There, in front of Harlow, stood a wizard (But for all she could tell, he has just some random traveler).
“Can I help you, sir?” the girl asked hesitantly. Harlow didn’t want to meddle with homeless people, she barely could support herself, her brother and her cousin.
The wizard hummed. “Yes. Yes, I believe you can. And I believe I could help you as well.”
Harlow frowned. Help her? The only thing she needed was money to pay off the debts to a nearby Hobbit that had helped her years ago, when Harlow and her two other family members had come crawling into the Shire. “Help me?”
“You are in need of employment, are you not?” the wizard responded with a knowing smile.
Harlow felt a jolt run through her. A mind reader, perhaps? “Who are you?” she asked with an exhale, trying to clear her mind. If this man did have mind reading powers, Harlow needed to keep her mind blank. There were too many private things in there that she wanted no one, not even the person closest to her, her cousin, knowing.
“I am Gandalf the Grey, a wandering wizard,” he continued, “And I wish to employ you and your cousin as a bodyguard for Bilbo Baggins.”
“Excuse me, I think I heard you wrong. You said Mr. Baggins was leaving the Shire.” Harlow didn’t know Bilbo Baggins personally. He was a Hobbit with a good reputation and he was never late, too, according to her cousin. Harlow had never met the man, but if even Lobelia, her neighbor, had to admit he was somewhat decent, then that was an accomplishment all by itself.
“You heard correctly, my dear.” Gandalf chuckled. “So, will you take the job?”
“How much is the pay?” Harlow asked. She wasn’t going to jump in on a job without knowing her pay first. “And where are we going?”
“If successful, there will be enough to pay off your debts.” the wizard responded, but then he paused for a while. “Our destination is… Erebor.”
Harlow immediately flinched back. No. She wanted nothing to do with that place ever again.
Shakily, Harlow jolted out of her flashback before she drifted off into those terrible memories. The burn that ran across from her collar bone to her pinky felt like it was in searing, blood-curdling pain once more. If it was just up to her, she would have denied the job right then and there, but they desperately needed money.
“I’ll talk to him.” was all that she was able to say.
Gandalf nodded, “If you accept my offer, come to Mr. Baggins’s home tonight.”
Harlow didn’t say anything else and returned back to her hole in the ground.