FIFTY-ONE

.o0 THE COMMON TATER 0o.
All the news you’re not supposed to hear.
.o0 FIFTY-ONE 0o.
July 28th, 2012

The Ballad of Bill Ferny
Hrastan Leasbreda

IN this dark time, with shadows moving across the land..
The Nine riders, Sauron did send
“Find the one ring!”, was their given command
The Free people, they could do little to defend…

Until…

They happened to a town, down the greenway..
Between Staddle and Combe, it did lay.
A peaceful little place, until that day..
A few hobbits set upon on a noble journey…
Little luck did those riders have, but the folk of Bree-hill say:
That the hobbits they done disgraced Bill Ferny

Now, Ferny he did not take it well,
Of crime, Bree-Hill began to smell…
And with each score, and each success…
Ol’ Bill Ferny’s Vendetta of Vengeance began to swell…
On a dreadful plot his thoughts began to dwell
And so he went to Sharkey, The Shire he plotted to sell.

That great evil that was spreadin’ across the land
Sauron, they called him in old Westernesse…
Bill Ferny was but a pawn, in a game of Chess…

Strange folks began arriving at all hours…
Thugs, they were, with menacing glowers.
The folks about they thought they had no powers,
And yet, suddenly there came a glut of potato flowers…

The people of Bree-Hill took it as a sign,
That Ferny and his lot should not be allowed no more to dine.
Barliman Butterbur bless him, his soul full of shine…
Gathered the Breelanders and together they drew the line…
And out they threw ol’ Ferny out of town with last week’s brine…
One last word Ferny tried to get “You better watch out, you’ll be paying a fine!”

And that’s when Miss Meril Softfoot did her thing…
Clever hobbitess had a flint and with a soft “ching”…
Ferny’s foot went up in up in blazes and he began to sing…
Out of town he flew like a chicken who takes wing!

There’s not much more that can be said…
So now the song comes to an end…
Kudo your Tater and Enjoy your Editoress!

…o0o…

The View of the World from Three-foot-Six
Primrose Greenfield

Been a lot of talk about some work being done in Bree, renovations to the town, updates to the defenses. Made it all the way up to the Northfarthing where I’ve been doing what little I can to help my family and neighbors despite Sharkey’s brutes. Far more cautious word’s been floating on the wind, too, about the tater looking for a few stout folk to go, see and report. Figured I’d go see what’s what. Probably no gold in it, but no matter, it would just be ‘gathered’ if anyone knew I had any. Been doing far too little rangering lately, except for what’s needed to gather and use healing herbs. Need the practice.

The most obvious thing on reaching the town is the guard stations, set a few feet above the town so’s the guards can have a better view I suppose, but I’m not going in there if I can help it. Most unnatural, stairs… Then again maybe I am. The guards at the gate were muttering something about bandits and a pony when I went past. Must put aside fear to do this properly, Primrose, and all the dislikes that aren’t a matter of honor.

Step into the lodge and what’s the first thing I hear but the guard telling the absent Bill Ferny, who apparently got the boot out of town, to enjoy Bywater. Excuse me, Mister, that’s my second home, you see, and we have enough ruffians without you sending us yours. Must stifle urge to give this man an earful. So I clamp down on my temper and listen a little while longer. As we talk he mentions bandits, but then goes telling me I’m too big to deal with them. I’m half his size! Ah well, nothing for it. If he won’t let me deal with it, I’ll just see what else is brewing.

The change most quickly evident inside town is that the guards actually patrol where they used to just guard the gates. Useful, I suppose.

Nothing has changed with old Brand. He’s still upset about Arguindel there with his shop off the town square. Don’t know what he’s all bothered about. He still has Laryn ,and probably gets good merchandise cheap if it doesn’t sell from the auction block. Nor has anything changed with the postmaster. He always seems to have an opening, but doesn’t think it’s worth my time to play postman. If he was a Shire hobbit, he’d know you ought to take any help you can get and not be too fussy. I’ve been known to do my share of post delivery in the Northfarthing, thanks. They also left the cemetery alone. Good. Another guard station at the north gate with a torch. Well, better than just barricading it like it was before.

Nothing has changed with Arguindel, either. Stood with him for a good while looking on the wares, mostly junk with a few treasures mixed in, and all he would talk about was trading and turtle shells.

There’s a new blacksmith going by the name of Aldin. A few folks came in to have repairs done while I was watching him. Not sure what to make of him. Didn’t like the look of a shovel he made and threw the thing against the wall. Everard would just melt it down and reforge it without the display of temper. Course, Everard would just do it right the first time. Never have seen him have to totally remake an item. Fix, yes, reforge, no. Apparently smithing does run in Aldin’s family, though, he’s still got his great-grandfather’s first project. He exaggerates if he thinks the shovel I saw him throw is anything near that bad.

This part of town certainly is the most strongly scented. Pitch and tobacco don’t mix well, though, let me tell you. See, he’s right across from Jeffrey, the man with all the pipes and pipe-weed. Must stop in here for a visit despite still being able to smell the pitch and such.

Puffing on my pipe, I wander toward the inn. The various buildings in town where people used to go to meet up with each other appear to have been moved here. Fitting, I suppose. Meetings do go better with a good meal, but I’ve still not seen what has everyone so excited.

Looks like they tore down the old rangers’ training building and now it’s just a campsite. Probably better. Can’t practice herb gathering, tracking or trapping in a building. Nothing to do but train and I’m too broke for that.

Went all the way down to the south gate. Ferny has indeed finally been given the heave. I think I had better get to Bywater and find him. A thousand gold says he’s at the mill with that Sandyman, least it would if I had it. This was a rather disappointing trip. Either I have missed something or people are looking to anything new at all as exciting.

…o0o…

This Month in History

8 Afterlithe-10 Wedmath (July 1- August 2)

10 Afterlithe, 3018

Gandalf the Grey trapped on the summit of Orthanc by Saruman of Many Colours.

18 Afterlithe- 10 Wedmath, 3019*

Dates of the funeral preparations, procession and rites of Theoden, King of the Mark.

*Future dates courtesy of Mistress Meril’s Rune Readings.

…o0o…

When bears attack (the local inn)…

As omnivores who hibernate, bears tend to always know about two things: food and sleeping (well ok… three things, but we’ll not talk about fighting here!) As this is the case, they are uniquely qualified to be the best of Inn Reviewers in the business. The Common Tater has therefore hired Gristwen and Czral of the Beornings to talk about everyone’s home on the road: Inns!

As the bear-infused family of Beornings are wont to do as a mere fraction of our obligatory duties, Gristwen and I (Czral) set out early before dawn this particular day to investigate reports of wargs infesting a region relatively near friendly Elrond’s wooded haven of Rivendell. The aim was to revel in the satisfaction resulting from dispatching of, and also to claim the right of boasting about returning with any spoils from, these wretched creatures. Upon catching sight of roving creatures most assuredly up to evil deeds in the budding light, the faint glow before the still-radiant sunrise that oft occurs even amongst these dark times, we two bear-villagers pursued the beasts south into the wild beyond the River Bruinen. After managing to severely injure myself I struggled with life and limb to escape the dreadful grasp of a tortuous mongrel and its hissing whip. Upon bringing myself through a near-death experience, I eluded the clutches of this deadly hole amongst crags and wandered in the direction I thought certain to lead me back home to my village near The Carrock. In an unusually severe oblivious state, relative to my usually unaware state, I actually trekked westward and stumbled into the first civilization large enough to instill a hope involving the possibility of renewal and survival…Bree.

Upon my passing of the guards, who were possibly in fear of my obvious capability of destroying them (at least so I write for my ego’s failing condition at this point), I came upon the local watering hole: The Prancing Pony Inn. I strolled…in actuality it probably appeared more like a slowly-floating large-and-hairy version of a wight… towards the looming parlour I saw beyond the courtyard where a dirty hobbit by the exquisite name of Bob watched me pass by a multitude of parked horses into the bustling common room. The landlord, Barliman Butterbur, greeted me graciously with the honed plea of a skilled proprietor attempting to have me inspect his menu and enjoy his services. Enjoy the services I did indeed, after I perused my options…which struck me as slightly odd being only of the alcoholic variety…I thought, “This is exactly what I need to reinvigorate myself for the road ahead…I’ll find one that leads me back to my village this time!” and ordered one of each: One cheap beer, one cheap (and delectably delicious, Siren-call-inducing) taste of rum, a hearty ale and a bottle of wine to carry with me to where I hoped to find rest in solitude before my awaiting travels began. Instead, I stumbled east towards the unmistakable aroma of food in an instantly drunken state, slovenly crashing into a young hobbit girl who quickly sat me in a corner in an attempt to minimize any negative consequences from such a raucous intrusion. From here, the words left inscribed to me by Gristwen and said hobbit girl, who will better inform the public of the grandiose excellence that I happened upon this day…mainly because I inscribed no coherent words myself from this point on…

I usually never find myself strolling the streets of Bree these days. Long ago has the time been since I entered this town and mingled amongst the folk. This night was no ordinary night though. Rumours had made their way back to the Beorning Village that Czral had gone on one of his ‘benders.’ He’s known amongst us all, as the ‘strange, mad scientist’ type. I just knew the night ahead would turn out to be one to remember. I had to venture to Bree anyhow as Mrs. Butterbur had invited me taste her menu and give her my thoughts. I’m sure she chose me as it’s widely known how much I eat, and enjoy my food, especially rich, sweet and sickly varieties, and I’m often found munching on some treat time to time.

I took it upon myself to go and sort this mess out. Czral had been on business in Bree and I knew he’d sought shelter at the local inn. So I gathered my personals and headed that way. As I arrived at the Bree signpost, I could catch a faint smell of rum that seemed to waft past my nostrils. At that precise moment I paused and inhaled. I heard the most horrendous screech, and what seemed to be the sound of a high-pitch cry in the nearby distance. Having a good scent of things proves to come in useful at times, and I let my senses guide me. My feet hurried along and I found myself standing at the entrance to the Prancing Pony. A slight shiver tingled throughout my body as I felt a little unease as I walked through the door. My initial glance was towards a seriously drunken sailor, who kept babbling on. My ears seemed to close at his nonsense, I was here for one sole reason and that was to see what on earth Czral had gotten himself into. Now I do admit, I did get a little distracted looking at Barliman Butterbur’s drinks menu, and for a brief moment, I thought about having just the one night cap… *cough* Then once more that piercing cry ran through my ears. I turned my head quickly to the right of the room, and low and behold crumpled in the corner is Czral, clutching his head and swinging back and forth.

Panic raced through my heart, “Czral, Czral, what ever is wrong with you?” I said as I took both his arms and tried to heave him up on his feet. His face, streaming with tears, looked up towards me, his lower lip quivering as he tried to get the words to pass through his lips.”Take a deep breath, and tell me what has happened here?” I said. The smell of his breath almost knocked me out as his head nodded towards the rowdy sailor. “Oh, I see Czral, you’ve gotten into a silly bar-fight again haven’t you? How many times per week do we have to keep enduring this behaviour from you?” He stumbled to his feet, his clothes all crumpled and the sweaty odour mixed with alcohol turning my stomach.”The-th-the drrrunken sailor s-ss-s-said my teeth look dull” he blurted out, as he yet again burst into sobs. I shook my head in disgust, “Did you do your review Czral, or have you been drinking all night long?” His eyes just stared up at me, glazed over, and I could tell his mind was absent. “We were meant to work on this together, remember the food review?”I’ll not give so much detail on his response, let’s just say, I did not like what ended up on my feet, nor the floor. I felt so disappointed in him, I gave him my best ‘wait til you get home’ look, but nothing seemed to phase him and he waved staggering out of the inn, singing at full belt. Upon being abandoned by Czral, I made my way through the mass of drunken sailors and ne’er-do-wells to the kitchen.

Here I introduced myself to Leah and Mrs. Butterbur, although Mrs. Butterbur kept reminding me of the ‘hard stuff’ her husband sells. I tried to block this out for a brief moment and asked her about her menu. Leah was busy preparing the milk and bread, and it seemed that there was a lot of effort involved, judging by the way Leah was panting, my hair kept blowing around. “Well Mrs Butterbur, I’d like to first try your bread please,” I say politely, and she nodded and handed me it. The bread looked delicious and even the freshly baked smell made my mouth water, until I bit into it, and nearly lost one of my teeth, the crust was extremely tough to bite into, it was quite moist inside, but this did leave me thirsty, even after the initial bite. “I need something to wash this down with. Could I have a glass of water please?” I asked, as my tongue seemed to stick dryly to the roof of my mouth. She handed me over a fresh bottle of water, and as I gulped down the thirst-quenching liquid, I did for that moment enjoy the relief. It seemed to taste like the best water I’d ever come across.

Now I had 2/3 things done, so whilst I had my taste buds back in order, I ordered the milk. I’ve never gotten to drink much milk so this was quite new to me; usually I settle for some punch or a beer, or keg or two. I opened the bottle of what I was told was fresh milk, I glugged it down in one fast swig. I cannot say I enjoyed it, though something made me wonder if it had any relation to the goat that I’d seen standing outside. I did my best to lie convincingly, and thanked the pair for allowing me in to taste their menu. Maybe my taste buds are used to the richer foods, so I would recommend their menu for younger folk, who have not adapted to heavy, fuller foods yet. I left and made my way back home. A little bit of the journey back does remain a blur, and I’ll thank Mr. Butterbur for that and his hospitality.

“Leah’s notes on a strange bear”

A unique happening this day, of a creature rarely (if ever) showing itself amongst us. He obviously required healing services but had opted for inebriation instead. So, in the interest of everyone present, I did my best to hide him from view and feed him bread and milk to regain some kind of composure from him. I found that the bread, although nearly emptying our night’s supply, helped to sober him up…along with an abnormally high intake of water. Once he was able to move effectively enough on his own in one direction I guided him towards Nob, the cheery-faced room manager. Spilling gold as he walked, this bear paid for more than his fair share of trouble to us and received as good a treatment as we can offer. We carefully walked with him into a second story private room, precariously dodging the walnut side table and chairs before plopping him down upon the comfortable box-framed bed. The snores would have been much too much to tolerate save for the privacy of the sturdy doors we have erected to insulate each room. I’ll have to continue my ever-busy work now but will never forget this encounter with such an interesting customer.

My head…it’s somehow functioning amidst this wracking pain of wounds, hangover and the anguish of being away from the comforts of home. Yet I am refreshed and remain gleefully alive, able to journey forth from the cozy and well-equipped environs of this above-average Prancing Pony into my adventures abroad. I recommend that anyone in the proximity of Bree should stop in and to not be hasty in enjoying the scenery, services and particularly the beverages menu, that this home away from home has to offer. It is expectedly better than being stranded in the wild, lost in the blackened depths of a whip-wielding sadist…or wait, is it? It just may be worth trying both in your lifetime to find out… that said… I quit!

Oh dear. Nothing actually said about the state of the rooms at the Pony, and I guess we’re going to be looking for someone to review inns with Gristwen… So then. Think you can sleep as ferociously as Gristwen of the Beornings can eat? Give us a holler by E(agle) mail: commontaterT2T@gmail.com

…o0o…

The Plight of Mister Dandyfoot
Greyrider

It was day unlike any other. Mr. Dandyfoot awoke with a start, and glancing at the sundial directly outside his bedroom window, he noticed he was already running a whole minute late! The elderly hobbit quickly dressed, positioning his glasses upon his nose at the perfect angle, and gathered his belongings for the long day ahead of him. It was the second day of the week, and like any other week, it was the day to travel to town for supplies. He glanced down at his list and said to himself, ‘I need pipe-weed, horse feed, bread, tea, milk, and pipe-weed. Did I mention pipe-weed?’

Mr. Dandyfoot hurried to the kitchen and prepared himself a small breakfast. Biscuits, scrambled eggs, bacon, omelets, potatoes (both mashed and thinly cut into strips and baked), and pancakes. He laid his butter, syrup, jelly, gravy, and other sides on the table. He then sat himself down to enjoy his hot breakfast. Within fifteen minutes he had eaten the mound of food upon the table and he was sitting atop a horse-drawn buggy, reins in his hands. With a practiced flick of his wrists, the horses trotted forward.

‘Ahh, it is a beautiful day!’ said Mr. Dandyfoot. He looked up at the morning sun and lamented, ‘If only I were running on time!’

Two hours later, Mr. Dandyfoot saw a town on the horizon. He made this trek numerous times every month, and every time he saw the town come into view he would make the same excited comment, ‘Oh Bree! How I love thee!’

Dandyfoot carefully steered his horse-drawn buggy along the well-kept road until he finally pulled up to the west gate of Bree. As usual, a short man with shaggy hair opened the gates exclaiming, ‘Good day, Mr. Dandyfoot!’ Most unusually, however, the man added, ‘Seems as if you are running a bit late today, sir!’ Dandyfoot frowned with shame and admitted, ‘Yes. I know… it is most unusual.’

Mr. Dandyfoot steered his buggy through the gates, politely waving at the short man. He drove the buggy to the usual spot near a ratty goat and lithely hopped to the ground and tied the reins to a hitching post. Mr. Dandyfoot then pulled his supplies list out of his pocket and quickly took off in the direction of the Prancing Pony, where his longtime friend and proprietor Barliman Butterbur worked. Dandyfoot always bought his horse feed, bread, milk, and tea at the Prancing Pony, as Butterbur would give him the best deals. This was where things took an interesting turn. As Dandyfoot turned to enter the Prancing Pony, he ran into a wall. He fell flat on his bottom and looked up at the wall. He then glanced at the sun, remembering again that he was running late. ‘Blast it all! How can running one minute late throw me off kilter so badly?!’ He stood up and ran further down the street and then made his usual turn into the Prancing Pony, but not before he noticed, to his surprise, that he passed a hitching post with a stable-worker standing outside the inn. ‘Hello, Mr. Bob! What are you doing out front?’ Mr. Dandyfoot said to the small hobbit standing by the hitching post. He was running quite late, however, so he ran into the inn without waiting for a reply.

After purchasing what he needed at the Prancing Pony, Mr. Dandyfoot quickly took off in the direction of the smoke-shop, where he always bought his pipe-weed. He glanced at his list, noting that he had written it down twice as to not forget it. He enjoyed a nicely packed pipe every evening after second supper, and he was completely out of pipe-weed at the moment. As he ran down the street, he seemed to lose himself in the bustle and hurry, which was quite unusual. After making his way to the intersection where the smoke-shop sits, he turned into the smoke-shop and…ran into another wall. He fell flat on his bottom. He gasped, inaudibly admitting to himself (and trying to outwardly project a facade as if he actually meant to run into the wall) that he was surprised beyond belief at running into yet another wall.

‘What is happening to me?’ he said to himself, ‘have I gone blind? Surely being one tiny minute late would not cause me to lose track of my steps in Bree! Oh Bree! How I love thee!’

Suddenly, and without any warning, a large human grabbed Mr. Dandyfoot by the arms and hauled him up. The human bellowed in Dandyfoot’s ear, ‘What’s wrong wiff you, hobbit?! You’re right drunk and disorderly in public!’ Mr. Dandyfoot defended himself, ‘No sir! No, no, no! I am not drunk! I am simply late! And my good man, it seems as if Bree simply isn’t as it used to be!’

The large man laughed gruffly and said, ‘Bree has ne’er changed and ne’er will, you drunkard!’ He then hauled Mr. Dandyfoot off to the Magistrate’s Office. ‘Where are we?!’ Mr. Dandyfoot demanded to know. ‘Hush up, now, hobbit! You are drunk and disorderly! I’ll have no more of it!’ Dandyfoot gulped and said weakly, ‘I wish I would have woke up on time. Now I am sure to miss my mid-afternoon lunch, and my pre-dinner, and my dinner, and my second dinner, and my daily smoke!’

After Mr. Dandyfoot pleaded for what seemed like hours, the large human holding him in place the whole while, the magistrate offered the following: ‘Mr. Dandyfoot, you are hereby sentenced to a night in our comfortable jail cell. I recommend being drunk in the privacy of your estate or the confines of a local tavern. We will not have you bumbling around in our town, running into walls and crying that you are late! You are not late, you are drunk, sir!’

It was at this moment that Mr. Dandyfoot finally understood his plight. He knew that he was not drunk. He had also finally driven the idea from his mind that being late was the cause of this trouble. He knew it now, more so than ever: this was the doing of magic! That meddlesome Grey wizard was the culprit! He had moved the whole town of Bree around and befuddled the minds of those living here with his magics!

Little did Mr. Dandyfoot know, but his troubles were not caused by liquor, being late, nor the magic of any wizard. Little did Mr. Dandyfoot know, but he had traveled through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. He had passed that signpost way back–where was he?  The Twilight Zone.

…o0o…

CLASSIFIEDS

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Buxom Breelander Seeks Wealthy Widower for Household Handiwork. Apply in Person at the Prancing Pony, Second Room on the Right.

Mister Applebottom of Bywater politely requests that the Brandybuck children disturbing his evening tea by climbing the trees in his orchard making a nasty ruckus cease and desist or he will be forced to enlist the Shirriffs. Mister Applebottom also wishes to imply that the parents of the unruly bunch are better suited to managing livestock than tweenagers.

Is your hobbit hole filled with old rubbish? Land littered with carts and tools you no longer use? Ted Sandyman of Bree wants your stuff! Don’t send ahead, just dump your unwanted junk over his fence!

Reward offered for information leading to the identification of the hooligan who left his “mark” all over Gaffer Gamgee’s garden fence. All the turnips are feared affected and the strawberries were thoroughly contaminated. The Gaffer says on the matter of the hooligan, “I jus’ wanna talk to ’em.”

…o0o…

The Wisdom of Dora Baggins

Dora Baggins, paternal aunt of the infamous Frodo Baggins was legendary for her letters of advice. Her only niece; Daisy Baggins, has taken up the art and has agreed to write for the Common Tater.

On showing appreciation

Now a days it seems that there is a permanent state of uncertainty in the air. We go through our day to day lives and we try not to think about what’s going on because of either fear or indifference brought on what perhaps what seems to be the inability to make a difference.

In these times, we often forget to stop to show our appreciation for something someone else does for us, whether its a general thank you to the random passerby that returns something we dropped or gives us directions no matter how confusing or oblique they might be, kudos to someone who is playing their role in the community, or just simply telling someone (like your local Newspaper Editor) that you liked something they did.

Not only will they know that someone appreciates what they did when they might have not otherwise (especially because some people don’t particularly like to have to ask if you liked something), but they’ll also be more likely to continue to continue on in that fashion. Isn’t that what we want to happen with anything we appreciate?

Cordially yours,
Daisy Baggins

P.S. Thank YOU for reading!

…o0o…

Concerning the memory of Dwarves
Anonymous Tater

We found these pages that seem to have been ripped from a diary near Sandyman’s mill… any one on information on the author please contact Meril.

I’ve walked these streets before…in years past. I didn’t care for it then, and I still don’t care for it now. There are too many humans trying to trample on me, and too many hobbits for me to trample on. All in all, it is not a Dwarf friendly town.

Today is no exception. As I approach the south gate, two old men dressed as “guards” appear to block my way. They give me a long look, exchange a wordless glance, and lower their cudgels.

Neither steps aside, however, and I half push, half walk past them into the town proper. I make my way west into town, looking for the pathetic hovel that I visited several years before. Just as I decide that I must have passed it, I see it on the corner… or rather what remains of it.

I push open the gate with a light kick of my boot and walk silently into the yard. An involuntary chuckle escapes my throat as I see the word “traitor” carved into the sagging front door. If only “traitor” was the only word to describe a man like this. I’m not here on holiday and don’t have time for an investigation, so I head to the only place in town where someone can find real answers. The inn.

A thin layer of sweet, pungent smoke hovers over the heads of the patrons sitting in the common room of the Prancing Pony. While it’s been years since I was here last, I vaguely recognize some of the same faces. A drunken sailor leans sloppily on the bar muttering nonsense about the South. An old ranger leans on the bar, hungrily eyeing the sparse female patrons. I spy an empty table in the back corner and slide into a chair, my ears perked up for any stray conversation. Before long the fat innkeeper sidles over and gives me a curious look.

“Good evening, Master Dwarf. Is there something I can get for you tonight?” he asks.

“Bring me an ale, innkeeper. And a pipe if you have it,” I answer.

“The ale’s easy enough to come by, sir. But begging your pardon, pipe weed has been difficult to come by recently. I’ll have to see what I can dig up”

“Never mind the pipe. Just bring the ale. And run a tab for me, I’ll be here for a bit.”

As the innkeeper makes his way back to the bar, I make eye contact with the “friendly” old ranger. He sees me noticing him and quickly looks away. Before I can stand to investigate, the innkeeper has returned with my ale.

“Here you go Master Dwarf. A pint of our finest. I do apologize for the pipe weed. Times have been a bit tough around here lately,” the innkeeper says.

“Thanks,” I reply. “Keep them coming.”

The innkeeper smiles and nods his approval as he stamps back towards his other customers. I take a long slow sip of the ale, my eyes open for anyone who may be watching. Assured that no one is, I quietly pour the ale onto the floor behind me. I’m here for information, not for entertainment.

Five ales in, the innkeeper has become my new best friend. While this bodes well for my information gathering plan, it also means I have to listen to the fool go on at length about the weather and whatever other small time things interest him. Sometime after the unusually warm spring talk, the innkeeper gets to a piece of interesting news.

“Aye that Ferny. He’s a right wicked man that one. He took to all manner of strange folk in that home of his. And never had a kind word for no one. I for one was not at all unhappy when he was forced out of town. It serves him right…being the kind of down right mean fool that he is.”

“And what happened to this fool,” I ask, feigning intoxication. “Did he get his comeuppance?”

“Well, yes and no sir…as it was. I mean, begging your pardon, no bodily harm was done to him.”

The innkeeper grimaces and leans in to whisper, “Though there was many who wanted to see that happen I can tell you.”

He straightens himself, smoothing his apron and continues, “No, he’s moved himself over towards Hobbiton. He’s set himself up with some wicked folk over that way. I think he fancies himself as a leader…someone who should be in charge of things. When that didn’t work out here, he went looking for the little folk to push around.”

“Sounds like a great guy,” I intentionally slur. “I think I’m going to head out for the night. Can I meet you at the bar so we can square my tab?”

“Absolutely sir. Let me go fetch my order pad and I’ll have you settled and on your way,” he replies as he hurries off towards the bar.

I slowly push my chair back, exaggerating my perceived intoxication and make a grand show of walking straight to the bar. On the way I crash into the old ranger, my hand slipping deftly into his coin purse.

“Oh, pardon me sir,” I cry. I slap him hard on the back and do my best to look sheepish.

“Allow me to buy you a round for my discourtesy,” I suggest while flipping the innkeeper one of the rangers own gold coins.

The innkeeper gets me my total and I plunk down enough coins to pay my portion and leave a healthy tip. This obviously excites the old man as he starts chattering on to no one in particular about the generosity of the Dwarven race.

It is still early in the day, so I set off directly to Hobbiton, eager to meet up with my old friend Ferny. The guards at the western gate of Bree are only slightly more interested in me, though in all fairness I am leaving and not entering. The air is seasonably cool and the trip is uneventful at best. I’ve arrived late in the day and the sun has been slowly setting in my eyes for over an hour. Through squinted eyes I can just make out a signpost stating I’ve arrived in Hobbiton. Rather than asking more questions in a town this size, I decide to take a look around and see what I can find out on my own.

I turn north, keeping the slowly dimming sun to my left and head up a well kept, if narrow, lane into Hobbiton proper. Luck is on my side this evening as I soon hear a familiar voice through the increasing darkness.

“Get one of the sniveling little people on it. I don’t have time to deal with foolishness like this.”

The voice was pure Ferny.

It’s not long before a skinny thug in ill-fitting clothes comes rushing out from behind a hedgerow and nearly knocks in to me. He’s in such a hurry that he doesn’t even acknowledge my presence, let alone stop and take note.

I wait another minute or two, listening intently for any additional sounds. It seems my friend is now alone.

I pull my cloak tightly around me and quickly round the hedgerow… and come face to face with Bill Ferny and two of his crew.

“What do YOU want,” Ferny sneers at me. “This isn’t no place for a lost Dwarf. Get out of here”

I’ve dealt with plenty of people like him before, including him some years ago. His tone may imply courage, but his body language suggests otherwise.

Quietly I address him, “You don’t recognize me, do you Ferny?”

“And why should I? I don’t have any more use for dwarves than I do for these stinking hobbits. You aren’t welcome here dwarf. You need to leave or my crew will make sure you can’t leave.”

I loosen my cloak slightly while widening my stance. I size up Ferny’s crew quietly. Neither of them are fighters. One has seen too few winters and the other has apparently never missed a meal… or a snack for that matter.

“Look gentlemen… if I may call you gentlemen. I have no quarrel with you. I am here to have a word with Mr. Ferny here. You may go about your business. Rest assured, I mean neither him nor you any harm.”

The fat one seems to believe me and is just about turn and leave, but I see the look in the young one’s eyes. It’s the look of someone too stupid and inexperienced to know that his next move is about to be his last. He rushes me, quicker than I’d anticipated, but slower than he should have. I take a half step back and extend my leg, tripping the charging young bull, sending him into the hedgerow.

The fat one seems to still be undecided about his course of action, but a strong shove from Ferny sends him flying at me. He leads with a meaty fist which I’m easily able to duck. I quickly produce a small hammer from beneath my cloak and tap him firmly under the chin. The weight of the cloth covered head is more than enough to snap his jaws shut violently, making his eyes roll back in their sockets. He is completely unconscious before his head hits the ground. I spin around, intending to have to deal with the young bull, but he is stuck firmly in the hedgerow, flailing about like a fly in a web. I turn my attention back to Ferny. Calmly and in a quiet, threatening voice I spoke as I approached him:

“So Bill. You still don’t recognize me do you? Exactly how many Dwarves have you done business with in the past. And of those, how many have you swindled? My father and I once lived not far from here. He is a jeweler… perhaps the best in the region. You commissioned from him a piece for your now departed wife, did you not? A piece that you neglected to pay for. And when my father came for his payment, you had him flogged. Your little crew of pathetic cast offs beat him within an inch of his life and stole from him an entire wagon load of ore, jewels and provisions. Did you not see the young dwarf hiding behind the seat. Do you not recognize his face?”

Ferny stands silently as I speak. Perspiration begins to bead on his upper lip as his eyes frantically search for a way to escape. I fully expect the lashing out of a caged animal. What I see now surprises me. Ferny drops to both knees, his head hanging at his chest. He looks up at me, his eyes pleading, searching my face for the slightest sign of compassion or regret. He sees none.

“What can I do to make this right? I’ll pay you what I can, but anything I might have taken then has long since been spent. Just please tell me, what can I do.”

I put away my small hammer and in the same movement produce a slim dagger. I press it hard against his neck, a small drop of blood forming at the tip of the dagger. I lean in close to his face, my hot breath stinging his tearing eyes.

“Oh you will pay me Ferny. I will see to that. You’ll pay the debt you owe to my father… plus interest. But it’s not the gold that I am here for tonight. You see, it is I that owe you. Those many years ago you gave me something that I’ve learned to use to my benefit. Something that has made me strive oh these long years to become better at what I do. You see, that night… you gave me fear, and tonight, I repay that debt.”

I draw back the dagger and point it straight at his eye, the tip brushing his eyelashes. He flinches, tightly shutting his eyes. I lean in to whisper into his ear:

“Just remember Ferny. I will be watching you. Every evil you do from here until eternity, I will repay… with interest. You will fear me now, but you will not see me again. I will take my payments if and when I see fit, but you will neither see nor speak of me again. And always remember this Ferny…”

As I slip into the shadows behind him, I leave him with this thought, “A dwarf never forgets.”

…o0o…

INTERNATIONAL NEWS BRIEFS

The Common Tater sent missives across Middle Earth to bring you the latest in the news you need to know. Here’s who we heard from this month.

From Rivendell

Since the Fellowship departed from the fair city of Rivendell, activity has only increased. Elrond’s network of spies and information gatherers, the Rana Ohtar, are in constant movement. Known to be friendly to all the good people of Middle Earth, the Wandering Warriors of the Misty Mountains have put out word that those citizens who are venturing out into the world as adventurers for the first time are encouraged to contact the Rana Ohtar for assistance – whether that be in the form of information or protection.

Long friendly to the inexperienced and less battle-hardened travelers of Arda, the Rana Ohtar have refocused their efforts on making the roads and forest paths safer for the free races to travel throughout the lands on either side of the great Misty Mountains. Seek out the ranger Cadence, the warrior Famenor, or the archer Aya for more information!

From Carrock

Apparently in the Carrock, all hawks are subject to being suspected as servants of Sharkey. The Beornings have been reported to kill them on sight. We’ll send a pigeon next time I guess.

From Northern Mirkwood

Elfish shadows move again in the forest, but darned if we can find them. Wood elves of Glorglas, we seek thee!

From Laketown

The city on the lake was doing quite well recovering from the dragon that fell on it. However, with Brand, king of Dale dead, and the city under siege, there are unsettling whispers of something coming. The question that must be asked is: What is Urd Signy?

From Lothlorien:

Our fair home has seen more excitement in the last month then we have seen in nearly an Age. First a strange Fellowship consisting of Humans, Hobbits, a Dwarf, and Elf stayed with us for a short time. The little folk were really something comical, they provided us with endless merriment. Legolas provided us with much welcomed news on the latest styles of Mirkwood. The Dwarf we could have done without. I believe that whole race could use a good shower. We were saddened at their passing, but before we had a chance to miss them, we were greeted by Mithrandir, whom we had come to believe was no longer living. Even though we have much to be joyful of, the Galadhrim have increased patrols for we fear that the time for merrymaking is not to last long.

From Near Harad

From the deep recesses of the Outpost in Near Harad comes this succinct message:
“Hobbit tasty. Uruks like. Hobbit fat and tender. Squeal like rabbit. Send more.”
-Gor Bûrzgoth

Well.. that would certainly explains why Willibald Sandybanks never made it back… whoops… moving on!

From Belfalas

The Knights of Dol Amroth have been fastidiously patrolling South Gondor, their messenger was delayed but we received a short message by hawk confirming that there still are Knights in the south.

From Dunland

In Dunland, life is good. The orcs are getting chased away from the land thanks to the efforts of a small but strong group of people known as the Taril Haleth. On cold evenings, an inviting fireplace warms the bar in their village in the heart of Dunland, throwing dancing shadows on the faces of both local people and traveling Dunlendings. Stories from all corners of Arda are told over mugs of strong mead. More often than ever do Dunlendings travel across Middle Earth and their knowledge of the world increases. Loot from Gondor and Gundabad, Mordor and Harondor is traded in the local shops for affordable prices. A rumor among the shopkeepers, however, has it that the prices of weapons and armour will go up soon since the warlords are planning to conduct the famous Brawls of Dunland once again. What a great opportunity this would be for the new generation of fighters to compare their strength and skill!

From Eregion

Whoooosh! Tink, tink, tink. Tsssss!

The forge speaks of many things. It speaks of life’s necessities. It speaks of life’s beauties. It speaks of life’s horrors.

One group of forges in particular has much to say on all of these things at once, and its story does not go unheard or unheeded. Far fewer smiths there are to listen or add their own chapters to the tale, but still they do linger in defiance and love of their craft that not even the enemy who destroyed all else of their home could extinguish. Indeed, they seem to be showing themselves more lately and giving account that though they have been focusing on their works, they have not forgotten their other skills, nor let them grow entirely dull.

The forge speaks of necessities and magnificent pots are formed, functional but graceful indeed. The forge speaks of beauty and many metals and gems combine, and if the smiths no longer dabble in rings of great power, still they do make works of beauty with great love and attention. The forge speaks of life’s horrors and swords are born, and if they do not shine as brightly as swords of old nor have their powers, still they give great accounts of themselves and are soon feared by the enemy, for the smiths of the long thought lost Gwaith-i-Mírdain, who crafted them did so with the same loving care they put into other areas of their calling.

Yet all know the time of the elves is ending. Sooner or later these smiths must cross the sea or fade even further into obscurity and be forgotten in time, becoming legend only. The door is still open, for a while…

From the Redhorn

The Rangers have been roving, but we did recently catch one of Valacirca on patrol in the foothills of the Misty Mountains, we hope to hear from them soon.

From The Mark

The Riders are abroad, we last heard that the majority of the Rohirrim was headed south to go to the aid of Gondor. However, the Amruin though unseen still call Edoras home.

If you’re a group in a region that has something going on that’s particularly newsworthy, send your news briefs to the paper by the fourth wednesday of the month to be included in that month’s issue.

…o0o…

A Hobbit Birthday Party in Bree
Meril Softfoot

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending my dear Aunt Goldie Broadbelt’s Grand 75th Birthday Bash.

The party was a traditional sort of hobbit occasion and was quite possibly the best party of its kind to occur in quite some time (I couldn’t say if it rivaled Bilbo’s Party, I am not near old enough to have had the privilege of having attended that event.)

In any case, I don’t know if I mentioned, but Goldie is a bit of a city gal nowadays, she lived in Edoras for quite some time with her husband Hamson, before his lack of sense walked him right under a falling printing press that was being delivered to their place of business. (Rest in peace Uncle Hamson… rest in peace.)

So Aunt Goldie has come back to the more sensible parts of the world, and while Bree isn’t any one else’s idea of a big city, she prefers it to Michel Delving possibly soley for the ability to acquire Rohirrim Cuisine. (And its a good thing too, I’m sure her business like manner and backbone of steel would have gotten her thrown into the lockholes just as quick as other upstanding hobbits.)

Where was I? Oh, The party! Yes. The party of course was in Bree as I have mentioned she lives there, so I guess you could say it was largely possible to have such a wonderful day because of the civic improvements done recently. Now I know no one thinks that lots was changed, but when do civic improvements ever seem huge after the initial inconveniences of blocked roads and construction noises? When my Uncle Andy petitioned to the mayor of Tighfield for a tree that got hit by lightning twice ( Both hits were recorded a certain same period of time before Draks and I’s birthdays… huh. Odd.) to be removed from town property in front of the rope yard right after my first birthday in 2986, the matter went to the town council and got filibustered about until Draks and I were tweens and lightning about went and struck that tree again. That’s about when they got the thing removed like Sharkey was chasing them. (Not that we knew about Sharkey then.) So considering Ferny was making all sorts of things impossible in Bree for a time and whatever else had been going on with town council politics and what not…those Bree improvements came faster then it took to get a dead tree removed in Tighfield. Primrose already made mention of it all anyway, but I think at the very least the grungy old feast hall getting knocked down after only after two-ish years of it being discussed is much faster then some old dying tree that took 15 or so years in Tighfield. And really, which do you think had more impact on how things looked?

Speaking of the feast hall, the party happened to take place where it had been. Boy was I surprised to see that big old magnificent cherry tree with its big pink blossoms. Makes you wonder who thought the feast hall had been a good idea anyway, but I digress. The grove was the perfect spot for the party, it was a really hot day for early March, but the shade from the tree and a slight breeze that occasionally caused a cascade of petals to fall really set the mood that was especially enhanced by the pair of bards she hired.

Food was catered by Mrs. Butterburr and included delicious sandwiches with ham and turkey on light, perfectly formed croissants; a salad made with pasta with vegetables, cheese and a light dressing; extremely thinly sliced taters that had been fried to a pleasant solid crunchy state; and a variety of bite sized sweet pastries for dessert. The drinks! Ooh! The Staddle brewing company has out done themselves. Not only did they bring in the best of beers from all around the Shire, including Nobottle’s famous beer that’s more like a mead… but they had most of their specialty brews such as the pale lager, cherry and blonde ales, and the stout. However! that wasn’t all! Apparently the master brewer is a widower himself and has taken to Auntie Goldie, because he broke out some of his experimental creations for the occasion that included beverages in the same vein as the cherry ale; malted, but capturing the flavors of other beverages offered to the tweens and children as soft drinks along with tea and water. The two most popular of these were the hard lemonade and something he called a wine cooler. Ah, tater rot. Now I’m thirsty.

Gandalf was nowhere to be seen, so we had no fireworks to speak of, but the conversation was pleasant and I was able to talk to many relations that seem to have conveniently forgotten about me while I was asleep under Sharkey’s spell in a cupboard in Bywater. The afternoon finished up as any good Shireling hobbit’s birthday party is wont to: presents.

I myself came away with a very specially selected gift: A watercolor rendition of what might possibly be Smaug himself, depicted flying over a full moon, painted by one of Goldie’s friends in Edoras. The verdict is out on if the artist witnessed Smaug’s sacking of Lake Town or not, but ask me if it matters. (HINT: It does not.) Every other guest went home with something as well, mostly small trinkets including large brightly colored daisies in clear glass dishes with luminescent glass beads at the bottom and small paintings of the flora of Rohan.

Such an event was a boon for all who attended, and it has also served as a boon for you as I, Meril Lily Softfoot of Tighfield; am now again inspired to spread the light that has been rekindled in my heart to wherever it may take.

Up Bree! UP THE SHIRE!
(and… why not?)
UP MIDDLE EARTH!

…o0o…

HELP WANTED

THE COMMON TATER is looking for talented, or just incredibly enthused individuals to help with some of the following jobs(NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARILY NECESSARY):

Archivist/Librarian for Common Tater HQ
I am needing someone to help me start organizing an online library that contains nearly lost texts that the Common Tater is currently in the process of acquiring.
OOC: Experience with WordPress a plus, but not necessary, would entail taking text files of old story archives plus old Tater Archives and organizing them on the blog.

Architect for Common Tater HQ
I am needing some help polishing up the mines that are to be Common Tater HQ.
OOC: Experience with WordPress/HTML again a plus, also not completely necessary, this would entail helping me get a handle on all the “mudlike” series of room descs I have ready to go.

Authors, Reporters and Poets!
Seaside Vacation/Grey Havens themed articles for Issue Fifty-Two are now being accepted until August 18th for publication on August 25th.

All queries and pieces should be submitted to Meril@Bree* or by E(agle) Mail to: commontaterT2T@gmail.com

*Please note that Meril has changed her address to Bree to circumvent Sharkey’s hold on the Shire Postal System.

…o0o…

CREDITS

This issue of the Common Tater would not be possible without the brilliant talents of:

It’s writers:

Czral the Beorning Waterbuffalo
Greyrider the Beorning Elder
Gristwen@Carrock
Gwen@Edoras
Hrastan@Buckland
Marroc the Huckleberry (its a potato variety too!)
Primrose@Bywater

It’s editoress:
Meril@Bree

It’s sponsor:
Ranhoth…

AND, of course:
Ardans like you!

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~ by Meril Softfoot on July 28, 2012.

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