Mary-Fitz stepped out of her room, her knitting bag in its accustomed place over her arm, ready to check on the preparations for the masquerade ball, only to be halted by the sight of the moles, drawn up in ranks before her door, gazing intently at the knitting bag.
She knew what they wanted. Her bag was full of bits and pieces ideally suited to making mole dress-up trappings. But it would take a much harder heart than hers to resist all those pleading beady little eyes. She opened the bag and removed her works in progress and everything irreplaceable. “Knock yourselves out,” she muttered as she tossed the bag to the floor, then watched in bemusement as it disappeared down the hall, borne aloft on a ripple of dark fur.
First she checked on the ballroom that had been opened for the first time in a long while. Cheerful hobbits with soft cloths strapped to the soles of their hairy feet skated about, enjoying their task of polishing the waxed floor to a high gloss. The chandelier had been lowered and shone with repeated applications of elbow grease; and each candelabrum held a brand-new white beeswax taper. Chairs had been arranged around the edge of the floor for the danced-out, interspersed with pots of assorted greenery freshening both the décor and the atmosphere. (Tal had barely stopped one inexperienced hobbit from trying to repot a Giant Carnivorous Murfling Fern, which would have livened up the proceedings considerably.)
"Umm, if I could stop you right there, Ms. . . . Fitz?"
The agent tried to smile. "Are you related to Tolkien at all?"
"Who, me?" The author's eyes lit up. "Why no! Why do you ask?"
"Hobbits are the property of Tolkien's estate." The agent sighed. "Look, I've taken on the lawyers from Disney. I've taken on Rowling. Even Scientology. But there's no way in hell I'm tackling lawyers from the Tolkien estate. Those sharks will eat us alive. I'm sorry, but I can't represent this."
She nodded slowly and stood to go. All day at this writing conference, and everyone had told her the same thing. Still, she had to try. Tucking her hair behind her delicately pointed ears, she collected her knitting bag and made her way to the next agent available, a lady named Miss Snark. Maybe this time, she thought, I'll be lucky.
Opening: Tal.....Continuation: Khazar-khum