The Shire was a peaceful queer little place. The rolling green hills, the fertile farmlands, the kindly trees all stood in stark contrast to the lands around it. There was unmistakable life that flowed through the lands of the Shire, life unmarred and untainted by the growing shadows of the world around it. It was a land of warmth, where strolling through the winding pathways always felt like coming home no matter where you came from originally.
And if one noticed that standing at the edge of Shire land that the world seemed particularly different on the other side of the ancient wall, well it was just one of the many things that made the Shire different. The wall was made of stone and earth, and really it was about as practical in defense as a three foot high stone wall could be. Orcs had crossed it before, wolves had crossed it, and mischievous fauntlings who knew better had crossed it. Still there was something to it. The sun was always brighter on the Shire side of the wall, the weather almost always milder, and somehow most famines and crop blights seemed to pass the land of the Shire altogether.
Though the greatest thing the wall kept out, the one thing that was most important for the wall to keep out, was the dead. Oh not to say that death didn’t happen in the Shire. It did, from plants to hobbits, everything perished at some point. But unlike most other kingdoms of Middle Earth, the dead rarely came back in the confines of the Shire, and never did they manage to cross the wall to get into the land so full of life.
It wasn’t to say that the wall itself was the only thing standing between the hobbits and the general unpleasantness of dealing with the dead trying to come back into Life. No there was something, someone else, who kept the Shire a comfortable refuge.
No one could exactly pinpoint when the Bagginses became necromancers. Not the usual sort of necromancers, for dabbling about in death for the sake of spitting in the face of Mandos and Eru was the height of impropriety and stupidity. They were necromancers of a different sort, carefully and usually attempting to politely but firmly send the dead back into death (for it was highly rude for someone to show up unannounced and uninvited, and certainly their parents taught them better than that). They helped performed the last rites of Mandos, breaking ties of the dead with their bodies, they helped to counsel and comfort the grieving (usually the first to turn to the idiocy of necromancy), and often explained what death was. For if you took the mystery out of anything then fear of the unknown was soon to go away.
Death to a Baggins was not a mystery. Some days even though they would never ever admit it aloud, they would wish it was.
Death stripped away innocence and nativity. It wasn’t always cruel when it did so, but it was inevitable. The silent waters washed it away just as it seemingly washed away all the colors of a Baggins. Twasn’t hard to spot them, with their dark curly hair and pale porcelain skin. Though what always told another hobbit that whom they were speaking to was a Baggins was simply the look in their darkly colored eyes. There was knowledge there, ancient bone deep knowledge, that seemed to see through all masks and illusions. Their dark eyes were almost always calm though, like the placid surface of a lake in the early morn right before the sun rose. Things seemed to flicker there, secrets, but rarely did they seem to break the surface for it would be the height of impropriety to let everything out in the open. And let it be said that Bagginses were always proper.
For it was their natural sense of propriety that had drawn Mandos’ eye to them. It had been their stalwart unflinching sense of duty, even more stubborn than that of a dwarf in some cases, and the brightness of their souls that had had the Lord of The Dead pausing as he studied them. There had been a problem, a greater problem now that the Valar had retreated from the lands of Arda. Well at least physically speaking. Still the problem was with the dead and keeping them in death.
Souls did not simply appear in his grand halls, as everyone liked to believe. Death was a journey through nine different precincts, and nine different gates before they got to him. Not all who went into death went willingly, some fought to return, others were summoned and bound by necromancers. Before the talk of sending maiar to combat Sauron began, Mandos was puzzling and thinking of the problem before him.
He could give the task to the elves, but death was not a known or expected thing and they feared it greatly. Men and dwarves had both the potential for greatness, but greatness was not always good for all for deeds that were ill could be just as great as deeds that were good. Their failures were well known to Mandos. Nothing had seemed to suit, no one had seemed to be adequate until he spied the hobbits.
The lore was lost then about how Mandos approached the first Baggins to give them their task. Something was done to their blood, their very being to change them so. To give them something extra to combat the dead, to set things right in the world, and to maintain borders between Life and Death when they could.
Abhorsen Baggins was the first hobbit necromancer. His name became a title, for while there could and would be many Bagginses to live at the same time, there would only be one who would be called Abhorsen. The Abhorsen was the only Baggins allowed to leave the Shire, whose title was known to all the races of Middle Earth. It was the Abhorsen who would be sent for when trouble arose with the dead, to set things right, and shore up all the things broken in the process.
It was a title given to the most Bagginsish of Baggins, not of course chosen by the Baggins or hobbits of the Shire. It was forgotten as to how the first few Abhorsenes were chosen, but now it was often Radagast who came to name the newest Abhorsen when the last one died. Radagast who was beloved and well liked amongst the Baggins, no matter how queer his guests to tea were. He was polite, courteous, and didn’t like disturbing the peace (especially if it meant more cake).
Not like Gandalf. Who most Baggins would cluck at in dismay when his pointed grey hat would appear on the horizon. For if Gandalf was around then an adventure was to be had, usually given to the Tooks for they seemed to love and thrive in chaos as much as Gandalf. Gandalf was a disturber of the general tranquility of the Shire who took great pleasure in ruffling Baggins feathers as much as he did throwing Tooks into the world. When Gandalf came chaos and impropriety reigned supreme.
They were the only Istari to ever visit the Shire since its founding, at least to the Bagginses’ knowledge. Not that they could blame the others for not wanting to come, nor did they particularly want to invite more wizards to come to visit. Still there was an implicit trust in Radgast and a tenuous somewhat lukewarm courteous mildly amiable arrangement with Gandalf that they would alert the Abhorsen of any trouble that would need their attention.
So it was entirely within Bilbo’s right to take one look at Gandalf’s smiling face, remove the pipe from his mouth give the wizard a terse smile and say: “Good morning, but no. I am not going on any adventures, escapades, or quick little errands for you. If you’re looking for a hobbit drag into such a thing and make them late for dinner, I suggest you go to Tuckborough. Now good morning.”