A quick tribute to the Hobbit
When Benjamin, being of the very respectable family of Coventree, was voted to prepare the arrangements for the Festival of Bell Time, the gossip abounded in Bailiwick.
Benjamin had once gained a brief notoriety among the citizens of Bailiwick three years ago. It was then that two Darkhounds came limping down from Belrush Mountain, which separates Bailiwick from the world, and straggled their way into his backyard.
He had disappeared during tea-time and returned three days later with two Darkhounds, big as ponies. Being the town doctor, it was not beyond reason that he could heal them up and domesticate them, but the idea of healing such vile creatures was unthinkable.
At the least, the people of Bailiwick marked it as a very odd event, for which the tale had never sat right with any of them. To the date, the people of Bailiwick had made it a habit to make Wednesdays a stay-home day, for that was when Benjamin took the two Darkhounds on walks.
Aside from his care for Darkhounds, Benjamin had returned more or less to his normal ways over the last three years. Though their confidence in the good doctor had never been fully restored, they had all made a silent agreement to look past his beasts.
And as Bell Time came closer, all eyes turned to the post office, and soon the invitations came pouring out. Upon the orders of Mister Benjamin Coventree, there could be seen postmen hauling bags of them into every province in Bailiwick. As they exchanged invitations it was soon discovered that no two letters were the same, for Benjamin had used so many polite variations of “thank you” on his signature that many believed Benjamin to be inventing gibberish, so as not to express his thanks the same way twice (which he almost certainly was).
And the day before Bell Time, the decorations began. The people of Bailiwick through up great tents and pavilions the size of the Eamon Field, which was just north of Benjamin’s house.
The day of the festival, Benjamin was waiting outside the pavilion so as to meet all his guests in person as was expected of the Bell Time arranger. He shook every man and woman’s hand with a “good tidings,” “Wonderful you could make it,” “Fantastic to see you again,” and the occasional, “Belashuthanasalus, al’grinsok!” for when he could think of no proper greeting in time for the handshake.
The guests were so numerous that soon Benjamin himself began to notice why they had elected him to organize it—for so many had been invited that he was forced to watch the others in their merrymaking revelry from the edge of Eamon Field, awaiting late arrivals as well as those who had not declined their invitation yet were not like to arrive at all.
Benjamin’s stomach grumbled as he watched the others feasts on honey-roasted chicken, roast onions dribbling with gravy and a seemingly endless supply of bread trenchers. He licked his lips as the sight and smell of some thick, sweet soup made with pumpkins and platters of ribs roasted in a crust of garlic and herbs.
He did, however, have his solace. The organizer of Bell Time was allowed the traditional post-dinner speech. And he had a dog whistle in his pocket for just this occasion.
He soon noticed that his time was coming near, and began to pay close attention, listening for some to call for a speech.
Here was Sybil Berelain, who made a show of daintily sipping her tea while a young man next to her floundered to get her attention. Sybil cast glances out of the corner of her eye at her husband Henry, who was passed out in a wicker chair, draped as lazily about it as a jacket thrown over an armrest.
Mary Garland was spilling wine with her wild gesticulations, only half pretending to listen to the Mayor’s endless droll about the idea he had for new book that he swore he would be finishing this time.
There were three young men in smoking suits handing out tea-cakes and kisses to pretty ladies who passed them by. It was those young men who began the scattered shouts of “Speech! Speech!”
The wine had dulled most of the worried the citizens of Bailiwick had for just this occasion.
Benjamin dashed forward and leapt upon a table in the center of the pavilion with a flourish of his traveling-cloak. Many thought this odd, for those in Bailiwick positively loathed travel and all that it implies. Travels were dangerous, and could lead to quite unexpected places and were as such much frowned upon.
“My dear Bailiwickians!” Benjamin began, “I would like to offer you a very, very late welcome to our annual Bell Time festival!” There were scattered cheers and shouts of drunken revelry. Benjamin smiled at this and fiddled with the dog whistle in his pocket. “I do hope you’ve enjoyed yourself this night as much as I have.”
More cheers, and some were growing hopeful. This was the last kind of speech for one such as Benjamin Coventree. It seemed short, and utterly uncontroversial.
His next statement amended such hopes.
“I know I’ve become something of a public embarrassment, of late.” There were no cheers this time. “I know you felt it necessary to keep me locked on the outskirts of our fine festival, so I shall not keep you long. But I must have my say.” A few of the townsfolk stirred at this. “I regret to announce that this is the end.” All stared in muted shock as he withdrew his whistle and blew on it, yet not a sound came out.
He pocketed it once more and clasped his hands behind his back. There came a boom like a single roll of continuous thunder, coming closer and closer. “I am leaving now. Goodbye.”
Benjamin Coventree’s table upturned by some force that was at first unseen amidst the darkness, save for a pair of dim red eyes. Yet as Benjamin fell back, he landed astride some beast that, as it moved into the lantern-light, seemed to the citizens of Bailiwick to be a gargantuan hound. Its fur was black and shining against the torchlight in the pavilion, save for the empty patches that marked where it had been scarred.
As Benjamin and the hound trampled over the pavilion and set the guests to flight, there came up behind him a second Darkhound, red eyes dim in the night.
“Have a wonderful life, my fellow Bailiwickians!” he called as his Darkhounds carried him off toward Belrush Mountain.
A very heartfelt thank you to my patrons. You make this writing possible. Special thanks to Saija Rantala, Lydia Raya, Abbey Newman, and Temi Olatinwo.