3. Rocks in the Road
She spun with a smile, nearly dropping her basket. 'Hullo, Hairy-Farry, what brings you here?'
He cocked an eye at the sky, then back down at her. 'It was such a beautiful day, I got on my pony to ride around the field, but someone left the gate open and we just kept going.'
'Where's your escort?' she asked teasingly.
He looked all about himself as if expecting to find a burly Took in his pocket. 'Hmmm,' he said. 'I thought I'd forgot something.'
Goldi's teasing tone changed to scolding. 'You slipped your escort? Farry! They'll be put on water rations, for not minding their duty to the son of the Thain!'
Faramir shrugged. 'Tolly was putting on weight as it was,' he said.
Shocked, Goldi said, 'I cannot believe you said that!' She huffed and started to turn away, but Faramir said urgently, 'Come now, Goldi, it was a jest! Tolly stopped off at Bag End with a message for the Mayor, and I was to speak to Master Sandyman for my father. Tolly was to catch up with me here, and I saw you with your skirts tucked up, plucking greens from the stream, so I thought I'd give you a shout.'
'It wasn't a nice jest,' Goldi pouted, but soon relented, for Faramir jumped down from his pony, waded into the stream, and began pulling cress and tossing it into her basket as they talked.
'I've missed you,' he said, his eyes on the plants he was picking.
'You were a long time in Buckland,' she answered softly. 'Why didn't you write?'
He straightened abruptly, staring at her. 'I did write,' he said stoutly. 'Why didn't you answer?'
'I wrote,' she said, hurt and confused. 'Ever so many letters, but you never wrote me back.'
'That doesn't make sense,' Faramir said slowly, 'unless...'
'Why would someone stop our post?' Goldi said.
'The Mayor's in charge of the messenger service,' Faramir said.
'And he could stop someone's post by order of the Thain,' Goldi answered. 'Do you think your father...?'
Heedless of wet clothes, Faramir sat down heavily on the bank of the little stream, dropping the cress he'd just plucked from the streambed. 'It's possible,' he said soberly. 'You know how the Tooks gossip.'
'O Farry,' she breathed, her eyes filling with tears. 'Does your father think...?'
'O Goldi,' he answered miserably. 'You know he has to think of his position, and how everything looks, for he cannot be an effective Thain if the people do not respect him.'
'And the Tooks won't respect him if his son associates with common hobbits, is that it?' she asked bitterly, turning her back on him in her distress and anger.
'You are anything but common, Goldi,' he said softly, taking her hand, drawing her round again. 'I... I could leave the Smials, you know,' he said, growing bolder.
'Leave the Smials?' she asked, puzzled.
'Leave the Smials,' he said more firmly, 'go to work for a farmer, or an innkeeper, renounce the succession. Who says I have to be Thain after my father?'
'O Farry,' she breathed again, but tears blinded her and she could not meet his eyes.
'Goldi?' he asked, putting a gentle finger under her chin to tip her face up to meet his.
'Could you really do that?' she asked. She read the answer in his face before even he knew what he would say. 'You cannot, you know it. There has to be a Thain to watch over the people, and that is what your father is bringing you up to become.'
'But why do I have to be the one?' Faramir said stubbornly.
'Because you are your father's son,' Goldilocks answered. 'Because you are the hobbit I know you to be, and I could not respect you, were you to be otherwise.'
'You're not making sense,' Faramir said irritably.
'I'm making perfect sense,' Goldi said. She sighed. 'There is no "us", Farry, there cannot be. It is for the good of the Shire, and you know it.'
'No "us",' he said, stricken. They had never spoken out this boldly before, but now he realised that somehow, more and more these past few years, he had been thinking of Goldi in just that way.
'Just "you"... and "me",' Goldi said. At the sight of his face, she softened. 'We can still be friends, you know. There's no stopping friendship.' She put out her hand, and he took it; she leaned forward to kiss him softly on the cheek. 'I see Tolly coming down the Hill,' she said. 'You had better get back on that pony of yours.'
He nodded and swallowed hard. Goldi tried to smile. 'Goodbye, Hairy-Farry.'
Faramir mounted his pony, and as Tolly rode up, he said, 'Goodbye, Mouldy-Goldi!'
'Faramir!' Tolly reprimanded. 'You ought to speak with more respect, when you address a lass!'
'Yes, Tolly,' Faramir said. The two Tooks turned their ponies towards Tuckborough, and Faramir's last glimpse of Goldilocks was of her bending once again to the stream. Before she bent, however, he caught the sparkle of tears in her eyes.
Reginard opened the door of the Thain's study to admit the next group of hobbits. He seated each one, offered tea-and-biscuits, sat himself down at his desk and picked up his quill.
'Very well,' Thain Peregrin said, when they had finished with the customary greetings and got past the preliminaries. 'What seems to be the trouble?'
'Woodbine, here, accuses his neighbour of causing him to fall, last evening at the Green Dragon,' the proprietor of the inn said soberly. 'They nearly came to blows in my common room. I could not get them to agree, and so we have come here for you, Sir, to hear the case.'
'I see,' the Thain said soberly. He nodded to Linden, the accused hobbit, who would have a chance to defend himself after all the evidence was presented. Turning to Woodbine, the accuser, he said, 'Tell me your story.'
'He tripped me!' Woodbine blustered, 'stuck out his stick as I was coming along, arms full of mugs, and I fell over it. Near cracked my skull on the table, not to mention the waste of the beer!'
'How many mugs?' the Thain asked conversationally.
'Six,' Woodbine said belligerently, with a glare to his neighbour.
'Six!' the Thain said mildly. 'That is quite a feat!'
'Tripped me,' Woodbine continued, 'and laughed. Laughed! He did! Thought it funny, for me to come a cropper and spill six mugs besides!'
'Well, it were a comical sight,' Linden, the accused, put in. 'Half the room were laughing fit to bust a gut.'
'You'll have your say,' Reginard broke in with a stern look, and Linden subsided.
Thain Peregrin asked questions of each hobbit who'd been there, accuser, witnesses, innkeeper, and finally the accused, who insisted that the whole incident was an unfortunate accident. After he had asked Linden his final question, he sat back and looked across to Chancellor Ferdibrand, who had sat quietly listening from his own desk. Ferdi was shaking his head slightly.
'Ferdibrand,' the Thain said after a pause. 'Do you have any questions?'
'Did Linden bring his stick with him today?' Ferdi asked, slightly tilting his head to one side, as if trying to visualise the scene.
'Yes,' the Thain nodded, after a glance at the accused.
'Tell me, Linden, where is your stick?' Ferdi asked.
'Why, it's under my chair, are you blind? ... where I always put it.' He didn't notice the Thain, the innkeeper, and several other hobbits stiffen.
'Ah,' Ferdi answered. 'Where you always put it. I see.' He turned his face towards the Thain with a smile. 'I have no further questions, Sir.'
Pippin glanced sharply at Ferdi, then took a closer look at the accused. His stick was under his chair, "where he always put it", out of the way of a chance mishap. He nodded, sat straighter in his chair. 'Is there anything else to be said?' he asked the room in general. Heads were shaken, and he nodded again.
'Here is my finding,' he said. Reginard dipped his quill in the inkwell, preparatory to taking down the verdict.
Fixing the accused with a stern eye, he said, 'Linden, I find you guilty of mischief with malice to cause harm.' That hobbit's shocked exclamation was quickly broken off in the face of the looks the other hobbits shot his way; it seemed even his wife was in agreement.
In the silence that followed, Linden tried again. In a trembling voice, he said, 'It were... it were...'
'It was not an accident,' the Thain said flatly.
'No, Sir,' Linden said reluctantly, 'but it were... only a jest, that's all,' he said earnestly. 'I meant it for a jest, no more'n that.' His voice was pleading.
'I near to broke my crown!' Woodbine said vehemently. The Thain stared him into silence.
'Here are the consequences of your actions,' Thain Peregrin continued. 'You are to pay all damages to the innkeeper, for broken mugs, spilt beer, damage to furniture, whatever he deems necessary. If any of the mugs were not the innkeeper's, you must pay the owners of the mugs for the breakage.'
Linden nodded, but the Thain was not finished. 'Also, you must realise that mischief which leads to harm is not allowed here in the Shire. Small harm can lead to bigger harm can lead to... well, let us just say that no hobbit of the Shire will be allowed to deliberately harm another, while I'm Thain.'
Linden nodded again, gulping, knowing what was coming now. 'Linden of Bywater,' Thain Peregrin said somberly, 'I hereby pronounce upon you, the Ban.' Linden's wife gasped and put her handkerchief to her mouth. Her husband was given to mean little tricks, thinking them funny, but...
'You may speak to no other, and none may speak to you. You must eat your meals in silence, and avoid gatherings, feasts, and festivals. You are under the sentence of shunning, until you return, two months from this date, to hear the Ban against you lifted.'
Two months, Linden thought, sick. Two months, for mischief.
'Two months,' the Thain reiterated, as if echoing his thoughts. 'You have two months of silence, in which to think on your actions. I encourage you to use this time to increase in wisdom, and consider your attitude towards the other hobbits who have to associate with you.' He looked at Linden, not without sympathy. 'Do you have any final words to say before the silence begins?'
Linden shook his head miserably. He rose from his chair, bowed to the Thain, picked up his stick, and stiffly walked from the study. In silence, his wife, his accuser, the innkeeper, and the other witnesses followed him from the room.
'Two months,' Ferdi said quietly.
'Better two months, than six for causing bodily harm for his cavalier attitude,' Pippin answered. 'How did you know he was lying, about it being an accident?'
Ferdi shook his head. 'There's something about a person's voice, when he is not telling the entire truth,' he said. 'I cannot explain.'
'Ah, well,' Pippin said. 'I guess I ought to be relieved that you can do it, whether or not you can explain it.'
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.