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Old 12-14-2002, 12:50 PM   #76
Ghastly Neekerbreeker
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: the banks of the mighty Scioto
Posts: 1,757
Birdland has just left Hobbiton.

Birdie eagerly explored the precious gift that had appeared with the return of Bethberry. She held an orange to her nose, savoring the sweet smell, full of sunshine and desert breezes. It stirred a longing in Bird of lands that she had never seen, yet called to her heart and fea. It was the smell of home.

But she was here now, and seasons changed far more radically in Gondor than in the friendly climes of the Southlands. The first snows had already coated the roof tiles of the White Tower, and wood was being hauled into the city from the surrounding lands. "Why, Yule will be here before we know it!" Birdie loved Yule. A time of celebration and reflection. A send-off for the old year, and an anticipation for the new. it was her favorite celebration of Middle-earth and one that all the races shared.

"Well, now's as good a time as any to see if folk around here will be interested in what I have in my pack. Gold and jewels are fine, but what I have even the Dwarf Lords cannot mine. And yet it may turn out to be just as precious." She turned with a smile to Bethberry and Gamba, sharing the fire and the orange. "And I can't think of a better person to help introduce my wares to the rest of Gondor. If she likes what I have, and can use it properly, I'll have everyone in Minas Anor clamoring for it, including the King's own baker!"

So the little skinchanger walked over to the daughter of Bombadil, and reaching into her pack, pulled out several small parcels wrapped in linen, and placed them on the table. A strange, faint, mingled oder rose up, encouraged by the heat of the room. It seemed to clean the air as well as athelas, but with a earthier, more homely fragrance.

"Good Yule, to you Bethberry, and to you, Gamba. I thought I would give you your yule gift early, seeing as how you were so kind to bring us your own gifts, thinking of us even after returning from such a hard journey."

"What is it, Bethberry?" asked Gamba eagerly. Gamba loved presents, even if they weren't for him. "Well, let's just open it and see, shall we?" said Bird. "Actually, I've been planning on selling this in the city. But most folk wouldn't really know what to do with it. So I thought Bethberry here should have this. The first in all the city. Once folk see what she can do with what I have here, I believe it will be all the Star can do to keep up with the demand."

Bethberry reached out and slowly unwrapped each linen parcel. The smell grew stronger, and wafed around the inn, sending heads up as the fragrance flowed over the inn. In each parcel were a small bundle of twigs, seeds, bark, and buds. Gamba looked a little disappointed. "Why, it's just herbs. Like the Herb Master keeps in the House of Healing."

"Not herbs, my good Gamba". Bird picked up a small curl of red bark. "This is called cinnamon. It comes from the bark of a tree in far Harad. And this," she said, picking up a small dried bud, "is called clove, from an evergreen of the same name. Stick some in that orange, Gamba, and see how the smells go together." Gamba did this, and was delighted at the marriage of the two odors, orange and clove.

"Now this odd looking root here is called ginger. And see these beans here? Vanilla. You soak them in alcohol to make a tinture. This is the seed of the nutmeg tree. Goes well with the vanilla. "And this," here Birdie slowly unwrapped a parcel as if it were full of gold dust. "This comes from the insides of a rare orchid, each little piece gathered by hand. It is called saffron."

Bethberry's eyes gleamed as each bundle was laid before her. Here was a wealth of the earth such as had never been seen in the cold Northlands. She was already matching each twig, each seed, instinctively with a purpose. But Gamba still looked puzzled. "It all smells wonderful. But what do you do with them. Is it medicine?"

Bird laughed out loud. "Medicine! Well, perhaps medicine for the heart, and the stomach. You cook with these things, Gamba. Each tiny piece, and it doesn't take much, adds a flavor to foods such as has never been tasted in Middle-earth. These gifts of tree and flower are used all over in the Southlands, especially in baking. Once you've tasted a cake made with the taste of the vanilla bean, you'll never want any other cake. And cinnamon in warm wine? Ah, you'll think you had gone to Valinor. I think that our good Bethberry here can think of many other ways to use these things."

"What do you call them, Birdie?" asked Gamba.

"Spices, Gamba. From the far lands of the South. And their value is higher than diamonds. A good gift to give to our good Bethberry, don't you think?"

[ December 14, 2002: Message edited by: Birdland ]
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