A Victim of Injustice
Stories of imagination tend to upset those without one
Badgersong has been on travels the last year, and boy, does he have a story to tell about it! In fact, he started telling it at the Green Dragon just last week, and there’s more to come. Whenever there is a new entry to the tale, it will be added to this post. Enjoy!
Chapter One. Leaving the Shire
I know I’ve been gone a long time, but it wasn’t my fault. I was a victim of a terrible injustice!
I’ll tell you how it happened.
About a year ago, Aunty Dia started giving me a hard time about not learning a trade. In fact, my other aunties and uncles all around the Shire were giving me a hard time about it, and sometimes they even made me work before they’d feed me! So I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to do, and I decided I’d learn to be a carpenter. I wanted to know how to make shelves and boxes and tables and hidden storage for things I don’t want Aunty Dia to know about, even if she searches my house.
The other thing about being a carpenter is that it’s something people need pretty much everywhere, so if I ever wanted to go on adventures, I’d be able to find work. Also, a lot of it can be done sitting down. I like sitting. I already had a good knife that I used for whittling whistles, so all I needed were a few more tools. My aunties and uncles were good about giving me some of their tools they were too crippled up to use anymore. I’d have been happier if they’d given me food and beer and silver coins, but I was glad to have the tools just the same
Aunty Dia said my great-uncle Woody, who lived up between Trader’s Wharf and Cotfast, was a grand carpenter and wanted an apprentice. I’d have written him myself, but Dia’s handwriting’s a lot better than mine, and I’m not too good with spelling either. Dia sighed, but I guess she really wanted me out of her hair, so she mailed him a letter asking if he’d be willing to teach me. I remember she sent it during the anniversary festival because I checked every letter I picked up from the ground to make sure it wasn’t hers.
The quick post must have been especially fast right then, because it was barely past Yule when she got his answer. Here’s what it said:
“Dear Badgersong, I got dear Dia’s letter last week. I’ve been very busy making decorations for the Midsummer festival, but now that it’s almost over, I have time to write. I’d be glad to teach you woodworking. Just you come up to Trader’s Wharf and follow the road towards Cotfast. After you’ve walked from breakfast time to near nuncheon, setting aside time for a good second breakfast picnic along the way, you’ll see a large clearing off to your left with a nice bright hobbit hole set into a hill. That’s where I live. I’m sure to be there, and I’ll be right glad to see you. And if I’m not that right at the moment, make yourself comfortable and I’ll be back soon. You’ll find my key under the third stone to the left of the shed, between it and the stable. Just let yourself in and help yourself to some pie. Grab a bottle of apple cider from the cellar if you wish.”
Well, I was really excited, so with Aunty Dia’s help I wrote Uncle Woody a note saying I’d be there as soon as I can. Oh, I know his name’s Peckwood, but when he was younger, he was always hammering on something or another, and folk said he was as noisy as a woodpecker. They started calling him Woodpecker, but that was just too long to say, so they called him Woody. Nowadays, Aunt Dia says, most folks call him Old Woody, I guess because he’s gotten older. That’s a lot better, I think, than the other nickname I heard Aunt Dia telling Aunt Skilly about, “Old Pecker.”
Only thing was, Uncle Woody didn’t send me the money for the journey. I’d have asked Aunty Dia to help me, but there was that incident with the pig on the roof, and she was mad at me, so I didn’t dare. It wasn’t fair of her to be mad, though, because I didn’t do it to hurt anybody. I just wanted to see if the pig would jump off. It’s not my fault the pig wouldn’t jump and started squealing and Aunty Dia climbed up there to get the pig and it pushed her off the roof!
Besides, Aunty Dia always wanted me to work for the money she gave me, and I couldn’t ask my other aunties and uncles, for the same reason. They all forget how tired a young lad gets! So I snuck out with nothing more than a few pies and a bottle of cider, and headed to Stock. There, I asked about in the Golden Perch to see if maybe there was somebody would be willing to give me a lift upriver. The folks there were very kind and gave me food and a place to sleep after I told them about being driven out of my home by my wicked aunt.
So there I be, living off charity in Stock, and I see that the folks there are getting tired of feeding me and all. Those Stock folks are almost as bad as Aunty Dia. They’ve started insisting that I work for my keep, especially after that incident with the goat and the ale. I simply MUST find a way to get upriver! But I’m out of time for today, so I’d better tell you the rest of the story another day.
Chapter Two. A Goat, a Boat, and a Challenge
Well, those folks in Stock were insisting that I start working for my keep, so I agreed to serve food and ale and such to the folk in the Golden Perch. Only there was this goat that kept coming around, and I thought it’d be interesting to see what would happen if I gave the goat some ale.
Well, it turns out that this goat really loves ale, so I gives him a bit more, and then a bit more, until the goat follows me back into the inn and starts trying to drink the ale in everybody’s glasses.
Pretty soon there was spilled ale all over the tables and folk’s clothes and the floor, and a bunch of mugs was broken, and the goat had stepped in the food, and everyone was running around and yelling, and the goat got so flustered that it did you know what in the pies on the back counter.
When I got done cleaning it all up, I ran off and hid for three days, after taking the one dry pie left on the counter so I’d have summat to eat. I didn’t really want to take the jug of ale, but I was forced to do it, so I could lure the goat back outside. Really, I took it for the innkeeper’s sake, no matter what he tells you!
By the time I got back, people weren’t so eager to thrash me and just wanted me to leave. Well, except for the innkeeper, but I was faster’n him. Lucky for me, one of the tall folk was there, and he had a boat, only he called it a ship.
Its name was The Happy Hootch. (Sounded to me more like the name of an inn than the name of a boa—uh, ship.)
This captain said he’d take me on her—did you know that ships are shes?—and feed me too, if I’d do a little bit of carpenteering for him. His regular ship’s carpenter had hurt his foot or his back or some such thing, and couldn’t do much for a week or two. Captain said I could take his place as far as Trader’s Wharf, and if I needed to know how to do something, the regular carpenter could tell me what to do.
Well, that suited me fine, so I said yes. I did a fair job of it, if I do say so myself.
I repaired the extra mast so it stood strong and almost straight, and the Captain said it would work well enough. Then I repaired the frames that held the hammocks, down below where the crew slept. I’m sure I did a good job with those, for I napped in one myself, just to check them out.
It weren’t my fault that some of those sailor men ate so much that the frame broke when they were tossing about in their hammocks. Those men were mad, but the other sailors laughed, and Cap’n laughed, and said that’s why the frames had broken in the first place, and that I was worth every bit of what he were paying me.
‘Course he wasn’t actually paying me cash money, but I figgered he meant I was good enough.
So Cap’n was happy and I was happy, but the regular carpenter wasn’t happy a bit. “You pint-sized pillock,” he said to me. “Ye gormless git! Yer nowt but a lump of stinking pond scum! Ye couldn’t hammer a sharp nail into a length of soft wood. Ye should be ashamed of yerself!”
“Who are you to call me names?” I said. “Yer bunk wouldn’t have collapsed if ye didn’t eat so much, ye greedy lunk! It’s a wonder yer legs can support yer belly! Yer no ace woodsmith yerself! Ye built those dodgy hammock frames, and a right cock up ye made of it!”.
I got right tired of this carpenter fellow – “Carp,” everbyody called him, like the fish –giving me a hard time. So I got out me box of tools and challenged him to a contest. That would’ve been fine, except for — uh oh, I’m out of time. I’ll tell you more next time.
Hmm. If ships are shes, are boats boys? Anybody know?
Chapter 3. A Contest, and Loading the Ship
Last week, I was telling you how I was sailing up the Brandywine in a ship, acting as ship’s carpenter, when I finally had enough from the real carpenter, who’d hurt himself. So, as I told you, I challenged him to a contest.
First, we both hammered nails into a block of wood. I were a bit slower’n he was, but then, he had lots more experience. Just the same, I got that nail in where it oughter be, and only had to straighten it out once.
Then we took out our screwdrivers and unscrewed one of the planks of the deck, and we finished almost exactly at the same time. The scratches on my side weren’t much noticeable, and there weren’t no splinters at all.
Then I pulled out my drill and said I knew I were better’n him at drilling. At once I started drilling a hole in the deck. Now, I knew we were above the cargo hold, so it wouldn’t be hard to patch the hole and everything would be fine.
Well, it turned out we were maybe too close to the side of the boat, because I drilled so hard and fast that I drilled through the deck and on through the side of the boat before I knew it. That carpenter screamed and hollered, but I didn’t pay him no attention. I just made me two plugs of wood, all bigger at one end and tapered so they’d go in the hole. Then I hammered one into the deck and went down below and hammered one into the hole in the hull. I figured everything would be fine, because the hole was above the water line.
I knew I’d won the contest, and it was getting late, so I grabbed a quick snack and went down to my hammock and fell asleep. I’d only slept a few hours when a big bump waked me up. The sailors were rousing and putting on their togs.
“What’s going on?” I asked them, but all they said was “We’re loading up.” So I got up and went on deck to see what was happening. Those sailors sure can swear when they bump into you!
Well, I peered over the rail and saw that the ship had stopped at an island. There weren’t no proper wharf there, just a bit of an inlet. It musta been past midnight, and the moon weren’t up.
Some big dirty men was waiting with lanterns, so I could see what they were doing. They had rowboats all riding low in the water, full of wooden boxes of something, and them and our crew loaded the boxes into the hold. I would have helped if I could, but them boxes were much too heavy for a young hobbit lad to lift.
The men kept unloading and going back for more until the cargo hold was maybe two-thirds full and all the crew was huffing and puffing. Then the captain pulled up the anchor and we sailed off. The big dirty men got into their boats and rowed away. I guess they didn’t live on that island. It were a pretty sorry looking place anyway, what I could see of it in the lantern light.
So the ship were going up the river just fine, until–oh, no! I’m out of time again. More next week.
Chapter 4. A Terrible Accident that Is Absolutely NOT My Fault!
So, when we stopped last time, I were on a boat headed up the Brandywine, and she’d just taken on a load of heavy crates. So our boat, uh, ship was going up the river, tacking back and forth against the current with a following wind filling the sails. The captain brought out one of those crates from his cabin and said we were going to toast a lukertive night. I’m not sure what that means, but Cap’n said we’d gotten a good deal on a load of fine brandy, and we could all have a glass or three.
I’ve got to admit that brandy tasted way better than Aunt Dia’s cooking brandy. It even tasted better than the 1404 Reserve she drinks here in the Dragon. It was smoother and less watery, somehow, and I only had to add a little bit of honey to make it taste just right. The men laughed at me for adding honey, but men just don’t have an appreciation of fine drink the way we hobbits do.
After a mug –oh, okay, two mugs of the stuff, I was feeling a bit sleepy, so I went below, climbed into me hammock, and fell asleep. I could hear the men all a-laughing and a-dancing and a-stomping and yelling overhead, but it didn’t bother me none. At least, it didn’t bother me until the men came down and were yelling and arguing and fighting. So I slipped up the ladder, found a coil of rope I could arrange as a bed, and went back to sleep. It was past dawn, but I’d been up half the night and needed my sleep. Tweens do need their sleep, ya know.
It were a whole lot of screaming and yelling that woke me. I could see the dock at Trader’s Wharf in the distance, but that’s not why those sailors were yelling. The sailors came pushing and shoving up the ladder, saying that water was flooding up from the cargo hold. Next thing I knew, the ship was sinking! It was a good thing that I was in the carpenter’s shop, because I could grab my tools and a nice light piece of wood and jump overboard. I can’t swim, but holding onto the wood and kicking got me to shore a ways downstream from the ship. I could see it sticking up from the river, the deck just barely above water, tilting a bit to one side.
I started walking back upstream, but when I got close, I could see the Cap’n waving a big sword and yelling so loud it were shaking the masts. “Where’s that miserable rat! When I find him, I’m gonna kill him! He sank my ship, and now how are we going to move our brandy? I’ll rip his arms off and drop him into the river with a hole in his fat gut!”
I wasn’t entirely sure who he were talking about, but it didn’t seem like a good idea to get any closer while he was so crazy angry. So I slipped quietly into the bushes where nobody could see me and waited for things to calm down. Alas, fate intervened to get me into trouble. I didn’t know it then, but the regular carpenter had told Cap’n I’d drilled the hole and blamed me for the whole accident! He didn’t take any responsibility for provoking me or for his malicious failure to tell me how to patch the hole. Besides, the hole was plugged and no water was coming in when I finished with it, so it couldn’t have been my fault. More’n likely the crew had been careless and had let one of those heavy crates knock my plug out of place.
It was past noon and had turned into a warm day with a pleasant breeze. I was still sleepy, and the bushes gave me just the right amount of shade. I ate a couple of meat pies I’d wrapped up in my kerchief, then hollowed out a place in the sandy soil, made myself comfortable, and curled up for a nap. Unfortunately…
Uh oh. I’m out of time again. More next week!
… to be continued