The next morning was a peaceful one. Hobbits were bustling about everywhere, some tending small, household farms, while others were hard at work with the stables and caravans that traveled between the city and Mar in Darokin. Thordaim Anvil-Chest was the last to come down from his room and join the rest at a table they chose for breakfast. Sammond Rootarrow was already halfway through his second plate, while Aylin Aldaelon slowly and meticulously cut up his meal. Wyatt Carlson had already finished his plate, and was conversing with Rayen Adsila about their plans. “Aylin wants to travel the Shires a bit before heading East into Karameikos.” he said, unfolding a map of the Shires from Aylin’s atlas. “From here we plan to go Southwest to Flagonford,” he explained, tracing his finger along the path he described, “then to Rundegos and Stillpool after that. We’ll continue Northeast through Fishtickle Bridge and Shadowgate to Leafkindle, then turn Southbound to Deepmoss and Moon Hill. When we reach Shireton, we’ll take a boat to Specularum, capital city of Karameikos. Aylin figures that by visiting these towns he can possibly gather some information about his quarry from the Hobbit’s tales.” he finished, sitting back in his chair. “We would love for you to come with us.” he added.
“Speak for yourself, boy. I have no desire to travel with more than the necessary number of burdens.” Aylin spoke up, not bothering to take his eyes off of his meal.
Wyatt smiled at Rayen and corrected himself “I would love to have you and your friends join us.”
“I… don’t like boats too much. Is it possible to take an overland route instead?” Rayen asked innocently.
“I’ll not change my course by the whim of some ignorant girl!” Aylin snapped at her. “Do whatever you want, but I’m not redirecting my planned route in the slightest.” Wyatt rolled his eyes and huffed at Aylin’s ever-present attitude.
“I’d rather not take a boat, but I don’t want to travel alone to Specularum.” She said quietly.
“Bah, I’ll not be takin’ to the confines of a boat with the Elf!” Thordaim shouted, accruing glances from the rest of the tavern as their own quiet conversations over breakfast were drowned out in his outburst. The glances did not go unnoticed, and Thordaim lowered his voice slightly. “If I be goin’ along with this quest, I’ll be takin’ to the girl’s path.” he added, using his enmity towards Aylin as an excuse to guard the girl whom he had a fondness for, as if she were a little girl who needed someone to hold her hand.
“Aye, well, you’d be needing a guide then if you’re going t’be travelin’ the Shires with naught but a Dwarf, lass.” Sammond piped in, pushing his empty plate towards the center of the table. “And none know the Shires like a Hobbit” he added with a wink.
“You would travel with me?” she asked, perplexed at the little man’s motives.
Sammond grinned at her. “Well, iffin’ you don’t want me to come along, I can go with the stranger couple.” he said tossing his head in the direction of Aylin and Wyatt. Aylin shot Sammond a dirty glance, which he caught out of the corner of his eye and caused him to smile.
“Why do you want to join us, Sammond?” Wyatt asked, wondering what stake the Hobbit could have in joining them on their dangerous task.
“Treasure and story, lad, treasure and story.” Was his simple and honest reply. Aylin eyed the Hobbit as if to size up what creature would dare to take his glory in his own quest.
“It’s settled then,” Rayen finalized, “you and Aylin will head to Specularum by boat, and the three of use will meet you there by land.”
“Right,” Wyatt conferred, “We’ll be in Shireton in ten days, give or take. If you want to meet us there and take the boat, you’re welcome to. If not, we’ll see you in Specularum a week after.” He folded the map again and carefully replaced it in the atlas, knowing Aylin’s pension for scolding him should he barely mark any of the books, scrolls, and maps he carried with him from the Great Library. Aylin stood from the table and turned to leave. Wyatt clasped Thordaim on the shoulder as he got up. He nodded to Rayen and turned to catch up with his employer.
“Well, we’d best be off too, lass.” Sammond said, getting to his feet as well. “I’m sure I can find us some nice wheels to get to Fishtickle Bridge.”
“Why there?” Rayen asked, rising form her seat as well to join her two small companions on their way out the door. The sun was rising from the east, just over some distant hills, but still filtered by the canopy of the large trees that filled Sateeka.
“Wot d’you mean ‘why there’? It’s the only place East of here, and if we’re to be catching up with th’other two in Specularum, we’d best be about that way.”
Sammond had persuaded an elderly Hobbit into taking them with him on his journey back home, convincing him that the “company they would provide would surely lessen the ache of the trip”. The argument was a hard one to refuse for an old Hobbit traveling alone, and so the trio found their ride to Fishtickle Bridge.