Chapter One:

The Tall Took


Belladonna Took & Bungo Baggins


I

It was a sun-drenched morning when Belladonna Took returned from her latest adventure. It was, of course, entirely unusual for a hobbit of any age to be adventuring, nasty, exhausting things that adventures were, but Took's were entirely unusual hobbits to begin with, and none more so than Belladonna. Yet, even for the oddest of oddest Tooks, this particular adventure appeared to be the strangest yet.

For Belladonna did not return with trinkets or charms or knickknacks haggled from a man village to the west. Neither did she return with strange herbs and poultices taught and grown from the elves of Rivendell. There were no books or pelts or bolts of exotic cloth. Not a hint or hair of perfume, cloak, or bejewelled broach mud larked from a river bed.

Belladonna Took returned with a rounded stomach, a pouch of beads, and dried tear tracks on her cheeks.


II

If there was one thing a Hobbit did better than second breakfast and proper manners, it was gossip. Belladonna Took, fat with unborn babe and utterly unwed, found herself smothered in hearsay and prattle in the first weeks of her sensational return.

It came at her from all angles. From behind hedges as curious fellows peeped at her from over bush. From around corners, where wives gathered with wicker baskets and loafs of fresh baked bread. From market and grocery, from smial to smoke house, the whispers ebb and flow, and she heard it all.

Bertha Bolger sniffed at her friends one evening, and it was all Belladonna could take.

"I saw her, you know. Coming back with that big fellow. The grey one with the big pointy hat… Oh, what's his name…"

Marmadoc Potts flushed, eyes growing wide.

"You don't think she… Him and she…"

The idea, the scandal, catches like fire on kindle.

"She's not big enough for a big fellow, is she? Mixing blood like that… The babe would be too great for the birth. I have a cousin, Lyndsey, whose seen just that. Terrible thing. Bloody too, I heard. No, the only thing that comes from a big fellow and a hobbit lass laying together, me ma' said, is two graves."

Belladonna stopped, right in the middle of the road, by a lovely little patch of buttercups, waved and smiled at the hobbits murmuring at her shadow, and in her skirts pocket, she squeezed at the pouch of beads she carried everywhere she went.

"The grey big fellow's name is Gandalf, and you're all quite horribly wrong. He was not a man, he was not a wizard, he was certainly not an elf or Hobbit either, so leave poor Mr Gamgee out of this. In fact, I would sincerely enjoy it if you all kept your rather large noses out of my business, thank you very much."

It was what Belladonna Took did not say that spoke the loudest, and she heard the natter pick right back up as she stormed on home.

"It's got to be a dwarf, then?"

A tut.

"How frightful! I heard dwarves are covered in hair, and none where it is truly needed! Did you know their feet are bare? Bare, I say! Not even a tuft or curl to be seen."

A horrified gasp.

"Where would you even find a dwarf? Bree?"

No, Belladonna Took thought as she finally turned the winding corner and the voices faded in the breeze. It was a little further than Bree, and you only ever found the best Dwarves in toy shops.

Yet, that was all she said on the matter, for as long as she lived. She gave no name, no land, nothing. The hobbits of Hobbiton soon lost interest, and stopped talking so loudly, if only for the horde of keen Took cousins that descended from Tuckborough in a tidal wave to house with their cousin in her time of need, all too happy to remind those unlucky few why gossiping was such an unfortunate activity.


III

Donnamira Took, Belladonna's sister who came to stay with her in her smial for the birth of her first niece or nephew, joked that the babe, when he or she finally decided to grace their presence, would be grey and middle aged by then, and likely puffing away on a pipeweed like uncle Brandobras.

There's an acorn of truth to that, she thought.

Belladonna was already three months gone by the time she returned to Hobbiton, and if the babe in her belly had been wholly hobbit, wholly respectable some whispered, it would have come on the road. And yet, it didn't. Neither did it come a month later. Or two. Or six.

Belladonna was left rounded, swollen, and increasingly ornery for twenty months. Twenty months! However, neither was the birth entirely hobbit like in nature. Hobbits, fortunately, only stayed an hour or two, at the very longest, in their birthing bed before the mother had the babe in her arms. A quick push, a pop, and there's the babe.

It was the gift of the hobbit, being so fertile and painless, and had caused many families to grow beyond count.

Belladonna, on the other hand, was bed bound for two days, writhing in agony, sweaty and sticky and sickly, surrounded by healers who had no clue what was wrong, or how to help, or much of anything truly. Thankfully, Yavanna took pity on the dawning of the third day, and on the cusp of sunrise, the babe was finally born.

A little girl.

She was completely too large, it was a miracle she came out at all Donnamira would say, a little too broad, how odd to be born with eyes already wide open, with strange rounded ears and slim small feet, how is she going to walk anywhere with those dainty little things at the end of her legs, and exceedingly warm to the touch. Mirabella, another sister, cleaned the babe in the basin by the bed, before handing her over to her exhausted mother.

"She's healthy… I think. She's warm though. Very warm. Perhaps we should call the healers back to-"

Belladonna, sprawled on a pile of sweat soaked pillows, merely smiled.

"Warm… Dwarf's blood runs hot."

She cradled the child close to her breast, and once she looked down, once she locked gazes with the babe, she did not look back up for a long, long while. She was a beautiful babe, and as un-hobbit as could be.

Her skin was pale, polished platinum, not the nutbrown glow hobbits typically sported, though she did have the freckles dusted across the highs of her sharp featured face, even at this tender age. There was no merry green hue to her eye, nor blue or brown, but something deep and decadent and golden. Though her hair took the shade of her mother's, beaten sun ripened wheat, there was a spark of something red rich within the locks, a glaze of copper.

A babe hewn in the tone and tints of metals.

Although the babe did not appear to be very hobbit-y, Belladonna gave her a truly hobbit name.

Bluebell Took.


IV

Growing up did not come swiftly to Belladonna's child. For many years, she stayed as a babe, as big as could be, strapped to the back of her mother in a sling, for she was far too large to carry in arm or cart.

Bluebell was slow to crawl, and slower to walk, but when she did, she was a tiny armoured bear. She razed her way around their modest home, thudding on heavy feet, shouldering walls, shattering furniture, and cracking plaster.

She did not cut her full set of teeth until she was seven, nearly six years late, Belladonna feared for a while she would always be gummy, and her first word came on the tail end of her ninth year.

"Axe! Axe! Axe!"

Belladonna, of course, explained Bluebell was saying ask, which was, clearly, a totally acceptable first word, for hobbits were nothing without good manners.

Her second word, gem, was a little harder to defend.

Belladonna, anew, hears the whispers.

"She's a slow one, that Bluebell."

"Not quite all there, is she?"

"Never going to be… Well, normal, you know? Shame for such a pretty girl."

Belladonna ceased trying to explain away her daughter's oddities after that one. Bluebell was ten and four, but more child than tween, a whole head above her mother already, and she was not entirely a hobbit.

She never had been.

And she was perfect just the way she was.


V

Bluebell did not grow up alone, and for that, Belladonna was thankful. She had an army of Took cousins, aunts and uncles, and a few Brandybucks, ready and willing to get down and dirty with mischief on the slightest of incitements.

And for a Took and Brandybuck, that truly was the slightest of sparks needed.

It was still hard for her, Belladonna knew. They grow up faster than Bluebell does, her dear, dear cousins, and soon, too soon for her daughter, they outgrow play fighting, swap games of tomfoolery for shy glances to pretty girls or handsome boys, which Bluebell still believes are yucky, and begin to think imagination unproper.

It was difficult, exceedingly so, to watch a friend outgrow you.

But Bluebell does, time and time again, she watched old friends begin to get married, and settle down, and talk of homes and pillows and domestic things, and slowly, heartbreakingly, she droops in on herself like a sunflower without sunshine.

That was when she began to help Bungo Baggins in his garden.


VI

Bluebell had always had better eyes at dusk and night, daylight burnt when it was too bright, and so Belladonna, most often than not accompanied by Bungo as of late, took the girl out at night for strolls and woodland rambles.

Their ventures went extraordinarily well… Until Bungo brought along his cousin, their wife, and their child Lobelia, along one night in hopes Bluebell could make another friend. Belladonna did not hear what the small girl said of her, presumably a word she did not understand but had heard her mother grumble all the same, but not-so-little Bluebell did.

That was the first time she had ever saw her daughter lose her temper.

And what a fearsome thing it was.

Bluebell flared hot, and blazed high, and her anger remained with her well into the following weeks, months, and, perhaps, years, a small fire that never truly went out, a smoulder that lived on.

It took Bungo, his cousin, and Belladonna to drag Bluebell off the weeping girl, and all were lucky Lobelia merely ended up with a broken wrist.

In time, Belladonna came to see it was not only anger that runs red-hot in her daughter. When she was happy, she was ecstatic. When she was sad, she was dark and down and something black. Bluebell laughed the loudest, and raged the hardest, and she felt so very much of everything.

That was the toughest thing, Belladonna thought.

Hobbits, typically, were chirpy, tolerant creatures, with no need or time for anything but smiles and laughter. Belladonna did not easily understand anger, not the way her daughter felt it, or resentment, or despair, or any of the many emotions that hounded her Bluebell.

She tried, Yavanna knew she tried, but the abstract concepts, and the patchy descriptions Bluebell could adequately equate her emotions to, always seemed to be just beyond Belladonna's reach.

Bluebell was young, however, and perhaps it was only the passions of a child.

Perhaps she would outgrow it, in the end.

She didn't.


VII

Hobbits understand gardening and farming as easy as breathing air. A natural inhale of wisdom. A true hobbit could see how much a plant needed watering just from the shade of green their leaf took. A true hobbit knew where exactly to prune a bush, or cut a stem, or harvest a berry. A true hobbit knew what sort of plant was right for what sort of soil, and how much shade was or was not needed for each and every flower.

And there within was the problem.

Bluebell was no true hobbit, and her gardening skills needed… Exercise.

Exercise that saw rose bushes hacked to thorny carcasses, turnip seeds burned, and, somehow, someway, tulips buried upside down.

Bungo did not scowl or glower at this, as many hobbits who found their personal gardens turned inside out would, he only righted the child's mistakes and patted her lovingly on the head, telling her she did a fantastic job.

Sometimes, it was not about getting something done right, it was about trying in the first place.

Silently, however, like Belladonna, he worried.

A hobbit with no green thumb? The gift from Yavanna herself? How would she feed herself come winter when the market closed? How would she trade for other things she needed if she had no stock to exchange? How would she survive when they were gone, Belladonna and he, and she aged so very slowly?

Bungo couldn't bear the thought.

He kept her in the garden, he kept her practicing despite the disasters, and one sunny morn, when she was ten and six, Bluebell stole his hand, trowel in grip, and pulled it away from the bed he was digging.

"There's a salt pit down there. You said salt is bad for peppermint."

Bungo chuckled.

"Quite right, dear girl. Terribly bad for most plants. But I highly doubt-"

"There's a salt pit, a few feet down, when it rains it will rinse up into the soil and make the mint go bad."

Bluebell was adamant, and Bungo was curious, and so he dug a little down, further still, a foot more and-

Salt.

Bungo found salt.

No wonder his lilacs kept wilting! He thought the shade wrong, and had chosen this spot so Bluebell's planting accidents would cause no real damage, but… Salt!

When news spread, for news always spreads in small tight places like Hobbiton, Bluebell became quite popular, as she found her own way of doing her own thing.

She found a bed of rock underneath Tilbert's farm, giving reason to the root rot his potatoes got when the rains came heavy.

There was copper ore in Merigold's garden, strangling her petunias.

There was a vein of granite spiking through Heckleberts shrubbery, making the lawn uneven.

It was no green sense, especially no green thumb, Bluebell's talents were far too... Stony to be called green, but it was something, and it was special.


VIII

Despite her quirks, and the difficulties Bluebell faced, she was a happy child, with a happy home, and a happy family. She loved her mother dearly, and she loved Bungo just as much, and she loved playing games in the garden, and she loved fetching apples from the orchid with her Took cousins.

Then the winds turned cold.

The Brandywine river froze stiff.

The Fell Winter came howling at the Shire's green, green hills.

Belladonna was found frozen on shore of the Brandywine, blue and bloated one day, Bungo was found, or parts of him, torn to shreds by wild wolves two weeks later, and suddenly, Bluebell's childhood was over, and she was so very, very alone.


A.N/ So this was another thing taking up space on my hard-drive. I'm currently working on the next chapter of Over The Rainbow, which I am determined to see posted this week (It's been two bloody years lol), and while I'm typing away on that, I wanted to keep updates coming and thought this would do nicely.

As you can see, this is a strong AU, REALLY STRONG, and I have messed with a lot of canon, and in some instances, thrown the book right out the bloody window lol. The romance, too, will be a long time coming with this fic, if I continue it. Just thought I would give you all a heads up on that, as I know some people prefer a quicker burn than this will be, and like fics that stick as close to canon as possible. If you are one of those, this one really isn't for you.

I hope you all enjoyed this, if you could, don't forget to drop a review, and I will hopefully see you all again soon! Until then, stay beautiful. ~AlwaysEatTheRude21