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but better is beer if drink we lack (aka do go drinking with hobbits)

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He is welcomed with a toasted chorus of "Krassat! Bahorel!" and a half-hearted wave from Bossuet as he comes up to the house and drops himself down in a free space. He leans back against the wall, warm from the summer sun.

The benches and table below the thatched eaves are occupied by their host and his neighbours — Ban and old Bildad, Mat, Porra, and Tom — kicking back after their day of work in the early evening light with a few beers and a pipe. Next to them are Bossuet and Joly, leaning on the wall and on each other, the latter dozing and the former more than halfway there. They are sitting on the ground, but considering all their hosts are only about as tall as their hips while standing it doesn't matter much.

Bannatha calls across the yard to the small group that has congregated over there, and Bahorel catches the words krassat and hîm before Ban's wife rises and steps into the house though the adjacent door.

The nickname he'd received pretty early on. As an answer to his question Mat had swatted at his scarlet waistcoat with an appreciative eye and another "krassa"; when Bahorel had returned the word and gesture on Mat's bright green garment the other had rolled his eyes and pointed out other krassa things until he'd understood they were referring to the colour.

Just then Ninë reappears in the round doorway and hands the tankard she brought with her off to her younger daughter Belbo, who carries it over across the yard. He thanks her as he takes it from her, and she grins and curtsies with a returned "mesi" before she rushes back to her mother, cheeks red like her ribbons. "Krassa-Belbo!" he calls after her, and the men chuckle.

He gives a toast to the back of her curly head and takes a drink, the beer just right for a summer evening. The dishware is appropriately small for their hosts, though he's been given a large one by their standards. But he's learnt the hard way that appearances about size can be deceptive here. The first night they'd been drinking properly he'd gotten completely plastered and woken with a hangover from hell, but the little men which had imbibed the same amounts in relation to their size if not more so were all chipper and fresh the next day, while the afflicted had cursed them and their more wisely restrained French brothers.

Most of that night is gone from his memory, though he does remember a lot of singing, with mutual mangling of each other's songs. Jehan had accompanied their parts on a borrowed flute, though whether that had helped might be open to debate.

In the meantime Ninë has sat back down with her little circle, watching Combeferre and Mat's wife engaged in what appears to be an intense game of charades but is actually his friend trying to clear up matters of vocabulary, putting down notes in his small book. While all of them have been picking up the language in the way that is unavoidable when suddenly surrounded by a foreign tongue, Combeferre has also begun a more focused and ordered study, marking down lists of words and pondering on possible grammatical structures. He's also been figuring out the pygmies' script; though it appears that many are illiterate Ban does have some books in his house with which Combeferre has begun his learning of their alphabet. It's made up of lines with little curlicues, but Bahorel will concern himself with that only after Combeferre is done with it and can present final results and not a moment before.

By Combeferre sits Enjolras, a child on his knees, so tiny she almost looks like a doll when held by his friend. Tanto had just earlier foisted her onto him to have her own hands free for gesticulating. Instead Luluë sits on his friends' lap, a fist in her face and a fist in his shirt, quiet and content, eyes big as saucers.

Bahorel takes a draught of his beer to wash away what could become a lump in his throat if he lets himself ponder too much. After all, they have been very lucky. Homesickness should take second place to whatever miracle brought them here.

When their group had stumbled upon the village, tired and disheveled and lost, lost beyond all reason or belief, the little people had been initially wary — and who wouldn't be when beset by a dozen giants out of the blue — but had been hospitable right from the start, and only warmed from there. They'd been given food and drink, had their clothes washed and mended, and been allowed to sleep in the barn for lack of accommodations; but they didn't mind at all, and on the good side it meant having a soft bedding without being cramped and being able to stay together.

Though Combeferre by now claims to be somewhat sure that the little people's name for themselves is kuduk, they have so far been referring to them as pygmies after the myth reported by the Greeks. The option of calling them dwarfs had fallen though when the word clashed with the pygmies' word for water, and they are really not small enough to be considered 'Lilliputians', as one of them had suggested on a whim.

Going by the term pygmies, Pliny does seem a bit off, for while some of them do live in little caves in the hillsides none of their houses seem to be made of the remains of birds. The buildings are perfectly normal, made from timber and stone, built long instead of upwards, and all of them with peculiar round doors and windows. Then again, any knowledge from antiquity, were it accurate and not just myth, would be out of date by more than a millennium by now. And the landscape doesn't look very much like what he'd expect of Asia or Africa anyway: very green and homely and not at all tropic or exotic.

All in all it is very familiar, and at times he feels like he's back home on his parent's farm. Since their arrival they have made themselves useful by helping around the village and its grounds. Seems like it does come in handy to have around a few tall folk with long arms, especially if those giants don't even seem to be expensive in upkeep as they do not consume more food than their little hosts do, no matter their small stature.

They've made friends along the way, initial wariness of the strangers replaced with easy companionship. Even Enjolras, who unlike the rest of them had been confronted with a particular sort of shy timidness, the words nimir Onsholras floating around and spoken with just a tiny bit of awe and disbelief, is no longer considered unapproachable as evidenced by the toddler handed off to him.

He's brought out from his reverie by Bildad, who has produced Bahorel's pipe, a hand-me-down but now his own, and offers him the tobacco tin to share. Bahorel stuffs his pipe while Bildad lights his own, weathered fingers sheltering the glow. He is not entirely sure whether Bildad — or Zarabil as everyone seems to call him — is Ban's father or Ninë's, but he seems to be one of the oldest in the village.

A bit further out are the rest of Bahorel's friends with Ban's other two children Lotha and Wardo, Porra's son Pola who runs the smithy with him and has become close friends with Feuilly, and a few others. They are playing a game that for all intents and purposes is a form of boules, and despite the familiarity the Frenchmen are regularly and woefully bested, though when Bahorel had left them Grantaire had been making a valiant bid for victory against young Tom, cheered on by Courfeyrac and Jehan and Feuilly to restore their honour.

Joly and Bossuet had quit far earlier in favour of some rest and a drink, and by now Bossuet has all but sunk all over his friend, fast asleep if the sudden but singular snore alerting the table to the tableau is any indication.

Bil is cackling but Bahorel again misses half his sentence. "Rapha," the old man repeats for him, making encompassing grabbing motions with his hands. Though the meaning transports quite well, Tom — Tomburan, not Mat's boy Tomacca — reaches down and picks at the fur covering his feet, then reaches across the table to show him a burr.

"Rapha? Quite right that," Bahorel grins and blows out smoke from between his teeth. "To raphain and 'îm," he attempts a toast, but old Bil pokes his side, shaking his head, and corrects: "m."

"Or that. Long live raphain and hîm!" he says and the others raise their tankards with an answering chorus of "Vifla raphain etla hîm!"

Well, all in all they're a fine bunch of folk, Bahorel thinks.

A rural landscape, green and with tended fields and trees, sunny and idyllic. A few houses and farmsteads line a road going into the distance, where a few underground homes are set in the side of a hill.