King's Folk, The
9. A World Beyond Bree
Who is this 'Aranel' coming with Gil?" Barliman
Butterbur asked his eldest son as the two of them
hastily swallowed their lunch in the kitchen. Ishbel,
hands covered with flour, was making pies further down
the long wooden table.
"That's Lightfoot's real name." Beomann answered
and saw his mother's face congeal. "She's Gil's
sister." he continued quickly remembering Ishbel's
past comments on that subject, ('Shameless hussy and
no better than she should be I'll warrant!) "her
husband was killed in the fighting up north I told you
Mrs. Butterbur's expression changed, as if by
magic, from scorn to burning sympathy. "Oh the poor
thing! any children?"
"Three, including a new baby."
"Oh my! how dreadful, the poor dear."
Beomann reflected ruefully that 'poor dear,' was
not a phrase he'd ever apply to Lightfoot, widow and
mother of orphaned children though she might be.
When Gil finally appeared late that afternoon he
had not just Aranel but her two elder children with
him: Daeron, a dark, serious faced boy of nine; and
six year old Lalaith, a pretty golden haired little
thing whose big blue eyes and beaming smile instantly
won the heart of everybody in stable yard and Common
"Really, Lightfoot - Mistress Aranel I meant to say
- dragging young children all this way through the
Wild. I'd have expected you to know better!" Ishbel
scolded as she cut generous slices of cake and served
them to the two children.
"Daeron will be Warden of the Weather Hills
someday, and so responsible for any settlement below
Weathertop." Aranel explained calmly, adding with a
glint of humor. "And if Daeron was to have his head
cut off Lalaith would insist on loosing hers too, on
the same block to the same axe."
Ishbel nodded ruefully. "Don't I know it, my lot
are just the same." She poured a couple of tall
glasses of buttermilk for the little ones and snuck
another sidelong look at their mother.
Lightfoot had always been rather too pretty in her
dark mysterious way to suit the goodwives and maidens
of Bree, but all of a sudden Ishbel saw she was not
merely pretty but beautiful - more beautiful than any
ordinary Woman could be, like a lady in an old story
from the Days of the Kings. She couldn't understand
how she'd never noticed before.
Certainly she wasn't the only one noticing now! The
number of dropped jaws and round eyes in the Common
Room had moved her to suggest a private parlor - using
the children as an excuse.
Why even old Barliman, loving and loyal husband
that he was, could barely tear his eyes away and kept
losing the thread of the conversation he was having
with Gil and Longbow - or Belegon as he called
"Provisioning the building crews will be the main
problem, if Aragorn insists on proceeding with this
project." Gilvagor said, firmly drawing the
Innkeeper's wandering attention back to himself.
"We're going to need your help there Master
"You don't mean to quarter all those Dwarves and
Men from down South here in Bree, do you?" Barliman
asked in lively alarm.
"Certainly not." Gil reassured him. "They'll camp
on the building site. But I was hoping you'd be
willing to use your connections to help us keep them
fed - for a suitable commission of course!"
"Oh, yes, of course." that sounded promising
anyway. "Er, when can we expect all these folk?"
"Not for another year or two at least." Gil
replied, even more reassuringly. "Plenty of time to
make the necessary arrangements."
And to get used to the idea. But after all they'd
always had odd folk passing through Bree. What were a
few more - especially if they were good paying
customers for the Inn?
The parlor door opened and Beomann came in
balancing a tray with a pair of fresh pitchers of beer
on it. He set it on the table in front of the three
Men and said in a rush; "Gil, there's something I
wanted to ask you."
The Ranger raised a gently interrogative eyebrow
and Barliman Butterbur looked apprehensively at his
eldest son who blurted: "What would I have to do to
join the Rangers?"
Barliman's mouth opened but nothing came out.
Ishbel was similarly struck speechless, clutching the
milk jug to her breast.
Beomann rushed on: "I know you take folk who aren't
your kind, Dan told me, so - so would you take me?"
"As you yourself pointed out the Men of Bree are as
much the King's Folk as the Dunedain or the Men of
Rhudaur -" Gil began mildly, only to be interupted by
a heartfelt cry from Ishbel.
"He mustn't go! what will we do without him?"
"Quite right." her husband agreed. "What are you
thinking of, Son? We need you here at home."
"You do not! You've got plenty of hands to do the
work of the Inn." Beomann snapped back, then
contritely. "I'm sorry, Dad, but I'll go crazy if I
stay here. The Realm's coming back to life and I want
to be a part of it!"
"You'll get yourself killed!" his mother wailed,
"fighting Barrow Wights and who knows what other
"I can't promise he won't get killed, but I do
promise he'll be taught to defend himself." Gil
Beomann's face lit up. "Does that mean you'll take
"Not against your parents' will," Gil looked at the
elder Butterburs, "but such enthusiasm should not be
wasted." even more gently. "You must have expected
Barliman nodded heavily. "I've been afraid of it
ever since he came back from your city." looked at his
wife. "Beomann's of age, Sweetheart, we'd have no
right to stop him if he took it into his head to
become a trader or move to Staddle, I don't see how
this is any different."
Ishbel didn't argue, just stood there dripping
tears. Aranel put a gentle hand on her shoulder. "All
children all lost from the begining, Mrs. Butterbur.
Like hawks they must be let to fly when the time
"I do not forsee death for Beomann, Ishbel." Gil
told her, "And I do see him coming home, in time, to
"Of course I will!" Beomann but his arms around his
mother. "I love Bree, I wouldn't want to live anywhere
else. I just want to see other places too, and be
where things are happening."
Longbow - Belegon - smiled. "You're not the first
Butterbur to feel that way, my friend. Sir Tolman
would be proud of you."
All three Butterburs stared at him in confusion.
Belegon's eyebrows knit in a slight frown. "Tolman
Butterbur of Upwood who fell in the final defense of
Cardol. I don't know what kin he would be to you but
surely that's his shield you have above your bar?"
"Is it?" Barliman said a little blankly. "Upwood
did you say? That's our family all right. We had a
good farm there before the Great Dying (1) drove us
north to Bree."
"One of my ancestors was a King's knight?" Beomann
"More than one." said Belegon. "There were several
others I believe, but Sir Tolman is the only one
remembered in song."
"Remembered in song." Ishbel echoed, squared her
shoulders. "Well then, Son, you have something to live
up to don't you!"
"I don't doubt but he will." said Gil.
(1) The terrible Plague of 1636 decimated the
non-Dunedain population of Cardolan. The survivors
fled northward in hopes of escaping the contagion
which was said to be less virulent in the higher,
cooler clime near the road.
King Elboron of Cardolan died not of the plague but
of exhaustion from his unavailing efforts to save the
sick and grief over his failure to do so, leaving no
direct heir. The High King took the depopulated
country's scepter back into his own hands and Cardolan
ceased to exist as a seperate sub-kingdom.
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