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At Tharbad's Greenway Spring Faire  by Dreamflower

B2MeM Challenge: This prompt by : Are the Rangers ever seen in the Shire? If so what do the Hobbits make of them? Do the Rangers ever openly help the Hobbits or have the Hobbits ever helped a sick or injured Ranger?
Format: format:multi-chapter
Genre: genre:adventure, genre:gapfiller
Rating: PG-13   
Warnings: Violence and one passing mention of cannibalism among orcs
Characters: Ranger OMC, various hobbits, Bandobras "Bullroarer" Took
Pairings: Bandobras/OFC
Creators' Notes (optional): This draws somewhat on my account of the Battle of Greenfields as recounted by Berilac Brandybuck in Chapter 15 of "In the Court of the High King"
Summary: Wounded and in peril of his life, a Ranger of the North carries a dire warning to the Shire: invasion!

The Invasion

Part 2

"Snakes and adders! What on earth is that?" The old farmer blinked and shook his head and then looked again. It was still there. "Dilly!" He shouted for his wife.

She came out of the hole, wiping her floury hands on her apron. "What on earth are you making such a racket about, Hob Greenhand?"

For answer, he merely pointed across his field in the direction of the Brandywine.

"That's a mighty big pony," Dilly said, after a moment of staring, slack-jawed.

"That's no pony, wife. That's a full-growed horse, if my eyes aren't a-lying to me."

"A horse. Like the Big Folk ride. What's it doing in the Shire, I wonder." The horse was just standing there, not grazing or any such thing.

"What I want to know is, where's the rider. See, it looks to be wearing a saddle."

Hob stared for a few minutes more, just thinking. Then he squared up his shoulders and said, "You go back in the hole, Dilly, and bar the door. Don't open it unless you hear it's me, understand? I'm going to roust up the lads in the barn, and we'll go see what's going on."

Dilly nodded, and headed reluctantly back into the hole. They were very isolated here, so close to the Northern bounds of the Shire. She wished their daughter Myrtle was still living at home, but she was off two years a-gone to apprentice to the healer in Long Cleeve.

Hob waited until the door had shut behind his wife, before he headed to the barn to waken the two hired hobbits who slept in the loft. "Diccon! Hari! I need your help!"

A few minutes later, armed with two pitchforks and a scythe, the three hobbits approached quietly through the turnip field, making next to no sound. But the breeze carried their scent to the horse, who raised his head with a snort. Still, he moved not an inch from where he stood, four legs planted firmly on the ground, as though he was guarding something.

And he was. In front of him lay one of the Big Folk, sleeping, unconscious or dead, Farmer Greenhand could not tell. The horse looked at them warily, but made no threatening move. The Man moaned softly, the first indication any of them had that he was alive, and the horse gave a soft whicker and lowered his head to sniff him. Then the horse looked up again, directly at the hobbits, as though asking them for help.

Farmer Greenhand looked at his companions. "I think as the horse wants us to help that Man," he said. "Maybe he was throwed, or fell off or something, but he needs help."

Diccon and Hari exchanged a look, and Diccon said "But Mr. Hob, sir, what if that horse has a go at you?"

He looked over at the horse, which once more nudged the unconscious Man with his nose and then looked up at the hobbits again. "I don't think he will. If he does, well, you'd better make yourselves scarce." He put down the pitchfork he was holding and slowly approached. "Nice horsey! Good horsey! You just stay right there and we'll help your master, we will..."

The horse actually stepped back as Farmer Greenhand drew near, and gave another soft whinny. The hobbit knelt down to look at the injured Man, and gasped. He'd expected maybe a knot on the head from a fall. Instead he saw blood, both dried and fresh staining the leather tunic the Man had on. His face was ghastly pale, with dark rings beneath the eyes like bruises, and now Hob could see that he was feverish as well. The Man needed a healer! What a shame Myrtle wasn't to home! But Dilly could help some, and mayhap they could figure out what to do with him.

He was about to send Diccon to get her when he recalled that he'd told his wife to only open the door for him. He gestured to them to come over.

Reassured when the horse had made no hostile move (indeed he seemed to be watching with concerned curiosity) the other hobbits approached slowly. "Stay by him, lads! I'll go fetch Dilly, and we'll try to think of some way to move the poor fellow out of this field."

Hob raced back to the hole, and Dilly was watching through the window. She opened the door before he could even raise his hand to knock. "What is it, Hob?" she asked.

"Yon horse is guarding an injured fellow, I suppose it was his rider. He's well and truly out of it, but his clothes is stained with blood. We need to figure some way to get him out of the dirt, and think o' some way we can help him."

"Well, water won't go amiss, whatever the trouble is. Bring along a bucket o' clean water from the well, Hob. I'll grab some old sheets as I was planning to tear up for rags. They'll do for bandages if we need them, and they're clean. Oh--and maybe some o' that salve Myrtle left for us when she was to home last time. She said it'd be good for stanching cuts." She turned and headed for the linen room, and Hob hurried to the well. Soon she joined him, and they walked down together.

Dilly refrained from asking too many questions, for which Hob was grateful; he had blessed few answers to give her. When they arrived in the turnip field, he saw that Diccon and Hari had lost their fear of the horse. Diccon had taken his jacket off and rolled it up to put beneath the Man's head, and Hari had become so bold as to be standing by the horse, patting his nose and telling him soothingly that his master would be cared for.

Dilly's eyes widened as she saw just how big both horse and rider were. The hobbits looked like faunts alongside them. But she was drawn immediately to the poor injured Man. She knelt by him, and turned up her nose just a little at the rank smell of sweat and blood. Thankfully, his tunic fastened down the front with large buckles--well, to her anyway, they were probably small for him--and so she was able to draw it away from him without having to cut it. The shirt below was dirty and stained, of course, but had originally been made of nice linen. She felt the lump of some sort of bandage beneath, and blushing she drew it up. Another shirt had been tied around his torso, just below his ribs. It looked crude and awkward to her, and she realized he had probably needed to tend himself when the injury was new. The wound had crusted blood as well as fresh, and so had probably been made a few days before. The fresh blood had probably happened when he fell off his horse. She placed her hand near the cut (how in the world had he come by such an injury?) and felt heat, though she smelled no putrefaction; the cut was infected, but not yet so badly that it could not be healed. But he certainly could not stay in the turnip field. How could they move him without harming him even more?

 Well, first things first. "Diccon, raise his head up. I'm going to see if I can rouse him enough to take some water." Hob handed the dipper to her, only half full to make it easier. Diccon was awkward, and the fellow's chin nearly touched his chest. He gave a little moan, and thankfully roused enough to swallow a couple of sips. His eyes fluttered open, and he blinked, clearly trying to make sense of the concerned faces peering at him. He gave a croak, and then when it was offered, another sip of water.

"Hob...hobbits? The Sh-shire?" he whispered hoarsely.

"Aye," Hob nodded, "you are in the Shire, and we are hobbits. I'm Hobson Greenhand, and this here's my wife Daffodil, at you service. That fellow just behind you is my hired hand, Diccon Brown. And the one over yonder with your horse is Haribold Sandybanks. You feel up to telling us who you are and why you're here?"

The Man closed his eyes, and for a moment they thought he'd gone out on them again. But then he drew a deep breath, and his eyes opened again. Then he spoke a little more strongly, "Grant that I am in time! I am a Ranger, Hirluin son of Dirluin, by name, and I bear a warning forthe Shire: danger is..." He stopped, his voice growing weak again. Dilly held the dipper up to him once more, and after another sip of water, he continued. "Orcs. Orcs are coming."

"What's orcs, Mr. Hirluin?" Asked the farmer, perplexed.

"Orcs, orcs..." He paused. "Your people call them 'goblins', I believe. They are dreadful. One of them gave me this wound with his spear."

Hob and Dilly exchanged a look. Goblins were creatures out of nursery tales, surely. But this fellow had obviously ridden long and hard to warn them.

"Please believe me. You must warn your people to flee or to hide." He closed his eyes once more, as though it was too much effort to keep them open.

It was Dilly who broke the horrified silence. "First things first, pardon me saying so, Mr. Hirluin. And first is getting you out of our turnip field to where you can be tended. You can't go nowhere as you are now." She sat back on her knees, and put the dipper back in the bucket. She looked at the bandages she had brought--better to deal with his injury once they got him put. But she tore off one strip, folded it, and placed it over the cut, and then retied the shirt he'd been using. That would stop any fresh bleeding until they got him...where? It wouldn't do to try and get him inside the smial; probably would hurt him worse. But perhaps the barn? "Hari," she said. "Run up to the barn; use Bossy's old stall, it's the cleanest as she's no longer there. Use fresh hay to make up a good pallet, and cover it with the tarp we use for the threshing. It's clean, too, and not needed again for months. It will be big enough for Mr. Hirluin to lie on comfortable like."

But now the really difficult matter. She looked at her husband, and he followed her gaze back towards the hole and the barn. "We can't carry him, not even if all four of us try. And I don't suspect as he can walk that far. Not right now."

Hirluin opened his eyes and looked at his rescuers. They were right; he was too large for them to carry, and he could not possibly walk that far. If he tried, he feared his strength would be taxed too far and he could not risk that. But he had a way. It would be painful and tax him as well, but not so much as trying to walk would do.

"Fear not, good hobbits," he said. His voice was still cracked and raw, but it felt stronger. "Move aside," he said, and he made a clucking noise.

Hob, Dilly and Diccon scrambled to move out of the way as the big horse moved towards them. He came to stand by his master, and then Hirluin spoke in a tongue that none of the hobbits recognised. To their astonishment, the bay knelt down next to Hirluin, who grabbing on to his mane, managed with a grunt of pain, to drag himself up onto the big animal.

Hirluin fought a wave of nausea as Belan stood beneath him. He spoke once more in Sindarin: Thank you, my friend; now follow these small ones. It was all he could do to remain in the saddle. He spoke to the hobbits again: "Belan will follow where you lead him now."

Hesitantly, Hob took the reins, which hung down loosely. To his surprise, the horse did indeed follow placidly behind him. He still felt a little frightened to have such a large creature walking behind him, but only because it made him feel so very small and vulnerable. He was not truly scared of the horse.

By the time they made their slow way to the barn, Hirluin was fast losing consciousness again. But as Belan lowered to allow them to roll him onto a comfortable hay pallet, he used the last of his strength to say once more: "You must warn your people; send warning..."

As Dilly began to tend the now insensible Man, washing and re-bandaging his wound, clucking over it and wishing she dared to stitch it (but wasn't it too late for stitching?) and wishing further that her daughter was to home, Hob stood up and summoned Diccon to his side. "Diccon, take Dobbin," and he pointed to the pony's stall, "and ride out to see if you can find Bil Lightfoot, if you can't find him, find Shirriff Headstrong. Tell 'em about this Man and his warning. Have 'em send word to Long Cleeve. Mr. Longhole there can get a messenger to the Thain. Make sure they listen and believe you!"

Diccon was pale. He'd nearly forgotten the Big Man's warning about goblins! Could there really be goblins coming? Here he was being sent off to warn the Bounder and the Shirriff, and he wasn't sure he believed it himself. "Do you think it's true, Mr. Hob?"

Farmer Greenhand looked down at where Dilly was carefully tending their unexpected guest. "He thinks it's true; and better safe than sorry."

Diccon nodded. Then he went to saddle up the farm pony, and try to figure out where he could find the Bounder.


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