Saturday, August 15, 2020

Journey to the Shire


This is the ninth part of the story which began here. The second is here.
The third is here. The fourth is here. The fifth is here.  The sixth is here.
The seventh is here. The eighth is here. This saga continues below.

Journey to the Shire

The Travellers awoke before dawn to find Gandalf sitting quietly by the embers of the night’s fire. He was smoking his pipe, as he had been when they went to sleep.

“Good morning!” He said. “It looks to be a beautiful day. Perfect for walking! I believe we should reach Bree today, probably in time for supper!” 

They had a light breakfast and started on the road as quickly as they could. Try as they might, they could not get Esmerelda to say anything more about what she said before going to bed. Instead, Gandalf told stories from long ago, from before he met Bilbo Baggins and the Old Took. Mostly they were about his journeys through this same area and how reaching Bree always seemed to be a treat. The Hobbits listened intently as he spoke. 

His stories were always happy and cheerful. They made the Travellers laugh. The stories shortened the road so before they knew it, Bree was close at hand.

They arrived at the Prancing Pony uneventfully, although many Breelanders started to see Gandalf, let alone four young Hobbits coming from the East. They stayed in the same rooms Frodo and his companions stayed in so many years before. Barliman Butterbur was still the same as he had been for years, only a bit older it seemed. He greeted them warmly and encouraged them to enjoy the common room, where travelers and residents of Bree mingled.

Many remembered their visit some time before, when they headed out in search of information and ideas on testing. They spoke with them on this. Elanor was polite, but evaded their questions, replying only that they had talked with many wise people and had many ideas to consider. 

She said they needed to think about and discuss how they could apply them. The others all agreed and said they needed to think carefully. They were glad they had made the journey and had learned much. Now they needed to see what would work for Hobbits in the Shire.

These answers all resulted in the Bree-folk’s heads shaking and chins wagging. “No good can come of upsetting the right, proper order of things.” A few, however, looked thoughtful.

Gandalf left the Hobbits to entertain questions. He had a mug of beer sitting in a dark-ish corner where he could see the room and listen to all the goings-on without being in their way or the center of attention. Mr Butterbur kept an eye on him, making sure he did not go without.

“Mr Gandalf,” he said at one point. “Have you seen Strider, I mean, the King?” Gandalf smiled, almost laughed. “I have not seen our mutual friend in some time. He has been very busy, you know. I did see some of our other friends who knew I was coming this way. They send greetings. I also asked them to remember both of us to Aragorn when they saw him again. I think you may see some elves come through as well before too long. Elves usually prefer wine but your beer is uncommonly good. They may want that instead.”

“Funny you should mention beer, Mr Gandalf,” Butterbur replied. “It has been uncommon good for some years now. I don’t understand but I’m not one to turn a gift like that away. I’ll make sure to keep plenty of beer and ale in the cellar. Thanks for the warning.”

“Barli. You should know I’m likely not to be by again. It is time for me to head West for the last time. You’ve been a good, honest fellow and I’m glad I could see you and enjoy your inn, one more time. Better times are coming. Not just because the King is making things better. Young folk like these four are working very hard to set the world to rights and make it better than it has been for ages.”

“It has been worse than it is, by a long distance,” said Butterbur. “It has been better of late, of course. If they can make things better still, I’d be happier still.”

With that, he left to attend other customers. Gandalf finished his beer and quietly slipped out for his room. The four Travellers remained for some time. There was no rush and no need to worry. They were nearly home.

The next morning dawned bright and clear. The Travellers met Gandalf for breakfast where they talked excitedly. Butterbur had agreed to lend them ponies who would be returned after they reached their homes, in memory of the ponies he received from Meriadoc Brandybuck, by way of Tom Bombadill, long before. 

They left Bree and headed toward home. When they had gone a few miles, Gandalf said it was time for him to leave them. He wanted to see Tom Bombadill and they were close to his lands. After many words and cheerful encouragement, Gandalf left them, waving before they were out of sight.

They made good time as they rode, talking of all that had happened on this journey. Abby called it a quest. This made them laugh and make jokes that it was anything but a quest. They simply wanted to do good work and wanted to know how to be better than they were.

As they approached the Shire, Elanor said they had gone to learn about testing and how they could do the kind of testing they all knew could be done. “It is simple, you see. We have known all along what the problems are. Everyone knows, if they can admit it to themselves. Most won’t. They are afraid of what that might mean. But I think we have the answer.”

They crossed the Brandywine Bridge and passed through the Gate where they made straight for the Golden Perch in Stock. It was the nearest inn to the Brandywine as the Bridge Inn was still not yet rebuilt. They got rooms for the night and had a quiet supper of good, solid Hobbit fare.

As they sat in the common room talking amongst themselves, they realized the room was nearly full. This was no remarkable thing. Except it was mostly other folk who worked in software. They were watching the four Travellers intently. As they looked around them, the Travellers fell silent and realized nearly everyone there had been listening to their conversation. There were no secrets being told but they found it a little unsettling. 

Finally, someone said “You four came through asking about software and testing and how to do things better some time ago. Then you said you were going to Bree to see if folk there had any ideas. Can you tell us what you found out?”

There was a murmur of agreement from around the room. The Travellers looked at each other.

Then Elanor spoke. “What would you know? We have met with many people and traveled beyond Bree to learn and find answers. What would you like to hear? The adventures of the road? The people we met with? What we have learned? The telling of any of these things will take a long time and we are weary from the road.”

“We want to know everything!” they cried. “We did not want to admit it before but things don’t always make sense! We are told to test for “acceptance criteria” except those keep changing. We are told to test for the requirements being met but no one seems to agree on what that means. Our companies bring in experts who tell us everything we do is wrong, and we can’t figure out what the right way is! None of them agree and all of them say the others are wrong! Can you help us?”

Elanor looked at them all. She heard the familiar pain she had wrestled with. She smiled as she recalled some of these same people telling her to not worry about things so much. She looked at her friends. They all nodded.

So she stood and said “We are weary from the road. We want to share what we have found. Meet us here tomorrow after breakfast and we will talk then.”

The Travellers then stood and followed her to their rooms, where they fell asleep quickly and spent the night undisturbed by anyone except their own thoughts.

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