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Author: Dreamflower
Title: Nothing Personal…Just Business
Rating: G
Theme: Potluck (taken from the Feb. challenge, “Send it in a Letter”)
Elements: A business letter
Author's Notes: See end notes.
Summary: Sometimes it takes years to build a relationship…
Word Count: 2,524

Nothing Personal…Just Business


(A number of documents were discovered in an upper room of Orthanc, in the late fall of T.A. 3019, by representatives of the High King, the Lord Elessar, and of Éomer King of Rohan, along with a quantity of gold and other treasure. Many of those documents originated in the Shire and clearly showed the long-standing interest the renegade Wizard Saruman had in the place where he finally met his end. Here follows a portion of that correspondence between Saruman and his agents.)


14 Chithing, T.A. 2953
Bree, The Bree-lands

My lord,

As you ordered, I have taken up with my mother's kin here in the Bree-lands, and am using her family name, Ferny. Most of them have accepted me, though I have one uncle who grumbles about my Dunlendish blood and seems less than trusting. But he is considered queer by the others of the family, so they pay him no heed.

My queries into the whereabouts of the grey one indicate that he has been known to pass through here, most often journeying West towards the lands of the halflings, called the Shire. There are a few dealings between the halflings of the Shire and those of Bree. I continue to keep my eyes open for anymore information on the grey one. It does seem, as you suspected, that Bree is the best place to pick up his trail.

Your obedient servant,
Bilimer of Dunland



11 Harvestmath, T.A. 2953
Bree, The Bree-lands

My lord,

I have had a stroke of luck. After months here finding out little more than I was able to report to you before, a party of Dwarves passed through Bree this week, staying at the Prancing Pony Inn. Before the evening was old, they were joined by the very one I have been seeking! The group has been provisioning itself for a journey to the Blue Mountains, and the grey one will be travelling among them to the Shire.

I used the coin you gave me to purchase a stock of cheap wares, and will seek to travel among them as a peddler, and discover if I can find out why the grey one travels this way so often. I do not know how soon I may be able to make another report, but I am hopeful that I will have more information when I do.

Your obedient servant,
Bilimer of Dunland


3 Blooting, T.A. 2953
(Called 3 Blodmath, S.R. 1353 in the reckoning of this land.)
Hardbottle, Southfarthing, The Shire

My lord,

I followed the grey one when he left off from his Dwarf companions. He managed to give me the slip for several days, and I feared that I had lost track of him again. However, I was fortunate to learn through tavern gossip that he had been seen in a village called Hobbiton, staying with a halfling by the name of "Baggins". Local gossip has it that this "Baggins" is mad, and as proof the gossipers point to his acquaintance with the grey one. By the time I came upon the trail, he had left once more, travelling in a Southerly direction.

I finally caught up with him in a village called Hardbottle. There I observed him in the market haggling for the leaves of a plant the halflings call "pipe-weed". He came away with a pouch filled with the stuff, and I noticed that the merchant with whom he was haggling seemed disgruntled with their bargain. I approached the merchant, and after a few queries, I bargained the rest of my wares for this stuff. I told him that it might be profitable in other lands, and he was quite eager to do the deal. His name is Brutus Bracegirdle, and his father Titus is the head of his clan.

This pipe-weed is quite popular among the halflings of Bree and even among many of the Men there as well, especially those Rangers whom you told me to watch out for. Dwarves as well indulge in the smoking of this stuff.

I told Titus Bracegirdle that I was an agent for a wealthy patron who was looking to expand his business.

As a result I am enclosing to you a message from him, as well as the pouch of weed that I purchased, that you might determine whether it is worthwhile to pursue this angle. The grey one seems to have left, however. He was travelling South out of the Shire, so one of your other agents might be able to pick up his trail.

Since I have once more lost the trail of the grey one, I will return to Bree after seeing this report and the message sent to you, and will settle there awaiting further commands.

Your obedient servant,
Bilimer of Dunland


[Enclosed]

1 Blodmath, S.R. 1353
The Birches
Southfarthing, The Shire

Dear Mr. White,

Your agent Mr. Ferny has indicated that you might find some interest in expanding your own trading to include the pipe-weed of the Shire. My family grows some of the finest Longbottom Leaf to be found in the Southfarthing of the Shire. I am sure that we can come to an amiable agreement as to the best way to conduct such trade.

I look forward to hearing from you, and possibly doing business with you.

Sincerely yours,
Titus Bracegirdle


[An account ledger was found here, indicating the shipments of pipeweed, and the payments given. Investigation shows that Saruman was consistently paying between ten and twenty-five percent more for his purchased leaf than the going rate of each season. The ledger covered the better part of eight years. There is no indication that any of the purchased leaf was ever sold to anyone else.]

11 Forelithe, S.R. 1360
The Birches
Southfarthing, The Shire


Dear Mr. White,

I find that our business together has been most profitable. The last several years have seen an eight-fold increase in our pipe-weed trade, all made possible by your investments.

I am quite interested in your suggestions of how to increase my holdings, and following your advice, I have bought up several more small leaf-farms, leasing them back to the former owners for their labour. In return, they will take a small share of the crops. Their shares may be sold locally, while I am able to sell my shares to you. I am very pleased to learn that pipe-weed has become so popular in the South that you need to increase your purchases.

I know that you have asked for any information concerning an old friend of yours. Gandalf the Grey is not seen in the Shire as often as he used to be during the days of the Old Took Gerontius, but I have it on good authority from my daughter Lobelia, who is married to Otho Sackville-Baggins, heir of the Baggins, that he often pays visits to his old acquaintance Bilbo Baggins. I am sorry to tell you that your friend is not thought of very highly here in the Shire; his responsibility in luring Bilbo out of the Shire with no notice about twenty years ago has given your friend a very poor reputation here. No offense meant, for I am sure that Men see these things very differently than do Hobbits

Sincerely yours,
Titus Bracegirdle


30 Astron, S.R. 1380
The Birches
Southfarthing, The Shire

Dear Mr. White,

I am sorry to tell you that my father has passed on. As I am now the Family Head for the Bracegirdles, I would like to continue our profitable business ventures together. I would be most happy to honour all agreements which you had with him.

Sincerely yours,
Brutus Bracegirdle



30 Astron, S.R. 1387
The Birches
Southfarthing, The Shire

My Dear Mr. White,

I thank you for your advice. It is sad that my own son cannot see beyond his nose and realise how profitable this business is for the Family. I agree that such impudence should not be allowed. I have cut Hugo off, and sadly, my daughter as well. They seem to be perfectly content to languish in the wilds of Buckland. My younger brother Bruno will be my heir, and his son Dago will be the Bracegirdle after him. We cannot allow hot-headed young people endanger our long-standing business arrangements over a silly prejudice against dealing with Big People.

Sincerely yours,
Brutus Bracegirdle



14 Yulemath, T.A. 2999
Bree, The Breelands

My lord,

I have done my best to keep my eyes and ears opened over the years, and regret that I have not had more of import to report.

I settled here, and to avoid suspicion, I wed one of my cousins, and assist with the family farm. Only the oldest of our sons was bright enough to learn his letters, and those only crudely. Nevertheless, I have told him that my patron “Mr. White” will pay him well for any information about the grey one, or about the doings in the Shire. I do not know if he will remember to write to you or not.

My own health is very poor. I fear that if you wish for more information out of Bree, you may need to send new agents.

Your obedient servant,
Bilimer of Dunland



DEAR SIR

MY OLD DAD TOLD ME AS HOW YOU WOULD BE INTERESTED IN THE DOINGS OF GANDALF THE GREY BEFORE HE DIED AND AS HOW YOU WOULD PAY GOOD FOR THE NEWS. YESTERDAY HE COME THROUGH BREE AND STAYED AT THE PRANCING PONY HE WERE TRAVELLING WITH A BUNCH OF DWARVES AND HAD A WAGGON THEY WAS ON THEIR WAY TO THE SHIRE TO HOBBITON. I HEARD AS IT WAS ABOUT A PARTY OR SOMETHING.

I KNOW MY DAD WORKED FOR YOU FOR A LONG TIME I HOPE AS YOU WILL THINK ON THAT AND REWARD ME FOR THIS NEWS.

YRS. TRULY
BILL FERNY

PS I ANT HAD TIME TO SEND THIS AS YET OLD BUTTERBUR AT THE PONY HE SENDS OFF MESSAGES BUT HE HADNT HAD NO ONE GOING SOUTH AS YET SO I THOUGHT AS YOU MIGHT LIKE TO KNOW THEM DWARVES CAME BACK THROUGH HERE TONIGHT HEADING OFF EAST THEY DIDNT HAVE GANDALF BUT THEY HAD AN OLD HOBBIT INSTEAD.
B.F.

9 Astron, S.R. 1404
The Birches
Southfarthing, The Shire

Dear Mr. White

I thought you might be interested to hear a rumour passed on to me by my cousin, Lobelia Sackville-Baggins. She is fairly certain that the wizard known as Gandalf the Grey was seen a few nights ago at Bag End in Hobbiton.

Her efforts to confirm this however, came to naught, and she believes that he must have left again early the next day.

I know that you have asked for any information regarding Gandalf’s movements, and hope that you will find this useful.

I am glad you were pleased with your last shipment of Longbottom Leaf. I hope it was as profitable for you as it was for us.

Sincerely yours,
Brutus Bracegirdle


DEAR MR WHITE

NO SIGN OF THAT OLD GANDALF ANYWHERE, BUT THERE ARE RANGERS ALL AROUND THE SHIRE THESE DAYS. HARDLY NOBODY EVER GOES THERE NOW NOT EVEN HOBBITS. AND SHIRE HOBBITS, THEY DON’T COME THIS WAY NO MORE EITHER. HASN’T BEEN EVEN A TOOK OR A BRANDYBUCK IN LONGER THAN I CAN RECALL.

THAT WAS RIGHT NICE OF YOU TO SEND ME THAT POUCH OF COIN BY WAY OF MR. KRAG. HE’S GOING TO STAY WITH ME FOR A WHILE. I THINK YOU COULD SEND SOME MORE OF YOUR FOLK THIS WAY WE COULD USE SOME FOLKS AROUND HERE WHAT KNOWS HOW TO HOLD THEIR OWN.

YRS. TRULY,
B. FERNY

27 Afterlithe, S.R. 1412
The Birches
Southfarthing, The Shire

Dear Mr. White,

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Bruno Bracegirdle, and I am the younger brother of Brutus Bracegirdle, with whom you have dealt for many years. Alas, my brother passed away last week from a sudden apoplexy, and has left me as the Family Head, since he has long been estranged from his son Hugo.

I hope very much to continue our very profitable association.

In your last letter to my brother, you enquired about the person known hereabouts as Gandalf the Grey. He has not been openly seen in these parts in some years, and it’s been almost five years since he was even rumoured to be hanging about up in Hobbiton amongst the Bagginses. My younger sister was married to the Baggins’ rightful heir, Otho Sackville-Baggins up until he passed on about three years ago. But she keeps track of things up there at Bag End, and she’d know if your friend had been seen there or not, and she says not.

This year’s crop of Longbottom Leaf has been especially good; I hope that you are satisfied as usual with your purchase.

Sincerely yours,
Bruno Bracegirdle



21 Afteryule, S.R. 1416
The Birches
Southfarthing, The Shire


Dear Mr. White,

I am the new Family Head for the Bracegirdles here in the Shire. My father was taken last month by the same apoplexy that carried off his father and his brother.

I just want you to know I will be honouring any and all agreements you had in place with our family.

In hopes of gaining more property, I have brought my cousin Lotho Sackville-Baggins, in as my partner, and have sold him some of my minor holdings in exchange for some considerable property of his. I expect you will be hearing from him soon.

My cousin is an up and coming fellow, and I expect that the expansion of our partnership can only bring us more profits than ever.

Sincerely yours,
Dago Bracegirdle


4 Solmath, S.R. 1416
1 Longbottom Lane
Hardbottle, Southfarthing, The Shire

Dear Mr. White,

You have been recommended to me by the Family Head of my mother’s people, my uncle Mr. Bruno Bracegirdle, as someone who has an interest in the pipe-weed trade. I am aware that you have been buying exclusively through the Bracegirdles, but I am hoping that you might consider an expansion of this trade, and I am offering my services as a broker, should you think well of the idea.

I have a good many business and family connexions throughout the Shire, and am well-known for my profitable business dealings here. I have long thought that the Shire needs to broaden its horizons, and trade beyond our borders is a good way to begin.

Should you be interested, I have already purchased an interest in this season’s harvest of Longbottom Leaf from my cousin Dago Bracegirdle. I would be most pleased if you would consider this proposition.

Sincerely yours,
Lotho Sackville-Baggins


[Another ledger accounting for the pipeweed trade between Orthanc and the Shire between the years of the Shire Reckoning 1385 to 1417 was also found. Tucked between the pages was the following receipt:
Received: __ S.R. 1417, 3017 of the Third Age, 12 gold ducats, in exchange for 5 waggonloads (50 barrels) of best quality Shire pipeweed known as “Longbottom Leaf”.
X X (mark of one Diccon Goatleaf, carter of the Bree-lands)
Eadwacer of Dunland, factor of Saruman the White


AUTHOR’S END NOTES:

This story is based around the following entries in the Tale of Years:

2953
Last meeting of the White Council. They debate the Rings. Saruman feigns that he has discovered the One Ring has passed down the Anduin to the Sea. Saruman withdraws to Isengard, which he takes as his own, and fortifies it. Being jealous and afraid of Gandalf he sets spies to watch all his movements; and notes his interest in the Shire. He soon begins to keep agents in Bree and the Southfarthing.

c. 3000
The shadow of Mordor lengthens. Saruman dares to use the palantir of Orthanc, but becomes ensnared by Sauron, who has the Ithil Stone. He becomes a traitor to the Council. His spies report that the Shire is being closely guarded by the Rangers.

3004
Gandalf visits Frodo in the Shire, and does so at intervals during the next four years.

3008
In the autumn Gandalf pays his last visit to Frodo.


Also, in TT, in "Flotsam and Jetsom", we are told that the Longbottom Leaf found by Merry and Pippin in Isengard had the date 1417 on the barrels.

For the names of the months, I have used the Bree names for those letters originating in Bree, and the Shire names for those originating in the Shire.

And I have followed The Atlas of Middle-earth by Karen Wynn Fonstad, in locating Hardbottle in the Southfarthing.

Comments

( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
shirebound
Jan. 18th, 2011 12:18 am (UTC)
What wonderful detail, especially the dates showing how the years are passing. And "Mr. White", LOL!
dreamflower02
Jan. 18th, 2011 01:39 am (UTC)
Yep. "Mr. White" had his fingers in the Shire long before he had a clue the Ring was there!

someplacetobe
Jan. 18th, 2011 07:31 am (UTC)
There was an incredible amount of detail in these letters! These were interesting, more so, I feel, than if we'd read Saruman's correspondence which had prompted these responses.
dreamflower02
Jan. 18th, 2011 04:03 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I chose to show only one side of the correspondence for two reasons. First of all, I did not feel confident in showing Saruman's "voice" in the letters, and second, this was the correspondence found at Isengard, so it would have been letters sent *to* him. Keeping copies of letters back in the day before even carbon paper much less other methods would have been labor intensive.

But also, I was pleased with the effect, because it does leave the reader able to imagine what Saruman's side of the story would have been.
someplacetobe
Jan. 18th, 2011 04:33 pm (UTC)
But also, I was pleased with the effect, because it does leave the reader able to imagine what Saruman's side of the story would have been.
I can say my imagination was trying to do just that while reading and afterward!
dreamflower02
Jan. 18th, 2011 08:32 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm very glad to know that!
ellynn_ithilwen
Jan. 18th, 2011 10:05 am (UTC)
Excellent! You show Saruman's spying activities in a simple way - through letters, but I think this way is better and more efficient than "normal" story would be. Well done!
dreamflower02
Jan. 18th, 2011 04:06 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I did think it would give a good overview of his activities! I'm glad you liked it.
surgicalsteel
Jan. 18th, 2011 11:21 am (UTC)
This was a really neat way of showing how Saruman might have gotten his toehold into the Shire and Bree!
dreamflower02
Jan. 18th, 2011 04:08 pm (UTC)
*nods* It's between the lines in the ToY and UT; he clearly had been working in the Shire long before anyone knew about the Ring. And with hobbits, it seemed that seemingly harmless trade would be the obvious way to subvert them.
harrowcatliz
Jan. 18th, 2011 11:31 am (UTC)
What a neat way of showing how Saruman was involved in the Shire. Great read.
dreamflower02
Jan. 18th, 2011 04:09 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it.
engarian
Jan. 18th, 2011 11:39 am (UTC)
There is nothing better than commerce to allow both the flow of goods and information. I loved how the letters kept the information flowing to Saruman along with the pipeweed that he developed a taste and a market for.

- Erulisse (one L)
dreamflower02
Jan. 18th, 2011 04:10 pm (UTC)
Yes, merchants and traders have always dealt in information as well as goods! I'm glad you liked it!
virtuella
Jan. 18th, 2011 01:28 pm (UTC)
Oh dear, those Bracegirdles are terribly afflicted by apoplexy!

This is a very interesting gapfiller, fleshing out the details of what must have happened but has not been described in the books.
dreamflower02
Jan. 18th, 2011 04:15 pm (UTC)
"Apoplexy" was a word often used for a sudden death in the past. Most often it referred to a stroke, but could also refer to an aneurism or even a massive heart attack.

At any rate the conditions that lead to a stroke, such as HBP, do tend to be hereditary.

I have to confess, I often use "apoplexy" to kill off hobbits, because it is very sudden; I don't like to think of hobbits suffering from lingering illnesses for the most part.

JRRT never tells us who Saruman's agents were or how they operated, but I think the pipeweed connection gives us a good hint!
clodia_metelli
Jan. 18th, 2011 08:22 pm (UTC)
What a great idea, and a fantastic way to show Saruman's influence spreading in the Shire! I love the different tones here -- perfectly done!
dreamflower02
Jan. 18th, 2011 08:30 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I did try to show the different personalities of the writers, from the rather educated tone of Saruman's original agent and the less educated one of his son, and the more business oriented ones of the Bracegirdles. I'm glad that came through.
(Deleted comment)
dreamflower02
Jan. 19th, 2011 02:24 am (UTC)
Yes, it's clear he wasted a lot of time spying on Gandalf, and that much of his treachery stemmed from his jealousy of his colleague! He'd certainly try to subvert anything that it appeared Gandalf had a hand in, and the Shire would have become a target, Ring or no Ring!
blslarner
Jan. 19th, 2011 01:49 am (UTC)
I love watching the succession leading to the uncouth Bill in Bree with his appreciation of the half-orc and to Lotho within the Shire, and how it started with spying on Gandalf's doings. Wonderful characterizations of each correspondent!
dreamflower02
Jan. 19th, 2011 02:22 am (UTC)
Yes, in my headcanon, Bilimer, who was trained as a spy by Saruman (and probably Saruman used his Voice to make sure that his agent would remain loyal even so far away over a period of years) did his best to fit in with the Breelanders, and hid his educated speech. Then he marries a close cousin, leading to a certain lack of intelligence on the part of his offspring. His son Bill Ferny had a certain amount of cunning, but I don't see him as very bright! That's all implied, naturally, but not stated outright.

And of course, Lotho's involvement in my universe stems from his cousin Dago, though as you can see, he's aiming to supplant him as "Mr. White's" main supplier of pipe-weed.
lindahoyland
Jan. 19th, 2011 03:25 am (UTC)
Most enjoyable and very plausible!
dreamflower02
Jan. 22nd, 2011 04:08 am (UTC)
Thank you! I was trying to aim for plausibility! I'm glad you enjoyed it!
antane
Jan. 20th, 2011 01:49 am (UTC)
So now we know how Mr. White came by the weed he mocked "Mr. Grey" for liking and was addicted to himself. Dear me.

Namarie, God bless, Antane :)
dreamflower02
Jan. 22nd, 2011 04:10 am (UTC)
Well, yes. You know, it probably shows just how insecure Saruman was when it came to Gandalf-- he mocked him to his face, but behind his back, he imitated him! (Superficially at least. He'd have done better to imitate Gandalf's humility and faithfulness.)
bfb
Jan. 21st, 2011 05:03 am (UTC)
Wow, I love how everything is so connected and one letter just weaves effortlessly into the next. My favorite part was the switch from Bilimer to OLE BILL FERNY AND HIS QUEER WAY A TALKIN. Your way with different dialects is spectacular!
dreamflower02
Jan. 22nd, 2011 04:11 am (UTC)
I'm glad you liked the different "voices" in the letters. I try to just follow the book's lead in how the characters talk, so it's good to know when I succeed! Thank you!
( 27 comments — Leave a comment )

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