Best Brew in Buckland, The
5. En Route to the Drunken Dragon
They were dawdling behind the hobbits and Gimli, who were already rounding the next corner. This street was a main road, lined with lamps and well-maintained houses, each with its own small flower garden. Despite the late hour, the street was still busy with sauntering soldiers and the young daughters of tradesmen. Two halflings and a dwarf were hardly an ordinary sight in Minas Tirith, even in these exotic days, and the passers-by neglected the king and steward for their shorter companions. Éomer was grateful for this; being the king of Rohan was all very well, but sometimes a man just wanted to walk in peace. He completely understood Faramir's desire to escape notice.
"How am I doing?" Faramir repeated.
"Hmm?" Éomer asked, turning to him, a puzzled look on his face. "How are you doing at what?"
"You and Gimli said you would help me remain sober this evening. So how am I doing?" Faramir stepped to the side to let a group of women pass, then hurried to catch up with Éomer. Éomer was looking back over his shoulder at the women; Faramir shook his head, advising against flirting with those particular women.
Faramir doggedly pursued the conversation. "Tell me you did not forget your promise so quickly."
Éomer frowned as he considered the question. "Not bad for a man who could barely open a stein an hour ago."
"That does not help me, Éomer," Faramir said seriously. Grabbing Éomer's arm he brought them to a halt in the middle of the street. "It matters not when I learned to open a stein. Or were you so fascinated with the bottom of your own drink that you neglected to pay attention to how I handled mine?"
"Peace, brother," Éomer replied, shrugging off the restraining arm and waving Faramir on down the street. "You are doing fine, at least as far as I could see. If you wish me to observe you, then sit where I might spy you more easily. How many pints did you have?"
"I was on my second," Faramir said. He paused for a moment, then added, "I did not finish it."
"Then you are fine. I drained my third and am none the worse for it. Coronation Ale is weak."
Faramir gave Éomer a doubtful look, then put a hand on his arm and nodded over at an inn they were passing. "Have you been in there? You should."
"Why is that?" Éomer asked, peering in the small, lead panes.
"It is historical. The food and drink are abysmal, but it is the oldest inn in the city. It is rumoured that my great-grandfather Túrin II signed the order to build Henneth Annûn there one night."
"Poor drink, worse food, history not my own -- perhaps some other night," Éomer laughed.
"What else were you and Gimli going to tell me?" Faramir asked.
Éomer smiled at a woman walking by and bowed slightly; she blushed, curtsied awkwardly, and hurried along the way. "Curséd is the head that wears a crown," he said to himself.
"But you are not wearing one," Faramir observed.
"I do not need to," Éomer answered. "They always know, brother, always see the crown first and the man second."
"Perhaps the head that wears the crown is a bit headed?" Faramir suggested.
Éomer chuckled. "Perhaps," he admitted, then changed the subject. "What were you saying?"
"What else were you and Gimli going to tell me? Earlier, before the halflings arrived." Faramir nodded to their friends ahead, now admiring a statue standing in a small public garden to one side of the street. "You were... 'instructing me in the art of drink,' I believe Gimli put it."
"Is that ... ?" Éomer asked, staring at the statue.
"Yes, Cirion is granting Rohan to Éorl," Faramir said shortly. He again asked, his annoyance showing in his voice, "What were you going to tell me?"
Éomer walked more quickly now, eager to see the statue. "What did we tell you already?"
Faramir hurried to catch up. "Do you not remember?" he demanded.
"Do you?" Éomer asked, pausing in front of the statue in the spot vacated by the two hobbits and the dwarf a few moments earlier. "If you cannot tell me, you have clearly already drunk too much."
Faramir sighed, then said, counting off on his fingers, "How to open a stein, how to lift my drink, and what colour and how much froth I should look for."
"This statue is well-made, Faramir," Éomer remarked. "This likeness would make a craftsman of the Éothéod proud."
Faramir laid his hand on the king of Rohan's shoulder, forcing Éomer to face him. "Éomer, please!"
"How much did you eat?" Éomer asked in an unconcerned tone, continuing slowly down the street. "Good evening, gentlemen," he added, smiling at three Dúnedain passing by.
"A fair amount," Faramir replied. "Most of a plate. Will that be enough, do you think? I know beer sits easier on a full stomach."
Éomer laughed at that, patting Faramir on the back. "It seems you are not completely unschooled in the art of the drink."
Faramir shook his head grimly. "My tutor neglected to include that subject in my studies. Yet I observed that much in the Rangers' barracks here in the City."
Éomer stopped and laid a clumsy arm across Faramir's shoulders. "A plate will be enough. You should not worry so much."
Faramir reached out his hand to steady Éomer. "And you should not drink so much, brother."
"Coronation Ale!" Éomer protested. "'Tis nothing. The Golden Stallion is merely a warm-up. At the Drunken Dragon we drink in earnest."
That caused Éomer to giggle.
"You should have been a bard," Faramir joked, removing Éomer's hand from his shoulder and carrying on down the street.
"In Rohan," Éomer informed him, "we are all bards."
Pippin's gentle laughter wafted back to the two men, and Faramir saw their shorter companions passing through another gate, this one leading to the Fourth Circle. "And where exactly is the Drunken Dragon? How far down do we go?"
Éomer motioned vaguely to the streets ahead. "The inn is in the Fourth Circle, not more than a quarter-mile beyond the gate. I promise you."
Faramir looked at him doubtfully but followed Éomer through the gate and down a side street. As Faramir's eyes adjusted to the ill-lit alley he noticed the rubbish by the doors, the poor state of repair of some of the buildings, and the shadowy crannies where someone might hide. This was certainly not the type of place he would have been allowed to visit after dark as a child, nor would he have chosen to come here as an adult. "Gimli!" Faramir called out, and the dwarf looked back. "What kind of inn are you taking me to?" He eyed a mangy cat slinking along the wall of a run-down house. "Do respectable inns open to alleys such as this?"
"The Golden Stallion was respectable," Gimli answered, joining Éomer and Faramir. "You requested quiet."
"Gimli --" Faramir began, then stopped. He looked at the warm and welcoming light streaming out of an open doorway further down the lane. Merry was holding the door ajar, waiting expectantly for his friends.
"Is anything the matter?" Pippin asked, walking back to where Faramir stood hesitating.
"Your lord is unsure as to the respectability of your preferred inn," Éomer informed him.
"Oh, you don't have to worry about that!" Pippin assured him. "Stri -- the king Elessar told us of the Drunken Dragon himself. He discovered it when he was a soldier here, years ago, and it is still a well-hidden treasure."
"Less talk," Gimli said as he led Faramir down the alley. "It leaves more time for drinking."
* "Curséd is the head that wears a crown" is an adaptation of "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown," from William Shakespeare's "Henry IV, Pt II
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.