King Comes Home, The
1. A Mission To Bree
An arm slid around Ishbel Butterbur's waist and somebody planted a firm kiss on her cheek. She gave a little shriek, startled rather than frightened - she was in her own kitchen after all - turned, and shrieked again, much louder. "Beomann!"
Her eldest son grinned and had just enough time to give her another kiss and say, "Hello, Mum." before the kitchen door thumped open and a couple of potboys, one Big and one Little, charged in, followed by the Butterbur's youngest daughter Lusey, and finally the Innkeeper himself.
It took Barliman Butterbur two looks to recognize the Ranger with an arm around his wife as his eldest son. "B-Beomann?"
"Himself! Hello, Dad."
After that things were a bit of a whirl; a lot of hugging and a few tears, then the potboys were chased out and Lusey went to fetch her sisters and brothers and the reunited Butterbur family sat down to a large if untimely tea in the best parlor, leaving the Inn to run itself.
It was good to have the family all together again. Barliman Butterbur told himself, looking at the faces around the table. He'd have to enjoy it while he could, the children were growing up.
Beomann'd already flown and their pretty Peggy, with her bright blue eyes and reddish curls, would be next now she was of age, *and* had half the young fellows in town making sheeps' eyes after her. Then it'd be nineteen year old May's turn, and finally his little Lusey's. though she was not so little now she'd turned sixteen. Gerry was begining to shoot up too, just as Beomann had at fourteen. But at least Toby and Brandy were still little boys, happily digging into the berry tarts, and making themselves red and sticky with the juice.
Their mother remained serenely unaware of the mess they were making of her good linen tablecloth, her attention entirely on her eldest. "You've lost weight," Ishbel complained, eyeing him frowningly, "Don't they feed you?"
Beomann swallowed a mouthful of bread butter and jam. "Oh yes, but the Dunedain have different customs; no proper breakfast, no tea. *And* they don't take what I'd call a decent interest in dinner or supper either. Downright discouraging it is." shook his head sadly. "I've been trying to civilize them but it doesn't seem to be taking."
The boy'd lost the last of his puppy fat, his father thought a little sadly, and there were lines on
his face that hadn't been there before. Surely he couldn't have grown taller? It was a bit of a shock seeing his Beomann in Ranger leathers, complete with short bow and long sword, and what's more wearing them like he was used to them.
"Are you sure you're Gerry?" Beomann was asking his younger brother. "What happened to the roly-poly little strawhead who made my life a misery?"
"He grew up." Barliman answered. "Become a real help to me he has."
Beomann gave him a sharp look, and Barliman knew he hadn't quite managed to hide the sadness he was feeling. The hero-worship shining in Gerry's eyes told him plain as plain he'd be losing his second boy to the Rangers as well, just as soon as he got the chance.
"Three whole years you've been away!" Ishbel scolded. "With naught but an occasional letter, and not a word of warning to let us know you were coming!"
"I didn't know myself until five days ago," Beomann explained. "No point in a letter when I'd get here at the same time it did - if not before."
"You're on a mission then?" Ishbel asked with a curious combination of disappointment and worry.
"That's right." he grinned. "A mission to Bree as it happens." that made them stare, Toby and Brandy even forgot about their sweets. "The King is coming home at last," Beomann explained, "and not above time! Which means the realm is finally going to be put on a proper footing. Gil thought there should be somebody at Annuminas to speak for Bree." quickly. "Not that the King would do anything to hurt us, it *is* old Strider after all, but how's he to know what we want
unless there's somebody there to tell him?"
"That's true." Barliman agreed slowly. "I'll call a meeting of the Masters of the Town and you can put it to them."
Beomann nodded acceptance and changed the subject. "You know, sometimes I think nobody here in the North is what I thought they were - not even us Butterburs."
Barliman frowned. "Now, what do you mean by that, son?"
"You know that good farm Grandad said we'd had at a place called Upwood, down south before the Great Dying?" His father nodded and Beomann smiled wryly. "Turns out it wasn't a farm at all but a manor. Five hundred acres, twice what old Oakapple owns,(1) with a big stone house and a bit of a village around it."
Barliman blinked, then recovered himself. "Well that's a surprise, but then Longbow - Belegon - did say our ancestors had been knights."
"I know," Beomann agreed, "I just hadn't thought through what that meant." Turned suddenly somber. "They've got records of the Plague at Tol Ernil - that's where Belegon lives - the last lord of Upwood was a Sir Ludo Butterbur. Seems he was friends with the Prancers who ran the Pony in those days and sent his little son and daughter to stop with them when the Sickness reached Cardol. Everybody who stayed behind, Ludo, his lady, the villagers, all died."
Nobody said anything. Most of the Big folk of Bree were descended from those who'd come north, fleeing infection in the days of the King, and the memory of that horror still lingered in fireside tales.
"When the plague had burned itself out a Dunedain knight who'd been friends with Ludo, collected what money there was, the plate and her ladyship's jewels and brought them to the children in Bree. But, as you know, they never went back. Heribert Butterbur married old Prancer's eldest daughter and took over the Pony when he died instead." Beomann shrugged. "I guess we must have spent or sold all Ludo's treasure long ago."
Barliman's eyes went over his son's shoulder. "Not quite all."
Wife and children followed his gaze to the rows of silver dishes and cups and platters and bowls and tureens on the big oak dresser, each piece delicately etched with a sprig of butterbur.
It was Ishbel who finally broke the silence. "I remember I used to wonder when I was first married how the Butterburs could ever have afforded such a thing, and what they'd wanted it for as it just makes the food go cold the faster." added hastily at her husband's look. "Not that it isn't very beautiful to look at!"
Mollified Barliman smiled forgivingly, turned back to his eldest. "Well that's a surprise all right, son, but it was all a very long time ago and's got nothing to do with us now."
"Well, not quite." Beomann said. "It's good land, Upwood, and still ours Belegon says, and I thought with three younger sons to provide for..."
"Mmm." his father looked thoughtful. "Far is it?"
"Not very - twenty odd leagues or so."
Barliman reflected ruefully his son's ideas of what was 'far' had changed sommat. Still, twenty
leagues wasn't an impossible distance now the Road was safe.
It's not much more than a mile off the Greenway," Beomann was saying, "not a bad place for an inn I'd say, now we're starting to get traffic from down south."
"Mmmmm..." said his father.
1. The biggest landowner in the Breeland.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.