Marigold's Tale Challenge 37 - Cultural Exchanges In Gondor by Llinos and Marigold
Feb. 4th, 2007
10:41 am - Cultural Exchanges In Gondor by Llinos and Marigold
The hobbits come across some unexpected things during their stay in Gondor...
Cultural Exchanges In Gondor
Ten Double Drabbles by Marigold and Llinos
Beta by Llinos and Marigold
“Don’t look Pippin”! To emphasise the command Merry pinched his younger cousin. Hard. His own eyes were tightly closed, his face red. Pippin shifted away, ignoring him. Merry risked a glare.
Pippin didn’t even notice. Eyes and jaw wide open he stared at the whirling dancers. A shimmery veil floated gracefully down, into Merry’s lap. He groaned, hastily shutting his eyes again. Pippin must have found it rather difficult to ignore the sharp jab of Merry’s elbow, but he managed.
Another pinch. “Pippin!”
“Merry, don’t be a prude!” Merry opened his eyes, surprised, for the whisper came from Frodo. His elder cousin was watching the gyrating women from Harad with undisguised appreciation.
“Frodo!” Merry hissed in disbelief. “They’re practically naked!”
“They are that.” This from Sam, who though his face was as red as Merry’s was obviously enjoying himself. Merry’s own jaw dropped. Sam? Enjoying something so…so improper! He forced himself to glance at the dark graceful women. Oh my!
“Think of it as learning something about a different culture,” Frodo suggested helpfully.
“You’ll never see the like again Mister Merry,” whispered Sam. Pippin offered no opinion at all, a statement in itself.
“Well, if you put it that way…”
“I can’t eat these!” Pippin whispered desperately.
Merry stared at him, never having heard these words uttered by this cousin. “Whyever not?”
“It’s got legs for one thing.”
“So have chickens. You like chicken. “ Merry peeled one of his own, carefully copying Legolas. He took a bite and his face lit up. “It’s good Pip!”
Pippin stared at his own plate, wavering. “But it’s got eyes. And don’t tell me that chickens have eyes, because they aren’t still staring at me when they’re brought to the table.”
“You’re right.” Merry peeled another. “I’ll eat them Pip, if you don’t want yours.”
“They’re that good?” Pippin tentatively reached for a prawn, then dropped his hand, defeated.
Merry pulled his cousin’s plate a little closer. “Delicious!”
Pippin couldn’t watch as Merry peeled the disgusting covering off one of the things. Suddenly a pinkish morsel was thrust under his nose. “Here.”
It didn’t look bad at all now. Pippin accepted the morsel, nibbled at it tentatively.
“Oh, that’s wonderful!” He was almost sorry he had given them away. Almost. His plate reappeared then, the ugly grey bug-like things replaced with the pinkish delicacies. Pippin grinned, picking up his fork.
“Thank you Merry!”
"Gosh look at the size of this one Merry!" Pippin picked up the source of his amazement and spread it across his face. He drew a deep breath. "Mmmm! Nice smell!"
"Don't do that!" Merry sighed in exasperation, "I might need it." He bent back to his task, clenching his tongue between his teeth with concentration, as delicate fingers manipulated the material.
"What's this honeycomb box for?" Frodo poked at the weird accumulation on the table.
"This is egg white, isn't it?" Pippin licked the substance off his fingertips, then pulled a face.
"No," Merry, groaned, "it's called guar gum, and don't eat it Pip."
"What are you doing?" Sam frowned, "it seems like an awful waste. It'll all get dried out."
"Something I picked up in a little emporium down in the sixth circle." With the scissors Merry snipped away the end of his masterpiece. "There – perfect!"
"What is it?" Sam scratched his head.
"You go first Fro," Merry declared, "as the eldest cousin and Ringbearer."
Frodo looked perplexed as Merry handed him the brown cylinder. "What do I do with it?"
Merry took the burning candle from the table. "You smoke it of course – it's called a cigar!"
“There’s a fine looking inn. Shall we stop for an ale?”
”Not that one Sam!” A red-faced Pippin caught him by the elbow, hurrying him along.
“Why not that one?” Sam asked, bewildered.
Merry grinned. “Pippin had a rather embarrassing encounter there the other day.”
“To say the least!”
Merry smirked. “One of the serving lasses invited him upstairs to ‘sample her wares’”.
“I thought that she meant that she’d made some crumpets or something.”
“Not that she was a bit of crumpet!” Merry laughed. He grinned at Pippin’s innocence as they passed from the Third Circle into the Fourth, nodding as the Guards saluted them.
Sam looked from Merry to Pippin in confusion. “What do you mean?”
“When we got upstairs she started to unlace her bodice! I must have looked horrified because she said, ‘Don’t worry, it’ll be a fair price for a hero of the Realm’”!
“A fair price for what?”
Merry waggled his eyebrows suggestively. Sam’s jaw dropped. “You’re joking? They charge for that? What did you do Mister Pippin?”
“What do you think he did Sam! He ran!”
Pippin sniffed indignantly. “No, I gave her my regrets with great dignity and aplomb. Then I ran!”
What shall I do if I can't drink it Mister Frodo?" Sam looked on anxiously as his master carefully combed his foothair. "Last time it tasted like gnat's, if you take my meaning."
"They do make tea differently here Sam," Frodo examined his neatly groomed feet, "but Queen Arwen might be offended if you refused her gracious invitation."
"I don't mind the tea being weak," Pippin surrendered patiently as Merry straightened his dress uniform. "But they don't even put milk in it!"
"You can have lemon instead," Merry suggested, "That's quite nice. I may even take a few of those lemon fruits back with us. We can grow a tree from the pips."
"It wouldn't be so bad, if they at least warmed the pot," Sam grumbled, "I wish Queen Arwen would let me make the tea, at least we'd get a decent cuppa."
"Sam!" Frodo put on his stern face, "You are a guest and guests do their duty – no matter how disgusting the tea tastes!"
"You don't like it either!" Pippin was triumphant at having finally cracked Frodo's impeccable adherence to protocol.
"That's beside the point, although," Frodo admitted, "I could murder for a decent cup of char!"
"But there's such a lot of it! Where does it all come from?" Sam felt a little apprehensive and rather smaller than usual.
"Well it certainly is impressive!" Frodo observed, also not too sure about the crashing, thundering white crests.
Pippin was more enthusiastic "It's lovely! Can we sleep right here on this sand, it's really soft and level."
"I wouldn't if I were you!" Gandalf chortled into his beard, "You'll get rather wet."
"But the ocean is right over there," Pippin protested. "We can watch it beneath the stars."
"You'll be watching it beneath your hairy feet if you stay there." Gandalf was not ready to start a long explanation about winds and tides. "It moves about you know."
"What, like the Ents?" Merry suggested.
"Hmm!" Gandalf agreed, "something like that."
"Why're there no flowers and such?" Sam was baffled, "With all this water you'd think it would be blooming."
"It's not that kind of water Sam, it's very…" Gandalf suddenly caught sight of Merry and Pippin both dipping their hands into a rock pool. "Don't drink that!" He thundered.
"Eowwwchhh!" They spat simultaneously.
"Eeow! Gandalf, someone's put salt in it!" Pippin complained, "Who would do such a thing?"
“Is supper ready yet Sam?” Merry sauntered into the kitchen, where he supposed that Sam would be happily bustling about.
Instead Sam was perched on a high stool, sadly watching what looked to be a pot of boiling water. “No sir, it ain’t. And it don’t look like it ever will be.”
“Whatever is wrong? What are you making?”
Sam frowned. “Not-making you mean.” He gestured to a pile of what looked like long golden straws. “They sent this stuff down from Strider’s kitchen. A delicacy called faghetti or summat. I made a nice cheese sauce, like they suggested, but I can’t figure out how to cook the things!”
Merry looked at the golden straws curiously, then at the pot. “How do you fit them in there?”
“Exactly! It’s the biggest pot I’ve got and nowhere near long enough.”
“Oh. I suppose breaking them up wouldn’t work?”
“I don’t want to spoil them. They’re specially-made to be long.”
Merry considered the problem, then brightened. He took a handful of the faghetti, lowering them longwise into the boiling water where the ends began to soften. Sam gasped in comprehension.
“Mister Merry, you’re a wonder!”
Merry laughed. “No Sam, just very hungry!”
“That’s never an egg!” Pippin stared at the object in Sam’s hands.
Sam beamed. “It’s an egg sure enough.”
“Then what a bird,” breathed Merry. The thing was bigger than one of his mother’s hens. “Wherever did you get it?”
Sam laid the egg reverently back into its box. “At a curiosity shop on the Second level. There’re all sorts of queer things just jumbled about.”
“We’ll have to pay this shop a visit,” declared Frodo, touching the egg carefully. “Do they have any books?”
“They do indeed sir, some as queer as this here egg. There’s one as has a picture of the sort of bird that laid this, a great creature the shopkeeper called an ossridge.”
Merry and the others looked intrigued. “I never heard of such Sam. What manner of bird is it?”
“As tall as Legolas Mister Merry, and twice as fast and almost as deadly I’ll warrant. Down in Khand they race them the man said.”
Pippin whistled. “That’d be something to see!”
“It’s going to be hard to get home without breaking,” Frodo commented.
Sam grinned mischievously. “Yes, but it’ll be worth it. Imagine Marigold’s face when she finds it under her champion hen!”
"Aie!" Sam jumped in his chair as the loud report exploded behind him. "What was that?"
"Don't know, it sounded like one of Gandalf's firecrackers," Pippin looked hopefully up and down the long table.
"Not indoors," Merry admonished, "remember Gandalf's lecture about fireworks and confined spaces?"
"Just ask if you need to know something," Frodo said logically, "that's what Aragorn told us."
Sam turned beetroot, "Not sure I'd know what to ask exactly."
Pippin came to his rescue and, climbing from his chair, caught the server's sleeve. "Excuse me, are there to be fireworks? For my colleague and I…" Pippin nodded towards Meriadoc, who was grinning broadly, "we have some considerable experience in the operation of pyrotechnics and would gladly offer our expertise."
"Your pardon Sir Knight," the man bowed deferentially, "I know nothing of these things of which you speak."
"That loud bang," Pippin explained, "we thought it was fireworks."
The server smiled, "Oh the popping sound!" He produced a fat bottle with a cork wired firmly to the neck. "It's just the Steward’s special vintage being opened." He popped the cork and filled Sam's long stemmed glass.
Sam sniffed and tasted, "fizzy wine! Now I've seen it all!"
"Right here Sam." Frodo chuckled as Sam gingerly felt his way over and sat next to him on the marble slab.
"It's thicker than the fog on the Barrow Downs," Sam gasped, "and more choking."
"Ahhh!" Merry sighed, "but it's so hot and the steam really clears your tubes."
"And this heat is filled with healing balm," Frodo stretched and wiggled his toes. "Just relax Sam and breathe deeply."
"Seems a queer sort of a bath," Sam drew a suspicious half breath, "'specially with your towel on and all."
"Merry! Frodo!" Pippin's beaming face emerged through the steam, "Wait till you get to the next room – it's wonderful!"
"Why? What happens in there?" Frodo sighed, "I doubt there is anything to equal the delights of this heat!"
"There is!" Pippin insisted. "In there, they lie you on a flat table and rub delicious smelling warm oil all over your body."
"Really?" Merry's ears pricked up with interest. "Then what?"
"Then they pummel the oil into your naked skin," Pippin grinned, "I mean all over - everywhere!"
“Everywhere?” Merry gasped, eyes wide.
"They offered to do me twice!" Pippin declared, "on account of my size."
"Lasses, Merry! Lasses!"
The End (for now!)