At the Sign of the Green Dragon
“I’ll have another one, my dear Rosie,” the old Gaffer said as he emptied his mug. With a nod and a smile, Rosie Gamgee brought another round of drinks to his table, enough to keep the old Gaffer and his companions in their cups for a while. Her husband Samwise had taken their little ones on a tour of Southfarthing, and she was taking advantage of the opportunity to help out her old friends down at the Green Dragon.
Across the room, Ted Boffin let out a shriek as he was once again bested in darts by a visitor to Bywater, one Mr. Saradoc Took. “How about knives, Sara? I can beat you at those, and that’s a fact.”
Sara laughed in reply. “It’s sure been nice to renew our old acquaintanceship, Ted, and I’d hate to see it spoiled by some thrown knives.” But still, in a jovial mood, the slender young hobbit drew out a couple knives. “I’ll throw first?” With a flick of his wrist, Sara’s knife hit the target square-on.
“Ah,” moaned Ted, “perhaps we should just call it even. Rosie! Another round for Mr. Took here, on me!”
Sara accepted the mug from Rosie and settled down at a table with Ted and a few of the lookers-on who had been following the games. “You know, down in Bree, the drinks come twice as large as this,” Sara commented.
“Oy, what you been doing in Bree?” asked Hal Proudfoot. “What they got there that we don’t got here in the Shire?”
Sara shook his head at the pleasant, simple hobbits around him. Had they so soon forgotten the War of the Ring? Or had they just never listened to the stories? Had they forgotten Frodo, when Sam’s own wife was handing them beers? Or Merry and Pippin, with the latter’s kinsman right before them? “There’s much more goes on in Middle-earth than tilling and planting and brewing.” Sara raised his mug to his companions and took a sip. “Many a fine story I could tell to those who were interested in hearing one.”
The clamour of voices begged a story, and Sara slid comfortably into his place as the center of attention. For an hour and more, he held them enraptured by a story of his kinsman Pippin meeting talking trees. Some present had heard other versions of that story and begged for a tale new to their ears. At that, Sara brought forth fresh material, a tale he had just finished assembling based on interviews in Bree. It was of a Ranger known only as Patch-Cloak. This hunter was so focused on protecting the settlements of Eriador from wolves and roving orcs that he seldom took the time to visit those settlements himself. And when he did, he was close-mouthed, as most Rangers are, so folks there simply referred to him by his distinctive clothing, worn and rent by many a year in the wilds. Although many Sara had spoken to were unsure as to Patch-Cloak’s purposes and drives (some viewing him with suspicion even) Sara’s tale gave him a positive spin. For though he had never met any Rangers himself, Sara had heard from a reliable source that the King himself was once of their company.
When the tale of Patch-Cloak and the Rabid Wolves was finished, Sara rose to leave, but Ted begged him to stay. “Where do you have to get off to, anyways?” he demanded, forcing another tankard on the Took.
“I’ve got places to go in the morning!” Sara asserted. “I can’t be up with you chaps all night, worthy though you be.” He downed the last tankard, recovered his forgotten knife from the target across the room, and headed out to his lodgings. In the morning, bright and early, he would be resuming his journey, turning to the North. From what he had heard in Bree, there were likely to be Rangers gathering soon near the ruins of Annúminas, and Sara intended to be there to meet them and hear their stories firsthand.