A Walk Through the Shire
You walk along a winding dirt path in the late afternoon. It is warm, and bees buzz noisily in the blackberry thicket nearby. Somehow you have lost your shoes, but the packed earth feels warm and pleasant against your bare feet and you find no sharp stones or burrs along your way. It is as if this trail was made for walking shoeless.
The path slopes down, and as you leave the shade of the trees you find yourself overlooking a peaceful valley lined with rounded, grass-covered hills, some topped with trees, others surrounded by gardens. A lively river flows down the center of the valley, crossed by bridges and lined with flowers and drooping willows. What catches your interest, though, are the many colorful, rounded doors embedded into the hills themselves.
The sun is already low above the western horizon, so you hasten your steps, hoping to find shelter before night falls. Pony-drawn carts roll along the road before you, some filled with ripe produce, others sweet, fragrant hay. As you pass one such cart, going at a pace far slower than even walking, a portly, curly-haired farmer nods at you as he chews on the long stem of a wooden pipe. You smile and continue on your way.
The gardens along your route are a sight to behold. Never have you seen so many flowers, vegetables, and even fruit trees growing in one place. Children laugh and play beside berry patches, and a woman in a straw hat looks up from harvesting carrots to watch them.
You pause to wave to the children, and one of them, barely as high as your knee, runs to you. She holds out a broad green leaf which serves as a platter for a handful of the largest, juiciest looking blackberries you've ever seen.
You continue along the path, snacking on delicious, sweet blackberries and savoring the quiet of the pastoral landscape. Soon crickets begin to chirp. The sky fades from blue to pink to deep purple, and stars twinkle to life above you. Ahead you hear music and merry voices and see the lights of a tavern alive with boisterous patrons.
Lanterns are strung around the yard before the inn itself, lighting the tables of an outdoor seating area. Most of these are too small for big folk such as yourself, but there is one full-sized table set aside just for those of your height. You settle into it. A single candle flickers on the tabletop, and within it, you seem to hear the laughter and chatter of a host of friendly halflings. You sit and relax, content for now but wondering where your adventures will take you next.