sat on the bench at the back of the public house. It would be hours before
the crew of the Pearl returned to retrieve him from this tavern. The
doorways were low, the chairs rather too small, and the tables barely came
to his knees.
Worse, the patrons were hostile, and the management surly. And he seemed the
only person in the entire establishment with long hair.
Or any facial hair, for that matter.
But the ale was quite good. Quite excellent, actually, even if the cups were
"Good evening, sir; I believe you are a stranger to these parts?" a very
short fellow appeared at Jack's elbow, seeming to apparate out of thin air.
The diminutive gentleman addressed the pirate captain with a confident
voice, but also one which was rather high-pitched for an adult. Still, wisps
of grey in his hair, and a bit of a wrinkle in his visage told of more age
"Aye, I'm a merchantman, newly come to trade via the Western Seas. Looking
for lands me uncle spoke of, many years gone. Smith's the name. Captain Jack
Smith." Sparrow extended his hand to shake the more diminutive one.
"Peregrin Took. I'm Thain in these parts." The hobbit's grip was firm, his
eye sharp. "Smith, eh? Some in your lineage worked the forge? And aren't you
a bit far from the Western Seas?"
"All in search of a good sale and a sharp barter, if ye take my meaning,
m'lord." Jack knew when to duck and simper to the local authorities, save
his hide for another day's plunder and pillage. "I'm from the slender side
of the family; we trade the goods made by me cousins, more burly and, if I
may say, a bit less shrewd off the mark. 'Tis an arrangement that suits the
entire clan of Smiths, to be sure."
"You spin a fine tale, Captain Smith," the Thain smiled, "but have
you not heard of King Aragorn's decree? All men must remain outside the
bounds of the Shire, it being the pure province of those of Halfling
"Halfling lineage?" Sparrow was flummoxed. "What mean you, sir? Are you to
say that my mere presence in this place is a violation of law? You
allow no travelers nor traders of any kind?"
"Exactly. Not of your kind, at any rate." Pippin grinned to take the sting
from his words. "But I think we can manage to overlook an honest mistake,
Captain. Especially if you can manage to move your crew off our lands before
nightfall next... and return to your ship, which lies moored not on the
Western Seas, but in the Brandywine not four leagues south of this pub."
"Your intelligence is keen, Thain Took."
"That it is, Captain Sparrow."
"Very keen indeed." Sparrow's palms began to sweat a bit.
"Your crew is safe, but I'm afraid you should be getting back to your ship,
as their bonds may be getting a bit uncomfortable."
"I believe I'll do just that."
Sparrow gathered his effects, tossed a handful of coins to the barkeep, and
drained the last of his beverage. He turned to Pippin and said, "I don't
suppose you'd be amenable to just a little bit of trade for a cask or two of
that lovely ale?"
"I'm afraid that's not the brew we make for export, Captain." The hobbit's
eyes twinkled, "But seeing as you've been so gracious about this whole
affair, I don't see any reason why a few larger casks of ale might be
exchanged for a few smaller casks of that beverage you have in your hold? I
believe your crew called it 'rum'? Lovely stuff."
Sparrow nodded, his beads and bangles clinking in his hair. "An exchange to
be made at my ship near dawnlight, then?" He held his hand out to shake the
Thain's for the second time that evening. "We have an accord."
The Thain followed him to the doorway, and called out in parting, "Oh, and
Captain Sparrow? Legolas Greenleaf said to send you his regards."
Curiouser and curiouser... thought Jack, as he waved over his
shoulder in acknowledgment. Then, ducking into the shrubbery beside the
road, he picked up his heels and made for the Black Pearl as quickly
as his somewhat silly landbound jog would take him.
He hoped that Anamaria wouldn't slap him when she was untied. She'd
mentioned that this was a bad idea.
Jack smiled. Even so, he had gotten that ale he wanted.