Description: Darkness is stirring everywhere in Middle-Earth and the Shire is no exception. With wolves and spiders and other foul things crossing the Bounds, Bounder Bilbo Baggins is sent to Bree with the hopes of find a Ranger or Bree-Hobbit to train the woefully unprepared Shire Bounders in the matter of defense. Instead he finds dwarves.

Warnings: Bounder!Bilbo, Wandering Dwarves, AU, Slash (Main is a Bagginshield) and Het pairings, blood and gore, cursing, Utter buggering of the timeline and cannon.

Pairings:

Eventual – Thilbo/Bagginshield (Thorin/Bilbo)

Established - Glóin/Ragna (Gimli born), Nori/Mjöll, Bifur/Eydís, Drogo Baggins/Primula Brandybuck, Hobson Gamgee/Daffy Roper (Hamfast – Samwise's dad – born.)

Other het and slash dwarf/hobbit, dwarf/dwarf, and hobbit/hobbit pairings likely.

A little something to get me writing LOTR again, so I can touch A Girl Named Jack Rewrite once more.


A Defensive Matter

Chapter 1

The Bounder's Dilemma

Rethe 14, 1327 SR (Shire Reckoning)

The East Farthing

On nights like tonight, Bilbo often doubted his own sanity.

He called it the Took-Baggins issue. What his Took-side loved, his Baggins-side hated and vice versa. And right now, his Baggins-side was screaming at him. What could have possibly driven him to think that joining the Watch had been a good idea? Right now he could be safe and warm in Bag End with Father, not picking his way around puddles and large piles of soggy manure, drenched to the bone and teeth chattering, sneaking about with his lantern dimmed to a secret meeting.

He was only four years into his six year term on the Watch, but Bilbo was already feeling run ragged. It was his own fault – he was the one who'd insisted on being put on the duty roster of two different districts. It was an action the young hobbit failed to quite think through, for while the dual armbands may garner him a rather impressive amount of respect from his peers (and made him very pleased of himself, truth be told), it also meant twice the work. Bilbo had never felt prouder then when he'd received his district armbands – orange, for East Farthing proper where Bag End was, and purple, for Buckland. It was more than a little unusual to have two bands so early in one's carrier, but there were some perks to being related to almost every major political figure in the Shire.

He'd felt, like most young things venturing into adulthood, that he was ready to take on the world. That first full year of active duty split between serving along the High Hay and bounding the East Farthing had rubbed the green off of him rather forcefully, though.

For a non-Buckland Bounder, the job was pretty easy. Outside of the threat of a few drunken brawls or the even rarer theft, a Bounders' job was limited to policing and maintaining a visible presence. There was the occasional Outsider that they had to turn away or interrogate (usually a Ranger or two, whom the Bounders were very fond of, or dwarves making their way to or from the Blue Mountains down the Old East Road, who the Bounders were not as fond of) though Bilbo himself had never run into any of the Big Folk himself.

Bilbo was happy enough being a Bounder. Roaming the wide open fields and rolling hills of the Shire was more than enough for his Tookish spirit. He liked his time in the fields with nothing but the stars and the wind to keep him company. It made him even more queerer then he apparently already was, as any sane to-do hobbit with his family connections would have only joined governmental service if they were aiming for a Sheriff or Postman position in one of the larger towns, and then perhaps eventually run for Mayor. They certainly did not carry about sleeping in barns and skulking about in people's back yards!

It also served the additional purpose of irritating his father something terrible, which was a definite plus indeed.

The two had rarely gotten along since his mother's passing. His mother, Belladona, was a Took through and through. Though she had placed aside her adventurous ways once she'd married Bilbo's father, mischievousness was in her blood. Perhaps that was why she'd decided to climb the party tree, perhaps not. Too much Fallohide was certainly the commonly accepted belief around Hobbiton, anyway.

Either way it had left his father a broken man with a very young hobbit-babe. Bungo Baggins loved his son, of this Bilbo had little doubt, but the man was not the same after he'd found his wife lying at the bottom of the party tree like a broken-necked bird. The decision to send Bilbo to summer with his mother's sister in Buckland was made quick enough – Mirabella had been the closest to Belladona out of the Old Took's twelve children.

It did little to repress his Took blood, much to the Baggins' family horror, and one summer turned into several before he'd finally returned to Bag End. When he had returned home, it was to a father he barely knew. The young hobbit rather believed it was the way he lost his wife that made Bungo so against the idea that his son would have any type of excitement in his life; and not a day went by of his childhood that his dear father didn't try to stomp out his Tookish-ness. If Bungo had his way, Bilbo would have been a bookbinder or a candle-maker or a simple gentlehobbit of leisure – they certainly had the wealth to do so after all.

Yet Bilbo had wanted to be a Bounder since he was five years old, when he'd first seen one. Bilbo could remember it like yesterday; he was sitting on the thick, plushy lap of his Aunt Mirabella, it was summer and Buckland was sweltering. He chewed on a sweetened rag soaked with sugar and watched as his uncle stood about a large map, (how glorious Gorbadoc Brandybuck had looked there!) every inch the Master of Buckland as he doled out directions. Gorba seemed almost like a hero from one of the books his mother had read to him, clad in thick woolen breeches and a padded jack, a dark purple band wrapped around his forearm, an axe on his left hip and a wooden baton on his right. Hobbits surrounded him, each with a purple band, pouring over the map and gesturing wildly to the Hedge behind them.

Even when he visited his Took cousins in Tookland, the little Hobbit had never seen anything like it.

Bilbo didn't remember much of what was said (he was five, after all, which is very young for a Hobbit indeed) but Bilbo could remember the hushed tones and worried looks between his aunt and her sister-in-laws. It had something to do with the Hedge and the walking trees and of course years later the youngest Baggins would learn that it had everything to do with the creeping trees, that the frantic planning was the precursor to the great burning that created Bonfire Glade.

Even at five, Bilbo knew about the High Hay, a great hedge that protected Buckland from the wild Old Forest. He could remember the first time he set his eyes on the mammoth thing. He'd been in his Uncle Gorbadoc's arms, clinging tightly around the older Hobbit's neck as he watched with wide eyes as various hobbits trimmed and maintained the Hedge with a precision that would have left the Gamgee or Gardners with envy. It was thick and tall, and ran for seemingly as far as the eye could see.

He'd asked his Uncle then, in his broken child-Westron, if he could go see what was on the other side someday.

"Too much Took in you m'boy, not that that's a bad thing, mind you," Uncle Gorba had chuckled, "though I dare say Bungo will disagree with that. But there are far too many things over there that would like to eat little hobbits, you know. You have to grow up big and strong, and even then, you have to have one of these," He'd gestured to the purple band and then and there, Bilbo declared that he would become a Bounder.

Safely tucked away in Hobbiton at Bag End, Bilbo would not hear of the trouble that was taking place in Buckland until almost five years later, when he'd been sent there to live. He'd been aware, as was everyone who lived in Buckland, that the Old Forest was a queer, ill place. If one stood close enough to the Hedge on a windless day you could hear whispers floating about, and it was not uncommon for the tree's themselves to move; a white-scorched pine maybe just within sight one day and the next – gone, as if it was never there. None of this was believed in the Shire as a whole of course, and Bucklanders were viewed as very odd, marked with an urge for eccentrics and foolishness that matched if not surpassed that of the equally unconventional Took family.

But things were changing about the Shire – and not for the better.

It began with the Old Forest. A strange darkness settled itself in the wood, and stranger creatures came from within. Spiders the size of fully grown hobbits could sometimes be spotted skittering across the wood line. Wolves came, darker in color and far more intelligent than any the Shire had dealt with before, finding their way around the Hedge and trickling into the South Farthing.

Buckland and the South Farthing were becoming a dangerous place to walk about after dusk. And it seemed that soon Bucklanders would not the only ones locking their doors at night. The number of Bounders had doubled over the last four months – the number tripled within Buckland, such was required to maintain the no-man's land between the Forest and the Hedge. But the heart of the Shire – the North, East and West Farthings, remained secure.

A Bounders job was not very popular despite its decent pay, as it required a certain sacrifices of a hobbit that few were willing to give. This lack of willing applicants (which had allowed Bilbo to successfully secure a job the moment he'd turned thirty-three) was proving to be a real issue at the moment. They needed more on the Watch. And they did not just need greater numbers, no, they needed some sort of actual training. The youngest Baggins was proud to say he was a fair-shot with the slingshot that hung from his waist, and he'd actually used his dogwood baton (a rarity amongst the Bounders) on Vido Noakes when the hobbit had nearly killed Biffo Smallburrow after he'd found him rutting with his daughter behind his toolshed. Bilbo still shuddered when he thought of the amount of the blood that had come streaming from Vido's head wound. However, he wasn't naïve enough to think that he had any actual combat training. Nothing that would actually be able to handle the dangers that were making their way into their boundaries.

The Rethe rain held the icy touch of early spring and Bilbo shuddered, yanking the lip of his hood further over his face. Grumbling to himself about the foolishness of Took pride, he nimbly jumped over a small drainage stream and almost cried in relief as he saw the faint glow of his destination. As he grew closer, he could see the hooded figure of a Bounder, leaning heavily on his lantern-pole. The poles were standard issue for Bounders – long and thin with a fire-hardened tip. They were originally to be used as spears but as the need for such things disappeared, they become nothing more than over-sized holders for the Watch lanterns.

Bilbo called out a greeting and was greatly cheered when it was returned by the familiar voice of his cousin Rorimac Brandybuck.

"Bilbo!" Rory exclaimed loudly, his lantern swinging slightly as the younger hobbit slapped him heartily on the shoulder. "Absolutely dreadful night for a secret meeting, isn't?"

Bilbo grumbled in agreement, rubbing his sore shoulder before joining his cousin in leaning heavily on his lantern-pole. "I don't see why it has to be so secret," He stated crossly, "all this sneaking about will come to no good end, mark my words."

"Ah don't be such a spoil sport, cousin."

Rory, who also shared a Took mother and was a Brandybuck to boot, probably thought this was all kinds of fun. Bilbo and his Baggins's side, however, did not. This was indeed a secret meeting, one that could easily cost them their jobs. Perhaps not Rory's – he was the Master-in-Standing to Buckland, it wouldn't do to have him kicked off the Buckland Bounders, now would it? But he was just a Baggins – and a Baggins whose influential father was just looking for a way to get him removed from the police force at that. Bilbo had been careful to toe the line, yet here he was.

At a secret meeting.

In the rain.

In the dark.

A burst of lightening made him shriek in a very embarrassing way, eyes large as dinner plates as it lit up the hills to the left. Rory just chuckled at his reaction and told him to 'pull out your Tookish-ness, lass, you'll most likely be needing it soon enough.'

That earned his cousin a particularly venomous glare.

Damnable Tookish-ness indeed!

It wasn't much later after that that the others started to arrive.

His other cousin, Sigismond Took, arrived first looking mostly dry and content as Tookburrow was only a few miles away as the crow flies, and his cheerful 'hello!' was rewarded with nasty looks by the soggy duo. Holman Hayward arrived next, which made sense as they were meeting on the very edge of where the East and South Farthings met and Hols was stationed out of the Southern area. Younger than even Rory at thirty-three, Hols was short even for hobbit standards and generally a plain, dreary individual, of nothing of note if hadn't been for his startling bright grey eyes. He grunted at them in greeting, looking much like a wet cat with his Bounder's padded jack so drenched the pastel green of his armband seemed almost emerald.

The last to arrive was Hobson Gamgee, the oldest of them at forty-five and most senior member of the Bounders that would be participating. With twelve years of experience on the Watch and four armbands, Hobson Gamgee was a formidable man amongst the Watch. Unusually tall and broad, Hobs was greatly respected amongst the Shire-folk and was well known for suffering no-nonsense. Even the Sheriffs and Mayor took pause when Hobson spoke. They were, the five of them, the most prevalent Bounders of their districts which was why they were now huddled together in the rain, exchanging low greetings and inquiries about various family members before turning their talk darker things.

"I know ya all be wonder'n why I called ya'll here," Hobs said after a moment, the Northern Hobbitish draw of his accent more pronounced than normal. "So I won't be keep'n ya with small talk. Berty Clayhanger's gone and gotten himself eaten by a wolf."

Dead silence met that comment. Bilbo exchanged a concerned look with his cousins. That would make the eighth wolf attack this month (which was cause of some concern as it was only the fourteenth!) and the first one that had led to injury, much less death. Perhaps what was more troubling was that Berty was one of them; a Northern Bounder.

"Found'm up by in the hills, jus' a half-a-mile away from Long Cleeve."

Bilbo jerked in surprise. Long Cleeve was small for a hobbit village, but not that small and with enough noise and lights to scare off most wildlife. "That close to a town?"

"I told you," Rory said sharply, "The wolves we've been seeing in the Forest and 'round Buckland are far too smart. It's not normal."

"Garnett Diggle told me she'd seen three wolves sniffing around her property and she practically lives in the shadow of Green-Hill." Sig added grimly, "I dare say she can see the lights of Tuckburrow on a clear night."

"I found lob traces by the crooked tree south of Longbottom." Hols added, shaking his head. "A ewe, drained dry."

"And I have heard reports of howling from Dwaling," Bilbo admitted softly, "So that makes four for four."

A heavy silence fell between the group.

"We have to go to Mayor Whitfoot." Rory announced, "Things are getting dangerous."

Bilbo snorted. "Because that worked so well last time. I don't think I've had myself shooed out of tea so quickly in my life."

"We have to keep trying," the Brandybuck heir insisted, "And not just with the Mayor. With my father and the Thain, too. Crops stolen, livestock eaten – hobbits eaten! There is no way we Bounders can handle this, not with only a dozen or so of us. We have to plead our case, make them listen to us."

"It won't work," Sig said with a decisive shake of his head, "My father and Mayor Whitfoot don't want to think that danger is coming to the Shire. Goodness, the Mayor can't even pass a new post tax without six months of consideration! No, I fear we-"

"Hobbit-folk are a stubborn lot," Hobson interrupted, his low voice carrying despite the heavy pitter-patter of the rain, "It'd take a nasty in Michel Delving or Hobbiton before the old ones 'ccept that."

"Even if they did, what would we do?" Bilbo asked, gesturing to the group as a whole, "We're hobbits, hardly mighty warriors. So we need more training, do we? Where exactly do you intend to find that in the Shire?"

"Baggins is right," Hobs said with a grim nod, "which is why we'll have to leave the Shire." That earned the tall hobbit various different cries of disbelief. "Oh keep yer pants on," The Gamgee said to a sputtering Bilbo with a snort of disdain. The Gamgee clan had been working hobbits all their lives, the Baggins could hardly say the same, and Bilbo often felt other's dislike for his class. "I was only say'n up to Bree. Surely those Bree or Straddle-Hobbits mus' know sumthin' more about defend'n than us Shire-folk."

"Or maybe meet up with one of those Rangers," Rory agreed, brown eyes practically alight with excitement. "Do you remember when we used to say we were going to go adventuring in Bree, Bilbo?"

"Yes," Bilbo hissed, "but we were eleven and I also seemed to recall you swearing up and down we'd be the first to map the Old Forest. Don't be getting ahead of yourself."

"But you don't deny it's a good idea?" The Brandybuck pressed. Bilbo groaned, rubbing a hand over his face. It was not only a very good idea but their only one – he did not fancy being eaten during his patrol. But still, Bree was more than a bit further away then he'd ever had any desire to go. It was only a week or so walk down the Old East Road to the Bree-lands, and there was a group of Took cousins that had settled there that he had always sort of wanted to meet.

"Aye," Bilbo admitted slowly, "Tis a fair one. Though I must say such a thing will most likely cost us our commissions. Willy Whitfoot maybe many things, but forgiving isn't one of them. He won't be liking us going behind him like this."

"I dunno 'bout you, Master Baggins, but I ain't willing to let any more of us lot turn into dinner for no wolfy or lob." Hobson stated gruffly.

Bilbo could not argue with that and only nodded. "We must go in a group, at the very least!"

"Aye, as many of us as can be managed." Rory agreed, "The sooner the better."

It was decided that only three of them would go, while the other two would stay behind and put pressure on the Mayor, prepping the way for when they would hopefully return with a Bree-Hobbit or a big folk. As nothing would convince Holman Hayward to leave the Shire proper and Sig's father, the Thain, kept a closer eye on his wild children then even Bungo did with Bilbo, the trio consisted of Rory (though Bilbo argued against it, as Rory was only a year into his majority and very young but as usual, the Master-in-Standing got his way and was included), Hobson and himself. Bilbo felt somewhat better at Hobs' inclusion, as the hobbit was a force to be reckoned with indeed, and they all agreed to meet at the Bounder's supply hut by the three farthing stone in three days. That would give them enough time to come up with some excuse for their families (or in Bilbo's case, a convincing lie) and be taken of the duty roster. Bilbo himself felt torn. He knew that this was necessary, that they were in dire need of assistance – that the whole of the Shire's health may be relying on him getting to Bree – but a large part of the poor Baggins found all he really wanted to do was hide-out in his bedroom at Bag End and pretend this nonsense wasn't happening.

Yet still, he found himself outside the hut at daybreak, a traveling pack on his back and his stomach so a mess Bilbo hadn't been able to have any breakfast at all.


Appendix I:

Big Folk: Usually Men or Elves, but can refer to any race not a Hobbit.

Bonfire Glade: An event that has no date, but we know it took place before the FOTR. The trees of the Old Forest attacked the High Hay in an attempt to tear it down and spread into Buckland. The wide spread of dead land carefully maintained by the Buckland Bounders is called the Bonfire Glade.

Bounders: Police Hobbits who wander the borders of the Farthings. Each wear an armband denoting what district they have authority in/are stationed out of. Usually where they live. North Farthing – Blue Band, West Farthing – Red Band, South Farthing – Green Band, East Farthing – Orange Band, Buckland (technically a part of East Farthing but independently policed) – Purple.

East Road/Old East Road: A road that cuts through the Shire and heads towards Bree, which was East of the Shire. Used often by dwarves coming to or from the Blue Mountains (west of the Shire), as well as the occasional elf making their way to the Grey Havens which was also located to the west of the Shire.

Fallohide: According to the Tolkien Gateway:

"While the other two branches (Stoors and Harfoots) of hobbit-kind were pastoral and rustic in nature, the Fallohides retained a hunting tradition, and so were naturally bolder and more inquisitive than their relatives, but less gifted in the arts of farming and agriculture. As Fallohidish culture was much more open to outside influence than that of the Stoors or Harfoots, they were friendlier with the other races of Middle-earth than their cousins, especially with the Elves. Perhaps because of this, they were skilled in both song and speech, and were lovers of trees and of woodlands."

Tooks, Bolgers and Brandybucks are in particular considered Fallohideish, while Stoors (Hobbits who liked to swim, fish and use waterways) are found mainly in the Buckland and Bree clans. Gollum probably was originally a Stoorish Hobbit once. The majority of hobbits in the Shire are descended from the Harfoots, who liked hills and highlands and were mostly farmers and of a shier breed, they took their bolder cousins as leaders.

Farthing: The Shire is quartered into different parcels of land, or farthings, North, South, West, and East. The Three-Farthing Stone was a stone by the side of the East Road that showed where the borders of the East, West and South Farthings met. It was either near or on the center of the original Shire boundaries and was placed down at the official end of the Hobbit's Wandering Days.

High Hay or the Hedge: A well maintained hedge, thick and very tall, that protects the edges of Buckland from the Old Forest.

Master of Buckland: One of the three political powers of the Shire. Headed by the Brandybuck family, based out of Buckland.

Mayor of Michel Delving: One of the three political powers of the Shire, elected by the Shire as a whole every seven years at Lithe, during the Free Fair on the White Downs. Held the position of the First Sheriff, and was the commander of the Watch, as well as being the Postmaster.

Michel Delving: As close to a capital you're gonna find in the Shire.

The Old Forest: An ancient forest that predates Hobbits or Men's presence. Used to be as wide and grand as Fangorn forest. Contains all kinds of nastys, including the awake trees (Hurons) who are not very fond of Hobbits and willingly attack them should any be stupid enough to wander inside.

Outsiders: Anyone not of the Shire.

Padded jack: A gambeson (defensive jacket), a padded shirt made out of linen or wool, sowed in a quilted pattern and stuffed with various things such as scrap cloth or animal hair.

Rethe/Súlimë: Equivalent of March.

Shire Reckoning (SR): Calender used in the Shire.

Steward's Reckoning (SDR): Calender used in Gondor.

Took: An old Hobbit family which has holdings in Tookland. The Thainship, a position of some political power, is held by the Took family. They contain a very strong Fallohidsih strain in their blood, which makes them more prone to adventures and such other things most Hobbits consider nonsense.

Thain: One of the three political powers in the Shire.

The Watch: The only police force in the Shire, it was divided into two different groups. The Sheriffs, twelve hobbits responsible for 'Internal Work,' and the Bounders, who wandered the borders of the Farthings. Under the direct authority of the Mayor of Michel Delving.

Westron: The common tongue of Middle-Earth. Hobbits speak a dialect of this caused Hobbitish, which in turn has its own divisions amongst the different Farthings.


So, I was digging through the Hobbit family trees when I was learning about the Shire and have come to the conclusion that Bilbo is literally related to EVERYONE of any importance in the Shire save the current Mayor, Will Whitfoot. He's the grandson of the Old Took, maternal nephew of the current Thain (Isumbras Took IV), nephew of the Master of Brandybuck (Gorbadoc Brandybuck) through his mother's sister (Mirabella Took), as well as being a direct cousin to the Thain-apparant and Master-in-standing. Not a bad pedigree for a Hobbit.

I took some liberties with some birth dates and certainly some with death dates, as well as perhaps giving the positions of Thain, Master of Brandybuck and the Mayor a bit too much credit, as Tolkien says they don't truly have any authority outside of nominal things.

Added AN: Yeah, a hobbit reaches majority at thirty-three, which is the equivalent of a eighteen year old human coming into adulthood. Hobbits usually live at least a hundred, give or take a decade. This means that all of the Hobbits who leave the Shire are youngsters, teenager or young adults. Fifty is considered Hobbit Middle-aged.


Next Time: The Hobbits leave the Shire and the folk of Bree are suspicious.

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