When they reached the back gate to the kitchen, Kalem turned around, said, “Hold this for a moment, please,” to whoever was directly behind her, which so happened to be Legolas, and put the pail handle in his hands. Before the flustered elf had time to respond, Kalem walked up to the gate and yanked back the very rusty bolt with both hands. She took the pail back, thanked the elf, and walked through to the kitchen courtyard.
“Kalem, Kalem!” a little four year old girl with long black hair and wide gray eyes came running out of the kitchen, but stopped short at the sight of the travelers.
“Hello, Dina,” Kalem said,”This is Gandalf, Legolas, Strider, Gimli, Boromir, Merry, Pippin, Sam and Frodo,” she pointed to each in turn,”they are staying for the night and maybe coming to the party.”
Dina hid between Kalem’s apron and skirt as they smiled at her. Kalem lifted up her apron and asked,”Where is Alanel?”
“Right here,” a voice sounded from the kitchen threshold.
It belogned to a young woman, perhaps seventeen or eighteen years of age, with dark blond hair and sharp black eyes. She had her hands on her hips and a scowl on her pale, bony face. She looked like a shrew and acted like one,”What new devilry is this, Kalem?”
“No devilry,”Kalem replied with just as much ire,
“But nine weary travelers seeking rest for the night,”She picked up Dina and , who had been tugging at her skirt and indicated Gandalf, “This is-“
“I heard their names!” Alanel snapped, “Well, now that you have brought them, they might as well stay for the night. But mind you, I will NOT sleep in the kitchen tonight, I WILL NOT!” her prissy voice went shrill and Legolas, for he had elvish hearing, winced.
“I do not care,” Kalem quipped, then muttered so quietly only Legolas could here, “though it will be an improvement to the kitchen.”
The elf smiled as they all entered the building. It was very airy and filled with light form the sun setting in the west and northwest windows. In one corner, there was a rather large bed and a trundle under it. On the other side was a huge fireplace that stretched from the corner to the front door, and reached up the Kalem’s shoulder. Two large pots wore bubbling away and filling the room with homey, rich aroma. The right side of room was taken up by various cuboards and counters and one very large pantry. In the center was a large table and six chairs. At present there was scraps and flour everywhere.
Kalem immediatly wnet into action, “Alright, hobbits on the bed, humans, too,” she paused for a minute to put the pail of water on the counter and hand Dina to the lucky man behind (Strider),
“dwarves and elves, sit on the bed if there is room, if not just…just keep out of the way. Well, “she quipped again when they hesitiated,” are you waiting for Beleirand to resurface? Go!”
and they all went for they had heard that tone from their elders before and knew it was wise to obey.
Alanel and Kalem moved about like whirlwinds, putting together a dinner tray for the Lord. It turned into two, then three dinner trays, each one course. As soon as they were done, Alanel, without a so much as a by-your-leave, hung her apron and flounced out of the kitchen and down to her (amazingly)friend’s house. She left Kalem alone with the problem of carrying the three trays up the servant’s stair, down the long hallway and into the study.
“Strider, cover Dina’s ears, please,” Kalem asked.
Strider, who had been entertaining the delighted four year old with impressions of Gimli and Legolas’ banters, did so. He was about to ask why when Kalem let loose a string of curses and oaths that would have made an Uruk cry. The Fellowship stared at her with mixed expressions. Strider, Legolas, Boromir and Gimli looked impressed, the hobbits looked shocked and Gandalf looked amused.
“Thank you very much,”Kalem finished and then noticed their shocked faces,”what? Oh, sorry, but what am I going to do about this?
“Carry one up at a time?” Boromir suggested.
“I would, but for some unfathomable reason the Lord has to get his food at one time,”Kalem glanced at the trays, then the others, trays, then the others, the trays…
OF COURSE, OF COURSE! How perfectly simple! It would work splendidly…if they could pull it off.
“Frodo, Sam, come here,” she said. They approached cautiously and she placed a tray in Frodo’s hands. He stumbled and nearly from the wieght, “No, No definitly not,” Kalem removed the tray out of the danger zone, “Thank you for trying though. Hmmmmm…” her mind raced, who could she use? Gimli and Gandalf were to suspicious. The Lord might be obessed with his work and near-sighted,but after all the man was not blind. Boromir he would recognize. She would have to use Strider and Legolas and that was all there was to it.
“Elf, Ranger, come here and help,” she ordered,”Ohh, Dina, he is coming back, I promise,”she assured the little girl who had wrapped her arms around Strider’s neck and let go only with great reluctance.
Kalem placed one tray into Legolas’ long fingered hands and one into Strider tanned ones. Taking the third, she motioned for them to follow her. As they walked out of the kitchen, through a side door, up the winding stair and down the long long, main hallway she whispered directions to them, “Stay silent unless he directls a question at you, let me do all the talking. Legolas, walk with your head down, slump your shoulders. No, your not listening, just…just…just stop walking like a prince. Anybody would think was father was Thranduil himself.”
At this, Strider and Leglas exchanged amused glances that Kalem did not see.