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We Have Been Sealed in Amber

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It is well known that different hobbit family clans are famous for different temperaments. For instance, Brandybucks are known for jovial, wild spirits and wholehearted acceptance of the oddest of friends. Gamgees are known for patience, concern for wellbeing, and loyalty. Tooks are legendary for utter unpredictability, yet begrudgingly are also known for being stalwart and loyal to a fault. Everyone knows that the Baggins family is known for one thing: respectability.

There are many hobbit clans, as numerous as the many fauntlings in most hobbit families. To make a family tree even more confusing, it is not uncommon to have marriages between different family clans. The ensuing fauntlings often take after the temperament of the like gender parent, but not always. Several Baggins fathers have had to be strict with sons that have shown less than respectable traits.

Hobbit temperaments are well known and widely discussed as far away as Bree. It is not uncommon to hear of a betting pool forecasting the traits of a mixed clan marriage’s first fauntling. What is not well known, and rarely spoken of, are the abilities associated with each family clan. These abilities have been strengthened by generations of careful breeding, with the resulting hobbits carefully guarded by the Rangers of the North and Lindon elves. After all, the Thains could hardly begrudge Denethor II and Elrond a few promising fauntlings in exchange for such protection.

One Thain, the Old Took had once rebelled, after Denethor II took his third son for his gift of luck. The Fell Winter had then claimed more Took clan lives than any other. Ranger help had not come to his district until the lives of the rebellion were snuffed out. For the Old Took had wed his most gifted daughter to the most talented of the Baggins clan’s sons. Only one pair of twin sons was produced before the young couple was lost to a wolf attack.

The hobbits well learned the lesson. None spoke a protest when Gondor claimed the younger twin for his luck, and the elder was whisked away by Elrond himself for his foresight. Took luck is the best thing to ensure the safety of gold caravans. The foresight of a Baggins far exceeds the brief glimpses of the future that Elves are gifted with. The lords should have been happy with the results of their intervention. Did they both not get an excellent, gifted, spirited hobbit? Was the Old Took not brought under control by grief?

It was a shame that such measures had needed to be used, but rulers often made hard decisions. Hobbit abilities could not be diluted by unsanctioned mixed marriages, especially of the most gifted of those lines. It was a far worse shame that neither ruler realized that not all hobbits have hobbit spirits. The younger twin ran away from his first caravan, straight into the arms and protection that marriage to a dwarven caravan owner provided.

The elder twin was then summarily dismissed from Rivendell, though he was well trained in his art. The elves said that he had shown little aptitude past his initial promise and should settle down with a Baggins wife, to try and rectify his diluted abilities. There was no mention made of the fact that the dwarf was a noble held in high esteem by the dwarven king in exile himself.

----

“Gandalf, I need an army, a well-trained army. I do not need a simple burglar.” Thorin hid his ire behind a scowl. Gandalf was a wizard of some repute. It would not do to lose such a resource. He had become king to a people whose army had been decimated at Moria. Years of hardship had prevented the building of a new force, had made Erebor’s rightful heir become a wandering blacksmith.

With a price on his head, Thorin knew that he would have no choice but to march on Erebor and defeat Smaug. He could not risk the threat of orc and goblin attacks on Ered Luin. The thought of the families under his protection was the only reason that proud Thorin, son of Thrain would now beg and practically grovel at the feet of the other dwarven kingdoms for help. Thorin needed Gandalf’s help as well if he was to have any chance of keeping his people safe.

“With luck, stealth, and a burglar you will succeed, Thorin Oakenshield.” Gandalf was showing far more enthusiasm now than Thorin felt at the best of times.

"Should I also beg the Steward of Gondor for a hobbit? I may as well hand Ered Luin over to Elrond.” Thorin slammed a fist down on the table. Try as he might over the last century, Gondor would not make any trade agreements that included using hobbits to safeguard dwarven caravans. The only hobbits that dwarven caravans had access to were wild and unpredictable Took that the Thains hired out for outrageous sums. Thorin could count on one hand the number of luck hobbits sheltered at Ered Luin that could be trusted with valuable cargo caravans. None had potent gifts.

“I do have a few connections,” Gandalf smirked annoyingly. It was clear that Gandalf had indeed been planning on using a hobbit as the company burglar.

“My idea of stealth does not include telling the Shire’s protectors. The elves will stop a quest before it even begins.” Thorin could foresee many more arguments in the future with this wizard. “Elrond will not let a dragon eats one of his precious pets."

“Tell the Shire’s protectors what?” A small figure appeared at the table to Gandalf’s right and took a seat between them.

“Thorin Oakenshield, may I introduce Ambrosine, son of Bofur. He is Captain of the Shire Guard.” Gandalf looked thoroughly amused at Thorin’s face when he looked over the hobbit.

“And I know who you are, Majesty. Brosi is my name.” the hobbit took a decent swig of his ale and met Thorin’s gaze with a grim smile that Dwalin would be proud to bear.

Thorin slowly looked over the hobbit. He was tall for a hobbit, but not short for a dwarf. His appearance did not indicate his being a dwobbit in physical features. The usual mishmash gamble of shared features was not present. Curly auburn hobbit hair was grown long and bore distinctly dwarven family and marriage braids. Large hobbit feet were hidden in soft moccasins. The overall dress was a dwarven style of clothing complete with a sword.

“Ambrosine founded the dwobbits of the Shire guard…” Gandalf began.

“My name is Brosi. The Bounders do not trust mixed blood, so we made our own Guard.“ Brosi cut in. Thorin liked this fellow already. “We have families just like anyone else that need protecting. Dwobbits will not stand to have our children less protected. Most of my boys have hobbit wives and several fauntlings each.”

“I recall a commission for weapons.” Thorin could sense that this was no earth child, but a stone child.

“I teach my boys to take the best of their heritage. Hobbits are loyal to family, as are dwarves. But dwarven forges make the weapons that will keep them alive. We of the Shire Guard report to the Thains Council as the Bounders report to the Rangers. No part of the Shire will be more vulnerable than any other.” Brosi had a quiet fury in his eyes.

“You are the Took that outwitted Denethor.” Thorin nearly smiled, then remembered. “We were all grieved when news of Niriel's caravan came to us.” Brosi looked like he had been physically struck at the mention of Niriel.

“Are you alright, Ambrosine?” Gandalf watched with concern as the hobbit managed several deep breaths.

“This was a bad idea, wizard. My regrets, Majesty, but I must be returning to Hobbiton. My boys are expecting me back.”

“Ambrosine, Thorin will need at least one hobbit on his quest. You must make the Thain, your uncle, see reason and give him what he needs.” Gandalf put a hand on Brosi’s shoulder to keep him seated. “Call upon your grandfather, the Old Took, if you must.”

“You are my grandfather’s dearest friend, Gandalf. That is the only reason I’ve left the Shire at all.” Brosi shook his head. “He is very old, and the death of my mother all but broke him. My uncle Isengrim was chosen as the next Thain specifically because he will not tolerate underhanded deals such as this. What you ask for will have the Shire Guard disbanded!"

“The price on my head will bring more than wolves to the Shire, Halfling.” Thorin lost what little patience he had. “If Gandalf says that my quest will need a hobbit, then you will get me one.”

Brosi looked at Thorin and waited a moment before speaking with a calm fury. “Do not call me halfling, Majesty. You may be of Durin’s line, but you are far from having a secure hold on Erebor.” He turned to Gandalf.

“You will need a Took for luck. Perhaps two Tooks, and a Brandybuck for moral, and a Gamgees is always a good idea for weather. Such use of hobbits cannot be hidden from Rivendell very easily. Never has an army used hobbits in such a way.” Thorin noticed that Brosi didn’t mention his uncle, the Thain, being a problem.

“Majesty, do you have the gold to hire such a troop of hobbits?” Brosi reluctantly turned to Thorin. “With a dragon at the end, and orcs after your head, the Thain Council will want payment in full at the journey’s start. If they agree, and if they can find hobbits skilled in the needed arts who will volunteer to come.”

“For now we should concentrate on how many will follow Thorin on this quest, Ambrosine.” Gandalf interrupted. All three knew that any extra gold that Thorin’s people had would now be going to fortify their defenses if orcs were going to come calling. “Take this time to talk to your brother and uncle.”

“I would be honored if you or your Shire Guard would join this quest.” Thorin saw the perfect hobbit sitting at their table. Brosi was a rare hobbit who could defend himself and not be a liability on a quest across Middle Earth.

“My boys will be needed in the Shire now more than ever. But I thank you, Majesty.” Brosi nodded respectfully and got up. “Gandalf, I will await news of how many will be going.”

“Can I trust him, Gandalf?” Thorin did not miss the irony of his just having met the wizard himself. “I will not gather an army just to fight the elves.”

“Ambrosine has no love for elves or the men of Gondor. Neither does the Thain. Isengrim Took lost his sister to the wolves of the Fell Winter. You will get everything that can be obtained, for  hobbits are quite resourceful.” Gandalf watched Brosi leave, then turned back to Thorin. “No, do not worry about acquiring a hobbit, Thorin Oakenshield. It is your task to convey a council of your kin and raise that army!”

----

“Good morning, Gandalf.” Bilbo coughed on his pipe smoke, yet managed to beat the old wizard to his own words. “It’s a good morning to confuse a wizard instead of a hobbit, is it not?”

Gandalf eyed the grinning hobbit before answering. It was an old game of theirs, even if Gandalf only made rare appearances these days. Besides, one shouldn’t mess with another’s pipe in the morning. Finally, he spoke with a broad smile. “It is good to see that you have not let your talents go to waste, my good Ambrose.”

“What can I do for you today besides offering a cup of tea, wandering wizard?” Bilbo did not have the fear or reverence of the Istari that most Middle Earth denizens had. Gandalf had been a great friend of both his grandfather and his mother, dropping in and out of his life since he was born.

“I have news for Ambrosine. Is he in today?”

Bilbo’s smile turned to a scowl. It was an old argument. “Call us Bilbo and Bilon if you please, Gandalf, as I’ve asked you countless times before. A respectable Baggins has a proper hobbit name. It’s bad enough that Bilon hasn’t used either of his given names in decades.”

“Ambrose, son of Bofur, is as respectable a name as Bilbo Baggins, son of Bungo Baggins. Your mother preferred Ambrose if I’m not mistaken."

“What are you in need of, Mithrandir?” Bilbo switched to Sindarin. “Does an elven delegation need to be supplied before they head back to Rivendell? As to Brosi, he has weapons training with a recruit. He will then be on patrol until after dark.”

“You have been arguing again.” Gandalf seemed very displeased with this idea.

“Brosi came home an emotional wreck, speaking only in his beloved Niriel’s Iglishmêk for over a year as he sat in his room waiting to fade away or whatever. Now he struts around like he is Captain of Bag End as well as his Shire Guard therapy project.” Bilbo spat out the last sentence with disdain.

“Ambrosine lost Niriel and most of the caravan’s dwarves. He was the luck hobbit in charge of their safety. Grief is a hard load to bear. Guilt is an even heavier load. Do you still have no compassion for your brother’s loss, Bilbo?”

“We have all had losses, cruel losses, Gandalf. I took care of Brosi for years when he wanted to die. I used all of my contacts to find Bifur and bring him here to help Brosi when all else failed. I came up with the idea of organizing this crazy Shire Guard as a last-ditch effort to get him to talk. Having Brosi get out of the house was a miracle in and of itself.” Bilbo huffed and crossed his arms, his pleasant mood now utterly ruined.

“Bilbo, surely…” Gandalf sigh. Dwarven stubbornness was one of the wizard’s pet peeves, and Bofur had given both of his sons a decent dose of that same stubbornness.

“When I was sent home in disgrace I had no one.” Bilbo was not finished. “I wrestled control of my father’s assets away from my relatives. I made the Baggins of Bag End prosperous again.”

“I will speak to Ambrosine when I return tonight.” Gandalf gave up on the conversation. He had no time for arguments and little time to get necessary things done. “Here is the list of supplies that my elven friends will need, Bilbo.” Gandalf smiled, but it was a forced smile.

“Your dwarven friends are welcome to stay the night. I will arrange for their supplies to be ready in the morning.” Bilbo exchanged his stubborn expression for one of disbelief as he read over the list. “A hobbit is going with them all the way across Middle Earth?”

“Yes.” Without a word of explanation, Gandalf turned around and went on his way.

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