A Shire Romance (Part One)

A classic romance with a Hobbit twist!

When Tamsyn left for Somerset that morning, little did she realise that she’d end the day somewhere she didn’t even realise existed. Nor did Perry know when he set out for a stroll that day that his life would be utterly changed. Thrown together by chance and torn apart by their responsibilities, their future lies in Tamsyn’s hands.

Note to Readers:  This is the first full-length novel I ever wrote. It’s a few years old, and I know it’s far from perfect. That was never the intention either, since it isn’t something I can publish traditionally due to copyright issues. I like the story, however, so I hope people reading this will enjoy it on those terms. Please be aware it contains explicit language and scenes.

PART ONE – HOW IT ALL BEGAN

“We’re here, Tam.”

Startled from her musings, Tamsyn looked up as the car slowed to a stop. She had been lost in thought, watching the lush Somerset countryside as it rolled past, with its green hills, neatly planted fields and the odd forested copse. It was prime real estate, suitable for anything she might have wished to do with it, though her thoughts had not been on building.

“Thank you, Andy,” she said with a sigh, and yawned before opening the door of the car. It had been a long journey from London, with only one comfort break to stretch her legs. As she swung said legs out of the footwell and onto the ground, she grabbed her briefcase and stood, smoothing down her black trouser-suit. She looked at the site and considered. “Will I need my hard hat?”

“Not yet,” Andy said. “The site has been fenced off, but nothing is happening yet other than measurements and some foundation work.”

Tamsyn nodded and set off towards the site office, pushing her long, black hair out of her eyes. By the time she reached the large portacabin she sincerely regretted not braiding it; it kept blowing across her face since the day was brisk and blustery. The cabin was warm and cosy, however, and she gratefully closed the door behind her.

There were three men waiting in the office, all of middle age and in suits ranging from grey to dark blue, with plain shirts and unimaginative ties. They stood up the moment she turned to look at them.

“Miss Moriarty? So pleased to meet you,” one of the men said, with a slight hesitation after her name. As she approached he held out his hand and said, “John Thompson.”

Tamsyn shook it, looking away from the all-too-familiar surprise in his eyes. “Mr Thompson,” she replied in greeting, then turned to the other two men, shaking hands with them as well.

“Please allow me to introduce Brian Avery and Stephen Copperfield,” Thompson said. “Mr Avery represents Avery’s Concrete and Cement Ltd. and Mr Copperfield is from the Somerset Bricklayers Association. I am, of course, here to represent Thompson Timber.”

Tamsyn nodded, shaking off her melancholy mood and turning her mind to business. “Pleased to meet you, gentlemen,” she said, and indicated for them to sit down again as she took her own seat behind the desk. “I have studied your credentials, and I’m glad to see that you more than meet the standards required by my company. I prefer to use local labour and supplies wherever possible.”

The three men exchanged looks. “We appreciate that very much, Miss Moriarty,” Avery said. “I must say that it’s… unusual for a company of your size and reputation to have that attitude. Forgive me, but I feel obliged to ask – do you represent the entire executive board of Moriarty & Co.? We were rather surprised to hear that only you would be here today.”

Tamsyn sighed. “Mr Avery, to all intents and purposes I am the executive board of Moriarty & Co. Oh, there’s the board of directors, and they advise me well enough,” she waved a hand dismissively, “but as the sole proprietor of the business, ultimately all decisions lie with me.”

She let that sink in for a few seconds, during which all three men shifted in their seats uncomfortably. When after this time they still said nothing, Tamsyn shook her head. “Gentlemen, let’s be plain here,” she said with resignation. “I can see that you were not expecting someone of my age, and you are struggling to accept that not only do I possess the necessary authority, but also the expertise needed to negotiate with you today. I was rather hoping that you would have done your homework, as I have done,” she shot them a quick, reproachful glance, “but as things stand I clearly need to provide my own credentials.”

She clipped open her briefcase and took out a folder which she tossed onto the desk. “In here you will find my graduate certificate in mechanical and electrical engineering, Oxford University, summa cum laude. I also have a certificate in architecture and various recommendations from managers of previous projects. In addition to that there is a copy of my father’s will, naming me as the sole heir of Moriarty & Co. As for the board of directors, I have so far not required them to put in writing that they mainly serve me in an advisory capacity and that they accept and trust my authority, but you are more than welcome to contact any of them and verify that I am capable.”

She mentally commended herself on having delivered her speech with only a minimum of sarcasm in her voice, and looked at the three men expectantly.

Thompson shot an uneasy glance at the folder. “I, ah… I’m sure that’s entirely unnecessary, Miss Moriarty,” he stammered with a sideways look at the other two men, who nodded their emphatic agreement.

“Please forgive us, Miss Moriarty,” Copperfield said with a glib smile. “I’m sure you must appreciate that it’s unusual in the building business to deal not just with a woman, but also a woman of your age.”

And looks, Tamsyn imagined she could hear him add, ignoring the almost-question in his statement that indicated he was dying to find out how old she actually was.

“Mr Copperfield,” she said wearily, “if I didn’t appreciate that fact, I wouldn’t always be carrying my credentials around with me. Now, if that’s settled, can we get to business?”

They hastened to assure her that yes, they were ready to do business, and Tamsyn settled down to the familiar hack and slash of negotiating a deal with building suppliers. They always thought they could get the better of her, but she had grown up living and breathing this industry, and didn’t even need to keep her mind too closely on matters anymore.

Here she was, she mused: sole heiress to a vast building empire. Her mother had died when she was four and her father had never remarried, instead transferring his adoration to his young – and only – child. She had been blessed with her Greek mother’s dark, exotic beauty and her father’s sharp mind, and he had strived to give her the best education money could pay for, grooming her to take over the business for as long as she could remember. His death, nearly two years ago now, had been the biggest blow to her she could have imagined, all the more for having been so unexpected. She still missed him.

She had few friends. Tamsyn had always been filthy rich, and although many of her classmates in school had been too, there was still that age-old distinction of old and new money that kept even children apart. Tamsyn was new money, and many of her age-mates had been deliberately kept away from her. Apart from that she had been a shy, bookish child, prone to long periods of quiet contemplation, and few children had penetrated that shell.

By the time she went to university the quiet solitude had become so much of a habit that she found it hard to break, even though she had long since conquered her shyness. She went to parties, certainly. She met young men, even slept with some of them, but always they disappointed her. They were either after her money or pursued her only for her looks, and at age twenty-seven she was resigned to living her life alone despite all her gifts.

Mechanically she took notes and showed draft contracts, letting the voices of the three men wash over her. It was all nothing but routine. Decades of work had prepared her for this, and without her father she found it an empty, hollow existence that was losing its appeal.

She caught a glimpse of her reflection in one of the windows and looked away. She knew she should not consider her looks and wealth a curse, and realised she was lucky to possess both in addition to above average intelligence, but she could have lived with being more plain.

Involuntarily she looked back up and studied her face. Heart-shaped, with high cheekbones, a small, straight nose and a determined chin. Her neck was long and slender, her eyes dark as the highest quality chocolate, framed by long, black lashes. Her hair was her most prized asset – midnight black and luxuriously thick, and so long that she had to lift it up when she sat down, to avoid pinning her own head to the seat. It was arrow-straight and refused to take any kind of curling or styling, but Tamsyn was happy enough to let it hang loose, or to wear it in a single, fist-thick braid down her back. She knew she would look more business-like if she wore it shorter and in a bun, to match her severe suits, but it was the one point she refused to compromise on.

She looked back down when Avery placed the last page of the draft contract in front of her, ready to be sent to her lawyers. She gathered up the papers, placed them in her briefcase and stood, holding out her hand.

“Pleasure doing business with you, gentlemen,” she said, trying to sound sincere as they all shook hands in turn. “Now, I would like to have a look at the site, if you will excuse me.”

She left with their assurances still ringing in her ears and sought out Andy. He was her driver, butler and personal assistant, though he was also sometimes her chef and general jack-of-all-trades. He was one of the few people she did consider a friend, and his job was in recognition of the fact that he was someone she could not only stand to be with for any length of time, but could also be herself with.

“Walk with me,” she snapped after beckoning him over, and he sniggered as he fell into step with her.

“Interesting meeting then?”

“Tedious wankers,” Tamsyn muttered, glancing over her shoulder to verify that they were out of earshot. “Same old mouldy fuckers as always, desperate to hide that they were expecting some fifty-year-old, fat matron with a bun.” She passed a few site workers and stared fixedly ahead when they produced several wolf-whistles. Behind her, Avery rushed up to them and started whispering to them frantically.

“What, that’s Moriarty?” she heard one of them exclaim, and clenched her jaw as he was hushed.

“Don’t let it get to you so much,” Andy said next to her.

“I’m just fed up with it,” she sighed. “It’s always the same. No one can get past how I look, or what I own. Sometimes it’d be nice if someone appreciated me for what I can do and have done.”

I do,” Andy said.

“I know, but you are a rare gem,” Tamsyn replied warmly. “You only have one flaw, or I’d marry you.”

“Can’t help being gay, sorry,” Andy said with a grin.

She patted him on the shoulder. “You ought to find yourself a boyfriend, you know,” she said absentmindedly as they crested a hilltop, distracted by a group of about six people clustered by the surrounding fence.

“So should you,” Andy grumbled, but then he also noticed the group, and craned his neck to look.

“What’s going on here?” Tamsyn asked when they reached the fence, using her most authoritative tone of voice. Despite that, six pairs of eyes turned to her and dismissed her in one glance.

“Nothing to worry your pretty head about, darlin’,” the man closest to her said.

Andy cleared his throat and said loudly, “This is Tamsyn Moriarty, owner of Moriarty & Co., who are overseeing this building project.” He paused for a second before adding, “That means that ultimately she pays your wages.”

“Really?” the man blurted out, clearly voicing the thoughts of all present, and Tamsyn rubbed a hand across her face.

“Would you like me to show you some identity?” she asked, giving him an exasperated look.

“Ah, um, I’m sure that’s… that’s not necessary darl… um, miss,” he stuttered. “I’m sorry, I meant no offense.”

“So next time, don’t cause it either,” Tamsyn snapped, at the end of her tether. “I’ll ask again: what’s going on here?”

“Um, just some batshi… some crazy old guy who’s chained himself to the fence, says he’s not budging until he talks to whoever is in charge,” the man said, stepping aside. “We’ve sent Trev off to get the bolt cutters.”

“Well, since I’m in charge here, let’s see this person,” Tamsyn said.

The men reluctantly made room and Tamsyn’s breath caught when she saw the figure half-sitting, half-hanging from the fence. At first glance he looked like a cross between Gandalf and Catweazle, frightfully skinny with a long, scraggly beard and fuzzy hair that stood out from his head like dandelion seeds. He was wearing some kind of one-piece robe of a drab brown and his shoes looked like little more than scraps of leather tied around his feet.

She was about to dismiss him as a junkie when she noticed that although he was skinny and old, he was by no means unkempt. His hair was as white as clouds and clean, and the robe too looked as if it had come fresh out of the washing machine, even if it was patched in many places. She crouched down in front of him and caught a faint smell which reminded her of a spice cupboard: warm and fragrant, and far from unpleasant.

“You’re looking for the person in charge?” she asked.

The man opened his eyes, and Tamsyn nearly fell backwards, so piercing were they. Brightest blue, sharp and they showed not just intelligence, but shrewdness as well. They focused on her, and for a second she felt like he wasn’t examining her person, but her soul.

“Yes, I am,” he said eventually in a voice as thin as his body.

“I’m Tamsyn Moriarty. I’m in charge.” She waited for the usual dismissal, the disbelief, but the man merely nodded.

“In that case, I wish to speak with you, Miss Moriarty,” he said, closing his eyes and wearily leaning his head against the fence.

“D’ya want me to call the police, miss?” one of the men behind her offered.

Tamsyn shook her head. “Are those bolt cutters here yet?” she asked, then turned back to the old man. “Unless you still have the key to those shackles?”

“Threw them away,” he whispered, shaking his head. “Was expecting to be found sooner.”

Tamsyn frowned. “How long have you been here?”

“Three days,” he replied, and her mouth fell open.

“Shit, we’ll need an ambulance, not the police,” she said, but the man shook his head emphatically.

“Please, Miss Moriarty, I need to speak to you urgently,” he pleaded. His voice held desperation, as if his life depended on it, and Tamsyn frowned again.

“But you’ve not eaten or drunk anything in three days,” she protested. “I need to get you looked after.”

“You can, if you must, but after talking to me. Please.” At that point Trev finally trotted up with the cutters, and she watched the man sag to the ground as soon as his arms were freed.

“Andy! Give me a hand, will you?” Tamsyn called, crouching down. She waved everyone away as between them they helped the old man to his feet and carefully started walking back to the site office. “Does anyone here have a bottle of water on them?” she asked, stopping when she was handed one. “Here,” she said, unscrewing the top and offering the bottle to the old man. “No more than three sips though, you’re dehydrated. If you drink too much now it could kill you.”

He obediently handed the bottle back after three draughts, and she noted that he immediately seemed to have more strength. Despite that it still took a long time to reach the portacabin, and although the man appeared to weigh little more than a bag of feathers, by the time they had deposited him into a chair and she had sagged into one herself, she was near exhausted. She dismissed everyone but Andy and waited ten minutes while the old man gathered his strength.

“I am glad to see that there is someone of intelligence in charge here,” was the first thing the man said when he finally pulled himself together and looked at Tamsyn. She studied his face, looking for a hint of sarcasm, but his piercing blue eyes were honest and open. “I would appreciate it if I could speak to you in private,” he added.

Tamsyn glanced at her friend, stood by the door. “Andy is a close friend and long-standing associate,” she said. “I don’t mind him hearing whatever you have to say to me.”

“Nevertheless, I must insist that I speak to you, and to you alone.” The old man met her eyes calmly, and Tamsyn had a gut feeling that this man was no stranger to waiting, and would be prepared to remain here for hours if that was what it took.

“Could you please wait outside, Andy?” she asked, giving him a reassuring smile when he shifted uncomfortably. “It’s okay, I’m sure I’ll be perfectly safe.”

Andy gave a grudging nod and left the cabin, and Tamsyn returned her gaze to the old man. “May I ask your name?”

“My name,” he replied with a deep sigh, “is Radagast the Brown.”

For a second Tamsyn froze, then she dismissed what she had heard. His parents must just have had a strange sense of humour, was her first thought, but then she checked herself. He looked to be well into his eighties at least, and not even The Hobbit was old enough for him to have been born after its first edition, never mind The Lord of the Rings. Either she had misheard the name, or he had changed it himself. Or maybe it was a nickname. Keeping her face neutral she replied, “Okay, and what can I do for you, Mr Brown?”

He gave a dry chuckle. “You didn’t mishear me, Miss Moriarty. My name is Radagast. I am the last of the five istari who were sent to Middle-Earth to help in the battle against Sauron. Since you recognised my name, you have undoubtedly heard of my more illustrious colleagues, Gandalf the Grey and Saruman the White. You may even have heard of my less… successful comrades, Alatar and Pallando, who disappeared into the East and were never seen again.”

He paused and Tamsyn stared at him, her features frozen into an expressionless mask. He is batshit crazy, she thought. There must be some mental hospital around here somewhere. She forced herself to smile at him and said, “That’s interesting.”

Radagast sighed. “I appreciate that what I’m telling you is hard to believe, but I can assure you that I am telling the truth. I am here in my capacity as the last Guardian of Middle-Earth, or more specifically at this moment in time, the Shire. Your building project is likely to endanger the entire existence of the Shire, possibly even all of Middle-Earth, and I must ask you to stop it or an entire race, an entire world could be lost forever.”

He waited again, but Tamsyn was beyond speech. She wanted to scream for help, to run away as fast as she could to get away from this madman, but neither her voice nor her legs seemed willing to cooperate.

“You cannot believe me, can you?” Radagast asked quietly. Tamsyn shook her head, unable to do anything else, and he gave another deep, weary sigh.

“I wish I didn’t have to do this, I honestly do,” he said apologetically, “but it seems I have no other option left.”

He stood up and rubbed his hands together, suddenly looking a lot stronger, and Tamsyn shrank into her chair as he advanced towards her. He began muttering to himself, strange words that echoed in the room, as if several other voices were repeating what he said, but one or two seconds later. His voice was deeper now, no longer reedy thin but powerful and authoritative. If a voice like that commanded you to stand up straight, even your hair would lose its curl. He took her hand, and although she tried, she could not pull it away.

His muttering got louder, and she could distinguish the words lasto beth nin, though the rest was unintelligible. She had seen the Lord of the Rings films often enough that her memory supplied the translation: hear my voice.

A scream started to build up in her throat as the room darkened. She felt trapped inside a whirlwind, her hair whipping around her head, but although Radagast’s hair was also fluttering and his robe was flapping against his legs, the interior of the portacabin looked unaffected.

Her scream finally tore away, but Radagast’s voice was now echoing around the room so many times that for the first few seconds it was completely inaudible over the din. She increased the volume, and saw the door handle to the cabin move and the door being pushed open.

The last thing she saw was Andy’s terrified face as he burst through the door, then everything went black.

o–o-o–o

What has happened to Tamsyn? Come back next week for the next installment of  A Shire Romance! The story will be a weekly release until completion.  

A Shire Romance is written by Erica Dakin. You can find out more about Contrary Erica on the Guest Reviewers page and check out her website to find out more information about her work.

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