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Bella's Unexpected Journey

Chapter One.

Bella was enjoying the peace and quiet in the late afternoon sun on her garden bench when a dark shadow fell across her face. Looking up she spied an old man with a long grey beard dressed in a long grey travelling cloak leaning on a tall walking stick. He was wearing a tall pointed hat with a wide brim that would have shadowed his eyes except he had it pulled back so she could see his twinkling grey eyes.

"Good morning," she said to the traveller. Traveller he must be because everyone knew each other in the village and this tall thin old man stood out in a shire of short hobbits.

Smiling down at her, he replied, "Good morning, please inform your mother or brother that a friend has come to call."

He leaned down on his tall walking stick to peer at her closer from under his tall grey hat.

"I am sorry to say but my mother has passed away some years ago and my brother has gone wandering now some many years ago." Seeing him continue to stare down at her, she felt like she should know him. "Do I know you sir?"

"Yes, but that was a long time ago when you were very young. I knew your mother Bellodonna Took. I have come looking today to talk with her about her son."

"I am sorry Sir, but I am the only Took here." Bella then noticed a short pudgy man walking toward her house. Standing quickly she looking up at the old man she dipped into a quick curtsey, "Bella at your service, Sir might we retire to my kitchen for a cold drink or would you prefer a cup of tea?" She cast a nervous glance over his shoulder to the pudgy man making his way closer to her garden gate.

"I am Gandalf and it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance once more. I do thank you for the offer and would accept, but I have some business to attend to in town. Might I come by later this evening?"

"Yes, that would be lovely. You could tell me how you knew my mother." She was slowly backing up to her front door as she talked and had her hand on the knob when she heard a loud nasal voice say, "Who are you and what business do you have with Miss Baggins?"

Turning round the tall thin man looked down to see a small pudgy man dressed in a ill fitted brown velvet suit carrying a small bunch of flowers frowning up at him. "My business is my own and not for you to know."

Frowning deeply he continued as if Gandalf had not spoken, "I am to marry Miss Baggins's and I say you have no business with my intended."

Stopping in her retreat Bella said in a firm tone, "I am not your anything Herbert and you know it."

"You must marry Bella. The elders of the shire have spoken to you that it is not right for a woman of your age to remain single. You need a man to look after you and your property. Would you have all you own turn to ruin?"

"If and when I take a husband it will be one of my choosing."

When it looked like he would say more she slipped into her house and slammed the door shut. Peeking through her window, she saw but did not hear what Gandalf said to the little man, but it looked like they exchanged a few more words before Gandalf continued on his way to town.

Knowing that Gandalf would be returning later tonight she set about preparing some food for there is one thing Hobbit women where known for is hospitality to guests.

Gandalf looked at the little hobbit strutting away and had to suppress the urge to give the little man a wrapping with his staff. Turning his thoughts to the girl he smiled inwardly, Bella was not what he expected, but she would do for his plans.

Several Hours Later….

Bella looked one more time around her kitchen before going to change her clothes. The table was set and the tea was steeping by the fire. A plate of white and pink iced cakes along with a large plate of meat and cheese sandwiches waited for her guest. A large pot of thick stew hung above the fire bubbling cheerfully, the rich smell filled the house with its spicy scent. In the ashes of the fire baked potatoes waited. A large feast to be sure, but it had been a long time since she had entertained a guest.

Bella learned along time ago that a person did not die on lonyiness. Since the death of her parents and her brothers disappearance, she had been forced to spend more and more time alone. For the only guests she seemed to have knocking at her door where unwanted suitors. Pushing these thoughts from her mind, she hurried from the kitchen to prepare herself.

Running to her dressing room, she threw off her work dress and had a quick wash in a small oak tub. Releasing her hair form its braids she washed it with what was left of her mother's rose soap. Drying herself with a rough clothe she selected a deep purple soft wool dress that flowed to her dainty feet. Brushing her riot of long blond curls took a long time because of its thickness and length. The wild honey gold mass reached her hips. Taking a purple velvet ribbon that matched her dress she tied the mass back and secured it tightly with a knot and bow. Brenna took a quick glance in her silver plated looking glass before hearing her cheerful doorbell tinkle through her halls.

Smoothing her dress down one last time, she opened the door to a tall, dark and tattooed dwarf with what looked like an axe strapped to his back.

"Dwalin at your service Mistress Baggins's", he said in a deep voice before bowing low and then walked in past her to the kitchen. She trailed behind him to watch him seat himself at her table and begin to quickly eat the food she had prepared. "I see that I am the first to arrive but all the better for me it would seem Mistress." He began filing his plate.

Bella was about to tell the dwarf that he must be at the wrong house when her bell sounded again, running to get it she truly expected Gandalf again but was surprised once more to find a short, stout dwarf with a long white beard, dressed in a red travelling cloak. He stared at her for a second in shock before bowing low as well and spoke in firm but kind voice, "Balin, at your service."

"Bella Baggins at yours, Sir." She bobbed a small curtsey.

Balin must have spied his friend because he called out a greeting and rushed over to embrace his fellow dwarf. Bella started to protest the intrusion but wandered if they were friends of Gandalf, and any friend of her late mothers was a friend of hers and welcome in her home.

Dwalin, the larger of the two dwarves, interrupted her as she said, "Excuse me but I don't believe we have met before."

"We just met? Do you not remember?" Turning to his fellow dwarf he said in a loud whisper, "Pretty little thing but must have a very short memory."

Bella was about to argue with him when the door bell's merry bell rang once more, closing her mouth she turned on the spot and hastened to answer the door. Two handsome young dwarfs were at her doorstep, one blonde-haired with a neatly braided mustache and the other dark haired with a carefree look about him.

Seeing her, their faces broke into big grins and together they bowed low and said in unison, "Kili and Fili at your service."

Bella bobbed into yet another quick curtsey and said, "Bella Baggins's at your service sirs".

"Sir's is it?" said Kili to his brother.

"I don't care what this angel calls me as long as she calls", answered Fili.

Bella was a little surprised to find both of them taking in every inch of her appearance, from her pink knitted slippers peeking out from her hem to her the top of her curled head. Feeling her checks warm to such bold scrutiny, she opened her door wider and waved them toward the kitchen. Stepping inside the boys removed their matching travelling cloaks, unstrapped their swords, and hastily dropped them onto the floor beside the door. Sighing loudly Bella picked them up and put them into the closet.

Following them into the dining room, she found the dwarfs around the table eating her food.

"Might I ask who invited you to my humble home", she asked Balin.

"Gandalf told us to come."

"Oh. Is Gandalf still coming?"

"Oh yes he should be arriving soon."

Bella noticed that the food she had set out was disappearing at an alarm rate so she grabbed her white starched apron from the hook and started cooking again. Lifting her cast iron skillet from the hook near the fire she put it on the stove and put chopped potatoes, onions, carrots in it with butter and some sprinklings of seasoning. She filled a large serving plate to overflowing when it was done frying. Placing the plate on the table, she noticed that the dwarfs had helped themselves to her pantry. Cheese, curried sweet meats, various jars of jam and jars of canned peaches littered the table. She noticed Dwalin watching her and she could tell he was waiting for her reaction to them helping themselves to her larder.

"Master Dwalin, I have something to say to you", she said in a loud voice. The room became quite, where once it was filled with laughter and talk.

"Yes, Mistress Baggins."

She felt all eyes on her and smiling she added, "I have a cold cellar under the kitchen larder and I keep the honey ale there, if you would assist me in bringing a barrel up to be tapped."

Fili and Kili cheered and even the grim faced Dwalin smiled.

"Yes Mistress." He rose from where he was seated and went where she directed him.

The doorbell ringing again, told her that yet more guests had arrived. Bella was not surprised when she opened the door to find it crowded with more dwarfs and Gandalf standing behind them.

"May I introduce you to, Dori, Nori, Ori, Oin, Gloin, Bilfur, Bofur and Bombur", said Gandalf.

"Pleased to meet you, I am Bella Baggins", said Bella as she bobbed down in the customary curtsey. Looking at them, she could feel herself blush under their silent stare, not being not used to so many pairs of eyes on her at once. Hearing Gandalf clear his throat loudly the group of dwarfs together as a group rushed in unexpectantly through the doorway and the whole lot fell face first onto the entranceway floor. Laughing merrily at the humour of dwarfs falling over each other, Bella tried to help a few up only to find that they would not let go of her hands once they were standing again. Tugging on her hands, the dwarves reluctantly let her fingers go but not before given her hands loud wet kisses.

"Supper is on the table, if you hurry there still should be plenty."

Hearing that there was food made the late comers hurry down the hall, soon she could hear the boisterous cheer of the dwarfs welcoming each other. Looking up at Gandalf who had remained behind she smiled up at him, "friends of yours?"

Puffing on his pipe, he replied, "I hope you do not mind my dear but I invited them to join us for a very special reason. I will talk to you about it later tonight."

"I am unsure what this is all about Gandalf but I must say they are a merry group."

"They have not always had reason to be so joyful, I am glad to see them this way."

A little while later, Bella found herself seated on a short stool between Kili and Fili eating a thick slice of meat pie while the men laughed, smoked and ate an alarming amount of food. Laughing over how they tried to top each other in complementing her cooking skills. Soon someone started playing a lively tune on a flute and the dwarves stomped and clapped along in a lively fashion. Bella soon found herself being whirled around the room in a dance from one dwarf to the next at a fast pace dance. A loud banging on the front door stopped the music and froze everyone in place; Gandalf stood and said, "He has arrived."

Bella still warm and flushed from dancing hurried to open the door. There stood three hobbits, two were old enough to be her father and the third was Herbert. The stern disapproving look about them caused Bella to refrain from offering them any hospitality.

"What is the meaning of this Bella!" yelled Herbert in a burst of fury. "We could hear loud laughter and music coming from your home from the very edge of the shire."

"Just a few friends come to visit", replied Bella. She did not feel the need to explain herself to the likes of Herbert and the two other men who pestered her almost daily.

"Oh and why is that we do not know of these dwarves? It is not proper that you be alone with them. I must insist that you ask them to leave immediately." The men with him nodded their heads in agreement.

Bella took a step forward only to find herself pulled back gently by Dwalin and Balin, until they both flanked her. Looking around she saw that the rest of the dwarfs had followed her to the door.

Herbert looking at them like Bella had invited wild animals into her home.

"What are you to Mistress Baggins?" asked Balin.

"We are soon marry", replied Herbert. The two men with him also added hastily, "we also seek her hand in marriage."

Brenna groaned loudly and put her head down; this was to humiliating to be really happening.

"Who might you all be that you come here at this hour of the night and to disturb peaceful folk trying to get some sleep", huffed Herbert, to the dwarfs.

"I would think that would be obvious. We have also come to seek out the hand of the fair Bella'', spoke Balin in a calm voice.

"You think a dwarf can marry a Hobbit?" laughed Herbert. Behind him, his two friends also let out a few nervous chuckles.

Hearing this Bella let out a gasp of shock. Breaking away from the hands that would have stayed her she pushed forward and stepped up to Herbert. "I would take anyone of these dwarves over any of the hobbits in this shire!" Then going to the door, she threw it open and pointed with her finger for them to leave. "Leave my home Herbert. You are being rude to my guests."

Bella knew this would be a grave insult because Hobbits were known for their hospitality.

When Herbert puffed up his chest in protest and looked like he was about to add more insults when Kili and Fili stepped forward and grabbed Herbert by this pants and jacket and before Bella could blink, he was flying through the door to land on the path in a heap. Seconds later, two other hobbits could be seen flying through the air following Herbert to land in a tangle of arms and legs. Bella slammed the door shut after them and leaned against it. Looking at the dwarves she smiled and quickly burst into laughter, with the dwarves joining in, "I have been wanting to do that for the longest time."

The sound of someone knocking on the door interrupted what she was going to add. Thinking it was Herbert again, Bella whipped open the door and yelled, "Go away, I happen to love dwarves over hobbits." Only it was not Herbert standing at her door but another dwarf, only this one was bigger and darker than the others were and wore a long blue cloak with a dark silver metal edging.

"I happen to prefer the company of dwarves myself as well," replied the tall dark dwarf in her doorway, in a deep voice.