This came about when Mumstheword54 gave me the prompt "something pre-Penny" a few months ago. And you can't get much more pre-Penny than this...
Title: "It Should Never Happen To A Dunadan"
Characters: Halbarad, Faelon, Aragorn
Time frame: about three weeks before Halbarad first encounters Penny just west of Bree
It was becoming something of a running joke. Every time there was a large meet-up, perhaps at one of the villages or festivals or else at Imladris, whilst other Dunedain had the usual tales of a troll encountered late at night, or a rogue hunting party of orcs dealt with near the mountains, or even ducking out of a bar brawl in Staddle (dwarves were always something of a liability when they had taken too much ale), Halbarad invariably had something different to relate.
First there was that poor bewildered lass from that village just a few miles north-west of Bree. He'd found her three times now wandering aimlessly in the woods. Her father was beginning to look hugely embarrassed every time he saw Halbarad appear on the horizon.
Then there was the time he had nearly ridden over the head of some drunk from one of the northern villages up near Fornost, tried to rouse him and offer to take him home only to get an earful of colourful abuse and vomit down his leggings. That was the day he learned to keep a spare pair on him at all times. Four days it had taken him to ride home and no matter how many times he stopped to swim in a stream or brook, the stench stayed with him all the way.
Then there had been the man with the rabbits. Thinking him lost, Halbarad had offered to help him home when he had found him ankle deep in the Midgewater. The man had thanked him but insisted they find his rabbits first. Five hours later, with Halbarad's patience near enough worn through, they had met Faelon who had recognised the man as a local fruitcake from Staddle, locally known as 'King Rabbit Man', apparently. He was obsessed with rabbits, keeping umpteen all over his smallholding to the point they were all over the house. And every rabbit or hare he spotted in the wild was, he was convinced, one of his own that had somehow made an escape bid for freedom and thus he would go rushing off to 'catch' it and get himself in difficulties. Faelon had once found him holed up in a cave and for the life of himself could not understand how he had not been beset by trolls. The stench (since he clearly did not wash) might have been enough to keep most people away, except that trolls themselves smelt pretty foul even at the best of times.
Meeting women on the road to market, Halbarad would offer to help them bring their wares there only for the chickens to come free or the basket of eggs to fall from his horse and while he always offered to pay for their cost ("Even if it was hardly my fault they do not know how to tie a basket of chickens up securely!") there was more than once that he barely missed a clip round the ear from a woman seemingly twice his age and half his height.
"You have that sort of face," Aragorn would say, barely biting back his laughter. "Kindly and gentle."
Halbarad glared at him.
"The women all want to mother you, Halbarad," Faelon said with a grin, tearing a hunk of bread in two and handing half to Aragorn across the campfire.
"Which gives them the right to kick me in the shins, does it?"
"Aw, come now. You can say you have faced orcs, trolls--"
"And the Wild Women on Market Day," Faelon finished, collapsing into sniggers as he caught Aragorn's wide smile.
"Always me," Halbarad muttered. "Why is it always me that finds these people wandering the wilds endangering themselves and in need of assistance?"
"It is not always you," Aragorn mollified him.
"It is just mostly you," Faelon explained.
Halbarad narrowed his eyes. "Yes, I am so glad you find this amusing, Faelon."
The next morning they went their separate ways. Faelon was due to head back home for a spell and had bagged several hare the day before to take to Morfinniel. Aragorn was heading due West to Bree to do something on Gandalf's behalf, though exactly what he was not wholly forthcoming about. Meeting some kuduk was all he would say. Halbarad would stay in the area, on patrol for a few weeks more, hoping he might run into Gildor at some point.
"Now, remember," they had said to him, "No rescuing strange, lost females in the wilds." Then they had laughed and ridden off.
Oh, how prophetic those words were to become.