Author's Note: Although the Innkeeper vignettes began as entirely separate entities, the series took on a life of its own, and the vignettes subsequently became chapters of a larger work. Tales of the Innkeeper, therefore, is now not only a collection of vignettes and ficlets but also a WIP short story. I hope you enjoy.
This New King
I'm still not fond of most of his kind. We cater to simple folk, people more like us. Oh, we want you to be comfortable, but it won't take you long to see that we have no velvet curtains, no satin bedcovers, no marble floors. Ha! I wouldn't even know what his kind eats, and I couldn't very well offer the King of Gondor plain joints, pies and porridge, could I? How I cursed that blizzard that brought him here! I don't know where his party was headed—a man like me can't pretend to know the mind of a king—but somehow they turned up here, seekin' refuge until the worst of the storm passed. Couldn't rightly turn them away, could I?
I've had his kind as guest once before: Denethor. Didn't talk much, that one. Just barked out an occasional word or two: "Beds," "Wine," "Food." I thought maybe that's just the way those folks in the Citadel speak; too busy to get more than one word out. The most he ever said to me was when I showed him to the best room we had. I told him before openin' the door that it wasn't much, addin' "but it's clean and warm." The Steward responded with a curt, "I suppose it will do," but I could hear in his grunt and see by the flare of his nostrils that he was none too happy about spendin' the night under my roof.
Then that night durin' the blizzard, royalty came knockin' on my door again. Elessar, this one's called. Some sort of elvish name. Supposed to have taken an elvish lady as a wife, too. Couldn't begin to imagine what a strange fellow this new king is. Said he hoped he wasn't puttin' us out, told me that any room would do, and—imagine this—asked how the wife and I were faring this brutal winter. And he said all this in complete sentences, so now I know that speakin' in one word utterances isn't some sort of requirement up there in Minas Tirith. I started thinkin' that maybe he's not so bad. But it was his eyes that really told me that this new king is no Denethor. The Steward's eyes looked dead if you take my meanin', and I would know; I've ever been able to judge a man by his eyes. There's a certain sparkle in the eyes of this new king, but don't tell the local men that I said that. They'd say I was talkin' like some sort of woman if they heard me goin' on about the sparklin' eyes of the King.
I told the King I couldn't offer him the kind of fare he's used to in the White City, but I'd be happy to give him whatever I have.
"Would you have any pipeweed?"
"Pipeweed, Sire? Why, that's one thing we have in plenty!" Since this new King came to power, bringin' his Northern customs with him, I've become somethin' of a trader in pipeweed. In fact, you might say I have a corner on the market in these parts. You know how it goes: simple folks are always takin' up the habits of the powerful. Ha! As if smokin' pipeweed's going to make them into more than what they are! But I'm not complainin'; my fledglin' pipeweed business is provin' quite profitable. And I can't say I mind trading with those Hobbits, either. Took some getting use to—those little folks want to eat more than they want to trade—but they're a good lot on the whole.
But I was tellin' you of the King . . . . So I told him that yes, I had some pipeweed.
"Would you be so good as to join me for a smoke?" he asked.
Imagine!—A simple man like me havin' a smoke with the likes of him. Of course, he's not what I'd first thought him to be. Different from most of those fancy folk.
And that's when it hit me: I just might like this new King.
Author's Note 1: Given the scope of King Elessar's power and influence, I think it's reasonable to assume that he very well may have brought the habit of smoking pipeweed to Gondor.
Author's Note 2: The Innkeeper's opinions of Denethor do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the author. Suffice it to say, the Innkeeper is more comfortable around more down-to-earth guests, and in this regard, Elessar's time at establishments such as the Prancing Pony served him well.