"Do not leave me. I beg you. Do not go where I cannot follow. Please."
But the pleadings went on deaf ears, for those ears were numb to the world of the living.
A calloused hand gently fingered golden curls atop the head of the young hobbit, lying unconscious in the too large bed, pale and deathly still.
"Please my flower. Please return. I cannot see another sunrise without you with me. Please, please come back. I beg you."
The sobs of a broken man filled the still chamber, echoing down the hall.
Lyla Baggins was a very respectable hobbit lass, thank you very much. Or at least that's what she pretended to be. Many years before, said Baggins was wild, unruly and Tookish to a fault. She loved to explore the woods, chasing fireflies and hoping to catch glimpses of the ethereal Elves that roamed the kindly West. It was no concern of hers if mud smattered her frocks or twigs entwined themselves in her hair (though her father often cringed when he took in the sight of her). She had no time to look prim and proper and play the part of a lady! She needed to experience the world. She needed freedom and excitement.
'It was a pity' the gossips murmured to one another whenever little Lyla traipsed by, looking feral and unkempt. 'Poor Bungo must have felt so ashamed of such a daughter!' But who could blame her really? Her mother was the infamous, adventurous Belladonna Took. And such unruliness was bound to pass on to their children. Thankfully, they all agreed, Bungo had Bilbo to keep up appearances. Lyla's twin brother was nothing like his sister, save in appearance. Every bit the respectable hobbit, Bilbo preferred calm solitude reading a good book or gardening with his father. He enjoyed a good meal and the calm of the front porch. He had no desire to travel beyond his front door if he could help it and could often spend an entire day without leaving his family smial.
Of course, Lyla thought this was a horrible way to live and often teased her brother for his sensitivities.'Come now! What good is sitting at home, when there's so much out there to see!' she exclaimed to him time and time again.
'I'm quite content where I am thank you!' Bilbo almost always replied, usually curled up in a chair with a book in hand, 'You'd do well to appreciate the comforts of home.'
'And you'd do better to learn to live a little!' Lyla would reply heatedly, 'I wish I had a brother who acted like my brother and not my father lecturing me so!' and nearly every time, she'd storm away towards the woodlands that called to her, leaving her brother to his own comforts.
So what changed? What prompted the most unruly hobbit child to tame her ways? What encouraged Lyla Baggins to represent the essence of respectability?
The Fell Winter.
In one fell swoop of bitter cold, famine and danger (with white wolves crossing into the Shire), Lyla lost the three most important things in her life. It began with her father. Poor Bungo was unprepared for such harsh conditions and his health deteriorated quite rapidly. Lyla and her mother and brother did all they could to keep his spirits aflame, but before the days signalled the middle of the winter season lit became horrifyingly apparent that Bungo was not destined to see another spring. This revelation took Belladonna to her own bed in grief, where she began to fade as rapidly as her husband. Almost overnight her once righ chestnut hair turned grey and deep lines rimmed her now dull eyes. Soon, she lost contact with the world around her and slipped into the shadows, never to awaken again. And much in the same way did Bilbo's diminished spirits impose upon his health, for he felt the death of his parents keenly. He too, slipped further from Lyla's grasp, wary of the outside world and convinced that life was no longer worth living.
There was nothing she could do to save them in the end. Each passed on quietly in the night, as if they sensed the pain their deaths would cause Lyla and in their own way attempted to ease the burden she would bear.
To their credit, the other hobbits took pity on poor wild daughter of Bungo Baggins. No one should see their family disappear like that. It was all rather tragic and they sent pitying stares towards the young lass as she walked numbly through town day after day following the loss of her parents and brother, avoiding her smial that was now so empty.
But Lyla wouldn't need their pity. No indeed she would not. In the weeks following the deaths of her parents and twin, something in Lyla locked itself away. No longer was she the wild rambunctious child. No longer would her fantasies rule her attitudes. She'd give her father the one thing he always wanted: a respectable daughter. She could do that one thing for him. She could uphold the respectability of the Baggins name.
She would do it for them.
And for many years it worked. The boys trousers went into the cupboard and instead, Lyla donned frilly dresses and ribbons. She tended the garden and entertained houseguests, and acted in every way the respectable hobbit her father hoped she'd be. Eventually she forgot what it was like to explore the unknown mysteries of the woods. She ignored the call for adventure that ran through her veins and pushed the longing for freedom aside. She was a Baggins of Bag end and that should be enough.
And it was. For a time. Being a Baggins was more than enough for Lyla.
Until Gandalf the Grey stood at her gate, a twinkle in his mischievous eyes that is. Lyla could only stare on in surprise at the wizard whom she hadn't seen in many years. Not since Old Took had his parties and the wizard brought those marvelous fireworks. What on earth could he be doing here?
"My dear Lyla," Gandalf said with a smile, "I'm looking for someone to share in an adventure."
Lyla's eyes widened at the prospect. "An-an adventure?"