5. Bessain Makes Good
To hear the minstrels tell it, the song fight of Bard and Legolas must have happened in a hundred taverns of Middle-earth. And the story grew in the telling, so that each song surpassed the last in sweetness and poignancy until women swooned, Orcs wept, and intimations of mortal and immortal love were made manifest. But the truth is, Bard and Legolas sang round after round at the Inn of Go-Fast Town until the drunken crowd cried a winner, and it was Legolas.
As one minstrel put it,
"The souséd crowd arose and yowled as if they had one voice.
'Tis clear the winner is - the Elf! In token of the choice,
We give this shaft of ebony and may it serve you long."
Jauntxo heard, and his heart nearly burst with sadness, but he said, "No hard feelings, Bess. It was my choice between hope and hazard, and I will always bet on hope. Here is the order for wine that I promised."
But as he handed the parchment over, they heard the fair voice of Legolas ringing through the Inn, and what he said stunned the crowd, Jauntxo, Bard, and Bessain.
- "I cannot take the prize from Bard. His was the better song."
And Jauntxo's sadness vanished from his heart like smoke on the wind. He was filled with joy and his feet danced.
"Have I won? I have won! O, welcome to Go-Fast, Lady Bessain!"
"Have I missed something?" inquired Legolas, joining them from the barroom.
Bessain took up a bunch of autumn daisies -lovingly picked for Chafeveleyn by Jauntxo that morning- and smote the surprised prince on the head with them.
"Only a moment of joy for the triumph of true love," said Bessain. "Thanks to you, our friend Jauntxo will be marrying soon, and it is the custom for all who helped to receive a crown of flowers."
"Ah!" said Legolas, rubbing his head. "I did not know that."
"And I hope you like Galion's cooking."
Bessain made good on her word. She managed the inn for twelve years and when she was done, every traveler in Rhovannion came to Go-Fast, or wanted to. The first thing Bessain did was change the name. "Eagle and Child, why, that means nothing," she said. "Swan and Cygnet – now that keeps something of the first name but has a proper Elvish air."
Next she sent word to her Dwarf friends and enlisted the help of their elite brew mistresses. Nid herself came to make the ale, which could quench the thirst of a dragon, she boasted. The customers promptly named it "Dragon Stout" and it is called that to this day.
Bessain invented the Farmer's Supper – a slice of melted cheese on a toasted loaf, with a handful of dried grapes and a glass of wine to warm the heart. Its popularity spread faster than juicy gossip. She cooked a broth from wild chickens that, if you caught the cold in your chest, could not only make you feel better but keep you well for six years. She bought quantities of honey from the Bee Sisters and from it, made honey cakes that turned grown men into children and children into models of adult deportment.
Even Thranduil got over his gloom and aggravation enough to visit often for a dish of his favorite venison stew – made, as always, with red wine, mushrooms, and broth of crows who had stuffed themselves with juniper berries. Thus Thranduil saw better what was happening in those darkening days of Middle-earth, and it helped him prepare.
Chafeveleyn paid off her debt to the Lawspeaker in no time. Meanwhile the townsfolk elected Jauntxo Mayor and he ended the Lawspeaker's position and chased him out of town. The Mayor and the Mistress wedded, and Chafeveleyn never had to do housework again. Instead, she helped set up a troop of town guards who did not wield heavy swords but rather light spears thrown at a distance, and these became known as the Javelins. She passed the fighting tradition on to her daughters, just as the ladies of Rohan, her distant kin, were doing far to the south.
Bard became a hero. The prize that Legolas relinquished to him that stormy night was his father's lost arrow of ebony wood. "As black as Sauron's crack," Nid used to say. Within a year's time Bard put it to good use, thus completing the plans of folks he did not yet dream of –Dwarves, Hobbits, Wizards. But that is another story that has been told already by a mighty bard.
1. The Rhûnish names Jauntxo, Udara, and Aurken are from the Basque language. I took some liberties. "Jauntxo" has two meanings: political boss, and young gentleman.
2. "Chafeveleyn" is Middle English for "javelin" by way of Middle French and Celtic. It is hard to spell, but I love it.
3. A research article suggested the idea of elite brew mistresses. They lived in pre-Inca Peru. If any culture in Middle-earth had had elite brew mistresses, it would have been the Dwarves.
4. The name "Bessain" is from the Sindarin Dictionary Project (French law applies regarding intellectual property). It is pronounced "Bess-Sign" in Sindarin. Other story sources include The History of Middle-earth, Volume XII, "Peoples of Middle-earth," "Of Lembas" and "The Hobbit" by Professor Tolkien, and lore regarding the Eagle and Child Pub, home of the Inklings.
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.