9. Second Yule: Festivity Perverted
A hair clip of mithril set with small diamonds graced the greying dark brown hair of Lobelia, a golden necklace set with a large ruby rested on her chest just above the neckline of her dress. She reached up to caress the necklace. This was the way her life should have been for a long time, Lobelia Sackville-Baggins dressed in the finest satin and velvet, wearing the most opulent jewelry and firmly in place as mistress of Bag End. She and Lotho had given up all hope of calling the elegant hole home when old mad Bilbo went and adopted Frodo. But, after Bilbo's interesting disappearance at his eleventy-first birthday party, Frodo had started being a bit odd himself. Lobelia had begun to suspect that the new master of Bag End was as mad as the old one. Hope had risen up within her as she came to think that Frodo, like Bilbo, might just up and wander off. But when the lad actually sold Bag End to she and her son, well! The deal was done and done. There would be no mess with the lad coming back to claim the hole like that wretched Bilbo had.
"You have done more than well, Lotho," Lobelia said with a sigh of contentment. "You have acquired great wealth, properties and holdings. Much better than your puny little Father ever managed to do." She reached over and patted Lotho's hand. "And, you have the respect and business of folk from outside of the Shire, as well. Few hobbits have had that, you know. Perhaps," she said, as a harder edge crept into her voice, "perhaps you should exert yourself a little more. Be a bit bolder, my dear."
Lotho looked up from the ledger book for the Four Farthings Holdings that he had been going over to make the day even happier. He adored the long lines of ever increasing numbers. He was thrilled by each recording of rents collected, goods sold and new properties purchased.
"Bolder, Mother?" He fixed her with a distrustful gaze. Whatever did she have going on in that head of hers now?
"Yes, Lotho, bolder. Stop hiding behind this company of yours," she huffed and waved her hand at the ledger on his lap. "Let the boorish hobbits of the Shire see what those in Bree and southwards see. That you have become a brilliant businesshobbit and are worthy of their respect and admiration!" Lobelia's voice rose as new visions for her and her son rose in her mind. "You should be Mayor of the Shire!" She turned to Lotho with her face alight.
"Mayor, Mother?" Lotho furrowed his brow. "But the election is a couple of years off yet."
"A mere detail, son, a mere detail!" his mother exclaimed as she continued to warm to the idea. "We should, well, I will, do some looking into the matter. I'm sure there must be some way around having to wait for the election. There just must be some way that the richest, most powerful hobbit in the Shire can take his rightful place as its Mayor!"
"But what of the Tooks? What of 'His Royal Thain-ness' Paladin the Second?" Lotho asked with clear disdain for the Took clan and their inherited title. "Wouldn't he take over if somehow there is no longer a Mayor?"
Lobelia brought her hand to her chin, rubbed her lips with her forefinger and thought for a few moments. "I do not know," she replied slowly and softly. "I shall have to look into that as well, I think. It wouldn't do to have old Paladin and the whole of the Tooks getting in our way." A cold gleam came into her eyes. "Perhaps you will just need to hire a few more helpers. More hobbits who need gold in their pockets and more men with too much time on their hands, as well as too much ale in their bellies. With enough, how to say it . . . supporters, yes . . . with enough support behind you, I think there won't be much trouble from the Tooks. And let us not forget the Brandybucks! Buckland is a fertile field waiting for us to harvest it. We must not overlook Buckland in our plans."
Lotho was about to ask his Mother if she realized that she was talking about them taking over the whole of the lands populated by hobbits when a pounding on the door interrupted him. He set the ledger aside and, straightening his new brocade waistcoat as he went, made his way to entry hall of Bag End.
The three guests on the door step were well bundled against the cold north wind that whistled about The Hill. Lotho was well acquainted with two of his supper guests. Tad Foxburr, a hobbit of the South Farthing, had been working for Lotho for many years, doing many of the behind the scenes things that had enabled him to purchase the large amounts of Shire property that Lotho now held. Ron Fernberry, a man of Bree, had been his contact in Bree for a bit over two years, being the amount of time that Lotho had been selling pipe-weed both in Bree and to Ron's "southern buyer." The third, a southerner who was a bit taller than Ron Fernberry and broader through the chest and shoulders was a stranger to Lotho.
"Welcome all!" said Lotho as he waved them into the entry hall. He always felt a bit badly that the men had to stoop in order not to hit their heads on the ceilings of the old hole. "I'll take your cloaks."
"Haven't you got yourself a servant to be doing all this, Mr. Lotho?" asked Tad as he handed over his cloak.
Lotho gave a sigh of frustration. "Dear Mother will not hear of it," he said. He lifted his hand to his face with the back of it toward his mouth and lowed his voice. "She says you cannot trust anyone not to listen and then not to talk, but personally, I think the old dear is a bit daft." His guests joined him in his chuckling.
He escorted them into the parlor where they paid their respects to Lobelia before she went to begin setting out supper in the dinning room. The southerner at this point was introduced as Yengan.
"It is a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Yengan," Lobelia gushed and held her hand out to the crouched over man. "How good it is to finally meet one of the people that we are aiding with the goods and supplies we are sending to the faraway south-lands."
Yengan made no move to take her hand. He did not glare at her. But his look was not complimentary, and she withdrew both her hand and herself rather awkwardly, nearly stumbling on her way out to tend to supper.
"Yes, well," Lotho said and cleared his throat. "I fear we have no chairs to suit you Men, but we moved some benches in so that you might be seated." He gestured to two benches with a sweep of his hand, and the two men and the two hobbits were seated.
"Now," said Lotho, "what have you all to say about the shipments? All up to expectations, I should hope."
The two men looked at each other, then Ron spoke. "We were goin' to be leavin' that for after we'd supped. But since you be bringin' it up now, we might as well get on about it and be done with."
"It is not nearly enough for our needs, little one," Yengan said. His voice was as greasy as his dark lank hair, and his squinted eyes gleamed dangerously. "There's . . . needs," he continued with an odd emphasis on the last word. "Needs which aren't bein' met by your . . . efforts." Again there was weight given to the last word he uttered.
Lotho was quite taken aback. He had not in the least expected to be told the goods provided had been inadequate. "I . . . well," he cleared his throat again. "Surely they cannot be too short of the need? With the aid of the extra . . . er . . . helpers that you all provided, we have collected not only from my renters and tenants but also from some of the larger farms round about Hobbiton as well." He relaxed a bit at this and tented his fingers together in front of his lips. "Mind, it has been quite the satisfying experience, taking as much from them as possible at this time of year." His eyes gleamed at his guests over the tops of his fingers. "A holiday of ours, you see. Such excess they are all accustomed to! Gifts for their wee children and food by the ton! Little did they care when the Sackville-Baggins had little with which to celebrate; when I got few if any gifts, and those of shoddy quality. It has been rather a . . . pleasure," he drew out the word as if to savor it, "to take some of the overage away from the lazy louts." He paused for a bit then lowered his hands and more directly addressed the men and the hobbit sitting opposite him. "But truly, you need more? I do not see how that can be done without a certain amount of risk."
"Unless," began Ron Fernberry, but he was cut off by Tad Foxburr.
"Unless you take your proper place here 'bouts in the Shire." Tad looked at each of the men and then continued. "I live in the South Farthing now, but until 'bout fifteen years ago I moved 'bout a fair bit. I know there be a goodly number, no majority mind, but a goodly number that wouldn't at all mind a different way of runnin' things. Tired they be of Mayors and Thains and Masters. Ready they be to side with someone who rules because he's got the power, power to bring things more to level. More to where there ain't no high and mighty Tooks and Brandybucks."
Tad finished, and an odd silence draped itself over the room. Lotho could hardly believe it. What Tad said was exactly what his mother had said before the three guests had arrived; that he should be Mayor and take control of the Shire. And why not, he thought. He already owned vast portions of it.
"You think this is possible, Tad?" Lotho looked hard at the other hobbit.
"Oh, aye, Mr. Lotho! All that needs be done is have something happen to old Flourdumpling Whitfoot, the Mayor. Then quick as a wink we have them as is on our side come on as extra Sherriffs, and without hardly a blink you'd be the one in charge as the Sherriffs would answer to you and all the Shire folk would answer to them."
Suddenly the wonder of it all seized Lotho's mind. He could have it all! They would all dance to his tune or pay the price, and he would even set the price! He started seeing "his Shire." No wretched ale in their wretched inns and taverns. He would never forget what the stuff had done to his sniveling worm of a Father. In fact, there would be no inns and taverns! No traveling about without his knowing. No one had helped he and his Mother while his Father wasted away, so there would be no helping one another either. No taking someone into one's home. He would no longer hide behind the Four Farthings Holdings! He would no longer work in the shadows! He owned the Shire, now he would run the Shire! The plans grew like mildew in his brain.
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.