The following was written on a loose journal page, found just outside the Green Dragon Inn. Strange as it may seem, I often find myself in the Shire between journeys elsewhere. The rustic charm and simple pleasures of the Little Folk appeal to me, and often help me relax and take a rest from my cares. One of my favourite places to stop is a small blacksmith’s shop, run by a plump, friendly fellow named Otho Goldbough. His young daughter and I had become something like friends, and I often stopped to see what new creations of metal and gems she had designed. That day, I smiled as Miss Thyitas excitedly spread out a collection of her most recent pieces of jewelry for me to see. As difficult as it was for her to get metals and gemstones, she truly had a growing skill with the fashioning of gems, although it was much more simple and down to earth than the jewelers of my home would have used. As we discussed pricing and design, the two of us heard a loud yell echo out of the back room, where the forge was located. Thyitas dropped the bracelet that she had been holding, and the opal set in it chipped as it struck the floor, but she was already through the back door, where I could hear more yells, one of which was completely panic-stricken. Following closely behind her, I was surprised to see Otho’s apprentices yelling and pointing at Thyitas’ cousin, Remismund. His sleeve had caught fire, and he was yelling at the top of his lungs for help. Thyitas had snatched a horse blanket from the wall, and quickly threw it over the fire on Remismund’s arm, smothering it before it could spread. I couldn’t help thinking, ‘Clever girl, that one, and able to keep her head in an emergency.’ I had to suppress a laugh at the way Thyitas behaved, so much like a Hobbit-mother, even though she was several years younger than her cousin. Travelling the way that I do, I usually keep some healing salve in my rucksack, so as Thyitas finished beating out the fire, I drew it out, and knelt by the two cousins. Remismund was biting his lip, but stubbornly refusing to cry, even though he was obviously in pain. Carefully, Thyitas removed the blanket, and she and I both breathed a sigh of relief. Remismund’s arm wasn’t as badly burnt as we had thought it would be, although he would bear a rather large scar. I drew my dagger and carefully sliced through the stitching of his sleeve at the shoulder, so I could take a better look at the burns. As the sleeve fell away from his robe, the angry blisters and red flesh became even more visible. Thyitas ran out of the room as I carefully layered some of the salve over the burns, returning a moment later with clean, white bandages to wrap over the salve. As she wrapped up his arm, I could hear her father bellowing at the other apprentices, mostly about the state of the half-finished tools they’d dropped when all the commotion started. It made me smile, as even in an emergency old Otho would be concerned about getting the work done properly. As Thyitas finished wrapping her cousin’s arm, I distinctly heard him mutter, “I hate fire…” Looking closely at his hands, I noticed that he had the clear calluses of someone who has worked on gathering large amounts of wood. It made me curious. “If you dislike working with the forge, why are you still doing so? Your uncle doesn’t seem like he’d mind if you went into some other profession.” Remismund shrugged. “I haven’t had the time to look into anything else. I’m usually off in the Old Forest gathering mushrooms when I’m not at home, or helping the Bounders keep some of the more dangerous animals in check.” Thyitas made a tutting sound, as if she’d had this conversation with him several times previously. “Why don’t you go into woodworking? You’re always off in the Old Forest, anyway, there has to be plenty of wood there for you to bring home and use, instead of forcing yourself to work at the forge.” Remismund looked like he was about to argue with his cousin, so I quickly offered my own help to the point Thyitas was trying to make. “I could teach you, if you like.” I watched his face as he thought it over a bit. “What would I do with that kind of skill, though? It doesn’t seem all that useful to me, or to my uncle,” he said, slowly, as if trying to rein in his excitement. I smiled at him, trying to control the urge to laugh aloud. “Oh, I don’t know. Your uncle seems practical enough to see the uses of someone making furniture and bows under his roof. It would let him expand his business in a new direction, you wouldn’t have to work at the forge anymore, and you Little Folk love competition shooting, so you’d be able to make fine bows to use in the contests as well. And don’t your Bounders carry clubs? You could make those, too.” A loud clapping noise startled all of us, as Otho’s large, soot-covered hand came down on Remismund’s shoulder, thankfully on the side without the burns. “The lanky’s right, young’un. If you want to make wooden brick-a-brac’s, I won’t say no. Thyitas can do any extra forging work around here, and that way I’ll have more room fer th’ apprentices to be getting’ on with their own work,” his voice rose as he turned around, “instead of standin’ around gawking like they’ve lost their heads!” Thyitas, Remismund, and I all burst into laughter as the others in the room scrambled to get back to their duties. A few days later saw me waiting just outside the Buckland gate, as Remismund tore up the roadside astride his pony. He pulled up short as he saw me, his face slightly surprised, as if he hadn’t expected me to keep my word about meeting him. Over the next few days, we explored the Old Forest together, and I explained how to find and collect the best pieces of wood while he was on mushroom hunting trips. I helped him fashion a frame that allowed him to carry the wood he found even while he was busy doing other things. I was somewhat concerned about his low vision, as I often saw fallen branches suitable for our craft long before he did. However, his sense of smell surprised me, as he was able to find wood by sniffing about, and often found the best pieces of wood by smelling them, even more than my sight and hands could. When we had a large enough pile of wood to use, I began by teaching him to make a good, sturdy club with which to defend himself. He seemed most amused by the noise it made when he smacked it against a nearby hollow log, the forest echoing with the loud “thwack!” Then I showed him how to find the natural shapes within the wood, using the natural curves of the branches and the flowing grain of the wood to craft a very good bow for a beginner. As much as I dislike admitting it, his first attempt was better than my own had been, and the sting of my first failure made my face slightly red, even though it had been years before. I was quite grateful that his low vision hid that fact from him. I had almost forgotten how much I enjoyed teaching my woodworking skills to others, but Remismund was a pleasure to teach. We had quite a few fun moments, and I was surprised at how quickly he was able to remember the lessons I was giving. Unfortunately, I knew I had errands elsewhere, so I was not able to spend as long in the forest as I would have liked. After a week, I couldn’t put off my travels any longer, and bid a farewell to the young Hobbit lad at the borders of Buckland. Once my current journey is done, I hope to go back and continue his lessons. I’d like to start teaching him how to make chairs and tables, just small ones at first, but that way he’ll be able to feel that his new trade has some use to his uncle. Perhaps, before I sail into the West, I’ll stop in the Shire for a few years, and teach any other of the Little Folk that would like to learn these skills, and recapture that joy I feel whenever I have the time to teach.