As Sailoil's ship had brought new supplies, Barnabas had gone out to help the hobbits with the heavy lifting. Talpianna was minding the bar, calling out food orders, serving drinks, attempting to register the crowd of unexpected guests, and fuming.
She was angry with Dragonmama and Roland for their carryings-on.
She was angry with Julia, MD for the news that her Inn might be a source for contagion of Boglin's Bane.
She was angry with (and terrified for) Helen for going off on her own.
She was angry with the moles for letting Helen leave.
She was angry with Sailoil for disappearing.
Taking one consideration with another, Talpianna was not having a good day.
Mary-Fitz was helping out, in the interests of public safety as well as out of her naturally kind and practical nature. Stationed within easy grabbing distance of Tal's left wrist, she wondered if she could interest the Mistress of Moles in enrolling in the charm school she had seen advertised on a matchbook cover. She quietly greeted guests and handed out registration forms and keys, which the moles fetched back and forth. Mary-Fitz made a mental note to check the files before she left; the moles had many virtues, but knowledge of the alphabet was not one of them.
Suddenly the door was flung back against the wall of the draught lobby as a late arrival flourished his way in.
A well-groomed weasel with a pointy hat strode into the bar, skipping his way to the ceiling on gasps of "Randolph" transformed by a whoosh of his whiskers into levitating stepping stones.
"I need a dozen moles," he said, "stout and true, to burrow underneath Mordor and save Middle Earth - and I need them fast."
Tal poured herself a stiff tankard of gin, topping it up with Boglin antidote till the pewter began dissolving.
Now she was angry with Randolph, too.
She was angry at him for walking in without wiping his feet.
She was angry at him for not blowing her a kiss.
She was angry at him for destroying her favourite trollflesh chandelier with his hat.
Mary-Fitz ducked under her desk to avoid the stampede of eager moles and violently hurled Wyrmwear crockery.
"What's the big hurry?" Tal asked.
"At the rate Frodo and his team are moving," Randolph replied, "this'll end up running to a trilogy. And it's way past my bedtime already."
Opening: Talpianna.....Continuation: Whirlochre