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Green Ginger Wine 11
“The Rangers are here, Captain!”
Captain Hedgehopper reached the front of the Lawkeeper’s Central Post just as two Men entered, dusting snow off of their coats.  He had met the older one before, a tall fellow called Arathorn.  The younger Man was unknown to him.  Lieutenant Bellwether joined them.
“Ah, Rangers.  I am Cpt. Moro Hedgehopper, this is Lt. Erling Bellwether. Thank you for coming.”
“I am Arathorn, and this is my son, Argonui.  I understand you’ve had a murder?”
“I’m afraid so, Master Arathorn.  We’ve had accidents and fights that have gotten out of hand before, but this one is a bit different.”
“Was the victim someone of great importance?” Argonui asked.
“Yavanna, no, he was as worthless as they come,” Erling said.  
“However, whoever killed him tried to frame some dwarves in the Shire and—“
“There are dwarves in the Shire
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Green Ginger Wine 8
“I DO NOT KNOW WHAT TO DO. SOMEONE TELL ME WHAT TO DO BECAUSE I DO NOT KNOW!”  Dwalin thundered, stomping around Bag End.
“You should marry her!” Balin suggested cheerfully.  “A sweet little hobbit lass will do you a world of good!”
“Not you!” Dwalin roared.
“You should marry her!” Kili offered.  “Her heart is full when she’s by your side; she told me so herself!”
Dwalin snarled in frustration and scrubbed his hands across his face.
“You really should marry her,” Thorin said calmly, quirking an eyebrow.  “You know why.”
Bilba took particular notice that her husband had given Dwalin The Eyebrow and made a mental note to worry the details out of him later.  Balin also noted this and narrowed his eyes suspiciously at his brother.  When the large dwarf’s eyes skimmed over her, Bilba shrugged.
“Should you marry her? I don’t know.
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Cpt Hedgehopper and Lt Bellwether knocked on the door to Bag End.  The pair had stopped at the forge first, but it was closed.  Blackberry’s wine cart and empties were sat by the door. Mistress Leafwalker in the bakery said that there had been a fuss after Brandywine had entered with a lunch basket, but conceded that it looked like quite a happy fuss.

Through the green door to Bag End, the lawkeepers could hear another fuss.  It did not sound like such a happy fuss.  They knocked again and presently the door was opened by a grey-haired dwarf with his beard in elaborate braids.

“This isn’t the best time, officers,” he said apologetically.

With the door cracked, Hedgehopper and Bellwether could hear two female voices raised in anger.  It sounded like Bilba Baggins and Blackberry Brandywine, but it was hard to tell.

“We just need to do a head count,” Moro said. “For the alibis.”

The grey-haired dwarf looked off to the side, but nodded and stepped back.

Most of the dwarves they had seen were gathered in the entryway, holding mugs of ale as though they had been in mid-celebration.





The dwarves eyed each other awkwardly.  Erling started counting beards.

“Is no one going to tell them off for having such a fight?” Moro asked in a quiet voice.  

“Well, it’s dams, innit?” Said a red-haired dwarf with his hair in spikes.

“You don’t interfere with a dam fight,” The dwarf standing next to him added.

A young, scrawny dwarf with his sideburns just starting to fill in sighed and headed towards the sitting room the two hobbit women were screeching in.

“Brave lass, brave lass, good girl, Ori,” several dwarves said, patting (apparently her) shoulders.  

Moro had to take another look to realize that sideburns or no, the dwarf was wearing a skirt.

“Um . . . you two shouldn’t be fighting.” Ori said.


“It – it just slipped out,” Bilba admitted, much chagrinned.

“I – I don’t really understand this,” Ori admitted.  “Dwalin is Blackberry’s husband; of course it’s his baby.”

“Thank you!!”

“Blackberry is in the family way?” Moro asked, completely forgetting about counting beards.

The lawkeeper dug through his pockets for a moment before producing a small packet of pipeweed.  This he thrust into Dwalin’s free hand and shook it firmly.

Freolice bréost!

“ . . . thank you,” the big dwarf said.  “What does that mean?

“It’s an old Kuduk blessing,” Moro said.  “It means . . . well, it actually doesn’t translate to Westron very well.  I suppose you could say ‘a blessing on this new life’ but there’s also a bit of ‘may there be no complications’ and ‘I hope you have many more!’”

“So what if they used a surrogate?!  I know you and Thorin couldn’t because he’s royalty, but it’s very rude to mention it!” Ori chided, her voice rising.

“A surrogate?” Blackberry echoed.

“Dwalin has still claimed the child as his, so it’s his child!” the young dwarrowdam continued.

“I didn’t mean – you’re right, Ori, that was very rude of me,” Bilba admitted.

The male dwarrow started to relax.  It seemed the fight was past.  The door swung open again and three more dwarrow walked in.  They seemed surprised both by the presence of the Lawkeepers and the impromptu party.

“Oin!  Oin, you’re needed!” Dwalin declared, going to the grey haired healer.  “Blackberry’s with child.”

“’Ey?” Oin pulled out an ear trumpet.

“I said Blackberry’s with child! She needs to be examined!”


“No, no surrogate.  She’s already been to see a hobbit midwife, she needs a dwarf healer now.”

“I did not sleep with anyone besides my husband!” Blackberry’s voice was starting to rise again.

Dwalin and Oin went into the living room and moments later hustled Blackberry back to one of the bedrooms.

“Is this everyone?” Erling asked.

The dwarf in the hat took a look around and started counting on his fingers.

“Thirteen dwarves,” Erling offered, ready to be on his way.  “There should be thirteen dwarves.  We aren’t counting the hobbitesses.”

“Bifur, Oin and Gloin just came back, Ori is in with Bilba and Dwalin is back – I already counted Oin.  Thirteen.  Yeah, that’s everyone.”

“Right; we’ll be on our way, then.  Freolice bréost!

“Free lice and breasts to you, too, mate,” Nori said as the Lawkeepers left.  “Is it safe?”

Bofur was peering around the corner into the living room.  Thorin had moved to stand before his wife as Dori and for some reason Fili had flown to Ori’s aide.  Bilba had her head bowed, hands over her face.

“It isn’t fair,” she finally choked.

Thorin heaved a deep sigh and reached out, gathering her to his chest.  Bilba choked out a few broken sobs.  

“No, it isn’t,” he agreed.

The King Under the Hill didn’t know what to say beyond that.  A dwarrowdam grew in the knowledge that she might never bear a child.  It was less of a shock when it didn’t happen.  Hobbits taught their daughters that children would come by the dozen if they wished.  Even two fine sons raised in Bag End didn’t lessen the sting of not bearing.  Thorin didn’t understand this.  A dwarrowdam would be over the moon if given two children when she had none.

“I was so cruel to Blackberry,” Bilba whimpered.  “Because of my own hurts.”

“Yes, you were,” Thorin stated.

The hobbitess in his arms groaned, but leaned into her husband’s embrace.  

“I’ll never be able to apologize enough, will I?”

“For Blackberry?  Likely not.” Thorin pressed a kiss to her forehead.  “I know you only said those things because you were hurting.”

Bilba tipped her head back to look up at her dwarf husband.

“So you love me still?”

“Until I’m returned to stone.”

“Don’t go heading back anytime soon.”


“I have not been unfaithful!” Blackberry insisted.

“I never doubted you for a second, luv, now dress off –“

“How dare she! She has two fine sons already!  She has no right to create!”

“None at all,” Dwalin agreed, unlacing her jumps.  “Now let’s let Oin take a look, ey?”

The healer took the jumps from Dwalin’s unresisting hand, studied them for a second, then shook them at the hobbitess.

“Wear these instead of those waist-cinchers while you’re with child!”

“They’re called corsets and I know!”

“Don’t fuss, pet, it’s not good for you to fuss now,” Dwalin said, pulling her dress over her head.  

Blackberry turned to tell her husband just what she thought of orders to calm down when he started unlacing her bloomers.  To his surprise, she gave Oin a nervous look.  By Mahal, Blackberry was so quick to strip down to her skin around him, it was a mild shock to see her shy in front of another male.  The shock changed to amusement when Dwalin tried to take her shift off only for his wee wife to yelp and clamp it against her body.

“You need me stark naked?!”

“I’m a healer, lass,” Oin stated flatly.  “I’ve seen many a dwarfling into this world.  Besides, your young man is right here.”

Dwalin did snort, then, mostly for being called a ‘young man’.  Blackberry flushed, but didn’t protest as she was stripped bare.  There was more poking and prodding.  

“Aye, I’d say the midwife was right; two months along.  Now if the babe is half-dwarf—“

“IT IS!”

“—we’ll have to keep an eye on things.”

“So no idea why Blackberry could get a child with a dwarf and Bilba can’t?” Dwalin asked.

Oin shrugged.

“Mahal carves all dams a little differently; maybe Blackberry’s a little closer to a dwarf than Bilba is.”

Blackberry opened her mouth to protest that Mahal hadn’t carved her, Yavanna had grown her, but the words died in her throat.  Perhaps . . . perhaps Mahal had carved her.  She had always been a most unhobbitish hobbit.  

“If bairn sickness hits you hard smoke more pipeweed.  And stick to wine and mead for now – sweet drinks give you a better chance at having a girl.  Many blessings, the both of you.”

Oin slipped out, giving Blackberry privacy to redress.  Dwalin helped her, beaming proudly.

“Do – do you think Mahal carved me?” Blackberry asked.  “Not Yavanna?”

“Oh, I know the Stone Father made you, luv.  Even a master craftsman’s chisel slips every now and then and he has to turn a cabochon into a rose.”

“You think I was meant to be a dwarf.”

“You are a dwarf, Berry.  On the inside.  This wee one is proof of that.”
Green Ginger Wine 12

One of my biggest pet-peeves in writing is medieval settings with modern knowledge. If it's a character that's traveled through time or whatever, okay, fine. That character can know about modern medicine. But it ticks me off when characters in medieval settings find out that they're pregnant and immediately swear off drinking and smoking. Or when they talk about having eggs. The human ovum wasn't discovered until 1928. Try again! Hell, they used to get women drunk during labor to help with the pain!

I've even seen a few where characters were actually singled out for carrying (or not carrying) a certain gene. How did they know that, huh? Did they pop down to Ye Olde Gene-Sequencing Laboratory and Barber Shoppe?

Anyhoo, I'm trusting you all to be smart enough to realize that drinking and smoking during pregnancy are actually not good ideas and eating sweets won't effect the sex of the baby.

And I think this is where I'm going to wrap this particular story up.  The next arc will be rather large, even though there's some loose ends that aren't wrapped up yet.  So stay tuned for Winter of Discontent!

“The Rangers are here, Captain!”

Captain Hedgehopper reached the front of the Lawkeeper’s Central Post just as two Men entered, dusting snow off of their coats.  He had met the older one before, a tall fellow called Arathorn.  The younger Man was unknown to him.  Lieutenant Bellwether joined them.

“Ah, Rangers.  I am Cpt. Moro Hedgehopper, this is Lt. Erling Bellwether. Thank you for coming.”

“I am Arathorn, and this is my son, Argonui.  I understand you’ve had a murder?”

“I’m afraid so, Master Arathorn.  We’ve had accidents and fights that have gotten out of hand before, but this one is a bit different.”

“Was the victim someone of great importance?” Argonui asked.

“Yavanna, no, he was as worthless as they come,” Erling said.  

“However, whoever killed him tried to frame some dwarves in the Shire and—“

“There are dwarves in the Shire?”Arathorn cut in.

“Not many, but a few have settled here. One of them married a hobbit lass a few weeks ago.  We didn’t think there were any issues, but the dwarf in question got into a tussle with the victim over his new wife.  Then the victim is found dead, thrown down in front of the forge where the dwarf works and had an axe wound in his back.”

As Moro spoke, he led the two Rangers to the furthest room at the back.  Justilo Proudfoot’s body lay in an old pantry with two boards missing from the wall so the cold could preserve him.  The two men pulled the sheet off of the corpse and looked him over.

“What do you think, lad?” Arathorn asked.

“Well, it wasn’t dwarves,” Argonui answered.


“In fights over honor, dwarves almost always remove the head.  Even when they don’t, they shave the victim.”

“Shave them?” Erling questioned. “Hobbits don’t have beards.”

“They would have shaved his head instead. Either way, it looks like this blow to the head is what killed him.” Argonui pointed to a bruise and cut at Justilo’s temple.  “The cut on the back has no bruising at all.”

“Well done, lad.  If you should like my opinion, Cpt. Hedgehopper, I’d suppose this gentleman got into a scrap with someone who hit him just right, realized he was dead, panicked, and threw him on the doorstep of the last person he’d had an argument with,” Arathorn surmised.  “It was just too sloppy to have been planned.”

The two hobbits nodded and thanked the Rangers, offering them luncheon.  For Men who lived their lives roaming, the opportunity to eat until they were fit to burst was a rare treat.  The pair went next door to what was ostensibly a public café, but had been taken over by various Lawkeepers.  

“That’s the feeling I got from this mess, too,” Moro told Erling as the pair grabbed their cloaks to head next door.  “Looks like we should be looking for a rock.”

Erling didn’t look relieved at all.

“Or a truncheon.”


“I’m only doing this right now because I’m curious, girl.  Strip down to your shift,” Goody ordered, putting the kettle on.  She badly needed a cup of tea.

As Blackberry started to disrobe, the midwife gathered the tools of her trade.
“You really think it’s the dwarf’s baby?”

“YES!!!” Blackberry snarled.

“Mmm.  When was the last time you were with a hobbit male?”

“Eight years ago.”

Goody stopped in her tracks.

“Eight years?  Really?! But everyone says –“

“What?  What does everyone say?” Blackberry asked, stripping off her corset.

“Um . . . . a lot of ladies say you’re like a hunting cat,” Goody said ruefully.  “And small enough to slip through windows.”

Blackberry rolled her eyes.  She was used to being grist for the rumor mill.  In fact, she thought she might have heard the one about having loads of lovers before.  Instead, she looked down at the corset in her hands as if seeing it for the first time.

“I’m going to have to switch to short stays, aren’t I?”

“Or jumps or even a kirtle.  Just leave pressure off of your stomach.  And you’ll need to practice your birthing dance, too.  Remember it?”

“Sort of.”

“You can come by the class on Saturdays, if you need to.  Let’s have a look at that belly.”

What followed was much pinching and prodding and peeing into a small glass bowl.  Goody mixed some ground herbs into it, then went back to her physical exam.  She examined Blackberry’s breasts, belly, hips, feet, and secrets.  The old midwife returned to her glass bowl and held it up to the light.  The liquid within had turned red.

“You need to start eating more, lass; you are much too thin for birthing.”

“I am with child?”

“Nearly two months gone, so I stand by my first question.  You’ve only been married three weeks.”

Blackberry had the decency to blush, but she grinned.

“Have you seen my Dwalin?” she asked slyly.  “Anyway, I’m not taking any cheek from Goody ‘Four husbands and counting and I’ve given birth to fourteen children’ Whemper.”

Goody scoffed as Blackberry began to redress.  The younger hobbit woman tied her corset as loosely as she could, swore when she had trouble buttoning her dress over the top of it, then just left the back unbuttoned and threw her cloak over it.

“Is there a healer with this mob of dwarves?” Goody asked.

“Yes, Oin, son of – somebody or other.”

“I might need a conflab with him if the child really is half-dwarf.”

“You know where Bag End is.”

“Yes, I do.  Well, congratulations, my dear, welcome to motherhood; you’re starting your greatest adventure, now get out I have to sleep.”

Grinning, Blackberry walked back to Bramble’s Edge.


“A truncheon?  You think it was a Lawkeeper?!”

“I don’t have any proof,” Lt. Bellwether said.  “Just a suspicion.”


The pair had kept silent until the Rangers ate and left, and now spoke in hushed voices as they walked back to the Post.

“The Commander had us out searching for Proudfoot before the corpse had even been found.”

“He missed his parole check-in.”

“He had until ten in the morning to make that.  He was only out so early because he was working for Farmer Rumblebelly, milking cows.  Besides, last time someone jumped his parole, they just sent word round to keep an eye out for him.  And Longfoot ended up being at work, he just forgot to sign in!  The first thing we should have done was send some lads to the dairy!”

Cpt. Hedgehopper’s face started to contort as he realized the insinuation.

“That’s . . . you can’t just—“

“He’s been acting queer.”

“Don’t talk to me about this until you get some proof,” Moro sighed, pushing open the door.


Commander Bilberry was practically purple with rage.  The constables present instantly put their natural hobbitish powers of disappearing to use.

“I did,” Cpt. Hedgehopper said firmly.  “They have more experience with dwarves than we do; they had some insights.”

“Such as?!”

“They said Proudfoot got into a scrap with someone who hit him just right and cracked his head open.  Then they panicked and threw him on the doorstep of the last person to take issue with him.”

Cmdr. Bilberry stared hard at his officers.

“That is a pretty good insight.  Except what of the axe wound?”

“It’s winter; everyone has axes by their woodpile.”

“I’m still not convinced.  Get up to Bag End and count dwarves, then go over to the Green Dragon and make sure the number matches.”

The captain and lieutenant grudgingly made for the door, but Erling paused.

“The Ranger’s insight wasn’t perfect, Commander.”

“In what way?”

“Well, the last person to call for Proudfoot’s head . . . . was you.”

The lieutenant pulled the door shut after him.  Moro was shaking his head.

“Do not talk to me of this!”

“He flinched!  He flinched!  He might not be guilty, but he knows something!”

“Let’s go count dwarves before you get us killed!”


Blackberry had an old pair of jumps left over from her first marriage, when she thought there would be children.  She threw them on over a winter morning dress that was little more than a glorified nightdress.  In truth she probably could have gone another month in a corset, but Blackberry had waited long enough to wear jumps that she was going to do it as early as possible.  She made meals for her husband and loaded up her cart before heading into town.  She kept her fur-lined cloak closed as best she could so that news of her condition didn’t reach Hobbiton before she did.  These days, when a woman switched from wearing corsets to jumps, there was really only one reason for it. Blackberry dropped off her wine, then headed to the forge.  Dwalin was fetching coal for the forges when she walked in but set down the bucket and came up for a kiss.

“How are you doing, love?” Blackberry asked.

“Oh, forging with a hangover is just a delight,” the big dwarf announced.  

To Blackberry’s surprise, Dwalin instantly noticed her change in dress and smiled warmly.

“I like that frock; it’s very dwarvish.  Did Dori make it for you?”

“This?  Oh no; this is just what hobbit women wear when they find out they’re with child.”

“Really? Why are you wearing it?”

Blackberry simply stared at her husband.  Dwalin stared at his wife.  After a moment, his steel grey eyes dropped to her stomach.  Then they flipped back up to her face.  He paled. Then his eyes dropped back to her belly again.  He put one hand over his mouth and swayed on his feet.  Blackberry laughed.  

“I just found out!”  She announced.  “Goody Whemper said two months along!”

Dwalin actually staggered back a step to catch himself on the counter.

“You’re – you’re  . . . two months? But that would mean . . .” the big dwarf looked at the patch of floor where Thorin had discovered them.

“Yes.  It’s a good thing you married me!  It’s probably a mark of honor for a dwarf to be conceived in a forge!”

Blackberry was anticipating a joyful yell, being picked up and twirled around or Dwalin running through town, laughing like a loon.  She was not expecting his face to contort and damn if his eyes didn’t look a bit wet.

“I nearly left you,” He whispered. “I nearly went back to Ered Luin without you and this whole time you were carrying my child.”

“I would have followed you to Ered Luin and demanded you marry me,” Blackberry announced, sobering a bit.  “This town already hates me, I could imagine what having a half-dwarf bastard would do.”

Dwalin looked pained, but gathered her up and squeezed her carefully.

“Even if I were a complete coward, I would have done the honorable thing.  But it’s even better that I married my sweet lass and got a wee one on the way as well.”

He touched his forehead to hers.  For a moment, they simply stared into each other’s eyes.

“We’re going to have a baby,” Blackberry whispered, giggling.

“We’re going to have a baby,” Dwalin returned, grinning.

He kissed her once more, set her down on the worktable, then drew in a deep breath and tore out of the door, bellowing something in Khudzul.  Blackberry stared after him, then started laughing.  She was happy that he was happy.  She was grateful beyond the power of tongue to tell that Dwalin hadn’t asked if the baby was his.  

Blackberry was certain that was a question she’d be answering until the baby was actually born.
Green Ginger Wine 11

The Ranger named Arathorn is not Aragorn's father. Aragorn's father was Aragorn II. This is Aragorn I. I tried to line up the timeline of the Ranger chieftains as best I could with the events mentioned in this story, but the movie butchered a few things and GreenT placed the Fell Winter in Bilbo's lifetime, so it's a little wonky.

Jumps! Jumps were the sports bras of the 18th and 19th centuries. Instead of a tight, heavily boned corset, jumps were usually quilted fabric that laced up the front. If they had boning at all, it was very minimal, usually restricted to the back and sides. They could go all the way to the waist and look a bit like waistcoats, or they could stop under the bustline. For the purposes of this fic, I'm having them stop under the bustline and kind of mimic the empire waists of dwarrow women.


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“I don’t think they’re home, sir.”  Lieutenant Bellwether said, turning away from the purple door of Bramble’s Edge.

“Blackberry’s cart is here,” Constable Truance pointed out.

“Hmm.” Commander Bilberry offered.

“You don’t really think the dwarf was so dim as to snatch Proudfoot on the first day of his parole, do you?” Bellwether said, joining the pair on the footpath. “He probably done a runner.  Might be in Buckland again.”


“Commander!  Lieutenant!” Sergeant Sandheaver waved as he came up the track.

“Sergeant!  What did the Whistlestops have to say?” Bilberry asked.

“Home all night, sir.”

“Any witnesses to that fact?” Bilberry asked with derision.

“Yes, sir.  Goody Whemper the midwife.  Also Snowdrop and Pearl Whistlestop.”

Bilberry made a vague noise of disappointment, but asked no further.

“Who are Snowdrop and Pearl Whistlestop?” Constable Truance asked, not getting the connection.

“The twin girls Mistress Whemper delivered not an hour before I knocked on their door.  Mum’s doing fine.  Ruggo’s so proud I think he’s going to pop his buttons.”

The four lawkeepers fell into step, heading back towards Hobbiton.  Commander Bilberry was quiet, the sergeant and constable trading pleasantries about Peony’s safe journey through birthing.  Lieutenant Bellwether eyed his superior for a few minutes, then muttered under his breath.

“I still think he done a runner.”

The lawkeepers continued their trek back into town, where the yelling and loud cries drew their attention.  They fought their way through the market crowd to stop in front of the forge.

Justilo Proudfoot lay dead before the door.

Aside from the throngs of curious hobbits, Thorin Oakensheild was peering blearily at the corpse while nursing a cup of coffee.  He muttered something in the rough dwarf language and stepped over the late Justilo to open up the door.

“I knew it!” Commander Bilberry cried triumphantly.  “Obviously Proudfoot was murdered by—“

“Not a dwarf,” Bellwether announced.


“Master Dwalin was very specific about having to remove his head to defend his family honor and the head is still attached.”

“Thank you!” Thorin called from inside the forge.

The constables started to shoo away the crowd, one of them running to the nearest law post for the dead wagon.  Thorin started the forges, then came out and watched the lawkeepers as he finished his coffee.

“He has an axe wound in his back,” Commander Bilberry announced.

“Delivered after death,” Thorin said.  “If it were delivered while he was alive, he’d be covered in blood.”

Bellwether stared at the body like he’d never seen it before.

“I’ve been in enough battles to know corpses don’t bleed.”


The departing hobbits hurried back.  Dwalin was glowering down at Proudfoot’s corpse as if it had personally offended him.  Blackberry hung on his arm, an odd expression on her face.

“I was supposed to kill him!”

“You could take his head now!” Someone called from the back of the crowd.  “I don’t think he’d mind!”

“It doesn’t count if he’s already dead!”

“Not so fucking loud,” Thorin pleaded, rubbing his forehead.

Bellwether realized the King Under the Hill was hung over.  Oakensheild only had hangovers when he was celebrating with the other dwarves at the inn.  In fact, that was the direction Dwalin and Blackberry had come from.  Blackberry was still wearing a party dress instead of a morning dress.  She looked a bit green around the gills as well.  Of course, that could have been the fresh corpse at her feet.

“We went to Bramble’s Edge this morning, but you weren’t at home,” the Commander announced coldly.  “Mind telling us where you were all night?”

“We spent the night at the inn,” Blackberry answered, swallowing heavily.  “Someone was the worse for drink.”

“We’ll never celebrate the end of our honeymoon again,” Dwalin said in a gentler tone.

“Half of Hobbiton heard the rest of them staggering back to Bag End,” another hobbit from the crowd offered.  “Singing their bawdy songs; they could barely put one foot in front of the other.  It’s a wonder they didn’t lose one in the snow.”

“What time was this?” Bellwether asked.

“Half past two in the morning!!”

“When was the body found?”

“I – I came in to start baking at four,” Autumn Leafwalker said. “He wasn’t there then.  I unlocked the door at six and he was.”

Bellwether fell silent.  The dead wagon arrived and he oversaw loading the body up while every constable they could manage went around taking statements.  The snow under Justilo’s body was devoid of blood, but, Bellwether couldn’t help but notice, it was melted a bit.  Proudfoot had still been warm when he was cast down in front of the forge.  He called Captain Hedgehopper over to witness this.  

“So we’ve got a freshly-dead bastard and a killer who really wants us to think a dwarf did it,” Hedgehopper sighed.

“And every dwarf in the Shire was drunk as a miner last night and surrounded by witnesses right up until the body was found.”

The pair fell silent for a moment as Blackberry begged off from her husband and fled a few steps into fresh snow before becoming sick.  

“And still hung over,” Hedgehopper observed.  He looked back over his shoulder at Bilberry who was bossing around his underlings and glaring at the dwarves.  “He finally got a murder; you’d think he’d be happier.  

Goodwill Bilberry had been one of the hobbits who was certain Blackberry had murdered her husband and Peony and wanted to arrest her for it.

“He was acting queer since the first bell,” Bellwether groused.  “Maybe it’s because this one will be tough to solve.”

“You think?”

“Too many people wanted him dead.”

In front of the forge, Blackberry kissed her husband and started off towards home to get her cart and start her own workday.  The lawkeepers didn’t try to stop her.  It was the Shire.  No one left.


Goody Whemper arrived home just as Blackberry was walking up the drive.

“Good morning, Mistress Whemper!  Oh, you’ve just come back from a call.  I can come back later.”

Goody turned her pony into his stall and peered at Blackberry.  They had met plenty of times before. When Blackberry was just a faunt, Goody taught the mothering class at Hobbiton’s school.  The girl paid intense attention to the intricacies of pregnancy, birth, and parenting.  While courting she had called on Goody to learn if there were any herbs or a special diet to ensure her body was primed for conception.  After the first few years of her marriage – her first marriage – the inquiries changed to medicines to help conceive. And finally inquiries about any foundlings available.

The poor child had hitched her wagon to the wrong star.  While courting, Justilo exuded the air of a young man a little uncertain of children, but guilty of nothing more than inexperience.  After he wed Blackberry, he made no secret of how much he detested children.  Even a mother who couldn’t care for a new babe wasn’t going to let it go to the Proudfoot household.

And now, fresh into a very hasty – even by hobbit standards – marriage, Blackberry was at Goody’s doorstep again.  Normally Mistress Whemper would tell her to come back after she’d had a nap, if it weren’t for the little fact that Blackberry had just married a dwarf.

“I – I have to go get my cart and bring Dwalin his elevenses and lunch – I can stop on the way back if that’s better.”

Goody had been at the wedding.  She’d heard Dwalin declare that there wouldn’t ever be children. Thorin and Bilba’s marriage seemed to confirm this little belief.  But if no unwilling mother would give a babe to Blackberry because of Justilo, surely she realized no one would give her a babe because of her dwarvish husband.

“Why are you here, lass?”  Goody finally asked.

“I need confirmation,” Blackberry sighed.  

Goody’s eyebrows shot up to her hairline.
Green Ginger Wine 10
Me:  All right, I just need to wrap up the loose ends, then I can get on to --

Brain: You know what this story needs?!  A murder!!!

Me:  In the third act?

Brain: .  . .. . yeah!  What a twist!

Centaur Bofur
Inspired by the Herd of Durin over at AoOO. It's a good a story as long as you like Bagginsheild.
Baby Centaur
Me trying to figure out what a newborn centaur would look like. Most of the depictions of them show them laying down, helpless like human infants, but I think like horses, they'd be able to walk at birth. So the human would have to be able to support itself, so a newborn would have the physical development of a year old child. I also added a little more fat the horse part because a human child as skinny as a newborn foal would be horrifying.
Found out I'm losing my hearing. Like, officially.  Can't say how much or how bad it's going to get yet, because they have to take repeated hearing tests to see if it's still degrading but I have enough hearing loss in lower registers that I can't hear normal conversation in noisy environments.  I had a donor at work with a voice like Isaac Hayes ask me for a tissue in a nearly empty room and I had to ask him to repeat himself three times.

It's not at the point at the moment where hearing aids are really necessary, but we'll have to see how far it goes.  I'm trying to look on the bright side; like, I'll learn ASL and stop talking.  That way people will have to work to communicate with me and I think that will cut out a lot of bullshit.  I can cut to the front of boarding lines and if people protest, I'll be like: *signing* and I think most people will give it up rather than push the issue.  I'll push my way to the front of concerts and if people protest I'll be like: I have hearing loss!  I have to be this close!  I'll get away with murder!
  • Listening to: Vinyl
  • Reading: Funeral Director Education materials
  • Watching: Asl videos
  • Playing: Smurfs Village
  • Eating: Baby 3 Musketeers
  • Drinking: Mike's Harder Lemonade


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Bijinx Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Happy birthday!
SparklinBurgndy Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you!
Bijinx Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
You're welcome
MensjeDeZeemeermin Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2018
Age has its rewards, accumulated wisdom, rational priorities, memories safe in the treasury of the years, inviolate and precious.  The adventure of life continues with the past guiding one's way to the future, and even the painful memories of mistakes inoculates one against facile errors.  One sees and does new things, one enjoys and recalls old things fondly--and the world, and you, journey around the son.  Better yet, others who prize you are here to travel with you, and they rejoice in your existence, celebrating that by wishing you a Happy Birthday!
SparklinBurgndy Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you so much!
MensjeDeZeemeermin Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2018
I misspelled 'sun.' o_o  So glad you liked that.
SparklinBurgndy Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
I knew what you meant!
LonewolfD Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2018
Happy birthday to you.
I hope you have a great day
SparklinBurgndy Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you!
AL-818 Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2018  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Happy Bday, Maddy - Best wishes & MUCH more!
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