Stories of Arda Home Page
About Us News Resources Login Become a member Help Search

In the Court of the High King  by Dreamflower

Chapter 13

All of the hobbits were pleased to be making preparations for their first dinner guests at the embassy. They bustled around beginning right after second breakfast.

"We need flowers," said Freddy.

"I noticed a flower stand in the Fourth Circle," said Berilac. "Perhaps Viola and I can go down there and purchase some."

Freddy gave Berilac a look. Beri blushed, but said, "You are not as good at that as Frodo is, or Aunt Esme! But truly, we would run the errand gladly, and will not dally."

"You most certainly won't dally," said Mistress Poppy, who had overheard the exchange. "I'll give my permission for her to go, but have her back before luncheon! There is far too much to do, and many hands make light work."

"Yes, Mistress Poppy!" said Beri. He turned to Freddy. "Now she does that look every bit as well as Aunt Esme," he muttered.

"I heard that, young Brandybuck!"

Freddy laughed. "We do have a lot to do! So long as you will be out anyway, stop at Mistress Ivoreth's bakery on the way back and bring home some more of those lemon tarts for tea."

"As you wish," said Beri, scurrying off to find Viola and tell her of their errand.

Freddy looked at Mistress Poppy. "You do know that you gave them permission to be out for elevenses, don't you?"

She threw back her head and laughed heartily. "I can't put one past you, can I, Fredegar? Viola's been working quite hard since we began going over to the Houses of Healing, and she deserves to have a little time with her swain."

Each of them equipped with a basket, the two young hobbits took themselves off. Viola's brown eyes were sparkling with joy at being out and about, and Berilac could scarcely keep his own eyes off her. They'd had precious little time together since arriving in Minas Tirith, and even less of that alone.

"Tell me more about our guests, Beri," Viola asked.

"Well, Master Calembel is a master stonemason, and the King is putting him in charge of the new capital in the North. Mosco is going to be working closely with him, which is why we took him off to celebrate." Beri shook his head. "We had no idea he'd have such a poor head for drink!  But he's very nice, and his wife seems that way as well. She certainly could have blamed us for the state he came home in, but she did not. And there are two children. All I know of them is that they are a lad and a lass, I mean, a boy and a girl."  They passed through the tunnel to the Fifth Circle.

"It will be nice to have company." She stopped. "Which way do we go now?" She looked around. This was her first time to see this part of the City since their arrival. She had been spending all of her time at the Houses of Healing.

"To the right," said Beri.

They took their time in the Fifth Circle, looking at the magnificent houses, and what they could see of fine courtyards beyond iron gates. "They are beautiful," said Viola, "and I suppose they suit the fine people of the King's Court, but I don't think they feel at all homely."

"I know. Brandy Hall is large, and so are the Great Smials-- I suppose if you take size into account they are larger for hobbits than these houses are for people. But grand as they are they don't feel so imposing, and they feel much more like home. Merry says he thinks it's the difference between cold stone and warm earth.  I mentioned that to Gimli once on our journey here, and he did not agree. He thinks the difference is that these houses were built not for the comfort of their dwellers but to impress their neighbours."

Viola gazed once more at the great white marble house and said thoughtfully, "I think they both are right. We hobbits are more used to the earth than to stone, and so that feels more natural. But even the Great Smials-- which I have to say I found to be imposing at first when I went there to become Mistress Poppy's apprentice-- is built so large because it is needed to accommodate many hobbits. Mistress Serindė told us most of these houses have only one family living there and a few servants, and that even the families do not live in them all the time, but go out of the City in the summers to live at their estates in the country."

Beri nodded. "That's what Calembel told us as well."

"What is Brandy Hall like, Beri? I've never been to Buckland."

Beri's face lit up. "Buckland is beautiful! There is nothing like the Sun on the River. This time of year, the colour of the trees is reflected in the water: golden above and below! And when the apple orchards are in bloom, the whole of Buckland smells of apple blossom.  Brandy Hall is not as large as the Great Smials, but it's not much smaller.  We have more families there, but fewer servants. It's actually older than the Great Smials, and it could have been larger, for Buck Hill is huge! But many of the oldest tunnels of Brandy Hall have been sealed off and some have even been filled in."


"They were once prone to flooding. But those levels are below the lowest of the residence tunnels. There are a few mathom rooms down there from which one can still get into the old diggings. Once Pippin went in alone to explore when he was little, and got lost." Beri gave a shudder. "It took us two days to find him. Merry was frantic, and the rest of us were dreadfully frightened. Pippin bounced right back, of course."*

Viola chuckled. "Of course."

"But the Hall is well dug. It has ceilings high enough for Big Folk, and there are three common kitchens and two common dining rooms on the main level, as well as three parlours, the library and the Master's study.  The next level up are the main family apartments-- that's where my parents and I have ours-- and the apartment of the Master and the one for the Son of the Hall. Merry doesn't live there, of course, since he's living at Crickhollow, but when he comes up to the Hall and stays overnight he uses it. There's a common bathing room on that level, but some of the apartments there have their own water closets and bathing rooms. The upper levels are similar, though most of them have to make do with common bathing rooms and water closets."

"It sounds very civilised."

Beri laughed. "Yes, I know what the rest of the Shire thinks of us 'wild Bucklanders'! We do all sorts of strange things, like swim and go about in boats, and lock our doors and live 'right up agin the Old Forest'! And the gentry will roll up their sleeves and work alongside the servants, even when its not harvest-time! It's not natural!"

Viola smiled. "Somehow when you talk about it, it doesn't sound nearly so wild as everyone thinks-- except the Old Forest part."

"Well, we have the High Hay. It keeps us safe from the trees. I used to think a lot of the stories about it were just tall tales-- until Merry came home and told us what happened there. Even then I did not quite believe all of it, until I met Treebeard! Ah! Here's the Fourth Circle!"

They soon found the flower-seller, who had an abundance of blooms arrayed upon her cart.  She was pleased beyond words to have the visiting pheriannath at her stand, and when she had got over her astonishment, introduced herself as Erien.

"Oh, what lovely flowers!" exclaimed Viola. "At home all the flowers will have been long gone until next spring! I never expected to see so many kinds of flowers here."

"My family dwells south of the City in Lossarnach, in the small valley of Tumladen. It is sheltered by the mountains from the north winds, and has the Sun from the South nearly the whole winter long. It rarely gets even as cold as the City there. My cousins bring me the flowers they grow to sell for them here. They also have a small glass house for some of the less hardy flowers"

The two hobbits spent some time over the flowers: poppies and lavender and even roses and irises (the latter two Erien, explained, were forced in the glass house) and many other flowers. There were also flowers that the hobbits did not recognise. She showed them two lovely flowers of a deep blue-violet colour. At first Beri thought they were the same, but Viola, with her healer's eye quickly noticed a difference. "These are both a sort of crocus. But they aren't the same."

Erien nodded. "Yes, these are both crocus. But as you say, they are not the same: look carefully, little lady. They are both beautiful to look upon. And this one is very valuable, for it is the saffron crocus. See the three stamen, which are much longer? Those are the source of saffron. The other is a deadly poison-- we call it "blue deceiver". But I am told that even the poison can be useful for healers."

Viola nodded. Many plants had poisons that could be useful for healing when used properly. A tincture of foxglove, for example was often useful for heart patients.

"Take note of them well, for they both grow wild during the autumn!"

The hobbits nodded, and then turned to the selection and purchase of some flowers to adorn the guesthouse this evening, and soon Viola's basket was full.  

Beri smiled, and selected a single white rose. He pinched the flower from the stem, and tucked it into Viola's hair, into the yellow ribbon just behind her ear.  She blushed, and Erien laughed, making note of the moment, and pleased to have a little gossip to share about the two-- clearly they were in love!  How sweet!

After paying Erien, they realised it was time for elevenses, and Beri decided to take Viola to The Golden Cockerel.  It was too early to get the chicken pie, so they ordered a platter of honeycakes and tea. Beri would have preferred a beer, but he thought it best not, since he was with Viola. There were still a few of the honeycakes left when the two of them were sated, so they put them in Beri's basket to take home, and decided to head back, remembering the need to stop at the bakery on the way.
Calembel came home early from the Guild Hall.  He knew that Niriel would wish his presence as she prepared for them to dine with the hobbits that evening.

He took his best tunic from the wardrobe and laid it out.  She looked it over. "It will have to do. But you will need a new one soon."

Calembel knew better than to ask her "why?".  She was simply nervous, and she would forget all about the idea by tomorrow. The tunic was only a year old and he wore it seldom-- though more often now than before they had a King.  

Niriel had taken out two gowns, "I cannot decide whether to wear the green one or the blue one. I fear that the blue one makes me look fat.

Calembel blanched and thought quickly. "I think the blue one brings out the beauty of your eyes, my love."

Niriel beamed. "The blue one it is, then."

There was a rap on the door of the chamber, and Niriel turned. Calembel breathed a sigh of relief.

"Mistress?" It was Idril, the children's nursemaid.

Niriel bid her enter, and she came in holding a boy's tunic in her hands.  "I only just discovered this as I was getting his things out for this evening." She held the tunic up, and wiggled her finger through  a hole in the left sleeve just behind where the elbow would be.  "Do you wish me to mend it, or should he wear his second-best?"

"Ah!" Niriel gave an annoyed cluck of the tongue. "Let me go and look at his second-best; I fear it would take you too long to mend it so that it will not show.  But I think he may have outgrown his second best tunic..." She went bustling out of the room behind the nursemaid.

After luncheon the kitchen at the guesthouse was a blur of activity; baking, and cutting, and cleaning, and preparing those things that could be prepared ahead of time.  

Tadiel was amazed at how well all the hobbits worked together in kitchen. Eight of them, scurrying about like so many rabbits, yet they never ran into one another or even got in one another's way.  It was almost like a dance.  She found her own role relegated to reaching things down from high cupboards and washing up the pots and dishes as they were used, to save so much cleaning later. Yet it was such a lesson to watch the small ones working that she did not mind being demoted to scullery maid for a day.

Soon the chickens were trussed and roasting on the hearth. Apple tarts were cooling on the sill, causing Berilac to briefly begin singing "One Hundred Apple Pies" before the evil glares of all the rest brought him to a slow silence.  "I suppose I should begin making my scones now."

Teatime was brief; cups of tea, the lemon tarts from the bakery, and the honeycakes that Beri and Viola had brought back, and it scarcely brought things to a halt.  Avor was preparing the dining room, and Freddy went out to see that all was as it should be.  He had, after a lot of thought, decided to serve the meal Shire style, rather than being waited on by the servants. Avor had been somewhat take aback at this, but after some thought decided it would be nice to have an evening off with Tadiel.

"And we'll do the washing up after our guests leave. With the eight of us it won't take much time."

Jolly, Beri and Viola would see that the food was placed upon the table while Freddy and the others greeted the guests, and then come to be introduced before all of them went in for supper.

Niriel inspected her family carefully, checking the neat darning on Calion's tunic, tucking Ivoreth's hair behind her ears, and arranging Calembel's collar, before looking carefully down at herself.

"You look lovely, Niriel," said Calembel. "Stop fretting. It is not like you to be so fretful."

She smiled. "I suppose you are right, husband. Well, shall we go?"

The children walked between their parents as they made their way up the City.

"Father, how tall are the pheriain?" asked Calion.

"The tallest of the hobbits is Master Fredegar Bolger, and he is half a head shorter than you are.  The others are near to his height, though."

"Why are we not to say pherian?" put in Ivoreth.  "That's what everyone says."

Calembel shook his head. "Not everyone. The King and the Queen say 'hobbits', and many other people of the City have taken it up. It is, after all, their proper name for themselves. If we travel to the North as the King wishes, we shall have to get used to saying it."

"Oh." This silenced the children for a while as they considered the implications of travelling so far away. 

Soon they had entered the Sixth Circle and were approaching the guesthouse…


Everything was ready. The table was being laden with food, and the house gleamed.  There was a knock upon the door.

Their guests had arrived.


*My story "The Brandy Hall Incident"

<< Back

Next >>

Leave Review
Home     Search     Chapter List