I turned to study the the dwarf, gruff and grim in demeanor as he filled the small space of my front door. I notice that he looked not at me or even the other dwarves, but only at Gandalf with an expression that I could only interpret as wry amusement.

He was a sight to behold as he loomed in the entryway, broad shoulders draped in a long coat of deep blue trimmed in fur. It had seen better days when I noticed a small rip or a patch covering one of the elbows. My mind automatically thought of my sewing kit and how I wanted to take the forlorn garment from his shoulders, healing it with a hobbit's magic using needle and thread.

I studied his face, oddly handsome for a dwarf. I'm accustomed of thinking of dwarves as unkempt with frizzy hair wrapped haphazardly into braids, yet this one let his hair flow freely and he kept his beard short. Strands of gray crowned his brow in a thick mane of long black hair. Significantly younger than most of the heathens that had made mess of my pantry earlier that night, he had definition to his features that made me take pause.

His forehead was high with thick, dark brows framing cobalt eyes. They weren't the pale hue of topaz or the brilliant blue of sapphires; those eyes that dismissed my hobbit home so easily were a deep, stormy blue akin to the gems that probably rested within the walls of Moria. His nose was strong and angular, framed by a face composed of masculine planes.

He stood there, surveying the scene before him as he stared at his company and his kin. As the night breeze wafted into the foyer, the scent of smoke and forge filled the small spaces. I watched, still vexed about the possibility of the dwarves making sport of chipping my mother's West Farthing pottery.

"Gandalf," the force of nature addressed the wizard quietly, a bit of a smirk tugging at his lips. "I thought you said this place would be easy to find. I lost my way twice. I wouldn't have found it at all had it not been for the mark on the door."

Gandolf motioned for the dwarf to enter and he entered as if it were his home instead of mine. I take pride in keeping my hobbit-hole neat, tidy and always presentable. I thought he might have hit his head one too many time against a blacksmith's hammer without a helmet. "Mark? There's no mark on that door. It was painted a week ago."

"There is a mark," Gandalf admitted with a hint of chagrin in his voice. "I put it there myself."

Thank you, Gandalf, for marring my property.

"Bella Baggins, allow me to introduce the leader of our company: Thorin Oakenshield. " Gandalf motioned for me to turn my attention the dwarf whose voice reminded me of the great actors who sometimes performed in the shire, his voice quiet and deep to my ears.

"So..." he began, looking at me for the first time. He stepped forward, letting his eyes travel from the tops of my curls to the fur on my feet. "This is the hobbit."

He walked past me, making no attempt to excuse himself as I hurried to step out of his way or be ran over by him. He circled back around and I knew he was taking inventory of me and I didn't appreciate it. I looked at him over my shoulder, somewhat offended that he judged me so quickly.

"Have you done much fighting?"

"Pardon me?" I asked, not sure if I heard him correctly.

"Axe or sword?" Thorin challenged. "What's your weapon of choice?"

"Well," I felt my hackles rise as my pride compelled me to defend my skills to the arrogant dwarf strutting around my foyer like a bantam rooster. "I do have some skill at conkers if you must know, but I fail to see why that's relevant."

"Thought as much," Thorin crossed his arms, giving me a quick dismissal as he turned to his traveling companions. "She looks more like a grocer than a burglar."

"Well, it's not as though you're going to win any beauty contests," I spouted, immediately thinking how nicely my rather large foot tasted in my mouth, but that condescending dwarf needed to learn proper manners and courtesy. I refused to be treated as though I were some fixture of furniture.

His company chuckled at our barbed exchanges, but said nothing more as they regrouped in my parlor. I watched with mild irritation as they found it humorous and not the least bit untoward. Why had Gandalf invited these bumbling, uncouth oafs into my home? The only way I knew to solve this bizarre puzzle was to follow and to listen.

Yet, even though Thorin Oakenshield dismissed me without a second thought, he gave my mind pause as I watched him walk away. Arrogant, but most certainly handsome.