3. The First to Return - by Gwynnyd
There were only two things that would make this, the best of all days, better, thought Merry, perched on the low rim on a fountain in the third circle of the great white city of Minas Tirith. The eagle had brought the news of the Dark Lord's downfall, but he wanted …
"Prince Perian! Is there aught I can do for you?"
Merry looked up and up into warm, friendly eyes atop a bosom trussed high and with cleavage deep enough to engulf him and added a third item to his list: knowledge of his friends' fates; a good tavern to roister in; and now a comfortable armful of Hobbit-lass to cuddle. The first and third items were beyond the mending of this mountain of a woman, but she looked the type to frequent taverns.
Merry dangled his hand in the water of the fountain and splashed a few drops in her direction. "I am mighty thirsty for other than water, but nary a tavern nor inn have I seen on any street in my wanderings."
She giggled. "Then you've not looked very hard. Would a soldier's tavern do for you?"
"Lead on, lady, lead on!"
She giggled again and led him across the tiny fountain court and down to the main street. They walked a short way up the curve of the street behind a swaying trio of archers bawling out a bawdy song. They staggered up to a door, knocked, and waited a moment until it opened. His guide pointed to the building, which had a long, plain frontage and iron-banded doors closing behind the archers.
"There! What would you call that, then?" she asked.
"A house?" Merry said uncertainly.
"Can you not see the kegs?" She turned an incredulous eye on him.
Kegs? Merry stared at the building, until he finally realized that the short bench to the side of the door, also carved out of the ubiquitous white stone, rested on stone legs fashioned to look like squat barrels.
"That's the sign of a tavern?" Merry felt his eyebrows disappearing under his hair. There had been quite a few benches of that sort around the city.
"I never heard of it being done anyways else. Things must be very strange where you come from."
Merry looked around at the tall walls surrounding him. "That they are!"
She led the way to the door, knocked and a porter admitted them. A long, dimly lit hallway stretched ahead of them with closed doors to either side. At the back, there was a glow of sunlight and a din of voices with an underlay of lively music. Coming at last to the end of the hall, Merry entered a large, bright room crowded with tables and people. The throng overflowed through open floor-to-ceiling shutters into a courtyard shaded by a vine-covered trellis just beginning to show green shoots. Merry and his companion were made welcome and soon he was nose deep in a jack of excellent ale. Exhilarated, he wandered around the room, talking freely to all and sundry. His peregrinations brought him near the fireplace. He turned and came face to face with a startlingly realistic dragon carved into the mantle. The soot streaks only emphasized the exquisitely carved detail. No, not one dragon. Two? Three? Blearily, he tried to trace the limbs to get a better count. That was not a leg, it was a tongue, and that one…
"Do you like it?" the woman's voice sounded huskier close to his ear and her hand slid from his shoulder down his back to the top of his thigh.
Merry gulped and felt heat spreading up his body to the roots of his hair.
"It's… uh… very detailed. Could anything do that?" He touched a particularly unlikely contortion and snatched his hand back when he realized it had not been a leg his finger traced.
"We could find out. There's more pictures in room twelve." she offered, her breath warm in his ear. "They do call this place 'The Dirty Dragon.'"
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.