The pale pink of dawn was beginning to fade along the rolling hills of The Shire as Caethir rode steadily South towards Brockenborings. Acutely aware that this road was home to two separate goblin camps, the hunter stuck to the path not wishing to begin the day with combat. While the shadow on his heart still clung to him, journeying into the relative peace of The Shire made him feel slightly lighter. Here the Hobbits dwelt in near ignorance of the growing threats of the Enemy, protected in part by the Bounders, but mostly due to the unseen and unappreciated struggles of the Rangers.
The Elf pulled his horse up to stop next to the memorial of Bullroarer: the Hobbit who hit a goblin so hard his head came off and in a strange turn of events, started a new sport in the region. Running his hands through his rather tattered hair, he allowed himself to smile at that.
“Only Hobbits could turn an attack by foes into a new pass-time,” he mumbled, not wishing to offend any number of Shire-folk who would no doubt notice an Elf’s arrival.
The sun began peeking through the thin, early morning clouds. Caethir shielded his eyes to get his bearings and decided the route South he would take. A day here could either be frustrating, or the perfect rest before he ventured on towards Bree-land. Deciding in his mind to make as much Southward progress as possible, the Elf determined he would look to stay in Bywater, which allowed him an easy journey towards the Brandywine Bridge.
The weather was to be fair today, Caethir judged, there being only a slight breeze from the South.
“No need to rush, and I need to replenish water bottles and supplies,” he thought out loud.
“It’s a funny Elf that talks to ‘imself if I may say so!”, a voice near his stirrups pointed out.
Caethir nearly jumped, wondering how long the Hobbit had been listening in. A Hobbit who was wheeling a hand-cart piled high with vegetables.
I really was lost in thought to not hear that, he mentally kicked himself.
“Sometimes we do, sometimes we speak to the Spirits and sometimes it’s the only way to get a sensible answer,” he smirked down at his observer.
“Well now that’s just rude!”, the Hobbit retorted with his hands on his hips.
Caethir jumped down, not wishing to cause more offense, or likely neck strain to the Small Person.
“An’ if I may say so, or even if I may not, you talk mighty funny fer an Elf, whether it’s to yourself or not!”
Spending time around any race that’s not Elven would do that, he pondered, Though it’s good I didn’t try to speak the language of the Elves just then.
“I’m sorry we’ve not been introduced, what is your name?”, Caethir asked, more politely.
“I am Lobbo Lovelight, one of t’ traders around these parts. I grow the best turnips in The Shire an’ ‘oping to win this year’s award!”, he nodded proudly.
Turnips, right. thought Caethir.
“Well I wish you luck, Mister Lovelight. I am just passing through The Shire for supplies, though sadly I won’t be needing turnips”, he said feigning disappointment.
“Passing through, eh? No doubts on your way some place important, but I won’t pry, much as I might like to!”, Lobbo hinted disappointed the Elf didn’t regale him with all the details immediately. “As fer supplies, there be some forges and whatnot in Brockenborings for any o’ those arrows you look short of. Hobbiton provides most things, but the best groceries are in Bywater, not far from our burrow.”
“Well, thank you, kind Lovelight, then I must be making progress,” Caethir made as though to jump back on his steed.
“Don’t you be thinkin’ o’ runnin’ away that easily! I insist you sup with us this evenin’ afore you get back on your journey. I’ll meet you later in Bywater. Oh an’ if you be needing post sent, the next Quick Post collection’s in two hours so you best ‘urry!”
And with that, the Hobbit picked up his cart and headed off towards Scary to shift some more stock.
“I guess you can’t say ‘No’ to a Hobbit,” he grumbled.
The journey had already been tiring and he realised that he was lacking the gratitude he should have shown. He nuzzled the cheek of his horse for comfort, knowing the animal would understand him.
“I’ll make sure you’re brushed and rested tonight,” he promised.
To give the poor beast a break, he took hold of the reign in his left hand walked with him into Brockenborings, knowing now he had no need to rush. As he turned east, he approached the forges Lobbo mentioned when another Hobbit waved to him.
At this rate I will need all of Summer to escape The Shire!, he rued.
He left his horse at a nearby Stable Hand, assuring him to pay for any feed before departing, then headed back to the forges. The Hobbit-Lass, though arrayed in a flowery purple dress was hammering metal and wiping her brow. When she saw him approach, she bowed awkwardly and smiled.
“Mae govannen, friend! I hope I said that right?”, she pondered frowning.
Taken aback at a Sindarin greeting he bowed back with a smile.
“Whether pronounced correctly or not, it is appreciated. Most Hobbit-folk don’t seem to care about the myriad languages spoken in Middle Earth”, he observed.
“I’m not most Hobbits, my dear Elf. I spent a lot of time at Tuckborough as a child, reading books in the library there.” she said proudly.
“You certainly speak differently to the turnip merchant I was just collared by,” Caethir responded smirking
“I thought my Pa had pounced just a little too quickly!” she laughed
Caethir lent up against a low-lying wall, so as to make eye-contact easier.
“Lobbo is your father?”, the Elf asked, somewhat surprised.
“That he is. It was his incessant ramblings about vegetables, especially those blessed turnips, that drove me to the library,” she said grinning.
“I think I already sympathise, Ms Lovelight!” the Elf replied.
“Lamuna dear, no need to use titles now!”
“Lamuna it is, and I’m Caethir, just journeying South from Evendim. But as I appear to have been coerced to staying at your father’s tonight, we can discuss that later,” he said hurriedly, not really wanting to go into it at all, least of all in a public space.
“That’s not a problem, I just need to finish up here then maybe we can journey together, until we get home?”
Caethir thought for a moment then nodded.
“Company would be welcome, it has been a trying few days. If I may ask, what are you fashioning?” the Elf asked looking over at a nearby anvil.
“Well someone’s got to do something about those goblins. Most folk seem to distrust those roving Ranger-like folks, no offense intended to wandering people. Say what you will about them, one has been camped nearby for a few weeks. Seems he and few companions raid those goblins from time-to-time. We should be grateful.”
“No offense taken, I am not a ranger. At least not one that you’re familiar with. And they don’t inspire trust everywhere they go, despite their efforts.” Caethir sighed shaking his head.
“Well, that’s why I am making armour here. I acquired a beautiful sword from a Dwarf who passed through and hid it under my bed. There won’t be any use in trying to hide all this clunky metal though.”
Lamuna seemed lost in thought for a moment, a quizzical frown furrowing her brow. Caethir placed hand gently on her shoulder and smiled.
“And you hadn’t planned on how you were going to get this lot home had you?”
Lamuna blushed, embarrassed that her excitement in being helpful to The Shire had overtaken the practical considerations.
“No worries, fair Hobbit, my own supplies are getting low and my horse will not mind a burden for the short trip to Bywater.”
“Well, Caethir, if you’re sure…?”
“I’m sure,” the Elf nodded, “and on the way you can help me get a message off to…a friend.”