A Convivial Evening by Dreamflower

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Story Notes:

 (Written for 20_rings in 2005)

Title: A Convivial Evening
Theme: Set #2, Theme #6, “Beer”
Genre (s): General
Pairing (s): N/A
Rating: G
Notes: This was one of several entries written in long-hand to while away the hot, powerless days after Hurricane Katrina.


Author's Chapter Notes:



 .

A CONVIVIAL EVENING

I was uncertain as to what I should expect, as I stood at the door to Master Bilbo Baggins’ apartments in Imladris--Rivendell, as the Northerners call it. Hobbits, as the halflings call themselves, are still very much a mystery to me. I have had a brief but compelling conversation with the Ringbearer, and I find him to be an exceptional person of much quiet dignity, with a keen intelligence, but sadly lacking in any self-conceit. He reminds me a good deal of my younger brother. Faramir, too, often carries modesty and self-effacement too far. But I know what is the cause of Faramir’s self-doubts; I do not yet know why Frodo Baggins is that way. And I have noted that when it comes to wielding his authority with his younger cousins, he is quite confident and firm with them, though never lacking in affection.

Merry and Pippin I have come to appreciate--they have charming personalities, the both of them. They are earnest learners, as I try to teach them somewhat of sword-play and self-defense. Merry has a good deal of brash self-confidence, and his sly boasts are very often true. He also has a natural talent with his blade. Pippin is a sweet lad with a tender heart, but when it comes to sparring with his cousin he does not hold back. He is quick with his wits as well, though also more impulsive and less apt to consider consequences. Both of them will soon learn enough to make a foe cautious in spite of their small size. Nevertheless, they often say or do things that baffle me; I confess that some of their concerns seem very odd. I recall that when I told them my family consisted only of my father and brother, they were quite worried, until I confessed that I also had my Uncle Imrahil, and several cousins in Dol Amroth. This seemed to reassure them, even as it worried them. They seemed concerned that I had not included my uncle and cousins as family at the first, and feared it indicated some family feud or bad blood between us. Their jests as well are often obscure to me, as though there is some secret language between them. And woe betide me if I should cause their weapons practice to go even a few minutes past a regular meal. I do believe I could set a clock by the rumblings of Pippin’s stomach.

I fear I do not know Master Gamgee at all yet. Samwise seems shy of me, and somewhat cautious and wary around me. I hope that this will soon be remedied as we travel together.

And I began with some very embarrassing misconceptions about Master Bilbo Baggins. I am afraid that I misunderstood his standing in the House of Lord Elrond, and, partly based on his droll manner of speech, had taken him for no more than a comical, and possibly senile, old fool. I was soon set straight by the grave attention paid him at the Council, and after speaking with him a few more times, began to realize that he was a person of sharp intelligence, and had a certain amount of authority due him not only due to his advanced years, but also to his social standing in his homeland. For though he had forsaken the Shire, it was quite clear by the relief his younger kin felt in finding him here, and in their quick submission to his authority as the senior member of their family. I then realized that Lord Elrond had consulted him as to who would be sent with the Ringbearer as well. So, although I had thankfully never said anything untoward to the elderly hobbit, I felt a bit embarrassed in his presence, realizing the injustice I had dealt him at the first. I was therefore very surprised to receive this invitation to his small domain this evening.

Of course, when he explained that he wished to get to know those who would be accompanying his nephew on this journey, I accepted at once.

I had barely rapped on the door, when it popped open. “Ah, Lord Boromir! How pleasant! Do come in! Most of the others are here already! We now await only the arrival of Aragorn and Gandalf.”

The spacious rooms were furnished with a combination of furniture meant for persons of both small and tall stature. I was led to a large overstuffed chair. Young Pippin came and sat on a footstool next to it.

“Hullo, Boromir!” he grinned cheekily. “I’m glad you came to this little party!”

“Why how could I turn down an invitation when I knew you would be a guest as well, you little imp,” I replied. Pippin laughed at my sally, as I knew he would. Of all the four hobbits, I feel the most comfortable jesting with him.

“Pip!” said Merry sharply. “Stir your stumps and get over here and help with the refreshments. And I don’t mean by that to sample it for quality!”

Pippin stuck his tongue out at Merry, but laughingly went over to the table where the five hobbits were laying out a lavish spread. I saw there breads, sliced meats and cheeses, fruits, several kinds of pastries and cakes and any number of other tasty items. It seemed to me enough food for thirty, yet we would be only ten in number tonight. Of course, the hobbits would probably eat twice as much as the rest of us put together. The first time I watched Pippin eat, I was worried that he would make himself sick with all the quantities of food I watched him consume, only to have Merry turn to me, in all seriousness, and say “I’m worried about Pip. He seems to be off his feed. I suppose it’s all the fear for Frodo that has blunted his appetite.” I have since learned that Merry was quite right. I do not know what hobbits do with all the food they eat.

But of more interest to me was the cask which Bilbo, with the help of Samwise, was preparing to tap. Lined up in front of it were a number of mugs, five in hobbit size and five of a regular size. The presence of such small mugs made me realize once more that Bilbo was an honored member of the community here in Rivendell, and not simply a passing guest. From what Merry had told me, the elderly hobbit had been living here for very nearly seventeen years.

The Elf, Legolas, was standing near the back of the room, watching the procedure with curious eyes. I get the feeling that hobbits are almost as much a mystery to him as they are to me. Like most Elves, he gives off an aura of unseen power, but he does not seem so aloof as the Elves who dwell here. I know little of his land of Mirkwood save a few tales, but one thing I do know: it has been very nearly as besieged by the Enemy as Gondor. And I must try not to let myself be deceived by Prince Legolas’ seeming youth. I know not what his age is, but he is most decidedly older than I by several hundred years at the least.

The Dwarf, Gimli, is displaying a good deal of interest in the cask as well, but Master Baggins laughs him off. “All in good time, my dear Gimli. We must wait for the other guests to arrive.”

I have as yet had no real conversation with the Dwarf. I have of course, spoken to him in passing, and when Lord Elrond and Mithrandir were giving us information we needed for the journey. But I have not spoken with him at all informally. Perhaps this evening will help to remedy that. From what I have observed of him, he seems to be very blunt-spoken, but that, I have been told, is a characteristic of all Dwarves. He also seems to have a very dry sense of humor, and is as quick to aim a jest at himself as at others.

There was another rap on the door, and at the same moment, Bilbo, Frodo and Merry all said “Get the door, Pippin!” I have noticed that he is quite cheerful about the way he is constantly ordered about, and does not seem to resent it in the least. A Gondorian youth would have taken offense at the casual orders, and obeyed sullenly if at all.

He opened the door with a grin. “Strider! And Gandalf! Come in, come in! Bilbo won’t let us touch a thing until everyone is here!”

Aragorn smiled, and greeted him cheerfully. Gandalf looked at him with an indulgent twinkle in his eye. “And of course, Peregrin Took, that is more important to you than our company, I am sure!” he said gruffly.

“Of course, Gandalf,” he said. “After all, food’s food and beer’s beer, and what’s more important than that?” He gave another of his giggles when he said it, and the old Wizard just shook his head.

I am amazed at how cheeky all the hobbits are with the Wizard. I, too, have known Mithrandir from my childhood. He was ever a good friend to my brother, and was always kind to me as well, in spite of the fact that our father was never more than coldly polite to him. Yet even though I have known him at least as long as the younger hobbits, I would never dream of being so familiar with him. Yet he seems to take it in good humor, using a gruff and cranky tone with them, and scolding Pippin frequently, all with that same fond look in his eye.

Aragorn is another with whom I have been hoping to have a talk. He is, after all, the only other Man in the Company, and if we should succeed in our task, it is more than likely he shall one day be my King. But what can a Ranger of the North know of the White City? Is he worthy of his blood? This I long to know. He was reared among the Elves--I hear him call Lord Elrond “father”, and he calls the sons of Elrond his brothers. He certainly does not present the picture of a king; he dresses in the worn leathers of a Ranger, and allows the hobbits to call him by the familiar nickname of “Strider”. They are certainly impressed with him, and from what Merry and Pippin have told me, he faced down five of the Nine when the Ringbearer was wounded, armed with naught but a flaming brand. And, too, when I look at him, there is something very familiar about his face, and even his voice. Perhaps it is merely the stamp of his Númenorean blood. I have a great curiosity about him.

Perhaps he has a similar curiosity about me, for even as I was thinking of him, he came over to me.

“My Lord Boromir, I have been hoping to speak with you away from the formalities of conferences and councils; yet I have been much abroad scouting with my brothers, and no chance has arisen until now.”

“I am glad to have this opportunity, as well, my Lord Aragorn.”

He gave a wide smile. “Listen to us. Shall we dispense with ‘my lord’? For we are to be travelling companions for many long months. Please feel free to call me Aragorn, or even ‘Strider’ as the hobbits do.”

“I would never be so presumptuous as that; however I shall call you ‘Aragorn’ if you will call me ‘Boromir’.”

“Done.” He reached out and I clasped his hand briefly to seal the bargain. His grip was firm, but not crushing--he felt no need to impress his strength upon me, as some Men do upon meeting. “It has been many a year since I was in Minas Tirith. Tell me how does the White City fare?”

“You have been in Gondor?” I was surprised.

“Many years ago, I had some business there.”

He did not seem inclined to say more, and I did not press him. Perhaps he would tell me more when we became better acquainted.

“The City is fair, but grim. My father prepares her for war even now. The enemy is pressing us hard. Your strength will be welcome there, and the return of the King would put heart into our people.”

“Yet would your father truly welcome me? I think my presence there might trouble him.”

This troubled me somewhat as well. My father has always held that the Stewards were all the nobler for never having claimed the kingship, yet I know that he also grips his own authority with a strong hand. Still, he has always trusted my judgment. I think if he were satisfied that Aragorn was who he said he was, he would accept it. I am sure of it. Really, I am. Of course he would.

“He would,” I said aloud, “need to be sure of who you are. But I think that he would welcome any aid to the realm that could be given.” I thought to turn the subject. “What do you think of the hobbits?” I asked.

He laughed. “I have known Bilbo for many a year, and have observed hobbits as I guarded their lovely little land of the Shire. I thought that I knew somewhat of hobbits. But it is only since travelling with those four that I learned just how little I truly knew. Their toughness and resilience is remarkable. A strong Man would have succumbed to that Morgul-blade in a matter of days, or even hours. Frodo bore his wound for over two weeks, uncomplaining, even at times attempting to be cheerful for the sake of his companions. And I was surprised at how well the younger hobbits kept up with us--Pippin especially felt the pangs of our short rations. Yet ever their care was for their wounded one, and they were always by his side.”

“They are creatures out of legend to me,” I confessed. “We have the occasional nursery tale of the mischievous pheriannath, the little folk who are fond of pranks, but are shy and seldom seen. Most folk in Gondor do not even believe that they exist.”

I do not know what he would have replied, for just then, Master Baggins announced that the beer was ready to be served. Merry brought two mugs over to us, and encouraged us to find our food at the table “before Pippin gets a chance at it, and leaves it bare as a field after locusts.”

The Dwarf Gimli quaffed his beer quickly, and rubbing a rough hand across the foam that flecked his beard, said “By Durin’s beard! That is a most excellent beer, Master Bilbo! Where did you come by it?”

“From the cellars here at Rivendell, of course,” that worthy replied.

Elves made this?” he sounded incredulous. “I thought Elves only drank wine!”

Bilbo chuckled, and the Elf Legolas said, with the slightly patronizing air he tended to use with the Dwarf, “That is a common misconception. Elves in general, are far more fond of wine. But we certainly like beer and ale as well.”

“In fact, they are uncommonly good brewers when they choose to be,” said Bilbo, “but I must confess that they do not broach the beer casks as often as i would prefer.”

Mithrandir laughed, and said “My dear Bilbo, if they broached the beer casks as often as you preferred, you would soon be an avowed tippler!”

“Now, Gandalf, I seem to recall that you are fond of your beer as well as your pipe, so don’t take that tone with me!”

“Well,” said Pippin, who was at the tap and filling his own mug once more, “I’d say this is even better than the beer at The Golden Perch!”

“I think you’re right, Pip,” agreed Merry, who waited behind him to refill his mug as well. “What do you say, Sam?” he turned to Samwise, who was right behind him.

“I don’t know, sir, as I never got the chance to try the beer at The Golden Perch. But I’d say it’s at least as good as The Green Dragon, though it’s not so brown.”

Frodo nodded. He was still on his first mug. I had noticed that he seemed to be just a bit more abstemious than the others. “I think that you are right, Sam.”

This led to a discussion of different inns and the excellence or poor quality of their beers and ales, and from there we soon, as it will happen in a company of males, of whatever races, began to tell stories of times when we had managed to be the worse for drink. I told of the first time I took Faramir out to get drunk, and how he somehow turned the tables on me, so that both of us were somewhat more than mellow when we made our way back to the Citadel. It was only the kindness of an older Guardsman that we slipped in without our father discovering our folly.

Mischievously, Frodo told of Merry’s initiation into over-indulgence, and had all of us laughing, but when I asked Pippin about his first such experience, he looked at his toes, and Merry quickly said, “Oh, no one wants to hear that story.” The hobbits looked so solemn at this that I wondered what the tale might be, but Merry went on “How about you, Gimli?”

“Dwarves never get drunk!” he proclaimed. “Although it would not do, perhaps to ask my cousin OÍn if that is really true.”

“It would not do to ask me, either,” said Bilbo. “For I have seen enough Dwarves in their cups to know. I will confess, however, that it is rare. Dwarves have a remarkable capacity for drink, and Dwarven ale is a potent brew!” He looked at Legolas. “And I know that Elves are not immune to over-indulgence either. I seem to remember a couple of Mirkwood Elves who made themselves rather merry over some wine, and thus allowed me to make away with some of my friends.”

Legolas burst out into laughter. “My father still rails over that from time to time. But the wine of Dorwinion is remarkably potent, and even by Elves not meant to be drunk unwatered!”

We now listened to some of Bilbo’s reminiscences of his adventure in Erebor. Although I had heard his tale at the Council, there had been so much else told there, that I am afraid his story was rather lost on me. Now, as I listened, with some additional remarks from Gimli, and even Legolas, it suddenly dawned on me: this small being had bearded a dragon in it’s lair and lived to tell of it. He had survived a series of mishaps on his own with remarkable ingenuity and courage. And it was through his quick wits that a war between those who should have been allies was averted, and enabled them to overcome the Enemy’s forces in the Battle of Five Armies, tales of which had come down to us even in Gondor. I stared at him as if seeing him for the first time.

The hobbits were making more inroads on the food, and I rose and took a bit more to nibble on as well.

Pippin grinned up at me. “We’ll make a hobbit of you yet, Boromir.”

I chuckled. I can think of worse fates.

The evening began to wind down. Mithrandir took his leave, saying he had promised to speak to Lord Elrond, and then Aragorn as well made his excuses. I confess it, I was the last except for the hobbits, to leave.

The younger hobbits, under Frodo’s direction were clearing away the signs of the party, as Master Bilbo escorted me to the door.

“I cannot thank you enough,” I said, “for inviting me here this evening. I have had a delightful time, and you are a most excellent host.” I meant every word. I have not felt so relaxed since I left Gondor.

The old hobbit looked up with a twinkle in his eye. “I had my reasons. I am confiding into your care, and that of the others, those whom I hold most dear. I needed to know that they will be with those I can trust.”

I nodded. “And do you think that you can trust me?”

“As well as any,” he said. “I think that you are a noble and honorable Man, and will do all in your power to protect my dear ones.”

“Thank you.” And as I made my way to my room, I felt a deep respect for that venerable hobbit, and I realized how honored I was to have his respect in return. I vowed not to let him down.

 




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