Word Count: 1266
Disclaimer: If I owned the hobbit there would be even more minor characters.
Summary: Gossip is Serious Business in the Shire and when Bilbo runs off, everyone has something to say.
When Marigold awoke that morning, it seemed like any other day in Hobbiton, if a bit brisker than was usual for this time of year. She carried this misconception through first and second breakfasts and it was only when the lass reached the marketplace that she realized something extraordinary had occurred. For while there were usually only a few older hobbitesses gossiping around the well, today an enormous crowd had gathered there.
Even some of the merchants had left their stalls to join in the whispering and this was something that the Marigold had never seen before. So by the time she reached the edge of the crowd, the lass was afire with curiosity and when she saw her friend Rosie, she snagged the other's arm.
“Honey, what happened? Did someone die?”
“Nothing so tragic,” Her friend replied with a laugh. “I'm actually surprised you haven't heard yet; the news must be all over the Shire by now.”
“Well obviously I haven't or I wouldn't be asking. So spill!” Marigold demanded, all thoughts of shopping gone from her mind. Rosie just grinned back at her unrepentantly, lowering her voice to a whisper that her friend must lean forward to hear.
“It's that Bilbo Baggins who lived up on the hill. He ran off yesterday and no one's seen him since.”
“Oh dear...” The hobbitess gasped. “And him without an heir for that lovely hobbit hole of his. What could he have been thinking?”
“Obviously he wasn't.” One of the older hobbits cut in. “You know the lad is half Took and they've always had a bit of mad wanderlust in them so I think he finally just cracked. Ran off into the woods to chase the fairy dust and fell into a hole.”
This statement seemed to break the dam of propriety and soon everyone was offering their opinions, voices talking over top one another without pause until Marigold had to struggle to keep them straight.
“My word. This is so exciting.” Old Mister Bolger muttered next to her, watching the chaos with a vague sort of smile. “Nothing like this has happened since I was a fauntling and Driga Boffin got lost in the Eastfarthing woods for a week.”
But Marigold's response was lost in the commotion so eventually she gave up trying to talk at all and just listened as her friends and neighbors argued back and forth.
“Where do you think Mr. Baggins went? He never seemed like the type to run off suddenly.”
“He told me he was going on an adventure.”
“An adventure? How quaint.”
“I think he went off to find the elves. I could almost understand that one even if it is isn't proper. I mean, can you imagine?”
“Don't be foolish. The elves wouldn't allow a hobbit into their hallowed halls even if he somehow made it there. Bilbo probably just ran up to Bree because of some kind of middle-aged insanity and he'll crawl back with his tail between his legs soon enough.”
“I don't care where's he'd going or why he left. I just hope you're right.”
“Of course you do. We all know who will move into Bag End if he's gone for good and I don't want that witch or her lout of a fiancé as a neighbor. Mr. Baggins may have been a little weird but at least he was polite.”
“Yeah, whenever Lobelia comes to visit she sneers at my azaleas and I caught that brat of hers stepping on my strawberries last summer before they were even ripe.”
This pronouncement momentarily shocked the group to silence because while stealing another hobbit's food was frowned upon, it was at least understandable. But to destroy something without even eating it was practically taboo. However, with such juicy gossip at their fingertips, the pause didn't last for long.
“So is he coming back?”
“I don't think so. Young Gamgee said his pantry was stripped completely bare; even the canning was gone.”
“Oh dear, I think you're right.”
“Don't be foolish. That doesn't mean anything. It's not like Mr. Baggins took all his furniture with him and you know how he loves that chair.”
“Maybe he is planning on returning but that doesn't mean he's going to. My mum always says that adventures are nasty dangerous things that make you late for dinner or miss meals entirely. Poor Mister Bilbo's going to starve!” This last trailed off into a wail as the fauntling started sobbing in mourning for the nice old hobbit who had always had a friendly word to say.
So Marigold ran over to comfort her, wrapping an arm about the dear child and patting her on the back. “Now, now. Don't cry darling. I'm sure Mr. Baggins will be fine. I mean, surely he didn't actually run off on his own?”
“Well I heard that Rutherford saw him with that band of dwarves who stayed at the Green Dragon last night. He was coming back from the Bywater and they rode right past him. But I think he must have been drunk again because he claims that Bilbo was riding a pony.”
“A pony!” The scandalized gasp went around the group like wildfire and Ethelford grinned smugly at the furor his words had caused. “He said there was a man with them as well, some old geezer in robes and a wizard hat.”
“A wizard and a band of dwarves... How delightful. I wonder if they're treasure hunting? My grandpa always used to say that dwarves could sniff out gold like a pig after truffles.”
“Oh come on. If they'd gone after treasure why would they bring Bilbo along? He probably just hired them on as guards. That would be the only sensible way to travel through dangerous parts.”
“Hogwash. No hobbit would be crazy enough to run off with a bunch of dwarves. Not even old Mister Baggins.”
“Yeah, they'd be just as likely to leave him in a ditch somewhere as do the work he bought.”
“Hey now. I've dealt with some perfectly nice dwarves over the years. Best metalwork I've ever seen and for a fair price as well; my hoe still works like new. I'm sure they'd take good care of our Bilbo.”
“Hah! I'll believe that when I see it.”
“Me too. I think Mr. Baggins will either show up in a few days, robbed blind and regretting ever stepping out his door or he'll never come back at all. Serves him right too. It'll serve you all right when Lobelia moves in. We should have nipped his dreaming in the bud like I told you years ago.”
“Well I think it's exciting. Our Mister Bilbo gone off to see the world and just imagine the tales he'll have to tell when he comes back.”
“Be quiet you foolish lass. Don't encourage this when there are children present!” Mrs. Rumble snapped before covering her daughter's ears and stalking off in a huff.
As if that were the signal, the crowd began to disperse, everyone returning to their usual business as though this were any other day. But now Marigold knew better than that. So the young hobbitess looked over at Bag End in the distance and said a prayer for Mad Bilbo under her breath.
“Off on an adventure. Who would have thought?”
This story now has an unofficial sequel: Flibbertigibbet