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Shire-folk do not have adventures, for many of them going to market is adventure enough. It is a place to trade gossip, amongst other things.

Young Bilbo Baggins had always been more adventurous than the average fauntling however, and he longed for more than the small and provincial escapades one could find on their own doorstep.

His mother, Belladonna, had always instilled a sense of curiosity in him, always encouraging the lad to explore and question, to run and play.

It was difficult for a fauntling so young to find true adventure within a small hamlet, but thankfully Bilbo had an active enough imagination that even those self-same trips to the market could become adventures in their own right.

It was all a matter of perspective.

While his mother and father would be ambling from stall to stall, Bilbo would dart beneath tables and brightly coloured awnings, pretending he was on a great journey to Harad. There he would find the rarest spices and elixirs that he could take home to save an ailing princess.

While his father haggled over the price of cheese, Bilbo would imperiously inspect the produce himself, imagining that he was selecting ingredients for a feast to feed a visiting wizard and his companions and only the finest food would please them.

While his mother would be inspecting cloth and woodwork, Bilbo would sneak up on her and tug at her skirts, before scurrying away whenever she turned with a smile. Belladonna was not his mother at this moment in time after all, but a fierce dragon looking to gobble him up for stealing her treasure and he must outwit her!

To her credit, Belladonna would often play along, more than happy to feed her child's love of fairytales and great deeds that he so loved to read about in books.

It was with a look of good-natured dismay, or well-bred disapproval that other hobbits would watch Belladonna Baggins laugh, pull her shawl loose and drape it across her shoulders like a pair of wings, and go chasing after her laughing, squealing son through the market whilst Bungo would roll his eyes in amusement and continue to shop alone.

And when evening would creep in and the lanterns were lit, little Bilbo would pretend he were somewhere very far away to the east or the north beyond the Misty Mountains, watching coloured lights dance through the skies like multi-coloured veils. He had heard dwarven traders mention such lights in the night-skies there and would dearly love to see them himself one day.

 


 

As Bilbo grew, his adventures were had further afield. Belladonna would take him on strolls through the Shire and beyond, much to his father's consternation. She would whisper tales of elves and dwarves to him before he slept, and Bilbo's dreams were ever filled with such spectacular visions of faraway places, daring battles, and interesting cultures.

The market lost very little of its' appeal to Bilbo, even as he neared his tweens he still felt a nostalgic tug in his heart for the pretend adventures he had there. And if he would still imagine some greater purpose when visiting the little stalls and shops in Hobbiton even as his year-mates became staid and respectable, then nobody need know but he and his parents.

 


 

It was after his parents' passed away that Bilbo Baggins changed. The thought of strolling through the Shire under summer sun became dull when it was only he there to do so. Adventures became things he shied away from when there was nobody around to share them with. He even lost interest in many of the books in his father's library that detailed the wondrous and fantastical, for who could he discuss them with now? Very few hobbits delighted in such stories after all.

Worst of all was the change in the market.

Try as he may, Bilbo could no longer conjure the same sense of wonder when he visited the marketplace now.

There was no mystical produce from faraway lands, only the usual fare that hobbits enjoyed. The awnings were just awnings, not the brightly coloured tents favoured in Harad.

There was no imaginary wizards or companions to entertain, no dragons to outwit and slay, and the lanterns remained lanterns in the growing dusk. There were never any lights in the sky in this part of the world.

He still enjoyed going to market for the simple pleasure of socialising and poring over new items for sale, but his visits there certainly lost the magic they once held.

Bilbo settled into life as a true Baggins and may have remained that way all his life had a real wizard not shown up unexpectedly at his door.

 


 

When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End then announced that he would be going on an adventure as he ran through Hobbiton that fine morning in Astron, there had been many a tongue set to wagging no sooner had his figure disappeared from view.

He was clearly more his mother's son than his father's and didn't this just prove it!

He would be killed before he travelled as far as Bree.

If he returned, he would be changed.

If he returned, he would be disgraced.

And what if he returned but he was not Mr. Bilbo Baggins at all? The Barrow Downs were not so very far from The Shire. Some spirit or spectre might seek to pretend to be him and take his place!

An adventure! What respectable hobbit would ever partake in such an unpleasant business as that?

Had Mr. Baggins not outgrown his oddities after inheriting Bag End?

Shire-folk do not have adventures after all, for many of them going to market is adventure enough. It is a place to trade gossip, amongst other things, and in the days and weeks following Bilbo Baggins' departure; trade in gossip fared very well there indeed.

Chapter Text

In the Shire, spring turned to summer and Mr. Baggins did not return. Autumn arrived in a flurry of russet and yellow leaves and rainstorms, and still Mr. Baggins did not return.

Yule passed and the snows came and went, and finally all the hobbits in Hobbiton decided that their original suppositions must have been correct and that Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End had surely perished on his adventure.

It must have come to an almighty shock to many then when on Mid-year's Day Bilbo Baggins appeared as if from nowhere and demanded the return of his items that were in the process of being auctioned off from Bag End!

 


 

Most hobbits are pleased to see Bilbo alive and well. Most, but not all.

Bilbo does his best to ignore their susurrations of ill-concealed disdain when he visits the market to replenish his hapless pantries the day following his return. In truth, perhaps the unexpected party had been a blessing in disguise. Bilbo only shudders to think of the ruin and purification he would have found had he left home with full pantries to await him.

If he was going to up and go, why did he not stay gone, eh?

I paid good coin for that footstall, and then he comes waltzing back and demands its' return!

I swear it's not really him. Just some upstart pretender with false documents looking to take over Bag End. Or maybe a Wight like old Mr. Proudfoot supposed. Bilbo Baggins never wore an expression like that before.

A twitch of his nose and gritting of his teeth follow that last remark. Bilbo would not let it show on his face that he had even heard them speak of him.

Can you promise I will come back?

No, and if you do, you will not be the same.

Gandalf had warned him of this that fateful evening over a year ago. It was only natural, after all he had been through, that he would not appear the same hobbit to these insular folk at the market.

Not the same indeed. Had Bilbo not felt so bone tired and world weary at this moment, he would have rounded on the whispering gossipmongers and given them a very sound piece of his mind, respectability be damned.

Instead, Bilbo puts down the apples he had been considering purchasing and offers them a sardonic smile as he passes, taking his business to another stall with friendlier faces.

 


 

Bilbo cannot even pretend to enjoy market anymore. His love of the place had already waned since his parents' passing and he had no longer been able to pretend his adventures because it hurt to try without his parents around.

Now he could not pretend his adventures because having been on a real one, the marketplace rather paled into insignificance, and no amount of imagination could change that were he even in the mood to try (and with folk still gossiping about him more than a month later, his mood was a dour one indeed).

 


 

Gossip still fares well in the marketplace into Halimath and longer still, owing perhaps to the ravens that are seen flying to and from Bag End at regular intervals.

Nasty great beasts, they scare my chickens silly when the fly overhead cawing like that. Far too large to be ordinary ravens too. Some wizard mischief afoot there no doubt.

Wizard? No no, s'not wizards that use ravens, but them dwarves.

Those brutes he went running off into the blue with? Why would he even wish to remain in contact-

Haven't you heard?

Oh, come now Primrose, don't tease so and look so smug, what haven't I heard?

That he went and fell in love with one of them.

You jest!

Not at all. I heard it from Marigold who heard it from Fosco, who overheard Hamfast speaking to Bell about it. Bilbo Baggins fell in love with a dwarf on his adventure and seems to me he's nursing a broken heart now.

Good gracious, what a scandal! Old Bungo would turn in his grave!

Belladonna would be highly amused, I don't doubt.

So these ravens are-?

From a dwarf I'd imagine, yes. Whether it's the great lug Mr. Baggins fell for, or some others he befriended, who knows?

Whether it was the knowledge that Bilbo's adventure had taken a romantic turn (and who doesn't love a good romantic tale), or the fact that rumours had started to spread about Bilbo having brought home a chest filled with gold, it seemed now that the residents of Hobbiton felt more amenable towards the secretive Mr. Baggins. The gossip would still continue of course, but there would be less vitriol behind it from that moment on.