Note to Readers: Here goes another story, cannot believe it, but 'tis true. I was at Regi and Rosa's wedding, and I happened to look over and see Ferdi dancing with one of the Thain's sisters... and of course, after hearing the gossip in "Striking Sparks", as well as his unassuming heroism in Chapter 88 and following chapters of "At the End of His Rope", I thought I would do some digging into his background. And this story is the result...

Please be sure to thank the Muse, if you are so inclined. Her preference runs to pina coladas, but reviews are acceptable payment in kind.


Chapter 1. Prologue

He could go no further that night; the dark woods closed around him and there was too much chance of running into ruffians in the darkness. Of late there had been strangers in the Shire, and talk of bad doings over Bywater and Hobbiton-way. Even though he was heading towards the East, away from the troubles, he didn't want to run into any stray trouble. He had trouble enough of his own.

In the dimming light, he hobbled the pony, then gathered wood and kindling and efficiently laid a fire in a scraped-out hollow. Listening intently to the noises around him, he reached into his waistcoat pocket for the flint and steel every adult hobbit worth his salt carried. Something rustled in the underbrush not far away, and he stiffened. A fox, probably. Nothing to worry a grown hobbit. Not loud enough to be one of those clumsy-footed Men who'd been seen about the Shire lately.

He took flint and steel from the little leather pouch and crouched over the wood, ready to strike. A fire would be warming against the chill of the fast-coming evening, cheerful in the gathering gloom, protection against wild creatures, a way to cook a bit of bacon to placate his protesting belly.

His hands were not cooperating. Instead of bringing flint and steel sharply together, they were trembling, refusing to do his bidding. He steadied himself, tried again unsuccessfully. Muttering a curse that would have earned him a reprimand from Thain Paladin, he rested his hands on his knees and took some deep breaths to calm himself.

Taking up flint and steel once again, he tried to ignore the roar of remembered flames, the screams in the back of his head, the horrible stench that had been burned into his memory, that had turned the dance of firelight into nightmare for the rest of his days. To no avail; he could not light the fire to save his life.

Throwing down the useless flint and steel, he sat down on the ground and drew his knees up to his chin, circling them with his arms. He laid his face wearily upon his knees, and waited for the long night to pass.