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It was becoming clearer and clearer to Gandalf what he had to do. He had the Dragon much on his mind recently and the growing threat of the Shadow that was looming ever larger over Middle-earth and how the two could wreck the most grievous destruction if not defeated. But how, but how? That was the question that the wizard asked to himself over and over in his mind, puffing on his pipe most thoughtfully as he traveled in his horse-cart along the road to Bree. He had decided he would stop for a long overdue trip to the Shire in the hopes that a visit to such a peaceful people would settle his overburdened heart and he would come to the answer to his perplexing question.
The answer came sooner than he thought and not in the fashion he thought either, for he chanced upon Thorin Oakenshield, also on his way to Bree, and the two spoke of one of the very things that most troubled the cloaked Maia. It was agreed upon by wizard and dwarf to meet at Thorin’s home in the Blue Mountains, but Gandalf was not entirely pleased by what he heard there and left again for the Shire.
There he met not Bilbo as he wished, having been taken by the lad during his last visit, when the hobbit had not yet come of age and was full of questions and curiosity about the outside world. Apparently he still was, for Gandalf was told that he had gone off again as was his wont, sometimes even to see dwarves as they passed through, or this time in the hopes of seeing Elves for it was now the Elven New Year. This seemed to the wizard wonderful news and a plan began to form in his mind. He knew the hobbits were shy of adventure, but he also knew Bilbo, though a Baggins, was also a Took, and the Tooks were known for their ‘unrespectable’ taste for things that other hobbits considered quite out of the ordinary. He also knew how brave even timid hobbits could be when put to the test, as had been shown by their stoutheartedness and compassion during the terrible Long Winter. Bilbo seemed to be anything but timid, and more and more, sounded like the ideal candidate to help defeat the Dragon. Gandalf left the Shire, quite convinced of his good fortune and his heart lighter.
At Bree, late at night by the light of an oil lamp, he penned a letter to Thorin detailing his intentions, which he intended to present to the dwarf when he returned the Blue Mountains.
To the most inestimable Thorin Oakenshield,
I wish to purpose to you an addition to your company in your efforts to defeat the Dragon and reclaim your lost Treasure. His name is Bilbo Baggins and he is a Hobbit of the Shire and he is keen for adventures out in the Wild. I met him twenty years previously and he was athirst for news from the Outside. From all accounts he is the same now and I’m sure would be most eager for an opportunity to have an Adventure. He is well off and unmarried so you would have no responsibilities toward him, except to keep him well-fed, safe and sound, if that be at all possible, and to return him safely back home.
Knowing that there could be Objections to an additional companion, I would point out the several Advantages to having a Hobbit with you in this particular Quest: the first two being, the Dragon would have never smelled a Hobbit before and such beings are remarkably quiet in their travels so as to walk without a sound to alert the great worm. The third I cannot see clearly but it is coming to me as a bright light clouded in thick mist and somehow this Hobbit is at the center of the mystery.
I invite you and your company to come back with me to the Shire, to his home at Bag End, in Hobbiton, and see for yourselves. I cannot say more now and if this sounds like wizardly nonsense, know that I do not say it lightly, but in the most Deadly Earnestness. Indeed, I have such a feeling that all of Middle-earth would be indebted to you, for a foresight tells me if he does not accompany you, all will fall into Shadow as has never yet been seen and which would not lifted as far as even the Wisest could see. He will be the only chance you will have for Success, and to leave without him would pay court to the direst Disaster.
Trusting you to make the right Decision,
Gandalf the Grey
The wizard looked over the letter as the ink dried and then satisfied with its message, blew out the lamp and settled into bed with a heavy sigh of relief. He closed his weary eyes, a little less troubled by his many cares, but wondering what he had compelled him to write such things as he had foreseen so dimly. What had he seen wrapped in shadow and what did Bilbo have to do with it? Such questions followed him as he sank into sleep and his dreams did not answer him, though they did not trouble him either. For once, he felt peaceful and he knew he had made the right decision. Now all he had to do was convince Thorin - and Bilbo himself.
That shouldn’t prove too difficult, he thought.
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