Being the continued record of Applecider Bolingbroke, for debriefing & delineation by the Honorable Bounders, once I've finished this drink ...
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T’were a right blizzard of chaos, the aftermath. What with Big Folk militia from Trestlebridge, Mister Amarion's strike team with a few brigands what surrendered, an’ a sizeable sampling of Mister Sir Halros’s fellow Green-Hoods from the Wood, an' beyond.
I swears to ye, I never seen so many Dúney-Bounders all at once in me life. – Bullroarer’s Bottles of ’84 Vintage, I gots ter pause here, just thinkin’ about it – Braw bonnie lads, the lot of ‘em!!
(.... What? ... a Hobbit can dream, aye?)
A heap of explainin’ had ter be done, an’ a lot of corroboratin’ ter follow.
Ours may have been the Mother Nest of All Gobbo-de-Gook, but stands ter reason thar be smaller caches of it all over the Wood: Some had already been seized by Green-Hoods, an’ some were actively bein’ sought, even as we stood around expositing.
One o’ these Green-Hoods introduced ‘imself particular to me an’ Lance. A Mister Sir Andreg, what patrols the Wood’s edge north o’ Bree. – Bristly charcoal hair, an’ a big mole on one cheek. – Not only were he the brother o’ Mister Amlan (he be still in a wretched way, by the by, but stable. Think he'll recover), on whose behalf Mister Andreg badly wanted ter thank us. But turns out, he were the body behind the call o’ the hermit thrush, what came within fifteen or twenty paces of landing an arrow in our heels.
Mister Andreg were fair pale, realizin’ he’d been that close ter pottin’ a Hobbit or two. Still, he applauded our act fer effectiveness (just please let me teach you the Rangers’ whistle signal for “Abort!” next time!). Nice gent. I’ll be takin’ him a pie next time I be near Bree.
Lance an’ I still have Jonagold an’ Pony ter collect from Dwaling, so tomorrow mornin’ we’ll have ter punt back over the Brandywine.
From there, we rides once more to Brockenborings.
I wholeheartedly admire an’ salute the honorable Bounders. But Bullroarer witness me, I’m glad I be only an auxiliary, second-class or otherwise. I could nae handle the paperwork a Bounder gots ter file on a routine basis ter remain accountable ... an’ this particular report – I fears – is going to require absolute reams of it.
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As a Post-Script, by the by. Since I be on the subject of accountability, I s’ppose I should also make mention of the following:
Lance an’ I took a turns havin’ a bath in the river ter scrub off our screechy Gobbo visages. Sittin’ on the banks ter dry afterwards, Lance mended his bow, whilst I caught me a lovely trout (figger that’ll go well with coarse pepper an’ garlic an’ a nice fresh zucchini later).
This were about the time the Green-Hoods were startin’ to regroup.
One were a grizzled, burly individual with a bald head, an’ a beard he looked ter trim without the aid of a mirror.
This turned out ter be Mister Halros’s gaffer: a Mister Captain Callie-glad. All th’ way from this Twilight Lake, what were the original target o’ the Plot.
He spokes at quite some length with Mister Sir Halros, an’ many other lads what spent these long weeks as scouts, or infiltrators. Credit where it’s due: he gives ‘em full commendations fer weatherin’ all the events since winter. An’ no momentum were lost. At his order, lots o’ the Green-Hoods were off again almost at once: Tracin’ the routes o’ the watershed, ter make sure no sly barrels were bein’ dumped, as final petty vengeance by some rogue brigand or whatnot.
Now thar be thorough, I says. Good thinkin’.
... Then the grizzled Man looks over me an’ Lance. Back in our own garb now, but still more'n a bit scruffy from our Gobbo impersonation.
“So.” He glowers at Halros. “These are the Halflings you allowed into the operation unvetted.”
If I harbors any mild discomfiture fer what happened next, it only be because I were told later he were actually planning ter commend us, too – in his gruff way – fer our contributions (but next time, stay in our Burrows where it be safe, an’ let the Elfs an’ the Dúney-lads handle their affairs).
He never got so far as sayin’ so, though.
‘Cause before he could open his mouth again, I says ter Mister Halros, “SO! ... Were this here gaffer the bloke what gave you orders ter keep every honest Hobbit in the dark about the Black Star, the Dwaling brigands, the Gobbo-de-Gook, the dead-not-dead Fox in Shire bounds an’ all else?”
Mister Halros were in an awkward place.
Not wishin’ ter bad-mouth his superior officer, he only said Gaffer Calenglad had “a great many irons in the fire,” and “a great many people’s interests at heart.”
Lance an’ I looked at each other.
I hopped on a sizeable stump. Lance handed up the trout I’d just caught, and – as I once swore to – I whapped it clean across his grizzled Hobbit-deceivin’ face.
Then I stomped off ter loot our packs an’ find us both some’ut to drink.
Mister Sir Halros somehow managed not to laugh, but I swears he near passed out tryin’ ter suppress it.
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