Best Brew in Buckland, The
3. The Golden Stallion, Pt 1
Suddenly Faramir stopped, almost causing Gimli to run into him. "Where are we going?" he asked.
"The Golden Stallion," Éomer answered.
"I did not think we would be leaving the Seventh Circle."
"And where would we go?" Gimli asked, his annoyance showing. "You know better than we that there are no inns in the Citadel."
"Relax, Faramir," Éomer said. "We are only going down one circle, to a perfectly respectable inn. Any guard who sees you shall not question your behaviour -- even if he did recognize you. ANd you are not wearing anything marking you as Steward, are you? I would hope a ranger from Ithilien could pass from one circle to the next unnoticed, if he so desired."
Faramir nodded. "All right," he said, following Éomer and Gimli through the gate.
Five minutes later they walked into a quiet inn and sat down at a table.
"Good evening, my lords."
Faramir looked up and saw a barmaid standing at the foot of their table, smiling at Gimli.
"Who is your friend?" she asked the dwarf.
Gimli looked over to see Faramir gazing down at the table, his raven hair obscuring his face.
"Smile at the pretty lady, lad, she won't bite," Gimli chastised Faramir, then turned to the barmaid. "This is --" Faramir shot him a glance, warning him to be quiet. "You will have to excuse my friend," Gimli said. "I fear he is over-quiet."
"Compared to you, my lord," she replied, "that could be said of most anyone."
"Ha!" Gimli laughed. "I will have you know I am quite subdued for a dwarf."
"Pity Erebor, then," the barmaid said. "What may I get for you and your silent friend?"
Gimli did not think long. "A chicken will do, and some roast potatoes. Yes, and a loaf of bread and a bit of butter, if you have any."
The barmaid smiled. "Aye, I think we can manage that."
"And some Coronation Ales," Éomer added.
"Yes, hlaford min*," she said. "In steins? I think we still have a few left, and I know how you horse-lords like your steins."
Éomer nodded. "Your Rohirric is improving, dear girl. I should come here more often, give you more opportunities to practice."
"You are of course always welcome, Éomer cyning*. Though your officers are also doing their part towards this ... 'cultural exchange,' as they put it." The barmaid nodded to a table in the back corner full of golden-haired men.
"Cultural exchange, indeed!" Éomer laughed. "We do the best we can. If you Gondorians learn our language, then you may come to Edoras and learn the true meaning of the phrase 'quality ale.'"
The barmaid shook her head, smiling. "Let me go get your drinks," she said and walked away.
"Where are the periannath?" Faramir asked. It was the first words he had spoken since they left the Citadel.
"Oh, they are coming," Gimli replied. "The night is still young." Faramir groaned in a voice he thought soft enough to escape notice. He was wrong.
"What is that, brother?" Éomer teased. "Do you regret your actions on Mid-summer?" All three of them laughed.
"Here you are, my lords," the barmaid said, setting three steins on the table and walking away.
Once she had gone Faramir sighed. "Regret does not begin to describe my feelings. I was tricked into signing an order without precedent, which means it more than likely must be cosigned by the king. And the younger is still a child according to his people, by his own admission!"
"Drink up," Éomer laughed, pushing a stein toward Faramir. Faramir eyed it suspiciously. "'Tis only ale, Faramir." Éomer took a large sip of his own drink, then set it down, a slight frown on his face. "And not even particularly strong ale at that. You do drink, do you not?"
"I drink," Faramir replied, then took his own stein. He brought it to his lips and awkwardly lifted the lid, letting it rest against his nose as he took a sip. Apparently he drank too quickly, as he began coughing and Gimli had to slap him on the back. Éomer merely looked at him, an amused look on his face.
"You do not drink often enough, I see," Gimli said.
"'Twas not wise around my father, to drink overmuch. And in Ithilien, when I was away from Father and could safely have indulged a little, there were ... other concerns. I needed a clear mind."
Éomer nodded soberly, the amused look gone. "Aye, that is true enough. Yet a boy must learn to drink somewhere, and if I am to allow my sister to marry a man of the south --" Faramir looked up, a slightly worried look in his eyes, and Éomer smiled to put him at ease "-- and my nephew learn your southern ways, I would not have him play the fool when he comes to Meduseld. Nor would I give him a father who was bested by his own esquire."
Faramir groaned, this time more loudly, then chuckled to himself. "I was not prepared ... "
"Last time, yes," Gimli agreed, "but what of tonight?" Faramir did not answer, so Gimli smiled conspiratorially at Éomer. "If Gondor does not train its lords in the art of drinking, then the duty must fall to dwarf and horse-lord. What say you, Éomer?"
"Aye," he replied. "Best to start at the beginning." Éomer held out his hand in front of Faramir, tracing the side of his thumb with the forefinger of his other hand. "This, brother, is a stein-callus. When you have been drinking many years you too may develop one, but until that point be careful how you open your stein. Always use the pad of your thumb." Éomer slipped his right hand around the handle of his stein and expertly opened the lid, then let it close gently. "Not only is it more comfortable, but you will never do this." Éomer opened the stein lid again, this time with the side of his thumb, then let his thumb slip, causing the lid to clang shut. "Quite embarrassing."
Gimli nodded, then held his own arm out for Faramir to inspect. "When you have been drinking as long as I, you might have the wrist to drink one-handed, but you are not there yet." Gimli grabbed the stein's handle with one hand, then placed the other against the side of the stein. "Lift like so --" Gimli lifted his stein and took a gulp -- "and you will last much longer before your wrists begin to tire." Gimli grasped Faramir's wrist to emphasise how weak it was, then looked at Faramir in surprise.
Faramir laughed. "Think not, Master Dwarf, that I spent my days copying manuscripts. Sword and bow develop drinking-wrists as well as axe, I can assure you."
Gimli did not respond but just wiped his beard with the back of his hand. Éomer opened his stein and tilted it to Faramir for inspection. "Now, the most important thing to remember is that not all ales are the same. Notice the light colour. That means -- as a general rule, of course -- it is not very strong, so you can drink more of it. You will also notice this has a lot of froth; that is another thing you want to look for."
"And why would I want frothy beer?" Faramir asked.
"Because your goal," Gimli said, "is not to find the best-tasting drinks in the city, or even to get drunk. That may be my goal, but it is not yours. You only need to stay sober long enough so you do not make a fool of yourself in front of the halflings." Faramir nodded seriously.
"A goal," Éomer added, "in which you failed miserably last time. Yet we are here to make sure that does not happen again."
"Aye," Faramir said, grinning. "That will not --"
But Faramir was cut short by a round of cheers as the door opened. A cry rose from the back table. "Halle holbytlan! Halle Merry! Halle Pippin!"
The periannath had arrived.
* hlaford min --> my lord
* cyning --> king
* Halle holbytlan! Halle Merry! Halle Pippin! --> Hail the halflings! Hail Merry! Hail Pippin!
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