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In the Court of the High King  by Dreamflower

Chapter 11


The next morning at first breakfast, Mistress Poppy and Viola were filled in on the events of the day before.

Mistress Poppy shook her head. †"That poor Man!" she exclaimed. †"You should have known better! †Men simply do not have as sturdy a constitution as hobbits when it comes to food and drink! †I am surprised his wife was so gracious to you!" †She punctuated her statement with her fork, stabbing a bit of sausage emphatically.

"But just think!" said Viola, "We will have guests tomorrow evening! †There will be so much to do to get ready!"

"We shall be able to help tomorrow, lass, for we shall take a day off! †But today we must go to the Houses and meet young Master Thorongil! †Fredegar, I know you lads will be planning the menu. †I'll be glad to make my apple pie."

Viola blushed. †She was a good cook, but she had yet to find her "special" dish. "I'll help in any way I can," she said.

The healers took their leave; the others began to talk among themselves.

"Mosco and I must go back to the Citadel today after second breakfast. †We are to consult some more with Lord Hiril about the work to be done in Arnor. †Beri, can you see to getting everything we will need to entertain our guests tomorrow evening?"

"Of course, Freddy! †We'll have a word with Tadiel and Avor to find out the best places to go for what we need."

---------------------------------

The morning was busy one--Viola found herself trailing behind Mistress Poppy as they followed Master Thorongil about. Though Viola was still somewhat unused to the idea of male healers--the only one in the Shire she knew of was Berilac's cousin Dodinas, though she knew that her Mistress knew a couple of others--she was beginning to be more comfortable with the thought. Master Thorongil also seemed young to have his mastery, though he appeared to be quite competent. Having met his mother, Viola was very certain that he knew what he was doing, and he had a kindly nature, much like Mistress SerindŽ herself.

Then Viola suddenly remembered seeing an encounter between Mistress SerindŽ and an apprentice who had been less than gentle with a patient--she'd certainly not been kindly then! But Viola felt quite sure that the apprentice deserved it--she could not imagine treating a patient so!

Still, the Chief Surgeon was kindly enough to the patients and so was her son, and that was what mattered.

Their tour had begun in the dispensary, where many of the herbal preparations and medical supplies were kept. She attended carefully as Master Thorongil explained the system to Mistress Poppy, and they compared notes as to which preparations were the same as in the Shire, and which were different.

"It is very convenient," said Mistress Poppy, "to have an apothecary handy. And yet all the same I would feel uneasy in my mind relying so exclusively on another's skill. We are very used to preparing almost all of our own medicines."

"I understand your concerns, Mistress Poppy," Thorongil replied. "In Bree, my mother and I did the same. But here there are far too many patients and calls upon our time for us to be able to do that."

"That's understandable. I believe that Master Tobold Brockhouse and Master Willem Lightfoot are the only full-time apothecaries in the Shire. When I need something that I do not have myself, I use Master Toby, whose shop is in Tuckborough."

Thorongil nodded. "There are a number of apothecaries here in the City who cater to most of the healers and patients, but we have our Herb-master here, and are able to keep a supply on hand of most of the remedies we need. The dispensary is also responsible for keeping clean bandages available, and for keeping surgical tools available for beginning apprentices, until they have their own."

Viola swallowed. Surgery was not much practiced in the Shire, save for patching up injuries. She still had nightmares about assisting in Opal's amputation. And surgery was one of the healing techniques that Mistress Poppy wanted to know more about.

"That seems sensible to me," said Mistress Poppy, "when I think of the number of patients you must treat! I can recall thinking myself much put upon when I had as many as six or seven patients in one day."

Thorongil gave a slight chuckle, and then turned his attention to filling his healer's satchel with the supplies he would need, Mistress Poppy asking questions whenever she saw something unfamiliar.

_________________________

Avor and Tadiel agreed to accompany the other hobbits in their shopping expedition, once the menu had been agreed upon. †Tadiel had listened in amazement as they had discussed the menu for the following night, each wanting to have a chance to prepare his specialty. †While she had been told that hobbits enjoyed cooking, this was her first chance to see just how much they enjoyed it!

The Fifth Circle was where the residences of the noble and wealthy were located; the Fourth Circle was where the finer shops were; but most of the food vendors were in the Third Circle, and that was where they headed.

Berilac and Jolly went with Avor to the poulterers. †Chicken and fowl were still the easiest of meats to come by in the city. †The hobbits had decided on roast chicken rubbed with herbs and stuffed with onions and garlic as the main feature of the supper.

"There will be twelve of us: eight hobbits, and Calembel and his wife and the two children," said Beri.

"Six birds, then," said Avor.

Beri and Jolly stared at him eyes wide. †"That's only a half a chicken apiece," said Beri, stating the obvious. †"I think nine would be better. †That's half a chicken, plus a little extra for seconds."

Now it was Avor's turn to stare. †He had seen hobbit appetites at work over the last few days, but this was the first time he began to truly realise how different they were.

The poulterer was smiling widely. †Pheriain were good for business.

Beri and Jolly took their time picking out the plumpest birds, and then haggling a little with the poulterer, though not much, as they were well supplied with funds. †When the embassy had set out from the Shire, it had been with a goodly sum of Saruman's gold from the weregild.

Once the price for the birds was agreed on, Beri offered to pay extra to have the birds dressed and delivered to the guesthouse.

___________________

Tadiel, along with Rolly and Denny, headed in the opposite direction, to the sellers of produce. †They found some salad greens, and were amazed at finding any this time of year; the seller reminded them that this far south the growing season was much later. †A bushel of apples was purchased, to be delivered to the Sixth Circle. †

"Look," said Rolly, "there's some of them orange fruits we've been having for breakfast."

"What are them yellow and green ones in the next basket? †Are they the same?"

The vendor, a young woman who was thrilled to have pheriain at her stall said "Those are lemons and limes. †They are too sour and bitter to eat alone, although a few people will eat them that way." She made a face that indicated she was not one of that minority. "But they are very useful for cooking, and with the addition of honey or sugar to their juice they make a delightfully refreshing drink. The juice is useful in cooking chicken and fish, and the skin may be grated for extra flavour, or even candied. †Smell of them."

The two hobbits did so, an expression of bliss crossing their faces. †"We'll take some, miss," said Rolly. †"Can you send a basket of 'em up with the apples?"
__________

Before Thorongil began his rounds, he stopped in a large room near the main entrance to the Houses. Viola saw that there were a number of benches there, and perhaps a dozen or so people, some of them with the listless look of the ill, some of them coughing or sneezing. She saw a young woman with a screaming baby--probably teething, thought Viola. It did not have the frantic sound of a child with colic.
A couple of other healers were there, speaking to some of these patients. One of them gave Thorongil a friendly nod. The other did not seem to notice their presence. Some of the patients looked at the hobbits with a brief glance of curiosity. Viola noticed several alcoves nearby. In two of them there were more patients, each attended by a healer.

"This is our clinic," said Thorongil. "Those who have an illness or injury, and no personal healer, may come here for treatment. On most days, it is usually not very busy, though we do have times when it can become quite crowded. We charge according to the means of the patient's family--those who can afford to do so pay, for those who cannot other arrangements are made--usually a barter of some sort, or sometimes a day or two of labour in the kitchens, gardens or laundry of the Houses."

In one of the alcoves was a little girl. She was probably, thought Viola, about six or seven years old.

She was having a cut upon her arm stitched by a young woman healer, who was keeping up a bright stream of nonsense chatter to distract her little patient. The child's mother sat next to them, holding the child's arm and wincing every time the needle went in and out. The little girl was biting her lip, but was not screaming or weeping aloud, though tears streamed down her face.

The healer finished her stitching, and then looked at her little patient. "There now, Ivorwen! I trust you will be more careful about broken flower pots from now on!"

The child sniffled, and nodded, and her face brightened in surprise as the healer offered her a small sweet taken from her apron pocket.

Her mother gave her an embrace. "You were very, very brave, dearest! Why you were as brave as a hobbit!"

The child's face brightened even more.

Mistress Poppy and Viola exchanged a look of startlement.

Behind them, Thorongil chuckled. "You see that your race is not only a legend here, but is honoured by becoming the very definition of courage."





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