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, 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 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.”
“She is a slave!” Elanor sounded horrified.
“Falah free to go but stay for love of mistress,” said the maid.
Elanor flushed and busied herself nibbling a sugared almond.
“I believe their friendship is something like your father and Frodo enjoyed,” said Arwen. “I have no official duties today while Estel is meeting with the ambassadors so you can spend the afternoon as you please.”
“Thank you, Lady Arwen. I‘d like to make a cake, if that’s all right with you.”
“Why certainly, but one of the cooks would make you a cake, you only have to ask.”
“I like 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!”
“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.”
“We do not have cakes in Harad, esteemed mistress, so I have never made one either,” said Adiva.
“You have no cakes in your homeland, my lady? That must be awful!” Elanor exclaimed in horror.
Adiva beamed as a sudden thought struck her. “Maybe you could show us how you bake your cakes, esteemed Mistress Elanor?”
Arwen opened her mouth to protest.
“I should love to!” Elanor beamed. “We will have such fun!”
“I planned to spend the afternoon with the children,” Arwen protested.
“We have nursemaids, esteemed Lady Arwen. What do we need to bake this cake, esteemed Mistress Elanor?”
“We need flour and sugar and fresh butter and eggs,” said Elanor.
“I shall go to the market and fetch ingredients for honoured mistress,” said Falah.
“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.
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 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.
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.” She picked up the bag she had brought from a corner of the floor and unpacked two 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 you you know where everything is?” asked Arwen.
“I often come here and make cakes,” said Elanor. “The cook doesn'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.”
Adiva and Falah set to work with enthusiasm.Meanwhile, Arwen stirred them 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!”
“I am so sorry, honoured mistress.”
“Never mind, my lady, 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.”
After what seemed like an eternity, all four ladies’ cakes were mixed and poured into tins. Elanor placed them in the oven. “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. “Making lembas is far easier than baking cakes.”
Elanor and Falah wiped and 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!”
“Estel will 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.”
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 removed the perfect cake from the oven and brought it to Arwen. “Here is your cake, my lady.”
Arwen beamed. “It looks delicious. Estel will be so proud of me.”
Likewise 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 hoping the ladies would not enquire about the results of the maids' baking.
That evening , Arwen bade the 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.”
“Elanor helped me make it,” 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 curious western dish, fair blossom,” he said. “I would not have you labour doing this baking for me,though. It sounds like most tedious labour.”
“I 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 drifted into a dreamless sleep.