The startled shout had silenced the entire hall and drew the attention of all in attendance. When the reason for the commotion was spotted… The only sounds that continued to echo through the airy wooden space were stifled gasps of younger lasses and the gritting of teeth. Within seconds two Bounders hopped over to the drunken offender and clasped his arms in theirs, forcing the yelping man to drop his loot and weapon. Those were immediately picked up by the nearest Took and clutched close, all eyes following the criminal.
Old Took heavily stepped in front of the babbling Hobbit and stared him down. With a resounding smack, the drunk's head whirled to the side, his cheek reddening from the contact with a withered but still heavy hand.
"Willem Bog. You dare to show such filthy behavior at the Took Hill. At my house. In time of Winter Gathering, a time of joy, cheer, and laughter. You dare to assault my grandson." rumbled the hardy Hobbit, looking remarkably as he did in his youth when the position of Took Head was a post that was only taken by the fastest and strongest of all Tooks who have served as Bounders. A formidable Hobbit, who had in his prime caught many a trespasser and slaver that dared to make an attempt on the Shire's rolling hills and valleys. Age may have taken its toll on him, and decades have passed since he last ventured out on patrol, but the strength of those paws and the harshness of the words, was still as strong and threatening as it was back in his prime.
Bilbo's eyes stuck to the figure of his grandfather, shock and astonishment making him press against the figure of the dark haired dwarf that stood at his side, clutching Baggins to himself. Kili was the first to turn around as his just happened to look at Bilbo when he fell, scrambling to right his friend. When he saw the hair, red ribbon listlessly thrown on the ground amongst the curled up strands, the Tangar cursed filthily and pulled the Hobbit closer. That move jerked Fili into action as well, and the blond positioned himself between his Bilbo and the newly named Bog.
Meanwhile Old Took, never truly a violent man, smacked the drunk again, now onto the other cheek, making his figure sag in the Bounders' hands and start sniffling and wailing, demanding to be let go.
"Shut your filthy mouth, you disgraceful being!" roared the older Hobbit, eyes blazing with fury.
"You have lost the privilege and honor of opening it when the mere thought or touching Bilbo crossed your mind! How could you allow yourself to even venture into thinking that cutting off a ribbon and his hair will make you be considered, or even looked at by him! Disgrace! Shame! Repulsion on you!" continued Old Took, as he spit at the other.
"Away with him, and into the cellars, with no food or water. In the morning when he is coherent a trial will be held. Never in my life has there been a filthy assault like that!" proclaimed the man, as he jerked his fist towards the exit, watching with a glare as the slobbering and sniffling Hobbit was dragged away by stony faced Bounders.
As soon as the figures disappeared from view, a myriad of shouts and a cacophony of talks fell over the hall, every Hobbit talking to the one next to them about the unprecedented happenings.
The old man turned away from the crowd and placed his undivided attention at the suddenly smaller form of his favorite grandchild. With a frown, the Hobbit reached out, sharing a glance with the blond dwarf and tugged the younger one into an embrace, letting Bilbo clutch at the enormous elder.
"Oh Yavanna! Why would he… how could he... I don't understand!" cried out Bilbo, as he struggled to comprehend the situation. Never in the Hobbitish history had anyone done such a thing. The ribbons were taken in good faith, with a sense of fun and love, or at least an intent of courtship. As a chance to get to know someone who might otherwise not be aware of them. Never in cruelty and force! IT was just not done. It wasn't proper!
For who could expect a loving relationship to come from violence?
Even after the Fell Winter, the only year when the Winter Gathering was not held, was there no such behavior. The hobbits wanted peace, and to replenish their lost numbers. Not to see pain and cruelty.
"Shush, Bilbo" calmed him Old Took, placing his large knobby palm over the fair curls.
"He is a fool and a cruel idiot who will pay for what he has done. No obligation falls on you to attend the court, or to do anything but return to your home and feel safe. The Hobbit will be dealt with" promised he, looking at his grandson.
Letting his gaze follow up and over Bilbo, Old Took stared down the two dwarves who stood poised and tense by his side, arms resting all too suspiciously on their wide belts.
"I do not blame you two for not stopping it fast enough. Nobody could have ever thought to even imagine such behavior will take place, it is unheard of after all. But I wish for you to look after my Bilbo in the next few days. Do not let him ponder too much over the happenings" insisted the Master of the house, his usually jolly eyes once again glinting with a hard sheen.
Fili took a step forward and bowed his head in a fast nod, reaching over to gently pull his self-proclaimed relative into an embrace.
"We will, Master Took. Bilbo will be safe" swore the dwarf, Kili nodding frantically alongside his brother.
Drilling the pair for a bit longer with his stare, Old Took smiled and then walked away, leaving the stunned trio to their own devices. None dared to approach to ask for an opinion or a talk, too busy or respectful to bother the shaken Baggins at the moment. Especially since the dwarven brothers were hovering over him in a protective stance, glaring daggers at all that even ventured into the vicinity.
"I think… I think I would like to go home now" softly proclaimed Bilbo as he stared at the door where Willem Bog had been taken through.
"You sure Bilbo? We may stay and dance and eat some more if you want?" asked Kili, placing his hand over the hobbit's shoulder and giving it a squeeze.
"I am. I do not want to be in here right now" muttered the other, as he looked at the Tangar.
Very soon, within the next day truly, the entirety of Hobbiton was buzzing with news of the Winter Gathering's unprecedented happening. Rumors were ablaze, and tongues haven't wagged that fast since Belladona Took decided to marry Bungo Baggins in Bree instead of having the ceremony in the Shire like a proper lass.
The universal opinion, even of the Sackville-Baggins family, was that Bilbo was in no way responsible and that that Willam Bog was always up to no good, staring at the fair hobbit lustfully, and trying to get close to respectable hobbit lads and lasses. He had poor breeding, his store sold defected products, and he was always shifty, etcetera etcetera. Within a week, the Bog family was forced to move out of the Rushock Bog in the Shire and out into the Marish closer to the Bree borders really.4
They were shamed by the behavior of their son and chose to not remain in the area in which their reputation was forever tarnished.
The trial came and went, and Willam Bog was sentenced out of the Shire, to not be let closer into the borders then Stock and South Farthing. He was prohibited from attending any other Winter or Summer Gatherings for the next quarter of a century, and the rumors around the scandal ensured that the Hobbit would not be getting any invitations for tea anytime soon, or within the next decade or so.
Bilbo paid it no mind as he fretted around the burrow, eager to forget the event even happened. Truly the only thing that reminded him of it was the clump of short hair on the back of his head, and the way that the Tangar brothers hovered too close for the next few days. They were always near, always underfoot, and in the end it was the cuddling and protectiveness that caused the fiery Hobbit to blow up at them, demanding they stop treating him like fine china and go back to being their usual rambunctious selves.
"I will not suddenly be attacked in my house!" seethed the young Hobbit, as he paced in front of the chastised duo that had attempted to place watch over his bedroom door, causing the poor hobbit to trip over Kili, who was asleep of all things, on his way to the kitchen to get a midnight snack.
"I am not a fragile little thing that needs protection, and what happened was a freak and strange action, that will not have any more power over my life than the one I let it have. Which is none. Really, a watch over my door of all things!" huffed Bilbo as he stared at Kili and Fili who were suddenly very interested in their socked feet.
"But Bilbo, we just want to protect you" weakly protested one of the dwarves, as he dared to raise his eyes at the seething being.
"Then do so by being productive, completing your commissions, and not making me fall in the middle of the night by way of stumbling over a snoring dwarf under my door!" insisted the other, as he poked both dwarves in the chests.
Sighing, Bilbo took a seat next to the brothers and drew them into a hug,
"I am fine. He scared me, it was unexpected, and I didn't know what was happening, but in the end I am alright, if a few locks shorter. Truly, it is not so bad. I do not want you, or Bofur to worry, understood?" pleaded the hobbit, as he threw a desperate glance at what seemed like the only sensible dwarf in his life, the toymaker with twin braids who stood hovering in the doorway a bit awkwardly.
"Hoo no. You leave me out of it lad. I jus' want you safe as well. But if you say you do not wish for us to fret then we shall not. No need to heavy your heart with dark thought of what may have been or may have happened after all." Smiled the dwarf in question, and walked over to the trio, giving his kinsmen a pat on the shoulder.
"Thank you, Bofur. At least one of you has sense." Sighed Bilbo as he released the two and thumped his small hand over the toy maker's in thanks.
Looking back at the brothers, the Hobbit thought and kissed his teeth.
"Would it make you feel better to know that I knew how to protect myself?" he asked a bit hesitantly, not really sure of the answer he wanted to hear
The question startled the Durins as they traded glances and pondered his idea.
"It would I think" finally relented Fili, as he thought about his countless knives that have already found a home in every room of the burrow.
"Yeah, we can teach you how to fight, or better yet how not to, and how to call us really efficiently!" bounced Kili on his seat, excited to keep his Aunty away from any and all danger until his Uncle returned.
"I think I can whittle a good practice axe or sword out of some wood if you want me to" added his own two cents Bofur, as he already started to contemplate the idea.
With widening eyes Bilbo waved his hands in front of the three, stopping their thought process before it led them too far.
"No, no, no, no, no! I meant to say, that is… I already do know how to protect myself. Would you feel better if you knew about that?" he cleared the air.
"Say what?" came the tree voices.