B2MeM Prompt and Path:"Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night." William Blake. Purple Path.
Format: Short story
Characters: Arwen, Elanor Gamgee, Aragorn, OCS
Pairings: Aragorn/Arwen, OMC/OFC
Creator's Notes (optional): With thanks to shirebound for the plot idea. Dedicated to shirebound on the occasion of her birthday. With thanks to med_cat
Summary: Elanor helps Arwen and Lady Adiva undertake an important new quest of their own, whilst their husbands are occupied with equally important state affairs.
"My home is your home, honoured guests," said Lady Adiva, embracing Arwen as she spoke.
"A pleasure to see you again, dear friend," Arwen replied. "I have brought my newest maid of honour, Elanor, from the Shire to meet you. She has never met anyone from Harad before."
"Do you ride a camel?" asked Elanor shyly, once the pleasantries were concluded and the ladies were seated comfortably on cushions.
Adiva laughed. "I fear not, honoured mistress, though my husband owns many camels. I did not even learn to ride a horse until after I was married."
Just then, Falah arrived, bearing a tray laden with cups of sherbet tea and sweet delicacies.
"Esteemed Mistress Elanor, meet Falah my handmaid," said Adiva. "My esteemed parents bought her for me when I came to womanhood."
"The poor lady is a slave!" Elanor sounded horrified.
"Falah free to go if she pleases, but stays for love of mistress," said the maid. "Mistress obey honoured king's laws."
Elanor flushed and busied herself nibbling a sugared almond.
"I believe their friendship is something like your father and Frodo enjoyed," said Arwen. " The two ladies are close friends as well as mistress and maid. Elanor, I have no official duties today while Estel is meeting with the ambassadors, so you can spend the afternoon as you please once we leave Lady Adiva's home."
"Thank you, Lady Arwen. I'd like to bake a cake then if that's all right with you."
"Why certainly, but one of the cooks would make you a cake, you only have to ask. You don't have to bake in your free time when you could be doing something enjoyable."
"I really enjoy making cakes," said Elanor. "Don't you, Lady Arwen?"
"I have never made a cake," said Arwen.
"But begging your pardon, Lady Arwen, aren't you about two thousand years old and you never made a cake? Why you don't know what you're missing!" Elanor regarded the Queen with an expression of sheer horror on her face.
"I never had cause to make one," Arwen replied. "My parents and my grandparents employed excellent cooks. I was taught by my Grandmother to bake lembas, as is the custom, but I had little aptitude for the task."
"Ladies do not bake cakes in Harad, esteemed mistress, so I have never made one either," said Adiva.
"You have never baked, my lady? That must be awful!" Elanor exclaimed in dismay.
Adiva beamed at her friends as a sudden thought struck her. "Maybe you could show us how you bake your cakes, esteemed Mistress Elanor?"
Arwen opened her mouth to say something but hesitated as Elanor was almost bouncing with excitement.
"That would be such fun!" the young Hobbit girl exclaimed, a happy smile lighting up her features.
"I had planned to spend the afternoon with the children," Arwen protested.
"We have nursemaids, esteemed Lady Arwen," said Adiva. "They can take care of our children. What do we need to bake this cake, esteemed Mistress Elanor?"
"We require flour, sugar, fresh butter and eggs for my favourite recipe," said Elanor.
"I shall go to the market and fetch ingredients for honoured mistress," said Falah.
"Thank you," said Adiva. "Should we make the cake here or in your kitchens, esteemed Lady Arwen?"
"There is everything needed to make a good cake in the Citadel kitchens," said Elanor. "My Ma just couldn't believe how many mixing spoons we have when I wrote and told her."
"I have no such items, alas," said Adiva. She brightened. "Falah could buy some at the market, though."
"There is no need. We will meet in the Citadel this afternoon then and set to work," said Arwen without much enthusiasm.
"Making cakes is fun, not work," said Elanor. "I can hardly wait!"
The ladies reconvened in the Citadel kitchens shortly after the conclusion of the noonday meal. Arwen had told the kitchen servants to leave and not to return until it was time to prepare the day meal. They looked rather puzzled but hurried off to enjoy their unexpected afternoon of freedom.
Elanor quickly found some aprons on a peg and handed them out.
"We have to wear these, esteemed mistress?" Adiva queried.
"Your lovely robe would get flour all over it if you didn't," Elanor explained as she helped Arwen fasten the protective garment over her elaborate gown.
Adiva nodded to Falah, who secured the apron strings for her mistress.
Elanor bustled around the kitchen, using a stepping stool to help her reach the store cupboards. She took out four mixing bowls and bags of flour and sugar. "Do you have the butter and eggs?" she asked Falah.
"Yes, esteemed mistress Elanor." Falah picked up the bag she had brought from a corner of the floor and unpacked three dozen eggs and an enormous chunk of butter.
Elanor rolled her eyes. "That would suffice to feed a dozen Hobbits!" she said. "We need a little salt and baking powder too." She climbed on the stool again and opened a cupboard.
"How do you know where everything is?" asked Arwen.
"I often come here and make cakes," said Elanor. "The cooks don't mind and it reminds me of home." She placed the baking powder and salt on the table. "Now we begin by mixing the butter and sugar together like this in the mixing bowl."
Adiva and Falah set to work with enthusiasm. Meanwhile, Arwen stirred the mixture very slowly.
"Now we beat the eggs," said Elanor.
Adiva promptly dropped two eggs in the bowl complete with shells and started beating them.
"No, no!" cried Elanor. "You don't include the shells, my lady! They will spoil your cake."
"I am so sorry, honoured mistress."
"Never mind, my lady," said Elanor cheerfully."There are plenty of ingredients to spare. We just have to start your cake again."
Before long, all the ladies were beating their shelled eggs, or rather three of them were. Arwen stirred hers as languidly as if drawing a needle through a tapestry. Eventually, Elanor took pity on her and went to assist.
"Now we add the flour and baking powder and a pinch of salt," said Elanor once the eggs were beaten to her satisfaction.
Arwen promptly tipped in all the flour. Elanor groaned. "My lady, you are supposed to sieve it in. It will be all lumpy. We will have to begin the cake again. You sieve the flour, thus, and then stir it into the mixture."
Meanwhile, Adiva had added half the contents of the salt cellar to her cake.
"No, no, my lady!" cried Elanor. "That will taste dreadful."
"We value salt in the desert," said Adiva. "I thought more would make the cake taste nicer. I am sorry, honoured mistress."
"Never mind, we will start again," said Elanor. "We have enough ingredients to make many cakes."
After what seemed like an eternity filled with further mishaps, all four ladies' cakes were mixed and poured into tins. Elanor placed them carefully in the oven, noting which was which as she did so. "We can wash up and tidy the kitchen while the cakes are baking," she said.
"Wash up, esteemed mistress?" said Adiva as if she had never heard of the process.
"I will do it, honoured lady," said Falah.
Arwen regarded the intricately embroidered sleeves of her gown doubtfully. They were already covered in flour despite her apron.
"I will do it, my lady," said Elanor. "If you and Lady Adiva sit down over there by the table, Falah and I will do the washing up."
"Baking is such hard work," said Arwen. "Even making lembas is far easier than baking cakes. Embroidery is so much easier."
"I'd rather bake than sew," said Elanor.
"Yet you have a good hand for embroidery," said Arwen
"I learned to sew and embroider when I was very little," Elanor replied. "I helped Ma make cakes when I was little more than a baby, though, as I got to lick the spoon if I stirred the mixture."
"Your esteemed mother must be very proud of you," said Adiva.
"That's kind of you to say, my lady," said Elanor. "I reckon our Rose is going to be far better at needlework than I am, and maybe Primrose too, though it's too soon to tell yet."
Elanor and Falah wiped, scoured, scrubbed and cleaned until both dishes and kitchen were spotless. Their mistresses were engaged in conversation when a delicious aroma filled the kitchen and Elanor concluded that the cakes were baked.
"I'm going to take the cakes out of the oven," she called to the ladies.
Adiva clapped her hands."This is so exciting, esteemed mistress Elanor! The aroma is quite enchanting."
"Estel will be delighted I baked him a cake," said Arwen. "How happy he will be tonight. Shall we help you take them out of the oven?"
"No thank you," Elanor said hastily. "Falah and I can manage. You ladies might burn yourselves or your dresses." With Falah at her side, she opened the oven door. One perfect and one passable cake met their eyes together with two sad specimens that dipped in the middle.
Elanor hesitated for an instant before she removed the perfect cake from the oven and brought it over to where Arwen sat. "Here is your cake, my lady."
Arwen beamed. "It looks delicious. Estel will be so proud of me."
Adiva was equally delighted. "My esteemed husband will be amazed at how quickly I have learned to bake!" she exclaimed.
Elanor discretely disposed of the two ruined cakes in the fire beneath the kitchen range, hoping the ladies would not enquire about the results of the maids' baking.
That evening, Arwen bade a servant serve Aragorn the cake for his dessert. The King nibbled it appreciatively then licked the crumbs from his fingers. "Mmm," he said. "Delicious. This tastes like a Hobbit cake."
"I made it myself with a little help from Elanor," said Arwen. "Baking is very complicated, though, I think it is best left to Hobbits."
Aragorn's eyes twinkled. "I agree with you, beloved. None can surpass a Hobbit when it comes to cooking.
At the Ambassador's residence, Tahir was nibbling his cake gingerly. "You have done well to master the making of this western recipe, fair blossom," he said. "I would not have you labour doing this baking for me, though. It sounds like most tedious labour."
"I quite enjoyed it, esteemed husband," said Adiva. "I think I would rather ride my horses or read poetry, though."
Exhausted, Elanor climbed into bed. Just before she drifted off to sleep, a vision came into her mind of what the expression on the King's face would have been had Arwen presented him with the cake she actually made. Elanor burst out laughing then fell into a dreamless sleep.