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On Merry Yule

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Evening, 22 Foreyule, 1389

‘I’ll get it, Uncle Bilbo!’

Frodo trotted over to the front door of Bag End, curious as to who would be knocking at this hour. He had a nagging worry that it might be one of the Gamgees; Missus Gamgee had not been feeling well lately, and Bilbo had been very insistent that Hamfast send Halfred if she took a turn for the worse. Frodo grasped the door knob, opened the door, and came to a startled stop.

On the doorstep was a dwarf. His black eyes caught and reflected back the light from the candles in the wall sconces, glittering like the facets on Aunt Tulip’s jet brooch. He swept back the hood on his scarlet cloak, revealing almost-golden hair in neat plaits, paler than his short, braided beard. His broad shoulders seemed to fill the door and for one fleeting moment Frodo wondered if the dwarf would get stuck in the doorway should he step in. The dwarf smiled at the young hobbit and bowed extravagantly, short beard nearly brushing the door jamb.

‘Dalin Steelhand at your service!’ he said in a cheerful, booming baritone voice. He stood quickly before Frodo could reply. ‘Dear sir, pray tell, is this the home of Bilbo Baggins, Lord of Burglars?’

Frodo could not answer. He could only stare at this huge person standing in the doorway. In all his life, he had never seen anyone so big. The top of his own head did not reach the dwarf’s shoulder. He’s bigger than Mac! was all Frodo could think. The young hobbit’s eyes got bigger and rounder as his gaze traveled down the visitor, taking in the enormously broad shoulders, the great barrel chest, forearms that looked as big around as an ordinary hobbit’s thigh, the tree-stump legs, and then he saw the boots.

Not feet, as one should see, but boots; big, thick, leather boots. They were black and spattered with mud. They had lacings across the tops that disappeared up under the turned-down cuffs. The leather on the cuffs was tooled in strange knots and whorls, with angles and curves fitting together in an endless pattern. The dwarf’s boots were bigger than the biggest hobbit foot. Frodo could not take his eyes off them.

A politely cleared throat shook Frodo out of his amazement. Blushing furiously, the young hobbit looked back up at the dwarf’s face, hoping he had not done something too terribly rude. To his relief, the dwarf’s face was crinkled up in amusement.

‘Dalin Steelhand, at your service, young master,’ the dwarf repeated in a softer tone, inclining his head in Frodo’s direction. Frodo grinned back. An adventure had arrived on the doorstep!

‘Frodo Baggins, at yours and your family’s!’ he replied properly, giving Dalin a bobbing little bow. Wait until Bilbo sees this! He could not stop grinning.


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