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In the Court of the High King  by Dreamflower

 Berilac continues the tale of the Battle of Greenfields for the enlightenment of their guests...

Chapter 15

In the Shire Year 1147, Thain Isumbras III lay ill, and his older son Ferumbras who was his heir, was off in Buckland doing business with the Master, who was at the time Gormaduc the Wise. This left Mistress Lavinia the Thain's Lady, who had been a Goldworthy by birth, in charge and Bandobras to help her. 

It was just before sunrise in mid-Thrimmidge, while most were still abed, there came a pounding on the Great Doors. The servant who slept in a nearby room and whose job it was to see to such off-hour visitors was quickly awake. He hurried to the doors and flung them open to see a very bedraggled and exhausted hobbit. He came quickly wondering what the trouble could be.  Soon enough he found out. "I've come from the Northfarthing, with an urgent message for the Thain!" he exclaimed. "It can't wait. It's a matter of life-and-death!" 

Well, of course, with the Thain laid up, they sent for Mistress Lavinia, and when she heard his message, she sent for Bandobras. He came quickly wondering what the trouble could be.

His mother turned to the messenger. "Tell my son what you told me," she ordered.

"Master Bandobras, four days ago a Big Man approached Long Cleeve, riding a huge horse. He was weary and wounded. He said he was a Ranger, and he bore word to the Shire: that hobbits must all hide or evacuate, for a large group of goblins were coming our way. He said they'd be here inside of two weeks at the rate they was a-marching, and I've been on the road for three since he got there. We believed 'im we did-- so would you did you see 'im, for he was near done in, he was. He had a big old cut on his side, and the healer was almighty worried she was!" 

Mistress Lavinia looked her son dead in the eye. "It's all up to you, Bandy! You must call the Shire muster! Take the Tooks with you, and gather others as you go. No time to wait for the muster to gather in one place. Hie them all to Long Cleeve as fast as you can and hope you find that Man alive to tell how many there are and how they are making their way to the Shire. I'll see to getting messages out ahead of you! Go, son! Go!" 

Bandy didn't wait at all, he hurried off, and one of the first people he wakened was his cousin and friend Ferumbold. "Fermy, old chap, get up and about! I'll tell you as we go; Mother has ordered out the Muster. Get your bow, and gather up the archers! We are headed for the Northfarthing." 

"Bandy, I hate to mention this, but you are no archer." Ferumbold eyed his cousin suspiciously, half thinking this was perhaps one of his cousin's jokes.

"I know that." Bandy was a great strapping lad for a hobbit, and a decent hand with a sling or thrown stone, and the best wrestler in the Tooklands, but he was no good at archery. He went over to his cousin's wardrobe, flung it open and began rummaging about. 

"Oy!" cried Ferumbold. 

But Bandy emerged, lifting the object of his search high. "I didn't think you'd returned my 9-iron!" he exclaimed. "Well, I'm claiming it now. I should think it would make a goblin think twice. 

They rode out like the wind, with thirty-nine of the Took archers who made up the heart of the Muster-- the fortieth was Bandy's brother Ferumbras. Bandy hoped that word would reach his brother in Buckland, but he scarcely hoped that Rumble would catch up with them.

They passed through Tuckborough and added twenty more to their number; and in Waymeet another dozen. Every village and hamlet through which they passed added a few more. As they made a brief halt to rest the ponies in Needlehole, they were joined by a group of ten from Michel Delving. The leader of the Michel Delving hobbits told Bandy that fifteen more were following on foot. There were none with ponies in Needlehole, so six from there agreed to join the hobbits who were a-foot when they came through. In each village, arrangements were being made to hide the mothers and children and as much of the food as they could. Animals were set free to fend for themselves. If all went well, they could be rounded up later.

They managed to reach Long Cleeve in two and a half days. Mr. Longhole was waiting there with at least fifty hobbits, half of them mounted, and all armed with bows.

"How is the Man?" asked Bandy.

"He still lives, and is doing better. But the healer says he's three weeks at least from being up and about. He nearly killed himself getting here with word. But he's well enough to talk." Mr. Longhole was talking as he escorted Bandy and Ferumbold through the passages to a large room. Several mattresses had been laid down to form a pallet bed, and a very large Man was lying there. He was awake. He wore no nightshirt, and Bandy could see wide bandages wrapped around his torso. He was lean, of middle years, and had dark grey-shot hair and piercing grey eyes. He was very pale, and there were dark circles around his eyes.

"Bandobras Took, this Hirluin son of Dirluin, and he says he's a 'Ranger'. I think it's the Big Folks' version of the Bounders, and he's ridden all this way to help the Shire. Hirluin, this is Bandobras, the son of the Thain."

"I am at your service, Master Bandobras, such as my service may be right now. I wish that I could rise to help you. You must get all your people to safety."

"Word's been sent. The families will see to the safety of as many as they can. But they'll need time. I have almost two-hundred hobbits, half of whom are mounted on ponies. Most of them are archers, and all are good hands with throwing stones and with slings. We will do what we can to hold them back for as long as we can. What can you tell us of them?"

"It's a group of almost a hundred, who have come here from Mount Gram in the Ettenmoors, many leagues East of here. Somehow they heard they might find easy and fat pickings here. They are led by a huge fellow called Golfimbul, if you could call it leading. They are not mounted. Horses and ponies will not bear them and the Wargs they often ride have been scarce in recent years. If they continued the route they were on, they will have crossed the Baranduin and will enter the Shire from the North very soon, if they have not done so already."

"North, you say?" asked Bandy.

The Man nodded.

Bandy looked at Mr. Longhole. "Will that bring them near Greenfields?"

For the first time since Bandy had met him, the other hobbit smiled.

Bandy asked: "Do you have hobbits who know the moors?" For Greenfields was a village at the edge of a large moor, criss-crossed with many bogs, green and fair to look upon, but treacherous to anyone who did not know the ways.
Hirluin, who had up until now, been feeling hopeless as to the chances of the Shire began to feel a faint stirring of hope.

"You must keep in sight of your troops, Bandobras," the Man said.

"How can I do that? There's going to be a lot of confusion."

The Man looked at him closely. "You are quite tall for one of your kind, you know."

Bandy grinned. "That's true."

"Have you ever considered riding a horse?"

He looked the great beast over. It was a nicely proportioned animal, and even though it was a stallion, Hirluin said he was good natured and easy to ride. Hirluin was not Belan's first or even second rider, but they'd been together over a year now, and knew one another well. If the Man thought he'd let Bandy ride him, he was probably right.

Bandy was a good rider, and he had a fond but firm relationship with his pony Biscuit. Belan was big, but he seemed to be less skittish than Biscuit was. Still, he couldn't help a little apprehension as he led the animal next to the paddock fence. He could mount from there.  Ferumbold handed him up the 9-iron, and Bandy took it firmly in his grip and shook it briefly. Then he began to walk the horse around the paddock, then they trotted, cantered, and finally made two rounds at a gallop. He was surprised to realise how easily riding the huge animal came to him; it rather reminded him of when he was a child. Riding a horse as an adult was not much different than riding his father's large pony when he was a six-year-old—save that now he knew how to ride.

He began to canter around the paddock again, and Ferumbold set some bottles on the top rail near where he stood to the left of the gate. As Bandy came by he swung the club, shattering each bottle as he came to it. He tugged lightly on the reins, and Belan came to an obedient stop. Bandy grinned. He liked this animal! It would be hard to give him back later.

"Well, I won't be defenseless," he said, "and that's good to know."

He clambered down. "Now we need to talk about strategy..."

The scouts were sent out that afternoon, but the hobbits did not wait for their return; they would meet them on the move-- they left at moonrise.

Hirluin had given Bandy some last minute advice, to engage the goblins during the day for the goblins did not like the Sun and were weaker then. "But weaker than they are at night does not mean they are weak enough to defeat easily. They will be more confused in sunlight, but they will still be stronger than hobbits. Your archers and your stones and your terrain will serve you better than attempting to engage them close to. And the land itself will be your best defense."

The mounted hobbits rode hard. They were being followed by those on foot, but they knew they could not wait. At dawn, they were found by one of the scouts. "The goblins are encamped in Greenfields. The Ranger had warned the village, and the hobbits were evacuated in time, but the beasts have moved in and destroyed many of the smials, tearing the doors and windows off them so that they can get in out of the Sun. They've set guards, but those are mostly hiding in the shadows of the buildings, and they can't see very well-- their line of sight is mostly blocked."

Bandy sent the scout to tell the foot hobbits to spread out between Long Cleeve and Oatbarton. "Tell them to be sure to have plenty of stones and arrows. Dirluin said they will be weakest at noon. We'll get ready to drive them out then. Surround the village on three sides, but leave plenty of room to the South for them to flee." He looked around at them. "I'll be waiting with two-score Tooks at the south end of town.

The listening hobbits nodded, and gave grim smiles. Then all began to prepare.

The Sun was at her zenith when the attack began with flaming arrows aimed at the broken windows and doors. In a matter of seconds, goblins came pouring out of the smoke-filled smials with roars of anger. At first, many of them cowered in the Sun, but their leader came out with a long whip and began to lay about him. He soon had brought them into a semblance of order and they spotted the mounted hobbits at the end of the street and began running towards them.

Bandy gave a signal, and the archers let fly. He loosed off several stones, for none of the enemy were close enough for his club. The arrows-- and the stones-- found their marks, and some of the goblins went down, but most of them kept coming. Bandy gave another signal, and as agreed, the hobbits feigned terror and turned to ride away.

"Hai!" called the leader. "After those little rats! We'll feast on them, and on their fat little ponies, too! Don't let them get away." The chase was on.

Bandy and his hobbits led them into the moors which gave Greenfields its name. Once they had them a few furlongs out of the village, the other hobbits who had surrounded the village came behind, more archers, and hobbits with slings. Infuriated, and beset before and behind by beings they considered their rightful prey, the goblins lost all caution.

Then with a screech, the first one went down in the first of the bogs. Within minutes a good third of the goblins were sinking fast. The rest became more cautious, yet not knowing the land, many were still getting caught in the bogs. Bandy had been busily throwing stones, but now they were all gone.

And then he realised that he was in danger of going into one of the bogs himself. He was between two dangerous areas, and though he'd found a spot with firm footing, retreat would be difficult. Then the goblin chief spotted him, and began moving towards him with a snarling grin. "Well, well, well, a rat on a horse! You must fancy yourself something special. I wonder are you tastier than these others?"

Bandy stood fast; Belan had his feet planted firmly, though he pawed the ground with a forefoot and snorted. Belan had encountered goblins before, and he didn't like them. Bandy took a deep breath and drew the 9-iron from its sheath on the saddle. He stood as tall in the stirrups as he could, realising that mounted as he was, he was actually "taller" than the goblin. He drew back as the creature approached, its own wicked sword raised high, and swung as hard as ever he could. The goblin's head snapped back with a crack, and the head hung at an unnatural angle. With a sound that was more a squeak than anything else, Golfimbul teetered and fell sideways into a bog. But the impact unbalanced Bandy, and he toppled off the horse into another bog.  "I'm done for," he thought, as he landed in the mucky surface.

He was quite surprised to waken several hours later to his cousin Ferumbold's anxious face. He'd struck the back of his head on a submerged rock, which had actually saved him, for unconscious, he had not struggled. He floated atop the bog for long enough to be rescued by his cousins. He spent several days being nursed back to health by Mr. Longhole's daughter Diamante, and it came as no surprise to Ferumbold when Bandy decided to remain in Long Cleeve and settle down there...


Berilac stopped. "Frodo told it much better, and in greater detail, but this is as much as I can remember of it."

Calion, and indeed the rest of his family, had listened entranced to the tale.

Freddy took a deep breath. "You told it very well, Beri."

Viola was staring at Beri in frank adoration. "I had never heard it like that before!" she said. "That sounds as though it really happened. All the other versions I've heard were funny, and made it all sound like nothing more than a joke!"

Berilac shook his head. "It was no joke. It did happen. Nearly a dozen hobbits lost their lives in the battle, and the village of Greenfields was destroyed. All the hobbits who had lived there had to go to Long Cleeve and Oatbarton until the village was rebuilt.  But the goblins were completely routed, and not a one escaped."

"But that," said Fredegar, "was the only battle ever fought in the Shire until the Battle of Bywater when Frodo and the others came home."

Ivoreth yawned, and Calion found himself yawning as well.

Calembel looked at them, and said, "I thank you, my friends, for a pleasant and fascinating evening! The food was beyond delicious, and the tale was amazing! But I think our children have been up far past their bedtimes!"

Farewells were spoken, and the family made their way down to their home. Calembel carried Ivoreth, who was soon sleeping on her father's shoulder. But Calion walked behind his parents, lost in a dreamlike daze as he imagined that great hero, Bandobras Took.

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