.
They turned to the left, and walked some more. "They're staring," whispered Jolly uncomfortably.
Mosco blushed. "I know."
Indeed, the folk were hesitating, casting their gaze on the hobbits, and then whispering behind their hands. If any saw the hobbits looking back, their eyes dropped and they turned away. Fortunately none approached the two. They were not certain what they would have found to say to all these strangers.
While many of the buildings they saw were houses like those above, although smaller, there were also buildings that clearly seemed to be shops of some sort or another, for folk would go in empty handed and come out with parcels. They seemed to be very discreet shops, for it took them a while to spot the small plaques by some of the doors.
"Master Malvegil son of Malbor, mercer and tailor," read one. In the bowed glass window by the door stood a tailor’s dummy clad in a fine brown tunic, embroidered at the neck and sleeves with vines of green and gold. Arranged beneath it were bolts of fabric.
”Master Daeron of Dol Amroth, Apothecary”read another. The glass in the window in that building was thick and wavy. It would let light in, but one would not be able to see within very well.
The next shop they spotted brought a grin to their faces. ”Mistress Ivoreth & daughters, Guild Authorized Bakers” read her small sign—though the lovely smells and the trays of cakes and biscuits in the window would have given it away. Above the discreet sign was another small plaque, this one black, with the emblem of the White Tree.
The two hobbits looked at one another. “Don’t you think it’s near elevenses?” Mosco asked.
“Near enough,” chuckled Jolly. As they entered, a little bell above the door tinkled.
The smells of the bakery: yeast and cinnamon and ginger and honey made Jolly take a deep breath and close his eyes. It nearly felt as though he'd been transported back to the Shire, back to Cousin Handfast's bakery in Michel Delving, where he'd spent many an hour as a lad when visiting his mother's kin. When he opened his eyes again, it was almost a shock to him to see the large furnishings and the tall young woman behind the counter. He supposed that the smells of baking must be much the same, no matter the height of the baker.
"What do you boys want-- oh! I beg your pardon, small masters!" She blushed that she had nearly taken these pheriain for children.
Mosco looked around the clean and spacious bakery. There were two tables with chairs in the middle of the room, though the perimeter of the room was filled with shelves bearing a bounty of baked goods, from breads of all shapes and sizes, to biscuits and scones and pastries and cakes. A set of wide swinging doors behind the young woman clearly led to the kitchen and the ovens in the back.
"How may I help you?" she asked, her pleasant face still red.
Mosco smiled at her. "Well, miss, we thought we would have a bite to eat, since it has been a while since breakfast."
"You would like some 'elevenses' then?"
"We would! And how do you know of elevenses? We did not know it was a custom of the South!"
She laughed softly, and said, "It is not. But Lord Samwise and the Ernil i Pheriannath-- that is to say, Sir Peregrin-- were often customers here! They usually took their purchases back to their home on the Sixth Circle, but once Sir Peregrin and his cousin Sir Meriadoc took 'elevenses' here. That is when I learned of your custom."
Jolly grinned, and gave an introductory bow. "Jolly Cotton, at your service, miss. Sam is my brother-in-law. He married my sister just a few months ago!"
Mosco also bowed. "Mosco Burrows at your service. Meriadoc Brandybuck and Frodo Baggins are my cousins." Mosco did not go into more detail, for he was beginning to learn that most of these Big People were not so interested in genealogy as hobbits were.
She gave them a little curtsey. "I am Glorwen. My mother, Mistress Ivoreth is the owner of this shop. What may I serve you?" She indicated the various goods on the counters with a sweep of her hand.
"What did the others fancy?" asked Jolly.
"Well, Lord Samwise was very fond of our lemon tarts. And also our savoury garlic and cheese scones. Sir Peregrin was quite taken with our cake made with fig preserves. And I can brew up a pot of tea to serve with your dainties."
The two hobbits looked at one another in delight. "We will have the tea, and some of each of those, Miss Glorwen," said Mosco.
Clodio and Dago sat up with a start when they heard the sound of their cell door being unlocked. They had already had their breakfasts, but it wasn't time for elevenses. Who could it be?
Captain Arminas gestured to Clodio. "Both of you have visitors. If you will come with me, Master Banks, I will take you to yours. Master Bracegirdle, you will see your visitors here in this cell." He stood aside, and Fredegar Bolger and Berilac Brandybuck entered.
Clodio stood and went reluctantly out. Who could be visiting him if not those two? Perhaps it was Mistress Poppy, come to check on his health?
He was very surprised to see Rolly and Denny Banks in the sparsely furnished room to which he had been led.
Author’s Notes: Back in April of 2008, I made a comment in SurgicalSteel’s LiveJournal, with the part about Mistress Poppy meeting Serindë of Dol Amroth. When I indicated to SS at the time that I might like to use that part in my sequel to “The Road to Edoras” some day, she gave me her blessing. While much of this sequel has taken some time, most of this chapter has been languishing on my hard drive ever since. I had only to write the parts with Jolly and Mosco, and the visit with the prisoners.
However, this Serindë of necessity is AU to her Serindë, and so is not exactly the same person. The main difference is that this Serindë did not meet Halbarad as a result of a broken ankle, but rather as a result of a wolf bite to the shoulder. There are several other differences as well, necessitated by the timeline differences between her universe and mine.
I appreciate her allowing her character to play in my universe, in spite of the differences.
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