1. Jarge's Story
M'name's Jarge Breeton. Y'know of my sister, Magda. Y' probably wonder how she got up to the Angle an' why. That's not her story, she can't tell it. It's mine. I can.
Th' story starts when our Ma died. Actually, no it don't. It starts 'bout a year before that, when Da caught sight of that silly wench in the tavern and took her as his mistress. I was fourteen, I'd just come into my growth and I were old enough to go to the tavern of my own accord. He wasn't trying to hide it none. I couldn't believe it. I knew, o'course, that he and Ma had been having problems - he wanted more childer, she was adamant that if he wanted 'em, he could bear 'em himself. I was on Ma's side wi' that one. I'd been five year old when Magda were born and I could still remember being terrified by ma's shrieks and howls as she were birthing Mag. But it had caused a bitterness between the two o' them, one that Da decided to exploit by taking himself a mistress.
His mistress were one who looked a lot the way Ma had probably looked as a girl. Tall, thin, willowy around the shoulders. Dark, too. She were taken as an insult to Ma, as a provocation and by all the Valar, it succeeded. He came home one night, Ma seduced him, took him to her bed. She were pregnant soon after. She carried the child, but it were a hard pregnancy, and the child took much out of her. She died in the birthing.
Da took her death hard, which weren't surprising, given that he'd near as dammit caused the thing. O' course, at that point, Magda were about ten year old. She'd just started growing, the way girls do and with her colouring and one thing and another, she looked a lot like Ma had. Just enough like Ma had.
Now, one thing you got to understand: there isn't a set "coming of age" time in Bree. Not like the northerners, who have a set age where a child becomes an adult. In Bree, once a child is tall enough and strong enough to do an adult's work, they're old enough to be an adult. Old Butterbur sets a lower limit of fourteen years on buying ale in the tavern, but that's been there for generations now. Likewise, fourteen is about the lower limit for being wed. But other than that, if a child's old enough to handle adult activity, they're an adult. No magic day. So what Da saw in Magda wasn't unusual. If she'd been but a few years older, I'd not have interfered. But ten years was far too young for what Da had in mind.
I'd heard many of Ma's tales of life among the northerners, but one thing that stuck in my mind was her telling of the coming of age ceremonies of her people. She said that it happened at twenty years, which for the Breefolk seemed ridiculous, but I suppose it were fine for her kin. All I could think was that Magda was far too young for what Da had in mind for her. But all she were hearing at home were how she was "old enough to take her Ma's place", and I could see from Da's eyes exactly what sense he intended that to be, too.
So I spoke wi' Mistress Breelindir, asking her what could be done. Magda was starting to look slightly worried; she didn't know quite what Da were after, but she were starting to get afrit of him for the way he were actin'. Mistress Breelindir may have lived out the other side of Bree town to where we were, but she weren't blind, an' she were damn near to a relation to Butterbur at the inn, so she got all the gossip. She knew what Da had been about and she knew he were spending all his days in the tavern now, filling himself up wi' ale, while meself and Harald struggled to keep up the farm. She also knew what were possible, and she were friends wi' the Rangers. She got one of 'em to carry a message north, to Ma's kin.
'Bout a month later, a trading wagon came down from the north. In it were a tall, thin wiry woman, who looked a bit like Ma about the face. Well, what she did caused a nine-days wonder in Bree for about a month after. She stalked into the tavern, an' she saw Da sittin' there, gettin' 'imself well sotten, wi' his fancy piece beside him. She hauled him out o' his chair, and gave him an open-handed slap about the face which knocked him clear onto his arse. As for the fancy piece, she got a glare which could have scorched paint offen the walls, 'cordin' to Butterbur, and told never to come next or nigh Da again, for fear o' the same treatment that he got. We ain't seen her or her kin in Bree since, come to that. Next thing this stranger woman did was pick up Da by the ear, an' drag him out to her wagon, sling 'im in the back, an' drive off to the farm.
Well, that woman was our Aunt Tangliniwen, or Aunt Tang, as she preferred us to call her. She stayed with us for a week, dried Da out, an' took Magda away with her up to the northlands when she left. Harald and me took over the farm from Da, who didn't last that much longer anyway. He'd been truly upset when Ma died, an' I think he died o' grief, in the end, when Aunt Tang took the ale away from 'im. Just faded away.
But anyway, sirs, that be my story. And now, if ye'll pardon me, I'll get meself that tankard o' ale I were after when I first came in here.
* The Angle, the Dúnedain, the town of Bree, the Prancing Pony and Barliman Butterbur are all property of JRR Tolkien and his estate. Everything else is all my own work.