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I’m still trying to earn enough money to buy some fancy clothes and some dye. It hasn’t been going well.

My next hopeful employer is Rollo. He wants to hire me to play hide and seek for him.

No I am not making this up, you suspicious reader. You know, I’ve had just about enough of your baseless accusations. Here:

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Someday we’re going to need to talk about these trust issues you keep having.

Rollo explains, “It’s just no fun looking for someone when you already know where they’re hiding. So maybe you can have a go of it?”

I look sideways. The mayor is actually standing nearby. I need this money, but I don’t want people to know what I’m doing to get it. I’m sort of hoping they’ll just assume I’m having sex for money or something. After looking around, I tell Rollo in a low voice that I’ll do his seeking for him.

“Thank you!” He replies cheerfully and with needless volume, “I mean, I don’t know how many more times I can pretend to be surprised that Daisy is hiding in the bushes or that polo is right beside that statue over there.”

There is a long pause before I reply. Did he just tell me what I think he told me? “I thought you were giving me this job because looking for people is boring if you already know where they are.”

“That I am.”

“But… you just told me where they are.”

“Hmmm. A fair point!” he admits. “I suppose you could find someone else and hire them to-“

“Forget it! I’ll just…. forget it. I’ll go ‘find’ them.”

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I stomp off to where Polo is, but he’s not really hiding. He’s sort of kneeling in the open, although if you stood in just the right place you could sort of pretend he was partially obscured. I stand in front of him and point at him. He shrugs.

Daisy’s hiding spot is on a nearby hill. It’s actually a great spot. (For giving a public speech.)

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I return to Rollo and stare at him blank-faced with my hand out. I can’t bring myself to admitting I just played hide and seek for money, and so I’m just trying to get through this without speaking of it out loud.

“Nice job finding those two!” he shouts, clapping me on the shoulder. A few other Hobbits nearby look over to see what the fuss is. The mayor shakes his head at me in disgust. “But!” Rollo continues, “There is still one Hobbit left to find. Are you sure you’re up for it? It’s said he’s the best hider in the whole Shire! Odo Pipes is a clever one and you’ll be hard pressed to-“

“Odo? You mean that nutter on top of the Tavern?”

“You… you know where he’s hiding?”

Everyone. Knows where he is. Nobody thinks he’s hiding. I kind of thought he was up there trying to work up the nerve to kill himself.”

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Rollo makes me climb all the way up there to “find” Odo. It’s not good enough to simply point to him on top of the tavern. It’s not even good enough to shout, “Hey genius, I think you may have been spotted up there by all of the non-blind people in the Shire!” No, I have to scale up there myself to “find” him in the official sense of the word. Afterward, I return to Rollo and a few nearby Hobbits give me a smattering of sarcastic applause. I can hear the mayor laughing, although I don’t dare look.

Odo pays up and I’m another ninety coppers closer to my goal. Which is still hundreds of coppers away. And my self-esteem has taken some rather harsh damage. I feel an intense need to clear out of town until everyone forgets about this hide-and-seek business.

So I’m off to Hobbiton, where I meet baker Holly Hornblower.

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Holly has heard about my heroics in Archet and about the work I’ve done around the Shire, but she hasn’t heard about the hide-and-seek business yet. So our relationship has that going for it. She’s obviously hiring, and I let her know I’m available.

“Oh good! I have an important job for you!”

I nod with approval.

“I need you to deliver a pie for me!”

This is somewhat less respectable than I’d hoped, but a lot more respectable than hide-and-seek-and-die-of-humiliation-in-front-of-the-entire-Shire-governing-body. Call it a wash.

“I’ve baked these pies and they must be delivered soon. Before they cool.” she explains.

I reply, “You do two things here. You bake pies, and deliver pies. How did one of those slip your mind? Shouldn’t you have had some sort of plan for this pie for when it came out of the oven?” I might not have said this out loud on account of me wanting her to give me money.

She hands me a pie saying, “Take this over to the Green Dragon in Bywater. And be quick! And don’t let any hungry Hobbits near it!”

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Still holding the pie, I ask her, “What do you mean, ‘hungry Hobbits’? What other kind of Hobbit is there? That’s like saying not to let it near tall Elves or to keep it away from Orcs that aren’t pastry chefs. You’re talking about all of them, basically.”

“Well don’t let it near particularly hungry Hobbits.”

There is a pause in the conversation where she has a chance to explain herself and doesn’t. Finally I take the bait, “Okay, I give up. Why shouldn’t I let it near hungry Hobbits?”

“Because they’ll smell it, silly!”

Another pause. Another missed opportunity for her to make sense. “How is this a bad thing?” I ask at last.

“Because if they smell my pies they’ll come ’round and want some.”

“So you’re trying to avoid getting more business?”

“I simply do not have time to make more pies!”

“So… tell them that?”

“I don’t have time to do that either!” she protests.

“Right. Because if you made more pies then when would you have time to stand around in front of your house not delivering them?”

“Exactly!”

You also have to carry the pie out in front of you, using both hands. I mean sure, Lulzy might have one hundred open buckets of water in her pocket, but a pie? That would never fit.

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The Green Dragon isn’t far, but getting it there turns out to be quite a challenge. Just like nosy Hobbits camp the arteries of mail delivery and obstruct the delivery of the mail they seem to want so bad, hungry Hobbits encircle the Green Dragon and prevent the speedy delivery of food. If I could make it through their defensive perimeter I could drop the pie off, and then they could go and buy some of it.

But I can’t take the roads, so I have to take the non-roads. This means stumbling through ditches, pushing through hedges, and running through flowery fields. This causes me to accumulate a goodly bit of pollen and leaves and thorns and grass. By the time I arrive, the pie looks like a salad.

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I have to enter town by going up the hill and over the roof of the Green Dragon. (Remember that Hobbit-holes are built into hillsides.) I drop down on the other side, landing directly in front of Gerd Whitfoot. Brushing the worst of the weeds off of the crust, I present him with his fresh, hot, and un-smelled pie.

He complains about the pie seeming off, but I didn’t bake it so I don’t care. I return to Holly for further work.

Her next delivery is to the party field, just on the other side of the river and up the hill. Once again, I’m obliged to keep the pie away from hungry Hobbits. This is made slightly challenging by…

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The game developers basically have a hungry Hobbit camping the choke point to cross the river. This particular Hobbit wanders around, but spends a lot of time right here at the end of the bridge. Since you can’t swim with the pie, this basically blocks you. There’s another bridge a ways downstream, although sometimes the timer (yes, these missions are timed) or the mob-infested woods makes that bridge a bit dicey.

After the release of Half-Life 2: Episode 2, Valve released a heat map of all the levels in the game, giving a visual representation of where the player-death hotspots on the map were. I’d love to see a “profanity heat map” of LOTRO that used your microphone to figure out where people did the most swearing. I’m willing to bet the other side of this little bridge is a great place for f-bombs. These pie delivery missions will take you over this bridge at least four times. (That is, you’ll carry four pies over it, I’m sure you’ll actually cross it more times than that.) Most of the time you’ll be approaching from the other side and stop halfway over as this devil-spawn hungry Hobbit shuffles into place and then refuses to leave while your precious timer ticks away.

The kicker? This Hobbit guarding the bridge is standing right next to Holly’s house. This woman would spend every waking moment smelling pies.

Evading the pie-scarfing sentry, I slip across the bridge and up the hill to the party field. I present the pie to Opal Goodbody, who taste-tests it and declares it to be “foul.”

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“Okay,” I say, “But I still get paid, right?”

“I can’t serve this pie! It’s rotten.”

“Noted. But I would like to point out that the delivery was flawless.”

“You tell Holly I’ll need another pie!”

“Sure thing. If you could just pay for-“

“Off you go!”

Fine. Fine! Back down the hill. Over to Holly.

She doesn’t take the news well. She checks the berries she’s been using, and sure enough they’re off. It doesn’t seem appropriate to try and soothe her with a song, so I try a bit of quick, dashed-off poetry instead:

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This should come as no surprise:
Hobbits want poor Holly’s pies.

Now she has me running places,
providing pies for stuffing faces.

A daunting run this challenge poses:
Avoid Hobbit eyes and Hobbit noses!

Why sneak by Hobbits? It’s not clear.
Does she think I’m playing Metal Gear?

In the end, I know she’s nuts.
Her pies are bad, and taste like butts.

“Well, thanks for delivering the pies for me.” she says after she’s calmed down. “I’ll need to get baking fresh ones.”

“Obviously.” I say, wondering if this is leading to money or tears for me.

“In the meantime, I need you to go around and recover all the bad pies.”

Tears. Yeah. Sounds like tears.

Yeah, maybe putting “Metal Gear” in the poem was cheating. Sue me.

Be sure to send the summons via Shire post.

Next time: The Pie Runner!

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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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