Chapter 1: New Beginnings
Edyth Baggins is quite content with her current life. Maybe she isn't the happiest, but she certainly did not mind the simplicities of the Shire. It is the same as it always is and that was a comfort that she and her brother shared. Like usual, the younger Baggins is striding down the main lane of their small Hobbit city, a carefully woven basket hanging in the crook of her elbow. Her reddish-brown hair tied loosely in a bun that bumped against her neck with every bounce of her step down the dirt road.
"Morning Miss Baggins."
Edyth waves, smiling broadly as she passed the older woman. "Morning Miss Brandybuck. Off to the markets?"
Miss Brandybuck rolled her eyes tiredly. "Fourth time this week. I swear that my husband eats just to get me out of the house."
Edyth is glad that they had both kept walking in opposite directions as Miss Brandybuck soon was out of earshot and she really didn't have a reply for that which wouldn't earn her a glare. She really didn't blame Mr Brandybuck as his wife is, and always has been, a piece of tough work.
The Shire is just as beautiful as it always has been, yet Edyth found little magic in its beauty. It was normal – which isn't a terrible thing, but a rather boring thing. Her brother had laughed at her silly daydream of visiting Lothlorien. She has heard tales about the height of their trees, which apparently, they live in, and they say the Lady of Lorien is as beautiful as the stars themselves. Or at least, that is what she had read in the book at the town library.
Finally, the gate of her home comes into view. She is surprised to not see Bilbo out the front as he usually was on a Saturday noon, waiting for her return. Always with his pipe. Shrugging it off, she pushes the gate open and bounces up the short stairs to the round green door.
With her free hand, Edyth reaches down to the knob and twists it but to her utter shock, it is locked. It takes her a moment to collect herself, never having been locked out of her own home before. She doesn't even own a key.
She reaches for the doorbell instead, a completely foreign feeling. "Bilbo?" she calls as it rings out. "Are you home?"
It only takes a few seconds before she can hear her brother's footstep thudding against the ground. The round door cracks open partially and Bilbo's curly hair sticks out. "Is he with you?" her brother questions.
Edyth blanches. "What?" She snaps her head over each shoulder, looking for anything out of the ordinary. But like always, nothing is. "What are you playing out Bilbo? There's nobody around."
Bilbo straightens, opening the door more but still not all the way. "A Wizard," he hisses. "A blasted Wizard came stalking around here earlier. Going on about some adventures. If anybody was on something it was him!"
Edyth slowly walks through the threshold, staring at her brother like he grew a second head. "Are you sure you're alright?"
"Just get in so I can lock the door again," he ushers, almost pushing her into the main entrance. Edyth continues to stare at him as she removes her light coat, hanging it on the hooks near the door. Bilbo locks the door as he said the marches around her back towards his study. "And don't talk to anybody at the door!"
"Well then," she whispers to herself as she walks to the kitchen pantry to place away their newly acquired food. "I'll just pretend that he didn't sleep last night and he's hallucinating. Old man Barrey is always going on about those things too." She cringes at the thought of the batty old man that preaches near the centre of town. He's been labelled as a misfit and troublemaker. "Hopefully Bilbo is not turning into him."
After placing away the food stock, Edyth makes her way into Bilbo's study. It was his favourite room – not that he did much in there anymore. But as a child, he would read her stories and draw pictures of wild creatures.
"Drogo has written to us," Bilbo announces, holding a folded letter over his shoulder. "Apparently he has found himself a wife. Primula"
Edyth plucks it from his hand, sitting down on the edge of his large desk, ignoring the glare. She skims over the words, confirming that their cousin has indeed found a wife. "I hope she's nice enough," she muses. "I like Drogo, but he always had horrid taste in women."
"Dorris was nice enough," Bilbo defends.
"She was paranoid about every shadow," Edyth snorts back. "She had childhood trauma."
"Edyth. You cannot just accuse that so blatantly," he brother scolds, giving her a seething look to accompany it.
Edyth slides off the desk, placing the letter back down. "Well, it's true. Everybody knows that her father was a drunk. Drogo isn't the most patient person. She needs a man to help her, to support her. And Drogo could not do that."
Bilbo sighed but did not argue with his sister any further. Edyth knows she is probably insulting both, but her words are true. With no words left coming from either of them, Edyth silently excuses herself to wander up to her bedroom.
Like everything else, on the outside, her bedroom was simple. But on her desk was a journal, filled with pictures rather than words. Ever since her twentieth birthday when it was given to her by her father, she had filled a single page. Now at thirty-four, it is completely full, yet she still itched to fill the pages. So, Edyth sat her desk and picked up a shrunken piece of charcoal and flipped to a random page. It was a sketch of the Brandywine River. Her charcoal dropped onto the page as she began filling in finer details.
It is like she could actually see the River in her mind, clear as the first day she ever did. Edyth recalls the slight sparkle in the water, the three Lillie flowers on the right of the wooden boardwalk and the single crow flying out of the trees. A moment captured in time, sitting there forever in her head.
Without her knowledge, the sun begins to set over the hills of their Shire homes, and it is only when she struggles to see the picture in front of her does her head lift. And it is just in time that she comes back down to Middle Earth as well.
"Edyth? I've made dinner!"
"Coming!" Edyth shuts her journal, pushing it back against the far part of her desk before trotting down the steps and into the living room. "Are you feeling better now?"
Bilbo is leaning over the hearth, pulling two fish from the metal pot overhanging the flames. His head turns over his shoulder with a subtle glare. "I didn't feel bad in the first place. And I know you think I'm crazy, but I'm not." He clicks his tongue, shaking his head in disapproval of the entire day. "You'll see tomorrow when Goldie comes over to rant about her day's sightings."
Goldie Sherlock, their neighbour across the road is always sticking her nose in business that her nose really shouldn't be in. And ever since she had moved in with her husband, Bilbo and Edyth have been forced to live with her constant gossiping since she sits by her window all day, watching the events pass by her. "Oh, that reminds me, I have to do something all day tomorrow," Edyth drawls with a growl. Bilbo gives her an amused look. "Think we could commission figurines that look like us, so she'll talk to them instead. It's not like she ever stops talking to realise. They'd be expensive to make though."
"Nothing is too expensive if it means not having to listen to her anymore," Bilbo joins in, half of his lips pulling into a smirk.
"Apparently not even my life," Edyth cheeks, sitting down at the table. "Don't think I don't remember you sacrificing me last week. Sneaking away to leave me alone with her. Do you wish for me to die a painful and boring death?"
"If it means that I don't have to; yes."
Edyth scoffs, dipping her fingers into the water goblet and flicking them in her brother's direction. "Please. You'd snap at her before it got to that point. You have less tolerance than me."
"I don't have tolerance for witless banter. You don't have tolerance for other people when they annoy you in general."
"I have tolerance," she rebuts.
Bilbo only hums in response as he finishes plating up their dinner to which Edyth glares at him for but also makes no further comment. Glancing around, she notices a lack of sauces. Bilbo has already sat down, picking up his knife and fork. Edyth opens her mouth to excuse herself to the pantry but her voice is cut off by the doorbell ringing for a second time that day.
Both their muscles pause, eyes snapping towards the entranceway. Edyth glances at her brother who is already staring at her, waiting for her to move to answer it. "You told me not to answer the door," she counters, albeit standing up from her chair. "You get the door, I'll get the sauce."
Bilbo stands up huffily as Edyth walks past the entrance, staring at the door but passes it over in favour of the pantry.
"If it's Daisy Cobbler"- her brother gripes – "I'm slamming the door in her face! I don't care how unrefined that it! She's been coming here every morning to convince me to meet with her daughter!"
Edyth tilts her brows to the roof of Bag End as she crouches down to their sauce selection. "Well you do get lonely sometimes," she mutters, pushing aside things until she finds a fish sauce. "But I would like to see that happening."
But hearing no sound of the wooden door slamming, she can safely assume it is not who either of them is expecting – not that they're expecting anybody at all really. The sauce in hand, Edyth wanders back out into the main hall, peeking her head around the corner to try and see out the door. But their green door is closed once again, Bilbo facing away from it.
Edyth follows his line of sight and the bottle nearly drops from her fingers. In front of her was a Dwarf. He was much taller than her short and lithe frame, with a balding head of dark hair. His clothes were well worn but well made, quite clearly made for a traveller. His shoulders are almost broader than hers and Bilbo's combined.
What on Middle Earth was a Dwarf doing in their house? Sure, Dwarves passed through the Shire occasionally, and they shared a mutual respect for each other, but it was scarce for them to be anywhere but the markets and tavern inns.
Edyth looks to Bilbo on her right then back to the Dwarf then once more to Bilbo. He seems as disorientated as she is. She settles her eyes on the Dwarf for the final time. "Hello," she says blankly.
The Dwarf turns at her voice, raising an eyebrow as he looks her over as she did to him. He nods in greeting. "Dwalin," is all he says.
Edyth blinks. "Edyth," she returns. "You are indeed a Dwarf, aren't you?"
Dwalin, as he calls himself, turns back around and continues walking through their home to the small dining area where hers and Bilbo's supper is currently waiting to be eaten. Bilbo quickly joins at his sister's side.
"You didn't tell me you know a Dwarf," she hisses.
"I don't," Bilbo replies in the same tone. "He just let himself in."
"Well…" she trails off, trying to find a reason for the madness of events. "Maybe he's lost and needs some help. The least we can do is feed him." Not letting her brother respond, Edyth follows Dwalin into the dining room and stands on the other side of the table. "Excuse me Mister Dwalin, are you lost?"
Dwalin pauses his eating – out of both of their plates to stare at the young Hobbit. "No. I'm right where I need to be."
Edyth nods slowly, biting her cheek. "Alright," she murmurs, scratching that off the list of possibilities. "And why exactly do you need to be here? If it is not rude to ask?" Not that is in her mind – it is her home after all.
"This is Bag End?" Edyth nods. "Then this is where I need to be. It's where the letter said."
"The letter? Okay," she murmurs again, trying to make the puzzle with most of the pieces missing.
Dwalin grabs a fistful of food, shoving it in his mouth. "Very good this. Anymore?"
Edyth changes her wide eyes to her brother who has been watching with dismay and befuddlement from the side. "What?" He sits up straighter, nodding. "Uh…oh…uh, yes, yes." He picks up the plate of scones from behind him which is piled high. On a second thought, he picks up to and hides the hand behind his back before placing the plate down in front of Dwalin. "Help yourself." He is immediately grateful for the two scones he saved as before Dwalin even finishes what is already in his mouth, a handful of scones is added to the mix.
"Surely that cannot taste nice with fish," Edyth notes but nobody seemed to listen to her worries.
"Hmm," Bilbo swallows. "It's just that, um…I wasn't expecting company." Like her words, they are ignored so Edyth tries again.
"Should we be expecting anybody else? I might have to prepare more food."
Bilbo blanches at her. "More food-?" His words are cut short by the doorbell ringing once again. Edyth's mouth opens partially, staring at the door.
"That'll be the door," Dwalin growls.