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It is sunset and I find myself broke, poorly dressed, and in the town of Tuckborough.

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Also, I find myself slightly drunk. This makes all of the previous things I just mentioned a lot more bearable.

Adelard Took is in need of help. The library in the Great Smials is apparently haunted!

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I tell the old boy that I was in there just a couple of days ago (I leave out the bit about how I was swiping an old ale-brewing recipe) and I didn’t see any haunting going on. But Adelard is adamant. He’s sure that the ghost of the Old Took (roughly: a very famous Hobbit from a few generations ago) is haunting the library. He derives this theory from two observations:

1) Strange noises in the library
2) The bears just outside of town are becoming aggressive.

Guess which issue he wants me to investigate first?

No. Wrong. The second one. Sheesh. Haven’t you been paying attention?

Adelard had decided the best way to deal with a haunted library is to… kill some bears? His thinking is that since the Old Took was famous for killing one bear, then if I (the glassy-eyed drunk who just stumbled in) kill a whole bunch of bears, it will make the Old Took happy and he’ll go back to whatever he was doing when he wasn’t haunting the place. Moreover, he’ll pay me for my efforts.

Maybe it’s the ale talking, but that sounds like a great plan! Sign me up!

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It’s a great evening in the Shire. I’m out enjoying the night air, making money and killing God’s creatures. What more could a Hobbit ask for?

Adelard wants three bear pelts. Since not all bears have pelts, this means I’ve got to kill a goodly number of them in order to find the pelt-having bears. I wish there was some way to tell if a bear had a pelt just by looking at it. And I wish it was possible to be more sarcastic than I am now.

By the time I’m done, my patience has run out, along with the heady ale in my veins and the local bear population. Sobering up is not a good thing to do right now, but staying drunk would cost money.

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Total bear kill tally: 16.

Although to be fair, I actually got the third pelt from #13, but I had to kill a few more to get back out of the den.

I return to Adelard with his bear skins, and he puts them in the library in order to appease the angry library-haunting spirit.

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It doesn’t work. (Duh.)

His next plan is to appease the ghost with a meal. He sends me to see his niece Edilina and have her make us some boar ribs. The ribs were a favorite of the Old Took, and so if we… get some? And then put them in the library? And leave them there? Then… what? The ghost will eat them? Smell them? Order some breadsticks and leave a tip? What exactly is the goal here?

Pop quiz:

What ingredient for boar ribs will Edlinia be lacking:

1) Spices, which can be purchased anywhere.
2) Salt, which can be purchased anywhere.
3) Water, which I have in my pockets.
4) Boar meat, which can only be obtained by running into the woodlands and killing dangerous wild animals because nobody has thought to just raise pigs.

If you answered 1, 2, or 3, then congratulations! Your brain has not been warped from playing too many MMO games. You’re wrong, but healthy. I envy you.

Oh, how I envy you.

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Edilina is only too happy to make boar ribs for her uncle. (I don’t tell her they’re really for a ghost. I’m pretty sure the old geezer is crazy, and I want to get paid for my work before they ship him off to a home or have him put down or whatever it is they do for nutters around here.) But she’s out of boar meat. She suggests going out and killing three boars.

“Three?”, I ask, wide-eyed.

“Well yes. I’ll need three sets of ribs…”

“We’re feeding one Hobbit. A single boar would feed him for a week. Have you seen these boars? Three of them could feed the town!”

“Three boars!” she hisses at me.

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Three messy stabbings later and I return to her with thrice my body weight in raw boar meat. Is this really how people do things around here? Someone gets a hankering for boar, and so they draw straws to see who has to go out and fight one to the death? I think if it was, this town would either have a lot more vegetarians or a lot less Hobbits.

Amazingly, I only needed to kill three boars to get three sets of ribs. Must have been a bug.

I have to admit the girl is a really good sport about cooking three boars in the middle of the night. She whips up some ribs and I return to Adelard.

Adelard is grateful, “Thank you friend! I shall put these in the library and hopefully we’ll all get some peace!”

“Yes. I’ve heard that ghosts are pacified by being near a plate of slowly spoiling food,” I say once he’s left the room.

He returns. “The ghost problem is all cleared up and here is a big pile of money,” he fails to say. Instead he has a new theory on why this ghost remains obstinately un-exorcised. Last week he took some fireworks from the library. The fireworks were given to the Old Took by Gandalf, and up until a week ago they had been sitting in the library as a commemorative fire hazard. Adelard then had them sent to the Mathom House in Michael Delving. A museum, basically.

“Are you seriously telling me you want me to recover antique fireworks?”

“Yes! Then take them up the hill and set them off.”

“Just… set off some crackers on the festival hill in the middle of the night?”

“Yes! Maybe he’s upset that I sent them away.”

“Maybe he just wants them back,” I suggest.

“Maybe he wants to see them go off!”

“Maybe the place isn’t even haunted,” would be a very foolish thing for me to say at this point, so I bite my tongue. On one hand, I’m not so keen on marching all the way over to the Mathom House. On the other hand, those lame-brains have put hundred year old fireworks on display in a wooden building full of books and priceless heirlooms. No good can come of this.

The Old Took was the great, great grandfather of both Pippin and Merry. I couldn’t find hard dates on when he lived. But for a fourth generation grand-sire, a hundred years sounds pretty reasonable. Probably even on the conservative side, given that Hobbits don’t really reach adulthood until they’re over thirty.

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A long hike takes me to the Mathom House, where they just hand out the historically significant item to me without asking any questions. Another long hike takes me back to Tuckborough.

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I go to the festival stage – the wooden festival stage – and set up the fireworks. Oh, wait. There’s some old, dry carpet in the middle of the stage to protect the wood from sparks and fire. Much better.

This seems like a momentous occasion. These fireworks were once owned by an important person from long ago. And I’m about to set them off. Shouldn’t we like, have a party or a meal before I light this stuff? But instead I’m doing this in the middle of the night. I feel like I should at least say something to mark the occasion.

Hmmm….

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WAKEY WAKEY! RISE AND SHINE, HOBBITS! Wooooooooooooo!

The lights and noise rouse a few Hobbits who open their windows to curse at me before returning to bed. I don’t know about the Old Took, but I sure as heck feel better.

I stomp out the fire and wait for the smoke to clear before I head back to Adelard. He consults the library to see if the ghost is at peace.

He returns to let me know that the ghost is, in fact, not at peace. This news is so shocking, so astounding, that I very nearly consider blinking. Once. Slowly. He’s tells me that he’s at his wit’s end, but I’m willing to bet his wits ran out long before I showed up.

He asks me to go and confront the ghost myself. He says the presence of the spirit is strongest in the corner of the room, near the small bookcase. He doesn’t explain what I’m supposed to do if the ghost actually appears. Serve it an eviction notice? Stab it in the face? Offer it some tea? Are any of those actually dumber than what I’ve already done?

I really wish I had another sip of ale to take the edge off of this situation. And this hangover. Ah, well. In we go.

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Okay bookcase, it’s just you and me now. I give the bookcase a shake and…

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A squirrel.

I chase the little bugger out of the library.

So let’s see, in order to chase away this squirrel, we killed nineteen wild animals, woke half the shire, blew up some antiques, and wasted a perfectly good plate of ribs. Adelard pays me my money and gives me some additional goodies to keep me quiet about the whole nasty business.

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The sun is coming up. It occurs to me that my night of drunken arson, poaching, and disturbing the peace has probably not made me any friends. I think I need to clear out of Tuckborough before everyone wakes up. Yeah. Get out of town for a few days. Preferably something far off.

Next time: Tales of the Goblin Slayer!

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Shamus Young is the guy behind Reset Button, Twenty Sided, DM of the Rings, and Stolen Pixels.

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