The man from the South
From the archives of Sagramore Folcredson, Captain of the Free Company
How Chief Watcher Grimbriar came -once more- with ill news * How the Mayor of Bree tested the limits of his voice * How Graeme Tenderlarch had an epiphany and the consequences of his ideas * How the Free Company was formed and what the Bree-landers read the next morning *
"They did what?!" The yell made the watchers at the door burst in, blades drawn. A servant, soft-hearted as most women are, almost fell down the stairs at the sound of the booming voice.
"They raided who?!" the voice boomed once more, like a Tarkrîp war-drum.
Meet master Graeme Tenderlarch, mayor of Bree. An intrepid man, a wise man and most of all a clear mind, a sign of balance in the turmoil that Bree-Land was, from Archet to Bree and from Staddle to the Buckland. But on that day, Chief Watcher Grimbriar didn't see no balance, nor clear mind. He saw just a trapped barghest, going round and round, trapped between two stone walls and some tables, inside the Bree Town Hall.
The man stood his ground - he was a soldier, after all-, but the tongue just didn't want to listen.
"My l-lord Mayor, a party of-f Blackwolds an-and Southerners raided th-the Pearson f-farm. The land is in flam-" Grimbriar said.
"Curse their legs! May they slither like snakes!" shouted the mayor, pacing around his office table.
"And in the North.. the road to Tr-Trestlebridge is c-cut.. by orcs" almost whispered the Captain of the Watch.
" Ah, those vermins!"
"Enough!" Graeme Tenderlarch suddenly stopped in the middle of the room, as he eyed Grimbriar with a killer gaze.
"Where were your watchers when it happened?!" The low voice, contrasting the vocal drums that were heard before, and the gaze made our hearty Chief Watcher wince.
"My lord, I.. I haven't got enough men!" he whispered. "Half of them are guarding Bree, the others are either home or spying on th-".
"Home?! Spying?! Isn't there anyone able to fight in this forsaked town?!" shouted Tenderlarch, shaking his fist. "Gather your lousy dogs, you..." and suddenly the yells stopped.
Later that day, as he recalled the events at the Prancing Pony, master Grimbriar told a few of his friends that the Mayor became transfigurated with joy and peace of mind in a splinter of time, as if he'd seen the gods smiling upon him.
"Chief Watcher Grimbriar.. Would you be so kind and fetch me that southerner, that man from the Mark you put in shackles a few days ago? Sagramore, I reckon, Sagramore was his name.." said Tenderlarch with a soft, musing tone.
"Ser..?" Grimbriar was shocked. "That man is a felon, a murderous wretch, a.. a.. felon! He and a friend of his dispatched three of my best men! Not before they beat the cra-.. the heck out of a half-dozen of our honourable citizens who were feasting in the Mess-Hall!"
"Yes, yes!" said Tenderlarch with a grin, leaning over the table. "That's the man.. Bring him to me.." he said.
"But, your lordship..!?"
"Yesterday!! Bring him to me yesterday!!" and the booming voice, and the flaming gaze were once more upon poor Grimbriar, who wisely made himself disappear in the blink of an eye, as if the winds of the Far North suddenly descended upon the Town Hall..
A quarter of an hour passed. Two watchers came, escorting the man into Tenderlarch's rooms. The mayor sent them away quickly and closed the doors. No one knows precisely what the two discussed or had to share, but the sun was setting in the West when Graeme Tenderlarch and Sagramore of Rohan came out of the mayor's chambers.
"... and It's settled. Bring them havoc, bring them destruction. Repay them in full" the servants heard Graeme whisper, as he shook the hand of the Southerner.
"I will hold my part of the bargain, milord Mayor", said Sagramore, folding a piece of parchment and hiding it in his belt.
"I know you will." smirked Tenderlarch. "If not for me or the people, then for that letter I've entrusted you with."
"Milord.." Sagramore bowed his head. "May we never have to meet again."
Graeme Tenderlarch, mayor of Bree, sighed with satisfaction. "Watchmen!" he yelled, after a second. "Take this man and escort him to Combe. Lodge him at the Tavern there. Pay for one week, all expenses. Then return."
"Master Mayor is overly kind", awkwardly smiled Sagramore, then turned on his heels and walked away, with one of the watchmen trotting behind him.
The next morning, a piece of parchment was nailed to almost every gate and lamp post in Bree. The door of the Prancing Pony had one, the Mess Hall had one, and a few others were spread on the steps leading to the Scholar Archives.
By authority of the mayorship of Bree,
Letter of Marque and Reprisal
The condition of this recognizance is such that Master Sagramore, son of Folcred, has been given the right to raise a militia with the help of the good folk in the town of Bree and the villages of Archet, Combe and Trestlebridge.
By virtue of this commission, the formed company - which will be known as The Free Company - is to recruit, train men of arms and move against each and any of those that threaten the life and the belongings of the good folk of the Bree Lands.
The said Sir Sagramore, with his armed men and other necessaries for war put in the service of the lordship of Bree and in defence of the realm, may use any and all means to fulfill this task within the known borders of the Bree-Land.
Likewise will not attempt anything against any of the locals of the aforementioned towns and villages in the Bree-Lands, but only against the said poachers, bandits, and southerners that plague the realm.
By virtue of the said commission, The Free Company as a whole and its men as individuals are to be held responsible only by the council of Bree and answer to none, except to their honor, their code of conduct and his lordship Mayor Graeme Tenderlarch of Bree.
Witnessed this seventh day of the fifth month, signed by
Mayor Graeme Tenderlarch of Bree
Captain of the Free Company Sagramore, son of Folcred
Under the red seal of the Bree Township, a writing in charcoal:
Hear ye, Hear ye! Men of Bree, exiles of Gondor, horselords of the Mark, travellers from Dale! The Free Company is recruiting soldiers of foot and horse, under a letter of reprisal against the menace of brigands and southerners in the Bree Lands! Seek out Captain Sagramore in Combe, if you deem yourselves fit!