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A Founding Member  by Larner

Written for the LOTR Community Potluck Challenge.

The Yule Raid Visit

            Otis Tunnely stamped his feet impatiently in the snow.  Where were the others?  They ought to have been there nearly an hour ago!  What if his sister Sweetpea and her husband Tod Delver left for their expected Second Yule visit to the Delver farm in the Northfarthing before the others arrived?  Then the desired effect of this visit would be lost!

            In no way did Otis Tunnely wish this visit to be unobserved by his sister and her family.  No, he needed for Tod and Sweetpea to be there to see and personally experience what was to happen.  It was Yule, after all, and this was to be his Yule gift to Sweetpea’s family.  What impact would this visit have if Tod, Sweetpea, and their two children were gone when it happened?

            The muffled creak of a wagon’s wheels coming up the farm lane caught his attention, and he stopped blowing upon his fingers to listen.  They’d managed to get hold of a wagon?  Good!  The better to carry away the “presents” he expected to receive from Sweetpea and Tod!  He peered down the lane and saw the dim outlines in the midwinter dawn of a large, open wagon drawn by a dray pony coming toward him.  Two Hobbits sat on the wagon’s seat, and behind appeared to be at least one more, along with the larger, more hulking shadows of what appeared to be three of Lotho’s Big Men, one with what was likely to be a club on his shoulder.

            Otis shuddered.  Lotho’s Big Men were not to be trusted—that he knew instinctively.  Nor did he particularly wish for any of them to interfere with what he had planned.  What if one of them should take a fancy to any of the things Otis particularly wanted?  That could prove—awkward.

            He stepped forward to meet the wagon, which was driven by Berry-o Green.  “What kept you?” he demanded in a loud whisper.  “I’ve been waiting best part of an hour.”

            Berry removed the stem of his pipe from his mouth and spat over the side of the wagon.  “It’s Lotho’s fault,” he muttered.  “When we went to him to say as we needed a wagon to Gather and Share from, him told us to take one from Sancho Proudfoot.  We asked him, what if Sancho Proudfoot should be unwillin’ to give us a wagon, so him sent a couple of his Big Men to see to it as Proudfoot give it over as directed.  And him told them to accompany us on today’s—mission.  The third one just tagged along, and them seem happy enough to have him.”  He shrugged and glanced unhappily over his shoulder at the Mannish escort.  “What are we to do, I ask you?”  He shrugged a second time.

            His companion on the bench, someone Otis didn’t know, gave a similar shrug, and there was nothing Otis could do but accept the situation.

            “Oh, all, right,” Otis mumbled.  More clearly he said, “Well, if there’s nothin’ we can do about it, then let’s go.  They’ll be ready to leave soon if’n we don’t get a move on.  And they need to be here for this.  It’s no good lettin’ them come home to an empty hole.”

            He gave his own appraising glance at the Big Men.  At least they were all too big to fit in Sweetpea’s place, and that would work to his good, he decided.  Hopefully the mere threat of their presence would work to convince Tod and Sweetpea to let him and his fellow Gatherers and Sharers take what they pleased.  Maybe not as bad as it had first appeared.

            A savage grin split his face as he turned back to face the farm.  “Come on!” he ordered, and the wagon with its escort of Hobbits and Men moved down the drive toward the dooryard.

            “Happy Yule, Tod and Sweetpea,” he muttered.  “And many happy returns!”

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