"Hearken now you! Erling!" said a voice amidst the chatter of birdsong and the breath of the wind in the tree boughs. At length -for meanwhile there was also the sound of straining, of creaking leather, and, at an even further stretch of time, of a certain begrudging acquiescence- the exasperated voice spoke again "Go on then, a moment longer." It said, pealing through the thinning trees. There was then the sound of a bare foot tapping with feigned patience, and of a great muzzle grazing great hanks of grass. "Rightiho then Erling. Lets us be off then. No you dursn't ser Erling, no ser you don't! No more eating or I'll name you Barrel, as befits yer, you old rogue."
Thusly the shape of a man came out of the woods, dragging a horse that stood easily two and a half times his height. Erling, the horse, certainly was tall -even by the considerable standards of his venerable breed- however Bandobras Took, the aforementioned man, if that expression may used of the Took Kin at all- was considerably short, shorter even than the bearded dwarves.
Near at hand there was cut into the ground a narrow corridor, into which Bandobras led the rascally Great-horse, which nipped at his hair, and tagged at his clothes; so that once Bandobras had tethered the beast there, he could run to the top of the loading-ramp, as it were, and strap a veritable mountain of sacks and burgeoning tarpaulins to the mighty back of the steed. Another ripe autumn had come to pass, and Bandobras was carrying away his harvest to market to the south and west in Oatbarton, hoping to arrive without event; but the days have turned queer Bandobras mused to himself, repeating as much to the blithely unconcerned Erling. "You know what I marked in the woods earlier, do you ser Erling? Wolves, by track and scent!" He exclaimed. "Wolves Erling!" The hobbit growled as much as his amiable voice allowed. "So you watch your step, ser! Or I'll let 'em have ye! I will! Ooorah! Gerroff ye confusticated beast!" Bandobras extricated the greater part of his face from the ministrations of Erlings' great muzzle and tongue and staggered due south, tugging the reigns.
Bandobras' fields, not that they expressly belonged to him or anyone for that matter, were held in the encompassing arms of two reaches of the North Downs a brisk walk from the shores of Evendim; here, where wind came seldom, and honey-bees came a-plenty, there was the remnant of an old road that cut to Norbury, the old city of Kings, with a near-ruined bridge that yawned over the young Brandywine. It was a push for a hobbit to cross the relative safety of the Brandywine River, especially working land known to be a haunt of wolves, and worse. But a youngster had to get ahead somehow, and Bandobras Took was not one to wait on life's fortunes when he had a perfectly sturdy pair of hands, and a half-trained horse to carry his crops for him.
The Down-wilds, for all that it had turned quite wild, was still a lovely bit of countryside, and many was the time that Bandobras had wondered what it must have been like in the fullness of the high days of the Kings of Men -whose memory was now only a shadow to the Hobbits of the Shire. Hobbits had largely forgotten that the fields they tended and the roads they used were all largely inherited from the bygone age. Bandobras was perhaps more aware of it from his travels. Growing up in TUckborough he had -in properly adventurous Took style- pushed North to the ruins of Annuminas as a youngster. There on the shores of Lake Evendim where the Brandywine was born he had first wondered what the tall Kings of Men must have been like. Next, not quite satisfied for adventure, he had trekked way out into the East-Wilds of the North Downs to the ruins of Norbury, having even taken the old Greenway from there, all the way south to Bree. It was visiting these ruins Bandobras had found the seeds of his gathering fortune. Westmans' Weed the folk in Bree called it, or as it was affectionately known in the Shire: Pipeweed. Longbottom was already becoming well known for it, and a fine leaf it was too. But Bandobras had reckoned something noone else had, the Pipeweed especially liked growing where the Old Kings had lived, and though he couldn't imagine in what way or what far-flung reach of antiquity the Old Kings had lived upon them, Bandobras' fields were especially bountiful.
Musing upon all of this the young Bandobras ambled toward the ruined bridge, still clicking his tongue and shivering at the thought of wolves, when sure enough, Bandobras chanced upon the wolf tracks again. And what wolf tracks they are too! The slightly alarmed hobbit edged a little closer to his gargantuan horse, and could not restrain himself from a furtive glance in each direction; as if he would spot the wolves so easily. Bandobras dragged Erlings nose to the ground. "Aye, you just be certain to have a good huff of that. And mind you to warn me if you smell it any fresher! Well be in for a pinch o'trouble, I daresay, if you do. You listening to me Erling? Erling?" Bandobras struck off again, if he was going to be ignored, and with a bit more of a hustle. He flinched when he heard the sonorous wolf-howl behind them; but it sounded lonely, if anything; not overly blood-thirsty. As if the wolf was calling someone. Bandobras shook his chestnut-locked head; not in all the eleven years he'd been cropping the clearing had he marked wolves, and now: they were everywhere, and giant. The howl again, and Bandobras discovered he had the energy to kick up a quick trot, funnily enough; though his companion required only to amble along at much the same stride.
In this fashion they drew nearer and nearer to the bridge, where in the distance, the rolling grasslands of the North Moors beckoned like the safety of a castles walls. The hobbit nodded gladly, relieved to put the threat of wolves behind him, and to lay eyes on the first sign of chimney-smoke. And there, not more than a good sprint for the bridge Erling stopped, stockstill, with knees locked and his ears pricked up. Wolves? Bandobras asked himself incredulously. For, without a shadow of a doubt; Erling had caught their scent; and there, before Bandobras' own admirably hairy feet, were the tracks.
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