Being a letter from Applecider Bolingbroke, dispatched via Quick-Post from her lodgings at the Green Dragon Inn, Bywater, The Shire, to Lancogard North-Took, Hon. Deputy-Shirriff of the Northfarthing.
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I encloses herein a fat cherry pie (you’ll want to make some tea to go with that: I baked it slightly dry on purpose, so’s not to make the parcel soggy). Also a hankie of yours left in the camp cookware. I laundered it; it smelled like stinky Gobbos.
I be usin’ the Green Dragon as a base of operations fer a few days on me way back west o’ Needlehole. After all, we gots a wedding to get to in very short order, an’ I’d be a poor excuse fer a Hobbit, what dinnae make a quick trip to Stock fer some after-dinner Brandy Wine, an’ Bamfurlong fer some choice mushrooms, an’ Hobbiton fer apples, an’ Budgeford fer cheese, an’ Woodhall fer sunflower seeds fer seed-cake.
Stop by, if yer rounds take you through Bywater!
We'll doubly sample the Winyards together. ;-D Two-party Quality Control, aye?
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On a personal note, Lance, thar were one final point of interest in me doings afore I took leave of Brockenborings. I leaves this matter with you, off the record for now, as it be of a somewhat confidential nature.
But if’en in future times the Bounders finds themselves in need of an inside line ter the Green-Hoods, ye may discreetly appraise them of yer knowing an auxiliary Bounder (Second-Class), what also now be a duly delegated liaison ter th’ Dúney-lads (Or as they calls it, an “Honorary Ranger”).
I stands by what I said ter Mister Sir Halros when I reamed‘ im out, as I maintains it were true. But I do hope he dinnae land himself in trouble up the chain ‘o command fer bringin’ us into the fray: He were the only Green-Hood with the brass ter do it. So the afternoon before departin’ Brockenborings, I took ‘im a nicely seasoned pan-fry fish, a nut-maple pie, an’ a tot o’ Woolly-Foot stout.
He received all very appreciatively, an’ invited me ter join in partakin’ of supper, which we did, on the overlook above ‘is dwelling outside town.
So I s’ppose we be on amiable terms once more.
At supper’s conclusion, he lit his pipe an’ put his feet up. I thumbed absently at me lute, hummin’ “Come By the Hills,” an’ “Northcotton’s Ball” an’ “Wild Mountain Thyme,” an’ such – An’ we watched the lazy hot evenin’ settlin’ on over the world.
An’ then? – He asked if I wanted to do a spot of work fer the Green-Hoods
..... Did he drop the query out of the blue on purpose? Just fer a hint ‘o vengeance fer me own unexpected inquisitions these few weeks past?
But the bard in me gives ‘im decent marks fer theatrical timing.
In brief: the Green-Hoods keeps a roster of known connections “outside the fold,” to whom they occasionally contract out when there be sensitive work needs doing. Or information from outside their sphere. Or simply when they be short-handed fer work in a pinch.
“What? Like Mister Crane?” I says.
“Hold up. Yeh wants me ter be the Black Fox now?”
“’Morrusc’ has proverbially, you might say, gone to ground in hibernation,” he says. “There may or may not yet come a time when cause arises to wake him again. But we have need of skillsets, and resourcefulness, and .... personalities of many sorts. Particularly if the Shire is to remain 'informed' of things ... as I’ve recently been told it ought to be,” he adds, with an arched eyebrow.
“I’ve spoken with my associates, and should you consent to it, you will be added to the list.” He blew smoke idly toward the gloamin’ sky. “One of a very small number of Halflings ever to be so; I believe only the eighth on record.”
I fiddled with me lute pegs to keep me head an’ stop meself bellowing, ‘Well NATCH, yeh great loon! Do I gets me own hood!?!’
Always play hard ter get afore hearin’ the terms of a gig, aye?
“You mean, do anonymous snoopage, an’ impersonate people, an’ pretend ter be dead, an’ bury a copy o’ meself in peoples’ backyards, an’ trigger weeks of madcappery in the fallout?”
(Actually thar would be a lark. So long as no one were actually in danger – Wonder what land on our borders I’d bury me false self in – maybe Beardie Dorf lands? That’d spark a riot: Dorfs be given ter jumping conclusions RIGHT quick ....).
“I suspect you likely to draw more attention than you would divert, if ever you attempted to impersonate someone, Perianeth,” he says, with solemn amusement. “But we may find other endeavors to which you might be suited.”
He shrugged, bluntly. “Mind you, I say ‘may.’ It’s never predictable, when we do or don’t call on outside help. The work we need is often dull. And when it’s not, it’s typically unforgiving, and frequently uncomfortable. It pays poorly, and your safety is rarely, if ever assured. ... What say you?”
I considered. “If I en’t Black Fox, what be me front fer escapades?”
Mister Halros looked at me.
Then at the remains of the fish on the plate nearby (the same one I’d used to slap his Grizzle-faced Gaffer, Mister Calenglad).
Then he looked at me again, eyeing me flaming ginger curls, and grinned with a RIGHT devilish smirk.
“... Red Herring.”
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