An Unfortunate Series of Events |
Summary: Éowyn’s carefully planned banquet seems doomed to disaster.
Disclaimer: The Lord of the Rings does not belong to me.
Characters: Éowyn ,Faramir, Aragorn, Arwen, Elanor, OCS
“Should we sit the Sultan opposite to his Ambassador or not?” asked Éowyn.
“They are on good terms with one another,” said Faramir. “I think the most important detail to remember is not to place the Great Raja next to a lady, as their culture forbids them to sit next to a woman who is neither their wife nor concubine.”
Éowyn snorted. “That would include half the women of Rhûn then if even half of what I have heard concerning the Raja is true!”
“Let us hope it is simply idle gossip,” said Faramir. He arose from his chair in Éowyn’s solar and went over to the window and looked out. “At least, the visiting dignitaries will see Ithilien at its most beautiful,” he said.
“It was an excellent idea of yours, my love, to suggest all the different rulers meet here,” said Éowyn.
“I hope only that they do not end up at each other’s throats,” said Faramir.
Éowyn laughed somewhat grimly. “If they but try, my brother and Aragorn would soon restore order, as would you, my love. My main concern is whether they will be satisfied with the food or not.”
“You fret too much, Éowyn. We have an excellent cook and her assistant is almost as good as she is,” said Faramir. “I am hopeful that all will go well and this time next week we will be bidding farewell to our contented guests.
“I hope you are right, Faramir,” said Éowyn. “We shall see.”
The King and Queen, together with their children and servants, arrived the day before the other guests. Aragorn and Faramir desired to discuss details of the treaty they hoped to sign with the other rulers while the ladies planned entertainment for the guests. Arwen planned to sing some Elvish songs in the evening while Éowyn’s finest horses would show off their paces during the afternoon.
The ladies decided to take a stroll in the gardens before dinner. Their younger children were playing a ball game together under the watchful eye of their nursemaids. Arwen had brought only two ladies- in- waiting with her, Lady Idril, who was a skilled musician and would accompany the Queen while she sang and Mistress Elanor Gamgee, the youngest of the ladies. Elanor walked sedately around the gardens for a while then asked leave to join the children, which Arwen willingly granted.
“How does Elanor like life at court?” Éowyn asked once the Hobbit lass was out of earshot.
“I think she misses the green fields of the Shire,” said Arwen. “That is one reason I brought her here with me. She does not complain of homesickness, but I felt a visit to Ithilien would be good for her. Elanor is a delightful girl and I have come to love her dearly. She is a talented seamstress and has a sweet singing voice. She is also expert at brushing my hair without pulling it. The children love her too and she delights in playing with them.”
“I expect Elanor misses her brothers and sisters,” said Éowyn.
“I have asked her several times if she is unhappy and wishes to go home,” said Arwen. “She says, though, that she is proud to be the first Hobbit lass in history to wait upon the Queen. Like her father, she loves all things Elvish, so I have given her the freedom of my library. I think she is gradually becoming more at home here.”
Just then, the cook came hurrying along the path towards them, clutching a letter in one hand, and dabbing her eyes with her apron with the other.
“Whatever is the matter, Lindeth?” Éowyn exclaimed.
“I have just received a message from the City that my mother is very ill,” sobbed the woman.
“You must go to her at once,” said Éowyn. “You can borrow a horse from the stables and you must take anything you need that might help her from my storeroom.”
“You are very kind, my lady,” said the cook, wiping her eyes and giving a loud sniff. “But what of the banquet with so many grand guests coming?”
“I’m certain Níniel will manage perfectly well,” said Éowyn. “You have trained her to make your recipes perfectly. Now, go and pack so that you will reach your mother ere nightfall.”
“Thank you, my lady,” said Lindeth. She scurried away, still dabbing at her eyes.
Éowyn sighed. “This could not have happened at a worse time, but what else could I do?”
“I have sampled Níniel’s cooking and it was delicious,” said Arwen. “I am certain all will be well.”
“You speak wisely,” said Éowyn. “The kitchen maids are very competent too. Lindeth has taught them all well.”
The ladies walked for a little longer and then returned to the house.
The household arose early the next morning to make the final preparations for the arrival of the distinguished guests. After visiting the kitchens, Éowyn was feeling confident that the guests would enjoy the banquet later that day. She sat down to enjoy a leisurely breakfast with Faramir and the King and Queen. As it was an informal family meal, Arwen’s ladies were eating with them too.
“How are your parents faring, Mistress Gamgee?” Faramir asked Elanor.
“They are well, thank you, my lord. My father asked me to convey his greeting to you in his last letter. He is pleased with the way his roses are coming along this year and-”
Just then, a loud crash and a scream were heard from the direction of the kitchens. Aragorn with his long legs was the first to reach the scene of the accident. The others followed in his wake. They found Níniel was lying on the floor in front of the kitchen range, her leg twisted an unnatural angle. When Aragorn knelt beside her and gently felt her leg, she whimpered in pain.
“I’m sorry,” Níniel whispered. “I tripped over the woodpile and fell. I’ll be right as rain if I can just rest for a moment.”
“I fear you have broken your leg, mistress,” Aragorn said gently. “You will need it set, then several weeks of rest while the bone knits.”
“But, I can’t sire, begging your pardon, sire,” said Níniel. “There’s all the guests coming later and the meal not ready!” She made a vain attempt to get up and fell back with a loud groan.
“You must stay still,” said Aragorn. “I will give you some poppy to ease the pain then the bone must be set. Faramir, can you help me carry your cook to her room, please? Éowyn, I will need your assistance. Arwen, could you get my bag of medical supplies from my room, please?”
“But what about Lord Faramir and Lady Éowyn’s banquet?” said one of the kitchen maids.
“We shall have to cancel the feast. It is too late to bring a cook from the city,” said Éowyn. “Alas! We shall just have to feed the guests who are already here on whatever simple fare the maids can prepare.”
Faramir ran his hands through his hair distractedly. “This is an ill chance indeed. Some of the rulers might well take offence. They expect the very best.”
“I’m so sorry, my lord,” said Níniel.
“It is not your fault, mistress,” Faramir said firmly. “Accidents happen. Maybe if we send a messenger to the City at once explaining we have no cook, we can prevent some of the guests from setting out. ”
“You have me,” said a soft voice. “There is no need to cancel the dinner.”
Every one turned to stare at Elanor who had been hovering on the fringes of the group.
“We are pleased you are here with us, Mistress Elanor,” said Éowyn, “but I cannot see how your presence affects our needing to cancel the dinner.”
“I am a Hobbit,” said Elanor, “and I am also the daughter of Samwise Gamgee, the best cook in Hobbiton. If Mistress Níniel could just tell me what she was planning to prepare and the maids could help me, I will cook the dinner for your guests.”
“But there will be twenty-four people at the table all with different tastes,” Éowyn said doubtfully.
Elanor laughed. “There are more than a dozen of us at home for every meal and mother and father love having company round. My Aunt Marigold won’t eat fish and Aunt Daisy doesn’t like apples and Uncle Hamson insists on plenty of pepper and onions with every meal. I doubt your guests are very much different.”
“If you could wait to set my leg a little while, I can tell Mistress Gamgee what recipes I planned to prepare,” said Níniel. “We have already made a start on some of the dishes.”
“Very well,” said Aragorn. “I shall give you something for the pain first though and we must not delay for very long.”
Éowyn shook her head distractedly. “Thank you, Elanor, I shall be pleased to accept your help.”
Two hours or so later, Níniel’s leg had been set and Éowyn and one of the housemaids had put her to bed, where she rested in a poppy- induced slumber. The kitchen was a hive of activity. Elanor was humming merrily between issuing instructions. The distinguished guests were due to arrive at any moment.
“I hope Elanor knows what she is doing,” Éowyn said doubtfully after putting her head around the kitchen door for about the tenth time.
“She is a Hobbit,” said Aragorn. “Cooking is in their blood.”
“Bilbo used to sometimes like to cook for my father’s guests at Rivendell,” said Arwen. “His meals were always delicious.”
“We shall soon know the outcome,” Éowyn said grimly. “I only hope the Sultan or the Grand Raja, or both of them will not decide to wage war on us if the meal does not meet their expectations.”
The distinguished guests sat round Faramir’s large dining table, their jewels and silks gleaming in the candlelight. Bowls of fragrant roses from Éowyn’s garden adorned the table, and the cutlery and glasses had been polished until they gleamed. The plates were of a special design that Faramir had commissioned depicting a horse beneath a full moon to represent both Ithilien and the Mark.
A delicious aroma wafted from the kitchens and the maids appeared carrying the first course on silver trays. It was a creamy mushroom soup flavoured with a variety of herbs and spices and served with freshly baked rolls.
Éowyn held her breath as the guests sampled the food before them.
A collective murmur of “Mmmmmmmm” rippled round the table. The following courses were received with equal appreciation.
“Did I not tell you that Hobbits were excellent cooks?” Aragorn remarked later.
“I had no idea just how excellent,” said Éowyn. “Both the Sultan and the Grand Raja wanted to buy Elanor from us. At least they seemed understanding when we politely declined.”
“You should have told them that Elanor’s father would wage war on anyone who dared to try take his daughter from him!” Aragorn said drily. “I could just imagine him hitting the Sultan and the Grand Raja on the head with his frying pan!”
“I narrowly escaped such a fate, I believe when I questioned Frodo.” said Faramir. “Master Samwise certainly gave me a piece of his mind.”
“I am going to thank Elanor with the gift of a pony,” said Éowyn. “She shall have the pick of the finest from my herd. I shall also invite her to visit us whenever her duties permit.”
“She will like that,” said Arwen. “Elanor is her father’s daughter and a very special girl in her own right as well.”