Beyond the Shire

An Unexpected Visit

It was a cold night under the stars and falling snow where Ísbel stood, her feet still and frozen into the earth. Wrapped from neck down in gentle long scarves and fur that her uncle Bilbo had fashioned for her, she waited silently. She was not one for low temperatures- she had been raised in one of the warmest and happiest parts of the Shire- but even little creatures like herself had to venture from her home after the shadow had passed over Middle Earth. Her green eyes pierced the dark velvet of the night around her.

Most of the Shire folk often considered Ísbel strange like her uncle, and she scarcely passed for a Hobbit. Short in stature like the Hobbits she was, but she was dainty as a flower and her feet were small. Her hair was the color of the earth kissed by a summer’s sunlight, reaching her waist in neat tresses. There were some that told tales around their hearths about how one of Bilbo’s relatives had picked her up on his adventures- a most unpleasant sort of idea to them- in a land where faeries existed. After all, Bilbo had come and gone without notice for months, and when he came back, he brought an onslaught of odd visitors who never paid any attention to anyone except for himself and his little niece. What else was to be expected of a family descended from Tooks? But even those who didn’t believe the tale thought her all the more strange for her relations with her uncle.

There were lights in front of her, dimming and brightening, but she was too afraid to see what they were. She had no protection against anything that cold winter night, and she did not intend to stir up trouble; there had been enough dark happenings about in these parts for her taste. Why Bilbo had asked her to take a letter to the innkeeper at the Green Dragon, she did not know, but she was cursing herself for waiting so late in the day to deliver it. Women scarcely travelled the road at night even with men at their side.

“Why if it isn’t my little Ísbel. On the road at this hour? I would have thought a Hobbit with the blood of a Baggins would have more sense than to send his dear niece out so late,” an old voice came from the woods directly behind her. A lump formed in her throat and her attention removed from the light in the blink of an eye.

“Who-” she began, but was cut off by a figure emerging from the dark, his old grey beard barely visible in the light coming from the opposite direction. “Gandalf! What on Earth are you doing back in the Shire?”

“Attending to business my dear, and it looks like I found you a bit early. You really must tell Bilbo not to get you into these kinds of situations. The old fool may have been to the Mountain and back, but he never found himself much sense,” Gandalf mumbled, his eyes darting past the girl. Ísbel could tell there was something different about his demeanor- he looked much more tense than she had seen him before, and there was a sense of urgency about him that brought her to think she was in his way- and in his eyes she could pick out the faint glow of what looked like an old fire that had been rekindled. “Elves in these wood as of late... I’ve never in my years have seen such a gathering of people on the outcroppings of the Shire... Dwarves even sending me on quests again!”

“Elves? Dwarves?” She looked up quizzically at the old man, in confusion of his musings. All the standing around was beginning to get to her bones, and she could feel the air now even through the scarves she had taken the care to drape around her neck. Her little nose was beginning to turn red from the night frost.

“A matter to discuss when your dear Bilbo is around my child,” he smiled, before returning his attention directly behind her, “As for your visitors there, they are Elves from Rivendell traveling west. They’ve no interest in harming a little Hobbit of your nature.”

Indeed, as she turned and looked at the fire behind her, she could see figures she did not recognize. Never before had she seen men so tall and different from her own race but in the pictures she saw in books and those that were painted by Bilbo in his wonderful descriptions of all the adventures he’d once had. The only others she’d seen around these parts were the comings and goings of a few old dwarves that Bilbo had remained friends with, and of course, the wizard Gandalf, who she’d grown up loving as her own grandfather.

Even though harmless, Gandalf directed her around the group of elves as not to disturb them, and escorted her back to the old Hobbit hole that she had resided in with Bilbo for some few years. She was relieved that he had shown up in such a timely fashion, or she perhaps would not have found herself home for some hours later.

“Gandalf!” Bilbo flung the door open with excitement, a moment of relief washing over his face. “Gandalf please do come in! Oh, and thank goodness you found Ísbel on your way. I was beginning to worry that she was going to get herself in some kind of trouble running errands this late at night and was about to come get her myself. Too many strange things- ah, well enough about that- what brings you here? Can I get you a cup of tea?”

“That would be fine Bilbo. But really, you must learn to look out for your niece a little more, you have to remember she isn’t a member of old Thorin’s company- I doubt she even knows how to use a sword!”

Ísbel looked at him with interested eyes as she hung her cloak and scarves up in the hallway. There was something peculiar she had recognized in him. All the talk of strange times, swords, and of Bilbo’s old adventuring had drained the tired feeling from her body and she decided that sleeping, that had once been on her mind on their walk back home, was not an option. From the time she had been but a little girl listening to stories of Bilbo’s adventures beyond the Shire to her current youthful age, she yearned to experience a taste of them herself.

“Really now Gandalf, you know I can take care of my kin alright. She’s a strong girl,” Bilbo pressed, pouring out a hot cup of tea, “Besides I’ve got a feeling your not here to tell me how to properly protect my niece. What’s this business that’s got you coming to my house again at such an odd hour?”

Gandalf let out a chuckle, “My business actually concerns your little girl. She’s done quite a bit of growing since I’ve seen her last, which makes me all the more confident that she is the right Hobbit to share in my endeavors.”

“Endeavors? Now Gandalf I will not have you dragging her across Middle Earth if that’s what you-”

“It is precisely what I had in mind and I do believe she has a mind of her own to decide with,” Gandalf continued with raised eyebrows. It had grown apparent to Ísbel that Bilbo had become frustrated with the old wizard, his cheeks growing hotter with each word.

“Wait. What are you two going on about? I would not suppose you really mean you wish for me to travel beyond the Shire on some kind of quest like uncle Bilbo once had?” Ísbel looked puzzled, her emerald eyes growing large. Truth was, she had wished for adventures and dreamed for them, but she knew that if Bilbo had any say in it she would never leave the Shire. There came a sudden knock at the door, and she looked at the two in confusion.

“Please get that Ísbel, I fear your uncle might not be pleased to have any more guests since I am ruining his temper,” Gandalf mused, pointing his cup of tea in the direction of the front door.

She raised herself from the table and shot her uncle a pointed look, which he returned with worried eyes, and made her way to the door. She could hear snippets of their voices behind her, about she won’t be alone, and I don’t care if they’re some of the finest to travel with, before she reached the door. She was rather in shock that Gandalf had chosen such a time to show up unannounced asking for her. But hadn’t he done that when Bilbo left on his great adventure with Gandalf and those thirteen dwarves? She could now hear hushed voices at the door more distinctly than those from the table in the kitchen, and her heartbeat quickened as she placed her small hand on the knob.

There on Bilbo’s doorstep stood two young dwarves, which Ísbel noted much handsomer than Bilbo had told in his stories.

“Fili,” the blonde one started, his blue eyes twinkling in the dim light. His beard was braided neatly against his features.

“And Kili,” quipped the dark haired one, his chocolate eyes not once leaving her face.

“At your service,” they finished in unison, bowing. She could only bear as much to tell them her name before turning back to look down the hallway for an answer from the two back in the kitchen. She could hardly remember her manners in the confusion.

“Please bring them in! Do ask them for their coats and tea Ísbel!” Bilbo called, almost hesitantly.

Whatever strange occurrence this was on a cold winter night, she could feel her excitement growing. For all Ísbel knew, the Shire had not been graced by such a presence since the beginning of Bilbo’s journey to the Mountain.
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As a lover of the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings since I was a little girl, this had to be done. Also because I've managed to have massive crushes almost all of the glorious men of Middle Earth, and I can hardly find any of these on here. Hope you enjoy :)