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In the Court of the High King  by Dreamflower

  Chapter 10

The innkeeper came over and put his hands on his hips, and shook his head, though he was smiling.  "Ah, well! It does happen to the best from time to time, though I do not think it ever happened to Master Calembel in The Queen's Cat before."

Freddy chuckled, but then sighed.  "Master Innkeeper--"

"The name's Findegil-- but everyone calls me Fin."

"Master Fin, then, we were wondering how we are to get our friend home-- not to mention ourselves, as we are not yet so familiar with the City as to be certain of our way back."

"That's quite all right, small masters!  Ox!" he called.

From the back corner of the room a perfectly huge man arose. The hobbits stared in astonishment.  He was bald, for one thing, though he sported a grizzled shovel-shaped beard.  He had a black eye patch, and on the cheek beneath, a livid scar.  As he came over to the table, he seemed to grow even larger.

"This is my cousin Ox. He works for me, mostly to see that no one starts fights here, but also he occasionally sees a customer home who's had one too many ales."

Ox looked down at Master Calembel, and then took one of his arms and hefted him up. "You want me to take him home, Fin?"

"Yes.  And when you've done that, show these pheriain back to where they are staying..."

"The King has put us up in a guesthouse on the Sixth Circle," said Freddy.

Ox nodded. "I know the one!  It is the place where the Ernil i Pheriannath and his kin stayed after the War."

Master Calembel seemed to have roused just enough to move his legs a little, so that he was not quite being dragged by the big man.Once they came out the door, the fresh air roused him, and he mumbled a little and was able to stumble along with Ox's guidance.

The hobbits ranged themselves on either side of Ox and Calembel.  Mosco walked right next to the Man; he felt somewhat responsible for Calembel's condition, since it was in celebration of his new duty that they had gone to the inn.

Berilac, on the other side of Mosco, looked up at the big Man who was escorting them.  "Ox is not your real name, is it?" he asked.  He hoped the Man would not be offended, but he was curious.  Good heavens! he was getting as bad as Pippin, he thought.

But to his relief, the Man just chuckled.  "It suits me, don't you think? Ox as in 'as big as'? He smiled down at Berilac. "I was doomed to have such a name-- it wouldn't do to just shorten my real one."

"What do you mean?" asked Freddy.

"Well, my cousin the innkeeper is Findegil. My older brother is Finrod. My father is  Finwë, and  I am Fingon.  It just would not do in my family to shout for Fin!"

The hobbits all laughed, and Freddy said, "That reminds me of the sons of the Old Took!  He had twelve children. His sons were named Isengrim, Hildigard, Isumbras, Hildigrim, Isembold, Hildifons, Isembard, Hildibrand and Isengar.  The other three were daughters and fared somewhat better: Belladonna, Donnamira, and Mirabella!"

Ox laughed so hard that Calembel looked up briefly and blearily.  "Where..." he mumbled, before he lost focus again.

"I would imagine it made things difficult calling them all to supper," Ox said.

The hobbits laughed now, and Jolly said, "It's never difficult to call a hobbit to supper!"

"How much further?" asked Freddy.

"Just one street over from this crossing," said Ox.


Niriel paced back and forth, looking out the window again and again.  It was not at all like her husband to be late coming home.  In fact, this was the very first time he had been more than a few minutes late ever.

She and the children and had waited, and then finally dined nearly two hours ago.  It was fully dark now, and she was growing quite worried.  Her husband had been twice to the Citadel to consult with the King and had been home on time before.  And yet, perhaps something had come up and he could not get away.  The King had a reputation for being fair and considerate of others, but Niriel knew perfectly well that a person could not simply leave the King's presence without permission.

Dinner would have been utterly ruined if they had not eaten, yet it had seemed so strange to go ahead and eat without him.  The children had been shocked at first, but then ate with enthusiasm-- Calion was twelve and Ivoreth was ten, and both had hardy appetites at the best of times.

The two had wished to stay up until their father came home, but Niriel had been firm on that and had sent them to bed an hour ago.  If their father did not have a very good explanation for worrying her like this, she would give him a tongue-lashing he would never forget.  

But she could not help thinking that there might very well be a good explanation and every one of them she could think of made her worry more...


"I used to be a Guardsman!  I knew the Ernil i Pherriannath!  Lost my eye at the Black Gate to a Southron blade, but I'm luckier than most.  When I left the Guard, my cousin had a place for me. It pays well enough and the work's not hard.  He rarely gets the rowdy sort at the Cat."  Ox stopped.  "Well, this is the place-- ah! There is his house..."

Ox half walked, half dragged Calembel to the door, and Freddy rapped upon it smartly.  He was profoundly embarrassed that the hobbits had put Calembel in such a pickle.  A fine way to begin their representation of the Shire!

The door was opened by an attractive woman of early middle years.  Her dark hair was drawn back in a net and her grey eyes were huge at first with astonishment; then they narrowed in anger as they aimed at her husband's face.  "Bless me, Calembel! What have you done?" she said sharply.

Calembel looked up, and blinked owlishly at her. "Oh, Niriel?  Am I late for supper?" he mumbled.


It was more than an hour before they got away from Calembel's home.  The hobbits had been so very apologetic and abject, and so insistent that Calembel's drunken state was entirely their fault, that Niriel had finally relented her anger.  Who could stay angry at all those earnest little faces?

Ox saw Calembel up the stairs and his wife went up to tuck him in.  Perhaps she was not nearly so angry as she ought to be-- but his state in the morning would be more than enough punishment.  She looked forward to opening the curtains noisily at first light.  And perhaps bringing him a large breakfast of eggs and sausage.  No, even better, she would have the children bring him a large breakfast of eggs and sausage...

She came back down to say farewell to her unexpected guests. "I know that you say it was all your fault, Master Fredegar," (for the hobbits had, of course introduced themselves) "but I am sure that Calembel holds at least some of the responsibilty."

"Mistress Niriel," said Ox, "you should have seen the crowd there. It is hard to imagine any way he could have turned down all the offers of drink without being rude."

She sighed.  

"Mistress," said Freddy, "I do hope that this episode has not given you the wrong idea about hobbits!  We truly only wanted to celebrate the opportunity that the King had given Mosco to work with your husband.  To make it up to you, I would like to invite you and your husband and family to be our guests at supper."

"Oh, that's a splendid idea, Freddy!" said Beri enthusiastically.

Niriel blinked.  This was the last thing she had expected.

"Perhaps not tomorrow, but the day after?" said Freddy.  "If of course, that is convenient for you?"

"Why, yes.  We do not have other plans for that evening!"

"Excellent, excellent!  We shall look forward to seeing all of you then! You will be our first guests at the embassy!"  

Mosco stepped forward.  "And please, Mistress Niriel, do give my personal apologies to your husband!  I am so sorry that things turned out like this tonight!"

Niriel smiled down at him.  His brown eyes were so filled with contrition; he really did seem to feel badly about all this.  "Of course I will tell him of your words, Master Mosco, but I am sure that he will not hold you responsible."

The other three hobbits had not said much, but they tendered their farewells politely.  "And I hope," said Jolly, "that he doesn't have too much of a sore head tomorrow."

Niriel had to laugh.  "Well, I am sure he will have one, for I do not think he's been in this state since some friends took him out to celebrate the birth of our son.  I am afraid he seldom takes more than one ale at a time."

"Oh dear," said Mosco.  "No wonder he had no head for it all."

"Well," said Freddy firmly, "we must take our leave.  We will see you all the day after tomorrow!"  

He pushed and chivvied the others, who all seemed to wish to say one more farewell, out the door, and they were followed by Ox, who turned to give her a respectful nod, before the door closed behind him.

She stood looking at the door, shaking her head, and chuckling at them.  Then her eyes grew wide.  Supper at the embassy of the pheriannath!  What should she wear?


"We shall have to tell Tadiel that we will be cooking for guests!" said Freddy, as they followed Ox up through the City.

"It'll be good to be cooking again," said Rolly.  "Haven't got to do no cooking since we got to Edoras, and haven't cooked in a kitchen since we left the Shire!"

"Do you think we can find mushrooms in this place?" Beri asked.

"I don't know," said Freddy. "We'll have to find the markets tomorrow.  I am sure Tadiel will give us some good advice about where to find what we need."

"There's that bakery Mosco and me found..." said Jolly.

"I could make some of my savory scones," said Denny.  "They have cheese and garlic in them..."

The rest of the way they began to discuss the meal they planned to prepare for their guests.  By the time they left Ox, with much thanks, at the door to the guesthouse, and he turned to go back to the Cat, he was very, very hungry.

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