A Taste of Honey

Disclaimer - The characters are the property of the Tolkien Estate. No profit has been, nor will be made from this story.

With grateful thanks to Deandra

The Queen of Hearts,
She made some tarts
All on a summer's day.

The Knave of Hearts,
He stole the tarts
And took them clean away. – Traditional Nursery Rhyme

Honey cakes! How Eldarion loved them! They were his very favourite food. If only his nanny allowed him to eat them more often, but she usually wanted him to eat boring things like bread or porridge instead.

Today, Aragorn and Arwen's young son was beside himself with excitement, for his mother had promised to take him to visit the kitchens. Arwen had explained that she wanted the cooks to know how much their work was appreciated, and to let Eldarion see how hard the kitchen servants laboured in order for him to enjoy his meals. He was hoping very much that the cook would make some of his favourite cakes for him.

When the Queen and her son reached the kitchens, Eldarion was thrilled to see the cook was taking a tray of freshly baked honey cakes from the oven. An apple-cheeked young maidservant carriedthe cakes to a nearby table to cool.

"May I have one, please?" Eldarion asked politely.

"I'm sorry, Master Eldarion, but these cakes are for the ladies in the Weavers' Guild," said the girl as she rushed back to the stove to tend to a boiling pot. "They are coming to visit your lady mother soon, so we have no time to make more for you."

"Eldarion, I am certain that you can live throughout the day without a honey cake," the Queen chided gently. "You see, ion nîn, the food prepared here is not just for us to eat, but for our guests too. And we must think of our guests' needs before our own."

Eldarion was not happy at all. There was a whole tray of honey cakes and he was not allowed to eat even one! His mother moved away to speak to the cook. They were soon engrossed in a deep conversation. No one was watching what one small boy was doing.

Eldarion had been told he should never take anything that was not his. His mother and father had chided him for taking his little sister's toys, and told him it was very naughty. The boy studied the rapidly cooling cakes longingly. There were so many of them, that surely no one would notice if he took some? They were only cakes, not his sister's favourite doll, which she cried if she could not play with. His mother was still talking to the cook, while the girl was stirring a pan on the other side of the room. With the inborn stealth of the son of a Peredhil and a Ranger, he seized two cakes from the edge of the tray and stuffed one in each of his tunic pockets.

When his mother at last finished her conversation, she insisted that they return to the nursery now, as she needed to prepare for her visitors later that afternoon.

Arwen lingered for a few moments after handing her son over to his nanny's care, then took her leave, promising to return after the guests had departed. The nurse settled herself on a rocking chair in a corner by the fire and was soon dozing

Eldarion retrieved the cakes from his pockets and ate them, savouring each delicious bite. The fact they were forbidden made the cakes taste all the sweeter. He knew he had been naughty, but no one would ever find out!

That night, Brithil, the nursery maid who brought Eldarion his supper, was crying. Tears rolled down her cheeks, which she dabbed at with her apron. "What is wrong?" he asked her.

"My best friend, Indis, has been dismissed for stealing some cakes!" sobbed the girl. "She says she didn't do it, but cook won't believe her, and your mother and father have told her she must leave tomorrow. I don't know what will become of her!"

"Can't she get more work somewhere else?" asked Eldarion, starting to wish that he had not taken the cakes.

"No one will employ a girl who has been dismissed for stealing!" sniffed Brithil. "Indis' father was crippled in the war and her family relies on her wages so that they will have enough to eat."

Later, as he sat in his mother's solar and played with his toys before bedtime, Eldarion thought about Brithil's news. How could it be his fault that Indis was being made to leave? The cook was making a silly fuss over two small cakes. Then, maybe Indis had taken more cakes afterwards? They were far too tasty not to sample!

"You are very quiet tonight, Eldarion," said Arwen. "What troubles you, my son?

Eldarion started guiltily. Somehow, his mother was always good at guessing his thoughts.

"Brithil says you are making her best friend, Indis leave," said Eldarion. "It's not fair!"

"Indis did wrong and must be punished," Arwen replied solemnly.

"But she only took some cakes!" Eldarion protested.

"It would matter not if she had taken a cake or one of my most valuable jewels," said the Queen. "Stealing is very wrong. Someone who steals is a thief, and a thief cannot be trusted. Indis did not even steal the cakes out of hunger; as all the servants get as much to eat as they want at mealtimes. What made it worse, was that she refused to tell the truth. If she had confessed to taking the cakes and apologised, your father and I would have forgiven her."

"Um, maybe someone else took them," Eldarion said hesitantly.

His mother shook her head. "That is impossible. No one else, save the cook was in the kitchens, and cook would not steal her own cakes." Arwen sighed. "I know it is hard for you to understand why we have to dismiss Indis, but when you are older you will. Come now, it is past your bedtime."

For a moment, Eldarion was tempted to tell his mother everything. Then he thought how angry and disappointed with him she would be. She would tell his father too, and the King would be furious. Eldarion was frightened of his father's anger. Aragorn did not beat him, but he sometimes shouted, and the look in his eyes was very scary. He would be punished too, by being made to do something horrid, like having extra lessons.

Eldarion slept little that night, as he could not stop thinking. No one would ever find out that it was he who stole the cakes, so why should he worry about it? Perhaps Indis would find a new job that was more fun than being a kitchen maid? But what if she didn't? Eldarion had seen beggars on the street who looked very hungry and were dressed in rags. His parents had set up a house of refuge for them, but he did not think Indis and her family would like to live there. The troubled boy finally fell asleep only to dream of a vast plate of cakes above his head, which he tried vainly to reach.

TBC.

A/N This story was written for the Teitho Contest – Growing Up and was placed 3rd.

Thank you to my LJ Reader who gave me the idea.

If you missed it due to holidays, Chapter 30 of "A Time to Reap is now available. I am curious how my readers like the harvest festival.