1. Just a Touch
I see more than a few men drinkin' their lives away, if not their troubles. Shadow's left its mark all over this realm, and too many good men've turned to drink to help them cope. If you ask me, strong drink isn't going to help any of us, but that's none of my business. My job's just to keep folks happy.
Most of the King's men were sipping wine. Actually, some were doing more than sipping, if you take my meaning. But when the King threw them a sharp look, they slowed down.
The King himself hadn't had a drop, so I asked him if he'd like some Old Winyards I'd managed to acquire from the Hobbits I've been trading with.  I'd heard that the King was acquainted with some of the wee folk and thought maybe I could entice him into a cup of the strong stuff. I don't mind tellin' you that part of my offer was made from sheer hospitality--that's my job!--but part was from curiosity. Just wanted to see if the King was accustomed to using wine to cope with the headaches of his life. Wouldn't be a bit surprised, hard as he works.
"Just a touch," the King replied.
Seems he's a man of moderation, that one.
Just as I finished pouring, one of the guests who'd had a bit too much to drink--not one of the King's men, mind you--grabbed the backside of Silima, my serving girl. Now there's somethin' I just won't tolerate. Silima's a good girl, she is. And young. Shame she has to be 'round a lot of drunken men, but her family needs the money, and I keep an eye out for her. But by and large, my guests are good folk like you, so it's not often that I have to come to Silima's rescue.
Young Silima was so taken aback by the affront that she dropped the tray she'd been carrying. Saw her wipe a tear from her cheek, too. Amazing what a man can do with just a touch.
Now as I was sayin', gropin' Silima's not something I tolerate, so I moved to have a stern word with the man who'd touched her. Never got the chance, though; the King stood up so quickly that his chair fell over. He said naught. Just glared at the fellow, who quickly lowered his head. Everyone watchin' knew that there'd be no more trouble. Then the King went over to Silima and helped her gather up the broken glass. Imagine that! Silima was so stunned she just stared at him for a moment before she continued cleanin' up.
The King never said a word to Silima, but when the mess was cleaned up, he laid his hand on her arm in such a gentle manner that I saw the tension flow out of Silima's face. She knew she was safe.
Yes, amazing what a man can do with just a touch.
 For more information on the innkeeper's trade with Hobbits, see This New King, the first vignette in this series.
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