As the last rays of late summer sun wink over the hill, a small figure crunches up the gravel path that leads to the homely hump of hobbit burrow bulging from the hillside. The figure struggles out of a knapsack and plops down heavily onto the plain wooden bench by the round front door. Tambard Brindletoe, bounder of the Shire, stretches his tired legs and gazes out over the fields of his beloved homeland. "Well, that there were an adventure an' no mistake!" he murmurs, and rifles through the pack for his pipe and baccy pouch. He sits and smokes and lets his mind reel back over the past months, yes, quite the adventure he'd had. Ever since that cold day in Solmath when Shirrif Thrubwell had handed him a parcel with instructions that it should be taken to an address in Bree. Tambard had learned more of the world and its troubles than he'd ever cared to know. It was a very different hobbit indeed that now sat smoking on his bench than had set off from that very spot, wrapped in cloak and scarf and naievity, back at the dawning of the year. Of course rumours of events far away reached the Shire from time to time; the occasional travelling dwarf could happily drink for free in exchange for news of the outside world, (albeit this news would invariably be scoffed at and soon forgot), but Tambard had had no idea just how bad things were outside the bounds it was his duty to patrol. His journey had taken him far, much further afield than his original destination in Bree, on to places he had never dreamt to see, but everywhere there had been danger and tales of war. Everywhere folk suffered and were beset on all sides by savage foes. There was evil out there and if it wasn't stopped it would come to roost here in the Shire sooner or later, sure as eggs was eggs. Bounder Brindletoe shifts on his bench, an involuntary shiver running up his spine at memories of a night spent soaked to the skin in a ditch, terrified, hiding from an orc patrol. Would these foul beasts soon be crossing the Brandywine? Could they be prevented? He shakes himself free of the dread that has overtaken him, "The Order must be told," he mutters. This remark startles a young coney and sends it shooting back down its hole at the end of the garden. As the words pass his lips a small voice in the hobbits heart whispers back, "They know, Tambard, they've always known and they've been part of what's holding this darkness back from our lands since beforn you'd hair on your toes. They know you've been gone an' they know where an' why, the important bit's that now you know, an' you know fer yerself an' you've seen the truth with yer own eyes an' now, only now, can you really be of service to The Order." Tambard leans back and nods to himself. He taps the ashes from his pipe bowl and rises from his bench. A few moments of rumaging in the battered pack at his feet produces a latch key and he steps up to the front door. The familiar creak and groan of overburdened hinges welcomes the hobbit back to his hole and in no time a kettle sings on the hobb and a well stored brandy fruitcake has been released from its prison of brown paper. Bounder Brindletoe settles into his armchair, the worries of a wider world momentarily put aside as he sighs in contentment, happy to be home at last.