( Hounds and Hobbits, by Parnard to read about Guy's rescue.)
“Looks like we be in fer it whatever we do,” Sarno said with a frown. He pushed himself back in the overstuffed armchair by the fire, took some tobacco out his pocket pouch, stuffed it in his pipe and looked around for a light.
Old Tollu leant forward to provide the necessary. ”When I was young we had none o’ this,” he contributed helpfully. “A bounder answered to the local Thane, or Mayor, and ter the people. None o’ this, I am Lotho’s Bounder, I am the Chief’s bounder, I am me own Bounder.”
It was true, right enough. But it didn’t alter the situation. Either they shut up, or they put up for a fight. And they were outnumbered even before they thought about what Breelanders might be brought in.
“I’m a tellin’ yer, them elves will still help us,” Guy said for the upteenth time. “Just imagine ifen we all had daggers like this,” he waved his prized possession in the faces of the others just as Henepa entered with a large tray of tea and sandwiches.
“Fer the last time, put it away Guy, before yer do someone a mischief,” she said in her strictest tone.”
Guy did as he was told, immediately.
Henepa slammed shut the door, and carried the tray over to the main table, which they had pulled back a little from the window. She put down the tray and pulled one of the curtains to further shield the room from view, Then set out cups and plates. “I be leavin’ yourselves to pour tea and pass round sandwiches. There be beef an horseradish, an salmon an soft cheese. Now I can’t stay. I’ve a tavern nigh full of Second Breakfasters, and Aderic Oakbottom and Gozburt Greenhand trying ter get in this room. Them say if it’s a special meetin’ fer Bounders about findin’ Guy (she nodded at Guy) then them should be included.”
“No way!” announced Sarno. “Them be Lotho’s Bounders.”
Tolbold had been listening, but now he sat forward. “Tell ‘em it’s only fer Guy’s close friends at the moment, if yer will, Henepa. We have ter have some Bounders still on patrol. And that if we get no closer ter findin’ him than we be now, we will call em all in.”
Henepa grinned and nodded.
“I will be doin’ that right away, Tolbold” she replied. “All them waggin tongues out there know is you three be mighty worried over Guy’s whereabouts. Let’s keep it like that.”
“But do keep an ear open fer news about me pony, Gilastor,” Guy interrupted, speaking softly, partly because he was still a little hoarse, and partly so no one outside the room heard him. ”Him kick two o’ those who caught me good an’ proper, so limpin Hobbits may be a clue?”
With another nod and “Don’t you worry, Guy,” Henepa bustled back into the main tavern.
Tolbold poured out four cups of tea, knowing who took milk and how many sugars for each of his Bounders. He had been quite quiet since Henepa had ushered them into the Guest Room. He had been quiet when she sent her helper lad, Turpin, out to fetch Sarno and Tollu. He had been quiet while Guy told his tale. But now he had done his thinking and was ready ter take action.
He plumped up the cushion behind him, put a couple of roast beef sandwiches on his plate and began in as relaxed a manner as he could.
“Yer right, Sarno. We be damned if we do, an’ damned if we don’t. But this is how I sees it. Feel free ter disagree, but have yer reasons. Now It seems ter me we have gone past the funny looks and the followin’ us about. Lotho’s Hobbits are beyond the law. An make no mistake, I would think so are the Chiefs. While them all be watchin’ each other we had it quiet. Now them know Guy is on ter em. What them may not know yet is that Guy be rescued by Elves. We don’t have long.” He took a bite of his sandwich and a few sips of tea.
“All them missin’ letters an’ parcels, and what nots,” Tollo said, pushing his sandwich round his plate, ”It be like a game ter weaken Yondershire and Hithershire, so we don’t know if we be comin’ or goin’. And those writing fer advice or help never get answers.”
Tolbold nodded and scratched his ear. “Yer right. An this be goin on fer some months. Now it makes me wonder if there not be some big an important person behind it all. Lotho? Maybe. Or maybe him just a little pawn.”
“Prawn sandwiches?” asked Tollu hopefully.
“Sorry, no uncle. I ask Henepa if she has any later. But this is no small time crook. This be big brigand stuff, maybe with the wellbeing of all the Shire at stake. An’ we can sit tight an’ hide Guy and play sillies…..or we can try an stop them?”
He had everyone's close attention then.
“Stop em.? Can we do that do yer think?” asked Sarno, sitting forward on the edge of his chair.
Guy was nodding like a mad hobbit. He took up his elf dagger.
“I lay me cards on the table. I have no wish ter kill or hurt anyone. Especially not another Hobbit. That be murder unless yer defendin’ yer life. But I was, and it was brigands, not Lotho’s
Bounders who put me in the cage. An’ with this (again he waved the knife,) I could kill ‘em quick an clean. If’n yer knows what I mean? If we were better armed…”
“Our bows can do a lot of damage, brother. An’ we be used ter them,” said Sarno.
Tolbold nodded, then raised a hand. “Yer’ve a good point there, Guy. Our bows are good, but clubs…well…we ‘ad no need fer more these many a year. Maybe it’s time we all had proper knives?”
“An’ shields?” Tollu piped up when the others thought he was nodding off.
Tolbold thought hard for a moment.“Maybe Uncle. But we is fighting only at need, an that mostly other Bounders. If we have ter fight men, that is another matter.”
Leaning forward to check what the last sandwich had in it, Guy sighed. “You be our ‘Chief’ now, Tolbold, so we do as yer think right. Fer what it be worth, I don’t think we can take em head ter head. They be too many. But we can sneak about still. An maybe we find more than we know? Then we take that ter the Hithershire an see if thems' Thane will help?”
All nodded at those words. Let the Hithershire know what was happening.
Then the door opened a few inches, and Henepa popped her head round the door. The others turned to her.
“Sarno!” she said loudly. “Them Bounder’s of Lotho found yer brother’s black pony up near Long Cleave. He be fine. Them bring him home ter the stable, if yer want ter look an’ see if there be any clue ter Guy’s whereabouts?” She winked.
“Oh..eh…em…..I better do that right away. Thank yer kindly, Henepa.” Sarno was on his feet. He took up his jacket, hat and club, and looked to his brother. “Don’t eat it all while I be gone.”
And he hurried off after Henepa, keeping up the pretense.
Tollu took the last sandwich. “I be not as helpful as yer young’uns, but I reckon maybe yer should ride west an find them friendly elves an ask them’s advice.”
Now on his feet, Tolbold paced back and forth. “I would, cause them is kind ter us. But it’s not so easy. Them could kill all the baddies ‘just like that’. But why should they? I mean, Elves are usually good folk an all, but them keep themselves ter themselves. They have already helped us more than in any tale I can remember.”
Guy nodded, pushed himself back in his chair and put his large feet on the table. “I know, Boss. When them be there, why I feel as brave as rooster at dawn, before foxes. But it’s up ter us really. Them will not always be here. Perhaps….we could just ask advice though. Yer know..them’s fought many a nevil….Dark Lords an’ that sort. I think them would give us a little advice at least?”
“But if them be involved, an that goes fer the knife yer keep wavin’, the baddies will get ter know. An maybe them call fer badder things ter help them? I just don’t know. At the end o the day we just be small folk, not big an brave like them.”
“Now away wi’ that talk. You lads be as brave as any elf or Dwarf I ever heard of.” Henepa was back, but alone.
“Fingolfin?” Tolbold said, not having a clue who that was but overhearing ‘As brave as Fingolfin’ in the Pony when he was in Bree once.
“Aye, him, “ Henepa hadn't a clue either. “Sarno’s just taking Gilastor home, Guy. All be fine. But this talk of yours…them elves may be gone any time, or not. It be in them’s interest ter keep us safe while them are here. We be near them’s border. If yer ask me, which I know yer not, I’d say ride ter thems lands an ask fer pointers? I think them all listen.”
Tollu cheered. “Fine idea, Mistress Henepa. Could we have more sandwiches ter help us digest the thoughts?”
Henepa slapped the old Hobbit lightly round the head. “Stomach first, eh, Uncle.”
“I can come with yer if yer want?” Guy said supportively. “Me and that Estarfin, we be close friends.”
Henepa and Tolbold burst out laughing at the same time. “He saved yer, that be true…but as fer the rest..I be the Thane over the Hill, “ she said. Then she turned to Tolbold. “An yer be careful out there, Tolbold Tatersfield. I know yer be brave an all, but no bein’ foolish and gettin’ in above yer head.” She wagged a finger in front of his face. “We stand our ground, we do what we must, but elf advice be helpful ifen them give it.”
Tolbold had not definitely said he was going to go, but at that point he had to swallow any objections. He had a strange feeling the person Henepa had her eye on was him.
None of them knew, at that moment, the adage 'Go not to the Elves for counsel, for they will say both 'no' and 'yes'. (1)
1 jRR Tolkien. The Fellowship of the Ring.