The Landlord's Daughter: 1. The Landlord's Daughter

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1. The Landlord's Daughter

Wedmath, T.A. 1356
The Golden Boar Inn
Southlinch, Bree-Land

Much has been said of the strumpets of yore
Of wenches and bawdy house queens by the score
But I sing of the baggage that we all adore!
The Landlord's Daughter!

Marinn brought the tray of ales to table and dealt them around brusquely; she glared at the local fellows sitting there, but they continued to sing away at the top of their lungs, hoisting the tall wooden tankards in mock salute to her, and each one leering a grin. Shiftless louts, why were they here and not a-horse to help hold the borderlands? Even her feckless brother Briac had taken up the call.

Her ale it is lively and strong to the taste
It's brewed with discretion and never with haste

That much was true, at any rate; her ale was particularly fine, nearly as good as Mother's had been. Marinn cleared away the supper boards from the Little Folk's table and served up four half-tankards of ale for them; the Hobbits drank deeply and looked bemused at the raucous singing from the other side of the room. The old man in gray sitting alone in the corner near the Little Folk wanted more ale, and something to eat as well; Marinn filled his tankard and brought him a board from the kitchen, piled with hard cheese, a slice of cold roast pork and roasted onions.

You can have all you like if you swear not to waste!
The Landlord's Daughter!

Carefully not looking at the singers, Marinn surveyed the rest of the Common Room. Everybody looked content for the moment, so she pulled herself a small tankard and sat down--with her back to those local louts--and put her tired feet up for a bit.

You'll never love another
Although she's not the kind of girl
To take home to your mother!
The Landlord's Daughter!

Marinn wasn't one to put on airs; she knew her place. Keeping an inn, even a fairly nice one like the Golden Boar, was far from being a noble occupation. But she still really hated the rude humor that passed for fun when the taps were flowing. Her brothers teased her for having no sense of humor, and Father often reminded her that if she'd been born to a farming family, she would have had to shovel manure. Marinn downed her ale and decided that shoveling manure would have some advantages. Manure didn't proposition you, or try to pinch your bottom.

And when her name is mentioned
The parts of every gentleman

She especially hated the eyebrow-waggling everybody did about "Bree-girls." So she was a girl, from Bree-land, what of it? It's not like they were wanton or something. Well, Marna Goatleaf was, but that was just Marna. 

Will stand up, at attention!
The Landlord's Daughter!

One of the small group of King's Men in the good seats by the fireplace caught her eye and raised an empty tankard. Marinn hastened over to fill it, and ask if there was aught else they needed. "No, but...where is your father?" The tallest of them glanced over at the singers, and a badge on his breast glinted in the firelight. "Oh, sir, he's in Combe with my brother, seeing to our early cider apples. He'll be back tomorrow. It's just me and Old Tam and the help tonight." And with Tam down in the cool cellar with an arm around an ale barrel, Marinn thought, it's really just me and the help.

Oh, nothing can delight so
as does the part that lies between 
Her left toe, and her right toe!

The man blinked. "Don't worry sir. They're nearly done" she reassured him. Unless one of them knows the extra five verses, including the nasty ones about the hedgehog, Marinn thought. "It's all in good fun, really." Fun, like shoveling manure... but she gave them all a cheerful smile and cleared their boards.

Oh, The Landlord's Daughter!

Their song finished at last, the fellows roared and applauded their own cleverness, and one of them called out, "So, Marinn, how do you like our song, eh? That's a fine one, that is. I'd like to clap the hand of the fellow who thought that one up."

Marinn stopped on her way to the kitchen, a stack of dirty tableware piled in her arms. "I very much hope that you get to do that, Donan Ferny, because that would mean our Briac is come home from Rhudaur, safe and sound." Marinn noticed that the King's Men looked at each other when she said that. Maybe they could speak truth to the rumors she had been hearing....

"Your brother wrote that?" Ferny was torn between glee and shock. 

Marinn turned back to Ferny and smiled in spite of herself. "Our Briac loves a good joke, he does," she said, which was an understatement. Briac was the biggest practical joker in Bree-land, bar none. Nobody else could've pulled off putting the plough-horse in Alderman Withytop's chambers, or gotten away with it so handily. If there was a way to make people squawk and squirm, Briac would do it, although most of the time folk never knew it had been him. He had dared her temper often enough; Briac had penned that stupid song last year as a birthday present for her fifteenth, and taught it to all his friends. The fact that she hated it made him laugh all the more. How did life as a soldier suit her jesting brother? No telling, but she prayed his sword stayed as keen as his wit.

Taking the soiled tableware in to Elen, the kitchen-maid, Marinn reminded the girl she needed to be up for early breakfast service, as well as other extra chores. They would be short-handed until Father and Conn returned. As she came out of the kitchen, the old man sitting alone in the corner raised his empty tankard and gestured at it with his bushy white eyebrows. Marinn nodded and held up a just-a-minute finger. She went over to the soldiers by the fire first, and stood before them resolutely. If she would know, she would have to ask.

"Sirs," she said very quietly, "please forgive my forwardness, but I have guessed you may know something of the fighting in Rhudaur. Please, if you do, please tell me. How goes it there? Did our King Argeleb and his men prevail? What is the news from the borderlands?"

They looked at each other, and the one with the captain's badge on his breast shook his head. "We will talk to your father when he returns." 

Marinn felt a hot knot of dread twisting in her stomach. She took an empty chair and sat down beside their table, looking at each of the soldiers in turn and watching them drop their eyes away from her. 

"The news is not good, then. Are all...perished? Is Rhudaur lost, then?" she said quietly.

The captain pursed his lips and looked uncomfortable. "Go on now, girl. It's not our place..."

Marinn ignored him. "All?" she insisted, softly, looking at the soldiers.

One of the other men murmured, softly. "All."

Marinn closed her eyes and tried to grasp it. All meant Briac, too. And the King. All perished. Dead. The rumor was true.

She opened her still-dry eyes, and stood up. "Thank you, sirs. It is better to know than to wonder." Marinn remembered the dry tankard of the old gentleman in the corner, and numbly propelled herself to the taps to fill a pitcher for him.

As she refilled his tankard at the table, Marinn could feel the old man's kind eyes on her. She bit her lip and gave him a tenuous smile, willing herself to not cry, not yet, not here. 

The white-beard took up the tankard and quietly told her, "No life given in the service of what is right is given in vain, Marinn Nettlerett. And I do believe something of your brother might yet live on in the gifts that he gave." The corners of the old man's mouth quickly twitched up in a smile, then he busied himself with the filled tankard. Marinn thanked him for kind words, although she thought he was obviously wandering in his wits, as sometimes happened with old ones.

As she went about tending to the rest of the tables, clearing away and cleaning as each group finished their supper and ale and sought their beds, Marinn thought about Briac, and gifts. He hadn't been close-fisted, but Briac had never made much of gift-giving, either. It was just that any coin he came by was sure to be spent on getting up some practical joke or another; the only thing she could tell he had loved to give had been surprise and laughter, the coarser the better. 

Laughter. Marinn looked over and saw that Donan Ferny and his friends were still there, although a bit quieter than earlier. Maybe the old man in gray wasn't witless after all. She glanced at the corner, but he had gone upstairs already.

In the quieting room, Marinn drew up a chair beside Ferny and the fellows. "Lads, I'd like to tell you a story or two about my brother Briac, some things I'll bet nobody knows. You'll like it. But first, I need you to sing me the song."

"Which song?" Ferny asked. 

"You know which song, Donan." Marinn sang, in a high, sweet voice,

Much has been said of the strumpets of yore
Of wenches and bawdy house queens by the score
But I sing of the baggage that we all adore!
The Landlord's Daughter!

Note: Lyrics for 'The Landlord's Daughter' are by Paul Giovanni, from the movie "The Wicker Man."

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.

Story Information

Author: Gythja

Status: General

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - The Kings

Genre: Humor

Rating: General

Last Updated: 08/14/13

Original Post: 08/14/13

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