Billana spent two weeks of waiting for any sign of reply from the dwarves while helping out with the Harvest. The first frost had come unusually early and it was all the Hobbits of the Shire could do to keep their crops long enough for them to ripen appropriately. Many of the older Hobbits muttered about a bad winter coming and Old Took was seen wandering to each of the homes of his children to ensure that their locks were in working order and that their larders were large and full. If one or the other were not good enough for the old adventurer, he paid for the new set of locks and smartly rapped his children over their heads for being so foolish as to keep their larders any less than completely stocked.
Billa was quite thankful that her parents were far too distracted by the pending arrival of the Took patriarch to concern themselves with her whereabouts, it gave her the time to enjoy a temporary freedom and to be of use to someone, though the Gamgee family made it a bit difficult with all their insisting that “Miss Billana didn’t have to help”.
On the day that she expected to receive word, which rather conveniently coincided with her grandfather’s visitation to the Bag End, Billa slipped out of the house and headed towards the Ranger camp, hoping against hope that the Strider- the current Chieftain of the Dúnedain whose birth name she had overheard was Argonui- had some sort of information for her. Unfortunately, the older Man was in conference with a number of others but a Ranger by the name of Gwathrain carried two messages addressed to her and had a wealth of information, including a new sword trick, a tip or two for her archery, and proof that the winter would likely be very harsh.
“These coming months little one, you must be cautious. Wargs and goblins circle the borders, ready to strike. We are doing all we can to drive them away but it seems our protection of this land is drawing more attention than driving away your enemies. Keep to the main roads. ”
Billana nodded solemnly and was quick to return to her home, letters clutched tightly in one of her skirt pockets. It was sundown by the time the lass had returned to the smial and spent an enjoyable dinner and supper with her grandfather before being sent to bed a bit earlier than normal. Now usually, young Billana would have feigned cooperation only to linger in the hall to listen in on the conversation but distracted as she was by the possibility of reading her letters she did as she was told. After all, it was doubtful that they'd say anything more than what she'd already heard.
A quick wash and change of clothes later, Billa was curled in her bed under several blankets as she opened the first of her letters, which was from Balin. She had little patience for reading it thoroughly, however, being slightly distracted by the silent promise Dwalin’s letter posed. After three attempts Billa gave up and opened up the second letter, barely breathing as she stared at the first sign of his familiar scrawl.
I have not the words or the mind to write all that I thought and felt upon finally receiving word from you. Long have I thought on what you would write and reality proved to shine more beautifully. Dwarf customs and honor lead me to know that I cannot come for you early unless you are in imminent danger from your parents, so I beg that you do not do anything foolish for if I lost you now I do not think I would be able to live without you. Write again soon, please, for I long to read more.
As you are mine, I am yours - if you would have me.
Dwalin son of Fundin.
In the following weeks that passed only two more letters were exchanged between the pair before winter clawed its way into the formerly green hills and refused to leave. The Shire bore through the early winter with a great deal of cheer and slightly dimmed joy. Needless to say that everything changed as the long winter dragged on and the first signs of illness appeared, and as though feeding on the beginnings of despair the Wargs attacked.