A chilling winter tale Here is a tale I told at the Green Dragon Friday on 19th January 2018, with a few amendments! This happened while I still was a small lass, during winter. I was travelling with my pa who wanted to visit his relatives in Staddle, near Bree-town. I liked travelling and visiting other places, but the relatives… They were the dullest ever! They could sip their teas for HOURS, sharing gossip and all that useless stuff with me pa. Then, they gave a virtually endless tour at their tater fields, showing them of… And the debates of imaginary fish catches and hunting trips… Blah! That’s no entertainment for a lass like me! I wanted to hear tales about dragons, go adventuring in the scary Bree-town, play all sorts of fun games… However, the adults were not up for somet like that at all! But this visit was a bit different. It was a cold winter, and as we arrived in Staddle with my pa, it had snowed, and a lot! I could go and plunge into the snow, while the adults were inside, drowning themselves in dullness. I made snowhobbits, snowburrows, mazes, everything I could think of. But after a while, it started to feel a bit dull as well - it was no fun to play in the snow alone… if I only had some company… And then, as if by magic, I saw someone approach me. It was a young hobbit lad, fully dressed in winter clothes, smiling widely. “Nice work here!” he said, looking at my snowy creations. “Would you still have time and energy for a snowball battle?” The boy’s clothes were a bit messy and worn-out, but his face looked friendly. He gazed at me with his coal-black eyes eagerly. “Of course!” I said, and so I started a fierce snowball battle with the boy. It was fun, but after we hit my relatives’ burrow window a few times with snowballs and had to dodge some scolding from inside, we decided to go somewhere else to play. The boy said he lived there nearby, and he knew a place that was very good for snowball fights. We went to the edge of a forest where we found lots of virginal snow, just for us two! My woolly mittens were getting sogged, but the boy lent me his. He didn’t seem to mind the cold at all. It was getting dark and foggy, but it only made the snowball duel more challenging. We chased each other and moved a bit further from the forest. At one point, I had hit the boy with a rain of snowballs, and he was gathering himself for a revenge. “Catch me if you can!” I shouted and was about to run away into the fog that was suddenly getting thicker, when I sensed something strange… I looked back at the boy. He had stopped dead in his tracks. Only now I realized that his face was paler than any face I’d ever seen. No breath was coming out from his mouth, even though it was very cold… “I can’t go any further,” the boy said calmly. “You shouldn’t too.” “Why, what is it?” I asked, but then, the fog got thicker and I couldn’t see anything. After a moment, the fog disappeared, as fast as it had appeared… and the boy was gone. I looked around. As the fog went away, I could see more clearly… and I startled! I realized that I was standing on the edge of a frozen pond. Had I gone any further, the thin surface could have given away. I shivered and looked where the boy had gone. I followed his footprints to a burrow that was quite near to my relatives’ home. I still had to return the mittens the boy had given me, and I knocked on the door. An old lady emerged and smiled at me. “What is it, lass?” “I wanted to return these. Your boy lent them to me.” “Oh that’s sweet, dear,” the old lady said. “Just bring them back to him, he's there in the back yard.” And I went there… but there was only a single snowhobbit there… But it had the very same clothes that the boy had had, just a while ago! And eyes, black as coal, a pale face... I shook my head, put the mittens in the snowhobbit’s hands and went back to the old lady. “That is... a wonderful snowhobbit down there. But where is the boy?” I asked. The old lady smiled. “No one can answer that, dear. He has been away for decades.” “Decades! But I just threw snowballs at him…” “No, that wasn’t my son, dear, you are mistaken,” the old lady said. “My boy fought his last snowball battle on the frozen pond many years ago,” the old lady sighed. “We never found him… only a hole in the ice.” I have never shivered so much. Had I been playing with a ghost? “But at least I can have him as a snowhobbit here with me,” the old lady said and smiled. “He really enjoyed the snow. I think he would enjoy to play with someone…” I have never run faster to my relatives’ burrow. Suddenly, all that dull gossip beside a safe dinner table seemed very appealing to me! I never met that boy again… And sometimes, some snowhobbits give me goose bumps. The end.