“I think he’s waking up” said a voice.
“I’m not so sure” said another.
“Poke him with your truncheon” said the first voice.
“As if! You do it!” said the second.
Eberardus slowly opened his eyes, his vision blurred. He appeared to be laying upon a hard stone floor with strands of hay scattered about it. As if by reflex, he swatted away the oncoming truncheon aimed roughly at his midriff. This seemed to startle the two figures who loomed above him, prompting them to retreat. The unmistakable sound of steel clanged together, followed by a click. “Wha- Where am I?” asked Eberardus, sitting bolt upright, rubbing his tender eyes.
“Eberardus Malvern?” asked the first voice.
“The last I looked…” he grumbled.
“You’re in the shirriff’s hold and under arrest!” said the first voice.
As his vision improved, Eberardus climbed to his feet. He moved towards the bars dividing him from his captors. He rested against them, eyeing the two before him. The first shirriff he did not know, an older and stern looking hobbit whilst the other, a younger and more timid individual, he knew as Euric Featherfoot. “Is that right?” asked Eberardus, “Under what charge?”
“Disorderly behaviour and assaulting the inn staff at The Golden Perch!” said the older hobbit. “Furthermore, you shall address me as Shirriff Moreton.”
Eberardus smirked, rubbing his forehead. “Well, Shirriff Moreton, I regret to inform you that you’re mistaken.”
“Indeed?” answered Moreton. “So you do not recall striking Hrodburt Southwark for refusing to serve you after closing time?”
Eberardus scoffed, waving his hand dismissively. “He struck me.”
“We have witnesses to the event who claim he did no such thing!” said Moreton, glaring through the bars. “You, sir, are a disgrace to The Shire. This isn’t the first we’ve heard about you and your… activities. Far from it, we hear you’ve been kicking up a fuss throughout the land and with very little regard for the effect that you have on others.”
Eberardus took a step back and gave a mock bow. “I’m flattered.”
“Don’t be” said Moreton. “If I had it my way I’d lock you up and throw away the key. Nevertheless…” Moreton reached for his pocket and pulled out a set of keys. “You’re lucky you have family on your side.”
As the prison door was unlocked and opened, Eberardus caught a glimpse of none other than Ulwell Ashenbrook, his brother-in-law. His arms folded and a weary expression upon his face.
As the two hobbits stepped out into the open, Eberardus stretched his arms and took a deep breath. “I must thank you again for coming to my aid, Ulwell. I honestly don’t know where I’d be without you.”
Ulwell remained silent.
“I take it Rowena sent you? Why, she’s always worrying about me. How are they? The family I mean?”
Ulwell continued to walk without so much as a glance towards Eberardus.
“So you’re not going to say anything? Nothing? Not even a hello?”
Ulwell came to an abrupt halt, at last turning to face Eberardus with a look of disdain upon his face. “When is it going to end, Eberardus?” he asked.
“When will what end?” said Eberardus.
“This destructive path you seem committed to follow? There is only so much I… we, can take. Have you given no thought to how poorly your behaviour reflects upon the family?”
Eberardus stood for a moment in silence. Opening his mouth as if to say something, closing it, then opening it again to ask “Haven’t got any pipeweed on you, have you?”
Ulwell cursed under his breath, marching on ahead. “You’re unbelievable.”
“Oh, come off it, Ulwell. I didn’t ask you to come and bail me out!” said Eberardus.
“No, but I wanted to come. Because we’re family, and that means something to me if it means nothing to you.” Ulwell reached into his overcoat and pulled out a small, flat pouch of pipeweed, throwing it at his brother-in-law. “You’re to come back home with me now, and apologise to Rowena!”
As Ulwell stormed ahead, Eberardus reached into his pocket and pulled out a small wooden pipe. He crushed the weed, placed it within and lit it. “I’ll need something stronger for this.”