Out with the Old, In with the New

Out with the Old, In with the New

A Chapter by SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

Folco thinks he's in trouble when he's sent to the headmaster, but instead is sent home, where he learns news that will soon change his life and Dremeadow forever.


                Folco emitted a breathy sigh, scuffling the toe of his boot into the wooden floor of the classroom and turning his eyes toward the window. The sun was high in the sky, beating down on the dry-looking grass.  He wiped a few beads of sweat from his forehead. Could whoever built this place not have built the schoolhouse better, he thought, so that the students would not have to suffer through the intense heat of August?

                At least, he thought, the teacher had finally stopped talking about the End-of-Summer picnic that was held for students and their parents prior to their release from school for harvest season. He was excited about the end of the summer, for it meant both that he would not have to deal with the tedium of schoolwork until November and that he would no longer be in the youngest year of upper school. However, the prospect of sitting alone bored out of his mind while his friends were all with their families like nearly every other year was nothing short of torture. He knew better than to expect either of his parents to be there. His mother, perhaps, if the timing was very lucky. His father? Not a chance in the world. He was always too busy doing political business with the rest of the Council to do anything with Folco or his older siblings.

                However, that did not mean listening to the teacher drone on about Drémeadow’s trade relations with Rheeding in the 2800s was any more of interest. Besides, he was hungry and wanted the bell to start ringing in the bell-tower so they could leave for the day. Perhaps Ted, Bingo, Lindo and Rufus would want to go to the bakery.

                Unfortunately, according to both the sun’s position in the sky and the clock, there was still about two hours of boredom, hunger, and staring at the back of Lily Ferthing’s neck in store before the happy tolls of freedom.

                With a surreptitious glance at the teacher, who was now writing several dates on the board, Folco slipped his hand into his pocket, fumbling for the handkerchief he knew contained several wafers he had wrapped to snack on in class at times the teacher was not looking, and began to slip it out of his pocket.

                Then, to his horror, the handkerchief opened on bottom, spilling the bread on the floor. Eyes widening, Folco bent sideways to start picking up the evidence before he was spotted. As he did so, Dora Hugwort whispered “you’re not supposed to have food” from the desk across the aisle.

Folco rolled his eyes. “So what?” he whispered before resuming gathering the pieces of the food into a pile. How could Ted possibly want to have a girl who always felt the need to preach about class rules for his sweetheart? For that matter, why would anyone want a sweetheart, period? His older sisters and brother had all had at least one- more than one at the same time in Odo’s case- but Folco for the life of him could not fathom what others saw in such things.

              “Folco Foxtrot!”

                The hobbit jumped, straightening up to look at the teacher while hastily shoving the handkerchief into his pocket. There were a few telltale crumbs on the ground still, but this would have to do. “Yes, Mrs.  Littleman?” he said innocently.

                Mrs. Littleman fixed him with a beady-eyed stare that only teachers and his father could pull off so well. “Why are you under your desk when you are supposed to be paying attention to the lesson?”

                “I erm… dropped my quill,” Folco lied, knowing that his teacher would not be at all thrilled to hear that he had spilled contraband food all over the floor.

                She replied by fixing her student with a long gaze. Folco concentrated all his willpower on maintaining eye contact. “You dropped your quill, Mrs Littleman, or ma’am” she said emphatically.

                “Yes ma’am. Sorry, ma’am,” Folco mumbled, relieved.  He had already been castigated earlier in the day for passing notes with Bingo and Lindo after Mrs. Littleman spotted him taking the folded parchment from Merrick Lagworth.

Satisfied, the teacher resumed her lecture about a pact between Rheeding and Drémeadow from nearly two centuries previous.  Folco struggled to pay attention, but it was not easy. He glanced over his right shoulder to look at Rufus, who was predictably staring at Dora’s glossy auburn hair, then his left to see what Bingo and Lindo were up to. Ted, he already knew, would be ever the perfect student, copying everything Mrs. Littleman said.

Lindo sent Folco a pained face when their eyes met.  “This is boring,” he mouthed.

“I know. Is it dismissal yet?” Folco replied, doing a silent impression of a yawn.


The boy snapped his head around to the teacher, painfully aware of the entire class looking expectantly in his direction. He opened his mouth to apologize for the second time in five minutes, but the teacher was already upbraiding him. “You need to be more mindful of class rules. I never had this problem with Odo or Jillian,” Mrs. Littleman scolded.

Folco sank down slightly in his seat, cheeks reddening. Why was it that teachers always had to bring up at least one of his older siblings? If it was not saying that he was not as well-mannered or well-behaved as most of them in class, it was pointing out  that he was not as smart and athletic as Xenia, or as good with detail as Nora, or as secure and confident as Odo , or as popular as Jillian had been.  Having such things pointed out in front of the whole class was especially humiliating. He wanted to open his mouth to point out that he was not any of them, but decided he would only be in more trouble.

“Well?” Mrs. Littleman demanded. “Have you anything you need to share with the class?”

The student was about to answer in the negative when a knock sounded at the door. Folco chanced a glance in Lindo and Bingo’s direction as Mrs. Littleman went to answer the highly welcome interruption. Both were giving him sympathetic stares.  As the instructor stepped outside, a few whispers broke out around the room. Fern Gardner was leaning over Folco’s desk from behind to show Lily  a sketch she had made. Folco turned sideways to duck out of the girls talking across him, catching Rufus’ eye and exaggeratedly swiping the air in front of his forehead  in mock-relief.

                When Mrs. Littleman reentered, the class fell instantaneously silent. “Folco Foxtrot.”

                “Yes, ma’am?” he queried, wondering what he was supposed to have done now.

                “Please go to the Headmaster’s office. Bring your lunch pail, cloak and books with you.”

                Folco’s stomach  seemed to drop to his toes, and the beginnings of anger stirred within him. Was he actually being ejected from class for the day over a little bit of talking, a theoretical dropped quill and passing notes? “But…”


                Folco sighed slightly, closing his history book. He directed a grimace at all four of his friends before proceeding to the cloakroom to gather the rest of his belongings to bring to the office. He hoped that he would not be sent home with a note about his misbehavior. His parents would be livid.


                Folco dragged his feet through the schoolhouse corridor the entire way to the headmaster,  making a point of glancing into  all the upper school classrooms he passed, delaying the unpleasant meeting as long as possible. Far too soon, he found himself in front of the door of Will Marvitop, otherwise known as Old Marvi. The headmaster had been called that for at least thirteen years; his oldest sister Nora's contemporaries had used the same nickname.   There were also variations such as "Old Marv" and "the Marvimaster," not to mention the very rude variations Xenia and her friends had for him in their later years of upper school, variations Folco had known even as young as six would get them verbally obliterated by their father if he ever overheard.

Swallowing hard in dread of facing the austere hobbit, the lad knocked three times. “Enter,” came the crisp voice of the headmaster. Gulping, Folco pulled the door open. To his surprise, the headmaster was not the sole occupant. His seventeen-year-old brother was there as well, standing in front of the desk. What is Odo doing here? Had his Upper Five brother managed to get into trouble also? Or was something worse wrong? Folco still remembered the day Bingo  had been pulled from class and sent home to learn that his father had been killed in a farming accident as clearly as though it had not been three years ago. He stared at Odo, who stared back, surprised.

                “Sit.” Both Foxtrots sat, staring nervously at each other.  “A message has been sent here asking that you both return home for the day. A cart has been sent for you two and should arrive shortly.”

                “What’s going on, sir?” asked Odo.

                The headmaster looked uncomfortable. “Well, it isn’t really my place to tell you... I would prefer to leave it to your family.”

                Folco exchanged a look of fright with his older brother. Had something happened to one of his parents or sisters while he and Odo were at school? “Is it bad?” he asked. The headmaster did not reply, but busied himself with paperwork. Folco gave the headmaster an exasperated look.  “We aren’t in trouble, sir?”

                “No, neither of you are in any trouble” the headmaster said. The two Foxtrots exchanged another long look. “But you are both to wait here until the carriage arrives.”


                It was half an hour before the carriage showed up. Folco spent most of that time alternating between exchanging silent looks of worry with his older brother and staring pensively at the ceiling, wondering what was going on. His mother would be at home with his two oldest sisters, Jillian would be in class at Browntower University in Baur, and Odo was right here next to him. His father, Folco knew, was cloistered in yet another Council session. Had there been some kind of accident? Had something bad happened with the Council? Why were they bidden to wait for a carriage rather than walking home or hiring a pony-drawn cart to go home themselves? Odo had the money to do so; their parents always had him carry it in case they needed to leave before school was dismissed.

                When word reached the headmaster’s that it had finally come, Folco picked up his lunch pail, satchel and books and mutely followed Odo out. To his confusion, the headmaster followed them, not detaching from his students until they were at the door. Even then, he watched them descend the steps. Folco frowned. He wished he would leave him alone with his brother so he and Odo could speculate about the situation away from adult ears.

                He was even more confused when he saw that there was two hobbits he vaguely recognized, a gentlehobbit and a lady, in addition to the driver. One of them disembarked, taking both his and Odo’s belongings. Folco watched the middle-aged porter climb back on quizzically before he and Odo climbed in after them. Why had his father hired one for the day? They carried their things for themselves all the time.

                “What happened?” Folco asked the gentlehobbit who had taken their bags and books.

                He was met only with an unfathomable glance before he responded, “Your mother and father said they wish you to hear first from them.”

                “All right, then…” It sounded as though his parents, at least, were safe. “Are my sisters well?”

               “They are,” the porter said evasively. “By the way, I apologize for not introducing myself. My name is Nicolo Harrow. This is Ermangine Shaker and the driver is Leisa Meadowhopper.”

                “Pleasure,” said  Odo. Folco echoed the salutation. “My name is Odo Foxtrot and this is my brother Folco.”

                “We know, sir” said Mistress Shaker. “Thank you for your kind introduction, however.”

                Folco had not imagined it possible to feel so bewildered. Had she actually addressed Odo as though he were grown when he was so obviously not, given the schoolbooks and bags?

Odo looked utterly pleased.


When they arrived at the spacious house and the two lads had been seen inside by the doorman, Folco and Odo found their parents in the sitting-room with Nora and Xenia. Someone had moved the loveseat, and the Foxtrot parents were in it, directly facing their children. One of the family servants was beside his father taking mumbled instructions. Folco took a seat alongside Xenia, Odo on his other side. “What happened?” he whispered. Xenia shook her head, shrugging, before slouching back into the long sofa.

“I will tell them now,” said Hrothgar Foxtrot to Malla. “Please see that this message is on its way to Jillian today; I wish her to hear what has happened as soon as possible and to make arrangements to sit her examinations early if at all possible. You may go.”  The servant gave a slight bow before departing.

Xenia wasted no time in demanding “what happened? Why are you being all mysterious?”

“Quiet. I cannot explain with you talking,” her father said. Xenia puckered her brow but obeyed.

“Now, I have just been sitting in a very lengthy Council session discussing the state of affairs…”

Xenia interjected, “Tell us something else we don’t already know!” Folco nudged her slightly; the overworked look on their father’s face warned that he was not to be trifled with today.

“Xenia! Silence!” At the same time, Xenia returned the elbow, but said nothing.

Hrothgar heaved a long sigh. “Now then. Many things were discussed in this meeting…”

The words Folco’s father spoke soon seemed to blur together. There were many things said that Folco  could not comprehend because they were too much in the language of adults and had too much to do with politics, which he had yet to entirely understand. The youth squirmed and Odo gave a slight kick.

One statement, however, did stand out amongst the mumbojumbo about treaties, legislations, mandates, statutes, articles,  and sections. One that even Folco knew was a very drastic statement indeed.

“After much deliberation , debate, and weighing the pros and cons of the idea, a decision was ratified by the Council,” said Hrothgar. “We decided it would be best if the Council were to disband.

“The Council… disband?” echoed Nora.  The 27-year-old went very straight in her seat, staring.

“So who’s in charge of Drémeadow, then, if there’s no Council? Does this mean we don’t elect people anymore or something?” queried Odo.

“The new king. And no, no more elections.” Folco let out a small breath. He knew how stressed his father always was at the time of elections. He was never home when those were going on. Perhaps, he thought, this meant he would be home more often.

Xenia made a sudden movement.  Finding his voice, Folco asked, “who’s that? Or did you not vote about that yet, if there’s even a…? ”

“They have” interrupted their mother, Arabella Foxtrot.

Xenia, whose eyebrows were raised high, asked “And who might that be?”

“Your father.”




© 2014 SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

Author's Note

SpeedyHobbit Armstrong
Please give me any constructive criticism you can think of as well as comments on strengths you notice. I hope to be a published author one day, so I want this book and all of my books to become awesome and as close to perfect as is humanly possible.

My Review

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Featured Review

Good stuff in this opening chapter. Draws you in and makes you want to continue on.

Looks like you slipped a paste though. You said "There were also variations such as "Old Marv" and "the Marvimaster," There were also variations such as "Old Marv" and "the Marvimaster," not to mention the very rude variations Xenia and her friends had for him..."

Posted 7 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

7 Years Ago

Whoops, on fixing that!


I'm a horrible person for never reviewing this before! This was great, and that bombshell at the end was a definite 'whhaaatt???' moment! Loved it!!

Notes here:

1. "Mrs Littleman, or ma’am" think it should be "Mrs. Littleman".

That's the only thing I noticed. Loved this!! Well done :)


Posted 6 Years Ago

Quite a bombshell dropped at the end. Very well written, as usual. Lots of small details to make it believable.

Posted 6 Years Ago

SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

6 Years Ago

Thanks so much! Indeed, it was. They were NOT expecting that!
Speedy, I took some time off from participating in Writer's Cafe and guess what? You're story was first on the list to look at. I like the story, seems fun! Beyond the normal "describe more of the scene" and "describe how they felt" I thought you could use some advice that I received as well from my first editor.

First: Rough draft = 90% of the work is done! Yay! That's reason for congrats in and of it's own self.
Second: Write Tight - look up the book and buy a copy for yourself.
Third: big words can be used/abused and distract the reader at the same time. (I don't like this rule but it would make things easier to understand.) I was thrown off by the word castigate early in the story. Here's the reason why: The word itself holds a tone of being verbally chastised and tortured in most evil and twisted ways possible. I figured out why it threw me off, there wasn't any examples of the vile snippet tongue (think weakest link here) that would have made the usage mentally agreeable here. Does NOT mean its wrong in usage but this would be where I would use another word until I have shown the action I am portraying.

Look at all your helping verbs (have, had, have been, etc.) play with the sentences they are in and take the helping verbs out. Did the verb just become more action oriented and a stronger sentence from it? Yes.... Awesome! No, bummer; keep the helping word.

Also, look at the ~ly verbs too, (spoiler: I hate hate hate this rule, but I check these too) do the same exercise. Often we can describe the scene or action better and complete(ly) leave out the ~ly words.

I hope these help, and I hope to see more of the story line!!

Posted 7 Years Ago

OK, this one was interesting. I related so well to the boredom and fidgeting in class, and the fear of being busted by the teacher, and to paraphrase my grandson "the worstest was" getting sent to the principal's office. Your description brought all of that back over the all too many years since I finished school. As a side note high school principal visits were especially dreaded as my own mother was the principal's secretary! : O
I found the writing was well done. The carriage ride would have been an opportunity to develop the characters and their relationship more, otherwise, well done.
I really do need to sort out which books you have on the go, and try wend my way through them in some semblance of order, I do enjoy them.
See ya on twitter Cher!

Posted 7 Years Ago

Great start my friend...will be back to finish what I started.

Posted 7 Years Ago

SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

7 Years Ago

Awww Thanks so much! (=
A. Amos

7 Years Ago

you're welcome my friend
Not a bad set up for the start... the last line made the rest worth while.

Posted 7 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

7 Years Ago

Thanks so much for dropping by and reviewing!
Good stuff in this opening chapter. Draws you in and makes you want to continue on.

Looks like you slipped a paste though. You said "There were also variations such as "Old Marv" and "the Marvimaster," There were also variations such as "Old Marv" and "the Marvimaster," not to mention the very rude variations Xenia and her friends had for him..."

Posted 7 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

7 Years Ago

Whoops, on fixing that!
Aw this is really cute! I kind of wish I hadn't read the description so that I could be more surprised by the hook at the end

Posted 7 Years Ago

SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

7 Years Ago

Good point you raise here! I've edited the description of the book to read "An ordinary school day b.. read more
This was awesome. Wording was very nice as well as the dialog.
As it is a beginning to a story, I would have liked to read the moments between traveling to Falco's walk to the headmaster's office and the ride with his brother to his house. Both are opportunities that can be used to further develop the characters and give a sense of a slightly slower pace to allow a larger sense of environment.
Love the ideas presented so far. I'll keep reading!

Posted 7 Years Ago

SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

7 Years Ago

Thanks for the suggestion, I'll have to take those into consideration! I'm not sure what they woul.. read more
This is a very capturing first chapter, since very lively dialogues determine the scene.
Had to read this twice because I wanted to make sure that I hadn't missed any details. You're really good at construct a scene by dialogues and setting up the plot via that scene for readers.
It makes for a much more enjoyable read and I love that your characters aren't flat and that they're quite dynamic

Posted 7 Years Ago

SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

7 Years Ago

Awww thanks luff! I only hope I've done just as well in the next two chapters and the other two work.. read more

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21 Reviews
Shelved in 2 Libraries
Added on July 30, 2013
Last Updated on October 19, 2014
Tags: school, adolescent, teenagers, parent-child relationships, life, youth, government, family, father-son relationships, siblings


SpeedyHobbit Armstrong
SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

Long Island, NY

My name is Cher Armstrong, also known as Speedy Hobbit. I'm a USATF athlete in racewalking for the Raleigh Walkers club team. I just graduated from Queens College in Queens borough in New York Ci.. more..


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