Chapter 1: Old Friends
A young girl, or what would appear as a young girl to untrained eyes sits around a campfire, the orange licks of its flame the only thing besides the white moon and stars to grace her with any light. Her hands are held out in front of her, soaking up the warmth the flames have to offer her. Her cloak which is wrapped tightly around her shoulders provides little warmth against the cool air of the night.
Behind her is an old cottage style home. Its walls have broken down after many years of abandonment and weather, but it provided enough protection against the elements for the young – but not so young - girl. The only thing it could not provide that she needed is a fireplace, and not wanting to risk burning the entire structure down, she built it outside.
She hears him coming before she sees him, a gift from the elvish blood running through her veins, though one would not guess she is elven at first glance.
"I hope you are having a splendid night, Mithrandir," she greets out into the darkness of the night, not looking up from her small fire. The Grey wizard isn't surprised that the girl knew he is here.
"Did you see me coming?" he guesses, sitting down on the log with the girl, taking in the heat of the fire as well. His grey cloaks kept him warm, yes, but a fire provides a warmth belonging to the realm of comfort that clothes cannot offer, a fact well known by the girl.
"No, Mithrandir, I heard you. You are noisier than a herd of Rohan horses," she smirks, lifting her gaze from the fire. "But yes, I also saw you coming. What brings you to my humble, temporary abode?"
"Have you not seen that either?" he questions, peering at the girl curiously. She has always been a bit of a mystery to him, more so because she often surprised herself as well, leaving her actions unpredictable to everybody. She laughs, shaking her head.
"No, though I haven't been trying to." She tilts her head forward accusingly. "Why? What have you got planned under that over-sized hat of yours?" Her eyes pierce through to him, even in the darkness but they have no effect on the wizard, already knowing of her kind nature. She would not harm a fly if she had the choice.
"I have a proposition to make," he says, adjusting his hat self-consciously. The girl sits up straighter, taking a new interest in the wizard's visit. It isn't often that someone in Middle Earth is given a proposition by a wizard.
"A proposition?" she muses. "And please, do tell what it is about."
It isn't as though she has much to do with her life anyway except for survival and the occasional exploration. She always wonders what other people like to fill their time on Middle Earth on, if not just to see the unknown. Others probably have families and friends, she supposes. The girl does have her own friends but they are not the sort that you find yourself living near and going down to the markets together, more so the type of friends you cross paths with, share a drink and continue moving on.
Gandalf takes out his pipe, his lips curling around the thin long end.
"Have you met any dwarves before?" he asks. Her head tilts to the side, thinking that it is an odd answer to her question, but then again, it is not really an answer at all if it is another question, but she answers anyway.
"Of course, I have," she answers. "Stubborn things but brave of heart. I'll be right to assume that dwarves are involved in this plan of yours?"
She has come across their race plenty of times, usually working in forges or craft shops. She enjoys their company, but they did not always enjoy hers. They are intriguing characters, their blood rooted deep in a sense of loyalty to their own kin, one such loyalty that she has never experienced within her own.
Gandalf takes a long draw of his pipe, the smoke accumulating in his lungs as the girl watches him patiently for an answer. He breathes out, a small ring of smoke crafted by his mouth floating into the night air.
"You would be right," the wizard agrees. "In fact, a total of thirteen of them." His eyes flicker to the side to gauge the girl's reaction. She lets out a puff of air, stoking the fire with another large stick, making embers spark around.
"That is quite a number of dwarves," she notes, placing the stick back down. "So, your proposition. You would like me to meet with these dwarves then?"
Gandalf fiddles with his pipe. He had expected her to be fine with meeting the dwarves since the girl holds no hard feelings against them like the rest of her homeland kin, but his next words might change her attitude.
"Yes, I would like you to meet them," he says, fumbling around his next few words. "But also travel with them. On a quest."
"A quest?" she exclaims. A quest with thirteen dwarves is certainly not something to be taken lightly. "And what is this quest?"
"Thorin Oakenshield." Gandalf begins. The girl knows of the name but has not put many tales to it. "He is creating a company to reclaim Erebor. I think that he will be in need of your service."
While she has not put much tale to the name, she certainly knows of the tales concerning Erebor, the dwarf mountain that was lost to Smaug one hundred and seventy-one years ago. To reclaim Erebor is to go against a ruthless, gold-hungry dragon. Not to mention, while she does like dwarves, they don't always revel in her company. She has her ears to thank for that.
But what else is she doing besides sitting by her fire each night, sometimes moving, sometimes not? She has been in the same area for the past fifty or so odd years.
"Does Thorin Oakenshield know who I am?" she questions, giving the wizard a pointed look. "Has he even requested for me?"
Gandalf fumbles with his pipe again, incoherent words passing through his lips as he thinks of an answer that would be acceptable yet still the truth.
"He asked me to find the fourteenth member of his company and I have chosen you. But I have also chosen a fifteen if I do admit," he answers. The girl gives him a scornful look, but it drops with a slow sigh of thought. "They are meeting in Hobbiton in a month's time from today."
"Hobbiton?" she gapes. "That is an odd place for a dwarfish meeting."
"That is because the fifteenth member is a hobbit. He goes by the name Bilbo Baggins," Gandalf explains.
"A hobbit?" she gapes again. "You are sending a hobbit on a quest with dwarves? Gandalf, they barely even step foot out of their own villages let alone all of Hobbiton. Are you sure Thorin will accept both a hobbit and half-elf into his company?"
Gandalf tilts his head from shoulder to shoulder, avoiding the question.
"A month's time, in the Shire," he says again, standing up from the log. "Look for my mark and leave Thorin to me."
The girl reluctantly lets the wizard begin to leave but stands to bid him farewell, as it is polite.
"All right," she huffs. "I'll be there."
The wizard leaves just as he had come, but the girl now sits at her fire with a completely new set of thoughts running through her mind. Thirteen dwarves… and she had found three quite a bunch before. She isn't foolish when it comes to dwarfish thoughts on Elves, especially those belonging to the Durin line. And she doesn't blame them one bit.
But she has also faced the cruelty of Elves and there is hope that maybe they can share that common interest, especially considering she doesn't exactly look like an elf. If you are to look at her face alone then you would assume but once you add her hair and the rest of her body, you would question what race she is entirely.
She wasn't born like this, but the fate decided her course before she could understand much of the world. For years she heard the whisper of talk behind her back by the members of her kin, echoing down the hall until they reached her finely tuned ears.
It is no wonder that she prefers not to keep them company.
Her mind drifts to the hobbit Gandalf spoke about, Bilbo Baggins. She has travelled through the Shire once or twice before, purely out of curiosity than necessity. Although barely any of her travels are out of necessity anymore. Maybe a few times to the cities of men for items she cannot make or find herself but the wild is a generous place, if you know where to look.
Hobbiton is a very cottage-like place, one she adores. Sure, the people could be a little judgey but if you found the right people, their warmth and welcoming nature overrides anything else. She longs for a home that she could fit in with and Hobbiton is something that she would love to find that in but not being a…well, hobbit made her a little displaced among the rest.
The race of men is the closest to home she has found but their eyes still stay stuck on you like flies to honey even once they know you well enough. Maybe she will find that the dwarves are a better-suited bunch for her.
An audible snort leaves her throat at the thought. Dwarves would faint at the sight of an elf living amongst them, even a half-breed such as herself.
It would take maybe a week or so from where she is now to reach the Shire but not wanting to be late, the girl decides to leave a few days early and fill the rest of her stay in Bree. Yes, that seems quite the way to go.
Her few belongings are lugged on her back in an old brown bag. Thankfully, the bag is made by the elves and has withstood even the harshest conditions. In her bag, there are a few changes of clothes, tools to help make a camp such as a flint and anything else that would help her in her travels. She doesn't weigh herself down with trinkets of memories, there's not many that she would want to keep anyways. Her cloak is also rolled up in her bag since it is awkward to travel around in with the pack, but the days aren't as cool as the nights.
At her waist is twin short blades. Although she has elvish blood, weaponry isn't a skill she is fine-tuned at but anybody who wishes to survive outside their home should be willing to learn some sort of weapon. Twin blades are light to carry, don't require arrows to carry around like a bow and even when you lose one, the other is still there, making it a mighty fine choice in the half-breed's mind.
With her whole home resting on her back, she takes one last look at the rotting house, giving it a small wave of goodbye before turning on her feet, setting off in the direction of the Shire.
"Thirteen dwarves," she marvels to herself as she marches along the road. "I'm going to have to fight for a share of the food."
The only thing to fill her mind as she walks is how she imagines her meeting with the dwarves will play out. Maybe Gandalf will be there, warning them of her and they will have gotten their unpleasant words out before they can reach her ears. Or perhaps, she will be a surprise to them. At least she knows how to keep her mouth shut, the last thing anybody needs is for her tongue to snap back at them, only fuelling the hatred of the races.
And this poor hobbit is going to be in the middle, being a host to thirteen dwarves, a wizard, and an elf. The gossip in the Shire is going to be buzzing more than an angry swarm of bees!
Nevertheless, her feet keep marching all the way to Bree.
She considers Bree to be that place where travellers stop but nobody really looks at it and thinks 'This is a place to call home'. The road turns to mud in the rain and the tavern innkeeper at the Prancing Pony is anything but a joy to be around.
This is the only settlement where hobbits and Men gather in peace but still, the sight of a hobbit so far away from home is a scarcity.
Eyes peer at her as she walks through the tavern, the key to her room clutched tightly between her fingers. Maybe they are wondering if she is a hobbit. She certainly doesn't have the feet of one. Her feet are clad in normal travellers' boots, though, in a very small make.
Locking the door behind her, she settles down into her bed. The room in dingy, only one candle but it's left unlit as her eyes do to the job well enough for her. She would be able to spend the day in Bree tomorrow then leave the morning after.
Gandalf had been very mysterious in where and when she was to go in the Shire so leaving in the morning would give her a day to figure it out at least. It's a wonder if the wizard has given the hobbit a more in-depth explanation to Bilbo Baggins than he has to her.