Far ahead, Freesia could see a gate. It was quite large and looked to be beat up and rebuilt several times. The door on the gate was shut. Her legs were almost giving in. She couldn’t bear the thought of stopping at the door with the creature behind her still running. Chasing. There was no where else she could go.
Freesia might as well have barreled right into a wall; she threw her body against the door, afraid of what might happen if she slowed even a little. She pounded a few times, but the body slam did just as well. A small piece of wood on the door slid open, it was too high up for her to be seen, she started screaming for them to let her in.
Luckily, the doorman didn’t waste time checking the lower opening that was used for hobbits. Freesia could only hope that whoever was on the other side of the door grasped the situation and would let her in on assumption that it was in fact a hobbit. There was no doubt that whoever it was could see the creature not far behind her.
The door cracked open and Freesia pushed through as quickly as her little legs would let her. The door closed far quicker than it had opened. She let out a sigh of relief, hoping it wasn’t too soon to relax. Looking around the town, Freesia could see that things were not quite functional. Everyone was doing something, but they weren’t happy about it.
Some were building up stronger fences. Some were reinforcing houses. One was standing right in front of Freesia, checking to make sure she wasn’t an enemy.
The doorman looked to be not quite tall enough to be a man, but not quite short enough to be a hobbit or a dwarf. Freesia could only assume it was a dwarf based on old Frodo’s story. The dwarf was looking Freesia in the eye, trying to decide what to do with her. There was no way she could go back, at least not right now.
The only thing Freesia could think to do was ask questions.
“What was that thing?” she asked him. He stared at her in silence for another moment. It didn’t look as though he was going to say anything. As he began to talk, his beard shook up and down, with no sign of his mouth underneath the hair.
“That was a Scar.” he said, “I ain’t seen none like you ’round these parts. What are ye, a dwarf child?” Freesia was taken aback at the dwarf’s manner.
“I’m a hobbit.” was all she could say at first. She was anxious at the feeling of all the unfamiliarity around her. Living in the Shire, she had never seen any folk except hobbits. All other folk seemed like simply legend. Elves and wizards left middle earth long ago. Men and dwarves kept to themselves in their own lands.
Bree had been a crossroad for all sorts of folk. Men, dwarves, hobbits. All sorts of strangers stopped by to stay the night on their journeys. And that was just it, no one went on journeys any more. Everyone grew to keep to themselves and care nothing of what is going on around them.
“A hobbit, eh?” the dwarf said, “I heard of ye, little folk with no chance at survival out here in the world. Never did un’erstan’ what kep’ ye little people alive in that little ol’ town o’ yers. If ye ask me, the shire is t’ be jus’ one big trap. Ain’t gon’ be long before Scars make ther’ way into yer town an’ start feedin’ of ye. Here in Bree, we’s got the best protection system in all o’ new middle earth.” He rambled on about Bree and its greatness as Freesia thought about what he had said about the Shire being in danger.
Freesia interrupted. “What is going on in the world?” she asked him.
“Why, one can’t be sure. I’s only seen what’s goin’ on in here Bree, but some often folk’ll find themselves in here, tellin’ tales about ther’ poor little towns an’ they espect me to go on an’ help ’em with whatever little favors they’s seekin’. Ain’t hardly seen a man around in ages. Some’s sayin’ that all’s the men all turned into those Scar beasties. It’s quite a fright t’ think that all men is those flesh eatin’ monsters.”
“What turned them into that?” Freesia asked. It scared her to think that that many men had become those things.
“I reckon somethin’ awful happened to ’em t’ make ’em that way. Folks sometimes sayin’ it ain’t possible to live in peace wit’ out no evil. They says that when the elves lef’, they thought they brought the bad wif ’em, but bad can’t jus’ leave. There’s gotta be bad in the world t’ keep the balance.”
Freesia wasn’t quite sure why the dwarf was telling her all this. She’s just a small, insignificant hobbit with no reason to want to know the affairs of the world. What could one hobbit do to stop a race of monsters? Not even Frodo or Bilbo had been alone in their adventures, and no one would ever want to join Freesia on such a terrifying, deadly, and pointless quest.
“You’s best find a nice place to sleep, yer not goin’ t’ wanna leave here Bree ’til the night is gone an’ the sun’s come up. Scars can’t be in the sunlight.” Freesia took his advice and headed to the Prancing Pony. She hoped there would be some nice fellow, a descendant to Butterbur, that would help her find a place to rest.
Upon walking into the inn, Freesia felt as though she herself was in Frodo’s tale. Tell Gandalf we’ve arrived. She would say. Underhill, the name’s Underhill, and these are my friends.
Everything was not quite as she had imagined it. The aroma that filled the air made the scene more realistic.
Freesia walked up to the front desk. Clearing her throat loudly a couple times, she got the man’s attention. He had to have been the only man around here that wasn’t a Scar.
“Um, may I please have somewhere to stay and rest until morning?” she asked. The man stared down at her. For a moment she thought she would be turned away, after all, she had no money to pay with.
“A hobbit!” the man said. Freesia was surprised he knew what she was. “Of course you can stay here! What, did you think I was going to turn you away to the Scars? Besides, I haven’t had a single hobbit stay in my hobbit sized rooms since I joined the business. How’s about you have a seat and get yourself something to eat.”
Freesia was delighted that someone would be so kind to let her stay with no money. Maybe everyone was wrong about Bree. There didn’t seem to be anything wrong with it. Maybe no one wanted to come here because they heard bad tales about folk getting attacked on the road, never actually making it to Bree.
As she ate, Freesia looked around. It all seemed to fit the description perfectly. Tables, people. Even a strange man sitting in the corner. Wait. That’s odd. The moment Freesia noticed the man, he seemed to notice her as well. It was almost exactly like Strider, only, Freesia wasn’t sure this man was trustworthy as Strider had been, who actually later became king of Gondor.
Gondor. What had become of Gondor? And Rohan? Had they become old and run down like Bree has? They seemed so mighty and noble, but if all men have become Scars, then what’s left of the great kingdoms of men?
The man in the corner seemed to watch Freesia for a long, uncomfortable while. Freesia suddenly noticed something about the man that reminded her of another thing she had read about. He had a blade attached at his side. And it was glowing blue.