22. A Future Is Discussed
Owen stirred the fish stew and replaced the cover of the pot. He had stretched it by adding mushrooms and vegetables along with some herbs that Eli had suggested as substitutes for the more familiar ones he had used in the past. He grinned to himself wondering what that famous Creole chef would think if he knew one of his recipes was being used in a different time and world. As he moved to the cupboard to remove some bowls Aravir and Durham entered followed by the hound.
“You have acquired one of Derufin’s hounds I see.” Aravir stroked the silky head and pulled gently at the long ears. “He should be a good hunter and guard for you.”
“So Master Derufin tells me. So far all he has accomplished is to eat us out of house and home.” Owen grinned. “But he has proven to be a good companion.”
“Derufin is chary whom he entrusts his hounds to. He has refused many who would pay much to acquire one. You must have gained his regard.” Argonul commented as he joined the others at the table.
Surprised Owen stopped mid-stride shaking his head before placing the bowels on the table and removing a large loaf of bread and goat cheese from the lean too. “I do not know of any service we may have rendered that would have so inclined him, sir. In fact, all of the villagers have provided us with much aid.”
Argonul smiled and sniffed appreciatively as Owen removed the fish stew from the fire and carried it carefully to the table where he placed it on a small flat slab of slate left over from the earlier repair work. At the puzzled expressions of the men he grinned.
“Eli insists so that we do not damage all the work my father accomplished when he fixed the table.”
Knowing glances confirmed their own women were so inclined. “My wife uses slabs of wood that eventually can be thrown into the fire. I think this will be a much better solution if we can locate a source closer to the villages.” Argonul said thoughtfully.
Owen nodded. “Perhaps you would like to take a few small pieces back with you. We have several that might suit your ladies.” He lifted the lid from the pot and all three men leaned forward to sniff the delicious odors emerging.
“This is a most unusual and delicious smell, Owen. Is it a dish from among your people?”
Owen chuckled, “From one of our more famous cooks. He specializes in such.”
Argonul frowned. “Cooks? He?”
“Among my people, sir, talent such as his is considered a great gift and the rich and powerful seek to have his skill at their service. They pay much to acquire or reward it.” Owen watched tensely as each of the men served themselves and cautiously tasted the food. He relaxed when they looked at each other then nodded and dug in.
“Usually such ones here guard their secrets well. How is it you learned his?” Argonul paused in his eating and took a slice of bread dipping it in the savory liquid before continuing to eat.
Owen hesitated. How to explain without divulging their secrets? “We are a strange mixture of people, sir, which over the years developed their own way of preparing food. As our troubles increased over time we found that there was a lot of intermixing of people and their customs as they moved about seeking safety and a good way of life for their families. As we came together we shared many different things that included the different styles of food we ate. We found that we liked many kinds so that it was not unusual to acquire the knowledge to prepare them. Men such as the one I referred to, are adept at acquiring such knowledge and had the ability to change or adapt local recipes with great success. While they would not find it easy to make their way here, perhaps in one of the larger villages or cities they would be found at a popular inn or working for one the lords or chiefs.”
“Perhaps when you join us you can share some of your knowledge with us?” Argonul filled his bowl again and grinned over Aravir who grinned back.
At first Owen did not pick up on the significance of the comment. “Of course, sir, I will be happy to…” He stopped as he realized what he had just heard. “Sir, does that mean you will let me join the rangers? That I will be able to ride and fight with you?”
For a moment Argonul looked at the anxious face of the young man and continued quite seriously. “I was thinking more along the lines of cook….” He paused at the crestfallen face of the young man. “But we can certainly use another good fighter. Yes, Owen, you are welcome to join us.” All three of the rangers chuckled as Owen heaved a large sigh of relief and grinned back at them. “But you will be expected to do your share of the cooking when we are on patrol. Hopefully your contributions will raise the level of what we usually have. I suspect you will also find that our wives will be seeking you out once your abilities with the pot are discovered.”
“Perhaps that can be our secret, sir? To be revealed once I am more accepted by the group? My fighting skills might be questioned if that is all I am known for. I will need time to improve my skills with the sword and learning to work with the other members of the patrol.”
Argonul studied the young man. “Most of our young warriors are eager gain glory and renown in fighting as individuals, It takes time before they understand the necessity of fighting as a cohesive unit. Your understanding of such things is unusual.”
Owen again paused before answering carefully. “War is upon us all, sir. My people have learned a long time ago that survival means working together. My ancestors had a saying. ‘Together we stand, divided we fall.’ It has proven true all too often.”
Argonul nodded. “Sound wisdom. We will talk again about your knowledge. After we have cleared up the dinner things we can discuss where and when you will be joining us and what you may expect during your trail period. But before we do that, I would like another bowl of that stew.”
Later that evening when all was quiet except for the occasional snore that wafted up from his guests below, Owen lay awake in his bed in the loft and found it difficult to sleep. His head was filled with the images that the rangers had conjured with their stories of the many fights and clashes they had taken part in and of the many enemies they now faced. He had been aware of Argonul’s watchful gaze and knew that he had gained the chieftain’s approval when he asked questions about tactics and expressed interest, not in the glamorous things, but in the more practical things they needed to deal with on a daily basis.
He would travel north in the fall once the crops were in and stored. Once he had arrived, he would spend a year’s trial period during which he would demonstrate his skills and undergo training on those areas he proved weak in. He would be teamed with one of the older warriors who would be responsible for his training and help him adjust to the customs of the Dunedine and learn their history.
Owen had been surprised when Argonul asked him if his father and cousin would want to join him once he was settled in the village up north. Owen explained that he doubted it. His father and cousin would need to stay where they were. His father’s interest was in Elrond’s library and his cousin wanted to train as a healer at Imladris neither which they could do if they were to join him.
Besides they liked the village and all of them had put a great deal of effort in the repair of their cottage and the rejuvenating of the garden. Theodore and Eli would use it as a base for the next few years. Owen felt that in time if he survived the rigors he expected to experience in future years he would like to return here as well and make a home for a family if he should find someone to wed.
The ranger chieftain had nodded and agreed it would be best for all but that they would be welcome if they so chose and Eli’s skills as a healer would make her most welcome especially.
All in all, it had been a most satisfactory day and Owen settled down at long last only to dream of a fair haired lass with grey eyes not unlike his cousin’s. And there was a child that smiled up at him with sweet dimples and dark hair. In his sleep, Owen’s lips curved in a very satisfactory smile.
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.