14. The King's Kin
running through the ditches and earthen ramparts
defending the hilltop stronghold of the Wardens of the
South Downs Beomann heard a buzz of voices, like Bree
on market day, Women's mostly, punctuated by the
shouts and laughter of children. An altogether
startling amount of noise for a holding of the
habitually silent Rangers.
Looking at his companions he saw they were equally
surprised, exchanging puzzled looks. They passed
through a short passage between the overlapping banks
of the final rampart and emerged into what seemed at
first glance a busy village square crowded with Women
and children, both Big and Little, who would have
looked right at home on the streets of Bree if only
they'd been wearing decent clothes instead of leather
and fleece. But mixed in with them were folk of other
kinds; some looked almost like Rangers, tall and fair
skinned with dark hair and light eyes, yet were not
quite Rangerlike in their bearing; others were golden
haired and blue eyed; and still others dark of hair
and eye with swarthy complexions.
Beomann saw what looked like a large brick and half
timbered house with barns and byres and sheepfolds and
cattle pens. And tucked in and around them dozens of
rough, turf roofed shelters with the women sitting in
front of them, knitting and gossiping and watching
their children play.
Daeron and Lalaith brightened visibly at the sight
of other children and darted off to join them the
moment they were lifted down from their pillion seats
behind mother and uncle. The rest of the party were
still busy with their horses when a tall Ranger Woman
in a soft grey gown walked into the stable, sunlight
falling through the loft windows bringing out a
reddish sheen in her dark hair.
"Beomann Butterbur, my sister Angwen our hostess."
said Belegon introducing them "Not that she hasn't
already a plentitude of guests!" Continued to his
sister: "What is this? When I stopped here on my way
to Bree our folk and the refugees were ready to go
their own ways."
"So they were, but every spot the new people
suggest for their settlement draws cries of protests
from our own folk." Angwen looked slightly harried.
"My hall is full of quarreling Men. I don't mind
telling you, Belegon I am near to losing patience with
the lot of them!"
"And the Lady of the South Downs has ever been
notable for her patience!" said Gil, the teasing note
very clear in his voice.
"I haven't taken a battle axe to them yet have I?"
the lady retorted. "Though I warn you, Brother, my
forbearance may not last much longer!"
"Let me see what I can do." said Belegon.
Belegon, Gilvagor, Aranel, Dan and Beomann followed
Angwen through a doorway onto a sort of platform
overlooking a very long, very high room with benches
lined up against the walls beneath pictured tapestries
and a dozen or so Men, half like Breelanders and half
of the other kinds, together with a few Hobbits,
standing in the middle of it wrangling away at the
tops of their voices.
Suddenly Belegon walked away from the rest of them
to stand alone at the top of the three or four steps
leading down to the main floor. He stood there in a
shaft of light from a high window, one hand on the
hilt of his sword, and it was almost as if he'd tossed
aside some concealing cloak. Beomann, who'd known
'Longbow' all of his life and travelled with him for
the better part of a week, suddenly saw a kingly power
flash from him like sword from scabbard and a silver
light burn bright in his eyes. The arguing Men felt
his gaze upon them and one by one turned to look and
fell silent, staring slack jawed.
Belegon allowed the silence to continue for a long
moment as they stared up at him and he looked down
upon them. And when at last he spoke his voice, though
not loud, filled the great room from floor to rafter
like distant thunder.
"I am Belegon son of Belecthor, Prince of
Carnarthon and governor of this land in the name of
the King. Tell me your quarrel."
Beomann, whose own mouth was dry as a bone, was
quite sure the Men would be unable to answer. Then one
of the Ranger looking strangers said, or rather
stammered. "King? Then it is true that there's a King
Belegon inclined his head slightly. "There is. He
is Elessar Telcontar, Elendil's Heir, and rightwise
born High King of Arnor and Gondor. I am his kinsman
and liege subject, as are you all." he allowed them
another moment to absorb that, before saying mildly.
"Now what is this quarrel of yours?"
The Bree type Men and Hobbits shifted their feet,
exchanged sheepish looks and finally one of the Men
said; "Well - sir - it just seems to us like these
here strangers are trying to take over and walk all
over the local folk."
"We have no such intent!" the Ranger looking Man
protested. Added a little shamefaced. "If we have
seemed high handed I apologize for it. All we want is
a plot of land to settle on."
Belegon raised his brows slightly. "A reasonable
enough request." there was a hint of a twinkle in his
eye as he continued: "Surely, Will Greenroot, there's
some untenanted patch of ground in the Southern Wild
you could spare?"
"Well when you put it that way -" Master Greenroot
conceeded, but still looked unhappy. "It's just that
this was our land once and we don't quite like the
idea of giving bits of it away to strangers if you
take my meaning."
"This is your land, Will," Belegon assured him
solemnly, "and shall always remain so. But these folk
are not strangers but our own long sundered kin.
Surely after all this time we can show them a better
welcome than angry looks and bitter words?"
Greenroot sighed. "When you're right, you're right
- sir." turned to the foreign Man beside him. "I'm
sorry, but life's been cruel hard these last years and
I guess it's made us close-fisted and distrustful of
"We should have remembered we are petitioners and
borne ourselves more humbly." the other Man answered.
Smiled a little ruefully. "But life's been 'cruel
hard' for us too - and having lost all, we cling to
our pride as the only thing left to us."
Will warmed visibly. "You know, that first spot you
picked isn't all that impossible - if you don't mind
"We would be glad of them." the stranger said as
warmly. "We have always lived in settled lands and
have much to learn about this Wild of yours."
One of the Hobbits chuckled. "You can say that
again, begging your pardon, but my folk can hear yours
coming a mile off and if we can who knows what else
can too?" and the Men who'd been practically at each
others throats just moments before shared a wry grin.
"Well now that's settled perhaps you'd like to
share the news with your good ladies, who I am sure
are growing impatient." Belegon suggested.
"Impatient." Will said resignedly. "I suppose
that's one way of putting it." which brought another
grin from Men and Hobbits both.
The strangers bowed to Belegon, the local folk
rather awkwardly following suit, and then the whole
assemblage poured out of the doors and into the noisy
"Now why didn't I think of that?" Angwen wondered
walking forward to her brother's side.
Belegon smiled down at her. "No doubt for the same
reason it never occured to me up to five minutes ago."
shrugged. "But if Aragorn's King in Gondor there's
surely no reason for the rest of us to stay in hiding.
Though I doubt our own people will be as impressed by
the Blood Royal as the Gondorim."
Beomann swallowed twice and was finally able to
make his voice work. "Trust me, we'll be impressed!"
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