Best Brew in Buckland, The
6. The Drunken Dragon Pt 1
The innkeeper finished serving the three soldiers on the other side of the bar -- Forlong's men, Faramir guessed from their uniforms -- then turned to his new customers. "May I help you?"
"A pitcher of Dragon's Best, medium, and five mugs," Éomer replied. "And two E.P.'s for the halflings --"
"Three," Faramir interrupted. When Éomer looked at him in surprise, Faramir replied, "Merry's tasted good, so I thought I would try one of my own."
Éomer nodded. "Three, then, and a basket of rolls, if you please." The innkeeper took a pitcher from under the bar and turned to the tap behind him to fill it. "If you only had one plate of food," Éomer explained, "a few rolls will do you no harm. Besides, 'tis better to eat while you drink." The innkeeper placed the pitcher and five empty mugs in front of Faramir and Éomer. They carried them to the table, then returned to the bar for the E.P.'s.
Éomer took out his money pouch to pay, and the innkeeper gawked at it, recognising the royal seal of Rohan. This was no mere soldier.
"I am sorry, my lord -- your majesty --" he began, but Éomer forestalled him.
"Not tonight. I leave my title at the door." He quickly pulled out some coins, laid them on the counter, and returned the money pouch to his pocket.
"Of course, your ma -- my lo -- sir," he said. He bowed, then took the coins and went to the kitchen for the rolls.
Éomer and Faramir carried the three drinks to their waiting friends. When they reached the table Éomer filled two of the mugs and handed one to Gimli, then sat down. Faramir pushed two of the E.P.'s to Merry and Pippin at the end of the table, then took his own seat between Gimli and Éomer.
"No ale for you, my lord?" Pippin asked.
Faramir tapped the side of his half-pint. "Perhaps later. But ale I could drink at home, if I so desired. This, however --"
"Your lord has good taste," Merry laughed, toasting Pippin. "Cheers," he said, then downed nearly half of his drink.
No sooner had Faramir settled into his seat than he heard his name being called from across the room in astonished tones. "Faramir?"
A quiet settled over the room as the realisation dawned that the Steward of Gondor was drinking with them that evening. Everyone -- Faramir, his friends, and the other drinkers -- looked at the two young men crossing the room toward Faramir's table. They were obviously brothers and shared many features with Faramir, though they appeared to be somewhat younger than him. They both had dark hair and sea-grey eyes, and their matching silver rings marked them as members of Prince Imrahil's household.
"Elphir! Erchirion!" Faramir cried, as much to break the quiet as anything. "Sit, sit." He took an uneasy sip from his E.P. and motioned toward the benches. Merry and Pippin scooted down, and the brothers scuffled with each other as they sank into the empty spaces across from Éomer and Faramir. "I had no idea you were back in the city," Faramir said once they were settled.
"We only returned yesterday," Erchirion replied.
Elphir turned to the others and explained, "Father sent us home after the king's coronation, to see that everything fared well there."
The innkeeper approached with the basket of bread and laid it on the table. He started to bow to Éomer, then remembered that the king of Rohan had asked him not to. His eyes rested on Faramir, and he tried to decide how to address the man he now knew to be his Steward.
"I too leave my title at the door," Faramir said before the innkeeper could comment. "Please, my good sir, forget that I am Faramir, Steward of Gondor. And I beg you to forget my name entirely, and not to mention that I was here this evening."
"I can do that easy enough," the innkeeper replied, then nodded to the table and backed away.
Once the innkeeper had left, Faramir said to the others, "You do remember my cousins from Dol Amroth, do you not? This is Elphir," he nodded to the man in the blue tunic, "and that is Erchirion," he indicated the one in green.
Éomer poured ale into two of the mugs and offered them to Elphir and Erchirion. He clinked the mugs with his own and took a sip of his ale. "Yes, I know your faces," he said, "but not simply because you resemble Faramir. I met many people at the coronation, yet you seem somehow more familiar."
"Lothiriel is their sister," Faramir clarified, and Éomer's face brightened in recognition. You remember her at least, I see."
"Your sister is not easy to forget," Éomer informed the brothers, a dreamy look in his eyes.
Elphir laughed at that. "I will pass along your compliment, my lord." He took a long pull on his ale and made an appreciative noise, then turned to Faramir. "So what brings you to the Fourth Circle, cousin? You do not often come to the inns, nor stray so far from the Citadel."
"Friends," Faramir said, patting Gimli congenially on the shoulder, "if they may be so named."
"Humph!" Gimli objected. "'If they may be so named,'" he imitated Faramir. "What have I or anyone else done that your glorious stewardship would deem unfriendly?"
"Nay, nothing you did," Faramir answered. "I speak of what you did not do. Reach for your money pouches, for instance, when we left the Golden Stallion."
Gimli laughed at that. "I was unaware that Gondorians insult each other so. Yet if that is the custom, I shall try to make amends." He made as if to repay Faramir for his drink.
Erchirion reached across the table and restrained Gimli's arm. "It is not the custom; my cousin is merely being difficult."
Faramir raised an eyebrow at that. "Difficult? I have not begun to be difficult. If I wished to trouble my friends, I might ask these fine periannath to honour their pledge made on Mid-summer to teach me their drinking songs."
"And we did," Merry replied. "Did you forget them already?"
"Aye, as I told you I would," Faramir answered. "You also promised to re-teach them."
"I would think," Éomer commented, "that you would not want any reminders of that evening."
Pippin finished his EP and poured himself a pint of ale. Noticing the pitcher was now empty he stood to fetch some more, but Merry stopped him.
"No, you don't, Pip," Merry said, also standing up and reaching for the pitcher. "If you drop the pitcher they will charge us for the spilt ale. Let me get it."
"Nay," Elphir insisted, motioning for them to sit down. "Let Dol Amroth honour the periannath this evening." He took the pitcher and went to the bar.
"Forgetting the night will do me no good," Faramir said at last, taking another sip of his half-pint, "and I would learn more of your hobbit-lore, Merry and Pippin, ere you depart for your homes."
"Imagine drinking songs being hobbit-lore!" Pippin exclaimed. "Wouldn't Sam's Gaffer have a thing or two to say about that?"
"As would the rest of the Shire," Merry laughed. Then his face took on an expression of mock seriousness. "Yet I would not presume to tutor such high lords and veteran drinkers as I see before me." He smiled. "An exchange, perhaps --"
"Exchange, indeed!" Gimli cried. "I have taught you my share of dwarf-tunes."
"But we know few Gondorian songs," Pippin replied, "and none from Dol Amroth."
Elphir returned with a full pitcher in one hand and two mugs in the other. He poured a fresh mug for himself, then sat down.
"An exchange, then," Faramir said. He had been carefully considering Merry's words and decided he would teach a few of the tunes he had heard the Rangers singing as they drank in the barracks, in exchange for some Shire-songs.
"Of what?" Elphir asked.
"That is a good question," Éomer replied. "We could each sing a song in turn, but that hardly seems sporting." He looked over at Faramir and, noticing his still-unfinished drink, said, "Are you still not done with that?" Faramir obliged, and Éomer poured him a new pint as Erchirion explained Merry's proposal to his brother.
Elphir frowned contemplatively for a moment, then said, "Why not make a game of it, then? Say I sing a song from Dol Amroth, and when I finish I knock my mug against, for example, my lord Peregrin's. Then he would sing a song and knock someone else's mug. After you finish your song everyone must take a sip of their own ale. If you cannot think of a song on your turn, you must drain your mug."
Everyone seemed agreeable to the idea, and Gimli poured Merry a pint of the ale, then topped up all the other mugs.
* There are many echoes in this chapter back to the Prancing Pony. This is intentional. If a quote sounds more Tolkienesque than my usual, that means it's probably Tolkien's. Credit where credit's due and all that.
* It is not technically true that Merry and Pippin promised to re-teach their drinking songs to Faramir. The hobbits suggested the drinking songs, and when Faramir said he would not remember the songs Legolas said that they would re-teach them some other night. However, at that point Faramir was fairly inebriated and more than likely does not remember the exact details too clearly.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.