While Shire life is grand and jolly as usual, even the grandest and jolliest of hobbits can't help but hear somewhat ill tidings from out of bounds. Travellers passing through the Shire bring news of troubles, especially in the east, and there are rumours of war in faraway lands. That being said, most hobbits agree that these are surely matters that longshanks should sort out themselves. After all, the Shire is far removed from any such trouble. Although, it has to be said that there have been quite a few odd incidents in the Shire as well over the last year. While the bounders have not been able to confirm this (after all, it is ale brewing and tasting season), a series of incidents in Tuckborough in the early summer was the talk of all the four Farthings. Several pies were said to go missing! Also, Stock Road continues to be a spot of bother for the locals. A merry group of hobbits travelling home after a visit in the forest said they ran into a tall dark figure on the road one late summer evening, close to Old Odo's farm. The hobbits claimed they snuck around the figure and got back safely to Tuckborough. Locals would usually be quick to dismiss such a story, if not for the longshanks being observed in the Shire homesteads earlier in the spring. An old gaffer claimed he had seen a tall dark-clad figure trying to enter a hobbit's burrow over in Brambleblury. When confronted and met with threats of the gaffer "setting my dogs on you unless you quit making such a racket during tea, and no mistake", the longshank said he was just asking around for a book. Over ales at the inn, the talk usually moves quickly from these subjects and towards more important matters, such as the rotten summer weather, the mayor's wolf-like appetite or the fact that Lobelia has been even grumpier than usual lately. Still, in the village of Songburrow, the neighbours of 4 Brookbank Street can't help but notice an increased activity of worried-looking hobbits coming and going. Some have overheard conversations about a book of sorts. "Seems very unhobbity to run around so much with their noses in books", said one grumpy gammer, tending to her flowers while trying to chase off a hungry pony. "Probably nothing but old children's tales anyway!"