Hobbit Hunt, a Mustering: “Biscuits”



Being the continued record of Applecider Bolingbroke, for debriefing & delineation by the Honorable Bounders at the Hunt’s conclusion ... (*ow*....) ....

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The Plan were bold an’ simple, an’ it could only have been had by a Bounder. 

 

Spikin’ the Trestlebridge water with Gobbo-de-Gook were a devious criminal act. Fortuitously, we gots what’chya might call an Expert in dealin’ with the Criminal Mind. An’ accordin’ ter our Dep. Shirriff North-Took, the Criminal have a bad habit o’ returnin’ ter the Crime Scene. ‘Specially if the crime only half-worked.

 

All’s we gots ter do is hurry the process along a little. Bait the hook, an’ the fish will bite, as they say.


The Twilight Lake may be the end target, an’ Trestlebridge may be mere smoke. 


But where there be Smoke, yeh can trace it ter Fire. 


So what we did were scuttle off ter Trestlebridge, quick as a Shire Postman. 


Mister Halros would slip north o’ town ter make contact with some bloke called Amarion. He were to send a message tippin’ off the Green-Hoods that Twilight Lake be in danger. Then, assemble a strike team from whatever Men were immediately available in the Downs.


Meanwhile, Lancey an’ meself started goin’ round Trestlebridge, askin’ fer ALL the Kingsfoil weed anybody could scrounge up, fer a “special project” – Anything yeh can spare from yer gardens, yer cow-feed, yer salad-makings: Bring it ter the center o’ town! 


After all. We knows the water were Gook'ed. An’ from Mister Halros’ ordeal, we knows Kingsfoil be a means ter counter the vile stuff. If word got out that two Halflings be tearin’ up the place fer Kingsfoil outta nowhere, the Criminal Mind would put two an’ two together, an’ come see what’s what. Then we’d close the trap with their hand in the biscuit jar. – Fer it be a fact that, where the Criminal Mind goes, the rest o’ the Criminal Body usually be attached.


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Well, Lance an’ I stirred up a superb scene. The zeal might’ve appeared staged, comin’ from Green-Hoods or other Big Folk. But none in th' world can stir up a fuss over nothin’ particular like Hobbits (thar be an Art to it).


We ‘ad two basic objectives.


Firstly, since we were usin’ it fer a scrum, Trestlebridge itself had ter be protected. If the Criminal Mind turned up in numbers, the plan were to seize as many as possible – preferably alive – an’ get ‘em ter spill the beans on all they knew. 


Thar were the job o’ this Mister Amarion, an’ his strike team.


But there were also a plan ter let an escapee or so give ‘em the slip. If they could be followed back into the Wild-Wood, maybe they’d lead us ter other participants in the operation. 


Bein’ a Hunter, at home amongst the wood, thar were the job o’ Mister Halros.


The job o’ meself an’ Lance were ter keep up the fuss, hoard the Kingsfoil, an’ generally be the worms on the hook. The biscuits in the jar. The cheese on the mousetrap. 


The trouble with baitin’ a trap is yeh cannae predict when the prey’ll come sniffin.’ So we pretty much had ter live day-ter-day expectin’ an Event at any minute, but without knowin’ how it’d play out.


In the end, it played out very sudden indeed. 


The Criminal Mind apparently also ‘ad two objectives. 


One were ter sow chaos, an’ dispense with any possible antidote our “special project” entailed. 


This became apparent about an hour after sundown on Day Three, when panicked shouts, an’ the smell o’ smoke alerted us: We rushed out from our lodgings at the Inn ter find our scruffy, stringy, beautiful heap of Kingsfoil – neatly sorted in baskets fer dryin’ – engulfed in a bonfire. 


The other objective were ter find these Shire Busybodies runnin’ around collectin’ a Gobbo-de-Gook antidote, an’ get 'em ter spill the beans on all they knew. 


This became apparent when everyone were rushin’ around in bedlam (Trestlebridge be really antsy about fire now). I spotted a couple ‘o panicking carthorses, tangled up in their traces with their wagon alight. An’ I were just cuttin’ 'em loose with a whittling knife – one o’ me lute pegs is broke: I were carvin’ a new one before bed – when someone threw a canvas tarpaulin over me, an’ bundled off inter the Wood. 


T’were a jarring ride, I don’t mind tellin’ yeh. 


The sound o’ chaos, an’ possibly combat in the streets o’ Trestlebridge covered whatever clamor I made. By the time that gave way ter the sounds of the forest night, I were so winded from all the jouncing, there were naught to do but take me whittlin’ knife an’ stab like a woodpecker.


T’weren’t very effective – Whoever must’a been wearin’ pauldrons – but I found an edge, eventually, an’ changed angles. That caught ‘im under the shoulderblade: I smelled blood, as Whoever grunted in rage ter avoid bellowing aloud. I were transferred to a grip under one arm. But thar were a mistake, as this time, I found the adductor muscle on the inside of ‘is leg. 


Bellow he did then, an’ dropped me in the heather. 


Then he shouted again. I floundered out o’ the tarpaulin, in time ter see the tail of a cloak disappear into the dark trees, bounding at a very lopsided gait, with what looked like a twig stickin’ out o’ one leg. 


A second arrow flew by, an’ I realized it weren’t a twig. 


Lance were hopping mad as a frog in a popcorn skillet. I swears I lost more breath sayin’ “Really, I be fine  honest” than I did in the whole ride through the Wood. 


Before we could resolve where in the name of Bullroarer’s Bandboxes we were, though, we ‘ad company. A pair o’ screechy Gobbos appeared from an outcrop.

 

Thar were half a second’s start, but we never gots ter see who’d win. A completely different arrow embedded itself in an ash tree, having passed clean through not one, but both, in a double-body shot from a mighty yew bow in the dark of the Wood. 


(I have gots ter learn that trick ...).  


“Are you hurt?” Mister Halros looked just as mad-eyed as Lance fer a second. The Green-Hood had seen Lance take off inter the night. So he followed Lance, followin’ Whoever, an’ now the lot of us were halfway across the Wood. 


“Nae, jus’ jounced.”


“Did you get a look at his face?” He gave me his bootknife, so I’d be armed.


“Nae.” I were equally annoyed at meself an’ the Hobbit-Rustler. “Where the blazes are we?”


“Writhenset. We’re in the South-Wood.” Relived as he were ter find us in one piece, Mister Halros were a veritable cloud o’ frustration. “ ... SO close.”


“You said before,” Lance hesitated, “the Rangers guessed where the heart of the enterprise is?”


“There’s a goblin encampment not far off. Up against the bluffs behind Ost Barandor ... We believe it’s behind that.” Mister Halros retrieved his arrow. “The camp’s much too small to accommodate the numbers coming in and out of it. There has to be a vein underground, or inside the bluffs. It’s a goblin set-up, though – Or at least, it uses goblin labor. – We’ve never been able to get an agent inside. That rustler is the closest I’ve ever seen a Man come to ...” 


The Green-Hood stared into the night, where the cloaked Whoever had vanished. “We should see if Amarion was any luckier. Maybe he apprehended some ...” He looked at the dead Gobbos for a moment, before kicking one in such aggravation Lance an’ I jumped. The Green-Hood started. Then he exhaled resolutely. “You’re safe. ... That’s enough for now, I- ... I’m sorry.” 


Without warnin’, he crouched ter Hobbit-level an’ hugged me. I were so stunned I started giggling, but I certainly hugged ‘im back. What a weird night.

 

With me chin over ‘is shoulder, I could see Lance pickin’ in vain hope over the Gobbo bodies. As if hopin’ ter find orders, or a magic Gobbo code phrase. (All 'e found was another phial 'o the vile Gook, for darts, or some’ut. )


I dinnae ken what came over me, but all of a sudden, I couldn’t stop giggling. I were cackling like a lunatic. Halros held me out at arms’ length. “Are you alright, really?”


“I be fine,” I crows. “In fact, I were jus’ thinkin’ between the lot of us, we gots somethin’ brilliant goin’.”


Lance looked at me as if abouts ter say ‘Let’s get you home an’ put you to bed with a hot-water-bottle.’ Then something seemed to dawn on ‘im, an’ his expression changed completely. 


“........... No.”


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