Boromir, son of Denethor, Captain of Gondor, noble warrior and future Steward, was thoroughly lost.

That he had been robbed was clear; his sword and shield, his armor, his surcoat, and even his boots were all missing. How he had been taken was less clear. But the knot at the back of his head, surrounded by hair tacky with dried blood probably explained some things--not the least his inability to clearly remember any recent events.

He was somewhere near Eriador, he was fairly sure. He was there for a reason, he also did not doubt. But where exactly, and why exactly, he did not know. He did know all to well that there was no freshwater nearby, and he was beginning to weaken.

"If this is Eriador, where were the rangers when the son of the Steward of Gondor was ambushed?" he muttered darkly to himself.

At least you may be grateful that your clothes were not sufficient lure for the bandits to take the time of removing them, a voice suspiciously like Faramir's whispered in his head. Then you would be lost, injured, unarmed, AND naked.

Boromir resolved to thoroughly trounce his teenaged brother as soon as he got home.

Happy thoughts about the best way to get back at his little brother for being superior and smug even in his head were interrupted by faint, shrill screams. Very shrill--too high to be anything but children.

He looked down at his bootless, weaponless, unarmored self and swore...then charged off in the direction of the disturbance.

**

"Merry!" Frodo cried urgently. "Don't move!"

It was almost redundant. His young cousin seemed entirely paralyzed with fright.

"All right, Frodo lad?" his uncle murmured.

"Yes, Bilbo." He couldn't being himself to move out from the slight protection of his uncle's body, even though the older hobbit was armed with nothing more deadly with a dinner knife. And what about poor Merry, all the way at the other end of the clearing with no adult to stand with? "How long do you think we have?"

There was no use in prevarication--the thin, bony wolf was clearly reaching the end of their picnic lunch. "Not long at all, my boy. Here now, let's try and give Merry a chance to run, shall we?"

Before Frodo had a chance to answer, there was a booming sort of roar; and then a massive Big Person charged out of the forest wielding a small tree. The hobbits all gaped in astonishment as he reached the wolf and swung his rough weapon down. The wolf was starving, but quick enough to move away from the full force of the blow, and the man appeared unsteady on his feet.

In the end, the beast got in a few good shots but the big person was triumphant. He dropped his weapon on the wolf's body, and looked at the hobbit closest to him. "Are you harmed, boy?" he asked Merry: but before he could respond, the man had keeled over.

Frodo didnt realize he was staring until his uncle's firm hand was on his shoulder. "Go and salvage what you can of our packs, there's a good lad. And Merry, you stay put!" He was using his most commanding voice, the one that only came out when youngsters were particularly rambunctious or Sackville-Bagginses particularly persistant, but curiosity was stronger and young master Brandybuck was already standing over the man--or at least as 'over' as a hobbit boy could be with even a supine giant such as this.

"Frodo, look! He's got hair all over his face, and none on his feet at all! Who is he? What's a big person doing in the Shire?"

"I don't know, Merry." Bilbo came up behind his young charge and gently pulled him away from the stranger. "Why don't we ask him, hmm?"

***

The fellow was as small as a child barely old enough to walk, but he had the features and manner of a man as old as Boromir's father. The curly-haired boy beside him was even tinier, and appeared to have abnormally large and hairy feet.

"I am a captain of Gondor," he said proudly, and scowled at them. "Who and what are you?"

***

A/N I don't know how this ends. I always wanted a story where young Boromir meets hobbits before the Quest (a la shirebound's 'Quarantined' series, with Aragorn) but nobody else appears to have latched on to this possibility. Please do--either write your own, or adopt this fragment and expand it. I'm not picky. 8)