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7 Afteryule, 1390

Cousin Bilbo,

I hope this finds you well and safely back in your smial.

I fear we must move quickly on the great plan we discussed at Yule. I’m hearing talk of building ferries across Shirebourn and Thistle Brook to bypass the Road entirely and bring all trade from Southfarthing up through The Marish, possibly using the Bucklebury Ferry to send things out east of the bridge. I now think Brandybuck has his sights set on seizing Eastfarthing from the Shirebourn north to the Stock Road along with The Yale and folding it into Buckland. Is there no end to the collusion between Rory and Rum?

We must be ready by the Free Fair to present the plan at The Moot. It won’t be accepted, not this year, but it must be made known. Who knows? Perhaps if there is enough support, we can get it agreed to this year. And that will be the greatest task, to line up support.

Obviously, each of us must secure the assent of our clans. The Bolgers are united on this, save for Wili who still stands beholden to Rory. I’m counting on you to encourage Prisca to make her husband see sense as Gun has had no luck with him. How stand the Baggins, particularly the Chubb-Baggins? I’ve warned Bertie to say nothing to Poppy until you could secure Falco’s support. Cousin Otho will, of course, support it.

I will speak with these clan heads: Brockhouse, Sandheaver, Goldworthy, Underhill, and Goold. You speak with: Burrows, Proudfoot, Goodbody and Boffin. I know they are in-laws, but your ties to Griffo Boffin are closer than mine, and you have better standing with the clan, given your mother and his marriage to your niece. I don’t recall them being especially close to the Brandybucks despite the maternal kinship. I’m not sure anyone can talk to the Bracegirdles. Otho is the only one who comes to mind. Do you agree?

Have you thought more on the boundaries? I’m beginning to think it should reach west to Nobottle and not stop at Waymeet.

Odogar

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8 Afteryule, 1390

Dearest Bilbo,

Perhaps you have already heard; Uncle Flame died on 30 Foreyule. I didn’t say so in my earlier letters as I didn’t wish to darken your Yule. Uncle Gis and Aunt Petunia are the only ones left here now with a kind word for me besides Mother. In much better news, we have a new nephew! Eglantine safely delivered a boy yesterday. He’s small, but strong. They’ve given him some ridiculous name, but I call him Pip.

Dare I ask after the mischief you intend to do with the accounting of the gifts? Probably best that I don’t. I will send it today to Widow Grubb. Do you need more, by the way? I usually need four days to locate stores that Pal hasn’t squirreled away for his own purposes.

I did not think I’d ever encounter a more irritating fool than Pal, but I believe your cousin Odogar has achieved that dubious honor. Thankfully, I can find no discernible point of relation between him and me. His son, Odovacar, alas, has been joined to the Took family tree. Perhaps we can prune that branch?

Pal has been storming about trying to figure out who he loathes more – me, you or Rory. You’ve been making a habit of taking away his playthings lately, so I think it’s you. Though I’m jealous you have a new boy around. I hope you won’t make him as miserable as you have made me.

I have a new team and I’m taking them to the Free Fair for the show. Please say you’ll be there? I haven’t seen you in so long. I won’t even press you to go riding.

Rum

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14 Afteryule, 1390

Baggins,

The weasel left a few toes behind, but wiggled from the full trap. Never fear, the roots have been retrieved from the cellar and are none have lost coin over it. Save the weasel. Pitt thought it great sport.

How much can your not-so-disreputable cousin get for us? Even at a dear coin, I fear we’ll need all Southfarthing can spare. The days are wetter and colder than they should be, there’s no good harvest news below the Road, and word is that Northfarthing didn’t get as strong a harvest as first thought. People are not eager to share. I worry about Rethe and maybe into Astron.

Remember to save a dance for me at the Free Fair, thief.

Maudie

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18 Solmath, 1390

Bilbo,

I’m not sure how much more Northfarthing can send to the Road this winter. Roots are not as good out by the western Bounds as I had been told Blotmath past. Everything promised through Solmath will be delivered, of course.

I’ve been hearing some strange rumors, cousin, from a few people, but most directly from Cousin Cissy down in The Marish. She’s married to Prisca and Wili’s oldest boy, Bard, if you recall. It sounds like Odogar is up to something stupid again, and has been tossing your name about. Are you still planning to tramp up to Oatbarton for a stay this Rethe? I think we should have a talk.

There’s naught else important going on up here. Someone saw a wolf north of Greenfields, but it ran off, and someone else says they heard Elves singing. Every other odd thing can be traced back to a mug.

Dilly and Cissy are going with their men to the Free Fair this year, so we’ll probably join them and then let them take Bargo and Bluebell back to Buckland.

Rufus

Bag End, Morning, 01 Rethe, 1390

Bilbo read the letter from Isenbrand Bunce, his stone merchant cousin up in Scary, lips set in a thin line. His warning to Gun that Rory might cancel the stone order had the desired effect of putting the Buckland order ahead of all the others and slowing down whatever construction Odogar and Old Will had been planning in Whitfurrows until the ground was nice and muddy. It also put the stone into Rory’s hands to use as the Master pleased. He had not been surprised to get a letter from Rory shortly after they returned to Bag End that there would be no need for dwarves in Buckland until at least next year. Bilbo was a little concerned that there had been no other news from Buckland since then. He and Frodo had finished the rest of the elven scroll translation by the end of Afteryule, but had not received questions and corrections back from Gilda yet. Give them time, Baggins. There were a lot of raw wounds to scab over when you left. And plenty other nonsense from his more ethically challenged relatives to deal with while he waited for letters.

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Read the rest of the chapter on Rómenna - Ch. 1, Discretion