The Fourth Age, a.k.a. the Age of Man, will begin at noon today. In a brief statement from his summer home in Minas Tirith, King Elessar said he expected the Age of Man would include the Age of Chivalry, the Age of Reason, and the Age of Enlightenment.
In contrast, Elrond Halfelven, in a statement from the Last Homely House, said he expected the Age of Man to include the Dark Ages, the poisonous Industrial Age, and the ultramortal Teen, Middle and Old Ages. When asked why he had so little hope for the Age of Man, Elrond simply shook his head, returned to his packing and said, "Men are weak."
Related stories . . .
Traffic Jams on Rise as Elves Head West, see section E2
King Elessar to Stay at Prancing Pony, Butterbur in a Tizzy, see section A5
The Horse Lords of Rohan were besieged for 12 hours last Thursday in Helm’s Deep by a single Bushman wielding an Evil Thing. The Bushman made repeated attempts to hurl the Evil Thing over the walls of the Hornburg, but did no apparent damage to the western White Mountains stronghold. One goat was reportedly captured by the enemy and one Dwarf’s pride was wounded in the attacks.
Helm’s Deep is a great bay in the western White Mountains. Within it lies the Hornburg, an ancient fortress of high walls and a lofty tower.
Reports indicate that the Rohirrim had fled to Helm’s Deep in preparation for an overwhelming onslaught from neighbor and evil wizard Saruman of Isengard. But the Horse Lords were wholly unprepared for this surprise attack by a single foe. The Rohirrim had reached the safety of Helm’s Deep by late evening and had immediately made preparations for a massive assault.
The Bushman reportedly approached the outer defenses of Helm’s Dike, an ancient trench two furlongs below Helm’s Gate. The Bushman, armed with a small bow and a quiver of tiny darts, waved a shiny object at them and began chattering in a strange tongue.
Horrified witnesses said the Bushman stopped his approach when he spotted a small goat wandering near the dike. The Bushman put down the shiny object, dipped one of his darts in “some evil poison surely concocted by the foul arts of Saruman” and with a “ping” sent the unsuspecting goat to the ground. The Bushman then reportedly walked over to the motionless goat and chattered at it in the same unintelligible language of tongue clicks. The Bushman then left the goat where it lay, picked up the shiny object, and again approached the dike, waving the shiny object and clicking his tongue at the dike’s defenders.
Arthur, leader of the defenses of Helm’s Dike, knew somewhat of the Bushman’s speech. He listened intently, trying to gauge the purpose and strength of this foe. Suddenly, Arthur sheathed his sword and exclaimed, “A Bushman is upon us! A Bushman wielding an Evil Thing is upon us! Run away! Run away!” At Arthur’s suggestion, the outer defenses fled in panic to the safety of Helm’s Gate and the Hornburg, looking back in horror as the Bushman pursued them relentlessly in a face-paced walk, waving the Evil Thing and clicking his tongue at their backs.
Upon reaching Helm’s Gate, the Bushman continued to chatter and wave the Evil Thing for over an hour. Arthur translated the few words he could for the besieged. “The Bushman thinks that we wrought this Evil Thing that nearly destroyed his people,” said Arthur, “so now he is trying to make us take back this devilry.” Attempts at shaking their heads, “No,” and using hand gestures to form the spiked tower of Orthanc and the Eye of Sauron failed to convince the Bushman that it was not the Rohirrim that had created the Evil Thing, but the evil powers of Isengard or, more likely, Mordor.
Frustrated with the failed parley, the Bushman then repeatedly attempted to throw the Evil Thing over the 20-foot high Deeping Wall. The attacks went on relentlessly throughout the night until just before dawn when the Bushman was finally successful. The Evil Thing clattered on the walkway behind the parapet near Legolas, a mercenary Elf from Mirkwood, and Strider, a Ranger and frequent patron of the Prancing Pony in Bree. What Strider was doing in those parts is none of our business, but there’s no accounting for East and West, as we say in Bree, meaning the Rangers and the Shire-folk.
Witnesses say the Elf cried out in horror, “Ai! Oy! A Carbonate! It is an ancient Evil! Do not touch it!” as he backed away from the Evil Thing.
“Never have I seen such a wonder,” Gimli, a visiting and, apparently, hearing impaired Dwarf, said as he stepped forward and stooped to pick up the Evil Thing. “Ahhhh!” gasped the Dwarf. “I was just marveling at the caves they have here, but this! This is beyond words! It is as clear as the waters of the green sea, but hard as diamonds,” the Dwarf said in awe. “See the strange markings. They look to be in the Common Tongue, but the words are strange to me—Coca-Cola—Do you know what they mean, Legolas?” Legolas, seeing that his companion was already stricken with a mad lust for the Evil Thing quickly snatched it up and tossed it back over the wall.
“A curse on the Elves!” Gimli cried in anguish as he tried to leap after the Evil Thing through an archer’s slot in the wall. Legolas sailed after him and seized the Dwarf by a flying braid. “Not the beard!” cried Gimli as he dangled from the Deeping Wall in the Elf’s firm grasp.
With Strider’s help, Legolas returned Gimli safely to the top of the Deeping Wall. “I must wash this evil stench from my hand,” said the Elf. Gimli, mistakenly thinking the Elf meant the stench from having touched the Evil Thing, thanked Legolas for saving his life and said he would lead the Elf to “a stream of the purest water in all of Middle-earth.” As the pair headed down the stairway, Gimli took the Elf by the arm and said “It is not far, my friend. Just through these caves….”
Outside the Deeping Wall the Bushman sighed, picked up the Evil Thing and turned to retreat. The siege of Helm’s Deep was over and the enemy defeated. The Bushman was last seen heading toward the East, carrying a limp goat. As the Bushman passed eastward, the signal fires of Gondor flared. After the Lords of the Riddermark held a brief council, the brave Men of Rohan began preparations to ride to the aid of their friends and neighbors in Gondor. The Rohirrim would ride to free Gondor’s capital city of Minas Tirith from the siege of the Bushman and the Evil Thing.
*For those of you unfamiliar with the silly little film I shamelessly stole this character from, here’s a synopsis: “The Gods Must Be Crazy” A bushman in the Kalahari encounters technology for the first time - in the shape of a Coke bottle dropped as refuse from an airplane. He takes it back to his tribe, and they use it for many tasks. Misery quickly ensues when the formerly peaceful tribe starts to fight over it, so Xixo, the bushman, decides to return it to the Gods - where he thinks it came from. In his quest to throw the Evil Thing over the edge of the earth, Xixo encounters western civilization for the first time. It’s available on video. I think it’s about 20 years old.
A thin and travel-worn Bill the Pony was found wandering the streets of downtown Bree earlier this week. Bob, a stable hand at the Prancing Pony, recognized Bill as the same poor critter former Bree resident Bill Ferny sold to a group of traveling Shire folk last fall.
"He doesn't look no worse for wear," Bob, Bill‚s new keeper, said.
Ferny was last seen fleeing Bree with two swarthy Southerners shortly after the Shire folk departed from Bree last October. Ferny was nursing a broken nose that he suffered in a vicious apple attack by one of the strange Shire folk.
"Since Ferny left with those queer Southerners last fall," Bob continued, "I didn't see no harm in taking Bill in. After a few good feedings he perked right up. He knew the way home alright and seemed mighty glad to be back. But I don't know what those Shire folk were mixed up in because Bill has been acting a might queer hisself since he got back."
Bob said the pony seems to have developed an unnatural fear of black birds, ponds and snakes. "I took Bill out to pasture the other day," Bob said. "When a bevy of crows flew overhead, poor old Bill tried to crawl under a bush. It was pitiful. I never heard of no pony doing any such thing."
"The next day I loaded Bill with a barrel of ale to take to the Spring Mushroom Festival. When we got to the bridge at Miller's pond, Bill just stopped in his tracks and wouldn't go no further. Then, when a water snake come out of the pond toward us, Bill up and ran off so fast I thought he was gonna bolt right out of his skin. It took me half an hour to catch him. I had to go clean around town on the way back so as to stay clear of the pond. Poor old Bill!"
March 24 SR 3019
Growing complaints from regional travelers and local residents have landed local legend Tom Bombadil, aka The Master, in the soup, so to speak. Bombadil is being charged with three counts of Malicious Mischief. Authorities are confused by the sudden upsurge in activities related to the merry fellow who has for centuries kept within the confines of the Old Forest.
The first complaints came out of Crickhollow on the western border of the Old Forest. In the past, few hobbits ever dared to venture into the Old Forest, but about three months ago strange signs along a path leading into the Old Forest began to appear reading “Mushrooms This Way.” Within three weeks the population of Crickhollow had been reduced by half.
Concerned that their clansmen had been led to an undiscovered mushroom patch and were too stuffed to walk back home (or, more likely, that they were missing out on a hidden hoard), a band of a dozen bold Brandybucks armed with forks and gathering baskets followed the mysterious signs until they reached a wizened old willow tree on the banks of the River Withywindle. “We thoroughly searched the area,” said Dimloc Brandybuck, but the brave band found no sign of any mushrooms. And what of the missing hobbits? “Oh, yeah,” Brandybuck said as an afterthought, “We didn’t find none of them neither.”
Following the Crickhollow incidents, travelers along the Great East Road began to complain of being accosted by a strange Dwarf-like man in a blue coat with big yellow boots. Travelers complain that the odd little man appears suddenly and begins singing nonsensical rhymes while stomping around them in what can only be described as a “dance.”
Rumors have been heard that Bombadil directs stunned travelers who cannot pay the requested water-lily toll to wait on the nearby Barrow Downs until water-lilies come in to season. Thirty-seven Breelanders who lacked water-lilies, fresh produce or other weapons, or the gumption to ignore Bombadil and move on, have gone missing along the East Road in the last four weeks.
One recent victim, Farmer Maggot, was delivering a load of farm fresh produce to the Prancing Pony in Bree when the blue-coated Bombadil appeared suddenly before his wagon. “He kept stomping around in front of my pony singing ‘He dol! Merry dol! Ring a dong dillo!’ over and over again,” Maggot said. “When I asked the feller what he wanted he said something about wanting ‘green leaves and lilies white for the River-daughter’. I said I ain’t got no green leaves nor any water-lilies and no time for such foolishness and that I’d give him a ‘Ring a dong dillo’ alright. So I nailed ‘im ‘tween the eyes with one of my best taters and high-tailed it to Bree.”
Finally, an unusual amount of mail has poured out of the Old Forest recently. Thousands of envelopes marked “Official Academy Award Ballot - Return by March 24” have been processed for return mailing by the Bree Post Office in recent weeks. Bree Postmaster Stamp Licker thought that was odd because he didn’t recall delivering the ballots to the Old Forest in the first place. “We don’t know how Bombadil got ahold of these,” Licker said, “and we’re not certain anything’s amiss, but these here envelopes is marked ‘Official’ and they all look like they’ve been opened up and then resealed. I’ve a mind to notify this ‘Academy,’ but it’s none of my business. Besides, the guy that delivered ‘em for old Bombadil seemed like a right nice feller. I think he said his name was Opie.”
Some officials believe Bombadil’s recent actions are retaliation for the recent snubbing he received from Peter Jackson. Jackson excluded Bombadil from his latest project, a film production of JRR Tolkien’s classic tale The Lord of the Rings. Others are taking Bombadil’s odd behavior in stride. “What can you expect,” they say, “from a guy that wears a blue jacket and yellow boots?”
Officials will discuss the Bombadil situation over a couple of pints at the Prancing Pony every evening until the issue can be resolved.
The Nose of Sauron appeared before Mayor Will Whitfoot today to beg for sanctuary in the Shire as a political refugee. Stating he never approved of Sauron’s totalitarian ideology, Sauron’s Nose recounted a harrowing escape that led him from the dungeons of Barad-dur to the peaceful greenswards of the Shire.
“I just couldn’t take it anymore,” the Nose said of his life in Mordor. “The very air you breathe is a poisonous fume. That’s all right for the Mouth of Sauron. All he had to do was keep his Mouth shut until he was told to speak. I was the one who had to do all the breathing. And just look what living in Mordor has done to Sauron’s Eye! It used to be the loveliest shade of green. Now look at it. Red. Swollen to enormous size. Wreathed in flame! Diseased beyond all healing—unless the Great Sea should enter in and wash it.”
No one understands the extent of Sauron’s cruelty and utter evil better than Sauron’s Nose. “He actually cut me off, “ said the Nose, “to spite his face. He has no mercy even for himself. He used to have two eyes, but he refused to share power between them and had one put out. Then, in another fit of rage, he shot his Mouth off. None of us were safe.”
Sauron’s Nose said he had been imprisoned and tortured when he refused to sniff out a plot by a traveling company of a Wizard, four Halflings, two Men, an Elf and a Dwarf. “They threw me in the dungeons of Barad-dur,” he said trembling and weeping. “Then three Orcs grabbed me and…No! No! It’s too horrible to remember!” Mayor Whitfoot passed the Nose a tissue and encouraged him to go on.
“It’s just that Sauron knows his enemies weaknesses," the Nose went on, "and matches the method of torture to expose those weaknesses. He knew exactly what he was doing! He…He had the Orcs…He had the Orcs hold me over…hold me over a steaming…ahhhh! The torture! They held me over a steaming plate of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies—knowing full well I had no stomach for such a thing! I would have agreed to anything after that, if only they would stop. But they went on and on—freshly baked breads, roast turkey, cinnamon rolls, gourmet coffee….”
The aroma torture continued for weeks until Sauron gave strict orders for rationing food supplies in preparation for his onslaught on Gondor. “I guess Sauron felt pretty sure of himself at that point,” his Nose said, “and that he didn’t need me anymore because he just left me alone and unguarded after that. That’s when I made a break for it.” Sauron’s Nose ran all the way from Barad-dur to the Shire where it was found by Fang, one of Farmer Maggot’s wolfhounds.
“We do get queer folk wandering in these parts at times,” Maggot said. “Too near the River. But this fellow was the most outlandish I have ever set eyes on.” Maggot immediately notified the Shirriff-leader who had the Nose escorted to the Mayor’s Office double quick.
After hearing the Nose’s harrowing tale, Mayor Whitfoot vowed to assemble a committee of good folk to decide what’s to be done about Sauron’s Nose. “Folks have a right to keep safe,” the Mayor said, “and we don’t want any evil noses running freely around the Shire. But if Mr. Nose promise to stop running, keep himself clean, and not go stickin’ himself in other people’s business, we’ll find a nice spot with a bit of garden for him to stay in until we make an Official Decision about him.
Farmer Maggot agreed to offer a small corner of his land on which Sauron’s Nose could be held until the committee reached a decision. “It’s a nice enough acre of land as anybody could want,” Maggot said. “It’s covered in golden ragweed that’s just now coming into bloom. Pretty as a lass with golden hair. If Sauron’s Nose runs from a place like that, we’ll have our answer and won’t want none of his kind in the Shire anyways."